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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Kiss (2008) - Horror Vampire

The Kiss (2008) - When I received this film for Christmas I was disappointed that it was not the great and awesome "The Kiss (1988)" Where a women keeps her eternal youth by stealing it from young women she gets close to with the help of an African god idol. But alas instead we have this strange film that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Is it comedy, horror, or just horrid. The opening with its explanation of the different clans of vampire and the burial of the snake clan queen left me worried that this would be a movie full of its own importance. The horrid acting in that first scene shaded my hopes for the film.
Jeremy Williams (Lendon LeMelle) is the picked on kid in the apparently one room schoolhouse, a loner with a disconnected Mom he goes through his days listening to his head phones and trying to not get noticed. One day when hiding in an abandon house to avoid some bullies, he hears the cries of our buried vampire queen. After opening the tomb and carrying the dried corpse home he goes about, and I guess this is the comedy part, collecting small animals for blood for her. Her psychic connection to him grows as she gets more blood and reforms into the beautiful Santa Maria (Lourdes Colon). Upon becoming fully formed again she fucks him to seal the deal. Note: If you are going to bring a latina vampire queen back from rotting hell make sure you get to bang her as part of the deal. No longer a virgin Jeremy now has a new confidence and some amazing powers, well they are her powers to keep him safe from the bullies. Jeremy has a start to a normal relationship with the startlingly blue eyed Carrie (Angela Rachelle) that never quite goes anywhere but was getting us thinking Jeremy is semi normal. Then of course he starts acting like a dick, he has a group of girls hanging on his jock, he is confident even cocky with the former bully Javier (Michael Galvez) and in general is not an appealing guy.
Santa maria wants more than dogs blood so she has Jeremy invite the groups from the high school to her place for a "Party", she really is the only one who gets to party at this event though. When they arrive Jeremy is all uppity under the spell of Santa Maria and the kids seem to not notice that non of the guest at the party spend much time interacting with them. They are ghost summoned to fill out the room and have little interest in the living. Santa Maria now goes about looking to feed on the kids, two end up in a bedroom for a romp, Fonso (Vincent Rivera) and Sandra(The ever so sexy assed Noel Signagio) and while she is in the bathroom putting in her birth control, Santa Maria comes in a hot little nighty and bites the shit out of him. Then snacks on Sandra when she comes out. Here though we get to see the real flaw in this film. The makeup! Santa Maria has this big latex mouthpiece of fangs that looks like a Halloween, five and dime store bought costume. It spoils what so far has been a fairly decent low budget vampire flick. Up until this point writer/director Scott Madden had done a nice job hiding the bad makeup with quick cuts and deceptive angles but here it is on full display.
She goes about killing off the other kids and when finally we come to pretty Carrie we get surprised that she is killed too. Jeremy was shocked and so was I. My thought was there would be a choice for Jeremy between the two women but really his choice is to either die with them or join Santa Maria as a vampire. Finally the last bit of bad fake mouth is shown in full light and looks stupid and the film comes to a close but what about that explanation about the vampire clans? How will this come into play? Well it won't, you will get a couple throw away lines and realized that whole idea could have been edited out and it would not have impacted the film at all. Now I want to recommend this but boy it is really close, this really is not a good film but I still enjoyed it. Maybe because I watched it after Katiebird so anything would seem better than it is.
Rating (5.0 barely) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system only rent it!

Notes on the year: Back in January the Finalgirl Blog launched a plan to watch 100 movies in the year and I was trying to match that effort on this blog. I did not break the films up into categories, like she did but figured that with all the films I missed as a youth I could get 100 in in the calendar year. Well this is my 100th review this year. Cheers for me!!!!!!

Katiebird *Certifiable Crazy Person (2005) - Horror Serial Killer

Katiebird *Certifiable Crazy Person (2005) - Justin Paul Ritter wrote and directed this torture porn feature about a CCP (Certifiable Crazy Person). Through a current time storyline where an older Katiebird (Helene Udy) tortures and kills her therapist Dr. Richardson (Todd Gordon), we hear her tell the story of the beginnings of her serial killer life. Then through flashbacks to her teen years (Taylor M. Dooley) we see her torture and kill her first victim under the guidance of her serial killer father (Lee Perkins).
The film attempts to be philosophical about the "art" of the kill and through some very interesting camera work the director keeps the audience interested for a while. There is a captivating soundtrack composed by Daniel Iannantuono and some really interesting split screen making the viewing interesting, ultimately thought it is just a crazy person killing people, torturing them first in a really in your face manner, then killing. The father figure is there to spout philosophy about the importance of how to kill but really do we need this? Is there really a noble philosophy for really psychotic behavior? No and because of that fact the film just becomes grueling to watch. I kept wanting the character to get on with it. It wasn't like I didn't know what was coming. There was no real surprise. Sure the attempt was made to stylize the ritual and certainly the tools were there but really what was happening was teeth being ripped out. We get to see the same things in both time lines, it would have been a bit more interesting if Katiebird had grown as a killer and the older version had some new tricks.
What is with movie making that is about bad things for the sake of bad things? Where is the character development in this film. Katiebird is a complex character yes but we get to see only the one aspect of her character, she likes her victims to hurt her as she tortures them. We never see much else in the character or any of the story of her life between the first kill and the last. So really there is no story except "Hey look at my first kill" and "Hey look at my latest kill."
So as much as visually I enjoyed what was done here I am not going to recommend this one.
Rating (3.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Skip It!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The House On Sorority Row (1983) - Horror Slasher

The House on Sorority Row (1983) -Ah college life! or death on this case. The film opens with a birth scene, Dr. Beck (Christopher Lawrence) brings a child into the world. At this point the scene is amazingly disconnected from anything because it is just to let us know a baby was born. We don't know why and will not for some time. So about twenty years later we are at college, at a sorority full of lovely young ladies. They are unhappy with the House Mother Mrs. Dorothy Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) because she is difficult and strict. Wasn't she the woman in the birth scene? Oh so did the baby not live? Is she dealing with having no children by looking after the sorority house?

Party! that is what they girls want and they go about getting things ready for this. Of course the cantankerous Slater wants no parties, What do these girls think this is some kind of sorority? The girls talk about how they should prank Mrs. Slater to get back at her for being a bitch. Vicki (Eileen Davidson) is really upset and comes up with an idea to prank Mrs Slater. Katherine (Kate McNeil) is wary of the prank and wishes everyone just get along. It is a really well pulled off prank and the old woman is at first horribly frightened but then accidentally killed. What are the girls going to do. Call an ambulance as Kate wants. No lets just use group pressure and fear about their lives being ruined to cover up the death. What? Really? Sink the body in the dirty pool and have your party anyway?

Well that was the solution, the party starts and we get some really good gory attacks and deaths as the girls are knocked off one at a time, Liz (Janis Ward), Jeanie (Robin Meloy) Diane (Harley Jane Kozak) Morgan (Jodi Draigie) and Stevie (Ellen Dorsher) with Kate and Vicki now are noticing their numbers shrinking and worrying that the old lady was not dead but trying to get them. Little do they know the son of Mrs. Slater saw his mother die and the trauma from this and a medical condition turned him into a Pyscho-Killer!

