31 October 2015

Happy Halloween! - with "TRICK OR TREATS"

 TRICK OR TREATS

Working Titles:
Halloween / Babysitter Murders: The Beginning

USA, 1982
Director: Gary Graver

2,5/10







It's almost a Halloween-tradition now: Maynard seeking out an old, obscure Halloween-themed flick from the 80s and reviews it. Over the last years I checked out odd stuff like "Hollow Gate", "Hack-O-Lantern" or "Jack-O".
This year, it's this weird, um, non-gem: "Trick of Treats", one of the few genre films by profilic porn filmmaker Gary Graver, better known under his pseudonym Robert McCallum, who directed more than 100 adult films between the early 70s and the late 90s, but also worked as a cinematographer for countless genre classics like "Invasion of the Bee Girls", "The Toolbox Murders" or "Mortuary".


The movie tries to be a spoof of "Halloween" and other then-popular slasher films (deranged maniac escaping from the asylum on Halloween night, threatening a babysitter who watches over a brat who keeps playing vicious pranks on her), but omg, nearly nothing about it works because nothing about this movie is entertaining. "Trick or Treats" is packed to the brim with oh-so-funny lines that aren't funny, and oh-so-funny characters that just aren't funny, and oh-so-funny scenes that yada yada, blah blah. Did I mention that the movie is repetitive too? Too many pranks, too many scenes where someone knocks at the door, too many scenes where the killer calls on the telephone etc. etc. Pacing is dull, direction is weak, no thrills, no chills.

The brat is probably the most annoying kid in horror history. The killer, badly dressed as hospital nurse, is a complete hack. The mother is an unlikable hag, the babysitter is quite a chore, and pretty much everyone else simply is a pain in the arse. David "Kung Fu" Carradine appears a couple of times, but aside from looking unnerved, he's doing nothing, and Carrie Snodgress' daft acting makes you wonder why she ever got nominated for an Oscar.


The sounds-like-stock-music-from-the-60s soundtrack is pretty rad, and the last 10-15 minutes are surprisingly suspenseful. Yet, overall, neither a trick not a treat, just a dud.

Wiki ~ Imdb

28 October 2015

ALL HALLOWS' EVE 1 + 2

ALL HALLOWS' EVE

German Title:
All Hallows' Eve - Komm raus und spiel!

USA, 2013
Director: Damien Leone

7/10








It's really, really hard to keep track of all the horror films that get released on DVD/VOD these days. Some simply fall through the cracks without ever attracting my attention, like this one, "All Hallows' Eve", a horror anthology I haven't heard of before - until I stumbled upon a press release for the sequel just a couple of weeks ago. The synopsis sounded interesting enough, and so I checked out both - and glad I did!


I admit, the basic idea behind "All Hallows' Eve" is lazy: director Damian Leone simply took his two short films "The 9th Circle" (2008) and "Terrifier" (2011), shot some new material (a new segment + a framing story) and cobbled it all together. Fortunately (compared to similar films where this cheapo concept didn't work, like "E.N.D." or the "Treasure Chest of Horrors" films), Leone made it work so very well, there's not much to complain about.

A babysitter finds an old VHS tape in the kids' trick-or-treat bag. The tapes includes three pretty horrifying short films, all linked together by a cool/scary-looking and extremely muderous clown. After the babysitter finished watching the tape, strange things begin to occur in the house and she realizes that the clown might be bloody reality...


Some of the acting isn't exactly good and the second segment (the new one) is a bit strange because it doesn't really fit in and has a rather mediocre payoff - but everything else is just great. There's tons of badass and super-gruesome gore, many extremely suspenseful and stunningly well-paced scenes, there's lots of eerie, effective music that keeps the tension running, the babysitter-wraparound works much better than I initially expected, and holy hell, the clown (called 'Art') is really freaking scary! Also, the whole thing possesses a wonderful 80s vibe and an absolutely excellent Halloween atmosphere, that makes it a perfect watch for your next, erm, All Hallows' Eve ;-) Great!




ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2

USA, 2015
Directors: Jesse Baget, Bryan Norton,
Antonio Padovan, Marc Roussel, Ryan Patch, Jay Holben, James Kondelik, Jon Kondelik, Elias Benavidez, Mike Kochansky & Andrés Borghi

8/10







Production company Ruthless Pictures is currently developing an interesting business model that gives young filmmakers the chance to reach wide audiences: they buy various horror-themed indie short films and release them as anthology movies via VOD and DVD. So far, so good. However, the way they're doing that is a bit questionable. Ok, when it comes to features like "Zombieworld" or "Monsterworld", there's nothing to complain
but when it comes to in-name-only sequels, it's getting weird. For example: they released a sequel to indie feature "The Invoking", consisting of 6 short films from acclaimed short film directors like Patrick Rea or Corey Norman. The trouble is: none of these shorts have anything to do with the first part... and, well, the first part wasn't even an anthology!

