31 December 2013

Happy New Year - with "STEEL TRAP"

STEEL TRAP

Working Title:
Condemned

German Title:
Butchered - Keiner kann entkommen

Germany, 2007
Director: Luis Cámara

2/10





Since there are so few New-Year's-Day-themed horror films out there, it's getting harder and harder to find something worthwhile for the turn of the year. This year I chose this one, and ended up walking into a trap... a "Steel Trap" - and believe me when I say that this 'pun' is as bad as the entire film.


Luis Cámara's first (and so far, his only) feature film is just one of these countless and god-awful "Saw" ripoffs. Unoriginal, stupid and highly aggravating because right after the very first minutes, you realize where this is going to and how it will end because you've seen this stale old story so many times before
(a few peeps trapped in a building by a sadistic killer -on New Year's Eve - getting killed one by one).

Every single character is a fucking asshole, unlikable and annoying. Whenever one of them dies, I was like "Hell yeah!" The acting ranges from mediocre to fucking bad, especially two-time-actor Mark Wilson is a massive embarrassment. The settings all look bland, cinematography and music are extremely unimaginative, the direction is terrible and of course, the oh-so-original twist ending is dumb as hell.


The kills are solidly gory, the killer's mask looks neat and there are a few nice lines ("Any game that starts with a rotting pig's head is not going to end with a giant teddy bear!"), but that's about it.
"Steel Trap" is Steel Crap.

28 December 2013

Best Short Films 2013

(The first of 4 Best-of-2013 Lists to come. Will post the other 3 next year.)

It was another excellent short-film-year and I got to see many, many little masterpieces. Here are the 15 I loved the most:

Maynard's Top 15
Best Horror / Horror-Related Short Films 2013

15.
Michael Sharpe's
USA, 2013

First of two Sharpe flicks on this list. Creepy and emotional horror-drama with a stunning plot twist.




14.
Randal Plunkett's
Ireland, 2012

Zombie outbreak, made in Ireland. Fabulously written and directed, and accompanied with a fantastic soundtrack.






13.
Jared Skolnick's
USA, 2011

Weird, bizarre, surreal - three words that perfectly describe this fascinating and thought-provoking little piece of arthouse horror.






12.
Patrick Rea's
USA, 2013

One of three Rea flicks on this list. This guy is unstoppable and still almost incapable of creating a bad short film.



11.
Richard Karpala's
USA, 2011

Cool-looking and extremely entertaining short about the pros, cons and dangers of average movie kiosks.



10.
Patrick Rea's
USA, 2013

Rea #2. Starts out as emotional prison drama, ends with a super-shocking and super-brilliant end twist. Marvellous!




9.
Michael Sharpe's
USA, 2012

Sharpe #2. Powerful adaptation of Michael Cunningham's monologue of the same name with another insanely awesome performance by the outstanding Robert Haulbrook.


8.
Patrick Rea's
USA, 2013

Rea #3. Very intense, thrilling and touching little tale about the end of the world, perfectly directed and photographed.




7.
Stephen Bradley's
Ireland, 2013

Hilariously bonkers and completely over-the-top Irish gorefest with tons of fabulously amusing lines and brilliantly brutal kills.






6.
Francesco Picone's
Italy, 2013

Powerful and emotional Italian post-apocalytic horror-drama, packed with stunning characters, ace-looking zombies and unforgettably intense scenes.

5.
Lucas Masson's
BABY-SITTING
France, 2012

Batshit insane gorefest from France, even more demented than "Papercuts", including huge amounts of super-creepy scenes and fantastically gruesome violence. Très bien!





4.
Daniel DelPurgatorio's
USA, 2012

Gobsmacking and incredibly well-made body-horror short, visually striking, slightly disturbing and accompanied with a really impressive soundtrack. Cronenberg would be proud!





3.
Josh Heisie's
USA, 2013

Beautiful-looking and wonderfully entertaining zom-com western with lots of great gore / make-up effects and excellent actors, incl. another terrific performance by the great Robert Nolan.





2.
Andrej Boka's
Serbia, 2012

One of the most original short films I've seen in a very long time. A genius concept, a wonderful story, tons of captivating images + a mesmerizing narration. Near perfection!





