Saturday, June 22, 2019

So here we have Bear McCreary's theme for Child's Play (2019)...

...Welp, I'm definitely gonna see this movie next week once I get mah moolah! Nothing's gonna beat the original franchise but it's high time we have another robot slasher movie other than The Terminator (1984), Chopping Mall (1986) and HARDWARE (1990).

Then again, we also have that weird upcoming slasher reimagining of Hanna-Barbera's Banana Splits... 

Angry Russian Baby Face: Dislike (2016)

Dislike (Dizlayk) (Russia, 2016)
Rating: **
Starring: Anastasiya Akatova, Evgeniy Dakot, Oleg Gaas

The filmmaker behind this movie probably thought they'd be making a hip and slick social satire horror masterpiece by centering it on bloggers and online celebrities facing the wrath of a psycho, but all I saw is a Saw (2003) clone with the traps replaced with a moron with a baby mask. Scary?

Eight young video bloggers got invited to a promotional stunt for a new (yet still a very generic looking) energy drink called Devil's Power where they have to stay inside a secluded backwoods house Big Brother-style with no wifi or any other means of outside communication, in exchange for some sweet cash reward for their participation. Thinking that the only trouble they have to handle is each other's bullshit, these assorted self-proclaimed internet personalities settle in, not knowing the whole shebang is a set-up and next thing they know, the drinks are spiked and in comes a baby-masked creeper.

Once our groups come through, they find themselves trapped inside the house with the masked loon and somebody else over the PA system who's willing to let them go if they figure out who is responsible for this plot. Of course, each wrong answer results to a murder and our hapless massacre victims-to-be have no choice but to think it through or die trying.

Not particularly unique nor is it all that exciting, Dislike (2016) tries to appeal to the modern teen demographic with its satirical talk and criticisms concerning online fame and internet celebrities, but its execution falls flat when it resorts to fleshing its characters out as one-note representations of obnoxious video blogger stereotypes (i.e. online comedians, pranksters, conspiracy theorists, etc) and cramping them up in a not so complex mystery where the surprises and twists are as silly, stale and brittle as your grandma trying to make you eat a ten year old jawbreaker she was saving just for you. Its heart in the right place, but the tool of its trade are so aged and overused that you can't help but rightfully unsatisfied when it could have been more if more thought was put into Dislike (2016)'s direction and ideas, particularly polishing up its messy multiple twist endings.

Granted that half of the killings are pretty cool and gory (among the more interesting ones include a strange combination of a fresh octopus and a live bomb strapped over a head and a credit card stabbing that's both impossible yet satisfyingly savage) and the film does boast a superb looking production quality, it did little to breathe any welcoming life to Dislike (2016)'s mostly predictable slasher set-up and the resulting film just felt like its existing for the sake of just existing. See it as a completists, but expect little to nothing new here.

1 male had his head blown up with a small bomb
1 male hacked with an axe
1 male stabbed to death with a credit card
1 female had her throat cut with a kitchen knife
1 male had his face blown off with a rigged gun
1 female ran through with a spear
1 male stabbed to death with a machete
1 male stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 male stabbed with a hunting knife
1 female beaten to death with a hammer
Total: 10

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Black And White: City of Blood (1987)

City of Blood (South Africa, 1987)
Rating: **
Starring: Joe Stewardson, Ian Yule, Ken Gampu

The most exciting part of being a slasher completist is finding rarities, possible hidden gems lost in the midst of mainstream releases and overabundance of cult flick nostalgia and, for most, I indeed get to find and watch genuine diamonds in the rough. City of Blood (1987) is not one of these gem, but I hardly find it fitting to deem it deserving of being lost neither.

Two thousand years ago, a pair of African tribesmen get ambushed by someone hurling a tied rock, braining one of them dead. The other tribesman run for his life and soon stops to drink some water from a fall, only to be snuck up by someone in a tribal mask  who proceeds to beat him on the head with a spiked club.

Fast forward to present day South Africa, where an increasing number of butchered prostitutes have the local police searching for a possible serial killer. Our protagonist, a medical examiner named Joe Henderson, believes there is a more political reason behind the murders after he notices on a crime scene a blood symbol resembling a spiked fist, but his colleagues at the police force is quick to quite him down knowing that any word of this out could escalate the issue to catastrophic ends.

Suffering depression after losing his wife and child, Joe buries his woes working behind the desk until he nearly signed a death certificate with no name on it and two agents representing the prime minister visit him later, urging him to sign it, more or less falsifying a legal document. Intrigued by this and believing this is somewhat connected to the murders going on recently, Joe goes to investigate this shady act on his own, putting himself on the line of fire of not only his country's governing power, but also a murderous masked butcher out on the prowl at night.

