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Friday, December 27, 2013

Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) Horror Vampire

Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) - Christina Ferrare probably known as a Max Factor spokesperson a former fashion model she has worked in TV and fashion. Later she might be seen for her working as a frequent guest on the Oprah cable TV network cooking and sharing recipes.In this early work which she has many credits on IMDB; she stars as Mary a vampire traveling through Mexico struggling to find love and success while still meeting her need for blood. It is a strange tale where she has managed for many years to survive on her own as a painter of some notoriety while at the same time leaving a trail of bodies drained of blood. The turning point for Mary is when she meets Ben (David Young) a charming hitchhiker who is easy to fall for. Now she must balance the desire for blood with the counter desire to not eat her lover. After the first scene of there meeting the film gives us the goods on Mary, we see her turning her flirting charms on a man she has picked up in a bar.  She drugs the victim with a dose of something she keeps in a locket around her neck. She stealth-fully slips it into his drink and waits for it to takes effect. Then with a pin knife she keeps her hair up with she deftly punctures his jugular and drinks her fill.
  Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma does some interesting stuff with a story by Don Henderson, Malcolm Marmorstein and Don Rico even though there is not a lot in it. The story is pretty basic, we join the main character after she has established her life as some what successful artist, who uses already has a method of killing and drinking that has worked for her. There could be another story here that would also be interesting enough for a movie. I thought of the film "Let the Right One In", where the vampire creature was an 11 year old looking creature. She had to deal with the logistics her underdeveloped body created for her. I kept thinking that the more interesting time of Mary's life must have been her tween to teen years for Mary when her father had first left. Did she always need to drink blood and if so did her Father supply her? How did she cope when he was gone? When her Dad realized he could not stay was it because she was still not infected with this form of vampirism and his desire to drink was too great to stay around his still normal daughter? What was it like to develop the need? How did she survive in those early years before becoming a beautiful woman? Unfortunately this is not that story but instead the story of when she was almost found out.
  More though and this was indeed interesting it is a look into a time in Mary's life when she chose to love knowing that the cost would put her at risk. When she meets Ben and they become lovers the "seduce and kill" method she had been using to feed becomes much more difficult. Its just hard to explain to your partner that you need to leave alone for several hours every week or so. Also it changed her mobility and she was more stationary in the time of the film, shrinking the hunting grounds and making the similar deaths of the victims more noticeable to the police. So this could be the story of how love doomed Mary, but it is even more than that. At around this time Mary is stalked by a masked man in a green Mustang who kills and feeds in a similar was. This only makes the trail for the police more obvious and creates a climax that can be guessed. Ferrare does a very good job capturing the internal struggle as her life pattern sort of falls apart. She is in anguish over the desire to feed but not wanting to lose her love to that need. Young is a bit cardboard as the man in her life but has his own issues as they stay together.
  The police on Inspector Cosgrove (Arthur Hansel) of the FBI on loan to the Mexican Lieutenant Pons (Enrique Lucero) are smart enough to see that Ben has been around the locations of most of the murders. In an act of amazing sexism they never connect Mary in the same way but focus on the American drifter as their main suspect. He was on the beach when a fisherman died. He was in the town where the female hitchhiker was killed and where someone killed the morgue worker. He was at an art exhibit of Mary's work when Greta (Helena Rojo) was killed and drained of blood. Still Mary is not the focus but instead her boyfriend. Speaking of Greta, it was such a heartfelt death in this film porttrayed with excellent warmth by the two actresses. She for years longed for love with Mary and sent Ben out from the party to buy tequila in order to get Mary alone. Mary upset that Ben vanished thought he might have abandoned her and in her dismay is comforted by Greta. As Greta expresses her love for Mary with a kiss Mary for the first time gives into desire and feeds from someone she knows. It really is so well done by Ferrare and Rojo and a crucial turning point in the film.
 This connection is something even the dumbest of police can't miss, but unfortunately for Ben they are blind to the idea a woman could be the killer.  When the police decide to tail Ben the third act unfolds rather quickly. Mary also under that surveillance needs to feed but is hard pressed to find a time when she can. She is oh so tempted as Ben sleeps next to her but instead attempts to sneak out. All kinds of crazy happens from here on out as Ben chases after Mary and masked killer is hot on her heels, with that the cops are also chasing. Up into the hills of Mexico where the masked killer is revealed and some of the story behind Mary's condition is heard. In the end though this can not truly be anything but a tragedy. I won't spoil it since it is a more rare vampire story and many of you might want to see it. It is not the greatest of films but I say worth recommending for its unque take on the genre.
Odds and ends
 - Mary's art was painted by Rosa Rosenberg
 - The director went on after this film to make a couple other films I know, the incredibly screamy and strange "Alucarda" and "The Mansion of Madness"
 - One of the victims actress Susana Kamini plays a main character in Alucarda.
 - The masked killer ends up being one of the greatest character actors in history John Carridine, he really is a bit player in that we only see his face in the last sequence and thus I suspect he was hired for his name.
  - The copy I have of the film comes with both a 3D and normal version of the film. Neither of the versions are widescreen and the 3D version was too dark to enjoy.
 - Although in the scenes where she connects with other actors, Ferrare's portrayal is solid there are other times where she has to be the cold killer. In some ways this makes sense. She is a predator when she needs to feed but still wants to have another connected life when the desire is not so great. Still in the last act the way she seems almost helpless as she is chased by the masked killer seems really out of place.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Satan Claus (1996) Horror Killer Santa

Satan Claus (1996) - Straight to video and with good reason for this poorly done meaningless kill fest from the 90s. Listen, I try to give every film I write about the benefit of the doubt. I figure someone wrote, organized and made the film and that takes effort. You just don't wake up and make a film you have to work at it. I just wish the makers of this film had tried a bit harder. Mostly I wish they had hired someone to do lighting; someone who appreciated that the audience will need to see the picture to enjoy it. I know a lot of transfers to DVD loose some of their brightness but it is damn near impossible to see things filmed at night in this movie and it almost all set in the night.
Its a story of a serial killer dressed as Santa Claus who is decorating his Christmas tree with the body parts of  the victims. All the while calling and taunting the police who sit around in the dark waiting for calls instead of actually doing anything. It sort of like the set of Barney Miller, where people come in and there are conversations and then they leave again, but the cops never do much just talk and talk. Except in this film the conversation is not funny and poorly delivered for the most part. I think what the writer Simonetta Mastarda was going for was something like this: " A cop driven to the edge by a maniacal killer struggles through his personal grief to avenge the murder of his wife before more victims pile up." Its not what was delivered but at least there is some basic plot beyond the laughing killer Santa.
  The film starts with a woman doing some sort of ceremony to Satan. I say woman because the only thing you can see in the shot is just the smallest bit of outline on her arms as she waves them around, other wise being fully robed it would be difficult to know. Director Massimiliano Cerchi masks the voice so it sounds like a man. From there we get right into the killing. A woman is walking home at night and a bit nervous looking around as she goes. Santa (Robert Cummings) come up fast and talks to her, she is nervous but answers his pleasantries with confusion. He pulls out an hatchet and chops her head off, off screen. A neighbor screams, then we hear Santa singing Jingle Bells as he leaving. The next scene we get introduced to the three cops who sit in their dark office, Captain Ardison (Barie Snider), Lt. Lisa Red (Daisy Vel) and Sgt. Todd miller (John Romanelli), the victim we learn is Ardison's wife and this starts the game of cat and mouse where the cops almost never leave the room and the killer runs amok on the streets to kill at least three more people.
The subplot concerns the second victim and tangentially connected characters. Steve (Robert Hector) is a nice guy who works doing charity work and lives with Maman (Lauretta Ali) a (possibly Haitian) woman who is psychic and feels something bad brewing. Steve while collecting money for charity sees the girl he has a crush on Sandra Logan (Jodie Rafty) and her boyfriend right before, off and away from him the boyfriend is killed by Santa. Running to the noise he comforts Sandra becomes a witness.Steve also happens to be good friends with Lisa so it ties him in more.
  There is more plot to this but at its heart it is Santa calling the Capt. and harassing him and then promising to kill again. With each kill the killer puts some more body parts onto a Christmas tree and upping the ante when not getting enough attention from the police. The big twist is out of no where and I guess that is really all you should watch this film for. There is really no predicting it and in the end it all feels about nothing. One of the strange things about this film is that to establish the police station they have this shot of two police cars on the street. Not strange in itself, establishing shots are common in movies, what is strange is that every time we are going to have a scene in the station we get that same shot. They must show it seven times in the film. The acting is very amateurish with the possible exception of Rafty who seemed to be trying. Still she and most everyone else in this film only have this as a credit on IMDB. Now I won't be recommending this film, in fact I had some thin places in my notes and thought I should take a second look for the details but could not bring myself to actually watch this again. So if you choose to see it, don't blame me.

