Thursday, October 30, 2014

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE

There will be some mild spoilers.  If you haven't seen this movie then make it your duty to do so this and every Halloween.

Dr. Barret his wife and two psychics are tasked to find proof of the afterlife in an old mansion with a deadly reputation during the week of Christmas.  That's right, folks.  This here is a Christmas movie.  The doctor wants to use this opportunity to prove that random psychic energy is to blame for paranormal happenings and not intelligent beings existing just slightly beyond the reach of the living.  He has disagreements that get a bit heated towards the end with the lady psychic Florence Tanner to the point she tries to bash his energy eliminator machine on the off chance that he may be right.  You have two thoughts on the subject of ghosts and they butt heads with each other from time to time.  Both acknowledge the paranormal but one views it in strict scientific terms of energy while the other leans to the spiritual.


THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is in my opinion one of the scariest films ever made.  The film stirs the imagination with its bleak gloomy atmosphere, foreboding dark mansion and giant black cat that doesn't seem to want to stay dead.  There really is no need for special effects.  The movie lets your mind do all the work.  I love the idea of two opposing views challenging one another as the group tries to figure out how this home is so haunted.  The movie follows the #1 rule for a really good horror movie and that is 'Anyone can die at anytime.'  The movie is quiet and solemn luring the audience into a guarded calm that is suddenly shattered when something frightful happens.

Roddy McDowall's character had actually been in the house before being the only survivor of a group investigating the house years before.  He keeps a reserved demeanor protecting himself from the psychic energy that is all around him.  He comes to life though almost stealing the show when he discovers what is really going on.  I love how he figures out that both the doctor and Tanner were right.  He challenges the entity exposing it for the small man that is truly behind all the horrors of the house.  It is almost like the Wizard behind the curtain in THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The large foreboding house and all of it's ghastly fame comes from the insecurity of a small vain dead man.

On Halloween night if you are looking for a scary double feature I would recommend watching this one side by side with the original THE HAUNTING.  There is a good story to think about with a solid conclusion.  Just don't think too long about it.  This one may give you nightmares.

Jason

LAMBERTO BAVA'S DEMONS

I am not the biggest fan of Italian horror films.  I do recognize their influence on modern cinema today but I find so many of them to be either redundant ripoffs of other films or they flat out don't make any sense whatsoever.  Often these horror films are appreciated for their atmosphere or shock value.  The story doesn't seem to matter.  I kind of like things to make sense in the movies I watch for the most part.  DEMONS directed by Lamberto Bava and produced by Dario Argento is one of the good ones even if some of it doesn't make sense.

The story is about a young college student, Cheryl who accepts a free movie pass to a new theater called the Metropol from a strange man who wears a metal mask that covers half his face.  It is important to note that the actor playing the strange man is Michele Soavi who was also the film's assistant director and would later go on to direct one of the greatest zombie movies ever made, DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE or CEMETERY MAN.  She and her friend go to the movie which turns out to be a horror movie about some young people discovering a mask that turns one of them into a demon possessed killer.  The mask in the movie happens to look like the mask on display in the theater lobby.  A pimp (played by the always awesome Bobby Rhodes) comes to the movie with two of his ladies and one of them gets cut when she puts the mask on playfully.  Like in the movie they are watching she becomes a monster and goes around killing other movie goers which makes the victims turn into more monsters.  The whole movie becomes a survival horror situation as the theater patrons try to escape the demons that keep growing in numbers.

The story seems simple enough but if you are paying attention, the film gives you clues as to something much bigger going on.  It took me a couple of watches to notice one of the actors in the movie playing in the theater is actually the creepy guy handing out the free tickets.  What does that mean?  Are we watching a moment from the past explaining how the mask in the lobby got there?  What about the strange room to nowhere that is discovered when everyone was trapped on the balcony pounding on the walls to catch the outside world's attention?  Is the Metropol the old building depicted on the big screen where the mask was found?  Who reopened the old theater and set up this free screening anyway?  The characters in the movie are too busy trying to not get their faces ripped off to try and find out for us.  DEMONS gives no answers but just enough to connect some of the dots.  Perhaps there are no answers just like in a nightmare.  Things just are what they are.

The strong visuals, colors and lighting give DEMONS a nightmare look like as if you were watching someone's actual dream rather than just another horror movie.  Sometimes whole scenes are bathed in one color including blue, red or yellow adding to the dreamlike atmosphere.  Every camera angle is perfect and inspired.  The director knows how to evoke the audiences' imagination with his camera.  Often I wondered what was waiting around the next corner for our heroes simply because of how the camera was stationed.  So many iconic moments are captured making sure DEMONS is not a film soon forgotten.  Just look at the movie poster!  The rock soundtrack generates a sense of anarchy throughout the film which plays well into the extremely satisfying climatic finale.  Argento's films have a tendency to inappropriately break into eighties big hair rock music (aka "Butt-Rock") for no reason (See PHENOMENA) but here it is done just right and fits perfectly into the spirit of the film.

DEMONS created a formula that was copied a few more times for the sequels.  The follow up films failed to generate the rich atmosphere and scares the original did.  Nothing new conceptually was ever added except for the locations the story took place.  They were merely copy cats that re-staged moments from the first film with disappointing results.  The freshness was gone.  Still they can't sour the awesomeness that the original DEMONS has brought to our eyes.  If you haven't seen it then by all means go out and get it before the inevitable demon apocalypse descends upon us and turns us all into goo spewing wicked abominations.  How about that ending credit sequence?

Jason

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER

Out of the three FROM DUSK TILL DAWN films HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER is my least favorite.  That should come as some surprise to those who know me because I love the concept of a vampire western and part 3 takes that concept literally.  HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER is a prequel to the first film with the setting in the late 1800's or early 1900's when real westerns take place.  I have two big issues with part 3.  The first is that the story is more of a repeat of the first film with it starting out like a real western and ending as a horror movie.  Say what you will about TEXAS BLOOD MONEY at least it was an original story.  How many movies are out there about vampires robbing a bank?  None as far as I know.  My second problem is with how weird and uncomfortable the film gets when the vampire carnage begins.  This movie gets weird, folks and I mean not in a good way.

Ambrose Bierce is a writer and former solider looking for Pancho Villa  to help with the Mexican Revolution.  Johnny Madrid is an outlaw who has just escaped the Hangman and has taken his daughter, Esmeralda as a willing hostage.  After Johnny and his gang rob Ambrose's stage coach and leave him out in the middle of nowhere with two missionaries he finds a bar and brothel out in the middle of the desert.  Johnny and his bandits also find the bar along with the Hangman and his posse looking for him and his daughter, Esmeralda.  Esmeralda discovers that she has a strange connection to the bar.  Of course we all know the bar is run by vampires.  As the vampires attack, the survivors escape by wandering aimlessly in the back tunnels of the bar until they magically end up where they first started so the movie can be over soon.  Yeah, you can kind of tell they didn't know exactly how to bring the characters back full circle to reach the climax of the movie.

There is a lot to like in HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER.  The cast is strong with Michael Parks as the often drunk Ambrose Bierce and Marco Leonardi as the cutthroat with a sense of skewed morals Johnny Madrid.  These two are the film's foundation.  There are some great moments too that you wouldn't find in any other movie.  For instance the stage coach robbery scene is a standout simply because the coach's drivers are a mute and a blind man.  The two work together as one to fight off with desperadoes the best they can with the mute driving and the blind man using his sense of hearing to shoot.  I also like the idea of Ambrose being haunted by his future death.  The movie starts off with a dream sequence showing Bierce getting shot from a firing squad.  Throughout the film he is haunted by strange visions of that moment.  At least I think his future death is being foretold.  What the heck do I know.

With all the great moments, bats on strings fun and red and green goo thrown about the movie still somehow manages to screw things up with the vampires.  In particular the head mistress of the bar/brothel.  The camera lingers way too long on her as if we are suppose to find her extremely seductive and sexual.  I hate to say it.  She isn't.  There is nothing worse than a movie trying to pass someone off as "hot" when they clearly are not.  Anyone see CLERKS 2?  She has this tendency to lick blood from time to time and at one point regurgitates blood so another vampire can taste it.  It makes for some uncomfortable watching.  Too much tongue action.  The first thing the head mistress does when she meets Esmeralda is lick the wounds on her back.  Really?  How is that for a 'Hello'?  She really doesn't pose much of a threat.  She just looms about making everything weird for everyone.  The head mistress turns Esmeralda into Santanico Pandemonium with some bizarre ritual at the end of the movie that involves a naked vampire grandma.  We get to see grandma's "down there parts" if you know what I mean.  Another thing to mention is how do vampires age?  I thought it was implied that vampires never age since Danny Trejo is back playing the same character he played in the first FROM DUSK TILL DAWN.  Maybe she was a grandma when she turned but I doubt it.  Oh, well.  Who cares?