Addressing the elephant in the room, City of Blood (1987) is only one small part slasher and barely the bodycounter it wanted you to think that it was. The opening alone would make you think the rest of the movie is going to be a cool hack-a-thon with a homicidal maniac dressed up as an African witch doctor, but truth be told, it's nothing more than a ploy to lead us into watching a political crime thriller involving race wars and forged paper works, only to return to our familiar masked murderer route a bit too late at the end with little to no satisfying conclusion.

Majority of the movie simply focuses on a single man's investigation on a devious government move, which honestly isn't all that bad. The idea of being coerced into approving a sham legal document by the powers that be for the sake of keeping the public under control for the price of one's credibility and morality does spell an interesting thriller, if only the characters involved were more interesting and if the direction has more going on for it than our hero debating on whether he should agree on signing a bogus document, sitting around and talking to people to get their side as he tries to figure out what course of action he should take.

Too much of the movie's time were spent on the casts being one-note players, never going beyond one trait of either being depressed or tired, as well as feeding us the terrors of governing powers through a very muddled plot with a dreary pace and hardly anything exciting happening, simply killing off any means on getting us invested on this movie's approach. A real shame really. The first fifteen minutes or so have us watching our masked tribesmen do brutal slayings and give an effective chase, only for it all to be thrown out in favor of some dull moral drama that surely messed a lot of slasher fans' expectations.

City of Blood (1987) is more or less a feature length political commercial about Black Power groups and corrupt officials, with slasher elements thrown in possibly to make it stand out a bit more. If it was to be handled differently, I'm sure this is a genuine gem of a rare slasher with its unique premise, but for what it is right now, its a boring mess with a bit if identity crisis but it is watchable if you have the patience for it and/or if you're into something quite odd for your bodycounters.

1 male hit on the head with a swung rock
1 male brained to death with a spiked club
1 female seen murdered, struck with a spiked club
1 female brained offscreen with a spiked club
1 male mentioned dead from torture, body later seen in autopsy room
1 male found stabbed on the chest with multiple spears
1 male shot
Total: 7

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Demons of The Past and Present: Del Playa (2017)

Del Playa (2017)
Rating: ***
Starring: Devon Barnes, Brett Johnson, Andrew Dits 

Enduring controversy due to so-called similarities to the real life crime committed by 22-year old Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured fourteen others near University of California before killing himself inside his vehicle, Del Playa (2017) is somewhat inspired by the horrors caused by the so-called Incel subculture, albeit done to resemble your typical slasher flick with some attempted depth centering delusional affection and post-traumatic stress disorder, playing most of the cards right and cheesing up the rest.

Bullied at home and school, Matthew has very few things going for him such as practicing martial arts and a one-sided attraction to fellow high school student Claire. Unfortunately for him, Claire already has a boyfriend, Tim, who prefers to handle the creeper situation by bullying Matthew. All of this soon escalates to a messy scuffle one Halloween party where, after Matthew tries to once again woo the girl of his dreams, Claire’s boyfriend decided to end this by beating the creep black and blue until Matthew fought back. Dirty. With a broken vodka bottle. Before running off into the night, leaving Tim to die from a stabbed gut.

Fast forward a couple of years and Claire is now at college, still dealing with the memory of Matthew murdering her ex. She copes with this by partying hard, snorting coke and cheating on her current boyfriend with her drug dealer, all the while trying to front being a healthy Psych major working with special needs children. But seeing Halloween's nearing again, Claire's control over her erratic behavior will be challenged as she fears Matthew's vengeful return considering they never caught the kid after all of these years.

What might have been a severe case of post trauma stress will eventually turn into a living nightmare when someone wearing Matthew's mask one Halloween dance ago starts to murder away the girls at Claire's sorority as well as those just happen to be in the line of fire, saving Claire for last.

While not exactly groundbreaking, Del Playa (2017) is still a worthy viewing for some depth in its plot, recreating through its main girl the realistic horrors of facing traumas from real life tragedies as well as fear of obsessive lovestruck stalkers. The film certainly took its time to build around her plight, focusing on her downfalls as a coke fiend and struggles leaving the past to move forward from her life, giving us a mostly fleshed out final girl that's honestly close to being sympathetic and probably the most interesting element of the movie.

However, the matter of fact that this all will eventually water down into a Halloween (1978) meant there will be plot holes and the rest of the characters never getting fleshed out, more or less becoming the standardized annoying and nameless teen lambs for the slaughter. On the plus side, the deaths are often brutal, with some of the best being a throat getting stabbed with a fire wood fresh-from-the-bonfire and a savage beer keg beating, and the villain is mostly a physically intimidating, silent hulk-type (until the last act when he goes full "nice guy" on Claire for that self-entitled cringe factor) so the slasher elements are sufficient enough to warrant this title a honest viewing.