Friday, December 20, 2013

House of Bones (2010) - Horror TV Movie

House of Bones (2010)  - Television movies and network shows have gotten good at those draw you in opening sequences, I see it a lot on shows like Supernatural where the horror opening is really scary and compelling. House of bones has such an opening with a young boy showing a couple older kids his Father's prized Babe Ruth signed baseball. The callous boys decide they want to hit the ball and unfortunately it goes all the way across the street into the yard of a spooky old house. The younger boy knowing his behind is at stake is forced to conquer his fear and go and retrieve the ball. The music is spot on as the tension grows near the old house. Not only is it old large and scary but already has a reputation as a haunted place. Close up of toys abandoned in the yard, then the reaction of the frightened boy when he sees the ball flush against the front door. He musters his resolve and moves slowly towards his prize but as he nears the front door opens with a creak and the ball rolls just a body's length into the foyer. The kid spooked tuns to leave but suddenly is again facing the ball. He tries to turn and leave again but again finds himself further onto the porch. Now stretching into the house he reaches the ball always cautious to keep his feet outside the threshold. Success and the stands and turns to leave. Then a force lifts him up and pulls him into the dark of the house, leaving only the marks of his dirty fingers on the door frame where he tried in vain to grab hold. It's a less then original opening but was well executed and there was hope that this TV movie would be something a bit better than most.
Unfortunately the rest of the film falls into used up tropes and cliches that have been around for years. The energy of the opening is quickly forgotten as the film builds the character who will later be the victims of the house. Quentin French (Corin Nemic) is the host of a haunted sites cable show that is currently hitting the skids, arrogant about its popularity he is none too pleased that from now on he will have to go on location for a more reality based exploration of ghostly mansions. Going on ahead of him are his crew, lead investigator and fx man Greg (Marcus Lyle Brown) cinematographer Simon (Collin Galyean) helper Bub (Kyle Russell Clements), Producer Tom (Ricky Wayne) and recently hired psychic Heather (Charisma Carpenter) add in young Realtor Sara (Stephanie Honore) and we have the primary players for the film. The early scenes with Quentin getting demoted and the crew setting up at the haunted house are mundane for the most part but little quirky happenings pop up just in time for cuts that obviously were meant to be used to go to commercial.
  I think the biggest problem with this film is the fact that the house, its history is the main character. What this means for the viewer is when shit starts going down and poor Bub is lost pulled into the walls of the house there is a giant need to tell us what the story of the house is and who all the previous owners were. This expository talk is always from the one cast member who has done the research explaining it to the others and in most cases is just tedious to listen to. Movies are about showing not telling and killing the pacing of a film almost always happens when you have to tell the story. Then of course is the inexplicable necessities of having a psychic to confirm the house is evil, and numerous deaths before the smart survivors come up with a one line solution to save themselves. It is not that this film is not mildly entertaining but damn the explanation of what the house is and how to deal with it are so simple and unquestioned by anyone in the place that the viewer is left thinking they are all a bunch of dopes.
  The twist ending is less than satisfying but there are some decent things about the film also. The music fits really well and the acting is quite passable. A bit television geared but hey this is a made for TV movie so its what you get. In the end I was more disappointed than entertained and probably will not revisit this one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hidden in the Woods (2013) - Horror Abuse Exploitation

Hidden in the Woods (2012) - "En las Afueras de la Ciudad" starts with a horrific scene of domestic violence where the jealous husband is abusing his wife. He is dunking her head in a sink full of water trying to force her to tell him the name of her lover. Whether she actually has a lover or not is answered later in the twist of the film, now instead we see him find his two small daughters in the woods and tell them that their mother has gone to heaven. A horrible person this man and the story clearly wants you to see him fully as the monster he is.  It is a horrifying scene of the cruelty man happens to exhibit on a daily basis but most of us are not exposed to. An opening like this could set up a film showing the courage of the human spirit rising above the pain and abuse to find a life worth living. It could be the significant moment in the lives of the two girls as they are dealt a horrible hand in life. The moment that sets their story in motion to see how much the spirit can overcome adversity. There is in this film the misogyny and a basic horrific treatment  that could be explored but is just used as a prop for the story.
 The story jumps to when the oldest girl is the maybe twelve years old. If setting the table to have us pull for the girls director Patricio Valladares is giving them a lot  to overcome. Still living with the drunkard father the girls live a primitive life in the forest. Their father, a drug holder, (he hides the drugs for a big time dealer), a drunk we are subject to him raping his younger daughter and then a horrific scene as he and the older sister deliver the child, a deformed damaged infant that we see they raise but keep locked up in a shed. Treating it like an animal as time goes by with the implication that the younger girl continues to be the victim of rape as the years go on.  Another jump in years and the daughters now young women, fight with the father as he again tries to rape her again. Now close to adulthood they are still not strong enough to stop him but they do give him pause. The older sister Ana runs off screaming for help that she will never find. Instead the two girls are locked with the freak in the shed to wait for the punishment that is sure to come later.
  At about this time the police show up for a noise complaint and things begin to escalate as the girls yell for help.  This is where you would expect there to be a turn in the story, maybe developing how the girls taken from the arrested father will fight through their PTSD to become advocates for the abused? No not in this grim tale. While one officer helps the girls the other is attacked by the father. The second officer shoots him but he gets to her before being taken down. A gruesome chainsawing is what they get for trying to do their jobs. It certainly is an incident that will change the lives of the children forever. Wounded the Father calls his drug dealer boss to help him, he will get money so he can hide out for a while to heal. The drug dealer wants access to the drugs and the man keeps them hidden so that they can not be stolen. This arrangement really gives the man a way to get help instead of being cut loose. Unfortunately for him help is not coming and no one shows to the bus terminal to help him. Meanwhile the children have escaped into the woods and are hiding there. Alone they are afraid to go back and instead are forced to take up residence in the house where their mother was killed. It is now old and falling apart abandoned in the woods.  They do not know that the father is being arrested at the bus station. They have no way to know that this decision instead of being the safe thing to do will create an even greater spiral of misery.
  This sets up the drug dealers wanting to find the girls thinking that they may know where he hides the drugs. Really though this is a horrific film, the film itself is exploitative but the subject matter is dreadful. The pain and abuse of the main characters is so hard to watch and the film is unrelenting in dishing new traumas on these three innocent characters. The story by the director with help from screenwriter Andrea Cavaletto never looks to make these characters more than the victims they are in the first scenes of the film. In fact like many exploitation films from the past all that happens is more and more shit is piled on them with the bleak realization that there will be no happy ending. So is the point that we are forced to sit through the long spiral down when there is no character development and there is no glimmer of hope? We become the abused by having to sit through the horror inflicted on these characters? Is Valladares making a statement about the viewers willingness to suffer with a character when there is no hope of redemption? Interviews I have read with the director lead this reviewer to believe that is not the case. Valladares seemed more interested in the movie making and less interested in saying anything with his film. So is it art or exploitation? I lean strict exploitation. It is somewhat disappointing to here the director speak about the film. Probably somewhere in the later history if Valladares becomes a name I am sure like Writer/director Meir Zarchi and "I spit on you Grave" writers will reevaluate it giving it more meaning than it will deserve. Those involved will also white wash this exploitative mean spirited film and talk about how it forces the audience to experience what the character does and is somehow therefore a positive message. That bearing witness is somehow a value when really the initiative behind making the film is to make a few bucks. Bearing witness to real life injustice has value giving money a film so the creator can grow his personal career and fortune is another.  Bullshit. This film does not even have the revenge featured in that more notorious piece of trash. Instead Ana (Siboney Lo) the oldest sister spirals into a prostitute who blows men to earn enough money to keep her and her siblings fed. The second act is a cruel respite from the violence but not the harsh realities of these characters.
  The acting is pretty bad in the film and in those same interviews I learned it was because most of those involved were amateurs. The dialog full of swearing and the over use of "faggot" is hard to listen to over the wailing of victims. When Uncle Costello (Francois Soto) sends his men into the forest to find the three survivors it creates a third act full of continued violence and abuse, more rape more murder. Sure we learn who the girls Mother was sleeping with and why the father chose the second daughter to rape repeatedly but without a story arc of any chance at anything positive these revelations are hollow script tricks. Adding in the strange cannibalism piece only exploits the film industry and viewers looking for the bizarre. In the end even the dream of a happy ending is washed away in blood and the viewer is left hollow. This is really not a recommended film  and soon will hopefully be forgotten.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

