Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wind Chill (2007)

A trip home for Christmas through a desolate backwoods road ends in a disaster for two college students that are left stranded in the snow after surviving a horrible accident. As the pair soon finds out, the road has claimed many other victims in the past, victims whose ghostly remains continue to haunt the lonesome patch of highway. WIND CHILL is a beautifully shot and atmospheric ghost tale that uses cool blue filters, harsh weather conditions, and creepy shadow figures to create an overall unsettling mood. Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes draw the audience in with a strong initial build, but unfortunately their momentum is lost after the hour mark as the script loses focus and dissolves into a muddled mess. Before this, however, it does create sufficient thrills, suspense, and tension through Holmes' dubious intentions and the understated spirits haunting the forest. Gregory Jacobs delivers another case of style over substance that offers enough chills to earn itself at least a single viewing.

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



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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Watch Me When I Kill (1977)

A dancer and her friend become entangled in a murderous plot when several of the people surrounding them, each of whom share the same mysterious past, fall prey to a gloved killer. WATCH exhibits all of the established characteristics of the Giallo as set forth by genre masters Mario Bava and Dario Argento: the violently overstated deaths, the gloved killer, POV shots from the killer's perspective, as well as a slow reveal of clues as told through a series of flashbacks and memories. Antonio Bido offers clean visuals filled with fluid camera movements and beautiful cinematography. Unfortunately, most of the strengths and stylistic devices used in the film serve as mere imitations of stronger films like DEEP RED. Skilled imitations, but imitations none the less, right down to the electric score that closely resembles Goblin. As with most other Gialli, the final reveal of the killer comes as a complete shock, since none of the clues leading up to it could have possibly anticipated the convoluted ending. That is not to say that WATCH ME WHEN I KILL is a bad film or entry in the sub-genre by any means, Bido simply does nothing to distinguish the picture with its own unique style or form. Giallo fans will neither be disappointed nor blown away by this average effort.

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



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Forever Evil (1987)

FOREVER EVIL is an appropriate title, as the film may possibly be the longest and most uneventful Horror entries ever made. After his friends are killed by an undead monster, Marc must set out to destroy the evil lurking in the forest with the help of a young photographer that escaped the terror years earlier herself. It is impossible to overlook the staged scripting and horrific acting even though the film was made on a a limited budget. The emotionless characters turn the otherwise serious tone into an unintentionally hilarious mess as they calmly discover each of their closest friends and lovers brutally murdered without so much as flinching. Evans liberally borrows from THE EVIL DEAD series, ineffectively incorporating a mish-mash of evil forest spirits, zombies, and possessed foliage while also attempting to employ similar camera techniques. The plot fumbles around aimlessly for over an hour as the characters search for the source of the evil, which drives the pacing to a halt and offers no action or thrills. A few bloody gore scenes and decent low-budget make-up FX serve as the only redeeming qualities in this otherwise tiring Indie Horror effort.

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

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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Hitcher (1986)

After narrowly escaping the knife of a deranged hitchhiker, Jim must compete in a deadly game of cat and mouse in order to stop the maniac from killing more people on a lonesome stretch of highway. THE HITCHER is a perfectly crafted suspense film built on superior characters and mood as well as a kinetic score. Rutger Hauer is as charismatic as he is deathly terrifying as John Ryder. He instills more fear and intensity in a single smile than in a scowl. The desolate desert backdrop makes for a hopeless setting where a homicidal madman could conceivably go on a murderous rampage and avoid capture. The carefully crafted plot and structure make for a brilliant cat and mouse chase that is fueled by revenge and sport. Just when the film feels like it is at its safest, when nothing could possibly go wrong, Ryder glides in like a shark and catches both the characters and the audience completely by surprise. Eric Red's keen scripting paired with Hauer's impeccable performance both serve to create one of the genre's most notorious and memorable human villains. THE HITCHER is a high-octane ride from start to finish, and is a must-see for all Horror fans!

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



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District 9 (2009)

A government agency is in the middle of relocating the second-class citizens of an alien interment camp when one of its leading commissioners becomes contaminated with the alien DNA, causing instant mutations and widespread panic. Wikus must now seek refuge amongst the aliens he once suppressed if he plans to find a cure. With the military closing in around him, he and an unlikely ally must seek out a rare fuel source in order to restore power to the alien mother ship in the hopes of restoring his humanity and freeing the alien captives.

DISTRICT 9 is an epic SciFi Action adventure film with mind-blowing visuals and a unique story that sets it apart from every other entry in the genre. The computerized effects are indistinguishable from the live-action shots, integrating the animated characters seamlessly alongside the human actors. Neill Blomkamp's break-through film introduces some of the most imaginative weapons, vehicles, and creatures in the recent era of SciFi cinema, creating a fully realized fantasy world on screen. His script also includes a sharp wit and a surprising amount of gore for a film of its type. Sharlto Copley starts off as a pompous and unlikeable government enforcer, but he wins over the audience's trust and sympathies as he learns the errors of his ways and transforms into the selfless hero. The high-powered action sequences never take away from the humanitarian (alienitarian?) plot as many have suggested, but rather emphasize the frightening use of force that world leaders use to control and suppress marginalized groups within a society. DISTRICT 9 is one of the strongest and most original Science Fiction films to hit audiences in the last decade, and it is as much of a visual spectacle as it is an engaging and thoughtful socio-political commentary.

