Monday, 14 December 2015

The 5 Essential Horror Films from Hammer Studios

  With 80 years of experience scaring people and over a hundred and fifty films, it can be quite frightening for even an experienced horror fan to find a place to start when it comes to watching the Hammer catalouge of movies.  So many incredible monsters, great villains and horrible monsters, where does one begin?  Well, every spine-chilling journey begins with a first step and hopefully, this list should aid any weary horror fan along the twisting road of terror that is Hammer films.  

The Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer Films, Christopher Lee
Available on DVD & Blu-ray
1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) - This is the film that truly started it all and brought together Hammers' most successful trinity of terror.  Director Terrance Fisher leads the way through this updated but still gothic version of Mary Shelley's classic with a phenomenal performance by Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein and the menacing presence of Christopher Lee playing his hideous creation.  The make-up for the creature in this film is excellent and instead of the smooth texture of the Karloff version, Hammer went with a more jagged and more realistic look of the dead skin.  The success of this film lead Hammer to cultivate and revitalize many of the classic monsters.

Horror of Dracula, Hammer Films, Christopher Lee
Available on DVD & Blu-ray
2. Horror of Dracula (aka Dracula) (1958) - Christopher Lee removes the Frankenstein make-up and gives perhaps one of his best performances ever as Dracula.  Peter Cushing, plays the Van Helsing, who must save his friends' fiancee from this blood thirsty creature before it is too late.  Again, these fabulous actors are team with director Fisher, who gives the film an marvelous Gothic feel and realism that is chilling.  The film ends with a blood curdling cry that will not be forgotten and of course lead to a number of satisfactory sequels.

The Devil Rides Out, Hammer Films, Christopher Lee
Available on DVD & Blu-ray
3. The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil's Bride) (1968) - During the late 60's, monster movies started to become passe and studios began to focus on something more evil and "realistic" like..., the prince of darkness himself, the Devil. After the success of Rosemary's Baby, studios started making a number of devil cults films and Hammer rose to the challenge, easily creating one of the best.  Bringing together the unsettling magic of director Terence Fisher and Christopher Lee, who created a suspense laden film with a haunting end.  Lee, in a rare performance, leads the charge against these twisted Satanists and battles to save the souls of his friends. A definite must see for any fan of the genre.

Vampire Lovers, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing
Available on DVD & Blu-ray
4. The Vampire Lovers (1970) - During the 70's, Hammer started to experiment with more explicit and erotic horror stories.  Somewhat tame by today's standard, these films showed more nudity and touched on more taboo ideas.  Hammer produced the Karnstein trilogy, which were films based on the novel, Carmilla.  The film focuses on a lusty female vampire, played by gorgeous and talented Ingrid Pitt, who seduces young women to feast upon. Luckily, Peter Cushing is available to try and stop all this nastiness and save the girl for these perversions. Although a little trashy at times, it really was ahead of its time and one of the better adaptation to the Karnstein story.

Let Me In, Hammer Films, Chloe Grace Moretz
Available on DVD & Blu-ray
5. Let Me In (2010) - After a shutting down in the early 80's, Hammer Films slowly rose from the grave in 2007 and released a few minor horror hits.  Then in 2010, they drew blood at the box office with this successful remake.  With a killer cast, which included Chloë Grace Moretz and Richard Jenkins, this touching and gruesome film about a lonely child vampire trying to make a friend brought the company back to life.  Winning numerous awards for best horror film of the year, this is one not to miss.

 These are just a few titles that will get you started and send you down a terrifyingly path of a horrifyingly fun film experience.  If you enjoy these titles and are looking more titles to leave you trembling, check out the Hammer website for more information, videos and mayhem!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

KillPandaKill is Closing Up Shop

  After almost 4 years and with a heavy heart, I'm sad to announce that this will be the last post for the KillPandaKill and the News To Me blogs.  I'm going through some complicated times in my life at the moment and sadly, I do not have the time to watch and review the films with the same vigor as I have in the past.  I feel that these films and filmmakers deserve more time and thought than I can offer right now.
  I want to take this time to thank everybody who has taken the time to read the blog, left messages, sent materials to be reviewed or has spoken to me on any or all the social media websites.  You people are awesome!  And I really appreciate everything that you've done for me and I couldn't have done any of this without your help.  This has been a fantastic learning experience and greatest opportunities to meet and chat with so many awesome people about films.  It's been totally top notch!
  I'm not sure what I'm going to do next but I'm sure it will be an adventure.