V/H/S/2 (2013) - Horror Shorts

V/H/S/2 (2013) - The editor who chose the order of the pieces in this collection was sure to pull in the men in the audience with the chosen first story. A married man brings a young woman to a motel room for a night of cheating. Little does he know he is being followed and video taped. The man doing the video is a blackmailing douche who is looking to extort money from his victims? Okay his recording everything he does is no longer the most original thing to do. His female assistant is really not liking his next adventure as they break into a house looking for a missing teen.  
 What they find instead is VHS tapes, a bunch of lit up monitors and a bit of what looks like a spot of blood. While the guy takes one camera and explores the house the girl working with him reviews the computer in the room. There is video of the kid talking about a tape he got, talking to his webcam. Through following these two characters we learn the kid is researching these video tapes. She places one in the player and we are apparently transported into the next story. This is the basic principle of the VHS films, they are these fucked up and often supernatural events caught on tape.
  This particular wrap around story tries to explain that the missing teen is a collector of these kind of tapes. There may also be the implication that these tapes change the viewer. As we see in the wrap around they at least seem to have a physical effect on the viewer as Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott) learns. She is stressed watching the films and flashes of people behind her are scary, still isn't this the basic premise of the first VHS film? When the final part of this wrap around story takes a life of its own we are pretty sure there is not a clear explanation to why.  Larry finds Ayesha apparently dead and then watches the last tape 49. On it he sees as he and his friend show up. WTF so his dead girl friend awakes from the dead and attacks him I guess these tapes are powerful. He breaks her neck but she keeps coming. A dark ending  after the four separate stories are told.
The first story Ayesha watches features Director Adam Wingard acting as well as working behind the camera. We see a POV shot of the main character Herman (Wingard), a man with an electronic eye. He is happy to be able to have it but there is also a tension with the company who is doing this experimental work. They insist on recording through the eye leaving Herman a bit off put, but also giving the contrivance that created the tape being watched in the wrap around story. All is a bit mundane but then Herman thinks he sees something strange. Is someone fucking with the dude or are his strange visions real? The story asks questions about the line between this world and the world of ghosts. What if the reason we don't see ghosts is because our visual cortex is not equipped to see it?  What if mechanically this barrier was removed?
  In the story Clarissa (Hannah Hughes) comes to the rescue with the information we the audience needs. She has had a artificial earpiece implanted and hears what he sees. Then the message gets a bit muddled, she says the more you notice them the more they can interact with you. To avoid them you have to be distracted and if having sex with a young hottie is how you do it so be it. This expository dialog is quickly followed by Clarissa taking her shirt off and thus distracting us from asking Why? Why would ghost suddenly be able to physically interact with us if we see, hear or pay attention to them? Such things though are short lived at least for Clarissa because she is confronted with the physical part of the beings shortly after sex. Good thing Herman has a lockable bathroom well at least for a while. Still the idea is interesting if unexplained more than the simplest of ways.
   Story number two we have guy (Jay Saunders) filming his bike ride and talking to his girl Amy on the phone. He has two cameras one on his helmet and one on the handlebars looking back at the rider. Its just another "Go Pro" day for this mountain biker. Then a girl runs in front of him, "My boyfriend, you have to help my boyfriend, help Dan." The young man does his best brave face as he heads the way she points, but there are noises out there not natural noises, he gets scared and returns to the girl. She has been vomiting and now attacks him apparently turned into a zombie. He pounds her head in with a rock and looks up to see zombies shambling towards him. Bitten himself we see from his helmet cam him running away but slowing down weaker and weaker until he starts vomiting just like the girl. He struggles on to death and we get his awakening as a zombie with a helmet cam just as a couple of riders come across him. The couple call the police and report it,but this appears to be a first hand "Go Pro" video of a zombie outbreak.  Then he attacks the couple killing the man and wounding the women. We get to watch him eat the man ripping the stomach open and pulling out the intestines. When the woman of the couple comes back and joins the man wakes a zombie also and they all wander off together, until they hear a kids birthday party. Zombies attack the party awesome...The plague is spreading, trying to connect feelings to the zombies by having them pick up objects is stupid, having the idea to kill himself is worse. The main problem with this piece is after you get use to the neat idea for the filming the film is something we have seen way too much at this point in zombie movie history. So at the point where the zombies roll into a birthday party of little kids we are pretty sure how this one will end. Its really nothing exceptional by some of the gore is entertaining.
  Story three has a film crew doing some investigative journalism, they are filming a man, Father (Epy Kusnandar) talk about heaven or the spiritual world, how human kind is getting closer and closer to the gates of that other existence. They are trying to get him to agree to let them come and film at his commune. They are making a story of this commune leader a man who says he can bring a new world to everyone in his group. Next we see images on security cams of the commune and then the film crew arriving. The cutting between all kinds of camera sources, security cameras, hidden cameras on people, actual interview camera are all used to piece together the goings on in this commune. It is a fanatical group who will protect Father no matter what.  They are an outcast group who thinks the end of the world is near. There is some dynamics between the crew that are foils to separate them but when shit starts going down this short gets freaky wierd and may be the best segment in the film.
  The interview is a bit contentious with tough questions. and more contrivances to separate the players. When looking around the place one of the crew see the hanging plastic of a construction site.What is that on the plastic? Looks like blood...hmm.. maybe we should go look. Looks like a dead body of a woman who was in childbirth.  Uncover the face,  She is still alive and shit split wide open he runs away. Shit starts hitting the proverbial fan as it is time for the apocalypse.
 Cult leader attacks and kills the sound guy with a wonderful slicing of the throat on camera.
Now Lena (the director?) (Hannah Al Rashid) is in peril as four women grab her and drag her off. They all have these white cloudy eyes like they are as blind as Master Po in Kung Fu. All the cultist are killing themselves as the final hour is at hand. We see the crew fight for their lives as they are attacked. Adam witnesses lead guys execution and then hears Lena scream. Excited girls scream with joy as they carry her to their leader. Adam (Fachry Albar) seems a bit of a coward but with pipe in hand heads down the hall to help. Then weirdness as something blows the doors out and a person crawls across the ceiling past he over head. The cult leader comes out to tell him he does not need the weapon, covered in bloody runes he explodes before Adam's eyes.  He attacks the white eyed crazy cult woman holding Lena and lifting her shirt sees as the demon rises out of her belly. He runs as any smart person should do, but is attacked by apparent dead as he leaves white eyes and all he struggles to get out. This is really apocalyptic end times kind of stuff and it is all he can do to stay alive. He hears the roar of the devil as he races to the cars. Why he is still running the camera is a mystery. He drives out of there but does not make it as something crashes into the car. Waking a bloody mess in an overturned car something is still outside moving the vehicle. Silly goat headed devil above him as he crawls out of the car. Nice frantic pace to this one as the crew meet their demise one by one.
The final story beside the absolute silliness of the dog wearing the camera is good in using light and noise to create a chaotic atmosphere. The basic story is that of a slumber party where the parents are away and the kids are going to play. Since there are no adults around the  swearing by the kids is exaggerated and the antics, practical jokes, and fear is nicely portayed. The older sister, Jen (Samatha Gracie) is watching the younger siblings. Then there is doggie cam and I don't know what to think of this. Something big and noisy outside scares everyone, not as scary as when the aliens come in and try steal everyone. They all for some reason end up in the lake and the disorientation continues as more attempts are made to capture them. Chased by Aliens they run into the woods but still are worried about the dog, which makes noise but is the only way we see the story. Gary (Rylan Logan) the younger brother with his friends are tricksters but the real trick is on them. Periodically the aliens make another attempt at getting them. Since the doggie cam is the view we have to put up with this annoying setup in what is otherwise a fine job at creating a convincing atmosphere.
 Overall V/H/S/2 is a fairly satisfying horror collection. I know the implications of framing the stories as home made means that we have to watch the awkward pov and grainy security cameras. It really is the worst part of this film. Ideas are a mixed bag and I was clear in the paragraphs above which I liked. So with that said I have to say I would recommend this one. It is available on Netflix streaming. Check it out!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cold Prey II (2008) Horror Slasher

