Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Director: S. Craig Zahler
Notable Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Sid Haig

Sometimes (more often than not) the best way to experience a film, especially when you have a good, gut feeling about it, is to go in with little to no knowledge of the film whatsoever. If you see or read about something that makes you say "I think I really wanna see this", then look no further, and seek it out, unless you are the type who can't really do that or don't want to, then buy all means, spoil the ride. That said, this is exactly the way I've experienced the biggest cinematic surprise of 2015 for me, Bone Tomahawk.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Director: Joe Chapelle
Notable Cast: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Devin Gardner, J.C. Brandy, Mitchell Ryan 
AKA: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween 6, and Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers (teaser trailer)

As my Halloween marathon continues this year, it’s come to my attention that my reviews of the various sequels to this franchise do not always align with the viewpoints of its dedicated fan base. The various dozens of messages, emails, and comments about my reviews of the Halloween films have certainly solidified the fact that this franchise has some die-hard fans that are willing to fight and die for the various entries. Unfortunately, when it comes to the sixth entry of the series, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, I don’t know if there is any kind of dedicated fan base that can justify just how odd this film is. The resulting film has been edited into two very different cuts of the film, both of which will be talked about here and neither of which are very good thanks to a horrible production.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Golden Cane Warrior, The (2015)

Director: Ifa Isfansya 
Notable Cast: Christine Hakim, Eva Celia Latjuba, Nicholas Saputra, Reza Rahadian, Tara Basro

With the international success of Gareth Evans’ The Raid and its subsequent sequel, it would only seem fitting that there would be a bit of a boom in the Indonesian film market – if not just in the Indonesian martial arts film market. A film like The Golden Cane Warrior would normally go overlooked in the grand spectrum of international film releasing (particularly here in the US), but with this new global eye on the area it’s not all that surprising that The Golden Cane Warrior would get a slightly larger than normal release. Fortunately, the wuxia inspired film is fairly deserving of this kind of attention as a very ambitious martial arts drama. Blending the likes of classic Shaw Brothers wuxia with a melodramatic and artistic touch akin to Zhang Yimou films, The Golden Cane Warrior is a fun and modern slice of traditional martial arts film history rolled into one... and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Director: Sergio Martino
Notable Cast: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nebbia, Riccardo Salvino, Angela La Vorgna, Enrica Conaccorti, Daniela Giordano, Ermelinda De Felice

*Part of a duel pack called Black Cats available from Arrow Video*

Giallo is far from my favorite genre overall and it’s usually one that I rarely review here at Blood Brothers, but when Arrow Video’s latest release of Sergio Martino’s Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (which will be known as Your Vice from this point on for the sake of hand fatigue) landed on my doorstep it was hard not to get a bit excited. Your Vice contains some of the work of many of the iconic names of giallo cinema to it and yet, I had only heard of mixed things about the loose adaption of Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cat story. In the end, Your Vice is the mixed bag that many fans claimed it to be, but it’s hardly the film that some called disappointing. Particularly when the third act comes out so strongly that it delivers a purpose to the rather plodding first two-thirds that viewers may not see coming.

Black Cat, The (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Notable Cast: Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck, Al Cliver, Dagmar Lassander, Bruno Corazzari, Geoffrey Copleston, Daniela Doria

*Part of a duel pack called Black Cats available from Arrow Video*

By 1981, Lucio Fulci was riding high on a streak of hits like Zombi and City of the Living Dead– Italian films full of gore, horrors, and his iconic stylish visuals. In the middle of what many might call his golden era of filmmaking, Fulci did end up making The Black Cat, a film inspired by the story of Edgar Allen Poe and one that would go on to be something of an overlooked gem of atmosphere and odd narrative for many fans. Truthfully The Black Cat is hardly as good as Zombi or The Beyond that would come right afterwards, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t without some awesome material that is finally getting the proper release that Fulci fans have been asking for from Arrow Video.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bloody Knuckles (2015)

Director: Matt O.
Notable Cast: Adam Boys, Gabrielle Giraud, Kasey Ryne Mazak, Ken Tsui, Dwayne Bryshun

