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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ragnarok (2013) Horror Monster Myth

Ragnarok (2013)  - The solid writing in this good old fashioned monster movie makes for good introduction horror for the kids. Scary with children at risk, but never so much that there is a a thought of death. There is nothing gory or too violent in this Norwegian film. It is a tale of a man who is failing at raising his kids since his wife died of cancer 5 years prior, who is failing at his job as an archaeologist seeking the location of the viking myth Ragarök. While attempting proving that myth has a location he reconnects to his family and what is most important in life. The myth which is not really a place but the description of a series of events in the Poems of Edda is the myth used but it is a way for the family to get to the location of the monster. Once there we can see the interpersonal story withing the family play out to a satisfactory conclusion.
The father in this film is Sigard (Pal Sverre Hagen) who plays a man emotionally crippled five years after losing his wife to cancer. He is still struggling with the little things like feeding the children, daughter Ragnhild (Maria Annette Tandero Berglyd) and younger son Brage (Julian Podolski), getting them to school and showing up on time to there events. He is also in trouble in work, arriving late to an investors meeting at the museum his boss gives him the ultimatum he probably should have had years earlier. Problem with Sigard is that besides letting his grief handicap him he is obsessed with the myth of Ragnarok and as things in his personal life fall apart he discovers a cypher for some ruins he thinks will lead him to a great discovery. Packing up the family and accompanied by fellow researchers Allen (Nicolai Cleve Broch) and Elisabeth (Sofia Helin) they head off into the Finnmark along the old Soviet border in search of a myth.
  Well constructed with the building of the interpersonal relationships, the main character's flaws and the plot of the discovery, all withing the concise scenes that set the stage for the adventure. We end up with several well plotted line going at once. Ragnhild and Sigard must reconcile his ineffective parenting as she moves from her tweens to teens.get to his daughter's concert at school. Later with his inability to put her needs for a real vacation ahead of his need to search for vikings. Set up early with his inability to  Sigard must reconcile finally having not moved on from his wife by being presented a love interest. He must also balance the desire to solve the mystery of  his archaeological finds with the safety of his family.  Then also are some nicely set up secondary characters, like the shady guide who helps then find the lake of viking lore. A partner Allen also is well set up as the overly enthusiastic one, with no children of his own we can see his behavior contrasted to that of Sigard. It all comes together to tell a complete tales with multiple facets.
  If there is a criticism to be made it is that the film is so well designed that it is inevitable. I is an example of screenwriting that takes all the time needed, but the limited budget means that the excitement and effects are not included until the climax of the film. Around the twenty minute mark the film finally gets a group heading to the Finnmark, Sigard and his kids, Allen and assistant and love interest Elisabeth and guide Lief head into the wilderness across the old Soviet border to find the "Eye of Odin" which turns out to be a lake with an island in the middle of it. Everything is tied up neat and tidy with each location used later in the film being introduced earlier. Each interpersonal flaw seen earlier is either a cause of later trouble or weakness overcome later. Each set to be used later is shown but not explored. Since this is really a family monster movie we know certain things like the family will come out of it changed but alive. We know that since it is set up early that Sigard needs to move on from his wife's death we know the only other female character next to his daughter will survive as his love interest. That leaves two characters who are in jeopardy. The first being the greedy guide is set up when we meet him so his turn is expected. That leaves Allen and his betrayal or stupid move is straight out of one of the Jurassic Park movies.
  Do not allow these small criticisms to stop you from seeing this film. It is a wonderfully entertaining little family adventure. Sure you will have to read subtitles, unless there is a dubbed version out there somewhere but still it is worth it. There is a definite recommendation for this one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Theatre Bizarre (2011) Horror Anthology

The Theatre Bizarre (2011) - Anthologies have been really making a comeback the last few years. The VHS films and the ABCs of Death are a couple more successful entries. The Theater Bizarre with some wonderfully strange stories, more of a weird tales than hard horror is the latest to be reviewed here. Search anthology on the site for more reviews. This one starts a fever dream of an artist, Enola Penny (Virginia Newcomb) obsessed with the old theater across the street from her. Seeming emotionally unstable and frigidity she is drawn from her apartment into the theater. A scattering of mannequins occupy seats in the audience. Her presence raises a puppet like master of ceremonies, Peg Poett (Udo Kier) who reveals some other mechanized puppet that leads into each of the stories of this anthology. The trick of the interwoven piece is as each time the master of ceremonies returns he is a bit more human. Enola at the end becomes one of the puppets deposited onstage to become part of the play for the next person drawn to the Theatre Bizarre. It was written by Zach Chassler and directed by Jeremy Kasten. There was a depth of clarity missing in this piece where it did not have meaning in a way that the viewer could see it as one of the parts of the whole. Sure it connected the stories giving a familiar place to come back to and a way into the next. It was not strong enough though to stand on its own. It's meaning not communicated strongly enough leaving it just a device and not a self supporting piece of the film. It did have the wonderful treat of having the renown actor Udo Kier, a veteran of genre film, extraordinary performer he brings an expertise that raises the piece and at 70 years old commands a frame better than most actors.
The first is Mother of Toads about an anthropologist Martin (Shane Woodward) and his girlfriend, Karina (Victoria Maurette) who come across an old star symbol at a market in an old French village . The Store keeper, Mere (Catriona MacColl) talks of it being part of her family traditions for generations. She invites him (a fact not lost on his girlfriend) to come to the french countryside to see a copy of the Necronomicon.  As someone who studies such things Martin starts fitting the trip into their schedule right away without really consulting  but more explaining how its going to happen. There is some nice simple character dialog in this piece that defines the characters and brings the viewer right into their situation. He obviously has been here for a longer time than she and his condescending attitude quickly brings up the cracks in their relationship. She arrives to join him, a vacation for her and he has his interests forefront in his mind paying less attention to her than he should. Slightly obsessed with the symbols on a marker near the road, that he sees as signs, the boundary between the real world and the spirit world. We are having him cross a boundary, it may not be completely clear to the audience as this transition is subtle and it is certainly not clear to Karina who just wants to get to the spa but there is a symbolic change.
  Martin arrives at the house of Mere and fails to notice the symbols on the floor below the table she sits him at. We begin to learn that she is a witch and follower of the Mother of Toads and through mostly musical queues we see that her intentions for him go beyond sharing her beliefs. It is a classic motif of a witch seducing a traveler on the road and is done with atmosphere and style by director Richard Stanley. Mere is played with, possibly overplayed by MacColl yet another veteran actor who known for some favorites from the seventies, The Beyond, House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead. Stanley also holds a place in genre hearts with his wonderful, Dust Devil, as well as directing the less acclaimed The Island of Dr. Moreau and Hardware. He pulls no punches with this story and it is appreciated.
 Seduced and condemned the couple could have been part of an elaborate fever dream but instead we get some harsh reality. Karina coming back to pick up her missing boyfriend discovers the drugged and in the throws of some slimy lust making with a younger more fuck-able version of  Mere. She runs off into the now toad filled countryside to meet her doom. He wakes staring at an old photo that could be him.It's some old magic that enchanted him. A creature with the desire for a former lover a role that he easily filled.  The Mother of Toads has found the love of her past in the present and his inevitable rejection of her will also mean he is short for this world. There are some excellent visuals at this point in the movie. Groggy Martin wakes and the first indication we the audience get that things are awry is the clawed amphibian are draped over the man. Then as he gets up we get the full view of the toad creature sleeping next to him, our view from above.
