Friday, August 29, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

And we see a welcome return to form here for the series, which had taken an unfortunate slide with the previous film. Here we are freed from the taint of Renny Harlin, and get to learn a bit more about Freddy’s origin, something the series has largely only seen fit to elaborate on in the odd numbered films.

Once again the survivors of the previous film have returned (you’d think they’d have taken the hint from the two previous times this happened in the series), and are once again menaced by Freddy, though with a rather original twist. Apparently Alice and Dan, fresh off of their defeat of Freddy in Dream Master, have started knocking boots, and now Alice has a bun in the oven whose dreams in the womb have opened up a new way for him to return.

This film is all about the mythology of the series, even bringing back Freddy’s long-deceased mother to explain some of his history that she didn’t get around to in part 3. This is generally a good thing, though it’s focused on to the point that the kills have largely dried up. It’s a pretty uncommon thing for the fifth film in a series of slasher movies to only have a body count of 3, yet here we are. Fortunately, the film at least partially attempts to compensate for this by dragging out the first kill for so long that it may as well have been several, something that is always appreciated.

This is a quality entry in the series, though it’s probably one of the least talked about, presumably because of the low body count and the overall lateness in the series. Frankly, though, more people should be checking this thing out. If nothing else, it’s got a guy that decides to fight Freddy by transforming into a superhero he created (though little tip for any of you that have to fight Freddy at some point in the future: transform into Superman or something, don’t just turn into a masked man with two handguns, all right?), and that’s awesome.

Rating: ***


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Yes, I’m doing this review before I do the review for part 3, so that I don’t get further behind, if that makes sense. Anyway, Dream Master is (in my opinion) the second weakest film in the entire series, ahead of only Freddy’s Dead due to a combination of an exceptionally weak story, uninteresting characters, poor pacing, and largely pretty weak kills. Actually, now that I think about it, this might be the worst one, I haven’t seen Freddy’s Dead in a few years.

The film was directed by Renny Harlin, which should be enough explanation in itself for film buffs. For those lucky readers not already familiar with him, he is the highly esteemed director that has made such films as Die Hard 2, an action movie notable for its action sequences being the weakest parts of the entire film, Cuttthroat Island, the film which bankrupted Carolco Studios, and Driven, that Stallone racing movie that I didn’t see but I’m sure sucked. This was one of his first films, and he seems to have peaked early.

So onto the story. The film opens with the three surviving teens from the last film, which never bodes well for their continued health, as they accidentally bring Freddy back to life and he kills them all. Before he can completely finish them off, however, the last girl manages to transfer her power to bring other people into her dreams to a new girl (Hrmm, I should probably mention something about that when I write up the review for part 3), who now gets to put all of her friends in danger of Freddy. We then pretty much jump from segment to segment where he kills off another of her friends in an ironic manner (sucking all the air out of an asthmatic, turning a girl terrified of insects into a roach thing, etc.) before our new heroine decides to combat him once and for all. She is…the Dream Master.

The movie’s admittedly not outright terrible (though thanks to doing this blog my concept of how low the bar can be set has greatly expanded), but it comes from a higher pedigree than the average horror film, and so should be held to a somewhat higher standard. It’s perfectly watchable if you’re just trying to see all of them like I am, but it’s hard not to view this as a bit of a speed bump in a series that’s mostly a pretty smooth ride.

You know, so far as series’ where people get gruesomely killed a lot go.

Rating: * ½


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

So here’s finally the long-delayed review of Dream Warriors. This is probably the most famous Nightmare film after the original, and the one primarily responsible for the tragically lame NES game back in the 80s. It also brought series creator Wes Craven back into the fold, however briefly; he was one of roughly three dozen screenwriters credited to the film, as this went through a ridiculous number of rewrites before it was finally released (Frank Darabont, who would later go on to direct the classic films The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, also has a screenwriting credit, though you wouldn’t know it from watching the film). Still, despite the script being a bit of a mess, this is one of the most fun in the series.

