Thursday, November 30, 2006

Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Slumber Party Massacre is a fun popcorn flick with a premise that is straightforward, simple and very entertaining. A murderous maniac escapes from a mental institution and from his crazy eyes we can tell that all he wants to do is kill kill kill! He soon spies high school basketball player Trish and her sexy teammates. Trish is having a slumber party later that night while her parents are out of town. She invites over all the girls on the team, except for newbie Valerie (who happens to live next door to Trish). Perfect! Now Mr. Killer man needs to just go to one place to get his kill on...

The party starts and the girls begin smoking weed, chugging a few beers and losing some clothes. The girls get scared by their boyfriends playing a trick on them and the creepy guy next door. Meanwhile, Val is home alone with her boy crazy, 13-year old little sister, staring wistfully over at Trish's house. After the pizza delivery boy drops dead on Trish's doorstep, the girls know something isn't right...

From here on out it's all about the killer running after the girls with a large power drill while the girls scream and try to hide. Valerie and her little sister get involved after they hear some funny noises next door, as does the girls' coach who gets a call from Trish and her gal pals before the phone line goes dead.

This movie is not to be taken's got a high body count, some gory death scenes, some funny dialogue and more silly jump scares than you can shake a stick at!! It also features plenty of boobs for those interested out there...

An interesting aspect of this movie is that it was both penned and directed by women. They provide few feminist views in this film, though, as most of the female cast bares their breasts, but it is interesting that the killer's weapon of choice is a drill, which is subsequently "castrated" at the end of the film. It would have been a lot more interesting (for me anyway) had they used a more feminist slant, but all-in-all this is just a fun slasher flick.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rabid (1977)

If you've ever watched a David Cronenberg film, you know it usually deals with a horrific transformation of the human body and psyche (see The Brood, The Fly, Shivers, Videodrome, Scanners, etc.). I love Cronenberg's "thinking horror" that has a deeper meaning that most horror films.

Rabid stars Marilyn Chambers, probably most famous for her porn career, as Rose. Rose and her boyfriend get into a nasty motorcycle accident that leaves her severely burned. She is cared for at a nearby plastic surgery hospital, where she is treated with an experimental skin graph procedure. Upon waking, she has completely recovered but realizes she has an incredible appetite for human blood! She kills her victims with a sharp stinger that protrudes from her armpit. Her victims don't stay down for long, and soon they are walking around thirsting for blood as well. They kill their victims the old-fashioned, zombie way - by biting them! Soon, medical officials are declaring an epidemic of a new strain of rabies. Martial law is declared and those who have been vaccinated are given ID tags, while those without are manhandled and/or killed by the military. All the while, Rose must come to terms with the fact that she is the original carrier of the disease.

Upon first viewing, I took Rabid as a critique of the government/authority in an emergency situation, a critique on our fear of each other and a look at the "monstrous feminine" or the fear of women. Also, I think Cronenberg was trying to point out that it is hard to trust anyone, even yourself. The feeling of panic and paranoia that sets in after the epidemic begins was very realistic - there was some serious tension going on as people in the film tried to escape the rabies outbreak. Cronenberg doesn't shy away from the gore or violence either - one of my favorite scenes (for its social commentary alone) was a military officer mistakenly gunning down a Santa Claus in the mall.

Don't let the "deeper meaning" fool you, though. This movie is still entertaining, though it does get a little slow in parts. The actors do a pretty good job, and I was surprised to learn that this was a low-budget film. Bleak, grim and disturbing, Rabid is a deeper and more meaningful film than your usual blood 'n' guts, slash 'em up fest.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Abominable (2006)

With all the great reviews this flick has been getting, I had to check it out for myself. For an independent creature feature, Abominable succeeds in telling a suspenseful Bigfoot story with enough humor, gore and T 'n' A to keep most horror fans happy.

After a tragic climbing accident that killed his wife and left him in a wheelchair, Preston Rogers returns to his isolated cabin retreat with his physical therapist, Otis (a real asshole), to hopefully help heal his emotional wounds. As soon as they are barely settled in, Otis runs back into town to fetch Preston his soy milk. While he is gone, Preston is trapped inside the house, only able to gaze out the windows. Soon, a group of giggly girls shows up for a fun weekend in the adjacent cabin. While Preston is looking outside through a window, he spies a downed phone line. He grabs his binoculars to get a closer look and sees two evil red eyes in the forest that appear to be staring into the girls' cabin! He tries to get the attention of the girls, but only succeeds in getting called a pervert. When one of the girls ventures out of the cabin to try and get better cell reception, he sees his chance...but not before something abducts the girl into the woods. When Otis finally returns, he doesn't believe Preston's story. Stuck in his wheelchair, Preston can only watch in horror as one by one each of the girls is attacked by what appears to be Bigfoot! Can he get help before it is too late or will he be the creature's next meal?

