Monday, November 30, 2009

S. Darko (2009)

S. DARKO is everything every DONNIE DARKO fan ever feared since the film was announced. I wanted to be the one person to give it an honest shot in order to turn everyone else on to the flick, but it just isn't any good. It lacks any voice or individuality that separates it from the original, instead recycling the same basic structure minus any of the mystery, dark humor, or intelligence of the first film. Donnie's sister Samantha is stranded in a Midwestern town while on a road trip with her friend, when the two become entangled in a time-bending tale where they must help free the spirit of a young boy that was lost years earlier. Newcomers to the series would be completely lost without understanding the mythology of the original film, while returning fans will be irritated by the shallow characters and derivative plotline. Fisher does achieve much of the same visual stylism, but when following a cult hit like DONNIE DARKO, the only way to make a successful sequel would be to create an entirely unique and separate universe with its own look and feel. Each of the similarities only serve to draw comparisons between the two films, which is entirely unfair to this second entry, but at the same time nothing was done to avoid it. I hate reducing the review to these comparisons, since it then becomes the rant of any other fan boy, but it is impossible to neglect these details when addressing the film to other fans. As a stand alone effort, it offers decent acting, average filming, but dry and unresponsive characters, making it a below average release that can be overlooked. To the S. DARKO team, it looks like you made an honest effort to make the film interesting, but the plot and framework you were working with just didn't serve to drive any significant point home.

Rating: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deadgirl (2008)

I am not sure what to make of what I just saw, but I do know that I didn't like it. DEADGIRL is the story of two teens that stumble upon a chained woman in the basement of an abandoned asylum. Rather than reporting her to the police or freeing her, the one friend decides to keep her bound and use her for his own sexual desires. Things grow darker as the two discover that the girl is neither alive nor dead, but somewhere in between. By the end of the film, the plot touches on necrophilia, rape, blackmail, torture, murder, and every other sinister and depraved corner of the fractured human psyche. Every second of the runtime genuinely serves to irritate, enrage, and disgust the audience, so in many ways it achieves the emotive response that is necessary for a successful film. This potential is squandered by a lack of direction or purpose as the horrible actions of the male leads continue to go unpunished and unquestioned. As more people become aware of the situation, only a single character finds himself in a moral dilemma, and even his stance becomes rocky by the film's close. This drives an immediate wedge between the characters and their audience due to the filmmakers' unclear intentions and lack of resolve. If the undead aspects of the film had been removed, perhaps we would have seen a bit more substance and attachment. Instead, the dead girl plotting seems to condone the characters actions, with the only critical commentary in the film centering around whether a dead person has the right to self, dignity, and respect. Moving away from the questionable theme, there are also many moments of downright awkward scripting and dialogue between the main character and his love interest. Their exchanges are extremely out of place and unnatural, which weakens the effect of the film's finale. Add to that several moments where the actions of the antagonists become so far removed from reality and it immediately calls the rest of the film into question*. Most other elements of the production are handled very well, with strong visuals and set design alongside competent acting and filming. DEADGIRL is a mixed bag. There are elements that are very effective, but the plot and drive of the film both become so outlandish that it is hard to buy into the events entirely. Regardless of my stance on the film, I feel it is worth seeking out and experiencing for yourself so that you can develop your own stance on this modern Exploitation flick.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 6/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 1.

*For those that have seen the film, this point is directed primarily at the scene at the gas station.



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Queen of Blood (1966)

A distress signal is received from an alien race that has been attempting to communicate with the Earth, after which a team of astronauts ships out to answer the call. They recover an empty spacecraft save for a single being, a female humanoid that they save from the brink of death. Once revived, the crew of four slowly fall prey to their parasitic guest, who requires blood in order to survive. Two things make this film standout above all else: A stellar cast including John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, and Dennis Hopper, and the incredible backgrounds that combine otherworldly matte paintings, scale miniatures, and practical sets. These exteriors are really quite impressive, although they were originally shot for two separate Russian films before being integrated into several American releases. The film also employs a saturated color palette with deep reds, greens, and blues not unlike Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (made the same year and sharing a near-identical plot). While the plot touches on a few moral issues, the pacing and otherwise average SciFi scripting make for a very slow build and uninteresting watch. The interior sets and costuming from the American production crew also fall short of the Russian designs, with a distracting body suit taking away from the otherwise creepy femme fatale. Without the borrowed footage, this would have been a pretty lackluster effort, however this film along with the Bava entry noted above clearly impacted future SciFi successes like ALIEN. As it stands, hardcore SciFi fans will find enough to like here, though it might not appeal to the average Horror fan.

