Thursday, November 26, 2015

RING OF CURSE (aka Gomennasai)

Ring of Curse Movie Review

Tired of being bullied by classmates and her sister, and ignored by her parents, high school student Kurohane finds a way to kill them all--by having them read cursed stories she writes. When classmate Yuka finds out Kurohane's secret she tries to find a way to stop the curse. This 2011 Japanese film is a mix of the familiar with the original, but those familiar with Japanese horror will know what to expect--for the most part anyway. The movie opens with the lead actresses (the members of a Japanese pop band, as it turns out) introducing us to the film and explaining they are playing the roles of real girls and this is based on a true story. When we get rolling we get the story from the perspective of Yuka, hit the turning point in the film, and then get the story told from the perspective of Kurohane. When the story returns to the turning point it is (primarily) told from Yuka's viewpoint once again.

The aforementioned turning point

I am a big fan of the shift in the viewpoint midway through the film, as it gives the viewer a chance to enter the mind of Kurohane and attempt to see what has driven her to where she is in life (and we get to find out how she came across the curse idea). The acting is about what you would expect in this film, though Airi Suzuki does turn in an impressive performance as Yuka. As is standard with this form of Japanese horror there is not a lot of blood or gore, but this film really didn't need it. The story isn't terribly original, but the presentation is slick, and the writing and dialogue are impressive--it comes across almost like a campfire story. You will find yourself questioning the actions of many of the characters, but this is only a little distracting. If you have the patience to sit through a ton of dialogue and slow build you will be rewarded by a fantastic ending--and be sure you stick around for one of the best post-credits scenes you are likely to ever see. Ring of Curse is not a fantastic film, and is not particularly scary, but it is a really well made film--I recommend it.


On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Ring of Curse Movie Trailer (in Japanese)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

Night Of The Demons Movie Review

Angela (Amelia Kinkade) is throwing a Halloween party at an abandoned funeral parlor, and when the party goers arrive, things get spooky. This 1988 film is low budget, has horrible acting, and doesn't bring a whole lot of new ideas to the table, but it is such a fun film. Once the demons start to take over the movie really takes off. The characters are actually interesting, and Kinkade is frightfully fantastic as Angela. One thing I love about this movie, and something that makes it stand out from so many other films of this era, is that it has so many memorable scenes--for example...

Who doesn't love Bauhaus?


Casket lovin'


"How 'bout a magic trick? I'm gonna make this lipstick disappear..."

The makeup and special effects are really well done in this film, especially for a film that, again, had such a low budget. The death scenes are interesting, and, though the movie has more than it's share of horrifying scenes, there are splashes of humor thrown in as well. A couple faces will be familiar, especially legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley, who turns in a memorable performance as Suzanne (see above, third photo). Night of the Demons is not a film that turned the horror world upside down, but it had modest success, amassed a cult following, spawned a couple sequels, and inspired a remake in 2009. The demon voice is laughably bad, the demon itself is a riot, and the sound quality isn't great, but these things, as bad as they are, add to the enjoyment of this movie, and the final scene is absolutely fantastic. I first saw this film when it hit the pay channels of the late 1980s--I loved it then, and almost thirty years later, and countless viewings since, I love it to this day. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

Night Of The Demons Movie Trailer

Monday, November 16, 2015

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

Creature From The Black Lagoon Movie Review

While searching for fossils in the Amazon River a group of scientists come across something they could not have anticipated: a prehistoric man-fish creature. The team now make it their mission to capture (or kill) the Gill Man creature--meanwhile, the creature attempts to capture Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), the female of the group, as he appears to have fallen for her. This 1954 film is an absolute classic, and the Creature (or Gill Man, if you prefer) is considered one of the Universal classic monsters, and for good reason. First, his look...

"Turn off that light!"

During a time when almost all horror/sci fi creatures and monsters looked cheap and ridiculous, the Creature was actually scary looking, and his suit didn't look like it came from the nearest department store. Second, the story itself is interesting, and the suspense is built exceptionally well. The acting is also very good throughout (another rarity at this time in film history). The movie is not without its setbacks, however. The first is this...


Look out below!

