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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Insidious (2010) Horror Ghost

Insidious (2010) - Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell bring this creepy not quite what you expected ghost story to the screen with mixed results. Wan the director of Saw (2004) and Dead Silence (2007) knows how to create tension in this kind of film and has some very effective bits. It is a story of a family The Lamberts who move into a house that seems haunted. Like all good haunted house stories they establish the haunting a bit at a time. It is obvious they have just moved in from the unpacked boxes. Then there is the kid, one of two young boys in the family named Dalton (Ty Simpkins) comes down to say he does not like his room. Its tough moving into a new house and the little kid is still unsure. This is the kind of start you would expect, except that pre-credit sequence started with frightening music as the camera flows through the house to the creepy faced ghost bride holding the camera. During the credits also it is very clear through the music that this will attempt to be a hair raiser. Now most haunted house stories start this way with The Amityville Horror standing out in my mind, they start with the location, the house and we spend some time with Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) as she walks around the place. Side note: Who has a furnace in their attic, why is there a furnace that goes on in the attic? Of course the Amityville horror does not work as a example because it opens with a murder in the house and soon after the family moves in there is a scene where the priest is driven out by flies and the voice saying "Get Out!" This film by no means is so over the top. Although in the Amityville Horror there is the kid coming to the parents and saying she wants to go home even though the family are in the new house. Similarly An American Haunting (2005) starts big with an action packed scene of a teenage girl being chased by unseen forces, a terrifying dream, then the film quiets down to build up the ghost story a bit at a time.
So where have we seen the trope of the haunted house before? Well Recently there was The Others (2001),The Grudge (2004), Paranormal Activity (2007) all do the incremental haunting well. This film will take a different twist on the haunting. After its building of the creepy haunted house motif it shifts gears. A bit too fast and without enough setup. That shift is surprisingly against the norm for a haunted house film and welcomed. The bits leading up to it are great though, the false scare in the attic when Dalton falls from the ladder. Creepy sounds while everyone sleeps, and when Dalton does not wake up in the morning the panic of father Josh (Patrick Wilson) is well done. Dalton is in a coma for unknown reasons and the family brings him home to care for him in the long term. Three months has past and the doctors do not have any answers. We have to assume that nothing strange went on in the house while he was gone. When he gets back though boy the weird starts, voices over the baby monitor, faces behind curtains, horror angles of shooting low and from above. The film does a nice job having the haunting stuff primarily effect and isolate Renai, she sees the majority of the oddities. It is this reviewers wish that the scary would have been more frequent prior to the switch over to solving the problem. This also puts the focus away from Josh who plays a much larger part later.
The film gets us thinking that the problem is that Dalton is haunted and then Josh's Mom (Barbara Hershey) comes into the picture. She is the true believer with friends who believe also. I don't want to give away the twist her which makes it hard to describe the plot. A team of helpers similar to the all too famous Poltigeist (1982) arrive and we move towards the inevitable seance scene. I believe this is where the film starts to come apart, moving away from the established plot we head in a new direction and learn new information about Josh that turns the film on its side. The scares are still great because something has to happen to change the Skeptical Josh into enough of a desparate character that he will participate in the final solution.
The final third of the film really didn't work. It is a dreamscape that Josh must navigate because he also has the ability just like his son to enter the "Further", which is the most ridiculous name for limbo that I have heard. Like Orpheus entering hades for a chance to bring his wife back or like Rose Da Silva running around Silent Hill he has to go find his son.
The scary in the Further is freaky and strange with two kinds of beings, ghost who want to get back into this world and the more sinister demons that want in so they can cause everyone harm. The main demon in this film is a Lipstick demon who is all black in skin tone and smears red lipstick all over his face making him look like a lanky Darth Maul. I have to admit that the film started losing me when the psychic Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) told us about the Further, then when they reveal the information about Josh I was like "okay, whats next", then when he goes looking for his boy and has to confront Darth Maul every is a bit over the top. "Josh follow my voice, follow my voice honey." Fuck that shit. Did the whole neighborhood see the house shaking? Oh the stupidity of those final scenes. When watching this with my daughter I looked over at the end of the final sequence and said. You know this ain't over something came back with him. That way we can all look forward to the sequel. So although there is a fair amount here that can be considered in a favorable light there is also so much more that is suspect. Although this team are correct in thinking there were many films in the horror genre that approached there plot twist but there are a few. Basket Case (1982) broaches the subject, Awake (2007) sort of touches the edges of it. Flatliners (1990) also in a way. This is certainly the best but I am not sure in the end they sold the premise. At least as not as well as Poltigeist did. A final note, whether it was a product placement or just an actors choice to do something while in a scene, Wilson putting skin cream around his eyes was so lame. Really we are now going to have guys skin care products really? So worried about those crows feet that ya gotta slather on some magic cream? Geeze Dude Man Up we all age.
