Saturday, March 18, 2017

So I was supposed to see someone Get Out, but ended up in an Island

I actually marked my calendar for these films, but due to a little money issue for a time (which I will no longer talk about coz the people behind my check fixed it. Thank. God), I new I could only see one.

For the first two and a half months of 2017, I kinda noticed that a lot of horror releases were...meh. In fact, there isn't a lot of horror films I'm too excited to see this year except The Wolves at the Door and Terrifier, and those that I had seen, mainly Rings, Bye Bye Man, Don't Hang Up, Pitchfork, Don't Kill It and Galaxy of Horrors, I only got to enjoy Don't Kill It and Galaxy of Horrors. The rest were...ugh.

For March, we had Kong: Skull Island playing at the second week of the month but, unfortunately, I didn't have enough cash to spend then to see the big ape go rampage for my entertainment, so when I found out that Get Out, that one movie with a really intriguing premise and great reviews to follow, is gonna screen at March 15th, I knew I had to see it! I may have missed one premiere, I'm not gonna miss another!

So, as I write this, it's hours after I got back from the cinema and....I didn't get to see Get Out. Turns out, it might have been a limited screening for my country, or that I didn't look hard enough, but these two malls I went to today all have Beauty and the [DATA EXPUNGED] Beast playing! ALMOST ALL! I say "almost coz, of course, they also had to have  Logan and some other movies I didn't really care about...except Kong! Holy Frick, the second mall had the last screening for Kong! More or less, I ended up watching the movie I missed and didn't get to see the movie I wanted for the day. It's still a win scenario for me coz, the movie was just awesome in a monster brawl-out kind of way!

Kong: Skull Island is the second movie in Legendary's Monsterverse series, the first being 2014's Godzilla, a welcome return of the king. In Kong, most of the mythos for the big ape have been rewritten to give more focus on him being a part of an ecosystem full of super species and by that, I meant we get to see some really neat beasts! From hostile ones like a swarm of saw-beaked pteranodons and giant Daddy Long Legs, to calmer critters like giant water buffaloes and, of course, Kong. This is where Skull Island becomes an improvement over the last entry in which Godzilla was "teased" for far too long that a lot of fans seem to point how how there's barely any Godzilla in a Godzilla movie. (Meanwhile, a Filipino man writing this could say the same for the non-90s Gamera movies. Lord knows how on earth did those got popular but I guess people's tastes differ) After 20 to 30 minutes into the movie, after all of the key characters are introduced, the mighty ape wasn't shy to make a full appearance and simply show how he's King and God in his island.

After this rampage, copters torn down and people slaughtered as Kong protects his turf, we get this patterned back-and-forth focus between two groups; one lead by Samuel L Jackson as an Air Service captain who wants to get even with Kong for killing his men, the other lead by Tom Hiddleston as a tracker who ventures through the island hoping to meet with the others which, along the way, discovers with his group that Kong is worth protecting. I will admit that as bland as these characters are, they're a bit of an improvement with the human casts from Godzilla 2014; the Kong humans are not deep and I was underwhelmed by some performances and screentime (I want more John Goodman, please!), but they are slightly more colorful compared to one or two faces from Godzilla. (John C Reily was just cool here as a WWII American survivor who befriended the island's natives) There's also the fact that since this movie focuses more on a controlled number of characters instead of, I dunno, an entire city, I do get to feel for some of these characters a lot easier, though isn't to say that I still expected a lot of them to be monster chow by the end of the movie. (A lot of them were that disposable.)

Still, I think Kong: Skull Island did a great treatment for whatever story was present and stick with what really matters in monster movies, which is, well, giant monsters, giant monsters and giant monster fights. The last fight was just as epic as Godzilla's battle with the two MUTOs in his movie, and though I'm not that "wowed" by the kind of creature they came up for Kong to do a final fight with (it's a lizard with two legs...a tough lizard, but a lizard with two legs nonetheless), at least it was a worthwhile brawl and just brought out a level of badassery that only a titanic ape can do.

If you are planning to see this movie and are just as big of a fan of giant monster movies as I am, I say wait til the end of the ending credit. You are in for a big exciting surprise! As for the rest of you guys, I definitely had fun with this one and in case you are interested, I ain't gonna stop you! It's really nothing else but people walking through an island surviving giant things that'll eat them, but if this is right up your alley then go ahead! It's worth the watch!

(Until then, I guess I have to wait until Get Out comes out in DVD...again)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Million Dollar Murder: The Case of The Scorpion's Tale (1971)

The Case Of The Scorpion's Tale (Italy, 1971) (La coda dello scorpione) (AKA "Scorpion's Tail")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  George Hilton, Anita Strindberg, Alberto de Mendoza

After her husband dies from a mid-air plane explosion, Lisa Baumer discovers that she is her late spouse's beneficiary to a million dollar life insurance, an inheritance that seemingly puts her in the middle of everybody's attention and greedy side.

