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10 movies

Backwoods

box10movieMV5BMjE4NjkyNTQ2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTE3NDI2Mg@@._V1_UY268_CR5,0,182,268_AL_.jpgReading the description or backwoods, it’s got me thinking this is probably going to be a knock off of “The Hills Have Eyes”. They waste no time getting into action with the generic couple abducted while on vacation. Unfortunately our backwards baddies don’t appear to be monsters, just a evil family.

I suspect I’m going to complain to the entire movie about them not being mutants.

Anyhow, a company sales team rents out the woods for a paintball match – one of those obnoxious team building exercises we occasionally hear about. The teams promptly get themselves raided and lost. While one team discovers the damage of the campsite, the other finds a derelict old house where they encounter our villainous backwoods family

Once everybody is captured, the real fight begins. There are elements of religious cult in here as well as some Saw influence. But it almost feels like they didn’t commit fully to Either. They really needed to choose one or the other – heighten the religious horror, heighten the hillbilly horror or focus on the torture. Still, the way they mash all of these elements together makes for a solid film, as long as it’s in a vacuum – that is, it’s good but only if you’ve never seen any other backwoods film. At the end of the day, there are way better options out there if you’re in the mood for hillbilly horror, but for a quick fix,  this’ll do just fine.


Feeding Grounds

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indexFeeding grounds starts off in a barren desert gas station – the sort of place you expect to see in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or in “Pumpkinhead”. Carrion lies ominously in the middle of the road.

Everything feels micro budget and amateurish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The opening stinger leaves me confused though. What was it that made our first two victims sick? What was it that got them? It seemed like it was just a dude in a cowboy hat, but really I’m not sure what’s going on. After the police come, we move swiftly on.

We are introduced to our main cast. The guys seem more douchebag than normal, with some non-descript pretty girls and one chick wielding a video camera. They’re heading out to a cabin, and roll past a wooden sign – “Doom Desert”.

Hmmm. That’s just a little bit too on the nose.

Still, nothing happens until the hour mark when somebody finds an ear. Beyond some rocks falling it’s the most exciting thing happen yet in the film and I find myself itching for some action.

Down the road a bit, we find a bunch of human remains – mostly bloody chunks, and these send our cast running back to the cars. The film begins to slow down now because Feeding.Grounds.2006_3because someone needs to get sick. Almost imperceptibly, we get a glimpse of a bite or injection or something one of the characters… and it means that whatever things out there, they are watching. Still, at this point I feel like I’m watching “Cabin Fever”, but on the road. The sick turns into madness and anger as one of them ominously informs the rest of the group;

“The more you fight, the quicker they’ll come”.

In the end, there are some good ideas here – by I wish they had gone over the script a couple more times to bring in the action and the atmosphere sooner. For an 81 minute movie, there’s no excuse for this to be so talky(and yet it still fails to explain the roles of this world and its illness and unseen creatures) and slow as it is. Despite a near-perfect moment in the last shot of the film, this is Syfy Channel fodder at best.


The Dark

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MV5BMmIxNTZmNmItODM3Zi00N2QyLWJjODMtNmY4MTBiODYyOTc3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjExODE1MDc@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I’m going into the dark kind of blind but the first thing I see is Neve Campbell and Byron James in the credits so I kind of know what kind of film this is gonna be. It starts in a graveyard, with James and his partner hunting something, so it’s definitely a good start. Gunfire and severed hands. Yeah I think I’m gonna like this.

The gravedigger and his son head back to the graveyard to do the job while nearby at a cafe teenage waitresses are asked about what happened.  In the background we hear they going to being investigated as well. I’m hoping all of your storiescome together in the second act

Some interesting daytime action at the graveyard, as a tombstone shakes and is pulled into the ground. We see tunnels underground, reminding you a great deal of Nightbreed was digging up – I’m digging the creature feature vibe.

index.jpgSpeaking of the creature, we get on first glance of it and about the halfway mark – beautifully realized when kept in the shadows. Of course, I have no idea what it is or how it ties in, but the grave diggers are justifiably terrified. Time for the director in the leather jacket to step in (that’s obviously a pellet gun by the way, kind of shame them trying to pass it off as a real one)

As we enter the third act, it seems like there are tunnels throughout the whole town – you never know when something is going to reach up and grab you. The creatures are  made all the more are terrified by their pervasive infestation, much like in Aliens. The teeth evoke a primal fear, and as long as they’re kept in the dark they are brilliant. Unfortunately, as we get further into the movie and we get more light on them, they actually look less threatening – even comical at times. In any event, it’s at this time Brian James arrives back on the scene save the day.