  A dark tale warning that one should never reject a god. Mere certainly gives Martin the chance to save himself. She offers him more of the wonders of a goddess if only he will stay and be hers. His rejection seals his fate.
  The second tale, "I Love You" opens with a man Axel (André Hennicke) waking on a bathroom floor of his bathroom with a gash on his hand and wondering why his wife, Mo (Suzan Anbeh) is not home. An obsessive man with a drinking problem he is a man losing the woman he loves. He wants to know everything about her life at all times. She has decided that the overly attentive husband is not what she wants, but is is more than that. There is an intimacy problem that they have where he thinks sex is for him and fails to meet her needs. As we learn more we start to wonder about whether this is what it seems or some sort of hallucination the broken man is having. The story unfolds and we learn more and more about how broken their relationship has been. They have a conversation but the whole time you can think this is his subconscious working out the reasons why he has sunk so far. As the memories come to him now back in the aftermath on his bathroom floor we see that things are much worse than previously presented. It is an incredibly sad take on the dangers of  beautiful crazy love and how we create the reality we want when in its thrall. Written and directed by Buddy Giovinazzo.
  In "Wet Dreams" we meet a man Donnie (James Gill) driven by his desire but where his fantasies that become horrible nightmares. A wife Carla (Debbie Rochon) with emotional and physical scars theirs is a relationship on the rocks. Donnie's therapist Dr Maurey (Tom Savini) tries to help him get to the bottom of it but that role does not seem professional in his interactions with Donnie, maybe this is the first hint of the twisty twist of this segment. Whose dream is this anyway? Sometimes the penalty for our actions can't be dispelled by recognizing it is a nightmare. Making it hard to tell what is fantasy and what is reality is a problem for this segment. Maybe its the writing by John Esposito or maybe its the Directing by Savini or editing by Douglas Buck, or even this viewer may have been the issue but this segment was hard to define. Certainly it is a revenge tale but what part of it is real?
  "The Accident" is a meditation on death, framed in the eyes of a little girl who saw death on the side of the road. Traveling in her car a motorcycle hits a deer and is killed. The child trying to understand what she has seen asked her mother a bunch of question. She sees the suffering deer still alive and her mother calling the accident in. Cut with Mother (Lena Kleine) and Child (Melodie Simard) discussing the incident later. Touching but these type of stories have a hard to pull off. The child seems too smart in her dialog and the explanations too simple. It makes you wonder who the audience the piece is intended for. It is well done and a topic anyone with children will at some time have to breach. Not really fitting neatly with the other pieces in this film as it is far from the bizarre threshold the film name implies. Still writer director Douglas Buck makes a emotional short about the fragility of life.
  "Vision Stains" A strange but enjoyable story of a women gone mad with visions of other peoples memories. This young woman (Kaniehtiio Horn), a psychopath really learns that the key memories of a person's life are captured in the fluid of their eyes. When they die all those memories come to the forefront and can be extracted using a needle. So this young woman kills homeless women and using a needle extracts the memories from their eyes in what is wonderfully done special effects. She then injects this eye fluid in her own eye and relives the victims life memories. She records all she sees into journals and sees herself not as an addicted killer but as a recorder of those women's lives. Her commitment is important to her next idea where she steps even a step further than she has. Not ready to settle for live that have been lived she wants to see the memories of someone who has yet to see. Then things go horribly wrong. Writer / director Karim Hussain has statements in the climax about predestination and lack of original lives and stories was cynical, first in its assumption of even a distracted God but second in that knowing we are predestined seemed unbearable. A side note that there are several stories about people coming out of the theater during Visions Stains and fainting from the eye damage special effects.
The final story "Sweets" is a sad and sorry tale of a relationship at its end.Written and directed by David Gregory it is centered around the gluttony of sweets. We see a fat (ish) man, Greg (Guilford Adams) struggling to come to terms with his attractive girlfriend Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) as she dumps him. The Excellent straight faced liturgy of cliche excuses she runs though are a great counter to his overly emotional almost child like whining. The disgusting room filled with rotting sweets is the perfect metaphor for the  crumbling relationship. Then the mixed in scenes of them in happier times is a perfect counter of then and now. Then when the turn of the story come it is so wonderfully evil that it makes the whole story. The truly grisly scene is worth the wait.
  Overall this was an interesting anthology. Like every anthology the opportunity to have hits and misses is there. This one hits more than it misses. Strange is what it is about and it lives up tho its title of Bizarre. Recommended.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Etheria Film Night (2014) Horror Sci-Fi

Etheria Film Night (2014) - Why does there have to be a organization collecting, choosing and promoting women in genre film making? It became very evident why during the event, after the shorts had played and before the feature. Put on by All Things Horror for the third consecutive time  Etheria Film Night at the Somerville Theater features women writers, directors, film makers, and women in the genre film making industry who most people have never heard of. They promote women working in the industry and try to get their films seen by a wider audience. Co-founder Stacy Pippi Hammon flew in from the west coast to represent the group and wanted to do a swag give away based on answers to trivia questions. All the answers were women who have done fabulous work in the industry but getting correct answers to the questions was a challenge. The small audience of 20 or so, myself included had a very hard time coming up with the names so much that Stacy needed to give hints. As she said in the session, if she were to ask you to rattle off a few Wes Craven films most people could do so; but if she was to ask you to do the same for women who have done equally solid work you could not. It is not that women are not doing great work in genre film making it is that getting noticed is difficult. Etheria works at celebrating and promoting their work trying to get a wider audience to see and appreciate it. The shorts and feature on this film night were chosen from more than 500 submissions and have been promoted by the organization for the entire year. The quality of the films was very good and it was a nice mix of horror and horror elements and some science fiction mixed in. This night consisted of seven shorts and a feature all worth the time to find watch, and enjoy.
 The Guest (2013) - Written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic is a only five minutes long but delivers a barrage of beautifully framed imagery while telling a story of a man paying a debt owed to a hidden demon. Wonderful to look at with stark contrasts we see the outcome of a deal made that must be paid. The framing of shots with focus on color and contrast work well if even at one point a clumsy blood spurting device pulls you out for a second. Shorts are interesting containers for ideas, often coming in late and leaving as soon as the idea is delivered works best and this dark little moment in the main characters life is presented with style. We will soon see more from Vuckovic as she starts her first feature an adaptation of Clive Barker's Jacqueline Ess (possibly) with actress Lena Headley. It's in preproduction so sometimes things change.
  Serpent's Lullaby (2014) - This 13 minute short does a good job in revealing, dropping hints and the filling out the picture with atmosphere and style. It is a story of an eccentric women (Jenimay Walker) at the moment of her greatest life decision. Watching this without knowing anything about it is a better experience than reading about it first. Pay attention to the hints along the way to discover the sad tale of desire for love but always having to deal with loss. The chtonic character coming into a modern world but holding onto the ritual of burial is poignant. Director Patricia Chica executes the story well and the script written by Charles Hall has emotional resonance. Leaving aside that the myth the lead character is based on has a definitive end, we can call this a what if... tale.
  Little Lamb (2012) -Written and Directed by Heidi Lee Douglas. A rear period piece in the short format which may be why it was stretched to twenty-three minutes. It succeeds in the things that make it a period piece, the settings including some haunting landscapes, the costumes and the wee bit of history shared that sets the period. What it does not do is particularly make that time period essential to the story.  It uses the 1829 women's prison in Tasmania to set up why the lead character Louisa, a criminal girl who see the job as a servant with the mysterious Mr Black as a better alternative to captivity in the prison.  It's the tales kicking off point; the rest of the yearn could have been anytime in history. The story is a simple one, once you get past the window dressings. It is a 'don't look in the locked room' warning story but with elements of the French Folktale Bluebeard. So we know what will inevitably happen to spur the climax which is well executed.This film looks great and is dark and foreboding and ends in fire.