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



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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gorgo (1961)

After a giant aquatic creature is caught off of the coast of Ireland and sold in to the circus in London, the lizard's larger, meaner mother shows up to destroy the city and reclaim her baby! Although GORGO is clearly a reaction to the popularity of KING KONG and GODZILLA, the film was actually conceived by director Eugene Lourie, who is best known for creating THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (which had originally influenced Ishiro Honda in Japan). GORGO comes across as anything but a cheap rip-off of the films preceding it. The forced perspective, split mattes, composites, and miniature work each contribute to an impressive overall effect that comes exceedingly close to the Japanese leaders out of Toho studios. If one aspect of the film detracts the most from its overall believability, it would have to be the costume of the creatures, themselves. While Gorgo (and mom) show improved designs over many of the Gamera villains from the same era, the awkwardly proportioned bodies and rigid body movements are constant reminders that the creatures are just men in big rubber suits. Like the original GODZILLA, GORGO is very mean-spirited, depicting the monsters killing hundreds of bystanders by trampling them and burying them beneath their destructive paths. The larger of the two monsters rips through the streets of London, while leveling the convincing scale models of Big Ben, Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, and other major attractions. The human elements are handled evenly with the giant monster rampage, lead competently by both Bill Travers and William Sylvester as the boat captains that work with the military to subdue the beasts. Every attempt has been made to recreate the success of both THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and GODZILLA, but while it proves to be a valid attempt, it still falls short of its predecessors and lacks the social and political significance that set GODZILLA apart in the giant monster cinema. GORGO is certainly worth checking out for any giant monster fans!

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



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The Gate 2 (1992)

Terry becomes obsessed with The Gate after narrowly escaping from the demons five years ago. He summons the creatures once more, and manages to trap one of the minions which has the ability to grant wishes for its captor. Naturally, the wishes have ironic consequences, and each wish comes at a terrible cost. While the special FX do not fall anywhere near the same incredible level as the original, THE GATE 2 does offer much of the same stop-motion animation and forced perspective sequences that never fail to impress. Where the film does begin to show an immediate decline is in the sluggish pace and annoying characters (including the once enjoyable Terry). The recycled take on The Monkey's Paw fails to deliver anything new or interesting to the original story, and tries to substitute plot and character for a few gooey FX sequences. The climax of the film finds Terry and his new love interest crossing through The Gate in to the hellish alternate dimension in a final confrontation with one of the demon lords, but the scene is short lived and only delivers the most unconvincing special FX and costuming of the entire feature. After stripping away the childhood fantasy, terrifying mood, and likable characters in THE GATE, THE GATE 2 becomes just another watered down sequel that lacks most of the successful elements of the original.

Rating: 5/10.
Gore: 3/10.
Number of views: 4.



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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Gate (1987)

THE GATE is a nostalgic reminder of childhood fears that offers some of the most amazing effects of any low budget Horror entry. The film begins inconspicuously enough with two young boys uncovering a geode in a hole in the backyard. After cracking it open and reading an ancient inscription generated by the stone, the two unwittingly unlock a gateway to another dimension that unleashes the evil spirits and demonic entities that were locked within. Although the picture is kid-friendly for the most part, it is not without its scares. There are several deathly terrifying sequences throughout the plot, the most disturbing of which involve the demons masking themselves as evil versions of the kids' parents while attempting to destroy them. Each of the young actors (including Stephen Dorff in an early role) deliver strong performances that feel genuine and relateable.

The most memorable aspects of THE GATE are unquestionably the special FX work. For a film of its size and scale, no other film boasts such an incredible production design. In addition to stop-motion animation, director Tibor Takacs also incorporates miniature set designs with gigantic demonic beasts as well as tiny minions that each interact with the children in a series of incredible green-screening shots that seamlessly meld the range of characters on screen. Though it takes its time in creating a growing tension and suspense, the gate literally unleashes hell on earth once it has been fully unlocked. THE GATE is the perfect argument against the use of computerized imaging in film, and serves as one of the strongest examples of a low budget Horror film accomplishing a big budget look and feel through imaginative FX and a unique plot. It is mandatory 80s viewing for all genre fans!

Rating: 9/10.
Entertainment: 10/10.
Gore: 6/10.
Number of views: 11.



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The Mummy Lives (1993)

The mummified priest Aziru is awoken from his slumber to protect the tombs of Luxor after a group of Egyptologists begin excavating a new dig. In the midst of unleashing his wrath on the trespassers, he is reunited with the reincarnation of his lost love, before being stopped during a final resurrection ceremony. THE MUMMY LIVES benefits from gorgeous set designs, coloring, and cinematography, which makes it one of the more visually interesting mummy films. Unfortunately, it is bogged down by a series of poor performances and a derivative plot. Tony Curtis could not be any more out of place as Aziru / Dr. Mohassid, where he constantly fades in and out of a ridiculous accent while bringing an unintentional humor to the role. Hardy is uninspired and emotionless as the leading lady driving the mummy's desire, which renders the classic love story of the mummy films entirely ineffective. In addition to the excellent make-up and costume designs that are briefly shown for the mummy itself, there are also a few surprisingly gruesome moments hidden throughout the film. While it certainly isn't the definitive version of the story, THE MUMMY LIVES makes a valid effort at retelling the tale with a big look and feel on a small budget, even if it doesn't fully succeed in the end.

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



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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Syngenor (1990)

The Synthesized Genetic Organisms (Synegors) created by a corporate weapons manufacturer are set loose to dispose of anyone that stands between the company and its government contracts, and it is up to a reporter and the suspicious daughter of a murdered employee to stop them! SYNGENOR is a perfectly bad B-movie that serves as an entertaining companion piece to CHUD. It refuses to take itself seriously, downplaying its inherently weak plot while indulging in its creature FX and camp. David Gale hams it up as the deranged corporate head responsible for the chaos, becoming the unfortunate result of his own twisted experiments as he continues to inject himself with the Syngenor serum. The creatures are revealed far too soon, exposing them for the cheap rubber knock-offs of Giger's Alien designs that they truly are. Despite the often goofy plot and characters, the film does provide a few laughs and pockets of explosive gore that makes it an enjoyable guilty pleasure, but not one that can be openly recommended to all genre fans.

