Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mirrors - 2.5/5

When it comes to Alexander Aja, the man is becoming a genre legend already. With his explosive "High Tension" that shot him into the mainstream Horror lingo and his subsequent remakes that he has pumped out since then have all been more than impressive. Except for one. "Mirrors". Although I'm not going to trash on this film like most fans have been, it is a significant drop in quality for the French Horror filmmaker. Also a remake of the Korean "Into The Mirror", "Mirrors" comes off as a rather by the numbers ghost tale that never really earns its own way out of the pack.

Ben (Sutherland) is a down and out suspended detective that has been struggling to keep his own life from falling apart. When he takes a job as a night security guard for a burned down shopping center, he begins to head down a path into hell that is spurred on by the perfectly polished mirrors of the building. When the visions he sees start becoming real and knocking off the people he knows, he goes on a quest to uncover a conspiracy that leads him decades into the past to put a lost soul at rest.

Despite some great visual work from Aja, the problem with "Mirrors" lies straight into the heart of its story and script. Aja massively changed the original story for this new vision and for the most part off rails it into mediocrity. Starting off with the cool premise of a cop on the edge and strange mirror murders, it eventually dwindles into another 'whodunnit' solve what happened to the haunter mystery. Seen it before. It doesn't even seem to concerned with doing the rather run of the mill story with all that much heart, coming off as a half assed attempt at the Asian ghost tale.

Visually, the film is pretty striking though. Aja knows how to mix atmosphere and brutality nicely and some of the tense moments work and all of the visceral violence works too. Amy Smart's death is particularly memorable and the final act (despite lacking a unique story) comes off as quite intense. It's too bad that the majority of the acting and the script just couldn't match the vision that Aja had for the film.

"Mirrors" is a nice rental or one time watch to see some of its more intense moments that Aja brings to the table, but too much of the film is undermined by the lacking story and script. It's fine for what it is, but overall its not near as impressive as it could have bee. This is the first misstep for Aja and his Horror catalog. Hopefully his last.

BONUS RANT: I love me some Kiefer and his general audacity for shooting randomly and cussing all the time, but its not quite the best fit for this movie. I kept wanting his character to start to unravel into a frenzy and never really got that. I mean, seeing him shoot mirrors and yell as he is lit on fire is always fun, but its not the depth that this desperately needed. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saw 3D [Saw: The Final Chapter] (2010)

Director: Kevin Greutert
Notable Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flannery, Chad Donella, Gina Holden

Initial Note: I refuse to call this film by its official name "Saw 3D" because its a stupid gimmick and a poor choice on filmmakers in an attempt to make this film stand out from the rest of the franchise and sell more tickets with its 3D. From this point on this film will be referred to as "Saw VII". Thank you.
Second Note: After I wrote this review for the theatrical release of the film, it was renamed for home video using the tagline to Saw: The Final Chapter. I will continue to refer to it as Saw VII because The Final Chapter is almost as bad as Saw 3D. Thank you. Again.

Was I excited for Saw VII? How can I not be? Saw VI was a return to form for the series as it focused down on the lessons learned through the traps and re-balanced the narrative to intertwine in better ways. So Saw VII should do this too right? Not really. Although the story line is fairly interesting on a basic level (both of the main plots) and the general things one looks for in a Saw film are all present, the blending and execution of these elements is where the film lacks and makes it, easily, the worst in the franchise.

PLOT A: Dagen (Flanery) is the author of a bestselling novel called 'S.U.R.V.I.V.E.' where he discusses surviving a Jigsaw trap. He calls to arms to find the positive parts of the lessons learned for survivors of the traps and happens to make a shit load of cash doing it. Too bad Jigsaw gets rather pissed about this because Dagen is a liar. So Dagen is thrown into an abandoned place and must save all of his conspirators in his lie eventually leading to a final challenge to save his unknowing wife. Can he do it in time and follow his own advice?

PLOT B: At the end of Saw VI we had Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill Tuck (Russell) loading new Jigsaw Det. Hoffman (Mandylor) into the bear trap headset. Luckily, (not for Tuck) Hoffman survives with only some minor face tearing. Now Hoffman is out to take out Tuck and get his revenge all the while setting up one of Jigsaw's final traps (Plot A) to distract police while he tries to infiltrate the police station and get him some Tuck.

As you can see, there are two distinctive plot lines going on with Saw VII. Both are relatively interesting and both are distinctly Saw story lines that we have become something we are all dying to see continue on. The poor part about this one is that they don't intertwine like they should. It brings back nightmares of the poor narrative flow of the fifth entry. Although they do attempt to intertwine them, its mostly surface level and rather weak in their efforts. Throw in some poorly developed subplots in those (including a poorly acted IA cop looking to score on Hoffman and a poorly developed story that includes a random machine gun climax that comes completely out of the blue and makes no sense) and there just seems to be an odd loss of focus in the plots.

We get very little new material in back story for most of the big characters sans a new surprise appearance by Saw alumni Cary Elwes as Dr. Gordon (although I'm pretty sure that there was a footless corpse in one of the previous entries that we were to assume as him...oh well) the film does like to throw its own surprises that work quite well even if they get pretty obvious later on and if you are willing to suspend your sense of disbelief in major ways. The film does come full circle by the end (it IS the final chapter right? *eye roll*) but it leaves it open for continued franchising. So Saw fans may enjoy it on some levels despite its massive flaws.

Although Saw VII does have some great and unique traps, on a side note this was the first saw I gagged at with the key on a string sequence - if you saw it you know it, and its plots are fairly well developed if generally unbelievable. It's just poor blending of some of the plots and subplots that hurts the overall experience. I also have some issues with some of the films twists but I won't go into those without giving away some crucial spoilers, but as a fan it felt forced in many ways. Despite some solid elements, it's easily the weakest of the franchise (thus far, you know more are coming in some form) and its mostly for fans.

BONUS RANT: I saw this one in 3D, my first 3D experience mind you, and I thought that it felt like the film forgot it was in 3D more often than not. Except for a few moments thrown in of CGI gore and a dream sequence seemingly thrown in just for the 3D, there really is no reason to see it in 3D. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gnaw: Food Of The Gods II - 1/5

Thirteen years after the craptacular 1976 film adaption of H.G. Wells' famous story "The Food of the Gods", filmmakers finally "bless" us with the long awaited follow-up that 1, maybe 2 people clamored for. 13 years? They might as well have remade the damn thing as opposed to making a sequel. Well come to find out "Gnaw: Food of the Gods II" basically remakes the film and has no story or plot carryover despite the original having an opened ended ending. As you can tell from my rating the filmmakers made this sequel/pseudo-remake no better but actually a little worse proving 13 to be an unlucky number of years to wait.

The basic plot is the same as the original about a serum that as the ability to grow plants, and rodents to enormous size. "Gnaw" begins with a professor called by an old colleague to come see a boy that she grew to an enormous size (this sequence is quite laugh educing as the gigantic boy starts spouting fowl language). Apparently she tested an experimental growth hormone on the boy and now it's up to our professor to find an antidote. At first he tests it on tomato plants and his test specimen rats just happen to get a bite and grow to enormous size. Thanks to a dumbass group of animal rights activists they accidentally release, in the words Westley from "The Princess Bride", the ROUSs (Rodents of Unusual Size) and killer rodents decide to masticate, or "gnaw" all the students on campus.

Unlike the original film which took itself stupidly serious, the filmmakers here go more for a slight tongue-in-cheek approach. They took the concept of giant rats that eat people and ran with it. Sadly director Damian Lee doesn't push the tongue-in-cheekiness far enough and it just comes out bad.

This cheap Canadian quickie bares its budget constraints when it comes to the quality of film-making. Director Damien Lee gives the film no style, rendering it look like late 80's direct-to-video fare. The boom mike even pokes it's head into the frame in a few sequences....and that's just plain laziness! The special effects are also not that great, utilizing the same special effects techniques with miniatures, giant rat heads and forced perspective that the original film did 13 years before. One would think effects would have made a bigger jump in 13 years. I can't bitch too much about the effects as I will take these effects any day over the lame shitty CGI that infects most nature-run-amok films now-a-days. Speaking of shitty CGI flicks, the Artisan Region 1 DVD cover to this rat turd is awful! It makes it look like a made for Sci Fi (excuses me... SyFy) Channel original.