Abominable is a fun ride and horror fans will love seeing such genre greats as Jeffrey Combs, Lance Henriksen, Rex Linn, Dee Wallace-Stone and Tiffany Shepis. Though their screen time is short, Combs and Henriksen's characters are hilarious and easily steal the show. Matt McCoy's performance as Preston is equally strong but played with more of a straight face. My only complaint is the lack of character development with the girls. Sure, most of them die quickly, but a little character development would have made me care a whole lot more about their wicked demises.

This movie has a very cool Rear Window feel to it which adds to the feelings of helplessness and isolation already created by the middle-of-nowhere forest setting. You sure as heck won't find me in the middle of a forest anytime soon! There are also clever nods to other creature movies tucked away in the movie which will delight horror fans.

As for the creature, it is nice to see something that hasn't been CGI'ed to death. No, this creature is an actual man in a monster suit like the good ol' days. Sure, Bigfoot's eyes looked a little cross-eyed at times, but I'll take a man in a flawed monster suit over crappy CGI anyday. Bigfoot's glowing red eyes are also very creepy, especially when Preston first spies him hiding in the forest. That scene definitely gave me a little pleasant shock. I also enjoyed how we were only given small glimpses of Bigfoot at the beginning of the film, but toward the end we got complete full frontal of the beast!

The gore is decent, if a little fake looking, but who cares when the front of a guy's face gets bitten clean off?! It's definitely Bigfoot gone wild in this flick, as he stomps, crushes, bends and rips open enough people to satisfy you goremongers out there. Also, for all of those who care about T & A, you get a shower scene that showcases Tiffany Shepis, in case you haven't seen enough of her.

All in all, a fun, B-movie romp through the creature films of yesterday, though with a bit more gore and nudity. You can do a lot worse than this movie, and if you want to satisfy your Bigfoot cravings, this is probably one of the best flicks to do it.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Unrest (2006)

Morgues are supposed to be creepy...pale, stiff cadavers and the foul stench of formaldehyde and death can give anyone the heebie jeebies. Somehow, though, Unrest manages to make cadaver labs both boring and completely not scary. It's a dumbed down, boring, meandering movie that goes no where.

Alison is a medical student, who, until her financial aid comes through, is sleeping in the hospital's unused wing. One of her first classes is gross anatomy, where on the first day her and her group are to dissect a cadaver. Her group, which includes Rick, Carlos and Brian, uncovers their cadaver and discovers that it is a young woman who has been mutilated. After upchucking all over herself and passing out, Alison senses something isn't right with her cadaver. Murders and strange deaths begin to occur, and Alison thinks it's linked to her cadaver. The group proceeds with hacking the cadaver open, affectionately naming her "Norma," while Alison tries to find out why she feels the spirit of the woman is trying to communicate with her.

I was really hoping this movie would be creepy and scary, but no such luck here. There are so many different opportunities that this movie could have taken to make things more interesting, but most of its storylines go no where. Why not develop the Aztec storyline? Why not show more of what happened to "Norma?" Why not show what happens to each of "Norma's" victims? There are so many plot holes that it becomes a big mess...For example, if so many people died, why aren't the police more involved? If everyone that touches the body becomes cursed, why weren't Alison, Rick, Carlos or Brian the first to die?

Ugh...this movie was aggravating to sit through! I felt no suspense, there was hardly any action, it felt like it showed the same scenes over and over again and I just kept waiting for something to happen (it never did)!! This movie would have worked much better as a short if the script was beefed up. As a feature it just drags on too long and it is aggravatingly repetitive. The only good things about the movie were the male actors whose abs we got a good peek of, the cadaver dissection (just catch it on the Discovery Channel instead of sitting through this movie) and the scene in which Alison and Brian take a dip in the cadaver tank to retrieve "Norma's" body.

Unrest is a plodding, rambling, repetitive mess of a movie that's never sure enough of itself to evoke any scares. If you like dumbed-down movies that hold your hand all the way through, that hold no surprises and no scares and have gaping plot holes, Unrest is for you. For the intelligent ones out there, I say skip it!

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reincarnation (Rinne) (2005)

Reincarnation is one of the few new Asian horror films that is actually good. It is directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also gave us Ju-On, but don't expect any Ju-On-like scares...the terror here is more psychological than anything else.

In 1970, a doctor massacred 11 people (including his two small children) at an isolated hotel before killing himself. The motive for the murders was never discovered. In present day there have been a rash of mysterious disappearances coinciding with the filming of a movie about the massacre. Two seemingly unconnected girls, a college student and an actress in the film, begin having nightmares and visions about the hotel and the massacre that took place there, and when they visit the hotel, they discover that they, and those that have disappeared, may be the reincarnations of those that were murdered there so many years ago.

This film held me rapt from the first scene to the end credits...I was transfixed to the screen for the whole hour and a half, never even checking my watch (always a good thing). The storyline is interesting and is reminiscent of Kubrick's The Shining. The 8mm footage that the doctor took of the massacre is chilling and adds a real, documentary feel to the film. The first appearance of the ghosts of the murdered people is truly creepy and had me gripping the seat for the rest of the movie. I loved the whole premise of a movie-within-a-movie that gave us an accurate re-creation of the massacre.

