Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TOP 10 OF 2010

With just a few days left in the year, it is time for every blog and
site in the world to do their "Best of 2010" lists for whatever they talk about it. This one is no different. This top 10 list covers all genres, theatrical releases or straight to disc. I pondered over the list for a while and even though there are still plenty of movies that were released this year that I haven't seen yet, I feel this is a pretty good look at my favorite movies of the year.

So for my final entry of the year, I leave you with the Top 10 Of 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Director: Edgar Wright)
I wanted to hate this movie so bad when I saw the previews. I know nothing of the graphic novels, I just know that the trailer looked like stupid hipster garbage to me that wanted to be quirky and ironic. After finally giving it a chance I was entertained throughout. The cast is great together, and everything I thought I would hate about it really worked. Its far from perfect or a favorite of mine but I can't deny that I had fun with it, and that is more than I can say for most other movies I saw this year.

Kick-Ass (Director: Matthew Vaughn)
When this one was released the trailers looked okay, nothing special and just another superhero type movie. Similarly to Scott Pilgrim I had no idea about a graphic novel and I feel it certainly aided me in enjoying in the movie with no preconceived notions. Nicholas Cage is great in this role and I think its the only type of role he can succeed in anymore. Chloe Moretz is probably the best performance in the whole thing as Hit-Girl. Another entertaining take on superheroes that got the word of mouth moving early in the year.

Frozen (Director: Adam Green)
A suspense thriller/horror film about three people trapped on a ski lift over a weekend. This doesn't sound like anything that could possibly fill an entire feature film with any success, right? Well it does. Adam Green known mostly for his director credit of the gory horror/comedy Hatchet takes his film making in a much more serious direction. Most of us had to wait months to see this on disc as only a select handful of theaters and festivals showed it in the early winter months. If you want something to keep you on the edge of your seat check it out.

Inception (Director: Christopher Nolan)
A very cool premise and some great visuals aid this one into being a lot of fun to watch. It does have a longer running time however it is paced very well and is full of solid performances. It is certainly entertaining and the technical side of things make it stand out.

Machete (Director: Robert Rodriguez)
More than 3 years after Machete's faux trailer debut in Grindhouse, we finally get the real deal. Danny Trejo was born for this role and Rodriguez made sure to keep our appetite for over the top violence and sexy women satisfied. Its just what you expected.

Hatchet 2 (Director: Adam Green)
Adam Green is the only director to show up twice on this list and for two very different movies. While Frozen was a tense thriller, Hatchet 2 is the follow up to 2007's over the top slasher romp in the swamp (that was bad, I know). Victor Crowley is defending his swamp from anyone that steps foot. The blood and gore is upped here to insane levels and there are some of the most ridiculous things you'll ever see in a slasher film. Hopefully you got to see it in theaters before the film got pulled from theaters after less than a week. At least they were showing it unrated for those few days.

Piranha 3D (Director: Alex Aja)
The French director who has shown his talents in far more serious fare gives us (another) remake on the Roger Corman classic which was directed by cult director Joe Dante. Aja knew exactly what kind of movie he was making here. Having no intentions of making this heavier or more artsy than it ever needed (or wanted) to be he over loaded our senses with boobs, blood, guts and laughs. This was a horror film that had you hootin' and hollerin' at the screen. The 3D was totally unnecessary but for a one time viewing with it, it was fun. Cannot wait to watch this one again with a few (or 12) beers. One word of advice, watch out for that first jump scare... its a doozy.

True Grit (Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen)
This adaptation of the 1968 novel by Charles Portis is a revenge tale in pure western form. Little 14 year old Mattie is out for revenge on Tom Chaney who murdered her father. She enlists the aid of a drunk U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger to get the job done. The Coen brothers give us what is possibly there most straightforward film of a single genre to date. And I couldn't be happier that it is a western. They get the look and feel just about right, and just make an overall fine film. Jeff Bridges is just great, as he usually is and he always works well with the Coens. Matt Damon is a very convincing Ranger, and is a strong character. But the whole movie is stolen by Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie. Her acting is flawless and refined for such a young newcomer. She owned the role. This is a fine film to end the year on and I'm glad to see how well it has done at the box office in its opening week.

Toy Story 3 (Director: Lee Unkrich)
The final chapter in the trilogy came to us this summer. The teasers dating back about a year had me excited to see it, and though I missed it in theaters, I was incredibly anxious to view it once the Blu Ray came out. Director Lee Unkrich has been with Pixar since 1994, he has had a hand in every Toy Story movie from editor, to co-director to fully directing this one. And this was one that was made for those of us that were kids back in 1995. As an elementary shcooler in 1995 I loved the first Toy Story, of course I love it now for so many more reasons. This 3rd entry into the series was something for us. Yes, children will love to see it, but watching it... watching it was something for us. It brought us back on the same adventure we had 15 years ago and brought it right up to a place we can relate to with recent events in our lives. It was a movie that would make you laugh one minute and then totally rip your heart out. The last 20 minutes of the movie had me in tears... ugly tears.... really ugly tears. I'm not ashamed to say it. I love this movie and it reduced me to a sad shell of a man for quite a while after watching.