The only thing I can really praise this film for is it does pile on the blood. The original had some blood but director Damien Lee decides to load this sequel up with violent rat attacks and and gore to more appease the 80's horror crowd. A shocking sequence comes towards the end when the rats attack a synchronized swimming team (yes, you did read that right) and there is a shot underwater showing an arm and head sinking. Holy hell!

This awful film is only for fans of lame monster and nature-run-amok films. It does hold a special place in these fans' hearts as it really is one of the last films of its kind before the shitty CGI craze took over. You get all your blood and gore, CGI free!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Masters Of Horror: H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams In The Witch House - 4/5

Directed By Stuart Gordon (famous for other H.P. Lovecraft film adaptions "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond".)

When Walter decides to live cheap whilst he goes to grad school, he had no idea that he would be facing much more horrid things than papers. The old house where he lives in the attic is where an ancient witch and her human faced rat have been slaughtering children for centuries. Now Walter has been chosen by the witch to carry on the sacrifices through his dreams. Now is the time for Walter to test his faith and will power against an ancient evil that wants the small child living down the hall.

It's not surprising that Stuart Gordon's episode from the first season of "Masters Of Horror" happens to be based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale. The man has become an expert at updating and making the poetic Horror writer fit the screen. He does him well once again. "Dreams In The Witch House" remains strikingly candid towards the original story that it was based on while updating it wonderfully to match the modern tone. Gordon's odd dark humor does have a hit or miss status to it (seeing the human faced rat does bring some giggles at times especially at first) but the film has some damn solid pacing and some pretty slick special effects. The series is on a role with its first two episodes being so damn solid as little short films and "Dreams In The Witch House" does add onto that with pure Gordon love.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Night Of The Demons (2009) - 3/5

After watching the surprisingly fun (and occasionally well crafted) original "Night Of The Demons", it was only right that the just released remake make my Halloween viewing pile. After watching a rather cliche trailer, my expectations seemed to be set down a few notches for this modern view on this basic story. Luckily, I came out of this remake with rather surprised results as the film ably captured the spirit of the original and updated it nicely making it almost as good as the original.

Maddie (Keena) and her friends are going to the biggest underground Halloween party around at the local legendary haunted house the Broussard Mansion. The party's hostess Angela (Elizabeth) is set to make some serious money with this bash, but when the cops shut down the party and Maddie and 5 friends get stuck inside they must face an evil that has been waiting for decades to free itself. Now as demons begin to stalk and posses each of the members, they have to find a way to survive the night and fend off the ghoulish fiends or go to hell.

So really, one has to understand going into this version of "Night Of The Demons" that even the original one wasn't all that original in its concept. To its benefit, this one homages the first one nicely with many of its scenes (keeping some memorable parts in and adding its own twists like the disappearing lipstick in the boob trick or Angela's dance sequence) and even throws some nice little details to homage other Horror films like some "Evil Dead" moments or a "Saw" reference. In this way, its a nice updated version of the original.

What "Night Of The Demons" fails to do as well as the original is balance the humor and the Horror. Although the Horror of the film (with some pretty cool special effects to add to it) is just as potent and works as well with some very cool sequences, like the demon hands that punch through the walls of the bleeding room, the humor is a bit off. The campy-ness of the film is lost in its modernity more often than not despite some pretty funny moments and it loses a bit of the charm the original one had in its absurdity.

With a fairly able cast some new unique visual looks for the director (including a new and improved (read: any at all) back story), "Night Of The Demons" comes off as a damn impressive remake. Not quite as good as the original, this one does handle itself nicely and make enough changes to freshen itself up a bit while remaining true to its source.

BONUS RANT: The original "Night Of The Demons" may have had a campy intro, but for the 80s, it was bad ass. This one just has a relatively stupid title sequence with an awful title card that makes it really feel like a straight to DVD film while the rest rises above that stereotype. I would have liked to see an updated version of the credits of the original one for this, but alas all we get is a shitty title card. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scream 3 - 1/5

What made "Scream" so much fun was its delicate balance beam ballet of creating a completely cliche Slasher and knowing it. "Scream 2" had the franchise starting to wobble as it lost its balance. "Scream 3" is the franchise doing a face dive off the balance beam down into parody territory only to break its neck in a horrifying manner that is neither scary nor funny. Although, fans I'm sure will curse my name for saying this but..."Scream 3" is no better (in fact, probably worse) than many of the spin-off slashers that this franchise spawned in the 90s.

Sidney (Campbell) is now living uncomfortably in hiding working as a woman's phone call counselor. Too bad when Cotton (Schreiber) ends up on the sharp blade of a knife in Hollywood, she seems to be once again in the middle of some sort of killer's fantasy kill. On the set of 'Stab 3', the cast and crew are suddenly throw into another mystery about Sidney's past as a killer in a ghost mask goes on another rampage. Luckily some old friends (even dead ones!) are there to help solve the mystery and unmask the wicked villain before he kills them all (again).

At this point, this is become an 'R' rated version of Scooby Doo. Let's unmask the monster to solve the mystery! SCOOBY DOOBY DOO!!!! Now that might seem a bit harsh to say, but dammit, I'm tired of this franchise desperately trying to come up with new ways to over complicate a simply story with motivations and surprise 'whodunnit' mysteries. Its tried to become its own franchise, failing to fully utilize its self-referencing style to any kind of fun and original usage, and ultimately fallen prey to becoming a parody on itself. The series has now become illogically inept to what it once was. Part of this might have been the lack of Kevin Williamson as a writer (he wrote the first two), but on every end "Scream 3" just failed to delivery.

With most of the cast seemingly on auto drive for this one and Wes Craven seemingly also only working hard enough to earn his paycheck, "Scream 3" fails to even garner some of the charm it ever has accumulated. The logical steps of the character arcs is damn silly, the addition of ghostly apparitions of Sidney's mother seem forced, and the final killer reveal just comes completely out of left field with an overly complicated explanation. Most of the film never really makes sense and the few scenes that do work are just shadows of what worked in previous entries. This is truly rock bottom for a franchise.

Now I'm done with the "Scream" franchise and whoever requested these reviews should feel pleased that I actually made it through this third entry. Its boring, redundant, repetitive, boring, and worst of all, completely illogical. You know its gotten out of hand when I'm going to go watch "Urban Legend" to feel better about myself.

BONUS RANT: So you kill off the Horror film expert Randy (Kennedy) in "2", which was a poor choice to begin with, and to help the characters understand how a horror trilogy works they bring in his little sister (?!?!) with a video tape he previously recorded (?!?!?!?!) on event that he died in "2" (?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!) explaining to them how it works? WHO THE FUCK WROTE THIS? YOU JUST BLASPHEMED THE ONLY CHARACTER WORTH TWO SHITS IN THIS FRANCHISE. Holy Alex Murphy that pisses me off.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Final, The - 3.5/5

Moving forward with the fourth After Dark Horrorfest, "The Final" finally hit my viewing pile. Despite some pretty atrocious films littering this year of the releases (see "The Graves"), there has been more than enough to make up with surprisingly solid indie Horror films. "The Final" sits in this latter section. Although the concept of the film seems a bit daft initially, the dedication towards the film and its eventual ending that plays out in solid execution. This saves "The Final" from drifting down the path that too many independent Horror films tend to anymore.

A group of outcasts, lead by the seemingly weak Dane, have devised a plan to get back at the group of bullies and snobby high school students that have made their lives a living hell for far too long. This group of off kilter teens are planning to throw a costume party in an abandoned barn for their enemies. When they all get there, they are planning to torture them and teach them a few life lessons about treating people with decency. With nothing left to lose, its now time for revenge, but who will be able to get out before things go too far?

What makes "The Final" such a surprisingly well devised revenge/torture flick is the heart at which these kids are giving their characters. Normally, these cliche tortured student teens run the same thing over and over again coming off as 2D characters, but this film does a nice job really building them up. Granted, it still could have gone farther with their character arcs in the latter part of the film when the tension between them should be riveting and only comes off as intriguing. Yet there are plenty of cool builds that make it work (like the tall lanky kid's talk with his father for example). This makes the rather cliche concept work best.

