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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Catching up from vacation...

So if you have not noticed the soresport has been on vacation and off playing discgolf. I played in the 2011 Am World Championships in Rochester NY and came in 56th in a field of 74 in the Adv. Mens division.
I have seen a few films the last couple weeks and will briefly talk about them below.

Captain America (2011) - Besides the early scenes in the film you would not even know this film was set in WWII. Early on you see news reels at a movie theater talking about the Nazi's and the war effort, the scene is used well to establish the main character. Then after you see fantasized view of NYC the film is basically a separate world. I guess you can not really market Nazi toys in today's society so instead we get a secret offshoot of them call Hydra. The main bad guy leader of Hydra, Red Skull and Captain America have similar origin stories, but very different results. Still the special formula served its purpose and the two end up in an epic montage of battles where the superior firepower of Hydra is no match for the multicultural troop following the guy with the shield. The ridiculousness of this one included:
  • A B2 stealth looking bomber with eight propellers, this is a group with freaking laser guns here and they have a propeller plane.
  • While I am at it what was with labeling each bomb with the name of an American city, really? On the nose much.
  • A mysterious cube for hydra energy that if I remember correctly will come into play again when The Avengers movie comes out.
  • Capt has a metabolism 4x that of normal folks but does not seem to need to eat 12x a day. He can't get drunk though which I suppose is a good thing the way he throws that shield around.
Overall the movie is a passable action movie with a decent enough origin story and ending so
Rating (5.2) 5.0 and up are recommended.

We Are The Night (2010) - The description of this film on comcast makes one think of sexy vampires seducing their man prey but boy is that NOT this movie. This foreign poorly dubbed to English film was a sad tale of a trio of female vampires who bring a fourth young woman into the group only to have some really negative consequences from the action. A grittier side of vampirism is explored where once the relationships among the women was young and exciting now it is old and tense. A reasonable film if a bit slow this one just barely misses a recommendation.
Rating (4.8) 5.0 and up are recommended.

[rec]2 (2009) - Rewatched this with my daughter now that I own a copy and I have to say I really enjoyed it the second time around. You can read my review on the side links of this site but boy as a 1-2 punch rec and rec2 are a great thing to happen to horror movies in a long time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cold Prey (2006) Horror Slasher

Cold Prey (2006) - This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club, and since there is a "final girl" who against stereotype is strong and competent, not a virgin and not the first to die, basically a final girl who is like Stacie Ponder it is appropriate to include this film in this series. Check out all her works at her Website Final Girl
***Lots of Spoilers*** ***No really I mean I break down the entire film so watch it before reading the review.***
Since this film is supposed to be a bit of a mystery slasher yet does a sort of poor job hiding its mystery it will be spoiled during this review. You have been warned. Is a solid small scale slasher film set in Norway where Five hikers looking for a shelter after one of them breaks a leg get more than they bargained for in the lodge they find.
The story and the identity of the killer were not a surprise. After the opening scenes it was pretty obvious who the killer was. What was interesting was the turn that reveals the trauma that created this killer. In the first scene a boy with a rather large birthmark around his eye is running from the lodge frantic to get away from someone. The birthmark makes him very distinctive and the simple fact that it exists tells the audience that this is someone to remember. He falls over a snow cliff and is stuck in the snow. The chaser who we never really see breaks snow from the cliff and buries the child as he desperately struggles to free himself. Okay already this description is a spoiler, but so obvious is this scene that know one could possibly not pick up on it. Inter cut with this during the credits are reports on the television of hikers disappearing and searches. This lets us know that a whole lot of people go missing in the area but it is attributed to the winter conditions.
It is 30 or so years later and the film introduces our modern day characters, Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen), and his girlfriend Jannicke (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), Mikal (Endre Martin Midstigen) who is newly with girlfriend Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) and the fifth wheel is Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen) who secretly pines for Jannicke but instead is the wise cracker of the group. Okay, not so secretly, but the two are not out in the open about their feelings either. They are driving on holiday to have a hike and ski adventure in Jotunheimen Norway. The small cast leads a US viewer to wonder how this could be a compelling slasher film. How high can the body count go with five people? They must introduce others later, right? Nope this is it, but surprisingly it is enough. Director and co writer Roar Uthaug creates a very tight tension filled little film. The isolation is built in as we watch the group climb the beautiful mountains of Norway, they reach the top and we see they are going to ski down into the bowl. Snowboarding they have a great day until Morten falls and breaks his leg. Again we get a nice change from the slasher formula when Jannicke takes control of the situation, she splints the leg and directs the group to find shelter. It is a relief that one of the guys whether competent or not, fails to step forward to try to be in control because of male role expectation in society.
