Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Gamer Bloods 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 is just a tired run and the title alone reflects that. (I'm sure, without typing in "slasher" 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...

Friday, May 17, 2019

Backwoods Funk: The Ranger (2018)

The Ranger (2018)
Rating: ***
Starring: Chloë Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu

Backwood slashers. Many's the films I've seen with this backdrop and I'm sure there will be many more in the future, so I often take heed of what I would subject my eyes to in this day and age as a slasher fan. Will the next backwoods slasher be a dime a dozen masterpiece or a predictably clichéd trip down a familiar bloodstained forest?

Well, why not look into it first once in awhile and give me some idea of what I could be getting myself into?

This is what I did for The Ranger (2018) after hearing and reading about its festival run and a few favorable reviews. I was hoping to see it one day and find out if the hype was well worth the trouble, so when it finally came out available for viewing, I hesitated not and, well, let's just say I am glad it at least didn't made me fall asleep halfway.

When the show they're attending gets raided by cops one night, Chelsea and her punk rocker friends drive off to her late uncle's cabin to hide after her boyfriend Garth stabs one of the lawman to save her. There, they run into the titular forest ranger who appears to have some history with Chelsea and is quick to dislike the new crowd she's hanging out with. The encounter, while troubling, seems to be done and over with no soon after so most of the gang more or less thought nothing of it. Most of the gang.

While her friends and boyfriend punk out mother nature with spray paint, hard rebel rock and drugs, Chelsea finds herself face to face with a troubling memory involving her uncle and the ranger, but before we could uncover more, shots are fired and one of her friends goes down with an increasingly fatal neck wound. The remaining kids are soon forced to hike back to the edge of the woods only to discover their van missing and the only help left for them is the local ranger they encountered earlier.

Problem with this, though -and this is an very obvious problem- the ranger doesn't like them. Like on a we're the wolves and they're the sheep homicidal level. So it isn't long before Chelsea's friends starts biting it and she's left to fend for herself.

The Ranger (2018) runs its first half hour considerably watchable at most with its decently directed stroll into punk culture and PTSD, with a fun-sized mystery focusing on the relationship between the creepy ranger and our obvious final girl steadily unfolding throughout. The fact that a lot of the characters each have a varying level of assholeness does qualm my enjoyment for the film a bit (most of them were tolerable for punks, dare I even say likeable for their strong bond, yet there's always that one guy you really want to suffer a slow or very brutal onscreen death), the biggest offender that really knocked this film down a few steps back, though, is how the middle act is basically a retread of pretty much any backwoods slasher flick out there.

Granted that one or two kills were eye-candy practical, bloody and gory, this doesn't do much to set the movie's generic forest-based bodycounting antics apart from others like it, even more so when the characters devolve from loud yet somewhat passable troublemakers into horror movie bad decisions incarnate and getting offed way too soon. Thankfully, the last act didn't made it any worse (though a far cry from making it a rave-worthy masterpiece neither) as The Ranger (2018) decided to end on a bloodstained note as the titular homicidal lawman tries to worm his philosophy of being hunters and other righteous ramblings to a drugged and captured Chelsea, only for her to exact brutal vengeance with a hunting rifle and an unusual choice of blunt weapon on an admittedly intense finale. (All of this after treating us with a trippy scene where a stark-naked madman walks on fours while wearing a wolf pelt and howling. Yeah.)

While it's a fine addition to the continuously growing line of backwoods slasher titles, The Ranger (2018) honestly made any dents on the familiar formula of kids going to the woods and dying despite juggling its own brand of black humor, backwoods horror and hard punk. Perhaps not a bad thing for hardcore slasher fans, but for those hoping to see more, this is just a solid "okay".

1 male body found rotting with a mangled face
1 female shot through the head with a shotgun
1 male gets an axe hacked up his throat, later found in half
1 male mauled offcamera by a wolf
2 victims found rotting inside cages
1 male found with a shotgun (flashback)
1 male found tied to a post and dead from gut wound
1 male repeatedly beaten with a pair of binoculars, pushed off a watch tower
Total: 9

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Joy Killed: Killjoy (2000) and Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil (2002) Double Bill Review

If only the killjoy we're gonna talk about here is that awesome Lordi song but, as you will later from the garbage we will be looking into, we all can't have good things in life all of the time...

