Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Starring: Ace Vergel, Snooky Serna, Liza Lorena
(Before I start, I would like to give a big shout out to Jenny Lo for helping me finally see a copy of this surpringly hard-to-find film! It's people like her why I'm proud to be one with the horror community!)
It's quite a shame my home country, the Philippines, never have that much of a demand for gory slasher flicks because rare cheesy gems like Basag Ang Pula shows that, if we really put a lot of effort to it, we could do a fun and messy bodycounter.
Basag starts with a treat by taking a varying stab on a well-known Filipino urban legend; a father drives to a party to pick up his teenage daughter only for their car to run out of gas while enroute back home. The father decided to get out to find fuel, leaving his daughter inside the car to have someone guard it. This eventually proves to be a terrible idea when a crazed man suddenly attacks the car, frightening the girl into hysterics. The cherry on top? The man slowly reveals that he just freshly decapitated her father and he has the keys...
Another offscreen death and an opening credit later, the crime scene is now swarmed by cops, reporters and curious cats alike, and though they are baffled by the lack of motive for the killings, they are certain this is the work of the same maniac who apparently have been murdering folks around the city recently.
The following morning comes with us watching our killer, Fernando, living his day catching and torturing rats while experiencing horrid childhood flashbacks. Later that very night, he ventures off to do some more human hunting, this time cock-blocking a horny pair of teenagers before fatally stabbing the boy and chasing the girl into the streets when she escapes. The screaming and struggles draw the attention of patrolling officials, however, prompting Fernando to back off and hide inside a school bus where he murders the driver after the man threatens to tell on the cops.
In a stroke of luck, the bus turns out to be a hired transport for a large group of high school girls attending a retreat and Fernando seizes the opportunity to pretend as the murdered driver's nephew to drive all the way to another city, escaping possible capture. Of course, it wasn't long before he can't hold back his murderous impulses once he and the class reach the retreat and the need to start another killing spree catches up to him soon.
While not necessarily a great movie per se, Basag ang Pula does work as a cheesy exploitation flick, somewhat bringing an amount of grit and teeth to an otherwise cheddar-tainted story of an opportunistic murderer slaying his way through a class full of party and/or sex-hungry teenagers. (And teachers) It could have been nothing but hokey hamminess comparable to some late 80s American school girl-in-peril slashers such as School Girl Screamers (1986), Blood Sisters (1987) and The Last Slumber Party (1988), with some scenes actually looking like it was going for that kind of mess (An Ouija board scene between the girls and their recently murdered classmate, anyone? How about a bonfire dance-off between the class goof and the local retard?), but Basag found a way to present itself as this dirty and grim looking creature for over most of the movie's entire run, mainly thanks to our villain's unsettling character and the sheer relentlessness of his attacks, elements played the straightest and grounded Basag in place as a genuine horror movie.
Though our villain is nothing anywhere as remarkable and noteworthy as many masked slashers reigning the box offices of their time, his seemingly unprovoked killing streak and often robotic personality (courtesy of actor, Ace Vergel) gave him an unpredictable edge, resulting to a rather sizable killcount consisting of often brutal dispatches without being that gory or inventive. (our killer only wielded two murder weapons: a hunting knife and, later, an automatic rifle) Two notable occasions Basag showed some worth for shock value were the beheading reveal at its opening scene and one part in the middle of the movie where a mentally handicapped man found himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time and at the bad end of the blade.
If there's anything that doesn't really help our antagonist stand above other slashers villains, it would be the climactic reveal of how exactly Fernando became this unhinged wherein his reasons and accompanying flashbacks reveal a tragic romance gone fatal, a cliche nearly as overused as the abusive parental figure when it comes to past traumas. This did lead to a minor mystery whether one girl in the retreat may or may not be Fernando's tragic lover who mysteriously disappeared from his life, but the lack of focus on this supposed sub-plot made it pretty weak and corny, succeeding only to give our killer a reason to hold back on committing a complete stab-a-thon.
Oddly, too, is that Basag's also one of the few slasher titles that spent a good amount on writing and building up a possible final girl among its characters, only for her to be tossed aside in the last act and have the movie stretch 20 minutes more to switch from "horror" to "action thriller", with Fernando arming himself with a semi-automatic and shooting down armed cops on pursuit. It's certainly a curveball plot turn I never saw coming from this film (Nor is it really new for me. Gotta blame Severance (2003) and The Majorettes (1987) for that one), but I overly enjoy its sheer silliness and macho-inducing reek, a kind of nostalgic grandeur of over-the-top entertainment that only vintage Filipino exploitation flicks can induce.
A rough little gem of a rare slasher, Basag Ang Pula was a challenge to find but I can honestly say that the hunt was well worth it. Cheesy and grim in the right balance, this is one foreign entry that deserves a quick look for all slasher completists and horror purists.
1 male head seen
1 female murdered offscreen
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 male had his chest dragged open with a knife
1 female had her throat slashed with a knife
1 female killed, blood spill seen
1 female stabbed with a knife
1 male stabbed in the gut with a knife
1 female stabbed in the head with a knife
1 male knifed in the nape
1 female stabbed on the gut with a knife
1 female mentioned killed
1 male stabbed to death with a knife
1 male stabbed to death with a knife
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
Monday, November 20, 2017
Starring: James Frey, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Logan Paul
Eight and a half minutes long. Produced by Eli Roth of the Hostel franchise. Yep. This is gonna be a fun one.
At a seaside funfair, a man with a chainsaw nonchalantly walks to the backroom of a haunted house attraction, apparently to work as a hired spook. Of course, with the man's quite demeanor (and this being a short horror flick), we all can tell something's not right and dismemberment soon happens left and right.
Originally made as a sort of sneak peek for a possible feature film, Chainsaw has quite a simple premise that harks back to classic horror stories of dark rides with deadly little secrets. It's pretty straightforward to what it wanted to do and we can easily tell this with the killer's quick succession of murdering five victims in such a short running time. Some may find this predictable and I will not argue with that fact, but this little devil packed enough blood and guts to satisfy bloodthirsty gorehounds and I like the fact that they went on with it in gruesome flair and a bit of dark humor.
