Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Croczilla (2012)

Posted: February 22, 2015 in Movie Review
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Croczilla

Croczilla (2012)
AKA Million Dollar Crocodile {Bai Wan Ju E}

Directed By: Li Sheng Lin

Starring: Tao Guo, Barbie Hsu, Suet Lam

Synopsis: A 36 foot crocodile raised in a sanctuary escapes after being sold and rampages across the country side.

Thoughts: I’ve long been a sucker for killer croc movies, so when I was paging through options on Netflix and Croczilla flashed across the screen, it was an easy selection. It’s been a long time since watching a horror movie with no preconceived notions or any idea what the film entailed, so I was really looking forward to watching it. In fact, until clicking play, I didn’t even realize that this a Chinese movie!

Even though Croczilla is billed as a horror movie, there’s just not a lot of scares to be found. It mimics some of the 1970s Godzilla movies with its comedic moments and there are a couple of pretty cool scenes where the croc attacks, but it just isn’t enough to make this a worthwhile entry into a favorite subgenre of mine. It plays a lot like a dubbed ScyFy Channel movie.

I don’t recommend checking out this movie, but if you do, venture forth with copious amounts of your favorite alcoholic beverage and a couple of friends to help you riff on the movie. Don’t be fooled by the awesome poster I found either.   It is easily the best part of the movie that I’ve experienced.

The Eye 2

Directed By: The Pang Brothers (Danny Pang Phat & Oxide Pang Chun)

Starring: Shu Qi, Eugenia Yuan, Jesdaporn Pholdee

Synopsis: After attempting suicide, Joey begins to see spirits.

Thoughts: The Pang Brothers followed up The Eye with a sequel just two years after the original was released, although The Eye 2 doesn’t continue the story and has really nothing to do with the first film, other than the ability to see ghosts. I guess you could say that they have the same thematic elements, but so did the majority of other Asian horror movies in the early 21st Century.

The Eye 2 does have some really creepy moments, but they come later in the movie after Joey discovers she is pregnant and start to realize why she can suddenly see ghosts. There is one scene in particular that was pretty disturbing for me. It takes place during the delivery of a baby. Scenes that involve pregnant women and newborns in horror movies always make me cringe, and this one was no different.

Most ghost stories center on similar themes. Either the dead were murdered or left something undone in their lives. The Eye 2 takes a little different spin on things, one that I won’t divulge here as it is a pretty integral to the plot of the movie. This different take puts The Eye 2 slightly above its competition in the genre. This isn’t a must see movie by any means, but it isn’t bad. If you’ve already checked out the staples, this is worth a spin.

Tremors

Directed By: Ron Underwood

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, Victor Wong, Bobby Jacoby

Synopsis: Giant subterranean monsters decimate an isolated Western town.

Thoughts: Tremors is 25 years old this year. Let that sink in for a moment. If you are like me and remember when this came out, you are probably feeling a bit older at the moment. If you are too young to recall the release, get off my lawn and pull up your pants.

Now, back to the movie…Tremors is essentially a Godzilla movie in a Western setting where the creatures live underground. It is infused with comedy and never takes itself seriously.

The cast is a big reason for the success of Tremors. Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon play the leads and work together in a “buddy cop” sort of relationship. Bacon has flirted with the horror genre throughout his career, going all the way back to his early days where he was a camp counselor in Friday the 13th. His works have included Flatliners, Hollow Man and the underrated Stir of Echoes as well.

You can’t mention the cast without pointing out Michael Gross and Reba McEntire as the right wing fanatics with enough firepower to take over a small country. Although the characters are over the top, it really works with the setting and storyline.

Director took the success of Tremors and turned that into a career directing family oriented films. It’s no exaggeration to say he peaked with his second film, helming Golden Globe nominee City Slickers. After that it went downhill in a pretty fantastic nature, including Mighty Joe Young and Pluto Nash. After Pluto Nash, Underwood focused on directing television episodes.

Although the cast is fantastic, the Graboids in Tremors are the real stars. Without a great monster a movie like this will fade into oblivion as time passes. Universal was smart to guard the look of the monsters as they promoted the movie, saving the reveal for the movie. Although this seems like such a basic principle, it’s amazing how often marketing campaigns get this wrong. Look no further than the success of Cloverfield at how anticipation and great marketing can propel a movie to success.

