Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

Come with me, darlings, back to a time when the British horror house Amicus ruled the Cineplex, back to a time where horror movies gave us the pleasantly unpleasant sensation of goosebumps instead of just simply grossing us out with gores. Come, travel back with me to a time of misty moors, of strange noises in the night, of unnamable things in the dark, and even more terrifying still, the evil things that lurked beneath your own eaves.

Come and witness the terror of…The House That Dripped Blood!

After renting an old house out in the English countryside while shooting his new vampire movie, a famous film star (John Pertwee) goes missing. Scotland Yard sends a detective (John Bennett) to investigate and a local police officer (John Malcolm) recounts the sordid past of the house…that dripped blood!

This 1971 film is a must for anyone wanting to relive or experience for the first time the glory days of Amicus Productions. First of all, it’s one of the most well-done horror film anthologies out there, boasting stories by Psycho scribe Robert Bloch and an impressive cast featuring Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing and many others!

The first segment, entitled “Method for Murder,” stars Denholm Elliot as horror author that buys the house with his wife (Joanna Dunham) so he can focus on writing his next book. Inspiration comes soon enough, and he creates a vicious strangler named Dominic. Trouble is, he keeps seeing him everywhere he goes! Is the author crazy or is Dominic really there? This is a superb, paranoid piece of cinema that really makes you wonder if Dominic (played by Tom Adams) is really there or not. There is a great tension both in the story and how the segment is shot by director Peter Duffell. I also loved that Elliot made his role of the author so believable!

“Waxworks” is the title of the next segment and it features Peter Cushing as a wealthy, retired gentleman that buys the accursed house. One day while in town he visits a wax museum and is startled by a wax mannequin that looks very much like a woman from his past. When his friend (Joss Ackland) shows up, he too visits the wax museum and is transfixed by the same beautiful wax model. We never quite find out who the mystery girl from both their pasts is, but we are treated to a very unnerving and creepy atmosphere. There is a disorienting dream sequence that is disturbing and of course the finale is very well executed.

Christopher Lee stars in segment three, “Sweets for the Sweet,” as a seemingly cruel father who forbids his young daughter from playing with other children and even from having a doll. Her nanny is shocked at his behavior, but soon learns a horrifying family secret that explains everything. Christopher Lee’s character is downright nasty in this one (always a pleasure to see) while the cute-as-a-button Chloe Franks plays his daughter. I loved the interaction between the two, as well as the nanny’s (Nyree Dawn Porter) interaction with the both of them. I felt the story was a bit more predictable than the last two, but wholly enjoyable nonetheless.

The final macabre tale called “The Cloak” brings the film full circle as we return to the detective (John Bennett) who is investigating the latest foul play to befall an owner of the house. The detective leaves the police station to interview the realtor (John Bryans) who sold the famous actor (John Pertwee) the house. The realtor recounts how the actor acquired the house to be close to the set of his latest movie, a vampire film. The actor was dissatisfied with the low-budget props and costumes for the film, so when he stumbled upon an old curio shop that had the perfect cloak for his role, he spared nothing to acquire it. He didn’t have to spare much, as the old proprietor was more than happy to sell him the cloak. There do seem to be some problems, though. Each time the actor dons the cloak he can no longer see himself in a mirror and has a thirst for blood. You see, the cloak turns him into a real vampire whenever he wears it!

Of course the detective doesn’t believe a lick of the story (or any of the others, I imagine) and goes to investigate the house on his own…

The final segment does a great job of tying everything up into a neat and complete package. I loved how the wrapped the whole story up with the overarching storyline of the detective investigating the film star’s disappearance. I also enjoyed Pertwee’s performance of the “prima donna” actor. Ingrid Pitt was equally good as a fellow actress who takes a special liking to the cloak.

Overall, The House That Dripped Blood is an excellent horror anthology. It doesn’t rely on gore or gags to entertain the viewer, but rather on building tension and slowly unveiling the mysteries of the stories. Instead of showing you all its cards at once, it holds back and makes you question exactly what it’s holding. It makes you wonder, it makes you think and it makes you a little spooked…what more can you ask for?

They certainly don’t make many movies like this anymore, and it is a pity. Luckily we have these old gems to look back on and enjoy. If you haven’t been privy to The House That Dripped Blood, I highly recommend you check it out!

Available from Amazon!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Savage Harvest 2: October Blood (2006)

It’s usually hard to follow up a horror movie, indie or otherwise, with a substantial sequel. Most sequels exist only to exploit the popularity of the first film and to plunder its creativity without coming up with anything original. When there is a change in writer and director (which is usually the case) the problem is further compounded. The heart, soul and essence of the first film are discarded in pursuit of one thing, and one thing only…money.

Luckily, we have smart independent horror sequels like Savage Harvest 2: October Blood to make up for those other soul-sucking sequels. Instead of exploiting the source material, new writer/director Jason Christ reverently stays true to the original while adding his own improvements.

Thirteen years have passed since a group of six friends awakened evil demons on a rural farm. The last remaining survivor, Mikki (Lisa Morrison), committed suicide several years ago. Her younger sister Ashley (Emily Haack), receives an unmarked video of a blood-drenched Mikki that reopens all the old wounds from her sister’s suicide. This video throws Ashley back into a deep depression and she returns to her and Mikki’s hometown to try and heal her wounds. Once there she runs into her old high school sweetheart Tyge (Benjamin Gaa), who’s running from his own personal demons. Tyge is staying with his old friend Zack (Eric Stanze, the writer/director for the first Savage Harvest film), who is enthralled by Native American folklore, especially that based on the native tribes of the area. When Ashley becomes determined to discover why her sister committed suicide and why she made that video tape, the friends head back to the isolated farm where Mikki survived a massacre and unwittingly re-release the very same evil spirits that turned Mikki’s friends into demons!

Savage Harvest 2: October Blood is an impressive sequel, one that works closely with its source material but tweaks things just enough to make them interesting. It also takes the time to improve on the original’s weak spots, including character development. Writing and directing duties have been handed over to Jason Christ, taking over for Eric Stanze who stars in the film. Christ does a fantastic job creating an engaging story, well-developed characters and a foreboding atmosphere.

