Monday, October 31, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011) - 3/5

I'll be the first to admit: I'm very picky with my comedy. Great comedies are rare and succeed usually due to the alignment of three things - a funny script, an able cast, and a director with timing. These three things seem to rarely come together in the perfect ways, but from the highly regarded way that "Bridesmaids" was receiving praise I felt I was obliged to see if this was going to be the surprise that "The Hangover" was in how it was crafted. It's not. My disappoint in the film wakes not because it is missing one of these three items like so many films do, but because it rarely seems to get them out of the "vulgar with a gold heart" arena that has become so common place since Kevin Smith began to make it an art-form.

Annie (Wiig) has just discovered that her long time friend Lillie (Rudolph) has become engaged. Not only this, but she will be the maid of honor and have to begin planning a slew of wedding events for her long time friend. This, coupled with her slowly sinking life of being broke, alone, and having no ambitions, may just lead Annie into a full on competition with another bridesmaid (Byrne) for redemption.

I heard it repeatedly. How hilarious "Bridesmaids" was. How vulgar it was. How unique it was. On surface levels this is true. It is rather intriguing to have a comedy where the women in the film are the vulgar ones who swear, make sex jokes, and generally act like children. In some extents it's even funny. Wiig portrays the lead character, for whom we follow through the trials and tribulations, in relative solid form giving us someone to root for through the blunders of her life and the supporting cast more than makes up from the punch line laughs set up through the various situations that arise as our bridesmaids stumble through this wedding process. The script gives us enough situations to ponder and just enough set ups to get the point across, but the true highlights of the comedic element come from the rather quick banter and odd offbeat moments (with definite praise towards McCarthy and her straight up and often odd supporting bridesmaid Megan).

Yet, strip down "Bridesmaids" from the rather gimmick laid premise of women swearing and shitting in the middle of the street, and what is left is the exact same "heart of gold with vulgarity" film we've been repeatedly bashed in the face with first with Kevin Smith and then with Judd Apatow. It's by the numbers with its progression, easy to predict in how things will play out, and rarely deviates from the now patented formula to give us anything truly clever or unique. This is what is so massively disappointing with this film. The concept could have be ground breaking and genre defining, but the film's penchant for not taking the concept to its full lengths or to more or the more awkward moment leaves it oddly tasteless for the sweetness of its ideas. It succumbs to its "hit rock bottom, find the flaw, rise up" main plot and its random romantic sub plot with such force that its true highlights, that being its caricature like supporting cast and their interactions, are lost in fray.

"Bridesmaids" might be a great film for those who can't possibly get enough of Apatow and his upheaval of the comedic cinema spectrum, but for those looking for a bit more in a comedy might be a bit disappointed as it simply follows the formula to an almost perfect "t" - lettings it's rather clever idea fall a bit flat.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Mutant Hunt (1987) - 1/5

In the mid-80s home video revolutionized how people saw movies. Along with the home video market soon came idea of making films that would be made-for-video without the luxury of a theatrical release. Though producer Charles Band was busy making theatrical films with his Empire Pictures production company, he was at the head of the pack producing cheap pieces of direct-to-video junk for his Wizard Video outlet. With marketing gimmicks such as "too gory for the silver screen" printed on their eye-catching box artwork, Band suckered in horror and cult movie buffs to see these trash pictures that had no chance of living up to the glorious paintings that adorned the cover. "Mutant Hunt" is one of these releases that's artwork attracted my attention as a child that didn't live up to my trash loving expectations.

In the near future, a psychotic madman injects three cyborgs with a drug that causes them to be psycho sexual killing machines that mutate at an incredible rate and become ten times stronger than a normal human. Now a mercenary, which I like to refer to a cheap-jack "Blade Runner", must stop 'em before they brutally rape and kill the entire region.

With a title like "Mutant Hunt" one can't expect art. The acting is just above porn level, the sets are non-existent, the music is lifted from "Breeders" and Tim Kincaid's directing is again uninspired. Hell the plot even leaves too many doors open such as why the hell does our villain inject these cyborgs with a mutation psycho drug? His intentions is unbelievable. The one highlight is the practical special effects which includes some gore and tops out when a cyborg starts ripping his face apart. Does it live up to the marketing gimmick "too gory for the silver screen"? Not by a long shot but the effects at least keeps the film trucking along.

Not that I was expecting anything spectacular with a title like "Mutant Hunt", but for a film that not only has 'mutants', but 'mutant cyborgs' this should have been a lot more entertaining than it is. The formula for a great trash classic just doesn't compute thanks to the atrocious acting and bland direction making "Mutant Hunt" far below the loveable flaws of Charlie Band's theatrical efforts at the time. You think that Tim Kincaid would have learned a thing or two about making enjoyable bad movies after helming both "Robot Holocaust" and "Breeders" prior to this but nada.

Still "Mutant Hunt" has it's small, very small legion of fans and Charlie Band finally finagled the rights to the film away from MGM and recently released it on DVD. Don't get your hopes up though as this isn't comparable to the "stellar" DVD release MGM gave to Kincaid's previous direct-to-video trash venture "Breeders". That release was transferred from original film elements. What you get with "Mutant Hunt" is an old VHS transfer. Watchable but still on the blurry side. Still it's better than hunting down an over-priced worn-out VHS ex-rental.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead (2009) - 1.5/5

Let's hit the recap button: "Wrong Turn" was a solid enough if not cliche ridden return to your basic 80s slasher film. "Wrong Turn 2" kicked that in the ass of ridiculousness and wowed with its campy execution and perfectly outrageous story. "Wrong Turn 3" starts off seeming to follow Joe Lynch's brilliant move on "2", but then decides that it needs to be more serious and the film sinks back to levels below the original one. One were the film is worse on almost every level and rarely redeems itself with anything one looks for in a slasher.

A group of inmates and prison guards being transferred through hellbilly country on a quick and alternate route, find their bus topsy turvy and a genetically altered cannibalistic hillbilly hunting them down. Can society's worst find a way to work with each other or die on the worst night of their lives?

The opening sequence (no, not that long ass rafting sequence...the one following) had my hopes up for this film. It was horribly written, threw in gratuitous gore and nudity, and brought out the silly characters into the limelight - and it was a riot to watch. It was almost like what Joe Lynch did with "2". It grabbed the concept by the hair and drug it through its ridiculousness kicking and screaming.

After that the film tanks. I mean tanks. "Wrong Turn 3" takes what was going well in the first handful of minutes and just...leaves it to die in the woods. Our new protagonists (both cops and crooks) get too serious, the writing is still just as bad - particularly the dialogue which is pretty bottom of the barrel, and the special effects go into "made for TV" territory. It's like watching your favorite drink slowly swirl down the sink drain after you only had a sip. It's simply sad.

Really though, one expects a straight to DVD slasher about inbred/mutant hillbillies (or one hillbilly and random hillbilly kid as it would turn out for this one) to be rather bad. A few things though make "Wrong Turn 3" abysmal. It takes itself far too seriously with its characters and plot progressions and never has enough good writing or actors to sell either. It also lacks the special effects required to see it through as a good slasher. There is extensive use of lame looking CGI gore and despite some clever death sequences, most of them are ruined by poor builds and the film's inability to blend the serious plot with its ridiculous kills. It's disappointing all the way around.

This horror franchise kicked from mediocre to surprisingly awesome to deceivingly bad. "Wrong Turn 3" reminds us how bad low budget slashers can be without a creative force behind it. It rarely inspires enjoyment (sans some of the unintentional humor of its awfulness) and its poorly executed slasher elements don't even give slasher fans what they come to expect from one of these films. Let's just hope the next installment...a prequel from the same director...can redeem this franchise from this low point.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seconds Apart (2011) - 3.5/5

There is something to be said about the results of low expectations. Let's be honest, "Seconds Apart" didn't seem to have a lot going for it on paper. The After Dark Originals thus far have more or less been misses, the film has Orlando Jones in it (you know, "Make 7...UP YOURS!" guy), and it's about twins with the power to control people's minds. There's not a whole lot that would indicate a solid independent film. Ironically, it is. Surprisingly solid acting, a story that rise above the gimmick, and a well structured storytelling process makes "Seconds Apart" the best After Dark Original thus far.

Seth and Jonah (Entin and Entin, respectively) are two very strange twins. They are almost identical in every way and they creep their classmates out. It's a legit felling since the two have some very creepy abilities like telekinesis and telepathy and they get their kicks by making their fellow students do creepy things, record them, and then wipe their minds. When a detective (Jones) begins to suspect the twins in a strange suicide case, he finds himself spiraling down into a long tunnel of deceit, danger, and creepy twins.

