Sunday, May 27, 2012

Update on the Theatre Bizarre Contest.

I've been accused of being a little forgetful before. Who the hell am I kidding? I'm about as absent minded as they come. That's why I employ (actually, she's a volunteer) a PA to be my extra brain. You know, now that I think about it, I was told that "watching that trash" would rot my brain. Hmmmm. Anyway, I didn't forget that I was supposed to pick a winner in the Theatre Bizarre contest on Friday. I did, however, forget to tell you why I didn't post the winner. It looks like I'm actually going to be getting ANOTHER copy of the flick, so that means I can give away 2. The only thing is, I don't want to announce the winners until I have both prizes in my grubby little hands. I'm weird like that. I don't trust the "its in the mail" thing.
I'm about to go on vacation, but I'll be back in a week. I'm hoping the other copy will have gotten here by then. If it is, I'll post the winners June 5. If not, then I'll post one winner and do the other when prize #2 gets here. Sorry to keep you all waiting, but I AM giving away twice as many prizes, so hopefully that makes up for it. Now that we've got that taken care of, I'm officially flipping the sign on the door of SOC to CLOSED. Don't get me wrong, I love you guys and all, but the beach is calling my name.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Huge Thanks To My Favorite German Cellmate, Ingo!

If anyone ever needed any more proof that you guys, the Cellmates, are the greatest group of readers a blogger could ever ask for, here's it is. In my review of the German splatter flick Das Komabrutale Duell I mentioned that I had been trying to track down another German flick called Cannibal for a while unsuccessfully. The very next morning, I got a message from a reader in Germany named Ingo offering to send me a copy of the flick. I didn't even know I had any readers in Germany. Anyway, Ingo, who runs his own blog over at http://hellford667.wordpress.com/(Nathan says check it out) is cool as hell and hooked me up. If you get an envelope from Deutschland that looks like that one, you know there's coolness inside... Not only did he send me Cannibal, but he sent me a bunch of flicks, some of which had been on my want list for a good long time. Of course, the original one he offered is the one I'm most jacked about.


He also helped me get 2 patches of one of my favorite bands on earth, German horror-punk powerhouse The Crimson Ghosts, for a whole hell of a lot cheaper than getting the band to ship them directly to me.

They will make a killer addition to the hoodie of doom and every time I see them I will think of the generosity and overall badassery of Deutsch Cellmate Nummer Eins. Thank you Ingo, you're the f'n man.

Own a piece of Galaxy of Terror.

In my opinion, there is no cooler movie collectible than something that actually appeared onscreen. That, added to the fact that it's from one of my favorite movies of all time, makes this a collectible opportunity I'm truly excited about and have to share with you Cellmates. Now you, yes you, can own an authentic piece of Taaffe O'Connell's uniform from Galaxy of Terror. I'm going to go ahead and assume that I don't have to discuss the flick itself. If I thought any of you have missed out on this classic for all this time, I just might cry. Did I mention that I love that movie?
In the first part of the interview I conducted with Taaffe at Days of the Dead (which you can see HERE) she told the story of how, in the middle of filming Galaxy of Terror, she met Roger Corman for the first time. She fell and nearly killed Roger, tearing her pants in the process. She was allowed to keep the damaged pants as a souvenir, and now she's giving 20 lucky fans a chance to own a piece of those pants.
Here's mine...

See? How cool is that? It's numbered limited edition. There's only 20 of these. I'm not sure if they all have the same picture or not. I dig this one of Taaffe and Robert Englund. Each Pic/uniform piece comes in its own protective plastic case and is hand signed and numbered. The best part, you can get one of these for 40 bucks. Yes, just 40 bucks for a piece of drive-in/horror/sci-fi/Corman history. You know you want this.
To get one of your very own, you can email Taaffe herself at industryedge@adelphia.net, or you could send a check or money order to...
Canoco Publishing
11611 Chenault St. Ste. 118
Los Angeles, Ca 90049
I got number 11 of 20. My my calculations, that means there are only 9 of these left. Don't miss out on your opportunity to own this unique collectible. Sorry if I sound like one of those home shopping network jackasses, I'm just psyched that I got one of these insanely cool pieces and I want you guys to have a crack at the remaining ones. Oh, and if you haven't seen Galaxy of Terror, you have homework...

Video: My interview with Nick Principe from Days of the Dead Atlanta.

Here is is folks, the last of my interviews from Days of the Dead. This time I'm sitting down for a smoke break with a new school slasher star with an old school flair, Nick Principe. You might know him as Chromeskull from the Laid to Rest flicks, Damien from the recently released Madison County, or, if you're lucky and have great taste, BLT from The FP. He was a lot of fun to talk to, and was one of the most entertaining guests throughout the weekend. That pratfall at the Men Behind the Mask panel was brilliant. The reason this is the last interview from the con is that this is as far as the battery made it. Like a trooper, it held on until halfway through the last question, then it just couldn't go on. We salute you battery, you held strong throughout scream queens, horror legends, psychos and madmen. Your sacrifice will be, um, recharged. Or something like that. Also, thank you to Leah for spotting that cool spot to sit for the interview. We look like we're looking down from Mount Olympus. Enjoy the interview with Nick Principe, and leave me your feedback in the comments section. Tell me what you thought about all of these DOTD interviews I've posted. It was my first day of shooting interviews, so I'm sure you guys have some suggestions.