While it might seem unusual to the average person, I was pretty excited to watch Bloody Knuckles. The concept of a severed hand taking revenge for its lost body, mixed with offensive elements and plenty of gore, sparked an interest in me. Perhaps it’s my odd love for the massively overlooked horror comedy Idle Hands or the odd blend of horror, comedy, offensiveness, and revenge flick that Bloody Knuckles promised, but I was pretty stoked to be throwing in the Blu Ray when it arrived on my doorstep. It just might be these expectations of cult horror comedy gold that left me a bit underwhelmed overall by the film. It certainly has its moments and for the casual horror fan it might find some of it as offensive, but Bloody Knuckles didn’t quite execute the outrageous promises that it seemed to have potential for. Fun, sure, but not nearly as effective with the mix as one would hope.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Notable Cast: Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan, Tamara Glynn, Jeffrey Landman, Jonathan Chapin, Matthew Walker

After the producers successfully resurrected Michael Myers for his return in Halloween 4, a film that still has an odd cult following today, it didn’t take them long to scramble up another sequel to capitalize on the re-surging success of the series…and the speedy turnaround shows with Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. There still seems to be somewhat of a cult audience that follows this entry, which seems to be beyond my understanding, because outside of a few moments it’s hard to recommend this entry to anyone but the slasher addicted horror fan. Especially when the film takes some random turns that really don’t benefit the whole and baffles the audience.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Northern Limit Line (2015)

Director: Kim Hak-soon

Notable Cast: Kim Mu-yeol, Jin Goo, Lee Hyun-woo, Lee Wan, Kim Ji-hoon, Jang Joon-hak, JooHee-joong, Lee Min-ho

Many of the early reviews for Northern Limit Line spouted off rhetoric about the film being too propaganda-ish with its patriotic South Korean themes. Truthfully though, the film is not even nearly as bad as 80% of the war films that get made in the United States. In fact, Northern Limit Line is quite the serviceable military drama…to a fault. Often enough, it actually plays things relatively safe as it caters to its mainstream audience instead of really digging into its material. Still, this Korean piece of dramatic action has enough heart and enough action to keep the audience hooked throughout its two hour run time even if the film quickly dissolves from memory after the credits roll.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Director: Dwight B. Little
Notable Cast: Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Donald Pleasance, Tom Tucker, Beau Starr

After Halloween III pissed everyone off with its lack of Michael Myers, it seemed like an easy fix to bring Michael Myers back for the fourth one and call it Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers just so all of the fans would know that he was coming back. So the producers and director slapped together a story about Michael Myers escaping while being transported to another psychiatric hospital and heading back to Haddonfield to kill his niece…since Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t sign back on. The results are a rather uninspired slasher flick that hits a lot of the tropes, despite the best efforts from a visual standpoint and an intriguing spin on the concept. While Halloween 4 remains a fun movie in its silliness, it’s truthfully not very good and not very memorable.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Notable Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Currie

Of all of the Halloween sequels in all of the land, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has the strangest and most devout cult following of them all. The film itself was fairly controversial, if not for just the fact that it is a Michael Myers-less entry, and it has created a massive divide of people that fall into the ‘love’ or the ‘hate’ columns. The people who love it will defend it with all of their logistical might and those who hate it will simply refuse to acknowledge its existence as a film... let alone part of an iconic slasher franchise. For this reviewer, Halloween III remains a fun 80s flick, working in some nice silly concepts and some oddly serious performances, but it’s not nearly the classic that some say it is. In the end, it falls right in the middle of the two extreme opinions of the film.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Raid, The (1991)

Directors: Tsui Hark, Ching Siu-Tung
Notable Cast: Dean Shek, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Kai Fai, Corey Yuen, Goyce Godenzi, Paul Chun, Lau Chi Ming, Fennie Yuen

Tsui Hark’s career as a director has been a scattered one. His focus on style over substance can leave a lot of memorable moments, but when it comes to films that last the test of time…he’s not the most effective of directors. However, his latest film The Taking of Tiger Mountain was something of a throwback to the days when he had an understanding between the balance of spectacle and narrative. I bring up this film because its distributor Well Go USA is releasing one of his “classic” films from 1991 called The Raid…and the comparisons between the two films are striking. The Raid is a historically set action adventure flick with enough humor, heart, and outrageous elements to entertain most any Hong Kong cinema fan. It’s hardly a perfect film in trying to balance all of these elements, but The Raid is a strong reminder of a time when Tsui Hark could still entertain without irritating.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bound to Vengeance (2015)