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



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The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

An unfortunate trip to Hungary is cut short after the American Press Secretary is bitten by a wolf. A gypsy woman warns him that he has inherited the Mark of the Wolf, and soon after returning to Washington, he begins transforming in the light of the moon and stalking the streets of The Capitol. The government agencies choose to ignore his new found curse, and instead attempt a cover-up to save face for The Administration. THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON is an immensely entertaining B-movie take on the classic werewolf lore laid out in THE WOLF MAN. It is cleverly written ("The pentagram is responsible, not the Pentagon!") and filled with both sharp wit and biting commentary reflecting the racism and political controversies plaguing the nation in the early seventies. Bob O'Bradovich's make-up designs and lapse-dissolve sequences recall the work of Jack Pierce, while the ironic image of a werewolf in a suit and tie is strangely amusing. Dean Stockwell plays the role of the reluctant werewolf on a sympathetic and sincere note, only taking his performance over the top in a few moments of insanity as government officials intentionally overlook his condition. While THE WEREWOLF is by all standards a cheesy under grade Horror film, it proves to be a great deal of fun and well worth a view for the average genre fan.

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



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Ghoulies 4 (1994)

Jonathan, the apprentice sorcerer from the original, returns as a wise-cracking cop who must stop his ex-girlfriend from summoning his evil half from an alternate dimension. In her first failed attempt, she mistakenly unleashes two of The Ghoulies, before kidnapping Jonathan's new love as a final sacrifice. GHOULIES 4 would have been considered a Horror Comedy if it were even the least bit funny. Instead, it stumbles through one failed joke after another just as the characters stumble through the meaningless and inane script. Rarely has such a low quality B-movie managed to become so convoluted, rending the plot completely incomprehensible until well after the hour mark. John Carl Buechler's classic monster designs and puppets are scrapped for two unremarkable costumed characters played by a pair of little actors that are only given the worst one-liners. With all of this against it, one would hope that the film would make up for all of its other failings with a gratuitous amount of violence and gore, but the near-bloodless film even disappoints in this arena. It would seem that things couldn't get any worse from here, but GHOULIES 4 also has some of the most dreadful special FX sequences of any low budget feature. There is no excusing this type of careless filmmaking, and the film should be avoided.

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



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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Laid to Rest (2009)

LAID TO REST stood the chance to become one of the next big franchises during the Slasher resurgence led by HATCHET in 2006, but all of the film's potential is lost to a lackluster plot, poorly written characters, and worse acting. Robert Hall's directorial debut in LIGHTNING BUG delivered all of the heart and originality that this follow-up lacked, where LAID TO REST is just a conventional retread of its Slasher brethren that gives way to a tedious cat and mouse chase with no rewarding payoff. Luther's awful performance as the final girl divests the audience from her lead within the opening act, which is a fault that neither the film nor the characters recover from the remainder of the run time. Nick Principe carries Chrome Skull perfectly on the other hand, proving to be both intimidating and terrifying in his body movements and mannerisms as the character. If there is one thing Hall knows best, however, it is gore and special FX, and LAID TO REST doesn't disappoint when it comes to bloody deaths and splatter. With necks being severed and heads being slices in half, there is just enough gore to warrant at least a single viewing. Despite its failings, it is still refreshing to find an uncomplicated revival of the popular 80s sub-genre, but it is not the Slasher classic it could have been.

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



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City of the Dead (1960)

In this undermentioned British Horror film, a young college student, Nan, sets off to investigate the small New England village of Whitewood on her professor's lead with the hope of uncovering new information on witchcraft for her term paper. After her disappearance, her boyfriend and brother return to the town only to discover that she has been chosen to be sacrificed by the town's evil inhabitants! Director John Moxey creates all of the same stunning atmosphere found in Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY and the Hammer films through the dark Gothic settings and brilliant lighting effects. Whitewood is drowned in eternal darkness and an unsettling fog that settles on the weathered streets, buildings, and central graveyard of the village, as figures creep in and out of view in the nightmarish town. Christopher Lee's manipulative grasp on the characters provides him with another sinister and imposing role as the film's heavy. CITY OF THE DEAD is one of the most beautifully shot, atmospheric, and eerie British Horror films outside of the Hammer series, making it a must-see Gothic Horror entry.

Rating: 9/10.
Number of views: 2.

**It is important to note that the film is widely available in the public domain under its American release title HORROR HOTEL, however VCI's release of the film is the only fulled restored version in America, and has been completely remastered with brilliant picture and sound. This is the only way to view the film.



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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Turistas (2006)

TURISTAS is not the HOSTEL clone that it may appear to be, although it likely benefited from the box office success of Eli Roth's film. The two are notably different, although there are some commonalities between the two, considering that they both center around a group of American tourists being abducted and tortured in a foreign land. Here, the tourists are kidnapped by a maligned organ thief in the jungles of Brazil after being stranded and robbed by the locals. The story and actions taken by the characters feel much less scripted and more naturalistic than those in HOSTEL, with a plot that is conceivable and visceral gore that focuses on being realistic over being sensational or graphic. The jungles make for a gorgeous and intimidating setting, and the Brazilians hired in the antagonist roles maintain the films integrity by speaking fluent Portuguese and never pushing the roles to any level of super-villainy. The American actors also offer better than usual acting, though we never grow close enough to any of them to establish any true empathy for the characters. Other than that, though, the film is generally very good. It moves at a steady pace, has many grueling deaths, and is a fun watch. It does not achieve the excessive level of gruesome gore as the so-called 'Torture-Porn' entries of the same year, and should not be readily compared to them, but fans of the kidnap and kill scenario that was kicked off again with HOSTEL will be very happy with this one.

