Sunday, May 29, 2016

SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse Movie Review

A boy scout who looks like Derek from Scream 2 teams up with a scout who looks like Chunk from The Goonies and one who looks like Mark from Empire Records, and, with the assistance of a "cocktail waitress" from a strip club who looks like Frankie from Tuff Turf, battle the walking dead in their small town. Okay, so we've all seen enough of these zombie comedies to know what to expect here, and unfortunately, this film never really reaches past what is expected. There will be blood, boobs, juvenile humor, tons of profanity, and the occasional nod to the horror genre thrown in.

And zombie cats, of course

Fortunately, some of the comedy is actually funny, and the more subtle things (the zombie wearing the yolo shirt, the flickering "live" light at the strip club, the roller derby zombie) work as well. Practically everything about this movie screams "run of the mill", except the teens here are actually somewhat likable, a true rarity in film these days. One of the newest entries in the watered down zomedy genre, Scouts Guide hit theatres and kind of bombed--this may be a sign that it's time to retire this subgenre, go back to the drawing board, and try something different. Still, if the zombie comedy is your thing, you could do worse than this movie.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse Movie Trailer

Saturday, May 28, 2016

THE WITCH

The Witch Movie Review

It's the 1630s, and a family off on their own in the New England woods begins to experience the supernatural, tearing them apart over time. I'll start off by saying that, as a rule, I am not a fan of films set any time before, say, the Old West days, and this movie did nothing to change my opinion on that matter. That said, knowing this film predates the Salem Witch Trials by sixty years is interesting, and learning it is largely based on actual writings from the time is pretty cool. Visually, this is a fairly decent film--it's nothing tremendous, but enough to grab your attention. The acting varies--the parents and eldest child are good while the rest range from bad to unbearable. The dialogue is...rough, and that's when you can actually hear what they're saying (and understand them). It's sort of weird to describe this movie--it's certainly not a slasher or jump scare flick, which I didn't expect, but it's also not what I expected it to be--a slow burn film leading to a fantastic payoff--instead the movie just sort of moves along...slowly...with nothing terribly interesting or different taking place. I was praying something would actually happen at some point in this film.

Apparently I wasn't the only one

An interesting mood is set, but the film tends to jump around too much to maintain it. Questions abound: Is there a witch in the woods? If so, who is it? Is the devil possessing the goat? The rabbit? Are the twins even more evil than typical twins? You may care about these things, but this movie dragged on for far too long for me to maintain my interest in the answers--good thing too, as the ending is as ridiculous and unsatisfying as the ending to this disaster. Upon its release there was a lot of hype surrounding The Witch, but instead of going down as a modern classic, I believe this one is destined to, at best, be lost in the shuffle over the years and, at worst, be remembered as one of the great disappointments of its time.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

The Witch Movie Trailer

Friday, May 27, 2016

SSSSSSS

Sssssss Movie Review

Doctor Carl Stoner (Strother Martin) brings in lab assistants to become his lab rats (or lab snakes, I guess) as he secretly attempts to transform them into human snakes. Somewhere along the way the good doctor's daughter (Heather Menzies-Urich of Piranha fame) falls for the most recent assistant (Dirk Benedict, aka Faceman from the original A-Team series). This 1973 classic, which is probably best known for its use of real snakes, starts off slow...and continues that pace...well, until the final credits roll really. Much of the movie is spent with the doctor telling his assistant all about snakes, coming off as more a snake tutorial you may see in school than a horror film. Joining the cast is Harry, a drunken python...no, I'm not kidding. An antagonist eventually emerges, killing Harry, and leading to the doctor getting his revenge by unleashing...a small snake to bite our villain...on the foot. This, ladies and gentlemen, is truly the only bit of action in this film (Benedict's fight with the villain, in which we see Benedict repeatedly attempt to bite the bad guy, notwithstanding). All is not bad, however--actually, it IS all bad, but in the best ways possible, beginning with our first look at Stoner's previous experiment.

Well this is promising

This one was sold off to a travelling freak show, and after a few injections, we finally get to see Faceman begin to change. It starts out subtle enough...

Maybe it's just lack of sunlight

...but quickly begins to turn, giving us unforgettable images such as...

this...

and this...

...and just when we start to think this human-snake hybrid is going to amount to something of epic proportions, we get our final product...

Wait...what?

