Archive for March, 2012

Deep Red (1975)

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Movie Review
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Deep Red (1975)

aka The Hatchet Murders

{Profondo Rosso}

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril, Glauco Mauri, Clara Calamai

Subgnere: Giallo

Profondo Rosso

 

Synopsis: After music teacher Marcus Daly fails prevent the murder of a psychic, he begins to follow a series of clues that puts himself and the people around him in mortal danger.

Thoughts: Deep Red is quite often considered the best example of the Giallo film, and with good reason.  Dario Argento’s camera work is some of his best, and that is saying a lot. While there are several elements that make up a Giallo, I think it is the camera work that really sets it apart from standard slashers.

While the acting is pretty good for a horror movie, I wasn’t blown away by any of the characters.  I thought that Gabriele Lavia, who plays Carlo was a bit over the top.  Acting is always tough for me to gauge when watching horror movies, unless it is really bad or really good, and Deep Red is no exception.

It goes without saying that Dario Argento is an iconic Director in the horror genre, and this is one of his better movies.  It is often gushed over by film critics, but while I really enjoy it, it’s not on the top of my list of Argento movies (I prefer both Suspiria and Tenebrae).

If you are new to Dario Argento or foreign horror in general, this is a great place to start.  Like I said, it’s one of Argento’s best and one of the best Giallo’s ever made.  If you are looking to add this to your collection, I highly suggest picking up the Arrow Video UK Blu Ray.  Quite simply, it is amazing, and it plays on US players.

The Wraith (1986)

Directed By: Mike Marvin

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, Matthew Barry, Clint Howard, David Sherrill

Subgenre: Science Fiction

The Wraith

Synopsis: A mysterious driver in a Turbo Interceptor seeks revenge on a gang of hoodlums with a penchant for illegal auto racing.

Thoughts: This is one of those movies from my childhood that is probably not as good as the memories around it, but I still love it anyways.  The fast cars and ultra-cool Turbo Interceptor (actually the Dodge M4S concept car) appealed to me when I was ten years old, and they are still pretty damn cool.  While poking around the expanses of the Internet, I stumbled on this pretty cool site where a guy actually restored the Interceptor!

Aside from the multiple races and high speed chases in the movie, The Wraith actually touts a pretty impressive cast.  The most obvious example is a young Charlie Sheen.  The mid-eighties were very kind to Sheen with Platoon, Wall Street and Young Guns, and the studio was lucky to get Sheen to star here before he became a massive star.  Nick Cassavetes is a well-known name to cinophiles, but not for his acting chops.  He comes from a family deeply entrenched in the film industry and has directed many popular movies such as Alpha Dog and The Notebook.  I’m still waiting for him to helm a sequel to The Wraith.  You even have Randy Quaid playing the Sheriff who doesn’t really care that the gang is being killed off, but attempts to investigate none the less.  Last, but most certainly not least, is genre favorite Clint Howard.  Clint plays Rughead, the gang member responsible for tweeking the cars so they are as fast as possible.  He also has quite possibly one of the most bizarre haircuts ever.

The Wraith - Rughead

While Director Mike Marvin has stayed busy since The Wraith, this appears to be his most well-known movie, unless you are a fan of late night Cinemax style movies, as it appears he was involved in at least a few of those.  It’s too bad, as it appeared like he had at least some semblance of how to film car chases.

Like I said, this is a childhood favorite of mine, so of course I suggest you check it out.  That being said, it’s not exactly great cinema.  Sit back and revel in the joy of the 80s and one cool ass car.      

Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)

Directed By: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Starring: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Rikki Gagne, CJ Wallis, Carlos Gallardo

Subgenre: Exploitation

Dead Hooker in a Trunk

Synopsis: Four people must deal with a grisly discovery, a dead hooker in the trunk of their car.

Thoughts: Over the last year or so, this title kept popping up in the horror community, whether it was Facebook, Twitter or on other blogs, so I had to check it out to see if the hype was real.  The aptly titled story follows two completely opposite sisters as they try to get rid of a dead body they find in the trunk of their car, all while dealing with nefarious drug dealers, pimps, and other sordid types.

One thing to keep in mind when watching this is that it has a pretty low budget and is the first go around for the Soska Sisters.  For the most part, I was impressed with their efforts.  I thought that it started out slow and could have used a little better editing, but once the action starts, it is an insane, non-stop roller coaster ride.  In many ways, it reminded me of another wildly popular Canadian exploitation flick, Hobo with a Shotgun in that regard.  I think they would make for one hell of a double feature.

The acting is what you would expect, but suits the movie just fine.  No one in the movie is going to get an Oscar, but there also are not any horrible jobs.  It really was a labor of love for everyone involved, as CJ Wallis not only starred in the movie, but also did a lot of behind the scenes work with editing and marketing. 

While some of the FX were pretty rough, I thought they were really well done considering the budget.  There was one scene in particular where one of the sisters broke a guy’s neck and twisted his head around and to accomplish this on camera, they used a quick cut and just had the guy with his jacket on backwards.  It made me laugh but was effective.