  You Me & Her (2014) - Written and Directed by Sarah Doyle. A multidimensional story of how a woman named Anna (Shannon Woodward) breaks out of her mundane life no matter the consequences. Dimensional sci-fi stories are always a double edged sword. On one hand there is the wonder of the differences of like, but not the exact same dimension where character can either explore or like in the case of this find out about the other side. These stories can be anything from scary to strange to humorous but there is always the second edge. The benefit of having anything be possible by compare and contrast can also work against a story if the items being examined are too cliche. This story comes close to that but is saved by the turn. Funny and thoughtful it not only describes the situation but the mental state of the lead character so that her consequence filled decision can not be seen as negative or callous. As she says "I'm a human being, I have a voice and I deserve to be happy." As we all do.
  113 Degrees (2013) -  A woman scorned story? After over 500 days in space crew members  Francesca (Lizzy Davis) and Joe (Brian Groh) have developed a affair of convenience. Well at least that is how it could be seen, instead of talking with Brian about where there relationship will go once back on earth Francesca thinks she knows the harsh reality. While Francesca has to repair a coolant leak outside the ship she start getting ideas about how they can end their relationship. The consequences will mark them irreversibly. At twenty-one minutes the film feels a bit longer, the romance elements driving the film seem counter to the action taken. The lack of communication seems strange considering they have nothing but time to work things out. It seems in that time they would have at least broached the subject of  "What happens when we get back home?"
  Dawn (2014) -  Director Rose McGowan takes the imagined early 60's innocence, the simpler time where young love blooms between sheltered Dawn (Tara Lynne Barr) and gas station attendant Charlie (Reiley McClendon). Twisting this nostalgic time into a dark tale of hurtful malice. Written by M.A. Fortin, and Joshua John Miller it captures a time before the youth social awakening, when parents were still over bearing and in this case the character Dawn is too unexposed to the world to know how to save herself from the influence of Charlie. It is sad and shocking but well executed with each subtle turn fitting perfectly into the world that is created on screen
  Hide and Seek (2013) - Kayoko Asakura brings us this quick 11 minutes of grief fueled sadness laden story of loss and jealousy. Yohei (Keitarô Komuro) comes to the house of Hanao (Asaka Nakamura) to learn the traditional Japanese instrument the Koto. She sees Hanao's son running around playing hide and seek and mentions it off hand. What follows are some good horror elements and a twist to reveal what is really going on. Simple but effective.
  The Jelly Wrestler (2013) -Ending the shorts on a humorous note is always a positive at these events, and The Jelly Wrestler is just that. Bartender Eileen's (Elisa Taylor) best days may be past her but when she takes one last shot at fame with a jello wrestling contest at the bar she worked in. Years before she was the champ but an incident with a rival ended her rain. Now with manager Amy needing to be trained another shot at glory presents itself, but at what price. This film is kicks and really tells a yearn in its 15 minutes. Director Rebecca Thomson keeps the stakes high but the fun flowing from a script by Claire D'Este. They have us pulling for Eileen all the way through.
 Soulmate (2013) -Writer / Director Axelle Carolyn created a sad story of a widow who after a suicide attempt seeks recovery in the isolation of a small Welsh village in the country. An unexpected companion helps her to move past her loss and begin living again but at what cost? Taken for what you see on the screen its a ghost tale. One in which the connection between Audrey (Anna Walton) and Douglas (Tom Wisdom) is the energy put out by the thoughts of suicide, his years before resulting in his death and hers more recent where she survived. The film becomes about how his spirit strengthens her while at the same time giving him someone to interact with for the first time since his death. She also make him more real as seen by the change in makeup on the character as the film progresses. Through the characters of Theresa (Tanya Myers) and Dr. Zellaby (Nick Brimble) the property managers of the cottage we discover the history of Douglas and how he came to his haunting. There is some smart writing by Carolyn in making the expository characters be intrinsically tied to the story of the cottage. So often exposition feels like an information dump by making Theresa a player in Douglas' story it allows the exposition without the information feeling forced. Theresa organically shares the idea about like spiritual energies because her character is built in a way that she has a reason to know about it. It is brought home even further by making her part of both the turn and the twist of the story.
  The film is interesting in it is a story that can be read from different character and each will see something different. For Audrey it is a ghost story, where she actually has a relationship with him and they play out a storyline together about grief and loneliness and coming to a place where you have to choose between staying in the world of the living or seeking death. If looking at the story from the property managers they are tied to the history of the house. Theresa is trying to reconcile her guilt connected to Douglas' death and sees Audrey's validation of Douglas' existence as an opportunity she to this point has not had. Now there is a possibility that they are just getting caught up in the imaginings of Audrey's psychosis and maybe if Douglas is not real the events of the climax went differently than seen in the film. Its an interesting exercise to try to explain the outcome of the climax from the point of view that Audrey is psychotic and Douglas does not exist; that is a bit of speculation though. There is still another way to read this film and that is from the point of view of Audrey's family. They see a women who after a suicide attempt runs off to the Welsh countryside and then eventually is returned in worse condition than she left. For them she has left to finish what she started in the first scene of the film.
  The film looks good and the music is understated and fits well in the film. it's a well tied together tale with interesting juxtapositions between the characters. There was a wish that the pacing could have been a bit sharper.  It is also amusing that the dog's name is Anubis in real life, its fits so perfectly as a symbol. Still it is a fine film that tells an interesting story about grief and finding reasons to live after loss.
  The night of films were quite enjoyable and I was happy to support a group looking to advance the work of Etheria and thank them for putting such a high quality selection together. I was also glad to see Stacy Pippi Hammon supporting the groups that play the Film Night by coming in with swag. So people should check out there website and if you program film events consider Etheria for quality films. An a big shout out to All Things Horror who sponsored the event and continue to be such a vital leader for horror lovers in eastern Massachusetts.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Summer of Massacre (2012) Horror Slasher

The Summer of Massacre (2012)  When starting this film the first impression was that it was a student film, some aspiring computer effects artist experimenting with After Effects and trying different ways to layer and record the carnage that is on screen. It is really a poor film and one has to wonder if this film was done on a home computer in Joe Castro's spare time. There is no story structure in the wrap around that can be seen in the opening. As the film progresses and the wrap around is filled out and a theme comes through about serial killers who have escaped and are killing together in an LA warehouse, but the first visit is bizarre torture images police and bullets. Flashes of horrors in a semi animated layering of imagery which evokes feeling but does not really get one into a story. Then as I watched the film which is four stories one wrap around and three other stand alone it occurred that maybe this was an artistic surrealist take on the slasher anthology. An artistic collage that is designed to evoke emotion and leave the viewer to fill in the details of meaning. Where the computer effects were so equally bad and distributed through the film it makes you question that it was designed to be bad. Countered with some very effective practical effects you can see that there is some skill on the film. So to see such amateur computer graphic made it hard to believe that those cartoonish parts were anything but for some artistic purpose.  To sully out what was going on meant a second viewing with the director commentary turned on. Unfortunately that experience confirmed that there was no greater artistic merit to this film. The writers Joe Castro and the single named Schroeder and executive producer Steven J. Escobar really just wanted blood and guts. Castro learning the after Effects tool just did the best he could.
