October 21, 2014

WHEN ANIMALS DREAM

WHEN ANIMALS DREAM

Original Title: 
Når dyrene drømmer

Denmark, 2014
Director: Jonas Alexander Arnby

8/10









Without any expectations, I went to one of our local arthouse screenings to see a film I've never heard of before - and to my great joy, it turned out to be a shockingly great film. The feature debut of Danish filmmaker Jonas Alexander Arnby follows a young girl in a remote fishing village who thinks that she has inherited the same strange disease that keeps her mother bound to a wheelchair - until she realizes that it's not a disease: she's "simply" turning into a werewolf!

By combining elements of the Swedish "Let The Right One In" (loneliness, outsiderdom) with the coming-of-age arc of the Canadian "Ginger Snaps" trilogy, Arnby delivers a powerful and impressive take on the werewolf genre; probably a bit underwhelming for gorehounds and hardcore werewolf freaks, but highly satisfying for people who enjoy the artsier side of horror. "When Animals Dream" feels almost as if directed by a young Thomas Vinterberg.


The movie is calm and slow, but never boring or tedious, thanks to Arnby's excellent direction and the intriguing story / screenplay by Rasmus Birch ("Brotherhood"). It starts out slow, but slowly becomes creepier and creepier until it culminates in an unexpectedly uncommon and highly interesting finale. Cameraman Niels Thastum perfectly captures the solitary landscapes and beautiful rugged coasts of the small village, and composer Mikkel Hess ("All For Two") stunningly accompanies the fascinating cinematography with sinister strings and vibrating electro music.

The performance of main actress Sonia Suhl (one of her very first on-screen roles) is simply mindblowing. Aside from looking damn gorgeous, she's an absolutely fantastic actress and has terrific screen presence. Next to her, we get to see some more fine acting by Lars Mikkelsen (brother of Mads), the wonderful Sonja Richter, the somehow mean-looking Gustav Dyekjær Giese, and Esben Dalgaard as super-beardy bad guy.


"When Animals Dream" is not a groundbreaking movie, but it's definitely an excellent turn on the werewolf genre, and together with "Late Phases", it proves that this genre is far from being dead. Arthouse horror at its best!

October 20, 2014

3 Times Patrick: "PATRICK" (1978) / "PATRICK STILL LIVES" (1980) / "PATRICK" (2013)

PATRICK

German Titles:
Patrick's Höllentrip / Patrick's Höllentrip - Eine Reise in die Ewigkeit

Australia, 1978
Director: Richard Franklin

6/10







"Patrick" is one of the earliest films of acclaimed director Richard Franklin ("Psycho II", "Road Games") and his long-time writing partner Everett de Roche ("Long Weekend", "Storm Warning"), telling the story of a weird comatose hospital patient who is able to kill, move things around and communicate via psychokinetic powers. Sounds familiar? Yup, Roger Christian's awesome
"The Sender" (1982) seems to be highly influenced by it.


I'm quite a fan of Franklin and de Roche's work, as well as of things 70s / 80s Ozploitation per se, though I admit that this one is pretty weird and far from being one of my Aussie favorites, mainly because it's too long (almost two hours), and at times way too dull and boring - even though there are also a handful of scenes that are nervewracking and stunningly suspenseful, thanks to Franklin's great talent in building gripping tension. The scene with the matron going to the cellar or the typewriting sequences - genius!

Also, great performances by the super-lovely Susan Penhaligon ("The Land That Time Forgot"), the super-eerie Julia Blake ("Snapshot") or the slightly amusing Robert Helpmann ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang") as quirky doctor. Contrary to other people, I wasn't intrigued by Robert Thompson as Patrick himself, mainly because I thought he looks unintentionally ridiculous.


The intense and highly Bernard-Herrmann-esque score by Brian May ("Mad Max 1+2") is terrific and Donald McAlpine's ("Predator") cinematography is a treat for the eyes. Love all the nods and references to Hitchcock's "Psycho" (hospital looks like Mrs. Bates house, eye-catching neon sign...), as well as the bizarre opening and various absurd "gimmicks" like the doctor's frog fetish, Patrick's erection or the old man who pisses himself.

Overall, an interesting but much too unspectacular film. Everything Mr. Franklin made in the 80s is better than this.

Wiki ~ Imdb

Fun Facts:
* Franklin and de Roche wrote a sequel called
"Patrick II: The Man Who Wasn't There" which sadly wasn't filmed.
* The German VHS Title "Patrick's Höllentrip" (="Patrick's Hell-Trip") was an attempt to cash in on the success of Ken Russell's "Altered States" which was called "Der Höllentrip" (="The Hell-Trip") in German-speaking countries.
Same for the sequel-remake which was called "Patrick lebt! - Der Höllentrip geht weiter" (="Patrick's alive! - The Hell-Trip goes on").