Now, for a modest budgeted indie flick, Del Playa (2017) sure looks gorgeous and definitely didn’t look cheap. It's beautifully shot with some outstanding cinematography, including a slow-mo shot of the killer crashing through a window in prowl of a victim. It can be darn lengthy with its run time of a hundred-plus minutes and, in occasion, the drama can feel a bit misplaced with all the cheesed up teen drama many slasher flicks are known for, but the direction isn't without its merits and the end product is still a solid piece of bodycounting B-grade entertainment.

Flawed, yet enjoyable, Del Playa (2017) is a teen slasher at heart and probably more if it had the right focus. Nevertheless, its a fun watch if you're in the mood for troubled hearts getting hacked apart. Figuratively and literally.

1 male stabbed with a broken whiskey bottle
1 female found bloodied against rocks
1 male drowned in ocean waves
1 male brained with a rock
1 female stabbed on the throat with a fire wood
1 female had her gut carved and stabbed with a knife
1 male had his head crushed with a beer keg
1 female knifed to death
1 male falls of a cliff
1 male gets a carving knife to the head (implied flashback)
1 male body found washed up on a beach (?)
Total: 11 (?)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Message From Our Stepfather


Modern Dad Gone Off The Deep End: The Stepfather (2009)

The Stepfather (2009)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward

Before I get to see 1980s Terry O'Quinn as the Stepfather, I saw late 2000s Dylan Walsh try walking the shoes of the titular family-murdering identity-hopping psycho as this reboot was my introduction to the entire Stepfather slasher-thriller franchise. Glad to say it did little to hinder me from seeing the rest of the movies, though objectively none of the movies from the Stepfather franchise are "good", so comparing this to the original is like comparing the words cola with softdrink: both meant the same thing despite looking different.

The movie starts with a man grooming before making his way downstairs to go about his morning business. Christmas carols play in the background while he reads the paper and eat a peanut butter toast, only for us to get a glimpse of some bloodstained tools in the sink and, one by one whilst accompanied by ghostly screams, the remains of the family he just murdered.

So the man is our eponymous Stepfather, a nameless serial killer obsessed with the idea of being the father of a perfect family, killing off those he deems imperfect. After hightailing out of his latest crime scene in Utah, he ends up in a grocery store at Oregon days later, charming his way to a woman named Susan who must be feeling brave that day as she asks David out for dinner after just minutes of meeting him.

Six months later, Susan’s eldest Michael returns from military school for the Summer and learns his mother is readily engaged to David during his surprise party. At most, his soon-to-be stepfather does come off like a good guy until the neighborhood gossip stops by early next morning to tell Susan that David looks like a man she saw at America’s Most Wanted and, during lunch, the man botches the name of his daughter from a former marriage. Needless to say, Michael grows suspicious of David and, slowly and surely, he'll soon find himself and his family in grave danger.

The Stepfather (2009) follows the trend of deranged individuals trying their hardest to mask their insanity and appear -by their standards and/or definition- perfect or okay, something we've seen dozens of times before predating the original Stepfather trilogy with movies such as The Bad Seed (1956), The Horrible House on The Hill (1974) and Bloody Birthday (1981). It has all the common tropes; the titular character looks alright on the outside but, in reality, is really a murdering psychopath. A main character notices the cracks and investigates further, at times questioning their own sanity. Side characters gets harmed or snuffed out. Climax happens, all is revealed, they brawl out and usually the door is left open for a possible sequel or a downer ending.

The only couple of things The Stepfather (2009) has going for are that it has the slick and sleek look thanks to its modest budget and modernized setting, as well as the talents doing their darnest to make their characters work despite a few hammy moments and an insufferable amount of dumb commonplaces. (Or, for actress Amber Heard's case, reduced down to plain eye candy) Comparing this to the rest of the Stepfather franchise, it does boast the most kill count too, though considering a lot of these were bloodless suffocation-themed murders, its more of a footnote than a decree.

Not a lot to say about this one aside that it's a passable thriller with a simple -borderline predictable- story. If you're a fan of movies like Orphan (2009), The Good Son (1993), The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) or, y'know, half of the movies you'll find in the Lifetime channel, you've probably know what to expect from this one.

1 boy seen murdered, cause or method unknown
1 female seen stabbed on the back
1 boy seen murdered, cause or method unknown
1 girl seen lying dead on a pool of blood, cause or method unknown
1 elderly female thrown down a flight of stairs, smothered
1 male smothered to death with a plastic bag
1 female drowned in a pool
Total: 7

Sunday, June 9, 2019

This Madness In Your Head!: Deadly Manor (1990)

Deadly Manor (United States/Spain, 1990)
Rating: **
Starring: Clark Tufts, Greg Rhodes

There's a lot of things in life that test my patience: 12 Noon traffic. Dumb and impatient customers at work. Slasher movies from the 80s that takes an hour of padding before getting any action going, which will be made way worse if the copy one happens to get is a direct VHS rip...

