Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Babadook


2014  ****1/2

In the tradition of hopping on bandwagons that have long since toodled past, I offer you this year's It Movie of Horrorthon 2015... for the first, oh, half of October?  Before it was eclipsed by We Are Still Here and a few other standouts, I mean.  

This movie rang true for me because in certain offhand ways Samuel's behavior echoes behavior I've seen in my own son, and his mom Amelia's reactions were instantly believable on some deep, complicated levels.  Just in terms of the acting, this is an astounding film.  I'm specifically thinking of a moment when we see her face as she's driving, and Sam's in the back seat trying to get her attention, and she's not answering right away because she just needs to zone out for a moment, and he WILL NOT STOP until she says something.  I'm sure any parent or anyone who's been in a car with a kid can relate to what I'm talking about.  (The thing is, when you're a kid, why would you stop?  Kids don't take hints, they just keep asking for what they want, especially if the response is silence.)

Things get tense for this little family when Samuel is booted out of school for bringing in a dart gun, the one he's going to use on the monster he can't stop talking about.  And into this desperate, exhausted atmosphere comes the awful Babadook.

(An aside here as I mention that I've always thought this word should be ba-Da-Book, just in terms of my own sense of lingual rhythm and the lingering echo of the words "Big badda boom" from The Fifth Element.  Then I realized this movie was Australian and my misinformed bias went away immediately.  Because "babadook" is completely acceptable from the land that gave us the wombat, the wobbegong and the didgeridoo.)



A supernatural force that gains its foothold in our world through an evil pop-up book is just so damn good I can't figure out why it hasn't happened already, and the first scene in which it appears plays out beautifully.  There's something so raw and basic in Sam's anxious query "What happens?  Does he hurt the boy?"  (because for a kid, the fate of a boy in a picture book is every bit as important as one's own.)  The situation is not brought under control at all, and another of my favorite scenes happens as Amelia uselessly reads a different book, projecting her voice in a vain attempt to penetrate Sam's loud, inconsolable sobs.

The mounting threat of the Babadook is deftly tied together with Amelia's unraveling mental state.  She's been a widow since the night of Sam's birth and she is at a crisis point in dealing with the body slam life has hit her with, the combination of six years of grief and crippling fatigue.  Driving this to a fever pitch is the top-hatted, raggedy clawed shadow man that flits around in the dark corners of her room at night, being generally horrible.  The idea of the Babadook as a manifestation of Amelia's dire state is good as both theme and plot device, and as things proceed she comes to fear asking for help lest other people see how crazy she seems.

When I hear a parent express guilt that they snapped at their kid, I like to say that families are organizations connected and fueled by emotions, and that means they can't always promise a smooth ride.  The Babadook does an exquisite job of exploring both the dark and light sides of that ride, with believable, likeable characters and a admirably creepy monster.  I dug the ending, too.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hey gang!  I hope you're reading this in a food coma, or on your way to a food coma.  Come next week I'll announce various Horrorthon notices and accolades, and over the next few days I hope to get my last few reviews in.  I know there are some outstanding reviews out there (you know who you are), and it would be a groovy thing to see even one from you cats.  In the words of Horrible Disembodied Voice, join us!

Here's my thought for Thanksgiving.  I was looking at a set of Thanksgiving-themed stickers they were tossing around at the work potluck, and they were little autumny leaves and plants.  And I said "Man, for Halloween it's all skulls and ghosts and jack-o-lanterns and for Christmas it's all lights and decorated trees and Santa magic, and for Thanksgiving it's a bunch of stuff you found on the ground."

Discuss!  And have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Harrison Ford And Chewbacca Reconcile After Years Of Animosity

The Beyond


1981 **1/2

Greetings! I'm so happy to see Johnny back in print, as I myself am struggling back into relevance (I unfortunately didn't have time to burn out on Horrorthon this year, but it's because I had lots of work, which is good in its way). But I'm excited for some time off to round out the month right, and then we'll dole out some trophies!

