Thursday, July 30, 2020

Meat Pies and Rare Tigers: Dying Breed (2008)

Dying Breed (Australia, 2008)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Nathan Phillips, Leigh Whannell, Bille Brown

It's been years since her sister was found dead after traveling to Tasmania and Zoologist Nina puts it to herself to honor her and bring closure to the loss by continuing her late sibling's research on the Tasmanian Tiger, a supposedly extinct marsupial. Joined by her boyfriend Matt, his best friend Jack, and Jack's latest female companion, Rebecca, the group travels to the same wilderness where the tiger's tracks were recently found, running afoul with some locals who may or may not have sinister intentions. Not too long, someone starts stalking the four, hungering for the taste of raw meat. 

Dying Breed (2008)
is one of them titles that did all the right things but I can't really put myself to enjoying it any more than I could; I, for a start, like how it plays around with character dynamics and plot building as we do get plenty of scenes with our four main casts just hanging around, experiencing local sensibilities and feeling each other's vibes. It helps when the script accompanying their performance is fortunately competent enough to give us more than your one-dimensional meat bags waiting to be slaughtered. This leads to, in turn, a slow burn of sorts wherein we're teased a bit with false scares and hints to past atrocities that's glaringly obvious to what it's implying, eventually stepping into bloody bodycounter territory which brings me to my next point.

At the end of it all, the plot basically devolves into another inbred cannibal slasher-type that ties in Tasmania's true crime figure Alexander Pierce, an Irish convict transported to the island when it was then known as Van Diemen's Land, allegedly cannibalizing on his fellow inmates during multiple escapes in order to survive. The effort of exploiting this figure by throwing in this idea of a clan breeding for the sake of keeping bloodlines alive is well appreciated, but it's really nothing new. Not with the likes of the Wrong Turn movies or The Hills Have Eyes remake films going about with inbred mutants killing and eating people. With this, the payoff is simply too standardized, if not underwhelming for my liking, but it still comes with decent-looking murders and a downer ending that's effectively disturbing so, frankly, not a complete loss.

With its lush cinematography still pleasing in an aesthetic sense and its direction pacing the plot fluidly, you got to give credit when credit is due and Dying Breed (2008) has the good worth of being watchable at least. Yes, lacks anything new to be excited over (that and a convincing CG Tasmanian tiger), but that doesn't disregard the production's efforts to keep this movie afloat and be moderately enjoyable. If you're not looking for anything too complex and would just like a simple slasher with a plot flow, buckets of blood and basic thrills, you can start off with this little number.

1 male had his neck bitten open
1 female found tortured and drowned
1 female had her neck snapped
1 male hacked on the head with a cleaver
1 male had his neck caught and crushed by an animal trap
1 male axed on the chest, falls off a bridge
1 female had her throat cut
1 male cannibalized
Total: 8

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Snowflake's Just Whacked: Triggered (2019)

Triggered (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Meredith Mohler, Jesse Dalton, Sam Furman

Social Justice Warriors. The easily-offended culture of modern times. A horror story of its own if I say so myself, so why not mold a slasher movie out of it?

Annoyingly and aggressively woke teen Callee Bishop (Meredith Mohler) finds offense at almost everything, from assuming an unborn baby's gender to using chopsticks as hair accessories. She's desperately trying to get everybody to side with what she sees as reasonable views of fair and appropriation, though it often (and unsurprisingly) leads to people just rolling their eyes out, or giving her dumbfounded looks. Callee, more or less, just wants some attention and the opportunity for one comes crashing in soon enough, in the worst way possible. 

After accidentally braining a girl dead in the school's bathroom during detention, Callee and her gay bestfriend Ian (Jesse Dalton) devise a plan to pin the manslaughter to the Jackson Ripper, a slasher currently hacking up babysitting teens around town. The two also pose as victims of the staged attack to cover their tracks, as well as milk out some of that sweet small town fame as survivors, which of course starts to get into Callee's already big head and transforming herself into a local celebrity. It isn't long before the Jackson Ripper got wind of this so-called attack, though, thus Callee's plan backfiring horribly as the slasher now sets their eyes on finishing them.