PATRICK STILL LIVES

Original Title:
Patrick vive ancora

Alternate Title:
Patrick Is Still Alive

German Title:
Patrick lebt! - Der Höllentrip geht weiter

Italy, 1980
Director: Mario Landi

6,5/10


For whatever reason, "Patrick" was so popular in Italy that filmmaker Gabriele Crisanti ("Burial Ground", "Malabimba") decided to produce another Patrick-flick. The result: "Patrick Still Lives", NOT a sequel but more of a remake... no, a gory softcore re-interpretation, written by prolific Italian exploitation screenwriter-legend Piero Regnoli ("Nightmare City", "The Vampires", "The Hills Run Red") and directed by Mario Landi ("Giallo in Venice").


In some kinda way, the Italian "Patrick" reminded me a lot of other Italian low-budget horror flicks that were released the very same year, like "Alien 2: On Earth", "Contamination" or "Anthropophagus": they're all dumb, ridiculous and flawed like crazy, but due to a certain Fuck-You-attitude, the final result turns out to be so freaking over-the-top, you just have to love it. The original "Patrick" is the better-made movie, but "Patrick Still Lives" is much more entertaining.

The direction is weak, the screenplay is an insane hodgepodge of half-assed ideas and most of the actos are either lame or unintentionally hilarious, but... well, in this case, all these flaws don't matter, because everything else is so much fun.


We get to see 4 beautiful women, all completely naked, all hot as hell [Mariangela Giordano ("The Sect"), Carmen Russo ("The Porno Killers"), Andrea Belfiore ("The Adventures of Hercules II") & Anna Veneziano], one of the sexiest non-porn masturbation scenes I've ever seen in a horror film, a super-silly catfight sequence, a Patrick that is more of an unconscious horndog than a comatose patient, lots of amusing insults ("Screaming women make me nervous." / "I usually bang women, not Whiskey bottles." / "The drugs turned you into a faggot."
- "Die alone, whore!") and some outrageously tacky-looking special effects (the floating eyeballs... ROFL).

Though, that's nothing compared to the gory and inventive kills: one guy gets boiled alive in a swimming pool, another one gets stabbed and hung on a hook, one woman gets decapitated by an electric car window, another woman gets attacked and half-eaten by German shepherds (laying dead on the ground, naked, it looks like one of the dogs eats her pussy *grins*) and - undoubtedly the best of all - one woman gets impaled on a fire poker rammed into her vagina (very graphic with blood squirting) and out of her mouth. This scene is so shocking, I'd say it's on the same brutality level as Joe D'Amato's fetus-eating or Ruggero Deodato's impaled cannibal girl. Wowsers!


Fan of subtle horror should avoid this one, but for fans of all things
Italo-exploitation, "Patrick Still Lives" is undoubtedly a must-see!


Fun Fact:
This was shot in the same mansion where zombie-classic "Burial Ground" took place. Throughout the entire film, I had the feeling I've seen the settings before. Thanks Wikipedia! ;)



PATRICK
(Remake)

Alternate Title:
Patrick: Evil Awakens

Australia, 2013
Director: Mark Hartley

6/10







The good news: the "Patrick" remake is a much better attempt in recreating oldschool Ozploitation than Jamie Blanks' underwhelming
"Long Weekend" remake.
The bad news: it's far from being as awesome as it could have been, and also doesn't live up to the over-the-topness of the Italian semi-sequel.


The 2013 version of "Patrick" is the feature debut of filmmaker Mark Hartley, an expert when it comes to shoot documentaries about the Australian AND the Philippine film industry ("Not Quite Hollywood", "Machete Maidens Unleashed"), but an amateur when it comes to reboot Australian exploitation. It's not a bad movie, but to me, it felt as meh as the original.

Screenwriter rookie Justin King created a few fantastic update on the story, added depth and complexity, made a few of the characters more interesting (doctor + daughter), focused on important stuff and eliminated everything that was unnecessary in the original. The clinic here looks a lot more creepier, legendary horror composer Pino Donaggio ("Carrie", "Don't Look Now", "Trauma") created a gripping and really stunning score, photography and editing are both top notch, and hey, you can't go wrong with a cast like that: creepily gorgeous Rachel Griffiths ("Blow"), veteran actor Charles Dance ("Alien 3"), sweetie Sharni Vinson ("You're Next") and hottie Peta Sergeant ("Crawlspace").


Unfortunately, the whole thing is packed to the brim with silly and often pretty laughable looking CGI effects that ruin a lot of the film's greatest moments (cliff, electrocution, finale etc.). There's also way too many jump scares (effective in the first half, predictable and tiring in the second half), lots of unintentionally goofy computer & smartphone shit, and the guy who 'plays' Patrick is shockingly lame. All in all, an interesting but way too unspectacular re-do of an already unspectacular film.


