Monday, 23 June 2014

Joyride 3: Roadkill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (2014)

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (2014)
Starring: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Running Time: 662 min

I think everyone was really surprised when they heard that Fox was going to do a new version of Carl Sagan's Cosmos.  What was even more surprising was that Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy, American Dad and Cleveland was going to be producing it.  Images of Peter Griffith farting the elements of the periodic table while singing the Mexican hat dance came to everyone's mind or something similar and I'm sure everyone wondered what kind of science show this would end up being.

  In this documentary series, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson uses his "Ship of Imagination" to explore, investigate and explain how we have discovered different laws of nature on our world and how they are affected by time and space in the universe.  He travels through time to different centuries into different parts of the world to explore and explain how scientists at that time, could discover these theories and facts that we know today and in the same episode reveals how this affects or relates to the rest of the universe.

  This is a fascinating series and an incredibly thought provoking television show.  I had not seen the original series but it's not necessary to enjoy this program.  The show explores the development of different scientific terms and ideas in a no holds bar way.  It not only shows you where, when and how different ideas have been discovered but how some of these thoughts, like the earth revolving around the sun, were difficult to pitch to the community and sometimes caused these scientists their livelihood or sometimes their lives.  This show looks at the world as a global community of scientists searching for the truth about what's out there in the universe and how it relates to us.
  Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of the show, explains and explores in a way that easy to understand but he isn't talking down to you.  He speaks to you about the material as a friend or an equal which is quite refreshing because some shows seem to dumb things down or try to speak over your head.  Tyson is a brilliant science communicator and although Carl Sagan will never be replaced Tyson has truly come into his own as a host.
  The visuals for the show are brilliant and will enhance your love for the stars and the solar systems.  The universe look gorgeous, as Tyson tours around exploring clusters, black holes and the surrounding galaxies.  As well as the animation, used to tell the stories of the past are very enjoyable as well.  They translate to the kid inside and you get excited about the exploring the universe again.

  The only issues I had with the series is that there is a lot of information in each episode and since our brains have gotten lazy, at least mine has, and it's not as active when watching television, it's a little bit different to get use to at first.  However, after a couple of episodes, your brain will be back in shape and looking for another helping of real information, instead of the what Kim and Kanye are doing.
  Also, you may find that your family or friends may want to talk to you during or after the program about what was being discussed, which may seem scary and weird but go with it.  Discussions about things can be a lot of fun.  I wasn't used to it myself, but I have since come around and it's not bad.

  Unfortunately, I got this a little late and I'm still getting through the special features.  However, I watch the Carl Sagan Library of Congress Dedication, which has three captivating and funny speeches for Seth McFarlane, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan, who was Carl Sagan's wife and is a writer/producer for the show.  I am looking forward to seeing the other features because there is still over an hour an half of stuff to see.

This is a superb series for anyone, young or old and must have for anyone who has any interest in science.  It's this type of show, that will nurture and grow the next generation of scientists and push our boundaries of exploration.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Blood Glacier (aka The Station) (2013)

Blood Glacier (aka The Station) (2013)
Director: Marvin Kren
Starring: Gerhard Liebmann, Edita Malovcic, and Brigitte Kren
Running Time: 98 min

I love getting movies that I've never heard of, especially with a title like BLOOD GLACIER, you can only imagine what kind of schlock I was expecting.  This looked like something the Asylum had passed on and to tell you the truth, I was a little nervous.  However, when I looked into it,  I found that this film was from Austria, a country where some decent violent films have emerged & the director, Marvin Kren has had some success with an earlier film, so warily I began my trek into the BLOOD GLACIER!

