Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Holiday Horror: The Phantom Carriage (aka Korkarlen) (1921)

The Phantom Carriage (aka Korkarlen) (1921)
Director: Victor Sjöström
Starring: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, and Tore Svennberg
Running Time: 107 min

  I saw this film last year when I started getting more into silent moviess and was really impressed with the story and the visuals for such an old film.  I thought I'd revisit it because I didn't have a chance to write about it and I think this is a perfect film to end this year or any year off with.

    It's New Year's eve and Salvation Army worker, Edit is dying of consumption and her dying wish is to speak with David Holm, who was the first person she tried to help in this town and he's also the one, who passed on the consumption to her.  The other Salvation Army workers scatter into the city to help find David but they don't have any hope that he will return with them, even if they find him.
  Meanwhile, David Holm and his two buddies are sitting in a graveyard drinking and awaiting for the new year.  Only minutes before the new year, David tells them a ghostly tale about what happens if you die on New Year's eve.  He tells them that if you die, then you have to drive Death's carriage for the year and are tormented by watching other people lose their lives.  After witnessing the death,  then you must put their ghostly remains in the back of your carriage.  Shortly after the story, one of the Salvation Army workers, Gustafsson finds them and begs David to come back with him to see Edit.  David, being a right bastard, refuses and the Gustafsson leaves frustrated and disappointed.  David's drunken friends can't believe that he would refuse a dying woman's last wish and try to drag him to go visit her but in a scuffle, they accidentally stab David repeatedly with a broken bottle.  Whoops.  The drunks run away and leave David dying as the bell tolls for the new year.
  The Phantom Carriage arrives to take it's new driver and to David's ghostly surprise it's his old drinking friend, Georges.  Georges feels bad and responsible for David's life.  He feels that if he hadn't lead him astray, David's life would have been a lot better.  Georges then gives him the ghostly version of "This Is Your Shitty Life".  He shows David how he was happy once with his family and how after meeting him, Georges, things all went to shit.  Georges shows David, how his actions caused him to lose his family and how letting his heart turn cold as affected all his decisions and put him where he is now, in this terrible situation.  Is there any way that David can change and turn things around to save his eternal soul or will he be damned forever and have to drive Death's Carriage for the next year?


  This is a great film and very spooky tale.  Victor Sjöström (Wild Strawberries, The Hell Ship) does an amazing job in both directing and starring in this film as David Holm.  He not only tells an interesting moral tale but has some incredible special effects in it for the time.  To create the ghosts, they had to create multiply exposures of the scenes and the real difficulty of doing this is at that time was that the cameras had to be hand cranked at exactly the same speed every time to achieve this incredibe effect.  Which they did and it looks brilliant and creates a wonderful 3D looking ghost.
  Also, Victor Sjöström is very good as bad guy David.  The way he portrays the character is natural and isn't overly evil as you may see in other silent films.  He's an asshole but not a "Snidely Whiplash" villain which makes him more authentic.  


  The story is very moral and may come off a little preachy at times but I think that it works because again the David character has really hit rock bottom and has turned into a real lowlife.  I think this is an extreme case here, and like the Edit character, played by Astrid Holm (Haxan, Mani), you want to David to redeem himself in the end and do the right thing, by any means necessary.
  Also, there is no blood and guts in this film but there are still some very intense scenes.  For instance, there is one scene that is quite similar to "The Shining" with David smashing down a door with an ax and Sjöström ends the picture on a with a very tenuous scene, where David's ex-wife is on the verge of killing herself and the children.  The tension is quite palpable and even I was hoping he would get there in time.  
  As well as the ghosts effects, which I mention earlier,  make this a very creepy film and fun to watch.



  This is a must see if you are a big fan of silent horror films or want to expand your horizons as a fan of the genre .  There is a good story about a man finding himself again after years of debauchery, brilliant special effects for it's time and an great ending that is somewhat chilling.  So if you're looking for something spooky for New Year's Eve, this carriage ride might be the ticket.

 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Terror Train (1980)

Terror Train (1980)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Starring: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and  Hart Bochner
Running Time: 97 min

  I had no idea that this was a Canadian production and that Roger Spottiswoode worked as an editor on Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" before directing this, his first film.  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis did this film right after "Prom Night", which was another great Canadian horror, so, I'm excited to jump on board and ride this train of terror again.

  It's New Year's eve and a fraternity at a med school is having a party.  Doc and Mo, 2nd year students, have set up a prank for one of the frat pledges, Kenny.  He is being sent to make out with a hot freshmen chick, Alana upstairs in Doc's room.  They send him up and he finds a person, who he thinks is Alana, lying in bed and Kenny can hear Alana whispering to him to join her.  Kenny strips down to his gitch and when he jumps into bed, he discovers that it's not Alana but a corpse from the morgue.  Kenny freaks out, while the other kids laugh at him. Oh college pranks...
 Three years later, Doc and Mo are throwing another New Year's eve party on a train to celebrate their last year with the school and the fraternity.  Everyone is there, even Alana who was upset about the prank, which happened to drive Kenny out of school and into a mental institution but not upset enough to not be dating Mo.  Anyway, the train party is going to be awesome, people are dressed up in costumes, there's booze and there is even a magician!  Right on! Everyone is so excited that nobody notices that the Ed, the obnoxious kid dressed as Groucho Marx is actually murdered and pushed under the wheels of the train.  Once the train is boarded, the conductor blows the whistle and wheels of the train crush Ed's skull. Choo Choo!
  On the train, Alana is happy that her bed/cabin/thing is next to her best friend, Mitchy who is dating Doc, the guy who put Kenny in the institution. Anyway, everybody is happy and having fun, even the person who killed Ed.  He's now disguised as Ed and is on a killing spree murdering other frat brother's, while everyone is drinking and waiting for the magic show.  The Magician is kind of creepy and seems to have a stiff wand for Alana but her heart is already given to Mo, who is messing around with some other gals with Doc. Ain't that sweet.
  Eventually, the train conductor Old man Carne discovers the bodies and tries to get everything under control.  Alana and Doc think that it's Kenny and that he's returned to get revenge on them for ruining his life, which they kind of did.  Will Alana and Doc survive this terrible train of terror or has their New Year's eve been derailed and it's about to crash into a station of scares?


