Monday, May 27, 2013

Roth? What ever happened to...?

 Recently, I just saw the new Eli Roth produced Survival/Disaster film Aftershock. Let me be the first to say, it wasn't as i imagined it; originally, I pictured a group of people surviving an earthquake, but finds themselves trapped inside a collapsed building, and is forced to go through a tunnel to get out, but only to fall prey to escaped convicts who found their way through the same tunnels and began to kill them one by one ala slasher film. (My idea. Don't steal it!) I didn't get none of that, and instead, I got people dying left and right from accidents caused by an earthquake and it's aftershocks, escaped criminals who's dumb enough to stick around looting people when a Tsunami warning is already being called out, and some other paranoid fucks.
I don't hate disaster films; I just get tired easily watching them.
Not a bad film, but not and style.

So now, I began to wonder of some of Roth's projects that we would be seeing in the near (and not so near) future; all them promised little bad numbers that should be. Here are those titles I've been looking forward from him;

Dibs on the wings-I mean, arms!
So far he promised two slasher film titles: one would be a feature length version of his Grindhouse fake trailer Thanksgiving, who he claims to be the first hack and slash film to tackle the holiday (apparently, he hadn't seen Blood Rage (1987) or Home,Sweet Home (1981)...), the other would be an exploited, bodycount friendly re-imagining of the classic killer kid movie The Bad Seed. I'm most excited about these two, knowing what kind of gory goodness Roth is capable of, more to add is the fact that Thanksgiving is supposed to be released this year, but it seems The Bad Seed might be close to being a dead project. I refuse to accept that, we need more memorable female psychos out there!
Don't you ignore me! Don't you dare, Roth!
Fake Fan Fare to Real Rolling Reels?
I 'm all ears.
Other flicks I'm waiting for would be his produced feature length adaptation of a fake trailer jokingly associated with him known as Clown, about a man who can't get a clown suit off after wearing it for his son's birthday, and finds himself slowly changing into a homicidal clown. I thought it was funny that Roth would actually try to make some fan boy's dream come true by producing it, but I'm equally excited to see this one due to my love of killer clowns. (Apparently the monstrous type, not the humanoid killer kind. Eitherways, it works) The film is labeled in IMDB as undergoing post-production, so I guess that's two other movies I'll be seeing from Roth this year?

Lastly, I'm also in the look out for his The Green Inferno, which sounds like a stab at the Cannibal Boom movies from 70s Italy. For me, these cannibal movies are all the same (Save Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, them are my favorites!), so I'm not all that hyped about this, but I'm still seeing it if I had the chance. Who knows, it might be good. Hopefully. Maybe. Ugh.
Who can resist not watching a movie with a shot like this?
I'm a fan of Roth as you can tell, so you can forgive me for this little random post focusing on his releases, but after seeing Aftershock, I just wanted to share to you guys my thoughts on these upcoming films that seems to suit my interest. So, until then, I'll be on the look out for these films, and probably waste my time watching Doctor Who and cartoon ponies for the mean time.

(P.S. No, you can't have that little movie idea i posted there. That's my dream movie! Talk to me first and we can discuss on how you can pay me with apple pie for this movie...

That ain't no joke!)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sleep, Baby, Sleep: Sleepstalker: The Sandman's Last Rites (1995)

Sleepstalker: The Sandman's Last Rites (1995)
rating: ***
starring: Michael Harris, Jay Underwood, Kathryn Morris                         

I remember seeing snippets of this film as a kid and wanted to see the rest of it some years later but all I had to tail with was that particular scene involving a kid, with his mouth sewn shut, stabbing his father to death. There was that one time I got a chance to see this film once more on cable but it was halfway into the whole thing and I never even got a chance to finish, since it's a school night.

It wasn't until I was a working adult when one of my colleagues mentioned this as one of scariest film she'd seen. I was gleeful enough to ask her for the title and next thing you know, I was streaming this. Now, I finally get to see this childhood nightmare at its fullest and liking it!

Griffin Davis is the lone survivor of a childhood massacre where a deranged maniac who calls himself The Sandman slaughtered his parents. Fortunately for Griffin, the cops were already tailing him that night and, albeit too late to save his parents, the feds finally captured The Sandman before he could kill him off.

Now seventeen years passed and The Sandman awaits execution, but an ally came to aid him, promising power to help him complete his task; at death, The Sandman found a way to merge his soul with the desert sand, reviving him as a supernatural killer with power and control over the earthly particles. Now seemingly indestructible, he set his sights to kill off the only survivor of his last massacre, along with those who are literally on the way.

Technically, Sleepstalker is a good movie as while it may look like another A Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off on paper considering we have yet another one-liner spewing supernatural killer here, what sets him aside is that he at least have some creep factor going for him, which helped the film quite a lot.

The Sandman's persona is rather calm, singing lullabies and talking in a very estranged verbal slur, looking extremely deadpan yet obviously bewildered all the time, making him very unpredictable and goddamn creepy. As a supernatural killer, his powers to control sand with much focus on his goal kinda makes him a good variant of a horror film monster, although I can't help but feel that his film held a lot of things back that would have made him do more than just burn people's flesh off with sand and seep through locked doors.

