December 17, 2014

ZOMBEAVERS

ZOMBEAVERS

German Title:
Zombiber

USA, 2014
Director: Jordan Rubin

8/10








Director Jordan Rubin said "This may very well be the most important film you will ever see about zombie beavers." I go one step further and call it the best zombie-beaver movie possible :) Several people told me that it sucks, even the boss of the /Slash Filmfestival advised me not to see it - but you know what? Not only did I check it out, I even loved the shit out of it. Yes, it's stupid, yes, it's ridiculous, but all in all, "Zombeavers" is one of this year's most entertaining creature features.


The basic set-up is well-trodden and not exactly original: 3 hot girls, 2 cool boys, a cabin in the woods and a horde of dangerous animals that are contaminated with toxic waste, in this case Beavers - and that's where the fun begins! Contrary to most other killer animal flicks of the last years (Asylum, SyFy etc.), "Zombeavers" focuses on good old practical puppet effects and makes rather sparse use of cheap CGI, which leads to loads of hilarious-looking beaver puppets and non-computer generated blood & gore effects, like severed extremities, dogs and humans eaten by beavers, death by axe or baseball bat etc.

But that's not all! Regarding the fact what kind of a movie this is, it's surprisingly well-directed, well-written and fabulously paced. Lots of fun and action, tension and badassness, no boredom whatsoever. There's numerous references to genre classics like "The Thing", "Jaws" or "Halloween", lots of obvious beaver-jokes, lots of tongue-in-cheek humor regarding typical horror clichés (no cellphone reception, bitten through landlines...) and, best of all, [SPOILER] there's not just Zombie Beavers, there's also... um, Beaver Zombies = people bitten by a Beaver get infected and transform into beaver/human-hybrids! Did I forget to mention the zom-bear and the zom-bees? Pure fucking awesomeness!


Surprisingly, the acting is solid too and all of the actors seemed to have a great time shooting this piece of high quality rubbish, especially Cortney Palm (whose boobs are god-like!), Rachel Melvin ("Boo!"), Rex Linn ("Django Unchained") and Peter Gilroy ("Breaking Wind"). Music and camera work are neat, the outtake-end-credits are simply wonderful and the Frank-Sinatra-like main theme is just genius. Can't get enough of that Zombeaver-stuff! Sequel puh-lease!

December 15, 2014

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT: THE HOMECOMING

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT:
THE HOMECOMING

German Title:
Stille Nacht - Blutige Nacht

UK, 2013
Director: James Plumb

1/10







North Bank Entertainment is a British film company specializing in shooting shitty lowest-budget releasing them witch super-catchy covers under super-catchy titles, capitalizing on popular film titles, like "Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection" (semi-remake of George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead") or "The Amityville Asylum" (semi-spin-off of "The Amityville Horror").

Their newest trickery is this cinematic piece of turd: "Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming", an unbelievably unimaginative, horribly made and overall completely aggravating rehash of Theodore Gershuny's 70s classic "Silent Night, Blood Night" (Review here).

Compared to the original which is a creepy and tense little gothic-style chiller, the remake fails on every single level. Apart from the obvious fact that there's nothing remotely tense, scary or entertaining, it's also shoddily edited, terribly filmed (horrid camera angles, an overload of ugly close-ups), terribly lit
and full of laughable-looking gore, makeup and CGI effects, and ridiculously un-erotic sex scenes.


The story of the original (which made perfect sense) was changed into an incoherent and feeble-minded mess that makes no goddamn sense at all. The acting ranges from ridiculous (Alan Humphreys) to plain abysmal (Sabrina Dickens). The pacing is yawnably slow, the killer's mask looks unintentionally hilarious and - worst of all - "Friday the 13th"-legend Adrienne King's performance as "the killer's voice" is so bad, it's disturbing. Horror site "A Slash Above" nailed it by describing her vocal performance as: "(...) King shows how rusty she is by sounding like an amateur dramatics group cast her off after the first audition." Believe me: it's that bad!

Aside from some okay-looking gore, "Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming" is a horrible film in every possible way. Avoid!!!

AN AMERICAN TERROR

AN AMERICAN TERROR

USA, 2014
Director: Haylar Garcia

6/10











"An American Terror" is the second full feature of filmmaker & musician Haylar Garcia ("Do it for Johnny"), following three bullied schoolmates who try to turn the table on their tormentors by carrying out a massacre at their school's Homecoming Dance, but while they're preparing the bloodbath, they unexpectedly run into a disgusting and merciless killer who's much more brutal and perverse than their own ideas...


