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Friday, April 27, 2012

Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (1999) Horror Mummy

Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (1999) - The best thing to say about this film is that the story had a beginning, middle and end. Ancient Evil is a low budget movie about a crazy worshiper of an Aztec God, Norman (Trent Latta), who wants to bring about the end of the world by sacrificing a virgin. Of course we don't know this early on but even after the first scene we know there is something not quite right about Norman. The film open with a few students, Norman, Don (Jeff Peterson) and Stacy (Ariauna Albright) standing around waiting for the scene to start with their teacher, Professor Cyphers (Brenda Blondell). When we get dialog it is long and pretty much explains how they are getting this Mummy ready for a show at this school's museum. How it is a special Mummy unlike all the Aztec finds because it exists, since they did not mummify remains and it is even stranger in that it was buried knife in hand. Professor Cyphers (really can't believe that it the name they went with) is translating the inscriptions found in the pyramid with the mummy. Poorly written by Matthew Jason Walsh it is basically a 'Here let me catch you up on things' scene that is awkward in execution. Walsh who also penned a couple reviewed films on this blog Witchouse and Witchouse 3:Demon Fire continues to work with director David DeCoteau to this day as they are finishing the project "1313 : Cougar Cult (2012)".
  We spend some time meeting the other bodies, uh I mean players in the film. Arlando (Russell Richardson) and Morris (Michael Lutz) talk about how Morris wants to get with Janine (Michele Nordin) but she won't give him the time of day. Lutz is painfully bad as the bad boy student looking to get laid and the dialog is equally poor. Morris steals a bracelet from the mummy for no reason other than to impress Janine, and we see Norman skulking around paying attention to the goings on. If there is on actor worse than Lutz it is Trent Latta. His over reacting emotions in every scene he is in makes Lutz look subtle. There is a dynamic set up with the bracelet that I think was suppose to make you think it is important but the idea is so simple and not fleshed out that it really doesn't end up mattering at all. After giving the bracelet to Janine and actually getting a date out of it. She being involved in this archaeology program knows what it is and scolds him for taking it. She says she will return it to the mummy before he gets in trouble. So starts the passing of the bracelet which goes to 3 or four other people and no one actually tries to put it back on the mummy even though that is each persons intent as they each tell you when they get the damned thing. It would probably have been better if it got passed a couple times without fanfare, maybe the audience would not be sitting knowing the bracelet was some super important thing, but would instead forget about it and it could then be used as a turn in the story.
  Anyway it is not long before Norman is standing over the body of the mummy and seeming to be praying. He wakes the monster from its slumber and now has control of it. When night falls there is the weirdest storm ever, constant lightning but no rain. Just flashes of light and thunder but that is about it. I originally thought that it was to add to the mummy waking, you know a mood thing. The lights go out, the students can't contact the outside world etc. Because the rain never came it all seemed so fake, and became annoying after a while. The mummy is up and its shuffling gets the attention of the Professor Cyphers as she works deciphering the text. Even though she is at her desk with a light on, when she hears a noise she walks around the museum with a flashlight and never turns on a light. Better yet is that there are candles lit all about the place. We know she is going to be the mummy's first kill but not before Norman comes in and tells her a long winded version of everything we don't know about him. He is a high priest of the Rain God and he is going to do a sacrifice to bring about the end of the world. The professor is not impressed and tells Norman he will be in trouble if he doesn't leave right now! Then she stand and watches the mummy enter the room, slowly he shambles up to her, and she does not move, then stabs her and she dies. She could easily have ran away but apparently was in too much shock.
  The rest of the film consists of the students deciding to party in the museum, that is how we get them in the area of the mummy. Then the script goes through many twists of logic to separate the students from each other so that the mummy can kill them off one by one without the others finding out before it is there turn. What's worse is the ridiculous writing that every time someone is alone they have to talk to themselves out loud to tell us what emotions they are having or to call out thinking the other students are there. So bad...
  Don and Stacy find the deciphered manuscript and learn about the sacrifice while the other characters are having their turn to die at the hands of the mummy. It is done away from those left so people are still in the dark. There is a running joke about no one believing that Stacy is a virgin and considering the actress is thirty at the time of the shoot I can see why. She and Don read the text and we all know what is going to happen at this point. So eventually Stacy is tied to the alter and the High Priest Norman is going to sacrifice her. Lucky for the world that Don is there. After being injured tussling with the mummy he realizes that crushing the bracelet might help. How does he know this you ask? He doesn't it is just Norman wants it back so he figures it must be important. When he crunches it under foot the control Norman has over the mummy is gone and it stabs him. Then Don stabs the mummy with its own knife which apparently is enough to kill it, then Stacy and Don are the winners and the movie ends.