Rating (5.6) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would RENT IT!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990) - Quick Hit

A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990) - This is a "quick hit" review on a very bad film. To start let me say I love the Troma Studios and some of the movies they have spewed upon the earth. Being a big fan of the Toxic Avenger, I appreciate Troma and its leader Lloyd Kaufman and past stars like Tiffany Shepis and Debbie Rochon. Unfortunately this is not one of the better films. It was ruined mostly by the limited plot. The film written and directed by Brett Piper, has Lea (Linda Corwin) possibly the last woman on the planet fighting for survival in a crazy world of claymation creatures who want to eat her and caveman bad guys with mutant friends who want to mate with her. It is a post apocalyptic world where humans are again very primitive and the creatures large and fierce. At its heart the plot is a love story between Lea and Marn (Paul Guzzi) a hunter with a heart. Getting in there way is the skull headdress wearing bad guy Clon (Alex Pirnie) who repeatedly catches the young nymphoid and eventually gets her back to his lair. He has the help of mutants called the Reptilian Goons ( on IMDB not in the film) they are his army of four or five strong and help thwart Marns attempts to save Lea. The problem is this is the entire plot, it does little develops not a character and really is just poor. There is barely any dialog so it is Lea wandering about, getting captured, getting away, and captured again. Mixed in are fights between the goons and Marn and Clon over her. Then there is the hilarious claymation effects of the dinosaur like creatures that fight each other and every now and again eat a cast member. It does follow a structure and there is a final battle where Marn and Lea reunited and escape.
Rating (1.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Last Exorcism (2010) - Horror Exorcism

The Last Exorcism (2010) - You have to like an exorcism film where the people going to deal with the possession are sure that it is a hoax. In this film we have sort of the anti exorcism film. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a born and bred preacher, his father was a preacher and he became one as a child. In the years that have past since childhood though he has lost his faith. An illness to his wife challenged him and he decided medicine and not prayer was the answer to her problem. I guess both was not an option in his mind and he chose to follow the doctor. This crisis of faith though was not the end of his career though. He recognized that a good show can do more to help people than all the answered prayers in heaven. So Cotton still traveled out into the would performing rituals to heal the true believers. He sees it as bring comfort to them, sure he might be faking when the spirit enters him, sure his sleight of hand tricks might be dishonest but he does not question the results. The people he does this for are comforted and isn't that doing good works? No more he wants the film crew to expose exorcism for what it is, a scam. Sure it appears that the writhing target of the ritual is possessed but Cotton does not see it as a demon. He does not believe in demons, instead it is a disturbed person going through the motions of possession instead of facing the truth of their life.
So when a film maker Iris (Iris Bahr) and cameraman want to follow Cotton around and film him doing an exorcism he is all for it. He shares his attitudes about it and randomly picks one of the many letters from his batch mail to visit. Off they drive to some foreign country where Gods drive in the passenger seat and the church is the focal point of community life. Where whenever anything goes wrong it is the devil's doing and when things go well you are blessed by God; Rural America as it is also known. On the way to the exorcism they stop and talk to some of the fine folks in the area and hear stories of belief in demons and cults in the hills. Cotton is somewhat mocking of those they encounter.
They arrive at the farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) and his family, son Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) and daughter Nell (Ashley Bell), they are a sad family who have been living in isolation since the death of Louis's wife. He has really withdrawn seeing the world as too dangerous a place. He is so afraid of losing his children like he did his wife that they never go anywhere and he feels abandoned by God. His son is angry and shows that anger right away when he runs into the arriving camera crew. Nell is disturbed and Louis thinks she is possessed by a demon. As proof he says that the cross burns her on touch and Cotton points out to us that a nickle allergy could have that effect. Cotton will test the girl and does so with a trick that makes it appear that when he puts her feet in water and prays over her that the water boils. It is just a reaction to something he slipped into the water.
Expectations for this film is that at this point he will start an exorcism and as he goes through the motions his non-faith will be tested as Cotton sees and hears things that he can not explain away. It will be time to make the nonbeliever a believer and in so doing he will find his lost faith and save the day. Well this movie is not trying to meet our expectations so that is not where it goes. Instead he does his fake exorcism with smoke and mirrors and tells the family to get out more the demon is gone and the crew heads back to their hotel for the night.
This of course can't be the end of it and they are drawn back into the family when Nell arrives in the hotel room. How did she even know where they were staying? It's four miles from the farm, How did she even get there? Her behavior leads them to take her to the hospital and get her some psychiatric help. Since the father thinks this is a demon and the exorcism did not work he will get her none of that kind of help. Enlisting the help of the local preacher seems to be a dead end when Cotton tries it.