The acting was wonderful, and I especially loved the actor who played the director and the expressive actress playing an actress in the film-within-a-film. The cinematography was great as well with beautifully ominous shots of the hotel and the eerie massacre shot all on 8mm by the doctor.

The build up to the climax had perfect pacing and the climax had a jaw-dropping moment. Reincarnation is one of the best Asian horror films I've seen in a while. It is suspenseful, has an interesting story, has some shocking parts (the on-screen death of the children, especially) and makes the viewer think. I am waiting for it to be available on DVD because I definitely want to add it to my collection.

If you love Asian horror movies, I highly recommend this film. Even if you aren't into the Asian horror genre but want something different from your typical hack-and-slash American horror that is more intelligent and engaging, go see Reincarnation!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cello (2005)

Another entry into the Asian horror genre, the South Korean Cello tries to distance itself from the pack by focusing more on the story than predictable scares. Unfortunately, this only half-works. We are treated to a rich drama involving a former cellist-turned-music instructor, her family, her tragic past and her seemingly slipping sanity, but the scares are almost non-existent.

Mi-Ju is a part-time music professor with a tragic past. When she was younger, she was an up-and-coming cellist, until she was in a car accident with her rival/best friend, Tae-yeon. After Tae-yeon died, Mi-Ju gave up playing the cello and decided just to teach. One day, one of her students threatens her after receiving a bad grade and so begin Mi-Ju's problems. She is sent a mysterious cassette tape that contains a haunting cello duet that dredges up some painful memories of Tae-yeon and almost causes her to get into a car accident. She is distant from her loving family which includes her two daughters, husband and sister-in-law. Her older daughter is mentally disabled and mute, but falls in love with a cello she spies in a window. Mi-Ju buys it for her and begins to teach her how to play it. Meanwhile, a new maid moves into the house. She is creepy as hell and is also mute. It seems as though her family was killed in a car crash and she tried to commit suicide numerous times, once by swallowing acid. No more vocal cords there! Anyways, things start to get creepy slowly but surely...the family's golden lab, Sunny, begins barking all the time until one morning he is found dead. Mi-Ju starts seeing things, her daughter begins playing that haunting song on the cello, the sister-in-law goes crazy after her fiance breaks up with her and "accidents" befall the household. Is Tae-yeon out for revenge or is Mi-Ju's guilt driving her crazy?

I found this different than most typical Asian horror films. The story is much more rich, with well-developed characters but it doesn't focus much on typical Ju-On or Ringu-type scares. The terror doesn't really begin until the last 20 minutes of the film, giving only glimpses of what or who is terrorizing Mi-Ju and her family. Like most Asian films, it does focus on building tension through the atmosphere. The atmosphere is nicely complemented by the gorgeous cinematography and the soundtrack (heavy on the use of the cello, of course). This is a slow film, but if you can live without the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am speed of most films today, I recommend Cello. Some claim the film is slow and redundant, but unlike most films where repetitiveness is a time-filler, the repeating themes throughout Cello actually stand for something; in this case, the nightmare that Mi-Ju relives over and over through the different tragedies she suffers. This theme also plays flawlessly into the twist ending.

Cello does have its flaws and I wouldn't be so quick to add it to my collection, but it is definitely worth your time if you appreciate this type of cinema.

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Population 436 (2006)

The idyllic town of Rockwell Falls is a place you wouldn't want to leave - the townsfolk are friendly and welcoming, the countryside is lush and verdant, there is never any crime and, of course, their apple pies are scrumptious! If you'd want to leave, you must be crazy!

Which is what the townspeople believe...they lobotomize anyone who decides to leave the town, thinking they must be crazy to leave! They call this "the fever," and characterize it by a certain look in someone's eye. If someone is suspected of having the fever, they are hauled off to be "treated" at Doctor Greaver's. If anyone does escape, they are killed, not by the townsfolk, but by "divine intervention."

The population stays at 436, and has for the last hundred years. Steve Kady (super sexy Jeremy Sisto) with the U.S. Census Bureau is sent on assignment to investigate the town and it's odd population. He arrives outside of Rockwell with some car trouble, but Deputy Bobbie (Fred Durst! I didn't even recognize him until I saw his name in the end credits!!) gives him a ride into town. News of the newcomer travels fast, and soon Kady is the talk of the town. While his car is in the shop, he begins investigating the population of the town and interviewing people for the census. He can't seem to find one particular family and no one wants to give him a straight answer. As the town prepares for a big festival, Kady uncovers more and more of the truth, as he simultaneously grows closer to Deputy Bobbie and the woman Bobbie plans to marry, Courtney. Can Kady find out the truth before he too is struck with "the fever" and treated by Doctor Greaver? Is it already too late for him to leave?

