Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

Poultrygeist is the newest Troma production from director Lloyd Kaufman. It has spent a couple of years on the festival circuit and having sporadic showings in limited theaters but its finally on DVD!

The plot of the story is pretty simple, American Chicken Bunker is opening their newest store on an ancient Tromahawk tribe burial ground. The spirits of these spited Native Americans take over the chickens, the food and just about everyone standing around, customers and protesters alike. It is up to Arby and his ex-girlfriend turned lesbian protester Wendy, to stop the attack.

That is basically the whole plot, as with most Troma movies, its pretty basic. The beauty lies in just how fun, silly, offensive, and gross it gets. The acting, direction, writing, all leave something to be desired, but it wouldn't be the same if it were a grade-A production.

Everything from chicken zombies, to explosive diarrhea, to a talking sloppy Joe sandwich possessed by a gay Mexican man are included. You know what you are getting into with Troma, if you're a fan then it won't disappoint. If you're not well... learn to have some fun, then come back and watch it.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Mutilator, Halloween 3

Its been a while since there was a new review posted, so here's a couple short ones until I do Troma's new Poultrygeist.

The Mutilator- An 80s slasher pure and simple. A father angry that his son accidentally shot his wife when he was a very young child has planned his revenge when his son has grown up. On vacation while at college the father asks his son to go to his beach house to close it up for the winter. When his friends catch wind of it they pressure him into going and bringing them for a weekend getaway. When they arrive they begin to get picked off one by one.

A run-of-the-mill slasher, that is worth watching at least once. I'd like to see it again with a better transfer and uncut.

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch- Halloween was originally planned on being an anthology franchise, with every film after the first 2 dealing with a different story centered around the holiday. Halloween 3 is all about the crazy head of Silver Shamrock Novelties who is planning on killing kids all across the country with his murderous masks. Using supernatural powers from a Stonehenge rock and black magic, his plan will come to fruition if a doctor who discovered his plan can't stop him in time.

This is a great movie, that gets better every time i watch it. For a long time it has been looked upon as a terrible movie and gotten a lot of unjust hate. So what if Michael Myers isn't in it, its a great movie with a very bleak ending. People are finally coming around to it and realizing that just because Mikey wasn't in it its not good. This is essential viewing during the month of October.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Suspiria (1977)

Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) is a New York native, going to Germany to study at one of the most prestigious dance academies in the world. Things are weird from the start, from a girl yelling and running away from the school as she pulls up to the building to being denied entry. The next morning when she does get in there is word around the school that the girl that ran away was murdered during the night. No one at the school thinks too much of it as they all have a lot of work to do.

As Suzy is introduced to everybody and begins to feel comfortable at the school she has a spell of dizziness and faints while dancing. The school's doctor puts her on a strict diet which she must eat alone in her dorm room. Every night after eating Suzy becomes very tired and falls into an almost comatose state of sleep. Her roommate Sarah was friends with the girl who was murdered and began to discover things about the school and its leaders with the other girl, such as hearing footsteps in the middle of the night and whispering. Suzy and Sarah find a pattern in the amount of steps and the direction on a nightly basis. Before she can tell Suzy the rest of the details she is stalked and eventually murdered. The heads of the academy claim she left early in the morning without notice.

Suzy doesn't buy it, and begins to put pieces of the puzzle together in her mind and what she discovers is a world of the dark occult fueled by a 200 year old black witch.

No plot outline or review of the film can truly do Suspiria justice. The way the music has a life of its own and the way the lighting is not only beautiful but creates an atmosphere of tension and dread may never be duplicated. The acting is possibly the best of any Argento film.

Argento wanted the students at the academy to be no older than twelve, but the studio and producer (his father Salvatore Argento) thought such a violent film dealing with children so young would be banned or heavily cut. There are many subtle things that work with your subconscious in achieving you to feel they are younger, such as the doorknobs being placed up towards the head so they have to raise their arm to open the door as a child. Or sections of dialogue that are very childish (the "snake" scene in particular).

Suspiria is part story of the occult, the first of his trilogy involving the 3 witch mothers, and part giallo which he is a master of. While it is arguable that Argento's direction may have been better in some of his other films of this era, none were as complete in every aspect of the film. From the score, to the lighting, to the magnificent set pieces, this is a masterpiece of horror. My only wish is that I could see it again for the first time.

