Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Big Bad Wolves (2013)

Big Bad Wolves (2014)
Director: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan and Tzahi Grad
Running Time: 110 min

  I love watching movies from around the world, especially when it's a horror or crime thriller from a country you wouldn't expect like Israel. I haven't seen a lot of films from Israel but if Quentin Tarantino says it's "Best Film of the Year",  then it's something that I gotta check out.

The film starts with three kids playing hide & seek around an abandon warehouse.  The boy finds the first girl and when they both go to catch the other girl, she has mysteriously has disappeared and all that is left is her one shoe.
  Then in another abandon warehouse, Micki and a few other police officers drag in a suspect of the kidnapping, a bible school teacher named Dror.  Two of the officers start working Dror over while, Micki's partner tries to convince him that this isn't the way to get the information and it will hurt the case.  Micki doesn't care, grabs a phone book and starts to "interrogate" the suspect.  Unfortunately, they don't know that somebody is video taping this little police procedure to put it on the web. Oi Vey!
  The next day, the missing girl's body shows up in a field without a head.  Micki goes to investigate and sees the father of the girl trying to push his way to see what happens.  Micki asks how he new about this and is told that the police chief and him were old friends.  Back at the station, Micki gets called into the police chiefs' office.  Apparently the "interrogation" video has gone viral and everyone is blaming Micki for the girls' death. Micki gets suspended and is told by his chief, that he is a civilian now and he can't be stopped investigating the case his own way, just he shouldn't get caught. Wink wink nudge nudge.
  Now that he's suspended, he decides that he's going to kidnap Dror and force him to talk but he's not the only one with this plan.  The father of the girl, Gidi quickly buys a new house, out of the way of everything and prepares his own interrogation toys.  Gidi is ex-military and seems to have a collection of tools and techniques that would make anyone spill the beans.  Who will get the truth out of Dror first? Is Dror even guilty and at what length will Micki and Gidi go to learn the truth about this crime?

  I found this film really impressive and was surprised at how writers/directors Aharon Keshales (Kalevet), Navot Papushado (Kalevet) were able to blend this very gritty crime drama with a splash of very dark humour.  When dealing with films about daughters being missing, raped and beheaded there isn't much of room for laughs but somehow they makes it work.  Just to be clear, the humour never involves the actual crime, because that would be in bad taste, but in the way Gidi and Micki go after this "suspected" killer and all the things that could go wrong while kidnapping him and extracting information from him.  For example, when your boss, the chief of police,  brings his son to work and the child is helping him lecture you, or while Micki is hiding waiting to taser Dror and Dror's dog won't stop staring at him about to blow your cover, so Micki tasers the dog or even when your breaking someone's fingers and your mom won't stop calling to see if your feeling alright.  These things are very amusing and really helps temper the darkness of the story and makes it a lot more palatable for the audiences.

 Once we get into the meat of the film, the cast is really shrinks down to the three major players.  Micki, played by Lior Ashkenazi (Footnote, Late Marriage), Gidi, played by Tzahi Grad (Mars Turkey, Off White Lies) and Dror, played by Rotem Keinan (The Exchange, Epilogue) who are brilliant in these role.  I winced at every time Drors' fingers broken broken or toe nails pulled, I could feel and understand the angry and hatred in every line spoken by Gidi and I really felt for Micki, when he realized he was in over his head and maybe Dror wasn't the right person.  These are top notch performances that drive the story into another level.

As for issues with the film, there may be some suspension of belief problems, could Gidi really buy a house that quickly or wouldn't he be a chief suspect him if Dror went missing since Gidis' daughter was the last victim and who is this strange Arabic man riding a horse?  These are all after thoughts and don't really come into play because you're already far to engrossed in the film.

  This is a great film and it has some very dark intense scenes that will make you turn away for a moment but like a bad accident you will want to peak what's going on.  Again the humour really helps to move this film along, so you're not totally bummed out by the end of it.  This is a mesmerizing crime drama that will have you at the edge of your seat, wondering what is going to happen next. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Battery (2012)

The Battery (2012)
Director: Jeremy Gardner
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim and Niels Bolle
Running Time: 101 min

Here's another film that I've been wanting to catch for a while now.  I'd been hearing good things about it even before it came out last year at the Toronto's After Dark Film Festival.  I was really interested to see how writer, director,star Jeremy Gardner could create such a talked about film with only a budget of 6 grand and a "very seat-of-the pants" shooting schedule. 

Baseball players, Mickey and Ben live in a post-zombie world and to survive they have deserted the city to live in the wilderness with the idea that "there should be less zombies there".  After a three month stint of being stuck in a house, which the talk about, they are finally on the road avoiding any places that could have them walled up again.  Friends, using the word loosely, the two have adapted differently to the new world.  Ben is aggressive and enjoys destroying any undead that they meet, while Mickey is contemplative and refuses to kill anything, even the things that want to eat him.
  They travel through the wilderness, hunting for food, supplies and anything that can help them survive.  Then one day after finding a set of walkie talkies, they hear the voices of other people.  Mickey is excited and asks them if they are able to join their group, but his dreams of living with other people are crushed, when Annie, the voice on the other end, tells them that there is any room and not to bother looking for them or they will kill them.  Will Mickey and Ben take Annie's advice and keep on truckin or will they take the risk and try to find the other survivors of this zombie holocaust?