Six "teenagers" in a van and motorbike are driving through backwoods country enroute to some lake for the weekend when, after a bit of frustrated discourse and repeatedly looking through maps, it is starting to appear that they got themselves lost. They soon stop to pick up a hitchhiker who confirms that they are indeed off track as he knows the camp they're looking for, however mother nature and lady luck have different plans for them as before they can drive back, heavy rainstorms suddenly sets in. 

Luckily for them, there happens to be a remote manor house nearby that appears to abandoned, but borderline-supernatural spookiness are abound as one of the kids feels something evil is living in the there and the mansion's decor (including coffins in the basement, human body parts in pickle jars and a photo album filled with pictures of naked corpses) doesn't help say otherwise. (All it needs is Uncle Fester Addams and viola~!) Still, most of the group decided to camp in the mansion for the night, with the only one gal opposing to the idea of sleeping next to pickled scalps hiking back to the road, only for her to get caught by someone swiftly ending her with an offscreen throat cut. 

Eventually (and I use this word questionably), the group starts to die at the leather gloved hands of an assailant who (by the looks of it) is a real stinge when it comes to creativity as most of their kills are offscreen throat slits and knife stabbings. A real disappointment of a payoff for all of the padding this movie did to get this far.

Released in the early 90s when the slasher's Golden age were thought to be done and out, Deadly Manor (1990) looked like it aimed to better itself from being just another backwoods bodycounter by scaling up both sleazy and gothic imagery as much as it could, evident from its use of creaky old candle-lit murder mansion and random sex scenes that may or may not have happened. The film, however, succeeds instead on sliding down as an oddity of unprecedented cheesiness and cliched horror movie dumbness as characters spat out ridiculously hammy lines and does every textbook example of what not to do in a horror film unless you are really asking to be knifed down by a porcelain mask-wearing nutbag. 

I have no problems loving bad slasher movies, particularly the cheesy kind like Slaughter High (1986) and Jason X (2001), but what does movie have that Deadly Manor (1990) lacked is momentum, which meant I have to sit through an hour worth of characters just being dumb and cheekily written for the sake of building dreary tension that doesn't work quite well. Granted they threw in a red herring about the hitchhiker having a shady past for effort's sake but most of us can tell that this is an old throwaway that gets resolved rather unceremoniously. Thankfully, the last act rally up well with the villains giving out deranged monologues for both exposition and tongue-n-cheek reasons, as well as cashing in a last minute bloody kill. And, what the hell, why not have the final girl join in the fun and have her try talking some psycho-babble sense into the knife-happy slasher, too? That always worked out.

While Deadly Manor (1990) sought to be an atmospheric and dark psycho-thriller, its undeniable that its dumbness dropped it more than a notch down to shlocky slasher shenanigans. Then again, it has a solid motive behind the killer's insanity and resulting massacre, albeit a challenge to sit and wait for, made the film watchable on a level so its not a total lost. Probably a fair viewing for those with the patience of a god.

1 male and 1 female seen slaughtered
1 female had her throat cut offscreen
1 male knifed to death
1 female had her throat slashed with a knife
1 male found with his throat slashed
1 male knifed to death
1 male had his throat slashed with a knife
1 male shot dead
Total: 9

Saturday, June 1, 2019

...And Now I Got To See The King This Saturday.

All I could say is: They did it. Legendary/Toho improved what was lacking from Godzilla (2014) and this is the most fun I have watching a Godzilla movie since Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1995), my first Kaiju movie!

I don't care what others see, think or feel about this movie, especially them so-called critics. I personally don't think they understand why this franchise kept on going (maybe a bit? I'm sure some of them do) but so long as my opinion matters (somewhat), THIS is one of the most perfect kaiju movies I've seen in a LONG time, delivering what I love about the Japanese Daikaiju genre: unsophisticated dialogue, easy plot and huge monsters beating the hell out of each other! It hits right in the nostalgia factor and I couldn't be happier and I'm sure true daikaiju fans would feel the same, too!

So, do I recommend this to my fellow horror and/or genre enthusiasts? Well, yeah! Of course! If you're one of them people who has to learn to loosen up and just enjoy the mayhem? This is a right place to start! It's CG's the best the big guns can offer, the cheese factor is surprisingly balanced and it definitely has the energy to keep the action going! A giant monster film for the giant monster fans!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Take The World: Brightburn (2019)

Brightburn (2019)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn

While I've read a fair share of comic books as a kid, none of them had as strong of an impact to me as the original Marvel Zombies limited series back at 2005. Not only did this very book introduced me to superheroes beyond familiar names like Spiderman, Wolverine or Captain America (pretty much opening floodgates of superhero comics for me to dive into and try), but it also catered to my love for zombie movies back then, giving me something out of the ordinary when it comes to the shambling undead.

To see these oh-so-beloved heroes as something worse, as gruesome super-powered flesh-eating monsters born out of an incurable infection, more or less taught me that, when things go downhill, the heroes we love can become the worst case scenario. This what 2019's Brightburn is. A super-powered worst case scenario.

