Friday, December 18, 2009

You think this is a costume? Its a way of life!

For the second time in a month I'm writing due to a big loss in not just the world of horror, but all of film. Director, writer, special effects artist Dan O'Bannon has passed away at the age of 63.

Probably best known for directing the cult hit Return Of The Living Dead, which has spawned four sequels to date, O'Bannon was also a very accomplished writer. Penning Alien, Total Recall, Dead & Buried among Others. He even did some special effects work on Star Wars. The man could do it all, and did everything well. He may not have the longest list of accolades but anyone familiar to the genre knows of his impact.

O'Bannon's passing hits me hard as Return Of The Living Dead is one of my favorite horror films and has been a part of my life since I was seven years old. It had a huge impact on me, and really got me into horror and a few years later punk rock thanks to the soundtrack.

So to finish this up all I can say is that it really was a way of life for Dan. Thanks for the memories.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mulberry Street (2006)

The annual After Dark Horrorfest started in 2006 and since then each year After Dark Films has released "8 Films To Die For". Generally these films are straight-to-video quality, with a pleasant surprise showing up once in a while.

Mulberry Street was part of the 2nd annual Horrorfest, which actually presented nine films, though only eight of them made the short theatrical run, with the ninth going to DVD. It was helmed by Jim Mickle who hasn't done much of any significance from the director's chair, though he does have fairly extensive credit as a crew member, primarily as a grip. Its quite obvious that someone with little directing experience was in charge as there was no real style to any of it. There was a considerable amount of shaky cam during the action scenes, which i attribute to being a product of the times for most modern horror and other than that it was shot very straight forward.

A plague-like disease is spreading throughout Manhattan thanks to the rat population. When bitten by an infected rat or human as it came to be, the victim would soon turn into what can only be described as a ratman. The face would take rat-like features including the pointy ears and teeth. And with any movie of this sort, the infected are very aggressive and violent, always looking to make someone else into a six foot rat.

The story revolves around the residents of a single apartment building. Kay (Bo Corre) is a bartender and single mother of a teenage boy who is caught at work when the outbreak occurs. Her friend Clutch (Nick Damici) is fairly stereotypical hard ass from New York who decided to secure her son and the rest of his friends in the apartment then rescue her. He uses nothing more then a pair of taped up fists to do the dirty work along the way.

And that right there is basically the whole movie. Very little else happens, there are some scenes of action with the rat people which are heavily plagued by shaky cam. The residents who poorly barricaded themselves in their apartments are surviving as the rats have a hard time getting in for the most part, and you really don't care about any of the characters too much. Clutch may be the only exception as he puts his own life on the line for Kay and her son.

There isn't too much else to say. The residents of Mulberry Street were ravaged by disease for a night, and according to the newscast on the television so was most of Manhattan but you couldn't prove it even if you had to. The movie never strays from the neighborhood and keeps everything on a small scale. The movie isn't a total failure however. There is enough action to keep us satisfied, even if it seems fairly pointless since staying in your apartment worked out pretty well. And its not so long as to the point of you getting bored but it could have chopped five or ten minutes off and we would have lost nothing.

I think had they gone with a sillier feel to it all it would have been better. Add tails to the rat people, make them more like rats in movement, something. Anything to add some flair to the movie. As it stands its more or less a movie about the Black Death with a lot less death.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Apocalypse Mercenaries (1986)

A couple of months back I was looking around a Best Buy store and a friend noticed a stack of about 15 copies of something called Inglorious Bastards 2: Hell's Heroes. I had no idea that there was a sequel to Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 action movie, and after about 30 seconds of research I found out there isn't. Apparently Video Asia who owns the distribution rights to Hell's Heroes decided to capitalize on the recent interest of films called Inglorious Bastards, and slapped it in front of the title. I then realize this DVD is a set of four action films dealing with war as BASTARDS did. The package contained no information about these movies at all except for their titles and I figured they'd at least be cheesy fun.

Cut to today where I finally popped the disc into the player and decided on Leandro Lucchetti's APOCALYPSE MERCENARIES. I had no familiarity with Lucchetti or the film so all I was hoping for was entertainment for its 85 minute runtime.

The film starts out as a group of 5 mercenaries, each with a specific specialty, get together to do something. What that something was took a while to figure out. After getting through the credits which showed much of the action which was to come, including the same bridge blowing up no less than three times, were finished, it took another forty minutes to get to plot. Those first forty minutes were nothing but the group walking around encountering something and blowing it up. An airstrip, some barrels, a bridge, anything that the Nazis used they were destroying it. I would estimate that at least half of everything up to this point was recycled footage from at least a few other movies, all of which was extremely poorly edited in.

Eventually a plot is revealed, the mercs are going to destroy a secret Nazi hideout built into some caves. So now our heroes have a reason to be carrying large guns which have taken down German bomber planes and turned them to dust, and dynamite which they use without thinking twice. Its more of the same, as the group fights to get to the cave, and by this point I've honestly all interest in the movie. There was one scene that made laugh though. The Nazis had intercepted a radio transmission from the mercenaries and sent bombers to their camp. The camp was in an open green field. The camera cuts to a shot of one of the members on a radio calling for help and you can see outside of his tent and there is clearly snow on the ground, it cuts back to the bombs hitting the ground and its green. After a few chuckles I realized that this whole movie was just sad. Yes, our heroes saved the day and defeated this group of Nazis but I couldn't have cared less.