At times the film does tend to want to build a larger story then it should have. With a focus on the tension between characters and building the suspense on what is coming up next to whom, this film may have not had to divert attention to other aspects like the subplot with the war veteran that feels like padding. When the film does this, it works. When it tries to get moving in other directions (with its somewhat preachy monologues too) that's when it weakens and falls apart.

"The Final" did come off as a surprising win as a little Horror film. Not the greatest, it still needed a bit more tweaking of its pacing and story focus, but its dedicated actors and heart rise it above the rut it could have been stuck in. Definitely one of the better films out in this series for this year.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Scream 2 - 2/5

Despite the seemingly critical success of this inevitable sequel to the genre re-defining "Scream", there seems to be something amiss with this second entry in the franchise. Granted, I wasn't necessarily jumping on the praise-wagon with the original film, but "Scream 2" just doesn't quite have the knack or the sense of self to pull it off like it could have. This sequel has its moments, but it doesn't even quite live up to its predecessor.

Sidney (Campbell) has moved on from the Woodsboro murders and now attends a lovely little college in Ohio with new boyfriend Derek (O'Connell). Too bad when a film version of the events she lived through, so hilariously entitled 'Stab', kicks off another series of murders with Sidney once again in the center, its up to her and some friends both old and new to discover the new killer (or is it killers...again?) and survive the killer's attempts at a sequel.

What made the first film so original was its unoriginality and how it played fun at it. Self referencing itself through out, it played it as a semi-humorous take on Horror films that worked. Conceptionally, this should also work for a sequel right? When they do it, it does. The Randy character (Kennedy) and his Horror knowledge allows some insight in allowing this referencing to work. These moments worked for me. The rest of the film essentially did not. Although it does even have some nice scary moments and some nice visual work from Craven, this film seemed more interested in making itself a sequel rather than a self aware sequel. Which in the end hurts it.

It also much be added that the actual good parts of this film are seemingly fewer and further apart too. The actual scares and Horror chases seemed forced more often than not (although there are a couple of of ones that work like the Dewey/Gale attack in the sound booth) and the film rarely utilizes its setting, the college, in ways that would be reminiscent of the many college slasher it referenced at one point. The film also struggles to achieve the 'whodunnit' mystery that the first one was able to easily convey and achieves some stupidity moments in an effort to get there. Why bring the character Cotton back as a main character seemed idiotic and forced and the final reveal of the killers is bother completely obvious about half way through (for one) and completely out of the blue (for the other). It just doesn't work.

The cast is once again pretty damn solid, adding in some nice young people that would go on to be genre regulars like Timothy Olyphant, and bringing back some from before. It's pretty awesome that your entire supporting cast is solid to help out poor Neve whom easily comes off as one of the weaker actors.

"Scream 2" just suffers from trying too hard to be its own franchise and not trying hard enough to utilize its own concept to self reference itself. The writing is forced too much and it just never properly runs with what it could have been. Its not super bad, it has its moments that work, but it rarely is able to put together a solid film.

BONUS RANT: Why the hell did they drop the entire 'Stab' concept after the first third of the film? It was kind of a clever way to work that Horror-movie-theme into the sequel and it just sort of gets pushed to the wayside. I would have liked to see a few more references to it, or better yet more scenes from it like the hilarious one with Luke Wilson. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, October 22, 2010

Church, The - 3/5

Another film also known as "Demons 3"? How many more can there be? Well "The Church" began as "Demons 3" early in its development stage but when Lamberto Bava lost interest in doing the film, the script was retooled to be a stand alone movie for Dario Argento protégé Michele Soavi. Despite being a stand alone film, it did get released in some areas under its working title "Demons 3" and out of all three films to be known under that moniker, "The Church" is the best.

The film opens with an amazing sequence of religious knights riding into a small village of Satan worshipers. They slaughter the village, bury the dead in a huge pit and resurrect a huge gothic church on top of the site. Flash forward to the 1980's and we are introduced to an librarian hired to work in the church's archives. He and the restoration painter have a quick fling then he becomes interested in a dark room hidden in the back of the church where he unwittingly opens a gate to hell, triggering a defense mechanism sealing off the church to stop the spread of demonic possessions. In the middle of this we have a black priest and a the sacrison's daughter (played by Dario's daughter Asia Argento) trying to escape the hordes of possessed people trapped within.

Italian horror films tend to be "style over substance" and none fits this description more than The Church. Michele Soavi's style is mesmerizing proving Dario molded a great director. From a stylistic standpoint, "The Church" very well might be Soavi's most beautiful looking film. The film is thick with style and full of amazing camera work. His style is brought even more to life with another fantastic score by members of the cult Italian group Goblin.

What hurts the film is the convoluted plot flow. It took eight writers to tool the script and it shows as it is a mish-mash of ideas that borderlines on incoherency in some portions. An example is Asia Argento's character. In the beginning of the film we are shown her character back in medieval times. What's the connection to her in the present? It's never explained. The demonic possessions are also inconsistent. Sometimes the possessions seems to be spread through scratching people (like in Lamberto Bava's films) and other time people are just possessed randomly. The part that irks me the most is that the film consistently introduces characters that conveniently disappear. When the church's defense mechanism is triggered, it traps a group of young students within the church. Soon after they are never shown again. Where did they go? These are just a few examples of the hodge podge story.

Even with its plot inconsistencies, it still is a fun Italian horror film full of memorable images, amazing camerawork, and plenty of gore to appease fans. It's a little more sophisticated than Lamertos Bava's "Demons" films but it is still plenty of fun and is a definite must own for fans of Italian horror.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Masters Of Horror: Incident On And Off A Mountain Road - 4/5

Director: Don Coscarelli (famous for the "Phantasm" series)

When a young woman gets knocked off the road in a remote mountain area, she finds herself being stalked by a giant white skinned man/monster. Using some serious survival techniques shown to her by her semi-crazy survivalist obsessed husband, she attempts to survive the night only to find herself digging herself deeper and deeper into a nightmarish world where this monster seems to rule with an iron fist and odd ideas.

For the very first episode for the first season of "Masters Of Horror", we are treated to a very well paced and developed story that crosses a bit of slasher with a bit of atmospheric 'hellbilly' horror together. This episode actually works with crossing two stories, one being the young woman vs. the monster plot and the second being how she is able to survive according to rules that her husband has been dictating to her. The character interactions (wife and husband story) seems like it might be padding for the first 3/4 of the episode giving us a bit of backing and reasons to why she knows the things she does. What this story does is give the episode a nice twist at the end and give the show a bit of a crazy duel meaning. Some great acting, great special effects (sans a few odd blue screen moments), and solid atmosphere make for a fun watch. Coscarelli seems rather light on humor for this segment in his directing, but the appearance of Angus Scrimm as a crazy old coot trapped in the monster's cabin reminds us of his style. This episode is a great kick off to a killer show and gives us a taste of what to expect from the rest.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Black Demons [Demons 3] - 1/5

Out of all three films also known as "Demons 3," "Black Demons" is the closest to being "official" as it was the only one to be released in Italy as "Demoni 3." Yes it was actually released as a follow-up to Lamberto Bava's gruesome twosome in its home country of Italy. Ironically though it is also the one that has the LEAST to do with Bava's films. First of all it doesn't even contain demons, just a half-a-dozen zombies. Second it has no cast or crew connections. "The Church" and "The Ogre" at least had cast and crew members that worked previously on Demons 1 and 2 but not here. To top it off this is BY FAR the worst of the "Demons 3" posers which just adds insult to injury.

Like I mentioned earlier, our monsters aren't even demons but zombies. These zombies were slaves on a Brazilian plantation (hence the somewhat politically incorrect adjective "Black" used in the English language title) who are unwittingly raised from the dead when a vacationer plays a recording of a voodoo chant that he attended. Now zombies need to spill the blood of 6 white people and our 3 vacations must survive the night before falling prey to the black zombies....errrr.....demons.

Black Demons was released in 1990 and this was right at the end of the Italian film market before it collapsed. All Italian films at this time were very lackluster, showcasing extremely low budgets, poor plots, and bad acting. Italian directors who once were great eventually surcame to the failing film industry and genre great Umberto Lenzi was no different as Black Demons is a far cry from even his trashy early 80's bloodfests like Cannibal Ferox and Nightmare City. All the amazing stylistic shots from his 70's crime films and even the trashy entertainment value of his early 80's efforts are missing and all that's left is a desiccated husk.

