Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bad Building: Paradise Villa (2001)

Paradise Villa (South Korea, 2001)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Han-jun Jo, You-Mi Ha, Hak-cheol Kim

On a regular basis, a slasher movie mostly revolves around a certain group of people (mostly teenagers) either going somewhere remote or getting caught in a situation that have them hunted down by a killer. Paradise Villa (2001) is an example of the latter, with the situation in question being the unstable wrath of an obsessed gamer. (Yep, a slasher movie with a lean and awkward geeky gamer as the killer. Better jot that one down in my list of odd slasher villain choices...)

The movie starts tediously as we watch our gamer play his online role-playing game and starts to lose his shit when someone under the username "Viagra" (interesting pick?) hacked into his account and stole his in-game items. We then shift our attention to the titular villa as most of its residents enjoy a day either by themselves or with company watching a soccer game, while some go about their own little businesses, may it be selling water purifiers or having an affair behind their spouse's back. It isn't long before our distraught gamer simply strolls into the picture, looking around the residence asking random people if they're the thieving "Viagra" before going knife-crazy on them.

What I like about Paradise Villa is that it breaks the usual slasher film mold with its intertwined anthology direction, introducing us to a collection of troublesome yet intriguing set-ups concerning multiple characters, may it be an individual or a set of them. This should have help build the anticipation of getting to see these men and women deservedly snuffed out as a lot of them were written out to have a level of malice and rudeness to them and, for some, they do quite so satisfyingly once our killer rears his ugly head in. But this also meant that we get to see a lot of their ugly sides which really bummed the film down for lacking any likable characters. At all.

Curiously, one of the situations that the movie really got to focus on involves an affair gone brutally and messily wrong and this runs along our geeky slasher's bloody killing spree as the secondary murder plot brewing within the building, pacing about half of the movie's entirety. It's personally an interesting move for this slasher and one that I really wished they focused on instead story-wise since the misadventures of our murderous gamer, while still having some exceptional murder set-pieces here and there, gets old pretty fast thanks to his shallow murder motive and the very matter that he's as disgusting as he is annoyingly whiny. (Apparently he's into corpses. Eww.)

This isn't the biggest drawback for me, however, but rather it's the way the movie ended. Which it simply just did. There's no real resolution. No onscreen consequences. No actual direction. We're just left to watch our killer, seemingly snapping back to his senses after seeing a murder he didn't commit, walk away. Now, I understand Paradise Villa is unconventional but I kinda expected more than just a killer wussing out after all of the murders (and one necrophiliac rape) he committed, possibly cheating us out of a satisfying conclusion, but someone within the production thought otherwise and we're left with whatever the hell this movie considered an ending.

Paradise Villa (2001) looked like it was going to be a unique experience as a slasher flick, mostly resembling a character study clashing with bodycount horror. The production itself looks confident enough to pull it off with its decent actors, occasional good writing and a steady-paced bodycount with passable gore effects, just wished they could have thrown in some more considerably likable characters to even out the unbearable ones, as well as make up their mind whether they wanted the movie as a serious horror thriller or a cheeky black comedy as the unevenness of the tone can be felt throughout. It may be a mess, but it's a beautifully strange mess that's perhaps perfect for those who likes their slasher horror out of the norm once in a while.

1 male brained with a barbell
1 female knifed to death
1 male bludgeoned to death whilst suffering through a heart attack
1 female beaten to death with a brick
1 female strangled to death
1 male knifed in the neck
1 male found murdered
Total: 7

Friday, December 7, 2018

My Holiday Wish List 2018

And here we are again for another December. It's been a while since I did one of these but, continuing a nearly sort-of tradition for this blog, here be my Holiday wish list for this year. Please don't be weirded out by some of the entries. I am a nerd of multiple (and sometimes, unfocused) interest!

Campfire by Shawn Sarles- After a rather entertaining time reading and finishing There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins, I think I'm ready for another slasher novel and this looks like a decent looking fork on the road.

POP Plush: Monsters- Mulch- I mean, why not? It's an adorable huggable wittle monster plushie. Not too cartoony and rather simple in design, it's definitely something that matches my taste for monster toys.
Funko Pop! Dilophosaurus- Particularly the frilled version. Something to remember by one of the most memorable movie monsters from my childhood...even though I occasionally re-watch Jurassic Park (1993) for giggle's sake and always loving this animal's scene with Dennis Nedrey!