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER has many things that work in it's favor.  It is a somewhat creative film with some strong characters and violence.  There is enough here to entertain.  The problem is that the few problems the movie does have hurts the overall feel of the movie.  In the end we really didn't need to see the story of how Santanico Pandemonium came to be head B-Word of the Titty Twister.  Still like part 2, HANGMAN"S DAUGHTER is a mostly enjoyable monster movie even if it is not nearly as good as the first one.

Jason

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY probably should have just been titled TEXAS BLOOD MONEY.  I think that way no one could compare it with ridicule to the far superior FROM DUSK TILL DAWN.  If it wasn't for being a sequel, I think TEXAS would be more accepted as the fun bloody romp this horror film sets out to be.  The production value of the sequel is a bit crude compared to the original which can be a huge turn off to those who think special effects have to look immaculately realistic no matter what.  Good luck finding that in the horror genre.  TEXAS stands on its own merit by itself despite the painfully bad computer effects.

Robert Patrick is awesome.  We cannot get enough Robert Patrick in our lives.  We never really get to see him in a badass lead role.  TEXAS was wise to cast Mr. Patrick as Buck the film's cool tough guy bank robber lead.  Mr. Patrick doesn't miss a beat and makes the most of the unique opportunity given to him.  Even though he is a thief he is very likable.  Not a violent man he does his best to protect his pals when all Hell breaks loose.  He and his fellow bad guys rob a bank in Mexico but one of them has become a vampire.  Throughout the robbery one by one Buck's crew fall victim to the vampire and become one of the undead themselves.  Outside the police have surrounded the bank making escape for Buck almost impossible.  The premise of the movie is thrilling when you think about it.  It screams B-Movie fun.  Fun is what you should have when watching it.

Danny Trejo and the infamous Titty Twister bar return to confound the audience but I wasn't left confused.  I don't think Trejo's character is suppose to be the same guy in the the first one nor is the new Titty Twister the same bar.  I could be wrong though.  I didn't write the bloody thing.

I know TEXAS is not a perfect film but I appreciate what it is trying to do.  There is some respect for classic westerns integrated into the look of the film.  There is a big nod to Sam Peckinpah's greatest work THE WILD BUNCH.   At the end the death march from the classic western's finale is re staged at the end of TEXAS with Buck teaming up with a Texas sheriff played by Bo Hopkins (Who was actually one of the Wild Bunch!) to face off with Buck's former bandits now turned greedy bloodsuckers.  It is a great little moment that few seem to notice and when I say "few" I mean none.

I find there is a lot to like in this movie.  Some of the dialogue is cool and original and some of the camera angles are strange and disorienting giving the impression that you are watching EVIL DEAD 2 instead of a FROM DUSK TILL DAWN sequel.  I guess that is because the director of TEXAS is Scott Spiegel who helped write EVIL DEAD 2.  There is a weird angle that is what I call Vampire Tongue P.O.V. as it bites down on a person's neck.  From inside the mouth you see fangs sink into the neck with blood freely flowing out.  No one has seen that point of view before.  Watch it for yourself and see if you find TEXAS BLOOD MONEY abhorrent like most do or a quirky fun bank heist gone way wrong western.  I feel that TEXAS BLOOD MONEY deserves more than a pathetic 3.9 rating on the IMDB.  I shudder to think what it was rated on Rotten Tomatoes.  All I can say is that FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY is BAT POOP crazy.  Whether that is a good thing or not is up to you.  I apparently just happen to like bat poop.

Also I like how at the end this modern day vampire western the survivors question why vampires would rob a bank as if to let the audience know that the makers recognize the silly premise the film presents.  Clever.

Jason


Monday, October 27, 2014

THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING

THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING is probably the best title for a zombie movie ever.  This low budget nod to Italian zombie movies is a fun creative exercise into the genre that also expresses a love for the making of horror movies as well.  I think it is one of the better zombie films ever made and deserves a little more recognition.

Some young twenty-somethings are trying to film a zombie movie in an abandoned hospital.  They discover a strange evil looking Coffin-machine-thingy in the basement complete with a dead body of some guy who looks like he really really loved Rob Zombie.  Figuring that it would make a great prop David the director incorporates the machine into the movie.  They turn the machine on while filming which brings the dead body back to life as well as a few other zombies which go out and seek all the crew members.  The survivors discover that the hospital is in some kind of purgatory with an army of undead surrounding the entire building.  Now those who survived have to figure what is happening, how to survive and make things normal again.

Even though THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING is all about zombies and death the cast is rather lively with memorable likable characters.  Special kudos goes to the characters David the director and Paul the Special Effects artist who regularly talk about horror movie actors like David Warbeck, Bruce Campbell and Dick Miller throughout the film.  In fact there are all kinds of nods and winks if you pay attention.  Did I see the puzzle box thingy from HELLRAISER?  Is that STAB movie poster torn in half because there is a half torn THE HILLS HAVE EYES poster looming in the background in EVIL DEAD?  Are the makers of THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING telling the audience that their film is twice as scary as a film that doesn't exist?  What does that mean?  Was that guy in the convenience store reading Fangoria?  I like references to other horror movies in my horror movies as long as they don't over do it.  The ending itself is a cute little homage to THE BEYOND.

The creative level of this film is extremely high.  The dialogue for the most part is very clever and funny when it wants to be.  The film moves quickly never leaving a dull moment to be bored by which is an amazing feat for a movie like this.  The designs of the main zombies are iconic and leave a lasting impression.  The zombie on the poster shows the higher standard in their design.  Very unique.  They are more like monsters than usual standard of slow moving zombies even though those kinds of undead are present as well.  It is a nice mixture.  When a zombie actor dies and is brought back his look has the visual characteristics of the zombie make up that was applied when they were alive.  If a zombie actor had makeup that made it look like he had an exposed brain then when he becomes a zombie he really has an exposed brain.  I thought that was funny.  There is just more thought put into every aspect of this film and we are given a lot to look at and appreciate.

Being that this is a horror film and on a low budget there is of course some things you are just going to have to forgive.  Thankfully those moments are few and far between.  I think there are some plot holes concerning the overall predicament our renegade filmmakers find themselves in.  At the beginning of the movie we see the Rob Zombie lookalike talking into a camera and he is then killed by a rather large zombie.  When our heroes are in the hospital there are no zombies anywhere.  Where did they go?  Did they put the Rob Zombie guy into the Coffin machine thingy?  There is a great little moment when an actor dressed like a zombie is killed by a real zombie.  At first the real zombie is confused but then he sniffs the actor and can tell he is alive by the way he smells.  Later David and Paul put on zombie makeup to fool a small crowd of zombies without being detected.  Its a cool moment but I couldn't help but wonder why the other zombies can't just smell the two not dead guys like the other zombie.  Also there is a bad CGI fire effect at the film's climax that the camera doesn't even try to shy away from.  The cartoon flames don't ruin the film or anything it is just a small moment that is out of place with the excellent practical effects the movie mostly consists of.

I am not sure why David and Paul think David Warbeck is such a great zombie killer.  I saw THE BEYOND.  Warbeck's character kills like maybe five zombies at the end of that movie.  Those zombies inched at them slowly.  Being that Warbeck is in an Italian zombie movie he is required to waste a few of his limited shots into the torsos of the undead before shooting them in the head even though he knows that shooting them in the head is the only way of killing them.

From the overall atmosphere, to the spirited characters and monster designs THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING gives you a lot to look at.  The dead may hate the living but those who love zombie movies and try to watch every single one should find nothing to hate in this overlooked blood and guts zombie opus.

Jason

Sunday, October 26, 2014

NEON MANIACS! We want a sequel!...Or at least I do.

After being the only survivor of an attack by a group of crazy costumed zombie/monsters at a park near the Golden Gate Bridge, Natalie tries to get back to her normal life as a high school student.  The problem is that the police do not believe her account of what happened and the parents her newly dead friends want to know where their missing loved ones are.  Thankfully Steve Guttenberg and Paul Rudd had a child together and he grew up to be Steven who shows up and starts up a relationship with her.  Starting up a relationship is a great way of getting your mind off of your friends who you have just seen get murdered by monsters a couple of nights ago.  Well don't worry, folks.  This isn't a romance movie.  The Neon Maniacs have her pegged to get murdered and they do what they can to kill her even if it means showing up to one of the most awkward and embarrassing battle of the bands in the history of cinema.