Due to the film's minimal spending money, Sleepstalker also has a cast full of unknowns with varying degree of workable acting and god-awful cheap CG that is thankfully used very little. Scripting wasn't entirely bad truthfully, with the two main casts working a decent act for their roles; Jay Underwood was great as our lead Griffin, a sortah blue-collar guy that we working class can identify with even if his situation would verge into something more fantastic than realistic. Michael Harris as The Sandman, as you can tell above, is just awesome. There's also Michael D. Roberts as the mysterious blind preacher, whose presence in the movie is as intriguing as it could get, and a small role from Ken Foree as one of the detectives might elevate some experience. The rest of the cast are so-so, leaving quite a small thread to hang into when it comes to the acting department

A real headscratcher here would be the inconsistent plot twists: the movie's climax revealed (spoiler alert) that The Sandman and Griffin are related by blood. This is quite hard to follow and it's obviously a cheap shot to make something out of the story and the killer's MO, but even that hardly made any sense! I won't spoil a lot but trust me when I say it's best not to take a lot of things coming from this movie seriously. In fact, considering this is a film about a man coming back from the grave via sand ala Freddy Krueger in Part 4: Dream Master, to seek revenge, how can you?

Admittedly clichéd and cheap, Sleepstalker is still a hoot of fun as a midnight movie. There's some neat elements thrown in from Mexican gangsters to Satanism, plus the backstory behind The Sandman is creepy enough to unnerve a bit. (As you can tell how it lead me to track the entire movie down after all these years) Gore effects are slightly creative, focusing less on blood and guts, more on dust storms that burns your flesh away and fatal glass shard weapons. Make-up effects on the killer himself is plain badass, especially at the near end when he acquires one -and deadly- body modification.

It's understandably overlooked, but once in awhile, it makes a good TV viewing when you're able to catch it. Sleepstalker is simply something you can watch without thinking much from all that's happening, just as some movies should be.

1 male and 1 female slaughtered off-camera
1 male executed via gas chamber
1 male dropped from a height
1 female sank inside a sand pit, suffocates
1 male had his face peeled off, head crushed
1 male stabbed to death with glass shard (flashback)
1 male face burnt off through dust storm
1 male gutted with glass shard
total: 9

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Random Woods for Random Monsters: Demonwarp (1988)

Demonwarp (1988)
rating: **
starring:  George Kennedy, David Michael O'Neill, Pamela Gilbert

Zombies? Big Foot? Zealous Cult Leaders? Alien Fugitives? George Kennedy?! We're definitely scraping the very bottom of the barrel for some backwoods horror action here!

Penned by the director of the cult horror film Troll (1986), Demonwarp starts with a pastor in the 1880s horse-riding in the mountain ranges while reading aloud passages from his handy-dandy Bible. A ripple in the sky catches his attention, which just so happens to be an alien ship crash landing, seeing this as a sign of the Second Coming. Following the trail of the ship, padre pulls out his cross and approachs it.

Fast forwarding to the present, we now follow George Kennedy as Bill Crafton, a father whose idea of family bonding includes playing board games with his teen daughter inside a rented cabin located deep into the woods. Unbeknownst to him, this father-daughter time will suddenly get interrupted by a large Bigfoot-like creature breaking in, knocking him out cold and mauling his girl to death. Once Bill comes through, he swears vengeance over the big ape.

Cue in weeks later after the Bigfoot attack, five kids driving to the woods for some R&R with one of them appearing to have another agenda for being there, as they happen to be the nephew of a missing local and they're egging to find out what happened to him. The kids eventually make it to their cabin only to find it trashed and bumps in to Bill, now in full "hunting gear" and still setting his sights on killing the monster that attacked him and his daughter. Obviously, our killer cryptid is still out there and he's more than glad to slaughter anybody that gets in the way.

But is there more to the big guy's rampage? Like why is he hoarding up electrical parts from his attacks? Or why are there non-flesh eating zombies roaming around in the woods? And what happened to that kooky padre from the beginning? (He's not really important, but I just wanna know) All this answered in the near end in one twist to another, leading to a climax that ultimately placed this film under one of my new guilty pleasures!

Seeing all the strange monster mish-mash this movie tries to squeeze in, my initial reaction to Demonwarp is that it is a bit of a mess but giving a bit of consideration, I do admit that it at least attempted to make something different out of the classic backwoods slasher sub-genre, all in good heart but with half a brain.

The first half ticks off every slasher cliches in the book, from bad pranks and gratuitous nude scenes, to ignored doomsayers and stalk-kill chase scenes. It wasn't long before our killer cryptid is out there murdering anyone it can grab on to with much killer monster action as that other "Bigfoot slasher" Night of the Demon, minus that movie's extreme gore and with a lesser kill count. I guess the only thing that bothers me here is that the most of the main casts got killed off too soon (or is missing) within the span of 30 minutes, so the writers had a pair of random teen bimbos and one unlucky bird watcher thrown in serving very little purpose but to pad the film a little longer with cheap chase scenes (that seems to take forever) and upping the death toll to at least something more slasher film worthy. (It kinda worked)

When these three random victims finally get done away, Demonwarp shifts its focus back to our hapless backwoods vacationers (and George kennedy) at around the last third act and that's where all sorts of crazy plot twists and elements begins to show their ugly rears. As if the technology hoarding killer ape wasn't strange enough, we suddenly have undead henchmen, blood cults and the near forgotten alien space craft finally thrown into the fondue, resulting to the cheapest yet one of the most bizarre turn for any slasher movie made out there, making you wonder what really went through the writer's head during pre-production!