And finally, the top movie of the year....

1. Black Swan (Director: Darren Aronofsky)
Who doesn't remember the feelings they had when they heard this new movie was going to feature a lesbian scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis? You can read it now and you're probably thinking about how cool that sounds. Well it was cool, but the movie itself is why it is number 1. From Aronofsky's direction with his use of close ups, hand held cameras, mirrors, imagery, POV shots to Clint Mansell's masterful reworking of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet, to Natalie Portman's Oscar worthy performance this movie is phenomenal. Aronofsky could pull a great performance from a dead sheep if he really needed to, and proves it here. Every actor, lead or supporting is flawless. I could go on and on about this one, but just go see it. Support independent cinema and see it. Dare I say it was... perfect?

Thanks to those of you that read, look out for more in 2011... I'm gonna get crazy!

... maybe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today It's Me... Tomorrow It's You! (1968)

By 1968 the spaghetti western had fully hit it's stride in the world's movie market. They were wildly popular with audiences who loved the gritty, violent take the Italians had on the American wild west.

Today It's Me, Tomorrow It's You is a basic revenge tale, in a western setting. Bill Kiowa (Brett Halsey) is a free man after spending five years in jail for a crime he didn't commit, and he's hell bent on revenge. After dreaming day and night on the day he'd get his hands on his old friend James Elfego (Tatsuya Nakadai) and practicing with a wooden replica of his trusted revolver Kiowa assembles a group of five of the best gunslingers the west has to offer to hunt Elfego's gang down, offering each of them $10,000 to do the job.

The film is straight forward from the beginning. We quickly learn who is the protagonist, though the reason we want to cheer him on is delayed until later. His team is a very likable group though, each with their own personality. Kiowa has a very Django-esque quiet calm to him, while Bud Spencer's character O'Bannion offers the brute force with a bit of comic relief. Add in a gambling man who hates to lose, a sheriff who is bored with what life is offering him of late and a ladies man who loves money more than women and there is a great contrast that makes for an interesting gang.

Today It's Me moves along at a steady pace, never getting ahead of itself, but never leaving you tapping your foot for something to happen. The writing was handled in part by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento is great. Simple, but great. There is a never a "face palm" moment from the writing and the direction by Tonino Cervi is very good. The score, which any level of spaghetti western fan can tell you can really add to the film, isn't memorable. It is serviceable but suffers from a couple of moments where it, along with the shot it is accompanying takes a turn towards being hokey. Luckily it never quite makes it there and doesn't detract from the film.

There are some problems with this entry in to the genre. The story never fully explores almost anything it could. How deep did the friendship of Kiowa and Elfego go? This could have played a part in the viewer being more emotionally invested in the all too brief finale, which was overshadowed by the set up "hunting" scene. Also, exactly what race is Elfego? He's played by Tatsuya Nakadai who is a Japanese actor famous for his decades of work with directors Akira Kurosawa and Masaki Kobayashi, but his name seems to be Spanish and similar to El Fuego which means The Fire. Though no one is ever set on fire. Also he uses a sword in a fight (which actually happens to be a machete) in a very samurai-ish manner. This is a minor nitpick from me, but it would be nice to know, we just have to assume that he is a half breed Japanese-Mexican.

When it's all said and done, Today It's Me... Tomorrow It's You! also known as Today We Kill...Tomorrow We Die! falls short of its true potential. Possibly due to fear that it would seem contrived or maybe it was simply due to it's (obvious) budgetary restraints. It is however a very entertaining western that is steady standing on its on two feet. All five members of Kiowa's gang are great, and Nakadai is exceptional in the screen time he receives. Tonino Cervi seemed to draw a bit too much of a Hollywood influence for his own good at times but its never more than a passing thought. The obvious influence from the samurai films that helped start the spaghetti western cycle in the mid-60s adds a stylish touch. And I can't write this review without giving a round of applause to Bud Spencer for using a belly bump as an attack in a fight scene, I'll support that tactic until the day I die.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dust Devil (1992)

Richard Stanley is a director with endless talents that you probably have never heard of. Along with Dust Devil his only other feature film is Hardware, a great sci-fi horror film from 1990. He has also made a handful of documentaries and short films along with some music videos. With a movie in production, another in pre-production and a third announced it will be nice to see him return and hopefully bring his talents to a wider audience.

