Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Descent: Part 2 (2009)

Despite Neil Marshall's departure from the director's chair, THE DESCENT editor Jon Harris manages to step in and provide all of the same great aesthetic, claustrophobia, and sheer terror that the 2005 surprise hit delivered four years earlier. PART 2 (as opposed to 2) becomes a powerful statement going in to the sequel, as this genuinely feels like the second half to THE DESCENT's whole.

The action picks up immediately where the original left off, as Sarah returns to the remote caverns with a rescue team that has been assigned to locate the missing climbers after they failed to report back from their trip. Their mission brings them face to face with more subterranean terrors, as they must survive through cave-ins and the monsters hiding in the dark.

Outside of Sarah's convenient memory loss and the obvious negligence in forcing an amnesiac into a search and rescue operation, the plot serves as an excellent approach in continuing the story. The filmmakers have set out to create a reversal of many of the essential themes driving the first film (loss of humanity, destruction of friendships, and others), which they have succeeded in in every way possible. PART 2 also earns a high level of legitimacy in the return of the entire original crew, as well as its two female leads in Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Mendoza. This is taken a step further in the reprisal of the original score and Neil Marshall's attachment as Executive Producer. Building on the continued theme of female empowerment, we also find that the men of THE DESCENT: PART 2 are weak, helpless, and impulsive, where the women remain strong, intuitive, and resourceful.

While Harris does attempt to recreate many of the successful scares from Marshall's film, he has created a fresh palette of unique and perfectly crafted thrills that give his work a life of its own. Skeptical fans of THE DESCENT will be pleasantly surprised and shocked at many of the terrifying jumps the same way that they will enjoy the nauseating tension and suspense generated as the rescue workers squeeze through the impossibly tight passageways. The cave crawlers are just as fierce and menacing as they were before, but they still only pose half of the threat compared to the many cave-ins, dead ends, and suffocating quarters. Sarah's character arc is just as integral to the story of this second film as it had been previously, and Macdonald continues to shine in the role as she rebuilds much that was lost in her last cave dive. In addition, PART 2 packs on the gore in all the right places, without ever relying on it to mask any deficiencies in the plot.

THE DESCENT: PART 2 may be one of the strongest series sequels to come out of the last decade, taking each of the successful elements of the original film and expanding them even further. It is that much more surprising that the film was not given a theatrical release, but it can expect to see a growing rise in interest on DVD.

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

If you liked THE DESCENT: PART 2, check out:
RAW MEAT, CREEP, FEAST.



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Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

World-renown record producer Swan steals an aspiring composer's life work to use in the grand opening of his new club, The Paradise. Winslow, now deformed and embittered after being locked away by Swan, returns to exact his revenge, but Swan convinces him to finish his cantata in order to have it sung by the beautiful starlet that he has fallen in love with. Swan breaks his promises once more, and Winslow sets out to destroy the hip new club! Brian De Palma weaves together the legend of Faust with Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera to create a psychedelic, electrifying, and incredibly original rock opera! De Palma's dynamic shooting style carries over from his prior success SISTERS the previous year, providing a number of creative camera techniques from the split-screen to arching crane shots. Paul Williams plays opposite William Finley's Phantom in a genius pairing, while the outrageous cast of supporting characters play in to their own over-the-top performances. Winslow's twisted leather costume, iconic helmet, and synthesized screeches combine to create a larger than life superhero that is sure to have audiences rooting for the underdog. Complete with a high-powered soundtrack, THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is a cult-favorite that will continue to excite and enthrall fans for decades to come!

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

If you liked PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, check out:
ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, REPO!, STAGEFRIGHT.



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Living Death (2006)

Kristy Swanson (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) stars as the wife of a sadistic millionaire who plots to kill her husband with the help of the family lawyer. Their attempt to poison him fails, and he awakens in the morgue with his mind set on revenge. LIVING DEATH sells itself on being just another Torture Porn entry in a long line of HOSTEL imitators, but it plays out like any other average revenge thriller where money is always the motive. The torture devices laid out in the opening act are not revisited until the final scene, although there are scattered kills throughout the remainder of the run time that offer a decent amount of bloodshed. What really takes away from the film is the uneven tone, where the otherwise serious plot is broken up by unnecessary bits of slapstick in the morgue. LIVING DEATH may not break any new ground, but one can do much worse when it comes to the murder for money theme.

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

If you liked LIVING DEATH, check out:
BURIED ALIVE, FAMILY PLOT, LIVE ANIMALS.



