Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Tops of 2013 - October

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 spent too much energy on a flat television script and a never-funny parody of Steve Jobs than it does on the exciting sentient food world.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 would have been absolute crap if not for Patrick Wilson's performance.

RUSH was a ho-hum, by the numbers sports feature. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl were a lot of fun but the racing was hardly exciting.

THE BLING RING was a surprisingly edible teen crime film, thanks to the cast and the impressive control of Sofia Coppola.

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW was more of a vacation comedy than a psychological horror flick. The audacity of secretly shooting in Disney World is still impressive.

GRAVITY was a bonafide masterpiece.

STRANDED cribbed from ALIEN, forgot to pay its electric bill, and used book lights as communicative devices.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING gave a modern spin to Shakespeare and received much raves.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS was fine but it was hard to care about the titled character when the criminals were more sympathetic.

KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN was a really funny comedy concert film. Too bad its other segments spit on the shine.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES was a massive miscalculation from the creators of Drive.

THE LORDS OF SALEM had some great imagery but Rob Zombie's writing/directing skills were very subpar.

THE CONJURING had some great old-school scares but was certainly roughed up by the many other exorcist films.

Best Films of 2013

1. Pain & Gain

2. Spring Breakers

3. 20 Feet from Stardom

4. In a World...

5. Gravity

6. Pacific Rim

7. The Croods

8. The Bling Ring

9. Much Ado About Nothing

10. Now You See Me

11. Side Effects

12. The World's End

Worst Films of 2013

1. Grown Ups 2

2. After Earth

3. The Hangover: Part III

4. Man of Steel

5. Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

6. The Internship

7. Movie 43

8. Aftershock

9. Getaway

10. A Good Day to Die Hard

11. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

12. Jack the Giant Slayer

13. To the Wonder

14. The Host

15. The Big Wedding

16. Stranded

17. The Last Exorcism Part II

18. Beautiful Creatures

19. A Haunted House

20. We're the Millers

My Horror/Halloween Hit List

Throughout this month, I have been watching and reviewing horror or horror-themed films in honor of the Halloween spirit. Along with the mandatory film of the day, as well as any additional movie added to a certain day, I saw a few 2013 horror films. This is all of the movies I watched for the first time or re-watched:

Attack of the Crab Monsters
Bay of Blood
Black Sunday (1960)
Bubba Ho-tep
The Call of Cthulhu
Carnival of Souls
Chernobyl Diaries
The Conjuring
Creature (2011)
Dracula (1931)
Escape from Tomorrow
Evil Ed
Female Vampire
Frankenstein (1910)
Ghost Ship
Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood
His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th
The House of the Devil
In the Mouth of Madness
Insidious: Chapter 2
The Invisible Maniac
The Lords of Salem
My Bloody Valentine 3D
Pet Sematary
The Phantom Carriage
Sector 7
The Shining
The Signal
The Woman

41 films this year. Will I be doing these daily reviews again next October? It's inconclusive. Spending every day watching a horror film then quickly writing up a critique on it has been fun, challenging my skills and my time management. On the other hand, this project became more important over my usual long-form reviews, some of which are still unfinished at the time of this write-up, as well as my horror edition of the Essential Hit List (notice The Phantom Carriage is included). I also didn't get to do one of my favorite things each year: watch an entire horror franchise. It would have been the Saw or Puppet Master films, for anyone wondering. There was also many films I really wanted to do but neglected, such as favorites like The Mist and the recently great horror entry ParaNorman. Still, I did get to see some movies that will be included on my worst of all time list (Blackenstein, Female Vampire, Snuff) and a few that will join the horror elite or stood completely out (In the Mouth of Madness, The Woman, Pontypool, Evil Ed, The Signal). So, check back late September 2014 to see what I decide to do. Until then, Happy Halloween!

Horrors of October 2013 - The Shining (#31)

The Shining (1980)

Do I really need to say anything? One of the true masterpieces of the genre. Other than being one of my favorite horror films and one of the few to scare me as a kid, I also wanted to re-watch it in preparation for a screening of ROOM 237. Upon this recent viewing, I wasn't aware how unintentionally funny the inter-titles are; one second, Scatman Crothers is waiting by the phone then BAM! "8 A.M." and he's on a plane. If you are curling up to this tonight as well, make sure it says "Stanley Kubrick's" at the top and not "Stephen King's".


Brief Film Reviews - 2013 Horror Edition

Just in time for Halloween, here are some 2013 films that explore the genre of horror:

Insidious: Chapter 2

Oh my, what a near catastrophe this almost ended up as. Spoilers ahead, since it literally begins at the ending of chapter one: Rosa Byrne is unsure if her hubby Patrick Wilson really killed the friendly ghost hunter and/or is possessed by a being that has haunted his entire life. After some off-screen investigation, the cops reassure her that he's in the clear, despite the fact that we saw the strangulation in the first film. Well, never mind complaining about it because he is possessed and it is up to the rest of the family, the two remaining paranormal investigators, and Wilson's specter locked in "The Further" to stop it from causing any further harm. CHAPTER 2 has absolutely no good surprises like the original. Guess what? If you watched the special features on the INSIDIOUS DVD, surveyed the cast listing, or trust your gut, you will solve the mystery behind the black veiled ghost faster than all of the cast. The creature's history should be creepily interesting but instead it pilfers from Robert Bloch and Joan Crawford. Worst, the plot eventually turns into a time travel adventure, ruining a great moment from the first film by explaining what really happened. The film continues to fall apart, both plot-wise and direction-wise, until ending with a stinger for a spin-off that really no one wants to see. The only thing that barely saves this from the trash-heap is Patrick Wilson's dual performance. He brings the two major factors that made the first INSIDIOUS work wonderfully: family warmth and cold terror. Don't bother seeing this sequel, not even once it hits video; don't let this ruin the legacy of one of the few great horror films to come out of Hollywood.



A new sci-fi feature from BATTLEFIELD EARTH director Roger Christian. No surprise that it sucks harder than an air lock. Four astronauts on a moon base are locked in with a fungi embedded on a meteorite, which spreads around the crew in order to rip-off every aspect of ALIEN. The low budget nature of the film gets far dire than the casting of Christian Slater in the lead; all of the plot-dumping video journals and communicative conferences are delivered through a scientific device that is literally an ordinary book light. Also, all of the moon surface scenes show off the chintzy model work that would have been laughed off the set of a Japanese kaiju movie. Director Christian doesn't return to his signature overabundance of dutch angles, though one shot does pop up during a medical check. Instead, he wanted to cloak the frame entirely in darkness, evaporating any chance to engage in the action. The story is a just vicious cycle of people running in and out of the medical bay. To make it more egregious, the main protagonist is the female scientist, because Ripley was also a chick. This despite the fact that she's the one who started the whole mess, acts like a complete psycho, tries to kill her colleagues at several times, and somehow has the strength to move around despite birthing an alien creature in short notice. Syfy original films at least have more inventive elements than sci-fi horror trash like this.