1.
Steve Kostanski's
Canada, 2012

The fake-trailer for a trashy 80s flick about a cop that could be described as mix of "Toxic Avenger", "Maniac Cop" and "Street Trash". So fucking hilarious, they had to show it twice at the Fright Nights Festival in Vienna. Hilarious as fuck, and it made me laughy my ass off completely. Bio-Cop rocks!!!


27 December 2013

BESTIES

BESTIES

USA, 2012/2014
Director: Rebecca Perry Cutter

7/10











This was weird, even for me - but in a surprisingly positive way. Thriller-drama "Besties" is a film that is clearly aimed at a younger audience than me, but I still enjoyed it because the basic plot - which could be crudely described as mixture of "Single, White, Female", "Fun" and "Heathers" - worked for me too, thanks to the tight direction and the well-written, well-paced screenplay by feature debutant Rebecca Perry Cutter.


The story of unpopular high school freshman Sandy and super-popular, super-sexy senior Ashley (Sandy's former babysitter) who form a friendship of convenience to hide a terrible secret... it obviously isn't neither new, nor original, but it's told in a tense and thrilling way with many unexpected plot twists and turns that lead to a slightly underwhelming, but reasonable ending.

Both main actresses deliver very solid and convincing performances. Olivia Crocicchia is believable as pitiful teenage loser, while Madison Riley gives a shallow and rather unsympathetic, but still somewhat likable character. Also worth of mentioning: Christopher Backus and Bobby Soto.
The cinematography is gorgeous (Feliks Parnell, "CSI:NY"), and the musical score is simple but effective (Bobby Tahouri, "The American Scream").


There could have been a few more thrills and shocks, and as I mentioned, I wasn't too keen of the ending, but overall I enjoyed it. Not the 'bestiest' movie of the year (and not for everyone), but definitely a solid little chiller. If you dig teen thrillers, this one's for you!

Imdb
Besties on FB

Thanks to Caroline from October Coast PR for providing me with a screener!

26 December 2013

MY NAME IS BY 'A' BY ANONYMOUS

MY NAME IS 'A' BY ANONYMOUS

Working Titles:
Columbine / The Columbine Effect

USA, 2012
Director: Shane Ryan

3/10








My avid readers may know that I'm quite an arthouse-cinema-buff, and that
I usually end up loving the hell out of certain super-sophisticated movies that are not only artsy-fartsy, but also ambitious and challenging, unsettling and disturbing.

The latest movie of Shane Ryan, director of questionable-sounding films like "Amateur Porn Star Killer" or "Warning!!! Pedophile Released", tries to be exactly that kind of movie: an unpleasant and demanding piece of indie cinema (loosely based on the Alyssa Bustamante incident), handling difficult and provoking topics.


Unfortunately, "My Name is 'A' by Anonymous" (weird title is weird) completely fails on almost every single level and left me immensely disappointed. What seems to start out as stylish social environment study about child abuse, bulimia, borderline disorder and murder, somewhere between "Megan is Missing", "Fun" and "Eden Lake", ends up as lame and blatant Harmony Korine rip-off, unbelievably dull, nondescript and not shocking at all.

The acting is pretty well, but the characters all feel like dopey misfits who fell out of a "Gummo"-universe, all vapid and shallow and annoying as hell, using overloads of swearwords like "skank" or "whore". The fact that they're all 'addicted' to video- or mobile-cameras is slightly interesting and could be meant as criticism towards our media-obsessed society - but... *sigh* nah, I don't buy it. The problem is that Ryan just can't decide between serious moral drama, exorbitant artsy-fartsiness and pure exploitation, and so the whole thing ends up as hodgepodge of half-assed ideas.


I like the way the movie was shot and edited (great shaky-cam work by Arturo Guerrero), and I also like the intense and effective music (incl. Nutcracker Suite), but alas, that doesn't help much. Overall, a huge letdown.

Imdb

Thanks to Mad Sin Cinema for sending me a screener.

24 December 2013

Merry Christmas - with "THE CHILDREN" (2008)

THE CHILDREN

UK, 2008
Director: Tom Shankland

9,5/10










 
Admittedly, this is not your typical Christmas horror film. It takes place on the Christmas holidays, but apart from that, Christmas doesn't play much of a role in this unbelievably awesome chiller, directed by Tom Shankland ("The Killing Gene"), co-written by Paul Andrew Williams ("The Cottage").