"Seconds Apart" does a surprisingly effective job at rising above its gimmicky premise. Granted, it has some moments that fall prey to its concept and its oddities, but this film tries its ass off not to feel that way.
The writing is clever enough to not treat itself like a made for SyFy original film (particularly with its rather intriguing twist ending that caught me off guard...even if it doesn't really make sense) and even though it runs into a few cliches along the way like its tragedy stricken detective, it pushes for the sky and it pays off.

This is also helped by the higher end quality of the film. It looks like a theatrically released horror film. It's got great production values with some solid enough special effects and the acting is surprisingly well done considering its real life twins who own their roles and Orlando Jones doing his best to sell a serious detective character. The directing is also solid enough to sell the concept with vigor for some of the higher intensity moments. The film all around succeeds at selling the story.

This is not a film for everyone as the concept just might run a little illogical, but if you let the film sweep you for the ride, it's a fun trip with surprisingly good execution. It has its flaws, but it's still the best After Dark Original I've see thus far.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Howling: Reborn, The (2011) - 2/5

Out of all the recent horror sequels to long dead franchises, such as "Children of the Corn" and "Hellraiser", the last I would expect another entry in is the damn "Howling" series. Seriously who thought this was a good idea? Did they see the seventh film "Howling: New Moon Rising"? As cliché as it may be I am being completely honest in saying it is one of the worst films I have EVER seen. That entry should have welded the door of the "Howling" franchise shut for good but low and behold, sixteen years later part 8 quietly emerges on the sales racks, with distributors hoping the bad aftertaste of a number of the last sequels has faded with the older horror film fan crowd leaving the young, "Twilight" inspired viewers to lap this bandwagon effort up.

Well we get introduced to a young nerdy high school student right before graduation that has a hard-on for the local bad girl in his class. He somehow manages to win her over but not before his dead mother comes back from the grave, showing her son that he has a really hairy situation on his hands. You see, she's a werewolf and she's come back for her son to tempt him to the animal side. He will have none of it and whilst locked in a high security high school, he must protect his true love from his mother and her legions of the hairy killers.

I will admit that the production values shocked me at first as they are very reputable for a direct-to-video feature. The special effects are impressive (without an overabundance of CGI) and director Joe Nimziki gives the film a unblemished, sterilized look with its polished white and black color spectrum. The acting by the young cast is also commendable by our two little lovebirds Landon Liboiron ("Teranova") and cutie Lindsey Shaw.

The problem I have with this film is that that it's a "Twilight" knock-off complete with a story that's focus is on love and throws in werewolves for good measure. This is a fucking "Howling" sequel... not "Twilight" so let's see werewolf carnage without the PG-13 "Twilight" crap! Hell there is even a character that takes a jab at the recent "Wolf Man" remake by stating that werewolf movies always star 40 year old fogies. Fuck that, give me my 40 year old fogies as opposed this teeny bopper crap. Hollywood's obsession with youth drives me bonkers!

Not only does our plot take inspiration from the dreaded "Twilight" series but it's got tons of ridiculous plot holes and conveniences. First of all this high school has a security system that would make the Umbrella corporation from the "Resident Evil" franchise cum. Seriously, giant metal doors for lockdown? Also how the hell is our hero werewolf able to build a flamethrower in his chemistry lab? Why does the chemistry lab stock silver nitrate? Why does the security guard have hollow point bullets? Why does his mom abandon him, fake her own death only to show up on his graduation? How the hell is he able to bring his girlfriend back to life by shocking her with power cables from the elevator? It's enough for the beast to come out within me!

"The Howling: Reborn" is a sequel I'm really torn about. The fact that the plot has no connection to any of the other "Howling" film has no merit as most of those were standalone plots that just happen to have werewolves. From a filmmaking standpoint this is the best sequel as the acting is good and so are the effects. What burns my bacon is at least the other entries were at their roots horror films through and through, unlike this "Twilight" inspired love plot. It's like the producers got the rights to the "Howling" name, hired a writer to make a film like "Twilight" with werewolves and hope the title would suck in horror fanatics to see it. It worked on me, I'll admit, as no way in hell would I have ever watched it without the word "Howling" in the title. Due to that it fails to rejuvenate the franchise as horror fans hate "Twilight" and "Twilight" fans wouldn't watch a "Howling" sequel. That leaves "The Howling: Reborn" in purgatory, a film without a clear definition on what it wants to be. Hey, look on the bright side... it's better "Howling: New Moon Rising."

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) - 1/5

Two things that made me wary of the ninth entry into the long running "Hellraiser" series: 1) it does not have Doug Bradley as Pinhead and 2) it flew into production so fast, I'm sure no one spent any time actually considering making it a good film. These worries are completely and utterly justified as I write this and the credits of this rather atrocious film roll. Fans of the franchise should certainly be cautious and those looking to get into the "Hellraiser" films should steer clear too. In fact, its probably a good idea just to avoid "Revelations" if you like horror at all.

Two young friends Nico (Gillespie) and Steven (Nick Eversman) decide to take a break from the privleged life and head down to Mexico for some shenanigans. There a vagrant approaches them with the promise of new experiences via a puzzle box as long as they can solve it. Now these two young boys are bringing hell back with them to their homes as they try to outrun their destinies and the sinister Cenobites.

"Hellraiser: Revelations" is just simply a hard film to swallow for fans of the series. It essentially regurgitates many of the plot points of the original one (friend opens box, goes to hell, tries to escape, family gets involved to horrific results) - but it does so in such a way that it rarely feels like an homage to the original one. It feels more like its just steals all the good elements throws them in a blender and spews it out without a whole lot of rhyme or reason to how it should play out. All the good ideas are there, but in all the wrong places with all the wrong executions to go with it.

The structure of the film is crappy, half the time it flashes back with various time jumps trying to create a visceral storytelling experience, but failing to elicit the emotional connections to make it work. The acting is SyFy quality and Victor Garcia's directing (see "Mirrors 2" for another one of his crappy sequels) seems rushed and desperate to cling to some sort of style. Really the only thing good about this film (that earns it the one point out of five) is its special effects. The skinned bodies, the make-up effects, and wounds all look very good for a direct to home video film. Guess that's what you get for a film with a horribly low budget that's directed by a special effects guy.

It also has to be mentioned that the guy replacing Doug Bradley as Pinhead is hilarious. Not in a good way, mind you, but in a "he tries so hard to make the horrible lines he has scary with his mediocre make-up and goofy stares" kind of hilarious. I know the franchise uses Pinhead as a face and/or mascot, but they seriously should have just skipped using the character at all. I would have been much more impressed had they written a way around using him rather than try to replace the iconic actor.

It's obvious that Dimension Films blasted this sequel into fruition for legal purposes rather than trying to make a legitimate film. It rarely uses anything clever story wise and its executions all around are pretty sub-standard (sans make-up effects). It's plot holes are huge, its progression is forced, and Pinhead is a joke. "Revelations" makes "Hellworld" look like a classic piece of film. That says quite a bit just itself. Let's end this review with a nice little quote from "Hellraiser" creator Clive Barker about this film and the use of his name with it: "I want to put on record that the flic [sic] out there using the word Hellraiser IS NO FUCKIN' CHILD OF MINE! have NOTHING to do with the fuckin' thing. If they claim its from the mind of Clive Barker, it's a lie. It's not even from my butt-hole."

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blair Witch Project, The (1999) - 3/5

Since it would seem lately I have been kicking it with the old 'found footage' horror, I decided to throw myself back to where it suddenly became a popular gimmick - "The Blair Witch Project". Although one has to admit that the film changed the way horror would be viewed in the coming years and that directors Myrick and Sanchez went for the throat in realism for it, its hard for me not to criticize the film for being too subtle and too lackluster with its pacing. Not to mention, dare I say it...BORING.

Three students on their way to make a documentary about a local legend The Blair Witch find themselves in a bit of a bind when their brief shoot in the woods where the supposed ghost lives elongates itself unexpectedly. Random and often sinister occurrences keep them in the forest and things begin to spiral out of control.

What is brilliant about "The Blair Witch Project" was how effectively Myrick and Sanchez make this film feel. Actors who ably handle the improvised script, the look of the film and its scratchy sound and poorly lit atmosphere, and of course the subtlety of the reoccurring phenomenon that never feels the need to explain itself to the audience. If you miss the first half hour, you will be completely lost to the relevancy of many of the details of the film. In a way, this is insanely respectable as the filmmakers simply destroy the concept in execution.

