Wednesday, October 31, 2007

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Fear 0 /5
Gore 3 / 5
Entertainment 4 / 5
Creepiness 1 / 5
Nightmares 0 / 5
Very fun and very entertaining outlaw / vampire movie from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (they who brought you Grindhouse). With a cast that includes George Clooney(come on, you know he's good), Harvey Keitel and Cheech Marin in three differing roles, the chances that this will go wrong are slim.
Generally I find Tarantino's scripts to be either very good or very bad. I still think Reservoir Dogs is a great film while Death Proof was a snoozefest that went absolutely nowhere. The emphasis on drawn out dialogue is here, Tarantino's constant trait, and it works well here since the over all tone is light and slightly comedic. This is where Clooney really makes the film shine. His ability to appear consistently irritated at all the time in this movie is great - he doesn't seem angry or gruff like one would expect from a tough leading man. Instead, he seems like he's been waiting in line all day or stuck in traffic. Pissy and short. It's hilarious.
Essentially, the first hour and and 15 minutes of this is standard Tarantino fare: Clooney and his brother (played "well enough" by Tarantino himself) are a couple of low-lifes who kidnap Harvey Keitel and his family, forcing them to drive to Mexico to get them out of the country. Keitel is a pastor who has lost the faith following his wife's tragic death. They cross the border and wind up at an improbable bar named The Titty Twister way out in the middle of the empty Mexican desert. After scuffling with Danny Trejo and watching Selma Hayek perform an exotic dance with a big snake, the people running the bar transform into vampires and attack everyone. There's really no explanation for this and by this point you don't care.
Clooney and Keitel are joined by Fred Williamson and Tom Savini and they managed to kill off the vampires, but find themselves locked in the bar, backed into a corner as they try to keep out the other vampires trying to get in. Simple, standard horror fare from this point out.
From Dusk Till Dawn is very creative and has a lot of laughs - again mainly from Clooney, though Cheech Marin is hilarious as he spits out bad pun after bad pun. The gore is all latex and cheese, tons of fun and the vampires all look to be straight out of 1985 (think Fright Night). There is a ton of action and, unlike most Tarantino films, it has a straight forward, easy story that doesn't muck things up or complicate things. The film knows what it's supposed to do and it does it well. Great tongue-in cheek horror film. one of the few shining moments in 1990's horror.
- Complaint Department

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shameless Plug


A friend of mine in the Dallas area is having a horror movie fest of sorts on Halloween night. He is incredibly talented at both writing and in his slicing and dicing of classic horror films (mainly ridiculously cheesy and over the top faire from the 80's).

Check out his site and blog http://www.horrorremix.com/ and if we have any loyal readers in the Dallas area, please come out and support a good friend.
The skinny:
Lower Greenville, Dallas TX
10pm
Show is free (except for adult beverages)

Cortez the Killer

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dee Snider's Strangeland (1998)

Fear 0/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 1/5
Creepiness 2/5
Nightmares 0/5

Halfway through this I realized it was not a comedy and I was so disappointed. It seemed brilliant - the cheap effects, the awful script, the over-the-top fuckawful dialogue and the incredible cheese sandwich of Dee Snider's character named "Captain Howdy". Everything was going so well and I was having a grand old time. Then I started to sense that maybe this wasn't a parody so I looked it up online. Sure enough, this is a serious attempt at "scaring me". And so it became just another bad movie.

Ok, so I didn't really think it was a comedy, but if only the producers had thought of this after the test screenings. It might have made them millions!

Strangeland is close to celebrating it's 10 year anniversary which is a very small amount of time. Unless you happen to get stuck watching this and you realize that the world has changed so much since 1998. The premise of the movie revolves around Dee Snider's "twisted" Captain Howdy persona, a heavily tattooed and pierced dude who wears a loin cloth and does a lot of pull ups. Think Ted Nugent meets the Insane Clown Posse. Captain Howdy likes to stalk kids on the Internet in "chat rooms". Remember those? And remember that awful noise that would happen every time you connected to the Internet through dial-up? And remember rap-metal? And remember goth-metalheads with bad pink dreadlocks and even worse tribal tattoos? All here for your unpleasant stroll down memory lane.

