Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Red Room (1999)

Gore? Gore? Where did all the gore go?!

Touted as a nasty, gory torture flick, I rushed out to watch Red Room only to be vastly disappointed with this strictly unentertaining, misogynistic film.

Straight outta Japan from director Daisuke Yamanouchi's twisted mind, Red Room is pretty nasty, but scenes of repeated and violent rape, annoying characters and a thin storyline had me reaching for the fast forward button multiple times. Four people, a 17 year old, a young woman and a married couple, play the King Game for a chance to win 10 million yen. They are locked in a dingy, red-lit room and made to play a card game where whomever pulls the king card gets to have the other players commit horrible acts upon one another. The object is to be the last person standing, therefore winning the 10 million. Things start innocently enough, with a girl being spun around and around in a chair for five minutes straight until she pukes. From there, things escalate and we get multiple violent rapes, including one where the man shoves a lightbulb into a woman's vagina until it breaks inside of her, a woman having to drink pee as one of the players pisses on her, the couple beating the stuffing out of each other, a penis being bitten off and tons more depravity.

Now, I like my depravity as much as the next horror fan, but I just couldn't enjoy myself during this flick. Shot on video, it already looks like an amateur porno, and that's what it felt like for the most part. The thin storyline and the exposition scenes involving the card game felt like they were just there to connect the scenes of rape and torture. It's just too much "shock for shock value," which I find incredibly cheap and just plain boring. Also, it was mostly a splatter flick, using lottsa blood, but kinda lacking in the gore department.

Many fans of the Guinea Pig films or other extreme Japanese cinema will enjoy this, however. If your interest was piqued by the synopsis, by all means check out the Unearthed release of Red Room, but don't say I didn't warn ya!

On Amazon!

Dreadful (2007)

A 16 minute short film writer/director Kipp Poe Speicher, Dreadful is a silent, surreal and artistic film with a heavy emphasis on visuals.

In the near future, people are forced to be "chipped," or implanted with a bar code device that turns them into worker drones. People live in a bleak, black and white world and toil under an oppressive and violent black-robed man. Individuality is reason alone to be executed. One day, a man in a white cloak is birthed into our dimension. He removes people's implants and sets them free from the dark regime. This man represents a Christ-like figure, whose function is to show people the light and set them apart from the evil that is controlling them. He soon ends up as a prisoner and is chained between two trees and stoned to death. His death causes flowers to bloom in color and the evil leader loses his grip on the populace...

While the synopsis may sound like a sci-fi film, this film is most definitely not. The mood and atmosphere alone make for a very deep story, one that actually expresses profound emotion. Set in the woods with no dialogue and only music (from Chamber of Sorrows) to guide the action, Dreadful is a surreal, atmospheric short that brings to mind early David Lynch and the story of Christ. Speicher does a wonderful job of using his creative eye to set up visually stunning shots. I enjoyed the point of view shots from the man in white's perspective as he is being stoned, which were very profound images.

There is a lot going on with this film, both thematically and stylistically. While a more cohesive plot could have helped, I believe it was Speicher's intention to leave it a bit ambiguous for the audience to reach their own conclusions. The images throughout, with many key objects (a rose, a butterfly, blood) saturated with color, are striking in themselves without benefit of a stronger storyline.

If you enjoy art house films that focus on visuals coupled with a strong theme of good vs. evil, check out the indie Dreadful. If that isn't reason enough, it comes jam-packed with extras, including interviews, trailers, behind the scenes and the shorts Hitcher, Stranger Than, Reflections From the Other Side and the Dead Bodies Trilogy.

Buy it on Amazon!

Next Door (aka Naboer) (2005)

Some doors should never be opened...

John (Kristoffer Joner) and his long-time girlfriend Ingrid (Anna Bache-Wiig) have recently broken up and the break-up has left John vulnerable and broken-hearted. One day, his neighbor, Anne (Cecilie Mosli), asks him for a hand in moving some furniture in her apartment. It seems that her roommate Kim (Julia Schacht) was assaulted and now insists that a large armoire be moved in the front of the door. The women know of John's split with Ingrid, saying they heard everything through the wall, which makes John feel very uncomfortable. The next day he is asked by Anne to watch Kim while she runs some errands. John begrudgingly agrees but soon finds himself locked in the large and labyrinth-like apartment with Kim. He is continually drawn to the two women, who seem to know a disturbing secret from his past...

This brutal Norwegian flick plays beautifully and disturbingly from beginning to end. Though John seems like a normal, albeit heartbroken guy, we soon learn that he may like things a bit rough and kinky.After a tryst with Kim in which both she and John repeatedly punch, claw and violently fuck each other, John returns to his tidy apartment, only to be shocked at the amount of blood covering his shirt and face. Through some moments of déjà vu and flashbacks, we see that John has a sadomasochistic side which contributed to Ingrid’s split from him for another man.

Overall, I was quite impressed with this nasty little film from its story to the cinematography to the wonderful acting. Though I felt it was somewhat predictable, it still had me guessing up to the shocking ending.

The story, written by director Pal Sletaune, was well-written, emulating a Hitchcock style with a twist of Polanski’s The Tenant thrown in for good measure. It’s one of those is-this-all-real mysteries that, like I said before, had me guessing up to the end. The cinematography, along with the set design, was wonderful and I appreciated and enjoyed the visual cues that director Pal Sletaune employed. The film mostly takes place in only two locations, one being John’s apartment and the other being Anne and Kim’s place. The contrast between John’s bright, airy and organized apartment and Anne and Kim’s dark, cavernous and messy one is quite symbolic for the state of affairs but also adds to the growing dread as the film progresses.

The acting, especially by Joner, was extremely well-done. Joner captures John’s loneliness and isolation in the beginning of the film, which progress into confusion, anger and disorientation as the film continues. The three women in the film, Mosli as Anne, Schacht as Kim and Bache-Wiig as Ingrid, all do a stunning job in their respective roles. Mosli and Schacht play especially well as the manipulating and seductive next door neighbors.

Clocking in at a short 75 minutes, Next Door is chock full of violent eroticism, psychological mind games and sordid pasts. I highly recommend this film for people who enjoy films that question a character’s reality, such as Memento, The Machinist, The Tenant or Hitchcock films.

Order it on Amazon!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Buddy Boy (2000)

Buddy Boy is one dark, twisted and intriguing film by first-time director Mark Hanlon that takes you along in the crumbling life of a lonely voyeur who begins seeing strange things that may or may not be real...

Francis lives in a derelict apartment, caring for his invalid and alcoholic mother, Sal. Francis is an awkward, socially inept, stuttering man-child who was raised under the strict dogmas of the Catholic Church. When he is not being hounded by his mother or working at a small convenience store developing photographs, he is busy spying on his comely neighbor who lives in the apartment across the way. Francis and this neighbor, Gloria, meet by chance one night when he saves her from a mugger. He is suspicious when she expresses genuine interest in him, but he soon comes around and they enter into a relationship. Francis' damaged psyche begins to get the better of him, though. He continues to spy on Gloria out of paranoia, and begins to see some strange things. Gloria is a strict vegan, but he sees her eating huge chunks of raw meat. He also notices different men that come to her apartment - none of whom ever leave again. Francis is also having problems at his job. He begins noticing a sad, abused-looking little girl in photographs he develops, the same girl he has seen on the back of a milk carton. These visions, coupled with Francis' crumbling faith, childhood traumas and family secrets cause him to slowly lose grip on reality...unless the horrors he has seen are actually real...