Dust Devil takes place in Namibia and South Africa and is the story of a shape shifting demon who preys on humans that have lost everything but life itself, the weak and unloved. The film has intertwining plots, all dealing with the Dust Devil. Wendy (Chelsea Field) has just separated from her husband is is driving aimlessly through the deserts when she picks up a strange hitchhiker who brings with him equally strange events. A local police officer (Zakes Mokae) is hunting the murderer after a local shaman shows him the truth about the demon. And eventually Wendy's husband gets into the picture as well after he decides he wants her back. All of the plots come together in a showdown with the demon.

The plot in Dust Devil isn't anything exceptional or even the movie's strongest point. The film truly excels in Richard Stanley's direction. He is able to create such thick and foreboding atmosphere that you almost feel the heat coming off of the desert sand, you start to feel sick to your stomach with the violence on screen. He is simply fantastic with creating atmosphere. The writing, also handled by Stanley is competent and the acting while a bit shaky at times holds together just fine.

The thing with Dust Devil is that it quickly became a studio disaster. The Weinstein Brothers chopped it up, cutting the movie down to 87 minutes from its original 2 hour cut, which took out most of the supernatural elements and almost the entire role of the protagonist. That cut was released to European markets, after which the producers and Stanley agreed on a 95 minute cut which was to be released in the UK until the film's British backers went under. It then went into movie studio hell for years and had all sorts of problems with who owned the rights and who gets what cut of the money. Eventually Stanley got the original negatives and was able to edit together Dust Devil: The Final Cut for the DVD release along with a work print version that is an extra 8 minutes. The original 120 minute cut is seemingly gone forever, but what we are left with today is a fine example of gruesome supernatural horror from a very overlooked director.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Wolfman (2010)

In 1941 Universal Pictures brought us one of the first (Werewolf of London) feature length film on werewolves, The Wolfman. George Waggoner directed the classic and is in part responsible for the love of the creature so often used in popular culture.

Nearly 70 years after the original Universal gives us the remake of its landmark film. And early on in the pre-production stages it looked promising, even a fanboys wet dream. We saw news sites reporting that director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and makeup wizard Rick Baker (Just look up his list of works and be blown away) who is most noted for his lead work done on the Landis directed An American Werewolf in London on top of the Academy Award winning cast lead by Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. It was going to be this centuries first perfect werewolf movie, something we got (arguably) a handful of times in the 20th century. Then the reality of the movie started coming down.

By the time the movie came out the movie was delayed almost a full year, John Landis was a distant memory and Rick Baker was removed from the role of head makeup and fx artist. Joe Johnston, who is responsible for the direction of such films as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, The Rocketeer, and Jurassic Park III (ugh) took over the role of director and Rick Baker wasn't given control like he should have been. Anyone that has seen Rick Baker's work on An American Werewolf In London has seen the single greatest special effects/makeup work ever put to film. I'm not talking best werewolf makeup, or best horror movie effects, I'm saying the single best makeup and effects ever put to celluloid. The transformation scene in that is as good as it will ever get. I dare you to say something else is better. On to the movie itself.

Joe Johnston's THE WOLFMAN starts out with a bit of a homage to the original (something that has appeared in every Universal Wolfman film) the "wolfman poem" as I've come to know it as- Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright. After the little nod at history, we get the basic story. Laurence Talbot (Del Toro) comes home to find his brother dead and his father (Hopkins) and brother's mourning lover Gwen (Emily Blunt) at his childhood estate awaiting his arrival. His brother's body is being held in a meat locker type building until his funeral, it is ripped to shreds, something a man certainly could not have done. Not twenty minutes into the movie and we start to see the modern influence on the film. Not a bad thing to this point.

As the film progresses and the story deepens there is more positive, some new and some hearkening back to its source material, the gypsies are present, though in a less important role than they should have been. Its as if they were put it because they needed to be to stay faithful. I understand the choice to put them in, but I would have preferred they not be there if this was the only way they were going to be involved. Its as if they were nothing more than peddlers and beggars to a point, instead of the group that new of the curse and how to cure it. It seemed everybody in the area knew of how to kill a werewolf, even if it were only a myth.

To keep things rolling, Laurence and Gwen begin to get close, he rekindles a small bit of a relationship with his father that we learn was lost when he was sent to a mental hospital shortly after the apparent suicide of his mother and he is dealing with having been stricken with the curse after an early encounter with a beast. The film then spirals down from there As Laurence tries to fight off the curse and remain normal but has no luck, just like those that preceded him, and must give way to the beast.

The Wolfman thrives in that it was certainly entertaining. As an original work, or even a first film adaptation of a piece of literature it wouldn't receive a fraction of the criticism it does. The action is good, the effects never pull you out of the moment and the story is solid. Where it fails is that it isn't an original work, we were teased with perfect options for the cast and crew and our expectations became nothing short of high.

