Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Revenant (2009) is hilarious and awesome.

No, it isn't the Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Yes, I love that film too. This is an indie horror flick, and it's badass. Ignore the DVD cover. That made me not want to watch it... looks like glossy photoshopped crap but the actual movie rocks. It reminds of The Boondock Saints except better and all horror. I don't want to spoil anything but it's a very unique take on a certain subgenre pre-Dracula. I hadn't heard of it either but it blew people away at festivals and it's a ton of fun. Great black humor, cool FX, kickass story, and where it ends up is nuts. I guess it's more like Dead Heat but again it's in a league of its own. This is really the type of indie horror we should support. Can't wait to see what the writer/director does next, and I'm so glad I bought this. Very thankful to the other director that recommended it to me. I don't know how I missed this but that shows you good films really can slip through the cracks these days. I suppose me being overseas didn't help.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review: Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Prepare for a lot of cameos in this one: Kane Hodder (Jason! Hell yes!), Fred Williamson (From Dusk Till Dawn!), and David Carradine. Plus, Eva Mendes in one of her first film roles. I think it's obvious this sequel was made by a horror fan but it didn't do much for me unfortunately. It has that same generic setup of some college kids who take a wrong turn and end up in Slasherland. The main evil child isn't believable at all. You hate him immediately (and not in a good way). The cameos are nice and do help it a bit but it's pretty dull. There is a grain silo with flames coming out of it, which I guess is their version of the corn monster, but it's disappointing. Typical cult thing except Carradine's character is used as their puppet spokesperson. These Children of the Corn sequels are pretty forgettable. It's just crazy they made so many of them, and I have to be nuts for watching them. We really need another Friday the 13th. Just have fun with it and don't take it so seriously.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: The Unnamable Returns (1992)

HP Lovecraft films are pretty rare (thank you Stuart Gordon!) much less a sequel to an HP Lovecraft movie but that's what we got here and the real kicker: I think it's better than the original. I know... the horde is coming to get me as I write such unbelievable blasphemy, but alas, it is true. I didn't even want to watch this but I was so shocked to discover there was a part two to The Unnamable that I couldn't help myself. It's like finding out there are five Silent Night, Deadly Night movies... what?!?! How could they possibly make so many? Never mind that, it's crazy sequel time! The Unnamable II picks up right where the first film ended, and immediately, I would say it is far more interesting with better characters, writing, directing, etc. Sallah from Indiana Jones is even in it! You get a lot more of the monster too and more kills, bloodshed, etc. It's more entertaining than the original, which I barely remember except for the end, and the story is extremely different. I was genuinely surprised and a bit saddened by the conclusion of part two whereas the first film didn't even register.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)

This is such a strange sequel. The main character is also named David like our hero in the first one but different actor, they add a last name, give him a wife and son, etc. He's clearly not the same guy. Both are cops though but this film has no references at all to the events in the original movie. If he was the same fella, he'd remember he was attacked by a giant alligator before, right? I don't think that's something you forget. So it's basically a crappy remake. Ok crappy is a little harsh but it's nowhere near as good as the first film. I was really surprised Alligator was so good. That gave me (admittedly foolish) high hopes for this follow up. I wonder why they chose to ignore the first picture. I do like Steve Railsback (Lifeforce!) and of course Dee Wallace but the charm and intellect is gone. Yes, I thought the original was smart for a giant alligator flick. I was hoping with the sequel's subtitle, they'd make the creature into more of a monster but no dice. I like the alligator rampaging through the carnival, and *spoilers* *spoilers* *don't read past this* the death of Railsback's big baddie Vinnie. That was a fitting demise. *end spoilers* But pretty much everything in this was done better in the first film, and it's pretty dang odd for a sequel to not reference the original in any shape or form at all especially when the first Alligator was actually really good. Robert Forster is sadly missed.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review: Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Well, you get Naomi Watts this time in one of her very early roles. Does that help? Not really. She plays an assistant to a local doctor. A job she gets when coming home to visit her ill mother. They show how all these regular children get sick at the same time (fevers for everybody!). After which, they become the titular corn kids (could you imagine that awful title? please don't but how about the prequel Corn Babies... I know, I know, cinematic gold... trust me). This entry feels quite slow and boring. They must have taken the budget down to zero. You get absolutely no corn monster. People give number three a lot of crap but man that movie goes bugnuts monster massacre in the last 30 min and it is awesome. I had no idea how spoiled I was until I watched this. Number two is definitely the best sequel so far with three being super close due to the finale alone but I'm afraid it's all downhill from here (maybe five is better? hope so... I'm a sucker I know). This film feels like an unnecessary tedious origin story. Almost like a prequel to the original even though it isn't. I guess it's attempting to inject more drama and suspense but I don't think any of it works. A low-grade sequel like this should at least be fun and good grief, I want my corn monster! Sorry, "he who walks behind the rows." One of the dang kids is supposed to be "he who walks behind the rows" here... ugh. You don't even get the bowling ball rolling underneath the ground. Zip. Zilch. The doctor does get cut in half... alright. Apparently, the doctor's office is haunted by the evil corn kids because they randomly kill Naomi's friend there too. But this movie is seriously lacking in every department. Did the people making this watch the other films? The audience is light years ahead from the very beginning, which is a horrible idea. It makes your film immediately boring like it opens with the mom's dream or future prediction of some evil kids coming. Whatever. We already know that's going to happen. Quit wasting our time. Ah who am I kidding? Clearly I have some time to waste if I'm watching this :) Did I just type a smiley emoji? Did I just type "emoji?" Oh please God, kill me. Kill me now. What have I done? What demons hath the internet spawned.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Indie Horror You Should Watch

