08 October 2015

COOTIES (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


USA, 2014
Directors: Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion


Slightly in the tradition of zombie-kids flicks like "The Children" (1980) or "Wicked Little Things" (2006), successful screenwriter / actor Leigh Whannell ("Saw", "Insidious 1-3") teamed up with "Glee"-creator Ian Brennan(!) to write a silly zombie-kids horror-comedy (focusing on the comedy aspect) about a bunch of teachers who fight to survive against an armada of children who became aggressive and flesh-hungry zombie brats after eating
contagious chicken nuggets.

The screenplay was eventually adapted by commercial-directing duo "HONEST" (Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion) and marks their full feature debut. They both share a cool, distinct visual style and an energetic kind of directing, but when it comes to tension or suspense, they're about as clueless as a bag of rocks...
or chicken nuggets ;)

It also doesn't help much that the script is actually quite mediocre. Although it's packed to the brim with hilarious lines and absurd situations, Whannell & Brennan focused way too hard on the teachers and not enough on the kids, and they also created too many characters that are completely-over-the-top for the sole sake of being completely-over-the-top - which is rather annoying.

When it comes to originality, well: on the one hand, there's the movie's basic concept of why only kids get infected which is as original as it is genius, and it gets explained in an terrifically funny way. On the other hand, there are too many seen-before-hundreds-of-times zombie clichés (someone unexpectedly gets his/her intestines ripped out, zombies scratching/smashing against window...), several supposed-to-be-emotional scenes that not just come out of fucking nowhere, but also simply don't work, your average crawling-through-an-air-vent-duct scene (*yawn*), and... is is just me, or is the opening credit sequence basically just a ripoff of the opening in "Cabin Fever 2"?

The acting / characters is/are a mixed bag, but thankfully the good acting completely overshadows the not-so-good acting, most notably the wonderful Rainn Wilson ("Super", "House of 1000 Corpses") who delivers a hilariously outstanding performance as trucker-beard wearing gym teacher who's unable to properly say the word dual rear wheel ("Dual reeow weeow"), is a huge fan of Jason Patric, calls Eijah Wood's character "a little Hobbit" and delivers some of the movie's greatest lines ("Nap time, motherfuckers!" / "Pleased to meet you with meat to please you." / "Remember that suiting-up montage in every action film? This is that scene!"). Whenever he was on screen, I laughed my ass off. However, believe it or not: almost even better is Leigh Whannell as awkward science teacher. His performance isn't as great as Rainn's, but he has clearly the silliest, yet most quote-worthy lines ("Oh look, carnage!" / "Nugget out of here."
/ "That's why I sometimes use the wrong robot."). Hell, he made me laugh
even more! :-D

Elijah "Frodo" Wood is solid, though his character is an unlikable idiot and his character's Mom is much, much funnier. Nasim Pedrad and Cooper Roth are fun, Alison Pill is almost unbearable and Jorge "Lost" Garcia could have cut out of the movie without anyone noticing. The overall pacing is solid, make-up and gore effects all look excellent, musical score and photography are both just wonderful, and the entire finale (incl. dodgeball, parking lot attack and funhouse explosion) 
is just brilliantly badass.
Final verdict: entertaining, but it could have been so much better.

07 October 2015


(25minute short)

USA, 2015
Director: Corey Norman


This goes out to Brett Leonard, Tom McLoughlin, Ralph S. Singleton, Fritz Kiersch, Jeff Beesley, Mikael Håfström and to everyone who ever botched a full length adaptation of a short story by Stephen King... watch this! This is how you do it properly. This is how it should work.

With a mini-budget and the help of a few IndieGogo supporters (I'm one of them!), director Corey Norman ("Natal", "Tickle") managed to create one of the greatest King short-story-adaptations ever. I mean it! It's obviously not as amazing as "Stand By Me" (no-one will ever make a movie as awesome as this one), but it's totally on a par with "The Night Flier", "Cat's Eye" or the incredible "The Raft" segment in "Creepshow 2".

"Suffer the Little Children" has always been one of my favorite King stories ever. It's a chilling and super-scary tale, following an aging third-grade teacher who believes that her students are being taken over by monsters. It was first published in the Februar 1972 issue of the Cavalier Magazine and was originally supposed to be included in King's short story collection "Night Shift" (1978, I can't think of any other book I've read more often than this), but was deferred and replaced with "Gray Matter" due to editor Bill Thompson's choice. I love and hate Thompson for this choice: "Suffer The Little Children" would have fit so fucking good into "Night Shift", but I love the insanely outstanding "Gray Matter" even more, so I'm okay with it - and hey: it eventually got included in the 1993 collection "Nightmares and Dreamscapes", and IMHO it's the best story in this great-but-not-as-great-as-Night-Shift collection (the best one together with the epic "Dolan's Cadillac" and the hilariously intriguing "The Moving Finger").

Where was I? Oh yeah. Corey Norman's "Suffer the Little Children".
Man, Corey did such a fucking great job on this! Everything that is in the story, it's in the film too. He totally got that creepy vibe of the story, the fear and paranoia of teacher Ms. Sidley, the intimidating charisma of young Robert, the thing with the glasses, the nightmares, the shootings, the creepy open-ending epilogue... he got it all completely right.

Anne Bobby ("Nightbreed", "The Hanover House") is the movie's absolute highlight, delivering a performance that is so unbelievably strong, it's almost shocking. The way she sharply spits out lines like "Be quiet!" or "Good night, Mrs. Crossen." or "Is this a game??", the way she acts and looks in the scene where she sees the girl outside the window, the way her character seems to be slightly speechless in the scene with the principal, and oh my fucking goodness, the intense expressions she makes after her first kill... bloody hell, why did this woman never had a successful acting career?