Rating: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



Special thanks to James at Behind the Couch for this recommendation! Be sure to visit Behind the Couch for an excellent review of the film and additional behind-the-scenes information.

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Freeze Me (2000)

A woman faces her inner demons when one of three men that had raped her years earlier takes her hostage in her apartment, informing her that the two remaining men would be returning shortly. She manages to disarm her captor, and then kills him in a fit of rage. With no other options left, she freezes the body, and awaits the other two men armed with an array of weapons and a giant freezer. That is as cool as I can make the film sound, but don't buy in to the seemingly interesting plot line. This is as standard and tiresome as you can make a rape-revenge flick. Unlike the Exploitation classics of the 70s and 80s, there is no emotional draw to the lead whatsoever, and very little cathartic response to the deaths of the villains. While the acting and filming are both handled well, there is just nothing done to draw the audience in or to increase the action or suspense the entire run time. The men arrive, they rape her a while, she kills them, they get put in the freezer. Clean cut and dry. If rape and human Popsicles are your deal, please, be my guest. Otherwise, unremarkable and entirely passable.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 6/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Izo (2004)

A Shogun warrior is cast through time, heaven, and hell, battling his way through gods and humans alike to avenge his death in another case of style over substance from Takashi Miike. I think it's safe to say I have no idea what this film is about. Watching it is like reading a book where the pages have been shuffled and chapters have been lost. As a piece of film art, it offers beautiful cinematography and set design combined with organic fight choreography that feels like a hybrid between CROUCHING TIGER and HIGHLANDER. The problem is, while the battles are well done, it is the same boring sword fighting scenes over and over and over for two hours, with virtually no story or gore to justify the mundane action. It strives to be profound and intentionally offensive through what I am assuming is supposed to be political, social, sexual, and religious commentary, but all of the meaning is lost on the audience due to the cryptic plotting tools. I was checked out well before the first hour, but kept watching to maintain my integrity. For bizarre, non-linear sword fighting action, check this one out, otherwise avoid.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 5/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 1.



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The Butterfly Effect (2004)

A young boy suffers from repeated blackouts during key traumatic events that affected he and his friends. Later, as a Psych major studying memory assimilation, he discovers that he can not only retrieve those memories by reading through his childhood journals, but he can also bend time and reshape the events to affect the outcome of the future. THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT is the last film I ever expected to enjoy. I never would have thought that Ashton Kutcher's acting range could have exceeded the character of Kelso on That 70's Show, but he puts in a solid effort along with the rest of the cast members. The film is extremely dark, depressing, and brutal, and is a steady downward spiral from start to finish. Every positive change Kutcher's character influences in the past comes with an ironic set of consequences in the future, each being far more tragic than the last. While the interesting and unique handling of memory and time travel make it easy to suspend disbelief, many of the events still feel extremely contrived, but how could they not in a film of this nature? Touching on subject matter like pedophilia, kiddie porn, prostitution, animal abuse, child killing, and other harsh themes, it becomes very difficult to watch many of the events play out, especially when there is seemingly no hope in sight for any of the characters. The film certainly isn't perfect, but anyone that may have avoided the film in the past should definitely check it out. It is a solid watch, if not a devastating one.

Rating: 8/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Children of the Corn 2 (1992)

And so it begins. The first in a long line of remarkably unremarkable sequels. THE FINAL SACRIFICE finds the remaining children that survived the massacre in Gatlin being relocated to a nearby town, where they are taken in by the locals who are unaware of their deadly secrets. A new leader emerges, they start killing, then its over. The film is sort of a joke on itself; it is too funny to be a straight Horror flick, but too serious to be a Horror Comedy. The new leader found in Micah is too intentionally evil looking, and none of the other children have the same raw and organic creepiness to them like the children in the previous film did, making each act feel very forced and scripted. Unlike the surprisingly tame original, this entry kicks up the gore and plays out more like a standard Slasher of the period, complete with plenty of bloody and ironic deaths. The supposed protagonists are anything but likable, giving the audience no one to really side with as the plot continues on the same boring and predictable path the first film had laid. With no atmosphere, no suspense, and no true scares, the series gets off to a bland start, but there are little pockets of gore that almost make it bearable.

Rating: 5/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 3.



