30 November 2014

THE DARK HALF

THE DARK HALF

German Title:
Stephen King's Stark - The Dark Half

USA, 1993
Director: George A. Romero

8/10








Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name,
horror legend George A. Romero created one of the most interesting, yet still most underrated movies of his career, following Thad Beaumont, respectable but unsuccessful writer of cerebral fiction whose pseudonym George Stark (much more successful 'writer' of brutal crime novels) suddenly becomes a physical entity and starts to threaten his and his family's life...


It might be not as impressive as Romero's zombie films, not as incredible as other King adaptations like "The Shining" or "Misery", but compared to most of Romero's post-"Day of the Dead" work, it's still simply awesome. "The Dark Half" is not just a damn great adaptation of a damn great novel (one of my personal King favorites), it's also a very well directed horror-thriller, packed with great scares, ace kills, fantastic actors and a superb early 90s atmosphere that strongly resembles films like "The Guardian" or "The Hands That Rocks the Cradle".

Timothy Hutton is pitch-perfect in the double role, delivering a sympathetic goodie and a super-violent, super-fascinating baddie who starts to look creepier and creepier in evey single scene, thanks to the fact that his entity quickly starts to decay. There's also many other fine performances by Amy Madigan, Julie Harris and the great Michael Rooker, best known for his performance in the 80s classic "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer".


Aside from being flawlessly directed, it's also a very well photographed (Tony Pierce-Roberts, "Underworld"), very well lit movie (love the scene in the corridor with the red and blue lights) with a brilliantly effective soundtrack by musical genius Christopher Young ("Hellraiser II", "Elm Street 2", "Sinister"),
excellent gore & makeup effects, as well as many unforgettably striking scenes, like the opening with the fetus in Beaumont's brain, the slightly Hitchcockian bird attacks, or the dream sequence with the porcelain faces, as well as the creepy use of Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?".


It's a shame how forgotten and overlooked "The Dark Half" is. Not only has it been a box office bomb, thanks to the fact that it was shot in 1990/1991, but not released until 1993 due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures, no, it seems to be really forgotten! Talk with horror fans about Romero or King and you will notice that none of them ever mentions this movie. Why? I have no idea. "The Dark Half" is a fabulous movie and I could watch it over and over again.

Wiki ~ Imdb

27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving - with "BLOOD RAGE"

BLOOD RAGE

Alternate Title:
Nightmare at Shadow Woods

USA, 1987
Director: John Grissmer

7,5/10









It's Thanksgiving. Mother Maddy, her son Terry and the family sitting together for some delicious and Turkey and shit when suddenly the telephone rings and Maddy receives news that her other son Todd escaped from the mental asylum. Todd and Terry are identical twins. As a kid, Terry brutally slaughtered a teenage boy, but instead of him, his brother Todd was found guilty and eventually locked away. Now that Todd escaped, Terry takes the chance to act out his murderous desire and goes on a massive killing spree to frame his brother once again...


What may sound and a bit confusing is actually one of the most overlooked, most underrated 80s slashers. "Blood Rage" (not to be confused with the 1979 horror thriller "Bloodrage") is obviously as clichéd as nearly every other late-80s killer flick (survivor girl, premarital sex, pot and booze...), but apart from that, it delivers an incredible high amount of tension and nervewracking suspense, as well as an insanely high body count and gallons of gloriously ghastly gore, including decapitations, stabbings, impalings, severed limbs and one girl even gets
cut in half - very nice!

"Blood Rage" has never been properly released on DVD, at least not in its uncut form, which is a shame because slasher fans like me need to seek out bad-quality VHS-rips on YouTube to enjoy all the blood and violence. An even bigger shame is the fact that this was one of only 2 directorial efforts by director / writer John Grissmer. I have no idea why he didn't get the chance to shoot more films. His direction is terrific and he perfectly managed to turn Bruce Rubin's ("Zapped!") screenplay into a gripping and excellently entertaining gorefest
with only a handful of flaws.


Also very worth mentioning: an exceptionally intense synth score by Richard Einhorn ("The Prowler", "Don't Go in the House"), a fantastic double role by Mark Soper ("Swordfish") who gives flawless performances as confused Todd and uber-maniac Terry, an even more fantastic performance by Louise Lasser ("Requiem for a Dream") as mother who slowy loses her marbles + an unexpectedly grim and rather unforeseeable ending.

I can't recommend this movie highly enough. "Blood Rage" is one helluva slasher and you just have to check it out!


[2 Images stolen from forum.dead-donkey.com,
1 image stolen from thewolfmancometh.com]

FANTASM: A CONVENTION DOCUMENTARY

FANTASM:
A CONVENTION DOCUMENTARY

USA, 2013
Director: Kyle Kuchta

6/10










"Fantasm" (obviously not to be confused with the "Phantasm" franchise) is a documentary about horror conventions, shot at six different conventions between 2012 and 2013 (Monster-Mania 23 & 24, Rock and Shock, Spooky Empire, Horrorhound Weekend 2012 & 2013) where young filmmaker Kyle Kuchta talks with fans, webmasters, merchants and legendary horror actors about their convention experiences and horror per se. Plain and simple.


We get to see Elm Street stars like Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss or Tuesday Knight, the great Tom Atkins ("Night of the Creeps"), director Joe Lynch ("Wrong Turn 2") and Troma boss Lloyd Kaufman, as well on-stage appearances by various actors of "The Walking Dead" or the Rob Zombie universe. We get to see awesome horror toys, amazing horror cosplayers, posters, VHS / DVD collections, all kinds of parents, teenagers and kids talking about their genre obsessions. That's it.

