Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

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Directed By: Rob Zombie

Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson, Jane Carr, Richard Brake, Pancho Moler, Lew Temple, David Ury, EG Daily, Torsten Voges, Ginger Lynn

Synopsis: A group of carnies are abducted and forced to play a murderous game of cat and mouse with killer, psychotic clowns.

Thoughts: When you sit down to watch a Rob Zombie movie, there are certain things you should expect. First, he has a deep love of the horror genre, so there are often some very obvious influences from other movies as well as familiar faces from the genre. Second, you’ll get the unmistakable Rob Zombie look and feel. Lastly, you’ll get his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie.

31 is no different. Saw, The Purge, The Hills Have Eyes, The Running Man and other movies all seem to have influenced 31 at least a little bit. As far as genre stars, this may be one of the lightest representations of genre stars in any of his films. Meg Foster and Malcolm McDowell are huge names and Lew Temple has done a few movies and The Walking Dead, but other than that, there are some lesser known and new names here.

It has Zombie usual gritty feel, complete with his raucous soundtrack, dirty settings and gratuitous use of profanity. Of course, his wife is front and center in the movie. Some people can’t stand her, but I often don’t mind her acting. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it, but I also think that there is a part of me that thinks it’s pretty cool that Zombie puts her in all his movies, no matter what anyone says.

As far as the movie itself, it’s a very a basic storyline. A group of friends making a cross country trip run into trouble. This particular trouble just happens to be a sadistic trio of aristocrats employing psychotic clowns (there’s that RZ twist). The group of friends tend to blend into most of Zombie’s other characters from Halloween, The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses, but he does make an impression with the clowns.

Pancho Moler is unforgettable as Sick-Head, a midget Hitler that is the first clown to hunt the group. I’ve read that some people found him annoying, but I thought her was hilarious and a great character. The other “Heads” (Psycho, Schizo, Sex and Death) are fairly shallow characters and don’t spend a lot of time on screen, but they do the job. The real star here is Richard Brake as Doom-Head. While he follows many of the RZ stereotypes, he does it with flare and really delivers an awesome adversary.

Overall, I found this to be one of Zombie’s most entertaining movies to date. It’s not his best, I’d give that to The Devil’s Rejects, and it’s not his most original (Lords of Salem), but it was the one I had the most fun watching. Maybe it’s the clowns, but I think it has a lot to do with that he didn’t try to hard here. He ran with an idea and I think it really worked. This isn’t going to blow your mind or turn the genre on its head, but grab a drink and some popcorn and enjoy this ride courtesy of Rob Zombie.

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Directed By: Fede Alvarez

Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang

Synopsis: Three young thugs break into the house of a blind man who is supposedly sitting on a mountain of cash, looking for an easy score.

Thoughts: Home invasion stories have been done to death over the last ten years, so I was a bit skeptical going into see Don’t Breathe, even though it is directed by up and comer Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead).  Luckily, I was lucky enough to get tickets to an advanced showing at The Alamo Drafthouse, my favorite place to catch a flick on the big screen.  In addition to the movie, there was a Q&A with Alvarez streamed from Austin that was hosted by Robert Rodriquez.

Right from the start, you see that Rocky, Alex and Money are not really great people.  Alex uses his father’s job as a security guard to target homes where they can break in easily. He pines over Rocky, but she is in love with “Money”, the prototypical thug.  It’s a basic love triangle, and not a lot is really done with it, but it adds another layer of tension in the movie.  It’s very easy to see the trio as the bad guys throughout the first act of the movie.  As things progress, you’re not sure who the villain really is.

Jane Levy returns to work with Alvarez, having starred in his Evil Dead remake.  Levy must surely be a glutton for punishment after seeing what she goes through in each movie.  The real star of the movie is Stephen Lang, veteran of both film and theater.  His turn as “The Blind Man” is what elevates this movie above your run of the mill home invasion fare.

Don’t Breathe clocks in at a very brisk 88 minutes, and that is a key to the success of the movie.  The tension builds very quickly and it doesn’t let  up throughout the entire movie.  There is one scene that takes place in the basement in the pitch black.  While I am not sure how it was shot, it looks like it is black and white, and the actors eyes are fully dilated.  It is probably the most tense scene in the entire film.  All puns aside, I found myself holding my breath at times!  I’m really hoping that the scene is dissected in the home video release.

I recommend checking out Don’t Breathe.  It’s done well in theatres, which is always a good thing for my favorite genre,  but don’t let that dissuade you from supporting it.  The better horror movies do, both independent and studio funded, the more we see.

It’s Madness Time! This year’s theme is crazy clowns, demented circuses and dark carnivals!  I’ll be posting weekly updates on my progress and what I am watching.  Not everything will match the theme as there is really only so many clown movies I can stand, but you can bet I will get in as many as I can while still watching the classics for this time of year.

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Directed By: Adam Wingard 

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

Synopsis: James Donohue ventures into the woods to look for his sister, Heather, who was one of the three missing from the original Blair Witch Project.

Thoughts:

I experienced the first Blair Witch movie back in 1999 in the theatre. I went in knowing nothing, not even having seen a trailer for it. A friend called me and told me to go see it, but not to read anything about it beforehand. I found it to be one of the scariest experiences I had ever had in a theatre. The climax literally had me on the edge of my seat and I think I just about ripped the arm of the chair off.

Fast forward to Comic Con this year and I hear news of Adam Wingard’s (You’re Next) upcoming movie titled The Woods is actually titled Blair Witch! I’m a big fan of Wingard, so was eager to see his take on what I think is one of the best found footage movies out there. I elected to follow a similar route and not check out any trailers, read any articles and do my best to avoid discussions on social media about Blair Witch. I was successful (for the most part) having only seen a portion of the trailer (the tunnel scene). Going in, I didn’t know if it was a remake, sequel or just another chapter in the mythology.

