Thursday, March 26, 2020

Glitchy Bloody Poltergeist Footage: Paranormal Demons (2018)

Paranormal Demons (Germany, 2018)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Sascha von Hinrichs, David Brückner, Ildiko Preszly

Paranormal Demon's quote-unquote tagline basically sums up what to expect from the movie; it's a found footage supernatural horror ala the Paranormal Activity franchise, with a climax introducing a masked killer wielding a halberd to do murder like them Friday The 13th movies. Nothing beats a straightforward marketing I guess, especially since there's really nothing else going on for the movie save for that plot.

In that sense, the story is mostly predictable in its flow, starting with a pair of college kids filming a documentary project about disproving the supernatural and the main focus for their claim of falsehood is a particular footage of a supposed demon attack they found lurking around the web. Seeing the location of the attack happens to be just a car ride away, the duo recruit some help (Or as I like to call them, bodycount fodder!) and plan on driving there so they can investigate and prove that the footage was faked. But not before stopping by your usual doomsayer (or two) who warns them not to go to where the "Devil" lives. Can you guess if they listened?

A sizable chunk of this first act is where the supernatural aspect of the film makes its rounds with varying levels of subtlety, yet still trapping itself with as many paranormal cliches you probably have come across other titles dealing with hauntings, like seances, poltergeist activity and, seeing this is a found footage film, glitchy camera distortions. Noticeably, however, this is all what Paranormal Demons has to offer in regards of "spooky ghostly visuals", just repetitive flickering effects edited to suggest the otherworldly and gimmicky camera work that is an insult to the word inept, so it isn't hard to feel very little investment to the supernatural threat or the scares it is suggesting.

This, in turn, makes the movie feel padded out, more over considering in between these uninteresting scares are cringe-worthy scripting and bland characters that failed to grasp some suggested opportunities the story could have used for conflict, making itself at least a worthwhile watch. But, instead, the intention appears to be cheesing up these characters to near laughable exaggeration before ending them in gruesome ways, thus the slasher element of the last act surprisingly felt natural in its stride. A confused, yet satisfying turn that is overall welcomed.

Now, this isn't to say that the slasher elements were handled the best here in Paranormal Demons. In fact, the killer's design is average and the killcount is hardly that high nor is it creative (plus there is the nagging matter that this is footage captured by a guy who wont stop filming, even if the people in front of him were getting their heads torn off!) but I would say that it is, at least, watchable for how gory it can be and how well some of the found footage elements were used to make the kills and stalk-and-hack sequences that more entertaining. The finale it all leads to, sadly, lacks any real punch to it, but for what it's worth, the whole thing could have ended worse.

Honestly, I can't entirely put down this film as a waste of time since I did enjoy the cheesier side of its direction and, again, the bodycount heavy last act catered well enough to my inner gorehound. So, I guess what I'm saying is that this isn't for everyone, but those in the mood for a guilty pleasure, Paranormal Demons (2018) is a good candidate for a rent and a watch.

1 male had his throat cut
1 male killed, method unknown
1 male hit by an incoming car
1 male had his head torn off
1 female gutted with a sickle
1 male hoisted from the neck, disemboweled
1 male stabbed with a halberd
1 male slashed with a halberd
1 female dragged away, presumably killed
Total:  9

Monday, March 23, 2020

A Californian Survival Trip: Darkslide (2020)

Darkslide (Portugal/USA, 2020) (AKA Road to Red)
Rating: **
Starring: Sean Gray, Chris Blasman, Renee Dorian

After finding out that his kid brother Paul plans on ditching his position as a world champion skateboarder so he could live a freer life, Bruce loses his cool and confronts his bro, chastising him for his brash decisions and how he's wasting his talents as a sportsman by giving up. Paul retaliates by driving off in the middle of the night, never to be heard of until three weeks later when his empty car's found parked at a remote alpine lake, along with a surfboard floating on the freezing water, but no trace of his body.

Bruce, feeling guilty that he caused his brother's disappearance, decides to make things right by joining four of his friends on an epic road trip one day to film Paul's planned movie, all the while enjoying everything California can offer from strong waves for surfing on to flat dunes for grinding a gnarly board. All is well until the gang opted to stop by Paul's last spot as a way of pay respect, not knowing they'll discover what really happened to Bruce's brother and that they'll soon have to suffer the same fate.

Lengthily running for two hours, Darkslide (2020) is practically two one-hour movies in between a transition, with the first being a sports-themed road drama hammily narrated by the movie's main protagonist as he shares philosophy regarding the "Californian dream" and his thoughts concerning Paul's disappearances. It's absent of horror unless you count the cheesy dialogue as nightmarish for the hilariously wrong reasons, which might as well be the only worthwhile jig in this half since it does get funnier on a shallow B-grade bad movie way the more it tries to be dramatic. (Not to say it doesn't work at some moments, but the tongue-in-cheek approach weighs in more to consider the direction as "balanced") There's also some sweet camera work and skate and surf stunts to be seen for those who are into those, all until the movie does a 180 on the tone and shifts everything into survival horror mode.