  I dug this movie, there are a lot of fun things in this movie besides it being a slasher film.  Director Roger Spottiswoode successfully tries to combine an "Animal House" kind of feel to the film and has the members of the fraternity so involved in pranks that nobody really thinks that the murders are for real.  This brings some dark humour to the plot and there are times when even the audience may wonder if this is a revenge hoax on Alana and Doc, similar to another 80's horror movie which I won't mention because it would ruin the ending to that film.
  Also, David Copperfield (Professional Magician) is in this and is very creepy throughout the film.  His career was just starting to take off and because producer Sandy Howard liked magic so much, they shoehorned the whole magic angle into the script.  This created an actual mystery about the who the killer might be and again Copperfield nailed the creepy aspect of the role.    
  Additionally, Jamie Lee Curtis (You Again, Drowning Mona) is great in this playing the best friend, nice girl who plays by the rules.  She screams her way out of these scenes here with such a professional flare that it's no wonder she was the 80's largest grossing scream queens.


  This kind of leads us to the issues of the film, one of them is that there really isn't a mystery about who has come back for revenge.  With such a malicious prank at the beginning of the film, there is no other person who would have more reason to kill these frat boys and girls than Kenny.  You freaked Kenny out, You Bastards!  The only mystery is what he looks like now because he has more costumes than Dr. Dressup's tickle trunk and he isn't revealed until the end.  There are a few red herrings around but nothing that would be that convincing as to who the killer is.
  Also, the pacing at times can be a little slow.  I understand that Spottiswoode is trying to build the suspense but it seems like he's taking the long way around.  There is definitely some good atmosphere here but I wish he would have gotten to the murders a bit quicker.
  Besides that, there could been a few more people on the train that could have been killed.  Like Ed and Jackson's dates, they were ripe for the picking and could have been executed in the shadows of the train.  However, Spottiswoode did keep his maniac on point and only murdered people that were associated with his prank gone wrong, which was very gentlemanly of him. 



  Overall, this isn't a "classic" horror movie but it's still a pretty fun slasher film.  It's got a killer on an interesting mode of transportation, some memorable kills and an ending, that might make you chuckle and it's one that you probably won't forget.  So, if you're looking for scary ride on New Year's, hope aboard the "Terror Train".


Saturday, 27 December 2014

Holiday Horror: New Years Evil (1980)

New Years Evil (1980)
Director: Emmett Alston
Starring:  Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, and Chris Wallace
Running Time: 90 min

  This one is a no brainer when looking for horror movies for a New Year's watching, it's in the title and it has the word evil, so it's got to be scary, right. Also it has Roz "Pinky Tuscadero" Kelly from "Happy Days" in this so, if you're old like me, you'll think that's a plus.  So, let's see if thing can avoid jumping the shark.

  It's new year's eve and the queen of punk rock and new wave music, Blaze, or to her friends Diana Sullivan, is getting ready to do her televised countdown celebration.  This year, it will be simulcast across the the country for all four time zones.  She's excited for the show but is a little sad, just a little, because her husband, Richard has gone on a drinking bender and won't be in town to celebrate this achievement with her.  Her teenage son, Derek is there with some really good news, but it's not that important and it can wait until mommy is done with her show.  This is Mommy's time!
  Anyway, the show starts off great, the band is rockin and Blaze is answering phones listening to people talk about there new year's resolutions.  That is, until she gets a call from a strange man who  calls himself, Eeeeevil, while using a shitty voice modulator.  He tells her that is is going to commit a murder every hour to ring in the new year.  This freaks Blaze out and calls him a jerk, hangs up and considers it a bad prank.  However, our friend Eeeevil isn't fuckin around and walks out of the pay phone booth and into a mental institution, where he kills a really hot nurse.  He also records it with his "high tech" tape recorder and calls Blaze again, so she can hear just how serious he is.  He also tells her where the body is, so the police can retrieve it and they have proof that he is doing it.
  By the time the police arrive and confirm the murder, Eeeevil has already changed into a new disguise and is searching out his new victim.  Can Blaze and the police stop this madman before the new year's hits the coast or will the police drop the ball and the new year will be covered in fresh sparkling blood?


  This was better than I thought it was going to be, all things considered.  Writer/Director Emmett Alston (Nine Deaths of a Ninja, Force of the Ninja, 3 Little Ninjas & the Lost Treasure) puts together an interesting slasher film before he goes into his Ninja themed filmography.  I'm actually sad now that there wasn't a ninja in this.  It could have been a "New Year's Ninja Evil".  
  Anyway, it's a pretty simple set up, there is a crazy person killing people but what makes it interesting is that you kind of know who the killer is and you ride along with him while he murders people.  It's like a behind the scenes thing, watching him get ready for his next victim and putting on his new disguise.  The weird thing too, is that when he screws up later in the film and is getting chased by a biker gang for accidentally smashing one of their bikes, you actually want him to get away.  Which is weird right but by that point the film has shifted so much focus on him, he is now the main character, the person who's journey you're on and who've you now been engrossed by.  What adds to this character's likeability is the unlikableness of the Blaze character, played by Roz Kelly (Full Moon High, American Pop).  She's an awful mom, more concerned with her career than her kid, has an arrogant attitude and comes off really selfish.  She is not very sympathetic character, so when the killer comes a knocking, it's hard to get behind her and root for her to escape.
  Also, I like the way the killer says his name Eeeevil.  It's a real hoot!  Sadly he only does it a couple of times at the beginning but it made me laugh a lot.