It starts out as captivating and surprisingly fascinating teen-revenge-chiller, somwehere between "The Final", "If..." and "Elephant". Gripping and tense, full of intense and rather unsettling moments, stunningly directed and written, revolving around three interesting and somehow likable misfits, played by three terrific actors (most notably: Graham Emmons' extremely believable performance).

Then after the first half hour, "An American Terror" takes a massive turn and descends into torture/slasher territories, which is both good and bad. Good because the sudden violence and brutality comes along like a hammer to your face - bad because what feels shockingly original at first soon becomes shockingly bland and lackluster, due to some annoyingly dull pacing, a sudden occurrence of predictability and an incredibly annoying killer that looks and feels like a mix of the fat guy from "Carver" mixed with the embarrassing Leatherface from "TCM: The Next Generation".


The brutal twist in the middle is basically a great idea, but it was developed in a really disappointing way. Focusing on the movie's Columbine-like elements would have been so much more powerful than merely including worn out torture clichés. The last third tries hard to get back to the intensity of the beginning: some shocks, some thrills and a pretty superb ending, but nothing special, nothing that could save the whole thing from falling into mediocrity.

An interesting film with fab acting and great use of punk & industrial music, but overall quite a letdown. It could have been sooo much better... *sigh*
Fingers crossed that Mr. Garcia gets it right next time!

Imdb

Thanks to Clint Morris for the screener!

December 12, 2014

Too many /Slashes: V/H/S / V/H/S/2 / V/H/S: VIRAL

V/H/S: VIRAL

Alternate Title:
VHS Viral

USA, 2014
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento,
Gregg Bishop, Nacho Vigalondo,
Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead

4/10






When I first heard that there would be another installment in the V/H/S franchise and that Rob Zombie would be involved in it, I was pretty hyped, hoping for some more badass insanity like we got in "V/H/S/2" - but then they announced the title: "V/H/S: Viral"... what? Videocassettes going viral? Ringu anyone?

Then they announced the directors: six not-that-special filmmakers
and NO Rob Zombie *sigh*
Then they announced that one segment was cut ("Gorgeous Vortex", directed by Todd Lincoln, the man behind the crapfest "The Apparition").
And then the reviews came in... almost all of them pretty negative.
Excitement level: zero.


Okay, now that I've seen it, I can wholeheartedly say that it's far from being as bad as I expected. Unfortunately, it's about as weak as the first one and nowhere near the awesomeness of the second one. "V/H/S: Viral" feels rushed, unfinished and messed up. The framing story - about an evil ice cream van and a viral video that has some kinda "Halloween 3"-effect on the viewer - is dumb, confusing and ultimately plain ridiculous, the three segments aren't connected to the wraparound, and even though it's only about 80 minutes long, it felt almost as dull as "V/H/S".

Segment #1 [-Dante The Great-] obviously isn't about Joe Dante, but about a magician called Dante who comes into property of an evil cloak that turns him into a Copperfield-like superstar. Aside from Justin Welborn's horrid performance and the fact that this segment is actually a mockumentary(!) which totally doesn't fit into the basic V/H/S concept, this was rather decent with lots of cool visuals
and a fun finale.


Segment #2 [-Parallel Monsters-] is badass, following a hobby-scientist who builds a machine that opens the door into a parallel dimension where satanic zeppelins fly around and people have flesh-eating monster genitalia. Original, inventive, entertaining, thrilling and batshit insane: this should be turned into a full feature!

Segment #3 [-Bonestorm-] is just stupid. A couple of obnoxious and unbearable skaterboys battling an armada of demonic ritualists. Awful CGI. Worst computer-generated fire I've seen in a very long time, also: why in god's name did they use CGI firecrackers??? Couldn't they afford real ones, goddammit?? In addition, it tries too hard to be oh-so-over-the-top and ends up really frustrating, the editing is all over the place, there's no suspense or scariness at all. Terrible.

 Not really worth checking out, doesn't matter if you're a fan or a hater of the V/H/S franchise.
V/H/S Viral Is Ridiculous And Lame.




V/H/S/2

Alternate Title:
S-V/H/S

German Title:
S-VHS aka V/H/S 2

USA / Canada / Indonesia, 2013
Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard,
Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale,
Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto & Jason Eisener

7,5/10


(Seen and reviewed at the /SLASH Filmfestival 2013)
As you can see below, I wasn't exactly a fan of the first V/H/S, which is IMO an overhyped and rather annoying film that tried too hard to be fresh and original. Fortunately, the sequel is much better and didn't annoy me at all. Of course, it's still far from being a masterpiece, but it's definitely a massive improvement over the first part.

The framing segments are once again pretty mediocre and Adam Wingard's episode [-Phase I Clinical Trails-] could have been good (and actually starts out really good) but ends up rather meh - though its basic 'kinda Google Glass with a twist' concept is ace. Gladly, everyone else fully delivers.


