Saturday, July 30, 2016

Dance The Obvious Dance: Dance Macabre (1992)

Dance Macabre (US/Russia, 1992)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Robert Englund, Michelle Zeitlin, Marianna Moen

In this rarity of a 90s thriller, a prestigious Russian dance academy opens its doors for the first time to non-Russian students, including one Jessica Anderson, an American who's forced into attending by her wealthy father. 

Overlooking the arrivals is the handicapped headmistress Madame Gordenko, who is aided by her two companions, dance instructors Anthony Wager and Olga. The madame instantly becomes a challenge for Jessica as her strict lessons clash with the young American's easy-going attitude. Nevertheless, Jessica finds encouragement from a few friendly faces, including her French roommate Claudine, a photographer named Alex, and Anthony himself, who agrees to help her via private lessons as he sees a little bit of the young Gordenko in the girl.

While Jessica perfects her ballet, a gloved killer is making their way through the other students, seemingly picking off girls with potential for dancing. Could it be someone with a motive? Or just a random loon being a little too knife-happy?

To be honest, around two to four minutes into the movie, you can tell the major twists here unless the copy saw was that bad or you are that easily fooled. (no offense) I actually find myself wondering how exactly did the producers thought they could get away with it but if I am going to be brutally truthful, they hardly tried. So did this quirk somehow messed up the overall entertainment value of the movie?

At some point, yes. The plot is an easy one to follow as it is formulaic; anybody that appears to do better in dancing than Jessica gets bumped off dead no soon after and the school doesn't take notice until the disappearances and murders got too frequent. And with only three to four possible suspects to go around, the way they were portrayed made guessing who's the killer and who are the red herrings a little too obvious when two of them got snuffed off too soon and, again, the obvious twist is right there in front of our faces.

With a weak whodunit plot and an embarrassingly obvious twist, all Dance Macabre did for me was made me think how much longer before the characters are gonna catch up and, once more, how exactly did the people behind this movie thought they could fool anyone with their little gimmick? As a slasher-esque thriller, it's also not that bloody or suspenseful in anyway since most of the killings were tame and the build-up to them were mediocre at best. However, I can't seem to hate this movie as much as I want to since its cheese factor did got me smirking and the Suspiria (and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho) inspired story almost worked if it wasn't for the shortcomings.

Originally, Dance Macabre was Terror in Manhattan, a proposed 90s sequel to the underrated period slasher Phantom of The Opera (1989) which also explains the "instructor obsessing over student" angle this movie's partially riding on. After various re-writes, Terror becomes this hodge podge ham-fest riddled with artsy dance montages, an uninspired mystery and a lot of bland characters, with the only relative connection to Phantom was that they both star Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund. Perhaps with more time given to the re-writes, as well as better killings and a much more passable twist, Dance Macabre could have been a rarity worth looking for. But alas, unless you are a big Englund fan like me, I suggest giving this one a skip like what I should have done many moons ago.

1 female drowned in a jacuzzi
1 female hanged 
1 female beaten, thrown to train tracks and ran over by a train
1 female bludgeoned with a cane, thrown off a window
1 male stabbed on the gut with a dagger
1 female falls on a dagger
1 female killed in bike crash (flashback)
1 male falls off from a balcony, impaled on broken chairs
Total: 8

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Plan 9 from the Dullest Space: The Dark Side of Midnight (1984)

The Dark Side of Midnight (1984) (AKA "The Creeper")
Rating: 0
Starring:  James F. Moore, Wes Olsen, Sandy Schimmel

It's movies like this that makes me wonder how a company like Troma gathered such a big fan following.

An implied "brutal" murder of a teenage girl had police chief Cooper (James F. Moore) asking the local mayor Reilly (Dave Bowling) into hiring some extra help. The thing about the mayor, however, is that he doesn't want to make this murder anymore bigger as it is right now since he has plans on bringing a university to town and the last thing he needs is bad publicity.

Of course, Cooper disregards his mayor's wishes and hires young detective Brock Johnson (Wes Olsen) to help him catch a killer so threatening that he can dismember people with just his bare hands. (I nod my head in false excitement) As the duo investigates who's behind the increasing bodycount, things are further complicated when Cooper's own daughter Jan (Sandy Schimmel) takes an immediate liking for Johnson and the killer (simply dubbed as The Creeper) starts to slowly makes his way to the two men to kill off the only people hindering him from his killing spree.