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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ghoul School (1990)

Timothy O'Rawe comes from the same school of film making as Lloyd Kaufman and the rest of the Troma Team, where less is never more. Every aspect of this no-budget zombie picture is exaggerated to a ridiculous extreme, with comically over-the-top characters, a goofy B-movie plot, and outrageous moments of gore. GHOUL SCHOOL enrolls a pair of would-be thieves who accidentally release a deadly poison into the campus water supply, turning the entire student body into a pack of ravenous fiends! There is no mistaking the film's many flaws, but fans of THE TOXIC AVENGER will find plenty to enjoy in its silly performances and intentionally terrible humor. With costumes and FX that were clearly influenced by Lamberto Bava's DEMONS, THE EVIL DEAD, and others, GHOUL SCHOOL manages to sneak in some impressive splatter for the budget. As Timothy O'Rawe's first and only film, it serves as a cheesy reminder of everything Horror fans loved from the 80s.

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

If you liked GHOUL SCHOOL, check out:
THE TOXIC AVENGER, PLAGA ZOMBIE, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS.



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Daybreakers (2009)

In the not-too-distant future, blood supplies are running desperately low. The search for a substitute continues on, unsuccessfully. Vampires have exhausted their human harvests, and the lack of food is causing them to regress into a devolved, bat-like state. As one company attempts to develop the first blood alternative, one of its lead researchers aligns himself with the last remaining humans in order to find a cure, but as everyone knows, there's no money to be made in cures... DAYBREAKERS is a refreshingly original and topical vampire film that translates current social and political issues into the world of Fantasy and Horror. A great amount of care has been put into writing and designing a vampire-centric universe, where bloodsucking politicians debate over undead issues on TV, and where cars, houses, and workplaces are fully equipped with sun-filtering devices. It is a high concept film with an incredible scale, but everything it creates is squandered by the plodding pace and threadbare storyline that lead up to an expected conclusion. Still, the critical outlook on the health care industry and enjoyable performances make it a worthwhile watch.

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

If you liked DAYBREAKERS, check out:
BLADE TRINITY, UNDERWORLD, LEGION.



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Monday, June 28, 2010

Zombie Bloodbath 2 (1995)

ZOMBIE BLOODBATH 2 marks Todd Sheets' 28th shot-on-video Horror effort, but based on the sickeningly amateur production, one might mistake it for his first. This in-name-only sequel finds small town America overrun by a new set of ghouls after a pair of burglars incur the wrath of a Satanic cult by murdering an innocent man on their sacred land. Fifty years later, a new set of escaped cons awaken the souls of the damned on the remote farm, resulting in a bloody zombie takeover. Sheets shows significant improvements in style, writing, and story structure over the first BLOODBATH, but even then the sequel still comes off as a silly home movie. It would be next to unwatchable were it not for a few moments of gooey gross-outs and a blood-drenched finale. News reporter Dennis Douda said it best in the film's closing line: "You and I are the victims here."

Rating: 3/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.

If you liked ZOMBIE BLOODBATH 2, check out:
MEAT MARKET, ZOMBIE BLOODBATH 3, DARKNESS.



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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Never Cry Werewolf (2008)

In the land of direct-to-video Horror, few werewolf films manage to survive past their initial release. BLOOD MOON and GINGER SNAPS are two rare exceptions, and while NEVER CRY WEREWOLF does not quite stack up to these modern classics, its adaptation of the voyeuristic themes first presented in REAR WINDOW into an "after-school special" creature feature make for an enjoyable watch. The plot is simple enough, with two high school students trailing their creepy neighbor after they become suspicious of his lunar activities. Though its premise is clearly derivative, FRIGHT NIGHT and DISTURBIA fans can surely appreciate the familiar structure and expected scares, while werewolf fans will be pleasantly surprised by its impressive costume designs. NEVER CRY WEREWOLF overcomes its budgetary limitations in its brief use of computerized imagery by introducing a sleek weredog design that is far more creative and cleanly rendered than any of the other films sharing its size and scale. Outside of a cheesy cameo by Hercules' Kevin Sorbo, the acting here is also much better than one might expect. NEVER CRY WEREWOLF won't appeal to everyone, but it is worth seeking out for the hardcore werewolf fans.

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

If you liked NEVER CRY WEREWOLF, check out:
DISTURBIA, FRIGHT NIGHT, BIG BAD WOLF.



