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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dark House (2009) Horror Ghosts

Dark House (2009) - Claire (Meghan Ory) is a traumatized woman, as a child she saw the horrors of a mass murder of the seven other children in a foster home. Now as an adult in college she struggles with paralyzing fear, taking medication and seeing a therapist Dr. Freeman (Tim Snay). His brilliant idea is for her to confront her fear by going into that same house, of course he adds no other supports for her, like making sure he goes with her. No just send the terrified girl back into her place of horrors and ensure her she will come out on the other side better off. Claire really wants to get over her emotional hangups, unable to form healthy relationships, and unable to be in touch fully with her feeling because of her medication she struggles in her college acting courses. In fact she has been avoiding her meds just so she can be more connected to her emotions during class.
Well wouldn't you know the opportunity arises when horror entertainment mogul Walston (Jeffrey Combs) arrives to offer the actors in Claires class a chance to work in his latest horror amusement the Dark House. He has purchased the very same house that Claire was so traumatized in and has spared no expense to
create a horror themed fun house. He needs actors to man the place though and this is an opportunity Claire for one will not pass up. She lies and says she has never been to the house even when the other actors talk about the tragic murders that took place there 12 years earlier. After convincing the rest of her class to join her off they go to see the place.
The house is something to behold with state of the art holographic technology it has a cast of terrifying characters that look so real they scare the actors. A strength of this film is the make up department headed by Megan Areford who make the non computer effects wonderfully imagined hideous in effect. After a quick demonstration of the scary holographic characters the actors learn their roles and prepare to do a run through for a couple horror amusements beat writers. ( Is there such a thing as an amusement beat writer?)
As the fun begins down in the cellar things are not going too well. Harris (Michael Albala) the computer genius who came up with the technology is killed by the ghost of the murderer Ms Darrode played with vigor by Diane Salinger. Now as he lay dying on the keyboard the
ghost enters the machine. This is such a weak part of the film, somehow it is always really cluncky when the supernatural is melded with technology.
Its probably because science has shown us there really is no such thing as the supernatural
so it challenges the logical parts of our brains when we see the two together. Writer / Director Darin Scott tries through flashing computer screen warnings to convey the idea that the evil spirit has entered the holographic programming and has corrupted the code with pure evil.
The effects of this conceit is that now the holographs will be able to kill the players in the house. Once just scary projections now they will slice dice and clobber the actors and others into pulpy messes. Here again is a weakness in the film, most of the kills in these sequences involve really shoddy computer effects that take away from the scare in really comical ways.
Like when Eldon (Danso Gordon) is attacked by the knight with the mace. Beside that fact that there is a roomfull of people who just watch instead of banding together to try to help, when he finally has he head clubbed off, the spew of bits from the computer effect is ridiculous is its fountain of red. On top of that in each scene where the CGI is featured there is never a natural consequence from it. I mean to say there are no puddles, blood smears or anything that would tell you someone died here. It really leaves the viewer uninvested in the hyper reality of the story when after a kill there is no evidence it ever took place.
It is very quickly a fight for survival and Claire is seeing it for what it is. The ghost in the machine appears to her on occasion and just terrifies her deeply.
One by one the characters are killed off until of final girl must confront the ghost and her past. Then this not quite passable film pulls the cliche that sinks it. The police arrive and find Claire in the kitchen acting crazy and stabbing the floor repeatedly. We quickly move to the explanation of the entire film. Lets me say that if as a writer you have the need to wrap things up at the end of your script by recapping the entire film, you're not doing it right. Especially when you have
Bob Pinciotti (Don Stark) from That 70's Show deliver it. In this case I am sure that the writer was very clever in what information he left out.
In the early scene when Claire was just a girl it was played to lead the audience to think she was the little girl who, on a dare, entered the scary house to find the murder scene. That scene ends when looking through a keyhole, another eye peers back. So there was a survivor from the massacre, guess which one of the two Claire is.
Wait you don't have to guess because you get an entire scene showing how she as the leader of the foster kids got all the other kids to burn their bibles and thus set off Ms. Darrode's killing spree. Lesson, never burn your bible. Christian foster mom will never be able to check to see if "Thou shalt not kill." is a commandment and so will slaughter you all. Just in case this was not enough for you to understand the story, we get a scene with the other little girl, all grown up visiting the house too. She and her boyfriend are doing exactly what Claire's therapist suggested but in a much healthier way, Claire's way as explained by the cop was to lose her mind and kill off all her actor friends. WHAT? WAIT! Yes that's right everything we say for the last hour and a half never happened. Instead Claire lost it soon after entering the house and being off her medication and worked her way through the players and employees until she was all alone.
