27 August 2015

MIDNIGHT LACE (1960)

MIDNIGHT LACE

German Title:
Mitternachtsspitzen

USA, 1960
Director: David Miller

7/10








"Midnight Lace" is a movie that feels as if it was supposed to be made in the 40s, because it's very reminiscent of classic mystery-thrillers like "Gaslight" or "Sorry, Wrong Number", but it was actually made during the hey-days of Alfred Hitchcock, so many people shrug/shrugged it off as a simple Hitchcock-epigone, which might explain why it's quite forgotten nowadays. The fact that actors from previous Hitchcock films appear here, obviously doesn't help (Doris Day, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" / John Williams, "Dial M for Murder"
& "To Catch a Thief").

Nevertheless, it's a very solid, well-made and pretty suspenseful chiller that still delivers the goods, at least if you like these kind of movies. Based on the stage play "Matilda Shouted Fire" by Janet Green, "Midnight Lace" follows newlywed American Heiress Kit Preston who just moved to London with her husband. Everything seems peaches and cream, but then suddenly a mysterious man with a high-pitched voice starts to terrorize her with eerie phone calls and turns her life into a nightmare, not just because the anonymous caller frightens her to death, but also because no-one seems to believe her being terrorized,
especially not Scotland Yard...


Watching it now in this day and age, it comes off as slightly dated and old-fashioned, and although it's splendily directed by then-prolific David Miller ("Lonely Are the Brave") and also well-written by Ivan Goff ("Charlie's Angels") and Ben Roberts ("Man of a Thousand Faces"), it lacks the oomph and that certain something of other suspense thrillers of that time. I also thought that the oh-so-shocking twist ending is not just highly predictable, but also extremely absurd and totally doesn't make much sense.

That said, there's still enough to enjoy, enough good stuff that makes you end up liking this movie, most notably the fabulous cast, led by the wonderful Doris Day in her last dramatic role. She gives an overwhelmingly impressive and extremely intense performance that is just wow! Apparently, during the shoot, she had flashbacks of the time when her first husband was physically abusive to her, so in the one scene on the stairs where she's uber-hysterical, she's not acting: she WAS hysterical and eventually collapsed in a real faint which forced the producers to shut down production for a few days. Makes fully sense that she didn't shoot any more thrillers for the rest of her acting career.


Rex Harrison is excellent as her super-sympathetic gentleman husband, as is Roddy McDowall as obnoxious sponger, John Gavin as charming but odd contractor, the lovely Natasha Parry as her sweet neighbor, the fun-as-always Myrna Loy and the terrific John Williams as skeptical Inspector. The entire movie was marvellously photographed by Russell Metty (Oscar for "Spartacus"), the music is mostly spectacular (5-time Oscar nominee Frank Skinner, "The House of the Seven Gables"), and it's fully understandbale why "Midnight Lace" got an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. Hell, Doris Day wears 17(!) different costumes throughout the movie, and all of them look fantastic!

All in all, not a perfect movie, but definitely good enough to entertain you for about 100 minutes.


Oh btw, I love the trailers which offers some sensational taglines
and excellent words of advice :)



Oh btw, "Midnight Lace" has been remade for TV in 1981. Unfortunately, it's absolutely impossible to find a copy of it. Can one of you, my dear readers,
help me finding it?


(Image stolen from "2 Warps to Neptune"!)



26 August 2015

Neill Blomkamp's CRAPPIE

CHAPPIE

USA / Mexico, 2015
Director: Neill Blomkamp

2,5/10












It's official (or something like that): South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp 
is a one-hit-wonder. His debut "District 9" was a tremendous and very impressive mind-blower, but the follow-up "Elysium" turned out to be so massively frustrating and disapointing, it was, and still is, very difficult to understand that this was made by the same director - and now his newest feature: "Chappie", even worse than "Elysium". An extremely underwhelming, nonsensical, unoriginal and stupid mix of "Short Circuit" (oh-so-cute and semi-clever robot on the loose) and "RoboCop" (good police robot, bad police robots), taking place in the same location as "District 9" (ugly Johannesburg), following a couple of antisocial elements that look like straight outta "Elysium".


With one of the absolute worst casts in recent years [the absolutely obnoxious, absolutely unbearable members of South African garbage band Die Antwoord,
a highly unlikable and surprisingly pretty terrible Hugh Jackman as uber-stereotypical bad guy, a dreadfully unimpressive Sigourney Weaver who once again plays a suit-wearing boss woman *yawn*], a cliché-ridden, foreseeable and really dumb screenplay, hardly any suspense, atmosphere or charm, and a certain kind of tone that is so all over the place, Blomkamp drove the already uninteresting storyline completely into the ground.