At the end of the day, it’s a mixed bag with multiple influences but really ends up being tremors with a lower budget – and no desert. Well-made and a lot of fun. It’s movies like these that are the reason I keep buying these sets!


Dark Spirits

box10movieindexDark Spirits takes place in a nice warm locale – I’m not sure exactly where, but it sure feels Eastern European. IMDB say Czech republic and Prague, and you can see they are making the most of the visual splendor of thier locale. It’s a good thing, because I recognize that font they used for thier credits and while the end logo does have a nice style to it, the familiar font and transitions make it look cheap. The locale counters that nicely. Once we’re introduced to our heroine, we are plunged into a nightmare sequence with the atmosphere heightened by surprisingly affective use of high contrast filters that desaturate. In the dream, she sees The death of her sister, and when she wakes she discovers that indeed, her sister is dead. She is called into an investigation where she finds circumstances wern’t exactly the same as in her dream, but is haunted none the less.

In the street from a distance she spots what she thinks is your sister – and in her apartment, small disturbances begin to happen, and shadowy figures abound.

The biggest problem here is that the film is paced like a European art film – a lot of talk, lots of coffee drunk out of teacups and a lot of build up. That’s fine except this isn’t a European art film, it’s a horror movie, and we need the pace to continue at a quicker clip to get us to that climactic final five minutes where everything pays off. If you catch this one…just keep your thumb on the fast forward button


Netherworld

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MV5BNTU3YzE5MjUtOWUyZS00MDMxLTgyMjYtMWQzMDg4YmIxOTRmL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ2MjQ5NzM@._V1_UY268_CR1,0,182,268_AL_It starts off well enough, production values are professional and the locale is slightly wet –  Hard to tell if it’s Flordia or Louisiana (It’s supposed to be Louisianan) But description promised voodoo and it’s not apparent immediately despite the lovely young African-American Lauren who leads our hero to a remarkably sterile house of ill repute. The joint remind me of the stark hallways we see in the projects of “Candyman” and the KEEP OUT sign on one of the doors is a little too on the nose. Instead of being obvious it just looks cheap. There is definitely something eerie going on behind that door though. When, from the depths of the cathouse a flying hand appears out of nowhere, I definitely feel like I’m in Charles Band territory. We have blood within the first 10 minutes and a nice intro as we switch into the story property in matters mystic and a nice 80s synth score.

After we’ve had some time to get used to our characters we are sent into a dream sequence which reminds me a great deal of the serpent and the rainbow. I like abstract dream sequences and for the sake of art and pure freakiness. It’s a bit of an attempt to imageselevate them a tad higher than it deserves, but it’s fun. We spent the first act talking a lot about the main characters father and how he believed he had discovered a method for raising the dead – it’s all good backstory, but it makes me really long to get the second act started in earnest. BTW, these people are far too pretty to be voodoo masters, but man, I can’t argue with that 80s spiral perm.

When the third act arrives, it doesn’t disappoint – though it does seem like this is an attempt to be more intellectual than we are used to in a Full Moon Film. It’s very traditional supernatural horror, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just I was hoping for a little bit more proper voodoo. Nevertheless, it’s inventive enough to remain entertaining andengaging, with a parting shot that’s a proper sendoff. Full Moon rarely dissapoints. Indeed, I’m not even sure what is doing on this collection – I checked there is no more from that studio but it was worth it just for this one.