Not gonna lie, this one's a tough cookie to sit through. Not because it's thought-provokingly deep or ultra-violent, but rather it gets across its point of satirizing easily triggered snowflakes all too well, so much so that it's first half hour centering on Callee felt like an actual hour. Or three. Mohler really nailed her part as one of them irritating irritable creatures bound by hate and aggression for things like non-Asians eating sushi or public schools doing prayers because, God forbid, said prayers are gonna offend some people. I commend her for the effective acting, but the matter that she's the protagonist and we have to listen to her character's exaggerated self-righteous bullshit really tests one's patience and self-control to not press the remote's fast-forward button. Or just stop the movie all in all.

Through some higher power's good grace however, once Callee commits her act of accidental murder and ropes her only friend into it, Triggered becomes more tolerable of a watch and actually spins an interesting turn in direction. Apart from the usual breakdowns of internet fame and its downsides, the film also found a way to evolve the Ian character into the second main lead, focusing greatly on his attempts to swoon the closeted jock he's crushing on, all the while taking in the brunt of the guilt and anxiety from the crime they just committed. It's mostly teen drama, coming-of-age comedy and a small slice of thriller of the blackmail variety, with the slasher elements getting juggled in and out until the last act where it finally gets to be played straight. For a movie with a running time of almost two hours, this again may test a lot of viewers but I personally don't mind sitting through it as the slowly devolving friendship between Callee and Ian, and the latter's growing independence from his "friend" make for an intriguing watch.

This being said, the slasher bits are in par with your usual low-budget slashening affairs; the kills are bloody and fair in body count, though the effects are limited to splashy red make-up work and stylized editing. The killer's masked and cloaked get-up is heavily inspired by the same slasher wardrobe worn by the Red Queen killer from the 1972 giallo The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, only with a blonde wig. There is a decent reveal that ties most of the events nicely (read, most), forwarding to a conclusion that's altogether satisfying as it is insane with its abundance of unlocked door cliches, someone going Mama Voorhees and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)‘s Amanda Wyss as one of the final girls.

Director Christopher Wesley Moore is no stranger to films with touchy subjects, with his previous 2016 slasher offering Blessed Are The Children tackling abortion and his other 2019 horror entry A Stranger Among The Living centering on the psychological and supernatural aftermath of a school shooting. It seems fitting on his end that Triggered (2019) satirically and comically covers the attention-seeking hypocritical madness of modern Social Justice and I'm glad I gave it a shot. Albeit partially unbearable and overly long, it still offers topical curiosities and a bloody good enough payoff for the trouble, poking fun at misguided people whose aggressive goals to better the world push the cause further back than forward whenever it's not playing around the classic slasher scenario. 

If you see yourself as a composed and stoical horror fan with enough time for plot and character driven stories, you may want to keep give this a look.

1 female seen with throat cut
1 female knifed to death
1 female brained against an edge
1 male knifed through the jaw
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 female gets chopsticks stabbed into her ears
1 male bludgeoned to death with a frying pan
1 male hacked to death with a hatchet
1 female found dead with a throat cut
1 female brained to death with a hammer
1 female gutted with a knife, stabbed in the back
Total: 11

Monday, July 27, 2020

Random Thought Of The Day: Child's Play 3 (1991)

So, is Child's Play 3 (1991) implying that for the past eight years since Chucky got killed in the previous movie, nobody bothered to remove his gnarled-up mass of fleshy bleeding plastic? 

Were they too confused on what to make of it?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

I Want Some Bloody Drama: Framed (2017)

Framed (Spain, 2017)
Rating: **
Starring: Daniel Horvath, Àlex Maruny, Enric Auquer 

A new streaming platform called Framed is sweeping the globe in popularity for its supposed easy accessibility, thus it isn't surprising that it has a dark side as those with much more ill intent can use it to stream their sick deeds such as live porn, terrorist acts and axe murders over the internet with ease. (Oh, and some guy eating his own shit. No, really)

Somewhere in Spain is a group of teenagers gathered to celebrate a friend's final night with them before they go working abroad. What these youngsters weren't prepared for, however, is getting their night turned against them as three psychos break into the house to play a cruel game of cat-and-mouse, ending in torture and death just for the thrills of the psychos' audience via Framed.