I was impressed with some of the gore they added in post to this film. In general I think the movie holds together well for an 80s slasher film. It has some personality, a wierd looking killer and the hair and clothes caused flashbacks. The premise is silly and why they ever remade it will never make sense, but the $400,000 or so it cost was all made back and more when it made 4 million. The pacing is decent and even though the heroine is a bit of a stick in the mud, the film is worth a look.
Rating (5.1) 5.0 an up are recommended, In the Zombiegrrlz system I say Rent It!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Wind of Fear (2007) - Horror Ghost

The Wind of Fear (2007) - "Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo" This Spanish film about a girls mental health facility, where young women are treated for eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. Claudia (Martha Higareda) arrives after a suicide attempt and is not welcomed with open arms by the other girls. In this facility run by Dr. Bernarda (Veronica Langer) the idea is to confront the feeling and behaviors the girls have head on. Through group therapy and physical activity they are to be treated for their problems. Soon after arriving she learns of a girl who died at the school and Josefina (Danny Perea) one of the other girls says her ghost still walks the grounds. The film for the most part was a bit slow and meandering. It tried to create a ghost story but was not scary. It tried to have an aspect that was reform school but that fell flat. Some of the actresses were very beautiful including our lead, Ivette (Elizabeth Valdez) and Silvia (Magali Boysselle) In the end there were some twist and turns but it never really held your attention. When the turn comes featuring one of the doctors and her lesbian relationship with the dead girl you will already have been watching too long and probably have lost interest. The copy I had although DVD was of really grainy poor quality which was also a distraction.

Rating (3.8) 5.0 and up are recommended, on the Zombiegrrlz scale I say Skip It!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last of the Living (2008) - Horror Zombie

Last of the Living (2008) - Writer Director, Producer, Best Boy, hell just about everything in this low budget New Zealand zombie flick was done by Logan McMillan. Its existence is because this guy had a vision and worked really hard to make it happen. It is a story about three guys, Morgan (Morgan Williams), Ash (Ashleigh Southam) and Johnny (Robert Faith) after the world has ended in a zombie apocalypse, as we all know it eventually will. They are just surviving, gathering food, killing zombies for fun and generally not getting on in a world without purpose. It would have probably stayed that way but for the chance that they ran across a guy (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter Steph (Emily Paddon-Brown). These two have a cure for the zombie virus, but in the meeting the three morons break the last vile and Dad is bitten by zombies. So the three must go with Steph to a hospital to make a new sample. I was about ready to give up on this film before this. It was very Small scale low budget with stationary footage that took place for no particular reason. Little in the way of character development had been done and to this point the plot was nonexistent. So now we had a plot but the execution was just awful. The one foreshadowed event was Johnny's berserker fighting move and it was pretty lame too.
They get to the hospital but before the sample is finished being spun the power goes out in the building. This sets up two things, Morgan and Ash heading down to the cellar to get a generator going and Johnny and Steph upstairs, while all the security locked doors come open and the zombies get in. They finish and fight their way out while Morgan and Ash resolve some pent up feelings in some of the most poorly constructed dialog I have seen in a movie. Still they all make it outside and only Johnny is bitten so onward to the berserker so the other three can escape. They head to the airport with Steph now bitten. They have to get to Stewart Island before she changes into a zombie. Suddenly also there are new zombies with red eyes who are fast and chasing them. Whatever, this movie was bad... an example they get to the plane and get in the air and the two guys go in back and take a nap. Yes with the pilot bitten and sure to turn into a red eyed zombie and they nap. Still they manage to get her out of the plane and then Ash manages to land it. Then the worst is that the whole story is for not as in the end they all fail even though they make it to the Island. WTF!!!
The movie is just pointless and hard to watch. All the camera work is reduced fields of sight like there was just one camera and a tripod or handheld. The plot goes nowhere fast and then when it gets a purpose the character interaction does not fit the situations. They introduce a new zombie type for plot convenience with no explanation. None of the characters is more than a outline and then the ending is a downer. So besides the credit a independent film maker gets for getting a project done, Last of the living gets a poor score here.
Rating (2.6) 5.0 and higher are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Skip It!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Book of Eli (2010) Post Apocalyptic Thriller

The Book of Eli (2010) - The Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen) direct this religious story about the world after a great war has thrown it into ruin. Taking place in the United States we see Carnegie (Gary Oldman) a ruthless gang leader searching for a bible. He believes the words to move himself to be a great leader is hidden in the book. He is older and remembers the words and knows how people are moved by them. So he sends out his illiterate gang searching for any books they can find hoping to gain the last copy. We also learn why there are not any left. After the great war many people blamed the bible for causing it and sought to burn them from existence. Probably a good move on humanities part. Of course this is a bit of a ridiculous story point because really, in this retardedly overly religious country there is no way that would ever happen. But a plot point is a plot point and next we meet Eli (Denzel Washington) travelling west he stops in Carnegie's town for trade and water. After some bad ass fighting when he is messed with by some thugs, he ends up on the wrong side of Carnegie, but Carnegie seeing something about this guy tries instead of direct hostility to bribe him with the lovely Solara (Mila Kunis). She learns through her night in his room that he indeed has the book that is so sought after. Before he can get it though Eli and Solara get away and hit the road. The rest of the film is now the search for Eli on the desert roads heading west towards San Francisco. So we have the setup that is played out. You know since I don't think I will recommend this There WILL BE A SPOILER COMING!!!!

After Eli is caught and the book taken from him things finish with him continuing westward with Solara while Carnegie gets back to the town he runs. Surprised that when he gets the lock on the book to open, it is all in Braille. The only one that can read it is Solara's mother Claudia (Jennifer Beal) and since Carnegie is such a dick she is not inclined. Back on the West coast Eli reaches Alcatraz prison and find there is a group there collecting and protecting old world knowledge. So now we see the truth about Eli, he is blind. Wait what? No he isn't he walk straight and purposefully down so many roads, he shot guys from rooftops with a handgun from 500 yards. He single handed fought 15 guys in a bar and killed them all without breaking a sweat. How could it be?

Well in paying attention to the film you see how he had an unbreakable faith that he was on a mission from God, and like Eli of the bible this one comes to bring back the word of God. He has memorized the King James version of the good book and he never needed it to deliver the words. His mission was to bring religion back into the world and before his death he does just that. So many things where his non reaction to danger looked like faith could be seen in light of his blindness revelation as handicap. Still I do not think they sold this very well in the film. Too many times he was too sure footed, too agile and just too damn competent to be blind. So it must have been a combination of faith and luck and good hearing? grrrrrr...