It's a quick slice of gory horror pie so there's also very little to argue about in terms of writing and characterization. The victims are victims, the unknowing bystanders are just unknowing bystanders, and our nameless killer is just a nameless killer, though we are shown that he likes to eat raw meat from his victims and that this little thrill kill might not be his last. Special effects are undoubtedly the short's key player as juicy red corn syrup and chunky latex parts are everywhere once the climactic slaughtering begins and even when it ends, having an artsy touch to them with nasty slow-mo close-ups that kinda reminds me of a dismemberment scene from the cheesy cult classic slasher Pieces (1982).
1 male decapitated with a chainsaw
1 male bisected on the shoulder with a chainsaw
1 female sliced in half with a chainsaw
1 female seen killed with a chainsaw
1 male seen dismembered
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe
One would remember Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett as the filmmaking duo responsible for the stylish and devilishly fun home invasion/slasher melting pot You're Next (2011), as well as the slow burning yet hypnotizing serial killer thriller A Horrible Way to Die (2009) and a couple of better entries for the first two V/H/S/ anthology horror movies. Now, we'll look into their 2014 hit The Guest, which is far from the standard horror flick you would expect in a slasher blog like this, but it has enough intrigue, kill count and even a few shoutouts to horror flicks to earn a warm welcome here in StickyRed.
Still mourning over the loss of their son Caleb who died in action back at Afghanistan, the Petersons get an unexpected visitor named David one early morning, claiming to be Caleb's marine buddy. He is there to look after them because their late son "asked him to", a promise our titular guest is determined to make good of and a proposition the Petersons were quick to accept.
Well, most of the Petersons: a bit suspicious of this is Anna, the only daughter of the family and now the remaining eldest. She believes there's more to David's near-perfection as a house guest than what he is showing and her suspicions are later proven pin-point, unfortunately, as David has a secret worth killing over and anybody (and I mean anybody) in the way is fair game once he believes he's compromised.
Being frank, The Guest's core plot isn't entirely new if you look back at movies like The Stepfather (1987) and its sequels (and underrated remake), as well as Mikey (1992), Orphan (2009) and many other horror flicks involving suspicious and/or murderous adoptive/adopting family members. It's quite easy to tell that something is up with David's boy-next-door persona and we are eventually made aware of this once he starts talking about acquiring guns in one scene and nonchalantly killing off the suppliers in another. Basically, we are more or less watching a ticking time bomb of a narrative that's scheduled to go off once the climactic curveball is upon us, only the wait is just as fun as the last act it is building to.
What The Guest does that not a lot of its ilk seems to grasp perfectly (or attempted at all) is create a worthwhile diversion to an otherwise predictable scenario. By this I meant that most of the time, movies like The Stepfather or Orphan gave more focus on uncovering the dark secrets of the painfully obvious offending party, molding said offending party into a much more obvious threat that needs to be stopped. In The Guest, however, even after we are made aware of David's potential murder-happy persona, we are still shown a more acceptable side of him as a man looking out for a family and doing a good job at it.
For a good mulch of the time, we see David help Laura, the mother, with the chores, taught the family's youngest Luke how to stand up against his bullies (beating a good number of them up in the process), and may have done something to have Spencer, the father, suddenly climb the corpotate ladder at his job, all of these with an uncomfortably eerie yet somewhat genuine smile and soft spoken persona only Downtown Abbey's Dan Stevens can muster with good looks and charm. It's these awesome moments that made the David character quite a likable chap, thus adding tension and mystery to the plot as we are never solidly sure what he is capable of, what he really is and/or his actual purpose being there until the hour mark. By then, The Guest turns the table against us and kinda recalls its horror elements, bringing forth an odd mix of slasher flick killing spree and action movie shoot'em up.
This transition is far from perfect as we were never given a clear explanation as to why David suddenly goes 360 from his protective big brother mode and go Terminator on everybody's arses. Yes, they did explain he is programmed by something shady and there was supposed to be a scene that go into this in more details, but Wingard and Barrett decided to cut it out to make David more mysterious. So what exactly this programming does or what it is for werenever brought up and this is understandably upsetting for some as it made the David character lazily transformed from a potential anti-hero to something of a slasher villain packing heat (And a box cutter), throwing away all of the development made just for a more explosive and exploitative final act.
Personally, the sudden transformation of both David and the subtle tone of the movie would have been upsetting for me, but seeing the layout of the story was already familiar to me genre-wise, the impact is forseen and though I do wished they planned this twist a bit better, the resulting product is still entertainingly fun and impressive.
What I personally love about The Guest, apart from Steven's portrayal as a first-likable-then-homicidal human weapon, is that it has a grooving retro feel to it from its editing to its soundtrack despite having a modernized setting, giving the entire movie a timeless feel. There's offerings for both thriller and horror enthusiasts in the later carnage as we are given a chance to see David in gunheld action, as well as him delivering some decent kills in both combustive and slicing manner, two in particular (my favorites) involve an unsettling scene where live grenades were tossed at a diner full of innocent bystanders and another at a highschool horror maze in which the film went full slasher movie on us.
Now, if there is anything that I could point as flaws that really bugged me, it'll be the Peterson parent's quick approval of having David around just because he showed little proofs that could have meant anything else. (I mean, did David really got those dog tags from Caleb the way he explained it?) It's a typical horror cliche of "useless/clueless adults" which mostly sets grown ups as deserving meat for the slaughter for being blind of the danger they are getting into and though I get that Mrs. Peterson might be this easily persuaded as she is still greiving over the loss of her boy, I find it too easy for Papa Peterson to be just as easily welcoming after one scene of skepticism. I guess it is a good thing that most of the focus of (kinder) David interactions were on Laura and her son Luke as they were the easiest to relate to and work the best with the kind of plotting The Guest was going for.
A fun genre film that molds the thrilling and the horrifying in one antihero-centered package, I can honestly say that The Guest is a winner in my book, whether its last act works for a lot of folks or not. If you love your good thrillers with a side of horror and character, then this one's a guaranteed definite keeper!