A perfect 10/10

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Midnight Meat Train (2008)


Let me start by saying that what Lions Gate did to this film was disgusting. Intentionally screwing over a film's chance at success by dumping it into only discount and second run theaters is not only wrong but a terrible business move. While we may never truly know what happened between Clive Barker and Lions Gate but its all water under the bridge now and what happened happened. When you get the chance to see this movie, take it.

Midnight Meat Train follows Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper), a struggling photographer into his journey to the darkness that lies in the depths of New York. When a friend introduces Leon to New York's most prolific photographer (Brooke Shields) he has the opportunity of a lifetime to get into one of her shows. He sets himself on a mission to get three really great shots that show off the real New York.

He heads into the subway station late at night, only to find a young model being harassed by a few gang members. He begins to take their pictures and when he gets the shot he needs he intervenes by pointing the security camera and the gang leaves without further incident. Kauffman continues to snap the model's picture as she boards the train.

When the model goes missing that night, Kauffman begins to put together conspiracy theories that lead him to following a man we come to know only as Mahogany (Vinnie Jones). Mahogany is a butcher working in a large butcher shop. Kauffman's life becomes consumed with following Mahogany in every aspect of his life. When Kauffman's fiance (Leslie Bibb) gets fed up with his mental decline due to this obsession she begins to do her own investigating.

What ensues is a train ride that joins the lovers in a battle against a heartless killer and a group that does dirty work for all mankind in order to keep an ancient secret.

Without giving away spoilers of MMT, that's the film. Its a very stylish, suspenseful and unrelenting film. There is no shortage of gore (even if it is CGI) and there is no letting up once it starts. The sheer brutality of the violence was quite surprising since many modern day horror movies shy away from it or sugar coat it. The atmosphere of the film is dark, and you will feel what the characters are feeling.

Ryuhei Kitamura's direction is stylish and tight. The way that Mahogany's hammer is beautiful and polished rather then grimy really works with your subconcious. As if it were an instrument of surgery to save someones life rather than take it. Jones played his role perfectly, and Cooper and Bibb were great as well.

Its great to see another good film from Clive Barker, its just a shame that almost no one got to see it in a theater.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Spider Baby (1964)


Spider Baby revolves around a family and their caretaker Bruno (Lon Chaney). The family is anything but normal as they all have a hereditary condition that causes cannibalistic tendencies and mental handicaps. Bruno was the chauffeur of the father of these children and upon his passing he gave his word to forever take care of them.

Their lives were fairly normal, aside from the occasional murder and consumption of the victim. Then a messenger delivered a letter from a lawyer stating that a distant aunt and uncle would be coming by that day to discuss the estate they feel they are rightfully entitled to. When they arrive they meet all three kids, Ralph (Sid Haig) the oldest and most mentally handicapped, Elizabeth who loves to manipulate and Virginia the most violent. She loves to play "spider" with others which involves her throwing a web over them (usually a net) and stabbing and slicing them as a spider would bite its prey.

The guests stay for dinner and find this family to be rather strange in their customs. They inform Bruno that they will be spending the night so they can go over further paper work in the morning. This is when the lawyer begins to snoop around the house, and he finds that Bruno and the kids are not the only people living in the house, various other aunt and uncle cannibals who were thought to be dead are kept in the basement. When he threatens to tell the authorities the young girls stab him with knives and a pitchfork until his death.

Such continues throughout the night, trying to protect the family secret. We see young Virginia try to seduce her uncle while playing spider, she doesn't know any better as the entire family were inbred, and we start to scratch the surface on just how deranged this family is. The end comes when Bruno decides it best to end the lie and potential suffering of the children if their secret were to get out in an explosive finale. Effectively ending the line of family members that carried the hereditary condition, or so he thought.

Jack Hill's little known classic just recently got a great release on DVD from Dark Sky Films and it deserves it. There is great atmosphere throughout the film and the lighting is terrific. The entire cast does well and it was very nice to see Lon Chaney without the makeup of his legendary characters. A young Sid Haig is also a bit surprising in how effective he was in his role. The biggest down fall of this film is how its full title is Spider Baby or The Maddest Tale Ever Told, and it falls short on being the maddest tale ever told. We started to scratch the surface of just how crazy the family was in the last twenty minutes but it was cut off before it had a chance to really get going.

A solid effort from Jack Hill who would later go on to make classics such as Foxy Brown and Coffy.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jungle Holocaust (1977)


By 1977 the Italian-made Cannibal movie craze was in full swing, it would last well into the 80s. The longevity of such a maniacal sub-genre was aided by great direction and final productions from Ruggero Deodato, who also directed the well known and much scrutinized Cannibal Holocaust.