The Lords of Salem

Rob Zombie's intended magnum opus ends up being a misfire of massively confusing proportions. A night owl radio host in Salem, MA receives a vinyl record from a band called "The Lords", which causes an odd mental calling to the women in the city and provokes the protagonist to slowly unravel until she can be the perfect tool for some ancient witches. Visually, this movie is often impressive, even with all of the J. J. Abrams approved lens-flaring. The concluding sequences are exquisite nightmare fueled fever dreams, sure to appease the fans and followers of the late director Ken Russell. But all of the pizzazz and references to Commander Cody and Georges Méliès can't mask the grim results of Rob Zombie himself. Though this is more subtle and foreboding than his previous works, nothing he devises can produce a scare or even a shiver. Sometimes, laughs are in order, particularly one moment where the main character rumbles with the appendages of a little chicken-winged demon. Bless Sherri Moon Zombie for giving a good try as the lead girl Heidi but she's not very compelling nor is her character; there's no real empathy for her plight at all. The story is very predictable, offering nothing different in the structure beyond thankfully not killing off the dog. The biggest low light of the picture, both in writing and directing, is when a witch investigator searches Heidi's background and explicitly exclaims all of the clues likes his name is Fred Jones. Actually, I'll take one of my claims back; Mr. Zombie does gives us something "unique" and "interesting". It's the ballsy yet perplexing finale which doesn't answer any of the numerous questions it raises or any of the events preceding it. This is certifiably divisive but many looking for spooks or compelling terror here will instead have three letters for it: WTF.


The Conjuring

Supposedly based on an actual event, THE CONJURING follows a paranormal investigation done by Ed and Lorraine Warren, who many will note for their work on another case that would later be turned into THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. Here, the two enter and explore the domicile of the Perrons, a large family who all have individually been terrorized by a collection of ghouls. Don't believe the R rating; you can safely take your kids to this movie because there are no swear words and the violence is PG-13 level. The only remaining factor is if they can handle a good old spook-fest. Director James Wan delivers some mighty scares, often playing with the staging of scenes and shots to freak the viewer out. He even has a fright where you can't even see the creeping terror within the darkness. If any of the ghostly delights don't get you, he also has a brief side diversion with a disturbing wooden doll. The biggest problem with the movie, however, is its preference of matching previous horror classics, most notably THE EXORCIST. As in the 1973 film, the Warrens need to have proof of demonic possession in order to get the Catholic Church's approval of an exorcism. There's also the timing of the feature, with it being released after a recent wave of non-exemplary exorcism movies. Still, you can't go wrong with this startling tale.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - YellowBrickRoad (#30)

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

Huh. A rag-tag group of researchers seek to find and follow a notorious trail outside of Friar, N.H. Back in 1940, the residents deserted the town and walked along the path, spurned on by something to reach the end, only to all die. After getting some help from a local projectionist, the group walks past the titled trail head and head into the unknown. After laying out the characters and their traits, the film deliberately unravels itself further and further as the walking continues north, causing the schizoid cast and the frantic editing to wildly fluctuate. I can't give away what brings forth the mental degeneration but I will say that it also does effect your viewing as well. YELLOWBRICKROAD is competently made but it has some significant audio problems at times, dropping lines or just poorly recorded. Then, there's the bad CGI that shouldn't have appeared anywhere in the film, considering that the majority of the sets are real wilderness. Still, I found the film to be quite unnerving, as the group splinters off and/or the torture continues uninterrupted. Some might find the wandering and rambling to get tedious, especially since it all leads to an ending out of left field. Be cautious because this is purely polarizing.


Brief Film Reviews - October 2013 (2)

Some more 2013 films that have hit video:

The Bling Ring

Based on actual events, a group of L.A. high schoolers pilfer the deserted yet shockingly left open homes of famous celebrities just because. There is a specific reason for their behavior, which is unfortunately said out loud at the end, but writer/director Sofia Coppola doesn't want to focus heavily on fluffed-up criminal melodrama. Instead, she chooses to document their crime spree as is, making the viewer ooh and ah along with the shallow teens as they take apart Paris Hilton's mansion like it was Rodeo Drive. It is amazingly riveting to watch these sequences, particularly the many trips to Hilton's simply because it is her true blue residence, no sets necessary. The deadpan comedy sprinkled throughout is often humorous though the subplot with Leslie Mann home schooling a couple of the robbers isn't as engaging. The entire young cast are perfectly suited, all displaying the correct insensitive reactions to their lawless behavior and their newly earned, dark sided fame. If you're the type of viewer who needs makers like Lifetime to spell it all out using soapy broadness and dreadful talent, look elsewhere; THE BLING RING would rather exhibit the actual mindsets of the burglars, while also pleasuring your guilty impulses.


Much Ado About Nothing

Bringing one of his side hobbies to the big screen, Joss Whedon directs a group of his actor friends in a modern take of one of Shakespeare's most famous comedies, all filmed around his own luscious mansion. This choice of setting could be a deal-breaker for some; how no character is able to easily hear the private conversations of others in the cramp interiors is never explained. There's also the problem with Dogberry's security station being a slapdash set in Whedon's basement. Despite these questionable decisions (Messina is in California?), Whedon's take is a bountiful feast of alternative humor and lovely beauty. The black-and-white digital cinematography compliments the tragic aspects of the plot, people exploiting love and gossip and transforming them to death and eternal wrath, while also removing distracting elements like color, so that Shakespeare's writing can easily reach ears and win hearts. Whedon does add some of his own touches to the story, namely a brief silent prologue, to give the old text a contemporary spin without resorting to complete butchery or ruination. The entire cast is impeccable and sure to have people debating and picking out their personal favorites; for myself, Amy Acker is pretty amazing as the headstrong Beatrice and Nathan Fillion is one of the few to make Dogberry absolutely funny. Able to flare without resulting to excessive flourishes like Baz Luhrmann, Whedon makes MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING an enchanting ride.


Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Reviewing a comedy is always hard to do but a stand-up's concert film is a higher challenge. I don't want to spoil any of the jokes and explain them away until they lose their luster. I will just that KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN is really funny when it centers on Hart's sold-out performances in Madison Square Garden. However, no matter what joke or vocal gag he spouts, the true highlight of the film is his honest ending statement about being lucky enough, both as a comedian and an African American male, to draw a mighty crowd in the most majestic venue of America. What falters the entire project are the stale comedic sketches that unnecessarily set up why Hart has stuff to say, filmed in a faux, polished documentary by Tim Story, and the circle-jerking montage of Hart conquering Europe and Twitter. These lame moments take time away from more interesting sights like Hart's video journals and the street pranks he performs, which are despicably shown more during the credits, or having a chance to explain what exactly his entourage do for him other than complaining about traveling on a bus. During subsequent viewings, skip the first acts and head to the great main event.