Buddy Boy bears a strong resemblance to Polanski's films The Tenant and Rosemary's Baby, as well as Hitchcock's Rear Window. Like these classic films, Buddy Boy deals with facades people put up to separate themselves from their private lives vs. their public lives. From Francis' mother Sal, who claims to be a good Catholic woman yet boozes it up with the handyman, to Gloria, who claims that "meat is murder," yet is seen eating some bloody cuts of steak, things aren't always what they appear to be. In Francis' world, hypocrisy runs rampant. He hears people sprouting off dogmas - Sal with Catholicism and Gloria with her vegan beliefs - but sees them doing things that go completely against their beliefs. He in turn, has done everything he can to follow the dogmas of Catholicism (even going to confession when he sins) but feels God continues to punish him with his crappy life. The film also deals with the descent into obsession and madness...as viewers, we are voyeurs along with Francis, never knowing what is real or fake and his paranoia becomes our own.

Aiden Gillen does a superb job as the stumbling, fumbling Francis, making the audience both wary of and sympathetic toward the character. Bringing real comic relief to an otherwise dark film is Susan Tyrrell (I best remember her as Ramona Ricketts from Cry-Baby) as Sal. Emmanuelle Seigner brings a patience and sophistication to her role as Gloria that balances out Gillen's unstable Francis.

While the story and characters are satisfying, the pacing is sometimes off, causing the film to bog down in several places. There is a strong emphasis on repetitiveness throughout the film which drags down the proceedings and makes for an anticlimactic ending. The ambiguous ending makes you think, which is a refreshing shocker considering how many American horror films hold your hand the whole way through.

Though writer/director Mark Hanlon does not have the skill of either Polanski or Hitchcock (yet - I'm anxious to see what he'll do next) Buddy Boy grabbed my attention from the beginning, even though it is a bit of a slow start. Its dark, bleak atmosphere sinks in as the film progressives, like a spreading stain on the pavement that will never come out.

Order it on Amazon!

R-Point (2004)

Low on gore but teeming with atmosphere, R-Point is set at the end of the Vietnam War. Everyone is excited to be going home, especially the Korean soldiers. Yet, after an eerie and ominous radio transmission from a long-lost (and presumed dead) platoon, a group of soldiers gets one last assignment. The assignment is to track down the platoon, or at least their radio equipment, and see what the devil is going on. Their destination is R-Point, an isolated and supposedly haunted island. Upon their arrival they find an abandoned mansion-sized building and hole up while they scout the area for survivors or an explanation to the strange radio transmissions. Strange things start happening, and the men start believing that all who enter R-Point will never leave again...

The premise for this film alone got me all tingly inside...and no, that wasn't my Spidey-sense talking. The film starts off swell enough, with a very creepy radio transmission and the group of soldiers entering R-Point only to discover one of their comrades is in fact a ghost of one of the men they are looking for. Phew...did I think I was in for a treat...buuuuut...as much as I loved the building paranoia of the soldiers and discoveries of new ghosts (these aren't your typical whispy, vaporous beings - they look like real, solid people) the film just kept getting more confusing and disjointed. For example, the majority of the soldiers weren't really given a back story, so it was hard to distinguish between them or even care about them. Also, the long-haired woman that appears towards the end...I was waiting for a big reveal as to who she might be, but I got nada.

On the other hand, my disorientation and confusing mirrored the soldiers' as they realized they were trapped inside R-Point. There were some positively creepy and frightening moments - my favorite was when someone discovers they are standing in the middle of a cemetery...I jumped in my seat! The ending was pretty brutal and shocking, as the number of soldiers dwindle down to nil.

For all its creepy moments though, R-Point needs a little more substance to hold it together. There was just too much that needed clarification. I'm not asking for my hand to be held, but some explanation would have helped the plot immensely. Still, I would recommend it to those who enjoy Asian horror films.

Order it on Amazon!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fierce Friend (2006)

Though not exactly horror, I still enjoyed this film and its strong themes of abandonment, obsession, growing up and letting go. The story is a little weird, a little twisted and is one dark descent into a man's obsessive psyche. Fierce Friend is director Jacob Cooney's feature film directorial debut, and after viewing his short The Frolic, I see great things in his future.

Two life-long friends and roommates, Bobby (Les Borsay), an extroverted yet struggling actor, and Patrick (Kevin Kelley), introverted and newly-unemployed, reach a turning point in their lives when Bobby falls in love with a woman and "grows up," leaving Patrick feeling abandoned. Patrick resorts to drastic and dangerous methods to ensure that things go back to what they once were.

A slow-burn into jealousy, obsession and madness is a perfect way to describe this film. When Bobby invites April to live with him and Patrick, Patrick feels his and Bobby's domain is being invaded. Bobby soon falls for April and they are soon planning their future together...a future that does not include living with Patrick. Patrick begins watching the pair and plotting against April so his and Bobby's friendship can go back to how it was...with just the two of them.

This kind of thriller hinges on the characters and the actors of Fierce Friend pull this off wonderfully. The actors do a great job portraying their perspective roles. Kevin Kelley as Patrick brings a pervasive creepiness and sadness to the film as he becomes more and more obsessive over Bobby, played by Les Borsay. The rest of the cast includes Kelly Pendygraft as Bobby's girlfriend, April, and Thyme Lewis as flamboyant friend Roy. Portraying emotions from happiness to a growing fear, Borsay, Pendygraft and Lewis' performances are pitch-perfect. Kelley stands out from the pack as his character spirals into obsession and madness...when he finally snaps, it is genuinely frightening. The script is well-written, with a slow but steady descent into Patrick's fixation with Bobby, culminating with Bobby's growing suspicion of Patrick and Patrick's desperate attack on April. The characters are also developed well, therefore I cared about them, and even felt sympathy for Patrick.

My only complaint is that the film drags in a few places and needs about 15 minutes edited from it to make it more streamlined. Some scenes felt repetitive and it took a tad too long to get to the climax of the story. Still, that small quibble doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the film. Solid acting, a great story and script and a great ending make Fierce Friend a worthy indie flick to check out.

Go check out Fierce Friend's website for more info...

The Frolic (2007)

The Frolic, a 22 minute short, deals with a mental patient who has kidnapped and murdered many young children. Dr. David Munck (Michael Reilley Burke) is assigned to handle the case of "Johnny Doe" (Maury Sterling), and this film finds him on the last day of the job. Having a small child of his own, the Doc has really been affected by Johnny Doe, forcing his resignation from the mental hospital. As the doctor examines the case files and videotapes one last time from the supposed safety of his home, he is haunted by Johnny Doe's otherworldly ramblings about taking his "special friends" to frolic.

