Saturday, 25 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Crazies (1973)

The Crazies (1973)
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, and Harold Wayne Jones
Running Time: 103 min

  I've seen the remake of this film but it has taken me forever to actually watch the original, although George A. Romero has been one of my favourite for a horror directors for a long time.  I'm not even sure what to expect for this version, all I know is that there is an air born contagion that is making people crazy and getting a copy of this film has been really tricky, so I hope it's good.

  After a father goes bananas and kills his wife, then sets their farm house ablaze, which traps his children inside, local firefight and ex-Green Beret, David manages to crawl out of bed from his pregnant wife, Judy and stumbles down to the fire station.  Judy, who is the town's... nurse, gets called in to work as well to help the doctor with the crispy children.  When she arrives, she is surprised to see that the doctor's office is filled with military personnel and they demand that she helps them inoculate the soldiers with a serum that will protect them against the virus.  What virus, you ask?  Well apparently, a plane crashed with an experimental biological weapon called "Trixie" and has contaminated the water supply of this town.  "Trixie" will either kill a person after some time or turn them into raving murderous lunatics!  So, the military has now blocked all roads leaving this small town and declared a state of martial law.  Also, the army is rounding up the citizens and stuffing them into the high school gym, even the nerdy ones, to contain the contamination, while they search and develop a cure for this deadly virus.
  However, the town doctor doesn't like this idea and is worried about Judy and the baby.  So, he gives Judy enough of the vaccine for her and David and tells her hide out far away from town.  The pregnant woman gives the army the slip and heads out to find David.  Luckily, David and his buddy, Clank think that fighting this fire is for chumps and take off to find Judy and learn the truth about what is going on in their back water town.  On the way into town, they run into Judy, as well as the army and they are all thrown into the back of a truck to be brought to the high school gym.  Inside the the back of the truck, they meet a man and his daughter and some other old coot that claims he has the bug.  Judy gives everybody the scoop on what's happening but unfortunately, their captors took the vaccine she had for David.  On a brief stop, David and Clank overtake their captors, steal the truck, and ditch the old infected coot behind.  They head out to the hills and try to find safety with there new friends.
  There not the only ones army is having a hard time containing because this the revolting townspeople are fighting back and the army can't determine whether it's the virus or just people standing up and against them.  Is there any way that the military contain this cluster fuck that they created and get a cure out pronto?  Can David and Judy avoid the not only the Army but the virus as well and live happily ever after with their baby in a boarded up house built for two? Will we ever find out why that dudes name is Clank? That's a sound, not a name!

  There are certainly some similarities to George A. Romero's earlier classic "Night of the Living Dead" in this film but the focus of the film doesn't seem to be on the survivors, but more on the military and how they are trying controlling the out break.  Which is interesting, because unlike "Night", they know what the virus is and they are trying to develop a vaccine using the rudimentary tools of a high school science lab and the it's almost amusing that the bureaucracy of the military is not only getting in the way and slowing down the efforts but it is causing detrimental issues with finding the cure.  They voice recognition checks are the most frustrating, because although this may be a good idea, the process in 1973 seemed slow and arduous. 
  Also, I think that is funny that some of the soldiers are taking things, like fishing rods and stuff when the are rounding people up or when they are pilfering the corpses and dividing it amongst themselves, after they've burned the bodies.  Unfortunately this makes these characters more human for me.  I know these actions are wrong and abhorrent but I'm sure that this as happened more often than one wish to believe.
  Finally, Romero has some good twists in the plot at the end and I was surprised about some of the taboos that he begins to touch on three quarters of the way into the film.  He really starts getting nasty near the end with some subjects that I haven't seen him delve into before.  It's kinda gross but it does add that sick splash to make the picture just right.

 However, this was not the rampaging, crazy, people, bloody, tear down, repulsive, gore driven film as I was expecting, but I don't think that it's George's fault.  The idea to focus on the military was the idea of the producer Lee Hassel.  He liked the army aspect of Paul McCullough's screenplay, "The Mad People" which spent most of the story on the survivors and maybe 20% of the time with the army.  He wanted it flip flopped with more army stuff, so Romero rewrote it for him.  In some ways, this is more of an action thriller and there isn't as many murderous lunatics as I would have liked, but there are still some very gruesome scenes with people head's exploding, grannies with knitting needles and there are lot of people getting shot in the head.  Aim for the head!
  Also, there are some issues with audio because it is hard to here an actor's lines when they are wearing a gas mask.  Some of the dialogue is just barely audible, when these soldiers are giving orders and or just chatting.  Luckily, there isn't really that much narratives and it's mostly filler, so it isn't that important but still, those lines were written for a reason. Future filmmakers remember this!