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Monday, November 23, 2009

Children of the Corn (1984)

CHILDREN OF THE CORN. That's all you have to say. Who doesn't know CHILDREN OF THE CORN? It is a thing of legend. People that have never seen the movie know the plot. Its reputation precedes it, but is it the classic many make it out to be? The film finds a young couple that becomes stranded in a deserted mid-Western town overrun by a cult of killer kids who decide to sacrifice them to their monstrous god. What is most memorable about the film are the performances of the two lead children in Isaac and Malachai, both of who are extremely convincing and organically evil in different senses. The other players are all good as well, but the prophetic sermons demanding the deaths of all adults by Isaac and the shrill cries to the "Outlander" in the barren streets by Malachai are staple scenes in genre history. What I have always found to be the most disturbing are the closely framed shots of groups of children bearing all sorts of bladed weapons. The anticipation in the film far outweighs any of the actual violence or gore. Kiersch also includes several wide establishing shots of the emptied town covered in dried corn husks that set a somber and unsettling mood. Where the film falls short is in the slow pacing and repetitive plotting. It offers a steady build, but there are many scenes that would have benefited from stricter editing to improve the forward momentum of the film. The special FX in the closing scenes are also extremely dated, let alone the fact that they are confusing and anti-climactic. CHILDREN OF THE CORN is not a perfect film, but it stands out in the genre because of the violent nature of the plot and the underlying fears it represents in the uprising of children against their parents. It is good, and even with its inherent flaws, it is a nostalgic flick that still makes for a creepy classic in the long line of killer kids films.

Rating: 8/10.
Number of views: 5.



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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Return (2006)

I couldn't decide which of the two sentences were wittier, so here are two alternatives I was going to go with:
Bold
-THE RETURN is a cross between STIR OF ECHOES, stupid, and boring as shit.

-"Hi, I'm STIR OF ECHOES, have we met?"

Predictable, unoriginal, boring.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 5/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Terror at Blood Fart Lake (2008)

In case you missed the title of this post, this review is for a film called TERROR AT BLOOD FART LAKE. This is not a joke. The film should have been a complete waste of time that I could have watched then shelved, but I have to admit I had a ton of fun with it. Make no mistake, everything about the film is completely terrible, but it is one of those rare breeds that is actually so bad that it's good. The characters, acting, dialogue, and FX are each so ridiculously over the top and exaggerated that they are pretty hilarious. All of the expected low-budget fan film elements are present, with characters breaking the fourth wall, constant genre references, inside jokes that no one gets, and of course the necessary nudity. Unfortunately, with the exception of a little female flatulence, the title of the film is just a name, and there are no blood farts in the script. B-movie fans that are ready for a idiotic but shamefully funny time will find a lot to like in this one. I can't believe I am even saying this but it is worth a rent, but only with a group of friends and a 12-pack. A group of teens descend on an isolated lakeside cabin, where they are slowly dispatched by the local legend.

Rating: 2/10.
Entertainment: 7/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Alien Raiders (2008)

Indie hybrid of INTRUDER and THE THING that takes on the same level of fear and paranoia on a much smaller scale. A terrorist group seizes hostages in a small grocery store, claiming to be hunting humans hosting alien lifeforms. This is an excellent example of a low-budget, high production value release that is able to effectively build suspense with minimal on screen violence and gore. The familiar grocery setting becomes a dark and foreboding prison using clever lighting and framing techniques. The film feels claustrophobic and confined, but at the same time it takes full advantage of every inch of the store to provide new and interesting shots within the single location. Each of the actors provide solid performances, and despite its title, the film never trips into the pitfalls of most SciFi Channel originals of the same theme and budget. The FX also stand up to any major studio release, and the scares never feel forced. The film draws heavily from THE THING and other inspirations within the genre, but still has many original offerings and comes recommended!

Rating: 8/10.
Number of views: 2



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Thursday, November 19, 2009

American Movie (1999)