 Amiibo Splatoon 2 Pearl and/or Marina- Coz popstar cephalopod idols.

This awesome walking chair! 
(lol joke)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Bloody Mary Cocktails for Satan's Cults: Blood Symbol (1992)

Blood Symbol (Canada, 1992)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Micheline Richard, Trilby Jeeves, Anne-Marie Leduc

For perhaps a lot of us, Maurice Devereaux is a name to remember as the indie director of new age slasher cult classics $LA$HER$ (2001) and End of The Line (2008), energetic and imaginatively wild jabs on the bodycounting sub-genre with the prior darkly parodying reality game shows while the latter pits its characters (and what looks like the rest of the world) against a religious foundation on a killing spree in the name of salvation. With such big ideas for a what's basically popcorn horror, it kinda catches me off guard to see a rather simplistic murder mystery such as this from him.

Originally started filming back at 1984 and only to be shelved through the years until the early 90s (when most slasher movies were dying out temporarily), Blood Symbol follows Tracy Walker (Micheline Richard), a college girl who's currently having nightmares involving a disfigured figure in black, something which appears to starts weaving into reality when the same black garbed man begins to stalk her in campus. Tracy, fearing her safety, does what any early 90s horror heroine would do in an odd situation like this and decides to look up some of the strange images from her nightmares at the campus library, where she uncovers a history of Satanism and human sacrifices throughout the late nineteenth century. Not long then after, the stalking gets worse, and not only is the figure in black now also going after Tracy's friends, but they're starting to close in on our hapless protagonist.

Much like the case of a particular late 80s movie titled Blood Cult (1985), Blood Symbol is only part slasher movie with the rest being more reminiscent of a horror thriller, specifically of the religious cult type. There's a fair focus on amateur sleuthing and plot-building talking, leaving many of its horror sequences to black-and-white nightmares, decent looking stalking scenes and, whenever there's a need for it, a few good deaths that stay true to the Satanic human sacrifice plot. Not relatively bad, but some of the casts do show a level of amateurish acting (and what looks like some dubbed lines) which often hurts the effectiveness of the plot's own mystery, so Blood Symbol does have its slow tedious moments and variable performances. The killer doesn't look too bad neither, coming across like a heavily-scarred Italian giallo villain with their shades and black gloves, so I also find it kinda disappointing that the most this villain did was simply stalk and loom over our protagonist like a creep, racking up very little in the killcount.

There's nothing much to say else about Blood Symbol apart that it does show itself as Deveraux's earliest work. There's style to it and the plot is decent for its simplicity, but these efforts can be easily overlooked for just how stale the rest of the production is and how unexciting it can be at times. Not the best there is for what it is trying to be, but if you see yourself as a completist of all things related to slashers, then this could be worth a single viewing and no more.

1 female had her throat cut with a dagger
1 female had her throat cut with a dagger, jabbed with a stake
1 female had her throat cut with a dagger
1 female killed offscreen
Total: 4

Friday, November 30, 2018

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone: Lasso (2018)

Lasso (2018)
Rating: ***
Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Lindsey Morgan, Andrew Jacobs

A survival slasher flick with a Western tang? Can we get a happy yee-hah with that?

It all started with a simple senior citizen outing as two teenage caretakers of the Adventures for Active Seniors group guide some excited old timers to a rodeo show. After half a day of bucking broncos, Rodeo Queen beauty pageants and carnival tomfoolery, our little gang were about to bus home when they unwillingly caught sight of a wounded woman being chased and murdered by a horse-riding cowboy, wielding an eviscerating hook-tipped lasso. What soon follows is a night of cold-blooded torture and gory slaughtering as the bus group unintentionally splits, with one gang getting stranded in the woods to be hunted by a gang of killer cowboys, while another forms an alliance with fellow captives as they try to survive and escape the hellish rodeo show they find themselves in.

