Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Mummy Returns (2001)

The adventurers from the first film return to Egypt to stop the recently revived mummy Imhotep from destroying The Scorpion King of Egypt and thereby usurping his Army of Anubis, which he plans to use to destroy the world. Fail. A few choice words to describe the film: implausible, stupid, contrived, boring, over-budgeted, cartoony. This is one of my all-time least favorite films of all time. It is utterly ridiculous, and is the sickening side effect of giving an untalented director too much money and control. At least the first film introduced some genuinely impressive and ground-breaking FX, but in the three years between movies, it would appear that computer imaging got significantly worse. The plot twists in THE MUMMY RETURNS are unforgivable. By the time the film is over, there have been mummy warriors that can run and climb on walls, pint-sized mummy pygmies that stalk the team through a desert oasis, a half-scorpion half-The Rock final boss, a seemingly magical dirigible with rocket-powers, and a battle between an impossible number of Medji warriors and mummy Anubis warriors. Sure, all of these things seem stupid enough on their own, but when they are all sewn together in a single incoherent tapestry of shit it is just sad and irresponsible. Someone had to have known this was terrible. I fail to believe that the film passed through the hands of the writers, Sith Lord Stephen Sommers, the producers, and the Universal execs without anyone raising an eyebrow. I hadn't revisited the film since I wasted my allowance back in high school to see it in theaters, and with any luck I will never lower myself to watch it again. Dirigible. Who even thinks of including a dirigible in anything? Seriously? A dirigible. In 1930s Egypt. With rockets. That saves the day. Sure, make the argument that this is just supposed to be a "fun ride," and that I have no imagination and can't buy into the fantasy. In conclusion, I hate this film.

Rating: 5/10.
Entertainment: 4/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Blood Mania (1970)

BLOOD MANIA follows the beautiful daughter of a rich old miser as she attempts to kill him and claim her inheritance, which she intends on giving to her lover who has been blackmailed for sexy malpractice. With numerous other greedy friends and family trying to lay claim on the fortune, things are not as easy as they seem, and the group finds themselves wrapped up in sex scandals, murder, and betrayal. Yawn. In all fairness, BLOOD MANIA offers decent acting and filming, but it is simply another faceless and formulaic entry in an all too familiar setting. Don't let the title fool you either, as there is very little blood or mania to be found anywhere in the picture. Director Robert Vincent O'Neill seems to have drawn a great amount of influence from the International Horror and Thriller market, since the film is teeming with sex and nudity and displays more style than substance. For a standard by-the-numbers murder mystery in the vein of FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON or DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE, this one will foot the bill, otherwise it is entirely passable.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 2/10.
Number of views: 1



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The Mummy (1999)

I will be upfront about this one. I don't like this film. I don't like this series. And I especially don't like Stephen Sommers, whose corrupting touch has ruined potentially excellent films with his offbeat blending of action, comedy, and horror along with distasteful amounts of computer imaging. I cannot separate myself from this, and reviewing his films is often intimidating to me and my integrity as a film critic. THE MUMMY brings the mummified Egyptian priest Imhotep back to life when a cocky adventurer leads the bookish daughter of an archaeologist to the fabled City of the Dead, where the treasure of the pharaohs is rumored to be buried. Little do they know that the treasure has been sealed with a curse that awakens the ancient monster, who sets out to destroy Egypt and reclaim his lost love in a resurrection ceremony that will require the sacrifice of a certain female protagonist. Given the time of its release, THE MUMMY does offer ground-breaking special FX in creating the hallowed but animated corpse, and marks one of the first films to implement the track-motion CGI modeling. The sand modeling is also extremely impressive, and holds up much better than some of the earlier establishing shots that already appear dated. My biggest problem is the uneven tone of the film. It is never unnerving enough to be considered Horror, and certainly isn't funny enough to be a Comedy. That leads it into the questionable Action/Adventure genre, which falls far from the original upon which it was based. Moreover, it forces its leads to come off as goofy and over the top despite decent performances. While the film is rich in fantasy as well, it repeatedly defies logic and historical accuracy in lieu of conveniently placed action and comic relief. For a big-budget blockbuster in a pretty package that has been specifically designed for mass consumption, THE MUMMY certainly fits the bill and offers an interesting take on the classic legend, but I find watching it to be more of a chore that I put off for longer and longer between each viewing.

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



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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: Going to Pieces

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986
By Adam Rockoff
Published 2002, 223 pages

Going to Pieces is quintessential reading for any Slasher fan. Rockoff provides a textbook collection of information covering the historical influences like the theater of the Grand Guignol leading up to the Slasher era, through its early development in films like PSYCHO or PEEPING TOM, to its perfection in HALLOWEEN, and then thoroughly examines each of the major entries from FRIDAY THE 13th to the lesser known JUST BEFORE DAWN before discussing the expected end to the exploitation of American audiences.

Rockoff has tirelessly researched every possible press kit, newspaper clipping, and interview in order to assemble this definitive work. Prior to its publication in 2002, very little information remained available to the Slasher fan when it came to many of the then out of print titles. Cast and crew members that had not past away had fallen into obscurity, and as Rockoff recalls, many of the directors that had passed took all of the film's stories and histories with them since no one had bothered to record them previously. Now in 2009, we have been given director's cuts of everything from THE NEW YORK RIPPER to MY BLOODY VALENTINE, along with a slew of behind-the-scenes special features. Even armed with all of the information that has surfaced since 2002, Going to Pieces still offers a great deal of insightful information and interviews that detail the productions of films like HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, GRADUATION DAY, HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE, and others that have still yet to receive more than bare-bones releases.

No stone is left unturned as Rockoff cites interviews with genre legends John Carpenter and Sean Cunningham with the same admiration and enthusiasm that he gives to less appreciated but equally talented directors like Fred Walton (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS) or Paul Lynch (PROM NIGHT). Many of these exclusive interviews produce little known facts about the films Slasher fans have grown to love, along with amusing anecdotes about the cast and production difficulties. Additional rare interviews from across the globe have also been cited from prolific filmmakers such as Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci, who made their marks with the closely-related Itialian Gialli.

