31 March 2015

"(Almost) Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about THE WOMAN IN BLACK" - A collaboration between Little Gothic Horrors, Winter Moon and Maynard

When I first got wind of the Hammer-produced "The Woman in Black" film with Daniel Radcliffe sometime in 2011, I thought it's gonna be an original film... but then I realized that it's actually based on a book that basically everyone has read except me... and then I realized that it has been already adapted into a film that seemingly every citizen of the United Kingdom has seen on television... and then I realized that there's also a successful stage play of "The Woman in Black"... and then I finally realized that I'm a complete nitwit when it comes to this mysterious woman who obviously has nothing to do with Foreigner or Uriah Heep ;-)

Now that I've finally seen the sequel AND the 1989 adaptation, I thought it's time to create an extensive and insightful review-post about all three films, as well as about the novel. Due to not having found proper time to read it, I invited two of my favorite blog-ladies (who know the book by heart) to participate with introductive write-ups and gorgeous pics: Emma from Little Gothic Horrors and Yvonne from Winter Moon! Enjoy your read! =)



Emma:

We all have different criteria for what makes something scary, and for me, 'The Woman in Black' just happens to tick the terror box. Isolation, unexplained noises, glimpses of something out of the corner of the eye, and constantly waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, create a tension in me that gory slashers (which I usually just find gross rather than frightening) never would.

I've seen the 1989 and 2012 movies of 'The Woman in Black' and I have read Susan Hill's horror novella on which the films are based. I really enjoyed all three, but as is usually the case, the novel offered more insight into the history and motivations of Jennet Humfrye, the malevolent Woman in Black, who haunts Eel Marsh House and the town of Crythin Gifford.


As I was reading the book, I often found myself thinking of the television series, 'Supernatural'. If only Arthur Kipps had been able to call on the Winchester brothers to sort out his vengeful spirit problem. In the canon of 'Supernatural', wronged, earthbound spirits will, over time, lose all their humanity and personality until their energy eventually becomes nothing but rage without reason or pity, and this is very much the way I would characterize the ghost of Jennet Humfrye.
The glimpses of her tragic backstory in the novel definitely elicit empathy for her, but just like one of the 'Supernatural' spooks, this wrathful phantom will not rest in peace simply by an attempt to right some of the earthly wrongs committed against her.

'The Woman in Black' is a force of hate, bitterness, and anger. I think her actions are even more heinous and disturbing in the book than in the movies, and they left me feeling uneasy long after the last page was read. Oh, if only Sam and Dean had been on hand to salt and burn poor Jennet's bones.



Yvonne:

The 1983 novel, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, begins on Christmas eve, with the cosy, traditional scene of a family telling ghost stories around a crackling fire. The step father of this family, Arthur Kipps, who is also the protagonist and narrator of the story, lets his mind wander back to when he was just 24 and had, himself, encountered a real ghost. Haunted by the memory of it all, he decides to write down his story, as a way of exorcising his own demons.
And so the 'real' story begins.

Susan Hill's words are beautifully descriptive, she creates an incredibly atmospheric world that the reader can almost imagine themselves in. It's not a fast-paced book, but one to be savoured slowly, and a must for lovers of the traditional ghost story.

The last but one chapter in the book is 'Whistle and I'll Come to You', which is also the title of an equally brilliant ghostly tale, by M.R.James. But that's another story...

 "Mine was not a story to be told for casual entertainment around the fireside upon Christmas Eve."

"Her appearance, even in the limpid sunshine and comparative warmth and brightness outdoors, was so pathetically wasted, so pale and gaunt with disease, that it would not have been a kindness to gaze upon her."

"It stood like some lighthouse or beacon or martello tower, facing the whole, wide expanse of marsh and estuary, the most astonishingly situated house I had ever seen or could ever conceivably have imagined, isolated uncompromising but also, I thought, handsome."

"She was at the far end of the plot, close to one of the few upright headstones, and she wore the same black clothing and bonnet, but it seemed to have slipped back so that I could make out her face a little more clearly."

"The door of the room from which the noise came, the door which had been securely locked, so that I had not been able to break it down, the door to which there could not be a key... that door was now standing open. Wide open."

 "The child's nursery had been preserved in that house as he had left it, with his bed, his clothes, his toys, all undisturbed, and the rocking chair, still and silent."

[llustrations by John Lawrence. Words by Susan Hill.]



