Saturday, July 28, 2018

Death Goes 90s Digital: Ghost In The Machine (1993)

Ghost In The Machine (1993)
Rating: **
Starring: Karen Allen, Chris Mulkey, Ted Marcoux

Ah, the early 90s! When rap music is white-ish, neon baggy jeans make you look ghetto edgy and The Price Is Right is hosted by Bob Barker. Oh, and bulky computers with dial-up! Yeah, how can we 90s babies forget that screeching monstrosity? I mean, what could be worse, right?

Well, how about a horror movie trying to be hip and modern by featuring a killer that's pure data-cum-electrical energy, tossed around like toss salad with all things techno-babbled?

Thus the story of Lawnmower Man (1992)! I mean, Shocker (1989)! No wait, Ghost In The Machine, a slasher film where a serial killer dubbed as The Address Book Killer (Coz he kills people he looks up from address books. Duh.) gets his soul digitized after catching himself in a car accident and dying whilst being CT scanned during a thunderstorm, henceforth finding a way to go anywhere and into anything that runs on electricity, making everyday appliances like dishwashers and microwaves murder weapons though in a much more exaggerated manner.

With this new god-like state, our slasher decided to target one of the customers from the computer shop he worked at, a single mother who left a digitized copy of a page from her address book for his techno-rampage, killing his way through friends and acquaintances if not inconveniencing terrorizing our hapless mum and her son with creepy messages, unsolicited purchases and drained bank accounts. It's not long before the feds (well, one guy from the IT division to be more exact) catch wind of the situation and start investigating, realizing that what they're up against is far from normal.

So, pros: I like how some of the murders here act like proto-Final Destination accidents, such as one involving a car crash testing site with an unexpected (and darkly hilarious) twist, and the whole movie just has this very cheesy vibe to everything despite desperately trying to play itself seriously. Kinda hard to do just that seeing all of this comical-looking 90s CG being passed off as scares and the entire movie just feels like one huge time capsule, complete with the fact that everybody involved in this film doesn't seem to understand how this technology works. Like properly works. (Then again, this is a horror movie so, I guess exaggerated facts are inevitable...)

Sadly, strip away all of the unintentional comedy and a few decent looking kills, The Ghost In The Machine barely do much to make itself work any better, giving us stale, dull and personality-challenged characters (villain included) and a very predictable and tedious story that's been done a couple of times before. Granted that the way they defeated the villain in this is kinda new, the entire execution of the film is just too silly to be worthwhile unless you're the forgiving kind with a strange fascination for bad CG, cringy cheese and a moderate level of blood and gore acquired through near moronic means.

A fine film for a single viewing, but far from something I will recommend keeping with your collection unless, as I've mentioned, you're into bad movies. If you are, then by all means track down this poltergeist and enjoy the movie, ya freak of nature...

2 males and 2 females seen slaughtered
1 male succumbs to car crash wounds
1 male cooked alive in an electronically heated kitchen, hits his head against a kitchen counter
1 dog drowned in a pool
1 male burned alive by a flamethrowing hand dryer
1 female electrocuted by an exploding dishwasher
Total: 9

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Soaking in Bad Cheese: Hot Tub Party Massacre (2016)

Hot Tub Party Massacre (Canada, 2016)
Rating: *
Starring: Chrissy Cooke, Stu Ford, Sarah Foster |

I get it: not all movies exist to be the next big hit or cult classic everyone will be talking about from years on end.  Some films are simple there to entertain us. Distract us from the cruel reality outside our comfort, even if it only lasts for an hour and a half. I get all of that. Still, I cannot distance myself from the fact that the word "entertain" is subjective itself, as one thing that entertains you does not always mean it'll be that entertain for the next guy. 

This being said, Holy Hellions. Did this movie wasted my time. 

Perhaps I myself was to blame: I was looking around my hard drive for a fun movie called "Pool Party Massacre (2017)" and accidentally started watching this one coz it has "party" and "massacre" at the end. Instead of stopping it and go watch my intended viewing for that evening, I decided to give this one a try in case it'll be worth my while and now I'm writing this review to kinda apologize to myself for being curious enough to sit through what could be someone's film school project.