 
Issues with the film..., well whoever wrote this has never worked in television because the host of the show seems to spend way more time off stage than on.  Eeeevil wouldn't be the only person on a killing spree in this film, the director and the producers of the simulcast would be killing every PA and set person in sight trying to get his/her star back on stage for this LIVE event.
  Also, some of the music that was chosen doesn't really fit what the theme of the "TV show" and is just shoehorned in to work with the script.  For instance, there is a real bluesy number playing on TV while the killer is sexing up his first victim.  This is a punk rock/New Wave concert, I don't think those dudes on stage would be playing anything like that.  It just doesn't work and takes you out of the picture.
 

 This film isn't going to change your life but it has some fun B-movie scenes that are pretty enjoyable.  It's got some good killings, some silly voices and disguises and a somewhat interesting twist at the end, although you could see it a mile away.  Still, this is a great film for spending the day on the couch nursing that New Year's hangover.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Ghostkeeper (1981)

Ghostkeeper (1981)
Director: Jim Makichuk
Starring:  Riva Spier, Murray Ord, and Sheri McFadden
Running Time: 89 min

  I've never heard of this movie but it popped up when I was searching for New Year's Eve movies and with a poster like that how could I, or anyone really, say no?  Also, it is a Canadian production and the music was done by Paul Zaza, who scored "Prom Night" and "My Bloody Valentine", so at least I know the music will be decent.

  Jenny and her boyfriend, Marty are snowmobiling through the forest with their friend Chrissy, because they're bored with hanging around the resort waiting for the New Year's Eve party.  They come across a trail that specifically says "Private Property, Stay Out" but they decide to check it out, even with the pleas from Jenny telling that she think it's a bad idea. Oh Jenny...
  Eventually, Chrissy falls off her snowmobile and it breaks down for some unexplained reason but luckily it breaks down in front of a creepy abandoned hotel.  The trio forces the door open to get inside because night is coming and they need to stay warm because the temperature is dropping.  They half assedly search the hotel and can find cannot find a soul but Jenny thinks it's weird that the hotel the heating is on, even though no one is around.  Chrissy doesn't care, she's annoyed that she has to spend New Year's eve here at this hotel but she does like the attention that Marty, Jenny's boyfriend is giving her.
  Night falls and the gang finish their bottle of champagne and all of a sudden they are confronted by an older woman who claims she's the groundskeeper.  She tries to convince them to leave but Marty explains that they can't leave until morning because of the wrecked snowmobiles and the weather.  Frustrated the old woman shows them to some rooms and warns them that her son is around somewhere doing something.  So, Chrissy goes to her room and Jenny and Marty head to theirs and get into a fight about Marty flirting with Chrissy.  Marty gets fed up with Jenny accusations and the way she wants him to be monogamous in their relationship and leaves to go brush his teeth.  Take that!  He and meets up with Chrissy, who is going to go take a bath in the creepy abandoned hotel.
  For some reason, Marty doesn't join her and she has a nice soak in the tub but is murdered shortly by, I'm assuming, the groundskeepers son.  Her body is brought downstairs and fed to a caged hairy man, who likes to scream a lot.
  The next morning, Marty and Jenny can't find Chrissy and they discover that their snowmobiles have been tampered with.  Jenny is getting a bad feeling about this and instead of just walking back to the other hotel, waits to see if her idiot boyfriend can fix their snowmobiles.  Will Marty and Jenny survive this hotel of horror or have they wrung in the new year for the last time?


  I was really surprised, this was pretty good for the first two acts at least.  Writer/director Jim Makichuk (The Tower, The Odyssey) does an astounding job setting up a very intense and tension filled ghost tale in the beginning.  The dark abandoned hotel gives the perfect ambiance that any good horror story needs but loses it's edge when the daylight comes.  There are still some good scary scenes during the day but if this all took place during the night, I think it would have been a much stronger and scarier film.
  Also Georgie Collins (Rad, The Boy Who Talked To Badgers) who plays the groundskeeper is perfect for this role.  For most of the picture she is fantastically cryptic and keeps her cards close to her chest concerning her and her sons motivations but it might be too close because we, the audience, don't really get her.  Is she just crazy, is she a cannibal, who is the hairy man in the cage, why is she really there?  Reading about the film afterwards, it makes more sense but nobody reads a script while watching a film, at least I don't and these things need to be explained.  However, her performance was great with what direction she was given.


  The third act is where this film really goes downhill.  It's a new day and like I mentioned before the sun destroys all those creepy shadows and terrifying crevices for evil to lurk.
  Also, the Marty character, played by Murray Ord  (The Grey Fox, The Wild Pony) loses his mind for some reason.  Once a rational character with an even tone, he goes into this kind of "Apocalypse Now" kind of frenzy and it doesn't ring true to his character.  Additionally, the groundskeeper near the end tries to draw the Jenny character, played by Riva Spier (Rabid, Black Mirror) closer to her by talking about her crazy mother which was slightly touched on in the film but never fully explained, so it lacks any real emotional impact.
  I think the biggest problem though is that they are not clearly tying this to Windigo legend properly.  There are some newspapers lying around and it's hinted at, poorly, but there is no definitive moment where it's properly explained.  I don't mean spoon fed but just some form of dialogue between the groundskeeper talking about legends of the Windigo or a creature in that is trapped in the mountains.  Just something, so everybody is on the same page. 


  Even though I found that this film kind of goes off the rails a bit at the end, I would still recommend checking it out.  It's a got some very good atmosphere, there are some good slasher moments and there is some interesting good camera work at times.  This is a B-movie gem that will help ring in a terrifyingly new year!

 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Holiday Horror: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
Director: Terence Fisher
Starring: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, and Yvonne Romain
Running Time: 91 min

  After Hammer Films took on Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy, it's not surprising that the Wolfman was not far behind.  Enlisting the directorial skills of Terence Fisher once again to work his revivalist magic and brilliant storytelling to yet another famed creature of the night.  This is the first werewolf film that I've seen from Hammer but I think with Fisher at the helm, this should be a slam dunk.

