Monday, 22 September 2014

Honeymoon (2014)

Honeymoon (2014)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, and Ben Huber
Running Time: 87 min

Believe it or not, I know how hard and stressful it can be to plan a wedding.  To some, there is nothing scarier than getting all the preparations done or the service itself but once all the cake is eaten, then it definitely should be time to relax on the Honeymoon.  Unfortunately not here, first time director and co-writer Leigh Janiak has taken thoat breahing room and turned it on the its head for this young newlywed couple.

  Bea and Paul are in love and they just finished their reception, so they are excited to head off to a cabin in the woods to enjoy their Honeymoon.  They spend the first day doing what newly married couples normally do, fishing and taking a walk into the town to get some food for lunch.  When they get to the "Restaurant", it's seems deserted but luckily there is one person there and it happens to be Bea's ex-boyfriend, Will, who seems really grumpy.  Will starts to chill when he realizes it's Bea, but this level of calmness only lasts a few moments when Will's wife, Annie shows up looking like a battered doll.  Will gtrabs her by the elbow and asks Bea & Paul to leave.
  Paul & Bea get back to the cabin, talk about what could be wrong with Will & Annie and then go to sleep.  Later that night, Paul wakes up to find Bea gone from the bed and searches the house to no avail.  He heads out into the woods and finds her standing naked in the woods, scared and confused.  He brings her home, tries to find out what happened but she is resistant to tell him anything and she claims that she was just sleepwalking.  However the next morning, Bea seems really different, like she doesn't know how to make french toast or coffee and she doesn't think his lame jokes are funny.  Welcome to marriage, kid!  Anyway, these aren't the only things because Bea seems to be forgetting who she is as well and Paul notices her practicing lies about why she doesn't want to have sex and writing down what her name is.  Also, there seems to be a weird light at night and Paul thinks that there might be some sort of connection.  Can Paul save Bea and his marriage or has he lost Bea to some sort of outside force that he can't even begin to comprehend?

  This wasn't too bad, director Leigh Janiak creates an interesting slow boiling film that pays off pretty well in the end, well for the audience at least.  The pacing reminds me of T.I West's "The House of the Devil", where little weird things are happening in the beginning and the story really crescendos at the end.  The casting is very good and it's interesting to see Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, Now is Good) as Bea, who seems more demure in this role but still with a feisty edge to her.  Also, Harry Treadaway (Cockneys & Zombies, Penny Dreadful) plays Paul, the loving and attentive husband, who is seeing the love of his life disappear and doesn't know why.  With such a limited cast, these two had the film on there shoulders and they both carried really well.

  However there a couple issues I did have with the film; I don't know if it was intentional but the lovey dovey newlywed thing does get a bit annoying at the beginning but maybe I'm old I forget how obnoxious love can be.  It's just a bit much, luckily it doesn't last that long.  **SPOILER** Also, when it starts to get gory, like when he's pulling that thing out of her vagina, there doesn't seem to be a payoff and it doesn't explain anything.  As far as I can tell nothing came out.  There should have been something, a baby demon, claws, an alien or a least a fucking ham sandwich!  Something that would let the audiences know what they are dealing with but it just ended up being reels of umbilical cord and looked like a cheap gag from "The Wizard of Gore".  Likewise, I've noticed in films lately, there are no explanations why but things just are the way the are.  Which is an interesting concept because it forces the audience to just except what has just happened and you are not going to find out why, who or what is going to happen next.  This is kind of how the film ends and I think it may be polarizing for people who see the film.  I do like the ending, but I would have liked to know more about what/who did this to Bea and why, but not enough to dislike it. It's more of a mild annoyance.  **END SPOILERS**

  Overall this is a good film that is definitely worth checking out.  I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for director Leigh Janiak because this is a terrific script that she created with co-writer, Phil Graziadei and I'm sure this isn't the only one.  There are definitely some intense and WTF moments going on here that will have you gripping the armrest, as well as some moments that you really feel for the Paul & Bea character, as their love and sanity slip further and further away from them.  So, if you want to avoid sleeping in a cabin after your wedding, watch Honeymoon with your potential mate and scare the idea out of their mind.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Dexterity in Death! 5 Spellbinding Horror Films with Maniacal Magicians

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  I've always dug magic.  I remember sitting next to the stage at a Sigfried & Roy performance, so close that if a raised my arm I would have been able to touch a passing tiger.  Looking back on what happened a year later, maybe this wasn't the best seat in the house.  However, Watching a good magician is like watching a good film, there's a set up or the pledge, then an issue arises or the turn and then the resolution or the prestige, which should gives the viewer a new insight or a feeling of satisfaction.  This is an age old formula that is used for most scripts, so with that in mind, what if you combined the two? So, I searched for horror movies that had evil magicians thwarting revenge on people, society and the universe and this is what I found.

Here are 5 Spellbinding Horror Films with Maniacal Magicians

5. Two on a Guillotine (1965) - Famed magician Duke Duquesnes' daughter Cassie, returns home after his death.  Since her mother "abandoned" the Duke, she was sent away to live with an aunt in another state because the Duke was having mental issues.
  After the funeral and the reading of the will, Cassie discovers that she has inherited everything but she most live in the haunted magic mansion for a week to redeem her prize or the house, the money and all the fabulous prizes go to her fathers' two business associates, Dolly Bast and 'Buzzy' Sheridan.
  When she arrives at the house, she is greeted there by Val Henderson, who claims to be a architect or something but he is secretly, an ace reporter trying to get the scoop on the old Duquesnes place.  Anyway, they go inside and there are a number of spooky and comical traps that the two fall for and Val ends up staying the week to look after Cassie.  Can these two survive the traps that crazy Duke has set or is there more hidden in that house than a skeleton on strings?
  This really wasn't what I expected.  This story plays out more like a rom com than it does a horror film up until the end.  Director William Conrad (My Blood Runs Cold, Brainstorm) seems to focus more on the Cassie, played by Connie Stevens (Back To The Beach, Dragstrip Riot) and Val, played Dean Jones (The Love Bug, That Darn Cat!) falling in love than they do on the haunted house or the stipulations of will.  Anytime things get "scary", it ends up just being some sort of cheap gag, until **Spoiler** the Duke, played by Cesar Romero (The Thin Man, Batman (1966)) returns, then it actually gets scary but that isn't until the end of the film. *EndSpoiler**  This film is alright if you're looking for something light but it isn't death defying in the least.