With this, Framed is practically another one of those cautionary horror flicks warning us about the dangers of viral fame and social media, satirizing one's shallow need to get attention through likes, faves and viewership, even if it meant being famous for infamy. It's a tale told dozens of times and over, though this movie tries to sweet talk us with a torture porn-cum-home invasion approach that, frankly, just feels like a gorier take of Michael Haneke's superior Funny Games. (Both 1997 and 2007 version, they're pretty much the same movie) It's not really gonna win much for originality and perhaps it's the matter that I've seen enough home invasion flicks that Framed's take on a brutal torture show feels overly stagnated for me, although I will commend the countless times this movie subverted my expectations, as well as a few inventive torture set-pieces.
The dark humor in the writing does bring out the mean spirited tone of the story, especially when it comes to scripting the leading villain (who's simply credited as Invasor 1) who comes across like a social media-obsessed mix of Patrick Bateman from the American Psycho franchise and Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of The Carribean film series. In fact, he's probably one of the movie's stronger elements, as actor Àlex Maruny really went all out swagging a threatening, controlling, unhinged yet flamboyant slasher with a vision for the carnage he is inflicting. 

Tally in an impressive looking production quality despite the supposed minuscule budget, leading to gore effects reaching top-notch visceral carnage and some so-so editing, and you still got this watchable, empathetic and very draining horror film that may not dent the face of a movie sub-genre, but you got to hand it some notice for its effort. Not my tall glass of social media horror satire, but I'm sure there's an audience for Framed out there 

1 female taken, presumably killed
1 male brained to death with a baseball bat
1 male seen having his eyes gouged (clip)
1 victim beaten to death with a retractable club (clip)
1 dog stomped to death
1 male had his neck bitten open
1 male hacked on the neck with an axe
1 female eviscerated with a buzzsaw
1 female eviscerated with a buzzsaw 
1 male stabbed on the chest with a machete
1 male shot 
1 female shot dead
1 male knifed to death
Total: 13

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Halloween School Girl Spirits: Pumpkin Night (Part 1) (2016-2020)

Pumpkin Night ("パンプキンナイト") (2016-2020, Part 1 of an ongoing manga series)
Rating: **1/2
Author: Seima Taniguchi
Artist: Masaya Hokazono
Number of Issues: 4 Volumes

So I found out about this manga series after watching a video about it in Youtube, described as your run-in-the-mill cheesy 80s slasher in Japanese comic book format. At least as a start. 

In the first arc of this gory saga (dubbed "Part 1", spanning over a total of 33 chapters plus a side chapter and an epilogue), it follows Naoko Kirino, a heavily disfigured girl who escaped a mental hospital by slaughtering countless patients and staffs. As the now Jack-o-Lantern headed slasher "Pumpkin Night", she methodically stalks, tortures and kills five of her former classmates, bullies who broke her body and damaged her mind after they pulled the one prank that went too far during one Halloween party.

For nineteen chapters, Pumpkin Night (Part 1) is your ultra-violent revenge slasher horror that borderlines into torture porn and splatter flick territory for the gruesome details put to each kill drawn, courtesy of artist Masaya Hokazono. At times, the kills can get pretty disturbing for the amount of brutality subjected to the targets, whether they're alive or already dead, but there are occasions wherein it can get too silly to be taken seriously, particularly on the matter of how some of these deaths can get too cartoonish to be even considered possible. (Like how a pumpkin scooper will be strong enough to scoop off a good chunk of skull!) 