I really believe that the Hughes brothers were making a movie about the importance of religion, the light in the darkness to them. They think they were saying that the freedom that come with religion is as important as the control, that Carnegie wanted to wield through it. I think that real message may be that religion will untimately cause conflict becasue it is always an interpretation. What about the other religions of the world? This country is a salad bowl of beliefs yet here it seems the only words that mean anything are Christian? What happened to the other beliefs, were all holy books burned? Would Carnegie settled for a Koran? Oh well it was a nice try.
Rating (4.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007) - Horror Ghost

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007) - The remake House on Haunted Hill (1999) was a rethinking of the original 1959 version. but similar enough to attempt to capture the spirit of the story. With a fairly decent cast including Geoffrey Rush, Framke Janssen, Ali Larter and Taye Diggs the story followed original close enough, the one large change was the story of the house and its mechanical system that locks it down. The film was an okay but not great attempt at a remake. This new film is a poor substitute for that mediocre film. There are no actors of note and the story is contrived. In it the sister of the Ali Larter character form the 1999 version, Ariel (Amanda Righetti) and her boyfriend Paul (Tom Riley) are kidnapped by a gang of art theives lead by Desmond (Erik Pallidino) and taken to the house in search of a valuable artifact. Also at the house at the same time is Dr. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs) and two of his students who are also looking for the statue. The ghosts of the house very quickly lock the groups in and soon they are searching around and dying gruesome deaths. If there is value in the film it is that some of the deaths are just gross. Innards ripped out, face cut off, torn into quarters or head crushed by a refrigerator deaths are bloody good. Sure they effects can always be improved on but hey this was not bad for that.
The story ends up a real survival story with everyone trying to find a way to end the slaughter. We learn that the statue is the power of the house and the only way to get out is to somehow get it out of the house. Being locked in is a problem but our ever resourceful Ariel has a solution and really the movie is centered around which characters survive to see that solution executed. I guessed correctly about half way through. We know the main character is Ariel so at least she will survive, who else though hmmmm....
Not a very compelling film nor a particularly entertaining one this dud will leave you scratching your head. Even if you see it it probably will not satisfy.
Rating (4.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system I say Rent it for the gore.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unstoppable (2010) - Action Thriller

Unstoppable (2010) - There are not many actors I go to the movies to see, but looking at Denzel Washington's filmography I have probably seen 85% of his films in theaters so I guess I am a fan. Denzel in many of his movies is often a flawed hero. A guy that does something noble but still is not the all American guy. In this film he is a veteran freight train driver, Frank who risks his life to stop a run away train going against his corporations wishes to do so. Teamed with young guy Will (Chris Pine) who is also dealing with personal problems they find themselves on the same line as the train that is going full throttle with no driver. Adding to the thriller is the fact that the train has cars with explosive fluids that will explode if the train derails. Well if this was not bad enough, there is a corner on the tracks in Stanton PA where if the train is not slowed down it will derail exploding and wiping out the town.
This is the premise and as an action movie you do not need much more than this; just set the train in motion and then try to stop it before time runs out. Then get your writer (Mark Bomback) to mix in a cold and corporate business structure, a lovely and competent yard manager, Connie (Rosario Dawson), some threats to kids and neighborhoods along the way and BANG! you have a thriller action flick. The thing is the early threats are obvious red herrings because of when they happen in the film. If someone had actually gotten hurt it would have moved the threat of this film way up, but instead we get the idea of a threat but not the balls to make it real. Still the writing is good enough, the information about characters is leaked to the audience rounding them nicely as the story plays out.
We already know who the heroes are so we know any attempts made by anyone else in the film will fail, so the cops and the corporate solutions are just filler until Frank and Will catch up to the runaway. Still I think you can step away from these realities enough to enjoy this film. Director Tony Scott keeps the film tight and energy packed with enough cutting away from the main characters to develop the setting and enough development for secondary characters.
Mostly action films leave me feeling a bit empty, like candy they taste really good but have little nutritional value. This film tries to build the characters enough to avoid this but ultimately fails. Still it is a nice ride and engaging enough to give it your rental dollars.
Rating (6.2) 5.0 and above are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system, wait and Rent It!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Children (2008) - Horror virus

The Children (2008) - Children of the snow. As a virus infects the children of a couple families having Christmas together the sick children get pretty evil and begin to kill the adults. There is not a lot more plot than this really. There is the conflict between couples about permissive upbringing versus strict rules based child rearing. There is the teenage girl sort of flirting with her aunts husband and his creepy acceptance of it. Then there is the fundamental disbelief the parents have when the harm starts. Of course as a parent there is no way you are going to think your child is trying to kill you. This movie co-ops the fear that behind the innocent faces there is evil waiting to strike. When my daughter was small 3 or so I had this dream that I awoke and heard her little feet pattering out of our room. Strange I thought and got up to follow her, the apartment we had could be circled in going room to room. I would hear the patter and follow only to not see her. Then I entered the kitchen after the footsteps, flicked on the lights. Joy was up on a chair reaching enough to pull a butcher knife out of the block. When the light went on I only saw this in a glimpse as she push it back in quickly and leaned to the sink saying, "dwink, water". The whole dream was wrapped in a feeling of being a bit afraid. This is what this film does. The parents can never quite be sure what is going on. There is a threat but it is from the least likely to cause it.
When I think of evil children the movie that comes to mind is "Children of the Corn". It is a more overt film with the theme being right out there from the beginning. The children killing the adults of the town is one of the first scenes and you know from the start what will happen. In The Children" The process is slower and the immediate danger is not there, but the threat grows as more of the kids get infected. The film is effective at not letting the parents catch on too quickly and even though the teenager seems onto the games of the kids. Being the teen she is not really listened to by the adults and in fact becomes distrusted as the possible killer.
There are not too many ways this plot can go so I was waiting for the reveal that the problem was not just an isolated incident but a worldwide epidemic. When the last couple of survivors try to get away what will they be running to? Will they escape and infected zone or just be heading into new terrors? You will have to watch it to find out.
Writers Paul Andrew Williams and Tom Shankland (who also directed) do a good job making this a believable story and the horror of parents being attacked and having to defend themselves against there children is chilling. The directing was sharp enough to build a believable survival story. There is that one thing though, when is it when the people are in a car and see what looks like a dangerous scene, one or both of them have to get out of the car to investigate? I can see early in a film but late in a movie when the characters already know there is a ton of danger.
The acting was solid with Eva Birthistle and Rachel Shelly as adult sisters, Stephen Campbell Moore and Jeremy Sheffield as the husbands, and the lovely Hannah Tointon as the teenager Casey. Oh and one more thing, Blue Crayon!
Rating (6.2) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Rent It!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Appeared (2007) - Horror Ghost

The Appeared (2007) - Aparecidos is a ghost, serial killer type thriller wrapped around the living history of post Pinochet Chile. Siblings Melena (Ruth Diaz) and Pablo (Javier Pereira) are called to the hospital where their Father is dying. The estranged man is brain dead and they must prove who they are in order to shut off his machines. The bureaucracy proves difficult and the documents they need are away in a small town of their youth. Adding to the need for a road trip is that Pablo wants to see where his father is from. So taking their Father's car they head to the past metaphorically and a bit literally.