Before I tucked into Lucio Fulci's The Beyond I had the good sense to check the Monster List and then I had the good fortune to read Johnny Sweatpants's review, from which the following quote was very useful:

"Fulci claimed to be paying homage to Surrealist French playwright Antonin Artaud and fans praise The Beyond’s dreamlike quality. My personal theory is that he couldn’t be arsed into constructing a decent plot and instead focused solely on the flesh eating tarantulas, the popping eyeballs, the acid burns and the exploding heads. Not that I’m complaining."

What you see there is a key piece of production info I definitely wouldn't have found out about on my own, and some good advice about how to approach the situation. I did not, therefore, become woefully irate when the hero repeats the following actions no less than four times during the climax:

1) Enter room with no visible escape, turn to use revolver on approaching walking dead
2) Shoot member of walking dead in the torso
3) Shoot same member of walking dead in the torso
4) Shoot same member of walking dead in the torso again
5) Shoot same member of walking dead in the head
6) Watch walking dead person fall to the floor (and here's the tricky part...)
7) Learn NOTHING from the event, exit room through door hitherto not shown to the audience, and go back to step 1)

The film starts out promisingly enough, with a young woman named Liza who has inherited an old hotel in New Orleans that she intends to renovate and run. But she doesn't check the basement for Pee Wee's bike and goddammit if there isn't one of those gates to Hell down there.

For me the turning point came when Joe the plumber, the poor scrub who was hired to unknowingly open the gate to Hell, returned to the hotel in walking dead form to get revenge on Martha the hotel maid who hired him. I was sure Martha was in cahoots with the Hellish forces because of various clues but then a Hell-murdered and Hell-resurrected Joe comes back and gets her. And here I thought they'd be on the same side. Is Hell really disorganized?

I think Mr. Fulci just never tires of the surprise of betrayal, and so there's a tendency among characters you thought you could count on to suddenly turn evil. Plus there's a mystical painting, a weird book of incantations, a mysterious blind girl who's offering advice, and instead of converging all these elements kind of fan out from each other, leading to a not unpleasant sort of nothing.

I wonder if someone without a Horrorthon to turn to would find this movie unwatchable and stupid, but I got something out of it. More horror atmosphere in the Italian mode, and a tolerance for the right kind of plotlessness.  I can't really rate it any higher, but I can recommend it for those who know what they're getting into.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Starry Eyes



(2014)

I hit the Horrorthon wall a few weeks ago but now I intend to squeak out a few more reviews (including all of the Saw flicks!) before month end.

Starry Eyes takes the premise of an actress willing to do anything to make it in Hollywood and uses it as a launching pad for a gruesome horror movie that packs quite the wallop. The protagonist Sarah is the only true likable character in the film so watching her inevitable fall from grace is saddening. Her “friends” are either hostile, jealous or indifferent to her career goals.

Sarah’s first audition for a breakout role begins disastrously and she reacts by yanking her hair out in the bathroom. One of the casting directors sees this and gives her another chance – if she agrees to pull more of her hair out in a second audition. By doing so she is granted the rare opportunity to meet a famous producer that can make all of her dreams come true as long as she submits fully to his vision. At first she rejects the old perv’s offer but after some soul searching she finds herself wooed by his BS Ayn Rand talk about living in a world of doers who act on their ambition. Suffice it to say Sarah chooses to sell her soul with predictably morbid results. Thanks for the recommendation Catfreeek! This was a fun one to watch at the end of a long month.

Box Office


From ew, The saga of Katniss Everdeen came to a close this weekend as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opened to an estimated $101 million.

That’s the lowest debut of any of the Hunger Gamesmovies and under initial predictions of $120 million. When the big-screen depiction of Suzanne Collins’ Panem debuted in March 2012, it brought in $152.5 million, the biggest opening ever for a movie with a female lead. The next year, Catching Fire beat its record and stretched to $158.1 million. Last year’sMockingjay – Part 1 saw a slight dip, opening to $121.9 million, and early predictions had Part 2 debuting close to that. 

While Mockingjay didn’t manage to soar as high as the earlier installments, the $160 million film still notched the fifth-biggest debut of the year, making it one of only five films to debut above $100 million. And although Mockingjay 2 wasn’t as critically adored as the first two films, it earned an A- CinemaScore. Globally, it reeled in $247 million, and even though Mockingjay couldn’t catch Catching Fire’s box office records, it bumped up the franchise’s worldwide total to a staggering $2.55 billion.