Now, they did a sequel to "All Hallows' Eve", consisting of 8(!!!) segments and a frame story that is at least slightly similar to the first part. The segments are of course 8 independently made short films that have nothing to do with the first "All Hallows' Eve" and were simply cobbled together. And the frame story is so unbelievably unimaginative, so incredibly shoddy, it's almost aggravating. Fortunately, nearly all of the short films are so fucking great, it makes you forget about the terrible wraparound. Say what you want about Ruthless Pictures, but in case of "All Hallows' Eve 2", they did a good job.


"JACK ATTACK" (2013), directed by Bryan Norton & Antonio Padovan - 9/10
A babysitter and a boy and a super-dangerous pumpkin. A marvellously entertaining and wonderfully macabre flick, that is totally on the same level of genius as "Trick 'R Treat" or the "Sweet Tooth"-segment in "Tales of Halloween". Wow!

"THE LAST HALLOWEEN" (2013), directed by Marc Roussel - 9/10
I've already seen, reviewed and loved the hell out of this fantastic short film, and I even made it onto one of its promotional posters (see here) - and it's still one helluva piece of awesomeness, following 4 trick-or-treaters on an eerie journey through the night.


"THE OFFERING" (2013), directed by Ryan Patch - 7/10
A father and his son in a dark forest, making an offering to a mysterious force. Maybe a bit too long and the ending is a bit too odd for my taste, but overall a very well made and breathtakingly atmospheric short.

"DESCENT" (2004), directed by Jay Holben - 9/10
Unbelievably gripping shocker about a woman who finds herself trapped in an elevator together with the man who killed her best friend. Has obviously nothing to do with the British "The Descent" films, but in terms of tension and suspense, it's similarly intense.


"M IS FOR MASOCHIST" (2013, a.k.a "Masochist"), directed by the Kondelik Brothers - 5/10
The only segment in "All Hallows' Eve 2" that is 1) not that good and 2) doesn't really fit in. At least, the wonderful Bill Oberst Jr. is in it, delivering a cool performance as carnie.

"A BOY'S LIFE" (2011), directed by Elias Benavidez - 9/10
Aside from the awkward and improper title (wasn't that a movie with Di Caprio and De Niro? ;-), this is clearly one of the best attempts in creating a film about a kid who's afraid of some terrifying monster under his bed incl. amazing acting, splendid pacing and a badass ending.


"MR. TRICKER'S TREAT" (2011), directed by Mike Kochansky - 7/10
Starts out a bit strange, but ends up super-fun. A woman discovers why the Halloween decorations in her neighbor's garden look so incredibly lifelike. Could have been a tad longer IMO, but aside from that, I enjoyed it.

"ALEXIA" (2013), directed by Andrés Borghi - 8/10
Imagine a mix of "Unfriended" and classic J-Horror à la "Ringu" or "Ju-On": that's "Alexia", a top-notch little chiller about a teenager who realizes that it wasn't a good idea to delete his dead girlfriend from his Facebook.

Despite the above-mentioned shoody wraparound (which at least has one good moment when a girl tells her girlfriend "Of course I have a VCR. Yeah, how much better "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" looks on VHS than BluRay. Oh, BluRay makes everything look fake."), this anthology was right up my alley. It obviously helps if you regularly watch indie short films, but... well, even if you're more of a non-short-film-watcher... if go into it open-minded, you should enjoy it about as much as I did!

27 October 2015

CRIMSON PEAK

CRIMSON PEAK

Fake Working Title:
Haunted Peak

USA / Canada, 2015
Director: Guillermo del Toro

4/10








Among all of my friends, I was the only one who thought that the trailers for "Crimson Peak" looked rather underwhelming, so my expectations towards it were about as low as for Guillermo del Toro's previous movie "Pacific Rim" - though, whilst "Pacific Rim" turned out to be one of my favorite movies of all time, "Crimson Peak" sadly was as disappointing as its box office opening weekend.