Yes, the CGI robot-effects look impressive, and yes, regular Blomkamp-collaborator Trent Opaloch's camera work is about as brilliant as always - unfortunately, that doesn't help anything when everything else is simply awful. Chappie is no Number 5. He's an idiot, his child/gangster behavior is unbelievable, implausible and damn unnerving, and aside from the one scene where he gets bombarded with stones and molotow cocktails, as well as a couple of scenes where he's doing some mildly amusing gangster shit, I felt absolutely nothing for him. I disliked him as much as I disliked everyone else in this piece of garbage. Wait a second... nah, I hated Die Antwoord's characters even more.


[Too be fair: I think several Die Antwoord tunes like "I Fink U Freeky" or "Fatty Boom Boom" are okay, but omg, both Yo-Landi and Ninja are probably the most unlikable fuckfaces since the Gallaghers.]
Furthermore, it's boring, tediously paced, way too long (120 minutes! 80-90 minutes would have been enough), the musical score by legend Hans Zimmer is devastatingly lame, and final battle is sooo ripped off of "RoboCop", I wonder why Paul Verhoeven hasn't sued Blomkamp already.

Final verdict: "Chappie" is crappy.
If Blomkamp will be really allowed to do another "Alien" film... *sigh*
I'd rather have ten more "Prometheus" films, all directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet...

25 August 2015

POD (2015)

POD

USA, 2015
Director: Mickey Keating

5/10











The recent trend of low/lowest-budget sci-fi/horror movies ("The Device", "Alien Abduction", "The Encounter") is both interesting and disappointing at the same time. Interesting because it seems as if these movies were all made by people who grew up on watching "X-Files" and shit (like me!) - disappointing because none of these indie features about alien invaders, body snatchers etc. are particularly satisfying, groundbreaking or innovative. In most cases, they're simply mediocre low-budget variations of mediocre "X-files" episodes.


Same goes for "Pod", the third feature by indie director Mickey Keating ("Ritual"), following two estranged siblings who visit their paranoid war veteran brother who seems to be a little too obsessed with wild conspiracy theories about government experiments, implanted tracking devices and some strange pod he found
in the woods.

What starts out a bit in the vein of William Friedkin's "Bug", quickly becomes a weird mix of "The Evil Dead" and "Signs" with elements of "Dreamcatcher", "Honeymoon", the above-mentioned "The Device" and the criminally underrated "Altered" thrown in. There's some neat tension and eerie atmosphere in the first half, as well as some good creature effects and at least one unexpected plot twist that I totally didn't see coming, but... well, the whole intense build-up leads to fucking nowhere, and as soon as you realize that "Pod" doesn't offer anything special or remarkable, and simply ends in an ultra-predictable and kinda lame-assy way, I was frustrated to the max. The second half is so weak and lackluster, the movie should have been titled "Much Ado About Nothing" instead...


The acting is decent, most notably the wild and damn impressive performance by Brian Morvant, but none of the characters are really likable (especially Lauren Ashley Carter's horribly annoying character). Horror legend Larry Fessenden is neat as always, but completely wasted. The editing is great, the moody lighting is neat and I loved the insane hyper-speed opening credits, but that all can't save the movie from being quite a letdown. "Pod" is a dud.


Thanks to Alex Klenert (Prodigy PR) for the screener!

24 August 2015

MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN (1994)

MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN

Alternate Title:
Frankensten

USA / Japan, 1994
Director: Kenneth Branagh

9/10








Of all the "Frankenstein" films that have been made over the last 105 years,
be it the ones by Universal with Boris Karloff (1930s), the Universal monster mash-ups (1940s), the ones by Hammer with Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee (1950s-1970s) or all the other hundreds of variations (whether I've seen them or not)... THIS has always been my favorite one, and I'm pretty damn sure that it always will be my #1 "Frankenstein" movie.


The reason for this is simple: I never cared much for the other ones (no, not even the trilogy with Boris Karloff which is good, but not that good IMO), mainly because... well, before I've ever seen any "Frankenstein" film, I've read Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's uber-glorious "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" (undoubtedly one of the greatest books ever written) at the age of 10, and I also had the pleasure of enjoying the stunningly grim graphic novel by Martin Powell and Patrick Olliffe (at the age of 11 or 12).

