Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pumpkinhead (1989)

Lance Henriksen stars in this picture.

Oh, are you still here? I would think the realization that one of our greatest living actors is featured in this would be enough. I guess I'll have to write more then. Whatever.

Stan Winston is the guru behind the brilliant visual effects for such pictures as Aliens, Predator, AI, and Leviathan. Actually, he was only responsible for the robots in AI. See, that's what he does. He creates life out of the lifeless. I believe he even did some of the cyborg work in the Terminator films. Finally, he's able to slip into the director's chair and create a movie all his own (with a little help), and no, I am not referring to A Gnome Named Gnorm (I'll review that one when it's finally released on DVD, don't worry). Strangely enough, Pumpkinhead is also the first movie I've reviewed that stars Lance Henriksen, an actor that can make the foulest tripe palatable (if you don't believe me, check out Mimic 3. I, for one, am even looking forward to his appearence in Alone in the Dark II).

This is a terrific horror film, one of the best of the 80s. The story opens in 1957 and the first thing I noticed was the terrificaly rich atmosphere and the great score, full of dark ominous beats and a little twang. Danny Elfman meets Deliverance. A family living in an isolated farmhouse has battened down the hatches for the night. For they're aware that a creature is out stalking the forest searching for the prey it has been charged with killing. In this case, a suspected rapist. A man begins pounding on the door, but the father refuses to help him. The farmer's son asks his mother "why won't pa help that man?" To become involved is to subject yourself, and your family, to Pumpkinhead's wrath. Strangely enough, the atmosphere in the film's opening reminded me of a cross between Sleepy Hollow and The Night of the Hunter.

Cut to present day. The young boy, named Ed Harley, has grown up to be Lance Henriksen. He occupies the same farmhouse with his own youngin (that's what they call them in this picture), a sweet little kid with coke bottle eyeglasses. He reminded me of the kid in Jerry Maguire, only half as annoying. The love is evident between them and only an actor of Henriksen's caliber can get away with a line like "Your gramma used to wash my hands. She had tissue paper skin. It felt so good." Like most horror films, this is a morality tale about those that do wrong and have wrong done unto them. In this case, the wrongers are a bunch of young city slickers weekending in a small southern mountain town where they can practice their dirtbiking and boozing. The group consists of standard horror movie fodder, such as the black leather jacket wearing asshole, the slut, the virgin, the sympathetic curly haired nerd, and so on. We know what's in store for them because they're drinking heavily on the trip to the mountain. On the way, they stop at a grocery store, run by Ed Harley, but promptly run over his son with their dirtbikes. Ok, it was an accident, I suppose. It's kinda heartrending when Harley brings his son home and has to listen to his last spoken word, "daddy."

The real character to blame is the asshole in leather, named Joel. Harley decides to spread the blame around, however, when he calls upon the old witch Haggis, who lives up on Black Ridge. A spindly, awful old witch who, as far as I can tell, has one power. The power to call upon pumpkinhead. Pumpkinhead is buried in an old pumpkin patch out by razorback hollow (the names are fantastic). Linus was nowhere to be found, but I didn't look too closely from under my blanket. Anyway, He brings the body of P-head back to the witch who raises him with a few incantations and some drops of Harley's blood. Harley's blood is key because now he and P-head have a firm bond, almost like blood brothers, but stronger. Pumpkinhead is a horrifying creation, reminiscent, I suppose, of the Aliens in AvP. He's got a similar elongated head and sharp, jutting shoulders. Once he's commisioned to a task (in this case, killing all the city folk) he can't be called off of it. There's a catch, however. As each city folk succumbs to Pumpkinhead, Harley feels their pain. I'm not sure if it was the pain, or just general second thoughts, that caused him to ally with the remaining city people and try to put an end to this night of terror. When they encounter Harley for the first time that night, and he says "come with me...", I really wanted him to finish that up with "if you want to live". It took a few minutes of escaping, but then he finally said "you want to live?" and I felt like cheering.

I truly dig this picture. The characters are all note perfect, especially Henriksen as Harley, but also "Buck" Flowers, who turns in some great character work as Mr. Wallace. Brian Bremer is entirely convincing as Bunt, the young hick boy that allies himself with the city slickers. Also, Florence Schauffler as the old witch, Haggis. It's a relatively gore free film, which I actually appreciated. I mean, there are plenty of impalings and sickening noises, but nothing is lingered on. Mostly filmed at night, so the blood is hard to make out. Pumpkinhead is shown in pieces, and mostly in shadow, until the end as Winston follows the "less is more" philosophy of filmmaking. There's a great scene where some survivors try to find solace in an old wrecked church, and Pumpkinhead stands on the cusp, basically giving the middle finger to a religion he has no part in. I haven't seen any of the Pumpkinhead sequels, but something tells me CGI has found it's place in this world. I'll get to them eventually. Why does this movie continue to be unappreciated?

Hellraiser (1987)

This guy, Pinhead, kind of got grouped incorrectly with those big three slasher movie villains from the 1980s, in my opinion. Of course, I am referring to Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Dr. Giggles. Just kidding. Dr. Giggles is from the early 1990s, otherwise, he'd be there. The other guy is, of course, Freddy Kreuger. This is absurd. First of all, Pinhead or lead cenobite, as he is referred to in Hellraiser, is NOT a slasher. This is not a slasher film. This is more of a mystical horror film, dealing with a realm where pleasure and pain are one and the same. Pinhead, I'm pretty sure, has never ACTUALLY killed anyone. Instead, he is more of a guide, or as Pinhead, himself, puts it, he's an "explorer in the further regions of experience." Whatever that means. Still, he's an incredibly memorable character considering that his screentime in the original Hellraiser amounts to barely five minutes. The scene where the cenobites first appear are some startlingly terrifying images, with "the chatterer" somehow managing to freak me out even more than Pinhead. Pinhead, unlike the three slashers I mentioned above, is a man, or demon, of eloquent dialogue. Myers and Voorhees never speak. Kreuger speaks mostly in puns, from what I remember (or maybe I'm thinking of the Gingerdead Man, the other burnt slasher), a form of dialect Pinhead would scoff at.

Arguably, Pinhead and his band of cenobites aren't even villains. The people they punish in this picture are certainly not good people. The story begins in England with Frank (Sean Chapman) attempting to solve an Oriental puzzle box in his home. Upon solving the puzzle, which, to me, looks to be ridiculously easy, the rooms starts to shift a bit, and blue lights begin emanating through the cracks in the walls. Suddenly, chained hooks fly out of the walls and embed themselves in his flesh. After Frank is torn apart, the Cenobites, lead by Lead Cenobite or Pinhead (Doug Bradley) as he is later called, appear to inspect the situation. In a little twist on the puzzle box, Pinhead puts the pieces of Frank's face back together. Unfortunately, having solved the puzzle of Frank's face, we're not rewarded with any kind of sadomasochistic torture.

It is perhaps a few months later, when Frank's brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his 2nd wife Julia (Claire Higgins) move into that same house, now abandoned. They just assume Frank is off on one of his adventures. It's pretty clear that Julia is not a terrific person either during these scenes, especially when she looks through Frank's things and ogles over his pictures (several including her). Oh, and we also flashback to a scene where they are doing it, in case you need it spelled out for you. By "doing it" I mean fucking.

So, Larry and Julia are moving in as I mentioned before. "Moving in" usually entails lifting things, often furniture. Larry hires the two laziest movers in England and ends up doing much of the work himself, which unfortunately includes moving an unbendable box spring upstairs, while trying to avoid that rusty nail jutting out of the wall. The scene is pretty predictable because we see that nail for about a minute before his hand scrapes across it. We do learn that Larry is basically a pussy here because he screams and runs to Julia (hiding out in the attic) for help, all the while complaining that he's about to pass out. The blood from his hand drips on the attic floor and somehow that's how Frank begins his journey back into reality. It doesn't make too much sense, but I don't really follow the rules of the Cenobites. Frank, begins as a slightly pulsating heart beneath the floorboards. The blood from Larry's wound is enough to turn Frank into a skeleton with about half a torso and a, barely, flesh covered skull. It's enough for him to begin talking again, however, and he begs Julia to bring some men back to the apartment, so he can suck their blood and fat through a straw and, thereby, regenerate himself. These scenes, as a child, had me turning off the TV and gagging, but since then, I've become so desensitized to gore that I just sort of shrugged and said "Is that all?"

