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Horror Movies

The Backyard Zombie Movie part 3

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Evil Dead’s Tom Sullivan guest stars!


The Mangler Reborn

franchisebannerindex3.jpgRight off the bat, I’m glad to see that this film wants to be a proper sequel, unlike the sequel in name only that we got from the Mangler 2. The problem is, I’m not convinced that the filmmakers ever saw the actual original film. I’m not sure what kind of device they think the Mangler is (other than being referred to as “an antique”) but for this film, they have transformed it into a big boxy conveyor belt with stabby CGI knives that pounce on you from above. This isn’t a laundry device, it’s just a killing machine…and it wants blood.

The video quality is better than consumer grade, but not as high as I’d expect from professional production. It feels like an Asylum movie and I was actually a bit surprised to discover it wasn’t one. The addition of Reggie Bannister is a definite plus though, making sure that the movie still had some horror star cred, just like it’s predecessors.

index2.jpgWe start off with a man, Hadley, and his wife arguing. She wants him to get a job and stop tinkering with that machine in the attic. It ends predictably and we pretty much know the score before the title credits roll.

Hadley does service on washing machines and uses that as an excuse to kidnap victims for the Mangler.  We get a brief sequence of him abducting ingénue Jaime and then switch over to Reggie Bannister and his son Mike, casing Hadley’s house. They’re thieves and have been planning to knock over the place for a while. Reggie sneaks in, but to his surprise he doesn’t have to pick the lock – the door is open. Inside, the windows are bricked up behind tacky curtains and Reg discovers that the locks are actually on the inside of the doors. He’s going to have to pick his way OUT, not in.

Things get weirder when he discovers a drawer full of old wallets – all of which have money in them. He suspects the mark may be a thief himself and after grabbing the cash figures it’s time to start getting out. Back in the van, Mike is getting worried and nags Reg over his wallkie talkie to get movie. Reg is almost to the stairs when he sees the bloody handprints on the wall and hears the whimpers of a woman locked in the bedroom across the hall. He decides he’s going to do the right thing “For once in my life!” and images4.jpggrabs his lock pick tools to try and free her. It’s too late, Hadley arrives home, with Jaimie in a sack slung over his shoulder.

Things go poorly for Reg and Mike sneaks in after him. The girl that Reg tried to free gets fed to the machine, but Mike does better than his father, getting Jaimie out before buying it himself. Turns out that Jaimie is the actual main character here. I wasn’t sure, because she vanished for a good 20 -30 minute stretch in the middle of the film while we focus on Reggie.

Bannister for his part, is well used in this film. While he couldn’t have worked more than a couple of days on set, his scenes are shot judiciously, mostly alone. There’s shots of him talking on the Walkie, or hiding in the closet – stuff where you can insert the other actors later without immediately worrying about shooting their coverage when time’s at a premium. As a result, Reg has a significant amount of screen time here. It’s more than a cameo, but less than a full supporting role. If there a weakness, it may be that he’s too likable. Bannister is obviously trying to play a sort of scummy deadbeat dad type. Perhaps I just have too close an association with him from other movies, but you take one look at that skullet ponytail that only Reggie Bannister can pull off, and you just feel like he’s you cool uncle. He’s impossible not to root for.

indexThe house too, is a little underdeveloped. There’s some good ideas here – the house is a trap. Once you’re in, you can’t get out. But it needs to be better highlighted and the spook factor increased. The entire place is lit in a flat white light. Some gloom here to really creep up the look as well as some grime to add more repulsion would go a long way towards making this a truly scary set. The bricked up windows are treated as an afterthought. People come in, glance behind the curtins and then move on. Treated as a revelation, with proper lighting this could have been unnerving. As it is, it’s just…odd.

All in all, the greatest sin here is that it feels cheap. The movie has good intentions, but it’s ambition outweighs it’s reach and the entire affair comes off as a misfire. It’s worth watching as a companion if you really love the Mangler, but the film could have been so much more.


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 2

filmography

 


Mangler

franchisebannerindex.jpgThe Mangler is one of those movies that I think everybody knew existed, after all, New Line pictures was slapping the trailer for this film on every video tape they had in the mid-90s. The advertising hook was brilliant – a movie from writer Stephen King, directed by horror master Tobe Hooper, starring Robert England.  It’s a creepy story about a series of accidents centered around a Laundromat in rural Maine. King himself had a great deal of experience with the machine they call the Mangler – he writes about it extensively in his book “On Writing” and  his time working at the laundry as a young man that seems to have inspired this concept.

It opens with great atmosphere – the huge boxy machine melds steam punk and sinister intentions, yet it’s a perfectly rational piece of equipment. It’s lovely, all grease and brass – they have dirtied it up a bit to give us a grim repulsion and yet it doesn’t look like index4.jpgsomething just designed to be evil.

Robert England on the catwalk however, he definitely looks like he was designed just to be sinister. The old age make up looks rubbery but fits the character – like a grumpy J. Jonah Jamison archtype.

Of course we know that the machine is the real monster here, and it’s hunger begins when one of the young ladies working it accidentally cut herself. The blood stirs it’s desire.

It’s actually quite interesting watching the machine – how just a subtle movement conveys hunger – conveys evil. You can almost see the machine wanting to chomp  onto index3the workers hands, and blood spatter is a sinister foreshadowing. When the dire machine sucks in its first victim, the blood spray is gratuitous– covering the other women and coating the laundry red. It’s brilliantly framed and shot though it’s not actually scary per se.

The women up in the laundry are still covered in blood when sheriff Ted Lavigne arrives. His weak stomach keeps him from doing much in the way of investigation, but it doesn’t really matter – it’s an open and shut case. Industrial accident, nothing more, right?