To my displeasure, most feature film adaptations differ way, WAY too much from Shelley's book, plus: there's hardly any film version that manages to adapt the gloomy, sinister atmosphere that Shelley created... except for this one! Although it takes a few radical liberties, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is undoubtedly the most faithful adaptation, in terms of plot/storyline AND atmosphere/mood. This is not about the wonders of creating new artificial life, or the good scientist versus the evil monster - this movie is, just like the book, about two humans, both good and evil at the same time. This is about Victor Frankenstein creating an artificial man
(I refuse to call it a monster), not taking responsibility for it, which leads to the nameless artificial man taking revenge on Frankenstein, killing his entire family. Fair enough ;)


Originally, the movie was supposed to be directed by its producer Francis Ford Coppola, but thank goodness, he stepped back to let Kenneth Branagh direct, which was probably one of the greatest decisions Copppola ever did. I'm 100% sure he would have botched this movie even harder than his uber-silly 1992 Dracula-adaptation - while Branagh, an expert on, and aficionado of classic English literature, as well as a super-talented filmmaker, was the absolute perfect choice for a faithful and believable "Frankenstein" adaptation. He gave the basic storyline an added layer of powerful emotionality, and a strong dose of drama and humanity, ultimately creating a breathtaking movie that is able to scare and shock you, as well as to pull at your heartstrings and bring you to tears.

Branagh also managed to make it an visual treat for the eyes with ravishing settings and breathtaking sceneries/filming locations. When the movie is bright, it's really damn bright, and when it's dark, holy shit, that it's really frightening dark! More kudos to the amazing cinematography by the great Roger Pratt ("Brazil", "Twelve Monkeys"), the stunning soundtrack by regular Branagh-collaborator Patrick Doyle ("Henry V", "Much Ado About Nothing") and the terrific screenplay by Stephen-King-expert Frank Darabont ("The Green Mile, "The Mist") and some other guy called Steph Lady (who?).


The best thing about "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is the cast: holy shit, who would have ever thought that Robert De Niro could be the best Frankenstein-creature ever? Not me! Back in the 90s, when I first heard that the 'human Chameleon' took on the role of the one that 'is alive!', I was more than skeptical - but then I saw him and once again, the (probably) greatest actor of all time, blew me away with another top-notch near-perfection performance, and one of hist most impressive performances of the 90s, which is IMO the most interesting
De-Niro-decade. He nails his role with an intensity and strenght that is simply overwhelming.

Seeing him running into the woods, crying, after he's been hit on the head with a wood plank... seeing him jump-attacking Victor Frankenstein somewhere in the Swiss Alps... seeing him ripping out the heart of Victor's wife and accidentally setting her head on fire while saying "I keep my promises."...
marvellous, just marvellous!
Other fantastic lines: "He was my father." / "I am done with man." / "I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe." / "Did you ever consider the consequences of your actions? You made me, and you left me to die. Who am I?" - "You? I don't know." - "And you think that I am evil."
 

Branagh himself is superb as Victor Frankenstein and shares great chemistry with the wonderful-as-always Helena Bonham Carter (with whom he began an affair during filming which led to a divorce of his then-wife Emma Thompson). Also great: Tom Hulce in one of his very last performances before he retired from acting, Ian "Bilbo" Holm as Frankenstein's father, Aidan Quinn who delivers a pitch-perfect portrayal of the rarely-portrayed Captain Robert Walton (according to Imdb, there have been only 5 Waltons in movie history so far...) and a bafflingly incredible John Cleese (yes, the Monty Python John Cleese!) in one of his very few serious roles as the rarely-portrayed Professor Waldman (according to Imdb, there have been also only 5 Waldmans in movie history so far...)

Not everyone will agree with me, which is totally and utterly understandable, but... I can't help it. I love this movie so, so, so much!!


Wiki ~ Imdb

20 August 2015

THE NINTH GATE

THE NINTH GATE

German Title:
Die Neun Pforten

Spain / France / USA, 1999
Director: Roman Polanski

8/10








23 years after his last horror-related feature "The Tenant" (1976, which is still criminally underrated), the great Roman Polanski returned to the horror genre with a highly entertaining and more-fascinating-than-expected mystery-horror-thriller, loosely based on Arturo Pérez-Reverte's 1993 bestseller novel "The Club Dumas", following rare book dealer Dean Corso (cool name!) who gets hired by wealthy book collector Boris Balkan (even cooler name!) to seek out the last two copies of 17th-century author Aristide Torchia's "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows". According to legend, the book was co-written by the Devil himself (ooh, spooky!).


Balkan believes that his own copy of the book is real while the other two are fake, though he isn't quite sure, so he employs Corso to compare and authenticate his copy with the other two (one is in Portugal, the other one in France). Corso travels to Europe and expects the search to be rather easy, but soon he realizes that there's something seriously wrong: he stumbles over odd people hiding dark secrets, a mysterious woman with glowing green eyes who seems to persecute him, dead bodies, dangerous mysteries and a bizarre riddle hidden in all three copies of the book...