  I dug this movie and thought it was probably one of the most realistic portrayals of what would happen to regular people in a zombie apocalypse.  Mickey and Ben aren't muscle bound, sharpshooting, wisecracking supermen but just regular guys stuck in bad situation and have to make the best of it.  They're scared, sad and angry that they've lost their friends and family and Adam Cronheim, first role as Mickey, and Jeremy Gardner (The Bags, The Robert Cake) really bring this across in their scenes.  The story is good and reminds me more of the "Walking Dead" comics than the TV series because it is more character driven and focus is more on the relationship between Mickey and Ben.  Sure there are zombies but instead of popping up when needed and forgotten when not, there is a constant sense of danger that director/writer/actor Jeremy Gardner really encapsulates in the film.

  Not that the film is all touchy feely, there are a lot of good zombies and zombie heads being crushed.  Which the special effects team, considering the budget do create rather well.  
  Also, there is a really great soundtrack to this film but this leads to only issue with the film that I have, which is the audio mixing.  It's not the dialogue but the how the music comes in and out of scenes.  It seems to attack and maybe it was suppose to be that way but I found it annoying at times. It doesn't destroy the experience but it was noticeable to me, anyway.

   This is a very different and more abstract zombie film.  The zombies aren't the main focus but only one element of the dangers in this new environment.  The pacing is quite different and may put people off at first but if you give the story a chance to develop, you'll find it quite enjoyable. In a world cluttered in zombie movies, this film is a refreshing look at how shit will probably go down.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Can That be Real! 5 Horror Films Based On True Stories

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

A lot of films claim to be based on true stories, but once these stories get put through the film making process, rarely do they resemble what really happened.  For instance, Oscar nominated films like, "Dallas Buyers Club", the story of this homophobic man, Ron Woodroof who gets AIDS and with the help of a junkie/transvestite and a caring doctor, changes not only his perception and feelings towards gay people but changes the medical community as well.  Unfortunately, the junkie/transvestite and the doctor didn't exist, they were characters created for the story.  Also, from what I've read Woodroof wasn't as homophobic as the film makes him out to be or at all from other reports.  Also, "Wolf of Wall Street", the crazy Donnie Azoff character played by Jonah Hill, also never existed.  He was based on Jordan Belfort business partner, Danny Porush, who threatened to sue the production if they used his real name.  So, was Danny Porush that really that over the top or was the story adjusted for bigger laughs and possibly out of spite?
  So, what does this have to do with horror?  Well, these are were people, whose lives were affected by and have affected lives of other people that can be corroborated with and confirm that these events happened but they still changed events and things to make it a "better" story.  However, in horror, especially in supernatural occurrences, you have to rely on single person testimony, or accounts from closing knit family members and then through the film makers vision which might skew the truth a bit. 

With that in mind, here are 5 Horror Films Based On True Stories

5. The Amityville Horror (1979) - The police are dragging out bodies of a house late one night, apparently a father lost control, killed his family and then turned the gun on himself.  Sgt. Gionfriddo has never seen anything like this and the hopes he will never see anything like this again.
  A year later, George and Kathy Lutz are looking at the same house to buy.  Apparently, houses go down in value after a family is brutally murded in them and this is just the price the Lutz's can't afford to miss.  Although. there are some creepy slamming doors, Kathy loves it and they buy the property.  They move their stuff in and invite local priest and family friend, Father Delaney over to bless their house.  Unfortunately, when he arrives, the Lutz's including their kids have gone down to the dock to go boating.  You should have called first, dude. Of course, Father Delaney invites himself into the house and starts snooping around, only to be smacked down by a supernatural force that chases him out of the house!  And he's not the only religious person who has issues with the home, Kathy's aunt, who happens to be a nun feels nauseous when she arrives at the house and must leave. Also, when some priests try to drive over, a spirit takes over their car and runs them off the road.
  The clergy aren't the only ones affected by the house either, George Lutz is spiraling into madness and his business seems to have taken a down turn since he moved in.  It could be all the hours he spends chopping wood outside, c'mon George how much wood to you need?!?  Also, their oldest son has his hand crushed in a window and their daughter is talking to an imaginary friend named Jody, who locks a babysitter in a closet in evening.  Maybe you should have brought up more cookies, bitch!  Anyway, they realize that the house is haunted and wants to destroy them, like most houses do! They eventually find the source of the evil in a room behind a wall in their basement that has a continuous red glow.  Can the Lutz's save their souls and defeat this evil house or will this monstrous real estate disaster swallow them up whole!
  I remember watching this film years ago and finding it very tedious, dull and somewhat disappointing, considering this is a film that started a whole franchise with at least 3 sequels.  However, after watching it more recently, there are some really creepy scenes in it and I can get a better feel of what director Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker) was trying to get across.  The script is still kind of dull with James Brolin (Capricorn One, Skyjacked) who plays George chopping down every tree in the area and Margot Kidder (Superman, Black Christmas) putting her kids lives in danger with this crazy house.  The most frustrating part, this is a SPOILER, is when they open the room up in the basement and a spirit or something tells them to "Close they well", which could be the answer to stop it all of this and then they totally ignore it.  They keep on doing nothing until the shit hits the fan.  Good work Lutzs!
  As to the validity of the story the Lutz's did only spent 28 days in the house and claim that a lot of things portrayed in the book and film happened to them but they refuse to describe their final night in the house because it was too frightening.  Right now, the Amityville house is up for sale at just over nine hundred thousand which is a steal if you want to experience this terror for yourself.  This is considered a classic but there isn't a whole lot of scary at times and the pacing may put you off the film, but it may be worth checking out to see what all the hubbub is about, bub.