When the group find the lodge they are so relieved and go about setting in to warm up and come up with a plan on how to get out of the mountains. It is a large place and if you were paying attention in the beginning of the film you know exactly where they are. They settle in and explore finding and starting the generator in the cellar, finding some alcohol to warm with and relieve Morten's pain. It is that point in the slasher film where the audience is being relaxed, getting to know characters and taking away the anticipation before quickly raising the tension again. Mikal and Ingunn head off to find a place to make out and enjoy each others company. They find a room and settle in for some nookie. As they make there way they find just enough disturbing things to set an edge for the audience. A burned out room, a bathroom which looks like it is either very dirty or in the past used as a slaughter house. A false scare prior to the real stuff just at the one third mark of the film. This is the setup, they all have drinks, find a journal for the lodge that has not been written in since the 70's. An image of the boy from the films start standing with his parents. The others mention the noise that Ingunn and Mikal were making in the cellar, "We weren't in the cellar."
Now anyone who has seen a horror slasher movie knows that having sex is the trope just before the killing starts and this film does not disappoint but again is very original in skewing the idea a bit. Ingunn is a virgin and stops Mikal from going too far. Down to her underwear she is enticing and he is good to go but she puts the breaks on and frustrates him. He doesn't know she is a virgin and is temporarily upset with the outcome of their foreplay calling her a cock tease he wanders back to the main room to drink his sexual frustrations away. Unlike traditional slasher trope in most cases this film does not have the bad kids who have sex be the first victims. That would be Jannicke and Eirik who have been together for quite a while and sleep together out near the fire. Instead the virginal Ingunn left alone in a more remote section of the lodge is destined to NOT be the Final Girl. The death scene is tightly executed and really tense. She is gone and the others won't notice for a while because it is bedtime, not until Mikal heads back to apologize the next morning, after he finds out the whole virgin thing from Jannicke. Eirik heads out into the snow to get the car and help. Jannicke clearly passes a keepsake to him so we will know if he made it out later or not if we see the little bangle. He find Ingunn dead outside but is whacked before he can do anything about it. Then there were three and nobody left has any idea anything is wrong. It is 50 minutes into the movie and about time for fireworks.
Jannicke and Makal are down in the cellar dealing with the generator while Morten is hobbling around upstairs wondering where everyone has got too. A lantern on in the back room of the cellar leads the duo to the fact that someone else is here. Noticing that some of the stuff from when the boy went missing they start to put the pieces together that the family in the photo had a horrible tragedy. They notice all the things that are around the place that do not fit with the idea that the lodge has been closed for 30 years. Who could have a collection of modern car keys in this abandon hut? People don't just leave their car keys behind. The two have a sense of urgency and the score of the film reflects it. It is strangely short lived as Jannicke heads off to smooth things over for Makal.  Makal heads up to find Morton at the same time. The blood on the floor of Ingunn's room sets the tension back up, there is a lot and it is in "a body has been dragged here" shape. Jannicke gets to the guys and brings them back to the room. They know something is very strange and this combined with the findings in the cellar and they know they have to go. Now the door opens and closes in the distance and they run to barricade themselves in a room. The plan is to wait for Eirik to bring help, but you know that won't last and Mikal eventually feels so guilty about leaving Ingunn alone that he leaves the room to go see if he can find her. This is a trope that is played out in an original way also where he has a really close call with the killer and then makes it back to the room. Now the killer knows where the three are hiding and although he could get in he stops short and puts the pressure on the survivors. Mikal abandons the other two leaving through the window but gets caught in a bear trap. It is a great scene where the two watch from the room window as Mikal gets killed across the way. Then the killer looks straight at them, this is so effective!