  Many years ago, a wandering beggar went to a visit the Marques Siniestro on his wedding day to ask for some share change, not knowing how evil the Marques was.  The beggar was then ridiculed and thrown into the dungeons of the Marque and forgotten about.
  Over the years, the jailers daughter, helped her father feed the beggar but eventually he passes away and it becomes her duty to see that the prisoner is fed with old bones.  Not new ones, he gets the old ones. Also, the Marques is now a reclusive old coot but he still enjoys the ladies and when he tries to get rapey with the jailers daughter, who has blossomed into a beautiful lady, he gets his crusty old hand bitten.  Furious, the Marques throws the woman in jail with the insane old beggar and then she is violently raped.  Afterwards the beggar is murdered or dies of exhaustion, he's pretty old, and the woman is then escorted to the Marques to be violated again but this time she brings a weapon.  When the old goat comes at her, she mercilessly stabs him to death and runs into the forest to hide.
  A number of months later, she is found face down in a river bed and rescued by Don Alfredo Corledo and brought back to his home, where he and his housekeeper Teresa nurse her back to health.  Also, she is pregnant and is due to have her unwanted baby on Christmas day which is a bad omen and the child may be a cursed forever.  The woman has her baby on Christmas and dies, leaving the child to Don Alfredo and Teresa to raise.  I'm getting to the werewolf part.
  As the child, Leon, grows older, he has terrible nightmares about being a wolf and some nights, he wakes up with some incredibly hairy palms.  There are some goats and other animals that have been slaughtered during the night and the town people send Pepe to kill the wolf or animal who is doing this.  One night, Pepe shoots a wolf but cannot find the wolf carcass and coincidentally, Leon wakes up with a slug in his leg.  After speaking with a priest, Don Alfredo believes that Leon is a werewolf and they come up with a solution to contain Leon's curse, which is love and bars on the window but mostly love.
  Somehow that plan works and Leon grows up and moves out on his own but can he still contain his werewolf curse without the constant love and support of his family?  Will the ugly and loveless world turn Leon into the snarling monster that awaits inside him or is there someone out there that can show him the affection that he needs to keep this beast at bay?


  I enjoyed this film but it is a very different kind of werewolf movie.  Terence Fisher doesn't seem to focus on the creature itself but more of how Leon became the beast and how this "curse" can be fixed with something as simple as love.  Which I'm not sure would have worked in the past with Lon Chany Jr or David Naughton.
  People expecting a full on werewolf movie may be disappointed because the beast only shows up really near the end of the film with Oliver Reed (The Shuttered Room, Burnt Offerings, who is very good in this, being chase by villagers with fire and pitchforks.  Also, there are no elaborate transformation scenes, like in the "Wolfman" or "An American Werewolf in London" which one would expect from this kind of story. 

  However, once transformed the werewolf look that make up artist Roy Ashton created for the film is frightening and very original.  It has a different wolfy flare from the Jack Pierce look that we're accustomed too.  It's quite well done.
  Also, there are a number of interesting and unexpected horror elements used in this film.  There seems to be just as much murder without the werewolf creature than with.  The scene where the Marques dies is pretty brutal.  The young woman really goes to town and gets her stab on without any mercy.  And the insane beggar's death is not really explained, which is sad because one hopes that the woman would have gotten her retribution on him violating her.
  Additionally, the idea that this poor young woman is raped in jail, which is done off camera but is still pretty scary and does turn the stomach.  I read that it was suppose to be a werewolf/beggar rapist but the censor had an issue with that notion, so it was dropped.  Yes because the werewolf raping someone was too much for the censors, I guess everybody has a line that cannot be crossed.


 I liked this movie but it wasn't what I was expecting.  Most of the film has no werewolf action, there isn't an excessive body count and director Fisher dismisses most of the expected cliches, but there is a certain humanity to the characters and sadness that you feel for Leon because this infliction was thrust upon him and it wasn't the consequence of a bad choice that he had made.  So, if you're looking for a different kind of werewolf movie with the little more heart than fang and the Hammer seal of approval, then this will have you howling at the moon. 


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Holiday Horror: P2 (2007)

P2 (2007)
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Starring:  Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, and Simon Reynolds
Running Time: 98 min

  I remember seeing this when it came out and not being that crazy about it but I can't for the world of me remember why I felt that way.  Anyway, I thought I would watch it again over the holidays because it matches up with my Christmas criteria and it has director Franck Khalfoun, who went on to direct the remake of "Maniac", which I surprisingly enjoyed.  Also, it is co written by Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Horns), whose work I also dig.  So why not give it another shot.

  It's Christmas eve and Angela is slogging through work, trying to get everything done before she leaves for her family's party.  It's getting late and she sends her secretary home, calls her sister to tell her that she is running late and even forgives the guy who tried to get rapey with her at the Christmas party, it's been a looooong day for her.  So, when she finally gets down to her car in P2 and it doesn't work, she is a little bit agitated.
  The doors are all electronically sealed to the main floor, so she has to head over to the security office with an armful of Christmas joy and ask the security guard, Thomas to open the doors.  He is happy to help her out and offers to give her car a boost.  She excepts but the car just doesn't seem to want to turn over.  She thanks Thomas and they head to the doors to go up to the lobby.  When they get there Thomas asks her if she would like to have supper with him, but Angela refuses and politely says maybe another time.
  Once in the lobby, Angela calls a cab and falls asleep waiting for the cab.  She is woken up by her phone and looks outside to see that the cab has arrived.  Unfortunately, when she tries to leave the building the electronic doors won't open.  Her friend Karl, the other security guard, isn't at his desk and she can't seem to buzz herself out. Dammit Technology!  She mimes to the cab driver to wait and runs downstairs to get Thomas to help her get out of the building.  Back in the parking garage, she sees the cab drive away and then all the lights go out in the lot.  She feels a hand grab her, put a cloth over her mouth, and then she passes out.
  When she wakes up, she is in a new party dress and seated at a table with Thomas who has dressed up as Santa.  She tries to run but she is chained to the table.  Thomas tells her to relax and all he wants to do is have supper with her.  Angela is scared and is afraid of what is going to happen next.  Can Angela escape this madman and make it home for Christmas or this the last supper that she is going to be celebrating, ever?



