Sunday, February 28, 2010

She Creature (2001)

Occasionally, a film will slip under the radar and get by almost entirely unnoticed by the Horror community at large. Films like DAGON, BLOOD MOON, or CASTLE FREAK will fall into obscurity without ever receiving the attention they deserve. Such is the case in SHE CREATURE, a Creature Feature release that went straight to TV, but offers the polished professionalism of a studio picture on a greatly reduced scale. A carnival hawker steals a living mermaid from a desperate old man, but he and his crew fall prey to the creature as it lures them to their deaths aboard their ship while en route to American. The period setting for the film is entirely believable thanks to the incredible set designs and costuming, creating a High Gothic look that calls back to Murnau and the Universal classics. Stan Winston's creature work for the mermaid is nothing short of amazing, blending the actress into her fishy lower half evenly while also allowing for realistic movement. The alluring siren transforms into a nastier beast as they approach her home island in the Atlantic, where Winston introduces an even more menacing and impressive serpentine design with a unique Lovecraftian appeal. In a refreshing change for the modern monster film, all of the practical creature FX are performed in frame, giving the beast a stronger on screen presence and frightening reality. The unfortunate limitation with this is a rather weak transformation sequence, but given the strength of the rest of the film, it is easily forgivable. This is a must-see for all creature fans!

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



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Mum and Dad (2008)

This sick and twisted flick is one of the first Exploitation films out of England in decades. Clearly influenced by the works of Pete Walker, Tobe Hooper, and Wes Craven, MUM & DAD tells the tale of a poor Polish immigrant that is kidnapped and tortured by a perverted family led by mum and dad, who take pleasure in inflicting pain and sexual torments on the new family 'pet.' The film encompasses all of the same qualities and standards that would have had it banned under the Video Nasties act in the 1980s, depicting disgusting and brutal acts of violence in a downward degenerative spiral without tapping in to any sort of social commentary or redeeming moral consequence. It is purely Exploitation for the sake of Exploitation. It also provides critics with a perfect example used to justify their demeaning term "Torture Porn," since the film blends elements of both within its perverse framework. While all of this would seem to belittle the film, it actually has quite the opposite effect. MUM & DAD is one of the few films to achieve the same disgusting and unsettling moods generated in the first wave of true Exploitation films since the early 80s. In all of its nastiness, it provides two powerful and hated villains that are sure to draw an immediate emotive response from the viewer. The exclusion of any musical score leaves the audience defenseless as they are forced into uncomfortably close and intimate quarters with the events unfolding on screen. It often recalls the stronger elements of FRIGHTMARE, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and even THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, and provides great technical work, design, and acting for a film that was made for under $100,000₤. MUM & DAD is not a perfect film, however it does its best to recreate an era of film sleaze that is rarely recaptured in recent Horror efforts. Highly recommended for fans of the Exploitation sub-genre, but equally recommended against for anyone that finds the films named above distasteful.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 6/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wages of Sin (2006)

While attempting to reclaim a property left to her in a will, a girl and her friends fall prey to the ghosts of the past in an isolated farm house in the woods. WAGES OF SIN is a purely amateur Horror effort that never manages to gain any momentum or create any fear. It suffers from clean but pedestrian filming, expectantly bad acting, poorly written stereotypes for characters, and a tedious plot. There are a few scattered attempts to generate atmosphere and mood through choice lighting and fog effects, but neither the overbearing preacher nor the ghostly young girl that haunt the group manage to come off as anything but a joke. This is a weak video release that can easily be missed.

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



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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tony (2009)

Tony is an awkward outcast leeching off of social security, but what he lacks in social skills, he more than makes up for in cold-blooded cruelty. The small scale and budget for this Indie effort help and hinder it at the same time. Gerald Johnson's minimalist approach gives the film a close sense of intimacy on screen, with the voyeuristic cinematography and gritty realism echoing the similarly themed HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. The limitations of the budget are clearly evidenced in the bare sets and amateur acting, however, with much of the dialogue becoming almost impossible to understand due to the muffled audio and thick English accents. Tony is painted to be a totally incapable character, but unfortunately Ferdinando is all too convincing in the role. His performance never manages to draw an emotional response (whether positive or negative) from the viewer, though he does bring a detached, soulless approach to the character. TONY also promotes the theory of violence as having both a catalytic and desensitizing effect on the viewer, which is a stance that is rarely supported in Horror since the genre constantly comes under fire for those very ideas. But for a few jarring acts of violence, the film is devoid of the action and suspense of a straight Horror film while lacking the emotional bond and heart needed to create a successful character study. It is nevertheless an interesting attempt to recreate the raw power of HENRY on a smaller scale.

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



http://www.amazon.com/Tony-Peter-Ferdinando/dp/B00354VXT0

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ILHM's Guide to Building Your Horror Collection

I am commonly asked how I can spend so much money on movies when people see my collection, but really they have no idea how much painstaking work it takes to build a solid collection on a shoestring budget. The following tips are common tools I use to build a high quality collection without going broke in the process. I typically only spend $10-20 a week on DVDs using these rules:

  • Buy in Bulk: Many online sellers offer discounted shipping rates if you purchase more than one item. Sure, $1.00 may not see like much, but if you use the rules below and buy cheap, saving $3.00 or more on shipping can save you the cost of another DVD!