The direction isn't bad, I don't want to give Joe Johnston a bad rap, his films have been a part of my life since childhood and he isn't bad at what he does. It just so happens that he isn't great at what he does either. We get some very nice scenes, followed by incredibly corny scenes. The cinematography is the same way, showing an incredibly gloomy and eery England/Wales followed by a flat shot inside of a mental hospital. The acting doesn't even have that luxury. The performances are, in a word, lazy. When you see the names Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and even Hugo Weaving you expect good acting, if not great. What we get is flat, uninspired and frankly plain out going through the motions from these names. Luckily for the film when you have a cast of this caliber even underwhelming performances such as these get the job done. The special effects also get the job done. Instead of letting Rick Baker go with his arsenal of beautiful practice effects, the studio elected to go for the cheaper CGI. Now the CGI, outside of a few instances of sub par work, looks fine. CGI certainly has its place in film but not when practical work can be done, especially with little hassle.

Getting the job done should not have been the goal for Universal with this one. They could have easily opened up the door to a new wave of fans for their classic work and classic film in general. What better way to get someone interested in your older films than to remake it properly? Unfortunately after seeing the decision making process from the studio it seems that getting the job done was the main goal behind the project. Take out an accomplished director, a special effects artist who has made the single greatest werewolf transformation scene in history loses his ability to do just that again and in turn take an award winning cast and make them lazy due to your insecurity in your film and financing (lets face it, it all comes down to $$$) and what do you get? A film that isn't bad, but not good, let alone as good as it should be. And I'd rather watch a truly awful movie than be let down as much as I am with this one. At least I held off on spending those dollars that Universal so arrogantly saved on the production.

It isn't the worst score you'll see me hand out, but know that I don't get this disappointed in movies very easily. I need to watch Waggoner direct Lon Chaney Jr asap to get this taste out of my mouth. The score I'm handing it is focusing on the positives the movie has as a piece of entertainment. I have so much more to say on the story, the creature design, etc... but I feel that I've written enough to convey my opinion. Just understand this really could have been a masterpiece of modern horror and Universal robbed us of that.

I had a slew of posters to choose from, many had good artwork, especially for modern day horror. I feel that the one I picked expresses how good the movie could have been, and why it fell so short all at once.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Undead (2003)

I've been hearing mixed things about this movie since it came out. Some say it is a fresh and entertaining take on zombies while others say it was a steaming pile of dog shit. I finally got the chance to see it for free and took it.

The Spierig Bros wrote, produced and directed this horror comedy film in their native Australia. They are also the duo behind this year's Daybreakers, which was a successful and pretty entertaining horror thriller about vampires. Unfortunately Undead, which was the duo's first feature film, didn't have the same quality.

The basic plot of Undead isn't all that uncommon for zombie movies, some meteorites fall and turn the town's inhabitants into blood thirsty zombies. The core group is filled with most of the cliches... the gun nut who happened to be abducted by these aliens and let go for whatever reason, the beauty queen, the scared comic relief guy, and so on. Not only is there zombies to deal with but acid rain, contaminated water and food, all the problems one would encounter in a zombie outbreak. Eventually they learn the virus is also air born and they are slowly being infected.

There is the plot in a nutshell. There is plenty of other stupid shit, hooded glowing aliens that look like shittier versions of those from Independence Day and they try to be funny when they talk. For whatever reason when the people die the aliens suspend them in the clouds? Which of course ends up screwing up one of the group when he tries to escape in a plane.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the movie in general. It was bad. Really bad. It was slow and dragged on even though it was under 100 minutes. It was full of face palm moments, misplaced comedy that wasn't even timed well, and moments that just piss you off watching it. One example of that would be when one of the group empties an entire handgun clip into a severed arm because the timer on the watch starts beeping but minutes later, when they're actually under attack they are telling each other to conserve bullets. The actual film making wasn't any better. The direction was amateur, more than likely a result of this being the first feature for the two directors, but it was bad. The writing made me want to cry, and the effects weren't believable. It didn't even have a nice pair of boobs to stare at, which has been a saving grace for countless horror movies.

It wasn't bad in a way that can be entertaining while you're drunk, it just gets under your skin like a little sibling that won't stop poking you. Or when you bite your tongue and it swells up a little bit so you keep on biting it. Or stubbing your toe. Or poking yourself in the eye.

In fact, I'd rather have any of those than to watch this movie again. This movie may be the first time I've ever said "fuck you" at the screen repeatedly as soon as the credits rolled. Yea, it was that bad.

Also, I'm not wasting my time to put up a poster from this movie because it doesn't deserve the effort.

I'd rather be (Un)dead/10

Friday, November 26, 2010

Battletruck (aka Warlords of the 21st Century) (1982)

Battletruck is another Corman produced post-apocalypse action flick that yet again delivers the goods.