Since the only way to follow this story is to follow the ever recording camera crew and Cotton they have to make it back to the farm and Nell. Again you think that everything will lead the now reinforced notion of non-demonic problems back to the Supernatural but again the movie goes the other way. It shows things that could be construed as supernatural but every time you get close to thinking it is the script calls for something to pull you back. It is saying don't believe, hey look at this weird thing, don't believe so that when they get to the twist ending you are like, but "You said don't believe, WTF!" Unfortunately it falls a bit flat at this point and the entire belief in the ending hinges on one little line in an interview earlier in the movie. On top of it we get the somewhat Blair Witch Project ending and the movie feels a bit disappointing.
Overall though I think this movie is a recommend, the acting is good and the physical acting by Ashley Bell is exceptional, even though the 25 year old actress does not really look a passable 16 year old. Although the ending throws a wrench in it the story is reasonable and interesting.
Rating (5.5) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would say RENT IT!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975)

Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975) - Nude per l'assassino, Sometimes a film is way too on the nose and that is the basic problem with this killer movie. I would call it a Giallo but in that genre there is a mystery around the plot, there is no mystery at all in this one. The opening scene is a woman, Patrizia (Solvi Stubing) who appears to be receiving an abortion on a table with a doctor in attendance. Since he is all alone you get the sense that this is not an official visit but more of the back alley kind of abortion. When things go wrong and the girl dies of heart failure the doctor instead of reporting it calls Carlo and the two move the body to her apartment to be found and rules a home death. This is the incident that sets the killer off. How do you know? Well in the very next scene we watch the doctor as he drives home, when he arrives a killer in a leather motorcycle outfit and helmet runs up to him and stabs him to death. Like I said it is a bit on the nose. So really the story is not going to be about why the people in the film are being offed but more by who. The killer is completely covered head to foot so an identity can not be made. They are slight in build and can possibly be a woman, or is the film trying to mislead the viewer?
As we learn who the players are, models Lucia Cerrazini (Femi Benussi), and Doris (Erna Schurer) as well as those behind the modelling agency, owner Gisella Montani (Amanda) Photographers Magda Cortis (Edwige Fenech), and Carlo Bianchi (Nino Castelnuovo), Stephano (?) and Maurizio Montani (Franco Diogene) Gisella's husband and really sad sack the mystery is which of them is the killer. There are minor character, Gisella has a lover, a woman who is killed, There is a gay man who knows the killer who also is an early victim. From this we know the killer is definitely at the agency and the build of the killer is that of a woman. So ruled out of the equation is Carlo a built man and Maurzio a fat man.
Working through one killing to the next we quickly and without a lot of trying who the killer could be. Since Magda and Carlo are working together they are eliminated so it really leaves models or the shop owner. Like I said, it is a bit on the nose. Sure there are some side stories to try to throw you off. You learn that Gisella has a female lover who she likes to dominate. She smacks her and yells "You Bitch! You love it don't you." and "You're a big whore." There is connected to this a blackmail scheme that she has to be mysterious about.
You would think that misleading the audience would be the way to go but this film really sabotages this. Everytime someone is going to be killed there is a flash image of the girl in the bathtub. It's like the writer Massimo Felisatti and director Andrea Bianchi thought we forgot over and over again why the killing was happening. Instead of just reminding us though they took the tension out of the film by telegraphing when the murders were coming.
What also is on the nose is the product placement. Throughout the film you will see two products prominently place. First the is J&B Whiskey which is all over this film, then the other is Levi Jeans which appear in posters and advertising so much so that there is a poster for the product above a character's bed.
There are some memoriable bits of dialog in the film so here are a few gems, I liked when Magda was talking about coffee, Carlo wants her to put milk in his and she says "What, you can't ruin good coffee like that." ... "Milk in coffee is like water in wine, both are ruined. That's the truth."
Then there is poor old Maurizio who is constantly trying to get with the models. His pervy pursuits finally look like they are going to pay off when he wears one model down. Doris agrees to having sex with him but he can't perform and she leaves after his crying out. "Oh Mama, mama why does it always end this way." he walks into another room and gets a blow up sex doll to blow up. "Your the only one who can make it happen. The only one." So sad.
Later in the film the police chase a guy down a dark alley and I kid you not after a cursory look into the shadows the cop turns to another cop and says "Forget it he's gone. No way we can find him now." and the other cop says No, too dark." Noe that is stellar police work.
