WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT, THUS A HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Post. Publish. Infected: V/H/S Viral (2014)

V/H/S Viral (2014)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Emmy Argo, Amanda Baker, Rim Basma

Remember how V/H/S/2 gave us a promising look into the franchise by beating the first film as an entertaining found-footage anthology in almost everyway? Well my friends, Viral just knocked it back, not only to where it started, but perhaps a few more back.

Viral ditched the House full of presumably evil VHS tapes element and went on to something more "out there"; the wraparound, titled Vicious Circles, had us watching a video crazed teen boy trying to capture an unusual police chase involving that of a demented ice cream truck after finding out that the event was happening just around the neighborhood, much to his girlfriend's displeasure. As he ventures outside his house to catch the chase, his girlfriend was suddenly "infected" by a strange viral video that puts her in a trance and walking to near middle of the road. When the chased ice cream truck drove by, he finds her missing and assumes whoever was driving the truck kidnapped her.

Much of this wraparound revolves around him trying to catch up with the truck in hopes of saving his girlfriend, all the while we see people either dying trying to record the same chase or getting killed by accidents caused by it, as well as those who, somehow, gets infected with the same viral video that puts them in a homicidal rage.

Comparing this among the rest, Vicious is the lesser of the two awfuls in this anthology since, for a chaotic death porn, it's pretty intense if not altogether depressing as random acts of depravity and violence was simply bombarded at us in a near unforgiving manner. It's bleak but my true and only complain about this wraparound was it it makes no sense how it all connects with the segments, with each just popping out of nowhere (or in Viral's case, out of the static) and just happens. As if the crazy editing made it hard enough to follow this film but in the end, it raised more questions with its non-linear narrative and grimly mysterious nature, giving us something to ponder which I'm sure most of us wouldn't even bother with. For all we know was that whatever evil that forces people who watched those VHS tapes from the last two films to do or turn into nightmarish beings had finally made its way out of these houses and into the unexpecting public. Dark, grim and insane, but plot-wise? Not so much.

Now, the segments; it seems like the further this franchise goes, each entry is one segment shorter than the last. Now with only three segments, the first was undoubtedly the best of the bunch, titled Dante The Great, which is about a pathetic wannabe magician's sudden success in the world of illusions, thanks to a cape that was believed to have been owned by Harry Houdini himself. It somehow allowed him to do real magic but for a price: it must be fed!

Uniquely shown as a Found-Footage hybrid, utilizing everything from news interviews and clips, shots from security cameras, SWAT cams and Skype cameras, the segment was an entertaining piece despite it's more than obvious and ridiculous looking use of CG. It had energy, a quick pacing, cheesily acted yet interesting characters, and one of the nastiest magic-based massacres I'd seen in a while. It was corny in nature but nonetheless fun, this segment that had me excited for the rest and with good hope, the next segment didn't fail to disappoint so far.

The second short was Parallel Worlds, concerning a Spanish man, a husband and a scientist, experimenting with a proto-type Dimensional Door that opens other realities. The footage shows what happened that one night it worked, meeting another version of himself in a world similar yet different. Out of scientific curiosity and excitement, he agreed with his other-self to switch places for a couple of minutes, to see what each other's worlds look like. Unfortunately for our scientist, the other world wasn't as safe as he hoped for and soon he is struggling to get back and save his wife from something frightening and dangerous.

It's weird for the sake of weird but, just like the first segment, Worlds had this cheesy feel that made it bearable in its short run and enough tension mixed in to keep us at the edge of our screen until the shocking if not unexpected ending.

Unfortunately, this is as far as Viral goes to keep itself entertaining, as the last segment blew it all. Titled Bonestorm, a trio of skateboarders with Go-pro cams on their helmets and skateboards, and their video recording fourth guy, travels to Tijuana to record all of their heaviest tricks for an awesome video but ends up fighting for their lives against a group of voodoo worshippers trying to awakened something, well, big and hungry. This should have been insanely fun if it wasn't for the annoying shaky quality of the videos. Not to mention all of those close-up shots of gored up heads and impaled bodies; now, I don't mind gory close-ups, really I don't, but to repeatedly bombard us with it just for the sake of gore with no other redeeming factor whatsoever, this is just desperate.