"Blair Witch Project" mastermind Edúardo Sanchez delivers an entertaining little funfest [-A Ride in the Park-] about a biker who rides into a horde of zombies, gets bitten, dies and resurrects as blood-hungry but still quite 'human' zombie - and of course, we all get to see it from a POV perspective which adds to the fun.
"Hobo with a Shotgun" mastermind Jason Eisener once again proves that he's currently the coolest and most creative filmmaker in the genre by kicking ass with a super-cool segment [-Slumber Party Alien Abduction-] about an intense little alien invasion that happens to a bunch of kids during a slumber party - incl. best dog-death ever!

The absolute highight is [-Safe Haven-] by Gareth Evans ("The Raid") and Timo Tjahjanto ("Macabre") which could be only described as totally and utterly insane. A few filmmakers want to make a documentary about a weird Indonesian cult who live in an incredibly huge and eerie-looking complex where they prepare for the arrival of an otherworldly creature. Starts out tense, uncanny and unsettling, and ends up immensely brutal, incredily gory, batshit crazy and hilariously over-the-top. Holy fucking shit!


A must-see for fans AND haters of the first part.
V/H/S 2 ~ Valuable/High-Class/Superb, 2 Thumbs up!



V/H/S

USA, 2012
Directors: Adam Wingard, Ti West,
David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid,
Joe Swanberg & Radio Silence

4,5/10









(Seen and reviewed at the /SLASH Filmfestival 2012)
So, THIS is "V/H/S", this year's most-hyped, most-talked-about movie? I don't get it. What's so awesome about it? V/H/S is an overlong, poorly executed and spectacularly unscary found-footage anthology (that's where the originality ends...), consisting of 5 so-so epsiodes (VHS tapes) and an unappealing framing story. Nearly every single character is a douchebag, most of the shaky-cam is annoying as hell, and I hated the fact that none of the stories has a proper conclusion.


I got a kick out of the first episode [-Amateur Night-], mainly because of the cool use of webcam-glasses and the amazing performance by Hannah Fierman as succubus-like demon (badass make-up). I also enjoyed the uber-wild  last episode [-10/31/98-] which is basically a fun mix of "House Of The Devil", "Grave Encounters" & "Amityville Horror".

The rest is meh. Ti West's [-Second Honeymoon-] follows an unsympathetic couple on their... erm, secomd honeymoon, an episode that is about as slow and dull as most of his feature works. Episode 3 [-Tuesday The 17th-] introduces a mysterious killer that appears in some kinda tracking-error-form. Interesting premise, original concept, but completely un-frightening, way too long and ultimately frustratingly dumb.


Episode 4 [-The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger-] starts out interesting (young girl with alien fetus in her arm), but ends up weird and disappointing. The framing segments are so boring, sloppy and stupid, I still can't believe that they were directed by Adam Wingard, the man behind the outstanding "A Horrible Way To Die".

V/H/S ~ Vapid/Hollow/Stale

Wiki ~ Imdb

December 11, 2014

Xmas Rubbish: ELVES (1989)

ELVES

Alternate German Title:
Elves - Das Monster des Grauens

USA, 1989
Director: Jeffrey Mandel

4/10









"Elves" is far from being the worst X-mas-themed horror film of all time, but it's definitely the weirdest, most abstruse, most bonkers one. The second of one only 4 directorial efforts by low-budget filmmaker Jeffrey Mandel deals with young blonde Kirsten who constantly gets bugged by her horrible family,
consisting of 1) her bitch-mother who treats her bad all the time, steals money from her savings accound and even dares to kill her cat, 2) her dumb brother who's addicted to get a look at her boobs, and 3) her incestuous German grandfather... erm, father ("Your grandfather is your grandfather AND your father!"),
a grumpy old bastard who's part of a conspiratorial Nazi organisation ("Gramps is a Nazi!") that tries to build some kinda 4th Reich by taking over the world with a race of half-elf / half-human hybrids - not kidding!!


As you may have already assumed, "Elves" is the perfect example of a so-bad-it's-good film, because... even though it's badly written and directed, poorly paced, packed with terrible acting and totally deserves a 4/10 rating, there's so much wacky shit going on, you just have to love it, especially because of the absolutely outrageous plot. Ignore the misleading title, there's only one elf on the loose, but this murderous and not-really-elvish looking creature is hilarious enough to give you some great laughs, especially the scene where it wears a christmas hat.

