Thursday, October 31, 2019

Golden Title: The Omen (1976)

Let's celebrate Halloween 2019 with a classic.
The Omen (United Kingdom/USA, 1976)
Rating: *****
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens

In Rome, Robert Thorn, an American diplomat, just received word that his newborn child died at birth, a grave news that is not only distraught to him but will surely crush his wife, Katherine. Hence when a well-meaning priest offered Robert a chance to adopt a newborn child whose mother died during an operation, he is quick to accept the child as his own, naming him Damien, and his wife was none the wiser.

Five years later, not long after Robert gets appointed as the US Ambassador for Great Britain, the Thorns find themselves in an increasingly frightful predicament as mysterious deaths and events start to plague them, beginning with the moment the family nanny commits suicide during Damien's birthday, claiming it is all for the boy. In fact, all of the sudden strange happenings seem to be linked to Damien and it isn't too long before an unsettling truth will come upon the family, as well as to those who insists on aiding them against a powerful dark force.

A prime example of a quintessential title within the 70's Satanic cycle, The Omen (1976) works its apocalyptic narrative through a more subtle and realistic direction compared to, let's say, The Exorcist (1973), a similarly religiously themed horror movie that's made effective thanks to its shocking blasphemous visuals. The Omen, alternatively, focuses more on downplaying the typical onscreen demonic horror elements of nightmare imagery and underworld monsters, in its place instead is a strongly orchestrated sense of helplessness as its plot implies that the Devil's forces may have already got most, if not all of the cards played in the favor of the Beast right at the beginning of the movie, while those who choose to fight against them are doomed to die while their God remains distant or absent.

It's a particularly powerful notion and The Omen (1976) captures this quite intriguingly through its story's flow, starting everything up with good fortune falling upon the Thorns only for it to slowly crumble down as one accident and odd occurrence pressures the family to seek help from both conventional and unconventional ways, leading to either a ghastly death or a revelation that defies rational explanation and leans more on the prophetic. It's this direction that the film revels at and to a good effect, as it eventually questions how much control do our protagonists have to begin with and where exactly does the line draw in regards to what is nothing more than a phase or a pawn to a grand cosmic scheme, which in this case is the Apocalypse as indicated in the Christian Bible. This Biblical concept is justly explored, but done in a way that doesn't feel overly pretentious and still caters to a wide array of horror hounds like you and me.

One of the movie's memorable elements, for example, leans more on the exploitative side of horror as it tackles smaller omens indicated through a photographer's collection of photos they took during Damien's birthday. A lot of these results to well-executed Rube Goldberg-inspired set-pieces that executes victims in spectacular manners, pretty much a precursor to Final Destination movies. (In fact, Final Destination 3 (2006)'s idea of omens through photographs was directly inspired by this movie) Gothic overtones are also strong in this movie's cinematography, done mostly through location shots and gloomy stylized lighting. Add on the Oscar-winning score by none other than Jerry Goldsmith and the effectiveness of The Omen's dark tone is very much achieved.

In terms of talent, The Omen (1976) boasts quite a casts for a horror film with Gregory Peck bringing all he can to the table as the leading man, playing a character determined to dig out the truth yet still holding on to a grounded view to his situation. Young Harvey Stephens, playing Damien, would also become one of the most memorable horror icons to grace cinema, odd as the child barely uttered a word nor did he did anything gradually evil but his very normal appearance contrasts his grim fate as the Antichrist, unsettling at best as one could never tell, reflecting the written deceptive nature of the Devil himself.

All in all, The Omen (1976) is a classic that earned its place among horror giants. Past the religious connotations and the over-the-top deaths, it is a story that can very well transpire in real life as a possibility, questioning fate and control at a terrifyingly psychological manner, thus a true treat for all genre fans, both in and out of the horror community.

1 baby died during birth, later revealed due to head trauma
1 female hanged
1 male impaled by a broken-off lightning rod
1 unborn child miscarried
1 female pushed through a window, lands on an ambulance
1 male decapitated by a projected glass pane
1 female stabbed with a fork and knife
1 male shot
Total: 8

HAPPY 2019 HALLOWEEN! (AKA, What am I watching this year. Again.)