Fun Fact:
After the credits, two words apear on the screen: "PATRICK VIVE", probably a tribute to the Italian semi-sequel, orignally titled: "Patrick vive ancora".

/Slash Filmfestival Anime Triple Feature: THE GARDEN OF WORDS / PATEMA INVERTED / THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA

Note: In terms of Japanese Anime, I'm not an expert and I have hardly any idea about the history and cultural importance of all things Anime / Manga / Hentai / etc. It's not me who watches these fims, it's a younger version of me, a clueless and inexperienced 10-year-old Maynard, the little boy who spent all day sitting in front of the TV watching animation series after he finished his homework ;-)

THE GARDEN OF WORDS

Original Title:
Koto no ha no niwa

Japan, 2013
Director: Makoto Shinkai

9/10








"The Garden of Words", the newest film by Anime pioneer Makoto Shinkai ("Children Who Chase Lost Voices") is the very first /Slash-film that brought me to tears, not kidding (I guess I'm getting old now). Shinkai tells the bittersweet story of a young, aspiring shoemaker who falls in love with a mysterious, slightly older and uber-beautiful woman who spends Japan's rainy season (whichs lasts from June to July in Japan) sitting alone in a park, drinking beer and eating chocolate...

It's a simple but wonderfully intriguing story, told in a surprisingly enigmatic way, ending up with a super-sad revelation that made me cry like crazy. Screenplay and direction are flawless, the two main characters are very believable and extremely adorable, the pacing is pitch-perfect, thanks to an unbelievably short runtime (only about 46 minutes!), and the look of the animation... *sigh* I'm at a loss of words. Breathtaking? Mindblowing? Otherworldly? I don't know. Go see it for yourself ASAP, you will love it, I'm sure! 

Wiki ~ Imdb



PATEMA INVERTED

Original Title:
Sakasama no Patema

Japan, 2013
Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura

8/10








"Patema Inverted" is in some kinda way an Anime variation of the 2012 sci-fi drama "Upside Down", set in a dystopian world, telling the complex and fascinating story about the friendship between two youngsters who are separated by opposite gravities: a girl from a civilization that lives underground in a system of caverns and tunnels, and a boy who lives in a totalitarian regime on the outside.

An impressive concept, very well developed, entertaining and mesmerising, due to many extremely and totally unoreseeable plot twists, a lotta interesting and/or sympatethic characters and Yasuhiro Yoshiura's ("Time of Eve") energetic direction. The animation is a bit too old-fashioned, often rather underwhelming, but apart from that, "Patema Inverted" is a fantastic film, full of excellently thrilling moments and lovely humor.




THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA 

Original Title:
Kaguyahime no monogatari

German Title:
Die Legende der Prinzessin Kaguya

Japan, 2013
Director: Isao Takahata

7/10





Based on the Japanese folktale "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter",
legendary Anime director Isao Takahata ("Grave of the Fireflies") created his first film in 14 years, an epic and touching, yet slightly overlong story of a girl who was found in a stalk of bamboo and rapidly grows into a gorgeous, exquisite and highly desired princess...

I was surprised about how amusing and heartwarming that film starts out, though I was even more surprised about the sad, depressing ending which I totally didn't see coming. The hand-drawn animation is stunning, I haven't seen anything like it before, and Takahata's direction is powerful, emotional and quite stirring. Still, it's simply too long (about 140 minutes) and would have worked so much better if 20-30 minutes shorter, because several scenes are too dull, too tedious.

October 17, 2014

SIN CITY 1 + 2

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

Alternate Title:
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

USA, 2014
Directors: Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez

7/10








Holy fuck, what a disaster. "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For", the sequel to Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez' 2005 super-hit "Sin City" (see below) became one of this year's biggest box office bombs. While the original made about 160 million dollars worldwide, the sequel only grossed about 40 millions.
The reasons for this are simple: the 9-year-gap was way too long (especially considering the fact that the sequel first was announced in 2005/2006), the marketing campaing was simpy horrible (very mediocre teasers/trailers, and virtually no-one had any idea that when it was supposed to hit theaters), the fact that its release date was pushed back from October 2013 to August 2014 (everyone who was excited for it in 2013, virually forgot about it, or lost interest in it in 2014), the title sucks (why not just "Sin City 2"??) and Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez both lost large parts of their fanbase over the last nine years,

Rodriguez because his movies gradually became weaker and weaker, Miller because he's a fucking idiot.


So, with all that crap in my mind and with absolutely zero expectations, I went to the cinema, expecting it to suck like hell. To my surprise, I had one helluva time with it, loving it way, way more than I ever thought I would. Of course, "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" (stupid title) is far from being as awesome as the first part, but in terms of entertainment, violence, sexyness and stylish b&w awesomeness, it fully delivers, not just because it's one more awesome-looking and super-stylish comic-book-trip, but also because it's in marvellous high quality 3D.