"The Children" is one of the creepiest and most chilling 'Killer Kid' flicks ever made, telling the story of two families spending the holidays at an isolated country home when suddenly a mysterious virus infects their children and turns them into murderous brats. Although its basic premise (remote house, kids killing adults) reminds more of crap like "Devil Times Five", it's actually on a par with classics like "The Innocents", "Bloody Birthday" and "Who can Kill a Child?", and by combining the killer-kid-genre with the non-zombie epidemic infection sub-genre and giving it a slightly post-apocalyptic touch... well, the end result is surprisingly and applaudingly unique.

There's blood, violence and a few scenes that will make you screech with fright, including a shocking eye-stabbing and a horrible broken-leg-incident - but there's also many, many uncanny scenes where you get to see pale, creepy children standing around motionless, or acting in very strange ways, such as the little boy who's hammering on his toy xylophone like he's paralyzed.


The movie is set in a beautiful Winter landscape in Alcester, Warwickshire, and mostly takes place in broad daylight, which gives the film a fascinating and brilliantly captivating atmosphere. The quick-cut editing is excellently done and stunningly effective (Tim Murrell, "Wake Wood"), and the epic music is just amazing (Stephen Hilton, "Salvage"). Though, best of all: the incredible camera work by Nanu Segal ("Shrooms"). Lots of great angles and lots of interesting tracking shots, as well as some impressive use of slow motion and even a few unsettling time-lapse scenes + many, many uber-gorgeous close-ups.


The acting is superb and the characters are all believable, especially hottie Hannah Tointon as rebellious teenage girl, Eva Birthistle and Rachel Shelley as unlike sisters, as well as William Howes and Rafiella Brooks as two of the eeriest children I've seen in a long time

One of the absolute best Brit-horror-flicks of the 00s, tense, gripping and unforgettably frightening. Parents, you better watch out for your kids...



Oh btw, the character of Hannah Tointon wears a really excellent tattoo, the alien fetus from the cover of one of the greatest albums ever recorded: "Ágætis byrjun" by Sigur Rós...


...and before this post gets even longer and longer, I better stop
and wish you a very merry christmas :-)


20 December 2013

DEADLY GAMES (1989)

DEADLY GAMES

Original Title: 
3615 Code Père Noël

Alternate German Titles:
Deadly Games - Stille Nacht, Tödliche Nacht / Deadly Games - Allein gegen den Weichnachtsmann

Alternate Titles:
Game Over / Hide & Freak / Dial Code Santa Claus

France, 1989
Director: René Manzor

7,5/10

I've first seen this sometime in the 90s on some German TV channel and as far as I remember, I highly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the movie got completely overlooked and forgotten, and also never got a proper DVD release. Over the years,
I desperately searched for a decent copy of the movie but never got the chance to buy an affordable VHS copy, or to download a decent video file. Then, a few weeks ago, I finally stumbled upon a solid VHS rip of the German dubbed version on YouTube...


...and you know what? Yup, it's still as great as I remember. "Deadly Games" is the second feature of French director René Manzor who started his career with feature films like this one or "The Passage" starring Alain Delon, but quickly proceeded (and ended up) shooting made-for-TV movies and episodes for TV series like "Highlander", "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" or "Julie Lescaut".

The movie tells the story of a highly intelligent kid, who is left alone on Christmas eve in his parents' huge mansion, together with his half-blind Grandpa. The peaceful situation suddenly becomes extremely dangerous when an insane psychopath dressed as Santa Claus breaks in and starts chasing them...


"Deadly Games" could be described as dark version of "Home Alone" with elements of "Die Hard", "Silent Night, Deadly Night" and "First Blood". Don't get me wrong: it's NOT a "Home Alone" ripoff! It was shot and released one year earlier, and it's obviously far from being as light-hearted as the unbeatable John Hughes classic. Our main kid Thomas is a much more frightened, much more vulnerable character than Kevin, the intruder is disturbed and far creepier than the Wet Bandits, and the whole scenario is dark and serious,
at times even slightly unsettling.