Twelve year old Baron Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) is experiencing a lot of strange things lately: he sleepwalks to the barn at night, hear voices in his head and finds out he has superhuman strength and invulnerability. It isn't long before he finds out he is adopted, that the parents he knew all this time (David Denman and Elizabeth Banks) found him as a baby inside a crash-landed space craft. Unfortunately for us, this isn't Smallville, Kansas and Baron happens to have a concerning fascination for human body parts as well as a nasty habit creeping on girls he likes. This isn't a superhero story. No. This is a supervillain's. Soon, those who crosses Baron's path or threaten to expose his dark side will know his true power as Brightburn.

Writers Brian and Mark Dunn pen this unique slasher/superhero hybrid about an unpredictable and corrupted young boy discovering his otherworldly origins and while it does show how dangerous and unstoppable said boy can be with his powers scarily (and gorily) well, the final product felt lacking on character development, ironically predictable and easily comparable to classics like The Bad Seed (1956), given that movie's bodycount was modeled after Friday the 13th-style stalkings with DC comic's Superman's powers as murder weapons.

A lot of missed opportunities could have delve further into the plot and answer some vital questions, more of it concerning Brandon's sudden acceptance to be a death avatar in a cape since he starts out as this intelligent and loving boy who dearly loves his parents. This route may have gave more weight to the scenes wherein our parental figures try to understand their son's murderous streak or simply outright denying it but, on the other side of the coin, the absence of reasoning why we suddenly have Superman-Gone-Way-South here adds to the creepiness of Brightburn (2019), cementing it fittingly as a unique slasher horror that delivers the messy goods along its young alien villain.

As a slasher flick, it exceedingly subverts conventions while -again, ironically- building around them; we still have a masked killer out prowling around, stalking his victims and killing them with relentless brutality like any good slasher, though the superhero elements gave each kill that extra punch not just because of the detailed gore work (both practical and CG), but also on the fact that they're needlessly overpowered, a clear sign on how our killer kid lacks self-control over his powers, either due to him still figuring out his limits or him simply enjoying the power he can unleash. Not to say that the stalk-and-slaughter antics here could genuinely make you feel real dread or fear, but I wont deny that they can be intense.

The movie is far from perfect, relying heavily on typical slasher and child-go-psycho movie tropes that, yes, I am sure many of which we've seen before, but Brightburn (2019) wins me over with its atypical choices, degrading superhero platitudes and, well, for just how good it looks for a film made around an estimated budget of $7,000,000. So if you happen to the that one guy who wonders what would happen if god-like powers fall in the hands of someone who isn’t selfless and moral like a certain Mr. Kent, this is definitely one of many good films to answer that. (Next comes to mind is Chronicle (2012)) If the ending has anything to go by, though, this may not be the last we have seen of Brandon Brightburn Breyer...

1 female attacked, later found with her gut ripped open
1 male crushed inside a dropped truck, jaw smashed open and bled to death
1 male shot through the head with the killer's heat vision
1 male hit by the killer in flight at top speed, slaughtered apart upon impact
1 female beaten within the house, bled to death from wounds
1 female dropped to her death
268+ victims killed in passenger jet crash
Images (c) Google

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Curious Case of A Camp Counselor: You Might Be The Killer (2018)

You Might Be The Killer (2018)
Rating: ****
Starring: Fran Kranz, Alyson Hannigan, Brittany S. Hall

Meta-slasher gets another contender in the form of this surprisingly enjoyable backwoods kill-a-thon (formerly a Twitter thread) starring Fran Kranz of Cabin In The Woods (2013) (another awesome meta-horror and probable companion piece to this flick, among many) as a hapless camp counselor in the middle of a classic forest-set cat-and-mouse chase with a masked maniac. Or is he?

Waking up blood-caked at night and surrounded by the bodies of his fellow Summer camp employees, Sam (Kranz) finds himself running and soon hiding in a barricaded cabin from a killer who's probably still out there, hacking up anyone at arm's length. Worse, however, is that he can't recall how any of this even started, so he dials up the only help he can get in a slasher situation: his bestfriend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan of the American Pie movies and Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV fame), who works behind the counter of Rings of Saturn, a local comic book shop and who's a happens to know a lot about horror cinema. Particularly the bodycounting kind.

Using her knowledge of tropes and cliches slasher movies are guilty of, Chuck asks Sam for as many details he can recall so she can piece things together and guide him out of this scary mess. From one flashback to the next, Sam's problem further worsens when everything that happens so far (and the matter of fact that he's in possession of a wooden mask and a bloodstained, gator jaw-adorned machete) all leads to the likeliest situation, much to his dismay: he might the killer.

Why and how is this movie's little mystery for us and, whilst the answer comes pretty quick (about twenty minutes or so into the film), the craziness of it all is just fun to watch thanks to the awesome chemistry of this movie's two main casts despite their characters' only interaction was through a phone call, as well as the non-linear flashbacks that help build the anticipation of what could come next and how all of this would end.