Based on Thomas Ligotti's short story, The Frolic is a creepy piece of work, relying on the strength of the actors and the surefire direction of Jacob Cooney. The cast is superb, especially Burke as the good doctor and Sterling as the serial killer. Production values are all there, the film looks crisp, clean and very professional - not your average low budget picture here.

I really enjoyed the story and loved how it was delivered on-screen. It is neither graphic nor gory, but this film really gets under your skin and lets your imagination work for you. This supernatural thriller is one of the better indie thriller shorts out there, and definitely deserves a look.

More information on The Frolic can be found at Wonder Entertainment's website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Afterthought (2006)

Afterthought is an intelligent, refreshing and slick-looking independent spookshow set in a hockey-obsessed high school in Wisconsin.

Kristy is a high school student is having reoccurring nightmares of a young dead boy. Her father passed away years ago, and she learns that he left her with the gift to see and communicate with the dead. Kristy is part of the popular hockey clique, which includes her best friend Mindy and her boyfriend and star player Elliot. The outcast of the hockey team is Kyle, who happens to be friends with Kristy. Kristy has a premonition about someone dying at the high school, and sure enough, a hockey player is murdered in the locker room. As more and more people die, Kyle comes under suspicion for the murders as he and Kristy grow closer, while Kristy is haunted further by the ghost of the little boy. Can the young boy help Kristy unlock the secret of his past and who is behind the murders?

First off, this independent feature has a very professional look to it. The opening credits alone grabbed my attention, as did the highly professional score and music. The production values throughout the entire film are very high, which is always a pleasure to see in an indie. The focus on quality really shines throughout the entire movie, from the production values to the acting, the story, the directing and the cinematography.

The story is surprisingly intelligent and keeps you guessing through to the end. The characters are wisely well-developed and I actually cared about what happened to them, unlike most horror films set in high school. The characters don't make stupid decisions and aren't stereotypes of high school students, but feel like real people you or I know. All of the actors do a great job, especially the lead in the role of Kristy.

The overall atmosphere is creepy and foreboding and the supernatural element of the creepy dead kid adds much to the slasher aspect of the film. The kid reminds me of the J-Horror kids like Toshio from Ju-On, but not in a bad way. The ghost child is very creepy, especially in his first appearance. There are plenty of jump scares, but not the cheap fake-outs featured in so many movies today. No, these scares are actually...scary (imagine that!)!

This film also captures the drama of high school life, especially being on a sports team. In this particular case, it's the hockey team and we get some great shots of a game. The backstabbing of high school is well-portrayed, as is the strong bond of friendship.

This movie was a real jolt to watch, a jolt that is sorely needed in the indie horror genre. It proves that you don't have to make a dumbed-down movie to be successful. Smart, creepy and a surprising and satisfying ending make Afterthought a winner in my book.

Live Feed (2006)

Oh brother...another day and another poorly made torture flick. Live Feed, though supposedly written before the success of Hostel, plays like a cheap, sleazy and cheesy rip-off. This is a fine example of gore for gore's sake, with absolutely no intelligence or substance to its flimsy plot.

In the story we've all heard before, five tourists are visiting a foreign country, this time in China. They proceed to be the usual culturally incompetent Americans and piss off the locals. One meathead accidentally spills beer on a powerful crime boss and gets them all kicked out of a bar. They soon end up at a porno theater/brothel and end up doing lines in the bathroom, cheating on their respective girlfriends/boyfriends and getting down 'n' dirty (of course they are all turned on by filthy, cum-splattered establishments!). What they don't know is that they are all locked into their respective rooms that are wired with a live feed so the crime boss can watch them...watch them get butchered by his lackeys, that is! Blood runs free as the kids are gruesomely tortured and killed...

If you are looking for any kind of sympathy for the characters, look elsewhere...character development is nonexistent here. The characters are there to get slaughtered, nothing else. I couldn't have cared any less for the annoying characters, who are practically begging to be killed. The "acting" (if you must call it that) didn't help my disdain for the characters. Let me just say...it was painful to watch. The delivery was stilted, cheesy and unnatural and, boy, did they all look awkward in front of the camera. The acting was laughable and more cringe-worthy than all the gore put together. In defense of the actors, they didn't have much to work with as the dialogue was bloody awful! Seriously, a 12-year old could have done a better job writing more believable dialogue.

Now, the only reason to watch this movie would be the gore...you're not looking for brilliant acting or poetic dialogue. You're a gorehound and all you want is the pain and the blood, dammit! This movie is relatively brutal, but since there is no emotional attachment to the characters, therefore no suspense or tension, this led to ambivalence towards the death scenes. I just didn't care. And while it's always cool to see a pole shoved down a throat and snakes slipped down it so when you cut the stomach open the snakes spill out, it's just not enough. The rest of the gore scenes are done for shock value (and really, they aren't all that shocking) and nothing else. Gore for gore's sake. Don't get me wrong, I like my gore, but in this movie it's just a letdown and a real bore, even if it is brutal.

Another thing overused in the movie is the nudity. I'm no prude, but the shots of a stripper gyrating on a pole were just pointless and boring. Same thing goes for the rest of the film...all the T & A was in no way titillating, but just cheap-looking. Boys, the girls weren't even that attractive, so don't get all hot and bothered. These misogynistic shots of women, which not only include the strippers but also the tourists in plight (the women are subjected to the worst torture, while the men get off with pretty easy deaths) give the horror genre a bad name.

I wouldn't recommend Live Feed to anyone. It is just another, lesser and more boring/pointless version of many (better) films that have come before it, which seeks to shock the viewer instead of entertaining them. Gorehounds, while you may enjoy the torture scenes, this the rest of the movie is just not worth it and is a complete waste of time.

Order it on Amazon

Backstage Pass (2006)

Are you on the list?

Made in the style of '80s slasher flicks with a twist of classic Hitchcock, Backstage Pass concerns an up and coming rock band Liquid Zoo who's past finally catches up when them...

Liquid Zoo is playing their final show before going into seclusion to finish their single. After the show, they are to wind their way up into the Rocky Mountains to a studio where they will be holed up for a few days. Little do they know that a tragic accident from their past is coming back to haunt them. One of their roadies is the first to go after the show, but after promising police that they will return the following Monday, the band still heads to the mountains. As a large storm breaks off all forms of communication and transportation, the band, their girlfriends, band manager, tour manager and tour assistant find themselves stuck in the cabin with a ruthless killer with no hope of help arriving...

Backstage Pass is a pretty straightforward slasher flick...a bunch of good-looking kids are stuck in a secluded place, cut off from the world, as a killer picks them off one-by-one. The performances are pretty spot-on (except for some instances of serious overacting) and what you would expect from a slasher flick, so no complaints there. The story is typical, but yet fun in that slasher-sense where you know what's going to happen but still find the ride enjoyable.