In style and structure, it's very true to the original. Similar music, similar b&w cinematography, similar non-chronological way, delivering stories, incidents and events that happened before and after "Sin City", plus: many of the actors reprise their roles, which means more Mickey Rourke, more Rosario Dawson, way more Powers Boothe, mini-appearances by Bruce Willis and Jaime King, as well as a Jessica Alba who's not just as hot as in 2005, but who also manages to successfully transform her Nancy character in a tough-ass
Lisbeth-Salander-like avenging angel.


In addition, we get an incredible... INCREDIBLE performance by Eva Green, the woman who currently possesses the absolute hottest boobs in Hollywood and whose acting is similarly impressive as Scarlett Johansson, a damn terrific Josh Brolin, fun cameos by Christopher Lloyd or Stacey Keach, way more gore, way more explosions, and lots of badass one-liners
("I favored your mother, she was a whore, and not a very good one" / "Do me one last favor, lover? Stay still long enough for me to blow your brains out." / An atom bomb goes off between my legs.").

Flaws are few, but present: it's way too long, the card game segment is often too tedious, the whole thing doesn't flow as good as the first one, a couple of CGI effects look poor and having Devin Aoki replaced with Jamie Chung... blasphemy! Aside from that, I enjoyed the hell out of "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" (stupid title) and recommend it to every fan of the original,
at least to the open-minded ones ;-)




SIN CITY

Alternate Title:
Frank Miller's Sin City

USA, 2005
Directors: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez & 'Special Guest Director' Quentin Tarantino

9/10







When this came out back in 2005, it was like an explosion to my face. Never in my entire life have I ever seen anything like that. A movie that looks and feels like a comic book even though it's not animated - what the fuck? With the help of green screen, high-definition digital cameras and neo-noir black-and-white post-conversion, Robert Rodriguez and comic book creator Frank Miller turned three books of Miller's very own "Sin City" graphic novel series into an epic piece of awesomeness, telling the stories of a muscular ruffian who's searching for the person who killed the love of his life, an aging cop who tries to protect a young girl from a demented paedophile, a guy who teams up with a gang of prostitutes to fight against corrupt law enforcers, and a hitman trying to make a little cash.


"Sin City" is an outstanding movie, next to "Desperado", the absolute best and most impressive thing in Rodriguez' colorful career. It's brutal and violent, gory and shocking, but also unbelievably entertaining and witty, at times highly emotional and slightly depressing. The way it was written, directed, paced and told (in a Tarantino-esque non-chronological way) is almost perfect. There's nothing dull, nothing boring, it's thrilling and barn-storming from start to finish. Ironically, the only scene that feels a tad too long is the drive-to-the-tar-pits scene which was 'special-guest directed' by Maestro Tarantino himself.

The stark black-and-white photography is eyegasmic and the few splashes of color (yellow face, red dress, golden eye...) are gimmicky and striking at the same time. Rodriguez' editing is spot on, the noir music is excellent and fits the dark scenery pefect [composed by Rodriguez, Graeme Revell ("The Crow") and John Debney ("The Passion of the Christ")], and with a cast like that, nothing can go wrong.


Mickey Rourke delivering the best performance of his entire career as Marv, a huge and violent street brawler with a heart of gold ("She smells like angels ought to smell. The perfect woman... the Goddess."), Bruce Willis as John Hartigan, a selfless and 'stupid old' cop with a cross-shaped scar on his forehead ("An old man dies. A young woman lives. A fair trade."), Elijah Wood as mute, inhumanly fast and cannibalistic serial killer Kevin, Clive Owen as cool but highly mysterious Chucks-wearing Dwight McCarthy ("My warrior woman. My Valkyrie. You'll always be mine."), Benicio del Toro as misogynistic Detective Jackie Boy ("I have never hit a woman in my life."), the uber-hot Rosario Dawson as uber-dominatrix Gail ("We'll go to war.") and the equally uber-hot Jessica Alba as stripper Nancy Callahan ("It has always been you. All these years.").

Also very worth mentioning: the adorable Carla Gugino and her pitch-perfect-looking breasts, the supersexy brutality of Devon Aoki's character "Deadly Little Miho", cool small/smaller performances by Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Britanny Murphy, Jaime King, Rutger Hauer, or Josh Hartnett, the dinosaurs at the tar pits, every single prostitute in Old Town, the heart-shaped bed, Clive Owen jumping out of a window because fuck vulnerability, Bruce Willis' anti-strangulation maneuver because fuck death etc. etc.