While the majority of the information is provided in an objective and scholarly manner, Rockoff is sure to sneak in his opinions on the majority of the films (often in less-than-subtle remarks), and for the most part his opinions closely reflect those of the versed Slasher fan. In terms of catagoric coverage, the book manages to cover 90% of what would be considered the "classic" Slasher entries, but considering the enormous catalogue of cheap copycats and cash-ins, I would estimate its total coverage at about 40% of the genre at large. It is an excellent effort that boldly tackles a genre of film that is commonly overlooked or frowned upon in most other Horror literature, making Going to Pieces a must-read for all fans. **Be sure to note, however, that this collection is better left to the Slasher fan that has seen the majority of these films in order to avoid major spoilers and for a greater appreciation of the references and directors mentioned in the text.** Going to Pieces has been adapted into a Documentary film as well in 2007, which offers the same excellent interviews with slightly fewer spoilers, so for those of you that haven't had the opportunity to watch films like THE PROWLER or THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, I recommend watching the documentary first for glimpses into the films, following it with the films themselves, and then immediately transitioning into the book for the most complete background information.

Rating: 9/10.



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The Ring Two (2005)

AKA "The Longest, Boringest Movie Ever Made, Ever." Coming off of the success of the first remake, I had ginormous hope for this sequel, but after the first half hour I got upset at my wife for waking me up in the theater while the film was still running. Hideo Nakata (director of both RINGU and RINGU 2) returns to the series in this second film, removing the unnatural coloring that had been used in the previous film in place of a drab, near black and white palette. His second chance at the series followup is no less convoluted and confusing than the Japanese original, though the two films share very little in common. Rachel and Aidyn have relocated after copying the cursed tape, thereby saving them from Samara's wrath, but when the body of a local boy is found disfigured in an all-too-familiar manner, Rachel must set off to destroy Samara once and for all before she returns to possess the body of her young son. Throw in a few twists and turns when Rachel discovers that Samara was adopted and that her birth mother had attempted to kill her as well and we have a lengthy mess with very few chills. There is nothing necessarily wrong in the artful filming and design, the plot is just entirely redundant and follows the same basic structure as the first without generating any tension or suspense. If THE RING had been the pilot to a PG-13 teen Horror drama, and THE RING TWO had been broken in to four half-hour episodes, it might not have as boring and disappointing. But it wasn't, it was a wasted opportunity that successfully ended the series.

Rating: 6/10.
Entertainment: 4/10.
Number of views: 3.



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Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

A couple returns to their inherited mansion to find that it is currently inhabited by a couple of bourgeoisie vampires who have been kidnapping wary (and curvaceous) young travelers while harvesting their blood in their basement dungeon. Complete with John Carradine as a maniacal butler, an oafish assistant, and a few dingy sets, the film aspires to reach the same scale as the Universal pictures, but falls flat on every level. Due to obvious budgetary constraints, many exterior scenes are shot without sound and stretch on for inexcusable amounts of time. None of the characters are fully fleshed out or realized as they meander through this boring and formulaic vampire plot. The only interesting aspect of the film is that the victims' blood is extracted by syringe as they are kept alive in the basement, rather than being bitten or drained completely of their blood as in so many other similarly themed pictures. With no true horror, no suspense, and no special FX, the film proves to be another forgettable vamp flick doomed to public domain hell.

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



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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Ring (2002)

Just as RINGU was responsible for relaunching the proliferation of Japanese Horror films after its release in 1998, THE RING marked the first in a seemingly endless line of Americanized remakes brought overseas for mass consumption. Unlike many of the cheap cash-ins to follow, THE RING marks one of the few cases where the remake actually succeeds over the original film. Whereas RINGU was remarkable for being the complete antithesis of the conventional American Horror film, devoid of any overbearing score or excessive special FX, THE RING manages to perfectly blend the heart-racing tension and suspense of the original into the visual stylism that was commonplace in most other domestic releases. The results are phenomenal. Few films in recent Horror offer such jarring scares built on true suspense and anticipation. The film paints a world of surreal nightmares by contrasting sickly blue and green hues against the visual clues shot in bright reds and oranges on top of sets saturated in rain and fog. This made American audiences more willing to suspend disbelief and buy into the potential of a pasty-faced ghost harboring her revenge in a well. Hans Zimmer introduces a chilling score that takes the place of the empty ambient sounds of the original. Director Gore Verbinski brings a slick, stylized look to the film that feels distinctly more cinematic than its Asian counterpart, while dropping subtle homages to masters like Alfred Hitchcock throughout the picture. The cursed video, itself, has even been expanded upon with even more twisted imagery that is shocking to even the most hardened Horror fan. As for the plot, Verbinski has also left easier to follow clues throughout the tape that help guide the audience on the same journey as the characters in unlocking the truth. Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, and David Dorfman each deliver powerful performances that sell the suspense and mystery their characters find themselves in while also creating characters that are easier for Western audiences to relate to. RINGU was an intense supernatural thriller that made its mark in elitist Horror circuits; THE RING brought the ghostly terror home across the globe. Both films should be held in high regard within the genre, but THE RING proves to be the stronger of the two films in the end. I dare any newcomer to watch the film home alone in the dark. It is one of the few films that still frightens me on repeat viewings. A reporter must solve the mystery of a cursed videotape that kills its viewers before her seven days are up and the vengeful spirit comes to claim her soul.

Rating: 10/10.
Number of views: 11.