They know they have to get out but the feelings Jannicke has for Morton stop her from just leaving him. They do have to get a new hiding place and do. She is again in control as he collapses into a crying blob she is the one with the courage to create action. She searches around risking herself and finding skis, a shotgun and one shell and a sled. So of course the problem is executing an escape. They are going to try to lure the killer into a lockable room of the cellar and then make their escape. Things of course do not work out, but she sees the bangle she gave to Eirik and knows no help is on the way. Eirik is half dead on the floor and a bit delirious. He can't walk so is not going anywhere. The plan doesn't work as expect. Do they ever?
The final battle is a very good tense sequence in which our final girl does what is necessary to survive. Overall this film is surprisingly good. What are normally cliche in a slasher movie are wonderfully original in execution. When the final reveal comes you will not be shocked by who the killer is but the film makers knew this so instead there is a flashback to the inciting incident that made him a killer. It is a pretty decent turn.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Demons (1985) Horror Demons

Demons (1985) Lamberto Bava takes a script from Dario Argento and creates a classic gore fest demon movie that holds up through the years. Made in Germany by Italians with English speaking actors the story revolves around a group of theater goers who get more than they bargained for when they accepted the complimentary tickets. Cheryl (The beautiful Natasha Hovey) is scared at being alone in a train station thinks she is being stalked by a strange man with a metallic mask covering half his face. It is a nice tension building scene early in the film, with hyper intense music by Claudio Simonetti who created the out of this world music for Suspiria, as well as other Argento films, The Card Player and Mother of Tears. This film also features music by a variety of eighties bands and is a real treat. Cheryl panics and runs through the train station with this eighties techno blaring. The masked man follows catching her at the top of the escalator but instead of a quick and sudden death he hands her a ticket to a theater, the Metropol. Relieves she actually tracks the guy back down to get a second ticket so she and her friend Kathy (Paola Cozzo) can go together.

There is no title for the movie but skipping class they decide to go to the film anyway. Skipping class can only mean something bad is going to happen. Isn't this how it is in the movies? Do something bad and look out for the repercussions?
We meet some of the other players in the film, the couple who don't get along too well, the Blind man, Warner (Alex Serra) and his cheating wife Liz (Enrica Maria Scrivano), the Pimp with a plan, Tony (Bobby Rhodes) and his two prostitutes Carmen and Rosemary, the two college guys who will scoop on our girls George and Ken (Karl Zinny), Hannah and Tom the daters and the beautiful but creepy red headed ticket taker Ingrid (Nicoletta Elmi). Throughout the this movie her looks seem to lead that she knows something about what is going to happen but then nothing comes of it. Maybe Argento lost some scenes in the rewriting of the script that took away the bigger story which included this woman in a more sinister role. That is what you would think from he silent stares and suspicious behavior anyway. It is a real flaw with Demons is that there is potential for so much more in the story. Is the film being shown the culprit? When the chaos begins someone says it is the building that is doing it. This too is not explored in any significant way, which is a shame because what is a good movie could have been even better.
One of the prostitutes, I am assuming the profession since it is never stated. Rosemary (Geretta Geretta) is her name and she puts on the creepy demon mask in the lobby when they are coming in and as she removes it it cuts her. This is the closest to cause and effect the film gets. When the film begins in the theater it is a dark horror film. It plays out with a group of young adults finding the tomb of Nostradamus. There they defile the crypt and find a book and a mask that looks just like the one in the Metropol's lobby. One of the characters puts the mask on against the wishes of his friend and is warned that the wearer becomes a demon. "He will spread pestilence and evil" As the character removes the mask he is cut just like Rosemary was. This she finds really disturbing and at that moment realizes that the cut she has is bleeding again and heads to the bathroom to get cleaned up. As she walks out the film also talks about cuts that will not stop bleeding.
There is this stuff with Liz (Enrica Maria Scrivano) and a strange guy making out while Werner (Alex Serra) listens to the movie. It was like she planned for them to be here to meet the man. It is a bit out of place but a reason to focus on the audience and break up some of the plot points. So the film being played is interspersed with the audience behaviors in what is some pretty decent editing. When the film later starts to parallel the goings on in the theater it is a real movie making treat. Bava obviously knows what he is doing and the effects are startling and effective.