Detective Ted relates the story of what happened to a friend that night – we get quick images5.jpgflashes of gore here, adding to the horror of what happened to this point, and giving us a better look at some of the details of this massive speed ironing machine. Lavigne‘s friend is a parapsychologist-a horror movie set up if I ever saw one! While he’s hanging out with his friend, the steam hose breaks and burns several workers. Detective Ted runs out to the hospital to check on them and investigate further. His parapsychologist friend Mark suspects that the machine might be possessed or haunted in some way, but Ted isn’t having any of it. Mark press on, and while back at the laundry – the mangler is hungry.

Detective Ted continues his investigation, interviewing the first witness and then coming across a discarded refrigerator from the laundry. It seems that the evil can travel. The fridge is a killer as well – not for long though, as Ted attacks it with a hammer and demonic energy pours out in brilliant blue electricity. It’s enough to convince Detective Ted that psychic Mark might just be onto something.

A trip to the morgue doesn’t turn up anything new so Detective Ted heads over to the laundry to get a better look at the mangler. The machine grabs his jacket and tries to pull indexhim in, he escapes, and then it’s upstairs to confront Robert England. It’s an explosive confrontation which helps me to understand just how important a figure England is to this town – the biggest business owner, the biggest employer, the very lifeblood of this small hamlet. Lavigne is angry though, no longer caring about his pension, no longer caring about his position – all he wants to do is shut the laundry down. England won’t be intimidated and sends him on his way, after all, it’s time to make some calls… After he gets Detective Ted thrown off the case, England returns upstairs and and reveals the backstory to a young ingenue.

Back at Home, Psychic Mark has figured out the best way to exercise the Demons from the machine. What they don’t know is the foreman of the laundry has also had enough of the accidents and is ready to dismantle the speed iron. The Mangler however, won’t go so easily. He survives been crushed only by taking an axe and chopping off his arm. The eyewitness runs off and we all know England can’t have that. Besides, she is the last one in town that needs to be sacrificed to The Mangler and Detective Ted has just discovered index2.jpgthe pattern.

We all have to make sacrifices. It’s a race back to the laundry to save the victim and expel the Demon.

The ending is absolutely bananas… It’s 1995 so the CG isn’t great, but they’re wise enough to keep it hidden as much as possible. Overall, The Mangler is a fun film – better than it gets credit for, though perhaps coming up short of being a classic. The filmmakers proceed with an interesting aesthetic, mixing styles and looks to keep it timeless – old-fashioned suits and cameras, modern cars and hair, it’s hard to place exactly when this is supposed to happen and that’s to it’s advantage. Robert England, trapped in leg braces and arm canes is in his element – all of these devices give him stuff to play with and ways to ham up the performance. More than any other time in his career, he comes off as an old-fashioned Vincent Price sort, a truly maniacal figure. It’s a brilliant choice, considering the somewhat old-fashioned look and tone of his character. Of course he is here mostly for the name value – the part almost seems written for him. He doesn’t drive most of the action, but the movie wouldn’t be remotely the same without him.

I think it’s understandable why the film didn’t catch on. It’s less complex than what you would expect from a Stephen King film, and yet doesn’t particularly feel like a Tobe Hooper movie. It never entirely figures out what it wants to be – a monster movie, a detective thriller, or a pure Faustian bargain. In an era where horror was about to be dominated by the Scream slasher model and Japanese horror remakes, The Mangler was doomed to be overlooked.


The Backyard Zombie Movie part 1

filmography

 


The Backyard Zombie Movie Trailer

filmography

Special appearance from Night of the Living Dead’s Charles Craig


Slaughter

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indexSlaughter starts out with cringe inducing country music and flashes of a girl tied by her hands and feet, being drug somewhere… We know don’t where.

My first reaction is “is this another redneck cannibal movie? Because I feel like I just saw this in the other box set”

We cut to a couple of young women driving into the city, so I’m hoping  that it’s not exactly a backwoods Hillbilly horror.

Our ingenue is starting over a new apartment, running away from an abusive relationship – she almost immediately makes new friend in the city invites round to her country home. The farm turns into a convenient hiding place when the ex-boyfriend tracked her down.

The new roommate and friend is little bit of a party girl and man eater. But dire things happen to her hookups. Pigs At the farm are hungry. We only get glimpses of the farms patriarch – father and daughter don’t get along, and our ingenue is a bit of an interloper. The situation feels almost as dangerous as the one she is leaving. Dangerous secrets lay hidden behind metal doors in the barn, building she is forbidden to enter, but that she cannot resist.

There is a greater story about abuse here that’s hidden in the background – it’s terrible and really pushes this more towards the “message movie” style than the allegory I think it’s meant to be. You can see by the torture porn in the third act and the mild twist at the end that this really wants to be a horror film… or at least a different kind of film than what it is.

The third act drags – that’s saying something considering there’s so much action, but they’re trying to go to many different directions at once and a good chunk of this probably should’ve happened in the second act leaving the very most frightening parts for the finale.

The uneven tone in Slaughter makes me unlikely to revisit this film, but it’s not bad. There is a good story in here somewhere, but I think needed to be better thought out.


Annabelle Comes Home

Movie banner64990528_2540000606044347_348829645983973376_n64762262_2540000602711014_1483390852595187712_nWhile I’m a fan of the Conjuring movies, I hadn’t gotten around to the Annabelle ones until recently, but when I got invited to an advance screening of Annabelle Comes Home, I figured it was time to change that, so I sat down and watched both Annabelle and Annabelle Creation before heading out to the film preview. It’s a great universe James Wan has created here, growing it slowly and organically. It works and while the Annabelle films aren’t perfect, they’ve always been good sequel fodder. Annabelle Comes Home changes all of that.

This movie is not only a great sequel, it’s also a great film in of itself. That’s a hard trick to pull off, but this move manages to fit into the mythology and push it forward, while simultaneously standing alone quite well and giving us a movie that is every bit as terrifying as the first Conjuring was.

