August 21, 2014

MINE GAMES

MINE GAMES

Alternate Title:
The Evil Within

USA, 2012
Director: Richard Gray

9/10








Just when you think that no one dares to make bold, unusual and/or baffling mainstream-anti-mainstream genre films anymore, a gem like that comes out of left field and completely proves me wrong - and quite rightly, I must say.

"Mine Games" (puntastic title!), the second feature film of Australian filmmaker Richard Gray is an intriguing, mesmerising and mind-boggling mystery-chiller about time loops and time paradoxes, following a group of friends traveling to a cabin in the woods. Shortly after arriving, they discover an abanonded mine nearby and decide to explore it. What they find down in the dark tunnels is clearly not what they expected, and before they realize the vast extent of their discovery and what impact it has on their own lifes, things start to change in indescribable ways and become life-threatening for all of them...


It's hard not to give away any spoilers, but try to imagine Christopher Smith's "Triangle" combined with the highly underrated "YellowBrickRoad", add some "El Ciclo" and some "C is for Cycle", and you probably get the idea what kind of film this is. There might be a few plot holes and several illogical plot points, but the movie as a whole is so well-crafted and well-developed, I was shocked about how excellently it played with worn out horror clichés and my expectations, as well as being entertaining AND mind-fucking at the same time.

At first, all the teenagers seem to be either unsympathetic or at least completely clichéd. However, over time, they themselves (or at least their behavior) changes radically, and you realize that the director and the screenwriters (Michele Davis-Gray, Robert Cross & Ross McQueen) successfully tricked you, because what looks at first as your average unoriginal teen-slasher, slowly transforms into a different beast and draws you into a microcosm that is somehow connected to the Ouroboros and the Aurora Borealis - I'm not shitting you!


The movie starts out slow, but slowly progresses to become more and more tense, especially after we entered the mine for the very first time. The last half hour is at times so suspenseful and so stunningly paced, I was really out of my mind, repeatedly asking myself "What the fuck is this??" Director Gray did an amazing job by creating a slightly sophisticated little low-budget headscratcher that is unlike everything I've seen over the last few years. Kudos to the subtle, but intense and eerie score by Alies Sluiter ("Summer Coda"), the gorgeous cinematography by Greg De Marigny, lots of uncanny-looking underground locations, and a colorful cast, consisting of rookies and up-and-comers like Briana Evigan ("S. Darko"), Rebecca Da Costa ("7 Below"), Julianna Guill ("Altitude"), Joseph Cross ("Lincoln"), Rafi Gavron ("Snitch"), Ethan Peck ("Nothing Left To Fear") or Alex Meraz ("The Twilight Saga")

I'm aware of the fact that "Mine Games" isn't exactly for everyone. Gore-hounds will be frustrated because the marketing makes it look like a slasher movie, fans of straight mainstream horror will probably find it too confusing
but if you're open-minded, if you're tired of the same old supernatural- and/or exorcism-related films, and/or dig a couple of the films I mentioned at the beginning, then you just have to check out "Mine Games". You might love it as much as I did.


Wiki ~ Imdb

I admit: the original "Mine Games" artwork (see above) is a tad awkward, though it's far more interesting than some of the other artworks. The first one looks like "Reeker" entering the "Cabin in the Woods". The second one could be a new "The Descent" flick. The third one amusingly reminds me of the old "Rawhead Rex" VHS covers, and the fourth one is just stupid.

(Fun Fact: in America, "Mine Games" was supposed to get released under the title "The Evil Within". "Title-change press releases" already made their rounds when suddenly the publishing company decided to change it back to "Mine Games"! Good move :)


Thanks to Clint (October Coast PR) for the screener!

August 20, 2014

Interview with director JORDAN BARKER ("Torment", "The Marsh")

Got the chance to do a little interview with Jordan Barker, director of this year's home invasion highlight "Torment" (Review here), as well as the Forest Whitaker-helmed ghost chiller "The Marsh" (Review here). Have fun reading!

--How did you come to direct "Torment"? Have you been involved in the creation of the script?
We received "Torment" through a submission by Michael Foster's agent. We were just going into pre-production on our first film under the Gearshift Films banner, "Home Sweet Home", French Director David Morley's follow up film to "Mutants". I was looking for something to direct and "Torment" struck me right away with its unique iconography. The look and feel of "the family" was right there from the first draft.

--How did the casting go? Did you get the actors that you wanted?
We were very fortunate to have investors and partners who didn't pressure us to cast the film a certain way. That meant that we could really take our time and find just the right actors for each and every part.