NEON MANIACS is a slasher film with strong concepts that hint at bigger ideas that should be explored in further sequels.  Sadly there are none.  The movie presents these creatures that are never fully explained.  A narrator at the beginning gives a vague voice over about the world becoming violent which brings the Neon Maniacs.  That is all we are given.  Each Maniac has his own unique look or occupation.  We have a samurai, a surgeon, an archer, a hangman, stabby guy, an ax wielding psycho, a biker, a soldier and one guy that looks like he has scimitars for hands!  There are more but I must move on.  To accompany them are these one eyed dwarf lizard people that collect and drag back the murdered victims of the Neon Maniacs with meat hooks leaving no bodies.  We are left intrigued and we want to know more.  What are these guys?  Where do they come from? What do they do with the bodies?  Did these guys invent cosplay?  The answers are left to our imaginations.  Some guy at the beginning of the film finds a cow skull with tarot like cards that each has a picture of a Neon Maniac.  Then the guy gets axed.  Does the movie go back and explain the significance of these cards?  Heck, no.

There is a good sized body count and some fun gory moments to keep the audience from realizing that there really isn't much story or plot to THE NEON MANIACS and the dialogue isn't as clever as it thinks it is.  Still the movie has a strong spooky atmosphere when the night comes and the fog rolls in and the Neon Maniacs emerge from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.  I wouldn't want to be there when that happens.  Another interesting thing is that the Neon Maniacs have a strong aversion to water.  It makes them melt.  I think it is their only weakness.  Now I know that sounds dumb.  Somehow the movie makes it work.  For instance one of the main characters is a young girl who wants to make monster movies.  She really is into monsters.  She takes it upon herself to figure out how to kill the Maniacs.  She uses crosses and garlic but when she uses "holy" water the monster attacking her dies.  I thought that was a clever way of figuring out their weakness.  Who would have thought that water would be so effective?  Also I like that a girl was cast in the part of the monster enthusiast.  Most of the time a boy would be written for that role.  Way to be ahead of the times, NEON MANIACS.

I saw on THE FACEBOOK that there was a page for NEON MANIACS 2.  Hopefully someone is out there trying to make that happen.  I would love to see a sequel to answer the questions brought up in the first one and maybe give us even more questions to ignite our imaginations.  A good horror movie inspires the imaginations of it's audience.  That is exactly what the first one accomplishes.  THE NEON MANIACS, despite being cheesy and flawed, is a terrific film that should be seen by every fan of eighties horror movies.  I will guarantee after watching NEON MANIACS you will do what I do and keep a fully loaded Super Soaker in your car at all times just in case you have a run in with some cosplay weirdos that just may not be from your dimension.  You never know.

Jason


Steve Guttenberg and Paul Rudd had a son...







Saturday, October 25, 2014

BRIDES OF DRACULA

Well let me be the first to warn everybody that there is no Dracula and there is sure as heck no brides of Dracula anywhere near this movie.  However, even though the title has nothing to do with the move, BRIDES OF DRACULA is a superb film and if not the best film produced by Hammer Studios.  The title just sounds cool, I guess.  If you use your imagination one can surmise that even though Dracula is dead any woman who is a vampire maybe called his bride simply because he started all this vampire stuff.  Despite the absence of Christopher Lee I have to say that BRIDES is one of my favorite films of all time.

I believe BRIDES OF DRACULA is a sequel to THE HORROR OF DRACULA (Or just plain DRACULA if you live in the U.K.) which has a young woman named Marianne going to an all girl school to become a teacher.  After she is invited by the mysterious Baroness Meinster to stay at her castle the young teacher discovers that mystery lady has a son, the Baraon Meinster, who is chained to his room.  Figuring the lady of the house is mad, Marianne helps the Baron escape.  Of course he is a dracula.  The newly freed vampire wastes no time going out and turning a couple of women in the village into vampires including a friend of the young naive teacher.  Finally Van Helsing shows up and figures there is a dracula on the loose and takes it upon himself to kill the unholy creature.

Director Terence Fischer has a way of bringing out so much bold color and detail to his sets and characters.  His horror films are quite beautiful to look at.  While the bulk of BRIDES is full of polite talk and proper manners one can't help but get drawn in by Cushing's straight forward but warm Van Helsing.  He is charming and courteous but when someone pops out them fangs he has no problem shoving a crucifix down their undead throat.  I remember when I was a kid and first watched BRIDES on TBS back in the day that I was disappointed in the new vampire played by David Peel simply because he was not Christopher Lee.  I wanted Christopher Lee.  Nowadays though I think David Peel's Baron Meinster is wonderfully horrifying with his maddening blood crazed eyes and uncharacteristic to his proper self vampire fangs.  His death at the end is one for the ages and my favorite part of the film.  The Baron is making his escape with what is left of his face after Van Helsing splashed him with holy water.  The Baron had made it out of the now burning windmill he had been using for his lair.  He is totally free with Van Helsing up at the top of the windmill.  If I was Van Helsing I would have been like "Crap...Oh, well I bet I get him in the sequel." and quit the chase.  But not Peter Cushing's Van Helsing.  He wasn't going to have this guy show up in some sequel.  Using his brain Helsing jumps on one of the wings of the windmill and drags it down with his weight converting the windmill into a giant cross which kills the Baron instantly.  Brilliant!  I love that so much.  We also get to see how Van Helsing handles being bit by a vampire too.  He burns the wound with a hot poker and splashes it with holy water like a real man.  That is the perfect cure for vampirism and naughty thoughts.  I probably would have just succumbed to being undead.  Man, it is a good thing I wasn't Van Helsing.  We all would have been screwed.

I think it is kind of funny in the HORROR OF DRACULA Van Helsing says vampires do not turn into bats.  At least if I remember correctly he does.  In BRIDES they turn into bats all the time.  So the good doctor isn't right all the time.  Big deal.  Maybe he meant realistic looking bats since these bats are the hanging from a string variety.  I always love a good "bats dangling on a string" horror movie.  They are good fun and cheesy.  I think that is another reason why BRIDES is so good though.  Even though the bat special effects are not so special it doesn't detract from the genuine sense of horror the movie provides.  I think a lot of that credit goes to Cushing and Peel playing their parts with straight faced determined gusto especially when the two face off against each other.  You can't help but get drawn into the two of them fighting over Marianne's soul.

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is an excellent example of the greatness of Hammer Studios horror movies from back in the old days.  They made a whole bunch and I try my best to collect them all especially the ones with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  They weren't all perfect and not without an exploitative nature but I think those of us who want to make scary movies with a real story to tell should watch these along with the Universal Monsters horror collection to culture ourselves on what truly makes horror movies work.  I fear that too many of the old movies have been forgotten and replaced with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.  I think horror fanatics should go back further than the seventies to learn the basics of HORROR 101.  Maybe then we can get better story driven horror movies in the future even if they are low budget.


Jason


Friday, October 24, 2014

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

Do you want to know what my favorite film of all time is?  Well I am going to tell you anyway.  Obviously from the title of this post it is the truly great FROM DUSK TILL DAWN.  This horror masterpiece combines multiple genres perfectly to create something original, bloody and fun.  The film showcases George Clooney's greatest role ever.  We get to see Tarantino actually do some great acting which hadn't happen since his good acting RESERVOIR DOGS.  There are monsters, blood and guts galore and Tom Savini in a badass role killing vampires like a freakin pro.  Everything could be explained in hyperbole and you would not even come close to describing how amazing and over the top this film is.  Its a crazy good time but it is full of classic film nods celebrating horror movies and westerns of the past.  My two favorite genres by the way.  You have to love a movie that makes reference to Peter Cushing killing vampires.

How great is this story?  Two bandits fresh off a bank heist and prison break are running from the law trying to cross the border.  After taking a family hostage they cross safely into freedom and go to the predetermined meeting place at a strip club out in the middle of nowhere waiting for their ride.  Suddenly vampires happen.  Good stuff.  Wish I thought of that story.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN subverts audience expectations in a couple of ways.  An unsuspecting audience member might come into the film thinking they are watching a modern day gangster movie.  Vampire stuff isn't even remotely alluded to until people start finding bat-faced strippers gorging on their necks.  I am sure that would be shocking and exciting to someone out of the know.  Our heroes are two killers, Seth and Richard Gecko.  The closest thing to a real hero is an old sheriff who gets shot right away at the beginning of the film and John Saxon who is too busy being on t.v. and miles away to do any to stop our two villains/heroes.  I know there is the preacher and his two kids but they are supporting cast and are not as interesting as Seth and Richard.

