The Violent Blue blog***Comics, Horror and Pop Culture***Updates Tuesday through Friday (and occasionally at random)

Horror Movies

Camp Cold Brook

I wasn’t aware that Camp Cold Brook was going to be a ghost hunter mock buster, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These frequently turn out well.

It’s a really good set up though. We’ve got this haunted squad show and it’s about to be canceled. However the producer has made a deal… One more episode, but it is a special, and if it does amazing numbers, maybe they come back. It’s life or death for them. It’s do or die time.

The haunt squad arrives in a creepy little small town with plenty of doomsayers telling them not to go in. It’s a good way of giving us some of the backstory. It was a tragedy of the camp… Which cursed it cost 30 deaths in order to bring her child back. I set up, I don’t usually get witches in these sort of ghost hunter shows. In any event, it’s time for day one where they’re sitting at homebase in the main office, rigging lights and installing cameras. The special cameras are mounted on gimbals so that we don’t get anything particularly shaky cam. Good way of explaining away no more professional grade video we’re getting.

The first act does an excellent job of establishing the backstory, while the second act is working a lot harder to establish a mood. We start to get some activity, and it’s not subtle at all. The filmmakers here want to make it perfectly clear if something is happening here. The attacks are actually fairly aggressive as well for the second act. You can kind of feel the transition over into the third act though when an assistant tries to leave. Whatever’s here of course isn’t going to let them leave but now it’s time for the third at twist. Ghost hunters mother lives in the area, and she knows about the haunting as well. She knows, because ghost hunter grew up here and was a part of the curse… Only, he doesn’t remember and that’s a bad thing, because these ghosts have a good reason to want vengeance on him.

The film isn’t satisfied with just one plot twist neither, there’s still a few surprises in store here, but I don’t wanna give it all away. This one’s a really good one for you to see gotten watch. A good solid horror film with some genuine creep to it


Murder Party

Murder Party is one of those perpetual Netflix denizens that I always seem to skip by when I’m browsing., It’s got a good cover and an interesting sounding premise, but something else always seemed a little bit more interesting. Now that I have A copy of the DVD, it’s a priority. Especially having the special features that help me get to know the filmmakers, I feel like thats something we need. Murder Party was made by people who have been together hanging out and making movies since they were in junior high and had access to VHS cameras and super8 film. Murder Party has been an idea they’ve been kicking around for ages and finally got together the resources to do it properly.

An average Joe comes across an invitation to a party, blowing down the sidewalk on a windy day. It’s Halloween, he doesn’t think twice about the fact that they’re calling in a murder party, so he sets up a bowl of candy corn for the trick-or-treating (who have already smashed his jack-o-lantern), turn the pumpkin into pumpkin bread, and crafts a Knights costume  out of cardboard, jumps on the subway and heads out. The partiers he encounters chain him up, and explain to him that he’s just a time for his own murder. We spent the next 40 minutes or so getting to know the killers. They really do want to commit murder as a sort of ultimate art piece, but at the same time are unsure about actually killing someone. The charismatic leader of the group leads them down some dark paths. The movie culminates in an exciting escape, with the murderers chasing our victim through a party, a club and an art gallery. It’s a satisfying conclusion, but overall, the film feels like it drags… and that saying something for an 80 minuet movie. I respect these guys but I can’t help but wonder if they’ve been off more than they can chew. The film looks slick, professional, well lit and well shot. The actors are all excellent but the story doesn’t fit into the traditional three act structure, and without that structure you begin to lose your audience. The middle part of the movie meanders and vacillates, much like the murders. It’s a one note gag that you really can only stretch so far, and Murder Party seems like it would have been better served yes a short film.

If I were to do my own cut, I’d tighten the beginning and then cut right after the first kill… Cutting over to the victims first escape attempt. I’d include the broom closet to scene, and from there Cut to the chase. If you seen the movie, you’ll note this sort of edit cuts out more than half the movie and and in excises entire characters but I think it would’ve been best for me. I don’t need to know really want to know the murderers. For me, we probably should lean on the wacky premise of the murder party and sell it.

Despite everything, it’s still a buy for me, because I wanna see more from these guys and I’d like to support future projects. Of course, the movies been out for quite a while now and I’m not sure how much my purchase actually helps them, but I really would like to see this casting crew given another chance. Even if this film doesn’t deserve it, they do


Zombie Walk fall 2022

In  a time when Zombie Walks are growing more and more scarce, it’s nice to know the Monster walk in Lakewood is still going on strong. I’m even happy to see there was a nice uptick in attendance. Fall is usually the smaller one, with a lot of the zombies already at work in the local haunted houses just before October. But the middle of September gives everyone a good chance to get in the Halloween mood and try out new makeup and characters before heading into the gloom and smoke and strobe lighting of their respective haunted attractions. Good to see some friends like Mark and Craig back up  and really interesting to see Epislon spearheading the whole thing.  It’s a good day to be a zombie in Lakewood. And if you don’t believe me….just take a look at the pictures below!

 

 


Greystone Park

 

I first watched Greystone Park about five years or so ago, while I was on a found footage binge. When I saw it on the dollar store shelf, I grabbed it entirely for the special features. I remember it not making much of an impression on me originally, but the idea of Oliver Stone’s son making a movie intrigued me. I recall not thinking much about it. That review kind of still stands.

The Asylum Tapes (2012)

Okay, perhaps I’m being unnecessarily harsh. Really, this is not the genre for what Stone was trying to do. This film is pretentious, and more than a little artsy. It has SOME interesting concepts and some great lines…and all of them are more than this kind of movie deserves. Real people don’t talk like this.

We have the main characters breaking into an abandoned insane asylum, pretty much just for kicks, but there seems to be a kind-of idea floating around that maybe they could make a movie out of this… The filmmaking aspect of the story however feels completly secondary. And afterthought, nothing more.

the-asylum-tapes-01

I think I would have forgiven more if this had been a straightforward cinematic style. When you go shakeycam, you live and die by it, in the plain realism of it. These guys wax philosophical, and jump in and out of first person POV to wide shots and quick cuts of scary images. The idea is to build atmosphere, but all it ends up doing is take me straight out of the movie. I can’t suspend my disbelief so easily when you jump styles like that. This just doesn’t work as a found footage movie. When we do have the shakycam going it was another one that made me sick to my stomach, but interestingly enough it would frequently be just….TOO good. Perfectly framed shots lit for the sheer soul of it……again, a found footage film just isn’t the place for this. It makes me wonder why they choose this form of storytelling in the first place.

The final nail in the coffin for this movie is the lack of monsters or any real threat. It’s all poorly constructed atmosphere, a few quick and simple scares but nothing significant. We get one evil shadow for about three seconds and a brief flash of the girl on the cover – that’s right : she’s not the main antagonist and is hardly in the film. Funny, marketing seemed to figure out what this movie needed far more than the filmmakers. Did I use the word “pretentious” yet?

Seriously, this movie reeks of it. From the beginning scene (which we cut back to occasionally) of the family and guests  having a deeeeeep discussion around the family hooka (seriously) to the final shots of Oliver stone tipping his hat to the camera as his shadow walks away from him, this movie doesn’t earn any of it and it just kind of pisses me off.

The one thing that I neglected to mention in that original review, (perhaps it didn’t affect me that first time? I can’t imagine that’s the case) is the completely bonkers nature of the last 10 minutes or so. When they enter the chapel, all bets are off and it is the single scene in the film that is truly terrifying.

On the other hand, as pretentious and effete as the films dialogue is… The commentary track is twice as bad. I couldn’t get over how utterly pleased Stone and his friends are with themselves. There’s smugness, and a total head in the clouds sort of artistic obliviousnes. These guys are in their own world, and it’s crazy. They’ve convinced themselves that a significant amount of the film is real and it comes off as a bad episode of Ghost Hunters. I will say this, I’m pleased that I had the commentary and the alternate ending. It explains one of the story points that I completely missed…(because the film really isn’t that great and these guys were too busy making art to bother telling a story). The original ending is a little more cheap, cheesier and not as aesthetically pleasing, but on the other hand it actually wraps up the story much better and explains some of what happened.