As far as films not set in Panem go, holdovers and newcomers alike fell to Katniss’ arrow, as no other movie in theaters managed to crack $15 million. The Christmas-themed comedy The Night Before, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and Seth Rogen, hauled in $10.1 million. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth (it earned an A- CinemaScore) and a lack of other R-rated comedies, it could hold up well over the next few weeks.

The weekend’s final new wide release, the crime thriller Secret In Their Eyes, rounded out the top five with $6.6 million. With a star-studded cast including Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Secret In Their Eyes earned a B- CinemaScore.

Spectre and The Peanuts Movie held second and third place, as 007 brought in $14.6 million and Charlie Brown made $12.8 million.Spectre’s domestic total is now at $153.7 million, while The Peanuts Movie has made $98.9 million.



At the specialty box office, the Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara-starring Carol had a standout debut, opening to $248,149 in only four theaters for a strong start of $62,037 per location. The gangster drama Legend, starring Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy, also debuted in four locations, earning $82,884 for an average just over $20,000.

Spotlight, another limited release, also had a strong weekend as it expanded to just shy of 600 locations, bringing in an estimated $3.6 million. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams, the drama finally moved into the top 10, and after three weekends, its domestic total is now at $5.9 million.

Overall, box office receipts were down about 11 percent from last year, when the first Mockingjay opened. Here are this weekend’s top five at the box office:

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 — $101 million
2. Spectre — $14.6 million
3. The Peanuts Movie — $12.8 million
4. The Night Before — $10.1 million
5. Secret In Their Eyes — $6.6 million

See the Star Wars Cantina bar come to life for a fan convention


From ew, For the Love of The Force, a Manchester, England-based fan convention, transformed an exhibition center in Trafford Park into various locations from the Star Wars films, including the Ewok village and Yoda’s swamp in Dagobah. But the festivities wouldn’t be complete without the famous Cantina bar.

A statement on the For the Love of The Force website reads, “We have recreated this famous cantina in all its glory, with all the cantina creatures and band. We will be serving blue milk cocktails and alcohol on the day with live music. Photo opportunity of a lifetime with a dead Greedo in a booth, as you take up Han Solo’s seat and blaster.”

Thank you to all that visited the Cantina bar yesterday for a pint of Blue Milk….great costumes and great people…..all there for one thing…..the love of Star Wars.

Posted by For the Love of the Force - An Independent Star Wars Fan Conventionon Friday, November 20, 2015

The bar also features a number of alcoholic and non-alcholic “Cantina Cocktails,” including the vodka-based Wookie Juice and Bantha Milk.

The Cantina cocktail bar menu……..other cocktails will be added, these are just the vodka based onesNone alcoholic, and other alcoholic drinks will also be served in the Cantina

Posted by For the Love of the Force - An Independent Star Wars Fan Conventionon Saturday, November 21, 2015

Last week, 250 guests were invited to check out the space, which will host a number of events leading up to and through the convention. Andy Kleek, the convention’s managing director, told the Manchester Evening Star that he hopes it’ll remain a permanent fixture that could even serve as a full cocktail bar — with proper demand, of course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wish You Were Here


(2013) **1/2

Pregnant Alice and her husband Dave are badgered into taking a Cambodian vacation with Alice’s sister Steph and Steph’s new boyfriend Jeremy. After a night of clubbing, drugs, and booze Jeremy goes missing. The trio agree to remain tight-lipped about Jeremy’s disappearance because they do not wish to deal with Cambodian law enforcement and they assume that Jeremy will eventually turn up. He does not. Returning to Australia, the trio attempt to resume their lives despite inquiries from federal officers. Through flashbacks we learn more about the days leading up to Jeremy’s disappearance.

‘Wish You Were Here’ begins with a mildly interesting premise but is ultimately glacially paced with little payoff. The characters are not particularly sympathetic as we learn their “secrets” via flashbacks and by time Jeremy’s disappearance is explained you will not really care anymore.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

John Dies at the End



2012  ****

I'll just go ahead and say it:  Jon Dies at the End is Don Coscarelli's best film besides the original Phantasm.  If you have a minute and forty seconds check out the opening scene above and you'll get the gist of why.

