Translate This Page!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Conjuring (2013) Horror Ghosts

The Conjuring (2013) - Years ago I had a career as a mental health counselor working with emotionally disturbed teenagers. It was challenging but also very fulfilling work. In the performance of my job I planned and executed many adventures, hiking, backpacking, river rafting and camping. During one camp trip in Bethlehem NH where my family has a camping trailer I created a story about the character Carrie from the Stephen King book of the same name. I had been wandering around in the small town's main street cemetery and had noticed a gravestone from the 1800s with the name "Carrie" on it and decided to build a story around it to give the kids a proper ghost story. So the first night at camp when we are all sitting around the fire I weave the tale of the real Carrie. Stephen King as a young man would visit family in Bethlehem and he was always interested in the small old graveyard on the rte 302. Next to a public golf course it always seemed so out of place to him. Every time they would drive down that street his eyes would be drawn to the cast iron fence with the old gray stones marking the final resting place of the former residence of the town. One morning when the sun had yet to heat up enough to dispel the mist that clung to the valley he and his uncle were heading in town to get the paper and coffee. As they past the cemetery King was sure he saw someone dressed in a gray dress standing in by a gravestone in the back part of the little plot. He strained his eyes trying to see through the mist but it was only a hint of  a shape. When they stopped at the store young King left his uncle to his chatting neighbors and walked back up the street towards the cemetery. The mist was thick and he could only see clearly about fifteen feet in front of him, but he thought he saw the image of a woman ahead walking towards the same location he was making for. He picked up his pace trying to make up some distance to confirm his belief but try as he might he never seemed to make up the space between him and the spectral form.
 Suddenly he realized he was at the gate of the old burial ground and looking in through the haze he could see a figure cloaked in mist at the back right corner of the plot. Shouting hello got no response and at this point he was wondering if he was just imagining the figure. At the age of 17 he steeled his courage and entered the grave yard making a line for the figure. No one was there. He was standing at a grave and started to bend to read its inscription when it fell forward toward him as if some invisible force had pushed it from behind. Heart racing and fearing someone would accuse him of vandalism he lifted the stone back into place and saw on it a name, Carrie. A sudden tingle up his spine like electricity was enough to get him moving out of that burial ground and back to his uncle. He always remembered that incident as one of the dark experiences that he would later use in his writing. Years later he would research that grave to learn of the mysterious death of young Carrie who lived just on the outskirts of  Bethlehem. He would learn of the strange stories about her and how the locals thought she might be a witch. They say there is a being that still walks through that cemetery and is looking to latch onto a living soul. To fill that soul with darkness until it is devoured, King is filled with dark thoughts and ideas and his writing and publishing them keep him from loosing his mind. It is his curse from visiting that stone tablet on that misty morning, the locals weary of the curse had a fountain built on the main street and then had priest of every religion bless it so that a person who thinks they have been effected by the curse can go to the fountain and splash the blessed water on themselves to cleanse the negative effects of a visit to that graveyard.
  I scared the kids well enough and then of course I took them not only to the little graveyard the next day. Too the Carrie gravestone that is actually there, but to the memorial fountain also so they can clean off the scare.Now lets suppose those kids tell that story to their nieces and nephews, and then those kids share it with their friends. One of those friends write a book about it, treating it as a true story to be investigated. Then an urban legend is formed and the locals have to start answering questions from visitors who read the book.  It is an amazing wonder that humans have the ability to create and believe in things outside the realm of evidence. It has created an incredibly full world of Gods and Demons and angels and ghosts. Literature and film and legends and myths are all pert of that ability to abstractly think and create fiction. So is the basis of this film, The Conjuring It is the story of a legendary haunting investigated by a couple true life paranormal investigators in the early 1970s. There is also though a story behind the farm this family moved into and there is no shortage of people making money from the books written about the haunting.