  Janek is a technician at a station in the Swiss Alps for a team of three scientists studying the effects of global warning in that area.  He has worked in isolation for the past 5 years and has developed a disdain for the  revolving scientific team and a bit of a drinking problem.  The only thing he really loves is his dog, Tinni.  This day, the team is getting ready for a visit from Minister Bodiceck, who arrives the next day and they want to make sure everything is perfect for her arrival.  So while their cleaning up, Janek, Tinni and one of the scientist go out for an excursion, on which they discover the BLOOD GLACIER! Dun Dun Duuuun!  Janek and the scientist are astounded by this discovery and immediately start taking samples of the glacier.  Tinni does some investigating of her own and wanders into a cave that has been exposed by the melting ice.  Inside the cave, she discovers a twisted creature, that appears to be pregnant and it starts to hiss at her.  While Janek and the scientist are getting their samples, they hear Tinni yelping in the cave.  Janek rushes to help her, cutting himself in the process and getting her out of the cave in time.  Luckily, the scientist has finished collecting samples for now and they head back to camp with Tinni licking Janek's' bloody hand.
  Back at camp, they discover that the samples from the BLOOD GLACIER contain a mutating hybrid gene that is transferred through blood.  The scientists are thrilled but Janek suggests that they contact the Ministers team about the rabid fox that attacked Tinni and postpone the visit.  The team disagrees and gives Janek some morphine for his injuries and to shut him up.  Take your medicine boozy.  That night, Janek is awakened by a noise in the camp and goes to see what it is.  He is attacked by a giant mutated beatle/fox monster!  It scurries away and Janek goes to warn the others.  The others believe him because of the sample they found in the glacier but still don't want to cancel the Ministers' visit, so they say that they'll talk about it in the morning.
  The morning arrives, Janek sneaks off and calls the Ministers team to warn them and discovers that his ex-girlfriend Tanja, a former scientist there at the station is working with the Minister and will be on this tour.  He lies and tells her that there is a rabid fox up here and if they decide to come that they should get here as soon as possible.  Tanja tells the Minister and her entourage about the rabid fox, but they decide to go anyway.  On the way, they are attack by terrifying hybrid creatures!  And they're not the only ones, Janek and the team are also having similar troubles with twisted monsters attacking there station!  Can these people escape the evil Alps or will these hybrid feast on their flesh and create a new species that will take over the world?!?!

 I was really surprised at how enjoyable this movie was.  There are a lot of elements from John Carpenters' The Thing and Ridley Scotts' Alien in this, which doesn't detour from the experience as much as it enhances it.  There's lots of films that give nods to people, look at Taratino's Kill Bill, so why not Carpenter or Scott? Also, there is enough of an original story here that makes the whole film really work.
  Speaking of which, the idea that global warming, or whatever it is that is melting the ice and snow everywhere, has unlocked this hybrid gene that has been locked away in the ice is really fascinating.  It's something that I don't think people have really thought about before but after this film, there will be a mess of scripts in the next couple of years with similar ideas. 
  Also, I love creature movies and dug these mutated hybrid monsters that they created.  This film was probably done on a smaller budget than say Godzilla, but I think their team really pulled through and created some creepy looking monsters.  Even the idea of what these monsters would look like once the creatures bonded with humans had shivers sent up my spine because there could have been some seriously fucked up things.

  With that said, it brings up one of the issues with the film, which is that they may have played it a little too safe with their monster creations.  Still very good and scary but these are mutating hybrids so I expect some crazy shit.  I'd be wincing at times and have to force myself to see what was going to come out of the human characters and then I'd be like, oh, that's not so bad.  I wished they would have pushed the envelope a little further and just made these creatures more disgusting.  This is a perfect premise for this kind of thing and since you've opened the door, why not let your evil, twisted, sick little imagination run rampant.
  Another issue I had was that a random girl character shows up out of nowhere in the middle of the film.  Presumably she's a hiker but it's really quite out of nowhere and it's annoying because we have no connection to this character earlier in the film.  The cast already has more than enough people in it to axe off and it would be more compelling if one of these characters get killed/mutated/burned/whatever.  I found it unnecessary and pointless to bring someone else in and then do nothing that relevant with them.

However, these are small points that doesn't detract much from what is essential, a good horror film and a fun creature feature.  I think if they had a larger budget and worked on some more twisted and intense creatures, this could be a pretty killer franchise.  So before the ocean's rise and you're looking for a gene splicer to save your family, check out BLOOD GLACIER, it's a chilling story that will melt your mind into oblivion!

Watch Blood Glacier in select theaters in Canada June 19!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Director: Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson
Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee and Brooke Butler
Running Time: 90 min

  Who doesn't love cheerleaders and who wouldn't want to see a few of them die?  Directors Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) and Chris Sivertson (The Lost, I Know Who Killed Me) get a ahead of the game and remake their own 2001 video "All Cheerleaders Die".