I still can’t really recommend Greystone Park, but if you’re one of those people like me who came away from it confused when you watched it on Netflix, it’s worth grab them at the dollar tree just for that alternate ending and a little more explanation… Assuming you can swim through all the nonsense they spew without drowning. Good luck.

 

 

Abandoned Asylum

85% of the cast is under 25

Black and white greasepaint

Found Footage

Cover misrepresents the movie

something walks by in the background


Pyewachet

 

The cover of Pyewachet is eerie and incomprehensible, but when the film opens up in a barren woods in the middle of autumn, with some chanting over the imagery, we know exactly what’s coming up. It’s going to be a witch movie. Misfit girl with creepy patches on her book bag wanders to school hall and gets picked up in a car blaring heavy metal music to go home. Her bedrooms lined with black metal band posters and she trudges through an emotionally distant home where the mom is a drunk is still mourning her dead father and doesn’t really care where she goes and what she does. She hang out with her friends, reads books like an occult primer and gets nervous around her not-boyfriend.

One night she comes home to discover that her mother has signed a lease on a new home up north, and that they will be moving shortly. She retreats to her bedroom upstairs and loses her self in her impressive collection of occult books.
You can almost feel the detached sensation of walking through life knowing you’re being ripped from the home that you really want to be out in the front if you know. They argue, and she runs into the woods, furious and despondent. It’s in those words that she will begin her ritual. There are soft noises in the woods, and the crow caws as she’s summons something.

The next morning, the door is ajar and there’s dirt tracked into the house. It’s creepy but nothing else a mess. Lee and her mother head into town for some shopping. Halloween decorations are up. Lee seems to be getting along better with her mother, Mom‘s concern over the cut on her arm actually seem to bond them. But now they’re strange noises in the house, footsteps at night and shadows on the wall. Dark figure clings there in creeps around her room as she sleeps.

And then she wakes in the Woods.

At this point she seeks help from her friends, one of them comes with her to spend the night… mostly because she’s hoping to see weird stuff happen!

She does. Something comes to her in the night and in the morning, she’s fled into the car, terrified and shaking. She’s adamant, she’s not going back inside the house… But she won’t talk about it either.
The entity that Lee’s unleashed can only be stopped if she performs the ritual in reverse, asking forgiveness each time. And time is running out, because once it’s finished it’s task, it’s coming for her
The film feels like an interesting low budget mix of The Witch and Insidious. It’s done well enough to give me the creeps and even goosebumps during parts of the climax in the third act. They show you just enough to scare you, while leaving enough to your imagination to keep you uneasy. It’s incredibly well written and well shot and genuinely scary. This one’s absolutely a high recommend
85% of the cast is under 25
Moving to a new house
Kind of cultist
CGI monster
occultic symbols (bonus if hidden)

Critters 4

franchisebanner

indexI got to be honest, I’m kind of a sucker for the “in space”  entry of any horror genre. Jason X and Leprechaun 4 our among my favorites in those respective franchises. It took Hellraiser two tries, but they did get it right with Event Horizon. More than most franchises though, Critters is uniquely suited for the space episode, considering that the wee little beasties are aliens in of themselves.

The previous film set us up for this, with the critter eggs being loaded onto an escape capsule that would then float around in space undisturbed, kind of like Buck Rogers. It’s found by a group of salvage people and they run it to a Terran space station  which is eerily abandoned. The critters hatch and begin to do their thing while the crewmates squabble.

It’s actually an impressive cast, with the ship being captained by Anders Hove, the vampire from Subspecies, engineered by Brad Dourif of Chucky fame, and piloted by Angela Bassett. The computer indexvoice on the space station also just happens to be hammer horror alumni and bond girl Martine Bestwick.

On the space station, where they’ve been conducting illicit experiments, the critters lay eggs while our heroes attempt to contain and require them. The movie manages to infuse the general fun of critters with the sci-fi genre and general Critters franchise feeling. Filmed back to back with part three it’s not surprising that they are able to maintain a consistent tone. It’s notable to see some of these actors in early roles but ultimately becomes disposable and silly entertainment, but definitely get the extra points for me for being in space!


Werewolves of the Third Reich

Werewolves of the third reich starts off with a title card telling us it’s 1944. Probably a good idea, and the setting is beautiful. A brick bar that feels like it’s in a basement, with well it light glinting off the bottles. Our main character, Maddog, starts a fight with a Nazi which turns into a shoot out in the bar. They’re good at tension, but that Beretta his partner is holding his way out of place.

We passed the credits to chapter 1, which takes place at a prison camp where the women have more anachronistic hair. It’s an experiment camp, where they’re testing out chemicals and serums on the prisoners, making progress on their biological warfare efforts, even enough for a scientist to deliver a report to the least convincing Hitler I’ve ever seen.

Flashback to the execution of a traitor and his family, filled with CGI blood splatters from the same pack everybody else uses, and then a return to the scientist who talks about combining human DNA with wolves. I’m glad to finally hear something about wolves because we’re a half hour into this thing and I haven’t seen a single werewolf. That takes us to chapter 2, with a couple of our army men arguing.  The junior officer is tossed into the back of an empty van with a group of guys headed for lock up. Stories in the van before we shift back over to the more interesting Nazi scientist, working in his lab. He needs a male and a female, according to his brain research. Meanwhile, the MP then get stopped by a blockage in the road… A suspicious stack of logs. It’s an ambush, but it does provide the prisoners with a chance to escape.

Meanwhile a mad scientist is cooking up a reanimator style serum to turn ordinary men into wolf hybrids. His first test subject is his guy his wife is having an affair with.

It’s just past an hour before we finally see this first werewolf. The thing is, it’s not really a werewolf as much as a monstrous mutant. I’ve always preferred Lon Cheney wolfmen to the American werewolf in London style, but this thing isn’t either. It’s more man than wolf. Practically hairless, with a fair looking appliance on his face. The cheating wife is so heartbroken that she injects herself with a serum to, just in time for the merry band of prisoners to find the installation and launch their own assault.

The good news is we finally get to see the werewolves strut their stuff… Bad news is there’s only 10 minutes left in the movie.

At the end of the day, this entire film comes off looking really cheap. It’s got that unflattering shot-on-video sheen to it, and they make a common mistake that low budget reductions fall into. When you do a period piece, everything has to look period. Not just the army uniforms, not just the Nazi uniforms (which are okay), but the haircuts, the beards, the house interiors, the photographs all of it. On a low budget production, it’s too easy for stuff to slip by or for “good enough” to be the standard of the day. These locations never feel genuine, and the characters just don’t look right. Some pinup hair and harsher make up would’ve gone along way on some of these characters… Even if it were out of place, it’s a sort of thing we expect to see… The sort of thing that conveys the era to us. The uniforms tend to be badly fitting and made from fabric that fails to convince… No matter how historically accurate they may actually be. And the fact that they don’t really commit to the werewolves, makes this a massive disappointment.

More a shame, because somebody had a clever idea, but not the skill to truly develop it. I don’t get to know this group of soldiers well enough… In fact, we really learned More about the mad scientist and his wife that we do about our heroes! I want these army guys to be people I can root for, a group of heroes that I want to revisit again and again, in sequels down the line. I think that’s something they could’ve accomplished… The templates are all there, but they failed to stick the landing and instead of becoming heroic arctypes, they really end up just being cardboard cut outs, and it’s a shame. Werewolves of The Third Reich is a hard pass both for werewolf lovers and fans of natziploitation.

 

 

Mad Scientist or science gone wrong

Girl is in love with Monster

Bad CGI (common, afterFX, same old blood packs)

 


Clowntown

Clowntown actually reminds me a great deal of the remake for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre… But with clowns.

Do I have your attention now? Good.

We have a group of people heading out to a concert in southern Ohio, but they get lost and stop at a diner for directions. They direct them along in the road heading towards their destination, but once back on the road one of the girls realizes she’s lost her phone. She calls it, and someone answers… Presumably someone from the diner who picked it up. He says he can meet at a small town just down the road.

Of course it’s a trap, and the small town is being terrorized by a gang of evil clowns. The kids car is sabotaged and it’s now a race to survive the night.

It’s interesting because we get just enough backstory on the clowns themselves, just a sprinkle. It’s very much a gangster piece, with these characters holding the entire town hostage. It feels like that sort of pervasive terror, where everywhere you turn, people are in thrall to the bad guys, and there’s no safety anymore. It’s a vibe I picked up from the TCM remake, as well as films like Race the Devil.