"Sin City" is a fantastic movie and IMO everyone should love the hell out of it. If anyone tries to tell me that he/she doesn't like it... "Oh, sugar, you just gone and done the dumbest thing in your whole life." ;-)

Wiki ~ Imdb

PUZZLE [/Slash Filmfestival 2014]

PUZZLE

Original Title:
Pazuru

Japan, 2014
Director: Eisuke Naitô

4/10








The trailer looked amazing and everything I heard about "Puzzle" beforehand made me go very excited for it: there's a group of sunflower-mask-wearing maniacs who take over a school, kill and torture several teachers and pupils with slightly "Saw"-like death traps and other violent methods. What seems like an act of terror is actually something more complex, involving revenge, puzzle games and more.

Sounds rad, right? Unfortunately, the Eisuke-Naitô-directed ("The Crone") adaptation of Yusuke Yamada's novel of the same name ended up as crude and dissatisfactory low-budget mess that tries too hard to shock and entertain the audience without delivering some serious tension or scariness. The opening madness is ace and delivers plenty of fun with remote-controlled cars, toy torture and super-unexpected kills, but afterwards, it gets more and more dull with every single minute.


The acting is thoroughly good and the playful score is excellent, but it's all just too long and too lenghty. The non-linear narrative is rather pointless and IMO rather badly developed, making "Puzzle" just more and more confusing and ultimately pretty annoying. Also, the cheap made-for-TV look obviously doesn't help much. Not recommended.

October 15, 2014

A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE

A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE

Alternate Title:
Preston Castle

USA, 2012
Director: Martin Rosenberg

2/10








Martin Rosenberg is a visual effects artist and cinematographer who worked on an amazing amount of alltime movie classics. Looking at his Imdb profile is quite mindblowing: "Saving Private Ryan", "Avatar", "Star Wars Episode 1-3", "Mission: Impossible", "Ghostbusters II", "Willow", "The Hunt for Red October", "Back To The Future II", "Men In Black" etc. etc. - holy shit!

Now, after working in Hollywood for more than 30 years, he finally delivers his very first directorial work - and fails so goddamn hard, it's ridiculous. Very loosely based on several mysteries that surround the slightly infamous, supposedly haunted Preston School of Industry, "A Haunting at Preston Castle" follows three teenagers who enter an abandoned reform school, wander around the building for hours and hours until they all get killed by oh-so-evil ghosts. The end.


Nearly nothing about this unbelievably dull borefest is any good: there's hardly any story, the script is a lazy, lame-ass slapdash piece of rubbish, all three main character are bland, boring and forgettable, there's no atmosphere and no suspense, no thrills, no scares, no nothing. The few supposed-to-be-scary scenes are either clichéd, highly predictable or unintentionally hilarious, due to some horridly cheap-looking CGI effects.

Speaking of clichés... *sigh* we've seen it all before millions of times. Weird noises, closing doors, dark corridors, ghosts walking by in the background, people getting dragged into the darkness, yada, yada, yada. It would have been better if they'd have released it as "The Haunting in Connecticut 3: Ghosts of Preston Castle", or something similarly original.


1 point for the rather neat acting, 1 point for the effective camera work (film camera, camcorder and smartphone camera). As for the rest... ugh!
What a ghost wreck.

Imdb

Thanks a bunch to Kelly Williams (Greenleaf + Associates) for the screener!

THE WOLVES OF SAVIN HILL

THE WOLVES OF SAVIN HILL

Working Title:
Days Full Of Night

USA, 2014
Director: John Beaton Hill

7/10








What may sound like a werewolf-themed film, is actually a non-horror blend of dark crime-thriller and emotional friendship-drama, written and directed by young filmmaker John Beaton Hill who leads us to the underworld of Los Angeles and the sinister streets of Boston, telling the story of two childhood friends, Sean, a ruthless cop and Tom, a miserable alcoholic who both share a dark secret. After the strange death of Sean's wife (murder? suicide?) who is actually Tom's sister, the two friends reunite with each other, but not the way they both expected...


Hill's debut feature is an impressively made and stunningly ambitious film that tells a slightly well-trodden but very complex and quite innovative story in an unexpectedly fresh, unexpectedly intriguing manner with a very-well-developed and completely unpredictable narrative. In terms of  clever editing, it reminded me of early 90s Tarantino, but without the humor. In terms of gripping atmosphere and intense close-ups, it reminded me a lot of Adam Wingard's "A Horrible Way to Die", but without the Horror.

The colorful cast is strikingly awesome; fantastic performances by David Cooley (I'm totally jealous of his ace-looking beard), Brian Scannell ("The Alphabet Killer"), veteran actor Jack McGee ("The Fighter") and Marco Verdier as fun rasta-criminal. Even better, the really unbelievable soundtrack, consisting of amazing songs by Pink Floyd ("Fearless", "The Great Gig in the Sky"), James Brown ("The Payback") or Bob Dylan ("Tell Ol' Bill"). The movie's absolute highlight: a collage of old home video recordings, accompanied by Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" that suddenly segues into the submarine-like pings of Pink Floyd's epic "Echoes", a baffling and totally outstanding moment!