Considering the production value itself, the Demonwarp has a lot to be desired in regards to, well, everything from acting, special effects, filming set and even camera work. The monster suits were hardly expressive, the gore effects were lite save for a head being torn off and one guy being gutted with a dead branch (!), plus the story is inevitably laughable. But as a trashy, cheese movie that doesn't do much other than be a backwoods slasher that you can poke fun at while drinking a keg of beer, it'll probably hit you right! I find it ill to recommend this movie to anyone, so I'm just going to say should what you just read here sparked one shred of interest in that noggin of yours, rent the movie and see the garbage can-fresh cheese that is Demonwarp yourself!

1 female mauled to death
1 male had his  neck broken
1 female had her head torn off
1 male stabbed to death with a dead branch
1 female clawed on the face
1 male had his head repeatedly beaten against a rock
1 male shot to death
1 female had her chest stabbed open with dagger, heart removed
1 male stabbed on the back with dagger
1 alien shot dead
1 male immolated by dynamite
total: 11
You can never have mah Gameboy!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Five Nuts and a Sex Scene: Color of Night (1994)

Color of Night (1994)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jane March, Rubén Blades                         

((Again, a simple shout-out to my buddy Hud over at Vegan Voorhees, whose review for this movie convinced me otherwise to go through two hours of supposed thrilling sex and sexy thrills.))

Around the early 90s, teen slashers were momentarily replaced with a more mature set of thrills and spills, mainly in the form of one of two factions: the "yuppie in peril" movies (or Yupsploitation as I call it) where big shot guys are punished by maniacs for being big shots with films like American Psycho, Misery and the underrated 1991 Cape Fear remake, or erotic thrillers, where thrilling tension meets bedroom action with titles like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct doing the same erotic art as that of the 70s Gialli. Both of these types have their share of slasher film elements pulsing through the veins, so much that some fans of the hack and slash subgenre would either try to accept them as influenced works or, in some cases, actually mistaken them as a bonifide slasher films with big named casts and big budget. It's not much of the story that makes them slashers, but rather their portrayal of violence, as well as featuring some of the basic build ups that are usually identified with the subgenre.

Color of Night is a good example of a borderline erotic thriller that, thanks to some exploited elements, came kinda close to being a bodycount film; the plot surrounds one shrink, Bill Capa (Bruce Willis), who's been stricken color blind after one of his patients committed suicide right in front of him. Wrecked mentally and losing the ability to see red, he decided to take a few time off from helping troubled people to catch up with his bestfriend and fellow psychiatrist Bob Moore (Scott Bakula) at Los Angeles.

One night went sortah swimmingly; Capa joins Bob in a group session where he meet five estranged patients with varying psychosis, from having an obsessive compulsive reaction towards numbers and hygiene to simple nymphomania. One of them, however, is suspected to be threatening Moore so, when he was brutally knifed to death no soon after, Capa's forced by the LA police department to try and see if he could weed out the killer from the group, but the effort to do so is strained when a mysterious woman (Jane March) made herself present to Capa's life, thus prolonging the investigation and pushing Capa to look into the personal lives of each patients.

When one from the group gets killed some time later, Capa begins to fear for his own safety when it becomes clear that he's next in the cutting line. But what does this makes of the mysterious lady he had been seeing, which comes and goes as she please?

Reviewing this film will be a bit of a task for me since I'm not really that much of an erotic thrillers buff as I like to keep my horror films and my erotica separate, thus I'm very inexperienced when it comes to this kinds of films. I do see, however, why the film is a bit of a lost with the critics; running for two hours, the film tries to fill it with action stunts, psycho-babble and, yes, sex scenes in an attempt to develop the story as well as its characters, which is a fine move and all but with us running around tailing on each possibly significant characters that shows up on this film, we're generally just padding our way through one potential killer's life to the next, with cheap kills (which are very few), sex and action scenes added in order to keep us from switching off the movie. Putting that into our mindset, you might as well agree that the movie's desperate to entertain us as a lot of impossibly cheesy scenes are present here, including the most pointed out stunt where our killer tried to kill Willis' character by pushing and hurling a car off atop a building in an almost precise timing wherein it almost hits him! Freakishly calculative kill murder attempt aside, this definitely shows how this movie was supposed to be played for some good laughs every now and then.

So, the main problem of the movie is that it lacked what it should delivered; it ain't sleazy enough to call it erotic (one nymphomaniac and one five minute sexual montage featuring Bruce's placid dick does not make a film that runs for 121 minutes justifiably an erotic film) and, at the same time, the stupendously overblown plot practically murdered away any living sense of thrilling this film offered. It's a cop procedural done by a white collar working man who just happens to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time, so does that mean Color of Night doesn't deserve an audience? No, I don't think that is necessarily be the case.

The film certainly works as a trashy version of a big-budget thriller; it's exploited, yet at the same time, it still managed to entertain if we're going to forget one minute that this is supposed to be a film made for an audience who wanted something mature and smart. Color of Night is a mixing of various sub-genres, from buddy cop to straight thriller, to cheesy B-action movie and, yes, even a brutal slasher. The story got a good mystery and each character are not really boring to watch thanks to an impressive line up featuring cult faves like Lance Henriksen and Brad Dourif. It keeps you pandering on who might the murderer be, although some obvious clues were already given right under our noses early on after Bakula's character was murdered. This would eventually lead to a rather unexpected (albeit rushed) twist that soon escalates to an ending not so different from a slasher movies'.

Call it flawed and you might as well be dead on with that fact, but I for one found Color of Night an intriguing way to spend two hours of my afternoon before I set out for dinner. Could this be another case of a so-bad-its-good kind of film? I wouldn't count on it, but if you are itching to see one underrated thriller that has almost everything in it, Color of Night is a safe bet. So long as you rent it first before calling it keeps!

