Friday, October 31, 2014

The Houses October Built


(2014)
* 1/2

In this found footage film, five friends go on a road trip across Texas to try and find an extreme haunted house experience, or "haunt" as they've termed them.  What they end up finding is a lot of hillbilly types who take punish them for their haunted house fetish. 

The Blair Witch Project doomed us to decades of found footage horror films.  Some are good (Rec, Quarantine, and apparently The Taking of Deborah Logan), most are bad.  And just when you think it's starting to wane, Paranormal Activity comes along and dooms us to more of these movies.  I should know to stay away from these, but I love haunted houses, and the preview looked cool.  Most of this movie is a boring road trip with improvised dialogue.  There are 20 minutes at the end where, having finally found the "extreme haunt", things actually get cool, and kind of scary.  But then, following the Blair Witch formula, the anti-climactic ending puts the kybosh on any kind of cool scary story that had been developing.  It gets 1 1/2 stars for those 20 minutes when there was still potential, and the freaky porcelain girl above, who stole every scene she was in.  They should have just made a real movie about her. 

The Taking of Deborah Logan

(2014)
****1/2
Scary shit happens to a poor old woman with the backdrop of Ph D candidate Mia Medina’s film thesis studying the progression of Alzheimer’s. If you’ve ever had someone in your life suffer from this depressing disease then you know exactly the type of crazy, sad, hurtful things to expect. In the new tradition of horror movies, something more is afoot as Deb’s symptoms become extreme and atypical of the disease, taking Mia and her film crew on a wild, disgusting, and disturbing venture.

Deb’s daughter Sarah has agreed to let Mia and her crew film her mother’s daily activities and interview her to document the mentally degenerative disease. In return, the Logans receive a handsome grant with which they will be able to keep their generations-old house. Sarah is the sole caretaker of her mother and with the assistance of their neighbor Harris, has been making it through alright until recently. Her mother sleepwalks and is hallucinating that someone is trying to break in, often resulting in hurting herself and being rushed to the hospital to up the meds. In the end the film presents so much more than I’m obviously revealing to you, without lagging too much to describe a backstory or exposing too much of what lies beneath.
Could I interest you in some meatloaf? It's an old family recipe.
At first I felt like this movie was going to be some paranormal activity formula, but with the help of Sarah this movie goes much deeper into Deb’s murky past. I don’t think I could have finished this film without all the lights being on in the apartment. Why did I choose to watch this before a weekend of camping in the woods? This movie has all the right elements of a 2014 good scary movie: it involves an unsuspecting geriatric and the realistic threats of aging, doey-eyed young idealists, unexpected plot twists, aaaaaaaaaaaaand shaky-cam!

Big Ass Spider!

(2013) ****

It's hard to write a review for a movie when Octo has already nailed it hilariously.  I'm giving it the extra 1/2 star bump because I really like the lead actor and I thought the whole thing was fun and effective.  And, damn that spider is not only Big Ass it's also Bad-Ass! The scene in the park alone makes it worth watching in my opinion.


Hope everyone gets a chance to catch this one at some point! (Hee - no pun intended!)

It's here, it's here!


Crucible of Horror

(1971)**
Mother and daughter plot the demise of abusive husband and father Walter Eastwood, but things don't go exactly as planned as the corpse seems to have a way of relocating itself.


Originally titled The Corpse, Tony says that's because it moved at about the speed of a corpse. I generally have patience with these 70s British slow moving films but this one completely lost me in the end. If you're going to move at a glacial pace at least come full circle and make sense when you get to the end. Should've been called crucible of confusion. It's a pity too because it did get rather interesting for a while when the corpse wasn't where they left it. My advice, skip it.

Cheap Thrills


(2013)****

Two old school chums reunite and get caught in a dangerous game of dares for cash. If you'd like a full synopsis then see JPX's review a few scrolls down. It's another case of how far would you go for money. Although I figured out where is was going pretty early on it did not take away from the experience one single bit. Entertaining, comical at times and a little uncomfortable at others. Solid choice, good film.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

May

(2002)
**** 1/2

May is an awkward 20-something girl.  When growing up, her prim & perfect mother decided to cover up May's lazy eye with an eye-patch.  May had trouble making friends, and so her mother made her best friend an old doll in a glass case that May wasn't allowed to remove. 