From the trailer, I thought this would be some kinda new interpretation of the "Bluebeard" folktale, and to some extent, I was right, though it is actually more like "Bluebeard" mixed with Edgar Allen Poe's "House of Usher", mixed with b/w classics Hitchcock's "Rebecca", "The Innocents" or "The Haunting", and certain elements from "The Shining", "The Changeling" and "Suspiria", following a young aspiring writer who, after the weird death of her father, marries a mysterious aristocrat and moves with him to his remote gothic mansion in the English hills, a mansion that is full of dark secrets, scary ghosts and skeleton-filled closets...


Yes, "Crimson Peak" is an incredibly gorgeous film with tons of stunningly designed interiors, fabulous use of eerie Argento/Bava-esque lighting, clever use of blood-like red clay, a couple of rad-looking ghosts and tons of marvellous costumes - but unfortunately, del Toro is overdoing it so hard with all the striking visuals, it quickly became a real pain in the arse for me. It's a movie that is actually so beautiful, it's annoying. Ok, we get it, del Toro. You know and you love your gothic horror, but in this case you have simply overdone it and ended up falling flat on your face, and into the style-over-substance category.

The movie is so unbelievably predictable and so shockingly unscary, it's insane. From the opening scene, you pretty much get the whole thing, get in what kind of direction it will go, get how it'll end. Like my girlfriend said, the whole time you're waiting for something unexpected, something unforeseeable to happen, but after the first half hour or so, you realize that there aren't any surprises or out-of-nowhere-twists and that it will end exactly the way you imagined - and that just sucks. Of course, I/we don't think that every movie needs a gob-smacking plot twist, but... *sigh* "Crimson Peak" is soooo predictable and sooo weakly written, any kind of twist really could have saved it, at least a bit. But there is no twist, and there are no surprises, and there is nothing that makes this movie stand out
in any kind of way.


What's even worse is the fact that there is so much odd / illogical / hair-raisingly stupid / unignorable stuff, it's dreadful, [SPOILERS] for example the scene where Mia Wasikowska falls down from some height in a manner that looks and sounds as if she broke her back or neck, but in the next scene she's alive and rather well - dafuq?? Or the scene where Tom Hiddleston gets stabbed into his cheekbone with a simple knife... really? So, cheekbones are as easy to stab as a cake, or what? Terrible. I suspect del Toro did this only because it looks oh-so-pretty when the ghost of Hiddleston is swirl-bleeding CGI blood *ugh* Also, what is with the hole in the roof? Why did no-one bother to cover it? And why are there constantly falling leaves through when there are absolutely no trees around???

 The ghosts all look great but none of them creeped me out, and none of the supposed-to-be-scary scenes were in any way scary. Actually, all the ghost scenes were... erm... guess? Yup. All predictable. And the few cheap loud-music/noise jump scares... really, del Toro?? *grrr* The acting is thoroughly good, most notably the performances by Wasikowska (gorgeous as always, I love that woman), Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and especially Jim Beaver. Also, stunning cinematography (Dan Laustsen, "Mimic") and neat music (Fernando Velázquez, "The Orphanage").


I just rewatched the trailer one last time... yes, I can fully understand why "Crimson Peak" didn't connect with audiences and ultimately failed at the box office. People already seen too many sorta-similar movies over the last years, with or without del Toro name-tag ("The Others", "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark", "Mama"...). Del Toro is (was?) a great filmmaker, but he never was a huge box office draw, and unless he's doing more "Blade" or "Hellboy" sequels in the future, he will never be one.

So, if this should be the final reason for the cancellation of del Toro's "Pacific Rim: Maelstrom"... *sigh* I can perfectly understand that. Bummer.
Guillermo, quo vadis?

25 October 2015

THE VATICAN TAPES

THE VATICAN TAPES

USA, 2015
Director: Mark Neveldine

3/10











For quite some time, I was a big fan of filmmaking team Neveldine/Taylor 
(Brian Neveldine & Brian Taylor), who once were the hottest filmmakers in town. Their debut feature "Crank" and especially the sequel "Crank: High Voltage" are two of the greatest action films of the last 15 years and I love both films to an extent that is rather insane. I also think their work on horror-thriller "Pathology" was decent.

As for the rest... well, their third feature "Gamer" was quite a disappointment, their comic-book adaptation "Jonah Hex" (they wrote the screenplay but stepped down from being directors due to creative differences) became a critical and commercial disaster, and their last collaboration "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" was such an enormous shitfest, I'm still pissed about it.


What now? Well, they eventually went separate ways. Taylor hasn't done anything worthwhile since (aside from being attached to a movie adaptation of video game "Twisted Metal"... for more than 3 years now!) - and Neveldine thought it was a good idea to adapt a screenplay that was featured in the 2009 Blacklist, a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. This would have been a fun idea to do in 2009, but since then, we were bombarded with sooo many Excorcism-themed films, "The Vatican Tapes" could have been only a failure.