  Thanks again,

  Erin V

P.S. I will be keeping my twitter account and will still be chatting about films on there.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Satanic Summer: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Director: Harold P. Warren
Starring: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, and Diane Adelson
Running Time: 68 min

  I remember seeing this film years ago on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and really digging it.  However, this time watching it, I will be alone and won't have the hilarious rifftrack from the MST3K crew to keep me sane and stop me from banging my head on the desk while watching this "classic" B-movie.  If I don't make it back alive, tell my family & friends I loved them. 

  Michael, his wife Margaret, their daughter Debbie and the family dog, Peppy are going on a vacation in El Paso, Texas.  They drive, and drive and drive and drive and Michael eventually gets lost on an old dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  They drive some more and eventually reach what looks like an abandoned old shack.  Michael and Margaret get out of the car to go to the house and ask for directions but just as they get out of the car, a strange derelict looking character named Torgo comes out of the house and welcomes them to the shack.  Michael asks for directions but Torgo evades his questions with strange talk about his Master.  Michael gets fed up and insists that his family stays the night at the creepy old shack with the even creepier Torgo and his Master.  At first Torgo refuses, but quickly gives in, telling his guests that the Master may be angry but he will let them stay.  Michael forces Torgo to get their bags and takes his family into the shack like a boss.
  Once inside the shack and after putting the bags in the one other room, Torgo excuses himself to speak with the Master.  Michael and Margaret look around and discover an incredibly evil fireplace with statues of hands on it and a creepy painting of a mustached man in a robe with his doberman.  Nonetheless, this isn't sinister enough for them to want to leave like any normal person and it's still better than that Motel 6 they stayed in last year. 
  Meanwhile, Torgo has awakened his Master from his eternal sleep or nap and lets him know that they have visitors.  The Master sees the visitors using some kind of magic thang and decides that he wants to add Margaret to his collection of wives.  This infuriates Torgo because the Master already has six wives and Torgo has none. :(  However, the wives cannot decide if they should kill the little girl Debbie and this indecision causes a huge riff in the Masters' household.  Can Michael and his family escape this crazy little love shack or will Margaret become wife number seven for this fashion impaired mad man!

  This is such a terrible, terrible film and luckily this was the only film that writer/director Harold P. Warren ever created.  He even bragged after the premiere that this was the worst film ever made, which is a pretty bold statement but pretty close to the truth.  There are so many filler scenes of driving with no dialogue in the first half that make you wonder if this film is worth the trouble of watching.  Then, there are a bunch characters that are introduced and have nothing to do with the overall story, which makes you question why were they written in at all and where were was he even going with this?
  Although the film was English, Warren still dubbed all the actors voices and sound effects in post production which caused seven year old, Jackey Neymen (Manos: The Rise of Torgo, Curse of Bigfoot) who played Debbie to cry at the premiere when she didn't get to hear her own voice on the big screen.  However, she was not the only one hurt by the Manos production.  The worst has to be what happen to John Reynolds, who played Torgo, who I believe was suppose to be a Satyr or some kind of half goatman.  First of all, there was no reason he need to be a Satyr because that story angle goes absolutely nowhere.  It's not relevant throughout the story at all and I kept waiting for a big reveal that he is a ferocious goat demon or something but nothing happens.  Even Michael and his family aren't freaked out about it, they just think he's some weird dude with big knees in an abandoned shack.  Unfortunately for Reynolds, he unintentionally put on the metallic leg rigging on improperly to cause this Satyr effect which caused permanent damage to his kneecaps.  This caused him chronic pain after the shoot and the months before his death.
 The worst thing though about the film though is that Manos never shows up... ever!  Manos is the demon that the Master and everybody worships in the film but he doesn't put in an appearance and there is no explanation to why they worship this deity at all.  Funny thing about Manos is that it's Spanish word for hands, so the title of this film is actually Hands: The Hands of Fate.  I read that this amused the crew of the film so much, they would refer to the project as Mangos: The Cans of Fruit behind Warrens' back.  You wacky film crew, you.