The music over the credits is "Back to the Cemetery" by The Other off of their album New Blood. Go check 'em out. Then again, if you don't know about The Other, you're probably not into horror punk in the first place.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Leach


There is a very fine and hotly debated line between horror flick and psychological thriller. I would put Leach firmly on the psychological thriller side. People give me a lot of horror flicks of all kinds to review. This is the first psychological thriller I’ve gotten though, and I’ve always kinda wondered about that. You would think that it’s a genre that would lend itself to low budget independent productions. You don’t need elaborate special effects. You don’t need elaborate sets. If you’re working with limited funds, you’d think it would be more cost effective to make a Cape Fear or Rear Window than a Dawn of the Dead or Friday the 13th. I think the reason they’re more rare is that this type of movie relies on two things, writing and acting. The writing has to be taut and suspenseful, and the performances have to be strong enough to carry the movie. Ironically, script and acting are two things indie flicks often falter on. Well folks, I have proof that it can be done, and done well. Leach is an edge of your seat thriller that features some top-notch acting and a story that had me guessing until the final moments.
The synopsis: Wes Chandler (Jim Dougherty) is an aspiring filmmaker whose chance encounter with police detective Ron Leach (Thomas J. Smith) seems like a golden opportunity at first glance: an opportunity that quickly spirals into something much more harrowing. Desperate to breathe new life into a failing movie he’s producing, Wes approaches Ron for assistance with his dying film. Ron agrees in exchange for Wes’s help with a little known project of his own. While attempting to honor his end of their deal, Wes discovers that Ron is really a depraved cop with sinister motives. Both men are willing to do whatever it takes to win a game of cat and mouse that leads to Wes’s ever increasing struggle to protect his family.
First of all, this is simply a well written movie. The problem is, I’m gonna have to be very careful and pretty vague here since I don’t want to give away a single plot detail, so bear with me. It’s too good to ruin like that. One thing I will say is that it’s not one of those movies where a character turns out not to be who you think they are. I’m glad writer/director John Taylor didn’t go that way with it. While that old chestnut can work beautifully, it’s overused in this type of flick and often it’s a bit of a cheat. It’s much more challenging for a writer to lay all of the characters cards on the table fairly early, clearly tell us their motivations and goals, and then plot an effective cat and mouse game between the two. The relationship between Wes and Ron is perfect. The difference in who has the power in each situation makes for a very realistic interplay as well as a real mystery as to how the tables can be turned.
I found myself genuinely not knowing where this movie was going quite a few times, which is refreshing. I’ve seen all of the clichés a million times. That’s the sign of damn good writing. The problem with a lot of movies like this is that the twists and turns either come out of nowhere on one end of the spectrum, or you can see them coming from a mile away on the other side. Leach is the happy medium. All of the twists catch the audience off guard while still making sense…with a couple of notable exceptions. There were a couple of moments that were real head scratchers. A couple of them are logistical issues, most often having to do with how it could possibly be faster to cut through the woods on foot from a remote location than to drive. The other big issue is that the climactic moment of the flick requires us to believe that an otherwise smart, calculating character is completely unobservant, oblivious, and possibly blind. These are only a couple of missteps in an otherwise outstanding script however.
Taylor also has a firm grip on the art of the callback. Comedies have always used (and overused) this technique, but it seems to be a lost art in drama these days. What I’m talking about is when something that either happened or was said earlier in the movie is brought back up in a dramatic way after you’ve more or less forgotten about it. Once again, I’m not going to give examples, but it’s something I rarely see done well, and here it’s done perfectly. Taylor also knows just when to insert a little comedy too, as there are some very funny moments in this film. A little comedy makes the deadly seriousness of the following scenes hit harder. There are some great lines in this flick. In fact, the dialog is one of the major strengths of the film.
The two main characters are superbly written and portrayed. Wes has a rarity in movies these days, an actual character arc. At first he’s a real jerk, but he’s not evil. Just a jerk. Then he’s confronted with real evil. He’s still a jerk, but we realize that this jerk wants what everyone wants, to protect his loved ones, so we can get behind him. It’s his flaws that make him seem more like a real person and less like a stock movie hero. While he never truly becomes a good guy, he’s a regular dude stuck in a horrific situation, and he can’t trust the authorities to make it better. Most of us can relate to that one way or another. Jim Dougherty is excellent. He gives this character such humanity that, despite the douchebaggery we see from him at times, we can still root for him. As he struggles with what to do next, we can read his inner turmoil and his concern for his family in his eyes and all over his face. He has a great everyman quality. He’s not a badass, he’s a regular guy who has been pushed to his limits. He’s scared, and Dougherty has the good sense and the balls to play it that way when the temptation would be to go tough guy with it. It’s a lot more effective the way he did it.
On the other side of the coin is Thomas J Smith as Ron Leach. My god is this guy sleazy. It might as well be dripping off of him. Thomas, don’t take this personally, but you are a magnificent scumbag. That performance made my skin crawl. Bravo. I already don’t like cops much, but a slimeball like this wielding the power of the system is way scarier than any zombie, vampire, slasher, or monster you can throw at me. People like this actually exist. The only drawback is that maybe Thomas did just a little too good of a job. I can’t imagine Ron going anywhere and talking to anyone without giving them the creeps. A little more of a difference between “in public” Ron and “full on evil” Ron might have been nice. Then maybe Ron’s wife’s trusting and flirtatious reaction to him would have been more believable. Actually, I’ve seen women fall for WAY less veiled bullshit before, so nevermind. She was a little too bitchy to be all that sympathetic anyway. Even better than the fact that Dougherty and Smith are so good on their own is how good their onscreen chemistry is. The scenes between these two are straight up electric.
Disclaimer: because I’m being vague to avoid spoilers, this paragraph is gonna sound like a much bigger deal than it actually is. One thing that I could see being a little controversial is the film’s treatment of children. Without giving anything away, children are harmed in this story. Nothing is actually shown, but some things do happen that indicate that these children are going to be harmed. A lot of movies are squeamish about that kind of stuff. People are weird about kids getting hurt onscreen. Don’t get the wrong idea, we’re not talking Serbian Film here or anything, but some parents might have been reluctant to let their kids be involved. It’s fairly intense. There are people, even though it’s obvious that nothing bad happened to these young actors and actresses, who would say these things shouldn’t be done. I say precisely the opposite. These scenes add some extra punch to the proceedings, and really ramp up the stakes. Well done. I applaud the bravery of these young actors and the filmmakers for going there without actually going there.
Random Thought #1 – Where the hell did they film the jail scenes? It looks like a freakin’ medieval dungeon. Jeez, remind me never to jaywalk in Indiana!
Random Thought #2 – I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the shaky, bouncy shot of Wes and his daughter coming out of the school looked awful. The rest of the flick looked so good that, unfortunately, that one shot stood out.
Random Thought #3 – POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT – I was surprised to see an actual car crash in a flick that reportedly cost $20,000. That added a LOT of production value. Good call.
Random Thought #4 – It doesn’t matter what day or time, if someone walks into a church to pray or talk to the preacher in any movie, someone is there playing the organ. Do churches just pay someone to play 24/7 just in case?
Random Thought #5 – The last shot of the film is brilliant!
Leach is something you don’t normally see in independent film, a well written, well directed, and extremely well acted thriller that puts the screws to the viewer and never stops tightening them. It’s genuinely suspenseful in a…dare I say it…Hitchcockian way. In fact, the plot kinda reminds me of a variation on Strangers on a Train. I can’t overstate how well crafted this story is (aside from a handful of major logic jumps), or how talented the two leads are. Leach definitely does not suck. Oh come on, I couldn’t resist that one. THIS is the film’s website by the way. One and a half severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

