Monday, May 31, 2010

In My Skin (2002)

After receiving a deep gash to her leg in an accident, an obsessive marketing executive develops a compulsion to play with the wound and to cause herself additional bodily harm for her own sick pleasure. This cleanly dressed production tackles the edgy subject of self-mutilation in a way that no other film has in the past. Although it is incredibly horrific, IN MY SKIN focuses its attention on the psychological condition that drives Esther's cutting rather than simply exploiting the gut-wrenching scenes of extreme gore. The film has often been compared to the works of both Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg, and with good reason, as it combines the same delusory behavior that Catherine Deneuve's character experienced in REPULSION with the graphic and nauseating body horror found in SHIVERS or RABID. Marina de Van's devastating performance is disgusting and frightening because it is honest and real. The overriding theme of addiction that she instills in the script stretches far beyond the plot itself, as the topic of self-mutilation could easily be interchanged with any other compulsive behavior and still be just as effective. There is also a sickening sense of realism in every pinch, every cut, and every bite that makes Esther's personal butchery utterly believable. Horror fans that are seeking out the next INSIDE may be sorely disappointed, however those interested in shocking and brutal character studies will find IN MY SKIN to be a modern classic in French cinema.

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

If you liked IN MY SKIN, check out:
FEED, RABID, REPULSION.



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Saturday, May 29, 2010

War of the Gargantuas (1966)

WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS takes place five years following the events in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, where the Frankenstein creature Sanda is located by the Japanese scientists that raised him in order to bring him back to Tokyo to face off against his violent doppelganger Gaira. Each of the characters and events in this cheaply made sequel are empty and one-dimensional, serving only as another excuse to pit two more larger than life monsters on the big screen. Sanda bears little resemblance to his previous self, and both of the Gargantuas look like matted carpet strewn over shabbily applied make-up designs. What GARGANTUAS lacks in depth and heart, it more than makes up for in its monster melees, with more screen time given to the brawling beasts than in most other entries of the Showa era. Unfortunately, the battles (much like the direction and effects) are entirely uninspired, which makes WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS one of the low points in both Ishiro Honda and special effects coordinator Eiji Tsuburaya's fantasy film careers.

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

If you liked WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, check out:
FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, KING KONG ESCAPES, WAR OF THE PLANETS.



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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alucarda (1975)

Justine is thrust in to a depraved world of darkness when she meets the demonically possessed Alucarda, and together, the two set out to defile the church with their unsanctified evil. ALUCARDA serves as a biting critical response to the oppressive Catholic controls that were set on Mexican culture throughout the better half of the twentieth century. The film's arresting visuals, haunting score, and brilliant set pieces are quite unlike anything else in the genre, with each contributing to the surreal mysticism of the plot. Juan Lopez Moctezuma is unafraid to explore a rich and vivid color palette, contrasting hot and cool tones while using the screen as his own morbid canvas. The characters he introduces are equally colorful, depicting a variety of strange, offbeat personas that seem to have stepped out of the pages of some twisted fairy tale. Tina Romero's unnerving performance is wildly over the top, but her crazed shrieks and howls along with her deathly facial gestures will leave viewers believing that she truly is possessed. A culmination of Moctezuma's expressive style explodes on screen in the film's bloody finale, where Alucarda calls upon the powers of Satan to strike down the convent in a rain of fire. ALUCARDA is a compelling visual masterpiece that transforms the screen into a nightmarish vision of hell. It comes as no surprise that Moctezuma was a close colleague of the equally brilliant Alejandro Jodorowsky, director of SANTA SANGRE, let alone an inspiration to other talented Mexican filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro. This possession tale cannot be overlooked, and it still stands as one of the strongest Mexican exports in the genre.

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

If you liked ALUCARDA, check out:
SANTA SANGRE, MANSION OF MADNESS, DARK WATERS.



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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Premature Burial (1961)

A newlywed husband begins living in a state of paralyzing fear after uncovering the tomb of a man who was buried alive. His wife and family friend force him to confront his obsession with his own death, which causes him to fall into a death-like state that ultimately leads to his own premature burial. Roger Corman attempts to fill this lifeless Edgar Allen Poe adaptation with fog-laced environments and roving cameras, but the above average production is hardly able to mask the tedious plotting and passable performances. The attempt that is made to recover the pacing following Guy's "return" from the dead proves to be too little too late to win back the audience. Ray Milland brings very little with his performance, appearing stiff and unsympathetic as the film's paranoid lead. PREMATURE BURIAL does include a colorful nightmare sequence similar to the one that had been used months earlier in PIT AND THE PENDULUM, where he finds himself trapped in his own tomb with nothing save for the sound of his own heartbeat. This may fall in the lower end of the spectrum for Corman's Poe cycle, but it still provides enough atmosphere and suspense to appeal to most Gothic Horror fans.

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

If you liked PREMATURE BURIAL, check out:
PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE BLACK CAT, THE BODY SNATCHER.