As much as I wanted to be excited for all of this, The Dark Side of Midnight is anything but exciting; apart from nearly every bloke here sporting a mustache and how most of the writing were just atrociously laughable, there's nothing remotely fun, scary, intense, and/or overall worthwhile about this movie. The actors looked like they came straight out of a local community theater and the meager budget of $10,000 (apparently was straight out of the director-slash-writer-slash-actor Wes Olsen's pockets) meant not only are we going to get amateurish camera work and lighting, but it also meant that the only gore this supposed slasher film is going to offer is one dead kid's sliced throat. (And it wasn't even a decent looking throat cut, mind you! Looked more like some wood putty dabbed with red paint and hastily placed over the child actor's neck with white school glue.) The rest of the killings either occurred offcamera or were standardized stranglings, placed far apart between copious amount of expositions and repetitive dialogues, sadistically torturing anybody foolish enough to sit through this dreck thinking they hit a gold mine of the so-bad-its-good type. I think I recall falling asleep a total of three to two times during my attempts to watch this in one sitting and I vaguely remember putting on a better movie right after Midnight ended coz I really really don't want to end that night with this bullshivism!

For some people, this might be a charming little number straight out of the bowels of bad cinema that they can laugh at, but for the many of us with half a working brain, The Dark Side of Midnight is lower than protozoic waste. In fact, if we ever get invaded by aliens or face the sudden arrival of giant monsters straight out of some freaky dimension, I can bet my arse that arsenals filled with copies of this film will have the same devastating killing power as, oh I dunno, 10 million tons of TNT. It is that bad.

1 female murdered offcamera
1 boy found with his throat cut
1 female garroted
1 female murdered offcamera
1 female strangled to death
1 male immolated in explosion
Total: 6

Monday, July 25, 2016

Short Shear Terror: Eaglewalk (2012)

Eaglewalk (2012)
Rating: ***
Starring: Christopher Emerson, Matt Lasky, Joseph Bonilla

Bigfoot slashers. Why not, am I right?

I mean, Night of the Demon (1980) made it work and we even have a few obscure ones like Demonwarp (1988), Wildman of The Navidad (2008)Dear God No! (2011) and the underrated Exists (2014), so having a hairy ape-giant bodycounting is far from anything new, but it's so rarely tackled that I'm immediately aboard any new slashers doing this.

And joining this little gang of cryptid killers is a 30 minute backwoods goodness simply known as Eaglewalk, which starts with a trio of young campers venturing out of the titular camp one night, hoping to find proof that a legendary creature (which said to be part ape and part man) exists. They planned on luring it out by destroying a sacred totem pole built to honor the beast, but the kids got more than they bargained for when the man-ape goes homicidal on them, leaving two murdered and one, a boy named Elliot, scarred for life.

Ten years later, in 1981, the now defunct Camp Eaglewalk is about to be re-opened and Elliot returns to the same woods, hoping to right any wrongs. Things quickly go deadly when the new counselors suddenly find their director floating dead in the lake and something awakened many moons ago is still skulking around. Soon enough, Elliot and the counselors are now targeted by a vengeful monster angry and bloodthirsty for a killcount.

Within the span of 30 minutes. Eaglewalk can be best described as a "compressed" take on a campsite horror flick, featuring everything you can expect from a backwoods slasher such as sexually active teenagers and supposed campfire tales that turn out to be true. The plot is pretty much your standard "fun times-turned-deadly" type as the arrival of an unexpected and dangerous creature starts to make corpses out of the unsuspecting teenage victims, but it somehow found the time to build around the important players, giving some worth to the inevitable bodycounting.

This is a good practice and I am thankful that it comes with the deaths of the few disposable characters, which teasingly gets better with each kill. Some of these killings also seem to pay tribute to other backwoods slasher, mainly Madman (1982), Friday the 13th Part VII: New Blood and, yes, even Night of the Demon. I'm further impressed on how intimidating they made the cryptid here, towering over its victims and appearing to look best obscured in the shadows, which this film did quite good until the last act, where we get a good brightened look at the monster and, well, let's just say it was scarier underneath all that shade.