I feel like I would have been happy to see a lot more movies written and directed by Mr. Coscarelli over the years than we have, because his particular brand of horror/comedy is distinct and exciting.  But I don't think he made enough movies to really develop himself as an artist (and maybe he didn't want to, for all I know).  Bubba Ho-tep was cute but disappointing, and as much as I adore the Phantasm series there are some parts where the cheese is spread a little too thin.  It may be that the one-two punch, gleefully  economic narrative style I'm always gushing over when reviewing Phantasm movies comes with its own limitations.  If so, this movie may be the solution.

John Dies at the End started its life as a novel written by Cracked.com writer David Wong, and watching the movie made me wish Coscarelli had filmed more adaptations in his career.  I feel like bringing another voice to the mix was exactly what he needed; the alchemy of story and style here is just right.

After the moment above (the swastika-tongued man not appearing again), we join David in a Chinese restaurant where he meets a reporter named Arnie, (played by Paul Giamatti, and played perfectly, because of course, it's Paul Giamatti).  Arnie has heard rumors about David and his friend John, as the pair have spent the past few years in the role of slacker ghostbusters, protecting the people in their town from assorted strange goings-on.  David decides to tell Arnie his and John's origin story, which chronicles the forces that shaped their new careers, which are, not coincidentally, the same forces to blame for the assorted strange goings-on.

The unusual events center around a substance called soy sauce, introduced as a mind-bending recreational drug.  David first hears of it when he gets a call from John in the middle of the night, he goes over to find his strung-out friend freaking out on soy sauce.  David, in no mood for bullshit, is driving John to the ER when John gripes about how many phone calls he had to make before David came over, and how weird David was on the phone.  When David says he came over after the first call, John slaps his forehead and apologizes in advance, saying he must have been calling David several times at various points in the future, and David is honked off by this.

Until it starts happening at weird times, like while he's sitting across from John at a diner booth, or after he's heard that John is dead. This is the kind of thing that can happen when you're on the sauce.

I'm not going into further detail because that should be enough to give you the flavor.  In the troubled subgenre Horror/Comedy there is an array of forms, and this is one of my favorite, where it's not about the yuk-yuks as much as it's about a loose and energetic mood.  In a context like that it's not hard to create likable characters with a few short strokes, or enjoy real gore and scares while admittedly avoiding bonafide horror movie dread.

I should note that there are a few sub par special effects (which are kind of cute), and I will cop to being occasionally confused by various plot points the first time I saw it -- which wasn't this time, and I'm happy to report it's quite strong on a second viewing.  Maybe even stronger.  I highly recommend this, but I don't recommend watching it in the "as I'm falling asleep" time slot.  It might bungle your noodle.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Catfreeek's Best Of 2015


 As 2015 Horrorthon came to a close I thought about how far I'd come in the progression of things. I have honed myself down from a virtual horror watching machine to a much more selective and satisfied connoisseur of scary stuff. The best of tradition has been falling off the blog the last couple of years and I am hoping to revive it, so here is my list.

Favorite/Scariest film hands down goes to We Are Still Here.


 Best movie monster goes to Grabbers mostly because it was a cool monster but also because I didn't watch many monster movies this year.

Scream Queen has got to be Traci Lords in Crazy Eights.

 Scream Stud goes to Tom Hiddleston in Crimson Peak, he was so charming.

 Hidden Gem goes to The House at the End of Time.

 Most Disturbing is tied for me by two sets of twins, Niles & Holland in The Other and Lukas & Elias in Goodnight, Mommie.

 Worst by and far was Crazy Bitches.

Best So Bad It's Good goes to Evil Brain from Outer Space

 Goriest just had to be The Green Inferno

 Most Memorable Death goes to Exhibit A which reminds us that it takes a lot longer to actually kill a person then is usually projected in film.

Most Avoidable Death goes to The Houses October Built, just delete the fucking tape and we will go away, duh!