While it’s not bad, it’s certainly average. I’ve never quite understood the creepy clown thing, especially when in this case, they’re just people… Not monsters and demons, not aliens, just people in costume. The scariest thing about them is that perhaps they are willing to commit murder…and maybe, you’re not.

All in all, very average.

 

 

85% of the cast is under 25

Car breaks down

Clown(s)

 


Allegiance of Powers

From IMDB:

“Groups of super powered people begin a war that will bring the city they live in crumbling down. Allegiances of super powered people fight for control of a young girl, who holds the ultimate power to control anything and everyone in the city. They will begin a war that in the end could bring the entire city crumbling down.”

Flat out, I’ve been looking forward to this one. Allegiance to powers from its description and cover looks very much like a big departure from what Crum has done before. He begins in a heavily edited green screenshot of our heroes legs arriving in 2025. He seeing the aftermath of a battle. That’s when we flashback and we see the bomb drop. It destroys entire city intimate press of stock footage.

But that’s kind of what I’m talking about, Crum’s trying something different (in fact, it’s feels more like what I would expect from Daniel Armstrong – the post-apocalyptic punk feel). Trying to elevate this film and throw his ring in to the post-apocalyptic superhero fare, with something that at first glance there’s a passing resemblance to Roger. The credit fly over the post-apocalyptic, masks and goggles and grim looking people,  then plug it into some more abstract imagery before coming out the other side of the moon pulling back on a badly rendered CG city and landing on our heroes.

They all deliver soliloquies to try and give us some context, in this in enormously  filtered hyper-real environment. It’s almost the sort of video game looking environment that we see in films like Sucker Punch and Sin City. Interesting designs, and some impressive use of digital effects, but we need some story and fast.

It’s a very confusing beginning. Talk of innocents, and deadly red rain, introduction to characters and super fights, but no context. It’s a high concept an art film, but not necessarily ready for prime time.
We seem to be watching this song is it worth a video replay, I think that he was trying to figure out what happened… And he’s searching for a special young woman – actually I know that from the IMDb description. But the way things are still nonlinear and disjointed, it’s for a very difficult watch.

That’s really the big thing that disappoints me here. This really should’ve been a few YouTube videos, some short films. Because it seems like the entire point of this is to dive into digital FX and experiment with superhero concepts. This could be really interesting, even in its stylized form if there was just a good solid script here. The problem is, there’s not.
It’s brilliant visuals in dazzling eye candy, but it’s also the same feeling as watching a video game, and there’s sadly nothing of substance here. Visually and may becomes strongest work, and yet he magically it’s also probably his weakest.

 

 


Ouijageist

Ouijageist is the definition of direct to video Dollar tree horror. But I gotta say, the opening credits actually looked really good. A man running away from an unknown threat, finding a dead body in a barn… just across from a wooden box labeled “witchboard“ whispers come from the box. And the man hesitantly picks it up. In the distance, I figure stocks in through the woods.

The story takes place somewhere in England, with a news report about the man from the woods.- And young woman named India with a new baby moving into a new home (you may notice her landlord just happens to be character Karen Harper, played by Lesley Scoble in Amityville Playhouse a couple of years prior in 2015, placing both movies in the same universe). By the way, the witchboard has found its way into her backyard. She picks up the box and her mother looks at it and literally says “I wonder what’s inside?”, A Ouija board. It’s literally written on the top!

Well, India is settling in… Looking for a job, lunching with friends, and of course, playing with a Ouija board!

The haunting starts subtle at first… A nervous dog… A baby gate knocking someone down the stairs… Children’s alphabet blocks form in the words “you are mine“ spirit then lures the baby into a bathroom where scalding water is pouring into the tub… did that really just happen? We cut to a graveyard… Surely they didn’t…

No they didn’t. It was the girl who tripped earlier… She knocked her head into a coma and finally gave up the ghost – if you’ll pardon the expression. It’s her funeral, but Linda is now naturally a little nervous about her baby, and doesn’t wanna leave her with the sitter too long. To make matters worse, the dogs run away.

Meanwhile, the Ouija board whispers.

There’s a knock on the door, and Linda goes to answer it… And somebody throws the severed head of her dog at her. Let me tell you something, this film is going hard. Now the kids or animals are safe! Linda breaks down in tears crying “why are these things happening?“ Well, it’s because you messed around with a Ouija board you stupid bimbo, and even worse, you did it in an apartment that’s haunted!

Linda takes the boys to a antique dealer to try and sell it… He gives an interesting history, do you have the wood back to certain forests in Germany and having some age to it. 

The exchange is interrupted by Linda‘s loser ex, the father of her baby. He’s trying to make a good, get a job and shop with some money. But that sure is a curious looking scar on his hand… Almost like a pentagram,? He freaks out, with ruins edging into his face, spitting hot coffee and pestilence at Linda… Then shows up dead in the river.

Next up, I was wrapped through the legs of a ladder on wet concrete. Great way for the house goes to crack somebody’s head open. Oh and when a priest walks in? I can’t imagine anything that would anger accursed house more. It’s enough for it to actually generate a creature coming up through the pipes to attack the priest. Shaking silverware, and flashing visions over a rumble of demonic anger. They’ll be no blessing of this house!

Like many horror movies, this one really does start ramping up the action and the FX for the third act as it turns into more of a zombie movie… and It’s actually surprisingly good. It doesn’t hurt that the entire movie is 84 minutes… And it doesn’t need to be any longer. What it needs is more money and some better access to special effects. But they try… Man You can see they put their heart and soul into this and did an amazing job with the resources they had. The effects may be average, but they’re well thought out and quite proficiently employed. I like it. I really do… In fact, this is one of those movies I really wish I could see remade with a bigger budget and better resources for the ghostly effects. The fact that they made this as good as they did, tells you you have some fairly good filmmakers here. 

It’s still a recommend, but go into it with your “what it might’ve been“ goggles on.

Q


Puppet Master : The Littlest Reich

Sometimes I’m wrong.

It’s funny, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Puppet Master, the Littlest Reich. I’ve heard nothing but good things admittedly. But, the thing is, once puppet master started leaning into the whole World War II stuff all the retro puppet Master stuff, you got less interesting to me. I like seeing the killer puppets in modern times killing modern people. Watching them kill Nazis is cool for a single movie, but I wasn’t interested in seeing a bunch more of that. And of course if puppet master is famous for anything, it’s going back to the well. Let’s face it, we have a couple movies in the middle that are basically just clip shows, and we were right in the middle of a phase in American society where the phrase punching Nazis was getting popular.
So I kind of skipped the littlest Reich for the longest time. Right up until I found a copy on Blu-ray at the dollar tree. Well, we would delay no more.
What do you mean it’s not World War II? Oh crap.
We’ve got a slacker working at a comic book shop, returning home after a bitter divorce and getting ready to sell his vintage to lawn puppet. It’s kind of blade, but it’s kind of not. The film in general is very much a reboot in the spirit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or rob zombies Halloween. They’re taking the idea, doing some of their own thing, but still trying to show some respect. There’s a convention coming up celebrating the puppet master, and people from all over the country are bringing their puppets to be auctioned off. It’s a good set up. And our hero brings his new girlfriend as well as his partner in crime from the comic book shop and off they go on the road trip. With this many people gather together, along with this many killer puppets… Naturally, mayhem ensues, And it’s a race against time to survive the killer puppets… And perhaps, prevent Toulon from rising from the dead.

The thing that really struck me about this film, was how gory it was. Seriously, they’ve never been afraid of bringing the blood, but this one is a whole new level, going both gory and disturbing with some of the kills. It’s actually everything that I could possibly want from the series, and I’m shocked at just how good this entry is. That’s not even mentioning brilliant appearances from Barbara Crampton and Udo Kier! It’s enough to make me definitely want to see more and check out what this new generation of Puppet Master is all about.

