Posted on 4/27/10 06:11 PM
The Dark Hours is a surprisingly intense, thought-provoking film. A psychologist (the strangely attractive Kate Greenhouse) pushes one of her criminally insane mental patients a little too hard, and is forced to face the psychological repercussions when he decides to turn the tables. The less one knows about The Dark Hours going in, the better. The acting is more than adaquate, the script is well-paced and never uninteresting, the direction is slick and unobtrusive. Admittedly, I was horribly confused by the final 15 minutes of this film, but I was still impressed and affected by it, which is more than I can say by a lot of the big studio tripe being released these days. The Dark Hours more than fills the definition of "psychological thriller"; in my opinion, it's a textbook example.
Posted on 4/26/10 10:19 AM
Broken Lizzard's Club Dread isn't the worst horror comedy I've ever seen. And as far as praise goes, that's not bad. It's a little bit gory, and a little bit funny, but only rarely clever and frequently juvenile. As the friend I was watching it with often intoned, "She's not hot at all, is she?", and it's true, the girls featured in Club Dread were pretty attractive, and I found the flirtacious blonde (Brittany Daniel) to be particularly enjoyable. Overall, the film is barely decent. Barely.
Posted on 7/30/06 07:14 AM
So far, I've seen 5 episodes of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, and I've been kind of surprised at how hit-and-miss the series seems to be overall. I guess that's the way it should be, if each director is employing their own personal artistic perspective, rather than sieving their vision through the opinions of the studio. I haven't hated any of the episodes thus far, but I haven't loved any of them, either.
I expected Lucky McKee to hit his episode out of the park, but his vision seems to have been muddled by a weird an somewhat irritating central performance by Angela Bettis. She plays a lesbian bug scientist who keeps insects as pets at home and insists on speaking to them in this affected voice that sounds like a geriatric woman from Toronto trying to talk sweet to an infant. Seriously, this voice is really annoying. I can't believe McKee signed off on it during the table reads. If you've seen the episode, you'll know what I'm talking about.
Well, the Bettis character meets Misty Mundae (going by Erin Brown here; Mundae is the star of a whole shitload of horror/soft-core porno films you can find advertised in Fangoria and Rue Morgue and the like; she's very popular amongst a specific set of social fringe players, is all I'm saying), and they begin an awkward sexual relationship.
This crazy bug mailed from Brazil or someplace infects Mundae and she starts acting all strange, you know, eating bugs and stuff, since she's infected with larvae, and things progress from there.
McKee draws heavily from the tones he established in May, and Cronenberg's The Fly seems to have influenced this episode, as well. Mundae does, predictably, get topless, and there is a mild amount of gore from two of the three KNB dudes, but the ending of the episode blows in supremely lame, and finally, the weirdness seems too forced to be interesting. This 1-hour episode lacks half the tension maintained throughout the 90-minute May. We'll have to see how McKee fares once the eternally-delayed The Woods is finally released. Come on, Lucky, you can make it happen. I have faith in you.
Posted on 7/30/06 06:40 AM
I really, really wanted to love this movie. I really did. Balls.
I'm the oldest of 5, and I was perpetually forced to babysit my younger siblings on Friday nights, as my parents went out dancing as part of an early-mid-life crisis they experienced from '84-'86. I was left with the ribald and utterly confusing (at ages 12-13) Miami Vice as my only night-time companion, and although it appears mildly dated and far-from-gritty today, at the time the series made an indelible impression on my psyche.
And don't even get me started on Michael Mann. Most of the time, I believe the guy can do no wrong (Heat, Collateral), and the remainder of the time I at least respect him (The Insider). But Miami Vice just seems so lackluster, so half-assed, like its directed by some music video director trying to channel Michael Mann, instead of Michael Mann himself.