The soundtrack consists of pounding e-drums and synths, as well as of horrid Bonnie Tyler tunes and a stupid Xmas ripoff of Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger". The cinematography is pretty awesome, lots of ace visuals and terrific tracking shots. Several scenes are a bit too slow and tedious, and I wasn't too fond of Brigitte Fossey's acting. Gladly, the rest of the cast is great, especially Alain Lalanne as Rambo-like boy and Patrick Floersheim as scary Santa.
 

Highlights: a chase scene that is a bit reminiscent of the finale in "The Shining", a scene where Psycho Santa colours his beard white which reminded me of a similar scene in the underrated "Christmas Evil", a slightly shocking scene where Santa kills a dog, and a few super-stunning slow motion scenes.

A superb Xmas gem that needs to be rediscovered. Fingers crossed for a DVD release in the hopefully not-so-far future...

19 December 2013

TO ALL A GOODNIGHT

TO ALL A GOODNIGHT

German Title:
Goodnight - Die Nacht, als Knecht "Blutbrecht" kam

USA, 1980
Director: David Hess

3,5/10







Another ultra-rare 80s slasher that never got a DVD release and is currently only available as bad VHS rip on YouTube and similar sites. To be fair, it is quite understandable why no one bothered about a proper re-release because "To All A Goodnight" is an incredibly unspectacular Xmas slasher about a killer Santa Claus in a sorority house; boring, awfully slow and dull as dishwater.

Still, I have absolutely no idea why this became so overlooked and forgotten. I mean, this came out during the heydays of the 80s slasher craze, got a funky poster, was directed by David Hess, better known as awesome villain actor in horror classics like "Last House on the Left" or "House on the Edge of the Park", and was written and produced by Alex Rebar who was responsible for the Exorcist ripoff "Beyond the Door".


Ok, it was distributed by the Intercontinental Releasing Corporation (IRC) who failed to create successful marketing for underrated 70s gems like "Haunts" or "Terror House", so I guess they also failed to hype up Hess' only directorial feature. Anyway.

There's not much positive to say. The body count is high and the kills are all cool (beheadings, stabbings, slit throats, death by helicopter propeller...), the music is wonderfully atmospheric and the overall editing is pretty decent.


However, as I already mentioned, there are way too many uber-boring and frustratingly tedious scenes, hardly any tension, no thrills, no scares, no nothing. Most of the acting is lame and almost all of the characters are plain annoying and unlikable. The lighting is often too dark, the camera work feels amateurish, and throughout the whole movie, you can feel that Hess had no idea how to handle the whole thing properly.

Spare your time and skip this. There are better Killer-Santa flicks out there.

18 December 2013

SATAN CLAUS (1996)

http://www.amazon.com/Satan-Claus-VHS-James-ODonoghue/dp/0967747015SATAN CLAUS

USA, 1996
Director: Massimiliano Cerchi

2/10











Ho! Ho! Ho! What a shitty show! "Satan Claus" is the third feature of lowest budget filmmaker Massimiliano Cerchi, a guy who could be described as the Italian equivalent of Ulli Lommel because... well, according to all the negative reviews on IMDB, he seem to have no filmmaking talent whatsoever, and nearly all of his films get frequently called "stinker" or "utter trash", "worst movie ever" or "plain unwatchable". Haven't seen any of his other movies, but I doubt that they're much better than this.


"Satan Claus" is far from being the worst movie ever, but it is definitely one hell of a stinker. A badly made, terribly directed, terribly written Xmas slasher that desperately tries to be something in the vein of "Silent Night, Deadly Night" or "Don't Open Till Christmas", but ends up being about as bad as "Satan Claws" or rubbish like that.

The plot is paperthin, every single character is a complete idiot and the acting is atrocious, let alone badly delivered crap-one-liners like "I cut you personally with your own bloody axe! I save the axe for last, you bet your ass."
Editing is very amateurish, and the lighting is terrible, everything is way, way too dark, especially the kills (which are all pretty lame) are hardly visible. Also, the killer is very easy to figure out and the ending is a rushed and confusing mess.


Some parts of the music are quite fine, the laughing of Killer Santa is fun, and I love the title of the movie - but that's about it. "Satan Claus" sucks.

