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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Houseboat Horror (1989) - Horror Slasher

Houseboat Horror (1989) - This Australian artifact from the eighties is a straight up copied from every slasher that came before is a romp in the Outback aboard houseboats. The film starts with some movie crew people driving to a lake so that they and others can meet up for a job filming a rock video. There is some playful dialog and the pick up of a hitchhiker. Her purpose is to be the first victim of the killer after getting the ride. She walks through the woods to her boyfriends camp to find him dead and then for the first time of many we see the killers feet and lower legs. The scene means nothing to the movie since the premise of why the killer is doing what he is doing is not yet known and why the poor camper and his slow running girlfriend are the first to die is a mystery. She runs from the killer who walks after her and amazingly keeps up until he captures and kills her. It really is a remarkable feat. It is like he is on a walking sidewalk while she is running in place. The killing are just to get to the credits and the wonderfully bad music. An opening scene like this in this type of film is to set up that it is a slasher film, but we learn later that the motivation for the slashers killing really has nothing to do with the first kills. It is strictly a trope to set up the film before showing the opening credits.What we get next is a bit of a mess with a whole lot of characters being introduced, or at least shown on screen while we get a bit of the story for why they are there. There is a "rock" video that is going to be shot by this large group so we have all the people in the cast to get this done. The manager and musicians, a couple models to dance in the video, costume and makeup people, hangers on, executive and girlfriend, camera crew, so many in fact you can't really get to know any of them. They all gather up and take four houseboats and several other craft out on the lake to the site they plan to shoot the video. Oh and don't worry you will not get the pleasure of missing the music video. On the way to this though we get the a bit of story about the tragedy of the last video shoot on Lake Infinity. A couple years before a poor kid was burned very badly by a callous movie crew, it was a horrible event. What made it worse was the murder of the movie crew after the accident. Then this film throws in a high musician who for no reason spouts the following "if ??? blada??? was in he would have said exactly what I said. The Theory of Relativity, the theory of forms, the continium concept, Aldus Huxley is The Partridge Family, pan dimensional." Can someone please explain why this is in this movie.I understand why the grumpy guy in the car was reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In the late eighties that book was all the rage, I, the Soresport, read it myself. I was hoping for a tie in, in the film. You see the story is about King Arthur and his nights feasting and they are rudely interrupted by the Green Knight, who challenges the King to a contest, Arthur can strike him one blow and in a years time the Knight gets to return the favor. As an honorable servant Gawain volunteers to strike the blow in the Kings place as it would be expected. He does and lops the head off the Green Knight, whose headless body retrieves his head and he says to Gawain to seek him out in one year for the return blow. The story continues as Gawain gets to the house of the night, his morals are challenged repeatedly while he stays at the Green Knights castle and he reasonably stays honorable, but the final evening he is offered a way to live but in taking it it will be known that he has been dishonorable. Fearing for his life he chooses dishonor only to be spared by the Green Knight to live with his shame. This seemed like a great story to build the slasher around but unfortunately writer Ollie Martin and Director Kendal Flanagan were not going to do that.Instead we get the straight up story in which the killer is quickly revealed through close up of his scarred hand to be the burnt person from a couple years before. He hates film crews now and is ready to rip through our cast. The cast is too large for the film so there are plenty of POV shots as the killer stocks crew members. A hatchet to the head here, a stabbing there it is all part of the long drawn out couple days on the lake. Finally when the survivors start running into bodies the pace picks up. Our killer stalks a couple while they search the nearby abandon farm, his farm with his crazy sister in fact, in this is one of the more creative kills of the movie. The killer who has weapons all over the freaking place kills one guy and then since he apparently used that very effective weapon up, takes a horseshoe to stab through the eyes of the next kill. In fact it seemed every time the killer needed a weapon it magically appeared. He find a harpoon gun just laying in the open on the houseboat. Then wanting to kill the guy on a skidoo he finds a pipe laying in the boat and hurls it perfectly through the guy. There is a nice effect where he slices a guys head in two, for 1989 I though it was pretty good. Still the whole exercise was way on the nose and the music really exactly what you would expect from the time period and the slasher genre.There were some things that were amusing, besides the clothes that is. The giant cell phones or as one character called it "The walk about phone thing." I liked the attempt at showing nudity as a trope of this kind of film, but unfortunately like most other things the makers did it really was second rate. Then there is this scene where the killer while looking into a fire flashes back to his incident of burning, later in the final scenes he is lit on fire by the survivors and what do you know, they used the exact same footage. I also learned what is worse than the douche who brings a guitar to a party, a guy who brings his drum. The ending does have a final girl but because the film started with so many characters and none were particularly flush out; there was not a real sense of urgency in seeing her survive. We hardly knew her so when she gets to the final scene who cares if she is the last. Actually she is not the last either, there were a few characters that go off to town on the second night and miss all the killing. When they arrive back they are invited back to the abandoned farm by the killers crazy sister. Just too many people in the end to really make it work.