And let's talk about "modern primitives" for a second. Has there ever been a more pretentious group of douchebags? With the exception of maybe jugglers, Scientologists and Toby Keith fans, I can't think of a group of people more deluded and drowning in their own bullshit. Hanging from hooks, oh come on. What a crock of doo-doo. And to all of you Psychic TV fans and Throbbing Gristle nuts - suck it. Those bands sucked and their associated movements and philosophies failed just as much as the hippies did in the 60's. Get over your dumb selves.

AND WHILE I'M AT IT, I firmly believe that in the near future people will look back at the 90's with the same kind of bewilderment and disgust that has normally been reserved for the mid-1970s.

Anyway, Snider's character is beyond ridiculous. I can't even describe it. Aside from looking like a goofy comic book villain, he only speaks in these indecipherable, mumbo-jumbo injected philosophical musings about life and death, suffering and joy. And poor Dee Snider, he might be the worst actor ever. Yes, worse than Keanu Reeves in Dracula. (Whoooooa)

But it gets worse. After kidnapping and torturing several teenagers (including the daughter of a police detective) he is arrested and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He's sent off to the looney bin and set free 4 years later because he has been "cured". Never gonna happen in the real world. Never. Gonna. Happen.

The worse part is that Snider comes out dressed like an 80 year old female librarian and speaks like a timid little boy, clutching the Bible close to his chest and reading passages from H.G. Welles. Snider returns to his home to find it vandalized and after cleaning up a bit goes outside to face the mob that has assembled on his front lawn bearing signs that read "We're Not Gonna Take It" (see how funny this movie could be if they simply did a little re-editing and changed the soundtrack??). He steps out, apologizes and is booed back into his home.

Enter Robert Englund in yet another stunning cameo role. His redneck, wife beatin', beer guzzlin' good ole boy character (I think his name is "Jackson") forms a posse who drag Snider out of his home and throw him into a car parked next to (da da!) the cop who arrested him in the first place. . . who does nothing to stop the mob. As they drive off, they run over Snider's "medication" which has fallen out of his pocket.

The mob hangs Snider and leaves him for dead, the branch breaks and he falls to the ground, bolts up and says (his medication having worn off) "what a rush!". Yes. He really does, I'm not kidding. It's one of the greatest moments in cinematic history.

Minutes later, Snider has stripped back into his loin cloth out fit, dyed his hair pink and dreaded it all back up and washed off the make up hiding his tattoos. He then starts going after the mob. . .

Holy shit, I've written so much about this movie you'd think I liked it. I don't. I do not. I really do not.

Watching Strangeland is like eating a turd smoothie. It's like fighting a bear in the nude. It's like swallowing your own vomit. It's like punching yourself in the balls over and over again. It's like farting in your own face. It's like wearing flip flops with socks. It's like having sex with a donkey. It's just a bad bad idea. No blood, no scares, no freak outs. The only thing creepy about this movie is that it exists. And that Dee Snider is one ugly fucking guy.

-Complaint Department

The Reaping (2007)


Fear 0/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 0/5
Creepiness 0/5
Nightmares 0/5

A movie based on the 10 plagues of Egypt? Sign me the hell up. How could this movie NOT be cool? For those of you not versed on the 'good' book, let's run down the list:

