Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Swindlers (2017)

Director: Jang Chang-won
Notable Cast: Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Seong-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, Ahn Se-ha, Choi Deok-moon, Choi Il-hwa, Heo Sung-tae, Kim Tae-hoon, Jung Jin-young, Oh Tae-kyung, Cha Soon-bae, Jin Seon-kyu

With the popularity of heist films reaching some seriously outrageous heights at this moment, it’s hard to be truly surprised by any of them. Whether it’s the espionage slants of films like Mission: Impossible and The Adventurers or sleight of hand con-films like Bitcoin Heist and Now You See Me, the films all have a tendency to be fairly predictable in their unpredictability. Audiences know that the film is going to trick them, through visuals, narrative, or out of left field spins and they automatically look for how the film is going to do so. This is the mindset that I went in with into South Korea’s next ‘rogue team of con men and women,’ The Swindlers. While the film certainly plays up its strengths of charm with its substantially effective casting and visually appealing look, The Swindlers takes the sleight of hand motives to whole new levels. This is a film built on tricking its audience, along with many of the characters in the film itself, but the layers upon layers of different angles and illusions make it something to admire. The Swindlers is a film that takes its title to heart and sprints with it to the finish unveiling one of the most fascinatingly complex and entertaining cinematic con films to experience.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Animal Factory (2000)

Director Steve Buscemi
Notable Cast: Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Danny Trejo, Mark Boone Junior, Seymour Cassel, Mickey Rourke, Tom Arnold, John Heard

Animal Factory is one of those films that has crossed my path while researching films a handful of times, but I’ve never really bothered to dig into the whos, whys, and whats about the film in any serious regard. If I had, I would have seen that the film contains perhaps one of the most peculiar cast listings ever gathered on film. Directed by cult actor Steve Buscemi, Animal Factory takes its robust cast and goes for a slow burn and realistic story that’s more concerned with the characters and their interactions than a truly thrilling plot or dynamic narrative. At its core character drama, the film succeeds, but when it comes to being something that rises above that one foundational element it refuses to be nearly as entertaining or as dramatically effective with its narrative and story as it might have with the talents involved. It’s a film that certainly has its merits as a dramatic piece of cinema, but the more that it sits with me the more it feels like it could have been so much more.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Top 5 Modern Christmas Horror Classics

It’s now post-Thanksgiving here in the US and that only means one thing: Christmas has already been in our social conscious for four months. Seriously though, retailers have been prepping the masses for the Yule Tide cheer for months already. For most of us though, it’s not until after Thanksgiving and Black Friday that we really start to get into the Christmas spirit. For cult cinema fans, that means busting out the “non-traditional” Christmas classics from our collections. For many of us in particular, that means the popular Christmas horror sub-genre. We already all have our favorites for this genre, whether it’s Bob Clark’s nihilistic Black Christmas or the comedic scares of Gremlins, but for this article I wanted to dig into some of the modern films that deserve some love.

To qualify for the modern list, the film had to be released after the year 2000 and it had to be a horror film that embraced the tone and feel of Christmas. This can be a hard thing to define ultimately and I’m sure readers will immediately fill my inbox with suggestions of things I missed (which I wholly encourage since there are plenty of gems out there that I have overlooked), but for each film picked there is a little blurb as reasoning for its selection. As much as I loved this year’s Better Watch Out or the French extreme flick Inside, those films don’t quite embrace the Christmas time aura needed for it to make the list. Although I would love to hear otherwise from our readers.

So enjoy this Top 5 Modern Christmas Horror Classics list, spit some blood in the comments to let us know what we missed and why, and share it with your friends. Spread the cheer. Spread the screams. Cause it’s Christmas horror season.

05. Silent Night

It’s only natural that I start this list with the most controversial pick. Steven C. Miller’s much hated remake of the Christmas horror classic Silent Night, Deadly Night does do things in such a strange and often tongue-in-cheek manner that it’s one I always find myself watching this time of year. If you read my original review for Silent Night, I’m pretty harsh on it myself, but over time the film has grown on me with its outrageous concepts, fun visuals, and just hilarious moments of cheesy horror. In a way, this is the perfect viewing companion with the (also) very hated Black Christmas remake, but I think this one might just edge that one out as a fun classic that will ultimately find its devout cult audience.

