Sunday, October 16, 2016

THE NEON DEAD is worth a look.

When it comes to low budget movies made by people who actually care about film I am very forgiving.  Low budget films obviously have more challenges and obstacles to overcome to get made and shown in the public eye.  I am a big believer in art through adversity.  The challenge and limitations from the lack of money and resources can inspire wonderful results.  THE EVIL DEAD is a terrific example of this.  I am always looking to low budget films for inspiration since I myself am part of the world of no budget film making.  I want more people to know about the good ones and get motivated to support these films and maybe make their own.  I am looking for horror movies that are not homages or at least influenced by THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.  I like that film but it has been too big of an influence on many horror films in the last 20 years or so.  There are so many horror film makers that seek to out shock that classic movie through the on screen suffering of characters that a new genre of horror was created.  Torture Porn.  You can't count the number of horror movies whose plot summary is about a group of young teens and twenty-somethings who go out to the middle of nowhere and become the victims of a crazed cannibal inbred family of yahoos.  I bet there are more movies about crazed cannibal inbred families than there are about Dracula and Frankenstein combined.  People looking for new ideas to be inspired by to create new kinds of horror need to limit their intake of such films unless they just like that kind of film.  I myself like the WRONG TURN movies for some reason.  But if you are looking for something new and different I would recommend THE NEON DEAD.

When Allison discovers a violent ghost in her house she calls Desmond and Jake, an amateur paranormal exterminating duo, to find out what is going on in her house.  The investigation leads our two ghost fighters to uncover the bigger problem of an interstellar demon trying to get to earth and destroy all life as we know it.

What I love is THE NEON DEAD's ambition.  This a small movie with big special effects designed to make this movie look and feel different than so many other horror films.  THE NEON DEAD has zombies but these zombies glowy grey eyes and are painted in grey that look like they would glow in black light.  The zombies actually side with our heroes and fight these robed undead wizards (At least I think they were the wizards.) that look like the Blind Dead but with glowing red eyes.  The zombies are used differently.  They aren't just stumbling around looking for brains or living flesh to eat.  That is part of the charm of THE NEON DEAD.  The creators are using old horror elements and doing something more with them.  I love the interstellar demon-thingy that is brought to life through the magic of stop-motion.  They don't just show it once or twice either.  There is a whole sword fight with it that is rather spectacular for a film like this.

The film has a lot of color to it.  Color is used to emphasize the supernatural world clouding the normal world we live in.  I like bold color in my fantasy horror films.  Films like this are eye candy and candy should be colorful.  Horror doesn't have to always be bland and ugly.  Bland tends to be forgettable and THE NEON DEAD is not forgettable.

At 120 minutes run time I will say that THE NEON DEAD is way too long.  There is a lot of story here that really could be trimmed down.  The script itself needed to be tighter focusing on the relationship between the main trio of Allison, Desmond and Jake.  Their newly formed friendship needs to be the foundation of the film.  They do try to do this but because there is so much going on with the details of the story that the characters never fully develop believable growth.  The film has too much talk.  Too much explanation.  NEON has a lot going on and the film feels the need to explain it all.  Its not necessary.  The result is that the film is kind of a slog to get through.  It is very unfortunate and will turn many people off from the film.  There is a lot of talent behind and in front of the camera that people should take notice of.

The other problem with the film is its lack of imagination with it's choice of camera angles.  Of course this is because of the limit of budget but even the dialogue scenes are mostly shot reverse shot in close ups and mediums with little change.  This confines the visual scope of the film adding to the film feeling slow even though there are a lot of different locations.  However, there are some good camera movement at times too especially with the sword fight that has the camera following smoothly around the actors capturing the excitement of the fight in every detail.

I recommend THE NEON DEAD.  You can learn what to and not to do with your next film.  You can tell that the makers love the horror genre and want to make something that stands out from the rest.  Be sure to stay to the very end for the stinger for the potential sequel.  I hope there is one.  I like what they are trying to do even if it isn't fully successful.  I want to know who that mummy guy was.  Don't know who I am talking about?  You are just going to have to see the film for yourself.


Sunday, October 9, 2016


I would compare FINAL GIRLS to THE LAST ACTION HERO but that might infer some negative connotations to the film.  I can't deny that FINAL GIRLS does have a similar concept of people getting trapped in a movie through the magic of cinema.  Instead of getting stuck in JACK SLATER part IV starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, our protagonists find themselves in a slasher flick from the 80's titled CAMP BLOODBATH having to battle a Jason Vorhees type slasher named Billy Murphy.  Both are highly imaginative but LAST ACTION falters by being too zany with the concept adding an out of place cartoon cat that is a detective and having that annoying kid from PREHYSTERIA as the lead actor.  FINAL GIRLS does a better job with the concept.  It manages to stay on the line between between horror and comedy to deliver a sincere heartfelt drama that is surprisingly effective.

Max (The exceptional Taissa Farmiga!) loses her mom (The also exceptional Malin Akerman!) in a car wreck at the beginning of FINAL GIRLS.  Her mom was an actress who played one of the doomed counselors in the cult classic CAMP BLOODBATH.  Max is talked into going to see her mom's film playing at a nearby movie theater.  When a fire breaks out in the theater Max and her friends escape through the movie screen and find themselves in the actual movie.  Trapped Max and her friends try to work with the fictional characters to fight off Billy the invincible slasher who gave the camp its notorious name of CAMP BLOODBATH.

The film is about Max dealing with the loss of her mom.  Seeing Nancy, the character her mom played in CAMP BLOODBATH alive and well, Max takes it upon herself to try and save her from her inevitable death at the hands of Billy Murphy.  If Max can save Nancy in the movie world then maybe somehow she will have her mom back too.  You can see that FINAL GIRLS has a lot of heart to it.  In most horror films nowadays you only see heart if it is literally torn out of a characters chest with liberal amounts of red stuff strewn about.

FINAL GIRLS doesn't rely on gore at all. There is barely any blood anywhere!  How brave!  Blood is replaced by an imaginative story.  Max and her friends find themselves in a horror movie.  This means they are experiencing every scene in the movie.  They see the movie credits.  They get absorbed into the flashback scenes.  They teach one-dimensional counselors to have more depth to them.  Its all rather interesting taking your mind off the fact that there is no gore.  The PG-13 rating doesn't hurt the film.

Billy Murphy looks exactly like the Jason Vorhees from FREDDY VS. JASON except for the mask of course.  Billy's trademark mask is more of a wooden block carved to look like an angry frog totem.  Billy's back story of how he became disfigured is similar to Cropsey's in THE BURNING.  Not a bad combination.  Having to abide by the rules of slasher films  only the 'final' girl can kill Billy at the end of the movie.  This presents a problem for Max's plan to save Nancy. Max is now a character in the film and there can be only one female protagonist alive to defeat the killer.

My hope is that FINAL GIRLS continues to find a bigger and bigger audience influencing the next generation of horror film makers.  Horror needs that.  For the last 20 years or so too many creators of the horror genre have been overly influenced by the classic TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.  Bleak and bland horror has now taken up too much of our time.  In contrast the look of FINAL GIRLS is bright and cheery with beautiful flowers growing about in various colors.  It takes a daring director to try such a thing in a slasher film.  Granted CAMP BLOODBATH is a fake movie meant to look different from the real world presented in FINAL GIRLS but I think a bolder look to horror that is more visually vibrant and not so colorless would be a refreshing approach.  At least it is a good way to get your slasher film to get noticed.  Slasher films can be artistic too.