Welp, it's October 31st here in the Philippines! That means absolutely nothing unless you're age 10 and below which, in that case, would mean afternoon Trick'r treating and a week off school.

For me though, IT'S HALLOWEEN!
Yes, Polly. Dance. Dance.
And as someone who's practically an adult living in a country that doesn't recognize Halloween as a holiday, I mostly celebrate this by making blood pacts with Lovecraftian gods watching spooky movies from years old and new! So today, I decided to share with you my picks for my annual Halloween viewing! From a back-to-back Holiday slashers to a cavalcade of carnage clowns, let's begin my picks with:

Hell Fest (2018) and Haunt (2019) - Preferably seen back to back, these two back-to-basics slashers follow anxious final girls and their friends venturing off to Halloween events only to meet foul ends at the hands of some very whacked-out psychos. Both films have their share of gore and scares, but what sets them aside from one another is their atmosphere; while Haunt seems to be going for a more grungy and claustrophobic tone with its titular haunt and ghoulish proprietors looking so clunky and cheap (with a good reason), Hell Fest has this Hitchcockian feel to it as it relies on stalking scares whenever it ain't goring it up the vast, open spaced Hell Fest that is the unknowing stalking ground of a random maniac. Whichever you want to start with depends on your mood!

The Witch (2016) - Looking past the Ye Olde English scripting, this supernatural "New England Folktale" is strong on the brooding department and nightmare imagery as a 1630s farming family gets terrorized by a plague of disappearances, hexes and death, seemingly perpetrated by a witch in the woods. Very atmospheric, gloomed to the grinded baby bones and downright fuckin' creepy.

Terrifier (2017) - A notoriously brutal slasher flick that'll give them coulrophobics and casuals alike a bad taste in their mouths, while rewarding us gorehounds a simple yet satisfying bodycounter as we follow Art, a demonic mime with a penchant for hunting two teenage girls at Halloween night and slaying whoever happens to be in the way just for the laughs. Make sure you're not squeamish!

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) - From one killer clown to another, though this one's cheesy affair would come as a welcome mental palette cleanser for those who're probably got fucked up by Art's ole' antics above. (Or not, depends on your ground, I guess) As a sort-of parody of The Blob, a spaceship full of clown-themed aliens arrives on Earth and wrecks havoc on a nearby small town, killing people left and right with cotton candy guns, popcorn monsters and man-eating shadow puppets. Who can stop these creatures? Why a couple of teens, of course!

Zombillenium (2017) - An animated flick based on a French comic book series, following a human health and safety inspector unwillingly becoming a part of a horror-themed amusement park he was assigned to, where real monsters reside in plain sight, after dying and returning as a demon. He now must find a way to escape the park to reunite with his daughter, but with his new monstrous form, how can he? A bit cheesy on the plot, but it has a lovely art and adorable characters (some of which has bouncy monster boobs. hurm), plus the animation is just beautiful at times!

Dave Made a Maze (2017) - A bit of a wild card, this surreal fantasy flick may not be overall horrific, but it does feature enough Minotaur monster action, nightmare situations and paper "blood". Thanks to "reasons", a normal dude with self-esteem problems named Dave somehow made a working maze (well, more like a labyrinth) out of nothing but cardboard, tape and probably other things lying around in his apartment. On the outside, the maze look more like a cardboard castle, but once Dave's girlfriend, friends and other random folk decided to step in to find him as he claims to be stuck, they're in for a huge surprise! Weird as hell, but it has that underlying warmth to its story. And then some.

The Devil's Candy (2015) - What's a Halloween without a little heavy metal and murder? This cult classic has a struggling painter and heavy metal enthusiast Jesse moving to a rural farmhouse with his family, not knowing about the apparent demonic forces residing in it and a dark history that's about to repeat itself. Demon worship, rock and roll, and gory kills, what more can you ask for?

Halloween III: Season of The  Witch (1982) - The runt of the Halloween franchise litter that most of us owe an apology to, this genuine cult favorite stood its ground as one of the more unique Halloween horror films out there for its outrageous concept of evil druids working as business men, plotting a mass genocide of children through cursed Halloween masks, a bit of science and an annoying TV commercial and jingle. And with Tom Atkins in the leading role, why the hell not?

Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018) - And, of course, why not the classic? But wait! Why watch the classic alone when you can do it back to back with last year's welcome contender, Halloween (2018) ?! Watching the night he came home all the way to the night he came home again back-to-back is one of the finest Halloween treat one can indulge in thanks to just how good and fitting the sequel is, exploring post-trauma stress and its effect with everyone involves while still keeping the bodycount scoreboard high in the digits. Start off slow and steady with the original, before ending it swift, cunning and bloody with the modern sequel, can't go wrong there!

And there you have my list of watchables this year! Something creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky. And now, if you would excuse me, I gotta go be ooky. Stay safe now and have a...

H A P P Y  H A L L O W E E N!!!

Also, who else is excited about Halloween Kills in 2020?

Stale Treats: Trick (2019)

Trick (2019)
Rating: **
Starring: Jamie Kennedy, Omar Epps, Tom Atkins

From the folks who brought us the watchable 3D "popcorn buddy" My Bloody Valentine (2009) Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, comes this sizable bodycounter that's determined to make a name for itself (and by "itself", I mean its killer) by aiming to be more than just a brooding dead teenager movie with a masked killer. All I can say to that is don't strain yourself too much on that determination coz you might slip a disc and hobble yourself!

Guess what? It slipped and hobbled.

Trick (2019) opens in Halloween 2015 at Benton, New York, where a group of drunken high schoolers are partying it up at someone's house, only for the debauchery to go bloody in bits as one of the costumed teens, a Patrick "Trick" Weaver (Thom Niemann), suddenly goes psycho on everyone there, killing five, injuring plenty and eventually getting a fire poker shoved into his gut.

The attack leaves Trick catatonic for a while until Detective Mike Denver (Omar Epps) decided to do a one-on-one with the terror teen at the hospital, unknowingly awakening something evil within the spree killer that leads to yet another round of murdering through out the halls and corridors before Denver and Sheriff Lisa Jayne fill Trick's guts with hot lead, causing him to crash and fall through a high rise window. And yet, upon checking, his body is nowhere to be found and blood trails seem to indicate our killer wandered into the open waters nearby where many assumed he drowned or froze to death.

A year later in Halloween 2016, a new series of killings plague another New York town and the perpetrator is described to be donning the same face-paint and black hoodie Trick were wearing the night he went nuts. The same spree killing happens again in 2017 Halloween at another New York town and this puts Detective Denver in a Samuel Loomis mindset, believing the blame falls on Trick who he very much believes is still alive and, most importantly, an embodiment of pure evil. When Trick personally went after him and two federal agent next Halloween in yet another New York town, Denver is kicked out of the FBI when the attack resulted to two federal agents dead, thus further fueling his increasingly crazed obsession on apprehending the elusive killer.

And in we go to the present; with Halloween right around the corner again, Denver remains alert for Trick's return and he soon gets what he wants when a body's found in Benton with its blood used to write the detective's name on a wall. It seems Trick, now a modern urban legend of sorts, is back to his old home town and he's ready to raise his usual brand of hell through bloodshed and mayhem, now with an added goal of finishing off those who stopped him in the past.

I can try to be forgiving for Trick (2019) as I really wanted to like this movie. It has potential, I can see that; the opening stab-a-thon was a nice juicy start and I do like the fact that this movie is attempting to make us think that there's more to our killer than just being another guy in a store-bought Halloween mask. Hell, I would even say that the twist in the last act was kinda clever, if only everything else about Trick isn't so boring.