What this film does have going for it is some really beautiful women, I know we at Soresport Movies say that about many of the Italian Giallos, but it is true. Our lead Edwige Fenech is lovely and they spare not an opportunity to have her and the other actresses in this film to take their shirts off. It is part of the genre and the italians apparently like the look of a woman's breasts. So hats off to them at least when the movie is crappy there are beautiful women exposing themselves. I am sure this does little for the women in the audience but at least it is a distraction for me since I pretty much figured out this film about 2/3 the way through.
Whether you choose to watch this or not know there are better examples of the genre out there, Tenebre comes to mind. This film did not really do it for me although there are not many movies that end with a couple in bed where the man is joking about wanting to have anal sex.
Rating (4.8) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system I say SKIP IT!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001) - Horror Witches

Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001) - The third in the series happened after Full Moon Pictures started a partnership with Tempe pictures, this one was done by the Tempe people. Shot in California there seems to be no connections to the first two in the series other than the character of the witch Lilith Le Fey. I was wondering after the finality of the ending in Witchouse II: Blood Coven how a third in the series was going to resurrect Lilith, and the answer is just make unconnected shit up. It has the same writer and director as Blood Coven but man this is not really a trilogy. They up the attractive quotient by bringing in the beautiful and talented Debbie Rochon (Stevie) as well as Tanya Dempsey (Annie) and Tina Krause (Rose) closing out the cast is Paul Darrigo as Burke and Brinke Stevens as Lilith.
This story begins with Burke hitting Annie while arguing. This bit of domestic violence sets Annie off to stay with her friends, Rose and Stevie who live on the coast. She arrives to see her friends engaged in filming some sort of witchcraft ritual. Really though they are just playing as Stevie is making a documentary about local witches groups. She explains all about her work while having drinks in the hot tub. Since Stevie has been into witchcraft and Goth stuff since her teen years it is only natural that she would get a job documenting people who really think they are witches. Once properly lubricated the three decide they should try a spell from a book Stevie owns. The spell attracts the spirit of Lilith LeFey.
Rose starts seeing her in the shadows but when she turns there is no one there, but the message left behind "Burn Witches Burn" must mean something scary since it shows up so the turn has something to turn on. Not limited to Rose both Stevie and Annie have encounters with LeFey. An incident in a parking garage, and the women are on edge. They don't know why this is happening but Stevie throws out this little bit of wisdom. Its perception vs reality, because they believed in what they were doing, that belief is what made it a reality. To balance the supernatural with more earthly reasons for the goings on we have boyfriend Burke who tackles a jogging Stevie on the beach. She struggles free being the tough nut she is and then he says he just wanted to talk. Really? Tackle wrestle, uh how about "Excuse me Stevie can we talk?" He explains about Annie being one crazy bitch and that he is not abusing her. Stevie doesn't really believe it and sends him away.
This is the setup, and from there you have to figure, either Burke is speaking the truth and Annie is nuts or Lilith is in control making it look that way. There is a definite twist in this story that shows you this movie is in no way connected to the first two stories in this series. In fact this film was disappointing just for that point alone. Granted the first two films are bad with the second at least making an effort, I was just hoping for a build on that. So in the end Soresport movies has taken the bullet for you and you never have to see any of these three. Unless of course you are a glutton for punishment.
Rating (3.3) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would say SKIP IT!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000) Horror Evil Ghost

Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000) - Change directors, and actors and move the shoot to Romania, add a cinematographer who creates real shots and you have a substantially better film than the first int the series. It is not great, but the 2.3 rated Witchouse was a target it can easily do better than. Adding director J. R. Bookwalter a veteran of low budget horror, certainly helps he seems to have a sense of how to make a film and use his crew. Gone are the obviously amateur glitches in story and execution that plagued the first film. Side note is one of his early works was the laughable Galaxy of the Dinosaurs, reviewed right here on Soresport Movies. This film is a fairly decent effort by him and he used Romanian cinematographer Gabriel Kosuth (Wolf Girl, Mirrors, The Glass House) who really created some fine looking shots on location.
Revamping the story from the first to the second film was done without slashing up the mythology of the first story. Instead of a spell to summon Lilith Le Fey from the other side this time we have DNA contamination. In the Blood Coven story we are at the same house. It is years after the events of the first film and the town wants to tear the old mansion down and build a mall on the location. Unfortunately construction workers found some unmarked graves and the project has to stop until the remains are identified and any anthropological significance is determined. The town brings in a team headed by Dr. Sparrow (Ariauna Albright who also plays Lilith) and her team of students and assistants, Stephanie (Elizabeth Hobgood) and Norman (Nicholas Lanier) who team up and go off doing the research that teaches the audience the story behind the unmarked graves. They have a very Blair Witch Project (1999) approach to the work they do. Running a camera in interviews with town folk the relay how the town feels about the myth of the house and the historical elements important to the plot. There was a lot of common video camera work between this film and the earlier mentioned BWP, it came out the year before and was a really big hit for an independent film. In fact Witchouse 2 starts with a couple exploring the house in a direct rip off to the BWP style of filming. The guy films while Dementia (Angela Womeldorf) narrates their exploration of the haunted place. We even get the panicked running cam as they attempt to flee danger and ultimately coming to a horrible end.