Cabin Fever : Patient Zero

OK Cabin Fever Patient Zero, you’ve got quite a bit to prove. Because here’s the thing, I’m not a big fan of the original. I mean I don’t hate it, I think I’ve watched it twice back in the day. Those two times were both on VHS, so that let you know about how long ago it was. I haven’t sought out the remake or really any of the sequels, but I’ll admit, seeing a familiar franchise name like this on the shelves of dollar tree, and noticing Sean Astin in the credits… OK. I’m good. It’s 94 minutes, so that’s manageable, especially on one and a half speed. But, Patient Zero, you have a lot to prove and I’m going into this defiant.

The contagions already underway, and people are trying to contain it which gives you an idea of what kind of movie this will be. Sean Astin is in custody, playing a character named Porter. He is the only non-asymptomatic carrier of this disease, and his family is dead.
Elsewhere, how much younger cast is arriving in a part of the world where everybody skin as far more darker than ours. Central America? There’s a lot of Spanish language going on hi there. Either way we have a wedding coming up along with the traditional festivities… And the bachelor party. And the bachelor party is taking itself out on a yacht to an abandoned island that the locals won’t go near..
How strange. When snorkeling they find no fish… Not until they come across a cove of desiccated fish corpses that is.
Meanwhile, in the B storyline, Sean Astin is getting poked and prodded, and infecting the staff at the secret government facility. I’m curious if the sea storylines ever meet up..
Back at the campsite, the rashes started. I can’t say I’m feeling too sympathetic. They’ve made most of these characters far less likable than the ones in the original… But then again that’s because they’re just there to die I guess,  and douchebag totally deserves the most heinous squirting scene anyone has ever seen. In search of helpers here, it’s time to explore the abandoned building on the other side of the island.
Oh my God. It’s a building for an Astin was in isn’t it? (yes, yes it is) This is a time jump isn’t it? (No. It’s not.)
OK, at this point I’m just here for the gore. And to be fair, pretty girls skin ripping completely off her arm… Definitely worth the price of admission. Also, are those zombies?
There are some seriously action going on in the last act, and a couple of very impressive bit of blood. What I can say about this film, is that it’s an excellent sequel to the Cabin Fever series. it does everything a good sequel is supposed to do. He expands the world and pushes the mythology a bit. Not a ton, but a bit… It’s a pretty threadbare mythology as it is. If you’re a fan of this series and these movies, you’re gonna like this. If you’re a Gore hound, you’re gonna like this. Seriously, more skin less people than Hell raiser!  It’s almost my thing… But not quite. It’s close enough though, where I can see why people really dig this. Moreover, I gave them huge props for actually giving us a definitive answer as to the origin of the cabin fever virus. This is one of those few criticisms I have George Romero, that he would never give us a firm answer as to where the zombie virus came from. Cabin Fever manages to do so intelligently, dramatically, and without getting in the way of the story.. (Stick around for the end credits which flesh out the initial mention out) It’s actually A soft recommend.

Devil’s Revenge

Right off the bat, I feel like the devil is trying to convince us it’s going to be good stuff. The credits roll over scenes from the movie, much the way a syndicated adventure show credits would… Like they’re trying to assure us that there’s something good in store, despite the cheap cover art.

We have a group of men exploring a cave, but it’s not going well. Things get even more sinister when they find a chamber but obviously man-made… And filled with bones. He’s located the relic he’s looking for, but at what cost? The whole thing actually gives me very Stephen M Smith vibes… And that’s interesting. There’s a definite for boating here, and things start to go very wrong very quickly as figures appear in the cave, and people begin to die. You don’t need to tell Dude twice. He is out of there!

At least, he’s getting out long enough to resupply and mount another expression… This doesn’t go over well with the wife, but he’s desperate to get back there, so he can break a curse on the family. Even as he argues with the wife on the phone, the demons send a heart attack his way and he crashes the car in the ER, the demons watch.

They look good too… Someone spent some serious money on these outfits, and having a bunch of them around, with their dead, black eye sockets almost gives me a blind dead feeling. They may be just a little bit too proud of them though, as they’re constantly showing them in full light, and Wall and make up holds up, too much time just standing around on screen does sort of push your suspension of disbelief.

Back from a heart attack, the vision continue there’s almost no attempt to make this into a bit of a head trip keeping your balance and throwing strange imagery at you. I’m not complaining, considering I came into this thing mostly for monsters… And William Shatner. However, the trippiness comes off almost as intrusive and repetitive rather than leaving you off-balance. Still, strange looks from the people around our hero and the general sense of unease in the air manages to set up an effectively paranoid mood. All the people around him shift in an out of being avatars for the demonic.

Time to go talk to dad. Shatner, at his horse farm. He explains that for long time, the Rockies trying to make him find his only way to break the curse… And the fact that he didn’t destroy it… But he just disturbed the relic… It kind of just pissed everything off.

So now it’s time to go back to the cave… This time he’s bringing his entire family

This is kind of where it falls apart me. I realize we’re heading into the third act, and this is kind of their way of raising the stakes, but it really doesn’t make sense. And as we see him wandering through the cave with his family, it’s almost like a spelunking vacation. “Look at this!”… “Let me tell you stories about how this happens”… It belies the seriousness of the mission and undermines the gravitas of question through hostile territory to break the curse. Moreover, even as our Aztec  ghosts make their way to confront our family I am unconvinced that any carnage is gonna happen here… Maybe the dad could die, but I can’t believe anyone is in any real jeopardy. I can’t see that working thematically. It also feels like we’re in a pattern of running away from this cave and coming back and running away and coming back. It feels redundant and repetitive, but then again so there’s a lot of this film.

Another big problem is the lighting. The entire thing is just looks so flat… And as I mentioned, these suits are frequently shown and fully lit. That does nothing for their effectiveness. Director Jared Cohen really needs to move past his TV movie roots for something like this and light everything just for the sheer beauty of it. Creating more room in the caves and playing with the shadows and ridges on these excellent suits would go a long way towards creeping up these monsters. I give them props for understanding how to enhance the suits with CGI, adding some motion to the mandibles, and creating just enough glow and smoke to make them fantastic. On the other hand,that he’s using the same old cgi blood packs  is painfully obvious, and he’s all about bad CG explosions. That works once, maybe twice, and in the distance… but they look really bad here, up close, front and center.

The real shame of all of this is there’s a good idea here. A good story somewhere, but it needs a lot of work. The pacing all over the place, fast where it needs to be slow, and slower it needs to be fast. The movie itself is about 20 minutes too long, and focused on the wrong things I think. All of the family drama really should’ve been background, with the movie itself focus more on the cave expedition and heightening the whore there. Some flashbacks to the plot exposition and curse may have worked better… And perhaps a longer, slower descent as the hauntings grow and drive our characters to find the relic would’ve been more effective.

It might be fun if you just turn your brain off to watch a rubber suit monster movie with William Shatner, but I’m disappointed because it really could’ve been so much more.


Satanic Panic

Satanic Panic starts off with pizza delivery. A bunch of people delivering them actually. Seems like a good place to film. We get a variety of delinquents that she delivers to until she gets a call for Mills basin. One of the other drivers tells her it’s a messed up area… You got a delivery boy, but you come back at delivery MAN! So, our girl fires up the Vespa and heads out.

It just so happens that she’s delivering to a satanic cult… Although it sounds a lot like a motivational speaker seminar… this is bad for the pizza delivery girl, because it’s Beltane, sacrifice, and she’s a virgin.

She escapes and seeks help at the next house she comes to… But what happens there is, well, indescribable. While she’s there though, she rescues another girl, and tries to call the police. Of course, the cult intercepts and comes looking for them. At this point, it almost feels like race the devil, if it were a comedy. And this absolutely is a comedy. The Satanists may be deadly and ready to kill, but they’re also bizarre and hilarious. Their yuppie characters and it’s just bizarre.

The girls escape into the night, but the coven is still in pursuit. They create a monster out of the soul of one of the unfaithful to seek out the refugees.

Turns out the girl that was trapped at the other house is the daughter of the coven leader. She helps explain the plot, while securing the next house they hiding. Salt around the windows and doors, things like that, and after our girl gets attacked by some very expensive sheets, the witches daughter sets her down for a drink to explain the plot.

We get a voodoo attack, we get to read entrails, we get an ice pic through the skull. The film brings the gore.
The trees are alive in the dark woods and the girls are captured. The ritual begins and pizza girls belly swells as she prepares gave birth to the demon. And then… To fuzzy bunnies.,

I’ll admit, the ending is a little deus ex Machina, and I would’ve preferred something more clever. Something that shows the ingenuity of our hero. Nevertheless, everything else in the movie is so well done, as long as you’re just holding on for the ride,… Well, it’s a good ride. You’re going to enjoy it.