It's fun and diverting, but compared to recent fandom documentaries like "Comic-Con Episode IV", "Best Worst Movie" or "Adjust Your Tracking",
it totally lacks punch. There's nothing that makes you go "Wow!", no deeper stories, no unique characters. It's just people talking about the horror community, outsiderdom, geekiness and stuff - and what they're talking is mostly not that interesting.


It's cool to see Langenkamp rambling about how much conventions mean to her, or Atkins comparing horror films to amusement parks - but at the same time, it's rather boring seeing several individuals talking about the meaning/feeling/importance of community over and over again. Come on, I get it. Talk about something else *ugh* Also, at a length of only 55 minutes, it's still a bit too dull, too slow-paced.

The one bright spot in "Fantasm" is indie director Jack Bennett. Not only does he have a very pleasant voice, he's also saying lots of very, very cool, very true stuff:
"If we're arguing about politics, the winner is gonna decide the fate of our country, possibly. The stakes are higher. If you're now having an argument about slow zombies and fast zombies, or something like that, at the end of the day we're still having fun because whether we're talking, we're talking about zombie movies."
or: 
"When you saw the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" (the first movie that scared the shit out of the
director), you hadn't considered the possibility that a movie could do this to you... and then you step through that gateway and it almost becomes like a drug. I have to find other things that give me the same sensations. So, "Dawn of the Dead - The Remake" leads to "Dawn of the Dead - The Original" leads to "Day of the Dead" leads to "Return of the Living Dead". "Shaun of the Dead" is in there... everything in between... and then you're like "Okay, I've exhausted zombie possibilities. Are there any other things?" And so you're watching "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", you're watching "Near Dark", you're watching all the classics... you know, anything! You're watching "The Shining". You're discovering the possibilities for this genre... and it becomes like a roadmap. You can actually see how this leads to this leads to this."
Dayum, I could really listen to Bennett all day long!

Overall, "Fantasm" is a nice little flick, but far from being anything special. Hardcore convention freaks may dig it a bit more than
"average" horror fans like me.

Imdb

Thanks to Simply Legandary Publicity for the screener!

26 November 2014

BLOOD LAKE: ATTACK OF THE KILLER LAMPREYS

BLOOD LAKE: ATTACK OF
THE KILLER LAMPREYS

Alternate Title:
Blood Lake

German Title:
Blood Lake - Killerfische greifen an

USA, 2014
Director: James Cullen Bressack

4/10




Imagine a low-budget version of Joe Dante's "Piranha", replace the bloodthirsty Piranha with bloodthirsty Lampreys(!), add some animal-crawls-into-and/or-eats-human-gruesomeness à la "Slugs" and some ridiculous CGI-goofiness à la "Sharknado" and shit - yup, that's the Asylum-produced "Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys" in a nutshell, the newest feature by prolific director James Cullen Bressack which follows two fish & wildlife experts who try to save a small town from being eradicated by an invasion of... well, Killer Lampreys...


Bressack tries his best to turn the goofy screenplay by Delondra Williams ("Ragin' Cajun Redneck Gators") and regular Asylum development assistant Anna Rasmussen ("Sharknado 2") into a solid creature feature b-movie, but fails because... well, we've already seen thousands of CGI creature-fests like that before, and they're basically all the same: a couple of has-been actors, A couple of cliché-ridden characters like the rigid and undiscerning mayor or the defiant teen daughter, some gore, some hot girls (but no nudity), oh-so-amusing bad computer effects and an over-the-top finale.

"Blood Lake" sadly doesn't want to be anything special. It just wants to be another run-of-the-mill made-for-TV "horror" film with a sensational title. No more and no less. To be fair, it's a well-shot and well-edited film, Bressack's direction is really decent, the Bernard-Herrmann-influenced score by Steven Bernstein ("Animaniacs") is excellent, there's enough gore and violence to satisfy every modest gore-hound, and nearly all of the actors deliver solid performances, most notably Jason Brooks ("Baywatch Hawaii"), Zack Ward ("Postal"), Shannen Doherty ("Beverly Hills 90210") and, of course, Christopher "Doc Brown" Lloyd [SPOILER] whose character gets a Lamprey up his ass!


Final verdict: better than most Asylum / SyFy monster movies, but still no must-see. Could have been way more badass if done in the 80s with practical effects, maybe by Juan Piquer Simón.


Thanks to James Cullen Bressack for the screener!

FOUND (2012)

FOUND

USA, 2012
Director: Scott Schirmer

6/10











The huge amount of immensely positive and extremely enthusiastic reviews for this indie feature obviously made it one of my absolute top must-see flicks this year. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work for me, not because of my high expectations, but more because... well, this is a movie you will either adore or you will just find okay.

Director / writer Scott Schirmer's adaptation of Todd Rigney's novel of the same name follows a young, bullied boy who finds out that his brother is a brutal and racist serial killer who seems to be addicted to kill and behead African-American people, causes by his strange obsession with an obscure horror movie
called "Headless"...


"Found" looks and feels as if Harmony Korine and Lynne Ramsay created their very own definition of a slasher movie. The basic storyline is fresh, original and fascinating, it's full of imaginative and rather remarkable scenes, sequences, moments and ideas that stick with you (animated opening / kids creating a graphic novel about superheroes about "Roach Man" & "Bag Punch" / fake horror films "Deep Dwellers", "Death Rattlers" or the above-mentioned "Headless" / killers wearing gas masks or skull masks...), and the gore is very, very insane, especially the "Headless" footage which includes some of the most awesome-looking blood I've seen in a very long time, as well as the most demented maniacs-fucks-decapitated-head scene since "High Tension".