I've seen a lot of bad action movies and this ranks up there. It wasn't the worst but there really wasn't much redeeming about it. The acting was terrible, the dubbing sounded like they were just reading from a book, a large chunk of the whole movie wasn't even made for this movie. I was hoping for fun, I got a nap-inducing crap fest. I hope the other three movies in the DVD set are better, but I'm not expecting it.


And to add to my disdain for this movie I can't find a poster or any type of artwork from the movie to include in this entry. What a joke.

Edit to add: Just learned that Video Asia is a company widely known for bootlegs. Not a surprise at all since the video was obviously sourced from a VHS in not too great of shape and had burned in Asian subtitles. Just a heads up to any of you DVD buyers out there, watch out for Video Asia.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Decade Retrospective/Tops Of The Decade

If you are among the lazy the lists are below the write up. First is my top 10 horror and then my top 15 films.

As I write this there are 28 days remaining in 2009, in the first decade of the new millennium. Its funny to think that 10 years ago there were people building underground bunkers out of school buses for the inevitable collapse of civilization due to Y2K. Well, nothing happened, life went on, and movies were made.

The 2000s have been quite a remarkable time for film. In the last 10 years trends have come and gone, one of those trends being remakes. Remakes have been a part of cinema for over 50 years, its nothing new. Some are great and surpass the original work and others just should never have been made. However this decade has seen remakes rise to prominence never before seen. It seems that at least half of horror films being released are remakes, usually skimping on quality. Sure there have been the occasional Dawn Of The Dead and The Hills Have Eyes of the bunch where the movie wasn't bad at all and in the instance of Alex Aja's remake of THHE surpasses the original in my opinion, but there have been seemingly ten times as many Halloween (zombieween), Prom Night and April Fool's Day types that were just god awful. This trend in horror seems to be sticking around for the time being as there are plenty more remakes awaiting their scheduled release date or production. For the sake of horror fans, cinema and creativity I hope we can wind this down.

Even with all the remakes there has been plenty of original work in the horror world, and from seemingly more countries than ever before. Of course the range of quality is as big as the taste of us horror-heads. Us Americans are churning out horror like we always have, we've seen the studios going wild with the aforementioned remakes and even starting new franchises from these remakes. Though we still have enough horror lovers to keep strong original work coming.

The French have made their way to the forefront of horror with titles such as Martrys, Frontiers, Ils (Them), and Inside. Whether you love these French films, don't appreciate them or are like me and have very mixed reactions from one film to another you have to appreciate their enthusiasm. The Swiss have released one of my favorite horror films of all time and the Spanish seem to have a firm grasp on how to make a great zombie film. The Brits are also making their share of great films and even the Italians are staying in the game as their film industry continually gets worse and worse.

The Asian horror market is one that has gone wild this decade. Sure its always been there, but now more than ever can you get easy access to their signature style of horror not only on DVD but in theaters a few times a year.

The only trend in horror these days that can rival the remake is "torture porn". I really hate that term and think its stupid, but for lack of a better word, there it is. These are your Saw films, Turistas, and Hostel. These films are wildly popular these days and its easy to see why. People love the extreme. We love it in movies, video games, even real life on the news. We love to see how far we can push ourselves and how much we can take. That's what these types of films do, they show you a lot. I really don't care for these movies the majority of the time, as they don't offer much in the way of story or technical ability and rely heavily on gore. They are gore for the sake of gore as far as I'm concerned. That said I do think the first Saw was good and clever and I enjoy the Hostel films and Eli Roth (you want to fight about it?).

Now, I don't want to make it sound like I'm not a fan of gore, because I am. I don't know if I'd call myself a gore hound, but I like when the red stuff flows. I have no problem with lots of it either. I just don't like it when that's all the movie is and tries to make itself out to be more than that (I'm looking at you Saw sequels.) Blood and gore has fallen into CGI land where it rarely looks good which is not acceptable considering how easy it is to make.

I think this decade has had some big ups and some major downs for horror. On an extremely positive note the home video market has seen titles I'm sure many of us never thought would see the light of day again. Studios have realized we will pay for what we want, and they give us the goods. On the downside creativity has been pushed to the back burner by these same studios in favor of cash cow, mostly second rate rehashes.

Horror has always been the bastard child of the cinema world, and that's okay. Cinema snobs may never understand horror or how I can have Bergman's The Seventh Seal sitting right next to Silent Night Deadly Night on my DVD shelf, but we don't watch horror to sound smart, or appear intellectual. We watch horror movies to have fun, to be scared and for nostalgia.

The last 10 years have really opened my eyes to film of all type, including areas of horror I didn't even know existed. I hope the next 10 years are just as good, and bad. I mean, without the bad what the hell would guys like me bitch about on the internet?

So to those of you who read that whole thing and didn't skip ahead, thank you. Here are the lists...

Top 10 Horror Films 2000-2009

10. High Tension (2003)- Alexadre Aja

This was the film that made Alex Aja a household name to horror fans. A relentless film with some really great qualities. I'm a big fan of this movie until the ending where it seems they were just trying to outdo themselves in my opinion. I don't let it hamper the rest of the film though.

09. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)- Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright combines comedy, romance and zombies into one neat little package with this favorite among both horror heads and horror haters alike. Its funny, its sappy, not so much scary but that doesn't stop it from being great.

08. Hatchet- (2006)- Adam Green

I love this movie. I know it has generated a ton of mixed reactions from horror fans since its release, but I sincerely love everything about it. The stupid jokes, the practical effects, ridiculous kills, and most of all the spirit of the whole thing. Adam Green is a horror lover and put his heart into this thing. Love it or hate it, its on my list.

07. The Descent (2005)- Neil Marshall

The Descent is a tense, claustrophobic story about a group of women who go spelunking and encounter a nasty bunch of mutant creatures who live in the caves. This was a great blend of tension, suspense and action. This one will please almost any horror fan.

06. 28 Days Later (2002)- Danny Boyle

Before he was an Oscar award winning director, Danny Boyle made one of the best zombie movies of this decade. The shots of a barren wasteland London are breathtaking and almost overwhelming. The story is great, the pacing is great, the action is great. Its a shame the Blu Ray of this film was so terribly handled, I'd love to see it in HD.

05. Session 9 (2001)- Brad Anderson

Its not often that a serious psychological horror film blows me away the way Brad Anderson's Session 9 did. The overbearing size of the Danvers State Hospital is enough to send chills down your spine, and the fact that this movie was shot on location at the hospital added priceless amounts of atmosphere and creepiness. Anderson really made a terrifying film that will mess with your mind for days.

04. The Mist (2007)- Frank Darabont

I really appreciate when a movie has something to say underneath the fictitious story we are all watching without shoving it down your throat in an obnoxious way. That is what The Mist does perfectly. It shows the horror of blind faith, your fellow man and religious extremes all in a monster movie. The acting is superb, you really really hate the antagonist and feel for the protagonists. The ending was a topic of debate among horror fans in late 2007 (and still goes on today) but I was among the crowd that had their stomachs twisted by it. A Grade-A Stephen King Adaptation. (Be sure to watch it in B&W next time you watch it!)

03. [REC] (2007)- Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza

I first heard the hype surrounding this Spanish zombie movie during the ad campaign for its American remake, Quarantine, and knew it was something I was going to have to see. Well it took the release of the Canadian DVD for me to get a chance to see it, and when I finally did it lived up to every bit of hype. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way up to the scary-as-hell finale that still gives me the creeps, even after multiple viewings. I can't wait for the sequel to be released stateside next year.

02. Trick 'R Treat (2008) Michael Dougherty

Oh, Warner Bros, you really blew it with this one. Trick 'R Treat has quickly become known as "the movie that was supposed to come out about 10 times and never did." Well that changed a couple of months ago when it finally made its way to us (straight to video of course) after spending two years on the shelf and we had it sold out just about everywhere for weeks. A fantastic intertwining anthology movie based around Samhain and the spirit of Halloween. With more anticipation building almost every day upon each release announcement for this film it was inevitable it wouldn't live up to many fans' expectations, but its a new classic Halloween film for me. I love how this film perfectly embodies the spirit of my favorite time of the year, while being a very effective horror movie.

01. Let The Right One In (2008)- Tomas Alfredson

Thank you Tomas Alfredson for bringing us one of the few great horror movies of recent memory. There is no shaky cam nonsense, there are no cheap jump scares and the gore used is nothing over the top for the sake of being over the top. This film runs thick with atmosphere and tension. Its a gorgeous film set upon snowy Switzerland. Hands down the finest horror movie of recent memory.

I'm not going to try and do what I did for horror with the whole world of film, so here's my...

Top 15 Favorite Films Of 2000-2009

15. Grindhouse (2007) - Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino

Grindhouse had a lot of hype surrounding its release in 2007. Tarantino and Rodriguez are two of the best at stylish action movies currently working, so any fan was instantly excited. The double feature with four faux trailers was a blast. Grindhouse was the most fun I've ever had a movie theater and really makes me wish I was old enough to have been able to see a real grindhouse double feature on 42nd St, seedyness and all.

14. The Proposition (2005) - John Hillcoat

Its not often these day a western is made, let alone is good. And even rarer, as is the case with this one, great. A beautifully filmed western featuring great performances and a gripping soundtrack from Nick Cave who also wrote the film.

13. Wall-E (2008) - Andrew Stanton

This is the first of a few possible surprises for everyone judging by what this blogger normally talks about on here but you can't deny Wall-E. A story of love and humanity. A great story, with great animation that was eye opening to some.

12. Gran Torino (2008) - Clint Eastwood

I debated for a while where to put this film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. I really love this film and find it pretty powerful but the poor acting from almost everybody besides Eastwood hurts it. Still, I feel Blondie carries it through and delivers a fine film.

11. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) - Guillermo Del Toro

Pan's Labyrinth is a gorgeous mix of fantasy and war. Guillermo Del Toro's direction of the war time horrors and a fantasy world are executed flawlessly. The unworldly creatures are quite a visual treat as well. Go watch it if you haven't, it took me too long to see it myself.