  This is better than I remember and has some good jump scares.  Director Franck Khalfoun (Maniac, Wrong Turn at Tahoe) actually does a nice job creating a very claustrophobic atmosphere and setting tension for this picture.  He uses the darkness of the parking lot to his advantage as well and allows the Thomas to slip in and out of the shadows seamlessly which adds to the overall creepiness of the film. 
  Although the cast is minimal, there is some heavy violence inflicted on some of these characters.  There is a scene with a man being mashed against a wall, that is very reminiscent of "High Tension" and an eye gouging scene that Argento or any Giallo director would die for.  This is more of a psychological thriller/horror but it can get seriously graphic at times, which is tremendously enjoyable.



  I wasn't crazy about the ending, I think what the Angela chacter does at the end isn't justifiable.  I think this changes her whole character and it doesn't sit that well with me.  **SPOILER** I think that killing an unarmed and incapacitated person, isn't what this character would have really done.  I think it was a bit of cop because they wanted an explosive and unforgettable ending but couldn't find one with compromising the character.  It would have worked better if Thomas accidentally did it to himself or there was a lunge for Angela to retaliate against but really she could have just walked away and kept her humanity. **ENDSPOILER**  Still, it was a good looking ending even though i felt it hurt the story and main character a bit.



  This was okay, it didn't knock my socks off but it still had some good moments that I found unnerving.  The story is simple, there are some good acts of violence and althoughI'm not crazy about the ending, at least it made sense. Kind of.  This is one of the better holiday horror films that I've run in to, so I hope it's on your under your tree as well.

 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Infinite Santa 8000

Infinite Santa 8000 (2013)
Director: Michael Neel
Starring:  Duane Bruce, Tara Henry, and Michael Neel
Running Time: 95 min

I need to write more about animated horror because there are a lot of great ones out there, especially form Japan, and it opens up a brand new world of terror. I found this Christmas one recently and thought how can you go wrong with Santa in a post apocalyptic world with heavy duty guns and robot reindeer? Right?

The film starts off in the year 8000, I'm assuming, and the world is a virtual wasteland.  Santa is prize fighting for food and defeats his mutant adversary for a bag of meat.  It was suppose to be two but Santa is happy with one.  Anyway, Santa head home to his
home in the desert with his mechanical reindeer and his robot daughter/friend, Martha that he rescued from the evil Dr. Shackleton.
  They eat their dinner and then are attacked by a giant bunny, who steals Martha away for Santa to bring back to Dr. Shackleton's fortress.  Santa tries to rescue her but is captured and Shackleton steals Santa's DNA. Fortunately, Santa escapes with Martha and they head home but when they arrive Shackleton sends every mutant and evil robot under the sun to destroy Santa, his home and Martha.  Even another giant bunny show up and ends up almost getting the job done.  Can Santa recover and finally stop Dr. Shackleton and his mutants from taking over the world, I think that's what he wants to do, and save Christmas or has the spirit of Christmas finally been destroyed?


  This did not have to be 95 minutes, an hour and 10 maybe.  I don't know, maybe this could work as a web series or even a game app but as a full length feature, it doesn't do it for me.  The story isn't flushed out very well and the characters are so painful to watch and listen too.  They are reading out things that should be visual and explaining obvious points.  It's maddening to watch.
  Santa can be fun at times but he seems like an idiot with a couple of good one liners.  Dr. Shackleton is the same one dimensional picture for most of the film and his issue with Santa isn't really explained.  Martha the robot is the worst, she is suppose to be cute but she just comes off, annoying and defective. I just wanted her to be destroyed the whole time.
  The battle scenes are dull, repetitive and go on waaaaaaaay to long.  And the odds, that Santa and Martha have to face are far too staked against them.  How has Dr. Shackleton not taken over the world already with an army of that size.  Which leads to an even better question, what is there left of the world to take over? Really?


  I feel bad because it looks like a lot of time and effort was put into this but I really didn't enjoy it.  There is some good animation, if you like this style, and some interesting work with the editing.
  Also, I liked the music. There is so good crushing metal that accompanies the battle scenes.


 Unfotunately, I can't get over the other aspects of this film.  The terrible story, bad characterization and the lack of humour in this film is really disappointing.  This was not for me, but check out the trailer and you may feel different.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Holiday Horror: A Cadaver Christmas (2011)

A Cadaver Christmas (2011)
Director: Joe Zerull
Starring: Daniel Rairdin-Hale, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, and Yosh Hayashi
Running Time: 85 min

  This is another movie that the writer is starring in their own film and like in "Stalled" they are both janitors in a Christmas premise movie.  Is that weird or what?  Anyway, I like the title and the poster looks interesting, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  Anyone using a mop to kill cadavers has to be okay in my books.

  It's Christmas eve and Tom Tunninbum is the only one left in Eddie's bar.  Eddie's about to call it a night when a janitor comes in, caked in blood and asks to use the bathroom.  Eddie points him in the direction of the bathroom and calls his buddy, deputy Sam Sheriff to let him know about his bloody customer.  Sam tells Eddie to keep him there until he can arrive.
  When the janitor comes out of the bathroom, Eddie tells him that he has to order a drink for using the bathroom, which he does and Tom asks the janitor, "Why are you covered in blood?"  The janitor explains that while he was working and the university that night he was attack and had to fight off thousands of cadavers that had reanimated at the school.  He was lucky that he got out alive and needs to get to the police to stop them before the take over the town or the world.  Just has he finishes his story, the three of them hear a noise outside and find that three or four of the cadavers have followed him to the bar.  Luckily while they are fighting them off, Sam shows up and helps them defeat the cadavers.  They don't kill them but hand cuff them in Eddie's bar, so Sam can check out this janitor's story.
  So they load up in Sam's car and head to the university.  The janitor, Sam, Eddie, Tom and the "Perp" that Sam had just picked up for having sex with a goat, go and investigate the zombie, I mean cadaver outbreak.  At the university, they split up and discover a few things, like that the janitor wasn't lying about the cadavers being re-animated and that a professor at the university, Dr. Hildencress was experimenting with a parasite that he thought could help people but his experiments got out of hand and he created a mess of zombies, I mean cadavers.  Can the janitor and his friends stop this flesh hungry band of roaming cadavers or will this take a gnarly bite out of the festive holidays?