As a meta-slasher, jokey winks and nods are a plenty with You Might Be The Killer (2018) as it references its fellow slasher movies from the well known (Fred Krueger gets a name drop and Jason Voorhees' opening revival at Friday The 13th Part VI is suggested as a bright side for Sam. Come to think of it, Friday The 13th got a lot of love in this one!) to the obscure. (Maniac Cop (1988)'s titular killer gets his ugliness compared and I think they referenced either Basket Case (1982) or Sisters (1972) when they brought up a possible conjoined twin killer. That would have been terrible!) The killcount gets an onscreen scoreboard that's actually quite helpful in keeping us up with the flashbacks and the conventional plotting of the sub-genre gets criticized often in snide yet smart deliveries that carry the movie through, pointing out the flaws and improbabilities many horror characters make that are often overlooked for the sake of entertainment. (Not that said flaws and improbabilities are always an issue, mind you. They are, for most cases, what made the slasher sub-genre such a guilty pleasure to watch!)

Once in a while, the movie does subvert some expectations (most of it about Sam trying to survive being killed off himself from the very people he could have chopped to pieces), but at the very heart of it, You Might Be The Killer (2018) is a backwoods slasher and a decent one at that; the cursed mask campfire tale is a fair variation in the sense that instead of a killer being out haunting the woods, it's an object that has the power to possess and act out murder. It's a lore that isn't tackled much when it comes to slasher films so I'm all aboard this idea, especially when the resulting massacre is gory and savage fun, topping up a fairly hefty bodycount. The killer -or rather the evil mask- could have used some more work on its simplistic design as it look less like a wooden mask and more of something intentionally made out of resin fiberglass. Or painted vinyl.

After our main casts figure out what is happening and attempting to stop the mess while the survivor count is still passable, the last act of the film plays out the classic slasher final third wherein the final girl (or girls) gets chased and stalk before our unwilling killer gets one more chance to control himself. This is where the film falters for me as it slowly runs out of steam with the meta-humor and stretches out the final act in an intense yet overly foreshadowed conclusion. I guess I was looking for something out of the ordinary to keep in tone with the movie's strange yet welcoming diverted story, but at the least the bittersweet last minute twist saved the film for me and honestly put a sincere smile on my face.

Ultimately, this is a slasher feature two-people act with Kranz and Hannigan powering through to the end with their comic charisma. You Might Be the Killer (2018) is still flawed with it lacking much development for the rest of the casts, some of the jokes falling flat and, worse of all, suffering from a weak final act, but looking at the bigger picture, its bloody machete is in the right place and does well enough to be quick and quippy. Packed with classic backwoods slasher tropes and well-timed comedy, this is very much a worthy watch for casual and hardcore fans of summer camp massacres. Don't miss out on this one.

1 male ran through the gut with a gator jaw machete
1 female had her throat cut with a gator jaw machete
1 male hacked with a gator jaw machete, gutted
1 male had his head chopped in half with a gator jaw machete
1 female drowned in a pool
1 male impaled through the chest with a gator jaw machete
1 female had her neck repeatedly crushed with a refrigerator door
1 female stabbed with a gator jaw machete
1 female decapitated with a gator jaw machete
1 male had his arms lopped off with a gator jaw machete, stabbed
1 female had her face repeatedly hacked with a shovel
1 male stabbed on the gut with a gator jaw machete
Total: 12

Up The Highlands, Down With A Maniac: Dark Highlands (2018)

Dark Highlands (United Kingdom, 2018)
Rating: ***
Starring: Junichi Kajioka, Steve Campbell, Mike Mitchell

A suicidal man (Steve Campbell) is seen hiking up the Scottish highlands where he, after setting up camp, proceeds to snort up and beer down copious amount of drugs before taping a bag over his head, waiting for death to take him. One vomit-covered violent suffocation later, he apparently survives this and wakes up with a homicidal streak, attacking some students and their guide, killing most. This is iteration one.

Ten years later, a Japanese man (Junichi Kajioka) travels to the same wilderness to paint in peace, not knowing he is stalked by a heavy-breathing prowler. It isn't long before a tranquilizer dart is shot at our painter, waking up hours later with his camping gear trashed and someone masked in gauze and decked in hunting gear intimidating him to a deadly cat-and-mouse chase. This is iteration two.

Beautiful in a scenic sense and overly simple plot-wise, Dark Highlands (2018) is a survivalist thriller that, much as the case of films like P2 (2007), The Strangers (2008) and Hush (2016), took some cues from slasher movies and worked it around a plot that is essentially one overly long stalk-and-chase scene. What does set this film apart from most survivalist horror thrillers is that it's nearly devoid of speech, which meant Dark Highlands is the kind of film that demands full attention to be enjoyed as it heavily relies on visuals and a good set of scores to build tone and tells its story.