  One more thing about mummies, they are as you know dried up bodies wrapped in cloth. When a film features a mummy it should appear to be dried up and wrapped in cloth. This film has the fattest mummy on record. Its damn thighs rubbed together and it had a beer belly. Really at least make an attempt at giving the audience a monster that looks like it should.
Rating (2.2) 5.0 and up are recommended, some just more recommended than others.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Woman (2011) Horror

The Woman (2011) - THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT PLOT POINTS IN THE FILM!!! Evil is a word brandished about in the horror genre, to describe any number of things, devil cults, serial killers, demons, vengeful ghosts and Satan himself. Even though there are none of these supernatural elements in the film "The Woman" it is no doubt about evil. It is the evil that man does to his fellow being that is on display here. The evil he persecutes on his family and those you would think a man considered loved ones. The Woman is less about the Woman of the title and more about the man who comes to possess her. It is a film about a particularly evil man and how he imposes his will on those around him.
At he introduction of this man, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) we see him as a mild mannered husband hanging out at a cookout with the neighbors. Still there are some signs that things are not quite what they seem. Director Lucky McKee makes a point to show him standing on a porch high enough that he can scan the yard. High enough to see his family, to know who they are interacting with. We also get a look into his families reaction to him. The teenaged daughter Peggy ( Lauren Ashley Carter) is caution in even seeming to talk to a boy who is showing interest. She looks over her shoulder knowing her father is watching. When he sees his son shooting free throws at a basketball hoop his interaction is not one of encouragement but more of pressuring the son to practice towards perfection. Later at home he is established as the controlling douche bag he is. So we think we have an idea of who he is but evil? That will be confirmed as this film continues.
   When we first see The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) she is wounded and stumbling to a stream to wash her wound. We see this montage like fever dream that may be letting us know her origin as a woman raised by wolves. She is definitely feral with what looks like the remains of a tent for clothing. It is a stylish introduction that is nonverbal but effective.  It may have been that she had a baby that was taken by wolves and that is why she kills one. It was a bit confusing but the ending leads to believing that there is a motherhood hole she needs to fill.
  A couple days after this she is spied by the hunting Chris Cleek as she washes herself in the stream. Her breasts exposed or at least in Chris's imagination they are he gets an idea that will change the world he has created. The music in this scene is a bit too on the nose as he watches her walk away. Still it forecasts the coming events.
 He captures the woman and takes her back to his root cellar where he strings her up a shackled captive. This does not make her helpless as he learns when he lets his hand get a bit too close to her. In a wonderfully performed scene we see that The Woman has some power in this relationship that has been forced upon her. It is a real stark reality for Chris to meet a woman he can't dominate. He has the upper hand, well at least most of it, but he will never truly control this woman.
There is a dynamic in this film that is perfectly structured. The women who are part of civilized society are dominated by the men. Chris over his wife and daughters, his taking advantage, financially of a neighbor who comes to him in business, the boys teasing a little girl at the cookout. We have society's nurture relationships of all showing the dominance of men over women. Chris is the front man in this, a misogynist prick who rules with an iron fist and only sees women as weaker beings to be used and abused as he sees fit. He represents the male perception of superiority in society. The Woman is nature, the wild woman, the being who without societies molds is as potent and powerful as any man. She represents what women are without the structures of society imposed on them.
 No one in his family will challenge him they are all too afraid. It is not just that he must have dominance there is also a sexual element to Chris that creeps into the way he looks at the woman. Like the imagining of her breasts as she washed in the stream. You can tell he is not really thinking about how to civilize this woman. He is a much sicker man than originally thought and every revelation makes the audience wonder how far can it go. Sure the proper foreshadowing of his deviance was in place early in the film but when we get to the middle of the film we realize he is a truly evil person. Lucky McKee does a fine job in presenting this family as well rounded but lets the audience see the cracks that run through its foundations. When he brings his entire family into the cellar and shows them the Woman he talks about how they owe it to her to civilize her. There is no questioning of him in this scene, no one says maybe they should call the cops. Everyone in the room who is old enough to understand knew he intention with the woman was to a a fuck toy and not to help her in any way. In fact in the privacy of the bedroom his mouse wife Belle, excellently played by Angela Bettis, asks the simple question "Should we really be doing this?" His response of hitting her hard across the face without a word is all you need to know about his absolute power in this family. This is such a complex set of circumstances for this character. Rewatching the scene where he is checking in with his older daughter is sooo much more creepy when you realize that he has imprgnated her. The way his wife hovers behind him obviously nervous for her.