10. Eastern Promises (2007) - David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg has consistently released great movies for over 30 years now and has never gotten the credit he deserved. Eastern Promises revolves around a family tied to the Russian mob because of a child's rape. Viggo Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar for his role. He also worked with Cronenberg in 2005's A History Of Violence (which was in consideration for this list as well). I hope the two work together again as they mesh very well.

09. Almost Famous (2000) - Cameron Crowe

Yet another movie that I had a hard time placing on the list. A great journey through a high school students' time spent with Stillwater, a popular classic rock band as a journalist. Cameron Crowe does a great job showing the ups and downs of growing up, following a dream and doing it all in early '70s rock bands.

08. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) - Nicholas Stoller

This style of humor may or may not be your cup of tea. I'm usually hesitant in watching comedies as I simply don't find most them to be very funny. This one is the complete opposite. I have watched it countless times, with large groups, small groups and all by my lonesome and every single time I laugh until I cry. By far my favorite comedy of the last 10 years.

07. The Dark Knight (2008) - Christopher Nolan

The quintessential comic book movie in a decade where comic book movies were king. That's all I need to say.

06. Up (2009) - Pete Docter

I don't think I could love this movie anymore then I do. Its sad, its uplifting, its funny. The animation is great as is the music. One of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies ever.

05. Requiem For A Dream (2000) - Darren Aronofsky

Aronofsky came into my life in 2001, when a friend introduced me to PI. I loved that film quite a bit so when I saw he had another film out I rented it from the video store. What I ended up watching was one of the most depressing, punch you in the gut films that will ever be made. It left me feeling empty inside and I hated the world around me for quite a while after. Its not a pleasant or fun movie to watch, but its excellently crafted, with a stellar cast and one of the finest soundtracks ever put to film. Aronofsky is still batting 1.000 with me almost 9 years later.

04. No Country For Old Men (2007) - Ethan & Joel Coen

When I first saw the teasers for this film I was beyond anxious. I love the Coen Bros. and the source material seemed very interesting. Needless to say the film lived up to my expectations. I'm almost surprised its only at #4 on this list.

03. Let The Right One In (2008) - Tomas Alfredson

What can I say about this that hasn't been said. All I can say is its, in my opinion, hands down the best horror film since the 1980s. The atmosphere, the cinematography, the score, the acting, direction, script. All perfect. Its vicious yet soft in a way. Its much more than a horror film, its a story of companionship, love, revenge, fear, and much more. Tomas Alfredson couldn't have done a better job directing this, getting A+ performances from a very young cast. I get more out of it with each viewing. I don't know what else you can ask for.

02. Inglourious Basterds (2009)- Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino is infamous for borrowing from other filmmakers and making it his own. Basterds is no exception as he takes the title from a great 70s exploitation action film by Enzo G. Castellari (who has a cameo in QT's version). This is far from a remake however, as I have a fondness for just about every Castellari movie I've seen to date for being a really fun time, Quentin Tarantino makes a movie that most directors hope they can make. It has all of his signature touches, it has some perfectly placed subtle humor, great (if not intended to be a tad bit eccentric), a phenomenal soundtrack in part from Ennio Morricone and more action than you can handle. There are winks and nudges to many Euro-cult stars of yesterday that I hope more people will understand. Quentin knew what he had made here and summed it up in Brad Pitt's final line of the film. Congratulations Mr. Tarantino, this truly is your masterpiece.

01. There Will Be Blood (2007) - Paul Thomas Anderson

When There Will Be Blood was released it took a while to get to my local theater, and when it did the screen they were showing it on sat 50 people tops. I remember seeing it with a friend of mine who had already seen it once and there were two others in the theater. I feel sorry for the other 46 people that were absent that night because they missed the kind of film that only comes around once in a great while. Daniel Day Lewis' performance was scary. He played the despicable madman to a T. Paul Thomas Anderson's direction was flawless, the cinematography was flawless and the soundtrack was unnerving. The entire movie defined what it means to be tense. I was never once comfortable in my seat during the duration. Every supporting cast member was worthy of an Oscar nomination. Daniel Day Lewis brought home the Oscar for best lead actor, but the film itself came up short for film of the year to No Country For Old Men, which in any other year would be completely deserving of a win. But in 2007 There Will Be Blood was without a shadow of a doubt the finest film. And it would remain that way for the rest of the decade.

Delirium (1972)

Note- This review is for the international version of the film.

Renato Polselli (THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO SATAN) is known among euro-cult enthusiasts as a director who uses sex as a big part of his films. He doesn't shy away from showing sex, or being perverse with it. He doesn't make any exceptions with the madness known as DELIRIUM.

Produced during the rise of the giallo craze in Italy, DELIRIUM is mainly a giallo with dashes of polizioteschi and madness thrown in for good measure. The film starts out with some pretty typical murders, though this movie doesn't conceal the killers identity for the finale. As the murders unfold a witness is able to piece them together leading to one man.