With no likable characters and virtually no story behind whatsoever, Viral's last segment just trailed itself with blood and ran into mediocrity just like that. Nothing frightening, nothing shocking, just loads and loads of gore shots that made this segment the perfect example of meaningless death porn.  So what exactly does this do for the entire movie?

Like the first V/H/S movie, Viral is a mixed bag, a literal half-and-half that balanced out the two bad entries with two worthwhile ones. Could have been forgiven if wasn't for the last effin entry, which makes me now wonder if that missing short, titled Gorgeous Vortex, would have improved this film. This being said, I might keep a lookout for Viral's future releases in hopes it'll include all of the segments and possibly redo this review but for now, all I can say is that this franchise now had its close call once, let's all hope it'll do better again!

Bodycount:
1 male ran over by a truck
1 rabbit flayed
1 female beaten to death
1 female disappears inside a cloak
1 male had his neck broken
1 male had his arms broken, crushed
1 male had his neck broken
1 male flayed open
3 males shot dead
1 male set on fire
1 male impaled on a bed of nails
1 male dropped dead
1 male shot dead
1 male shot dead
1 male disappears inside a cloak
1 female killed offscreen
1 male fell off a bridge
1 male dragged behind a truck, dropped head first unto the road
1 male had his face devoured
1 male knifed to death
1 dog stabbed on the head with a barbecue fork
5 males and 2 females stabbed to death
1 male and 1 female immolated by explosion
1 male shot on the head
2 males shot
1 male beheaded with a machete
1 male caught on fire
1 male impaled through with a sword
1 male stabbed to death with a rib bone
1 male bludgeoned with a skateboard
1 male bludgeoned with a skateboard
1 male beheaded with a machete
1 male shot on the head
1 male bludgeoned with a gun
1 male bludgeoned with a skateboard
1 male bludgeoned with a leg bone
2 males and 1 female killed in freak car crash
1 female bludgeoned to death
Total: 50

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mr. Goodnight's Return: See No Evil 2 (2014)

See No Evil 2 (2014)
Rating: **
Starring: Glenn Jacobs, Danielle Harris, Katharine Isabelle

In 2006, WWE Production's first feature release was a simple yet entertaining trashy slasher called See No Evil, starring Kane as Jacob Goodnight, a hulking, hook-and-chain wielding maniac raised with a zealous look in life, murdering anyone he counts as a sinner. It was a quick run through all the basics of a teen-kill slasher movie, including a gory kill count and stereotyped casts, but at least it was a fun one at that with its cheesiness. Now, eight years later, Kane returns as Jacob Goodnight once again in this rather unneeded follow-up, somehow his character surviving getting an effin glass shard through the heart.

Starring Danielle Harris as Amy, a young perky coroner who's supposed to be celebrating her birthday the night the police discovers the massacre Jacob left for them. Finding out that they'll be receiving the bodies for an entire evening worth of work, including that of a thought-to-be dead killer responsible for the others, Amy's work colleagues surprises her by inviting most of her friends for a night of partying inside the morgue as contemplation for missing her shift off.

However for them, Jacob was far from dead; now awakened, masked and armed with an array of conveniently sharp and pointy medical tools, he stalks and kill his new prey one by one, resuming his tirade against "sinners".

While I try to overlook the fact that there was no way for our killer to be up in his feet, walking and killing from an injuries he received from the last movie (I mean, he DID survived years with a hole at the back of his head from a gunshot), this movie can't help but feel watered down and virtually inferior in every way from the moderately entertaining first, starting with a killcount that is noticeably lower. This is never a deal for me unless the way these targets were snuffed out was rather uninspired, which apparently was the case for this movie as not only they were killed off in the simplest manner (necks broken, offscreen stabbings and eye gouging. Simply disappointing seeing he's in a building full of medical equipment. Nurse 3D certainly shows how it's done!) but it all happened way too soon that we're left with only two surviving casts playing hide and not die with the killer for the thirty-minute remainder of the run.