--How was it working together with "troupers" like Katharine Isabelle & Stephen McHattie, and youngsters like Peter DaCunha & Amy Forsyth?
I expect that anyone working on one of my films bring their A-game and certainly was not disappointed with Katie. She is on the top of her game and was right there with me in the trenches. McHattie was a treat to work with even though he was only with us for a few days. Peter's resume is longer than most people twice his age and it shows on screen and discovering someone like Amy Forsyth will continue to be one of the best parts of my job. She is someone to keep an eye on in the future as I know she is headed for great things.

--To me, "Torment" looks and feels like some kinda Home-Invasion Best Of - and I mean that as a compliment :-) What were your main inspirations, influences etc.?

Well thank you very much! I don't think we were cognizant of really trying to pack the movie full of home invasion tropes. I hadn't really followed or been watching a lot of "home invasion" films even. For me, everything comes back to story and atmosphere. I like that some people say they see some John Carpenter influence in my work as I grew up on horror from the late 70's and early 80's.

--The ending of "Torment" suggests that there could be a sequel in the future. Would you be interested in continuing the story of that sadistic family?
In life our family stories are serialized. Today we are getting married, tomorrow it's divorce, a bar mitzvah, a funeral.  I thought it would be need to structure the film this way, to tease at what is next. I think there are plenty of stories to tell, but we will have to wait and see ;)

--I got to see a Filmax-produced screener of "Torment". Is this the final cut, or will there be an alternate version of "Torment"? What about alternate / deleted scenes?
I'm actually not sure what the Filmax screener was but I know the film has now been released in many territories and it contains the final cut. Their is a really cool behind the scenes featurette on the DVD.

--Who came up with the title "Torment"? I think it doesn't fit the movie very well.
The script was titled "Torment" when I picked it up and it kind of stuck. I thought it was a good fit for the journey that our characters were on. Curious to hear some alternatives if you have any.

["Torment" sounds like torture-porn, at least to me. How about something more subtle, like "Family Values" or "Intrusion"?]

--How much has changed for you since "The Marsh (2006)" (which I think is your best-known
and most successful film so far)?
"The Marsh" was such a huge experience for a young filmmaker. Here I was, just having released a teeny tiny micro budget film and giving direction to Forest Whitaker. Of course, he hadn't quite won his oscar yet, but that was right after our film. I'm working on my own voice as a director and being more involved in the writing of my films.

--Most of your films were shot in Canada, except your last film "Duress (2009)" which was shot in America. How was it shooting a film in America compared to shooting in Canada?
A company bought the rights to "Duress" and then went bankrupt, so there was nothing we could do but watch as it collected dust on a shelf year after year. Shooting in LA was actually tough for us in that people aren't as film friendly as you'd imagine. I suppose too many people are aware of why you should never rent your house out to a film shoot etc. There is a lot of red tape, and for the most part, I understand why, but as budgets get tighter, filmmakers need to be more creative and receive help wherever they can. This is not an excuse to be unprofessional and we, as an industry, have to make sure we are even more responsible.

--Are you a horror buff? What are your alltime horror favorites?
I was watching Horror way before I should have been. I snuck a copy of "Poltergeist" into the VCR at my Grade 3 birthday party.

"The Exorcist", "Halloween", "Poltergeist", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
& "A Nightmare on Elm Street".

--Any plans for the future?
I have a really cool sci-fi project that is about to get dusted off and loved into production.

Thank you, Jordan!


THE MARSH

THE MARSH

German Title:
The Marsh - Der Sumpf

USA, 2006
Director: Jordan Barker

7/10








Far from being original or unique, but actually much better than its overall reception: "The Marsh", the second feature of director / actor Jordan Barker ("Torment"), an old-fashioned but very well developed ghost story that feels a bit like a mix of "The Shining", "The Ring", "Stir of Echoes" and "Poltergeist", telling the story of a nightmare-plagued children's writer who decides to spend some time at the Rose Marsh Farm, an old farmhouse beside a creepy marsh, which is somehow linked to her nightmares...


We've basically seen it all hundreds of times before: a stressed-out writer, a mysterious ghost girl, an old house full of dark secrets, a helpful paranormal investigator, eerie dream sequences, etc. Yet, thanks to Barker's very solid direction, the whole thing works surprisingly good because it's told in an entertaining and wonderfully old-school way, it delivers a few interesting and rather unforeseeable plot twists, and it's packed with excellent jump scares that almost made me fall off my chair.

Several scenes are a bit too dull and/or too long and there are a few plot flaws regarding the writer's childhood that confused me, but that's all bearable and far from being annoying. The cast is splendid, great performances by the lovely Gabrielle Anwar, the excellent-as-always Forest Whitaker, Brooke Johnson and Louis Ferreira. Love all the brilliantly haunting images (scarecrow, various eerie drawings, the Rose door), the few cool kills (death by farming tools, frozen to death, bogged down in marsh), the moody score (Eric Cadesky & Nick Dyer, "Heartstopper") and the excellent-looking photography.