Dan "Grizzly Adams" Haggerty tries his best to give a slightly decent performance, while all the other actors pretty much fail. At least, they were allowed to deliver shitloads of super-funny lines, like:
"When there is no more room in hell, the Elves will walk the Earth!" / "You look terrible!" - "I had a rough day at work. Santa got murdered." / "You're not a detective anymore. You're Santa." / (at the library) "Excuse me, Ma'am. I remember a book from college about mystical symbols and runes." - "Occult sciences. Section 666." - "You're kidding me! That's gotta be a joke." /

"You've got fucking big tits and I'm going to tell everybody I saw them." /
"Santa says Oral!" / "The Nazis believed in Elves?" - "Oh yeah, they believed in a lotta things. You know, if you could ignore their brutality, you have to say they were just a bunch of crackpots."


There's also a bunch of fun kills (repeated crotch stabbings, radio-in-bathtub electrocution), an amusing running gag with cellotape, a super-cute kitty, some nudity, explosions, and (the movie's absolute highlight) a professor trying to explain how the Nazis are connected to the Elves:

"(Theory 1) The Nazis experimented with Elves as assasination teams. Small, easily hidden, silent, vicious. They have magical powers. They can't be hurt or killed. They eat anything. They are perfect soldiers."
"(Theory 2) The Elves were a genetic engineering experiment. (...) The Nazis did have some clever scientist. This was before todays' technology, of course. Each Elf was to house the haploid gene structure in its sperm cells to produce the master race. Once again, magical powers can't be hurt or killed. Driven to selected genetically perfect human mate, the proverbial virgin of course, holy midnight consumation on Christmas eve. (...) The Elf mates with the virgin on Christmas eve to produce the master race, and it will eventually rule the world."


It's dumb. It's bonkers. It's stupid as hell, but it's definitely the best film about Nazis, Elves and Incest that was ever made ;-)

December 10, 2014

WER

WER

Alternate Title:
Wer: The Legend Reborn

German Title:
Wer - Das Biest in dir

USA, 2013
Director: William Brent Bell

7/10





It's not as fun as "Late Phases", not as intense as "When Animals Dream", but holy shit, it's definitely one more really impressive 2014 werewolf shocker, especially regarding the fact that it was directed by William Brent Bell whose previous movies "Stay Alive" (dumb video game slasher) and "The Devil Inside" (laughable exorcism mockumentary) were both rather lame. However, this time Bell simply kicks ass.

"Wer" follows a defense attorney who realizes that her client, a bear of a man, super-hairy with hands like shovels (and who's charged with murder) is actually a berserk and almost unstoppable werewolf. The movie starts out as run-of-the-mill found-footage flick, but soon transforms itself into a wild and fast-paced shocker full of heart-pounding suspense, breathtaking action and really brutal kills.


The werewolf is actually more of a wolfman and looks simply amazing. Combine Jack Nicholson with Benicio del Toro, add a huge portion of badassness and wolf-charisma - the result is one of the most terrific wolf/man-hybrids in recent years. Massive kudos to non-actor Brian Scott O'Connor who delivers a performance that is simply incredible. More great acting by the highly underused A.J. Cook (who previously appeared in two of my alltime favorite movies, "The Virgin Suicides" and "Final Destination 2"), Vik Sahay ("Chuck") and Sebastian Roché ("Beowulf"). Also worth mentioning: Simon Quarterman whose acting feels rather meh at first, but gets better and better the longer the movie lasts.

There's lots of CGI but it never feels cheap or distracting, it's actually very well-used, especially during the transformations and through several of the gorier scenes. Some pacing problems in the first half and a few rather predictbale sequences, but aside from that, "Wer" is a very welcome surprise.
More of that please!


Trivia: I'm not sure, but I guess the movie's title "Wer" stems from the german word for werewolf which is "Werwolf". However, when you consider the fact that "Wer" is also the german word for "Who", the title gets a whole new meaning...


December 9, 2014

The RIDDICK Saga: PITCH BLACK / THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK / RIDDICK

PITCH BLACK

Working Title:
Nightfall

Reissue Title:
The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black

German Titles:
Pitch Black - Planet der Finsternis / Riddick - Chroniken eines Kriegers: Pitch Black

USA, 2000
Director: David Twohy

7,5/10


After successfully developing screenplays, story outlines and re-writes for/of many great action, sci-fi and horror films between the late 80s and late 90s ("The Fugitive", "Warlock 1 & 2", "G.I. Jane", "Critters 2"...), L.A.-based filmmaker David Twohy created his very first directorial feature "Pitch Black", based on his very own rejected script for "Alien 3" (written in 1988), as well as on a script co-written by the Wheat brothers Jim & Ken ("The Ewoks: Battle for Endor", "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4", "The Fly 2", "The Birds 2"...).