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot
1 male shot
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 male shot on the face with an automatic rifle
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male shot dead
1 male mangled in car collision, shot
1 victim implied shot, blood splatter seen
1 female shot
A number of people presumably killed in grenade explosion
1 male had this throat sliced with a box cutter
1 male had his wrist sliced open with a box cutter, bled to death
1 male implied murdered, uniform seen
Monday, October 23, 2017
So yeah, I decided to expand my next project here in Blogger for more exposure. It'll be a gag webcomic series about a demoness named Cass and her often unusual adventures living in the mortal world.
Well, try living in the mortal world...
Hope you guys will give this one a try!
Well, try living in the mortal world...
Hope you guys will give this one a try!
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Starring: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell
By this time, we all know babysitting's a doomed profession should you ever find yourself living in a horror film: if you're not being stalked by a maniac in a William Shatner mask, you're probably being taunted by a creepy voice on the other end of a phone call, or finding out that the kid you are looking after is really the son of the devil. Or not really a kid at all! Yep, babysitters sure get the bad end of the tooth-and-nail trappings as a horror cliche quite a lot, don't they? But what if we turn things around a bit? What if the babysitter is the bad end?
Twelve-year old Cole (Judah Lewis) is, in his and everybody else's word, a pussy. He is afraid of needles, spiders, driving a car on his own and a very dorky bully who I'm sure wouldn't last 30 seconds in a real fight. As timid as he is, Cole is still lucky as he does have a few peeps looking out for him, mainly his adorkable parents, his best (girl) friend Melanie, and Bee (Samara Weaving), his family's got-to babysitter.
As the two have the time of their lives discussing their dream "galactic team-up", baking pizzas, watching old Westerns and talking about that cute neighbor girl who Cole may have a bit of crush on, it wasn't long before Bee temps our boy his first beer and, suspecting his babysitter's trying to get him drunk and drowzy to have her own private time, Cole feigns being sleepy so he can sneak a peek at what happens whenever he clocks out. Oh, how he wished he hadn't done that.
True enough, Bee invited some friends over for a PG-rated game of Spin the Bottle, mainly consisting of bitchy cheerleader Allison (Bella Thorne), uber jock Max (Robbie Amell), intense goth Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), the quip-ready John (Andrew Bachelor) and, an apparent new addition to the crew, dorkus magnus Samuel (Doug Haley). What should have been a hot kiss-a-thon between these slasher victim stereotypes, however, Cole instead saw them murder Samuel for a blood ritual and it seems they'll be needing one more thing to complete it: the blood of an innocent. AKA Cole's.
A fun thing about The Babysitter is that, early on, it has the makings of a loud, brash and obnoxious teen horror flick that could have tried too hard that it'll flop. Infested with pop songs and psuedo-referential preteen dialogue, dragging along some crazy visuals and camera effects for the sake of being hip and fun, one would have assume it would go downhill after 10 to 30 minutes but, quite surprisingly, not only did this film found a way to maintain the sarcastic self-referencing nature of the plot and keep it enjoyable thanks to its strangely upbeat direction, skillful writing and wonderful talents involved, but it also found a way to have a bit of a heart with it and slows down whenever it is needed to.
The comedy and exploitation elements are fun and all (Damn, that girl-on-girl kiss! Damn that Andrew Bachelor is friggin hilarious! Damn, why is Max shirtless for the rest of the film?!), and one can always find something exciting from a good stalk-and-stab especially if you're as big of a fan of slasher flicks as I am and have a good appreciation for (mostly) practical effects (keep an "eye" on a fire poker kill. It's "mind" bogglingly brutal!), but what made The Babysitter much more memorable is the chemistry between Cole and Bee. It's difficult to explain, but the way they're both written shows a genuine friendship between the two characters and that they really do care with one another even if shit hits the fan. It's this kind of characterization that kept me glued until the end of the film, just rooting to see how much both Cole and Bee grew up in this situation, and I have no one else to thanks but Weaving and Lewis' performances as their respective roles. These two are gonna go places!
It's for the best to experience The Babysitter on its freshest, which means it's time to get off your butt (or don't since it is available on Netflix as of writing this) and see one of this year's best horror comedy! A perfect midnight movie for your warm popcorn and chugs of soda!
1 male stabbed on the head with daggers
1 male had his throat cut with a dagger
1 male gets a fire poker thrown through his head, torn open
1 male falls and impaled neck-first through a trophy
1 female immolated by a firework (twice)
1 male had his neck tangled on a rope, hanged
1 female had her head shot off with a shotgun
1 male attacked with a knife, presumably killed
Starring: Allison Dawn Doiron, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif
Last we have heard of Chucky cinematic-wise, our pint-sized possessed slasher doll went back to being "straight scary" in 2013's Curse of Chucky, the franchise's 5th sequel doubling as its first direct to video entry. The movie was okay for most parts despite a few "restrictions" the production's considerably smaller budget lead to: Chucky often looks different from one shot to another and his animatronics doesn't look as fluid as the first five films he starred at. There's also the matter that entire film mostly takes place in a single location, showing the budget limits, and its writing and acting could have been better.
Now, I can appreciate a movie for just being fun and Curse thankfully manages to be that despite its flaws. It seems a lot of people thought so too, so it's not so surprising that another sequel is expected and that leaves me wondering: will lightning strike twice? Will this Cult of Chucky work better than Curse? Or worse?
Set a few months after the last film wherein Chucky murdered almost all of her family, paraplegic Mia is now being institutionalized into believing that she herself committed the killing spree out of spite. As a way to better herself, she is moved to another psychiatric clinic where she is to socialize with other recovering nut jobs suffering from different cases of trauma or schizophrenic tendencies.