The acting is dreadful and the plot is painfully simple and dull. Umberto tries to liven up the film with some gory killings but even they seem like bad carbon copies of earlier Italian classics. The film is just basically a Night of the Living Dead clone with a Brazilian setting but the film lacks a soul, making it nothing more than a time waster.

Fans of Italian horror films will no doubt want to check it out but this one is only for Italian horror die-hards. It's mindless, dull and just plain forgettable. People expecting another gory trash classic from Umberto Lenzi and going to come out extremely disappointed.... not to mention people expecting this to be a true sequel to Lamberto Bava's insanely entertaining Demons duology.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Masters Of Horror: Fair Haired Child - 4/5

Director: William Malone (famous for "Feardotcom", "House On Haunted Hill (1999)", and "Creature")

When a young girl, Tara, is kidnapped by a crazed couple. She is held hostage in the basement with no idea what they have taken her for or with any hope of escape. Befriending an odd boy named Johnny (who she discovers trying to kill himself), the two unlikely friends uncover a larger plan for the crazed couple to resurrect their dead boy using some black magic. With a mysterious creature hunting her down and her life on the line, Tara must come to terms with life, death, and guilt before she is able to go free.

"Fair Haired Child" might not be the most realistic episode of the first season of "Masters Of Horror", but be damned if it isn't one of the best. Although it seems ridiculously far fetched at times, its presentation in an almost modern HP Lovecraftian manner creates for some great suspense and an intriguing story that will have you guessing and bewildered to the very end (of where there is a bad ass twist to it that gave this rating at least half a star more). With some solid acting all around, with the MVP award going to the young boy playing Johnny, and a sick and twisted use of modern Horror directing from the rogue William Malone, "Fair Haired Child" is easily one of the best.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Ruins, The - 4/5

Despite what a synopsis will read of this film (see the next paragraph), this film rarely feels like the campy Horror film it could have easily turned out to be. With a solid cast, great dialogue and character interactions, some solid atmosphere, and a visual charm to it "The Ruins" struts itself off as a competent and frightening Horror gem in a world of rehashed ideas despite its generally absurd concept.

Two couples on a vacation in Mexico find themselves in the company of a charming young German tourist who tells them that his brother has gone off with a young archeologist to a hidden set of ruins. Seeing the chance for some real adventure in their rather cliche time down in Mexico, the five of them (plus a random Greek tourist who promises that his friends will be coming later) head off into the wilderness to find these awesome ruins. When they get there though they are forced to stay on the ruins by some Mayan villagers where they discover that the local plant life is a little nastier (and hungrier) than the gardens that they are used to. Now its a fight against nature as these young people desperately try to find a way out of the ruins.

Yeah. That's right. Killer fucking plants. This isn't your "Little Shop Of Horrors" though. Playing with the concept straight on like they should, "The Ruins" makes the concept not only palpable but insanely frightening and well crafted. It helps that the author of the book that its based on also screen played this bad ass. His writing makes this a sleek little Horror ride so damn intense that will make you think twice about trudging off in the wilderness.

The characters, despite their initial run on screen, are completely believable in their varied emotions on their predicament (with special note to Stacy (Ramsey) and her characters eventual paranoid breakdown) and the film rightly places a lot of the weight of this film on their shoulders as actors and their interactions.

Matching the intense writing and on screen work is a keen eye for the atmosphere by director Carter Smith, who despite some hit or miss CGI, is able to rightly play many of the over the top plot elements. The talking flowers (that sounds so very odd and "Alice In Wonderland" of me to type) could have come off as out of place and hilarious, but his depiction of them gives the film a creepy nightmarish feeling that follows the tone nicely. It's these things that sell this film.

"The Ruins" was just an overly surprising film that nailed all the things that one expects from a great Horror film. At times it did suffer from its own over the top plot elements, but the cast and crew did amazing things to over come most of them to create this vivid film. A definite must for modern Horror classics. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fear Itself: Community - 3.5/5

Director: Mary Harron (famous for "American Psycho")

A young couple has been trying for a child for some time. With a little help, they find a secluded community based on ‘family values’ and get a sweet deal to move into a wonderful house there. As their time there passes, they discover that there is a dark and disturbing side to this supposedly perfect community. Now the couple are trying to get out and they just may die trying.

Although this story has seemingly been done before (I once read a pretty silly but fun novel by Bentley Little that uses the exact concept), it was nice to see it on film. The lead couple are well established and the acting is fairly consistent between the two and it makes their plight all the more vigilant. There is a little bit of a dark humorous side to the episode, just look at what the director was famous for, so expect that cause it took me by surprise a bit. Despite a little awkwardness in plot here and there, the only major complaint there is with “Community” is the oddly placed and fairly poorly edited in time cards to show us how much time has passed. Although they were probably necessary they do come off as oddly timed. This episode is a fun one though and one of the better ones I’ve seen in the “Fear Itself” series. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

30 Days Of Night: Dark Days - 2.5/5

Making a direct to DVD sequel to one of the surprisingly best Horror movies in the last decade just sounds like a bad idea. For the most part, it comes off that way. It tries to recapture the elements that made its originator such a blast to watch, but rarely is able to while trying to grind its own style and story out. It tries to be its own thing, that is respectable in its own right, but it comes off as something less than spectacular and rarely meets the standards set by the first one.

Stella (now played by Sanchez rather than Melissa George from the original) has been going on a series of lectures about the vampire attacks on her home Alaskan town of Barrow. She still pines for her lost hubby from the original, and when a group of vampire hunters lead by a mysterious man named Dane finds her and recruits her to tackle the head of the vampire network named Lilith she decides to join to kick some undead ass.

Although the film tries desperately hard to be as stylistic and vicious as the original, this one just suffers from being a "Blade" knock off far too much. It missed the heart of what made the original one so damn scary. Instead of isolation and survival, the film focuses on hunting down the queen of the damned...oops...sorry that's taken. Lilith, the orchestrator. How's that? And it loses some of that misty atmosphere. Not for lack of trying, as it does do a fine job of building a darkness around its Los Angeles settings and using some clever camera work to try to accomplish this. It just never captured the right tone for what it needed to be.

The film also suffers from trying to explain too much. Now the vampires speak English along with this long dead dialect and they have an organization and hierarchy to their little underground society. Rather than the mysterious and violent beasts I expected, I got a gang of blood suckers that didn't strike fear into me near as much. In this way, using the vampire hunters and giving them a cause, the film tries to be its own entity but it just seems sub par for the course and done to death in a trillion vampire films prior.

For a straight to DVD sequel it did surprise me a little with how high quality some of the acting was (okay, high quality isn't the right term, perhaps better than average is better) and it does have a rather polished look to it. Had the film forgone the semi-idiotic last moments (the falling action of the last minutes actually brought my rating down at least half a star) and didn't try so hard to be an action packed version of the original, it might have faired much better. As is, "Dark Days" is a fine dollar rental or cheap buy, but definitely nothing to get all that excited about. Mostly for franchise whores like myself.

BONUS RANT: This film has some pretty solid make-up effects to counterbalance some of its poor CGI effects. Too bad the damn fake blood looked awful! It looked like grape juice! It never had the right consistency or color! What the hell? This is a vampire movie! Get that part right. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Ogre, The [Demons III] (1988) - 2.5/5

Demons III? I'm calling bullshit. Low and behold I'm right and despite being directed by Lamberto Bava, director of Demons 1 & 2, this has nothing to do with his first two gruesome twosome and seems to be another shady attempt by Shriek Show Entertainment to falsely put a title on the box art in order to sell more copies much like "Zombie 4": After Death and "Zombie 5": Killing Birds. I cannot put the blame completely on Shriek Show though as "The Ogre" (that is what the title card reads) was also released as "Demons 3: The Ogre" in the UK and Australia. To make matters even more confusing, "The Ogre" is one of three films also known as the non-existing "Demons 3" (the other two are Michele Soavi's "The Church" and Umberto Lenzi's "Black Demons")

In reality "The Ogre" is one of four full length TV made films that Lamberto Bava made for the cable series "Brivido Giallo." Right away people going into this film with expectations from the false "Demons III" title are going to be sorely disappointed by its TV movie limitations. The film is actually a rather atmospheric tale that opens with a young girl roaming a dark castle during a stormy night, clutching her teddy bear as she wonders into the basement where a hideous ogre emerges, or grows, from the ceiling. It ends up being a nightmare and the girl grows to become a successful horror novelist. Needing inspiration she drags her husband and son to spend the summer in a remote Italian castle only to find out her nightmare has become reality as an Ogre soon emerges to terrorize her family and the country side.