  • Avoid Impule Buying: There is no better way to waste your money than by grabbing high-priced retail items without checking around first. If Best Buy is next door to Walmart, spend 2-minutes and see if you can get it cheaper.

  • Buy Online: Purchasing from retail outlets is the thing of the past. The cost to ship and shelve DVDs is extremely costly to retail outlets since they make little overhead on DVDs. Online retailers like DeepDiscountDVD offer much lower pricing with FREE shipping many times.

  • Read Reviews or Rent First: Sure, that new Asylum release has pretty cover art and a cool name, but don't be fooled. There is nothing worse than coming home with a turd in sheeps clothing. Spend the time reading reviews, or open a cheap Netflix account and rent before buying to make each purchase worthwhile.

  • Buy Used: There is a HUGE stigma against buying used, but with good cause. Many online sellers have ruined the used DVD business for others, by misrepresenting the condition of their discs, selling bootlegs, or selling incorrect SKUs as OOP titles. If you take the time to research each seller's feedback, make sure to only purchase from high-feedback sellers, and only purchase conditions of Very Good or higher, you can save a TON off of the cost of new DVDs. Buying used from Blockbuster or other entertainment stores usually provides you with a 30-day guarantee for full return incase any of the discs are damaged, so why not save some money?

  • Buy Low, Sell High: Always be aware of upcoming releases. You may be sitting on a potential gold mine if a new manufacturer has a planned release for your OOP DVDs. Be ABSOLUTELY sure that the release will not get canceled, put your high-ticket items up on Amazon or eBay while the OOP title is at its peak (before anyone realizes it will be re-released), and then buy the new release and make a profit! Profits = more DVDs.

  • Search Low to High Prices Online: Most online outlets will have an option to search by genre and search by Low to High pricing. This is an invaluable tool that many people forget about. Amazon lists HUNDREDS of DVDs at $0.01 (plus $2.98 S+H), many of which will sometimes be NEW!! We arent just talking trashed copies of Horror Express, you can get excellent titles like The Fog, Hatchet, Behind the Mask, all at ridiculously prices. Combine that with the Bulk Purchase rule and you can get a quick jumpstart on your DVD collection.

  • Look for Multiple Releases: Many times that high priced DVD you want may have been released by another company in the past, and can be found much cheaper. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground both released many of the same titles, so never forget to check and see if that copy of Maniac or Mountain of the Cannibal God has been released in the past. Also, be sure to keep your eye on future releases, so that you dont mistakingly buy a high ticket OOP release from someone using the rule above when you can wait a month and get the re-release.

  • Create Wishlists: This is perhaps the most valuable rule of all. Create wishlists on as many online DVD outlets as possible, and be sure to update them and check them as frequently as possible to see what the current pricing is on all of your prospects. Prices change hourly, and if you are consistent, even the most expensive DVDs will drop in price. For those of you that only buy new, there is an awesome wishlist feature on www.dvdaf.com that has a built in price compare feature with all of the lowest-priced DVD sites online!

  • Be Patient: Unless you know something will be going OOP, be patient with your purchases. Sure, that itch gets hard not to scratch, but if you are thorough, consistent, and patient, your efforts will pay off ten fold when you grab that long-desired title $5.00 less than you would have paid normally.

Thats it, folks. There will always be people who refuse to buy used and rush to Best Buy every Tuesday to grab all of the new releases at full retail value, but for those of you that are like me and have to stretch every dollar, these rules will serve as an excellent resource for building your DVD collection!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From Dusk Till Dawn 3 (1999)

This third film serves as a prequel to the series, where an outlaw escapes death and flees the noose with the hangman's daughter, only to befall a worse fate when the duo stumble into a den filled with vampires in the Mexican desert. While it is in every way a mediocre tread down a familiar path, the acting is competent enough for a direct to video release and it does offer several impressive set designs that add to the creepy atmosphere. It would appear that this is where the majority of the budget was spent, however, since the make-up and writing are both severely lacking. The strong visual canvas is no substitute for originality or substance, and the paper-thin plot ends up feeling like a rushed second thought rather than an epic back story. But, for every ridiculous looking vampire, there is a gratuitous gore scene, and the film does keep in tone with the two entries preceding it. An entertaining but below average prequel.

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



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Monday, February 22, 2010

Diabolique (1955)

This classic suspense thriller offers all of the character and drive of Hitchcock's later masterpieces with its own unique look and feel. A woman and her husband's mistress plot to kill the man that has been oppressing each of them, but suspicions mount after the corpse of their drowned lover disappears from the pool where they planted the body. Was Michel really dead, or has someone discovered their deadly secret? Clouzot delivers a visually stunning film with fluid camera movements and inventive tracking shots. The flawed character of Christine is built in such a way that it is impossible to find fault in her actions, especially after she is beaten by her dominating husband while trying to slap a poisoned drink from his hand in a moment of fear and doubt. A recurring mirror motif constantly reflects Christine's guilt, as she is the only character to have her image cast back repeatedly throughout the film. Signoret plays Nicole as an emotionless and robotic femme fatale, however her cold demeanor and actions along with the impossible appearances of M. Delassalle after the disappearance of the body lead to an all too predictable end. The slow and methodical build is expertly handled, and only further strengthened by an excellent cast. Hitchcock fans will find everything to love in DIABOLIQUE, even if it falls just short of a perfect film.