In fact, the final third of Eaglewalk should have been great; we have your classic final victim outrunning and outwitting the monster, complete with a nice set-piece involving Elliot hiding under cabin beds while the monster starts throwing them up in search of him. It soon dwindles down to the inevitable last stand between him and the man-ape but the way it was resolved felt a tad rushed, leaving me with a lot of unanswered plot holes and questions. Thank the stars that the overall short is still a rather fine slasher flick with a decent creature-feature sensibilities, so this rather weak resolution didn't really taint the cryptid goodness that much.

A monster-slasher hybrid with more pros than cons, I give Eaglewalk two thumbs up and a honorary place on my growing number of good bigfoot bodycounters. Here's hoping for more in the future and for you to try this simple yet fun backwoods horror dish.

2 boys mangled offcamera
1 male body found floating on a lake
1 male killed offcamera
1 female clawed to death
1 male bearhugged to death
1 female swung against a tree, stomped
1 creature stabbed on the chest with a broken oar
Total: 8

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hobo With A Knife: Crazy Murder (2014)

Crazy Murder (2011)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Ariela Arnon, Mark Hunt, Kevin Kenny

Huh. And here I thought 2015's Headless was the most depressing slasher flick I've seen.

Covering Crazy Murder is a task proven difficult since apart from being a really upsetting piece of work, there isn't really much to talk about the movie story-wise; made with a decent budget, it simply follows the existence of a nameless deranged vagrant within the span of a single year, as he randomly murders people while suffering through unspeakable breakdowns that worsen as time passes. There is no real plot, just a collection of moments that more often end up with a murder or two (Or three. Or five), if not with the vagrant wallowing on his own vomit, defecating himself, or dreaming about hoodlums torturing him.

This being said, it is best to compare Crazy Murder with a performance artist; while most will just see is a homeless psycho doing unspeakable things to himself and the people around him, (and this might just as well be the case), those willing to dig deeper into what they are seeing may find a meaning tuckered underneath and within all the gore and bile, a hyper-realistic interpretation of a situation happening somewhere right now. In every brightly-lit city is an underbelly, and in this underbelly is a man or woman slowly losing her mind and wallowing in a world only they understand. We can never tell what they will do next and the killer in this movie is the worst-case scenario, shockingly murdering people who are simply just there, ranging from the fellow homeless and other crazies, to innocent bystanders and even good Samaritans. It's an extreme case but a possibility nonetheless, a fact that actually frightens and depresses me.

With this kind of concept, it's not hard to say that this is a movie that will not cater to everybody's taste, this including horror fanatics. One big nitpick I have with Crazy Murder is that the situations the killer vagrant goes through are a little too convenient on his part, with hardly anybody seem to be around to take notice of the murders and vileness he commits. After all the repetitive cycle of shocking violence, I'm left wondering how exactly is this guy still around killing people over the span of a year when, with today's advancements in technology, he could have been easily caught within a few months. In fact, he did a few things that will surely grab a lot of people's attention (crash a car, dress up in nothing but duct tape and a knife taped unto his mouth, kill someone in broad daylight, just to name a few) and yet, nobody ever reported this as something suspicious or dangerous? Perhaps they did and the film just decided not to show it to maintain the single person focus, but a little conflict couldn't hurt. 

If I have anything positive to say about Crazy Murder is that I am impressed with the portrayal of our vagrant here by Kevin Kenny. I am a guy growing up and living in an urbanized third world rock (Manila, Philippines) and my city has its share of wandering crazies and homeless, so I can tell that Kenny's take as one is pretty close from my perspective. The mad ramblings, the disgusting habits and measures, the threatening persona, this nutcase actually frightens me and I have not felt this scared of a portrayal since Bill Moseley's Otis Driftwood. This is a lot to say for a main character in a death porn movie with hardly any story. 

Special effects are also terrifyingly realistic and the few shock scenes are actually hard to un-see, which may be a good or a bad thing depending on how well you can take the punches. Overall, I say Crazy Murder works as a disgustingly disturbing dark look into the possible unforgiving bowels of society. Some people will hate it, some people will understand it, and I'm sure a good 0.6% are probably out "purging" the homeless right now in fear of something like this happening because it is just that upsetting. Me? I'm gonna avoid seeing this film (ever) again but I am not gonna stop people from trying this. If you will see it, just remember there are no happy endings in this one.