Killjoy (2000)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Ángel Vargas, Vera Yell, Lee Marks

Made around the time its production company Full Moon Features cut ties from its distributor Paramount (which meant a real downgrade of quality from a company that made and released entertaining cult classics back at the late 80s and early 90s such as the Puppet Master film series and Castle Freak (1995)), Killjoy is a real mess of an urban horror flick and a travesty of a horror icon.

A dork named Michael has the hots for Jada, who in turn is dating a violent thug named Lorenzo and, as anything involving an archetypal douche boyfriend would, this often leads to the doofus getting black and blue all over. He tries summoning a vengeful spirit named Killjoy to get even with Lorenzo and his lackeys, but Michael appears to luck out when, tired of the nerd hitting on his girl, Lorenzo decided to scare him with a gun, only for it to go horribly wrong and ends up shooting our awkward Romeo for real.

Cut to a year later, Jada had broken up with Lorenzo and is now dating a stock black guy character named Jamal. Lorenzo, in turn, is mostly up to his typical gangsta tomfoolery such as smoking dope and getting some ass, while his two henchies get lured inside an ice cream van with a clown inside claiming to have drugs for sale. Clown turns out to be Killjoy, exacting lackluster vengeance against those who killed Michael before going after Jada, Jamal and her buddy Monique because... Reasons.

Que in expositions from a random homeless guy (who might be the holy ghost or some shit) to what we already knew from the first twelve or so, as well as an overly complicated instructions to how they can send Killjoy back to the netherworld. (AKA, a way to pad its running time) Throw in a few zombie ghost minions with lazy make-up effects, cheap CG and terrible acting tainted by an even more terrible script and production quality, and we get this train wreck that is 72 minutes too long.

I honestly cannot fathom how bad this garbage is and I still questions how, in the entire universe, did it spawned four sequels?! (And probably still counting!) Perhaps some people saw it with a "so-bad-its-good" sentiment that apparently made movies like Nail Gun Massacre (1986) and Troll 2 (1990) fondly remembered for their total absurdness? Probably not far off, but as you can tell, I am far from entertained from said absurdness.

1 male shot
1 male crushed against a wall with an ice cream van
1 male burned alive
1 male shot dead 
Total: 4
Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil (2002)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Wayland Geremy Boyd, Bobby Marsden, Aaron Brown

Despite trying to rack up the kill count slightly higher and with a bit more splash of red and practical grue, Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil (2002) still fails overall for how much build up it went through, just for the payoff to fall flat and face-first to a bear trap made up of bad cheese and misery.

On a more supernatural backwoods slasher-inclined set-up, Killjoy 2 has us following five juvenile delinquents and their two detention officers driving to a center, only for their van to break down in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone reception and no gas stations nearby. One of the closest house to them happens to belong to a shotgun-totting Southern belle, who shoots one of the kids after they try rummaging inside the house looking for help. An officer chaperon shoots back, more gun fire breaks out and before you know it, our group is now staying inside a voodoo woman's house where said spiritualist is making sure their friend doesn't die from a shotgun wound on the chest with a chicken's foot.

While some are unimpressed by the effort (I mean, really. Chicken. Foot) and is understandably upset of their situation, one of the girls can't help but recall the rumors from her town about some nerd exacting revenge against a trio of thugs by summoning a demonic clown called Killjoy. Thinking this might help the odds on beating their friend's increasingly inevitable death (Again, Chicken foot), Killjoy is summoned and, much to everyone's horror, the clown's there to help anybody. Unless said "help" involves carnivorous chattery teeth, telekinetic mutilations and bad (and I mean really bad) one-liners. 

Trailing along a pace as slow as a mentally-challenged snail and boasting acting as extravagant as a toddler trying Shakespeare (Debbie Rochon's presence here is apparently a big deal, but seeing I hardly or yet to see any movies that had her in it, I feel indifferent on the subject), Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil (2002) is just as a chore to watch as the first film. The titular demon clown does not appearing until 38 minutes into the movie, which is over half of the total run and meaning I get to spend that time watching flat characters (who looks twice as old as the age they're supposed to be) trying to be interesting by being cliched black characters bitching with one another until our wise-cracking joker arrives to put an end to them. How interesting they ended up you ask? As interesting as a lonely fat slob eating a donut at an alley somewhere: it's sad, pathetic, moist around some areas. Just like the movie! 