Yes, the culmination of this transition is our hero turning into a regular cobra that crawls around for a few seconds before fighting a mongoose--who wins that battle is anyone's guess (though we know how these typically turn out) as, in mid battle, the camera does a quick zoom to the snake's love interest's face, she screams, and that's a wrap. Sssssss lacks in anything truly scary (unless you have a fear of snakes, in which case you probably shouldn't watch this movie to begin with), but it screams of 1950s schlock, and, if you can get past the terribly irritating sounds of the snakes and especially the mongoose, you may find some strange enjoyment in this film--and if you were a fan of The A-Team, as I was a child, you may laugh to yourself when the doctor's daughter says "Your face!" to Benedict...yes, yes he was.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5


Sssssss Movie Trailer

Saturday, May 21, 2016

DARK HOUSE (2009)

Dark House Movie Review

Several children are viciously murdered in a foster home known as "The Darrode House". Fourteen years late a haunted house legend (Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator fame) reopens the house as "The Dark House", the most technologically advanced haunted house in the country. He hires a troupe of actors, including Claire (Meghan Ory), a woman who was in the house at the time of the murders and has been in therapy since, to perform for an advanced screening for the press. Unfortunately, the ghost of old lady Darrode (Diane Salinger) isn't quite ready for company.

This is what kids will do to you

I had to knock the dust off this DVD from my personal collection, and it was well worth another viewing. This movie has an interesting premise, and at times may remind you of this 2001 classic. The various "ghosts" (they're actually holograms that come to life via a computer virus brought on by the ghost of Darrode, but lets not get technical here) are, for the most part, rather impressive, and, depending on your phobia, could border on terrifying.

She may have heliophobia

The special effects leave a little to be desired, but hey, you expect that with a movie with no budget (why they don't just skip CGI in films like this I'll never know). The acting is nothing terrible but nothing memorable either, with the exception of Combs--his performance here is the stuff of legend. There is a bit of comedy sprinkled in here and there, and, as it's (for the most part) not too in your face or self-aware, it actually works. At one point Ory looks at the camera for a split second, and to this day I can't determine if she messed up and it was an accident or if it is the most subtle wink to the audience in film history (I like to think it's the latter). My true love of this movie is two-fold: it reminds me of B-Horror classics from the 1980s (complete with 80's-esque dialogue) and the twist ending is one that, even with my third viewing of this movie, I didn't see coming--not that it's a perfect twist, but I do like it. Dark House will never be considered one of the all time greats in the annals of horror films, but I like it and recommend you give it a shot.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Dark House Movie Trailer

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

THE GHOSTMAKER

The Ghostmaker Movie Review

A group of friends discover the 15th Century coffin they have come across was designed by a madman bent on torturing people and creating near death experiences. Naturally the guys want to try it out for themselves, and find the coffin can temporarily turn them into ghosts. So what do they want to do with this? One guy wants to use it to steal money to pay back his girlfriend and drug dealer.

Fives and ones?!

The guy in the wheelchair uses his ghostly being to creep on the aforementioned girlfriend of his roommate.

"You've got something...right there...let me..."

And the third guy? He is the smart one of the group--the only one who sees the danger involved with this behavior, doesn't like the experience, and tries to warn the others to stop.

We know which one dies first

This movie has a complete lack of anything resembling originality, stealing borrowing heavily from movies such as The Frighteners, Flatliners, Final Destination, and even The Invisible Man. This can be overlooked, however, as the movie is at least a little entertaining, fairly well written, and even a tad bit smart. The acting is hit and miss--the three friends are fairly solid, but the remainder of the cast is much less so, especially Liz Fenning as Julie, the girlfriend/creeper victim. As Fenning was clearly not cast for her acting ability one would assume she got the role based on her looks...except she doesn't look good either. Maybe she's related to the director? Lets get back on track--added to the mix is death itself, taking the form of something resembling the mechanism inside the coffin.

He looks wound up

The death scenes in this film are few and almost void of blood and gore--more interesting scenes would have gone a long way in this movie. It does take a while for anything to truly get going here, but when the waters begin to clear, and we get a look at who the hero and villain are, the movie really picks up...only to end with a fight scene so bland and uninspired you will throw your hands up in disbelief. The Ghostmaker is a 2012 film that reminds me of something that would have been released some time in the mid 1990s, and it's every bit as mediocre as most of those movies are.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

The Ghostmaker Movie Trailer

SPIDERS (2013) (aka Spiders 3D)

Spiders Movie Review

Debris from a Soviet space station lands in a New York subway, unleashing killer aliens disguised as spiders. Now the Russian scientist behind the experiment, the U.S. military, and a guy working for the city and his soon to be ex wife attempt to control the outbreak. Interestingly, just prior to watching this movie I was reading a poorly written list of different techniques filmmakers used prior to the days of the CGI takeover, the article reflecting on how creativity was more an art form back then, while I reflected on learning all this in college--anyway, mere moments after reading that article I was subjected to Spiders, a film that makes liberal use of CGI, and in 3D at that. I watched this movie via Netflix so I can't comment on how this may look in 3D, but I can't imagine it's much more impressive than what I saw.

