31 January 2014

20FT BELOW: THE DARKNESS DESCENDING

20FT BELOW: THE DARKNESS DESCENDING

Original Title:
Redemption: The Darkness Descending

USA, 2014
Director: Marc Clebanoff

3/10







"20ft Below: The Darkness Descening" is the feature version of a 5-episode web-series called "The Darkness Descending" that went on air (online) in 2009. The movie's original title was "Redemption: The Darkness Descending" but I guess they changed it to avoid confusion with recently released similar-titled films like "Redemtion" (Jason Statham) or "Blood of Redemption" (Dolph Lundgren).

The movie tells the story of a young and oh-so-motivated documentary filmmaker who discovers a mysterious cult in the abandoned subway tunnels of New York City, led by a Mexican called "Angel", a ruthless guy who has some serious Jigsaw-like morals...


Well, what can I say: it's everything I expected from a direct-to-video title with a heavy-handed title and Danny Trejo on the cover, though contrary to the exceptions of Dread Central (see here!), he's in for more than 5 minutes, but not more than 20 minutes.
Trejo is decent as always, but his character is shallow, one-dimensional and not believable at all, and he's constantly forced to deliver clichéd lines like "I am God." or "You are ruled by fear. I am fear".

Speaking of lame dialogue: there are more god-awful lines like "You wanna be a man? Be a man!" (Frank Krueger) or "You gotta carry a big stick... and I've got the biggest stick of them all." (Louis Mandylor) or (worst of all) "When inspiration calls, I answer. Brrrrring! Hello? Who's this? Inspiration? Oh, of course, I'll be right there." (Wylie Small)...


The direction is trite and the writing is highly uninspired. There's hardly any tension, nothing thrilling, nothing scary. The whole thing plods along at snail's pace from start to finish. There are a few solid fight sequences, and a few well-shot scenes that look and feel like a bit like a blend of "CSI" and "Cops", but the rest is just tedious, dull and very lackluster. The acting ranges from good (Kinga Philipps, Frank Krueger) to terrible (Michael Rene Walton, Darren Darnborough).

[Oh btw, why "20 feet" when the main character clearly says that she's
"200 feet underground"?]

May this movie descend into darkness and never come back... ;)

Imdb

Thanks to Kelly Williams from "Greenleaf + Associates, Inc." for the screener!

FALLEN ANGEL (2014)

FALLEN ANGEL

Original Title:
Pali Andjeo

Serbia, 2014
Director: Marko Marinkovic

7,5/10








After the immensely disappointing "Endless Corridor", we're back to Serbian quality-horror with "Fallen Angel", the debut feature of young Serbian director Marko Marinkovic, a surprisingly original and superbly entertaining found-footage flick about a few teens who get locked in an old theater which is haunted by
an ancient demon.


It may be a bit too long, too flawed and not that scary, but that doesn't matter much because I had a really great time watching this little gem. With lots of ambition and creativity, and a budget of only 500 Euro (= about 680 dollars), Marinkovic and his crew created an imaginative and slighlty impressing little chiller that turned out to be far better than I imagined, thanks to the terrific direction, the tight pacing and the fabulously written screenplay.

There's not much happening in the first half hour, but due to the fact that the acting is really good, that every single character is pretty likable, and that nearly all of the dialogue is quite diverting, I never got bored and kept watching. Then, in the middle, various freaky things start to happen, ghosts appear, people disappear, fear and panic spreads. In the last half hour, all hell breaks loose and we get to see burning angels and nazi ghosts, people getting killed,
people getting possessed etc.


There's lots of cool-looking gore and make-up effects, some ace practical effects and even some neat CGI (kudos to Pedja Ivanović and Mladen Tomašević). Love the scene where the ghost face comes out of the mirror, the eerie Nazi sequence and the batshit amazing appearance of the fire-angel.
Editing and cinematography are very good, the scary music works very well, and I love the energetic acing, most notably the performances of Filip Milicevic, Stevan Matic and the super-hot, super-gorgeous Dijana Bazic.


Ignore the lame poster artwork: "Fallen Angel" is a must-see
for found footage fans!

Imdb

Thanks to Marko Marinkovic for providing me with a screener!