Lamberto Bava's sure handed direction gives the film a thick gothic atmosphere that is surprisingly strong despite its TV movie limitations. The underwater corpse sequence was tops and brought to mind the memorable sequence in Dario Argento's Inferno. Gotta love underwater horror! Bava's atmospheric setting and direction is aided by a terrific score by Simon Boswell, who also provided a kick ass synth / keyboard score to Bava's Demons 2. This very well might be his best score ever!

The plot fits its TV limitations well (it's not really strong enough to warrant a theatrical release) but the TV budget does rear its ugly head now and again. First of all the special effects are not that great but if one goes into this expecting a TV movie then they are easily forgivable. The plot also takes it's sweet time to introduce the ogre and by the time it does, it seems almost too late. I also was a little upset on how everything is hastily tied up at the end and people that were clearly killed by the beast are miraculously alive. I'm used to Italian horror films lacking logic but some of the lapses in logic here did perturb me a tad.

Overall I found The Ogre to be a satisfying made-for-TV Italian horror film directed by the stylistic and quirky Lamberto Bava. It's got an interesting enough plot and a great atmosphere despite it's lapses in logic. A lot a people tend to be hasty on the film judging it by its box title making such remarks as "it has nothing to do with Demons!" One must go into this film ignoring its box title and I believe Euro horror fanatics will find an interesting film hidden behind it's "Demons III" title.

Bonus Rant: Typical with Shriek Show DVD releases, "The Ogre" has a defect on ALL pressings of the disc. A sequence goes black with green blocks for a few seconds during the film. Since this is probably the only DVD release "The Ogre" will ever recieve, people are just going to have to suck it up and live with the small defect.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Fear Itself: Chance - 2.5/5

Director: John Dahl (famous for "Joy Ride")

When a shady antique dealer swindles a desperate man, Chance, in need of some money, he finds himself falling prey to his own anger at the situation. He accidentally kills the antique dealer and soon the situation spirals out of control. When a doppelganger appears of him and spurs on the insanity, Chance seems to only have himself to blame.

Although the concept for this episode seems quite fitting for this watered down Horror anthology series, it comes off as just plain boring. The potential for doppelganger interaction can be quite fun and disturbing and never does the episode utilize this. With only some average performances for our actors and a story line that slowly unravels to present us with nothing all that spectacular, “Chance” comes off as a filler episode that never lives up to its potential. It has some nice tense moments, but most of it definitely makes the episode feel like it’s made for TV rather than the high-end quality we come to expect from these series. “Chance” is good, but rarely high quality.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Scream (1996) - 3/5

As a Horror fan, one has to kind of respect "Scream". This film single-handedly jump started Horror in the 90s with its classic take on the teen Slasher film and its homages to the classics make for some fun moments. It also happened to spawn an entire genre of really mediocre slashers that were pumped out like raw sewage from a drain pipe and created a craze of supposed 'horror fans' that really didn't know anything about the genre. Thusly, my love/hate relationship with "Scream" needed to be reevaluated.

Sidney (Campbell) is still suffering from the death of her mother even though the supposed killer is put away. People seem to try to forget about the incident in this small town, but teens can be dicks. When a masked killer shows up and starts knocking off some of the local teens, the town goes into a panic and a lot of tension seems to be placed on Sidney and her family. With the body count rising, Sidney has to try to put it all together and find the killer before she ends up on the sharp end of a knife and all her friends get slaughtered.

One of the reasons why "Scream" works is that it perfectly follows the essential Slasher film plot. It knows it too. Throughout the film it constantly references itself by the teens present (with particular nod to Jamie Kennedy's Horror nerd character that explains it all) and this allows it to be completely cliche and never have to hide it. Granted, there are plenty of times when the film crosses the line from homage to spoof and that makes some of it disappointing. The random janitor dressed as Freddy Kruger and played by Wes Craven was a bit much and this happens every so often.

The film does suffer from a bit from its build. With its fun and well crafted opening sequence/kill and its twisted and body count heavy finale, the middle of the film seems over padded, long winded, and rather boring. The few scary sequences are completely random in the doldrums (why the principal is killed comes out of left field and the stalking by ghost face as seen in back ground moments builds to nothing) and the humor presented is pretty hit or miss. With its high tension opening and final slaughter at the party, it just makes the rest of the film feel like its going through the motions instead of making its self referencing relevant.

The cast does a fine job here and Craven's directing is for the most part well done, but its random moments of poorly done humor and lackluster middle act prevents it from fully embracing its own self referencing moments and solid ending. "Scream" is still a film to be respected for changing and revitalizing the genre, but its not a great film outside of that.

BONUS RANT I: I hate the title sequence in this film. It just does a cliche 90s font and a poorly dubbed scream right at the beginning of the film in an awkward manner. It would have been better suited at the end of opening kill sequence when the mother screams.

BONUS RANT II: How weak is Ghost Face? He might end up killing a lot of people in the end, but he gets his ass kicked at every moment. Who falls for the opening the freezer door to smack the chaser in the face Looney Tunes trick? I mean, he's supposed to be human and makes errors...I get that. But give us a reason and don't make it so over the top and humorous. It just got to be too funny by the end. He got hit in the nards with a beer bottle! HA! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Don't Go In The Woods - 1/5

"The most feared animal in the woods is man" claims our closet homosexual hiking guide and the most feared movie in the horror section at your local video store is "Don't Go in the Woods", a wilderness slasher that rivals it's partner in crime "The Forest" for worst slasher ever made.

A psychotic mountain man complete with rosary beads covering his face is roaming the mountains brutally killing all sorts of people making life for a fatass local cop a living hell.

"Don't Go in the Woods" is an obvious quick cash-in in the slasher cycle from the early 80's and producer director James Bryan is an obvious amateur as the directing and camera work makes this an early contender for "The Blair Witch Project." The whole film is shot with a really shitty hand held camera so in actuality it would fit right in with today's shitty hand held shaky cam horror films if it weren't for its 70's looking style despite being made in the 80's (proving how the low the budget is!).

The film's narrative is as erratic and annoying as it's awful score as it jumps around haphazardly from one person getting brutally killed to another. Unlike that monstrosity known as "The Forest", at least "Don't Go in the Woods" has blood and unique killings to keep slasher fans watching and suffering through the awful dialogue sequences (my personal favorite being an attack on a hippie Volkswagen van in which our killer roles down a hill with his bare hands no less resulting in the van spontaneously bursting into flames).

Unlike that "other wilderness horror film" that I've mentioned numerous times, "Don't Go in the Woods" does poke it's head into the "so bad, it's good" category and I can see why this film has a cult following but thanks to its shitty directing and score it still comes nowhere near the likability of other "so bad, it's good" slashers like "Sleepaway Camp" and "The Slumber Party Massacre."

At least "Don't Go in the Woods" has blood and gore so in that aspect alone it is better than "The Forest" but it is still an awful film that makes the likes of the "Friday the 13th" films look like "The Exorcist" in comparison. Speaking of "The Forest", "Don't Go in the Woods" was released in Australia as "The Forest II" despite being made a full year prior to it. How shitty does a film have to be for it to be advertised as a sequel to another uber shitty horror film? Just a word of warning...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Forest, The (1982) - 1/5

You know a slasher isn't going to bode well when your killer looks like a hobo version of George Lucas. On that note I have to say The Forest, out of the gazillion slashers that I've have seen is one of the worst, if not the worst I have had the displeasure of sitting through. Don't let the good poster artwork fool you.... it begs you to come in, to let your guard down and sit back and enjoy what seems to be a "Friday the 13th" knock-off. Enjoyment will be the furthest thing from any slasher fanatic's mind while sitting though this mind numbingly bad stalk 'n slash.

The Forest begins in typical slasher style with a poorly shot stalk and kill sequence of two back packers being sliced by a unseen madman with a hunting knife. Cut to the city and we are introduced to two dimwitted men who are challenged by their wives to go up into the mountains to camp out. The wives travel up first only to run into George Lucas, who now seems to be a wife killer turned cannibal. Their husbands show up later and it becomes a race of survival with our couples getting aid, get this fellas, from the ghosts of the killer's two children! Wha...wha...WHAT?!?!