4. Wizard of Gore (2007) - Rich hipster Ed Bigelow puts out a small paper in L.A and is always looking for a story.  One evening at a street party, he and his girlfriend, Maggie catch wind of an incredible underground magic show.  They go to the show at an abandoned amphitheater and are astounding by Montag the Magnificent and his style of gruesome magic tricks.  Ed becomes obsessed with the show and returns to see it night after night.  However, after the first couple nights, the girls who have been "pulled from the audience" to "help with the illusions" are popping up dead in the morning papers with horrible and familiar sounding deaths.  Can Ed discover the mystery of Montag and stop his monstrous magic show or will he get pulled on stage and be made a spectacle himself?
  This was okay but you can tell that the budget was tight on this one.  There is some talented people on this like, Crispin Glover (Reuben & Ed, Back to The Future) who plays Montag, Bijou Phillips (Bully, Hostel 2) and Kip Pardue (Stag Night, Hostel Part III) who plays Ed but I think at times they are wasted on green screen looking sets and a hipster storyline that is kind of hit or miss.  Also, the magic gore scenes are done with CGI and done with a "Magic Mirror" in front, which is kind of lame.  I do like the idea of adjusting the story into a Horror/noir but there aren't really any likeable characters in this.  This film definitely has some gruesome effects that are worth checking out but I prefer my magic less digital.

3. Magic (1978) - After overcoming a rough first time in front of an audience and then having his mentor die, Corky Withers, an aspiring magician and ventriloquist, hits the big time with their manager, Ben Greene.  Unfortunately before the studio signs Corky, they would like him to have a full physical for insurance purposes.  This freaks Corky out and he vamooses to his hometown to hide from the physical, all the money and an amazing career.  Good work Corky, good work.
  While in hiding in his old hometown, he runs into Peggy Ann-Snow, the girl he had a crush on in high school.  He stays at her smotel and impresses her with his lewd ventriloquist act.  What a classy gal!  The sad thing is that Peggy is married and what's makes things worse is that Fats, Corky's dummy starts making threats on Peggy's life if he stays with her.  Can Corky get the girl, the dream job and the fame or will Fats, the dummy, kill, literally, all his chances of being happy?
  This was a really weird film and I can see why you don't hear about it that much.  This is a surprisingly disjointed film by famed actor/director Richard Attenborough (Ghandi, Cry Freedom)RIP.  The focus, like in "Two for A Guillotine" seems to be on the relationship between, Corky, played by Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, The Elephant Man) and Ann-Margaret (Viva Las Vegas. Tommy) and the horror element seems to fall wayside.  However, the scenes with Fats, the dummy and Hopkins are very interesting, well played out and can be very creepy. However,  I wished that they could have focused more on this element.  There isn't a huge death count, but it's an strange film and very scary if dummies creep you out.

2. The Mad Magician - Don Gallico builds amazing illusions and magic tricks for other magicians and he finally has taken the chance to perform the tricks himself.  Sadly on the premiere of his show, his evil business partner, Ross Ormond puts the kibosh on the show with the help of one of their clients, The Great Rinaldi.  They claim that the magic tricks do not belong to Gallico and the show must come to an end.
  The next day at work is awwwwkward to say the least and Gallico and Ormond argue about the night before.  Ormond reminds Gallico that not only does he work for him, that he stole his wife and that Gallico will never perform any of his own illusions as long as he lives.  Well thems the magic words, Gallico enraged kills Ormond.  He then disguises himself as Ormond and with the help of a college sports bonfire celebration burns the body.
  Gallico still disguised as Ormond rents a room from Alice Prentiss, a mystery writer and sets off on his plan to get revenge on his wife, Rinaldi and anyone else who tries and to stop his career in magic and murder!  Will the police be able to stop this savage sorcerer or will send his victims into periling acts of prestidigitation!
  Vincent Price (Madhouse, The Fly) as Galico is really terrific in this.  The illusions that they perform may be dated at times but are a lot of fun to watch.  Director John Brahm (Hot Rods From Hell, The Lodger) really marries the elements of Horror and Magic in this film.  Galico uses some of the most ingenious tricks, disguises and illusions to dismay, deter and destroy his rivals.  This film is really great if you enjoy classic horror films, it has sharp dialogue, fiendish plots and Eva Gabor (Gigi, The Rescuers), what more could you want?!