What's worse was that none of these doomed characters were even worth rooting for; not that they were awful, but they're just so dull that I barely cared if they'll or not. The least they could do (or rather, what the Soska Sisters (American Mary) could had done in their direction) was to die extravagantly at the hands of our killer but, as mentioned before, they were lacking on that department, too. Harris is still hardened as ever, though, quite likable too so her character's fate does come quite a shock.

The positives was that they brought Kane back to don the abused yet still dangerous persona again, though now he wears a clear mask that, honestly, wasn't necessary, as his overly-religious presence is terrifying enough, fueling his rage especially on that one scene where he berates a dying victim as a whore. Then again, the almost-undead angle for the character can be an odd experience; it was like watching Three Finger from the first three Wrong Turn movies come back again and again after accepting punishments that easily killed his brothers. The believability of Jacob's revival wore off quite fast as the final shock twist was shown in what one might believe is an indication of a further franchising.

I can't say it's a total waste since it was getting good for the first half, but with the flaws peaking almost unto an unacceptable level, See No Evil 2 stumbles into mediocrity for me and I honestly don't feel like rooting for any more sequels from this franchise unless, that is, they change directors and boost up the gore again. You know what they say: best not to fix what wasn't broken!

Bodycount:
1 male strangled, neck snapped
1 paraplegic male found with stab wounds, bled to death
1 female had her neck snapped, choked to death
1 female nearly beheaded with a saw-toothed machete
1 male ran through with an electric knife
1 female stabbed on the gut with a saw-toothed machete
1 male had his eyes gouged out
Total: 7
Images (c) Google

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Fun and Weirder Ways of Learning: The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Starring: Martina García, Béatrice Dalle, Laurence R. Harvey (And A Whole. Lot. More.)

Straight from the creepy stopmotion opening of paper children being mutilated during playtime while a chilly humming tunes along the gory chaos, I can tell this follow-up of 2012's experimental short film compilation really took its time to improve itself. (So much that I re-watched it three times!)
animated mutilated children; ABCs of Death 2, did God send you to me?
While it's still a mixed bag, the fact that these shorts have more focus on the subject of death, one who is expecting the same craziness of the first will surely be surprised on how much these entries took the idea by heart and delivers us an array of wittier, funnier and most importantly, messier ways to die and learn our Alphabets. So, without further delay children, here's our ABCs of Death, again! Oh and also, like all of my reviews here...

WARNING! THE FOLLOWING POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
SHIT LOAD OF SPOILERS!

A is for Amateur
Rating: ***1/2

Completely by surprise, our first alphabet starts off fun: we see a hitman prepares himself to assassinate a drug-sniffing target who just so happens to be residing in a fancy apartment. In with the guns and into the air vent, he successfully infiltrates the system and murders the cokehead and his lackeys. Or so we thought.

Beautifully and effectively edited, with a touch of ironic (and darkly humorous) bloody comedy, A is for Amateur starts off our list with the much needed bang that was missing from the first, properly settles us in place as the rest of our shorts ready themselves.

Bodycount:
3 males shot
1 male dies from his injuries
1 male shot on the neck
Total: 5

B is for Badger
Rating: ***

What happens when a wet blanket of a professional reporter, doing an article about how the manufacturing of power plants affect the local wildlife, gets a carefree camera crew? Well whatever it'll be, it involves a badger hole. Again keeping the dark humor alive in this compilation is this short mockumentary that's, while brief, got  me chuckling with its simplicity. Oddly enough, I was glad that we never got to see the creature up-close, as it kinda helps the funnies for this entry and the ironic ending.

Bodycount:
1 male torn in half
Total: 1

C is for Capital Punishment
Rating: **

This one kinda disappoints me; it's nothing more than a story of a man wrongfully accused of murder being trialed and sentenced to death by an entire town until one of some of them found out they might be killing him for no reason. What should have followed was an intense race against time to stop a real injustice just seeing this is a short horror film, I kinda saw how the ending was gonna play out so it wasn't much of a big surprise.

Positives from this entry would be the cool gore effects and the working cathartic element but the plot itself was too simplistic to entertain me.