AMERICAN MOVIE is one of the most devastating, inspiring, and important films to hit the Documentary scene in decades. It is hilarious at times, depressing and hopeless at others, but regardless of the emotional response, it remains entertaining from start to finish. The filmmakers follow the life of Mark Borchardt as he attempts to complete his life's work in NORTHWESTERN, a Life and Times film based on his personal experiences struggling to make ends meet in lower-Middle Class Wisconsin. With past-due bills mounting up, time slipping by, and financing running short, Mark decides to complete his work on an earlier film COVEN in order to raise funds for his feature film. What starts as a behind the scenes documentary turns into an in depth exploration and character study of several heart-felt and sincere individuals struggling to achieve the American dream. While Mark, his ex-druggie pal Mike, fading Uncle Bill, and disillusioned parents may not be ideal role models, one thing is for certain: they are 100% real depictions of the human condition. Regardless of what new difficulties life brings in each waking moment, Mark adamantly maintains a positive attitude and progresses in a forward motion, somehow beating the odds in the face of endless adversity. One can't help but sympathize with he and each of the other characters, even though it is Mark's own personal vices like unemployment, lack of motivation, and alcoholism that set him back from his ultimate goal. In the end, when COVEN is completed and his life's dream is within grasp, the audience shares in his accomplishment and overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction, an empathetic response that is lacking in so many other soulless cinematic features. Everyone should make an effort to see this film, and it is not an eclectic art house flick reserved for Documentary buffs by any means. This is the art of filmmaking at its finest, and director Chris Smith succeeds where Borchardt had failed so many times before in completing the true NORTHWESTERN, with Mark as his star.

Rating: 10/10.
Number of views: 3.



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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Who the fuck is Gavin Hood, and moreover who was the genius that allowed him to make this disaster? This is easily the worst Marvel film besides MAN-THING, and yes, there is a MAN-THING movie. No other film has used such abusive CG since Stephen Sommer's cartoony shit-fests THE MUMMY RETURNS and VAN HELSING. I just searched Hood's filmography, and I don't understand what he has done that made Fox believe he was their man. The plot is a slap in the face to any fans of the original story base, all of the characters are completely throwaway, and the ridiculous amount of poorly integrated computer imagery makes this a lame joke on the audience. DAREDEVIL and GHOST RIDER are infinitely better than this piece of crap. X-MEN 3 is a thousand times better. Yeah, I said it. I meant it, too. There is nothing redeeming about WOLVERINE, and I didn't like it.

Rating: 4/10.
Number of views: 1.

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Tales of Terror From Tokyo (2004)

More terrible anthology entries that have been compiled to leech off of the popularity of the Asian invasion that hit Horror in the mid-2000s. The first three shorts are 5m ripoffs of JU-ON, just placed in slightly different settings. I'd like to include another guest review for this flick rather than waste any more of my time:

Rating: 4/10.
Gore: 0.
Number of views: 1.



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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

J-Horror Anthology: Underworld (2005)

If this had been my first exposure to Japanese Horror, I would never have watched a single other J-Horror film ever in my entire life. This collection of shorts is, simply put, terrible. Each entry appears to have been shot on digicam using all teen actors, and recycles the plots of more successful films condensed into 15m bores with no scares, no suspense, and even less blood. Add to that terrible CG and sappy melodramatic music and you have a Horror anthology that is safe for the kiddies. Visit the product description below if you are still interested somehow, but I am going to forgo the full review and synopsis and leave you with this:

Rating: 3/10.
Gore: -10/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Dead or Alive (2000)

DEAD OR ALIVE is another ultra-violent Yakuza film from Takashi Miike that finds an aging cop pitted against a ruthless gang that is terrorizing the streets of Japan. As with many of Miike's other films, there is an even blend of action, gratuitous gore, and dark humor instilled in the script, with an assortment of characters that are as bizarre as they are depraved. The action sequences come like a storm, with fast-paced fire battles and frantic editing that will appease any Tarantino or Rodriguez fan. Though the shootouts are superbly handled, they are far outnumbered by the often dull and drawn out police work, which follows the same basic plotting you would have in any other average gangster flick. Miike still manages to pull off interesting camera set-ups and visuals to carry the film, but what is most memorable to any fan is the ridiculous over the top ending. While it isn't quite as entertaining as ICHI THE KILLER, there are many similarities in style that Miike perfected in the later film.

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Monday, November 16, 2009

Prophecy (1979)

Here is a film with a strong environmental message that manages to be smart and entertaining without being overbearing. A philanthropic doctor is enlisted to study a remote forest in Maine to be the deciding factor in whether the land will be left to the Natives or turned over to the logging community. What he discovers is that mutagens in the water are corrupting all of the living organisms and people of the land, and have unleashed a monstrous beast that is exacting Mother Nature's revenge! What would normally be an issue that is far removed from most people's lives is brought home when the doctor's wife and unborn fetus are potentially afflicted by the deadly Mercury poisoning after eating the local fish. With competent acting from each of the leads (including Robert Foxworth and Armand Assante), the film builds on a serious and alarming foundation, which is then taken to a silly extreme with the giant mutant bear that gores its way through the forest's transgressors. With moderate gore and FX work, this definitely makes for a fun little monster flick, but what detracts from it more than anything is the slow pace and lengthy cat and mouse chases in the third act. PROPHECY comes in at a solid C, worth at least a single view!