These elements that make it seem so real (and perhaps so scary to some) are also the same elements that hinder the film from truly going to the places it could have gone. The little things are huge things to the characters - like piles of rocks and sticks hashed together - seem rather mundane and boring for those how haven't bought into the "its real!" gimmick. It's simply not scary, no matter how well the actors cut it or the atmosphere lays it on. That builds to the end of the film, so that the pacing feels like its going at a snail's pace for a majority of the film. When they do suddenly find something more extensive than rocks and sticks (the house sequence at the end), that's when it gets exciting and throws in a nice twisted detail to cap it all off. Until the last ten minutes though, its almost too real for its own good.

I have massive respect for "The Blair Witch Project" and how its clever idea and execution (including a fascinating internet viral campaign that was the first of its kind) changed the way horror could be done, but generally speaking, the film rarely scares and chances the viewer losing interest if they aren't hooked into its realism. A film that I highly recommend for those privy to inventive film-making or pieces of film that change the landscape, but beyond that its mostly hype.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2 (2011) - 3.5/5

The first "Laid To Rest" garnered some praise for its mixture of modern style and throwback slasher motifs. It was also a film that suffered from both of these as its acting and plot logistics overcame the solid directing and very awesome villain. This is why "Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2" intrigued me so. It had to improve on these elements to create a better film and it certainly does. Not to the extent I would have hoped as it still suffers a bit from the same flaws, but its new directions and increased presence of pacing certainly help.

Three months after the events of "Laid To Rest", a mysterious organization that the silver skull wearing serial killer runs has kept the villainous knife wielding maniac alive. Now our last remaining survivor Tommy (Dekker) must work with a police unit hunting down Chromeskull before he starts his killing spree again. Can they stop him before he gets to them first or will upheaval in the ranks of Chromeskull's organization crumble the entire plan?

Where the first film very much structured itself and followed the blueprint for 80s slashers as close as possible, "Chromeskull" takes the franchise towards a more modern slasher style to match Robert Hall's solid directorial look. Although it still highly enshrouds the villain in cloak and dagger, it does bring this "organization" to light and gives us a new villain in the form of the efficiently dangerous Preston (Brian Austin Green) who also happens to be the best actor in the film. Even though much of the logical progression of the plot seems to be secondary to its pacing (people drive very quickly from place to place here), the rather interesting directions that Hall takes this sequel and the dynamics of the villains makes it worth watching just for that.

For the other part of "Chromeskull", Hall and company continue with the slasher run-around. Our heroes are rather weak honestly as protagonists and the actors match it with their rather lackluster performances. The first half of the film has some stunningly awesome kill sequences, but it gets a bit repetitive by how it goes about weaving in the slasher-ing with the secondary plot of the organization. It's not until the last act when it all comes to a head that "Chromeskull" truly pushes its slasher moments to full speed and that's when the film works best.

"Chromeskull" has to work its ass off once again to overcome its budget restraints and plot inconsistencies, but with an even more clever idea, another bout with an awesome slasher killer, and some seriously great special effects this sequel actually outperforms the original one. It takes the chances and they pay off.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Red State (2011) - 2.5/5

With a floundering career as a director/writer in comedy with the likes of "Zack and Miri" trying too damn hard and "Cop Out" not trying hard enough, Kevin Smith decided to jump ship and head over to a genre where the bang for his buck is probably more worth it. Horror. Thusly we are given "Red State", a rather odd horror film that rarely feels like horror and tends to over preach against both state and church. It certainly has its moments, the black humor is quite fitting and its wicked quick pacing works, but overall "Red State" disappoints. Not unlike the last handful of Kevin Smith films.

Three teenage boys are tricked by the promise of quick sex into becoming hostages by an over zealous church oriented and generally hateful family whose anger towards the unGodly is only matched by the stockade of firepower held in the compound. When the government gets involved via the shaky hand of ATF Agent Keenan (Goodman), all hell might break loose in the name of God.

What's so frustrating about "Red State" (and for many independent horror films in general) is that the concept and potential for this film is quite intriguing. A religious group who abducts kids for their sins against God and the investigation into it. It's like an even more controversial sounding version of "Hostel". For both good and bad though, this film was directed and written by Kevin Smith.

This means that a) some of the oddly timed humor will work and there will be a fairly solid style to the film. It also means that b) its never going to shut up. Talk, talk, talk. This film gets so damn preachy about government, guns, and God that it reminded me why I quit following Kevin Smith on Twitter. We get it. Don't beat our skulls in with your concepts. Smith certainly piles it on and rarely leaves anything for the audience to think about without it being shouted. Luckily, the acting is quite impressive (including John Goodman and our villain Michael Parks) and can sell most of the main parts. The supporting cast is wishy washy but that's due to....

...To the rather ridiculous plot progression. The story is interesting. The characters are too, but the film never really feels like a horror movie. It starts off in a rather cliche horror fashion with isolated kids being threatened by death at the hands of nutty people. Then it takes a turn, ignores the kids, and goes straight into a Waco like scenario leaving the audience with really no one to root for or any care to what actually happens in this awkward circumstances. It's like two different films sort of glued together. Awkwardly at that.

The film does end on a rather high note, blending Smith's penchant for dark humor with a clever spin, but by that time I had already checked out due to the rather preachy nature of the dialogue and the choppy script progression. Smith's directing is solid and modern and many of the performances are much better than they should have, but the film's foundations are too flawed to really make it work like it should have. Respect goes to Smith for the rather intense leap of style, but the film isn't what it could have been.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quarantine (2008) - 3.5/5

Brace yourself, just when you thought it was safe to praise "[Rec]" as one of the best horror films of the last decade the Hollywood remake machine pumps out their own version (within a year, mind you) in the form of "Quarantine". A fairly efficient remake, it does happen to be damn close to being shot for shot in similarity with only a few new scenes and bit of dialogue added. Just not as good as the original in any aspect. It's close, but fans of "[Rec]" will be more than happy to skip this and rewatch the superior Spanish film.

Angela (Carpenter) and her cameraman are up late filming a feel good story about the late night firemen that work so hard in city. When the call comes in to help an old lady in distress at an older apartment complex, she tags along to film the highlight of their night with the fire department. Unfortunately, the routine call ends up getting them all quarantined under mysterious circumstances with a rabid virus that seems to be turning the people in the building into ravenous zombies.

For those of you new to either film, "Quarantine" pumps up the zombie genre with some nice intensity. The 'found footage' handheld camera throws the viewer straight into the panic. As with the original, this version ably supports this idea by replicating the isolation element of this run-down and often far too small apartment complex and pummeling it with disorienting camera work that leaves one unsure of where things are and how it will play out. The zombies/infected (any difference at this point with modern films like this?) are downright vicious and fast and it just adds onto the rather dense atmosphere of the film. These two elements are well executed and surely will have viewers leaping from their seats at many moments.

To its fault, "Quarantine" does have a hit or miss cast. Although Jennifer Carpenter works her leading lady role to her best, its hard to shake the sister character she plays in "Dexter" form my notions of her and the supporting cast sports quite a few recognizable faces that sort of ruins the 'in the moment' experience even if someone does a decent enough job at what needs to be accomplished. In a way, the cast just isn't strong enough to make me forget that its actors.

For those unfamiliar with either film, "Quarantine" is an efficient film that ably blends the zombie outbreak intensity with great atmosphere and the chaotic style of the handheld camera. It's rather style driven though with its hit or miss cast/acting and for those who have seen "[Rec]" it just sort of falls quite short of the brilliance of that independent modern horror classic. My suggestion goes towards the original, even though this film does as admirable job at replicating it's successes. Solid, but not as great as the original.

BONUS PRAISE: The few scenes they added really don't do much more than pad the general plot with a few more details, but the addition of the infected dog was quite a clever twist. Not to mention it gives us a great moment of when the survivors have to get back on the elevator with the vicious canine. IT'S HAMMER TIME.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Amer (2010) - 4/5

Throwback horror in this day and age isn't all that original. It's either done with complete earnest to idea like the tense "House Of The Devil" or done with enough tongue in cheek to remind us of why it was so much fun like "Chillerama". Rarely though, does any one homage the now very distinct and punctuated giallo style of the 60s and 70s (sans the nods via Rob Zombie). This is what makes "Amer" so unique. Not only does it run with the style at full force, but it makes it a full on art form for the full length of this French thriller.