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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Zombie Bloodbath (1993)

An accident at the nuclear power plant unleashes a horde of bloodthirsty zombies on an unsuspecting town, leaving a small group of survivors to fend for themselves. BLOODBATH can best be described as a zero-budget fan film in the vein of J.R. Bookwalter's THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, and it comes as no surprise when director Todd Sheets references Bookwalter among each of his other genre favorites in the character credits. Where Bookwalter made every attempt at creating something unique through his Zombie Squad and ambitious FX, Sheets only manages to muster a growing tedium that is broken up by moments of uninspired gore consisting of nothing more than store-bought pig intestines. The weak characterizations lack any amount of depth or development, while the leads are left to run around in circles for a little over an hour as their undead adversaries stalk them at every turn. Hardcore gore and low-budget Horror fans aside, few will be able to sit through this tiresome zombie effort.

Rating: 3/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.

If you liked ZOMBIE BLOODBATH, check out:
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, DARKNESS, SAVAGE HARVEST.



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Book Review: The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies

The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies
Edited By: Phil Hardy
Published 1987, 408 pages

The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies is just that; it is the definitive textbook authority on all things Horror, spanning over eight decades of cinema. It is an important reference tool as well as a complete history lesson on the trends and growths that were experienced within the genre, beginning with the earliest silent classics and ending at the height of the Slasher era, when the book was published. The format is laid out chronologically, dividing each section by the decade and listing the films in alphabetical order by the year of their release in their original countries. Films from nearly every developed nation can be found within its pages, including many entries that are dedicated to the German Expressionists and Asian filmmakers, while also introducing many more obscure titles from countries like Austria or Brazil. Phil Hardy interjects with an informed opinion and rounded knowledge on each of the films being discussed. While his opinions on many of the entries will not be shared by all readers (particularly in his general distaste for the Slasher films), his critiques are always justified and rarely biased. Coming in at over 400 pages, with over 450 black and white stills and an astounding 1,300 film reviews, The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies is an absolute must-have for every Horror fan. It is impossible to thumb through its pages without discovering a slew of exciting new films that may have been long forgotten, but it is integral to read the text from start to finish rather than simply using it as a petty reference tool in order to better one's understanding of the genre.

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


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Monday, June 21, 2010

Shogun Assassin (1972/1980)

A defective samurai and his infant son must battle their way through hordes of ninjas and enemy warriors on the path to destroy their evil shogun leader. SHOGUN ASSASSIN is blood-soaked Japanese cinema at its best, taking the classic samurai Action/Adventure premise and pushing it to the limits of extreme violence and gore. The Americanized version of the film released in 1980 is actually an amalgamation of the first and second films from the LONE WOLF AND CUB series, removing much of the slower exposition from each in order to increase the rapid-fire action sequences. Wakayama's stern, calculated performance as the vengeful Ogami is one of the film's greatest strengths, lending credibility to the role even after much of the character's background had been stripped away. SHOGUN'S exaggerated comic book framing and fight choreography make every fight fresh and engaging, while the geysers of blood, severed heads, and flying limbs make this the perfect stepping stone to draw Horror purists into the excessive world of Asian action and gore that would inspire filmmakers like Quentin Tarentino for decades to follow.

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

If you liked SHOGUN ASSASSIN, check out:
LADY SNOWBLOOD, FIVE DEADLY VENOMS, SHOGUN ASSASSIN 2.



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Prom Night (2008)

A young teen returns home to find her entire family murdered by an obsessed and psychotic teacher. Flash forward three years, and Donna is trying to move on with her life as she and her friends prepare for their senior prom. Prom Night will definitely be a night she'll never forget when her crazed admirer breaks free from prison and begins slicing his way back in to her life. Much like the other PG-13 Slasher revivals that drowned theaters in the 2000s, PROM NIGHT is a bloodless Thriller tailored specifically for its Teen audiences with absolutely no consideration for the fans that made the original films so popular. To its advantage, the young cast is actually filled with actors and actresses that look like real teens. The film also makes no attempt at concealing the identity of the killer, which allows him to become a ruthless and calculated villain. This is about where the positive praise ends for the otherwise boring and formulaic picture. While it isn't necessary poorly made, it is entirely uninteresting, and lacks the gratuitous gore and nudity that Slasher fans crave. PROM NIGHT brings nothing new or interesting to the table, and is best left to its designated audience (if not forgotten).

Rating: 7/10.
Entertainment: 5/10.
Gore: 0/10.
Number of views: 3.

If you liked PROM NIGHT, check out:
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, FEAR, VISITING HOURS.



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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Prom Night 4 (1992)

In 1957, a rogue priest begins killing teenagers on prom night who he considers to be 'immoral.' Thirty-three years later, he escapes from the cell his fellow clergymen have made for him, and he heads out to euthanize a new generation of party goers that are giving in to their own earthly delights. PROM NIGHT 4 returns to the standard Slasher conventions that were laid out in the first film, while completely doing away with the character of Mary Lou and any supernatural elements in the plot. Apart from being the darkest film in the series, it is actually the bloodiest and most brutal entry as well (though that still isn't saying much). The main problem in all of this is that the plot has almost nothing to do with prom night whatsoever. None of the characters are ever shown attending the prom, only driving away from it on their way to their cabin getaway. One scene does stand out from the otherwise uninteresting film, where the two leads find their friends being burnt alive on a pair of crucifixes in the woods.