  The basis for the film is the story of the Perron family, and what has become the Harrisville haunting. Buying an old estate with a storied past the family reported many classic haunting incidents. You can read all about it on the internet. Then the Warrens got involved, in the late 1960s; they were paranormal investigators, husband and wife Ed and Lorraine Warren. Grifters, uh I mean ghost hunters and demonologists who made a living investigating believed haunting and writing and selling books about the cases they investigated for the family. This is where I have to really make an effort to let my disbelief go. Being a believer in realty and not the supernatural when I see the fantasy of the make believe being exploited for money in real life I get a bit pissed off. The Warrens in real life, exploited the people that they supposedly helped for material for books and the rights to make movies. They made money off the fantasies of others while those distressed people believed there really was a haunting. I acknowledge that this is my hangup about what I see as taking advantage of people so for this film I have to let that go. It will in no way change the fact that this is a well made horror film with some really good scares in it. It in this case as with the case also investigated by the Warrens, that became the Amittyville Horror investigation and movie, the family members involved also benefited financially through books sales about their haunting. The consumers of these books end up getting what they want entertainment and some reinforcement of their belief in the supernatural. My nonbeliever mind needs to let go of its notion that this is exploitative.
  The film written by veteran writing team Chad and Carey Hayes and directed by James Wan is a really well put together film with solid acting and some wonderfully chilling moments. Wan an up and comer off his work in the Saw franchise and the two Insidious films does a very competent job at the helm. His use of reflection and jump scare, low angle shots, flashes of horror imagery and shadow are excellent in creating a mood that infiltrates this horror film.
  The film starts out in a fantasy world where haunting is real and demons attach to and torment people because they exist. A smart way to start and we never leave this world. Never does anyone question whether any of this is imagined, it is a story of and about believers and because they never waver in this during presentation the film really works. There is never a doubt about whether the family is being exploited. Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) believes what he is doing, Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) is a clairvoyant and everything she sees is real within the scope of this story. The demon tormenting the Perron family is real and the experiences they have through the story are always true to the world of the film. So with disbelief properly suspended I really got to enjoy this world.
  The slow build from has all the elements we need in a horror film. The dog refusing to enter the new house. Finding the hidden cellar behind a closet. April discovering the old toy down at the big old creepy tree. Bruises developing on Mother Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor).  Finding the dog dead. The introduction of the clapping hide and seek game and then later a scary incident while playing it. The incidents and mood of the film grow as the film progresses making it scrarier and scarier. When we get to some of the strong scares we are fully engrossed.
  The first is the wonderful leg pull to someone behind the door scene, it makes your hair stand on end. A sequence where the daughter Christine (Joey King) is awoken by something pulling her by the leg enough to wake her up. Then there is the looking over the edge of the bed to create tension, upping the ante a bit she looks under the bed to see if someone is hiding there. While doing so she notices the room door moving by itself. Is someone behind the door? She thinks she sees someone and wakes her older sister Nancy (Hayley Mcfarland) who gets up thinking her sister might be hallucinating and investigates. She is sure there is no one there even though no one is there. The jump scare to end the scene is great. It is never seen whether something is actually there or whether Christine is imagining it. She is comforted while we get the growing sense that something is not right.
  With a film like this the occurrences must build on each other to the point where the family seeks help. This certainly happens here. Switching between the growing trauma in the house and the story of the Warrens Wan releases anxiety in the audience while adding background and depth to the characters. Not wanting to describe each of the escalating events the family experiences lets just say that this is a film you should experience and not read about. There are probably four separate occasions where I had physical reactions to the scares on the screen and this does not happen often to this veteran of horror. In fact the incident with the oldest daughter Andrea (Shanley Caswell) and her sleep walking sister still give me a chill each time I watch it and I have seen it five times.
  In desperation Carolyn seeks out the Warrens who are immediately worried when they enter the house. Lorraine sees the spirits in the house and feels the evil, Ed is cautious acknowledging the toll his wife's spiritual acuity has on her. Still they recognized that this family needs them and put together an investigatory team to study the haunting. It all builds to some really great effects driven moments that are wonderfully exciting for the viewer. When the final act begins we feel like we have been on a horror express train to Scareville and even though the outcome is predictable the ride is what this is all about and it is a fun ride.