Cold Prey II (2008) - Fritt vilt II in Norwegian this thrilling slasher film continues mere hours after the last film ended. The original Cold Prey  was surprisingly well done but seeing the history of sequels I have to say I feared the worst going into the second film. The original with its killer creation story built into it was well directed by Roar Uthaug and acted by the cast with lead Ingrid Bolso Berdal a real stand out, the action was tense and the situations presented were not way out there. When it comes to stalker /killer movies they can quickly go from good to bad with small script choices and the fear is always that in the pursuit of a few dollars suddenly your killer has some kind of supernatural powers and can't be killed. Then before you know it is its "Friday the 13th", parts 3 and on, and he is killing in outer space.
 Mats Stenberg in his directing debut, and from the looks of it his only project ever picks up shortly after the first film ended. Of course we don't know that yet instead we meet the cast of people who will be the hunted at the new location, a hospital. We have Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik) and Ole (Kim Wifladt) he a search and rescue technician and she a doctor at the hospital in Stehotinn. They are in the midst of a sort of breakup, but not where she is thinking of taking a job further away and he is not committal about joining her. None of this will matter soon though, as Ole while driving out on his job almost hits Jannicke our sole survivor from Cold Prey. This is how we know it is not long after the events of the first film. She is in tough shape with exposure related problems and is brought back to the hospital to be cared for by Camilla. When the bodies of the other victims are brought into the hospitals morgue, and the body of the killer from the first film you can guess what happens next.
This second film directed by
  The film makes a leap,  partially reasonable and somewhat ridiculous at the same time to explain the return from the dead of the killer. First there is a reasonable argument that the cold slowed the killers heart so he appeared dead, then the warmth of the morgue allowed him to revive. The second part though involves the back story of the character, it goes that at birth the child was DOA but that amazingly after some time his heart magically jump started itself. This is wrapped in a paper of some kind of syndrome but really it is a lame attempt to create back story while also getting the killer back in action.
  Writer Thomas Moldestad as he did in the first film delivers a script that is tight and tense. If not for the silly rebirth of the killer you could say that this film is damn close to the first in the scenarios that play out. Since the killer does what he does it is, the basic stalk and kill of the first film is on display here. Instead of the abandoned ski lodge we place it in the hospital and instead of skiers we have patients and hospital staff. So what is different? Well the story of Jannicke who at first is pretty helpless as she recovers, but as the film goes on her fight, this time from a place of experience is what drives the film forward. What is great about her isn't that she is some kind of wrecking ball for the killer but more that her will to survive. She encompasses the competent and strong willed survivor we all hope we will be in such an extreme situation. Like Ripley in Alien she is a problem solving, strong woman who will fight back when it is called for. Since seeing "You're Next"  and its character Erin, this is another competent resourceful woman character and I have to say the horror genre needs more of them. Also this film does what a good sequel does it ups the body count a bit, and includes more action than the first. Many of the characters in the film are just fodder for the killer.
  So although the film plays out like a stalker slasher film, the character of Jannicke carries the action and again even though there is not a lot new in this film is entertaining all the way through. We do have the story of the killer though. Not quite willing to make the killer supernatural, Moldestad instead uses the fact that in the original the killer is defeated outside to help bring him back to life. This is Norway and its damn cold in these films. So suggesting that the killer's body temperature could of made his heart slow to the point that it could not be heard is a reasonable attempt. Unfortunately we also get a little back story on the killer, how when he was a baby thta he was stillborn and the doctors could not get him going with CPR. The after they had given up he suddenly jump started his own heart. It is a bit of a stretch and damn close to being ridiculous. Knowing that there is a third film in this series I anticipate the crossing over into camp at the very least.
  So if you want a solid and entertaining film where lots of people are stalked by an overly strong killer, half the time, the characters don't even know there is a killer, then watch Friday the 13th, oh wait no, Cold Prey II which is similar but not the same. You will have to read subtitles but I think the story is strong enough to recommend this film.