Watching this movie I was immediately reminded of the Shirley Jackson short story "The Lottery," as well as the films The Wicker Man (minus the nude musical numbers) and 2001 Maniacs (minus the blood, sex and the hilarious Robert Englund). It was an effective thriller, but I wish the story had been a bit more developed. I think, like Sisto's character Kady, that we should have been left in the dark about the town's beliefs. It would have been much more suspenseful if I hadn't figured out the townspeople were evil before the opening credits ran. Nonetheless, that plot point was never meant to be hidden from the audience (heck, the blurb on the DVD box says, "The residents of Rockwell Falls are dying for you to visit...").

The acting is great...Jeremy Sisto looks hot as usual, and puts on a wonderful performance as Kady. Fred Durst is the big surprise in all this - I loved his character of the conflicted Deputy and he did a really stellar job. Dude, quit your day job and pursue acting! The rest of the cast is well developed and enjoyable to watch as well.

The direction and cinematography are top notch. The film takes in all the gorgeous, I just wanted to jump right in and roll around in that green, green grass! The director, Michelle Maxwell MacLaren, definitely knows what she is doing and frames her shots with care and attention to detail.

Still, this movie didn't quite thrill me as much as I wanted to be thrilled. Believe me, I did enjoy watching Jeremy Sisto run around for an hour and a half, but it was just lacking something, even for being so well-made. I suppose I wanted something less predictable with a little more surprise to it.

Overall, a very well-done movie but unfortunately, unmemorable.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Black Sunday (1960)

Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan) is an amazing gothic masterpiece by director Mario Bava. It evokes a feeling of tension and dread throughout, contains an engaging story and features beautiful cinematography. It's hard to believe that this is Bava's first feature, as it is so well done. It brings to mind the classic black and white Universal films, filled with fog, beautiful women and men, menacing monsters and gorgeous sets. The ominous mood is set from the opening scene all the way through to the finale.

The film opens with Princess Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) being accused of witchcraft. She is branded with the mark of Satan, then a hideous mask (called the mask of Satan, with sharp spikes on the inside) is pounded into her face before she and her servant (who has suffered the same fate) are both burned at the stake. Before she is executed, she vows revenge on the family of her brother, the prince, who has condemned her.

A few centuries later, we meet Katia (again, Barbara Steele), the descendant and splitting image of Asa. She lives in the Vajda castle with her brother and her father. Meanwhile, two traveling doctors stop at the now ruined church where "the witch" was laid to rest. The two decide to scope it out, and accidentally awake Asa, who is hellbent on revenge against the Vajda's. She in turn summons her servant and the two begin to terrorize the Vajda family. The two traveling doctors soon get involved with the family, one falling under Asa's spell and the other falling in love with Katia. Soon the killings begin, with the victims sporting two puncture marks on their necks. Asa has returned with vampiric powers and will stop at nothing for revenge against the family who destroyed her.

A great moody, atmospheric film that was nothing like what I was expecting. Truth be told, with Bava as the director I was expecting a giallo along the lines of Blood and Black Lace, filled with lots of blood, violence and exploitative shots of women. On the contrary, Black Sunday takes a more classic (and classy) approach, bathing everything in shadows and fog. It has its share of sadistic scenes, especially the torture scene at the beginning of the film, but everything is engulfed in a dream-like, fairy tale atmosphere that I found truly refreshing.

I'm glad I finally got around to seeing one of the classic films of horror cinema...check this out if you enjoy classic films with a gothic atmosphere and want to see where horror got its start!

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Freak Out (2006)

This had to be made by a fellow horror fan - the film is populated by clever references to classic horror flicks. Not only that, but it features an original and hilarious storyline that simultaneously pokes fun at and pays homage to the horror genre. A great indie film made by horror fans for horror fans.

The plot concerns Merv and his friend Onkey, who happen to find an escaped mental patient in Merv's house. Merv is a horror fanatic that has horror posters plastered over every inch of his room and spends his days watching slasher flicks. When he finds the timid and effeminate mental patient in his shower, he has the brilliant idea of training him to be the next great slasher killer. Merv and Onkey begin training Looney, beginning with dressing him in a fitting outfit for a killer - orange jumpsuit, burlap potato sack over his head and a hockey mask. Next, they train him how to stalk and kill, though Looney's weapon of choice is a spatula. When Looney begins to kill, though, Merv has second thoughts and must stop him before he and Onkey are next.

More of a comedy than anything, this film is more heavy on parody than blood. In this case, I was laughing so much that it wasn't a bad thing. Some will compare it to the Scary Movie franchise, but I believe comparing Freak Out to the banality of those films is quite offensive. Freak Out is a step (or two) above those movies. Sure, it is still silly and features some low brow humor (a major plot point centers on "bum feelers"), but it is catered to horror fans, not dumbed down for general audiences.