Despite lacking any real depth in the story apart that it's a slasher survival flick with killer cowboys, Lasso does its very best to make the most out of this simple premise of a rodeo-themed horror flick, jam-packed with themed deaths, insane plot points and stalk-hunt action to keep a simple slasher fan happy and satisfied carnage-wise. And with the movie's editing and direction have the pace rolling along fairly fast to show how much it embraces the craziness of its own plot, we're eventually thrown into the batty fray and have us treated with enough run for both of the story's doomed groups to cover the carnage they have to traverse through the night.

Mixing the extreme body harm of torture porn flicks and the cat-and-mouse prowling of a typical slasher flick, the amount of violence and death in Lasso relatively goes into hefty numbers as not only do we get a sizable cast of interesting faces fending off our crazed cowboys (a few of which includes Sean Patrick Flanery of Darren Lynn Bousman's The Devil's Carnival (2012), Andrew Jacobs of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014) and Lindsey Morgan of Beyond Skyline (2017)), but most of the kills have good practical gore effects flowing and very little to no CG is to be found whenever a member of both parties bites the big one. At times, a kill doesn't even necessarily have to show off the chunky detailed latex work to be memorable, with one murder here features a lassoed old lady being swung around the air before getting smacked directly against a tree ala Jason Voorhees' sleeping bag kill at Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1987).

The bulky cast number, though, meant that the script is tainted with your usual eye-rolling stupidity slasher movies are known for, some of which falls into questionable characterization with some of our protagonists be easily sum down to the word "whiny" or "dumb", may it be the young or old. A few does stand out for their badassery or for being a foil for black humor (Flanery's one-armed character, for one, is pretty much The Black Knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975) as he proceeds to get bloodily roughed up and even lose a few limbs, only to get back and save a whiny protagonist or two), so the film does manage to balance out the passable and the irritable enough to be forgivable.

If there is anything about Lasso that does trigger my mind into thinking is the villain's motive behind capturing and killing these people as the film never really addressed this. At all. I mean I'm not gonna lose some sleep over it and I guess you can say the movie was trying to do the same mystique Halloween (1978) did for its killer Michael Myers by giving the Stetson-wearing blood ranchers no modus behind their murders, but one or two members of this hell ranch aren't into the killings and would even openly help our casts so how exactly does this entire operation work? The pit of rotting corpses definitely shows they've been doing this for a while so what's the story behind all of this? Well, whatever the reason is, the movie think we didn't need it and, in a strange way, they're kinda right for most parts.

Lasso is the kind of indie slasher movie that exists for the sake of existing as well as to lighten up a horror junkie's day with messy sizable deaths and a unique take on villains in the matter of themes. It's that one horror movie that doesn't ask much from its audience apart from simply enjoying the bittersweet gruel it is offering that is a balls-out premise and if you're that one person that, too, isn't asking much, then this is a good keep.

1 horse shot
1 female had her gut ripped out with a steel-tipped whip
1 male had his throat ripped with a steel-tipped whip
1 female murdered, method offscreen
A number of bodies seen in a cart
1 female had her head crushed with a weight
1 male had his neck snapped with a stock
1 male stabbed in the neck with a prong
1 male stabbed on the throat with a prong
A pit full of corpses seen
1 male stabbed on the chest with a prong handle
1 male electrocuted to death with a cattle prod
1 female seen stabbed on the head with a bull horn trophy
1 female snared with a lasso and swung against a tree
1 male beaten to death
1 dog seen disemboweled
1 female thrown off a horse, neck snapped on impact
1 male bludgeoned to death offcamera
1 male stabbed on the neck with a hidden knife
1 male stabbed in the eyes with a horseshoe, head cooked with an iron brand
1 male cut in half with a log saw
1 male had his neck stabbed and hooked with hay hooks, bled to death
1 male stabbed with a pitchfork and beaten with a barbell weight, head crushed
1 male impaled through with a prong
Total: 22+

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Argentinian Floodland Massacre: Los Olvidados (2017)

Los Olvidados (The Forgotten) (AKA "What The Waters Left Behind") (Argentina, 2017)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  German Baudino, Paula Brasca, Mirta Busnelli

So what we have here is Argentina's take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, only less of the legendary 1974 original or its passable remake franchise and more of one or two of the bad sequels that came out throughout the years. Yay?