The Shadows

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MV5BMTcwNjc0NDU5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDU0NDM1Mw@@._V1_UY268_CR6,0,182,268_AL_.jpgOn the surface, this film is technically on point. It’s grainy and dirty like an 80s horror movie. They know how to light it too – with stark blues and occasional fog, with creepy atmosphere all throughout. They’ve assembled a reasonably competent cast as well, dressed them in dirty clothes and got the girls really skimpy (after all, a pretty girl is the cheapest special affect out there).

So why does this suck?

It’s a story of bunch of young people whose boat crashed. They take shelter in the Lighthouse which happens to be heated. We don’t see the boat crash or anything mind you (We don’t have NEAR that kind of budget!), the kind of just tell us what happened. There is some stock footage for it, panning around the Lighthouse itself and ominous clouds outside but it’s choppy and pixelated… Almost at a diffrent frame rate.

What really surprised me was that the sound mix was all over the place. These filmmakers have a passable idea and a great looking set, but they lack of technical expertise to put this together properly and honestly it just kills the film. I don’t know what’s going on half the time because I can’t understand characters. The choppy inserts drop me right out of the film.

And the monsters? Pirate suits and white contact lenses. Not even some grease paint and cobwebs – just plain old guys in pirate suit with contacts. Kind of like the blind dead made by somebody who’s never actually seen those films. Not that we get a lot of monster time anyhow. Towards the end they are replaced by actors in black velvet suits… The titular shadows of the film. They attempt to build up suspense and develop relationships but because of the wonky sound mix and poor pacing it just doesn’t work, and by the time we get halfway through, I just don’t care about these characters. That’s a shame too, because once we hit the third act, their bickering at the Lighthouse and turning on each other just like in “Night of the Living Dead”.  The influences are pretty glaring. Thing is, it would work if I were invested in these people – the quiet moments are just too quiet, and the story is just too shallow.

And that’s just the thing, I feel bad for having trash this movie. You know what? I wanna do over – I wanna see the same film makers, altered by experience and time make this film again because there is potential here, and it’s just got sunk by it’s production values


Asylum

box10movieindex.jpgI’m a fan of Malcolm McDonald, which is really why am watching this. Robert Patrick is always a plus, though I haven’t seen him in a whole lot of things other than Terminator. Deborah Gordon was a nice surprise, I was an admirer of hers back from her Mad TV days. That goes double for Henry Gibson, who frequently used a pop-up on Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a frozen judge. Even Sarah Douglas, from Superman II, is getting in the act here as the asylum psychiatrist!

Robert Patrick is playing an interesting character investigating insurance claims and stuff like that, going in to cover and catching people in the act of fraud, until friend of dies. This kicks off his personal investigation into the death at the asylum.  To that end we see him getting him self thrown into the asylum and It’s then that McDowell finally appears – in a bizarre wig and scraps. Threre’s kind of a Dream Warriors vibe going on here, and don’t think I missed that one patient named Alucard!

Patrick prowls the offices it mate, looking for evidence – and bumping into that weird Looney Tunes Malcolm McDowell again – It’s enough to make me wonder if this is more index2.jpga thriller and mystery than it is a horror movie.

Eavesdropping on a board meeting, Patrick hears about patient abuse and discovers a file on the various patients. Malcolm McDowell is the first page of the stack. That’s where the mystery really kicks off. We’re treated to a lot of the expected tropes – abuse of guards reading the female patients, A day room scene right out of one of the Cuckoo’s nest, and various antics from the inmates.

This is actuIf there’s any flaw here, it’s the slow burn at the beginning, with us not exactly knowing where this is going. I needed more leading up to this, however it has a great reveal and a good concept, well executed. Definite watch, especially if it happens to be on TV. Perfect in a set like this.


Blood Predator

box10movieindex.jpgBlood Predator starts off with some nice CG – somebody knows their way around after Effects. The mini DV look of the film worries me, although I have enjoyed a lot of these kind of movies at CW. So I’m staying cautiously optimistic.I thought better though I saw how creepy the interior of the set was.

After the obligatory first shot, we are introduced to our characters shortly before their plane crash. You can almost fit the stereotype out by the numbers that are carried streamlined. On way to the creepy house, seems to have increased if that’s possible – the discovery of only adds to the atmosphere.