1. Rivers or other bodies of water turn into blood (cue Slayer)
2. Kermit takes over the land
3. People get scratchy scalps from the stuff they sent you home for in grade school
4. Livestock die suddenly from an inexplicable disease
5. Jeff Goldblum and his buddies show up; people proclaim 'We're going to need a bigger swatter'
6. Boils erupt, causing one's face to fall off
7. Hail mixed with fire rain down (baby jebus must be really mad)
8. Darkness covers the land day and night
9. Swarms of Jiminy Crickets flutter about
10. And to top it all off, everyone's first born gets waxed
What's god going to do for an encore? Subject me to 24 hours of stand-up comedy starring this douchebag?
With what surely seems like an amazing concept with limitless possibilities to cause true onscreen terror, quickly becomes a crusty pile of ridiculousness within a mere matter of minutes. It was so bad, I was clamoring for the remote. Sadly, I bought it on InDemand and being that I am a total cheapass and had to get my money's worth even if it was truly awful, I decided to stick it out. And no, it absolutely did not get better.
Starring Hilary 'Horse Face' Swank, The Reaping focuses on a college professor and scientist who makes a living out of debunking so-called miracles. She reasons that every 'miracle' can be rationally broken down and proven by science. It is in her 'genius' that a small town pastor from pigs knuckle Arkansas comes to her with the problems his townspeople are facing.
I won't go into greater detail on each said plague but the town starts to experience them, no one being able figure out 'why' exactly this is happening. Big mouth face wakes up one night to find pastor dude performing a bizarre ritual and she begins to suspect that something is amiss. We come to find out that the townsfolk are all first borns and one of the members has a second child she has been hiding. Why exactly? If you are really THAT compelled after reading this, go rent it. But spend your hard earned $4 elsewhere.

The most annoying part of this film is that it assumes that the viewer is absolutely retarded and can not figure out ANYTHING for themselves. It feels the need to explain every single aspect of it in a series of flashbacks and people telling stories a la 'There was a time that we lived peacefully, blah blah blah.' What could have been a truly horrifying film was dumbed down not only from the silly plot and really really bad CGI effects, but also the horrendous acting of Hilary Swank. What the fuck did she win an Oscar for exactly? Fix that annoying overbite for christsakes. Steer clear almighty readers.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hiruko The Goblin (1990)

Fear 0/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 2.5/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5

Goofball homage to cheesy B movie horror from the director of Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Sort of a Japanese version of Dead Alive or Evil Dead with a smattering of Carpenter's version of The Thing, but with much less tongue in cheek gore. Strangely enough, however, there is about the same amount of cheap claymation.

The DVD seems to take itself a little too seriously as one of the added featurettes is about how the "goblin" was created. I wasn't impressed to begin with and after learning that actual robotics and thought was put into creating the "goblin", I was more saddened by the waste of resources (and money).

The storyline is paper thin and never makes any sense at all. An archaeologist unearths some ancient burial mound with releases a goblin. Another archaeologist teams up with a really skinny kid and they then fight the goblin (and dozens more that later arrive) with an array of homemade weapons constructed out of pots and pans and drill bits. Oh, and the kid keeps having people's faces burn into his skin for some reason. And the goblins look like spiders with giant blue human heads. And, as previously mentioned, they are often clay-i-mated. Which is silly.

But then, the whole thing is silly since it's obviously a comedy. Early on there is some promising arterial spray as heads are lopped off one after the other, but this doesn't last long once the spider-head goblins make their appearance. The joke doesn't last long either and towards the end the film can't seem to decide it if wants to be touching, silly, cheesy or scary. In the end it's really none of the above.

And just what is a goblin anyway?

-Complaint Dept

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Make It Stop!

Complaint Dept emailed me this week about a Hellraiser remake in the works and now I read this. First Michael Bay fucks up my favorite childhood cartoon and now he gets his stab at this? I'm so angry I'm shaking. He's going to pump something into it alright.......