4. ils (aka Them) (2006) -Young teacher, Clementine returns home to her writer boyfriend, Lucas in their out of the way home in the country side.  They have supper and go to bed.  That night, Clementine hears some music blaring from outside and she wakes up Lucas to go and investigate.  When they get outside, they notice that their car has been moved and when Lucas approaches the vehicle, someone turns the headlights on them and drives away.  Lucas and Clementine go back in the house and see that someone has turned on their television and the water taps on.  Picking up a fire poker, Lucas gets ready to protect them and their home.  What do these attackers want and how far will Lucas and Clementine go to get rid of these burglars?
  This DVD drove me nuts because for whatever reason the scenes in the beginning weren't in English and there were no subtitles.  In retrospect, what these victims were saying wasn't necessary to the plot but it was very frustrating.  Luckily, when the story shifts to the main characters, the English is dubbed.  This is a great story and directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud (The Eye (2008)) create a very terrifying film with a terrific twist at the end.  The cast is minimal and Olivia Bonamy (Bloody Mallory, Paris) and Michael Cohen (Bangkok Revenge, It Begins With the End), who play Lucas and Clementine, really step up and carry the film nicely.  You feel for them and want them to survive.
  At the beginning of the film, it claims that it was "Based on True Events" but I can't seem to track down the events in question on the net.  So maybe they amalgamated a number of news stories to create this story, which is what a lot of these true story films are anyway.  Still, this is a good slow burner, it's only 77 minutes and I found it more enjoyable than it's American remake, "The Strangers".

3. The Girl Next Door (2007) - After a car accident, teenager Meg and her little sister Susan are sent to live with their only other relative Aunt Ruth.  Aunt Ruth is a no nonsense kind of woman with three boys of her own and a huge chip on her shoulder because of her husband left her so many years ago.  However, she is very popular with the neighborhood kids because she lets them drink beer and do whatever they want around the house.  Also, she learns them about life and spouts off about men, woman and her twisted idea of right and wrong.
  Unfortunately, Aunt Ruth doesn't like Meg and starts giving her harsh punishments for asking questions or not following rules.  Like no food for days and eventually being strung up in the basement by her arms, which is very reminiscent of the scenes for Guantanamo prison.  Once strung up, the other kids beat her mercilessly and she can't even scream for help because she is gagged.  The only one, who thinks this is wrong is David, the neighbor kid, but he's afraid to speak out against these bullies, because he could be ostracized by his friends and even murdered by them and Aunt Ruth.  Will anyone help this poor girl and her sister before it's too late or will she be another victim in a foster home?
  I found this film just as difficult to watch a second time as I did the first time I saw it.  This is a terribly chilling story that director Gregory Wilson (Home Invaders, Ghoul) brings to life.  It is set in 1950's and the tone is reminiscent to "Stand By Me" but this a much much darker film.  Blanche Baker (Raw Deal, Sixteen Candles) is truly frightening as Aunt Ruth and her character's resolution never wavers, even when she is tormenting Meg, played by Blythe Auffarth (American Primitive, An Invisible Sign).  Blythe is also great as the Meg character and a real trooper when she had to shoot some of those scenes in those conditions.
  This is probably the closest to being the true story on the list but writer Jack Ketchum (Reds, Offspring) changed the names and put them in middle America, instead of being on the poverty line.  The story was based on the Sylvia Likens case and the Ruth character was based on Gertrude Baniszewski, her daughter and her daughters friends.  Their were some elements of the torture that were changed but the not feeding, tying up, beating and burning words into her skin were unfortunately real.  This is a tough movie to watch and a crime that is really ugly to see, so if you have a strong stomach and think you can bear it, you may want to see this.

2. The Conjuring (2013) - Roger Perron, his wife Carolyn and their five girls move into a new house.  Everything is going well, the kids are excited but their dog Sadie won't go into the house, weird but ok.  That night while playing a game the girls discover that a boarded up cellar in a closet downstairs.  Roger removes the boards and investigates the basement, where he finds a lot of cobwebs and old furniture.  He comes back upstairs and says he'll take a look at it tomorrow.  The next day after a family breakfast, one of the girls finds their dog Sadie dead.  I guess you should have come inside, Sadie.
  As time goes on, other weird things start happening, like the clocks all stop at 3:07am every night, no matter how much they turn up the heat, it's always cold their and some of the girls are seeing ghosts.  Eventually it all comes to a head, when Carolyn gets locked in the cellar when Roger is away and the ghost attacks her with vicious clapping and giggling! NOT clapping!
  Fed up, Carolyn seeks out Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are paranormal investigators and collect ghostly remnants, which they lock in their house for safe keeping.  The Warrens reluctantly go over to Perrons' house and using Lorraine's clairvoyant powers, she discovers that there is one hell of an evil presence in the house.  Can the Warrens' bust this ghost and help the Perron family escape from the ghostly turmoil or will the ghost feast on their souls, like so many of the previous owners before them?
  I thought this was really good with some genuine scares in it.  James Wan (Saw, Insidious) has really developed over the years as a director and I think this is my favourite film by him, so far.  I think the story is interesting and I found the Warrens, played by Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen) and Vera Farmiga (Source Code, The Departed), absolutely fascinating.  These people have a collection of haunted relics! I would love to go in that room! Both Wilson and Farmiga give exceptional performances but Lili Taylor (The Haunting, Say Anything) steals the show as Carolyn Perron.  Her character really grows on screen and becomes stronger no matter what the specter punishes her with. 
  As for the authenticity, The Perrons' spent ten years in that house, unlike the film that seems like they were there for only a few months.  Also, the creepy Annabel doll from the film looks completely different.  Here's the movie Annabelle doll, super creepy

The real one, not as creepy.