George Clooney as Seth Gecko is a powerhouse, domineering in your face force throughout the film.  You just know he is going to make it out of all this heck without a scratch.  He is a thief we end up sympathizing with because he doesn't want to kill anyone and actually shows some discomfort when he threatens a bank teller the two brothers have take hostage.  He is one of those guys that kills when he has too.  It is not something he enjoys doing.  Richard on the other hand is a complete psychopath who finds any excuse he can to kill.  He comes across as an awkward geek but he is anything but.  He is a killer through and through yet we still kind of like him.  It is their bond as brothers that gets them through this life with Seth doing what he can to keep his brother from murder just short of committing Richard to a psychiatric hospital or prison.  He ignorantly expects him and his brother to live a normal life when they cross the border.  Even if vampires hadn't shown up eventually Seth would have to "Of Mice and Men" his brother for not being able to stop killing and steering unwanted attention their way.  That would be a great movie too.

Once the vampires start feasting on bikers and truck drivers all heck-ola breaks loose.  A whole other film emerges.  Gone is the sunny dry dusty modern day western replaced with the gross out splatter action horror movie.  The screen is doused over and over again with blood, gore and rubbery body parts.  The special effects range from excellent make-ups and mechanical creatures to out of place C.G.I. morphs and cheap stiff exploding mannequins.  The good with the bad effects actually makes the film visuals look better and add variety to the artistry of the production value on display.  Special effects do not have to look perfectly real to be good.  Bad special effects add to the art of film.  A great example of this is the EVIL DEAD trilogy.  Also bad special effects let us know that we can have fun with this film just like the makers had fun when creating this movie.

There is a lot going on in this film and director Robert Rodriguez has full control of the material.  Balancing two different kinds of movies in the same film he shows how energetic and crafty he can be in different ways.  The beginning of the film is slow and steady like a western allowing the camera to take in the cool and collected (sometimes) Seth Gecko.  The second half is turbulent with a lot a quick but not too quick cuts going around the bloody bar making sure we the audience can see every bit of carnage going on.  No one else could have made this film.  

Never a dull moment FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is a hard movie to top on my top ten list.  That reminds me.  One of these days I should make a top ten list.

Jason

Thursday, October 23, 2014

BAD MOON: One of the best werewolf films ever.

There really are not a whole lot of good werewolf movies out there.  Usually they are done on a budget too small to show off an elaborately designed creature that has a convincing transformation scene.  Look at the THE HOWLING.  That movie had about five sequels and none of them even came close to being as good as the first one.  Not even by accident.  Those were some weird movies too.  Saying that BAD MOON is one of the best werewolf movies ever isn't saying much.  It is one of the best by default.  Still this is actually a good werewolf movie simply because the werewolf in it is actually darn scary.  He is big with yellow fire eyes and massive terrifying chompers.  He means business.  That is to say if eating people was a business I am sure that this particular werewolf would be a pro.


BAD MOON starts off in the jungle with Michael Pare and his girlfriend having some sex in a tent.  All of a sudden a werewolf shows up and tears the girlfriend a new one.  A naked and enraged Michael Pare charges the ill timing beast with nothing more than his still erect (I am assuming.) ding-a-ling between his legs.  That doesn't turn out so well.  The beast is dead and Michael Pare is still alive with his manhood still intact but he suffered a wound which now means he will be a werewolf.  While kind of looking for a cure Michael goes back to the states to spend time with his sister and her ten year old son to hopefully keep the beast at bay.  Oh, hey the little twerp has a dog.

This movie could be billed as Lassie vs. Werewolf.  That is pretty much what happens in the film.  The sister and her son have no idea that Michael Pare is a werewolf.  It is up to the family dog to save them.  It is kind of funny to view this movie like a Lassie film because there is this quaint, down on the home, Hallmark Channel Original movie vibe to the film.  It is not a brooding dark film but rather sunny and plain.  This all changes when the kills start to happen.  There are not too many of them but when they occur they are surprisingly effective.  BAD MOON delivers a couple of memorable kills that really show how powerful the beast can be.

The werewolf is the best part of the film.  It is a frightful sight.  Unfortunately they went cheap on the werewolf transformation scene.  He morphs with the help of new at the time C.G.I. that doesn't even remotely look real.  It is so bad that one could be completely put off by the entire film.  The makers must have spent all their money on the wolf animatronics which are fantastic.

If you are looking for a decent werewolf film because you gave up on finding a great werewolf film like  AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON or THE HOWLING then give BAD MOON a try.  If you are like me you will find it to be a pretty good werewolf film that has enough good moments to make it memorable.  Again that is not saying much but it is nice to see that there some good werewolf movies out there even though it seems like all the good ideas are taken in this particular genre.  Case in point you would think that a werewolf movie called BAD MOON would have the hit Creedence Clearwater Revival song playing playfully during a scene but it has already been done in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

Are there any more good werewolf movies out there?  I love all the Wolfman movies from Universal and CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF from Hammer is great too.  Remember PROJECT METAL BEAST?  I need to see that one again and see if I still like it.  Probably won't though.

Jason




Sunday, October 19, 2014

REZISTANCE

REZISTANCE is a fun romp through some familiar zombie territory.  The story is about a small group of survivors trying to survive the zombie epidemic that has recently been released upon the world.  We have  a great little group of characters though.  We have a badass biker looking for his wife, a brother and sister who are just trying to survive, a kung-fu girl and a cop who thinks he knows what is going on with these undead shenanigans.  They must work together to stop the source of the zombie outbreak.


Director Mark Colombo has put together a great film for his debut feature.  It mixes the 'Grindhouse' look with the 'Comic Book' style rather creatively.  I am surprised no one else had thought of that.  Sometimes the film quality will get scratchy and worn out and then cut to comic book panels to bring us to the next scene.  The movie doesn't take itself too seriously but it does have a story to tell focusing on the relationship between brother and sister.  You have the two main characters who are brother and sister in contrast with the cop and his sister who maybe responsible for raising the dead with black magic.  The cop who is a badass wants nothing more to have his sister back who he believes he lost along time ago to a dark amulet she found in a cave when they were kids.  One brother tries to save his sister while the other may have to destroy his.

I love that there is a supernatural reason to the zombie outbreak.  I hate the word 'virus'.  It is too often used in horror movies.  I like a fantasy element to my horror sometimes like in the olden days of classic Hammer films.  That is another reason why REZISTANCE stands out from all the other zombie movies that have come out in the last few years.  Even at the end when all is said and done we are shown a little surprise with the undead that hasn't been done before.  I won't spoil it but I thought it was rather clever.  It couldn't have been done if the zombies were nothing more than the result of a boring old virus.

This film looks like a community effort with lots of extras to play zombies and local businesses using their places for settings.  I love that.  This movie moves about with many locations.  This isn't one of those movies where the entire story takes place in one or two locations.  It looks like everyone had a great time.  Even Hacksaw Jim Duggan makes a surprise appearance to add more awesome to the mix!  Mark Colombo wore many hats in the making of this film being not just the director but the cinematographer, producer, co-writer and actor as well.  He actually is the funniest part of the film with him and a buddy preparing for the zombie apocalypse adding alcohol and guns together.  Whoops!

A sequel to this would be great.  I would love it if the biker was roaming the country on his bike still looking for his wife and fighting vampires along the way.  He and the cop could team up once again to fight a different kind of undead with the help of the kung-fu girl and maybe Hacksaw too.  The movie could be called I HUNT DRACULAS!  Think about it!

It is a low budget film so like I always say there are things to forgive.  But if you love independent horror films that have fun and not try to bore the audience with excessive scenes of pain and suffering and nihilism then I suggest you give this film a try.  I always enjoy seeing what other film makers can do without the big budgets of Hollywood.  The great ones like REZISTANCE do not let the budget limit what they can do.  That is a hard challenge to overcome and should be appreciated.  Watch it for Halloween!


Jason

Thursday, October 16, 2014

STAGE FRIGHT: THE WEB SERIES!


Looking for something different and scary this Halloween?  How about watching a little web series I was involved in.  STAGE FRIGHT from American Wasteland Entertainment tells the story of a young couple who have been given a theater for their wedding.  Its old, its creepy and of course its freaking haunted.  The couple want to reopen it but this theater has plans of its own.

This was one of my first projects and I learned a lot.  It was fun and I made some new friends and got to do a little acting.  I play a ghost piano player with half my face burned up.  I look like Two-Face from Batman.  Mike Strain did my make up.  He did the effects for YOU'RE NEXT and THE AGGRESSION SCALE which are two great movies.  He is a master of the craft and it was a privilege and a wonderful opportunity to work with him.  I learned a lot from that guy.

The series subverts a few of the cliches that are found in the modern horror genre.  The shower scene is a perfect example of that.  I won't spoil it.  Just watch it.  Jason Braiser and Brittney Greer put a tremendous effort creating a great little show with very little money.  They are a great example of how anything is possible if you work hard at it.  They pulled off a professional looking and creepy story.  Click the links below and thank you for supporting independent film.