Nothing about "The Vatican Tapes" is original or imaginative or clever or anything. It's just another Best of Exorcism clichés/tropes: girl gets possessed, she levitates, and she vomits, and she has Emily-Rose-like visions, and she is able to movie furniture without touching, and she frequently gets attacked by Ravens and she is able to contort her body, and stigmata, and creepy eyes, and Aramaic ramblings, yada yada yada. No surprises, nothing we haven't seen before. Average Exorcism rubbish. Bleh.


At least, there's some neat acting Michael Peña (makes the best out of his bland character), Olivia Taylor Dudley (I've seen worse Linda Blair imitations) and two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (okay paycheck performance), a few cool visuals, a fun scene where some guy kills himself with 2 lightbulbs(!), and an ending that is actually far better, far more interesting than the rest of the film, or as Bloody Disgusting nailed it: "What would have made 'The Vatican Tapes' better is if the first 80 minutes were relegated to a prologue, and then the last ten minutes expanded into a full-length feature." 

Only recommended to die-hard fans of the above-mentioned actors, and/or to die-hard fans of exorcism movies.

22 October 2015

GRAVE HALLOWEEN

GRAVE HALLOWEEN

Working Title:
The Last Halloween / The Suicide Forest

Canada, 2013
Director: Steven R. Monroe

6/10









My frequent readers may know that I'm quite a fan of the new "I Spit On Your Grave" films (both directed by Steven R. Monroe), and my frequent readers may also know that Monroe's other works are more than pale in comparison. Still, I just can't stop checking out other Monroe films in hope that there might be at least one more gem that comes close to the awesomeness of both ISOYG movies.


"Grave Halloween" obviously doesn't manage to be another Monroe-gem, but hey, compared to the last Monroe flicks that I checked out ("Monika" + "It Waits"), it's actually pretty decent. The SyFy-produced and extremely improperly titled movie has nearly nothing to do with the Halloween celebration; it's actually more of an attempt to create some kinda new-school J-Horror flick, taking place in the "Aokigahara Suicide Forest" (see here) where a girl tries to find the dead body of her mother, not knowing that it was super-bad idea to enter this creepy forest which is full of restless and vengeful spirits...

I love how hard this Canadian production tries to look like an actual Asian horror film, or at least as some kinda J-Horror fan-fiction - which actually works! You get your average long-haired ghost girls, Japanese curses and rituals, J-horror-like jump scares etc. Okay, I admit it's all quite clichéd and well-trodden, but due to Monroe's solid direction and due to the fact that nearly the entire movie takes place in broad daylight in this damn forest, I was thoroughly entertained and mildly thrilled, never bored.


Unfortunately, the whole thing is also pretty predictable, the storyline doesn't offer any surprises and the screenplay by Sheldon Wilson ("Shallow Ground") and Ryan W. Smith is simply too run-of-the-mill. The acting is solid (standouts: Hiro Kanagawa and Kaitlyn Leeb), though nearly all of the characters are bland and vapid. Some neat music, good special effects, okay cinematography.
Overall, not exactly a must-see, but definitely a passable watch.

Horror Movie Diary quoted on new "THE LAST HALLOWEEN" poster!

One of my favorite short films of 2014 was Marc Roussel's "THE LAST HALLOWEEN", an impressive and extremely well-made film that rocked my world completely - Review here.

Since I've first seen it in March 2014, lots of stuff has happened: the short film was bought by production company Ruthless Pictures and released as part of the horror anthology "All Hallow's Eve 2" (Review soon!).

It also made its festival rounds all over the world incl. the /Slash Filmfestival where the audience had the chance to see it as support film to "Hellions" (needless to say that the audience dug it much more than the crappy "Hellions")...

...and since it'll make more festival rounds in 2016 (incl. the "FANGORIA International Online Film Festival"), the peeps behind "THE LAST HALLOWEEN" created three brandnew promo posters: a DEATH poster, a WITCH poster, a DEVIL poster and a GHOST poster.

Lucky me is proud to announce that one of my quotes made it onto the GHOST poster ["Tense, thrilling and incredibly atmospheric"] alongside a quote from DREAD CENTRAL!