(Early) Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Bonanza: The Pact

This weekend's gonna be busy. The ol' SOC is going on vacation next week, and I gotta get a lot of stuff squared away before I go, so I'm doing the Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Bonanza a little early. Actually, I just have one flick to share this week. It's called The Pact, brought to you by the good folks at IFC Midnight. Here's the lowdown...
Synopsis: After their mother passes away, sisters Nicole and Annie reluctantly return to their childhood home to pay their last respects. While staying overnight in the house, the sisters sense a mysterious presence in their midst: noises startling them in the night, objects moving about, a fallen picture of an unknown woman posed next to their mother. Annie begins experiencing a series of intense and disturbing dreams – visions that lead her to uncover something terrible about her mother’s past that is finally revealing itself.
Wanna see a clip? Sure ya do. Go HERE to see it.
You can also get more info on the flick HERE.
The Pact is directed by Nicholas McCarthy and stars Caity Lotz, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Sam Ball, Mark Steger, Dakota Bright, Agnes Bruckner, and Casper Van Dien. It will be available Nationwide on IFC Midnight Cable VOD and Digital Outlets (SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Zune, Playstation Unlimited) on May 25th. In theaters July 6, 2012.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Area 407

Recently on the Son of Celluloid facebook page, I made the statement that until Paranormal Activity 4 comes out, I will not watch or review any found footage ghost movies. I believe that everything that can be done with that particular subgenre has been done. Repeatedly. I’m just sick as hell of them. Then, I heard about Area 407. It’s a FFF (which means found footage flick for those of you who are new ‘round these parts) with dinosaurs. Ok, that’s original, I’d love to check it out. Dinosaurs rule! Well folks, after watching this flick, I’m amending my statement. Until PA4 is released I intend to not watch any more FFFs at all. That’s right, I’m done with found footage. If you’re thinking about sending me a screener of your latest found footage opus, first ask yourself “did I make something absolutely earth-shattering?” If not, don’t bother. So, Area 407, what have you got for us?

First the synopsis: “After taking off on a flight from New York to Los Angeles on New Years Eve, the passengers of Flight 37A are soon sent into shock and alarm as the plane experiences severe turbulence. The relentless weather attack causes panic and terror amongst the passengers until the plane ultimately crashes in a remote government-testing reserve, AREA 407. Through footage captured by two teenage sisters, the accident and crash lead to further events that should not be viewed by the faint of heart. As they continue to film, it becomes apparent that the remaining survivors of Flight 37A may not survive the night.”

Before we talk about the actual movie, lets talk about trailers for a minute. Class, what is a movie trailer? That’s right, it’s a tease to make you want to see the movie. You guys have been studying. Basically, a trailer is saying “So, you think this stuff’s cool? Well, this is the free stuff. You should pay to see the rest of the cool stuff that we’re not showing you.” That’s the basic understanding between viewer and trailer. This is going to be a spoiler, which I normally hate doing, but in this case I think I’m doing you a favor. Ready? Ok, here it goes…every shot of the dinosaurs that is in this movie, EVERY SINGLE ONE, is in the trailer. If you watch it, you have seen every iota of dinosaur footage there is. Even the film ending money shot. It’s in there. This movie is sold on the promise of dinosaurs. There’s a huge freakin’ dinosaur eye on the poster. I was expecting what I saw in the trailer to be a taste of what I was to see. Instead, that was all I saw. That’s what’s known as a bait and switch. That’s ripping the audience off. Had they given us one fleeting dino-shot in the trailer and not the money shot, it still would have been a huge let down, but it would at least be playing fair with the viewer. I didn’t come for the shaky cam, I came for the dinos, and that was a damn dirty trick. Shame on you.