So, May grows up and is a peculiar, awkward vet assistant who desperately wants to date a neighborhood mechanic.  Despite some ill-fated attempts at meeting him, the mechanic really does get interested in May.  Unfortunately, May makes one too many mistakes, and alienates the mechanic.  Her rebounding decisions get worse and worse.

This was a great movie that violated the standard, picked on girl gets revenge/Carrie-esque type of film.  There are so many movies where all the characters have flaws and are essentially horrible people.  Horror movies especially use these types as kill fodder.  But May is very likable, and the supporting cast is all very likable.  There's nobody throwing tampons at her in the shower or any other detestable act.  Zero pipe in the ass factor here.  We actually do feel bad when the body count rises, and the ending is really quite sad.  Very surprising one here.  I take a half-star off because even though it's only 12 years old, it feels very dated.  From the soundtrack, wardrobe, etc., this movie takes you back. 

Dracula A.D.

(1972) **1/2

This film is filled with such grooviness! Probably the only reason I gave it 2.5 stars!
We open with Van Helsing(Peter Cushing) killing Dracula(Christopher Lee). Then we go to 1972 where a groooovy party is going on with teenagers and grumpy older folks. The teens get bored and decide to leave the party to go elsewhere. Johnny Alucard, of the groovy teens, proposes that it would be fun to have a black mass the next night. The dumb teens agree, even the great granddaughter of Van Helsing, Jessica.
This is the goober that had the great idea
 
So the next night, the black mass is conducted in a church. Alucard raises Dracula from the dead without the other teens knowledge. He begs Dracula to turn him so he can help him on his quest to get rid of the Van Helsing family. Alucard lures the females to Dracula to feed him, as they turn the boys into vampires.
Why are his eyes always red? Is he stoned?
 


The police come around asking about the missing girl and that's where we find out that Peter Cushing is also playing his grandson, professor Van Helsing. He confronts his granddaughter as she tells about the mass they conducted.
We go to the next night when Jessica is invited to another hangout at this church. Grandfather follows, as Dracula appears and tries to take her. There is the final fight as Dracula is killed once more and Jessica is saved.
But, yeah-the 70's were soooo groovy!

V/H/S: Viral







(2014) ***

As onlookers flock to the streets to capture an OJ Simpson-like car chase on film, three more stories are presented in the latest sequel to the popular V/H/S series.



In “Dante the Great” a loser living in a trailer park comes into possession of a cape. After discovering its magical properties he quickly becomes a famous illusionist who has the upper hand on all magicians . Unfortunately his cape has an “appetite” and must be fed.




In “Parallel Lives” a man completes a portal to a parallel universe just as his counterpart does the same thing. The two agree to swap lives for 15 minutes to explore their respective homes. What starts out as fun discovery quickly devolves into madness as man “prime” realizes that the parallel world is very different from his.



In “Bonestorm” two teens and a videographer travel to Mexico City after hearing about a great place to skateboard. Ignoring a giant satanic symbol the trio ends up in a fight for their lives as they are pursued by a devil cult.

I struggled with a 2.5 or 3 star rating. V/H/S: Viral is a mixed bag. I enjoyed it but mainly because I really liked the second story. Apparently there was a 4th story that was cut from the film. A psychotic magician with real magical powers is an interesting idea but there is a little too much scene chewing going on for my taste. “Parallel Lives” is terrific and for this story alone you should check out this movie. The central character is likable and the fuckery he ends up in is a mind trip. Teens fighting off Satanists in Bonestorm is a bit too reminiscent of the much superior “Safe Haven” cult segment from V/H/S 2. The wrap-around story is pointless and ultimately goes nowhere. If you have seen the first two V/H/S films and enjoyed them despite their unevenness I would check this one out. Someone should recut all the VHS films and combine all the best segments.



Intruder

 Intruder
(1989)***1/2

Every year I pick up a film I've never heard of at Rock n Shock. Usually it's some no budget Indy that I hope will be surprisingly good but is usually excruciatingly horrible. This year was tough, the prices were higher than usual on almost everything. I mean I don't mind parting with $10 on the off chance I might find some amazing new discovery but asking $15 or $20 is pushing it. So I had my eye on a film called Nosepicker but I wasn't willing to pay more than $10 for it, so no luck. Then I found the $10 booth but nothing was catching my eye until I spotted 2 familiar names, Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell. A 1989 Campbell/Raimi flick I never heard of, how could this be? Sold!