No. Happy. Endings.

1 female knifed through the throat
1 male beaten with bricks, knifed on the neck
1 male knifed to death
1 male hit with a van
1 male knifed on the neck
1 male knifed on the back of the neck
1 male knifed on the gut
1 male strangled with a choke-hold
1 baby violently dropped offcamera, sounds heard
1 female knifed on the throat
1 male stabbed to death with knives
1 male stabbed with knives
1 male stabbed to death with knives
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 male stabbed to death with knives
1 male stabbed through the neck with knives
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 male had his throat cut with knives
1 male knifed on the chest
1 female stomped on the face
1 male hammered on the head
1 male hammered on the head
1 male stomped to death
1 male bashed on the face with a hammer
1 male beaten
1 male knifed on the neck
1 male gutted with a knife
1 male knifed to death
1 male knifed to death
1 male had his skull crushed with a cinder block
Total: 30
Wait....is that....?
Oh My God! The bootleggers have bootlegged my country's
beloved fastfood chain!!!

...Huh, what else is new?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Manic Movie Mansion: Bloody Movie (1987)

Bloody Movie (1987) (AKA "Terror Night")
Rating: ***
Starring: John Ireland, Cameron Mitchell, Alan Hale Jr.

In this obscure yet fun late 80s offering, the estate belonging to one silent film star Lance Haywood has been purchased and scheduled to be torn down soon. The problem with this, however, is that someone donning Haywood's old costumes isn't too happy with folks messing around the dilapidated estate and made it his mission to kill off those who dares to trespass, starting with two pesky business men!

Elsewhere, a group of teenagers and a random biker couple also heard the news regarding the Haywood estate and thought it will be a great idea to visit it before the demolition team destroys it. The teens are in it for some estranged Hollywood history, the punks are in it for a chance to steal something valuable, somewhere between the line they just wanted to party, drink, and have lots of sex. This obviously isn't going to do well for the costumed killer, thus inevitably leading to a bloodbath none of the homewreckers expected.

An interesting fact about this movie was that it never really had a proper release until recently, making it a slight rarity for a while wherein the only chances of seeing it were either be one of the lucky few screeners, or via VHS-transfer bootlegged copies. Reasons for the obscurity vary from unlicensed use of old film footage, to complications concerning alleged mob money used to fund the production. One thing is certain; this is a pretty decent movie!

Plot isn't relatively new or creative but its execution have energy and the right kind of cheesy imagery to make it a fairly fun fright flick. The biggest sell here would be the killer's own gimmick of switching from one costume to another, from Robin Hood to a knight in full armor, all inspired by the in-universe movies starring the mysterious Lance Haywood. The killer, then, utilizes the theme of whatever costume they are donning for their murders, which meant variety comes plentiful on the bodycount department, all blessed with delicious looking gore and blood works, and further quirked with clips from old black-and-white films that, again, relates with the costume. It's a cheesy concept, one that actually raises some questions concerning the villain's true nature (how exactly do they change costumes so quickly? Or manage to, of all things.) but it is fittingly well-handled here.

The casts are an okay set. Still no more than your classic victim bunch, I somehow found them endearing as you can tell from their portrayal that the actors were really having fun. Genre name Cameron Mitchell even appeared as a cameo around the odd third act, only to be murdered off and probably walking straight home with his pay after his character bit the dust, plus we get to see Michelle Bauer's sexy nakedness (again) so that's an additional point for T&A.

Perhaps the only complain I have with this movie would the the aforementioned odd third act which, personally, felt unnecessary and too mean-spirited. It mostly involves the surviving teenagers being stalked and attacked by our believed-to-be-dead villain; before that, Bloody Movie was a B-grade cheese flick that you can enjoy without feeling all too bad for the dead and dying, but once the killer (and his victim) starts to monologue Shakespeare's Othello; Act 5, Scene 2, slay all who survived so far and simply just end there, it didn't fit the tone too well, overcooking the cheese and finding myself wishing they could have just gone with the basic "late 80s nerdy teen couple survives" ending.