  Still, this is a very good film and I think Romero fans will not be disappointed.  It's a slower pace than his other work and a lot more talky but there is definitely a good story here and it has some disgustingly fun effects.  So, if you are spent from watching all of Romero's "Dead" films and not brave enough to watch "Knightriders", then go crazy and throw this on, you'll probably find it infectious!


Friday, 24 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: A Chinese Ghost Story (aka Sien Nui Yau Wan) (1987)

A Chinese Ghost Story (aka Sien Nui Yau Wan) (1987)
Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wang, and Ma Wu
Running Time: 92 min

  Sadly, I haven't seen as many horror movies as I really should from Hong Kong.  Most of the older ones that I've seen involve hopping zombies and lots of martial arts sequences, which I'm okay with.  The director, Siu-Tung Ching has worked as a stunt Co-ordinator on films like John Woo's The Killer and Sam Raimi's Spider-man, so it should be interesting to see how he incorporates these skills into this ghost story.

  A young tax collector, Ling Choi San travels across the rural country sides empty landscapes and the rainy weather to perform his job.  Before coming to the next town, he witnesses a swordsman getting his revenge on some bandits.  After murdering the bandits, the swordsman causally offers the hungry Ling some bread, which he accepts in fear and runs away from the swordsman to then continues his journey into town.
  When he arrives in town, he learns that the rain has destroyed his ledgers and none of the merchants will pay their taxes because he has no proof of what they owe.  Broke, he asks the people in the town if there is any place that he can stay the night for free and jokingly someone recommends the Lan Ro Temple, which is suppose to be haunted.  Unfortunately, Ling has no other choice and heads to the temple to stay the night.  On his way, he is chased by wolves and when he arrives at the temple, he finds himself into the middle of a battle of two swordsman.  One is the swordsman that he met early on the road to town and the other, Lip Siu Sin seems to be living at the temple as well.  Luckily, they're brothers and they were just practicing, so Lip tells Ling that this is not the best place to stay because it isn't safe but Ling doesn't care and heads to the other side of the temple to get some shut eye.  The other swordsman leaves the temple and is seduced by a beautiful ghost.  As they are making out, an evil tongue interrupts and the swordsman has his soul sucked out of him. Dang.
  Later that night, Ling meets up with the same beautiful ghost and she tries to seduce him too, but Ling is too nice and misses all the signs.  She realizes that Ling is too nice a guy to be murdered and lets him off by telling him the temple is too dangerous to stay in and he should leave in the morning.
  Eventually, Ling and the ghost become friends and he finds out that he must help save her soul before she has to marry the Dark Lord of the Mountain.  Can this poor humble tax collector save this beautiful ghost for the torments of marriage and free her soul or will they both suffer this abominable after life together under this demons control?

  This is a great horror, action, comedy film.  It really has everything, like some very incredible wire work, there's some awesome martial arts/sword battles, it's got ghosts, demons, the undead and some very funny situations, that had me laughing out loud.  Director Siu-Tung Ching (Witch From Nepal, Duel to Death) tells an incredible fun story with some very out there visuals that are not to be missed.  Ching definitely brings his years of experience as a stuntman and embeds it into the film, with some incredible high flying scenes and a fantastic battle at the end of the film.
  Also, what really brings this home is how funny the film is.  It's the over the top silliness that just pops up in some of these scenes that make this so enjoyable to watch.  The comedic timing and facial expressions that Leslie Cheung (Farewell My Concubine, A Better Tomorrow) (RIP), who played Ling Choi San, had at times were just incredible.  Along with, Joey Wang (City Hunter, Ming Ghost), who played the crusty swordsman Lip Siu Sin, who plays well off not only Cheung but the creatures in the film as well.  
  Finally, there are so many great production elements in this film, like a stop-motion sequences of the dead growing in the temple after Ling arrives, or the make up and special effects team sucking the soul out of the swordsman and there is a fantastic tongue monster, that will make you chuckle and terrify you at the same time.  And this incredible talent all culminates in the last battle, which is a tour to force and the true highlight of the film.
  There isn't that much to complain about here.  However, this isn't your typical horror movie here though but a film that takes from a lot of different genres to tell a great story.  It spends some time developing the relationship between the Ling character and the ghost, which creates of a rom com feel to the film but it's necessary for the film because this relationship makes the ending that much better. 
 Also, it isn't extremely gory and the human body count is minimal.  Which is alright because the cast is small and most of them are already dead.  The zombies/undead have a more dried up look to them, like a mummy which is still pretty cool.  However, there are a ton of them smashed to bits in the end.