1 female jumps through a window and falls to her death
1 male stabbed to death with push knife, impaled through a glass shard
1 male found stabbed to death
1 male shot on the head with nailgun
Total: 4

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Insert Garbled Robot Language Here: Deadly Friend (1986)

Deadly Friend (1986)
rating: ***1/2
starring:  Matthew Labyorteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett

A little off from being a traditional slasher film, but nearly structured as one otherwise, Wes Craven's Deadly Friend is a little cult classic with a fair following due to its would-be campy yet imaginative plot coinciding with a rather offbeat and sometimes warm tone.

A new kid in town, Paul is a super genius specializing in robotics, particularly Artificial Intelligence. He moved to his new home with his single mother and B.B., his bestfriend and crowning achievement of a self-learning A.I. that looks like a cross between Short Circuit's Johnny 5 and the laser shooting Killbots from Chopping Mall. (interestingly both movies were released in 1986. Cash-in?) Paul quickly got the attention of some neighbors thanks to B.B.; some quickly befriends the two, including Sam, an abused yet loving girl and Paul's little love interest, while others, like Sam's own father, a cranky old hermit Elvira, and some neighborhood bullies came to loathe them.

Despite the mixed attentions both he and his robot friend are treated with, Paul maintains a healthy lifestyle with his human friends as well as on his studies on creating A.I's at a local university. But when he lost B.B. during a Halloween prank gone wrong and Samantha was accidentally killed by her own father (disguised as an accident), some time later, Paul decided to play God and merge B.B.'s AI chip with Sam's brain in hopes of reviving her. The plan worked, but not the way he imagined it as a robotic revenant, Sam/B.B. begins to take down those responsible of killing him/her and those too who threatens Paul.

Apparently one of Craven's stranger and obscure entries in 80s horror, Deadly Friend was based on a novel titled Friend which the movie follows for most part and elements, but all in all still ending up as your typical hilariously cheesy, moderately-budgeted horror film that, if you would take a time to notice, also shows some signs of Craven's devolving style in regards in making horror films.

If back then, Craven wanted us to cringe in terror as a trio of thugs gets their comeuppance from a victim's family or when a burnt man hunts you down in a place where you're most vulnerable and helpless, Deadly Friend marks the time he began to create a more commercially acceptable horror film that's toned down in terms of scares and shocks.

The first half of the film was clearly for build; we get to know the main players of this story and some of the turmoils they're going through, may it be as a physical presence such as nasty neighbors and abusive parents, or as an emotional wreckage, as in the death (or deaths) of friends. When Paul finally managed to zombify Sam, the film quickly escalates to a typical revenge-driven slasher film that plays around with some well-deserved kills, with one involving a basketball and an exploding head being this film's biggest (and personally funniest) selling point. This should have been a fine and understandable move, but if we're going to look into at all of this, one would start to see why this film also raised a lot of eye brows.

While the first half already taken out some sense of credibility and realism from the movie (understandable seeing this is a movie about a geeky boy and a robot that he so happens to had build on his own), the second half pushed the envelop further as things begin to look sillier by the minute: Yes, teenagers driving recklessly in a banged-up van can go ride and park around unnoticed, while one of them steals a corpse from a conveniently under-staffed hospital and then easily hide away a rotting, day-old corpse, hardwire it with a chip and remote control it to move around on its own, without anyone noticing the smell and the fact this corpse managed to walk out the next day. I may made it sound atrocious, but thankfully it's a lot more bearable if you take it in a more open manner.

Obviously, the film was made for young, new age horror fans who would like to drive by to the mall just to watch a "scary" picture with a date. The film features a lot of Craven's later signature elements such as a plot revolving around a once humanoid character being resurrected into something otherworldly, as well as the use of dreams (or nightmares) for scares. I do take notice of a lot of Craven's slasher movies would normally revolve around teenagers with parental problems as well. A Nightmare on Elm Street had parents hiding a fatal secret from their kids, Shocker and (the atrocious) My Soul to Take have leads who's fathers were really killers; in here, Craven took another stab on the whole bad parent approach, but the focus on it was more as an ignition point than a driving element that going along the movie, since bad daddy here was hardly as evil as some other bad daddies from other horror films would be since all he did here was look crazy and shout at his daughter, along with a wrist wrestle or two. His death ironically justifies his existence, however, as a newly revived Sam finally puts the beg into her father.

Kills in Deadly Friend were very few since it did more favor over the story. As I mentioned above, the only worthy murder here is the now online-famous basketball decapitation, done away in the most basic and the most splattery blood effects this film can afford. Another discussion-worthy moment would be the ending, which is by far one of the oddest take on a last jump scare gig, rivaling the unexplained "corpse coming to life to de-groin a guy" ending of the cheese-filled slasher Pieces (1981). Spoiling said ending (skip this part if you don't want to know yet), we suddenly have a humanized version of BB coming out of Sam's corpse when Paul tries to steal it back again, grabbing the geek by the neck and seemingly killing him. You would expect a logical explanation here, like a dream maybe, but with all things logical thrown out of the window, I guess the producers thought it would be just as accepting to do a random scare scene as a fully grown robot coming out of a body to kill off its creator as if its happening in real life. Some people bought it, some didn't. I stood in between and just waited for he cool ending theme this film has!