  So why should  anyone in their right minds just this atrocious film.  Well, it's hilariously bad.  Even without the MST3K rifftrack I still found myself laughing at the insanity of this film.  Warren may have considered this the worst movie ever but it still had a plot and the characters had motivations which is a lot more than I can say for some films that I've seen over the years.
  Sure the acting is terrible and this is mostly because all the actors were from a local theatre group that Warren knew but at least they were trying.  This was probably the biggest role that Tom Neyman, who played the Master, ever got and he played the hell out of this role, maybe even too much.  His overacting and inexperience is hilarious to see on screen.  Also John Reynolds performance as Torgo is excellently bad.  He seems to have no direction and just acts like that drunk creepy uncle at family functions.  Some of his scenes are just confusing and my favourite has to be when the Master forces his wives to tickle Torgo as a punishment. WTF? This is what Torgo wanted the whole time.  Note to self: Create a Tickle Me Torgo doll, will make millions.  

  This is not a good movie in almost any sense but it is fun to watch with other fans of bad movies.  Although there is a story, which may have been better as a short, you can really tell that the person organizing the production is way to out of their depth and had no idea what they were trying to  achieve with this film. When it comes to this film, the cliche, "It's so bad, it's good" really works or at least it's good enough for a few laughs with on a late evening with friends.  If I were you, I'd ease myself into this film with the MST3K version but if you're feeling adventurous, watch the link below.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The 3 Vicious Pigs! Review of Berkshire County (2014)

Berkshire County (2014)
Director: Audrey Cummings
Starring: Alysa King, Samora Smallwood, and Bart Rochon
Running Time: 83 min

  I'm always excited to see horror films from new and talented filmmakers, especially from Canada!   This one looks and sounds like an interesting twist on some of my favourite fairy tales, so I hope they are just as terrifying as the originals.

  Kylie Winters is at a costume party when the high school heart throb, Marcus makes a appearance.  After making a quick round, around the room, he makes his way over to Kylie and invites into the ever so romantic kitchen to, umm, "chat".  Surprised and feeling extra special, Kylie follows Marcus into the kitchen and after a bit of "chit chat", he convince Kylie to give him some oral pleasure.  Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that she is being video taped by some people through the kitchen window and Marcus as well, with his phone.  I guess she just kept her eye on the prize.
  Anyway by the time lunch hour rolls around on Monday, everybody at school has seen Kylie's blowjob video and she feels as though she is the laughing stock of the school.  Also, Marcus' girlfriend is pissed at her and wants to beat her, so she ditches school and tries to head home but when she gets into her car, Marcus hops in too.  He apologizes, tells her he didn't know that they were being video taped and he needs her to tell the principal that he had nothing to do with that video going up on the internet.  Kylie tells him to get lost and takes off home.  Sadly, while trying to wash the shame of this terrible day away in the shower, which never works by the way, her mom confronts her and tells her how ashamed she is of her and doesn't know how she could do such a thing.  This makes Kylie feel better..., no, wait the opposite..., worse and she falls into the fetal position in the shower and cries her sorrows away.  Thanks mom!
  However,  it's Halloween and she still has a babysitting job to do.  So after some supportive words being screamed at her by her mom, "I wouldn't hire you as a babysitter, because of what you did" and "You really need to stand up for yourself", Kylie gets in her car and drives what seems like a million miles away to her babysitting job.  When she gets to the impressive home, she meets the father who introduces her to the kids and gives her a quick tour of the place.  She is given instructions on what time the kids should eat and go to bed, then right before he leaves to go to the party, his wife who is a Vice Principal or something takes Kylie aside and tells her that, "She wouldn't let her babysit for her, but they had no other choice".  And with that encouraging remark, the parents are off to a party until 1 am and Kylie has to take care of their precious children.
  The evening goes by quickly and nobody really comes this far out to trick or treat, so when 9 pm rolls around, Kylie puts the kids to bed as instructed.  She goes back downstairs to watch TV and then there is a ring at the door.  She goes to answer it and sees a kid in a Halloween pig mask outside.  She opens the door and the kid says nothing but Kylie know the deal and goes back inside to get some candy for this weird kid.  After grabbing a handful of candy, she returns to the door and sees that the kid as backed up a few paces, so she walks outside to put the candy in the bag.  However once outside, another person in a pig mask tries to grab her but luckily Kylie is too quick and makes it back into the house and locks the door.  The pig people bang on the door and are trying to find a way in, Kylie calls the police but they tell her that because she is so far away that it will take some time to get there.  Under siege and terrified, can Kylie save herself and the kids from these horrible pig people before the police arrive or are they trapped and their bacon cooked?