Anyway, without giving too much away, the rest of the plot involves the lovely Kirsty (played by Ashley Lawrence), Larry's daughter who is suspicious of her stepmother. Clearly, with good reason. At one point, she comes into possession of the puzzle box, solves it, and makes a deal with Pinhead and friends to save her soul. A quick comment about the puzzle box. Why is this thing so easy to solve? As far as I could tell, all you do is press a button on the side, the thing opens up and then the cenobites appear. There's no challenge to it. I'm guessing the cenobites had an earlier box, but no one could solve it so they all sat around twiddling their thumbs and watching their "stories" on the television. Finally, the chatterer (Nicholas Vince) or butterball (Simon Bamford) or even more likely, the female (Grace Kirby) said "enough is enough, i'm fucking bored" and convinced Pinhead to tone down the difficulty level on the thing. It sorta lessens the meaning though when Pinhead says "The box. You opened it. We came." It would be really easy to accidentaly drop the thing or bump into it as you're moving a dresser across the room. I think they should give you a mulligan the first time you open it. If, after accidentaly opening it once, you are stupid enough to not get rid of the thing or put it in a safety deposit box somewhere, then you deserve to have the hooks tear into your flesh as Pinhead taunts you with lines like "No tears please, it's a waste of good suffering." Still, the bottom line? These cenobites are badass, but if you want to experience them fully, you'll have to watch the sequels. They're barely in this one.

Hellraiser's real villain is not Pinhead or any of the Cenobites, but instead, it's Frank, the man who would do anything to escape them. As a HUMAN, Frank wasn't really a good guy because he fucked his brother's wife, amongst other things. He's clearly a master manipulator. He somehow managed to escape the Cenobites, so he must be resourceful. As a puss dripping ATTIC MONSTER, Frank is just, well, he's just really fucking disgusting. Even when he finally get's his skin on, it never seems to fit right. He's constantly adjusting the skin under his eye. The line around his hair seems to be coming undone. The worst scene is when he smokes a cigarette BEFORE getting his new skin. I'm just glad he didn't try this before his lungs had fully redeveloped. But yeah, he's a terrible brother, a terrible uncle, an even worse lover, and, as it turns out, a revolting monster.

This is Clive Barker's directorial debut (based on his original story The Hellbound Heart) and he does a pretty good job with it. The photography is a little too stagnant at times, but the effects still hold up today. Not just the gore, but what little we see of the Cenobite realm, the beast within the mysterious hallway, the flying dragon like thing at the end (you know. the thing that morphed from the homeless guy?). The performances were excellent, in particular Claire Higgins as Julia and the guy that played "regenerating Frank" (Oliver Smith) or, as I intend to call him in the future, "Frank-Thing". The actor portraying "human Frank" was terrible. Ashley Lawrence is suitably inquisitive and cute, the perfect heroine. Barker would go on to some even more ambitious films (Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions), but would never achieve the success he finds here. I recommend the immediate sequel to this called Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, especially if nonsensical plotting and sex with skinless women is your kind of thing. Ashley Lawrence and Claire Higgins return for that one, as does Doug Bradley, billed as Pinhead for the first time.

If Pinhead were here with me right now, he'd probably want to add something like "watch this movie or I'll tear your soul apart." If Frank were here with me right now, I'd be dead and he'd probably be fucking my girlfriend. Now THAT's evil.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Splatter Farm (1987)

"I rank this with our top favorite pictures, not our top best pictures."
-Splatter Farm writer/director John or Mark Polonia (I couldn't tell
which one)

"If you think Splatter Farm is shit, you should see some of THEIR stuff."
-one of the Polonia brothers responding to rejection by one of
several distributors

This is the most poorly made geek show I have ever seen.

What the hell was Marion Costly thinking? She's apparently the grandmother of one of the filmmakers, I think of Todd Rimatti (who played Jeremy). She plays an elderly farmer that sleeps with the skeleton of her dead husband/brother, drugs and rapes her visiting nephews, and for the coup de grace, has a piece of live dynamite shoved into her privates. Yikes. Perhaps I could understand if this were a studio production, but this is as amateur as it gets. She's certainly not getting paid a dime. The movie was shot in the late 1980s, so I can't imagine she's still alive. This is her legacy. Splatter Farm is her fucking legacy! I can only imagine the pitch. "Hey grandma, me and my buddies from school are making a movie. We need an old woman, are you game? We can't ever pay you, but you'll get to drug us and there will be implied sex, so there is that. Oh, and at the end you get blown up real good. Also, you were raped by your brother and the offspring becomes a horrific serial killer that likes to anally fist his victims and smear their feces all over their faces. He pees on them too, and also has sex with their severed heads. Are you still with me Grams? It gets better. After urinating on and fisting one of your nephews, your inbred offspring stabs him with a pitchfork and buries him in the backyard. He even licks the headless stump of a victim at one point and eats a heart freshly plucked from a corpse. Um, oh, and at the end, we'll force some dynamite in know where....and well, c'mon Grams, it'll be fun!"

I really have no idea where to begin. This is a terrible film made by retarded high schoolers and, what must be, the single most senile grandmother alive (at the time). It's shot on extremely cheap video. It's clearly inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre, although the brothers reference Blood Cult at one point. Yes, I watched the "making of" featurette, which is infinitely superior to the film it supplements, in the hopes of shedding some light on Mrs Costly's decision to appear in this thing. Unfortunately, I didn't find what I was looking for.

I should have turned it off by the fifth minute when Jeremy, after severing the hand of an obviously fake corpse, sticks that same hand in his unzipped fly, a fly that remains unzipped the entire picture. I strongly believe these kids (now likely in their late 30s) should be put away for a few years. I can't really object to the content. Yeah, it's extremely taboo and disturbing, especially coming from the minds of children (although, the brothers Polonia were sporting some pretty nice scumstaches), but it still could have been presented in an entertaining way, shot somewhat competently. No, these guys should be put away for putting their grandmother in this film. There's no way she had any clue what she was getting into. At just one hour, this thing was an hour too long. As obscene as the content was, it still moved at a snails pace. Why didn't I turn it off? Why?? The best moment of the film was when one of the brothers says "I'm sorry to interrupt lunch, but I got to take a shit." Yes, the cast was full of retarded rednecks. I won't complain about the acting. It's terrible, but that's to be expected. The gore effects were inventive, I suppose, when you consider the age of the filmmakers. Which is to say, NOT very inventive at all.

I guess I found out what my limits are.

Poor, poor Marion Costly. May you rest in peace.

I'm planning on reviewing/recommending a couple of movies on Halloween. I recommend this thing only if you're a masochist. Please don't give them your money. Based on the featurette, the Polonia brothers seem to have retired. I certainly don't want to give them any motivation. I'm thinking about scratching up the copy I got from Netflix.

I just checked IMDB. The Polonia brothers have been consistently releasing movies EVERY year. Splatter Beach is their latest effort. Never mind.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

30 Days of Night (2007)

I wasn't going to write this One up until I read Owen Gleiberman's revieW in the October 26 issuE of Entertainment Weekly. GleibermaN gives 30 Days OF Night a D rating and refers to It as a "soporific splatterfest" without realizing the oxmoronic quality of his phrasing. His scathing treatiSe continues as he sarastically derides the picture's basic premise As a "fright film that takes place entirely at night (what a revolutionary new concept!)" In this instance, his attack works, but ONLY if the film took place over the course of one regular night. It's right in the fucking title Mr. Gleiberman. 30 DAYS. A month of night. I'm pretty sure THAT's never been Done before. I guess Pitch Black cOmes pretty close to conveying an extended nightime, but I'm also pretty sUre Vin Diesel and Company were only on that rock for a day or two. Gleiberman calls Danny Huston's character, Marlow, a "tall, brooding, and rather natty scowler who bears a disquieting resemblance to Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys". This isn't really true, but Gleiberman gets away with his "witty" little line because very few people even know what Neil Tennat looks like. The line that, for me, proved Gleiberman was having a bad day, when He wrote the review, was when he talks about Hartnett's character, Sheriff Eben Oleson. He actually says very little about Hartnett other than "he looks (like he's) about to cry", as if a malE character, the supposed tough guy, showing vulnerability is a contributing factor to a flawed picture. It's actually kind of refreshing. Look, Hartnett is far from a great actor, but he was more than proficient in this one. Did Gleiberman expect him to be like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal? I might be wrong, but I think if you put any bad ass motherfucker in Oleson's situation there's an excellent chance he'd break down and cry like a little girl. Of course we are all entitled to our opinions and Mr. Gleiberman is certainly entitled to his. Unfortunately, far too many critics these days appear to choose an angle before seeing a picture, and then run with it. This movie is really critic proof, however, but it should still be reviewed on its own merits. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times, wrote a perfectly fine, humorous review where he gave it two and a half stars (out of four) because it is "well made, well photographed, and plausibly acted and is better than it needs to be." Ebert, probably my favorite critic after the incomporable Vern, understands it's a genre film and reviewed it as such. I'm not sure Gleiberman understood that.