Rating (3.8) 5.0 and up are recommended.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

La Brecha - The Devil's Clock (2006) Horror

La Brecha - The Devil's Clock (2006) - Following along the lines of the last review Farmhouse is La Brecha, a ultra low budget production from Mexico where a quartet of 20 somethings who get lost on the way to the ocean and end up in a quiet village that is not quite what is seems. This particular picture is so off the map that it currently does not even show up on the greatest collection place for movie information, IMDB. In fact finding out production information for this film was a bit difficult pretty much the DVD cover or if you see it through Netflix (mail) will you have any real information. The beginning of the film shows a family running through a green filtered forest, so it must be night. The little girl of the family keeps falling and eventually the parents leave her behind. A creature grabs her and crushes her head, but if you think you are going to see gore think again, this is such a low budget venture that a quick flash and everything is gone. It is the next day and the father from the group is seen walking in the hot Mexican sun with bloody hands. He attempts to flag a car down but it runs him over. This is the set up for the film, but unfortunately it is not the set up for the film. In fact it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie all it is for is to introduce the idea of a pursuing creature that in the scene you only see.
After this start we meet our couples Joselo (Antonio Aguirre) and Karina (Anna Cepinska), and Mariana (Suzet Villalobos) and Daniel (Victor Hernandez). They are heading off together to go to the ocean for a weekend. They unfortunately get lost and end up tired and irritated with each other, so decide to stop in a small pueblo for the night. To their surprise the place seems totally deserted, except for one strange guy named Nicolas (Alejandro Camacho). There is a cool little effect that is used by director Jose Carlos Gutierrez to give the impression that he is of supernatural origin. He tells them of the legend of the curse town clock. It is always stuck at 12 o'clock but if the time changes it is telling the time when someone will die. It all has to do with the clock maker's suicide but really it is just a plot device to have a story to tell. Really all this movie is, is this really bad premise. There seems to be no character development other than revealing bad behavior of three of the four character with Mariana really not being a bad person.
Writers Jose Carlos Gutierrez and Josue Hermes do a somewhat poor job not thinking through his concept before getting to shooting. I am naming them writers even though information on this film is sketchy so I apologize if I get anything wrong. Sure the characters have their flaws and have done questionable things. Joselo and Daniel are actually going to the beach not just for a vacation but because they have stolen money together and want to be away from the heat of their crime. Daniel and Karina have been having sexual relations since Christmas even though Daniel is with Mariana and Karina is with Joselo. Poor Mariana seems to get the lousy end of the deal as she sees Daniel as the love of her life.
Eventually our character see the clock change times and then each has a turn dying or getting sick or being to tired to get out of bed, it is all not so clear, finally though the last character talks with Nicolas and we learn that this village is not so different than the farmhouse in the film Farmhouse. It is less than satisfying and the whole experience is probably better off avoided. The experience of watching this film of course.