The rest of the research crew all possible Red Shirts are Angela (Kaycee Shank), Clark (Alexandru Dragoi), Jodi (Adriana Butoi), and Wilson (Claudiu Trandafir). The last major character is Sheriff Jake Harmon (Andrew Pine). Pine is a veteran actor who has been working in Hollywood since the late 50's. In both film and television I remember him most as Don Stober in the movie Grizzly (1976). In this film he is the sheriff who wants to see the research team leave as soon as possible because the mall will bring a lot of jobs into the community. He also has a dual role but I will forgo that reveal because I don't want to give too much of the plot away. He does have the best line in the three films, it is pertinent to anyone coming across and watching this series. "Sometimes the innocent suffer for the all." I am sure the viewers out there feel they have suffered enough to warn people away from these films.
What I can say is that when some bone dust gets into a cut on Dr. Sparrows finger, Lilith is back and like in the first film she is looking for revenge against the town. Soon she is turning researchers into acolytes and looking to get all those families that harmed her so many years before. What? Sounds like the same plot from Witchouse, well to an extent it is. Added though is a entire back story of Lilith's origin and those of the town. There are specific details telling why she wants revenge and why their are people charged with making sure she never rises from the grave. There is the expected badness in this film, with characters exploring alone. Low budget special effects and needless plot holes but over all and in comparison this is not totally horrible. While writing this review I am still not sure it is a recommend but this reviewer has seen many worse movies. Still in doing screen captures for this film I relived some really painful dialog. There was also a music montage of driving which is intolerable filler, and just corny screen writing so I have to take some of my earlier praise away.
It gets bonus points for the Scooby Doo reference. Plus there is a fair amount of tension in the later scenes as Westmore and the remaining two researchers try to destroy the bodies of the witches before Lilith can get them. The ending which seems very final left me thinking that they were really going to have to jump through hoops to bring Lilith back again in Witchouse 3: Demon Fire.
Rating (3.8) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Witchouse (1999) Horror Witches

Witchouse (1999) - At the height of the straight to VHS period of movies Full Moon Pictures was one of my go to sources for cheap, and often bad horror movies. There are some to be loved like the Puppet Master series, Subspecies and Killjoy but then there is the three Witchouse movies. Ah not the greatest trilogy in the collection but for better or worse getting a trilogy review of Witchouse here at Soresport Movies. The first in the set is probably the most poorly edited of the three. Granted you could never expect the highest quality Full Moon, they produced quick and easy films with some, now dated but at the time fun special effects. There was never too much story and mostly no nudity making them easy to get horror choices for teens in the video store. All of the Witchouse movies are late in the game as the new decade of the aughts saw the coming trend of DVD and digital film making Full Moon was still hacking a niche on VHS. Watching the film is not a chore but cheesy fun. It seems like director David DeCoteau never cared a lick about continuity or maybe it was writer Matthew Jason Walsh who failed to notice the overlap of information given in scenes. There are at least three references to the spell book of little use. It could be that this story was rewritten so many times that a good script editing needed to be done before shooting it. In any case you will quickly notice repeat source of plot that need not be there, strange cutting used to keep the pace up because longer scenes would slow the thing down and repeated story elements many of which never become part of the story. DeCroteau continues attempt his trade and I see on IMDB that several of his later works are in the Soresport collection so some more reviews may show his progression as a director.
The plot of Witchouse is that Elizabeth(Ashley McKinney) has invited a group of acquaintances to her house for a ghostly themed party. Then as they start being turned into evil acolytes for the long dead recently brought back Lilith Le Fey the survivors fight for their lives. Le Fey a witch who was burned at the stake by town folks, after sacrificing a townies baby in an evil ritual, is now getting her revenge on the descendants of those who killed her. The film starts off going for gusto as two guests arrive Margret (Kimberley Pullis) and Bob (Jason Faunt). There is nobody around to greet them so they wander around the house a bit before they decide arriving at the party early is the perfect time for sex in the cellar. As they undress they see someone in the shadows, then glowing eyes before they stand perfectly still while they are stabbed to death. No blocking blows, no fleeing, not even by Margret who first watches Bob get killed. She just stands there waiting her turn to scream. Role credits and lets get to the party.