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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Train (2009)

A college wrestling team must square off against a sadistic group of killers after boarding the wrong train on their way to a match in the Ukraine. They must struggle to survive before their organs are harvested to help heal the locals. TRAIN has far more in common with TURISTAS than it does with TERROR TRAIN, upon which it was remade. The gritty filming, brutal violence, and Eastern European setting are all reflective of the Torture Porn trend initiated by Eli Roth and Greg McLean. To that extent, it is actually better than one might expect, though it still leaves much to be desired. Where the 1980 original is nearly bloodless, TRAIN holds nothing back as the murderous villains skin and disembowel each of their victims. Audiences may be willing to forgive the generic plot and characters in lieu of the gore, however it is difficult to overlook questionable moments in the plot where the train's other passengers are indifferent to the attacks on the Americans, let alone the implausible end where Thora Birch's Alex outwrestles her 300lb assailant. Gideon Raff churns out an average attempt based on the popular HOSTEL formula, giving gore fans just enough of the red stuff to warrant at least a single viewing.

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

If you liked TRAIN, check out:
LIVE ANIMALS, WOLF CREEK, HOSTEL.



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Thankskilling (2009)

As the title and cover art would suggest, this is a truly awful movie, but any film that opens with a wise-cracking, puppet-headed killer turkey axing a half-naked pilgrim to death is bound for B-Movie glory. After a dog pisses on an ancient Indian totem, the spirit of a killer turkey is resurrected just in time to ruin Thanksgiving for a naive group of college kids returning home for the holidays. THANKSKILLING is a straightforward Slasher and Horror Comedy that fills its short one-hour run time with cheap laughs and gratuitous gore. It makes no attempt to hide its lack of depth, but it does manage to mask its non-existent budget with serviceable camera work and bloody gags. While the terrible performances and absurd dialog do add to the B-Movie charm, they do not excuse the weak plotting, bland characters, or rubber puppet. Most viewers will find themselves laughing at the film rather than with it, which is mainly the result of the dull one-liners given to the turkey. As a stupid side dish of holiday fun, THANKSKILLING won't leave you cold, but there won't be any leftovers.

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

If you liked THANKSKILLING, check out:
JACK FROST, SANTA'S SLAY, TERROR AT BLOOD FART LAKE.



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Monday, May 24, 2010

Cache (2005)

Midday. The camera is focused on an alleyway and the apartment building adjacent to it. The screen remains fixed on this position, motionless. Pan back, and a husband and wife stare on in horror at the taped surveillance of their home from an unknown source. Who is behind these mysterious tapes, what do they mean, and what secrets might be revealed when their lives are exposed to the world? With this, Michael Haneke delivers another riveting thriller that leaves the audience guessing from beginning to end.

CACHE is often criticized for its overt social and political subtext, and while these themes are often apparent, they never become the driving force of the plot. Haneke's emotionless filming only serves to alienate the viewer, drawing a line of separation between them and the characters. The audience is only invited to observe but never to interact or invest themselves in the events as they unfold, a barrier that was visited first in Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM. The camera then becomes the only character with whom the audience can relate, but in keeping with the central theme of lies and deceit, the camera lies just as much as the characters themselves. It is impossible to tell which events are unfolding in actuality on screen, and which are pre-recordings that are playing back on a taped recording.

At times, CACHE also appears to be Haneke's reflection on the Italian Giallo, as it mirrors the structure and revelation of past events that was popularized by Dario Argento in the 70s. Another nod to Argento can be found in a single shocking moment of gore that closely resembles the brutal death of Jane in TENEBRE. Completely unlike the Italian mysteries, however, CACHE does not allow for any form of satisfying end, leaving the viewer with more questions than answers in its closing scenes. Just as he has done countless times before, Haneke also robs the viewer of a soundtrack to accompany the film, which builds on the sense of tension and unease that has already been established with each new package left on Georges and Anne's doorstep.

While Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche each provide powerful and convincing performances, it is Michael Haneke's signature style that wins in the end. Paranoia, fear, and suspense are each measured out in equal doses, keeping audiences on the knife's edge at every turn. CACHE will not be received well by all audiences, but it stands as both a thought provoking and engaging piece of film art.

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

If you liked CACHE, check out:
TENEBRAE, BENNY'S VIDEO, PEEPING TOM.



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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

Dr. Herbert West has been imprisoned for his crimes against humanity, where he continues with his secret experiments on the inmates with the help of a prison doctor that shares his morbid curiosities. It isn't long before things get out of hand and heads begin to roll! Despite over a decade of separation and the departure of both Bruce Abbott and David Gale from the series, BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR does manage to garner some interest, but it is a far cry from Gordon's original. Jeffrey Combs feels bored with the role at this point, and while he is the one actor able to carry the film, only a shadow of the smarmy attitude and manic behavior that dressed his earlier performances remains. Director Brian Yuzna also tries to make the most out of the simple plot in a desperate attempt to recapture the same dark tone and sharp wit from before. Unfortunately, the uninspired writing and dialog lack both brains and heart. Where the film does deliver is in the gore department thanks to the special FX crew at Screaming Mad George, who bring back plenty of the gruesome make-up designs that have become synonymous with the series. BEYOND is not the shot of re-agent that most fans were hoping for, but it is a bloody escape that is more enjoyable than other late entries in film franchises like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

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

If you liked BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, check out:
DAGON, WISHMASTER 2, PRISON.