If you don't mind PG-13 horror and/or non-groundbreaking ghost stories,
"The Marsh" is very worth checking out. I recommend to go see it as a double feature together with "Case 39" or "The Haunting in Connecticut", or something

in that vein.

TORMENT (2013)

TORMENT

Canada, 2013
Director: Jordan Barker

7/10











To all the people who still wait for "The Strangers 2" (stuck in development limbo since 2009): wait no longer and go watch "Torment", which is probably the closest to a "Strangers" sequel you will ever get, at least in tone and execution - and I mean that as a compliment! What may sound like some run-of-the-mill torture-fest (dumb title), is actually a tense and refreshingly down-to-earth home-invasion horror-thriller following a young ill-fated family who falls prey to a sadistic, cult-like family in their secluded county home.


It's not exactly original and feels more like a Home-Invasion Best-Of: frightening intruders ("The Strangers") wearing animal masks ("You're Next"), some family infiltrating ("In Their Skin"), some plasticbag torture ("Kidnapped"), characters trying to hide / seek for help in the neighbor's house ("Funny Games", "You're Next") or the surrounding woodland ("Them") etc. etc.
But you know what? It works much better than expected, thanks to Jordan Barker's ("The Marsh") powerful direction and his splendid feeling for nerve-wracking suspense, as well as to the sublime screenplay which is full of interesting characters, unexpected twists and turns, and plays excellently with worn out genre tropes / clichés.

It's not without flaws. Several character decisions are rather incomprehensible and oh my goodness, how I hated that little boy. Not a bad actor, but his character is so unbelievably unlikable. Aside from that, there's nothing to complain. The supersweet Katharine Isabelle ("Ginger Snaps 1-3") gives a strong and believable performance as semi-survivor-girl, Robin Dunne ("Species III") reminded me a lot of Thomas Jane in "The Mist", and it's always nice to see Canadian veteran genre-actor Stephen McHattie ("Pontypool").


The ending might not work for everyone. We get to see one helluva final plot twist that is so brilliantly unforeseeable, it's almost absurd. Nevertheless, as ridiculous as it may be, I loved it.
Overall: a terrific little tension-fest, highly recommended to home-invasion fans and (especially!) to everyone who didn't like "You're Next".


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

P.S. Dear Filmax team, next time you produce a screener, make sure it doesn't look like a shitty bootleg. I needed ages adjusting the VLC settings to make "Torment" watchable. Yours truly, Maynard.

August 18, 2014

PHOBIA (2013)

PHOBIA

Alternate Title:
Alone

USA, 2013
Director: Rory Abel

7/10








Gee, look at the poster - awesome, isn't it? Pity it has nearly nothing to do with the actual movie. Oh, fuck marketing. "Phobia" is the feature debut of Rory Abel (friend and filmmaking colleague of "Gut"-director Elias), following a young man who suffers from Agoraphobia since his wife died in a car crash. After being trapped in his own home for more than a year, the situation slowly seems to get better - but then suddenly, he gets plagued by terrifying visions of murderous intruders and shadowy figures...


There aren't that many Agoraphobia-related movies out there. The only one I've seen was the 1992 made-for-TV thriller "The Fear Inside" (anyone remembers that?) which wasn't that good. "Phobia" is fortunately much, much better, not just in terms of tension or creepiness, but also in the way how it portrays and deals with this horrifying anxiety disorder, thanks to an absolutely incredible performance by Michael Jefferson whose intense and believable acting simply blew me away. When his character's frightened, I got frightened too. Impressive as hell!

There's also some fabulous-as-always acting by curly hottie Sarah Schoofs (since "Gut" one of my favorite indie actresses), plus more neat performances by Andrew Ruth and Peter Gregus. The movie's only weak point is Emma Dubery, not a bad actress, but her character is highly unsympathetic and in some kinda way not believable at all. Dubery was definitely the wrong choice for this role. Also, the booze & weed scene is a bit too dull, too lenghty.


Aside from that, "Phobia" is a well-paced and very well directed film, the story is fascinating, Abel & Matthew Barnes' screenplay is terrific, and even though the ending is a tad weird, I simply loved it. Kudos to the eerie and effective score by John Avarese ("Camp Dread"), the gorgeous photography by Mike Aransky and to everyone responsible for the awesome-looking gore and the creepy design of the shadowy figure, as well as to badass scenes like the one with the "human spider" or the "Evil Schoofs" kitchen attack.