Unfortunately, "Found" is unable to decide what it wants to be: coming-of-age drama? gore shocker? social commentary on White America and/or racism? It touches many genres/subgenres, but doesn't manage to piece them all together, so it all feels rather muddled and slightly incoherent. I also thought that Schirmer tried too hard to shock the audience, tried too hard to touch as many subjects as possible, tried too hard to cram as many ideas as possible into it, or like Twitchfilm mentioned in their review, he even tried too hard "to make it look like it cost more than it did". Schirmer is definitely a talented filmmaker with a unique vision, but in this case, he was completely overdoing it. Less is more.


Some of the acting is amazing (Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck), some is just super-lame (Louie Lawless). Music, editing, and ciematography are all splendid, gore and make-up effects are just terrific. The ending seemed to have disturbed nearly everyone who saw it - except me. [SPOILER] seeing the masked brother walking into the room with an erect penis after he killed his parents... well, it actually did amuse me because it reminded me a bit of the over-the-top erect-penis ending in this year's mindblower "The Samurai".

If you haven't seen "Found" yet, don't listen to me. Go out and see it for yourself. Most of you will adore the hell out of it, but a few of you will probably about as underwhelmed as me. Good luck!

24 November 2014

MAGIC MAGIC

MAGIC MAGIC

Chile / USA, 2013
Director: Sebastián Silva

8/10











I "love" how the trailer makes you think that this is a simple horror flick about a psychopathic Michael Cera frightening and killing young girls. If you, dear reader, thought so too... well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you've been completely fooled, just like me, "thanks" to Sony Pictures who had no idea how to sell this, and simply went the mindless psycho route.


Thank goodness, "Magic Magic" is NOT what the distributor advertised. It's something radically different, something I totally didn't expect. Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Silva ("The Maid") created a unique and quite unsettling psychological chiller about Alicia, a young girl who's mentally a bit under the weather, travelling to Chile to spend the holidays with her cousin and a few of her friends.
However, instead of fun and relaxation, the trip becomes an unbearable nightmare for her due to lack of sleep, surreal visions, a few weird persons whose behavior is plain inscrutable, and a few minor incidents that have an unexpectedly massive impact on her.

No psycho killers, no murderers, "just" a normal girl whose behavior gets weirder and weirder, because there's something seriously wrong with her mental health, and it obviously doesn't help that she's in a foreign country for the very first time, a country that doesn't have much to do with the place she comes from (America), at a place where she is "forced" to spend the days with people who don't like her and act rather strange all the time - or is it all just pure imagination? Does it have something to do with the mediacation she takes? Does she just want to be the center of attention? Or is she a real nutcase who is just unable to handle this situation?


With every minute and with every scene,
"Magic Magic" becomes more and more bizarre. What starts out as slightly comedic teen-drama, ends up as disturbing horror trip, not just for her, but for her friends too. Seemingly unimportant events and incidents become a catalyst for the way things change and eventually fall apart.

It's not a pleasant film. Nearly all of the characters are pretty unlikable, not in an annoying way, but rather in an intriguing and strangely fascinating way because you wanna know why they all act in such an assholeish way - until you realize that they may be not as assholeish as you first thought (does that make sense?). Several scenes are pretty awkward (dog hump, nightly telephone call) several scenes are highly uncomfortable (hypnosis, jump in the water, forced cunnilingus) and several scenes just disturbed the hell out of me (dog kills sheep, the
utterly insane finale).


The acting is simply fantastic, especially Juno Temple's award-worthy performance, Michael Cera as unfathomable weirdo, cutie Emily Browning as careless young girl with a secret, and Catalina Sandino Moreno as mysterious and unbelievably inconvenient woman. Silva's direction is strong and able to keep the movie creepy from start to finish. Also, excellent use of The Knife's "Pass This On" and Cab Calloway's "Minnie The Moocher", a subtle but super-eerie score by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") and excellent camera work by Christopher Doyle ("Dumplings"). Magically great!

ANTISOCIAL

ANTISOCIAL

Canada, 2013
Director: Cody Calahan

4/10











Ever since I first heard of this movie and its hilariously genius concept, I was ridiculously excited for it. I mean... dayum, Canadian writer / producer Cody Calahan's ("Monster Brawl", "The Drownsman") directorial debut feature "Antisocial" takes place on New Year's Eve and deals with a bizarre virus that spreads all over the world via a Facebook-like social network called "The Social Redroom" and turns its users into aggressive and violent semi-zombies. Is it just me or does this sound really awesome?


Unfortunately, what seemed like some kinda "Pontypool"-esque satire on everything internet- and social media-related, is actually just a lame and pretty unoriginal ripoff of the slightly overlooked "The Signal" (2007) with elements of "28 Days Later" (It's end of the world as we know it...), "Pulse" (Internet is bad for you!) and maybe "Growth" (yucky worms and shit). The basic concept is amazing, but instead of focusing on what goes on outside/all over the world and on the internet, they made a "Purge" and created a really frustrating borefest about 5 uninteresting teenagers in an uninteresting house talking about all kinds of uninteresting stuff, getting trasnformed into clichéd infected semi-zombies.

The acting is neat, but nearly every single character is just lackluster and forgettable - and the few that seem to be a bit more interesting, they constantly talk drivel, delivering wild, uber-abstruse and unintentionally ridiculous theories and explanations about the virus' origin *sigh* Also, Canada's best kept acting-secret Robert Nolan (yay!) is just in for a couple of seconds (nay).