  This wasn't too bad, all things consider.  This was director Joe Zerull and writer Daniel Rairdin-Hale first full length film, that was adapted from a 48 hour film festival.  It has a decent story, somewhat likable characters and it some laughs here and there.
  Also there are some interesting horror stuff in this.  There are a lot of zombies and the characters get to smash and beat a lot of them, which is fun to watch.  However, the story does take a weird turn near the beginning with the "Perp" character, played by Andrew Ryan Harvey.  The "Perp" ends up having sex with one of the corpses/cadavers at the university.  I can appreciate the necro romance and that they tried this gross out angle but I was really surprised by it because the film is a light kind of horror/comedy and having a sex scene with a corpse is rather dark.  It's the most depraved scene in the film and I don't think it fits with the feel of the rest of the film.     


  There isn't that many issues with the film, again considering the budget constraints that these guys and gals went through to get it made.  I wasn't crazy about the grainy grindhouse look that they put over the film, it doesn't add anything and just makes the film annoying to watch.  The flickering is distracting and takes away from the actors.
  Also, we don't see a lot of zomb, cadaver deaths.  The janitor is whacking them with shovels, mops and everything under the sun, which is funny but there is a lot of skull crushing and bloodsplosions going on.  There are some fantastic opportunities for some "Dead Alive" looking bloodbaths and for some wonderfully gory blood filled scenes but it there didn't seem want it take it there, which is a little disappointing.  Again, it could be due to budget constraints but after seeing a dude have sex with a corpse, I was expecting it to be a lot more bloody.


  Overall, this is still a pretty good Christmas flick if you're looking for a low budget kind of scare and laugh.  Again there are a couple funny bits in the film, lots of zombies and the ending actually has a pretty good twist that I think people will dig.  So, this may not be the best present over the holidays but you'll still be glad you got it.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Treevenge (2008)

Treevenge (2008)
Director: Jason Eisener
Starring: Jonathan Torrens, Sarah Dunsworth, and Maris Morgan
Running Time: 16 min

  I've been looking forward to seeing this for a couple of reasons.  For one, it's from director Jason Eisener, who brought us the brilliant "Hobo with a Shotgun" and two other fabulous shorts in "ABC's of Death" and "V/H/S 2".  Also, it has Canada's favourite TV guy in it, Jonathan Torrens, who everybody will remember from Street Cents, Jonovision and now the Trailer Park Boys.  This should be a fun ride and it's a short, so I'm pretty jazzed.

   It's a crisp morning and a team of men go into the forest and start ravaging it with their axes and chainsaws.  Cutting down the tree after tree, tearing them from their homes and crushing the young saplings under their heavy boots.  The trees are bunched together and then thrown into trucks to be brought to town and sold as decorations for people's homes, while the weaker ones are further mutilated to become wreaths.
  Unsuspecting families buy their trees on Christmas and have no idea that the trees are planning their revenge on Christmas day.  How will the tree get their revenge and how will they be able to escape the tyranny and slavery of man? 


 This has to be one of the best shorts ever!  Director Jason Eisener using similar "Grindhouse" techniques he used in "Hobo with a Shotgun", like over saturated color, blown out shots and a brilliant 70's issue soundtrack, creates a marvelous Christmas horror classic.
  The way the trees are ripped from their ancestral forest home just gives you the shivers and it reminds me of scenes from, "Roots", "Goodbye Uncle Tom" and probably closer to home with "Where the Spirit Lives".  Watching these displaced trees get stolen from their homes, corralled together and taken to be sold or exploited, just puts a knot in your stomach.  It's incredible how just adding a subtitle track and/or giving the trees a voice allows you to feel more compassion and empathy for these trees. 
  Also the revenge is marvelous.  There is some brutal justice handed out here and Eisener does not let up at all.  Everyone is a target and there is penance for every tree chopped and every sapling crushed.  It's really a great piece of horror film work.
  And it's not as serious as I'm making it.  Although there are some surprisingly complex themes here, either intentional or not, there is a very dark sense of humour surrounding this project.  In the end, they are trees that attack and kill people, it's silly like a killer snowman or being stuck in a bathroom full of zombies.  It's an incredible fun watch.   



  To be honest, this short film hits all the right marks for me and there is nothing that could have been done to really to make it more enjoyable.  Again, considering the look that Eisener was going for and the feel for the film, the blown out camera work and the over acting of the maniacal lumber jacks are just perfect. No complaints here.


  You need to go and watch this now.  It's only 16 minutes but it will make your build up to Christmas so much better.  It has an incredible story, considering it is about trees, tons and tons of gore and it's very funny.  So, this holiday treat yourself to this film but it may cause you may be keeping a closer eye on your Christmas tree.


 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Holiday Horror: The Blackout (2009)

The Blackout (2009)
Director: Robert David Sanders
Starring: Barbara Streifel Sanders, Joseph Dunn, and Ian Malcolm
Running Time: 80 min

 I haven't seen too many alien holiday horrors out yet but I know there is a few, so I thought I'd give this a shot.  I don't really recognize anyone in this, but I dig low-budget stuff and you never know right? right?