1. Lord of Illusions (1995) - In 1982, a cult leader and sorcerer named Nix, who also calls himself "The Puritan" and his cult, kidnap a young girl to sacrifice in a remote abandon house in the Mojave desert.  Luckily, Swann, a former member of the cult and Nix's star pupil, thinks that Nix has gone to far this time and with his crack team of other former cultist, they go into rescue the little girl.  Luckily, they arrive in time and defeat Nix but before they do, Nix uses his power to give Swann the vision of "Flesh with a God's Eye" that makes him see people as monstrous figures.  Nix is then shot by the little girl.  So like with any body, they chain the body up in metal and toss him in a hole in the desert, never to be seen again.  The end?
  Thirteen years later, private detective and supernatural magnet, Harry D'amour takes on a quiet insurance fraud case and flies down to L.A..  While tracking his perp, D'amour stumbles onto a what looks like ritual killing in a psychic parlour.  It seems has though former cult member and Nix's new second banana, Butterfield and his neo-nazi henchman have come looking to find where Nix's body is buried.  After battling with D'amour and the henchmen tossed out a second story window, Butterfield escapes.  After the cops arrive, the henchman has disappeared but D'amore is intrigued by this case and finding "The Puritan" which was one of the dying man's last words.
  Swann, however, is now a big time magician and lives with this wife Doreatha, who lets him know about the murder of their friend, Quaid, the dead man in the psychic parlour and suggests they hire D'amour to find the culprits.  They invite D'amour to one of Swann's performances and while watching the performance, Swann's new illusion goes wrong and is killed!  Can D'amour find the killers and stop Butterflied from resurrecting Nix or has the true lord of illusion have one more trick up his sleeve?
  This film was a lot better than I remember it.  This was the directors cut which has been released since the original theatrical and VHS offering.  Writer/Director/Master of Horror Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed) directs a good horror/noir tale from one his Books of Blood series.  This focuses a little more on "real" magic and how it hides in the magic that us unsupernatural people know.  Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Enterprise) is actually pretty good as hard boiled detective, Harry D'amour and I had totally forgot that this was one of Famke Janssen's (GoldenEye, Taken 2) first major film roles as Swann's wife and mystery girl, Doreatha.   The computer special effects on this are bit dated but I like what Barker was trying to do. You have to remember that CGI was new and very cutting edge at this time but there are some extraordinary practical effect and gore in this as well to balance it out.  This is a definite must to revisit if you haven't seen it for a while, the directors cut is tighter, less confusing from what I remember and still has some very enjoyable horror magic in it.

So, if you're looking for some feats of heart pounding, petrifying prestidigitation, then look no further, these titles can pull fear out of a hat.  However, you may not want to look behind the curtain because that is where the true terror lies.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Drink the Kool-Aid! The Sacrament DVD Review

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  Really excited for this to come out on DVD/Blu-ray because Ti West puts a nice spin on the found footage genre and creates a very real and very grim film.  In this movie, Ti West creates one of the most charming and sinister characters, "Father", who doesn't look or sound alarming but has such a firm hold of his congregation, that he can exploit them to any extreme that he wishes.  

The Synopsis

  Caroline, who has fallen off the grid, contacts her brother Patrick, a reporter for "Vice" and asks him to come and visit her at the religious commune that she is living at on the other side of the world.  So, Patrick and a couple of his "Vice" colleagues, Sam and Jake grab their gear and put the trip on the expense account hoping to get a great story.
  Unfortunately, when they arrive half way around the world, they realize that they have bitten off more than they can chew, when they are met by armed guards at the gates.  Luckily, Caroline gets there in time, cooler heads prevail and they are welcomed into the camp.  Inside the camp, Caroline explains that this paradise was all created by one man, "Father".  This is his dream and the are fulfilling god's wishes.  Patrick and his friends ask if it's okay to do some interviews with the people in the commune and if it's possible to interview "Father"? Caroline takes off to ask and she quickly comes back and says it's all right. Caroline and Patrick leave to catch up, while Sam and Jake get settled in their cabin.  
  Sam & Jake explore the camp and talk to whoever will give them a few moments but the majority of the commune seem to shy away from them.  The people they speak with seem happy and content with their living arrangements but Sam & Jake feel that there is an eerie vibe to the place.  Will the "Vice" staff discover the secrets to Eden Parrish or will they lose themselves to the commune and forget the modern world?

Special Features

  This is a great looking DVD and sounds terrific as well.  The commentary on the film is pretty interesting and includes Ti West, AJ Bowen and Amy Seimetz, who talk about about their feelings about going into the project, working on specific scenes and their reaction to the film when they eventually saw the whole thing put together.  They also discuss working with Gene Jones, who played "Father" and his impact on the film, as well working with such a large number of extras, dealing with the producers, like Eli Roth and how much extra story their was before Mr. West got into the editing bay with it.  If you are interested in the film business or you just like movies, this is a fascinating commentary to hear how a project can start and then get whittled down to tight 90+ minutes of terror.

  Also, there are some great features on the disc, like a feature called "Creating the Sacrament: Revealing the Vision", which they talk to Ti West, the cast and the crew about how they put the project together.  They discuss the location, how quickly the project seemed to snowball and how they were able to build the commune so quickly.  Again, this is a fantastic look at how a project can get off the ground and it really recognizes the hard work of the people behind the camera.  
  As well as a feature called, "Preparing for Takeoff" and it's a behind the scenes look at how the helicopter scene was shot, which is cool to see.  Also, there is a thing called, "Working with the Director: The Ti West Experience" which half of it is people just saying how much they like Ti West and unfortunately there isn't much talking about his style or how he conceptualizes projects.  Just that they like Ti West and I guess I do too.  Then there is the obligatory "AXS TV: Look at" which they have on all the Magnet discs when they do a quick, 2 minute commercial type packaging of clips and interview telling you to watch the movie you just bought.
  For the most part the features are good but I was surprised the Gene Jones who was such a pivotal character in the film wasn't interviewed more.  I would have loved to here more about how he saw the character and what he did to develop it.  There is some Gene Jones in one of the features but it would have been really interesting to see where that cat was coming from when doing this film.