Looks cool, huh? :-) Below, you can see the other two posters which look pretty cool too:



Interested? You can find more information about "THE LAST HALLOWEEN" on www.THELASTHALLOWEEN.ca and on Facebook.com/THELASTHALLOWEEN


20 October 2015

WE ARE STILL HERE (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)

 WE ARE STILL HERE

German Title:
We Are Still Here - Haus des Grauens

USA, 2015
Director: Ted Geoghegan

9/10








Considering the fact that is it the very first directorial feature of Oregonian filmmaker Ted Geoghegan who was previously involved in writing/producing
rubbish like "100 Tears" or "Sweatshop"...
Considering the fact that this was a meant as a tribute to Lucio Fulci's "The House by the Cemetery" (I'm actually very allergic to people trying to pay homage to this stunning piece of Italo-awesomeness)...
Considering the fact that this is yet another haunted house movie *yawn* with a title that is almost too spoilerish...

Hell, this is not just one of THE highlights in this underwhelming horror-year, but also one of the very few really great movies at this year's /Slash Filmfestival. "We Are Still Here" follows a married couple that moves to rural New England after the tragic death of their son, in the hopes that it will bring them some closure. Unfortunately, their new home is haunted by a couple of vengeful and rather brutal spirits, and the nearby small-town hides a terrifying secret that is strongly connected to the dark history of their new old house...


Geoghegan's debut is so good, it's shocking. His more-intense-than-expected directing style, his clever writing, his understanding of 70s/80s horror and his ability to perfectly re-create classic 70s/80s horror atmosphere, it all leads to an absolutely fantastic movie that managed to scare the bejesus out of me AND to make me burst into laughter (just like last year's incredible "Housebound"), thanks to shitloads of unbelievably frightening scenes (I was shivering during the scenes down in the cellar, or the one with the burning shapes at the bedroom door), an equally high amount of laugh-out-loud moments (ever seen a possessed old stoner hippie eating a pair of socks?), and an outrageously insane amount of blood and gore (we get to see fountains and geysers of the good old
red juice *yay*).

The effects, the eerie, slightly doom-laden music (Wojciech Golczewski, "Late Phases"), the stunning cinematography (Karim Hussain, "The Theatre Bizarre"), the super-suspenseful slow-burn pace, the impressive look of the ghosts... damn, almost everything about it is just amazing. Same for the acting: a touchingly emotional performance by horror legend Barbara Crampton ("From Beyond", "Re-Animator") who, at the age of 56, still looks hawt, an absolutely hilarious performance by horror legend Larry Fessenden ("Habit", "The Last Winter"), an immensely scary Monte Markham ("The New Perry Mason"), plus more great acting by the gorgeous Lisa Marie ("Ed Wood"), Andrew Sensenig ("Upstream Color"), cutie Keslea Dakota and Connie Neer. Also, every single character feels 'real', is highly sympathetic and totally believable. You don't get that too often these days...


"We Are Still Here" is an entertaining and quite energetic frightfest for fans of 'golden era' horror. If you dig "The Changeling", "Superstition" or "The House of the Cemetery", you'll dig this one too. Bravo Mr. Geoghegan!
Lucio would be proud of you.

19 October 2015

"BLOOD TIDE" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #16)

BLOOD TIDE

Alternate Titles:
Bloodtide / Demon Island

German Titles:
Die Gezeiten des Blutes / Das Monster aus der Tiefe / Gezeiten des Todes

Greece / UK, 1982
Director: Richard Jefferies
(as Richard Jeffries)

7/10



I know I'm in the minority, but holy shit, I really, really enjoyed this movie, even though I'm not entirely sure why. "Blood Tide" is the directorial debut of screenwriter / producer Richard Jefferies ("Scarecrows", "Cold Creek Manor"), co-written and produced by by Greek exploitation legend Nico Mastorakis ("Island of Death", "The Zero Boys"), telling the story of a Greek island that was once terrorized by a sea monster. The only way to stop its bloodshed was to offer a virgin girl as a sacrifice to it.


Present time: an alcoholic Shakespeare-quoting treasure hunter awakes the creature from its grave which soon goes on a bloody rampage and spreads terror among a couple of grumpy islanders, a bunch of old nuns, a newlywed couple and the husband's super-weird sister.
I admit, this all sounds pretty silly, and at times, it IS pretty silly - but thanks to Jefferies' pretty splendid direction, lots of creepy atmosphere, and striking use of haunting images and eerie settings, the whole thing worked for me just perfect.