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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Return of the Vampire (1944)

RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE marks the first occasion in which Bela Lugosi donned the vampire's cape since the original DRACULA. In it, a vampire and his werewolf assistant are revived after a German air raid uncovers their tomb. Shortly thereafter, the two set off to exact their revenge against the woman who had imprisoned them by kidnapping her daughter. Lugosi shines with a power and charisma that had been lacking from his countless B-Movie performances in the years following DRACULA and WHITE ZOMBIE. In addition to the strong make-up work (particularly that of the wolf man Andreas), RETURN also offers a great number of dark Gothic set designs that access moody lighting which filters in behind the fog-drenched exteriors. Lew Landers draws obvious influence from the Universal classics, and surprisingly, he succeeds where Tod Browning's film often faltered. RETURN is fast paced, and feels much more cinematic compared to the stiff, theatrical acting that resulted from DRACULA's adaptation from the stage. The film is often overlooked, but proves to be an enjoyable and atmospheric Gothic Horror entry!

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

If you liked RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE, check out:
DRACULA, THE WOLF MAN, CITY OF THE DEAD.



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Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review: Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda
By: Peter H. Brothers

Peter H. Brothers takes on the daunting task of introducing American readers to the entire scope of Ishiro Honda's Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror films for the first time ever. Brothers provides coverage on all 25 entries in Honda's canon of genre work, spanning the two decades following the release of Honda's (and Japan's) most successful film of all-time: GODZILLA. While the giant lizard would leave a lasting impression on Honda's career, Brothers proves to the uninitiated that this amazing director was capable of much greater feats in a wide variety of different themes.

Mushroom Clouds opens with a insider's look at the life of Ishiro Honda, from his early aspirations to become a filmmaker, through the marriage to his wife and his time spent in the Japanese military during World War II, to his distinguished career in film (through its highs and its lows). The book then groups together collections of Honda's Fantasy films based on the significant eras in his career, dedicating entire chapters to reviews and critical analysis of each individual picture. This is a much more academic approach to the films than the average photo mag would provide, so prospective readers should be aware that it is comprised solely of text with no pictures of any kind.

As a reviewer, Brothers beautifully articulates his thoughts on each of the films, praising them for their strengths without any fear or restraint in pointing out their weaknesses. His opinions and arguments are all well-informed, citing key moments from each film and drawing from years of critical responses that have been left in the wake of Honda's career. Brothers' loving devotion for Honda's work is rarely clouded but always objective.

The endless amount of time and effort spent in research are clearly demonstrated in Brothers' impressive list of resources and rare interviews that have been carefully selected from over thirty years of source material. Insights and candid behind-the-scenes commentary are taken from the director, himself, as well as a wealth of individuals that worked closely with him. These key selections serve to humanize the man behind the camera, reflecting moments of self-doubt as well as uplifting anecdotes from close friends and family members.

There are only a few minor distractions that seem to have been overlooked, neither of which detract from the overall enjoyability of the read. The book is riddled with typographical errors that could easily be remedied by a professional edit job. Arguably, Brothers might also consider reeling back the extensive amount of content dedicated strictly to the music in Honda's films, which can often consume over a fourth of each chapter and review. He possesses an education and knowledge on the subject that easily surpasses the reader's own understanding, but readers that are uninterested in those particular aspects of the films will find themselves skipping ahead.

Peter Brothers proves to be an authority on the man and his work, and provides what many will consider to be the complete and definitive US publication of Ishiro Honda's career. Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men is required reading for any film fan with even a remote interest in Japanese cinema, classic Fantasy and SciFi cinema, or giant monster movies. Readers will walk away from the book with a wealth of new found knowledge and a desire to seek out a catalog of films that they may never have considered watching previously.

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



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Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

Just as James Wales' BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN managed to surpass his own Gothic masterpiece, Brian Yuzna's BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR also manages to outdo Stuart Gordon's original in many ways. Picking up only a few years after the disaster in the Miskatonic University morgue, BRIDE finds Dr. Herbert West and Dan Cain returning to their questionable practice of re-animating the dead as they attempt to build the perfect being out of choice pieces of flesh that they have 'borrowed' from Arkham cemetery. Dr. Cain professes a selfless desire to help heal the wounded with the fruits of their research, but unlike Dr. West (who quite openly admits to his own selfish desires), Cain secretly hopes to revive the heart and brain of his dead girlfriend within the body of their new pet project. Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott continue to create a perfect synergy on screen, though their performances are a bit more reserved than before. David Gale also returns as the bodiless head of Dr. Hill, who has plenty of new torments to unleash upon his enemies. In addition to a substantial amount of gore, Yuzna injects the film with the same deliciously dark humor that lined Paoli's earlier script. The creative geniuses at KNB EFX Group also introduce a massive array of imaginative designs that are as hilarious and ironic as they are disturbing. BRIDE is very much the twisted take on BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that it intends to be, and in all of its absurdity it proves to be a winning sequel that recaptures much of the brilliance found in the original film.

Rating: 9/10.
Gore: 8/10.
Number of views: 5.

If you liked BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, check out:
FROM BEYOND, SOCIETY, THE EVIL DEAD 2.