I was also highly impressed with Andrew Lyndaker ("Tickle") as the creepy kid. At first, I thought he was miscast... but then I saw him smiling and then I heard him saying "Tomorrow something bad will happen. To-mo-rrow." and "Do you want a really good look?" and I realized that he's just perfect. In addition, the overall photography is just gorgeous, and the soundtrack is just wow: touching pianos, unsettlinng strings, explosive drums and a rocking great version of "In the Hall of the Mountain King". The few special effects may look a tad cheap, but that's totally forgiveable hence the low budget.

"Suffer the Little Children" is freaking amazing. This is how to successfully turn a classic Stephen King short story into a film that on the one hand stays true to the original completely, while on the other hand also manages to stand on its own. Impressive. Bravo!

P.S. To conclude this overlong write-up, I'm quoting from one of my favorite The Smiths songs "Suffer Little Children":

"We will haunt you when you laugh
Yes, you could say we're a team.

You might sleep,
but you will never dream!"



USA, 2015
Directors: The Rasmussen Brothers
(Michael & Shawn)


"The Inhabitants" is the second directorial feature of the Rasmussen Brothers (best known as screenwriters of John Carpenter's "The Ward"), revolving around a young couple who tries to renovate an old bed and breakfast that is haunted by a malicious spirit and soon destroys all of their hopes for a new life.

The warning signs were there all along: "The Ward" was a huge disappointment, mostly because of the unoriginal and predictable screenplay, the Rasmussens' first feature "Dark Feed" (which I haven't seen yet) has a dismal 3,3 on Imdb, and the IndieGogo campaign for "The Inhabitants" failed to reach the estimated goal of $17.500 (only about $1.600 were raised...).

So, how is the movie? Terrible on pretty much every single level. It's the slowest, dullest and most boring movie I have seen all year (even more tiresome than this year's "Treehouse"). And no, it's not slow in an artsy way, or slow in an intriguing / suspenseful way (that would have been good), it's slow in an absolutely dreadful way, due to the Rasmussens' horrid direction, their appalingly lame writing and their complete inability to create anything that is remotely tense or suspenseful, let alone scary.

Painfully unoriginal-looking ghost girls straight outta ghost-trash à la "Ring Around The Rosie" or "Crazy Eights" spooking around average oh-so-eerie New England architecture, while Elise Couture (meh actress) and Michael Reed (bad actor) show us how it looks like when a supposed-to-be-lucky couple has absolutely no chemistry at all, complete with awkward looks, unbelievable gestures
and awful lines.

There's thousands of age-old horror clichés and incredibly worn out horror tropes, like the good ol' bathroom-mirror-on-a medicine-cabinet-scare (*yawn*), the photo album full of old newspaper cuttings (*yawn*), the rocking rocking-chair (*yawn*), the dead bodies in the attic (*yawn*), the old lady who constantly mumbles weird shit and whose facial expression says I HATE YOU (*yawn*) etc. etc. etc.

There's nothing new, nothing innovative, nothing we haven't seen before millions of times. "The Inhabitants" is so indescribably foreseeable, it's absurd. The camera work is weak, there's way, WAY too many close-ups, WAY too many un-scary jump scares, WAY too many now-you-have-to-be-scared sound effects. The music is the only decent thing about it, and the sole reason why I gave it a 2/10
instead of a 1/10.

If you're into ghost crap like "The Apparition", "The Haunting in Connecticut 2" or "The Ring 2", then by all means this is your movie.

Nevertheless, thanks to the Rasmussens for the screener!

06 October 2015


My good friend Cat La Belle from Thrill and Kill asked me to do some promotion for a major event she's involved in. Well, I couldn't say no, so here we go:

Weekend of Horrors, Germany's famous Horror convention is back with a lineup that is simply fantastic. From November 6th-8th in Saalbau in Bottrop (Germany), you'll be able to see KATHARINE ISABELLE (Ginger Snaps 1-3, American Mary), EMILY PERKINS (Ginger Snaps 1-3), MICHAEL BERRYMAN (The Hills Have Eyes 1+2, The Devil's Rejects), LEW TEMPLE (The Walking Dead), Tyler Mane (Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN), ØRJAN GAMST (Dead Snow 1-2), BARBARA NEDELJAKOVA (Hostel 1+2), LESLIE EASTERBROOK (The Devil's Rejects) and ASYHLYN YENNIE (The Human Centipede 1+2).

Also, The Dark Zone will bring some more awesome guests to the Weekend of Horrors, such as Italo-Horror legend RUGGERO DEODATO (Cannibal Holocaust, The House at the Edge of the Park), MORJANA ALAOUI (Martyrs), LAURENCE R. HARVEY (The Human Centipede 2+3), NAOMI GROSSMAN (American Horror Story: Asylum/Freakshow), THOMAS IAN NICHOLS (Halloween: Resurrection, American Pie), NICK PRINCIPE (Laid To Rest 1+2), JIM O'REAR (The Hospital) and the illustrator TOM "DUDE DESIGNS" HODGE.

Furthermore, there will be various film screenings at the convention: BIND (Director: Dan Walton & Dan Zachary), BANJO (Liam Regan), THE TOUR (Damon Rickard), THE HOSPITAL (Jim O'Rear & Daniel Emery Taylor) and many more. Plus: a dealer space, Q&As with the guests, professional photo shootings and a huge indie film space.