This one seems to largely pretend the second film never happened, as we instead move on to a mental hospital filled with teens that are all having nightmares of being stalked by a burned-up man with sharp fingernails. The kids start dying off, and all seems hopeless until the hospital gets a new staffer named Nancy (Heather Langenkamp from the first film), who has some experience in such matters and wants to help them. Apparently due to the nature of the dreamworld, everyone has their own magical power that will help them in the fight against Freddy, such as Kristen’s ability to pull other people into her dreams, or the wheelchair-bound Will’s revelation that, “in my dreams, I can walk. My legs are strong. In my dreams, I’m the wizard master!!!” before donning an incredibly silly black cape and making everyone else in the room extremely uncomfortable.

So yes, this is the film where the series goes from being scary to being somewhat cheesy and silly, but it’s still done well enough to work. The kills in this tend to be among the more imaginative of the series, particularly one involving a young lad’s arteries being yanked out of his arms and legs and him being pulled along by them like a marionette. The dialogue tends toward the laughably poor, as one would expect from such a jumbled mess of a script, but I can’t complain much about a film that brings back Langenkamp and John Saxon, and then throws in Larry Fishburne to boot. It may mark the beginning of the series’ descent into self-parody, but it’s still an entertaining film in its own right.

Rating: ***


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

So here we are with Freddy’s Revenge, the second Nightmare film, and the first horror movie I ever saw. Watching it today, this film does not quite hold up as such an important piece of my personal history, but it’s still pretty decent.

Set several years after the first film, an awkward teen boy moves in with his family to Nancy’s house from the first movie, and soon his dreams are being haunted by a strangely familiar burned up monster with fingerknives. Freddy’s got a new trick in this one, as he’s decided to outright possess the poor lad and force his way back into the waking world.

There is one thing hanging over this movie’s reputation, and that is how this movie, along with the original Sleepaway Camp, reigns supreme so far as the most overtly homoerotic horror movies out there go. Seriously, there is a ton of man on man action in this film even without the S & M bar frequenting gym coach that likes to punish his cuter students by making them run nude laps showing up. Even our main hero, who is supposedly saved by his love for his new girlfriend, looks completely bored when he makes out with her, in sharp contrast to the barely controlled passion he shows when he sneaks into his best bud’s bedroom at night and wakes him up by jumping on him. Hot.

The body count, as can be expected for a sequel, is much higher, as Freddy wipes out half of a teen pool party here, pausing only to utter the immortal line “you are all my children now!” We also get a nice continuation of all of the adults being utter retards, as when Jesse’s father assumes their bird went crazy, attacked them all, and then freaking exploded, because there was a gas leak. Well, of course, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

This is obviously not the high point of the series, but it’s hardly as bad as a good number of people have made it out to be. It’s a nice halfway point between the dark dreamlike effort of the first film and the really goofy third film (which is also by far the most quotable movie in the series, but we’ll get to that tomorrow). This probably shouldn’t be your introduction to the series, but if you’re already a fan this won’t make you change your mind.

Rating: ** ½


Monday, August 25, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street

After a chance encounter with Robert Englund over the weekend at Monster Mania (he briefly wandered out onto the main floor and as soon as I noticed he was there he took off like a shot, so there was no time to take any pictures of me chasing him like a fucking creepy stalker), I decided it would be fun to rewatch all of the Nightmare on Elm Street films for the site. They have a lot of history for me – Nightmare 2 was the very first horror movie I ever saw (or at least that I can remember seeing) when I was five or six years old. It’s good that they all still hold up so well (yes, even the bad ones), so this week won’t go by nearly as torturously as, say, another week of Tomb of Terrors movies.

One nice thing that sets this film apart from its sequels is the mystery of just who is committing the crimes. We gets a view of the killer (mostly in shadow), but we don’t learn his name until more than halfway through the film, and we don’t find out how he is for a few more scenes after that. It also provides us with a halfway intelligent cast (at least the teens – the parents, especially Nancy’s mother, are a whole ‘nother story), that in defiance of standard slasher logic, actually makes some small effort to avoid being killed by a deranged killer.