  The weakness of the script has to be that so much was built around the Warrens that is really never fulfilled. There is this connection between the Perron investigation and the Warren's own daughter that is thrown in to create a personal stake for them that was probably unnecessary since while in the Perron house they were very much at risk.
  Overall though the acting is solid enough with Lili Taylor a good fit for Carolyn. Her husband a lesser role,  Roger (Ron Livingston) is good at showing the powerlessness of a father who can't protect his family from this supernatural force. The children had to either play or act scared and all did so adequately, from the above mentioned down to the other two, youngest April (Kyla Deaver), sleepwalker Cindy (Mackenzie Foy). Although Ed Warren played by Patrick Wilson came off a bit tight and stiff some of it was the writing. He provided most of the exposition about demons and how they are dealt with. He is the expert explaining to the audience so there is a certain authority he had to have to do so. They tried to soften his character in the scenes with his wife and daughter to counter this character need.  The few added character helping the Warrens were developed just enough to have a stake in the film but don't expect too much there.
  The third act of this film is really a great climax and one everyone reading this should experience.  this is a well written and very well executed horror story that everyone should see. So get yourself together and see this film, it is very recommended by this blog. Now my little story in the begining of this entry may never go from story, to local oddity, to myth to investigated legend. It will probably never take root but a good story has power, power to excite, to scare, to create a life of its own. Many of the stories from the generation of the 1970s paranormal movement have rooted themselves in our pop culture who knows maybe someday Bethlehem NH will be a place where they take place for a new generation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Oculus (2014) Horror Supernatural

Oculus (2014) - SERIOUS SPOILERS IN THIS ENTRY! At twelve dollar a film I am often disappointed when I go to the theater. It could be picking the wrong films plays a part or it could be that most films are just mediocre. Most times though there sitting in the dark there is a sinking feeling that the film on the screen will be in a discount bin or queue in six months. It may be that theaters are so oriented towards big budget films that we just don't see the creative independent films that blow our minds. Small venue viewing like the ones held at the Somerville Theater by All things Horror tend to be where I am seeing the cool stuff. The full priced theater tends to just leave me a bit empty an so it is always with reluctance that this is where I want to see a movie. An exception had to be made this week for Oculus by Mike Flanagan. ( I probably should have gone to see the Conjuring in theaters but never did. So with a bit of hope that my pattern would be broken my daughter and I ponied up our cache and headed in to see Oculus.
Flanagan got a recommendation from this blog for his cool monster flick Absentia (2011) so I was really looking forward to see what he could do with a bigger budget. I thought at that time that this was a very creative film maker with potential and really the criticism I had for that first film was he just did not have the funds to make it as good as it could have been. This is not a problem with Oculus. I wanted to also see and write about this film before I started hearing and seeing reviews for it. I am sure I will probably pick up on many of the same things any reviewers will but I wanted to do this review clean before getting any ideas from anywhere else.
  Oculus is a very cleverly written film and the editing is even more clever. Shifting between the past and the present in such a fluid way it tells two tales at once centering around an antique mirror. Whether that mirror is haunted or not I will leave for later, the characters think it is and that is what matters for the plot. The film tells the story of sibling Kaylie and Tim Russell in the past and in the present. In the past we see the 12 year old Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and 10 year old Tim (Garrett Ryan) as they move into a new house with their parents Marie (Katee Sackoff) and Alan (Rory Cochrane). Then things go horrible wrong in the house and Alan kills Marie and when going after the kids is killed by young Tim.
  In the present Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is released from mental health treatment at the age of 21 and is met by his sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan). She over the years in foster care has grown into an obsessed young woman. Obsessed with the mirror she believes is the root of the past horrors. Having hunted it down and researched its history she is convinced it feeds on life. Killing plants around it, making pets vanish, and taking over the will of people around it to kill those they love. She has a plan to document and then destroy the mirror. Her brother having recognized through therapy all the ways the past could be misremembered is reluctant to help but family bonds are strong and soon the two are back in the house their parents died in and are playing out a plan.