And now it's time for me to ramble about the films:

THE WOMAN IN BLACK

German Title:
Frau in Schwarz

UK, 1989
Director: Herbert Wise

8/10








After Susan Hill's immensely successful novel was turned into a stage play by Stephen Mallatratt ("Coronation Street") in 1987, which eventually became second longest-running play in the history of London's West End, UK-based TV-network ITV produced the very first film adaptation of the spine-tingling story about the mysterious ghost that haunts the small English town of Crythin Gifford, directed by acclaimed (and Austrian-born) TV filmmaker Herbert Wise ("I, Claudius"), based on a screenplay by Nigel Kneale ("Quatermass").


Even though it was made on a rather tight budget and looks like your average 80s/90s made-for-TV movie, the 1989 incarnation of "The Woman in Black" is a fascinating and unexpectedly scary film, and undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind rarity in the history of European television, in terms of creepiness and effectivity on the same level with classic ABC Movies of the Week. Wise slowly lures you into the clever and intriguing story, puts a creepy spell on you and mesmerizes you with a slow and tense build-up, lots of breathtaking suspense and some fascinatingly eerie, marvellously compelling atmosphere that somehow reminds me of b/w classics like "The Innocents" or "The Haunting".

The cast is thoroughly competent, everyone delivers a more-than-solid performance, especially the extremely underrated Adrian Rawlins (best known for playing James Potter in the "Harry Potter" films) as young solicitor Arthur Kidd, extensive stage & TV actor Bernard Hepton ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Smiley's People") as local land owner Toovey, John Cater ("Dr. Phibes 1 + 2") 
as local solicitor...


...and Pauline Moran's brief, but nonetheless stunningly eerie performance as the Woman In Black herself. You don't get to see her that often, but whenever she appears on screen, it's downright frightening, especially the scenes at the graveyrads in Crythin Gifford and outside the Eel Marsh House, as well as the slightly insane sequence where she's hovering over Arthur Kidd's bed, grinning, shrieking... *brrr* Also very worth mentioning: the captivating violin-driven score by Rachel Portman ("Never Let Me Go"), and the masterful use of all the horse-struggling/child-screaming sound effects

"The Woman in Black" was shown on TV only in 1989 and in 1994. It was briefly available on VHS and DVD, but for many years now it's out of the print and only available on online streaming sites like YouTube. According to Susan Hill, "the rights to the project have been purchased twice over, and now rest with a major U.S. studio", probably Universal




THE WOMAN IN BLACK

German Title:
Die Frau in Schwarz

UK / Canada / Sweden, 2012
Director: James Watkins

9/10








After the legendary British film producion company Hammer Films went bankrupt in 1979, it took almost 30 years until Dutch producer John de Mol came along and revived it in 2007. The first few productions weren't that much of a success, but then in 2011 they greenlit a new adaptation of Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black" which subsequently became the biggest hit of Hammer 2.0 so far.


Based on a screenplay by Jane Goldman ("Kick-Ass", "Kingsman"), writer / director James Watkins ("Eden Lake", "The Descent 2") created an unbelievably frightening and visually stunning creepfest that perfectly satisfied my 'horror needs' and turned me into a complete wreck when I first saw it at the cinema - yup, it's that scary! The grim opening scene (3 girls jumping out of a window) perfectly sets the tone for the first half which is chilling, a bit unsettling and breathtakingly atmospheric, while the uber-amazing second half is packed to the brim with heart-stopping jump scares, stunningly suspenseful scenes and damn creepy images. Hell, I never thought that rocking chairs and tin toys could be sooo fuckin' scary!

The characters are all well-written and likable, and the actors all deliver superb performances, especially a surprisingly excellent Daniel Radcliffe who carries the movie very, very well and truly shines as tormented but courageous young solicitor. Also great: Ciáran Hinds as local landowner and Janet McTeer as
the landowner's wife.


With its well-developed script, Watkins' flawless direction, a subtle but immensley eerie score by maestro Marco Beltrami ("Scream 1-4"), shitloads of eerie locations (the marshlands, interior and exterior of the Victorian "Eel Marsh House") and some awesome camera work by Tim Maurice-Jones ("Snatch"), the 2012 adaptation of "The Woman In Black" proves to be a perfect example of an awesome contemporary European horror film and definitely should be considered as modern horror classic.




THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH

Alternate Titles:
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death / The Woman in Black 2

German Title:
Die Frau in Schwarz 2 - Engel des Todes

UK / USA / Canada, 2014
Director: Tom Harper

3/10




I wouldn't say I was surprised that this turned out to be such a turd: a sequel to a movie that didn't need to be sequelized, with a no-name cast, no Daniel Radcliffe (not even a cameo...), a director with hardly any feature film or horror experience who's mostly working for TV (Tom Harper, "This is England '86"), a screenwriter with no horror experience whatsoever (Jon Croker, "Fast Girls"), as well as the fact that it takes place during World War 2 for whatever reason - let alone the dumb title "The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death" which makes you rather think of Slayer or Josef Mengele, than of creepy houses and scary ghosts.