The Pale Door

The Pale Door begins with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe.
“While like a ghastly rapid River, through the pale door, A hideous throng rushes out forever, and laugh – but smile no more.“

I don’t know whether this is pretentious or a good omen for the move they’re trying to set. Still, it’s from Shudder, which gives me a lot of confidence. It’s presented by Joe Lansdale, and features interesting credits over an ancient book of the occult. Blood drips onto the book, and while I don’t recognize anyone in the credits, the production values are very high and exactly the sort of thing I expect from Shudder.

On the other end of the credits, a western family prepares to defend themselves from the group of men who have shown up in the dead of night. The father dies and we fast forward 15 years to the older brother, now a wanted outlaw and his younger brother working on saloon. It really is a by the numbers sort of western at the beginning… Shoot out in the street, wanted posters on the walls, and then we head over to a train robbery.. that’s where things go wrong. On the train, there’s not nearly as much gold or money as they expected… But there IS a girl chained up, locked in a box. In the ensuing scuffle, the older brother gets shot, and she offers to take them back to her hometown, where there would be doctors. She says it would be a reward for her safe return. Still, it’s all incredibly suspicious..-she takes them to the town square, to the local saloon which is also the local House of ill repute. Everyone is welcoming. Overly welcoming.

The ladies take the men up to the various rooms and prep them… And this is where everything goes awry. Monster creeps along the ceiling, unseen. The women seduce the men, also doing curious things, such as saving  clippings of hair.

All of thier heads snapped to attention when they learn younger brother is a virgin… and that he’s never taken a life. The Madame, sits him down to explain the plot. We get a flashback to her life before these days. She was accused of being a witch, and strung up to burn, even while pregnant..and all of it, 200 years ago.

Upstairs, the women transform into monsters witches, and begin the killing. Cowboys versus witches, guns versus claws and knives. It’s gloriously bloody and incredibly fun. It’s a far more effective idea than Cowboys versus zombies or aliens… And we’re only just now entering the third act I have passed the halfway mark.

It’s a brilliant design. The witches are basically the traditional look… Pointed nose, long chin and sunken eyes… But burned. All of them, burned at the stake… And survived
They clear the cat house, but wolves wait for them outside. The Madame commands the witches in the walls to kill the rest, but bring the boy to her. It doesn’t matter. They make their escape… Except the older brother is still back in town with the witches and younger brother is determined to go and rescue him. We had into the final act on a suicide mission… Cowboys versus witches.

This is good. It’s shockingly good. Like I said, it works better than some of the other matchups like Cowboys vs Aliens or Cowboys vs Zombies or even the creepiness of Dead Seven or House 2. The witches fit the aesthetic and the era and the actors commit fully to the idea. This is a genuine Western, and at the same time it’s a genuine horror film. It knows exactly how much each to put in, with all the gunplay and prairie dust you expect from a Western, and all the blood and horrific monsters you expect from a horror movie. This one’s a high recommend.


Jurassic Dead

Do you know how Jurassic Park manages to spend the first hour talking about the science of re-creating dinosaurs? Well Jurassic Dead managers compress that all into the first four minutes of the film, as well as showing it getting stolen by Army men who look like mafia gangsters.

During a time of great peril on earth, a group of scientists emerging took control of a secret military bunker deep in the desert… Evil will unleash it’s monstrous secrets to destroy earth… Five commandos set out to elimminate the threat… Out of the five commandos, two survived.

We find the scientist teaching college level courses… Like a community college level reanimator. Of course, reanimating a cat in front of his students, gets him canned and not looking both ways before crossing the street gets him hit by a car.

We get a brief text message telling us that the scientist survived and is taking over the installation, but there’s five commandos headed to take him out.

That’s when the astroids hit the planet. Looking for help, a group of for college students accidentally enter a military installation… The same one the five commandos are entering to try and take out the scientist creating the zombie dinosaurs.

The editor likes a lot of smoke FX. Also, lockdown. Holographic bad guy says it must be safe. Also, time to release the zombie dinosaurs.
Everybody seems to think that they have to do that shot from Jurassic Park where the feet hit the ground… and it never works. Still, it’s a good way to kick off commando versus zombie dinosaur action at the 41 minute mark.

It actually starts with a fistfight. Zombie dinosaur is down, but not out… And the CG and green screen are strong. Interestingly enough, though, the dinosaur is actually not CG. It is indeed, a guy in a reasonably impressive dinosaur suit, wearing green suit, and frequently composited against a green screen… The defect actually makes him look CG frequently, after being filtered and cleaned up and of course the close-ups aren’t much better. (better paint job, or even just a light brushing of KY jelly would have done wonders!). Still, I got to give them props for using a suit instead of a computer generated beastie.

By the way, you know how zombies work don’t you? If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie. If a zombie dinosaur malls you, you still become a zombie!
It makes for some interesting dynamics and we end up having more than just a dinosaur to worry about in this bunker.

That’s really all I have to say about this film. The excess of CG make it feel like a video game. The sets are frequently digital (swapping in an out with several real sets the filmmakers were allowed to film at a local haunted house… A brilliant decision, and I’m glad they had the opportunity. You can tell the difference ) with layers of digital FX and lighting overlaid on top of the film., and costumes really look like thrift store zombie hunter cosplay. Hyper computer generated reality was distracting in big budget forays like Sucker Punch and Sky Captain and it’s every bit as distracting here… Even if the budget makes it a bit more forgivable. as long as you know what you’re getting into, It’s entertaining on 2X speed, it would be ideal for a horror host to play with. But overall, it kind of belongs at the dollar tree where I found it.

 

 

85% of the cast is under 25

Bad CGI

Mostly one location

Copyright free name that sounds like another franchise (Amityville, Ouija, ect)

Mockbuster

science gone wrong


Scream at the Devil

Scream at the Devil starts with some beautiful locations in Venice and the promise of Tony Todd, but features lo-res crummy looking credits which always gets me worried..
Miriam, separated from her husband over heels, wanders city, taking photographs… Painting… Escaping her grief over the marriage, and also trying to out run her desire to have a child. She’s drawn to Church, perhaps trying to find solace,. Instead, it evokes lashes and images and visions.

On the other side of the credits, we see her and her husband moving into a new home, having somehow reconciled. There’s still tension, but there’s also moments of camaraderie. In the house they seem happy, but Miriam sees things… Visions of CGI faces, that stick out like a sore thumb against the beautiful soft lighting and warm colors of the house. 

Suddenly, the husbands car is destroyed… Even though they’re miles away from it. Also Miriam is talking to imaginary children. It’s hard to figure out who to be rooting for here. The enraged husband, angered by the destruction of his car… A car, or a wife who reacts with equal venom and may just be going a tad  crazy. So far we’ve got lots of shouting, but I was personally hoping for more devil.
The husband’s dispatched shortly, (didn’t really even last long enough for me to remember his name!)  or was he? Miriam’s car is missing and there’s no trace of a body. To be fair, I’d probably run to if I were living with a crazy wife and surrounded by creepy neighbors and demonic deliveryman. 

Miriam has visions and sleeps in the tub a lot. Occasionally she has evil visitors Who try and compel her to invite them in. 

It’s a bizarre head trip – and while I don’t mind such movies (Many of the late series Hellraisers veered in this direction under the supervision of Rick Bota), you still have to have a story and a place to go. This doesn’t We’re never entirely sure what’s going on and whether or not Miriam is mad. The ambiguous ending leaves me suspicious that the filmmakers don’t know either. The film lacks any real direction in favor of drifting from set piece to set piece and ultimately fails to satisfy.

 

 

Black and white greasepaint

Bad CGI (common, afterFX, same old blood packs)

Bad fonts (common, pixelated)

Cover misrepresents the movie

Shower/bath Scene (Bonus for no nudity)

Stock DVD cover (Exorcism style)

Horror con star cameo

 

 


Critters 3

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indexWhat the heck is Leonardo DiCaprio doing in this movie!?