Of course none of that matters. What really matters is, what did I think? It's probably the best vampire picture since Blade 2. That's a pretty big fucking compliment actually because Blade 2 is pretty much a masterpiece and the ONLY film from that series I can watch more than once. David Slade (Hard Candy) did a more than competent job behind the camera, but the thing that really blew me away was the atmosphere, the sense of isolation and impending doom. Obviously, the first movie that might spring to mind is The Thing because of the arctic setting. It's the day of the first night before the annual month long darkness in the town of Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. Barrow is cut off from civilization by over 300 miles of wilderness and the only way in or out of town is the airport. So, when a mysterious stranger (Ben Foster), with receding gums and gristly stained teeth, wanders into town and demands some raw hamburger at the local diner one might think there would be some more questions asked. The stranger eventually ends up in a jail cell watched over by Sheriff Oleson (Josh Harnett) and forecasts a long fucking night ahead of everyone. It's not until all the cell phones are burned (I'm not sure how THEY managed to steal them all), the sleigh dogs are slaughtered, and the power is cut off that Oleson and friends start to think that maybe, just maybe, he might be right.

Exactly WHAT is coming, is not shown for a little while. Sure, we see silhouetes in the distance and hear sudden whooshes during an attack. These vampires are lightning quick and work their magic by grabbing a victim and pulling him or her into the darkness. Later, we learn that they are actually a society of vamps who have come thousands of miles to feed on Barrow, a town cloaked in 30 days of darkness. I guess I did have a question though. I mean, it's a great idea in theory, but Barrow can't have more than a population of 100 (especially after several of the townsfolk head south), ok, I think the sign indicated there were 121. Well, at least 75% are killed the first night. So, that's 29 more days of night to go with no more than 25 people left to feed on and the problem now become an issue of finding these people who, led by Hartnett and his pretty ex-wife Stella (Melissa George) have found a pretty decent hiding place in a hidden attic. I don't know, if Barrow had like a thousand people it would probably be a sound idea. The first night was like an all you can eat buffet at Old Country. The next 29 were more akin to dinner at one of those fancy french bistros i've heard about where snooty waiters dish out portions fit for a cabbage patch kid. Certainly wouldn't be my first choice. And, on top of the food supply running out, did I mention that this picture takes place in the northernmost town in the country? It's fucking cold. I guess that might not bother you too much if you're one of the undead and your blood's already cold. As Ben Foster's stranger tells us, "that ain't the cold coming, that's death."

Still, that minor plot hole aside, this is a pretty kick ass movie with some stunning photography. There were some snow squall images which were simply beautiful. The town of Barrow itself was a pretty amazing set, and we are even treated to a fantastic image of the first nightime massacre from above the town, as the camera slowly pans down mainstreet, as if mounted to a helicopter. I'll allow that this shot was most likely CGI, but it certainly didn't point itself out as such. The acting across the board was impressive, at least for this type of picture. No, no one's going to win an oscar, but they were all clearly comfortable and having fun in their roles. Special notice goes to Danny Huston (Children of Men) as the vampire leader Marlow, an actor who has played one of the most iconic villains of the last ten years in the unfortunately underseen film, The Proposition. Huston seems to relish the role and it's encouraging to see such a fine actor "slum" it every once in a while. The vampires speak in a strange gutteral language that sounds like a bunch of "click click derks", but adds to the overall creepiness. They do a lot of screeching and walk around with blood beards as they're clearly not into washing up after dinner. I think I saw Marilyn Manson as one of the vampires, but I'm not sure. Also effective, was Ben Foster, who I'm glad to see doesn't think too highly of himself to take what others might consider a throw away role and really turn it into something worth talking about. He kind of reminds me of a young Sean Penn, although, in this one, he looked like a very old, homeless Sean Penn.

The film is full of gory images and I loved how nothing came easy. By that, I mean, it usually took 3 or 4 good whacks with an axe before a head finally came off. Speaking of The Thing, there is one decapitation scene that reminded me of Rob Bottin's excellent work in that, where the head, after several good swings, was sort of hanging on by a few threads, probably the most disgusting scene. Watching this movie with an audience was pretty disturbing at times. I didn't really need to hear the rousing applause for the child decapitation scene, that was pretty much a firm crossing of the line. You guys are sick fucks.

This really is a terrific GENRE film. It's a perfect halloween movie. From what I've heard the ending here isn't quite as bleak as the ending of the graphic novel. Well, I wouldn't say we're actually treated to a happy ending, pretty much everyone that stayed behind in the town dies, including the aforementioned child. The film really accomplishes everything it set out to. I don't think I've seen vampires in the arctic before, so that was something new. It's an idea for a picture I wish I had thought of. The film has terrific atmosphere, plenty of the spraying red stuff, a few moments of humor, and a roving band of zombie-esque vampires. Between this and I Am Legend in December, I might be vampired out come January. But, I wouldn't count on it. Still, I both lament and rue the fact that Slade didn't find it necessary to show us Stella's, what must be freezing rock hard, nipples. Spoiler alert! She made it till dawn, so maybe in the sequel. End spoiler.

Friday, October 19, 2007

They Live (1988)

It's up to Rowdy Roddy Piper to save the world in John Carpenter's most unheralded classic, They Live. This picture deserves mention alongside other Carpenter classics such as Halloween, The Thing, Escape From New York, and Big Trouble in Little China. Piper plays John Nada, a mulletted drifter, who finds himself looking for construction work in 1980s Los Angeles. He befriends super badass Keith David (The Thing) and is introduced to his world of communal living. In other words, he's a bum. Society, it seems, has slowly been taking a turn during these Reagan years, as the destitute far outnumber the comfortable. Piper is an optimist, however, and believes if he puts in his time, good things will happen to him. Boy, he couldn't be more fucking wrong.

His unbridled optimism is squelched when he finds a pair of special sunglasses, which allow him to see the world as it really is. Subliminal messages everywhere! Conform! Consume! Marry and Reproduce! Obey! And, printed on cash: This is your god! If that wasn't enough, it seems one out of every three humans is, in reality, a walking fucking skeleton from outer space! Of course, Piper won't stand for this and at one point get's to utter one of the greatest lines in film history, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass.....and I'm all out of bubblegum."

The film is probably most noteworthy for featuring the greatest back alley brawl in the history of back alley brawls,in my opinion, between Piper and David. Lasting nearly seven minutes, it goes on long past any semblance of reason. I even forgot why they were fighting, until Piper tried forcing a pair of shades on a nearly comatose David. It's certainly not a clean fight as we're witness to vicious ball crushing, hand biting, titty twisting, and a couple of back breakers thrown in for good measure. Crank up the volume for this scene, trust me.

This is more of an 80s style sci-fi actioner than horror film, but on that level, it really is magnificent. Although, I have to say, I'm not sure what's creepier. The unmasked aliens or Meg Foster's (Leviathan) impersonation of a human? (see directly below). Scary, isn't it?

There's an unbelievable scene where Foster throws Piper out of a three story home, built on the side of a hill, so we're really talking about a four story fall here, but because he's Piper he comes out ok. Of course, this being an 80s film, we've got a final battle royale with Keith David and Roddy Piper tag teaming those Reagonite aliens. This is probably one of those pictures you'll either love or you'll hate. The message is out there front and center, but dammit, Carpenter and company are so earnest in portraying it. The movie features superb performances from David, who needs more exposure and Raymond Jacques as Street Preacher. As for Rowdy Roddy Piper, well, let's just say he's got a future outside of the ring. He was terrific and blows guys like The Rock and Brian Bozworth (yes, I'm aware he was a football player) away when he says things like "Brother. Life's a bitch, and she's back in heat."