The the casts' physical acting, from gestures to expressions, is what drives the movie around its steady yet creeping pace. One that note, Kajioka does a remarkable job in playing his character with realistic tire and desperation as their predicament increasingly becomes inescapable. The lack of name and backstory given to this character definitely made it easy for us to empathize with his plight, though I will admit the choice of making the antagonistic figure practically a slasher villain drops this movie a few points down into cheesier territories.

The masked killer, credited as either "Vomit-Head" or "The Gamekeeper" depending on which iteration, is pretty much a grungy variant of a backwoods slasher baddie, albeit with a thing for mentally and physically torturing his targets through means of exhaustion rather than direct contact, forcing them to run continuously and voiding them of essentials like water via sniper shots, all the while leaving disturbing camera footages of themselves for their victims to watch, making sure as shit to make them understand he is watching. This, however, doesn't mean he shies away from ending bystanders with a swift kill, though I can tell his means of executing random bodycount fodders may not sit well for many slasher purists who prefer their killcount to be "bullet free". (Not me, though. So long as the slasher structure of stalk and kill is followed, they can shoot them down a hundred times for all I care!)

There's also a last minute twist in iteration three involving the killer's dog that place this movie further from being a realistic thriller and much closer to your shlocky horror movie. In fact, the point that this film labels its acts "iterations" onscreen felt more gimmicky than, perhaps, artistic. The story could have easily ran with the flow without them, only succeeding instead in hamming up this film.

Looking at it as a production, Dark Highlands (2018) has at least a modest budget and crew, not surprising seeing the focus of the film centers heavily on two characters either stalking or being stalked. Its edited nicely and many of its shots showcased beautiful scenery, but camerawork has its shortcomings, often looking stiff and dull only to be remedied by its flashier scenes of mayhem and grue.

All in all, withstanding its cheesier elements, Dark Highlands (2018) is a fair watch that did its best to make most of a simple yet dire situation and the effort is commendable. Thrilling and intense, with scenic route that leads to a balanced amount of horrifying visuals, this is a movie that, despite its flaws, brought something a bit more from what could have been a cliched slasher or a mundane survival thriller.

1 male caught on killer's chokehold, strangled to death
1 male killed offcamera, blood splash seen
1 male found dead from an injected drug
1 male shot on the head with a sniper
1 female shot dead with a sniper
1 male shot dead with a Luger pistol
1 male gets a portrait stand leg hammered through his back, pinned to the ground
1 boy injected with drug, brained with a wooden board
1 female implied dead, method or cause unknown
Total: 9

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Gamer Blood a Spoiling: Stay Alive (2006)

Stay Alive (2006)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz |

Released around the time Japanese horror movies were focusing their creative energies on stories about cursed objects, Stay Alive (2006) did to video games what movies like The Ring (1998) and One Missed Call (2003) did to VHS tapes and telephone calls respectively: get involved somehow and you die. The key difference between these Asian fright flicks and Alive, however, is that while the former did their best in the scare department and mostly succeeds, Stay Alive has scares comparable to someone clapping behind you without your knowing, only for them to do it over and over again for the next 80 plus minutes.

While attending his adoptive brother-slash-bestfriend Peter's wake, Hutch comes into possession of an underground game called Stay Alive which Peter was testing before he bit the big one along with two others. In memoriam to his late bro, Hutch invites his dorky gamer friends (one of whom played by Frankie Muniz of the Malcolm in the Middle fame) to play the mysterious demo, not knowing that by reciting a prayer to start the game, they have also unleashed the game's villain unto themselves in real life. Now, whenever one of them dies at the game, they'll meet a similar grisly fate so soon after (similar to a certain nightmare man named Kruger's motive), thus forcing these kids to uncover the secrets behind the game before its too late.

Asinine and predictable, Stay Alive (2006) really didn't do much of an effort to make itself a worthwhile horror flick, may it be scare factor, emotional turmoil or even creativity for its bodycount. (Offscreen. Why must the gorier deaths be offscreen?) The CGI villains may looks pitiful and the backstory behind their existence just didn't make much sense, a failing factor that doesn't help the sloppy direction and lackluster I'm-trying-to-be-serious-but-really-I'm-all-bull tone of the movie. (Apparently the villainess is Elizabeth Bathory, who founded a plantation in Louisiana in the 1800s where she tortured many girls for her oh-so-beloved literal bloodbath, which the game's premise is based on. Doesn't add up, however, since Miss Bathory's  already dead before the USA even existed...)

If there's anything good to say about Stay Alive (2006) is that I really dig the game featured. It's supposed to be very advanced with voice-activation and a very open-world to explore and survive at, with on-and-off co-op gameplay and decent character customization. Any gameplay shown in the movie does look fun to play and I wouldn't mind taking a swing of it myself if it ever existed. Aside this, the movie is plainly forgettable and barely staying alive as a fright flick...