Now anyone familiar with the giallo sub-genre won't think this is anything new, which for the most part its not, but its the last half hour that really gives this movie its feet. Throughout the film the lead character, Dr. Herbert Lutak (Mickey Hargitay) has an obsession with young women, and their necks to be precise. His wife, Marcia Lyutak (Rita Calderoni), has visions of orgies and torture. These visions are interlaced throughout the film adding to the feeling of insanity. When the climax begins to build, it really is full on madness. It seems every main character in the film loses their mind and descends into a state of delirium. I have never seen anything like it in another film, where that many main characters end up in that state.

Its not an easy movie to review after only one watch, and take out the subplot of insanity and you have little more than a middle-of-the-road giallo but Polselli adds in his little touches that make the movie something more. It will probably leave you with some questions, and a second viewing is most certainly in order, but DELIRIUM was a film that lived up to its name.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Less Legend

Some sad news in the world of horror as icon Paul Naschy has passed away after a year long battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 75.

Jacinto Molina, more affectionately known to horror fans around the globe as Paul Naschy appeared in 95 films throughout his life and starred in many. He appeared as the Wolfman in more than a dozen films, and always had an entourage of beautiful women waiting for their chance in any given movie. He embodied the horror actor perfectly, and embraced it. He truly loved what he was doing and he didn't hide it. Watch any interview with him and you can tell he loved life.

Naschy was Europe's answer to Lon Chaney. He was one of the last remaining horror legends, and he was a true icon of the screen. If you haven't seen any of his work, now is the time to do so, many are readily available on DVD and some on Blu Ray.

It seems appropriate he died on the eve of the next full moon. Tonight's full moon is for you Hombre Lobo. Rest Easy.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Creature Trilogy


THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is one of the more notable monster movies from the 1950s. It is also one of the smartest movies from the era, which leaves you asking "who is the real monster?"

The film takes place in the Amazon, where a scientific expedition looking for fossils of animals over 150 million years old encounter The Gill Man, a man-like amphibian. As the explorers attempt to capture the creature they discover he is very dangerous, and very attached to Kay (Julie Adams), the fiancee of one of the scientists. After capturing The Gill Man using a product designed to sedate fish and make them rise to the top of the water, The Gill Man breaks free and kidnaps Kay.

Universal was not a stranger at this point to making horror movies that go much deeper into human emotion. Everyone who has seen FRANKENSTEIN feels compassion for the misunderstood monster. CREATURE is very much the same. A surviving prehistoric animal is being hunted simply for being different. Director Jack Arnold flawlessly crafted the film so that the entire time you are torn as to who is the real monster. The tension is endless, and the atmosphere of being hunted by your own prey in the middle of the Amazon is haunting. This is a fantastic film that truly is timeless.



Jack Arnold returns to direct the first sequel to the 1954 film, and does so with a decent amount of success. In REVENGE the Gill Man is once again hunted and captured where he is transported to a Florida park called Marine Land. Chained to the bottom of the tank, and gawked at as a tourist attraction, Gill Man gets increasingly upset. When he breaks free he again kidnaps a female scientist who was working with him. What ensues is a chase up the Floridian coast to catch him and rescue the girl before he makes his escape with her to the Ocean.

While this film is a decent follow up it severely lacks the atmosphere and tension the original possessed. The majority of the movie takes place at Marine Land, and there just isn't much atmosphere at a theme park. We do get glimpses at the humanity of Gill Man but again, they fall short of Arnold's original.



The third and final installment to the CREATURE trilogy The Gill Man is captured once again only this time it is with severe burn wounds from the result of a struggle between him and the expedition. As the scientists and doctors on the boat nurse him back to health, they soon discover that Gill Man is far closer to humans than previously thought. In an attempt to alter history and evolution Gill Man has been turned into an air breather.

The main problem with this installment was the amount of time spent on conflicts between humans and not the Gill Man. While it does lead to the films conclusion, they could have cut down on it without altering the effect it had at the end. The obvious budget constraints on this film were not too much of a problem given the storyline, though Gill Man's underwater scenes were all recycled from the previous films.

Director John Sherwood gave us back some of the tension and atmosphere that were missing in REVENGE during the finale and the last sequence really made you love and empathize with the Gill Man. It was pretty heartbreaking to say the least.


As a whole the trilogy is a very real look at how humans react with anything they don't fully understand and how we can learn from nature. And as horror movies they aren't too shabby either.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (2009)


Tarantino's long talked about, greatly anticipated INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS has arrived. The world war 2 exploitation styled film which shares its name (sans spelling) with Enzo Castellari's film from 1978 (which happens to be one of QT's favorite movies) is everything I hoped for, and more than what I expected.

Set in German occupied France, we are quickly introduced to SS officer Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz in a brilliant performance) who is known across the region as "The Jew Hunter", and it doesn't take long to see why. The opening chapter of the 5 we will see, which is heavily reminiscent of the great spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, quickly shows off Landa's talents of being a despicable, disgusting villain who doesn't give you any choice to love him at the same time. His methodical web-weaving and overall charm leave you feeling conflicted towards him. The entire chapter takes place on the LaPadite's dairy farm where Landa is interrogating the father to gather information on the location of a Jewish family that is unaccounted for. The entire chapter is packed with tension and suspense until the slow-burn concludes in breathtaking fashion that Sergio Leone would be proud of.

