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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: The Hidden (1987)

This one was pretty disappointing. I saw the poster as a kid but never got around to watching it. Someone online mentioned it had some pretty good practical FX so I wanted to give it a shot. The premise also sounded promising and I'm a huge fan of '80s horror movies (who isn't?) so I tracked down the DVD. The opening scene is pretty good, and it has a lot more humor than I expected, but there are barely any alien FX despite there being plenty of opportunities (the creature takes over a dog!). Oh well, "grandpa" carrying a big boom box on his shoulder and beating the record store guy to death was so ridiculous I couldn't help but laugh (awww the '80s! the alien loves music haha get it? ugh). Michael Nouri does do a good job acting, but Kyle MacLachlan was a bit too silly at times. I wish the creature design was better too. It just looks like a bloated worm or something. The dog admiring itself in the mirror was hilarious.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Strangely obsessed with Split Second's killer.

I must be the only dumb nut who cares about this, but I can't help trying to figure out just what the fuck is going on with the heavy in Split Second. Design-wise, it's simply a crappy knockoff of Giger's Alien with a motorcycle visor built into its head, but was this thing human once or is it a shape-shifter? The reason I ask is because it writes "I'm back" in blood on a bathroom mirror, mails a half-eaten heart to the main character, uses guns, knows astrology well enough to paint the Scorpio symbol in blood on a ceiling, etc. I guess you could argue it didn't use the post office but rather dropped off the package at the police station; however, I have a hard time figuring out how no one would notice a 10-foot-tall black demon playing delivery boy. There are so many odd details about it in the movie. I forgot how much Durkin and Stone discuss it. We learn this serial killer only murders on high tides, and Scorpio is a water symbol. Charles Manson was a Scorpio and Stone is a Scorpio. Durkin thinks Stone and the killer are on the same psychic wavelength, which explains why Stone knows when the killer is about to strike or what time it killed the second victim. Does any of this add up to anything? No, not really. I mean why the high tide new moon babble? But it makes me curious what the hell they were thinking.

The writer must have had some reason behind it all, right? The killer is always taunting Stone like when it leaves his partner's gun at a new crime scene. It also draws an inverted triangle inside a circle on the ceiling, which Durkin informs us is "occult," and Stone says that the killer never did that before. The fact this is a new development in the killer's ritual suggests a change. Durkin questions if the baddie stood on the bed to paint it, causing Stone to ironically note the guy should be easy to spot since he'd have to be 10 feet tall. Now we found out before that the serial killer had disappeared for a while since they talk about this at the beginning of the film. 3 years ago it murdered Stone's partner and vanished sometime after that. So all this could mean the killer was human before it took its sweet little vaca and then somehow transformed into a creature after via occult methods, which is why it drew such a symbol after reappearing (or maybe it changed after killing the first girl we see, and that could justify how no one noticed it at the club). But that theory collapses in on itself thanks to the black-and-white flashback of Stone's partner being killed in which we see the killer is clearly not human even back then. Side note: I love how after his flashback, Stone is magically wearing a shirt with one cutoff arm sleeve (how convenient) to reveal the awful scars left by the beast. I guess that is the exact same shirt he wore 3 years ago... why would he keep that shirt and keep wearing it? Rather odd but Stone is eccentric to say the least so maybe I can buy it.

The transforming theory has no evidence in the film to support it aside from the problem of why no one ever sees the monster aside from the club owner's dog and a little girl (why the girl isn't insanely terrified perplexes me since she seems to be smiling). Obviously, the real idea there was the creature was intended to be so fast you couldn't ever see it; hence, the title, the air blowing Stone's hair in the flashback as the killer races by (he should've known back then it wasn't human because of the fuckin gigantic claw marks it left on his arm but maybe he suppressed the memory), other people not seeing it, his girlfriend not even getting a glimpse of it when it bites her, etc. The problem with that is the way it's portrayed in the film since we can clearly see the thing charging out of a woman's apartment at one point although to be fair, they do show it very briefly, and it literally explodes out of a wall when it runs off. Still, that can't explain everything. So it roadrunners into the police station to deliver the heart? It would've had to rip through walls or security doors but you see no evidence of that. I can't fathom UPS accepting a package from a customer like that, and how would it pay for the service? People would still feel the wind of the thing rushing by, and it'd still make a sound.

It's kind of a cool idea for a killer although I think Predator had a much better explanation for why people couldn't see the monster. Inhuman speed seems a little lame next to technology-advanced camouflage, but the forensic results on the police-station delivery of the heart are quite interesting. Fingerprints of Stone's dead partner and traces of the rat virus that causes Weil's disease. Then Durkin brings a report to the chief on the genetic fingerprints (yes, apparently, this is a different fingerprint report), stating that the killer has the DNA structure of all its victims. It has rat DNA (I guess it ate some rats? why would it do that?) and Stone's DNA (is this from scratching him?). Durkin later rants that the creature is "like the sum total of every serial killer" he studied as if someone rolled every serial killer into "one incredible being." Again, you have another pretty awesome idea there, but the movie doesn't really deliver on that. Who or what was this thing to begin with?

