Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scream 4 (2011)

When I first heard they were making another Scream film, I was full of trepidation. I loved the original Scream, and while the sequels weren’t as good, I enjoyed them nonetheless. The Scream trilogy was a big part of my high school experience and I still remember catching them in theaters and watching them again and again at home. Scream 3 came out in 2000, though, and I really wondered if the large time span between films would be detrimental to the series.

Luckily, the film itself takes place a decade after the events of Scream 3. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the infamous Woodsboro Massacre to kick off a book tour for her new self-help autobiography. However, Ghostface has also returned to settle the score and starts picking off the locals and seems to have Sidney’s niece Jill (Emma Roberts) in his sights. Partnering again with the now-married Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), can Sidney stop the new Ghostface, who seems to be playing by new, updated movie rules?

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from Scream 4 (gah, I refuse to use it’s lame Scre4m moniker), but I was excited to see what director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson had done with the series. The film has a clever opening (though it got a bit tired pretty fast) that was quite gory before introducing us to our new cast of high schoolers and re-introducing the familiar faces. I actually liked the self-aware cast of new characters, most who either become red herrings or dead meat. I also enjoyed how the returning characters were crafted to show their development and growth as people. Despite the fact that the Scream films are considered slashers, I have always appreciated the development that has gone into the films’ characters.

I also appreciated that the film has changed with the times and adapted the “new rules” of the post-slasher era (all the while having a bit of fun with “the rules” and poking fun at several other franchises, namely the Saw series). However, I was disappointed to find that the film still relied on the tired cliché of female victims being hacked to bits while most of the male victims were dispatched quickly (or stupidly – a knife to the middle of the forehead, really?). With all the “rules” being mixed up, you’d think either Craven or Williamson would switch up this most tiresome trope of slashers (or the horror genre in general), but no such luck.

I also thought that while the first two acts were strong and suspenseful, the third act pretty much lags until the climax. The “Stab-a-thon” party scene and the after-party scenes would have probably worked better if they were both condensed down a bit. However, once we get past that small pacing speedbump the film delivers with a great climax and conclusion.

I may have pointed out several negatives I found with the film, but the truth is I really enjoyed Scream 4. I love the characters, both new and old, the “new rules” introduced, the witty dialogue and of course, the death scenes (errr, besides the unbelievable knife through the skull previously mentioned). I really find it a pity that more horror fans aren’t checking this film out. Scream 4 may not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a fun time and well worth the admission price. I highly encourage you to check out this horror sequel that actually delivers!

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation (2011)

A little disclaimer here: I loathe bowling. Maybe it’s cuz I suck at it, maybe because I hate lugging around heavy balls (*snicker*) and the funky foot-odor smell of most bowling alleys, or maybe it’s because I find bowling so boring, but for these reasons and many more it is just not my thing. However, perhaps if bowling was a little more interesting, say, with a few evil demons involved, bowling would certainly appeal to me a little more.

Lucky for me, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation features a cast of sexy demons who own bowling alley Coventry Lanes and who are intent on devouring their customers. However, there is a catch…the demons must wait to satiate their appetites until someone asks them for a wish. That someone happens to be waitress Lisa (Nikki McCrea), who is fed up with a group of sorority sisters who have made her life a living hell. To get her crush Johnny (Aaron Bernard) to notice her and to give the sorority sisters what they deserve, she asks Coventry Lanes owners (played by Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Amy Lynn Best, Lilith Stabs and Robyn Griggs) to help her get payback. However, the hellfire and bloodthirsty demons she brings down on the bowling alley isn’t quite what she expected…

Inspired by ‘80s horror-comedies like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation is a fun, low-budget film from Happy Cloud Pictures. It takes a lot of cues from Sorority Babes, including plot points (i.e. demons and wishes) and naming its characters after ones from the ‘80s cult classic. It even features Brinke Stevens, who actually starred in Sorority Babes.

The majority of the film takes place in the bowling alley, which limits its story a bit, however filmmaker Mike Watt does an excellent job of keeping the action moving and doesn’t allow the audience to really get bored. The character development is adequate, with several quirky characters nearly stealing the show! I thought Nikki McCrea as the beleaguered Lisa did an excellent job as the lead, and found Sofiya Smirnova, who played her friend Taffy, to be absolutely darling! I just wish a bit more attention had been focused on the demon characters; I would have loved to see Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens have a bit more to do.

All in all, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation is a fun horror-comedy for fans of independent cinema. It certainly doesn’t reinvent the horror genre, but it is a pleasant enough way to spend a breezy hour and some change.

Buy it on Amazon!

For more info, please visit www.happycloudpictures.com!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter from Trick 'r' Treat's Sam!

Response to Michael Dougherty’s new FEARnet video “Half Way to Halloween” has been so overwhelmingly positive, that the director and his team have been kind enough to send seven hi-res desktop images from the video. It’s the perfect Easter decoration to freak out your family!

Go download the images from our fiends at FEARnet!

Check out “Half Way to Halloween” below: 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

Egads, I thought when I first started Rhiannon Frater’s novel The First Days, another zombie book?? I adore zombies as much as any of my fellow horror loving freaks, but it seems that every other horror fiction I pick up nowadays is zombie-themed. However, I was excited to check out Frater’s first “officially” published novel. Frater has built up a lot of buzz over the past few years by self-publishing her novels online; in fact, The First Days actually started as a serial and garnered quite a devoted following! I am always stoked to find new authors who offer up new visions of horror, and I was ecstatic to discover that The First Days wasn’t any old, run-of-the-mill zombie novel, but instead offered a fresh take on the popular genre.

The First Days starts with a bang…and the rending and tearing of flesh as one bright morning the dead start coming back to life and devouring the living. Two strangers, Katie and Jenni, must band together to escape the suburbs and the horror of their zombified families and flee to the Texan countryside. The horror doesn’t end there, as they must battle the hordes of fast-moving undead to seek safety and shelter with other survivors in a small fortified town.

The First Days offers zombie fans several new aspects to the genre. First, it is set in the wide-open landscape of the hot Texan countryside. The isolated location seems ideal for this apocalyptic tale and despite the sparsely populated towns dotting the landscape, there are plenty of zombies to overwhelm our heroines. Frater also re-tools the zombie characters a bit as well, giving us the frightful notion of fast-moving, highly aggressive (and sometimes cognizant and intelligent) zombies. While this certainly isn’t a new perspective, it’s still nice to see something slightly tweaked that makes for an all-the-more terrifying read.

The most unique aspect of the novel is that it features two female leads (yay!). They are flawed, have their moments of weakness and sometimes even act a little silly (like crushing on a guy during a zombie siege), but they are also strong women who will do anything to protect each other and when zombies (or people who’ve been bitten and therefore infected) need to be put down, they get the job done. I definitely appreciated seeing strong female characters who were developed so well and who I truly came to admire and cheer on. The rest of the characters were also well-developed, and I especially took a special shine to Juan, a cowboy and resident zombie expert who kept bemoaning the fact that the zombies were fast instead of slow like in Romero’s films.

The First Days is the first book in a trilogy that will be released by Tor Books. The second and third installments, Fighting to Survive and Siege, will follow quickly on the heels of First Days’ July 2011 release. However, they cannot be released quickly enough for me, as I am eagerly anticipating Frater’s next two books in the series!

Available on Amazon!
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