Sunday, November 27, 2022

Drop On By the Clown Café: Terrifier 2 (2022) Review

Director: Damien Leone

Notable Cast: Lauren LaVera, David Howard Thorton, Elliot Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Kailey Hyman, Casey Hartnett, Catherine Corcoran, Amelie McLain, Charlie McElveen


Although I was inherently struck with the original Terrifier with its stylish and utterly nihilistic take on the slasher genre, it’s a film I had not revisited since reviewing it for Blood Brothers in 2018. Not that it didn’t do an admirable job in modernizing the genre while simultaneously delivering a throwback 80s over-the-top slasher, but the genre just isn’t my personal favorite. However, the now infamously cult favorite villain Art the Clown did deserve a sequel in true slasher fashion, and the fact that it took 5 years for Terrifier 2 seemed like it was unjustifiably long. 


It’s a damn slasher, how hard is it to write and direct a sequel? The first film was devilishly simple, so the sequel could do very little and still be successful. 


Now that Art is back, returning with writer/director Damien Leone who gets his name above the title, it became very apparent why it was taking so long for Leone and company to deliver the sequel. Terrifier 2 is so much more than its predecessor. Not only does this brutal beast run a whopping 138 minutes (an unheard-of length for a slasher film) but it’s taking the franchise in some bold new directions. It’s still hitting the elements of success from its predecessor, but it’s smartly pushing the franchise forward into some gloriously delirious and vicious new places - and nailing it. 


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Putting the War in Water: Hansan: Rising Dragon (2022) Review

Director: Kim Han-min

Notable Cast: Park Hae-il, Byun Yo-han, Ahn Sung-ki, Son Hyun-joo, Kim Sung-kyu, Kim Sung-kyun, Kim Hyang-gi, Ok Taec-yeon


War of the Arrows with its blend of historical setting and marital arts action easily had me smitten. When he returned to that style with The Admiral: Roaring Currents, I was also relatively smitten. The style was epic, in both visuals and tone, and naval warfare at its center was as dynamic as Choi Min-sik was in in the titular role. Thus, when Kim Han-min decided to make another film in the same ilk as The Admiral with Hansan: Rising Dragon, it was hard not to get excited. The man has a knack for the genre and style.


Yet, throughout the experience of Hansan, I was never swept away in its wake. It fulfills all the necessary components laid out by his previous two films, but it is one that felt more formulaic and drab this time around.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Say No More, Namor: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Notable Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Tenoch Huerta Mejia, Angela Bassett, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena


With a smoldering look in his eye and a defiant and yet somehow caring lilt to his voice, Tenoch Huerta Mejia’s Namor, the antagonist of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, practically purrs when he’s speaking to Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. His presence is a massive burning sun in the film even as he sits having a heart-to-heart with the big hero. Yet, when he makes his big request to the Princess of Wakanda, he states it as a matter of fact. He asks her to burn the world with him. 


You know what? Say no more, Namor. I’m with you. Burn this piece of shit planet to the ground. 


Granted, his request in the film is far more loaded with contextual matter than his simple line of dialogue. This isn’t a young man passing a folded-up note to his crush in study hall. Or sending a text message. Or whatever kids do these days. Maybe TikTok. This is a man burdened with the knowledge and memories of a people driven to the sea by Spanish conquerors as they plundered his land for resources. And plundered his people as resources. Once again, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever proves that director and co-writer Ryan Coogler is far more interested in the gray areas of emotional and social commentary provided by the villains than the heroes in his Marvel movies. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Go Huo Go: The Grandmaster of Kung Fu (2019) Review

Director: Chen Siyu

Notable Cast: Dennis To, Zhuang Han, Li Ruoxi, Naomen Eerdeni, Li Mengmeng, Liu Aiguo, Gao Xuepeng, Yang Yongfeng, Chu Pangching


For martial arts actors, there are a few roles that one can snatch which immediately put them on the map. Most of them are folk heroes of the past, but when Dennis To snagged a role as a “young” Ip Man, he went to A-tier for the fans - even if that film was one of the first Ipsploitation films. Not only did he succeed in that role for the film Ip Man: The Legend Is Born, but he has also returned to the role multiple times and continually found and grew his fan base. 


Thus, a few years ago when Dennis To leaped into another key folk hero role as Huo Yuanjia for the film The Grandmaster of Kung Fu, it was easy to feel pretty excited about the prospect. Unfortunately, the film - which was initially released as a streaming exclusive in China - did not receive a US release until 2022 via the Hi-Yah streaming service and through our friends at Well Go USA. 


Yet, here we are, The Grandmaster of Kung Fu has finally dropped. While the film suffers from some of the usual issues of modern streaming films, it’s also surprisingly solid and entertaining in how it goes about telling a story that any self-respecting kung fu fan has seen 2000 times. It’s action-packed, tight in its storytelling, and features a handful of great screen performances. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Door That Wouldn't Shut: Something in the Dirt (2022) Review

Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson

Notable Cast: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson


Trying to inherently review a film like Something in the Dirt is as complicated as the film is. On the surface, this should be easy. In actuality, it is a film so defined by its experiential aspects, nuanced moments, and viewer discernment. Trying to properly put it to words is… well, it’s problematic. Something in the Dirt is, like most everything touched by the directorial and writing duo Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, an existential trip of fascinating effect. 