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

If you liked PROM NIGHT 4, check out:
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 3, EXORCIST 3, EXORCISM.



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Bloodthirst 2 (2005)

The BLOODTHIRST trilogy is bottom of the barrel Horror, and this sequel packs in all of the same terrible acting, poor filmmaking, and disastrous special FX of the original film. This time, a detective is sent out to locate a missing girl, when his investigation leads him to a mental health facility where the doctor and his seemingly crazed patients are convinced that the legendary Chupacabra is haunting the hillside. BLOODTHIRST 2 sets up countless throwaway characters as cannon fodder to feed the beast off camera, while splashing the minimal amounts of blood the film could afford on camera. The only reason anyone would foreseeably watch a film of this type is in the hopes that there will be some sort of spectacular creature revealed in the end, but the Chupacabra found here is an abysmal computerized abortion using only the worst CGI available. It is impressive that the creature is even able to move at all. Hopefully, the remaining copies of the film will be destroyed to save future generations from suffering through it.

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

If you liked BLOODTHIRST 2,
STOP WATCHING HORROR MOVIES.



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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Prom Night 3 (1990)

Clearly unfazed by the mess that was HELLO MARY LOU, PROM NIGHT 3 continues with the Supernatural setting found in the second film. Thankfully, this one drops all pretension and aims for a straightforward Horror Comedy. Here, the ghost of Mary Lou continues to haunt the halls of Hamilton High, this time preying on a medical school hopeful she has the hots for. Mary Lou will do anything it takes to help him succeed, especially if it means scaring up some corpses in the process! PROM NIGHT 3's tacky humor and cornball characters are just stupid enough to earn the laughs they deserve. It is also the first film in the series that is even remotely entertaining, mostly thanks to the fun performances put forth by Mary Lou (Courtney Taylor) and her love interest Alex (Tim Conlon). The deaths are nothing short of absurd, but like so many other early 90s Slashers, they are all self-censored and extremely tame. Anyone that might have given up on the series should be sure to check this one out for a goofy good time!

Rating: 6/10.
Entertainment: 7/10.
Gore: 3/10.
Number of views: 1.

If you liked PROM NIGHT 3, check out:
PROM NIGHT 4, AMITYVILLE 6, RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES.



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Book Review: Jason Dark - Theater of Vampires

Jason Dark and his friends Max and Siu Lin come face to face with a coven of bloodthirsty vampires posing as an innocent theater group. Dark must use his keen wit and resourcefulness to destroy the creatures before they bleed London dry! Theater of Vampires marks the second volume in the JASON DARK: GHOST HUNTER series by Independent Horror writer Guido Henkel. The story picks up shortly following the events of the previous adventure, with Siu Lin now living and training under Dark's household. Henkel has created his own larger than life hero in Jason Dark, a Sherlock Holmes of sorts that must use his smarts over his brawn to defeat his enemies. His writing style is fast-paced and clearly directed, maintaining a steady stream of action and suspense as the three characters attempt to oust their undead adversaries. Avid readers will catch the quick cameos by familiar characters from outside of the Dark universe, and each of the groups are given a rich history in the short amount of pages. Theater of Vampires is a brisk but satisfying read that leaves the reader begging for more. Luckily, it is just one in an ever-expanding series, with new volumes due out shortly!

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

If you liked Theater of Vampires, check out:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Demon's Night.



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Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987)

A jealous lover accidentally sets his high school sweetie and newly crowned prom queen Mary Lou ablaze at their Senior Prom, killing her and trapping her soul in her tiara. Decades later, her vengeful spirit is unleashed upon a new set of teens when she possesses a young prom queen hopeful, Vicki. HELLO MARY LOU is a complete deviation from the classic Slasher formula exhibited in the first film, sharing much more in common with the Supernatural elements in CARRIE or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Its mediocre effects sequences are blatantly lifted from these superior films, with the only interesting death being that of a half-naked teen that is crushed in her locker. Michael Ironside is wasted alongside the rest of the unconvincing "teen" cast, but Wendy Lyon stands out as the horrendous lead Vicki. Her overly sexualized scenes that follow her possession are awkward and uncomfortable, and not the least bit enticing. PROM NIGHT 2 suffers from a complete lack of identity and many of the other problems that signaled the end of an era in the late 80s.