Outside of our returning bounty Hunter, I don’t actually recognize anybody else in the film, but that’s OK, because they’re set up and ready to go, this time move in the action primarily to a single location. While we start off on a road trip with critters arriving, they eventually infest themselves into a condemned building that the landlord is trying to kick everybody out of. It turns into a long night as the surviving tenants and the landlord’s son try to rid the building of the evil critters.
It’s great to see the bounty hunter back, and it’s fascinating to watch Leo – I was hoping he’d get eaten but no such luck. with a solid cast, it feels very by the numbers but that’s index1really what you want from such a film. It ends with a twist though. The bounty hunter is not allowed to destroy the last two eggs, as it would be genocide… These are the last two in existence as far as they know. An escape pod is sent for the eggs and he gets trapped in it – setting us up for the fourth film, Which will give us our first real departure from the formula in the series.


Ghost Hunter

You can sometimes tell when I’ve really enjoyed the film by how short the review is. It’s because instead of sitting and taking notes as the movie goes along, I’ve put away my phone and just let myself be drawn in to the cinematic experience.

All that to say, this review may be on the short side.

The thing you have to understand about Ghost Hunter, is that this is a mystery. It’s not a ghost story, but rather a proper British mystery, like Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, or Albert Campion. Henry Price is an old charlatan… One of those psychic fakes that were in the highest of fashion around the turn of the century. He’s retired from that though now, and instead has dedicated his life to debunking mediums and fake hauntings. So when the wife of a prominent politician is caught wandering the streets in the delirium, he’s called in to figure out why. The search through the old house will uncover a dark history and more secrets than anyone imagined.

If you throw in some of the modern ghost hunting shows that you see on Travel or Discovery Channel… But play some back in the 30s, and combined that with a healthy dose of British murder mystery, ala Agatha Christie, you might have a sense for what this film is going to be. It’s a distinctly BBC production, and if you grew up watching PBS like I did, this may very well appeal to you. I still long for more of Margery Allingham’s Campion on film, and this, surprisingly quenches that same thirst. The fact that there is a supernatural theme to it, that element that creeps in right around the edges helps. but never let it distract you. This is absolutely, first and foremost a British mystery… And if you come in expecting something different, you may be disappointed. But if you come in with a love of Vincent price and Diana Rigg hosting the PBS mysteries every weekend, you’ll find this is exactly the sort of thing you’re looking for


Night of the Living Dead Re-Animation

So, remember last time, when I mentioned… Night of the Living Dead 3D and referred to it as a series?

OK, one sequel may be stretching the definition of series a little bit… But quite frankly, the fact that there’s a direct sequel to that film intrigues me. I happened to find this volume at my local dollar tree, and was actually incorrect about what I was buying. I thought I was getting that weird animated mishmash that came out five or seven years ago… No. This is a live action film,, and it’s in honest to God blue and red 3-D. If that’s not enough to sell you, I’d also like to point out that it’s stars Andrew Divoff… Wishmaster. And Jeffrey combs… Reanimator. And when I say star, I do mean star. This is not one of those “we hired the dude for one day to film a couple of scenes“. They are both main characters, and that’s kind of where things get interesting.

Night of the Living Dead 3D Reanimation is about some mysterious and sketchy things going on around the Tovar funeral home. Does that name sound familiar? It should. That was Sid Haig’s character in Night of the Living Dead 3D . This time around, the Tovar in question is played by Andrew Duval… and he’s the head of the funeral home. He’s breaking in a new girl in the mortuary, when things start to go out of hand. The dead start coming back, and it’s a bad time for everybody.

What I’m really enjoying about this film, is the world building. In a lot of ways, Director Jeff Bradstreet is trying to redo some stuff from his Night of the Living Dead 3D, and fill in some gaps. Technically, Divoff is playing the same character that Sid Haig is. It’s inescapable… And that’s kind of a shame. Because, this thing would work way better for me if he was playing his son perhaps. We do see some things like the old man still bound up in a chair in a secret room… Zombified. He’s got a beard so perhaps it’s three generations of Tovar.? I mean, I could buy that desiccated corpse as Sid Haig. But Divoff also seems to have some of Haig’s similar quirks… Specifically the reluctance to use the crematory… he fears the fire. Nevertheless, it’s better drawn out and more effectively used here, and plays a key role in the ending.

Early in the film, it turns out that Tovar’s good for nothing long lost prodigal brother shows up looking for cash. This motivates much of the action of the film, with his suggestion that they go national, harvesting tissue and changing focus in the funeral home. That or sell the land. He needs money either way. The character, played by Jeffrey Combs is a lot of fun, and watching Combs and Divoff play against each other is worth the price of admission alone. I know, this almost feels like horror convention casting, but these two both really elevate the material, and their conflict feels real. It gives some interesting motivation and storytelling to juxtapose with the typical zombie hack and slash. It gives more depth and creep to the world… After all, why does the mortuary have cages and bars around its back entrance? What exactly is going on in the crematorium? And where are some of these strange deliveries coming from. It’s all good stuff, and a fairly good follow up from what we saw in Night of the Living Dead 3D. I’m a fan of Divoff in general, I’d be happy to just watch him recite the phonebook, and he really does make anything he’s in better (in addition to just being a really stand up guy in general)
An interesting thing to note on the plus side as well… The 3-D has actually gotten significantly better this time around. It’s another one of those DVD sets that comes with blue and red glasses, but the 3-D effect seem to jump out a lot more effectively in this film than it did in the previous. I’m also a big fan of the idea of centering this entire series around this strange forsaken funeral Home. As I mentioned with the Night of the Living Dead 3D, it gives me slightly more Return of the Living Dead vibes… But not quite as silly. It may not quite belong in the know the living dead universe, but whatever universe is creating, I dig it. I’d actually kind of like to see more… And that’s a shame because there aren’t any more. This one was done back in 2009, and it shows. The Director does have some political actions to grind, taking weird and predictable shots both at Fox News and also Sarah Palin. Personally, despite being a conservative Republican, I still found it a great deal of fun to see Palin end up a zombie… But the politics me distract you… And they unfortunately age this thing significantly… Especially Being so far removed from the W years. Nevertheless, I would really love to return to the Tovar funeral home, and I’d really like it if Bradstreet good at least enough money to make this into a trilogy. If you see this at the dollar tree, it’s absolutely worth your while. If you see it on streaming, it’s absolutely worth your while. This is one of the sequels I actually had a hard time finding on IMDb. Most people don’t know it exists, and with the predominantly negative reaction to Night of the Living Dead 3D, I imagine it would be similarly shunned. Don’t. Go find this. Night of the Living Dead 3D Reanimation is a fun, good zombie movie, with some great performances with some old friends.


Killer Tomatoes Strike Back!

indexKiller Tomatoes Strike Back immediately gets on my good side by starting off as a slasher movie. Literally, we’ve got a young woman being chased to the woods by a chainsaw wielding maniac… What makes this fun is he is accompanied by several chainsaw wielding tomatoes as well!

We’ve got a slacker detective whose gun fires tomatoes investigating a tomato related murder.

It looks like the tomatoes not only got the girl, they also got the hockey mask killer! Still, our detective is not convinced that this is actually a tomato murder. The cops consults a tomato expert, just before the narrowly missing capturing a small tomato. It flees, leaving behind a big moustache (Did I mention the tomato was in disguise?). Back at the lab, our tomato expert is attacked, surrounded on all sides by killer tomatoes crashing through the windows and trying to break out of the cages.

We cut to a television screen where we see that Dr Gangrene from the previous film has images2returned, and is now posing as a talk show host – something in the model of Geraldo or Phil Donahue. He’s brought Igor with him, the wannabe news man looks quite at home on television set. Today’s guests are going to be the heroes of the tomato war, as well as fuzzy tomato. On the show, Captain Findletter argues with the tomatologist and fuzzy tomato about the antisocial tendencies of tomatoes in general. Dr gangrene uses this opportunity to try and frame fuzzy tomato as a villain and turn the public against him.

Back at the police station, the detectives watch, amused. The detective complains about getting nothing but garbage cases even though his colleague thinks that tomato murder indexmight be his big break… the detective doesn’t believe in killer tomatoes.

He gets the call to go and investigate in a car that had been attacked by killer tomatoes while back at the station, Dr gangrene feeds his killer tomatoes. throw in a quick shower scene with a bunch of fake outs.