If you haven't seen these, I highly recommend you check them out ASAP. First up, Schoolgirl Apocalypse. It's cool as hell. Very original post-apocalyptic scenario with only the men being infected, excellent directing and action, etc. It deserves a lot more love and attention. Second, End of the Line. Maurice Devereaux should already be a household name. The guy self finances all his own films. Think about that for a second. He put $200,000 of his own money to make this flick. That alone takes guts but it's a damn good movie too. I also love Slashers. You gotta see his work. Third, The Human Race. I don't know why people are being jerks on IMDb but this is another fantastic tiny-budget indie. It takes risks Hollywood would never dream of and they all pay off in spades. Last but not least, The Demon's Rook. Awesome practical FX labor of love. Cool monsters and a fun time. I really wish these guys would make more films. So please support their stuff. Believe me, it's worth it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

Correction: they definitely show the corn monster in number three. Excuse me "he who walks behind the rows." Corn monster doesn't sound nearly as cool. This film is sadly weaker than part two. The opening makes you wonder if your brain gave up and forgot the second one because there's no continuity. All of a sudden you get two new kids in a cornfield with a drunken abusive father... ok. I had to double check and make sure both Joshua and Eli are new characters. Yep, they are. This sequel is very so-so until about the last ten or twenty minutes. Then it just goes nuts. You get an ugly huge latex beast that resembles the mutated dog in The Thing if it had been accidentally crushed by the prop guy. I love it, and the body count goes through the roof. All of a sudden, you get corn tentacles flying between a girl's legs (WTF), tentacles using sickles to hack people up, a guy getting hung to death by a tentacle (it's a sight to see), etc. Talk about a frenzy of blood and death. More than makes up for what came before, and it's funny too because you think the movie is over when all this insanity explodes onscreen. Genius ending but you know they're going to completely ignore the last teaser of the corn going worldwide. I'm quite certain the next one isn't set overseas. By the way, I have to mention the absolutely brutal demise we get for Malcom. Why does this poor guy have to be so eviscerated? I mean damn. He was a good sympathetic character and they make his death so gruesome like they just had to top Predator with the ultimate nasty spinal fatality. Geez. Couldn't Eli go out that way? That kid got annoying fast and I thought the demonic brat in two was tiresome. At least, they showed Micah getting possessed like he had a little extra dimension to him but this kid is too young and baby faced to be in charge. And what was with his outlandish fireball power? Eh whatever it's always going to be hard to pull off an evil kid. Done right like The Exorcist and it's unnerving (Dick Smith's phenomenal makeup went a long way though) but if it's done wrong, laugh-out-loud cheesy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

I love how the *second* film in the series already has the word "final" in its title. Talk about calling the game early. I can't explain it but I have a strange fascination with these bad Children of the Corn sequels. Mostly, I think I'm a sucker for the monster hiding in the corn at the end that they pretty much never show. "He who walks behind the rows." Sounds cool, and they do The Thing trick where you have something moving under the ground (I wonder if they also pulled a bowling ball beneath the surface). I would argue there actually are some good things in this movie. You get some nice gory deaths like the glasses guy bleeding out of every orifice on his face during the church sermon. Ned Romero who plays Frank Redbear, the Native American professor, is a fantastic actor, and despite the unnecessary cliche coda with him (good intent but a little hokey), he pretty much steals the show. I love the clever bit of dialogue where he says the earth isn't in balance then the reporter asks him if that's what happened in Gatlin. Heck no, those kids went psycho and murdered their parents! Not an exact quote but it's a hilarious little moment. The young girl in it is pretty and they give her a silly showering-under-a-waterfall scene so you can get the obligatory swimsuit shots (hey gotta keep that male audience interested). The acting really isn't that bad although the evil leader of the kids could be better at times but what do you expect? I do actually like the dad and son characters. Even the lady in charge of their bed and breakfast is charming. Hard to believe a simple short story from Stephen King would go on to spawn so many sequels but I guess it's not that surprising in Hollywood. This is probably the best of the sequels but I just bought the 6-film collection so I can dig through all the rest to make sure (I'm a glutton for punishment). I've seen some of them before but they all kinda blend together (and the result ain't pretty). For some odd reason, I thought Redbear was in the first film too but I was wrong. Shows you what I know.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Here is a fun exploitation flick overflowing with style and energy. The girls all have a ton of screen presence, and the story makes you anxious what will happen next because you know things could go off the rails at any moment. Supposedly made for a budget of only $45,000, I would argue every penny is up on the screen. The music is catchy too, setting an irresistible tone. Of course, they're not taking themselves seriously with this so neither should we. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. I've seen quite a few movies lately but none had this much spirit. I wish we'd get more movies like this nowadays. All our micro-budget indies seem to be way too dour. I'm sure there must be some lighter ones but doesn't seem like we get fun exploitation like this anymore. Deathgasm was pretty awesome although more horror than this but both have tons of charm.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Cube sequels are pretty good.

I wasn't expecting a whole lot. I loved the first film but didn't get around to Hypercube or Cube Zero until recently. I had heard the sequel didn't have traps but it seemed to me like it did. They were just done differently with these expanding killer prisms and this other lawnmower cube blade thingy but I still felt it had plenty of tension while being quite creative. Cube is a masterpiece you won't top, but as far as sequels go, they did a good job. This robot eye makeup on a higher up in the third film bugged me a bit since it doesn't look very convincing but all the stories are unique and interesting with good twists by the end. Heck, I actually wish they made more since this concept seems like it could keep going with pretty reliable results. Getting more of a peak behind the curtain in the third one was fascinating. You really do wonder about the people in charge making these cubes, and Cube Zero seems to set the whole series in a dystopian future. Of course, I'd rather have original films than tons of sequels, but if they're going to pump them out anyway (and you know they will), this is one horror franchise I thought actually had legs whereas some seem stretched far behind their limits (back 2 tha hood? holy cow, they've made 7 freakin Leprechaun movies now! geez). Did I mention I have a strange obsession with Children of the Corn sequels? No idea why. Yeah, I'm weird. The end boss, the monster in the corn, "he who walks behind the rows," some crap like that, always seemed cool to me. Alright, I'm incriminating myself at an alarming rate. Twilight sucks! There we go. We all on the same page now? Don't look over here. Nobody is behind the curtain.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Surprisingly, I loved Alien: Covenant.