  This is great DVD package from Magnet and VSC.  This is Ti West's best film since "House of the Devil" and takes a fresh approach to the, lack of a better word, found footage genre.  Like most of his films it a is a well paced film that has an unforgettable ending that you will wish that you could.  This is a terrific film to add to any horror fans collection.

Monday, 11 August 2014

5 Killer Movies Based on Real People

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  Serial killers have been around for centuries and may have even inspired horror legends, like vampires and werewolves, that we know today.  However, Jack the ripper is considered the first modern serial killer and since him, we have seen a plethora of people following in his path, so I wasn't surprised to find an abundance of films that were available on this subject.

Here are 5 Killer Movies Based on Real People

5. Karla (2006) - During interviews with Dr. Arnold, who is determining the eligibility of her parole, Karla Homolka tells her story of how she and Paul Bernardo met, fell in love with and then raped and killed a number of young women.
  This one was a tough one to watch, but director Joel Bender (The Cursed, Vlad) does a very tasteful job with some very tough material.  Most of the violence is done off camera and he is careful not to show any nudity in film.  Some of the names have been changed, due to the fact that these were teenage girls that were killed and most likely out of respect for the families.  And even with that much sensitization, it's still a very creepy film.
  The film itself looks like a made for TV movie and I found that Laura Prepon (The 70's Show, Orange Is The New Black) and Misha Collins (Supernatural, 24) seemed a little stilted at times as the Homolka and Bernardo characters and these young actors, at the time, may not have been able to grasp the complexity of these criminals.  But then again, who has?  Anyway, the film neither vilifies nor does it try to exempt Homolka from the crimes and it places her at the scenes as a willing participant in them all.  Again, this is a hard film to watch but it has some scary moments and depicts some very brutal events.

4. Badlands (1973) - Highschool dropout and local riff raff, Kit falls in love with 13 year old Holly after quitting his job as a part time sanitation worker.  The pair hang around for a while and then Holly's father decides that he doesn't want his daughter involved with Kit, so he tells Kit to "move on".  This enrages Kit and goes to Holly's house to take her away but her father catches him packing up her things and he tries to stop them from leaving.  Kit shoots Holly's father and then they set the house on fire, hoping that the police will think they all died in the fire (?) and leaves a note saying that it wasn't his and Holly's fault.  The two go on the run and Kit starts killing people left, right and centre to get the supplies that they need to survive and that him and Holly can be together.  Can these love birds make it in a crazy bang bang shoot'em up world or will the extensive police man hunt finally catch up with them?
  This is a very good movie and is based loosely on the Starkweather/Fugate spree.  However, the true story is really whitewashed in the film and this is more of a crime flick than a horror. But Kit, played brilliantly by Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Firestarter) does leave a very large bloody trail behind him, which makes me wonder how this is not at least PG-13?  Sissy Spacek (Carrie, Hot Rod), who plays Holly, is also fantastic as well.
  Director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, The New World) gives these characters a dream like fantasy world to live in and anyone who enters and disrupts this world is killed.  It seems to be more of game for them, running and hiding for the police and at least Spacek's character may not understand the consequences of Kits actions.  Again, it's not accurate to the Starkweather/Fugate case but it's a great movie with two a terrific cast and a larger than expected body count. 

3. Cannibal (2006) - A man posts on the internet that he is looking for somebody to eat and after a number of failed meet and greets, he finally finds somebody that wants to be eaten and fits his criteria.  You really can find everything on the internet these days!  After a lot of gay sex stuff, the man is unable to bring himself to butchering his new food, friend.  Will the man get down and carve up his meat or has he had a moment of clarity and thinks that eating another person isn't such a good idea.
  I found most of this movie pretty dull.  There is no dialogue for most of the movie and it looks like it was shot on a home video camera.  Also, there is a lot of man love in this movie, which there is nothing wrong with, but like any sex scene that goes on too long, it really gets tedious after a while.  The third act is the best part, something actually happens and it's pretty twisted.  There is some serious penis mutilation and some human butchery.  I don't know if it makes up for the other 40 - 50 minutes of nothing that has gone on but it's something.
  This was based on the Armin Meiwes case in Germany.  He was a computer repair guy and I guess this is what he did.  They found him because someone reported the "Looking for Someone to Eat" add in the paper to the police.  Go figure, eh?  However, he has since become a vegetarian and has helped the police in a few cases of cannibalism over there.  He claims there are at least 800 cannibals in Germany right now.  Anyway, if you have the patience to sit through a rather dull film and like extreme gore then this could be a film for you.  Unfortunately, there was no trailer for this or clip available.

2. Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile (1974) - Ezra Cobb lives on a farm with his sick mother and spends his days working and looking after her.  Right before his mother passes away, she gives him the advice that only a loving mother can give.  She basically tells Ezra that women are all whores and the will only love you for your money, expect for the fat ones.  Thanks mom!
  After his mother's death, Ezra can still here her talking to him and eventually he goes back to the cemetery and digs her back up to bring her home.  Unfortunately, being dead in a coffin underground does terrible things to your skin, so Ezra starts stealing bodies to use the skins to make his mother fresh again.  On the positive note, Ezra does try to start dating again but ends up murdering the ladies he takes out.  Worst date ever.  Can Ezra ever find the woman of his dreams or is she already in dead in the bed of his house with the skin of his victims covering her face?
  Writer and co-director Alan Ormsby (Dead of Night, Popcorn) creates an low budget but somewhat accurate story based on the life of Ed Gein.  Although the story may drag a bit and the acting is what you would expect, there are some excellent gory scenes from future FX master Tom Savini.  I found it surprisingly graphic, considering the year of it's release. I also like that it is suppose to be in America but you can see Ontario license plates & there's a Stompin Tom song in one of the scenes.  This film has a strange charm to it that will have you asking why haven't I seen this before and why do I want to watch it again. 

1. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) - Henry drives around Chicago searching for victims, while his roommate and shitty drug dealer, Otis goes and picks up his sister, Becky at the airport.  When Henry gets home, Otis lets him know that Becky will be staying with them until she gets things together.  Henry shrugs and Becky starts taking a shine to Henry.
  One night while entertaining some ladies of the night in Henry's car, Otis discovers that Henry has some violence tendencies, as he watches him kill the two hookers.  Henry tells Otis not to worry and starts giving him the low down on how not to get caught killing people.  Sadly, just as the relationship between Henry and Becky begins to really blossom, Otis and Henry start a killing spree in the Chicago area.  Can anyone stop these two and can Becky find the love that she has been searching for or will the streets run red with blood in the windy city?
  Loosely based on Henry Lee Lucas and his friend Ottis Toole, this is an interesting film that seems like a snapshot of the character Henry's time in Chicago.  Henry is already killing at the beginning of the film but what is fascinating is that he develops or has a certain sympathy for and becomes very fond and protective of Otis's sister Becky.  Which is similar to real life, only that Becky's name was Frieda and she was 12, not an adult like in the movie.
  Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Mallrats) makes his film debut with a chilling portrayal of Henry.  Also, Tom Towel (House of Thousand Corpses, Dr. Doolittle) and Tracy Arnold (The Borrower, The Shot) give effective performances in this as well.  Director John McNaughton tells a very disturbing story with a very tight cast and what seems to be an even tighter budget.  There are some very haunting images at the beginning, then film spirals into some disturbing scenes and end, for some, is just perfect.  This is a most see if you enjoy the serial  killer genre. 

When I chose the films, I was looking for a mix of terrifying stories from all over the world (America, Canada and Germany because I have a limited budget and vision of the world) and tried to explore some of the more disturbing tales and films I don't see or hear a lot about.  These stories reflect a very dark side of human nature that affect a minority of the people on this planet and maybe through these films we can learn more about these characters and what makes them tick or at least find ways to avoid them and stay safe.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Terror in a Tub! The Drownsman (2014) Review

The Drownsman (2014)
Director: Chad Archibald
Starring: Michelle Mylett, Caroline Korycki and Gemma Bird Matheson
Running Time: 88 min

 I really dug the poster for this and seeing that I've almost drowned more times than I would have liked, I had a morbid fascination with this film.  I was unfamiliar with the cast and crew, so I didn't know what to expect and hoped for some good, clean, horror fun and not something that I'd want to pull the plug on.  So, I slipped into the film and had my lucky towel beside me, just in case.

The film starts with a woman trapped in a box and she is screaming.  Eventually, the killer gets to her and drags her to the tub to give her a good drowning.  Luckily, he finds her sexy and she starts making out with him, which gives her the opportunity to stab him in the back of the head, and start drowning him. How do you like it, buddy boy.  Unfortunately, he disappears while she's drowning him and she can't find him.  Maybe, he went down the drain?
  Fast forward to plot B, Madison has just found out that her best friend, Hannah is engaged!  Their other friends, Coby and Lauren are so excited that they run back into the house, screaming like spinster banshees to tell everyone and Hannah brings Madison down to the dock to ask her to be the Maid of Honour.  Sounds like a video game. Anyway, Madison is so thrilled that she agrees and then hangs out at the dock, while her best friend goes back to the party alone.  While on the dock, Madison slips on a empty bottle, bangs her head and slips into the water.  While unconscious, she dreams of a being in a dark, terrifying place with a horrible killer and just as he comes just close enough to grab her..., she is wakes up safe again on the docks with her friends around her.
  Unfortunately, this isn't over yet cuz fast forward again and since the drowning experience Madison has become a basket case.  Presumably, she is seeing this monster from her drowning dream everywhere since the day at the dock and she has come down with some form of aquaphobia.  Lucky for her, her best friend Hannah choosing to do nothing about this until it causes Madison to miss her wedding.  Hannah tells her that she is tired of this mental disorder and Madison is getting help for her tomorrow, the day after the wedding(?). So, Hannah and her friends get a fake, but kind of real psychic to try and prank Madison out of her serious mental condition. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong and the girls soon learn that what Madison is dealing with is real and now they are being hunted down by the same wet blanket maniac.  Can these ladies stop this madmen from making their dreams wet & terrifying or will they fill yet another watery grave for the Drownsman?!?!

 The concept of this film is great and I enjoyed the Kruegerestic/water monster that co-writer/director Chad Archibald (Kill, Neverlost) and co-writer Cody Calahan (Antisocial) have created.  I think if handled well, they could have a character that has the potential for a terrific franchise. The Drownsman is very scary, when used properly.
  Also, the production on this film is pretty good and Archibald uses the shadows and the darkness to his advantages.  Even though I'm sure this film must have budgetary constraints, being a smaller company, it has a good looks and feel to it that is equal too or better than some films that I've seen from larger studios lately.