That concludes my 2015 Horrorthon experience, Happy Hauntings everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Canal


(2014) ****

Film archivist David and his wife and son (why is every kid in a movie named “Billy”?) live in a beautiful townhouse in Dublin abutting a canal. David’s seemingly idyllic life is shattered when he learns that his wife is having an extramarital affair with a co-worker. Coinciding with this upset David comes into possession of crime footage from a 1902 murder that took place in his home. Apparently a man suspected that his wife was having an affair and he killed her out of jealousy. Soon Alice goes missing and David is the number 1 suspect despite a lack of evidence. As time passes David begins to exhibit paranoia as he tries to convince a co-worker, his nanny and an increasingly suspicious detective that there is a specter in his house that is responsible for his wife’s disappearance.



Clearly influenced by horror movies such as Don’t Look Now (1973), The Ring (2002), Sinister (2012) and even some David Lynch director Ivan Kavanagh nonetheless crafts a creepy ghost story that burns slowly with growing dread as David begins to unravel. The cinematography is top-notch and the ambiguous setting adds to the creep factor. A scene involving the world’s grossest public bathroom is particularly jarring (okay, perhaps Trainspotting still holds that honor). Definitely recommended.

We Are Still Here

(2015)****1/2

Anne and Paul Sacchetti move to a nice home in a quiet New England town after the untimely death of their son. Unfortunately the house they chose is the one that wakes up every 30 years demanding a sacrifice. Anne feels and hears the presence of her son within the house so no matter what the old place wants to dish out, she is staying put.

Don't go in the basement.

Clearly this and It Follows were the films to see this year. Well done, scary and a fresh new approach all rolled into one. I do love a good haunted house film but it seems more often then not modern films are filled with pop ups and non-scary cgi ghosts. We are Still Here breaks the trend and delivers a much needed truly frightening change to the genre.

Seriously, there's nothing you need in that basement.

The film is set in 1979 which is becoming a recent and brilliant trend in the horror genre. Brilliant because it immediately eliminates the cell phone dilemma while connecting to an entire generation of horror fanatics that relish a time without modern technology, a time when horror found it's place in the limelight and exploded onto drive-in screens, a time when every boarded up abandoned house was surely haunted and sleepaway camp was terrifying because there had to be a killer lurking in the woods. If this film did not make it to your list this year by all means add it to next years line up post haste.

 For Godsake lady, get the fuck out of that basement!

This concludes my entries for Horrorthon 2015, my best of's list will be up soon. Horrorthon!

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' TV spot #3 brings on the action!

Sacrament

(2013)***1/2

Documentarians travel to the cult commune of Eden Parish where journalist Patrick's sister Caroline now resides. Once they gain entrance it seems to be a happy place where all the inhabitants work together and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Under the direction of a man they call Father it seems they have found a way to live peacefully without stress and violence but things aren't always as they seem. None of the residents are allowed to leave.
Fashioned after the infamous Jonestown massacre this film features a soul stirring performance by Gene Jones (funny his real name is Jones) as Father. Any person watching this who is familiar with Jonestown would immediately make the connection. Like the Reverend Jones himself, Father is charismatic and a natural born leader. It is easy to see why those seeking a better way of life would take his bait greedily. The film gives insight as to why so many followed Rev. Jones all the way to the grave.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Treehouse

 (2015)***1/2

A girl and her brother are attacked and pursued into the woods by an unknown creature. They are separated and the girl seeks refuge in an old treehouse. Meanwhile, news of the missing kids is scrawled across the tv and a curfew is put into effect for the entire area. A young boy and his older brother plan a trek into the woods with some friends to light fireworks but when they arrive they discover they are not alone in the woods but find safety in the treehouse with the missing girl. The younger brother holds up with the girl while the older boy makes a dash for it to get help. As they wait out the night they are tormented by banging and loud noises but the creatures don't seem to want to come in. The girl reveals the fact that she is diabetic and will need to get sustenance soon or succumb to insulin shock. When no help has arrived by the break of day the two decide to make a run for it. All is revealed as the two teens must use their wit and agility to escape certain death.