By the way, creepy dark house… Don’t go to the basement! It’s just common sense and if you find human vertebrae in the basement, don’t keep going further into the basement!

The film uses location extraordinarily well – and you know something is creeping around here, although unless you’re at the back of the box you won’t know exactly what’s pointing the house or what it is I castaway trying to survive. Definitely stick around until the third act, it’s well worth it.

Blood Predator is well paced, well shot(even if it is on a cheap camera) extremely atmospheric and entertaining. It’s the sort of thing I’d really like to see more of on the Syfy channel – no budget in the productions with heart. I can only imagine what it would index2.jpglike if it had some money, especially for the creature FX. It would have been wiser not to show too much of it, because it’s so uneven. When it’s well lit and well pupped, it looks dynamite… But other times when it’s over in bed and clumsily moved, it looks like utter trash. Same is true of the CG version. There is some amazing third act gore, and some wonderfully composited shots. when it’s good, it’s very good, but when it’s not…

In the hands of a more talented puppeteer and with better CG, it be terrifying. Still, if I pulled this off the rack at the video store in 1988, I’d be pretty impressed.


Living in Peril

box10movieMV5BMjA1NzEwNDQyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTMwNDMzMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_.jpgFirst let’s make this clear this is not a horror movie. Its at best a rear window, basic instinct thriller. At worst, it’s a TV movie with f bombs. Seriously, if it weren’t for language I swear this was a lifetime film.

Rob Lowe plays an architect who is driving up to some California area to design a building for Jim Belushi. On the way there, he’s almost run off the road by crazy tracker. Once he arrives in his apartment strange things begin to happen… Rats in the apartment, drawings destroyed, a dead body in his bed.

I don’t really care one way or the other for Rob Lowe, but I usually enjoy Jim Belushi and I adore Richard Moll. Moll is criminally underused here, usually he brings a little bit of light into the production. He just sleepwalks through this movie. I think it’s just a cheap job for a lot of people. Dean Stockwell was a delight – when he’s not chewing his cigar, he is chewing the scenery as the grumpy landlord of Lowe’s apartment building.

At the end of the day, it’s your basic television mystery with a dash of paranoia. They never really manage to build up the suspense,  I never really feel like we are… Living in Peril.


Legacy of Evil

box10movieMV5BMjAzNjAzMDExOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzU2MDcyMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR7,0,182,268_AL_Legacy of the Evil begins with a shot of a man in the wilderness, wandering into a bar where he is surrounded by the laughter of the somebodys  voices.The walls begin to shake and I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be ominous.

Still, I have some hot progress even though the credits once again look like this is a television production… I’m eager to see what Phylicia Rashad does here. She’s a little underrated as an actress. Bill Cosby casts a long shadow, but Creed was a great remider of just how good she is. The psychiatrist role she is billed in seems like something different than what we’re used to seeing her in. Sadly, it ends up being her playing her usual type – it almost becomes a distraction from the horror.

Visions continue as the stepfather here settles into life with his new family. Something outside the window actually managed to elicit a jumpstart from me. Our stepfather runs index.jpgout of the house to discover the family greenhouse on fire – and I’m genuinely getting a Amityville vibe here. That makes sense, the box bills this as a possession flick. Even the way smoke and stuff billows around the corner from the stairs that the house is set up with, the design language speaks to amityville. Sadly possession far too often in this film looks like dodgy CGI. They get credit though, they spend a lot of time exploring slow descent into possession from the perspective of our stepdad who is being taken over – it’s a technique we don’t see often, but one that worked extremely well in the “Exorcism of Emily Rose”. index2.jpgOf course we see him less as the possesion deepends and we do get a explanation for the flashes – those are flashbacks to his previous marriage. Turns out, possiesion has been slowly taking hold for a very long time. Despite a television budget, they managed very creepy moments that create an effective atmosphere, and I really dig their explanation for where the exorcism team comes from.

You’re going to have to track down the movie yourself to see both that and how they finally banish the spirit though! Seriously, this is a nice solid creepy film – and exactly The sort of hidden gem that is the reason I buy these box sets!


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).