 When we see Chris go out in the night to use The Woman's strung up body, while is wife lays awake knowing where he is. While The Woman sheds a single tear during her rape. It is a horrible thing that Belle is letting her husband do what he wants to the woman. She also knows though that by doing so she is also protecting her family, if his abuse is focused on the stranger in the cellar than it is not focused on the family members. 
  Adding to the disturbing look at this fucked up family is how the father seems to be grooming his son Brian (Zach Rand) to be a misogynist as well. We see the boy who is acting out like his father and instead of a firm hand the father makes it clear in his belittling of the women in the family that a mans place is the dominant one and the boy will stand at his right hand in running the family. When Brian takes a turn at abusing the bound Woman and is caught things really come to a head in the family. With all the abused and craziness that Belle has been subject to the straw that gets her to stand up is that her son may become like his father. She confronts the boy and then his father saying that the behavior is sick. Finally confronting him does not really work out as she planned and as her unconscious body lays on the kitchen floor the doorbell rings. Peggy's Teacher, Genevieve Raton (Carlee Baker) arrives right at this moment to reveal her suspicions that Peggy is pregnant and offer her help.It is also an interesting choice to have the attractive possibly lesbian teacher be the only proactive woman in the society that we see.
  These final scenes where Chris goes over the edge and attacks the teacher are incredibly harsh. He obvious can't come back from this and as an audience member who cares if he does. The women in their desperation to help Raton finally get to fighting back. In the gory and violent ending we finally get to see the Woman respond to male aggression with arms free. We learn just want was meant when the word "anophthalmia" was bantered about earlier in the film. We see the oppressive male structure not be able to handle to wild nature of the Woman in what was a very satisfying ending. This was never intended to be a feel good movie so if you are looking for truly happy endings this is not the film for you. Nor is it the film for those who hate to see violence towards women. It does treat its characters honestly and they behave to the character traits they were given no matter how disturbing that is to the viewer. The acting is excellent from Pollyanna McIntosh, the Woman to Belle Cleek, Angela Bettis and the wonderfully evil Chris Cleek, Sean Bridgers. The music somewhat counter intuitive in its upbeat score during really horrific scenes was interesting although this seems to be a fad in horror. I am also not a big fan of music montage to move things along and there are a few in this film. It is not that they are poorly done, just a personal preference. Still the gurgles of gore where present and the mood was set throughout with a score that added and did not take away from what was happening on screen. The revelations we well drawn out in a script that revealed just enough to keep you thinking as you watched. I am not sure how much was added by the last revelation of the daughter with no eyes living with the dogs. Having worked in mental health many years ago I did know of one case where a child was made to sleep with the dogs in a pen. In fact I met some people who did equally horrible things to their families. So for this viewer at least Chris Cleek was just another sick bastard and I enjoyed his final scene. I just wish it had been longer and more painful. So with that let me say I strongly recommend this movie but with a bit of a warning.
This is an extremely disturbing film and it will not be for everyone. It is a story about a character who has a complete disdain for women and the scenes and revelations showing how poor a human being he is are disgusting and hard to watch. So if you do not think you are able to deal with it avoid the film. Otherwise have at it.
Rating (7.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, some just more recommended than others.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Curse of El Charro (2005) Horror Ghost Curse

The Curse of El Charro (2005) - I watched this film a few weeks ago and was so unimpressed that I was going to skip reviewing it at all. Sometimes though you just couldn't get a film out of your mind. It is not that it is a particularly memorable film. It is that one aspect of the film was so terrible that I kept thinking I had to write about it. First though a bit of story about it.
Now the producer/writer Ryan R. Johnson and director Rich Ragsdale describe what they were going for in the bonus, making of video. A horror movie for the Latino audience that was tired of the gangster shoot em ups that have been so prevalent. So they came up with the idea of El Charro a cowboy ghost killer of northern Mexico. This is not a Latino film, it is a film with a ghost killer who originates in Mexico. That is the only connection. The character Maria sure enough is supposed to be of mexican descent but there is only a slight connection through the film. Her visions are of places in Mexico, even though the film location itself is in Arizona.