I was very mixed on Prometheus. The guy who maps the ship gets lost in it? The supposedly super smart scientists decide to throw caution to the wind and remove their helmets? Gee, why don't I pet the Alien cobra? He is her father... uhm so? This isn't Empire Strikes Back. In fact, I didn't even want to see Covenant. I figured I'd never see another good Alien movie again. Well, I'm happy to admit I was wrong, but I have to say I'm shocked at all the negativity surrounding this film. Whether I wanted to or not, I read everything people said about it beforehand and yet despite all that, I still liked it. A lot. To me, it's a billion times better than Prometheus, which again is not a high compliment since I hated the stupid characters in that one (and why didn't they leave in the deleted scene of the engineer speaking at the end?) but damn Ridley Scott got me. I did end up liking the characters in this, Fassbender was phenomenal, and the script made sense. Someone said there was a 5-minute flute scene, and like any rational person, I thought, "Damn, that sounds bad." Yet said scene has two Fassbenders in it, doesn't feel long at all, and is actually quite interesting since there's more going on than just learning the flute.

Gonna have to wade into spoiler territory here so stop reading now if you haven't seen it, but I don't understand why some are complaining Ridley screwed up the mythology with this one. Uhm, he did that already with Prometheus by saying the Space Jockey was just a stupid suit. The engineers still created the black goo. David simply refines it. Why is that bad? Sure, the gestation period is very short but David has been tinkering with his specimen a ton and I don't think we can assume the eggs in the first Alien film's Derelict Ship came from this same strain. Plus, from a practical point of view, no one these days would put up with Alien's deliberate, labored pace and AvP already jacked up the gestation time. Anyway, I love David playing creator, his great interactions with Walter, and I ended up liking Daniels and Tennessee a lot too. The Neomorph was fantastic. Same with the classic Xenomorph. I guess they painted over the practical FX with CGI, which I hate, but it looked quite good. I don't know why they needed to have practical built then in the first place unless they wanted to help the CG artists by having a real model to build off but I hope they warned the poor practical FX guys they were going to do that. Regardless, I loved it. Sometimes, the characters might make questionable decisions but they're not supposed to be super scientists in this one and they all seem realistic given how the android is meant to be their protector, they're in high stress situations, etc. People seem to be nitpicking the hell out of it and making little things seem all encompassing when they're not. At all. My dad called it, "Boring." What the heck. I was never bored in the slightest. At the beginning, I was still skeptical (listen for the music though... seems quite a few missed that) but it won me over big time. My buddy and I are both huge Aliens fans and we loved it. Now I hope Scott gets to finish this series of films but the poor box office worries me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) is astonishingly awful thanks to the rancid editing.

Like most who played the original Resident Evil games, I wanted a film series closer to that (really curious how Romero's adaptation would've panned out), but Paul W.S. Anderson's efforts held a certain guilty charm. At least, some of them. Well, I hate to admit his latest, and supposedly final, sequel suffers from some of the worst A.D.D. editing you'll ever see. It ruins the entire thing. It's cut so fast you can't tell what's happening, you can't enjoy anything, and you get a headache trying to decipher what the fuck is going on. It's a shame. I never want to root for a filmmaker to fail. Making any movie is a crazy shit ton of work. Try it. You'll see. Sure, it's easy to watch a film and say, "This sucks! A mutated baby ant could do better!" But actually making one, and making a good one, is insanely-difficult, grueling work. It ain't fun. Ok, sometimes, it's fun, even a lot of fun, but it's still hard work. If you don't believe me, try it. I love making movies (in my tiny little nobody indie world) and I ain't complaining at all but way too many people think filmmaking is easy. They think you can magically do whatever you want without any limitations. What a fairy tale, and the higher your budget, the more strings attached aka more pressure, more outside interference, more likely something is going to get screwed up, etc. etc. Heck, your own ego can easily derail you. Making a movie is like navigating a minefield from hell especially in Hollywood. Just watch the documentary A Foreign Filmmaker's Guide to Hollywood. Oh wait, you can't since gee, big surprise, it hasn't been released in America. Ok, end rant. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. I wanted this to be good. Iain Glen is back. An extraordinary actor who doesn't get nearly enough roles worthy of his talent. I like Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element!). Paul W.S. Anderson has done films I'm extremely fond of such as Event Horizon, Soldier (Kurt Russell!), Mortal Kombat (eh, sure it wasn't R-rated, and I can't rewatch it, but it was good at the time! great music!), etc. Well, one question: what the hell happened with the editing? Seriously, it ain't bad. It's hideous. It's migraine inducing pain. Pain pretty much sums it all up. It's like they don't want you to see anything. It's impossible to believe this is the same filmmaker who made Resident Evil: Afterlife (one I actually quite liked). Did the studio kidnap the film and butcher it or what? Why, oh why, did they cut it like this? And yes, finally got back access to my blog. I'm sure you're thrilled. Blogger support is a non-existent joke (it sucks ass).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Assassination Classroom: Graduation (2016)

I had no clue about this movie. I just happened to select it on a flight since I noticed other passengers watching it and got curious. In doing a few seconds of research, I can see it's based on an anime and apparently this is already the second live-action film. Regardless of all that and my complete ignorance, I enjoyed this film a lot. Japan has gotten a lot better at CGI and the FX in this production are extremely well done. For example, I tried to watch the live-action Death Note they made a while back, but wow, it was bad. The CGI was awful, and when one of your lead characters depends on that, it can easily sink the whole thing. But if you saw the live-action Parasyte movies, the live-action Attack on Titan, or the new Shin Godzilla, you can see they're getting a lot better (ok, Shin Godzilla isn't the best example since some of the early CGI in it is quite bad but the later stuff is better). I'm not a big fan of giving plot summaries but Assassination Classroom: Graduation deals with a bunch of misfit students training to be assassins who need to graduate by killing their instructor, a strange yellow creature made in a lab who was once human. It's kinda nuts but it's a lot of fun and very original with some surprising emotion. Now the poster to the side here makes me want to gouge my eyes out but don't judge it based on that. If you want to see something different that's totally outside your wheelhouse, here you go. Just ignore the hideously lame poster.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Invisible Man (1933) is truly magnificent.