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Asylum (2008)

All things considered, this wasn't a bad little direct to DVD Horror flick. Granted, the plot was all too familiar territory, and the unlikely group of friends were all textbook genre stereotypes. These elements are succeeded by the grand location settings, better than expected acting, and superior technical work for a small film. In many ways, the design and execution of ASYLUM reminded me of AMUSEMENT, where many of the good pieces did not amount to a solid whole. The plot finds six college co-eds joining up during orientation week to sneak into the abandoned asylum adjoining their dorm. They awaken the spirit of the crazed doctor who had tortured teens their decades earlier, after which they are dispatched one by one in a series of delusional dream-like sequences a la NOES. The set-up of the film does enough to draw the audience in with a willingness to suspend disbelief due to the tried and true conventions of the plot, but once the doctor is back in business, it is back to cheesy villain monologues and forced ironic deaths that fall flat on a tired audience. I will say that I was impressed going into the film, but by the end it just becomes a tedious and overbearing retread of better films.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Robert Englund leads this 1989 adaptation of the Leroux novel, where a young opera singer is thrust back in time during an audition, which places her in Victorian London as the understudy in a grand opera house. She begins receiving voice training from an unseen ally, but her disfigured friend will stop at nothing to see her succeed, even if it means eliminating anyone who gets in her way. The lavish set design and authentic Victorian costuming give the film a large look and feel with high production values, however there are a few missteps that take away from the film. Englund's Phantom serves as a vengeful anti-hero, which leads to several bloody deaths and dismemberments that would have been expected out of a cheap 80s Slasher. What is stranger is that the character spouts out cheesy one-liners as he dispatches the cast. It isn't that the make-up or deaths were bad at all, in fact it was quite the opposite, but these choices felt oddly out of place in an otherwise straight Gothic Horror film. Each of the actors deliver solid performances, and Englund is a very good fit for the character. I enjoyed the film, it was definitely superior to Argento's late 90s remake and a good overall Horror entry.

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gamera Vs Monster X (1970)

After a rash of terrible Z-grade monster flicks, MONSTER X comes through as being the strongest Showa era film since the original! The costumes and FX have been vastly improved, reaching the same amazing quality as the Godzilla films. Though the models and miniatures aren't quite up to par with Toho's craftsmanship, the destructible cities also look much more convincing than their predecessors. The film still includes an upbeat score and young cast, but while it was likely aimed at the series' younger audience, this entry is much darker and more violent than any of the other films. With slightly different editing, it could have been one of the darker Kaiju films to date. The battles between the monsters are earth-shattering, and even the wrap-around story where Osaka's children attempt to aid Gamera in defeating his new foe stays engaging and fast-paced. This was a solid giant monster flick, and is easily the highlight of the earlier film series. Gamera must stop a spiny reptile beast that has been unleashed from his stony prison before it destroys Japan!

Monsters: Gamera, Monster X.

Rating: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Destroy All Planets (1968)

If there's one thing worse than a cheesy monster movie, its a cheesy monster movie where over half of the run-time is comprised of clips from previous cheesy monster movies. An alien spacecraft descends upon Earth with the intention to overrun the planet, but the aliens must first defeat Gamera if they are to take over the world! The plot follows a group of boy scouts as they find their way in to the alien ship and help defeat the otherworldly menace. This entry is clearly geared towards its younger audience, and is really a trial of patience for any giant monster fans. While it does have a certain cheesy B-movie charm, its slow pace and repetitive nature make it a real bore. This is a big pass.

Monsters: Gamera, Barugon, Gaos, Viras.

Rating: 2/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Seed of Chucky (2004)

It's one thing to make a self-aware Horror Comedy as they did in BRIDE, but SEED OF CHUCKY is a pretty far stretch for any Horror icon to undergo. Chucky and Tiffany are reawaken into the real world by their confused and schizophrenic son (daughter?) Glen, and the deadly duo vow to give up killing to raise their family as the three attempt to possess the bodies of Jennifer Tilly and Red Man. Now, while the plot is utterly ridiculous, there are some genuinely funny moments that come out of the idea of two serial killers attempting to raise a normal family with jilted values. Each of the actors are willing to take punches as they poke fun at themselves and the industry at large, while the film also pays its respects to Horror classics from Hitchcock, John Waters, and Kubrick. The main problem is it's just plain stupid. If you are going to go for such an outlandish plot, at least throw in some awesome gore while you are at it. Sure, there are a few bloody deaths, but if you aren't taking things serious, why not go all out? While the puppet FX are pretty decent, there is also some terrible CG implemented to 'improve' the movement of the free-standing dolls, which only looks cartoony and out of place. The real saving grace in the film is Jennifer Tilly's subtle comedy as she rips on herself the entire movie in addition to a few good gags. I won't lie, I am always entertained by the film, but where do you go from here?