 Also, fun fact, Warren and Lorraine were a part of the team who worked on the Amityville Horror haunting as well.  Ed pitched this script to Tony DeRosa-Gund 20 years ago saying, "If we can't make this into a film I don't know what we can..".  Still, this is one of the best new horror films that I've seen in the last few years and if you get a chance you should check it out.


1. The Entity (1982) - Single mom Carla Moran gets home from a hard day at work, says hello to her teenage son, Billy working in the garage and goes inside to get ready for a relaxing evening at home.  While changing, she is violently attacked by a ghost who rapes her.  She screams in terror and Billy and her two younger daughters come to see what's wrong and she tells them that she been attacked.  Billy searches the whole house and all the windows and doors are locked from the inside.  So, Billy suggests that it may have been a dream.  Carla packs up her kids and brings them to her friend Cindy's house to stay for the night.
  The next day, they return home and Carla tries to go to work and something takes over her car and runs her off the road.  Thinking she is going insane, she visits Dr. Sneiderman, a psychiatrist, and tells him her story, so he gives her some pills to relax her.  She goes home and is attacked again in the bathroom but this time, she feels more demonic hands upon her.  The next day, beaten and bruised, she returns to Dr. Sneiderman who tells her that it isn't possible and it's all in her mind but he'll talk to the board of psychiatrists to see if they can help her.  That night, she is attacked again, this time in front of Billy and her daughters in the living room!  Billy tries to stop the ghostly attackers but is held at bay by an electrical force and has his wrist broken.  Carla has had enough, so her and Cindy go to the local bookstore to find a book on how to get rid of rapey ghosts.  Fortunately, at that bookstore are a couple of paranormal students who are intrigued by Carla's story and offer her some help.  Has Carla finally found the help she needs to get rid of this vile entity or has Dr. Sneiderman been right all along and she needs to be sent away in a straight jacket?
  I was really impressed with this film and can understand why it's on Martin Scorsese list of favourite movies.  Barbara Hershey (Boxcar Bertha, Falling Down) gives a stellar performance as a woman being sexually violated by a ghost.  I'm not even kidding, and it isn't just one attack, this is the I Spit on You Grave of ghost rape movies.  It's actually very difficult to watch and the special effects team is brilliant, making impressions of hands touching her body with ghostly hands.  The script is pretty thin and you don't get too much background on the character but it is quite an effective tale of torment.
  This case was based on Doris Bither and her three sons, which Dr. Taff's (one of the paranormal investigator on the case) took on.  Dr. Taff says on his webpage that "there was plenty of evidence that we were dealing with real paranormal phenomena, it very likely had nothing whatsoever to do with incorporeal (Ghost) sex, except in the minds of Doris and her children."  He also mentions that during an interview with Doris's son, Brian,  that she was banished by her family as teen because of her lifestyle and used drugs and alcohol to quell her irritable psyche.  She also was played with Ouiji boards and performed seances at a very young age.  So, it's possible that she opened up a rift to the spirit world or she really wanted to believe she did.  Was there a ghost, was it rapey, who knows what happened, unfortunately, Doris Bither has passed away and we may never know the truth but her story has created a fantastic and unusual horror tale that is definitely worth having a look at.

  Was Matthew McConaughey or Jared Leto's performance any less impactful, now that the story has been changed.  Is ils any less terrifying, even though we can't find the case that it was suppose to be based on or that the family in the Conjuring lived in that house for 10 years?  The answer is no, it can be a little disheartening to know what you are watching isn't really what happened but you have to remember that it is only entertainment and it still is one hell of a spooky ride.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Hands of Doom! 5 Horror Films about Evil Hands

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

The say the idle hands are the devil's playground but in this selection of films the hands are so idle that they're not even attached!  Unfortunately, the lead characters in these films are artists and musicians who rely on there hands and lose them in one way or another but have been given another chance with either a mechanical hand or with groundbreaking surgery, with replacement hands! However their original hands or the former owner have the urge for revenge and redemption and end up haunting their new master, which drives him or her into madness!