More information on www.weekendofhorrors.com 

05 October 2015



Mexico / USA, 2015
Director: Adrián García Bogliano


After fabulous genre gems like the amazing creepfest "Here Comes The Devil" and the excellently entertaining werewolf-stunner "Late Phases", Mexican director Adrián García Bogliano returns with a surprisingly lame kidnapping-thriller that, like so many other /Slash films this year, starts out great, but ends up rather awful; a fabulously built and intriguingly told crime-chiller that becomes a nuts and mindless gorefest incl. supposed-to-be-amusing-yet-completely-unfunny humor and a mindnumbingly inane quasi-plot-twist.

Bogliano's focus on classic piano music as the movie's driving force is actually damn interesting, but ultimately pointless because it's only in here to eventually kick off that batshit dumb mid-twist. The pacing in the first half is very intense, but once the whole thing gets into insanity mode, the intensity is entirely gone, what remains is boredom and utter stupidity. To me, it actually felt as if the first half was directed by Bogliano (yay!) and the second half by the hopelessly overrated Álex de la Iglesia (nay).

The acting is thoroughly good, especially the marvellous perfomances by Francisco Barreiro (about as awesome as in "We Are What We Are" and "Here Comes The Devil"), and the photography by newcomer Dario Goldgel is just splendid, but aside from that, there's nothing else to praise about this.
Scherzo Dilettantesco.


Canada, 2015
Director: Bruce McDonald


In 2008, versatile Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald made the incedible "Pontypool", one of the cleverest and most original zombie-themed horror films I've ever seen. Since then, I was patiently waiting for him to make another horror film. Now, in 2015, he's finally back in horror with "Hellions"... unfortunately, one of the worst Halloween-themed movie I've ever seen.

The first 20-25 minutes aren't exactly spectacular, but at least a bit entertaining, thanks to a solid performance by Chloe Rose as pregnant teenager and some gorgeous cinematography. What happens during the rest of the movie is... I don't know how to describe it. Insane over-use of ugly color-correction meets unscary and unnerving monster kids (ripped off of "Trick 'R Treat") meets stupid pro-life messages meets pointless levitating (ripped off of "Livid") meets the dumbest so-called nightmare-like sequences since "Cathy's Curse".

I'm not sure what happened throughout filming: did someone threw away the script? Were the cast & crew force-fed shitty drugs? Did some anti-abortion idiot took over direction? Did everyone involved stopped caring about the project for shits and giggles? I have no frigging idea, but... well, what could have been a neat artsy Halloween-film, eventually became a batshit horrible film where absolutely nothing makes sense. Fuck "Hellions" and watch "Minions" instead.


Germany / USA, 2015
Director: Benni Diez


What looks and sounds like another average SyFy or The Asylum creature-feature-rubbish - members of a garden party fight against an armada of seven-foot-tall killer wasps - is actually the feature debut of some German hack called Benni Diez who obviously wanted to make a badass piece of insect-horror in the vein of Golden trash like "Ticks" or "Skeeter", but failed to do so because he hasn't a single spark of talent in him.

Ok, "Stung" starts out mildly amusing with a couple of half-decent characters talking semi-funny nonsense, but once the killer wasps get loose, the movie plummets down like a thunderstruck bumble bee. The wasp attacks are all just LOUD and WILD and LOUD and SHAKY and LOUD and AGGRESSIVE and LOUD and holy fucking beeswax, what the effing shit?!?! It's like the very definition of 'annoying'; and of course, it doesn't help that there's a few cool practical effects because it's all so indescribably irritating; and between the attacks, there's just tedious and shit-boring dialogue scenes that go on for like forever.

Lance Henriksen is pretty much the only 'good' thing about it. Sure, he delivers yet another one of his countless I-need-the-money-performances, but at least he's the only one who makes "Stung" somewhat bearable, especially because of silly lines like "To be a man, you have to be a man.". Other than that,
"Stung" is just cinematic dung.


Australia, 2015
Director: Nick Robertson


"The Pack" (not to be confused with the same-titled movies from 1977 and 2010) is an awful animal-horror crapfest about Australia's stupidest and most debt-ridden farmer family getting threatened by a pack of black stray dogs (you now, all black dogs are evil) who apparently seem to have no sense of smell, and no sense of direction, and easily get frightened whe you lure them into a kitchen
and turn the light off.

Oh my fucking goodness, this movie is so bloody stupid, I'm still not sure if it can be considered as so-bad-it's-good or so-bad-it's-awful. Without any investigation about how dogs, erm, work, 'writer' Evan Rachel Green created a script that is so fucking lousy, not even The Asylum would make a movie out of it - which was maybe the reason why Green convinced I-have-no-Imdb-entry-director Nick Robertson to turn it into a full feature. The result is as laughable as it is aggravating.

Imbecile characters making imbecile decisions to fight a pack of imbecile dogs. Nearly every single line of dialogue is batshit bonkers, at times unintentionally funny, at times cringeworthy. The acting ranges from I-need-the-money to I-don't-fucking-care. The direction could be described as I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-but-I-do-it-anyway. Suspense... tension... scares... non-existent. Intelligent plot points... unexpected plot twists... any kind of logic... non-existent. The editing is beyond horrible, the basic plot line goes nowhere and the ending isn't even an ending, it's just a feeble excuse for an ending. "The Pack"? Nah,
more like "The Wreck".

04 October 2015



Spain / Canada, 2015
Director: Alejandro Amenábar


After movies like "Thesis" (1996), "Open Your Eyes" (1997) and especially "The Others" (2001), Chilenian filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar was hailed as THE new hope for the horror genre - but for whatever reason, he decided to go into completely different genre directions afterwards and eventually came up with the drama "The Sea Inside" (2004) and the historical epic "Agora" (2009), both critical successes, but both also far from being as successful as uber-blockbuster "The Others".