There's not much tension, action or scariness going on. A couple of mildly eerie scenes (the infected all experience unsettling visions before they goe batshit insane), a few mildly gory kills, some ok violence. That's it. The best thing about "Antisocial" is the intense, pulse-pounding electro-score by Steph Copeland (who?) that gave me a few stunning ear-gasms. Everything else about it is just anti-entertaining. Totally not interested in the upcoming
"Antisocial 2" (what? why? ugh).

20 November 2014

November Short Film Extravaganza Vol. 2: THE CLOSET / DAY FOR NITE / FLESH COMPUTER / A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP / FEAR / ONE FOOT FROM HELL / POSSESSED FORKLIFT OF DEATH

THE CLOSET
(6minute short)

Austria, 2014
Director: Michael Winiecki

8/10









Austrian filmmaker Michael Winiecki, creator of last year's awesome stop-motion /Slash Filmfestival trailer (look here!), made a fabulous little film somewhere between this year's "Tickle", last year's "Creak" and Troma's "Monster in the Closet", following a gorgeous woman who gets scared on Halloween by a creepy closet-monster.

"The Closet" is a feast for the eye, full of striking visuals and eerie images, with excellent lighting, great costumes and make-up, taking place in a very nicely decorated sleeping room. Winiecki's direction is tight, Marlena Marie Grübl's performance is spot-on, and even thought the ending is foreseeable and slightly disappointing, the ridiculous post-credits scene completely makes up for it.
Good stuff!




DAY FOR NITE
(24minute short)

Original Title:
Nuit Americhèn

Italy, 2013
Director: Federico Greco

8/10






Prolific and versatile Italian filmmaker Federico Greco ("E.N.D.", "Liver") surprises me once again with another excellent and fabulously made genre-bender, taking place in a beautiful old villa where a director and two actors try to shoot the key scene of their latest horror film, some kinda slasher flick about a nasty killer clown. The film shooting turns into a nightmare when suddenly
a real killer appears on set...

"Day For Nite" starts out as hilarious horror comedy with lots of stinging, witty criticism on the current state of Italian independent filmmaking,
before it slowly transforms intself into a highly griping, slightly Fulci-esque suspense-fest with lots of eerie atmosphere, a terrific-looking killer, powerful music and splendid acting, most notable the performances of Regina Orioli and Fausto Maria Sciarappa. Wow!


Btw, in case you wanna support Mr. Greco's upcoming full-lenght feature
"E.N.D. - The Movie", click the link below:

IndieGogo: E.N.D.



FLESH COMPUTER
(13minute short)

USA, 2014
Director: Ethan Shaftel

8/10









Imagine a collaboration between David Cronenberg, Frank Henenlotter and Richard Stanley: that's how "Flesh Computer" felt to me, a super-bizarre but highly unique and quite impressive film about an apartment handyman who's working on a fascinating semi-man-machine-like apparatus made of old mechanical parts and human flesh.

By combining awesome practical effects with imaginative low-budget CGI effects, and classic sci-fi tropes with creative, original and intriguing philosophical concepts, Ethan Shaftel managed to deliver a delightfully dark and superbly satisfying genre blend somewhere between Cronenbergian body-horror, classic android sci-fi and the eerie side of arthouse, with great acting, an intense soundtrack and a super-lovely kitty. Needs to be seen more than once to be fully comprehended.




A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
(14minute short)

UK, 2014
Director: Sam Knight

6/10










Sam Knight's debut short "A Good Night's Sleep" is a well-built, well-directed horror-thriller, following the lives of a man and a woman who seem to be radically different from each other, but still somehow end up on a dinner date together. A dinner date with fatal outcome...

The first 9 minutes are simply excellent. Great acting by filmmaking jack-of-all-trades Wes Skelly and his wife Ella (love the fact that she has different-colored fingernails in almost every scene), fantastic editing, beautiful cinematography and a wonderfully composed electro score. Unfortunately, the awesomeness ends after the 9-minute-mark with a super-odd, irritating and slightly frustrating plot twist, as well as a rather mediocre ending, caused by some sloppy and unimaginative screenwriting. Pity!




FEAR
(14minute short)

USA, 2014
Director: Steve Kahn

6/10









Stylish and highly interesting, but ultimately rather underwhelming film about a young woman who simply tries to take a bath, but struggles horribly because her fears turn this simple process into a frightening experience.

Director Steve Kahn took the term "style over substance" a bit too serious and created a little chiller that tries too hard to impress the viewer with stunning images and flawless editing, whilst completely forgetting about tension or atmosphere. Some of the scares are wonderfully effective, some are just boring and plain predictable, and as much as I love Tears For Fears' "Pale Shelter", it's mis-used and totally doesn't fit into the film. Talented hottie Jessie Rabideau's top-notch performance gladly saves "Fear" from falling into mediocrity.




ONE FOOT FROM HELL
(14minute short)

UK, 2014
Director: Peter Regan

5/10









Peter Regan tries to follow in the footsteps of his brother Chris Regan, the mastermind behind the wonderfully amusing "Jenny Ringo" films, by delivering a fun little horror comedy about a few peeps getting terrorized by a creepy killer doll, an obviously Regan-esque film with amusing characters, light-hearted humor and cool visuals.

Unfortunately, he doesn't come close to his brother's genius which eventually leads to an mediocre film that doesn't offer anything remarkable or worthwhile and ends up being rather forgettable. The acting is neat, camera work and low-budget effects all look nice, but the pacing is too slow, the direction is lax, and... I dunno, it just plods along without offering anything that stays in mind.




