Friday, 25 April 2014

Doc of the Dead (2014)

Doc of the Dead (2014)
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Robert Kirkman, George Romero and other zombie aficionados.
Running Time: 81 min

  A few years ago, I saw a low budget but interesting documentary called "The People vs George Lucas" that took a lot of the complaints about the Star Wars franchise from fans and aired them.  It was a fun, cathartic breathe of fresh air to know that I wasn't the only one with some of the same issues.  Anyway, director Alexandre O. Philippe has returned, looking into another cultural outbreak that has literally pulled itself from the grave, the zombie phenomenon.

  Philippe explores the zombie films from the past and present and talks to a number of great panel guests like, Bruce Campbell, Robert Kirkman, George Romero and a ton of great people who in some way have brought this zombie culture to life.  He also looks into the origins of zombies, where the term originated and how we have adapted it into the North American psyche. Finally, he looks at the fans and how things like zombie walks and zombie business have grown from these films and books.

  This is a very good documentary and I was very impressed with the people that he brought in to talk to.  Alexandre O. Philippe interviews pretty much everybody that you would like to hear from about the North American zombie experience.  The guests weigh in on the origins of the zombie, the slow zombie vs fast zombies and a ton of other zombie topics that have crept up over the last ten years and you and your friends have been arguing about online.  The guest I found most surprising was Max Brooks, he seems to be very funny to talk to about zombies.  His interview and some of the filmed panel discussions are hilarious, he is very quick witted and good at telling a story.

  A couple of minor things I wasn't too crazy about were the zombie comedy stuff that seemed to be shoehorned in, to break up the segments.  I don't know, I just didn't find them that funny and found it a bit jarring.  There would be a good discussion going and then a weird music video or some kind of youtube video would pop up.  You would have to suffer through it until they got back to the guests.  Luckily, these were pretty short and forgettable, so they don't interfere with that much with the documentary.  Also, they don't really touch much outside the North American zombie films with the exception of Shaun of the Dead, which is suppose to be the patient zero of love of the dead and 28 Days Later, which some people will argue is a virus film and not a true zombie film.  It would have been nice to touch on some of the Italian, Spanish or Australia films like, Fulci's Zombie or Tombs of the Blind Dead and see how other people in the world deal with the issues of the undead.

  Overall this was an entertaining documentary and worth checking out if you're a new or an old fan of zombie flicks.  There isn't that much new information dug up on these oozing corpses but it's interesting to hear what the people who created them think of this living dead craze.  It's an infectious film that will have you gnawing for more.


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.