I love watching the classic Universal horror movies. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't see all of them until recently but there is something so wonderful and pure about that era of horror. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Claude Rains, etc. must all be celebrated for decades to come. Their work is truly extraordinary and unforgettable. In particular for this specific post, I have to single out Claude Rains. After seeing The Invisible Man (1933) and Phantom of the Opera (1943) almost back to back, you can't deny his brilliance, not that you can deny any of these gentlemen their remarkable achievements but I really enjoy Claude Rains's portrayal of both classic characters. I just hope such films and actors are not lost on future generations. Not long ago, I heard someone tell me their friend won't watch any films made before the year 2000. I can't believe that. I'm sure as that individual gets older, they will discover more and more movies from before their time (or at least I pray so) but still that statement shocks me. You'd be missing out on so many amazing films, and to think someone would consider the '80s too old is beyond depressing to me. If you have to label something "old" and I would much rather not, have the decency to go back to the 1920s when cinema was just beginning but even then you're ignoring almost all of the history of the world. Anyway, excuse my rant. I just love these films and hope others will always continue to embrace them. It'd be a dreary world without them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

That was a bit weird. I expected as much but the sexual stuff is definitely odd. Of course, when you see a lot of Japanese films particularly the underground genre ones, that shouldn't be a big surprise either. I still have to say I liked the film because it's extremely unique. I'm not a fan of shaky cam but this director just has his own special style that I think works. It's very high energy and you can see the passion behind it like the whole thing is about to explode with the main character's madness. It's really a crazy art-house kinda film I would say. There is even stop motion with the actors to make the robots, or I should call them more androids I guess since they seem to be part human and part machine, run extremely fast through their environments. It's obviously quite unlike anything the West has produced as far as these kind of robot movies. It feels very gritty and grimy, more akin to the ugly conditions of early factories and the industrial revolution than modern technological advancements (and that was clearly the filmmaker's intent with the opening shots of industrial ruin). Cyberpunk is the word my stupid brain failed to recall. I can't think of too many cyberpunk movies that really fit that term so well and actually won me over but this is one for sure. The closest thing this reminds me of is Hardware but that movie was more of a disappointment to me although I probably saw it when I was too young to appreciate its eccentricities (the design of the robot's ugly unwieldy body still bothers me... Cameron spoiled me with the T-800's incredible endoskeleton).

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: Shin Godzilla / Godzilla Resurgence (2016)

I just got to see this in Singapore (luckily, English is one of the four official languages here so it had English subtitles), and I was blown away. No spoilers, but I think Godzilla fans will be pleased. I certainly was, and then some. There is rather crude CGI at the beginning when you first see Godzilla's tail and his initial appearance leaves a lot to be desired (neat ideas but bad CGI). Filmmakers should really know by now that if you can't do very good CGI, at least don't show it up close. Keep it at a distance and it'll look a lot better (plus, you could maintain more mystery of what it really looks like). The FX improve drastically as the film progresses though, and you get some really awe-inspiring shots of the King of Monsters particularly when he is wreaking havoc on Tokyo at night while glowing red from his radiation scars.

This Godzilla film doesn't shy away from human casualties like its recent American counterpart. In Gareth Edwards's movie, Godzilla crushes tons of buildings especially in the climatic fight with the MUTOs and you know some people were still inside them but you never see any of that. At the end of the American film, Godzilla strolls back out to sea, but if you think about it, he has to be stomping on some poor bastards on his way out. Shin Godzilla isn't quite as hardcore as the 1954 original when a doctor waves a Geiger counter over a group of children and shakes his head in a haunting display of brutal reality, but it's close. Real close, and I love how Shin Godzilla doesn't gloss over the radiation danger either. Being anywhere near Godzilla would most likely be lethal unless you had a serious radiation suit on (people near him actually wear them in this film and keep them on).

You might have heard Shin Godzilla is basically a metaphor for the recent Fukushima disaster and specifically how poorly handled it was by the authorities. Well, that is abundantly clear in the movie so no spoilers there. Some may knock the dialogue scenes, but they're done very realistically the way you could imagine the government responding to such a crisis, and there is plenty of camera movement with unique angles to keep it speeding along.

What surprised me is how mature this movie is. That probably sounds odd given this is a Godzilla movie and few except the original could warrant such a statement but they really illustrate the complex relationship between the US and Japanese governments. Sure, the Japanese actress playing the US negotiator is a bit tiring at times given how she was supposed to have been born in America to a Japanese grandmother who saw the nuclear bombs we dropped firsthand but the pretty young actress struggles a lot with her English (and her American swagger). It's obvious she isn't a native speaker despite that being what the story calls for although finding a native speaker of both Japanese and English must be difficult (not to mention, she has to be a good actress and the right age as well). No movie is perfect (a reviewer admits this? impossible I know).

Shin Godzilla almost seems like it was made by people outside Japan. Again, maybe a strange sentiment to some but this film isn't afraid to lambaste its own government. Heck, it even criticizes how Japanese interactions are too rigid and formal with hierarchy being too controlling. Characters get pissed because of all the bureaucratic nonsense and how nothing gets done until it's too late. A key plot point is bringing together a group of Japanese who aren't afraid to speak up and challenge authority so they can actually get shit done. The lead guy blatantly tells them to ignore rank and hierarchy. It's refreshing, and the US is criticized too, but you also have agents of the US like the Japanese American girl doing good behind the scenes as well so it's not some silly one-dimensional portrait of our governments. I never expected depth like that in a Godzilla film, and there are times when you think they're just knocking the US, but then they turn it around or show a counterpoint.

You get to see quite a bit of Japanese culture too. Sure, it's all probably extremely obvious to anyone who knows anything about Japan but still it's neat to see those interesting, self-reflective touches in a Godzilla film, and they're not all rosy either. You see how they will work themselves to death (not literally in the movie but in real life, they have a word for death by overworking), fall asleep in their office chairs, bow to authority even if it's clueless and incompetent, etc.