At an early pee stop, Pablo sees, or imagines a girl digging at the wheel weld of the car. Investigating he finds a diary. It is no ordinary diary though. As he explores it he sees it outlines the travels of one of Pinochet's doctors. In this case a man who hunted down, tortured then killed people who were thought to be socialist or communist, or teachers, artist, possibly anyone who was against the military dictatorship. The writing and Polaroids show Pablo and the viewer, that trip long ago was almost twenty years to the day. Pablo works his sister to retrace the steps of the killer while on the way to the old family house.
This is when the film takes more of a ghost story feel and tempo. It does a nice job of getting the past story of the hunted fugitives to interact with the siblings in the present. Can actions today change the past? Can Pablo and Melena do anything to change a fate that has already happened? The story is so much more than this device, it allows the viewer to learn about the era of Pinochet through these characters while they in turn are exposed to some amazing revelations within their own story.
Not wanting to spoil this fine film at all no further plot point will be discussed. It should be noted that the film goes from ghost movie to thriller and does a really fine job at it. Writer /Director Paco Cabezas does an excellent job on creating a multi levelled story with subtext and meaning. In the end you are left with the desire to learn of the injustices of that time in Chile.
Rating (7.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system I would own it!

Sugar Hill (1974) - Voodoo Revenge

This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club, run by the talented and awesome Stacy Ponder. I do not think I would have ever found this film on my own. It is a mid seventies, blaxsploitation voodoo revenge story and I have to say they are not my main focus. The story goes like this; Langston (Larry D. Johnson) owns the hot Club Haiti and is doing well in his business. Local underworld crime boss Morgan (Robert Quarry) is trying to get Langston to sell the club at a thieves price. Lanston the cool operator tells him to step off. So Morgan has his men beat him to death in the parking lot of his club. This happens quick almost right after the opening credit. I have to say the theme song that plays in the credits is... Just fucking excellent it was "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" by The Originals you can here it on YouTube here.
Fine and fierce girlfriend Diana 'Sugar' Hill (Marki Bey) sees this and wants revenge. She inherits the club and while pretending to be subordinate in her relationship with the aggressive Morgan she secretly heads home to set up her revenge. She gets aide from Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully) an aging voodoo priestess. Together they do a ceremony to call upon the the king of the dead Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley). He agrees to help her get her revenge by raising a zombie army to do Sugar's bidding. She then uses the very cool metallic half ping pong eyed zombies to kill Morgan's thugs one by one.
The rest is pretty standard revenge flick as the setup of each killing , then the killing take place and the pressure on Morgan grows. There are subplots, and ex boyfriend cop, Valentine (Richard Lawson) who reconnects to Sugar after Lanston's death and investigates the killings. He is a lost plot point in this and never quite catches up to the goings on. There is also the racist girlfriend Morgan constantly belittles and verbally abuses, Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), her ending is the strangest of all.
Overall this is a good movie, the story is straight forward, the zombies are creepy, the bad guys get what is coming to them. Still there is something missing, it is too straight forward. It never challenges, to question if revenge is right or wrong. It does not explore, nor seem to have negative effects. Getting revenge with zombies is just how things happen and the price is not very high for this kind of help. In this story Sugar is right to do what she does and there is never a question of whether she should. Then the ending really gives Sugar a free ride and for me, at least, it took away from the impact of the film.
The whites in this film are the bad guys and boy being a progressive open accepting person it is very difficult and disturbing to hear the misogynistic bully Morgan does with Celeste and even harder to see and hear such racist dialog. It may fit their characters and certainly the messages of this genre are not lost on me, but my hair was on end with some of this.
Performances are good in this film and it was really cool to recognize a couple of the players. Zara Cully would later be Mama Jefferson on the show The Jeffersons, I loved her on that show and here she does a fine job with her crazy white hair and time worn look. Then on top of it Count Yorga himself Robert Quarry, as a kid one of the scariest things I remember from movies, is Count Yorga running straight at the camera with his bloody red eyes and claws up. That's the way you scare a twelve year old.
Rating ( 5.3) 5.0 and up are recommended, In the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Rent it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Son of Frankenstein (1939) - Horror Monster

Son of Frankenstein (1939) - Son of Frankenstein was the last time the great Boris Karloff would take the role of the monster. This was also a star studded film with Basil Rathbone as the son, Wolf von Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi showing his versatility as the crooked neck Ygor. The story is that the son inherits the castle while away in America with his American wife and son. I know you are thinking, "But didn't the castle get blown to bits in the last movie?" Why yes it looked like it did but amazingly it was just damaged. When Wolf and the family move in they are in a post modern castle of sparse furniture, shapely angles and distinct contrast of light and shadow. The sets are almost stage like in there simplicity yet striking.
The villagers are not happy to have the family in town and give them a cold shower on the rainy day they arrive, all leaving as the Son speaks of wanting to get to know them. Of course if your family let the monster get out into the community not once but twice, you would be wary too. Just like in the prior movies the Wolf von, falls passionately for the work his father was doing. Amazingly he is another in a long line of scientists. When in the lab surveying the damage he is almost killed by Ygor and when he is exposed to the dormant Monster the fire come alive in him. Just like his father before him he dives into what makes the monster growl.
The town people are not so much the fools they once were, or so they would like you to think. Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill) continues to check in with the Frankenstein's prying as much as possible into the goings on in the castle. He continually finds ways of showing up and moving the story on through his persistent inquiries.
Still the Son seems unstoppable and acts as possessed by the experimentation as his father was. He gets the monster going again but learns the persuasive Ygor seems to have control of the Monster. He sends him out for revenge assignments, since the towns people of the village put Ygor on trial after the father's crimes, he was found guilty by eight jurors. Now he sends the monster to kill each one. Did I mention that when they found him guilty they hanged him til dead. Yeah baby but luckily when Ygor was pronounced dead he actually wasn't and they apparently have double jeopardy in this village.
Of the three Frankenstein movies I have reviewed I think I like this one the best. Lugosi is exceptional as Ygor and the Monster seems wiser and more world worn. There are many subtle subtexts about the coming war, WWII and the consequences of the actions of our parents. Like many father son relationships Wolf has rose colored glasses about the work his father did. To him the whole thing could have been positive if Ygor had only not messed up with the brains. Like his father wondering at the ability to create life from the lifeless but never asking if it is morally right to do so. Also like his father he has doubts about the monster after bringing it back, but hey its a monster, what do you expect?
Since this classic could be unseen by many of today's blog readers I will give away no more plot points. Rent it and give it a watch, it is not the greatest film but It does some things right.
Rating (5.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I say Rent it!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Monsters (2010) - Horror Monster

Monsters (2010) - " Six years ago... NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A space probe was launched to collect samples but broke up during reentry over Mexico. Soon after new life forms began to appear and half the country was quarantined as an infected zone. Today The Mexican and US Military still struggle to contain the creatures."
So starts the 2010 low budget drama, road movie, science fiction, love story Monsters. In the story a photo journalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is coerced by his editor to collect the paper owner's daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) and get her away from the danger of the infected zone. Her hotel has been attacked and Andrew asks about looking for her. The monsters, large air squid seem to be spreading and the military seems to be losing ground to them. They are not coordinated but more seem like giants migratory animals. They move about and interact but are so large often will kill people in their passing. When the two people do find each other the plan is to take the train to the coast where Samantha can board a boat back to the United States. Andrew is hoping that in their travels he may still get that good photo of the creatures he has not been able to get. We see on signs that northern Mexico is all infected zone. Northern Mexico as an infected zone with the US trying to keep the creatures out, and they caused it through their own actions. This all seem so familiar somehow?