If you get a kick out of indie stuff like "Gut", "Sader Ridge (a.k.a The Invoking)" or "Of Silence", you surely will love "Phobia" too. I promise.

Imdb 

Thanks to director Rory Abel for the screener! Oh btw. next time 
more Schoofs please :-)

August 17, 2014

DATING A ZOMBIE

DATING A ZOMBIE

USA, 2012
Director: Jack Abele

-










(Not a review, more of a rant. Basically a write-up about how I reacted to this "movie". Others may see this movie in a different, more light-hearted way.)

"Hey, 'Dating a Zombie'! That sounds like an enjoyable rom-zom-com. This could be fun!" - that was what I first thought when New-York-based sales agent Striped Entertainment offered me this film to review. Little did I know that this is actually the unfunniest, most aggravating, most repulsive film I've ever seen. More repulsive and annoying than "Skeleton Key 2", and even unfunnier than utter rubbish like "Zombies of Mass Destruction" or "Acid Head".

Nothing has ever made me as uncomfortable as this 80-minute-long piece of low-budget zombie turd. Hell, I couldn't even finish watching it. After minute 70, I turned it off (explanation: see below) and immediately phoned a friend of mine (Hi Lena!) to talk about this uncomfortable experience.
The last movie I couldn't finish was "The Tiger and the Snow" in 2005, and that was "just" because I couldn't stand Roberto Benigni's endless gibberish any longer.


"Dating a Zombie" was written, directed and produced by Jack Abele, who's also the movie's main actor, playing an obnoxious idiot who runs a Zombie termination service in a world that slowly gets run over by Zombies - but he's not doing it for the sake of humanity (like the sympathetic guy in "Juan of the Dead" did), no, he's just doing it because he's a pig-headed sex addict who loves to fuck female zombies. When he's "done, he hacks them up and sells the meat".

To fully understand what a disgusting character he is, check some of the stuff
he's saying:
~ "Zombies make the best girlfriends. They never talk back, they never say no to sex, they dont nag and they're very happy with the way you are."
 ~ "Real people don't come to zombie town anymore. I have to use what is available. Zombies!"
~ "Who needs love when there's sex? Zombie ladies are the best."
~ "If I go more than a week without sex, I go nuts."
~ "I don't poke anyone over 25."
~ "Sex is sex. I explode. I smile."


He's talking about sex all the fucking time. No wonder none of the living people want to go to bed with him. Do you wanna have sex with me? Why don't you wanna have sex with me? Oh please, have sex with me! Fuck love, I only want sex. Blah. Blah. Fucking Blah. It goes on and on and on. He constantly talks rude about women, whether they're alive or dead ("Don't start with that feminist crap with me!"). His 'best friend' and co-worker is a girl named "Doofus". He constantly makes fun of her because she prefers love over sex. Oh, and he's a bit homopobic too ("I once saw 2 of them at it sexually at the farm. Yeah, 2 guys! It was kinda gross watching them, but, you know, I guess even gay people need some action in zombie town.").

Mr. Abele thinks he's funny, but I guess he's the only one who thinks so. Lame Dad jokes, horrible dick jokes, super-stupid teenage humor etc. etc. It's so unfunny, you wanna kill yourself
~~ "Beautiful day, isn't it?" - "We just lost our father."
- "Oh, I hope you find him."
BAH DUM TSS

~~ "Gimme the X 2 5 8 4 1 8 9 1." - "What?"
- "Just gimme the big fucking gun."
BAH DUM TSS

~~ "Suppose I fix you up with Leo?" - "Isn't that the one with one leg?"
- "It's the middle leg that counts"
BAH DUM TSS

Ha. Ha. Fucking Ha.



Yet, the absolute worst thing about the movie... the one thing that pissed me off SOOO goddamn much, is the scene where Mr. Abele kills a whole bunch of zombies on a skating ground. He's running around, shooting every single zombie, undead women, undead men, undead children, and he's hooting and cheering and laughing like crazy. So far, so "good", but... but... *grrrr* only a few of the zombies get labeled by little pop-ups, so that we get to know who they are: there's a "feminist gold digger", an "IRS agent", a "child molester", a "future democrat", a "computer hacker" and a couple of "welfare cheats".

The "child molester" is debatable, but the "future democrat", the "feminist gold digger"... what the fuck? What is that supposed to be? A message from Abele, so that we get to know that he's a woman-hating Republican? Or, even worse, a Tea Party member? I'm really sorry for being a woman-loving leftist. Did I mention that I once had to live off welfare?
If you think I exaggerate, then please explain why there are only 6 labels? As I mentioned, Abele shoots everyone, no matter if male or female, but we only get to see six labels... six labels that tell me almost everything I need to know about Mr. Abele, especially when I look at the rest of the film.
(Did I mention that he shoots undead children AND undead child molesters?