04. A Christmas Horror Story

Anthologies right now are all the rage in horror (they come and go in spurts of popularity, really) and Christmas horror movies are also hitting a heavy stride in popularity, so it’s only natural to expect that there would be one to combine the two. Like many anthologies, the quality of segments wavers and as each segment attempts to bring a different kind of horror to the mix including a ghost story, a Twilight Zone-ish fantasy horror, and a monster story. Yet, it’s the inclusion of a segment where Santa must battle hordes of zombie elves that truly cements this on the list. Not to mention, it’s narrated by William Shatner? Yeah, A Christmas Horror Story a modern Christmas horror classic for those last two things alone.

03. Saint [Sint]

Dick Maas already defined his role as a cult horror director with his killer elevator films Lift and Down along with his cult classic Amsterdamned, which all recently were released on Blu Ray and I highly suggest picking them up or renting them on VOD, but his leap into Christmas horror with Sint – released in the US as Saint – is an instant classic for the season. One-part dark comedy, one-part fantasy, and all horror, Sint is outlandish and often perplexing in the best ways. Seeing a zombie European cloaked Santa riding a zombie horse on rooftops aside, the film has plenty of moments that are unforgettable and brilliantly executed and it remains one of my favorites for the season for a reason. This is one that is often overlooked by fans and shouldn’t be. It’s a genre bending and heartfelt film that earns its cult status.

02. Rare Exports

Another European film about the dark origins of Santa like the previous entry, Rare Exports, also released as Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, is the Finnish modern equivalent to classic family friendly fringed horror like The Goonies and Gremlins in tone and it’s brilliant to watch. It spins the narrative, uncovering an ancient and evil Santa, as it follows our young protagonist while it mixes a lot of childish fun with fantasy and some truly dark and horrific moments. Its themes about family and heart make it weirdly effective as a Christmas film on its own even outside of the horror aspects. Simply put, this is a must see in the next month or so.


This is the one film that was obvious to me that it was going to make the list, not matter what. Director Michael Dougherty set the standard for modern day horror that embraces the Halloween spirit with his film Trick R’ Treat and it’s impressive that he was able to do the same with Krampus. With only a PG-13 rating, he crafts a film that’s filled with laughs, scares, and just straight out strange things in it that – like the previous entry on this list – can actually work as a film for the whole family as much as it does a horror film. Just a couple of months ago I saw a kid, maybe 10 years old, watching this film on a plane and it wasn’t even close to being Christmas season. That’s impressive. Not to mention, this film has also spawned one of the worst trends ever of terrible, horrible Krampus themed films that litter the shelves of Wal-Mart. There’s gotta be something to a film that spawns that kind of weird phenomenon.

So now that you know my top five picks for best modern Christmas horror classics, what’s yours? Do you agree with the list above? What have we missed here at Blood Brothers? Spit some blood below and let us know what are your favorite films that deserve some recognition.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Chasing the Dragon (2017)

Directors: Jason Kwan, Wong Jing
Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Kent Cheng, Wilfred Lau, Felix Wong, Philip Keung, Michelle Hu, Raquel Xu, Chun Wong, Philip Ng, Kent Tong, Niki Chow, Bryan Larkin

There was a lot of hype around Chasing the Dragon. The ever-present director and producer Wong Jing along with director Jason Kwan were going to take superstars Donnie Yen and the everlasting Andy Lau and develop a remake of the award-winning Hong Kong film, To Be Number One. It’s enticing to say the least. This much talent wrapped into a Hong Kong dramatic thriller was bound to generate this kind of buzz. Enough buzz and hype that it was almost destined to disappoint on some level. Yet, Chasing the Dragon is an ambitious film nonetheless, utilizing its immense onscreen talents to generate a film that is built on some insanely effective moments of emotional power and striking imagery. It’s obvious though that Wong Jing and company take the film too far into its ambitious realms to be as strong as it might have, forgoing the ‘less is more’ mantra to create an epic tone for the film. It’s attempts at being the next Scarface, Godfather, or Battles Without Honor and Humanity are evident from the start and can ultimately be problematic for the film as a whole, but Chasing the Dragon still works as an entertaining and hefty piece of modern Hong Kong cinema.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Wu Kong (2017)

Director: Derek Kwok
Notable Cast: Eddie Peng, Ni Ni, Shawn Yue, Oho Ou, Zheng Shuang, Faye Yu Fei-Hong, Quao Shan, Yang Di, Wang De-shun, Quentin Zhang, Zhang Yi-Qian

The recent explosion of various Monkey King films from China’s film industry can be a bit overwhelming to keep straight. It’s not that there hasn’t always been an obsession with the Monkey King (and Journey to the West) stories in the market, but lately it seems even more intense. Animated films and two major franchises have seen releases in the last handful of years, so when a potential new franchise was announced for the character it was a bit yawn inducing. The Monkey King franchise covered the family friendly aspects of the character for his mischievous adventures and Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West films covered the more traditional stories nicely and with plenty of pizzazz in blending comedy, action, and heart. So what could the latest film Wu Kong, directed by Derek Kwok and starring A-lister Eddie Peng as the titular Monkey King, really bring to the table? As it turns out, much more than expected. Based on a popular online novel, Wu Kong forgoes the traditional dynamics of the Journey to the West story and goes for more of an origin of the character and the result is actually quite impressive. It’s executed in striking fashion and the film takes a more humane and emotional bent for the character that’s much more adult oriented than The Monkey King, which tried to pull off the same concept. For films that feature the Monkey King as one of the lead characters, I have to admit that Wu Kong just might be my favorite of recent memory which comes as a huge surprise to me.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Blood Splatter: 2017 Horror Vol. 4 [Raw, 1922, Jackals]

RAW (2017)
Director: Julia Ducournau
Notable Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss

The fascinating thing about Raw is that with all of its exploitative content (cannibalism, gore, sexuality) that it never treats itself like an exploitation film. It uses all of those elements to simply convey some of the themes of its story in heavy handed, but wholly cinematic ways. Themes about feminism, familial influence, coming-of-age youth pieces, communication, and the strange stresses that can break down students new to college are all seemingly fitted into a plot about a young woman who succumbs to cannibalistic urges, more or less. The balance and artfulness of how those themes congeal though is impressive to say the least. Raw is artfully done and it is the kind of horror film that will resonate much longer than many of its peers thanks to its layered and robust writing/execution that allows for lengthy cinephile analysis. In many ways, the film is much akin to early Cronenberg, albeit without the rough edges and fiesty 'be all, end all' energy, and for that I give it much praise.

Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder
Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, JK Simmons, Connie Nielsen, Ciaran Hinds, Joe Morton, Amber Heard, Billy Crudup

At some point, I should just know better. To get my hopes up at all that Justice League could pull off the ambitious task of continuing the plotting of where Batman V Superman left off, introduce three new heroes, and still manage to balance the tones and intents of the course correcting DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) was just silly. Perhaps it was the heights that Wonder Woman actually reached as a heartfelt and interesting blockbuster that made me hope for the best. Perhaps it was the rumors and articles claiming Joss Whedon had to do extensive reshoots to try and produce a stronger film that made me hope Justice League would work. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter all that much because Justice League is a film that tries to cover its gaping holes and problematic issues with quips, cheesy moments, and the quickest pace of any DCCU film thus far. No matter how much fun the film tries to be, it’s built on extremely cracked and challenging foundations that undermine the experience of the film.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Black Butterfly (2017)

Director: Brian Goodman
Notable Cast: Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Piper Perabo, Abel Ferrara, Vincent Riotta, Nathalie Rapti Gomez, Randall Paul, Katie McGovern

Pairing up Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is this weird thing that I never expected and was somewhat excited to see. The initial trailers for Black Butterfly seemed to indicate that the film would end up being a more mundane thriller, relying on some kind of twist to carry the film more than anything else, but the powerhouse screen devouring talents of the two leads should make the film worth the watch. Fortunately and unfortunately, both of the above assumptions based on the trailer were somewhat true. Black Butterfly is carried by two fantastic performances that continually attempt to top the other, but it’s also a film that spends a lot of time being an above average, but not great, thriller that ultimately relies on a few key moments to hook the audience into its narrative.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975)

Director: Sergio Martino
Notable Cast: Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer, Lia Tanzi, Gianfranco Barra, Patrizia Castaldi, Adolfo Caruso, Jenny Tamburi, Massimo Girotti

Sergio Martino, like many of his peers in the Italian genre film industry of the time period, was not boxed into crafting one genre. He directed horror, science fiction, westerns, and many kinds of films. Sometimes, he would direct multiple genres in one film. While often The Suspicious Death of a Minor is labeled as a giallo, this film is a lot more diverse than just that one classifier would indicate. It occasionally has trouble finding its own momentum and narrative flow as it navigates the treacherous minefield of genre shifting, but it does leave the audience unsure of what to expect in the film as it unfolds and that does add to the experience of watching it. Through the newest Blu Ray release of the film, courtesy of cult cinema champions Arrow Video, it’s time to revisit one of Martino’s most subtlety odd and intriguing films just to see why it succeeds and falters at its own game.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Party 'Round the Globe (2017)

Director: Hirobumi Watanabe

Notable Cast: Gaku Imamura, Hirobumi Watanabe, Ringo

Premiering at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, Hirobumi Watanabe's forth feature film, Party 'Round the Globe, trots familiar territory whilst also feeling somewhat fresh as it morphs into a celebration of cinema, music, baseball and really just life itself. Does it chart new ground? Not really, but fans of Watanabe's style will most certainly find themselves in for a treat as his gorgeous black and white, witty examination of life continues, this time in a electronics shop.

I absolutely adore Watanabe and his cinematic worlds, and for those who know me, have heard time and time again that Poolsideman, the filmmaker's previous, is easily my favorite film of 2017, and that still stands as we are quickly beginning to draw near the end of this year's cycle. That film took everything I loved about this previous two works and mixed them into something totally original and very impacting. Everything about that film clicked and just worked for me. The social commentary and character study Poolsideman examines crafts and timely and masterful piece of work by a director very early into his career, with his debut And the Mud Ship Sails Away, only having come out in 2013. Perhaps nothing will reach the heights of that film again for me, but going into Party I was excited, and ultimately it doesn't disappoint, though it may perhaps be my least favorite Watanabe outing to date.

A Taxi Driver (2017)

Director: Jang Hoon
Notable Cast: Song Kang-ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Ryoo Jeon-yeol, Yoo Hae-jin

Based on the true story of a Seoul-based Korean taxi driver, Kim Sa-Bok, and German reporter J├╝rgen Hinzpeter, A Taxi Driver is a cinematic retelling of a cowardly driver turned courageous as he escorts a foreign man into the hellish Gwangju, a city which was undergoing heinous violence and oppression from its dictator government during an uprising in the 1980s, that in which before these two men infiltrated the city, was being kept a big secreted and fabricated into a lie, broadcast to the rest of the country.

Right from the get go, Song Kang-ho has the power to allure even the snobbiest of film goer. He is the definition of a true star, but unlike most stars, at least in the Western reaches of cinema, Song can act like no one else of his caliber can. He's playing his typical goofy and sort of bumbling self, which he has gotten quite good at over the years, but as usual, he is very likable and charming in that offbeat way that only Song Kang-ho can do in the form that he does.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)

Director: Victor Salva
Notable Cast: Meg Foster, Gabrielle Haugh, Stan Shaw, Joyce Giraud, Jordan Salloum, Ryan Moore, Brandon Smith, Gina Phillips, Jonathan Breck

For a little context, I’ve been a huge Jeepers Creepers fan since the original one came out in 2001 and even quite enjoy the second film. They are fun monster flicks with just enough oddities and dark humor to really run with the concept. Since Jeepers Creepers 2 came out, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the third film that has been rumored for years. Whether or not Salva was involved, I really wanted to see this series keep going. Ring in 2017, the year where things go horrifically awry, and Jeepers Creepers 3 ends up getting a one night theatrical showing in limited theaters and then premieres on the SYFY channel. It’s the latter where I was able to catch the film and…truthfully, it’s where it belongs. Not only is Jeepers Creepers 3 a terrible sequel to a surprisingly effective franchise, but it’s one of the worst films I’ve seen this year. To steal a common online phrase, it’s a dumpster fire.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Creep 2 (2017)

Director: Patrick Brice
Notable Cast: Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan, Karan Soni, Patrick Brice, Caveh Zahedi, Kyle Field, Jeff Man

Creep was one of those films that seemingly came out of nowhere, surprised the hell out of everyone that saw it, and created its own cult status through its ingenuity and impressive execution. It was also a film that, by the end, told the story it wanted to tell. Its strength was in its ability to ride a line where the audience didn’t know what was going to happen and who Duplass’ character really was, so when that is all covered by the end, the story was done. This is what made Creep 2 a wild card film. Sure, the first one was a low-key success and it received wide spread critical acclaim, but how do you pull out a sequel when the main contributing factor to the predecessor’s strength was its surprise?

You do it just like Creep 2 does it. It acknowledges that the audience is aware of the circumstances of the first film, continues to use its sense of unease and another stellar performance from Duplass as an anchor, and then spins those things back into creating that same sense of unease where viewers still don’t know how it’s going to end. Like the first one, it’s rather brilliant.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Let the Corpses Tan (2017)

Directors: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Notable Cast: Elina Lowensohn, Stephane Ferrara, Bernie Bonvoisin, Michelangelo Marchese, Marc Barbe, Marine Sainsily, Herve Sogne, Pierre Nisse, Aline Stevens, Dorylia Calmel, Marilyn Jess

Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani have already established themselves as vulgar auteur artists. Their first two films, giallo inspired and mesmerizing horror films Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, did divide horror fans with their intense modern manipulation of classic 70s Italian style, but in their efforts they have developed a devoted cult following. A following that I subscribe to. When the chance arose to see their latest film, Let the Corpses Tan, at the Denver Film Festival, I was immediately there. The audience was new to the directors and their style, as indicated when the presenter asked who had seen their work and I was the only one to raise my hand, and, in all honesty, Let the Corpses Tan was a good way to introduce the audience to their work. It’s easily their most cohesive film when it comes to being consumable for viewers and while it still retains their often-abrasive moments of violence, eroticism, and dynamic narrative structures, the film has a lot more dialogue, plot, and defined characters than any of their previous work. And Let the Corpses Tan still soars as an artistic endeavor.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Red Christmas (2017)

Director: Craig Anderson
Notable Cast: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Sarah Bishop, David Collins, Janis McGavin, Gerard O’Dwyer, Bjorn Stewart, Deelia Meriel, Sam Campbell

Holiday themed slashers are all the craze right now and in indie, low budget horror it’s thriving. After watching films like All Through the House, A Christmas Horror Story, and having films like Good Tidings and Better Watch Out on my upcoming queue for the season, it felt proper to watch at least one during the Halloween binge I had in October. That film was the Australian film Red Christmas. Oozing with style, this controversial topic emblazoned slasher is pure exploitation (Ozploitation) and yet executed with absolute intent on being taken seriously as a horror film meant to stir a debate and it’s here that perhaps the film will either win its audience or lose them, as any truly effective cult film will accomplish. In that sense, it’s hard not to praise Red Christmas even if it has its problematic moments and pieces. Its intent is executed with style.