The problem first rears its ugly head when the film decided to shove its double-digit killing skills in our faces for the first half hour, right after it somehow reenacts an abridged version of Halloween (1978). (Kids goes on random killing spree, taken to clinic, kid goes on another killing spree, gets shot multiple times and falls off a window only for their body to disappear. Everybody else is seeing the comparison, right?) The movie basically fast forwards itself to the present by showcasing a kill or two (Or three. Or four...) each year while the script proceeds to be feed us all the usual pretentiously cliched doomsayer /disgruntled cop/Ahab archetype quotes, something that could have been done for the sake of showing off how "cool" Trick can be as a killer. Usually, I'm okay with slasher villains snuffing out random folks to boost up the killcount but Trick (2019) handles this mostly in a lazy and hardly creative manner, seeing a good bulk of these murders are just showcasing offscreen disemboweled victims and our killer going crazy with the knife stabbing. That's twenty something minutes wasted on lazy murders where it could have been used for more creative exits like that one decent SAW (2003) - inspired noose set, or something useful like, I dunno, proper character and plot development since a part of this movie is trying to be a mystery thriller? (What good is a mystery when there's hardly anyone interesting?)

The rest of the movie fares little better; right after it is made evident Trick is back to his home town, the story cycles through a stalk-kill-chase loop that doesn't go anywhere new, still interjected with one or two predictable scripting that further kills any actual sense of dread and scare until it all accumulates to its goofy yet okay twist reveal that tries to be relevant with its talk of internet fame and the nature of violent criminals. Would have worked if I gave two shits about the story at that point.

This leaves Trick (2019) feeling overly shallow and contrived as a proposed "slasher-noir", absolutely lacking any genuinely likable traits to stick around for, this including our killer whose only bankable features are that he kills fast, his face is painted and his knife has his name carved on it. There is this supposed mystery behind Trick's apparent supernatural nature but all they did to imply this is to make him teleport. Teleport. Have you seen Valentine (2001)? Night School (1981)? Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)? Especially Jason Takes Manhattan? Them teleporting slashers are old hat, my friend, so the least the producers could have done is try to play more around other supernatural tropes rather than making a limber Micheal Myers clone.

To be fair, Trick (2019) is at least competently shot, though some of the shaky cam effects get pretty damn annoying at times. A few of the murders do get my seal of approval, like one that involves a tombstone. It's absurd scripting is also near parody (Just how much Loomis can you get, Mr Detective?) so I guess the film could still work as a bad yet cheesy fun slasher to chortle at, so long as one will overlook its underlying mystery thriller jig. I can't hate this enough to call it garbage, but I ain't that forgiving neither, so do what you want with Trick (2019). It's your damn money.

Now, if you would excuse me, I have a meeting with more competent murder mystery slashers. I think I'll start with Knife + Heart (2018)...

1 male repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 male repeatedly slashed with a knife
1 female repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 male had his throat cut with a knife, bled to death
1 female knifed to death
1 victim seen dead with a bloodied face
1 male had his throat slashed with an angled bonesaw
1 male gutted with an angled bonesaw
1 male knifed on the gut, throat sliced with a knife
1 female knifed to death
1 male repeatedly knifed on the back
6 victims mentioned found dead
1 female seen with her throat mutilated
1 male seen murdered
1 female seen murdered
1 male seen murdered
1 male decapitated with a weighed steel cable noose
1 female knifed to death
1 male seen murdered
1 female had her head smashed off with an industrial crane-swung tombstone
1 male knifed to death
1 male knifed on the head
1 female found disemboweled
1 male knifed to death
1 male found disemboweled
1 female bled to death from a cut throat
1 male knifed on the gut, falls and lands unto a car
1 male shot on the head
1 male knifed to death
1 male repeatedly knifed on the gut
Total: 35

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ain't Nothing Great Here: Pumpkins (2018)

Pumpkins (United Kingdom, 2018)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Dani Thompson, Craig Edwards, Maria Lee Metheringha

What rubbish.

Shite here is about a farmer who obsesses over his pumpkin patch and with the help of his live-in niece, has been creating some sort of pumpkin growth formula which he regularly sprays over his gourds. One day, a pair of wannabe punks have nothing to do so they opted to do the douchey thing of Sharpie-ing doodles on the pumpkins, an act so heinous that it freaked the old fart into a heart attack, upturning a canister of pumpkin growth formula as he falls to the dirt.

