Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010)

After I heard someone call this the film that Paranormal Activity should have been, I knew I had to check it out. I wasn’t too thrilled by Paranormal Activity (I didn’t hate it, I just thought it didn’t live up to its potential), so I was eager for a film that may have done it right.

The Possession of David O’Reilly is a British film about a happy couple that agrees to temporary take in their friend David after he splits from his girlfriend. They soon discover that all isn’t right with David – he is increasingly paranoid, sleepwalks, wakes up screaming and claims to see supernatural entities. As the couple begins to experience unexplainable events themselves, they realize David’s wild claims may have some validity and soon find themselves in a fight for their lives.

Alright, so I may not have liked Paranormal Activity, but I liked this film even less. Whoever said this film is what Paranormal Activity should have been was on crack. This just feels like a cheap knock-off that was poorly made. It starts off promisingly enough, with David showing up ominously on his friends’ doorstep in the middle of the night. His deterioration occurs quickly as he starts hearing strange growlings and prowlings from outside. This was all fine and dandy, but we never seen him pre-crazy, so right off the bat I assumed he was certifiable and everything he saw was fake. Now, I’m not saying if that is how it turns out in the end or not, but just that seed of doubt pretty much made me dismiss the entirety of the film.

Though this film has been compared to Paranormal Activity, it is not all captured on hand-held video cameras from the characters. There is still plenty of shaky cam and shots from the characters’ perspectives, but they are not carrying around camcorders capturing everything. There is a motion-detection security system that the married couple has installed in their home, but though it is highlighted at the beginning of the film it plays a disappointingly small part in the film overall. This is a squandered opportunity in my opinion.

Also, the characters make so many stupid decisions you can’t really cheer them on, but instead cheer for them to die. They could choose to leave the house at any time, but instead remain cooped up inside waiting for the entities to arrive with the darkness. And was the weird sub-plot with the pregnant woman really necessary? It didn’t add anything to the story and when it was revealed who she really was this plot point just kind of disappeared from the rest of the film. It also didn’t seem believable that the married couple just believed David without much proof. If my friend started acting crazy you better believe I’d call the nut house to take them away instead of believing they saw scary monsters in the dark.

I did like that the monstrous entities could only be seen in the dark, but even this plot point was undeveloped. If it wasn’t dark, were they still able to kill in the light? If so, then why not just leave the lights on? I also didn’t like how much we saw of the entities. Less would have been more in this case, no matter how cool they looked.

There was also some very weird editing going on in the film. There are multiple scenes where the music swells dramatically, indicating that we should be seeing something…but the scene is empty of any creepy stuff. I even rewound the film to see if I had missed something in several scenes, but nothing was there. These scenes were so frustrating because instead of delivering scares they deliver absolutely nothing.

The Possession of David O’Reilly had some good ideas, but really failed to use them to make an engaging story. Instead, we get a confusing, messy story that doesn’t live up to any of its potential. Even Paranormal Activity is better than this frustrating film.

Buy it on Amazon!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Horde (2010)

The Horde (aka La Horde in its native French), which was released on DVD last week, has been receiving a lot of press lately, both favorable and unfavorable. It seems that horror fans are split on this film – either they hated it with a passion or named it as one of their “best of” picks for 2010. Horror films that split the horror community right down the middle always intrigue me. It really makes me marvel at how people’s perspectives can be so different – one person may have called it the best zombie movie of 2010, but another said it was the worst POS he had ever seen. Surely everyone’s opinion is different, but films that cause such a wide divide in the horror community are even more interesting to me. So, of course I had to see The Horde to decide for myself whether it was a bloody good time or just a waste of time.

The Horde is about a group of vigilante cops that decide to take revenge on a group of gangsters that killed a fellow police officer. They storm the gang’s decrepit headquarters, housed inside a ghetto apartment building, but soon discover they are out-manned and out-gunned by the ruthless thugs. As the gang holds them hostage, a whole new dilemma presents itself as masses of fast-moving zombies start amassing outside the building. Now the remaining cops and gang members must work together to escape the hungry hordes of undead.

The Horde will no doubt delight gorehounds with its bloody set-pieces, but it also includes some timely social commentary on race, class, war, loyalty, etc. that will please more cerebral horror fans. As to the big question – whether I loved or hated the film – truth be told The Horde left me lukewarm. On the one hand I loved all the bloody action that exploded on the screen as well as the social commentary, but on the other hand I felt like I had already seen everything the film had to offer in other, perhaps better, zombie movies. After a tense and promising first act the second and third acts were a bit of a let-down. No matter how much blood and grue were tossed at the screen, no matter how many super-fast, super-strong zombies were mowed down by guns, hacked apart by machete or blown apart with grenades I just couldn’t seem to get into the latter part of the film. Maybe I’m just being a jaded horror fan, but it didn’t feel like enough creativity or originality had gone into The Horde, thus making it seem like any other zombie movie.

People might get upset over the “fast zombie” issue, but I thought it actually made the zombies even more frightening. The zombie makeup was also superb, making the zombies look even fiercer. Another complaint has been about the lack of an explanation regarding the zombie outbreak (the only thing we get is a newscast about an “epidemic” and a military safe zone that survivors should try to get to), but I actually appreciated how they kept the action focused on the building’s survivors and didn’t try expand the action to beyond the apartment building’s walls. The lack of explanation kept the action frenetic and immediate (though some of the action did get bogged down by pacing issues). Another part of the story I enjoyed were the ulterior motives of all the characters and how everyone was ultimately looking out for #1 (with a few exceptions). The relationship between two Nigerian brothers was the most intriguing, but I felt that the focus on the bloody action overshadowed the complex relationships in the end. The ending of the film, while not surprising, was satisfying in its somberness.

Though The Horde had its issues, it certainly didn’t qualify it for “worst of” status. There were plenty other horror flicks to claim that title this year. However, it also wasn’t creative enough to warrant it a “best of” nod either, at least not in my book. If you are looking for a gory zombie flick and can overlook the film’s shortcomings discussed above, then by all means check out The Horde. It’s not a perfect horror film, but it’s a pretty good time for what it is.

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Horror Films of 2010 You Didn't See (But Should!)

Theatrical horror releases in 2010 pretty much sucked, with a few exceptions (like the mesmerizing Black Swan), but there were many amazing independent productions. These are the kinds of films that fly below the radar and may not be familiar to most. Well, dear fiends, I am here to acquaint you with the best horror films of 2010 that you didn’t see…but definitely should!

Check out my list below!

The Bunny Game – This shocking independent film is probably the closest you’ll ever get to a snuff film! It is both beautiful and grotesque with-in-your face realism coupled with a voyeuristic feel. The striking black and white imagery and artistic editing give the film an avant-garde feel, but The Bunny Game never comes off as pretentious. This extreme film certainly isn’t for everyone, not even most horror viewers, but fans of brutal, well-made cinema will truly appreciate this challenging test of endurance.

Make Out with Violence – This stunning coming-of-age zombie film plumbs emotional depths rarely seen in horror. It has a melancholy tone with dreamy visuals that perfectly capture the bittersweet feeling of growing up and losing your innocence. This is certainly not your run-of-the-mill zombie flick, but is a much more subtle and introspective film. It is for those that like their horror intelligent, heartfelt and haunting.