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



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Red Riding Hood (2003)

RED RIDING HOOD is an excellent premise at heart that has the same nasty spirit as Lieberman's SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER mixed in with a few nuggets of gore, but unfortunately it just doesn't benefit from particularly strong direction or acting. Jenny is a brilliant but embittered young girl who decides to start dispensing her own form of justice on the streets of Rome after her father is ruthlessly murdered and her mother runs off with a younger man. Along side her masked 'friend' George, she hunts down liars, cheats, and thieves, and introduces them to the short end of her knife. All the while, she keeps grandma, her supposed guardian, tied up and drugged back home, as not to divulge her secret night life to the police. Each of the characters are overplayed and exaggerated, but given the dark humor of the script and the ridiculousness of the plot, it is easier to accept the over the top comic book acting despite the amateur performances. While director Giacomo Cimini introduces several interesting shots that show some skill in visual storytelling, the majority of the picture is shot in a crude, digital format that gives it a cheap made-for-TV look and feel. RED RIDING HOOD is interesting enough to warrant a view from fans of the comic book series Hack/Slash or Lieberman's film, but it can otherwise be avoided by most mainstream Horror fans.

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



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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

A young martial artist is sent to seek out his elder classmates, the Five Venoms, by his dying master. It has become his duty to make sure that the five skilled warriors are not abusing their powers for the own personal gain. As it turns out, the Venoms have gathered in a small town to reclaim the clan's ill-gotten treasure, where they have each turned against each other out of brutal rivalry and betrayal. Now, Yan Tieh must align with one of the fighters in order to defeat the other members! FIVE DEADLY VENOMS is a lavishly dressed Kung-Fu film set in 14th century China that combines brilliantly choreographed fighting, lighthearted humor, and a greedy tale of corruption that is fun and exciting from start to finish. Each of the colorful characters have their own unique skill set that turns them into superhuman warriors bearing the fighting styles and traits of their names: Scorpion, Centipede, Toad, Gecko, and Snake. Chinese master Chang Cheh lives up to his reputation, delivering stunning cinematography, editing, wire-work, framing, and set design that allows his characters to fly through the air, walk on walls, and defy all other laws of gravity during the high-powered and extravagant fight sequences. Even outsiders to the world of Martial Arts cinema can enjoy the skillful design, entertaining characters, and enjoyable plot in this Kung-Fu classic!

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



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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Devil's Rain (1975)

The Supernatural 70s brought on a range of religiously charged Horror films following the success of THE EXORCIST, but instead of repeating the same serious psychological tones set by Friedkin or Polanski, director Robert Fuest (THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES) creates a light mood despite the dark atmosphere in this fun but cheesy Satanic flick. One of the devil's disciples attempts to deliver a bounty of souls to his master after reclaiming an ancient tome from the family that spoiled his evil plan 300 years earlier. It is up to the family's last remaining son to intervene and destroy Satan's minions once and for all! William Shatner and Ernest Borgnine ham it up in their respective roles of good versus evil, with their extreme overacting only adding to the charm and personality of the picture. Fuest's direction and style are far more reserved than in the PHIBES films, replacing the colorful Art Nouveau sets with darkly dressed halls and exteriors. Corbis' army of black-cloaked and eyeless followers are also quite unsettling as they silently block the Prestons' escape. The plot and characters inevitably take second stage to the special FX in the picture, which are best demonstrated in the goat-headed Corbis' make-up design and the gooey finale where the cult members are all melted away by The Devil's Rain. What it lacks in overall quality, it more than makes up for in campy fun, making THE DEVIL'S RAIN worth seeking out!

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



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Monday, March 15, 2010

Ghost Ship (2002)

Another failure in the long line of Dark Castle Horror remakes following the (arguable) success of THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. GHOST SHIP pits a salvage crew against a ship full of vengeful ghosts that seek to drive out the evil spirit that has tied them to the vessel. This tiresome take on the Old Dark House motif drags forward as the characters wander aimlessly through the ship's dark corridors with no rewarding suspense or bloodshed. An unforgettable opening sequence in which an entire dance floor of passengers is bisected by one of the ship's suspension cables promises fast-paced action and gore that never arrives. Instead, the audience is bludgeoned by one safe PG-13 death after another, hits that are not softened by the poor computerized FX or make-up work. The characters can only be judged from most annoying to least annoying, none of whom draw the least bit of sympathy or support as they are lined up only to be knocked down. Beck's heavy metal soundtrack and music video styling suggests that the film was geared directly towards turning a quick teen buck in its theatrical run, with no intent on creating a lasting effect on the viewer. This is garbage mainstream Horror at its worst.

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



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Sunday, March 14, 2010

NEKRomantik 2 (1991)

Rob's recently deceased corpse is exhumed from the grave by a woman with the same necrophilic obsession he had shared in his life, who then brings his body home to fulfill her own sexual desires. After a chance meeting with a charming younger man, she attempts to maintain a normal relationship with her new love interest, but he is unable to satisfy her... At least, while he is still breathing. NEKROMANTIK 2 thrusts the audience back into a world of depravity and perversion, though this time Buttgereit handles the subject matter with a more tasteful and serious approach. Even with the minimal dialog, he is able to convey the inner struggle of a woman that is a prisoner of her own morbid desires through the mounting tension and visual storytelling. The film is less gruesome and over the top than its predecessor (though no less shocking), with the clear exception of the finale, which is arguably even more revolting and unexpected than the climax of the original. Pacing becomes Buttgereit's greatest challenge as he extends trivial scenes to unnecessary lengths in an attempt to justify the film as art. NEKROMANTIK 2 can be dissected as a metaphor for a diseased new relationship, praised as a daring hybrid of Exploitation and Art House, or enjoyed (dismissed?) as just another sickening shocker, but either way, Buttgereit manages to create an equal to his controversial first film.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 9/10.
Number of views: 1.