So we start the movie with a news report about an escapee serial killer named Fred Banning, who murdered 18 during his murder spree before he got captured, and is now believed to be making his way back to his old stomping ground to do more killings. Everybody is afraid save for a quartet of college girls who wins a school lottery that landed them a weekend getaway at a luxurious spa. (With a hot tub) As they strip naked and do sexy shower scenes and pillow fights, or get really naughty with their boyfriends who decided to drop by, our killer arms himself with a garden claw and starts hacking random coeds before making his way to the girls and their dates.

I guess we can thank the universe that this film's only an hour and twelve minutes long, which meant my stay was a quick one but, with the way Hot Tub Party Massacre's made, it honestly felt longer than that. Way way longer. With so little other substance going on apart from watching a bunch of 20 somethings attempting to act and be funny (Did I forgot to mention this was a horror comedy? I did? Well that's coz none of the jokes were funny...) or do some horror stuff (And I use the terms "horror" loosely and "stuff" strongly), I vividly recall trying to keep myself awake to see whether this film is going exactly where I expect it to be or if it'll do something relatively new. Sadly, it went with the former, doing exactly what a hundred slasher films or so have done before including that Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)/A Bay of Blood (1971) sex-a-pade skewering. (You know the one) It's unoriginal, dry and very dull, with kills partially or mostly offcamera leaving little satisfaction for us gorehounds, but I think those looking for some good T&A will got some kick out of this as boobs, butts and bumpin' uglies are ever present in the second half. (Sexy but, no. I came for blood. Not for boobies.)

Perhaps I watched this movie with a wrong mindset as mentioned prior, not all films aim to be great and is simply just there to entertain us. Hot Tub Party Massacre is obviously a film made to entertain, albeit in a very cheap manner, so I am sure there is an audience for this film somewhere out there and I'm just not one of them. Far from memorable, intense, hilarious, gory, or just be good in general, I say this is one dirty hot tub I'll be gladly avoiding and one party I should have turned down.

1 female killed with a garden claw
1 female slaughtered offcamera with a garden claw
1 female hacked with a garden claw
1 male hacked with a garden claw
1 male slashed with a garden claw
1 male had his face crushed/smothered with a plastic bag
1 female had her eyes thumbed
1 male hacked with a garden claw
1 male and 1 female skewered with a pool cue
1 female hacked to death with a garden claw
Total: 11

Friday, July 20, 2018

Scream Parks and Recreation: Talon Falls (2017)

Talon Falls (2017)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Brad Bell, Fred Biggs, Lonnie Bloomburg

Based on an actual Halloween horror attraction, Talon Falls Scream Park, in Graves County, Kentucky, Talon Falls is a movie that blends classic slasher tropes with torture porn horror, bringing us the best of both worlds. Or at least it attempted to.

Standard group of teenagers for the killing?
Classic slasher set-up.
To simply put, the film follows two teen couples on their way to a cabin only to get sidetracked when, at a gas stop, an attendant told them about Talon Falls, a popular local scream park attraction. Despite the vocal protest of one of the girls, the gang drives on to the park and gets VIP passes from one of the people working at the park as some form of Southern hospitality seeing they're not from around there.

Not thinking much about any of this, the teens proceed to a haunted house attraction littered with spooky clowns and tortured victims. Of course, it isn't long before they become aware on just how real some of these horrors are and the group soon find themselves fighting to survive or die as a part of the park's sinister attractions and side business of snuff films.

Dirty room full of rust and blood-covered murder weapons?
Classic Tore Porn set-up!
So, we basically have a mix-matched monstrosity of a generic backwoods slasher and a low-rent torture porn, with a side of Turistas (2006) and Vacancy (2007) thrown in for good measure. How exactly does it hold up?

Honestly, the whole roundabout is pretty standard. It's literally the predictability and cliches of two horror sub-genres welded together in a sometimes-steady-sometimes-slow pacing that puts me to sleep on one end and got me sighing in boredom on the other. Granted that some of the torture scenes succeed in grossing me out (really really hate that toe nail torture) and the last act did got me slightly interested with its long yet passable chase scene, Talon Falls just felt cheap, so much so that its entire seventy-plus minute run felt like one overly long commercial promoting what kind of horror you can picture the real Talon Falls park will be doing for you once you put down that ticket money at their booths. It's moderately acted, hardly terrifying and barely exciting, done in a fair budget that is simply "okay".