It's not without its flaws: the editing is often a bit too over-the-top, the attempt in focussing on too many characters at the same time is often a tad annoying, and IMO the movie could/should have been 10-15 minutes shorter. Nevertheless, "The Wolves of Savin Hill" is a remarkable debut and I highly recommend it to open-minded fans of all things thriller, drama and arthouse.


Thanks to October Coast PR for the Screener!

SONS OF LIBERTY

SONS OF LIBERTY

Alternate Title:
C.T.U Special Ops

USA, 2014
Director: Drew Hall

4/10








Now this was awkward - and irritating. Why? Because what looks and feels like a stand-alone film, is actually the third part in a low-budget action-franchise by director Drew Hall, following the movies "Skyhook" (2012) and "The Phoenix Rises" (2012). Without John Cellabos' informative review,
and without this interview, I would have been cluless and hopelessly confused, thanks to the fact that neither the DVD nor the movie's Imdb site offer any hints that this is actually a threequel *grrr*

"Sons of Liberty" is a poorly constructed and rather tedious action-thriller about a special operations unit that tries to prevent a group of radical mercenaries (part terrorist, part revolutionary) from creating a potentially devastating doomsday device. It's a simple story, told in an odd and unnecessary complicated way, including clichéd oh-so-tragic backstories and a completely expandable sub-plot about a brutal serial killer.


Direction and pacing are both weird, the screenplay is a mess and the story is frustratingly confusing, not just because of all the references to events and incidents that happened in the previous movies, but also because Hall and his screenwriters Jeff Etheridge & Denny Wilkins created a classic case of 'Too many cooks spoil the broth' which resulted in the fact that "Sons of Liberty" feels as if three completely different films were cobbled together in a haphazard way.

Camera work ranges from excellent to uber-shaky, and most of the acting is mediocre and/or wooden. Thank goodness, after an hour of boredom and confusion, the last half hour delivers plenty of awesome action scenes, stunningly stylish slow-motion sequences, superb-looking sets and excellent explosions. Seriously, the last half is at times so good, you wonder if someone accidentally edited scenes from some high-budget action film into this strange mess. Also, worth mentioning: a few cool tunes like "Company Man" by Rival Sons or "Kettering" by The Antlers.


Dear Mr. Hall, next time you make a movie, ignore your previous films and don't try to create any over-complicated stories. Just make something that is packed with badass action, cool characters and even cooler music. It will work so much better than this, I'm 100% sure. Thanks for your attention.

Imdb

Thanks a bunch to Kelly Williams (Greenleaf + Associates) for the screener!

October 14, 2014

IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES

IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES

USA, 1973
Director: Fred Warshovsky

7/10












I think many many of you old-school TV freaks still remember "In Search Of...", the popular Leonard-Nimoy-narrated documentary series about all kinds of mysterious phenomena, which ran on American Television between and 1977 and 1982 (6 seasons, 144 thirty-minute-episodes) - but do you also remember the 3 one-hour-long documentaries that provided the basis for "In Search Of..."?

Between 1973 and 1975, television jack-of-all-trades Alan Landsburg produced and co-created the documentaries "In Search of Ancient Astronauts" (1973), "The Outer Space Connection" (1975), and this one, "In Search of Ancient Mysteries" (1973), all based on books by Erich von Däniken, all narrated by the great Rod Serling ("The Twilight Zone").


"In Search of Ancient Mysteries" (finally out on DVD Oct 24, thanks to the fabulous Film Chest Media Group) is an entertaining and rather quick-paced documentary examining the unprovable but extremely fascinating theories about the possibility that alien species / extraterrestrials visited Planet Earth
in ancient times. 

Rod Serling's smooth voice tells us intriguing and fascinating stuff about about the Nazca Lines (possible UFO runways?), the mysteries of the Bolivia-based site Tiahuanaco, the Tower of the Winds in Athens, the massive Ollantaytambo fortress in Peru, the rust-resistant Iron Pilhar of Delhi, or Ezekiel's wheels, an UFO sighting in the bible. Serling combines hard facts with possible theories, ambitious hypotheses and all kinds of thought-provoking questions.


It may be a bit too short (only 52 minutes long) and at times a bit too quick-paced, but aside from that, I liked it. It's not as dated as I expected, and in some kinda way it's still semi-up-to-date. The melancholy music fits all the well-shot locations and objects very well, the editing is excellent, the camera work is fine + pretty great picture quality. If you're a fan of all things ancient and/or extraterrestrial, as well as 70s/80s docos, this is a must-see / must-have!

Wiki ~ Imdb

Thanks a bunch to Kelly Williams (Greenleaf + Associates) for the screener!