The pace of the film comes in sharp contrast with its predecessor; while the first wastes no time in getting to the gory action, October Blood wisely takes its time building up the story and characters. Though some might say it takes too long, I believe that in the end it benefits the overall film. The actors do a great job of carrying the first part of the film solely on their performances. Emily Haack as Ashley conveys an emotional depth that is rarely seen in low-budget horror films. I also enjoyed watching Benjamin Gaa as Tyge as he and Ashley’s relationship deepens (and then turns nasty!). The real delight, though, came from Eric Stanze. I never expected him to be as great an actor as he is a writer/director, but he proved me wrong! He was an absolute joy to watch as Zack and brought some quirky and funny moments to the film.

Fans of the fast-paced Savage Harvest might need to be a bit more patient for the bloody pay-off in this film, but their patience will be well rewarded. The special FX are back in October Blood, with the infamous chainsaw making a nice comeback. Gorehounds will be pleased, though they’ll be waiting an hour plus for the bloodbath to begin.

Released in 2006, Savage Harvest 2: October Blood has been a long time coming since the original Savage Harvest was released in 1995. Despite the long wait, fans will be well pleased by the sequel. It may run a little long for most genre fan’s likings at nearly two hours, but those that appreciate well-constructed characters will think it’s worth the wait. Even those who haven’t seen the original Savage Harvest will easily be able to enjoy the film – the first film’s mythology is cleverly laid out at the beginning of October Blood.

Wicked Pixel Films continues to produce quality, independent horror film and Savage Harvest 2: October Blood is no different. Check it out today!

Available from Amazon!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Savage Harvest (1994)

Most indie horror aficionados are familiar with filmmaker Eric Stanze, who has brought us such solid indie efforts as the shocking Scapbook and Ice From the Sun, or his production company, Wicked Pixel Films. Yet you may not be familiar with one of his first films, entitled Savage Harvest, though you should be! Savage Harvest is a gruesomely good time, brimming with plenty of blood and guts to make any gorehound drool with pleasure, even though it is a no-budget indie film. Despite its shoestring budget, its impressive gore still holds up today even though the film was made in 1993!!

Six friends head up to an isolated farm in the country to help an uncle clean out a barn filled with his father’s belongings. His father was very interested in Native American mythology and collected many stories and artifacts about the Native Americans who used to call the area their home. The uncle recounts a popular legend concerning the surrounding woods. During the Trail of Tears, many Cherokees managed to escape and settled in these woods. Times were tough and one of the elders attempted to help the tribe by turning to black magic. When he was found conjuring evil spirits, the tribe killed him. Soon after, all of their crops turned to stones, stones that bore strange markings on them that possessed whoever touched them. The Cherokees abandoned the woods, calling them cursed. It is said that if a direct blood descendant of the tribe was to set foot on the cursed land again, he or she would re-awaken the evil spirits.

Well, unbeknownst to the six friends, one of them actually is a blood descendant and the evil spirits are released to posses the friends one by one! Now the friends are trapped on the Cherokee’s cursed land and possessed by the demons that inhabit the stones. Whenever someone touches the cursed stones, they are possessed by the stone’s particular demon…and become hungry for flesh! Can the remaining survivors find a way to stop the demons and reverse the curse?

I figured with a name like “Savage Harvest” this would be another derivative demon-possession-in-the-woods flick, but I was wrong. Savage Harvest really takes the time to build up its story and the Native American folklore behind it. I loved that they used Native American folklore in the film, a rich mythology that is sadly underused in horror films. The story, written by Eric Stanze, is extremely engaging and moves at a fast pace (though it’s little slow at first). The story was interesting and unique enough that the film didn’t feel like the typical, Evil Dead-inspired, kids-stuck-in-the-woods-with-demons horror flick.

The actors all held their own as well, despite the fact that they were amateurs. I really enjoyed the fact that they looked like normal people and didn’t look like they stepped straight out of the latest Teen Vogue or CW show. Their performances were definitely not the best I’ve seen in a horror film or even an indie film (some actors’ performances were downright annoying), but they served the plot well enough. I felt the characters could have used a little more development, but when the film kicks into high gear and the blood starts flying, “character development” didn’t seem too terribly important anymore.

Speaking of blood flying, the gore in this film is amazing! It is even more impressive considering the film was made in 1993 and Savage Harvest was Wicked Pixel’s first feature film. The blood flows freely as people are eaten, decapitated, eviscerated, gouged, electrocuted…and even taken to with a chainsaw! If it’s one area that this film absolutely succeeds in, it’s the gore. The demon special FX aren’t all that bad, either, and are reminiscent of the toothy demons from Demons.

Of course this film isn’t perfect – the picture is often times fuzzy, grainy and distorted (though I don’t think the film was originally made for widescreen LCD’s), some of the acting is a little grating at times and the psychedelic “lost-in-the-woods” scenes were beyond annoying, but these problems seem to go away when you realize that you are actually enjoying the film!

All in all, Savage Harvest is a fun and gore-filled addition to any fan of Eric Stanze or Wicked Pixel Films, or is a proper starting point for people who appreciate no-budget indie films. Either way, you’re sure to appreciate this nicely done demon possession flick!

Available from Amazon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

It is usually very taboo for a film, any film, to show children getting killed. The daring Who Can Kill A Child? decided to break that taboo and prominently features children getting shot and beaten to death. It also shows real footage of suffering children during the horrors of the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and many African civil wars. There is very graphic footage of starving, wounded, dying and dead children that is sad and shocking to see.

The film aspires to show us how children are usually the ones that suffer most during famine, war, natural and man-made disasters. Why shouldn’t children turn on the very people that are supposed to protect them but fail to do so? What would happen if children banded together to stand up against adults and fought back against the many years of cruelty and neglect? Could you really kill a child if you had to, if it meant the little tyke’s life or yours?

An English couple is taking a vacation in Spain. The woman is pregnant and wants some peace and relaxation, so her husband suggests the island of Almanzora, which he has fond memories of. The two set off by themselves in a small powerboat for the island, but when they arrive, it’s not as the husband remembered it. It is utterly devoid of grown-ups, though there are plenty of children frolicking around. Assuming that there is a big fiesta on the other side of the island, the two stay and wait for the grown-ups to come back. Except that there is no one left alive on the island except for the children, who’ve gone mad and murdered all the adults. Can the couple save themselves or will they be forced to kill a child (or two or three) to survive?