POSSESSED FORKLIFT OF DEATH

Alternate Title:
Deathforks

USA, 2014
Director: Levi Caleb Smith

4/10







What looks and sounds like a fun throwback to 80s killer-machine-flicks like "The Lift" or "Chopping Mall", is actually a weak and rather frustrating letdown of a film that can't decide between serious scare-fest, over-the-top gore-fest and silly horror-spoof shenanigans.

The electro-rock score is fun and the overall camera work is very well, but there's absolutely no story whatsoever, no interesting characters, nothing tense or entertaining, and the fact that half of the film consists of fake-trailers for three upcoming "Deathforks"-sequels didn't work for me at all.



18 November 2014

RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS

RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS

German Titles:
Return of the Killershrews - Die blutgierigen Bestien kehren zurück / Mega Rats - Angriff der Riesenratten

USA, 2013
Director: Steve Latshaw

5/10






53 years after director Ray Kellogg took a bunch of dogs and dressed them up as murderous "Killer Shrews" (Review here), b-movie filmmaker and regular Fred Olen Ray / Jim Wynorski collaborator Steve Latshaw ("Jack-O", "Biohazard: The Alien Force", "Curse of the Komodo") dared to shoot a sequel to this
bad-movie cult-classic and return to the isolated island that is overrun with these super-silly-looking, but *erm* merciless beasts.


To my huge surprise, "Return of the Killer Shrews" is not just a cheap in-name-only cash-in sequel, it's actually a direct sequel that pays massive homage to the 1959 movie by starting out with a prologue scene that is basically a reenactment of the very first kill scene in "The Killer Shrews", by including several black-and-white scenes from the original in a flashback-kinda way, and by bringing back James Best, main actor in "The Killer Shrews" who returns to play the role of Captain Thorne Sherman a second time! At the age of 86, Best delivers a fun
still-alive-and-kicking performance that entertained me a lot!

Next to Best, there's also great veteran actors like Bruce Davison ("X-Men 1&2") or the "Dukes of Hazzard" stars John Schneider and Rick Hurst, as well as wonderful youngsters like Sean Flynn ("Zoey 101"), Jennifer Lyons ("Dorm Daze") or Jason-Shane Scott ("The Pit and The Pendulum"),
all delivering fun acting and amusing lines:
("Your ass is grass now, and I am the weed whacker." /

"We need a bigger goat." / "I love to chase women, but, you know, at my age it has to be downhill." / "Come look what I found! (...) It's bones!" - "Bones? As in 'spare rib bones'? 'Cause if it's got barbecue sauce on it, bring it on!" / "Let's get this crap over here." - "I am not crap. I am the sponsor of a major network TV series..." - "While you're on my boat, you're crap!")


Alas, there's also lots of bad stuff here. You thought the shrew costumes in the original looked bad? You should take a look at the awful, awful, awful CGI that's going on here. Christ goddammit, this was pure eye-rape. The basic shrew design looks okay, but the way they move, jump, run... *sigh* Remember the cheaply animated "Langoliers" from the 1995 movie of the same name? Well, they actually look and move so much more realistic than the 2012 shrews.
There's also gallons of horrid CGI blood, a terrible CGI snake straight outta "Snakes on a Train" (nope, not the one with the plane, I mean the one with the train...) and some other computer-generated garbage. In addition, the shrews' screeching sounds were a pain in my ass and my ears, the few dead-boring folk-pop-country songs are dull as hell, the pacing is a bit too slow, and even though the movie is only about 80 minutes long, it's definitely
10-15 minutes too long.


At least, it's better than the original and that's what counts. "Return of the Killer Shrews" isn't exactly a classic, but it's fun and entertaining, and just like Jim Wynorski's great "Gila" reboot, it proves what a bad filmmaker Ray Kellogg was ;-)


Thanks to director Steve Latshaw for the Screener!

17 November 2014

GOD TOLD ME TO

GOD TOLD ME TO

Alternate Title:
Demon

USA, 1976
Director: Larry Cohen

7/10








(Screened as part of the Horrorfilm Retrospective "Land of the Dead 1968 - 1978" in September at the Filmmuseum, Vienna.)

"God Told Me To" is the second horror/sci-fi-related directorial effort by screenwriting legend Larry Cohen, and even though it's not his best film (that's probably the 80s cult classic "The Stuff"), it's definitely one of his craziest, yet most interesting movies, following a devout Catholic NY cop who investigates in a series of murders, all committed by seemingly normal citizens who claim that God himself told them to commit the crimes...


What starts out as religion-themed crime thriller, soon descends into mysterious supernatural AND extraterrestrial territories, becoming more and more bizarre with every single minute, delivering eerie alien abductions, super-strange religious cult leaders and some kinda "monster vagina" (has to be seen to be believed). The pacing in combination with Cohen's excellently developed screenplay delivers a huge amount of super-surprising and totally unforeseable plot twists.

Granted, the last third is at times so wacko, I had a hard time taking anything of what's happening on the screen seriously at all. Still, I was thrilled right until the amusing epilogue, simply because of the awesome writing and the way it was built up. Tony Lo Bianco, Sylvia Sidney and the stunningly cute Deborah Raffin, they all deliver very fine perormances. The sacral, slightly "Omen"-esque music fits the movie's gritty mood very well (Frank Cordell, "Cromwell"); great editing, great camera work, weird special effects - oh, and a cameo by comedy legend Andy Kaufman as possessed policeman!