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Tales of Terror (1962)

One in a long line of Corman directed Edgar Allen Poe adaptations that takes the form of a trio of terrors starring Horror legend Vincent Price himself in various different incarnations. In our first tale, a young woman returns home to her reclusive father twenty-six years after he cast her away, blaming her for killing her mother in childbirth. The spirit of her mother takes the opportunity to wreak her revenge on the two people she holds accountable for her death. Next, a womanizing drunkard entombs his wife and her lover behind a faux wall in his basement, only to have his revenge spoiled by her howling pet in an adaptation of "The Black Cat." Lastly, a man is trapped in the throws of death when a sadistic hypnotist that attempts to blackmail his bodiless victim's wife into marrying him. Each of the three entries offer all of the same great Gothic set designs and atmosphere of the other AIP and Hammer productions of the time, riddled with fog-laden sets and weathered Colonial New England exteriors. Peter Lorre and Vincent Price ham it up in the second feature, but overall the entire picture is pretty dry and listless. I am not familiar with the short stories that inspired the first and third segments, but I can say that this adaptation of "The Black Cat" is even further from the source material than the Lucio Fulci picture of the same title. While watchable, there are far greater offerings from both Corman and Price that are more deserving of your time.

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



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The Ninja Dragon (1990)

An utterly ridiculous ninja gore spectacle that makes up for its terrible filmmaking in its absurd action and awful dubbing. The young daughter of a Yakuza leader is kidnapped by her father's rival, but thankfully she has been given the Dragon Bell which summons the Ninja Dragons, a trio of warriors with unmatched skill. Sort of. While this is an obvious play on the ninja and samurai films that were prevalent through the 70s and 80s, I wouldn't say it was a parody of them so much as a stupid, low-brow B-movie effort with no intention of being taken seriously. It combines elements of the ninja assassin movie with only the worst in low-budget horror, leading to only the most unconvincing disembowelments, decapitations, and head crushes imaginable. Even in its worst moments, it still manages to be entertaining though, thanks in part to the hilariously out of place dubbing and dialogue that takes the characters to the furthest exaggerated extremes. Horror fans: avoid. Ninja B-movie fans: do you exist?

Rating: 3/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Entertainment: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

The Ghostbusters are back! Six years after defeating Gozer, the team reassembles when a river of slime is discovered beneath the streets of New York that threatens to use the town's negative energy to restore life to an ancient Carpathian ruler and bring on the end of the world. GHOSTBUSTERS 2 is a solid sequel that retains the same smart humor and feel of the original film, though this second film is much darker in tone while offering a very positive social message. The entire cast returns to thwart this new supernatural threat, bringing back SNL mainstays Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray along with supporting characters played by Annie Potts and Rick Moranis to create a strong continuity following the first film. While the special FX work is still top notch, there have not been many noticeable advancements since the original. That does not stop Reitman and company from filling another hour and a half with various ghouls and goblins as well as a living Statue of Liberty that rallies New York's positive energy in order to break evil's hold on the city. While the script is very light-hearted, some of the imagery is intensely somber and frightening, particularly the sinister living painting of Vigo and the flying nanny with glowing red-eyes that will forever haunt my nightmares. GHOSTBUSTERS 2 is a worthy successor to the original film, and while the pacing may be a little slower and the structure may mirror the first installment, that does not take away from its overall enjoyment.

Rating: 9/10.
Number of views: 9.



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Ghostbusters (1984)

GHOSTBUSTERS will always remain one of the greatest Horror Comedies of all time. Despite having achieved its 25th Anniversary in 2009, the biting humor, social commentary, and special FX are just as relevant, funny, and amazing today as they were at its release in 1984. It is films like this that I will always regret not having been able to experience in theaters. Despite endless advances in technology and computer FX, few films have ever been able to top the combination of animation, matte painting, composites, set design, puppetry, tracking, and optical FX that were required in order to achieve the phenomenal results GHOSTBUSTERS has earned. On top of ground-breaking technical work, Ivan Reitman has also assembled an all-star cast of memorable characters to flesh out this spookfest. It really requires no review or accolades since it is unquestionably one of the best in the genre, but I have enjoyed the film for so many years that I owe it the additional praise as a small token of my appreciation. For those of you that have either never seen the film or have let it sit for a few years, its time to charge up your proton packs and get in on some sweet ghostbusting action! A team of scientists open up shop as New York's first (and only) paranormal exterminators, just in time to save the world from disaster when the gateway to Hell is opened in a downtown sky rise.

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



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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Santa Claws (1996)

Literally unwatchable porn. While the boob-o-meter was off the charts, there isn't enough plot in this piece of crap to choke a camel. A wacked-out weirdo that's obsessed with a porn star uses the black-clad costume and gardening claw props from her last film to eliminate the other slutty porn stars and producer that are holding back her career. Ten shower scenes later, he buys a Santa costume, and the same mindless (and bloodless) killing goes on for another half hour or so until you can't take it any longer and turn the TV off. You couldn't ask for more cardboard characters and staged acting. I'm pretty sure I saw a girl reading off of a cue card at one point. The killer is such a wussy putz he single-handedly drains the film out of any of the possible fun that could be had. I know you have all seen BLACK CHRISTMAS and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT countless times, and you are probably curious to find another Christmas classic as I have been, but please, don't rent this garbage.

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



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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Santa Claus (1960)

Apparently someone slipped me some Yule tide acid tonight. SANTA CLAUS tells the tale of the night before Christmas when Pitch, Lucifer's lead demon, is sent to Earth to trick the children into being bad little girls and boys in an attempt to overthrow Santa's rule. Pitch enlists the help of three naughty boys to set traps and stop Santa from delivering his Christmas cheer. But Santa doesn't get mad.. He gets EVEN!! Despite the awful dubbing, laughable costumes, and over-the-top acting, the production values are actually quite surprising considering this film came out of 1960s Mexico. The set design, special FX, and matte work all greatly exceed expectation, and Cardona shows an impressive amount of craftsmanship for such a low budget B-movie. The plot and acting are just so utterly ridiculous that it can't possibly be taken seriously. Santa uses his magical powers given to him from Merlin, who works on Santa's orbital space station, in order to sneak in to each house unnoticed. He then sniffs his magic flowers that allow him to teleport out of each house as Pitch dances around in his red leotard trying to spoil Santa's attempts. Computerized re-enactment:

I have been searching all season for a new Christmas classic to watch every year, and I think I may have found it. SANTA CLAUS is absolutely hilarious, with some of the most off the wall and unintentionally funny dialogue I have seen in years. The film served as an episode of the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, and with good cause. It is best watched with a group of friends and a 24pk to warm up the holidays with some awesome B-movie cheer. Even in all of its terrible glory, it still makes for a fun Christmas Fantasy flick that I am sure children would enjoy as well. I am surprised to see how low it has been rated on IMDB. Is it silly? Yes. Is it stupid? Sure, but a great deal of work obviously went in to this production, and it is indisputably entertaining.