To add emphasis to the point we finish the film with a shot of Claire in a rubber room wearing the expected straight jacket. Oh my, that did not end so well. Even though this film had Meghan Ory, who we here at Soresport movies have loved to look at since seeing her in Decoys (2004) it was just not enough to pull a recommended out of us. She can be currently seen at times in the first season of Once Upon A Time on ABC. Also recently she appeared all sexy and evil on an episode of Supernatural. A pretty face can only take you so far and all the problems with this film overwhelm any of the good.
Rating (3.3) 5.0 and up are recommended, In the Zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Fest and Thon

I am gearing up for 10 days of Science fiction which will completely take over this blog. This year's Fest and 'Thon happen Feb. 10-20, 2012 at the Somerville Theatre in Boston, MA. You can get information about this GREAT event in a couple places, on Facebook and at their own website

Everyone should buy tickets and attend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Penetration Angst (2003) Horror Vagina Dentata

Penetration Angst (2003) - Purchased in a discount bin for $3 this film cover entitled Angst was a mystery, its full name not yet revealed would have cleared up a lot of that mystery. When in 2007 the film "Teeth" made horror headlines for its unusual subject matter, vagina dentata, we at Soresport Movies thought that the subject was probably seldom covered and doubted we would ever come across another movie on it. Of course if we had taken the time to go to we would have seen this film listed under the subject. Instead a chance purchase and here we are reviewing an earlier film on the same subject. Writer / Director Wolfgang Buld has put together a strange, not uninteresting film with unique situation and characters and of course vagina dentata.
Helen (Fiona Horsey) is a traumatized (by an incident in her childhood) virgin who is not ready for sex. She is loved by wimpy loser Dennis (Paul Conway) but does not return his affection. When tricked into a compromising position by her boyfriend Jack she is raped, as he does this heinous deed suddenly whooop! He is gone. Devoured by the very vagina he could not wait to have contact with. Shaken and confused Helen turns to see Jacks clothes left behind and can not explain the incident. She knows something is not right with her body so she has to try to get answers. Seeing her doctor for answers seems like a solution but unfortunately for poor Helen her doctor is a real creep too. They talk out her fears of vagina dentata and do an exam. After giving her a sedative he takes a turn on the unconscious girl. She wakes late in the night with a used condone between her legs and a pile of clothes on the floor.
Her interactions with Dennis do not add anything early but do establish the two as a possible future couple. Laying in bed poor Helen now gets the full extent of her condition as her vagina screams at her "Feed Me!" over and over, using the rainy night to set the mood for a turn she goes to the kitchen to feed herself hotdogs. Her crippled step father harasses her even as the fights the voice. Clocking him with a pot it is time for her to make a break. There is no way she can stay there. Still the voices won't let her rest and get really persistent when she is at the bus station with Dennis. She is going to Feed her vagina but Dennis stops her saying he loves her but doesn't want dirty sex in a bathroom.
Saved his damn life too.
Cut to seven months later and Helen works as a prostitute trying to pick the slimiest guys to feed her condition. It is not always easy but she manages to deal with her problem even with the guilt when she kills a family man.
At this point the story starts getting a bit strange, okay stranger. The Siamese twins Silvia (Amy Steel) and Sonia (Beth Steel), Silvia the bookworm meets and connects with Dennis in a London bar. They hit it off but Sonia is more inclined to want to have beers and get laid in a night out, not like the poetry readings and candlelight favored by her sister and Dennis. Eventually they work it out so Dennis is coming over to consummate his love for Silvia. Only problem is that nagging Sonia can't let them enjoy the sex. Dennis and Sylvia decide from the back might be the position for them and the twins turn over. Dennis uses the opportunity to hold Sonia's head into the pillow so she can't ruin the mood with her incessant talking and finally gets to have a go. When done he realizes the never switch sides of the bed and actually fucked Sonia while keeping Sylvia from stopping him. Sylvia is pissed and Sonia gloating at his stupidity which just sets Dennis off and he takes an electric knife to the twins.
Really the entire purpose of this is to move Dennis into the role of fugitive and it works as he grows a mustache and sleeps in parks. Sylvia survives to become a celebrity on a crusade for vengeance
against the man who killed her twin.
After a terrifying scare with a John who tied her up, our girl Helen finally meets a good guy who just happens to be named John (Matthew Brint).