  For a first time feature, I think this was pretty good.  Director Audrey Cummings paces the film well and captures the vibe of a home invasion film.  Very reminiscent of films like, "You're Next" and "The Strangers", the terror comes from the hopeless feeling of being trapped in your own environment and not knowing what these masked strangers want or what they're going to do next and this comes across very well in the film.
  Also, the cinematography looks fantastic and Michael Jari Davidson (Mourning Has Broken, Anything Goes) gives us some gorgeous shots of some terrifying imagery.  With a lot of lower budget films, some first time feature filmmakers (say that three times fast), aren't able to capture the right look or tone of the project but in this case Davidson really nails it.

  This is an indie film and I can just imagine how hard it was to get made, so I'm going to take it easy but I do have some suggestions for any future endeavors.  There might be SPOILERS in the next couple paragraphs, so be weary before reading.  I found that there was a real lack of sympathy for Kylie character.  There was nobody that stood up for her, which was really weird.  She didn't seem to have any friends at school and even though she was a minor, the police were not called by any parents or teachers to have this video brought down.  She was never treated as a victim of a horrendous and humiliating trick, which in these times is a little unrealistic.  If she had just one friend or even her mom to take her side then, I think the story would be a little bit better and seem more real.
  Also, this is a SPOILER so be aware!  There is so much focus on this blow job incident that I expected that there would be more to it throughout the film but there really isn't.  Which I think is a missed opportunity for more bloodshed and mayhem.  Why doesn't Marcus's girlfriend and her friends come out to the house to try and play a shitty Halloween prank on Kylie & get murdered?  Why not make them the killers?  What about the guys who shot the video, what repercussions do they have for ruining this poor girls' life?  There are just a lot of unanswered questions here and if it  wasn't going to be prevalent to the rest of the film, why harp on it so much at the beginning?  doesn't make sense to me.
  SPOILER Although I did enjoy the ending for what it was, I thought it was a little over the top. What! I know, I enjoy a good massacre like the next guy but again it didn't really make sense and there is no way that it could be possible to do that.  It stretches the imagination a little to far for my likes.  It seemed a little tacked on and rushed, which is a shame because there were possibilities to leave on a really strong note but I think it was missed.

  With that said, I still found the film to be enjoyable and would probably dig seeing it on big screen if the opportunity arose.  The direction is good and it has a ton of good horror elements in the story, along with some real masterful cinematography.  So, if your looking for a film that will make you lock your doors at night and avoid answering the door on Halloween, this film is for you.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Satanic Summer: Devil's Rain (1975)

Devil's Rain (1975)
Director: Robert Fuest
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, and Ida Lupino
Running Time: 86 min

  I was really surprised that I had never heard of this film until just recently.  Not only does it have a prominent 70's cast such Borgnine, Shatner and Tom Skerritt but it was directed by Robert Fuest, the man who brought us the "Dr. Phibes" films! And on top of that the Satanic stunt/realism coordinator is none other than Anton LeVey.  So, this should be an interesting film on all levels of craziness.