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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Lovely Bones (2009)

The spirit of a young girl is trapped in her own personal purgatory until she is able to assist her father and sister in tracking down the man responsible for murdering her and several other teens. Oscar®-winner Peter Jackson adapts his extraordinary visual style seen earlier in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and KING KONG to bring Susie's ethereal world to life as she crosses between two planes of reality while attempting to expose her killer. Jackson's imaginative fantasy worlds succeed from a visual standpoint, however his kinetic filming is smothered with constantly-sweeping camera movements that are overly dramatic and completely unnecessary. Alice Sebold's heart-felt characters are realized by the considerable cast, with Saoirse Ronan standing out above all others as the fading Susie. While Stanley Tucci manages to create the creepy and uncomfortable persona that the role of Mr. Harvey required, many of the awkward mannerisms he brings with him make it difficult to accept his character completely. Unfortunately, the motion-picture adaptation lacks the same level of suspense and heightened emotional response present in the novel. Had it been structured differently with a quickened pace and darker tone, it may have proven to be far more effective. Even still, THE LOVELY BONES offers a harrowing story built on strong characters and performances that should appeal to fans of the written work and newcomers as well.

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

If you liked THE LOVELY BONES, check out:
SPEAK, HEAVENLY CREATURES, INK.



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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Headless Horseman (2007)

Seven teens embark on a road trip to Hell when they decide to pass through the small town of Sleepy Hollow, home of The Headless Horseman, who has returned to collect seven heads before returning to his fiery grave. Director Anthony C. Ferrante's sophomore effort is much more polished than his debut in BOO, however his teen characters are none the more wiser and just as predictable as they had been before. Washington Irving must have been spinning in his grave during the film's production, as this version of The Horseman's tale would be entirely unremarkable were it not for the outrageous amount of bloodshed. Ferrante includes countless beheadings, with instruments ranging from halberds, to throwing discs, to trusty car trunks. One interesting difference that is unique to this retelling is that The Horseman's head slowly begins to regrow with each head that he takes. While it certainly isn't the definitive take on the story (a spot reserved for Burton's superior SLEEPY HOLLOW), there is enough blood and carnage to make this a worthy Slasher effort.

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

If you liked HEADLESS HORSEMAN, check out:
SLEEPY HOLLOW, SKELETON MAN, BOO.



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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Clash of the Titans (1981)

CLASH OF THE TITANS is an epic adventure that lives up to its title, and is a marvelous feat in Fantasy and Greek mythology. The Greeks incur the wrath of the gods when Perceus, son of Zeus, is cast to a watery grave. Zeus spares his life so that he may prove himself by completing a series of death-defying tasks in order to fulfill his destiny! TITANS is best known as being the last film to feature Ray Harryhausen's incredible art design, but it is also remembered for displaying many of his most iconic creations. The special FX are purely imaginative, combining breathtaking models and miniatures with elaborate set designs and immaculate stop-motion animation imposed over convincing green-screened environments. Many of the effects may seem dated by today's standards, but for the time, they reached the height of claymation's capabilities in creating believable characters and monsters. CLASH OF THE TITANS couldn't have been a more appropriate title considering the all-star cast, with Laurence Olivier starring as the great Zeus himself, along with film greats Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Burgess Meredith, and others. Harry Hamlin captures Perceus' brave but impetuous nature perfectly, in turn creating one of the most memorable Fantasy heroes in of all time. Each of the moments of action and suspense are heightened by Rosenthal's triumphant score that imbues the picture with a lasting sense of excitement and danger. Even with its lengthy exposition, CLASH OF THE TITANS maintains a high level of interest thanks to the many fast-paced action sequences that are spread evenly throughout the script. It represents some of the finest filmmaking from a bygone era of film that has since been replaced by computerized imaging.

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

If you liked CLASH OF THE TITANS, check out:
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, LEGEND.



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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't Open the Door (1975)

S.F. Brownrigg's sleazy followup to the Grindhouse classic DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT trails a young woman as she returns home to the house where her mother was killed 13 years earlier in order to tend to her dying grandmother. It isn't long before she begins receiving deranged phone calls from her mother's killer as he stalks her in the empty house. Exploitation films generally require three basic elements in order to succeed: gratuitous nudity, lurid violence, and abusive gore. DON'T fails on all accounts. It is a bloodless, vapid affair that stumbles through various Horror movie cliches without ever generating any terror or suspense. Browning makes no attempt to hide the identity of the "mysterious" caller thanks to shoddy lighting, and seems to have drawn heavily from the success of BLACK CHRISTMAS released the year prior. Susan Bracken's performance deters the audience from identifying with her character, which leaves the film with no emotional draw throughout her frightening ordeal. DON'T OPEN THE DOOR does not share the offbeat humor or horror that drove audiences to see DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, and proves to be an easily forgettable sequel.

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

If you liked DON'T OPEN THE DOOR, check out:
TOURIST TRAP, FUNERAL HOME, DON"T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT.