This is a fantastic film for any horror fan who enjoys Hong Kong cinema or a good ghost story.  Again, it has some incredible battle scenes and the ending is really impressive.  It's a charming ghost story that you don't want to miss and it's worth reading the subtitles to.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Frankenstein (1910)

Frankenstein (1910)
Director: J. Searle Dawley
Starring: Mary Fuller, Charles Ogle, and Augustus Phillips
Running Time: 14 min

  This was the first film adaptation of one of horror's most prominent monsters, Frankenstein.  It is an incredibly short take on Mary Shelley's classic but back then, this was probably considered to be a long film and not for the faint of heart.

  Frankenstein leaves his fiance and family to go to college.  Then, after 2 years, he has discovered the secret of life. Beer!  Wait, not beer, but with some help from his helpful skeleton buddy, Frankenstein with malice in his heart literally stirs together the magic potion of life and pours it into a cauldron.  Like any good baker, he watches his creature rise in his scientific oven and hopes it doesn't crap out like his past souffles of fear.  After he hears the ding of the timer, kidding, his monster is created.  Unfortunately, since Frankenstein had malice in his heart, the creature is evil.  I wonder if there is a non evil glutton free recipe for monsters?  Anyway, the monster ends up roaming around terrifying Frankenstein until Frankenstein decides to moves back home.   
  Although he created a monster out of nothing, Frankenstein returns home a beaten man but with the help of his fiance and family, he is on the road to recovery and becomes a happier man.  He also gets married and shortly after that the monster returns, probably wondering why he didn't get an invitation to the wedding, they were so close in college.  Anyway, is there anything that Frankenstein can to stop this hideous monster that he created or will his "experimentation" in college lead to his downfall in this button down world of 1910?

  I can't believe this film is over a hundred years old and it is still enjoyable to watch.  J. Searle Dawley (Bluebeard, Snow White) was an accomplished writer/director when he made this and had adapted a number of other novels & stories for the Edison Studio, so he knew how to condense a story into a good short film.
  There are some terrific special effects in this, well, at least one.  The stop-motion piece of the monster souffle is done surprisingly well and very creepy to watch even now.  The make up for the monster is good, it's not the Jack Pierce/Karloff face that we associate with the monster today but it does have a desperate and twisted look to it.

  Again, this is an old movie and the technology just wasn't there yet for these filmmakers, so of course there are a few things people could moan about after watching this.  Like the beginning shots of the picture don't seem to be in very good shape but once you get past the first minute or so the grain and dust go away and the picture is pretty stable.  I've looked at number of versions of the film and each restoration seems to have the same issue at the front, which is a shame but it doesn't affect the picture as a whole.
  Also, there are some weird edits, but they didn't have Adobe Premiere or a Final Cut back then.  These people were pioneering the film landscape and everything was new to them, so effects, transitions and cuts aren't going to be as smooth.
  As well as the ending of the story is a little confusing because **SPOILER** the monster just disappears when it comes face to face with Frankenstein at the end.  So, was the monster real or was the monster really Frankenstein? ** ENSPOILER**  Which is an interesting concept but difficult to project in a 14 minute piece and not having the luxury of sound/dialogue for 20 years.