B.B., now's the best time to learn about make-up...
What makes Deadly Friend an acceptable film, above all its flaws, is that at least it's mindlessly entertaining. A few selective people will try to understand it, but it's really just a movie meant to be enjoyed for its weird campy story reaching out to its teenage audience. Not the best from Craven's end but it is far from horrible either. (I believe My Soul to Take takes home as his worst. Seriously, how did you managed to get that one released, Craven?!)

1 female hits her head down the stairs, suffers through brain trauma
1 male had his neck broken, head burnt in furnace
1 female had her head destroyed with a thrown basketball
1 male thrown and lands on a car, back fractured
1 male had his neck broken
total: 5

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Italian Chainsaw Massacre in the Left: The Last House in the Woods (2006)

Last House in the Woods (Il bosco fuori) (Italy, 2006)
rating: **1/2
starring: Daniela Virgilio, Gennaro Diana, Santa De Santis                         

Can the lack of imagination be easily make up with just good gore?  Well, on a personal note, gore's not enough to make a movie great if it doesn't go along with a good story, but for this case, I can make an exception since the brains behind this title was at least honest enough to admit their movie's obvious influences.

The Last House in the Woods is a hodge-podge hybrid of two movies, Wes Craven's The Last House in the Left and Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We start the film with a family swerving their car into a tree, killing the father and leaving mum and son to venture out to the other side of the woods to find help. Mum gets hit by an incoming van and son hides into the woods, watching the van's driver brutally kill off his mum with a rock.

We then fast-forward some amount of time later, wherein we join a bickering couple riding into the woods in hope of mending their relationship. But after their car breaks down in the middle of the road, they soon become the prey for a trio of drugged up punks who proceed to beat and rape them. But rescue comes in the form of a gun-packing stranger driving by and scaring off the druggies; taking pity on them, the driver lets the couple rest up in his secluded home in the middle of the woods, where they are patched up by the driver's wife. But as you would know in any horror movie, the backwoods-dwelling husband and wide aren't what they seem, especially if they're taking care of a sharp-toothed boy with something that isn't red jello smeared on his face. Soon, the two young couple is forced to become dinner for their hosts' inbred family and an unexpected help will be their only hope of surviving if they live long enough.

The Last House In The Woods is a throwback to the old Italian exploitations of the 70s and 80s, where plot is ripped-off from (better) movies and cheese is the selling point. As an intended rip-off of Last House on the Left and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the movie tries to re-capture those years of Italian cash-ins but it hardly tries anything to set itself apart from the rest.

The movie did nearly everything Last House and Chainsaw have already done, including some shocks and promised gore, but there just wasn't enough to throw around to make it anywhere that exciting or intense. It's imaginative and nasty with its grue (Wanna see a man die from an exploding goiter? Look no further!) but the tone of the film can be an issue as the comedic elements comes rather off, border-lining as hammy.

The last act is probably this film's another high brow moment; while the first act is a routine walk-through with gore, inbred horror and lots of running, the second half is where we have our thugs come back to save the two couples (or what's left of them), which was an odd direction that does nothing but boost up the kill count as people from both sides die off from one bloody murder to the next. There's also a disturbing image at the end that kinda unnerved me, a bit of a shout-out to the weird and surreal endings Italian horror is known for.

A guilty pleasure for sure, The Last House on the Woods is a cocktail of everything you would know and expect in an Italian exploit, with a little something extra around, may that be a good or a bad thing. It's not gonna hold-up to the rest, nor was it planning to reinvent the face of horror, but it's plays the game pretty straight up, entertaining us with buckets of blood and a retro look that's done in a budget similar of those from the old days.

1 male killed in car crash
1 female hit by a car, brained to death with rock
1 male beaten to death with a gun
1 male disemboweled with chainsaw
1 male shot on the head
1 male knifed repeatedly on the back
1 male had his neck crushed until goiter explodes, bled to death
1 male knifed on the back, nearly beheaded
1 female had her  neck repeatedly bitten
1 male had limbs cut off with chainsaw, bled to death
Total: 10

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Some Ugly Zombie in a Backwoods of Nowhere: Twisted Nightmare (1987)

Twisted Nightmare (1987) (AKA "Ancient Evil")
rating: *1/2
starring:  Rhonda Gray, Cleve Hall, Robert Padilla

You know, that's enough of an open space
to just drop and roll and save yourself, buddy...
Didn't we already went through this one already? It sortah felt like we did. Like seeing an entire decade of everything we know about a slasher film vaccum-packed into one tedious and uninspired movie. And how uninspired is this you ask? Well, let's go through the movie's plot then, shall we?

Here we have a group of stereotyped teenage campers (like any backwoods slashers) who decided to take a weekend break on a cabin in the woods, only to be warned off by an Native American groundskeeper of evil things. In turns, some of these kids were here in these very woods before some time ago, when a mentally challenged brother of one of the girls, after being teased around, winds up burned alive by an unknown force, but no body was found!

Turns out that the camp was built atop an ancient Indian burial ground, and an evil force had chosen said autistic to be its vessel of death or something. Some campers go missing while other campers have sex or buy supplies, and then said other campers return and took their time to realize that some of their friends are missing. (but are really dead) Some of them braves to go into the woods to look for the others, most of them, however, gets killed by zombified monster that growls like that grizzly bear from the movie Grizzly (1976). Routinely, the remaining teens tries to fight and survive, cue twist here, more last minute slasher movie antics there. The end.