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NEKRomantik (1987)

NEKROMANTIK is every parent's worst nightmare. It is the film they have built up in their minds to represent the Horror genre at large. However, genre fans will be surprised to find that the film is just as much a character study into the darkest recesses of the human psyche as it is a repulsive shocker. The action finds a man who is growing increasingly jealous as his wife begins to prefer making love with the festering corpse that he has brought home from work for their necrophilic escapades. After she leaves him for the corpse, he is left to wallow in despair as he spirals deeper in to his own psychosis and even more deplorable acts. Every scene of NEKROMANTIK is intentionally shot to shock and disgust, including unnecessary shots of urination, animal slaughter, and a range of perversions that are often irrelevant to the plot. The visceral gore goes far beyond anything that has been seen in the past, inducing vomit in even the hardened Horror fans through the use of real animal intestines and a sickening finale. The 8mm filming combined with the unnerving score and grotesqueries on screen culminate into a gritty and voyeuristic experience. Buttgereit makes bold statements concerning desensitization through media exposure, but he does so by using even more extreme sensationalism and gore than that which occurs in the films he is commenting against. Despite the purely exploitative plot and lurid themes, NEKROMANTIK is competently acted and directed in order to achieve maximum effect. The fact that it is not poorly made makes the film that much more powerful and dangerous, since it cannot be easily dismissed or disregarded as callow and unsophisticated garbage. This same form of subversive cinema would carry in to Buttgereit's subsequent films, and would also serve as a significant influence on later shockers found in the AUGUST UNDERGROUND series and more recently the equally necrophilic DEADGIRL. While certainly not for all audiences, NEKROMANTIK has a notorious reputation that is well deserved, making it an important (if not distasteful) entry in the genre.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 9/10.
Number of views: 1.



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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Curse of the Cat People (1944)

CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE is quite unlike its predecessor in many ways. The story finds Oliver and Alice, the protagonists of the original, concerned over their young daughter Amy as she begins to exhibit a series of off-putting childhood fantasies and delusions, the most alarming of which involves her imaginary friend that has taken the form of the obsessive Irena from the previous film. Parallels are drawn between Amy's dream world and Irena's spiraling madness that was brought on by her superstitious belief in the cat people. This transposes the 'curse' from the physical transformation that was alluded to in the first into a psychological condition brought on by isolation and loneliness. Subtle shifts between fantasy and reality are carefully crafted in the exteriors and lighting, while the same sharp contrasts and clean, precise cinematography are maintained throughout the rest of the picture. Although there are many ties to the original established through the returning characters and similar themes, CURSE unfolds as a dark childhood fantasy rather than the suspenseful mystery that was found in CAT PEOPLE. With a superb cast acting under seasoned genre vet Robert Wise's direction, CURSE functions as a successful companion to Tourneur's masterpiece.

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



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The Stepfather (2009)

THE STEPFATHER goes along the safest, most teen-friendly route in remaking the 1987 cult classic. While the original did not rely on blood and gore to win over the audience, the implied violence and terrifying performance by Terry O'Quinn left audiences stunned. Dylan Walsh brings a good amount of intensity to his interpretation of the character, but as a whole, the film proves to be a flaccid and unnecessary attempt. David is a mild mannered salesman that is marrying in to a broken family with three kids, but as his fiance's ex-husband, the neighbors, and his co-workers begin growing suspicious of his shrouded past, he must go to any length to protect his dark secrets. The most noticeable misstep in this version is the family size. The film introduces three children into the storyline, but only develops the eldest son while the other two are absent in nearly the entire picture. For whatever reason, the filmmakers must not have found Walsh's performance to be dramatic enough, as the script relies on countless false scares using all of the cheapest tactics and music cues to try to drum up audience reactions. The filming is cold and sterile, which reflects David's despondent existence, but also cuts out any emotional response in the viewing. THE STEPFATHER is just another bland walk down an all too familiar path, and it only goes to prove that the original should have been left untouched.

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



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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Stepfather 3 (1992)

In one of the weakest sequels ever made, Jerry the psychopathic stepfather shacks up with yet another family after a successful face transplant from a seedy (and unfortunate) plastic surgeon. It isn't long before this new family proves to be too difficult for Jerry to handle, and he resorts to 'divorcing' them with a knife. Terry O'Quinn's performances in the previous two installments contributed more to their success than any other element in the film franchise, and his absence from the third film is largely responsible for its downfall. Robert Wightman attempts to pick up the pieces, but his abysmal performance is juvenile, goofy, and entirely devoid of any fear or intimidation. His new love interest and her son are played just as poorly, while the entire production reeks of the early 90s video market. The film overcompensates for all of its failings with even more preposterous blood and gore, removing it from the Suspense genre and lumping it in with countless other nameless Slashers. Thankfully, Jerry is destroyed after being thrown into a mulching machine, thereby putting an end to his murderous rampage and the series.

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

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The Stepfather 2 (1989)

Following in the immediate footsteps of the first film, THE STEPFATHER 2 finds Jerry (now Gene) cozying up with a real estate agent and her son after his bloody escape from the institution. Things appear to be going well until her estranged husband returns to reconcile and her closest friend begins growing suspicious of her new fiance. The sequel does offer a familiar plot, but with weaker characters, writing, and suspense, it ends up feeling more like a cheap imitation than a true continuation story. Terry O'Quinn remains to be the only ingredient in the film that works, although his performance feels much less inspired than before. Sequelitis has also set in, as the blood and gore have been noticeably increased in order to capture some of the late 80s Slasher audience. While it may not be as enjoyable as the original, THE STEPFATHER 2 maintains a similar style and tone that should appeal to series fans.