Of course, the teens aren’t the real reason to watch a movie like this, so it’s good that the kills tend to be so impressive. For a film with so few (four, a truly paltry sum compared to its peers), the ones it has are truly memorable. Right near the start, a girl gets sliced to ribbons while being dragged across the ceiling, and film newcomer Johnny Depp’s final scene is an unceasing delight. Freddy is actually surprisingly scary in this one, too, as he hadn’t yet transformed into the joker character of the later films.

While many people view this as the pinnacle of the series, it’s actually only my second favorite, as I think the initial series was closed out perfectly with New Nightmare. Both that and this film were directed by Wes Craven, who clearly knows his shit. If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere and haven’t seen any of these films, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you begin. You won’t regret it.

Rating: *** ½


Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Well, there were a few rocky moments, but at least we get to end Fantasy Film Week on a high note. I apologize to all of my readers out there for this review coming out on Saturday instead of Friday, but in my defense I hadn’t written it yet by the time Friday ended. As you can see, my hands were tied.

This film, despite having been a bit of a flop in theaters, is definitely the best of the movies I’ve seen this week. Apparently a lot of people avoided it because its title made them assume it was just a Narnia ripoff, though having not read any of the books or seen either film, I feel that it may be a tad presumptuous of me when I say that it is a clearly original work and everyone was being up in arms for no reason at all.

The plot, in stark contrast to the other four films this week, is actually pretty straightforward: there’s a book with info on all sorts of magical creatures, young British boy finds book, evil ogre tries to get it from him, fight fight fight. In rather startling contrast to, say, Beastmaster or Willow, it’s fast-paced, well acted, and not completely moronic. It’s pretty much exactly what you would want from a movie like this. Go check it out.

Also, the boy totally stabs his dad in the chest with a knife at one point, it's great.

Rating: *** ½


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Golden Compass

I do generally try my best not to directly compare a movie to the novel it was based on, and just view it for its own merits. However, this becomes a somewhat difficult task when the film in question is so damn rushed that the filmmakers forgot to include the goddamn ending to the novel! Come on here, I can accept only so much.

The main problem, as mentioned before, is the heavily rushed feel of the film. Coming from someone that’s actually read the novels, it comes off as more of a greatest hits of important scenes from the first book rather than an organic outgrowth from scene to scene. It just rushes from major plot point to major plot point, something that only works so well for someone that understands how they all connect (I can only wonder how well they connect for someone that hasn’t read the novels).

That said, there are some minor benefits of the story. For one, there’s a battle in it between two bears that easily eclipses anything I’ve seen so far in Fantasy Film Week as fight scenes go (and as a major bonus, how many children’s movies have you seen that have a fight end with the hero biting out the villain’s throat?). However, I have to feel that the story would have been better had it more closely followed the spirit of the novel, rather than the bare factoids.

The anti-Catholic leanings in the novel, for instance, have almost been entirely expunged from the film, which was presumably an effort to make it more palatable to the masses, an effort which clearly did not work. I can certainly understand the reasoning behind the decision to remove such potential conflict; after all, why would they want to piss off a fanbase that approves of protecting mass numbers of child rapists? And yet, despite catering to such an audience, the film was still a flop. I can’t explain it myself.

While the books were admittedly pretty good, I cannot recommend this movie to anyone, regardless of how visually nice it may be. A story that’s both intellectually and morally vacant as this should not be approved of, no matter how young your kids might be. You should all go rent something much better, like the film I’ll be reviewing tomorrow (Spiderwick Chronicles, for you impatient bastards out there).

Rating: * ½


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The first sign that I had that this would not be a gradual improvement over Ladyhawke came pretty early on when I saw the Lucasfilm logo. The second sign came during the opening credits when I saw that this was “A Ron Howard film”. Call me a film snob all you want, but that is not a very good pedigree there.