With that two paragraphs alone, I already saw Friday the 13th, The BurningMadman, Superstition, and Scalps/Ghostdance as some of the many "influences" of this movie; so if you're a complete slasher film completist like myself, you don't need to a rocket scientist to know what will happen in one scene to the next. As I mentioned, its really nothing more than every slasher film made in the 80s done with an incredibly amount of sloppy cheese, lifelessly bad scripting, awful editing (which ends up with the movie running -sorry, crawling- at a sluggish pace) and extremely cheap special effects. It's done by the book, yes, and slasher fans would always appreciate that, but with so much elements in one movie and directed so ineptly, it lacked something that would set it apart and instead ends up with something completely pointless in terms of existing.

In fact, why was this even made if we can rent any backwoods and/or Angry Native slasher films out there and experience the same (or better) blood works that this film offers? It's old hat, that's what it is, even for a slasher film. The kills, the epitome of said horror-subgenre, aren't even worth the penny they're spent on since they're done away already, thus barely making up with all the flaws this film have! If it's anything, the only thing worth pointing out positively about this movie is that the barn used in the film was the same barn Jason got hanged, dismembered a biker and gets his head split with an axe in Friday the 13th Part 3D! So...yay?

Nay, this is definitely lowest one would scrape in a barrel looking for a good movie. Hardcore collectors would still want it, and too, those who values this for nostalgic reason, but if you're completely masochistic or high on something (or on a lot of things), then feel free to choke on Twisted Nightmare and I wish you a good life.

1 male burned alive (dream)
1 female hanged
1 male arm torn off
1 female killed offscreen
1 male clawed on the throat
1 male set ablaze
1 male and 1 female skewered together with metal beam
1 female head crushed with hammer
1 male forced face-first unto hot sauna rocks
1 male head split with shovel
1 male head torn off
1 male electrocuted
1 female impaled through mounted deer antlers
1 male pinned to the wall with a pitchfork to the gut
1 male and 1 female immolated in house explosion
total: 17

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cuz He Kills Families: Return of the Family Man (1988)

Return of The Family Man (South Africa, 1988)
rating: ***
starring: Ron Smerczak, Liam Cundill, Terence Reis

Last time I checked for an African released slasher flick, I was left to watch a stripped-naked teacher running away from a loonie with a killer manicure in the atrociously hilarious The Demon and watch a band of teens get slaughtered in a barn for some reason in the mediocre yet watchable Slash. Now I indulge myself with yet another African release, again trying to look and sound American, called Return of the Family Man. (No relation to the movie Family Man starring Nicholas Cage...)

The film starts with an odd an opening act, where one of our leads, Alden, an unfortunate pizza man, gets tangled in a mafia's drug base when one of their clients decided to shoot the living lights out of everyone in sight. Pizza dude survives, gets threatened by a gang member that he'll be hunted down like a dog, and a Hispanic maid who witnessed Alden leave jumped into the conclusion that he's the likely perpetrator of the shoot-out.

In order to avoid suspicion, Alden decided to crash into his ex's apartment, wherein Vickie and her boyfriend Brian was planning a weekend getaway together (alone) in a rented mansion deep into the woods. Much to Brian's annoyance, they let the poor soul tag along anyhow. Meanwhile, we also have an American tour guide named Libby chaperoning a quartre of multi-racial tourists to the great American soil and heads towards the same Mansion. These gang of misfits include English punker Weasel, Indian comic Marty, French hot babe Sylvie and African prude Evelyn.

Both parties cross paths when they both found out they've been duped and the so-called "Mansion" is a dilapidated, vine-ridden old house that was left in said state cuz no one would like to buy it due to its infamy; it once belonged to a killer known as The Family Man (who kills families as his moniker suggests) For this reason alone, the house is as run down as an overused Packard but the gang makes the best out of it, camps outside and spend some time together. Good people, I like them already!

But, uh-oh! A prison transport bus carrying none other than Family Guy-- I mean, Family Man among its other loonies just crashed after said killer attacks and kills the driver, leaving no survivors but one, insane, family massacring madman. He soon begins his walk back home, killing a few peeps along the way (including an unfortunate family on a barbecue weekend) before finding his childhood house littered with adults behaving like teenagers. That certainly won't do for him, so he does what he does best, little knowing that these vacationers are more than willing to fight back...or so they try!

It's not a good movie in the sense it's groundbreaking; to be honest, I think it may have set slasher films back a year or two but, otherwise, Return of the Family Man is one of the funnier and more entertaining attempts to do a cheap run on an 80s slasher. The characters are stereotyped despite obviously a few years older than what they try act like, meaning there's a lot of incredibly inept dialogue scripted here and enough cheese to squeeze a gallon worth out, and a lot of padding goes into these group being chums and having fun without anyone being a bitch to the other, so the light and comic tone kinda killed off some of the horror of the film, but it doesn't really stopped it from being nasty and tense every once in a while.

The kill count is sky high thanks to two massacres prior to the ones involving our heroes; the first being the one that happened during The Family Man's daring escape, which is honestly hard to count once all the guards are dead (but I managed, thanks to freeze-frame), and the other being a mean-spirited family massacre, which could have been meaner and more disturbing if it was more focused (think the hostage scenes from Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects) but with the film's budget, this scene was reduced to two offscreen kid-a-cide, dad being pushed to a fireplace (and cuts away before we could even see him get hurt) and mum beaten to death with a meat tenderizer, obscured by the camera. Frankly, almost all of the kills here are obscured or done away cheaply, as there were a lot of chances for the film to do some real memorable gore but instead, we're left to watch these murders done away through shadows, away from the camera or cut away before any organs met the sharp end of a blade. (there's a blender kill here I wanted to see uncut...)