Rating: 6/10.
Gore: 3/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Stepfather (1987)

Jerry is the ideal husband and a loving stepfather; that is until his perfect new family begins to fall apart... Then, he must 'take care of them' the way he took care of his last three families before moving on to another new life in a new town. THE STEPFATHER is often mistaken for a common late 80s Slasher, but its finely tuned suspense and minimal gore prove to share much more with the Psychological Thriller. It plays on realistic horrors taken from true crime resources, where the perfect husband next door is hiding a sinister and deadly double life. There are many sharply written moments in the script where the dialog makes reference to Jerry's double nature without tipping any of the characters off to it, while the other family members are handled evenly in order to balance the daughter's suspicion and distrust with the wife's blinding love and comfort. The lack of motivation and explanation into Jerry's background also drives the audience's morbid fascination with the character. The one distracting element of the film is the contrived detective story headed by one of Jerry's victim's brothers, whose presumptuous conclusions are far too scripted to be believable. The aforementioned strengths would mean little were it not for Terry O'Quinn's commanding performance and his ability to snap from the lovable family man to the inescapable madman in a matter of seconds. O'Quinn truly makes the film in what is still one of his strongest performances to date.

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



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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

House of the Devil (2009)

A poor college student accepts a high paying babysitting gig at a remote house in the woods in order to pay for a new apartment, but she soon finds out that the family has much more nefarious plans for her... Director Ti West brings this throwback to the Supernatural 70s and 80s to the small screen with a unique design and approach that does an excellent job at capturing the look and feel of the era. Soft lensing and other subtle nuances create an authentic 80s aesthetic that is a far more credible attempt than the forced nostalgia that was applied to Quentin Tarentino's GRINDHOUSE experience. HOUSE references Horror classics like WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and BURNT OFFERINGS, where the real menace throughout much of the picture is delivered by the house itself, turning common household items and noises into night terrors. The Ulmans are awkward and off-putting from the start, while convincing in their own creepy way. Jocelin Donahue has a natural small town look and feel as the naive and desperate Samantha. She is one of the few actresses to downplay her performance, thereby becoming the character in a truly believable way. After a slow but steady build, West injects several shots of adrenaline that break up the lengthy exposition with legitimate thrills, keeping just enough interest in its viewers with a short attention span while completely appealing to fans of a slower breed of Horror film. The occult elements that close out the picture end up becoming its weakest points, contradicting the methodical build of the rest of the film with cheap shocks and excessive gore in an anti-climactic and rushed finale that begs the question "Why?" Why put so much effort into the calculated character and plot development just to end on such a low note? Despite the drop off in the end, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is an excellent Independent effort that calls back to a simpler time, when slow, brooding plots and actionless suspense were acceptable frights over sensational big budget FX and gore.

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



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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Haxan (1922)

Benjamin Christensen presents a series of recreations based on historical accounts of witchcraft throughout the ages. The film is told in a documentary format with a scholarly narration, and is accompanied by stills, etchings, and staged re-enactments of the occult, devil-worship, and witchery. While many of the vignettes are extreme exaggerations of true events, they are portrayed as the realistic social stereotypes associated with the practice of witchcraft from the Middle Ages to the present. The performances are convincing if not a bit theatrical, and they lack the eccentric overacting common to the German Expressionist films of this period. In addition to the incredible Gothic and Expressionist set designs, HAXAN produces haunting images of an array of ghouls and devils, using impressive costuming and make-up work to bring the creatures of the Medieval etchings into a terrifying reality. Scenes where Satan tempts supple young virgins, a coven of witches takes flight over the city, demons dance by firelight, ghouls feast on the blood of babies, and props from the torture chamber are demonstrated on willing participants leave a lasting impression on the audience. Christensen and his crew also experiment with early forms of reverse photography, stop-motion animation, overlays, and numerous other techniques that were decades ahead of their time. Pacing is the greatest fault found mostly in the final third of the film, where comparisons between Satanic possession and modern hysteria fall flat. Few films have painted the occult in such surreal and nightmarish terms, making HAXAN a unique and frightening experience.

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



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The Reptile (1966)

A small village is plagued by a black death that is brought on by a mysterious creature that strikes in the night, and it is up to a newcomer and the town's barkeep to drive out the poison that is quickly diminishing the town's population. This tale is one of two films (PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES being the second) that served as a critical response to British colonialism in to India, with the creature's attacks serving as a form of retribution for the social and political influence that was forced upon the eastern world. While it is much smaller in scope to many of Hammer's other productions, the dimly lit sets, atmospheric exteriors, and brooding score make for a sinister mood. The creature design is impressive for the time outside of a pair of googly eyes, but it is made all the more frightening by Pearce's serpentine figure and movements. THE REPTILE also lacks the star power of the other Hammer greats, but this actually acts in its advantage, with the small cast offering believable low-profile performances that suit the cramped village setting. This entry is an atypical creature feature with unusually high production values for the B-Movie plot.

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



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Cat People (1942)

A stunning beauty (Simon) marries her first love, but is unable to consummate the marriage based on superstitious fears that have been handed down by her home land. She believes that an ancient curse will set upon her, causing her to transform in to a man-hungry cat woman in the throws of passion. As her husband becomes increasingly detached by her distancing, Irena sets her spiteful gaze on the co-worker that is attempting to steal him away. CAT PEOPLE is a near-perfect production, exemplifying the best in cinematography, scripting, and acting. The fears of women's sexual liberation is plainly stated from the start, but told through such an interesting and unique concept. All of the suspense is built on anticipation and implied terrors without ever relying on shocks or the typical make-up work found in most other creature films of the time in order to derive its scares. This is best depicted in the famous pool scene, where Irena's rival is swimming in the darkened room, and becomes fearful when she sees mysterious shadows cast against the walls and hears the growls of a large cat echoing all around her before Simon steps out from beyond the darkness. These ambiguities are maintained up until the climactic end, a beautiful and frightening sequence that unfortunately dispels much of the mystery which has been so carefully constructed. Cats are ever present throughout the entire production, appearing in paintings and statues while they are also heard yowling in the alley ways. These subtle notes build upon Irena's fears, in addition to the many other odd occurrences that lead the audience to believe that she is, in fact, some sort of mythical beast. The film would have been infinitely stronger had the mystery and illusion been left for the viewer to decide in the end, but regardless, Tourneur's film is one of the strongest creature entries in the genre and is well deserving of the reputation it has earned as a Horror classic.