17 December 2013

COYOTE (2013)

COYOTE

USA, 2013
Director: Trevor Juenger

5/10











When I saw an email from Bill Oberst Jr. in my inbox, I nearly pissed my pants.
I mean, damn: this is the guy who played the
16th president of the United States so fucking awesome, it almost made you forget about Daniel Day Lewis...

almost! ;-)

Oberst invited me to see his newest feature "Coyote" because he noticed that I had reviewed the awesome "7th Day" and wondered if I would be interested in checking out something in the same vein.


"Coyote" is definitely a bit similar to "7th Day", especially in tone and style, but unfortunately it's far from being as great. The well-trodden story of an insomniac who is plagued by horrifying nightmares and slowly starts to lose his insanity,
was told in an interesting but ultimately underwhelming and dissatisfying way by giving it a Lynchian nothing-can/will-be-explained approach which could have worked if done in a more subtle manner, but the way director Trevor Juenger handled it, makes the end result look like an intoxicated David Cronenberg
made a quasi-arthouse reboot of Adam Mason's "Pig".
No, I don't mean that as a compliment.

The acting is mostly excellent, especially the spot-on performances by Oberst, the strangely gorgeous Victoria Mullen and Bill Finkbiner. The multi-faceted score is terrific (bizarre electro stuff, melancholy piano) and Nick Brian Walters' highly imaginative camera work is just impressive. Unfortunately, the screenplay is all over the place, and the overload of weird/creepy/baffling/etc. images
is simply annoying.


Don't get me wrong: nearly every single image is a treat for the eyes, but when there's no plot and no story, hardly any tension and not a single likable character, it doesn't matter how awesome your movie looks, because eventually, the viewer ends up pretty unnerved.
 Odd shots of greasy Fleshlights, insectoid creatures and uncanny red typewriters... yes, it all looks great but... well, nothing gets explained, nothing seems to make sense, and in the end, I was just sitting there, gradually losing interest in what's going on the screen, wondering what the hell this is all about.

Give it a look if you get a kick out of movies about weirdos going bonkers, but don't expect too much of it.

Imdb

Thanks to Bill Oberst Jr. for providing me with a screener of the movie!


16 December 2013

Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly and Me, Part 3: Cindy's Thoughts on "DONNIE DARKO"

Part 3 of a not-exactly-weekly 12-part blog series about Donnie Darko and the works of Richard Kelly.
Part 1 - "Donnie Darko"
Part 2 - "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut"
Part 4 - "Eric's Pros & Cons of Living in Middlesex"
Part 5 - "Donnie Darko: Deleted Scenes vs. Director's Cut"
Part 6 - "S. Sarko: A Donnie Darko Tale"
Part 7 - "Donnie Darko vs. S. Darko"
Part 8 - "Southland Tales"
Part 9 - "The Box"

Guest Post by Cindy Prascik: 
"Retro Review: Donnie Darko (2001)"

Dearest Blog, you know we’re doing something right when not just one, but two, of our very favorite folks ask us to participate in their most excellent movie blogs. You go, Blog! *high five*
Here, at the behest of the awesome Maynard Morrissey, are some thoughts on cult favorite Donnie Darko. Spoiler level will be off the friggin' chain, because the movie's 12 years old and for once I can get away with it!

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled high-schooler suffering hallucinations of a rabbit called Frank, who presses him to do bad things.
I've always held the unpopular opinion that this movie stinks, but I hoped seeing it again might change my mind. Alas, ‘twas not to be.


First, filmmakers, if you want to creep the beejeebers out of people, your best option probably is not a bunny. Wait...WHAT IN THE NAME OF HADES IS THAT?? A tin-foil bunny head with Billie Piper's teeth??? I stand corrected. The bunny is sufficiently creepy.

The quiet of Donnie Darko's little 'burb is shattered when a chunk of an airplane falls from the sky and crashes into Donnie's bedroom. Donnie dodges certain death, as he’s spent the night out wandering in a trance and is nowhere near his bed when disaster strikes. This excitement only briefly interrupts the small-town grind, and residents aren’t long distracted from the local dance team's appearance on a national talent program or proposed school book-bans. One teacher (Drew Barrymore) is under fire for including challenged tomes in her curriculum, but another (Noah Wylie) introduces Donnie to a book about wormholes in time, written by a former science teacher who's now thought to be quite mad.
Donnie hooks himself a girlfriend, Gretchen (Jenna Malone), who, along with her mother, is on the run from her abusive stepfather. Frank-o-Vision reveals the face under the bunny head and now features trippy wormhole sequences.
(Or I accidentally dropped acid.)