This time around it is the Oil Wars of World War III that caused the world wide devastation. Gas and oil are now in extremely short supply and only available to the Government. Society has crumbled and outside of major cities there is no law. Straker (James Wainwright) is a man on a mission. He controls a small army and drives a heavily armored 18 wheeler that is more like a tank than a truck. His only goal is to steal, destroy, control and find more gas.

When Corlie (Annie McEnroe) escapes from Straker's group he sends out a group to find her. Before the group can capture her again a loner on a motorcycle named Hunter (Michael Beck) is able to scoop her up and drive her to the safety of his little compound. Hunter is self sufficient and has the knowledge to turn his chicken's waste in ethanol to fuel his bike. Shortly after arriving he takes Corlie to Clearwater, a village of a few dozen people that Hunter has a small relationship with.

While at Clearwater Corlie is voted in to be accepted into the community. Not long after Straker and his army come barreling through the outer walls, leveling everything in their way. They have no qualms with shooting anyone who speaks out against them or refuses to share information. Straker finds out that Corlie had been staying there, but made her escape before the attack.

This sets up a cat and mouse chase between Straker's army and Corlie & Hunter for the remainder of the movie culminating in a pretty entertaining chase scene between the Battletruck and Hunter in a "battlecar" and his bike.

Filmed on loaction in New Zealand on a modest budget, Battletruck doesn't exactly have epic sets. Most of the film is set in tents/huts or open fields. And on this budget, we don't get crazy special effects, though there is little need for them. There are some nice action sequences with classic explosions. The thing that surprised me most about this film is the performances, everybody does a respectable job with a good performance from Michael Buck and a spot-on performance from James Wainwright.

Will you run out and tell all of you friends about this one? Probably not. Will you be entertained? More than likely. This isn't award winning stuff, but Corman knows how to take what he has to work with and make it worthwhile or even better.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

Fright Night Part 2 never had a fair chance with me... or many fans for that matter. It is a sequel to a beloved 80s vampire flick that is one of the best examples of horror that decade has to offer. It suffered a very limited theatrical release, the artwork for the movie was bad... really bad and it's sole release on DVD was shoddy at best, quickly went out of print and now goes for exorbitantly high prices. Despite all those factors, now that I've finally had an opportunity to see it, I'm a fan.

Fright Night Part 2 is a direct sequel to the first, reprising their roles as Peter Vincent the fearless vampire killer and Charley Brewster the tormented college student are Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale. Charley is now seeing a shrink to aid him in ridding his "delusions" of vampires that he experienced with Peter Vincent.

The problem is that their apartment building has some new tenants moving in that are strangely similar to vampires. They play mind games with Charley, they show up everywhere he goes and he only sees them at night. Charley is in the predicament of a man trying to fight for his sanity or dealing with the truth.

As the film heats up and winds down the leader of this new bloodsucking group is Regine (Julie Carmen), a seductive vampiress who has taken Peter Vincents job as the host of the late night movie program called what else but "Fright Night". When Peter, Charley and Charley's girl Alex (Traci Lind) realize that the vampires are real, and it is happening all over again they stock up on all of the vampire killing necessities including but not limited to crosses, wooden stake with guns to shoot them, holy water sprayers and so on. The finale is a pretty well executed showdown in the apartment building that will stand up with the best vampire sequences of this era.

Fright Night Part 2 really has a lot going for it, the acting is on par, the effects and makeup are fantastic, direction from Tommy Lee Wallace is on point. The story is a bit on the "been there, done that" side of things but it works. A few points in developing characters hurt the film. Seeing Regine be the leader and establish her dominance earlier would have made this film stronger. Still, this sequel to Fright Night is more than deserving of whatever fan base it has from being a regular bootleg on convention circuit tables. It sure would be nice to see a proper release of it to the home market because the HD print I watched looked pretty nice.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Deathsport (1978)

The return! And what better way to come back than with some Roger Corman action?

Deathsport is a 1978 post-apocalyptic action/sci-fi flick from legendary exploitation producer Roger Corman. The year is 3000 and we are just passed the Great Neutron Wars in a world of desert wastelands and independent city-states that are somewhat futuristic in appearance. The film never goes into detail on what exactly the Great Neutron Wars were, but if in the year 3000 futuristic machines are dirt bikes with aluminum attached to it they must have done some damage.

The late David Carradine (KILL BILL vol 1 & 2) stars as Kaz Oshay, a legendary Range Guide. A Range Guide is pretty much a nomadic, loner that helps statesmen navigate the open wastelands to another location. They are similar to Jedi in this sense, though they don't have the force and their main weapon is a very unwieldy fiberglass sword. Kaz is ambushed and captured by Lord Zirpola's henchmen. Since there are no rules in this post-apocalyptic world Kaz is imprisoned and sentenced to deathsport (deathsport seems to be the only punishment no matter the crime or lack of).