Alright, stop babbling and tell me if it has some good Godzilla action. Yes, absolutely. I won't get specific but Godzilla's atomic breath is fuckin amazing. It makes Legendary's attempt seem quaint and cute in comparison. I should stop giving the American movie such a hard time. I liked it ok (Bryan Cranston should've been in the damn movie more) and it was a colossal improvement over the dreadful, cinematic pain formerly known as Roland Emmerich's 1998 Godzilla abomination. Let's never speak of that travesty again but pretty much anything would look good next to that. Shin Godzilla is far superior in my mind, and it dares to try new things while honoring what came before (like all the best classic Godzilla music in the end credits, which made me so glad to stay to the end, and some in the film too of course).

I just love how dark Shin Godzilla is. They do have a bad misstep with a rock song weirdly inserted at one point but for all its faults (and again, every film has them), this movie delivers. They got so much more right than the few things they missed. The look of the new Godzilla is badass. He's a true monster, but more than that, this is a serious Godzilla film with real weight and consequences. Someone put some real thought behind it, and I'm not that surprised considering how awesome Evangelion is. Hideaki Anno, you rule. I have no clue how they're going to follow this one up. Will there be a direct sequel or semi-reboot? Either way, I'm in. Let's see whether the US or Japanese sequel is better. Dang, we are spoiled now.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Men in Suits (2012)

This is a fantastic documentary about a little-known and underappreciated aspect of practical effects: suit performers aka the poor bastards suffering miserably inside those wonderful monster costumes for your entertainment. I especially love hearing about the guys who wore the Godzilla suit. Holy freakin cow... one guy had his groin burned AND he kept filming! Can you imagine? Talk about dedication to your craft. That's pretty much inhuman and cruel beyond words but you can't have anything except admiration and respect for the man. Sadly, it seems this documentary came and went without much fanfare. It got funded on Kickstarter then a DVD release but now their website is gone and you can't find the DVD anymore except for some jackass selling it for $100 on Amazon (unless it's the maker of the documentary and then hey you can sell it for however much you want! you rule!). Anyway, luckily, there is an alternative for folks without an endless supply of greenbacks. You can get a digital download of it here for only $8.99. It's only standard def (not even 720p) but still it's an amazing documentary. I love things like this. I just love practical effects and everything related to them. FX guys, particularly those you never heard of doing the grunt work under famous ones like Stan Winston, are the unsung heroes of the film industry (along with screenwriters who get shit on more than anybody).

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Abundance of Riches

We all mourn the loss of video stores (and their badass cover art), but the truth is it has never been easier to watch films on so many platforms in so many ways with more titles available than ever before. You can still search for those undiscovered gems but now you'll just have to explore online, digging through the vast expanse of the indie explosion. You'll definitely have your work cut out for you but isn't that a clear sign of how spoiled we are? There is so much content now (and damn good content too... all the best films from 89 years of filmmaking if you count 1927 on) that most people can't even take full advantage of it (I know so many people who have Netflix but don't even watch it... just don't get me started on people who think there is nothing on there because damn folks, open your eyes).

Some complain about too many superhero films but we're still getting great original horror (Starry Eyes, The Babadook, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Under the Skin), action (The Raid, The Raid 2, sorry nothing else compares to them), sci-fi (The Martian, can't believe we got a good realistic Mars movie... anyone remember Red Planet or Mission to Mars? good grief, those were awful), etc. I can name so many unbelievably good films that have come out recently: Sicario, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Creed, Cartel Land, The Invitation, The Gift, etc. And if you don't like modern titles, the classics are in the best shape ever with Blu-rays, streaming, etc. Sure, some are only on DVD and some haven't made the transition yet but with eBay, VHS is easily attainable. You can have such a massive collection now! Past generations could only dream of owning so many movies (heck, no one could really own any until the '80s unless you had insanely expensive film prints). For crying out loud, you can make your own video store in your basement (and with VHS, it'd be cheap!). It's nuts. I think we should all take a step back and appreciate what we have.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: It Follows (2014)

I was blown away by this one. Truly terrifying even (or especially) in its daytime scenes. It's really deeply unnerving at times. Basically, it takes what has become a cliche: the killer always standing behind or stalking the oblivious victim and made it amazingly frightening again. This film doesn't treat its audience like a bunch of idiots either. It could've spelled out certain things like who that old lady is but it's quite clear if you pay attention and I think letting your viewers figure that out on their own makes it much more effective. We've gotten some phenomenal horror films the last few years, and mostly, they're all indie although James Wan did very well with The Conjuring (I liked Insidious too), but if you haven't taken the plunge yet on It Follows, don't miss out a minute longer. Acting, FX, cinematography, etc. are all top notch.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Uninvited (1944) is still a classic.

It has been a long time since I first saw this, but I was so glad it holds up. Sure, it isn't really scary, but I'm very jaded, and obviously, horror audiences have changed a lot since the '40s. The characters though still work flawlessly and the story. Plus, there is a fantastic twist that I remembered was in there but I forgot the details. It's so well done. The frights seem extremely tame to what we're used to these days and they don't really try for jump scares but the atmosphere is exceptional. A real sense of foreboding. I love "old films" like these. I can't believe some kids think the '80s are ancient. If you're a real film lover, you appreciate and cherish every decade of films. Doesn't hurt the lead actress is gorgeous and charming or that all the characters are very likable. There is some good humor to endear you to them as well.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review: He Never Died (2015)

I'm a big fan of Henry Rollins ever since I saw him in Wrong Turn 2 so when I saw he was headlining this film, I had to check it out, and I wasn't disappointed. They do have a smidgen of CG blood at one point that isn't really necessary but I thought the film was fantastic especially thanks to the great sound design. It really helps you get inside the mind of his character. Then they hit you with some brutal violence and give you some nice black humor to top it off.