The script focuses on a road trip to a small Arizona town. These four girls, the All American girl Christina (Heidi Androl), the Goth Rosemary (KellyDawn Malloy), The strange and disturbed by dreams lead character Maria (Drew Mia) and possibly the worst stereotype of a young black woman ever put on film, the saucy and sexually aggressive Tanya (Kathryn Taylor). There is a girl gone wild vibe but not really in what ends up being a fairly tame horror film. In fact I think it is how the male writer sees a girls road trip but does not really get it right. Christina is taking her friends down to her Uncle's house for a week of partying and relaxation. It is more like a bunch of guys getting out on the road than woman. The interactions just do not come across as correct, something is a bit off. The purposeful contrast between the characters makes one think that this group would never hang out together but so be it. Including Maria is Christina's idea (They are college roommates) but the other two make it clear that the depressive trouble girl is really not welcomed. In what can only be described as a scene straight out of a bad teen soap opera they directly confront the sad sack so she knows the pecking order in the group and she is dead weight. Although it would be way more likely that Tanya and Rosemary would play nice but maybe internally want Maria to leave instead there is this outward show of disdain. It is more like when young men create a pecking order than when women do. Maybe it is because the writer is a man that this is so skewed, or maybe to have conflict so the story will have more to it; Either way the dynamic is a bit off.
Maria is troubled by dreams of her sister, who recently committed suicide. This eventually gets worse as the movie progresses and through them we learn of the titular curse.
The story takes the girls through desert highways and small towns where they work there way out of trouble through flirtation and possible sexual favors. It is left unclear but Tanya appears to go down on a sheriff who pulls them over. She claimed to have other tricks being the sexual beast she is. They eventually make it to the very nice house and then head into town for some dancing and drinking.
Picking up some local men they head back to the house to continue the party.
Mixed in with this is the story of El Charro (acted by Andrew Bryniarski but voiced by Danny Trejo) , he was a wealthy Mexican land owner who had his eye on a village girl. Shown through silent film style and influenced by the directors fondness for German expressionism the story is in fact the most stylistically interesting part of the film. When spurned by the girl he desired El Charro goes off and kills her. The townspeople angered by this act hang El Charro but as he died he cursed the family of the girl. Now how this brings us to the present some 100 years later is quite the question. If El Charro always comes back for the descendants of the girl how are there any left 100 years later? Maria and her sister are getting visions of the creeper driving the sister to take her own life but why these two? What about their parents? Grandparents? It does not make a lot of sense but sense is not what this film is about. There is an early scene where after a conversation with a priest the priest makes a call to his superiors to talk about her having visions like her sister. This seems to indicate a bigger story with the church involved but the film never comes back to it. Only in the last scene do we see him again but really it is too late then. Other than letting us know she is having visions and so did her sister it adds nothing.
What also does not make a lot of sense is a ghost that walks to where he wants to get to. Here we have a ghost who stalks like a serial killer but at other times just appears. It makes no sense.
Made for 200 thousand dollars you can't expect a superior film but technically the film is well put together, music, sound and filming is not bad. The director was not unskilled and the makeup for El Charro was decent. The acting was not great but some of that was not the actors fault. So where does this film fall down? Well the writing of course, and I would like to say in particular the character of Tanya is a fine example of what not to do in a script. She is the worse stereotype of a black woman, aggressive and mean, with a cat like stance ready to pounce on any weakness. Her interactions are selfish and she while sexually the loose girl of the group is also dismissive when not impressed by a man. At the end of talking about her is the incredibly dreadful dialog she spouts. Here are some wonderful examples of what not to have your young black female character say.
While waiting for Maria who is late, her first line to establish her personality.
" Christina didn't we beg you to tell her freaky ass to stay home?"
" Okay fine she can come, but she better not fuck up my game or I'm kicking her ass."
" Oh and that goes for you too bitch, this is a vacation not a funeral." to the goth.
" Can I help it if I got needs, and don't even trip, you Marilyn Manson looking mother fucker."
When introduced to Maria, "Oh are you coming with." "Anyway you two can sit in the back."
Then immediately challenge sexually by Rosemary we get the comeback.
"Oooo, some lucky man is going to be flossing with these tonight." and "Well we'll just have to see about that. Or maybe I'll have mercy on you and save you my sloppy seconds when I'm done with them."
When introduced to the music for the ride a band called Tard, "Tard! Hell yeah that is the shit! Oh I like them. Arizona here we come."
It is not cool that instead of a mature character the black woman is a smart assed slut. Our societal stereotypes for black women as rude and over sexualized is not something we need reinforced.