Rating: 6/10.
Awkwardness: 9/10.
Number of views: 2.

If you liked PROM NIGHT 2, check out:
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CARRIE, PROM NIGHT 3.



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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

An English expedition sets out through the Himalayas in order to capture the elusive yeti in this top-rate Hammer release. THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN transplants the classic Gothic stylings of the Universal monster movies into the snowy peaks of modern Tibet. The film poses many stark contrasts, not just in the gorgeous black and white cinematography, but also in the thematic concepts of man versus nature, knowledge versus ignorance, science versus superstition, and other clashes between New World thoughts and ancient beliefs. Cushing and company provide the same excellent performances that Hammer has become known for, while the elaborate and exotic sets share the same intricacy in design found in both CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HORROR OF DRACULA. Another similarity to Hammer's FRANKENSTEIN film can be found in the fact that the majority of the picture plays out without so much as a peak at the creature, leaving the audience in a constant state of tension as subtle allusions towards its existence are experienced through the characters' reactions. This makes the sudden appearance of the beast's hairy, gnarled arm that much more terrifying when it first protrudes from the tent bottom. Director Val Guest also achieves a heightened sense of realism by effortlessly blending the stunning aerial photography of real climbers making their way through the Himalayas with believable set pieces created in the legendary Bray Studios. Several key pieces of dialog reveal the film's bleak commentary on man's self-destructive tendencies as the climbers become the sources of their own demise while the yeti proves to be nothing more than a benign animal cornered by man's imposing curiosity. With a heart-racing score, breathtaking visuals, and masterful suspense, THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN truly is one of Hammer's finest and most underrated creations.

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

If you liked THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, check out:
THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, KING KONG, HALF HUMAN.



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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Manhater (2005)

Vonda has suffered through her last abusive relationship when she receives an elixir from a New Age holistic medicine woman, an elixir that summons all of her rage and anguish into the demon Enyo. Enyo goes on to seduce and eliminate each of the men that caused Vonda harm, but once they have each been killed, what will it take to stop Enyo's murderous rampage? While its tiny budget is clearly evidenced in much of the film's acting and production, MANHATER makes an honest effort at masking its limitations with ambitious effects and a strong social conscious. Few Horror entries have attempted to tackle the issue of domestic abuse head on, let alone in such a violent manner. MANHATER includes a great deal of bloodshed, nudity, and savagery that is contextualized into the plot rather than becoming gratuitous, which is refreshing in a genre built on sensationalism. One can't help but notice a hint of irony in the fact that the film condemns domestic violence yet depicts numerous scenes of graphic gore, but those who are willing to suspend disbelief will revel in the carnage on screen. As a unique revenge film that crosses the Southern Gothic classic PUMPKINHEAD with Eastern influences like JU-ON, MANHATER is able to mold its heavy theme into a workable Horror movie.

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

If you liked MANHATER, check out:
TAMARA, PUMPKINHEAD, JU-ON.

MANHATER is currently available for direct purchase at the film's homepage:
http://www.manhatermarket.com/

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Salvage (2010)

A family quarrel is broken up by the sudden arrival of military troops that begin to quarantine the small English suburb. It turns out that a shipping container filled with a deadly virus washed up just off shore, unleashing mindless chaos and murder in any of the people that come in contact with it. SALVAGE is a bloody mess (in all the right ways) that falls somewhere between the confined quarters of the Spanish-made [REC] and the world-wide pandemic in 28 DAYS LATER. It serves as a strong condemnation of war and biological weaponry as told through the zombie film. Violence quickly erupts from all sides by both the zombie menace and the soldiers that are looking to subdue the outbreak -- at any cost. This only allows the characters and plot fleeting moments in between the onslaught of attacks to establish themselves and try to make any sense of the mysterious events that they have found unraveling before them. SALVAGE manages to pack in a great deal of blood and terror, but it is handicapped by its short run time just as it reaches its suspenseful climax. For more fast-paced zombie action, SALVAGE is time well spent.

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

If you liked SALVAGE, check out:
THE DESCENT, REC, 28 DAYS LATER.