"Pitch Black" is a highly entertaining and very well made conglomerate of sci-fi classics like "Alien", "Aliens" or "Predator", following the crew and passengers (incl. Riddick, a dangerous convict with surgically enhanced eyes that allow him to see in darkness) of a cargo spaceship who crashland on a desert planet which is not just surrounded by three suns, it's also populated by fleshhungry, photo-sensitive alien creatures. Even worse: the planet is soon to be eclipsed for week, which means the creature will roam the planet, searching for food...

With some extraordinary lighting, shitloads of super-stunning images, fantastic cinematography, and excellent camera work, Twohy created a marvellous-looking treat for the eyes. A movie that isn't exactly original, especially in terms of story and characters, but due to its incredible visuals, top-notch direction and rather superb pacing, it ends up as fabulous sci-fi/action/horror romp in the tradition of James Cameron or Ridley Scott, or - like my buddy Chri said - as one of the better "Alien"-clones in recent years.


Next to David Eggby's ("Mad Max") amazing camera work (massive kudos to what he created here!), we also get a very exciting percussion-driven score by the great Graeme Revell ("Sin City"), spot-on editing (Rick Shaine, "Extreme Measures") and some really solid CGI, especially considering the rather low budget the movie was made on (about 23 million dollars). Also, very solid performances by Vin Diesel as uber-cool anti-hero, hottie Radha Mitchell as badass pilot and Cole Hauser as grumpy bounty hunter. Nothing to complain: "Pitch Black" rocks!




THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

Working Titles:
Pitch Black 2 / Riddick

German Title:
Riddick - Chroniken eines Kriegers

USA, 2004
Director: David Twohy

3,5/10





Due to the fact that "Pitch Black" was way more successful than expected, Universal Pictures greenlit a sequel and gave David Twohy more than $100 million, so that he could realize his very own vision of a "Lord of the Rings"-like Riddick-trilogy. However, "The Chronicles of Riddick", the supposedly first part in that trilogy, bombed like a lead weight which led to the planned sequels being scrapped - and rightly so.


"The Chronicles of Riddick" is basically Twohy's "Matrix: Reloaded" (or maybe his "Sky Captain"? His "Southland Tales"?). He threw the millions down the drain by spending it on shitloads of larger-than-life sets and oh-so-awesome costumes, and eventually delivered an overloaded, exaggerated, way-too-over-the-top piece of excessiveness that suffers from a bloated and shallow storyline (about Riddick dealing with Necromongers and bounty hunters on planets called "Helion Prime" or "Crematoria"), unsympathetic and vapid characters, and a huge amount of 80s sci-fi/fantasy clichés that feel as if Twohy simply pieced movies like
"Krull", "Gor", "Ice Pirates", "Arena" etc. etc. together. Gone are the awesome visuals, the nervewracking tension, the badass action. It's all just too much... too much of nothing.

The movie is also surprisingly tedious, at times downright boring. There's hardly any acting performance that really stands out, and aside from Diesel, Karl Urban and the gorgeous Alexa Davalos, most of the actors deliver forgettable or simply annoying perfomances (I look at you, Thandie Newton!). Even grande dame Judi Dench makes no impression at all. Worst scene in the entire movie: when the soldiers suddenly shouting "Threshold! Take us to the Threshold!" which hilariously sounds like "Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?" (see here).


Love the impressive production design, the scenes on Planet Crematoria (the only thing about this film that remotely reminds of "Pitch Black), several ok action scenes and a few neat one-liners. Everything else... well, "The Chronicles of Boredom" would have been a better-fitting title.




RIDDICK

Working Title:
The Chronicles of Riddick: Dead Man Stalking

Alternate Title:
The Chronicles of Riddick: Rule the Dark

German Title:
Riddick - Überleben ist seine Rache

USA, 2013
Director: David Twohy

5/10


9 years after box office disappointment "The Chronicles of Riddick", David Twohy and Vin Diesel teamed up a third time to create a completely new Riddick flick, called... um, "Riddick" (how imaginative...), a sequel to the last installment, but not a continuation of the Chronicles-storyline, rather a semi-redo of "Pitch Black", not just in terms of style, mood and lower budget ("only" $38,000,000), but also regarding storyline (deserted planet, bounty hunters, fleshhungry creatures), set-up and characters - which is both good and bad.


It's good that they stepped back from the bloated saga-attempt and went back to the origins of Riddick, replacing over-the-top science fiction and fantasy with slightly b-movie-like old school action and horror. At the same time, they played it way, way too safe which resulted in a sequel that is actually unnecessary and superfluous. Even though I enjoyed "Riddick" a lot more than "The Chronicles of Riddick", it's still far, far from being as great "Pitch Black". The fact that it's more of a Diesel & Twohy vanity project obviously doesn't help at all.