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



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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Altered States (1980)

A Harvard professor seeking the ultimate in personal enlightenment experiments in tribal medicine and sensory deprivation in order to expand his mind and become one with the original self. In doing so, he begins regressing into a simian state, first during his experiments, and then in his waking life. Are these just onsets of a drug-induced hallucinatory state, or has he begun to mentally and physically digress back into earlier stages of evolution? ALTERED STATES is an unadulterated stream of consciousness projected on screen. It is a hallucinatory nightmare that poses challenging psychological, spiritual, and ethical questions to the viewer. The complexity of the themes are far too advanced to be mere fantasy, and draw heavily from the psychotropic studies of the 60s and 70s. The problem with much of the script is that it is too intelligent for its own good, losing the audience in the psycho-babble of its characters and blending scientific theory with pseudo-science. The visual allegories that are created during Eddie's experiments are also so abstract that it is difficult to derive meaning from any of it. That being said, the concepts of altered states of consciousness and physical regression immediately force the viewer to consider the limitless possibilities of the mind. These ideas are provocative, and demand consideration regardless of whether or not the film is based in fact of fiction. William Hurt is entirely convincing and even frightening in his search for the truth. His obsession borders on the same genius and madness as Dr. Frankenstein himself, only the monster he has created is himself. Unfortunately, many of the special FX are extremely dated, consisting primarily of green screen and overlays that show the film's age. Conceptually, they still convey the same raw, primordial imagery that was originally intended, so it is easily forgivable given the strength of the plot. Whether or not you agree with the ideology of the film or buy into the science behind the theories, it is still impossible to watch without initiating an introspective and reflective response upon the viewer. The film will be particularly appealing to fans of films like JACOB'S LADDER, and deserves at least a single view!

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



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Dead End (2003)

DEAD END is an excellent and under appreciated independent Horror film that slipped through the cracks in 2003. It follows a family down an isolated back woods road on Christmas Eve while on their way to their grandmother's house. After a near collision, they continue traveling for hours without passing any other cars or towns. Each time they stop to check the map or use the phone, another member befalls a terrible fate as they continue down the road to no where. Though the reveal is entirely predictable from the beginning of the film, it is the path getting there that is the most enjoyable. The bickering family members reveal multiple layers of emotion and intimate secrets as their predicament grows from bad to worse, establishing rich dialogue and rounded characters. Ray Wise and Lin Shaye both provide stellar performances as the parents in what should be considered each of their best roles to date. The dark and desolate setting mixed with chilling sound FX sets a sinister tone as the family's calm demeanor begins to slip away. While there isn't much gore, there are several brilliantly crafted moments of suspense and true horror that are both shocking and unnerving. Considering the majority of the film takes place within the confines of the family vehicle, DEAD END must rely on the strength of its characters to draw the audience in. It achieves this and more, and ranks very highly on my list of independent Horror films from the last decade.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 6.



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ILHM Interviews EVIL THINGS Director Dominic Perez!!

As many of you may have noticed, a fantastic little Indie Horror film entitled EVIL THINGS has been taking the online Horror network by storm through a clever marketing technique paired with an even better film. ILHM had the chance to sit down with up and comer Dominic Perez, director of EVIL THINGS, to discuss this newest venture into the "Found Footage" film:

ILHM: Dominic, thanks for joining us! Numerous confidential packages containing screeners of your first feature film EVIL THINGS have been surfacing across the industry lately. Has your faux FBI investigation proved to be a successful advertising campaign for the film?

Dominic: When you receive a package from the FBI with "CONFIDENTIAL" stamped all over it, you're sure as hell going to stop and pay attention. You immediately start thinking about all the naughty things you've done in your life. "Oh my God, after all these years that snickers bar that I stole from the grocery store has finally caught up to me, Eeeek!" After you open the package and the adrenaline rush subsides, you're excited to learn that the FBI is asking for your help as they investigate a missing persons case. Then as you watch the enclosed video evidence you get to be an amateur investigator. Lots of people seem to be responding well to that kind of opportunity, so to answer your question, Yes, the advertising campaign is successful. It makes people eager to PRESS PLAY and that's my goal.

ILHM: Bring us back to the conception of EVIL THINGS. What were your major influences in the writing and directing of the film, and how long has the film been in development?

Dominic: I was primarily influenced by a real event which happened to me when I was a 10 year old boy. It was an event that tapped into my greatest fear... Someone is out to get you, but you don't know who or why, and you don't know when, where, or how they will strike. EVIL THINGS is essentially a movie-within-a-movie which was created by some very sick individuals who have seen one too many horror movies. Therefore, in EVIL THINGS, you will see elements of so many other horror movies. The ones that seem to directly influence EVIL THINGS include: JOYRIDE, CACHE, DUEL, VACANCY, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, THE HAUNTING, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THEM (ILS), EVIL DEAD, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, LOST HIGHWAY, and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (the original one). Oh and the movie was developed over a period of 4-6 months during 2008.

ILHM: Has the success of such micro-budget films as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY opened new doors in the industry for independent filmmakers like yourself?