Its low budget does show, but not enough to be distracting. Some production whores might be bothered by the slightly shaky camera shots, etc., but those used to independent films won't bat an eye. For an indie, I thought it was shot quite well. My main complaint was the audio. The characters already have accents, and coupled with bad audio and NO subtitles made for a very spotty viewing. The soundtrack, though, is impressively top-notch, featuring mostly unsigned bands, but wow! What a difference in mood a good soundtrack makes!

A very fun movie for us horror fans; some of the best parts were just looking at all of Merv's horror posters, memorabilia, etc. in his room and catching all the nods and winks to other horror films. I have too many other favorite scenes to talk about (how could I pick just one?!), but just know this is a comedy that all true horror fans should appreciate.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Nightmare City (1980)

Radioactive vampire zombies!!

What more needs to be said about this gory movie lensed by Umberto Lenzi, responsible for other gory flicks like Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox?!

The plot: Radioactivity infects a plane, causing all those on board to reanimate and come back as super strong, fast zombies. The plane lands and the zombies disembark with knives, machetes, hatchets, etc. to cause death and destruction to the city. The radioactivity reanimated the cells in these zombified people's bodies, resulting in super-strength. These zombies need blood to keep their red blood cell count up. All those that come in contact with the zombies will also be infected, turning into super strong, bloodthirsty, fast-moving zombies.

Can the government, a lone journalist and a mishmash of other characters survive the zombie siege on their city? My guess was no, but this movie kept me glued to the screen for an hour an a half anyways.

This was a fun movie - the premise of radioactive vampire zombies alone was reason enough to watch for me! The gore is plentiful, if not a little cheesy and fake, but enjoyable nonetheless! The fast-moving zombies (wearing masks that looked like dried puke) were intelligent and sure did a bloody number on the city. The gore was pretty extreme - someone's eye gets painfully skewered, a woman's breast gets cut off, lots of women's breasts get stabbed, a man gets his arm shot off, lots of zombies get their brains blown out, there's lots of hatchets to people's heads, etc. etc.

The story has numerous plot holes and the ending is pretty weak, but what do you expect from a movie all about showcasing the gore? A perfect movie watch while you kick back with your friends, have a cold one and both gawk and laugh at the bloody gore.

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Night of the Living Dead 3-D (2006)

This weekend I headed out to the theater, as giddy as a schoolgirl, to check out Night of the Living Dead 3-D. Man, was I prepared to fend off zombies coming out of the screen and giggle in delight at knives, shovels and other pointy objects got dangerously close to my face. I was ready to geek out, 3-D style!

Alas, I was a little let down at the lack of 3-D effects. It seemed that a majority of the 3-D action was reserved for the passing of a doobie and blowing smoke rings. Where the hell were the zombies and scary pointy objects coming out at me? Sadly, the 3-D effects were wasted...nonetheless, it was still an enjoyable movie to watch.

Night of the Living Dead 3-D isn't a direct re-make of the original, but kind of a spin off. They even feature the original movie playing in the background in a few scenes. This one gives a bit more explanation as to why the dead walk. It still has most of the action going down in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, but it also has some nice twists.

If you are a Sid Haig fan, you won't be disappointed, even though his screen time is only 15-20 minutes, if that. He plays a great character in his signature style. The rest of the cast acting can get pretty annoying at times, but overall it doesn't affect the movie negatively too much.

I enjoyed the groddy zombies...they were properly icky. The storyline itself was pretty cool, specifically the explanation of why and how the dead came back to life. Plus...there's no happy ending!

Overall, it was a fun movie and you should check it out, even though the 3-D is so-so. It's cool that they came out with a 3-D horror flick, I just wish they would have used the 3-D more effectively for more scares.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Maid (2006)

The Maid starts off strong and has some decent scares, but uses too many cliches from other films to really take off on its own.

Rosa moves from the Philippines to Singapore to work as a maid for Mr. and Mrs. Teo and their mentally handicapped 20 year old son. The Teo's run a Chinese opera company and frequently put on elaborate productions, especially during the month that Rosa arrives. Her arrival coincides with the seventh month of the Chinese year, a month when the gates to hell are temporarily opened and ghosts are free to roam about.

Rosa learns a quick lesson in respecting the ancient Chinese rituals of the "Hungry Ghosts" when she mistakenly sweeps up some burnt offerings. Her retribution is immediate as she begins to see ghosts all around her.

Not only that, but Rosa also has to deal with the mystery of what happened to the previous maid, Esther, figuring out why a certain girl always runs away from her, being in a foreign land all alone, and, oh! the horror of keeping the house clean.

The cons: There were some nice jump scares throughout, but the ghosts don't do much besides harass Rosa and glare at her. The ghost themselves - eh, looked typical for your Asian ghost movie. It was fun learning about the Chinese seventh month, but only the first time - the five billionth time it was explained I could recite the spiel from memory. The English dialogue spoken by the Teo's was nearly indecipherable at times since they spoke with a heavy Chinese accent. The film did not provide subtitles during these scenes, which sometimes made it frustrating to follow what they were saying. The plot was stretched thin and the twist at the end...not too surprising. It didn't build suspense but rather tried to shock with jump scares punctuated by screechy violins and bad sound effects.