How about this for a change, teens who make wise decisions, don't act like drunken fools or stoners and actually have some survival skills taught to them by their parents. Treehouse adds an element of realism throughout that sets it aside from the hundreds of other films that use the woods setting for their story. The teens just look like average kids too, no good looking Beeberesque fancy lads looking out of place in their little podunk town. In fact I didn't find any of the kids to be annoying and that in itself is a bloody miracle! Seeing a film like this made in current times gives me hope for the future of horror.

Perfect Sisters

(2014)***

Based on the true life story of  Sandra and Beth Andersen who murdered their mother in 2003, the story follows the girls as they come to the conclusion that their lives would be far better without their pill popping alcoholic mother in it. The two sisters concoct a perfectly viable scheme to drug mom into a sleepy daze then ease her into a warm bath where she will slip under the water and drown. The plan is much simpler than it turned out to be, mom still had some fight in her and Sandra had to forcefully hold her under. Still, the police bought it hook, line and sinker and the girls were scott free but Sandra has some trouble coping with what she had to do and begins drinking and bragging about how they killed their mom. A classmate, disturbed by their story goes to the police and turns them in. Altogether a solid story but why wouldn't it be since it is based in truth. Where the film falls short is in the acting, with a more substantial cast this could easily have been a four or five star film. Still, the story was intriguing enough to make me want to research the actual event and see what happened to the girls in the aftermath.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Blood Lands (aka 'White Settlers')


(2014) **1/2

Yuppie city slickers Ed and Sarah are tired of the London rat race and on impulse purchase a large country home in Castle Farm, Scotland to capitalize on the cheap property taxes. Their real estate agent informs them that the home is historical because it was built on a site where a bloody battle between the English and the Scots took place centuries earlier (it’s true, I looked it up). At first all is well as the happy couple enjoys the tranquility the Scottish countryside has to offer. However their quietude is disrupted by a group of pig-mask wearing locals who are none too happy to have the English couple invade their territory. 

 
Woefully ignorant about English/Scottish history (don’t ever team up with me in Trivial Pursuit because I get every history question wrong although I knock the TV questions out of the park – the answer is always ‘Fonzie’), The Blood Lands ends up being an independence referendum-themed horror movie. However the political subtext is fairly pointless as the film devolves into a straight up home invasion tale. While the third reel is filled with tension/violence as the couple attempts to elude their home invaders, the set-up is simply too slow. This is the kind of film where a character wakes up in the middle of the night and declares, “I heard a noise coming from downstairs” and then the viewer is forced to watch the character explore the entire house in real time with no payoff. Some judicious editing would have moved the story along at a more rewarding pace. Like the nihilistic ‘The Strangers’ (2008) the entire exercise seems to be utterly pointless.

The Four Skulls Of Jonathan Drake


(1959)**1/2

Jonathan Drake returns home to attend his brother's funeral only to discover that his brother's head is missing although, the skull  has appeared in a locked cabinet within the house along with his grandfather's and father's skulls. Jonathan fears the ancient curse the Jivaro Indians placed on his grandfather has come to pass and he fears for the fate of his own head. He soon discovers he is being pursued by an ancient immortal indian who is extremely tall and has his lips sewn shut. He needs to find a way to break the curse before it's too late.


As horror from this era does so often have it's flaws I fear I did not escape the slowly inevitable fate of Mr. Jonathan Drake. The plot itself seemed rather thin to base an entire movie on, this would have worked far better as a shorter segment within an anthology. It becomes pretty apparent what the outcome is going to be so it was like riding a slow train to a familiar destination. I did like the shrunken heads but the lanky big nosed indian fellow was more comical visually instead of the ominous presence they were shooting for. In reading about the film I discovered this was a drive-in classic, considering the slow pace I imagine Jonathan Drake hosted a whole bunch of make-out sessions for horny teens invoking something much more vibrant than that feeling of fear they were shooting for.

Grabbers

(2012)***1/2

Since this has been reviewed already I will spare you the long synopsis. Basically an alien sea creature is brought back to a remote Irish isle where the inhabitants discover the only way they can remain safe to fight it is to be completely inebriated. They gather at the local pub and tank up while they figure out a plan to fight the alien.

In the fashion of Attack the Block and The World's End, Grabbers mixes the right cocktail of humor and danger to make it a really fun film to watch.