Itsy bitsy...

The acting in this movie is pretty bad--imagine a SyFy original, only worse. That said, the aforementioned CGI is probably a step up from those films, so there's that. The story is...rough. You may find yourself wondering how a guy working in an office with no apparent combat training can get the jump on a military trained tactical specialist. You may wonder why the General (or Colonel, or whoever he was...the leader--we'll go with that) won't listen to a word the one guy who actually knows what the hell is going on is saying. You may wonder why everybody, including doctors and/or scientist, repeatedly refer to spiders as insects. You may wonder why Christa Campbell has had so much work done on her face that she can barely move it now, and I will have no answers for any of these questions. The set--let me preface this by saying I have never actually been to Manhattan, but it doesn't take a New Yorker to recognize this is not, in fact, New York City (get a rope)--it looks more like the sets at Universal Orlando, but it's not even that awesome--it was shot on a set in Bulgaria, of all places. I do enjoy the attempt to revitalize the creature feature genre of the 1950s/60s, and this movie gives it an earnest shot, including a decent military vs monster scene near the end, but this movie falls well short of the classics. Still, this is a harmless little movie that brings at least a bit of entertainment value--I'm not sure it's worth the 90 minutes you would have to dedicate to it though.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4


Spiders (2013) Movie Trailer

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

LAST SHIFT

Last Shift Movie Review

Rookie Policewoman Officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is about to work her first shift on the job--incidentally, it also happens to be the final shift at the old police station, an overnight shift, and she will be alone. She is told they are leaving this building due to bad pipes, but the truth is far more frightening. This 2014 low budget horror flick was filmed, and takes place, in Sanford, Florida, just up the road from where I am, and I may or may not have seen an ad on Craigslist looking for help making this film--if so, I regret not contacting them--if not, I don't have to feel bad about not being a part of this film, but Skyra Entertainment, if you're ever filming in Central Florida again and need help, look me up!

Well, I mean...not like that!

This film isn't entirely original, but there is plenty going on to keep your attention. It is kind of, sort of inspired by the Manson Family killings (they're even mentioned in the film), and is filled with some terrifying scenes and images.

Bloody hell

This being a horror film and whatnot, you are going to have to suspend belief a little bit and fight off the temptation to scream at the lead character as she makes one stupid decision after another--the film does attempt to explain why she is making such choices, but these explanations are shaky at best. The other major trap this film falls for is the over reliance on jump scares. These things aside, Last Shift is actually a pretty good horror film--the makeup department in particular deserves a ton of credit here. The acting is decent, and after a bit of a rough start Harkavy turns in a good performance. The story moves at a good pace, and though a lot of the stuff you see unfold before you is predictable, the ending may catch you by surprise. In all honesty, when I came across this film on Netflix, I saw the cover photo and didn't expect much.

This screams "3 out of 10" doesn't it?

But as my first grade teacher Mrs. Richmond told me a "few" years ago, "Never judge a book by its cover."--this applies to Last Shift, one of the finer horror films of the past couple years...I wonder what ever became of Mrs. Richmond?

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Last Shift Movie Trailer

Saturday, May 14, 2016

THE NIGHT FLIER

The Night Flier Movie Review

Veteran tabloid reporter Dees (Miguel Ferrer, Robocop, Tales From The Crypt) and rookie reporter Blair (Julie Entwisle) compete to see who can best capture the story of "The Night Flier", a vampire-like killer travelling via airplane. This is a 1997 film adaptation of a Stephen King story and, as is the case with many such films, is a case of something loaded with potential but ultimately languishes in mediocrity, combining the magnificent with the terribly awful to get there. Lets start with the cast--you know what to expect from Ferrer, as he plays virtually every character he is given in the same exact way, and my goodness does he ever have a talent for annoying me. On the other hand, Entwisle delivers a memorable debut performance, one that would certainly lead to many great roles, ultimately resulting in her becoming a shining star in Hollywood--only that never happened. To date she has only appeared in one other film, the star-studded 1997 comedy In & Out, where she played the role of..."Student".