So Samantha and Andrew board the slow train to the coast with the sounds of battle nearby to indicate they are near the southern border of the zone. Time is running out with the zone moving further to the south so they have just 48 hours to get there before that port is no longer useful. They start the trip and get to know each other while the train chugs alone. When it is turned back by the military they are still 100 kilometers from the coast and so decide to disembark and make their way on foot. We get them bonding until they get to the port. Their the timing is bad and the officials corrupt making an exit impossible. Then on top of it after spending a very cool night at the Day of the Dead celebrations, Samantha is resisting his advances since she has as fiancee waiting in the states. He after being turned down finds a local to wet his willy and ends up getting their passports and money stolen. Options are gone now the two decide to hire men with their remaining cash to take them across the infected zone on foot. Like many an illegal immigrant they are going to traverse northern Mexico and slip into the United States.
The journey is really well done from the boat up river, we have close encounters with the giant beasts, see their destruction and share the Americans fears as they are lead through this dangerous land by armed gunmen. We get to see the way the creature procreate and learn some of their spawning patterns.
When the main crisis hits the group it puts our couple in a desperate place where they must rely on each other to get through to the border. It is a struggle but when the large border wall is reached the area is abandoned. The battle it appears has moved north into Texas.
This is a very cool movie, with just enough special effects to please. It is not an action packed thrill ride like District 9. It is a story of two people on a trip that changes them profoundly and allows them to find each other. Writer, director Gareth Edwards works wonders shooting non actors in their homes and businesses, in parks and on streets and works those interactions into his science fiction tale. The actors working with minimal script give honest and clear performances. Whitney and Scoot dating at the time the shoot started are now married and in interviews talked about the continuous shooting while traveling with Edwards through Mexico and Costa Rica capturing the footage. How many times innocuous answers to questions about the government or a recent storms were edited into the movie to fit the alien battle scenario. They talk about the incredible effort put in by Edwards to get all the visuals for this film, including some shooting in Galveston TX after a hurricane wiped out most of the community.
This film is a success that shows that good movie making does not take hundreds of people and millions of dollars. It take a story, skill and lots of heart. This film has that.
Rating (7.2) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would say Go see it if you can.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Catching up a bit...

Oh the life of a blogging fool. I have been out of the writing loop for a bit here, is it too many TV shows? Is it laziness? Oh I don't know, but this catch all entry is too get me back up to speed and back on track.

On the first Wednesday of each month the great horror website All Things Horror puts on a horror movie night in the screening room of the Somerville Theater. This month I attended and got to see some very good horror shorts and a feature.
Fallow (2009) - Dave Alexander wrote and directed this tale of a farming community that has a unique way of getting good crops. We see something is not right in the first scene with the nicely done effect of a stillborn calf. The history lesson of the erea brings us up to speed with the story of the community and how they learned to appease the land with sacrifices. Cut to present time and a pregnant woman is sharing a meal with a farm family. Things are going along and we learn she is a surrogate for the son of the family's baby. Only we learn that she is not going to give up the child to them. Their sacrifice baby is going to suddenly be gone so the family drugs the woman. She wakes in a field surrounded by farmer men. I won't give away the twist because this is a nice watch and you should go see it. It is a well put together short with wonderful music by the Creaking Tree String Quartet.
The next Short was a fast paced and interestingly filmed zombie piece called the The Laundromat, at least I think. What was nice about this is it takes the approach of only show what you need to to get the story across. We see the couple struggling to get to the location the woman (Mandy Magnan) and an injured man. The woman of the tries to deal with the guys wounds and finds a really creative way to stop the bleeding. The rest of the show is zombies closing in and the guy turning and how the woman tries to escape the situation. Quick and well done by Dave Jacombs Jr..
Beating Hearts (2010) - A wonderfully dark short by Matthew Garrett about a relationship that should never be and the horrific turn it takes. Disturbing in content and very well executed, starting at the first scene where the girl (Gianna Bruzzese) watches her mother sleep, alllthe way to the resolution this one has you cringing.
The feature of the night is another Matt Garrett film called Morris County which is a somewhat dark episodic three stories capturing the darkness behind a normal middle class community. Dealing with murder, rape, closeted gays and societal expectations and the neglected forgotten elderly, their is a real profound sadness for the truly messed up lives. A worthy movie but it could have used a bit more connection through the stories to tie it all together. There was a nice Q&A with Matt Garrett.

Also I have watched a movie that will not get a review at this time. Predators (2010) was very enjoyable for what it was.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nightmare Castle (1965) - Horror Ghost

Nightmare Castle (1965) - Amanti d'oltretomba is an Italian made ghost revenge story with the wonderful Barbara Steele in the lead as both Muriel Arrowsmith and later her sister Jenny. In this film Muriel who is married to Dr. Steven Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) but is having an affair with the stable guy David (Rik Battaglia). When Steven discovers them things go horribly wrong. There is this great scene where Stephen is pretending to go on a business trip and leaves the house. Muriel has a unique way of letting David no the coast is clear, she plays a particular song on the piano. This song becomes a theme in the film, the music by Ennio Morricone is excellent. A prolific and I can say famous movie composer Morricone is known for other features such as, "A Fistful of Dollars", " The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", "L 'anticristo", "Exorcist II: The Heretic", "The Mission", and "The Untouchables". Here the music is just so well done and ties a "not the best film" together smoothly.

So Muriel and David go to the green house for a bit of hanky panky until confronted by Steven who circled back to the house. Steven knocks them out and when they wake they are chained to a wall. The sadistic husband tortures them some talking about how they will pay for a long time for the disloyalty. We learn she is the one in the family with money and she tells him she changed her will so her sister is her heir instead of him. Steven not to be persuaded attempts to bargain with her but she will never agree. There is nothing left to do but torture the two to death. Did I mention he is a sadistic bastard. He sure is with his acid drips and electric beds. So Muriel is dead and you will be thinking boy he just screwed himself. Strangely although later it makes sense he takes the hearts of the two and puts them away in his lab for safe keeping.

He set up catching them with the help of the old maid Solange (Helga Line) and his plan with her was to give her youth again and fuck her I think. Or was it to fuck her and give her youth again. He is a scientist after all and that is what they do. Anyway they together have a plan to use the sister, drive her insane or get her to give up her fortune to them. The sister has been under the care of a doctor and so they think these things are possible. Steven goes to fetch her from the asylum.