The good thing, however, is that as much as how off-the-wall delirious that ending was, it did very little to taint the 80s slasher goodness Bloody Movie is, as a film surely and should be enjoyed by fans. It's not a perfect, but it tried a lot of gimmicks and chances are some of them are bound to cater to a viewer's taste. If you do get a chance to see this flick, take it and see it for yourself!

1 male tied between a tree and a car, torn in half
1 male ran through with a spear
1 male hacked on the head with a hook
1 male shot to death with arrows
1 female beheaded with a scimitar
1 female falls into a spiked pit
1 female falls down a flight of stairs
1 male hacked to death with a battle axe
1 male had his neck broken
1 male thrown through a window, lands on a spiked fence
1 male hanged with a noose
1 female strangled to death
Total: 12

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Happy 5th Birthday, StickyRed! (plus bonus comics!)

July 17 2011. Sunday.

How can I forget that day?

It was a sunny and lazy afternoon. I finished watching Night of The Demon (1980), visited sites like the now defunct slasherpool.com and Retroslashers, as well as the ever popular Hysteria Lives, and I wondered what'll be like to start writing reviews of my own.

Next thing you know, I was looking for a blogger site, found one conveniently via my google account, and I was writing a review for one of my so-called "Golden Titles", Friday the 13th (1980).

Five years and 859 reviews (so far) later, I'm still writing reviews for slasher movies, although my writing style, number of posts and scheduling have drastically changed over the time. (and I cringe whenever I re-read and fix them) I blame it on my work, my other hobbies, and the fact that I have aged along the films I cover, somewhat learning and understanding enough of the tricks and trades that happen before, during and after a bodycount film, though I am not upset. I am ecstatic, actually.

Ecstatic that I am able to go this far and can learn to juggle my time for other things, both important and for light-hearted fun. Ecstatic that I am able to find others who shares my passion for good genre flicks. And above all, I am ecstatic that I am one, if not the only one Filipino horrorphile to put this much dedication, knowledge and respect for a subgenre no other Filipinos would understand or appreciate. (The pain of living in a Catholic-raised rock)

So, for the fifth birthday of this blog, I say thank you for dropping by and giving this personal dark blot in the internet a chance as I again ready myself for another round of blood, guts and dumb teenagers being dumb. Of masked maniacs, supernatural wise-crackers, and wannabe bad-guys who just aren't good enough! Thank you again and have a good one!

Bonus Content!!!
I have been mentioning that I share my spare time writing and drawing comics. Welp, that wasn't a lie! So in celebration of this blog's 5th birthday, here are some selected (horror-related) comics from my slice-of-life gag webcomic, "Life in New Kirk", which I've been posting on my deviantart page since 2014.

What's it about? Well...

Welcome to New Kirk, Ohio. A typical American city in a not so typical reality, where Anthropomorphic mammals called Furs co-exists side-by-side with humans. Follow the lives of Louie, a Filipino immigrant, his fox Fur roommate October, and the rest of their friends and family as they go through the normal and the not-so-normal, one gag strip at a time!

It's not weird, it's just Life in New Kirk!

If you wanna see more, Feel free to visit my deviantart page at anadminnamedpaul.deviantart.com, or follow this link for more Life In New Kirk goodies!

Smell you guys, later!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Don't Worry. They're Paramedics: Old 37 (2015)

Old 37 (2015)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley, Jake Robinson

Being a big Friday the 13th fan, I'm always up to see a slasher flick starring the franchise's most loved Jason Voorhees stunt man Kane Hodder. And being a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series and Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, I'm also up to see what good messed-up characters ole Bill "Chop Top or Otis Driftwood" Moseley will be portraying. Now seeing these two horror legends under the same movie is always a treat, and thus now you know how I ended up seeing this interesting yet slightly underwhelming slasher title.

Old 37 follows two plot points: one would be of Amy (Caitlin Harris), a shy teenager who just recently lost her best friend from a supposed driving "accident" caused by a group of local snoots. Losing her father some time earlier, Amy is trying to find her way to move on from these tragedies and finds a little glimmer of hope when the town's eye candy Jason (Maxwell Zagorski) starts to take an interest on her. But all is not that easy for Amy as not only she has to deal with her bitchy and bullying neighbor Brooke (Olivia Alexander), but she will also finds herself tangled with plotpoint number 2: a couple of maniacs, Darryl (Moseley) and Jon Roy (Hodder), riding a beat-up ambulance and pretending to be paramedics as their modus.