Jungle Holocaust starts out with a small plane flying over the jungles of New Guinea, occupied by Robert Harper who is an entrepeneur, his partner Rolf, along with the pilot and his girlfriend/wife. When they try to contact their camp they get no response and upon landing they find the landing strip, which is little more then a clearing in the trees, to be in shambles. The camp is totally deserted and is beginning to become overgrown. As Robert and Rolf head into the jungle to try to find the crew that they were supposed to meet they discover a rotting body and a tribe of very primitive cannibals.

Upon their return to the plane the pilot informs them it is too late to fly back to civilization, so they have to spend the night in the plane. The girl in the group gets out of the plane to relieve herself in the middle of the night and a tribesman attacks her and abducts her into the forest. The group decides it best to wait until morning to look for her. As they look for her they run into a series of traps, one which kills the pilot. The tribe is aware of their presence and begin to chase after Robert and Rolf, they escape the tribe but become disoriented and lose their way. They find a river that they believe runs adjacent to the landing strip, so they build a raft and set sail. When they hit a series of rapids Rolf is thrown from the boat and lost down a waterfall. Robert is eventually captured by the tribe.

The tribe begins to torture and humiliate Robert as he is tied up. Tearing his clothes from his body, throwing stones at him, urinating on him, and giving him only scraps of food. They also perform rituals with him, stringing him up from a tall cave and acting as if he is flying. The airplane caused them to believe he has the power to fly. This was a strange point in the movie, where they are almost worshipping his flying powers yet they still torture and humiliate.

Eventually Robert escapes, and takes a beautiful woman with him. The movie then turns into a game of cat and mouse with her as she tries multiple times to escape, until he rapes her. Which seemed to allign her with him and she became obedient and helpful. He stumbles into a different cave and finds Rolf alive but suffering from a bad leg infection due to his trip down the waterfall. They help each other until they finally find the air field. This is not before the tribe finds them and captures the woman, whom they behead, dissect and devour as punishment for her betrayal.

To sum it up, Jungle Holocaust is a solid cannibal flick. Its heavy on shock value moments, light on plot. Its a survival movie in its simplest form. Deodato's direction is solid as usual. You can see where he influenced himself for Cannibal Holocaust. This film has all of the staples for a typical Italian cannibal movie- animal killings, helicopter search scene, gore, the usual. But a great performance from Massimo Foschi as Robert Harper and the solid directing make this one stand out from the pack.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ghosthouse (1988)


Ghosthouse is a part haunted house, part slasher horror film from Italian director Umberto Lenzi. It starts out in typical slasher fashion with a few kills to get the ball rolling and set up the rest of the movie. Skip ahead 20 years and we are ready to get going. A college radio host records a transmission of a man yelling for help and a girl screaming. When they track it to the old house they find a few young teens on vacation crashing at this house. They play the tape for them and they find that its the vacationing teens voices on the tape, they also discover the town crazy who is contracted by the county to look after the now abandoned house. Everyone involved has very weird and at times demonic experiences in the house. All of which are accompanied with a creepy (and pretty good) theme, which usually spells the end of someone's life.

This movie was filmed in the same house that Lucio Fulci used for House By The Cemetery and it's real life atmosphere of an old abandoned house adds to the whole feel of the movie. While being undeniably cheesy, it still manages to be creepy. The dialogue and acting are beyond bad, and so is the the reasoning and decision making of the characters. This has come to be accepted in most Italian productions, and doesn't take too much away from the film itself.

Ghosthouse was originally named LA CASA 3 to play on the success of The Evil Dead series in Italy as they were called La Casa. In other markets it was renamed Ghosthouse. This is little more then a haunted house/slasher film, and you shouldn't expect a masterpiece of Italian Cinema. An almost by-the-numbers slasher film where you are waiting for the next victim to get picked off and hear the theme song again, thats part of its charm. Its so bad that its good and that its why I love it.

Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds (2008)


Feast 2 starts out where Feast left off. Its the morning after the attack on the bar and the monsters have moved to the next town over. An all girl biker gang leader sees that her sister's is dead and finds The Bartender hiding under a truck and takes him with her to find who killed her sister. Joined by the rest of the gang, they go to the town and find the monsters have begun their terror. The samll town of "Smalltown" is being over run and a small group of a used car dealership owner, his #1 salesman, and his cheating wife (who is cheating on him with the salesman) join the biker gang, along with 2 midget wrestlers and their grandmother.