  The writing in this film is very smart and I appreciated it. The scenes in the past are viewed from the point of view of the children. Traumatized by arguing parents who grow increasingly more dysfunctional we get to feel their pain as thing spiral out of control. Kaylie the older of the two sees a supernatural entity in the mirror in the fathers office and feels it is influencing him towards violence. Really the clever part is whether there is or isn't anything other than fucked up parents and psychologically damaged children. Sure we see the other worldly beings as the audience but it is completely through the memories of the siblings. Having worked in mental health for many years it seems possible that it is Kaylie who is misremembering the past and that the trauma of the murders has created a psychotic break for her. This would explain her needs to deal with the mirror. Tim is a voice of reason trying to explain how things could have gotten confused but she is so determined that he seems to lose this argument. She is convince that therapy has brainwashed him into explaining all the magic away from what happened. He being influenced by her in the past easily falls under her spell again in adulthood. Playing with the line between real and unreal is such a strength of this film. The absolutely complicated system that Kaylie comes up with to fool the mirror and hopefully destroy it could be viewed as a bit crazy but she is so convincing in her evidence that we and the brother must at least hope for her sake that it has credence.
  If there is a weakness in the film it is the blatant setup for a sequel but considering how well done this film is I can only hope that the studio throws a bunch more money at Flanagan and he gets to do even more good work. This film is very much recommended by this blog. Go see it in theaters and hope for more.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Aftershock (2012) Disaster

Aftershock (2012) - A quick watch on a cloudy afternoon and maybe a very quick review also. Why? Well sometimes there is not a lot you can say about a film. Sometime said film is so void of redemption that talking about it is really just wasting your time. Sometimes a film has so little consideration for its audience that the viewer does not want to give it any consideration in return. This is the case for this particular movie. Framed as a disaster film but crossing over into thriller and horror it is a fight for survival from both mother nature and from bad people taking advantage of an already bad situation. Unfortunately though the film does a lot of things that make it a vapid exercise in voyeurism with almost no reason to care for the characters we may want to pull for.
  The plot centers around three men, two Chileans Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez) and an American called only Gringo (Eli Roth) who are out and about to show Gringo a good time while visiting Chile. Shallow men in their thirties who are only focused on getting laid they go from one club to another failing at their goal. Trying to make Gringo a more likable character with a scene of him talking to his daughter on the phone fails to elicit any good feeling. His friend Ariel is nondescript but trying to be a helpful wing man. Pollo the wealthy guy with the connections to get them into the clubs is a womanizer who is flitting through life without a care because of his father's money.
They are making a play for three women friends Monica ( Andrea Osvart), Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) and Kylie (Lorenza Izzo). The main thing we want to note about these three is a bit of background concerning Monica and Kylie. Half sisters with the same Father there is a bit of sibling rivalry but also Kylie is a recovering drug addict and Monica the responsible one is traveling  with her to try to keep her from slipping up. The scant back story is just enough to let the audience know these are the characters we should cheer for without giving enough information to actually care for them. They are the eye candy for the film and the damsels who will later be in distress. We get to see quite a bit of these people before the main events of the film start to know that they are not a very likable group. Superficial young people who have very few qualities to make us care if they live or die.
Then the roller coaster ride begins and since the stage has been set we know who will be the final girl. The adventure starts with trying to get to the hospital on the hill. When this subplot is resolved we learn the prison in the city has broken and dangerous prisoners are rampaging the streets raping and killing. So onto the new plot of the dangerous prisoners raping and killing our main characters. Mixed in are some lost friends and close calls escaping just in time, and of course the titular aftershocks which drop things around and on the characters both benefiting and harming them. Some of what is written into the plot by Roth and Nicolas Lopez is harsh, the rest is mean spirited. Not that we want to pull for these characters but when they are in crisis most of the outcomes are a real "Fuck You" to the viewer. If you were hoping for anything positive you were a fool. When the daylight moment comes for the final girl, at least this viewer knew what her seeing the ocean meant. For that final scene I did wonder whether these pricks of film makers were cruel enough to pull the last dirty trick.