Still, I was kinda shocked about how bad this movie turned out to be. While its predecessor perfectly lulled you in with breathtaking atmosphere, terrific acting and shitloads of really frightening scares, the sequel is just a lukewarm cover version, bland and lackluster, soulless and frustratingly boring. Harper and Croker get in line with and endless parade of filmmakers who show no understanding towards the horror genre and have no idea how a proper horror film works.
It's NOT about repeating cheap jump scares and loud noises over and over again (*yawn*), and it's certainly NOT about over-using every single horror trope / horror cliché imaginable.


There's no build-up, no atmosphere, no depth. I had no idea who the characters were and why I should root for any of them, since there was absolutely nothing interesting or likable about them. The acting is solid, but couldn't hide the fact, how empty and vapid all the characters are. The storyline is so dumb and half the time, it makes no fucking sense. Who had the stupid idea to bring a bunch of evacuated children to this god-forsaken place? Why does no-one really care when the kids get killed? Why does the Woman In Black punish the main girl whose child was taken away from her? She wanted to keep the baby, but they didn't let her - so, why punish her?

Other things that annoyed me: the blind man whose appearance had no effect on the rest of the film whatsoever, lots and lots of gaping plot holes (e.g. much ado about "lights out" and "blackout restrictions", yet later several characters happily waving around with torches and lamps and shit...), ridiculous-looking oh-so-creepy CGI ghost faces, the fact that the movie spends way to much time inside the house, and - worst of all - some of the most embarrassing dialogue I've heard in a really long time, stuff like: "This room feels... I don't know... sad... " - "Rooms aren't sad, Ms. Parkins. People are." Bleh.


Production design and cinematography both were very good, tons of beautiful images of the marsh and the house. I dug the scene at the end at the ace-looking decoy airfield and, as above mentioned, the acting was okay (aside from that uber-annoying silent brat). As for the rest: worthless. Just another forgettable and already forgotten Hammer Studios 2.0 production à la "The Resident" or "The Quiet Ones". Sad.

27 March 2015

VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH

VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH

USA, 2015
Director: John Portanova

4/10








 


How many more Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti-themed movies do we need? This slightly awkward subgenre has spawned hundreds of features, short films, documentaries and series over the last 70 years, though only a handful of them are good, like "Willow Creek", "The Legend of Boggy Creek" or "Night of the Demon". Most of the other stuff is either below average or just plain unwatchable.

For his directorial debut feature, screenwriter John Portanova ("The Invoking") took yet another turn on this worn out topic and created a watchable, yet pretty forgettable forest-chiller about a father, his son and two friends who fight for their lives against a bunch of angry Sasquatches deep in the Washingtonian forests...


"Valley of the Sasquatch" isn't a bad movie, but its executed in such a trivial and nondescript way, you already forgot about it before it's even over. Portanova tries his best to carefully develop the 4 main characters and get us acquainted with their backstories - unfortunately, 3 of them are so unlikable and/or irrevelant, you just don't care about them, and the 4th one is so unobtrusive, you wonder
why he's even in.

The pacing is way too slow, especially in the first half, the few twists and supposed-to-be-surprising plot points are all highly foreseeable, and Jon Bash's score is way too loud, way too aggressive and totally doesn't fit in. The music should have been much way more subtle.


On the positive side, most of the acting is really good, especially the performances by indie darlings like Jason Vail ("Gut"), D'Angelo Midili ("The Invoking") and jack-of-all-trades Bill Oberst Jr. ("Circus of the Dead"). The sasquatches behave in a very realistic way and the costumes look really believable, the gore effects are well done and David Philips' editing is terrific. Other than that, "Valley of the Sasquatch" was quite a letdown for me. Recommended to die-hard Bigfoot fans only.


Thanks to John Portanova for the screener!

26 March 2015

Project Terrible: ROLLERGATOR

Alec (Mondo Bizarro) told me about this movie so many times, I really got curious and desperately wanted to see it. Fortunately, he was so 'kind' and gave it to me for this round. So, is it really as bad as he said? Maybe even worse than "Skeleton Key 2"? Or would I end up loving it?

Well, I didn't exactly love it, but... erm, I somehow enjoyed it!

ROLLERGATOR

USA, 1996
Director: Donald G. Jackson

4/10












"Rollergator" is one of 24(!!) movies directed by Donald G. Jackson between 1990 and 1999. Jackson had one hit movie in 1988: the bizarre but entertaining "Hell Comes to Frogtown". After that one, his career went down the drain and he become the "Ed Wood of the Video age", shooting one lowest-budget crapfest after the other - like this one which follows a young teenage rollergirl who tries to help a purple-colored jive-talking AND rapping(!) baby alligator(!!) hiding from a greedy carnival owner and a skateboarding Ninja woman(!!!), and bringing him back to his rightful owner, a slightly demented Swamp farmer...