 However this film isn't squeaky clean and doe have some issues.  For instance, at times I didn't think there was enough depth or back story.  They never did clear up how Sebastian Donner/The Drownsman knew how to travel into the netherworld?  Was it voodoo? Was it an accident?  Nothing can just happen, there needs to be a reason.  Also, why do we never see Hannahs' fiance/husband?  Doesn't he care about his new wife and where she is going and doing?  I guess not, because from what I remember, she doesn't get one phone call and nobody mentions him outside the event at the beginning.  Personally, I think she just made him up and she's probably the bat shit crazy one not Madison.  Finally, why did it take so long for them to confront Madison with this basket case issue?  She suffered a year or like 6 months with it and I guess the Drownsman is one slow dude on tasks because I'm sure he could have gotten around to this a little bit faster.  These characters need depth, they need a background story and there has to be reasons why people do and say things, it can't just be because or you're left with the these one note characters that nobody gives a shit about.
  Also, everything is given to the characters and they don't seem to have to work for it.  This person has information on the Drownsman, he's home and has a box of stuff with all the information they need, or this lady was one of his victim, she's in a mental institution that can be accessed at all hours of the day and is sane enough to give them just the right pertinent information they need.  Stories need some kind of push/pull, I want the characters work for that information!  This is what causes tension, it's ten o'clock, visiting hours are closed, or the tapes the man had on the Drownsman were destroyed by flooding last year!  Give the characters some obstacles, the audience will appreciate it.

 With that said, it's still an aright movie but it could have been a better.  It definitely has some good scares and again the concept is solid but the build up can be frustrating at times.  Eventually though, the story gets into it's groove and there are some good twists and turns of terror.  So check it out and you may never bath again, or even less than you normally do!

The Drownsman will be premiering at the Fantasia International Film Festival on August 2 at 5:15pm in the DB Clarke Theatre (1455 Boulevard de Maisonneuve)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

They're in the Walls! 5 Horror Movies about Rats!

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  Rats!  Considered to be one of the deadliest pests, linked with at least a dozen diseases according to the CDC and the main contributor to the outbreak of the bubonic plague, this adorable creatures ability to think and adapt has allowed them survive all these years.  I've read that New York City is known for its sizeable rats, probably urban myths but if these rats are getting bigger and smarter, who
 knows what they may be planning.  So, to defend ourselves from the upcoming rat takeover, I suggest we watch some films about our enemy, see what we may be up against and what the best course of action is to take. 

Here are 5 Rattus Atrocitas Membrana:

5. Willard (1971) - Willard is a meek young man, who lives with his sick mother and slaves away at a company his father started but has been stolen away from his family since his father's death by a man named Mr. Martin.  Willard is bullied and ridiculed at work and he never meets the expectations of his mother and her friends when he gets home.  He doesn't have a friend in the world, until he meets the rats who live in his yard.  He becomes friends with them and starts feeding and training them to understand his language and commands but must keep this secret because his mother would want to destroy all his new playmates.
  Unfortunately, one day Willard's mother dies and Mr. Martin has his greedy eye on Willard's house.  Mr. Martin and his cronies come up with schemes to get the house and eventually he just  fires Willard, so he will be forced to sell the house.  Can Willard and his army of rats stop Mr. Martin and get revenge for his misdoings or as the trap been laid and about to snap on Willard?
  This was pretty good but it's a little slow paced.  I enjoyed the story and Bruce Davidson (Apt Pupil, Short Cuts) is really good as Willard.  As the story progresses, Willards' decent into dementia is well played out and his only hold on reality is his office girlfriend (kind of) Joan, played by Sondra Locke (Death Game, Ratboy).  Who I think is terribly underused in this film.
   Ernest Borgnine (Escape From New York, The Devil's Rain) is great in this, he's perfect as the lecherous conniving boss trying to push Willard out of the house.  It's also funny to see rats being thrown at him because you know that was somebody's job to throw rats at Ernest Borgnine.  Best job ever!
  The story does take a while to get to the horror aspect and there is a rather small death toll in this, which includes a rat being killed on camera, so just a heads up.  The other deaths are alright, lots of rats chewing on people kind of thing.  This is a good film to start off any rat marathons but it may not tastiest piece of cheese.

4. Killer Rats (2003) - The Brookedale Institute is the last stop for messed up rich kids to get their shit together and it is becoming privatized.  Samantha has been sent here because of her last suicide attempt and she may be in for a bit more than she can gnaw, umm...chew.  Her roommate is crazy & obsessive, the guy in the rec room has violent OCD and the only person she seems to get a long with is the hunky former movie actor, Johnny Falls. Well, they do say love is crazy.
  One night, Samantha wonders out of her room and discovers another patient on the floor being eaten by rats and the custodial engineer, Ernst cleaning it up.  Samantha freaks out and tries to find another staff member but when she does, the mess has already been cleaned up and the staff thinks that it's Samantha's mental well being that is causing hallucinations.  Well played Ernst, well played.
  However, as the days go on, more and more patients are mysteriously being transferred from the Institute for strange and unknown reasons.  Can Samantha, with the help of Johnny, find out what 's going on in that rat's nest of a hospital or are they going to be served up as an entree to the vermin?
  This film was a lot better than I was expecting.  I was really disappointed by director Tibor Takacs (The Gate, I, Madman) "Spider 3D" movie so I wasn't expecting much from this one but there was a pretty decent story in this.  He uses the rats well in this and keeps them in the dark for the first half, with a lot of scenes with glowing eyes and tails whipping away.  When he does reveal the rats, it's no perfect,because there is a lot of CG going on and they don't look quite as real as you would hope, but it's good enough.  The script starts to falter half way through but like a rat in water, the story and the scary does keep it's head above water enough to get to the credits.
  I was also surprised to see Ron Pearlman (Hellboy, Ice Pirates) in this as a minor role as a doctor and the rest of the cast were adequate in this B-thriller.  Again there is some interesting CG going on here, like rats miraculously & magically coming through the floor, but the amount of blood and guts make up for it.  This is a will gnaw 90 minutes of your time but it's fun and is gory enough to keep you watching.

