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




"THE DEVIL'S HAND" (Chilling Classics 50 Movies Pack, #48)

THE DEVIL'S HAND

Working Title:
Witchcraft

German Title:
Im Bann der Puppe

USA, 1961
Director: William J. Hole Jr.

6/10





Cover and title made me expect this to be something in the vein of hand-themed horror films like "The Hand" or "Demonoid: Messenger of Detah" (or... erm, "Manos: The Hands of Fate"...) - far from it. "The Devil's Hand" is actually a decent little chiller about a cult worshipping 'Gamba, great Devil-God of Evil',
led by the owner of a doll shop who controls the cult members
by using voodoo powers.

According to 1000 Misspent Hours, the movie was shot between 1958 and 1959 under the much-better-fitting title "Witchcraft", but after acquiring the rights to it 2 years later, the bastards behind the notorious Crown International Pictures once again did their shameless work by giving the film a completely unrelated title and even more unrelated poster, confusing drive-in audiences who (like me) thought this is about a satanic killer hand.


Despite that, I had a pretty solid time with it. No, it's obviously no masterpiece, but it's a decent watch, especially for fans of Mill Creek boxes and/or of obscure public-domain horror-flicks in general. The script is a mess, but the direction is neat and the pacing is quite tight. There are a handful of slow scenes, but I never got bored, thanks to the entertaining and likable characters (even though most of them come off as pretty stupid), the acting which is mostly pretty good (especially Linda Christian and Neil "Commissioner Gordon" Hamilton) and some highly memorable scenes, including the cool-looking dream sequences, the ceremony-scenes with the knife-chandelier or the thrilling finale.

Aside from the rather unimaginatve photography and some supersilly bongo/lounge-music, "The Devil's Hand" is definitely worth a watch. Just don't expect any Thing T. Thing-like action... ;-)

August 9, 2014

1408

1408

German Title:
Zimmer 1408

USA, 2007
Director: Mikael Håfström

4/10









The first time I've seen "1408" (back in 2007), I didn't like it at all. I'm a huge fan of Stephen King's short story of the same name, which I consider to be one of the finest ones he has ever written. I remember reading the story for the umpteenth time, going to my local rental store right after, taking "1408" home with me, watching it - and eventually hating and returning it, ranting and forgetting about it.

Now, 7 years later, I gave it a rewatch, because my friend Jue hasn't seen it before and always wanted to see it. Also, since I couldn't remember much about it, I wanted to see which effect it may have on me now without having read the short story beforehand (in fact, I haven't read in quite some years).


Well... I still don't like it. I 'enjoyed' it a bit more than in 2007, but... um, not much more. "1408" is far from the being one of the worst King short story adaptations [That might be either "The Mangler" or "Maximum Overdrive"] but... damn, it's the same old problem: it's NOT about re-writing it, changing it and adding stuff.
If one doesn't keep true to the essence, the atmosphere of the original, the whole thing will fail. Of course, there's nothing wrong with adding and changing, but please, just do it the right way, so that King-fans AND non-King-fans
both can enjoy the movie.

So far, only a handful of filmmakers got it right: Rob Reiner, Lewis Teague, Mark Pavia, John Darabont, Michael Gornick and a few others. In terms of "1408", Director Mikael Håfström ("The Rite") and his 3(!) screenwriters Matt Greenberg ("Halloween H20"), Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (they both wrote "Problem Child" AND "Ed Wood"!!)... *sigh* they all didn't got it right.


It doesn't matter if you compare it to the source material or if you look at it as some kinda stand-alone film. In both ways, it's a huge letdown, mainly because of the movie's horrid second half. "1408" starts out pretty well, showing us the everyday life of writer and paranormal-activity-investigator Mike Enslin (solidly played by John Cusack), the secret about the supposedly haunted room in the New-York-based Dolphin Hotel, and the hotel's polite but firm manager (fabulously played by Samuel L. Jackson). The scene where Jackson tries to convince Cusack from not staying in 1408 - holy hell, this scene is so fucking mesmerising.

Unfortunately, about 10 minutes after Cusack entered the room, the whole thing becomes sooo samn bonkers and sooo over-the-top, it's not funny anymore. What starts out as intriguing and rather tense mystery, ends up as special-effects-overload with kitschy and unnecessary subplots about divorce, dead children and bad fathers, shitloads of unnerving jump scares, oh-so-clever plot twists, stale horror clichés (bleeding walls, funky-looking killer ghosts...),
unnecessary nods to "Vertigo", "The Tenant" and "The Ledge", and complete absence of suspense or scariness.


It's a real tragedy how this bizarre and unsettling tale about a slightly Lovecraftian hotel room got transformed into a pointless and lazy CGI show-off, made for people who get their kicks from similar rubbish like "The Haunting" (remake) or "13 Ghosts" (remake). Shocks, jump scares, plot twists ad infinitum, but nothing remotely thrilling, nothing that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even though scenes like the flooding or the freezing look rather good, I wasn't impressed nor thrilled by it. It's just gimmick after gimmick after gimmick. By the time the plot twist kicks in, I already gave up, repeating "When is this over? When is this over?" over and over again.

Didn't like it the first time, didn't like it the second time. Won't give it another chance. "1408" might work for others, but it totally didn't work for me.
And my friend Jue.
Oh, and I also don't care for any of the alternate endings. They all suck.