Colin Farrell glowers and looks mighty serious as James "Sonny" Crockett, and Jamie Foxx struts around and looks like he is just sick of getting laid as Rico Tubbs (minus the sawed-off, unfortunately). A huge interagency sting falls apart, and the detectives are forced to go undercover to sort things out. They pose as drug transporters (which makes for plenty of opportunity to break out the sleek, phallic boats) and Crockett takes it upon himself to ball drug liaison Gong Li (who is so aggressively Asian, she almost looks like a dude), which doesn't exactly sit well with her Pablo Escobaresque husband, a grumpy man who comes complete with fluffy beard. Soon, double-crosses abound, Tubbs' woman gets kidnapped and almost blown up, there's a shoot out in a trailer park (the movie's best scene), and then the final drug deal, when Crockett and Tubbs must deliver their final shipment for payment, just knowing they're going to get double-crossed, and yeah, the shoot-out is decent, but come on baby, this isn't Heat.
Miami Vice lacks the gorgeous cinematography of Collateral, the sumptuous nighttime landscapes. Also shot on high Def digital video, Miami Vice is curiously grainy, and rarely beautiful. Where's the $135 million, bitches? It's certainly not on the screen.
Colin Farrell seems distracted, as if he's thinking of better ways to spend his time. Jamie Foxx almost has a chance to pull the movie together, but his character simply doesn't get enough screen time. In the end, Miami Vice is a disappointment, if only because of Mann's directorial successes that preceeded it.
Posted on 7/21/06 07:41 PM
Leif Jonker's Darkness was initially released on VHS in 1993, and it gained a slight reputation among fans of underground cinema. Shot in the late 80s by a bunch of high school kids without an 80-watt bulb to call their own, Darkness has been recently re-released on DVD in a slightly re-cut "Vampire Version".
Vampires overrun a small town and Tobe (Gary Miller) attempts to rescue his friends Greg, Kelly, and the strangely androgynous Jodie (Steve Brown), to flee the infected area. Tobe has a blond mullet and a sparse pubescent moustache; he delivers his lines in a hackneyed whisper stolen directly from Eastwood's soul. His parents were killed by vampires, and he demonstrates his unflinching anger by carrying his rifle out in front of his crotch like an over-sized phallus, at all times.
The other characters essentially stand around and deliver dialogue stilted with blatantly pregnant pauses, occasionally interrupting each other as they intermittently forget the timing of their lines. The audience is constantly bombarded with irritating jump cuts to Weather Channel-style updates printed in bold caps (19 MINUTES TO SUNSET!) . Plot is entirely incidental in a film like Darkness, something scratched down on a legal pad after the day's sets and props have already been established.
As the opening credits insist on informing you about 100 times, Leif Jonker handled almost every single fu**ing aspect of this movie, and don't you forget it. He wrote it, directed it, composed the music, created the makeups and visuals, gave downtime back massages to Jodie (Steve Brown, in case you forgot), produced it, and edited it. Martin and Porter's Video Movie Guide 2006 insists that Darkness was edited by John Carpenter, but it turns out that Jonker just adopted one of Carpenter's previous pseudonyms, John T. Chance, for the editing credit. Which makes perfect sense, since there's no way Carpenter would come within a million miles of this piece of shit, not even during his Village of the Damned days.
But the (admittedly limited) reputation of Darkness hasn't been built around issues such as plot, character, audible sound, nuance, decent lighting, focus, style, or intelligence. Darkness don't play that. Darkness is about the gore, kids. With spurting surgical tubing tucked down sleeves, exploding condoms filled with fake gore, squibs, mouthfuls of red corn-syrup running freely over chins, melting prosthetics, and an over-exposed climax featuring acres of chicken skin being torn from bloodies faces, it's true that Jonker is doing his damnedest to shock and amaze. Unfortunately, nothing--not Jonker's overzealous gore, not the pervasive use of highly uncreative profanity, not even the quaint nostalgia invoked by the pegged pants and unlaced high-tops of the period--can save Leif Jonker's Darkness from the uninspired psyche of its own creator.
Posted on 6/29/06 07:26 AM
A wicked gory film from Argentina, the entirety of which is cribbed from "Dead Alive" and "Bad Taste". Worth seeing for gore fans and Jackson completists. The characters, particularly wrestler/cowboy John West, are over-the-top and sometimes hard to take, and the zombie make-up is horribly subpar (if you are wearing pastel face paint, chances are you're a zombie), but the movie has an energy that can't be denied.