  This is a fun horror film, it's only fourteen minutes and it's public domain, so it's available on the Youtube for your consumption.  It is a different take on a classic story and has a terrific stop-motion scene that will send shivers up and down yer spine.  So, stop watching that cat playing the piano video for a moment and check out a piece of horror history.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: V/H/S: Viral (2014)

V/H/S: Viral (2014)
Director: Various Directors
Starring: Emmy Argo, Amanda Baker and Rim Basma
Running Time: 81 min

Much like the "ABCs of Death" franchise, I can appreciate what the "V/H/S" series is films is doing for young and upcoming talent in the horror biz.  Unlike the ABCs, these directors are given longer segments, which means there are fewer spots in the program.  To be honest, I haven't been that crazy about the V/H/S films, there has been some interesting pieces by Ti West, Radio Silence, Jason Eisner and the team of Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, so I'm really hoping that this collection of terrifying tales is going to be great.

The first story and the continuous thread that ties these shorts together, is about a young couple who are in love and one night while watching TV, they see a police chase is going to drive down their street, so the boyfriend decides that if he can video tape this ice cream truck being chased by the cops, then he will become famous with a viral video.  So, instead of going outside right away, the couple argue and when they finally get outside, it seems like they missed their opportunity. Shucks!  But luckily the evil ice cream truck is doing another loop and when it does, it scoops up the girlfriend.  Now armed with a video camera and a bicycle, the boyfriend pursues the evil ice cream truck with hopes to save his girlfriend and be an internet sensation or vice versa.
  As the boyfriend chases the truck, his cell phone flickers with screams from his lady friend and we are swept into a story about a shitty magician, Dante The Great" that finds a magic cloak and soon becomes the most amazing magician ever!  What is his secret, probably the magic cloak but what else is happening to all his assistants that are mysteriously disappearing?
  Then, it's a story about a gentlemen who builds an alternative universe machine and discovers that things may look the same on the other side but in reality are a lot different.
  Next is a story about a some skateboards who are trying to make the greatest skate video alive and go to mysterious skate spot in Tijuana.  Unfortunately, they get more than the bargained for when they arrive and have to fight their way out to survive!
  Finally, it cuts back to the original story of the young couple and whether or not he can save his girlfriend from whatever the ice cream trucks deal is.

 I think the highlight piece of this film has to be, "Parallel Monsters" by Nacho Vigalondo (Extraterrestrial, Time Crimes).  This is a captivating story with an excellent twist that will have you on the edge of your seat until the reveal.  For a found footage film, the cameras aren't as intrusive and there aren't any moments, when you get pulled out of the story.  The reveal is great and the make up and effects stuff is very cool as well.
  Also, I dug the the make up and special effects in Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's "Bonestorm" as well.  There is a lot of blood and I liked their nod to the "Tombs of the Blind Dead", with the hooded priests. 

  With this series, I've come to expect to be disappointed by the continuous thread piece and I was not let down on this one as well.  In "Viscious Circles" director Marcel Sarmiento takes an unlikeable couple and puts them in a situation I could care less about.  The only person that the boyfriend seems to be shooting video of, is his hot girlfriend and I'm surprised that this character would take the time and energy to go out and shoot a police chase or even go after his girlfriend if she was kidnapped.  Also, there are shorter vignettes within the thread that are kind of necessary... but are just kind of lame and that time could have been better spent to put towards making the thread piece more interesting.  **SPOILER**  The look of the end piece of this is actually interesting in a "Videodrome" sort of way, but there is absolutely nothing leading to this and it just makes it seem, disjointed and sloppy.  It's looks like the just tacked it on.  **ENDSPOILER**
  I really like the concept of Gregg Bishop's "Dante The Great" with the magical cape but the very beginning of the piece is so all over the place, that the story becomes irritating.  It jumps to past and present and I don't know why anyone would still video tape themselves doing terrible things.  **Spoiler** Why would any one with the prestige that "Dante the Great" have continued to video tape himself committing murders and feeding people to the cape.  It's ridiculous.  Also, the police saw the videos, so why wouldn't they take the cape off him when he is arrested in the first place?  Isn't that a given?  He gets the power from the cape, so fucking take it off.  **ENDSPOILER**  The short does actually redeem itself halfway through, but the beginning is just so aggravating that it spoils the piece as a whole for me.
  As for "Bonestorm", I liked this story because it reminded me going to mysterious skate spots and although there wasn't any ritual sacrificing there, except for our boards at times, we still had some spooky sessions back in the day.  Anyway, what put me off at times with this film was the use of the helmet cams.  **SPOILER** During the battles with these monks, there are a lot of shots of the main characters faces and not enough smashing and killing evil monks.  More violence, less faces being scared please. Also, I found this very reminiscent of the "Safe Haven" piece from the previous V/H/S outing, which sadly makes it somewhat derivative and tame.**ENDSPOILER**  Like I mention earlier, the make up and FX are worth checking out because they're decent but I wish the story could have been a little more original and we didn't see the characters faces so much during the battle with these evil monks.