Who Can Kill a Child? is a fantastic film made in 1976 and it has recently been released on DVD for the first time by the wonderful Dark Sky Films. With its disturbingly shocking story and beautiful direction by Narciso Ibanez Serrador (who also penned the script from a novel by Juan Jose Plans called “El Juego”) the film works wonderfully. The setting of the Spanish isle of Almanzora is gorgeous. The bright, white Mediterranean-style village, bright blue skies and sparkling waters create a contrasting backdrop to the horrors that unfold on-screen. It’s also interesting to note that most of the killings occur in broad daylight, with the hot sun relentlessly beating down on the victims. Not many films that are set during the day can pull off a creepy vibe, but in Who Can Kill a Child? it works like a charm, making events even more uncomfortable because they occur right out in the open.

Another aspect that makes the film work so effectively is the acting. All of the children (and there are A LOT of them) are wonderful in the film. Every single one of them oozes hatred out of their dark and stormy eyes; just one look and we know they mean business. The acting is so realistic that it’s chilling! Perhaps one of the most effective scenes involves a wife of a fisherman who lives on the other side of Almanzora with her children and their grandmother. Two children from the village “infect” the wife’s children with their pure hatred, and as the woman calls them into dinner, they silently defy her. As we see her perplexed expression, we also see all of the children in the village ominously emerge from the cliffs above her home.

The film does have its faults, most noticeably in believability. After the couple witnesses a little girl who kills an old man by beating him with his own cane and children using a dead body as a piƱata, it may seem wise to get the heck off the island! But do they leave? No, they opt to stick around to rescue a Dutch teenager who is hiding out somewhere on the island and keeps tracking them down with phone calls. Another quibble is with the color of the blood, which looks almost orange in color! If you are going to prominently feature children getting killed in your film, at least make it realistic! The “blood” that was used looked more like thick orange-ish paint that was splashed and dribbled on the victims. Still, these are small problems compared to the remarkable story and taboo subject the film deals with.

Dark Sky Films have done a spectacular job with this release – the original 1:8.5.1 anamorphic widescreen has been restored and the picture looks absolutely stunning and clean. I usually don’t mention these technical aspects, but I felt that Dark Sky did such a great job with this film that they deserved mention. This film probably hasn’t looked this good since its original theatrical release!

Who Can Kill a Child? is a superb film that shouldn’t be missed. Its notorious scenes of child murder aren’t all that shocking nowadays, but they still pack a punch, especially when other films usually won’t touch the taboo subject.

Available on Amazon!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Teeth (2008)

The indie film Teeth, the darling of last year’s Sundance Festival, masquerades as a feminist film and has sadly been heralded as such, but the reality is that Teeth is a misogynistic film that tells the audience that the only way for a woman to have any power or control is for her to spread her legs and submit to men.

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a virtuous high school student that preaches and practices abstinence. She is a motivational speaker for middle school kids, and despite the taunting cat-calls she receives at school, she stays true to her vow. That is, until she meets like-minded Tobey (Hale Appleman). The two fall for each other, but during an intense make-out session at the local swimming hole, Tobey forces Dawn into sex (while she’s half-way unconscious after bumping her head). Dawn’s genitalia fights back, taking a big bite outta Tobey’s penis. Dawn knows there is something very wrong with her body, and discovers she has “vagina dentata,” a myth that dates back to ancient civilizations. After numerous run-ins with other men who try and take advantage of her (only to have their members bitten clean off), Dawn realizes she can use her newfound teeth to her advantage…especially when it comes to her lecherous step-brother Brad (John Hensley).

Teeth was a very disappointing movie, especially since it had been branded such a great “feminist” horror film. It’s a pity that just about any movie with a female lead is automatically branded a “feminist” film because in Teeth its a grievous misnomer. It’s just about the most misogynistic horror film I’ve seen in a while.

Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein (whom I’ll refer to as LETCHenstein from now on) comes off as more of a lewd old man instead of a champion of woman’s liberation. He’s like the guy who says he supports your women’s lib group, but really says so just to bang all the hot chicks and brag about it to his buddies later. His female characters are of the Madonna/whore archtype, with little room in-between. Dawn is portrayed as naive and virginal in the beginning of the film (mostly for laughs at the character’s expense), but later begins turning into a bit of a slut. Yet, she is strongest at the beginning of the film – she knows who she is, what she stands for and she’s not about to let the bozo’s at school that taunt and tease her get in the way of what she knows is right…until she meets that “special boy,” of course. When Mr. Right comes along, we all know to drop whatever is important to us and ride off into the sunset with him, right? BULLSHIT, LETCHenstein!! Do you even know any women?? As for the other women characters in the film, they are underdeveloped or exploited, as is the case with Brad’s “girlfriend” (more like sex puppet) Kim, who submits herself over and over to his whims.

To be fair, the male characters aren’t written in the most flattering light either – most are rapists. Tobey forces Dawn to have sex at the beginning of the film, the gynecologist she visits sexually assaults her (and loses his fingers in the process), another boy places a bet that he can bang her and calls his friend while he’s having sex with Dawn (after he’s drugged her) to brag about it (bye bye penis) – oh, and all these scenes are played for laughs. Hmmm…last time I checked RAPE wasn’t funny, Mr. LETCHenstein. To make matters worse, sympathy is transferred from Dawn, you know, the rape victim, to her stupid attackers when they lose various body parts! If you need any more proof that this film is misogynist you need an eye exam.

For horror fans out there expecting a blood bath…you’ll also be disappointed. Except for 2 or 3 severed penises, it’s not at all gory. There’s maybe one shot of the bloody severed stub where the penis used to be, but horror fans have seen much worse. You can’t rely on gore in this film either…or scares for that matter.