  Mark Phifer arrives home to find his mother, Mrs. Phifer and their live-in old man, John upset.  She tells him that Corbis has found them and he wants the book!  Suddenly, they hear a familiar voice outside and they leave the house to see who it is.  It's Mark's father, kind of.  He has no eyes, a gooey looking face and tells them that Corbis wants the book!  And they don't go to an abandoned mining down to drop it off, then they're all doomed forever!  Mark feeds his creepy pops full of lead with his shotgun and they watch in horror as this creature melts into wax in front of them.  They go back into the house and Mrs. Phifer refuses to give up the book to anyone because she knows that it will bring doom to them all!  She gives Mark a magical amulet and he leaves to talk some sense into this Corbis fellow but when he gets to his car which is only three feet away, he hears screams from the house.  Mark dashes back to the house to find John hanging upside down, his mother kidnapped and the house ransacked!  He JUST went to the car.  But, he cuts down John and heads back to his car to go and face this evil monster Corbis.  Nobody hangs John upside down in a corner, nobody!
  When he arrives in the abandon mining down, he meets up with Corbis immediately and over a magical cup of water at a hitching post, they decide to have a battle of faiths for the souls of his family members.  Apparently, Corbis is a satanic priest, who may or may not do magic for children's parties on the side but as a considerable in with the big D and Mark, well, he has a magical amulet and God on his side.  So, they go into a church and say prayers at each other until Mark gets fed up and pulls a gun on Corbis.  Corbis laughs and says, "Is THAT your faith?" which humiliates Mark, who then runs out of the church and into the street, where he is surrounded by disciples of Corbis.  Corbis uses the old, change your amulet into a snake gag on Mark, which disarms him and they take Mark back into the church to torture him to find out where this magical book is.  The end.
  No wait, Mark has another brother, Tom Preston, that wasn't mentioned at all in the first part of the movie and who's wife, Julie is psychic.  During a DEMONstration of her psychic powers at a university, she sees all the things that just happened in the first part and gives a ton of spoilers away for the rest of the film in a fast forward montage clip in her head.  She tells Tom right away and they head back to the old homestead to grab the book and battle the evil Corbis once and for all!  However, Tom leaves his psychic wife at the homestead because Corbis is too dangerous, so instead of bringing someone with unlimited psychic powers, he takes a gun? Dummy.  Will Tom be able to finally defeat the evil Corbis and save his family, who forgot to mention that he exists in the first half of the film or will he and his psychic wife give up the book and become satanic minions like so many before them?  

This really is a terrible film buuuuuut, it's so bad that there is a certain amount of charm to it and it did make me laugh at lot.  Director Robert Fuest (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, many ABC's After School Specials) is so completely all over the place with this film, that at one point Corbis and Phifer are arguing about what whether Phifer or Preston is Mark's last name, and one wonders did this satanist not catch the right guy?  It's explained later on in the film in a confusing flashback that really brings more questions to the table that don't get explained throughout the rest of the film.  Also, the whole Tom Preston story in this, seems completely tacked on and I don't even know if Tom Skerritt (Alien, War Hunt), who plays Tom and William Shatner (Kingdom of Spiders, Visiting Hours) even share a scene together.  It's like here's Movie A and here's Movie B and Fuest is desperately trying to mash them together.
 The cast is decent, in a bad movie kind of way, Shatner is of course Shatner in this.  His unusual speaking style with the dramatic pauses for no reason are very prevalent in this film.  Also, John Travolta (Battlefield Earth, Chains of Gold) has top billing in this but this being his first movie before Welcome Back, Kotter became a hit, so he is just one of the satanic drones and I don't even remember seeing his face without makeup.  However, my favourite has to be Ernest Borgnine (Deadly Blessing, Convoy), who plays the satanic leader Corbis.  He gives a good performance but the best part of this is that he turns into a demon goat thing, which totally cracked me up. 

  Which brings me to some of my favourite parts of this film, which is the special effects.  Although, relatively cheap looking effects ( I could be wrong) and using some time lapse techniques, the make-up crew are the ones who save this film for me.  For one, they do the wonderful make-up job on Ernest Borgnine, which alone is a reason to watch this movie but they also create these creepy druid, eyeless creatures that bleed wax and white goo when they get shot.  It's actually pretty cool looking at the end when Tom (Tom Skerrit) is battling them, there is some serious demon druid carnage.
  Also, I loved the ending and I was actually surprised at what happens at the end.  No, they don't go all go out for ice cream, but there is actually a solid twist here that is creepy, strange and enjoyable.
  On a side note, as I mentioned before that this had Anton LaVey, Leader of the satanic church working as the Satanic stunt/realism coordinator, so one has to wonder if this is what he imagined when he was preforming the secret rights at his church.  Did he believe that he would turn into a demon goat and be a vessel for the devil? Who knows?