Now, he's finally back with a new horror-related film, taking place in a small Minnesota town during the 80s/90s satanic panic, following your average loner policeman whio investigates a strange case that revolves around a young woman who accuses her own father of having her sexually abused, her father who pleads guilty even though he has no memory of comitting the crime, and a mysterious, dangerous satanic sect who is somehow involved in both of their lives.

By avoiding all kinds of common horror clichés / tropes, Amenábar desperately tries to create a horror-thriller that is both old-fashioned and modern, yet fails completely to give us something new, something we haven't seen before, and bores us with an all-too-familiar and immensely foreseeable plot that is not just exactly original, but also looks like a blend of 90s made-for-TV movie and recent Spanish horror films like "Julia's Eyes" or "Sleep Tight", at least in terms of style and execution.

The scenes that are supposed to be scary, like the ones with the, erm, monster cat or the gatherings of hooded satanists, are shot in a way that will make you shake your head because they're so lackluster, so unbelievably un-frightening. Same for a couple of other scenes where Amenábar tries to build some nervewracking tension, but doesn't manage to lure you in because the pacing is mostly too slow, the set-ups are all way too well-known and none of the characters are believable or sympathetic, so in the end, you just don't care about anyone and anything. Both, Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson deliver solid performances, yet fall short of fleshing out the poorly written characters. Worst of all: the final twist, which is not just very easy to guess, but also a bit upsetting because it delivers a highly questionable message.

Aside from the acting, the pretty intense musical score by Roque Baños ("Sexy Beast") and 2-3 decently tense scenes in the first half, there's really nothing interesting about this movie, nothing that makes me recommend this. "Regression" will be a massive career regression for Mr. Amenábar, I'm sure.

01 October 2015

TALES OF HALLOWEEN (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


Alternate Title:
The October Society presents: Tales of Halloween

USA, 2015
Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Adam Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skip & Paul Solet


To fill the, um, probably overlong gap until the long-awaited sequel to "Trick 'R Treat", we get a brandnew Halloween-themed horror anthology that basically follows the same route as Michael Dougherty's contemporary classic, but in a much more extensive way: "Tales of Halloween", one film consisting of 10 segments, directed by 11 directors, all taking place on the same Halloween night.

Although it's not a ripoff of "Trick 'R Treat", you can feel its influence and impact at any time... and you can also feel how desperately the filmmakers tried to create something similarly awesome as "Trick 'R Treat" without ever reaching the same level of quality. It's not a bad anthology, but like with most anthologies, it's far from fully satisyfing because of the inclusion of several segments that aren't
really good.

I also thought that it was a big mistake to produce one movie out of 10 segments, instead of creating two separate movies, each consisting of, let's say, 4 or 5 segments. IMO it would have worked even better as some kinda "ABCs of Halloween" with 26 segments, but 10 are simply too much for a simple "Trick 'R Treat"-like anthology such as this.

The movie kicks off with "Sweet Tooth", a wonderfully gory and super-entertaining episode about an urban-legend-like candy-craving monster kid - directed by the highly underrated Dave Parker ("The Hills Run Red") -  and the even more entertaining "The Night Billy Raised Hell" about an old geezer who shows a young boy how to, erm, raise hell on Halloween - directed by Darren Lynn Bousman ("Saw 2-4").

Sadly, the following 5 segments are all pretty underwhelming. Nothing really bad, but also nothing that is about as fun as the first two killer segments:
- the stylishly directed killer-kids episode "Trick" by Adam Gierasch ("Autopsy") which starts out terrific and ends up surprisingly weak.
- the awkward and rather boring bully-seeks-revenge nonsense "The Weak and the Wicked" by Paul Solet ("Grace").
- the mediocre spook-fest "Grimm Grinning Ghost" by Axelle Carolyn (spouse of Neil Marshall) which is disappointing despite cool performances by Lin Shaye and Alexandra Essoe (plus: cameo by Mick Garris).
- the interesting but oddly executed and ultimately unnerving "Ding Dong" by my un-favorite filmmaker Lucky McKee ("May").
- the starts-out-wow-ends-up-ugh! rubbish "This Means War" by Andrew Kasch ("Never Sleep Again") and John Skipp.

As you can imagine, I was pretty annoyed by this stream of utter lameness. Fortunately, the final three segments revived my spirits and saved the film
from being a total letdown:
- the absolutely hilarious and super-badass masked-maniac-vs-wild-alien piece of awesomeness "Friday the 31st", splendidly directed by the still-so-underrated Mike Mendez ("Big Ass Spider").
- the super-cool kidnapping-goes-wrong fun-fest "The Ransom of Rusty Rex", directed by Ryan Schifrin (son of Lalo Schifrin), incl. a marvellous
performance by John Landis.
- the stunningly superb killer-pumpkin fun-shocker "Bad Seed", directed by Neil Marshall ("The Descent"), incl. cameos by Joe Dante and Pat Healy.

Overall, a solid watch for your Halloween movie marathon - just don't expect anything as genius as anthology classics like "Trick 'R Treat", "Creepshow" or "Tales from the Darkside".