The story itself is confused, convoluted and imbalanced. The horror of Dawn’s situation is reduced to gags and creates a very uncomfortable atmosphere. There are also weird bits of tragedy, like Dawn’s mom dying, which fit awkwardly into the overall story. The pacing is off and it takes FOREVER for something to happen and even longer for the next big penis-chomping to go down. I would usually applaud a film for taking the time to build up characters, but Teeth does no such thing, instead deciding to tiredly poke fun at religion and abstinence. YAWN!

The acting was just about the only good thing in Teeth. Jess Weixler pulls off Dawn’s many emotions convincingly, but it is John Hensley as her step-brother Brad that really shines. His foul-mouthed pillow-talk is uproarious and he steals every seen he is in (and even some he’s not, when he can just be heard in the background). He, like most characters in the film, is unlikable and we can’t wait to see his demise. Still, he is what saved this movie from being absolute trash.

Teeth, wrongly labeled “pro-woman,” is one of the most vile and misogynist pieces of cinema I’ve been unfortunate to witness. Or perhaps fortunately, because now I can warn you all of it’s deviant deception. I really cannot believe how many clueless critics heralded this as the best indie film out of Sundance…

Because, frankly, it BITES!

Available on Amazon!

Cloverfield (2008)

It’s hard not to be disappointed by super-hyped films. You’ve seen all the advertisements, all the features, all the teasers to get you pumped for a particular film, but when you finally see it, more often than not it’s a big let-down. Nowadays, most of us, myself included, only cautiously look forward to movies. If you think about it, it is kind of like going on a blind date. The friends that set you up can’t stop telling you what a great person this guy is and blah blah blah, but you aren’t convinced. It’s the same thing with me and films…no matter how cool the trailers look or all the good/bad things I hear, I still remain skeptical until I’ve seen it myself.

Well, after hearing the outburst of mixed opinions considering Cloverfield, I knew I had to check it out myself to set the record straight. And let me tell you, friends, this is one film that DOES live up to the hype! Cloverfield is every bit as effective, immediate, intense and scary as I could have hoped for!

Lily (Jessica Lucas) and Jason (Mike Vogel) are throwing a going-away party for Jason’s brother Rob (Michael Stahl-David) at their Manhattan apartment. Rob has just accepted a vice president position at a company in Japan. Lily wants the party documented, so Rob’s best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) is enlisted to film the party on a hand-held camcorder, gathering testimonials about Rob from all the party-goers. Suddenly, the party is rocked by a large earthquake and all the lights in they city flicker out…they come back on a few minutes later and a newswoman comes onto the TV to say that an oil tanker has overturned by the Statue of Liberty. Everyone heads up to the roof to see if they can see anything, and that’s when everything goes to hell as something attacks the city.

The quickly diminishing group of friends tries to flee the city, but quickly discover that a huge monster is responsible for the mass destruction. Buildings and whole blocks are leveled, skyscrapers explode and all the horrifying action is caught by Hud on the hand-held camera (when Rob asks if he is still filming, Hud even says, “Yeah, people are gonna want to know…how it all went down.”).

When they see there is no easy way out of the city, the remaining friends go back to rescue their friend Beth (Odette Yustman, who looks like she could be Jessica Alba’s sister) who is trapped in her apartment building in midtown Manhattan.

The group must try to avoid the gigantic monster, the military that is trying to evacuate people, falling debris, fire and a host of smaller monsters that came with the big guy. Does anyone survive?

Cloverfield is the perfect film to kick off 2008. From the opening credits, which state that the footage we are about to see is Property of the U.S. Military and was found in the “area formerly known as ‘Central Park,’” the film sets an ominous mood. Even the 30-minute calm-before-the-storm party footage does little to alleviate the fear that something BIG is about to happen. The party scene tries to lull the audience into a false sense of calm, but it actually increases the tension because we are just waiting for “The Big Bad” to happen. The party scene also serves as a wonderful introduction to the characters and makes us care about them. At first I thought Rob’s argument with Beth at the party seemed out of place, but it set up his motivations as to why he had to go rescue her later in the film. I really got a sense of who these people were, that they could be my friends, neighbors or even myself, and that made what happened next all the more terrifying.

In a post-9/11 world, Cloverfield is a scary reminder of just how chaotic and frantic a big disaster can be. Cloverfield is a reminder how devastating events like Hurricane Katrina, the “War on Terrorism,” the Oklahoma City bombing, L.A. Riots, 9/11 and so on, really are. The immediacy of the hand-held camera puts us at Ground Zero and shows us what it was really like to face buildings collapsing, debris falling, injured and bloody people trying to get help, military personnel shooting and bombing a huge enemy and so on. I really felt like I was there, a major part of what makes this film so successful. And to all the people that unjustly compare this to The Blair Witch Project mixed with the awful 1998 Godzilla remake are only taking a cosmetic and shallow look at the film. Comparing it to Godzilla…have they even seen that movie? And I didn’t feel like it was a Blair Witch rip-off at all, as the two films are very different in tone.

Writer Drew Goddard keeps the tone bleak from pretty much 30 minutes in, but wisely uses some jokes thrown around by the surviving friends to slightly ease the tension every once in a while. The dialogue is very natural, and it’s easy to imagine people to trying to make light of a very serious situation to survive. The script is expertly paced, and assisted by director Matt Reeves, Cloverfield keeps the scares coming and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Speaking of scares, yes, you do see the enormous monster and it’s spider-like parasites on multiple occasions and they are all impressive. The super-fast creepy-crawlies are a sight to see, especially when they attack our intrepid camera man (and others) deep within the New York subway tunnels. The monster itself is equally frightening, due to its gigantic size and the wake of destruction it leaves in its path. And it doesn’t look a think like Godzilla, so don’t worry. There are several very close calls with the monster, each stunningly scary to behold! In other films, I might complain about the CGI, but not here. I was so wrapped up in the story that I didn’t even notice the CGI…that’s how good the film is, folks.

The scares within Cloverfield are helped along by the fantastic sound design in the film. The ominous vibrations and BOOM…BOOM…BOOM of the creature stomping through Manhattan create a sense of deep, foreboding dread throughout the film. When the action is at its most frenetic, guns are blazing, bombs are going off, buildings are crashing, people are screaming and the creature is roaring…and it’s a beautifully frightening scene every time. The cacophony of the chaos as seen through the hand-held camera places you there, and forces you to think about what it must have been like when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11 or what it really must be like on the front lines of war.