The fuck?)


After that overlong scene which was just painful to watch - not just because of the insults, but also because of some horrendously awful-looking CGI gore - we get to see Abele's character going into a bar, asking "Does anybody good-looking come ever in here? I'm talking ladies!" A pretty fine-looking barmaid answers "Hardly.", to which Abele replies "I'm ready to puke."
That's where I drew the line and turned off, even though there were only about 10 minutes left. Enough is enough.


"Dating a Zombie" is an unwatchable piece of garbage, made by a questionable "filmmaker" with a few very questionable views and opinions. It's as if Abele used this zom-com as an outlet for his anger, hate, rage against women,
democrats, gays etc.
Yes, I know about edgy humor. Yes, I know about freedom of speech.
Edgy humor my ass. Freedom of speech my ass. This movie grossed me out.


Imdb

August 16, 2014

STAGE FRIGHT (1950)

STAGE FRIGHT

German Title:
Die rote Lola

UK, 1950
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

8/10








"Stage Fright" (not to be confused with several other films of the same name) is a slighty overlooked, slightly underrated thriller by maestro Alfred Hitchcock. It's obviously not as groundbreaking and mindblowing and most other Hitch-flicks from the 1950s, but it's nonetheless highly entertaining, and chilling.

Hitch's wife Alma Reville and screen writer Whitfield Cook ("Strangers on a Train") turned British author Selwyn Jepson's novel "Man Running" into a delightful and wonderfully unpredictable script, that Hitch eventually converted into a suspenseful and clever little murder mystery about a struggling actress helping a friend proving his innocence when he's accused of murder.


The film gained some controversy because of a "lying flashback" at the beginning of the film. Yes, Hitch was one the very first movie directors who "lied" to the audience by showing them a flashback that actually wasn't true. Cinemagoers back then were furious and felt cheated - but actually, that's exactly why "Stage Fright" is such a good film! The plot twist at the end (when the whole truth gets revealed) is simply marvellous.

The eclectic cast is just excellent: Jane Wyman (better known as the grumpy Angela in "Falcon Crest") as lovely heroine Eve, the great Alastair Sim ("Scrooge") as Eve's hilariously funny father, the fantastic Marlene Dietrich as charming diva wearing Dior and singing "The Laziest Gal in Town", and Michael Wilding ("Under Capricorn") as sympathetic detective.


Wilkie Cooper's ("7th Voyage of Sinbad") slow and intriguing cinematography is terrific, score and editing are both extremely effective, and you can't go wrong with dialogue like "I once had a cousin who had an ulcer and an extremely funny face, both at the same time. Everybody laughed at him when he was telling his symptoms. His name was Jim." - "That must have been terrible!" - "Oh, I don't know. Jim is a quite common name."

"Stage Fright" is a superb little gem that certainly deserves more love.

Wiki ~ Imdb

Oh btw: in Germany, it was called "Die rote Lola" = "The Red Lola" to cash in on the success and popularity of "The Blue Angel" (1930) where Marlene Dietrich played a character called 'Lola'...

August 15, 2014

IT WAITS

IT WAITS

German Title:
Es lauert

USA, 2005
Director: Steven R. Monroe

5/10








As a massive, massive fan of Steven R. Monroe's two "I Spit on Your Grave" films, it was definitely high time to go see something else from Mr. Monroe. I decided to check out one of his very first films, the 2005 direct-to-DVD monster-fest "It Waits" which was originally developed as a
Dolph-Lundgren-starring vehicle.


It's a watchable little creature feature, no more and no less. Imagine a classic 80s low-budget horror film like "The Prey" or "The Final Terror", replace the dumb teens with mildly intelligent mid-twens, replace the killer with a mythical Native American monster that looks like a blend of the "Creeper" and "Syngenor",
and you get the idea.

The story is good [female forest ranger vs. monster + love story + tragic backstory] and Monroe's direction isn't too bad, but the pacing is very mediocre and the script is quite meh, at least the original script by Richard Christian Matheson ("Sole Survivor") and Thomas E. Szolossi ("Snow White: A Tale of Terror"). Fortunately, Stephen J. Cannell ("The Tooth Fairy") later got the chance to rewrite it, changing the lead male to a tough woman and adding some
neat lovey-dovey stuff.


The first half is often pretty tedious and dull, while the second half is mostly quite tense and action-packed. The side characters are awfully unsympathetic, the music didn't impress me much and the 3 country ballads by Melanie Monroe are just annoying. Gladly, the camera work is pretty fine, the monster design looks nice and there's lots of pretty cool gore. Also, great performance by
"Cabin Fever"-hottie Cerina Vincent.