The last half, in turn, is your usual A Nightmare on Elm Street-clone shenanigans like fantasy-fueled kills and foul villain one-liners that's somehow worse than the last film (So much so that I'm sure Fred Kruger's facepalming upon hearing each them. Facepalming with his razor gloved hand), only for it to end on a tired note when the last act is really no more than our surviving protagonists and Killjoy just standing there talking and taunting. What the actual fuck? I honestly wasn't expecting Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil to be good, but I didn't know it was going to be this level of insufferable boredom that I honestly contemplated on setting myself on fire just so the torture of watching this movie from credits to credits would end!

Long story short, some idiots banked on greenlighting a sequel to a movie that shouldn't exist, ends up creating a sequel that shouldn't exist and I happen to be one of the sad morons who gets the unfortunate opportunity to watch it. Learn from my mistake.

1 shot on the head
1 female bitten to death by a pair of demonic chattery teeth
1 male bled to death from a shotgun wound on the chest
1 male thrown to and impaled on a water pump
1 male slashed to death with a knife
1 female had her throat cut
Total: 6

But what of the other Killjoy movies you whine? Well, truth be told, after I took a gander at Killjoy 3 (2010) (which happens to be my first Killjoy movie), the movie hardly danced a supernatural slasher jig and more on a paranormal horror-of-the-demonic-clown swagger. The following sequels Killjoy Goes To Hell (2012) and Killjoy's Psycho Circus (2016) appears to be following that trend (that last one has a demon riding a spaceship...), which is no loss for me as I will always have my to-go movies Stitches (2012) and Terrifier (2018) for that sweet supernatural slasher clown goodness. And, heck, while we're at it, why not throw in Clown (2014) and the 2017 It remake for good measure? Yep, screw off, Killjoy. Screw off~
Yeah, what Killjoy? Come at me, bro!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Short Shear Terror: Nightmare At Bunnyman Bridge (2009)

Nightmare At Bunnyman Bridge (2009 Short)
Rating: ***
Starring: Jim Jackman, Kyle Billeter, DaNae West

So for those who have been living under a rock, the Bunny Man is an urban legend originated from two Fairfax County incidents at 1970 Virginia involve a man wearing a rabbit costume who attacks people with an axe (Or a hatchet), most of which taking place around the "Bunny Man Bridge", a Southern Railway overpass spanning Colchester Road where many come to believe is the stalking ground of our furry-suited evil-doer.

With a lore like this, you would think a few twisted minds out there would try to capitalize on the backwoods slasher film potential of this legend but, so far, the only recognizable "Bunnyman" movies existing out there belongs to a franchise following a chainsaw-wielding maniac in a bunny fursuit who has nothing to do with the legend. (Most of them aren't even that good!) So it brings me joy to see this rare short flick from 2009 that does understand the slasher flick worth of the legend and actually do a decent job with it within its 19 minute running time.

Taking place in 1974, five hippies are walking down a long road in Virginia's backwoods en route to a music festival when they came upon a passed-out drunk who, after proving to them that he ain't dead, warns them of the Bunnyman bridge and the thing that lurks in them woods. The teens ignore the warning and passes through said bridge, unknown to them that someone's watching and has set on tainting their hatchet with young hippie blood as night falls.

There really isn't much to say in terms of story here as Nightmare At Bunnyman Bridge stands on the bare-bone basics of backwood slasher plotting albeit on a shoestring budget, shot and edited like a lost grindhouse movie, and done with an amount of cheese. Character development is absent with the movie having little time seeing it's only a third of an hour short, but it does make up for it with hammed up take on tropes like doomsayers and campfire tales, as well as letting all the gore loose at the last act where a more cryptic-looking Bunnyman goes hatchet-happy on everyone with delightfully despicable gore effects. The only qualm I got with this movie is that the twist ending kinda felt out of nowhere, but with the positives outweighing that one negative, it's all good.

Nightmare At Bunnyman Bridge (2009) is a real quick treat for backwoods slasher fans and to those looking for another rabbit-suited slasher that is not about Easter or from that Bunnyman slasher franchise. Nothing grand but watchable all the way to the end!