  I really wanted to like this and there are some aspects of this film that are really great, like "Parallel Monsters" and some of the writing and special effects but a lot of the stories seem rushed and not as well developed as they could or should be.  I think that this is a building block type film because there is a lot of good raw talent here, that just needs the time to develop and I'm glad that "The Collective" and "Bloody Disgusting" are giving these guys this opportunity to get their work out there.  I'm not crazy about this film as whole, but it does have some redeeming qualities to it. 


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Shogun's Sadism (1976)

Shogun's Sadism (aka Tokugawa onna keibatsu-emaki: Ushi-zaki no kei) (aka The Joy of Torture 2: Oxen Split Torturing) (1976)
Director: Yugi Makiguchi
Starring: Yusuke Kazato, Rena Uchimura, and Akira Shioji
Running Time: 80 min

This is a period samurai film from Japan, but this film hasn't been noted for it's cinematic beauty or classic storytelling but it is noted for it's scenes of disturbing cruelty and explicit violence. So, this should be fun.   

After an interesting opening roll of perhaps the funkiest music from a 70's Japanese film ever, under a collection terrible pictures of torture,  we are then shown another quick collection of torture methods causing death  reenacted and told by a narrator that torture has been around for a long time.  Groovy.
  The film then focuses on it's first story, in ancient Edo, Japan.  A young samurai, Iori is bitten by a snake and a beautiful peasant girl, Toyo saves him, by sucking out the venom.  The two then fall in love and on Iori's days off, he spends them with Toyo.  Unfortunately, Iori's boss is a sadistic shogun and as of late, he's been trying to wipe Christianity of the face of Japan.  He's been trying to find new and exciting ways to make the Christians to renounce their gods through extreme torture methods.
  One day, guess who shows up in the shogun's office, it's Toyo and her family!  The shogun notices that Iori knows and loves the the girl Toyo, so he decides to make Iori his right hand samurai man and forces him to watch him rape Toyo and torture and kill her family.  What a great guy!  Is there any way that Iori can save his true love or is fate in the hands of this sadistic shogun?
  The second story, also in Edo, is about a man, who is forced into servitude at a brothel, after spending an evening there and he was unable to pay.  While there, he learns about how cruel this lifestyle is, from seeing the vicious catfights amongst the girls, their extreme method of birth control and what happens to people when they try and run away from there.  Ah, penis mutilation.  So, he finds the prostitute that he loves and they plan an escape to freedom, so he can pimp her out.  True love!  Can this couple get out of this brothel world and make it work or will they be strung up, beaten and have their privates removed like all the others?

  This movie is crazy violent and depressing.  There is no silver lining in any of these stories and I was really surprised at how far director Yugi Makiguchi (Nuns That Bite, Rashamen) was able to push the envelope for some of these disgustingly disturbing scenes.  Makiguchi and his team come up with some incredibly inventive scenes of killing people off and the camera does not shy away.  They boil people, the half quarter them by pulling there lower halves apart using oxen, pregnant woman stomping, they slice, they dice and it's just so, so nasty at times.
  Also there is a considerable amount of rape scenes in this as well.  Which I guess I was expecting  but maybe not to this extent.  These scenes are very hard to watch and they even do a double rape with two guys on a girl at the same time.  I don't think I've ever seen that, so bravo?  Unfortunately, unlike in most rape revenge films, there is a certain amount of justice but not here, at least not for everybody.
  However, as mentioned above the film is extremely gruesome but the effects are very well done.  Makiguchi and his team may have some very cruel and disdainful ideas but there is tons a of blood and body parts flying all over the place for any gorehound to appreciate.