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Godzilla 1985 (1984)

After a 10-year break from the big screen, Godzilla stormed back in to theaters in this 1984 revamp, bringing with it a much more serious tone and the human touch that had been missing in the years since Ishiro Honda's departure from the series. Raymond Burr returns for the first time since the original GODZILLA as an American reporter that must assist the military in stopping the radioactive menace Godzilla after it resurfaces off the coast of Japan. Where GODZILLA delivered a powerful message against the horrors of atomic warfare in the fallout of World War II, 1985's film transposes the issue against the Cold War fears troubling the US, Japan, and Russia. Hashimoto revisits many familiar character arcs and plot points popularized in Honda's version, with the scientists and military leaders of each of the major world powers working alongside one another to put an end to the unstoppable force of nature. Godzilla is a far cry from the kid-friendly anti-hero of the 1970s as it returns to its destructive and menacing roots. Its costume shows marked improvements as well, though the extended shots are far more convincing than the puppets used in closeup. While Godzilla benefits from his vicious new look, the scale miniatures and special FX pale in comparison to Eiji Tsuburaya's intricate designs from the early Showa era films. GODZILLA 1985 made tremendous progress in resurrecting the fading monster series, and while it was easily surpassed by later entries, it is a solid effort that will get fans cheering once more!

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

If you liked GODZILLA 1985, check out:
KING KONG, GODZILLA, GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE.



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Monday, May 10, 2010

Horror Games: Luigi's Mansion

Luigi of the famous Mario Bros. has inherited a creepy old mansion filled with riches. The catch? It's filled with ghouls and ghosts, and it is up to him to catch them all using his trusty vacuum cleaner and his trusty flashlight! As it turns out, Mario is also trapped somewhere within the mansion, so along with the help of Professor E. Gadd, Luigi must defeat all 23 of the house's inhabitants to save Mario and take back the mansion. LUIGI'S MANSION was the Gamecube's launch title, and it marks one of the few games where the underappreciated Luigi takes center stage. Unlike most of the Mario Bros. platformer games, the gameplay here involves mostly puzzle solving and ghost catching, as well as searching for hidden treasures in potted plants and cupboards. Each of the main 23 ghosts pose a different strategy that experienced gamers will have no trouble determining, but there is enough challenge and fun to make the game appealing to new and old players alike. While the boss battles offer little more difficulty, they do make for a nice diversion from the standard play. Hidden treasure is the name of the game, and players are rated at the finish by the amount of loot they collect throughout the darkened halls, so be sure to search every nook and cranny for the highest score possible! Ranking highly is important for the second round, as it alters the "Hidden Mansion" that is unlocked at the completion of the first mission. This also allows for a decent amount of replay value, much to the same extent as the secret world in THE LEGEND OF ZELDA. The control style is extremely basic, involving mostly aiming and shooting, but there are a few handling issues posed by the static camera angles that can make catching ghosts aggravating at times. LUIGI'S MANSION is an entertaining and unique puzzle solver for the Gamecube and Wii systems, and will be a sure fire hit with any Mario Bros. or Ghostbusters fans!

Rating: 7/10.
Hours of play: 5-10hrs.
Replay value: 7/10.



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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Roger Corman succeeds with another excellent Edgar Allen Poe adaptation starring the one and only Vincent Price alongside the captivating Barbara Steele. The classic tale finds a mournful brother on his way back to Spain, where he intends to uncover the truth behind his sister's untimely death. He is met with lies and deceit from her surviving husband, who eventually reveals that she died of pure fright when she discovered the torture chamber lying beneath the castle's dark corridors. Francis soon finds that the hysterical Nicholas Medina was the son of the Inquisition's most notorious torturer, and that he is on the brink of insanity following his wife's demise. Corman's PIT shares much of the same brilliant scripting, superior technical form, and visual storytelling as Mario Bava's WHIP AND THE BODY. The typically modest budget is entirely concealed by its lavish sets, incredible matte paintings, and elaborate costume designs. A combination of shrouded framing and lucid color filters also give the flashbacks a haunting dream-like quality. Price hams it up in the role as only he can, but is just as enjoyable as ever as the mentally distraught Medina. PIT AND THE PENDULUM is sure to please any Gothic Horror fans, and marks one of Roger Corman's finer achievements.

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

If you liked PIT AND THE PENDULUM, check out:
WHIP AND THE BODY, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, TWICE TOLD TALES.



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Frankenfish (2004)

Although the plot is indistinguishable from countless other killer animal flicks, FRANKENFISH is a step above the usual direct-to-video releases. Sam Rivers is charged with uncovering the truth behind a recent rash of animal attacks in the Louisiana bayou, which brings him and a group of locals face to face with the genetically-engineered monstrosities swimming just beneath the surface! The production qualities far exceed the subject matter here, as it offers competent filming along with its mid-budget sets, action, and gore. Despite their purely digital creation, enough effort has been made to allow the creatures to manipulate and interact with their environments, bringing with them some sense of believability. The FX team has also done a solid job in giving the fish a unique and realistic design, while the make-up artists have managed to squeeze in a bloody decapitation, countless bisections, and a fisherman frappe through the blades of an air boat. FRANKENFISH won't be winning any awards in the near future, but it is one of the better films of its kind to hit the DVD market in recent years.

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

If you liked FRANKENFISH, check out:
THE SNAKEHEAD TERROR, ANACONDA, SHARK ATTACK.