The bingo bits are hilarious, and I like the journey of his character, trying to remain detached but failing. The story on who he is and why ties everything together nicely. It's just a well done film. I'd definitely watch it again. Mr. Rollins really carries the whole picture with ease. Hopefully, he gets some more good roles soon.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Bone Tomahawk (2015) brings the goods.

If you're not a fan of Kurt Russell, I really don't know what to say to you. He was reason alone for me to see this movie. Add to that the irresistible mix of horror and a classic Western then there's no way I can refuse. Of course, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Lili Simmons (Banshee!) can't be ignored either. That is one hell of a cast. Some might complain the beginning is a tad slow, but they need to be more patient. The end rewards those who wait, and damn, is it incredible. I'd love to see more horror Westerns. The Burrowers was ok, and I adore Dead Birds, but I'm greedy. These two genres just seem like they were made for each other. Does High Plains Drifter count? It certainly has the hint of supernatural horror. I'll leave that for others to debate. Either way, we need more, and I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment. I'd particularly like to see more horror Westerns with monsters and not just the human kind.

Friday, November 6, 2015

I still love Them (1954).

There are so many reasons to watch old, black-and-white classics. You get a peek into another time period, and as much as I like reading a good book, you get something so much more tangible with a film where you can literally see all the details (and even hear them). I'm sure a lot of this is romanticizing the past, but everything just seemed simpler back then. At least as far as movies go, they weren't afraid to give you a message, and I don't see anything wrong with that. It's a million times better than Transformers: Rise of the Convoluted Crap. Heck, Terminator 2 has a clear message stated outright at the end too, and it's a masterpiece. I have a special place in my heart for "old" films (the worst thing is when kids now think the '80s are old). I remember watching Them as a kid, and I was desperate to revisit it. I wasn't disappointed.

Sure, the giant ants are a little hokey at times, but I think they did an amazing job with them considering the limitations. Plus, the way they build up to that first reveal and use the sound of them is brilliant. I'm fond of all the characters too. People then seemed to have more manners and hold themselves to a higher standard although I know there were plenty of hideous problems then as well (the red scare for example, widespread smoking, less civil rights, etc.), but I always find it easy to like the actors in these films. You don't get a ton of moral complexity. Sometimes, it's nice to have obvious good guys and bad guys.

This film is still pretty harsh on occasion too. A good guy trying to rescue some kids get brutally slain by an ant. You also get the hallmark of every good movie: flamethrowers. Seriously, what more do you need?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Why I Hate Found Footage

I'll preface this by noting there are some good found footage movies (Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, etc.), but (and it's a BIG but) they are few and far between with most being absolute garbage. I'm so sick of it. Here's why:
1) Full of shaky cam and often ON PURPOSE.
2) Excuse for crappy picture quality (out-of-focus, overexposed, random awful angles, missing action, etc.).
3) Constantly trying to justify why they're filming (a flaw inherent in the concept). We don't need lame, pathetic reasons throughout why you're still recording... if we're watching, we already bought into it so stop reminding us that it makes no sense why you have 5 shitty cameras and keep shooting when you're about to get your head chopped off. Tell a good STORY.
4) NOTHING happens for most of the runtime. Entire scenes will literally do nothing to drive the story forward. That's because usually there is NO story. Most of these "films" you could cut out the first 40 min and lose nothing except filler.
5) Hand in hand with the above, you get scene after scene of horrible improv where young people are being dumb and "being themselves" aka almost always drinking, making unfunny jokes, etc. It's not character development just because people talk. They need actual, unique traits that differentiate them, they need to be memorable (actually funny helps too, not just your cast giggling while the audience slips into a coma), we need to root for them, etc. The cast having beers together doesn't do shit, and one character asking another character's name... wow.
6) Never get a good look at the monsters or FX. What was that? Was that something? What the fuck am I looking at? Welcome to found footage. How about a super crappy light on the front of the camera? Check. And you still can't see shit. Like blurry shadows? Here you go.
7) The whole thing just feels thrown together like they didn't have a script. Maybe they had an outline or you know put a couple words together for the title. Way to go guys. Let's insult screenwriting some more. Wait, you actually had a script? Stop lying to yourself. That toilet paper isn't a script. Did you storyboard? Not even stick figures? Oh geez, 3rd graders prepare more than you.
8) They're cheap and easy to make, which is why they look cheap and easy to make. It's also why most of them suck.
9) You often have amateur actors shooting who have no clue what they're doing so you get a lot of first-time, never-used-a-camera-before mistakes (yippie, there's a red lighty thingy blinky winky).
10) Trying to convince us it's all real. No one is falling for that shit anymore. It's fake. It's faker than fake, and stupid text at the beginning isn't going to change that. Stop.
11) More dumb excuses for why there is music, sound effects, etc. You're overthinking it, and it will never make any sense. We don't care. Give us a good movie (not a good one 50 min in) and we won't sit there questioning it.
12) Stop doing fuckin found footage! Do you have any idea how much of that shit is on Netflix right now? It sucks! STOP! Get a nice camera, put some fuckin thought into your camera angles, STORYBOARD (yes, that's a fuckin word!), use a dolly, write a real fuckin script, and quit shitting on the silver screen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: The Stuff (1985)

I never saw this back in the day so it was nice to find a good '80s flick I missed. The satire reminded me a lot of RoboCop, and the practical effects were a lot of fun. It got quite icky and gross when you see what the stuff does to people's insides. I love the dog being possessed, controlling the owner. That was strange. Hopefully, institutions like the FDA would protect us yankees from something like this, but obviously, sometimes things slip through the cracks or you get corruption especially if a product makes so much money. It's a bit scary when you think about it, and you see enough dangerous items on the market like those stupid energy drinks, etc. We all know that crap is bad for us but so many people still drink it.

I love the tagline, "Are you eating it or is it eating you?" I saw the Maniac Cop trilogy that Larry Cohen wrote and of course Phone Booth, but I haven't seen most of his other work like Q or It's Alive so I'll have to check those out. I always remember their posters especially the glorious one for Q, which I'm sure their low-budget can't live up to but still got to watch them.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Memories of Murder (2003) is deeply unsettling and haunting.