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Friday, June 11, 2010

Prom Night (1980)

After witnessing the death of a young girl during an unfortunate game of hide-and-seek, a masked killer returns years later to exact revenge against the teens that were involved in her death on the night of their Senior Prom. Coming off of the success of HALLOWEEN, Jamie Lee Curtis stars as the quintessential "scream-queen" in this rather conventional teen Slasher, a role she would assume once more in TERROR TRAIN the same year. PROM NIGHT possesses nearly every trait that defines the Slasher film, including the masked killer, a series of menacing phone calls made to the victims, an empowered "final girl," a killing spree that occurs on a significant date, and many others. That being said, it is also one of the most mediocre entries within the genre. In addition to an inane subplot about an escaped lunatic that has no bearing on any of the events outside of creating a faulty red herring, the film trudges along at a sluggish pace, without a single murder occurring until the last third of the picture. What is worse is that the deaths are completely uninspired and virtually bloodless except for an unexpected decapitation on the disco dance floor. While gratuitous violence certainly does not determine a film's worth (as TERROR TRAIN would soon prove), the overall uneventfulness paired with its lack of gore make it easily forgettable. Thankfully, Paul Lynch's skilled camera placements give the film a visual strength that is lacking in many of the later genre entries. PROM NIGHT holds an undeserved placing as one of the early classics from the first wave of Slasher movies, but purists can overlook its flaws and appreciate it for its strictly formulaic design.

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

If you liked PROM NIGHT, check out:
PROM NIGHT II, TERROR TRAIN, CARRIE.



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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Monster Dog (1985)

A group of rock 'n rollers end up dead meat when they run across a mutant beast on the road home to their next show, but they soon find out that the monster may actually be walking among them! Alice Cooper leads this awful mess of a monster movie, which can't decide if it is a killer animal flick, a werewolf tale, or a ghost story. Its convenient plot seems like nothing more than a poor excuse to throw Cooper on stage in a few cheesy music video moments. MONSTER DOG'S hand-puppet monster is likewise a laughable joke, but thankfully it is kept shrouded in the fog for the majority of the film. The only shot that is even worth mentioning in the entire picture is a shotgun blast that cleaves a guy's skull in two, but other than that this is a trashy creature-feature out of Spain that can easily be missed.

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

If you liked MONSTER DOG, check out:
HOWLING 5, DEVIL DOG, THE BEAST MUST DIE.



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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Carriers (2009)

In CARRIERS, a viral infection has destroyed all of mankind, leaving only a few survivors to fend for themselves as they attempt to find a safe haven free from contagion. Fear and paranoia set in as a group of four find out that their precautions have failed and one of them has contracted the deadly disease, putting the others in immediate danger. CARRIERS does an amazing job at conveying a post-apocalyptic wasteland on a very modest budget. The ravished streets and empty buildings give a true sense of devastation on a grand scale. Each of the actors put forth strong performances as they balance the lighter moments in the script with the psychological struggles later on. What makes the film the most difficult to watch are the scenes involving the infected children, where the adults that are conscious of the terminal effects of the disease must make heartbreaking decisions in order to end their suffering. Unlike in 28 DAYS LATER, the infected only pose a risk of contamination rather than creating bloodthirsty monsters, which forces the plot to rely on the darker aspects of humanity to drive the tension and suspense. The biggest complaint would have to be the overall lack of direction or purpose that the film presents, along with its down ending. CARRIERS comes from the same line of paranoid cinema as its Independent brethren BUG and RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, and makes for another solid entry in the Post-Apocalyptic sub-genre.

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

If you liked CARRIERS, check out:
RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, BUG, THE HAPPENING.



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Monday, June 7, 2010

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Roger Corman returns to the works of Edgar Allen Poe with what many may consider to be his finest film. When the local noblemen are threatened by the plague of the Red Death that is ravishing the countryside, they seek safe haven within the walls of the maligned Prince Prospero's castle. Prospero engages them in extravagant feasts leading up to his grand masquerade ball, while also including them in his Satanic rituals in order to secure their souls for his master. As the contagion quickly approaches, Prospero is left to decide the fates of the remaining peasants that are left pleading for sanctuary at the gates of the castle as well as the fates of his corrupt companions. MASQUE'S depiction of profanity and excess that rules the upper class serves to drive the struggle between the peasants and their lords. Their ironic end proves that money and power are just an illusion in the face of death. Prince Prospero becomes one of Vincent Price's most profoundly sinister roles, which he plays without a hint of camp or silliness unlike in many of his other performances of the time. Corman's lavish color palette and baroque stylism are reflective of his long time influences Ingmar Bergman and Frederico Fellini. Of the many stunning compositions laid out on screen, Juliana's nightmarish dream sequence and the eloquently evil masquerade ball that is alluded to in the title stand out as being two of his most impressive visual achievements. With THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Roger Corman seals his place as one of the Masters of Horror.

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

If you liked THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, check out:
FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, PIT AND THE PENDULUM, FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.