In the first of an increasingly amazing gross out effects shot of Demons, Rosemary in the bathroom looking at the cut on her face. It pulses and bubbles before bursting forth a green goo. The film now is sort of becoming the theater as the fiend in the movie becomes a demon as Rosemary also does in the bathroom. There are the screams in the film that mask her screams. The on screen film is quite gruesome with some pretty intense stabbing scenes. Carmen (Fabiola Toledo) heads to the bathroom to check on her friend but it is too late and demon Rosemary chases her after wounding her neck. Escaping by running in a panisc through the corridors of the theater, she ends up behind the screen of the movie. Unfortunately for her with all the screaming and stabbing happening in the film no one notices her real live screams. It is a great bit of editing here also. Werner notices Liz is gone and calls for her. She is getting it on with her man a little ways off and wants to head back but is not really pulling away. Werner is feeling around in the dark as demon Rosemary is making it up to the balcony where Liz her lover and Werner are seated. There is a stabbing through tent scene in the film while Carmen starts to turn into a demon herself behind the scream, again masking her distress in a wall of movie sound. Finally though she forces her way through the screen and everyone knows something is going on. They race to her aid as Rosemary gets the cheating couple strangling them with a rope. They see Carmen change in what is some excellent special effects as her fingernails are pushed out by claws, her teeth push out by fangs and she is quickly a demon.
Now the attacks come fast and furious and the music picks up to ad to the chaos, people are panicking and running for the doors as our hooker demons get a couple more people, but in an unexplained phenomena the doors are now blocked by walls. Maybe it is the theater that is doing it? It is important to note the gory attacks are getting better with eye gouges, skulls ripped off, broken fingers and more each more gruesome than the last.
As they blame the movie for the goings on they decide they have to stop the movie and break into the projection room. There is no one in the room though it is all automated. Tony, the pimp with a plan is not done giving orders though. He smashes all the machines and thus the movie is stopped. We now inexplicably shift from the theater to a bunch of coke heads in a stolen car who really only have one purpose, that is to let the demon plague out of the theater. It is annoying but it is what was decided in the script they end up running from the police and in the alley next to the theater, a door mysteriously open and they get in. At the end of the scene though a demon gets out too though. They don't even last very long once inside, they are demon meat before they know what hit them. It really takes away the incredible tension that was built in the Metropol and throws viewing for a loop. The pimp with a plan, Tony has the survivors breaking seats to block the entrance to the balcony and fights off a demon or two before he too is bitten. If they had just stayed there the whole time without cutting in the coke heads it would have been a lot better.
When fully trapped I mean barricaded in the balcony the remaining non-demons pound in the walls to try to get attention of the outside world. Although it fails to bring rescue they do find a hidden passage to a cellar where they freak out because they are still trapped. They panic a bit and the camera follows the room in an artistic scream fest. Only Hannah and Tom are alone together in the theater and are desperately seeking a door that does not seem to exists. Hey maybe if they crawl into the air conditioning vent? Maybe that will work as a means of escape? Back to the balcony and they know the barricades won't last forever but they wait it out. They hear gunshots from the cops dealing with the escaped demon in the alley, soon they are scrambling to get out through the very barricades they built. They are not thinking clearly tearing down the barricade that is keeping the demons out. All most of them can think is that the gunshots mean there is help out there and they have to get to it. Seeing a problem with this strategy George, Ken, Cheryl and Kathy head through the remaining barricade crawling under before the demons attack. Of course they are chased but make it out the other side. What is great about this film is it just keeps upping the gore ante and the attacks at this point are amazing particularly the finger biting. As they exit the crawl Kathy has fainted after a close call with a demon. She is out of it but as she wakes the guys and Cheryl realize she is possessed by a demon, not bitten but possessed. Oh and did I say it gets better, not only is she a gone but the creature literally crawls out of her back. At this point you could say that the film can't get better but it does. All the demons are on the hunt and only Cheryl and George are left, before they get out of the theater there is motorcycle slashing in the theater it is amazing and hilariously crazy but he is the motorcycle samerai and slays most all of the demons. Enough you say NO says Demons and a helicopter comes crashing through the roof. You will be like WTF but our remaining characters see a way out through that hole in the roof. It is just excellent the lengths this film goes to. Then on top of that there is more and we see what has been happening outside also. WOW! Oh and what were those posters on the walls of the lobby? Was that an AC/DC poster and a Four Flies on Grey Velvet, nice touches. So for all you horrorphiles out there if you have not seen this movie What are you waiting for? This flawed but ultimately brilliant film is waiting for your eyes to bleed in its glory.