As for the highlight of all slasher films - the killings - we get some pretty enjoyable ones here. My personal favorite was death by drumstick! The rest of the victims all die in a variety of ways, but never quite live up to that first kill (though death by guitar looked pretty wicked as well).

The film is rife with plot holes (why, oh why didn't the killer come under suspicion earlier in the film? How did the police not connect the killer to the band's past?), which were bothersome, but I suppose expected as per most slasher flicks.

The Hitchcockian twist might surprise some genre-newbies (like my friend, whom I watched the film with) but most experienced horror fanatics will see it a mile away. It is painfully obvious who the killer is, even after a few red herrings and an event that might throw some off the killer's trail.

Still, this independent film has a lot to offer and is most definitely a cut above all the Hollywood bullshit remakes that have been coming out. Backstage Pass is recommended for those that crave old school '80s slasher flicks.

Guardian of the Realm (2006)

I approach each independent film I receive with trepidation - I expect the worst, but secretly I'm hoping for the best. With Guardian of the Realm, I got lucky. This sci-fi/action/horror flick is entertaining and reminded me of one of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with its high-flying action scenes and a whole lotta heart.

In Los Angeles, a secret organization called C.O.R.E exists. This organization and its agents are responsible for keeping demons out of our realm and killing any that get across. When an occult group unleashes an ancient evil that takes residence in one of their followers' bodies, it is up to top C.O.R.E agents Josh Griffin (Glen Levy) and Alex Marlowe (Tanya Dempsey) to track down the evil and stop it before hell on earth is realized. Think Buffy, but with demons instead of vampires, a male lead instead of a female, lots more gore (especially decapitations) and more action.

There is some serious demon ass-kicking throughout this movie, and for a low-budget picture, the stunts are incredible! We get lots of aerobatics, backflips and lots of other Jet-Li-type stunts. The actors must have had a lot of weapon training as well, because they handle their knives, swords and guns effortlessly. Color me impressed...

The acting itself is very well-done and much, much better than most independent features. The entire cast is solid, from Levy and Dempsey to the actors that play the demons. Though there is so much action going on, the characters are still well-developed and cared about them, wanting to see them succeed. My only complaint with the acting would have to be from Lana Piryan, who plays Nikki and the evil incarnate demon-god Virago. Her delivery seemed a little forced and a little out there.

The story, though it follows the basic premise of a Buffy episode, is nonetheless engaging and entertaining. It feels very well-rounded and complete - the writers (Ted Smith and Wyatt Weed) populate it with believable characters who respond realistically to situations (unlike most crappy horror films). The writing is well-done, and though dialogue isn't the main focus, it was still realistic to the story. The story also had some nice surprises towards the end, like Alex's true identity, which added much to the overall film.

While the special effects at times were a little on the cheap side (the backdrops were obviously models and look fake, the demon at the end looked silly), they didn't detract enough from the overall story to ruin it. The costuming was very impressive, with the demon in the guise of Nikki wearing one of the coolest evil outfits I've seen! There were also lots of neat gadgets and weapons used.

Guardian of the Realm is one fun, well-done independent sci-fi/horror film with many great action scenes. If you like a good demon ass-kicking, I highly suggest you check out Guardian of the Realm and I'll keep my eye on what director/writer Ted Smith does next...

Order it on Amazon!

Monday, January 15, 2007

LovecraCked! The Movie (2006)

LovecraCked! The Movie is an anthology of short films inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft that are bound together by a running gag of an investigative reporter (Elias) trying to find out more information on the famous writer. The movie is a comedy/horror and the results are a mixed bag. The investigative reporter bits and some of the shorts play like Troma-esque movies (Lloyd Kaufman is featured as an interviewee in one of the reporter segments) and get old fast, while some of the shorts have a much more creepy and satisfying tone.

- “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” directed by Jane Rose. It had a definite old school, ‘50s feel to it, but still came off as campy to me. I didn’t care for it that much, but it was still a good opener to stories inspired by Lovecraft.

- “The History of the Lurkers” (directed by Justin Powers) in which a punk rocker has the ability to summon evil and so he does...The problem being that the lurkers he summons turn out to be trench coat-wearing, porn shop-frequenting pervs. While the story was pretty original, it got old quick and dragged on too long.

- “Remain” directed by Ashley Thorp, was probably the strongest film in the bunch. Filmed with a stop-motion technique, it presents a man who paints a picture that comes to life. Definitely creepy with an excellent mood; I’d like to see more what this director can accomplish.

- The forth short was entitled “Bugboy” and was directed by Tomas Almgren. It tells the tale of a jilted lover transforming (literally, in a giant cocoon) into something more sinister. Shot in black and white, this film looked absolutely amazing and was both creepy and icky in a sticky sort of way.

- “Witches Spring” directed by Brian Barnes, was predictable and stale. A guy hooks up with a woman via the Internet, figuring he will just have some fun, but it turns out she’s a witch and is planning on using him in a ritual to retain her youth.

-The sixth short was directed by Simon Ruben and was called “Alecto”. This was another superb short that tells the tale of a man tormented by a song played on the violin. The film itself was haunting and eerie as it slowly unfolded.

- “Chaos of the Flesh” was another excellent entry. It was directed by Grady Granros and shot in black and white. A man is in the forest when he sees another man carrying an unconscious girl over his shoulder. He follows the pair to a tree stump and sees that the man is intent on cutting off the girl’s head. The two scuffle and finally the girl is saved…but she is no girl! She’s actually a demon…

- Next, we get a porno thrown into the mix, which was quite odd. It was the infamous (softcore version) of “Re-Penetrator” directed by Doug Sakmann. Dr. Hubert Breast reanimates his love interest and they proceed to have zombie sex…complete with lots of blood and internal organs, of course.

- The ninth and final short was an animated music video called “And This Was on a Good Day” directed by Brian A. Bernhard, which was probably the least entertaining.

Between each short the investigative reporter would come back for a silly segment. Sure, this was sometimes amusing, but the gig got old fast and less funny each time around. The humor was akin to Troma with a twinge of Monty Python thrown in.

My final verdict? Some of the shorts were quite excellent, but the failed reporter segue and some of the lesser shorts ruin it. If you are interested in checking out some short horror movies, by all means pick it up…but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the many duds throughout this anthology.

Order it on Amazon!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Altered (2006)

I had anticipated seeing Altered ever since I heard that Eduardo Sanchez, one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project, was directing. I was one of the people who actually enjoyed The Blair Witch Project and I was excited to see what Sanchez would do next. He doesn't disappoint with Altered, a sci-fi/horror flick that kept me on the edge of my seat for its entire duration.

Three friends catch an alien in the woods with its mothership in hot pursuit, and take it to their friend Wyatt's house. Many years ago, when the men were just boys, the aliens abducted them, experimented on them and ended up killing their friend Timmy. Duke, Cody and Otis are out for revenge, but Wyatt warns that the end of the human race will ensue if they kill their hostage. Once the alien gets loose, the real terror and bloodshed begins...