28 January 2014

DEVIL'S PASS

DEVIL'S PASS

Orginal/Alternate Title:
The Dyatlov Pass Incident

USA / UK / Russia, 2013
Director: Renny Harlin

5/10








Don't believe the cover: this is not a film about naked chicks in snow (duh), it's actually a found-footage Horror / SciFi flick about a group of oh-so-clever Americans trying to solve the mysteries behind the mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident, and it was directed by the once-so-great Renny Harlin, mastermind behind massive hits like "Die Hard 2", "Deep Blue Sea" or "A Nightmare on
Elm Street 4"...
and massive flops like "Cutthroat Island", "Exorcist: The Beginning" or "Driven".


"Devil's Pass" is comparable to found footage films like "Apollo 18" or "Frankenstein's Army": great premise, interesting plot, but very mediocre and ultimately highly underwhelming execution. Some parts are tense and atmospheric, some parts are just tedious and boring. Harlin's direction is solid but surprisingly too conservative. This should have been done in a wilder
and more dynamic style.

Cinematography and editing are neat, the CGI is decent and most of the acting is quite nice, except Holly Goss' rather annoying performance. Her supposed-to-be-frightened mimics are just hilarious. Also, the ending... aaaaargh!! Screenwriter Vikram Weet tried hard to create an original and unique conclusion to the story by adding a bizarre time-loop / time-travel-paradox plot-twist with meh-looking mountain-mutants and shit - but this conclusion is actually sooo stupid and sooo goddamn laughable, it almost destroys the entire movie.


Watchable shaky-cam romp, but far from being a must-see.

COUNTER PARTS

COUNTER PARTS
(11minute short)

USA, 2014
Director: Patrick Rea

9,5/10





Another year, another short film by filmmaking-workaholic Patrick Rea. His last three shorts were all awesome ("I Do", "Good Conduct", "Vindicate"),
and this one... well, it's awesome too!

"Counter Parts" follows two rival sisters: Alexis, a famous actress, and Sandra,
a rather pitiful creature who lost her eyes and one leg in a car accident, and desperately tries to get her life back by using voodoo magic

and supernatural powers...


The story seems to be simple and easy to follow, but after a while you realize it's way more complex, way more elaborate, due to a fascinating narrative and an absolutely mindblowing plot twist. Rea's direction is excellent as always, and the screenplay (co-written by Michelle Davidson, "Hell Week") is almost flawless.

Somyia Finley gives excellent and higly entertaining performances as both sisters. Love her smile and the scene in the car where she goes bonkers, screaming "Whooooo! Whooooo! Motherfuckers!" :) Long-time Rea-collaborators Hanuman Brown-Eagle (cinematography), Julian Bickford (music) and - especially - Ryan. S. Jones (CGI) all deliver top-notch work.

Already a contender for the best short film of the year!

26 January 2014

Another Pageview Record // Kickstarter Call-Up: Richard Powell's "Heir"

Now look at that: after reaching 500.000 pageviews in November, I just reached the unbelievable number of 600.000 pageviews! Also, 270 followers! I'm speechless. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.




You have too much money? Ok, then please give it to Canadian director Richard Powell. After blowing my mind with the two unbelievable award-winning short films "FAMILIAR" and "WORM" (Reviews here!), he's currently working on his newest short "HEIR", starring the great Bill Oberst Jr. ("Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies") and the great Robert Nolan ("The Prospector's Curse").

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1192170048/heir-the-final-short-from-fatal-pictures

Powell tries to finance "HEIR" via Kickstarter and so far, it looks pretty good that he will reach the goal $17.000 CAD. I already had the pleasure of reading the "HEIR" script which is so compelling, so fascinating,  I just can't wait any longer to finally see the film. I'm confident that it will be another Powell-masterpiece!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1192170048/heir-the-final-short-from-fatal-pictures

24 January 2014

DEAD SHADOWS

DEAD SHADOWS

France, 2012
Director: David Cholewa

2,5/10











Here in Austria, "Dead Shadows" was already released on DVD last year in March. I remember being mildly interested in checking it out because of the slightly cool cover artwork, but after seeing a super-silly trailer and reading a few extremely negative reviews, I decided to skip.