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Don't Look Now (1974)

An architect and his wife are haunted by visions of their dead daughter running through the streets of Venice, while the police chase a murderer that is running loose in the dark canals. DON'T LOOK NOW plays on several major themes, with the most prominent being that "Nothing is what it seems." This is constantly replayed in everything from John's restoration work to the thrilling climax . Julie Christie plays opposite of the great Donald Sutherland as the troubled married couple coping with their loss, as the two are faced with the prospect of communicating with their dead daughter through a pair of psychic sisters. The uncertainty of the sisters' motives drives the suspense just as much as the murders in town and the supernatural elements of the plot, since it they are not revealed to be friend nor foe until the closing act. Where the picture will find the most difficulty in attracting new audiences is in its deliberate pacing, which takes great strides in developing the characters and plot but lacks the action or frights of most modern ghost tales. The distinct 70s vibe and methodical delivery will appeal to fans of the similarly structured AUDREY ROSE or LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, where mood and atmosphere win over gore and violence. DON'T LOOK NOW holds a high standing alongside other Supernatural Suspense Thrillers, and is well worth the wait for the shocking finale.

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

If you liked DON'T LOOK NOW, check out:
AUDREY ROSE, LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, BURNT OFFERINGS.



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Saturday, May 8, 2010

P2 (2007)

P2 finds an aspiring businesswoman trapped in the parking garage of her building on Christmas Eve as a crazed security guard stalks her every move. As the cover suggests, the only interesting character in the film is Rachel Nichol's cleavage, which isn't as sexist as it is sad. Wes Bentley is far too predictable and over-the-top as the whack job Thomas, shredding all credibility the role may have held in someone else's hands. Although Angela is written as a smart, strong, and capable female protagonist, her efforts are wasted as she is caught in a tedious game of cat and mouse. The seriousness of the plot is constantly broken up by moments of laughable gore and unnecessary humor involving Bentley's Thomas, which makes it difficult to build any suspense. This is only made worse by the heavy reliance on dramatic music cues that attempt to build false scares using only the cheapest techniques imaginable. P2 does offer all of the polished production and filming of a major studio release, and it must be stated that director Franck Khalfoun has taken advantage of every corner of the parking structure to capitalize on inherent nighttime fears. In the end, we are given a stylish thriller that lacks heart and falls short of making the grade.

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

If you liked P2, check out:
SUBTERANO, THE WATCHER, WOLF CREEK.



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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Boy Eats Girl (2005)

A depressive son is brought back to life through a voodoo ritual by his mother, who accidentally knocked the chair from beneath his feet when he was contemplating hanging himself. The newly-undead high schooler returns to class with only two things on his mind: meat, and meat. It isn't long before Nathan has infected half of the school while trying to win back his girlfriend. While it is humorous at times, the film would not be classified as a Horror Comedy. BOY EATS GIRL touches on serious notes like teen suicide, depression, and loss of individuality without becoming forceful on any of the topics. Once the premise has been established, though, the characters and plot are left with no where to go as they become caught in an exhaustive game of cat and mouse. Unlike most other teen zombie flicks, this entry offers a dark and somber mood that refrains from falling in to self-parody. Add to that a few key scenes of bloody violence, and BOY EATS GIRL manages to drum up enough interest to warrant a viewing.

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

If you liked BOY EATS GIRL, check out:
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS, DANCE OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIE HONEYMOON.



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Shark Attack (1999)

A small fishing town is overrun by ravenous sharks, and it is up to a specialist to uncover the sinister plot behind the feeding frenzy! In a day and age when computer imaging has taken precedence over physical effects (especially in lower budgeted movies), it is actually refreshing to find a killer shark movie that utilizes stock footage and giant rubber monsters. As apparent as they both may be, the attempts to bring the sharks to life by combining these techniques has to be admired considering the size of the picture. The only unfortunate drawback is the lack of suspense that results from the virtual clip show of documentary footage that clearly separates the impending danger from the swimmers. Surprisingly, though, the rubber sharks created for the film look fantastic, and easily compare with any of the models used in the JAWS series. Casper Van Dien stars alongside Ernie Hudson and other D-list actors, each of whom play in to the archetypal comic book characters and writing. The pedestrian plot remains watchable enough while the viewer patiently awaits the next kill, but the near-bloodless shark attacks inevitably disappoint. For a film of its kind, SHARK ATTACK is better than most, and is sure to rate highly with killer shark fans.

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

If you liked SHARK ATTACK, check out:
JAWS, THE LAST JAWS, DEEP BLUE SEA.



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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Night of the Living Dorks (2004)

Three teenage losers become undead heroes after a voodoo spell goes horribly wrong. The guys head out to exact revenge on their high school tormentors using their new found powers, while trying to win over the girls of their dreams. DORKS is sure to become a sleeper hit overseas after seeing phenomenal success in its home country of Germany, inspiring an American remake that is due out in 2010. Its classic teen misfits are perfectly cast and played with excellent comedic timing by the three leads. While the cliched humor often sinks to outrageous lows, the script is cleverly written with a sharp wit and tons of bloody gags. The film also benefits from being entirely self-aware, poking fun at genre conventions while paying homage to staple Horror entries like DAY OF THE DEAD. Dinter strikes a strong balance between the laughs and shocks as well, never favoring one over the other and including plenty of both. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS is one of the most enjoyable Horror Comedies in years that will get you rooting for the underdogs!