Put two set-ups together and nothing else and you get:
A barely original horror movie for the rental bins.
I appreciate the effort, but it's an effort that's as stale as a bowl of plain-flavoured corn flakes that nobody wanted to eat coz, well, it's plain. With that, I leave Talon Falls to the rest of the world who may or may not want to take part of its cinematic blandness, as I indulge myself to something better. (And by better, I meant wasting a good near-two hours of my life re-watching Hostel: Part II (2007), a movie that I consider as the best example of a good torture porn next to Saw (2004). Not exactly productive but, hey, least it's something.)

1 male electrocuted to death
1 male mauled to death by a dog
1 male tortured, had his head crushed with a vice
1 male and 1 female electrocuted to death
An entire dump full of corpses found
1 female presumably tortured to death
Total: 6+

Saturday, July 14, 2018

An Apartment Cuckoo Bird: The Landlady (1997)

The Landlady (1997)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Talia Shire, Jack Coleman, Bruce Weitz

After killing her unfaithful husband by feeding him something he's severely allergic to, Melanie (Talia Shire) moves out to an apartment complex she inherited from a late aunt, taking in a job as its landlady. There, she gets obsessed over Patrick (TV series Heroes' Jack Coleman), a handsome resident in a loving relationship with his girlfriend. Her obsession accumulates from creepy schoolgirl crushing to secretly installing a two-way mirror in his room so she could watch him to eventually killing off those she deems as threats to her "relationship" or coming in too close on finding out what she's really up to.

The Landlady falls comfortably within the lines of 90s bodycount thrillers that features everyday people being unexpected psychos from killer nannies to evil extended families, most of which follows the predictable formula of everyone (save the protagonist/s) not knowing just how crazy the titular psycho is until it is too late. In this film, we get a slightly different turn as we mostly follow the steady transition of a meek and partially-conservative widow into a growing obsessive with a Misery-inspired lust over one of her more handsome tenants, creating elaborate set-ups to either get what she wants or rid the building of its more undesirable apartment owners when not plainly getting her fingers literally dirty with straight hands-on murder.

Due to this, the film can be a fun watch for Talia Shire, famous for playing Mrs. Balboa from the Rocky franchise, hamming up a performance fitting to the craziness of her character, which is a saving grace for the film's TV-movie quality low-level thrills and lack of bloodletting. It comes considerably short when it comes to plot but with its creative focus more centered on the creepy scenes and unsettling moments, I can't say The Landlady failed to bring out some level of intensity and chills.

Aside from these little pieces of good notes, I can't really say anything else about The Landlady. It's averagely good for how absurd and hectic the story gets and the cheesiness it reeks that calls for some unintentional laughs, but that's more or less it. A minor thriller with a tongue pressed firmly on its cheek, made sincerely for those who doesn't mind following a serial murderess' misadventures, so if this is your cup of tainted tea then sip it up and enjoy the modest shlock.

1 male suffers through allergic shock
1 female beaten to death with a fridge door
1 female swallows pills
1 female bludgeoned with a candlestick
1 male shot
1 male knifed on the back
1 male pushed down in a flight of stairs, crushed by a dropped case
1 female shot
Total: 8

Friday, July 13, 2018

Hurm, Friday the 13th. 2018...

It was pretty normal today, actually. Just me. My family. Just being casual and chilling. I ate a spicy burger and that's the most excitement I got so far.

Lemme see if a Friday the 13th movie might change that.
Hadn't seen Friday the 13th (2009) for a long while now...

Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!

Friday, July 6, 2018

One Two, Another Freddy's Coming For You: Axe Grinder (2006)

Axe Grinder (2006)
Rating: **
Starring: Cassie Daniels, Chris Todd, Jennifer Peo

I was lazily browsing the internet one time, just passing the hours before I go to sleep and wake up for work in the following morning, when I came upon a screenshot from a movie featuring a killer in a jester's mask. It looked cheap, dumb and utterly not scary, but as you may have guessed it, I did end up seeing it and all I got to say is "I kinda understand why I didn't heard of this until now."