No, it's obviously not on the same level as Polanski's masterpiece "Rosemary's Baby", but it's yet another movie that fully proves why Polanski is one of the absolute best European directors of all time, and also one of the very few filmmakers who seem to be totally 'unable' to make a bad movie. "The Ninth Gate" performed poorly at the box office and audiences were highly disappointed by the movie's weird ending, yet over the years, it has garnered a still-growing fanbase that seem to solely consist of people who realized that the movie gets better and better, gets more and more interesting with every single viewing.


There's a reason why so many people, especially your average horror fans, don't like it: "The Ninth Gate" simply isn't a horror film! Although it contains shitloads of classic horror tropes and well-known horror clichés, Polanski uses them in completely unconventional ways, throwing the viewers many red herrings, leading them astray, making fun of them, as well as of the entire horror genre itself, though not like in "Scream" or a "Cabin in the Woods", but in a really clever and unexpectedly sophisticated way. Audiences probably expected it to be something "Devil's Advocate" or "The Omen", but they completely missed the point. Polanski obviously didn't wanted to make an average horror film about Satan. He made "The Ninth Gate" because he highly enjoyed the book it's based on ("It was suspenseful, funny, and there were a great number of secondary characters that are tremendously cinematic."), because, although he doesn't believe in the occult, he enjoys the genre in his very own way ("I don't believe in the occult. I don't believe. Period, [but] there [are] a great number of clichés of this type in "The Ninth Gate", which I tried to turn around a bit. You can make them appear serious on the surface, but you cannot help but laugh at them.") and because "the Devil is a good guy to make a film about."


Nevertheless, there's still enough horror in it, and aside from being tense and tremendously suspenseful from the very first to the very last minute, the movie offers a few scenes that are downright horrifc and totally scared the shit out of me, especially the one where a dead woman in an electric wheelchair rolls into a burning room, or the one where a man sets himself on fire because he thinks he's invincible... which obviously ends pretty bad.

Every scene that involves one of the book's eerie engravings is marvellously filmed and developed in an insanely brilliant way that makes the viewer feel as if he/she is actually the one who has to find out what's wrong about the copies of the book. In addition, all the engravings look just gorgeous.


Darius Khondji's (Oscar nomination for "Evita") photography is as amazing as everything he has done so far, and the editing by Hervé de Luze (Oscar nomination for "The Pianist") is fantastic, though the best thing about "The Ninth Gate" is the absolutely stellar music by Wojciech Kilar (no Oscar, no nomination, fuck you Academy!). Seriously, his compositions are simply eargasmic, be it the masterful and eerie opening overture, the aggressive piano attacks, or the recurring jaunty trumpet-theme... hell, my ears had a total blast! :D

Johnny Depp delivers a surprisingly reserved, yet powerful and highly concinving performance (IMO one of his most underappreciated 90s performances), alongside a really stunning cast that consists of the beautiful Emmanuelle Seigner (Polanski's super-hawt wife!), the uber-sexy Lena Olin (goddammit, this woman is even hawter!), a great-as-always Frank Langella (who looks extra-creepy here), and a wonderful Barbara Jefford (who is she? this woman is incredible!).


A few slightly-too-slow scenes, and the ending, which is indeed weird and a tad underwhelming prevent me from giving it a higher rating. nevertheless, I think "The Ninth Gate" is a terrific and extremely unique film, and IMO the most impressive thing Polanski has done between "Tess" (1979) and "The Pianist" (2002).

19 August 2015

Horror Movie Diary quoted on the cover of "HAZARD"

Yes, my dear readers, it happened again. My little Horror Movie Diary was quoted on yet another DVD!!!

It was in July 2013 when director Lou Simon sent me a screener of her badass slasher "HAZMAT". I loved the movie and wrote a glowing 8,5/10 review. A couple of months later, in February 2014, PR company Greenleaf + Associates sent me another screener, and because I loved the movie so much, I wrote a second review :)

[ Review #1 and Review #2

Now, the movie was released in U.K. under the title "HAZARD", and holy shit: there are TWO(!!) of my quotes on the cover, though, for whatever reason, both are from Review #1.

They left "Tense and Suspenseful" unaltered, but they turned the phrase
"a gripping and excellently thrilling psychological cat-and-mouse slasher" into
"A Gripping and Thrilling Psychological Horror". Well, I'm perfectly
okay with that :D



18 August 2015

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (1991)

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE

German Title:
Valkenvania - Die wunderbare Welt des Wahnsinns

USA, 1991
Director: Dan Aykroyd

2,5/10








In 1978, Dan Aykroyd was pulled over for speeding in some rural town and taken to the local judicial officer in the middle of the night. For whatever reason, Aykroyd thought this would make a terrific comedy-horror film. He wrote the screenplay, convinced several of his comedy buddies to star in it, somehow garnered an insanely high budget of $40 million from Warner Bros. and subsequently ended up directing the whole thing which follows a dumb businessman and his 'friends' who become prisoners in the wacky backwoods mansion of a super-sadistic judge who kills and tortures random people for shits and giggles.