Notes on actors: Alejandro Camacho seems to be a hard working actor in Mexican television and is currently on the television series Para Volver a Amar, of the actors in the film he seem the most skilled and it is probably not surprising the oldest.
Anna Cepinska is probably more famous for being a Miss Venezuela and Miss World before doing a spread she did in the Venezuelan version of Playboy magazine in April 2008 than for anything else. So in this end this is just not a passable film, not enough is done although it is not without value.
Rating (3.1) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Farmhouse(2008) - Horror Torture

Farmhouse (2008) - What writer Daniel Coughlin and director George Bessudo are trying to do in this low budget horror flick from the Alliance Group Entertainment group is difficult to pull off. They are trying through flashback to slowly reveal who are main characters are, how they got to this point and then give a big twist to the current story in the film. What is difficult is that the current story of the couple who drive off a country road when the husband Chad (William Lee Scott) falls asleep. Find a farmhouse with a seemingly kind couple and then find themselves in a nightmare fighting for their lives, makes the slow reveals out of place to the current life or death story at the farmhouse. Combine this with needing to hold back certain information for the big twist at the end and you have a choppy story that does not quite work.
The early scenes before getting to the farm are all the background you need to know why Scarlett (Jamie Anne Allman) and her husband Chad are on the road. They have recently lost a child and that Chad is a timid cowardly ass wipe with a gambling problem, actually the gambling is over and there is a paying off the bookie problem. They head out on the road and the writer had a ridiculous need for Scarlett to point out a 20 hour drive is not a good thing is high lighted by Chad falling asleep and the car hitting a phone box (Steven Weber) because they made a point to tell us it was a phone box) and crashing into a ditch.
The two of course have no cell service and have to walk a ways off through the grape vines to a farmhouse in the distance. When Samael (suddenly appears behind the couple only not 10 minutes into the movie I wrote in my notes "Supernatural?". This because at the farmhouse they get to see pictures of a whole bunch of other couples hanging on the wall. It is a give away that the farmers Samael and Lilith are not what they seem. Then there is the fact that his name which he repronouces for the couple as not Samuel but Sam 'A' el is the name of a biblical archangel who in the Jewish tradition is the seducer, accuser and destroyer, there was reason to believe that our writer Coughlin wanted us to figure it out. By then naming the deaf farmhand Alal (Nick Heyman) I think it is sort of Angel name sounding but who knows. Certainly Samael's wife Lilith was named for the cliche evil woman name in so many films. She is played by the beautiful hard working actress Kelly Hu in a wonderfully sinister performance.
In fact I had no real issues with the acting, Jamie Anne Allman is properly cardboard which was appropriate for a character forcing down the hard life experiences of her life. A person fighting to get through a stage in her life that sucks. William Lee Scott had me wanting to punch him in the face through the television, his impotent and pathetic approach to his situation was spot on. Steven Weber with a sinister sparkly behind his eye was just great going between jovial host to psychotic tormentor in a split second.
What really hurt this movie was the structure, at the farm after Chad accidentally(?) sees Samael banging Lil through their ajar door things go from a helping hand to a stranded couple to a robust torture sessions and attempted escape scenes. The tension of the events is well paced but each time things rev up we cut to another flashback that is just boring filler for our two victims and how they got to this point. It is a real mood killer and just ruins what could have been a great fight for survival.
There are three main torture scenes the drowning one which has such a predictable pathetically unoriginal outcome that this reviewer thought about turning the film off and skipping this review. That feeling was also present when Samael used torturing Alal as a way to get Scarlett to come out of hiding. It was very much predictable and too cliche for anyone who regularly watches horror films. The third bit between Scarlett and Lilith was wonderful gruesome in sound and sight.
Everytime there was some good though it was squashed by the damn flashbacks. Not that some of the information in the scenes were not essential for the big twist in the end. The problem is they were slow and informational and that information was enough for the viewer to figure out the twist before it is announced in the film. This is so fucking frustrating we want to be surprised not lead to solve the mystery ourselves to only then have our guess confirmed. Damn you Daniel Coughlin!
