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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gun Fights, Car Chases, Proper Action and Shit: Hot Fuzz (2007)

Hot Fuzz (United Kingdom, 2007) (AKA "Blue Fury", "Raging Fuzz")
Rating: ****1/2
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman

Police Constable Nicholas Angel: born and schooled in London, graduated Canterbury University in 1993 with a double first in Politics and Sociology. Attended Hendon College of Police Training. Displayed great aptitude in field exercises, notably Urban Pacification and Riot Control. Academically excelled in theoretical course work and final year examinations. Received a Baton of Honour, graduated with distinction into the Metropolitan Police Service and quickly established an effectiveness and popularity within the community. Proceeded to improve skill base with courses in advanced driving... and advanced cycling. He became heavily involved in a number of extra-vocational activities and to this day, he holds the Met record for the hundred metre dash. In 2001, he began active duty with the renowned SO19 Armed Response Unit and received a Bravery Award for efforts in the resolution of Operation Crackdown. In the last twelve months, he has received nine special commendations, achieved highest arrest record for any officer in the Met and sustained three injuries in the line of duty, most recently in December when wounded by a man dressed as Father Christmas.

Long story short: he's effin GOOD.

Or maybe too good; some time after said Father Christmas had stuck a switchblade through his palm, Nicholas was called into office only to find out, not only was he promoted to a Sergeant, but he's also being transferred to the small and sleepy town of Sandford for reasons that he's simply made everybody else look bad in comparison. With the entire station seemingly rooting for him to move out, Nicholas had no other choice but to begrudgingly comply.

Upon the first night around town, he showed his iron will to uphold the law on anybody that breaks it by shoving four underage drinkers and an overweight simpleton named Danny to the station, much to the distaste of the locals. Things isn't going any better for Nicholas at this point when he finds out that Danny is a cop once he sobers up and will be his partner the moment he settled in.

While trying to get used to the idea of showing up in demonstration classes for gun safety, herding lost swans, and attending terribly acted stage productions of Romeo and Juliet (with the only well acted part was the kiss), Nicholas never expected a sudden turn to this predicament: the night after said Romeo and Juliet play had its run, two of its main actors was savagely decapitated by an individual in a hood and cloak. The bodies were later set up in the middle of a road, made to look like as if the two had a driving accident. Almost everybody easily dismissed this as such. Almost Everybody.

Believing there's more behind the incident than a mere freak death, Nicholas Angel began to suspect a possible serial killing when more of these accidents began popping up here and there and has no other choice but to trust and team up with his witless yet enthusiastic partner to stop the culprit in time before more bodies turned up decimated and mutilated.

Yeah, I'm positive this isn't a slasher film in the strictest sense but more or less a hybrid of sorts; for those who hadn't seen this magnificent outing from two of my most favored comedians, Hot Fuzz is the second film of director Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy, beginning with 2005's Rom-Com-Zom Shaun of The Dead and ending with 2013's scifi opus The World's End, each film starring comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as buddies in a comedic parody of a particular movie sub-genre (Zombies at Shaun, aliens in End), with a flavored Cornetto cone linking each entry. In Fuzz, it parodies actions flicks, particularly cop movies such as Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys II, with a bit of Italian giallo thrown into the melting pot as suggested with its murder-mystery angle and it's black garbed killer.

As one would expect from a parody comedy, double takes, bad puns and tons of visual gags are ever present in this movie but the noteworthy take in this is that the entire movie itself never resembles a parody. The plot is solid and original enough despite the number of influences, thanks to a well handled direction, pacing, timing and acting that guarantees more hits than misses with it's jokes. (Remember how the dead pan attitude-meets-cartoonishly outrageous scenario of the Naked Gun series sat well enough to keep the films entertaining? Everybody in this movie nailed it!) So despite the near two hour running time, let it not fool you as once you get into the zone, the film'll move fluidly and keep you entertain with enough gags, character developments and thrills til' the heavily edited closing scene that's so awesome the editor's head exploded! As suggested in the pop-ups! You gotta love pop-ups! 