And that’s probably why I liked Cloverfield so much and highly recommend you see it in theaters. Sure, if you take it at face value it’s just a giant-monster-run-amuck film (though a very well-done one at that), but if you choose to look deeper you will see that it offers a commentary on our post-9/11 world, the “YouTube Generation,” even our environment. Placing Cloverfield in that real-life context, my friends, is what elevates it from scary monster movie to a truly bone-chilling film.

This is a must-see!

Available from Amazon!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Boogeyman 2 (2007)

For a straight-to-DVD sequel that most people don’t know is out and, if they did know was out, probably wouldn’t bother because the first Boogeyman was so god-awful, Boogeyman 2 is a nice surprise. It’s certainly not a perfect, I-just-peed-my-pants-it-was-so-awesome surprise, but it fares much better than its weak predecessor.

The film opens on a little girl named Laura (Sammi Hanratty), who is celebrating her birthday with her Mom, Dad and 11-year-old brother Henry (Jarrod Bailey). It’s a dark and stormy night, but the family is happy inside their dimly-lit home, opening presents and eating cake. Something isn’t quite, though, because Henry is petrified of going into the dark hallway, and Laura seems equally scared, even when their parents tell them to basically “grow up” and that the Boogeyman they fear doesn’t exist.

A little while later, little Laura and Henry witness a hooded figure kill both of their parents. They believe that the Boogeyman was responsible for their parent’s deaths, and as they grow up the fear of the Boogeyman stays with them.

Now ten years later, Henry (Matt Cohen) has been treated at a mental health facility for his phobia. He has just been released and now Laura (Danielle Savre) realizes that she too needs help. With Henry’s help, she checks herself into the same facility he was just released from. She joins a program to treat phobias led by Dr. Ryan (Renee O’Connor) and overseen by Dr. Allen (Tobin Bell). Among the other patients are a guy who fears the outside world, a girl who is afraid of losing control, a germaphobe, a girl who is scared of getting fat and another guy like Laura who fears the dark.

When patients start dying in ways that resemble their gravest fears, Laura suspects the Boogeyman is behind them. Her doctors are convinced she’s gone cuckoo, as the first few deaths look like tragic accidents. When the bodies start piling up, though, the survivors begin to suspect that something or someone is behind the grisly deaths. With night upon the isolated and desolate hospital, can Laura face her true fear of the Boogeyman?

Though this film is much better than the first one (which is only referenced once, and very quickly, by the way) it is still only slightly above average for a horror film. It starts off great with Laura and Henry as little kids suffering a very traumatic experience, but once the killings start it’s just one kill after another. I prefer my stories a little meatier with more substance, but if you are looking for a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am barrage of killings, Boogeyman 2 will work for you.

I have to mention, though, that despite the rapid-fire succession of deaths, the film doesn’t have a lot of gore. Most deaths happen off-screen and some we don’t even see at all! However, there are quite a few nicely-done sprays of blood, many of which end up all over Danielle Savre’s face. One explosive scene that involves force-feeding really tickled my fancy.

The acting is also well-done by everyone involved. One small problem I had, though, was Tobin Bell as a doctor. Every time I see that guy I can’t help but think of SAW. His portrayal of the doctor was a little too close to Jigsaw for my liking. On the other hand, cute redhead Danielle Savre did a wonderful job playing the confused Laura. The rest of the cast did a very credible job as well, with no one giving a bad performance.

As for the story, there really wasn’t all that much to it. Its simplicity worked for the most part, but left me a little bored towards the middle and end where it just turned into one kill after the other. I did enjoy the ending, which revealed the Boogeyman to be someone I suspected the least. All of my guesses as to who the villain was were wrong…and I love when I’m wrong in a horror movie because that means I’m actually surprised! Kudos to scribe Brian Sieve!

Furthermore, director Jeff Betancourt did a wonderful job directing the film. I love the dim, shadowy conditions he created throughout the film. Flickering lights and dark stairwells haven’t looked so creepy in quite some time! I’ll admit, there were even scenes where the tension was so great that I had to bury my head in my hands and peek out from behind my hands.

There were a couple things that left me less than satisfied, though, especially dealing with continuity and believability. First of all, there were several scenes that lacked continuity. For one thing, characters would be drenched in blood in one scene, but the next shot would just be lightly dabbed with it, or, worst of all, squeaky clean! My next nit-pick was all about believability. The exterior shots of the hospital where Laura is staying make it look huge, with at least five to ten stories and multiple wings. It is not an old, decrepit, falling apart hospital either. Every night, there is a hospital “lockdown” for the safety of the patients, and when the killings start, it is found that the phone lines are dead and they have no way to communicate with the outside world (i.e. no way to call for help). This just seems like a pretty ludicrous situation to me…first of all, they may not be able to escape the hospital, but they could at least go to a different floor for help! They still have access to the basement after the lockdown ensues, so why couldn’t they use the same stairs that they took to the basement to get to another floor? Also, why wouldn’t there be a backup computer for the phone system? And why, in such a large hospital, would they not have a regular night staff to deal with such emergencies? In that case, why wouldn’t that size of hospital have a security team?

The more you think about such small quibbles, they more you’ll get annoyed. Still, despite these little complaints, the film was overall pretty entertaining. It may not have been an impressive horror film and probably won’t scare your pants off, but it is a very surprising film considering the source material of the first Boogeyman.

Available on Amazon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gory Gear: Mini Cassette Tees

Strikingly bold and beautifully bright t-shirt designs make Mini Cassette Tees stand out from the horror tee crowd. That, and their varied selection of tees that go beyond the horror spectrum and into different designs from the sci-fi and video game worlds. The company was started by three fans in 2007 who wanted unique shirts to wear. Not finding anything but the same ho-hum black and white t-shirt designs, they decided to start making their own…out of this Mini Cassette Tees was formed.