God told me to recommend this movie to you, at least to those who can handle strange and obscure 70s gems :)

Wiki ~ Imdb

THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM

THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM

Original Title:
Sanatorium pod klepsydrą

Alternate Title:
The Sandglass

German Titles:
Das Sanatorium zur Todesanzeige / Das Sanatorium zur Sanduhr

Poland, 1973
Director: Wojciech Jerzy Has
(
as Wojciech J. Has)

6/10
(Screened as part of the Horrorfilm Retrospective "Land of the Dead 1968 - 1978" in September at the Filmmuseum, Vienna. Not the restored 2013 version, but the original 35mm version.)

Seeing this movie on the big screen was definitely one of my weirdest in-cinema experiences ever, simply because this movie is just sooo unbelievably... erm, weird. Based on the story collection "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass" by Polish writer Bruno Schulz, acclaimed Polish director legend Wojciech Jerzy Has created a surreal and dream-like succession of scenes and sequences, all connected to a man who visits his father in a sanatorium where time behaves in a pretty fucked up way.


The first 10-15 minutes are rather understandable, but then the viewer gets thrown into an unimaginably bizarre, yet pretty entertaining phantasmagoria constantly jumping back and forth in time. Characters appear, disappear and reappear. Our main character jumps from one location to another, e.g. he crawls under a girl's bed where some random man eats jam, crawls out and finds himself in a mountain village where people with names like "Honduras" and "Nicaragua" wearing bird masks and feathers etc. It's as if Alejandro Jodorowsky and Juan López Moctezuma experiencing a drug-fueled feverish dream together

The fact that nothing makes sense is at times highly entertaining, at times simply tiring. There's shitloads of awesome visuals, beautiful sets, strange incidents and rather remarkable scenes (especially the one with the historical mechanical wax mannequins, or the one in the textile shop with the Jews singing and dancing), and the acting is just marvellous, especially the performances by Jan Nowicki and Tadeusz Kondrat, but in the end, "The Hourglass Sanatorium" is much too weird, much too nonsensical and at a length of 124 minutes
definitely much too long.

Wiki ~ Imdb 

13 November 2014

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

UK / Ireland, 2013
Director: Ruairí Robinson

4/10











Ever since his breathtaking 2011 short film "BlinkyTM" (Review here), I was eagerly awaiting any new project by Oscar-nominated Irish filmmaker Ruairí Robinson ("Fifty Percent Grey"). Unfortunately, his follow-up project / debut feature "The Last Days on Mars", based on Sidney James Bounds' short story "The Animators", is one huge disappointment.

Behind the oh-so-poetic title hides a below-average sci-fi/horror-mix that should have better been titled "Zombies in Space" or "Mars of the Living Dead". It starts out rather tense and quite fascinating, delivering beautiful images of sand storms and cool spacecrafts, and a slightly 70s-like atmosphere.


Then, after the first half hour, the very first semi-zombie (human infected with some mysterious Mars virus) appears, and from this moment on, the whole thing goes downhill. Imagine the second half of Danny Boyle's "Sunshine",
but on Mars, without any suns, with less suspense, but with more zombies. That's basically it. Wow.

Robinson's direction is weird, at times downright uninspired and boring. Same for the lackluster music and the underwhelming camera work. The cast is very solid, especially the performances of Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams and Johnny Harris. Make-up, gore and CGI efects look good too. Other than that, "The Last Days on Mars" is just another forgettable post-90s Mars film.

IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES

IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES

Canada, 2012
Director: Gabriel Carrer

3/10











 As a big Deftones fan, I got immensely excited when I first read the title of this movie, and obviously started to hum the refrain of "Change (In the House of Flies)" immediately. To my chagrin, the fourth feature of Canadian filmmaker Gabriel Carrer was a huge disappointment and about as boring as the entire works of Henry Rollins who plays a small part in this movie, which revolves two young lovers who get abducted and locked into an undisclosed, suburban basement...

"In the House of Flies" is one of the dullest and slowest movies I've seen this year. The pacing is so fucking slow, I was close to turn it off several times. There's nothing happening, at least nothing that grips, thrills or entertains you. There's these two characters (both not exactly smpathetic), a bunch of suitcases, a telephone and an anonymous caller playing oh-so-naughty but actually incredibly unspectacular psychological mind games with both of them. That's it.


It could have been good with likable characters, with tighter, faster or more intense pacing, and with a villain who comes off as if he's Satan himself. Unfortunately, the bad guy is just a lame, unimpressive pain in the ass, the pacing is as boring as watching flies fuck, and the couple... well, I totally didn't care for them at all. The extremely mediocre acting obviously didn't help.

Some cool photography, an intriguing electro score and a quite cool ending. Everything else about it is just frustrating.


Thanks to October Coast PR for the screener!

407 DARK FLIGHT 3D

407 DARK FLIGHT 3D

Alternate International Title:
Dark Flight

German Title:
Dark Flight - Ghosts on a Plane

Thailand, 2012
Director: Isara Nadee

3/10





A few weeks ago, some dork connected Takashi Shimizu's "7500" on Imdb with this film, claiming it's a remake - which is obviously bullshit because both films were shot in 2012, both are based on original screenplays, and... well, aside from taking place on a plane, these two films have nearly nothing in common.

Contrary to "7500" which is more of a dark supernatural chiller (Review here),
"407 Dark Flight" goes into a completely different direction, trying to combine over-the-top comedy with drama and clichéd Asian ghost horror. Imagine "Snakes on a Plane" or "Plane of the Living Dead", replace the snakes/zombies with ghosts, add some "Airport", some elements of Pedro Almodóvar's "I'm So Excited" and lots of cheesy 3D effects. The result is a dumb and hardly entertaining piece of silliness that tries way too hard to be witty and original, completely forgets about thrills and chills, and constantly hops between genres in an immensely amateurish way.