Jennifer is a cashier and overnight stocker at a local grocery store. One night and ex boyfriend of hers, who has just been released from prison, shows up at closing time and starts trouble. Soon after, the overnight crew is being stalked and picked off one by one in some creative and goretastic manners (see above). 

A very young Sam Raimi
A late 80's slasher in all its glory. Sam Raimi actually stars in it rather than directing and Bruce Campbell had about a 30 second role at the end, but nevertheless it was a fun film. From the bean counter boss to the geeky guy who listened to the same song on his Walkman for over an hour, add some cheesy fx and amateur acting, a couple of big name cameos and by joe we have a film!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Funny Man

(1994) *


Awful...just awful. It had some humorous parts, but otherwise a waste of time! I thought I should have taken drugs or something to watch this-a little trippy at times. Bad film for Christopher Lee!
Here is the description-
" When Max Taylor wins the ancestral home of Callum Chance(Christopher Lee) in a game of Poker, little does he realise that the game is far from over... One by one, Max's family are murdered by the Funny Man, a demonic jester with a varied and imaginative repertoire of homicidal techniques and an irreverent sense of humour. Meanwhile, Max's brother is on his way to the mansion with a bunch on hitchhikers who will be lucky to survive the night"
The Funny Man plays with each character, by dressing a particular part including cross-dressing..
There was a part that he was called "Punch"as a puppet, which reminded me of Punch from The Wicker Man. But a few times he also reminded me of someone I know named Mortiis..

 
The funniest part of the movie in my opinion, is when The Funny Man takes a leak on the side of a van..


Gamera: The Giant Monster



(1965)****

A-bomb tests in the arctic awaken a prehistoric giant turtle. This turtle then decides it would be fucking awesome to destroy Tokyo. Toshio, a turtle obsessed boy, tries telling everyone that Gamera isn't bad he's just misunderstood, but he's a kid so no one is going listen to him anyway.


Sheeeeet, that is one big ass turtle!

Hydie-Ho!
An über smart professor that looks an awful lot like Colonel Sanders' Asian twin thinks he has all the answers but he should probably have just stayed home and worked on his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. Perhaps he was thinking of all the ways he could cook that giant turtle.

Colonel Sanders explains how his 11 herbs & spices will make turtle meat all the rage.
Monster movies have always been an obsession of mine, Gamera got a rough start much like Godzilla. He was not the much loved hero to children and friend of the people in this first film. Personally I think the people were totally mean and unwilling to work with him. At one point he lands on his back and the people rejoice saying, "Turtles can't right themselves once they land on their back so now all we need to do is wait for him to starve to death. Hooray!" Now that kind of cruelty is uncalled for, thank goodness Gamera isn't like other turtles, he just sucked in his limbs, turned on his jets and spun off to cause more mayhem. Love them or hate them, Japanese monsters are here to stay. So I say, Hooray for Gamera!


The House of Seven Corpses

 (1974)**1/2

A troop of actors go to an old house where 7 occult related murders took place to film a reenactment. The director wants to be authentic and is displeased with the script so they poke around the house and find a book that has occult readings in it. Now you know he's just asking for trouble here, but despite the caretakers warnings they use the chants that are in the book and accidentally raise a vengeful corpse.


I've never seen this one before, although the name sounded vaguely familiar to me. I happened on the DVD while poking around in a comic book store. There are some notable actors in this too like John Ireland, John Carradine & Carole Wells to name a few. Unlike some of the glacially paced films of the 70s this one move right along. It helps that you see the actors working because you get a feel for the story and the mood before the corpse invades the scene but overall it’s a little disjointed. The best scene in the film is when the lead actress, while cowering in fear, accidentally shoots one of her fellow actors then after realizing her mistake bursts into tears and retreats walking backward straight into the arms of the murderous corpse. Still, not so bad for a five dollar comic book store find.