This movies worth a rental, at least, and, if anything, should succeed in bringing back the wearing sunglasses indoors look. Oh, shit, it's 2007? Fuck. Still, I stand by this one. Also, I stand by Piper, even if the last film he shot was called Street Team Massacre with Troma's Lloyd Kaufman. Sadly, he didn't use this film to launch his acting career because immediately following They Live, he played a cowboy in the little heard of Buy & Cell and followed that up with The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage. It's time for John Carpenter to dust him off and put him in a good movie, but unfortunately, Carpenter, himself, hasn't made a good one since, um, They Live.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

House By the Cemetary (1981)

"No one will ever know whether the children are monsters or the monsters are children"
-Henry James

Lucio Fulci (Zombie 2 & City of the Living Dead), the director, later admitted he fabricated that quote.

At times terrifying. At times an imcomprehensible mess. Supposedly, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, but other than the New England setting there really wasn't any comparison. Basically, a pschiatric researcher, Norman, and his family (wife named Lucy and a son named Bob) travel to New Whitney, Massachussetts to stay in an old house by a cemetary. The previous owner killed his mistress and then hung himself, so it seems like a perfectly reasonable place to bring an impressionable young lad. It doesn't take long before Bob is talking to dead girls and playing with creepy dolls. The first night, the family is subjected to a wailing child (not there own, so it must be the wind?), creaking floors, and heavy breathing. Later, they actually hear growling. Eventually, Lucy finds a tomb underneath the floorboards, but it's fine because as Norman tells her "most of the old houses in New England have tombs in them. Really, this isn't New York dear". Well, sure enough, I paused the film and went down into the basement of my apartment. He's fucking right, a god damned tomb. I hope my landlord doesn't raise the rent.

The house in this picture has the creepiest basement in moving picture history, one that even out creepifies my apartment basement. The first time the family goes down there, they are attacked by a giant bat, a bat that Norman pins to a table and stabs repeatedly. This is the kind of scene Fulci is known for. Remember the wood shard to the eyeball scene in Zombi 2? Well, there's nothing here quite that grotesque, but we do witness a firepoker to the abdomen, scissors to the back of a head (and out the mouth), more scissors to a chest, some pretty gory throat ripping, um...hmmm, what else? Oh yeah I forgot about a the maggots pouring out of the stomach scene. I'm pretty sure the villain here used a wooden shard to poke an eyeball, because when we later see the fire poker corpse she is missing her eye, but unfortunately, the director decided to show good taste and cut away. Speaking of cutting away, after a pre title nude scene, there were no more tits, so that was kind of a let down.

Anyway, the villain in this thing is not exactly what you'd expect. It's a late 19th century (movie takes place during the 1970s) scientist named Dr. Freudstein, who had perfected a technique to prolong his life, which involves regenerating his own cells by using the body parts of the living. So, he's lived in the celler for about 100 years, wearing some kind of skin mask that resembles a world war 1 gas mask, and also results in the terrifying heavy breathing Norman and family had been subjected to earlier in the film. Oh, what's that? Exactly what you expected, you say?

When you really break this one down, it's pretty much the opposite of Hellraiser. In that one, Frank, the villain, regenerates himself using the flesh and blood of the living. Sounds similar, but wait. In Hellraiser, he lives in the attic, which is pretty much the opposite of celler. Also, Hellraiser takes place in England, EXACTLY the opposite of New England. Frank has the Claire Huggins character bring dates home, and then she kills them with a hammer. In this thing, we think Freudstein is using the babysitter Anne to lure his victims, but no, he kills them himself. Is having someone kill people for you the opposite of killing them yourself? Or, is it just kinda lazy. Not sure. Anyway, back to Anne, the babysitter. What a physical beauty with an amazing pair of brown eyes. We're treated to several closeups of those eyes, and for a minute, I thought Sergio Leone was directing this one. She inexplicably shows up, sorta like the creepy nanny in the Omen. We see her cleaning up blood from Dr. Freustein's kills, so clearly she is with him right? Then why does he stab her repeatedly with a pair of scissors, and why does she seem shocked to see some freak of nature living in the basement before she dies? What did she think that red stuff was she was scrubbing up earlier? Karo syrup? The little annoying boy, Bob, hears her scream, but can't save her. Later, he goes down to the celler and trips over Anne's disembodied head, but his mom tells him Anne was just fooling around, so Bob gets annoyed that Anne would play such a cruel trick, like taking off her own head, on him.

There is a cemetary adjacent to the house, as well as IN the dining room. As far as I could tell, Freudstein's wife and daughter, likely the girl that Bob talks to, are buried there. Hmm, All the scary scenes involve the celler, but it gets pretty laughable at the end when the entire Norman family goes down there to confront the crazy doctor, who never talks, but just breathes heavily. I'd like to ask him if his life is really worth living, but I don't think he'd give me a very thoughtful response. The ending is completely muddled, but I laughed out loud when Bob came out of the celler after leaving his parents to their horrific demise and encounters the Freudstein women, who treat him as their own. Was Bob killed in the basement? Is he now a ghost? If so, where are his parents? Shouldn't they be ghosts too? Nothing really made sense, but I was still creeped out. Sometimes the best horror movies don't have to make sense. It's all about creating an atmosphere and mixing in a few terrifying set pieces. If that's what you're looking for in a horror picture, this one fits the bill. If you want nudity, don't miss the first minute of this one or you'll be pissed. The dubbing was fine, except for Bob. I think they got a little girl to do his voice and he also sounded the same whether he was terrifyed or playing with his race cars.

It's an older film, I know, but perfect for Halloween. If you look at the DVD cover, you'll know pretty much what to expect. My first thought when I started watching this was "it's a low rent Shining" and I stand by that, but, now, would like to modify it a little by saying "it's a low rent Shining, only if Jack was good and named Norman instead, and his wife was hot (no offense Shelly Duval), and his young boy Bob talked like a girl, but instead of a haunted hotel, we have a seemingly haunted house, but there's actually a physical presence in the celler, sorta like Frank from Hellraiser, and it kills everyone that stays in the house, so he can extend his pretty pathetic life indefinitely, and he's got a dead family, I'm sure he killed them, like in The Shining, only he doesn't have twin girls, but his daughter still talks to Bob, who seems to have telepathy at the beginning, but that plot strand is completely dropped...and instead of a topiary garden...or a garden maze, we have a cemetary, but nothing of note really happens there, except for the time when the real estate agent backs over a tombstone and then curses that same tombstone for dinging up her car, and there's also some nudity in this one too, but it's far superior to the nudity in The Shining bathtub scene". I guess I'll end there.

Flight of the Living Dead (2007)

Snakes on a Plane, this is not. It IS a zombie movie. It DOES take place on a plane, however. I liked how the entire picture was set on the plane, with the exception of a few cuts to a pentagon staff room, where the military was trying to decide whether or not to first) alert the president, and second) shoot down the plane. The premise is pretty simple. A couple of scientists, contracted by Medcon, have discovered a new strain of the Malaria virus in a rare species of mosquito, located in an isolated area in Vietnam. This is the rarest kind of malaria because it kills it's host in seconds, but then regenerates them shortly thereafter. So, they test the virus on Dr. Kelly Thorp, the wife of Dr. Lucas Thorp (Dale Midkiff) and then contain her in some kind of bio-unit, and stick that unit in the cargo hold of a Paris bound commerical flight because, apparently, Medcon can't really afford to charter their own.