The first chapter after the opening is entitled "Rampage"and is the most puzzling of the set. A young muscular man, Chris (Tim A. Cooley) is assaulted while out jogging. Beaten and mutilated something goes wrong in his brain from the trauma which makes him get up and start killing. No explanations not plot about who or why just this beating turned him into a killing machine and we are subjected to at least a dozen kills each highlighted by some unique and poorly executed digital effects. Castro says in the commentary that he has always wanted to do a story that was just killing. Although there needs to be a reason to start he just wanted everything in the frame to be carnage. It is an interesting experience watching this film with the commentary on. The makers of this film really love what they have done. They believe the digital work to be good and laugh and congratulate Castro on it sincerely. You feel the love and enthusiasm come through as they discuss each kill and how they make it happen. It is a real counterpoint to the viewing experience of ridiculous kills and horribly unrealistic cartoon effects. It  goes to show that there is a wide gap between an the ideas and the journey of film making and the experiencing of the final project from the outside. Viewing this film it is hard to believe that there is an audience for it, and from the six IMDB reviews one could say there may not be. Of course such a small sampling should not make or break this film. It's 2.4 of 10 rating probably does not even phase the makers of the film. So you have to ask yourself, if you were part of creating something, really loved the process and the final product, how would you deal with it if it was panned when you presented it to the world? 
  The second chapter "Lump" is a complete tale about a hermaphrodite cripple Lori (Nick Principe) whose place in the family is despised by most of the members. A mother, Mrs Williams (Brinke Stevens) so tired of the constant care of the dying child that she hatches a plan to rid herself of the burden. Even though there is a new steroid treatment in effect she asks her daughter Beverley Ann (Lisa M. Garcia) to take the wheelchair bound sibling and dispose of her. She and her brother and a couple friends take Lori to a nearby park. When pushing her off a cliff  does not kill her there is a shift in the film as the steroid treatment changes the handicapped pariah into a being capable of seeking revenge. This is a very complete story probably the most coherent of the four.
Chapter three "Son of the Boogyman" is the story of Jesse (Jerry Angelo) who is telling the story of his Father the infamous murderer rapist the Boogyman (Scott Barrows) to his fiancee (Kimmarie Johnson) only to  find out during the telling that the killer is free and looking for him and his Mother (Tchia Casselle). What fallows is a superhuman or supernatural encounter with the hulking killer that can only end in death and destruction.
Chapter four "Burn" is a campfire tale come to life as firefighter lovers die together fighting a forest fire in the park the campers are holding there retreat. Sent to die by other firefighters in a hate crime that is hard to imaging the two are fused together from the heat and the curse created by their deaths has them wandering the woods looking for descendents and connected people to the crime so they can exact their revenge. Lisa (Lauren Boehm), Vinnie (Felipe Winslett), and Carmen (Justin Marchert) are the unfortunate campers who get to live out the curse.
The wrap around "The Warehouse" we cut too throughout the film as interviews with serial killers from prison, talking about the wonders of the kill and how much they love it. By coming back to this, filling in the pieces of who they are it changes the tone of the film. They, Richard Khan (Joe Manetti), George Vic (Bahram Khosraviani) and Dax (Dan Lovell) are the carnage creators in the beginning of the film and their outcome finishes the movie. Its a shame because their story is the least interesting and throws a pall over what are some inventive anthology entries. They are the least interesting but are the most built up. Who really cares what a serial killer is thinking or that they are destructing for the sake of destruction. Its boring and predicable as is the ending to their story with the obligatory naked female and no matter how beautiful her body it can not save this kind of story.
 In the end I would say that the story Lump is the best of the set and although it speaks to the nature of bullying and how the lesser of humankind are often the most harmed. Still even though some of the stories are decent ideas the execution of the digital effects takes the viewer out every single time. Its a shame because there is so much of those effects you really do not go a minute or two without them interrupting the flow of the film. So there is no recommendation for this film but maybe I will look at another Joe Castro experience, one before he discovered the magic of after effects.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Assault of the Sasquatch (2009) Horror Bigfoot

Assault of the Sasquatch (2009) - When a heartless, callous bear poacher captures a Sasquatch with plans to sell it to a big game collector he is sidetracked by two things; Getting arrested for poaching and the beasts desire to get revenge on him. Terry Drake, played with piss and vinegar by Kevin Shea, can't believe his luck when poaching in the state park for bear, he tranquilizes a real life Bigfoot. Hopes of a big score are interrupted by game officers Krystle Morin (Christina Santiago) and Ryan Walker (Greg Nutcher). Arrested and his truck containing the sleeping creature confiscated all is brought to the run down police station in a even more run down part of the city. When the creature wakes and starts hunting for Drake no one in the police station or the city is safe.
   This low budget effort from the production company Synthetic Cinema International of Hartford CT. A small company that looks to be expanding beyond the horror markets from the look of their website. Written by John Doolan whose other films take a bit of a beating in the imdb ratings attempts to write a complete compelling story of a captured Sasquatch with a score to settle. This film, his second credit as writer fills in the characters and plot giving back story and depth but with some happenstance that is hard to believe. Still working and producing is what it is all about and although  a bit clunky the script gives the Director Andrew Gernhard something to start with. Both appear to be part of the Synthetic group and although the film we are discussing is not the best it is part of a growth process for the company.
  The cast of characters are attempted to be drawn with depth but some of the interconnected back stories are too clunky and amazing coincidences. Ryan who left the police force ten years earlier after he had a personal encounter with crime. His wife is killed in a robbery by one of the thugs, Talan Colletti (Alex Exum) but Ryan arrives in time to see Talans's brother holding the knife and shoots him dead. Ryan's daughter Jessica witnesses the events and both she and her father are damaged by the trauma. Giving up his life as a cop Ryan spend the next ten years hiding as a park ranger not wanting to ever expose his daughter to the horrors of police work again. Now this back story is all good as it is but unfortunately the fantastic coincidence of Talan being arrested the same night that Drake is makes for an unlikely opportunity for Ryan and talon to finish some business ten years in the making. For Talan its the opportunity to get revenge on the killer of his brother and for  Ryan a chance to get past the trauma that has racked his life for a decade also get some revenge.
  The film played more as a horror action film than straight up horror also takes a bit from its effectiveness. The creature suit filled by Jason Crisoulo is not very impressive and by showing it too much lessened the scary factor considerable. Often times it just seemed like a man in a guerrilla suit. It could have been a much more effective if the director had used less full shots of the creature, more shadow and tense build ups. When he did it was very effective but when the monster is not great looking the full shots did not work as well. In general it is probably a good idea, that when the Monster in a monster movie is not a kick ass example that the film maker should probably use less light and leave it to the audiences imagination to fill in the blanks.
  In some ways it seemed that the film was not sure what it wanted to be. Set up in some ways as a horror film in its lighting and some of the music it had the gore effects and a few scares. It was also though an action film, an "Assault on Precinct 13" with a Bigfoot. The characters are put in the position of having to fight off the creature and survive the night.  Then there was a comedy aspect particularly with the characters of Don (Shawn C. Phillips) and George (Hank Torrance) two Bigfoot hunters who happen upon the creature and capture some video. So the whole film seemed to lack a solid direction. Normally the character stories would drive the film forward but since the main one of Ryan and Talan has absolutely nothing to do with the Sasquatch somehow it is not that driving force.