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Paranormal Activity (2007)

A couple begins filming the unexplained activities that have been haunting them in their Southern Californian home. As the entity begins to show more and more signs of its presence, Micah and Katie quickly realize that they shouldn't have tempted forces that they do not fully understand. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY stands as one of the strongest "found-footage" films in the genre. The film maintains its integrity by implementing a slow and subtle terror that is built on suspense rather than the typical Hollywood jump scares. By including lengthy segments that are relatively uneventful, director Oren Peli creates a believable scenario that could conceivably happen to anyone. When the events do occur, they are so jarring and incredibly frightening that they are sure to shock even the hardened Horror fan without ever having to show anything on screen. Micah Sloat creates a rounded character that is able to sneak in a few laughs to break up the tension, however Katie's performance often becomes too scripted and unnatural to be taken seriously. The insignificant touches that are added to the house (such as the patches of dead grass in the yard or bead table that Katie works from) add an authenticity to the characters and setting. Peli's adaptation of the documentary-style format in to the ghost film proves to be a winning combination that offers some of the greatest scares in recent decades. The phenomenal box office response served to solidify this fact, making PARANORMAL ACTIVITY one of the most successful Independent films of all time.

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

If you liked PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, check out:
PARANORMAL ENTITY, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE ENTITY.



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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Driftwood (2006)

David is a suicidal teen that is sent away to an oppressive reform school with a dark past, where he is haunted by the spirit of one of the institution's prior residents. Tim Sullivan's sophomore directing effort following the success of 2001 MANIACS offers strong writing, believable characters, and a clean cinematic style. Its suffocating atmosphere and depressing mood are established in the dark, shadowy hallways and sepia tones that house David's unseen ally. The main strength of the picture lies in the performances of its young actors, particularly in Ricky Ullman's portrayal of the wise-cracking lead. Unfortunately, the acting of the authority figures (including Diamond Dallas Page's antagonizing Cap'n) comes off as being unnatural and exaggerated, countering the effectiveness of both the writing and the gifted teen cast. DRIFTWOOD is easily compared to Del Toro's THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, since the two films share a similar plot and character arcs. Where THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE was entrenched in spiritual, political, and philosophical subtext, DRIFTWOOD is a much more straightforward ghost tale. It does, however, take a heart-felt stab at exposing the gap that exists between many troubled teens and their disconnected parents, who would rather send them away from home than invest the time and energy needed to heal a broken family. For a film of its size, DRIFTWOOD is a solid entry in the haunting realm of vengeful spirits that is worth checking out for any Guillermo del Toro fans.

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

If you liked DRIFTWOOD, check out:
THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, THE ORPHANAGE, STIR OF ECHOES.



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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Hills Run Red (2008)

Many films have attempted to revive the Slasher genre that died with the 80s. Most have failed (some worse than others), but few manage to succeed despite the enormous demand from the Horror community. THE HILLS RUN RED is one such exception. Dave Parker speaks the language of Splatter. From the opening moments where the tattered trailer for THE HILLS RUN RED oozes off of the computer screen, it is clear that this is no cheap imitator.

An obsessed Horror movie fan attempts to track down the last remaining copy of THE HILLS RUN RED, a Slasher film that was so depraved and terrifying that it disappeared along with everyone that was involved in the making of it after its release. As he and a group of friends arrive at the original shooting location deep within the mountains, they learn that some things are better left dead when they meet face to face with the Babyface killer that was supposed to have died along with the crew.

HRR is entirely self-aware, playing off of each of the basic genre conventions in the same vein as other Post-Modern Horror films like SCREAM or BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON. It is edited for maximum impact, with perfectly placed scares and sound effects that earn its reactions without stooping to mere jump tactics. With a cast of only four main characters, it seems improbable that there will be any sort of body count, but a few creative flashbacks and side characters are all that is needed to drench the hills in blood. HRR might be more polished and professional that its 80s brethren, but it retains the same mean spirit and heart that most recent entries lack. It also sticks close to the source material while creating its own distinct personality. Babyface is likewise a unique and terrifying new villain that reflects the hulking masked killers of the genre without copying them. Parker's attentive framing combined with the specific body gestures and mannerisms that Danko Jordanov brings to the role work to create a new Slasher icon.

Above all else, THE HILLS RUN RED is a scary Horror film. A damn scary Horror film. The unprecedented praise that the film received prior to its direct-to-video release led to many false expectations, but any viewers that were let down in their initial viewings must take the time to give the film a second chance. This is the new Slasher classic that fans have clamored for for years, packing all of the originality and suspense that HATCHET lacked while providing an equal amount of gore. That all of this was achieved on an Independent budget only further proves Parker's skills as a director.

Rating: 8/10.
Entertainment: 9/10.
Gore: 7/10.
Number of views: 1.