It's pretty straightforward actually. See, the plane flys into an awful storm system, but the pilot (Raymond Barry) instills confidence by saying "not to worry. We'll deviate left and thread the needle". I think I'd rather him just fly over it, but anyway, the ride get's bumpy and that bio-unit is jarred loose. The armed guard in the biohazard suit is quickly zombiefied, but not before he unloads a magazine from his uzi into the fuse box. Yes, all planes of this ilk have basement like fuse boxes in the cargo holds. If you don't believe me, email the FAA, it's standard regulation. So, now, the copilot, has to go down to the cargo hold to check things out, but the chief Medcon bozo is worried, so he sends Dr. Dale Midkif (Pet Semetary) and Dr. Sebastian down to the cargo hold with the copilot. Evidently, these cargo holds are located at the end of a labyrinthine maze of tin foil lined cardboard, but once there, Midkiff and friend are made a quick meal of (at least they still serve dinner on international flights) and the copilot runs back to the short term safety of the cockpit.

Sadly, no one believes the poor copilot, who has pretty much gone insane, but then a prisoner being transported on the plane, played by John Malkovich, goes missing, so maybe he killed the two docs down below? So, now, the governement agent named Truman (David Chisum), overseeing the transporting of Malkovich, teams up with mumbling bohemian Federal Air Marshall Richard Tyson (the mumbling, not quite bohemian step father in Big Bad Wolf) to go back down to the cargo hold and bring back the prisoner. Only, it's not the prisoner, but a few malarified zombie bitches, who've eluded detection by crawling into the ductwork (again standard on all major airlines) connecting to the rest of the plane. Later, we learn it couldn't have been Malkovich nawing on all those people because he's a vegetarian. It's at this point that total mayhem ensues and apparently, in a response to 9-11, everyone, including passengers, are allowed to have guns on a plane. I counted about a thousand rounds being expelled and there was even a makeshift bomb that, somehow, incinerated, dozens of zombies but left the fuselage in tact. The zombies in this picture make an awful wraith-like screeching sound before plunging into your neck and secretly aiming little concealed hoses that shoot out geysers of the red stuff. I was sad when the nun had her legs chewed off. Unfortunately, there was a "mile high club" scene that went absolutely nowhere, so clearly they learned nothing from snakes on a plane.

I liked the pilot, played by Raymond J. Barry (Senator Dick Matheson, in the X files) who was on his last flight before retiring to a nice peaceful life of Alaskan cruises and Hawaiian beaches. I liked the black character in this one, the professional golfer named William "you can call him 'Long Shot' " Freeman. His wife, Anna, was a jealous alchoholic that got mad whenever Long Shot would stroke his putter while in his seat. Anyway, the pentagon sends out a few F-16s to shoot down the plane, so time is limited and, checking my watch I notice there's only about 10-15 minutes left. By this point, Barry (the pilot, remember) is dead, but not quite dead, so they have to get to the cockpit, so that Malkovich can land the plane. Malkovich once stole a drug lords jet and crash landed it, so that's how we know, very early on, that he'll be the one landing that thing, which is a more realistic spin on Snakes on a Plane, which had Big Leroy land the thing because he once set a record in some video game. On the way to the cockpit, the last remaining stewardess pokes an umbrella through a zombies head and then opens it, and at this scene i kinda got pissed off. What is it with the laws of physics in these movies? a flimsy plastic umbrella is not going to poke through a recently dead skull. Perhaps if that zombie had been dead a few more months and the bone had turned somewhat gelatinous, but at this point in the decomposing stages, no fucking dice, it's just not happening. I was with this picture up until that point, but there's only so much shit I can buy.

Continuing, there's a great scene where Truman shoots a zombie twice in the chest and Richard Tyson follows that up with a gunshot to the crotch area and then Tyson says, "two in the chest, one in the balls, that's what I always say"...and it made me kinda want to hang with him. Even convicted felon John Malkovich is given a gun, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a fuselage, although if he was aiming for that seat cushion I'd commend him by saying "good shot". Sadly, Tiger...Long Shot and wife don't make it all the way...and sacrifice themselves by opening the emergency exit, which, I keep hearing is something you don't want to do when 30,000 feet in the air, but now it looks kinda fun, especially if you're cornered by zombies. Before getting into the cockpit, Malkovich is accosted by an elderly zombie and we think he's finished because she bites him on the arm, but then he yells out because she's "gumming him to death" instead and everything is ok, but it was still good for a laugh.

Now, our TRUE heroes of Flight 239 are safely in the cockpit and Malkovich can finally land the plane, but only if he can switch off the autopilot and he'd better hurry because the F-16 has moved into firing position...and suddenly it Well, the missile takes about a minute to arrive, because that's how long it takes to switch off the autopilot and take evasive action, but then they remembered they're in a 747, so evasive maneuvering isn't really in the cards for them, but thankfully the F-16 pilot isn't the best shot, so the missile just opens up a hole in the side of the plane and it's no big deal because they were about to land anyway and it also evened out the pressure a bit because before "Long Shot" and his wife said adios, they opened the exit on the opposite side of the plane. So, now they're level and land on a mountain. I was confused because I thought they were flying to Paris, but then towards the end they were restricted from flying over Canadian airspace, so maybe they moved Paris to Quebec or something. We are set up for a sequel, because one of the Zombies that blew out of the plane at 30,000 feet landed in the engine, but he held on before burning up completely and then after the plane crash landed, he pulled out half his charred corpse and started making faces at the camera. But don't take my word for it, watch this one yourself.

Recommended if your local video store is out of the following zombie titles:

Army of Darkness, Astro-Zombies, The Beyond, Beyond Re-animator, Boy Eats Girl, Dead Alive, Bride of Re-animator, Cemetary Man, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Bud The C.H.U.D., City of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (original & remake), Day of the Dead (original and the yet to be released remake), Day of the Dead 2: Contagiun (not related to Day of the Dead in any way, and I've never seen it, but I'm sure it's better), Dead & Breakfast (awful), Dead & Buried, Dead Heat, Dead Meat, Evil Dead I & II, Gangs of the Dead, Fido (comes out next week), Hell of the Living Dead, Hood of the Living Dead, House of the Dead 2, Land of the Dead, Lifeforce, Night of the Comet, Night of the Creeps, any Night of the Living Dead (even the terrible colorized version), the Dale Midkiff classic Pet Semetary, Re-animator, All Resident Evils, Return of the Living Dead 1-5, Return of the Blind Dead, The Serpent and The Rainbow, anything by Rob Zombie, Slither, Severed, Tombs of the Blind Dead, Undead, Zombi II (the one with the shark vs zombie battle) and Zombi III (the one that stinks), Zombigeddon, and Weekend at Bernies II. If none of these are available, you can't go wrong renting this guy.

Thanks and God bless.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

28 Weeks Later (2007)

28 Weeks Later is a great sequel, a great movie. Who would have thought the British would be responsible for two of the best horror pictures of this century (The Descent, being the other one)? This movie is so fucking good that it actually manages to surpass 28 Days Later, a film I really like, but which is hampered by a weak final act. Weeks builds to a feverish pitch and sustains it throughout the entire fucking film. In Days, we deserved a finale that obliterated the fuck out of everything that came before it. Instead, we get a strange homage to the weakest of the "Dead" trilogy and Cillian Murphy going all Leo Dicraprio (from The Beach) on us. We're even treated to a Bub-like zomb...infected soldier. Still, 28 Days Later is brilliant for introducing us to the Rage virus. A virus that takes control of it's host within seconds. What would you do if a family member was bitten? In the time they had left, they're pleading with you. Would you kill them? 28 Days Later also showed us haunting scenes of an empty London, scenes one can not soon forget. If that final act had been better, say... set in a mall somewhere as the infected try to get in, it would have been a great picture.

So, to repeat, 28 Weeks Later is a GREAT film. The movie starts out during the events of the first one. A married couple, Don played by Robert Carlyle (Danny Boyle films) and Alice (Catherine McCormack) are hiding out in a boarded up farmhouse with several others. As they begin to sit down for dinner, there is a frantic knocking on the door, a young boy pleading to be let in. No one moves, at first, but Alice insists they let him in. It was a perfectly human decision, but, unfortunately, one they couldn't afford to make. The young boy led the infected to their sanctuary and now a frantic attempt at escape is made. Alice, always the protective mother, tries to shield the young boy from danger, and in the process is separated from Don. He watches, what he thinks is her death as he continues his mad dash to apparent safety, with hundreds of infected in hot pursuit, as the 28 Days/Weeks score kicks in. It's a beautifully choreographed chase scene and a terrific opening to the film.