Ana (as played by three different actresses discerning each age group) is traumatized as a youth towards the mysterious and sexual. After years of dealing with these issues that leave her somewhat disjointed, he decides to return home to chateau where it all began.

It's really hard to properly describe "Amer" as a plot or characters. This film ably pursues and succeeds at being atmosphere. When I say that this thriller takes what Dario Argento or Mario Bava was doing with the style and makes it art - I sincerely mean that. For a thriller, the film rarely has any plot, villains, or dialogue for that matter. It's an almost wordless character study of a mind collapses done in throw back form complete with wicked effective framing for shots, outrageous color schemes including blasts of red, yellow, blue, and green, rapid fire edits to balance out the long paced shots, stupendous acting done with the majority of it through close ups of the eye or various other body parts, and (of course) a legitly augmented 70s style score that only bursts at the most impressionable times. In these ways, "Amer" completely envelopes the viewer in its giallo style with so much intensity it hurts.

Why then is "Amer" not a perfect film if it perfectly exhibits the style in all of its throwback and distinct glory? That's just it. Directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani do it so well as an art form that the film feels completely out of context as a film. The relatively plotless plot seems to meander a bit too much in the middle section (particularly when our main character is a young woman out to town with her mother) so that by the time we get to the to the finale, where it begins to bring it full circle to its stunningly well down first third of the film, the interest in what will happen has waned a bit. Luckily the film ends on an extremely well executed high note that ably brings back a killer's POV and gloved hands that were so distinctive for the style to begin with.

Although I have to admit the visceral journey that "Amer" takes the viewer on with its bombarding giallo force is a spectacle that any well versed horror fan should take is amazing, the film itself gets almost too artsy for its own good really faltering on giving us the reasons to give a rat's pajamas about the outcome of the characters or film. That being said, "Amer" will please any fans of the long forgotten genre and hopefully brings about a revival movement for this highly underrated film style.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Hisss (2010) - 1.5/5

I had really been looking forward to "Hisss". Jennifer Lynch caught my eye with the surprising "Surveillance" and the idea of a cross India/US horror film based on a snake goddess simply hit my curiosity chord. The lacking news about its US release killed some of the hype behind it and its rather magical appearance in Red Boxes without a legit release certainly got me worried. My worries were justified. "Hisss" can now be filed under the MASSIVE DISAPPOINTMENT column with its asinine artistic flourishes, B-movie grade script, and awful SyFy looking visual effects.

A police inspector (Khan) becomes baffled by a rather vicious series of murders. It would seem that Indian legends might be true, as the Nagin (Sherawat), a snake goddess, has come to reap vengeance in an attempt to free her trapped lover from a deranged American (Doucette) looking for immortality. Can he put aside his logical thinking to save the lives of civilians or perhaps let the Nagin do her thing?

Let me begin by saying that not everything about "Hisss" is a massive disappointment. Khan as the police detective does an admirable job with the role giving it a nice human touch and Robert Kurtzman showcases some great make-up design with the physical special effects. The transformation scenes into snake/person thing are very cool and well done. Even Jennifer Lynch seems to craft the occasionally solid artistic moments here and there for some moments worth the time watching.

These are just not enough to over come the massive flaws that are created by some poor character development, shoddy scripting, and Jennifer Lynch's over bearing attempts with making it all an 'artistic venture'. Our resident villain for the film (which is not the snake lady mind you) is over acted and over the top, our supporting cast are shades of real characters, and the script they have to follow is as just as over the top silly as the horrible CGI snake effects particularly those of the giant man sized cobra. This is partnered with far too many scenes that will have you scratching your head in confusion as the "artsy" edits and random moments (like a crying naked woman that hangs upside down on a lamp post) seem to come out of left field. At times I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh or cry at the sheer ridiculousness of this film.

Maybe I'm the idiot. Maybe I don't get the Bollywood references and cultural differences that are certain to be shoved into this film since I can't stand the Bollywood look and feel. Maybe "Hisss" is just one of the biggest WTF moments for this year. Doesn't matter though as many of you may agree - this B-grade horror film is just that done with enough faux artistic moments to make it confusing and silly beyond its own concept.

BONUS RANT: Perhaps the strangest scene in the entire film is when our snake woman (in human form) actually has snake sex with her lost lover (in snake form) towards the end of the film. It's done in completely serious form that references the mating ritual at the beginning of the film. On paper it may have looked like something legit, but on the film...yipes...its just very awkward for everyone.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Last Exorcism, The (2010) - 3.5/5

Once again, I put off seeing this 'mock-umentary' due to the fact that a) it was another 'found footage' film and b) exorcism films in the last decade rarely do anything revolutionary to make themselves original. I ended up with it in my collection due to Eli Roth's name attachment and since it is Halloween-tober I decided to throw it in. To my pleasant surprise, "The Last Exorcism" holds its own and does so fairly interesting things with the concept. Despite some areas where it tends to run through the motions, the overall presentation works and it makes for a rather intriguing watch.

Cotton Marcus (Fabian) is a very charismatic reverend whose faith in God has certainly been shaken in the last few years. He continues to preach and perform the exorcisms that he was known for, knowing how well it helps those who need it, but decides to film how ridiculous the entire exorcising process is with some documentary makers. This leads them into Louisiana to help the Sweetzer family whose father has come to believe that his young daughter is being possessed by the devil.

Let's start with the strong points of "The Last Exorcism". Firstly, for its low budget (I read it was roughly 1.8 million dollars somewhere), it does some admirable things to sell its concept. Obviously, with its 'found footage' look it saves some money there, but hiring a young girl who has the natural ability to contort (along with some solid enough acting chops to see it through) and doing the few bits of quick camera work to build the tension to sell off some of the moments was just simply smart film making. Partner this with a solid performance for our lead and some interesting plot twists and "The Last Exorcism" has the makings to be a very memorable film.

Not all is completely brilliant though. Many of the scares are regular exorcism film cliche moments that adds a bit of that Japanese ghost looks with the hair over the eyes and are not all that 'scary', but the film makers certainly make it seem legit enough. Not to mention a rather left field twist for the ending is somewhat ruined with rushed pacing and lacking build. "The Last Exorcism" works on many levels but still falls prey to its genre in many others.

To be honest, I was certainly impressed with how well "The Last Exorcism" sold itself and the concept. It has some clever writing and directing that brings out the best out of a surprisingly good cast. It does run a bit cliche here and there and never really does anything unique with the found footage look - but for what it is, it does make it worth the watch. A big surprise.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stake Land (2010)

Director: Jim Mickle
Notable Cast: Conor Paolo, Nick Damici, Danielle Harris

There has been some stunningly good horror movies released this year and despite the recent re-vamp-ed bloodsucker fad continuing to suck the life from the genre, inventive spins on the mythos thrives. Just take a gander at Stake Land. Combining the super depressing post-apocalyptic vibe of The Road and twisting it with a solid and visceral vampire hunter tale, this ferocious and artistic vampire film cuts deep with great directing, a great story, and more than able cast. Certainly a must have for those into artistic horror films.

Martin (Paolo) becomes an orphan when his family is slaughtered by a vampire, one of many stricken by a new disease that is wiping out most of the population in the world. By chance, he is saved by a grisly vampire hunter only known as Mister (Damici) and the lone wolf takes him under his wing. The two then begin their long trek north to Canada, evading religious zealots and vampires, while cutting through some towns of survivors and making their way to safe haven known as New Eden.

The premise is epic, but Stake Land focuses down on the nuances and subtlety of its characters to drive the messages and story home for the audience. The balance between the epic and often creatively visual storytelling and the well crafted character work highlights this film as being an artistic and devastating tale of a future for this world. Martin and Mister's story is one of heart breaking sacrifices and grasped hopes as we follow them and learn to love and hate the world they live in. The two leads are the heart of this film, brought to vivid life by stunningly well acted moments, a superbly written script, and an insightful eye for the details by director Mickle. It scares at all the right moments unafraid to show the horrors of the vampire scourge with visual efficiency (seeing a vampire drop a drained bloody baby with the extremely well executed special effects is enough to make one squeamish) and still packs in enough thoughtful human horror (the terrifying religious zealots and their devotion to God's wrath is just as scary as inhuman bloodsuckers) to create a tension matched with its writing.

This is all painted with a dramatic post-apocalyptic touch that creates a very 'real' world for these intriguing ideas and characters to gallop in. Mickle does a damned fine job balancing all of this in the film and still comes out on top even when the film seems to fizzle out towards its final moments. He paints it with an edge that brings to life the brutality of its woe, but does so that even the audience never loses hope for our struggling group of survivors even with its very limited dialogue. Enough so that when any one of them bites the dust its kind of devastating for our psyche.