If you liked THE HILLS RUN RED, check out:
CIGARETTE BURNS, HATCHET, BEHIND THE MASK.



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The House That Screamed (1969)

THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is a moody little thriller out of Spain that benefited greatly from the success of PSYCHO like so many other films before it. The girls attending an isolated finishing school find it impossible to leave when several of their fellow classmates are discovered murdered after their attempted escapes from the oppressive institution. HOUSE's elegant settings and key cinematography are both reminiscent of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations crossed with the adolescent nightmares found in Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA. What is most interesting about this film is how the painfully slow pacing is broken up by intense moments of graphic gore that seem to come out of nowhere. These deaths are tastefully shot and are as unexpected as they are bloody, especially considering that the remainder of the film has all of the horror and suspense of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. It is not that the film was poorly made (quite the opposite, in fact), it is just entirely uneventful but for a few gruesome moments. If nothing else can be taken away from Serrador's film, its twisted and depraved ending will leave a lasting impression on the audience. The limited gore and early Slasher conventions that are established in THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED are still far ahead of their time, making this a worthwhile venture for Splatter fans.

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

If you like THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED, check out:
HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, THE WOODS, SUSPIRIA.



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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mark of the Devil (1970)

MARK OF THE DEVIL is the Exploitation genre's answer to Michael Reeve's WITCHFINDER GENERAL, pillaging its plot while injecting it with gratuitous violence and gore. The three intertwining storylines are supposedly based on true accounts of medieval men and women that were tried for witchcraft in the days of the Inquisition. Udo Kier stars as a charming young baron that attempts to instill reason and logic in to the church after falling in love with an innocent beauty that stands accused of consorting with the devil. Reggie Nalder plays the sadistic Albino opposite to Kier's baron, creating a dark and memorable villain as the film's scarred witchfinder. A variety of colorful set pieces and gorgeous locations light up the screen thanks to the superior cinematography by Ernest Kalinke, while Michael Armstrong's keen direction makes this a somber but credible period piece. Armstrong lays out the film's Grand Guignol spectacle through the use of several of the Inquisition's cruelest torture devices, hardly shying away from the gore as the accused endure the horrors of the rack, finger presses, branding irons, and even more unimaginable torments. MARK OF THE DEVIL is one of the most entertaining Euro shockers out of Germany in the early 70s, and is a benchmark for the exploitative Inquisition films that followed in the wake of WITCHFINDER GENERAL.

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

If you liked MARK OF THE DEVIL, check out:
INQUISITION, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW.



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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Werewolf: The Devil's Hound (2007)

A vicious but alluring she-wolf breaks free from her crate while being transported to her new home, and it isn't long before she sinks her teeth in to the locals while seeking out a new mate. WEREWOLF suffers from a complete lack of identity that causes the entire film to suffer. On the one hand, it attempts to be a straightforward creature feature with a unique costume design and a decent amount of gore and bloody FX. On the other hand, the amateurish filming techniques and ridiculous attempts at humor distract from the horror and give the film an unintentionally goofy tone. As the limbs begin flying, heads start rolling, and jugulars continue to spew, any fans with a decent amount of patience and a love for low-budget animal flicks should be able to stick this one out until the end for its cheesy B-Movie charm and cheap gags, but there is no mistaking that this is terrible Horror at its finest.

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

If you liked WEREWOLF, check out:
DARKWOLFE, BAD MOON, BIG BAD WOLF.



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Requiem (2006)

REQUIEM retells the haunting story of Anneliese Michel (changed to Michaela for the film) , a young college student plagued by 'demonic' forces that caused her both physical and mental harm before a rogue exorcism lead to her death in July of 1976. The story had been popularized a year earlier in THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, but where EXORCISM seemed to promote the idea that Anneliese was, in fact, possessed, REQUIEM takes a much less theatrical approach in depicting the events from a psychological standpoint. Michaela's spastic behavior and horrified reactions to her visions are the only clues the audience is given as to the hidden terrors that she is experiencing. The documentary-style filming gives the viewer intimate access to the events as they occur, drawing additional sympathy from those watching as they are faced with the deteriorating effect Michaela's condition has on her sanity and those around her. What many will find to be the most disappointing aspect of the film is that it ends at what would be the story's climax (that being the series of exorcisms that resulted in her death). This choice was presumably made to allow the viewer the chance to decide whether or not Michaela was possessed for themselves, but how she may have acted during these missing sequences may have had a profound impact on the viewer's final opinion. REQUIEM remains a competent character study that approaches the subject from a subtle and unique angle.

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

If you liked REQUIEM, check out:
EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, REPULSION, IN MY SKIN.



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