Then, the title comes up, 28 Weeks Later. We learn that the infected have all long since starved to death. A US led NATO force has occupied London, and slowly they are repatriating the city. Two children, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots) arrive in the city and are greeted by Don, their father. Don has been given a job as sort of a high end maintenance guy. Of course, He has a lot of explaining to do about their mother, about whom, he simply says he "watched her die". During these early repopulation scenes, we are introduced to three american soldiers. Harold Perrineau (that asshole Michael from Lost) plays Flynn, a helicopter pilot who patrols the airspace over London. Jeremy Renner (who has played Jeffrey Dahmer) portrays Sgt. Doyle, a good hearted, heroic army sniper keeping watch from the rooftops. He's also a close friend to Flynn. Rose Byrne (Sunshine) is Major Scarlett, an army scientist charged with studying the Rage virus. I loved the Rear window scenes of Doyle and his buddies on the roof, entertaining themselves by spying on the Londoners in their apartment complex through their rifle scopes.

Children in these kinds of films tend to worry me, but here, we've got two very capable child actors in Muggleton (Andy) and Poots (Tammy). They act as most children would and, here, that involves them sneaking across the river and into the non-secure zone, in an attempt to make it to their home to collect some of their things. Doyle spots them from his rooftop perch and alerts authorities that they've got a couple of "puppies" on the loose. The military gets to them, but not before they make it to their home and make a shocking discovery. Their mother is still alive and perhaps even more shocking, she's not trying to murder them. The military quarantines them all and a quick blood work of Alice reveals that she is infected with the Rage virus, yet, is immune to its effects. So, now, this sets up another scene where Don has some even more serious explaining to do considering he claimed to have watched those fucking infected kill her. The military brass has decided that Alice can't be allowed to live, while Scarlett argues that she must be studied since her blood could hold the key to a vaccine. Her commanding officer tells her to "study the corpse". Before these orders can be carried out, Don sneaks in to see his restrained wife (being a high end maintenance guy, I guess he has a pass key to all areas within the complex. Ok, this is the one plot hole in the movie) and has a touchingly painful reunion. They eventually hug and she forgives him. Then Don goes in for a kiss. Stupid Don. That's a lot of set up for what happens next, but believe me, it's worth it. We now care about all these characters, including those americans, well, only the sympathetic ones (Scarlett and Doyle). Flynn, like Michael from Lost, is still kind of an asshole in this one.

I forget who said this, but I stand by it; For a movie to be great, you need three great scenes and no weak ones. Well, this one has at least four, possibly five, and not a weak one in the bunch. (Great scene #1) A code red is now in effect, and Andy, now separted from Tammy, is sequestered in a room with hundreds of civilians. Mayhem ensues as Don makes it into that same room and starts a chain reaction of vomiting blood and ripping jugulars. It's a brilliant, chaotic scene that is terrificaly scary and leads directly to (Great scene #2) Andy escapes to the surface. The snipers on the rooftops have been ordered to shoot ONLY the infected. This becomes complicated, however, as more people become infected. Eventually, the General orders them to shoot everybody. Doyle, not satisfied with this order, abandons his post and joins the chaos below, but not before blowing away an infected that's about to annhiliate Andy. Eventually, Andy finds his sister and Major Scarlett. Sgt. Doyle unites with them as well, but there's a big fucking problem. Flynn informs Doyle that they have four minutes to get out of there before the entire district is fire bombed. This leads to a terrific scene (not as great as the others), where they have to avoid rooftop snipers that haven't abandoned their post. The scenes of London being firebombed are eerily beautiful and haunting and terrifying. I could go on and on about these scenes, but I have to stop somewhere. Hey, I thought these october reviews were supposed to be short? You're right, so I'm going to try to stop this one soon.

There is a helicopter carnage scene (Great scene #3) that blows away a similar scene in the recent Planet Terror. Unfortunately, it's during this scene that the filmmakers forgot they were making an infected movie and thought they were making a zombie movie as we have mutilated corpses walking around with missing midsections or half a head. I forgive them. The effects were still great though. Finally, there is a scary scene (Great scene #4) that takes place in the pitch black underground of the tube. Major Scarlett is still trying to lead the children to safety. All she has for a light source is the infrared scope on her rifle. We witness this scene through that same scope and we see the children inching their way down a disabled escalator having to step over the charred corpses of the infected. It's a blair witch-espe moment, and features probably the most brutally painful act of violence in the film, an act that isn't much muted by the fact that we have trouble discerning what's happening.

The acting across the board is terrific, but the standout, for me, was Jeremy Renner, as Sgt. Doyle. This guy is going to be a movie star. He simply oozes charisma, charm, and humor. I find it hard to believe that he could pull off playing Dahmer, so I guess I will have to check that one out. Also terrific was Robert Carlyle. In his non-infected scenes, he plays a father wracked with guilt over not staying behind to try to save his wife. I can assure you, I would have been out of there with him and you probably would too, but his children wouldn't understand. The rage virus is a new kind of evil. There really is no fighting it. The best course of action is to hide and wait for everyone to starve. If you run and hide, you might live. If you stay and fight, you WILL die or worse, become one of them. I can relate to Don's decision. I can't really relate to what happens to him after he kisses his carrier wife, but I think it's an interesting thing what the filmmakers did with him. Don is constantly showing up in scenes throughout the film, as if he's tracking his children. It is strongly implied that Don is still, in part, human, still wants to find his children, still LOVES them. Only now, his way of showing his love is to rip off their faces and puke blood down their throats. Still, these infected aren't simply the mindless ragers from the first film. It's almost like they've evolved a little since the first outbreak. George Romero would be proud.

This is the scariest movie of the year AND I still make that contention after my second viewing. After The Descent, it's probably my favorite horror film of the decade. The final shot, let's just say it involves the Eifel Tower, is amazing and has me completely amped for the next sequel. It's better than the Dawn of the Dead remake, better than Land of the Dead, better than any fucking torture porn, and yes, better than 28 Days Later. The director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) has an extremely bright future ahead of him.

Alas, I'm still a little disappointed that they didn't go with their first idea for this film, events that would occur during the first outbreak of 28 Days Later. British special forces are charged with rescuing the Queen and the Prime Minister. God, a Zombie Queen! I thought I was the first one to think of that!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Black Sheep (2006)

Get the flock out of here!

I wanted to love it. I liked it well enough, but unfortunately, I was calling a cab for it at about 3 in the morning. Definitely not an all nighter. Perhaps I just wasn't drunk enough?

When I learned the creature effects were being done by Weta, this became a must see. In the beginning, we are introduced to two brothers, Angus and Henry. They live on a farm in New Zealand with their father, herding sheep. Angus, being the elder brother, is a bit of a prick. He likes to chop up sheep with an axe and wear their body parts so that he can frighten his younger brother. Henry, understandably, grows up with an intense fear of this particular livestock. After their father has a cliff diving accident, the youngest brother moves away to the city, leaving his slightly psychotic brother to run the farm. Fifteen years later, Henry returns, at the behest of his therapist, only to learn that Angus has been dabbling in genetic engineering. No, he didn't create Dolly, but I think what he did create is probably the next best thing.

Of course, we all know hippies suck, right? Are you with me? Well, all it takes in a movie of this ilk, is for two such fucking activists to infiltrate the farm, steal a cannister from some lab techs, trip as they're fleeing into the woods, and have a little genetically altered sheep fetus bite the guy in the ear, thereby setting in motion what I'd like to call a fucking shitstorm of sheep shit. Angus, has been spending his years, with the aid of a few mad scientists, trying to develop the perfect sheep. Of course, Could anythiing be more perfect than human DNA? Regarding the sheep fetus; I loved it. It was a perfectly fine updated version of the Sumatra rat monkey from Dead Alive. So, are you still with me? Basically, this fetus bites the unfortunate activist, Grant, who eventually changes into a humanoid sheep monster, but not before he can bite Angus. Grant's attractive hippy partner, named Experience (Oh, brother!) escapes and aligns herself with Henry and the farm manager Tucker. Tucker is eventually attacked and bit by a sheep, so he's pretty much fucked, and on and on and on.