Okay calm down there Soresport... Writing a script is difficult, and you couldn't do it better. Give the poor guy credit and don't get too disappointed when it isn't perfect.
No! No! I instead say to Coughlin what Samael says in his toast to our couple (victims) "May the worst day from your past be the best day of your future."
Closing out let me say that the twist about Scarlett I figured out ahead of time. The escape I expected and the big twist at the end, saw it coming! The last scenes seemed straight off the Syfy channel with effect so silly looking that it ruined the ending. I blame director George Bessudo for that oversite or even the productions company. So no this film will not be recommended.
Rating (3.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, In the Zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Babysitter Wanted (2008) - Horror Satanic

Babysitter Wanted (2008) - Lets start by saying I thought this film was decent but there were a few things that leave that nagging feeling it could have been better. The pre-credits scene showing the tied up girl with markings on her like you would see on a pig showing the different cuts of meat really blew a lot of what could have been revelation in this film. Instead of letting the audience grow to learn what is to come for characters we get this, then we are suppose to anticipate that fate coming back to the main character. Afraid though it should have been left unsaid and then when we saw it for the first time it would have more impact. That opening scene in which the music was a big driver was disappointing too much mood music and too much reveal all for a tone setting scene that really is not necessary and probably works against the film making everything that happened in that scene have to be explained later in a monologue that then too seems out of place.
The very first scene in the protagonists home we establish that the main character Angie Albright (Sarah Thompson) is a very good girl, she and her mother kneel in front of the home alter praying for her safety as she prepares to head off to school. Community College is such a scary place and she the good Christian girl meets her druggie roommate to set her out of place, to make the character uncomfortable and to establish she is not a girl of means and will have to find some kind of work to make this whole college thing happen. It also gives her a reason to meet her love interest in the film, Rick (Matt Dallas) who scares her by accident while she is on the payphone outside calling home to pretend everything is alright. I guess all that praying and good girl stuff goes out the window when you want to not have your Mom worry so you lie to her. Kids today! The fact that both of these actors are way past their college years is not so strange in Hollywood where often the teens in teen movies are late into their twenties. Here though they are in the early thirties playing 18 and 19 there is something not really right about that. Sarah Thompson I remember as Eve on the television show Angel how she ended up in this role must be a story. Not that she is not young looking but she is like 32 years old.
When she takes a number from the babysitter wanted sign on the school billboard there is a strange scarred guy (Monty Bane)watching her from the distance, we know this because besides seeing him the music gets very menacing queuing us that we should worry for poor Angie. In fact the music by Kurt Oldman is one of the larger problems with this film, it is too overstated, more like you would get on a video game to create mood than on a film where is should be an accompaniment. I got the feeling that Kurt didn't trust the film he was seeing to have the tension and shock it needed so he created a score to compensate for it. Unfortunately it is so over bearing at times, often giving away the action or creating its own moments instead of trusting the film that it was a distraction. It is also a dark movie, meaning the lighting is purposefully set low, it ads to the mood I suppose but make sure you watch this on a large decent quality television to really be able to see what is going on.
Angie is followed by scarred guy for a good deal of time while she heads out to the isolated farm to meet the Stanton Family, Jim Stanton (Bruce Thomas) doing his best Bruce Campbell, its strange I said it out loud and then on researching the actor I see that he played in Army of Darkness as one of the mini Ash characters. He was a fine enough actor but I kept thinking of the Bruce Campbell whenever he was on the screen. Violet Stanton (Kristin Dalton) and son Sam (Kai Caster) who always wears that cute little cowboy outfit and does not say much. They seem like a nice enough family and Angie takes the babysitting job. Thus the setup is done and the film actually starts and we learn that all the religious crap from the beginning actually plays a role in the outcome although a tangential one. Violet shows Angie that little Sam is on a special diet so if he wants a snack it should come from the marked containers. Since we were bludgeoned by the opening scene we can guess what the special diet is can't we? So is the point since we know and Angie doesn't that it should create a negative feeling in us, or anticipation that OOH Boy when she find out she is going to be appalled. No because when she finds out she is watching a young woman being quartered and sliced and diced and that trumps the feeling she may have had about Sam's dietary uniqueness.