So what's in it for us bodycounters? Well, as I will repeat, this isn't your classic slasher film set-up, but comparing this to the duo's previous horror-comedy, the gore is awfully chunkier and brighter in red. Without spoiling much of the fun, the build-up to these murders are superb and some of the aftermaths will leave you gawking in awe, hyped up for the action scenes that follows, or chuckling at the odd funnies the characters will spat at the moment. If I could compare the story's flow with others, I would say the latter bit of the movie reminds me of the tone direction of the Stallone-starring Cobra (1986), an action-slasher hybrid that started off bodycounting helpless victims before switching to a more high-octane shootout/ brawl-out finale. If you love a good gun fight with your gory murder mysteries then the Fuzz is your haven!

Gun Fights, Car Chases, Proper Action and Shit are wholesomely promised and granted here in Hot Fuzz so may you be an individual of wide taste or a curious horror fanatic, make no mistake of missing out this film. I would go as far as calling this the most entertaining ( if not the best) of Wright, Frost and Pegg's Cornetto Trilogy, though I worship each film individually, but nonetheless, there's plenty of good reasons why many are labeling this as one of the best action flicks to ever existed. Ever! So dial 911 and get ready to say Here Comes The Fuzz!

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female decafinated with an axe
1 male incinerated in house explosion
1 male had his head crushed through by a falling church steeple
1 female stabbed through the throat with a pair of garden shears
1 female skeleton found
1 male skeleton found
1 boy skeleton found
1 dog skeleton found
4 boys found murdered
1 elderly male found with head wound
1 male found with throat cut
1 male skeleton found
1 male Living Statue found dead
1 male decimated by an exploding sea mine
Total: 18
At least, I think he's dead...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Family that Fails Together: Blood Ranch (2006)

Blood Ranch (2006)
Rating: 1/2
Starring:  Jim Fitzpatrick, Dayton Knoll, Scott L. Schwartz

Wow, where do I even begin?

Ever wondered what it would be like if Rob Zombie never had the directorial prowess used to create the cult classic House of 1000 Corpses? Like what if he's just some wannabe horror fan living off the mediocre pay he gets from working at a local mom and pop store and then decided to finally do it and shoot a horror film with a bunch of friends, with literally no idea how to do one in the first place? Well, look no further (like, really don't!) Blood Ranch will show you exactly how House of 1000 Corpses was as a vile DIY "film".

A group of friends and a hitchhiker they picked up were headed to the Burning Man festival when they nearly ran over a bloodily beaten girl whilst taking a shortcut. Deciding to help her out, they let her in and inevitably mark themselves as targets to whoever did this to her, which is made more than obvious when a black van tries to ran them off a road. Now with their car broken, half of these kids ventures to a nearby ranch where they quickly learn that everybody living there is a lunatic. Cue in the other half of the group coming in to save their friends, who may or may not fall prey to an army of Sawyer/Firefly clan rejects, some random people being killed by other random people, and something about raping someone for the sake of the clan.

As wild and sinister as it sounds, this is as exciting as it could get; as a movie, Blood Ranch suffers from having too many characters to the point we really have no idea what to do with them; while it seems to have some primary characters that the movie focuses on, they're dull and cheesily ripped off from other horror generics, painfully done away with some equally cheesy acting that isn't even "bad-is-good" funny. There's nothing imaginative or new in this, just maniacs being maniacs, killing off people they had stored in their ranch and most of these aren't even our star teenagers! In fact, I can count by finger all those who was killed off from the main group and the monumental bodycount was just boosted up by dead/murdered guys who's there just for the sake of being there.

This is hardly a movie for any known sense, may it be a slasher, a thriller, a torture porn or even an expressive art! No, this is just a film that exists cuz the director tried too hard to impress, shock and/or upsets us, but forgets everything else that matters in an entertaining garbage that is a horror movie. Oh yeah, I'm upset alright! Upset that this shit even existed! But, as strange as it will always be, things like this always find a way to get someone to appreciate it but I'm dang sure those who will are just going through a phase. (I remember loving Fear: Resurrection or Pinocchio's Revenge as a kid, only to find out how disappointingly bad they were as I rewatch them as an adult)

With no redeemable factors, may it be the production, the acting, the gore, the scare, the kill variations, and, well, everything about this actually, Blood Ranch is a movie best buried in storage along with other unsold/ least rentable/ discount bin worthy titles out there. Sometimes you just have to wonder, who would even fund this?!