Director: José Manuel Cravioto
Notable Cast: Tina Ivlev, Richard Tyson, Bianca Malinowski
Sometimes all it takes is a great poster to get the audience you want hooked. This was the case for Bound to Vengeance with me. While having a release through IFC Midnight AND Scream Factory certainly helps, it wasn’t until I saw the cover/poster next to this opening paragraph that I decided to partake in the film. It’s fortunate that I did because Bound to Vengeance is a brutal and impressively executed modern grindhouse feature worthy of the time for most cult film fans. It’s a slick, sick, and simplistic ride into the social underbelly of sex trafficking powered by a handful of powerhouse performances and guided by the impeccable visuals of director José Manuel Cravioto. Bound to Vengeance is bound to pack a whollup on most viewers and it’s vicious at doing so.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

House (1977)

Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Notable Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Ai Matsubara, Eriko Tanaka, Miki Jinbo, Mieko Sato, Masayo Miyako, Kumiko Oba, Yoko Minamida, Haruko Wanibuchi

When it comes to films that inspire insanity, one has to look no further than Japan. At times it’s mostly outrageous entertainment vomit on screen, as in the case of most of the splatter films, but occasionally there is an inspired artistry to their genre bending and odd approaches like the anti-musical musical The Happiness of the Katakuris that I reviewed earlier this year. This sort of motivated and thoughtful lunacy is where the 1977 film House lies. An often awkward intermingling of comedy, horror, and fantasy, House – also known as Hausu, is a film that deserves a massive “WTF” from its audience, but it’s also very obvious that this was the intent of the film. Thus, it accomplishes what it sets out to do in spades. Gloriously, might I add.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Avenging Fist, The (2001)

Director: Andrew Lau
Notable Cast: Wang Lee Hom, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Stephen Fung, Gigi Leung, Kristy Yang, Cecilia Yip

The Avenging Fist is one of those movies that is far more fascinating in its failures then it ever is in its successes. Not that there is a whole lot to praise about this film, but throughout the film I found myself hooked on just what other bat shit insane thing it would throw at me. Considering the talent in front and behind the camera the film is something of a massive train wreck. While the film never seems to find a footing on any of its one thousand genre elements or various themes, it does crash and in burn in such a spectacular fashion that it’s almost praise worthy in its disastrous ways. A film that owns as a discussion piece for Hong Kong cinema fanatics more than anything. So The Avenging Fist has that going for it.

Halloween II (1981)

Director: Rick Rosenthal
Notable Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Hunter Von Leer, Tawny Moyer

“You don’t know what death is.”

How do you even try to follow up the original Halloween? You know they were going to try with the significant success that the atmospheric slasher had with its audiences, but without John Carpenter in the directorial chair you know it’s not going to quite match. By the time 1981 rolled around though and Halloween II saw its release, the slasher craze that was ignited by the popularity of the first film was booming very quickly. Just the year prior, Friday the 13th decimated the sinners and camp counselors of Crystal Lake with more violence and more gimmicks, so it only seemed natural that Halloween II would actually attempt to up the ante. The results are a bit more mixed than one could hope for, but in the grand scheme of things it’s actually still a pretty effective slasher with enough solid elements to make it a fun and scary romp. No matter how many rumors and issues arose behind the scenes of the film.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Contracted: Phase II (2015)

Director: Josh Forbes
Notable Cast: Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Morgan Peter Brown, Anna Lore, Laurel Vail, Peter Cilella

There seemed to be a decent amount of fanfare for the first Contracted film when it dropped. However, I wasn’t nearly as keen about it as some folks and ended up giving it a fairly luke warm review in the end. It had some solid effects and some great atmosphere, but when the audience doesn’t care about the characters or some of the silly plot progressions it’s hard to really enjoy a body horror flick like that. Contracted was popular enough that it did end up with a green lit sequel, the somewhat awesomely titled Contracted: Phase II. Unfortunately, the film is not nearly as strong as even the first film as it lacks a lot of the execution needed to pull off its progressive plotting. Forewarning, this review is going to be a bit spoiler-ish to the events of the first film. Keep that in mind as you continue.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Children of the Night (2015)

Director: Ivan Noel
Notable Cast: Sabrina Ramos, Ana Maria Giunta, Lauro Veron, Toto Munoz 
AKA: Limbo