In chapter 2 we meet the Basterds. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), the special group consists of 8 other Jewish soldiers who have been dropped behind enemy lines to strike fear through the hearts of the Nazis. They strike the chord they were looking for as throughout the movie we see examples of their handiwork taking effect as the locals and SS are terrified of seeing scalped Nazi soldiers and survivors with swastikas carved into the foreheads. This is where we see much of what the trailers and TV spots showed us. The Bear Jew, Donny Donowitz (played very well by Eli Roth) is possibly the most interesting of the Basterds. His preferred weapon is a baseball bat, and we see him use it quite graphically and extensively and then give us post-Nazi smashing commentary as if Ted Williams had just hit a home run out of Fenway Park and on to Landsdown Street. This is possibly the most lively of the segments, and certainly the one that got the most crowd reaction.

From here on out it becomes a twisting, winding road toward the finale. Tarantino finally realizes his sheer genius with writing at this point. The story never stalls, the dialogue is never wasted and is constantly tense and working for a payoff.The Basterds come in contact with double agents, to bring down the Nazi high command at a film premiere that they will all be in attendance at including The Fuhrer.

Within the 151 minute run time, Quentin Tarantino showcases every bit of his talent. His direction is solid, his writing is crisp as always and never unnecessary. Every word of dialogue, every bit of story is used to build tension and aid the plot. And you never feel like you are sitting in a 2.5 hour movie. It was an absolute pleasure to see this film play out, and no review will do it complete justice. There are many nuanced roles that will never get the attention they deserve without going into pages of detail and giving away tons of spoilers. The various winks and nudges to QT's inspirations are fun to try to pick out including names of characters to the names of chapters and even a cameo from Enzo Castellari.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is violent, intense and gorgeous. It will leave you conflicted on feelings towards certain situations and individuals. Most importantly it is Quentin Tarantino finally reaching his potential as a writer and director to make a truly great film, that doesn't waste a single minute. It will be hard to top this one for 2009.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chopping Mall (1986)


When it comes to horror movies during the 1980s one word usually comes to mind: cheesy. Of course not all of the horror to come out during this time were cheesy, in fact some of the best horror films ever made came out during this decade. The Thing, The Shining, Inferno, among others are proof that this beloved decade was just as good on the serious side. CHOPPING MALL is a totally different story.

CHOPPING MALL takes place almost entirely inside of a large shopping mall, where mall management has enlisted the aid of three security robots to roam the halls and "detain" trespassers. Most tenants of the mall are skeptical as to how well these robots will function. Well, it only takes one thunderstorm and bolt of lightning to send these robots, who look like Johnny 5 on steroids, into a frenzy.

On this night, several teens/young adults are planning on partying in one of their dad's furniture stores. Everything seems to being going fine until the lightning strikes the mall sending a jolt of power to the robots, and turning them into killing machines. They start with computer programmers in the annals of the mall, before they break out in to the mall proper. As soon as they get into the mall they find a janitor to harass, and kill.

The rest of the movie strays very little from typical slasher movie formula. The "bad" kids go down first, including a girl with a great head explosion scene, and its a stalk-and-chase scenario. The group arms themselves with guns from the sporting good store and Molotov cocktails made from cans of gasoline. Eventually it comes down to a one-on-one showdown of man (woman) vs. robot in the paint store in an... err, umm... explosive finale.

CHOPPING MALL is not well made, the editing is just bad in many areas, and the dialogue is suspect as in most movies of this breed. But we don't watch movies like CHOPPING MALL for the quality of film making, we watch it to see robots attack humans, we watch it to see lasers being shot and heads exploding. We watch it to see these robots who are only supposed to detain trespassers somehow gain all sorts of new abilities through out the movie. We watch it to have FUN!

And that's what CHOPPING MALL is. Pure. Cheesy. Fun.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)


THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS features legendary effects master Ray Harryhausen in his first project where he was able to work with complete control of the animation. He designed The Beast from a sketch done by lifelong friend Ray Bradbury, who wrote the original story. This is a gem of the creature feature era.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS starts out in the arctic, where a team of scientists are testing atomic bombs where they unknowingly release The Beast from 100 million years of frozen slumber. A pair of scientists who are out to get readings have encounters with the beast and come within inches of losing their lives at the top of the world. When the team gets back to the USA the try to tell their tale of the monster they saw, but are ignored as the doctors say it was simply hallucinations due to the shock of being injured.

Its only when a series of boats are attacked and sunk and a lighthouse is totally destroyed (in one of the most perfect sequence in monster movie history) in the oceans and bays leading on a path to New York City that some specialists begin to take notice that it is possible THE BEAST could be real. When the scientists from the arctic and surviving crew from the boats all pick out the same drawing of THE BEAST that they set out on an expedition to find this prehistoric monster.

When The Beast is discovered in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean he flees and takes to the land of downtown New York City and his terror reigns in the Big Apple. The Beast shows just how big he is, taking down apartment buildings with ease and squashing cars like bugs. The police and military have no answer as their ordinary bullets have no effect. It isn't until The Beast is wounded that they formulate a plan to launch an atomic isotope into the wound to bring down The Beast once and for all. The climax takes place on Coney Island in the amusement park, where The Beast is tearing apart the roller coaster ride. The fantastic climax atop the roller coaster is a showdown between man and beast and is certainly one for the ages.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS was a private production made for around $200,000 but the quality of filmmaking on display here makes you think it cost 10x that much. Eugene Laurie's excellent direction matched with Ray Harryhausen's legendary creation and animation were a recipe for success. The photography is gorgeous and the story is intense.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is a perfect example of why the phrase "they just don't make them like they used to" exists.