Bodycount:
1 male corpse found
1 male found knifed on the back
1 female gets a throat cut with a knife
2 males beaten to death
1 female had an arm cut off with a chainsaw, murdered
1 male dismembered with a chainsaw
1 male gets a broken neck
1 male knifed on the back
1 male shot on the face
1 female found murdered
1 male shot on the back
1 male stabbed on the gut with a machete
Total: 13

Saturday, November 22, 2014

To Mock a Killing Bird: Shadows of The Mind (1980)

Shadows of the Mind (1980) (AKA "A Heritage of Blood")
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Marion Joyce, Erik Rolfe, G.E. Barrymore

As a child, Elise witnessed her father and stepmother drown while boating on a nearby lake. Feeling guilty that she couldn't save them from their fates, she's been institutionalized since until twelve years later, her doctor decided she's ready to return to the outside world. Alone and unsure of her own recovery, Elise returns to her old family estate and not too long, her estranged stepbrother stops by to check up on her, somewhat resulting to a string of various murders.

Coming from Roger Watkins, the same man who sat on the director's chair of Last House on Dead End Street (Though using the pen name Bernard Travis here to hide himself from his own shame), Shadows is a rare, out-of-print whodunit that suffered through a lot of unsatisfying production, so much that Watkins once tried making a flick showing the stress he endured for this film. True enough, for a movie with a short running time (75 minutes), it took 40 long, terribly acted and oddly edited minutes before the ball got rolling, leading to a fiery yet predictable twist ending that you may or may not had seen coming. (Depends on how well you know this sub-genre)

To be fair, least on my own experience, it wasn't all that bad; while the pacing is a problem, the latter half of the film sat fair with me. Perhaps I was patient at the time, the odd acting didn't bother me much and the gothic take on the bodycounting was an added treat. It was atmospheric for most of the time and the murders come off brutal even though they're low in count. By the time the big reveal was shown, it had this cheesy look to it that was simply okay.

I'm not gonna try hard to squeeze out reasons for anybody to sought this film, the truth is Shadows of the Mind had good reasons why it is so obscure.  It's close to being dull and uninspired but there are a lot more early 80s slashers out there that did worse than this. It's moody, considerably bloody and its rarity is a good ringer for collectors of rare and out-of-print trash. See it out of curiosity.

Bodycount:
1 male gets a scythe through his neck
1 male stabbed on the eye with a corkscrew
1 female repeatedly knifed, set on fire
1 male and 1 female beaten with an oar, drowned
Total: 5

Boobs and Blood of the Crappy Kind: Porn Shoot Massacre (2009)

Porn Shoot Massacre (2009)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Shelly Martinez, Naomi Cruz, Diana Prince

For the first three to five minutes we get this:

My initial thoughts? Dayum, those are some big Danny DeVitos! But after drying up and getting ready to perform in a shooting in some place, this lady soon gets smothered to death by someone wielding a dangerous pair of pantyhose. My initial thought for that? We're in for a long night.

The plot for Porn Shoot Massacre is really what it all says in the title; we got a porn shooting lead by a director with a very fake looking mustache and beard, who in turn hired seven adult actresses to star in his masterpiece. (well, it included a little guy, I'm assuming e's aiming for a masterpiece) But unknown to them, a heavy breathing brute with what I assume is a jock strap over his face is skulking around the parts, killing off the actresses and actors. Could this be someone's idea of a single man army against perversion? Well, this is a movie titled Porn Shoot Massacre, I'm dang positive we'll get a B-grade twist along the way.

Not gonna lie, this movie had his titillating moments, but for a film titled Porn Shoot Massacre, we don't get to see a lot of the forbidden fruit here. If anything, we get a glimpse of it before the shot fades to black but for a movie about a supposedly shooting of a porno where the in-movie director claims will befit the taste of the deprived masses, this is an awfully stale porno that features nothing more than girls cuddling, sexy dancing and other softcore crud. Still, what it does for the horror part of the movie is sort of acceptable. Read, Sort of! The kills had their bright red moments and by that I meant we only get to see a moment of blood and gore before we're thrown in back to watch more horribly acted soft core, which is devastating seeing the production is as good as purchasing the world's smallest violin, thus a quality as bad as an actual porno itself.