5. Hands of a Stranger (1962) - Vernon Paris is a famous concert pianist, who is quite meticulous about his hands and even wears gloves around when he's not sitting at his piano.  So after what he considers his greatest performance, he sends his snooty girlfriend, his sister, Dina and his manager ahead to the party and he'll catch up later because he just wants to revel in his awesomeness.  After, I'm guessing, Vernon grabs a cab and chats with the driver, who recognizes Vernon from the poster.  The cab driver tries to show a picture of his son, loses control of the cab and it becomes a fiery wreck. whoops!
  Luckily, Vernon only has a skull fracture but his hands have been mangled so badly that they don't even resemble hands, only shapes of hands in those damn gloves!  Fortunately, skilled surgeon and part time mad scientist, Dr. Gil Harding is there and has an extra pair of hands lying around his office.  Dr. Harding or Gil to his friends, convince Dina and manager that replacing his hands is the only way to save Vernon sanity!
  The operation is a success! Unfortunately, Vernon's demeanor has changed and the new hands are driving him maaaaaad!  He accidentally kills his girlfriend in a dinner flare up, which she actually is burned alive because of some candles and cheap drapes, and he realizes that with these hands he can get revenge on the people who destroyed his career!  Or re-learn to play...Fuck it revenge is easier!  Can Dr. Harding and Dina save Vernon from myself or will Vernon have his revenge and hand out a symphony of terror?
  This wasn't actually too bad for what it was, which is a very low budget "Hands of Orlac".  There are some interesting deaths in this, including his ex-girlfriend going up in flames, which was brief but surprisingly really well done.  This was the Newt Arnold (Bloodsport, Blood Thirst) directorial debut and the last thing he wrote that was turned into a movie.  It starts off as a film noir but never ties anything up on that end with who the hands actually belonged to and why he was killed.  Also, Vernon's manager starts off as the love interest for Dina but mysteriously disappears after Dr. Harding arrives.  However, my big issue with Newt Arnold's directing is that his close ups don't match the scene and is it's almost comical as the movie continues.  This is a fun B-Movie if you can't get your hands around anything else.

4. The Hands of Orlac (1924) - Famous pianist, Stephen Orlac (your gonna see this name a lot) is a victim of a train wreck and has to have his hands amputated.  His wife, Yvonne begs the surgeon to see if he can to anything to save Orlac's hands and he decides to sew the hands of a dead criminal,he has out back onto Orlac.  The operation is a success but Orlac soon finds out that his new hands were those of a murderer!  He doesn't know if he can live with a pair of hands that have taken lives and worst of all, Orlac believes that the spirit in the hands is slowly taking him over!  Also he sees, what he believes to be the face of the killer in his sleep and that the hands are slowing driving him mad!
  Unfortunately, that ain't the only problem, those hands weren't free and now that Stephen is recovering instead of playing and the bills are adding up.  Yvonne goes to Stephen's evil father and begs him to help them but he refuses because he is a misery old man who hates everything, especially them.  Shortly after, the miserly old coot ends up dead and the police find a dead man's fingerprints everywhere, so they  don't know what to think.  Have these hands taken over Orlac and will he ever get a handle on his sanity again?
  This is the film that seems to have started this whole evil hands craze.  Director Robert Weine (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Ultimatum) brings us another cool silent film mind fuck picture.  There are some very inventive special effects that are still impressive to see, considering this movie is 90 years old.  I watched the restored DVD version, that was 113 minutes which I found a little long but it was still enjoyable.  Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Casablanca) is very impressive and can really drive home the character without saying a word.  There isn't a lot of violence or blood but fans can enjoy the dark look and feel of the film, which is just as haunting today as it was when it was first released. 

 3. Mad Love (1935) - Famous surgeon, Dr. Gogol is smitten with an actress and spends most of his time at the horror theatre admiring his lady friend, Yvonne Orlac from the balcony.  At the end of their last performance, Gogol goes backstage and finally expresses his undying love for her and Yvonne is very flattered but she is already married to, world famous pianist, Stephen Orlac. Dammmmn! Crushed Orlac stays til the end of the cast party and buys the wax statue of Yvonne that sat at the entrance of the theatre. Creepy.
  Stephen Orlac is just finishing up another smash concert and is finally heading home by train.  He's not the only famous fellow on the train though, the convicted American knife throwing killer, Rollo is on the train as well and sitting only a few cars down from him.  Unfortunately, the train derails not far from the station and Stephen is rushed to the hospital.  At the hospital, the surgeon tells Yvonne that he must amputate Stephen's hands, which will crush Stephen's soul forever and ever.  Luckily, she remembers that she knows Dr. Gogol and rushes her husband to his place.  Sadly, Gogol tells her that he must amputate the hands as well but comes up with a plan so cunning you could brush your teeth with it.
  The next day Rollo is executed and Gogol has his corpse brought to him for "Medical Research" and removes the hands and stitches them on to Orlac! The operation is a success because Gogol plans to drive Stephen mad with the hands of a murderer, so Yvonne will have no other choice but be with him. Makes sense... right?  Will Gogol evil scheme come fruition or will Dr. Gogol be left with his dick in his hands.
  This was the final film directed by Karl Freund (The Mummy, Madame Spy) and now one of my favourite Peter Lorre (M, The Raven) pictures.  Most of the time, Lorre, who plays Dr. Gogol, usually plays these amazing secondary characters, but in this instance he is given the lead which he takes on masterfully.  He is fun to watch in this film because he's the bad and you're not suppose to like him but the character has such a flare that you can't help liking him.  Colin Clive (Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein) also shine in this but takes a back seat to Lorre's performance.
  Although, derivative of the Hands of Orlac (1924), I like that they focused the story on a different character.  Sure Orlac, has the same money problems, the hands are haunted and his evil step-father is killed, but it seems to be from the villains perspective and it's for the creepy stalker love.  How romantic.  Anyway, not a huge body count, but a real classic and underrated film here, that is worth checking out.