Bodycount:
1 male smashes to a windshield
1 male killed in car crash
1 male beheaded with an axe
Total: 3

D is for Deloused
Rating: ***1/2


A surreal animation from the genius who brought us the underground horror animated short The Cat with Hands, it shows us a bizarre situation concerning a captured victim of some leather-clad trio (who more or less resemble Hellraiser cenobites) taking revenge when a demonic louse gives him the opportunity to get back at them, but with a price. Creepily gets into your skin, the stopmotion short is as nightmarish as it'll be, expressively imaginative with its ghoulish concept and characters, some of the good reasons to praise this entry and its director.

Bodycount:
1 male beheaded with a blade
1 male beheaded with a blade
1 male beheaded with a blade
1 male stomped on the head
Total 4

E is for Equilibirum
Rating: ***


And jumping back to a lighter tone is this short by the director behind Juan of The Dead, about two castaways who find their friendship tested by the arrival of another castaway. Slightly misogynistic but overall a funny black comedy that's strangely warm in the end, the entry has this TV commercial tone that kinda hits the right combination of pacing, tone and unexpected last minute laughs.

Bodycount:
1 female killed by a thrown coconut
Total: 1

F is for Falling
Rating: *


An Israeli woman is caught in a tree by her parachute and is found by a hostile Palestinian boy. What soon follows was something I hardly cared about cuz, well, I never cared about anybody in this short. I'm sure this has some sort of social commentary about the wars between the two countries these main casts represent but politics and power struggle was never my thing. Add the lame death in this short and you got one unsatisfied viewer.

Bodycount:
1 male fell down a tree
Total: 1

G is for Grandad
Rating: ***

When an old-timer gets fed up with his snooty grandson, you would expect a berating or two from the old guy, but to find the old guy sleeping in a mattress? Expect the weird in this entry, as well as a nice kill and a shot of of some guy's wrinkly, shrivly sack. All in a neat package that's worthy of some laughs and gross-outs.

Bodycount:
1 male stabbed on the neck
Total: 1

H is for Head Games
Rating: *

Perhaps the only other animation in this collection, the short features two lovers kissing, only to end up violently attacking each other with an array of surreal weaponry and mutilations. It's craftily impressive as far as surrealism goes but I'm not to keen to this short. Perhaps it's too weird for its own sake to enjoy in anyway? Yeah, probably.

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female mutilates themselves in a surreal fashion
Total: 2

I is for Invincible
Rating: **1/2

Now this is something I wish my country would do more, especially since the director here and the short itself is Filipino!

When an old crone refuses to die due to a cursed stone inside her body, her young benefactors try everything they can to get rid of her, much to their frustration. It is lacking some story and the acting is cheesy, but the tone is comic and the gore effects were the best I'd seen! Still makes me wonder why the big shot directors from my country can't continue making fun films like this properly?

Bodycount:
1 female decapitated with a cleaver
Total: 1

J is for Jesus
Rating: ***

When a gay man was caught passionately in love with another, his father hires a couple of men to kill the lover and brutally punish him under an extremist faith. That is until something intervenes. I like this entry for reasons that it closely resembles a cool slasher, all the while stabbing at the subject of homosexuality and how some organized religion abhors this to the point of extremes. Gory and haunting, there's also a point up for its well-deserved "happy" ending.

Bodycount:
1 male seen bloodied and smothered with a plastic bag
1 male bludgeoned with the club end of a scythe, beheaded
1 male killed with a crucifix cattle brand
Total: 3

K is for Knell
Rating: ****

And lo, the first short film in this collection that I fell in love with instantly!

A woman looks out from her window and notices a strange floating orb of liquid suddenly plaguing a nearby building. She watches as all its occupants suddenly turn violent and murders anyone they can grab. Afterwards, they pause and stare at her. Before you know it, whatever happened to them now made its way to her room, possibly to succumb her to a similar fate.

The short has this impressive Lovecraftian feel to it, dreadful and unsettling mixing quite well to deliver a feeling of disturbance not often felt in a short film at this caliber. Beautifully shot and chillingly scary, Knell is an instant fave!

Bodycount:
1 victim murdered
1 victim thrown off a building
1 victim stabbed to death
1 victim murdered
Possibly more victims murdered offcamera
Total: 4+

L is for Legacy
Rating: 0

...What the fuck was this? As far as my brain could comprehend, Legacy was about some ritual gone wrong , resulting to some monster (that's obviously a guy in a cheap costume) killing some people. Everything else about it was either a blur to me or something that had no clue about. I'm sure this short would have worked a lot better if it was a bit longer, perhaps explain a thing or two for those who aren't familiar with the subject (it's obvious this is some African ritual) but as a short, this is the suckiest among the entries.