Monday, September 2, 2013

You're Next (2011) Horror Home Invasion

You're Next (2011) Seen in theaters RIGHT NOW! (2013) after sitting on the studio shelf for a couple years. This film is a home invasion film with a twist and some scary ass masked worn by the attackers. When a wealthy family comes together for an anniversary party for their parents, the house is attacked by men in masked. The evening of celebration become a fight for survival. Then of course there is a twist...
  The question I had going in was why did this sit on the shelf for a couple years? Sure there were a couple of home invasion films made before this one was finished. You're next did well on the festival circuit and probably have made money even if release in 2011. "The Strangers" and the remake of "The Last House on the Left"  the first a random attack with a dark ending and also the use of masks, the latter a random attack, hard core revenge film. The influence of these films getting big press and advertising budgets may have influenced Lionsgate's decision to not release right away. Who knows if it made a difference, it is true that there is a lot of buzz around the film. Director Adam Wingard has done his part in promoting the film as the  release date drew near. He knows the horror community is a group that pays attentions and pay tribute to the film makers, writers and actors who interact with them. So there has been a good deal of interaction and thus some really positive blogs for the film.
 The film itself written by Simon Barrett who did the wonderful and surprising "Dead Birds" gives us a well structured script with some surprises humor along with the horror. You're Next is a solid entry in the home invasion sub-genre with an solid story and a great lead in final girl Erin (Sharni Vinson). Vinson a competent Australian actress really takes command of the role, the new girlfriend of Crispian (AJ Bowen). She is at the party to meet the family and when the shit starts going down she is the one who takes charge. So often in these films the women are reduced to babbling, fearful victims who are stalked and killed without a fight. Here though the film takes a different approach with a women who knows how to defend herself and is not to be taken lightly. It is a refreshing approach that I really appreciated.
  Sometimes though the structuring of scripts can be done too well. For someone like me who has done a lot of skill building in screenwriting the there are some foreshadowing bits that gave the largest twists of the film away. I doubt the average viewer though picked up on it on a conscious level but for me there were a couple things that gave too much away. While the opening was classic horror with a college professor sleeping with one of his students. Her realization as he is poking her that her choice was probably a poor life path, was great. The sound horror tropes of someone is out there is well executed and the demise of the professor is good too. This is important to the later plot so not only does it establish that the killers are scary and brutal but as all good scenes it serves another purpose, to make cover for the home invasion of our main family. Since there are more than one attack it will be a crime wave instead of a targeted attack on just one family.
  The establishment of the dynamics of the main family is done well, a wealthy couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) inviting the kids to the country place for a celebration of their 35th anniversary. Now this alone was a bit of a put off, these two actors are way to young to have been married for 35 years. I get that they are playing older but damn they just look too good for the idea to play. It could be that since they married young they are well into their marriage but it seemed a bit of a stretch for me. It could happen mathematically if Crampton had her first child at 18, of course Moran would be younger than that. I found myself just letting go of the idea, suspending disbelief consciously and letting the film not bother me so much. Besides you have great acting with Crampton playing Aubrey the mentally fragile Mother. She is great although her role is short. A veteran  actress who appeared in such films as The Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, From Beyond, and The Sisterhood she is up to the task and looking as beautiful as ever.
  The sons and spouses arrive to fill out the cast, Crispian and Erin, youngest son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Zee (Wendy Glenn), Oldest son Drake (Joe Swanberg) and wife Kelly (Margaret Laney) oh and lets not forget daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) who has the most comical death scene I have seen in a while. Her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) fills out the victims who will be hunted by  out three killers Lamb Mask (L.C. Holt), Tiger Mask (Simon Barrett) and Fox Mask (Lane Hughes).
  The film as you expect is the three masked players attacking and killing the family members. An astute viewer will know something is afoul early in the film by listening to the dialog of the cast when the first attack happens in front of everyone at the dinner table. I at that point knew the main twist which was sad because we were only 15 minutes into the film. When a second event happens later and the character that leaves the scene is not followed in the film in any way I had the second part of the twist and was a bit disappointed in myself for not watching the film like normal movie goers.
Even with my personal disappointments there is a lot to like about this film.  The lead Erin is a survivor and takes charge right away. This is the kind of situation she is most prepared for and she masters her surroundings right from the start. So many times in horror films the motivation for the main character is to overcome a flaw in her/his personality to overcome the situation. This new better takes is saying what if the killers didn't know that one of their supposed victims is way more equipped to handle them then they are to handle her? Erin moves immediately into action when the first kill takes place. She looks for weapons assesses the situation and determines the safest place to be. She is up to the task of handling the situation even though it is deadly and extreme. While the others in the group are being picked off she is fighting back.
  I loved that in this film we know more than our lead, while she plays at dealing with the external threat we get to see the threat on the inside that she does not know about. It makes for some great scenes where we know she is in danger but she has no idea.  All the way to the end when our final girl has the confrontation with the last threat she is a powerhouse who through strength and perseverance ends up with the upper hand.
  So I would recommend this film, it is a competent and enjoyable horror film with a strong female lead. Some of the violence is over the top in a good way, the plot although a bit transparent to me will be a pleasure for many with twist and turns that create tension. In the end you may be surprised and should come away with the film with a feeling that you were entertained and the cost was money well spent.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elysium (2013) - Sci-Fi Action