"Nothing but Trouble" was eventually big trouble for Aykroyd after it bombed really hard at the box office, making only about $8 million in America. It pretty much killed off Dan Aykroyd's career (just one year after he got an Oscar nomination for his role in "Driving Miss Daisy"), and it also killed off the career of the movie's leading star Chevy Chase (like Aykroyd, most of his subsequent films flopped). Also, Aykroyd never directed another movie ever again *phew*

What wrent wrong, you may ask? Well... everything. Absolutely everything. Story and screenplay are both a tremendous mess that could be described as a retarded mix of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2", "Beetlejuice" and "The 'Burbs" with elements of "Fletch" and "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" thrown in. Aykroyd obviously couldn't decide between comedy, horror-comedy and straight horror, resulting in constant mood switches that are more than annoying, and an overall tone that is way too over the top. Almost every single character is either unlikable, obnoxious or simply unbearable, and even though there are tons of very well made practical effects going on, there's simply too many goofy gimmicks and silly death traps, too many ugly-looking settings and too much disgusting-looking make-up (gawd, I hated those two fat retard/mutant-babies), as well as shitloads of jokes and gags that JUST AREN'T FUNNY AT ALL! No, it's not funny seeing John Candy wearing girls clothes. No, it's not funny seing Dan Aykroyd with a fucking penis nose(!) in his face. And, no, it's definitely not funny having a toy train on a dinner table that shoots pickles at the actors.


I enjoyed some of the effects, especially the insane bone-crushing machine. Demi Moore is the only one in the movie who delivers a neat and somehow amusing performance. Oh, and I loved to see 2Pac in his very first on-screen appearance, together with his band "Digital Underground". As for the rest... ugh, ugh, ugh. Awful movie. Chevy Chase admitted that he didn't like the screenplay, that he "knew that the film was going to be the worst film he would ever make", and that he only took the leading role to work together with his friend Aykroyd. Damn, Chevy, it would have been a better decision if you would have done another
crappy "Caddyshack" sequel...

Oh btw: Roger Ebert hated the movie so much that he refused to write a review for the Chicago Sun-Times, though he talked about it in "At The Movies", telling a funky story about the night he saw the movie:
"I had a strange experience. I saw the movie on Tuesday night in a theater that was almost empty. But way in the back, there were three teenagers who were making a lot of noise... a lot of noise. I don't mean talking loudly among themselves. I mean shouting and screaming... and at one point, I turned around and asked them if they could talk a little louder." :-D


All stills stolen from this wonderful article: BuzzFeed.com/Most-traumatic-things-about-Nothing-but-Trouble

R.I.P David A. Prior

Legendary low-budget filmmaker DAVID A. PRIOR passed away only one day after his 59th birthday. The official cause is not yet known.

Prior kicked off his career in 1983 with the legendary slasher flick "Sledge Hammer",
which was probably the very first shot-on-video slasher ever. Since then, he was involved in directing, writing and producing more than 30 horror, science-fiction and action films. Together with actor/filmmaker David Winters, he founded the production / distribution company Action International Pictures (AIP) which produced and/or distributed about 50 films between 1986 and 1994.

Next to "Sledge Hammer", his best and/or most popular and/or best-known films are the hilarious aerobic-slasher "Aerobicide" (1987, a.k.a "Killer Workout"), the even more hilarious Vietnam-themed "Deadly Prey" (1987), the David-Carradine-led sci-fi/action trash-fest "Future Force" (1989) and its sequel "Future Zone" (1990), the war-vampire-fest "The Lost Platoon" (1991), the Pamela-Anderson-led action thriller "Raw Justice" (1994) and the war-horror rubbish "Zombie Wars" (2007, a.k.a "War of the Living Dead").

Rest in Peace, David A. Prior
1956 - 2015



17 August 2015

FLATLINERS

FLATLINERS

German Title:
Flatliners - Heute ist ein schöner Tag zum Sterben

USA, 1990
Director: Joel Schumacher

8/10







I've said it before and I don't shy away from saying it again: I'm a fan of director Joel Schumacher. Yes, he made those two shitty Batman films, but that aside, he's a terrific filmmaker who managed to create many, many really cool films in at least three decades (granted, he hasn't done anything worthwhile in the 00s...). The one I wanna talk about today is "Flatliners", a thought-provoking and damn creepy mix of horror, thriller and drama with some sci-fi elements thrown in, following five medical students who try to discover what lies beneath death by experimenting on near-death-experiences and doing 'temporary deaths'. The experiments work fine, but with horrible, nightmarish side effects...