Muriel is cremated and become potting soil for a plant, I am not sure what happened to David. When Steven and Jenny arrive it is again Barbara Steele this time as a blond. Solange is still the maid but much younger and more attractive. To her surprise, Steven has found a way to get what he wants. He married Jenny before returning. Since we do not really know how much time has passed or how the authorities let it be that Muriel is dead, we just have to accept that this is all okay. It is just how it is.
Steven now has the plan to make his new wife insane by slowly loosening her mind with some sort of drug he is going to drop in her drinks. When she is committed he will have control of her money and the now young Solange to screw every night, seems like a plan.

Then the movie leaves us thinking, Jenny has some strange experiences and we are left to decide what is going on. Are the drugs she is being given making her hallucinate? Is there a ghost in the house trying to warn her of something? or Is Steven setting up some stuff to drive her to crazy a bit faster.We can eliminate the last thing soon enough when Jenny finds Muriel's Music, she starts to play and suddenly she is playing as if she knows it by heart. On top of that she is drinking alcohol, the same kind her sister liked. She seems to be possessed. Solange and Steven in the other room get suspicious when the playing stops and go looking for her. Her scream brings them to the cellars where she faints in front of them. So their plan is working and since they did not see her in the possessed state they believe the drugs are doing the job. She can't remember anything from the incident and Steven reassures her there are no spirits in the house.
He invites her doctor to the house to hopefully get her committed as soon as possible. Dr Dereck Joyce (Lawrence Clift) works with her trying to get her to remember things only Muriel would know. She remembers in the greenhouse the scene of Muriel and David in the beginning of the film.
When Jenny again hears the beating heart before an episode she won't remember. Good thing too because she so comes on to Derek. Meanwhile we learn that the work Steven is doing in his lab has to do with keeping Solange young by transfusing her with his former wife's blood. But it is not working as long as it did before and the maid wants Jenny's blood for the procedure. Not wanting to give too much more of the film away from here it really does turn into a ghost story. The Spirits of the dead and the tell-tale hearts kept in the lab do their best to foil the plans of the evil doers. There are some really decent special effects for such an old film and the outcome was satisfying enough.
Rating (5.8) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I say Rent it!

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - Horror Monster

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - Procrastination... for over a week I have been putting off writing about anything on this blog even though I have seen several things. After a while the backlog gets big enough that it seems like a chore to get started. But start I must and here is the movie review that has been waiting the longest for publishing. Originally conceived as a black comedy James Whale who directed the first Frankenstein, took a written, rework and rewritten script and created a mess of a movie. The film begins with a strange scene where Frankenstein book author Mary Shelley explains to Lord Byron and her husband that the story of Frankenstein in the book is not the end of the tale. She launches into the next piece and we pick it up in the film.
The story starts moments after the end of Frankenstein, with the village people up at the burning windmill at the top of the mountain. It has burned to the ground and the villagers are collecting the apparently dead body of Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive). There are a hilarious character in the crowd we learn later is Henry's housekeeper Minnie (Una O'Conner). When everyone is gone only Maria's dad (Maria is the little girl drown by the monster in the first movie) and his wife still grieving over the loss of their daughter. He wants to see the body of the monster to know that it is dead. He falls into the smoldering remains of the windmill landing in a flooded cellar. How so much water got into the cellar of a windmill on the top of a mountain was never explained. The Monster is there having survived the fire, come and chokes and drowns him. How cruel to go out just like his daughter, then the monster climbs out of the hole. Again we see some of the comedy aspects of the film with the wife not looking putting out her hand to pull the monster up thinking it is her husband. He responds with not a thank you grunt but throws her to her death down the hole. Minnie who is still milling about (milling he he he) gets to make a great scared face before running off to tell the village the monster is alive.
Henry is found to be alive when Elizabeth (Valarie Hobson) runs to see him and he is nursed back to health. She works in the movie as sort of a religious counterbalance to the men who are intrigued by the idea of creating life. Being a woman she can already create life so they must seen a bit silly to her. The bulk of the story now starts in earnest with the arrival of Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who has also been working to create life and wants Henry and he to get together and make something special. Pretorius has created miniature people that he keeps in jars, a King, queen, bishop, devil , ballerina and a mermaid. It is funny and incredibly strange to see this seen. Sure he can grow miniatures but he can't create a large size. His hope is Henry and he can create a body and he can grow a brain to create a new creature. A woman creature. Henry for the time being wants nothing to do with it.
There is a bunch of getting the first monster to Pretorius scenes where the we see him wander the forest and be repelled by his own image, is too frightening to people, and eventually gets captured. There is this great crucifix imagery that got by the censors of the day when the captured monster is being loaded on the cart. Why is he captured who knows because when they chain him in a cell he simply breaks the chain and now with superhuman strength bust the door out and runs out of the village terrifying the townsfolk. I think they were going to show the monster would never be understood by normal folk. Then while wandering it meets the blind violin playing old guy. That guy heavy on his religious kick takes in the monster and teaches him to talk in a limited manner. Things seem to have changed in the monsters favor. He has a friend who is not afraid of him because he can't see him. He is fed and loves to listen to music.
Unfortunately a couple hunters come across the cabin and start a commotion over the monster. The house ends up on fire and Frankenstein Monster is on the run again. Chased into a cemetery by the town folk he hides and then meets Dr. Pretorius, who is there stealing female bodies. They bond and come up with a plan to rope Henry into building a female monster. They kidnap Elizabeth forcing Henry to join them, which he does with gusto. We have the creating the monster scene only with new and exciting looking machines. The storm come up and they are successful. The Monster comes to see the new bride. He says "Friend" and she screams. There is no way she is going to like the monster and he realizes this. In the quickest ending in movie history, Henry and Elizabeth clear out while the monster pulls on lever that destroys the entire lab castle killing himself, the Bride and Dr. Pretorius. Where ending and why would anyone have such a switch?
Rating (4.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system I would still say rent it, we should all have a knowledge of the classics.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Frankenstein (1931) - Horror Monster