Dominic: The enormous success of PA (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY) proves that there certainly is an audience for spooky micro-budget movies. Before PA came out, distributors would see the trailer for EVIL THINGS and say "wow scary, but not for us". Most distributors just don't know how to market this kind of movie. After PA made $100 million, distributors all over the world are now reaching out to me with "please send us a screener of EVIL THINGS as soon as you can." Yeah, I'd say it's opening doors. Kids of all ages (including me) are tired of all the slickly produced torture porn that's out there, and they just want something different. PA and SAW 6 were out in theaters at the same time. SAW 6 was produced for $11 million and made $26 million in the U.S. PA was produced for $15 thousand and made $107 million. If EVIL THINGS pulls in just 1% of that it will be enormously successful considering its budget.

ILHM: Viewers will note that each of the cast members of EVIL THINGS look and feel incredibly real, each with their own distinct "boy or girl next door" appeal. Were the actors and actresses chosen with this in mind, or was this a fortunate coincidence that resulted from budgetary constraints?

Dominic: Watching a movie is like going on a long journey. If you're going on a journey for 2 or more hours with someone that you don't know, it better be someone that's likable, believable and for whom you have great empathy. Otherwise, why go on the journey? I often find that the weakest link in many horror movies, and movies of all kinds, is the actors and the acting. So many movies that I've seen recently have these chiseled model types that have zero charisma and are not good actors. Of course we all like to watch good looking people, but a pretty landscape or a pretty face alone can not engage my interest for 2 hours. I intentionally looked for likable, believable actors that had some kind of twinkle in their eye. "The 3 most important things in a movie are casting, casting, casting." -Billy Wilder

ILHM: You have taken a daring approach in EVIL THINGS, leaving a large majority of the film relatively uneventful in order to strengthen the integrity and reality of the film while also leaving the ending entirely open ended. Do you feel this will help or hurt its performance when it reaches a wider audience?

Dominic: EVIL THINGS is structured the same way that ROCKY, THE EXORCIST, and John Carpenter's original HALLOWEEN are structured. We use the first part of the movie to allow the viewer to become invested in the characters so that when really bad things or should I say evil things start happening to our characters, the emotional effect on the viewer is incredibly powerful. The viewer never wants bad things to happen to people that they've come to know and like. Most horror writers/directors are so afraid to lose the attention of their viewer that they start splattering blood on the screen and killing characters off in the first minute of the movie (i.e. MY BLOODY VALENTINE, JOYRIDE 2...etc.). Those "horrible events" that happen to characters that we don't know or care about end up being empty and meaningless. Regarding open endings? There are films that you forget the minute the credits start rolling. Those are the movies that give you all the answers and tie everything up nicely for you in the end. There's no mystery in those films and they're not interesting to me. Many people have told me that the ideas in EVIL THINGS haunted them long after they viewed the movie, and they often argue with friends about so many aspects of the movie and what they just saw. That's a good thing to me.

ILHM: The DVD market has become many filmmaker's greatest ally in achieving a wide release on a tiny budget. If EVIL THINGS never received a theatrical run, would you be satisfied with a successful DVD release?

Dominic: I will not be satisfied until EVIL THINGS is playing on every multiplex movie screen, hi-def widescreen TV, Airline TV screen, Video-On-Demand channel, cable system, i-pod, computer screen and every electronic billboard that flickers any kind of image anywhere and everywhere in the universe for all eternity. Having said that, I'm grateful just to be able to talk to you today. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

ILHM: What has been the most personally fulfilling experience in completing your first feature film?

Dominic: It took me 4 months to write EVIL THINGS, 7 days to shoot it and 2 months to edit it, but it took me 40 years to believe in myself. I encourage anyone who has a dream to stop dreaming and go out and make it happen. I once took an acting class and when it was my turn to go up on the stage the teacher always used to say, "don't be scared, you're just as worthy as anyone else to be up on that stage." I didn't believe her then, but now I do.

ILHM: Do you feel that computerized imagery and big budget FX have helped or hurt the Horror genre?

Dominic: At this point, CGI is great when it comes to creating inanimate objects (buildings, machinery..etc.), but when it's used to create living, breathing monsters, ghouls, goblins and freakazoids of all kinds, it simply sucks the big one. A prime example of this is to be found in the movie I AM LEGEND, which by the way is a remake of THE OMEGA MAN from the 70s. Those CGI vampire/creatures in I AM LEGEND were so cartoonish and unscary that I was speechless. The CGI totally ruined an otherwise amazing movie. On the other hand, a movie like 28 DAYS LATER which used real human beings as their monsters made my skin crawl.

ILHM: What are some of the things that drew you to write and direct Horror above any other genre of film?

Dominic: When I was 6 I went over to a friend's house to watch FRANKENSTEIN on his black and white TV. I was a horror fan from that moment. Now I find myself buying a ticket to see any and every horror movie that comes out in the theater even if I know nothing about it. I've been disappointed so many times, but I keep coming back for more.

ILHM: What are some of the current trends that you love and hate within the genre?

Dominic: I'm not a fan of torture porn of any kind. I'm more a fan of THE EVIL DEAD type of horror than I am of the HOSTEL or SAW movies. I don't find enjoyment in seeing people being tortured, especially people that I don't get to know or care about.

ILHM: If given the opportunity, would you prefer to work on smaller independent films, or would you like to take on a multi-million dollar project in the coming years?

Dominic: For now I'd like to be continue producing a few smaller, totally independent features, and be able to take risks and have almost complete control over the process. I'm in the best place right now. I don't have to ask anyone for permission or depend on anyone else to make a movie. That is both liberating and terrifying.

ILHM: Are you a fan first and a filmmaker second, or do you find that they both go hand in hand?

Dominic: In order to be a filmmaker I must be a fan first. If I'm not fanatical about what I'm making why should anyone else be?

ILHM: What is your favorite sub-genre in Horror?

Dominic: My taste in movies is all over the place. Some of my favorite horror movies are John Carpenter's THE THING, THE EVIL DEAD, CARRIE, THE DESCENT, ZOMBIELAND and SPICE WORLD.

ILHM: Are you currently working on your next feature?

Dominic: Yes, I'm writing, writing, writing. That's all I will say for now.