Back in 1990, Schumacher was one of the hottest directors in town. His five 80s features "The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)", "D.C. Cab (1983)", "St. Elmo's Fire (1985)", "The Lost Boys (1987)" and "Cousins (1989)" made more than $120 million domestically. The studios were in love with him, and trusted him with $26 million for "Flatliners", the highest budget of Schumacher's career so far. He used the money very wisely and created yet another box office hit that made more than $60 million domestically. It was also his first movie that received an Oscar nomination (Best Sound Effects Editing).

The movie itself is neither underrated, nor overrated, but for some reason it feels a bit forgotten. I remember there was lots of fuzz about "Flatliners" upon release, regarding the basic theme of the movie, you know, people playing god and shit. The Chicago Tribune called it "risky and provocative". The Washington Post called it "a provocative attempt to resuscitate the nation's spiritual dynamism". Hell, even Schumacher himself called it "the most provocative project I've done in a while". If it would have been released today, no-one would care about it. If you don't believe me, look at this year's "The Lazarus Effect": slightly similar premise, but it created absolutely no fuzz and didn't even earn half of the money that "Flatliners" did back then.


I admit, it's not a perfect movie and definitely has some flaws, like certain plot points and technical aspects that are plain silly and don't make much sense, and I also thought that the ending is a bit too kitschy, at least for my taste. Yet, apart from that, "Flatliners" is a stunningly well made movie, creepier and more unsettling than I initially expected it to be, thrilling and entertaining from start to finish, and totally gorgeous, thanks to tons fabulous-looking settings, some absolutely incredible lighting, fantastic colours and colour transitions, as well as absolutely outstanding camera work / cinematography by the once-so-great Jan de Bont ("Cujo", "Black Rain", "Basic Instinct"...).

Schumacher's direction is flawless, constantly keeping you on the edge of your seat with eerie scenes where reality, dream and afterlife melt into frightening visions of past tragedies and sins that seem to come to life, haunting our four Flatliners and quickly turning their lives into horrible nightmares. Acting-wise, everyone gives an awesome performance, especially Kiefer Sutherland (very intense), Julia Roberts (strong and intriguing) and Kevin Bacon (great as always). There's also a nice mini-mini-performance by Beth "Sparkle Motion" Grant, and, hey: the fact that "Flatliners" was produced by Michael Douglas, one of my favorite actors of all time... well, it just proves that he is not just a great actor, but has also great taste in movies ;)


Overall, a wonderful movie (that shouldn't be forgotten!) by a wonderful director (that totally doesn't deserve all the hate he got after "Batman & Robin"!). Too bad  we'll never get to see Victor Ward in Bret Easton Ellis' "Flatliners II". What? you haven't read "Glamorama"?? BLASPHEMY!! ;-)

13 August 2015

DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS

DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS

Promotional Title:
 The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint

USA, 2014
Director: Spike Lee

8/10








Due to the fact that director/writer/producer Spike Lee's last couple movies haven't been exactly successful ["Miracle at St. Anna" and the unnecessary "Oldboy" remake were box office bombs; "Red Hook Summer" only reached 41 theaters at its peak], he decided do finance his next movie - another remake - via Kickstarter. He was widely criticized for doing crowdfunding, and even more so after his campaign raised $1.4 million (incl. $10.000 from Steven Soderbergh...), but as always, he gave a fuck and eventually made the movie.


"Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" is the remake of the rather obscure 1973 horror-drama "Ganja & Hess", following wealthy African-American art collector Dr. Hess Green who finds himself overwhelmed with an insatiable thirst for blood after becoming cursed by an ancient artifact of the Ashanti Empire

My expectations towards it weren't exactly high, mainly because of the low Imdb/RT ratings and all the generally negative reviews, but also because I haven't seen or heard of the original before (though I checked it out right after - more about that below), and I'm also not exactly a connoisseur of Spike Lee's work, having seen only two of his films, "Malcolm X" and "Summer of Sam" (I enjoyed them both)... but you know what? For whatever reason, I really, really loved it. It's an insanely weird movie, and I can totally see why so many people don't like it, but there's something so special, so strange about "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" that just made me fall in love with it.


The movie touches a wide array of provoking / thought-provoking topics, like  religion, addiction, vampirism, murder, suicide, racism, wealth, capitalism, class warfare etc. and stunningly manages to bring it all together in a compelling and intriguing way, thanks to Lee's absolutely terrific direction. Although he keeps the pace very slow and steady, there wasn't a single a moment where I felt bored or annoyed, due to a super-strange but extremely mesmerizing atmosphere that felt like a mix of 80s music-video and 00s Euro-arthouse, to the wonderfully stylish art direction and production design (insanely beautiful interiors, excellent settings and filming locations), and, best of all, to the tremendous feels-like-a-mixtape-soundtrack, consisting of super-cool hip hop & soul tunes from various really awesome unsigned artists. Songs like Govales' "Doors to Nowhere", Buffalo Black's "Enter The Void (Black Hole)" or Siedah Garrett's "As We May Dream" totally knocked me off my socks. And holy shit, there's also some music from legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento! Awesomeness!