Rightfully bitter about the murders, Mia's troubles are about to get more unsettling when her group's psychiatrist decided to buy a Good Guy doll (Apparently now available at Hot Topic!) for their sessions as a mean for her and the others to vent out their frustrations or act out fantasies. Adding devastating salt to Mia's wounds, she also gets a visit from a "Miss Valentine" the following day, who claims to be the new (and last) guardian looking after Mia's niece Alice, orphaned after the murders. She's there to (nonchalantly) break the news that Alice "died of a broken heart" sometime after Mia got thrown into intensive care and she's there to hand over Alice's Good Guy Doll as way to remember her by. (Did I mentioned Miss Valentine look awfully a lot like Jennifer Tilly?...wait.)
Eventually, a new wave of deaths makes slim pickings out of Mia's circle of troubled individuals, forcing her to try and convince everyone that Chucky's back and killing them all one by one. In the meantime, certain that a killer doll is indeed behind Mia's family's massacre, a now-adult gun-totting Andy Barclay, the franchise's three-time final boy, keeps an eye on Mia's confinement, all the while being taunted by something, or someone that puts the recent deaths on a stranger note: Chucky's decapitated yet still living head!
Looking at it with a critical eye, Cult of Chucky can be seen as a mixed bag of ideas being shuffled around with no clear thought on which one it really wanted to be, or at least what to focus on. At one end, it appears Cult wanted to do a serious psychological slasher flick as we get to follow a lot on Mia's confinement, depression and possible paranoia as a wrongfully accused individual, with a few scenes made to look like as if she might be in fact losing her head and could be the one ending people left and right thanks to Chucky's influence. If given the chance, this would have been a bold new direction the franchise could have gone to, something that was actually suggested in the early drafts of the original Child's Play wherein Young Andy was suspected of the murders a bit longer before the reveal was made.
Sadly, whatever attempts Cult tried with this horror-of-the-mind approach are inevitably underwhelmed by the fact that it is, of course, a Chucky film. One with an even stronger connection to the entire Child's Play franchise with references to events and characters from the previous six films. With that, it's not hard to imagine that our infamous Lake Shore Strangler is, no doubt, back in action and out doing what he does best. The only catch this time is that there's a suspected twist that I wouldn't really count as a spoiler since the film itself practically gave it away "as a playful suspicion" about halfway into the movie (or, heck, if you're smart enough, around the first act of the whole friggin movie), but I am just gonna hint that it does explains why lil' Chucky is out killing people at a nuthouse while his still living (and horribly tortured) head is hanging out with Andy at the same time.
This brand of craziness shows Cult remembers its supernatural slasher roots, and it gladly still delivers the familiar grue and voodoo mayhem the franchise is known for, but only after juggling the bodycounting elements with artsy psycho thriller shenanigans for about 2/3rds of the movie. It's this cluttered direction that, personally, made Cult of Chucky uneven in its tone and may have missed a few opportunities to better itself, like the re-introduction of Andy Barclay as a potential secondary protagonist or workable side character who, unfortunately, spent doing almost nothing here but torture Chucky and just sounding badass. ("Almost" since, at the near end, he did gut out a Chucky with nothing but his bare hands to retrieve a hidden gun, which is pretty cool.) But much like the flawed yet passable Curse of Chucky that came before this, as messy as its direction and tone are, I can't say that I didn't enjoy Cult.
There's a lot of room to improve on, this is true, but I do appreciate Cult's efforts to try something entirely different for the franchise like the introduction of (sort of) strong psychological elements into the fray as well as breaking the rules of its own mythos and hints the return of the new age black comedy started by Bride of Chucky. As any good slasher, the killings have a range of being subtle to downright brutal, packing good old-fashioned practical gore effects, and some of the dialogue by our quip-friendly killer doll have a unsettling creepiness to them as we get to see (or hear) more of his sociopathic tendencies. (Though, this doesn't mean we don't get to see Chucky being his insanely darkly comical self. Watch him have a conversation with "himself". It might not be all that much, but I couldn't stop laughing at the casualness of it all!) Brad Dourif is still cool as Chucky, even if the dolls still have that obvious robotic look on their animatronics save their faces. (Which are actually a lot more emotive compared to Curse's) Fiona Douriff as Mia may not have done much as a more "active" final girl thanks to both her character's handicap and psychological situation, but the brooding turn for her Mia was an interesting watch for most parts and I think Fiona did a fairly good job as a tolerable bitter lead for us to follow.
In the end (figuratively and literally), Cult bid us farewell with a strong hint that its far from over, throwing at us even more faces from the past (entries of the series). Did these cameos got my attention? Yes, yes it did. Am I hoping to see more? Yes, yes I am, but with the way this entry was mostly handled, I am going to say that a good chunk of my expectations for a good Chucky sequel in the future was "wounded" to say the least. For now, all I can say is Cult of Chucky's passable: it's entertaining enough not to be considered the worst, but missed too much marks to be considered as one of the better entries in the series. If you're a die hard Chucky fan, this is still worth your time, but for everybody else, welp, let's see if anything good is out direct to video lately...
1 girl mentioned dead
1 female found bled to death from a wrist cut
1 female decapitated by falling window shards
1 female choked on killer's arm, had her larynx torn out from the mouth
1 male slaughtered with a broken bottle, letter opener and powerdrill
1 male had his throat cut with a nail file
1 male had his face repeatedly stomped
1 female seen with a powerdrill through her gut
1 male gets powerdrilled through the head
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Starring: Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech
Looking back at notorious groups and communities started by the likes of Charles Manson, Jim Jones or that one bald Heaven's Gate guy who believes aliens will save everyone's souls via suicide, one can agree that brainwashed cults are pretty terrifying for the lengths they do to show their devotion, which nothing short of an obvious reason why cult themed horror flicks are still a staple to this day, albeit in varying quality in terms of scares, thrills and seriousness. Among all of them, though, how many ever tried tackling the subject of deprogramming a cult member?
Set in the 1980s, Jackals starts with a cold opening of someone's point-of-view, quietly breaking into a house and entering the sleeping owners' room to steal some cash. The intruder, finding a pair of scissors, then proceeds to snip a few strands of hair from the sleeping couple, only for both of them to wake up and prompting the intruder to stab them to death. Now with a need to satisfy their bloodlust, the intruder next enters the couple's daughter's room, only for her (and us) to realize that the murderous figure is her brother; this, sadly, did little to save her from being strangled to death by her own kin.