Only God Forgives

ONLY GOD FORGIVES is an interestingly pretentious failure, ruining the three key ingredients that made DRIVE one of the best films of the decade. First off is writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn; his story of an American drug pusher seeking brotherly vengeance against a mysterious Thai police officer is incredibly superficial and misguided. The cop, played by Vithaya Pansringarm, is the real focus of the feature, let alone the only character truly likable, while the others just wallow in turgid melodrama. Refn's directing style here was to calculate everything, from the acting to cinematography, to be seriously stiff art but his rigid refusal to lower the tone or break out a laugh once in awhile drains any energy within the frame. As for Ryan Gosling, he is just utterly wasted, a pale shadow of his role as the Driver. He's only able to flash the tenderness of his weakling character at brief times when he's not just a walking zombie. Kristin Scott Thomas, on the other hand, is a campy, incestuous Mommie Dearest but at least she accomplishes the heightened attitudes Refn wanted. At least she's emoting, unlike Tom Burke as Gosling's brother, who's only in the first eleven minutes but is so unbelievably bad. Then, you have Cliff Martinez, whose score is acceptable, with the standout track being the theme of Gosling and Pansringarm's fight. Alas, most of his compositions sound too close to his work in DRIVE. Now that I mention it, the unnecessarily sadistic interrogation scene in a karaoke den is practically a copy of DRIVE's infamous hammer scene. There are some beautiful pieces throughout it and the ending dedication does somewhat answer what Refn was trying to accomplish. Nevertheless, the tedious surreality is simply too aggravating.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - The House of the Devil (#29)

The House of the Devil (2009)

A college girl scrounging up money to pay the rent for her new apartment takes a babysitting offer, only to find out that nothing is what it seems. Writer/director Ti West is like ordering a side of french fries drenched by a lukewarm mayo topping; he's an acquired taste for horror fans. He greatly favors a pacing structure that would cause heart attacks for any viewer that is secretly a snail. Here, there's a long stretch devoted to the girl limitedly exploring the ins and outs of the house before finally smashing her way to a couple of clues, all after a hour's worth of belated buildup for a 90 minute flick (95 if you include the slow ending credits). West enjoys baiting his viewers, keeping them bathed in the cold tones of the picture, in order to just produce a couple of reputable scares; you can literally count them only using one hand. The acting is fine all-around and the nice throwback production style to 70s and 80s horror is inventive but the utter lack of audience participation, plus the haphazardly controlled finale, makes it not enjoyable enough to warrant a second viewing or a recommendation. Personally, I feel THE INNKEEPERS is a better film to immerse yourself in the mind of West. There's also his tiny short film in V/H/S, if you can't stand his work at feature length.


Trailer Review - X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: The cast of the original X-Men trilogy and X-Men: First Class converge, plus Peter Dinklage, Bishop, and Blink.

Scene Pop: I guess the final meeting between the Professor Xs.

Briggs Breakdown: Too many concerned faces to bother counting, 3 screaming faces, 3 gangsters firing at Wolverine, 1 destroyed glass ceiling, some kind of explosion, Jennifer Lawrence capoeiraing, a claw to the back, an attempted drowning, rampant crowd turmoil, and an uncomfortable ass drag on stone.

Effective?: I don't know. Maybe?

Check it Out?: Let it build up, for now. Bryan Singer has not made a truly good film for over a decade, that film being X2, and he's coming off the heels of the disaster that was Jack the Giant Slayer. Will this be another one for him? The trailer here is too somber; it certainly does not warrant a day one ticket. Quite frankly, it looks like the interference of 20th Century Fox, plus the business drive to combat against Marvel/Disney, have taken all of the fun and inventiveness brought by Matthew Vaughn and his crew and washed it away with the depressing action tone that brought ravage to this year's summer movie season.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - The Woman (#28)

The Woman (2011)

Holy crap. An unstable family man captures a forest-dwelling feral woman, hoping to teach her the modern ways of American life. He brings his clan into the action, all of whom are ruled under his punishing thumb but, like his views and salacious ways, the males are given fairer treatment. Written by its director Lucky McKee and novelist Jack Ketchum, THE WOMAN bottles up all of the tension, hiding it away by paying more attention to the black comedy aspects, before it finally blows apart in a rushing surge of vicious terror and uncontrollable instincts. The finale is incredibly volatile, often stamping down hard on the viewer's expectations with an amazing series of delirious cuts and inhuman gore. Then bang, the music quickly mutes and all you have left is an idiosyncratic endnote. Make no mistake, this is great disturbing movie, as it goes under your skin and tortures your poor nerves into oblivion. It's also a pretty stellar feminist film though many will be too turned off to stomach the subtext when they're busy expunging their lunch. Next to McKee's direction, the acting is excellent; Pollyanna McIntosh pours herself into the titled character, never allowing any relief to show beyond unbridle fury. Sean Bridgers is terrifying with his repellent performance as the dad, barely raising his voice at anyone yet still chilling them to the core whenever he skips over their opinion. The actors playing the other family members expertly play their set emotions, whether it is fragile, tormented, callous, or just plain cute. The sole exception is Carlee Baker, who may be well-suited as a potential victim but laughably out of place as a school teacher. On the other hand, the music is the true biggest detriment to the movie. Sean Spillane developed a horrendous collection of excruciating garage rock songs that just take a dump on your ears in nearly every scene. If you can tolerate it, plus the film's sadistic glee in pushing your buttons, you'll come out dirty but still be blown away by it.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Black Sunday (#27)

Black Sunday (1960)

Two intrepid doctors mess around with a tomb encasing a condemned Satanic vampire (or is it a blood-sucking witch?), thus allowing her to exact the curse she placed on her own family line. This is probably my favorite Mario Bava film, even with the substandard English dubbing added to it. He perfectly directs and captures the spirit and horror of old Gothic tales while also tinkering with then forbidden film taboos like gore and incest. The opening witch trial is the most captivating moment, where the camera gives you every angle of the spiked mask of Satan that is about to be impaled into the female defendant. Bava uses many special effects to generate frights, often using the darkness of the frame as the entrance for the terrors. But no scare can compare to the many shots of the lovely Barbara Steele, dually playing the vampire/witch and her future descendant, laying motionless in a grave. Whether it's the inner organs reforming within her body shell after some blood spillage, her scorpion friends, or those soul-piercing eyes, never has a stationary human character been so frightening. There are some silly errors, namely the required love story and a fight with a huge fake bat, but those can't entirely stop the effectiveness of this black-and-white classic.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Frankenstein (1910) (#26)

Frankenstein (1910)

Let's talk about one of the very first horror films ever created which didn't involve any incoming trains. 1910's FRANKENSTEIN, produced by Thomas Edison's movie studio, was the earliest adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel and also the initial movie to add their own plot ideas to poor results. The Creature doesn't follow the popular theory of being made up of stolen human remains but is instead literally brewed up in a giant cauldron. The creation process is the true highlight; if you've seen the bloody resurrection of Frank Cotton in HELLRAISER, this is exactly like that scene but with one arm constantly acknowledging the audience. The Creature also has an odd design, looking more like a cross between a troll and a hunchback. As with all of the first works of cinema, you've got the usual problems, namely the terrible theatrical acting and the unfortunate film deterioration. However, the ending is the real sour note, forgoing a wintery journey for revenge and going with the alternative finale of mirror play. Despite my modern thinking and criticism, the film is extremely impressive for its time and deserves to be checked out.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - My Bloody Valentine 3D (#25)