Tremors wasn’t a huge financial success at the box office, but quickly became a favorite on home video and with movie monster fans everywhere. It spawned 3 sequels and a television series, which is another indicator of its popularity.

Tremors is a great gateway horror film for young fans of the genre. There isn’t much that would scare younger fans and the deaths are not graphic. I look at this movie as a natural fit with other giant monsters like King Kong and Godzilla. Tremors is also readily available (and cheap) as a 4 pack with its sequels on both DVD and Blu Ray. There’s really no excuse for not checking out this flick.

Science Team

Directed By: Drew Bolduc

Starring: Vito Trigo, Richard Spencer, Emily Marsh, Matt Chodornek, Mariea Terrell, Josh Potter, Lloyd Kaufman

Synopsis: Chip battles a telepathic alien and The Science Team.

Thoughts: Science Team comes to us from Drew Bolduc, creator of The Taint, and promises a movie unlike any you’ve seen. I will have to say Drew is correct. This is not an easy movie to categorize. It’s got plenty of laughs, but it’s not exactly a comedy. There’s an alien, so you could categorize it as Sci-Fi, but it doesn’t fit well there either. Of course there is a good amount of gore and melting faces, but this isn’t a horror movie either. What it is, however, is a lot of fun, and I could see this becoming a bit of a cult hit. It plays like a “midnight movie.” Something a crowd of people could get into, laughing along and cringing at some scenes in unison.

Science Team was put together on a self-proclaimed micro-budget, but that’s not apparent from the quality of the production. The camera work, editing and score are all pretty fantastic. You don’t feel like you are watching a cheap movie by any means. At times, the acting can be a bit distracting, but for the most part, the actors do a great job. Vito Trigo, who plays Chip, is a very intense personality. There were a couple of scenes where he was downright frightening on the screen (like when he lost his mother). It really pulled you out of a campy horror movie and made you a bit uncomfortable (in a good way). I think he could play a very dark personality effectively (thinking something along the line of Taxi Driver).

While I’ve heard of The Taint before, this is actually the first I’ve heard the name Drew Bolduc. I am thoroughly impressed with what he has done on such a small budget, and sincerely hopes he continues to make movies. He’s got the creativity and eye that is sometimes rare in the realm of film. I’m on the search for The Taint as you read this.

If you’re looking for a fun movie to watch with a group of people, give Science Team a shot. It’s an interesting premise and a great example of innovative filmmaking. You will also be supporting independent filmmaking, which is not a small thing.

You can find out more by visiting this website: http://scienceteammovie.com/

The Eye

Directed By: The Pang Brothers (Danny Pang Phat & Oxide Pang Chun)

Starring: Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon

Synopsis: Mun, blind since the age of 2, receives a corneal transplant only to start experiencing strange occurrences around her.

Thoughts: The Eye flew across my radar later than most of the quintessential Asian horror films and when I watched it years ago, it didn’t leave much of an impression. Maybe it was a bit of overload of the subgenre, maybe it was my mood when I watched it, but I just was not impressed with this movie ten years ago. Regardless, this was a movie that I felt I needed to revisit based on its reputation.

The Eye lacks some of the signature moments of other Asian horror movies, but still has a couple of very spooky scenes. The scene where Mun is learning calligraphy brought goose bumps to my arms. The scene in the subway is another hair raising scene, as Mun learns what is really going on (even though it was fairly easy to see this twist coming.

I often wonder if foreign directors measure their success by getting American cinema to remake a movie they directed. Maybe that is an egocentric thought, but it sure seems to be a major stepping stone for a lot of directors. If that is indeed the case, the Pang Brothers have been very successful. They’ve had 2 movies remade in the US (and 1 in India) and have had their hand in a couple of American originals as well.

The Eye is not a perfect movie. I thought it was a bit too long and suffered from not having enough scary moments (which may have been corrected had the movie been shorter). When the movie did move to scare you, it was effective. This alone makes The Eye worth checking out. It wasn’t my favorite ghost story, but it was an enjoyable movie.

Shutter

Directed By: Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom

Starring: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana

Synopsis: Mysterious images in Tun’s photographs lead him to believe he is being haunted, but is it by the victim of a hit and run, or something else?