I went into the film cold and was genuinely surprised to see Ed and Lorraine Warren so prominently featured. They don’t stick around long and are gone before the midpoint of the first act, but it’s organic – you don’t really even notice their exit (kind of 64577472_2540000639377677_8614501207932665856_nlike those “lite” episodes of Doctor Who, like Blink, where the Doctor is really just a supporting character and not really in the episode) as the focus shifts to their daughter Judy, and her two teen babysitters as they spend a terrifying night in the Warren’s home. The premise is simple; what if all those things locked away in the Warren’s occult museum clawed their way out of their basement for the night? In this way, the film trances the Annabelle franchise and becomes something more. It’s not really ANNABELLE comes home, but rather Annabelle COMES HOME.

While the previous Annabelle films have been somewhat doll-centric, focusing on the doll and the evil spirit that travels with it (It’s not really the doll that’s the evil – this isn’t Chucky, rather the doll is an avatar and a conduit for demonic entity(s) in these films) this movie unleashes a whole host of evil spirits, ghosts and demonic influences. This is a hardcore HAUNTING and it is terrifying. McKenna Grace in particular turns out a brilliant performance as 12-year-old Judy Warren, a role that requires a level of intensity that should be beyond her years. She thwarts the evil 64641742_2540043759373365_1027367885284048896_nwith prayers and crosses and is every bit a match for Annabelle herself.

The film never fails to be creepy, even when we’re doing the getting to know you thing in the second act, with laughs and aw shucks moments (Pizza Delivery guy, YOU’RE THE REAL MVP!) you can feel the dread creeping through, and by the time we hit act three, everything has turned upside down.  I watched the movie with a rowdy audience and as things rapidly spun out of control they shrieked and screamed in disbelief.

I understand why they didn’t want to open against Toy Story 4 and the Child’s Play reboot, but man, it may have been worth the risk, because this just blows them out of the water. Absolutely, DO NOT miss this film. Annabelle Comes Home opens in theaters June 26th

 


Cinema Wasteland Retro Movie THIS WEEKEND!

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Seriously, we had a blast last time! This is a great B-Movie event, with cartoons, shorts, trailers and a couple of oddball films I know I’VE never seen before!

WHEN:
February 9th, 2019.
Doors open at 6:00pm and the show will begin at 7:00pm.

WHERE:
Berea Elks Lodge #1815
626 North Rocky River Dr.
Berea, OH. 44017

Off I-71 and I-480 just a mile or so past Cleveland Hopkins Airport and one mile South of the IX Center.
FREE PARKING – Behind the building there is a fenced off parking lot. Park behind the fence in the lot.

ADMISSION:
Admission is $5.00 (Cash Only)

Bottled water, pop, popcorn and assorted munchies will be available during show time for $1 each. *No outside food/beverages (Cash Only)


Bunnyman Vengance

franchisebannerindexEven as the film opens, I see a difference in quality. Bunnyman is well lit and the suit seems almost more ragged – something it’s needed this entire time. It’s a familiar opening with the Bunnyman luring prey in, but the setting seems creepier this time around. He’s taken up residence with a group of local haunters at thier attraction. The sight of Bunnyman flanked by his two skull faced companions in the misty night is beautiful.

This film seems more introspective, with repeated flashes to Bunnyman’s childhood – and the things that made him what he is.

I’m confused though. It takes a while to learn why the haunters are letting Bunnyman out to kill, or what their angle is. Best I can tell is they are trying to create vlcsnap-2018-10-10-16h40m57s255a local urban legend – a real one – that they can exploit for their haunt…but they seem a little bloodthirsty too – a far cry from EVERY haunter I’ve ever met (and there have been a LOT). To be fair though, that moment a patron gives Bunnyman attitude in the haunt (“so what? You going to cut my fingers off?” She laughs – and then he does just that) had to be cathartic to every haunt actor out there.

Still the haunted house itself provides the most atmospheric set pieces of all the Bunnyman films. Filled with fog and competently lit for the first time in the series, I actually feel creeped out by the character as he starts to fall into madness.

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Some dodgy CGI aside, I feel like this time around, someone has tried to make an honest go of this series. I dig it.  Vengeance is probably the strongest film in this franchise (man, I still can’t believe this is actually a franchise!).

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Pretty Dead

bannerpdPretty-Dead-2013Sound mix guys. Say it with me. SOUND. MIX. Boom mic good. built-in camera mic bad.

The movie starts of with a very strong scene explaining the concept. Gun in her hand, our main character declares “I don’t want to be a monster. I don’t want to be an experiment. I’m dead already, I’m just having trouble lying down.” We shift to an interrogation scene in a hospital with the girl in much worse looking shape than what we saw previously…and then we shift into a full on found footage movie (but you know, with a musical soundtrack).

I feel like I’ve been bait and switched.

It actually ends up being a mix of found footage with cuts back to the interview for the main character to narrate the other scenes. She documents the changes in her appetite for medical waste, lack of sleep and super healing.

vlcsnap-2018-11-21-10h40m20s612There’s actually a good story somewhere in here, tying the idea to the “Killer fungus” that kills insects – a news story that was hot a few years ago and all over Facebook. The mix of documentary and found footage reminds me a bit of the “I Zombie” movie that Fangoria put out about 20 years ago. The director makes excellent use of stock footage and filters, but the whole thing is drug down by a the low production values that have been ineffectively put together and make it difficult to get through. I think I want a do-over on this one. I’d really like to see these film makers come back with a little more experience, and see this film done with a little more finesse.

 

 


Bunnyman Massacre

franchisebannerimages2100 minuets? Oh man, someone is optimistic. There’s no WAY this shot on video film should be 100 minuets.