A LOT of this film is underwater shots of people swimming--while this adds genuine fear in the case of scenes such as the picture above, when Gill Man is swimming beneath Kay, this, most unfortunately, does not account for much of the underwater scenes--it's usually the doctors swimming...and swimming...and swimming, which, aside from being boring, strips the tension and mood away from the film. The abrupt, ambiguous ending may also turn the viewer off (though it clearly ended as it did to set up possible sequels). These couple minor complaints are certainly not enough to discourage a viewing, however. This was one of my all time favorite movies when I was a child, and I still love it to this day.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

Creature From The Black Lagoon Movie Trailer

Saturday, November 14, 2015

1408

1408 Movie Review

Horror writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack), having spent his entire career debunking the existence of the paranormal, decides to try one final location--New York Dolphin Hotel, room 1408. Once there he fails to heed the warnings of hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson). Soon after entering the room the non-believer is forced to believe. This 2007 film, an adaptation of a Stephen King short story, is a personal favorite of mine. I am a big fan of both Cusack and Jackson, and both do a fantastic job in this film. This film is strong on special effects, but it also has a very good story to work around--Enslin's battles also include having recently watched his daughter die and his wife leave him, and soon after entering room 1408 some of the ghosts of the 56 people who have died in the room begin to torment the writer.

Including this guy

The movie does a wonderful job building the tension, and Cusack's slow decline to madness is brilliantly displayed. This room puts Enslin through everything--heat, extreme cold, delusions, pictures coming to life, flooding, destruction--it's all here, and it's all executed very well. My only major complaint with the movie, unfortunately, is a big one--the build to the climax. The film begins to take twists and turns before the ending, and it is drawn out WAY too much. The film would have benefitted from some cut scenes or, better, more time spent in the room. Still, this alone is not reason enough to not watch this film. It is a great adaptation of a King story (the first really good one in quite some time) and the story and style of shooting are unmistakable nods to Alfred Hitchcock himself.


On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8



1408 Movie Trailer

Thursday, November 12, 2015

SAW 3D (aka Saw 7 / Saw: The Final Chapter)

Saw 3D Saw 7 Movie Review

The seventh (and allegedly final) installment of the Saw series picks up where part 6 left off. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), having survived Jill’s (Betsy Russell) attempt to kill him, is now hunting down Jill while executing the final wishes of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). Meanwhile, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery Boondock Saints) has made a living selling a book claiming he survived a Jigsaw trap and now must truly be tested. The first thing you will notice in this movie is the return of a character. One may also notice not a whole lot of advancement storyline wise with this movie. The plot is a somewhat weak one, by Saw standards anyways—but this is really all okay as the point of this film is to tie up some loose ends and ultimately end the series, and it does a very good job on both levels. This may also be the bloodiest installment of the series, and features more traps than any other, to mixed results.

A good opening trap

Also, very much to my delight, the reverse bear trap FINALLY kills somebody!!!

That answers that question 

*****SPOILER ALERT***** My only real complaints about this film are that Amanda was not in it (except a very brief flashback clip), it seemed a bit rushed, and the return of the character I mentioned previous was very poorly timed. This character should not have been revealed until the end. *****END SPOILER ALERT*****

As a side note, I did see this one in 3D. A couple things were done well with this effect, but this is certainly not a movie that MUST be seen in 3D. To me the end of the Saw series was about as perfect as could have been done, and as much as I love this series, I hope they do not make another one. There is just not a better way to end the series.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

Saw 3D Movie Trailer

SAW VI (aka Saw 6)

Saw VI Movie Review

Mark Hoffman continues John Kramer's deadly game as he targets predatory lenders and, more importantly, the heartless, soulless bastards who run and work for health insurance companies. Meanwhile, the FBI tries to put together the pieces of Peter Strahm's role in the Jigsaw killings, while Jigsaw's former wife Jill executes Jigsaw's final game. If Saw V was a step down in the series (it was), Saw VI is a big step back in the right direction. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (with new director Kevin Greutert) right many of the wrongs of the fifth movie, while adding additional layers to what we already know about Hoffman, Jigsaw, Jill, and even a somewhat returning Amanda. The series of traps the insurance executive, William Easton, has to go through are absolutely fantastic, and includes one of my personal favorites from the entire series.