Bodycount:
1 female rots
1 female clawed on the gut
1 male impaled by a levitating branch
Total: 3

M is for Masticate
Rating: ***

The winner for this film's contest where aspiring horror directors tackle deaths starting with M; Shot in slow-mo, Masticate had a fat guy running down a street in his skippies, attacking anyone he can get his sweaty hands on while a trippy stoner music plays in the background. A bit fun, obviously tributing itself to a short from the original ABCS of Death, the entire film is crisp, crazy and cuts to a little twist that's a tad obvious with the title given to the short. Overall a worthy addition, with its fair share of shocks and laughs.

Bodycount:
1 male shot on the head
Total: 1

N is for Nexus
Rating: *1/2

Also titled as A Halloween in New York, Nexus is an impressively edited tale of a guy and a girl meeting up for a Halloween date, all the while cutting back and fort to a cab driver being argued by his passenger. As much as I want to love this, the fact that I kinda saw the ending a mile away killed some of the tension, thus I'm not too happy with the result. Death happens and that's it. Kinda lame.

Bodycount:
1 boy hit by a bike
1 male hit by a car, lands on his head
Total: 2

O is for Ochlocracy
Rating: *1/2

And here we go with our first Japanese entry; imagine a world where zombies nearly overran humans but somehow regained their intelligence thanks to a miracle drug. Now, they set the remaining humans up for trial for "murdering" their kind, in a silly and twisted EC comic-esque scenario.

Now, I like the idea, there's a whole lot of laughs that you could get from this, but the quick pacing and the cartoonish atmosphere wore out on me quickly, leaving me to question myself if that was all to it? This could have been better as a feature, or at least if it was a bit longer.

Bodycount:
1 girl shot on the head
1 male executed via electric chair
1 female executed via electric chair
Total: 3

P is for P-P-P-P Scary!
Rating: ***

This is probably what The Three Stooges would be if they were plunged into something surreal and creepy; a trio of criminals (who two of them have long pointy noses for some reason) find themselves in the middle of darkness and finds a man in a rocking chair with a baby. The man wakes up, dances a happy Scottish dance for them before blowing out their only light. When they lit up again, they'll see something scary (and/or silly), and soon dwindles down one by one. Weird, funny and slightly creepy, nothing can beat that!

Bodycount:
2 males found melted
1 male presumably killed
Total: 3

Q is for Questionnaire
Rating: **

A man is given a free intelligence exam while the shots coincides with him being surgically de-brained. Why is something they keep as a surprise in the end but for honesty's sake, it's kinda funny. Not much from this one; apart from the painful looking operation and gooey gore, the short feels a bit too easy for any shocks or scares. Then again, couldn't blame them for trying.

Bodycount:
1 male surgically had his brain removed
Total: 1

R is for Roulette
Rating: *

Two men and a woman in a basement, taking turns in a Russian roulette. In black and white. Some called it intense, others called it gripping, I find it boring.

Not wanting to sound snippy but roulettes are creepier if done alone or at least with just two "participants". Even more if they're been coaxed by a large crowd, now that's creepy! This, sadly, felt too drawn out that even the unexplainable twist ending in the end could not save it. But then again, this might be just me.

Bodycount:
1 female shot on the head
Total: 1

S is for Split
Rating: ****

A husband on a business trip phones his wife at home, only to have their conversation cut short as a masked intruder breaks inside their house and hunts down the wife. All of this shot grippingly in split screens. It's quick, nasty and brutal, Split easily won a place among my faves as a Home Invasion, a horror-sub-genre I'm a sucker for, as well as surprising us with a twist we never saw coming.

Bodycount:
1 female brained to death with a hammer
Total: 1

T is for Torture Porn
Rating: **

From American Mary's Soska sisters, a porn studio molests a prostitute they picked up, something they will quickly regret as she hides something deadly underneath her skirt. A fine example of weirdness out of nowhere that works comfortably as a short film, but it feels a bit rushed, as if nothing almost happened until the last minute, and even that was quick-cut into an editing artwork, but at least this was far more entertaining than the sister's feature films...