So left with the Monster looking for Drake with a desire to kill him we have a film without a great main plot.
  The viewing experience of this film is that it lacks congruency. Whether the themes are not put together well enough or the transitions between scenes are too harsh, there is something not quite letting the film flow well. A discussion could be had about whether the dialog flows or are the actors failing. It is hard to say with this film, some of the acting is believable but there are many characters that are just caricatures, the silly Bigfoot hunters Don and Jameson are clowns, the salty poacher Drake, and the bad girl reformed by the cop Amy Steel (Andrea Sáenz) as well as the bad to the bone antagonist Talan. They serve their purposes but none are totally filled out and each has scenes that are not realistic. Amy has a great scene well played with a spark in her eye where she faces down Sasquatch with a riot shield and a switch blade. Although Amy through acting of Sáenz, displays a strong embrace of the scene it makes her more a super hero thus belittling her later emotional scene with the cop who adopted her.  It is a shame because some of these smaller characters seem to be the better actors. Although this writer is no expert these characters were easier to connect to than the main ones. It is still hard to say exactly why the connection is not there but it is not.
Watched in two parts, the first with my 22 year old daughter, she asked me to turn it off saying it was "terrible". Raised in a generation of glossy big budget features she seldom can get into low budget films. A different experience for this writer who grew up in the VHS revolution where DIY horror was readily available and appreciated. This movie does not get a recommendation from this blog. Not horror enough, not big budget enough to be a true action film, and not totally embracing the humor it payed at. Still  Soreport Movies does like to view these low budget films and although not recommended for you we do not mind this fair.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Abominable (2006) Horror Bigfoot

Abominable (2006) - Looking at the IMDB its hard to believe that this wonderful little film is only rated 5.1 stars of 10. This film although not perfect but a great example of how to do a small budget BBB (Blood, Breasts and Beasts, as Joe Bob Briggs says) film. One part Rear Window, one part monster movie it is a great little adventure with cool creature and a couple really great death scenes.  It is a story of Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy) broken both physically and emotionally by a climbing accident. Forced by a unhelpful therapist back to the scene of the trauma to reconcile his feelings. Traveling with a drunkard male nurse, Otis (Christien Tinsley) Preston confined to a wheel chair is pretty sure it is a bad idea to return to the place his wife died. Otis not supportive or even nice is more of a hindrance to recovery than a help. When an outside unexpected danger arrives he finds the courage to overcome his limitations and survive. Writer/director Ryan Schifrin does a good job creating a claustrophobic and scary film where the hero fights the powerless feelings, to fight back and ultimately reconcile his past as well as his physical limitations to survive.
  The setup as in Rear Window is a handicapped man sees danger from his window and has to figure out a way to intervene. Preston soon after arriving is left alone and while checking out the five newly arrived women next door spies what seems like a creature in the woods. Too far away to easily interact with the bachelorette party Preston find creative ways to get their attention. Too many stairs to get down to them he is stuck watching from afar while the danger closes in. The women Amanda (Haley Joel), C.J.(Karin Anna Cheung), Michelle (Natalie Compagno), Karen (Ashley Hartman) and Tracy (Tiffany Shepis) are soon to be the focus of what is described as larger than a Bigfoot, more like a abominable snowman but more fierce. Certainly looking like a Bigfoot the man in the suit, Michael Deak is a towering six foot six with animatronic head was well over seven feet. Preston is somewhat but not completely helpless saving them.
Early in the film Karen while outside trying to make a phone call is taken by the beast and Preston tries to find a way to tell the police in a way they will believe. Preston trapped in his chair sees through his binoculars the events and threat next door and must figure out a way to intervene. Otis a selfish and unhelpful man acts as a obstacle to Preston adding more conflict and issues to deal with.

 Film maker Schifrin recognized the limitations of the rear window approach and made the decision to expand from the one site to include a couple other scenes that add depth to the film. First is farmer Hoss (Rex Linn) and his wife Ethel (Dee Wallace) having a frightening experience with the creature when it kills an animal on their farm. A good opening to the film that could have been a body count enhancer but surprisingly it isn't. Later there is talking to store owner Clerk (Jeffrey Combs) who adds context to the accident Preston and his wife experienced. The purposefully quirky performance adds one of those small town characters needed round out the location.  The final a wonderfully scary attack scene where Clerk, Hoss and hunter friend Zeigler (Lance Henriksen) is really fun and we get not one but two people dragged off into darkness. Some other scenes at the local police station with Sheriff  Halderman (Paul Gleason) and Deputy McBride (Phil Morris) round  out a fine crew of character actors in this film.  Hiring these great horror icons and solid small part actors makes the film have a gravitas that it would otherwise be lacking.
  The music is excellent by renowned Lalo Schifrin it is great from beginning to end. A couple of excellent kills make this film worth the watching all by themselves. The first an amazing bathroom scene as seen from Preston's POV is wonderful and surprising. The second in the climax of the film is a gruesome practical effect, amazing in its bloody sloppiness. There are some things though that are draw backs stopping this film from hitting real highs and instead just making it a solid horror film. The sound is sometimes a bit off with dialog that seems unattached to the person saying it. It could be this is a dvd issue. It could be that it was added later but either way it was at time distracting. Some work arounds that allow Preston to be less passive are silly like the mobile phone white pages he uses on the internet to get Karen's phone number was lame as well as the gimmick of having the internet on the satellite while the phones are hard wired. Somehow too the wireless service is shitty, a way to get Karen off away from the house and in sights of the monster.
Odds and Ends
 -  Christien Tinsley who plays Otis is an Academy Award Nominated makeup artist earning that nomination for his work on The Passion of the Christ (2004).
  - Director Ryan Schifrin was thrilled with the opportunity to have two crane shots in the film, one at the beginining and one at the end. He felt it was important that such a small budget film get a bit of scope to make it seem larger.
  - Thinking of Rear Window Schifrin has a Hitchcock moment in the film appearing as the outside gas station attendant for a couple seconds.
  - Lead Matt McCoy is shown in photos on the mantle with his real life wife Mary McCoy.
  Overall this film is recommended by this blog, even with its flaws it is a decent well plotted monster movie. Not glossy and expensive the filmmaker makes due with what he has. The addition of the supporting cast brings it from a more pedestrian to a fun and fulfilling experience. The crazy ending shouts for a part two that should pick up right where the first ends. So if you are in the mood for a smaller budget well done Bigfoot film try this one out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sleepaway Camp (1983) Horror Slasher

Sleepaway Camp (1983) -There are a lot of things to like about this film, the horror geek loved film is a wonderful example of eighties slasher horror. Probably loved more now than when released Sleepaway Camp with it's shocking twist ending is something out of a time with practical effects, implied violence and inappropriate characterizations it stands up well as an example of how sanitized and yet how violence accepting films have become today. Striking in its simplicity the film is also a twisted little flick of  the effects of abuse on the psyche.
 Opening with scenes of Camp Arawak abandoned and closed, the autumn leaves changing the camera moves around the buildings while the audio echos of the events of the past are heard with the fine score by Edward Bilous building in and then winding down as we transition to the past. When we see the camp alive with campers in summer as writer /director Robert Hiltzik gives us the back story of the tragedy that forced Angela (Felissa Rose) to live with her aunt for the next eight years. Sad but necessary with just enough revealed to bring us into the present of the film timeline.