  Issues with the film, being bombarded with horrific images that I will probably never forget, I didn't have time to look for flaws.  Just kidding, I did but it is filmed well and the stories are coherent.  There is no confusion about the characters or their motivations and what was occurring in the scenes.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about was how the stories turn out. **SPOILER**  They are depressingly realistic and it's unfortunate that none of the characters, more so in the first story, don't get a better ending that is fair or the revenge that they really deserve.  The second story, they get what they get and it's deserving but the demise of the one of the character is just so random, that it's almost comical in a dark humour kind of way.  **ENDSPOILER**

  To say it mildly, this film isn't for everybody.  This is one of the cruelest and deplorable films out there and it can be very difficult to watch at times. It does have some excellent gruesome effects work and a number of incredibly bleak and at times heartbreaking scenes.  I don't know how this wasn't on the nasty list because if you are looking for something disturbing to watch, this is as nasty as it gets.
(I couldn't find a trailer for this, so here are the funky opening credits)

Monday, 20 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Director: Various directors
Starring: Martina Garcia, Tristan Risk and Beatrice Dalle
Running Time: 125 min

  I have been looking forward to seeing this sequel because the ABC's of Death films are a fantastic avenue for young horror directors.  Most of the shorts showcase new talented directors that are up and coming to a larger audience.  Also, I enjoyed the first one, some of it was good, some of it was dumb and some of it was just disgusting, which isn't bad, but when 26 directors are given a letter and carte blanche in creating something terrifying, who knows what kind of twisted material you are going to get back.

  The series of shorts has a terrific animated opening credit sequence with kids playing and being mutilated.  From there, just like last time, they start with A and tell a terrible tale that accents a word that begins with that letter until they get to Z.  Each letter has a different director from someplace around the world.

  It would take far too much time to review or describe ever short because each film is unique and the only thing tying these films together is the alphabet.  However, this is a fairly decent collection of horror shorts.  Unlike some of the directors from the first film, who decided to get all artistic and existential, all of the directors here have created 26 pretty straight forward tales of terror, bloodshed and mayhem. My favourites include, Erik Matti's letter I creation, where a family tries to kill their grandmother for the inheritance money, or Hajime Ohata's O piece, which does a brilliant take on the zombie genre and I thought that Steven Kostanski's W, which takes every child's fantasy and totally crushes it was pretty cool as well.  For me though, my absolute favourite was Q by Rodney Ascher.   With an extremely difficult letter, I think the Ascher knock it out of the park with a disturbing vignette that touches on some horror tropes that have fallen to the wayside.  It's simple story but it has a great narrative and some excellent gore.
  These are just a few of my favourites, but there is a lot of talented people here who brought there take on terror to the table, like Jen and Sylvia Soska (See No Evil 2, American Mary), Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Haunter), Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves, Rabies) and even Academy Award nominee, Bill Plympton as an interesting piece in this.

  However, I found, like a lot of characters in these shorts, that the whole piece was a bit unbalanced.  Most of the first half, up until the letter O is mostly lighter, horror comedy stuff.  Don't get me wrong, most of the pieces were enjoyable but I would have liked to see the stories blended with the heavier horror stuff better.  It's like getting a chocolate/vanilla ice cream cone and having to eat all the vanilla before you get to the chocolate.  
  Also, some of the stories were good but didn't blow me away.  Which is expected, it's 26 short films, you're not going to dig them all but there didn't seem to be as many ironic twists of fate or memorable pieces that made you go, "Holy fuck, what was that!" and is then burned into your memory to scare you for life.  Like Timo Tjahjanto, L is for Libido, love it or hate it, you'll never forget it.  The ideas are there, and there is a lot of gore or there are some incredibly tense scenes but the some of the stories never seemed to climax properly or unfortunately at all.  Which of course, can be disappointing.

  Luckily, those pieces are in the minority and most of the films here create a very enjoyable collection of horror shorts.  The producers of this film have amassed some incredibly talented people for this film and it won't too long before you'll be watching their features and reading more about them.  This is like a glimpse into the future of horror and it doesn't look that bad.  Still scary but not bad.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid and Vivica A. Fox
Running Time: 90 min

  The Asylum has been around for years, creating low budget "mockbusters" and B, maybe C rated creature features for the Syfy network and I think they were just as shocked at the success and social media frenzy of the original "Sharknado" as everyone else.  So how does one capitalize on the success?  Well, a sequel of course but will it have the same bite that the first one did?