This film begins with a bang, with Duke, Cody and Otis out in the woods hunting the alien and doesn't let up from there. I usually don't dig alien movies, but this one was quite enjoyable with its fast pace, well-developed characters and plentiful terrifying situations.

First off, the characters development is excellent and is achieved by showing the drama and tension within the group. Instead of telling us, this film really shows us who these guys are and gives us a reason to care about them. The only character I felt was unnecessary was Wyatt's wife. I felt like they just threw her in there just so they could have a chick in the movie.

The actors all do a fine job of portraying their respective characters. They were all well-portrayed and never for a second did I have to suspend belief. They talked, acted and had flaws like normal people. Again, the drama within the group as to what to do with the alien really helped achieve the high level of tension prevalent throughout the movie.

The story itself was very well-written, with loads of tension that kept me on the edge of my seat. There aren't any annoying, tacked on "twists" at the end, but there are some surprising moments, especially as to what the alien is capable of - who knew if an alien bit you that your skin would start to rot away in a matter of hours?!

Speaking of rotting skin and other such delicacies, there is some very cool and gross scenes throughout the movie, many of them involving spilled guts (including alien guts!). We also get a man nailed up to the wall, a throat ripped out, gooey alien blood, a gunshot wound and lottsa man-to-alien hand-to-hand combat. The alien itself is a vicious lil' sucker with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and long, wicked claws. For a change, it looks like they used a man in a suit and models instead of CGI bullshit. While some people might be put off by the "man-in-the-suit" phenomenon, I found it refreshing, much like Bigfoot in Abominable. I thought the alien looked realistic and pretty cool!

If you are looking for a tension-filled alien flick featuring superb acting, great gore and a fast-paced story, I recommend Altered!

Order it on Amazon!

Anesthesia (2006)

After watching this 6 minute short, I never, ever want to go under the knife. Anesthesia is totally cringe-worthy and had me covering my eyes for most of it. It is not even gory, it just made me so uncomfortable that I literally was squirming in my seat!

A woman prays before going into surgery. Once on the operating table, she tells the nurse to keep her cross necklace close by. The nurse administers the anesthesia, but to the woman's horror she can still see, hear and feel what is going on. Her eyes are wide open, but she cannot cry out to the doctors or even move. The doctors prepare for surgery, taping her eyes shut and pulling a sheet over her head to expose the area to be operated on. The surgeon lifts the scalpel as the woman screams in her own head, pleading God to take her away from this agony...

This is definitely the most intense short film I've seen in a long time, and deserves much praise. The director, Adam Kargman, knows how to build tension to a fevered pitch until you don't want to watch what will happen next but have to, like when you pass a really horrendous accident on the freeway. Kargman makes you feel the horror and agony that the patient goes through. Coupled with the many "accidents" happening in hospitals all the time and based on the real-life phenomenon of "anesthesia awareness", this short sure makes me squeamish about being anesthetized.

Kargman wanted the film to be technically accurate, so in preparation he interviewed countless surgeons and anesthesiologists, read many medical texts and observed a surgery firsthand. The film was even filmed in a lab at a real hospital. Dorie Gray, the actress who plays the patient, portrays her role in a very realistic manner. Her performance really made me feel her pain and unbearable terror. The film is shot in black and white, adding to the very creepy, moody and timeless feel. All of this hard work definitely shows; Anesthesia looks and feels very real.

Anesthesia was an official selection for both the Newport Beach International Film Festival and the Phoenix International Film Festival. It was the winner of the Best Student Short at the San Fernando Valley International Film Festival and a nominee for Best Cinematography and Best Actress at the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia.

Highly recommended if you get a chance to check it out!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Subject Two (2006)

I was turned onto this indie flick by a fellow intrepid horror viewer who highly recommended Subject Two. An updated version of the classic Frankenstein story, it tells the story of Adam, a medical student who accepts an offer from the mysterious Dr. Vick who lives up in the secluded and snowy mountains. After a long hike through the snow, Adam arrives at Dr. Vick's and learns that his experiments involve reanimating the dead. Adam quickly becomes Subject Two as the doctor kills him and brings him back to life with a serum. Adam still has his mental capabilities intact, but Doc repeatedly kills him, giving him different strengths and variations of the serum. With each new death and rebirth, Adam becomes stronger as Dr. Vick perfects his experiment. All is not well, though, as Adam becomes paranoid of being infectious and we wonder what happened to Subject One...

From the beginning, I was sucked into the story and the interaction between the two men. Since most of the film involves just the two lead characters, their chemistry is very important and both actors pull off their roles flawlessly.

The story is an intriguing one, but becomes repetitive after a while. While we are treated to various methods of death for Adam - a shooting, a stabbing, a wrist slitting, etc. - the last half of the film begins to drag. Some plot points are never fully developed, which is a shame because if this film introduced something besides the killings of Adam, I believe it could have been great! The surprise at the end was a treat, but it came a little too late to recover from the repetitiveness of the rest of the film.

Overall, a pretty unique movie with some stellar acting from Christian Oliver (Adam) and Dean Stapleton (Dr. Vick). Yet, it needed a little something extra to alleviate the story's repetitiveness and slow pacing. Still, I would recommend you check it out if it sounds like your bag, baby.

Order it on Amazon!

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Yesterday I ventured to the theaters to see Pan's Labyrinth, and let me tell ya, it definitely lives up to the hype...stunning, touching, heartbreaking and beautiful are just a few words to describe it.

Ofelia travels with her pregnant mother to live with her stepfather, the Captain of Franco's army. He is a ruthless man who is intent on wiping out any resistance to Franco's cause. Ofelia is fascinated with her fairy tale books and uses these as an escape from the horrors happening around her. She discovers a labyrinth, where she encounters a faun who tells her she is the long-lost princess of the king of the underworld. Throughout the turmoil of her earthly life, she must complete three tasks to prove she is this long-lost princess.

Guillermo del Toro, who's The Devil's Backbone is a favorite of mine, creates two surreal worlds in this film. One is the war-ravaged Spain that Ofelia lives in, filled with violence, secrets and pain, the other is the spectacular fantasy realm she encounters. The visuals in both worlds are breathtaking while the story is at times heartbreaking.

Everything works in this film, from the well-developed characters, wonderful acting and a fairy-tale like story. While I do wish the fantasy realm was more the focus, it just would not have been the same film had it not also focused on the real world where Ofelia lives. The ugliness and pain that Ofelia faces in her world comes into sharp contrast with the fantasy world she wants to inhabit.

I know most of you have already seen this movie, or at least heard all the praise it is receiving, so I won't go into a full-fledged review. If you are unsure whether or not to check this film out, I highly recommend it, though it is not really a horror movie. Its otherworldly feel, as well as a powerful story and amazing visuals, make it a definite must-see film.

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Die and Let Live (2006)

Sometimes, an indie film comes along that makes you thank your lucky stars that you are a horror fan. This kind of film keeps you going, even if you have to dredge through hours and hours of crappy films just to find it. I search high and low for these types of movies, but they are sadly few and far between. Well, today I had the pleasure of viewing the independent Die and Let Live, a zombie horror comedy that succeeds on all fronts.