While imprisoned Kaz meets Deneer (Claudia Jennings) another Range Guide. They are paired together during their round of deathsport. Now deathsport is a game, usually between two prisoners, that is a fight to the death. Each inmate is given a hand blaster and one of the futuristic motorcycles and ride around in an arena going at each other until there is only one survivor. The survivor is then freed.

Now you may be thinking this sounds an awful lot like Death Race 2000... that's because it is. Corman decided to cash in on his biggest grossing film up to that point but change out the cars with motorcycles. This is why we love Roger Corman.

As the Range Guides fight for their survival against a handful of statesmen, then a few more, then a few of Zirpola's henchmen they eventually get a break as the endless explosions knock out a force field generator and they escape. The chase and hunt for the escaped warriors (and a couple of imprisoned statesmen as well) is on, led by Ankar Moor (Richard Lynch), Zirpola's second in command and a man who has bloody ties to Kaz.

After Zirpola dies from an unkown illness, Moor takes over and exhausts his resources to tracking down Kaz and Deneer, who seem to getting very close. After a run in with some mutant cannibals who have kidnapped Deneer's daughter and a chase through the refueling depot for the motorcycles which is just another reason for explosions and burnt bodies (not complaining) the group finally makes it to the city of Triton and Kaz and Ankar Moor have a duel with only their swords (Moor never had a sword until the duel began of course).

Does this sound a tad bit confusing and nonsensical? Sure. Does it matter? Not really. Any fan of these types of movie knows to leave your brain at the door. It honestly seemed like they have made up a good bit of this as they went along, but if that was the case it worked out, at least in the case of entertainment value. This isn't Corman's best production nor the most entertaining but it is worthy of my praise and a spot in my collection. While it doesn't seem to have any real plot the cast, which is surprisingly competent for the script they had to work with, which let us be honest, isn't high art.

Grab some beers, turn your brain off and enjoy this mish-mash of elements from Star Wars, Corman's own Death Race 2000 and a desolate future.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Satan's Blood (1977)


I was first introduced to Satan's Blood about 7 years ago when I found a big box VHS of it for 50 cents when a local store was clearing out their used VHS inventory. I instantly snatched it up and watched it. What I found on that tape was total Euro-sleaze.

Satan's Blood is a Spanish made horror film from director Carlos Puerto. It follows Andy and Anna, a young couple who are expecting their first child after a miscarriage claimed their other baby. While bored one afternoon they decide to go for a drive and meet another couple, Bruno and Berta who claim to know Andy from years before in college. Bruno convinces the younger couple to follow them to their house in the country for a night of catching up and celebrating their expected baby.

While there a bad storm coupled with dark dirt roads prompt Andy and Anna to spend the night. Bruno brings out a Ouija board after he finds Anna looking at a book of witchcraft he had on his shelf. They all decide it would be harmless fun to give it a try. This game turns the entire weekend into a nightmare of murder, suicide, rape, Satanic covens, and pure madness.

This is a film that needs to be seen by any fan of sleazy horror films of the 1970s. This was a decade that will probably never be replicated in how far they would push the envelope of sex and violence in a film, trying to drive its audience to insanity. And as far as many governments were concerned they did a good enough job at doing just that. This is a film that was released in its native Spain with a rating of "S" which stood for sex and sadism.

While not a perfect horror film and not the most notorious exploitation you will come across, Satan's Blood has a lot to offer. It is fairly open ended in a few details that are fun to fill in for yourself and the imagery in certain scenes is very cool. Hunt down the DVD and enjoy!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Dead Snow (2009)

Dead Snow is a Norwegian zombie flick from director Tommy Wirkola. Everything about the marketing for this movie screamed entertaining, fun, and intriguing. It was going to be a breath of fresh air into the stale genre. That is until you sit down and watch it.

The plot of the story is nothing ground breaking- A group of friends is going to a cabin in the mountains to spend their Easter vacation from medical school. Apparently this area is infested with pissed off WWII Nazi zombies that want the treasure they couldn't obtain from some families while they were alive. And of course the vacationing students are caught up in the middle of this.

As soon as the movie starts it comes off as annoying. A few zombies are chasing a girl through the snowy woods but it all comes off as extremely hokey thanks to the blasting soundtrack of Beethoven's 9th symphony (Ode To Joy). The film never recovers from that, the few attempts early on to build suspense fail thanks to breaking it all up with lame humor and cheap jump scares. It doesn't take long for Wirkola to totally forget about any serious tone and completely go for humor.

If you were born with half a brain you begin to feel like you wrote the screenplay for this movie because of how predictable it is. Every turn of the camera, every jump scare, every cue for music is by the book. And by the book is generally boring and uninspired.