We start off with newsreel type imagery flickering under credits and then shift to a schoolbus on a desert road. The bunnyman comes out of nowhere with a chainsaw and shotgun and goes to work on the kids. The blood flying up to hit the camera is obviously ment to be dramatic and styalized, but it just comes off as annoying and sloppy. The title comes up as blood hits a traffic sign (this one is a nice touch).

indexWe immediately shift to a cornfield where the bunny man is stalking campers, Friday the 13th style (Who camps in a cornfield anyhow?). Yet for all the killing (beautifully done for a micro budget production) it’s a while before we get anything resembling a story….good thing it’s 100 minuets huh?

Bunnyman has obviously found a new family, and we get vague references to the previous film as he comes home, then shift to exteriors of the town the film takes place in. Almost a ghost town (Someone had access to an old west set or amusement park or something…) that an unsuspecting family drives through.

Oh look. Beef Jerky.

Almost half an hour in we get a troup of college girls hiking through the woods and imagesthe Bunnyman is sent out. Time for things to really begin. The problem is, it then goes on to focus on the pervy redneck t hat has adopted Bunnyman and we get a very diffrent kind of movie for the next thirty to forty minuets – as if they just kind of grafted two disparate films together.

Much like the first one, this film really wants to be Texas Chainsaw in an Easter Bunny suit. However, where homages like House of a Thousand Corpses really succeeds in paying tribute, this merely imitates in the basest ways, and the schizophrenic nature of the spliced films only works to it’s detriment. Yet they manage to throw a level of blood and gore that keeps me entertained even as I roll my eyes. I’m so conflicted, I just don’t know what to make of this stuff.

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Occupied

box10movieindexWhen Occupied opens to a pretty blonde with a nice spiral perm sleeping on the beach under a blue filter and new age music, it immediately got me worried that this is going to be an art film. Rolling her bicycle down the woodland road to a log cabin does nothing to allay my fears.

Still, the production values are good – video and sound are professional quality as the blonde is greated by what appears to be an extended family member (a niece?) that she is staying with at the house. Weird that we don’t see the parents though, the father – who has set up in cameras all through the house – makes a phone call to check up on our characters and about the 21 minute mark, but otherwise there’s not another human it sight.

Our first act is spent getting to know our main character and her niece, exploring the index2area – the little girl with a video camera constantly in her hand.

As we begin the second act, the voices began to swirl in our main characters head. More creepy new age music pops up as she writes strange things in her notebook and tries to find her way into the forbidden room… Did I mention, the log cabin has a forbidden bedroom? It’s always locked and off-limits the niece informs her. Her father works in there and keeps it locked even when he’s working (Don’t sweat it. That whole thing is a red herring. So are the cameras).

It’s the notebook though, the notebooks seems to be the trigger of her madness. As she begins her descent in earnest I find myself wondering more and more what’s going on – is this a procession flick? Is it just a crazy girl movie? A haunting? This is kind of information I need, and it’s index.jpgnot apparent on the box.

In the end, The best way I can describe this is as a suspense film made by an art film student who watches too many lifetime movies. Being under 90 minutes, it’s not over long – the film takes exactly as much time as it needs, no more, no less. There are some interesting moments here, and occasionally we hit a really well done emotional beat. You really do feel for the niece in particular. Ultimately though, nothing actually happens in the film.  It comes off too much like a soap opera and feels out of place in this horror set (Though I can’t imagine where else it would play).


Bunnyman

bannerpdindexBunnyman starts with a low res shot on video bit featuring a girl running from the house and getting murdered. It’s very reminiscent of Texas chainsaw massacre actually, fortunately it’s just the appetizer and the rest of the film is done with a higher quality video. It opens with a girl stuck in a refrigerator and once again, running from something – it’s a weird enough opening to grab your attention and steel you for what comes next

We get some kids on a road trip, who managed to anger the large truck behind them. It’s not a promising beginning and I feel like I’ve seen this before too many times already.

The truck driver begins to stalk them, and action made all the more ominous by the brief glimpse we see of the fur covered hand inside the trucks cab. By the way, the girl we saw running earlier? She is in the back of the truck and about to be chained to a tree.

Eventually the images2kids are run off the road and the Bunnyman continues on to his evil deeds. We’re treated to some excellent gore. It’s our first glimpse of the bunny man, and he won’t be back though until the 50 minute mark.

The kids travel on foot, looking for help, and as the night wears on, things get dire and ominous. It’s a slow strech – not a slow burn, just a middle section that drags. However, when the Bunnyman shows back up and the stalking begins things ramp right back up.

I kind of wonder if there just wasn’t enough in this movie for a full feature. Seriously, imagesthis may have been better off as just a short. The suit is too stark, though it provides a surreal image on occasion and that helps. Still, the film feels weak, and I’d kind of like to see it redone with more care and gore.

Wait, what? What do you mean they made two more of theses things?

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They

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From IMDB : “A psychology student finds all her childhood fears and phobias becoming real after a traumatic event. ”

They was one of the reasons I picked up this box set in the first place. It seems like a good opportunity to consolidate my DVD collection a bit. I have seen this film before, it’s probably one of the biggest profile releases on this set! Still, I understand why it was collected here. They has gotten a lot of flak over the years, people seem to really, really hate this film – and I don’t understand why. Is it the “Wes Craven presents” conceit? A backlash or a disappointment that it’s not up to the quality of other Craven films? Objectively speaking, let’s face it – Craven’s involvement in this film was probably limited to cashing a check.

It’s a strong story to me, I remember the commercials being intriguing but I simply never made it out to the theatre in time. Sitting at home watching it on my television, the film scared me. It genuinely frightened me.  It immediately sets the tone for this film and the kind of things that were going to start seeing here. It’s got the look and feel of a lot of films from this era, things like Jeepers Creepers and Darkness Falls. The fact that they never really show you the monster is brilliant – you see enough of it to know that there is something there, something exists in that space and is stalking you but man, the fact that we never get a good full-fledged reveal makes it far creepier than anything – whatever these things are just thoroughly creeps me out.