Powered by its ability to take a simple idea and shake it so vigorously in its own un-comfortability, it seeps into the little folds of its viewers’ brains. It’s the kind of indie cinema that blends genre elements with low-budget creativity to make one of the most absorbing film experiences of the year. 


I also have no idea what the fuck happens in this film. 


Saturday, November 5, 2022

A Second Brew: The Witch 2: The Other One (2022) Review

Director: Park Hoon-jung

Notable Cast: Shin Sia, Park Eun-bin, Seo Eun-soo, Jin Goo, Seong Yu-bin, Justin John Harvey, Cho Min-soo, Cha Soon-bae, Lee Jong-suk, Kim Da-mi, Byeon Seo-yoon, Um Tae-goo


As superhero movies continue to seemingly grow and grow - with no limit in sight for the time being, the story formula has been spreading beyond the Hollywood system into so many other markets. 2020’s The Witch: Subversion (also known as The Witch Part 1: Subversion) ably played on that idea by taking its family drama story and whipping it towards the superhero origin story in its final act. 


The Witch 2: The Other One, which features a subtitle that might have been attached to Airplane 3, picks up where the first film left off in genre and expands the world tenfold while trying to adhere to the elements that made the first one such a rousing success. The balance ends up not being as punchy in its blend as its predecessor, but it is entertaining as hell and it leans into its Hollywood-esque superhero elements. It’s a brew that packs a lot of flavors but isn’t nearly as filling. 


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Play It Like It's 1999: V/H/S/99 (2022) Review

Directors: Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa & Joseph Winter

The V/H/S franchise has been the launching point for a slew of careers, in some degree or another. While the series hit a low with the relatively sluggish third entry, V/H/S: Viral, when Shudder brought it back it was a welcome sight to see. And the overall success of the previous entry, V/H/S/94, was a stark reminder of why this found footage horror anthology could be a haven for fun and creative tidbits of tongue-in-cheek terror. 


The announcement of the newest entry, V/H/S/99 proved it as such and, while the fifth entry into this series does not quite find the highs of its predecessor, there are enough fun and punchy horror moments to satiate most fans. It runs the gamut from being silly to downright terrifying and that’s what a great anthology can do, even if this one finds the mix to be a little less effective at it with tons of build and only quick payoffs. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Wild Stabs and No Killing Shot: Halloween Ends (2022) Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Notable Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, James Jude Courtney, Kyle Richards


When it comes to John Carpenter projects that are being revitalized in the modern cinema landscape, Christine was one that I was skeptical could be pulled off. With the success of Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (box office-wise) though, perhaps it made sense that director David Gordon Green would want to tackle the project. He had an eye for that kind of character trauma as presented within a horror landscape. It’s a good match. 


Oh, I’m sorry. This film is actually Halloween Ends and not a Christine remake. My bad. Someone should let Green know that too. 


Yet, that’s what Halloween Ends ends up being - the story of a maligned young man who is influenced by an evil presence and becomes more and more obsessed with the strength and power it gives him to stand up against all the awful people and circumstances around him. On paper, the idea is not only bold for a Halloween film but dare I say impressive. The problem that burdens the film is that it's jammed into trying to balance this new character arc with finalizing the other themes, characters, and stories of the Halloween series they started. It’s a balance that collapses in on itself, unfortunately. 


Sunday, October 9, 2022

Poe Man's Gothic Terror: The Blancheville Monster (1963) Review [Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror Box Set]

Director: Alberto De Martino

Notable Cast: Gerard Tichy, Leo Anchoriz, Ombretta Colli, Helga Line, Iran Eory, Vanni Materassi, Paco Moran, Emilia Wolkowicz, Harry Winter


Arrow Video has delivered another one of those classic box sets they are known for unleashing with their latest: Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror. Pulling together four films under a common thematic and stylistic aspect, this set contains some 1960s cult cinema finds with brand new 2K restorations, gorgeous packaging, and enough new commentaries, essays, and interviews to impress any movie collector.


After the messy, but highly entertaining aspects of the previous film in this box set, Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, my expectations were established for The Blancheville Monster. Like the rest of the films in this set, this one was going to be a blind watch, but if it was as entertaining as the last one, I was going to be in fine hands. Yet, while the gothic tones, sets, and final 10 minutes are effective, The Blancheville Monster feels like a very obvious Roger Corman-style Edgar Allen Poe movie knock-off - and one that is burdened by its pace and mystery. 


Friday, September 30, 2022

It Takes Two to Witchcraft: Two Witches (2021) Review

Director: Pierre Tsigaridis

Notable Cast: Belle Adams, Rebekah Kennedy, Tim Fox, Clint Glenn Hummel, Danielle Kennedy, Kristina Klebe, Dina Silva, Ian Michaels, Lindsey Rose Naves, Julien Marlon Samani


When the new Blu-Ray disc of Two Witches loaded up on my screen, the montage of videos accompanying the menu had a flair that immediately caught my eye. Arrow Video has been nabbing some intriguing titles lately in terms of more modern and obscure genre material, including films like Sleep or The Deeper You Dig. Still, Two Witches was a title that had never crossed my path. Judging a book by its cover or, more accurately, a film by its menu, this one had already perked my interest. 


Fortunately, the film matches the menu. 


Two Witches is a horrific delight. It’s a film that combines its creepy moments with a stylish offbeat combination of visual punches and manages to balance its world-building to be both unnerving and often humorous. Its tone could feel a bit combative for some viewers, but it takes some wild swings and connects on most… which is impressive for a directorial debut.