What was missing in script, kills and pacing was thankfully made up with a definitely high camp value and some unexpected twists along the near end; by the time our group finds out that there's a killer living in their basement,and their cars were sunk by the Family Man to make sure no one escapes, they decided to go A-Team on us (with a bit of MacGuyver), putting together household items to create weapons to defend themselves against a killer. Though why go through all the trouble if they could just run away from this guy is beyond me, but entertainment-wise, this scene at least makes us root for these guys a bit more since they're actually try doing something to survive. Sadly, the inevitable happened and some of them just had to wander off by themselves, knowing a killer's out to get them. (Which he did)

Speaking of killers, I'm not sure what to make out of the Family Man. Other than the fact that he turns out to be this one ordinary guy who gone crazy due to something about bad blood between his own family, there's nothing much to follow after this. Instead, he became a toned down version of Psycho Cop, who rambles a lot of things that goes with his "theme". He did got this one badass moment when he got torched alive by one of his victims, only to spend a few seconds in pain and walk over to the kitchen counter to get a dry face towel to smothers all over him. Note, he did this as if he's just wiping some sweat off his face. Not for long, he's burnt ala Fred Krueger, but not even them (fresh) third degree burns stopped him from putting an evil smile.

Seeing I managed to finish Return of the Family Man from beginning to end without pushing the fast-forward button and with my tongue pressed firmly on my cheek, it's needless to say that, for a bad film that tries so hard,  I really had fun with this title! Not entirely recommendable to just anyone, but rather for those with a high tolerance for cheese.

4 males and 1 female killed in shoot-out
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male fingered on the eyes, shot on the head
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot on the face with shotgun
1 male shot on the face with shotgun
4 males killed in car crash
8 males shot
1 male strangled, pushed to a fire place
1 female beaten to death with meat hammer
2 boys killed offscreen
1 male eviscerated with broken bottle
1 female killed offscreen
4 skeletons found
1 male repeatedly stabbed on the face with broken mallet handle
1 female face shoved to blender blades, shredded
1 female strangled and hanged with fanny pack
1 male killed offcamera
1 male immolated with a rigged propane tank
total: 37

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Maniacal Mechanic's Manic Massacre: No One Lives (2013)

No One Lives (2013)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Derek Magyar                         

The 2013 released slasher film No One Lives, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura of the Midnight Meat Train (2008) and Versus (2000) fame, sets our expectation with promises of a cool kill-a-thon by a guy with fancy gadgets, but it all ultimately falls to a let down for me as there's barely anything memorable about this film, to be frank.

It starts with a blonde running in terror at night from unseen foe only to be captured by whatever's hunting her down and not killed for a change. We then suddenly shift to daylight as we follow a couple on a road trip presumably to patch-up a broken relationship and a gang of house thieves with a member who's cray-cray about killing, demonstrating this soon enough by gunning down an entire family who owns a house they're currently raiding. The couple and the thieves cross paths later at a local diner, soon resulting with the gang harassing and kidnapping the pair.

25 minutes, where all good things stayed and just stayed
Now as the film's trailer suggests, this couple isn't what they seem to be, more precisely the guy Luke Evans plays here who is simply credited as "Driver". The thieves eventually discover a captive girl inside his car and he turns out to be a serial killer armed to the teeth. Things further take an interesting turn for the thugs when they find out there's a reward money worth millions for the captive girl's whereabouts, but with the Driver out there with plans of eliminating everyone who stands in his way, surviving this bloody night is getting harder by the minute.

For a film that revealed the twist way before the film even gets released (through the trailer and Mr. Kitamura's interview), you would expect the production to at least work out better on other departments that'll makes this slasher film fun such as gore, script and atmosphere, but none of these apparently crossed their minds. It's quickly paced around the first act, yes, but after the twist is revealed and the MIA blondie begins rambling on what our slasher can do, No One Lives starts to lag from one part to the next so evenly that you have to wonder where this film is really going, or if it even understands anything at all since a lot of the characters seem to have a thing for speaking in whispers. A lot of characters.

Furthermore, I don't really understand how a couple of bad guys work as effective slasher victims? The way I see it, it could only work in two ways: they could either be the biggest sonovabitches deserving of their fates (like the ones in Tormented (2009), where its lead of bullies get killed), or they get develop into those who are willing to side with the victims, settle their differences and just try to live through the night. (Like the ones from Scarecrows (1988), which were originally armed thugs only to start looking out for their hostage once the supernatural scarecrows attack) The victim set here are house thieves with one trigger-happy douche that everyone seems to hate but kept around coz only he has the teeth to fire a gun willy-nilly or some shit like that; they're not that threatening or developed so more or less they're merely victims, just like the rest of the meat these kind of films have been cutting up for years now.

In a slasher film, victims usually die by the time a blade hits them.
Here, they can still talk for minutes. As if the film isn't slow enough.
The killer, while indeed has his badass moments with his impressive hand-to-hand combat skills and the fancy toys that would make even a one of Jigsaw's apprentice from the SAW series jealous, is still kinda underwhelming since his gimmick isn't entirely fresh: aside from SAW, we also have The Collector and its sequel doing the gadget-killing a work, and too the acclaimed "Home Alone for Horror Fans" The Aggression Scale (2012). Even if it's still in the hype then, No One Lives' kills aren't gonna match-up with the murders the other Saw rip-offs were doing either if the killer committing them is a smug crossover between Jason Voorhees and Jigsaw with little or no interesting characterization, save for the million philosophical spattings of why he is different from common criminals. I will admit, though, that the murders were at least splashing enough red stuff to keep the gorehounds seated on their seats, even it really feels like as if these guys are holding back on the grue. I could try to be that shallow but sometimes I really need more than blood and guts to make the movie I'm watching work. Even if its a slasher film.