The story accompanying this violence is cheesy and simple enough; it's your classic Slaughter High (1986)-type plot where a bullied teen returns as an insane and utterly sadistic slasher, done in a way that the story goes through loops of cliched characters and plot developments, often ringing in one or two genius moments (Naoko pulling off the ole' switcheroo on a body of a murdered classmate at a hospital, so she could listen in to her victims discussing what to do about the killings), as well as its share of creepiness. (One of the teens finding Naoko, without her mask, all scarred up and grinning, inside a crowded elevator with them) Most of the chapters tend to focus on the build-up of a murder, setting the scene up for a torture porn-esque death trap that, at times, tends to go on forever if not side-stepping into flashbacks that detail what lead to all of this, which more often than not involves Naoko's bullying. 

Around the second half of the story is when Pumpkin Night (Part 1) lags around the idea of political power play and re-introduce side characters as the new main ones. Without spoiling much, one of the major players got seemingly killed off in a gutsy move on the author's behalf around these parts, so the Pumpkin Mask persona evolves from a killer straight out of a bad slasher movie to something like the titular character from The Phantom of Paradise (1974) if Tim Burton had his way designing it. Not a bad turn, admittedly, as these last chapters did still play around the identity of being a slasher film-inspired manga, but it felt rather empty and drags the story away from a quicker and more satisfyingly simple conclusion for the sake of adding more bodies to the count. I mean, I get it, the author probably didn't want Pumpkin Night to always get the upperhand as she's practically slaying people like a kid crushing ants with their thumbs, but its needlessly complicated and prolonged, especially if the end result is still the same overpowered killer knifing and burning armed muscle-bound thugs left and right with ease.

For our trouble's worth, at least this arc's ending has this hilariously over-the-top final kill, with promises of a possibly more supernaturally-inclined (?) continuation at its epilogue. Pumpkin Night, from what it is offering, is no great manga in regards to its cheap and messy story but, so far, it has the B-grade charms of a violent horror movie whose main purpose is to dish out as many graphic (and juicy) kills as possible, regardless the plausibility of it all. If you love slashers like Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness (1986) or, Heaven help you, The Summer of Massacre (2011), then give this cheesy trash reading a try! 

1 female seen nearly decapitated (chapter 1)
1 male seen with a missing jaw (chapter 1)
1 male seen impaled and disemboweled with a wooden plank (chapter 1)
9 victims seen slaughtered (chapter 1)
1 male found with his skull sliced open, brain scooped out (chapter 1)
1 female had her eyes torn out with a pumpkin scooper, ran over and mangled by a truck (chapter 1)
1 male gets a knife through the head (chapter 2)
1 male gets a metal pole skewered through his nose (chapter 4)
1 female knifed through the head (chapter 5)
1 female gets a metal pipe shoved through her mouth, impaled through head (chapter 5)
1 female knifed in the eye (chapter 6)
1 male has his head slaughtered with a bonesaw (chapter 6)
1 male and 1 female gets thrown surgical tools to the backs, slaughtered (chapter 6)
1 female electrocuted with a live wire (chapter 6)
1 female repeatedly stabbed in the eyes with a syringe, head crushed with a folding chair (chapter 10)
1 male gets his throat sliced with broken syringes (chapter 10)
1 female knifed through the head (chapter 15)
1 male knifed, had his jaw broken off with a claw hammer (chapter 19 bonus comic)
1 male found murdered, body left in a canal (chapter 20)
1 male repeatedly assaulted with a knife, smothered with a pillow (chapter 25)
3 males set ablaze (chapter 28)
1 male flipped unto the pavement, skull cracked (chapter 29)
1 male knifed in the groin (chapter 29)
1 male caught inside an immolated car, burned to death (chapter 30)
1 male had his head cracked with a knife handle and gets a bottle of acid shoved into the wound, decapitated (chapter 33)
Total: 35

As Real As A Bludgeoning Can Get: Open 24 Hours (2018)

Open 24 Hours (2018)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Vanessa Grasse, Brendan Fletcher, Cole Vigue

It's been two weeks since her release from a mental hospital and Mary White finds herself still suffering from paranoid hallucinations caused by her PTSD from the crimes she endured. As a mean to remediate herself back to society, she applies as an attendant at Deer Gas Market, a remote Missouri gas station. By luck, she's hired by the station's friendly but wary owner and is to start working later that night.