First, the lover she is secretly seeing in London blackmails her into handing a share of the sum or else he will reveal her adulterous affair with him, making the policy invalid. Just as Lisa was about to give in, she later finds him at his apartment dying from a stab wound. Rightfully concerned by this, she then books a flight to Athens where she hopes to safely cash the insurance in full, only to be stalked and threatened by her husband's own mistress, Laura, who believes Mrs. Baumer had something to do with the accident.

Thankfully, Lisa finds a trusting accomplice of sorts during her stay in Athens, an insurance case inspector, Peter Lynch, who she is starting to get sweet on. Meeting him, however, did little to ensure her safety as, after arranging a flight to Tokyo, Lisa gets brutally murdered by a psychotic killer, who then proceeds to make off with the entire million. The murder quickly gets the attention of Lynch, as well as of tabloid reporter Cleo Dupont and police investigator Mr. Benton, and it's now up to them to uncover the truth before the killer strikes again.

An engaging thriller with a fair amount of twists, turns and bloody good violence, The Case of The Scorpion's Tail has one of the more classic giallo set-ups. One that involves a crime full of possible suspects and red herrings, some of who are destined to be bumped off rather brutally. The array of intriguing characters, in turn, are quite bountiful in numbers, enough to make likeable impressions and throw off our leads and fellow viewers whenever they believe certain leads were made. This, however, made the first third of the film a tad slow as it lays out the key players, though I find this a necessary pacing issue as it effectively sets the tone of the movie, allowing us to understand the predicament and dangers our throwaway lead was getting herself into. Eventually, the film's linear direction got everything going with the investigations once our lead got murdered and the cash stolen, and by then we are treated to a workable amount of sleek eye-candy camera work and stylish set-pieces, many of which being the murders.

With a stronger focus on plot, Scorpion does not boasts a high onscreen kill count, but it does make up the executions done for whatever the attacks and murders cooked up for the story, ranging from using laughably obvious fake exploding model airplanes for a tragic disaster, to the rather thrilling cat-and-mouse stalkings courtesy of our killer. (dressed in a full black body suit. Interesting choice) The best among these was the double murder of two suspects, taking place at their own mansion; one got snuffed out after the killer stabs their way through the door with nothing but a knife (!), while the other puts up a daring fight against his assailant, leading to a rooftop scene with a dose of the macabre as worn-out doll parts littered the place. And though these murders rarely went to gorier territories, whatever chance they get to be bloody, they can get bloody! (Keep an "eye" on one scene involving a broken beer bottle)

Scorpion neatly ends itself with a decently surprising climax, packed with a claustrophobic twist and a cliched villain monologue that mostly made sense. (The key term is mostly) A stronger highlight around this part would be the stalking sequence between a lead and a surprise antagonist, perfectly capturing a chilling isolated feel as they stalk and hide from one another atop a lone cavernous rocky island, an overall great way to end an equally great giallo.

With enough unexpected turns and curious characters to either suspect or root for, I can proudly say that true giallo fans deserve a hearty round of The Case of The Scorpion's Tale. Put on your scorpion cuffs and give this one a run!

A number of people killed in an exploding plane
1 male dies in an exploding plane
1 male found dying from a stab wound
1 female had her throat cut, disemboweled with a knife
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 male falls to his death
1 male gets a broken bottle to the eye, knifed to death
1 male shot dead
Total: 7+

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Smart Man, Mad Man: Hollow Man (2000)

Hollow Man (2000)
Rating: ***
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin

From the get-go, it is possible that this modernized Invisible Man was never intended to be a slasher, but with the bodycount at the later act as well as numerous stalk-and-murder scenes scattered throughout, it just goes to show how much mayhem one invisible sociopathic and homicidal maniac can do.

A group of scientists led by one Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) is developing an invisibility serum and a counter-serum for the military, and seeing that both worked on their prior animal subjects, Sebastian is nothing but confident about what's technically his greatest achievement, so much so that he decided to do human testings without the authority of the oversight committee and volunteers to be their first human guinea pig.

When the serum successfully rendered Sebastian invisible, he begins to abuse his new state from pranking his colleagues to spying on them. Fearing that he might get out of hand, they decided to try the counter-serum on Sebastian in hopes of returning him to his visible state, but fails due to complications. With Sebastian getting more erratic with each day passing, two of his co-scientists, Dr. Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) and Dr. Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin), decided to inform one of the committee of what happened; not wanting to jeopardize his experiments (as well as going a little cuckoo from his isolated state and personal quarrels), Sebastian decided to clean the slate and murder just about everybody else involved in the experiment.

Directed by Scifi maestro Paul Verhoeven of the Starship Troopers and RoboCop fame, Hollow Man primarily focuses on the psychological and emotional effects of pride, power and instinct, showcased here as an experiment-gone-wrong with a foreseeable plot and a small group of characters that did little to make more out of the story. In fact, the only ones that seems to have some depth (read, some) were the three main researchers played by Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin and Kevin Bacon, the latter being the titular Hollow Man and the center of the story.