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



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Sunday, February 21, 2010

From Dusk Till Dawn 2 (1999)

This direct to video sequel takes off with an entirely new story and cast while keeping with the same basic structure and tone of the original. While the writing may not be as sharp as the first, it still provides an even blend of action and comedy with a low brow take on both. A group of thieves gather in a seedy motel before their next big hit, but after a chance encounter with a vampire on the road in to town, one of the thieves arrives hiding a dark secret. As the robbery goes down, the police realize they have much more to fear than the missing cash. What makes this entry most interesting is how the newly turned vampires hide their powers from their friends and use them to stealthily gain advantage in the heist. Considering the significantly reduced budget and smaller scale, TEXAS BLOOD MONEY boasts impressive FX and a large feel for such a small film. It does share the same dilemma as the original, however, wherein the climactic action sequence actually becomes the most uninteresting moment in the film, derailing the otherwise unique plotting. Spiegel does manage to sneak in some quirky camera angles, but his overuse of subjective camera angles from inanimate objects a la EVIL DEAD becomes tired early on. For a video release, this is a decent sequel that perfectly suits the mood of the series.

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



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Saturday, February 20, 2010

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

The Geko brothers kidnap a small family and their RV as they escape to Mexico after a bank heist. Once they are all safely across the border, a quick stop at a local strip joint turns into a night of terror when the bar becomes a haven for vampires after dark! FROM DUSK TIL DAWN has two distinct personalities, the first being a brilliantly scripted crime drama with signature Tarentino exchanges and a shrewd dark humor, while the other becomes a gratuitous and mindless actioner. Most of the comments below are in regards to the first half, which is easily the strongest part of the film. Each of the cast members deliver memorable roles, with Tarentino, Clooney, and Keitel offering some of the best performances of their careers. The Geko brothers are perfectly written and played in direct juxtaposition of one another, and they are far more interesting than the one-sided vampires that replace them as the central villains in the second half. DAWN also boasts excellent cameos from Horror icons like Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Greg Nicotero, and others. KNB is sure to deliver more gooey gore FX, however their make-up for the serpentine vampires range from unique to downright goofy. Rodriguez brings the same frenetic energy to the high-powered gunfights in the end as he had in DESPERADO or EL MARIACHI, but once the action starts rolling there is an immediate shift in tone that feels quite uneven. The crossover into Mexico marks a dividing line where the plot becomes all boobs, blood, and bad CG. Despite the dramatic change the film undergoes, the lightning pace never lets up and fills every moment with laughs and blood even if it is entirely without scares. This match-up between Tarentino and Rodriguez was a sure-fire hit with most fans, and the film remains a staple 90s Horror entry that is clearly above average.

Rating: 9/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 4.



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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brotherhood of Satan (1970)

THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is a tame, safe-for-TV occult film that rode in on the Supernatural Horror wave in the early 70s. It follows a family that is trapped in a small town where the locals are being killed and the children are disappearing. It isn't long before a hideous plot is uncovered involving a coven of witches and warlocks that are attempting to regain their youth by sacrificing the town's children! Though the characters, plot, and acting are all very dry for the most part, there is a mean-spirited mood behind the Satanic rituals. Scenes where the children are being fed cake to lull them into a false sense of security are inter-cut with ghastly paintings of devils and demons eating the children and cutting off their heads. The slow pace of the picture is tolerable, but where it loses most of its strength is in the coven, itself. The hammy performance by the priest and the elderly witches make it difficult to establish any real danger. If it had been played with a darker and more cynical mood, a greater sense of evil and suspense may have been accomplished in the picture. There are a few atmospheric shots, particularly in the final climax, as well as an ambiguous end that make this a decent watch overall.

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



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Monday, February 15, 2010

Body Melt (1993)

This Aussie horror entry serves as a decent gross-out flick, but ultimately fails to provide a cohesive story. This, in part, is the result of the film being adapted from four short stories, but that fact isnt explained or delineated in the film. A vitamin company mails out experimental drugs to a small group of test subjects, resulting four bloody and gooey messes. The scenes of each of the four families seem completely unrelated outside of the characters taking the vitamins, until the climax wraps everything together. In terms of gore, there is placental carnage, projectile vomit, bursting chest cavities, and plenty of other great gags. Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly likable or fleshed out, so the film seems to move along on a gag to gag basis, with the audience losing interest in the victims in place of the gore. One cant deny the impressive photography and directing of the film, it just would have benefited from a more linear script.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 7/10.



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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Final Destination (2008)

Garbage Horror at its finest. The FINAL DESTINATION series has become a joke of itself, so one can only hope that the title sticks. This entry easily possesses the worst writing and most basic dialogue out of any of the films, and it hardly carries the audience between each of the deaths. Being a date movie does not relieve the filmmakers of the burden of plot and structure, but apparently all of these basic elements have been scrapped in place of the gimmicky 3-D FX. The deaths themselves are so far-fetched and implausible even they become a chore, but what is worse is the ridiculous amount of time that is wasted in setting up false scares and anticipation. These cheap tactics are used to pad the already thin run time, and even with the extended red herrings, the film only strikes a pathetic hour and fifteen minutes. At least the second film attempted to build upon the first and the third film dropped all seriousness in place of a ridiculous amount of gore; the fourth entry feels like a near-remake of the original, and entirely lacks creativity. For mindless gore, there are a few cheap thrills, but this is the bottom of the barrel for the series.