2. The Hand (1981) - Writer and artist of the comic strip "Mandro", Jon Landsdale is having a rocky time with his marriage.  His young wife, Anne doesn't like that they've moved out to the country and misses the bright lights of New York city.  One day as they're arguing in the car, Anne tries to get ahead of a slow moving truck and ends up having an accident that causes Jon to lose his right hand.
  Crushed, more like severed, Jon goes on the road to recovery but Anne still wants to move back to New York with their daughter Lizzie.  Jon gets a new mechanical hand and tries to get back to writing Mandro but his agent wants him to hand over the strip to a younger fellow.  After a meeting with the new writing team, Jon realizes that they are just trying to push him out and blows up!  He goes home and finds out that Anne and Lizzie have an apartment in NY, so Jon gives up and moves down to L.A. to teach Comic Strip 101.
  Meanwhile his hand, the one that he lost, has turned evil and is watching his every movement and eventually murders a homeless man that Jon ran into and had words with. I guess you have to start somewhere.  This murderous hand has a bevy of victims as Jon starts relationships with a number of bad people at the school where he now teaches.  Can this evil hand be stopped or has it given the finger to the society it wants to destroy?
  Before a string of hits in the 80's like Salvador, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July, director Oliver Stone brought us this movie.  After being turned down by Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman and Christopher Walken; Michael Caine decided to take the role, so he could build a new garage at this house.  It's all about the art, isn't it.  Anyway, I can see why Stone had such a hard did with this script because the Jon Landsdale character isn't that likeable and I can see why his wife would want to move back to New York.  Hell, I wanted to move back to New York after watching the first half.  Also, The Hand (which is the title) is barely in the film and doesn't really attack that many people or the at least the right people, he would want to get revenge on.  Luckily the last quarter of the movie gets back on track and there are some enjoyable creepy hand scenes.  The ending is really good and I wished the whole film could have been more like it.  

1. The Beast with 5 Fingers (1946) - Francis Ingram is old piano playing curmudgeon confined to a wheelchair, who lives in his mansion with his nurse, Julie Holden and an astrologist/musicologist, Hilary Cummins (Hilary is a guy).  He invites them plus his lawyer, Duprex and younger friend, Bruce Conrad to dinner to have them sign his new will.  They do and after dinner, Bruce and Julie go out to the garden and Hilary secretly follows them.  Julie and Conrad are in love and want to run away together but Julie cares to much about Ingram, in a nursing way, to leave him now.  Hilary returns inside and joins Ingram in the study.  There Ingram expresses his love for Julie but Hilary tells Ingram of what he heard outside and Ingram attacks Hilary with a vicious choke hold.  Luckily, Julie stops him in time!  Ingram throws Hilary out and goes to bed an angry man.  That night in a state of old man delirium, Ingram accidentally wheels himself down a large set of stairs, which kills him. How convenient.
  He is discovered and Comissario Ovidio Castanio says that he detects no sign of foul play and the cause of death is natural.  He naturally fell down the stairs.  Like vultures, Ingrams brother in-law, Raymond and nephew, Donald Arlington arrive to take their inheritance which Hilary takes offense too.  He claims all the books are his and he will keep them, hell or high water.  Shortly after, Duprex reads the will and everything as been left to...........wait for it...Julie!  Angry, the Arlington family vow that they will get what's coming to them and secretly make a deal with Duprex to steal the inheritance and split the money.  However the "ghost" of Ingram does not like this and his hand, just one, comes back for revenge!  It kills Duprex and haunts the rest of people to no end by playing the piano and trying to take their very souls by hand.  Can anything stop this annoying and sometimes jaunty menace or is this hand hare to stay and rub everybody the wrong way?
  This was pretty enjoyable and not what I was expecting.  More of a mystery thriller than a horror but still pretty decent.  Experienced director Robert Florey (Murders in the Rue Morgue, Cocoanuts) puts together some good scares and Peter Lorre (The Maltese Falcon, The Comedy of Terrors) is in it but this time as the strong supporting character, Hilary Cummins, which of course steals the show.  Robert Alda (Imitation of Life, Cloak & Dagger) and Andrea King (My Wild Irish Rose, Red Planet Mars) are adequate as the leads, Conrad and Julie, but it seems to me that these are characters we've seen before and are somewhat forgettable.  Even J. Carrol Naish (Dracula vs Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein) seems to bring more to the table with his portrayal of Commissario Ovidio Castanio and his humour and wit are certainly more memorable.  This is a good story but again there isn't a lot of gore, in this, it's 1946, but still I like what the did as far as special effects goes for the hand, they kept it simple and it made the creeping hand looked good.  This is a fun little thriller for a dark and rainy night, if you can get hands on it. 

  These are some terrific horror films to have on hand if you are looking for something a little lighter and more classic.  The body counts may be low but the atmosphere and the feeling of dread from  watching these devilish hands creep across the room will certainly have the hair on your arm standing on edge and by the end you'll be counting all your fingers, just to make sure.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Cheap Thrills (2014)

Cheap Thrills (2013)
Director: E.L. Katz
Starring: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton and David Koechner
Running Time: 88 min

I've wanted to see this for a while now, ever since I heard about it last year when it premed at SXSW film festival.  Although, I wasn't that crazy about Innkeepers, I thought Pat Healy and Sarah Paxton worked really well together and I was interested to see what David Koechner would bring to the table because this seems a lot darker than his usual fare.  So, with my fingers crossed I delved into some Cheap Thrills.