Maybe I loved this film so much because I'm a sucker for zombie flicks or films that feature some kind of high school party (which always leads to drama even before the zombies show up), but with Die and Let Live, I think the double-whammy of quick, witty dialogue and gore-filled action sold me.

Benny decides to throw a party (ahem, "private gathering") so he can hook up with his crush, Stephanie. His best bud, Smalls, decides to have it at his "summer house" (the guest house behind his mom's). Meanwhile, an outbreak has occurred at a local pharmaceutical company, causing the dead to reanimate. The walking dead cannot be stopped and are soon roaming the streets - not even a head wound will stop them, it only slows them down a bit. The zombies soon reach the now out-of-control rager at Smalls' place and a small group of friends bands together to stave off the zombie attack and retrieve their Bambino's pizza.

The first things that grabbed me about this movie were the likable characters and witty (yet realistic) dialogue. The high school characters were all believable and the acting was all spot on. Special props go to Zane Crosby as the hilarious sidekick Smalls and Josh Lively as Benny, but the rest of the cast does a great job in all their roles. Crosby, Lively and director Justin Channell all wrote the flick, doing a terrific job with characterization, dialogue and action.

Speaking of action, this film just doesn't let up! I was entertained and laughing out loud the entire length of the movie. When the zombies begin their attack on the party, the zingers and gore just don't stop. The film even features a cameo by Lloyd Kaufman (as news reporter Floyd Faukman...hehe). The gore is plentiful and well done, even featuring a victim getting not only his entrails but also his entire rip cage yanked out!

Die and Let Live is definitely an impressive and entertaining horror comedy by director/writer Channell. If you enjoyed the off-beat and absurdest humor of Return of the Living Dead along with a good heaping dose of gore, definitely check out Die and Let Live!

Order it on Amazon!

Dark Remains (2005)

As mentioned in a previous post, Friday night I set out to watch Dark Remains, Brian Avenet-Bradley's new film. I had previously watched Ghost of the Needle, and had been blown away by the creepiness that film contained. I couldn't wait to watch his next one. Though I don't think Dark Remains surpassed the storyline or creepiness of Ghost of the Needle, it was still a well-done, scary ghost story.

Julie and her husband, Allen, retreat to an isolated cabin to mourn the loss of their young daughter, who was brutally murdered in their own home. Julie is severely depressed and Allen encourages her to take up photography again. Julie begrudgingly agrees, and finds an old prison that was shut down. She begins photographing the bleak building, but when she develops the photos Julie finds ghostly images of her child. She begins taking more and more photographs which lead to more and more ghosts showing up in the prints. Meanwhile, Allen does some research on their cabin and finds many people who have lived there committed suicide. Is their child trying to warn them to get out before it is too late? Why are the other ghosts tormenting them? What secrets lie in the cabin and the old prison?

With lots of ghosts popping up at unexpected times, this movie definitely succeeded in giving me the creeps. As usual, Avenet-Bradley definitely knows how to scare the audience with a disturbing images and a haunting score to compliment them. Yet, the flash-ghost scares (much like Japanese horror movies like Ringu or Ju-on) become overused as the film progresses and lessen its impact. Also, the last third of the movie tends to drag and the ending wasn't as powerful as I'd hoped.

The acting is pretty decent, especially from the actor playing Jim (Scott Hodges), Julie and Allen's hick neighbor that seems to know more about the ghosts than he lets on. Those familiar with Ghost of the Needle will recognize Cheri Christian (Julie) and Greg Thompson (Allen) as having been in that film as well. The story is well thought out and extremely engaging, though, as mentioned previously, it does lag a bit towards the end.

Avenet-Bradley succeeds again in crafting creepy shots, along with the help of his wife, Laurence Avenet-Bradley, who reprises her role as cinematographer. Some scenes will make you ask, did I just see that? Avenet-Bradley wisely keeps things slightly hidden or slightly out of frame to give the audience maximum jump scares.

While the film does have its problems, I would highly recommend Dark Remains as a chilling alternative to the typical hack 'n' slash movies that are so prevalent today. It is a well-crafted, engaging and scary ghost story.

Order it on Amazon!

Backwoods (2006)

Backwoods is another indie addition to the city folk vs. country killer genre similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its ilk. It borrows a little too heavily from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and also from its remake to truly deliver anything new. Its the same tiresome backwoods killer story we've seen a million times.

A group of friends take a trip to visit the grave of one of the girls' father, but end up getting lost on the backroads. They pull up to what appears to be an abandoned house and slowly drift their separate ways into the surrounding woods. A couple tries to find some alone time, one girl is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, a guy is trying to express how he feels about another girl, and another girl drifts off with her videocamera. None of them know that a child-like, bloodthirsty killer lurks in the house and surrounding woods. Can a drunken sheriff, who seems to know more than he should, help the group before they all end up lost...alone...scared...and dead?!

The movie begins promising enough, with a visit to an isolated cemetery in the middle of nowhere. There seems to be a lot of drama within the group, which only gets worse as they get lost on the way back home. Yet, the action begins to lag and the characters become increasingly annoying once they reach the seemingly abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. The characters are annoying and are underdeveloped, which left me feeling nothing for them as they get butchered by the teddybear-toting killer. There is some pretty heavy overacting going on as well, which, for a low-budget movie is common but still aggravating.

The most disappointing thing, though, was the unoriginality of the story. It obviously took many cues from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but failed to deliver a new spin on the story. The "twist" at the end of Backwoods doesn't help to liven up the story...but then it's far too late. It is just too predictable and slow moving, and by the time the twist showed up, I was half-way asleep.

Now, it's not all bad...there are some pretty cool camera shots throughout the film, which do liven things up a bit. The kills and gore aren't that bad either, though the killer looks like a rip-off of a cross between Leatherface and Jason Vorhees (pre-hockey mask).

Yet the bad acting, poorly developed characters and retreaded storyline ruined the good points of the film for me. Still, I would like to see what the director could do with a more original horror story since he obviously has talent. Better luck next time!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Ghost of the Needle (2003)

So, tonight I'm planning on curling up on the couch, my black cat Havoc on one side, my wonderful boyfriend on the other and a big bowl of popcorn (perhaps even kettle corn!) on my lap to watch Dark Remains. I've been expectantly waiting for this particular movie to arrive after suffering a "very long wait" on my Netflix queue. Tonight, it should be at home!

Before I watched this film, I wanted to get a little taste of what I had in store. I ordered a film with the same director as Dark Remains, entitled Ghost of the Needle. I'm not sure what I was expecting, probably a badly done serial killer indie with lots of typical blood and misogyny. I couldn't have been more wrong. Ghost of the Needle proved to be a genuinely scary and taut movie, filled with suspense the entire way through.