Meadowoods – This was another indie film that really struck a chord with me. Set up like a faux documentary, this is a chilling portrayal of a trio of college kids who decide to kill someone and document it on film. The cold, calculating characters and their seeming indifference to life makes the film an unsettling experience.

Every Other Day is HalloweenEODiH is a fun documentary on the phenomena of horror hosts and their resurgence in recent years. The main focal point is Count Gore de Vol, a popular and pioneering horror host played by Dick Dyszel. We are given a peek into his life and the many characters, horror or otherwise, he has played. Dyszel was, and continues to be, a big influence on modern horror hosts, and many of these colorful characters are featured in the documentary as well. Even if you didn’t grow up during the golden age of horror hosts, this charming documentary will still entertain and delight horror fans!

President’s Day – Finally! A horror film for President’s Day! This low-budget film, directed by Chris LaMartina, is a fun throwback to ‘80s slasher flicks. It’s goofy and gory (with a huge body count!), but the film doesn’t sacrifice technical skill or story either! The direction is professional, the acting is top-notch and the story keeps you guessing.

7 Days – This was one of the hardest films for me to watch this year because of its intensity and subject matter. It is an extremely effective piece of cinema that left me stunned and shaken up. It deals with a horrific crime and vengeance against the perpetrator…but while you feel that revenge is warranted, it is still hard to watch the brutality that unfolds on screen. 7 Days is a challenging piece of cinema that not everyone will be able to handle, but one of the most horrifying films I saw all year and one that left me with mental scars.

Cabin Fever 2 – A year ago I NEVER would have thought this film would make any “best of” lists since director Ti West basically disowned the project and it didn’t look anything like Eli Roth’s original (which I love, BTW). However, a year later I find myself looking fondly back on CF2, which, like I first thought, is NOTHING like the original. In this case, this turned into a positive rather than a negative. Cabin Fever 2 has a crazy, manic energy that draws you in…plus, it’s got truckloads of gore! The outrageous gore and hilarious gross-out gags are so over-the-top that you just can’t help loving this movie!

 Walking DistanceThis ambitious film by indie filmmaker Mel House really showcases the director’s potential! Besides being packed full of awesome effects and gooey gore, the film also boasts a complex story that is pulled together by a very talented cast.

Babysitter Wanted – While this film was made in 2008, it was never released until 2010, so I’m including it on this list. While at first this looks like your typical slasher (especially judging from the generic cover art), BW turns out to be a rather surprising little film with more than a few surprises up its sleeve. Unfortunately, this film hasn’t been given proper credit and is sadly unappreciated.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

S&Man (2006)

Though the DVD cover of S&Man is extremely misleading (it makes it look like a crappy slasher), rest assured that the actual film is pretty damn brilliant, challenging and powerful. I was surprised to find that director J.T. Petty (The Burrowers, Soft for Digging) made this film and that I hadn’t heard of it sooner. Though it had a festival run way back in 2006, the film wasn’t released on DVD stateside until October 2010.

S&Man (aka Sandman, not S & M Man, like I originally thought!) is a film that explores the seedier side of horror that encompasses the “hardcore” mock-snuff films like the August Underground or Guinea Pig series that are infamous for their shock value and hyper-realism.

Set up like a documentary, S&Man was originally supposed to be a vehicle for Petty to do a film on a local peeping tom from a suburb he grew up in, but this plan fell through when the man refused to do the film. However, Petty still wanted to pursue doing a film on voyeurism, so he turned to the underground horror world and found three purveyors of low-brow horror films to feature.

First and probably the most well known is Fred Vogel of Toe Tag Pictures, creator of the August Underground series. Vogel is certainly not the originator of fake snuff films, but over the years his extreme films have probably become the most well-known. Featuring brutal violence on grainy film, stunts including real bodily fluids (vomit, feces, you name it), graphic nudity and so on, Vogel’s films, most of which he stars in, really do look like home movies of serial killers.

The next filmmaker is the seemingly perpetually drunk, middle-aged metalhead Bill Zebub, whose films usually feature  busty women in distress, some blood, and not much else. Zebub’s films aren’t really fake snuff or as extreme like Vogel’s and come off as little more than exploitation. He states he makes films for perverts and not much else, which is pretty much echoed in all the scenes shown from his films. In one sad scene he putters around a set in a bar for hours while one of his actresses is forced to lie ass up in a spread-eagle position wearing a thong, bikini top and not much else. The exasperated and bored look on her face pretty much says it all!

The last filmmaker interviewed, Eric Rost (Erik Marcisak), is the only fictional one, as Vogel and Zebub do exist in real life and you can purchase their films. At first, Eric appears like any other horror fan-boy with dreams of making it big with his own “vision” for horror films. He shows up at a horror convention Petty is attending and gives Petty his own horror films, called the S&Man series. The series is very voyeuristic, and features women being filmed seemingly without their knowledge before they are kidnapped and killed. The films look entirely realistic and Petty spends the documentary trying to get more information from Eric, like if he can contact the actresses that appeared in S&Man, but Eric isn’t very forthcoming. In fact, Eric won’t give Petty a straight answer on whether he obtained consent from the women before stalking and filming them. Petty soon becomes suspicious and thinks Eric may be a real snuff filmmaker who is killing his victims.

In between talking with these three filmmakers, Petty interweaves interviews with psychologists, a self-professed “scream queen” (can just any woman that bares her boobs in a few crappy horror movies be considered a “scream queen” nowadays?), and feminist author of Men, Women and Chainsaws Carol Clover (yay, one of my favorites! I adore this woman!). These interviews add to the overall weight of the faux documentary, but the most interesting scenes occur when Petty turns his camera on the three filmmakers.

I found S&Man to be a challenging film to sit through at times, but the issues it addresses like voyeurism, gender, exploitation of actresses and how this exploitation eerily mirrors the exploitation of real-life victims, how far is too far, etc., etc. are what ultimately makes it rewarding. If you are anything like me, you’ll be equally parts repulsed and intrigued by Petty’s film, though in the end it will hopefully make you think and question your own personal limits.

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Holiday Gift Guide for Horror Fiends

Christmas is almost here and for all you slackers, that means just a few more days left to shop for your favorite horror fiends (or to use those gift cards you’ve received to get what you REALLY want)! So we’ve compiled a handy list of gifts that will warm every horror fan’s heart this holiday season.

Check out our picks below!

1. The Art of Hammer – A beautiful, full-cover coffee table book featuring the amazing poster art of Hammer Films. The Art of Hammer collects the very best and most iconic movie posters produced for the Hammer studio. This lavish hardcover brings together rare artwork from around the world. Featuring Hammer’s greatest films, including The Curse of Frankenstein, the Dracula series, and many more.

2. Lenore: Cooties - Titan Books recently re-released this collection of Roman Dirge’s “cute little dead girl” comics, and it is just gorgeous! This glossy book is perfect for your gothikly inclined friend.

3. Iron Fist’s Zombie Stomper Platform – Iron Fist Clothing makes some amazingly cool stuff, but these kicks are among my fave! Perfect for your zombie-lovin’ gal!

4. The Psycho Legacy – A kick-ass documentary on the Psycho films, I personally think every horror fan should own a copy! Interweaving ultra-rare and never-before-seen interview footage of Anthony Perkins and dozens of interviews including Robert Loggia, Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, Diana Scarwid, Tom Holland, Hilton Green, Mick Garris and many more, The Psycho Legacy is the first documentary to unite and explore decades of Psycho movies in one place, revealing surprises and insights into what is considered the grandfather of modern horror.

5. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Collector’s Edition – Speaking of documentaries, this is one of the year’s best! This special two DVD Collector’s Edition comes with a total of eight hours of entertainment, including enhanced extended interviews, 4-hour filmmaker commentary and a limited edition poster featuring original artwork by Matthew Joseph Peak. A must for any Freddy fan!

6. Splatterhouse (PS3 or XBox) – This game is pure, gory fun! Metal heads, horror freaks and hardcore action gamers, unite! Rick Taylor and the Terror Mask are back, tearing, cutting and beating their way through inhuman abominations and hordes of the undead in a tale of love, mutilation and near-insanity. A wall of metal tunes underscores blood-soaked battles with massive bosses, brutal weapons, over-the-top gore and real-time regeneration. And while your ears are ringing, a new Splatterkill System lets you get your hands bloody!

7. Zombie Pin Up Calendar 2011 or Monster Movies: 2011 Wall Calendar – Whether your horror fan is into hot chicks bloodied up like zombies or the more classic Universal movie monsters, you can’t go wrong with either of these calendars.

8. Mini Cassette Tees Horror Tees – We love Mini Cassette Tees! Not only are their t-shirts high quality, but their designs are totally unique and you won’t see them anywhere else. Their may be imitators, but these are the true originals!

9. Bloodbath Morbid Moisture Body Lotion – Bloodbath on Etsy has a ton of cool horror inspired bath and beauty products like “Lip Embalm”, “Zombie Foot Scrubby Soap”, “Dexter Slide Soap” and “Corpse Cleaner” body wash, but my fave is their “Morbid Moisture Body Lotion”. Their intoxicating scents include Cleopatra’s Curse, Creepy Colada, Death by Chocolate, Petrifying Pomegranate, Screamsicle, Vanilla Vamp and Zombie Zen!

10. Hollywood is Dead Poster Art – Artist Matt Busch has taken the world by storm this year with his “Hollywood is Dead” poster art. Check out his zombified versions of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, E.T., Jaws and more and give your fave horror fan some sick new poster art!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Bunny Game (2010)

The terror you witness on-screen of The Bunny Game is real. Let me clarify…it’s not just realistic…it actually happened. It’s like watching a snuff film, only no one really died during filming (as far as we know). The actors weren’t merely acting, but they were subjected to most everything you see on film. Ballsy actress Rodleen Getsic gives a graphic blowjob, pees in public, is shaved bald and is actually branded in the film, not to mention the preparation that went into her role as an emaciated, drug-addled prostitute. Getsic fasted for over a month to prepare for her role! As you probably have guessed by now, The Bunny Game isn’t your ordinary horror movie. In fact, it feels more like a brutal snuff film coupled with avant-garde performance art.

The film is about a hard-knock prostitute named Bunny (Getsic) who trolls the streets of LA turning tricks and snorting coke whenever she gets the chance. This prostitute certainly doesn’t have a heart of gold, but nonetheless you feel pretty bad for her as you watch her engage in graphic sexual acts, get high, get raped and get robbed. Things go from bad to worse when she is picked up by a trucker (Jeff F. Renfro) who takes her out to the desert and brutalizes her for days on end.

While the plot might make it seem like just another torture flick, let me assure you that The Bunny Game is anything but. Is there torture? Well, yes, but it’s more the nasty psychological kind that sticks with you for days, rather than straight-up blood and guts. And the intense psychological wringer that the film puts both the victim (Getsic) and viewer through makes the film seem that much more realistic, which, believe me, will further raise the audience’s anxiety! And after all the things the cast (namely Getsic) went through, it is no wonder the film feels so authentic!

Director Adam Rehmeier, who co-wrote the film with actress Getsic, says the film wasn’t written with a strict script (there is very little dialogue) and most of the performances came organically from the actors. They were just sorta let loose on one another and given license to go as dark as they could…and, boy, did they ever go dark! Not only were the performances spontaneous, but so was the camerawork. Most scenes were filmed in only one take (usually unheard of in a film), which only adds to the immediacy and realism of the film.

The film also has a very voyeuristic feel, which adds to the snuff-like, performance art quality of it. The shaky camera angles, the constant zooming in and out and so on really make you feel like you are right there with the characters. And no matter how hard you try and get away (or look away), you just can’t.

Despite its shocking brutality, there isn’t that much blood and gore, if that’s what you’re hoping for. Most of its terror comes from psychological torture. Bunny is just as mentally broken down by the trucker as she is physically abused. He locks her up for days and submits her to all kinds of torment – stripping her down, humiliating her body, flashing a spotlight in her eyes, chaining her up, taking her for walks on a leash, shaving her head, etc. And that doesn’t even begin to detail the physical and sexual abuse he perpetuates against her. It is this kind of damaging psychological horror that is most effective, at least in my opinion. Anyone can do gross-out blood and guts, but it takes real talent to get into the audience’s brains and truly disturb them.

Congratulations are in order for director/co-writer Rehmeier and co-writer Getsic, because they have crafted a hauntingly unsettling film! It may be intensely difficult to sit through, but at least it looks stunning and isn’t just a point-and-shoot affair. There are even some beautifully dynamic shots in the film that momentarily relieve you of the brutality on-screen. It is filmed completely in black and white, which gives it a monochromatic and artistic look.

However, even the way the film is shot echoes the manic madness of the film, for juxtaposed against the gorgeously framed shots are choppy, disorienting edits, frantic shaky cam shots, voyeuristic zooms and more to make the viewer experience even further discomfort. Even the music, which features chaotic metal in the first few scenes but devolves into a creepy score as the film progresses, adds heightened emotion to scenes that are already difficult to watch…And just when you think you can’t possibly take anymore the next scene comes up to further test your limits.

I can only use “disturbing”, “unsettling” and their derivatives so much to describe The Bunny Game, but hopefully by now you get the point. This film definitely isn’t for most people, but if you like challenging films that push limits, you should give The Bunny Game a view. It’s probably the closest you’ll ever get to a snuff film!

The Bunny Game on Facebook!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Zombeak (2010)

Zombie chickens are one thing, but how about zombie-chickens possessed by Satan?! That’s the general gist of Zombeak, a cheap but fun low-budget film. It is about a group of Satanists who kidnap a trash-talking waitress. They have plans to conjure Satan and have their master impregnate the waitress with the Antichrist. However, the waitress’ hick boyfriend, a gun-happy cop and her boss bust into the Satanist’s decrepit house before the ritual can be completed…but not before Satan has been summoned. Satan soon takes over the body of a sacrificed chicken and all hell soon breaks loose.

Zombeak is a fun, low-budget film. I liked how it wasn’t just a straight-up zombie poultry flick (we’ve already got the great Poultrygeist and Thankskilling for that!), but actually adds more dimension to the story by incorporating the Satanic subplot. And how can I pass up a film whose tagline is “Murder Most Foul”?!

I guess my biggest gripe with this film was the slim plot, which led to a lot of repetition. The flick is only 70 minutes long, but unfortunately takes 20 or 30 minutes to get going and get to the good stuff involving the Satan-possessed zombie chicken. When it finally gets to that point, I finally got engaged in the movie but the limited scope of the plot made me lose interest again.