Now, this next half loses some points for originality as its basically a cheaper, not-so-ballsy-gory clone of The Descent (2005), with four out of five of the characters surviving a nasty fall and finding themselves trapped inside a cave maze with something lurking around with plans on either killing them or procreating with them. A good chunk of this is spent on the usual bickering, planning and claustrophobic amateur spelunking, and the horror elements isn't going to kick in until the last twenty minutes. Needless to say, Darkslide (2020) is a challenge to sit through if you're not patient or if you have a low tolerance for B-grade cheesy plotting as the last act's hardly that exciting, especially with the reveal as to what's hunting them in the cave.

Still, I can tell there's an idea of a working story or at least a fun one somewhere amidst all of that chunky cheddar and borrowed horror pieces so I will give the film some slack for their efforts. Sadly, there isn't enough of a rewarding payoff after all of that, so I still find Darkslide hard to recommend to anyone unless they're as curious as a cat veering dangerously close to an electrified fence; if you think you can handle it, then by all means jump over and try this movie out. If not, then you're gonna have a really long time tolerating this movie. A really long.

1 male found with a mauled face
1 male found dead, body hoisted on cave wall and left to rot
1 female had her face bashed in with a skateboard
1 male bitten on the neck, chest pried open
1 male had his gut pried open, bled to death
Total: 5

Friday, March 20, 2020

Blinded Birds: Knife + Heart (2018)

Knife + Heart ("Un couteau dans le coeur") (France, 2018)
Rating: ****
Starring:  Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury, Kate Moran

Summer of Paris, 1979; gay pornographer Anne Parèze (Vanessa Paradis) is terribly reeling from her recent breakup with her lover and editor Loïs (Kate Moran) and will soon have her wits and compassion tested when one of her actors, out one night to celebrate his latest film, was found killed at a leather and jockstrap bar. Initially unshaken by the news, Anne is instead inspired by the atrocity to create her most ambitious project, a pornographic murder thriller called Homocidal. This, of course, sparks disgust from some of her co-workers who are outraged by this exploit, as well as worry from the rest as their number starts to suspiciously drop like flies the more they proceed with the filming. It wasn't until Anne gets an encounter with a masked figure that she starts to take this personally, but at that point, could it all be too late?

Drenched in neon glow and electronic synth, Knife + Heart (2018) strives to get the feel and look of an early 70s Mario Bava giallo fashioned around a stylized underbelly of pre-AIDS crisis France where sex and drugs were norms to be explored and enjoyed. With this, one would expect an exploitative sharp-edged horror thriller full of gore and explicit smut but, surprisingly with some softcore visuals and campy elements, the movie instead worked through its casts to tell its story and the result is a melancholic yet strangely warm mystery with a modest bodycount and broken sympathetic characters.

This is far from claiming Knife+Heart is a tamed beast, mind you, as much of the exploitative elements can still be seen around the first act where the film feels greatly like an adult slasher/giallo hybrid. A notable pair of rather brutal dispatches around this act have strong sexualized feel to them, juxtaposed only with enough stylized editing, camera work and scoring for an arthouse finish that kept the film decently away from being labeled as a simple yet violent erotica trash, but as the movie progresses into its second act which focus more on Anne's personal investigation on the killings, the direction have the murders parked back to let the story focus more on our lead's amateur snooping, as well as finding and fighting off her own personal demons.

It is around this part of the plot that the film dove into cheesier territories that honestly felt too fantastical compared to what's already happening and I'm not just talking about the spiritual symbolism that got chucked in for the film's need for sophisticated babbling, or that random genetic diseases given to some random guy just to give him monster claws. Basically, there's hint that Anne have some sort of connection to the killer and it has something to do with a dream-like vision of a burning house she's been getting throughout the film. It is eventually explained what this burning house is alluding to, but I find this reveal awfully weak since it just sounded and felt too coincidental to earn any solid hold.

On the other hand, the reveal did gave the killer a sympathetic backbone as, without spoiling much, it ties strongly to their motive as to why their going after Anne's filming crew. It is difficult to follow for a while as you work the pieces together but once the emotional finale runs its course, you can't but feel a tad sorry for the masked slasher considering what they have gone through.

Frankly, despite the convoluted nature of its mystery, Knife + Heart still works well enough as a horror movie thanks to Gonzalez’s and Mangione’s excellent scripting, making our queer characters little like the usual gay caricatures seen in these types of films and more like actual people with shades of insecurities and a need to feel loved and belonged. This could have been explored further with an edge seeing that the movie did hinted some drama regarding social injustices against queer communities but the normalized treatment dulled the blade enough to the point this indifference more or less could be dropped. Might be a good thing for some but I feel this was a missed opportunity to give some of our characters more angles to develop with.