So they are driving down the road and Rosemary brings out the pot to smoke and our girl says "Oh you are so sharing that bitch." and then starts singing "Pass the weed, pass the weed." takes a drag and says "Now that's what I'm talking about." " Oh and that was some good shit." Her coughing fit gets them noticed by the cops and the creepy sheriff that pulls them. Here we truly get her stereo type she flirts with the cop. The cop takes her to his car and they both get into the back seat. We see through the rare view window that she goes down on the cop. When she comes back laughing and joking with the cop she tells her friends. "What are you talking about? Like I don't have more tricks up my sleeve that that, God."
I think you get the idea, it was really offensive. I am not sure if it was an intentional joke to have El Charro rip off her jaw as a means to killing her.
So Maria has more visions and the killing comes and slowly we work our way through the death and destruction. We learn all about the curse through Maria and her visions and it is clear through the silent film dreams that this killer ghost is coming for her. She also seems to have a protector in Saint Michael. It is all too confusing. The final scenes are gory good but the film as a whole is not.
When the story gets back to the house with all the locals and the girls we have plenty of bodies for El Charro to machete through. He has to walk to the house so the killing does not start until well over an hour into the movie. At this point the couples are pairing up doing drugs and drinking. A good time I guess in the Arizona desert.
The additional twist at the end was so cliche that any good feelings you had towards this film vanish in the tangle of the straight jacket. I hate when supernatural stories end with, oh it was just a woman who went crazy, but there you have it.
Rating (3.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some are just more recommended than others.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)

Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009) - Jen and Silvia Soska present this really bad day of violence and death in this home brewed exploitation flick. Starting in a club we follow our lead "Badass" (Sylvia Soska) as she enters and has a drink with her friend "Junkie" (Rikki Gagne) but we are also there for the argument between the "Cowboy Pimp" (John Tench) and his "Hooker" (Tasha Moth) as they go at it in the bar. We get a forward flash where she is taking a baseball bat to the head, thus setting up the title of the film.
A look into the past shows us Badass as a little girl witnessing the death of her mother at the hands of her father. She as a child picks up the gun and shoots him, so we know what her issues are. That is how she got so Badass?, the trauma of having to murder your own father? No that's a starting point but unfortunately the film doesn't fill in the character any more than this. Instead we get to accept that the events of her past have slotted her into her personality. When she comes out of the memories She and Junkie go to pick up her sister Geek (Jen Soska) and head off in Badass's bad ass car to take Geek to her youth group. Geek on the other hand having avoided watching her mother die nor having killed her father has grown to adulthood a good girl. Thus the need to get her sister to drive her to pick up a friend at the church's youth group. There are a couple reasons for this, one is the fourth main character in the adventure that is about to start, Goody Two Shoes (C.J. Wallis) he is a holy roller who longs for the companionship of Geek but doesn't have the balls to do anything about it. The second is to have this really strange interaction with the Priest at the church. Probably because she is pure evil and going to hell inexplicably Badass catches on fire and he puts her out. Then he talks to a hoodie guy about Badass but thinks they should not mess with her. So it is quite obvious though that he is not quite right. This telegraphing makes the movie less fun but as violent romps go it doesn't take too much away. We certainly can sense that the Priest and the hoodie guy will show up again somewhere down the line.
The four head out to get some "shit" for Junkie, but a strange smell gets them to look in the trunk of the bad ass car and find the titular dead hooker. That is all the setup we really need to get because from here this film is a, this happened, and then this happened. It is a bad day that just gets worse while the entire time we wonder why the characters driven by Badass keep making poor decisions that make things worse. The first problem is since Badass and Junkie are a bit fuzzy about the night before they don't want to call the police. So begins the wild romp for the next couple days as they try to solve their problem without getting in trouble. They are being followed by Cowboy Pimp but seem oblivious to his vehicle just feet from them. So not just are they making bad decisions but they are not noticing who is around. Let me tell you last time I had a body in the trunk of my car, I became very hyper aware of my surroundings. You would think the characters in the film would too.
It all gets a bit strange from here which leads one to believe that maybe this is not just a poor low budget action film but instead a stealthy empowerment fantasy. That this is the hard core decisions making fantasized by a little girl who killed her abusive father. Instead of a scared traumatized child she sees herself as "Badass" the super decisive bitch you do not want to fuck with. It doesn't matter how stupid her decisions are, she will make them work with gall and spunk. Every curve thrown her way will be smacked out of the ballpark. Unfortunately I am not sure this is the case, so Badass becomes a one toned character who forces her will on those around her. She lacks a story arch that brings her from her starting point to somewhere new and surprising through the adventures of the day.