Many vampire films have focused on humanizing the creatures as of late, but Stake Land does its best to make a world where its irrelevant to the morality of the monster. They are here, so people just deal with it. In a way, its refreshing, inventive, and quite realistic at how the main characters have to deal with it. This is what makes Stake Land the visually stunning and deeply written tale it is.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Cursed (2005) - 1.5/5

Wes Craven's career as a director had be in a pretty steady decline for quite some time at the point that "Cursed" was released and as unfortunate as it is, this teeny werewolf film doesn't help it at all. Granted, it's not all Craven's fault here, in fact his directing is probably the highlight of this film, but a very cliche and overly silly script collapses the film from reaching its potential and the obvious production flaws build a film that's shaky at best. It has some hilarious moments, but nothing can right this sinking horror ship.

Ellie (Ricci) does her best to balance her complicated life of raising younger brother Jimmy (Eisenberg), working a successful career in TV, and finding out if recent boyfriend Jake (Jackson) might be the one. It's made far more complicated when a car wreck leaves her and her brother bitten by a massive werewolf. A bite that seems to leave them discovering some new abilities in themselves and a curse that might not have been an accident...

The most distinctive thing about "Cursed" is how rather unmemorable it is. It sounds silly, but I only watched this film a few days ago and when I began this review I could hardly remember anything about it. Now I have it playing in the background just so I can refresh my memory of what the hell even happened in this movie. This is not a great way for a film to leave its mark.

Beyond its rather striking mediocrity on leaving its stamp upon the ole noodle, "Cursed" is about as middle of the road as they get. Never seeming awful in its execution with some solid directing from Craven and a rather fun performance from Eisenberg as the nerdy brother, its just so damn by the numbers. Blah blah blah. Mark of the beast. Blah blah blah awful high school sequences with shitty dialogue. Blah blah blah super shitty character developments. The fact that this film was supposed to focus on the brother/sister duo and their growth with their new discoveries should have worked...it doesn't. Horrible pacing that seems scared to let characters talk too long without some sort of hit or miss werewolf action ices over a script that was obviously reworked far too many times (the stories about the atrocity of this films production are more intriguing that this final product) and tries far too hard to be hip. It's frustrating to watch a film with potential fail over and over again.

Granted, the film occasionally has its charming moments (never thought I would see a werewolf flip somebody off before) but they come far too rarely to win over this ship wreck of a foundation. "Cursed" tries and it earns a few points for Craven's decent directing and attempts to make it interesting, but its super poorly constructed plot progressions and awful attempts at being smart with its character twists just becomes too irritating to overlook.

"Cursed" might earn some merit along the way for being a cult film that has some moments here and there, but the general mediocrity of its execution just can't save it from the awful script and rushed ideas. Was it the true atrocity that so many claimed? Not really, "My Soul To Take" would eclipse that, but it certainly couldn't climb out of its own grave either. Massive disappointment.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, October 14, 2011

Woman, The (2011) - 5/5

Lucky McKee blew me away with the disturbing "May" and his Masters Of Horror episode "Sick Girl" was an exercise in extreme dark humor and his over the top social commentaries. Thusly, his latest and most controversial work "The Woman" continues to push the envelope for his style of horrific individuals and elevates his status as one of the best cult directors out there. This film makes the toes curl, makes one hate humanity, and never lets one let their jaw get up off the floor. This is horror at some of its greatest strengths.

A seemingly well established family living on the outskirts of town find themselves at a new set of moral crossroads when the over domineering father finds a wild woman living in the forest and captures her so that he may 'civilize' her. As his obsession with this new project grows, the rest of the family will have to make decisions about their lives and come to a head about how far is too far.

Knowing the series of Jack Ketchum novels that this film continues from (luckily avoiding being a sequel to the horrible "Offspring"), I fully expected "The Woman" to continue with its slasher format utilizing the animalistic tribe people as the villains...Lucky McKee and Ketchum obviously had other ideas for this one. The twist in "The Woman" happens to be that the audience fully sides with the vicious and violent wild woman. This dark and disturbing take on how a "normal" American family and their deranged father hits a bit too close with how humanity can be its own worst enemy - not outsiders. With a stunningly well written script and McKee's eye for making the most mundane moments seem obscene, it's a partnership of idea and style made in horror heaven.

Controversy does reign over the use of men and women (and their social values) in this film and it's easy to see why. For such a simple plot, it's viciously effective in deepening how one sees how easy things can spiral out of control. "The Woman" never shies away from this controversial subject. It's a hard film to swallow and after my viewing at the most recent Mile High Horror Film Festival, it took a few days for me to digest it fully. Rarely does it feel like the conventional horror film with the first two acts that rarely use jump scares or significant amounts of gore to scare the audience. What the characters do, to each other and our leading wild woman, is what is so horrifying. The father's demented sense of entitlement. The mother's fear of everything. The children's desperate attempts to cling onto whatever role model they can. It's not until the final act that the film kicks into rampage mode and by then...you're hooked and want to see justice served.

"The Woman" blasts the audience with both a vivid and unnerving tension with its frighteningly real plot and well crafted soundtrack, then it uppercuts that with dark humored style thanks to the ever impressive McKee at the helm. The acting is beyond superb and it creates this overbearing horror film experience that is a must see for fans of anything with depth to the horror. McKee strikes again and "The Woman" is the aftermath of just how impactful a horror film can be in this day and age.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Midnight Son (2011)

Ironically, when I was at the Mile High Horror Film Festival watching all these great independent horror films "Midnight Son" took home the audience award for best feature film. This is ironic because, in all honesty, it was probably my least favorite of the pictures I saw there. It's far from a dismal film, its a well executed and atmosphere driven vampire flick that succeeds at what it is, but fails to really push itself to certain dark areas that could have left the audience truly jaw dropped.

Jacob (Kilberg) is a young man with a few problems. As a child, a rare skin condition prevented him from being in the sun and now he eats and eats and eats, but his body rejects the nutrition. It would seem that blood is the only thing that curbs his hunger. With a new woman Mary (Parish) who suddenly comes into his complicated life, he has to make some serious decisions about what direction he must take with his life including how to handle a police investigation and some pissed off drug dealers.

In a weird cross over between "Let The Right One In" with its atmospheric tensions and the romantic story of two star crossed lovers that touches on a bit of "Twilight" here and there, "Midnight Son" is odd blend of artistic drama ventures and a new low key spin on the vampire mythos. It's done in a gritty sort of Michael Mann realism with tons of realistic lighting and minimal over the top movie moments (like bombarding soundtracks or crazy stunts) that really bring forth the best for its relatively plausible plot. The lacking focus on the super human parts of our lead's transformation into a full fledge vampire is refreshing, taking away from outrageousness and delving down into the characters and their arcs as his life and his new found love spiral further and further out of control. To its artistic merit, "Midnight Son" does deliver.

Unfortunately, the film seems to love taking its sweet time getting anywhere. The first two-thirds of the film are so subtle in its detailing and character builds that at times it just needed something to break the tension. Some sort of action or intensity to break up the monotony. Eventually, it does pay off as the last act kicks into overdrive and the slowly spiraling and building stories begin to collide with some solid pay offs (including a suddenly power hungry vampire obsessed drug dealer). It takes some time, but it gets there.

The appreciation for the artistic viewpoint on the overly saturated vampire market is nice, half the time I felt like the film wanted to go to some certain places but never did. The power crazed drug dealer for one seems quickly dispatched in the third act and many of the police investigations are brushed over for the sake of continuing our cursed hero's plight. It was certainly a solid film that earned much of the praise it has been receiving, but there are other films out there doing the same thing and doing it slightly better.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Want to catch a copy of "Midnight Son" for yourself? Pick yours up at the link below!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mile High Horror Film Festival 2011: Overview

There it goes. The highly anticipated Mile High Horror Film Festival for 2011. Three days jam packed with a slew of different activities and despite a slow start driving in circles looking for the damn place, my arrival was greeted with a rocking "And your name, sir?". All right, perhaps Blood Brothers Reviews isn't quite the epic review site that I'm the guy that earns trumpets when he walks in the room (you guys are getting us there though so go you!), but the vibe of the festival was accordingly festive. Props of horror and Halloween scattered about, bubbling cauldrons, folk dressed to the nines as goblins, witches, a giant 7 foot tall bloody rabbit...it was a party. Just the sort of thing I was hoping it would be and it was only kicking off for the long weekend.