  Fin Shepard and April Wexler are on a flight to New York to promote April's book, "How To Survive a Sharknado" and while they're there, to visit Fin's sister, Ellen and her family.  While on the plane, the plane flies into... you guessed it, another Sharknado! Luckily, Fin is able to take control of the plane, when the pilots are eaten by flying sharks and land the plane safely! But sadly April only loses a hand during this shark melee and she is taken to the hospital.  Fin tries to convince the New York officials that a Sharknado is coming and the must evacuate the city!  But of course, nobody listens to him, so he leaves April in the capable hands of the hospital and takes off to save his sister and her family.
  Unfortunately they have split up, Ellen, her daughter, Mora and some friends have gone to see the Statue of Liberty and Fin's brother in law, Martin and his nephew, Vaughan are at a Mets game.  Fin rushes to the Mets game but just as he arrives at the game and convinces them to leave, the stadium is bombarded by snow and sharks! They just manage to escape but the news is reporting that there are not only two Sharknados but an electrical storm coming as well!  Can Fin, April and his sister's family survive this downpour of shark terror and reunite safely or are they doomed to be beaten by this shark infested storm front!

  This is a surprisingly good sequel, director Anthony C. Ferrante (Boo, Headless Horsemen) and writer Thunder Levin (American Warships, 200 M.P.H) have created a great follow up to a now classic B-Movie.  Right from the beginning, they are hitting you with culture references, cameos, nostalgic nods and best of all action. You are bombarded with visuals throughout the film and there is never a dull moment.
  There is also more story in this film, if anyone cares, Ian Ziering's (90210, Tyrannosaurus Azteca) character Fin, not only has to save the Big Apple from being destroyed by a sharkspolsion but he has to make things right with his ex-girlfriend, Skye, played the beautiful Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill, Batman and Robin) and mend his relationship with his former best friend and brother in-law, Martin, played by Mark McGrath (Uptown Girl, Scooby-Doo).  So, there is some interesting development in his character but, more importantly, it doesn't take that much time away from people being killed by sharks.
  Also, Tara Reid's (American Pie, The Big Lebowski) character April also comes into her own.  She is done with screaming about sharks and is on the warpath.  Even with only one hand she is out to cut down those sharks and help Fin save New York City.  They also give a nice nod to the "Evil Dead" films with her character near the end, I just wish she said "Groovy", when she killed a shark.
  Speaking of sharks, the effects team did a fantastic job with them.  Much better than in the original and there are some great scenes with closer looks at the sharks flying and crushing people on the street.  Good stuff!

  What's bad about it,'s suppose to be bad right, isn't that the fun.  The only thing that might be wrong with this sequel is that it's become harder to distinguish the camp aspects of the film and the attempts to create a good picture/product.  This must be a difficult line to walk for the team, seeing that no one wants to make a crappy movie but at what point does something go from fun and campy to just a terrible film?  I think, Ferrante and Levin know their audiences well enough to know that if they keep the material light and at times ridiculous, with the right amount of gore that they can stay balanced and on the right path.  Godspeed you! Shark Emperors!

  The DVD, probably the same as the Blu-ray, of this film looks great and it has some decent features.  Like, a Cameo featurette that discusses how they were able to reign all the great people who pop up in the film.   There are so many great cameos, like Robert Hays as a pilot, Judd Hirsch as a cab driver and even Al Roker, as weather man!  But seriously, Ferrante and the casting director talk about how they tired to make each appearance into an experience and really make the cameo pop.
 As well, there is a Look Behind The Scenes at the production, which looks like it was a blast to make this film.  As well as a short on the amazing effects team and how they put together the sharknados on the screen.  And there is also a great gag reel and a Chum bucket of the cast and crew flubbing lines, being silly and just having fun.

For a TV movie sequel, about a tornado full of sharks attacking New York City, this is a pretty fun movie.  This movie knows what it is and makes no apology for it.  It's got some laughs, lots of action and tons of gory scenes with people being eaten, crushed, and attacked by sharks!  So c'mon,  what more could you ask for?  Basically if you liked the first one, then you'll probably dig this one 2.