Jason

CLICK HERE TO WATCH!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM AMERICAN WASTELAND!




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mario Bava's KILL BABY....KILL

KILL BABY...KILL is a great film that should not be overlooked.  I have been in a Mario Bava phase lately watching any of his films I can get my hands on.  This is my favorite film of his so far.  Keep in mind I haven't seen many of Bava's work so that might change.  This is just a neat little story accompanied by some great looking atmospheric sets and the usual creative camera work from the production.

The story centers on a doctor that has been called to a strange little village to do an autopsy on a young woman who has apparently killed herself by falling on to a spiked fence.  I would figure the cause of death would be obvious but the town's police inspector insists on an autopsy anyway.  He is very suspicious of the locals.  The town locals aid that suspicion by doing whatever they can to prevent that autopsy from happening fearing the supernatural repercussions of the ghost of a little girl.

The film follows the doctor around as he investigates the strange town and murders that follow his arrival that lead to a little girl that the town is frightened of.  She shows herself to those she seeks to kill.  When you see her you know it is your time to die.  The movie is full of color which is what you expect from Bava.  The poster work above is a great example as to what to expect visually from the film.  The deaths themselves may not be so impressive but the little girl looking at the next victim through a window is rather startling.   If you let it, this film can be very scary.  Think about living in a town with the idea that at anytime you can see the ghost of a little girl letting you know it is your time to die and she is going to make you do it.  I love that concept.

The film may not be perfect but I think it is one of Bava's best.  I am surprised it is not as popular as some of his other films like BLACK SABBATH and BLACK SUNDAY.  I would say everything I love about Italian horror cinema is represented in this film except maybe the excessive gore which there is very little of.  It has style, color and a good little story that has a few surprises along the way.  The little girl is freaky and should be just as iconic as Freddy or Jason.  See it on THE NETFLIX  while you can.


Jason


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH

Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH is a beautiful and strangely effective horror film for its time.  It has 'classic' written all over it with a few images that will get stuck in your head and keep you up at night.  The film is a collection of three short stories hosted by Boris Karloff who jokes it up a bit keeping the in between segments light hearted.  The film is dark and shadowy with touches of psychedelic colors splashed in just the right places to add a certain dreamlike quality to the whole production.  Even if you are bored with the stories you cannot help but be impressed by the elaborate sets and engaging camera work.

The first story is the strongest and quiet frankly the scariest.  This one will give you nightmares, folks.  The story is about an elderly woman who has died during a seance and her caretaker is called in to prepare the body during the night for the coroner in the morning.  The caretaker in a moment of weakness steals a ring from the dead woman.  It goes without saying that the dead woman wants her ring back.  Great atmosphere and use of sound makes this one the best of the bunch.

The second story titled "The Telephone" is confusing and not as successful as the first or third story.  A woman gets harassing phone calls from a dead man named Frank who she dated but turned into the police when she found out he was a criminal.  This one left me confused and bored.  By the end I had no idea what just happened or if it happened at all.  It is almost as if they had two different stories that they tried to make one.  Was the woman really harassed by real phone calls from the dead or was it all in her head?  The movie seems to say that both are correct which makes no sense.  Things not making sense seems to be a common occurrence in Italian horror which is why I have a love hate relationship with the genre.

The third story concerning a family in the mountains waiting for their father to return who they fear may have become a vampire is incredibly good.  The atmosphere is laid on thick with sets strangled by barren trees with noodling branches that spread about with no end in sight.  Fog is everywhere.  The story is very dark.  Boris Karloff plays the father who has returned from killing a bandit who was a plague on the countryside a little on the undead side.  One by one he turns his family into vampires too.  Mark Damon plays a traveler who has taken refuge in the family's home before the horror comes.  He tries to save the daughter whom he has fallen in love with.  Finally Mark Damon and Boris Karloff in a film together!  Who would have thought it?  The story is a little more deep concerning the strength of family bonds keeping them together even in death.  The story could have been it's own movie.  Boris Karloff is frightful and menacing as the vampire.  Apparently this is the only film he played a vampire.

After the third story is over the film just ends.  There is no end segment with Boris Karloff wishing us safe travels and to beware of any vampires, mummies or Frankenstein monsters that may be living in our neighborhoods.  I was a little disappointed by that.  Since this is an Italian film I wonder if there are alternate cuts of the film that do not have such an abrupt ending.  Still it is cool that Boris Karloff is in an Italian horror film.  Bava has fun with him but also makes Karloff scary again.  This is a must watch for horror fans.


Jason

Monday, October 13, 2014

R.I.P.D. parties like its 1996!

Maybe if R.I.P.D. came out in 1996 it would be considered a good movie.  Not great but good just like the first MEN IN BLACK movie.  Movies like R.I.P.D. and the MEN IN BLACK trilogy rely on people showing up to the theater to be amused by their big special effects and know that the movie is good because big name movie stars agreed to be in it.  These are not story driven films.  The plots are always about saving the entire world from some big disaster thingy because that is as big as the story can be.  But it is not 1996.  We have seen bigger better films made that take the material seriously.  R.I.P.D. I believe is based off a comic.  If so this movie maybe more like Stallone's JUDGE DREDD where the source material was jettisoned to make way for weaker, blander, safer story elements that would equal box office success and not so much artistic credibility.

So....Ryan Reynolds is a good cop who makes one questionable decision but decides he is going to correct that decision but is murdered by his corrupt partner, Kevin Bacon.  After being murdered Ryan Reynolds is pulled up into Heaven for judgement but before he meets his maker he is suddenly pulled into the R.I.P.D. unit to be partnered up with Jeff Bridges to have a formulaic adventure where the two cops are first at odds with each other but then learn to appreciate one another's differences while at the same time saving the world from complete annihilation by a big swirling C.G.I. thingy. (See movie poster for details)  Its one of those movies you have seen so many times you know the whole movie by the trailer.

You would think that maybe the film would be funny or at the least bit entertaining with two great stars like Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges.  I like these two...but not in this movie.  It is not for their lack of trying either.  Both do a fine job with the material that they are given.  There just isn't much to work with.  Their characters are as realistic as the big cartoon special effects.  Ryan tries to give his vanilla character some charm but despite the film spending much of the run time following him he just isn't given anything to do that would make him a stand out character.  The film would rather bore us with repetitive adventure scenes of cartoon zombie ghost whatevers bouncing and running about until finally caught or shot into nonexistence.  The movie figures the audience will be too bored with character development.  In the end our two heroes never develop a genuine bond of friendship.  We the audience could care less what happens to these two.

The ideas that form R.I.P.D. seem to be under cooked.  Take for example the Deados.  Are they ghosts?  Are they zombies?  What are they exactly?  They hide in human form but do they all look how they used to look when they were alive?  Wouldn't that just make it easier for the good guys to tell who was dead without the Deados making themselves look normal?  The R.I.P.D. folks look like totally different people.  Ryan Reynolds comes back to earth looking like James Hong which is the one funny thing in this movie.  Do the Deados look like completely different people too?  You would think the R.I.P.D. would have a list of who was dead and not suppose to be on earth anymore.  When you shoot a Deado with R.I.P.D.'s guns the Deado is erased from existence.  I think if you were a Deado you would want that rather than being condemned to hell.  It almost encourages them to be bad.  Why not just shoot them all so they don't build a thing that causes another thing to happen that makes the world overrun with Deados.  It is not like shooting them is overly cruel.  They wouldn't even know what happened to them.  I just don't get this movie.

No matter where the camera is placement or how big the special effect the film fails in every way to engage the audience.  The Deados are big blurbs shrinky-dinked on the screen never looking real and hard to see any detail to their features.  They move about the screen in blurs.  These effects are cartoons.  They don't look real.  They look annoying.  This wouldn't be bad if it were in the early to mid nineties.  We could forgive them then but now with so many advancements in the technology where often it is hard to tell what is real and what is computer there is no excuse except for a lack of passion for the project.  Maybe they wanted more cartoony to go along with the comedic nature of the film but it still means we are giving visuals that do not impress or even leave a lasting image in your head.  In fact it is kind of hard to remember what even happened in this movie after watching it.  Even bad films leave an impression.  R.I.P.D. is so mediocre it is forgettable and that is the biggest travesty for any film.  Unless you are an actor in that film for which you would want people to forget the mediocre bad movie you were in.

R.I.P.D. has a good concept of ghost cops hunting down ghost bad guys.  There is a good story there somewhere.  Hopefully this movie gets remade faster than the Spider-Man  films.  The same thing could happen that happened to DREDD.  The original wasn't very good but eventually a truly great DREDD film was made.  That is probably the best R.I.P.D. fans could hope for.  With Hollywood remaking everything there is no doubt R.I.P.D. will get the remake treatment.  You just might be working for the R.I.P.D. when it happens.