3. The Food of the Goods (1976) - Professional football players, Morgan and Davis are heading up to a remote island in Canada with there PR person, Brian.  While they're there, Davis is attacked and killed by a a giant wasp.  Didn't see that coming did you?  So, Morgan runs off into the wilderness to get help and comes across a small farm house and a barn.  He bangs on the door but nobody answers, so he wanders into the barn, only to be attacked by a giant cock! Yes, a giant rooster attacks him and Morgan kills the rooster and narrowly escapes.  When he comes out of the barn, Mrs.Skinner greets him and tells him that there are giant creatures every where and it's because of some magical excretion from the ground, that she and her husband mix in the animals food (?).  She tells him to just get off the island before he gets hurt, so Morgan grabs Brian and they hit the road.
  The following weekend, Morgan has convinced Brian that they need to go back to the island and destroy all the creatures there for revenge and safety.  Of course!  Also, 2 people who want to buy the Skinners formula have come to the island, as well as a young pregnant couple just happen to be vacationing there as well.  Once everybody is on the island, they all get attacked by giant rats!  Eventually, they come together and barricade themselves into the Skinners small farm house, "Night of the Living Dead" style, then try to come up with a plan to escape.  Will these people be eaten by rats or will they be able to escape with there tails between their legs?
  This is a bad movie but it's more laughable bad than some films I've seen.  I mean, giant chickens, c'mon.  This film was based on portions of a novel of the same name from H.G. Wells and was so successful that American International created a sequel for this film and two more H.G. Wells inspired films.  However, unlike the story from Wells, this screenplay has some series holes.  Like, why didn't Morgan call the police after his friend died and didn't anyone ask where Davis was?  I'm sure there was some sort of Environmental agency to that could have been contacted and Morgan and Brian could have just stayed home.  Also, my favourite part is when everyone realizes that Morgan has gotten them trapped and they may all die but they could have probably escaped hours ago.
  The acting is okay, film legend Ida Lupino (High Sierra, On Dangerous Ground) is in her Joan Crawford time of her career and plays Mrs. Skinner and Ralph Meeker (Paths of Glory, The Dirty Dozen) also in the twilight of his career, plays the evil greedy executive Mr. Bensington.
  The rats are done up pretty well and there are a lot of them.  The only issue is that they actually are killing these rats or these are some Oscar winning performances given by these animals.  Also, the wasps are okay, in the hokey big bug seventies way but again it's fun to see.  This isn't the "Worst Rodent Movie of All Time" as suggested by some critics but it's not really the best either. 

2. Of Unknown Origin (1983) - Business man Bart Hughes has a loving family, a gorgeous home, which he remodeled, and is up for a promotion at his job.  This all takes a turn for the worse after his wife and son leave on vacation and he discovers that there is a rat sharing his abode.  He thinks he can handle the issue himself but the rat easily avoids his traps and poisons and Bart soon becomes obsessed with capturing and killing this creature.  Bart starts missing work, avoiding his families calls and starts destroying the home that he built to catch this interloper.  Will Bart finally catch his white whale of a rat or will he flounder and be beaten and eaten by a rat.
  I really enjoyed this film and thought Peter Weller (Robocop, Naked Lunch) was really great.  The film has a tiny cast and it really hinges on Weller's performances.  Watching him go head to head with this animal is fantastic.
  I was surprised by how many jump scares there were in the film and easily I was pulled in.  Director George P. Cosmatos (Tombstone, Cobra) keeps a steady tone of terror throughout the film and it becomes a real game of cat and mouse or in this case man and rat, each trying to destroy the other.  My only issue is that I would have like to seen Weller win a couple more because he is getting pummeled by this rodent throughout the film. There isn't a huge bodycount in this film but but it is a good film featuring one of the oldest plots, Man vs. Nature but in a modern setting.  So, if you want a tactical idea how to get rid of a rat, than this is it. 

1. Deadly Eyes (1982) - After inspector, Kelly Leonard finds infected grain in the shipyard, she demands that it be burned because it is contaminated and cannot be eaten by people.  Unfortunately, it has been eaten by neighbourhood rats and has made them grow to incredible sizes.  Also, now that their food supply is being burned, these giant rats have to go find something else to eat, like people!?!
 Kelly believes she's made the world safer, so, she goes on a jog to get ready for the Mayor's unveiling of the subway line.  On her run, she meets up with divorced dad, high school teacher and 80's hunk, Paul Harris.  She learns that Paul's son is crazy about trains and asks him out on a date.  Deciding a date with Kelly is more appetizing than a frozen dinner, Paul accepts and the two go out that evening.  While on their date, the rats kill a baby and her babysitter, an old man and the character Scatman Crothers plays!  Those are some busy rats!
  The next morning before Kelly has a chance to kick Paul out of her apartment, she is told about Scatman's death.  Her and Paul race around town collecting clues to find out what's causing all these mysterious deaths.  After realizing that it's the rats, the two call it a date and go home to get ready for the Mayor's Subway unveiling.  Sadly, when Kelly arrives to pick up Paul and his son, she discovers a student of Paul's in the bedroom with him.  So, Kelly kidnaps, I mean takes Paul's son and leaves Paul pulling up his pants.  However, just as they leave, Paul gets a distressing phone call to let them know that yes giant rats exists and they want to eat fresh and will be at the subway unveiling.  Can Paul get there in time to save his child and latest on night stand or will they be they a cold cut combo for this giant vermin.
  This is a fun film and the third act is the best part.  Once they get past all the set ups, director Robert Clouse (Enter The Dragon, Gymkata) lets the rats feast on the whole city and there are some pretty gruesome scenes.  I was surprised that they inferred that the rats ate a baby as well because for 1980 that is a pretty hard thing to swallow.  Again you don't see it, but there is a baby and then there isn't one.
  Sam Groom from Police Surgeon fame and Sara Botsford (Tremors 4, Fog (2005)) do an alright job in the lead roles in this and Lisa Langlois (Class of 1984, Happy Birthday to Me), as well as Scatman Crothers (The Shining, Black Belt Jones) also show up briefly.  The big stars of the film though were the Dachshunds wearing giant rat suits and I must say they looked better than the ones in the "Killer Shrews".  Anyway this is a fun film and if you can avoid the cheesy nibbling of romance at the beginning and end up in the trap of terror at the end, then you'll be one happy rat.