The pros: I did like the cinematography, which was quite beautiful. The shots of the Chinese opera performance were vivid and colorful, as were the scenes with offerings being given to the ghosts. I also liked learning about Chinese folklore, though it was repeated over and over and over again. The shots of the ghosts, especially those in the background and those at the opera, were unsettling. I admit that there were some parts in the movie that freaked me out, namely the ghostly figures at the beginning of the movie that Rosa saw out of the corner of her eye. Unfortunately, those feelings of slowly building creepiness were all taken away with the intrusive and abrasive music that accompanied most of the scares.

If this film had come out a few years ago, I probably would have loved it, but it borrowed too heavily from other movies like The Sixth Sense, The Eye, Ju-On, etc. The Maid also relied too heavily on shocks and jump scares, acting more like an American movie than the typical Asian horror film that tends to build suspense. Stylistically, it is a very beautiful film, but visuals alone can't help the thin storyline.

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Ju-Rei: The Uncanny (2004)

Ju-Rei: The Uncanny is dull, repetitive and amateur. It blatantly rips off good Asian horror films in a horribly uninspired way. It uses the guttural ghost sounds that scared me in Ju-On, the creepy death faces of Ringu, the dark and blurry ghosts of Kairo (Pulse) and the familiar black-haired, pale-faced ghosts of many Asian films. The cramming together of all these commonplace motifs from horror films create a very dull and boring mood, because you know exactly what is coming. The cliche moments are all there -the girl hiding from the ghosts under her blankets, the ghost crawling on all fours to its victim, the elevator scene, etc.

The story itself is told backwards, starting at Chapter 10 and working its way down to Chapter 1. It tells the tale of a dark figure that carries with it a curse - anyone that comes in contact with the black figure will die horribly and be forced to pass on the curse to the next victim. As we move back through the chapters, we see the chain of the curse and how all the characters are connected. At the end of the movie, we are shown how the curse began.

This film is a total waste of time: not at all scary, boring and totally derivative of much better films that have paved the way for Asian horror cinema. Its low-budget look, which usually doesn't bother me too much if the story is good, really DID bug me this time. The shots are way too dark and grainy to fully make out what's happening, and it looks to be cheaply shot on video. The only good this about this movie was the subtlety used in showing the ghosts in the background. Pay attention, because there is usually a spook hanging out in the background of many shots. For example, check out the hallway in the background of the scene with the man going into his hotel room.

This is no way that one device makes up for the absolutely wretched state of this movie. If you are an Asian horror fan, skip this at all costs or you'll be angry just like me, wanting to burn the DVD just to save others from having to watch it. Even if you want to get into Asian horror, skip Ju-Rei. Instead, try feasting your eyes on the wonderful Tale of Two Sisters, Ringu, Ju-On, The Eye, Dark Water or the many other great Asian films (clarification: I am talking about the original films here people, not the horrible U.S. remakes).

On Amazon!

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Farmlands (2006)

Farmlands is a no-budget indie movie from Vomit Films about a group of friends who go up against a misogynist killer. According to director Richie Vomit, it was filmed on a budget of about $40. It manages to be both hilarious and horrifying, and held my attention for its entire 72 minute length.

A group a twenty-somethings live in the middle of nowhere, in the farmlands of Iowa. To pass the time they mostly hang out, drink and talk the days away. One night, they all go hang out at their friend's house. She has also invited her co-worker, Johnny, a mysterious fella no one knows much about. He is muscled and tattooed and soon the girls are drooling over him. Chastity, the "loudmouth whore" of the group, gets turned down by Johnny when she suggests they wander off for some "alone time." Instead, Johnny's got his eye on Margie, the innocent-looking blond of the group.

We meet the rest of the group at the party too: the very obnoxious and loud fat boy (who reminded me of Franklin from TCM, not as whiny but just as annoying), the skinny, funny guy, the guy who is secretly in love with Margie, and the girls - Chastity as well as the host of the party and their friend (played by Heidi Vomit).

The day after the party, Margie and Johnny have their date, only to be rudely interrupted by the jealous Chastity, fat and skinny boy and Heidi's character. Margie and Johnny ditch them and retreat back to Johnny's house. Soon Margie's friends realize she has gone missing and they start searching for her but find much more than they bargained for.

Farmlands is gloriously low-budget, proving you don't have to spend much ($40!! $40!!) to make a good horror movie. From the opening credits with images of rotting corpses and the Iowa landscape, it had me hooked.

The characters were all pretty well established, but then again, the filmmakers used mainly friends so I'm sure their personalities were shining through. I could have used a bit more explanation to what was going on with Johnny's brother (?), who killed and then wore the deceased woman's breasts. He was definitely disturbing. The characters themselves did get to be annoying at times, especially the Franklin look-alike, but hey, it gave me all the more pleasure to watch him die!