1 male hacked on the head with a hatchet
1 male repeatedly hacked on the head with a hatchet
1 female repeatedly hacked on the face with a hatchet
1 male hacked to death with a hatchet
1 female gets a thrown hatchet to the head
1 male ran down by a train
Total: 6

Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Job Down Cannibal County: Cannibals and Carpet Fitters (2018)

Cannibals and Carpet Fitters (United Kingdom, 2018)
Rating: ****
Starring: Darren Sean Enright, Richard Lee O'Donnell, Zara Phythian

Much like ridiculous sounding movies such as Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) or Snakes on a Plane (2006), Cannibals and Carpet Fitters is B-grade straightforwardness that lacks subtext but makes up for it with cheesy entertainment value. Oh, and gruesome gore. Lots of gruesome gore.

Starting the movie is a found footage of a couple's camping trip, following a few chuckle-worthy mishaps until it all slowly troubles down into the pair getting lost in the woods and then attacked by a savage hulk who proceeds to eat an eye out of the boyfriend's face. The girl outruns the man-monster, only to inadvertently end up looking for help in a remote house in the old country which, as you may have guessed, happens to be the inbred family of her attacker. A head got split with an axe and dinner is served.

Come following morning, the remote house turns out to be the mom-and-pop business Cupid's Carpet's big job for that day and most of its employees will be working on it. Two groups get sent out, one consisting of no-nonsense chick Tasha (Zara Phythian) and douchey Chris (Christopher Whitlow), while the other is made up of the lazy yet chummy duo Colin (Darren Sean Enright) and Dean (Richard Lee O'Donnell) as well as frail newbie Malcolm (Dominic Holmes), the latter three running a bit behind as they're currently (and horribly) fitting another customer's house. It didn't take too long for the carnage to start yet again as the cannibal family (led by Jenny Stokes as the delightfully deranged matriarch Mrs. Hanning) makes quick work on Chris and captures Tasha, leaving the day to be saved by the most unlikely heroes to come face to face with a clan of deformed and very hungry killers.

Originally a 2014 short, Cannibals and Carpet Fitters (2018) does a superb job satirizing slasher tropes with comedic touches of well timed and wittily written dialogue as it goes about its frankly simple plot of adult minimum wage workers trying to survive a family who wants to make meat pies out of them. Its an easy story that personally makes Carpet Fitters more approachable, surprising open slasher fans with a sizable well-executed gore effects, brutal brawls and gross-out gags that dwells quite fittingly with the tone's dark humor.

While the gaggle of here jokes have a few misses, those that hit well on their mark warrant some worthy chuckle to just how cheekily cartoonish and/or casual some of the reactions to the horrors are ("There's a nipple in the pie.") or how a few of these funnies borderline into slapstick tomfoolery. (Or, since hacked-up body parts are involved, dare I say "splatstick"?) The movie's foray into the comical thankfully didn't shy it away from dishing out some true practical grue like good ole splattered brains and guts gutted for snacks, to a certain nose injury that stays there for a couple of scenes and is one of this movie's finest make up and screen effect.

Acting is a bit uneven for some of the casts, but if we're gonna look for highlights, Enright and O’Donnell’s chemistry is undeniably “bromantic” as two best working buds challenged not only by the dangerous situation they find themselves in, but too the troubles of every day mid-life such as failing marriages and getting outshined by better co-workers. Do wished we got more light on the carpet fitters' side of the plot, but for what we have so far, it ain't all that bad. Adding the matter that the direction doesn't follow the typical choices of who lives and dies with some characters actually making realistic choices though their odds of escaping their predicament are just as well off as those making the cliche' dumb ones, then you have a somewhat interesting slasher comedy that punches in a few fun (and not-so-fun) surprises.

Cannibals and Carpet Fitters (2018) smooths through its 83 minute short running time with an understanding pace, though the ending does felt a lot anti-climactic as it left us hanging with a bittersweet cliffhanger. Nevertheless, the movie is a gorgeous final product (considering its crowdfunded budget of estimated £100,000) that delivers the shocking and messy goods traditional scare fans can enjoy earnestly, all the while sharing the horrors with fun laugh out loud moments. If you're in the mood for cannibal slashers and simple comedy, this movie's a great number to satisfy the need. Carpet fitters do not cry, but they'll do if miss this one out!

1 male attacked and had an entire eye eaten off, killed
1 female gets her head split in half with an axe
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 male stabbed on the throat with a pair of scissors
1 female seen legless and killed
1 female shot through the head with a crossbow
1 male shot with a crossbow, falls off a building
1 male found with his neck gnawed open
1 male ran down with a van
1 male shot with a crossbow
1 male knifed through the back, exits to chest
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
Total: 12