Elysium (2013) -  Well I may not have enough films for a part two of summer films but I did see this one. It was one of those rare occasions where Elisa (my wife) and I agreed on a film to see together and this is the one. Certainly a summer movie but with a bit of heart and some good if garbled messaging about rich and poor, and health care. I was looking forward to it. I had seen director Neill Blomkamp's feature District 9 and really liked it. He using science fiction had taken a look into racism in a way not seen since Alien Nation (1988). I always loved that about Science fiction the way you can use the fantastical stories to look at issues facing all of us today.  So when this film started up and the world presented looked an awful lot like South Africa I thought okay we might have something here. Except this world was all out of whack. Now most people see this film and say its about the rich and the evils they will dispense on the masses when the earth that they moved towards it's breaking point finally can not sustain the kind of life they want to live. If you will a shot across their bow, but I think the message got a bit garbled in its presentation.
  Global warming and overpopulation makes the earth of 2154 look like hell.  Somewhere along the line the Earth's population stopped using birth control, but continued to rape the earth of resources leading to the wealthy saying, "See you later gator." They took their ball and went up to a lovely climate controlled environment in orbit call Elysium. I am sure there were many discussions that we don't get to see where the wealthy are looking for alternatives to this solutions. Certainly they recognized that unbridled capitalism which focuses on growing the pie, thus increasing the size of the population was unsustainable. I am sure before building their dreamland in space they tried to give away condoms and create industries that would save the earth instead of encouraging its demise. They being the leaders of governments and the masters of industry surely pushed for a sustainable form of economics that would allow them the comforts of wealth without trashing the one place they absolutely need to live. I am also sure that the film just didn't show the continued efforts on the behalf of mankind after they left the ground. Surely they realizing that if the earth ultimately died so would they. Even with their magical fix-it medical bays they must have realized that the earth will eventually burn leaving them without a workforce or resources to sustain themselves? So they must have been doing more than just making police robots and lounging by pools and partying.
  It appears that when the goods are mostly used up that the "haves" of this future world decided living in a shitty world was not for them. They with their Ayn Rand philosophy left the party for a place that was unreachable by the masses leaving the workers to be enslaved to the idea of someday joining them in their utopia. Now I have a basic problem with the vision shown in this film. The civilization left behind is one of abject poverty. People controlled by robots police without feelings. Slogging away each day for measly wages and having no say over their lives. I object to this vision one where the people would stop governing themselves. One where everything will go to hell without the wealthy's guiding hand of wisdom. Sure the world presented is one where the rich run things but I say bull that it would go down that way. People would still strive for good meaningful lives even in that kind of society. The film implies that normal people, although poor can't organize, can love, can't control crime, can't get along and the criminals and poor decision making would rule the day. If not for the ruling classes robot police force the earth would be an uncontrollable festering sore of crime and debauchery. Not only  do I reject this idea I think that the yoke of mechanized control would be thrown off not long after it was institutionalized.  In fact instead of dreaming for a chance to steal health care from the rich, or if a big dreamer of earning enough cash to move to the city in the sky, I imagine that a healthy hatred of the place would be the more prevalent feeling.
  In this film we see like the Cuban boat people during the Reagan years, refugees trying to reach the US before being captured and returned to Cuba, but here on Elysium it is a bit different. We are presented with an immigration message, one which corresponds with what the Obama administration does, capture and deport people when they cross the border. The other more extreme idea is to shoot their spaceships from the sky, as presented by Elysium's director of defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster). All these people are after we learn is the magical medical bays. They know they will be deported so the idea is to land and race to the nearest house. Every wealthy person has a medical bay that in just seconds can scan a person and correct any ailments they might have. The refugees who have gotten a DNA code on the black market break into a house and get scanned and cured of all illnesses before getting caught by the robot police. Its a remarkable message that the wealthy of this world have what could be termed socialized medicine for themselves but don't want to share it.
 The medical bays are an instrument of control, they allow the rich to live long healthy lives. I could not tell if the residents of Elysium were practically immortal but they certainly have very long lives. The longer life allows for more wealth and power thus the wealthy are the long lived ruling class. Keeping the poor dying young is actually a good means of controlling the society. So keeping them from proper health care makes it more likely that anyone organizing to change this corrupt society will face mortality long before those in charge. A fine example of this control is shown through the main storyline where workers at a factory are more likely to be allowed to die that to be instantly cured when they are hurt on the job. The wealthy overlords see the human left on the planet as disposable resources not worth the expense of fixing.
  The main story is of a man Max (Matt Damon) who will soon die after an accidental radiation exposure. He wants to try to get to Elysium and get himself cured and because of this is willing to do anything to make it happen. The mixed plot involve him getting a mechanical exoskeleton, working with hackers who want to jack into the memory of a wealthy Elysium resident John Carlyle (William Fichter) for passwords so they can hack away. He visiting his factory in future LA. and just happens to be the boss that decides not to cure Max when he is hurt. On top of this he has just written a program to reboot the entire Elysium computer system. In doing so making all the robot police he designed, be reprogrammed to follow Defense Minister Delacourt instead of the current president. This treason can't be discovered so he encodes his program in his own head. Of course the film has the hackers find this information and remarkably know what it is. In fact it seems the program is the most easily recognized piece of code ever written.  Adding to the plot is the love interest of Max, Frey (Alice Braga) who needs to get her daughter to Elysium also. The little girl is battling leukemia and will not survive long without the magic of the medical bay. Of course it is all going to come out good for the main characters but there is lots of action and thrills along the way. The wild card in the plot is mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley) who is assigned by Delacourt to stop the invasion perpetrated by our heroes.
  I can't say that this was the greatest of films, the action was fine and all but in a way it felt a bit too formula. Some of the simplistic solutions to solve problems made it seem that the society was not quite as advanced as it wanted to be. The medical bay technology was true magic and the simplistic code  that it seemed everyone immediately recognized was silly. The final change to that code that made everyone on earth legal to receive the medical bays was absolutely stupid. Certainly this was a what if scenario that needed the magic to make it work. What if the wealthy left the earth when it became too crappy? What if they still ran society from a space station? What if they had a medical bay that could extend their lives and power? Would they share it? These questions are answered I am just not sure they were answered in a satisfying way.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bikini Girls on Ice (2009) - Horror Slasher