Bay pumps news blood into "Friday the 13th"

10/02/2007 05:28 AM

By Borys Kit LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Transformers" director Michael Bay is reviving the "Friday the 13th" franchise through his low-budget production company.The remake of the original 1980 horror classic, which turned the villainous Jason into a cultural icon, is being produced for New Line Cinema by Bay's Platinum Dunes banner. Platinum Dunes was also behind the revival of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hitcher."In the original "Friday the 13th," the serial killer made only a brief appearance in the final frames and never killed anyone. Jason didn't even don the famous mask until the third movie. The remake, however, will focus on Jason -- who will wear the mask and kill -- and keep the famous setting of Crystal Lake.Damian Shannon and Mark Swift will write the script. They wrote 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason," the killer's last big-screen appearance. That film grossed more than $82 million domestically.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, October 22, 2007

30 Days of Night (2007)

Fear 2/5
Gore 4/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 2/5
As far as vampire movies go, this is one of the best I've seen. But let's be clear, I don't like vampire movies. I don't like the genre as a whole as I find, especially these days, that there are way too many dopey cliches that surround it. And while 30 Days of Night does a fair job of scaring me and grossing me out (and entertaining me), it still clings to the belief that an effective vampire must speak with some goofy Eastern European accent, have at least one bad tribal tattoo and be decked out in leather trench coats. It's as if the dorky goth kids from your high school all got jobs at big Hollywood studios to act as consultants. Or, maybe in this case, with comic book publishers (which is much MUCH more likely).
So, as a horror movie goes, 30 Days of Night is good, but not one of the best. It looks fantastic, the barren ice fields of Barrow, AK being almost as frightening as the vampires themselves (who, granted are not all that frightening). And let's give credit where credit is due - what a great concept. For those unfamiliar: A man walks away from a burning icebreaker, apparently the sole survivor of some awful accident or something. He winds up in Barrow and immediately dispatches all of the sled dogs, burns as many cell phones as he can find, destroys all phone and Internet lines and whatever else would be needed to isolate and trap the residents who are about to begin thirty days where the sun does not rise (due to their being so far north). The guy is soon arrested and immediately starts predicting doom and gloom for everyone. "They're coming" he warns. The "they" are, of course, a group of vampires who have made their way to Barrow to feed on it's residents in an uninterrupted 30 day bloodbath. GREAT concept right? If only the execution had followed.
First off, the vampires, as I mentioned before, are beyond ridiculous. Aside from conforming to every dorky vampire-rule that Blade set into motion, they also speak some gibberish vampire language and squeal and howl like animals. No need. It's not scary, it's dumb.
Secondly, why do they need 30 days to kill 164 people (the population is firmly established near the beginning)? If 164 people live there, then AT MOST, one can assume there are a total of 328 buildings for them to hide in (assuming every person lives alone in their own home and works alone in their own building, which is very unlikely). So, over 30 days that leaves them just under 11 buildings to go through per day. HOW are the residents hiding from them?? Why can't the vampires, with their heightened sense of smell and physical superiority (again, all established early on) find these people?
But whatever, I'm really really nit-picking here, I realize. Despite the dimwittery that must accompany any movie where a certain level of suspension of belief is required, I admit to having been very entertained by 30 Days of Night. There are some decent scares, the script is not bad at all and, again, it's just a scary movie to look at. I've really wanted to go to Barrow for a long time, if only to say I've been there. This movie effectively squashed that.
There are two or three scenes of intense gore that really got me. In particular is, maybe, the most gruesome beheading scene I've seen in a long, long time. Maybe better than Ash's decapitation in the original Alien. It's fucking gnarly.
30 Days of Night is totally worth seeing despite it's shortcomings.
-Complaint Dept.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

HorrorFest 2007

The 8 Films to Die For series is back for another terrifying thrill ride this year. The batch of movies appear to be better than the films last year. Good or bad, I can't wait. Trailers galore can be viewed here.

http://www.horrorfestonline.com/

Cortez the Killer

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dolls (1987)

Fear: 0/5
Gore: 2/5
Entertainment: 2/5
Creepiness: 1/5
Nightmares: 0/5

I'll admit, in and of themselves, dolls are pretty freakin' creepy. My mom has a collection of them. Growing up as a kid, walking downstairs in the middle of the night, was quite an adventure. To this day, she still has this doll that makes me shudder everytime I see it. Fully clothed with sneakers, about the exact same height of a 5 year old child, and sporting a perfectly coifed brown wig, this little guy greets you as you walk into their house. What makes it all so devilishy creepier, is the fact that it has its back turned from you, head buried under one of its arms, perched next to my parent's living room piano bench as if its counting to 30 in an invisible game of hide-and-go-seek. Truly terrifying. This movie however, not so much.