Deciding to bury the corpse instead of say, dumping it on the side of the empty road, or leaving it in the hotel room they got, or sitting it on a park bench to be found by a jogger, anything except keeping it with them for a day so they can depose of it. Note that although they have this body in the trunk of the car, they had no part in putting it there. They owe nothing to the hooker nor do they need to risk accessory to murder by touching it. Sure the setup is there that the police might blame them but like I point out above there are lots of things to be done with a dead body. Letting the hotel desk guy molest it in the car as payment for the room was pretty low on my list of things.
Geek has the very strange idea to call the cops on her sister. Really? The make believe that follows can't easily be explained nor can any real rationalization for the decision be made. The cops though do not end up looking very good after the music video encounter with Badass. She struts her sexy self well enough to leave them wishing they never responded to the call. It is much ado about nothing and in the end the foursome is back on the road with the hooker again in the trunk.
They head out get a fix for Junkie at her old boyfriends apartment, I use that term "apartment" as a very flexible way to describe a place to live but most human beings would not consider the pit he has to be livable. Cowboy Pimp is there again as he continues to track his Hooker, did he put the body in the trunk? Could he not ask them for the body? I believe he knows they have seen the hooker so whats the deal? Junkie gets a fix and a fuck with the boyfriend when for no real reason some Asian guys come and are going to kill them both. I am sure it is a money owed thing concerning drugs but again we shift into a long line of events with little organic origins in the film. There is some excellent gory violence while they are killing the boyfriend and cutting her arm with a saw. Lucky for Junkie that she has Badass for a friend. Saving the day with some more cool gory violence they get out of the situation now leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Now she is a killer but since it is for the right reasons, saving a friend there is no reason to be appalled by it.
Meanwhile Geek is again calling the police, this sister rivalry has to stop! While that call is happening a hooded figure walks up behind her and cracks her in the head with a pipe. Down she goes her eye knocked clean out of her head. You are probably saying "What the fuck!" at this point as was I. Even the fact the Goody Two Shoes was in the car while Geek was being attacked directly outside the door was enough to almost make me turn this film off. They all end up back in the car driving away the whole while the Cowboy Pimp watches from the sidelines. When they stop on the side of the road and a passing truck takes the arm right off Junkie we know we are in a complete fantasy. Badass does punch out the trucker and pulls the severed are from the grill. A bit of duct take and bingo Junkie can make it until the hospital. Which I should mention is not NOW! No instead the film goes off the rails with the explanation of the arm reattachment, the single line "I can't believe this actually worked." I remind you that this was a completely detached arm and I don't care how high Junkie was there is no way that a severed limb is not going to be extremely painful and life threatening. Okay so there is no way we can continue to suspend disbelief, and even though I watched this strange piece of work to the end I was dumbfounded by the irrational twist it takes. Questions still need to be answered and I am sure you will be drained while finding the answers. Will they ever bury that damn hooker? Will the Cowboy Pimp ever make his intentions known? Who is the strange hooded attacker? Will the Junkie ever get that arm looked at by a doctor? Will the Goody two shoes ever get that kiss from Geek he so desires? Will this day and this film ever end? Hey and although I did not mention it we do find out how the Hooker gets in the trunk and who killed her. They why is what is so fucked up in this scenario.
So many more things just happen and the climax is energetic and all the loose ends tied up. No doubt that our sisters will come out of it relatively okay. When the line that sums up the movie is " I can't believe there aren't any repercussions for all the things we have did over the last... " Neither can the audience.
So will I recommend this film? No, but I have to say I have always sort of enjoyed gory violence and did so in this film too. In fact I don't know what it is about exploitation that makes me "want" to watch it. It is not like a Giallo where the violence and nudity is mixed in a mystery of a story. It is probably because the films in this genre are so straight up and in your face. In a time where everything is so packaged it is refreshing to see a blunt instrument used to cause the audience damage. It did not make a lot of sense but it is a ride of sorts. I also appreciated the pretty decent music in the film. When all is said and done you still have to give a lot of credit to the Soska sisters for creating a film that they wanted to create. They wrote , produced, directed, acted in, did stunts for and I am sure had a hand in everything else in this film too. They created an internet presence and have given themselves a start in the business. That is more than can be said for all us film lovers out there that write blogs. So props for the work they have done and who knows, maybe this won't be the last Soska Sisters review I will do.
Rating (4.8) 5.0 and up are recommended, some films just more recommended than others.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Season of the Witch (2011)

Season of the Witch (2011) - QUICK HIT! I don't really want to spend a lot of time talking about this film, but I saw it the other night on Netflix streaming and gave it a whirl. Opening scenes are important and the opening of this film is all about the book of Solomon. Witches are being taken from a village for hanging and drowning. A priest oversees it and after the poor women are killed he requests they be pulled up so he can do a ritual from the book to keep demons from entering them and bringing them back to life. Unfortunately on this day the soldiers are tired and leave him to do that work himself. You can guess what happens. So we know this scene has not been put here for no reason so it is bound to come up again later in the film.