Just a few weeks ago, I changed my mind when I saw that Shout! Factory is about to release it on DVD/BluRay in USA and Canada. I changed my mind and decided to give it a go in order to see if its really that bad. And now that I've seen it, I can wholeheartedly say: yes, it is that bad.


"Dead Shadows", the debut of director David Cholewa and screenwriter Vincent Julé, is an awful semi-post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror mishmash that tries hard to be some kinda Lovecraft-like "Night of the Comet", but ultimately comes off as SyFy-like monster mess, unable to decide between oh-so-tough zombie flick and oh-so-trashy 80s zombie throwback.

The basic story is cool (comet crashes down in Paris and releases a bunch of tentacle monsters who transform humans into zombies), but due to the horrid direction, the lousy script, the non-existence of any backstory or explanation, and the stunningly flawed, stunningly shoddy execution, "Dead Shadows" ends up
as abysmal and frustratingly underwhelming string of embarrassing CGI effects, lackluster monster attacks / fight scenes, gaping plot holes, and cliché-ridden cardboard characters babbling stupid dialogue
("Your Justin-Bieber-attitude is over, kid.")
.


The acting is decent, the music is okay and some of the gore effects are pretty cool. Everything else is just a waste of time. Fortunately, it's only 70 minutes long *phew*

R.I.P RIZ ORTOLANI

RIZ ORTOLANI, one of the greatest soundtrack composers of all time, passed away at the age of 87 due to complications from Bronchitis.

From the early 50s until now, Ortolani scored all or parts of more than 220(!) movies and TV series. Horror fans adore him for his amazing work in the horror genre, composing for countless legendary Italian genre directors like Ruggero Deodato ("Cannibal Holocaust", "House at the Edge of the Park"), Lucio Fulci ("Don't Torture A Duckling", "Perversion Story"), Antonio Margheriti ("Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye", "Dracula in the Castle of Blood"), Umberto Lenzi ("Seven Blood-Stained Orchids", "So Sweet... So Perverse"), Pupi Avati ("Zeder"), Ovidio G. Assonitis ("There was a Little Girl"), René Cardona Jr. ("Cyclone") or Fabrizio De Angelis ("Killer Crocodile 1 & 2").

He is also very well known for the music he composed for Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi's shockumentaries "Mondo Cane" (1962), "La Donna del Mondo" (1963), "Africa Addio" (1966), "Addio zio Tom" (1971)
and "Mondo Candido" (1975).

He won a Golden Globe for the song "Forget Domani" (composed for 1964 comedy-drama "The Yellow Rolls-Royce"), received Oscar & Grammy nominations for the music in "Mondo Cane", Oscar & Golden Globe nominations for the music in the 1970 western "Madron".
Many of his songs / scores were later featured in various films of Quentin Tarantino ("Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2", "Inglourious Basterds", "Django Unchained"),
as well as in Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" and Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang".

Rest in Peace, Riz Ortolani
1931 - 2014

23 January 2014

HEARTSTOPPER

HEARTSTOPPER

Alternate Titles:
Heart Stopper / Heart Eater

Canada, 2006
Director: Bob Keen

5/10








What a cool cover, what a fun title! Sadly, the movie doesn't live up to it. "Heartstopper" is a mediocre direct-to-DVD flick about a brutal serial killer who gets executed on the electric chair, but comes back to life via a deal with the devil.


"Heartstopper" was the last directorial effort of Bob Keen (so far) who worked on special /visual effects for fantastic horror classics like "Candyman", "Hellraiser 1, 2 & 3", "Waxwork 1 & 2" or "Nightbreed", as well for other non-horror uber-classics like "Star Wars 4, 5 & 6", "Highlander" or "The Neverending Story".

In terms of directing, he didn't had as much luck: family crap like "To Catch A Yeti" (1995), horror rubbish like "Proteus" (1995) or TV garbage like
"The Lost World" (1998).


Back to the film. "Heartstopper" actually starts out pretty awesome. The first half hour is tense, atmospheric and fast-paced, and reminded me a bit of similar flicks like "The Horror Show", "Shocker" or "The First Power". Robert Englund gives an excellent performance as cool Sheriff, delivering badass one-liners like "You have the right to shut the fuck up!". There's an absolutely badass electric-chair-electrocution, some cool gore and a few terrifically eerie visuals.