Overall, a decent watch. Just don't expect any rape'n'revenge violence ;-)

DEVIL'S DUE

DEVIL'S DUE

German Title:
Devil's Due - Teufelsbrut

USA, 2014
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

2/10








When I first saw the trailer for this, I thought: "Damn, this looks even worse than 'The Devil Inside'!" Now that I've seen it: yup, it IS worse than "The Devil Inside"... way worse.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (what a name) and Tyler Gillet, two parts of "Radio Silence", the quartet who directed "10/31/98", the final and best segment in "V/H/S", created one of the absolute worst theatrical found-footage films that I've seen so far. Imagine a horrid low-budget mix of "Rosemary's Baby", "The Omen" and maybe "Nine Months", packed with unimaginably huge amounts of trite and worn out found-footage clichés and some of the stupidest character decisions in history.


Jump scare here. Jump scare there. Jump scares everywhere - and none of them were able to scare me. Flickering images, shaky handheld camera, security footage. People standing in dark corners, looking eerie. People standing outside the house, watching. Weird rituals, unholy symbols, devil worshipping. Priests suddenly acting weird, dogs suddenly acting weird, everyone suddenly seem to act weird. Yada, yada, fucking yada. We've seen it all before thousands of times, and of course, everytime we've seen it before, it was thousands of times better than here in "Devil's Due".

The direction is dull and uninspired, there's hardly anything remotely thrilling or suspenseful, nearly every single scene is predictable as fuck, and although the acting is pretty solid, the characters are all douchebags, especially the idiotic husband who's sooo addicted to filming abso-fucking-lutely everything... hell, even Micah would hate this guy. Also, seeing a newlywed and seemingly intelligent couple having no problem with entering an obscure basement party in a dangerous slum on the last day of their honeymoon trip - oh, fuck it.


More crap: the scene where the pregnant woman suddenly starts to eat raw lamb flesh in the supermarket (super-boring), the child kicking and moving in an abnormal way (bad CGI), a priest nearly dying during communion (lame and foreseeable),plus: certain parts of the climax felt like they were simply ripped of "V/H/S", and not in a good, but in a lazy and unimaginative way.

Aside from a handful neat moments in the first and in the last half, "Devil's Due" sucks big time. Looking at all the somewhat similar devil/exorcism box office bombs that came out afterwards... well, looks as if "Devil's Due" destroyed people's interest in "satanic-themed cinema". Well done...

Wiki ~ Imdb

August 13, 2014

THE HONEYTRAP

THE HONEYTRAP

UK, 2002
Director: Michael G. Gunther

8/10











It seems as if certain films just aren't supposed to be released, or so. "The Honeytrap", the feature debut of director / writer / producer Michael G. Gunther, was shot sometime around 2000 or 2001, made its festival rounds between 2002 and 2003, but wasn't released to DVD until 2007 due to being stuck with the wrong sales rep for way too long - not forgetting to mention that when it finally was released, no-one noticed. A shame, because this is actually a pretty cool movie.


"The Honeytrap" tells the story of Catherine, a young woman who assumes that her future husband Jonathan cheats on her. Based on her best friend Renée's advice, she hires a private detective who "tests" Jonathan by setting up a trap. The results are devastating for all of them - except for Renée who hides
a deep, dark secret...


Starts out as strange but intriguing relationship drama about suspicions, allegations and jealousy, but unforeseeably ends up as tense and mind-bending psycho chiller, somewhere between "Fatal Attraction" and "High Tension". Ok, that sounds way more brutal than it actually is, but... well, you'll understand when you see it. The plot twist may be a bit obvious, but I totally didn't see it coming, and compared to other films who end in a slightly similar but often rather implausible way, it was very well crafted and developed.


The entire movie looks simply gorgeous, thanks to the use of many beautiful London settings as well, as to Catherine and Jonathan's damn cool apartment, all fabulously filmed and accompanied by a fascinating soundtrack,
consisting of impressive chorals and other rather creepy stuff (Dominik Scherrer, "Ripper Street").


Best of all: the marvellous cast. There's the wonderful Emily Lloyd (where is she now?), the impressively hot Valerie Edmond (marry me!), Stuart McQuarrie (better known as Sergeant Farrell in "28 Days Later"), Anthony Green (you may remember him from... um, "Anaconda III"...), and the super-sweet Natalie Walter.


If you haven't seen "The Honeytrap" yet - well, I'm sure you haven't seen it
yet - now's the time. Better late than never :)


Imdb 

Thanks to director Michael G. Gunther, as well as to Vikas Bandhu (Striped Entertainment) for the screener!