Wiki ~ Imdb

August 7, 2014

LONG WEEKEND (Original + Remake)

LONG WEEKEND

Australia, 1978
Director: Colin Eggleston

9/10












It's a tragedy how unknown, underrated and overseen this little gem is, as it is probably one of the creepiest Australian movies ever made. "Long Weekend", the second feature of director / writer / producer Colin Eggleston [who made his debut with the soft-porn comedy "Fantasm Comes Again (1977)"...] is a fascinating and unexpectedly hypnotizing revenge-of-nature horror-thriller, often labeled as "Ozploitation" which isn't exactly true because it's actually radically different from your average 70s Ozploitation ("Night of Fear", "Patrick", "Mad Max") and is more in tune with Peter Weir's 1976 masterpiece "Picnic at Hanging Rock".


The movie is basically about an estranged and unlikabe couple having a really shitty long weekend. Doesn't sound too good, eh? ;-) Don't worry, there's more to it. They're actually experiencing massive marriage problems following an abortion, and so they decide to go on a little bonding-vacation ("Children of the Corn"-style), travel to a remote beach, put up a tent and try to behave / treat each other as human as possible - which doesn't work, because she is a stubborn and bitchy loudmouth, and he is a lax semi-chav who loves his beer and his Mary Jane.

Moreover, they're both extremely disrespectful to the local wildlife: he runs over a kangaroo, chops down a tree for no reason, throws bottles into the water and shoots at them, throws a cigarette out of the car window which causes a fire etc. etc. She sprays half the insects to death, smashes an eagle egg, runs over crabs and shit. Guess what happens? Right, Mother Nature goes into revenge mode - and that's when things become very, very eerie.


They get to hear strange, frightening sounds (an animal in distress? a crying baby?), getting attacked by an Eagle (Hitchcock-style) and a Possum. There's a mysterious creature in the water, a camper van on the beach that mysteriously disappears, and (the most baffling thing I've seen in years) a "zombie sea cow", better described as Dugong carcass that somehow "moves" closer and closer to their camp. Sounds silly, but is actually fucking scary!

It's not just a tragedy how unknown "Long Weekend" is, it's also a tragedy what happened to Colin Eggleston's career. In Australia, the movie was a flop both critically and commercially which led him (who started his career shooting episodes for TV series like "Matlock Police" or "Division 4") to shoot more TV stuff, as well as now-forgotten lowest-budget horror flicks like "Cassandra" or "Innocent Prey", as well as the Indian Jones rip-off "Sky Pirates (a.k.a "Dakota Harris"). He completely stopped directing after the 1987 horror-comedy "Outback Vampires". A shame.
I haven't seen any of his other films (yet!), but his direction in "Long Weekend" is simply stunning. He has a great eye for intriguing images and knows perfectly how to create striking and really nerve-wracking tension. The frightening scene at the fireplace, the huge and creepy-looking spiderweb, the somehow uncanny masturbation sequence, the abandoned tent, the underwater camper van and the super-insane ending... it's all just awesome, awesome, awesome!



Massive kudos to the imaginative and inventive screenplay by Everett de Roche whose career was a bit more successful. He wrote classics like "Patrick", "Roadgames", "Razorback", "Link", "The Quest", or "Storm Warning".
More kudos to the moody and excellently gripping score by Michael Carlos ("The Odd Angry Shot"), the outstanding cinematography by Vincent Monton ("Roadgames", "Thirst"), the flawless editing by Brian Kavanagh ("The Quest", "Frauds"), as well as the powerful and extremely believable performances by John Hargreaves ("Emerald City") and hottie Briony Behets ("Nightmares").

One of the best and most impressive Australian horror-related movies I have ever seen. If you haven't seen it yet... damn, you don't know what you're missing!

Wiki ~ Imdb



LONG WEEKEND

Alternate Title:
Nature's Grave

Australia, 2008
Director: Jamie Blanks

5/10








Nearly 30 years after the original came out, Australian director Jamie Blanks ("Urban Legend") decided to give this Ozploitation classic a proper update. After he already collaborated with "Long Weekend"-screenwriter Everett de Roche on his 2007 outing "Storm Warning", this remake marks their second and so far their last collaboration because for whatever reason, Blanks stopped directing after "Long Weekend".


Ok, it not a simple remake, it's actually more of a "one-to-one" or "shot-for-shot" remake that doesn't want to be innovative or groundbreaking, it just wants to be a new version of something old and slightly forgotten - which is obviously a bummer. If Blanks would have kept the original's subtle but super-effective, slightly grimy but staggeringly powerful atmosphere, there wouldn't be much to criticize. Unfortunately, the new "Long Weekend" looks as polished and clean as a Spanish telenovela, and at times, it's as thrilling as watching paint dry.

Don't get me wrong. It's not terrible. It's still watchable, mainly because of the sublime performances of Claudia Karvan (smoking hot!) and Jim Cazeviel (pretty cool), a few scenes and moments that work almost as good as in the original, and some more gore and gruesomeness (various ugly dead bodies, more blood), even though this stuff is actually rather pointless. Also, great music
(composed by Blanks himself) and some gorgeous photography (Karl von Moller, "Storm Warning").


Unfortunately, there's not much tension going on, hardly any atmosphere, hardly any scariness. The scenes with the Dugong are unintentionally hilarious, simply because the Dugong never looks dead or scary. The animal attacks are rather lame, the fireplace scene is boring, the spiderweb is missing (why??), the masturbation isn't as hot as in the original, and the supposed-to-be-insane ending is just poor. It also didn't help that they toned down the woman's character, and amped up the guy. He's too chavvy, she's too uninteresting. Both aren't sympathetic. Meh.

Overall, a disappointing re-interpretation of one of Australia's greatest horror films of all time. As much as I like the work of Jamie Blanks, this was quite a dud.

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