Rating: 8/10.
Entertainment: 9/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 1.

If you liked NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS, check out:
BOY EATS GIRL, DANCE OF THE DEAD, PLAGA ZOMBIE, DEAD SNOW.



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Don't Look in the Basement (1973)

A young nurse finds herself at the mercy of an insane medical staff when she arrives at a remote institution, only to find out that the original staff had been killed and the crazies are running the nuthouse! This trashy Grindhouse classic is torn and tattered, using only the most rudimentary filming on a non-existent budget. The film's greatest strengths lies in its kooky characters and exaggerated performances that create a true sense of delirium and madness. In its original run, it was double-billed with THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which shared its tasteless violence and crude production. Though the plotting is easily predictable, the pace moves along at a quick pace with enough kills and gratuitous nudity to hold the audience's attention until the final payoff in the end. DON'T earned its way on to the infamous Video Nasties list in the UK thanks to several bloody moments of early gore. After its original release in 1973 as THE FORGOTTEN, distributors changed the title during the film's re-release to cash in on the popular "DON'T" trend in schlocky Exploitation films of the late 70s and early 80s. For a cheapie shocker, DON'T makes for a great deal of bloody good fun!

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

If you liked DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, check out:
I DRINK YOUR BLOOD, ALONE IN THE DARK, SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT.



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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Night of the Creeps (1986)

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS is Fred Dekker's zombie opus, and a perfect blend of Horror and the college sex romp Comedy! It draws evenly from the drive-in SciFi films of the 50s just as much as it does from modern Splatter classics like THE EVIL DEAD. Things start innocently enough with two dorky college kids accidentally reviving a corpse from cryostasis during a fraternity prank gone wrong, which sparks a zombie outbreak on campus right before formal! Jason Lively and Steve Marshall play an entertaining pair of misfits, but the real show stopper is genre favorite Tom Atkins, who reprises his familiar role as a pissed off detective with an axe to grind. CREEPS employs an array of creative effects to bring the parasitic slugs and their zombie hosts to life, ranging from reverse photography to stop motion animation and beyond. It also offers some of the most memorable gore from a decade known for its gratuitous splatter. If any case can be made against it, it would have to be in regards to the repetitive dialog and underdeveloped characters, but considering the visual strengths and lightning pace, these issues are easily overlooked. In the years since its original release, the film has had a lasting effect on the genre, influencing everything from James Gunn's SLiTHER to Resident Evil Zero from the popular game franchise. Its growing cult status combined with the recent resurgence of the childhood classic MONSTER SQUAD ranks Fred Dekker as one of the most talented and under appreciated Horror directors from the 80s.

Rating: 8/10.
Entertainment: 10/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 4.

If you liked NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, check out:
NIGHT OF THE COMET, SLiTHER, MONSTER SQUAD.



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Monday, May 3, 2010

Benny's Video (1992)

If one thing can be said about the films of Michael Haneke, it is that they are daring. BENNY'S VIDEO follows a disenchanted youth as he obsesses over violent films, engages in delinquent activities at school, and surveys the neighborhood through the lens of his camera. After he welcomes a young girl in to his voyeuristic world and shows her his prize possession--a video of a pig being shot to death--he turns the gun on her and murders her in cold blood, all while he films the entire event. His parents uncover the tape, and must decide what to do with their sociopathic son. Arno Frisch is captivating as the lead, perfectly depicting an adolescent devoid of all emotion and moral obligation that has been desensitized by the world around him. As is the case in each of Haneke's other offerings, BENNY'S VIDEO is artfully shot, with a cold and detached filming style that is reflective of his characters. He does not invite the viewer to empathize with any of the characters or their actions. He also robs the viewer of any score, thereby removing the safety net that separates fact from fiction (an underlying theme that is replayed constantly in the film).

Outside of the jarring murder, the most frightening aspect of the film is Benny's parents' readiness to cover up their son's mistakes in order to wash their own hands clean of their lack of responsibility and neglect. As usual, Haneke points the finger at his audience, making bold statements about the environmental effects that shape emotionless killers. His condemnation of media violence and parental control cannot be viewed without considering the hypocritical nature of his claims when the film, itself, relies on shocking violence to prove its own point. This same duality would be extended in his later (and superior) effort FUNNY GAMES. Unfortunately, the raw power and heightened suspense created in the first half drop off dramatically after the hour mark, at which point the family drama sets in.

BENNY'S VIDEO is a disturbing look at teen violence that cannot be overlooked. It is gut-wrenching at times, angering at others, but absolutely sure to draw an emotional response from the viewer.

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

If you liked BENNY'S VIDEO, check out:
FUNNY GAMES, AMERICAN PSYCHO, THE LAST HORROR FILM.