Durkin then explains the 25 78 refers to the Chinese zodiac and how they're in the year of the rat. Then he goes on about how the inverted triangle not only represents evil but also water and the circle is a symbol of magic and power so everything inside the circle is protected from what's outside. Scorpio is the sign most susceptible to the powers of darkness, and to a Scorpio, the idea of being joined to a supernatural being is of the utmost importance. He then declares the most powerful supernatural being to be Satan. All of this seems to imply the killer was a man who wanted to become supernatural, but a lot of it seems half-baked. I mean why the year of the rat thing? Just because it has rat DNA and ate rats or something? Durkin goes on about how it must believe by eating its victims, it's not only ingesting their DNA but also their souls. Then maybe it wants to take the souls back to hell. So it wants to take rat souls or it just got super hungry? I think it could pretty much pick anything it wants to eat so why rats? I do like how there are bigger mutant rats in this future apparently, judging by the pretty damn big one Stone blows away.

After Durkin gets the inverted triangle Scorpio circle symbol carved into his chest, Stone suggests maybe the meaning doesn't matter. Maybe it's just a map. So then all that Scorpio bullshit before was filler? Or they want to have their cake and eat it too? Well, you can read into that Scorpio crap if you like, but otherwise, whatever. This movie is definitely a little bit of a mess. Durkin mutters some more about the killer completing its circle geometrically speaking if it murders Stone at that spot. It seems like they didn't really know what to do with the killer so they threw a bunch of stuff together and don't flesh it out much. Hell, by the end, it all boils down to a stupid oversimplification: the monster is just Satan. Nice way to dumb it down. That's horribly weak. Why did the killer take a 3-year break then? Satan needed some time off or what?

Still, I have an odd affection for this movie. It's really not very good, but I like Rutger Hauer so much and his interplay with Neil Duncan as Detective Dick Durkin is hilarious ("We need some big fuckin guns!"). Dick's arc is awesome. After seeing the killer and shooting it but not being able to kill it, he pretty much freaks out and becomes more and more like Stone. Plus, you get Pete Postlethwaite from Alien 3, a nude goth Kim Cattrall, and Alun Armstrong doing a great job as the cliche hardass chief. True, all the kills are off screen, and the bad guy doesn't make much sense, but the atmosphere is pretty well done, I like the flooded locations, there are some interesting ideas, some funny lines, etc. You can't take it too seriously obviously, and it seems like everyone involved knew that too since there are some clever self-referential jokes.

The setup and everything reminded me of Predator 2, which came out 2 years earlier than this one, but Predator 2 is really not a buddy cop movie whereas this one uses that formula: reckless cop gets new by-the-book partner against his will, they both hate each other at the start, then become good friends, etc. Danny Glover's Harrigan didn't get a new partner. He is a loose cannon with an asshole chief, but he gets along very well with his partner.

I'm curious what happened behind the scenes on Split Second since Tony Maylam is credited as the director, but in the actual end credits of the movie, the first name that comes onscreen belongs to Ian Sharp for directing the "Subway Train & Additional Sequences." Does that mean the other guy got fired or they didn't like what he delivered so they shot new material to spice it up with more action? Interestingly, there are apparently a lot of deleted scenes in a TV version (it's 6 minutes longer according to IMDb). The movie was shot in eight weeks, which actually isn't that short. A lot of films are only shot in a month or less (20 days for John Carpenter's Halloween), and this one had two months, but the pre-production was quite short (only 21 days) so that could explain some of the story issues or there was some post tinkering. I wish someone would do a making-of documentary on it, but I guess the odds are slim on getting that.

Still, I think it's a pretty fun movie worth watching. It isn't anywhere near the brilliance of Alien, Predator, Blade Runner, etc. but it's a guilty pleasure of mine, and I love the original poster. The monster standing behind Stone with the big gun. BFG to the rescue.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dead Birds deserves some more love.

A victim of some undercooked CGI but overflowing with a foreboding atmosphere and a very unique setup, I can't help praising this creepy little gem. Let's not forget it's a horror western as well. How many of those can you count? There are also some fantastic detailed explanations for it online, and I think a lot of the seemingly-ambiguous elements become more clear on repeated viewings. The look of the monsters is pretty outstanding (despite again, the CGI, which ranges from fairly good to slightly weak), but I love the anti-hero characters, the sense of something greater and more sinister going on in the shadows, the way the story starts and progresses before coming full circle, etc.

I don't think the fact it's so good is surprising given the writer Simon Barrett who has done fantastic work recently on VHS, You're Next, and The Guest (hell yes). According to IMDb, this is the first feature written by him, and it's an incredible debut if you ask me. Some people were annoyed The Guest doesn't spell everything out for the viewer, but I think if you're really paying attention, it tells you all you need to know. The same can be said for Dead Birds in my opinion, and I'm a big fan of Mr. Barrett's approach. Of course, I think the directors of said projects also should be congratulated, because their contributions are phenomenal too. I just wish screenwriters were appreciated more. Everyone thinks they can write but really most people can't, and truly great screenwriting takes an insane amount of hard work, discipline, and determination.
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