Jason

Sunday, October 12, 2014

JOHN CARPENTER'S GHOSTS OF MARS

GHOSTS OF MARS is a great John Carpenter film.  I say that in protest to the many critics who truly love the director's previous work but can't seem to love this film as well.  The critics are not entirely wrong.  GHOSTS has its problems but the movie is strong with Carpenter's style.  The story is familiar territory with a small group of protagonists grossly outnumbered and surrounded by a vicious army of killers.  The only difference is that this time instead of the setting taking place on Earth we are transported to Mars in the future.  It is an action/sci-fi/western film with a good dose of supernatural horror mixed in for good measure.  Carpenter can't go wrong with that combination and in my humble opinion he delivers.

GHOSTS is a story about a few cops and local survivors who find themselves trapped in a police station on an small outpost town on Mars surrounded by an army of people who have become possessed by the ghosts of the ancient alien race that once ruled the land.  Back from the dead these ghosts want to retake the planet from the now occupying humans.

Visually everything works together to create a futuristic world that maintains traces of our past.  Carpenter's camera picks up every moody detail presented on screen.  The costuming is elaborate whether it be the police uniforms, civilian attire or the tribal mutilation make-up effects.  The sets look authentic.  Despite being about ghost aliens the movie feels down to Earth.  Imagine if this movie was made today.  Half the people, props and sets would be cartooned in with computers.  Remember how fake everything looked in ESCAPE FROM L.A?  That mistake is not repeated here.  The realism of the world helps us get more involved with the story and less distracted with visual hiccups.

Actionwise GHOSTS kicks a lot of butt.  This is an R rated film for sure with blood and severed limbs strung about when necessary.  People have a tendency to lose their heads in this one.  Things get pretty exciting when the ancient warriors in their new meat suits storm the police station.  The survivors band together and organize a tactical defensive to keep the native alien race at bay just enough to find a way to survive.  It is nice to be able to tell what is going on in the action scenes.  That is always my biggest complaint for modern action films with the shaky camera work and heavy use of quick edits.

I only have one complaint about the film and that involves the leader of the alien ghost people, Big Daddy Mars.  He looks like a total badass.  He is big, looks like Marylin Manson from Hell and definitely an imposing figure.  But he doesn't do much besides scream and get caught on fire.  He never really does anything to strike fear into the audience.  I think that is because the character isn't given enough screen time.  We already know where he comes from and what they are but his character is no different than the other possessed people that surround him.  He just looks more badass but doesn't do anything to stand out.  At least he isn't C.G.I.'d over and made a cartoon like they did to that one orc in THE HOBBIT 2.  Nowadays they would do that so Big Daddy Mars can jump around and do crazy acrobatics and stuff to be more thrilling to the kiddies that watch these movies.

I take that back I have another complaint to make about GHOSTS.  I don't like the fact that when you kill a possessed guy the ghost leaves and is free to roam about and posses anyone they want.  This does two things that are bad.  It creates a big plot hole because why are all the survivors not possessed when they kill hundreds of ghost people?  You would figure the newly freed spirits would just float into the prison and possess them all.  Also it makes the idea of shooting the bad guys a bad one because that releases the ghosts.  That kind of ruins the action element of GHOSTS because every time a ghost person goes down you wonder why the survivor who shot them didn't just become immediately possessed after.

I think why people who grew up loving Carpenter do not like this film so much is because they fall into the same trap that older critics did when Carpenter films first came out.  They don't get his style and focus too much on what could be a too simple story for them.  Maybe they want his stories to have some political statement like so many other horror films out there.  John Carpenter is a storyteller and that is what he wants to do.  Tell stories.  You can pull out some political or social statement out of GHOSTS OF MARS if you want but that is not his intention.  Hopefully like the old critics of the past those who do not like this film now will eventually come back to it and appreciate it a little more.  I think that will be easier to do since nowadays films similar to this one are so C.G.I. heavy that it is hard to take anything happening on the screen seriously.

GHOSTS OF MARS is one of the few JC movies I got to see on the big screen.  Despite some flaws I had a blast watching it.  I hope in time others will find this one to be as enjoyable as I did when I first watched it.  Great soundtrack too.

Jason

Saturday, October 11, 2014

RYUHEI KITAMURA'S VERSUS: These zombies use guns and know kung-fu!

VERSUS is a hyper-kinetic, ultra-violent, low budget kung-fu, Yakuza vs. zombies masterpiece.  The movie makes no sense for the most part but you would hardly notice with all the body parts flying around.  The movie is sleek and cool with precision camera movements.  There are fights and gore galore with very little boring romance to get in the way.  If you like gun fights, sword fights and fist fights with zombies and mobsters involved then VERSUS is the movie for you.

So there is a Forest of Resurrection where a small group of Yakuza have brought a newly escaped prisoner and a young woman for some unknown purpose.  They wait for the boss to show up but things get complicated when they discover that the dead are coming back to life and our hero the prisoner escapes with the young girl.  The bad guys follow but realize that they bury a lot of their victims here so they got to deal with that too.  Worse yet these zombies can use guns.  Whoops.  When the boss shows up he wants to fight the prisoner to the death to open some portal to the netherworld where he will become all powerful.....probably.  The movie is very vague about the details of what is going on.  All you need to know is that the prisoner is "good" and the boss is "evil" and they have to fight each other every so often in different lives.

VERSUS is a low budget but it is hard to tell because it is so well filmed with it's elaborate fight sequences and shots.  The fighting is perfectly framed and thrilling to follow.  The movie cuts corners with it special effects by using the editing process to it's advantage.  A bad guy can appear and reappear without the use of digital effects by simply showing a person's reaction to someone disappearing before their very eyes and find them in the same shot.  Director Ryuhei Kitamura is a genius with this and the rest of his directing style.  The camera moves quick but precise capturing the important moments of motion to generate his hyperactive visuals.  You get so much of what is going on with the action with being shown so little.  There was a lot of thought put into each shot of the film.

The movie is far from perfect.  To be honest the story seems to make itself up as it goes.  There is a certain ritual that must be performed through a series of events which leads up to a final battle between good and evil.  The evil boss performs part of the ritual but nothing happens and he is stunned but then he goes about himself like he knew it all along.  Why go through the hassle of performing a ritual that you know won't work then act like you are surprised that it didn't and then say that you knew it all along?  You have to see it for yourselves to get the full gist of what I am saying.  Now I am being vague.  Also this is a movie about people fighting in a forest for two hours.  Does the movie really need to be two hours?  These are small gripes though.

If you do watch the film then I would recommend the UNRATED cut and not the R version or the UNRATED DIRECTORS CUT WITH NEW FOOTAGE FILMED AND INSERTED INTO THE MOVIE JUST LIKE GEORGE LUCAS DID WITH THE STAR WARS version.  Its not worth seeing what was added in.  The new shots stick out like a sore thumb and it makes what is already an overly long film even longer than necessary.  The new footage is impressive with new fights but really it is not needed.

With the film performing a 180 on the audience with it's characters this film screams for a sequel but if it hasn't happened by now it probably won't.  Shucks....


Jason

Friday, October 10, 2014

SCARE ZONE is a splattery good time! LOL!

SCARE ZONE is about a group of young people taking up jobs to help run a haunted house attraction.  They each have their own troubles getting adjusted to their new jobs but eventually they all manage.  Oopsy for them though, someone has taken it upon themselves to make these young people permanent fixtures of Scare Zone.  One by one a killer stalks the new hires killing them throughout the three day event and hiding the bodies in plain sight as part of the gruesome displays.  You just know that one day this is going to happen in real life.

Most of the characters are a little over the top and don't feel like real people but it fits the light-hearted tone of the film.  I did like Oliver the high spirited owner of Scare Zone.  He brings the much needed energy to the screen gleefully assigning people to their duties and comically dealing with the Hispanic workers (Who really are the funniest part of the film.) that help build the sets.  A big surprise comes from the developing relationship between main character Daryl and a goth chick named Claire.  It starts off weird with Claire talking about cutting herself and setting her up as a red herring (Possibly!) for the audience to suspect as the killer.  As the movie moves along we understand her more as a young woman dealing with issues from her past that Daryl wants to help her with.  Their relationship keeps the movie glued together making you actually care for somebody on screen.