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Yep, I'm watching a 3D movie in the way it was always intended for: shamelessness and objects poking/flying towards the viewer. This is a remake of the 1981 cult classic, where an evil miner plunges his pick-axe into people and nicely decorates their severed hearts in Valentine chocolate boxes, as a delicious substitute for the ones with coconut in them. I'm not a fan of the original but this does improve on it in some cases. Director Patrick Lussier, who went on to do another cult 3D film DRIVE ANGRY with co-screenwriter Todd Farmer, knows to go the Jason Vorhees route with the 3D kills, which may dabble in CGI but are still tantalizingly gruesome. The best legitimately come during the prologue, where there's a path of destruction through a hospital and a tragedy-stricken mine. All I will say is that nothing can top "the shovel". As for the story, it makes some tonal changes to be more of a mystery, giving you several suspects despite the clearly muscular build of the killer, and some of the infamous deaths from the original are referenced and remodeled. However, it's very, very, very obvious who's the miner, even given away to you with a humorous yet straightforward clue. But what really sinks the ship is the conclusion; Firstly, after the murderer has been revealed, a fight breaks out between two people and another person on the sidelines, who has a loaded gun, does absolutely nothing, even though their friend could be killed or injured, which is what happens in the latter case. Then, despite standing right next to an explosive detonation, the bad guy somehow survives and walks off cleanly. So, the movie copies the basics of the original's finale, removed the famously creepy last shot and lines, then poured a mighty can of stupid all over it. The 3D is fine for home viewing, though it will hurt your sight after awhile, but you should beware purchasing this on the used market because you often will not obtain the SAW VI glasses that come with it. Not great but good with some popcorn, brewskis, and/or friends.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Sharknado (#24)

Sharknado (2013)

I thought of including this in with the rest of the 2013 films, since it did receive a limited theatrical release after its initial premiere on the Syfy channel, and I do have a great affinity for its equivalent textbook example, 1994's THE LAST SEDUCTION. However, since other television movies like BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, or any of the other Syfy originals like ROBOCROC and GHOST SHARK, aren't also given a pass, I decided to just add it to this special occasion. Hurricane David is ravaging the L.A. coast, spewing forth massive water and plenty of sharks, all awaiting to munch on everyone from the beaches of Santa Monica to the hills of Beverly. Ian Ziering plays Fin, a retired surfer who must go the Cruise/Cusack/Cage/Quaid route of saving his estranged family from the beasts and the incoming titled phenomenon. This comes to us from The Asylum, the notorious "mockbuster" movie label whose films flood Redboxes and TV time. They have been getting both better and worse at their unique form of craftsmanship, yet SHARKANDO still retains their expected errors: Establishing and long shots that don't match up with the drama, questionable CGI, and awful color correction. In terms of fun, the movie doesn't reach the benchmark set by their most "professional" entry, MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID, but it does eventually get more humorous, particularly the great capper at the very end. You just have to sit through a lot of dull, conversational driving scenes to get to it. The overall acting is very meh, bogged down by many crappy performances. I'm not talking about Tara Reid, who's not good but rarely appears, but of people like Chuck Hittinger as Fin's doofus son, John Heard (why?) as a boring drunk, and Robbie Rist (a.k.a. Cousin Oliver and Michelangelo) as the teeth-grindingly dreadful bus driver. Speaking of Rist, he produced the majority of the music here, which all sound like the live recordings of your local Battle of the Bands concert, though the titled track is an earworm you'll feel bad for liking. The movie may have some midnight fans and popular publicity but it doesn't really match up with the other best worst movie titans. If it wasn't for the media's intense focus on Twitter, this would have sunk to the bottom just like the Cajun gators, sand sharks, and mega piranhas.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - In the Mouth of Madness (#23)

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

When I reviewed THE CALL OF CTHULHU on the 4th, I forgot to mention this mainstream Lovecraftian attempt, headlined by John Carpenter. A private dick (Sam Neill) is hired by a book publishing company to locate Sutter Cane, a popular horror writer whose stories are literally degenerating human life, and the titled manuscript. He figures out that the author is hiding out in Hobb's End, a quaint little town in New Hampshire that isn't on any map because it's a place Cane created in his dark writings. This movie is certainly something weird but in a great way. It actively wants to fall apart at the seams, delivering a rush of unexplainable horrors so you too can suffer like a Lovecraft protagonist. This may throw off and annoy some viewers though but at least Carpenter goes for broke, often helped out by the disturbing creations of Robert Kurtzman, Gregory Nicotero, and Howard Berger. What makes the film so thoroughly juicy is its meta-textual view of authorship; it plays with the notion that Cane is the true auteur of the picture, directing his peons to move forward under his strict guidance. "He" can even gleefully punish them, cutting out their time in the world simply by editing the film. This is pretty heady but trust me when I say that it makes sense when you watch it. In fact, just go out and see this now or go through the other entries of Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy (THE THING and PRINCE OF DARKNESS) before concluding the extinction of humanity with this.


Everybody Loves Film Delays! - Part 2

Good News! The Wolf of Wall Street isn't being delayed as previously feared, thus justifying why I don't like writing posts around rumors. The film is to come out on Christmas Day, filling up the Dragon Tattoo/Django slot for those movie-going adults looking for non-white samurai or Southern fried gothic flicks.

Bad News! There's another body to add to the pile: The Monuments Men has been moved to 2014, removing it from the Oscar competition.

According to The L.A. Times, George Clooney and crew were rushing to finish it, the same reason as a lot of these fall movies. Instead of half-assing it, Clooney and the studio decided to push the movie to a new date next year so the visual effects could be properly implemented. The article even states that at the time of interviewing him, Clooney was getting ready to record the score(!). He also stated that he wasn't really expecting any Oscar buzz for it; apparently, he hasn't seen the latest trailer done by Sony's marketing department, which removes the humor in the first trailer in favor of sweeping music and important mission statements about art and life in the second one.

To make delay matters worse, this continuing news story has often gone hand-in-hand with the news about the return of "Harvey Scissorhands", the crude yet justified name for producer Harvey Weinstein in relation to his treatment of re-cutting foreign films for the American brain dead, one of which is The Grace of Monaco.