30 September 2015

Asian Quintuple Review: LOVE & PEACE / TOKYO TRIBE / YAKUZA APOCALYPSE / FIRES ON THE PLAIN / OFFICE (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


Japan, 2015
Director: Sion Sono


Sion Sono ("Suicide Club", "Cold Fish") is undoubtedly one of the cleverest, most talented, and most versatile active Asian filmmakers, and his constant high-quality output is just fascinating. "Love & Peace", one of two Sono films I've seen at this year's /Slash, is yet another fantastic Sono-movie, a slightly insane, yet absolutely wonderful blend of from-zero-to-hero rockstar-musical (a bit in the vein of "The Apple"), heartwarming Christmas-themed comedic drama and hilarious Kaiju flick, following misfit office worker Ryo Suzuki who unexpectedly becomes an extremely popular superstar, while his pet turtle Pikadon becomes part of a lovely underground community that consists of pets and toys that were thrown / given away by people who didn't want them anymore.

With apparent ease, Sono manages to constantly switch between utter absurdity and adorable sweetness over the entire 120 minute runtime without ever letting the movie become boring, stupid or bad. For every scene that is hilariously over-the-top and/or plain bonkers, there's a scene that is splendidy amusing and/or marvellously tearjerking. There's Kaiju turtles that are ten times more charming than Gamera, earwormy J-pop tunes you could hum/sing all day long, high amounts of cute kitties, rabbits, toy robots and plush cats, one of the most interesting Santa Claus characters in movie history etc. etc. A movie for everyone, old and young, female and male, fans and non-fans of Asian cinema.
Bravo Mr. Sono!


Alternate Title:
Tokyo Tribes

Japan, 2014
Director: Sion Sono


If you don't like, dislike or even hate any kind of hip-hop music, you should stay far, far away from this movie. Everyone else: hello and welcome to "Tokyo Tribe" (adapted from the Manga series of the same name), an uber-epic and insanely eclectic hip-hop musical that could be described as "West Side Story" on Speed, or epic rap-version of "The Warriors", following various warring street gangs who team up in order to fight against a new dangerous clan who basically tries to conquer the whole of Tokyo.

"Tokyo Tribe" is two hours of super-cool rhymes and ultra-phat beats, badass guys and insanely hawt girls, boobs and nudity galore, gore, violence and brutality galore, hyper-awesome martial arts sequences, wicked DJ grandmas, ridiculously awesome beatbox ladies, fat, obscene and bizarrely behaving yakuza bosses, lots of talks about the importance of dicks in the rap game, myriads of pink balloons and outstandingly stylish settings... damn, it's nearly impossible to properly review a movie like that. Just go and see this genius piece of awesomeness. I fully agree with Imdb user OverlordFresh: "I think it's safe to say that Sion Sono is the new Takashi Miike." - Word! Nerimuthafuckaz!


Original Title:
Gokudou daisensou

Alternate Title:
Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld

Japan, 2015
Director: Takashi Miike


"Yakuza Apocalypse", the latest film by Grandmaster Takashi Miike ("Audition", "Ichi the Killer"), is not just a massive disappointment, it's also one of Miike's weakest movies so far, an incoherent and surprisingly unfunny piece of silliness that tries to be an oh-so-over-the-top mix of comedy-horror (Yakuza vampires), martial arts action ("The Raid" star Yayan Ruhian + some guy in a bonkers frog costume) and Kaiju parody (huge frog monster), but ultimately fails to entertain because it's all just too stupid and idiotic, and contrary to Sono, it seems as if Miike lost his ability to properly merge various genres into one masterpiece.

The first 30-40 minutes are quite solid, especially the scenes with the knitting group or the blood-drinking, but then it quickly gets stupider and stupider with every single minute. Countless scenes and characters that are way too daft, countless scenes that seem to go on for like forever, and an overlong finale is so fucking boring, I just couldn't wait until it was finally over. Rubbish.


Original Title:

Japan, 2014
Director: Shin'ya Tsukamoto


"Fires on the Plain" is not a remake of Kon Ichikawa's anti-war-film classic of the same name, but a new adaptation of the novel it is based on (written by Shōhei Ōoka), following a Tubercular soldier who experiences the horrors of war while stumbling through the Philippine jungle during World War 2.

I like the work of director Shin'ya Tsukamoto ("Tetsuo", "Nightmare Detective"), but I'm not a fan of war-themed films, and so I obviously couldn't do much with this war drama that felt a bit like a low-budget version of "The Thin Red Line". There's some unbelievably brutal and extremely impressive gore scenes, a terrific performance by Tsukamoto himself and a pretty intense finale, but in between, there's too much repetitiveness, too much slowness and too many scenes that plod along in a pretty boring an uneventful way. Simply not my kind of movie.


Original Title:
O piseu

South Korea, 2015
Director: Hong Won-Chan


The debut feature of Hong Won-Chan starts out as gripping and eerie office-themed horror-thriller (a bit in the vein of the underrated "Redd Inc."), but ends up as messy, predictable and tedious slasher with an unimaginative twist ending that is both frustrating and moronic. The build-up in the first half is excellent with unexpected deaths and a great dose of suspense, but in the second half, the entire thing suddenly explodes into too many different directions at the very same time (supernatural horror, revenge thriller, slasher) which totally doesn't work. The added criticism on work ethics / pressure at work in South Korea is interesting, but not elaborated enough, and ultimately pointless.

29 September 2015

THE HALLOW (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


Alternate Title:
The Woods

Working Title:
The Good People

UK / Ireland, 2015
Director: Corin Hardy


"The Hallow", the debut feature of Irish filmmaker / music-video director Corin Hardy is a solid, yet slightly underwhelming creature feature, taking place in a remote Irish area where a conservation biologist and his family fall prey to an odd parasitic fungus, as well as to a couple of fairy-like creatures that live in, and protect an age-old near-by forest.

I'm not saying that the movie's basic plot / folklore concept is entirely unique, but Hardy gives it a fresh and clever spin that makes it distinguishable from, and more original than most creature flicks of the last years. Too bad that the writing and the overall execution isn't strong enough, otherwise this totally could have made an almost "Babadook"-like impact on audiences.