A landscape photographer named Jacob relishes in taking girls back to his studio, conveniently located in the basement of an abandoned factory that his father owns. Once there, he injects them with a poison and takes photographs of their propped up, dead bodies before vacuum-sealing them in plastic. His agent has lined up an art show for him that will increase his exposure, but Jacob is sketchy about showing his private collection of gorgeous black and white landscapes. Still, his agent bullies him into doing it. One condition is that he must take a picture of a particular bridge at exactly noon on a specific day for the client. When Jacob arrives there, he meets Aimee, whom he takes back to his lair. She is a feisty thing, though, and doesn't give up without a fight. Jacob takes a tumble down the stairs while chasing her and takes quite a hit to the noggin'. When he wakes up he begins experiencing vivid hallucinations which lead him to believe that those he has murdered are out to get him...His client and his wife are somehow involved, and it seems that even his own father knows to much. Is Jacob losing his mind or are there sinister forces out for revenge?

I cannot think of one gosh darn bad thing about this movie, which makes me super-duper excited to see the director's (Brian Avenet-Bradley) third movie, Dark Remains. I kept jumping throughout the whole movie and was wholly engrossed in what was happening on-screen. I didn't even wanna get up to go to the bathroom because that would mean pausing the creepy sucker!

Everything was great about it, from the acting to the directing to the beautiful cinematography. I was a bit sketchy when I saw that Avenet-Bradley was also starring in the film as Jacob, but he pulled off both the direction and the character of Jacob flawlessly! For an independent film, I was mightily impressed with the overall production. Beautiful and creepy lighting, gorgeous cinematography, believable acting and an interesting and engaging story to pull everything together is what you can expect from Ghost of the Needle. The score and overall sound of the flick were great as well and really lend themselves to the at-times surreal atmosphere.

If you are looking for a suspenseful and gripping story that'll make you jump sky-high in your seat, look no further than this wonderfully done independent feature. I can't wait to see what Avenet-Bradley does next!

Order it on Amazon!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

Being a huge fan of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I had avoided seeing any other sequels (except, of course, for the beloved Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), remakes, reimaginings, or whatever else they are calling them these days. I was pleasantly surprised by the remake with Jessica Biel (it was mindless, entertaining fun) when I finally did see it, but horribly let down with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (my #1 worst pick for 2006). I really did love the 2nd movie, and have yet to see the 3rd, entitled Leatherface. For Christmas, my boyfriend wanted to add to my TCM collection so he got me a movie I had avoided seeing for a loooooong time: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.

Still, I was intrigued...could it really be that bad? I mean, you've got Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, so you'd at least get a laugh, right? RIGHT?! WRONG! Oh, so very sadly wrong...The Next Generation has got to be the very worst in the entire series, if not one of the worst movies ever made! I haven't seen numero tres, but by all reasoning it has to be better than the steaming pile of crud I was subjected to...

I mean, I don't even want to talk about it...I think it was so bad that I'm now traumatized by watching an overacting McConaughey play a baddie and a lost Zellweger trying to play a scared high schooler. Not to mention Leatherface! Poor Leatherface - once the most frightening horror icon, in this piece of trash he is relegated to being a cowering, scared lost-little-boy type who enjoys dressing up in drag.

The rest of the cast is as pretty bad as McConaughey and Zellweger. They are all annoying dimwits! The dialogue they spew is truly awful and the acting...ummm...ya, let's not even go there. Let's just say I'm surprise anyone had a career after starring or being involved with this movie.

Arrrrrghhhh! There are no scares, no creepy moments, nor anything of value for that matter...this is one film that has truly no redeeming qualities. If you value your eyeballs, don't set sight on this sorry excuse for a movie lest it burn them out of your sockets.

Order it on Amazon!

Feast (2006)

I finally got to see this gory treat over the holidays...let me tell you, it is good, gory fun!

A group of strangers are at an isolated bar in the middle of the desert when a man busts through the doors and tells them that there are creatures outside ready to rip them all apart. Their only chance of survival, he says, is for them to listen to him and follow his lead. A second later, he's pulled through the window as dinner for the monsters. And so begins quite a fun ride...

For a very simplistic and cliche storyline, Feast is a lot of fun! I love the intro to each of the characters where their stats (including their life expectancy) pop up. Character development isn't a big focus here, but we get a pretty good idea of who each of the characters are with their stat cards before the action commences. The film also features some clever, comedic bits that are pure gold! We get Jason Mewes playing Jason Mewes and Henry Rollins as an inspirational speaker who ends up in some tight pink shorts! Those two performances alone made this movie worthwhile...

The action and gore is relentless as the quickly dwindling bar patrons struggle to defeat the monsters. Sometimes, though, the action is a little too fast. In some scenes, especially the attack scenes, the editing is so fast and choppy that it is difficult to see what is happening. This editing, some silly dialogue and the bare bones story are my only complaints.

This movie is one big, fun rollercoaster ride with plenty of gore and splatter. Gorehounds will be delighted as the film is basically bathed in blood and guts. If you are looking for a night of mindless, bloody and comedic fun, Feast is for you.

Order it on Amazon!

A Blade in the Dark (1983)

A Blade in the Dark (La Casa con la Scala Nel Buio) is directed by Lamberto Bava, but displays little of his skill. It is slow-moving, predictable and fails to entertain.

A musician moves into a villa to write a score for an upcoming horror film. Meanwhile, a killer on the property brutally murders women and hides their bodies. The musician starts to suspect that a killer is on the loose and is hiding the bodies in the large house. More and more women who show up at the villa end up disappearing. Are these disappearances (and killings) related to the former tenant in the house? How is the film that he is working on connected to the strange disappearances?

I was so disappointed in this movie...I was expecting a fun ride but all I got was a trip on the SS Snoozeville. I couldn't care less about the characters, the acting was pretty iffy, the plot didn't go anywhere, the pacing was offensively slow, I figured out the killer by the middle of the film and the killer's motivations were sorely lacking and unbelievable. This film is chock full of unnecessary scenes that seem to exist solely to fill time. The pacing is slower than molasses and in serious need of a kick in the pants. There is no suspense and no tension. If you are a giallo fan like me, you will know who the killer is halfway through the film.

The kills aren't very memorable, though there are a few bloody bits; nothing we haven't seen before, though. There are a few great camera angles, such as the one used underwater in a pool. Unfortunately, this wasn't a kill scene.

Unless you are a collector, skip this borefest and rent one of the many better giallos...perhaps even a Mario Bava (Lamberto's father) film.

Order it on Amazon!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Dark Hours (2005)

The Dark Hours is a psychological horror film from Canada that features some cringe-inducing bits and a solid (if familiar) plot.