The first third is excellent: there's good old badass Riddick fighting against super-dangerous scorpion-like creatures and befriending a cool space dog. It's like an 80s version of "I am Legend". The second third is just terrible. A bunch of unlikable cardboard idiots, tons of ultra-cheesy lines and several predictable supposed-to-be-tense-but-not-that-tense scenes and sequences. The last third shifts between awesome (gore, monsters, darkness) and awful (lame showdown, dumb Chronicles tie-in, frustrating ending).


Like in its predecessor, the CGI ranges from pretty nice to pretty crappy. Soundtrack and camera work are both great, Vin Diesel is solid as always, as well as neat performances by Katee Sackhoff and Matt Nable - but all in all, this was just meh. IMO they should stop here, but... *sigh* it did better at the box office than "Chronicles" and for whatever reason, the DVD was immensely successful. Guess what? Right, Diesel and Universal are already talking about wanting to make a 4th AND 5th Riddick flick... *double sigh*

Wiki ~ Imdb



Note: I've seen the three animated Riddick shorts "Pitch Black: Slam City (2000)", "The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (2004)" and "Riddick: Blindsided (2013)" too, but none of them struck a chord with me, so I passed on reviewing them.

December 8, 2014

THE STRANGENESS

THE STRANGENESS

German Title:
Abwärts ins Grauen

USA, 1987
Director: Melanie Anne Philips
(as David Michael Hillman)

6/10








Long before "The Descent" (yay!) and "The Cave" (nay.), there was this little cave-themed low-budget horror flick, which sadly is rather overlooked and forgotten nowadays. Okay, it's far from being a classic and I somehow understand why no-one really cared about it (didn't the same happen to similar-themed 80s flicks like "The Boogens" or "What Waits Below"?), but I have a soft spot for it because... well, even though it's cheap, tacky and somewhat ridiculous, it always manages to give me one helluva good time.


"The Strangeness" (strange title) follows a group of explorers who enter an abandoned goldmine in search for a treasure where they stumble upon a weird-looking stop-motion tentacle-monster with some kinda... um, vagina-head.
Yes, a vagina-head. Look at the screenshots! Somewhat hilarious, somewhat fascinating. The stop-motion effects look silly as hell, but I can't help find this creature charming.

I found various threads on Imdb where people discussing the bizarre look of the monster, trying to connect it to the fact that the female(!) director Melanie Anne Philips (who made only 2 films) released the film under the male name David Michael Hillman! It's unclear if she did it only to disguise herself under a man's name in order to sell the film, or if she got gender reassignment surgery after shooting the film. Looking at the monster with its tentacles (some kinda phallus symbol?) and its vagina-like mouth - was there some kind of a hidden message in it? Like "This is how I feel right now."? I have no idea, but it's fascinating to think that a woman expressed her gender wish via a cheesy-looking horror film monster.


I'm rambling, back to the actual movie. The whole thing feels a bit like someone put the quirky characters of "My Bloody Valentine" (plus: some guy that looks like Mick Taylor's cousin) into the Italian trashfest "Alien 2: On Earth" and added a poor man's Lovecraftian tentacle-monster. The first half is a bit dull and includes a few extremely superfluous scenes. Fortunately, the second half is much better, especially the last 30 minutes which are packed with eerie sequences, lots of well-shot and eerily-lit cave sets.

Gore is sparse and there's clearly not enough monster action, but for the most part, it's all pretty entertaining and quite tense. The finale involves some cool flashlight suspense, some ace-looking red light that makes the monster almost look like a rose, and some of the cheesiest fire effects since "The Ghost Galleon". I admit, I somehow love "The Strangeness". It's fun and it's charming. I like that shit!

Imdb

December 2, 2014

MOCKINGJAY PART 1 (2014) + CATCHING FIRE (2013) + THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

THE HUNGER GAMES:
MOCKINGJAY PART 1

German Title:
Die Tribute von Panem - Mockingjay Teil 1

USA, 2014
Director: Francis Lawrence

7/10







The first part of the "Mockingjay" double feature isn't as great as its predecessors "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire" (see below), and IMO it's also not as great as other Young Adult films I've seen earlier this year ("The Maze Runner" and "Divergent"), mainly because of the unnecessary two-part split-up (money-grubbing Hollywood bastards...), but it's still another great entry in this fabulous franchise, packed with powerful, breathtaking and gobsmacking moments.


It's hard to review half a movie, or - like Imdb user prospectus_capricornium said - "a 2-hour-preview of what to expect in the final movie", but... well, I'll try my best. "Mockingjay Part 1" has its fair share of flaws: it's weirdly paced, at times a bit too slow, at times just bumpy. There are at least 3 or 4 scenes that are completely unnecessary, a few scenes that seem to be a tad too long, and a cliffhanger that is just... I dunno. Odd? Strange? Unrewarding?
Or just frustrating? Hmm...