Dr gangrene begins he is diabolical plan by posting a fake media appreciation day which allows him to kidnap members of the media – the getaway track is of course driven by a small tomato. It’s his revenge for the way the rest of the media snubbed him when he started his talk show.

indexThe detective decides to visit the tomato expert again to get some insight. All I get him is a bunch of parking tickets on his car and beat up by a rogue gang of tomatoes, hanging out in the park… One of them leaves a note “ stay away or else!” The detective is certain it was fuzzy tomato who set up the ambush. He is wrong of course, it’s Dr gangrene is killer tomatoes, so he sends after their tomato expert next!

The killer tomatoes infiltrate her apartment through the vents and the detective is there just-in-time to rescue her with a golf club. they had over to a bar, patronized by depressed looking tomatoes. (Never order a bloody Mary in a tomato bar!). They find a imagessnitch there, and bribe him to get information for $100. The tip leads them to a shady acting class at camp broadcast school (not affiliated with CBS Inc). fuzzy tomato is hiding out as the bellboy there as they infiltrate.

Meanwhile, Dr Gangrene has kidnapped the police chief and is busy revealing his plans as he brainwashes him. The detective and free him but get discovered in the process. Suddenly they find themselves under attack by ninja tomatoes who kidnap the tomato expert and race off of her. (gangrene is next show is all about hostages!) it’s up to the detective to rescue timages1he tomato expert before Dr Gangrene can turn her into a bacon lettuce and human sandwich!

That’s the level of lunacy you can expect from this installment. I love that they are leaning int the absurdity, and parodying the media here, but even more, I love that we’re getting more tomatoes. It’s a shift we see here, with more character in the tomatoes, one that will come to it’s fullest expression in the next entry!

Someone needs to make a box set of these. They are all must buys!

 


Lake Fear

Michael crumb is one of those filmmakers that kept popping up in my stack of movies from the dollar tree.  I surprised was to discover three entries the Lake Fear series, but even more intrigued finding out that he had directed both the first and third. When his name turned up again on the Anna haunted doll movie, I decided it was time to investigate.

Crum feels like a filmmaker in the very early stages of his craft. A lot of what he does is unpolished… More like student films then production. However, whereas while other artists might bury their early work, or remake it into something more professional, Crum seems to go the other direction… putting it all out there, and then making sequels to show he can improve on a theme.

Crum’s work feels like a little a haunted house, with amazing set design, and grotesque, incomprehensible monsters. He’s not shy about gore or harsh colored lighting.

What I find the most fascinating though, is to watch his growth, particularly in the sequels that he makes to his own original works. It’s a fascinating progression and leaves me intrigued as to where he will go from here.

Lake Fear has a nice, interesting looking cover, but I could tell I was in trouble almost immediately when they started blasting loud metal. You could also see it in the amateur levels of cinematography in the stilted performance given by the mother, dropping her daughter off. I strapped in, knowing this is going to be a rough one.
The credits are in heavy metal fonts, with satanic imagery and creepy pictures behind them. A car, innocent mom is dropping off her daughter. Yeah,  it could be a college or dorm. It’s all sweet and lovely, and then the daughter, Tina, rushes away, changing into much more revealing clothes and obviously getting ready for her weekend, scoffing  all the way. She meets up with a guy who’s handing off his car to her and rushes off to pick up her friend Kathy who is supposed to remember to bring the beer. They keep heading on, grabbing two more girls, Jordan, with the overprotective father, and Stephanie who they referred to as a furry because she wears cat ears and a tail pinned to her short shorts. They’re all heading out to a cabin in the lake, remotely located… So far out that they can’t drive up to it. They park the car and start their hike into the woods.

The first main obstacle is a foggy river with no passable bridge. It’s really just an excuse to strip the girls down to their underwear… There’s no nudity in this film… But at the same time, the filmmakers are going for some symbolism as well, they say the girls are crossing the river Styx. That may be just a touch too pretentious for this film, but I certainly do see how it marks them leaving the normal world and crossing over into whatever darkness  is fueled by the evil cabin. Symbolism yes, but mostly, girls in their skivvies.

Finally, they emerge from the woods into a clearing, and spy the cabin in the distance. There’s still plenty of light, but the day is fading and nobody is there. Fortunately, the door has been left unlocked for them. 

As night falls, cat girl is the first to get it. While one of the girls is outside and exploring the outbuildings looking for a place to relieve herself. She finds a creepy button a doll, and this seems to kick off the bad juju. Cat girl wanders outside looking at the foggy night air, and starts to see a figure, moving unnaturally in the woods. This flickering ghoul lures her deeper into the night, where she sinks into the wet darkness and mud, ultimately dispatching her.

The other girls are asking where cat girl has gone and noticed some strange footprints on the wood floor of the cabin.

There’s screaming outside.

They go to investigate, trying to best to find Cat girl. A tape recorder starts to play in another room, ala Evil Dead. It warns of the evil presence in the cabin, and yet when the lights go out, they’re still convinced it’s just a power outage. In the living room, the TV flickers showing images very reminiscent of The Ring. The girls are almost hypnotized by it, and in the corner, The doll watches. Jordan collapses and Tina rushes over to her, she notices a figure in front of the TV… and a ghost girl with dirty long hair turns menacingly, then charges her. We cut and see Tina staring aimlessly, Jordan looking strange, and weird lights continue from the TV along with unnatural movements. There’s more people now in the cabin then we started with, in the haunting itself gets strange… Disjointed . There’s flashing lights and crawling and chains and strange haunted house noises going on all around. Kathy trips and falls and gets a rotary saw stuck in her hand. The doll is sitting in this corner as well, and there are rubber monsters With slimy teeth in the dark.

We cut to zombie cat girl with a zipper face dragging Tina out to the woods, covering them both with blood. Tina breaks free, swinging  a large stick and fleeing back in to the cabin with Jordan. The tape player continues to recite it ominous commentary. The TV shines with such brightness and fog that it is practically a portal now. In the kitchen, a bloody figure strokes for dolls hair, and quick flashes of eyeless faces keep us off balance. Headless bodies, bodiless heads, random dire inserts coming from the television. And the girls are hypnotized again, until the fiendish creatures around them start to go wild. They’ve finally had enough and smash the TV.

At this point, our hero Remmington shows up… he’s a strapping young man with prodigious sideburns and a very Texas belt buckle and he informs them that when they smashed the TV, they let the evil out. He explains that he was the one who trapped the evil in the television. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but even more confusing is where Remmington came from. I don’t understand. Was he also stuck in the TV? Was he just walking by? Did aliens drop himdown the chimney with Santa Claus?  This sudden inclusion of another character, our demon fighter, is confusing  to say the least, especially happening as it does, at the 56 minute mark of an 81 minute film.

Remmington and the girls are in for the fight of their life, in this blue tinted horror cabin with Demons sensuously dancing and crawling around them. We get some stitch face make up and the horrifying spectacle of a tongue split on naked blade, before Remmington gets fed up with this nonsense and flat out stabs the demon in the head.

There’s blood and monsters and blue fog all around them. The demons move in jerky staggered ways, taunting them in disturbing, distorted voices. 

And the rag doll sits and watches.

 Remmington does his best Bruce Campbell, slashing and slicing through the demons and getting hosed down by various color fluids. 

“It looks like we’re about to get a lot better acquainted” he says, then turns to the doll. “What else you got?”

That’s really about it as far as the plot goes. But this movie is not about the plot. Sometimes I’ll notice that a movie got made because there’s a bunch of make up artists who really want a vehicle to showcase their talents. These movies tend to be over the top in gore, and they tend to linger on the fantastic shots of torn flesh and bloody carnage. You can spot one of these by the lack of story and the bad acting. This film is in the same mold, only in this case, we’ve got some people who know some visual effects and want to show off their time lapse warps and quick cutting skills in the editing bay.

They brought on some people who kind of know make up and lighting, but it ends up being sufficient, but never quite professional. It’s haunted house skills… Minor make up with blood and stitches… Even an honest to God super face. Stark lighting that gives color but not mood. I genuinely felt like I had walked out of a haunted attraction after this movie.