  Maddy Killian is editing a video of her "friend" and soon to be cheerleader captain, Alexis.  The video is shot at the end of the school year and Maddy follows Alexis around and shows how "popular" she is and what a mean bitch she can be.  Good times!  Anyway, eventually they get to the field and during a cheer leading stunt, something goes wrong and Alexis is killed.

  Fast forward to a couple days before the new school year starts and Maddy goes to cheerleaders try-outs.  After an exciting cheerleader montage, she gets in and is invited to the cheerleader party.  Before she goes, she makes an entry into her video diary, vowing revenge on Tracy, the new captain of the squad and her boyfriend, Terry, who happens to be Alexis ex-boyfriend and the school's star football player.  On the way out, Maddy's creepy wiccan ex-girlfriend, Leena shows up and warns her that bad things are going to happen because of her new cheerleader ways. Whateverrrrrrr!
  At the party, she tells Tracy that Terry cheated on her during the summer and Tracy, of course, believes her and breaks up with Terry, then Maddy consoles her by making out with her?  I guess everybody grieves differently.  The next night, which happens to be the night before the first day of school, they go to another party and almost everyone is there.  Even Leena, who is using her magical rocks to try and keep Maddy safe from any impending doom.  The only person missing is Terry, so Maddy and Tracy go into the bush and get into each others bush, while Tracy waits to confront Terry about his cheating.  Terry finally arrives and Tracy tells him its over but with a lot of penis insults, which leads to Terry decking Tracy.  The girls freak out and the other guys are far to cowardly to help, so the ladies run to their car to escape.  However, Terry isn't done, he gathers up the guys and they run the ladies off the road and leave them for dead in the river.  That'll learn them!  Luckily, Leena is nearby and brings the girls back to life with her magic rocks!  Now that they are back from the dead and out to get their revenge on Terry and his football buddies!

  This was an interesting comedy/horror film with an very strong third act.  McKee and Sivertson do a good job keeping the audience laughing as they poke fun of high school culture and letting the darkness trickle in slowly.  The casting for this is really good, with a number of newer faces like, Caitlin Stasey (I, Frankenstein, Evidence) as Maddy, Sianoa Smit-McPhee (Hung, Touchback) who plays Leena and Brooke Butler (CSI, Tosh.0) who plays Tracy.  These ladies are terrific leads and I'm looking forward to see them in other films.  Also, Tom Williams is pretty exceptional as "Terry" considering this is his first film and he really stands out in this cast.

My only issues with the film is that it seems to be a little disjointed at times and there isn't a real understanding of what is motivating some of the characters.  Like Maddy, while reviewing her tapes before Alexis death, she didn't seem like she was friends with any of these girls or even into that scene.  Then we find out, her and Alexis were really good friends?  It's just seems forced and not true.  I can understand later on why she wants to get revenge on Terry but Tracy just seems like collateral damage and I still don't know why Maddy was there in the first place with Alexis.  Also, the Vic character, one of the Terry's friends who doesn't agree with what his teammates are doing, y'know with all the murdering cheerleaders, but he is afraid to tell.  He seems to be the only one of these people with a conscience but what is his payoff?  Being a nice guy doesn't count and neither does being in love with someone who will never love you back.  His character just seems shoehorned in and he seems to show up at a lot of opportune times.  Finally, the suspension of belief does get strained at times and you wonder, where are these people's parents? or why don't they just call the police? or even how does nobody on that street hear or see that person being murdered with all that screaming going on?  But I guess extensive bad decision making is what make most of these horrors work and who wants to think, when there are cheerleaders bouncing?

With that aside, this is a fun film that you really need to just put your brain away for and just enjoy the ride.  There are ample shots of cheerleaders & football dudes for everybody to enjoy with enough humour and tremendous amount of blood near the end to round out the whole package.  You may even want to get up and do a little cheer at the end.

All Cheerleaders Die is in select theaters June 13!

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Sacrament (2013)

The Sacrament (2013)
Director: Ti West
Starring: Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg and Kate Lyn Sheil
Running Time: 95 min

Director Ti West is really hit and miss for me, some of his stuff I really like, for instance The House of the Devil and some things like The Innkeepers, I'm not so crazy about.  Anyway, when I heard that he was doing something similar to the Jonestown Massacre, I was excited because I think that this could be an interesting look at how some religious cults can manipulate their followers & how harmful they can be.  Also, Jonestown isn't a story that you read about as often anymore but is truly a low point in recent American history.