Quick shout out here- check out Films That Witness Madness- a great site from a great guy that knows his shit. Its all about horror and exploitation and I can't praise it enough.

Friday, August 7, 2009

THE BLOB (1958)


THE BLOB begins simply as a meteor lands outside of an old man's (Olin Howlin) cabin and the sticky substance inside latches on to the old man's hand. When Steve (Steve McQueen) and Jane (Aneta Corsaut) drive by on their way home from a date, they narrowly miss hitting the old man who is running in terror. When they stop to see if he is okay he asks for help, so the young couple drive him to Dr. Hallen (Alden 'Stephen' Chase). As the Dr. begins to examine his patient he realizes this blob is growing and further consuming the old man.

As the blob grows it becomes more dangerous and harder to escape. Steve and Jane enlist help from friends of theirs who are the only people who will believe them, to try to warn the town. It isn't until an attack at the movie theater that the town realizes the severity of the problem. As the town tries escape several of our stars are trapped inside the local diner as the blob begins to swallow the entire building.

THE BLOB is nothing short of a classic creature feature, with the creature being a gelatinous blob of space goo who consumes people. It is suspenseful, expertly crafted and holds up perfectly after 50 plus years. Director Irvin Yeaworth makes excellent use of miniature sets and practical effects. It doesn't come across as cheesy or aged in any way, even after a worthy remake in the 1980s.

THE BLOB helped launch the very successful careers of ladies man Steve McQueen and composer/writer Burt Bacharach, as well as help close out the career of Olin Howlin who appeared in over 200 projects from 1918-1959.

Before the days of CGI it took some imagination and ingenuity to make a movie, and this one is done right.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Collector (2009)


THE COLLECTOR is the latest film from the writing duo of Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, who are most known for their contributions to the awful SAW series (parts 4-6). They also wrote the FEAST trilogy which has a totally different attitude and vibe than old Jigsaw and his traps of morality. FEAST are monster movies, and are pure schlock fun. Marcus Dunstan also makes his directorial debut with THE COLLECTOR.

THE COLLECTOR begins as a couple returns home to find it dark and without power, when they enter their bedroom they find a large luggage trunk, which begins to shake. When they open it they are attacked from behind. Thus begins our journey.

Arkin (Josh Stewart) is handyman and thief (among other things I'm sure) who owes money to his ex-wife who in turn owes it to loan sharks. Arkin knows that there is a safe with jewels in the house he's working on and that it will be empty on the night he needs the money. When Arkin arrives that night he is attacked by a dog before he enters the house and when he enters he realizes he is not alone inside. Arkin and The Collector, who is never given a name, begin to play cat and mouse with each other, trying to outsmart the other into a bad situation or scaring them off to leave. The Collector has the house rigged with trip wires and booby traps leading to everything from a kitchen knife chandelier to a room filled with acid.

Arkin hears screams from the basement and goes to investigate. Its at this point that THE COLLECTOR takes a turn for the worse. All of the suspense and well orchestrated cat-and-mouse of the first 30 minutes of the film, are thrown out the window and it becomes nothing short of another SAW film. The Collector has trapped and tortured the mother and father of the family. We learn that the oldest daughter had left the house before they were ambushed, and the younger daughter is simply nowhere to be found.

Fast forward through some run-of-the-mill torture scenes, a lot of gore and Arkin running up and down the stairs at least 15 times and we get to Arkin finally escaping the house... until he sees the younger daughter still inside. So he does what anybody would do. Now its more of the last 30 minutes but with an 8-9 year old go tagging along. Eventually they outsmart The Collector using the old mirror reflection trick and using his booby traps against him. So they run toward the main road where a caravan of cop cars and ambulances are coming thanks to the older daughter dialing 911 before she got killed... so Arkin who manages to act like an idiot for 85 minutes of this movie and somehow still survive runs into the street and gets plowed over by a cop. Now Arkin is in the ambulance, with not only severe wounds from The Collector but his own stupidity and all of a sudden the ambulance flips over and over repeatedly and seems to go over a cliff... This is never explained and there was no reason this should have happened other than to give the film its amazing finish of The Collector being there collect another person in his endless supply of luggage trunks.

Dunstan's direction is solid for the first half hour, until they decide to lose all real suspense and semi smart film making and turn it into the gore fest of the summer. They did a good job with the gore as it looked good but the big time potential this film started out with was all crapped away with the veterans of the SAW camp seemed to want to make their own version.

I'm being easy on the film because the last hour or so was pretty terrible. I'm beginning to rant right now. There were so many holes in logic throughout the whole thing that it made my brain hurt. The movie could have been over the first time Arkin goes to the basement if he wouldn't have ran back up stairs and just hit The Collector over the head with a pipe or wrench or anything heavy that is most certainly in a basement in an old country house. The acid room trap made no sense as this particular sort of acid will eat away at the flesh of a cat and at Arkin's work boots but not at the wood floor or books Arkin throws down to walk on. There is a scene towards the end where Arkin and the young daughter set their own trap to electrocute The Collector using an aquarium and a TV, and when the electrocution happens it ends up with a person being dead but the fish are still swimming around in this electro-charged water. It doesn't make sense.