Next to all the awesome songs, we get to hear an equally impressive jazzy piano/synth score by the great Bruce Hornsby who once again proves why he frequently gets called one of the greatest pianists alive. The editing is almost flawless, cinematography and camera work are simply magnificent, and although the low budget is rather obvious, I still think that the overall production design looks top-notch. Stephen Tyrone Williams delivers a great performance, playing a fascinating character that feels like a black and wealthy version of George A. Romero's "Martin" crossed with Leonardo di Caprio's version of "The Great Gatsby". The gorgeous Zaraah Abrahams is similarly great, as are the performances by Felicia Pearson or Naté Bova. Highlights: a marvellously erotic lesbian scene, some freaky blood fountains, lots of ace nudity, an overlong yet absolutely stunning Gospel sequence with Raphael Saadiq on the vocals, and some hilarious dialogue, like:
"I'm Lucky Mays." - "Dick." - "You have a last name, Mr. Dick?" - "Yes." - "And?" - "Long." - "Hehe. Mr. Dick Long." - "At your service." - "Are you serious?" - "As Cancer."


Is it better or worse than "Ganja & Hess"? That's a question I'm unable to answer. I watched it the day after I've seen "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus", and to be honest, I didn't really like it, though I'm 100% sure that has to do with the fact that I didn't watch it first. It's an interesting-looking film with some excellent visuals and some superbly funky music, but I just couldn't get into it because I just couldn't get Spike Lee's version out of my head. Maybe in a couple of years, I'll give "Ganja & Hess" a second chance, but for now, I have to pass on this one and get back to the awesomeness of Spike Lee's remake, a splendid and deeply impressing movie that, if it wasn't so unique and stylish and ambitious, could almost be described as Blaxploitation-redo of "Only Lovers Left Alive". Well done, Mr. Lee!


Thanks to Rob Fleming (Prodigy PR) for the screener!

12 August 2015

UNFRIENDED

UNFRIENDED

Alternate Title:
Cybernatural

Working Title:
Offline

German Title:
Unknown User

USA / Russia, 2014
Director: Levan Gabriadze

7/10


One of the absolute worst movies I've seen this year was Nacho Vigalondo's "Open Windows" (Review here). The movie's basic concept was great
- an entire movie that takes place on a computer screen - but the execution was so unbelievably awful, I couldn't believe my eyes. "Unfriended" was made on the very same concept, but thank goodness, compared to "Open Windows" (Fuck you, Nacho!), this one's amazing!

"Unfriended" takes place in real time over 82 minutes, showing an online conversation between several friends that suddenly gets disturbed by a mysterious, murderous supernatural force that uses the social network accounts of a dead friend to play a macabre and deadly game with the teenagers.


Russo-Georgian director Levan Gabriadze makes up for everything that Nacho (Fuck you!) did wrong, turning the gimmicky concept into a gripping little motherfucker of a movie that is packed with chills, thrills and jump scares that are actually good. The movie starts out slow, but becomes more and more tense, wilder, wackier with every single minute. Long, eerie scenes suddenly explode into your face, scaring the shit out of you, right before another plot twist comes along and turns your brain upside down. It's a really fun ride, though by the end, you realize that this is not just a simple horror film, but one with an unexpectedly powerful anti-bullying message. Yes, "Unfriended" manages to entertain you AND to enlighten you with a brutal depiction about how horrible bullying can be.

The usage of nearly every social network / imaginable is very well made and extremely believable. We're constantly jumping back and forth between YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Instagram etc. but not in an annoying or confusing way! Every jump is well-developed, well-handled, you never get lost in the events that happen on-screen because you quickly understand how the teenagers tick, how they use their computers, and what program / network / media player they'd use next - apart from one incredibly stupid scene where a girl tries to get help via Chatroulette *shakes head*


The acting is thoroughly great (best: Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead / worst: Moses Jacob Storm) and the characters are all quite likable. The editing is brilliant, most of the effects are very decent and the way screenwriter Nelson Greaves included elements and plot points from classics like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Pulse" or James Wan's "Saw" is just excellent. Several moments of utter stupidity, some horrid dialogue, a few questionable character decisions and a slightly underwhelming ending prevent me from giving it a 8/10, but other than that, "Unfriended" really kicks ass! Fuck you, Nacho!