Director Donald M. Jones, obviously a novice at the job, knows that slashers are run-of-the-mill so he injects this supernatural slant of adding the ghosts to set it apart from other films that flooded the subgenre in the early 80's. I will commend him on trying but it's so haphazardly done that it comes off more laugh inducing.

For a slasher, The Forest also surprisingly lacks blood... like almost none! No creative gore and no unique killing sequences and films of this nature depend on schlock like that to get tickets sold. Like I hinted at before our killer is also nothing that will haunt your dreams at night (though the image of George Lucas does make me shutter!). Most slashers try to make something memorable or unique to their killers, by giving him a trademark weapon (machete, butcher knife) or mask (hockey, William Shatner). Not here! All he is a gray bearded, middle aged man that sits in a rocking chair in his cave (complete with candlelight!) while roasting various hunks of human meat over an open flame. Hell a visit to your local Wal-Mart at 1 am would give rise to creepier hoodlums!

So it has a boring killer and no blood.... it must have great acting, stylistic directing and a rockin' score to make up for those losses... right? OH FUCK NO! The acting is high school level, the directing is amateurish at best and the score sounds like a chimpanzee was let loose on a cheap, early 80's synthesizer. We are even "graced" with two god awful 80's pop tunes!

I kept praying to the god of slashers to please, please allow Jason Voorhees pop up from behind a tree to kill this cracker jack hobo cannibal. Hell I would have even settled for the Paramedic posing as Jason from Friday the 13th Part V! There is nothing, absolutely nothing to recommend about this slasher! It's got shit acting, shit directing, a shit killer, a shit score, no blood, no gore, no nudity, no suspense and a silly ghost subplot! The only thing I can praise the film for is that it actually had adult characters as opposed to cliché teenagers. Oh and the poster artwork was also good. Damn you poster artwork... how dare you trick me into sitting through yet another garbage bin slasher!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Friday, October 15, 2010

Human Centipede (First Sequence), The - 2/5

With the immense amount of hype that went into this film (Roger Ebert even went as far as to give it NO stars...ha ha) calling it grotesque and the most disturbing film ever made, it had to eventually make my list. To bad it never lived up to any of hype at all. Not only was it not the most disturbing film ever, it just turned out to be your average schlock film. Pretty disappointing.

When two fairly unintelligent NY girls get lost (and a flat tire!) in the woods of Germany, they stumble upon a mad doctor whose greatest post-retirement ambition is to sew three people together, ass to mouth, to form a human centipede. Along with some random Japanese guy that this doctor abducts, they find themselves in a very stinky situation. Now its time to escape or die in each others....arms?

"The Human Centipede" suffers from a lot of odd cliche elements, including the hype behind it. The first 15 minutes are a bore fest of poor acting and predictable plot progressions and from there it only gets a little better. Even the 'tense' moments just seemed like they were forced into place by odd pacing and over elongated torture sequences. By the time we had any real struggle between characters in the third act, most of me was checked out of the film. The cliche characters and rather simple plot just didn't invest my interest into the film at all. It was a schlock concept used to gross out watchers and that is exactly what the film decided to in its execution. Same ole, same ole.

I have to give it to director Tom Six though, his script might have been laden with simple and rather cliche Horror elements, but as a visual director he does his best to keep the viewer's interest. There are some cool shots and moments visually (like the rather interesting scene where the doctor shoots the main lady - her name escapes me - as she tries to escape) but its not near enough to keep the film afloat. Even the evil doctor's (if there isn't anything more cliche than an evil doctor let me know) rather intense and odd performance just couldn't save that character from being just one long doppelganger. Its too bad really, since with these two elements one could have done at least a little with the script, right?

It was just hard not to be insanely disappointed with "The Human Centipede". Too much hype and too little substance make this film feel like a 2D representation of its potential. Most disturbing film ever? Doesn't even touch it. Gross yeah, but disturbing? Just cliche.

BONUS RANT: What the hell was with the random guy that pulls up to the girls' car in the beginning. He just spouts random sexual things in German and then flicks his tongue and slowly drives off. It was completely random and obvious padding that added nothing to the characters or the film. Wasted minutes of my life is what I call that. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Night Of The Living Dead (1990) - 4/5

Before remakes became a money making gimmick for studios to use, there was one of the best ones made in the 1990 version of "Night Of The Living Dead". Ultimately true to the original, yet updating it properly for a whole new generation, this remake keeps the same heart and dread of the original. Perhaps not quite as good this time around, it still holds its own which says something for a remake anymore.

Barbara (Tallman) goes with her brother to visit her aunt's grave when they find themselves suddenly attacked by a mysterious undead man. Barbara runs for her life and finds an old house in the woods where she meets Ben (Todd). There they find a few other survivors and try to escape the growing onslaught of these zombies. Unfortunately, these ragged survivors might end up killing themselves in their panic before the zombies even get the chance.

This Tom Savini directed film, original director George A. Romero served as a producer of sorts on the film, does its best to recapture what made the original one such a groundbreaking film with its character chemistry and its atmosphere of dread and terror. The film does insanely well considering that it does little to change any of the actual plot and only updates some of the details. Tallman and Todd as our two main heroes do extremely well with the characters and their interactions with the other supporting cast (including a very nicely updated jackass Cooper played by Tom Towles) and its their screen presence that really makes this film work. The character Barbara was updated perfectly to be made a stronger female role (to move with the times) and her character arc adds a new level that the original one may have lacked a bit.

One of the big changes from original to this version is, most obviously, the color update. Although having it in color might lead to the most distinct change and modernization, but the original's black and white and very realistic look gave the film a lot more atmosphere. This one tries to recapture that which was lost from the original's lost footage look, but can't quite pull it off.

By all means, I still recommend watching the original first because it is better in the end, but this remake is a proper update true to its form and style. With a great cast, great updated special effects, and some nice new detail work "Night Of The Living Dead" comes off as a competent and well made remake. Not quite as atmospheric but it definitely works on its own too.

BONUS PRAISE: This film did fix the one issue that I had with the original and I have to say that it makes sense. I won't give it away as its a spoiler, but the mother/daughter basement moment now makes sense since they changed how it ends. Thanks guys! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Night Of The Demons (1988) - 3.5/5

There is something about these teen Horror films from the 80s that just makes them ridiculously awesome. Maybe its the gratuitous...everything! Some of these movies came off as still pretty shitty, but a number of them turned out as damn fun romps of bad craziness. That's how "Night Of The Demons" comes out. Yeah, its predictably bad at times, but down there under its over the top attempts at being funny and clever is a heart of gold and some surprisingly solid moments.

When a group of cliche teens decide that they are going to party it up on Halloween night at the infamously 'haunted' Hull House, they make the mistake of listening to the goth girl and trying out a seance in the mirror. This awakens a demon (or evil spirit of sorts) which starts possessing the un-knowning teens and slaughtering them off to odd and sometimes rather humorous results.

Although this film obviously riffs on plenty of films that came before it, plenty of parts are torn directly from the lessons taught by "The Evil Dead" franchise, there is something distinctly charming and fun about it. It balances the atmosphere of the Horror and the cheesy 80s teen comedy pretty well (although some of the jokes are so bad they actually are funny here). The cast is abysmally fun and bad, although the leading lady is down right awful in some of her lines, but with some solid make-up and gore effects to match its over the top approach it works way more then it should have.

Some fans might find its use of relentless gore, by the numbers plot, and overuse of sex and nudity as something to scoff at, for what it is, "Night Of The Demons" works as a fun campy scare fest. It does have some legit cool moments in its folds, like some of its more interesting camera shots, the cool animated intro, and Angela's weird dance of hell, and these moments make the rest of the film not quite as bad as it could have been. Definitely works in its benefit.

"Night Of The Demons" is not for everyone. Its ultra cheesy take on this rather formulaic film works in its own humorous ways for a fun 80s jaunt into the 'haunted house' genre. Not great, but its a lot of fun to watch.