Of the films in this volume, this may well be the scariest and if I wern’t reviewing it for this column, it would almost certainly be a “in defence of “. I love this movie and if you haven’t caught They, it’s really worth a second look. It’s one that seems to have gathered more appreciation of a time, although it’ll never be a classic it certainly deserves to be more than just a footnote in an eight pack of horror movies.


The Ritual

headerThe cover for this one is misleading – and that’s really a shame! The creepy little girl over the blue washed out background is a great image but its got nothing to do with the story (though I’d sure like to see the story that image actually does represents!)

The film is about a nurse arriving in Jamaica to take care of a rich man’s younger brother – as voodoo swirls on around them. It’s a genuinely good thriller, and feels very more than a little reminiscent of the Serpent and the Rainbow done it would make a perfect double feature with that film. It’s still fairly simplistic story, greed and betrayal, with voodoo thrown in as the method of vengeance for betrayal instead of more traditional methods like a gun or knife. It’s surprisingly packed with stars -we got Jennifer grey front and center here, although it’s after the plastic surgery so she’s a little bit harder to recognize. Tim Curry is around a great deal.  A lot more than you would expect – I thought it’d be a cameo but no, he’s really one of the supporting players enjoying chewing the scenery in the way that only he knows how.

The other very weird thing about this, is it this is the tales from the crypt film. That took me completely by surprise, and there is no trace of it in the poster art on the box set.  I know if you read the description on the back you’ll see the name in kind of FinePrint. I completely missed that. Seriously, I simply didn’t realise there WAS a third Tales from the Ccrypt movie! I’m a big fan of the Demon Knight, and an even bigger fan of Bordello of Blood – which felt like a good companion piece to John carpenters vampires that but this? I never knew this existed! It was a pleasant surprise, although honestly, the film doesn’t need the tales from the crypt pedigree – It stands on it’s own as a good movie. Still, I hope that it’s got a few more eyes on it during international release becasue of the that. It deserves it

This is genuinely one of the better films of the bunch, and I would kind of like to see this going together in a marathon with something like Serpant and the Rainbow and perhaps even Hatchet two – where Tony Todd is playing a voodoo master. This is definitely one I’m going to have to come back and revisit – soon hopefully.


The Nameless

mv5bmddkmwixzwqtnwewnc00ymriltlmztctnjk5nzk0zta3ntfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymta0mju0ng-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_The nameless is a study in not enough. It’s a  slow moving story and every element in it (many of which I like) are as underused as that the name is.

It is the story of a woman whose daughter is lost . The first have hour evolves just like any average episode of Law and order or CSI. Police discover the body, theres an investigation, Case closed.

Everything changes when the mother receives a phone call from what sounds like the deceased daughter and she begins to suspect that the body found was not the right one. The story progresses further with the revelation of a  further investigation from both the detective on the case and the reporter from the local tabloid rag. The story really doesn’t pick up though until we’re about halfway through the film – right around the 45 minute mark. It’s a struggle to get here.  Once we start getting into the idea of the cold and investigating the only non-member, things do you start to pick up – there’s an interesting narrative here, it’s just woefully under used. The idea of a cult is inserted at the last minuet… I’m sure it was fleshed out in the writers mind, and we’re told about it, but we see so very little of it – it falls woefully short of the excitement and interest that we get from say, the old 70s Hammer horror where the Satanic cults are in full diabolical display. It seems to me that they’re trying to go for more of the suspenseful atmosphere perhaps, but they don’t quite achieve it – the story just drags, and I feel as if I am watching any procedural cop show on television, just with a teensy bit more blood… Maybe not even that.

Towards the end we get a brief glimpse of one of the characters tortured. It’s the sort of thing that we appeal to the saw crowd, but again it’s just the clips… Not enough of it to be engaging in a torture porn  sort of format. The ending feels like it’s reaching – like it wants to be innovative, esoteric, but it really fails to deliver that I want away from this movie rather disappointing, not because of the bad film, but because I can see t he potential in it for a much better one. This isn’t even as good as the ones on late night TV – it’s perfectly at home in a bundle box set like this, but otherwise nothing to see here, move on…


The Hole

indexDon’t let the cover art fool you, this is not Keira Knightley’s movie. She is a minor character at best here… Well perhaps a little more than that but she certainly not the star of the story!
From IMDB : “Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.  ”

I’m glad that IMDB labels them as teenagers because I wasn’t certian- still not sure if that’s a high school ro a college….

In any event we have the predictable hook ups, booze, jealousy, all of this is standard fare, flashing back to the horrible events of the film. We got through the retelling of the story, and the main character gets out victoriously – it almost feels like the end of the descent that then I checked my watch, only half an hour had passed.  Surely this can’t be it! It wasn’t. The story is from several different perspectives, with the feel of the police procedural going on in the background. In many ways it feels like we’re retelling the story until we get it right – until we get to the truth. It’s an interesting tool but it kills rewatchability…not that I was going to be coming back to this any time soon.

I’m not totally certain that I would classify this as horror or  even suspense. I’m really not sure what it’s doing in this package – the story at its heart, is really more about the breakdown of society – admittedly in a microchasm like this but still, they kind of want to explore the same themes that we see in say, Ramiro zombie films. It’s about what people do to each other in desperate situations. There’s a twist here but you can see it coming 1,000,000 miles away and after a while the repetitive nature of the story makes you wish that they just get to the point already. It’s not a bad film , it does make you squirm a little bit, it makes you uneasy, but it’s not my kind of film that I think it’s time to move along…


Black Christmas 2006

It was the weirdest thing, my wife came home with a DVD in her hand and passed it over to me. “I had some time to kill before my nail appointment, and I saw this and had to get it for you!”