Also, yes, Jack Ryan will be coming out, though it too may be delayed. However, I won't write another one of these for it because the trailer is so incredibly boring (Paranoia 2?) and I simply don't care.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - The Invisible Maniac (#22)

The Invisible Maniac (1990)

"Die, you invisible jerk!" Fans of The Flop House movie podcast will recognize this film, both as a running joke and a consistent recommendation by the resident B-movie lover Stuart Wellington. Suffering from a haunted past of oppressive mothers and colleagues, deranged scientist Kevin Dornwinkle escapes out of the looney bin and works under an alias as a physics teacher for summer school students. Finally perfecting his dream project to create a solution that makes the user invisible, he uses it to exact his revenge on the petty teenagers, who are of course played by late twenty-year-olds. Adam Rifkin, who most will know him for his later features THE CHASE and DETROIT ROCK CITY, wrote and directed this under the pseudonym "Ric Coogan". The main problem with the movie, other than being not good, is that it spends way too much time being serious, focusing extensively on Dornwinkle's scientific journey and his slow, drawn-out, tedious monologuing. The pervs just want to get to the T&A and the cult fans want some dark humor, both of which thankfully arrive in the third act rampage. As Stuart wisely put it in many episodes, the best moments in the entire film are when a kid dies by eating a submarine sandwich and another one is taken out when Dornwinkle treats her head like Mario on a Goomba. You're best off just checking out these goofy scenes on YouTube than checking this out fully.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Snuff (#21)

Snuff (1976)

Yesterday, I reviewed a "narrative" movie designed to be a snuff film. Today, I review the movie that popularized the idea. SNUFF, as evident by anyone who's actually seen it, doesn't show this "shocking" act of violence until the last five minutes, when a film crew shuts down production in order to film the killing of one of the actresses. The preceding 74 minutes are instead devoted to another story about a model named Terry London being the target of a Manson-like cult, before it then cuts away to show the audience that it was all fake before the "real" action. This bait-and-switch was conceived by the film's producer Allan Shackleton, who bought a previous movie devised by the exploitative film couple Michael & Roberta Findlay, shot the new ending and shipped it off to grindhouse theaters. What made the film infamous was Shackleton's next step: He hired fake protestors to walk outside the theaters showing it, which then got attention by news outlets, which then lead to real protests. Like Public Enemy, you shouldn't believe the hype because this is one of the worst films ever made; BLACKENSTEIN and FEMALE VAMPIRE have a new friend. It reaches MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE levels of amateur incompetence. Let me list some of the most awful blunders: The opening scene has a drug-scalping lady shot and tortured by her fellow cult members before they then let it slide; The entire film is dubbed by bored community actors who sometimes speak with an echo; The Charlie Manson stand-in Satan (seriously) has nil charisma and hardly appears; A swimming montage featuring London has an intercut with a different woman in a different bikini; London announces she's pregnant off-screen and several scenes later, she's guzzling alcohol; London's boyfriend pulls a rape prank on her; A police detective's office is in the middle of a courtyard and right next to two huge warehouse doors; A couple of sequences are shot in black and white for no reason; Major dialogue exchanges are placed over an unending shot of sunlight reflecting off of dark water; There's an out-of-nowhere story flashback for one of the supporting characters, where she re-tells how she was raped when she was 12, despite looking like a twenty-ish Sissy Spacek and having the voice of Mr. Bill (joke reference courtesy of The Agony Booth); and there's an insane debate about a German businessman selling weapons to anti-Israel forces. Now please excuse me as I rest my weary head.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood (#20)

Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)

The GUINEA PIG film series is very high on the list of the most controversial/banned films ever made, often in the spoon position with the infamous Italian cannibal films. Its second film, FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD, is the most high profile entry due to it being repeatedly singled out by the media, first during the investigation of a Japanese serial killer at the height of its popularity on video and later coming to the attention of American news outlets when actor Charlie Sheen freaked out after viewing it and called the feds. The main reason for this grave concern is pretty easy to spot: it looks and feels like a snuff film, albeit with shot-on-video aesthetics. In the context of its "story", FLOWER is a recreation of a collection of evidence supposedly given to its director (cartoonist Hideshi Hino) by a deranged fan. It consists of a maniac who abducts a woman, shoots her up with ecstasy, and then slowly rips her body apart. The movie certifiably has the most bloody disgusting gore ever assembled for simulated horror; the details in the eviscerated muscles, bones and inners are horrifically astonishing. While good gore may help recommend a film, that's not the case for this one. Simply put, you're just watching 43 minutes of a psycho butcher sadistically chopping up an innocent. There's nothing else to the material, no plot to speak of. It's the most obvious case of an one-and-done type movie. Only suited for those that desire to test their might or want an alternative to ipecac.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Attack of the Crab Monsters (#19)

Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)

A group of scientists and technicians land on a small island to investigate the disappearance of a previous scientific group, only to suffer the same fate as them. Make no mistake, these aren't giant crabs but crab monsters; in a genuinely novel twist, the crabs munch on human brains and able to access their mindsets to create psychic disturbance and projection. This is certainly not a good movie from indie maverick Roger Corman but I'll be lying if I didn't have fun. It is really short (62 minutes), quickly blazing through all the science mumbo-jumbo for more B-movie buffoonery. You get to watch a beheading, a plane blow up, a lazy head bonk, a hand dismemberment, people talking with their antagonist literally through a gun, endless land destruction, and bad grenade tossing. Plus, you have "The Professor" Russell Johnson as the action lead.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Female Vampire (#18)

Female Vampire (1973)

A vampiric descendant of an infamous family shtups around an island; that's it. This is one classy film: It legitimately begins with the titled character walking straight towards the camera in her signature outfit (completely nude except for a cape, leather boots, and a belt?), halts for the male gaze, the camera zooms in and fades to black on her bush. Honestly, this movie is less of a horror film with sexual elements than just straight-up porn with the laziest definition of a vampire. The character walks around during the day, she flaps her arms up and down while the camera hides the "bat transformation", and she sucks people off before then extracting their "blood", which is never seen beyond the tub full of Kool-Aid at the very end. This porno, which resides between softcore and hardcore due to the many lower genital shots, was helmed by Jess Franco, who died earlier this year. He was a promising Spanish director who would eventually lose interest in making coherent films, so he just cranked out a ton of unbearable, boring exploitation flicks; FEMALE VAMPIRE is right up there next to OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES as the cream of his crap. Every shot is a zoom-in, there are a lot of frames completely out-of-focus, the same damn musical cue plays, there's no real plot, and the ineptitude culminates with a whipping scene where the whip is a mile away from the protagonist and the dead woman next to her is hyper-ventilating. The acting is all-around awful, with Lina Romay taking the cake as the mute, wooden faced vamp who likes to embarrassingly get turn on by rolling her body over her dead prey. Unless you want a stag reel from Netflix or observe a Misty Mundae-type movie made during the 70's, stay far, far, far away.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Sector 7 (#17)

Sector 7 (2011)

Say, do you like watching people talk about how much they love drilling for oil in the ocean without further elaborating why because that would require characterization? Well, there is a Korean horror film for that, named SECTOR 7, referring to an area that falls between the jurisdiction of Japan and Korea and believed to contain copious amounts of untapped petroleum. A small group of oil rig workers wish to extract it but their poor results causes them to shut down operation. That is until an old guy, who's the uncle of a tomboy employee dubbed "Hard-Ass", arrives and asks for a couple more months, where they then hit the stock. That was anti-climatic. Oh, and a mutant creature has suddenly sprung forth during some stormy weather. Tedious and highly moronic, this failed ALIEN clone is one of the worst Korean blockbusters ever devised. The twists are easier to spot than the identity of Jason in the fifth FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. Characters don't behave rationally; one minute, a female scientist is having a slow conversation with a loser with frightening facial damage that needs to be tended to immediately, the next has our hero standing still while someone else is flailing with the monster for a good two minutes and in need of assistance. The acting is a range of low bars, from pathetic to obnoxious to flatter than paper. But my god, the worst offender is the CGI. The makers didn't want to work on an available or derelict rig so they instead use green-screening for a great percentage of the film. The chroma-keying is so laughable transparent, particularly during the motorcycle chases. Yes, I mean chases because there are many times where an actor is clearly on a bike, stationed in one position, while awful special effects abound all around him or her. The only remotely good factor is the creature, which does look like an experiment gone wrong and has some interesting animations. Too bad it's ruined by its questionable stealth capabilities, able to sneak behind people in cramp rooms despite being monstrously obese, and it spends the majority of its killing time just using its extended tongue to hook and capture people. Let it sink.