In terms of mood and atmosphere, "The Hallow" reminded me a lot of the underrated Irish 2010 flick "Wake Wood", though while this little gem was thoroughly quite satisfying, "The Hallow" is a mixed bag, due to the rather haphazard and messy screenplay [written by Hardy and Felipe Marino ("Madame Bovary")], too many worn out jump scares, illogical plot points, twists and character decisions, as well as some dull pacing in the middle. There are several scenes that start out extremely suspenseful, but quickly become a tad boring, as well several scenes that simply last too long and deliver utter boredom
instead of a 'bang'.

Gladly, Hardy also gives us a high amount of stunningly designed creatures and terrific practical effects in the second half (best of all: the incredibly realistic-looking creature-girl!), plus some impressive lighting, unexpectedly intense body-horror and a pretty emotional climax. The acting is also damn fine, most notably the performances of Joseph Mawle ("The Awakening") and the wonderful-as-always Michael Smiley ("Burke & Hare"). All in all, not an uber-must-see,
but definitely worth checking out.

BASKIN (/Slash Filmfestival 2015) + BASKIN (2013 Short Film)


Turkey, 2015
Director: Can Evrenol


What do the 2011 cult classic "The Raid" and this year's "Baskin" have in common? At first sight, not much. "The Raid" is an Indonesian martial-arts action film, "Baskin" is a Turkish horror film - but if you look closer, you realize that not only did both movies seemingly came out of nowhere in August / September and received an incredible hype in a minimum of time ("The Raid" in August / September 2011, "Baskin" in August / September 2015), but also that "Baskin" is actually the Turkish word for "Raid" (mind blown)!

Well, while "The Raid" totally lived up to its hype and surpassed all of my expectations, "Baskin" turned out to be one of this year's bitterest disappointments. The debut feature of Can Evrenol (based on his 2013 short film of the same name), which follows a group of policemen who stumble upon a black mass in an abandoned building, is a super-weird mess that can't decide what it wants to be: the Turkish "Hellraiser"? Some kinda Lynchian surrealism-fest in hell? A simple plot-twist mindfuck? Whatever Evrenol wanted to achieve with "Baskin", it just didn't work out.

"Baskin" starts out really great with fun dialogue, a couple of one-dimensional yet interesting characters who share an immensely believable chemistry, super-eerie atmosphere, shitloads of stunningly gorgeous visuals and a vibrant soundtrack that consists of moody electro music and Turkish pop songs. Yet, after the first half, the tense and intriguing build-up breaks down completely, thanks to some frustratingly slow pacing, annoying flashbacks and a finale that is just weak. Evrenol seemingly builds up to a scary and shocking gorefest-climax, but when he finally reaches that climax, he suddenly pulls out and instead of giving us total fucking insanity, he just gives us some lame cannibalism, some even more lame semi-rape, lots of boring talks about hell and sins and keys and stuff that we basically already heard in "Hellraiser", as well as a final twist that is not just rather foreseeable, but also completely pointless - and even though Mehmet Cerrahoglu (basically the Turkish Michael Berryman) gives a fab performance as the movie's, erm, main villain, he can't save the movie from being a massive letdown.

The only other Turkish horror ilm I've seen so far is "The Voice", a conventional and not-so-imaginative supernatural scarefest, yet overall so much more satisfying than "Baskin". Don't believe the hype!

(11minute short)

Turkey, 2013
Director: Can Evrenol


I loved the short film before I've seen the full feature, and I love it even more now that I have seen the full feature. The "Baskin" short simply delivers. Captivating atmosphere, gripping suspense, splendid eerieness and a fantastic ending that is wild and brutal and in-your-face, incl. wonderfully aggressive music, slightly unpleasant images of mad creatures straight outta "Martyrs" and an overall shockingness that is just genius.

The absence of any explanation or clarification works perfectly and makes you even more scared, while the full feature spends way too much time explaining it all in detail. Evrenol is obviously a talented filmmaker who knows how to pull of a badass short film, but turning his short into a feature via a screenplay that was written by four(!) different persons... well, that wasn't exactly a good decision.

"Baskin" short rules! "Baskin" long fails.

26 September 2015

Bernard Rose's FRANKENSTEIN (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


Alternate Spelling:

USA / Germany, 2015
Director: Bernard Rose


Claiming that "Candyman"-director Bernard Rose returns to his horror-roots with his latest film is not right, because even though he spent most of his career making Tolstoy-adaptations ("Anna Karenina", "Ivansxtc", "The Kreutzer Sonata") or films about composers of classical music ("Immortal Beloved", "The Devil' Violonist") he also made at least two low-budget horror films ("Snuff Movie", "Sx_Tape") over the last 10 years, though admittedly, both of them received nearly no attention.

His newest movie is obviously his biggest horror film since "Candyman", though looking at the upcoming big-budget vehicle "Victor Frankenstein" with Daniel Radcliffe, I have a feeling that it will get lost in the shuffle. Bernard Rose's adaptation of Mary W. Shelley's "Frankenstein" is one of the the most radical, most unconventional Frankenstein-filmizations ever, following a modern-day married scientist couple who create an artificial human via a 3D bio-printer.

Fans of Gothic horror and old-school Frankenstein - stay away. "Frankenstein" (what an unimaginative title) feels more like directed by David Cronenberg or Paul Haggis, taking place in the suburban areas of Los Angeles where Frankenstein's monster stumbles around between lonesome forests, ghettos areas and fucked up hotels. The movie starts out unsettling and almost claustrophobic in small, ugly laboratory settings before going out into the outside world which at first seems to be a paradise for the artificial creature (nature, animals, no humans), but then he enters the harsh reality of the L.A. city limits (humans, ruthless policemen, dirty ghastliness everywhere) and his "life" becomes kind of an ordeal.