I might be getting a big uppity myself here; after all it is, again, a movie titled Porn Shoot Massacre. I'm not gonna get anything like Life of Pi in this exploitative misogynistic garbage which I'm sure was aimed for the male percentage of slasher fanatics. It's cheesy and oddly cheerful atmosphere may be the best reason for some people to see this movie but for me, I think I'll prefer my porn and horror flicks separate. Or at least as fun as Black Devil Doll.

Bodycount:
1  female smothered to death with stockings
1 male killed, found with throat cut
1 female hacked to death with a hatchet, beheaded
1 female pounded to death
1 female knifed on the back
1 female beaten with a sledge hammer, disemboweled with a knife
1 male mentioned murdered
1 male had is head crushed until his eye popped out
2 males had their necks broken
1 male killed, blood splash seen
1 male had his neck cut with a knife
1 male shot, beaten to death with a wooden plank
Total: 13

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Freddy Rising: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox

Just as Dream Warriors marked the return of Freddy into his teen-hunting-in-dream-world game after his failed (yet interesting) attempt of supernatural possession of Freddy's Revenge, it also opened the door of opportunity for the burnt guy to be one of America's most sought for movie monster. Now in the franchise's height, New Lines was ready to do more nightmarish deaths (literally) with all the money Freddy was reeling in and so came into production this good yet undeniably cheesier entry to the Elm Street series.

A year (or two) had passed when the three remaining (and original) Elm Street children had defeated the dream-world bogeyman known as Freddy Krueger, living somewhat normal lives free of fear of him ever coming back. Save for one; Kristen, an Elm Street girl with the power to call in other dreaming teenagers into her own dream can't seem to budge off the feeling that the dream demon is far from gone and true enough, Freddy somehow found a way back into existing and starts to murder off the three, saving Kristen for last.

But before she meets her final demise, Kristen accidentally pulled in Alice, her daydreaming friend with some knowledge on dream logic and, in a last attempt to stop Freddy, passed her dream-reeling powers to the confused girl. This act unfortunately made it possible for Freddy to reach out to the newer generation of Elm Street children, more precisely Alice's friends and family. One by one, they fell victim to their own nightmares, forcing Alice to find a way to stop Freddy before he takes her and the rest of the town's children.

With the level of comic one-liners noticeably higher and the deaths elaborately more cartoonish, Dream Master marks the beginning of Freddy's downfall as a horror villain and rise as a global 80s pop culture icon. Take notice that the previous Elm Street entries had Freddy staying in the shadows, his jokes more sicker than laughable; here, he took a lot of actions in the light, his lines streaming across the comic and his kills lacked a decent amount of blood splash. Yes, the kills are imaginative, but they starting to get too imaginative as they're more cartoonishly outrageous than the last, a reason why many hardcore horror fans seems doubtful labeling this franchise as a slasher.

The way I see it, apart from being influenced by the MTV generation (check out the multiple TV spots within the movie), the plot is more Freddy-centered than that of the children, with only one or two teen characters focused in the entire movie. The first is Kristen, now played by a different actress (Tuesday Knight)) as the original is unavailable to fill in the role, spending a decent bulk of her screen time being Krueger-phobic which may or may not have triggered the nightmare man's return. She then bites the big one in a manner similar to Psycho's Marion Crane, dying during the progression of the film only to pass the dream killer-kicking torch to her friend Alice, an awkward goody-goody with patriarchal issues (a fact that may have helped giving this character a little more root-worthy), struggling to keep her life in check while dealing with a situation she wasn't too familiar with.