However, I did like the schlocky feel of the film and enjoyed the characters, especially the trash-talking waitress as well as the Satanic priestess. Props to both actresses for their wonderfully spot-on performances! Films like this usually don’t have much character development, and Zombeak was no exception, however these two characters were the only ones I was really rooting for!

While the special effects are obviously low-budget, I thought their look actually fit well into the overall tone of the film. The zombie-chicken itself is pretty hilarious, but it works well with the goofy feel of the movie. Victims get pecked to death before becoming possessed themselves, and their makeup looked pretty cool.

The film is so over-the-top and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Despite its issues with pacing and plot, I still felt that Zombeak was a commendable effort from those involved in this indie production. It’s a fun, nitty-gritty film that would be fun to watch with a group of friends and several frothy beers.

Check out Zombeak’s official site!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Look Up (2010)

I was a bit wary going into Don’t Look Up as reviews for this flick have been so atrocious. However, it was a lazy night and the trailer had piqued my interest so I decided to give it a looksie…plus, it is available via streaming on Netflix so it made it all that much easier to check out.

Don’t Look Up is actually a remake of the Hideo Nakata (of Ringu fame) film Joyurei and is directed by Fruit Chan (known for the wicked “Dumplings” short in Three…Extremes). This film is Chan’s American debut and I’ve been looking forward to seeing Chan’s next horror piece ever since relishing “Dumplings” so much.

Don’t Look Up is about horror film director Marcus Reed (played by the sexy Australian soap star Reshad Strik) who has intense psychic visions of paranormal events. However, he has found his perfect project to work on next and sets off for Romania where he is to film his big comeback. The film he is shooting is based on an old Romanian folktale about a young girl who promised her first born child to the Devil but was violently killed by villagers before she could fulfill her promise. Her vengeful ghost is said to haunt the decrepit location that Marcus has chosen to shoot his film, the same location where 80 years ago another film crew mysteriously vanished while attempting to shoot a film based on the same legend.

People soon start dying violent, “accidental” deaths as Marcus’ visions intensify. Will his visions help him in stopping the deaths or will they just drive him mad?

Don’t Look Up definitely has that Asian ghost story feel (especially with a few Ringu-inspired scenes involving creepy eyes and flies crawling out of a TV), coupled with plenty of nasty deaths and a few icky scenes. However, the convoluted and confusing plot really drags the film down. It really could have spent a little more time developing the backstory on the Romanian legend (what we get is a couple of paragraphs before the movie starts…lame) and the actual why and how of the supposed “haunting”. By the end, the film tries to clear things up with a “twist”, but certain points still remain unclear. Like what the F was up with the boils/tumors on the neck? Why did certain people go crazy? What exactly was the point with crew members dying? Did the ghost just want revenge or was it searching for a new baby-daddy? And why in the world did Marcus and his crew shoot his film in only one small, grimy room when they had the whole creepy building to use? It looked more of like a stage set than a film set.

It is a pity the plot was such a disjointed mess, since the initial premise showed promise. Sure, we’ve all seen horror films where a film crew is beset by something horrific, but the whole Romanian legend aspect was intriguing…too bad it got so mucked up in the writing and/or editing process.

I was surprised to see several recognizable faces in the film. Eli Roth is in the film for about 5 seconds (even though he is a huge selling point on the DVD cover) as a 1930s director (complete with a cool mustache and snazzy duds) who first tries to film at the cursed location. Then we get Henry Thomas (Red Velvet, Dead Birds) as a level-headed producer and Kevin Corrigan (Pineapple Express, Superbad) as an agitated crew member. The acting overall was fine, despite what other reviews have said. I actually liked the acting choices and thought everyone did a good job in their roles.

As for the special FX, there was some crappy CGI involving flies (they just looked like fuzzy black blobs), but there were also several creepy scenes. One in particular that involves a spontaneous birth is definitely groddy, especially when we see the baby hanging half in and half out of the birth canal as mommy walks toward the camera. Then there are the scenes with the previously mentioned flies, which would have probably been more effective had the CGI looked better. There are people attacked by flies, a body made up of flies, and, my personal fave, flies crawling into people’s eyeballs and eye sockets. Squirm! Then there are the requisite bloody deaths, the only memorable one being when a stage light falls on a crew member, making for a bloody awful head wound! Oh, and let’s not forget when Marcus carves one of those boils/tumors off a creepy old dude. Pretty icky. However, I wouldn’t call it a gorefest by any means, and the body count isn’t all that high.

Don’t Look Up doesn’t really deliver on scares and is overall a messy film full of plot inconsistencies, under-development and holes, but I still found myself kind of enjoying it. No matter how frustrating the plot issues were, the film kept me moderately interested. It would make a good background flick for when you are doing other things, or a good flick to enjoy with a sudsy brew (or two).

The bad reviews on this film are pretty exaggerated…it definitely isn’t the best movie you can choose to watch, but it does have its creepy and gross-out moments and isn’t the “worst movie ever made”. Dude, I’ve seen some pretty horrible films in my time and this one doesn’t even come close to being the worst!

Available on Amazon!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ninjas vs. Vampires (2010)

From the creator’s of the cult smash Ninjas vs. Zombies comes Ninjas vs. Vampires, a fun independent film that boasts plenty of action, comedy and horror! Written and directed by Justin Timpane, Ninjas vs. Vampires is full of hilarious one-liners, lots of sword-swinging, martial arts action, spilled blood and even a bit of magic.

It tells the tale of Aaron, who moments after he is rejected by the girl of his dreams is attacked by vampires. Luckily they are both saved by mysterious ninjas. Aaron tracks down the ninjas for answers and soon becomes involved in the ninja vs. vampire war.

As mentioned above, this was a fun independent film of pretty high quality. It did have its flaws, namely some over-acting and cheesy effects, but its flaws soon became part of its quirky charm! What really made me dig the film so much was the witty dialogue, delivered by aplomb by the leads. The dialogue really made me care for the good guys and made me want to keep watching.

I also thought the action scenes between the vampires and the ninjas were really well-choreographed and entertaining to boot. Sure, some of the special effects involving fire, muzzle blasts, etc. were unrealistic-looking, but considering the low budget nature of the film I was willing to let these flaws slide. Plus, the martial arts/action scenes were kick ass regardless of the weak CGI.

The storyline was well-written, with enough exposition to help us understand the “rules” of the vampires and the ninja’s accelerated training. I also liked how they incorporated magic into the plot without coming off as cheesy. Timpane did a great job developing the characters and giving them distinct voices. I really dug the lead of Aaron, played by Jay Saunders, but all the characters were pretty likable. The only one I didn’t really like was the lead vampire, who just seemed a bit too stereotypical to me. The actor who played the lead vamp came off kind of wooden as well.

However, overall Ninjas vs. Vampires is a fun, action-filmed romp that was surprisingly entertaining. It had awesome action sequences, characters we cared about and an engaging and unique storyline. Want to find out who wins this war? Then check out Ninjas vs. Vampires to find out!

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mr. Mullen (2010)

Scott Goldberg is known within the independent film scene for his political films, and his newest short, Mr. Mullen, is yet another example. Goldberg is a passionate filmmaker who hopes that his films will shake up the status quo and make people take a harsher look at the U.S. government and politics in general. Though his opinions might differ from your own, at least his films will make you think and really question your beliefs. I love films that challenge you and have a deeper meaning and would much rather sit through an intelligent film rather than a brainless hack ‘n’ slash (though I love those films too!).