Ok, it's a bit frustrating that we get to see the monster only for a couple of moments, but there's so much more awesome stuff in "Blood Tide", the absence of the monster was easy to get over with. There's rituals and 'sacrifice games' that strongly reminded of "The Wicker Man". Several plot elements seem to have been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Innsmouth". The stunning opening scene evoked flashbacks to the immensely underrated late 80s Italo-flick "Maya" (yes, another movie that reminds me of "Maya"), and throughout the movie, there were many, many eerie moments that reminded me of slightly similar island-themed horror films like "Anthropophagus" or "The Slayer".


Jerry Mosely's ("Frightmare") uncanny score gave me a chilling good time, Aris Stavrou's ("El Greco") cinematography is gorgeous, scenes like the one in the underwater cave with the mystical fog or the 'fake communion / sacrifice' are just wow, and there's also plenty of gore and dead bodies. The acting isn't too special, but decent enough, especially the performances by José Ferrer, Mary Louise Weller and James Earl Jones (best known as "Darth Vader").
Not for everyone, but I liked it!



16 October 2015

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

USA / Iran, 2014
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

8/10











My initital expectations towards this were very low. The trailer looked odd and the basic concept sounded somewhat goofy. Yet, to my surprise, "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night" turned out to be far better than I imagined. The feature debut of Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour is an awkward, yet impressive and ultra-cool vampire-western, taking place in the Iranian ghost town "Bad City" where a lonely teenager falls in love with a Burka-wearing female vampire who roams the deserted streets at night.


The movie starts out rather slow and a tad strange, but then after the first 15-20 minutes, I was suddenly drawn into the whole scenario and fully drawn to the screen right until the bizarre, yet wonderfully mystifying ending. Amirpour manages to combine 'coolness', 'scariness' and 'artsiness' into a very moody, very atmospheric and totally unique black-and-white chiller that somehow makes it a companion piece to Jim Jarmusch's equally great "Only Lovers Left Alive" - and in some weird kinda way, it made me think that both films could actually exist in the same universe, even though they're both radically different from each other.

 The b/w photography is gorgeous, at times Lynch-esque (power station scene), at times just balls-to-the-walls uber-cool (party scene, the girl's house). Seeing a Burka-wearing woman walking through deserted, abandoned areas is not just super-stylish, but also super-scary! The acting is thoroughly superb, especially the performances by the beautiful Sheila Vand as the titular girl, the even more beautiful Mozhan Marnò as pitiful prostitute, and Arash Marandi as teenager with problems who's just batshit funny when he's drunk and gets lost on his way home.


Massive kudos to the music which sounds like it was composed by the, um, Iranian Chris Isaak, as well as to the inclusion of "Death", one of my favorite songs of one of my favorite bands White Lies, and to the unbelievably adorable kitty (called Masuka) who has quite a big part in the movie (yay for kitty awesomeness!). Overall: not for everyone, but definitely a must-see for fans of stylish and/or sophisticated vampire films.

15 October 2015

DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS

DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS

USA, 2015
Director: Austin Bosley

3,5/10











I'm a fan of the Slasher Studios. I love and own their short films ("Teddy", "Popularity Killer" & "Blood Brothers") on DVD. I love and own their debut feature "Don't Go To The Reunion" on DVD. I supported many of their crowdfunding campaigns. And, of course, I was totally looking forward to their second feature "Dismembering Christmas", an 80s-like Xmas slasher, taking place in a winter lake house where a couple of high school seniors are attacked
by a masked killer.


When I first heard that the Slasher Studios' regular director Steve Goltz wouldn't direct the movie, I was a bit shocked. When I read that the movie was supposed to be some kinda "Friday the 13th" meets "Black Christmas", I was rather underwhelmed because I'm not a big fan of both movies. And now that I've finally seen it, I have to say that my worst fears came true because "Dismembering Christmas" isn't good.

Director Austin Bosley has a great eye for striking visuals, gorgeous lighting and brilliant cinematography, resulting into many absolutely fantastic tracking shots and wonderfully composed images. Unfortunately, he is really bad when it comes to create tension or suspense, and he's even worse when it comes to direct actors. Goltz has a knack for getting the absolute best out of youngster actors - Bosley not. Throughout the entire movie, I had the feeling that he was more interested in the movie's visual aspects, and didn't care enough for the actors' performances, most recognisable in the horrible dialogue scene with him and Shannon McInnis in the car (was that a 'first take'?), the overall performances by McInnis (very stilted, very unnatural) and Marla van Lanen (what the fuck? did she even try? did Bosley even direct her?), as well as the scene where Jennifer Lenius and Johnathon Krautkramer kinda fall in love (cringeworthy scene, annoying to the max). I was constantly thinking
"Where the fuck is Goltz is when we need him?"...