But then after the first half hour [SPOILER!] Englund's character dies, and the rest of the film ends up as lame and unoriginal ripoff of "Halloween 2". The bodies pile up and we get to see a few ace kills, but due to lack of any scares and thrills, as well as a predictable and rather unconvincing screenplay, it gradually bored me more and more. Cinematography is nice and the practical effects are all well done, but the few CGI effects are embarrassing and James Binkley's performance as killer is at times unintenionally amusing.


Not good, not bad. A decent watch, but far from being a real heartstopper.

22 January 2014

BYZANTIUM

BYZANTIUM

Working Title:
A Vampire Story

Ireland / UK / USA, 2012/2013
Director: Neil Jordan

7/10








After a long absence from the genre, director Neil Jordan ("Interview with a Vampire", "The Company of Wolves") returns to Horror with a movie that could have been one of THE highlights in 2013 if it wasn't such a mess: "Byzantium", written by Moira Buffini ("Jane Eyre"), tells the story of two mysterious vampire-like women (they prefer the term 'Soucriant') who flee from their past and seek refuge in a rundown hotel called 'Byzantium'...


Jordan's fantasy/Gothic-like signature style is something you don't get to see that often nowadays. "Byzantium" is packed with stunningly gorgeous images and visuals of bloody waterfalls, mesmerising neon signs and solitary landscapes.

The film's basic story is fascinating and reminds of great genre classics like "Let The Right One In", "Ginger Snaps" or "Near Dark". Unfortunately, the screenplay is such a confusing and convoluted mess, I quickly lost track of who is who, when is when, what's this, what's that, what's going on etc. Also, it's a bit too long
(120 minutes) and the ending is slightly predictable.


Everything else is damn solid: Javier Navarrete ("Pan's Labyrinth") indulged me with a gobsmackingly intense score consisting of ravishing violins and angelic choirs, while Sean Bobbitt's ("The Place Beyond The Pines") lavish cinematography gave me goose bumps. The cast is fantastic - stand-outs: Saoirse Ronan as introverted vampire girl, Daniel Mays as pitiful hotel boss, and the fantastic Caleb Landry Jones as weird waiter.

A must-see for fans of sophisticated horror cinema, though in terms of great new vampire films, I'd rather recommend the stunning "Kiss of the Damned".

20 January 2014

Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly and Me, Part 5: Deleted Scenes vs. Director's Cut

Part 5 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 3 - "Cindy's Thoughts on Donnie Darko"
Part 4 - "Eric's Pros & Cons of Living in Middlesex"
Part 6 - "S. Sarko: A Donnie Darko Tale"
Part 7 - "Donnie Darko vs. S. Darko"
Part 8 - "Southland Tales"
Part 9 - "The Box"

Just to let you know how much time I have to waste: here's a nice little overview of all the deleted "Donnie Darko" scenes, the ones that ended as Bonus on the regular DVD in 2002, and the ones that were used in the Director's Cut in 2004.
I... um "analyse" every single scene, and I compare the scenes that were used both as DS and in the DC.


DS = Deleted Scene, not used in the OV or in the DC
DC = Director's Cut
OV = Original Version



DS









Donnie and Samantha watching an episode of "Married... with Children".

Short and rather unimportant scene, but I wouldn't mind if it would've made into the final cut, especially since Donnie's got the hots for Christina Applegate.



DS & DC








Rose interrupts a telephone conversation of Elizabeth and Frank, asking Elizabeth how she knew that Donnie stopped taking his medication.

Short and rather unimportant too, but it definitely fits into the DC and it also would have fit into the original.



DS









An extended version of the nightly conversation between Donnie and Frank on the golf course.

Yes, the whole thing is a bit too long and tends to drag, but there a few moments that really should have been in the OV/DC, especially the one with Donnie looking to the sky, and the one with Donnie saying "Okay. Bye bye."



DS & DC

An extended version of the sequence with the family at the Holiday Inn hotel, talking about the turbine crash.

Two clips of that sequence made it into the DC: Donnie saying he's gonna fart in his sister's face which is priceless, and Dad saying that someone watched over Donnie which is kinda lame.