Next thing you know, the formula somehow gave the pumpkins sentience, one of them latching unto the farmer's body and transforming/resurrecting him into a pumpkin-headed killer. Niece sees what his uncle becomes and is rather okay with it (?!), so much so that she even gave him a knife and unleashed the freak to the country side so it can continue murdering random folks, from campers and wilderness survival class to boozed up hicks and few other unnamed casualties.

Oh, and I think it's Halloween because...pumpkins.

I can tell there's some imagination put into writing for Pumpkins (2018), especially seeing that the gourd-headed killer isn't the only threat in the film and little meat-eating Jack-o-lanterns gets a Critters (1986)-inspired treatment as they menace some of the victims, but the direction put into the film is just a dreck from beginning to start.

Like most low-budget shot-on-video atrocities, Editing is obviously cut-and-paste, scored with a soundtrack that attempts to be vintage but more or less ends up sounding "aged" in a barely appreciated way. Acting is a lot to be desired for just about anyone on screen here and so goes to the script they have to utter out much to our dismay, making the already lean "killer in the woods" story a tedious one to watch with hardly anything rewarding to pay us back. And what I meant by that is that the kills are mostly done offscreen, gore effects are a joke and the killer pumpkin man fails to be threatening. Or funny. Or oddly interesting. Or matter in regards to existing as they didn't even get to go through a worthwhile climax because there isn't any. (If there was, I couldn't tell. Or was the killer just walking away the climax? In case it was, that's how bland this travesty is so, yes, nothing rewarding)

If the kills and attacks have gone through more effort, or at least have the story balance out its ideas of having both a humanoid killer and ravaging killer Autumn gourds, Pumpkins (2018) could have been a fun, silly slasher/creature feature hybrid that is at least worth a small rent fee. But alas, even as another low-end throwaway horror film, it sucks.

1 male doused with acidic spit
1 male stabbed through the groin with a hunting knife
1 male found decapitated
1 female knifed to death offcamera, later seen beheaded
1 male killed offcamera, method unknown
1 male knifed through the throat
1 female knifed to death
1 male stabbed on the gut with a pitchfork
1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 male had his head crushed
1 male had an arm chopped off with an axe, killed
1 female gets a thrown axe to the back

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Your Classic Scarehouse Kill: Haunt (2019)

Haunt (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain

From Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the directors and writers who brought us the okay but overhyped monster movie A Quite Place (2018), comes this simple Fall-set slasher that's surprisingly generous in modest thrills.

In need of distraction from her abusive boyfriend, Harper (Katie Stevens) is coaxed by her two best roomies' into joining them in their Halloween night escapades at a local bar, where they meet and befriend Nathan (Will Brittain) and his two buddies. To keep that night's buzz going, the now group of six set their next course to a nearby remote "extreme haunt" advertised on a random flyer, not knowing that the masked and costumed people running it have no plans on letting them leave alive once they step in.

Haunt (2019), in its simplicity, run it trail as a back-to-basics bodycounter at most, with masked killers hunting teens and ending them through all means sharp and pointy, thus one can expect all the familiar slasher tropes of an arguably thin story (there was an attempt to fatten it up with a mystery, but obvious red herring was obvious), predictably bad decision making (Again, why split up? After witnessing an obvious murder?) and lackluster character dimensions. (The only one to get some backstory and development is our obvious final girl, while the rest are practically sacrificial lambs to the slasher dressed up as humans. To be fair, they were all well acted at least, both the kids and the killers)

Nothing strong in terms of actual scares too, mind you, as there are some parts of the movie where the slow and steady direction overstayed its welcome, most of which leading to either false scares or overseen curve balls which obviously didn't help the film regarding its fright factor. Nevertheless, taking notes from scare house slashers like The Funhouse (1980) and Dark Ride (2006), the film does the favorable grace of utilizing its tumbledown "extreme haunt" premise at great lengths, giving us a fair twist to what would have been a familiar stroll down dead teen lane as our casts are forced to go through and/or survive everything from simple trick rooms turned deadly to crawl-in raggedy death traps. With the way these set-ups are shot, a good amount of Haunt (2019)'s cinematography has that claustrophobic and/or barren isolated tone in mind, giving the film the creepy atmosphere and tight tension, their effectiveness here varying but present nevertheless.