Mini Cassette’s designs focus on nostalgic subjects, but it’s their presentation of these subjects that makes them feel so fresh and new. For example, horror fans’ beloved Bub, the brainy zombie from Day of the Dead, is infused with new life in a bright turquoise blue and blood red combination. His visage really pops in these colors against a black tee as he chews on a tasty reward. With the mix of bright colors and one of my favorite horror characters on this shirt, it is my favorite from Mini Cassettes.

Then again, they also have “The Iller” shirt, featuring everyone’s favorite “Thrill”-er, Michael Jackson in full zombie glory. I remember being enthralled by the music video as a kid (while my best friend Megan just couldn’t bear to watch it) and the same can still be said today. There’s just something about the mix of the music, the zombie dance and the familiar voice of Vincent Price to get any horror fan tapping their foot to the beat. This design is insanely popular nowadays (maybe because Michael Jackson really IS starting to look like a decomposing zombie), but I could never get enough “Thriller” anyway. In Mini Cassette’s design, their zombified Michael stares from the depths of his sunken eyes, awash in gruesome green and clothed in his signature red jacket. The backdrop against a black shirt re-emphasizes the fact that he appears to be “coming for you!” out of the shadows! This shirt is pure perfection…

The theme of zombies continues with the girls-only “I Love Zombies” tee, perfect for expressing to the world how you feel about the shuffling slow-movers. It’s playful, colorful and will let people know that your heart belongs to the walking dead! I consider this a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, either for yourself or fellow horror lover! C’mon…who wouldn’t want to give their heart to a zombie this Valentine’s Day?

Next is the exclusive girls’ tee, “My Pet Zombie.” Printed on a green shirt, this tee celebrates the awesomeness of the possibility of having a pet zombie. Just like in one of last year’s favorite horror films, Fido, this tee takes the time to ponder the possibilities if zombies could be domesticated as pets!! The cute but edgy ‘50s-inspired little girl on the shirt shares our dreams and has somehow made them a reality, for trailing behind her is her own pet zombie, ready to play “tea party.” Look closer and you’ll see “Bub” spelled out in block letters near the zombie’s feet! Everyone will be green with envy when you are the first to wear this must-have shirt!

Mini Cassette Tees do have other designs besides the perennially popular zombie…their Monster Squad tee, in black and white, is the perfect homage to many horror fan’s favorite childhood film. Other tees include a super-cool take on Michael Myers, called “Mikey’s Ride,” a killer Jaws-inspired shirt, a Maximum Overdrive-inspired tee that is emblazoned with the evil killer semi-truck and more!
Mini Cassette Tees also addresses the fact that horror fans enjoy other things besides scary movies…like the sci-fi genre and old arcade games! They offer up a wide selection of other cool tees to keep you and all your interests covered.

I love the high quality fabric Mini Cassette Tees uses…they are thick enough to feel sturdy but thin enough to be super-soft and offer a slim fit. Women’s shirts are printed on high quality American Apparel tees, so it’s no wonder they feel oh so good! More good news for girls, Mini Cassette Tees offers more tees in girl’s sizes than a lot of other horror t-shirt sites out there! And they aren’t just “girly” designs either!! Comfort and scary style…what else can you ask for!! The guy’s shirts are also stylish and are printed on either high-quality Hanes or Gildan t-shirts.

Mini Cassette Tees has only been around since 2007, but they are poised to go big with their rad ‘n’ retro designs! Hit ‘em up before you are the last kid on the block with their cool tees…made by fans for fans for something uniquely different!

In the words of designers and owners Danny Miller, Chip Hoppin and Patrick Cudahy, Mini Cassette Tees is “a t-shirt company for the fans of horror movies, sci-fi flicks, retro gaming, and everything in between…basically giving the average fanboy a cool, hip t-shirt to sport.” I couldn’t agree more. These are the kinds of shirts you would make if you had your own clothing company…these are cool shirts by fans for fans!

Go buy some shirts!! – Mini Cassette Tees Official Site

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Review: Meat by Joseph D'Lacey

Everyone has their different viewpoints on eating meat and vegetarianism. Some people can’t imagine living without eating tasty, tasty meat while some people can’t imagine eating meat from such cute wittle animals! It’s true that some slaughterhouses have appalling conditions for the animals that become many people’s dinners and most people don’t even know how their meat is really prepared or what additives are put in it.

Do you know exactly what is in your “meat” that you buy at the grocery store? Where did it come from and how did it get there? These terrifying questions are examined in Joseph D’Lacey’s debut novel, Meat. Like a hammer to the back of a cow’s head, Meat will stun you. It’ll open your eyes and just might jolt you from complacency to action. One thing is definitely for certain, you’ll never look at a piece of meat the same again.

The decaying and desolate town of Abyrne sits in the middle of a vast wasteland. As far as the townsfolk are concerned, there is nothing beyond its borders. Abyrne was build upon the promise that their god would provide them with meat from The Chosen, cattle sacrificed especially for the religious people of Abyrne as long as they followed the religious teachings of the Gut Psalter and The Book of Giving texts. Something is going wrong in Abryne, though. People are beginning to get sick. And certain man named John Collins has been leading a resistance on the outskirts of town, proclaiming that meat is not necessary for survival.

In the eyes of the Grand Bishop and the Meat Baron, Collins’ words are blasphemy. Yet to others, others who see a frightening resemblance in themselves and the Chosen, Collins makes sense. One who comes to believe Collins is Richard Shanti, the Meat Baron’s top slaughterer of Chosen.

Those who don’t follow the religious teachings and don’t eat meat are stripped of their status…or stripped of their own skin. As both the Grand Bishop and the Meat Baron hunt for “blasphemer” John Collins, Richard Shanti’s world becomes more perilous as well. Can Shanti continue his job killing the Chosen and therefore continue living a lie? Will the Meat Baron discover his secret? What is his special connection to the Chosen and to John Collins?

Joseph D’Lacey has crafted a fine page-turner that, to loosely paraphrase former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt, speaks softly but carries a large stun gun. His prose is so eloquent, so well-written, that when the blood really starts to flow you are left stunned and shaken. And this is coming from a life-time horror fan!
From the first paragraph I was hooked, as D’Lacey crafts both sympathetic and horrendous characters, ones we come to both love and loathe. The characters of John Collins and Richard Shanti are well-developed, with many layers to both men. The Meat Baron and the Grand Bishop are also humanized instead of just being caricatures of “Evil” with a capital E. In the end, you may even be sympathetic towards them because they can’t “see the light.” Even the voiceless Chosen are characters we care deeply about.