ILHM: What are the next steps in the process of marketing and distributing EVIL THINGS for a wide release?

Dominic: EVIL THINGS will soon be going to the European Film Market this February in Berlin where it will be introduced to movie distributors from all over the world.

ILHM: Where can fans go to find out more about EVIL THINGS?

Dominic:
The website www.evilthingsmovie.com would be a good place as well as www.wikipedia.com and www.imdb.com.

Dominic, it has truly been a pleasure. Having seen the film, I can honestly say it is one of the strongest Independent Horror in recent years alongside PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and GRACE. We wish you and the cast a profitable return and hope that the film is picked up quickly so that more genre fans have the opportunity to see it in theaters!

Dont forget to check out our previous interviews:

Judith O'Dea
Robert Kurtzman
Paul Solet
Pat Higgins


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Monday, December 21, 2009

Ringu 0 (2000)

RINGU 0 travels back 30 years before the accursed video tape to when Sadako was not the vengeful spirit, but a young aspiring actress. After the traumatizing experience with her mother, she is tormented by her peers who consider her to be a freak. They push her over the edge in what would become the final act of the play and her mortal life. My question is, why? Of all possible story lines this series could have adopted, it follows Sadako the actress? The film feels entirely disjointed from the rest of the series, and proves that it was best left in the hands of the original director Hideo Nakata. As was the case with RASEN, RINGU 0 is a much slower paced melodrama that downplays the more horrifying aspects of the earlier film in place of Sadako's social struggle as a misfit teen with psychokinetic abilities. In many ways, it shares much more in common with CARRIE than it does with the other films in the series. Some fans may disagree with the humanization of the character, however, since it is much easier to accept Sadako as a supernatural terror than a tormented soul that is punishing each of us for our inhumanities. After a long wait, there are some jarring moments at the very end that recall the previous films, but given the tone of this one they feel rather out of place. It isn't a terrible prequel, just different in many ways.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 6/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Ringu 2 (1999)

Picking up right where RINGU left off, a reporter friend of Reiko's begins working with the police to solve the mysterious deaths of Dr. Takayama and Reiko's father after her disappearance. They become involved with the remaining tapes, and discover that a psychic link has been established between Sadako and Reiko's son Yoichi. To convolute matters further, Dr. Takayama's psychic girlfriend enters the picture and whisks Yoichi away to Sadako's birthplace to try to rid the world of Sadako's vengeful spirit once and for all with the help of Dr. Ikuma. Got all of that? Yikes. This one is kind of hard to follow, and can only make sense if it is viewed directly following the original. At times, the film turns into a psychic mess, with numerous characters possessing ESP, foresight, and telepathy, which somewhat takes away from the underlying fear when the film becomes so far removed from reality. The curse is explained to be related to an energy exchange in this one as well, which robs it of much of the mystery and intrigue instilled in the original ghost tale. Nakata brings back more his disturbing yet subtle imagery, cranking up the creep factor even when the plot becomes entangled in itself. The production of the film is done very well, however it is just not nearly as terrifying or entertaining as RINGU. This sequel is still preferable to the American followup.

Rating: 7/10.
Number of views: 3.



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Christmas Season Massacre (2001)

This is below bad. An absolute mockery of filmmaking. Thankfully, CHRISTMAS SEASON MASSACRE does offer a few gruesome gore scenes and some absurd humor that almost makes the 55m run time worth sitting through. A group of old high school friends get together to celebrate the holidays, but their festivities are cut short when Oneshoe McGroo, the eye patch-clad teen they had tormented in high school, returns to exact his revenge. What results is a grueling hour of the absolute worst acting imaginable padded out with a pointless series of unrelated events that is supposed to constitute a plot. Many characters are killed before they are even introduced, and those that do have names garner no sympathy from the audience as they get drunk and act a fool. There are very few moments that didn't suck in the entire film, two of which involved uninspired gore consisting of nothing more than McGroo rifling through pig intestines, and the other two being hilarious moments where a little pirate flag pops up signaling impending doom for whichever two idiots are on screen. With next to nothing to do with Christmas, one would be hard pressed to find anything worth watching in this one. Anyone could make this film, there is no skill in any aspect of the filmmaking, and it is an unforgivably bad entry even for B-movie Horror.

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



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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rasen (1998)

The RINGU series takes an interesting split after the first film. There are two direct sequels: RASEN and RINGU 2, the second of which is considered the true sequel. This alternate series sequel follows a friend and colleague of Dr. Takayama (the man who had been killed by the cursed video tape in RINGU) as he attempts to solve the mystery of the recent rash of mysterious deaths. Dr. Ando determines that Sadako's curse is actually a virus that is being transmitted through sight, and he attempts to destroy all of the remaining tapes after viewing it himself. I would not even classify this film as Horror, as there is no real suspense, tension, or horror to be found in any of the narrative. It is more of an exploration of the myth behind the video tape, leading to extensive clinical research and the underlying fears of a wide-spread epidemic. While the idea of translating the curse into a virus is an interesting concept, it plays out like a slow medical drama that really has no place in Horror. The film does share a similar style to the original in its minimalist production, but the tone is much lighter and more introspective. Fans should give it a chance, since it is supposed to be a faithful translation of the original novel that was supplementary to RINGU, however be aware that it will not provide the same thrills as its predecessor.

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



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Ringu (1998)

RINGU single-handedly revived Asian Horror in 1998 through its minimalist production but bone-chilling scares. A reporter sets off to investigate the urban legend of a cursed video tape that is said to kill its viewers seven days after they watch the tape. After her niece dies under mysterious circumstances, she and her ex-husband mistakenly watch the tape and then set off to unravel its mysterious before they befall the same sinister fate. What is most effective about this film is that it is free from all of the conventions and abundant FX work that had become prevalent in most other genre fare around the world. Director Hideo Nakata strips his narrative almost entirely of any score, make-up, or special FX in place of a cold, dark storyline and direct focus on the characters and their journey. The scares are that much more effective as a result, because they are organically grown out of the tension and suspense of the ghost tale that is slowly unfolded through each of the clues and revelations. What will always be most memorable and deathly terrifying about RINGU will always be the unsettling contents of the video tape itself, and the television scene that has since become an integral moment in Horror movie history. These elements are achieved using such simple filming techniques, but they have had a unique and lasting impression on audiences world-wide. Everything from the acting to the original script and superior scares set RINGU above most of the other Asian ghost tales that were to follow, and it remains a Horror classic over a decade after its release.