Sure rats may not take over but these are sure interesting creatures.  In most of the films, there are a lot of terrifying facts about these animals that I didn't know, I'm sure the screen writer may be exaggerating but there were a few key ideas that kept popping up.  So, if you hear your pipes squeaking or see a pair of glowing in the dark, put down that cheddar and run!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Joyride 3: Roadkill

Joyride 3: Roadkill (2014)
Director: Declan O'Brien
Starring: Ken Kirzinger, Jesse Hutch and Ben Hollingsworth
Running Time: 96 min

Ahhh, the Joy Ride series.  I had to re-watch the first two because I forgot that I had seen them.  I'm guessing, Rusty Nail returns in this one for some more jaw cutting, transport truck terror!  Also, I noticed that it was written and directed by Declan O'Brien, who took over the Wrong Turn franchise on their third kick at the cat, so hopefully he can get might this rig hauling horror in the right direction.

Jordan, his girlfriend, Jewel and their friends have built a race car and are heading up to Canada for a huge race car event.  On their way, they stop at a truck stop for food and ask a local trucker if this other highway is quicker to get to get to unspecific area of Canada where they have the huge car racing events.  The trucker goes crazy and warns them not to drive on that highway because people and vehicles have gone missing and a lot of people have died on that stretch of road.  Luckily, during his barrage of terrifying warnings and crazy talk, the sheriff happens to walk in and assures Jordan and his friends that the roads fine and not to worry.  So, they grab their food and hit the road.
  While on the road, Jordan and his friend Austin decide to cut off a rig for fun.  Unfortunately, it's Rusty Nails' rig and he doesn't like when people fuck with him.  So, he tries to run them down but Jordan and his friends are too quick and Rustys' truck ends up jack knifing.  Pissed at how dangerous Jordan has been driving, Jewel gets in the other car with Austin and heads out, while Jordan and his three other friends ride with him in the race car.  That night, Jewel and Austin get run off the road in a fiery blaze by Rusty Nail.  Luckily, they're still alive so he captures them. He then contacts Jordan and tells him that he doesn't give him their race car then Jewel and Austin die!  Can Jordan save his friends or will they suffer the same type of wrath that others have when they cross Rusty Nail?!?!

  This was a lot better than I thought it was going to be when it first arrived.  Director Declan O'Brien (Sharktopus, Wrong Turn 3) tells a decent story and keeps the action moving throughout the film.  There really isn't any lows or dips that I noticed, it's pretty much full steam ahead suspense and action.  Which is pretty sweet.  Also, there are some good innovative death scenes in this with some excellent gore.  This is definitely not a 14A film like the original. 

One of the issues with the film is that they took away some of Rusty Nails' calling cards, like when he would cut of people's jaws off or how he talked to them about the "storm coming" before he went after people.  I'm sure the jaw thing, was to save time and wanting to use the truck as his murderous operandi, but the "Storm is coming" thing I kind of missed that because it was so ominous when he spoke about it, it was just some creepy shit. 
  Also in the third act, it shifts gears a bit from reality based horror to umm, maybe(?) and you need to stretch your suspension of beliefs a little further because the death scenes get a bit crazier.  For instance, Rusty smashes his truck through a police car which explodes in a fantastic ball of fire or a character watches a multi shot version of another character being killed on a cell phone.  Marvelous screen deaths but impossible.  The first two acts were so grounded and made sense but I'm guessing O'Brien wanted to go big or go home effects for the final act, which changes the tone of the film. 
  Finally, I don't actually know if this is a pro or a con but the characters were all really just one note.  On one hand, I liked this because there wasn't the stoner kid, the jock and any other stereotypical douchebags that we are forced to suffer through because the film wants to hit every market.  These were 5 friends, who worked on a car and got into trouble with Rusty Nail.  However, without getting to know them, why should we care about them dying?  With the exception of the main character, it didn't matter how or when they died or even if they lived.  I wasn't sure who Jordan's girlfriend was in some parts? You could replace any of them with each other and it wouldn't matter.  This is probably how they avoided the lulls in the film as well but it would be nice if horror director/writers developed the characters a bit more or even brought back the ironic killings or have their deaths be motivated by something other than them just being there.

  The special features, again very surprised, are pretty cool.  O'Brien does a diary of the shoot and shows how he rigged most of the death scenes and the car crashes.  If you like to see how special effects were done, then you will dig these vignettes.  Also, O'Brien shows his Pre-Vis sequences with the cars and trucks.  It's a trick he learned from Robert Rodriquez, where he uses a home video camera to shoot a extremely smaller budget of the scene to see how it works out.  He uses a 6 ft table and some toy cars and trucks and maps out his road scenes.  It's neat and they show it on a split screen demonstrating how it was worked into the film.

  Joy Ride 3 is one of the better sequel films that I've seen for a while.  This isn't going to win an Oscar but this film knows its purpose, which is to be a horror movie and to gross you out with its gore.  There is no love story, no rivalry issues among the friends and the only the darkest comedy is applicable here.  These people just want to survive this ordeal with Rusty Nail with as many appendages as they can.  Hop in, buckle up and hit the road of terror with Joy Ride 3!