 There was no Maureen McGovern  singing  "There's Got to be a Morning After" and the cruel intentions of the script stayed true until the end. Is that a unique surprise or is it just plain mean? I would have to leans towards the later. In order to make it original we would really have to love these characters. That is not possible because the scenes where we got to know them showed them as American Assholes, Chilean spoiled rich kids and uptight mother hens. There is no reason to care when they are crushed under stone, raped and murdered or burned alive. True the final survivor is the best of the lot but you don't really care if she lives or dies. Recommending this film is not really a possibility after a review like this. Sure anyone who is a die hard disaster film lover might get something out of it but this reviewer expects a lot more from this genre than these cheap tricks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nurse 3D (2013) Horror Psycho

Nurse 3D (2013) - Sometimes advertising is a real influence in getting people to watch a film, Nurse 3D has some really great poster art and with it came my choice to watch the film. I really wish the film was half as good as the posters, but it is not. What it is at heart is a story of a psychopath damaged as a child by the so overly predictable trauma of seeing her Dad fucking someone other than her Mother. This trauma follows her into adulthood where she works as a nurse and on the side uses her ample assets to lure married men into cheating and then doling out punishment for being so weak. The film could be an homage to movies past but I don't think from listening to the director, writer Douglas Aarniokoski's commentary that this idea was in his head at all. He was trying to make a sexy, crazy thriller that he thought was cool. In fact he cared a lot more about the shots in the film more than whether the story was original. Maybe I am being a bit harsh off the top of my head I can only think of one film with a similar traumatic event, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Still the film just does not feel very original. It could be that there are some things that are small that seemed to be played over the top and I just didn't like. Later in the film when we get the flash back to the damaging events, they just did not seem that traumatizing. The fact that the killer as a child does something horrible in a tense situation between her parents I suppose is suppose to carry the idea into her adulthood but that seemed a stretch.
 There is also a real lack of subtext here..There could have been social commentary about the objectification of women but for all of the sexuality oozing through the film it really just says its a great tool for a serial killer. Abby (Paz de la Huerta) is a woman who punishes men for their infidelity but it is really not saying anything about infidelity because the character is so insane she takes the impact away. You really can't pull for the killer even though the men are cheaters because the impact of their cheating is never seen. It also does not touch the question of the impacts of those deaths on the spouses and children left behind. It all is just a premise to have this serial killer go after men.
  The story is about a serial killer woman Abby posing as a nurse who has boundary problems and a need to punish men who cheat on their wives. She is off her rocker and it is not good for the people around her. Still the avenging angel of infidelity persona only lasts enough time to establish a motivation. The story being told is how she gets interested in fellow nurse young attractive, Danni (Katrina Bowden), after a night out drinking together, whether Abby drugged her is probable, Danni wakes in Abby's apartment embarrassed because she blacked out. In the strange voice over we hear Abby explain how the finger fucking of young Danni to orgasm and it was a great experience. Then the story is about the two women, Abby who feels slighted by the non responsive Danni start a plan of fucking with her life. Danni who just wants to forget the night comes to realize just how fucked up and dangerous Abby is. As she learns the about the psycho she also realizes that Abby is setting it up so that no one will believe her if she exposes the lunatic. Eventually thing unravel for Abby in a blood soaked rampage that is so unbelievable that the viewer is left mouth agape wondering why cops and security guards do not exist in this world.
  The first is the lead Paz de la Huerta who just seeps sexuality in this film. She plays the character so strangely that it is hard to believe a single person in the story's reality would not find her creepy. She is so unreal and strange but everyone interacts with her like she is perfectly normal. The director too loves not only this character but the actress and spends a good deal of time making her look sultry. Slow motion walks with semi see through dresses, lace underwear, lots of cleavage all to make her hot and irresistible. Paz de la Huerta gives it her all and really plays a psycho really well but the character seems too bizarre not to have been found out long ago.Then on top of it the premise that she could just get a job at a hospital using someone's identity seems pretty far fetched. She takes the name of the nurse who cared for her in a psychiatric ward and goes to work as a nurse. How?  Just how does that happen that she can replace a woman twice her age and no one finds her out. The actress does all with her acting skills to sell that Abby is a very damaged and emotionally unstable woman but flaws in the screenwriting makes it hard to believe.