You can see if you pay attention that there is a little more thought put into most aspects of this film.  It is a funny movie when it wants to be.  Sometimes it isn't when it wants to be too but the hits out weigh the misses in my opinion.  There are a few weird musical montages set to modern vanilla pop rock featuring young people goofing around being "hip" and "funny" and "young."  I don't know how I feel about those.  For the most part this is a well filmed entertaining piece of work.  SCARE ZONE was shot in one of the Universal Studios Halloween attractions but the film isn't locked into one location.   Visually the film opens up to more locations so you do not become bored by the rubbery dummies, fake blood and dimly lit set pieces of the haunted house attraction.  The camera work has some creative angles and movements to draw the audience in without being too noticeable.  Toward the end the movie really picks up when the killer goes on a killing spree murdering the haunted house workers in front of the patrons to their jeers proclaiming that everything looks fake or lame.  Now that is funny in a dark sort of way.

If you are looking for a fun bloody slasher movie that doesn't take itself too seriously then give SCARE ZONE a try.  It maybe a little overlooked but it is a good one.  I bought it because I was going to Universal Horror Nights and I wanted to see if I could recognize the attraction they used.  I didn't recognize it.  By the way if you haven't been to Universal Horror Nights and you are a huge horror fan then I suggest you do yourself a favor and go!  It was one of the best nights of my life.  Their attractions are so real that you feel like you are walking through a horror movie.  I went through the CABIN IN THE WOODS house and it was exactly like the movie.  Surreal!  There was so much to see.  I want to go again and again and again.  If you do go you may want to go more than one night because you will be waiting in line a long time!


Jason

Thursday, October 9, 2014

THE MUMMY (1932) shows us true terror.

THE MUMMY is probably the weakest film in the Universal Monsters lineup.  It pretty much is the DRACULA script only they crossed out the word "Dracula" and changed it to "Mummy".  This is another undead guy trying to reunite with his lost love that has been reincarnated into a modern day woman.  Nothing new here.  Karloff is iconic as the Mummy but really he is only a mummy at the beginning of the film.  For the rest of the film he is just some guy who dresses weird looking for love in all the wrong places.  Yet I believe this film has one of the scariest most realistic moments in movie history.

The scene is in the beginning of the film after the mummy has been found and brought into a tent to be further studied.  It is nighttime and everyone else is asleep.  There is no music.  A young archaeologist is studying a manuscript found at the dig sight.  At first we see the Mummy propped up in his coffin.  The camera moves over to the archaeologist who is too focused on his work to notice the sound of someones dragging footsteps.  A rotten bandaged armed grasps the manuscript before him.  Looking up the archaeologist beholds a dead man before him shuffling away with the manuscript.  A brief scream escapes his mouth before he descends into madness laughing uncontrollably all the way.  He has totally lost his mind at the very sight of a dead man walking.  His very belief system and everything he knows to be real has been dashed along with his sanity.  His bright future is gone.  He is experiencing a different kind of death, the loss of his mental state.  This scene could easily fit into any Poe or Lovecraft story.

What would you do if you saw a guy that has been dead for thousands of years get up and walk?  What would you do if you saw a ghost or a zombie?  What about some kind of monster?  It would definitely change your perspective on things.  We are so desensitized by all the monsters, ghosts and weirdos that we see in our horror movies that we no longer understand what it means to see something so uncanny.  THE MUMMY gives us an example of what happens when a person experiences true terror.  Audiences back in the early days on cinema were not so inundated with the blood and guts of modern cinema.  Getting chocked to death was too grotesque back then.  Seeing the Frankenstein monster being brought to life for the first time on the big screen must have been unbelievable for audiences back then.  A monstrous corpse being brought back to life so dramatically had never been put to the screen like that before it.  We don't have that same thrill today.  We have seen it all it seems.

Yea, sure nowadays we have all the annoying screaming and sobbing that never seems to end in our movies.  Sometimes the main character will eventually go mad at the end from all horror they have encountered but it always feels forced.  The reaction the young archaeologist has is so natural and unexpected.  That is what I think most of us would do when we encounter something that is horrifying and impossible to exist in our world.  The next time you watch a horror movie pay attention to how the characters react to the lurking horrors that they see for the first time.  How do they react?  Does that hurt or help the movie?  If you are writing horror it is important to understand this scene in THE MUMMY.  It is quick and quiet but it leaves a heavy impact.  How a character behaves to the horror will add more weight to a scary story than any jump scare ever could.  It is not just how the monster looks but how the characters react to it that will help ensure an enthralling horrific tale.

Jason


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES

JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES is a mixed bag.  It has one of the best representations of vampirism put to screen and an extremely strong out going lead in James Wood's character.  But the story or lack there of and a rushed finale really hurt the film.  Yet despite having some major issues this is one of my favorite John Carpenter films simply because I like the basic concept.  What Carpenter has created is THE WILD BUNCH vs. a bunch of vampires.  I love that idea.

James Woods is a vampire hunter whose team is wiped out by a single vampire.  Discovering this vampire is looking for a black cross that can make it possible for vampires to walk in the light James goes after the vampire to stop him.  There is a little more to it but we all know the story with movies like this.  You don't need me to type it out for you.  It always has to be about saving the world.

The execution of the story is a little weak.  It seems like the writers didn't know which direction to take the story so we the audience find ourselves watching people talk in hotel room for a good chunk of the film's running time.  I never timed it so maybe they aren't in there too long but it sure does feel like it.  The plot of getting the black cross and stopping vampires from walking in the daylight is mentioned at least three times throughout the film adding nothing but redundancy to the plot.  The end itself is a rush job with little in the way of action and conflict.  Apparently they ran out of money which is sad because this film could have used a more violent and elaborate ending.  Instead we get this weird montage of vampires running into an old prison to avoid sunlight with some priest and one of the Baldwins shooting at them with worthless guns.  Big whoop.  They might as well have used harsh language to fight off the vampires by that point.  The result would have been the same.

VAMPIRES is unique though for it's use of the sun.  Vampires do not like the sun but so much of the film takes place in the open sunlight.  Most vampire movies take place at night unless they are really low budget.  Besides the fact that the movie takes place in the geographic west having most of the movie take place during the day adds to the Western movie formula.  Everything shot through a red filter helps with the dry arid desert look as well.  You got these Gothic looking vampires strutting their stuff in the wild west which you don't see too much in vampire movies.

These vampires kill to kill not just to drink blood.  In fact I am not sure if there is much blood drinking in this movie.  They are killing machines as John Carpenter puts it.  These baddies seek power and the cross is going to help them get it.  I particularly like how the vampires ignite and explode in the sun.  If you notice our vampire hunters have a tendency to overkill them.  They stake them, burn the corpses in the sun and then take their heads.  I think they do that because like in the book, VAMPIRE$, they are discovering what will and what won't kill them.  They make sure these vampires have no chance of coming back.  I always liked that concept.  Usually someone has all the answers on how to deal with the undead.  I think it is a little more realistic and exciting if nobody knows for sure.

The gadgets, weapons and outfits our vampire hunters were wearing at the beginning of the film are super cool.  These costume dressings are the kind of badass style we want to see more of.  The vampire hunters themselves would have made the movie better if the writers hadn't killed them all off ten minutes into the film.  Our "Wild Bunch" sadly do not last long.  These guys live the fast  lifestyle.  They know they can die at anytime so they live it up the best they can drinking, smoking and tearing up hotel rooms to impress their whores.  I would have liked the movie to explore that aspect instead of giving us a film with the standard save the world and revenge dead parents plot.  There was definitely a missed opportunity here.  Still James Woods is enough to keep the film interesting.

Maybe VAMPIRES isn't the best in John Carpenter's career but it struck a cord with me with some of it's concepts.  I recommend it but this is one of those movies that has a lot to forgive.  This is one of those rare occasions where I wouldn't mind seeing a remake but with the same director.  Read the book there is a great movie you can make out of that.


Jason

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

YOU'RE NEXT: A perfect slasher film?

YOU'RE NEXT goes to the next level of horror that most horror movie makers do not even know how to get to.  It is the last of a trilogy of popular horror films where masked individuals invade a home and terrorize the family or occupants inside.  First came THE STRANGERS which had its moments but otherwise was rather predictable and somewhat of a let down.  Five years later (Really?  Five years?  Time flies by doesn't it.) came THE PURGE which was awesome.  A few months later came a little known film that was so well made that despite a low budget and a cast of relative unknowns made its way to theaters.  YOU'RE NEXT is the best of the bunch.  I really do think this is a perfect slasher film.  It has some iconic villain masks, realistic gore, a clever script with a great sense of humor and the movie is pretty darn scary too.

A family get together is violently interrupted by a trio of masked crazy people laying siege to the house killing everyone inside one by one.  Unfortunately for the trio, one of them fights back.  That is all you need to know.