... at least as a director, because unfortunately, the writing (done by Slasher Studios masterminds Goltz and Kevin Sommerfield) is a huge letdown too! I had the feeling they spent so much time getting as many nods to their favorite slashers into it - especially to "Curtains" for whatever reason - that they eventually completely forgot to care about any kind of 'story flow', about memorable/interesting/sympathetic/non-clichéd characters and about an original storyline. If you're looking for an original twist ending, look elsewhere. The semi-twist ending / killer reveal is so unbelievably foreseeable (you will find it out within the first 10-15 minutes), it's just frustrating. Plus: I might be wrong, but nearly every character and every line of dialogue feels as if "Dismembering Christmas" was actually intended to be about a couple of twens... until someone had the glorious idea to cast a bunch of teenagers instead *grrr*

Aside from the above-mentioned actors, most of the other actors deliver solid performances, especially Leah Wiseman and Nina Kova.
The killer's mask is ugly and looks like a botched papier-mâché version of the "Curtains"-killer's mask and "Leatherface". The kills are neat, but they're pretty much all ripped off of slasher classics like (again) "Curtains" (the nightly double murder, at least in terms of style and execution) or "Silent Night, Deadly Night" (sledding decapitation), and they're all surprisingly un-gory. The few ones that are original are either absurdly dumb (snowman kill) or... well, if there would be an award for the "Worst Decapitation of 2015", the scene with the christmas wreath would so earn it.


The music is weird. At times it's atmospheric and quite effective, at times it's so awkward and non-fitting, that it took me out of the movie. I mean, there are scenes that are lively and rousing, scenes that totally needed some uplifting music - but instead, we get super-strange and way-too-calm jingle-jangle. Same for other scenes where the music is way too kitschy, although it should have been moody and atmospheric instead.

One more thing regarding Marla van Lanen: when I first saw her, I thought she's a man badly dressed as a woman. I actually didn't wanted to mention this in the review, but then I saw another reviewer on Imdb (Bloodmarsh Krackoon) who though exactly the same: "I must apologize here, because when 'Joan' first made her appearance, I thought the character was actually played by a male dressed in drag. It wasn't until I loaded up IMDb, that I found out the part is actually played by Marla Van Lanen, whom I assume is actually a female." My goodness, this was so weird. Another thing that took me out the movie. I had to pause the movie to look her up on Imdb.


Although I won't stop supporting Mr. Goltz and Mr. Sommerfield in the future, "Dismembering Christmas" definitely dismembered my love for the Slasher Studios quite a bit. With a more elaborated cast, more entertaining characters (just like in "Don't Go To The Reunion"), less nods to "Curtains", more originality, better writing and Mr. Goltz on the director's chair, this could have been a movie to remember... but it sadly turned out to be a movie to dismember.

13 October 2015

E.N.D. THE MOVIE

E.N.D. THE MOVIE

Alternate Title:
E.N.D. - The Movie

Italy, 2015
Directors: Federico Greco,
Luca Alessandro, Allegra Bernardoni
& Domiziano Christopharo

4/10






In November 2013, Italian filmmaker Federico Greco sent me a 25minute
short film / pilot for an upcoming Italian TV series called "E.N.D." (Review here), a stylish little film that I really enjoyed. For whatever reason, Greco and his fellow filmmakers Luca Alessandro and Allegra Bernardoni didn't got the chance to turn it into a series, so they started to collect money to at least turn it into a full-length feature, and despite not reaching their crowdfunding goal, they still were able to fully finish the movie.

Irritatingly, "E.N.D. The Movie" is actually more of a fraud. No, it's neither a full length version of "E.N.D.", nor a real continuation of the events that happened in the short film. Greco simply took his short film, shot another short film (incl. at least one returning character), took another short film by some guy called Domiziano Cristopharo, cobbled these 3 shorts together into one post-apocalyptic zombie-anthology, et voilà: a perfect letdown.


*sigh* It's sad. It's really, really sad. The "E.N.D." short is so good and has so much potential for sequels, full length features or TV series. It's still as good as when I first saw it two years ago, and it's the main reason why I gave the full-length version a 4/10. It's such a well-made, well-paced and splendidly stylish film with some great acting and fun dialogue.

Unfortunately, the second segment (directed by Christopharo), which takes place 4 years later somewhere in the Italian boondocks, is boring, dull and bad, bad, bad. Imagine a lowest-budget... no, wait, a no-budget version of zombie-classic "Grapes of Death" with absolutely no suspense, some horrid acting and the worst CGI effects since "Birdemic". It's frustratingly slow, headshakingly amateurish and feels twice as long as it actually is (25 minutes).