In terms of technical aspects and production values, it's a totally dreadful movie. Jackson obviously made this on a "zero budget" basis, which means: shot on shitteo, unbelievably amateurish editing, non-existent sound mic/editing, no lighting or decent make-up, laughable puppet effects, poor acting, imbecile direction and an uber-zany script, written by some guy called Matt X. Lawrence who wrote two more things for Jackson: "Baby Ghost" and "Little Lost Sea Serpent" [Alec, please try finding these!]. Worst of all: the unnerving soundtrack which consists of a neverending acoustic guitar instrumental and some
more-than-mediocre surf rock.

Nevertheless, there was something really charming about "Rollergator": the Gator itself is constantly talking or trying to rap, which is at times annoying, but at times also really funny. Call me an idiot, but I laughed at some of his lines, be it rubbish like "I don't believe it! A talking Alligator!" - "I don't believe it. A talking nimrod!", or "You've seen the Dark Ninja?" - "You mean DORK Ninja!", or "I'm a mean Motor-Gator, a Rock'n'Roll skater. Tryin' to catch me now, I kick your butt later (...) I live in the swamp but I'm no Forrest Gump. I'm gonna be illin' if I'm not chillin'".


Also, one time actress Sandra Shuker is a real cutsie (Imdb-user gridoon2015 nailed it, calling her "such a sweetie-pie"), Joe Estevez (brother of Martin Sheen) transforms into a Gator-monster, "Plan 9"-legend Conrad Brooks delivers a silly-but-bearable performance, and there's also a cameo by one of the Frogtown mutants. "Rollergator" is a bad movie, but... no, it's not so-bad-it's good, it's actually so-bad-you-can't-help-enjoying-it :-)

Imdb

Oh btw: according to the announcement in the end credits, Jackson really wanted to sequelize this...

25 March 2015

Project Terrible: DREAM WARRIOR + RAGE

Robert (Gaming Creatively / Mondo Bizarro) gave me something which isn't exactly terrible, but also far from being good. At least, it made me check out some other film and eventually turned this one-movie-review into a double feature...

DREAM WARRIOR

Working Title:
A Man called Rage

USA / Croatia, 2003
Director: Zachary Weintraub

3/10








No, this has obviously nothing to do with "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors", and no, aside from following a character called 'Rage' in a post-apocalyptic world, this is no remake of the Italian "Rage" (a.k.a "A Man Called Rage" - see below). "Dream Warrior" is more like a post-apocalyptic version of "X-Men", set in a distant future where mutants with superhuman abilities get hunted and killed by human leader Parish who wants to wipe out everything impure of the planet - until mutant leader Rage comes along
and thwarts his plans...


Doesn't sound too original, huh? Well, as you can guess, "Dream Warrior" is a lame paint-by-numbers low-budget post-apo flick without substance or surprise. I'm not sure what Zachary Weintraub wanted to achieve because "Dream Warrior" clearly fails as both a homage to and reboot of classic 70s/80s post-apocalyptic exploitation films. The story is well-trodden and foreseeable, the plot twists are extremely predictable, the pacing is way too slow and tedious, and Weintraub's direction is just poor.

The movie looks like it was made for TV and nearly all of the filming locations were filmed in a weak and unimpressive way. There's no atmosphere, no tension, nothing that stands out or comes off as impressive or interesting. The few action scenes are all quite mediocre, the few special effects (levitating grenades, electric rays) are all rather laughable and the scenes with the goth queen in the orphanage and the blue-eyed baby were so unintentionally hilarious, I laughed my ass off completely.


The acting ranges from good to really, really bad. Lance Henriksen ("Aliens") delivers a solid performance, yet fails to make a lasting impression. Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks") and Richard Norton ("The Octagon") are both decent. Everyone else is either meh [especially main actor Daniel Goddard ("BeastMaster") and a highly underwhelming Isaac Hayes ("Escape from New York")] or just plain terrible, especially one-time-actress Zahra Swetz who delivers
one of the worst acting performances I've ever seen, even worse than Dominique Swain in "Fall Down Dead"

Not terrible, but very, very lame.