As a concept, medical themed slashers are terrifying. Films like Visiting Hours (1982), Terminal Choice (1986), the two Dentist movies and even Nurse 3D show the kind of worst case scenario one may encounter while in the place of healing or in the state of recovering, wherein the sudden arrival of an escaped maniac or even your doctor could just simply take advantage of your weakened state and finish you off for no good reason. For Old 37, this should have been the case; the very beginning of the movie has us watching our killers in their youths, forced to join and witness their deranged father as he intercepts a paramedic call and murders a girl who is simply clinging to life. This kind of monstrosity should have been the focus of the movie, but we are instead treated with a coming-of-age drama-cum-horror hybrid about a girl trying to change the outcome of her seemingly worsening teen life.

In its defense, the writing done for the movie's teen drama affair is pretty good. Often I find myself a little more intrigued on whether our heroine will outdo herself and get the treatment she deserves or not (through means I never knew an obvious final girl would take), as well as if her bullies will get their just desserts as not only were they responsible for two murders, but most of them hardly cared of their own crimes. (For short, they deserved to die slowly) With all of this focus on building depth and reason for both sides of the coin, however, the "killer ambulance drivers" gimmick seems lost and may as well be forgotten as it contributes very little to the actual story. Heck, have the killers do their thing in casuals and you pretty much have the same plot, and it's this kind of missed opportunity to create something new (or at least a new angle for a concept) that leaves me disappointed and stuck with a final product no different than your average slice-and-dicer only with better character arcs.

Other possible nitpicks would be the ever-present plotholes (30 years of these psychos picking up and killing kids involved in automobile accidents and no one ever caught on?) and some small deal of incoherency and pacing issues, but the very thing that bugged me the most was how "convenient" the direction was when it comes to the horror bits. There's a revenge sub-plot that has the two maniac brothers seeking vengeance at those responsible for a family member's hit-and-run incident, which would have been a fair motive if only the movie can decide whether the brothers were fully aware that the teenagers they're massacring are the very ones responsible (seeing they somehow got all the guilty ones), or if they were just blessed by the patron saint of coincidence as, by luck has it, some of these victims fall into their own vehicular accidents, which under this movie's supposed catch, making them fitting targets for the killers' modus.

Lazy and/or uninspired horror transitions aside, as a slasher thankfully, Old 37 still has some good deal of blood and gore to entertain the bloodhounds, from the basic machete stabbings and sledgehammer brainings, to death by woodchipper and a very satisfying burn torture. The last 20 to 30 minutes is where most of the action takes place, finally giving our maniacs all the gruesome glory they should have been treated with from the very beginning. I did notice though that, while Moseley and Hodder were fun as this film's villains, the characters these guys were playing respectively are technically carbon copies of REPO!'s Luigi Largo (minus the singing) and Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees. Not that I am complaining, of course, and I know the movie tried to flesh them out with flashbacks to give them some identity, but we have seen these kinds of origins before and I guess it could have been more interesting if Moseley was the quite one and Hodder was the talkative one for a change. (I gotta see that some day!)

Overall, Old 37 is a good slasher that may have been better if they actually did something with their villains' unique concept. Some people seems to like it, others can see the mediocrity behind the over-hyped "killer ambulance driver" gig, and I find myself in between the two parties, leaning a bit to the minority who just felt underwhelmed. If you can tolerate its half-and-half plotting for a few scenes of gory goodness and a relatively better last act, then the Old 37 is the ride for you!

1 female choked on killer's fingers, strangled
1 male shredded through a woodchipper
1 female brained with a sledgehammer
1 female falls off from a moving car, killed
1 elderly female hit by a car (flashback)
1 male had his neck sliced with a buzzsaw
1 female found murdered
1 male had his back crushed with a car trunk
1 female found disemboweled
1 male stabbed on the back with a machete
1 female burned, later knifed on the neck
1 male forced face-first into a woodchipper
2 males and 1 female ran down with an ambulance
Total: 15

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 2016 Independence Day, Bodycounters!