So we begin clowning around with a brief invasion/double murder mish-mash as a trio of clown-masked maniacs murder the parents of a youngish boy while he watches in understandable horror. What's not understandable is that when one of the maniacs catches him, the killer decided to let him live, hands him a friggin knife and his mask, and promises the kid that he'll understand when he's older. Yeah. Uh. What?

Cut to what we can all safely assume is the present, we see a random runner make her way through the backwoods and it isn't long before she's aware that she isn't alone. Many Friday The 13th Jason Voorhees-esque stalking scenes later, (complete with this film's own take on the "Ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma" sound bit, only with tiny bells!) the runner gets caught not by our supposed slasher, but a random perv who proceeds to rape her. But fret not, bodycounters! For in comes our masked murderer for real, hacking the perv dead with an axe and impaling the very girl he just saved through a dead branch. Slashers, eh? What charmers!

We then shift our attention to six campers as they do the usual camping stuff from telling ghost stories while roasting weenies over the open fire, to having either drunken or masochistic sex that more or less ends up with one of them feeling quite unsatisfied. (Or freaked out!) As usual, the killer soon makes their way to murdering these kids one by one after dealing with some other random victims, but who could this killer be? That one camouflage-wearing forest dweller living off the land? Or is it Freddy Palmer, a psychopath rumored to have died in the very same woods a long time ago after an angry mob burned down his cabin while he is still inside?

What could have been a zero-budget knock-off of a later years Friday the 13th sequel, Axe Grinder (2006) tries its best to make something very unique out of the backwoods killer premise, a feat I would normally admire and overlook any budget restraints given the overall result will be worth being patient for. And to be fair, Grinder was a fun watch for its hokey acting and gore-effects, even if its obvious lack of production money did get in the way once in a while, but what made this film less enjoyable is that it suffers from continuity-cum-editing issues, leaving a couple of scenes rather confusing such as the killer switching clothes from one moment to the next (May have been intentional to build some sort of read herring but, yeah, this could have been done better if that was the case!), to some victims suddenly coming back to life (or surviving a very fatal attack) for no explained reasons at all. I would have just laughed these off as bad production funnies but when it got in the way of a good (or in this case, passable) story, then we have another thing going against me.

Axe Grinder eventually ends on a lackluster note, playing on the typical "was the killer real or not?" shtick with an obvious answer, leaving me quite unsatisfied with the finale and somewhat with sour taste in my mouth. Then again, what else would I expect from a zero-budget slasher flick? I will admit that it's laughably bad production and relatively simple story can be plenty enough reasons for some to watch it, but to keep it? I say nay to that! It's really forgettable, falling and blending in too well with the rest of everyday Do-It-Yourself horror flicks that keep popping up in numbers every year, so unless you're into very obscure horror movies or that big of a slasher fanatic, I suggest giving this one a skip.

1 male had his throat cut with a machete
1 female disemboweled with a knife
1 female slammed through a tree branch, impaled
1 female hacked on the throat with an axe
1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 male axed on the gut
1 male had his throat crushed with a length of chain
1 victim seen murdered (flashback)
1 male seen murdered (flashback)
1 male had an arm torn off, hacked with an axe
1 female pulled down into a lake, drowned
1 female had her neck crushed open
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 male had his heart torn out
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 male shot dead with a shotgun
1 male hacked with an axe
Total: 17

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Fallen Star: Madhouse (1974)

Madhouse (US/United Kingdom, 1974) (AKA "Deathday", "The Madhouse of Dr. Fear", "The Revenge of Dr. Death")
Rating: ****
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry

As a youngin', my only exposures to the talented Vincent Price were his Inventor role at Edward Scissorhands and that one voice over narration during that one Michael Jackson music video involving dancing zombies and a werecat. It wasn't until I got into high school when Price got re-introduced to me, still in voice over form, through the Tim Burton animation Vincent (1982) as a bonus short from the Nightmare Before Christmas DVD I bought for my sister as a Christmas gift. It was also around that time I was starting to get in touch with my slasher fanaticism again, which lead me to my first feature length Vincent Price-starring movie, House of Long Shadows (1984)! (Also my first Peter Cushing and John Carradine film)

From that point on, I sometimes add some flair and class in my slasher collection by seeking out his other bodycount friendly titles such as his original House of Wax (1953), the two Abominable Doctor Phibes movies and Theatre of Blood (1973). It wasn't until the later blogging years of my current life, however, that I heard about this film, an obscure proto-slasher that have Vincent play not a fiendish avenger with a lust for blood, but a broken man trying to escape a haunting past. Sign me up as intrigued.