RAGE

Original Title:
Rage - Fuoco incrociato

Alternate Title:
A Man called Rage

German Titles:
Rush 2 - Final Game / Rush Part 2 - Final Game

Italy / Spain, 1984
Director: Tonino Ricci
(as Anthony Richmond)

6/10


The false rumours about "Dream Warrior" being a remake of "Rage" made me curious, and so I checked out said movie. Well, aside from having a main character called 'Rage' doing stuff in a post-apocalyptic world, and an opening scene that consists of atomic bomb stock footage clips, "Rage" and "Dream Warrior" have absolutely nothing in common - and, as expected, "Rage" is a much better movie!


The story isn't good: a couple of good guys (Captain Strike a.k.a Rage and a couple of survivors) and a couple of bad guys (some guy called Slash and a couple of survivors) both try to optain a stash of Uranium which could help save mankind. That's it. Meh. Gladly, "Rage" delivers plenty of fun stuff that makes this flick a must-see, especially for Italo-freaks.

There's lot gun action and shoot-outs, lots of fist-fights and car chases, lots of fire and explosions There's radioactive zones and forbidden lands, magnetic hurricanes and lands of trembling rocks, gangs of cut-throats and deformed mutants. It's simply impossible to get bored by all these exploitation-shenanigans. Director Tonino Ricci usually was quite a terrible filmmaker (watch "Bakterion" and you know what I mean), but "Rage" surprisingly turned out to be a very solidly directed action romp that entertains from start to finish.


The acting is pretty much exactly what you expect from films like that: far from great, but decent and watchable, especially Ricci-regular Bruno Minniti (a.k.a Conrad Nichols), hottie Taida Urrozola, baddie Stelio Candelli ("Demons") and infamous Austrian genre-regular Werner Pochath ("Laser Mission"). Camera work and cinematography are thoroughly great (Giovanni Bergamini, "Cannibal Ferox") and the score is classic old-school Italo-epicness (Stelvio Cipriani, "Nightmare City") - aside from some bonkers disco music that totally doesn't fit in.

All in all, a super-cool Italo-gem, best enjoyed as a double feature together with "Hands of Steel".

Imdb

Fun Fact:
In Germany, "Rage" was released as a sequel to "Rush", a movie directed by Tonino Ricci one year earlier, also with Bruno Minniti as the main actor.



24 March 2015

Project Terrible: DEATH RACERS

Alec (Mondo Bizarro) did it again. He gave me something really, really terrible, hateable and despisable... *sigh*

DEATH RACERS

German Title:
Death Race 3000

USA, 2008
Director: Roy Knyrim

0/10








It's not the worst movie I have ever seen (that's still the unwatchable "Skeleton Key 2" and the even more unwatchable "Dating a Zombie"), but it comes very close. Holy racecar, now THIS is what I call terrible. "Death Racers", a lousy, imbecile and aggravating z-grade cash-in on Paul W.S. Anderson's excellently entertaining "Death Race" (2008), directed by some honk called Roy Knyrim... no, he's not a honk. He's actually a make-up & special effects artist who worked on countless horror films like "2001 Maniacs", "Trapped Ashes", "Toxic Avenger 2+3", "Wishmaster 2-4", "Children of the Corn 4-6", "Night of the Demons 3" etc. etc.


...but in terms of directing Knyrim is definitely a honk. And everyone else who was involved in creating this piece of garbage which revolves around a cross-country death race in a desolate city that was turned into a huge prison camp
("Escape from New York" anyone?). I'm actually surprised that this was produced by The Asylum. It doesn't look like your average Asylum production, more like something from Tony Watt or Bill Zebub.

The cast features untalented non-actors like WWE-star Scott Levy a.k.a "Raven", models Anya Benton and Teri Corcoran, Muay Thai KickBoxing World Champion Damien Puckler and.. erm. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, better known as the Insane Clown Posse. I have nothing against ISP or their fans, the infamous Juggalos, but I sooo don't like their music - several of their songs get played throughout the movie OVER and OVER and OVER again! - and they obviously have no clue about acting. They're just posing, looking dumb, delivering stupid lines the entire fucking time. Annoying as snot on your sleeve.


All characters are idiots, the cars look shite and dialogue like "It's a Lotus, and it can go from 0 to 'Suck My Dick' in 4.1 seconds." could have worked in other movies, but here it's just awfully unfunny. The action scenes are all horribly edited and look just god-awful, the whole movie looks unbelievably tacky, especially the crappy CGI effects. Pacing is painfully dull, direction is dreadfully trite, and whenever I heard this ear-shattering voice screaming "DEATH RRRRRAAAAACE!!!!!" like a piss drunk hobo... I just wanted to cut off my ears.
video

"Death Racers" is a horrible, horrible movie and I beg you to avoid it at any cost. Thanks, Alec. You bastard.