Rating (8.2) 5.0 and up are recommended In the Zombiegrrlz system BUY IT!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Them! (1954) Horror Monster

Them! (1954) - The 195os fears of atomic holocaust created a rich and prolific monster movies. What were the after affect of the atom bomb and the continued testing in the desert of New Mexico. Them! is a well drawn film, it does not try to do more than it should, it is a monster movie that moves at a good pace and is pretty standard in its approach.
The film starts with the performance of the film, a young girl (Sandy Descher) is spotted walking in the desert and the local cops are sent to retrieve her. She walks staring into space broken doll gripped tightly in her arm, she does not react to the cops calling to her. She does it so well and later gets to finally react to the horrors she saw and is great. Sandy Descher continued acting, past this film in which she was 9 years old and up until she was 19 with most of her roles coming on television.
The cops, Troopers Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) and Ed Blackburn (Chris Drake) check out a nearby camper to see if the girl could have come from there. When they arrive they find the thing in a shambles with the side pulled wide open. Trooper Blackburn searching the area finds sugar cubes on the ground in what is the most obvious musical queue in the world. They also hear the sound queue for the monsters too off in the distance. They don't know what is going on yet but they have a mystery and the audience through the sound queues is primed for the rest of the film. They set this all up to get us to react when we hear the sounds again and it is a great if obvious device of fifties monster movies.
The cops head over to the local desert general store and unfortunately find the owner dead and the side of his store ripped out. In more sound and visual foreshadowing we get the urgent music while they show a tub of sugar that has been turned over and is now infested with ants. They are definitely setting us up in classic film fashion. Ed is left there to investigate while Fred goes off, the sounds of the monsters starts right up. Ed no fool kills the lights so her can see better into the darkness, the wind is blowing and the sounds get louder. Ed steps outside to investigate and we hear his gunshots and then screams as he dies off camera. This is another great horror movie trope where you do not get to see the monster too early in the film, making the reveal so much better.
The cops bring in an FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) to help since the Ellinson's father from the trailer who is missing and whose shock little girl still has not talked, was an FBI officer on vacation. They also send the print they found off to Washington DC to be identified and very quickly a couple scientist join the group. Dr Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) an old doddering but brilliant scientist and his capable assistant and daughter Dr. Patricia 'Pat" Medford (Joan Weldon). She is a very common role for women in these kind of films, a scientist who is good at her job usually assisting a more famous man. She is competent and strong but also the target of the feelings of someone else in the film, usually the leading man. In this case it will be FBI agent Graham who has such a horrible line right after meeting her. As they walk away he says
"I should have had this suit pressed."
and Peterson respond "She's quite a doctor huh."
"Yeah, If she's the kind that takes care of sick people I think I'll get a fever real quick."
Peterson laughs and we can groan.
With our full cast they set about solving the case. The scientists have a theory but do not want to say too much before they are certain, this creates a nice antagonistic dynamic with the cops. They go and visit the young girl and bring her out of her shock with the smell of an acid produced by our still yet to be revealed creatures. She is great at the screaming THEM! THEM!
Now this film could have just stay in the desert and played this out but we get so much more. Dr Medford get all excited and is getting very close to knowing what is going on. He assures the cops that he will fill them in when he is sure but he has to be sure. He raises the stakes saying that if he is right it will be a national crisis. With the stakes raised we get the first reveal, and although less than impressive by today's standards it is still a wonderful monster. So they kill the one they see and we find that the colony could spread all over the world. This next section of the film is too get the Ants before they spread out of the desert. They come up with a plan and execute but when they are in the colony they find that they were too late. At least two queens have flown away from this nest and the world is at risk. The film shifts from the small desert town to Los Angeles as the military searches for the queens that have flown from the original nest.
A true monster movie this is a great example it is very enjoyable to watch. The military moving against the ants, the personal stories of trapped kids and the love interest between Pat Medford and Robert Graham, it all works to great a true classic.
Side note include that Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th St.. James Whitmore had an outstanding acting career noted in 151 films and TV shows. James Arness was most famous for his role of Marshall Matt Dillon in the long running TV show Gunsmoke, and there is even a cameo by Fess Parker who would later play TV's Daniel Boone
Rating (7.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system I would say rent it!