She is in love but even after their wedding night is putting him off on the sex front. She of course does not want to devour him so instead she sneaks off and gets other less desirable men. N This is not the honeymoon John was hoping for having taken the plunge in the hopes he could finally get in Helen's pants. So they drive around an island in an RV and John becomes more and more frustrated with the situation. Helen for her part plays the past trauma card well enough to keep him at bay. We the audience only see one way this situation can end.
Yet things do not always go the way you think they will. Dennis while hiding out in a strip club is recognized by stripper Bonnie (Natasha O'Brian) who likes the idea of being with a murderer. In fact she has an idea for the two of them to score big.
A robbery on the very island Helen and John are honeymooning on. Dennis agrees as he really needs the money and would
now have to kill this stripper since she knows who he is. They do the robbery but Bonnie kills the security guard and the two need a place on the island to hide. Just happens Bonnie comes across an RV with a couple in it. Guess who? She ties up the couple and covers there heads with bags, which means that when Dennis comes in he does not recognized Helen.
Enough of this though, if you have made it through this fairly mediocre film you don't want me spoiling it. Okay I will go all the way, whenever the review is a not recommended it is easier to give things away. Eventually John shows himself to be a douche and Dennis recognizes the sound of Helen's vagina. Helen figures out her trauma and magically the desire to eat men vanishes. Sylvia appears to help move the craziness forward. Bonnie flips and in the end John and Bonnie are blown up in the RV.
I don't even remember what happens with Sylvia? Oh yeah she ends up on the beach trying to get to the gun before Dennis does. Anyway this film is totally nuts, not completely but just enough to leave you scratching your head. While Dennis and Helen walk off on the beach together finally getting to be the couple they were destined to be.
So for Helen and Dennis it is a journey to finally be together but really the film shows an awful lot of carnage to get them here. The penetration angst of the title ends up being cured just by remembering the trauma. Not really any growth just plain old remembering so it is not satisfying for the arc of the character. I see that a lot of it was played for humor but not really in a funny way. So in the end I can not recommend this film, just a bit too strange and unfulfilling.
Rating (4.4) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the zombiegrrlz system Skip It!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Copenhagen (2012) (Flat Earth Theatre Company)

Copenhagen - It is a rare event for Soresport Movies to head out to a play but that is indeed what we did this week. Boston has an active high quality theater community and including the Flat Earth Theatre Company a small but active group producing several plays a year. Choosing challenging plays from a wide variety of subject matter the group challenges their audiences to be active and thinking in experiencing their work. Shows include "The Goat" by Edward Albee, Steve Martin's "The Underpants", and Tracy Letts "Bug".
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn is a challenging look at a meeting between two of the most famous physicists of the WWII era. German scientist Werner Heisenberg traveled to occupied Denmark to meet with his mentor Niels Bohr, a Jewish physicist known as the "father of modern nuclear physics" who received this vist prior to fleeing his country and joining the Manhattan Project in the United States, that group eventually developed the atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Over the decades much has been guessed about the meeting between Bohr and Heisenberg but little actual details are known about what was said. This play looks at the relationship of these two men, their motivations and roles in the war and in the development of nuclear fission.
Lets not pretend that Soresport Movies is adequately knowledgeable in theater production or acting to give valuable review of this production. Lets instead take these comments for what they are the impression from the night. Firstly is the play itself, well written as an examination of meeting between two men at a key point in history. The Germans were working furiously to develop a fission bomb and included Heisenberg as one of the leads in that effort. They had little success and the play proposes a possible reason for that. Most of the worlds theoretical physicists were Jewish and most fled to the United States early in the war. Bohr remained in his homeland Denmark after the German occupation and would only escape later after the fateful meeting with Heisenberg. Looking at that meeting and challenging each others views about motivations the three characters of the play weave a story of science, politics and challenged integrity. It both informs and challenges the audience to think about the moral decisions people have to make in times of crisis and that there are different views of the decisions that are made.
The players Matthew Zahnzinger as Niels Bohr was subtle and physical at the same time. In becoming the older man, shrinking his posture, limiting his flexibility of movement and creating hand and voice mannerisms that really sold it. He was strong from begining to end. Using a British accent you are reminded of many of the old war movies where whether German, Italian, or Danish, everyone shared the same accent. His delivery was sharp and concise with active interaction with the script that even when having to deliver complex scientific ideas was crystal clear. Margrethe Bohr played by Emily Hecht was good as the audience surrogate. Her role the lesser in this play about two men but still important in clarifying motivations for the audience. Emily has a strong presence on stage but sometimes seemed to be waiting for her lines, whether this is a problem with the script or the actress is for better minds to decide. Kevin Kordis' Heisenberg seemed to struggle a bit more than the other two actors, certainly a competent actor filling a large demanding role there were times when he seemed to muff a bit of the dialog. Understand that there are some complex and lengthy explanations of scientific theory he has to recite and those seemed the most challenging. He also seemed a bit one toned in his physical delivery with a constant clenched body language that seemed more nervous than intentional. Still over all the cast was very engaging and the execution was not off putting.