On the technical level, it's a superb film with great cinematography, effective music and brilliant gore & make-up effects. However, acting-wise, it's a mixed bag. There's some really great performances from Carrie-Anne Moss ("The Matrix") as mother-like scientist, a stunningly hilarious Tony Todd ("Candyman") as super-cool blind blues-playing beggar, and Jeff Hilliard as indescribably asshole-ish police officer - but there's also a super-lackluster Danny Huston ("21 Grams") as super-lackluster non-Victor, as well as a bizarre Xavier Samuel ("The Loved Ones") whose acting isn't bad, but his take on the monster... *sigh*, at times it feels like he's playing a wild animal (thanks to my gf for noticing!), at time he's babbling and behaving like a retarded child. The fact that his ability to speak is limited, while at the same time, we get to hear his inner thoughts in the form of original quotes from Shelley's literal source (Baz Lurhmann style)... it was distracing and constantly took me out of the movie.

Also, the whole thing was unexpectedly gory and brutal, at times so extreme, even me, an old-school gore-hound, was irritated by it. The added police brutality was interesting, but ultimately went nowhere, the scenes with the hooker reminded me of the god-awful "Frankenstein '80", the semi-nods to James Whale's "Frankenstein" (Victor screaming "He's alive!", girl at the lake) were simply pointless, and aside from a few intense scenes in the middle, there was hardly any tension or suspense.

Overall, an interesting but ultimately underwhelming attmept to create some kinda 21st century Frankenstein. Kenneth Branagh's adaptation remains the uncrowned king of all "Frankenstein" films...

24 September 2015

Remake vs. Original: KNOCK KNOCK (/Slash Filmfestival 2015 Surprise Movie) + DEATH GAME


Chile / USA, 2015
Director: Eli Roth


I guess this is typical Eli Roth humor. That old bastard takes an old movie from the 70s that no-one knows or remembers, remakes it with Keanu Reeves as the lead, gives it a funky title and basically sells it as his very own movie. So, what may look like Eli Roth's interpretation of "Funny Games" and "Fatal Attraction", is actually an unimaginative rehash of "Death Game" (1977), which was already remade in 1980 by Spanish exploitation director Manuel Esteba under the title "Vicious and Nude".

The story is simple: whene a devoted husband/father/architect is left home alone for the father's day weekend, two young and sexy women unexpectedly knock on his door for help. What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly cat-and-mouse game.

"Knock Knock" actually starts out pretty cool with a few really hilarious Keanu-makes-shenanigans-with-his-family scenes, a suspenseful build-up, marvellously photographed shots of the suburban areas in Santiago de Chile, and some neat acting of Reeves who made it back on my radar earlier this year with his striking performance in the badass "John Wick".

Then after the first half hour, the movie starts to drag in a pretty unnerving way. Endless dialogue, superfluous scenes (DJ Keanu), and a sex scene that looks like the poster for "The Human Centipede" - but that all isn't so bad compared to what comes after: unbelievably annoying and way-too-aggressive scenes with the girls going bonkers, followed by more boredom with Keanu going back home, followed by the girls coming back, doing Un-Funny Games with Keanu, shrieking, screaming, destroying half the house, while Keanu's acting gradually becomes worse and worse. To me, he was always a hit-or-miss actor, but here in the movie's second half, he's hitting a new low point by giving a performance that is so frustratingly over-the-top, it makes you think that Nicolas Cage in "The Wicker Man" actually wasn't so bad at all.

But it's not just Keanu's fault. It's (obviously) mainly Roth's fault. He always had a fucked up kinda humor that is more stupid than amusing, though what has worked for me in his incredible debut "Cabin Fever", and hasn't worked so well in his two "Hostel" films, here in "Knock Knock", it doesn't work at all. Stupid jokes, horrid gags, inane lines. It's all as funny as cancer. But wait, there's more: the two girls are a pain in the arse and their behavior is way too exaggerated. The performances of Lorenza Izzo (Roth's wife) and Ana de Armas are below-average at best, the whole overlong quiz show segment is almost unbearable, the attempted semi-feminist and slightly anti-misogynistic message doesn't work at all, and the mind-bendingly lousy ending incl. some of Roth's absolute worst jokes is just dreadful. I admit, I laughed at the Fun-with-Facebook moment, but it totally doesn't save the movie from being another Roth-dumbfest.

Hell, there would be so much more to rant about, be it the predictable and unimaginative screenplay by Roth and his newest best friend Nicolás López ("Aftershock"), or the unbelievably shitty scene where some guy prefers to save some work of art instead of saving Keanu... but I don't wanna waste your time. "Knock Knock" is bad, and its awfulness will knock you off your socks.


Alternate Title:
The Seducers

German Title:
Tödliche Spiele

USA, 1977
Director: Peter S. Traynor


So, this is it. The original. "Death Game". Next to "Evil Town", the only other movie directed by Peter S. Traynor, and the only movie ever written by Anthony Overman and Michael Donald Ross. The movie has the same story as "Knock Knock": family father, alone at home, two girls knock on his door, sex, terror, etc.

Is it better than "Knock Knock"? On a technical level, no. You can easily spot that it was shot on a tight budget and primarily made for drive-in cinemas, and it's also pretty obvious that the director isn't the most talented filmmaker in the world. Yet, for various reasons "Death Game" definitely worked better for me.