1 male found hung up in chains dead
1 female found slaughtered
1 male hanged with a length of chain
1 male stabbed to death offcamera
1 male ran down by a phantom horse carriage
1 female caught inside a burning house, dies from smoke inhalation (flashback)
1 male had his head slaughtered offcamera, blood splash seen
1 female had her throat slashed with a pair of shears
Total: 8

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Prom Night In Da Hood: Thriller (2018)

Thriller (2018)
Rating: **
Starring: Noah Abbott, Johnny Alexander, Jessica Allain

Imagine the classic Jamie Lee Curtis-starring Canadian 1980 slasher Prom Night taking place in a modern ghetto neighborhood and its casts being mostly black, with a touch or two of Hispanics. Boom! You got Thriller (2018), one of Blumhouse studios' uninspired duds. Yippee? Not.

Four years ago, a gang of kids decided to prank the local slow kid, Chauncy, by luring him inside an abandoned house and scaring the bejeebus out of him while wearing matching skull masks. It's all fun and games for the lil' tykes until their victim fights back, pushing one of them off a floor and to their death. The kids, shocked from the sudden drastic turn of their prank, cut their loses and vowed to keep their involvement a secret, all the while pinning the entire death to Chauncy, making him look like a murderer and throwing him into juvie.

After one opening credit featuring some very decent artwork (Probably the best part of the movie), we jump to the present where Chauncy, having paid his debt to society, is now a free man and his return is as warm as you would expect from someone with a reputation involving child murder: intense and disturbing to a lot of people, save for his own mama. Those involved with the incident, now teenagers readying for life after highschool, try their best to brush off Chauncy's presence in the hood by busying themselves with football scholarships, homecoming weekend and getting in the pants of a visiting rap star, but this soon proves to be difficult when they start being killed one-by-one by a hooded figure.

At best, Thriller (2018) is watchable for some of the drama it unfolds, particularly the interplay between its teenage casts among one another and some red herrings introduced that, frankly, would have made a better storyline for this movie. (A character, for one, talks to herself in a mirror and then talks back in an altered voice like lil' Danny Torrance from The Shining. Why aren't we focusing on this one?) These, however, hardly mattered in the end as the plotting and direction this film went for is just bland and overdone, recycling and re-using a lot of situations and tropes one would find at other (and probably superior) slasher movies, more evidently the aforementioned original Prom Night.

Lacking a central character, the pacing hobbles its focal point from one face to another in an attempt to build as much development as possible and while I can definitely see this as a way to put the human drama first to heightens the tension, its rushed and threadbare, candidly not enough to make the ensemble stand out of their archetypes and making caring about the increasing human casualties difficult.

It also doesn't help that the anticipated killing spree lacks a punch, which is normally the saving point of a slasher film if everything else that matters story-wise starts rolling down the ditch. Sadly (its low-budget to blame or not), the murders in Thriller (2018) are irredeemable on a visceral and/or a creative level, a large portion of them watered down by terrible lighting, cheap cuts and frantic editing.

Honestly, I have no problem with a cliched teen-friends-bonding-and-then-dying-over-a-shared-secret shtick if its handled properly. Unfortunately, too many hindering factors couldn't save the film from being a routine slasher with an unremarkable mystery that is just a chore to sit through. Thriller (2018) is just a tired run and the title alone reflects that. (I'm sure, without typing in "slasher" and/or "2018 movie", Googling this movie would likely show search results of a dancing zombie in a red jacket...)

1 girl pushed off a floor, falls to her death
1 male gutted with a knife
1 male bludgeoned to death with a bat
1 male found with his throat being crushed under the killer's foot
1 female bashed with a rock
1 male had his neck snapped
1 female dragged off a car, killed offscreen
1 male hacked on the back with a machete
Total: 8

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Just saw Detective Pikachu...

And it's exactly what I expected it to be; a fun, funny and adorable feature length adventure centered on a standalone take on a game franchise from Japan that's still running strong to this day. (Including its namesake) I may not have played every game in the series but I can't help but feel a bit of nostalgia seeing most of the pokemons showing up in the film (I say most coz two to three of them, I hardly recognize. Can you blame me? There's 807 of these guys now, not including their alternate and regional forms...) and that's just a fair icing on the cake since the story is, while predictable, does have an entertaining direction and some neat ideas. 

Highlights include a surprisingly hilarious interrogation scene between our two main casts and a mime pokemon called Mr. Mime, and a very expressive take on an adorable pokemon called Psyduck which, honestly, makes me feel proud that one is in my Platinum team. (Although she's a Golduck now, but still, memories!)

Nightmare fuel, though, is this movie's Ditto. Just....see the movie and you'll know...

Overall, I recommend it for the young and young at heart!

Sure, it looks squishy and cute now, but once it transforms...