The layout of the stage was certainly a surprising and enjoyable experience. A small circle in the center of the room, the audience first row up against it. A nucleus for the actors to stand on and then to orbit around passing behind the first row. The small space holding only 40 or so seats was excellent for this smaller more intimate play. The actors using the stage and the circular aisles weaved back and forth around and across the space like protons and electrons orbiting a nucleus. An excellent decision that worked well. Director Jake Scaltreto said it was a play with no stage direction so this innovation was a production decision. It enhances the experience, fits with the subject matter and increases the energy of a play that frankly is a conversation and runs the risk of stagnating. After the intermission the second half increases the characters movement around and across this small stage reinvigorating the audience as the story moves towards its climax.
Copenhagen was an engrossing and enjoyable night out and runs for one more weekend, more information and tickets can be found at the Flat Earth Theatre website

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Demons 2 (1986) Horror Demons

Demons 2 (1986) - "Demoni 2: L'incubo ritorna" directed by Lamberto Bava and written in concert with Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, and Dardano Sacchetti this is a sequel to the movie theater madness that was Demons. Instead of a theater this time we have a highly secured luxury apartment building called The Tower. Safety is first to these people and that need for security sure has a way of backfiring. The film starts in darkness with a voice over to set the atmosphere "A terrifying centuries old prediction foretold the spawning of the demons on earth. That prediction came true when spectators in a movie theater were transformed into blood thirsty fanged creatures and spread death and contagion. Days of terror that convinced the world demons can exist." It is unclear whether this voice over is for us viewer or is the start of the "movie within a movie" that runs throughout Demons 2. Similar to the first Demons film there is a movie about Demons being played during the unfolding of the plot. In the first film it is why all the people are at the theater in the first place and in this sequel many of the people in the apartment building are watching a film on television. There is the woman with the dog (Anita Bartolucci), the boy left alone Tommy (Marco Vivio), the security guard (Lino Salemme) Sally Day the birthday girl (Caorlina Cataldi-Tassoni) and a variety of other guests. It is a fairly well executed technique, we get to learn the players in the apartment building and at the same time the plot of the inevitable demon cross over approaches. A bit of exposition to let us know that the demons pass the demon plague on through their nails and body fluids. It is the single most important plot point. It is because in both instance the film and the real life events sync up that the demons can cross over into this world but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The opening scene is a humorous misdirection, a close up of a knife with what could be dripping blood, a man's feet an apron red with the fluid, pan out to the baker putting the finishing touches on Sally's birthday cake. This is the introduction and then we head off to the main set at the apartment building.
This is a large cast and many people are introduced as living working and playing in the building. There are George (David Edwin Knight) and Hannah (Nancy Brilli), she is pregnant and he is a student who live in the building. The Haller family consists of Mr Haller
(Antonio Cantafora), wife Helga (Luisa Passega) and daughter Ingrid (Asia Argento), there is the prostitute visiting a client named Mary (Virginia Bryant).
Of note though if you read Soresport Movies early review of Demons (1985) then you know of the "Pimp with a plan" Bobby Rhodes and here we get to see him again as the gymnasium instructor with the same gusto her brought to his first role.
This film like the first uses the method of cutting the scenes within the building, people watching the scary movie, the party goers dancing, George studying with the scenes from the movie within the movie. In that film two couples are investigating what is call the forbidden zone,
The clunkiest part of the plot is the party and the cross over of the demons. Sally is a borderline personality who can not seem to be happy that her birthday is here. Recently broken up with Jacob she is pissed when she learns he is coming over. This is set up to draw another parallel to the first film where we saw a group of punk rockers driving in a car eventually making it to the movie theater and letting the demons out into the world.
In this film Jacob and his three friends drive towards the party playing hard rock music and acting very much like the punk rockers in the first film. The problem with this stuff is that it has no bearing on the plot at the apartment building.
Jacob drives really fast and in the end crashes into Tommy's parents' car in front of the building.