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 6/10.
Entertainment: 7/10.
Number of views: 7.



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Monday, November 9, 2009

Red Sands (2009)

RED SANDS is a modern-day companion piece to Alex Turner's cult Indie hit DEAD BIRDS, and finds an outpost of American Marines haunted by the sins of their past as they monitor a desolate Taliban transport route. The group also fall under the spell of an evil Djinn after they destroy its ancient statue prison. Both films share the same dark tone and psychological horror, so fans of the earlier entry will definitely find much to like here. While the acting and story are both solid, the theme of the film feels rehashed from countless other war-torn Horror films preceding it. Even so, Turner makes the most of his modest $1M budget through his impressive cinematography and expansive use of a single cramped shooting location. He maintains a creepy mood through cool filters and atmospheric lighting in the hostile desert location, where death can strike in any form. Each of the scares are well earned, built on suspense and anticipation that is only complimented by a handful of gore and creature FX. On the technical side, the film certainly outdoes most direct to DVD entries, but with so many other similarly themed war entries in the genre, RED SANDS just doesn't do enough to create its own unique identity. Still, it is a good watch and worth checking out!

Rating: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Bride of Chucky (1998)

This is the absolute right direction the CHILD'S PLAY film series needed to go. Self-parody heralded the death of the Slasher era in the 80s, but this was mainly because the once terrifying Slasher icons had become soft, family-friendly bogeymen. Chucky was slinging cheap one-liners by the second film, and the B-movie plot of a killer doll attempting to possess the soul of a young boy was already a silly start, so it was a logical step to write this entry as a self-aware Horror Comedy. Chucky is revived once more by his ex-girlfriend Tiffany, who becomes trapped in a doll's body herself when her deranged obsession with him drives him to kill her. The duo hitch a ride with two unsuspecting teens in search for the amulet that will let them transubstantiate themselves back into human form. Tiffany is the perfect balance to the impulsive and psychotic Chucky, and is cast perfectly by the sexy Jennifer Tilly. The combined efforts of Kirschner and Yagher in the new puppet designs also pay off in some of the most amazing and convincing practical FX in the series. What it comes down to is the film is everything it should have been: silly, stupid, but above all completely entertaining. Easily the best sequel in the series!

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.
Number of views: 8.



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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE serves as a direct remake to F.W. Murnau's original, and retains much of the same German Expressionist stylism while offering a new twist on the Stoker legend. Nosferatu serves as a physical embodiment of the plague, and his arrival in Wismar marks the beginning of the end for the small town. The Count bears a close resemblance to the rats that he carries with him, with Klaus Kinski's portrayal displaying the same haunting visage and mannerisms that Max Schreck had created fifty years earlier. Unlike Schreck, Kinski offers a morose and pitiful creature that has been forced to endure countless centuries alone, which is told through his sullen expressions and deep set eyes. In this rendition, we find an unlikely hero in the reluctant Lucy, who finds the world crumbling around her as the city succumbs to the plague and her betrothed Jonathan returns from Transylvania having forgotten all that he loved. Isabelle Adjani is stunningly beautiful with flawless features, and the stark contrasts of her make-up design placed within the dreary settings make her almost as ghost-like and surreal as Nosferatu himself. There are numerous haunting scenes of empty streets, dilapidated castles, and punch drunk plague victims that all contribute to the dreamy atmosphere and mood of the entire film. In the end, the film feels like a unique bridge between the Expressionism of the original and the depressing realism Jean Rollin brought to the genre in France. It is a dark and depressing Dracula entry that serves as a solid watch!

Rating: 8/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Blood: The Last Vampire (2001)

While the animation in this vampire short is nothing short of impressive, I have never really been a fan of the film. I like the concept, I like the gore, but I do not like the creature design (original as they may be), and the story feels trapped by the short run-time. A young vampire hunter is sent in on an undercover operation to destroy the vampires that have infested a local high school. The blending of skillful animation and computerized imaging is handled very well and lends the film a sharp design. The largest problem with the plot is that it just isn't overly interesting or original. Countless films have tackled the vampire hunting other vampires theme, and nothing is done here that hasn't been covered before. What it does offer is a ruthless anti-hero, and plenty of solid animated gore. I am very interested in seeing how the film translates over to the live-action version released earlier in the year, as the feature length may offer the added plotting the short was lacking.