Rating: 9/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Psycho Santa (2003)

How many times do I have to tell people, strippers do not make good actresses. PSYCHO SANTA is another abysmal $0 budget Horrorbortion that isn't worth the plastic it's coded on. No fan should be subjected to a movie this bad, but in all of its terrible glory, it does manage to be a slight improvement over SATAN CLAUS. A young couple on their way to a Christmas party recall the tale of a psychotic Santa that kills people. Later, he kills people. Plot handled. Director Peter Kier has at least some grasp on what visual storytelling and lighting should look like, but still manages to fail at both. Poor scripting, worse acting, but the one thing he knows will sell a few copies is having half the cast take their clothes off. It is easy to say that many of the film's failings were due to its non-existent budget, but it is obvious that millions of dollars couldn't have saved it. There is a reason that people return to Christmas classics like BLACK CHRISTMAS, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, and CHRISTMAS EVIL year after year; it's because they're good. Don't waste your time here.

Rating: 2/10.
Gore: 3/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Wrong Turn 3 (2009)

This sequel seems to have been panned by most critics for not living up to the quality of the original film while not being as gory or fun as the second. While both of these arguments hold true, it still isn't a complete disaster. Just a minor one. This round, a bus load of convicts are being transported through the woods when our lovable mutants blow out the tires and start a new manhunt of their own. WRONG TURN 3 lives up to all of the trappings of a bland direct to DVD sequel, with stock acting and a derivative plot that only serves as filler between kills. This paid off in spades for the previous film, since the ridiculous over the top gore and dark humor made the weak plotting and scripting forgivable. In this third film, there is neither enough gore nor enough humor to pass off the boring retread of a script. That isn't to say that there is no gore, however, since it starts off promisingly enough with some excellent FX and plods steadily along with a sliced off face here and severed limbs there all along the way. Is it stupid? Yes. Is it original? Hardly. But it is certainly watchable for any Slasher and Survival fan, and we have all certainly seen worse.

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



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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Satan Claus (1996)

Imagine in your head the worst low-budget film you have ever seen. The characters are empty, lifeless shells. The screen is impenetrably black due to inferior lighting. The dialogue is muffled at best. The film appears to have been shot on your parents camcorder. The camera zooms are rigged and abrupt. Useless and redundant scenes are stretched out to depressing lengths to fill the run time. And the acting... If you can even call it acting... Envision all of these elements that we each associate with terrible filmmaking. Was Santa the first thing to come to mind when you closed your eyes? Because he should have been. SATAN CLAUS single-handedly sets the scale for what a terrible movie can be. The list of poor filming techniques above is the short list for this train wreck. The main reason why it is so bad is because there was a valid effort made for it not to be bad; it is taken desperately seriously, which in the end makes it that much more of a joke. Typically, hardcore Horror fans with no talent or education will shoot these awful no-budget disasters as an excuse to throw in an insane amount of gratuitous nudity and gore, but SATAN CLAUS offers neither. The gore is so tame an unremarkable it may as well have not existed, since the cheap rubber limbs only add to the amateur nature of the film. It is all the more disappointing that it was made by Massimiliano Cerchi, who also directed the poorly made but outrageously gory PLANKTON. There is no foreseeable way that this film could ever be enjoyed by anyone, ever. It never crosses over into the terrible but entertaining B-movie Slasher that I was hoping for, and it should be avoided at all costs. A deranged Santa kills people, then its over. The end.

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



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Lady Snowblood (1973)

Outside of the recent J-Horror entries and my beloved Godzilla films, I am completely inexperienced when it comes to Japanese cinema. It is difficult for me to rate films like this because I have no means of comparison within the Japanese revenge or samurai sub-genres. Based on what I have seen, though, this is an area that I would love to explore. LADY SNOWBLOOD is easily one of the best Japanese films I have ever seen, offering a brilliant narrative and stunning cinematography built on an intricately structured revenge plot. Yuki was born for one purpose: to avenge her mother, who's husband had been killed by four cons before she was repeatedly raped for days. After her mother cursed the villains that ruined her life, she gave birth to a child of the netherworlds, who would be raised and trained as an assassin sent out to kill the ones responsible for her parents deaths. The film would serve as director Quentin Tarantino's greatest inspiration for the similarly-themed KILL BILL decades later, borrowing generously from SNOWBLOOD's structure and plot. Each of the roles are perfectly envisioned by the cast, offering dramatic live-action representations of the original manga characters set to tons of bloody cartoon violence and gore. There are very few moments where the pacing slows or the plot feels contrived, but overall this is an excellent film and comes highly recommended!

Rating: 9/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Not enough can be said for the amazing claymation and brilliant design demonstrated in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. It is distinctly Tim Burton, serving as a window into his beautifully dark and twisted imagination. The film has become a cult classic due to its unique style, superb animation, and unforgettable musical numbers, and with good cause. That being said, I have never liked the movie. I don't get it. If I don't put the subtitles on, I can't hear a god damned word they're saying, and I have never been a fan of musicals to begin with. This is the first time I have ever made it through the entire film, to be honest. That does not stop me from recognizing why it is popular and where it succeeds. I can truly appreciate the talent that went in to the crafting of the film, from the conception of each of the nightmarish characters to the time-intensive labor and dedication needed to pull off such flawless stop-motion animation. I love the contrast of the ghouls and goblins thrust into the cheery Christmas setting, but I just never seem to enjoy the film no matter how hard I try. Regardless, it is entirely different from any other film ever made, it shows an unmatched amount of craftsmanship, and it deserves its place as a classic in modern animation. Halloween Town is rocked when their leader Jack Skelington discovers the portal to Christmas Town, and decides to bring back the spirit of Christmas to the boys and ghouls of his dark and dreary domain.