Actually, the fact that we never saw the dinos aside from the 10 seconds in the trailer could have something to do with the way this thing is shot. We all expect shaky cam in a FFF. Hell, aside from POV shots in regular movies, it’s the only time shaky cam is acceptable. Here, the little girl filming swings that camera around like a booger that she can’t get off her finger. If Blair Witch made you seasick, have your Dramamine ready before you hit play on this one. We also expect whoever is holding the camera to act illogically and unrealistically in a FFF. That’s kindof a necessity, since rational people would throw the camera down and run, but then you don’t have much of a movie now do you? Here, though, it gets taken to a new level. The characters spend a ridiculous amount of time pointing at weird noises off in the distance or seeing something moving and screaming “What is THAT!” Everyone’s looking. The little girl with the camera, however, is still staring at the other survivors. I want to see what they’re looking at. Why is the one with the camera the only one not looking in that direction? Doesn’t she want to know what’s out there too? When someone does get attacked, the cameragirl seems to be doing everything in her power to point the camera anywhere but at the action. She will intentionally move from an angle where we might actually see something for once to one where our view is blocked just as anything remotely interesting begins. This happens multiple times. If you care enough about this footage that you’re going to risk your life to get it, wouldn’t you do your damnedest to get as much of the action on screen as possible? Apparently not this annoying little scamp. I won’t go into how annoying some of the rest of the cast is, particularly Charlie.

The flick isn’t all bad though. Actually, everything up to the plane crash is handled quite well. We get a good idea of who all the characters are though their interactions on the plane. It’s not in depth character building, but it certainly does the trick. Unfortunately that’s as far as most character’s development really goes. That’s not to say that there aren’t good characters. There are actually two that I rather enjoyed. Samantha Sloyan is excellent as Lois the flight attendant. The way she tries to keep everything together after the crash is an interesting play on what flight attendants are trained to do in that situation, and watching her fight to keep her composure is fascinating. Great performance. The other bright spot is James Lyons as Jimmy. Jimmy is a likable guy, an ex combat journalist in Afghanistan and Iraq, and ends up playing the “hero type” quite effectively. The plane crash itself is handled very well. That moment was a study in making a low budget work for you. That plane crash, without having to have expensive special effects, was as realistically portrayed as any I’ve seen. That was awesome.

As far back as Blair Witch, one of the criticisms I’ve heard people throw around about FFFs is that “nothing happened in that movie.” Never before has that been truer than in Area 407. The problem is, they had so many interesting ways they could have gone with it. The most obvious is, well, dinosaurs. With more dino action, this could have been a lot of fun. That’s the hook for this movie, and if they would have delivered, the other faults could have been easily forgiven. That, of course, was probably a budgetary issue. Maybe they just should have dropped the dino angle altogether and done something they could afford to do right. Lets say, however, that you keep the dino angle. There’s other stuff you can do to make the flick more interesting. You have a character that is a former combat photographer. Why the hell is he not the one with the camera? That’s an interesting angle that I don’t think has been used before. How about digging a little into why there’s a military area housing dinosaurs in the first place? That could have been seriously intriguing. Instead of any of those, all that happens from that excellent plane crash onward is running, yelling, and crying in the dark, along with characters fighting amongst themselves, more running, yelling, and crying in the dark, repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is one of those films with a killer premise that just falls flat. There isn’t any suspense, there’s precious little action, and there’s even less freakin’ dinosaurs. I’m guessing the end was supposed to be some kind of twist. If so it was both badly telegraphed and given away in the trailer. I had such high hopes for this flick. I was hoping it would prove me wrong and show me that there are still things left to do with the FFF gimmick. Instead it just put the final nail in the coffin of my patience with this played out subgenre. IFC distributes some great films normally. Someone must have been asleep on the job when they picked this one up. One severed thumb down. The first twenty minutes are pretty damn good, so Nathan says check that part out. Then go watch Carnosaur instead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: The Girl In Room 2A