Bloody April Fools (Los Inocentes)


(2013) ***

Nine friends cram into a van for a weekend getaway of booze, drugs and sex. On route to their destination they get lost and rather than letting their trip go to waste they decide to spend the night at an abandoned hostel. Eschewing warnings from the locals that the hostel is cursed, the horny teens prepare for a night of debauchery by stocking up on liquor. As one friend tells another, “The more you get her to drink the more her buttons will open up on her shirt”. Amen, brother. The teens have a blast partying until they start dying from a vicious prankster.

Bloody April Fools delivers the goods! At a brisk 65 minutes the mayhem sets in quickly. Clearly an homage to 80s slashers (Friday the 13th in particular) the film is fairly cookie-cutter yet the deaths are brutal and gratifying (I hated nearly every character) and for those who like boobs there are plenty of them on display here. A fun little horror exercise when you don’t have a lot of time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Housebound


(2014)****

Following multiple run-ins with the law, insubordinate Kylie is ordered to home confinement for 8 months at her childhood home in the rural New Zealand countryside. We learn quickly that this is her worst nightmare given that she left home the moment she turned 18 to escape her oppressive mother. Worse, she has to wear an ankle monitor that prevents her from leaving the perimeter of the overgrown yard. Adding to the claustrophobia of home confinement is the home itself, a depressing, cluttered nightmare that abuts a forest replete with crooked trees and sprawling vegetation.

Nonplussed that her daughter is back home, Kylie’s always-cheerful, chatty mother fills the time with banal conversation including her belief that there is a ghost in the house. Kylie makes fun of her for this and takes every opportunity to denigrate her. Angry about her situation Kylie passes the time sitting on the couch, watching television, eating food and leaving a mess for her mother to clean up. Bored out of her mind, she eventually befriends Amos, the security officer in charge of monitoring her ankle bracelet, who happens to be interested in the paranormal. With little else to do Kylie agrees to investigate her mother’s claims of ghosts with Amos. Their investigation begins in the house but eventually focusses on a creepy recluse living next door.


‘Housebound’ could easily have been another generic “ghost story” however director Gerard Johnstone creates the perfect claustrophobic setting with the messy, gloomy home, the remote location, and the fact that the lead character has an ankle bracelet on so even if she tries to flee from ghosts the police will haul her back to meet her fate. The film has a good balance of tension and humor and the leads are likable/relatable.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The original Leatherface has died


(CNN) Gunnar Hansen, who terrorized moviegoers as the psychotic, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface in 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," has died at 68.

Hansen died Saturday evening of pancreatic cancer at his home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, according to his agent, Mike Eisenstadt, who described Hansen's "Chainsaw" character as "one of the most iconic evil figures in the history of cinema."

The Icelandic-born actor was an unknown graduate student in Texas when director Tobe Hooper cast him in the low-budget horror film, which became a cult hit and spawned three sequels, two remakes and a prequel.

In the film, Hansen's Leatherface character and his relatives torment five young people who stumble upon their remote Texas home in search of gas for their car. Inspired partly by real-life serial killer Ed Gein, Leatherface wears a mask of human skin and uses a chainsaw to butcher his victims.

The movie's final scene, where Leatherface dances maniacally on a lonely highway while spinning his chainsaw over his head, is one of the most indelible in horror-film history.

After the movie's release, Hansen began a career as a writer and editor, although he eventually returned to acting -- mostly in low-budget horror movies with titles like "Chainsaw Sally" and "Swarm of the Snakehead."

At the time of his death he was developing "Death House," a horror film he had written about a prison break at a secret underground government facility. The movie will be produced next year in Hansen's memory, Eisenstadt said.

Hansen was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, and moved to the United States when he was five, eventually settling with his family in Texas. In 2013 he published a book, "Chainsaw Confidential," about his work on "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." In the book Hansen wrote he was paid $400 for the film.

He is survived by his partner of 13 years, Betty Tower.

Classroom 6


(2015) ZERO stars

Aspiring reporter, Annie, convinces a local college to lock her in the school with a film team overnight in order to document purported otherworldly activity that occurred in classroom #6. The film captures what happened to them via found footage.