The Mile High Horror Film Festival establishes such a ambitious vibe that its hard to wipe the smile off my face even a half a week later. It was professionally organized, utilizing the classic space of the Tivoli Theater in all of its old school glory, and the staff were more than supportive and helpful. The general efficiency of the festival is to be admired and director Timothy Schultz can be given a hand for that.

Even though the space and the organizers seemed well prepared for the onslaught of horror fanatics with booze and Red Vines (Mmmm...Red Vines), the films are the true highlight of this festival. Although I was unable to attend every screening, I packed in as much as I could (I'm kicking myself for missing the third block of short films which seemed to include all of the best ones I hear) and ended up spending around 24 hours total at the venue with a whopping 18 hours of that spent in actual films. The selections were STUNNING. As if the general party vibe of this gathering of like minds in religious manner to celebrate the greatest genre in film wasn't enough, the films shown included some of my favorites for the year - a task not as easy as it would seem. Spanning 11 countries, the slew of different horror films ranged from classic Grindhouse styles to artistic low key spins on well known mythos. The wide range of films and their well picked quality only showcases what The Mile High Horror Film Festival has to offer in the upcoming years.

This is all iced over with some great celebrity meet-n-greets. Directors, actors, and stuntmen all showed their appreciation to the fans by showing up signing what must have thousands of autographs and doing insightful Q&A sessions for those hungry to learn more. The list of celebrities was extensive and impressive including highlights like the ever kind Michael Berryman (who followed a showing of the classic film "The Hills Have Eyes") and directors Tim Sullivan and Adam Rifkin who presented their latest horror opus "Chillerama". Head over to the website HERE to see the impressive list of guests of honor.

I've been to a my fair share of special screenings, festivals, and underground horror events in my lifetime and The Mile High Horror Film Festival is the most fun I've ever had at a gathering of the horror inclined. It's crafted with heart and an obvious love for the genre as a festival catering to the ambitious crowd with overzealous effectiveness and the films shown are only of the highest quality and best diversity available. If you are reading this, this festival is the be-all-end-all of the best in underground horror and a must attend for those in the area (or fly out here you lazy maniacs). They have guarenteed a life time of support from Blood Brothers...that's for sure.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007) - 4/5

Although there were certainly elements to like about "Wrong Turn", it happened to just find itself floating in a river of 'meh' driving home a rather mediocre slasher experience. "Wrong Turn 2: Dead End" on the other hand, takes the franchise off into the right direction - that being an over the top, slightly tongue-in-cheek, and gruesome experience that earns director Joe Lynch into the "new directors to love" list at Blood Brothers and a series whose sequel actually out performs the original.

A group of haphazard and often ego maniacal reality TV contestants are driven back into the West Virginian woods for the latest 'survival TV' craze. Handled by survivalist Dale (Rollins) the group have to complete challenges and survive a fake apocalypse all the while being filmed for higher ratings. Turns out their survival fake out won't be so fake at all when a group of inbred/mutant monster people start to hunt them for food...

"Wrong Turn" was a by the numbers slasher film and interestingly enough, this sequel almost seems to poke fun at it. Although it certainly doesn't require seeing the original one to stand on its own (it does however have a few story elements that make sense better if you do), "Wrong Turn 2" takes the entire idea shoves its tongue down into the cheek and runs with it at a hundred miles an hour. The plot may be familiar, but the style and approach to what should have been a quick cash in script is hilarious and refreshing. Yeah, this film is not going to change the genre, but its a hell of a ride anyway.

It's built on cliches and views them as such. How do we get the most asinine and characteristic people in the woods? How about build it as a faux reality show with all of the various range of douche bags, heroines, jocks, and skanks in tow. How do we get more intense death sequences? How about adding in abandoned mills, traps, and Henry Rollins as a survivalist/Rambo-wannabe expert. It takes all of the cliches that we get in these sort of films, rolls them in ridiculousness, and force feeds them to the audience whether you want it or not. It's a riot to watch.

Of course, "Wrong Turn 2" isn't all spades, the acting is hit or miss (although Henry Rollins might have needed to get some sort of award for his character here) and some of the special effects are a bit lacking, but the way that Joe Lynch approaches the entire project makes for a hilariously rambunctious time for any self aware slasher fan. It's gory, funny, and completely fist pumping in its eagerness to feed the audience what they want from slashers. All to its own benefit. Impressive for a direct to DVD sequel to a mediocre slasher.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Chillerama (2011) - 4.5/5

What can really be said about "Chillerama" except that its a cult film for cult film fans made by cult film fans. Although here at Blood Brothers we have been fans of each of these four directors for some time (with highest praise for Adam Green), it was only obvious that a film who homages classic horror with four separate short films dedicated to certain time periods would rank up there quite high...even if it is done completely tongue in cheek the entire play time. It claims to be the ultimate midnight movie and it ranks up there with my favorite midnight movies for sure.

When a local drive in theater is about to be shut down, a final showing of a handful of short horror films seems to be the perfect send off. Modern classics like "Wadzilla", "The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein", and "I Was A Teenage Werebear" are all on the selection tonight...but when the dead begin to rise these young folk may just have to find a way to survive their last drive-in experience.

I won't get into each section and analyze those for you...because honestly, it needs to be seen to be believed and if you are a fan of any kind of 'cult' style film making then this is a MUST SEE. Each of the four directors brings their own flavor of over the top humor and pushes the limits of each short only to succeed over and over again. Although its sure to gross you out more often than not (Joe Lynch and his "Zom-B Movie" goes to some significant extremes to do so), the way that these young horror fanatics homage their respective eras is impressive. The musical numbers of the greaser era in "I Was A Teenage Werebear" are delightfully silly and fitting, the poor background screens for "Wadzilla" bring back young memories of watching horrible Godzilla films perfectly, the black and white and obvious low budget of "Anne Frankenstein" makes for some hilarious moments, and the sheer aggressiveness and grotesqueness of "Zom-B Movie" certainly brings to mind those late 70s and early 80s schlock films. This of course is why you MUST SEE it.

On top of its beyond clever concept and stellar directorial work, "Chillerama" succeeds in getting all of the stories pieced together in quite an efficient manner. Although not quite as complicated as "Trick R Treat", "Chillerama" gives us a reason to see all of the different stories in styles in a way that makes the whole film feel like a whole film rather than a bunch of smaller films tacked together. Not only do they do it, but they make it a hoot to watch in the process, which sells the idea even further.

If you are looking for more of a straight horror film, that's not "Chillerama". It's outrageous, completely tongue in cheek, and a fantastic watch for those versed in classic genre films. These directors/writers just keep getting better and better with their careers and this latest anthology film proves that they have the foundations to go even further.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

I Didn't Come Here To Die (2010) - 3.5/5

Sometimes it's the best choice to go into a film with no expectations whatsoever. This is how I went into "I Didn't Come Here To Die" and it left me with a rather pleasantly surprised experience. Of course, its neither the most original film not is it going to knock you dead with its rather by the numbers plot progression, but the oddity of its style and strong final half do much to impress.

A group of volunteers, each with their own reason to be there, head out to the middle of a remote woodland area to begin work at building a new summer camp. The group of youth kid about the legends surrounding the area, but when some very frightening accidents begin to happen, the line between the supernatural stories and the volunteers' sanity blur.

The most interesting and rather unique aspect of "I Didn't Come Here To Die" is how it blends the old school horror and the new school style. The directing is obviously done in a modern and sleek style utilizing lots of extreme close ups, rapid fire edits, and a bit of that modern shaky camera. This is partnered with a rather Grindhouse inspired aesthetic of gritty film, the creativity of working around its low budget for some interesting and brutal death sequences, and obvious homages in its intro (including a very badass title card). This combination proves to be a lethal idea that works well to embrace both worlds in harmonious combination of old and new. Certainly the highlight of the film.

"I Didn't Come Here To Die" also does well to keep its focus blurred with its writing. Normally, this is an aspect that would drive me insane, but the writing and on-screen delivery keeps the film balanced between having its motive be supernatural or whether its all in the volunteers' heads. Although I would have liked the film to further deliver in characters slowly becoming unstable mentally (the ghostly haunting of the girl in the gas mask works quite well even if the gas mask seems out of the left field), the film does balance it out to pristine measurements to make the second half a real nail biter.