Well its not much of a party in fact it is just a four couples hanging around waiting for the hostess. No music or fun but plenty of candles. We are introduced to the crew at the party, Brad (Ryan Scott Greene) shy hipster wanna be with a lack of self confidence with the ladies. Scott (Dane Northcutt) the football star with the pretty girlfriend Maria (Marissa Tait), there is the druggie guy in Tony (Dave Oren Ward) who I learned in the final credits died the year the movie was released. Tony is all about his weed and beer in everything he does and says, he is at the party with Janet (Brooke Mueller) the tough girl from the wrong side of the tracks. This actress was particularly good at attacking her lines like they needed to be bludgeoned to death by her teeth on the way out of her mouth. Jack (Matt Raftery) the applied science major who uses his learned skills when the plot calls for it. He also has a lack of confidence with the ladies. Jennifer (Monica Serene Garnich) a late arrival who likes Jack and has a plot secret. They are all being hosted by Elizabeth who speaks like she just popped out of a late 1800's romance novel and has her own little secret agenda for gathering this group.
The basic story is this group have been invited because they are the descendants of the town. We learn this several times because in unconnected repetitive scenes the characters reference a book the Necronomicon Le Fey that holds power and each of there names. Never do these volumes ever get used in the plot other than to be noticed by the characters. Elizabeth has brought them together so she can have them all in the same place when she raises her fore-mother Lilith Le Fey's spirit (Ariauna Albright). This spirit will get back at the townsfolk by killing these 20 somethings that before finding the books could care less that they are connected to the town. So the spirit get around looking for characters who have wandered off and either kills or converts them to ghoulish minions with glowing eyes. That is the fate of Maria and Scott who sneak off to one of the bedrooms to have sex. A green glowing mist takes over the sleeping Scott in his post activity sleep while Maria is in the shower cleaning his football smell off. Then she too is converted to a minion.
The film maker does something right and should get credit where it is due. A lot of this film is pairs or individuals wandering around the set... I mean house. Since this can be very boring the director inter cut attacks and spirit sighting and the such with the wandering scenes. So as Scott sleeps and we see the mist closing in we cut out to see Jack and Jennifer exploring with not much going on. The quick cuts make the movie move a bit faster because as we are building tension in one place we are taking care of logistics in another without lowing the overall tension too much. So when Maria and Scott are done being converted to demon possessed minion, Jack and Jenn are now in position to have it be found out. So as people are killed others are moved into position for the next sequence good. I can not imagine how lethargic this movie would be without this technique.
As the number of guests dwindles we move to the inevitable final confrontation between Elizabeth and ghost Lilith and the final two guests. There is a twist and an ending that is less than satisfying. In the end a mediocre story was poorly executed and the viewer is left to wonder whether they should look at the second in this trilogy Witchouse II: Blood Coven.
Rating (2.3) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I say Skip It!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Primal (2010) Horror Monster

Primal (2010) - This is an Australian film about a group of 20 somethings on an excursion in the outback. One of the group, Dace the alpha male is an anthropology student who wants to write his thesis on a Cave painting that they are looking for. The early scenes are the typical getting there mild character developing scenes you would expect in this kind of film, but they add an early spoiler. There is the alpha male Dace (Wil Traval) Is his name real or is he advertising his willingness to go anywhere for a job?, free spirited horny blond Mel (Krew Boylan), her stoic boyfriend geek Chad (Lindsay Farris), funny guy Warren(Damien Freeleagus), Plain Jane, Kris (Rebekah Foord) and finalgirl Anja (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith). I am not giving away anything sharing she is the final girl as it is so obvious from the beginning. The research to find this place included a story about a group that found the painting 120 years earlier. It was a tragic story where death was the main result. Unfortunately they reveal one of the victims as a little girl with a mouth full of really sharp teeth. What do you think of early reveals? So we sort of know a piece of the story something turned the little girl into the "primal" girl we see. Does that add suspense or make you think you now know what is going to happen in the film?
As they search there is a shortcut through a cave that allows us to find a bit out about one of the characters and to set up something else. Anja is afraid to walk through the cave and has a panic attack before slamming into a wall in her rush to get back out, the blood she draws from hitting the wall has a very pointed affect on the cave and some water nearby. It seems it may have awakened something that was sleeping. The problem with most of the set up of this film is that it was so ham handed that you did not have to do any thinking about it. Its more a shout at the audience to notice this or notice that. It is not just this instance but repeatedly the cause and effect of the set up was just way too obvious. So Anja drives an extra half day or whatever to get around the mountain instead of going through, well most of their stuff was in the damn car anyway so what were they going to accomplish by going through the cave? Then because there is a car near camp there has to be a way to not have it be an escape route when the shit hits the fan. So there is a clumsy attempt to make that happen. I did get an Aussie term to use forever though, I will now call mosquitoes "mozzies". I really hope it is a real term.