Thoughts: Ghosts often play a major part in Asian horror movies, so much so that they are often lampooned for it. I’ve seen countless parodies of pale ghosts with long black hair. Sadly, I think that there are some really good movies that get overlooked because they are all lumped together. Shutter happens to be one of those movies.

The scripts and storyline is better than most and I find that the pace of Shutter is fantastic. You get fed information little by little as the tension continues to build, and the scenes with the ghost are very creepy. The finale is by far the best of the movie, as all of the pieces come together and it becomes clear just why Tun is being haunted.

Shutter was one of the many Asian horror movies to earn an American remake. Just like any other trend, the initial success of Asian remakes in the United States resulted in a flood of remakes hitting theatres and video. Although there were several that were obvious cash grabs, it was the American remakes of Ringu (The Ring) and Ju-On (The Grudge) that led me on an odyssey of Asian horror that lasted many years. This also happened to be my first foray into foreign cinema, which led me to classics from Akira Kurosawa and Bergman, as well as the world of Italian horror. The Ring is a big part of who I am as a film and horror fan today.

While I haven’t made my way through the entirety of the Tartan Asian Extreme library, I have seen a good portion of them and would easily place Shutter in the better half of their offerings. It isn’t quite as good as The Vengeance Trilogy or A Tale of Two Sisters, but it an entertaining watch.

Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Directed By: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston, Nigel Green, John Westbrook, Patrick Magee, Skip Martin

Synopsis: A tyrannical prince terrorizes the plague-ridden countryside while hiding in his castle, throwing lavish parties for the rich.

Thoughts: Roger Corman and Vincent Price sure made a name for themselves by adapting Edgar Alan Poe stories for American International Pictures in the 1960s and The Masque of the Red Death is one of my favorites.

As he always does, Vincent Price carries this story with his over the top acting and immense screen presence. He absolutely oozes evil as Prince Prospero and seems very comfortable with using everyone around him for his amusement.

Although I really enjoyed The Masque of the Red Death, it was not a successful release for AIP and Corman, which Corman takes full blame for. He’s been quoted as saying, “I was becoming more interested in the Poe films as expressions of the unconscious mind, rather than as pure horror films.” I can totally see that, as this is a bit different than a lot of the previous Poe movies. There is a lot of symbolism and extensive use of color throughout. It is much more artistic than a lot of the previous entries. Corman was also worried that the script for Masque had too many similarities with Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, which it does, but I think Masque stands well on its own.

If you’re a fan of the other Corman Poe movies, this is a no brainer to check out. If you’ve yet to check out some vintage Corman/Price, this is a pretty good place to start, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them that I’ve seen.

Witchfinder General

Witchfinder General / The Conqueror Worm (1968)

Directed By: Michael Reeves

Starring: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer, Rupert Davies, Robert Russell

Synopsis: Matthew Hopkins, a witch hunter, uses his power and influence to spread terror across the countryside.

Thoughts: This is not your typical Vincent Price and AIP collaboration. Roger Corman is nowhere to be found and Vincent Price gives us a different performance than we are used to. Witchfinder General is also a pretty brutal film, packed with scenes of maleficence and torture. It’s a much more somber and mean spirited film than most of the previous AIP productions.

Although Vincent Price is the headliner here, he wasn’t wanted by Director Michael Reeves. In fact, the differences between the two are nearly legendary, as there were many stories of the two of them screaming at each other during filming. It’s not a stretch to say that they truly hated each other during filming. Price was very set in his ways and Reeves knew exactly what he wanted from his lead, and the two were never able to see eye to eye on the set. After the film was released and Price had a chance to see the finished product, he came to the realization of what Reeves wanted, and reached out to him to extend an olive branch. The end result was a much more subdued, and quite frankly, evil performance by Price.

Director Michael Reeves shortly after the release of Witchfinder General. He was suffering greatly from depression and insomnia and died of an overdose of barbiturates (deemed accidental by the coroner), so we never got to see what else he would produce. It’s always a shame when someone is lost at such a young age (he was 25).

Make no mistake, Witchfinder General is a very good movie, but it isn’t a favorite of mine. It is a dark movie, and very brutal for its time. The movie was deemed “overly sadistic” upon its release. The film actually was toned done quite a bit from its early versions of the script. The movie was not a commercial success, but would go on to become cult classic. It’s well worth seeing, but is not a favorite of mine.