Much like most mad scientists, Sebastian Caine is an arrogant and pessimistic character with low regards on anyone other than himself and is quick to abuse his new found condition as if he had all of these intentions for a while and just waiting for the perfect opportunity to do it. From simple jokes to unsettling silent stalking, from home invasion and rapes to actual murder, the story is really nothing less than us following Caine slowly embracing his new invisible state, while at the same time, abhorring it as it isolated him from the normal world and (after his own team decided to alert their officials) also became the very thing that might destroy him and his reputation as a proud scientist.

The movie passes through this descent to madness rather quickly, factoring more on his misdeeds before finally shifting into a slasher of sorts where he locks his own team inside the lab and starts killing them one at a time. It’s shallowly entertaining as the simplistic murders were elevated thanks to some okay special and visual effects, intense direction, hectic pacing, and a blazing finale. With this, Hollow Man is an easy film to enjoy only (and only) if you look at it as a popcorn movie.

There’s really no depth here other than a man going maniacal after being given a power nobody else possesses, a typical mad science horror story with a small dash of methodical murders. Being a Hollywood production also meant that Hollow Man is no short of workable visual and audio quality, but it is a bit estranged as a Verhoeven film since the man is known for directing much more epic scifi masterpieces and this movie just felt too “commercial” as it hardly match up with the exploitative and outlandish nature of most of the films he directed.

So if special effects and clich├ęd evil science plots are a thing of fun for you then Hollow Man shouldn’t disappoint.

1 dog smashed against a kennel
1 male drowned in a pool
1 female garroted
1 male thrown and had his neck torn against a metal pipe, bled to death
1 female had her neck snapped
1 male ran through with a crowbar
1 male falls into an exploding building
Total: 7

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Change: Switch Killer (2005)

Switch Killer (2005) (AKA "Trans-American Killer")
Rating: ***
Starring:  Cara Jo Basso, Eric Bishop, Monique Chachere

Sometimes the trashiness of a bad movie can be said movie's own life saver, especially if there isn't anything else going in the plot department.

Tired and frightened of her boyfriend's iron fist treatment, closet lesbian and stripper Jamie escapes her abusive partner, Bobby, and drives to Las Vegas in hopes of starting anew. Time passes and it seems little changed in Jamie's favor as her new girlfriend, Brooke, mistreats and cheats on her, and a mysterious woman appears to be dropping by strip clubs, knifing anyone that comes across her path. What does this serial killing femme fatale had anything to do with Jamie, you ask? Well, with a title like "Switch" Killer (Or it's more obvious alternate, "Trans-American" Killer), you do the math.

Sleazy and crazy from beginning to end, Switch Killer harks back to old-school slashers like Driller Killer(1979), Maniac (1980), and Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989), in which we explore the gritty and dirty urban jungle known as the city underbelly while it is under attack by yet another elusive serial killer. Switch Killer is basically no different with its overly abundant amount of gratuitous nudity, and stripper shenanigans, though it did try to do a little bit of downtown drama following the struggles of our obvious final girl, Jamie. Sometimes it works, thanks to actress Cara Jo Basso's fair portrayal of the down-in-luck-and-love lead, but the tone can get uneven with the movie's hamminess and the inevitably more noticeable sleaziness courtesy of the many random T&A nakedness, so the drama is basically hit-or-miss.

Still, this does little to damage the trashy slasher fun Switch Killer offers since the movie's technically putting all of its focus on that; despite the 65 minute running time, the remaining 20 plus minutes is really nothing more than a hodge-pode of an overly long ending credit, a cool music video and a hilarious fake informercial about mankind's most favorite gas powered killing machine: the chainsaw. The 40 minute mid-feature, in turn, comes with a relatively quick-steady pacing and a lot of workable slasher scenes, simple murders that hits a perfect balance of being bloody and slightly creative, with an oddly insane (and possibly offensive) villain committing them all in the name of love. (Or something crazy like that) Perhaps the strongest of these murders (and possibly the best part of the movie) is when Bobby finally confronts Jamie, showed how much he "changed" for her and gave chase around the neighbourhood until they crash a backyard New Years party. What follows include Bobby going batshit stabby at everyone at the party, Jamie arming herself with a chainsaw to battle her ex, and one of the greater final girl-vs-killer fight to come out of a low budget slasher.

Switch Killer is a definite movie equivalent to a bag of cheese-flavored chips; it has a big look to its quality despite offering little in reality. It's hardly all that smart and engaging, but one would probably knew what they were getting themselves into and more or less just dove in to start consuming the cheesy junk just for the sake of entertainment. It's whether one will prefer sticking with said junk or not that is the real query here and while they figure that out, I certainly found a new guilty pleasure in this movie. What say you?

1 female repeatedly knifed, ran over by a train
1 female knifed, had her throat cut
1 female stabbed on the head with an air pump
1 male knifed on the chest
1 female knifed to death
1 male had his throat slashed with a knife, caught on fire
1 female knifed
1 male knifed
1 male knifed
1 female knifed
1 female had her gut sliced with a knife
1 male knifed
Total: 12