This one

For the most part the acting is nothing to write home about in this film, and, at times, is actually really bad, in particular Devon Bostick as Brent, the teenager locked up with his Mom--his performance is the worst the series has seen since the infamous Franky G. stunk up the screen in Saw II; still, one can easily overlook this as we see Easton and his cronies receive the comeuppance millions of Americans wish upon health insurance bigwigs. The final scene with him is fantastic, and, in the final scene of the film, we almost see the reverse bear trap from the first film actually kill somebody. I am a big fan of the sixth installment of the Saw series and recommend anybody who gave up on the series after Saw V give this one a shot.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

Saw VI Movie Trailer

SAW V (aka Saw 5)

Saw V Movie Review

Five strangers awaken in a room and, if they are fortunate enough to escape this room, must make their way through several other rooms, all while being told not to do what their instinct tells them to. Meanwhile Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is promoted to Detective Lieutenant but is aware that somebody is on to who he really is. Really this movie focuses almost primarily on Hoffman--his history, how he ended up in cahoots with Jigsaw, etc., and the group of five seem to be there just to have some people go through traps. Scott Patterson returns as Agent Peter Strahm, the man who figures out there's something not quite right about Hoffman.

Things don't get much better for Peter

Melton and Dunstan return to write this installment, and long time production designer David Hackl replaces Darren Lynn Bousman as director, and, well, the results aren't great. The story becomes WAY too convoluted in this outing, focuses far too much on Hoffman, and the acting is, as a whole, the worst we have seen in the series. The "twist" concerning the five is something you will likely figure out early on, and the fact that none of those characters are worth saving makes you care little about them. That said, the final trap is actually pretty good--in a bloody way, of course, and the fate of Peter is nothing short of tragic and gruesome. Naturally, Jigsaw John Kramer is barely in the movie, which only contributes to the disappointment. Ultimately Saw V only serves to make the story of the series murky, and puts pressure on the next two to clear things up. This, to me, is the worst movie in the series.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

Saw V Movie Trailer

SAW IV (aka Saw 4)

Saw IV Movie Review

Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) realizes his test has not concluded, and we see Lieutenant Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is now also being tested after he proves he is reckless and impatient. The fourth installment of the Saw series spends a good bit of time introducing us to the new mastermind behind the traps while at the same time reminding us that, despite everything we know to this point, Jigsaw is still very much in control. Jigsaw's wife Jill (Betsy Russell) becomes a more important character, and Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson from Gilmore Girls) is introduced. One thing I like a lot about this film is the character Rigg, an interesting character with a great degree of complexity. He is an easy character to cheer for, and Bent does a wonderful job playing the character. The traps seem a little toned down from the previous installments, but they are still very gory.

And hair raising

Darren Lynn Bousman returns to direct with Leigh Whannell bowing out of writing duties, replaced by the duo of Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the masterminds behind Feast. It's not hard to recognize the changing of the guard, but Melton and Dunstan do a decent enough job moving the story forward. I like Saw IV a lot, but more than anything the film serves as a bridge between the first three films and the final three films.


On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7



Saw IV Movie Trailer

SAW III (aka Saw 3)

Saw III Movie Review

Cancer ridden "Jigsaw" John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is now confined to his bed, and when Amanda (Shawnee Smith) is unable to care for him, Doctor Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) is brought in. Her trap? She has a metal necklace that will explode if she roams outside the immediate area or if Kramer dies. Meanwhile, a man named Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) must work through a maze of traps holding people he feels are responsible for the death of his son, and must decide if he will let them die or sacrifice himself physically to help him live. The third film in the series, once again directed by Darren Lynn Bousman but, for the first time since the original film, written by Leigh Whannell, gets the series back on track after the hiccup that was the second film. As we see Jigsaw start to slip away physically we see Amanda become a more complete character, and we are introduced to Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), a character who would take front and center in future Saw films. The violence? Oh yeah, it's here. The traps are incredibly brutal, and this film contains the answer to the question I am asked so often: "So Josh, of all the traps in the Saw series, which one would you dread being trapped in most?"

The answer
 
Saw III also gives us something we've not seen before: a trap that made it impossible for the victim to survive, something Kramer did not approve of. The acting takes a step up from the previous installment, and Bell, who is absolutely awesome as Jigsaw throughout anyways, really turns in a phenomenal performance here. The story builds upon the one we already know while setting up the movies to come, the traps are fantastic, and the ending is jaw dropping. While not the classic the original Saw is, this one is really, really good.
 