With the plot revolving more around the Springwood slasher's dream haunting and killing, even more interesting that it also resembles a sort of reboot since it now focuses on a new generation of Elm street teens, it's not too hard to have a good chunk of the film with him being outrageously evil in an inviting, near cartoon-villain manner. Whenever he is around, there's bound to be some strange crud going on until in the end, after too many of her friends have been snuffed, Alice hardens up and goes kung-fu punkette against Freddy in one of slasher history's most entertaining mano (lady-o?)-a-monster final brawl, with a gruesome (momentary) demise for Mr. Krueger himself. Now these being mentioned, it may sound like the rest of the teen casts are pretty much there just to be meat for Krueger's cutting. Well, that's a yes and a no; while only a few of them are properly developed and characterized, though some are leaning close to a parody of a character they are portraying, they are likable enough to stand out during their short screen time and you can really feel they're close.

So, Dream Master's not remotely scary, but its entertainment factor is reason enough to consider this as one of the franchise's stronger entries. With top-notch, non-CG special effects backing up the flaws and more grimly fun with our titular killer as he steps out of the shadows and into the light, the movie works for the most shallowest of reasons but still considerable with its workable story and tone, comparing it to other titles in the series, mainly Freddy's Revenge, Dream Child and, the black sheep of the family, Freddy's Dead. There are some interesting mythos thrown in here, something regarding a Negative and Positive dream gates which may attribute to Freddy and Alice's opposing sides, unfortunately this remained sidelined, seemingly forgotten in the latter sequels.

Slipping into a cheesier foray not only in terms of human-faced pizza toppings, Dream Master fairs well as a movie but as a sequel, it red lights us that our Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs may get sillier in his later adventures...

Bodycount:
1 male razor gloved on the gut
1 male slashed with a razor glove, drowned in water bed
1 female thrown into a furnace, burned to death
1 female suffocates
1 male razor gloved on the gut
1 female crushed to death
Total: 6

Saturday, November 15, 2014

To Kill God: Kristy (2014)

Kristy (2014) (AKA Satanic, Random)
Rating: ***
Starring: Haley Bennett, Ashley Greene

Adding into the considerably small number of Thanksgiving-themed slashers, and seemingly running on a very simplistic formula, Kristy follows Justine, a studious college girl who decided to stay on campus while her friends and her boyfriend goes home for Thanksgiving. For the first fifteen minutes we see how alone she is and, save for a couple of guards, the whole place is pretty much her own oyster, so wasn't too long before she ran out of chores and other personal stuff to do and decided to go out and buy herself a snack or two.

Driving to a nearby convenience store, Justine encounters Violet, a hooded punkette with a knack for piercings who definitely gave her the chills, even more so when it became apparent she followed her all the way into campus. The thing is, Violet isn't alone; with her is a trio of masked and hooded men who are a part of an online Satanic cult dedicated on murdering random girls who they all nicknamed "Kristy", recording the kills and sharing it on a site as a sign of dedication on their war against God. Chased through empty hallways and libraries, and bearing witness as they murder anybody that got in the way, it soon became apparent for Justine that the only way to live through their game of Cat-and-Mouse is to fight back.

For truth's worth, Kristy isn't really all that; as mentioned above, it's a simple movie about a girl being stalked by a pack of merciless killers so it relies a lot on building tension, meaning we get a lot of scenes in the dark where a killer or two are just feet away from our lead, people calling out people in a thick fog, and all of those classic slasher cliches. It works, I'll give the movie that, but comparing this with its ilk, Kristy hadn't done much to improve, especially if the kills, though plentiful, wasn't all that inventive, and not to mention some little plot holes and inconsistencies. (How the heck can the Kristy killers text if they use cellphone jammers?)

Still, all's not lost; performances are pretty solid seeing the movie has one main character to focus on. Haley Bennett took her role as Justine with much quirk and gentleness around the first few minutes right before the attacks. Her character is relatively normal so she's not hard to relate and root for, especially once she decided to gut up and turn the tables on her attackers. And speaking of which, the murderous group did had their moments of being imposing; though they are human behind their masks and hoods, and their motives are a tad cheesy, they're organized and well-experienced enough to read their prey's move with so much animalistic instinct that it's threatening. And with the brooding direction of these attacks and the workable giallo-inspired tint-lighting, I can honestly say that Kristy is redeemed fairly with these fair production quality and talent.