Dr. Samantha Goodman works at a mental hospital dealing with dangerous patients, most of whom have committed sex crimes or have violently assaulted and killed women. Her husband is a writer and her sister is his research assistant. The two go up to a cabin for a weekend, and after seeing the results of a CAT scan, Samantha decides to join them. When she arrives, she tells them that the tumor inside her brain is growing and there is no cure for the rare condition. As they look on with shock, sadness and disbelief, the doorbell rings. An awkward and twitchy 20-something comes in, looking to get out of the snow while he waits for his friends. He's not he's all he appears to be, though, as seen in one shocking scene. He takes the trio hostage with a gun until Harlan Pyne arrives to take care of business. He is Dr. Samantha's patient and had been stuck in a coma for years. He has now arrived to give the psychologist a taste of her own medicine. He plays mind games with the family, trying to get the ugly truth out of all of them. If they don't play along with his games, things could get pretty messy...but he shares more with Samantha than any of them think...

I love that this movie, from the first shocking turn of events, keeps its fast and tension-filled pace. The psychological terror that Harlan puts them through is intense, and yet his intelligence and wit kinda makes you like him. There are a few solid scares in the film and some great gory parts, such as when Harlan forces Samantha to rip her own pinky finger off with a pair of pliers.

The performances are all great and very believable. I love Aidan Devine as escaped psychopath Harlan Pyne and Kate Greenhouse as Samantha Gordon. For an independent film, everything looks great and I love that the director chose to focus solely on the horror of the mind games being played instead of using flashy camera tricks.

My only quibble is that I saw the ending coming from the first 10 minutes of the movie! The woman has a tumor...hmmm...and it's growing...could this lead to hallucinations? An altered reality? The rest of the film follows the basic home-invasion plot that has been done many times (with the "twist" thrown in to change things up a bit), so it's all pretty predictable. Yet, it is the acting and the sheer brutality of the proceedings that make this movie work.

I also love anything that's not your typical Hollywood-style, dumbed-down slasher flick. Check out The Dark Hours yourself, if anything for something a lil' different than the standard fare nowadays.

Order it on Amazon!

Love Object (2003)

Love Object is a dark, twisted and perverse film that abounds with layers of meaning while still managing to be wholly entertaining.

Successful but socially awkward technical writer Kenneth Winslow (Desmond Harrington) just can't connect to people. He writes instruction manuals for a large company and his motto is, "It's easy if you just follow the directions." Alas, in life there are no directions. Isolated and alone, he decides to order a pricey but realistic sex doll, modeled after his newly-appointed assistant, Lisa. The sex doll, Nikki, arrives in a large crate at his apartment. Kenneth soon develops a close attachment to Nikki and starts treating her like a real girlfriend. His relationship with Nikki becomes strained as he and Lisa develop feelings for each other. Soon, he begins to suspect that Nikki is jealous and is trying to get back at him for abandoning her for Lisa. Kenneth's mental state becomes more and more fragile as he believes Nikki is out to get him. Is it all in his head or has Nikki really come alive?

Love Object can be read into for many deeper meanings including issues in relationships, detachment from people and more of a reliance on inanimate objects or possessions, objectification of women, a view on the state of mind of our society, etc., etc. First-time director Robert Parigi covers many levels of meaning in his very engaging horror flick. There is the motif running throughout the film of disease. Kenneth goes to a porn shop a few times and the clerk is horribly disfigured and has a red rash covering his face. The guy who delivers Nikki also has the same ugly red rash as the clerk does. Other people Kenneth comes in contact with who are somehow connected to either Nikki or the perverse lifestyle Nikki represents also have the rash. As Kenneth slowly changes and grows more and more crazy, he also develops a violent red rash on his neck. These small details by Parigi point to something much larger he wanted to make the audience think about.

Don't fret, though, because while it can be viewed on many different levels, this film is also very entertaining and has some great performances. Desmond Harrington does an especially great job as Kenneth, portraying his quickly slipping sanity with great believability. He sure is creepy when talking and *ahem* interacting with Nikki. I also enjoyed watching Melissa Sagemiller play a charming and likable Lisa (she was also the model for Nikki). The film also features Rip Torn as Kenneth's boss and Udo Keir as his landlord who lives next door to Kenneth and hears some very strange things through the wall...

There are many scenes that will make you squirm or look away in disgust, but, be warned, this is not a gory movie. It reminded me of a cross between American Psycho and May; a smart, quirky movie that features a brutal ending.

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Aftermath (1994)/Genesis (1998)

This feature delivers three short films by director Nacho Cerda. Cerda recently directed The Abandoned, which screened at the After Dark Horrorfest. After seeing three of his short films, I am very disappointed that I missed seeing The Abandoned in theaters. Cerda certainly has an eye for horror, disturbing imagery and a knack with crafting eerie and, especially in the case of Aftermath, brutal stories.

The first short is about six minutes long and is entitled The Awakening. A student dozes off in class only to wake up to find that time has stopped. Everyone else in class is frozen in time, but he moves freely about. He discovers that he cannot escape the classroom as the windows and doors are impassable. What's happened to him? What's happened to time? Made in 1991 and shot in black and white, this film looks like old footage from the '50s. The ending isn't shocking, but like the rest of Cerda's shorts in this collection, it is devoid of dialogue. The classical soundtrack carries the film and this technique is, in fact, Cerda's trademark. An ok starting point for the trio of shorts, but the best is yet to come.

The absolute highlight of the collection is the second film, Aftermath. In a cold and clinical morgue, two morgue workers are performing autopsies on two patients. They remove all the organs to weigh and measure them. This includes the brain, which they have to scoop out after sawing open the skull. The chest is cut open and the ribs are buzz-sawed to reveal the rest of the organs. The heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and other organs are all removed, weighed and thrown back into the corpse before it is neatly sewn up and hosed off. One of the coroners finishes up and leaves the other one alone as a pretty young dead woman is wheeled in. Now alone, the remaining coroner relishes his alone time with her, mutilating and defiling her. Shocking and morbid, this film only runs 30 minutes but you'll be left feeling sick to your stomach for hours (perhaps days) afterward. The best part of this film is how realistic it looks. The autopsies look (and sound) incredibly real. I loved watching the autopsy bits, as I'm fascinated with the forensic side of things! As with The Awakening, there is no dialogue, but the main actor playing does a great job conveying his sick emotions, even with most of his face hidden behind surgical glasses and a surgical mask. The action is also buoyed along by the classical soundtrack. The film is shot beautifully, with long wide shots showing the autopsy action and extreme close-ups of gore. Everything is filmed under harsh, bluish fluorescent lighting, giving the morgue a starkly clinical look. Aftermath is extremely disturbing, sick, realistic and not for the faint of heart. You may want to consider cremation after watching this film...

The last film is Genesis, and it tells of a sculptor who is haunted by the loss of his wife. He has made dozens of statues of her, and is currently working on a beautiful life-size sculpture of her. Strange things start to happen - the statue begins to bleed, then slowly cracks appear to reveal what appears to be human skin underneath. The sculptor also has a transformation, as he appears to be turning into a statue himself! Again, this is a beautiful and creepy film. It does not contain the gore that Aftermath features, but is still well done nonetheless.

Now, more than ever, I am eager to check out Cerda's The Abandoned and any other projects he may do. Do yourself a favor and check out his work, especially Aftermath.

Order it on Amazon!
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