A gang of six Argentine teenagers are enroute to Villa EspecuĂ©n, a town in the province of Buenos Aires that was completely flooded by a salt lake in 1985 after a period of heavy rainfall, to film a documentary about the disaster. Little do they know, a small family of animal skull-wearing murderers are roaming around the town's ruins looking for victims to slaughter and it isn't too long before, after a few shenanigans involving roach-crawled meat pies and a hostile gas station experience, our youthful group cross their path. As the family kidnaps the teens one by one, hauling them back at their dilapidated hideout, what soon follows is a deranged debauchery of gory murders, cannibalism and rape as night falls and madness reigns.

Now, I'm sure there is a decent movie to be found in Los Olvidados seeing some of the gore effects are awesome and the filmmakers did made some good use to the ruin-like town in terms of creating atmosphere, but that's all the positives I can muster out for this film. As mentioned, the movie took a lot of liberties from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, particularly the matter of fact that its villains are a family of blabbering individuals driven by hunger and insanity, but it lacks genuine creepiness and catharsis as none of the characters, including our protagonist group, are interesting or likable, coming out as crude, paper-thin and/or disgusting to a near-parody level.

This lack of care for its characters other than making them meat for the slaughter that borderlines whether they deserve it or not sadly shows the absence of a creative streak for its story, which doesn't help the matter that some of the movie's editing either ruins the pace or breaks the tone of the plot. Thus, Los Olvidados, while not a complete mess for its gore and camera work, is quite a boring watch for its reliance on gore and shock factor in favor over building decently fair characters, more complex villains and a smarter twist on a basic "cannibal family" exploitation flick.

It's horror that simply exists for the sake of existing and nothing else, so I wouldn't really bother much with this if I were you.

1 female bashed on the head with a barbwire wrapped bat
1 male had his head pulped with a barbwire-wrapped bat
1 dog found impaled on a stake
1 male disemboweled with a knife
1 male hacked on the back with an axe
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 female had her throat slit with a broken bottle
1 male stabbed through the jaw with a dagger
Total: 8

Friday, November 23, 2018

Today I Love...

If you were a kid born and living in a country such as Philippines, it's not the best idea to be the English-speaking freak who loves cartoons, English movies and Magic The Gathering. No one will understand and very little would want to be your friend so, as you would have it, I was bullied through the years until college happened.

One of those days, a very nasty kid threw my notebook to a ceiling fan, shredding it to bits. All of those years-worth of lessons I could have used to review for quizzes and quarterly exams, gone in a flash. Now, you may think it's nothing that big of a deal, just borrow somebody else's notes, right? Well, remember when I said I was bullied through the years until college happened? Yeah, I was on my own and little of these kids wanted to help. The brat that threw the book said he did it because he got caught in the moment when he was scolded the following day and he was punished for it, but I was livid and downright sobbing that day seeing my hardwork as a good student is gone. Teachers comforted me, the guidance counselor took my side and promised to fix this, but deep inside I knew no one else in that godforsaken school would care. I was just one out of a hundred little shit for them. 

So what does this have something to do with Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)? Well, you see, I had to go home at some point that day when that kid ruined my good notes and my mum and my sister was watching a DVD of one of Queen's concerts that afternoon. I broke down in front of them, telling them how sick I was of being bullied. How much I hate school. For being different. For that time, I felt trapped knowing Monday will start again and the vicious cycle will start again. It was that time that I recognize and felt real loneliness.

And then I didn't felt alone. I felt comfort.

My mum and my sister talked to me. Listened to me. Cried for me. Hugged me. My afternoons then were my only haven out of a hellish day in school. It ain't always perfect, but at least I knew someone will be there whenever I'm down and on that day, I really needed someone to be there.

The rest of that afternoon was spent with me, my mum and my sister watching that one Queen's concert. With tears-stained eyes, I was introduced to the likes of Freddie Mercury, his quirky performance, and the songs I heard but never knew the title or the lyrics to. And then there was Bohemian Rhapsody, the one song that stood out for being so...unique. A rock and roll opera rolled into a single song. An anomaly of music that's quite beautiful as it is strange. It was a little speck of sunshine out of a cloudy sky and seeing it and hearing it with my loved ones just made it all the better. At that one afternoon, after feeling so much anger and sadness, with fear that I am going to go through this once more after the weekends, I became a Queen fan and I remember just how happy I am being myself.