The shift is bound to be long for Mary as she deals with creepy truck drivers, an overbearing parole officer and the increasingly vivid delusions of murder and corpses. It is soon revealed that Mary's ex-boyfriend, James Lincoln Fields, is the serial killer monikered the Rain Ripper, who abducted and slaughtered a total of 35 women. He forced Mary to watch his kills, knowing she's too afraid for her own life to retaliate but, eventually, Mary had enough and tried ending the nightmare by setting him on fire.

Now disfigured and locked up in the big house, Fields should be nothing more than a dark past for Mary to move on from, but how could she when a creeper starts leaving cryptic messages over the phone and someone in a rain slicker is attacking people with a claw hammer? 

Setting most of the bloodiest acts of bodycounting at the second half of its plot, Open 24 Hours (2018) opted for a direction that focuses first on the frantic decline of the main lead's mental and emotional health as visions upon visions of traumatic horror take a toll on Mary. This plotting fits the kind of tone the movie's aiming for, molding a protagonist with an unreliable state of mind, her projected fear of her murdering former lover returning to end her may or may not be justified as we never really get to tell whether its imagined or not. For all we know, Mary could definitely have snapped at one point in the movie and all of the bludgeoned victims and rain slicker killers she fought was all in her head, and the conclusion this movie went with even toys with this idea. But the film cheekily sneaks in a couple of curveball surprises, both expected and unexpected, to throw us off and I am grateful of that. 

By taking the time to observe Mary's mental state, the movie basically helps itself develop a somewhat intriguing lead for a good while and build upon her a small crowd of likable characters who you hate to die. From a tough parental figure to a beer guzzling bestie to an easy-going co-worker, they get a good share of screen time and written to be earnestly kind people despite their demeanor, but a good slasher isn't a slasher without kills and we need victims. So once we get our reveal and a killer starts wielding a sledgehammer, all formalities are thrown out the window and the film shifts itself to your classic stalk-and-kill flair, rich with bad character decisions and a deceptively strong villain.

Fortunately, utilizing its sleek production value, Open 24 Hours swaggers some striking cinematography and an abundance of practical and special effects for its worth. Though it does take a moment to get to the killings not existing only within the confines of Mary's damaged psyche, the payoff is rewarding enough as the brutal aspects of the kill count meant generous servings of splashy, red and chunked human body parts, often coming after decently fun stalking sequences and chases even if some of them are pretty predictable. If anything, the only drawback that irked me about the movie is how boring the killer can get; yes, they can be savage with the sledgehammer but as a written character? They're the textbook lovestruck slasher killers who just happen to have a fixation with rain, bludgeon weapons, something about souls and nothing else. They're rocking a burn scar, too, but in this day and age, does that even count as impressive trait for a horror movie murderer? 

I can hardly see this movie heading anywhere else but as a fairly decent trip down the podunk slasher trail. Open 24 Hours (2018) certainly got a hand as a psychological thriller and a half-way fun bodycounter, not much to make it gold but still glossy, sharp and ambiguously creepy. Fancy a small slasher that packs a punch? Stop by this movie and give it a ride.

1 female drowned in a tub, brained with a hammer (flashback)
1 female seen with a bleeding head (vision)
1 female found rotting (flashback)
1 female shot on the head
1 male had his head pulped with a sledgehammer
1 female suffocated with a plastic bag
1 male had his throat ripped with a hammer claw, shot with a shotgun
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 9

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Who Dares To Ride?: CarousHell (2016)

CarousHell (2016)
Rating: ***
Starring: Steve Rimpici, Sé Marie, Haley Madison

It's a testament to how far I've gone a slasher fan when the phrase "killer carousel unicorn slasher" doesn't even faze me.