The acting ranges from okay (business lady, weird flight attendant) to awful (flight simulator kid, dreadlock guy) to I-hate-you-so-much-right-now-Aaaaargh! (oh-so-amusing gay flight attendant named Prince). Several scenes are ridiculously awesome (ghost grandma spits flies / business woman vs. monk / dreadlock vs. gay / monk claims: "I'm a scientist who turned into a monk."), while others are just unfunny, stupid and unoriginal (fat guy doing a Linda Blair head-turner, Hongkong girl with "Evil Dead" voice, gay flight attendant doing disco dancing).

In addition, the music sounds like it was composed for some generic made-for-TV drama, the direction is terrible (Isara Nadee, "Art of the Devil 2+3") and there are sooo many shitty-looking CGI 3D effects, even The Asylum would be jealous. Nonsense.

11 November 2014

The PLANET OF THE APES Franchise: Original / Beneath / Escape / Conquest / Battle / Remake / Rise Dawn

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

German Title:
Planet der Affen - Revolution

USA, 2014
Director: Matt Reeves

10/10








Just when I thought that summer blockbusters got lame and dissatisfying, this movie came along and blew me away like a steam hammer to my head. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is this year's "Pacific Rim", an unbelievably stunning and remarkable example of how insanely perfect the combination between intelligent screenwriting, flawless directing and goofy over-the-top action can work if everyone involved wants to make something special, something we haven't seen before. It could have been "just another Apes flick", but it turned out to be a fucking masterpiece. IMO it's not just one of the best movies that came out in 2014 so far, it's also the absolute best "Apes" flick since 1968.

Director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") turned the epic script by Mark Bomback ("Live Free or Die Hard"), Amanda Silver ("The Hand that Rocks the Cradle", "Rise of...") and Rick Jaffa ("Rise of...") into a spectacular and overwhelming piece of awesomeness that manages to be kick-ass action flick, post-apocalyptic science fiction AND heavy emotional drama at the same time. From the indescribably intense opening right until to the final Apes-vs-Humans battle, I was intrigued, mesmerised and totally glued to the screen. There wasn't one single dull moment. "Dawn of..." is tense and thrilling from the very first to the very last second.


Andy Serkis is pitch-perfect as Caesar, delivering a performance that is exceptional. Also, great acting by the still overlooked Jason Clarke the awesome-as-always Gary Oldman and Toby Kebbell as Koba, the most ill-afflicted, most insane, most Hitler/Stalin-esque Ape in history. The CGI is absolutely stellar, cinematography (Michael Seresin, "Angel Heart") and music (Michael Giacchino, "Mission: Impossible 3+4") are both absolutely fantastic, and... well, scenes like Caesar fighting Koba, the "killing" of Caesar, Apes go to war, Koba throwing an ape to death, or the uber-insane 360° shot of Koba riding a tank... THIS is what I'd call powerful, flawless, top-notch filmmaking.

 "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is pure perfection. A true miracle of a sequel!

Wiki ~ Imdb



All follwing reviews are updated versions of the original reviews which I first wrote in August 2011.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Working Titles:
Caesar / Planet of the Apes: Genesis / Rise of the Apes

German Title:
Planet der Affen - Prevolution

USA, 2011
Director Rubert Wyatt

9/10




Holy Gorilla, what was that? Seriously, this is undoubtedly the biggest surprise of 2011 so far: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", a reboot of the classic 60s/70s "Apes" saga, directed by Rupert Wyatt ("The Escapist"). It's a fantastic movie, excellently written and directed, tense and suspenseful from start to finish, packed with cool nods to the original movie ("You damn dirty ape!", space mission, an ape called Caesar...), as well as with many absolutely outstanding scenes, like all the intense primate shelter scenes, or the explosive climax.

There's lots of wonderful acting from James Franco (I like this guy more and more!), Freida Pinto (what a beauty!), Andy "Gollum" Serkis as hyper-intelligent ape Caesar, and John Lithgow (always a pleasure to see this amazing actor).


Camera work and editing are both excellent, the music is rousing as hell (Patrick Doyle, "Carlito's way"), and the CGI is simply outstanding. Every single ape looks absolutely realistic, plus: all the apes are sympathetic and likeable, thanks to the filmmakers giving them all personality. Who cares about humans? ;)

Fuck you, Tim Burton. THIS is how you do an Apes-flick without ruining the franchise or making fans angry. Massive kudos to everyone who was involved in the making of this film!



PLANET OF THE APES
(Remake)

German Title:
Planet der Affen

USA, 2001
Director: Tim Burton

1/10







He was once one of Hollywoods's greatest, most inventive, most original filmmakers... but then in 2001, Tim Burton made a complete fool out of himself when he was hired to 're-imagine' one of the greatest science fiction films in history and turned it into one of history's absolute worst remakes ever. Based on a script by William Broyles Jr. ("Apollo 13") which was later re-written over and over by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal ("Superman IV", "Star Trek VI"), Burton basically raped the shit out of those damn dirty apes and insulted nearly every fan who grew up on the original films.


Nothing about this movie is enjoyable in any way. Nothing. The opening was acceptable, but from the moment Kris Kristofferson popped up, it went completely downhill and I couldn't enjoy this piece of shit for one second. The story sucks, the cast is terrible (Mark Wahlberg has never been more miscast), there's no tension, no character development, and the "Ape Lincoln" ending is so stupid, so retarded, so frustratingly bad, I'm still at a loss of words.