After the camping character development scenes we finally get to the juice in this fruit. It takes a while but once the fun begins it is worth it. After a late night dip in the earlier discussed reactionary water, Mel gets sick and feverish and the group figures out how to handle the situation. Alpha male is all, well alpha male but his approach seems to be the correct one. They see because of earlier hints that the car is not functional so they take care of her and wait until morning. Unfortunately for the group overnight she is transformed into primal creature and we all get to see the better part of this film. It turns very quickly into a survival film. She is wild with a set of pearly whites to die from and ready to eat the raw flesh of her friends. Her superhuman resistance to pain and amazing new strength make her more than a match for her five friends. When we see her take out a deer and eat it we know just how primal she really is. The interesting part happens when she throws most of the carcass into the cave they all passed through and we the audience get to see it get quickly digested. So like the lead in suggested so bluntly there is a creature in the cave.
Now at this point the comparison to "The Ruins" must be made. In it a group of ruin seeking 20 somethings get more than they were looking for when they come across a plant monster in the ruins. Locals not wanting the dangerous plant from spreading out into the world trap them there as infected. They plant monster mimics cell phones and voices to capture its hiker prey. It is a really pretty hopeless and depressing film where a whole bunch of sitting around happens for 95% of the film. This film on the other had creates a similar situation with a variation that leads to action. Here Mel becomes the maneuverable arm of the monster in the cave. She can go around and get and bring back food for it. No slow vines in the leg while you sleep, instead there is a super strong mouth full of fangs coming for the cast. It is a cool idea but unfortunately the film mostly falls on old tropes to move the plot along.
1. They come up with a plan to capture Mel.
2. The boyfriend demise because he thinks he can reason with her.
3. The thing we need to deal with her is in the car.
4. I can't find it in the car and danger is closing in.
5. Kill me before I turn.
Its a shame because the post effected part of the movie is done well enough to keep you involved and caring. Each trope though makes you groan as it slides towards cliche. At the end you even get a false ending and a final battle that is decent but no more or less than what you expecting. Now that the film has been properly hammered in this review, it will get a recommend, why? because it is passable, not good per say but a fun ride if you can get by the same old expectation, the action is fresh and effective and compared to The Ruins, slow train to know where this is a wonderful amusement park ride to adventure. So some credit to director Josh Reed.
Rating (5.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system Rent It!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beyond the Door (1977) Horror Cult

Beyond the Door (1974) - Director Ovidio Assonitis said that he came up with the idea for this film after seeing Rosemary's Baby and the Exorcist and those influences are prevalent throughout this film. Juliet Mills has been working in the industry since the early 1940's is the lead Jessica Barrett. She is a woman who when younger fell in love with an older man Dimitri (Richard Johnson) who was part of a satanic cult. She fled a cult ceremony and started a new life in California. We join her 10 years into her new life with husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) and two children Gail (Barbara Fiorini) and Ken (David Colin Jr.) as the events of the movie are about to unfold. It is a tale of the Devil being reborn into the world, through his possession of Jessica and the families struggle to deal with the situation.
This movie has some strange trappings, it starts with a black screen voice over by the voice of the devil himself (Robert Booth) setting the world where this is possible "Some of you... skeptics will say, like the little girl in this picture, what you can't see can't exist. Well my friends you go on, think that as long as you can, because sooner or later, one way or another you will discover your mistake." then instead of going directly into the story we see younger Jessica fleeing from the cult and her boyfriend Dimitri allowing her to go. Needless to say the devil is not happy with him for this and voice over it so on the nose it leaves a spot. Still in the past we see Dimitri driving and the devil narration telling us how he will now have to pay by finding Jessica and making sure she gives birth. Which happens 10 years later but when his car is crashing off the cliff and the picture freezes with it in air we get the message that his soul will live to do the task a decade later. All of this is really a big song and dance to get to the main story. I am not so sure it is needed, the reasons beyond being a cult member, for Dimitri to follow the devil's wishes is unnecessary. Having him suspended in death to get him to do it equally unneeded. It was a lot for the audience to get when the Jessica story could have explained everything. Writer Assonitis, Antonio Troiso and Robert Barrett twist the reasons around what is basically the Omen and Exorcist possession making the viewer figure out stuff that does not really matter. Towards the climax of the movie more voice over is used to let us know that everything that happened was intended by the devil and that Dimitri's role in it was just a mean game the devil was playing with him or some such thing. It is one of those vioce overs where some good scene writing could have simplified everything, to this reviewer it seem lazy or added later when the film came out confusing.