Their work paid off as Dead Hooker in a Trunk went on to play an aggressive schedule of film festivals and horror conventions, garnering a lot of attention for Twisted Twins Productions (The Soska Sisters production company).  The twins are currently working on American Mary, a story of a medical student that becomes involved in the world of underground surgeries.  I’m looking forward to it.

Fans of explotation style movies should check out Dead Hooker for sure.  It’s not for everyone, but is a damn fun ride. 

The Dead (2010)

Posted: March 20, 2012 in Movie Review
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The Dead (2010)

Directed By: Howard Ford, Jon Ford

Starring: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, David Dontoh

Subgenre: Zombies

The Dead

Synopsis: Two soldiers attempt to survive war-torn Africa in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

Thoughts: There have been lots of new takes on zombies in the last couple of years.  We’ve seen them get faster, smarter, and in some cases funnier.  The Dead goes back to its roots with shuffling blood thirsty zombies.  It takes place in the wide open of deserts of Africa, so it is a bit different than the usual claustrophobic cities as well.

I thought The Dead would have been a great inclusion in George Romero’s Dead films.  Not only are the zombies the same, but there is a fair amount of socio-political commentary as well.  Much like Romero’s earlier films, there is quite a bit of character exploration as well.  The Dead is not a perfect movie though.  I thought that the pacing was off in the middle and the film could have had a good ten minutes or so trimmed out.

There are not a lot of characters in The Dead.  The film revolves around two soldiers, one American and one African.  It creates an interesting dynamic as the two must rely on one another to survive.  I thought both roles were very well acted, and the acting is something that set this movie apart from other independent horror flicks.  There were a couple of other supporting actors, but no one with much screen time.  Of course the zombies got a good bit of screen time, and they looked very good.  It’s amazing to look at the strides in makeup in the last 25 years.

The Dead is one of the better zombie movies to come out in recent years.  I highly suggest you check it out.  Personally, I really look forward to what else the Ford Brothers bring us.

The Ward (2010)

Directed By: John Carpenter

The Ward

Starring: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mika Boorem, Jared Harris, Dan Anderson

Subgenre: Thriller

Synopsis: Kristen, the newest patient at a mental institution finds herself haunted by a deadly ghost.

Thoughts: John Carpenter is easily one of my favorite directors, and I don’t just mean horror movies.  While he has stuck mostly within the genre, he has delivered some absolute gems outside it as well.  You can imagine that when I heard he was returning to direct another horror movie, I was rather excited. 

I wouldn’t say that The Ward was a grand return to form for Carpenter, but I can’t understand the hate it receives.  Even though I was really looking forward to seeing it, it took me awhile to get around to it.  The generally negative reviews dampened my excitement to some degree, but I enjoyed the movie.

I thought the story was pretty original and there were some creepy moments for sure.  The ghost, if you want to call it that, was suitably scary.  It’s difficult to talk too much about the story without spoiling some major plot points, but let’s just say it’s better than a lot of other scripts of late.

The cast was decent as well, but I was reminded of Girl, Interrupted while watching it, which probably has more to do with the location than the cast.  Amber Heard is quietly amassing quite the genre filmography and she doesn’t disappoint here.  I also thought that Jared Harris did a great job in his supporting role as the Doctor.  All in all, I thought this was a better than average cast for a horror movie.

If some of the negative reviews have kept you from checking out The Ward, I suggest you give it a shot.  Go in with an open mind and enjoy a story from one of the true Masters of Horror.

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Directed By: Patrick Lussier

Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jamie King, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Tom Atkins, Edi Gathegi, Todd Farmer

Subgenre: Slasher

My Bloody Valentine 3D

Synopsis: Has Harry Warden, the sole survivor of a mining accident, returned to the town of Valentine’s Bluff on the eve of a Valentine’s Dance to commit grisly murders?

Thoughts: Remakes, especially those with a gimmick like 3D, seemed destined to fail.  Despite that, two of my favorite remakes of recent years have employed this exact gimmick. I thoroughly enjoyed both Piranha 3D and My Bloody Valentine 3D. 

This remake doesn’t rock the boat too much when it comes to the original, but does a great job updating it, while including the obligatory nods to the original.  It also has some of the best use if 3D I have witnessed to date. The pick-axe in the windshield made me jump in the theatre. 

While the acting isn’t bad, it’s not great either. I’ve never gotten into Supernatural, but apparently Jensen Ackles is a big deal to fans of the show.  Personally, I thought the MBV3D cast was prototypical of most slasher movies, just aimed at a slightly older crowd. I have to point out one of my favorite screenwriters makes an appearance here as the Semi Driver.  If you aren’t following Todd Farmer on Twitter, I suggest you do.  At the very least, you get to see some crazy adventures with him, Derrick Mears and Tyler Mane. MBV3D also features Tom Atkins as the sheriff.  This guy is a staple in the horror genre and kicks ass in each of his roles.

I already mentioned the 3D, but it needs to be mentioned again. The use of 3D in some of the death scenes is fantastic, and there always seems to be a pickaxe or various body parts flying towards you.  I would rather see a horror flick that takes advantage of 3D than most action movies. 

My Bloody Valentine works for me and I find it a great time to watch, even at home minus the 3D.  If you haven’t given this one a shot, go for it.