Nevertheless, aside from all the underwhelming stuff, there's still enough awesome stuff that gave me a great time at the cinema. Emotional speeches by Katniss, an even more emotional "District 12 sign"-scene in District 8, some shocking Capitol-induced genocide, Katniss' goosebumpy song of "The Hanging Tree", some explosive action, some gripping suspense and an incredible high amount of grim, gloomy and slightly depressing atmosphere.


J-Law delivers another top-notch performance (aside from one dream-sequence where her mimics somehow look unintentionally ridiculous), more great acting by Hunger Games regulars Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Plus: new additions Natalie Dormer as sexy anti-Capitol rebel Vressida and Julianne Moore who looks incredible and gives a fantastic performance as president of District 13. Lawrence's direction is good, but not as good as in the previous installment, same for the screenplay which was helmed by Peter Craig ("The Town") and Danny Strong ("The Butler"). Cinematography, music and special effects are great as always.

Fingers crossed that Part 2 will be a whole lot better...




THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

German Title:
Die Tribute von Panem - Catching Fire

USA, 2013
Director: Francis Lawrence

8/10








(Review from November 2013)
As you can see below, I'm a massive fan of "The Hunger Games" which completely took me by surprise last year, eventually became one of my favorite movies in 2012, and transformed me into some kinda Panem-fanboy (or should I say fangirl?) who became slightly obsessed with every single "Catching Fire" news tidbit that was announced over 2013.

Well, the hype was big and the expectations were even bigger - yet, to my surprise, "Catching Fire" turns out to be almost as great as the first part. Even though director Gary Ross was replaced with Francis Lawrence (the man behind rubbish like "Constantine" or "I Am Legend"), and even though Ross and Suzanne Collins (writer of the Hunger Games novels) weren't involved in the script, the movie fully succeeds in giving you a gripping, stirring and action-packed
survival thrill-ride.


Lawrence has progressed as a director and handles the screenplay - which was written by Simon Beaufoy ("127 Hours") and Michael DeBruyn ("Oblivion") - with bravura and passion. There are a few moments where it gets a bit too over-the-top, at least in terms of pathos and emotionalism, but these moments are tolerable since it's all so well-paced and well-executed. Even though it's more than 140 minutes long, it absolutely never gets boring.

The cast is once again excellent with Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland giving spot-on performances. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are far better than in the first part, while Stanley Tucci tries too hard by over-egging the pudding and coming off as slightly annoying. New and very awesome cast additions: the wonderful Jena Malone and a fabulously charismatic Philip Seymour Hoffman.


Highlights: the creepy poison-fog, the bird attack, the 'monkey business' scene, all the brutal scenes in District 11 & 12 which could be described as "Third Reich of Panem", all the shocking twists and turns, the stunning CGI effects, shitloads of terrific visuals, and the excellent score by James Newton Howard
("The Sixth Sense").

I'm hungry for more. Mockingjay, come soon!




THE HUNGER GAMES

German Titles:
Die Tribute von Panem - The Hunger Games / Die Tribute von Panem - Tödliche Spiele

USA, 2012
Director: Gary Ross

9/10







(Review from March 2012)
Yes, you CAN believe the hype: "The Hunger Games", Gary Ross' ("Seabiscuit") adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name (which I haven't read), is an absolutely amazing blockbuster of a movie - an intense, gripping and very intelligent survival-action-drama, almost as great as similar-themed movies like
"Battle Royale" or "Running Man".


Fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining, but also pretty emotional and empathic, thanks to Ross' strong direction and a fabulously written script, but also visually stunning due to many gorgeous, colorful settings, eye-catching costumes, top notch CGI and fantastic camera work (many cool close-ups, terrific shaky-cam).

The cast is impressive: leading lady Jennifer Lawrence, a beautiful and incredibly talented actress, delivers a powerful and barnstorming performance. Stanley Tucci is hilarious as freaky TV-host, Woody Harrelson is highly amusing as alcoholic ex-winner, Elizabeth Banks looks damn funny as bubble-gum pink escort, Wes Bentley strongly reminded me of Tom Cruise, Donald Sutherland is wonderfully grumpy and Lenny Kravitz is just cool.


It could have been more brutal and less romantic in the last act, but aside from that, "The Hunger Games" is a very well made and deeply satisfying,
in terms of intelligence and craftsmanship comparable to last year's "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes".
I'm already excited for the follow-ups!