I’m a sucker for found-footage, even generic found-footage, but not SLOW, generic found-footage! Including the credits the film is 78 minutes long (I looked it up) and absolutely NOTHING happens until the 50 minute mark (SPOILER: a school desk chair moves a few feet on its own). The brief climax has a money shot or two but this yawn-fest is not worth a moment of your time. Skip it.

Flu

 (2013)***1/2

A man contracts a deadly mystery flu while smuggling in illegal immigrants. He is shown coughing and spreading the germs throughout Seoul and soon people everywhere are sick and dying. The government orders a complete shutdown while specialists scramble to generate a vaccine. The story mainly centers around the young adorable daughter of one of the infectious disease specialists who contracts the flu while helping a homeless man. She winds up separated from her mother and shoved into the general population quarantine where the sick are poorly treated and herded like cattle to die in mass graves. It becomes a race against time for her mother to not only find a cure but to find her daughter before it is too late.


I debated long and hard before deciding to watch this Korean film about a massive deadly flu epidemic. I am a bit of a germaphobe so watching these types of films make me extremely uncomfortable. The film is a little too long and that was the only real problem I had with it. The slow motion scenes of people coughing as microscopic germs landed in their coffee or on their food invoked such paranoia in me, I swear I nearly shut the film off twice because it was freaking me out. I stayed tuned in because I had to know the outcome of the little girl, she was the sweetest little thing and it broke my heart when she became ill. Overall, this is a well done, tragic and thought provoking film just don't watch it when you're sick.

The first 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' TV spot features more Han Solo and Millennium Falcon!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Gift

 (2015)****

Simon and Robyn, a young married couple move to an LA suburb for work related reasons. Soon after they have a chance encounter with Gordo, a former classmate of Simon's who he claims not to remember. Gordo, strange but exceedingly nice, wedges himself into their lives. Robyn begins feeling uncomfortable with Gordo's pop in visits and thinks there is more to the story. She begins digging into her husband's past only to find he may not be quite the man she thought he was, he was and still is pretty much a colossal jerk.


This is a slow building intense film. I can imagine former teen tormentors squirming in their seats as Gordo's plan for revenge slowly unfolds. It's masterfully done and the final reveal is shockingly harsh. Jason Bateman who generally plays a nice guy in films does a great job channeling his inner asshole, he evokes sympathy for Gordo which wasn't an easy task since Gordo's weirdness made me feel uncomfortable every time he was on screen. In the quest for a good PITA (pipe in the ass) ole Gordo sticks it in and breaks it off leaving the viewer wrestling with a conflicting range of emotions feeling both sympathy and anger toward both characters.

Some Kind Of Hate

 (2015)***

Lincoln is a victim of perpetual bullying so he is is sent to a school for troubled teens where he is meant to deal with his issues. Instead he is singled out and bullied there as well and in a burst of rage accidentally summons the vengeful spirit Moira, a former student who was bullied until she committed suicide. Moira vows to avenge Lincoln and make his tormentors pay but as the bodies begin to pile up Lincoln feels regret. Unfortunately Moira is on a roll and there's no stopping her until every last one of them is dead.


I liked the whole concept of this film and the form in which the ghost maims and kills is also unique. Moira hurts herself and whatever she does to herself falls onto her victim. In other words if she cuts her throat the slash appears on her victim which makes it pretty difficult to hurt her. The film fell short for me in the acting, there was just something very vanilla about it. Entertaining but not one of my favorites.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2


(2015)****

Sequel to the first Hotel Transylvania, which I highly recommend! I'm a big fan of cartoon movies, so these fit me perfectly!
Spoilers*** if you haven't seen the first one..
Mavis and Johnny gets married and has a boo-tiful baby boy Dennis! But Grampa Dracula is worried that Dennis hasn't developed his vampy fangs yet.
 After convincing Mavis and Johnny to go on a road trip, Dracula babysits Dennis with Mummy, Frankenstein, Werewolf and the Invisible man, taking Dennis on a trip to show him what a real monster is supposed to do.
The monsters babysitting situation is filled with shenanigans! Many things go wrong, but Drac is determined to frighten the fangs out of Dennis! This sequel is great fun for the whole family!