Friday, November 30, 2018

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone: Lasso (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Argentinian Floodland Massacre: Los Olvidados (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2018

Today I Love...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

At A Long Lonely Road: Downrange (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee

December 28, 1922 - November 12, 2018

Thank you for the wonderful stories. Upward and onward to greater glory.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Cycle of The Moon: Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet (1985)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim

Do you want to know one of the few things that will blow my mind? What if there was a series of slasher films based on each Universal monsters created ala shared universe? Like, in one film, we can have teenagers awakening either a weaponized version of the Frankenstein monster or a warrior mummy, while in another film can have a new age vampire who lost most of his vampiric powers due to breeding and is now forced to find blood to feed on by moonlighting as a serial killer targeting parties at night?

It's a marvel idea and one that I am willing to check out so long as the people behind it are competent, but until then, I guess I have to settle with Humanoids From The Deep (1980) as an exploited slasher-fied Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954); Hollow Man (2000), Hollow Man II (2006) and The Invisible Maniac (1990) as slasher versions of the Invisible Man (1933); and the plentiful titles of Werewolf bodycounters to choose from such as Wolfen (1981), Hard Rock Nightmare (1988) and this, Stephen King's Silver Bullet (1985).

Based on King's novella Cycle of the Werewolf (which in turn was originally planned as an illustrated calendar!), the movie is set in 1976, at a small Maine town called Tarker's Mills wherein a sudden series of brutal killings perpetrated by a either savage creature or a madman (or perhaps both?) begins to thin down the town folks. To be unwillingly caught in this predicament is one Marty Coslaw, a young paraplegic boy who soon got too close on being another victim of the savage. After injuring the beast, Marty somehow discovers its true identity, which unfortunately for him means that the monster isn't going to back down now with its secrets threatened. Thus, a game of cat-and-mouse between a werewolf and a nearly-paralyzed boy begins.

As a horror movie, Silver Bullet is not one to be considered when it comes to complexity as it really is nothing more than a slasher flick with a werewolf for a villain, clawing people to death left and right for the first half before the story slows down into stalker horror territory and then eventually transitioning into an appropriate monster flick-style ending. These tonal differences led to plot holes being plenty and most of the characters prone to bad choices (not to mention a hefty amount of cheese and outrageous set-pieces. A motorbike wheelchair? That's friggin' odd yet awesome! And how about that random werewolf nightmare that just came out of nowhere?), but the pacing is relatively fair and easy to follow, most of the kills are quite gruesome and gory, and there's a lot of scenes that are just fun to watch for the character dynamics or for the gripping intensity of some of the werewolf/villain moments.

Talents involved include a young Corey Haim as our paraplegic young hero who is really just trying to be a normal happy kid despite his condition. I love how natural his performance is in this film and how it goes very well to the other main casts, particularly Megan Follows as his character's frustrated older sibling and Gary Busey, a fun and fitting choice for their  gruff yet lovable Uncle Red, who spits some of the best lines (most of which was ad libbed) in this film.

The only problem I have with Silver Bullet is that, despite starting off very enigmatic with its barely onscreen presence and dishing out some decent killings, the werewolf isn't really that memorable through the rest of the film; not only do the make-up effects used to create the monster look hardly terrifying (making the werewolf look more like a bipedal wombat with rabies, with a head a tad too big for its body), but their motive lacks any real depth nor originality, and its human identity raises more questions than answers. Honestly, I think the twist could have worked better if the reveal was handled a lot better and it wasn't made too soon into the movie.

A simple monster movie down to the core, Stephen King's Silver Bullet, truthfully, could have been better if it had more pizzaz to it but, nevertheless, with its sly sense of humur, a rather easy yet unique depiction of its monster and a lovable main cast, it's a werewolf-slasher hybrid that's quite a fun watch.

1 male had his head clawed off
1 female mauled to death
1 male pulled into a broken floorboard, stabbed on the gut and mauled
1 boy mauled offcamera, bloodied kite seen
1 male clawed on the back, hurled against a tree
1 male had half of his face clawed off, mauled to death
1 male beaten to death with a baseball bat
1 male brained to death with a baseball bat
1 male shot on the eye
Total: 9