Pondering her career choices?

We also get a fantastic performance from legendary actor (and fellow Ohio University alum) Dan Monahan, best known for playing this guy...
  
See anything interesting?

I personally was amazed that in the fifteen years between when Porky's came out and when the The Night Flier (eventually) hit theaters, the guy barely aged.

His vision got worse...

Beyond the performances, we have death scenes here and there, primarily taking place off camera. We get plenty of blood and guts (and a severed head here and there) to keep our attention, which this film easily loses with it's plodding story, horrendous dialogue, and uninteresting "hero". Once you make it through the first 75 minutes of the film though, you are treated to a very good (and violent, and bloody, and partially black and white) ending that not even a vampire peeing blood or the "acting" of Miguel Ferrer can ruin--the final fifteen minutes save this film from being a complete waste of time.
  


On A....wait, what? Oh, you want to see what The Night Flier looks like? Okay...


One extra point for this


On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

The Night Flier Movie Trailer

Monday, May 9, 2016

INDIGENOUS

Indigenous Movie Review

In Panama there is a local legend about staying out of the Darien Gap, a dense jungle that houses unspeakable terrors (and a real place that is certainly worth reading about). Because it's what they do, a group of six young people vacationing in Panama decide to ignore all warnings and venture out into the dangerous land in search of...a waterfall.

Speaking of dense...

This low budget 2014 film starts off like practically every other "ignorant American young people vacation in exotic foreign country" film--they get to their destination, drink a lot, dance, act like horses asses, fornicate, repeat, and then the story actually begins to go somewhere. Indigenous goes places we have seen before, and if this movie reminds you of some low budget combination of The Descent, Turistas, and The Ruins, you're not alone.

Look familiar?

Here's the thing though--this movie really isn't bad, and even borders on being...gasp...good! The characters (for once) are believable, and, for the most part, even likable. For having a budget that is obviously lower than the similar movies that managed to hit theaters, the acting is better all the way around than in most of those films--Zachary Soetenga in particular delivers a good performance as Scott, the lead character. The monster is actually pretty scary (see above), is named "Chupacabra", but looks nothing like the beast of the same name we have become used to (see below).

The Chuper, or El Chupacabra if you're not into the whole brevity thing

Unfortunately this film falls into many of the traps that doom so many horror films--clich├ęs abound, predictable outcomes, found footage nonsense--but it does bring enough unusual stuff to the table to not dismiss it, including, but not limited to, unexpected heroes, an actual search for the missing, and even a worldwide response. Indigenous is a movie that is akin to running into an old friend you haven't seen in many years--it is familiar enough to make you feel comfortable, but different enough to keep you interested.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Indigenous Movie Trailer

Saturday, May 7, 2016

GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER

Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster Movie Review

Ghidorah, a vicious three-headed monster from outer space, arrives outside Tokyo to unleash destruction upon Earth. It's up to Mothra and, much to their hesitation, Godzilla and Rodan, to battle the beast and save the planet. This 1964 film is brought to us by director Ishiro Honda, the man responsible for all the original Godzilla films (as well as several other monster movies) and it delivers the goods. Of course Godzilla and Rodan look as awesome as always, and Ghidorah, making his debut here, proves to be perhaps the most impressive nemesis of any Godzilla film. The final battle features all four monsters, providing awesomeness the likes of which this world rarely sees.

Behold and appreciate

We even get a battle for the ages between Godzilla and Rodan prior to the two joining forces. Naturally, there's a lot more going on in this film as well (we HAVE to have a human element don't we?), and it's all fairly bizarre. We have a princess (Akiko Wakabayashi) who, after narrowly escaping (somehow) an exploding plane, is possessed (?) by an alien being coming to Earth to warn us of Ghidorah's intentions. We have assassins trying to track the alien/princess down, trying to finish the job they failed at when they blew up the plane. There are numerous "experts" and scientists of one sort or another coming and going constantly. And perhaps most bizarre/awesome, there is a conversation between Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan interpreted by twin fairy friends of Mothra who talk simultaneously, one saying the same thing as the other, with voices that may put one in mind of chipmunks, and they look, well, lets just see a picture...