Vampire films are a dime a dozen. They have always been a consistent force in the horror genre, but in the last decade or so they have been the subject of a lot of different genres from teeny romances with Twilight to comedies like What We Do in the Shadows. Children of the Night, a low budget Argentinian film getting a US release through Artsploitation films this year, is a whole lot of genres blended into one film. The low budget hinders a lot of how the experience of this film works, but Children of the Night is a remarkably quirky and refreshing spin on the classic vampire genre. One that will certainly find its cult audience.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter
Notable Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Kyes, PJ Soles, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, John Michael Graham, Sandy Johnson

The hardest aspect of going back to review a classic such as Halloween is that most things and elements have been explored in writings previously. Most people have seen it and if they haven’t, they’ve heard of it. It makes writing a review at this point something of a difficult task and one that more or less seems like beating a dead horse. However, this Halloween I have dedicated myself to reviewing this entire franchise and that means starting where it all started…with the 1978 slasher classic Halloween. While the film is not perfect (is it blasphemous to say that?) it is however a film steeped in strong and very simplistic aspects that raise it above the low budget slasher it is. This is why Halloween is iconic.

Goodnight Mommy (2015)

Directors: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Notable Cast: Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz, Susanne Wuest

The idea behind a really great trailer is to build hype and often times a great trailer can make even the worst films seem incredible. This is why I went into Goodnight Mommy with a bit of reservation. The trailer was phenomenal. Almost too good. Good enough where I felt it might be covering up something. In a way, it was. However, it wasn’t covering up a bad film. Goodnight Mommy is actually quite the effective little horror film that could. What the great trailer was covering up was that Goodnight Mommy wasn’t nearly as scary as it was utterly unnerving as a horror film.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Eaten Alive (1976)

Director: Tobe Hooper
Notable Cast: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Stuart Whitman, Roberta Collins, Kyle Richards, Robert Englund, Crystin Sinclaire, Janus Blyth

As a fan of early Tobe Hooper material, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I had never taken the dive into his killer bayou flick Eaten Alive. The film has a diehard cult following and it seemed interesting enough from the clips I had seen, but I never really got around to actually watching the film. With Arrow Video’s latest (and dare I say greatest) home release of the film though, it was high time to partake in the flick. Eaten Alive might not be as groundbreaking as Hooper’s tour de force The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it might not be as outrageously psychedelic and hilarious as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but the film sits nicely as a strange combination of the two with its fairly off kilter narrative and interesting knack for the oddball style. It’s easy to see why this is a cult favorite with these elements and it gave me a left hook that I was not expecting.

Ugly (2013)

Director: Anurag Kashyap
Notable Cast: Rahul Bhat, Ronit Roy, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Vineet Kumar Singh, Surveen Chawla, Siddhant Kapoor, Sandesh Jadhav, Anshikaa Shrivastava

My first Anurag Kashyap film...

My first Indian film...

What a great entry point too. Before we kick this thing off, I want to get out of the way that I have tried to delve into the Bollywood world before, in fact, many a time, but I've always quickly packed up and went elsewhere. I've only still slightly kept interest in Indian cinema by way of two directors in specific, Anurag Kashyap, and one of the greatest, Satyajit Ray. Of course, my preference in regions of filmmaking do not form any preconceived bias. I didn't go in expecting to dislike Ugly, and I walked away pleased, disturbed, but pleased nonetheless.

This film, like other great films, will be one I won't to shed too much light on towards the plot nor piece specific details. That being said, here's a one line plot description: Guy's daughter is abducted, thus causing everyone to go crazy in the search for her. That's essentially it, but of course, there is much more to it than that.

The leading actor and the man who plays his best friend, were both phenomenal, as were most of the side cast, all the way down to the bit roles. The characters all start off pretty neutral and slowly peel away more and more revealing layers of their true selves. The antagonist of the film, a cop who is dating the abducted daughter's mother, has a goofy, yet cold-blooded right-hand man who ended up being my favorite character in this bleak tale. He brought some odd but welcoming touches of dark humor to the plate.

My biggest compliment and biggest nitpick of it all, is the execution. It's wonderfully shot and edited, save a few beats here and there that tripped up the flow, but some of the Foley work sounded like generic stock sound effects, which took me out of a film that kept me immersed quite regularly. Also, some of the reactions the actors displayed (mainly awkward pauses) made an eyebrow raise here and there, but again, minute nagging towards an overall great mystery / thriller.

Seeing Ugly, and finding much to appreciate from it, has me wanting to explore other works by the director, and dig even deeper for great Indian cinematic gems. For those looking for a great mystery filled film, that keeps the twists coming and the dramatic weight heavy, but not overbearing, look no further. This is one depressing journey I'm sure to revisit when the weather is right.

Written By Josh Parmer

Timber, The (2015)

Director: Anthony O'Brien
Notable Cast: Josh Peck, James Ransone, Elisa Lawoski, Mark Craven, David Bailie
There are two kinds of modern westerns. There are the artsy and atmospheric ones like Red Hill and then there are straight to home video entertainers like Dead in Tombstone. I loved both of the above mentioned films for various reasons, but that seems to be ends of the spectrum for modern westerns. The Timber is one of those films that tries to pull off a little of both and lands right in the middle of that spectrum – perhaps leaning towards the artsy and atmospheric side a bit. While the film certainly has its faults, it also happens to be a pleasantly surprising and very quick watch. A watch that has its charms despite some major issues along the way.

It’s the late 1800s in Alaska and two brothers (Peck, Ransone) are setting off to settle a score and collect a bounty. The bounty just so happens to be their father, but they are desperate for the money to save their home from foreclosure by a ruthless banker. So they set on their task ill equipped but determined to accomplish the feat…no matter what dangers lie ahead or what dangers they leave behind for their family.

That's all we need: horses and guns.
The core of The Timber is simplistic and layered with a ton of intriguing themes, moments, and characters. Multiple times during the film, it had me hooked with its somewhat simplistically majestic weight. The two brothers, the tough one hardened by the world played by Ransone and the softer, family man unprepared for what the journey may ask of him that’s portrayed ably by Peck, are an intriguing pair and when they are shown in the element they spark a fun chemistry. Unfortunately due to the film’s remarkably short run time of 80 minutes, they are not given a lot of time to really build their characters and interactions as much as one would hope. This is a problem with a lot of the various plots and characters. A secondary plot, one that has the young wife and mother of the younger brother fending off the bank’s hooligans with the help of his mother and a kindly sheriff, is horribly under written and not given nearly enough time to develop the fear and tension of their situation. Even most of the various characters that cross paths with the brothers on their trek feel as though they just need a bit more time on screen to develop their motives and how it affects the leads. There is a lot of layers to pick apart, but The Timber could have been a film studied in film school with about 40 minutes added to thicken the plot and characters.

The true shining gem of The Timber is the landscape and how it’s utilized though. The brothers are placed in the horrible wintry hell of the wilderness of Alaska in the film and director O’Brien has a winning knack of being able to capture the massive and claustrophobic landscape in all of its harsh glory. Just seeing these men have to walk through waist deep snow or navigate rocky mountain sides made me tired. The cinematography is Hollywood quality in the film and it really shines as one of the layers to the narrative that works better than it should have. The suffocating snowscapes are their own character and it’s stunningly well realized.

It does have to be mentioned that occasionally The Timber will lean from the atmospheric and low key artistic narrative into some genre territory. In particular, there is a sequence where the elder brother must use the help of a tongue-less mountain man to find his brother who has been abducted by a cannibal living in a cave. Truthfully, O’Brien and company shoot this sequence with the utmost respect and don’t necessarily cater to its exploitative nature, but it’s kind of an odd scene when the rest of the film is generally written and shot in a very realistic tone. This happens a handful of times and it does toy a bit with the expectations of the viewer. It’s fun, truthfully, but not necessarily the most cohesive pieces in the film.

The snow. It covers EVERTHING!
The Timber is a film that has all of the foundations to be one of the best modern westerns released in the last ten years. Unfortunately, it tends to miss out on really selling its characters, their situations, and the plot progressions by being too subtle and too short in its narrative. It’s still quite enjoyable in many ways with some fun performances, stunning cinematography, and a bitter tone to the film that cuts through the viewer like a knife. In the end though, it just doesn’t grab some of the great things about the film and run with them leaving moments to wander about the woods…looking for their own way home.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

 If you would like a copy of The Timber, it drops on home video from our friends at Well Go USA on October 6th. Ordering links are provided below if you desire to be snowbound.