On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8
 
Saw III Movie Trailer

SAW II (aka Saw 2)

Saw II Movie Review

On the heels of the events from the original film the police have located Jigsaw killer John Kramer (the returning Tobin Bell), but they also discover eight more potential victims are locked in a building in an unknown locations--and the potential victims includes Detective Eric Matthews' (Donnie Wahlberg) son. Jigsaw tells Matthews the only way to save his son is if he sits and talks to Kramer until the game is over. The first sequel to Saw delivers in the blood and gore...

This guy has a key behind his eye
 
...but has a lot more holes and drawbacks than the first. The acting, which was no highlight in the first film, drops a few levels in this film, in particular the ever-popular Franky G, who brings with him the acting skills of your standard high school play extra.
 
Drawback
 
The story, which was written and directed by newcomer Darren Lynn Bousman (the dynamic duo of Wan and Whannell was unavailable for this film, though Whannell did do some rewrites), gives us a more in-depth look at the background of John Kramer. We also find out that the first person to ever survive one of Jigsaw's traps, Amanda (Shawnee Smith of Becker fame), has partnered with Kramer. The death scenes are really brutal in this film, but, unfortunately, most of the characters are SO unlikable (especially Chavez, played by the aforementioned Mr. G) that you WANT them to be killed. As in the first film there is a fantastic twist ending, something that would be a staple in the series (though none of them live up to the awesomeness of the first). Saw II is not a bad horror film, but considering the film it followed and the films that would follow it, this one hangs out near the bottom on my list of favorite Saw films.
 
On A Scale Of On To Ten: 6
 
Saw II Movie Trailer

SAW

Saw Movie Review

Strangers Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell) awaken in a bathroom and realize they are chained to something in the room, and, worse yet, a dead body is lying between them. Throughout the course of the film they realize their lives are connected in a way, and that they may be the latest victim of the jigsaw killer. This 2004 film, shot on a shoestring budget (just over a million dollars), sort of redefined how many looked at horror. It was original, it was fascinating, and, most importantly to many horror fans, it was bloody, gory, and more graphic than almost anything they had seen before.

"Why is this movie called...oh, I see"
 
At worst, this film gave birth to a subgenre that would come to be known as "torture porn". At best it re-envisioned what a good low budget horror film could be. The story is one we had never quite heard before--the "killer" locks people he feels don't appreciate life into a situation where, in order to survive, they must make physical sacrifices. Here's the thing--every trap he creates can be escaped (albeit before the timer stops), so if the victim dies, it can be argued they killed themselves instead of being killed by anybody else. As if all this awesomeness isn't enough, there is a twist ending you likely will not see coming--the first time I saw this film was in a packed theatre, and after everybody literally cheered out loud just prior to the end, they all gasped and fell dead silent when the twist was revealed. Over ten years later this ranks as one of the best endings I have ever seen in film history. Not everything is perfect with this film, especially the acting, but it is a fantastic film nonetheless that changed the face of horror, put Leigh Whannell (the writer) and James Wan (the director) on the map, and kicked off what would eventually become my favorite horror film series. I couldn't possibly count the number of times I have seen this film, and I love it every time.
 
On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9
 
Saw Movie Trailer

Friday, November 6, 2015

THE HITCHER (2007)

The Hitcher Movie Review 2007

When college students Jim (Zachary Knighton) and Grace (Sophia Bush) set off for a road trip they are terrorized by a crazed hitchhiker (Sean Bean) they refused to pick up. This remake of the 1986 thriller (starring the legendary C. Thomas Howell) amps up the blood and gore while taking the viewer on an intense, wild ride.
In this car

Jim and Grace are a horror oddity--likeable characters. They come off as compassionate (albeit poor decision making) youngsters, and Knighton and Bush are, for the most part, believable. Bean is absolutely fantastic as hitcher John Ryder--of course this should surprise nobody familiar with Bean's work. For all the intensity, blood, and good performances, however, there are underlying issues with this movie that bring it down considerably. The police are dumbed down to an almost laughable level and must be the most poorly trained officers in the country. The decisions our heroes make will having you wanting to reach through your screen to choke them. And...just how does Mr. Hitchhiker keep finding these poor kids? Throw in dialogue that isn't interesting in the least and you're left with a film that should be much better than it is--still, this is a fun movie to watch and I recommend it for, if nothing else, Bean's performance (and didn't I mention the gore?). 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6



The Hitcher Movie Trailer