The story progresses as they find different safe areas to hide in until that place eventually goes to hell and they have to find a new place. All the while trying to find a plan to get to the town jail and get the town meth-head to let them in. There is alot of monster fighting and even a monster autopsy, which is one of the most over the top things I've ever seen, and you'll have to see it to understand fully. The monsters continue to pick off victims and mangle them from the inside out. There is no shortage of blood, guts and face melting.

Eventually the monsters get to them on their roof top sanctuary where they have built a catapult to try to launch one of the wrestlers onto the roof of the jail. The group tries to fend them off in a "Whack-A-Mole" fashion, bashing the monsters with whatever they can grab. Bullets fly and the movie ends with more of the same blood, guts and dark humor we see throughout. Its an open ending that should lead directly into part 3, which is already made.

Feast 2 isn't for everyone. If you can't take a (big) dose of humor and sarcasm with your horror then pass on it. If you can't take potentially offensive material, again, pass on it. If you can get down with cheese and some serious gross out moments to go along with your rubber suit monsters you'll enjoy Feast 2, just as you did Feast. The laughs were non-stop, the action was great, and you'll never hear me complain about gorgeous naked girls with tattoos. The sheer absurdity that this movie bases itself on cannot truely be explained through words, just go rent or buy it and see how crazy it gets.


Final Exam (1981)


The film starts out with a couple of college students in their car, who are your typical "throw-away" slasher movie characters who are there only to be killed off quickly and get the movie started. The main problem i had with Final Exam was that it was almost an hour before anything else happened at all. Eventually the ball gets rolling with about half an hour left and it turns itself into a decent little slasher.

There were attempts at character development, with varying levels of success. The problem is there were alot of stereotypical roles, such as arrogant frat boy and meat head jock, that are straight forward characters which got more time then needed to develop. This really slowed the pace of the movie down.

On the upside of Final Exam, it was suspenseful once the bodies start dropping. Its never a quick kill or a gore fest for that matter. Every kill is meaningful and it has a Halloween feeling about it, although a second rate Halloween. It was nice to get that change of pace from most horror movies of this era, where the main focus is the body count and not creating any real suspense. The killer is never identified or named, and we are never given a motive, which really adds to the suspense, as it could be anyone for any reason.

Final Exam will never get the same recognition that the big names in the sub-genre have, but thats not to say it should be totally written off. Its very average, middle of the road stuff, but it has moments that make it a worth while watch for a slasher buff.


Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008)


20-something Jack Brooks is a plumber with anger management issues. Years after seeing his family slaughtered while camping by [i]something[/i] and years of telling himself different stories of what happened, he doesn't know what to believe anymore. His psychologist isn't any help for his anger issues, and his nagging girlfriend isn't any help with anything. While taking a night class under Professor Gordon Crowley (played by Robert Englund in one of his finest acting roles), he gets hired by his teacher to help fix some plumbing problems at Crowley's old house. While doing this they unleash an evil spirit into the house and it infects Crowley.

Over the next few days Crowley is acting strange and is obviously never himself. When Brooks goes to get a part to fix a broken pump at Crowley's house he hears of a story about monsters and demons from the old man working at the store. Its a story of ancient evil still living in a black heart no longer attached to a body. Crowley of course finds this heart buried in an old crate in his back yard and the evil in the heart forces him to consume it, completly overtaking him.

The next night at class the professor is in a state of disrepair and turns into the full formed monster. Think Jaba The Hut mixed with an octopus. The Tentacles that the monster has begin to wrap up students as they run throughout the school and pull them back to the classroom. As it pulls them back a feeding tube of sorts comes out of the mouth and goes into the mouth of the students, pumping them full of who knows what. But they turn into monsters. This is when the ass kicking starts.

Brooks goes out to his van and gets his plumbing supplies to fight back. He has visions of his traumatic childhood experience and goes to town fighting these monsters. The last 20 minutes of this movie are F-U-N! A perfect setup for a MUCH NEEDED sequel ends the 85 minute journey into monster night class hell.

Jack Brooks is an indie horror film that people were comparing to The Evil Dead, and while it isn't The Evil Dead its a damn fine film and the comparisons are justified. The films biggest flaw is how long it takes to get to the monster fights, but there is plenty of laughs to keep you entertained until it starts. The cast does a great job, every character having a specific mold to fit and they were spot on. Robert Englund is at the top of his game in this.