Our main story sets up Jessica in her early thirties with two children and a husband who is a record producer. The children are strange and seem like they could be devil children too. Either that or the writers were making a social comment on the permissive child rearing trends of the 1970s. At one point the family is driving in the sweet convertible they own and Mom and Dad are flirting the kids in the back seat over hear and the ten year old girl says to her brother "Holy shit, Can you get a load of that crap. When they carry on like that, I swear to God kiddo, it makes me want to puke. I'll tell you something man; there are times when bringing up parents is a real pain. When Dad starts getting all sexy and with it, that's a real bad scene. Hey Remember that crazy nickname you gave him.What was it?" And the four year old brother responds "Asshole"
Now the parents look shocked but neither of them even scold the children. Jessica refers to the book that Gail reads and rereads "Love Story". but really WTF! I don't think there is that kind of language in that book. Still the family name is Barrett and the book "Love Story" characters have the same name. Oh and there is a quirk about the four year old also the boy drinks Campbell's Split Pea soup from a can, all the time, in what must be a product placement and ode to the Exorcist at the same time? Its really hard to tell what the writers and director were going for in these establishing scenes. Maybe they wanted to show the family dysfunction or maybe to lead us off in a direction with a red herring that one of the kids could already be the devil. It did not work and did not seem to make a difference in the story.
No sooner does Jessica tell Robert that she is pregnant and we move into her having a strange pregnancy that can only mean that she is carrying the evil child. She feels it is not a good pregnancy and she has Dimitri citing as he closes in on the family. The term of nine months does not seem to apply and their doctor George (Nino Segurini) is baffled calling it a biological absurdity, the baby is growing much quicker than normal. There is also an evil presence stalking her in her sleep that I think is a demon that later possesses her. I can't be sure but I think at the end there was a demon, Satan and Jessica all sharing the same body. It may be the devil only but I will have to recheck that. Then there is a scene where she notices Ken has a fever, and a bruise on his chest. She appears to be comforting him but when left alone in the room she kisses him and then kisses the sleeping child again but in what appears to be a passionate way. Maybe transferring spirits to him or stealing energy from him? Anyway she starts having mood swings and the guys, Robert and George start talking about whether she should be hospitalized. Jessica still holding on to some of her choice in the matter talks to George about abortion but then the demon inside has her being super protective in the next minute. She is certainly in for more of this. The spirit that has been stalking her is closing in. It is now hanging out with little Ken and rocking in the rocking chair. When sister Gail comes and joins him I think it pissed the spirit off and it created a wild ride for the kids, as toys came to life, dolls eyes flashed with light, there was a light show under the floor and the room started rocking. The poor terrified children screamed and screamed but napping Jessica is no where to be seen. When Gail manages to fight her way out of the room the rest of the house is quiet and she runs to her Mom. Mom is laying face down on the bed and when Gail shakes her... Well lets just say Jessica is a candidate for the Horror Digest blog's scary face club. Time for the kids to sleep over with George and his girl Barbara. (the lovely Elizabeth Turner)
The film quickly becomes The Exorcist style possession movie with Robert, Barbara and George being witness to the strange behavior. There is this really cool scene with Jessica and Barbara that was unsettling. Jessica is lying on the bed face up staring at the ceiling when one eye starts looking around the room and at Barbara. I think this part of the film is to show the possession taking hold. Like the devil or spirit did not yet have full control. It is not long before we get the full effects of bad skin, vomiting and strange body movements and levitation. George is convinced she should be moved to a hospital since they are using restraints on her. Somehow after following him around for a while Dimitri makes enough of an impression on Robert that he is allowed to join the party. Not right away of course but this is a guy trying to convince the devil that he should have more time. Now the devil was really clear with Dimitri, keep her at home and the child must be born. Dimitri gets his audience and eventually gets into the house too. The time comes when it is time to bring the child out but Dimitri says he must get to it before t"the Evil One" can carry it away into the darkness.
The Devil talks to Dimitri when it is time, he taunts him when he still needs his help. Jessica is in tough shape now. "Dimitri, now you are in this house, in this women, soon you will be in a newborn child." says the possessed Jessica. So he is the instrument of Satan, "Make her spit out this vile creature which will renew your life." Then the devil says he gave Dimitri illusions that he might live but he was never going to do it. "I have used you like everyone else for my amusement even this infant." So Dimitri dies and vanishes WTF!
George comes and find a sleeping normal Jessica in the bed, she is no longer pregnant. In the corner is an infant with no mouth. Is it stillborn, so what is going on? Well you get one final scene to learn that the devil child was already born and is four years old in the form of Ken. Overall this movie fails in a lot of levels, the voice over is all way too on the nose and it is used all over this film. The story is as we see all for not since the devil was already in Ken. The weird music from the early Deal with the devil, to the later music montage with Robert walking the street and being harassed by street musicians, just strange.
Rating (3.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, Skip it using the Zombiegrrlz rating system