October 13, 2014

THESE FINAL HOURS [/Slash Filmfestival 2014]

THESE FINAL HOURS

Australia, 2013
Director: Zak Hilditch

5/10











During the hey-days of Ozploitation (1970s & 80s), many Australia filmmakers focused on creating movies about dystopian, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic futures, for example the "Mad Max" trilogy or films like "The Chain Reaction (1980)", "Dead End Drive-In (1986)" or "Hard Knuckle" (1987).
With his newest film "These Final Hours", young filmmaker Zak Hilditch tries to revive this end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it era, not in a wild and over-the-top way, but in a surprisingly calm and emotional way, set 12 hours before a 'tsunami of fire' (caused by the impact of meteors) destroys the entire world...

The movie's tone reminded me a lot of the still extremely underrated "Carriers".
There's lots of unbelievably amazingly filmed landscapes and areas in and around Perth, many great performances by cool actors like Nathan Phillips ("Wolf Creek") or Sarah Snook ("Sleeping Beauty") and a few highly thrilling scenes at the biggest, best and very last rave-party (Russian roulette, Psychotic Ecstasy-addicted bitch...).


Nevertheless, "These Final Hours" ends up as rather disappointing, due to the awkward pacing which is way too slow and way too dull, the bland screenplay, a few unnecessary and pretty pointless moments of uber-violence, boring, lackluster cardboard characters and an ending that is visually striking, but feels rushed and even a bit annoying. I suggest to watch "Carriers" instead.

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW [/Slash Filmfestival 2014]

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW

USA, 2013
Director: Randy Moore

6/10











"It is not possible that this film exists!" - oh no, it IS possible. Randy Moore's debut feature "Escape from Tomorrow" was shot at Disneyland and Disney World without permission, which makes it one of the most unique guerrilla films in history. The movie follows an average family with two kids on their last day of vacation visiting Disney World one last time before going home. During the visit, the father (who found out earlier that he was fired) slowly loses his marbles. He starts following two underage French girls, has disturbing visions, cheats on his wife, encounters strangely eerie characters and imagines being part of a huge conspirational experiment...

"Escape from Tomorrow" is unlike everything that has ever been made before in the history of cinema. A wild and surreal succession of bizarre scenes and sequences taking place in an anti-amusement park that seems to be trapped somewhere between dream and reality, all filmed in beautiful, slightly sombre black-and-white, accompanied by a kitschy 40s/50s Hollywood music. Acting is good, the CGI effects look pretty neat and Moore's direction is highly inventive.


However, even though it's full of marvellously creepy incidents and occasions, amusing oddballs and weirdos, the whole thing never figures out what it really wants to be (horror? comedy? drama? arthouse?) and ultimately ends up as slightly underwhelming movie experiment. Uncanny moments of insanity with impressive and inventive imagery alternate with tedious or repetitive scenes, at times semi-mildly amusing, at times downright boring.

Nevertheless, I just have to praise the way the movie was filmed and edited.
I mean... damn, I'd never dare to shoot a film illegally on Disney territory. "Escape from Tomorrow" might be pretty flawed, but all in all, it's still a really remarkable career start. Hope we get to see more of Moore in the near future (maybe a sequel set in Legoland? ;-)

Wiki ~ Imdb

October 12, 2014

ANNABELLE

ANNABELLE

USA, 2014
Director: John R. Leonetti

6/10











As expected, "Annabelle" is far from being as scary, impressive and amazing as last year's "The Conjuring" (in case you didn't know, it's a direct prequel to "The Conjuring"), and more of a quick cash grab on the popularity of that damn creepy doll. Nevertheless, it's a solid and decently entertaining, slightly old-fashioned horror chiller, telling the highly predictable but still pretty neat story of a young couple that gets terrorized by frightening supernatural occurencies, all seemingly caused by a weird vintage doll...

John R. Leonetti is a terrific cinematographer ("Dead Silence", "Piranha 3D", "Insidious 1+2", "The Conjuring"...), but a quite lousy director - at least, that's what his earlier directorial efforts made me think (the shoddy "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" and the super-boring "The Butterfly Effect 2"). His direction in "Annabelle" is still not exceptional or award-worthy, but definitely stronger and way more effective than in his previous efforts.


Next to a couple of scenes that seem to be ripped off of "Insidious" (couple moves house, sudden appearance of a demon's hideous face...), the movie's weakest spot is its screenplay (Gary Dauberman, "Swamp Devil") which is packed with rather generic or plain uninteresting characters, too many jump scares and lots of worn out horror tropes / horror clichés (rocking chairs, closing doors, vintage baby strollers, satan-worshipping sect, inscrutable priest...).

To my surprise, it all still worked rather well. Certain scenes like the opening or the basement/elevator-sequence are really, really suspenseful, at times even nerve-wracking, a few of the jump scares gave me nightmarish heart attacks (no matter how foreseeable these scares were), and, best of all, they fortunately didn't turn Annabelle into a Chucky-like monster. She's just sitting there, smiling, staring, looking like a freak...