The camera work, especially for an indie, was all up to par. There is continuity to all the shots, which I am a big stickler for. The film itself is very grainy and the camera's lens appears scratched, but this did not detract from my viewing pleasure. I loved the shots of the desolate locations - dirt back roads, isolated farmhouses and barns.

The comedic element of the movie was never over the top, but used realistically. The comedic element usually came from the colorful group of characters cracking jokes. It felt very realistic, like friends you have...which made it all the more horrifying when everyone started to die.

I did not like: the long, drawn-out party scenes, the porno that the kids were occasionally watching which hurt the pacing of the story (and its insertion made no sense), the sudden appearance of Johnny's homicidal "family" with no explanation given (I don't need a whole back story, but give me a little introduction as to who they are), the slow pacing in the middle of the story, the overlaid dialogue in which you couldn't hear what anyone was saying and various other caveats common to indie flicks.

Overall, though, I did enjoy it. The surprise ending caught me off-guard and it was a big "Oooooooh" moment for me (not that kind of moment, you sickos!). Indie filmmakers should watch this film to see what can be done on a $40 dollar budget - there's a lot to learn from the lovely people at Vomit Films. I can't wait to see what they'll do next!

Check them out on Myspace, Vomit Films or Farmlands, and tell them Fatally Yours sent you!

Attack of the Mini Reviews!

 I've been busy/lazy as of late, so now I present to you a flurry of mini reviews!!

Pumpkinhead (1988) - Call it blasphemy if you want, but I just did not enjoy this movie. Had I seen it when it was released, in 1988, sure, it would have been something new (maybe), but at this point it it just a bore.

Halloween II (1981) - Starts up just where the first one left off - Halloween night in Haddonfield. I love this gotta watch it back to back with Halloween. "He's not human!"

Creepshow 2 (1987)- Though not as good as the first one, this is still a fun flick to watch with your friends while drinking. It features 3 stories, the best of which is probably "The Raft." Check it out if you are having a fun '80s horror night and you can't find any other movies...

Whew...that's all for now...I gotta go watch another movie!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

I love watching movies in Italian (screw dubbing!) because, for the most part, I can understand them (I am Italian and speak it). Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is a not-too-gory giallo with one of the best titles in cinema.

A privileged but failed writer named Oliviero spends his days boozing it up with local lay-abouts and takes pleasure in tormenting his wife, both physically and emotionally. When his mistress is murdered, Oliviero is the main suspect, until being cleared by the police. More and more bodies pile up and his wife wonders if he really is the killer.

While the first half of the film is pretty slow and mainly features Oliviero slapping his wife around, the second half picks up with several interesting twists and surprises. It features the famous Edwige Fenech as Oliviero's niece. There's lots of nudity, including a lesbian scene between Fenech's character and Anita Strindberg's character of the wife and a sex scene between Fenech and Luigi Pistilli (Oliviero), which is usually expected in a giallo. A black cat named Satan plays heavily into the storyline, much like Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat."

This was an enjoyable giallo, despite being heavy on misogyny (Oliverio toward his wife), but pretty easy on gore. It certainly isn't the best in the genre, but it's worth checking out for the ending.

Find it on Amazon!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Beyond the Pale (2006)

Beyond the Pale is an indie anthology that presents three different stories, all directed by Mark Steensland.

The first is The Visitor and tells of an unwanted late night guest that drudges up some painful memories.

The second, entitled Sucker, shows how a child predator/killer gets more than he bargained for when he kidnaps a seemingly innocent girl.

The third story is Lovecraft's Pillow, in which a writer gains inspiration from a pillow that belonged to H.P. Lovecraft at a high price.

All of the films clock in at less than 10 minutes, so they are definitely short shorts! I didn't care much for The Visitor, as I saw the ending coming, but I did enjoy the other two. Sucker especially took me by surprise with its satisfying twist ending. Lovecraft's Pillow was also a pleasant short film.

The films themselves look pretty good for shorts; the camera angles are all tight and very professional looking. For independent film, the acting was quite good.

My main complaint is that the films are too short! I would love to see what would happen if the films were longer...

Overall, a good effort by an independent filmmaker whose work I look forward to seeing more of in the future!

Eaten Alive (1977)

Tobe Hooper made Eaten Alive soon after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but it certainly doesn't possess any of the horror that TCM does.

It is about hotel owner Judd, who likes to kill people that aren't as morally up to par as he is. His first kill is a prostitute, who seeks refuge from her line of work in his hotel. As soon as he finds out what she does, he feeds her to his pet crocodile. Others who get too close to his secret (or his crocodile) soon follow suit, including a traveling family, a few young locals, the family who comes looking for the prostitute and others.

Robert Englund plays a horny local boy and Marilyn Burns returns as my favorite scream queen. Englund and Burns are about the only good things in this movie...the rest is just stupid and boring. The pacing is horrible, the character of Judd isn't menacing and it just drags on and on...