Highlights: A zombie, holding his intestine out in front of him like a gun, blows farts and liquid feces onto the face of one of the main characters. In another scene, a man tears open a zombie's skull so he can hawk a thick wad of spit directly onto it's exposed brain. Then there's a cutaway to the "oh-my!" zombie reaction shot. Classic shit.
Posted on 5/12/06 07:19 AM
Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity) downs a few mini-bottles while waiting for a subway train, falls asleep, and upon awakening finds that she has been locked underground until morning.
You'd think she'd just find a bench and wait it out, but it turns out there's a lot going on in locked subway terminals in the wee hours of the night. There are scary wino-types lurking around, a couple of crazies, a Franka stalker happens by, but luckily for the audience, many of these characters are dispatched by a malformed man who makes boisterous, high-pitched screeching noises before each gory kill.
Director Christopher Smith has crafted one sweet-ass, tight, deftly-directed horror film. His gore is strong, his kill scenes are rewarding, and he can ratchet up some good tension. As a director, he has his own sense of style, which is quite a compliment in the horror genre these days, considering everyone is copying everyone else. In fact, although one extremely strong scene (consider yourself warned) is reminiscent of Hostel, Creep was playing in German film festivals a full year before Hostel was released. I wonder if Eli Roth saw Creep before he made Hostel. Someone should ask him. In any case, I highly recommend Creep to my cult-horror-loving friends.
You know how it is, you've got 2 or 3 horror-loving buddies, and sometimes you guys get together and down a few and watch I Spit on Your Grave, and every once in a while one of your buddies tries to bring a new horror movie by, one nobody has seen, and it turns out to be All Souls Day or The Freakmaker ("just releleased on DVD!", your buddy says excitedly), you know, something that sucks ass. Well, call your buddies and grab some beers and show them Creep. One of your friends will look at you skeptically and say, "I haven't even heard of that film," as if to insinuate that if he hasn't heard of it, it must not exist, such a massive horror geek is he. Well, f*** him. Show it to him anyway.
Also, keep your eyes open for Christopher Smith's next film, Severance. Drop me a line if you hear about a release date.
Posted on 1/08/06 10:11 PM
Eli Roth's Cabin Fever (2002) is a movie known more for its potential than anything else. Although it featured some solid gore, decent scares, compelling nudity, and an assortment of wickedly funny lines, Roth had a difficult time jamming so many varying elements into his debut feature. Roth's mentality as a rookie director seemed to be of the "everything but the kitchen sink" variety, and the movie suffered from jarring tonal inconsistencies. Cabin Fever would have been a more shocking movie if it wasn't so funny, and vice versa.
As a director, Roth makes for a very engaging print interview, and he has developed a sizable fan base in the years following Cabin Fever by appearing at various horror, sci-fi, and fantasy conventions, dazzling his primary demographic with his expansive knowledge of horror films and seismic wit. Hostel is his latest feature, a strong concoction of clever repartee and heavy-duty violence, and many of Roth's fans are approaching this effort with a sense of pre-ordained approbation.
Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) are two friends backpacking through Europe. They begin a tenuous friendship with a ribald foreigner named Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), and the three begin travelling together. While visiting Amsterdam, they are locked out of their hostel after a late night of partying. A very strange local man named Alex lets them into the building. Alex has a gigantic cold sore on his lip and shares fanciful stories of a village in Slovakia full of beautiful women. He shows the men digital photos from his cell phone, photos crammed full of beautiful, naken women. Alex claims that the women in this village are simply waiting for the men "to take them".
The travelling companions are sold by Alex's crazy story, and the next day they hop a train, bound for this mysterious village in Slovatkia. Roth's set-up is compelling, and he tells his story with ease and a fair amount of skill. Much like Fatal Attraction tapped into the hidden fears of middle-aged, yuppie men, Hostel taps into the fears of slacker Gen-Xers, many of whom would eagerly embrace this type of libido-driven adventure if given the chance.