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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Monsturd (2003)

A daughter tells her father a bedtime story involving an escaped convict who is transformed into a mutant poop monster after being exposed to an experimental chemical. The ensuing rampage through Butte County leaves everyone too terrified to use the toilet as the police struggle to purge the city of the evil menace! Though the title, cover art, and premise speak otherwise, MONSTURD is every bit the B-movie gold that fans would hope for. Its epic score perfectly contrasts the ridiculousness of the plot as well as its scatological humor. Each of the gags earn the laughs they deserve, mixing only the worst toilet humor with many clever puns. The intentionally terrible acting and filming only add to the low-budget charm, recreating the high level of camp found in drive-in classics like THE CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA or THE BLOB. It holds nothing back in the gore and gross-out department, splattering the screen with all of the depravity and diarrhetic hose jobs that would be expected from a film bearing its name. Rick Popko and Dan West understand the elements needed in order to make a successful B-movie, turning MONSTURD into a raunchy good time that is sure to become a cult favorite.

Rating: 5/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.
Gore: 5/10.
Number of views: 1.

If you liked MONSTURD, check out:
THE TOXIC AVENGER, TERROR AT BLOOD FART LAKE, TROLL 2.



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Paranormal Entity (2009)

As is the case with any of the other Asylum releases, PARANORMAL ENTITY is a virtual remake of the smash hit PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, retaining all of the same structure with only minor character and plot changes. Ironically, this cheap cash-in both proves and disproves the effectiveness of the original film. The rapid-fire scares in ENTITY make it far more skeptical than the subtle haunts in ACTIVITY, but the cleverly implied scares that are created in both show that almost anyone can pick up a camera and generate the same level of terror with hardly any effort. Van Dyke asks very little of his actors, and receives little in return besides the expectantly bland performances and the obligatory nude scene. As a matter of budgetary convenience, the cameras placed in the rooms that are experiencing activity just happen to either get pushed aside or knocked over during pivotal moments. This leaves the viewer staring at a blank screen for much of the film. Regardless of the fact that it is nothing more than a clone, there are still enough realistic touches that are further emphasized by the lack of music in order to make PARANORMAL ENTITY a genuinely unnerving watch.

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

If you liked PARANORMAL ENTITY, check out:
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, EVIL THINGS, CLOVERFIELD.



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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Attack of the Vegan Zombies (2010)

A more suitable title would have been ATTACK OF THE ALCOHOLIC ZOMBIES, since the film takes a much more critical look at the effects of alcoholism than it does on meat-eating. After years of failed crops, a desperate wife turns to witchcraft to revive the grape harvest for her struggling husband. The vines return, but the juice from their fruit transforms all who drink it in to winethirsty zombies who attack anyone that has had a drink! VEGAN ZOMBIES' goofy B-movie plot compliments the title, but is derailed by the seriousness of the acting and filming. It has trouble deciding if it is a silly spoof or a socially conscious metaphor, especially when it shares just as many thematic links with NIGHT OF THE LIVING as it does with TROLL 2. Townsend makes the most of his inexperienced actors, colorful settings, and ambitious camera work, which borrows generously from genre classics like THE EVIL DEAD. A lighter tone and increased vegan zombie action would have benefited this small film, but for the budget, it makes a valid effort at creating something unique and significant that Indie Horror fans are sure to enjoy.

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

If you liked ATTACK OF THE VEGAN ZOMBIES, check out:
PLAGA ZOMBIE, GRAPES OF DEATH, ZOMBIE HONEYMOON.



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Dark Corners (2006)

Two women, Karen and Susan, lead two dramatically different lives that are connected by two things: their dreams, and a mysterious killer that haunts them both. One's terrifying reality becomes the other's nightmare, but which of them is living the real life, and which of them is just a fantasy? Conceptually, DARK CORNERS succeeds in creating an interesting and unique premise that the execution is unable to deliver on. Thora Birch is a long ways off from her incredible performances in GHOST WORLD and AMERICAN BEAUTY, and fails to bring either of the two characters to life in her dual roles. The nightmarish world that has been created for Karen is far too overstated to be believable, repelling the viewer with its cluttered sets and bilious color palette. Director Ray Gower does generate several remarkable transitions between realities, however the forced visual metaphors that are used for Susan's difficulties conceiving are far too obvious and distract from the plot. DARK CORNERS is an ambitious attempt at creating alternate worlds that just never manages to reach its fullest potential.

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

If you liked DARK CORNERS, check out:
STENDHAL SYNDROME, OPEN YOUR EYES, THE CELL.



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Basket Case 3 (1992)

Henenlotter really misses the mark here after stretching his plot and characters too far over the limit for the average viewer. BASKET CASE 3 is a direct continuation of the second film, picking up with Granny Ruth and the gang heading off to Uncle Hal's house so that Eve can deliver a litter of baby things that she conceived with Belial. When the locals hear of their arrival, they attempt to kidnap Duane, Belial, and the kids to cash in on a huge reward. All of the creepy creatures return from before, bringing with them a few new creations and more strange designs. Most of the horror has been stripped from the series in place of a higher amount of B-movie camp, though a prison break does give Henenlotter the chance to throw in some more outrageously over-the-top gore! Hentenryck provides the only enjoyable performance, but even his antics begin to wear at this point. It just feels like Henenlotter has lost direction, and has begun recycling successful plot points to carry this final entry. Anyone that enjoyed the second film will find plenty to like in BASKET CASE 3, but it is otherwise a mediocre film at best.

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

If you liked BASKET CASE 3, check out:
BASKET CASE 2, ISLAND OF THE ALIVE, FREAKED.



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