To be sure, the two do bring a minimum level of competence to the film that definitely makes it watchable, but it’s without question the weakest so far of the films I’ve yet covered for Fantasy Film Week. It rehashes the plot of Beastmaster by including a prophecy that a newborn child would cause the doom of an evil ruler, it has the “delight” of a screaming infant, because as we all know there’s nothing more pleasant to listen to, and with Lucas co-writing the story we get a climax that involves a battle plan by the heroes that’s actually even worse than relying on an army of teddy bears to take out the evil empire.

That said, though, there are a few bright spots. For all his faults as a filmmaker, I do still find myself inordinately pleased with Lucas’s insistence on keeping wipes alive as a scene transition; even in his 60s or however the hell old he is, he’s still stubbornly continuing with them, and God bless ‘im for it. The fight scenes are also, as usual for the genre, pretty impressive, even though it’s pretty impossible to feel any real concern that any of the principle players might be killed.

Still, though, there’s a good reason why Warwick Davis was in zero sequels to this, and yet was in five sequels to Leprechaun. Despite its higher production and name values, this was really a second rate fantasy film. It’s probably the safest one for young children that I’ve seen so far this week (as evidenced by how I had last seen it in elementary school), but if you’re reading this blog you’re most likely a bit out of its target age bracket. Still, I guess if you have a kid, there are much worse 80s films to watch with them. Like Legend, for instance (no, I’m not reviewing it this week, I just hate it).

Rating: **


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


And Fantasy Film Week continues onward with Ladyhawke, a somewhat sharper, more coherently written, and definitely better acted entry in the genre. I hope this trend of gradually increasing quality continues over the course of the week, I must say.

Before I get into the requisite plot summary, I feel I must address the issues with Ladyhawke’s MPAA rating, as it relates to that of Beastmaster. Now, Beastmaster came out in 1982, before the PG-13 rating existed, and so while it had a greater amount of blood in it than Ladyhawke (as well as some nudity), it wasn’t considered extreme enough to warrant an R and got a PG rating. Ladyhawke, unfortunately, had the misfortune to come out a year after the creation of the PG-13 rating, and so was branded with that despite being nudity-free and less violent than Beastmaster had been. The MPAA is a very screwed up organization.

Anyway, this film stars Matthew Broderick as a young thief on the run from the villainous French government, led by a corrupt bishop, who befriends a powerful soldier (the delightful Rutger Hauer) who has coincidentally been cursed by the very same bishop. See, the bishop had been lusting after Michelle Pfeiffer, and when she fell for Hauer instead, the bishop decided that the only reasonable way to settle this dispute was to make it so that every time the sun goes down, Hauer turns into a wolf until dawn, while Pfeiffer turns into a hawk from sunrise to sundown, ensuring that they can never properly consummate their love without a lot of social taboos being broken.

Much like pretty much every fantasy film I’ve yet seen, the plot does tend to be fairly episodic, though this one is a step above by virtue of spending the bulk of its time focusing on the tragic love angle, rather than just being a string of largely unconnected battles. It also helps that Hauer and Pfeiffer are much better actors than one normally gets in such a film (nothing against Marc Singer, mind you, but his acting in Beastmaster tended to consist pretty much entirely of squinting and flexing), as they both help elevate this one above the standard 80s fantasies.

Rating: ***


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Beastmaster

Due to circumstances that were clearly beyond my control, I was “forced” to take a long weekend and skip out on reviews for Thursday and Friday. To make up for this scandalously lax regimen, I’ve decided to cheer up all of you lucky readers with a theme week: from today until Friday (presumably), you’re going to get to enjoy Fantasy Film Week, starting with The Beastmaster! Hooray!