Dolls is about a dysfunctional family that gets their car stuck on its way to god knows where, only to be welcomed into the mansion of one fantastically creepy old couple. The father is going through a divorce, hates his little daughter that has been dragged along, and his contemptible girlfriend is seething with anger in every minute spent with the little tyke. The old couple welcome them in, give the proverbial 'Ain't no one been around these parts in a long time' speech and sets them up in a room for the evening. The girl wanders the house and stumbles upon a room full of dolls the old folks have and picks one out of the bunch that becomes her 'friend' since daddy and moneybags girlfriend could care less about her.

Another group of travelers, a dude and 2 80's era punk gals (think Return of the Living Dead) also get stuck and decide to shack up at the old fogey creepy mansion. The little girl awakes one night to the sound of noises to find out that one of the punky brewsters is being beaten about a room by a bunch of 'little people'. The girl rushes to the bed of the guy who came in with the punkers only to be rebuffed and made to feel like a little snot just out to make trouble. The guy is dragged out of bed and then finds a trail of blood. As he begins to search for the girl who has since gone missing, he forges a friendship with the little ankle biter who becomes his constant companion.

So the dolls, naturally, begin killing off each inhabitant of said creepy old fogey mansion (minus the old couple, little girl and her guy friend) in a serious of some truly ridiculous moments. Not only are the dolls not creepy or disturbing in the least bit, they are composed of some of the finest clay this side of Gumby and Pokey. Instead of the CGI effects of Dead Silence (obviously that technology was not around in 1987) we have some seriously silly stop motion which makes for the scenes of dolly killing madness that much more ridiculous. Honestly, every scene involved someone standing, screaming in their tracks, when they could have either A.) jumped over the group of dolls which were only inches tall B.) kicked or stomped on them or C.) looked for the closest blunt object and begin to flail about. Instead they stood there and took it which made for some of the dumbest scenes of mammalian flesh disposal that I have ever seen. Put up a fight! They're fucking dolls for christsakes!

I have never seen a good horror flick involving dolls even though they are one of the most overdone cliches in this genre of films. Chucky was just plain silly. A killer Teddy Ruxpin would have been far creepier. That demonic electronic voice used to creep me the fuck out. Until then, I will continue to sleep with one eye open every time I stay at my parents in the hopes that old piano kiddie poo does not turn around, knife in hand, and say "I see you".

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Screwfly Solution (2007)

Fear: 0/5
Gore: 2/5
Entertainment: 0/5
Creepiness: 3/5
Nightmares: 0/5

Wow, just wow. Joe Dante's (director of Gremlins and The Howling) contribution to the Masters of Horror is nothing short of horrible.

Starring Jason Priestley (that's Brandon Walsh if you're nasty) and Elliott Gould, The Screwfly Solution is about a virus that afflicts men only and causes them to commit acts of rage and sexual assault on women. Gould and Priestly are scientists who are working on genetically attacking the reproduction of Screwflies in order to bring their populations under control, and low and behold these are the two best guys that the government can get to solve the maniac man killers.

Their solution? A) round up every woman across the GLOBE and put them in camps, or B) chemically, or surgically castrate all men. Now folks, horror films are only scary when their premises are believable. And this ain't. So it's not scary, it's fucking cheesy as can be, and what's worse is it's insulting to watch women treated this way. It's as though Joe Dante has been waiting his whole life to make a movie where he can rationalize misogyny and be touted as brave for doing so.