I’m pretty sure I saw this version of Black Christmas before, but it may not have made quite as much of an impact on me… There were things that I remembered, certain beats but all in all it felt fresh, like watching it for the first time.

I’m a great apologist for a lot of remakes. I don’t hate on them simply for the sake of hating on them, but I do understand how this one might have drawn some serious criticism. Black Christmas is a cult favorite, with a very loyal fan base and any sort of a remake was going to inspire hate. Curiously enough, the director himself was a fan of the original and Bob Clark, the director of the original was on set to supervise occasionally.

There’s another thing that probably irritates a lot of the fans of the original… There’s a significant tonal  shift here. You’re bound to get that when you’re going from the 70s film to a New Millennium movie, but it’s more than that. While it’s not official, as far as I’m concerned, the original black Christmas is a giallo. We have an unseen killer, we have POV shots of murederous hands and mysterious phone calls… It’s still kind of  a horror movie, with some original kills and murder and none of the redeeming features of a say an episode of Law and Order, but as horror films go it has more in common with the giallo than other forms of film. There’s a far greater emphasis on the detective work than the stalker. The 2006 film on the other hand, is most definitely a slasher. There’s over-the-top Gore, a deformed stalking killer, and even a trophy reveal towards the end with all the victims piled into one place. The slasher genre isn’t quite as intellectual as the giallo… Not quite as respected.

Here’s the thing though, I don’t like giallo. Give me a good slasher film any day.

That may be why this take on this material appeals to me. In a very real way, it’s a very different film from its namesake. We have a couple of similar titles and names, and a handful of homage set pieces, but other than the fact that you got a killer in a girls dormitory at Christmas time, it’s simply not the same film. Remake is kind of stretching the definition. Reboot might serve it better.

I like the fact that we get to know the killer… Or should I say killers? We’ve got some deformities to make them into monsters and some well thought-out kills. Indeed, the amount of blood and gore in this film actually surprised me – a pleasant surprise mind you and this time around engaged through the whole thing. I got to admit, I really enjoyed this and it’s been enough to get me to check out some of the directors other work – not to mention giving me a reason to pull out the original film complete with Margot Kidder and John Saxon! I’m relying on dim memories for most of my comparisons here and I’d like a refresher.

Maybe we’ll tackle that another time. I’m running out of days until Christmas…

 


Cult of Chucky

Movie banner22196323_10203791860635041_8806182420006603974_nI have a very casual relationship with the Chucky films – I didn’t even see the first one until perhaps five years ago. It’s probably got everything to do with the conceit that I don’t find the whole scary doll thing intimidating. I think I watch two and skipped three, or perhaps it was the other way around… Either way those sequels didn’t make much of an impression on me… I thought Seed was just too weird, really liked Bride. I think that’s the whole ambivalence towards the scary doll thing talking again… The tonal shift really appealed to me as the films became a little more self-aware around then. Not quite an all out comedy, but very much a comic book type of film – and the addition of Jennifer Tilly to the series was actually a boost.

When Curse of Chucky was announced a couple of years ago, I found myself interested in the soft reboot. I wasn’t sure how this would work, going back to a more serious tone but all of the early reviews came in very positive. Once I finally caught it, I enjoyed the modern style and more serious tone. They played it straight without taking the material to seriously – it was a perfect balance, and they still acknowledged the continuity! This is something that has always impressed me about the Chucky franchise, particularly now that we are into some much later sequelsspread across the decades. They have never abandoned the continuity or gone for a complete revamp. In this day of remakes and relaunchs, that’s a brave and impressive and remarkable feat.
Cult of Chucky manages to be both a direct sequel to Curse, while still retaining its place as a general sequel to the childs play series. Again, no mean feat –  particuarly since it manages to come up with a reasonably interesting take on the material. It immediately draws you in and gets you on board with the film.  There was a little bit of jumping early on, but they managed to get you invested very quickly. Not only is Fiona Doruff back, but also returning is Alex Vincent – the actor from the very first Chucky movie, and with him is a scarred, mutilated Chucky head – still talking it little lips off.

Vincent is actually woefully underused in this film, his appearance comprising at best a “B”storyline that doesn’t quite pay off in the end… But that’s really where the problem lies. This movie is very much the second entry in a trilogy, and while I’m thoroughly entertained by 90% of it, that last 10% left me hanging and unfulfilled.  That’s the real disappointment here, there is ways to do a middle entry where it still resolves enough at the end to leave you satisfied – Empire Strikes Back did it. Heck, even Star Trek 3 managed it. With this movie, I’m left hanging without the knowledge of whether or not they’ll be a sequel – and there’s the rub.

Cult of Chucky leaked online about a week and a half early, which is going to affect the performance numbers. This in particular annoys me because the film was literally coming to Netflix a week or two later. I’m not above a little bit of piracy when something is not readily available – not in stores, not on any streaming service, out of print and therefore prohibitively expensive, or is only showing for three nights in one theatre in Albuquerque… That wasn’t the case here.  It wasn’t even going to the theatre, not some limited release, it was coming to fricking Netflix (and others!)! This is available to all. Come on guys! You’re ruining it for us all!

Quite frankly, I find myself wishing they had filmed this and the next entry back to back – done in such a way where they can tag a trailer at the end of the film (like Lord of the Rings or Back to the Future part two) to build up anticipation. As it is I find myself sitting here hoping that piracy hasn’t sunk this franchise just as it was getting back on its feet. I don’t want to wait another 14 years for the closing chapter of the story arc, much the way I had to with the Phantasm series.