YOU'RE NEXT may not be the scariest film ever made but it does have its moments.  What the film does well is give you a cast of characters that you genuinely care for.  That is very important because when the horror stuff starts happening you are invested in everyone's well being.  The children are all grown up and they have brought their significant others to this little family get together out in the middle of nowhere.  We see how they get along (Or not get along.) and we form some very uninformed opinions on them.  We see at the end just how uniformed our opinions were.  Weaved through the mayhem is a little bit of wit that comes out in small moments.  One of the characters may say something funny but you may have missed it because you are too worried about what is going on in the immediate situation.  You really have to pay attention because the movie isn't going to slow down and point out the funny parts.  In other words this movie expects more from its audience.  It expects you to be engaged and it won't insult you.

This is not your typical home invasion movie.  Where other horror movies fall short is giving the audience someone strong to root for.  We need a hero.  YOU'RE NEXT gives a strong heroine (Erin played by Sharni Vinson.) who fights back. This movie is too well written to have her just crawl into a corner and scream like most other horror movies out there.  When the bad guys kill she kills back.  We need more heroes and heroines in our horror films.  We franchise the villains when we should be franchising the heroes.

The blood and gore effects are all practical.  You will never be disappointed in the work by special effects wizard Mike Strain and everyone at his company FANTASY CREATIONS FX.  The gore doesn't reach cartoon levels to the point you can't believe what is going on.  The violence is visceral and as close to real as possible....Well maybe not the blender part but it was still pretty cool.

People probably thought this was just another "Guys in masks committing a home invasion"  movie.  I think that is why the general audience stayed away.  Still the marketing campaign was genius with the iconic white animal masks appearing on other movie's posters and at other movie's panels at Comic-con.  They had fun with it but to no avail.  The movie is simple but very profound in the Slasher genre if you pay attention to the details.  You may think it at first but by the end you will realize that this isn't the same slasher movie you have seen before.  This movie plays to a different beat.  Things happen unexpectedly whereas movies like THE STRANGERS follow the same old tropes where the villains are always one step ahead of our protagonists and they always seem to be in the right place at the right time.  The masked killers of YOU'RE NEXT are not so lucky.

YOU'RE NEXT had a good amount of success for being a low budget film.  I still think it deserves more attention than it has received.  There is a story told that doesn't insult the audience by pulling it's punches to set up a sequel.  You may go into this film with high expectations and be put off by how simple the concept is or you may have low expectations and be caught off guard at the clever script and effective use of blood.  Either way you will be entertained.


Jason





Monday, October 6, 2014

THE PURGE: ANARCHY

THE PURGE: ANARCHY doesn't try to but ends up being the modern day ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.  It just has that vibe to it.  The film presents a recognizable future similar to our modern times with a slightly dystopian twist.  In ESCAPE the government controlled America entirely and sent anyone who disobeyed to prison that happened to be the entire city of New York.  ANARCHY has no walls but an annual government sanctioned event called The Purge where everyone can "purge" the beast within by killing just about anyone they want and it is totally legal.  Both are action movies and both have an action hero lead.  I think that is one of the big surprises with ANARCHY.  I wasn't expecting this film to be so action packed with a strong badass hero.  I also didn't expect this film to a slight variation of the zombie film either.

The first PURGE film took place in a house showing the chaos of the world around them during the actual Purge event through quick glimpses of the television set.  The sequel takes us through that world led by a man with no name and a big gun who reluctantly helps out some folks who were being kidnapped and tries to lead them to safety.  The movie explores the different types of people who participate in the Purge as well as those who don't.  There are some refreshing ideas put on the screen that are not what I was expecting.  One of the best ideas is that most people do not participate in the Purge.  That is a big motivator for the bad guys in this film.  I won't spoil why but I just figured that in a movie like this the writer would just assume that most people are evil and would not spend a second thought to participate in legalized murder.  I believe most people are good and would not participate making the whole event pointless.  The writers take the same approach which adds a different level to the story.  There is a little more of a conspiracy brought out into the light.  Often action movies get muddled in complicated conspiracy plots made to make a dumb action film look smart but here the conspiracy stuff doesn't slow down the movie one bit.

Who would take part in the Purge?  You never know until it happens.  The Purge is a mindset.  The most unlikely of persons who seem peaceful in their everyday life could all of a sudden realize that they have an opportunity to right a wrong or get revenge and it would be legal and encouraged by the government.  It is your right!  Anyone could come to that realization even if they started out the night truly believing that murder is wrong.  That is where the "zombie" element comes into play.  Anyone can become a zombie just like anyone can suddenly participate in the Purge.  No one can be trusted.  It is an exciting concept exploited by this film.  There is a particularly good where this is demonstrated as we see a loving family torn apart because one of the family members decides to participate in the purge over jealousy.  In this society you better be nice to everyone around you because come Purge night they may just come after you.

Frank Grillo should be the next Punisher.  Grillo is amazing in this film.  He was perfectly cast as the man with no name.  He even looks like the freakin Punisher dressed all in black with a armored black car and a full arsenal on him at all times.  He knows exactly how to survive in this world of violence.  Without a doubt he carries this film and thankfully this film focuses a lot of it's attention on him.  He is a man out for revenge and nothing will stop him from getting it.  Will he?  The other characters that accompany him are likable and don't get in the way too much.  There are some genuinely good story arcs to these characters and you do by the end care about who lives and who dies.  Again I wasn't expecting that.

ANARCHY is a well filmed movie with a lot of it's more iconic elements coming from the disturbing costumes of some of the crazies that plan on participating in the Purge.  The camera does get a little frantic when some of the action takes place but it doesn't become excessive to the point you can't follow what is going on.  That is probably my only real complaint about the film.  While it is mostly grounded in reality the film isn't afraid to get a little crazy with some of it's premises.  I particularly liked the part when our heroes are kidnapped and put into an arena to fight some rich folks who bid in an auction to hunt them down.  It is something out of a comic but it doesn't get too crazy with it.  It is just another moment for Frank Grillo to demonstrate why he should be the next Punisher.  Marvel you better be reading this.

Go see this film and try not to think too hard about it.  You may just discover some plot holes I never thought of and that might ruin what is otherwise a great action/horror hybrid.


Jason


Sunday, October 5, 2014

THE PURGE aka NATIONAL KILL ANYONE YOU WANT DAY!

THE PURGE is a great little movie.  It was a sleeper hit that simply presented an intriguing idea of a family surviving a night  during national Kill Anyone You Want Day.  The premise was so good that people went to see what this movie was all about.  It didn't have the biggest names in Hollywood and it was rated R.  It didn't matter.  People wanted to see what this movie was all about.  It looked good and it was.......Well at least I liked it.

Ethan Hawk (Sometimes called Kevin Bacon when I get confused) plays a business type guy whose business specializes in making security systems.  That is a very profitable business in a world where one night a year all crime is legalized.  He plans to spend Purge night indoors with his family.  Unfortunately a man shows up to his door being hunted by rich punks in scary masks.  Ethan's son lets him in and now his home is surrounded by crazy rich kids that want to get inside and kill everyone.

The thing that made me really like this movie is the quiet tension that builds quickly at the start of the film.  We are brought into the story hours before the Purge takes place.  We see a rich neighborhood settle down and get ready for the night to begin.  The rich are secure in their fortresses far from the bad neighborhoods of the slums where most of the killing and crime will take place.  The rich even throw parties for crying out loud.  The calm before the storm is scary and no one has died yet.  We see how everyone gets ready for the night.  Some hide behind their big mansions while others get ready to do their own purging.  Purge night is the one night where everyone can take off their everyday masks and show everyone who they really are.  How do you really know who your neighbors are before it is too late on Purge night?  What would I do on Purge night?  The film gives the audience some interesting thoughts to ponder before all hell breaks loose.

This is one of those movies that has a strong beginning and an almost stronger ending.  Where it falters slightly is in the middle.  The middle where all the horror stuff takes place is for the most part good.  The killers trying to get in are fascinating and wonderfully psychotic.  They keep you interested but the Ethan Hawk's kids have a tendency to do dumb stuff like run off when they should be sticking close to their dad who is trying his best to keep them safe.  It really bugged me that something would happen when everyone was starting to get together and suddenly one of the kids runs off to danger just because the writer couldn't think of something smarter for the kids to do.  It is a poor excuse to keep the kids in harms way to pad out the running time.  That is the only thing I really didn't like.  Otherwise I thought the ending was brilliant and somewhat subversive.  What you think would happen doesn't.  The ending is rather bloodless for a movie all about violence.

I know I may be a little too forgiving of this film's possible faults.  I just don't see them like some others do.  I just really appreciate that a film like this can be successful.  It only goes to show that a good imagination or concept can make a good movie that people actually want to go and see.  I know some people were disappointed with THE PURGE.  I think some wanted something more.  They wanted to see more Purging.  They wanted something on a more grander scale.  Well they got their wish with THE PURGE: ANARCHY.....


Jason