Nope, it all just comes off as ridiculous. But I digress; after shit starts hitting the fan, Brandon Walsh sends his wife and daughter to Canada in the woods with a gun, with instructions to shoot him if he follows them. Of course, he winds up at the cabin and before she can shoot him she is knocked unconscious. She wakes up in a hospital, her daughter nowhere to be found, but apparently Elliott Gould has been putting shoe polish on her face to look like 5 O'clock shadow to keep her safe.

They run away together and then he dies. After she buries him, the rest of the show is about her running from redneck hunters. Just when you thought it couldn't get any lamer, the hunters dogs stumble upon aliens who are messing with some glowing gadget. They kill the hunters, and feed snacks to their dogs.

The woman winds up living in the woods as Elliott Gould does a voice-over explaining that the Earth is a garden, we are the pests, and somebody finally called in the exterminators. So, to recap, the ALIENS engineered a virus to make men kill women to eradicate the human species jsut how we bioengineered the screwfly to kill them off.

awesome man, totally awesome.

however, seeing Jason Priestly with a beard is worth at least 2 minutes of this, and he's actually not a bad actor. The gore is really well done in some shots, and terrible in others.

All in all, I'd rather put myself in a camp than watch this again.

- the fucking beard

Wolf (1994)

Fear 0/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 0/5
Nightmares 0/5

Big dud of a film with even bigger names attached to it. Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Catch 22, Regarding Henry) is obviously a talented director who knows how to pick good projects. Jack Nicholson doesn't always make the best movie choices, but is consistently entertaining in every role. Doesn't seem to matter here.

Wolf is much less a straight ahead werewolf film than it is an allegory about life in general. I'm not sure what the lesson is supposed to be and I don't really care. The problem with this film, and with nearly all big-budgeted mainstream horror films, is that it places too much emphasis on style and plot - important items granted, but not at the expense of scares and thrills, two items Wolf lacks in a big way.

It is a werewolf movie, so some slack is granted in the ridiculous department. But cliched scenes where Nicholson is padding around on all fours howling at the moon are just too dumb to gloss over. While The Fly managed to make these sorts of ideas (people inheriting animal traits) somewhat believable and entertaining, the wolf-action here is silly. And the makeup, while well done (I guess), simply makes him look like Wolverine and not a wolf.

It's not a bad movie, just kind of dull. It barely qualifies as a horror movie, which maybe it's not even supposed to be. Who knows. Stick with Dog Soldiers if you want a kick ass werewolf movie. Unless you need a film with a cameo by David Schwimmer and Prunela Scales (which was the most exciting part for me - hello Mrs. Fawlty!).

- Complaint Department

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of The Woman) (1978)

Fear 2/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment . . . I'm not sure how to rate this one
Creepiness 5/5
Nightmares 3/5

I Spit On Your Grave is graphic and horrifying in the most literal sense of the word. The story is as simple as they get: A woman from NYC moves out to country for the summer to work on her novel. There she is gang raped three times by four men, one of whom is mentally challenged. She survives and, once her physical wounds have healed, exacts gruesome revenge on each assailant one at a time. The end.

In 1980, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel (working at separate newspapers in Chicago before their "Sneak Previews" show on PBS eventually made "stars" out of them) skewered and derided this film so strongly that it was pulled from several Chicago theaters after only 6 days. It's easy to understand why since, as Ebert bluntly put it, the film portrays events that are "vile". The film, originally given an X rating, remains banned in many countries and continues to absorb nasty criticism from all kinds of sources.

But it's much too easy to write this off as just another exploitation film that strives to entertain by appealing to humanity's lowest common denominator. Yes, I Spit on Your Grave is not an easy film to watch, but it shouldn't be. It's not entertaining but it should not be seen as entertainment. Were that the case then I would advocate the total banning of this film right there with all of the"legit" and "learned" film critics who have a far wider audience than this aging punk rocker dude does.