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



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Gamera the Brave (2006)

GAMERA THE BRAVE is a stand alone Kaiju-Eiga film following the successful Gamera revival in the 90s. Unlike the ultra-violent Heisei entries preceding it, this film returns to the lighter child-friendly themes of the original Gamera films. Gamera is destroyed in battle in the opening scenes, but years later a young boy discovers a baby turtle with a rapid growth rate that turns out to be the next successor as the Guardian of the Universe. The new monster, given the name Toto, must gather its strength as the world falls under attack by the giant lizard Zedus! For a film aimed at a younger audience, director Ryuta Tasaki takes great care in developing rounded, emotive characters for the audience to relate to. It is an adult film built on juvenile themes, but it is just as enjoyable for either age group. The shifts do not take a toll on the incredible costumes or miniatures, which are still just as impressive as in the previous three installments. GAMERA THE BRAVE is filled with heart, and is one of the strongest entries in the series!

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



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The Last Winter (2006)

The crew of an Alaskan drilling company falls under siege by a mysterious force that seeks to drive them from the icy tundra in this isolated thriller. The remote location of the Alaskan ice fields already sets a desperate and claustrophobic mood before any of the action takes place. Though there is a clear ecological subtext, the plot does not focus exclusively on it and allows the characters breathing room to deal with inner conflicts and difficulties brought on by the harsh environment. Still, it is clear from the very start that man is villain in all of this, and that the ghostly forces acting upon the crew are the anti-heroes sent to exact nature's revenge. Many aspects of the film work very well, like the droning score that accentuates the growing fear, but there are also others that do not. There is a complete overuse of fly-by helicopter shots that become increasingly distracting as the plot wears on. Outside of the occasional overacting, the cast does manage to create grounded characters with organic fear that develops from their increased paranoia. These underlying themes reflect the same terrors present in John Carpenter's THE THING, minus the alien menace. THE LAST WINTER has not been well received by many fans expecting to see a big creature payoff in the end, but patient viewers that can appreciate a gradual build up of paranoia and psychological terror will find plenty to enjoy.

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



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Gamera: Attack of Legion (1996)

Picking up a few years after the Gyaos devastated Tokyo, GAMERA 2 finds a new foe in the form of a space-born parasite that lands on Earth and begins multiplying. These creatures, known cumulatively as The Legion, are insectoid killers that begin destroying all of Japan.. That is, until Gamera returns from the depths of the sea to save the universe once more! This straight sequel is a near-remake of the previous installment, following the same basic structure and human involvement on the sidelines. There is a great deal of character development and dialogue between the humans, so much so that one longs for the days when the films could simply be an all out monster brawl when the characters do little to progress the plot (considering their fates will ultimately be decided by the beasts in the end anyways). As is usually the case, the miniature work and costume designs take center-stage, bending reality with the superb models and awe-inspiring creatures. GAMERA 2 is a fitting sequel for the Heisei series, and though it doesn't stray far from the formula, it delivers everything giant monster fans want in high doses.

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



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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Darkness: The Vampire Version (1993)

DARKNESS is the ultimate in low-budget Horror. It is one of the rare films that truly captures the look and feel of the Grindhouse era in the post-1980s. Leif Jonker is not only responsible for the conception and writing, but he also served as the film's cinematographer, editor, director, composer, and special effects coordinator. Though it looks like it was filmed on mom and dad's video recorder, Leif's creative camera work and superior sound FX help add a touch of professionalism to an otherwise amateur effort. The crude film stock only adds to the visual appeal and vintage appearance. While the acting is rough around the edges, it is much better than expected from what is likely a collection of the director's friends and family members. Jonker successfully creates a world overrun by vampires with an enormous scale on an impossible budget. What the film lacks in writing and character development, is more than makes up for in mood, atmosphere, and aesthetic. The greatest strength above all else lies in the incredible gore and special FX, which create a spectacularly bloody mess that offers some of the best gore make-up outside of the mainstream Horror industry in the early 90s. DARKNESS' biggest failing on the other hand is in the lack of linear structure, since much of the time is spent bouncing around between characters during the widespread vampire epidemic. What it comes down to is this: the film is fucking bad-ass. It is a prime example of zero-budget Horror done right, and is one of the greatest Indie Horror/Gore finds since THE CONVENT or PLAGA ZOMBIE. DARKNESS comes highly recommended to any splatter fans!