Brief Film Reviews - October 2013

Two 2013 films that have hit theaters:


RUSH follows the colored rivalry in Formula 1 racing between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Unfortunately, this is being helmed by director Ron Howard, plus a screenplay by Peter Morgan, so the competition must be scrubbed and cleaned throughly so that even the neanderthals in the audience can follow along. For instance, when Hunt learns he's essentially blackballed and has no car to drive, he's playing with a couple of electronic toy cars, one of which flies off just when the despair sinks in. This is then followed up with that classic annoying stable, the drunken breakup between a concerned girlfriend and a mouthy man. Frankly, this really old-fashioned mode of filmmaking was not palatable in the slightest. Howard does craft some truly memorable moments, such as Lauda's painstaking recovery and his first race back after a near deadly injury, but Morgan's by-the-numbers plot is so ridiculous to take seriously. Also, except for that one race, all of the racing sequences largely consist of quick cuts between accelerating wheels and worried reaction shots. None of the races last longer than two minutes, so there's no time to take them in or match up the film's message about the frailty of being behind the wheel. The sole saving grace of the movie, beyond some of Howard's direction, is the acting talent. Chris Hemsworth continues to show he has the chops to coordinate with his handsome looks as the charismatic yet reckless Hunt. But it is the breakthrough performance of Daniel Brühl as Lauda that truly takes the spotlight. He brings a sensible humanity and likability to the character, despite the film's constant showing of Lauda being an intelligence-driven racer, who's often shrewd to his co-workers and socially inept. I would also say that forever-in-the-shadows Olivia Wilde and newcomer Alexandra Maria Lara were delights, if only their characters were more fleshed out beyond being female hanger-ons to the two drivers. Some of you may think this is a mighty triumph of a drama but I'm just not a sucker. I will gladly take the magnificent documentary SENNA any day over this Best Picture wannabe.


Escape from Tomorrow

Well, this was kinda disappointing. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW has been on a publicity high, ever since it made its audacious debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The sheer fact that writer-director Randy Moore was able to film a great majority of the film inside the confines of the intensely guarded Disney World is astonishing, further expanded by the fact it was able to avoid litigation by Mickey Mouse's lawyers and be able to reach general audiences. Upon finally seeing it, I'm a bit sad that the movie is more of a vacation comedy than it is a psychological thriller at the happiest place on Earth. A schlubby guy is fired from his job over the phone, on the last day of his family's Disney visit. As they walk around the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, the father starts to breakdown from all of the sensory overloads and the consistent presence of two frolicking French girls. It further surreally falls apart with the arrival of a Lesley Ann Warren stand-in and a scientist who operates within the signature Epcot globe but the focus is instead more on the guy's burning loins and his embarrassing behavior. The black-and-white digital cinematography is quite striking, particularly when it wants to haunt the audience with the sight of a CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED-like kid or disturbing behavior being acted within the Disney grounds. Obviously, not everything could be easily shot in Disney World, so there are some unfortunately bad scenes done in a green-screen studio. A valiant effort but it is unable to beat EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP as the best film to wreck havoc to Disney parks.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Bats (#16)

Bats (1999)

Genetically-altered bats devised by a clearly mad scientist have escaped into the desert wilderness and seek to munch on a bunch of extras in the small Texas town of Gallup. It's up to the town's sheriff, a bat researcher and her token black smart aleck to save the world. Shaky cam and slam cuts are the bread and butter for this abysmal nature on the loose flick, horribly supervised by director Louis Morneau. All of the animal attacks are too chaotic to picture coherently, just a rush of extreme visual insanity. The bats look silly, whether rubber or computerized figures, and their "vicious" onslaught on people (i.e. the victim literally shaking the bat as if they're working for Ed Wood) devalue the film's grade level from a B to a Z. The script is worse than bare bones, having nothing of value to change the monster menace formula. Shockingly, it was written by John Logan, who later would be Oscar-nominated and write the scripts for THE AVIATOR, HUGO and RANGO! The movie even dares to try to make two companion bats literally be the main villains but it's rendered moot considering the bats all look the same (please excuse my bat-racism). The mains are bad cookie-cutter: Lou Diamond Phillips can't overcome the sheriff's blandness, the lovely Dina Meyer had to bleach her hair for no reason, and Leon's jokey dude is one "oh hell nah!" away from being offensive. Don't look to the townsfolk for relief; not only are they idiots for not evacuating when asked to, they also all seem to be deaf and partially blind because they don't hear or see the person being assaulted literally right next to them. Say what you will with the old giant black scorpions and spiders that wish to fight Earth, or hell even EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS, at least those films have some kind of charm and can be stably viewed. BATS instead is just pure guano.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Severance (#15)

Severance (2006)

A group of employees of a public arms dealing company venture into Hungary for a team-building retreat. Staying over a lodge that is far from luxurious, they begin to be stalked and picked off by a slasher that has some past concerns with their corporation. SEVERANCE is a horror-comedy that would rather spend more energy on the former than the latter. There are some well-made gore effects, plus some gags to go with them (those afraid of bear traps, beware) but the grimy attitude eventually leads to some peak moments of sadism. One individual's fate, for instance, goes straight into torture porn territory and it severely stuns any fun vibes the film had going. Also, the majority of the humor is front-loaded, leaving the chaotic second half barren or really dull (a climatic gag with a phone call on hold is just anemic). Director/co-writer Christopher Smith tries to liven up the slasher film conventions by implementing some bizarre surreal stunts, often centered around the resident stoner of the group. Though I have big faults with the film, it's still pretty enjoyable for a laugh. It may not be a great companion to the works of Edgar Wright but it's good nonetheless.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Rodan (#14)

Rodan (1956)