A journalist from the show Vice, Sam and his camera man, Jake agree to help fashion photographer Patrick find his lost sister, who was last seen in a drug rehabilitation center.  They discover that she has left the country and is living on a commune called Eden Parish.  Patrick contacts her and agrees to go visitor her with Sam and Jake, so they can do a story on the commune.  After being helicoptered in, they are met with guards carrying AK-47s and they want the cameras turned off.  Luckily, Jake is old hat at this and keeps the camera rolling while the are driven to the secret location of the commune.  When they arrive at the gate, things start to get hairy again but luckily, Patrick's sister, Caroline arrives and defuses the situation.  She invites them in and tells them about how great it is at Eden Parish and how wonderful, their leader, "Father" is.  Sam asks Caroline if he can interview Father and she tells him that she will see what she can do.
  Richard leaves with Caroline to get reacquainted with his sister and Sam and Jake explore the camp and interview the people.  Everyone that they interview seem really happy and it seems as though Eden Parish has been a real positive life changing experience for them and their families.  They meet back up with Richard and Caroline and she lets them know that "Father" has agreed to the interview.  She also tells them that after the interview, there will be a party and they're all invited.  Sounds good, everybody loves a commune party.
  That night, Sam interviews "Father" in a town hall environment, which seems unusual for Sam and Jake.  "Father" seems to evade questions and wraps up the interview early.  They head down to the party and Sam and Jake are thinking there might not be a story here until a mute girl gives Sam a piece of paper that says, "Help Me".  Sam & Jake only have a few hours to find out what's happening at this commune behind the closed religious doors before they're helicopter leaves and expose this cult for what it is!

  Ti West does a good job recreating "Jonestown" and choosing Gene Jones (No Country For Old Men, OZ the Great and Powerful) to play the "Father" character was an excellent decision.  Gene Jones owned this role and took the film to a whole new level of creepy.  He nailed the character and if for no other reason to see this film, it should be for his performance.  Also, I liked how West tempered his camera during some of the gory scenes, letting the audience use their imagination at times instead of just each bloody killing.  There is still a lot of violence, but so scenes aren't necessary to watch.  And I was surprised that he was able to make the P.OV. camera style work for this but it did.  It didn't leave me wondering where the cameras were and there were times when having that camera was actually made the story better.  So, that was cool.

 I'm still not sure how I feel about having Vice associated with the film because it dates the project and it seems like it's trying to be something that it's not, which is a found footage film.  The beginning of the film reminds me a bit of "Cannibal Holocaust" but the difference is Deodato tried to sell his film as real footage and even had the cast hide away for a while to make it seem real.  Here we know that this is a film, so I don't think it's that necessary to make it seem like it's more real than it really is.  Also, I know how West works and that this was going to be a slow burn, so I wasn't expecting anything crazy until the end. I was really surprised though that Father's group was such a fragile house of cards and that these 3 guys could make it collapse so quickly. I thought that "Father" was going to say that they were already being investigated or they had some child porngraphy/child marriage thing going on like the Mormon scandals a few years ago, but nope. They are just mean to people and won't let so people leave. Really? Parts od the ending did piss me off a bit, with the helicopter pilot being shot but he was still willing to wait the extra hour for them to escape and then they get their deus ex machina because one of the guards lets them go. Why them? Why not the kid and the mom? Why couldn't the government find the tapes and that's where the story is told?  I think West is a better story teller than this and I find it frustrating that a few simple changes, like the background of the camera man to ex air force, so he can fly the helicopter,  a mention about government interventions, so there is some kind of tension about outsiders or even a guard stepping in earlier during so abuse of a commune person, so that when he lets them go, it makes sense.  Simple things like this, could have made the climax a lot more believable and real.

  This is a really enjoyable film, even though I have some minor issues with the ending, and I think this is probably West's best work since The House of the Devil.  This may not have any zombies or vampires but it has something far scarier, people.  People who will do anything for what they believe in and to protect what is theirs and sometimes that can be just as terrifying.