 

The end result is they managed to create some interesting imagery, but never create a story, or develop enough sympathy with these characters for me to care when they get knocked off. It’s the sort of thing you put on in the background at a nightclub because there’s great visuals, and no story to follow. Unfortunately, Lake Fear is just a disappointment.

How the heck are there two more of these???


Dark Image

That’s odd. Justin’s name isn’t anywhere on this thing, but Dark Image (also released as Mirror Image) is listed as one of his films, co directed with frequent collaborator Chris Freeman.
I like the cast – Leslie Easterbrook and even an Eric Roberts cameo lent it a bit of street cred, and the film opens in a nicely eerie black and white. Ferris wheel….girls on swings and a pair of sisters – with one murdered.Years later, she’s trying to cope with the death of her sister and off on a getaway to help jog here memory about what happened. So is the cop (suspended for tampering with the evidence) that investigated the case, and he’s trying to drag his partner back into it. The captain (Roberts) warns him off but he’s determined.
Meanwhile, the girl is seeing things – maybe her meds are out of synch?Her shrink warns her that if it keeps up, he’ll have to send her back to the institution.That’s not stopping the flashes of bloody hand prints and dead sister in the shower though….. It’s a good and creepy CGI haunting that pops up sporadically though the film while the cops stalk them, trying to perhaps pin the murder on the sister. The  whole haunting has a strange Dante influence – curiously artsy for a film with such frequently flat lighting. Still, it’s the setup for what happens next – and all secrets are revealed when the devil opens her memories.
The thing is, this thing really isn’t sure if it want’s to be a police thriller or a horror movie – and it’s not quite sophisticated enough to balance those two things like a Giallo would. Perhaps wit ha bit more length and intrigue. I know I’, the LAST one to say a movie is too short, but at 76 minuets, there’s time to misdirect and ratchet up tension, or lean into the possession aspect. Freeman and Jones manage a  few spectacular images towards the end, and I’m definitely glad I watched it…but there’s not enough repeat value here for me to really consider returning to it.


Night of the Living Dead 3D

So here’s the thing, I’ve never heard a good word spoken about Night of the Living Dead 3D. I mean, I’ve heard people trash this thing from end end. I’ve been hearing nothing but negative reviews for years. I won’t say that it’s kept me away, but it’s definitely slowed my roll. It’s put it on the back burner, the “yeah, I need to watch this one of these days list“… And that’s even with it having Sid Haig in it. I loved it, and I do recall watching it once, ages ago but not make it very far. I saw Sid up here briefly and vanished at the beginning, and assumed that was all it was… So I figured it was a one day cameo and I’ll get to it when I get to it. Well, I finally got to it, and interestingly enough… It’s actually not all that bad.

You’re always gonna have a problem when you try and remake Night of the Living Dead. That’s true in any every field, but Night of the Living Dead has been tried more times than you probably realize, particularly because it’s in the public domain. This movie though, isn’t really a remake. It’s sort of a remake and homage and maybe even a little bit of sequel… Much in the way that Superman Returns wasn’t a proper remake or homage sequel. It couldn’t decide what it wanted to be and it ended up being none of those.

Night of the Living Dead 3D starts off with a bit of a scene from the original Night of the Living Dead, and then dissolves over into the new version. Barb (Yes. They call her BARB) and Johnny are heading to a funeral… not just to place flowers on a grave. But still, the zombie breakout occurs on schedule, and Johnny jumps in the car and rushes off. We don’t see much past that, Barbara stranded in the cemetery. She runs often finds herself in a mortuary… The Tovar and Son funeral home. This is important. Because this is much more central to this series.

Oh, did I say series? Well, I’ll get to that later.

There’s zombies already there chomping on people and generally doing their thing., But suddenly Sid Haig shows up and rushes Barb off. He tells her to flee, and quite justifiably, she does… Despite being a little bit annoyed that he wouldn’t shelter her. Honestly, there’s almost a return of the living dead vibe there… And that’ll be significant later. On the road, she was ambushed by more zombies, because that’s what zombies do. But she’s rescued by a dashing young biker named Ben. He’s actually heading out to his friend, Harry Cooper’s house, over at the Cooper plant farms, and he takes her with him.
This is kind of where I do have a little bit of a beef. Because this series is very different from the original Night of the Living Dead.  There’s a chance here to establish its own identity, but it undermines that by using so many of the original films names. It telegrams some of what you are going to expect, and it’s not necessarily something they needed to do.

In any event, Cooper Farms happens to be a pot growing farm. This is before it was legalized in any of the states, so we’ve got a certain degree of disreputable character going here. It’s also a great reason why they won’t call the cops to take care of the zombies that inevitably follow Barbara.
Helen isn’t Harry’s first wife, she is his second, and not the mother of the young girl that lives there. There’s also a farmhand and we do also have a “ Judy“ who is really just there to be the sexy, naked ingenue . Part of me really does take some offense to that, because Judy was far more wholesome than he was in a film, and, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that particular actress. Nevertheless, she is there to fulfill the nudity portioned and up the body count. She’s stooping a dude in the barn, which keep her separate from most of the household shenanigans, that gives them somebody to go rescue.

We do get a number of the story beats from the original night of the living dead, there is some tension between Ben and Harry, though it’s a very different sort of tension. It’s a disagreement on the plan, and not nearly as hostile. We do get the little girl getting Zombified, but it’s played differently. All of this is second act stuff as we ratchet up the tension. The actual night of living dead film is playing on the TV, and indeed, the farmhand wasn’t sure that Barbara wasn’t crazy… And just reacting to what’s on the TV. No. She wasn’t crazy, and when the zombies start attacking, it’s apparent. It’s never more apparent though, one of refugee starts pounding on the door. It’s the third act, and Sid Haig has arrived at the farmhouse.

Tovar is an interesting character, turns out, The whole thing really did start at his mortuary… He’s not quite the mortician that his father was, and once the weird bag started appearing from the government… Well, whatever chemical was in there… There was… Leakage. It’s a good role for Haig. Simultaneously fun, and both straight man and villain. He ends up being a great deal more sinister than he seems at the beginning of the film, and this is all good stuff.It’s the sort of thing that really goes it’s on direction and separates us from the original.I miss Sid.

So, as far as the bad goes… The 3-D is seriously sketchy. It’s the red and blue sort it 3-D, and the DVD comes with a couple pairs of the glasses. It doesn’t really work that well. Also, this thing really undermines itself I feel, by using the names from the original film. And in name only sort of remake or something completely original inhibit self would have been preferable.

The good? This is actually a really good zombie movie. We have good and innovative kills, we’ve got a great environment, and quite frankly whenever we get exterior shots of that old farmhouse… Juxtaposed against the blue fog of an eerie night, it’s brilliant. It’s gorgeous sort of in name only sort of remake or something completely original in a bit self would have been preferable.

The good? This is actually a really good zombie movie. We have good and innovative kills, we’ve got a great environment, and quite frankly whenever we get exterior shots of that old farmhouse… Juxtaposed against the blue fog of an eerie night, it’s brilliant. It’s gorgeous imagery, and shows a real deft touched. The movie itself also kind of does it sound thing. It takes the premise, but then tells its own story… Much like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. This is a strength that this movie has over something like Tom Savini‘s 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead . Savini, for all of his credit, really just tried to remake the film, while perhaps adding a bit more Sarah Connor to Barbara. As much as I enjoy watching Tony Todd Chula Siri – and seriously, how brilliant was that casting? – The 1990 remake always fails to satisfy, because it’s a hollow imitation of something so brilliant as Romero‘s original masterpiece. This on the other hand doesn’t fall into that trap… Like Snider is Donna dead, it takes a name, and it takes the idea, and then it plays fast and loose with everything else. Indeed, this thing would pair up really well with the dawn of the dead remake… far better than Savinis.
It also establishes some of his own law. It comes up with his own idea for why the outbreak happened, and the introduction of Tovar and his mortuary is interesting. It’s distinctive. It helps give the film its own identity, something that this thing really needs.

If you’ve heard nothing but smack talk about this film, let me encourage you to give it a real try. If you want to don the red and blue glasses, go ahead, I sure did! But more importantly, give the film itself a chance. There’s a lot to love here, as long as you understand going into it… This is not night of the living dead… And it’s not trying to be. Approach it as it’s own thing, and I think you just might enjoy it.