The feelings we develop for the characters make the horrors contained within all that more terrifying. There is plenty of sadistic torture that is sure to make even the most hardened of horror fiction fans squirm in their seats. For example, the Meat Baron makes sure his enemies and any of his employees that misbehave suffer a very painful, very prolonged death. The torture first begins with puncturing the vocal cords so the person cannot even scream as their bodies are methodically broken down. The torture scenes are pretty graphic and will cause you to recoil in your seat! D’Lacey also writes very vivid imagery of the slaughterhouses themselves. I have watched some devastating real-life slaughterhouse videos, but D’Lacey’s graphic descriptions were almost worse because of the emotion he added.

Even though Meat may sound like a novel that tries to shove vegetarianism and/or veganism down your throat, that isn’t the case at all. In fact, there are so many layers to the book that you can choose to read it for its many subtexts and social commentary (on everything from big corporations, religion, mass consumerism, conformity, etc.) or just read it for pure, bloody entertainment. Still, you cannot read this book without being disgusted and appalled at the slaughterhouse and meat plant conditions contained herein. I’m not a vegetarian, but after reading Meat I’m seriously tempted to become one. That alone speaks volumes about the power of this book.

[Update: Editor and founder Sarah "Fatally Yours" Jahier in fact went vegan and credits Meat to making her more aware of the cruelties of animal agriculture as well as making her more aware of what she puts inside her body.] 

Available from Amazon!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Death Trance (2005)

Death Trance is an outrageously fun and visually stunning martial arts/fantasy flick. I am by no means a martial arts or even a fantasy fan, but the film’s fast pace, excellent cast, flair, impressive action sequences and amazing visuals really got me hooked!

For years, people have been after an enchanted coffin that is said to grant wishes by whoever opens it in the Forbidden Forest. No one has ever been able to steal it from the monks, who guard it carefully in a remote monastery. Nonetheless, mysterious warrior Grave (Tak Sakaguchi) manages to snatch the coffin and begins lugging it towards the Forbidden Forest to cash in on its promised wish. Little does he know that the coffin is actually the resting place of the Goddess of Destruction, and, if opened, she’ll, you know, destroy the world.

As Grave marches on towards his prize, a strange little girl (Honoka Asada) and coffin in tow, he faces off against others who would like nothing more than to take the coffin from him to have the wishes for themselves. An apprentice monk named Ryuen (Takamasa Suga) is dispatched from the monastery to stop Grave, or at least find the “Chosen One” who will be able to fight off the Goddess if she is unleashed. The monk and Grave are joined by punk wanderer-warrior Sid (Steven Seagal’s son Kentaro Seagal) and mysterious woman named Yuri (Yuki Takeuchi), both who have different motivations for acquiring the coffin.

Will Grave reach the Forbidden Forest and have his wish granted? Can Ryuen stop the coffin from being opened? Who is the adorable little girl that tags along after the coffin? What do Sid and Yuri have to do with the coffin? Who is the Chosen One and how will he or she stop the Goddess of Destruction if she is unleashed?

These questions and more are all answered in the quirky, action-packed and fun Death Trance! The film blends styles from the past, present and future to create a crazy atmosphere where anything goes! For example, old-fashioned medieval samurai costumes and swords are used alongside modern motorcycles and guns, creating a fantasy world removed from our own. The costumes themselves are impressive, from the two gothic Lolita warriors to the bad-ass feudal Japan samurai robes that mix leather, studs, satin and metal. Not only are the costumes over-the-top, but so are some of the characters, including a pair of blood-sucking ninja spiders and a group of zombies!

The amazing fight scenes only add to the wild and fantastical edge of the film. Considering Death Trance is from the same people that brought us Versus, it’s easy to see why it is such a fast-paced, action-packed film. The fight scenes are absolutely flawless, packed with energy and carefully framed with the camera, giving you the impression that you are actually there. The final battle alone, featuring the Goddess of Destruction and Grave suspended in mid-air as they hack and slash at each other, is a special FX marvel. As they fight, their droplets of blood float around them like blooming red flowers, creating a truly mesmerizing set-piece.

As for the acting, Tak Sakaguchi (who also starred in Versus and Battlefield Baseball) does an amazing job as the bad ass Grave. Girls, get ready to swoon because the combination of his fighting skills (he does all his own stunts) and high cheekbones make Sakaguchi a real lady-killer! The rest of the cast, including Takamasa Suga, Kentaro Seagal and Yuki Takeuchi, do a wonderful job as well, both in the fight scenes and with the humor sprinkled liberally throughout the movie.

Some may complain about the overly simplistic plot that doesn’t delve too deep into the mythos of the coffin or the “Chosen One.” I was a little let down that the film lacked in the story department, but that didn’t really dampen my love for this film at all. The rest of the film is so bombastic and bad ass (yes, I realize I’ve now said “bad ass” three times in this review!) that it can withstand the lack of plot.

I really am at loss for words to describe just how awesome Death Trance is. Whether you are a fan of martial arts films or not, Death Trance will impress you with its fast-paced action, cute humor, heart-pounding fight scenes and beautiful visuals.

Don’t miss out on the entrancing Death Trance!

Available from Amazon!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Gory Gear: SEIBEI Clothing

SEIBEI is a clothing line filled with colorful designs, clever phrases and monsters so cool you’ll want to take them all home with you!!

Creator David Murray was inspired by everything from Japanese literature (which he majored in for four years), wood block printing, watching way too much TV and reading way too many comic books. He says his designs “balance my love for Saved By The Bell with my love for H.P. Lovecraft.”

Horror movies have also played an integral part in his designs. David says:

“There are obvious connections between some designs and horror classics, like the homage to Dawn of the Dead in ‘Thriller Was A Documentary,’ but usually it’s more subtle. I’m a big fan of horror movies in general, but the SEIBEI worldview has been influenced primarily by these films: Vampire Hunter D, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Evil Dead 2, most any Godzilla movie, and The Lost Boys. I’m trying to strike a good balance between weird and cute, with a bit of black humor, and hopefully you’ll be able to see their influence in some new designs that are in the works.”