 Craig, played by Pat Healy (InnKeepers, Ghost World) has a lovely wife and child and he seems really content with his life at home.  However when he leaves for work, he is reminded by an eviction notice on the door that he is 4, 500 dollars behind in his payments, his once aspiring career as a writer has gone down the tubes and after a number of years spent in college and university, he is changing people's car oil.  On top of that to put a final nail in the coffin of his ambitions, at the end of his day at work, his boss tells him that their company is downsizing and he is being let go.  Bummer.
  Beaten and ego bruised, Craig calls his wife and lies to her, that he is going for drinks with a friend and winds up alone at a old local bar.  While there he is approached by an old friend from high school, Vince, played by Ethan Embry (Vacancy, The House Across The Street) and they catch up on the last five years.  Vince is impressed with how well things seemed to have turned out for Craig, a good job and wonderful family and he lets Craig know that his life hasn't turned out as well as he would liked it.  Vince seems to be doing some repo jobs on and off and lets Craig know that he's seen some shit that he wish he hadn't.  Feeling bad for lying to Vince, Craig comes clean and tells him about his money problems and Vince offers him, a couple hundred buck but Craig refuses and tells him that it wouldn't help that he's in too deep.  So the two decide to have another drink and Craig heads to the restroom.  When Craig returns from the bathroom, Vince calls him over to sit with some new friends, Colin, played by David Koechner (Anchorman, Piranha 3DD)  and Violet, played by Sarah Paxton (The Innkeepers, The Last House on the Left (2009)) and join them for a drink.  It's Violet' birthday and Colin is taking her out and nothing is too expensive for his lady.  Colin orders a bottle of the bars most expensive tequila and gives the waitress a large tip.  If you know what I mean.  Impressed, Vince and Craig thank them and offer toasts to the birthday girl.  While hangin with their new friends, Colin starts offering the guys money to do silly harmless things at the bar, like be the first to down their drink gets 50 bucks or 100 dollars if they can get a crackhead lady to slap them.  Vince seems to be able to accomplish many of the tasks that Colin is asking for and collecting some good cash for it, but Craig finally steps up when they are being chased from a bar by a bouncer and Colin offers him 500 dollars to punch the bouncer.  Which he does and then Craig wakes up battered and bloodied at Violet and Colin's home.
  Back at their home, the game starts to get out of hand but Craig and Vince really want to win the money.  As the night progresses the guys get more competitive and the things that Colin ask them to do go from silly to depraved.  How far will Craig go to save his family from ruin and is there any whim of Colin and Violets' that can't be bought?

I really enjoyed this movie, I like what first time director, E.L. Katz does with these characters and how he slowly tears apart the relationship and humanity of these two friends.  With each new task assigned to them and as the dollar amount the dollar amount increases, the two become wild animals trying to out do one another.  The script that David Chirchirillo (616: Paranormal Incident) and Trent Haaga (Deadgirl, Citizen Toxie), although relatively thin is strong enough is simple and effective enough to demonstrate that some people will go to any lengths to win money.  You could look at this film in many ways, as a social commentary on what we've become as a society where television is so deeply rooted in culture now with and so many reality game show over the years, that some people have become lost the fantasy of these shows and believe this is another way to survive.  Or it could a look at the class system that is starting to evolve in America and it has become so bad the affluent rich need to the lower classes to serve as there playthings.  I couldn't tell you what their intentions were but their story line makes for one hell of a disturbing flicks.

  The casting is small, unlike similar horror game movies like "Would You Rather"  and "13 Tzameti", which are also good, I think it really makes a big difference because we can really focus on just these four characters and they have the time to really develop.  Pat Healy and Ethan Embry are amazing as Craig and Vince.  It is amazing to watch these old friends change and turn into these monsters.  Sarah Paxton, I think is  a little under used in this and would have liked to have seen more of her as the birthday girl Violet but she still does a killer job.  I was most impressed with Dave Koechner.  He's mostly in roles as brash idiots and or bullies but in this he plays the shit out of this Colin character.  There are moments when he is what you expect, party idiot, loud and obnoxious but then he changes up and brings some real emotion to some of the screen.  This is probably Koechner best performance that I've seen.

The only thing really disappointing about this film is the limited theatrical release but fortunately, in this digital age, it should be on a VOD system near you pretty quick.  This is a real slow burn and reminds me a lot of Red Room because when you start watching it, the people are doing such silly things at first, you get worried about what you've gotten yourself into but by the end of the film, all the cards are on the table and you understand the real game that's going on.  There is nothing cut-rate about Cheap Thrills.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

In Fear (2013)

In Fear (2013)
Director: Jeremy Lovering
Starring: Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert and Allen Leech
Running Time: 85 min

  Again, I was totally blind coming into this one as well and what was worse I didn't even recognize the cast or director, with the exception of Allen Leech (Downton Abbey).  Branson! All I knew is that this was going to be available on March 13, 2014 at the Cineplex and there were some good buzz going on about it.  So, crossing my fingers I plunged into the dark woods of "In Fear".