Roth is one of many horror fanboys currently employed as directors in Hollywood, and as such, he has a tendency to steal from iconic horror films of the past. The opening act of Hostel, with it's reluctant-adventurer banter and crude male insights, is strikingly similar in tone to An American Werewolf in London, a movie Roth is more than likely to have seen once or twice. The set-up, in which a trio of horny boys goes in search of the ultimate brothel, has Bordello of Blood written all over it. Roth also peppers his movie with horror film references and cameos (Takashi Mi'ike, director of Audition, drops by for a heavily-accented line-reading) to please his loyal base. The horror genre idea pool has been nearly exhausted, and although Roth is guilty of a fair amount of plagiarism, Hostel is a story well-told, and his confidence behind the camera ultimately overrides his occasional lack of originality.
Slovakia turns out to be a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, a hidden society bent on hedonism. The travellers check-in to a local hostel to find that their roommates are two gorgeous women who immediately invite the men down to the spa. It doesn't take long for the three men to score, and it appears that Alex was telling the truth: Slovakia is full of beautiful, easy women waiting to be "taken".
Paxton and Josh, the two Americans, wake in the morning to find that Oli has gone missing. Another occupent of their hostel, a young asian woman, complains that her roommate is also missing. Their subsequent investigation reveals an underground market in which money is exchanged for the ability to torture and kill a victim. Oli and the asian woman have fallen victim to this pernicious black market, an unintended bi-product of a culture obsessed with self-pleasure.
Once a victim is kidnapped, he or she is stripped to the underwear and handcuffed to a chair in a stark, concrete room. A paying customer will enter in a rubber apron and surgical mask and, using a wide array of tools and objects laid out on a nearby table, proceed to torture and kill the victim.
Roth knows that you can't present a concept this heinous to your audience without being willing to follow through on the gore and sadism, and Roth is more than eager to endlessly exploit his subject matter. His film is cruel, sadistic, and fairly sick (one scene, featuring a woman getting her face sheared off with a blow torch, I found particularly difficult to watch). Hostel has more scenes featuring people vomiting behind gag balls than any movie in recent memory. The make-up work by the prolific K.N.B. EFX Group (Sin City, Land of the Dead) is outstanding, as always.
As with Cabin Fever, Roth struggles with consistency of tone, and this undermines the cruelty of his violence. Hostel is a very funny movie, and if it had been any less funny, it would have been too disturbing for mainstream audiences. However, the scenes of violence in this film are dead serious, and it's difficult to tell whether Roth's directorial mood swings are intentional or not.
As a sidenote, Hostel's portrayal of Europeans is amusing. In Eli Roth's Europe, police pull citizens from their cars to beat them for no reason, and local trains continue to run even after one takes out a ticketholder in a cacophany of screams and splatter. Also, the patrons of this "hostel" pay a higher price if their victim is American, a possible comment from Roth on the anti-U.S. sentiments of the rest of the world.
Hostel is a movie chock-full of flaws. It builds too slow, it ends too abruptly. It's numbingly brutal and the second half isn't a whole lot of fun to watch unless you're a Faces of Death fan. But Roth keeps his story basic, and he regularly engages the audience with fanboy winks and nudges (while in the hostel, the men stay in room 237). I'm not sure if he's making a point, but he tells a very involving story. While not for the squeamish, Hostel comes highly recommended for horror fans. Despite its weaknesses, Hostel is a horror movie, first and foremost, and a particularly unsettling one, at that.
Posted on 12/27/05 07:22 PM
So, a whispering, spaced-out criminal with huge teeth (and bearing a striking resemblance to Gary Busey) goes on a murderous rampage, for which he is executed by the state. He is cremated and his ashes are secretly sprinkled into a monstrous tub of gingerbread seasoning.
The gingerbread seasoning is left by a mysterious stranger dressed in a black cloak at the delivery door of a local bakery, where it is discovered by Sarah, a bakery employee. Sarah is the only girl who survived the criminal's murderous rampage, and now she is working in her local bakery ("Belly's Bakery", if you must know), attempting to assuage her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by cathartically baking an assortment of flaky pastries.