  It's Christmas eve and some couples in the Ravenwood apartments is dealing with some emotional bullshit.  For instance, Daniel and Elizabeth just want to have a nice Christmas with their kids but Daniel's drunk brother is crashing on their couch.  Also, Ethan and Claire are going through a divorce but they don't know if they want to be together but she sure as hell isn't letting him get it on with one of the downstairs neighbors, who happens to be having a Christmas party, that they are going to.
  On top of that there has been some power outages and cell phone service disruption that is making everyone cranky.  Before Elizabeth goes to the neighbours' party, her kids catch her and their dad making out.  So, she sends her son to go to the dark deserted basement of the building and get a big present that they left down there.  When he gets down to the basement, there is another power failure and he notices these bizarre creatures scurrying around the floor.  He hears something and discovers a monster in the basement, then tries to run to the elevator but the lift doesn't come in time and he is presumably eaten by the monster.
 Some time passes and Daniel and his daughter head downstairs to find his son but on the way into the elevator, Daniel is distracted by a noise. "Mittens"? This distraction leads to his daughter going down to the basement alone and searching for her brother alone in the dark dank basement.  Apparently, Daniel has never heard of the stairs and screams at the elevator to bring his daughter back. Damn you elevator! If there was only another way to get to the basement!
 Meanwhile at the party, which happens to be next door to Daniel and Elizabeth, almost everyone has left because of the power failure except for a few stragglers, including Ethan and Claire.  They hear a strange noise and the slutty hostess goes to investigate and gets kabobed by a giant tentacle.  Instead of everyone running down the stairs to get out of the building, they all go next door to Daniel and Elizabeth's apartment, you know where it is safe.  They all then come up with a plan that they should leave the building because there is a monster or monsters inside the building somewhere.  Can this group of people escape from these extraterrestrial monsters and save Daniel's daughter or will this be the worst Christmas ever for them and maybe mankind?

   
  This wasn't that great and I can understand why it got such a low rating on IMDB.  These people don't know how to leave a building.  There are only 4 stories in this building and the stairwells were clear, so outside of Daniel, Elizabeth and there alcoholic brother, who need to find their kids, everybody should have been able to get out a lot faster.  Even when they discovered that the lobby door was blocked, they came up with one of the most convoluted plans ever when there were so many simpler options.  It was quite ridiculous, I'm just glad it was only 80 minutes. 
  Also, the characters in this are inane and none of them follow any logical pattern.  The alcoholic is sober and has no desire to drink through this ordeal, the divorcing couple are in love and the agoraphobic seem to have no issues with being out and about with this crowd of people.  At least the agoraphobic was "taking medication" in some of his scenes but still, these people have back stories that the film has introduced, so make them matter and use them to cause real conflict in the story or don't introduce them at all. 
 One last thing, where are all the other people who live in the building?  It's at least a four floors in the building, where is everybody else.  It should be freaking mayhem in the halls and screams of terror but it's not and that makes the story seem unbelievable.


  However, I think that the alien monster creature thing wasn't to bad.  I like it's Alienesque look infuse with the scorpion tail.  Also, I could tell that director Robert David Sanders (The Blackout) was trying to get an "Alien" feel to the film.  He was at least trying to get some shots of the creature face to face with it's intended victims and dribbling ooze on them but it didn't have the same effect most times but the effort was there.
  Also there a few good death scenes in this and I'm surprised that they killed one of the kids off first.  That, honestly, is a ballsy move but I'm glad they did because most times kids in horror movies can be annoying as hell but you know that they won't be knocked off because of the "innocent" factor.  So well played.  All the blood and gore however are CGI created, which is annoying but I'm guessing it was the cheapest way to go.


 This isn't completely awful but it isn't great either.  This is one of those films you find in the WalMart bin on a DVD with three other films for $2.99.  The story isn't very good, the characters aren't defined and unrealistic and the best part, which is the monster, is CGI with CGI blood.  Also, the reveal at the end, is not that big of a surprise.  So, if your looking for a cheesy sci-fi horror flick that doesn't really deliver, then this may be what Santa will have left in your stocking.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Stalled (2013)

Stalled (2013)
Director: Christian James
Starring: Dan Palmer, Antonia Bernath, and  Tamaryn Payne
Running Time: 84 min

  What I seem to be noticing about horror holiday films lately is that anything really goes and even the weakest premises can be brought to life.  Recently I've seen a film about a killer snowman, some people trapped at an ATM and now a dude is trapped by zombies in a woman's washroom.  Which I guess is plausible but I refuse to use the word "fresh" when I am referring to describe an idea that involves a bathroom.  Anyway, let's get down to it.

There is a Christmas party going on and janitor, W.C. wanders into the ladies room with his toolbox.  Surprisingly, his toolbox is filled with money and there are no tools inside and when two ladies come into the bathroom, W.C. ducks into one of the stalls with his money leaden toolbox.  He listens to these two catty women complain about who got the most money in a charity date auction, a hot girl named Evie and about how they tricked there overweight co-worker Heather into believing she was going to have sex with the local office stud, Jeff from I.T.. 
  However as the conversation goes on, their cattiness seems to drift away into a strange drunken love thang and they start making out.  So, W.C. gets excited and pulls out his...phone to record the bathroom lovefest.  While they're making out, one of them notices a bite mark on the others neck and asks what happened.  The other says that the pizza guy was a perv and bite her.  Shortly after, the bitten girl turns into a zombie and attacks her catty co-worker. 
  W.C. tries to escape the bathroom but as soon as he opens the bathroom door, he lets more zombies stumble into the crowded bathroom.  W.C. runs to a stall and tries to barricade himself inside the best he can.  Fortunately, there is one other person trapped in the stalls with him, Evie, the really hot girl who won the most money for the charity.  Can the two of them escape this zombie infested restroom or will the get flushed down the tube of terror?


  This was actually a lot better than I expected and director Christian James (Freak Out) did a great job working within such a confined and limited premise and space.  Dan Palmer (Evil Aliens, Small Town Folk), who stars in this, also wrote the screenplay and gives the film enough bathroom humour and frights to keep the momentum up for the whole eighty-four minutes. 
  The main character W.C. is likeable enough but he's definitely not your hero type.  He never attains that goal but he does try and I think that is commendable for the film.  He is not brilliant but he is able to act on his feet and has a will to survive.  In the end, the character has been devloped well enough that he isn't just thinking about just himself anymore and he tries to help others out.  Most of the time.
   Also this film looks like it was done on a smaller budget but the zombie still look cool.  There are some very funny zombie scenes of them attacking people and some gross out stuff that is done really well.