  Is this the best horror movie that I've ever seen in my life?  No, not even close, but if you dig MST3K films than you will probably enjoy this as well.  This film has a nonsensical, all over the gambit story line but does have some special effects and very shatneresque acting moments for the entire cast.  So, if you are looking for a satanic film that will make you chuckle and confuse you at times, than burn some incense, chant the words and pop this into your machine and prepare for a hellish evening of fun.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

May Sucks: Trouble Every Day (2001)

Trouble Every Day (2001)
Director: Claire Denis
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, and Béatrice Dalle
Running Time: 101 min

  I've come across this film a number of times when searching for extreme films and always thought that it sounded interesting.  On top of that it's french, so if it's anything like "Frontier(s)" or "Inside", which coincidentally starred Béatrice Dalle as well, then this should be a pretty fantastic movie.

  A mysterious women lures a trucker out of his vehicle to "help" her with her car on the side of the road.  Hours later, the sun has set and a man on a motorcycle finds the womans' car abandoned and he searches for her in the nearby forest area.  When he finds her, the trucker is dead with a gaping wound in his neck and the woman is covered with blood.  The man comforts her, leads her back to his motorcycle and then they drive back home together.  When they arrive back at home, the man gives the woman some pills and after checking all the bars on the windows and other doors, he locks the woman back up in her room.
  Meanwhile, a young married couple Shane and June Brown are flying over to Paris, from America for their honeymoon.  They are excited and in love but Shane seems a little nervous and preoccupied because he is also trying to contact an old scientist friend about an issue he's been having.  Apparently, Shane cannot have intercourse, at least that's what June believes and Léo Semenau, a doctor friend of Shane's may have the answers that he that he has been looking for.  Unfortunately, Léo is no longer working for the same laboratory and seems to be untraceable.  Eventually, we find out that Léo and his wife, Coré are the the people who had to deal with the bloody trucker at the beginning.  June is also starting to have suspicions about veracity of Shane's affliction and maybe this isn't the fairy tale marriage that she was dreaming of.  Is there something more sinister here that June doesn't know about & can Shane find this friend and get the help he needs, or is there no hope a June is stuck in a relationship where the only pleasure may come from herself?

  This was pretty good, it was an interesting slow burn film with some sexy blood scenes.  Director Claire Denis (White Material, 35 Shots of Rum) holds the story cards very close to her chest & tries to keep Shane's intentions very mysterious until the end.  This is a sad love story about couples dealing with a horrifying sickness that either they must control or their partners must control for them.  It's interesting, complex at times and surprisingly very gory.
  Béatrice Dalle (The ABCs of Death 2, Livid) is both captivating and very dangerous in this film, as Coré the bloodsucking fiend wife of Léo Semenau.  She is incredible to watch as she lures victims to their demise but there also a real sense of sadness with the character and you realize that she is a victim herself because she has no control over this hunger inside her.  Vincent Gallo (The Brown Bunny, Buffalo '66) is also very good in this as the Shane character.  He flitters from scene to scene, desperately searching for a cure for what ails him and he tries to keep is dark secret away from the woman that he loves.  

  This is a very different kind of vampire movie, maybe it's a cannibal film, and it has a very art house feel to it.  It meanders at times and there is not as much back story in this as I would like.  I don't need a full explanation of what is going on but I would like to have a better understanding of the relationships between some of the main characters.  Is this a genetics thing? Is it a something that was contract on a trip? Is it a curse?  Denis leaves you guessing the whole time and this may be frustrating for some people because there is no answers in the end.
  Also, I think that most audiences will pick up on Shane's infliction soon into the film and I don't think that it is really necessary to try and keep his character's evolution working at such a slow pace and under-wraps.  Again, it would have been good to focus on his relationship with some of the other characters leading up to the ending of the film, which is very good, just not that surprising.

  This was a decent film but I think I was expecting a little bit more from it, considering the buzz that I've heard about it.  Still, it has a great horrifying story about love and how far people will go to keep that bit of happiness alive in there life, even if they have to lock it up in a room and stop it from eating people.  Also, there is some very gruesome love scenes that put the term "sex and violence" on a different level with some quality actors that can push the boundaries of terror.  So, if you're looking for a horror that has some sentimental ties to it, plunge into this film and drain the warm gooey humanity from it's neck.