Mr. Mullen is about corrupt and hypocritical government officials and how one man becomes completely fed up with the system and decides to take his revenge. With the economy in shambles and the empty promises of politicians filling the airwaves, this film feels perfectly apropos for the turbulent times.

The film has a gritty look that meshes perfectly with the frustration of our lead character, a character that many can empathize with. This character has lost his job, his savings and seemingly everything dear to him while the politicians around him continue to lie and live like fat cats. With so many unemployed citizens in the U.S. right now, this is probably a familiar tale for many.

Scott Goldberg has taken a nation’s anxieties, anger, frustration, pain, hopelessness and despair and placed them in Mr. Mullen. Not only does he address the down-the-toilet economy, staggering unemployment and the desperate populace, but he also focuses on the seemingly lost generation of people who don’t care about politics and are more interested in the latest celebrity gossip than important issues that actually affect them. This issue truly hit home because I feel like one of those brainless people sometimes! It is definitely time for me, and others like me, to wake up and take note of what is happening in our nation and our world.

Not only does Mr. Mullen shake and wake you, but it is also beautifully shot and edited. In the beginning it feels a bit fragmented, but this only highlights the fact of how disconnected each of us are not only from each other but also from the government and our own elected politicians. I also loved the stark cinematography of the film and how it is shot in chilly grays.

Mr. Mullen is not necessarily a horror movie, but its message is certainly nightmarish! Just like in They Live, people need to wake up and get involved to really make a difference! People need to take back their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and stop letting big business and government control them. I, for one, am definitely glad to get this wake up call and thank Mr. Goldberg for creating such an important short film.

For more information, please visit!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: Werewolves - An Illustrated Journal of Transformation

Werewolves: An Illustrated Journal of Transformation is a stunning book from author Paul Jessup and illustrator Allyson Haller. The book is in the form of an illustrated journal written from the perspective of a newly turned werewolf who is trying to understand and come to terms with the alarming changes she is going through.

The journal and illustrations chronicle the transformation of high schooler Alice and her brother Mark after they are attacked by what they believe are large dogs one night in the woods. Alice starts to go through some weird changes – she was a vegetarian, but now craves bloody meat – and writes it all in her journal alongside sketches she draws. It doesn’t take long for her to figure out what her and her brother are turning into, especially after they meet the pack that turned them into werewolves.

The strong personality of Alice really pulls you into the story and the simple yet gorgeous illustrations hook you even further. You will not want to put this book down, and it will probably become a permanent fixture on your coffee table, because hardly anyone can walk by without picking up the book and thumbing through it…and after thumbing through it they are likely to plop down and read as much as they can! It is just that engaging…

The book really does feel like a peek into a private journal and kudos to author Paul Jessup for pulling that off! I also must applaud him for creating a strong female lead that takes matters into her own hands. The illustrations by Allyson Haller deserve much praise as well, because their style fits perfectly into the overall tone of the book.

For fans of fangs ‘n’ fur, Werewolves: An Illustrated Journal of Transformation is a must-have!

Buy it on Amazon!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something Just (2010)

After being impressed with Scott W. Perry’s film Insatiable, I was eager to check out his new short film, titled Something Just.

Something Just stars Alan Rowe Kelly, Jerry Murdock, Evan Robert Smith, Joslyn Jensen and Joseph Zaso. It was written, produced and directed by Scott W. Perry and co-produced by Jeremiah Kipp. If you are a fan of indie horror, more than one of these names is probably familiar to you!

Synopsis: In order to stop a child killer, the guardian of one of his victims seeks the aid of a shady figure from his past.

Alan Rowe Kelly, a regular figure in the independent horror scene, stars as the creepy child killer and delivers quite an imposing performance as a psycho. The first scene where he kills a young girl is very disturbing. It’s not that there’s a lot of blood, but the scene has more of a psychological impact with the disorienting score and echoing effects of the sounds and images on screen.

Don’t expect this film to be your cookie-cutter psycho story, though! Perry weaves a surprising twist into the proceedings with the introduction of one of the victim’s guardians who would do anything to stop the killer, including dealing with a mysterious man from his past. I like how this twist makes the film unique and gives it a much more layered, complex story. And the ending, which I won’t give away, is both surprising and satisfying!

The film also looks fantastic and the cinematography by Dominick Sivilli is great. In the beginning we are in the killer’s dingy house and dark basement, but later the film takes on a dreamier atmosphere with soft, washed-out colors and a park setting.

Something Just just goes to prove how much Scott W. Perry has grown as a filmmaker. Not only has he put together another fantastic cast, but the film feels more mature than previous efforts and deals with the more serious subject matter of child predators. With this steady progression, I can’t wait to see what Perry does next…perhaps a full-length film?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: The Art of Hammer

One of the books I’ve been anticipating most is The Art of Hammer: The Official Poster Collection from the Archive of Hammer Films. Not only am I a fan of Hammer horror and all its lurid but classic films, but I also love poster art! Poster art was, and still continues to be, a major marketing force in cinema, and for good reason. In Hammer’s heyday, posters and handbills were generally the first thing people saw in regards to a film and would greatly influence their decision to see it.  To this day, studios spend a large chunk of change on marketing, which includes poster advertisements. So besides just looking pretty, posters serve a greater purpose in promoting a film.

This, and more, is explained in the introduction by author Marcus Hearn. This informative section gives a brief overview of Hammer Films, its poster artists and the importance of utilizing their posters for marketing. After this short but informative overview, the book moves into showcasing Hammer’s beautiful posters. The level of craftsmanship on these posters is very impressive, considering most of them were hand-painted or hand-crafted, not something you see very often nowadays. The posters are organized by decade, from 1950 to 1979, and really show why Hammer is almost as well known for its promotional posters as it is for the films themselves.

The Art of Hammer showcases the studios’ iconic posters with nearly 300 examples, both familiar and rare, drawn from Hammer’s own archives as well as from private collections worldwide. There are unforgettable images contained in this gorgeous book, from films like Dracula, The Gorgon, Curse of Frankenstein, Devil Rides Out, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, To the Devil a Daughter, Vampire Circus and many, many more! Besides posters of horror films, this book also features comedies, that are perhaps lesser known, that were released by Hammer studios. My favorite posters in the book were the foreign ones, which were just wild in the interpretations of the films! However, my absolute favorite poster was a black and white one for Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, which features a buxom beauty with two pink band-aids over bite marks on her neck! I love the cheeky vibe of this poster!

The Art of Hammer: The Official Poster Collection from the Archive of Hammer Films is a real treat for both fans of both the golden age of Hammer and poster art fans. The beautiful coffee table book showcases some of the best iconic posters from Hammer Films and not only that, it is masterfully made! The pages are glossy, thick and the book itself is huge! It is wonderful to see the colorful posters in such a large format that really pays them the respect they deserve. This is a book that will definitely grace your living room table for years to come.

A while back we reviewed another fascinating book from Marcus Hearn called Hammer Glamour that was filled with stunning photographs of the starlets from Hammer movies. I was extremely impressed with the book, and it looks like Hearn has done it again with The Art of Hammer. There is just an unequivocal joy to flipping through the colorful pages of glossy Hammer posters!