Donnie acts out at Frank’s prompting, first sabotaging the school’s plumbing, later setting fire to the home of a motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze) who's unmasked as part of a child-porn ring when his house burns. When Mama and Papa Darko go out of town ---Dad (Holmes Osborne) on business, Mom (Mary McDonnell) chaperoning youngest daughter Samantha's dance team trip--- Donnie and sister Elizabeth (Gyllenhaal's real-life sister Maggie) host a Halloween party to celebrate Elizabeth's acceptance to Harvard. Gretchen turns up, frantic because her mother's disappeared. Donnie, Gretchen, and Elizabeth abandon their party guests to hunt for the missing woman. They land at the kooky science teacher's house, where they face off with a pair of school bullies (one of whom is Seth Rogen, in his first feature film role) bungling a robbery. The fracas spills into the street, and Gretchen is mowed down by a car driven by Elizabeth's boyfriend (James Duval), revealed to be the "Frank" of Donnie's visions and dressed for the party as…you guessed it…the creepiest bunny ever. As dawn is breaking, Donnie carries Gretchen’s body home.
(Can’t say a corpse would be my worst plus-one ever!)

We see Mama Darko and Baby Sis flying home from their event., when their plane starts acting …oh, I don’t know…like a piece of it might fall off or something. The movie then hits rewind and starts over, this time with Donnie in his bed the morning of the mysterious airline disaster. Those wormholes are so tricky!!


So, dear reader(s)...still with me? Yeah, I know. Donnie Darko falls just short of two hours, but feels like two years. It's plodding and pretentious, its dark tone emphasized by an 80s mope-rock soundtrack. The film plays like a TV movie-of-the-week, full of awkward transitions and wooden performances. The occasional exception is Jake Gyllenhaal, whose sly smile at Frank's increasingly-dangerous suggestions is chilling.

Donnie Darko clocks in at 113 minutes, and is rated R for "language, some drug use, and violence."
Sadly, I still find this movie a real snooze-fest. Highlights are limited to Jake Gyllenhaal’s sporadic brilliance, and an inspired choice of music that compliments the movie’s melancholy tone.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Donnie Darko gets four. Until next time...



Cindy Prascik is a movie reviewer from West Virginia who writes for Random Mexican's Movie Reviews. She's also a long time member of the legendary FB Film Geek Circle, and she constantly shares her thoughts on movies / music / pop culture on FB and Twitter.

R.I.P JOAN FONTAINE and PETER O'TOOLE

Veteran actress JOAN FONTAINE passed away from natural causes in her sleep at the age of 96.

She is best known for her amazing performances in Alfred Hitchcock's "REBECCA" (1940, Acamedy Award- nomination for Best Actress) and "SUSPICION" (1941, Acamedy Award for Best Actress).

She also delivered memorable genre-performances in Irwin Allen's "VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA" (1961) and in the Hammer-Films-produced "THE WITCHES" (1966).

Rest in Peace, Joan Fontaine
1917 - 2013



Acting legend PETER O'TOOLE passed away at the age of 81 following a long illness.

The Telegraph calls him "the unluckiest actor in history" because he holds the record for the most Academy Award acting nominations without a win:
"LAWRENCE OF ARABIA" (1962), "BECKET" (1964), "THE LION IN WINTER" (1968), "GOODBYE MR. CHIPS" (1969), "THE RULING CLASS" (1972), "THE STUNT MAN" (1980), "MY FAVORITE YEAR" (1982) and "VENUS" (2006).
At least, he finally got an "Honorary Academy Award" in 2003.

O'Toole's appearances in the horror genre were sparse. He starred in Neil Jordan's horror comedy "HIGH SPIRITS" (1988), and in the Neil Koontz adaptation "PHANTOMS" (1998) - that's it.

Rest in Peace, Peter O'Toole
1932 - 2013


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