Which is not to say that this film is all that amazing and worthy of applause, as it’s a pretty average effort, definitely the weakest effort I’ve so far seen from director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep). Big on brawling fight scenes and light on coherency, it comes off a lot like the first Conan movie, to the point where I’d be tempted to call it an outright ripoff had they not come out in the same year. Our hero, the Beastmaster, spends his days running around with no shirt on to better show off his manliness, and communing with animals and seeing through their eyes and whatnot. Of course, the film would be very boring were that all he did, and so soon after cutting ahead from his youth to adulthood his village is destroyed by evil knights in black armor and scary helmets, and so he must now go questing to save people from a villainous pagan priest and the evil knights.

It’s not so much that the movie is bad; indeed, several of the scenes, such as one involving a creepy race of bat people, are very good. It’s just that they don’t seem to add up at all. He just seems to roam from place to place having new mini-adventures everywhere he goes like a road trip movie without anything really connecting. Hell, unless I missed something while I was on the potty, the evil priest and the evil knights weren’t even connected at all, they were completely separate enemies. If you’re a big fantasy fan, this is worth a view. For everyone else, it’s probably more something to see only when there’s nothing else on TV.

Rating: ** ½


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

When faced with the surprise DVD success of the first Harold & Kumar, the film’s creators were faced with a choice for the sequel: should they try to capture the insane spirit of the original while taking the story in a totally new direction, and risk alienating fans of the first film, or should they pattern the second film as closely as possible to the first film, to the point of reusing many of the same jokes? Well, if you’re wondering, obviously they went with the second. Hollywood isn’t really known for taking chances, after all.

Of course, that having pretty much been a given, the real question isn’t so much “is this as good as the original”, but rather “is this still worth seeing, even though it’s not as good as the original”? Well, it is, so have no fear. The plot is still basically that of a road trip movie, with the addition of them being on the run from the NSA as suspected terrorists. All the same rules apply as in the first film; Harold is uptight and permanently nervous and angry, Kumar is always cheerful and stoned, they go from random sketch to random sketch, Neil Patrick Harris steals the show, etc. There’s even a repeat of Freakshow, as we get another creepy hillbilly with his hot wife inviting them over. The jokes generally work, though its pretty impossible not to feel some amount of déjà vu at it all.

While this isn’t on the same level as the original, it’s still an entertaining enough comedy, and you could do much worse than seeing it. If it tends to repeat itself, then so be it. You could always watch the original again, after all. Trust don’t try to watch them back to back, as it’ll be uncannily like watching the same one twice.

Rating: ** 1/2


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Dark Night

With all of the recent hype over Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I thought it would be fitting to review the film that inspired it all, the 80s cult classic One Dark Night, featuring a very young Meg Tilly (who sadly never quite achieved the level of fame of her sister Jennifer). Some might argue that this film actually has nothing to do with Dark Knight other than having a similar name, but I say those people are damn fool hippies who want to overthrow our government, and I will be damned if I will let them have their way!

The film starts off pretty damned slowly, however, much moreso than Dark Knight does with its Bat-imitators trying to shoot up some crooks, and the Joker gang bank robbery and whatnot. No, this preferred more of a slow build, to the point of being borderline glacial. There’s two main plots, one concerning Meg Tilly as a teenager trying to survive some sorority hazing from her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. Before you ask, no, despite half the cast of the movie playing sorority sisters, there is no nudity to be had, because we like to keep things classy here. The other plot follows the family of a recently-deceased magician, who apparently was a legitimate telekinetic, and who gained his powers by terrifying young victims and then draining them of their psychic energy.

All this setup is pretty long and dreary, but it climaxes beautifully. For her final bit of hazing, Tilly is told to spend a night locked in a mortuary, which happens to also be the resting place of the villainous telekinetic. The sorority sisters decide to both drug Tilly to make her hallucinate and break into the mortuary themselves to frighten her until she flees and loses her chance at the sorority. This is when the movie just goes completely off the rails insane, and turns from a snoozefest into a thing of beauty. Just as one would expect, all of the negative psychic energy brings the magician semi-back to life (his corpse stands up and glows, but doesn’t move at all), and his natural response to such a situation is to start knocking props over and flinging corpses at everyone.