Frankenstein (1931) - Knowing that Rachel of Zombiegrrlz is doing this film as homework this month Soresport movies will play along and review some classic monster films. This classic directed by James Whale written by John L. Balderston from the Mary Shelley's 1818 book is really a cut down story from what Shelley wrote. I am of the opinion that no one can spoil a movie classic from 1931 so the plot will be fully discussed in this review. An actor introduces the film warning the audience that the film may be too disturbing for some viewers. Being 1931 and the beginning of the Universal Monster era it could be that this film was viewed as too shocking. In his excellent book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, David J. Skal writes about the many censorship issues the movie faced but surprisingly not because of the horror. Yes, the scene originally shot of the little girl's drowning was cut to exclude her body sinking below the water but the biggest complaint was about the idea of man as God. Writer John Balderston stresses Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) as a man wanting to create life, it is his driving force and he rants like a madman when the experiment is successful. This was offensive to many religious groups in the 1930's.
The film itself is a bit flawed, there is really no back story on how Henry gets from his engagement with Elizabeth (Mae Clarke) to obsessed scientist other than what is said by Dr. Waldman, that he was more radical than the medical school wanted in his experimentation. So for like four months he is off, not too far away since Victor (John Boles) ran into him in the woods, doing his experiments, but not checking in with his fiancee. Stealing bodies from the grave to build his being, creating a lab to bring it to life but not taking a break to go home? This of course includes his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye) steal a brain from the medical school. He gets jumpy and drops the first brain so instead steals the criminal brain. All that ran through my mind was Marty Feldman talking about Abby's brain in Young Frankenstein.
In a scene where Victor and Elizabeth talk about Henry's behavior we get this half of this information. In a strange extra set up we have the idea that Victor has feelings for Elizabeth but this idea is presented but never explored. Then in a scene with Victor, Elizabeth and Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) when they decide to go to the lab and see Henry, we get the other half about how brilliant but crazy he is.
Like a Mom coming into a teens room while his is masturbating, they show up at the lab right before the climax of the experiment. The storm outside is perfect to create the electricity for the ray gun that will bring the sown together body parts to life. The machines are warmed up and then, Bang bang bang, they are at the door. When it is apparent that they won't go away Henry brings them in and quite forcefully insists they sit while he finishes, eeeewu! now that Mom line seems a bit weird. Anyway he and his assistant Fritz finish the experiment with Henry explaining his rays are beyond the Violet spectrum which is in the lower end of the light spectrum and would be like Blue light? Anyway it works and Henry gets all maniacal in his success.
The Monster played by Boris Karloff is done with such feeling it is very hard to see it as a Monster. When revealed you forget the conceit that it has the brain of a criminal and see it as a poor suffering creature turned loose into a world that will never understand it. Henry must have been bipolar because he turns on the monster very quickly. After the creature kills Fritz who for no reason continually torments the beast it is decided the Monster is to be destroyed. They manage to subdue it with a needle, and Henry leaves the castle lab, he is deflated as a man. Why does Dr. Waldman decide to autopsy the creature? It wakes and kills him and now the monster is on the loose.
There again is a real disconnect, Henry relaxes with his wife to be, the "I am God" thing has been done and is now out of his system. They idly wonder what has become of the good doctor as their wedding day fast approaches. On the big day and things are bound to go wrong, but first we should have some class defining statements by the old Baron. When they guests are toasting the bride and groom with some very old and expensive wine, the old man says "Give the servants champagne this stuff is wasted on them." Real nice guy. Again a bit later when the villages come to thank him for the party he says "It's amazing how happy you can make people on a couple bottles of beer."
With the monster wandering the country side we get the controversial (at the time) scene where the monster meets little Maria. The cute little girl sits with him and shows him how to toss flower tops to land in the lake and float. The monster shows such joy while doing this. When they are out of flowers poor Maria is tossed into the water and we have a kill that will anger everyone in the community. Even though the Monster is I believe Innocent in why he tossed he in the water the image of the father carrying him limp little dripping girl into the village would enrage anyone.
When the monster arrives at the town, amazingly without being seen. He creeps into the window of the Barons house behind our bride Elizabeth. There is no explanation to how it is he knows where he is, whose house or who Elizabeth is. Unlike the book the movie does not bother to have the monster being angry at Henry. Instead it is blind luck he ends up where he is and it does not work well. There is this ridiculous scene where he ruffles Elizabeth where the guys are running around the house trying to find the monster. We hear his grrrs but they go from attic to cellar before Elizabeth screams. When they get to her the monster is gone though.
We move to the climax where the villagers and Henry head out in groups to get the monster There is some wandering before they corner it in a windmill on the top of a mountain. Henry fights the creature in the windmill and eventually is throw to the ground gravely injured. The windmill is burned to the ground and the Monster perishes. Or so we think.
Throughout this film the Monster is really the sympathetic character. He was created and the fear people have of him seems more their issues than his. He is just not good at communicating and easily frustrated. When people scream he panics like Lennie Small in "Of Mice and Men", which only aggravates the situation. Henry is the main villain, a driven man who stops at nothing to get what he wants and then if it does not work perfectly is an ass about it. Lets kill the monster and get rid of this mess is his attitude. So the monster suffers for his creators actions and in the end I leave the movie just feeling sad for the Monster.
Rating (5.2) 5.0 and up are recommended, On the Zombiegrrlz system I would say rent it.

Outpost Doom (2009) - Horror Monster

Outpost Doom (2009) - There are two guys running through the woods with bad rain effects, accentuated by poor lightning effects while being chased by a cameraman wiggling his fingers in front of the camera. It is a creative idea making due with what is available. This is the beginning of Outpost Doom, the micro budget film from the guys at Dead Lantern, and the world famous Splattercast (podcast). Before starting this review let me say that I love the Splattercast podcast, I listen to every episode and so I am a fan. I appreciate that these guys not only share a love of the horror genre, but get off their asses and put time and creativity into creating their own flick and podcast. There should be credit given to small film makers for the effort and energy they put into these projects. Eh... its sounding like I am apologizing before ripping their movie apart, not really my intention but since I already know I did not really like the movie but like the guys so it is hard. Okay I will approach it as a viewer who loves horror movies and let the cards fall where they fall.
The two guys, convicts Curt (Steve Eaton) and Rick (Jeremy Cech) from the first scene, make it to a barn and then for some unknown reason the pass out like synchronized swimmers. When Kurt wakes up again he sees a headless body then Rick comes and beats the shit out of him. Kurt is tied to a beam and Rick who has a glowing pentagram on his hand beats him a bit and says "You can't fool me, I know what you are." We don't! Tell us damn it what is Kurt? Apparently Kurt was somewhere and a lot of people ended up dead. Kurt denies killing anyone. Rick turns from the window, of course he should not be standing by the window, door or whatever since there is a finger monster outside. He does anyway and is grabbed from behind through the window slots by the finger monster. It really is a decent effect and works for the movie. He is saved but now he sees they are not alone in the barn there is a group of people and one has a gun. So we have a setup and I have to give some credit here, instead of having an acute crisis that brought everyone to the barn. There has been a "darkness" in the world for some time and people have ended up there from unconnected places. The body on the inside means that there is also a killer inside the barn too. Still I don't understand how they all sort of just got there and have not explored the place. I like the idea that the world is going through some kind of invasion.
The Group of players are
Convict Rick - The best actor of the bunch and very distrustful of Curt. His story about guys on the chain gang ending up dead around Curt lends to the surprise twist at the end of the story.
Convict Curt - Casually talks about being in prison for murder, excellent in that nobody batted an eye when he reveals this in fact Leon is friendly with him after this.
Leon (Jeff Gustafson) A local bar owner who knows Curt from the past. He is wonderfully animated in his line delivery compared to many of the other actors.
David (Braden Johnson) the diabetic for the purpose of getting someone to try to get to the house nearby.
Mathew Kister - I take it he was Mathew and since he does not have a character name on imdb he must have been living the movie thinking it was really happening.
Harry (Jeff Schmidt) - Has the gun at the beginning and is caring for the blind woman Helen.
Helen (Who played Helen?) My wife pegged her right away as the obvious killer and then she says to to Curt in the middle of the flick. "Why are you always looking out the window?" She is blind right?
Stu (Deejay Scharton) Should never have went out into the dark barn. He roughs up the prisoners pretty good in the beginning of the film. He has a short fuse.
Jenny (Rhyann Crooks) Our other female lead.
The guy upstairs Herb?
After establishing how much nobody trusts the two guys in prison clothes, the lights in the barn start failing. The group decides to investigate the barn, and of course they split up and of course this is not going to end well. Stu send the fainty David back to the main area of the barn, he says he can handle it but then says "Trust Me" so we will know he is about to die. When the killing starts it creates a chain reaction of distrust as the group starts getting killed off. Now we have "Ten Little Indians" and we all get to guess which person in the group is the killer.
Onward it goes with each time the groups separates someone dies. About this time my wife told me who the killer was and she was right. It seems inevitable in horror movies that this is going to happen and I always get a sinking feeling for the film when it does. Then we reconfigure the groups and send them out again for a new cast member to kick it. Shot in Black and white made the monster effect as well as the wound effect work pretty well.
The acting is well like a bunch of friends got together to act. The story by Mathew Kister was okay if a bit predictable. How much can you do in a one location shoot though? The idea that there is a outside force that has forced them all into the barn gets established pretty well. The idea of the killer among us is not very well established and the ending twist really doesn't fit in the film at all. Sticking to developing the idea of the internal killers reason for being and motivation would have benefited the overall story. It is pretty limiting and even though the barn seemed to have several rooms it seemed a limited space. Thus the dialog and actors needed to carry the story and they fell short. Glad to see the twist at the end and if my wife and daughter got their wish I would not have. At one point my wife said, "Why are you watching this?" I of course defended my boys at Dead Lantern and told her there is value in all film and each has to be judged on its... who am I kidding I shrugged my shoulder and waited for the exploding head effect.
David has a great idea in saying maybe they should not be wandering around in the dark when somebody is killing them. That doesn't happen though so they talk themselves into dying and so it goes.
"Jenny will you stop being a whiny bitch."
I liked the CGI effect of the killers face in the climax and then the final twist is just a bit too much. Overall although the movie was not... um... good I applaud the guys at Dead Lantern for the effort. So what was with Rick's glowing Pentagram, did I miss something or did that never get resolved? Why yes it was but you have to know you classic horror movie monsters to get it.
Rating (3.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, In the Zombiegrrlz rating system I say BUY IT! although I don't recommend it as a film I support low budget horror film, so throw these guys $10 bucks at came with a wonderful hand written note from Deejay that you can take to a writing specialist for analysis, or re-gift in the pipe bomb you are sending to your boss.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mark of the Devil (1970) - Horror Gore Historical