One credit sequence later, we watch another family waiting in a backwoods cabin for someone to bring back their teenage boy. That someone is Jimmy, a military trained "deprogrammer" who's supposed to have the skills to undo brainwashing, something the family needs right now as their estranged boy, Justin, joined a notorious murder cult.
Now for Jimmy, kidnapping, drugging, driving back with and restraining Justin in the cabin is the easy part. To deprogram him, however, proves to be a challenge as not only is Justin utterly convinced that his real family (as in the cult) is out there, but his real "real" family isn't all that functional themselves; through the course of the movie, it shows that Mr and Mrs Powell separated after one of them was caught cheating, Justin's brother Campbell has a short temper, and Justin knocked up his girlfriend Samantha, who is now taking care their baby girl, Zoe. Their situation worsens, unfortunately, when the cult itself decided to show up and surround the cabin, intent on killing those responsible for kidnapping their "brother" and getting him back.
See, I like this concept. Perhaps there are already films tackling cult deprogramming before Jackals but this one is a first for me and I love the fact that it's even one bit slasher flick and another bit siege movie. One can imagine an intense psychological mind game between the deprogrammer and the cultist while a family fights off a murderous group from the plot alone but, perhaps, I expected too much.
Sadly, while the psychological aspects is there in the film's flow, some directions it took made its outcomes too obvious and almost borderline the film into tedious territories. Without giving away much, let's just say that a supposedly important player in the cast gets killed off too soon (and not so spectacularly, if I may add), leaving the rest of the "group" to deal with the brainwashing matter on their own and failing miserably multiple times. Perhaps it's the movie's attempt to toy with the audience's hopes that the drama brewing within this "group" would chip into the psyche of a cult member and somehow reverse whatever bullshit they are believing (plus there is that one teeny-tiny moment where Justin seems to recognize his mother), but, again, seeing how everyone in this "group" handle one another through the film, the results are painfully obvious and it could have been handled better. (In case you don't know who the "group" consists of, see paragraph# 5. Spoiler alert.)
This left Jackals more recognizable as siege and backwoods slasher hybrid of sorts, which would have been fine if the slasher antics are anywhere as good as the opening act, and the siege was more, what's the word? Perfectly timed? For me, what made movies like The Strangers (2009), or Them (2006) work so well is that their suspense has a build-up; we get to know the characters and their situation first before the movie creeps up the scares and shocks until its chaotic climax. Jackals, on the other hand, reveals the full extent of what the family is dealing with a way lot early and basically left them (and us), alternately waiting for one of two things to happen for the rest of the run: a dumb plan or an attack.
To be fair, some of the plans the family throws around to survive the night wouldn't sound so dumb (and dare I say might have even lead to some decent thrills and surprises) if the movie hadn't rushed itself. If you ever saw Adam Wingard's You're Next and recall that one scene where a character plans to run out for help only to meet a deadly piano wire neck-first, I find that nasty death one of the better executed kills from that film since there was very little hint that the trap was already there. In Jackals, we have a similar situation where one of the characters decided to make a run for their cars while another distracts the cult, giving enough time for at least a chance for the plan to work. By that time, though, we are more or less made well aware of the odds the cultists have over the family, so let's just say the painful results later didn't have the same impact as seeing a lady prepping herself to a sprint, only to get her throat sliced open by a nearly-invisible wire.
This is just some of the few examples of Jackal's missed opportunities for some good surprises and shocks thanks to it's mishandled execution, something that unfortunately affected to what I was hoping would make up for these flaws: the slasher sequences. Now, as a slasher, Jackal's opening killing spree is perhaps it's best set of murders as the rest tried to take a more dramatic approach seeing this is a cult; instead of crowding around the house and simply use their number to muscle their way in to get their "brother", the cult leader (simply referred to as "Father", who wears a bitchin' Anubis mask and leather trench coat) would rather intimidate them into handing the teen over and send out his underlings one by one (or by a small group) to siege the cabin and kill whoever gets in the way. Nice approach, but the killings were tame and whatever action they got going were pretty forgetful. The only time they decided to do something a bit more complex than dropping someone dead or strangling them was at the near end as the cult inevitably got the upper hand, but it felt late in the party and all interest I once have at the beginning of the film is gone.
So I've been negative about Jackals so far, was there anything I enjoyed about it? Welp, apart from the cool-looking Father and his animal-masked flock of killers and the first 20 to 30 minutes of the movie, and that one scene involving one of our casts hiding underneath the cult's cars, not a lot really. The acting felt stone cold for a whole lot of the run s if the casts aren't even that invested in the story, most of the script is technically just our family pleading and begging Justin to remember and snap out of it as if it'll work in a snap of a finger, and the ending looked like as if nobody knew how to finish this damn movie and just cliffhangers everything. I want to believe Jackals would have been a fairly fun ride if it was handled differently, but truth be told, it is what it is now, a poorly paced and directed backwoods slasher-siege-cult monstrosity, and there's nothing much I can do but move on and see the next 2017 horror offering that I might enjoy. Perhaps another cult-related movie with a talking doll and Jennifer Tilly...
1 female stabbed on the throat with scissors
1 male stabbed with scissors
1 female strangled
1 male brained to death
1 male bled to death from a gutted belly
1 male strangled to death
1 male dropped to his death
1 male hacked with a pickaxe
1 female had her throat slashed with a knife
1 repeatedly stabbed, hacked with an axe
1 male dies from shock (?)
(Y'know, it suddenly occurred to me: why exactly did the family have to do this in the middle of the woods? I mean, surely, a more crowded area like a town or a city would do, right? Heck, since this involves a cult member, why not drive all the way back to a town, convince a priest to borrow the church for one or several nights and just do the deprogramming there?
Or why didn't Mr. Jimmy brought along some help in case things go South and sour real fast? I mean, heck, I'm sure a couple of army buddies would love to kill off a cult member or two in case they decided to pop up...