On top of holes in logic and just how things in the world work, there were some ridiculously stupid scenes. For one, the flaming/exploding dog scene... wow. And Arkin calling The Collector "a little faggot bitch" as he was secured to a wall by meat and fish hooks... you tell him Arkin! And why did The Collector's mask look just like David Cronenberg from NIGHTBREED? And why were his eyes glowing? And why was the basement of this otherwise normal house lit with a seedy yellowish green tint?


OK, the rant is over on the badness of the movie. But honestly, whoever is hailing this movie and calling THE COLLECTOR "the next icon of horror" needs a head check. If anything it shows that Marcus Dunstan can direct a decent scene or two and probably could make a decent movie if he didn't revert back to turning into the gore show.

Bottom line is it may be best if the writing duo sticks to schlocky horror and stays away from the serious side of things.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Son of Dracula (1943)


The Universal Pictures monsters are responsible for the success of horror franchises. And just like modern franchises, these classics have varying degrees of quality. Dracula spawned three sequels, SON OF DRACULA being the second sequel and arguably the best just behind the original.

When Count Alucard (Lon Chaney) comes to Dark Oaks, a plantation owned by the Caldwell family, mysterious deaths begin to occur. From Madame Zimba (Adeline DeWalt Reynolds), a gypsy fortune teller who warns that Alucard is not who he says, to Colonel Caldwell (George Irvin). The story begins to unfold as Kay Caldwell (Louise Allbritton) marries Alucard unbeknownst to her fiancee' Frank (Robert Paige). When Frank is overcome with jealousy and tries to kill the Count but instead kills Kay in the process he finds that there is something different about Count Alucard. From here an investigation into the origins of Alucard and the murder surrounding Kay and why she has been seen alive since the night of the murder.

This is a vampire story centered around a classic tale of jealousy and deceit and is reminiscent of classic Film Noir titles. The direction from Rober Siodmak is tight and the sets look good. There are numeous transformation scenes which look pretty damn good almost 70 years later.

Chaney may never receive the credit he deserves for how well he handles the role of Count Dracula due to having to follow the legendary Bela Lugosi. Chaney's Dracula, the son of Lugosi's, is a much more menacing character than that of Lugosi's. He was not afraid to hurt you if you got in his way, and he didn't shy away from violence or confrontation. That said, he had an underlying feeling of sorrow or regret which made his performance that much more impressive. Chaney wasn't the Drac that Lugosi was, but he was great in his own right.

A worthy entry into the DRACULA series and one of the better sequels to come from the classic Universal monsters.


Monday, July 27, 2009

SESSION 9 (2001)


I have been thinking of what to write in this review for the past 48 hours since watching Brad Anderson's SESSION 9 for the first time. On a basic level its a psychological horror film. Revolving around the deteriorating mental condition of those within.

SESSION 9 revolves around an asbestos cleaning crew that secures a much needed job at an abandoned mental institute in Danvers, MA. What should be an average albeit rushed job encounters complications due to the long hours, stress and personal histories of the team. Gordon (Peter Mullan) is the owner of the company, and has a new baby at home who seems to be unnerving him quite a bit. Hank (Josh Lucas) is sleeping with Phil's (David Caruso) ex-girlfriend and law school failure Mike (Stephen Gevedon) begins to play old tapes documenting sessions of a girl with multiple personalities. As the tension between team members and their own minds begins to build one by one they seem to snap.

SESSION 9 captures the atmosphere, natural tension and down right creepiness that these old hospitals for the clinically insane possess. It is not often in this era of film that a psychological horror movie is smart, well written and perfectly executed. The film sets firm values in love and loyalty. We repeatedly see a short memory of Gordon getting out of his work van with flowers for his wife. Hank is depicted as an early 30s male who thinks its funny that he stole his co-workers girlfriend. It is this loyalty to love that can cause a decent man to lose control.

The events in SESSION 9 are built up slowly, and allow plenty of character development. Every character is very easy to relate with, which really helps the viewer become part of the film. You hinge on every word and each and every sign of body language. When Mike starts to play the tapes of the young girl named Mary Hobbes sessions with the doctor it acts as a soundtrack to the descent in to madness. As each tape plays we can clearly hear Mary's state declining further in to this psychosis as her alternate personalities split more frequently. The audio of the tapes makes for a perfect overlay of the events that are taking place at the hospital. Disappearances, betrayal, and plotting lead to deaths that don't stop building.

The final "reveal" sequence is one of the finest I have seen in a horror film in quite a while. Every end was tied, and it brought together a near perfect movie flawlessly. SESSION 9 is very reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING, and while very few movies in the genre come close to the quality that Kubrick's masterpiece does, Brad Anderson's SESSION 9 comes close.


The Return

Its been eight long months but the return is here. Regular reviews, rants, raves, and random thoughts on the subject of all things horror and exploitation are on the way.