Skip it unless you want to see a very young Robert Englund.

Find it on Amazon!

Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006)

Halloween: 25 Years of Terror is a great 2 disc documentary chock full of interviews, on-set footage and tons of other goodies. I'm not even a hardcore Halloween fan (check out the hardcore fans in the convention footage included on the disc) and I still found this immensely enjoyable.

My fave was P.J. Soles interview as she takes viewers on a walking tour of Pasadena, where Halloween was filmed! After all these years, she is still adorable and one of my favorites.

A must for horror-lovers!

Find it on Amazon!

Headspace (2005)

This little indie flick started out strong, with a young guy who has amazing, above genius brain power, though he pays the price with wicked headaches. He starts having flashbacks of his violent childhood...soon, brutal killings start. He soon realizes there are demons on the loose, released from his nightmares...This was an above average indie film, with decent acting, especially by the lead, played by Christopher Denham. Director Andrew van den Houten has definitely seen a monster movie or two, and knows to keep the monsters out of sight for most of the film. Unfortunately, the end of the film was only so-so for me. Also, the tone and pace of the first half of the film is vastly different from the last half, which kinda bugged me. However, I do recommend you check this movie out, because it's better than most of the crap out there now. Also it features the fabulous Olivia Hussey, among many other recognizable faces.

Find it on Amazon!

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Tales From Beyond (2004)

Tales From Beyond is an anthology of four stories that begins with a couple visiting an old bookstore to find a gift for their book-collecting friend. The owner of the store (Adam West) decides to show them his special rare section. As they go through the books to find the right gift for their friend, we are introduced to the stories one by one.

Story one features a man facing a troubled marriage. He begins having strange nightmares that are getting progressively worse and more disturbing. Can he figure out the meaning of the Abernathy house that appears in his dreams and save his marriage before he is driven crazy?

Story two is about a man who stops into a diner to grab a quick coffee. The only person there is the owner, Nex, until others start to show. The problem is, these other people appear to be from different times in history and the diner may be some sort of time travel hub.

In story three, a man discovers that his TV remote can fast forward and rewind time. He sees his own death on the news and goes back in time to stop it from happening...but can you really change your fate?

The last story is about a struggling boxer who is trained by a mysterious man who calls himself Goldie. Who is Goldie and can he help the boxer win for once?

It was a treat to see Adam West as a kind of narrator for the whole movie, and he was his regular creepy self. The rest of the film was so-so. It's not campy like Tales from the Crypt and not as cheesy as The Twilight Zone, but takes itself much more seriously. I enjoyed the first two stories, but the rest just went downhill. I had a problem with some of the acting - some of it just wasn't good! Also, the pacing was slow and uneven in places.

On the other hand, this movie had great production values and looked pretty good for its low budget. Let's not forget that it had Adam West! Don't expect gore, either, as I don't remember any blood at all. These short vignettes are more psychological horror than anything else.

Check it out if you enjoy horror anthologies without the campiness of Tales from the Crypt.

Find it on Amazon!

The Gate (1987)

This lil' gem from 1987 brings back warm 'n' fuzzy childhood feelings for me. It really reminds me of being a kid in the '80s, what with crazy clothes, slap bracelets, side ponytails and demons in the backyard...ah, those were the days!

Glen (a young Stephen Dorff) and his metal-listening, know-it-all friend Terry discover a geode in a hole in Glenn's backyard. Digging for more, they stumble upon a smelly, smokey hole and find another geode that they eventually crack open. Meanwhile, Glenn's parents have left for three days, leaving Glenn's teenage sister Al in charge. Al throws a wild and crazy 80s party where some strange things happen. Glen levitates, moths are all over the house and there's a demon under the bed...

The boys start to realize some demonic stuff is going on and they realize that they've inadvertently opened a gate to hell, allowing the demons of old to come through into our world. A metal record is involved, detailing how to both open and close the gate. Just when you think Glenn, Terry and Al have defeated the demons, the demons come back with a vengeance!

Sure, this flick is pure 80s nostalgia, but that's what is so fun about it. I should have watched this and Ghoulies on Halloween! It would have been a perfect throwback to childhood...

Anywho, I love it when horror flicks use kids as the main protagonists. Everything is so much scarier as a kid! I've always wondered what I would do (as a kid) in a horror-type situation...probably scream my head off and run!

No CGI was used in this movie, just green screen and stop-motion/claymation. The kids are terrorized by little pint-sized demons, a henchman zombie and the big baddie demon daddy. All the creatures look totally '80s, but who cares? It was made in the '80s! It doesn't feature any gore, but then again, it's a family-type movie! Plus, it doesn't take gore to make an enjoyable and entertaining movie.

Watch when you're feeling nostalgic for the good ol' '80s or just feel like watching some kids stir up some demons in their backyard.

On Amazon!
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