There are two fantastic scenes in this picture. One scene involves Angus holding a meeting with investors from around the globe. As they all take their seats, we see thousands of sheep stampeding over the hill and towards the congregating food (investors). What follows is a buffet of gore, with intestines pulled, limbs sheared, throats ripped. These are some fucking intense sheep. And yet, I loved them. They were still so fucking adorable. There are scenes where they are clearly supposed to be ominous & yet I can't help but yearn to hug them. Even when they are savagely biting at our heroes feet I kept saying "ahhhhh..." as if it was time to snuggle. Is that wrong? Should they have been more dangerous OR was that the point? The other great scene is when Henry must go through a flock of sheep in cognito. So, of course, he dons some fur and starts crawling out upon his knees. It doesn't take long before an adonis sheep takes a liking to him and mounts him from behind (Top Secret homage, I'm sure). It's here where we, the viewer, are subjected to a view of the largest sheep mountain oysters we have ever seen.

Oh, I also liked when Angus opened his speech to the doomed investors by saying "This land was carved from Virgin bush..." Yeah, I like that line.

Anywhoo, there's alot more to this film. Angus redefines animal husbandry at one point. I loved how the sheep dog finally got put to good use at the end. I disliked the genetic engineering angle. I guess the filmmakers here would probably get as pissed as Danny Boyle got when you refered to the infected as zombies. They're not zombies! They're genetically altered sheep men! I'm just not a big fan of the geneticist conspiracy angle here. Why not keep it simple? God, haven't these guys ever heard of a meteorite? I'm sick of hearing about the fallacy of man. Aliens can be evil too! That's a solid lesson. There's a transformation scene that certainly earns it's place below An American Werewolf in London. My review is one large mixed message, isn't it? Well....I recommend it. I mean, it's no Day of the Animals, but it's still pretty fun. I just wish those fucking sheep weren't so damned cute.

No word yet on whether those mountain oysters are included in the R Rated version. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

High Tension (2003)

For once, a movie lives up to its title. This is one tense, scary mother fucking ride. Unfortunately, Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes remake) throws in a twist at the end which makes absolutely no sense. Since I consider the journey to be more important than the end result, the movie wasn't really ruined, like remember that film Arlington Road? Shitty movie, but what a great fucking twist. This one's the opposite, so I like it more. Here, I was more like, "that makes no fucking sense" before reflecting back on the disembodied head fellatio scene. By the way, that scene has a completely different tone than the disembodied head cunnilingus scene in Re-animator. So, if you liked that one, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to like this one. I'm not sick, so I didn't really like this one, but, still, I had trouble shaking it from my head. Anyway, enough about bodiless heads performing oral sex.

This is a french slasher film and probably the best of that particular genre. Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco) are classmates traveling to the french countryside to visit Alex's parents and to study in tranquility. It's pretty clear during the car ride that Marie has a major crush on the mostly straight, possibly bicurious I would assume, Alex. The house is, like most houses in these films, surrounded by miles and miles of cornfields. Alex's family seems normal enough. Dad stays up late paying the bills & mom walks around in a white robe asking if anyone is hungry. The young brother is suitably annoying. We know things are not right, however, when we cut to a guy "getting off" in a rusty old truck(if you've seen Jeepers Creepers, you will recognize the truck), on some road in those very same cornfields. It's hard to discern the source of his pleasure until he drops it (aforementioned head) out the driver side window. Here's a clue for you: Look closely at the face. Ok, this movie sounds pretty fucked up, huh? Who in their right mind would want to watch it. Is it at least played for laughs? No, this is all played extremely straight. That's what makes it so damned good. When our killer, simply named Le Tueur (the turd?) played by Phillipe Nahon (Irreversible; another royally fucked up movie I recommend you see once), rings the doorbell to Alex's farmhouse in the middle of the night, we know messed up events are about to transpire. I don't even know what to compare this one to. We could say Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that one had an underlying sense of humor that this one clearly lacks.

This is edge of your seat, heart wrenching stuff. We've got a head jammed through a stairwell and then taken off with a bureau. We've got a grotesque throat slashing (though not on the level of Eastern Promises, this one still feels pretty real). We've got a concrete saw to the stomach of an innocent passing motorist. We've even got some barbed wire post face bashing. The last twenty minutes of the film involve the killer kidnapping Alex, with Marie following them, in an attempt to recover unrequited love, in a feverish assault on, well, I don't know, your senses? Unfortunately, there is that fucking twist again. It's such a terrible decision because without it, this picture is an out and out masterpiece. With the twist, we're left with a solid, terrifying horror film with a great maniac (Nahon). As it is, this one isn't quite as good as Aja's next film, The Hills Have Eyes (which might be the 2nd best horror film remake after Dawn of the Dead). Nahon is so good in this, so fucking scary (think M. Emmet Walsh in Blood Simple. Only eviler) that the twist just becomes more and more frustrating. I want a sequel, but now there can't logically be one, at least NOT one with Nahon. If you're not already aware of the twist I speak of, I hope I didn't give it away. This is still a balls to the wall scary, grotesque, shocking experience. Known in the UK as Switchblade Romance. I don't remember a switchblade ever being used or even spoke of, so maybe it's one of them metaphorical titles us simple folk in the states wouldn't understand. At the very least, watch this one if you were under the impression that the french could never scare you. I promise you'll either like it OR you will never talk to me again. I like those odds.

One more thing. If you're not into implied fellatio by a severed head, I'll just say (besides what the hell is wrong with you??) stick to the Rated R version.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Feast (2005)

For fans of Evil Dead, Dead Alive, Night of the Living Dead, Chainsaw, Henry Rollins, and monster porn. This is a fun little picture, a Project Greenlight endeavor actually. Basically, a bunch of people, barricaded in a bar, trying to stay alive until daylight as a family of "leaky barrel, radiation, toxic dump waste, enviro-crap, freak-beast accident that crawled out of the sewer" monsters try to get in. More funny than scary. A little TOO self aware at times (We can probably thank those awful Scream movies for that). Features the great Clu Gulager from The Hidden and The Return of the Living Dead (still THE funniest zombie movie ever made) as a character aptly named Bartender. I think Bozo (Balthazar Getty) called him "old timer" once or twice. Directed by Clu's son, John, the Project Greenlight winner. By FAR, the best of the Project Greenlight films (I haven't seen the others, but who really wants to sit through yet another cliched "coming of age" picture). Henry Rollins plays a poor man's Tony Robbins, named Coach and gets to wear pink pants after one of those mutated humanoid warthogs rips off his dockers. This is the first picture I can remember seeing that includes monster vomit AND monster jizz. A fantastic opening sequence presents each character with their own title card (including name, fun facts, and life expectancy). Jason Mewes, playing himself for about three minutes, get's the biggest laugh ("already exceeded expectations"). There's a shocking scene involving a young boy that lives above the bar with his waitress mom. They wouldn't kill a kid, would they? Loads of blood, vomit, maggots, and an amusing decapitation of a Bruce Campbell-esque character, named Hero. I was lukewarm about this picture when I saw it on the big screen, but I LOVED it on the small screen. Take that for what it's worth. How can anyone dislike a film with the line, "Whoaa! Monster Cock!" No nudity, but there is a trashy leather clad MILF named Harley Mom. Duane Whitaker (From Dusk Til Dawn 2) has a lot of fun as the bar's owner, Boss Man. It's nearly impossible to fuck up a horror movie set in Texas. Now that I think about it, only Michael Bay, Marcus Nispel, and Jonathan Liebsman have ever accomplished that feat.

If you're not a fan of monster jizz, you can simply rent the R Rated version.


Well, it's october, so I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to try to post much more frequently. This month. Repeat. THIS MONTH. Maybe, 3 to 4 times per week. Maybe more, if you're lucky (or unlucky). However, my reviews will be much much shorter. Also, I'm only doing horror. So, you sorry bastards will have to wait until november for my next review of a Norris or Muldoon picture (unless I review "Ice Spiders", but that one probably deserves to be full sized). Sorry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jack Frost 2 (2000)

"Jack was nimble. Jack was quick. Jack gouged eyes with candle sticks."

Sequel to the Christmas classic Jack Frost (1998), starring Michael Keaton as the titular character. In this one, Jack comes back and slaughters his wife (Kelly Preston) and son (Joseph Cross), so that they can be reincarnated as his snowwife and snowson. Don't worry parents, the murders are offscreen. This is child friendly schlock at its best. Jack's motivation behind these killings is to form a family band (a la Partridge Family) so he can win the annual North Pole Christmas Pageant and collect the cash prize. They're a jug band, so this one reminded me of Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, only with a slightly more twisted premise. Still, it's a heartwarming feature with some powerful performances. Perfect for all ages. Recommended.