With zombies, vampires, mummies and dinosaurs adorning the brightly colored shirts, David’s mix of “weird and cute” ensures that SEIBEI makes shirts for the horror fan and monster man (or woman) in all of us! Take a peek at the designs below to see for yourself!

Being one of the undead would explain a lot about the seemingly decaying Michael Jackson, which is one of the reasons the “Thriller Was a Documentary” shirt is so friggin’ awesome. It also has the style of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which just makes it that much cooler. I always had my suspicions about Michael…and how rad would the zombie apocalypse be if it was a choreographed dance number!?

A vampire’s life is tough enough, but it seems that their career choices are pretty limited as well. If you’re a vampire, you might as well forget about your dream of becoming a lifeguard (too much sun) or a heart surgeon (too much temptation)! You’re pretty much limited to two choices – the unconventional route of working against your kind as a vampire hunter, or the more traditional vocation as a straight-up bloodsucker. Now there is a shirt to commemorate a vamp’s hard-knock life. Oozing with style and droplets of blood is “Vampire Career Fair.”

Someone whose life isn’t so tough is a razor-toothed dinosaur. They can pretty much make all the demands they want and, boy, they better be met!! A popular demand of dinosaurs, naturally enough, is sandwiches, and lots of ‘em! Now you can have a dinosaur’s authority with SEIBEI’s “Sandwich Dinosaur” tee. Never again will you have to ask for a tasty sandwich, because your t-shirt dinosaur will speak for you!

When there’s no more room in hell, you want to be prepared for the dead that will walk the Earth, right? SEIBEI offers “Intramural Zombie Hunter” tees so you can start your own league of zombie hunters. These athletic-inspired shirts come with customizable options…we got one with “FATALLY YOURS” emblazoned on the back. You can even customize the level of bloody gore you’d like to have on the shirt, from none at all to lots!! You’ll definitely be ready for the undead with this shirt (or at the very least you’ll look really, really good while the zombies chomp on your brains)!

Speaking of those back from the grave, you can’t forget SEIBEI’s mummy shirt, entitled “Who Wants to Live Forever?” and featuring the ironic image of a mummy smoking a cigarette. Creator David Murray can’t figure out if this is a pro or anti-smoking design and neither can we, but frankly it’s just so cool looking that we don’t care!

Beside these unique and playful designs, SEIBEI carries many others that are sure to tickle a horror fan’s fancy. All shirts are American Apparel, ensuring that they are soft and fit snugly and also come in many vivid color combinations.

I absolutely fell in love with SEIBEI’s designs and definitely think they deserve wider exposure. Their shirts are fun, playful and very unique! Horror fans are usually limited to black tees with a horror movie logo on them (and everybody has those!), but SEIBEI offers horror fans many more creative choices that’ll ensure you stick out in a crowd.

For a limited time only, if you use code ‘FATALLYYOURS’ during checkout at, you’ll receive 10% off!

So what are you waiting for? Put a monster in your closet with SEIBEI today!


Visit SEIBEI today at!

Sheitan (2006)

I was just bombarded with the strange and disturbing Sheitan, a horror film from France directed by Kim Chapiron and written by Kim and Christian Chapiron. Sheitan is a shocking, disturbing and crazy film that features some of the oddest and unsettling characters this side of a David Lynch film.

A group of twentysomethings meet the seemingly sweet and innocent Eve (Roxane Mesquida) at a club on Christmas Eve. Eve invites them back to her run-down farmhouse in the French countryside, where her parents are out of town. Once there, they meet the strange housekeeper, Joseph (Vincent Cassel). He and the rest of the countryfolk there seem slightly…off. The kids slowly start to ask themselves, just what is wrong with everyone? Then, one by one, the club kids fall victim to Joseph’s plan, one that involves his pregnant “wife,” their unborn baby and Sheitan, the devil himself.

Sheitan is a very uncomfortable movie to watch. It’s not that it’s a gory or gross-out movie (though the film has its share of gross-outs…how ‘bout that birthing scene?), but that the characters are just so strange and everything feels off-kilter. Joseph spends the entire film leering maniacally, while Eve always seems to be hiding something behind her big, seductive doe eyes. The townsfolk the kids run into are equally weird, giggling amongst themselves at the kids’ expense while “playing” rape in the hot springs (never mind that they are all related). There’s also plenty of nasty violence, incest, sex and devil worship to shock and satiate even the most jaded of viewers.

Though the kids that follow Eve out to the French countryside aren’t all that likable (the guys just want to get laid, they fight amongst each other over girls, one of them is cheating on his girlfriend, and the lone female of the group doesn’t really have a personality) you still feel uneasy for them when things begin to get awkward. When the shit really hits the fan, you’re in a panic, just like the characters. Also like the characters, we as an audience are never quite sure what is going on, but the tension and unease keeps mounting until the disturbing finale.

The acting is exceptionally well-done, especially by Vincent Cassel playing the creepy Joseph, who repeatedly steals the show. His lascivious performance made me feel like I needed a scalding shower after watching Sheitan, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off of him! The other actors did a great job as well, including Roxane Mesquida as Eve and Olivier Bartelemy, Nicolas Le Phat Tan, Leila Bekhti, and Ladj Ly as the club kids in for a hellish holiday!

The only complaint some genre fans might have is that it takes quite a while for something to truly “happen.” During that time, though, I defy you not to be creeped out by Vincent Cassel’s character or the rest of the inbred townsfolk. In my opinion, the film makes up for some slow spots by throwing in some black humor that will have you rolling on the floor when you’re not cringing at the screen!

Sheitan is an absolute nutjob, but I loved every dirty second of it. Its disturbing story, creepy location and, most of all, oddball characters make Sheitan a must-see. While it sounds like a run-of-the-mill slasher (a bunch of horny, attractive kids stuck in isolation somewhere are tracked down by a psycho killer), I assure you it is anything but standard fare. Sheitan will leave you dizzy with disturbance.

Available from Amazon!
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