Meet Duke, the prettiest goddamn unicorn in the world. He's stuck working in a fun park as one of the carousel horses and he's hating every minute of it as day by day, it's nothing more than snot-nosed brats riding on his back while he's forced to grin and bear it. He feels his life is going nowhere and yearns to finally get out to make the world pay, but little does he and everybody else know is that his day of reckoning is near.

After a fat kid took a ride on him and abused him with boogers one day, Duke had enough and breaks out of the carousel to start stalking down the boy, goring, stomping, and bucking everybody else that got in the way or does he just felt like killing. Trailing him is Cowboy Cool, one of the mascots of the fun park who's now well aware of Duke's killing spree and has apparently come prepared to end him. But will he make it in time? Or will the pissed-off equine horror gets his hooves bloodied with fat kid guts?

And for God's sake, will someone just pay the pizza guy?

With a running time of only an hour and six minutes, CarousHell is micro-budget do-it-yourself slasher horror comedy done well, heartily serving a good amount of gory demises one would not expect coming from a levitating carousel horse with an attitude, as well as a few good laughs along the way. It's story may not pack much of a surprise as it is the bare bone slasher formula of someone - or something, in this case - getting wronged, thus going on a killing spree against anyone who comes within hooves length, only the film follows the flow in a near-parodying self-satire manner, even chucking in a random human killer who's not too happy that a plastic unicorn has stolen his thunder. (Though he's still polite enough to let said killer plastic unicorn borrow his axe) 

Much of what makes the humor in CarousHell mostly work is its writing and the energetic execution by everyone involved, whether on or behind the screen. Yes, there are a few gags that missed, felt too cheesy or went on too long, particularly the ones involving a pair of (possibly incestuous?) Canadians who openly despise Americans, but the rest of the jokes are a gaggle of laughs like its jab at bronies, the adult fans of My Little Pony; a montage of Duke partying with his soon-to-be victims and a running gag of director Steve Rudzinski as Joe The Pizza Guy who's dedication to his job made him oblivious to a girl's constant flirting and wants nothing more than to get paid for the pizza he's delivering.

And then there's Steve Rimpici as Duke. (Or, rather, the voice of Duke) Despite the limited effects used to make our killer unicorn "alive" (I think they call it "chuckimation"?), Rimpici's lively voice acting and given script gave enough of an identity to the plastic menace that its kinda hilarious seeing how bitter Duke has become. Thus, his enjoyment from dismembering random people and, too, his confusion to how some of them react to him from casual acknowledgement to horrified surprise often feels very infectious in turn, as you root for him in his often distracted mission on ending one boy's life.

Speaking of dismemberment, I do like the fact that albeit having a talking horned horse as a villain, CarousHell embraces the absurdity of its plot and simply have Duke murder his victims like any human slasher would, limiting horn goring to a couple of kills while filling the rest of the bodycount with death by machetes, garrotes, plastic flamingos or, among the few that got me laughing, ninja stars and laser vision that came out of left field. How he does it doesn't matter, but what does is the gore used here looking way better than it should be given the small budget this movie had to work on, so kudos to the special effects people responsible to this film's splashy latex parts and chunky blood! The effects rock, so you all rock!

So, not much of a movie for those looking for something less ridiculous, but CarousHell is made for good cheesy laughs and a quick night of nearly decapitated heads and unicorn sex. If you ever find yourself the chance to see this movie, give it a try or else face the wrath of Duke! IN HELL!

1 male gored on the neck
1 male hacked on the head with a machete
1 male gets throwing stars to the back
1 female had her neck garroted open
1 male had his head kicked apart
2 males impaled with a pink lawn flamingo
1 female trampled to death
1 male gored on the gut
1 female had her neck bitten open
1 male shot with an arrow
1 female shot on the neck with an arrow
1 female shot on the chest with an arrow
1 male had his face stomped in
1 male axed on the head
1 male had his face repeatedly sliced with a pizza cutter
1 female cooked alive with laser vision
1 male dies from an axed back
1 boy ran over with a car
Total: 19