Ah, 70’s Italian Horror. We love you for your ridiculous traits as much as the sublime ones. Italian gothic horror had more or less died out by the 70’s, and the zombie and cannibal crazes, while beginning in the late 70’s, wouldn’t hit their strides until the early 80’s. This left giallo films to dominate spaghetti terror in the 70’s. For those unfamiliar with these flicks, they’re a mixture of mystery thriller and slasher flick. They have suspense and intrigue, but also throw in gore and gratuitous nudity. They also have fun titles like Strip Nude For Your Killer, Don’t Torture a Duckling, and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. There are some well-known masterpieces of Giallo, mainly the works of Argento, Fulci, Martino, Bava (both Mario and Lamberto) and Lenzi. Some of the lesser-known examples, however, are just as good and even more off the wall. One giallo flick that I was not aware of until recently that I dug a lot is The Girl in Room 2A.
Poor Margaret just can’t catch a break. First she was falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. Then, when she gets out, she winds up in a boarding house with a mysterious secret. She has an unexplained recurring bloodstain on her bedroom floor, she keeps having visions of a guy in a red and black Justice League reject costume tormenting her, and it seems that young ladies have been disappearing. The girls who have occupied her room (betcha can’t guess which one it is) certainly haven’t fared very well. They’ve fallen victim to a sadistic cult who believes that they must cleanse these wicked girls of their sins through torture, and now they’ve set their eyes on our ex-con heroine. With the help of her new beau Jack, Margaret sets out to find out the truth bout this sect, while trying not to become their latest sacrifice.
First of all, this flick has all of those ridiculous traits I was talking about. The ones that are present in virtually every movie of this type. You know, all those hallmarks that we all love so much and, to some extent, watch these flicks for. You do love these flicks right? Of course you do. Everybody does. Anyway, it’s got the horrible dubbing that provides some unintentional comedy. It’s got those incredibly melodramatic crash-zooms. Some of these flicks have brilliant scores and some have bizarre, wacky scores. This one falls firmly in the bizarre and wacky category. Some scenes have very suspenseful music that’s actually really good. Then suddenly it will change to porn-esque music or some upbeat Saturday morning cartoon chase sequence music.
What about the nudity and gore you ask? There’s nudity and gore here for you. Was 1970’s Italy some kind of magical land where every single woman was gorgeous? Almost without fail the women in these flicks are beautiful. Plus, I like that this was in the pre-silicone and botox days, so the women look more natural. A few of the ladies in this flick decide to show of those natural bodies. Our main couple also has a love scene featuring the most awesomely awkward kissing I think I’ve ever seen. The violence is there too. It may be a little subdued when compared to something like Suspiria or Twitch of the Death Nerve, but we do get an impalement, a hanging, some hand burning, a sword to the face and neck, and other assorted nastiness in all of its Crayola-red colored bloody glory. We also get some S&M thrown in for good measure, with the cult’s victims being tied up, stripped and whipped. Of course, you’re not the type that would enjoy something like that. You’re above that kind of base cheap thrills. Sure you are.
When it comes to the story, this one gets it right. The actual plot isn’t always a strong point in giallo flicks, but The Girl in Room 2A is solid. For the first two thirds of the movie, it manages to maintain some mystery around the bizarre happenings in the boarding house. It manages to build some decent tension too. Once the big reveal is made, it keeps the pace brisk enough to drive the narrative along without sacrificing a satisfying ending. While it is a fairly outlandish premise, this flick, as opposed to a lot of giallo flicks, makes sense. It avoids a lot of the silliness often involved in the genre. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. The main torturer looks about as silly as they come. I guess he could be menacing in the right context, but I laughed my ass off whenever I saw him. He looks like a comic book character. Actually, trade his black and red pajamas for a tux and he’d look exactly like The Red Hood from Batman.










See?
Mondo Macabro, who will always have a special place in my heart for releasing Aludarda, put this one out. As usual, they did a hell of a job on the DVD. The transfer looks great, being crisp and clean while still maintaining that “40 year old film patina” charm. As far as special features go, we get a video interview with star Daniela Giordano, the US theatrical trailer, a pretty extensive written history of the film, and previews for other Mondo Macabro releases. To me special features are like money or chocolate, there’s no such thing as enough, but this is a very nice package. It’s available from their website (http://www.mondomacabrodvd.com/).
I was surprised to find out that while the flick was made in Italy, the director was American. That’s right, William Rose was from New York. That caught me off guard because he had the Giallo formula and the atmosphere of Italian horror down pat. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I’m honestly dumbfounded that I’d never heard of it before now. If you don’t dig Giallo, or Italian horror in general, The Girl in Room 2A isn’t going to change your mind. If, like me, you love everything about the “yellow flicks” (look it up if you don’t know), then this one will surely satisfy. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Jamboree: Dear God No!

I know I've talked about this before, when I broke the news about the DVD release, but now we have an official press release about the June 5 release of Dear God No on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also check out their full page ad in Fangoria and Rue Morgue, featuring quotes from the cream of the crop of independent horror reviewers, including yours truly. This press release also contains some info about what we can expect in future releases from Big World Pictures...

Big World Pictures to release “DEAR GOD NO!” DVD On June 5th
ATLANTA – May 17, 2012 – Independent genre label Big World Pictures has announced their first release will be the award winning 70s drive-in tribute DEAR GOD NO! arriving on DVD June 5th, with an arsenal of bonus features that include:
· Anamorphic 16:9 transfer from Super 16mm Negative
· Theatrical Trailer
· Behind the Scenes
· Zombie Apocalypse Canadian Theatrical Promo
· Torture Porn Parody Promo for The South Alabama Film Festival
· Commentary with writer/director James Bickert & composer Richard Davis
· Commentary with actors Jett Bryant, Madeline Brumby and Shane Morton
· Still gallery & poster art slideshow from the set, theatrical screenings and film festivals
· Six hidden Easter eggs
Hailed as an “unapologetic homage to classic grindhouse cinema” by DailyGrindHouse.com, DEAR GOD NO! was shot on Super 16MM film, using equipment from the era, to ensure an authentic throwback to 70’s exploitation films. The film follows outlaw motorcycle gang The Impalers through a murder spree that ends in a home invasion gone terribly wrong when they attack two graduate students, a disgraced Anthropologist and his teenage daughter. A demonic creature in the woods, a deadly secret in the basement, rivers of blood and abundant nudity add to the surprises that are sure to thrill genre fans. Dear God No! features original music by The 45's, The Biters, The Booze and poster/DVD artwork by The Dude Designs.
DEAR GOD NO! was released theatrically in 2011 to rave reviews from horror enthusiasts and critics as well as festivals, taking home honors that include:
- Winner Best Exploitation Film – Arizona Underground Film Festival 2011, Tucson, Ariz.
- Winner Best Exploitation Film – Pollygrind 2011, Las Vegas, Nev.
- Winner Audience Award Best Feature Film – Pollygrind 2011, Las Vegas, Nev.
- Winner Audience Award Best Feature Film – Corpsedance International Horror Film Festival 2011, Raleigh, N.C.
- Winner Audience Award Best Feature Film – Zinema Zombiefest 2011, Bogota, Colombia
DEAR GOD NO! is Big World Pictures’ signature launching title for a series of films currently in pre-production appealing to nostalgic collectors yearning to see fun genre trash shot on film.
“We’re looking to produce, unearth and distribute a specific type of film that reminds us of the wonderful American drive-ins of the 70s and 80s. DEAR GOD NO! is the perfect piece of cinema to kick start this venture and usher in a wave of throwback films reminiscent of those we would have seen in a triple feature under the stars with our best girl on a hot summer night,” says Founder James Bickert.
Big World Pictures is currently in pre-production for the forthcoming FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS and REBEL HELL. The company plans to continue shooting on film with vintage cameras and providing the outrageous entertainment audiences loved from DEAR GOD NO!
“We’re trying to avoid the zombie and paranormal craze and offer audiences an alternative reel of fun retro flicks. We call it suds cinema that leads to a party breaking out with your friends. We’ll be diving into Hicksploitation, Girl Gangs and bringing back the monster suit. Our mission is to make the films we always wanted to see with no compromises and hope they find an audience.”
Preorder the DEAR GOD NO! DVD today on Amazon.com and visit www.deargodnomovie.com for film reviews and additional details.

Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Jamboree: Veil

This one's still fairly early in the process, it's in post production, and they're planning to drop the Veil (get it?) in Fall 2012, but I say we start the buzz early. Lets see, it's about a guy who is afraid of marriage, apparently has terrible taste in women, is thinking with the wrong head and decides to hook up with a mysterious chick with a hidden dark side that just might end up being his demise. Um, is this movie about me? Aside from the premise ripped from the pages of my life, the other reason I'm psyched about this one is that my homegirl, the Head Hauntress herself, Elizabeth Katheryn Gray, is the co-Executive Producer. Go EKG!
Here's the Synopsis... - The temptation to have a one night stand leads a man to a distant town and a woman with a dark agenda. When he doesn’t return, if falls upon his black sheep sister to uncover the truth about what happened.
...
and the details. - Ten Sundays Productions (Cannibal Cheerleader Camp, Boxing Day) is proud to present the feature horror film Veil.
The film stars Joseph Durbin (Deadlands 2), Devon Marie Brookshire (Ninjas vs. Vampires), Josh Davidson (Ghosts Don’t Exist), Kendra
North (Witch’s Brew), and newcomer Meghan Nelson.
The film is written & directed by Paul Busetti an
d produced by Busetti along with Chris Kiros (Zombthology) and Josh Davidson (Dead iSland). Executive Produced by Leo Curbelo and Elizabeth Katheryn Gray.
Filming took place over the winter on location in Virginia & Maryland. Veil is currently in postproduction and is slated for a fall 2012 release.

You want stills? I got your stills...

For more info you can check out Ten Sundays Production's page HERE and don't forget to follow the flick's official facebook page HERE to stay up to date on all of the happenings surrounding Veil.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Nazis at the Center of the Earth

If you’re a horror fan worth your salt, you know all about the preeminent shlock flick factory known as The Asylum. You probably have a strong opinion of them too. This opinion usually correlates with how much of a film snob you are. Personally, I love The Asylum. They’ve been churning out mockbusters, Syfy channel staples, and direct to DVD gold for a while now, and they’ve provided me with hours upon hours of entertainment. They’ve also made me want to throw the remote through the TV a time or two, but we won’t go into that. I tell you about my love for them because I’m about to make a bold statement, Nazis at the Center of the Earth is my favorite Asylum movie of all time. That’s saying something. This is the epitome of what I hope for when I pop in one of these flicks. It’s better than Mega-Piranha. It’s better than Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill. It’s better than Death Racers, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and King of the Ants. Hell, it’s even better than Freakshow, which was my previous favorite. I haven’t seen 2 Headed Shark Attack yet, but I can’t imagine it trumping Nazis at the Center of the Earth. This movie is everything a great b-flick should be.

As if the title doesn’t spell it out for you, here’s the synopsis: Researchers in Antarctica are abducted by a team of masked storm troopers. They are dragged deep underground to a hidden continent in the center of the earth. Here Nazi survivors, their bodies a horrifying patchwork of decaying and regenerated flesh, are planning for the revival of the Third Reich.

In one of the special features director Joseph Lawson says that Nazis is actually a mixture of 4 different genres. While I would only say 3, it is true that the film can really be divided into distinct sections. This works for a couple of reasons. For one, it allows them to throw every hair brained, whacked out, crazy ass idea that they could come up with into this movie. It definitely has an “everything but the kitchen sink” vibe, but it all fits strangely together. There’s more than enough “WTF” here for multiple flicks.

I also think the genre shifts were a great idea in that they keep you from expecting what’s coming next. We start off as an action/adventure flick. There’s a killer WWII battle scene, and then we shift to Antarctica, where a group of scientists and doctors are doing research. After two of them are abducted, a rescue team discovers a huge ice cave that leads to the fabled land of Agarta. After that rollicking start, this first part slows down a bit to establish the characters.