Rating: 10/10.
Entertainment: 7/10.
Number of views: 3.



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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964)

The beneficiaries of the recently deceased Rufus Sinclair meet for the reading of his will. It lists a series of demands that must be met by each family member, otherwise Sinclair threatens to return from the grave to kill anyone that does not obey his wishes. It isn't long before his rules are broken and a masked villain begins exacting his revenge! THE CURSE is a pretty standard revenge plot which distinguishes itself apart from similar murder mysteries that preceded it in its graphic on screen violence and gore that helped pave the way for the modern Slasher alongside PSYCHO and DEMENTIA 13. Roy Schieder leads the film as the patriarch's under appreciated but intelligent son that attempts to aid the police in unraveling the mystery in order to stop the killer, but he and each of the other players are too over-the-top to be taken seriously. There is also an uneven blend of horror and comedy thanks to a bumbling cop and unintentionally humorous scripting. Where the film does succeed is in Tenney's superior filming, filled with stark contrasts in beautiful black and white as well as creepy environments and atmosphere. I'm afraid this one will be a bit too bland for the modern Horror fan, but it has enough murder and mischief to remain entertaining for classic Horror enthusiasts.

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



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Puppet Master Vs Demonic Toys (2004)

There is no excuse for how terrible this film is. We all accept the Full Moon flicks as being often cheesy, always low-budget, but above all well-crafted and entertaining entries in the B-movie canon, but unfortunately SyFy Channel got their corrupting hands on the rights to this one in an attempt to strip the series from what little dignity it had left. The puppets and toys in PMvDT are laughably cheap plastic imitations of the amazing hand-carved and frightening creatures in the original film series. They lack the character and personality that the wooden dolls were given due to inferior puppetry and carelessly crafted designs. They also receive some much (un)needed upgrades for the final (only) battle in this anti-climactic mess. As far as the acting and dialogue goes, it feels as if the actors think that they are hamming it up in a campy B-movie classic, but really the whole display comes off as amateur and sickeningly over-the-top. This is unmistakably Corey Feldman's worst film role, and despite the script's failed attempts at humor, he does get the audience laughing. It's too bad it is at his own expense. PMvDT fails on every low-budget TV movie level it possibly can, and will only serve to upset if not infuriate fans of either series. It does not even make for a guilty pleasure on a late night with friends. It is so bad it's bad, not so bad it's good. I can go on, but what's the point, really. The evil CEO of a large toy manufacturer makes a pact with a demon to possess all of the toys that are scheduled to be sold to boys and girls around the world during Christmas in exchange for unimaginable power. It is up to Andre Toulon's last surviving relative to resurrect Toulon's living puppets in order to battle the demonic toys that aim to rule the world! Fail.

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



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Evil (1980)

Harry Stradling has a problem. He was traumatized as a young child when he caught Santa Claus making cookies with mommie on Christmas Eve. Now, as an aged adult, he is completely obsessed with Christmas, working for a toy company where he tormented by his co-workers, living in an apartment that is decorated for Christmas year-round, all while watching the little girls and boys and taking notes on who has been naughty and nice. This is a special year, however; the year when Harry will take to the streets in his new Santa costume to spread his twisted Christmas cheer be handing out presents to the good boys and girls while punishing the naughty ones.

CHRISTMAS EVIL is a melodramatic character study that shares much more in common with Abel Ferrara's THE DRILLER KILLER than the holiday classic SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. It is commonly mistaken for a Slasher film thanks to a misplaced marketing campaign, which often leads to disappointment with many genre fans. Brandon Maggart offers a sad and pitiful performance as the tortured and distraught Harry. He is frighteningly convincing in the role, selling his insanity through his manic behavior paired with a series of blank and lifeless expressions that reveal his distancing from reality. Maggart is easily the strongest element in the film, since the majority of Harry's character is revealed through his portrayal on screen, and not in the writing. There are several complex layers that director Lewis Jackson has accomplished through the film, playing with the concept of man versus myth, commenting on the commercialism of the holiday, and contrasting fantasy and reality. As the film progresses, the environments and score both become reflective of the darkening mental void that Harry is entering. By the end of the film, it is difficult to tell how much of the events on screen are still intact in reality, and how much of it is part of Harry's delusional fantasy. In truth, this is not a fun film, and it has not been tailored to the average gorehound that will be expecting buckets of blood and gore. Instead, it is a smartly crafted and well-played portrait of the darker side that the holiday can play on the psyche. If you can enter the film without the expectation of it being a Slasher film, I think there is a lot to like here.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 3/10.
Number of views: 3.



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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pumpkinhead 4 (2007)

In this installment, Pumpkinhead is summoned to avenge the younger sister of a man who's family has been caught in a bitter rivalry with the family of the girl he loves. The girl was killed when the brothers of his girlfriend discover their affair and mistakenly run her down while trying to attack their sisters lover. To my amazement, this film wasn't terrible. It is by no means good, but it is watchable. The stock made-for-TV acting complete with ridiculous Southern accents can both be overlooked in anticipation of a surprising amount of gore and practical creature FX. Unlike the third film, 95% of BLOOD FEUD is done within the frame, with very little CG used whatsoever. This more than makes up for the dry and retread revenge plot, especially after the computer FX were abused so heavily in the last entry. Pumpkinhead actually looks pretty good as well, and I would rate the costume design and functionality in this one second only to the original film. From exploding heads to severed limbs, there is also enough of the red stuff to please any gore fan. This is a far cry from the awesomeness that is PUMPKINHEAD, but for a direct to SyFy Channel sequel it will probably surprise most fans of the series.

Rating: 5/10.
Entertainment: 6/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.



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