DS & DC









Donnie, his friends and his sister standing at the bus stop. Donnie makes fun of Samantha's poem and the friends make 'fun' of Cherita.

A simply great scene that fits in perfectly. Makes me dislike the friends more, makes me feel more sympathy towards Cherita.




DS & DC




Extended montage of various students reacting to the school cancelling.

Nothing to complain. Short, sweet, and neat. Sadly, only one small clip from that montage made it into the DC.




DS & DC














Donnie and Gretchen in the local arcade, talking about dreams and stuff.

Though the car crash in the video game is fun, the whole scene (in the DC: shortened and slightly re-edited, videogame looks a bit different) has a strange and bland vibe that doesn't fit with the rest of the film. Should have been dropped.



DS & DC










Donnie reads a self-written poem to the class.

Apart from the rather dumb line "...'cause I am Donnie Darko.", I really like this scene, though I think it doesn't fit in. It's a good deleted scene that stands on its own, but has absolutely no place in the OV and the DC.



DS & DC










The parents are out for dinner, talking about Donnie's suspension and if they shall buy him a moped.

A silly and completely superfluous scene that feels more like out of a Donnie-Darko-spoof. The DC uses a different take of the scene, including Roses humorously suggesting a divorce - which isn't much better.



DS










Extended version of the scene where Donnie and his psychologist talk about faith.

Slightly longer, more religious. Doesn't offer anything of importance. Expendable.



DS & DC
















Mrs. Pomeroy tells the class that Graham Greene's short story collection got banned in school, but they can still buy it from some local book shop. They're gonna read "Watership Down" instead.

Weird scene. Good as a stand-alone deleted scene, but doesn't really fit in the DC. Also, I really hate when Pomeroy says "I've not yet been elected queen of the universe." which makes her come off as arrogant and unsympathetic.




DS & DC














Donnie and Elizabeth carving pumpkins, talking about stuff. Donnie's pumpkin looks like Frank.


Not an essential scene, but an entertaining one, especially due to the wonderful chemistry between the two siblings. Unforunately, only a small portion of that scene made it into the DC.



DS



















Extended therapy scene including Dr. Thurman mentioning a sexual fantasy involving Mister Rogers and an 'epilogue' with Donnie sitting unconscious on the dinner table.

Thurman's revelation is silly and the 'epilogue' is rather pointless. Completely expendable.



DS & DC













Donnie and Gretchen waking up at Carpathian Ridge.

Short and rather unimportant scene, but well-filmed and good looking. Fits in perfectly.






DS & DC














Donnie and drunk Dad sitting in the garden. Donnie's in low spirits but Dad is able to cheer him up.

Nah, sorry. As popular as this conversation may be, I just hate it. Holmes Osborne is a great actor, but his acting here is too over-the-top and simply annoying. Also, the whole scene has a weird tone that totally doesn't fit with the rest of the movie.





DS & DC















Donnie, Gretchen and Pomeroy talking about the 'pros & cons' of "Watership Down" - followed by a scene where a highly depressed Donnie stares at his happy family.

The Watership-part of the scene (which is in the DC) is dumb and doesn't feel believable at all. Donnie's ranting about the rabbits is almost laughable. The 'deeper meaning' behind his rant (his feelings, emotions, aspirations) comes off as fully implausible.
The second part (which is NOT in the DC) is much more powerful. Short, very-well filmed and really emotional.





DS & DC












Donnie and Elizabeth say goodbye to mother and sister.

A scene, so goddamn pointless, it hurts. There was absolutely no need to put it into the DC.



DS & DC











Extended version of Donnie and Pomeroy's conversation in school.

Some more information about their 'friendship', but nothing really important. Don't mind the inclusion of this extra footage. The short sequence at the beginning with Donnie trying to talk to Gretchen is missing in the DC.



DS & DC











Dr. Thurman admits to Donnie that the pills she gave him were only placebos.

Undoubtedly the best and strongest scene. Gets me everytime I see it. An excellent little shocker! Should have been in the OC.



DS














The bloody details of Donnie's death.

Surely he most controversial deleted scene among DD-fans. I understand why it's missing in both, OC & DC, but I can't help it - I love it. Puts Donnie back into a more human light. Fuck superheroes ;-P



Total Pageviews

:-)

:-)