Bikini Girls on Ice (2009) - A really good slasher film has an unforgettable killer with a back story to motivate the killing spree. It has plot logical enough so that it will put the victims in the way of the killer with some semblance of cause and effect. It is a film about the torment of the killer and the drive to have to kill. It is also about the victims being separated and hunted the fear of trying to escape. The formula has been done well many times and poorly even more often over the last thirty-five years. It has also been done poorly many times particularly in sequels. So how do you make a new slasher that is of quality?  Start with a cast of attractive women in bikinis. Every guy at least likes to see attractive women in swim ware. To start you will have half your audience, actually because the horror world is probably seventy percent men you will have more than half your audience. Then you have to get these attractive victims to the location of the killer. In Friday the 13th the victims were counselors who arrive at the summer camp where the killer is. It is an organic set up that works. So put these ladies on a bus and get them to the killer by having the bus break down. Oh wait that's been done. Since the setup is not original you have to do something else to make the film interesting.  What you do is have the bikini babes and the broken down bus cliche but instead of playing the film straight as a tense slasher, turn in into a campy romp making fun of slasher cliche.
 Oh wait again, that is not this film either. Maybe instead of having the characters being just stupid victims we can give them some depth. You don't have to have the regular stereotypes, no girl next store, no pining good guy chasing after her, no desperate virgin guy praying he will get laid, no bitchy pretty girl acting all jealous or her ditzy friend who never stands up for herself. You know break the mold so the same old same old does not sink your movie before it starts. Unfortunately this film by Geoff Klein is everything that could go wrong with a slasher without the humor.
  All Bikini Girls on Ice has going for it is the attractive actresses and leave every other slasher trope in place without originality or camp. It is a film devoid of an idea that is new or fresh, its a simple setup where the woman soccer team is going to have a car wash to raise money for the team. They will all wear bikinis to attract people to the car wash. The head girl, we will call her the bitchy stereotype picks a loser virgin guy to set up the transportation and they rent a bus that just does not make it to the destination. When the bus breaks down at Moe's garage it seems abandoned even though there are still lights and some very loud ice machines. The illogical decisions of the group since they are broken down pretty much in the middle of no where are mind boggling. One would think that the news that the bus will take 3 hours to fix would be enough to cancel the days events and for people to get on their cell phones and call for rides back to school. Not here though, in this world everyone decides to hold the car wash right where they are, in the parking lot of an abandoned garage. Hell why is t5he team not doing the car wash at the school? Why is it they have to drive through East Bumfuck to get to the location for the car wash. Oh yeah because the story required them to get to this particular garage and fuck logic completely for trying to get in the way.
  Not only that but just the logic of girls in bikinis is flawed. Klein has to sell this film so he wants as much skin in the flick as possible so he has the girls in swimsuits, but I have two women in my life, a daughter and a wife and trust me when going to the beach they would never go without shorts and a top for before and after a swim. In fact most woman would carry a large beach bag with everything they need, sunblock, sunglasses towels, clothes, iPod there definitely would not be just girls in bikinis with nothing else. It is just ridiculous that they woman go everywhere without any back up clothing and you notice it as it gets dark. Sun goes down. the car wash is over but no one has any clothes to put on. Again writers Geoff Klein and Jeff Ross have not thought out the simplest of logistics. No that's not fair, what they discussed might have gone down like this.
 G: Hey you know this script is sort of weak, should we spend the time to make it better before going into production?
J: Well its a slasher, you know horror fans will see it even if it is shit so why go through that kind of trouble?
G: I know those fuckers will drop money on anything, we'll probably make our money back before enough people realize the film is shit.
J: Dude you know it, besides I don't give a shit I just want the IMDb credit, but what if people just get bored and stop watching, then word of mouth will stop people from even seeing it. We have to have a way to make them at least get through it.
G: Well how about we just keep the girls in bikinis the whole time, in fact know matter what happens they never put on any clothes.
J: But what about that part where it becomes night, won't someone get cold or something?
G: We'll just not have any other clothes on the set, it won't be part of the world, and then we will imply that there might be a chance for nudity and Bam we win!
J: Brilliant Geoff!
G: Thanks Jeff!
 So we get this poor transition, where it is obvious there is no reason to continue with the bikinis but they stay in that state anyway.  By the way if you are hoping for nudity you are not going to get that either. Instead we get a transition to night. I guess was needed to get to a scarier environment but it was so clumsily done it stands out. They have a few car wash scene where remarkably there is a lot of traffic and then a kill where a yellow clad girl wanders out of the daylight into the back door of the garage. She wanders around a bit thinking she is hearing sounds in the distance. The interior of the garage is dark and has limited light sources to create the needed atmosphere. She is being stalked by Moe (William Jarand) and is killed violently. Then a shot of the moon and then everyone is standing in the dark, no explanation of where the time went or anything just its now dark.
  The largest failure of this film is the lack of rhyme or reason for the maniac mechanic Moe. He is a non-verbal crazy who stabs repeatedly and then stores his victims on ice. Since there is no back story at all through scenes or through expository dialog with the local characters there is nothing creating a since of urgency. He is just this mad man creeping around killing the girls one at a time but without any back story at all. Maybe in the sequel there will be some sort of story for him but here it is a failure on the writers part. The garage we learn through an old guy is abandoned but that's all we get so there is never any motivation for the killer.
  On top of all these failures is the classic slasher trope of divide and conquer, the victims separate from each other and are killed and never to the remaining characters organize to stay together and find those who have gone missing. Instead one by one they wander off to their own fates without the knowledge that anything bad is going on. Never is a scream heard, never to they all hang out together, never is there even a glimpse of normal group behavior. It really is a frustrating feeling to watch this film. We have such a long history of slasher film to learn from and yet this one seems as though it is only trying to duplicate the mistakes of the past without even a nod to originality. Worse yet is the fact that the number of characters and the number of kills don't match up. When the car wash is going on there are ten girls in bikinis and 2 guys, but I think the total number of kills is four girls and the two guys? I could be wrong on the numbers but a half dozen potential victims vanish from this film without a word being said. Its all to rush towards a finale that is equally disappointing and nonsensical. Our final girl Jenn the all American freshman soccer star runs about trying not to be killed. She finally just gives up and whines and pleads on the ground when she is saved by a minor character who has had a line or two in the entire film? On top of this fucking insult to horror fans is the epilog scene setting up our iconic killer Moe for another film even though he was shot to death on the climax.
I always like to acknowledge that it is a difficult thing to organize and execute a film and there some credit should be given. Klein made this film happen, and I am sure expended a lot of time energy and money in its execution, it makes it more disturbing that he has so failed to make a film that is nothing but a retread of some of the worst slasher films of the past. What a waste, you have the fortitude to pull a film off and yet spend no time creating a film worth seeing. Maybe he made money and that was all he was trying to do. Why though, put work into a product that you can't be proud you did? Money can't ultimately be why we do creative endeavors there has to be something more doesn't there? Well the fact that Klein has made Pinup Girls on Ice (2013) tells us for him at least it can all be about the money.
  I must be in a bad mood today so let me try to lighten up a bit. Like I said earlier the actresses in this film are beautiful which is a necessity if the film is going to be awful, Cindel Chartrand, Danielle Doetsch who was in the wonderful science fiction film Motivational Growth (2013) which I saw and loved at the Boston Science Fiction Festival, Suzy Lorraine, Christina Sciortino and Kerri Taylor do their jobs as the girls in bikinis that will sell this film. The couple guys in the film are fodder Tarek Gader as the virgin Blake and Ivan Peric as Tommy, the hero who is not to be. So there is definitely no recommendation coming for this film. It is too unoriginal and formulaic in the worst way for that. I hope that director Geoff Klein takes as much time making sure he has a worthy story for his sequel as he does promoting himself and his girlfriend on the internet. That kind of effort when put into the product will get him much further than just creating an online image.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The G-String Horror (2012) Horror Ghosts

The G-String Horror (2012) - Here we have a film set up like a ghost hunters cable show or a horror movie being filmed at a strip club, where the stories of some dead strippers are explored by the show crew. This super low budget film struggles with poor, poor acting, poor writing, middle of the road effects but certainly tries hard to create a new take on the structural gimmick it is using. The gimmick is to investigate stories about ghosts a strip club Housed in the old Market Street Cinema in San Francisco. This is a real place with a real strip club in it. It could be that the film and later this year, the episode of the Travel Channel's show Ghost Adventures is all designed to drum up business for an area of SF that appears to be down on its luck.  There is an accompanying website for the film that also takes the "We are Serious about this." attitude in presenting the ghost ideas. Through some staged recreations, interviews with club employees and clients as well as people around the neighborhood it tries to create the aura that a documentary filmmaker has found interest in and is now doing a film on the building and its stories. Still to say this is a good film is to be way too generous.
 It starts with a amateur video of some guys at the empty club watching the lone dancer. With keeping with the real life reputation of the club the stripper asks the guys if they want to go to a private room for a better show. It is reported that in the past the rear of the strip club called "sin city" was used basically as a brothel. This mix of real life reputation and fantasy film making is effective for a while. When the party with the stripper gets rough she wants out but the violent men end up killing her with a dagger through the skull, snapping us back into the fantasy story.
  It is just one of the deaths that is reported to have happened in the theater, and soon we have the documentary film maker explaining his project to look into the deaths and the spirits they left behind. If this was all there was to the film it would not be worth the watching. The production is really low budget with sketchy sound and only barely passable acting. The coolest take on this now cliche approach to the film is that as the film goes on we get this mix of the trope of the documentary mixing with the idea that the ghosts are interacting with the film and strip club employees during its filming. So instead of straight up interviews and set shots of dark corridors we also get some personalities distorted by the spirits of the dead and scenes of ghosts raising and performing as part of the film. It is a some what unique approach and the film maker Charles Webb should get some credit for the idea. He carries the ideas so far as to have no writer listed on the IMDb entry.
 Natasha Talonz, an interesting looking woman with overfilled implants who when dancing is tame with pasties and panties. This is miss Talonz's fifth role as she tries to keep her acting career going. This is by no means a porn or even soft porn film, it is strictly low budget horror. The other primary actress in the film is a character named Lady Zee (Debra Lamb) who plays a psychic who is working with the film crew. Lamb an accomplish small part actress during the late eighties and early nineties, and now making a comeback. She is fine in her role and the role itself adds the mystic aura that the film needs.
There is not quite enough T&A to keep the horn-dog crowd happy, which is strange since the movie centers around a strip club. The primary actress as far as strippers is
  In the end this is really not a good movie. It lacks the most basic polish, is weak in plot and not expert enough to interest special effects lovers. What it could be is a very nice way to entice the show Ghost Adventures to visit the theater this season. It could be a cool little advertisement for the more morbid strip club patrons to go get a lap dance in a place where there may be ghosts. It is not recommended by this blog.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Extinction:The G.M.O. Chronicles (2011) Horror Epidemic