Sorry to interrupt, but this Marvel news is too good to keep to myself!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Legend of Big Foot


(1976)

Presented as a documentary, Legend of Bigfoot is primarily a collection of wilderness footage narrated by animal tracker Ivan Marx. His voice is the only voice you will hear for 76 minutes so I can't really say that this is a fair and balanced presentation of Bigfoot. I will say that he gets very animated when discussing the mythical creature.

Marx's voice is that of an amiable grandfather reading a book to a child. Combine this voice with 70's nature footage and you've got yourself a surefire cure for insomnia. It took me three attempts to before making it to the end while conscious, I'm not gonna lie. At first Marx's voice is charming but after a while you realize that he's one of those guys who just loves the sound of his own voice. I have no doubt he would be really annoying at family gatherings. I suspect that his relatives call him "Irritating Ivan" behind his back.

His quest takes him through Oregon, California and the Arctic Circle. He does capture occasional Bigfoot footage and I must say it's slightly more convincing than those depicted in the other three movies I guzzled this week, but still, ultimately most like a guy in an ape costume. In conclusion if you enjoy watching 70's gazelles, bears, wild cats, antelope, and don't mind the extended scene devoted to an injured squirrel, then this film is for you.

House on Haunted Hill

(1959) ***

In what might be a precursor to movies like 13 Sins and Cheap Thrills, five people are invited to spend the night in a haunted house.  If they make it through their host will give them each $10,000.  I am pro Vincent Price so I got a kick out of his performance.  I can admit, however, that his smarm is a little much sometimes in this movie.  The interaction with his wife was excellent though, and showed the mean streak beneath the calm, creepy demeanor.

I figured this would be a good, quick (75 minutes!) flick to get me back into watching movies.  I knew it wouldn't be anything too scary, despite one real jump-worthy character's appearance.  Other then that, it's pretty tame stuff.  I also felt that the ending was pretty ambiguous.  Lots of unanswered questions! Recommended if you're a Price fan and enjoy this kind "horror."  However I think there are films out there that showcase him better and are more successfully creepy.

Mine Games




(2012) ***1/2

Seven friends pile into an SUV and drive into the deep woods for a weekend adventure at a friend’s cabin. When they (inevitably) get lost they narrowly miss a man standing in the street and end up crashing their car. Bravely (stupidly) abandoning the vehicle they decide to hike it to safety (they never look for the man they almost hit to see if he is okay). Fortunately the gang stumbles upon their friend’s sprawling cabin, but not their friend and they settle in for a night of Monopoly and by Monopoly I mean booze, drugs and sex and, yes, glorious boobs!


The next day they discover that the cabin is adjacent to an abandoned mine. On one of the boards blocking the front of the mine it says, “Break the cycle”. Inside the mine they find the snake image of the Ouroborus (I had to look it up) which looks like the following,





After exploring the enormous mine they return to the cabin for more fun. Unfortunately TJ (I hate that name) realizes that he left his wallet in the mine (who brings their wallet into a mine?) and returns with Lex (an even worse name) to look for it. Searching the vast labyrinth they discover their own dead bodies in a storage room (!). Meanwhile Rose (a good name if you’re 90) begins having visions of all of her friends as rotting corpses.





Anyone who has seen “Triangle” will quickly surmise that the characters have stumbled into a causality loop. For a low budget film this story is surprisingly smart and psychological as it addresses fate and the choices we make. The characters are believable as friends although I couldn’t stand any of them. Some of the choices they make are stupid (would any of you explore an abandoned mine?) but the story is tightly woven and the exposition at the end neatly wraps up all the loose threads. This one is definitely worth checking out.

Belenggu

 Belenggu
(2013)****1/2

There's a murderer in town and everyone is paranoid all being suspicious of each other. Elang is having terrible visions of a man in a bunny suit murdering his sister and her daughter. In his visions there is a woman who repeatedly appears, then one day she comes into the bar where he works. When a man starts beating her he clocks the guy over the head with a bottle and rescues her, she asks Elang if she can stay with him since she has nowhere to go. The woman convinces him to avenge her from the man who raped and tortured her. But the truth runs much deeper than it appears.



This brilliant Indonesian film is an intricate piece of work. The viewer is taken on a journey through the unstable insanity of Elang's world right up until his murderous rampage revenging Jingga's rape and his eminent arrest. From there the film slowly unravels as the police try to get to the bottom of why he committed these murders. Gripping, I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end.