Oscar-nominee Seymour Cassel ("Faces") delivers a terrific performance, not just because he's clearly a much better actor than Keanu, but also because he plays his character in a much more believable way and it's just amusing hearing him shouting lines like "You have the manners of an alley cat!" at the girls.

The girls are pretty much as over-the-top and annoying as the chicas in "Knock Knock", but the actresses here are way more talented - Oscar nominee Sondra Locke ("The Heart is a Lonely Hunter") and the wonderful Colleen Camp ("Game of Death", "Police Academy 2+4") - and some of their characters' behavior is much more comprehensible, especially during the courtyard-scene which works so much better than Roth's dumb quiz-show scene. Also, the movie's weird dream-like atmosphere makes the whole thing more intriguing than I expected.

Okay, the pacing is awkward (at times too quick, at times way too slow), the direction is clearly all over the place, the title song is a bit too silly ("Good Old Dad" by The Ron Hicklin Singers) and the supposed-to-be-surprising ending is rather daft, but all in all, I totally prefer "Death Game" over "Knock Knock". Traynor 1 - Roth 0.

23 September 2015

NASTY BABY (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


USA / Chile, 2015
Director: Sebastián Silva


Even though I've only seen two of his movies so far, Chilenean director / writer Sebastían Silva is now the #1 filmmaker on my movie radar. His super-odd, yet incredibly intense previous movie "Magic Magic" was one of the biggest surprises in 2014, and this year, he surprised me again with the almost uncategorizable, yet totally brilliant "Nasty Baby", a truly mysterious and mystifying movie that revolves around the lives of gay couple Freddy and Mo, who try to have a baby with their best friend Polly. As the trio navigates the idea of creating life, they are confronted by unexpected and very unpleasant harassment from 'The Bishop', a mentally handicapped and particularly aggressive neighbor...

Telling more about "Nasty Baby" would not just be spoilerish, but also very unfair because... well, you just have to see for yourself what happens throughout this absolutely fascinating gem. Silva gives a complete crap about any kind of genre conventions and made a movie that is for the greater part some kinda hipster-comedy (incl. various drama/dramedy elements) with some kinda dark cloud hanging over it, before going into totally sinister territories in the last third. The tone is light-hearted and slightly amusing, but Silva's constantly reminding you that there is something wrong, something that eventually turns the movie completely upside down and culminates into a really bizarre climax that is actually much more subtle than expected, but makes you feel really awkward and leaves an unbelievably bitter taste in your mouth, just like "Magic Magic" kept me brooding for hours.

The main reason for why everything works so absolutely well is the incredibly realistic, incredibly believable depiction of the characters, as well as the breathtakingly intense acting. Silva himself is fantastic as the leading man, a hipsterish and not-really-talented artist who is actually way more unpredictable than you initially expect him to be. "TV on the Radio"-frontman Tunde Adebimpe is equally fantastic as cool, calm and stunningly sympathetic fellow, who - Chris Bumbray from JoBlo nailed it - "subverts all the gay stereotypes Hollywood bombards us with, being a man's man who just happens to be gay". Yet, the movie's most impressive highlight is Kristen Wiig as self-assured, self-contained single woman. Her performance is so goddamn real, it never feels as if she's just playing this complex character. She is that woman.

More great performances from Reg E. Cathey as the unreckonable and slightly frightening 'Bishop', Mark Margolis as strange gay neighbor and Neil Huff as odd gallery owner who could be best described as "interesting quasi-asshole". Camera work, editing and music are all marvellous, especially the intense tribals during the movie's 'turning point', and I absolutely love how Silva's messing and trolling with morals and ethics, as well as with our expectations. Everything and everyone has a dark side, nothing and no-one is as you expect it to be. Oh, also worth mentioning: one of the cutest kitties I've ever seen, and (next to "500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be)" in "Burke & Hare") the most unexpected end title song ever.

If you enjoyed "Magic Magic", you will definitely enjoy "Nasty Baby" too.
Damn, Silva rocks!

EMELIE (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


USA, 2015
Director: Michael Thelin


"Emelie" is an incredibly stupid horror-thriller, that, like many other films at this year's /Slash, starts out absolutely terrific, but ends up so indescribably bonkers, it's hard to say anything positive about it. The movie takes place in the house of the Thompson family (obviously not to be confused with "The Thompons") where the new babysitter Emelie (a replacement for the regular one who couldn't make it) turns the three kids' supposed-to-be-fun evening into a nightmare.

The first half is just splendid, thanks to a wonderfully intriguing and brilliantly paced "Babysitter Wanted"-like set-up, a haunting performance by Sarah Bolger ("The Moth Diaries") that reminded me a bit of Isabelle Fuhrmann in "Orphan", three wonderfully natural and surprisingly non-annoying kids (stand-out: the adorable Thomas Bair), and a few hilariously nasty scenes where Emelie shows the kids their parents' sex tapes or force them to watch her feed a hamster
to a snake.

Then after the first half, the motivations behind the babysitter's behavior gets revealed and from one minute to another, the movie becomes so unbelievably stupid, it feels as if the second half was made by a completely different director. Horrid character decisions, even more horrid plot twists, stupidity all over the place, suspense quickly turning into tiring tediousness, the slightly over-the-top and slightly "Home Alone"-like finale is at times unintentionally ridiculous, at times indescribably frustrating and cringeworthy, and also annoyingly predictable. Anti-highlights: the WTF-car-crash, the completely pointless turning out of the lights and the headscratchingly dumb vomit-scene.

Not recommended. Watch "Babysitter Wanted", "The House of the Devil", "Halloween" or any other babysitter-themed horror film instead.

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