Mark of the Devil (1970) - As a Yut I can remember being at the Drive-In movies a couple times, I have a very strong memory of watching "5 fingers of Death" and I have a memory of this film "Mark of the Devil", in my head they were a double feature but I really doubt that since they came out a couple years apart. In an effort to revisit the movies of my youth I recently watched Mark of the Devil. It opens with this strange camera effect like they were shooting through the bottom of a clear bottle. We see the local witch hunter, Albino (Reggie Nalder) sending his thugs after a caravan of priests and nuns, they capture rape and in general do bad to them. The next scene is a results scene as 2 women and a man are publicly tortured. Albino accuses them of witchcraft and doing sinful things and requires them to confess. They cut the fingers off one woman and then tar and feather the man. They then burn the other woman at the stake and of course she curses them all. It really is to establish the place and time as somewhere between the 15 and 18th century during the witch hunts. We get a scroll narration talking about just this and how 8 million people were executed during the period. Then setting up the movie we are to see.
We follow Vanessa (Olivera Katarina) from the crowd scene back to the tavern she works at. As we pass people in the streets we hear bits and pieces of the soon to arrive Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) the big wig witch hunter who is coming to check out the town. Already at the Tavern are sitting Christian(the great Udo Kier) and Jeff Wilkins (Herbert Fux) the assistant to Cumberland and his executioner respectively. When Albino comes into the tavern there is a bit of a confrontation with the new comers. He does not want to give up the power he has to Cumberland when he arrives. There is a multi level conflict here, Christian sees Albino as a backwards thug abusing his power. He is training with Cumberland who he sees as a noble man doing the work of God to remove the evil from the world. The power he has over Albino is to demand the paperwork for all the executions that have taken place and he exercises this power. It leaves the illiterate Albino on the ropes, his assistant has to work to create the falsified paperwork quickly. In this Christian acting for Cumberland can attempt to set this backwoods thug straight.
Albino hits on Vanessa and when she spurns his ugly assface he accuses her of being a witch. Christian stops him and then in the time from when Cumberland arrives and the accusation there are scenes of Christian and Vanessa spending time together and him falling for her. He can not be near her all the time though and it is not long before Albino gets his hands on Vanessa, he whips her good and arrests her.
When Cumberland arrives he takes Albino's side against Vanessa, basically saying that the accusation of the local witch finder is sufficient to hold her. Later she will be tortured for a confession. In another case a young blond, Deidre von Bergenstein (Gaby Fuchs) who is also accused says she was raped and impregnated by the Lord Bishop of the area. Cumberlands insists she should admit being a witch but she refuses having been wronged by this Bishop. She will be tortured for confession. What this scene did was to create doubt to in Christian about his mentor Cumberland, he sees the elder purposely not accept the story from Deidre because it would make the church he works for look bad. Christian thought they were seeking truth and is thrown off by the callus approach of Cumberland.
This is the message of this film. It is a history lesson about the witch hunts while expressing that so much of what was going on was either personal, as in the case of Albino. Or personal for Cumberland when we learn he is impotent and at one point can only get off by raping a noble women. That a lot was done to benefit the church as in the case of Deidre who must be a witch because the alternative is that she was raped by the Bishop and that is seen as unacceptable. There is also a story line about Baron Daumer (Michael Maien) a young man who should inherit his fathers fortunes, but since he was too young the church has been holding them. Now of legal age and requesting his inheritance the church has accused him of being possessed by a demon. The torture to remove the demon will probably kill him. Christian again sees the flaws in his mentor when it is obvious the church just does not want to loose the income and power of the holdings. Cumberland says he could free himself of the demon by signing everything over to the church.
Through the story Christian struggles with the morality of what they are doing, will he save Vanessa his love? Will he turn against his Lord Cumberland? Can he save Baron Daumer? When the film gets to a climax it is so anticlimactic that I was amazed. After sitting through this really boring if somewhat gory film, I could not believe who got killed who got away and why they bothered to make the movie in the first place.
Back in the day when you went to see this movie they gave you a vomit bag because the scenes of torture were so graphic. In these times of torture porn this movie is almost PG-13, there are a couple of boobs of Gaby Fuch on the rack, there is the rape scene that is not graphic at all and you see quite a few tortures and people burnings but they are not close to what you see in Hostel or the Saw movies. Boy were times different back in the early 1970's. Like many movies from that era this movie takes a long time for the character, in this case Christian to get from point A to B. The movie is long and somewhat boring with lots of torture scenes, he is really slow to give up on Lord Cumberland though. When he finally does for the love of a woman, it ends up being a tragic decision.
Rating (3.2) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Skip It!