Set in the 14th century or so the crusades are in full swing. We are introduced to our hero's the buddy team of Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman). We get to hear there buddy banter as the compete for the right to drink free by slaughtering their way through multiple fictional battles.Whoever kills more enemies drinks for free, which is how we do it at our family gatherings. The sequence may be a bit long I think it had five battles highlighted and is designed to show that these are quality fighters, the brutality of battle and to highlight that they are fighting on the side of good. The Gulf of Edremit 1332, The siege of Tripoli 1334, The Battle of Imbros 1337, The Battle of Artah 1339, Battle of Smyrna 1344, the final battle is the the crusader breaking into a city. Some of these battles never took place in history others like the battles of Imbros and Artah took place at different times but the idea is to show they are seasoned veterans of the crusades as well as how the crusades went from war with the armies of Islam to corrupted slaughter of innocents. Finally when ordered into a city where Behmen in the fog of war drives his sword through a young woman. As the smoke clears he and Felson see that they have been slaughtering women and children. A personal crisis of conscience that leads to their decision to desert the army.
As they head back toward home, a month into that trip the two men come across a farm where they first see the black plague. The excellent special effect make for a gruesome scene.
When they next reach a town they see more of the plague. They are captured as deserters and brought before the plague infected leader of the town. There offered the task of helping take a convicted witch to a monastery 200 leagues away, where a book of Solomon exists that can deal with her magic. It is thought she is creating the plague and the verses in the book of Soloman can be used to negate the magic. Even though our heroes refuse it is inevitable that it is going to happen, there would be no movie! So with a priest (Stephen Campbell Moore), a young knight wannabe (Robert Sheehan), another veteran knight (Ulrich Thomson) and a criminal (Stephen Graham) who happens to know the way the two men with witch (Claire Foy) in caged wagon spend the next 40 minutes of the film on the road. There is much to do about how the witch will use her powers to turn one man against another but remarkable this does not really happen. Sure they have their doubts about each other but the road is long and the way treacherous so stress levels are high. I am not saying that this is not an interesting part of the film, it is a good enough story. Only two characters die before they reach the abbey so not too much chaos is wrought. The climax is exciting with some good creatures and fighting and saving the world. Thirty minutes of taking care of the business at hand. We know because Nick Cage is in the film that he gets to have that moment of doubt before finally winning. This movie is really not bad but does a recap thing that I did not like very much as Behmen has a moment of recognition of her plan. You do not have to explain the breadcrumbs that the writer Bragi F Schut left on the road. He wrote the really underrated and short lived show Threshold. Director Dominic Sena does a decent job and in the end I recommend this as a fair view. Filmed primarily on sets it has a strange old time horror movie feel, lit primarily in blues it can be dark at times. The music is good in that it is not overwhelming. So give it a view.
Rating (5.7) 5.0 and up are recommended but some more recommended than others.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Frightmare (2000) Horror Slasher

Frightmare (2000) - Listed on imdb as "Paranoid" (Not the Jessica Alba movie where she is drugged and taken advantage of) it is a not so great slasher film that just was all over the place never really forming solidly into a coherent plot. It lacks honest motivation and action in the characters and the authority figures act so irrational and dismissive that it is maddening. When the reveal does happen it is way too late to save this film. In fact I would argue the way you find out the details of who the killer is and his/her motivations is the worst possible way of finding out. It is so horrible when the killer explains everything he/she has done while chasing the final victim in a locked enclosed space. So instead of the story showing through the character her/his motivations we are just told at the end. It is a very frustrating approach that negates the storytelling earlier in the film for the cheap surprise of a reveal at the end. Don't get me wrong it is not easy to balance the line between wanting to hold back details for the turn and giving foreshadowing through character. This film unfortunately fails to do it in a way that is satisfying to the viewer.
In the opening scene we have a worker (Tyler Thebaut)at a Gold's Gym closing up for the night and at the same time being stalked by a dark figure. It is classic horror with flashes of the figure and the victim creeping around the empty gym, the tense music adding to the atmosphere. There is some misdirection here as you see the stalker take the girls keys but when she gets panicked and reaches for them they are there. Did the stalker take her car key? She gets out of the gym and goes for her car the figure closing behind her. She does have the key and drives away just in time. So what does it mean? Since the focus stays on the girl, we see her as she arrives home we know there is more to come. The music gives away that we should start getting tense as she finds her front door opened. After the kill scene we learn through the reporter on the television that this seems to be the work of the serial murderer known as the "Conscience Killer", but it is odd that he has moved to the small town of Sugar Hill.