It turns out that it is a direct sequel to the original, with James going into the woods to try and find Heather, his sister and lead in the original. He takes some friends with him, as well as some locals that know the mythology. Without going into details, the events are similar to the first movie, but amped up tenfold. I found this entry to be much scarier than the first. I’m sure some of that is due to an increased budget, allowing for some special effects and one particularly brutal onscreen death.

Another improvement is the cast and script. In rewatching the original, the initial scenes and build up are pretty boring. Blair Witch has a similar build up, but I found the characters much more interesting. There was some humor weaved into dialogue as well, and I thought that really worked, especially the interaction between Peter and Lane.

Once things start getting crazy in the woods, it’s nonstop. A major difference is that you actually see the Blair Witch. I’m not sure how I feel about her onscreen appearance. It was a bold move by Wingard and writer Simon Barett. I’m hoping that when it makes its home video release there are some special features around the design and look of the Blair Witch. I have my suspicions on influence for her design, but would like to hear from Wingard about it.

If you’re a fan of the original, I think this is a can’t miss movie. If you don’t like the original, or found footage movies in general, then don’t waste your time. Blair Witch doesn’t bring anything new to the subgenre, it’s just a well-made movie that builds on the original mythology.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr

10 Cloverfield Lane came out of nowhere earlier this year, with no advance news that a “sequel” was being made to the hit monster movie that came out in 2008. It was almost the antithesis of the marketing blitz that surrounded the original movie, which makes a lot of sense after you watch the movie.

The majority of 10 Cloverfield Lane takes place in an underground bunker, so it really relies on its cast and script to pull you in. The script is tight, and keeps you guessing about what is really going on, both in the bunker, and in the world outside. John Goodman absolutely chews scenery every time he is on the camera. I can’t recall ever seeing him portray someone so unnerving. I’d love to see him get some awards recognition, but we all know that’s very difficult to achieve in this genre. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also masterful in her role, but overshadowed by Goodman.

If there is a weak spot to 10 Cloverfield Lane, it’s the climax. Without going into too much detail, this is where the movie is tied into the franchise, at least loosely. On one hand it feels a bit “bolted on” but it also sets the movie apart from other thrillers. I’m reserving ultimate judgment until I get a chance to watch the movie again. For now, it doesn’t deter me from thinking this will be one of the top genre movies of 2016.

 

Pyramid

Directed By: Gregory Levasseur

Starring: Ashley Hinsaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Christa-Marie Nicola, Amir K

Synopsis: Archeologists uncover a pyramid in Egypt and find that it is not empty.

Thoughts: Found footage has been overdone for quite a while now, but it really is a viable medium, especially when done right. The Pyramid uses a hybrid approach to found footage, using it at times as there is a videographer with the team, filming a documentary, but also pulling back quite often to tell the story. I found it to very effective, but it’s not for everyone. I have read of some people complaining about the format.

The cast is largely unknown, but there is one familiar faces, Denis O’Hare, who played Russell Edgington in True Blood and is also a regular contributor to American Horror Story. Here he plays one of the archeologists exploring the ruins. The cast performs well, but many of the characters don’t leave a lasting impact outside of the movie’s runtime.

The real star of The Pyramid is the setting and the creatures. I’ve always found the history and mythology of Egypt to be fascinating. Their customs and beliefs really fuel some great stories, and this is no exception. I won’t go into too much detail about what the team finds in the pyramid, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Overall, this is a good watch. I enjoyed it, but it probably won’t be something I revisit often. If you’ve got a distaste for any sort of first person camera work, you’ll likely want to avoid this one, but I thought it had a great mix.

Bees

 

Directed By: Alfredo Zacarias

Starring: John Saxon, John Carradine, Angel Tompkins, Claudio Brook

Synopsis: Africanized killer bees threaten mankind, or is it the other way around?

Thoughts:
Man versus nature. It’s a common theme in many horror movies. Some of the best, even. The Bees is not one of the best, but for some reason, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Honestly, I can’t put my finger on it, because it’s pretty formulaic and overly preachy at times. Maybe it’s John Saxon and John Carradine, because both are awesome. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve got a soft spot for Vinegar Syndrome, because they too, are awesome. I love that they release movies that just about no other company will touch. Whatever it was, I was happy to pick this one up.

The gist of the movie is that killer bees are making their way up from South America, doing what you would expect killer bees to do. Mankind, in all of their wisdom, uses science to figure out how to combat the bees in an attempt to save the day. Of course, we jack it up, pissing off the bees, and causing them to mutate into an intelligent colony with a message to mankind; “Stop fucking up the planet, or we will end you.” Although this pushes an environmental message, it is very interesting how far ahead of its time it is. It’s no secret that our species isn’t real careful with our planet, but it’s also interesting that bees happen to be one of the creatures that are suffering the most.

The Bees stars two of the genres long-standing workhorses in Saxon and Carradine, which makes a significant difference in the quality of this movie. Without them, I think this would have fallen even more to the wayside. Although they are the heavyweights, the acting is pretty solid throughout. I laughed my ass off at the Jimmy Carter impersonator, but Gerald Ford is actually in the movie (although a stock clip from a parade).

If you’re a fan of creature flicks or B movies, you should check this out, and if you don’t support Vinegar Syndrome, you should. What they do is important. They don’t release blockbusters or even genre headliners, but they give releases to titles that would likely be lost without them, including horror, exploitation, and even some good old 70s and 80s porn. Hit them up at vinegarsyndrome.com or at your local horror convention.