Starring: Finn Jones, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor
A few months ago, I recall writing about my uncertainties with the then-upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel simply called Leatherface, a concept that kinda looked pointless to me since I really don't see the need for one, nor do I believe many people were even asking for it. Still, the higher powers above (as in probably the executives at Lionsgate) managed to wrangle up horror director duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, famous for their slashers Inside (2007) and Among The Living (2011), to direct the project so should this merit enough attention and probability that it'll be good?
Yes. But all for the misleading reasons.
The film opens with a circa 50s Texan farming family celebrating their youngest member's birthday. The family is quickly made clear to be our infamous Sawyer clan as they ask one teenage Drayton to serve the first slice of their (oddly chunky and sinewy) "cake" to their unexpected guest: a bruised and tied up thief. As both a bloody rite of passage for the birthday boy, Jed, and punishment for the thief for stealing some hogs, matriarch Verna Sawyer hands the kid the family chainsaw and coaxes him to slice the man open. Jed's a tad too squeamish on killing, however, prompting grampa Sawyer to finish the job with a sledgehammer.
Sometime later in a morning, a young teen couple was driving by the Sawyer property when they swerves to a stop after nearly running over an odd looking calf in the middle of the road. The situation goes eerie when girlfriend sees that the animal is really Jed wearing a cow's head for a mask and, after the childs bolts off into the fields and much to her boyfriend's protests, she follows to check if the boy's alright. Of course, the whole jig was a trap to murder her and, needless to say, the Sawyer boys made a quick killing out of the girl with a dropped tractor engine.
Unfortunately, the girl just happens to be Texas ranger Hal Hartman's daughter and though he cannot charge the boys for murder without any proof, he did manage to accuse Verna of child endangerment, which ends up with Jed being taken off her hands and into an asylum.
Ten years after this, at the Gorman House Youth Reformatory, newbie nurse Lizzy enters the facility in hopes of making a difference for the crazies, especially the children. Easier said than done though as some of the institutionalized are violent deviants, but she remains slightly optimistic as she did encounter some kinder nut cases, more precisely one troubled but caring Jake and a huge bipolar Bud.
That night, all hell breaks loose when Verna walks into the asylum, demanding to see Jed. As it turns out, she scrapped enough money to buy a lawyer and paperwork allowing her to check up on her boy, but when the head of the institution refuses, she decided to get even by unlocking the doors and releasing all of the patients in a murderous frenzy while she looks for her son. Out of the carnage escapes murderous thug Ike and his equally insane girlfriend Clarice, who tagged along Bud (who saved Ike from an electroshock session) and kidnaps Lizzy and Jake as leverage.
Now, this is where the movie is supposed to work its little gimmick; technically, one of the three boys here is supposed to be Jed Sawyer, heavily treated to the point that he doesn't remember who he was and brainwashed into believing an alternative ego. This is a fine game to play and all but the execution itself doesn't seem to be anywhere that interested playing it with us.
Truth be told, the so-called mystery of who will become our infamous chainsaw-wielding Leatherface isn't that strong, with the only connections this film made with the slasher franchise was the "Sawyer" name, the bone furniture and decorations at the last act of the film, and that one scene before the ending credits where Jed, reunited with his family, making his first mask, all of which making up a third of the film. Instead, throughout the movie, we watch Ike and his girlfriend rampage through rural Texas with a killing spree and other devious activities (like necrophilia. eugh), all the while Jake and Lizzy repeatedly attempts to escape them and a murderous posse of police, and Bud simply just stands there being a lumbering oaf who follows orders, if not being mistreated for being, well, an oaf. In fact, one would have guessed that once the word broke out that some mental nuts who may or may not include Jed Sawyer escaped, Verna and her clan will get out there and start joining the hunt in hopes of getting their youngest member back, but nope; the Sawyers simply sit back at their old barn feeding pigs murdered victims and just waiting for Jed to magically find his way back home, only doing something after one of the more snitchy cops decided to tell on them.
This meant that, among all of the movies in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, Leatherface felt a bit forced as a prequel and the least like a slasher, or a horror movie for most of its parts, and more of a very violent crime drama in the vein of Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects (2005) or even Natural Born Killers (1994), complete with a vengeful law enforcer who's out to get Jed and make him pay for killing his daughter, doing (and himself murdering) whatever he can just for that chance. Cut off Leatherface's ties with the Texas Chainsaw franchise and it could have been an original thriller of its own in-movie universe. (Heck, if I remember it right, Drayton didn't find killing all that fun and prefers to be in the kitchen in the 1974 movie. Maybe he figured that out later in his adult life?) Now, does this make it a terrible movie?
Well, to be fair, there is enough horrific imagery and chaotic madness to satisfy some viewers, that I can tell. It's nothing new given the comparison I've made between this and Rob Zombie's opus The Devil's Rejects, but Leatherface has to be commended for capturing the gritty 70s grindhouse exploitation feel, highlighting violent crimes and abusive authority figures as a mean to scare, if not upset us, and it still knows its slasher roots to deliver enough bloodshed and bodycount for those eyeing for something red and sticky.
The film's copious amount of murdering are done away with impressive practical effects, though it is noticeable that the murders have a tendency to stick more along a realistic tone from simple strangulation and beatings, to violent shootings and stabbings, all committed by a series of people against one another rather than by a single killer. (or cannibal group acting as one) Those who are expecting a series of chainsaw deaths would be disappointed (or not) as those were reserved to the very last act of the film. Those scenes did made decent slices of human meat but a bit lacklustre seeing how the boy who ended up being our Leatherface doesn't look anywhere as threatening or impressive.
Instead, the threat factor goes to Ike and Clarice, whose vulgar and sadistic nature made them more interesting villains than the Sawyer clan and the vengeful sheriff combined, showing no boundaries on their crazy, nor any remorse on the crimes they commit. I even would go and say that these screwed-up lovebirds could go toe-to-toe with the ranks of Natural Born Killers' Mickey and Mallory on the crazy couple category if given the chance but, seeing the supposed focus of the movie is a pre-TCM Leatherface, their unrestrained craziness made it too obvious that one of them ain't Jed, thus giving them the same odds of being killed off as the rest of the casts. (Who were pale in comparison to these two, this including Lizzy, our supposed final girl who does very little to get herself out of this nightmare. Not a good sign, people.)