August 12, 2014

ONE HOUR PHOTO (2002) - R.I.P ROBIN WILLIAMS

ONE HOUR PHOTO

Alternate German Title:
One Hour Photo - Ich beobachte dich

USA, 2002
Director: Mark Romanek

11/10








Oh man, it's so weird. Just a couple of days, I thought to myself "Damn, I really need to re-watch One Hour Photo sometime soon.", because I usually watch it 2-3 times a year, but this year so far, I haven't found the proper time to give it another go - and now Robin Williams is dead which forced me to skip all screeners, to skip all retro reviews and immediately dive into this movie once again... no, it's not a movie... it's a masterpiece of epic proportions, and one of only about 15-20 films ("The Shining", "Stand By Me", "2001"...), that get an 11/10, the highest possible rating on the Maynardian rating scale.


It's hard for me to explain to you why I'm so much in love with this film. Aside from the fact that it's pitch-perfect in every film-making aspect, it's also a movie that accompanied me during years when I felt almost as depressed and lonely as Sy, the main character of "One Hour Photo". The time between 2004 and 2006 when I worked in a shop that specialized on all kinds of electronics, optics and... yes, on photography. Imagine me, living alone, being depressed, having slight alcohol problems, often having to deal with a father who has/had massive alcohol problems and bipolar disorder, hating my job, hating my job, hating my job... now, imagine me, "stumbling" over this film, "meeting" Sy, the photo guy, a lonely guy with depressions and a broken home... do I need to say more?

"One Hour Photo" and Sy were my constant companions during some of my life's tougher times. I watched this movie on a regular basis once or twice a week over a long time, simply because it felt good that there's someone who seem to feel similar shitty, even though its a fictional character and even though this character is a little more fucked up than me. It may all sound a bit weird, but I hope you get a glimpse of why I love... no, adore this movie so much.


Now, back to the movie: "One Hour Photo" tells the story of Seymour "Sy" Parrish, an employee of a one-hour photo lab in a huge department store called "SavMart". He leads a solitary life, joyless and depressing. He lives alone in a bleak-looking apartment. He has no wife, no girlfriend, no friends. Just a hamster. And... the Yorkin family: Nina Yorkin, her husband Will and her son Jake. They're not just his favorite customers, they're actually the one and only thing his life revolves around. He's completely obsessed with the Yorkins, making copies of all their photos and putting them all onto a huge wall in his apartment. Hundreds of photos, maybe even more. All day long, he's fantasizing about being a member of the Yorkin family and over time, he even tries to get closer and closer to the family - until one day when he accidentally discovers that Will is having an affair with another woman. Sy is devastated, his dream is shattered. He gets angry. He knows what to do. He wants to make Will pay for what he did to his - and Sy's - family...

Who would have thought that a music video director is able to make such an unbelievably amazing movie? Director / writer Mark Romanek, the man behind Michael Jackson's "Scream", Johnny Cash's "Hurt" and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer", managed to create a fascinating character study of loneliness, insecurity and helplessness. The psychogram of a social misfit who thinks he knows what he's doing although he actually has no idea at all, because he never had a life, just a job, a bunch of daydreams and countless emotional scars.


Romanek's powerful and intriguing direction, his eye for vivid, vibrant and mesmerising colours, his eye for contrast, light and shadow... incredible, sheer incredible. Sure, I obviously have to give kudos to cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth ("Fight Club") too, though it's clearly the magic eye of Romanek that makes this movie look so fantastic. The warm-colored home of the Yorkins, the cold-looking home of Sy, the sterile design of the SavMart, fantastic close-ups of the insides of a photo-developing machine... I have never seen anything like it, and I doubt I ever will.
Also, indescribably gripping suspense and nerve-wracking tension, especially during the scenes where Sy "enters" the home of the Yorkins, or the whole frigging finale in the hotel.

Robin Williams... holy hell, this is the finest and most impressive performances he has ever done. Forget about "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Good Morning, Vietnam", "Dead Poet's Society", "Hook" or "The Fisher King" - this is beyond everything Williams has ever done. He did a few other darker roles in "Insomnia", "Night Listener" or "Final Cut", but none of these roles is as outstanding and flawless as this one: Sy, the photo guy with the weird-looking blonde hair, who always rights his glasses when he becomes insecure or angry. Who always looks sad, even whe he smiles. Who buys an old black-and-white photo of a random woman at a flea market and pretends it's a photo of his own mother.
Roger Ebert nailed it when he described Sy as a person that "was born with parts missing, and has assembled the remainder into a person who has borrowed from the inside to make the outside look OK."