There really is little else here to talk about as far as the actual movie goes, there are plot holes (how did "A few soldiers got away" turn into the hundreds we saw a the end as zombies) and questions left unanswered (how the hell did he get the machine gun on the snowmobile that we never saw him pick up). I was also scratching my head most of the movie as to why these Nazi zombies sounded like lions growling, and why the hell did they decide to use a green screen and CGI blood the first time we get to see a zombie in the daylight? The green screen was used as a snowy backdrop... the same as the rest of the movie! Did they just somehow forget to shoot that scene?

I mentioned the music being incredibly loud during the opening, well anytime they had a song playing it was like that. It would kill your ear drums with truly obnoxious Norwegian alternative and nu-metal.

There is a lot that I've left for you to discover on your own if you decide to give it a try. It seems Wirkola's intention with Dead Snow was little more than make a feature length homage to his favorite horror movies. I have no problem with directors honoring great movies that influenced them but little things are enough. Its very amateurish to lift entire sequences and scenes from classic movies.

Its a shame that Dead Snow took the direction it did, it did have some cool moments and the fairly simplistic design of the zombies was good. Dead Snow could easily have been a re-watchable flick and instead was painful to sit through.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blood Creek (2009)

Director Joel Schumacher is well known for his fan-favorite vampire movie The Lost Boys, his thrillers Phonebooth and The Number 23 and his entries into the 90's Batman series (including the horrible Batman & Robin). While he has had mixed success over his career when it comes to horror his films are usually decent.

Blood Creek (originally titled Town Creek) starts out in pre-WWII West Virginia at the home of the Wollners, a German family living in America, are contacted by the Third Reich about hosting a German historian, Richard Wirth, as he does his work. The family accepts the generous offer of rent for hosting the professor and we soon find out Wirth's intentions are more of the occult and finding the ancient viking Rune Stones left behind than of research. The opening scene starts out with a narrative briefly explaining Hitler's fascination with the occult and how he felt it was the key to victory for his perfect race. The opening scene is dark, a bit gritty and shrouded in mystery. The audience is set up for a very grim occult horror film.

Flash forward to present day and we are introduced to the Marshall brothers, Evan is a paramedic and Victor is a war veteran who was thought to be killed in the war. When the brothers reunite Victor asks his brother to assist him in something that will change him forever. The brothers canoe down the town's creek and then take the fastest 2 mile walk I've ever seen to a farm. Armed with shotguns the brothers don't wait long to start shooting at the family, eventually we find out the reason they are there is because the family has been kidnapping people to feed a beast they've been hiding. This beast is none other than Wirth, the professor of the Third Reich. Wirth became obsessed with the Rune Stone (which happened to be right on the family farm and used as the foundation for the barn) and its power. He had tried to do a ritual to gain a third eye and secure immortality for himself.

The family ends up not being quite the antagonist they were set up by the Marshall brothers to be as they had intentions of a greater good to keep Wirth fed (on human blood that is needed for the ritual of course) than to let him go and reek havoc on the world. He is also contained by certain paintings that act as a barrier he can't cross. His barn, the family house and the fence enclosing the farm are all sealed with these paintings.

Wirth eventually gets free of his "cage" inside the barn when the father of the family gets home, gets shot and barrels through the barn wall. This turns the movie into a "stalk and slash" film where the monster waits outside until someone comes out or baits them out. Eventually the family inside the house and the Marshall brothers band together and come up with a plan to defeat Wirth.

Blood Creek starts out grim and dark and really seemed like it could be something noteworthy. It quickly divulges into familiar territory that was competent but predictable. Schumacher's direction is serviceable but again, nothing to write home about. I understand that the screenplay used is much different than the original and that the original was much more based around the occult and powers than the slasher we got. The acting was good enough, the score wasn't memorable and lighting was fine. All in all it was about as middle of the road as it gets but it was entertaining for a viewing and you can certainly find worse horror movies out there.

One final note before I forget- The artwork for this movie was awesome and it was equally as disappointing that the movie wasn't better based on the artwork and opening scene.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Taking Horror To A New Dimension

This has been on my mind for a while now and tonight I think I've blown a fuse.

I'm talking about 3D movies. And not just horror but all genres. 3D was a cute little trend in the 1950s when it was new and had people excited to go down to their theater and put on their red and blue glasses and see whatever picture the studios added another dimension for nothing more than a gimmick. Horror was at the forefront of the trend then, and still are during its revival over the past year.

And I for one am sick of it. I bit into it with the remake of My Bloody Valentine and the only thing that saved that movie from being a total shitfest was Tom Atkins who has been a badass for decades. Speaking on the 3D of the movie it wasn't great. Sure it was an improvement over the anaglyphic red and blue days but with 50 years of technology you're telling me this is the best they've got? Get real.