Note: I watched the American cut done by the King Brothers, which removed several minutes from the original Japanese film yet added some questionable elements, like a prologue composed of American stock footage and overwhelming narration. In a small mining town in Japan, a missing worker is believed to be the one responsible for some vicious killings in a watered-off mine. The real culprits turn out to be big prehistoric bugs, which are just the prelude to two giant pteranodons hidden within the mountains. I don't usually criticize and/or have a problem with past American dubs of Toho films but all of the tinkering here left a mighty bad taste. It's fun to hear legendary Paul Frees in the voice cast but his delightful goofiness is ruined by the main character's obnoxious recounting of events and the actress playing the boring girlfriend. Of course, like any giant monster movie, the best parts are when the monsters come out and wreck the city. The climatic battle at the end delivers this in spades and is pretty fun, thanks to the special effects employed to showcase Rodan's supersonic speeds and gusting abilities. Too bad the ending kinda ruins it; the army just launches a bunch of weaponry to spew out some lava and roll credits. So, if you want to view this through Netflix, skip the streaming and just rent the DVD with the Japanese audio. If you do, you can bump up a point in my rating because it most certainly has to be better than this mutilation.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Dracula (#13)

Dracula (1931)

Let's look over one of the all-time classics of the genre. Very loosely adapted from the Bram Stoker novel, the Universal Studios-produced film first follows Renfield as he visits the estate of Count Dracula in Transylvania. After falling under Drac's spell, the now insane gentleman helps his master sexually conquest London. I do mean this literally; the many shots of Bela Lugosi's famous gaze is to both scare and titillate his prey and his blood-transfusing ways help turn the fair Mina into a loose femme fatale. This film came out before the Hays Code was enforced, thus allowing for more risqué and graphic material. It also, unfortunately, came out a couple of years after the acceptance of sound. Director Tod Browning crafts some startlingly sinister scenes and shots (there's some debate that the cinematographer Karl Freund is the true auteur) but the soundtrack is often barren. I know non-diegetic music can ruin some movies but there are many moments here that needed that extra oomph, especially the flat, silent ending; Van Helsing had something else to do, the couple walks up some stairs, and that's the end. Helsing was actually supposed to have a scene where he comes out and addresses the viewing public about vampires but it was later censored out (due to religious reasons) and is now lost to the ether. Speaking of missing elements, the film has many dropped storylines (newly turned Lucy keeps on haunting the park apparently) and plot transitions that are severely truncated. Despite the campy aspect of his performance, Bela Lugosi is devilishly evil and commanding as the titled character. I was more creeped out, however, by Dwight Fyre as Reinfield, particularly his carpet crawl and his reveal on a destroyed boat. Though I really enjoy this edition, I tend to prefer Hammer Studios' version of the vampire tale.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - The Signal (#12)

The Signal (2007)

This movie starts off pretty badly but deliberately so: a z-grade torture porn, shot on awful digital video, plays out for several minutes. It's an odd rickroll and it can unfortunately scare off many viewers, especially in the form of streaming. Once it cuts out and a blindingly destructive kaleidoscope of video signals takes up frame, this unusual horror indie truly hits its groove. All electronics have been hijacked by said signal, causing nearly everyone to be brainwashed and degenerate into walking sociopaths. We follow a small group of characters as they adapt to this dangerous scenario, split into three acts with each handled by a separate director. The main story of an insane love story between a CD-walkman-wearing woman, her oppressive exterminator husband, and her lover runs throughout it but the middle chapter does take a slight diversion, focusing more on black comedy as a New Year's Eve party falls apart. With an ultra low budget of $50,000 plus a heady script, THE SIGNAL is pretty incredible in its audacity to make you laugh at the gore jokes while also continually making you feel unnerved that a character could just suddenly go off the deep center. It's well suited for fans of David Cronenberg and those who cherish the humble origins and works of Peter Jackson. The acting is impressive, with A.J. Bowen as the deranged Lewis as the true star. However, the constant signal flashes, the few mellow indie scenes, and the psychological twists will discourage the casual set.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Pet Sematary (#11)

Pet Sematary (1989)

The Creed family has moved from Chicago to a big house in Maine that is within walking distance to the town's pet cemetery. The area is known for the dangerous Orincon semi-trucks that come barreling down the roads, often killing pets and even a few people. When multiple tragedies struck his household, Louis Creed seeks the "healing" guidance of a forbidden Native American burial ground just beyond the cemetery. Man, another horror title lie; at least the titled gravesite plays into the plot while also being thematically important to the story's attitudes towards death and the grieving process of humanity. Still, this is one nutzoid film, largely thanks to the insane ramblings of Stephen King's script. There are some truly awful dialogue here that should have been cut out but I guess everyone was afraid to say no to the icon. It is also overstuffed with all of these stupid ideas that may be tolerable on paper but are just pointless on film. I'm of course talking about the spinal distorted "monster", the ESP child, the college short-wearing zombie guardian, and the absurd grandparents' home full of unnerving old photos and paintings. Thankfully, there are some elements that keep this from turning into another form of THE LANGOLIERS. Though she has to go with the bad written flow, director Mary Lambert does craft some haunting imagery. The acting is the film's best feature; Fred Gwynne is so incredible as the Creeds' neighbor Jud, stealing every scene without hardly even trying. The kid actors are actually enduring, particularly Miko Hughes as baby Gage, who plays an important part to the movie's most memorable moments. The sole exception, and it's a huge exception, is the lead; Dale Midkiff has the voice of Keanu Reeves and the charisma of a cucumber. I loved the zombie cat Church, short for Winston Churchill, and the minimal yet gory special effects pasted on the animal and some of the other actors. Also, the ending theme by The Ramones is a pretty awesome ear-worm. One of the better good bad movies by the King of Horror.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Bubba Ho-tep, Chernobyl Diaries (#10)

Bubba Ho-tep (2002)

A redneck-flavored mummy is rampaging an old folks home, sucking out the resident's souls in an unconventional manner. It's up to a guy who thinks he's Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and a black geezer who thinks he's JFK (Ossie Davis) to stop this fiend. Frankly, it takes quite awhile for this film to get the gears rolling and become giggly enjoyable. The real magic comes when Campbell and Davis share the screen together, spewing out inane dialogue played for straight, just like a old 1950's B-movie. Their research book on the history of soul-taking leads to some good laughs. For a very low budgeted feature from cult horror director Don Coscarelli (the PHANTASM series), this is generally fine. I could have done without all of flashing lights and cuts though.


Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

A group of American tourists, plus a backpacking couple, find themselves stranded and scared during a forbidden tour of Pripyat, the barren town which housed the families of those who worked at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. You might need to re-read that first sentence in order to easily spot the first of many problems with this movie. We have ourselves here a "title lie" because the film isn't technically set in the city of Chernobyl nor is their any diaries to speak. The infamous plant does show up way late and there is a iPhone recording that explains what happened in a given area but that's a pathetic excuse. Even if you forgive and forget that, you still have so much bull to tolerate because this movie is absolute garbage. Practically the entire footage was infected by the deadly disease of CSA because you can't see anything; this disease is also known by its proper name, CSS. Darkness constantly overwhelms the frame, sucking out any viewer engagement. There are no actual scares, nor even many devised for the audience to react to. Except for the charming tour guide Uri, all of the characters are unbearable; to exasperate your attention further, the main hero is the douche who got everyone in this mess, spends the majority of time blaming and insulting the others and openly points a gun at them during a heated argument. The final reveal is so nondescript and lame, only included to cement the xenophobia subtext. Director Brad Parker may be a hack but the true irresponsible individual for this travesty is writer/producer Oren Peli (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY). If I saw this last year, it would have certainly made my worst list.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Pontypool (#9)