Extinction:The G.M.O. Chronicles (2011) - In the beginning of this film we see a survivor or the human apocalypse, Tom Keller (Daniel Buder) as he speaks into his computer camera filling us in on the world as it stands. A genetic plant mutation experiment gone wrong has laid waste to the earth's population. It has mutated and infected humans making them in effect plant zombies of different kinds. Walkers, Runners, Climbers, Puffers, Screamers each type with there own traits but as they are introduced in the film they are further developments, evolution of the plant virus, as it tries to mutate itself into a more efficient way to spread. Ultimately this is a story of the survivors, starting with Tom and his struggle to want to survive in a world where human kind is close to wiped out and the plant mutants are developing in ways to finalize the death of all remaining people. A former special forces soldier Tom sets up camp in an old military base with tall fences and a watch tower. He wonders whether or not he should commit suicide but when he meets other people his attitude changes.
   I wanted this film to be better than it was, and really it had a neat little take on the zombie apocalypse. Problem is really a mess structurally with very little to make of a main story the film meanders through different characters. Each with new set of survivors have a set of goals but in the end it is all just a journey without a proper ending. The first act focuses on Tom and then a group he meets consisting of Lisa (Luise Bahr), her father Bill (Jerry Coyle) and her boyfriend Martin (Klaus Ebert). They all take up residence in the military base and go about life as it is. Lisa is looking at what life will be after the end. How to make the military base a home. She is written as a bit depressed and on the edge of holding it together. Martin the jealous boyfriend has an adolescent response to the more competent Tom. This plays out in a really clunky way and drives the pacing of the film to an almost halt. We also explore the secrets Bill holds, as a NSA operative. Using the satellite phone Tom has he makes contact with his government friends and learns of a bunker where they all can take shelter. At first he holds his cards close to the vest but when caught on the phone comes clean quickly. The arrival of a few more people Zara (Bina Milas), Luke (Lee Rychter), and brothers Max (Tobias Kay) and David (Christain Stock)  into the group sets the stage for the next act.
  The second part of the film is all the characters getting to know one another. Fighting with each other and the daily struggle to live in this new world filled with danger. Mostly though not tons happens except some very boring motions, The film really loses all its forward momentum that was gained in getting the world defined and the characters together.
  The third act has to do with motivating the characters into moving out of the safety of the military base. It starts with introducing new plant zombies that can climb the fences easily and move at night. Then attacks by these new zombies and the death of characters on the base force the hand of the group. They head out in two vehicles for the bunker beneath a damn nearby. We again have a character introduced with yet another new idea. Peter Bishop (Heinrich Baumgartner) is a scientist who think with the right equipment can come up with a solution for the zombies. He is instructed to meet the group at the bunker. Introduced at this time is the idea that the nuclear power plants are melting down. I said this story meanders and again we are not sure what the main story is. we are just following these people around and wondering if the scientist is now the main story and a cure or a herbicide will be invented. Still even though the film has some character development it is missing a clear protagonist, it should be Tom's struggle with the idea of being a leader. We get some background of how he failed in the military on a mission leaving him without the backbone to lead.
  Even this does not end up being the main push for the story as they get to the bunker but the people inside refuse to let them in. The learn from the radiation sickened Peter that no one is safe in this area because of the nuclear power plants. They decide to head south and again find a new place to rest. A castle with a religious minister and followers. Again the movie grinds to a halt with yet another story line. This time Zara a medical student is asked to learn everything she can from Peter about a cure prior to his death by radiation poisoning. Ugh!  Even though this down time comes in for the story line the group knows they still have to keep moving south away from civilization. The zombies again attack and the castle is over run leaving the final group of survivors, Lisa Bill, Tom, Zara, David and a couple others head off on the road. A voice over leaves the film in the "I don't know what is in front of us, but we will do it together" kind of message.
  Now I am sure there are those reading this thinking that it sounds like this film has something to offer. Let me assure you that the main thing it has for you is frustration. It just jumps from "this happens" to "Then that happens" with no clear story to follow other than these mostly boring characters are living together.The action scenes are not well done and the makeup although competent is supplemented with some horrible low budget CGI. The idea of super fast evolution of the zombie plant people is a weak idea since evolution does not work that way. The film implies that the need to spread the virus causes the mutations that create the new kinds of zombies. Problem is these changes are only geared towards getting humans and since the absence of humans to infect is not a pressure it does not make sense that the mutations would develop to seek out the uninfected. You would think the mutations would be to infect what is around the xombies not what is not. So in the end there are just too many problems to recommend this movie.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Blood Beast Terror (1968) Horror Monster

The Blood Beast Terror (1968) - I love a good old fashion monster movie, and certainly this was old fashioned, made in 1968 and starring one of the all time horror greats Peter Cushing as Detective Inspector Quennell an intuitive police inspector who solves the mystery of multiple deaths where the victims blood has been drained. Okay now I used Peter Cushing and victims with blood drained in the first paragraph, but don't jump to that conclusion. There are no two pronged wounds on the necks of the dead people. Instead there are multiple wounds, lacerations that appear to be the marks of someone attacked by a beast. So you just let that silly notion based on years of Peter Cushing experience go. No this is is not the avenging hunter, in a way it is more like the thought provoking genius of Sherlock Holmes, without the genius part that is. In Holmes films there is a mystery to be solved and only the name detective can see the clues that lead to the killer. unfortunately for the viewers of this film the mystery and the clues are in front of us and all too easy to decipher.
The synopsis is that men are being killed and each time they have slashes on their faces and their blood has been drained. The Inspector Quennell looks into it and because several of the young men have been associated with Dr. Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) a local scientist and teacher he questions the good doctor. The behavior of the doctor immediately puts the inspector and anyone viewing the film on edge. He is rude and short tempered with a definite desire to not answer questions. The obvious anti investigation attitude by the doctor makes it clear he is somehow involved so the mystery just becomes the how. Since he is an entomologist we can already in the first twenty minutes of the film guess at a culprit. It is this kind of poorly executed foreshadowing that really brings this movie down. There is no revelation when the whole story comes out and that is disappointing.
  Even more disappointing is what comes next where again when trying to foreshadow the script reveals that  Dr Mallinger's daughter Claire (Wanda Ventham) is somehow involved in the murders, especially given away by her leering eyes and the films musical choices. When the Doctor and his daughter leave town the stupid decision of Quennell to follow them is highlighted by the decision to bring his daughter with him while he pretends to be under cover. I suppose needing a damsel in distress could be a reason for her being there but considering that the inspector is supposed to be the smartest guy in the room it is such a poor decision. It's not like he could not have gone alone. Then the final irritation really has to do with a script that felt the need to have comic relief through minor characters that although might have been endearing in 1968 was awful in today's age. This form of writing which can be seen in every summer action blockbuster out this year, where characters in the middle of a serious and darker story are put through some sort of comedic scenes that are there to release tension. Think most of Simon Pegg's Scotty in the latest Star Trek films, where really the majority of the role is to be the comedic buffoon. In this one they had a couple minor characters who whole purpose was comic release.
  When the plot finishes in the most horribly forced way the viewer is left wanting more, more solid plot more solid writing etc. So in the end this film can't be recommended but listen I am being hard on it because it has absolutely no subtext. The science fiction plot is telegraphed and the writing is less than stellar. It is a harmless film over all but just not enough to hold interest.