  In fact there are several small things done for effect that really bothered me, like needles full of fluid being displayed that are way too big and used just for effect. In one scene we see Abby give a needle with about an ounce of fluid in it to a victim and later she describes it as 4cc. You would use a tiny little needle for that. In a scene where Abby is fucking a dead victim we see like twenty needles stuck all over his chest and stomach, so ridiculous that it takes away from the tension of the movie. Then there is the age thing, we have a back story for Abby where an orderly tells her story to Danni but he tells it as he was there, the actor though looks like he is the only a few years older than her, in order for her to be eight at the asylum that man should be at least 50 years old. Then there is the Danni shower scenes, who the hell showers in her underwear? I understand if the actress does not want to do nudity. That can be respected but you do not have to shoot it so she is standing in the shower in full view with her panties on. How about just a shot of the head under the shower head or just cut out the lower half.
 Costar Bowden does a fine job as the new nurse who has her life turned upside down by Abby. She is vulnerable and then fights back with a strength that is admirable. I found myself wondering what else she was in and did not really remember her roles in other film. Seeing a lot of film makes it hard at times to place actors, but Bowden was in the very forgettable Piranha 3DD and in the recent comedy Movie 43 in the segment Super Hero Speed Dating. She holds her own here, if this film was meant to be a comedy, she would be the straight guy to de la Huerta's clown. Maybe this is a comedy and I just did not get the humor?
There are some smaller parts and cameos that should be noted here, Judd Nelson as Dr. Morris plays a great douche bag of an attending physician. In the end he gets what every harassing ass should get in a film about punishing the likes of his character. Then for one scene a quick appearance by Kathleen Turner who sounds like the smoking has finally caught up with her. Comedy actor Niecy Nash does a sassy black nurse character that is a stereotype of stereotypes but does it with the confidence to pull it off. All characters in this movie are substantiated only to drive the simple plot so are sort of wasted.
 Amazed by the final fight sequence that was so over the top that it leaves you wondering how the security at this hospital manages to get paid. Then the unbelievable scene where Abby strips and lays in a bed in a hospital room covered in blood from the destruction she has just done. When Danni and her boyfriend Steve (Corbin Bleu) come is they attend thinking she is another victim I shuddered at the stupidity. WTF she is totally recognizable!This is a film that may be a lot of fun in a roomful of drinking buddies but fails as a serious horror film. There is certainly camp value here but not enough to get a recommendation in this blog. The sequel ready ending is enough to make this reviewer want to rip his beard out.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dust Devil (1992) - Horror Magic Psycho

Dust Devil (1992) - I chose this film after listening to director Adrian Garcia Bogliano's commentary on his film "Here Comes the Devil". He says that this film is the film that made him become a film maker. It certainly a film like no other I have seen. What Richard Stanley's demon serial killer Namibian epic is all about is style.  Loosely based on a real life serial killer who hid in the outback of Namibia the story adds a legend of supernatural to make the film . Sweeping shots and saturated colors of reds and orange by Cinematographer Steven Chivers while amazing musical themes by Simon Boswell play through in what could be mistaken at times for a spaghetti western. The music is an amazing mix of classic Western style themes that really make the film more than a horror film. Stanley uses closeup, camera movement, expansive arid landscape, and helicopter shots to widen the breadth of the film. It is a very unique horror film that blurs the line of genre. I remember a conversation on the Splattercast podcast (you all should be listening to this one) talking about camera shots and movement and that every shot should have a purpose. So when you watch this film pay attention to the really cool moving shots. Are they really for a reason? What are the effects on the viewer when these shots are shown? Since this film is very stylized it is an interesting example to talk about this area of film making. My background being more in the studying screen writing generally leaves me at a loss to answer whether this film is shot well. It certainly looks good to me but I don't know the answer.
 A story of a demon made man who kills and uses  "body magic" to attempt to leave the earthly plane after generations of wandering and building the power of his rituals through murder and mutilation. Looking to do enough magic to escape the human plane the Demon is drawn to people contemplating suicide and so he finds our main character Wendy Robinson (Chelsea Field). She is a woman escaping a failing relationship with her paranoid and abusive husband Mark (Rufus Swart) she heads west towards the sea and to her inevitable meeting with the Dust Devil.