A celebrated horror actor famous for his role as Dr. Death, Paul Toombes lives a luxurious Hollywood life with his young fiancee and a plethora of adoring fans (and enemies) both within and outside the limelight. At a party celebrating his 5th Dr. Death film, though, it all comes crumbling down when after finding out his fiance' once starred in adult films, Paul lashed out at the young woman for her career choices and sends her running to a room in tears. Things got a whole lot messier when Paul wakes up in the same room, apparently not remembering when and how, and discovers his young wife-to-be decapitated, much to his horror and shock.

Some years later, Toombes is released from psychiatric care, still blaming himself for the murder despite not remembering how he did it. Acquitted of the killing, though, he finds himself being offered an acting role at jolly good England where they'll be filming a new Doctor Death TV series. Once there, old wounds start to reopen as one by one, staffs and actors involved end up dying in a grisly manner, killed by a maniac in a skull mask and black leather gloves. With Toombes waking up after each death, is he killing for real again? Or could this be the work of a real maniac on the loose?

Based on a 1969 Angus Halliday novel Devilday, Madhouse is a proto-meta-slasher that celebrates and parodies horror careers (particularly Price's), throwing in nods and winks to then's horror community with well-known horror stars such as Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry showing up as wonderful supporting casts, as well as showcasing clips from selected Vincent Price movies as in-universe films. It's structure, though, leans more on a solid slasher outing with whodunnit-style horror drama, as we watch Price's character do further and deeper into maddening dementia as the murders continue and the blame goes far beyond controlled.

With its themes of psychological torment and high rise bodycount, Madhouse definitely has its influences from the Italian Giallo and German Krimi, but it quite fun to note how this film is also ahead of its time with a couple of chase scenes and brutal killings strikingly similar to that of an 80s slasher. Gothic undertones are also ever-present, curiously implemented through the stylish Victorian settings wherein the Dr Death series is being filmed, some odd anachronistic set-pieces (oil lamps in 1970?) and the inclusion of a red herring that came in the form of an old crone, driven mad from a horrific car crash and now lurking in the basement of her own house with her pet spiders. The film can get cheekily hammy with its bounds of campiness and post-mortem wit (even more if we start to consider its dry and dark British humor. I mean really, who continues a TV production after this much death on set?), but its strengths lies within the curveball portrayal of Price's character, far from the fiendish Machiavellian villain and more of a victim himself, trapped in a cycle of madness that appears to be out to get him. (Or, worse, take over him!)

Curiously, the very fact that the movie tries hard to create a sympathetic character out of Price opened a lot of possibilities that the murders are being committed by somebody else due largely on the matter that the story contains so much red herrings and convenient writing. As a whodunnit, this may sound lacking and unimaginative (and at times, it is), but I will at least admit that the reveal is unexpected, albeit slightly cheesy once we also knew the motive. If there's anything I can nitpick about personally is that we really got to see the Dr. Death movies per se, just clips from old Vincent Price movies. I would have been a treat for us genre fans to at least see some original footage of this so-called popular cult character in action, but it hinders the movie hardly so it isn't much of an issue to ponder about.

It's kinda dated, yes, but the fun of this movie comes from the people involved and the strange yet workable direction it possesses. Madhouse is a must see for all slasher fans, a rough gem worthy to be recognize as one of Price's more intricate performance and a fun hodge-podge of goth horror and bodycounting murder mystery.

1 female found decapitated
1 female hacked on the neck with a pitchfork
1 female strangled, later found hanged with a jump rope
1 male crushed by a lowering prop bed
1 male and 1 female skewered with a sword
1 female found stabbed through the neck with a knife
1 male knifed to death
Total: 8