Still, if you can get past the dangling threads of the ending, this is a fun film – It’s been compared a lot to Nightmare three, a comparison that is well earned in a lot of ways, but don’t expect more than homage from it. Fire up Netflix and give this one a shot – and while you’re at it, if you’re interested in knowing what I thought of the movie as I was watching it, you can keep this transcript handy – where I was jotting my thoughts down as the film rolled!
22228434_1691114440932972_7949913923869546273_n

Matthew Skelly Oh please let his date be the first one to get it!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Holy crap. You can’t be keeping the real one in that safe….

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Okay, you know what? I’m sold.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Hmmmm. Shocking.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Who exactly is that supposed to be? Surely not the babysitter… Time to hit IMDb

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly I thought she was supposed to be dead from the waist down

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Oh you have got to be kidding me. As far as bad idea to go, on a scale of 1 to 10 this is about a 3000

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Is Michael Phelps really retired?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Hello, legs.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Squeeeee! Jennifer Tilly!

 Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly How many of those things are out there anyhow?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Nooooooooo! What is this, psycho?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Wow. That’s an impressive thread work. I would have bet dream sequence

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Okay now hes just being obnoxious

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Cool, it wasn’t just a cameo!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly So we’ve acknowledged the rest of the sequels is Canon.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Oh, he’s going to fry your tuchas for that doc.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly You thought we were away past this, so you thrust the object of her obsession in her face? What kind of an idiot are you?

Manage

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Dude, we’re so far past “bad idea ” that I can’t even see it in the rearview mirror anymore

Matthew SkellyMatthew Skelly Don’t tell me they’re both cursed.
Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly WHAT DID YOU JUST DO??????

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Wait, is he in on it? Or possessed in some way? I think we may be playing with A whole new rule book here…

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Peekaboo!

Matthew Skelly Please let him take off like a rocket… No… Wow!
Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly And now the only person in this film that had any senses dead…

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly How many safes does this guy have, and why is he keeping that in there?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Okay, that’s two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly So how long is this been going on?
Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly But I guess they’re not in cahoots…

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Our man, did we all of a sudden just go all Rob zombies Halloween 2 here?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Man, the drawing is scarier than the doll

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Well, I think we can all guess where that pencil is going.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Um I didn’t know they were equipped for that…

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly I’m pretty sure I already know what the word disembowel means.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly There’s going to be a burp here isn’t there?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly OMG, it IS Psycho!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Yeah, that doll is not big on forgiveness….

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Arrived just in time for the third act!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Half an hour left, I really like more information on how the whole cult thing works

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly What do you think she’s going to do? Hang herself with the dolls shoelaces? – That nurse better be the next one to get it!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Now, aren’t you glad you took the dolls shoe away, instead of doing something useful like – putting a camera in there or something?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly He’s never going to get that thing back you know…

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Okay, I understand you’re crippled, but how did Chuckie manage the straitjacket?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Didn’t we just do this 20 minutes ago?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Bookmarking voodoo for dummies.com

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Not as much of an explanation as I’d hoped for – but way to earn that hard r rating guys!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly I so love Jennifer Tilly!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly This is going to be messy isn’t it? Those shoes are red for a reason I bet…

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Wait, that’s not how this end is it?

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Holy crap, I was right! Back at the graveside, I was right!

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Well, mostly right… These schizophrenics are throwing me off

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly And now back to the “B “storyline

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly So what you’re saying is, it wasn’t possessed one arrived – we watched it happen.

Matthew Skelly
Matthew Skelly Grrrrrr, I’m not sold on the ending – this is obviously the middle chapter of something

Arcade

gamermaxresdefaultToday’s cinematic atrocity is Arcade! It’s a Full Moon classic starring little Ralphie from a Christmas Story and Q from Star Trek : the next generation. It also features a VERY young Seth Green and is pretty worth watching just for that.

I’ve had to defend the special effects in the past though – if you look there on that old VHS box, you’ll notice it exclaims “virtual reality special Effects”! They may be pushing the definition of virtual reality – they might be pushing the definition of special effects for that matter… Zacherly used to refer to certain SFX as special DEFECTS, and that’s far more appropriate here. There is a lot of primitive CG splashed up against a blue screen – and what’s really frightening is the original set of special effects were even more primitive, to the point where Charles Band put the movie on hold until they could find somebody who could do you something little better.

The original version of the CG villain had no moving parts – he was a far more blocky solid character, where as the finished product as a bit more personality and movement to it. You can get a glimpse of what it would’ve looked like at the beginning of the video zone featurette’s at the end of every full moon videotape. Those graphics have a lot more in common with Tron – not a bad movie, but back in 1993 that look was quite seriously behind the times. You can see huge differences between the two pictures below – the very static face of Arcade, a mask  really with no movement except shadows from the flickering lights behind the mask, transport that looked more like light cycles than liquid metal terminators, and a title font that would look extremely cool in a children’s cartoon but not in an r-rated horror movie. It’s stuff that would pass on VR Troopers or in an 80’s movie, but not in ’93, not after T2 had redefined CG forever (or at least until The Matrix arrived seven years later)

I’ve seen some of those original,and  I can see why they decided to redo the effects. Not just the models, we also go from grids and gradients to textured backgrounds with clouds and atmosphere. Electrical effects and far more detail. The original effects were simpler. They took less time to create (one or two moving pieces and slap a bitmap on it for color) and would take FAR less time to render. The finished effects have multiple textures applied, with great detail, are made up of far more polygons and include more lighting effects. The difference in both build time and render time must have increased by months.

Despite the computer generated FX even worse than those in the Lawmower Man, I’m a fan of this film. The CG does not age well, but it’s not meant to – and you can forgive it because of that.

The story is practically paint by numbers. New game put out, someone developed AI. AI turns evil. The girl who can’t play video games is the one who has to save the day.