December 1, 2014

THE GATHERING (2003)

THE GATHERING

German Titles:
The Gathering - Blicke des Bösen / The Gathering - Ich sehe das, was du nicht siehst

UK, 2003
Director: Brian Gilbert

7/10






Between the early 80s and the late 90s, British filmmaker Brian Gilbert was hopping between genres like other people changing their underpants, from made-for-TV drama ("Sharma and Beyond"), rom-com ("The Frog Prince") and fantasy comedy ("Vice Versa") in the 80s, to bestseller adaptation ("Not Without My Daughter"), stage play adaptation ("Tom & Viv") and biography ("Wilde") in the 90s. His last full feature was the 2003-released "The Gathering", a tense and well-made horror/mystery-thriller that unfortunately didn't do well at the European box office. Even worse: in America, it was simply dumped to DVD...
4 years later in 2007! *sigh*



Based on a screenplay by Anthony Horowitz ("Foyle's War"),
Gilbert tells the story of Simon Kirkman, an art historian who tries to examine a recently discovered church that was "buried" in the ground and shows a mysterious, very unusual portrayal of Jesus Christ's crucifixion, as well as of Cassie Grant, a young girl who drifts through a nearby village, gets hit by the art historian's wife's car and loses her memory. The Kirkmans invite her to stay at their huge mansion to recover from her trauma. There, she suddenly starts to experience weird premonitions and ghastly visions which are somehow related to the buried church...

Among religion-themed horror films, "The Gathering" is an extremely unique movie that touches all kinds of difficult topics like child abuse, falsification of history, or morbid curiosity. Parts of the movie reminded me of classics like "The Omen" or "The Wicker Man", but overall it's definitely something that I haven't seen before. It could have been a tad more fast-paced and the ending is a bit sappy, but everything else is just terrific. Lots of suspense, a few well-used and well-made jump scares, as well as lots of impressively haunting atmosphere, thanks to many well-used, creepy-looking settings in and around Gloucestershire, Kent and Somerset, all fabulously filmed by
Martin Fuhrer ("Lord of The Flies", "Omen IV").



Christina Ricci is solid as always, though her performance isn't as great as the ones by Peter McNamara as grumpy motherfucker and Robert Hardy as highly unsettled Bishop. There's some decent gore, a few great deaths (incl. a Final-Destination-like road kill), many spooky images of slightly eerie-looking people standing around and a few really powerful scenes (opening, running through the cornfields, hiding in a creepy old barn...). A splendid movie, highly recommended to fans of subtle European horror.

Wiki ~ Imdb

November 30, 2014

THE DARK HALF

THE DARK HALF

German Title:
Stephen King's Stark - The Dark Half

USA, 1993
Director: George A. Romero

8/10








Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name,
horror legend George A. Romero created one of the most interesting, yet still most underrated movies of his career, following Thad Beaumont, respectable but unsuccessful writer of cerebral fiction whose pseudonym George Stark (much more successful 'writer' of brutal crime novels) suddenly becomes a physical entity and starts to threaten his and his family's life...


It might be not as impressive as Romero's zombie films, not as incredible as other King adaptations like "The Shining" or "Misery", but compared to most of Romero's post-"Day of the Dead" work, it's still simply awesome. "The Dark Half" is not just a damn great adaptation of a damn great novel (one of my personal King favorites), it's also a very well directed horror-thriller, packed with great scares, ace kills, fantastic actors and a superb early 90s atmosphere that strongly resembles films like "The Guardian" or "The Hands That Rocks the Cradle".

Timothy Hutton is pitch-perfect in the double role, delivering a sympathetic goodie and a super-violent, super-fascinating baddie who starts to look creepier and creepier in evey single scene, thanks to the fact that his entity quickly starts to decay. There's also many other fine performances by Amy Madigan, Julie Harris and the great Michael Rooker, best known for his performance in the 80s classic "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer".


Aside from being flawlessly directed, it's also a very well photographed (Tony Pierce-Roberts, "Underworld"), very well lit movie (love the scene in the corridor with the red and blue lights) with a brilliantly effective soundtrack by musical genius Christopher Young ("Hellraiser II", "Elm Street 2", "Sinister"),
excellent gore & makeup effects, as well as many unforgettably striking scenes, like the opening with the fetus in Beaumont's brain, the slightly Hitchcockian bird attacks, or the dream sequence with the porcelain faces, as well as the creepy use of Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?".


It's a shame how forgotten and overlooked "The Dark Half" is. Not only has it been a box office bomb, thanks to the fact that it was shot in 1990/1991, but not released until 1993 due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures, no, it seems to be really forgotten! Talk with horror fans about Romero or King and you will notice that none of them ever mentions this movie. Why? I have no idea. "The Dark Half" is a fabulous movie and I could watch it over and over again.

Wiki ~ Imdb

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