Pontypool (2008)

A morning radio shock-jocker heads to his grinding job in the small titled town of Ontario, only to later become the only voice capable of broadcasting and investigating the mysterious viral outbreak that has suddenly infected the area. It's best to enter this feature without reading or surveying anything else; let's just say that the sickness is zombie-like but is transmitted through a more peculiar manner. Clearly taking inspiration from Orson Welles' infamous radio show of The War of the Worlds, along with a side dish of THE CRAZIES, PONTYPOOL is a mesmerizing orchestra of sandwiched sounds, as panicky cries and showbiz barbs overlap each other when the dread of the unknown is not creating dead air. This is one of the few films where the audio is more enriching than the visual department. That's not me taking at shot at Bruce McDonald's direction, which is fairly striking at times but is evidently trying to retain a calm, nervous movement. The acting is very strong, led supremely by character actor Stephen McHattie as our cynical hero Grant Mazzy. Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly back him up nicely as his producer and assistant respectively. The twists may be overambitious and hard to shallow for some but at least it's an alternative zombie flick that goes beyond the gore. Also, the stinger is true WTF material.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Ghost Ship (#8)

Ghost Ship (2002)

Talk about a front-loaded feature. This movie has an excellent opening sequence, specifically designed to look like an old-fashioned romantic melodrama. The credit font is a curvy pink, there's a bunch of smiling white people on a cruise ship's dance floor and a gorgeous Italian siren leading them through the steps. Suddenly, a highly tensed wire slices straight through the crowd, resulting in bodies and heads flopping straight to the ground. Perfect black comedy. Then the other shoe drops; GHOST SHIP severely squanders its potential both as an action B-movie and a creepy tale of lost souls lost at sea. After the gory prologue, we follow a group of ship scavengers in the present date, taking up the idea of a stranger's to locate the now desolate ship and drag it to shore. You do get to enjoy the camaraderie of this crew throughout, consisting of talented actors like Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, and a then-unknown Karl Urban. Too bad they have to tolerate a series of flaccid "scares", a recycling of TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE, and some truly insane revelations. Honestly, what the hell was going with the last couple of twists, including the true motives of the supernatural antagonist? Even the other impressive sequence, a disturbing reveal of what happened in the other corners of the ship, is botched by a horrendous techno song out of nowhere. The blame resides solely on director Steve Beck (THIR13EN GHOSTS), screenwriter Mark Hanlon (who?), and possibly the interference of producer heavyweight Joel Silver. So, if you want to view a promising title fall apart while rocking out to Mudvayne's "Not Falling", this one's for you.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Evil Ed (#7)

Evil Ed (1995)

"Where in the fuck is my beaver rape scene?" A meek film editor slowly unravels when he's forced to cut apart splatter films for the international market, only to then go on a ruthless killing spree. This horror-comedy comes from the prestigious nation of Sweden and it was clearly made to change the perception of their film output. This is clear in one of the opening scenes, where Ed works on a standardized Swedish black-and-white melodrama, amidst a stale room full of old people. The film can best be called Troma-esque, where the goofy and the gory hold each other's hands lovingly, and it's able to pull it off nicely. Beyond the film geek references and horror posters framed all around the walls, there's a vibrant outlandish tone full of impressive low-budget effects and excessive satire. It also thankfully changes up the proceedings of a horror film, dashing away your expected kill order and moving the violence to another location. Unfortunately, these ideas have the adverse side effect of slowly removing the sleazy film business aspect of the story in the later acts, which is often brought to the table by Ed's eccentric boss (such as the opening quote here). The other big oddity is the color blue; this film must have fallen into a vat of the color because every frame basks in its suffocating coolness. Certainly not for everybody but a fun nightmarish farce. Make sure to keep an ear out for the fake movies in the background.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Blackenstein (#6)

Blackenstein (1973)

Let's get the plot description over quickly because there's a lot of dreck to get through: A limbless 'Nam vet is being treated by his fiancee and her mentor in order to be grafted new appendages, only to be transformed into a pudgy, bloated, obese walking zombie due to an nefarious lab assistant. The funniest thing is that the guy was a fat bastard with lifeless delivery before he becomes a monster. My god, this is an absolute bowel movement of a film. This is how it opens: a jump cut of two people experimenting, the title card, a man slowly walking around his laboratory and touching things, then the rest of the opening credits. The rest of the film follows this jungly editing scheme, with people and scenes teleporting out of nowhere or the unbearable torture of watching the main monster walking for a long, long time. Direction and acting certainly can't save it, especially when suspenseful music is placed on unexciting breakfast scenes or we literally see a production hand's backside during a pointless 360 degrees shot. I still can't get over all of the inconsistencies and errors in judgment: What was the point of having a young 90-year old lady and some guy with a tiger leg? What's with the experimenting on a rabbit? Why is there a prison cell with wooden bars right next to the lab? What the hell was with that large police force storming some place? Why does Blackenstein drag white women into a warehouse? How come his medical clothes change into a leisure suit every time he ventures outside? Why does he have an urge to kill and indulge on people's inners? And ultimately, why the hell do the closing credits scroll vertically down? The last breaking point to your sanity is the fate of Blackenstein; we see him get punched and shot at but nothing seems to stop him. What instead does? Three police dogs that bite and rip his body apart. What an abnormal mess.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Insidious (#5)

Insidious (2011)

A boy mysteriously falls into a coma after falling off a ladder. His vegetative state comes at an ill time for the rest of his family, who are all having horrible dreams and noticing the creepy apparitions parading around the household. Changing addresses doesn't solve the problem so it must take the help of a paranormal investigative group. The film that cemented James Wan's career, this haunted roller-coaster ride delivers genuine scares. He expertly crafts many chilling set-pieces and a bevy of nightmare fueled creatures, most notably "the man with fire on his face". However, if you are epileptic or just hate flashing lights, be sure to skip past the bad, strobe-pounding action sequence after a certain someone takes off a gas mask. Leigh Whannell's story keeps twisting into different directions and ideas, such as astral-projecting or the dark theory of "The Further", a place where dead souls reside. Thankfully, he also spends time to develop the emotional drama plaguing the main couple. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are well-suited but it's Lin Shaye who gets to shine as the warm yet experienced investigator Elise. The second chapter may be in theaters right now but you're better off just watching this terror-fest. Seriously, don't see the sequel.


Trailer Review - I, Frankenstein

I, Frankenstein
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Aaron Eckhart is Frankenstein (or Frankenstein's Monster if you prefer, you damn hipsters), Bill Nighy as angry British man, and poor Yvonne Strahovski as boring blonde love interest.

Scene Pop: Nothing.

Briggs Breakdown: I give up. The entire trailer is nothing but orange fire and explosions.

Effective?: No.

Check it Out?: Dear heavenly lord, no. What the hell is going on? What does this Underworld rip-off have anything to do with the Frankenstein character? The focus is more on the angels and the gargoyles. This, along with Seventh Son, look to be two gutter trash features for January.