  Aunt Martha played with an insane vigor by Desiree Gould is sending Angela to camp for the first time. He son Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) will be there to look out for her, a task he will take seriously. A bit off kilter the Martha may not be cruel but more oblivious to the trauma suffered by Angela. This is just another abuse sending her to the Camp where her Father and sibling were killed. The presentation of these scenes as almost an unreal dream like set dark all around the characters, the energy and slightly stilted and odd delivery of lines by Martha revealing her inability to empathize or be aware of the feeling of others. She is more looking for approval that will never come.
  Camp Arawak is presented with its dark side in view with pushy or apathetic counselors, pedophile staff and unstable management allows the viewer to see the brochures of play and bonding will be hard to achieve in this place. Kids arrive bonding and seeing where the relationships they had the summer before now stand a year later. We see the settling in and the beginnings of the pecking order kids will create. In a healthy environment this is where the counselors step up to smooth the distances between campers but this is presented as a dysfunctional setting and some counselor seem to just aggravate the situations.
  Angela a quiet girl who has to deal with her traumatic past is withdrawn and not wanting to participate in most activities. Older meaner kids use this as an opportunity to make fun and be mean to her. Ricky is there to keep an eye on her but her silent stare agitates the  other girls as much as her failure to participate in camp activities. In particular Judy (Karen Fields), Ricky's ex from last summer and counselor Meg (Katherine Kamhi) seem to have it out for the girl, being cruel in there harsh manner with Angela. I loved how Angela with her silence completely makes the other girls flip out. Those big doe eyes just staring directly back at the frustrated girls as they try to provoke a response in her. This is a very smart move by Hiltzik is how power is exercised in a relationship.
  Even when trying to help the camp fails in its duties, counselors bring Angela into the kitchen to see if they can find her food she will like. Concerned that she is not eating they have the right idea. Unfortunately the leave her in a back room with the perverted cook Artie (). A man who commented while watching the kids arrive "Look at all that fresh young chicken. Where I come from we call them baldies, makes your mouth water doesn't it." So leaving Angela with him spurs the peddie to  to say to Angela while undoing his belt, "You sure are a sweet little cupcake ain't ya. ... I got you gonna like real good." This is a pretty messed up setting and it makes sense that the bad guys start dying in this movie. This is not your typical character in a horror movie.
I think it is pretty obvious who the killer is, but also it is a story of how Angela begins to open up and the dangers of that opening up. Things escalate more and more both the personal risk she is in but the deaths around her. The film pulls punches around the kills not too graphic but instead the editing cutting to show the effects of the kills with some good practical effects. Still there are things in this film  you will not see in many films. Like a man beating the shit out of a kid because he thinks the kid is the killer. When things start heating up and the killer is shown the giant reveal this film is known for is so wonderfully done it is worth all the time spent getting to it. This viewer still finds the final scenes exciting and just excellently revealed. So enjoyable that of course this movie gets a recommendation. If you have not seen this flick then you are in for a great surprise and there will be no spoilers here even after 30 years. So don't go read anything just enjoy the ride. If you have seen it you know and should just go back and revisit this wonderful slasher film.

Rosewater (2014) Drama

Rosewater (2014) This is a bit of a quick hit of my impressions of the film after just finishing the film. The synopsis below was found on the interwebs and is not mine. "In June 2009, BBC journalist Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen, returned to his native country to interview Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the prime challenger to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When Moussavi's supporters protested Ahmadinejad's declaration of victory, Bahari smuggled footage of the riots to the BBC. He was soon arrested by the Revolutionary Guard and -- led by a man known only as "Rosewater" -- was interrogated and tortured for 118 days."
  Outside factors contributed to my being a bit more critical at the start of the film. The fact that is was a Friday night and I hate going out on Friday nights. The crowds and the traffic always make me just a bit too grumpy to enjoy myself. Then on the way I learn that we are driving back into the town I just drove home from in rush hour traffic, this was mitigated by my wife doing the driving. Still I was hoping to stay close to home and not to be driving 40 minutes into Waltham. Next the dinner we were going to have at a favorite Indian restaurant on Moody street was stopped by the fact the place has closed not for the night but for good, so instead we went to the tapas restaurant Solea. Not a favorite place although it turned out to be uncrowded and the food tasty. The switch to Waltham also meant that instead of seeing a film on a large theater screen we would be in the broom closet theaters of the Embassy. What a waste of money to pay full price for a movie ticket and not have the appropriate scope.  So really what ending up sucking is the size of the screen so why should I be so upset? All these things make me unhappy while I am getting ready to see a true life tail of incarceration and torture. Nice life here in the US isn't it we may just be a bit privileged in this world.
 This kind of film, real life , based on a true story, this shitty thing happened to someone, fucking politically motivated propaganda geared to leave the audience uplifted, and too fucking current. I am already one angry motherfucker about the state of the United States and the world we are all mostly powerlessness in. I don't find it entertaining to share in the captivity and torture of anyone and definitely when it just happened five years ago. I am not a person who wants to be entertained by reality, fuck reality I see movies to escape that. Now I am not saying it is not an important story that people should hear, what I am saying is that this is not a good night out with my wife because this shit makes me angry.  Oh is it because I didn't get to pick the movie? Is that part of the problem? Here I am in a country where we jail more people per capita than any other country in the world watching a film about a country unjustly jailing a man and I am upset because I didn't choose the movie?  I am a selfish man with flawed priorities.
  That all aside the film tells a complete story of a reporter not really paying attention to how the innocent can be swept up in events they are covering. Gael Garcia Bernal is very good in his role as the Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari bringing to the role the panic and fear of the unknown that Bahari must have had. Equally well acted was Kim Bodnia as Rosewater (Named for the scent he wore), the "specialist" assigned to get confession from the reporter.  He plays a frustrated bureaucrat thug who wishes to be doing something else but is constantly under pressure from his boss to get results that fit the administration's narrative. (Wow in writing that last sentence I realize I could have been writing about the Bush administration.) Sweeping up everyone in a wide net. Torturing and threatening and stealing hope from their captives until they say the things that fit their narrative. 
  The events in the film center around the 2009 Iranian elections where the opposition was first convinced that the election was fixed and second the demonstrations from the opposition was violently put down by the state. Bahari caught up in the crackdown is at first confused and isolated being accused at being a spy for the west. As the pressure is upped on him we share his personal story of trying to find the strength to resist but ultimately confessing to whatever his torturers wanted him to. When the results of that confession do not earn him freedom we see the turn of the film where learns to use his internal fortitude and imagination ease the abuse. When he learns that there are people including the United States government and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton working hard to get him freed his spirit is renewed. The message of hope is evident in the knowledge that someone is working on your behalf.
  Screenplay written by (from a book on the events) and directed by Jon Stewart the film has a political tilt mixed in with the personal story. Iran as the harsh and brutal dictatorship who is struggling to hold power through brutal force and religious zealotry. The one government official we get to know Rosewater is a frustrated operative with little hope of advancement and belittled and bullied by his boss. Later in the film he is made out to be a buffoon unable to finish the job he was asked to do, more interested in the sexualized stories of the west that Bahari is sharing than doing his job. Bernal in the role plays the empowered Bahari for what turned out to be laughs in the audience of gray hairs in the theater with us which at least for me took away from the seriousness of all the action the Iranians had show up to that point. Iran is shown as a backwards society with a government of cruel operatives more repressed than dedicated to their way of life. This approach ignores the threats to the Iranian government at the time. At the same time as the unrest at the election in 2009 there were also reports of the CIA sowing unrest in southern villages in the country. It was also the time were the hikers captured in mountains along the Iraq border. The US illegal invasion of Iraq had been on going for years putting a long time threat right on their borders. It does make a point to share the idea that in the 50's the Shah of Iran was inserted into power after a CIA sponsored coup, but fails to mention any of the more recent interventions including multiple decades of sanctions and threats. This one sided approach is somewhat appropriate for the story being told but continues the ignoring of  recent American imperialistic foreign policy. Since the film is told from the western point of view this makes sense for the film. Criticism of other governments like I did here of my own could very possibly get you jailed, again highlighting the privileged life we lead in the west.