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



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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Demonic Toys 2 (2009)

17 years and two garbage spin-offs couldn't stop Charles Band from making this long delayed sequel. A collector and his entourage arrive at an ancient Italian castle to purchase an antique puppet, when the spirits of the castle unleash the Demonic Toys once again to stir up trouble! William Butler gets it. He has perfectly recreated the look and feel of the classic Full Moon pictures unlike any of the production company's other recent projects. The reprisal of Richard Band's score helps to add an additional nod to the earlier films. While there have been minor alterations to the toy designs, overall they are very faithful recreations of the originals that are far superior to the cheap plastic excuses used in PMVDT. Newcomer Divoletto is also a great addition to the Toys, with a unique look and aged appearance that fits nicely with the old favorites. To top it off, the acting in this one is perfectly bad; not unwatchably bad, but that goofy, over-the-top bad that only a good B-movie can provide. I admittedly haven't been a fan of many of the recent Full Moon offerings, but this was a true return to form for the company and characters, and hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era for the Charlie and the gang (especially with PUPPET MASTER: AXIS OF EVIL on the horizon). Anyone that has had reservations checking this one out should give it a chance, it proves to be a fun little flick!

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



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Demonic Toys (1992)

Terror is unleashed in the form of five possessed toys that stalk a group of strangers after hours in a huge toy factory! DEMONIC TOYS captures everything we have come to know and love from Charles Band's Full Moon Features during their peak years in the early 90s. It comes complete with an asinine plot, cheesy acting, and a new arsenal of miniature monsters. Each of the creepy Toys have their own menacing personalities and appearances, like the serpentine Jack in the Box, the gnarled Teddy Bear, or the wise-cracking Baby Oopsie-Daisy. What the film lacks in all other aspects of filmmaking, it more than makes up for in awesome creature designs and gore, as is the case with so many other Band creations. Other on-screen oddities in the film include a group of young girls in gas masks riding tricycles that appear and disappear randomly, and a demon masquerading as a young boy who is controlling the Toys in an attempt to possess the lead character's fetus so that he can be reborn. For a cheesy good time in the vein of the PUPPET MASTER series, DEMONIC TOYS makes for an enjoyable B-movie that Full Moon fans can't afford to miss.

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



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Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

In this retelling of the classic tale, a scientist attempts to rid of himself of his darker half through a special elixir, but in doing so he unleashes the beast within him, who then runs amuck in the streets of London. Mamoulian's rendition is generally the most well-received film version of the original novel, which is not surprising as it offers the most memorable make-up designs and the most energetic (if not exaggerated) acting. Were it not for the staged, theatrical performances, this would be a near-perfect Gothic Horror entry. Fredric March is charming and charismatic in the role of Dr. Jeckyll, with a lust for knowledge and purely good intentions in his attempts to separate himself from his baser instincts. His transformation into the sinister, simian Mr. Hyde is a dramatic reversal in both looks and personality that genuinely feels like March has become two separate and distinct personas. The film offers many innovative advances in the camera techniques and make-up work, with crude but effective lapse dissolves during the transformation scenes and one of the earlier uses of first-person perspective. The most provocative scene of the film comes during Hyde's torment of the prostitute Ivy, which becomes almost unbearable to watch in its cruelness and uncomfortability, but also awakens a convincing terror in Miriam Hopkins' performance. This is the defining version of the Stevenson novel, and a must-see for genre fans.

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



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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Abandoned (2007)

A woman with no past returns to Russia in search of her parents, but instead finds her long lost twin when she arrives at their parent's deserted farm house. As the two start off to find answers from their shrouded past, they uncover the ghosts of the past along with their evil doppelgangers that hope to trap their souls in after escaping death decades earlier. THE ABANDONED is very light on dialogue but heavy on aesthetics and mood. Its cool green and blue filters build on the dilapidated sets and foggy exteriors to maintain the creepy atmosphere throughout the entire film. Director Nacho Cerda has an excellent cinematic eye, which he uses to create several effective shots. Faint images of the ghosts are revealed throughout the house when the flashlights quickly pass over them, and in a dramatic climax, Cerda also employs the use of reverse photography to watch as the ruinous sets rebuild themselves in frame. The ghastly doppelgangers that stalk the house also instill an intense fear through their silent movements and blank stares. Stronger characters and writing could have made this an instant hit, but the visuals alone make this one worth the watch!

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



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Monday, February 8, 2010

The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Poor box office returns and fading public interest would make this one of Terence Fisher's most disappointing efforts by studio standards, but the grandiose opera settings, strong performances, and clean cinematic style do not let on to it. Where the film does make its greatest misstep is in Hinds' script, which spends too much time focusing on the romantic ties between Christine and Harry, and forgets to flesh out the relationship between The Phantom and his protege that is central to the plot. The Phantom becomes a non-existent character for the first half of the film, relying on the devilish womanizer Ambrose as the lead villain (for which he is adequately suited). Like Chaney and Lee before him, Lom is forced to rely on his dramatic gesturing in order to act from behind his mask. Unfortunately, his overcompensation detracts from the role, and he is overshadowed entirely by the earlier performances. The repeat close-ups of The Phantom's all-seeing eye do add a disturbing note of voyeurism to the theme, however it is never developed any further. The film closes with a culmination of all of the most memorable moments from the 1925 film jumbled into a single messy climax, which lacks the significant punch that it should have had. The shortened run time and castrated villain all seem to have worked against Terence's rendition of the classic tale, but his High Gothic settings and demanding cast still make this worth seeking out. An opera singer is taken under wing by a masked teacher, who aims to make her a star while secretly plotting revenge against the opera house owner that stole his music and lead him to his present misshapen form.