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



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Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Awful Doctor Orlof (1964)

ORLOF is best known for having kicked off the trend in surgical Horror that stained the B-Movies of the 60s and 70s, hitting bottom with flicks like DR BLOOD'S COFFIN. Jess Franco's earliest and arguably best film offers a dark Gothic shocker is constructed as an amalgamation of many pop culture influences, but it also adds its own unique charm while ramping up the sex and violence. The premise has been lifted from the French classic EYES WITHOUT A FACE, where we find a doctor and his malformed apprentice kidnap women to steal there skin in order to graph it on to his burnt sister. Unfortunately, many of the strong performances are lost in the poor English dubbing, but the visual expressionism more than makes up for it. Vernon's stern, dignified Orlof balances menace and charm as he seduces women in the nightclubs of Paris, only to dismember them moments later. Orlof is a shadowy character, which Franco expresses visually through stark contrasts and lighting that transposes his sinister personality on screen. The blind, hulking Morpho also adds an intimidating presence as he silently stalks the streets with his dull, lifeless gaze. Most impressive of all are the beautiful settings in both the empty Paris streets lit by lamplight and the looming Gothic castle Orlof calls home. This is a strong Spanish Horror classic that is worth seeking out!

Rating: 9/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Countess Dracula (1971)

Loosely based on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, the baroness of blood, this later Hammer entry finds the withered old Countess Elisabeth (Ingrid Pitt) discovering that her youth and beauty could be returned to her by bathing in the blood of virginal young girls. This discovery leads to several disappearances as suspicions grow in the township, while the Countess uses her new found looks to charm a young soldier. The rich cinematography and production values each uphold the standard traditions of the studio from its early days, with astounding sets and elaborate costuming that make this a beautiful and believable period piece. Pitt's transformation from the old crone goes far beyond just her youthful appearance, as she clearly establishes two completely separate personalities as the ruthless Countess and her exuberant younger self. Most of the other performances play well to the Hungarian setting and time, with only a few comically over the top exceptions. Nigel Green steals every scene as the overlooked Captain Dobi, with an authoritative on screen presence. In truth, the Horror of the picture is downplayed for what seems more like a historical drama, but there are plenty of splashes of virgin's blood to satiate both the classic Gothic fans and the vampire fans that are likely to find the title misleading.

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



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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hellgate (1989)

The abysmal FX in this late-80s schlocker attempt to outmatch the terrible script and acting, but the bar has already been set incredibly high. HELLGATE follows a group of friends that are lured into a cursed ghost town by a mysterious woman in white. It isn't long before the town's ghostly inhabitants set in on the intruders. For some inexplicable reason, the dialogue is all read phonetically, with every syllable being pronounced in a series of incredibly unnatural performances. Scenes are hilarious when they shouldn't be, and terribly unfunny where they should be. Watching the film on mute may actually have made for a more rewarding viewing experience, where the imagination could make up for the poor writing. On top of everything else, HELLGATE boasts the most unattractive cast this side of MADMAN. The only remotely positive aspects of the film involve some of the most random gore ever filmed (including a mutant zombie turtle) and a series of surreal dream-like sequences in the ghost town that recall the Horror classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS. A sad, pathetic CARNIVAL OF SOULS. HELLGATE is just plain terrible filmmaking at its worst, and isn't even bad enough to be enjoyed with friends.

Rating: 3/10.
Gore: 4/10.
Number of views: 2.



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Cannibal Man (1973)

A chance argument during a cab ride leaves the cab driver dead at the hands of a poor meat packer. After nearly getting away with murder, Marcos decides the only way to ensure his freedom is to kill the girlfriend that was with him that night and anyone else that comes too close to the truth that is collecting flies in his guest bedroom. CANNIBAL MAN is an extremely misleading title, referencing a single scene where the character uses the meat grinder at work to dispose of the bodies, only to accidentally find himself eating the end product at a local pub. It is cleanly shot, with de la Iglesia implementing many of the same camera and stylistic devices as the Italians. Considering there is only a little gore, the film relies entirely on the strength of its performances to build and maintain a steady tension. Thankfully, Vincent Parra and his surrounding cast portray sincere and empathetic characters even in their darker moments. Marcus is a reluctant killer that kills out of necessity and not enjoyment. This makes his actions that much more disturbing and personal, while his resolution to feed the meat to the grinder is both vile and disgusting. De la Iglesia sets a somber mood through the grim slaughterhouse floor and barren Spanish desert, externalizing Marcos' lonesome and futile struggle to avoid the discovery of his crimes. CANNIBAL MAN is a sad character study sharing much more in common with CHRISTMAS EVIL or THE DRILLER KILLER than the similarly titled Exploitation films.

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



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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Neon Maniacs (1986)

NEON MANIACS is a slice of B-Movie greatness that is overlooked far too often. It offers all of the 80s Horror cliches that many fans grew up loving in its corny teen characters, synthesized electric score, and abundant latex monster designs. A lone teen survives a brutal attack by a group of mutant freaks beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and she must convince two unlikely friends to help protect her when the monsters return to finish the job! The film is clearly a fan-made fantasy Horror effort that was used as an excuse to showcase the creative make-up and gore FX. Unfortunately, the concept was just too large for the script or director to handle. There are constant struggles with pacing as the plot meanders between a teen drama and full-blooded monster flick. The actionless exposition serves as nothing more than filler between the killings, stifled by throwaway characters and empty dialogue. Once the creeps hit the scene, though, it is all mindless murder and gratuitous gore, but these bloody moments are few and far between. Though it is a small film, it is given a large feel as the mutants take to the streets and subway in pursuit of the teens. This creates the impression of a city overrun by monsters in just a few short scenes. The maniacs themselves show an array of unique and interesting designs, creating a group not unlike the inhabitants of Midian from Clive Barker's NIGHTBREED, though lacking the mythical qualities and lore inherent in Barker's conceptions. In the end, NEON MANIACS is a mixed bag. It is awesomely entertaining at times, while mercilessly boring at others, but even in its worst moments, it remains a nostalgic look back at the height of 80s cheese.