11 August 2015

BLOOD MOON (2014)

BLOOD MOON

UK, 2014
Director: Jeremy Wooding

5/10












As a passionate non-Western-fan who prefers movies like "Ghost Town" (1988)
 or "Ravenous" (1999) over classics from Sergio Leone, and even likes genre mash-ups like "Tremors 4: The Legend Begins" or "From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter" much more than "Back To The Future Part III", I'm obviously the perfect audience for "Blood Moon", a low-budget horror-western that promises to deliver a standoff between Cowboys and Werewolves. The fact that this is actually a British (!) production makes it even more interesting!


Unfortunately, the latest feature by Jeremy Wooding (who previously did the rom-com musical  "Bollywood Queen" and the football comedy "The Magnificent Seven"...), fails to impress, mainly because it doesn't exactly deliver what it promises. Sure, it takes place in the Wild West, and, sure, there's all kinds of classic Western clichés and items (saloon, stage coach, bankrobbers, fun with guns...), and, sure, there are even Werewolves roaming around, but... well, if you're in for some bloody werewolf action, you might check out something else, because there's hardly any wolfmen in here, let alone gory lycanthropy action.

Though "Blood Moon" is very well shot and very well-lit, beautifully filmed (some really clever camera angles) and solidly directed, there's way too much focus on our main characters who hide in a deserted mining town, and totally not enough focus on the wolves. Large parts of the film plod along at snail's pace, not particularly boring, but not particularly exciting either. A few tense scenes, a few drops of blood, a creature that looks like a cheap imitation of the werewolves in "Late Phases" (with a few "Rawhead Rex"-genes in its face) and some howling and growling. There's actually so much growling without getting a glimpse on the beast, one could think that this is the were-version
of "Sound of Horror" (not kidding!).


Most of the acting is solid, especially the performances of Shaun Dooley, Anna Skellern (hottie!) and Eleanor Matsuura, the soundtrack is splendid (Toby Pitman) and hey, there's lots of cool lines that made me chuckle, such as "It ain't much more than a one-horse town... and they shot that horse twenty years ago." or "Where d'ya find this coffee? At the rear end of a Buffalo?" or "You couldn't find your ass in the dark even if it was on fire".

All in all, a neat watch, though I wouldn't exactly recommend it, neither to Western fans, nor to Horror fans.


Thanks to Brooke Campbell (October Coast PR) for the screener!

10 August 2015

BLOODMOON (1990)

BLOODMOON

German Title:
Red Moon

Australia, 1990
Director: Alec Mills

5/10









An Australian film that takes place at an all-girl's school... no, I'm obviously NOT talking about "Picnic at Hanging Rock". I'm talking about this obscure little Oz-slasher from 1990, directed by Alec Mills who worked as cinematographer and camera operator on several James Bond films like "Moonraker, "Octopussy", "The Living Daylights" or "Licence to Kill". I have no idea why he chose this silly film for his directorial debut, and I also have no idea why he stopped directing after his second and last film only two years later (the even more obscure "Dead Sleep" with Linda Blair!)... well, I guess he got the chance to do some directing, but eventually wasn't too enthusiastic about it.


In some kinda way, "Bloodmoon" is the perfect 80s-slasher-clichés/tropes best-of: there's a killer roaming around a girl's school, murdering sexy girls, ripping their eyes out and cutting their fingers off. There's lots of bare breasts (we get to see the very first pair of boobs at minute 3:17), teenagers drinking and fighting at a school dance, a make-up-wearing heavy metal band, a teacher sleeping with her students, people getting killed during sex, an American student (whose mother is a Hollywood actress) falls in love with one of the locals, and, of course, lots and lots of bad hairstyles. In addition: there's also cats, bunnies, owls and a creepy nun - but no Kangaroos or Koalas whatsoever! *shocked*

What almost sounds like the best movie ever (kidding) is just another run-of-the-mill slasher, not good, not bad, just okay. Blood and gore are rather sparse, though there's a few nice close-ups of dead teenagers with ghastly-looking eye-wounds, as well as one badass scene where the killer repeatedly bashes one student's head against a desk. Certain pretty suspenseful scenes in the second half make up for the lack of tension in the first half, and contrary to my expectations, the movie ends in a surprisingly grim way.


Most of the acting ranges from ok to awful; sole exceptions: Leon Lissek (pretty terrific performance) and Christine Amor (she's just fun!). The epic score by Brian May a.k.a one-of-the-underrated-composers of all time ("Mad Max 1+2") is terrific, cinematography and editing are decent. It's a tragedy that the movie focuses too much on the movie's teen slasher elements, and not enough on the whodunit aspects. Believe me when I say that there's a really excellent whodunit thriller somewhere hidden beneath.

Final verdict: a must-see for fans of slasher films and/or Ozploitation, recommended to everyone who digs late 80s/early 90s horror.

Wiki ~ Imdb

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