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



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MoH: Pro-Life (2006)

Masters of Horror: "Pro-Life"
Season 2, Episode 5
Directed By: John Carpenter

PRO-LIFE is the second MoH mini-movie to make a bold and controversial social commentary through its biting satire, this time taking on the abortion topic. It finds an isolated clinic under fire by a religious fanatic that is trying to prevent its doctors from performing an abortion on his daughter. The girl wants the fetus out of her immediately, claiming it is the spawn of a demon (which can easily be analyzed as a metaphor for the incestuous subtext within the film). Perlman offers a strong on screen presence as always, but the rest of the cast feel like the third string stand ins for a sappy medical drama. While the plot is pretty cut and dry, the makeup work provided by Oscar-winning gore gurus Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger is anything but. With a crablike fetus recalling the aliens in THE THING and a hulking bull demon, PRO-LIFE stands out with the most ambitious creature FX work in the Masters of Horror series. Were it not for the awesome moments created with these designs, the pacing and structure would have crumbled under the weight of the overbearing message. This isn't a terrible episode, but repeat viewings lessen its effect.

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



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Cyclone (1978)

CYCLONE attempts a to create a huge disaster film on a minimal budget, which it successfully manages to convey through an impressive opening storm and clever use of models and miniatures. The film gained notoriety for supposedly containing scenes where real human cadavers were fed to sharks, but the fact has never been confirmed. After a violent shipwreck, the stranded survivors face terrible storms, dehydration, shark-infested waters, and the inevitable cannibalism when the food supply runs low. This isn't your fevered and frenzied cannibalism from the Italian zombie films of the 70s and 80s, but a reluctant means for survival similar to ALIVE. It isn't long before paranoia and self-preservation begins causing strife on board, especially with water running desperately low. The dry documentary style filming and stifled acting fails to bring any heart to the picture, leaving the film to rely on the more exploitative elements to carry the plot. These are delivered in a few shocking moments where the survivors are eaten alive by sharks, a dog is skinned for meat, and human becomes the new menu item. In the end, the film lacks the emotional punch needed to win over the audience, but considering its size and scale, it is a valid disaster effort out of Mexico that is worth checking out!

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



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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Mummy (1959)

After a group of Egyptologists desecrate the tomb of the High Priestess Ananka, they befall the wrath of her mummified lover when he is awoken mistakenly by the Spell of Life. Hammer's take on the classic Gothic legend offers all of the same high production qualities and superb directing that fans have come to expect from the studio's finest director. The elaborate sets and colorful costuming are a welcome change from the Universal series that quickly began recycling its own themes and footage. The only slightly distracting element in the flashback sequences of ancient Egypt is the notable Anglicanization of the language and speech patterns. Besides this, all of the other elements fall together nicely, with more strong performances by Peter Cushing and the supporting cast. Lee's hindered movements and bodily expressions bring the character to life despite the creature's inability to speak. He offers the slender body composition of a corpse while providing the height and strength of a monster, making him an intimidating foe in yet another memorable performance. Fisher strikes the perfect median between the slow paced Karloff film and the over the top actioner Stephen Sommers would direct in the 90s, selling the Horror through his rounded characters and winning atmosphere. This is my preferred version of the story, and a must-see Hammer film!

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



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Rebirth of Mothra 2 (1997)

This second entry in the Heisei Mothra series continues the children's fantasy set in the first film, with a predominantly child cast and much lighter action and adventure than the 90s Gamera or Godzilla features. Certain improvements have been made over the last movie, especially in regards to the character development and filming. There are still plenty of instances of poor green-screening, but it is evident from the start that this second generation of Mothra films was not intended to impress the die-hard Kaiju Eiga fans but rather draw in the younger audiences. In that sense, it does serve as another fun infantile fantasy with a cute and fuzzy heroine that is called upon to save the world from a trash devouring beast whose mutant offspring are polluting the oceans. For the budget, it seems that every attempt was made to create the same high quality set designs and suitimation costumes Toho has always been famous for, and it cannot be faulted here. The sunken city and new monster Dagahra both uphold the Toho standards of decency, even if Dagahra is one of the weaker designs. It is also nice to see that the score was reeled back in this one, having become to epic and overbearing in the previous picture. I found this one to be enjoyable in spite of its softer tone, and it is worth at least a single view for any Kaiju fans.

Monsters: Mothra, Fairy, Dagarha.

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



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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rebirth of Mothra (1996)

Mothra's return to cinema during the Heisei era is much lighter in tone than the Godzilla films of the same time. It is clear from the start that the film was designed to appeal to younger audiences, which isn't necessarily a bad thing considering Mothra is much more of a heroine than Godzilla. As a result, however, the plot has been greatly reduced in place of a greater number of effects sequences. Human loggers uncover an ancient seal that releases the destructive Desghidorah, a beast that drains the Earth of its energy. The Infant Island twins, with the help of two children, must summon Mothra to battle Desghidorah and the tiny nymph Belvera that is controlling him. The human element of the film is pretty weak, with often goofy dubbing and little character development. There is an obvious ecological subtext regarding the destruction of natural resources, and though it is straightforward, it is not overbearing. While there are also a few poor green-screening attempts early on in some aerial battles between the twins and Belvera, Toho comes through again in the final battles between Desghidorah and Mothra, with more impressive effects and excellent design work on the monsters. Desghidorah is surprisingly menacing for a juvenile child fantasy, but Mothra is cuddly and cute. The score incorporates the original work by Wantanabe, but it is far too dramatic and oppressive for the film itself. REBIRTH may not be one of the stronger 90s Kaiju entries, but it is still a lot of fun for giant monster fans and is a kid friendly action-adventurer.