There they are

To top this scene off perfectly, the girls actually admonish Godzilla for using foul language. This film is historic for two reasons: it is the first appearance in film of Ghidorah, and is the last movie (among the originals anyway) Godzilla appears in as anything other than a full-blown hero. The scenes with the miniatures are fantastic--look, we all know the monsters are guys in rubber suits stomping on fake buildings and throwing fake rocks, but it is that charm that makes these films so lovable and truly cherished--the scene of Ghidorah's initial rampage is brilliant in this sense, and the scene of Ghidorah first forming is incredibly memorable (it's in the trailer below, starting at 24 seconds). If you are a monster movie fan (as I am), Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster is an absolute must-see film.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster Movie Trailer

Thursday, May 5, 2016

HUSH

Hush Movie Review

Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a deaf writer living in a house out in the woods and struggling to finish the follow-up to her first successful novel. Her mundane life becomes more interesting one night, however, as a masked killer shows up at her door. This 2016 film from Mike Flanagan (Oculus) fires on all cylinders, resulting in a truly terrifying movie. The premise itself is scary enough--a home invasion--but add to this the victim being deaf and not able to know, at times, there is somebody watching her, and you get edge of your seat terror.

For God's sake, turn around!

It is by pure chance the movie I most recently reviewed before this one has a similar storyline, but if you look at that review you will see everything that is wrong with using silence to build tension in a film--Hush is the complete opposite, using silence to leave the viewer biting his or her nails while trembling in fear. Adding to the uneasy feeling is knowing the madman isn't there to simply kill Maddie--he wants to make her suffer psychologically, terrorizing her from outside the house while reminding her he can come into the house and finish her off any time he wishes. The acting is solid--Siegel is a compassionate victim while John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) is genuinely creepy as the killer.

Jehovah's Witness?

If this isn't enough for your liking there's also a fair bit of blood and gore thrown in, and some of the death scenes are absolutely brutal. Recognize this movie is not everybody's cup of tea--a quick search reveals the run time of this film is 81 minutes and less than 15 minutes of that is spoken dialogue, so if an atmospheric buildup is not your thing, you may want to skip it. Personally I believe Hush to be one of the finest horror films of recent years--it is the movie The Strangers wanted to be.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

Hush Movie Trailer


Here's an added bonus: The song that has been in my head since I watched this movie...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

CRAWL

Crawl Movie Review

A scumbag bar owner hires a hit man to off a nemesis, but a planned double-cross results in Marilyn (Georgina Haig), a waitress (and our hero), being terrorized in her own home. Okay, so when I saw the title of the film I thought it would be something along the lines of this classic.

Not THIS kind of crawl...

...THIS kind

I'm not sure what it says about me that I hear the word "crawl" and immediately picture slimy space creatures, but thankfully we're not here to discuss the emotional abuse several decades of horror movie viewing have taken on my mind and/or soul, so we'll move on...actually, discussing this part of my brain may be more interesting than talking about this 2011 Australian horror thriller. If you are prone to hallucinations, psychotic behavior, or falling asleep due to prolonged silence, you may want to avoid this film. I understand the technique of using silence as a way to build tension--I get that, I really do, but this film utilizes that approach far too often and for way too long at a time. When you're watching the movie on, oh, I don't know, say...Chiller Channel, and you have silence for minutes at a time, the volume turned up to 50 because perhaps something actually IS happening and the audio is just bad and you're missing it, and suddenly, as you stare out the window at the oncoming storm and heat lightning racing across the horizon whilst pondering the true meaning of life and the decisions you have made that have brought you to this exact moment in life, the channel cuts to a commercial with a leprechaun warning that you are now in trouble--now THAT'S a good jump scare.

Much scarier than our Croatian hit man

So this being an Australian film, they throw in a bit of dark Australian humor, which largely falls flat. Australians are an interesting bunch to me--they are some strange mix of the elegance of the proper English, the awesomeness of the Irish (not that I'm biased with that statement or anything), the hillbillies of the United States, and the general weird awkwardness of Canadians--often times their movies reflect this. Of the four, this movie leans much more toward the Canadian portion, which is quite unfortunate, but if you can manage to make it through a LONG period of time of little to nothing happening, the movie will smack you across the face with a REALLY good ending. Up until those last ten minutes or so, however, feel free to gaze off into the distance and think about how small we truly are in the universe...or stare at our lead, Haig, and try to figure out who she reminds you of.

I never was able to put my finger on it

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

Crawl Movie Trailer