Rick Baker's prosthetic makeup is amazing. Everything else isn't.
This remake stinks.




BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

German Title:
Die Schlacht um den Planet der Affen

USA, 1973
Director: J. Lee Thompson

2,5/10








What a huge disaster, what a huge letdown! Already hated "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" as a child and it's still pretty painful to watch this low-budget ape turd which looks and feels as if everyone involved in the production had no real interest in shooting this.


Director Thompson completely failed to create any kind of tension or suspense which resulted into the dullest and most boring entry in the entire "Apes" franchise. Ape City looks lame, the actual battle scenes all look rather ridiculous and unconvincing, and the 'Crying Ape' Statue... bogus, pure bogus. No wonder it was the last Apes flick for a long, long time (*ignoring all the TV series which came afterwards*)

Acting and cinematography are good, the rest is completely forgettable.

Wiki ~ Imdb



CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

German Title:
Eroberung vom Planet der Affen

USA, 1972
Director: J. Lee Thompson

8/10 (original ending) /
7/10 (theatrical ending)






Always loved "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes", the part where we finally get to see how they apes start a revolution and take over (sounds familiar? yup, it was basically the main inspiration for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") - though I never really liked the quite positive ending with Caesar's final speech and the humans being spared.

However, now that I've finally seen the restored version which has a WAY more brutal ending, I can truly say that this is now definitely my favorite sequel. Town is burning, apes are cheering, Gorillas beating the Humans to death and everyone has a great time - fun! ;-D


Director J. Lee Thompson ("Cape Fear", "Happy Birthday To Me") created a stunning film, darker, more serious and even more atmospheric than the previous installments. I love the look of the ape-costumes and I adore the cold look of the futuristic town. Cinematography is adorable, lighting and editing are fabulous and the music is just awesome. Also, great-as-always acting by Roddy McDowall, as well as splendid performances by Don Murray and Natalie Trundy.

A still quite underrated sequel that deserves way more love and respect!

Wiki ~ Imdb



ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES

Working Title:
Secret of the Planet of the Apes

German Title:
Flucht vom Planet der Affen

USA, 1971
Director: Don Taylor

7/10





Definitely the most amusing, most entertaining entry in the Apes saga: "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", a prequel to the events in the first films, that could be described as 'Part 1 in reverse': 3 apes (instead of 3 humans) travelling through a space/time porthole into the past (instead of into the future), landing on an Earth dominated by humans (instead of apes).

The movie's far from being perfect due to loads of rather annoying plot holes, plot illogicalities, a few pacing problems in the second half and one of the cheapest-looking gorilla costumes I've ever seen.


Yet, apart from that, it's just enjoyable, especially because of the wonderful performances by Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter who deliver tons of hilarious dialogue lines and one-liners, such as:
"Can you read a map?" - "I'm an archaeologist. I can even draw one."
/ "Dr. Cornelius, tell me: how do you find our women? - "Very Human."
/ "Who won the war?" - "Oh, I don't know. Chimpanzees are pacifists. We stayed at home."

The rest of the cast is also pretty good (especially Bradford Dillman and Eric Braeden), Jerry Goldsmith's groovy soundtrack is awesome and the uber-intense ending is just excellent. Very nice!

Wiki ~ Imdb



BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES

Working Titles:
Planet of the Men / Planet of the Apes Revisited

German Title:
Rückkehr zum Planet der Affen

USA, 1970
Director: Ted Post

5/10




"Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (directed by Ted Post, "Magnum Force") was actually the first Apes-movie I've ever seen (I was 7 or 8 years old) and I remember that I totally loved it - loads of blood, mutants and burning apes, yeah! What else can a kid of that age expect from a decent afternoon TV program? :-)
Watching it now is a completely different experience: I can't take this movie serious at all. It has some entertainment value but it's far from being a 'good' movie

The first half is more or less a lame remake of Part 1 following another astronaut crash landing on the Planet of the Apes, while the second half is a hilariously grotesque piece of wackiness about telepathic mutants, living underground in abandoned New York, worshipping an atomic bomb.


Acting is quite neat (good performance by James Franciscus, guest appearances by Charlton Heston and Kim Hunter), the soundtrack is great and most of the settings look pretty cool. Yet, the story is completely rubbish, Post's direction is rather dull, the camera work is underwhelming and there's definitely too many cheap-looking, slightly embarrassing-looking effects.

A watchable but unnecessary sequel.

Wiki ~ Imdb



PLANET OF THE APES

German Title:
Planet der Affen

USA, 1968
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

10/10








 "Planet Of The Apes" is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most impressive sci-fi films ever made. Based on French author Pierre Boulle's novel "La Planète des Singes" (better known as "Monkey Planet or "Planet of the Apes"), director Franklin J. Schaffner ("Papillon", "Patton") created a fascinating and striking film about a group of astronauts crash landing on a planet
ruled by intelligent talking apes.

It's a clever and thought-provoking, but also highly entertaining, almost flawless 60s masterpiece, stunning and extremely well made, be it the visually impressive first half hour (landing, exploration, ape attack), the unsettling captivity, the awesome ape trial, or the ace finale in the 'forbidden zone', including one of the most iconic images in movie history: the remains of the Statue Of Liberty ("You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!").


The acting is simply brilliant, be it human (Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner), be it ape (Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans), make-up and costumes all look terrific, Jerry Goldsmith's atonal score is plain fascinating and four-time Oscar-winner Leon Shamroy's cinematography is a pure feast for the eyes.

A landmark masterpiece and one of the most important American films of all time.

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