The killers can also be treated as the movie's other notable strength, albeit lacking a stronger motive behind their killings. Without spoiling much, they're malicious for the sake of being malicious, seen without subtlety in their appearances behind the cheap Halloween disguises and the little whisper-croaks they say before going for the kill. This lack of proper explanation to what they want and why definitely gave them a mysterious edge and strong presence, though I'm sure there will be others who won't share this opinion with me. Still, often at times, I work with what I can get regarding a slasher villain and Haunt (2019) supplied an intimidating bunch for its run, dishing out real carnage.

At the end of it, Haunt (2019) does what it sets itself to be and seeing the gruesome practical effects used on a few memorable kills and the clunky traps laid upon our victims, I can say the film did well enough. Not too extreme, not too simple, it still has the pitfalls you would expect from the everyday dead teen horror, but crafted enough personal twists and freaky imagery from its modest production to give us this welcome sleeper hit. For a slasher-y festive Halloween watch, try pairing this back-to-back with 2018's Hellfest!

1 female burned on the face with a hot iron poker, disappears and presumably killed
1 female jabbed on the head with a hot iron poker
1 female stabbed though the head with a pitchfork
1 male brained, face peeled from the lips with a hammer claw
1 male shot on the head with a shotgun
1 female stabbed with a pitchfork
1 male had his head bashed in with a sledgehammer
1 male shot on the head
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
1 female repeatedly bashed on the face with a metal door
1 male brained with a bat
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 11

Sour Halloween Candy: Babysitter Massacre (2013)

Babysitter Massacre (2013)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Erin R. Ryan, Marylee Osborne, Joni Durian

Not wanting anymore bad blood among friends before they all ship out for college, Angela plans one last Halloween slumber party with her former babysitter club gal pals, the first they will have after an incident one Halloween night seven years ago that ended with one of them abducted and now considered deceased in absentia. Unbeknownst to them, the masked figure responsible for the kidnapping returns to finish what they started, taking their sweet time depopulating the neighborhood of one teenager at a time.

Feeling a whole lot like a throwback to late 80s do-it-yourself horror films, Babysitter Massacre (2013) introduces thin plot, heavy boobs and cheap gore through a production value of a couple of hundred thousand Dollars that undoubtedly shows and fails to be that entertaining.

In writing, Babysitter Massacre (2013)'s everything basic teen drama quirked up with that old "broken friendships being mended" party trick that tries its hardest to be significant and, truth be told, that dead horse of a plot line could not and will not save this film; while slashers aren't usually known for grandeur plotting, a lot of the good ones at least have a sense of direction and consistency within its character interactions, whilst Massacre here just resorted to filling in the gaps with countless annoying conversations and girly gossip that either goes nowhere or in circles, lacking no chemistry within its self-absorbed overacted girls.

Now, that's only half of the plot. The other half is where the slasher jig gets danced with two left feet, doubling down on gratuitous and voyeuristic T&A but lacking any memorable kill scenes due to majority of it taking place offcamera and those that does appear on screen are fast-cut edited and acted so cheaply, it's just embarrassing to watch as it led so much of the action a lot to be desired. Like no one would moan as if they're experiencing La petite mort while their fingernails are getting ripped off! Underplayed much? Surely, but the bad news crew doesn't stop there once we get a look at the killer's get up: a white featureless cloth mask that covers his entire head and a black jumper suit. I mean, yeah, it would look creepy in writing and probably in concept, but the way the film's shot, so crisp yet lackluster, the killer just looks awkward and ridiculous, with me half expecting them to trip unto something or start breathing frantically as they realize there are no holes on the damn thing over their head. Blood and Black Lace (1964) made it work because it is artsy, Babysitter Massacre (2013) couldn't since it's just trashy. And boring. And obviously cheap.

I guess if you can take anything from this movie, Babysitter Massacre (2013) can be hoot to poke fun at. After all, the ham it packs stinks up the whole movie to the point that it is so laughably bad, if you would look at it as a Z-grade shlock that deserves to be ripped apart for how inept it is, you'll certainly have a good time doing that and wouldn't feel bad about it. Plus, boobs. And butts. In and out of lingerie. Some people would approve, others wouldn't, all-in-all cheap exploit.