It does not really do anything, it does not attract police to the crisis. None of the people end up getting into the building, it is really a dead end. It does moves Sally into her bedroom away from the party that seems to just go on without her. Not even her best friend bothers to join her in her room. She sits watching the horror movie moping while the party goes on without her.
In the movie in a movie the two couples investigating the forbidden zone come across a demon body dried out and trapped beneath rubble. On of the girls cuts her arm and drops land in the mouth of the demon, this starts its rebirth. Pam (Eliana Miglio) sets up the group for a photo with the demon even with none of them noticing it coming back to life. At the same time at the party Ulla (Maria Chiara Sasso) is setting up the party goers for a group picture. When the two women snap the photo at the same moment, in both cases the flash fails and this little bit of synchronicity joins the world of the demon movie and the apartment building. Sally watches in horror as the demon in the screen seems to see her and walks right at the television screen. Its face pushes out and when she turns it is in the room with her. This is a really weak connection but it gets the job done and it is a short jump until Sally is a demon also and the friends in the other room are target of the Sally demon.
Not before Sally spills bodily fluids from her body, a new form of demon acid blood or something that eats through the floor and drips through the ceilings of the floors below. Its only purpose is to create a way to spread the Demon transformations more quickly.The party is quickly a total demon feast. Unlike the first film where the transformation from wounded human to demon took a bit of time it is not so here. Really about a half minute is all that is needed for the change to happen, so very quickly Sally's apartment is full of hungry demons.
They break out of Sally's apartment and the entire building is now compromised. The smart reviewer out there must see this as a historic piece connecting to the two recent [rec] movies, [rec] and [rec]2 films of recent years. Another film that may have taken or at least shared ideas with this film is The Horde which also used an apartment building as a centerpiece, in its' case a zombie and revenge film rolled into one. Although those films reduced the scope of the building and have original origins for the demon infestation the mechanic as pretty close to being the same.
The rest of the film breaks down into scenes of each of the areas of the building and the people in them and how they are effected by the outbreak. The woman with the dog, hears the dog growling and sees the demon blood dripping from the ceiling.
She watches in horror as the dog transforms into a demon dog.
Then the struggle for her is to try to avoid it and stay alive.
Tommy, home alone gets locked out of his apartment and in so doing must hide in the ventilation system to avoid the Sally demon who is prowling the halls. In the gym the leaking demon blood transforms a man in a steam box which then sparks another chaotic fight between the "Gym Instructor with a plan" Hank and his muscle heads against an ever increasing number of demons.

Three workout women are huddled hiding in a car when the demons attack you see not only are the windows rolled down but the sunroof is open making for easy demon feeding. Can't figure out that choice at all.He and his crew and the Haller family all end up in the parking garage but find that the building is locked down so tight that no one is getting out. They are going to have to make there stand right there. Arming themselves as best they can they circle the wagons for a final battle. It is so useless, with the claws of the demon converting each person they scratch it does not seem it is a winnable battle. Poor little Ingrid (Asia Argento in her first movie role) has to watch as her parents are killed and she is surrounded by demons. While we are talking about the garage scene there is the most ridiculous thing in it.
George and the Hooker are trapped in the elevator when the power goes out. She has already been set up as terrified of elevators and so there is quite a bit of hysterical behavior on her part and calming words on George's part. Through a crack they can see the carnage befalling the residents of the building but are helpless to do anything about it. For them the challenge is finding a way out of the elevator.
George is part of the through story and he the actor is a bit stale in the role but he has the internal drive to get back to his pregnant wife. In the commentary Lamberto Bava talks about not really liking the actor very much, feeling that he was not giving his all in the film. George does eventually make his way back to his apartment and finds his darling wife Hannah has survived a dual attack. The first part by a little demon child who squeezes in through the changed door and then by the true demon that emerges from its stomach. George arrives just in time to save her.
The final sequence is Hannah and George making their way to the roof so they can repel down the side of the building onto the roof of the television studio next door. All the while having to fight off demons and the very persistent Sally demon. When all is said and done George and Hannah have a brand new baby boy and they are free from the apartment building. How they get there is worth your time. So although not as scary as the newer films I mentioned in this review, this film is a very competent attempt at making a demon film with chaos and struggle that work in group and for individuals. The effects are all eighties cheese and the soundtrack include the likes of The Smiths and The Cult. Sure there seems to be things that go nowhere but that has often been the case with Lamberto Bava films. In this movie at least those things do not impact the overall storyline. You can't say that everything is perfectly explained but for the most part the simple story of survival plays out to a some what satisfying conclusion.
Rating (5.7) 5.0 and up are recommended