The Capture of Bigfoot


(1979) *1/2 So Bad It's Good
For many decades now the scientific community has unanimously agreed that Bigfoot is totally real, and that it would be quite sweet if we got the chance to see him in person. People who need to get out more say that there is no credible evidence to suggest that a large, hairy bipedal humanoid exists. To those people I ask you this: if Bigfoot doesn't exist, then why do I believe so hard that he does? (rhetorical)

I obtained a 4-pack of movies to educate myself on the subject further. The Capture of Bigfoot follows a greedy businessman who dedicates his life to capturing Bigfoot with the intention of using him as a carnival attraction. Accompanied by some drunks/rugged outdoorsmen, the hunt begins. In a deliciously ironic twist, the hunters become the hunted. Also present are a duo of boys whom I named Billy and Billy. They suck up 10-15 minutes of your time tracking the beast.

Terribly awesome special effects ensue and the movie is padded out for a long hour and a half. At one point there is a cabin dance party featuring a live band playing in front of a roaring fire. The party looks like a lot of fun, and I wish I had been there, though it didn't progress the story in any way.

For such an elusive creature Bigfoot is clumsy and unsubtle, and he is granted a significant amount of (awesome) screen time. In retrospect it's no wonder that he gets captured. It's a dumb movie but I refuse to spoil the ending.

Big Ass Spider!



2013  ***1/2

Exclamation point!

I'll admit that reviewing this after Sharknado might feel like a cheat; all I have to do is slap the first review in the Review-o-Matic and twiddle a couple of knobs, right?  Well, yes and no.   I have not delved too deeply into the chronology of this recent wave of cheap 'n shlocky cable TV monster flicks, this endless parade Roger Corman's bastard grandchildren.  (What was first?  Sharktopus?)  But in my own uninformed way I'm declaring Big Ass Spider! as the totally awesome end-product that is spawned by the Sharknados of the world, that being the much, much better cheap 'n shlocky monster movie.

"But wait a second!"  I hear you say, "you gave Sharknado a whole four stars and this only 3 and a half!  What gives?"  Allow me to explain myself, after congratulating you on purchasing the affordable and useful Octopunk's Reviews App for your phone, which the only way you'd notice that so fast:

For some odd reason I like to stick to our 5 star system as best as I can, and folding the "So Bad It's Good" movies into that system is important to me (Godmonster of Indian Flats being the only exception, but I give myself a pass for that movie).  I can only hope the review I put below the rating can explain where I'm coming from.  Much of Sharknado's high rating is a result of the unexpected fun level generated by all the incompetence, whereas Big Ass Spider! was made to a higher standard and misses that particular slice of clumsy charm.  Nevertheless, it still earns a respectable rating and enthusiastic recommendation from yours truly.

So what is this quality I keep talking about?  For Exhibit A I offer the first three minutes of the movie, which approaches the subject matter with more poetry and respect than nearly all of its monster movie peers.  And hold off watching until you can take in the music.  


I wish this clip ended like it does the movie; when the screen goes black it's just the words BIG ASS SPIDER! in bold white letters.

Even if that didn't float your boat, you can see what I mean.   Any art-house approach to this material is going to involve some level of intelligence (meaning: no Tara Reid).  Is it campy, tongue-in-cheek, wink-to-the-audience kind of stuff?  It is a little bit.  I don't think you can call your movie that and not be publicly in on your own joke.  But they don't blow it.  That core sincerety, that thing I keep insisting floats or sinks bizarro projects like this -- it's definitely there.  

I can also endorse the horror/comedy hybrid in this case.  Of all horror genres, giant monster movies might be the easiest one for folding in humor without undercutting where the action is coming from.  But better than that, the humor in this movie is actually funny, with something like a 65% to 85% success rate.  

Jeez this review is reading like a my 8th grade report on the exports of Chile.  

See Big Ass Spider!  The spider is freaking HUGE!  Watch a spider/pickup truck chase scene that's more exciting than anything in a Transformers movie!  Ray Wise is in it!  Laura Palmer's dad!  Watch Big Ass Spider suck people up with webs or maybe just stab them dead for no reason!  Big Ass Spider doesn't give a FUCK!