  Overall the film is a decently told story of a terrifying ordeal for this reporter. It reminds us that not all countries are as free as Europe and that normal citizens must be careful about countries that feel threatened by terrorists. those countries become desperate to protect themselves in the name of their people and act against many in trying to find the few threats. This film is also a cautionary tales that in security based countries freedom is precarious when you are in the media. These places do not always act in a measured rational way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

V/H/S : Viral (2014) Horror Anthology

V/H/S : Viral (2014) - Building on two somewhat successful films and expanding the nontraditional filming techniques that have become so popular in recent years, V/H/S : Viral may be a bit of a step back from its earlier entries by leaving behind the premise of the VHS tape. The first two films in the series were all about these VHS tapes and the collectors of them. Through that premise stories were about the seekers of the tapes as well as the stories the tapes told. Neither great films but certainly passable entertainment. In this new film it is all about POV, Go Pro and people recording each other not about found tapes. Attempting to make a statement about the desire of people to have the drivel they are recording go viral the wrap around story takes the title seriously. Director Marcel Sarmiento who directed Deadgirl (2008) which was not one of my favorites that year does an reasonable job trying to capture the idea. The breaks in the the recording, bars and static etc. were probably intended to give the VHS effect like the shots were found and reconstructed but it never is presented that way. Instead the effect just makes the viewing experience worse and not adding anything to the stories. Still Sarmiento's segment "Vicious Circles" is the most true to the concept telling the story of a young man Kev (Patrick Lawrie) who records everything. In fact he is on a quest of sorts wanting the popularity that comes with having something you record becoming a sensation. Set in Los Angeles it is about a police chase of a strange Ice Cream truck that passes by his house. Not wanting to miss an opportunity he runs out to see it and to record the passing. Residents see the chase as an event and there are groups of  "spectators" filming on their phones at every overpass on the chase route. The messaging about the spectacle and societies ability to record everything is front and center.
  A secondary video  connected to this hits the web and has a strange effect on those who view it. Suddenly the spectacle is bringing watchers into the web of the chase. We see the symptom as a bloody nose and a dazed look but the implication that the recording and viewing of those recordings, effects the viewer deepens the message of the piece.  Kev is one of those filming residents and when his girlfriend Iris (Emilia Zoryan) is swept up in the chase he is on a mission to rescue her. Some cool gore effects as well as some silly one add and detract to the short about societies craze with recording. It speaks to the idea of the spectacle and societies need for a selfie around them.Not completely coherent with imagery that seems out of place for the idea of VHS, sure the motions are made to show the viewer tracking displays and the such but the devices used are now far smaller and more effective that it seemed the need to connect to the original title V/H/S was a yoke around the films neck.
  The second story, "Dante The Great" is about a nobody magician wanna be Dante (Justin Welborn) who comes into possession of a cape that allows him to do real magic. Suddenly he is thrust from obscurity into the hottest show on the planet. The problem of course is the price one has to pay for magic and in this case the appetite of the magic cape is for life. Shot is a strange mix of faux-documentary with found footage, police interview, and swat team helmet cam footage as well as hand held video it is a real confusion of styles. Certainly an interesting story but like with many of these films the gimmick of how they came to be get in the way of giving viewers a well shot coherent looking piece of art. Instead we get this paint splattered mess that has a decent theme but shitty execution. We see the story almost like a made for TV documentary if they had access to every possible camera in Dante's life. Scarlett (Emmy Argo) his magicians assistant is the primary teller of the story, interviewed by police after the fact and then cut in of footage Dante filmed himself used to visually show what she is telling. We get a complete story of Dante getting the cape, to figuring out it has magic, then the frustration of it not working. When he discovers it must be fed, people, we see his need for fame out weigh his morals. Well to be honest he was never shown as anything but a loser hoping for fame so the depths of his fall are muted.
  Someone who is going to do bad things should never obsessively film them but Dante seems to ignore this and it is his downfall. The tapes he collect and hide in a secret compartment are the very evidence and footage the police and the film need. Showing the man as he sets the cape on people so it can eat and his fame can continue to grow. The not completely surprising climax where Scarlett confronts Dante a decent finish to the story. Writer/Director Gregg Bishop should get credit for writing a decent story. Known for directing the entertaining, if a bit cliche Dance of the Dead (2008) he is showing his ability more as a writer in this instead of a director. That last comment might not be too fair. I think the biggest problem for most of the stories here is the artificial formatting of alternate source footage. If they had just made a traditionally filmed movie of these stories it would probably be a better anthology than it is in this format.
  The third story written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo called Parallel Monsters was my favorite and probably because it included the science fiction genre. Short comparatively it is a story about a man who has built a doorway to another universe to find a version of himself staring back having done the exact same thing. Each with a handheld video recorder the film cuts between the two men when they switch places for fifteen minutes. The story gets dark very quickly and the viewer discovers with the lead characters Alfonso (Gustavo Salmerón) that each world is quite different from the one they are from. Sure each has a wife named Marta (Marian Álvarez) but we quickly learn the sexual appetites of one universe are quite different from the other. The consequences of crossing over are far harsher than the characters could have expected. Some cool effects that reminded me of "The World End", a shocking display of male sexual anatomy and a nasty ending made this a surprising watch.  Vigalondo who made the wonderful Time Crimes (2007) a time traveling mystery that should have made him and even bigger name than he is. This writer is looking forward to his upcoming technological thriller Open Windows (2014) starring Frodo Baggins um, I mean Elijah Woods.
  The final story Bonestorm is about a group of Skateboard riding twenty-somethings who are trying to film enough material to finish their skating video. Deciding the current location is not good enough the take a trip to Tijuana Mexico to find a rumored "good" place to finish the video. When they arrive in the drainage ditch they fail to notice the large pentagram marking a ceremonial site. Skating is going well until one kid falls and cuts himself. The blood on this sacred ground calls a pack of skeletal acolytes out of thin air. Then it is a fight for survival but unfortunately for the young men the more blood they spill the more skeletons appear. Shot with a lot of Go Pro cameras there is a sense of chaos in the story. Even though at the end we get this we also get a variety of different sources none being the more traditional form of filming but at the same time stretching the believability of alternative source filming. Still the effects seem a bit lower budget are well hidden in the jarring cuts between cameras. A drawback to this story is that the young people are unlikable. This could be my age showing but boy these are listless unfocus people. The actors sell it though so I suppose there is a positive there. Written and directed by Aaron Moorhead noted for his recent film Resolution (2012) manages the story well enough.
  Overall I think that I was not particularly impressed by this set of stories but appreciate that anthologies are hot again. Like in literature the short story format can be very effective when done well. Although I did not connect with all the stories in this set it is pretty competently done. More the drawback is that I'm tired of this alternative source gimmick. Just make the same story traditionally without all the shaky cam and pretend interruptions to the film. The premise is a stretch to begin with but then the filmmakers add the excellent editing and fake errors to it just to fit the gimmick is annoying. If the stories are good enough to be told just make the film look and sound good. This film is very borderline for a recommendation. It gets it but really you could go either way on that decision. Since I like the directors involved I give it a luke warm recommendation.