BONUS RANT: There is a rather random subplot about a haggard old man and his hatred for kids on Halloween that seemed to set up the film nicely in the beginning but finished the film feeling tacked on for the sake of tacking it on. Kind of funny in its own way, but rather out of the blue. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let Me In - 3.5/5

Trying my best not to just compare "Let Me In" to its original Swedish tour de force, "Let The Right One In" (which by the ways won't happen) I have to admit that I came out of the theatre enjoying this film. On its own stance, it accomplishes what it came to do and show the journey of two torn souls that come together amongst some unconventional circumstances. Although not near as charming as its predecessor, "Let Me In" does accomplish some solid building blocks of a good film.

Owen (Smit-McPhee) is a tormented 12 year old who aspires to be stronger then he is. With a family life that is quickly crumbling and a bully situation that is getting out of hand, he desires some stablitiy. He randomly finds this in his new neighbor Abby (Moretz) whose mysteriousness is only matched by her 'father' (Jenkins). When bodies start turning up and the police (lead by Koteas) start showing up, Owen begins to suspect his new friend is more than just an odd girl...she just might be a...DA DA DUM...vampire.

Now for Matt Reeves to take on this remake of a film is something of an arrogant move. Highly considered a modern classic already (my opinion matches that), Reeves had some big shoes to fill. Of course, his version is going to be good when 75% of the film is essentially the same thing. It rarely drifts from the pacing and form - which is a good thing. It pulls a lot of the great atmosphere to its advantage and with two well done leads from our kids, "Let Me In" still accomplishes quite a bit even though its the same damn thing. The chemistry is there and the story is there and for the heart of the film that's what matters.

Sometimes the film did feel like it was trying to force some of the subtleties down the audiences' throats. Matt Reeves does an able job throwing in some of his own little nuances (like how the mother figure's face is never in focus) but overall sometimes it felt like he was trying to force an artsy feel on the film. With a sick score though, it works most of the time although it just doesn't strike the right mood as well as it could have (or the original did). Also, the film did use some CGI for Abby's movements which felt somewhat out of place. The idea worked but it took me out of the realism a bit too much.

I did appreciate that Reeves really embraced the change of setting. Putting the film in America in the 80s allowed for some great political and social subplots. The use of Reagan's speeches on TVs and the various pop culture references allowed the film to do its own thing a bit more which was nice considering that a good portion of the film was basically the same as the original.

Overall, "Let Me In" accomplished what it needed to, but the fact that it rarely surpassed the film it was remaking and was 75% the same as it bogged it down. I wanted it to go to even some more different places more often, but it did utilize its source material nicely. Some changed details did bother me (for some reason they decided to almost completely move away from the entire ambiguous sex of the vampire plot thread) but it worked at its bases. Not great and if you like the original I fully just recommend you wait to it hits home video. Worth the watch for the little things.

BONUS RANT: So there is a random scene of nudity in the beginning of the film that seemed completely out of place. The idea was clear but it could have easily been done without the nudity and still be as clear as possible. Definitely didn't understand the need for that. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, October 11, 2010

High Tension - 4.5/5

The concept for "High Tension" is simple. In its simplicity, it allows itself to embrace two things that make Horror films great: atmosphere and shock. In this basic combination of these two elements is where "High Tension" truly shines and ably shows us just how intense the French can be when it comes to their Horror films. Although it does garner a bit of sass from fans for its out there ending, "High Tension" is a sleek and relentless monster of a film that will make you jump, cringe, and borderline cry.

Marie (De France) and her friend Alex (Le Besco) are going to Alex's parents house in the country to stay and do some well needed studying. But the first night they are there, a mysterious man in a truck shows up and starts killing off family members. Marie struggles to stay alive in the slaughter, but when the man takes Alex into his van, still alive, she realizes she must save her friend from certain death. Now its a battle between the mysterious killer and a determined young women hellbent on saving her friend. Or is it?

Alexander Aja certainly struts his stuff with "High Tension". As co-writer and director, he is the one that deserves most of the praise for this shocker of a film. As it was mentioned before, the storyline is very simple. You HAVE seen it before. Mysterious killer. Trying to survive. Tides turn as hero decides they have had enough. ABC's of Horror right there. Even with its twist ending, "High Tension" is your basics. Its how the basics are done that makes it so damn exciting.

Aja makes this movie so damn tense with atmosphere that watching our heroine Marie becomes an agonizing experience. With his close up shots (including lots of eye work), a spectacular use of sound (silence, sound effects like the killer's breathing and squeaky boots, and music), and the odd lighting effects that give it a surreal look, Aja takes this story and turns it into an atmospheric decent into hell. Then of course, to balance that out, he uses very realistic bursts of extreme violence to break the spell. Normally, a Horror film will rely on jump scares or a it of humor to release audience torment. Not Aja. He uses moments of gore and brutality to make the audience breath, even if its to only gasp or cry out. With its sleek visuals and more than apt pacing, "High Tension" truly feels like riding a roller coaster.

The film also builds on this great 'good vs evil' ideology well. Our heroine gets a quick and nice build up and her arc still moves throughout the ordeal, not to mention the acting is superb here particularly in the third act, and our villain remains conspicuously as this blank thing of unknown motives and collected insanity. This does have its reason in the end, but even prior its this lack of knowing that makes him even scarier and more threatening. The two match up well throughout the film as they begin to battle it out and it makes it for a fascinating watch.

With its superb acting from a (basically at its core) two party cast and the sharp as a razor vision and directing of Aja, "High Tension" is some of the best when it comes to modern Horror. It balances the tension and shock like a pro and never eases on the gas. Even if the ending leaves a few questions unanswered and logic unfulfilled (in my opinion, it works quite well this way although others will disagree) "High Tension" is a hell of a ride getting there.

BONUS PRAISE: Is there anything scarier than a maniac that with a circular saw? Definitely in my top 5 scariest villain concepts. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reeds, The - 1.5/5

Being lost is scary. Being lost on water is even scarier. Being lost on water with something horrific in the reeds around you is fucking scary. "The Reeds" is not. Despite an interesting concept and proposal for a nightmarish journey, this little British film falls ass over teapot into its own muddy banks and accomplishes very little in the ways of utilizing its own scares. Too bad, cause it could have rocked it too.

Six friends hobbled out of their city lives to take a trip on a boat through some sort of marshland to get a bit of relaxing done. Unfortunately, there happens to be something in the reeds that wants them to never leave. So it uses all kinds of ghostly tricks to turn their lovely vacation into a trip of terror.

"The Reeds" might have a pretty stellar concept to give its audience a decadent scare ride into ole Horror-ville, but it fails. Straight up fails at a lot of things. Half the time the film feels unsure of what it wants to be (A monster movie? A ghost movie? A time lapse film? Who the fuck knows.) and the other half of the time its story line progression is so blurred with its own attempts at being artsy and scary that it fails to recognize it needs to make any sense. It just meanders from one moment to the next with needless drift as we try desperately to put two and two together.

If it wasn't for this senseless lack of cohesion and continuity of plot, than this film might have worked. The cast does decent enough to get by and the look of the film has a nice raw 80s feel to it (despite its obvious modern style). Other than that though, its hard to find a whole lot going good for this overly stylized Horror flick.

"The Reeds" just ends up a muddled cliche gamble of moments squashed together. Not too clever, but not dumb enough to a fun romp either. With the potential of its source material it makes it feel even more of a disappointment.

BONUS RANT: Um, who the hell thinks a boat ride into fucking marshland for a couple of days is an actual vacation? I'm not even all that into leaving the house, but even that seems like a pretty weak idea of fun to me. They had this coming to them for taking such a shitty getaway. That's my opinion.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Frozen (2010) - 4.5/5

Well, Adam Green does it again. With "Hatchet" he showed the world that he could do campy Horror with glee and pure delight. With "Spiral" he showed the world that he could do an effectively directed Thriller with atmosphere to spare. Now with "Frozen" he shows that he can combine the two into a realistic and horrifying tale. Although simple at its core, this film effectively distributes a whopping amount of fear and tension into its audience, which is what makes the film so damn impressive.

A couple and their friend (Bell, Zegers, and Ashmore) go for a nice ski trip away from the flurries of their everyday lives. But when some confusion at slopes leaves the three stranded on a ski lift alone and awaiting the mountain resort to reopen after a storm, they find themselves stranded and in desperate need of help. With the brutal cold sapping the life out of them, the height preventing their trek down hill, and some damn hungry wolves awaiting their next meal, these young folk are in for a hell of a survival lesson.