 There's some more great acting by the wonderfully gorgeous Connie Nielsen ("3 Days To Kill") as Nina), the cool Michael Vartan ("Rogue") as Will, fabulous child actor Dylan Smith (who basically stopped acting a couple of years ago) as James, hottie Erin Daniels ("House of 1000 Corpses") as Will's lover Maya, Gary Cole ("The Ring Two") as Savmart boss, and Eriq La Salle ("Inside Out") as detective.

The music by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek is probably one of the greatest and most intriguing musical scores of all time. The "One Hour Photo OST" is one of only a handful soundtrack CDs I have ever bought in my entire life. I have listened to it hundreds of times, and it totally made me huge fan of Klimek & Heil, even though none of their other scores comes close to the awesomeness of this one. I think I've listened to "The Pursuit" or "The Assault" more often than to some of my favorite artist's songs. It's insane, I know.


What else is there? Oh yea, Sy's nightmare, the most frightening scene since the nurse station scare in "The Exorcist III", Sy's creepy description of the word "snapshot" ("According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'snapshot' was originally a hunting term."), the awkward toilet scene, the weird send-him-some-good-thoughts sequence, the christmas card, the SavMart design, the photo wall, Sy's breakdown at the lab after he saw the photos of Will & Maya, the scene where he shouts at his boss, the hotel confrontation, the last scene where Sy tries to explain why he did what he did - and the very last shot of Sy sitting alone at the desk, looking at his photos. Never in the history of cinema has an actor managed to look as hopelessly sad as Robin Williams.

A movie like no other. "One Hour Photo" is pure perfection.


Rest in Peace, Robin Williams 1951 - 2014
One of the greatest actors of all time.

I've seen him in "Good Morning, Vietnam", "Dead Poets Society", "Awakenings", "Cadillac Man", "The Fisher King", "Hook", "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Nine Months", "Jumanji", "The Birdcage", "Jack", "Father's day", "Flubber", "Good Will Hunting", "Patch Adams", "Bicentennial Man", "One Hour Photo", "Insomnia", "The Final Cut", "The Night Listener", "Man Of The Year" and "Shrink" - he was simply AMAZING in all of these films. ALL of them.

August 10, 2014

"I BURY THE LIVING" (Chilling Classics 50 Movies Pack, #49)

I BURY THE LIVING

Working Title:
Killer on the Wall

USA, 1958
Director: Albert Band

8/10








Albert Band and his sons are true legends in Horror:
~ Charles Band wrote, directed and/or produced many, many popular genre-franchises like "Puppetmaster", "Gingerdead Man", "Trancers" and "Evil Bong", and he also founded the two b-movie production / distribution companies Empire International and Full Moon Features.
~ Richard Band composed the musical scores for many, many horror classics like "Re-Animator 1 & 2", "From Beyond", "Dolls", "Castle Freak"
or "The House on Sorority Row".



And what about Albert Band? He wrote, directed and produced lots of horror, sci-fi and western trash over 5 decades, like "Troll", "Ghoulies II", "Dracula's Dog", "Robot Jox", "Robot Wars" etc. - but long before all of that, he created one of the most overlooked, but undoubtedly one of the finest horror films of the 50s:
"I Bury The Living", the haunting tale of a newly appointed director of a cemetery who begins to believe that he has the supernatural power to kill the living owners of burial plots by changing the pins (from white to black) on a large wall map of the cemetery that notes all those plots.

Just by reading what this movie is about, I was thrilled and intrigued. The premise is just fascinating and back in 1958, it was totally ahead of its time. It's a unique and highly original litle film, brilliantly directed and fabulously written by screenwriter Louis Garfinkle, regular Band-collaborator in the 50s and 60s who received an Oscar-nomination in 1978 for his work on "The Deer Hunter".


It's fast-paced and flies by in the blink of an eye, delivering tons of nerve-wracking suspense and tension, and a creepy, captivating, powerful atmosphere that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Never in the history of cinema has a simple wall map been so unbelievably scary - and who would have thought that seeing a man changing push-pins could be so frightening?

The cast is terrific, most notably Richard Boone who delivers a stunning and extremely believable performance as the cemetery director who slowly loses his mind, and Theodore Bikel as amusing Scottish cemetery caretaker. There is a thread on Imdb where several users compare Bikel's character to Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpons, even suggesting that Bikel influenced Matt Groening on creating Willie. I giggled =)


Intense music by Gerald Fried ("Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?") and powerful photography by Frederick Gately ("Wicked, Wicked"), especially the breathtakingly filmed finale where Richard Boone's running across the cemetery, a scene that looks as if it had some influence on George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead". In fact, the originally scripted ending actually had some living dead coming out of the graves, but it was later replaced with an absurd and nonsensical plot twist that makes no goddamn sense and is actually the only bad thing about "I Bury The Living". Otherwise, I would have given it a 9/10...

Wiki ~ Imdb




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