Here's your admin wishing his American readers a Happy Fourth of July!

And hoping the upcoming Purge sequel is better than (if not as good as) the last! Wouldn't it be something? A franchise that actually gets better with each movie? Ah, it's Marvel Cinematic Universe Captain America all over again...

See Her Fear: You Are Not Alone (2014)

You Are Not Alone (2014)
Rating: ***
Starring: Krista Dzialoszynski, David O'Brien, Mary Mikva

In recent years, the found footage trend has been running amuck with near-countless horror and science fiction titles utilizing this gimmick, though very few of them answers why the good folks holding the camera continue to film the horrible things happening in front of them. Well, what if they don't have a choice? What if what we are seeing is not through the eyes of a device, but through the eyes of the characters themselves?

As far as I can tell, we only have a handful of titles that completely used the POV shtick to tell its story without the catch that it's a supposed "found footage", some of which being the 2012 Maniac remake (if you can overlook one or two scenes shown in third-person) and the 2013 splatter movie Hotel Inferno. Now, You Are Not Alone is a welcome addition to this trend, a simple first person slasher flick told through the eyes of our heroine, Natalie, as she visits her home town for a Fourth of July weekend.

We see her meet up with family, catch up with friends, discuss existentialism while smoking some good shit with said friends, and eventually walking home alone from an alcohol-fueled party late one night. The thing is, all is not well for this little town as a string of suspected serial killings has been popping up lately and it seems the culprit decided to take his chance on our heroine. First the lurking, then the break-ins, then the murders, Natalie's night will unfortunately spiral into chaos and deaths as the deranged psychopath stalks and toys her around, finishing off anybody in the way.

The simple fact that the movie was done through a would-be victim's perspective is already an advantage for the plot; while, in a way, the filming style is no different from the found footage trend, You Are Not Alone actually felt more organic as it lacks many of the gimmicky pseudo-camera tricks many footage films rely on (grainy quality, shaky cam, and quick edits disguised as camera glitches to name a few) and actually goes through the time of building around fun, interesting and deep characters, creating a more realistic premise and tone to all things seen here, may it be the mundane or the terrifying. The result is the very purpose of a found footage film, only applied better in quality and atmosphere.

The set of eyes we are looking through, our Natalie character, also felt more identifiable with her kind of life, facing relatable problems and coping with them in ways a normal person might from partying to drinking brew in some friend's basement. While we barely (if not ever) see our character in person, her very responses to most of the events happening to her easily made her soon-fears and anguishes our own all that easy as we can adapt to her position, which very well helped with this movie's many tension-filled scenes.

In terms of scares, it is still heavily influenced by the footage genre with its uses of jumpsband broodiness rather than gore, sleaze or bodycount. Now for a slasher, this means the casualties are not relatively high nor that gory as we are restrained to only one perspective, but some of the things the maniac (a disturbingly average looking fellow, mind you) do for the sake of his thrill are very upsetting (particularly the home invasion scenes) so I personally think the movie did quite a lot with something so little and simple.

Sadly, as admirable of an effort this movie is, it is not without it's own recognizable defects; also as a slasher, it's sadly suffered from some of the sub-genre's known cliches, mainly plot conveniences such as the town being nearly deserted to the point it's dead and dumb decisions like all the missed opportunities to actually fend off (if not kill) the maniac. The lack of killcount and one-person perspective also led to a decent dose of walking (or rather limping) scenes at the third act, so the very showdown between Natalie and the killer felt underwhelming and anticlimactic, robbing us a chance to see Natalie fend herself for real. Then again, we are supposed to see these situations realistically so I guess You Are Not Alone will be one of those films ending itself differently.

Overall, while it is not that great nor original in terms of plotting, the movie still gets my approval as a good viewing. When things like grue and double digit murders can't find a spot on a story, it is always best to place your cards on other scare factors and this movie knew how to work its way around the exploitative horror materials some modern scare flicks constantly stick with. So if genuine scares and sinister turns are your thing, just remember: You Are Not Alone!

1 female murdered (real (?) 911 call)
1 male stabbed with a fire poker, face flayed off
1 male knifed to death
1 male shot, knifed on the neck
Total: 4