Bodycount:
1 male strangled
1 male sodomized
1 male bitten on the face
Total: 3

U is for Utopia
Rating: *1/2

Set in a future where everybody is perfect, one unattractive man gets singled out and publicly executed. And much like the case of Nexus, I find this hard to enjoy coming from the fact that this plot had been done to death and there's barely any surprises at all. Seriously, how many times had we seen a film where people gets executed in public for being different? Perhaps if the short was a little longer, it would have done better but I'll give it points for it's polished quality and that cool looking Cop-Bot!

Bodycount:
1 male incinerated
Total: 1

V is for Vacation
Rating: ****

And yet another found footage film, Vacation had us watching a boy video-calling his girlfriend while on vacation. Started out sweet until his bestfriend shows us, steals the phone and showed us what really went on that night. It wasn't pretty and it ain't gonna get better. Gritty, mean-spirited, exploitative, intense and very bloody, if my choice of words doesn't make you very curious about this short then you're either a failure as a horror fan, or I'm not doing enough to express my love for this entry. But seriously, the wait was worth it for this short!

Bodycount:
1 male stabbed to death with a screwdriver
1 male fell off a balcony
Total: 2

W is for Wish
Rating: ****

What begins as a toy commercial for some action figure playset, one boy's wish to help their hero in an epic battle got granted magically and puts these two up in a world less magical and more doomed (and messed-up) than they imagined.

Mean spirited all the way, with some of the most demented twists to come out from what a little boy would picture his fantasy land (kinda like what Michael Bay is doing with Hasbro's Transformer franchise. the robot Gorno's getting more extreme!), complete with monstrous mutants, merciless armies and an Eldritch overlord. Juice it up with a very unsettling ending and you'll get this nightmarishly fun short!

Bodycount:
An army is seen being slaughtered
1 male shot
1 male speared through the head
1 male had his head shot off
1 male seen disemboweled
1 boy burned to death
Total: 5+


X is for Xylophone
Rating: **

Starring Insides' Béatrice Dalle as a babysitter going bonker after listening to the kid's xylophone playing, the short was sortah predictable. As a two person act, I quickly knew one of them's gonna go bite the big one and seeing this is made by the same folks who filmed movies where pregnant women and young boys were victimized by deranged stalkers and maniacs in clown suits, yeah, that girl was so dead. It's gory, yes. Messed up? Oh, definitely! But not quite enough to get me upset to the gut. In fact, my initial reaction was more like "okay, so the kid's dead. Who else wants that slice of pizza?"

...I was eating pizza watching these films.

Bodycount:
1 girl mutilated to the bones
Total: 1

Y is for Youth
Rating: ****

A melancholic piece about a teenage girl's violent fantasies against her neglectful and abusive parents, this visually surreal and impressive look into a troubled girl's mind win a praise worthy rating for its intense savagery, despite being altogether cartoonish and silly, and an effective direction. It's creepy and saddening, something that rarely works for most full feature these days.

Bodycount:
1 male mutilated by a guitar growing out of his mouth
1 female broke apart into egg shells
1 male and 1 female killed with a cutter
Total: 4

Z is for Zygote
Rating: ****

Now this is how you end a short film collection!

Perhaps one of the more effectively disturbing and visually impressive entries, the story centers a woman who managed to stave the birth of her child for 13 years and now lives with a preteen daughter residing inside her womb! What follows is a deranged turn of events that's bloodier and weirder than any of the other shorts combined! With a haunting atmosphere that's chilling to the bone and practical effects best seen to be believed, the entry seals the deal and concludes this cavalcade of nightmares the right way!

Bodycount:
1 cat killed with a hammer
1 female disemboweled
Total: 2

All in all, I have the most fun with this! Noticeably the death toll is awfully lower than the last movie but, hey, so long as these things live up  to the wild and demented nature that is horror then I'm all up for his! And to think, after two years we'll have our third collection! If this is any sign of further improvement, I say BRING IT ON!

Total Bodycount: 59+