There’s a shockingly low body count for the film (just two or three, unless you count the four girls found in the magician’s closet that were already dead by the start), but there’s so much crazy action at the end that it more than makes up for it all. Indeed, it kind of acts like The Dark Knight, but in reverse: it has both a dull first two acts, and then gives us an amazing final third, instead of the incredibly rushed Two-Face storyline that weakened the great beginning and middle of Dark Knight. If some enterprising young film editor were to take The Dark Knight up to the end of the Joker storyline and then splice in everything in this film after the arrival at the mausoleum, we may just get one of the best movies ever made. Get right on this, people, it’s a gold mine waiting to happen!

Rating: ***


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Borrower

If there’s one nice thing about horror movies (at least, ones that weren’t just shot on someone’s home video camera), it’s that the people involved with their creation often have the same fabulous taste in films that I do. Perfect example: out of all the vast multitude of movies out there that two of the characters here could have chosen to watch while an alien murderer killed their dog and wore its head before trying to murder a bunch of nearby teens, they were watching the Garbage Pail Kids movie. Now THAT is pimp.

The movie opens with an alien condemned for his crimes to be devolved into human form and sent to Earth to live as one of us, for there can apparently be no greater punishment among overly prickish aliens. Sadly, however, the devolving process is a smidge flawed, and once each day he needs to kill someone else and take their body, a process that involves his current head exploding and him then needing to attach the new one on. I’m not really sure how it works, but there may be science involved.

There’s also a female detective thrown into the mix, who must try to solve the string of head-stealing murders while also trying to bring to justice a vicious rapist and occasional cross-dresser. If you think you can guess where and how these two plotlines intersect, you’re probably not far off. The film’s only serious flaw comes in the ending, which is way too rushed and is blatantly intended to be nothing more than a setup for The Borrower 2, which sadly has yet to arrive. And really, as far as horror movies go, that’s a fairly forgivable offense.

Rating: ***


Friday, August 8, 2008

The Vulture's Eye

About fifteen minutes into this film, when it finally took a break from the interminably long horseback riding talk, we got a glimpse of our villain, and instantly the thought flashed into my head: not another goddamned vampire movie! This is like the eighth or ninth one so far in the set, and I’ve only watched 25 movies so far. Of course, a few minutes after that thought, the names of the characters clicked in my head and I realized an even more horrible thought: this is just Dracula set in the present day, with just the vampire’s name changed Nosferatu-style.

I have seen in my day far too many versions of Dracula. From Hammer Studios alone I’ve seen close to a dozen Dracula films, not to mention all the old Universal ones, both Nosferatu films, Coppola’s tragically lame 90s version, and a wide variety in between. My point is that unless a film really excels, really takes the basic story and runs with it in some new way that nobody has done before, I’m probably going to be very bored watching it. Of course, as about a third of this film’s running time is devoted to horses and stables and horseback riding and discussing horseback riding and zzzzzzzzzzz…*snort* Huh? Wuzzat? Oh, a review? At this time of night?

This isn’t all bad, of course. It’s probably the best made of the four movies on this disc, for what little that’s worth. Unfortunately, it’s still a rung below Sleep Disorder, just because it’s so goddamned serious and dull for most of its running length (every now and then we’ll get an abrupt “vampire attack” sequence that’s set to loud generic rock music and which has lots of blood and occasional brief nudity, but we’re always quickly sent back to our lame main tale). Retelling the story of Dracula, even with a few minor twists, does not in itself make a movie good. Indeed, with several hundred films under his belt, a budding young filmmaker would be wise to make a vampire movie that had nothing to do with Dracula himself, even if they were to rename him Count Vogel.

Rating: ½ *


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sleep Disorder

This is a notable step up from the first two movies on the disc, for a simple little reason I like to call “effort.” Sure, it’s the incompetent effort of people that need a lot more practice before they make anything that could be called good, but damn it, at least they tried, unlike the fuckers that made Redneck County Fever and Devil’s Moon.