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Now this sequel is everything I had wanted out of the first film. It has not just simply replaced the lead characters with black counterparts, but it has organically introduced more cultural differences in the storyline while the script could easily have been played by performers of any race. This creates a much more natural feel while validating the strength of the filmmaking and allowing it to transcend the abased Blaxsploitation subgenre. The technical work in the lighting, cinematography, and framing have each been dramatically improved as well, drawing the viewer in with small touches of the classic Gothic Horror entries. Marshall returns with another powerful performance while the female lead brings Pam Grier (!!) into the starring role as a voodoo priestess whom Blacula seeks out to help rid him of his bloodthirsty curse so that he may return to his people in Africa. SCREAM is more enjoyable than the original in nearly every way, and it is disappointing that the series was ended so prematurely when it had just picked up its stride. Well worth seeking out for a fun and original play on the Dracula theme!

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blacula (1972)

A vampire cursed by Dracula himself is reawaken a century later in Los Angeles after being brought overseas by a pair of antiquities dealers. The so-called Blacula stalks the streets of LA until he comes across the reincarnation of his wife Luva, whose love he attempts to win back as a Scientific Investigator seeks out the cause for the recent rash of deaths occurring down town. Outside of the obvious urban influence the film represents, it also breaks many other social taboos, such as introducing two gay leads in the opening act, while exploring the racial discrimination that was commonly found in the police work of the time. Marshall and Rasulala offer strong performances as the Soul Brother counterparts to Dracula and Van Helsing, and none of the cast lead the film into stereotypical self-ridicule. The script is written well enough, but there is not enough originality or differentiation to distinguish this film from any other average Dracula incarnation. There are, however, ambitious attempts at low-budget special FX and make-up design that is strikingly similar to DAWN OF THE DEAD. Once the novelty of the film wears off, it doesn't quite make the grade, but I don't have any means for comparison for this film against any of the other Blaxploitation entries of the time.

Rating: 6/10.
Entertainment: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Friday, November 6, 2009

HorrorBlips Debate: Bringing Back the Blair Witch

Be sure to head on over to HorrorBlips for another great debate, this week focusing on whether or not the Horror bloggers would like to see a third incarnation of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT in the form of a prequel, sequel, or remake:

http://horrorblips.dailyradar.com/story/bring-back-blair-witch/

After the jump you can find the entries by each of the other bloggers, or you can view our contribution below:

“The Blair Witch Project” was a groundbreaking film, regardless of any similarities it may have shared with “Cannibal Holocaust.” The advertising campaign alone was purely genius, but what sold the authenticity of the film were the shockingly realistic characters and events it depicted. Though the sequel was almost a complete reversal of the small Indie look and feel of the original, what it did offer was a critical look at the media blitz following the first film, while exploring the debate over whether horror films have a cathartic or catalytic effect on the viewer.

What could a third film now offer a decade later? There is no excuse for a remake at this point; not enough time has passed, and there is no shortcoming that could be expanded upon in a second take. A sequel could be promising, but how do you follow the original using the same stylism without having it fall back into a remake? Obviously, a prequel couldn't use the same “found footage” approach, since the film would be based in the early 1900s. Of the three options, though, I think there is infinite more potential in retelling the story of the Blair Witch and Rustin Parr in the traditional cinematic style. The tale is frightening enough on its own, and could finally allow for viewers that criticized the lack of action and visuals to experience the film they had hoped for in 1999.

Regardless of the direction the film takes, I will absolutely be in line opening night. The series is best left in the hands of its creators, and I look forward to anything else the Witch has to offer!

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1997)

While this sequel is similar in tone and theme, creatively it falls desperately short of the mind-fuck that is TETSUO: THE IRON MAN. A family man turns into a vengeful metallic assassin after his son is kidnapped by a cybernetic gang led by a crazed scientist. What ensues is a cyberpunk battle between the organic machine men, with crazy visuals and a hyper-kinetic pace. Though the film is still very experimental in style, Tsukamoto focuses much more on character and story development as compared to the previous film. There is a clear and concise plot, but it feels much more like an average Anime robo-battle than his typical on-screen insanity. The costume design and special FX have certainly received an upgrade, with plenty of action and gore. The problem with these advancements is that they take away from the raw, gritty, and often disturbing aspects of the original film. BODY HAMMER is a decent followup, and will definitely appeal to fans of crazed robot action, it is just much more grounded and generic than its predecessor.