The recap on the Netflix envelope gives away the part of the movie plot as the night of baby sitting goes horribly wrong. The scarred guy plays "When a Stranger Calls" and eventually gets into the house. This part of the film Angie does a lot of things right, she has been in contact with her boyfriend and he is on the way. She has been in touch with the police and the chief is coming out to have a look around. She just is too far out there in farm country for them to arrive in time to help with the scarred guy. When Angie gets the drop on him she quickly discovers that her nightmare has just begun. Paraphrasing but that is the idea and what takes place. I don't know what the message of this film is other than hey be careful taking baby sitting jobs they can be at the devils house and then all kinds of bad shit can happen. People aren't who they seem to be and the story ramps up big time with some gruesome violence and a less than satisfying ending. Overall this film sort of works although this viewer would prefer the much better and slow burn "House of the Devil" these kind of opinions though are really about style preferences, this one could be just what you are looking for. There are some plot points in that I am not sharing here, so that anyone who wishes to see this won't have it spoiled by me. It has more action and gore and really if you are a lazy viewer the music will tell you every emotion that is required for each scene, you really won't have to decide for yourself if you are scared. Its that what we all really want?
Rating (4.9) So close! in the Zombiegrrlz system Rent it! but be warned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thing (2011) - Quick Hit

The Thing (2011) - A Quick hit is really an initial impression here at Soresport Movies. We went as a family to this one at the request of my 19 year old daughter who is on break from college. I was not really planning on seeing this in theaters but now I can say I am glad I did. The film is basically a combination of tip of the hat to the original The Thing from Another World (1951) and the later The Thing (1982) in which it share its name and a good deal of its visual style. The original captures idea (used in this) of a group of researchers in the Arctic ( in this case Antarctic) , who discover a spacecraft in the ice. Encased is a creature that they bring back to their labs to study in a block of ice. They then have to struggle with the creature when it gets free. This part of the story is also used in this latest story. It is a nice ode to the original idea and appreciated by this viewer. The second film starring Kurt Russell and made by John Carpenter builds on the idea with the creature being able to assimilate anyone it comes in contact with. It can hide as anyone and wants very badly to get out of the isolation of the pole and into a warmer more populated place. Carpenters film is an excellent horror Science fiction film with great special effects. The current The Thing steals a good deal from the Carpenter version. Of course a lot has changed since 1982 and the special effects are much more compelling grotesque and beautiful in this new version. Although not a perfect film this one has some good things going for it.
The latest film takes place just prior chronologically from the 1982 movie, in that film a dog comes running across the snow with a helicopter in pursuit. That dog of course carried the creature but what happened at that other outpost. It is the theme of the latest version. The main character Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is brought onto the mission by the prestigious Dr. Sander Halvorson (Urlich Thomsen) who does a fine job selling his importants and he dominant position in their relationship. At first intimidated we get to see Kate change from wary underling to competent badass when things hit the fan. This dynamic of the film seemed well thought out and occured naturally enough within the plot conditions of the film to make it believable. I also liked that they did not give Kate a love interest, or a man who would save the day for her. She took some very harsh conditions and events and executed a gameplan of her own devising and maybe came out a winner in the end.
As for the base she eventually leaves behind, well if you saw the first scene from the 1982 versions you know enough about the outcome there. I know when I saw this with the family my daughter was very excited to see if Kurt Russell would make an appearance at the end. You can go check this entertaining science fiction movie out to get the answer.
Rating (6.6) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system GO and See It!