With a decent looking production value and edgy plot flow, Leatherface is a half way decent movie for those who loves bloody crime thrillers and horror fans who are open to out-of-the-box ideas in their movie franchises. I guess the point of this movie being a prequel to the Southern fried classic proto-slasher gave it enough open probabilities to do more than just another slasher movie and I respect that, but I guess I've seen (and re-watched) enough "on the run and on the road" serial killer flicks to feel this film's approach to be predictable and underwhelming. Still, don't let me stop you from trying this movie out, but keep the expectations low for any prize winning "barbecues".
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
1 female crushed by a dropped tractor engine
1 male strangled and punched on the head, killed (?)
1 male pounded to death (?)
1 female strangled with her own hair
1 male beaten dead through a window
1 male beaten to death
1 female repeatedly slashed on the mouth with a razor
1 male stomped to death
1 wheelchair bound victim thrown through a window, falls to their death
1 male stabbed on the neck with a steak knife
1 male shot
1 male shot on the head
1 female shot on the face with a shotgun
1 male found hanged dead and rotting
1 male had his head stomped against a tree stump
1 female shot on the head
1 male shot on the head
1 male beaten to death against a car door
1 male repeatedly knifed, fed to pigs
1 male eviscerated with a chainsaw
1 female decapitated with a chainsaw
Total: 22 (?)
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Starring: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee
Guys and Girls! Girls and Guys!
Come on Forth and feast your eyes!
My wonderful melting pot, she lives again!
Mixing Wishmaster and The Omen!
Out from its brew, a movie so mediocre,
Called Wish Upon, God, I wished I choked there!
Young Clare is your typical PG-13 horror flick teenager; she saw her mum kill herself when she was a wee bit smaller (for reasons obviously connected to the horrible things later), her father's a garbage man, and she's bullied by rich posh kids for being poor. This is basically everything to it about her until she was given an ancient Chinese music box that claims to grant 10 wishes.
Out of sarcasm (and probably sweet sweet revenge), Clare first wishes one of her bullies to rot alive and, wouldn't you know it, next day comes with a news that her worst bully gets inflicted with a flesh eating bacteria. (like the one in them Cabin Fever movies. Quickly! Somebody push her into the town's water reservoir! Anything to make this film more interesting!) After a couple more wishes turning real like magic, Clare soon realizes that the music box is indeed granting whatever she asks it and she, for a lack of a better term, exploits it.
Of course, as any horror movie dealing with wish granting, there's a price for her newly acquired riches and power as friends, family and pets start to die horribly after each successful wish. Will Clare stop herself from ultimately destroying the lives of many, or will she, more or less (and pardon my French), fuck it up.
Wish Upon is technically a modern take on the Monkey's Paw story, stuffed with a collection of clip notes from The Omen and Final Destination movies in regards to its death scenes and a bit of (low-key) slasher for some stalking subplot that ultimately lead to nowhere, all in that "diet horror" flavor that comes in oh so many PG-13 horror movies. The story's tone, in turn, strongly resembles a more intense and bodycount friendly take on a Goosebumps TV series episode, skipping the gory stuff for most of the horror scenes and finding a way or two to squeeze in posh girl sensibilities like unrequited boy crushes and popularity wars. I certainly have no problem with this kind of approach, but this is something we've seen for a good lot by now and there really isn't much this movie is offering elsewhere.
The talents involved are okay for most parts, though the genericness of the characters they play did nothing but help make this film more tiresome than it should be. There's a bit of a(n almost) nice turn in the later act wherein the powers of the evil wish-granting music box starts to get the better of our heroine, ending up with her starting to go cuckoo in maintaining her new life and scaring her friends (and one random romantic interest that came out of nowhere) in the process, but this little plot devise only lasted for a couple of minutes, which was a shame since a terrible excuse of a character study would have been more preferable than a methodic route that's paved with blood, death and predictable teen drama that goes more outlandish (and dare I say cartoonish) even for a film about an evil magic box. (time and space travel involved. twice!)
Because of its overly familiar story and stereotype characters, there's barely anything remotely scary or thrilling about Wish Upon in a high grade cinematic sense, no matter how much it tries to re-capture the exciting Goldberg-esque "howdunit" deaths (which were the more "okay" aspects of the movie) or the "down the rabbit hole" spiraling of its lead character's life. (Again, a sorta missed opportunity!) It does reek of cheese and unintentional hilarity during some of its more serious scenes (like a certain bathtub death), though they were only good for a few seconds of chuckles so I couldn't even say that the movie's so bad it's good.
To simply put it, Wish Upon is forgettable in all aspects of the word. I can honestly say that watching any one of the Final Destination and/or Wishmaster movies (even the terrible ones) would have made a more entertaining movie night and I guess I'll do just that. If you do happen to enjoy this movie then, well, to each their own, I guess. Just tell me when you're ready to sit out of your baby highchair and I'll introduce you to some real horror flicks...
1 female hangs herself
1 dog found eaten by rats
1 male slips in a bathtub, hits his head and drowns
1 female had her hair caught in a drain disposer, neck snapped
1 female trips unto a horned statue, impaled through the face
1 female crushed inside a falling elevator
1 male killed (flashback, unknown method)
1 male slashed by a chainsaw
1 female hit by a car
Starring: Brian Austin Green, Thomas Dekker, Mimi Michaels
Riddle me this: if you get your face burned and torn away by an extremely strong glue, exposing your skull in the open, would you survive getting your now-skeletal face caved in with a metal bat, probably pulping a good part of your working brain in the process? Yeah, I don't think so, but apparently, so long as you have a shady underground organization working to cover your sorry murdering arse, you can have your noggin re-constructed into functioning properly again (...How?), guaranteeing you "shark jumping" abilities just so you can live another day to star in your own slasher franchise.