Also worth mentioning: sublime camera work by James Kniest ("Maron"), neat music by regular James Wan collaborator Joseph Bishara, and nice performances by Annabelle Wallis and Alfre Woodard. Overall, "Annabelle" is nothing special or remarkable, but worth a look if you like creepy old-fashioned doll horror.

Wiki ~ Imdb

October 10, 2014

BLOOD WAS EVERYWHERE

BLOOD WAS EVERYWHERE

USA, 2011/2014
Director: Jason Torrey

8/10











"Blood Was Everywhere" is the second full feature by director / writer Jason Torrey, and contrary to my low expectations (because of the bland cover and the somewhat generic title), it's far from being a cheap or dumb gorefest, it's actually one of the most interesting, most unusual slasher variations of the last years, following a few average people in a small Massachusetts town who all suddenly get stalked and threatened by an anonymous, merciless,
non-mask-wearing killer...


This films seemingly came out of nowhere and somehow managed to knock me off my socks completely. It's actually so good, I wonder why I haven't heard of it earlier. Imagine a dark blend of suspenseful old-school slashers like "Halloween" or "Final Exam", combined with the gripping brightness of Simon Rumley's
"Red White Blue"
...

a mysterious killer without identity in an area where average people struggle with everyday life... it's an intriguing scenario, not that original, but developed in an immensely interesting and extremely fascinating way, taking place over the span of two days, starting with Day 2, going back to Day 1, returning to Day 2.

The slightly "Final Exam"-like killer is an excellently vicious motherfucker and his straight-forward attitude is highly refreshing, especially compared to all the recent and super-lame we-try-so-fucking-hard-to-create-a-new-franchise-maniacs. Nearly all of the kills are gorgeously gory, and look/feel very realistic. Torrey's flawless direction in combination with the Haneke-like sparse use of music and the effective editing by Nolan Ball, it all gives the movie a mesmerisingly sinister and really uneasy tone, oh, and nearly all of the actors deliver splendid performances, most notably the great Larry Holden R.I.P ("Memento", "Insomnia", "Batman Begins"...), Ashley Arnold and Phillip Ristaino.


Aside from the rather meh title (the title from that ol' Korn tune "Dead Bodies Everywhere" somehow fits better), "Blood Was Everywhere" is an absolutely terrific flick. In terms of "unexpectedly surprising", this movie rocked my world as much as last year's similarly underestimated "7th Day". Yeah!

Imdb

Thanks to Simply Legendary Publicity for the screener!

October 9, 2014

IT FOLLOWS [/Slash Filmfestival 2014]

IT FOLLOWS

USA, 2014
Director: David Robert Mitchell

9,5/10












At this year's /Slash Filmfestival, there were only two movies that scared me half to death: one was "The Babadook", the other one was "It Follows", the second feature of director / writer David Robert Mitchell ("The Myth of the American Sleepover"), a powerful, immensely uncanny and highly original horror-chiller about an evil, violent and seemingly unkillable entity that haunts, stalks and follows its victims until it gets them.

The entity spreads itself from one person to another via sexual encounters, means if you're haunted by it, you can only get rid of it by having sex with another person and passing the entity on to him/her. Okay, you actually can't get rid of it, because once you've haunted by it, you will still be able to see it following others. How does it look? Um, it looks different everytime it appears. It can look like someone you know, or like some random stranger, at times normal, at times disfigured, but it will always appear in human form...


"It Follows" is a true miracle of a horror film, fantastically written and directed, stunningly developed and scary as hell. Dayum, I get goosebumps just thinking about several scenes where it walks towards its victims, slowly coming nearer and nearer. The eerie old woman in the nightdress, the tall guy who enters one girl's bedroom at night, or the weird woman at the beach... brrr!!

Mitchell makes striking use of seemingly unscary Suburban schools and neighborhoods, as well as of abandoned, rundown areas in and around Detroit, all fabulously filmed by Mike Gioulakis ("John Dies At The End") who seemed to be massively influenced by Dean Cundey's work for "Halloween". The cast is thoroughly good, especially the performances by Maika Monroe and Jake Weary, the special effects are all great, and the music... the music...
THE UNBELIEVABLE MUSIC. Holy stalker, that was the absolute best film score I heard all year. Several people at the festival had massive problems with the 80s-infested synth score by Rich Vreeland (a.k.a Disasterpiece), declaring that it took them out of the movie - while others (like me) praised it, and completely fell in love with it. Imagine the score of "Drive", only ten times better. Yes, it's that good (at least, that's what I thought).

Did I mention the spooky opening? The poetic ending? The striking scene at the public pool? The fact that several scenes frightened me so hard, I ended up as sweating and slightly shivering wreck? Oh, "It Follows", what an amazing movie you are. Can't hardly wait to see you again. I'd follow you whereever you go...

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