I ain't normal nor am I perfect, but in life's silliest and often cruel way, I am. I am thankful I have people like my family to remind me of that and I am thankful I have my own little fandoms like Queens to remind me just how good life can be at times. Seeing Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) was my own way of indirectly thanking the band for the comfort they brought that one day. For bringing me closer to my family and keeping me happy and entertained with their music.

If you're yet to see Bohemian Rhapsody, I say give it a try.

((On a less dramatic note, Eli Roth? It's Thanksgiving again. Where's our Thanksgiving slasher? Some of us have been VERY patient...))

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

At A Long Lonely Road: Downrange (2017)

Downrange (2017)
Rating: ****
Starring:  Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez

If there's anything slasher movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) taught us through the years is that nothing good will come from a car full of teenagers getting stuck in the middle of a road.

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura of the Midnight Meat Train (2008) fame, Downrange tells the unfortunate story of a group of youths getting stranded on a country road when a tire of their car blew out. It isn't very long before one of them finds out that the tire was shot, gruesomely leading to a shootout murdering two of them and leaving four survivors to engage in a battle of wits against a ghillie-suited sniper settled within the trees just a few miles away.

Albeit the plot sounds less like your classic teen slasher hack-a-thon, Downrange utilizes the same gory violence, methodic one-by-one slaughtering and even disguised killers your typical bodycounter is known for. The only jig here is that the story is in route for a more stationary survivalist tone which meant we don't get a lot of running or chasing, and instead of your usual hands-on stalking murderer, we have a sniper armed with high caliber bullets, a long-ranged rifle and enough water and beef jerky supply to last for an entire day of random people hunting. It isn't getting any more simple than that, but Kitamura brought enough style and flair to keep things interesting and, more importantly for a horror movie, brutal.

Much of the casts have little to no prior works to speak of so their sense of panic and stress is easy to picture, in a sense we're simply watching random people facing certain death at its most cathartic. The intensity of their situation is doubled by the fact that the film's direction and pacing give them enough time to think and find ways to escape their predicament and executing them, only for us to watch on horror as the sniper finds their own way around their plans to put them back in square one. These attacks are nothing tame, with each shot fountains blood as hard caliber explodes through bodies and quite brightly against the movie's sunlit tint, vehicles crash and accidentally flatten bodies, and a fair amount of camera work focuses on the detailed latex effects and small set-pieces such as flies buzzing around sun-cooked corpses for that realistic grue.

The movie even stepped further into repulsive territory when the sniper attacks a family of three driving to the mess they made, brutally dispatching each member in a hail of bullets (this including a pre-teen girl) after they survive a wreck, but Downrange smartly included a few quieter, calmer scenes to balance out the splatter with emotional human turmoil in which our characters either lament for their fallen friends or silently succumb to their wounds. It isn't long after that the movie eventually goes action thriller on us with the survivors getting some shred of an upper hand on the sniper and cops finally arriving (at night, mind you, when you can absolutely see a sniper hidden in the trees...) to put an end to the attacks, only to be gorily bested and more or less going back into the slasher flick tropes as a final girl gets even with our ghillie suit killer. The resulting end is nothing short of shocking, but surprisingly fitting with the tonal hopelessness played within the movie.

A minimalist horror at its best, Downrange evokes the horrors of shock, stress and duress in a senseless shooting scenario through a smartly handled combination of fledgling actors, lurid effects, and a curveball take on slasher themes and tropes, done under a production that looks rich, crisp and clear despite its considerable small budget. It's a movie that rewards its viewers for their patience and if you're the kind of good horror folk who loves their splatter film with a side of shocking maliciousness and stylized simplicity, then I can guarantee that the reward is worth the wait.

1 male shot through the head with a rifle
1 female shot on the eye with a rifle, shot to death
1 male bled to death from rifle wounds
1 male shot with a rifle
1 female shot to death with a rifle
1 male caught on fire from a car explosion
1 girl shot on the head with a rifle
1 male shot through the head with a rifle
1 male shot on the head with a rifle
1 female shot on the head with a rifle
1 male shot to death with a rifle
1 male shot on the chest with a rifle
1 male repeatedly shot and bludgeoned to death with a rifle
1 female shot on the neck with a rifle
Total: 14