No idea what I'm talking about? Well, say hello to Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2, the follow up to the 2009 direct-to-video slasher mini hit, earning its place for its awesome gore effects and cool looking killer. With the first film satisfying the shallow side of my horror fandom, I will admit that I was one of the many who went giddy like shit after seeing the sequel's teaser but, oh God, how little I knew that it'll all be... "eh".
The movie starts where Laid to Rest ended, with our chrome skull mask-wearing killer "Chromeskull" lying faceless, bludgeoned and bleeding to death in the middle of a convenience store. Just as the cops arrive to inspect the carnage, a group of paramedics swoops in to deal with the matter, but they're not with the boys in blue, oh no. They're with ole Chromey, made crystal clear after they shoot the responding officers dead and painstakingly helps Chromeskull recover from his supposed demise. (...Again. How?)
Fast-forward three months later, Chromeskull is up and walking around (No, really. How?), ready to slaughter another innocent. This time, his project is a nearly blind girl named Jess, who he abducts and stashes back in his hidden domain for a planned torture session. Unknown to him, the police investigating this kidnapping quickly picks up that this is related to the massacre that happened three months ago and they decided to bring back the only survivor of that slaughterfest for further help. This, however, is only one of the problems Chrome has to deal with as Preston, tired of feeling underappreciated for the dirty work he does for the organization, continues to overstep his boundaries as Chromeskull's handler and it is soon clear that he's not gonna play second bananas to the killer anymore.
Personally, I have no problem with world building in a slasher franchise since it gives all those involved with the project an opportunity to create a fresh, if not exciting universe around what could have been easily regarded as plotless exploitation. Sometimes, this world building can get a bit out of hand (Jason Voorhees going to Manhattan (sort of) and space (definitely). Freddy Krueger going Looney Tunes on his later murders. Chucky becoming a troubled father and husband. Michael Myers is remade by Rob Zombie), but there are film franchises that try to workably evolve its universe in each movie entry, such as the likes of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and its follow-ups.
Chromeskull kinda falls in between; I wanted to like its twist that our killer is backed up by a well-paid organization dedicated to serial killing, but I really wish they did more with this concept than just make it the reason Chromeskull survived his (very) fatal injury, as well as just a mean to bring more characters into the franchise. Sure, we do see some parts of the organization doing their tasks such as supplying Chromeskull his victims and even making him his weapons, but I guess what I'm saying here is that what was shown felt more like footnotes than an actual article; it's bits and pieces of "what" works within the organization but never "how"? and "why", which would have made some of its plotline, particularly Preston's whole dramatics of becoming the next "Chromeskull" more engaging and understandable to watch.
But no. Chromeskull instead tries to mess around with multiple narratives from different character perspectives in a mush attempt to create some kind of coherent story, but it barely works since a lot of these characters are a hit-or-miss; Preston, for one, just acts like a pouty sourpuss with a fixated murder urge and nothing more. Now, what if we took some time to find out why he wanted to earn Chromeskull's respect and approval in the first place? Perhaps that way, I would have cared more about this character, or at least get my attention long enough to see if he even will succeed in his goal. But nope, Preston's basically just this movie franchise's version of a disgruntled postman going postal and we're left with that.
Another dropped opportunity of a character would be Tommy, the other (well, only at this point) survivor from the first film who returns here to help the cops. Sort of. He is re-introduced here as a bitter young man still coping from the loss of his friend and under attack by one angry British roomie, only to be roped in aiding the cops with the lastest Chromeskull attacks. The film could have also tried focusing on him, maybe give him a storyline wherein he is forced to fight his demons (or demon. One chrome-face demon) after the kind of trauma he suffered, but alas. Tis was not meant to be, and he mostly spends his time in the background, only to do some sort of heroism at the end which kinda felt empty.
It seems that the only thing Chromeskull has going for is gore and, just as the first film, the kills here are fantastically gruesome on their details. From disembowelment to heads messily getting halfed, the only thing that kinda improves the slayings in this movie is the unusual variations of Chromeskull's signature daggers, which apparently can come in a brass knuckle form and some weird "buzzsaw throwing star" abomination. It is interesting to note that the movie actually took a while to get into the real mean bodycount, a massacre in the last act as local police and detectives get sliced and diced left and right, with the first hour spent dragging us along a "plot" involving murder corporation power struggles (which wasn't really struggling much) and the kidnapping of a girl with a defect that is lazily and simply "there". This being said, the massacre in the end can be well worth the wait, but there is a good chance that it can also leave you feeling a bit uneven with the rest of the film and even more "shallow" seeing that it did try to do more than a simple slasher movie.
The movie ends with a scene that teases a possible 3rd entry, but with the way this sequel is handled, I can't say that I'm that excited. The first movie was good on its own, a dumb popcorn movie with gore, a masked killer out for blood, and that should have been enough. Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2, as much as I find its attempts to flesh itself out commendable, didn't feel solid enough in its efforts to earn my approval, but this might just be me since I'm reading a couple of horror junkies out there actually liking this. Maybe I'm just a guy who appreciates simplicity, or maybe I'm an idiot. Eitherways, Chromeskull? You should have been Laid to Rest. Period.
(Because, seriously. Bashed. Skull. Even if you survived that, you're more likely be a vegetable after that.)
1 male shot offcamera
1 male shot
1 female gutted with a dagger
1 female gets a thrown dagger through the temple, ear sliced off and bled to death
1 female sliced open with a dagger, stabbed in the mouth
1 female sliced with a customized "dagger star", shoved mouth first unto blades
2 females found rotting dead
1 male had his head sliced in half with daggers
1 male punched on the temple with customized "daggered knuckles"
1 male had his neck repeatedly sliced with daggers, decapitated
1 male stabbed on the back with a kitchen knife
1 male had his throat cut with a dagger
1 male shoved face-first to a hatchet
1 male pushed to meat hooks, neckcut with a machete
1 male gets jump leads attached to his ears and dunked to a tub, electrocuted and had his head bashed
1 female shot in the mouth