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



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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Skeleton Man (2004)

If SKELETON MAN gives Independent Horror filmmakers hope of one thing, it is that they have a chance of landing Michael Rooker in their lead role, no matter how terrible their film is. This garbage plot is a poor man's rehash of the PREDATOR or DOG SOLDIERS military theme, where a group of soldiers fall prey to an ancient Indian demon that begins stalking them on horseback. The costuming for this cloaked wraith looks like it was purchased off of the store shelf, with the latex mask and polyester cape contributing to a laughable supernatural villain. It is mind-blowing how this film managed to include so many big-budget special FX, including the destruction of a farm house, numerous helicopter shots, and the explosion of a gas tanker. Though the FX were clearly done in miniature, the craftsmanship in these scenes alone manages to outdo all other aspects of the film. I honestly have no idea how they could afford all of the huge action and gore FX and still manage to make the villain look so terrible. The acting is expectantly amateur and uninspired, and even Rooker appears to be in it for the paycheck. Overall, the film would be an entire waste if it were not for the ridiculous amounts of gore spread in a constant stream from the beginning to end. SKELETON MAN literally has a bloody death, decapitation, or explosion every five minutes, with rather impressive FX for such a low budget feature. This one is best left to the B-Movie enthusiasts, and won't soon be missed.

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



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Stuck (2007)

STUCK squanders its brilliant premise on weak performances, awkward characters, and completely unnatural scripting in what could have been a dark and original screenplay. A promising young nurse accidentally hits a man who is down on his luck on her way home from the club. The man becomes lodged in her windshield, causing her to rush home to hide the car in a state of panic. Fearful of the consequences, she leaves the man to die as she attempts to cover up the accident. It is difficult to tell if it is the incompetence of the writing or the acting that manage to turn the plot into an utter mess. Mena Suvari and her supporting cast are all equally terrible, diminishing any tension or seriousness in their comical overacting. Suvari's passion for the script was apparently great enough to get her to do a nude scene, but not enough for her to put more effort into providing a better performance. The stunted social commentaries feel like forced attempts to elevate the importance of the script, but they are poorly constructed and are never fully fleshed out. To make matters worse, the audio track can hardly be heard over the blaring soundtrack, causing half of the dialogue to be completely drowned out. In the hands of a more competent cast and crew, this could have easily been an Independent film success, but its failures far outweigh the strength of its concept.

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



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Monday, March 1, 2010

Live Animals (2008)

LIVE ANIMALS tracks a group of friends as they are kidnapped and tortured by a pair of twisted horse breeders looking to turn a quick buck with their new breed of livestock. The film capitalizes on the success its "Torture Porn" predecessors (most notably HOSTEL and WOLF CREEK), but relies entirely on gratuitous violence, gore, and nudity to justify its existence in the absence of character development or originality. The buying and selling of human trade comes sickeningly close to Eli Roth's earlier imagining, modified only slightly by the fact that the captives are treated like animals rather than people. Despite the low budget, Jeremy Benson does employ a decent use of color filters to heighten the aesthetics and mood, while exhibiting a strong sense of stylism adapted from the film's obvious influences. Though the acting remains passable considering the scale, the biggest failing is that the audience is never given the opportunity to bond with the characters, which leaves the emotional response void in each of their deaths. As a veritable low-budget remake of the HOSTEL "Torture Porn" model, it will appeal to some hard-gore fan bases, but it does not escape its own amateur production and derivative plotline.

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



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Man Bites Dog (1992)

Shot in a gritty 35mm documentary format, MAN BITES DOG is a film about making film that uses a charismatic but merciless serial killer as its central focus. An Independent film crew follows the charming Benoit through his daily activities, waxing intellectual in the spare moments between his ruthless murders. Benoit's callous attitude towards his actions and victims makes for endless moments of brilliant black comedy as he speaks openly about the killings with the same indifferent tone he uses to discuss politics or red wine. Each of the performances by the immediate and supporting cast members are 100% authentic, none of which feel staged or scripted even for a moment. This is mainly achieved by filming the actors interacting with their own friends and family on screen in natural social exchanges. Benoit is able to turn on a dime, shifting from the jovial jokester into a cold-blooded killer in seconds. The crew members themselves (who double as the cast) show their understanding of the process through every scene. Seemingly imprecise camera movements and technical errors are meticulously planned in advance to create the illusion of a bumbling group of first-time filmmakers. The rash editing style creates a jarring juxtaposition between the lighthearted scenes in which Benoit shares his personal philosophies and the brutal scenes of extreme violence and gore where he coldly shoots strangers in the head and dumps their bodies into a rock quarry. The documentary style is representative of the media filter that serves to desensitize the audience and allows the violent actions to become acceptable when told through the camera lens. Remy and his crew are able to distance themselves from the events unfolding before them by experiencing the horrors safely through the camera, just as the audience accepts the social terrors as entertainment when told through the film medium. Despite the inevitable conclusions critics will draw based on the voyeuristic depictions of violence, the creators resolve that the film is not a social commentary against violence in the media so much as it is a study of the filmmaking process itself, with the main character and plot being inconsequential to the creative process. Preceding BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON by nearly a decade and a half, this faux documentary is as innovative and original as it is entertaining and well made. It is an important film particularly for aspiring filmmakers that can be equally enjoyed by Horror fans and non-fans alike.

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



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