Monsters: Mothra, Fairy, Desghidorah.

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



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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Perfect Getaway (2009)

A honeymooning couple join up with two strangers on a multi-day hike through the lush mountains of Kauai, when news filters in that a pair of murders have taken refuge on the same path. It isn't long before shared suspicions pit the two couples against each other. THE PERFECT GETAWAY is a slightly more deceiving title than the one it was filmed under: "How I Wasted An Hour and a Half." Terrible. The extremely awkward and unnatural acting in this flick is only one in a long line of grievances I had, due not in part to the boring and expected writing. The muted color tones somehow manage to turn Hawaii's natural beauty into a drab and computerized wash. It is also far too self aware, repeatedly drawing back to the character's understanding and recognition of Horror film conventions. The final act gives way to a dramatic shift in style and tone that is entirely unlike the rest of the film. It is only made worse by the fact that the reveal is told through a series of flashbacks that drives the plot to a screeching halt. There are so many other logical errors in the film that I have narrowed it down to my two favorites. First, why would two murders escape to a remote trail on one of the Hawaiian islands to avoid capture? Honestly? Second, why would two shop owners follow the couple for days and countless miles in order to return the hiking passes they left in the store (making for one of the worst red herrings I have ever seen)? The film is amateur at best, and completely passable in my book.

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



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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Following the success of AIP's Poe series that teamed Roger Corman with Vincent Price, Sydney Salkow capitalized on the 60s Gothic Horror revival under Admiral Pictures by using Price in another trio of terrors adapted from the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The results are three competently directed and beautifully shot vignettes that ranks closely beside AIP efforts like TALES OF TERROR. In the first story, a virgin spring restores the youth of an aged doctor and his old friend, but the temptation to use the elixir on his deceased wife proves to be too strong to resist. Bringing back the dead only serves to revive past betrayals and rivalries that time had seemingly forgotten. Heidegger's Experiment is well played despite Price's usual eccentricities, ending in a perfect irony that serves as a fitting punishment for the characters' crimes against nature. It includes some fun reverse photography and lap dissolves, which are topped by the excellent (though cramped) set designs. Next, an enamored youth seeks the love of a reclusive girl whose father has made her incapable of human touch by inducing her with a potent acid. The Puritanical themes of celibacy and monogamy are contrasted with an underlying incestuous subtext, recalling Hawthorne's similar themes in The Scarlet Letter. Unfortunately, the claustrophobic setting and hammy overacting make this a bland entry. Finally, a house divided by greed and betrayal befalls a decade-old curse in The House of the Seven Gables. Though it gets off to a slow start, this wicked little tale poses some impressive effects for the budget, and generates a creepy atmosphere through its bleeding walls and portraits. TWICE-TOLD TALES is a small but effective film built on character and style, and is worth checking out for any fans of Corman's Edgar Allen Poe series.

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



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MoH: Sounds Like (2006)

Masters of Horror: "Sounds Like"
Season 2, Episode 4
Directed By: Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson follows his superior SESSION 9 and THE MACHINIST with an excellent contribution to the Masters of Horror series, cementing himself as a director worthy of the title. Chris Bauer's cold, emotionless features make his character slightly less than human, emphasizing his detachment from reality and from those around him. His worsening auditory condition mirrors his descent into a deepening psychosis brought on by the death of his child and pressures at work. Anderson's representation of Larry's condition is a brilliant appeal to each of the senses, marrying his auditory and visual stylism with a technical skill that reaches towards Mario Bava's work in The Drop of Water. The clever foreshadowing expressed through Larry's phone screening at work along with subtle audible clues lead to a satisfying end, although the final act feels like it has been stretched out to meet the run time. SOUNDS LIKE is a strictly character driven effort that is sure to appeal to the intellectual Horror crowd.

Rating: 9/10.
Number of views: 4.



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Identity (2003)

IDENTITY is exactly the kind of film Hollywood wants you to think is good, when really it is a tired and pretentious bore that attacks the audience's intelligence with extreme prejudice. The film jumps between dual plots, with a psychologist interviewing a condemned mass murderer while elsewhere a group of strangers convene on an isolated motel in the desert, where they are offed one by one by the killer in their midst. Anyone with half a brain is able to determine the predictable plot twist within the first 10m, which completely destroys any chances the film had at developing any suspense or mystery. It is baffling how upfront the plot is, as it takes a an arrogant filmmaker to think so little of the audience as to spell out the big twist in the opening of your film. Jake Busey is just one of several ridiculously over the top actors in this mess, none of whom garner any support or become even remotely interesting at any point in the picture. The cherry on the cake comes in the form of the pathetic reveal of the true killer, who should have come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that was paying attention. This is a sad excuse of a suspense thriller that was sold on big names and safe Hollywood scares for people that hate Horror movies.

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

So lame.. So very lame..