Then, when they are all captured by the Nazis, things get horrific REAL quick, and we’re not ready for what’s coming. This middle section is dark, especially for an Asylum flick. It’s Nazis doing human experiments, so we know it’s not gonna be happy funtime, but this has some really effective, and pretty gnarly, horror sequences. We have multiple face removals, a Nazi zombie shower gang rape, brains torn from still living skulls, rotting flesh, surgery with no anesthesia (feel the knife pierce you intensely), nasty infections, etc. Hell, there’s a scene where Jake Busey’s character performs a forced abortion on his own baby momma to harvest the stem cells. That’s hardcore! The gore is quite good, and the violence has a definite grittiness to it. Hell, if there were more gratuitous nudity (we do get some boobs courtesy of Maria Pallas), I would almost expect to see Ilsa step out of the shadows. I like this darker approach Asylum. Keep it up.

Then, 56 minutes in, something happens. Something glorious happens. Something so off the wall insane happens that we rocket directly into the gonzo crazy territory that most people associate more with these guys. The beauty is that there’s no way you can see it coming. After the tone of the last 45 minutes or so, this comes out of left field and takes the film in a completely different direction. From here on out you’re just on a thrill ride hanging on for dear life. There’s a Nazi flying saucer for crying out loud, and that’s not the craziest thing here. Let me repeat that; a Nazi flying saucer is NOT the craziest thing you’ll see in this flick. That’s not a spoiler either, by the way. It’s on the back cover. Anyway, I’m not going to say what the big reveal is, but it’s one of the best “did they really just go there?” moments in a long time. Trust me.

As for the actual filmmaking, this is one of the stronger Asylum features. The production value is outstanding, and it’s hard to believe this film was made for under $200,000. Sure, some of the CGI is freaking terrible, but I expected that. It’s as much a part of the charm of these flicks as bad rubber suits are for 50’s monster flicks, and I love those too. As I mentioned earlier, the gore was excellent. Joseph Lawson shows that he’s competent in his maiden voyage in the director’s chair. With a few exceptions (yes, you, the one with the baseball) the cast did a good job. Some of the strongest performances came from Jake Busey, Dominique Swain, and Lilan Bowden. The true tour de force performance in Nazis, however, is given by Christopher K. Johnson, who portrays the infamous butcher, the angel of death himself, Dr. Josef Mengele. He plays the sadistic surgeon of demise, sadist of the noblest blood in a way that makes him unnervingly calm yet menacing and creepy as hell. He’s exactly what I would imagine a Nazi doctor would be like.

This flick is damn close to being the perfect B movie. It’s a return to the Nazisploitation genre, which I love, albeit less sleazy and more bizarre than the last time we saw it in the 70’s. It’s got gore, gratuitous nudity, gunplay, flying saucers, lost worlds, and even r… woah, I almost said it. You have no idea how hard it was to review this flick and not spoil the big surprise. I absolutely loved Nazis at the Center of the Earth. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out. Heil Asylum!