How can you not love Korean cinema with films like I Saw the Devil, Oldboy, The Host, The Man from Nowhere, A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, etc.? Unless you've been sleeping under a gravestone, you know they've been knocking it out of the stratosphere for a while now. Well, this film is no different except unlike the others, it's based on a true story, which really makes the reality hit home, and damn, is it quite disturbing. I don't want to spoil the movie, but I can't talk about it if I don't so if you plan on watching it, just know it's really, really good (IMDb's top 250). Now stop reading and see it. You can thank me later.

I'm going to ruin the ending, which actually doesn't matter and does matter more than anything all at the same time. Again, fair warning: don't read this until you've seen it. Seeing the journey of these two detectives and how they slowly switch places as they desperately try to solve a string of murders gets under your skin especially when you realize the deeper meaning at the end. Never catching this killer would be such an unbelievable hell to endure and coming so close would only make the pain that much worse. It cements the fact I would never ever want to be a detective. You have to admire these people. It's truly a terrible job.

But this film is so well done on so many different levels from cinematography to performances to writing. Absolutely everything is top notch. You get some humor albeit a bit dark at times then you get your gut-wrenching horror. Who knew pulling off a band aid would be such a cataclysmic event? And it really sticks with you particularly that final moment between the former detective and the little girl. Early on, you hate this guy for faking evidence and beating confessions out of people but by the end, you truly understand him. What makes him tick is haunting. That word perfectly describes this film. They don't need any cheap tricks here. Keeping it classy and clean makes it all the more heartbreaking and real. Sure, you get your dead bodies but they don't focus on blood or nudity or anything like that. You've really got to applaud them for making such an incredible movie. It makes you think and feel and sticks with you long after the credits roll.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Castle Freak (1995)

I'm a huge fan of Stuart Gordon (Robot Jox! From Beyond! Re-Animator!) so when I realized I had missed a couple of items in his filmography, I knew I had to immediately rectify that, and I wasn't disappointed. Castle Freak is a lot of fun just like you'd expect with Jeffrey Combs involved. The titular monster looks fantastic especially when he puts the bloody bed sheet over his body, and right from the get-go, we get treated to a nasty scene of him breaking his own thumb to escape from his chains. Over the course of the movie, there are times when you can sympathize with this creature because of his horribly long, barbaric imprisonment and treatment as well as his stunted childlike intelligence. I could almost see this beast as a metaphor for the dark, repressed side of Combs's character.

The acting was great with Combs definitely stealing the show, and I like how his character is quite flawed. I think the writing is actually very smart with the relationships and how the story unfolds. Gordon does an incredible job the way he shows the monster and doesn't show it. The location is obviously a big character in the film, and they take full advantage of it, roaming down vast corridors, exploring all kinds of different areas, etc. You even get a rooftop confrontation at the end in the rain. It's quite a sight. I really, really loved the ending, which was more emotional than I expected and a real tribute to how well the characters were developed.

Of course, being Gordon, you get a bit of sex then some quite disturbing gore during some potential lovemaking. I think it all works really well, and Stuart Gordon deserves a lot more credit. Sure, it's gruesome at times but the writing, the characters, and the delivery sell everything. This is definitely another horror gem from the '90s right up there with Demon Knight in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Best Horror is Indie

I don't know why anyone would be surprised by this when Hollywood only churns out soulless remakes, reboots, and sequels, but the best horror films in the last few years have been independent:

Want to guess the budgets? $13.3 million for Under the Skin, which you might expect with a movie star like Johansson, $2 million for The Babadook (with $30,000 raised on Kickstarter), $1 million for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (according to Justin Begnaud's Slated page with $56,000 raised on IndieGoGo), and apparently, the budget for Starry Eyes was only the $52,000 raised for it on Kickstarter (at least, I couldn't find any indications they raised more elsewhere but I wouldn't be surprised if they did since the movie definitely looks like it has a higher budget although I read they shot guerrilla-style in LA without permits). It's clear you don't need a big budget to make a horror film. Micro-budget or no-budget, of course, makes it more difficult, but it isn't impossible.

There are plenty of other examples too: Jim Mickle's outstanding Stake Land, Ti West's The Roost and The House of the Devil, Lucky McKee's May, Adam Wingard's You're Next and The Guest, Brad Anderson's Session 9, etc.

Even the biggest horror franchises of the last decade came from indies: Paranormal Activity and Saw. You do occasionally (rarely, very rarely actually) get a good studio horror film like Gore Verbinski's The Ring and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead but note those are both remakes, which started us on this awful trend that has definitely produced far more shit than anything.

It's true you get a ton of crappy indie horror movies but then you get the little masterpieces that blow away Hollywood's pathetic attempts to cash in on a "brand." Even going back to the '80s, the horror films most people still love today were indies: John Carpenter's Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chain Saw MassacreEvil Dead, PhantasmNight of the Living Dead, etc.

Indie horror films are why people embrace this genre. You get filmmakers taking risks and trying something new because they have a story they're passionate about.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Crawl or Die (2014)

When I heard about this indie, I had no idea how they were going to stretch the tunnel scene from Aliens into a feature-length film without it getting repetitive and boring, but damn, they did a fantastic job. There is a lot of incredible tension throughout, using simple but perfectly effective sound design to keep you on edge. You get different types of tunnels with some being dirt instead of metal then they keep getting smaller and smaller so the claustrophobic feeling is undeniably palpable. I have no claustrophobia at all, but you can't help it watching this and imagining yourself in that situation. What they went through to make this especially the lead actress when she is breathing in that dirt is fuckin horrible. They really suffered for their art, but I think it pays off.