Monday, October 27, 2014

El Orfanato

(2007)
****1/2
Anything with Guillermo del Toro’s name plastered across it piques my interest, even if he was just sitting back and being Producer. I love the color composition that toys with my emotions, the music uplifting my spirit or making me feel as downtrodden as the characters I see on-screen.

Laura gets adopted as a young child from an orphanage and returns years later with her husband (who bears a striking resemblance to Phil Collins) to buy the same mansion, weathered and creaky and creepy from time, so she can help out other unwanted children and “pay it forward” so to speak. 

When she’s not preparing the mansion for its reopening she takes care of their son Simon, whom we find out early is also adopted and HIV-positive (ssh! Simon doesn’t know it, though!) I immediately found Simon adorable and wanted to play with him and his invisible friends. But unfortunately things turn mean and nasty -- Simon finds out Laura isn’t his biological mother -- and then things turn creepy as Simon disappears and Laura finds out more about the history of her beloved orphanage than she ever thought existed.
Por qué los adultos nos mienten los niños?
Surprisingly, this movie has all the qualities that find me fascinated, but I think there are a few reasons why I’m not bursting at the seams with superlatives about El Orfanato:
→ Seeing Pan’s Labyrinth before this put anything with del Toro’s name on a pretty high pedestal for me.
→ My “Everyone else loves it, why should I?” contrarian nature. I know, I’ll get over myself.
→ The quick conclusion and denouement didn’t make me emotional and was, I found, a little too mushy/predictable.
During Horrorthon, I abandon all hope of a happy ending.
The mystery of El Orfanato and where all Simon’s invisible friends come from is an interesting one to watch, one I would rewatch in the future in the company of friends to see if I catch any subtleties, but I’m not in any hurry.

The Fall of the House of Usher

(1960)
***1/2
Combining the two best things about October: Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe. Thrrrrilling! I had read the book as a kid who had just discovered Poe via The Simpsons (I know, I know, damn Millenials!) and wanted to know more about the writer that dabbled in the macabre. 

Philip Winthrop (a character created for the movie) has ridden all the way from Boston to call upon his fiancee Madeline Usher; however, her overprotective brother Roderick does everything in his power to prevent Winthrop from riding away into the sunset with his belle. Madeline has allegedly fallen ill and is nearly bedridden, won’t eat, and isn’t interested in going out or doing anything. I don’t know what Philip sees in this girl: she’s cute as a button, but they just didn’t seem to have much chemistry.

Vincent Price as Roderick Usher is surprising as he bears no mustache and a head full of hair bleached whiter than Billy Idol. He has confined himself to the Usher house due to his hypersensitivity to light, touch, noise, good savory food, and anything else fun. The whole Usher family is allegedly driven to madness at some point in their life and destroy the people around them. Rodrick recounts this Usher legacy to Winthrop, littered with “foul souls” who committed foul deeds. He warns Winthrop that marrying Madeline will only spread the Usher ee-vil. But Winthrop is convinced it is Rodrick who is the only ee-vil one in the household.
At first it felt strained to make a feature-length movie of Poe’s short story, but retold through Price’s priceless pipes and with the addition of Madeline’s fiancee Philip, it settled into a comfortable pace for a 60’s costume thing.

The Fly

(1958) ****

A scientist takes dangerous risks when developing a matter transporter, and he and his family suffer the consequences.

Yay, what a fun movie, had never seen it before.  The Fly is actually a (doomed) love story with horror elements. Vincent Price is perfect as the concerned brother of the scientist who also happens to be in love with the devoted wife. Will have to check out the remake, maybe later this week?

Fascination



(1979)***

Boobs! Lots and lots of boobs! A handsome robber trying to escape from the partners that he swindled happens on a chateau with two sets of boobs, I mean two sexy female inhabitants. In spite of their constant warnings that death is coming at midnight he chooses to stay for the boobs and enjoy their company along with five more sets of boobs, I mean women who arrive after dark.


This French horror classic kept appearing on lists of foreign films so when I found it streaming on Netflix I had to watch it. It's one of those sultry 70's flicks that liked to mingle blood and sex. I'm not a huge fan of this genre but this ones not bad overall and at a mere 80 minutes it's quite palatable. Did I mention there are boobs? Lots of boobs? Full frontal nudity and surprisingly trimmed neatly considering it is not only the 70's but French as well. Have fun guys.