Review: The Wicker Tree

This review first appeared at filmarcade.net

I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. LOVE it! That puts me in the minority. A lot of people hate Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. None other than the imminent Roger Ebert, legendary movie critic and hater of all that is awesome in the horror genre, gave it a one star review back in 1986, saying “it doesn't have the terror of the original, the desire to be taken seriously. It's a geek show.” Why did so many people review it so harshly in 1986, and why do so many people hate on it now? It’s because they didn’t get it. They didn’t recognize the brilliance of Tobe Hooper’s approach to the sequel. They all wanted more of the same. Tobe Hooper was smart enough to know that he had captured lightning in a bottle. The perfect storm of the people, time, place, and situation had created a magic that could not be replicated. Therefore he decided to keep the features that marked it as a TCM movie, and shift the tone to do something completely different. He couldn’t match the terror, so why not go for a satire? Why not keep the trappings of a horror flick, but have a little fun with it? Audiences have never reacted well when a franchise lightens its tone, with maybe the exception of Bride of Chucky. I see that confused look on your faces. You’re asking why the hell I’m going on about Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when I’m supposed to be reviewing The Wicker Tree. Well, it’s because The Wicker Tree is getting a cold response from reviewers and viewers alike, and it’s for the exact same reason, they can’t handle that it’s a different type of movie than its classic predecessor.
Of course it’s inevitable that The Wicker Tree will draw comparisons to The Wicker Man. Everyone loves The Wicker Man. Hell, even elitist film snobs who turn up their noses at horror movies dig that one. The comparison is especially strong considering that writer/director Robin Hardy has returned for this follow up. Like Hooper, Hardy realized that it just wasn’t quite possible to make that same magic again almost 40 years later, so he didn’t try. One of the major reasons is the fact that neo-paganism has become so mainstream since “Man” was released that only the most ridiculously pious still find it threatening. It would have been foolish to try conjuring up the same cinematic experience, and he smartly took it in a different direction. It follows the same basic storyline, but with notable differences. This time a young couple from Texas; a country starlet turned bible thumping gospel singer and her cowpoke fiancé, go to Scotland to spread the gospel. Their message does not exactly receive a warm welcome from the locals, but they themselves do; being invited to be the “May Queen” and “Laddie” in their May Day celebration. They see it as a chance to connect with the locals and spread the word of God. The villagers have other ideas.
Where it differs is in the overall tone of the film. In the first film, our “hero” arrives in a village, which is subtly bizarre in its pagan ways. The uneasy feeling and psychological tension build and build as we wonder exactly what is going on in this place. The screw tightens and tightens all the way up to the iconic conclusion. It’s a pretty safe assumption that if you’re enough of a horror fan to watch The Wicker Tree then you’re enough of a horror fan to have seen The Wicker Man, so you already know the endgame here. From the moment our couple arrives, we know that they’re doomed. In this way it’s not a psychological horror flick built around suspense like the first one. It’s actually structured more like a slasher movie in that we already know where this is heading, the point is to revel in how we get our victims there.
One of the effects of this shift in dramatic structure is the different role of the “heroes.” In “Man” the sergeant is a tragic character. He is a good man, and is just as devout in his beliefs as the pagan villagers are in theirs. We respect him even though we might not agree with him. Following his demise is harrowing. In “Tree,” the missionary couple is so unlikable and obnoxious that we’re rooting for them to die. They are a broad caricature of fundamentalist Christianity. They are condescending without even knowing it, not overly bright, abrasive, condescending, and laughably naïve. Instead of being an indictment of religion in general like “Man,” this one is less ambiguous as to who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” Sure, the pagans are murderers, but they’re infinitely more likable than the Christians. Steve, the cowboy, is a little more likable than Beth, but they both have little redeeming value. One thing I will say for the characters, they’re realistic. Being a preachers kid, I’ve seen 2 kinds of Christians. There are the believers who know why they believe. More power to them. Then there are the brainwashed god-zombies who just regurgitate dogma. Beth and Steve were EXACTLY like these folks are in real life. They were both written very accurately by Hardy and played just as accurately by Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett. I may be a little biased there, but I couldn’t wait for them to get what was coming to them.
One aspect of the flick that I couldn’t really get behind was its villain. Graham McTavish plays Sir Lachlan Morrison, the leader of the town and head of a local nuclear power plant. McTavish is certainly no Christopher Lee, who the role was originally written for, but he does a good enough job. Speaking of Christopher Lee, I know this movie virtually couldn’t have been done without an appearance by His Lordship, but the way they got that cameo in there sure felt forced. Anyway, my issue isn’t with the performance, but the character himself. Lord Summerisle was a subtle, chilling menace whose “evilness” could be debated. Sir Morrison, on the other hand, I almost expected to don a cape and top hat before tying Beth to some train tracks. He even, at one point, says that he’s “like Monty Burns from The Simpsons.” IN THOSE WORDS! That’s about as subtle as a kick in the balls. While the cartoonish evilness of Morrison and his female counterpart provide for a couple of entertaining moments, it’s one aspect of the story that I think would have worked better with a less ham fisted approach. Speaking of ham fisted, the “losing the purity ring” bit was contrived as hell.
I’ve called The Wicker Tree out on a couple of things, but make no mistake; I enjoyed this one. It has a lot going for it. I really want the soundtrack. Yes, I’d have to skip past a few god awful country ditties, but the score is wonderful and there are some excellent folk songs that we got a taste of in the flick that I would like to hear complete versions of. As far as acting goes, the best performance was definitely by Honeysuckle Weeks as Lolly. Damn she was good. This is the first time I’ve seen her, and I must say that if she’s always this good, the British beauty has a bright future ahead of her. A lot of the townsfolk are great in their small but memorable parts. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. There are some good one-liners strewn about. The final moment of the film is as stereotypically “Brit Horror” as it gets, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. It was like a band covering a well-known song at the end of their set and leaving the audience with a smile.
It’s going to be tough to talk about my favorite moment in the flick without spoiling major plot points. Lets see if I can do it. Growing up Southern Baptist, I am very familiar with the hymn “Power in the Blood.” There’s a point where the villagers play along when our hapless but well meaning duo lead the villagers in a singalong of that particular hymn. Being such a familiar song to me, I caught a little bit of a foreboding feeling from the way they looked at each other during the song, but I didn’t fully realize what was coming. There is a major scene near the film’s climax when that song is turned on its ear, and the effect is absolutely brilliant. It’s kinda chilling actually. I’m not sure if it would play with as much impact to those who didn’t grow up with the song, but I was absolutely blown away. It literally gave me goosebumps in that “holy hell, this scene is amazing” way.
I started out this review drawing a parallel between The Wicker Tree and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. This is not to say that this film reaches the level of brilliance that TCM 2 does. TCM 2 is on my top ten of all time, whereas it will have to be a slow year for this to make my top 10 of 2012. What I was saying is that, like TCM 2, you probably won’t dig it if you’re expecting it to live up to its precursor. If you recognize it as a completely different animal and judge it on its own merits, you’ll find a very enjoyable flick. It’s much better than its icy reception from the critics would have you believe. It’s like a pizza with weird toppings; familiar enough to be comfort food but different enough to provide a fresh experience. Ok, it’s time to wrap this up before these comparisons get any more ridiculous. One severed thumb up. Nathan says check it out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Giveaway: Who wants a free copy of The Theatre Bizarre?


Hey guys, it’s giveaway time! This time around it’s for a brand spankin’ new DVD of the horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre. I’m going to have a review of it up within the next few days, but for the moment I’ll just say that it’s damn good. You see, I have 2 copies of this flick. I was sent one to review, and then I won another copy. Now I’m passing my good luck on to you. Who doesn’t love free movies?

Here’s the way this is gonna work. I usually do random drawings, but this time I’m not going to be objective or random at all. Nope. It’s my blog, and I do what I want! Anyway, to win, leave a comment telling me why I should give it to you. Why do you deserve to win? Make logical arguments. Go on an emotionally charged tirade. Make me laugh. Tell me a sob story. Try to guilt or blackmail me into it. Hell, I’m not above bribery, so feel free to offer goods, services, cash, prizes, sexual favors, home cooked meals, whatever. Tell me whatever you think will make me choose you, and make it good. On Friday, May 25th, I will look at all of the responses and whoever makes the most compelling argument as to why they should be the winner will get the DVD. Pretty simple, huh? Good luck folks.

AMENDMENT: I forgot to say "put your name and email address in the comment" so, um, yeah...do that too.
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