My only complaint is I wish they didn't show the creature's head so much because it resembles Giger's famous Alien except it looks fatter and not as textured or if they could've changed the design of its head to be drastically different, I think they could've sidestepped negative comparisons. The monster looks pretty amazing otherwise like that first tail shot. That was executed brilliantly. You get a part later on where these long spider-like tentacles or thin legs come out of the tunnel, and that looks awesome, showing enough to get your imagination going but not showing too much to spoil it. It's a fine line, and I guess people complained about wanting to see the monster in full, but sometimes, that just isn't a good idea if you don't have enough resources to pull it off convincingly.

I listened to a podcast with the director and he talked about an earlier cut where he didn't show the monster at all. They just had sounds, but I think the issue with doing that on a micro-budget indie is people assume (unfortunately) that you lacked the ability to do it, not that you artistically chose to never show it. Plus, I think you can show a little, and that can go a long, long way. For example, instead of just having a shot of a dark forest where there is supposed to be something out there and using sounds to get that idea across, I think it's much more effective to have a shadow move. You don't need to show what it is but have stillness and then have it move. I like the idea of just sounds especially being reminiscent of earlier horror films like Robert Wise's The Haunting, but people make incorrect assumptions and are extremely critical of no-budget horror. Audiences are more demanding now too. I also liken it to reading a book where you get a small vague description of a monster such as "an obese mishmash of teeth and claws swaying in the shadows with its tentacles stretched out like an enormous spider web," which is plenty to conjure up a gruesome picture in your mind without overdoing it. If that book had absolutely no description of what the monster looked like, would it be nearly as effective?

Anyway, I really recommend you check out this movie if you like indie horror. Tank is a cool character, and they made a very tense little film. I love the scene where she falls asleep, and it's slowly sneaking up on her. The cinematography and music are perfect as well. You can buy a signed copy of the film at So do it and support these talented filmmakers.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Harbinger Down Premiere

I was extremely excited for this new practical-FX horror film (seriously, we need more good old-fashioned REAL effects!), and I had never been to a premiere in Hollywood before so I knew I had to go. I never met any celebrities before either (I saw Savini at a convention once but didn't dare talk to Sex Machine). Of course, I had seen Lance Henriksen in Aliens, Terminator, Pumpkinhead, Near Dark, heck even Piranha 2, which really isn't that bad (Cameron improved it a crazy amount before he was unjustly fired... the foreign producer just wanted an American name on the movie while he ran off to shoot topless scenes on a beach! quite a behind-the-scenes story if you haven't heard it). So clearly I was a fan of Lance (Millennium! Hard Target! damn I love Hard Target and Lance plays the villain so well! Stone Cold too! over 200 acting credits according to IMDb). But I was a little wary... you know what they say about meeting your idols and I knew I would come off like an idiot fanboy, which I am! Bishop! I was going to meet freakin "not bad for a human" Bishop! And I haven't even read his autobiography yet (hey, I'm overseas... shipping is impossible and they don't sell it here). The guy learned to read by reading scripts! Buy his freakin book here!

Lance is the man.

The event took place at the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Alien premiered there in 1979 (pics below!) so simply going there was a big deal for me. If you haven't guessed, I'm an absolutely insane Aliens fan: Kenner toys? Got them all. In their packages, and yes, I care. Snake Alien and all (sounds even more ridiculous when you type it). Even the original 1979 Kenner Alien doll. Saved up and bought it in high school. Posters, models, Chestburster shirt, even pins and puzzles. I ran the Alien Legend fan website since I was a teenager.

Wish I could've been there!

Not to mention, meeting Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., two of the biggest names in the FX business who worked with Stan Winston on Aliens and countless other phenomenal films (Winston's son even acts in the movie!).

Don't let this guy in!

True, I had a 13-hour flight to get there and the plane tickets were damn expensive but it was absolutely worth it. The film has some fantastic creature effects, and Alec was sure to thank all the Kickstarter backers at the beginning of the premiere (I was a bit worried we might be forgotten but he is a man of his word as Lance later told me). I won't go into spoilers, but immediately when the film started, you could sense the excitement in the air and everyone cheered at the first shot of space (and at Lance's classic introduction).

The after party was a lot of fun. These things can potentially be slightly awkward with everyone vying for time with the stars, but I had a chance to meet Lance and get a photo with him. He was very friendly and the type of kind, appreciative man you'd hope he would be. I chatted very briefly with him about James Cameron (my favorite filmmaker obviously... can't beat Aliens, Terminator, T2, The Abyss, True Lies, etc.). He told me how Cameron is an extremely hard worker. Always the first one on set and the last to leave.

I'm the idiot on the right.

I also spoke with the lead actress and a few more of the cast. They were all very nice and talked quite a bit with me. There was a cool little photo op in the courtyard in front of the theater where you could take pictures with one of the monsters, a piece of the set, and some of the props. I also exchanged stories with some other Kickstarter backers especially some guys from Chicago. I wish I would've done that even more. It's always great talking to fellow horror fans and movie lovers. I met a great Swiss guy who came all the way from France.

I got a picture with Alec, and to my surprise, he invited on a tour of Studio ADI the next day. That was pretty amazing, seeing a huge Tremors graboid on the wall and the brain bug from Starship Troopers along with life-size Aliens and Predators (even the Queen head from AvP... can't stand AvP but the Queen's head was cool). Alec was very laid back and honest. Felt like you could talk to him about anything. Then you remember this guy has worked with the very best in the business (Ridley Scott, David Fincher, James Cameron, etc.), but he was very down-to-earth and generous. We got to roam around and take photos. It was incredible. I grew up on Aliens, Tremors, Starship Troopers, etc. so the experience was pretty surreal, and like a lot of fans, I always wondered why Hollywood kept using so much CGI like for the awful remake/prequel of The Thing (tax incentives! I couldn't believe it when Alec explained it all in interviews... what's wrong with Hollywood? there you go).

Definitely be sure to check out Harbinger Down when it hits theaters this summer in the US on August 7th especially if you're sick of Hollywood's CG crapfests. For what it's worth, I don't hate CGI (superhero films pretty much require it and I love The Avengers as much as the next guy). I just hate CG blood and how overused CGI is now particularly in horror films where practical would be so much more effective. For my own films, it's all practical.
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