23 March 2015

Project Terrible: "CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #17)

Michele (The Girl Who Loves Horror) has a track record of giving me supposed-to-be-terrible movies that aren't terrible at all - but this time, she finally gave me something that I really, really disliked. Yes, it's a Roger Corman film... and no,
it's not good at all...

CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA

USA, 1961
Director: Roger Corman

2/10











I wouldn't call myself a die-hard Roger Corman fan, but I can wholeheartedly say that I dig most of his directorial efforts, be it his monster flicks, Poe-adaptations or his horror-comedies - but this one... uh-uh. No way, Jose. I couldn't do anything with this piece of junk.

Looking through all the reviews on Imdb and other sites, I seem to be in good company as it is obviously Corman's most unpopular movie. There are a couple of peeps out there hailing it as Corman's most underrated, most misunderstood movie - but the majority couldn't care less. "Creature from the Haunted Sea" 
is a real stinker, failing to be both a parody on spy/secret agents films
and monster movies.


The movie was the last of three horror/comedy-collaborations between Corman and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith. The first two collabos were both super-hilarious films that eventually became all-time genre classics ("A Bucket of Blood" & "Little Shop of Horrors"), but this one ended up as a disaster, cinematically and financially, mainly because the marketing sold it as mystery thriller, complete with misleading taglines on the posters like "What was the unspeakable secret of the SEA OF LOST SHIPS?" and "Please do not give away the answer to the secret."

There's a guy who only talks in animal noises, one of the most ridiculous-looking monsters in film history (just look at the ludicrous Ping Pong eyes!!), lots of unfunny shenanigans with silly gangsters and even sillier Cuban governments, a stupid running gag with a sleeping man who constantly knocks himself unconscious etc. etc. It's all supposed to be amusing, but I wasn't able to laugh at all this rubbish. The funny parts aren't funny at all, the pacing is dreadfully slow, and the direction is just shoddy.


The two only good things about it: the animated opening and some fun with names ["The big cheese was Renzo Capetto, alias Capo Rosetto, alias Ratto Pazetti, alias Zeppo Staccato alias Shirley Lamour. (...) Mary-Belle Monahan, alias Mary-Monahan Belle, alias Belle-Mary Monahan, alias Monahan Marybelle."]. As for the rest, this is actually such a bad movie, it's shocking. Corman WTF??

Wiki ~ Imdb


22 March 2015

Project Terrible: ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE TEMPLE OF SKULLS

Hello and welcome to another round of Project Terrible! Round 17 and the 13th round for me. 13! Ouch! Bad luck! While Round 12 was one helluva funfest, Round 13 turned out to be far more terrible than expected. This time, I got to see five fucking films, three from PT-boss Alec (Mondo Bizarro), 1 from Michele (The Girl Who Loves Horror), 1 from Robert (Gaming Creatively).
Starting off with something that looks way more fun than it actually is *bleh*...

ALLAN QUATERMAIN
AND THE TEMPLE OF SKULLS

German Title:
Temple of Skulls - Der Tempel der Totenköpfe

USA, 2008
Director: Mark Atkins

2/10






The only Quatermain-themed movie I've ever seen was "King Solomon's Mines" from 1985 (the third of 5(!) adaptations of Henry Rider Haggard's novel of the same name), which was solely made to cash in on the success of the Indiana Jones films. Not exactly a great movie, but a decent one - made on a budget of
around $11 million.

Now, I got to see my second Quatermain movie: "Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls", the fifth Solomon-adaptation, produced by the notorious Aslyum studios, solely made on a budget of about $50.000 to... erm, 'cash in' on the super-lame but super-successful "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" - need I say more?


It's an awful film, about as terrible as most Asylum stuff. Ok, amongst all of the hacks that work for Asylum, Mark Atkins isn't the worst one (I enjoyed his somewhat neat "Battle of Los Angleles"), but this is definitely the worst thing he's made so far. With a story that has nearly nothing to do with its source material, a screenplay that is packed to the brim with plot holes, plot illogicalities and tons of batshit stupid rubbish (Earthquakes out of fucking nowhere, bee swarm out of fucking nowhere, going on an adventure with regular street clothes...), abysmally amateurish editing and an incredibly awful cast, this all feels more like as if a bunch of completely untalented film students wanted to reenact their favorite adventure films.

Sean Michael is okay as Quatermain, but non-actors like Natalie Stone (grins like an idiot), Christopher Adamson (constantly looks as if he just escaped the loony bin) or Wittly Jourdan (looks cute, but has no clue of acting) are just a torture to watch. Same for all the horrendous CGI, stock footage of wild animals and nearly all of the clothes which don't look like they fit into the time the movie's supposed to take place. Also, as you can see below, there's hardly any skulls in the movie. So much for your "Temple of Skulls"...