Its a marginal improvement that added nothing to movie and in fact took me out of the movie because I was waiting for the next hokey gimmick shot of an eyeball flying towards me or flames climbing out of the screen. Its obvious that the filmmakers were far too preoccupied with their nonsense 3D to make a decent film. And this is the problem with just about all 3D films. The addition of another visual dimension turns the whole movie into a fucking jerkoff fest of who can create the cooler visual effect and we, the audience get Hollywood's collective load blown all over us because we had to pay (extra, mind you) to see this nonsense.

There is another chord struck. Not only do we still have to wear the ridiculous glasses still (more like sunglasses these days) we have to pay extra, upwards of $3, to rent them! And I've heard the argument "Nobody is stopping you from taking them home if you want to keep them." Who in the blue hell wants to keep these things!? Someone please give me a legitimate reason to keep the glasses. Am I going to walk around with them on pretending I'm in a shitty movie? The only thing keeping them instead of depositing them in the return box is drive up the cost of everything else in the theater since they now have to replace the stupid things.

I've been told that because I haven't seen Avatar (in IMAX no less) that I don't have a full understanding of 3D. I've read enough reviews from trusted sources to confirm that Avatar is yet another Hollywood circle jerk and that I'm expected to look past a bland plot for this visual orgasm. And if the only proper way of experiencing it is to spend $15 at an IMAX theater they'll burn in hell before they get my money on it.

It seems every movie coming out is attached with "3D" at the end by the time production starts... Ghostbusters 3 has been announced, there is talks of Gremlins 3 in 3D, Jeepers Creepers 3 in 3D (which also has the biggest ripoff subtitle I've ever heard of). What the fuck happened to making a movie? Now its just a Disney World attraction, but without the fun rides or attractive women walking around as princesses.

Most movies that get released these days are total shit in 2D, let alone when they try to add another dimension. How about this Hollywood: You start making good movies again without 3D and I won't get so pissed when you want to add some crazy visual effects to it. Every hack director in the world can make a 3D movie with no plot, shit writing and wooden acting if they have the funding. Give me $100m and I'll make The Fast & The Furious 5 with Vin Diesel's shitty acting in 3D. Or how about Zombieween 3 in 3D... oh wait...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Halloween 2 (2009)

I'm aware I'm late seeing this modern day slasher remake sequel from infamous bringer of shit Rob Zombie. The reason for my tardiness is that I refused to spend theater prices on seeing it and the $1 from Redbox (I forgot to find a free code online) seemed far easier to stomach. Well I feel like a large man raped me and made me cry for days on end.

From here on out the movie will be referred to as Zombieween 2 as I really feel its a disgrace to the original Halloween franchise. Yes, even the later entries. The movie picks up somewhat where the remake from 2007 left off. Laurie Strode is being taken to the hospital to treat her wounds, though this is after we see her walking around without too much trouble. Myers who isn't dead is also strapped into an ambulance with a couple of typical Rob Zombie characters who just seem to say "fuck" a lot and continue to perfectly define white trash. In the only entertaining portion of the entire 97 minute duration the ambulance rams full speed into a cow that was crossing the road. This may only be funny to me because I thought about when I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning in theaters and another cow was ran into and a friend of mine couldn't help but yell "fucking bovine!" at the screen and crack up the entire theater. Now that the ambulance is smashed up Myers is freed and in an amazing strike of luck he is able to find a shard of glass that looks just like a knife and not only kill the surviving paramedic but saw his head off in a scene that was surely meant to do little than stroke Rob Zombie's own ego.

After this we get a Laurie hospital scene that isn't worth going into because it ends up being a 10 minute dream. Follow this with some typical slasher movie fare that just wasn't nearly as entertaining as a slasher should be and throw in some remarkably stupid visions involving Laurie's dead mother, a white horse, young Michael and some snow and we have the majority of the body of the film.

When we get to the big finale, we have more visions and illusions, Michael and Laurie locked in a shack and Dr Loomis somehow able to walk through a police barricade to get in there to talk sense into Michael. After some truly bad choices of seeing the shot through a night-visioned sniper scope's point of view Michael is taken down (but certainly not out as Zombieween 3 is coming) we get Laurie walking out of the shed with Michael's mask on and it looked sillier than when young Michael wore the mask in the first Zombieween.

And finally the movie closes out with Laurie sitting with her head down in a long white hospital room, quite obviously a psych ward, and when she looks up we get one last look at Sherri Moon Zombie and her fucking white horse. Then the shot cuts back to Laurie who looks up and gives an incredibly cheesy smirk to the camera.

John Carpenter's music doesn't show up until the scene of Laurie wearing the mask which is a shame since Zombie's choices for music weren't good. Rob Zombie really wanted to make an artsy film here under the moniker of Halloween and what we got was a giant turd. A giant horse turd. In fact I was the white horse would have taken a dump every time it was on screen, at least then we would have some symbolism for the film.

This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

No Thanks/10