The Art of Hammer is being released November 23rd, 2010 and would make a breathtaking gift for that special person in your life this holiday season!

Buy it on Amazon!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Brain Dead (2010)

Sometimes you just want to shut your brain off, grab a few beers and have a few laughs with some buddies…and that’s where a flick like Brain Dead comes in. I’ve been anticipating Brain Dead ever since I heard Kevin Tenney (Night of the Demons) was attached. However, when I saw the trailer it looked pretty bad, so I put off watching it until now. Big mistake, because I actually had a great time with this low-budget flick!

A small meteor falls to Earth and lands smack dab in the middle of a fisherman’s head in Hicksville, USA. However, inside the meteor is an alien parasite, which looks a lot like a black slug, and it immediately takes over the fisherman’s body and goes in search of brains. The invasion has begun!

Nearby, a bunch of different people (two convicts on the run, two lost hikers, a televangelist and his sweet little follower, etc.) all converge on an abandoned cabin in a convenient plot twist (hey, most movies have ‘em). Their personalities clash, but soon they find themselves banding together to fight the alien/zombie-hybrid threat.

Before I get started with this review, you’ll note the alien slug isn’t anything new – we’ve seen it in films like Night of the Creeps and Slither. I noted this too as the film started, but really, it didn’t make a lick of difference because I still enjoyed the flick! Yes, the plot may be simple and it may have been done before, but it is all in the execution, which Tenney pulls off brilliantly.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled review…

If I had to pick one word to describe Brain Dead, it would be fun…or maybe bloody…or boobilicious…is bloodyboobiliciousfun a word? Well, it should be, because that’s exactly what Brain Dead is! It has over the top gore, tons of lady bumps for the fellas and plenty of rip-roaring lines (Character 1: “I’ve been shot!” Character 2: “Is it bad?” Character 2: “Have you ever been shot when it was good??”).

The characters, though plenty are disposable, are all pretty likable or at least interesting. I’m glad the film didn’t stick with the formula of horny teens in the woods, because the varied characters make things much more interesting. Plus, characters you assume would make it to the end actually become alien fodder, so you are kept on your toes! Thanks to writer Dale Gelineau for keeping things interesting!

The film also keeps its tongue firmly in cheek and doesn’t mind winking at the camera. The fun banter between characters and the over-the-top gore means the film never takes itself so seriously and neither should you!

Speaking of the gore, it is the star of the show. People are split in half, brains get ripped out, heads get blown off and the squirmy alien slugs get busy invading their hosts’ bodies. For a low-budget flick, the effects (with the exception of a few shoddy CGI shots) are pretty impressive.

Brain Dead is one heck of a fun movie. Don’t let the trailer fool you, for the actual film is an enjoyable way to unwind after a long day. Just grab some brews, grab some friends and get ready for plenty of boobs, blood and alien slime.

Available from Amazon!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eyes Beyond (2010)

Two brothers share the same house. One day they invite their next door neighbors over for a house warming dinner. What the neighbors don’t realize is that everything is not as it seems with the brothers and they soon find themselves in a game of ultimate humiliation and degradation. They’re at the mercy of their captors and the only thing that can release them from the nightmare is death – or is it?

When I first started watching this short 26-minute film, I figured it would be another boring torture flick. The two brothers do some pretty nasty things to their guests, but no matter how shocking the torture was, I just couldn’t seem to get into the film. Luckily, things get interesting pretty quick and any assumptions I had about the plot got turned topsy-turvy.

The film is best seen going in blind and I don’t want to give too much away, but I must mention that the filmmakers aim in making the film was to bring awareness to mental illness. In fact, the film is very personal to writer/director/producer/actor Daniel Reininghaus, as he himself deals with bi-polar disorder. He wanted to create this film to not only bring awareness to mental illness, but to also reach out to others with mental illness that could relate with the character(s).

Speaking of the characters, all of the actors did a superb job portraying them. Daniel Reininghaus was especially brilliant as Gabrielle, one of the two brothers who tortures the neighbors. I loved his character arch and the many surprises that are unveiled. All of the other actors did a fantastic job as well, not an easy thing to boast in an independent film, especially considering each character’s multi-faceted development.

As I mentioned before, there is a fair amount of gruesome torture at the beginning of the film. Ears and fingers are cut off, people are beaten and raped and other violence is meted out to the unfortunate neighbors. For a low-budget picture, the quality was impressive! Even for a seasoned horror fan like me there were instances where I was cringing.

Also impressive for an independent short was the overall high quality of the picture. The film looked professional without looking too slick. I also appreciated that there was an important message embedded in the film and that it aspired to do more than to just show bloody torture. Writer/director/producer Daniel Reininghaus and his cast and crew should be commended for tackling such a personal project and succeeding brilliantly.

Eyes Beyond is a very dark psychological film that is as disturbing as it is enlightening. Not only will horror fans be pleased by this hallucinogenic journey, but those that suffer mental illness will also appreciate its message of awareness. From the harrowing performances to the gruesome torture to the surprising twists and overall message, Eyes Beyond is a short film that shouldn’t be missed.

Visit the Official Site!

Night of the Demons (2010)

Having experienced so many bad remakes, I was expecting the worst from Adam Gierasch’s Night of the Demons remake. I thought it would be a cheap rip-off, filled with pointless gore and tons of gratuitous T&A. I was expecting to be bored and possibly pissed while watching the film because although Kevin Tenney’s original isn’t the greatest horror movie ever made, it’s still a ton of fun and is a classic in its own right.

So color me surprised when I sat down to watch the flick and it was actually GOOD! I was first grabbed by the great holiday vibe of the film. It opens with a shot of the French Quarter in New Orleans on Halloween night and zooms through the costumed crowds before focusing on trick or treaters, pumpkins and the spooky mansion where all hell will soon break loose. And the decorations! Let’s just say the set design was impeccable in creating the perfect Halloween atmosphere!

Before I get ahead of myself, the plot is as follows:

On Halloween night, a group of twenty-somethings hoping to party the night away get trapped in an old, supposedly cursed mansion and unwittingly release demons who hope to possess and ultimately kill them.

Yup, it’s pretty close to the original story, but the remake actually takes the time to develop both the story and the characters more. It also explains the demons and how they came to be trapped in the house and what their intentions are in possessing the characters. I loved the backstory on the mansion and the setting of New Orleans. The story even manages to mix in some voodoo, hoodoo and black magic into its proceedings.

Not only was the story engaging, but the characters were also likable! I loved the party-girl twist they gave Angela (played by Shannon Elizabeth) and how each of the characters was more developed than in the original. They each had complicated relationships that added to the intensity of the film. Plus, the cast of mostly-recognizable faces (Edward Furlong, Monica Keena, Bobbi Sue Luther, etc.) did a fantastic job! There are even small cameos by genre-favorites Tiffany Shepis and Linnea Quigley (who starred in the original).

Once again, I absolutely adored the set design. The Halloween party at the abandoned mansion was amazing-looking, the costumes were great, and the killer soundtrack featuring Type O Negative, Zombie Girl, 45 Grave, Creature Feature, etc., added even more atmosphere. In fact, I realllllly wish they would release a Night of the Demons soundtrack because it would make a great backdrop to my own Halloween party!