Sarah has this real ass-clown of a co-worker who cuts his arm with something, and he subsequently bleeds into the open tub of gingerbread seasoning. Sarah sees the whole thing, but decides to use the contaminated gingerbread dough anyhow, since this is a local bakery, and federal sanitation laws aren't readily enforced.
Sarah forms the bread dough into a 2-foot gingerbread man (it says "12 inches" on the front of the DVD box, but fuck that, he was 2 feet tall, easy) and bakes his ass up. When he emerges from the oven he's totally evil, wants to kill people, and is voiced by Gary Busey.
It goes without saying that if you want to hire a B- or C-List actor to voice your evil, man-shaped cookie, Gary Busey is automatically your first thought. I mean, somebody give the casting director 20 minutes of head; talk about a job well done.
In case anybody out there isn't aware, The Gingerdead Man is one of those P.O.S. films that Full Moon Pictures puts out on a regular basis. Oh, okay, so some of you really dig "Killer Dolls Vs. Demonic Muppets" or whatever the fuck movie director Charles Band decides to shoot and release, and that's cool, there's an audience for that shit. Hey, even I watched Doll Graveyard when it came out on DVD a couple of weeks ago. In any case, The Gingerdead Man is working with the budget of your average American Legion Christmas Dinner, Busey's salary notwithstanding, so the actual gingerdead man himself is conveyed through the use of a very stationary and very humorous cookie-shaped puppet.
Usually the gingerdead man appears, say, on the opposite side of a kitchen island, so the Production Assistant working the puppet has somewhere to hide. Some innocent civilian will approach the gingerdead man, understandably curious. The gingerdead man will lure the innocent closer by speaking a nearly inintelligible sequence of Busey-voiced one-liners. Eventually, the victim will lean in close and there will be this slicing sound effect and maybe 2 or 3 frames of a razor, and then the person struggles around the floor, spouting blood all over the place. During the entire sequence, the puppet doesn't move from it's sanctuary behind the kitchen island. No special effects required. Just a puppet, a P.A. with catcher's knees, a foley artist with a slicing sound effect in his library, and Gary Busey, preferably alive.
Sarah is (arguably) the heroine of The Gingerdead Man, and she doesn't act as much as she does just stare off into space. If they're going to hire a bad actress, can't they at least hire a hot bad actress? I know they're all over the place in L.A. I've watched Entourage.
I can't recommend this movie to many people, because it really is a movie entirely lacking artistic merit, but I would be lying if I told you it didn't make me smile. I mean, come on, Busey voicing a huge, bad-ass Christmas cookie? Those of you who know what you're in for, well, I'm sure you'll be pleased.
Posted on 3/21/05 08:09 AM
Boy, it's been a long while since I've seen a piece of cinema as superfluous as The Ring Two. In the first film, a haunted videotape kills people a week after they watch it. Turns out, some little girl named Samara has haunted the tape because she got shoved down a well and died. With The Ring, the plot was secondary to the scares. Samara's anger is explained, but she needs no motive; she just needs to scare people, and in the original film, she does.
With The Ring Two, so much time is devoted to establishing the "rules" surrounding Samara's appearances that not much time is left for scares. Apparently, Samara can't hear people talk when they're sleeping (whatever), and she likes to possess deer. At one point she possesses the creepy, vacuous kid from the first film, and it seems that all she wants is a body to fill. But then Naomi Watts says that all she wants is a mother. I'm not sure what Samara wants, or what powers she does or does not possess. In the end, the audience is left with hours filled with tedius exposition, but no real scares. The Ring Two is up there alongside Darkness as one of the most useless horror films of the past year, which is sad, because there hasn't exactly been a shortage of worthless horror films.
I also watched Dead Birds, which is a recent Henry Thomas straight-to-video horror film about a couple of civil war soldiers who stay in a haunted house. It just came out on DVD last week, and a female friend watched it with me. It was our third date and we watched it after returning from The Ring 2. We ended up making out and then before we knew it the movie was over. Some parts of it seemed cool, so we started it over, but then we ended up making out again. So maybe I'll try it again tonight. I have to say, though, from what little bit I saw, Dead Birds is an awesome movie, and even better the second time.