Despite that, it has the sense of fun and adventure that Full Moon Films typically have. I really love watching this, and another big selling point here is the cast. These are all kids (at the time anyhow), and you can tell they are all having a genuinely good time with each other. watching the behind the scenes feature in particular REALLY brings this out.

Can I talk a little about the actual video arcade they feature in this movie? Because seriously, this place is awesome. A little basement hole-in-the-wall with black lights and glowing stickers all over? A nice mix of old games and new, man I would have loved this place and spent every dollar I ever made if I’d had one of these joints in the 90’s. The only arcades around here were at the Mall and the Bowling Alley. This however, this feels real. It feels like a teenage hangout and it made me want to be there. It’s little details like this that I’m talking about, this is the stuff that makes a mediocre film come alive and entertain.

Truth is, this is a FUN movie. You forget about the low budget, Even though the effects make you feel like you crawled in to your Packard Bell micro tower to play DOOM  you don’t care. This isn’t T2 or the Lawnmower man. You didn’t pick this up to stare at the pretty SFX. Sure you can see that plot twist coming a mile away, but you’ll find yourself rooting for it anyhow.

You’ll see it on the shelf at the Record Exchange or Flea market sometimes. It’s sure to be on Full Moon Streaming. Seriously, give this one a try some lazy Sunday afternooon. It’s got to be better than watching the Browns lose.


Mortuary

boxdwMy first thought when I saw this, was “cool! Denise Crosby is in this! ”

mv5bmtq1mdu3nzy2ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwntuznzizmq-_v1_uy268_cr50182268_al_I wonder if anybody ever asks her about this one? Her inclusion in the movie actually makes it feel a little bit more like pet semetary– and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I guess Mortuary is basically a stylised zombie story? There is a findish sort of moss that turns people into the walking dead – you don’t necessarily have to be bitten either. I almost feel like we also have a kind of Lovecraft story going on with a vast monster hiding behind the mortuary itself.  This is a solid fun horror film – it’s not going to win any awards and the 90s CG I is actually looking pretty dated, but it’s forgiveable because of the period and because they’re trying to create something that looks otherworldly done kinder in the way that stop motion is forgiveable on monsters because we knows? Maybe that’s just the way they move down there some fun make-up choices here as well – green beans on action faces things that point back to the plant-based nature of this infection doesn’t think kind of the Stephen King segment show. I like this that it’s probably one that upload again or have running at a Halloween party… I’m not convinced that it’s the best offering in this sad, but it certainly one of the highlights.


Night train to terror

boxftdnight_train_to_terror_poster_01For some strange reason, I can’t remember anything about this film except the band. I know I’ve seen it in the past, but honestly as I looked at it and was kind of drawing a blank so I thought I’d throw it in for a viewing while I was watching the rest of this collection. I still can’t believe that I just don’t remember any of this! It’s an anthology film with three stories told against the backdrop of a train ride to heaven or hell – we’re not exactly told which. God and the Devil are examining the lives of certain people and bargaining for who is going to go where.

During these framing sequences, we also get treated to an extremely 80s rock band playing the same song over and over again. It’s not aparticularly good or bad tune but it does get stuck in your head.

There’s stories about the devil trying to recruit as well as tales of mad scientists and doctors of using patients… I can’t believe I forgot Richard Moll is in this! He plays two different characters into different segments! I love Richard, I especially love his exploitation and horror work – and I told him that myself by the way. Of all the people from my favorite Sitcom;Night Court, he has by far had the most interesting career. Night Train to Terror is a fun film, it’s very much a product of its time and also very much a direct to video kind of film. The back and forth between God and the Devil – I can’t argue the conceit, but it does come off as cheesy. So does the band. The vignettes are utterly forgettable, indeed, Not only have I forgotten them once… But even as I attempt to write this article the stories are a little fuzzy. It’s a nice quick watch though – and really good fodder for horror hosts (in fact that maybe where I’ve seen this previously), More than anything and I can say for this, is that it is a fun film – and definately a recommend. I’d even go as far as to say this one is a buy. You can usually find it cheap, and considering I can never remember these plots – it’s a great value because I feel like you’re seeing a new movie every time!


The farm

boxftdthe-farm-survive-the-dead-dvd-cover-fsk-18For a low-budget micro production, the farm sure does feel like it’s got some good production values. he film is shot well and the actors are reasonably competent done the problem with the bar, is that it takes itself way too seriously. This wants to be a serious interpersonal drama with musings on mortality and purpose – but it doesn’t earn it.

Moreover it’s a zombie film that forgotten that it’s a zombie film. The monsters are somewhat alluded to – that is, we know there is a thread out there, but we don’t actually see the zombies until we are well past the half way point here.

This is the story of two brothers that have survived a zombie apocalypse on the family farm, when a girl stumbles into their life searching for her sister – a sister that they had just killed moments before she turned up. The story is actually much simpler than that, it’s looking at the wounded younger brother, the protective over older brother, and let’s go get some supplies so that we can actually shoehorn some zombies into this story. I think this film could work better if they attempted to have fun with that. If they injected some core humour… But the film insists on itself, and this makes it come off as way too heavy handed. It wants to be an art film instead of a zombie film, but in doing so it succeeds it being neither.

The greatest care is given to the brothers make up, which is an interesting scarring along with the missing arm – it’s cleverly pulled off, though it’s fairly simple see how it’s been done and the greasepaint doesn’t always match his skin tone. The zombies on the other hand are far simpler – shambling ragged clothes with blood poured over them. I’m a little less impressed by this. In some ways it almost feels like someone wanted to make the walking dead but didn’t want to put in the effort. Really that’s the perfect way to sum up this film – it’s the sort of thing I’d expect to see at a film festival with dozens of other movies, or in a film class where the student is just a little bit too impressed with himself. This one is definitely a pass.