  Some issues I had with the film was that the zombies, even though they looked good, didn't seem to be present all the time.  Sometimes, these were the quietest zombies ever especially when W.C. and Evie were dialoguing.  The zombies seemed a take a back seat in this conundrum and this took away from some of the scary at times.
  Also, I wasn't that crazy about the disembodied voice of Evie and I understand that it was leading to a reveal later in the film but it seemed strange that they never even tried to join each other in the same stall.  Again with all that yelling back and forth, you'd think that this would rile up the zombies but they just stumble outside the stalls most times without a care in the world.


  This isn't the new "Shaun of the Dead" like I've read some other the called it but it is a fun and witty outing that will probably surprise most people.  There are some cool looking zombies, an interesting story that develops and an ending that may be frustrating to some people watching but it is true to the character.  So, if you throw this on and watch some other people push out some horrifying grunts and groans during a Christmas party.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Holiday Horror: ATM (2012)

ATM (2012)
Director: David Brooks
Starring: Alice Eve, Josh Peck, and Brian Geraghty
Running Time: 90 min

 I think I may have watched this at work when it first came out but I don't remember seeing it.  There seems to be a lot of hate for this movie and now I'm really interested to see if it justified.  I never watched "Drake and Josh", Alice Eve was in "Sex and the City 2" and "The Raven", so that makes me nervous but I have liked Brian Geraghty's characters in Ray Donovan & Boardwalk Empire, so who knows maybe I'll love it!

  It's just before Christmas and David has just lost a client because the investment portfolio he created for him tanked.  The investor is obviously furious and hangs up on him.  David is choked but his wise ass friend Corey tells him not to worry about and lets David know that his office crush, Emily is leaving after today.  They joke about what a pansy David is because he can't ask Emily on a date and then head to the Christmas party.
  At the Christmas party, David and Corey are chilling out with some friends and David gets up to grab another drink.  On his way he meets up with Emily and the two of them have an awkward encounter and David misses yet another opportunity to get a date with Emily. 
  It's late and Emily, who is striking gorgeous, can't hail a cab outside of work. I guess cab drivers don't trust those hot model types, so David offers her a ride home.  She excepts and David runs up to say good bye to his friends.  Unfortunately, David forgot that he promised to drive Corey home and being a cock blocking douchebag, Corey guilts David into driving him home.
  On the way to Corey's place, Corey is complaining about being hungry and annoys David into stopping at an ATM machine, so he can get cash to get some zza, bro.  David parks far from the ATM to make Corey pay for his annoying behaviour.  He leaves and David and Emily sit awkwardly in the car together and wait.  Of course, Corey is having trouble in the ATM and David as to help him, so he leaves Emily alone in the car in an abandoned parking lot in the middle of nowhere to help his idiot friend with the ATM.  Emily gets nervous and joins the two idiots in the ATM booth.  Just when everything is all done inside the ATM and they're ready to leave, they notice a guy outside and for some reason they become scared of this person's evil intentions.
  After staring at each other for what seems to be 5 minutes the stranger outside walks over and kills a man who is walking his dog in -4 F /-19 Celsius weather at night in the middle of nowhere, which terrifies the gang inside the ATM booth.  What does this killer want? Will David and his friends ever escape, so he can fall and love with Emily and every thing will be Christmas magic or will this stranger be a Grinch and steal their pantoozlers of love?



  I didn't hate this movie as much as I was disappointed and annoyed with this it.  I had enjoyed "Buried" in 2010, which was written by Chris Sparling and I think he was trying to set up that same claustrophobic feel to this film but it just didn't work this time.  There is no reason that these people should feel trapped in this ATM and feel any serious threat by this killer before he kills the man with the dogs.  And there were so many opportunities for them to escape afterwards but none of them were taken, which I found to be incredibly frustrating.
  Also, there are far too many unrealistic set ups in this film like them not dressing properly for the cold, which is suppose to be the other fear which is that they might freeze in the ATM.  If it was really that cold out that whiny bastard Corey, played by Josh Peck (Red Dawn, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)) would not have walked all that way from where David parked the car.  He would have bitched and moaned until David drove him up to the ATM, which David would have because he is a wuss.  Or the fact that Emily, played by Alice Eve (She's Out of My League, Men in Black 3) would leave her purse in a car that won't lock properly, umm I don't think so.  Chris Sparling or director David Brooks must not have spent much time with woman before putting this together because that would have never ever happened.  You might as well have written that a unicorn came to save them because that's would be more believable than that premise or hook.
  The killer is so very meh.  It's a dude in a dark hoody, who waits outside.  If David and Corey weren't such wussies, this film would have been over in the first 15 minutes.  "Oh look there's a creepy dude outside", "Who fuckin cares, let's go", the end.  That's probably what I find most frustrating is that the main characters give up before anything happens.  How do you want to cheer for people like that, I can't.  There was two of them and they would have been able to disarm the killer or at least one of them could escape to call the police.  Also, there is no explanation to why the killer doing this. I know that not all things need to be explained and spoon fed to the audience but this just seems like a really dumb and dull way of attacking people and killing them. There is a lot of things that are also left lying around purely for the killer's convenience in the film and the car crash that happens which finally bring in the police is impossible but I don't want to ruin any of the improbable scares that this film may have. 


  I liked the ATM kiosk that they built for the film, it looked very authentic and banky.
 Also the production looks very good for this film, it's well lit and shot well but it's such a shame that it's wasted on such a drab, ho hum story with such lame unlikeable characters.


  I actually feel bad talking about this film because I can usually find something about a film that would make me laugh or a great character that would stick out in my mind but this has nothing for me at all.  It has some of the lamest characters imaginable, it's a dull story with limited killing and the situation is just so unrealistic that it drives me bananners just thinking about it.  So, if your having trouble sleeping over the holiday and the tryptophan from the turkey isn't working then throw this on and it should put you right to sleep.