The movie ends with an indication that there might be more coming from this murder-cult. Should this be a hint of a future sequel at hand or not, Kristy's simplistic campus slasher is watchable on its own, either rented for a viewing or bought for your growing collection. It may not had brought out anything out of the ordinary for our bodycounting kicks but at least it played the game right.

Bodycount:
1 female found with throat cut
1 female gets a throat cut with a meat hook (video)
1 female murdered, method unknown (video)
1 male bludgeoned with a baseball bat
1 male found murdered
1 dog killed offcamera
1 male hanged with a garden hose
1 male stabbed on the gut with a meat hook
1 male crushed against the wall with a car
1 male drowned in a pool
1 male hit on the head with a nailed baseball bat
1 female set on fire with sodium nitrate
Total: 12
Behind Every Tree...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Under your bed: Don't Go To Sleep (1982)

Don't Go To Sleep (1982)
Rating: ****
Starring: Dennis Weaver, Valerie Harper, Robin Ignico

A family of four moved in to a sleepy little town in California in hopes of moving on from the tragic death of their eldest daughter, Jennifer. Parents Phillip and Laura try their best to maintain a picture perfect scenario but it soon crumbles down when Laura's mum decided to join in, much to the children's disapproval. Days pass by, Phillip begins drinking (again) and the kids bicker with each other more constantly, much stranger is that their little girl, Mary, starts to hear voices from under her bed and begins catching glimpses of their late eldest.
Who the heck wears a pink ribbon in their 80s?
After a blazing incident that almost burnt Mary to death one night, the family begins to suspect that their girl might be in need of professional help, believing that these incidents, as well as her visions, might indicate trauma. Of course, Mary is having none but does find someone who's willing to take her side- the ghost of Jennifer. Explaining to her young sister that the rest of the family doesn't miss her as she does, Jennifer begins hanging out with Mary, along the way plotting deadly vengeance against everybody related in blood.

When I first decided to watch Don't Go To Sleep, I never expected much from it bar a tame ghost movie with some deaths. True, it is precisely that seeing this was made for television but, much like the case of Dark Night of The Scarecrow (1980), this little screen nightmare put up the ante for creepiness and molded a pretty neat surprise in the end. A lot of this owes to the fact some of its scenes really tapped into childhood fears and anxieties; death in a family, devolution into dysfunction, and the ole-time classic "thing under the bed" are some of the dramas that may had frightened us as children, tackled here with a subtle yet brooding intensity thanks to the superb direction.
I rather have monsters under my bed, thank you!
I can definitely say Don't Go To Sleep really had it going for vintage scares, methodically and creepily switching from a supernatural family drama to a slightly disturbing semi-slasher. The kills aren't all bloody but remains shocking even for TV flick standards, some of it even memorable just for its execution, stylish camera work and the fact that it lead to an unhappy territory. Acting is quite believable for a TV movie, despite some occasional cheese and I really dig the last haunting shot before the credit rolls to an end, understanding what really went on.

The only flaw I see here is how well these scares hold on to a typical horror fan: some may find it goosebumps-inducing, others will find it outdated and barely scary. Perhaps someone with a patience for slow-burning haunting/slasher hybrid might enjoy this, but those who prefers splattery, gore-tainted bodycounters will not find a keeper here. But as far as my opinion go, I absolutely love this creep-fest, not much from the scares but more on how well executed it is. Yes, there are some slow parts and since the killings are limited to simply the family members, not a lot tends to happen in said parts save probably some bickering or casual conversations that may or may not be red herrings, but these are something that are easily overlook by the right audience.
Pizza Cutters as Slasher Weapons?
What-a next-a, America?!
I couldn't stress my respect for this movie enough so for my readers, do me a favor? If you have the time to pick a TV movie to watch in your late night viewing, I suggest giving Don't Go To Sleep a try. A little 80s chill never hurt a true horror fanatic and this title is right off the bat.

Bodycount:
1 Female suffers a heart attack
1 Boy fell off a roof
1 Male electrocuted in a bath tub with a dropped radio
1 Girl immolated in car explosion
Total: 4