Despite some hit or miss performances and a low budget, the cleverly blended writing and strong aesthetic brought out by the director fill in many of the weaker moments and gaping plot holes of logic. "I Didn't Come Here To Die" is not a great film, but the potential show by its artistic work and concept surprises in solidity and overrides many of its flaws.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kidnapped [Secuestrados] (2010) - 4.5/5

How do you spell kidnapped in Spanish? As this little independent horror/thriller would indicate, you spell it I-N-T-E-N-S-E. From minute one of this Spanish film, the tension skyrockets out of the stratosphere and never comes down leaving the audience a ragged and often disturbed version of their former self. Throughout my theater going experience (thanks to the very amazing Mile High Horror Film Festival), I cringed and gasped and simply awed at the simplistic spectacle that "Kidnapped" brought out on a silver platter. For sure one of the best films I've seen this year.

Jaime (Cayo) lives in relative luxury with his wife (Wagener) and daughter (Velles) in their brand new home. When a trio of masked burglars decides to ransack the family in their household one night, this average family will find themselves in life or death circumstances. As the robbery increasingly gets thwarted and soured by unexpected flaws of plan, this simple family must decide whether fight or surrender...a choice that may cost them their lives.

Reportedly, I've read that "Kidnapped" was filmed in 12 shots, although other reports do indicate that many of the cuts in the film were spliced in obscenely well hidden spaces. Yet it remains whether this is true or not, that the film feels like it was filmed in the most limited amount of editing possible and its stunning to think about. That's what matters. The endless shots bombard the audience with a sense of realism and realistic time as we ponder and sweat out the eventual ending or our protagonists. This realism is only heightened by the gritty filming style, the more than impressive acting, and the relatively low key added effects including score. Although what score there was certainly undermined the whole film with a sense of dread and was perfectly fitting. This sense of realism is truly the most horrific part of the film and director Vivas brings it to life in the most disturbing ways.

Forewarning though, "Kidnapped" is not for the weak of heart. Not only is the tension at 11 the entire film and the realism extraordinarily strong, but the film goes to some dark places in the plot that are horrifying just themselves. The plot is simple. It's rather basic. We've seen house raid movies before, but the realism combined with some of the dramatic turns of events (partnered with enough artistic sense to pull it off without seeming like a grindhouse feature) will make your toes curl. I'll just leave it at that.

"Kidnapped" was impressive from beginning to its rather sudden finish. The execution was incredible and even though the plot was basic, the artistic sense to pull off many of its outrageous ideas (including some split screen moments that made me want to become an alcoholic with tension) makes this film a horror fan must see. It's disturbing, but the respect for how it was done is immense.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Killage, The (2011) - 3/5

Although crafting a satire on slasher films isn't new (it fell to new lows with "Shriek"), it can still be presented in such a way to earn its own merits as both a comedy and a horror film. This Australian slasher satire, as if you couldn't tell it be one from its rather cleverly silly title, is hit and miss all around though occasionally dredging up some legitimate laughs with its ridiculousness only to fall prey to the wishy-washy cast and sometimes too basic jokes.

A group of young men and women, all of cliche personalities ranging from the Goth girl to a beefed up knuckle head that goes by the name Jock, are off to a work retreat to figure out who in the new company has the stamina to be team leader. Unfortunately for this group of dim-witted campers, one of them happens to be a murderous psychopath. Which one of them is the killer? Is it the forlorn heroine? The nerdy photographer? The stoner? Can the mystery be solved in time before everyone gets knocked off in creative ways? Is this too many questions?

Often enough, "The Killage" does exactly what it needs to for the satire on slashers to work. Our group is perfectly by the numbers, the kills are clever but ridiculous enough to earn some laughs (a woman is killed with dental floss and an electric toothbrush), and the plot moves in ways one often recognizes as basic slasher premises. In this way, this Australian indie film succeeds in spades. It's delightful in many of the asinine conversations and off beat re-occurring concepts (including a nude joke with the Jock character that never seems to end - which is part of why it works so well) and many of the cast members play it up as much as possible, selling it. It's hard not to claim that I didn't laugh my ass off at many moments, including an incorporated parakeet riff that pops up in the most random spots.

Beyond the basics though, "The Killage" suffers a bit. As fans of slasher satires, we've been spoiled with films like "Scary Movie" and "Scream" who push the boundaries of the idea to new areas catering to their audience with unrelenting grace. Even though I admire that "The Killage" was unafraid to be offensive in many ways with its odd gore and stereotypes, it could have pushed it further. Take out some of the serious undertones towards the end, throw in some quips, quotes, and homages to classic slashers and it would have done it perfectly. It has the foundations down, but some more details that let us know that they know what they are talking about in its slasher/comedy and it would have nailed a home run.

All in all, "The Killage" is a hilarious time for those willing to pull back their horror pretensions for the sake of a few ridiculous laughs. Not quite as tight in writing or executions as some others that take the idea running, but its often silly enough to evoke the joy that we get out of B-grade slashers.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Demonic Toys 2 (2010) - 1.5/5

In an attempt to reclaim their former glory after years and years of pumping out pure crap, Full Moon Pictures decided to produce sequels to two of their biggest hits "Puppet Master" and "Demonic Toys". The first sequel was "Puppet Master: Axis of Evil", an extremely disappointing sequel that proved that Full Moon was still a shadow of their former selves. The second sequel was "Demonic Toys 2" (despite two crossover films made previously with "Dollman vs. the Demonic Toys" and "Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys"). "Demonic Toys 2" ended up hair better than the new "Puppet Master" sequel but still proves Full Moon has a LONG way to go.

A collector of rarities shows up at an old Roman castle in order to collect an ancient toy unearthed by an archeologist. Of course he brings along a few demonic toys he picked up and an ancient evil brings the toys to life and possess the body of a psychic midget.

The continuity to the first "Demonic Toys" films is shaky at best (a character from the film "Hideous" even shows up). How did this collector get his hands on the toys from the warehouse in the original? It's never explained. Also not all the toys return so die hard fans will be disappointed that only Baby Oppsy and the demonic jack-in-the-box make an appearance but they might dig their new "Bride of Chucky" sewn-up appearance.

The production values are as low as they get, which isn't all that surprising. Director/writer William Butler does what he can but the film is still loaded with cheap-jack CGI effects and blood. The setting in a Roman Castle is no doubt due to budgetary reasons as it would be cost effective to film in producer Charles Band's personal property.

The plot is connect-the-dots loaded with the most cliché characters one can puke up onto a screenplay. Super smart, sexy archeologist, handsome love interest, creepy midget, and bitchy rich cunt all make their appearance and all the unlikeable ones predictably die off.

"Demonic Toys 2" was a valiant effort but it wasn't worth the 18 year wait after the guilty pleasure original. The cheap, digital look, bad CGI effects, bland plot and cliché characters makes this not near as fun. On the other hand it's far better than most of the shit Full Moon has been churning out for the past number of years.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Devil Within Her, The [I Don't Want to Be Born] (1975) - 1.5/5

The 70s was loaded with campy horror films, films that were made be taken seriously but thanks to ridiculous plot elements and bad acting they became unintentional laughfests. Most of these campy efforts were "Exorcist" and/or "Rosemary's Baby" knock-offs. "Beyond the Door" and "The Manitou" are two rip-offs two films in this category that had me on the floor with my gut aching with laughter. "The Devil Within Her" (not to be confused with "Beyond the Door" which was released in Great Britain with the same title) is one of these unintentional campfests that makes an excellent triple feature with the afore mentioned films.

Joan Collins plays a dancer that gets cursed by an evil midget (you read that right) after she avoids his sexual advances after a performance. The curse leads her new born baby to be a little devil, having superhuman strength and the ability to morph into an evil midget to kill off her loved ones. Can she break the curse with the help of a nun before the baby drives her mad?

The whole concept of this film is beyond ridiculous and it's amazing that the cast can keep a straight face throughout the film. A midget cursing an unborn baby... come on! One can't help but laugh when the new born slugs unsuspecting victim's faces, breaking their noses.

What's amazing about these campy crapshoot horror films is that they always managed to get great casts. We get Italian cult icon John Steiner ("Shock"), Hammer Horror icon Ralf Bates ("Horror of Frankenstein", "Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde") and gorgeous Caroline Munro ("StarCrash", "The Spy Who Loved Me"). Sadly Caroline is mostly wasted as the best friend but her beauty makes it easily forgivable for this reviewer. Donald Pleasance ("Halloween") does what he can as a confused doctor but I'm sure at the end of the day he's happy to collect his paycheck. Joan Collins plays herself (can she play anything else) but she is damn beautiful, bearing nice amounts of flesh proving her 43 year old body looks like it belongs on a 25 year old.