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MoH: The V Word (2006)

Masters of Horror: "The V Word"
Season 2, Episode 3
Directed By: Ernest Dickerson

How Ernest Dickerson ever became involved as a "Master of Horror" is beyond me, but if his filmography prior to this wasn't proof enough that he was undeserving of the title, this episode certainly was. The best part of this poorly scripted vampire tale is watching one of the characters play Doom 3 for a few minutes before having to endure the rest of the film. In a harebrained scheme to prove their manliness, two teens sneak into a morgue to view the body of a recently deceased friend when they are attacked by their rapist ex-teacher turned vampire. There is plenty of incestuous and pedophilic undertone at play in the plot, but the subtext never becomes relative to any of the events that occur. The double entendre in the title refers to the vampiric plot as well as the kids' willingness to succumb to evil and bloody violence due to a desensitization brought on by their video game playing. This social commentary is hardly touched upon past a surface level observation, where the film makes an unfair connection linking video games and violence with no real evidence to back it up. The two leads are unbearable to watch, but apparently took copious notes from their high school drama coaches on how to overact. I found nothing redeeming in this episode, and recommend avoiding it unless you are a series completist.

Rating: 5/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Michael Ironside: 6/10.
Number of views: 4.



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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

MoH: Family (2006)

Masters of Horror: "Family"
Season 2, Episode 2
Directed By: John Landis

FAMILY is perfectly structured to lull the audience into believing they have the all too familiar plot figured out before having the rug pulled out from beneath their feet. Repeat viewings pay off dramatically in order to fully appreciate the clever writing and foreshadowing worked into the characters and dialogue in this one. The film finds a friendly middle-aged man assembling his own twisted family out of the skeletons of his past victims. When an attractive young couple move in next door, he decides it's time for a new addition to the family. George Wendt is endearing as a suburban Norman Bates, instilling plenty of black comedy into his performance with a charming sincerity. The only disappointment with this episode is the weak denouement that comes off as crass and uncharacteristic of the rest of the film. With more sharp wit and solid performances, Landis comes through again with another one of the strongest entries in the Masters of Horror series!

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



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MoH: The Damned Thing (2006)

Masters of Horror: "The Damned Thing"
Season 2, Episode 1
Directed By: Tobe Hooper

In this drab monster tale, a sheriff must stop the "damned thing" that destroyed his family 20 years earlier from spreading its infectious hatred and pestilence and causing the small town of Clover to consume itself in bloodshed. I am certain that the shit demon oil monster is some sort of metaphor for the decline of the nuclear family or greed, but I didn't really care to sort it out. Everyone in the cast puts out luke warm performances, and even Flanery falls flat as the town's sheriff who garners little sympathy or respect. Hooper pulls a 180 from the overstylized mess he created in his previous episode DANCE OF THE DEAD, this time leaving us with an uninspired and muted visual style. Outside of a few gore scenes that are as bloody as they are cheap and fake looking, nothing stands out in this entry whatsoever. A big pass.

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



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Monday, February 1, 2010

Living Dead Girl (1982)

LIVING DEAD GIRL leaves behind all of the signature trademarks director Jean Rollin has become known for. Besides the bright daytime settings common to many of his films, Rollin injects several surreal dreamlike qualities to his imagery and characters. He also mixes sex and violence in even measures, but while there is plenty of gore, it is offset by the beauty and innocence of the undead Catherine. Catherine is an extremely sad and tragic character that often reflects Shakespeare's Ophelia through visual references and tone. She is by no means the typical cinematic zombie popularized by Romero or Fulci, nor is she in any way a reincarnation of the familiar Gothic vampires from the Universal or Hammer productions. She is quite plainly a girl brought back from the dead by no will of her own that only wishes to return to her grave after realizing that she must drink blood to survive. She has no purpose or meaning after being brought back, and she is forced to give into to her baser instincts. Catherine is assisted by her childhood friend, who seduces young women back to their secluded mansion in an attempt to save her deathly companion. This also drives the lesbian subtext common to many other Rollin films. Much of the dialogue reads like poetry, with beautiful exchanges about life and death that make up for the lack of realism in rich romantic fantasy. Blanchard handles the role very well, with a dull, lifeless, and penetrating stare and angelic white robes that give her an ethereal appearance. LIVING DEAD GIRL is not your average undead Horror film by any means whatsoever, and while the slower pace and strange characters are sure to turn off many fans, it is these same unique elements that others will enjoy most.

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Gothic (1987)

Ken Russell delivers another case of style over substance in this opium-induced hallucination. Mary Shelley and others gather at Lord Byron's country estate, where they indulge in sexual fantasies, drugs, and ghastly storytelling. Their fun and games turn into lurid nightmares when they are overcome by visual manifestations of their twisted tales. GOTHIC is strictly over the top from start to finish, with outrageous characters and dialogue that are stretched far beyond their limit. It is a circus act of sexual debauchery and dark Gothic imagery trapped in a lavish mansion setting. Russell carries over many of the strange and twisted visuals that he popularized in ALTERED STATES and would carry into LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM the following year, but it is impossible to derive much more meaning out of the overt psycho-sexual metaphors than the obvious in this overstated film. Still, it is a visually stimulating and visceral viewing experience, and many fans will revel in the flamboyant performances of its frilly characters. If you can find a decent copy, GOTHIC is definitely worth checking out, but avoid the inaudible and worn public domain copies that make it nearly impossible to watch.

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



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