The third segment, which takes place in some old bunker 7 years after the original events, was directed by Greco and is obviously way better, but unfortunately, it can't save the movie from being a big disappointment. Although there's lots of super-gorgeous shots and haunting images, fun with 'talking zombies' and some cool gore, the segment is really awkwardly paced and way too tedious. I was constantly hoping for something really awesome to happen, but aside from the weirdly introduced, yet pretty interesting humans vs. undead concept, there's not much happening.

A few years ago, I predicted a big comeback of the Italian horror genre.
Well, that comeback still didn't happen, and with movies like "E.N.D.", it won't happen anytime soon...

Imdb

Thanks to Federico Greco for the screener!

12 October 2015

M. Night Shyamalan's THE VISIT

THE VISIT

Working Title:
Sundowning

USA, 2015
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

8/10









With his last 3-4 films, M. Night Shymalan trolled his audiences so goddamn much [okay, "The Lady in the Water" has its fans, but there's nearly no-one who likes "The Happening", "The Legend of Aang" or "After Earth"], I would have never thought, that he'd ever get his filmmaking-feet back on the ground - but omg, he did. And how! 2015 was his year. First, he re-garnered popularity with the slightly Twin-Peaks-like Fox series "Wayward Pines" (86% on RT, 7.8 on Imdb), and then this: "The Visit", not only a surprisingly huge success (more than 80$ worldwide against a super-low budget of only $5), not only a critical success (62% on RT, 6.5 on Imdb), but actually his best movie since "The Village", and one of the better found footage flicks in recent years.


Two kids, Becca and Tyler, go visit their grandparents for the first time ever, while their single mom, who has had massive problems with her parents in the past, goes on a relaxing vacation. Becca, decides to film a documentary about her grandparents in order to help her mom reconnect with her parents. However, during their stay, the kids discover that their grandparents are not only acting very weird, but also hide a dark secret...

The plot is simple, but effective and fun, and thanks to Shyamalan's incredibly gripping direction and very well written screenplay, the whole thing turns out to be a super-entertaining best-of-both-worlds-combination of hilarious 'youth meets elder' comedy and chilling horrorfest, delivering a great deal of laughs and an equally great deal of scares, and thanks to the fabulous pacing, there is no chance for you getting bored or annoyed. There is always enough tension and suspense to keep you glued to the screen. Almost every scary scene is followed by a funny or an emotional one, making this a successfully schizophrenic cinematic rollercoaster-experience.


At every single minute, you can feel how confident and self-assured Shyamalan was about this whole thing. This is especially incredible compared to the uber-fail "The Happening" where it seemed as if he lost his marbles completely, or "After Earth" which was nothing more than routinely done commissional work *yawn*. Well, "The Visit" is exactly the kind of Shyamalan that I loved back in the days of "The Sixth Sense", "Unbreakable", "Signs" and "The Village". A filmmaker who knows how to lure the audience in with a semi-gimmicky twist flick that is actualy much more than just some "Usual-Suspects"-like one-trick-pony - and in case of "The Visit", he also proves that he is able to shoot a found footage film where the footage makes sense, where you don't get frustrated about stupid characters shooting stupid footage for no fucking reason at all
(I look at you, "The Gallows"!).

The absolute best thing about "The Visit" is the cast. There's super-talented Ed Oxenbould ("Paper Planes"), one of the funniest movie kids since Junior, a super-amusing whirlwind who constantly raps about his ladies and his oh-so-gangsta life and everything else, who replaces swearwords with names of female popstars because it sounds cooler, and who made me grin with almost every line he delivered. There's also Olivia DeJonge ("The Sisterhood of Night") who gives an immensely believable semi-nerdy teenage girl, Kathryn Hahn ("Tomorrowland") as adorable mom, Deanna Dunagan ("The Naked Face") as one of the creepiest old ladies I have ever seen, and Peter McRobbie ("Law & Order") as super-friendly grandpa who's is actually not super-friendly at all.


Highlights: the semi-disgusting scene in the barn, all of Tyler's raps, laughing Grandma, "Yahtzee!!", hide and seek with a twist, every night scene, especially the one with the camera in the living room, the zoom, both oven-scenes, the twist, attacking the man on the other side of the street, the entire badass finale.
"The Visit" is clearly one of the best theatrical horror films of 2015. I mean it!
Shyamalan-haters gonna hate.

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