Definitely for mature audiences for all of the boundaries considered and broken, with some good humor thrown in from time to time to keep the film far from being too serious and gloom, Knife + Heart (2018) is a surprisingly intriguing queer slasher that promises thrilling murders, wholesome laughs and genuine heartbreak. Not everybody's cup of tea, but a definite keeper for genre fanatics!

1 male repeatedly stabbed in the rectum with a bladed dildo
1 male unknowingly fellates a bladed dildo, knifed through the head
1 male repeatedly knifed on the back
1 male caught on fire (flashback)
1 male found bleeding to death from a cut throat
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male knifed to death
Total: 7

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

Man, This Coronavirus Outbreak is Sure Getting Out of Hand...

So much so that people are being asked into staying indoors.

Welp, fine by me! Thank goodness it's Friday! The 13th! 

Let the slaughter-marathon begin!

(But in all seriousness, stay safe everybody! Stay calm and drink your fluids!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A Carver And His Trees: Bump (2007 Comic)

BUMP (2007 Limited Series Comic)
Rating: ***
Author: Mark Kidwell
Artist: Mark Kidwell
Number of issues: 4

Long ago -about a decade or so- after American horror magazine company Fangoria ventured over into producing films, sponsoring conventions and running online TV and radio shows, they decided to branch out to another form of print media and out came Fangoria Comics with two of its first titles debuting in 2007. These were Beneath the Valley of The Rage, a prequel comic to a low budget 2007 zombie movie called The Rage, and the topic of today's discussion, BUMP.

Penned and drawn by Mark Kidwell of Image Comic's zombie series "'68", BUMP follows a dark-and-stormy-night situation where a family of three and a trio of teenagers get stranded in the middle of a backwoods road after a thunderstruck tree causes an accident. Looking for shelter, the six finds a nearby farmhouse occupied by a frail old lady, not knowing this is the infamous Old Dill Farmhouse where, back about 30 years ago, a serial killer named Edgar "Eddie" Dill did his gruesome deeds and was the last place he was ever seen alive at. That night, however, with new fresh victims to slaughter, Eddie returns from the grave and whatever carnage he has planned for these people, he's not doing it alone...

A mishmash of backwoods slasher roots ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and violent supernatural cabin-of-horrors jigs reminiscent of The Evil Dead (1981), BUMP hails a decent concept for both a new slasher and breed of ravenous creatures, but not enough of a concrete story to make more of these beasts other than the big lug has a crusade against dirty girls and that the monsters like to rend and bite. With only four issues to run the story, I'm not really that surprised that this limited series felt like a low-budget B-flick filled with predictable tropes and momentary slow bits to loom around the more otherworldly aspects of the plot, though considering that the story does toy around with the idea of building its characters and the mythos surrounding Eddie and his army, I expected some substantial lore and world building would be at least introduced and followed through.

Truth be told, BUMP instead preferred to keep things mostly in the dark and just get into the meat of the horror as much as possible, may it be a mad slasher with a speech impediment impaling people with carving tools or wooden "Treehuggers" clawing and tearing flesh apart. It delivers on the gory art and monster violence masterfully enough through expressive character designs (Well, somewhat expressive. Half of them often drawn looking dazed for some reason...) and detailed horror sequences but, again, I really believe that the short issue run was what chipped and dented this mini-series down into a standardized but still readable horror comic when it seriously could have been better. Heck, the story doesn't even have a satisfying finale as just when you thought the plot will lead to an interesting reveal or a climatic brawl, Eddie simply stabs and hexes his way into winning at the end so abruptly, it led to a rather unearned cliffhanger that just felt lazy.

I'd heard through the grapevine that (apart that there's a failed plan on adapting this into big screen. Starring SAW series' Tobin Bell of all people) Kidwell did expanded BUMP's story through his own novelization and I do hope I will get my hands on a copy one day. Again, the story has potential to be a fun B-Grade horror piece that I'm earnest will be more enjoyable if its flaws were fixed so here's hoping that the book will be (hopefully is) an improvement. Until then, this is a comic that I could love for its simple entertainment but ironically hate for its shortcuts and wasted opportunities. Nuff' said.

1 male gutted with a knife
1 boy possessed, mangled from the inside
1 female ran through with an old hand drill
1 elderly female pushed through a window, impaled on the neck with a glass shard
1 male mauled to pieces
1 male mauled apart
1 female caught in a gas explosion
1 male ran through with an old hand drill
1 male possessed, mangled from the inside
1 male killed offscreen
Total: 10

Monday, March 2, 2020