This is a hard pass. There are good do-it-yourself horror flicks out there and this movie ain't one of them. Not even close.

1 female implied killed with pliers
1 female had her fingernails pried off with pliers, throat cut with a knife
1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 male found murdered
1 female had her mouth and ear cut with a straight razor, throat sliced with a knife
1 male repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 female gutted with a knife
1 female had her neck crushed
1 male seen dead from face wounds
1 female scalded with boiling water, knifed on the head
1 female found stabbed to death
1 male found with throat cut
1 male found with throat cut
1 female found stabbed to death
1 male found with his eye stabbed out
1 female pepper sprayed, choked on her own vomit
1 female beaten with a hammer, claw buried into her chest
1 female strangled, neck crushed and snapped
1 male knifed in the gut, caught in house fire
1 female knifed, caught in house fire
Total: 20

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Got to see "Mr. J" today.

And the hype is real, Joker (2019) is one of the most compellingly beautiful films ever to be released in recent years, working so well as a dark character study of a broken man turned anarchic icon who wanted nothing more than to matter in the midst of real world troubles of poverty, mental illness and abuse, set in a glaringly realistic take on 1970s Gotham and starring Joaquin Phoenix in an Oscar-worthy performance.

Just a bit disappointed that no one walked out on the theater I was at. That would have been interesting. (A-Hyuck!) Nevertheless, if you are yet to see this, just keep in mind there will be no heroes in Spandex here. Nope. This is pure psychological crime drama with some shocking violence and thought-provoking moments, so if you're easily triggered, here's a puppy.

Otherwise, good luck and Keep Smiling!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Fashion Bug: Snapshot (1979)

Snapshot (Australia, 1979) (AKA "Day After Halloween", "The Night After Halloween", "One More Minute")
Rating: *
Starring: Chantal Contouri, Robert Bruning, Sigrid Thornton

In a probable attempt to cash in the stalker-stabber hype started by John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), this Ozploitation gets retitled as Day After Halloween during its American theater release and then The Night After Halloween for its video US release, even though the film itself have nothing to do with the Carpenter slasher classic, nor does it even take place in November 1st. Nope, what we have here is a thriller. A drama thriller. About fashion modeling and the grim exploits one can find themselves spiraling into with the profession, executed in grand Gouda with high brow acting and disco tunes.

In short, a dated feature length TV soap with nudity.
The story revolves around Angela (Sigrid Thornton), a meek hairdresser who finds herself unsatisfied with her working and living conditions, coaxed into doing fashion modeling by her (apparently famous) glamour friend Madalyn (Chantal Contouri). Though hesitant at first knowing how strict her mother is, Angela eventually gave in to the idea and starts doing nude photos for Madalyn's photographer friend who's handling a "Bermuda Cool" cologne ad campaign. Things go somewhat okay-ish for Angela until, after a couple more modeling gigs, she gets conned into doing shadier photo sessions, particularly the sleazy kind, and everything goes downhill here.

In addition to this, there's also a subplot of Angela's ex-boyfriend going stalker on her, mostly implied through a looming ice cream truck that keeps following her and her friend, as well as indications of break-ins that have Angela's clothes ripped or her finding butcher shop pig heads on her bed. (Eat yer heart out, Jack Woltz. Or, maybe not. At least your horse head had blood in it...) I guess this the "horror" part that this movie tries to market as a "conspiracy of terror" but, truth be told, its hardly exciting and the end result is pretty laughable by all standards pertaining to thriller cinema as the stalker is just a cringy whiner and there's minuscule blood shed because killcount? What killcount?
If you're in it for the cheese then you're in luck because Snapshot (1979) has the hammiest lines and soundtrack lyrics, the latter even includes a theme for Angela herself, done with a subtlety rivaling Narcissus's ego. I'm absolutely sure this didn't help sell this movie among horror enthusiasts but it may have been worth a chuckle or two for those genre film fans hunting down a bad movie to poke fun at. Aside from that, this Ozploitation cheapie is a lost cause and it ain't worth a fright junkie's attention given its slow pacing, lack of likable characters, overblown fondue fountain and, oh right, the story being really nothing more than a rising model's sudden fall into sleaze, drugs and booze which you may or may not have missed at this point. There are a few good hits of interesting set-pieces and notes that did help me stay patient with this film but the overall dramatics is an overwhelmingly drag so I ain't too please with this as an entertainment piece. Not one bit.