Introduced to our main character at the end of the news report, Sarah Falls (Shanda Lee Munson), a high school student who happened to lose her sister Rebecca in a murder a couple years before. Her Mother and father are heading out on a trip, her Mom obviously still very depressed since the death of one of her twins. Sarah working with her fellow students on a haunted house to raise money for the senior trip to the Cayman Islands. We meet the group, Jason her boyfriend, Norman (Brandon O'Dell) the unpopular kid trying to change his image by creating the haunted house, Courtney her hot blond friend, Hell Raiser (Denny Zartman) the druggie always looking for a party, and Michael the guy who just moved to town from Boston and the really obvious red herring and dating Courtney.
Four of them Jason (Shawn Wright), Sarah, Michael (Michael Short) and Courtney (Summer Sloan LaPann) head over to Hell Raiser's place together only to have Michael's car overheat. To find water for the radiator they wander to a nearby abandoned house. Here we get to hear the single most annoying piece of thinking out loud in the movie as Sarah walks with a flashlight and says "It so isolated and alone" speaking about the house. It is not alone though as we can plainly see candlelight in the vacant frames of the windows. The four go in finding no water but definitely finding the trouble and saying stupid shit. Examples you say?
"Hello we're a bunch of high school kids with a broken down car, we need some water for our radiator." shouts Michael (At least with this line we can assume that the writer is being tongue in cheek by having this line spoken out loud.)
Jason says" I don't think anyone lives here as he stands in front of a mattress with rumpled sheet, a small TV that is on, and lit candles all around. Really that is the best dialog writer Ash Smith could come up with? No who are we kidding you don't even have to put two and two together. Neither do most of the characters either. as they look in the room with all the articles pinned to the wall including a wanted poster, they find weapons and a bloody clothes. Sarah says "Things are starting to add up. This is the perfect house to hide in. Killer articles, bloody clothes, weapons no two being the same." and two different characters at this point pipe in "What are you trying to say Sarah?" Really it is not evident what she is getting at. These characters are really that dumb. Oh wait she must be saying it for the audience since either we are seen as really dumb or the writer was so unsure we would figure out who lives there he had to spell it out. grrrrrr... Anyway if you are paying attention there are some clues to the somewhat complicated plot here. When they find writings on the wall for the Conscience Killer and he shows up in a mask and with a chainsaw we are in full swing. There is a chase and an escape but there is no real tension in it.
Now the incompetent police in this genre of movies but really. This crew in Sugar Hill is something to wonder at in their inability to perform the simplest of investigative work. After the murder that opened the film the kids head to the police with their story of seeing the killer in the abandoned house. Not only do the police laugh and dismiss them as playing a prank, but the chief locks his own son, Jason in a cell for safe keeping or to learn respect or something. This is not like in Killer Klowns From Outer Space when Mooney does not believe Debbie and Mike as they explain there are Klowns from Outer Space killing people with popcorn guns and cotton candy cocoons. This is a group of teens who are reporting finding the hideout of, and seeing the killer the night after a gruesome murder and the police just laugh it off. They do not even send out a car to check out the house. WTF! Now again if the film's intent is to parody cops in horror films then this is spot on and the writer is hilarious, but to this point the film seems to be taking itself very seriously so it is difficult to see this as parody.
As you can guess the killer starts after the kids but boy is it a slow process, there is a large chunk in the middle focusing on the Concience Killers motivations and the kids acting out since they are not being listened too. We learn about Sarah's sister Rebecca and ho her killer was never caught. Oh and did I mention the killer Rave, yes taking time out from being hunted and talking and talking about being hunted they have a party. It sure takes a long time from the time they are confronted at the killer's house and the beginning of the climax, like 55 minutes. So finally we get to the final night of the fund raiser and all the seniors are going on their trip. Celebrating in the haunted house with the main group minus Michael who was killed in the rave, wonder what happened to him. Some suggest maybe he was the killer, body never found he is just gone. When the three guys head into the black light room to smoke some killer weed it is just moments until the death and destruction starts up. The climax as I explained in the beginning is just a mess and after the killer is reveal her/his motivation it is really dumb. Adding some bullshit weird last scene can not save this film. So If I were you I would just skip this film and not suffer through it.
Rating (3.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some are just more recommended than others.