"The Devil Within Her" is a silly, unintentionally funny hybrid of "Rosemary's Baby" and "It's Alive" that is unfocused in the hands of Hammer director veteran Peter Sasdy ("The Vampir Lovers"). The film ended up so bad that it tried to hide itself under multiple titles around the world, including but not limited to "I Don't Want to Be Born" (it's original UK title), "Sharon's Baby", "The Monster" and "The Baby." Under any title, it still sucks but it is much watch for fans of unintentional campfests. Alcohol is recommended for full effect.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1991) - 2.5/5

With the character Mary Lou failing to win over horror audiences as a franchisable character with the missed opportunity "Prom Night III", filmmakers decide to ignore the last two Mary Lou entries and take the series in a new direction. Gone is the comical overtones substituted for a deadly serious tone reminiscent of the first entry. Also gone is Mary Lou substituted with a killer Catholic priest. Though the new approach failed to win over audiences, it won over me and I find "Prom Night IV" to be one of the more underrated of all the slasher sequels that fill video store shelves.

Like "Prom Night II" we open with a high school prom in 1957 where a psychotic priest decides to brutally kill some sinning teens. The church hides the incident by locking up and drugging the Priest into a catatonic state. Thirty years later, he awakens, escapes and decides to make a Prom Night a living hell for two teen couples having fun at a vacation home.

The deadly serious tone was a needed shift from the overly silly third entry. I also dug the bleak, cold snowy backdrop of the film taking place in the dead of winter. The best part however is Ken McGregor as our killer priest. This guy is fucking psychotic! Definitely good enough to make slasher fans forget that Mary Lou chick from the last entry.

Director Clay Borris is also able to craft some actual scares. Hard to believe for a forth entry into a floundering franchise. I was shocked to be dished up some suspenseful kill sequences. Mix that with an attractive young cast (headed by cutie Nicole de Boer) and some amazing sex scenes and you have the must have ingredients for an enjoyable slasher.

Still, even with that praise, there's some plot elements that tend to annoy the shit out of me. One is how the church decided to lock up and sedate the killer priest instead of turning him over to the authorities. Really? Second is after thirty years the Priest hasn't aged a day other than having long hair.

"Prom Night IV" is not a groundbreaking slasher but it works on revamping the franchise by taking the series back into serious territory. The bleak approach mixed catholic imagery works on giving the film a stark, attractive look. Sadly the film is overlooked by horror fans for the simple fact that it's the fourth entry into a franchise. That and for the fact the "Prom Night" series is inconsistent in its approach with serious entries, comical entries and lack of continuity in story and characters. If one can look beyond the inconsistency flaws I believe more people would agree with me that the "Prom Night" franchise is one of the most underrated horror series that seemingly no one talks about. Sadly, even though I actually liked this fourth entry, it marked the end of the series despite an open-ended ending allowing for another sequel.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1989) - 2/5

Producer Peter Simpson had a surprise success with the supernatural slasher "Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II", a sequel in name-alone that was riding the success coattails of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films. "Prom Night II" introduced slasher villain "Mary Lou" and no doubt wanting to make a franchisable character in the mold of Freddy Krueger, "Prom Night III" marks her return. The problem is where "Prom Night II" was comparable to "Nightmare 3", "Prom Night III" is comparable to "Nightmare 4" and any horror fanatic knows that's a solid step down in quality.

We open with Mary Lou (now played by Courtney Taylor) escaping from her shackles from hell with a nail file (yes, you read that right). She proceeds to head to her old high school and seduces a young smartass. Who cares if she kills people doing you harm, as long as she's a good lay... right? He goes along with her plan for a while but when he decides to break their relationship off, all hell breaks loose.

The second film has some comical moments but it was well balanced out with the horror. It was always a horror movie through and through first. Much like "Nightmare on Elm Street 4", the filmmakers here opt to load the film up with comedy tarnishing the horror elements in he process. And like "Nightmare 4", most of the comedy moments fall flat.

The look of the film is also lacks the sleek, polished and well edited feel of it's predecessor. Could this be due to budgetary reasons? Possibly but it also makes me question as the film credits two guys as directors: Ron Oliver and Peter Simpson. Oliver was the screenwriter of the second film and Simpson of course is the producer. This is never a good sign as 9 times out of 10 the producer took over directing duties as he was upset with the job the director was doing. I don't know if this is the case or not but it doesn't bode well with directors credited in this manner.

Another problem with the film Courtney Taylor as Mary Lou. Lisa Schrage in "Prom Night II" was able to convey both seduction along with terror and sadism. She was sexy while at the same time being deadly making her perfectly cast as Mary Lou and it's a damn shame they weren't able to her to return. Taylor is easy on the eyes but she's hardly scary and never bought it for one moment that she was a killer. She was just a whiny, high maintenance bitch that happened to kill anyone posing a threat for her boyfriend.

The killings are also overly silly. We get a teacher cut up and filled with fruit and ice cream, a school counselor killed with battery acid raining from a hair dryer and even the star quarterback getting killed by a football made to look like a drill bit. These killings are so cheesy that even Freddy hit his head with frustration.

"Prom Night III" attempts to make a franchisable slasher icon with Mary Lou but thanks to poor casting for the character and an overly comedic approach to the subject matter, Mary Lou would be buried for good and never resurrected again for another sequel, despite a forth film appearing a few years later. "Prom Night III" proved to be so disappointing that it even debuted as a direct-to-video feature in the United States despite being made to be theatrical film. It's not completely worthless but considering how surprisingly good "Prom Night II" was, "III" ultimately became an utter disappointment.

Even more disappointing is the DVD release by Artisan. Obviously a VHS transfer, to add insult to injury it is a VHS transfer of the TV edit of the film. All the foul language is replaced with words like "frickin" and all the gore ended up on the cutting room floor. Even during the interesting climax where our heroine goes into hell to rescue her boyfriend (ala "Hellbound: Hellraiser II") the film has some video blips showing how wore out the VHS source was. A sad day for a DVD release.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fragile (2005) - 3/5

Jaume Balagueró impressed to no end with his co-directorial effort on "[Rec]". That's a given, so when Fangoria released their Frightfest collection and his 2005 effort "Fragile" finally got its US release - I was there. Before I got around to watching it, the mediocre reviews rolled in and eventually it fell into my purgatorial "to watch" heap only to be rediscovered the other day. Even though the film does fall into many mediocre categories, I hardly felt it to be quite as bad as many claimed and still had a fun time with its basic ghost story.

Amy (Flockhart) is an American nurse hired on to help with a children's ward as the hospital its located in begins to close down. When the children begin to tell her about a ghostly 'mechanical girl', she rarely believes them - until unusual things begin to happen. Children's bones begin to break untouched and a mysteriously sealed off second floor seems to beckon inquiry. Amy begins to dig further into the hospital's past only to discover that some patients may have never checked out.

My initial reaction to the film and its idea was "Wow! Another generic ghost film with children and a hospital...whoopee!" and unfortunately, the film certainly starts off this way. It builds a generic heroine (with a rather unimpressive performance from Ms. McBeal who only seems to show up for a handful of scenes) and it works its story at an extremely slow pace. It takes forever to get going. Although Jaume gives us a nice artistic look and dramatic feel for this first half, nothing really exciting or ghostly happens for far too long and the lacking back stories for characters hindered my investment in the general plot. The few 'scary' moments were by the numbers and not all that impressive. The first half simply drags.

Then it gets interesting. The acting picks up with a fairly strong supporting cast, the urgency suddenly appears to get the film going, and the twists of the basic premise start to intertwine. Although its hard to say that any of this is really all that original in its foundations, the execution for the film begins to really carry it. Jaume gives us some cleverly delivered moments of tension and despite rather overdone modern ghost editing moments, we are given a villain to really be scared of. The brief moments of violence (this is the edited version released in the US and I've read its a bit more drastic in the international cuts) work to break the monotony of the film's atmosphere and the final 20 minutes make the film. The second half simply rocks the concept.

Unfortunately, even with a very strong last act "Fragile" has to claw itself out of some very mediocre elements to even earn itself a three in rating. Too many well treaded concepts and not enough strength for on screen scares to earn its way. Jaume desperately grasps to anything worth giving us and his effort is rewarded in the final minutes - but its too late for the film to reach the artistic heights it kept leaping for. A decent film thanks to a strong director, but the faulty build hurts it too much. Mostly for fans of Jaume Balagueró.

Written By Matt Reifschneider