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Child's Play 3 (1991)

There isn't much fun to be had here. Chucky returns, this time being brought back to life when the plastic from his previous incarnation is melted into a new batch of Good Guy dolls. Reborn once more, he tracks Andy down to his new military academy, but finds that he can now pass his soul into the body of a new boy he befriends, as Andy attempts to rid the world of him forever! Kevin Yagher takes over the FX in this film, bringing some decent realism to the puppet, but also making Chucky look like a stunted pig. The deaths are tame and boring, and c'mon, of all the possibilities the series had open to it, the best option was to take it to military school? More one-liners, expected acting, and a retread on the same plot from the past two films. If I wasn't a completist, I would probably pass on this one each year.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Entertainment: 5/10.
Number of views: 7.



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Transformers 2 (2008)

Terrible. Am I the only person that can't stand Megan Fox or Shia LeBouf (outside of his role in DUMB AND DUMBERER)?? I can't tell what the hell is going on the entire film. I was too young to be a Transformers fan, but I actually really dug the first film. Just wasn't into this one.

Rating: 6/10.

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The Horrors of Party Beach (1964)

Who would have expected such a cruel and unusual flick to come out of such a B-movie title! A garbage barge releases toxic waste into the sea, where bodies of a sunken ship are resurrected into mutant fish zombies that attack the nearby Party Beach!! The film is rife with 60s camp and groovy surfer tunes, but what is most jarring is the ruthless and bloody attacks made by the goofy and bug-eyed fish creatures (referred to in the film as zombies). In a particularly awesome scene, a sorority house is dismembered when said zombies crash the pajama party and rip the scantily clad girls to shreds. Considering the tone and subject matter, I would have expected much less out of this flick, but the cinematography, score, and characters are all far above the average B-movie fare. Sure, the costuming is entirely laughable, but the costumes are so ridiculous that they cross back over into being awesome. While this may not be the greatest film, it is definitely unique and entertaining, and caught me completely by surprise.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.
Number of views: 1.

A very special thanks to Mykal and Radiation Cinema for turning us on to this flick!



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Monday, November 2, 2009

Child's Play 2 (1990)

What can I really say about CHILD'S PLAY 2? The larger budget is clearly evidenced in the improved maneuverability of the various puppets, and especially in the huge manufacturing set at the climax of the film. The dark satire of the original is almost completely removed, and Chucky's sinister humor is beginning to slip into Freddy's cheap one-liners. As as early 90s Slasher? Its an OK film. There are enough wide and low angled shots combined with moody lighting and atmosphere to set up for a few creepy moments with everyone's favorite killer doll, and we do get a handful of dead bodies. The cover, on the other hand.. I have been terrified of the CHILD'S PLAY 2 poster since it debuted on VHS. Take it for what it's worth, it is the best of the 'straight' sequels, but I prefer the tongue-in-cheek BRIDE and SEED (blasphemy!).

Rating: 7/10.
Number of views: 8.



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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lord of Illusions (1995)

It's been years since I've seen LORD OF ILLUSIONS. I think the last time was when it was a new release on VHS? Well, not much has changed in my opinion of the film. Let's explore: A private detective is hired by an illusionist's wife to investigate the murders of his past associates, as the three are thrust into the dark world of magic, murder, and betrayal. For a film titled LORD OF ILLUSIONS, there is a serious lack of illusions. Like, maybe 5. Now, granted, the visual FX for 1995 were pretty remarkable, however the plot plays out as a film noir detective story focusing on the slow revelation of clues rather than the big budget FX the title and cover suggest. That isn't to say that the plot is bad, necessarily, but rather unexpected. Barker introduces his favorite sleuth Harry D'Amour to the screen as played by Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula, whose combined talents do create a genuine throwback to the detective films that dominated the 40s and 50s. There are also many other odd and offsetting characters that continue to drive the mystery and suspense; that is, all but one. Daniel von Bargen just doesn't sell the harbinger of destruction that he should as the supposed Lord of Illusions. The film is given ample time to build to the climactic end, but after the audience blindly lends their attention to Clive in expectation of a nightmarish finale, the end of the film just leaves most fans wanting more. What can be said of it is that the film clearly delivers a Barker original, and his mark is stamped all throughout the characters and visuals. It is interesting and unique, but certainly does nothing to top his ground-breaking HELLRAISER or Horror/Fantasy NIGHTBREED.

Rating: 7/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 2.



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