So, a "Halloween slasher" Snapshot (1979) is not, but a boring movie about a stupid little stick figure with poofy lips who has the worst of luck of being taken advantage by multiple sleaze bags and a fucking ice cream truck. Horror!

1 male set ablaze
1 male crushed against a wall with an ice cream truck
Total: 2

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Basic Freak: Candy Corn (2019)

Candy Corn (2019)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: P.J. Soles, Tony Todd, Courtney Gains

As a Halloween tradition, a group of small town teens bully the local outcast Jacob Atkins, whose father owns and operate a clunky carnival and freak show called "Sideshow Spook House Spectacular" under his face-painted persona "Dr. Death". Jacob mostly keeps to himself and quietly braves the bullying but this year, he decided to finally fight back, only to be rewarded with the bullies giving him a beating that eventually kills him. Distraught from losing his son and angered at those responsible tailing it from the scene, Dr. Death swears to get even and revives his son with an ancient spell, turning the boy into a masked revenant out for blood.

Being a throwback of sorts to the good old 80s slashers, (probably the revenge-themed Southern gothic Pumpkinhead (1988) to be more precise) Candy Corn (2019) could have been a nod-and-wink type that throws its bare bone plot in a vat of cheese and self-awareness as most slasher throwbacks nowadays do, but it instead goes through a more sullen and serious story-driven approach which has its ups and downs.

For the positives, Pancho Moler of Rob Zombie's 31 (2016) and Courtney Gains of Children of The Corn (1984) did a spectacular job as Dr. Death and Sheriff Bramford respectively, two fathers whose agendas bloodily cross with one another as the bullies' ringleader happen to be Bramford's son. Their sour interaction sounds and feel often natural, but Moler pretty much chewed the scenery whenever he's on screen, with his Voodoo doctor get-up and air of unquestioned authority over the small cavalcade of misfits working for him, one of which happens to be played by Tony "Candyman" Todd. Other notable faces include P.J. Soles from the original 1978 Halloween appearing as a cheery police receptionist and Sky Elobar of the love-it-or-hate-it The Greasy Strangler (2016) (I hate it), seen here as yet again another greasy looking slob existing only to pad up the killcount.

The film's flaw, oddly enough, would be that the main teens responsible for Jacob's death (and one random girlfriend) are either unlikable or uninteresting, a crud move for any revenge themed slasher, especially one that is as plot-focused as Candy Corn (2019). It makes a good bulk of the story tedious to sit through and mostly predictable, part of the blame falling on the cliched and shallow scripting made for these teens, so much so that they felt like the random encounters slasher villains would kill just for the sake of boosting up the kill count, only here they've been given a shred worth of personality and faux focus. Sad, really, since most of the kills inflicted upon them are somewhat decent with their effects, both practical and digital, but the lack of real personality and depth to these kids made the murders lacking that justified punch, another con for the film.

Perhaps if its execution was less straight-faced, or at least evened its focus, Candy Corn (2019) could have smoothened down the clanks its serious dramatic approach caused and ran a bit better and tighter. Thankfully, the movie does have the grace to look and sound good with all the chilly Fall vibe and vintage John Carpenter-inspired synths at work, so as forgettable as it is, the movie is far being completely unwatchable. Not a lot more to say but, if you think you're in the mood for a simple dead teenager film then this is a film to consider. Not a complete recommendation, but worth at least a viewing.

1 male beaten to death
1 male disemboweled
1 male had his spine torn out from his back
1 female corpse found rotting under a bed
1 male found bleeding from his ears, dies
1 female had her tongue torn off, killed
1 male brained with a lead pipe, head carved off with a knife
1 male had his arms torn off, teeth pried off
Total: 8