I appreciate the fact that this was actually shot in South Africa and I also thought that the musical score - as generic as it may be - was better than most Asylum scores. Other than that, this movie - which actually includes NO "Temple of Skulls" whatsoever! - is just terrible.

20 March 2015

OPEN WINDOWS

OPEN WINDOWS

Spain / USA, 2014
Director: Nacho Vigalondo

0/10











Just when you thought Elijah Wood's post-Frodo-career film career gets more and more interesting (especially after great performances in genre gems like "Maniac" or "Grand Piano"), he and his production company SpectreVision deliver a movie that is so unbelievably shitty, it's shocking. Overrated Spanish one-hit-wonder Nacho Vigalondo ("Timecrimes") reduces the found footage genre to absurdity by making a one-trick-pony rubbish-thriller that was entirely filmed from the POV of Elijah Wood's character looking at a laptop, looking at an endless array of video streams, video players, browser windows opening and closing.


A lousy and unoriginal gimmick turned into a god-awful and indescribably unnerving piece of terribleness, poorly made and developed, at times unintentionally ludicrous, but most of the time, so bad, bad, bad, you wanna sue the hell out of everyone involved. There's a convoluted storyline about celebrated actresses, website designers, mysterious hackers and weird conspiracies hidden in it, but since you're forced to constantly look at windows opening, closing, opening, closing ad infinitum, you quickly start to so NOT care about any of the characters or events and just hope and pray it may end soon - which it doesn't do because this crap is almost 100 minutes long... *sigh*

None of the events make sense or seem to be any kind of plausible, it's all just balls-to-the-wall bonkers, but not in a good or fun way. None of the characters seem to be at least mildly intelligent, everyone's just batshit stupid. Car chases that are totally boring and seem to go on forever. Plot twists that are so inane, you wanna take Vigalondo and throw him out of the window. Elijah Wood seemed to be uninterested in the role and gave a surprisingly weak and eye-rollingly lame performance. Even worse: porn actress Sasha Grey who's just embarrasing and a super-laughable Neil Maskell ("Kill List").


Vigalondo once was hailed as THE next big thing - but after mediocre stuff like "Extraterrestrial", unferwhelming segments for "The ABCs of Death" or "V/H/S Viral", and this atrocity, I lost all hope in him. He's neither talented, nor gifted. The awesome "Timecrimes"-days are long gone. He's a one-trick-pony, just like "Open Windows", a movie that I originally wanted to give a 1/10, solely for Sasha Grey's beuatiful boobs... until I finished writing this rant and realized that this movie doesn't deserve such a high rating. 0/10 is just right for this
cinematic disaster.

18 March 2015

THE WOODS

THE WOODS

USA / UK / Germany, 2006
Director: Lucky McKee

3/10











My frequent readers probably know that I'm not exactly a fan of Lucky McKee's work. Ok, I adore his 2002 cult flick "May" (love letter review here) and I enjoyed his contribution to the first season of the "Masters of Horror" series, but all of his other works didn't do anything for me, especially the love-it-ot-hate-it shocker "The Woman" (I hated it) or the dreadful "All Cheerleaders Die" - and now that I finally seen his "May" follow-up "The Woods", I can add one more McKee flick
to the "Lucky Hall of Shame".


"The Woods" is a trite, dull and tiresome supernatural horror film about an all-girls private high school which is led and controlled by a coven of witches and a haunted forest. The basic premise is cool and intriguing, but the way McKee and screenwriter David Ross ("The Babysitters") handled it is rather lousy. The movie is obviousy influenced by Dario Argento's "Suspiria", though it's baffling how nearly every reviewer on the internet is solely comparing it to "Suspiria", when it actually steals and borrows from many other movies too, especially from "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (all-girls schol, pupils disappearing, the school's reputation struggling), "La Residencia" (all-girls school, new girl arrives, girls disappear) and "The Faculty" (teachers acting very weird, people disappear).

The whole thing already starts out weird and never really gets going. There are some tense and mildly eerie scenes, but for the greater part, "The Woods" plods along at snail's pace, hops between moments of silliness and utter frustration, shenanigans with balancing stones, unintentionally amusing-looking CGI tree-attacks, unnerving ghost voices, truckloads of open / unanswered questions, and - worst of all - a couple of uber-comedic scenes, all involving Bruce Campbell, that totally don't fit in. Don't get me wrong: I love Bruce Campbell, but he and his character are completely out of place. The entire movie is dark, serious and very gothic-y - but suddenly, good ol' Bruce pops up, delivering some of his well-known "Evil Dead" shtick which is actually so odd and inappropriate here, it completely took me out of the movie.