Oh wait, sorry, I'm thinking about a different picture. This is ACTUALLY a sequel to the 1996 slasher film where Jack (played by Scott MacDonald) is transformed into a mutant killer snowman while being transported to his execution during a pounding blizzard. His paddy wagon collides with a truck carrying various toxic chemicals. Jack is thrown from the wagon, covered in chemicals and snow, which fuse together, and then meld with his DNA. There you go. Jack, now a snowman, also has the power to melt himself so that he can get through closed doors. He proceeds to fuck with Sam, the town's sheriff (Christopher Allport), avoid the FBI agent tracking him (Stephen Mendel as Agent Manners) and rape Shannon Elizabeth with a carrot. The CGI was limited. Initially, we see Jack as an unmoving snowman. It's mainly just implied that he can move around (i.e., they do it off camera). My favorite scene was when Jack tripped a boy who was then decapitated by his buddies sled. Jack Frost 1996 wasn't really made for young kids. Still, it's a Christmas classic of a different kind (When I say "classic" I mean piece of shit. Although, you know what they say about shit, right? one person's shit is another person's gold? It's a fetish. Look it up).

Well, I'm not sure why, but it's taken me seven years to get to Part 2. Similar to the Starship Troopers sequel, I guess my thinking was 'why mess with perfection?" I'm just kidding. The first film is perfect in that "wow, I just wasted 90 minutes of my life AGAIN. Why is it that I've seen this god damned thing 4 times now? It's not like it becomes a good or even enjoyable movie after the 3rd viewing. Jesus Christ I need a life" kind of way. Part 2 takes place one year later as the town of Snowmonton has started to put the pieces back together following Jack's reign of terror. The town's one "piece of ass" (Shannon Elizabeth) has been killed, so clearly the setting needs to be moved to a tropical island. Sam (still played by Christopher Allport) has been undergoing therapy, but it's really not helping. His therapist can barely stifle his laughter as he conferences in his secretary and all her friends to hear Sam's story. A traditional film would have killed off these assholes, but this one just shoved a giant icicle up tradition's ass instead.

Sam and his wife Anne, understandably, decide to spend Christmas on a tropical, snowless, island. Accompanying them will be their friends, Joe and Marla, an obnoxious couple planning to marry during the trip. The island resort is a cross between Club Med, Camp Crystal Lake, and Saved by the Bell (the one where Zack was going to marry Kelly in Hawaii). The resort employees consist of the imperialist Colonel Hickering, the irritating Captain Fun, the Jamaican bartender Bobby, and recently fired FBI agent Manners (now played by David Allen Brooks). Manners provides Island security. Of course, there's plenty more fodder for Jack, including three bubbly sluts named Rose, Ashley, and Paisley.

Well, guess whose in the market for some revenge? Jack, that's who. His coming back to life, again, is really quite simple. A couple of scientists unearthed his remains for research and accidentaly spilled coffee on them (I'm pretty sure this was what happened). The coffee worked as a reanimating agent. Not only does it bring Jack back, but it provides him with an immunity to antifreeze. As far as I can tell, It also gave him the ability to reproduce asexually. Well, Jack doesn't quite make Sam's flight to the tropics, so he has to swim across the ocean. Actually, he's in the form of water at this point. Does water swim? Along the way, he murders two guys stranded in a lifeboat, who just happened to have a carrot in their possesion. Jack is, once again, complete.

It was about the point that Jack dropped the giant anvil made of ice on either Ashley, Rose, or Paisley that I realized the movie sucked. First of all, the only 3 attractive females in this thing are killed off within the first 20 minutes. Second, it was a FUCKING ice anvil. I swear it had ACME printed on the side. Jack dropped it from a tree. After repeatedly missing his target with deadly icicles, he says "fuck it" and goes the "can't miss" route. Jack is the kind of slasher movie villain I can't stand. The kind with the bad puns. Honestly, I don't even know why this guy is killing anymore. I think they should go back and make a prequel to the first one, so we can learn about Jack Frost before he became a snowman. Oh, I don't know, I suppose some of the kills were fine. Strangely, the most interesting one was the only bloodless one, where Jack freezes the pool while a late night skinny dipper is making her nipples hard (Jack: "wouldn't mind practicing a little breaststroke, myself."). Ok, she could have been attractive too, but it was nighttime and the shot wasn't that well lit. I liked when the Colonel finds the mangled anviled body and tries to pass it off as a "shark attack". Manners had fun with his role as well; "I live on an island now. No Snowman. Very happy. Now, let's catch that coconut shark".

There's a great photoshoot (wait, another hot female) where Jack morphs himself into tiny ice cubes. The photographer informs the model that she's a "zero on the nipply scale", which, as you can imagine, makes Jack very excited. She then asks for iced coffee and, shortly thereafter, her head explodes. Jack says "I guess it was decapitated coffee". I couldn't really tell how Jack was talking. At this point, he's still in ice cube form, meaning no mouth or vocal cords. Even when he's a snowman, I didn't really get it. I mean, he has a mouth, but does he really have a throat? Lungs? I guess he bleeds, so he truly is a snowMAN. Also, he's got a penis, but he keeps it on his nose. And it's a carrot. When he get's aroused (i.e. ready to kill) it stands to attention.

The movie didn't really become entertaining until Jack, who by this point has blanketed the entire island in ice and snow, fell into a pool of antifreeze and multiplied into thousands of little snowballs. These little things are indestructable and apparently full of razor sharp teeth, although you can't tell. One even had a spiked haircut, so clearly they were ripping off Gremlins and possibly Critters. Unlike Critters or Gremlins, these little guys can't be killed by ordinary means. Sam and company attempt a blender, a waffle maker, and a vacuum. There's a hilarious scene where the greml...snow balls have taken over the bar and are seen dancing, boozing, and possibly fornicating. By this point, Sam has officially lost his mind, so he just sits in the background babbling about antifreeze. I kinda liked this aspect of the film. Main characters rarely go this crazy and this scene was actually foreshadowed in the therapy sequence.

The effects in this picture, in sharp contrast to Jack Frost 1996, are largely CGI. It's not an improvement. I think we need to see less of Jack. A lot less. I did like the effects on the balls though. They were practical. Basically, little sock puppets with mini arms. They were even kinda cuddly, but you really don't want to get too close to them. Unfortunately, Captain Fun had to learn this lesson the hard way.

This film is the first I can think of that features a slow motion supersoaker battle scored to "Taps". I swear the baby snowballs were skulking through a bamboo forrest at one point. One even had a black headband I think. It's clearly a statement on the Vietnam war. That statement being, if it had snowed there, easy victory for the US of A. There's a touchng scene where Jack sheds a tear over a fallen child before dropping the body and proclaiming "It's killing time!" I got choked up.

Somehow, amidst all this mess, Joe and Marla found time to hit the altar and tie the knot. The wedding is crashed by a rampaging Jack; "I now pronounce you totally fucking dead!". There's a final battle that involves archery and bananas I guess. Sam momentarily regains his senses. A few people lose their heads, their tongues. No carrot rape scene though. It starts off slow, but things take off once those balls are born. Agent Manners suffers a violent end as he's ripped to shreds by those same balls. The entire island staff is killed. We've got some icicled noggins, tonged eyeballs, human jambalaya, and a couple breasts. It's marginally better than the first film.

Be sure to stay for the end credits or you might miss the world's biggest carrot. There's also a fitting, tragic post-credits coda where we discover the fate of Joe and Marla. Also enjoybable, was the terrible blues song that opened and ended the picture; "Merry Christmas baby, better watch your back". I'd recommend this for Christmas viewing only. I think TNT might be doing "24 Hours of Jack Frost 2" this season. Seriously though, the acting is terrible, the effects are terrible, the puns are terrible, and I still hate Jack. Also, needed more nudity.

Still, I can't wait for the next sequel with the tagline "The balls are back!"

If that doesn't work, maybe Jack Frost vs The Gingerdead Man.

Either way, I win.