 Dated by its political setting the film touches the very real conditions of the country at the time of shooting.  Set in the arid sand filled wastes of Namibia just a couple years after it had won its freedom form South Africa. (1990) We follow the wanderings of the Dust Devil (Robert John Burke) a serial killing demon who victimizes strangers for his cut and dice magic which uses placement of body parts and blood drawings to move the demon ever closer to escaping this plane of existence. There are many examples in the film that give away the political conditions during filming. The tension between the white and black police officers, where the whites more and more are being moved out and black africans are taking the lead. Little thing that are more subtle like in a bar in the country side where segregation is the rule. The pinball machine which was on the white side is taken during the film andthen resides on the black side of the bar.
 Countering this malicious spirit made man is Ben Mukurob (Zakes Mokae) a former military commander who fought for the wrong side in the revolution but now a police officer with the experience to track the Dust Devil. Seeing the hideous remains of his magic Ben struggles with the idea of magic but can not deny that the killer believes. Haunted by a past that not only cost him his standing but also lost him his wife and son fifteen years before he is a man looking to move on who can't. Ben has the skill to catch this serial killer but to do it he will have to let go of the reality he knows for magic in front of his eyes.
 Wendy is an interesting character in that she is both strong but also contemplating suicide those feelings though are what attracts the Dust Devil. Her journey is one of discovering the strength to go on living. She goes from abused wife to strong fighter who does not need anyone else to thrive.
 The film is a complex one with several strands that the direct manages to weave into a very enjoyable experience.  The experience though may be trying to do a bit too much. There is a "let me tell you a tale" voice over that although adds something to the story could probably been excluded without hurting the story. The same thing can be said for the husband Mark, when Wendy left him he had served his purpose and although the metaphor of walking past him in the end of the film is effective to show the growth of the character it ultimately is a bit too on the nose and unnecessary. The pacing is slower than some horror and definitely slower than modern horror but growing up in the seventies I sort of like that. Certainly I will recommend this film it is above the average and a wonderful mix of magic Western and serial killer. Hell I have now watch the film four time and each time I have enjoyed the viewing and gotten a bit more depth from it. So for sure add this to your viewing list.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Skinned Alive (1990) Horror psychos

Skinned Alive (1990) -  . Its a simple setup for a very simple film. Tempe DVD is still in business and still selling some wonderfully horrible trash films. This one is horrible but not wonderful and really difficult to get through. What do you expect for a film made for $18k? A family of psychopaths travel the country looking for victims to kill, skin and make leather products out of. Could be an interesting set up but the script written by director Jon Killough is a horror comedy lacking both horror and comedy.  The primary problem is the cast that just yells at each other in every scene and swears constantly. Playing completely over the top might have seemed like a good idea at the time this feature was made but it really has not aged well. We have a family of killers here, Crawldaddy (Mary Jackson) the Mom is the handicapped matriarch with two adult children, Phink (Scott Spiegel) and Violet (Susan Rothacker) who drive around killing people and then skinning them. The chaos of what they do is not in their actions but more in their interactions with each other. Shouting, cursing and general low brow behavior makes the film almost unwatchable. There is a bit of a storyline when they settle into a neighborhood after their van breaks down. They are invited by the locals Paul (Floyd Ewing Jr.) and Louise (Jennifer Mullen) to stay with them, contrasting the trusting locals with the traveling assholes. There is some killing and then stupidly not getting rid of the bodies, so the risk of getting caught but there is a problem with this set up. The locals are way too simple to get these people are jerk offs and family of killers are way too unlikable to care if they get caught. You sort of want them to get caught just to shut them up.
  The sort of one reasonable character is the neighbor Tom (Lester Clark) a former cop with a powerful gun. When the shit hits the fan he lets the human leather making family have it and its the one thing that we can cheer about in the film. All and all though this is not a fil I can remotely recommend. Its on you if you need to make yourself suffer through it.