Although I didn't exactly like any of the characters, I admit that most of the acting is just splendid, especially the performances of Agnes Bruckner, Rachel Nichols, Marcia Bennett (whose character's head is constantly twitching - fun!), and the fantastic Patricia Clarkson. Also, some nicely done scenes involving leaves or milk, and a few cool 60s tunes (all by Lesley Gore). Other than that, "The Woods" is a gargantuan mishap, only recommended to die-hard McKee fans or to people who - for whatever reason - enjoy stuff like "The Moth Diaries" (ugh!).

17 March 2015

MAY (2002)

MAY

German Title:
May - Die Schneiderin des Todes

USA, 2002
Director: Lucky McKee

10/10








Back in 2002 when director / writer Lucky McKee was shooting his second feature "May", I think he wasn't aware of what an incredible film he was making. With a budget of only about $500.000 and a cast that considered mostly of no-name indie actors & actresses at that time, McKee involuntarily created one of the best, most impressive, most influential horror films of the 00s.

"May" tells the story of loner and social misfit May, an odd woman with a lazy eye and a troubled childhood whose only 'friend' is a creepy-looking glass-encased doll named Suzie. May works at a veterinary hospital and leads a calm life, until the day she falls in love with Adam, a local mechanic who at first seems to be interested in her, but rejects her when he realizes that May is much weirder than he originally expected. From this moment on, May's life slowly goes downhill. She snaps, her behavior becomes more and more awkward, flirts with a lesbian co-worker and some random punk dude end deadly, and when her 'friend' accidentally gets broken, she decides to create a new one... Frankenstein-style!


Calling "May" a mere horror film is quite improper, because... well, it's actually soooo much more. It starts out as shrewd mix of comedy, dramedy and semi-rom-com and ends us as bizarre bastard of psychological drama, horror-comedy and fun-slasher. Blending so many genres/sub-genres together could have ended as disaster of epic proportions - but McKee managed to blend all these various types into each other as if it's the easiest thing in the world. While he completely failed to do so with later works like "The Woods" or "All Cheerleaders Die"... with "May", he fully succeeded in creating one of the wackiest, yet most perfect genre mash-ups in movie history, a mash-up that's amusing, entertaining, shocking, heartbreaking and thought-provoking at the very same time.

The main reasons why "May" works so fucking good: the deeply fascinating character of May and the incredible performance of Angela Bettis. I don't exaggerate when I say that Bettis' May is one of the greatest, most breathtaking, most mesmerising, most fascinating acting performances I have ever seen and it's a mystery to me why Bettis hasn't become an actress of the caliber of a Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton. They way she moves, the way she looks, her ambigious expressions, her often inscrutable demeanor. Her adorable smiles, but also her frightening temper tantrums. A loner that desperately needs help before things start to get very, very ugly. What I love most about Bettis' performance that she never lets May become unlikable. Even when she's in super-psychotic mode, you're still rooting for her because, like her, you hope and somehow believe that everything will work out right...


The rest of the cast is almost equally fantastic: there's Jeremy Sisto ("Wrong Turn") as May's love interest who involuntarily becomes the catalysator for the tragedies to happen. Anna Faris ("Scary Movie 1-4") as Lesbian who seems to care about May, but actually doesn't care about her at all. Nichole Hiltz ("In Plain Sight") as blonde bitch, James Duval ("Donnie Darko") as silly punk, Kevin Gage ("Heat") and Merle Kennedy ("Night of the Demons") as May's parents.

"May" is also packed to the brim with visually stunning images of May's eerie doll or her very own... um, 'creation', with remarkable stand-out scenes like the one with the blind kids accidentally hurting themselves on the shards of glass, the one with the bloody kiss or all the gorgeously gory kills... though nothing comes close to the awesomeness of the final scene which is funny, shocking, depressing and tear-jerking at the very same time. Seeing May, at first unwilling to grasp what terrible things she did, then quickly realizing that there's something totally wrong, breaking down in tears and ultimately doing something unspeakable to herself - hell, this scene and the final image which can be only described as magic, it gets me every time. I'm getting goosebumps, I'm close to tears, I wanna reach into the screen and pull May out of this misery *sigh*


The soundtrack is terrific, consisting of fabulous tunes by The Kelley Deal 6000 (the adorable "When He Calls Me Kitten"), Tommy James & The Shondells ("Hanky Panky"), The Breeders ("Do You Love Me Now?") and Jammes Luckett's unbelievably eerie "Deviation on a Theme". The cinematography is excellent (Steve Yedlin, "Looper"), editing, costumes and the entire art direction are splendid, and McKee's direction is just frigging perfect.

Yes, it's weird film, but... well, I like weird. I like weird a lot!

Wiki ~ Imdb

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