 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dead of Night (1945) Horror Anthology

Dead of Night (1945) - Long before V/H/S there was Trilogy of Terror and long before that was this collection Dead of Night. It is a wonderfully paced, supernatural thriller perfect family entertainment that holds up after more than 60 years. Like many anthologies of today its structure is that of a wrap around story that gives the characters in it the opportunity to share their own scary tales. In this case the story of a group of people brought together for an evening party, one of whom is Mr. Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) who is having a fierce case of deja vu.  He arrives at the party hosted by Eliot Foley (Roland Culver) Craig has the horrible realization that the events of the evening are the same as his repetitive nightmare that has been plaguing him. When he shares this with the others in the room it is the basis for not only a lively conversation about proof versus belief, but also an instigating event for others to share their stories. When one of the party guests says "We are nothing but characters in Mr Craig's dream." and that is quite apt and as the wrap around story plays out it more correct than known at the time.
  The stories are a mix of ghost and strange happenings all culminating with the Craig story to finish the film out. First up is Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird) a race car driver who tells the story of two near death experiences as well as how he met his wife Joyce (Judy Kelly). After an accident on the racetrack she is the nurse for his recovery, with a high fever and hallucinations his condition is difficult for the doctors to explain. One night after Joyce leaves for the night Hugh opens the window to find it is daylight. A horse drawn hearse sits outside and the driver says to him there is only room for one more. Suddenly the spell broken Hugh sees it is night again.This sticks with the man as he recovers, falls in love with Joyce and attempts to get on with his new life with her. Psychiatry does some good in helping him deal with that strange fever dream but one day while traveling on public transit, he finds the dream revisiting him. The bus driver seems to be the same man as the hearse driver, Hugh panic and avoids the bus altogether only to see it crash off a bridge moments later.
  A second story by Sally O'Hara (Sally Ann Howes) who attends a Christmas party and while playing hide and seek finds herself comforting the ghost of a small boy. Some of this story is a bit annoying but that could just be the child actors. I did find that the version of hide and seek was interesting. In the game one person hides and everyone else counts, when someone finds the hider they stay with them quietly and so on until the last seeker finds the group.
 Joan Cortland (Googie Withers) tells a tale of buying her fiance a mirror only for it to nearly break up their engagement.  Her fiance Peter starts seeing another room in the reflection in the mirror, It takes hold of him eventually to be revealed that the spirit in the mirror has possessed Peter. This section was a bit long and drawn out but still it was an interesting little story.
  Mr Foley tells a story of George and Larry, golfing buddies competing for the love of a woman. When they decide to play a round for her George wins and Larry depressed by his loss commits suicide in the lake at the golf course. The unexpected hi-jinx that ensues when Larry returns as a ghost to haunt his former friend is amusing. Knowing that George cheated in the match, knowledge obtained in the after life Larry decides on the haunt but even after forgiving his friend he somehow forgets how to disappear. Amusing with a surprising ending it is a strange interlude in the film.
  The final story about a ventriloquist who is controlled by his dummy is a second slightly long and drawn out story but still interesting enough for what it was. A tortured soul on the verge of a breakdown it is a sad tale of split personality.
All surrounded by the story of Mr Craig the film is a fine example of the anthology. I don't know if there are many examples of this format prior to 1945 but this one certainly holds up. Watched on VHS and I am pretty sure this is not released on DVD although there are probably some privately ripped versions out there. This film definitely gets a recommendation with the knowledge that this is G rated fun and you should not expect to be frightened hardly at all.
 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Jack-O (1995) Horror Curse

Jack-O (1995) - Hallowe'en is upon us and so it's time to view a film with the holiday in mind. The setting of a small Florida neighborhood on Hallowe'en night is not necessarily the creepiest of settings but it will do for this story of a cursed family and a pumpkin headed demon seeking them out. Steve Latshaw made this unique attempt of a film with some skill but also some obvious money issues. Some unprofessional actors including I think his son as the lead child as well as a script that leaves even the professionals sounding flat; reducing this film from what could have been an entertaining independent horror film into a clunky attempt. Still somehow he managed to get some great horror actors like John Carradine, Linnea Quigley and Brinke Stevens to appear in the film. It is true the nature of Carradine and Stevens is unclear to me. Where they are featured in a film within the film it could be borrowed footage?Of course I over rate these actors because I do love me some low budget films and they are staples in those films. Quigley though playing the protective babysitter can't save this film. As stated above this film is not hapless. Latshaw creates a clear well defined mythology for the curse and even though I am pretty sure some of the logic of is it flawed; this writer is not willing to watch a second time to find the flaws. Still it was impressive that some of the actors in the film were bigger horror name people.Because the film is less than top quality it is even more impressive.
  The story goes as we see through some flashbacks that there was a wizard in the small town who was found out and killed. He cursed the town and in particularly the Kelly family. A monster called Jack-O terrorized the town in the early 1900s. Arthur Kelly managed to trap the beast in a shallow grave with a magical cross through the creature's heart. Then there is some stuff about the sixth son of Arthur could do the demon in for good and stop the curse but that seemed tacked on later in the film. So the Monster trapped under the ground for six generations is accidentally freed by a few partying teens and the killing starts anew. The Kelly family, the Dad, David (Gary Doles) a Halloween crazed fellow with a corny haunted garage knows the legend. As does his wife, Linda (Maddisen K. Krown) and son, Sean (Ryan Latshaw) In fact the whole town has the mythology down. It is part of what makes the film a bit interesting. Like the chant we hear in A nightmare on Elm St. this film does a nice job making the legend believable. It gave the film probably more potential than it may deserve. Everyone can recite the sayings around the pumpkin man and do somewhat regularly.
  The Monster a larger pumpkin headed fellow with a scythe as a killing tool is certainly menacing enough to fit the myth. Add to this the character of Vivian (Catherine Walsh) a descendant of the wizard who has come around to help end the curse. It all plays out as expected, derivative of other horror films and in the end just a routine film with low production values.
  The plot of the film after the killer is raised from the dead is a hunt and slash variety. Jack-O is drawn to young Sean Kelly the sixth generation Kelly. On the way he slices and dices his way through town folk with the intent to kill the kid that can extinguish the curse. A boy of about 10, Sean is going out trick or treating with his babysitter Carolyn (Linnea Quigley). As the killer moves through the town looking for Sean he is out walking, trick or treating. Eventually the family and Vivian realized the truth about the curse being alive and well and go out hunting for the kid also. There is not a lot more than that, run, hide, almost die, repeat. The kills are not very impressive with practical effects and stretegic cutting so not to show too much happening but more the effects of the violence. You see the scythe swing, then cut to it in the gut of the victim, then the face close upwith a blood spit. This is really where the low budget of the film shows itself. Latshaw knows how to shoot these scenes but the nature of the lower budget just does not make it the most satisfying scenes.What it does have is what seems a required Quigley shower scene and also a flash of breasts by the actress player her sister Rachel Carter. This writer would be the last person to say that these scenes add anything to the film.
  When we finally get to the the climax and we have the slowest burying alive scene in the history of film, it is an underwhelming and quick finish. Overall this film is not really up to par and can not get a recommendation from this blog. Too many flaws and lacking the biting satire or depth that could get a low budget film a recommendation. It really does not even have any humor except the unintended kind. So you can probably skip this film unless you are punishing yourself for something.