So honestly, the concept of this film is so simple and straightforward, one would only have to wonder how they could pull off an hour and a half film about this situation. Not only does the cast and crew of "Frozen" pull it off, but they do it will some damn style too. Throughout this 'survival' flick, I was completely on the edge of my seat even though it was pretty easy to see what was coming. The plot does do some pretty 'oh yeah, really?' moments for the sake of making it exciting or getting the plot moving forward, but overall it works like a well oiled machine. These moments only heighten the tension and atmosphere and that worked for "Frozen".

Of course, the execution of this film is also top notched. The three protagonists of this film (with the antagonist role being played by the situation - not that guy from Jersey Shore) are insanely believable in their portrayals. They made me feel so cold I had to get a blanket while watching the movie. Particular nod goes to Emma Bell who nails her role. Look to see her continue working in our beloved genre with roles in Green's upcoming "Hatchet II" and "Final Destination 5" which makes me excited.

Of course, I have to also praise one of my new favorite director's Adam Green. His writing, giving our protagonists enough back-story and chemistry to make us care about their survival, and his directing highhandedly make "Frozen" worth watching. Normally a film like this would work as a short film or perhaps an episode of "Twilight Zone" but Green's abilities not only make it work for an hour and half but make it work well. Another great film to add to his catalog.

"Frozen" may not be a perfect film, but its a damn slick Thriller/Horror that will make you think twice about going skiing. It works way better than a synopsis would lead you to believe. With solid execution both in front of the camera and behind, this is a damn fine film. Worth the purchase definitely. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Storm Warning - 4/5

Despite the director's previous Horror outing "Urban Legend" and its teen focused friendliness, some pretty praise worthy critiques from the usual genre fans made "Storm Warning" only my list of film's to see. What "Storm Warning" brings us is a tidy little homage film dedicated to those 'killer family' Horror films (the likes of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hills Have Eyes") that isn't necessarily a unique watch, but a very intense and well crafted ride.

A couple, Rob (Taylor) and his wife Pia (Fares) find themselves lost in the Australian boonies after their fishing trip on a little boat goes somewhat awry. When they stumble upon some true backwoods pot farmers with little in the way of hygiene and lots in the way of fucked up, they realize that their chances for survival may depend on how low they are willing to sink with their morals. And if they are willing to kill their captors. With a massive storm pouring outside and a bigger one building inside, this couple will be pushed to the limits to find out that in the outback there is more than the elements out to get you.

All right. Its easy to admit that "Storm Warning" isn't the most original film out there. Yeah, if you have seen any kind of backwoods human depravity kind of film you know exactly where this film is going from the first few minutes. You know the plot and honestly, it doesn't do a whole lot to throw twists into it. A few little things here and there, but nothing too drastic. Never does it feel like a rip-off though and that counts for something.

What makes "Storm Warning" the fun and intense watch that it was, was its execution of these elements. With its superbly acted cast (of seriously like five people, that's it), its slick production look, and visual voracity, this film really cakes on its craftsmanship to counterbalance its rather cliche plot.  Our two leads are very convincing of their hardships (with a nice little role reversal in the third act) and the baddies are despicably gross and believably insane. The setting adds solid atmosphere to the film with this hodge podge farm and the intense weather and director Jamie Blanks amicably puts on a visual show with his use of light/dark,  nightmarish angles, and duel use of silence and intense sound bombardment. His style matches the unnerving quality of the performances nicely. Hell, he even did the electronic like score to the film which adds a modern layer to the chaos well.

"Storm Warning" may not have been a first in any way, shape, or form but its pay off from character build and performances (on and off camera) make it one of the better modern Horror films out there. This film is one helluva ride into backwoods territory and its worth every investment of time.

BONUS RANT: One random element that popped up that tripped me out was the use of the baby kangaroo (or was it a wallaby, it slips my mind right now). At first its definitely a 'what the fuck' moment, but its end pay out is substantially disturbing. After wards, I still felt like it was pretty random but at the time man did it work for the overall feel.  Solid work for the director on making that element actually worth its time in the film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Casino Royale (2006)

Director: Martin Campbell
Notable Cast: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright

Despite the commercial success of "Die Another Day", by the grace of God, they decided that the James Bond franchise needed another reboot. So what better way to reboot the franchise than get a new Bond and bring back a director that did with immense success before. They decided to take it too a whole new level though and literally REBOOT the franchise starting by going back to Bond as a new 00 agent. Thusly we have Daniel Craig's first Bond outing as a young agent taking on one of his first missions. This marks (another) return for the franchise towards a far more serious tonality with lots of great dark and cold undertones. And once again, showing that Bond can indeed still make a great film without sacrificing its distinct Bond elements.

STORYLINE: After achieving his official 00 status, Bond (Craig) is sent on one of his first missions to watch a low life bomb maker. Unfortunately, when things go awry and Bond makes the naughty list for MI6 he decides to follow a small lead. This small lead gets him involved with a little stock market treachery that leads him on a trail to finally pin some serious accusations on a black market accountant in the form of Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen). To do so though they need to strip him of some funds and MI6 plans to do this using Bond to defeat the man in a high stakes poker game at the infamous Casino Royale. With an accountant at his side in the form of Vesper (Green) Bond sets up to take down Le Chiffre on chip at a time. Too bad this blood weeping villain might be better (or worse) off in his connections than they assume.

PLOT 5/5: Although based on the first James Bond novel that focuses on a game of baccarat, they definitely modernized this film almost perfectly to make it far more exciting. Updating it to a game of poker instead (really, who knows how to play baccarat anymore?) and adding in significant back story that includes more twists and turns and some seriously awesome action sequences they definitely did this film well off just from its more intense script. Adding to the fun is that they really embrace this 'young' James Bond to a T allowing us to see why he is the way he is with his work - why the man is so cold, his capabilities, and of course the source of his love of tuxedos and martinis. Bringing back Martin Campbell to the director's chair allows it to balance this seriousness and spy film like qualities while never losing its over the top moments that all seemingly feel far more realistic with him in the chair. The free running sequence where Bond chases the bomb maker into an embassy and gets into a shootout with the military could have been so cheesy and ridiculous but never does. That's the brilliance of Campbell with a good Bond script.

BOND 5/5: Firstly, Daniel Craig is one bad ass Bond and a perfect casting for this modernized version (even if he does have blond hair). Although he never quite has the 'suave' that many of the others did, he does have this delightful charm to him as is accentuated with his on screen chemistry with Vesper and his odd ability to make his striking blue eyes seem both caring and completely cold. That's essentially what makes Craig a good Bond. He is able to balance the cold and the charm in ways that we quite haven't seen before. His young and rather defiant take on the character also benefits this 'coming of age' story well too and he pulls off this realistic spy character all too well. Bravo for his debut!

VILLAIN 5/5: Normally, Le Chiffre would have been a villain that might have boring (he kind of was in the books) but with Mikkelsen's really intense and subtle performance and the film's build of his desperate measures and connections makes for a damn memorable performance. Many times I likened his look, acting, and almost untouchable presence to that of Dr. No from the original Bond film. That's a compliment. Not to mention that this guy weeps blood when he's stressed. If that's not bad ass I don't know what is.

BOND GIRL 5/5: Weird. I'm pretty sure that they didn't just stick Vesper into the plot for the sake of putting a pretty girl in there. Wow. They didn't! She has a purpose and has a character arc! No way! Her chemistry with Bond is actually palpable? No way! She also has a nice (plot influenced) affect on Bond's character which gives her even more relevance and puts her right on top of being one of the best Bond girls out there in the franchise. She hits all the marks and Green's performance is torn and charming at the same time. High marks all around!

"Casino Royale" not only reboots the franchise fantastically, it might be one of the best Bond films the franchise has seen yet. Campbell out does his previous high mark of "GoldenEye" with flying colors and all speculation that the franchise was going to drown again are sent scattering with this serious and realistic look at Bond and his early days. This is a Bond film that even non-Bond fans can enjoy and embrace.

BONUS PRAISE: Its nice to see a Bond torture scene in this film. Those scenes were prevalent in the books and it makes for a highlight for the film (for the women too that get to see Craig barely covered up) to show just how bad ass Bond is that he can joke in that tense situation. Hell yeah. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider