Sunday, December 31, 2017

For God's Sake, Get Out!: The Amityville Horror Franchise Ranked

It’s often considered one of the classics of the era. The 1970s was defined by plenty of satanic powered horror films, but one film that rose to the top of the social conscious of the film consuming community was The Amityville Horror. The story of the Amityville house and the families that lived in it have inspired a lot different films, both as part of the official series and the multitude of knock offs, and whether you believe the events that spawned these films are true, it’s created a cultural phenomenon that really can’t be ignored when it comes to genre films. It’s a film series that is often instantly recognizable to people that don’t even watch horror films and there’s something to be said about that.

With the release of the latest “official” Amityville sequel, I realized I had not visited much of the series in many, many years. The overwhelming amount of knock offs in recent years has made it feel like a chore to even figure out which ones counted anymore and it’s not like I’ve ever felt a strong connection to the franchise to begin with. Yet, over the last handful of weeks the continued survival of the series has perked my curiosity and I became irrationally inclined to punish myself by watching them all. To justify this asinine craving, I decided that these films needed to be ranked in order from worst to best and then to justify that effort it was going to become an article for Blood Brothers Film Reviews. That’s where we are at right now.

This is the result; a list ranking all of the official Amityville Horror films. Now, there are a TON of various unofficial entries, knock offs, and unrelated horror films that simply slap the Amityville name on them to sell a few copies in big box stores, so I apologize ahead of time if I don’t rank some of the terrible films that people want to see covered. If you really want to see those covered, feel free to comment below with the ones that deserve some attention, but for the time being this list will stick to whatever I suppose defines an official entry for this scattered and wildly uneven franchise.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Master and Asura: The City of Madness (2016/2017)

MASTER (2017)
Director: Cho Ui-seok
Notable Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kang Dong-won, Kim Woo-bin, Uhm Ji-won, Oh Dal-su, Jin Kyung

At this point, the South Korean market is so good at making thrillers that it’s setting the bar too high for them to even keep up. Master is the victim of that bar standard. If this film was made in Hollywood, it was easily be one of the best that Hollywood has made this year if not in the last handful of years and yet, compared to the two kinds of thrillers that South Korea is producing, it feels occasionally disjointed and safe.

Master tries to be a complex socio-political-economic thriller as it takes two heroes and pits them against a financial criminal mastermind, played with impressive swagger by Lee Byung-hun, who is running a massive pyramid scheme. This is problematic, outside of being ambitious, because it’s very dense material. A plethora of various characters, two leads, and enough plot to make two movies. Two movies that are jammed into one. The first hour is purely set up, but it’s built like its own film and reaches a natural climax and everything. The second half then jumps ahead six months (or more, as memory seems to escape me at this moment) and proceeds to build an entirely new plot where our leads must re-team up to find the baddie AGAIN and hunt him down. It’s a ballsy maneuver for the film, but it’s a lot to consume for a two and half hour piece of cinema. Respect, for sure, but also not perhaps the most efficient maneuver when both pieces could have been fantastic films on their own. On top of that, the film is neither the dark and ambitious thriller nor the overly entertaining and hammy ones that South Korea is known for producing. It tries to be both and in that effort, does go far enough in either direction. For many fans, this riding the line will be wonderful for consumption, but ultimately for this reviewer it felt like they didn’t want to make a choice one way or the other and it’s a tad disappointing.

Josh Parmer's Top 15 Japanese Films of 2017


15.) BAMY - dir. Jun Tanaka

Admittedly BAMY is a film that frustrates me as much as it does entertain and haunt me. That said, the good outweighs the bad and here Jun Tanaka crafts one of the creepiest and effective ghost stories seen in a very long time, from anywhere in the world. With its long plethora of festival runs, I wouldn't be surprised if this snags some international releases, and rightfully so. If you are looking for a solid J-horror experience in 2017, look no further.

14.) Party 'Round the Globe - dir. Hirobumi Watanabe

Watanabe's 4th and most recent feature premiered at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, where Hirobumi and his brother Yuji have become sort of rock stars at. His newest effort may technically be my least favorite of his output thus far but it is by no means a bad film whatsoever. In fact it is a lot of fun and Hirobumi and Gaku Imamura both give wonderful performances coupled with the same hilarious chemistry they displayed in their previous Poolsideman. Party 'Round the Globe is a beautiful and funny celebration of life in all of its simple glory!

13.) Going the Distance - dir. Yujiro Matsumoto

Though it premiered in 2016 technically, Camera Japan 2017 picked Mr. Matsumoto's debut film as part of its official selection, giving me the opportunity to put it on this year's list. Going the Distance is a heartbreaking tale of brotherhood and a failing relantionship, with a broken boxer at the center of a choosing between these two on which to save. While the film stumbles at times, Shinichiro Matsuura really carries the film on his shoulders with gravitas and his chemistry with Masahiro Umeda really elevates it where the story does not occasionally. Yujiro Matsumoto will be a director to keep a close eye on!

12.) Yamato (California) - dir. Daisuke Miyazaki

At this year's Japan Cuts film festival in New York, a little indie film beatboxed and rapped its way into the heart of this unexpected fan. Miyazaki blends elements of hip-hop and rap with the gritty isolation of youth theme found in plenty of indie features this day in Japanese cinema. In doing so he has crafted a unique and unforgettable world, focusing with a sharp social commentary on life by the U.S military bases in Japan. Kan Hanae delivers one of the finest perfomances of the years as the budding young rapper looking for her own way and voice in this hectic world.

11.) At the Terrace - dir. Kenji Yamauchi

One of the most unique cinematic experiences of the year goes to Yamauchi's very stage theatric celebratory nod, the one location centric At the Terrace. Some of the finest written dialogue in quite sometime with some of the funniest banter I've ever witnessed. I don't want to spoil anything but nice little twists and turns coupled with some very interesting and eye-catching cinematography make for one of the year's most entertaining films. Also, the end credits still linger with me after many months and bring a smile to my face.

10.) Alley Cat - dir. Hideo Sakaki

Keeping up with most releases coming out of Japan, it shocked me that I knew nothing of this one going into it for Japan Cuts this year, but I'm very glad to have experienced this one blind. A wonderful and at times dark but highly entertaining and fruitful journey. A sort of throwback to the buddy cop (albeit they aren't cops at all) movies of yesteryear, Alley Cat is one of the most charming films on this list. Really a shame this movie won't see much play outside of its home country. I could see this one doing quite well stateside. It's a little niche naturally, but fairly accessible in its narrative structure and delivery. Plus it has some pretty awesome boxing moments scattered throughout and an adorable cat that ties everything together quite nicely.

9.) Hengyoro (Queer Fish Lane) - dir. Go Takamine

To say I don't entirely comprehend this experimental work is a vast understatement, but to say it is one of the most strangely profound cinematic experiences of the year seems to be representative of the truth. When someone embarks on this unique journey, it is quite clear from the get go whether you are on board or not. I loved every second of it, and frankly can't wait to revisit. Does that sell anyone? No. Do I highly recommend you see for yourself? Absolutely.

8.) Antiporno - dir. Sion Sono

Sono, the meistro of chaotic cinema, gives his biggest middle finger to the system yet with the powerful and highly enraged examination of the objectification of women in cinema with the very loud and equally beautiful Antiporno. Fans, like myself in this case, that were worried that Mr. Sono was travelling off the beaten path should have no worries with this wonderful and welcoming return to form. Must be noted that I have yet to his 2015 arthouse endeavor, The Whispering Star, which everyone hails as a masterpiece. Regardless, this marks a high point in Sono's recent and more entertainment than thought provoking oriented output and I applaud it for its brave and blunt approach to the topic at hand!

7.) Love and Other Cults - dir. Eiji Uchida

Not since the aforementioned Sion Sono, have I been as thrilled by a modern Japanese director with constant intriguing output. 2013's indie gem Greatful Dead and 2016's even more rewarding Lowlife Love helped to force Eiji Uchida into my heart and this year's outing by the genius cemented my affinity towards his works and moved him into the upper echelon of my favorite working directors today, from anywhere. Uchida seemed to take the best elements of his previous two works and meshed them into a near masterpiece. Love and Other Cults is one of the most original pieces of work in years. Everything about it is near perfect and since I'm only doing little blurbs here, to save you time, go seek it out... now!

6.) The Sower - dir. Takeuchi Yosuke

One of the most heartwrenching films this year as stands as one of the finest directorial debuts in recent memory. Takeuchi Yosuke takes inspiration from the famous paintings of Jean-Francois Millet and Vincent Van Gogh sharing the same title as the film, The Sower focuses on the downfall of a close knit family when a tragedy strikes after the children's estranged uncle Mitsuo shows up one day. Without spoiling, what ensues is one the most beautiful and pure cases of raw acting I've seen displayed. The acting comes so natural, it felt like a documentary at times. Not a single misfire nor mistep throughout the entire film. A near masterpiece.

5.) Journey of the Tortoise - dir. Tadashi Nagayama

A last minute pick that I only watched the day of crafting this list, Journey of the Tortoise is a hilarious and moving road movie about a man, his son and their tortoise. Living a seemingly "normal" life, the three are bombarded in their daily routine as the boy's uncle and his fiancee suddenly burst into their house. They force them to go on a road trip to their suddenly slapdash wedding ceremony and once they embark towards the destination at hand, things quickly begin to spiral out of control. The entire plot of the film itself is goofy and the tone is fun overall but shifts throughout. It's very much a you're in or you're out kind of film, and for those willing to take the ride, you are in for a special treat. It's a unique comedy with an endearing and fearless performance by its leading man, Tomoki Kimura, making for one of my absolute favortie performances of the year, if not my very favorite. Fingers crossed a boutique label picks this one up for release outside of Japan.

4.) Noise - dir. Matsumoto Yusaku

Another directorial debut that absolutely blew me away this year was Matsumoto's masterfully woven labyrinth of broken souls, the highly thought provoking Noise. The film focuses around the aftermath of the Akihabara massacre that occured in 2008, where a man ran over and then proceeded to stab over a dozen people in a random attack in the world renown shopping plaza in Tokyo. We follow several victims, related said tragedy, and see their daily lives. I could go on but the plot itself requires more space than I should use up. Simply put, Noise says a lot about broken society circles in Japan and how one event can change the course of your entire life forever. Echoes of Lee Sang-il are felt throughout and for a first time director to compete on the same level as a master of the medium, I cannot wait to see where this young filmmaker goes next.

Note: Easily 2017's best cinematography.

3.) Love and Goodbye and Hawaii - dir. Shingo Matsumura

A simple yet delightful and poignant story of a man and woman going through a break up. Going into this one initially I wasn't really sure what I was going to get out of it, but ended up pleasantly surprised. It feels very warm and endearing with the two leads having perfect chemistry. It's very funny at times and sad at others. Shingo Matsumura crafts the perfect type of romance movie that feels so true to life. Filled with plenty of memorable moments and one of my favorite endings of the year, Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is familiar yet fresh. Just the right amount of every ingredient you could want for this type of work. In a world filled with so much negativity and darkness, this little movie shines brightly and needs sought out by many more movie goers.

2.) Tokyo Idols - dir. Kyoko Miyake

The sole documentary on my list this year shook me to my core and left me feeling disgusted. Tokyo Idols focuses on a few up and coming pop idols as these ladies essentially sell themselves out to typically old perverted men, feeling as if that is their only choice at meaning something and being known in their society. There is so much more to it than that and it shows at heartbreaking side of Japanese culture that I had only heard about. It opened my eyes to something I frankly wish I hadn't had to have experienced but I'm very glad I have. The industry that puts these young girls  on a pedestal as these "superior men" gravel at their feet, worshipping their every breath, has left a bad taste in my mouth and broken my heart. This is the kind of documentary that will have people talking and the type of filmmaking to truly make waves in a society and hopefully change the course of its people. Tokyo Idols one of the most important films of modern times.

1.) Poolsideman - dir. Hirobumi Watanabe

Back at the beginning of the year, in January if memory serves correct, I had the great pleasure of seeing this indie gem, which premiered at 2016's Tokyo International Film Festival, which I thought would prevent it from making this list. Thankfully someone came along and gave Poolsideman its proper theatrical run in Japan and justified my putting it here. Hirobumi Watanabe took the best elements from both of his previous works and crafted the funniest and chilling experience of 2017. The mundane and repetitious life of an inside pool worker who engages in only the most vile of real life world news headlines in his spare time, slowly and meticulously builds to the single most haunting ending I can think of in a very long time. The cinematography is simply beautiful and the rhythm of the editing and scenes accompanied by equally effective music by Yuji Watanabe and a silent but powerful perfomance by first timer Gaku Imamura, puts Poolsideman at a very deserved number one spot. This is the unique type of cinematic experience that only happens once in a while, and its relevance in the current state of the world demands it to be seen by more. Let's just hope it finds the crowd it deserves!

Written by Josh Parmer 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Secret of the Shaolin Poles (1977) / Shaolin Drunken Monk (1981)

Director: Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun
Notable Cast: Mang Fei, Kurata Yasuaki, Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, Chang Yu, Lau Kar-Wing, Tso Yen-Yung, Doris Lung Chun-Erh, Yeh Hsiao-Yee
Also Known As: Bruce and Shaolin Poles, The Prodigal Son 3: Secret of the Shaolin Poles

Truthfully, I waited much too long to watch Secret of the Shaolin Poles. The film has a lot of great things to hook a fan of martial arts films including a rather impressive cast that includes Mang Fei, Lau Kar-Wing, and Kurata Yasuaki and action direction from the iconic Liu Chia-Liang (Lau Kar Leung). Just those two things should have made the film one to seek out, but a lacking legitimate release hindered my enthusiasm for the film. Still, despite the poor quality of physical material – including the usual and often unintentionally humorous dubbing and horrifically cropped frame work that rears its ugly head in the final fight sequence at its worst, Secret of the Shaolin Poles is still an impressive kung fu flick.

Pulp (1972)

Director: Mike Hodges
Notable Cast: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini, Dennis Price, Al Lettieri, Leopoldo Trieste, Amerigo Tot, Robert Sacci

Pulp was a wild card film for me. Although I had previously enjoyed the combination of Michael Caine and director Mike Hodges in the original Get Carter, the idea of them working together on a comedy noir didn’t necessarily seem to be a sure-fire winner out of the gate and the lack of longevity for the film in cinephile circles didn’t bode well either. When Arrow Video announced the film for its end of 2017 line up though, it perked my interest. Arrow is known for finding cult gems and giving them the love they deserve and if Pulp was on the docket then it deserved a watch. Pulp is a tough film to crack though and it can be easy to see why it didn’t resonate as well as a film like Get Carter did through the years. Not only is it rooted in a lot of cultural references to the period, but its slow building noir foundation mixed with desert dry humor doesn’t just appeal to the more casual cinephile. Even then, the film has an impeccable sense of what it is in a kind of self-referential manner and once the style settles in it becomes a comedic romp that will certainly find a new cult audience.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Blood Splatter: 2017 Action Films Vol 1 [Beyond Skyline, Armed Response, 24 Hours to Live]

Director: Liam O’Donnell
Notable Cast: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais, Callan Mulvey, Jonny Weston, Yayan Ruhian, Pamelyn Chee, Betty Gabriel, Antonio Fargas, Jacob Vargas

Most critics and fans found the first Skyline to be a mixed effort, if not straight out disappointing. When the sequel was announced, it was then somewhat surprising. Skyline wasn’t even a box office hit overall either, so why make a sequel? Outside of the cliffhanger ending of the first one, it was hard for me to justify this film’s existence even when I saw the robust action cast in it. That is, until I saw it. Specifically, Beyond Skyline improves on the one thing that the first one had trouble embracing – it’s B-movie foundation. Instead of trying so hard to be a tense and intimate science fiction horror film, Beyond Skyline shoots for the stars and just leaps into being a full on entertaining vehicle for broad stroke characters and outlandish plotting.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (2017)

Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Notable Cast: Da Peng, Ni Ni, Aarif Lee Chi-Ting, Zhou Dong0Yu, Wu Bai, Ada Liu Yan, Xu Ming-Hu, Yang Yi-Wei, Xie Miao, Sun Ming-Ming

In preparation for the release of The Thousand Faces of Dunjia, I went back to rewatch the comedic fantasy martial arts film that it was supposedly a loose remake of, The Miracle Fighters. If anything, it was meant to get my mind into the general tone of the outrageous schemes of the nonsense comedy meets martial arts style and also as a refresher on the plot. Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea because The Thousand Faces of Dunjia, outside of being directed by the iconic Yuen Woo Ping and being sold as a loose remake of The Miracle Fighters, is far more in line with modern Tsui Hark films than Yuen Woo Ping films. This should be obvious since Tsui Hark wrote and co-produced this film, but even then, it came as a bit of a surprise as the film focuses almost fully on the fantasy spectacle of its story rather than the martial arts elements like other fantastical Yuen Woo Ping films like True Legend. The Thousand Faces of Dunjia is a spectacle driven fantasy opera, brimming with charm and powered by sparkling chemistry between its characters. It’s also a film that uses these elements as a crutch for its sporadic script and uneven narrative. Also, as far as I can decipher, it has nothing to do with The Miracle Fighters. So take those initial comparisons out of your mind.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Top 30 Horror Films of 2017

Welcome once again to the Blood Brothers’ annual tradition of dropping our list for best horror films of 2017! Last year we expanded the list to include 30 films and the response from our readers was very positive to include that many, so this year we will continue to cover 30 films. 2017 was a year with quite a bit of remarkably effective and impressive horror films, both from the mainstream development routes and the independent sectors, so making this list was a lot harder than expected. There were films that ably reimagined classics and powered a nostalgic box office explosion, there were films that punched out sociopolitical messages, and there were plenty of surprises to be had – including some of the wealth of underground films that were being released as direct to streaming services via Netflix and Shudder. There was a landscape of daring fringe horror and love letters to the tropes of classics too. It was a diverse year and that will make our readers’ comments and messages even more interesting as the list makes its rounds online.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Notable Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lauren Lee Smith, Nick Searcy, David Hewlett

If you’re a reader of this site, then you already know that Guillermo del Toro is one of our favorite directors in modern cinema. His continued intentions of crafting modern love letters to genres and styles of bygone eras while maintaining his own style and a refreshing fantastical spin on those tropes. For these reasons (and a few more), The Shape of Water was very intriguing. Initial trailers made it look like a pleasantly different spin on the classic Universal monster flick The Creature from the Black Lagoon (one of my personal favorite films of all time) and that alone made it a must-see flick for the year. However, The Shape of Water is far more than that. Like many of del Toro’s other films, this one is a unique blend of various genres threaded together with an immensely effective use of thematic material and written for maximum audience resonance. It doesn’t always play things by the book, thankfully so, and it might be abrasive for more mainstream audiences, but it’s hard for me not to say that this is another masterpiece of cinematic craftmanship from one of the industry’s finest voices. The Shape of Water is stunning from its visuals to its content and it’s not to be missed.

Extraordinary Mission (2018)

Director: Alan Mak, Fletcher Poon
Notable Cast: Huang Xuan, Duan Yi-Hong, Zu Feng, Lang Yue-Ting, David Wang Yao-Qing, Xing Jia-Dong, Wang Yan-Hui

With a title like Extraordinary Mission, it was easy for me to assume that this film would be much more along the lines of a cheesy action film in the veins of Switch, The Adventurers, or even Kung Fu Yoga. However, that’s just based on the title. Cause, you know, it’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek title. While there are certainly elements of the cheesy film that Extraordinary Mission could have been through its plotting and occasionally 80s Hong Kong action inspired action, the film is much more serious and artistic than expected. It’s still entertaining and often dramatically effective, but it does occasionally struggle in balancing it all and comes off as uneven. For Chinese action fans, it’s still a film that hits a lot of the right buttons, but it’s also one that’s torn between two worlds.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Miracle Fighters (1982)

Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Notable Cast: Yuen Yat-Choi, Leung Kar-Yan (Beardy), Yuen Cheung-Yan, Brandy Yuen, Eddy Ko, Yuen Shun-Yi

Even in the various social circles that focus on kung fu films that I frequent, The Miracle Fighters is a film that receives mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s a film that is massively creative and often impressively dedicated to its blend of humor, action, and fantasy. It’s also a film that doesn’t quite find the right balance between those genres as it jams as much entertaining material as possible in its hour and a half run time. Yet, it’s a film that was popular enough to spawn two sequels and an upcoming ‘remake’ in The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (which hits select US theaters this December from Well Go USA) so there must be something to the film, right?

Amityville: The Awakening (2017)


AKA "Amityville: The Lost Tapes", "Amityville 9"

With the release of “The Amityville Horror” remake in 2005 and the found footage horror hit “Paranormal Activity” in 2007 it was only natural for an official Amityville film utilizing the found footage aspect to be announced and Dimension films put “Amityville: The Lost Tapes” in the pre-production pile. When news hit a wave of unofficial “Amityville” films hit the home video market jump-started by the Asylum’s release of “The Amityville Haunting” in 2010 which, not surprisingly, steals the found footage idea. This made it extremely confusing for horror fans trying to decipher the official releases from the unofficial home-made junk as the word “Amityville” is the name of town and cannot be copy-righted so essentially any joe shmoe making a home movie can slap the word “Amityville” into the title and try to sell it off to unsuspecting horror fans. (Below are visual charts aimed at helping people decipher official Amityville entries from the unofficial trash).
While the tidal wave of unofficial “Amityville” junk flooded the market, Dimension’s production of “Amityville: The Lost Tapes” was put in limbo. The producers eventually dropped the found footage aspect (thankfully) and decided to go with a traditional film look under the new title “Amityville: The Awaking”. But the production problems didn’t end there. The film was completed in 2014, only shown to a select few test audiences and then shelved due to mysterious circumstances. 3 years passed by and “Amityville” fans like myself (yes, it is embarrassing to admit) wondered if the film would ever be released, and if it did, was it going to be any good? Did Dimension shelve it due to it being a poor film? To my surprise it did get released this year but only to a limited theatrical run before being dumped onto the streaming market for people to see, get this, for free before eventually getting a DVD and Blu-ray release. So was the film worth the wait after its troubled production… well….
Now that we know “Amityville: The Awakening” is an OFFICIAL “Amityville” film and with the release of “The Amityville Horror” remake in 2005 one would think it is safe to assume that this is a sequel to the remake... still it’s not that simple. Much like the sequels “Texas Chainsaw”, “Children of the Corn: Genesis” and the upcoming “Halloween Returns”, this film is an entry into the ORIGINAL franchise before the remakes making it the ninth entry into that mile long “Amityville” franchise. To make matters even more confusing (as if it weren’t enough already) it is a Meta film, making reference to the ‘films’ of the original “Amityville Horror”, “Amityville II: The Possession” and even the remake. This means the original Amityville films are actually movies in this films universe with “Amityville: The Awakening” taking place in the ‘real world’.
So what we have here is a family with a comatose teenage son moving into the notorious house with a troubled past due to it be located near the hospital for his care and for the low price of purchase. The mother (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) unwisely decides not to tell her teenage daughter of the houses bloody past and of course she finds out through school classmates. It’s not long before strange supernatural occurrences begin to happen and it seems the house is trying to possess the comatose brother, utilizing him to murder his family in the same vein as Ronald Defeo did before the iconic haunting. Can our unruly teen convince her borderline psychotic mom before a massacre occurs?
Unlike the a majority of the later sequels with plots that revolved cursed items from the house, it is refreshing for a plot that takes place within the wood framing of the actual house itself. The acting is decent and the direction by Franck Khalfoun (the “Maniac” remake) is adequate for the most part but where he has trouble is building up the tension and scares. Far too often the he resorts to low quality jump “scares” and poor CGI instead building up tension and atmosphere to well-earned pay-offs. Perhaps I am just spoiled by the recent masterful haunting films like “The Conjuring” from James Wan. Another problem, out of the director’s control, is the obvious post-production tinkering by Dimension films. Apparently the original test screenings of the film were far more exploitative when it came to nudity and violence. The new PG-13 version for wide release shows obvious censoring with awkward cuts, poor flow, short running time and a tacked on ending. A personal problem I had with the film was the decision for Meta story telling. The references to the films “The Amityville Horror”, “Amityville II: The Possession” and the remake (amusing as the characters pass on watching the remake as remakes ‘usually’ suck, ironic since the director got his start directing a remake) were humorous but took me out of the film. They could have done away with the Meta and made it a straight up sequel and the film would have worked out just fine without the distracting ‘wink wink’ to the audience.
Considering all the production problems, delays and nit-picks, “Amityville: Awaking” didn’t end up that bad and far better than general consensus dictates. I heard horror fans calling it ‘awful’ but horror fans in general can be the harshest critics. It’s merely an okay film and when it comes to the official “Amityville” series in general, it’s one of the better entries. Perhaps with less post production tinkering, producers seizing control and better direction when it comes to tension and scares it could have been a good film instead. As is horror fans could do FAR worse (like all those home-made unofficial “Amityville” films), just don’t expect along the same quality as the haunted house films made by James Wan.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sleepy Eyes of Death 5: Sword of Fire (1965)

Director: Kenji Misumi
Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Tamao Nakamura, Michiko Sugata, Sanae Nakahara, Ko Nishimura, Ryuzo Shimada, Koichi Mizuhara, Junko Kozakura, Toru Abe

Aka: Nemuri Kyoshiro 5: The Swordsman and the Pirate

By the time that the Sleepy Eyes of Death franchise hits its fifth entry, the series has already seen its fair share of quality shifts and unique approaches to its series formula. It started off on some questionable and pulpy ground, but found a balance between serious artistic merit and those pulpy entertaining pieces with the last few entries. This balance of the previous films is what makes the fifth entry, Sword of Fire, such an intriguing one. Mainly because it’s a film that strips back a lot of the more entertaining elements for a starkly serious thriller tone. Where previous entries use some strong faced characters, snappy dialogue, or dynamic settings, Sword of Fire opts for a ‘less is more’ approach to things and plays its script in subtle ways. For fans of the series, it’s perhaps one of the less memorable ones due to these choices even if the film itself is impressively handled.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stratton (2018)

Director: Simon West
Notable Cast: Dominic Cooper, Gemma Chan, Austin Stowell, Tyler Hoechlin, Tom Felton, Thomas Kretschmann, Olegar Fedoro, Derek Jacobi, Connie Nielsen, Jake Fairbrother

There’s a part of me that sincerely feels bad that Simon West has essentially dropped into the straight-to-home-video realm. Sure, most of his films are glorious B-movies anyway like Con Air and The Expendables 2 with a few questionable ones to add to the mix (*glares at my copy of the When a Stranger Calls remake on my shelf*), but often enough he’s a much stronger director than people give him credit for. His latest film, after the disappointing Gun Shy that just came out, is the espionage film Stratton, which is based on the popular book series. Stratton is a shocking West film though. Shocking enough, that I had to watch it twice to truly appreciate what it was offering after I started it. For all of the great B-action movies that West is known for, Stratton is much more serious and grounded than expected. Reading the synopsis, it sounded like a low-budget James Bond film, but in reality, it takes its Bond-like concept and grounds it in a much more dramatic and subtle espionage thriller akin to Jack Reacher. Yes, Stratton is an effective merging of James Bond meets Jack Reacher. That’s not a sentence I thought I would be typing, but in the end it’s true.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Better Watch Out (2017)

Director: Chris Peckover
Notable Cast: Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Patrick Warburton, Dacre Montgomery, Viginia Madsen, Aleks Mikic

If a person digs through the $5 bin or stumbles into the straight to home video section of their local Wal Mart, one is likely to see that Christmas themed horror films are a dime a dozen in the last couple of years. It’s an easy gimmick to grab and throwing on the word Krampus or a bad Christmas pun for a tagline guarantees a handful of impulse buys in box stores looking for some counter programing to the usual Christmas movies that bombard their TVs. Yet, it’s a sub-genre of horror that does have its merits when properly utilized. This leads to the hesitation and excitement for any new film that adheres to the Christmas theme. Better Watch Out, a rare horror release from our friends at Well Go USA who are known for distributing foreign films usually of the action variety, marks an intriguing spin on the Christmas horror film. It’s a film rooted in the Christmas film idea, at times even going as far as referencing a famous Christmas film that I will talk about here in a bit, but also spins it as a home invasion/survival film with a wickedly effective dark sense of humor. Better Watch Out is a film that somewhat takes its audience in different directions than expected and still presents a film that grows on repeated viewings. Some fans may not love that it doesn’t play its hands up front, but for those going into it with an open mind, Better Watch Out will become an instant holiday horror classic to revisit in years to come.