No One Lives certainly lacks a real fire power to make itself that worthy of a watch, but I ain't stopping you guys from seeing it. As I mentioned, if blood and flesh shredding and splattering are your thing, then this film at least provides. But lemme just go ahead and say you would probably forget about this film after a day or two...

3 males and 1 female shot dead
1 female cuts her own throat against a held hunting knife
1 male hooked through the jaw with broken handcuff, stabbed and disemboweled with hunting knife
1 female seen stabbed to death (TV)
1 male seen with throat cut (TV)
1 female seen dead (TV)
1 female seen with her back flayed open (TV)
1 male seen disemboweled (TV)
1 male seen stabbed to death
8 victims mentioned killed (TV)
1 male shredded through tree de-barker
1 female gets a sickle thrown through her back, hit by a car
1 male shot on the eye
1 female strangled, shot on the head
1 male had his head shot off with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male had his neck chopped with clipboard
Total: 27

Sunday, May 12, 2013

America's Serial Killing Sweetheart: Serial Mom (1994)

Serial Mom (1994)
Rating: ****
Starring:  Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake

It wasn't until I saw Seed of Chucky that I knew about John Waters; he had the best death in that film and, after finding out he guest starred in one of my fave Simpson episodes (The one about Homer's homophobia), I began to dive in deeper to Mr. Water's works and, curious enough, I half-like what I found. 

Though I was chipper about that fact he made two of my fave musicals (Hairspray and Cry Baby), I wasn't too thrilled about his other works (I tried watching Pink Flamingo. Let's just say I wasn't turned on at all...) Still, that didn't stop me from seeing this one black-comic/satirical look into the serial killer-loving side of America, where we follow one suburban housewife's everyday life of passionate gardening, coupon cutting, household cleaning, kitchen wares, obscene prank calling and, of course, serial killing!

Meet Beverly Stuphin (Kathleen Turner), the loving wife of a local dentist (Sam Waterston) and mother of two misfit children, Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard). She enjoys spending her past time plotting murders against neighbors and strangers alike for the smallest crimes and mistakes, such as not recycling, scolding someone for loving a certain genre of films, and even for wearing white shoes after Labor Day. As she continues to secretly murder anyone that irate her, hapless witnesses begin to pile up, as well as her family and neighbors becoming more and more suspicious of her odd, cheerful-as-day personality. After publicly murdering one victim during a live stage show in front of a crowd, Beverly gets arrested and so the trial begins.

Around the last act, Serial Mom switches from a slasher movie to a head-on black comedy that pretty much shows how much everyone loves a sensationalized serial killer. Beverly's family exploits their mother's homicidal run, producers crowd and beg for movie rights, and young fans praise her every appearance. Will she be punished for her crimes? Or will Beverly find a way to win the hearts of millions and pardon her of her own crimes? Well, if she will, she ain't gonna do it kissing everyone's ass. Nah, she'll be fanning her legs like there's no tomorrow!

Unsettlingly funny and gruesomely bloody, Serial Mom's a good look into our morbid fascination as horror fans to serial killers as the film just doesn't focus on a horror fan's point of view but also the media's, satirizing the infamous showcasing of monsters like Mason or the Son of Sam killer through exploitative films and documentaries over the years.

What makes Serial Mom an enjoyable film is that it's just plain crazy. The mood of the story is never serious, plus Kathleen Turner's performance as a serial killing 50s-style mother provides enough laughs as a ridiculous character who just so happens to be blessed with extreme luck and/or personality. The script, though not perfect, is chuckle worthy for those with a very dark sense of humor (Something most viewers seems to forget when watching this movie, sadly. I mean, this IS a John Water's movie!) and too those who could get the references. (there was a lot of 50s references here) Performances from the rest of the cast are okay; nothing big but acceptable otherwise, even if I was surprised to see Matthew Lillard in this. Funny to think he'll be starring in another horror film-satire two years later, Wes Craven's Scream!

Since the first half of the film is your typical slasher film walk-through, I was glad enough that the film got the gore count really working. We're talking about organs getting sticky on an impaled fire poker, hit-and-run-overs, and the ever popular bludgeoning by lamb leg! (Alfred Hitchcock's Presents, anyone?) It's nice to see someone getting creative with their kills once in a while, keeping a straight psycho face even!

The film has a lot to say to a lot of things; the consequences of deprived housewives with no real life outside their homes, and too, again, our interests in sensationalized media featuring whatever's hot, no matter if it's of good or bad taste. These are among the little commentaries being made here but for those who would like to just relax and laugh at something so shallow and dark, Serial Mom's a great film to rent for a weekend's viewing. Not everyone's movie, but at least try to see it once and, who knows, you might learn that the creepy phone caller you keep getting every night might be closer than you think...

1 male hit with car, run over
1 male ran through the back with fire poker
1 female stabbed on the gut with scissors
1 male gets a dropped air conditioner toppling on top of him
1 female bludgeoned to death with lamb leg
1 male torched with a lighter and a can of aerosol
1 female beaten to death with payphone
Total: 7