Monday, 25 May 2015

May Sucks: What We Do In The Shadows (2014) Blu-ray Review

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Starring:  Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, and  Jonathan Brough

Running Time: 86 min

  Ever since the Flight of the Conchords, I've been a huge fan of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi and when I heard that they had put a vampire mockumentary together, I was ecstatic.  Even awesomer was that the film was getting some incredible reviews around the world, so I couldn't wait to see it.  Unfortunately, when the film finally came to my small Canadian hamlet, twice, my schedule/life/underwater basket weaving courses conflicted with the showings, so I was unable to see it, until now! I finally have it here in my hands and I can finally find out what they do in the shadows!

  New Zealand vampires Viago, Vladislav, Deacon and Petyr are being filmed for a documentary on vampires.  The camera crew follows them around getting an inside look on what it is like to be an average creature of the night in Wellington.  Things like being eternal flatmates, doing chores around the house, how they get dressed to go out when they cannot use mirrors and how they catch victims to feed their eternal hunger in this day and age are all brought to light in this fun and humorous film.
  Also, they are not the only supernatural creatures who show up in the darkest and not so darkest of nights in this New Zealand town.  This group of vamps must traverse the streets and sometimes battle for blood with werewolves, witches and even zombies!  Can this documentary crew survive a night with all these maniacal monsters or will they fall victim to these bloodsuckers like so many others in the past?

  This movie is hilarious and it's basically "This is Spinal Tap" but with vampires and a lot of blood.  Writer/directors Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords, Tongan Ninja) and Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, Boy) give these maleficent creatures of the night a marvelous send up by taking them out of their romantic Gothic era and leaving them smack dab in the present, struggling to adapt to everyday life.  Clement and Waititi brilliantly spoof many of the tropes that vampire films have given us over the years and turned them upside down and given us a look at some of the not so suave undead.
  The cast is fantastic and each character brings something new to the comedy table.  Waititi and Clement bring their talents on-camera as well and play two of the leads Viago and Vladislav.  These characters work well together because they are like a vampire odd couple.  Viago is a prissy 18th century dandy and Vladislav is a mock up of Vald the impaler, who has just started to mellow out and is trying to find himself.  Both skilfully play their roles and kept me laughing throughout the film.  Also, Jonathan Brough (Power Rangers, The Family Law), who plays Deacon is excellent as well.  He plays the youngest vampire of the group, at 144 years of age, and the only one with a human familiar, Jackie, who he has promised to make a vampire...someday.  Brough is fun to watch and brings a lot of silliness to the part. 
  In addition, this mockmentary has some of the best effects that I've seen in a while.  They crew use a combination of practical and CGI effects that make it spectacular and very realistic to watch, which is refreshing.  There is a lot of good blood jokes spraying everywhere, cool looking vampires floating around and there is even a werewolf(ves) transformation scene, which are all done really well.  Especially considering the budget constraints that they may or may not have had.  On top of that, the make-up for Ben Fransham (30 Days of Night, Heavenly Creatures), who plays the ancient vampire Petyr is amazing.  Petyr is a "Count Orlock", "Nosferatu" looking creature who is just hideous and evil looking with large fangs and blue skin.  The make-up team that did him up, did a stunning job and should be commended.  

  To be honest, there isn't really that much to complain about buuuuuut the one thing that got me was that these vampires were totally out of touch with the time period.  I understand, there lies the joke, but going so far as to say that these creatures who have lived for so many years have never come across a computer is a bit of a stretch.  However, the way that this technology angle gets worked in later in the film is interesting and does eventually lead to some good laughs.

  There are some excellent special features on the Blu-ray and is over two hours.  There are Deleted Scenes, Video Extras and Interviews (with the characters), which includes the short film by Waititi and Clement, that was the genesis of the film. These are all extra scenes that could have been used in the film, but were taken out, I'm guessing because of time constraints.  Also, there is a Photo Gallery, Poster Gallery and Promo Videos, which are kind of fun to watch as well.
  I was surprised that there wasn't an audio commentary on the film but you can't have everything, I guess. 

  Overall, this is an outstanding film and a must see for anyone, fan of the horror genre or not.  It is first-rate satire with just enough blood and guts to impress even the most jaded gore hound.  So, if your looking for something horrifyingly fun to watch and need a good laugh at the end of day from a job that is slowly draining you of your life, then grab a copy of this and watch some real bloodsuckers at work.