The fun party atmosphere doesn’t last long, because the cops break up the party and only a small group remains…and it is they who inadvertently release the demons. And once that happens, all hell breaks loose! Speaking of the demons, their makeup was pretty impressive. I liked how each of the demons looked different as well. The only “look” I didn’t really dig was Angela’s – on her I actually prefer the original makeup. Besides the cool makeup FX, there are also plenty of creepy moments in the film, like when the demons crawl on the ceiling in a long, dark corridor and a demon reaches out of the darkness to snatch one of the characters. And, before you ask, yes, the infamous “lipstick scene” is alive and well in the remake, with its own new spin!

Going back to the story, writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch did a fantastic job explaining the backstory of the mansion, its earlier inhabitants and the demons. I appreciated the mix of voodoo, hoodoo and black magic used in the story, but also appreciated how the survivors used tools around the house to fend off the demons. I thought this detail was very clever of the writers and in the story it works extremely well.

With all that said and done, I must say that Night of the Demons is one of the most fun fright flicks I’ve seen all year. It’s not your typical, dumbed-down horror flick remake, but rather a new take on an old favorite. It is so entertaining, clever and just plain fun that I dare say it even surpasses the original!

Last year horror fans found a new Halloween horror classic with the release of Trick ‘r Treat; this year Night of the Demons is the new Halloween classic!

Buy it on Amazon!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Candy (2010)

Candy is a short film that is just a perfect bite-sized treat for Halloween! Directed by Sage Hall and written by Jesse Kozel and Jenny Beres (all of which who star in the film), this short six minute film is visually stunning, mixing themes from noir, horror and even avant garde.

Set on Halloween night, it seems that Candy (Sage Hall) has created quite a spread of Halloween sweets for her son, Marcus (Jesse Kozel). Marcus is kind of a mama’s boy, though he seems fed up with Candy’s overbearing nature. Marcus has invited a “date” over, which irks Candy. However, to get back at her son she befriends the girl (Jenny Beres)…only, she doesn’t like the girl’s mouthy attitude and things soon get out of hand…

This is a beautiful and artistically made film! The black and white visuals really pop, especially with the use of Halloween decorations. It visuals really give it a retro feel, much like the vintage-inspired poster above. I also think the June Cleaver-like Candy character adds to its ‘50s style charm. However, it’s not all sweet…this short definitely has some bite to it!

I adored the conniving and evil character of Candy. Sage Hall played her perfectly, without going over the top. Plus the nice little open-ended twist at the end was great! Jesse Kozel also did a commendable job playing the loser Marcus and Jenny Beres was good as Marcus’ foul-mouthed date.

I also must mention the music, done by Abnorml Injustice, which was extremely atmospheric and added to the wonderful feel of the film. The music and visuals complemented each other superbly!

Considering this is a low-budget short film, I am amazed at the care that went into the details of the score, the set design, even the costumes! The filmmakers must truly be commended for making such a fun and breathtaking short!

Director Sage Hall has created a truly memorable Halloween-themed short film that’s visually striking, has a wonderful cast (herself included) and appears extremely polished and professional. No tricks here, this sweet treat is exactly what you want dropped into your Halloween bag!

Book Review: Grave Humor by M.T. Coffin

I love frequenting cemeteries. They are so peaceful, so beautiful and so…funny? If you’ve ever taken the time to read headstones, you know exactly what I mean. There are some pretty amusing epitaphs and unfortunate names that grace the tombstones of cemeteries out there. And now you don’t even have to step foot in a cemetery to get a good laugh out of them!

The new book Grave Humor: A Photo Tour of Funny, Ironic and Ridiculous Tombstones by M.T. Coffin is a creepy-cute book that will tickle your funny bone! It’ll delight you with its witty jokes, quirky gothic illustrations and funny photos!

Check out the official description:

People act like being dead is so serious.

But if you’ve spent any time in a cemetery, you know a lot of those dearly departed have to be rolling over in their graves – with laughter. This collection of ironic, comic and just plain ridiculous tombstones proves that it’s possible to have a sense of humor about kicking the bucket. Just be careful you don’t laugh yourself to death.

Who says death is a serious subject? From amusing epitaphs (“I knew this would happen”) to comical burials (the Maxwell-House plot), this irreverent anthology of cemetery humor proves there is humor even in death. This book celebrates the lighter side of death through photos capturing amusing and ironic monuments to the dearly departed.

Sections include: “The Last Laugh: Funny Epitaphs”; “True to Form: Snapshots of Humorous and Oddly Designed Headstones”; “Dumm and Dummer: Rib-Tickling Eternal Pairings”; and “Die Laughing: Monuments to Utterly Unfortunate Names”. Readers will get even more laughs from the irreverent captions and illustrations.

This book is perfect for the morbidly inclined, taphophiles, goths, or those that like to poke a little fun at Death. I also think it’s a perfect book to purchase for Halloween! Grave Humor’s bold, eye-catching design will certainly make for a conversation starter among guests…just make sure they don’t die of laughter!

Buy it on Amazon!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Make-Out with Violence (2010)

Zombie movies are usually brainless (ahem, pardon the pun) but fun romps in the horror world. However, lately many have become disenchanted by the subgenre, usually forgoing seeing a zombie film with the assumption that it’ll be like all the rest, with nothing new or interesting to contribute. For most films, these assumptions would be correct. However, the zombie film Make-Out with Violence is an entirely different animal and takes the zombie film to amazing emotional depths.

Make-Out with Violence tells the story of twin brothers Patrick (Eric Lehning) and Carol Darling (Cody DeVos), newly graduated from high school and struggling to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of their friend, the bright and beautiful Wendy Hearst. When a drive through the countryside surrounding their posh suburban community leads to the discovery of Wendy’s mysteriously animated corpse, the boys secretly transport the zombie Wendy to an empty house in hopes of somehow bringing her back to life. As the sweltering summer pushes on, they must maintain the appearance of normalcy for their friends and family as they search for ways to revive the Wendy they once knew, or, failing that, to satisfy their own quests for love amongst the living and the dead.

Make-Out with Violence feels more of like a drama rather than a horror film, and in fact focuses more on the trauma of growing up instead of inundating us with blood, guts and hordes of zombies. In fact, there is only one zombie in the movie, the lovely in life and death Wendy, and there are only a few instances where she is really scary. In fact, most of the time she just lays there, staring at nothing with her glazed-over eyes (until she tries to move, and then her jerky movements will send shivers up your spine).

You might be thinking that the plot line of teens keeping a pretty girl zombie as a “pet” sounds an awful lot like Deadgirl, which is what I thought before viewing the film. However, Make-Out with Violence takes an entirely different route than Deadgirl. The boys don’t ever sexually exploit the living corpse, but instead take careful care of her and try to get her to do normal things, like sit at a dinner table and eat some birthday cake. Instead of being shocking, vulgar and offensive like Deadgirl, Make-Out with Violence is a much more subtle film on the loss of innocence and growing up, with no less traumatizing results.

I also thought that all the actors did an amazing job. You really believed what they were going through and came to relate to them, especially through their unrequited loves. Eric Lehning and Cody DeVos were the standouts as the Darling twins. They expressed so many different emotions as their characters went through so much. Special mention must also be made of Brett Miller, who played the twins younger brother Beetle. For his young age, he was very impressive! Leah High was commendable as Addy, the twins long-time friend and Carol’s love interest. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the lovely Shellie Marie Shartzer, who played Wendy. Though she is silent and still most of the movie, she does an excellent job conveying the hopelessness of her situation and just how truly changed she is from when she was alive.