Filmed in flashback, the movie follows a budding young ghost hunter as he kicks the flowers away from a grave while filming a documentary searching for ghosts, and finds himself haunted by the ghost of the woman buried there. Most of the story is being told by him to a psychiatrist, whose sessions with him are curiously filmed in a bit of pseudo-slow motion, where the audio comes in fine but the video is all choppy and awkward. I at first took this to just be an effort to distinguish these scenes as coming at the end of the film or something, until we later get a scene with the psychiatrist by herself with the video trick still going on. I now have no option but to assume that this is done because the psychiatrist is so terminally boring that all laws of physics become warped and time itself seems to slow down around her. There really is no other possible explanation here.

Speaking of video effects, the filmmakers pretty much pull out all the stops here. They use pretty much every effect that one could easily find on Photoshop or some similar home-style computer video editor. What’s more, the camerawork is actually done with some attention to shot composition and some rudimentary knowledge that a good filmmaker films more than just the immediate action in as few shots as possible. It’s not done well, but after seeing several scenes in Redneck County Fever that were all done in one shot for no discernible reason beyond that it would have presumably involved effort to try a different camera angle, I’m happy that some measure of effort was made here. Perhaps tomorrow when I watch The Vulture’s Eye I’ll get effort and talent…no, that’s probably asking too much.

Rating: *


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Taking a slight break from the Tomb of Terrors set, here’s a recent film that I actually didn’t find it a chore to watch. Doomsday, the last effort by delightful horror director Neil Marshall (whose previous films include Dog Soldiers, which is one of the best werewolf movies I have ever seen, and The Descent, which is simply one of the creepiest and best-made horror movies of the past decade), plays out like an upgraded version of Escape From New York, all the way down to the lead with a missing eye. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, unashamedly derivative, and extremely fun to watch.

Set in the near future, as such a film must, we are treated to an England that was walled off Scotland after the outbreak of an incurable plague several years prior. Tragically, a new outbreak has begun in London, and so the government (headed by Prime Minister Julian Bashir, who I’m always way too excited to see in anything) decides to send a strike force into Scotland in search of a possible cure before all of London gets put at risk. Of course, things go horribly awry, as multiple factions of survivors of the plague attack the strike force, mostly wiping it out, and our one-eyed heroine is largely left alone to find a cure and make her way back home.

It’s the first film I’ve seen from Marshall that wasn’t a horror movie, and it shows that he is equally qualified to do any other kind of sleazy genre film. There’s all the blood and over-the-top violence you’d expect from his previous works (at least in the unrated version, I haven’t seen the theatrical one), and there’s a good amount of cleverness and fun to the whole thing. Without giving much away (see, when I actually like the movie, I do try to avoid spoilers), the big performance of the head of the first gang is so wonderful that I had to rewind it when it was done so I could watch it again.

Now, this is not the best movie Marshall has ever made; that honor still belongs to The Descent. This is, however, a superior action film, one that’s not afraid to get a good deal grimmer and more vicious than most modern-day action movies are brave enough to tread. If you have a vested interest in joy, or the comfort of cuddling young kittens, then you should absolutely check this film out. If, however, you feel a certain amount of masochism, and can only feel happiness when experiencing pain, then perhaps you may be more interested in the Tomb of Terrors collection, which I should hopefully be halfway done with by Friday.

Rating: *** ½


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Redneck County Fever

I do have to say that, in this film’s favor, at least it was somewhat short, clocking in at “only” an hour, and didn’t try to force itself to ponderously chug along to the 90 minute mark so it could call itself a feature film. Sadly, that’s the best praise I can find for this movie, as otherwise it’s a total dog.

The film’s origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery. It has no IMDB page to rely upon; the Tomb of Terrors set says it was made in 2001, but why on earth would a movie made in 2001 feature one main character that spends the whole movie doing a lame Spicoli impression, and another main character that goes around dressing like an 80s hip-hop star? Further, the film looks fuzzy and indistinct, which could just mean they used a shitty digital cam, or it could mean that it was transferred off of an old VHS tape. Of course, it doesn’t matter too much either way, as the film sucks.