After just dating for two weeks, Tom, played by Iain De Caestecker (Filth, The Little Vampire) and Lucy, played by Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures, Ginger & Rosa)  head out together to meet some friends at a music festival.  During the trek, they stop at a pub and there is an altercation between Tom and some of the locals that Lucy and the we the audience miss because we are exploring Lucy's bathroom ritual.  We watch as she squats and adds her mark to the bathroom stall poetry.  Anyway, when she's done, Tom rushes them out to the car, explains the situation and assures her that everything is fine.  He then proposes that before they meet their friends, that they spend a romantic evening at an out of the way Hotel that he found online.  She mulls it over and luckily she agrees because moments later, the truck that is to lead them to this romantic getaway beeps behind them and they begin to follow for their passionate evening.
  After quite some time of driving into the middle of nowhere, the road forks and the truck takes a right while waving to them to keep following the road.  Tom and Lucy get out to open the gate and see a truck load of locals from the bar.  They hoot and holler at Tom and Lucy as they try and open the gate and continue to drive down the same right as the other truck.  They get the gate open and Lucy tries to call their friends to let them know about the change of plans, unfortunately there isn't any cell reception that far in the boonies.  This does not detour them though and they continue on the road, leaving no bread crumbs behind.
  As they search for this hotel, they enter a labyrinth of winding roads and night begins to fall.  There GPS system is now down, the road signs keep leading them in circles and the map that Tom downloaded has a useless yellow dot in the middle, so no directions can be read.  Lucy starts seeing things, like people lurking about and thinks that they may have been lead into a trap by some of the locals that Tom had an altercation with.  She begs Tom to find out if anything happened in the pub and Tom assures her that everything is fine.  After condensed hours of driving, Tom and Lucy eventually run into, literally, a very beaten Max, played by Allen Leech (Cowboys & Angels, Rewind) who assures them that locals from the pub are after them but he knows the way out of this hellish maze.  With their petrol running out, can Tom and Lucy finally escape this horrible romantic excursion and the wrath of locals or are they doomed to spin their wheels into oblivion.

  This is the first feature film, written and directed, from long time television director Jeremy Lovering (Sherlock, Sex & Lies).  I really like the set up of the story and how brilliantly Lovering keeps us on hour toes at the very beginning of the film.  Every turn is a new hope for these characters, that they will either find the hotel or find a way out but each road seems to lead back to the same place.  I also like, how he paces the story and it turns into an almost unbearable pressure cooker of terror.  Like Lucy, the audience starts feeling the same paranoia, unable to be sure if what they are seeing is real or just a figment of their imagination.  Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert play their roles in the first two acts brilliantly and even Allen Leech, who starts off with a very cat and mouse way of helping them is excellent too.  It's a very heavy thriller and you want these people to escape.

  Unfortunately, the third act goes off the rails.  There is a few really good fight scenes and a very highly charged hostage scene near the end but it doesn't really tie up together in a way that rings true.  It is far too uncomplicated that it's almost insulting and you start to dislike the characters for putting themselves into the situation.  Also, the ending really leaves you hanging in a way that isn't necessary and by this time, you don't really care.

This is a good movie that could have been a really great movie but like in Haute Tension, the third act really ruins a movie.  I think Director Jeremy Lovering creates an amazingly frightening atmosphere that will give you the chills but I wish he hadn't made the third act so frustratingly simple.  With that said, I would still recommend checking it out because it may keep you out the woods at night and there are far worse things out there. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Odd Thomas (2014)

Odd Thomas (2013)
Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin and Willem Dafoe
Running Time: 100 min

  Going into this, I knew nothing about this film, except that it was going to be in the Cineplex/RavenBanner Horror Thingy on Feb. 13.  I saw director Stephen Sommers (Van Helsing, G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra) name on the credits and began to get worried but then Willem Dafoe is also in this, so I thought that may even it out. 

Odd Thomas, played by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Smurfs) is a 20 something guy who can see dead people and does something about it.  He helps ghosts find their killers and has them brought to justice, so the ghosts are able to move on to the other side.  What a nice kid!  Unfortunately, he can't tell anyone that he has this amazing power because he is afraid that he'll be locked up in a mental institution, like his mom.  So to pay the bills he works at the mall as a short order cook.  Makes sense right.  Only his closest friends know about his special power, his girlfriend, Stormy, played by Addsion Timlin (Stand Up Guys, Derailed) and Police Chief Porter, played by Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Speed 2).  He also, sees these demon creatures called "Bodachs" which feast on the suffering of the dying, the more "Bodachs" that are around, the bigger the disaster is coming.  So, one morning after another successful murder case was wrapped up and a terrible dream about a massacre of people wearing bowling shirts, a man walks into his diner with a catastrophic amounts of these "Bodachs" surrounding him.  Odd takes on the the challenge of discovering what this guy's plan is and tries to stop him before anyone gets hurt.

I have to say that Stephen Sommers does a pretty good job directing.  It reminded me of a super natural Fletch, (Chevy Chase, anyone?) because it was funny, quirky and I'm a sucker from a good detective story.  Not only does Sommers puts together some really good action sequences, over the top fist fights, car chases and shoot outs but he actually tries to focus on the relationship of the characters, which was a nice surprise.  He really tries to bring out the human element in these characters and you end up really liking them and wanting them to win, which I find rare in teen and 20 something films these days.

With that said, there were scenes were I found the acting a little stiff between Yelchin and Timlin.  Maybe they were pick up scenes or they had some first day jitters but sometimes the character just didn't jive but for most of the film the chemistry is there.  Also, you could tell that this was an adaptation, I though it was another comic book but it's actually based on a Dean Koontz novel.  I felt they were missing some background stuff on people, like the Chief's wife/girlfriend (?) or we don't actually see Odd's father but he is mentioned a lot through the film.  However, it is hard to fit everything into a story and overall it doesn't really detract from the enjoyment of the film.  Finally, I wasn't crazy about the look of the "Bodach" but by the end of the film, they had grown on me.

Odd Thomas is a fun ghostercoaster ride that has a lot of good twists and will have you wanting to ride again after.  It has something for everybody, a mystery, ghosts, severed fingers in the fridge and love story to boot!