This is the first feature film from the Deagol Brothers, which I never would have guessed from watching Make-Out with Violence because it looks so stunning and polished. The visuals perfectly captured the bittersweet feeling of summertime, from singing cicadas to melty milkshakes. The melancholy feel and dreamy-like visuals reminded me of the film The Virgin Suicides, which also explored death and the malaise of summertime.

Make-Out with Violence isn’t for everyone, and if you go into it expecting a regular, run-of-the-mill zombie flick you’ll probably be disappointed. However, if you don’t mind introspective and intelligent films that are beautifully haunting and heartfelt, you just might want to cozy up with Make-Out with Violence.

Available from Amazon!

2:22 (2009)

2:22 is the new short film from Abyssmal Productions, written and directed by Steven Shea and produced by Tim Anderson. The short had its world premiere at the prestigious Stiges Film Festival in Spain and also screened at Screamfest Film Festival in L.A. as well as dozens of other festivals last year, and it looks like after securing distribution it will gain an even bigger audience now!

This seven minute short was shot in a whirlwind three days and spent three weeks in post-production before being rushed out for the fall festival run last year. The filmmakers’s are extremely proud of their cast and crew, and extremely excited to see their vision come to cinematic life.

A disclaimer before continuing: I’ve known fellow horror critic Tim Anderson for quite some time and was very eager to check out 2:22 after hearing so much about it before, during and after its production. Make no mistake, though, even though I am acquainted with Anderson I certainly won’t sugar-coat my review.

Here is the film’s official synopsis:

After an incredible night out with her girlfriends, Vickie Palmer (Tara Lightfoot) is wrenched from her peaceful slumber and cast mercilessly into a world spinning out of control.

Writhing half naked on the cold porcelain tile of her bathroom floor, Vickie desperately tries to piece together the tragic turn of events that has twisted her once carefree life into a nightmare of pain and suffering.

But when she discovers the truth, will it be too late to save her from eternal damnation?

After watching the short, I can tell you I was not disappointed or let down! The first thing I noticed about the film was its high quality. Most independent films, short or feature-length, usually look like they’ve been shot on a camcorder from the ‘80s. This poor quality doesn’t hurt my opinion of the film if the story is good enough…but it usually isn’t. So, it was nice to see a short film look spiffy for once!

It didn’t disappoint with the story either…from the first scene I was completely engrossed in Vickie’s story. She wakes up at 2:22 AM, hollering her head off, and rushes to throw up some fairly chunky blood…yeesh, what a hangover! As she tries to alleviate her pain by praying to the porcelain god, we are shown what really happened hours before, when she was carelessly dancing the night away at a club. Minute by intriguing minute we learn what has caused this waking nightmare for Vickie. There were so many red herrings to cause of Vickie’s malady that by the time the finale rolled around I was genuinely surprised (and delighted) at the twist at the end!

I also must mention what a great job the actors did…Tara Lightfoot as Vickie was the obvious standout (and I’m sure all you guys will appreciate her nekkidness throughout the short), and she really gave Vickie the perfect balance of sexiness, desperation and strength. Though the other actors didn’t really have any lines (but then again, neither did Tara, unless you count screaming), they did a great job conveying emotions through body language.

2:22 is a short film full of sexiness, seduction and surprises. Not only does it have an intriguing storyline, but it also has a professional polish that seems rare for short indie films. 2:22 is a masterfully crafted short film that grips you by the jugular and doesn’t let go!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Music Mix 2010: 13 Alternative Halloween Songs

You know those Halloween songs that come out on those cheap-o comps and crowd the check-out counters of Halloween stores? You know, the ones that are filled with the usual holiday standards of “Monster Mash” or “Thriller”?

Aren’t you sick to death of hearing these, year in and year out? I mean, these overplayed songs are almost becoming as bad as Christmas carols! It’s not that I don’t love the old classics, but I think it is high time people got some fresh blood circulating through their iPods!

So, like in 2008 when I listed 13 Songs to Haunt your Halloween, I present to you a whole new list of alternative Halloween songs.

1.) “Halloween in Heaven” – Type O Negative (available on Dead Again)

“The dead they got that morbid beat
It goes deo deo
They dance upon decaying feet
With their black toes, oh no
Heaven, limbo, and hell
Purgatory oh well, oh well
Halloween in heaven
It’s Christmas in hell
Halloween in heaven
Oh well, oh well”

2.) “When You’re Evil” – Voltaire (available on The Devil’s Bris)

“And it’s so easy when you’re evil
This is the life, you see
The Devil tips his hat to me
I do it all because I’m evil
And I do it all for free
Your tears are all the pay I’ll ever need”

3.) “Orange and Black” – God Module (available on Let’s Go Dark)

“All the leaves have died
All the faces on the pumpkins come to life.
He’s coming home tonight.
There’s no where in the world that you can h…ide.
From the shape hiding in the closet.
The monster under your bed.
There’s no way that you can stop this.
It’s Halloween and you’re dead.

4.) “Night in the Lonesome October” – Calabrese (available on Traveling Vampire Show)

“Like a bat in flight
Mortals go to hell
We’re already dead
Hypno eyes will turn
Virgin minds will burn
Taste of blood tonight”

5.) “Trick or Treat” – Nekromantix (available on Return of the Loving Dead)

“Trick, Trick, Trick or Treat
Open up your door and give me what I need
Thrill kill Halloween I’ll show you something
That you’ve never seen”

6.) “Michael” – Son of Sam (available on Songs From The Earth)

“I’ve been waiting patiently for this day to arrive and
I have spoken not a single word,
Now hand to hand my voice shall be heard
No Michael, not this time,
I’ve been waiting for oh so long, oh so long”

7.) “Spook City USA” – Misfits

“See the ghosts as you drive past graveyards
Spook City U.S.A.
Deathly souls in American graveyards
Spook City U.S.A.
Here is where I’ll die for sure”

8.)  “The Halloween Dance” – Reverend Horton Heat (available on Halloween Hootenanny)

“You do the step with the Psycho knife
You push a shopping cart like a Stepford wife
You stoop like a hunchback of Notre Dame
Now you’re doing the Halloween dance”

9.) “Autumn” – Bella Morte (available on Where Shadows Lie)

“When summer fades to silence
When winter’s still a dream
And solemn sleep to you is blind again
And the Autumn comes with amber eyes
Pale as the night
To enthrall your soul”

10.) “No Costume, No Candy” – Swingin’ Neckbreakers (available on Halloween Hootenanny)

“Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat
No costume, no candy”

11.) “A Minute to Midnight” – God Module (Magic in My Heart Is Dead)

“I want to hang you on the wall like a Halloween mask
Do the things to you that you’re afraid to ask for
I knew you in the leaves and the pumpkins and the trees
Down on your knees in the cemetery”

12.) “October Skies” – Glis (available on Nemesis)

“As rain falls from October skies
I chase on into the night
Haunted by visions of past lives
As rain falls from October skies”

13.) “Kiss the Blade (Motherf*cker 667 Mix)” – Combichrist (available on Kiss The Blade)

“A glint of steel
In the night in the night
Darkness will arise
Behind a mask
A godless child
A force that never dies”
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