You may have noticed that, outside of “garbage”, I didn’t give this film any kind of genre tag. There’s a reason for that, as the film just kind of meanders along without any real point to its existence, and doesn’t really stray far enough into any genre to qualify. Here’s the plot in a nutshell: the two are driving in the south, their car breaks down, they have no money to fix it, a guy offers them money if they deliver a package for him, they run afoul of the law and run into the woods, a cannibal tries to hunt them, they escape, they run into a faith mechanic, they run into a female mechanic, they talk to a cop, there’s a quick shootout, the end (complete with “THE END” in big block letters against a black background, in case we didn’t get the hint).

None of these little vignettes are at all fleshed out, and none go on more than five or ten minutes. I guess it’s more like a road trip movie than anything else, just for the fact that the entire film is them bouncing around an unknown landscape running into people and then ditching them so that they can run into other people, but that’s probably more attributable to bad writing than any specific design. Again, this is a film that was just done by a group of friends that had a few weekends off, created to amuse them and let them show their friends that they had been in a movie, with no entertainment value whatsoever for anyone that’s not personally acquainted with one of the cast or crew. There’s two more movie to go and I’ll have made it halfway through the Tomb of Terrors collection, I can only hope that at least one of them can justify itself a bit better.

Rating: Zero stars


Monday, August 4, 2008

Devil's Moon

Well, that was certainly a nice, refreshing week off, and now I’m ready to come back for some more reviews! What’s that you say, I took a tiny bit more than a week off? Nah, I’m sure you’re all just crazy and imagining things. Anyway, to celebrate my grant return after a scandalously long one week absence, I’ve decided to return to everyone’s favorite bargain collection of homemade horror movies, the Tomb of Terrors collection! Now, I realize that I may have been a tad critical, even harsh, of some of the previous films found in the collection, but I’m sure that we’ve got things back on track now, and starting with today’s entry, Devil’s Moon, we’re going to usher in a new era of quality low-budget horror entertainment. Because as we all know, in big box sets like this, they always hide away the best films in the back so that we can enjoy searching for them. Really, it’s about the journey.

And that journey is going to have to go on a bit longer, because this movie is a complete dog. The first thing you notice when the film starts is that it’s by “Gasslight Productions”, and I don’t know which is worse, the idea that they’d misspell their own company’s name in the opening credits, or the idea that they’d think it was funny to intentionally misspell Gaslight so that “ass” would be in it. Either way, it starts the film off to a fairly low standard that it absolutely manages to live down to. Lacking what some would conventionally refer to as a “plot”, it starts off by dealing with a serial killer trying to become immortal by sacrificing his victims to the dark gods or whatever, though his villainous credentials are somewhat nullified by the fact that he talks like an irritating frat boy. The film then moves on to a pair of annoying coworkers who run afoul of the mad killer, and soon start running through the woods endlessly trying to avoid him. Then some evil spirits get involved and a few zombies start running around because he was the essence of pure evil as summoned by a couple of college age goths who spend too much time in the woods. If this seems a bit busy for a 90-minute film, I’d tend to agree, if not for the fact that it’s all so thinly fleshed out that there’s not a scene in the film that doesn’t seem to drag on forever.

When I say this is a home made horror movie, I don’t think I’m exaggerating. The acting is so amateurish that I’m stunned to see that so many of them have appeared in multiple films (though to be sure most of them have only been in similar no-budget horror like this). The script manages to be both cluttered and dull, a good sign of someone who could barely be bothered to finish up a first draft. The lighting and sound, always good indicators of a film’s budget, are strictly limited to the kinds of lights and microphones that someone with a normal job outside the industry could afford (the opening scene, for instance, which drags on a good deal more than it should, is “artistically” lit only by a regular computer lamp). The director, David DeFino, wisely has yet to make another film after this. I mean really, how was he going to top this?

Rating: Zero stars