There are two trains of thought around the movie - one is that it glorifies violence against women and violence in general. Maybe, but I think not. Were this a film that glorified violence against women, I would think the rape scenes would need to be much, MUCH less disgusting then they are here. You just can't glorify something to an audience that is repulsed by what you are showing them. Rape is an act of violence and this is not something the film makers want you to forget and, like it or not, they don't let you. This assumes your audience is not made up of degenerates, psychopaths and rapists. . .

The other is that this is a feminist statement (hence the film's other title "Day of The Woman") about repression, oppression and, again, violence against women. It's similar to the argument that strippers are the most powerful women in the world because they hold so much power over men by simply using the assets nature has given them. I would not be surprised to find that Camille Paglia is a fan of this film, but I'm speculating. Besides, as a middle-class white man, I'm not even sure I'm qualified to touch on this one and besides, how much philosophy and intellectualism needs to be throw about here?

Regardless of one's take on the film's statements or commentary, it is sufficient to note that I Spit On Your Grave is remarkably violent and tremendously effective at making one feel gross. It's nowhere near the abysmal dumb-fest it's made out to be as there are themes that are not often touched on in mainstream film (The Accused and Irreversible are similar in that respect). It doesn't insult it's audience by striving to make anything about the scenes of rape and violence entertaining or titillating at all. In that sense, this is certainly a horror film for adults, but whether or not it's an "adult film" is still at question.

As far as execution goes, the acting is decent and relatively believable for an ultra-low budget film. There is no soundtrack at all which makes things all the more unnerving when things get nasty (it's much too "real"). The pace is slow and deliberate and builds tension well. The bad guys die a little bit too easily (they essentially hand her the knife and say "stab me") but whatever. Like I said before, it's an effective film meaning that if you came prepared to be scared, horrified and disturbed, you'll get what you're looking for.

If anything, it will certainly make you question why you wanted to see it. My interest lay in it's reputation as being beyond redemption. And truly repulsed and disgusted as I was, I don't find it to be.

- Complaint Dept

Homecoming (2005)

Fear: 0/5
Gore: 0/5
Entertainment: 0/5
Creepiness: 0/5
Nightmares: 0/5

Chock this up to yet another zombie movie with a 'message'. Instead of environmentally conscious bloggers, er, I mean loggers, this time its the actual zombies themselves making a 'statement' about society and the world in which we live in.
I have yet to see a good Masters of Horror episode on Showtime other than Imprint and that was actually banned by the cable channel. I had to NetFlix it. Is Joe Dante really considered a master of horror? I never really considered Gremlins to be a horror movie. I wanted Gizmo as a real pet when I was a kid. And the actual Gremlins, I just thought were silly, not scary in the least bit. It was a fun movie to watch but hardly anything that would make me run for the cover of my Dukes of Hazzard blanket. And don't get me started on the giant turdfest that was Gremlins 2: the New Batch.
Anyways, Dante directs this episode of the popular(?) horror series on Showtime. It involves a U.S. spin doctor Senator that has teamed up with a political analyst (think of a less but still really annoying verison of Ann Coulter) to figure out why dead soldiers are suddenly springing back to life after coming back from Iraq. But these are not just any normal zombies. They are zombies with a conscience and a purpose: they are on a mission to voice their contempt for the current president that led them into war on false pretenses and by golly, they aren't going to just shuffle around idly while their beloved country is run into the ground.
I'll let you wrap your head around this for a moment. This has to be on of the WORST ideas ever concocted for a zombie movie. Zombies that actually have a moral conscience AND can speak is the most retarded thing I have ever heard of. They don't kill their own (soldiers) but they do kill shady senators (which was the only scene of mild gore in the film). But what reason are they there you ask? To vote and sway the upcoming election to get the 'questionable' president out of office. This movie makes it painfully obvious that it is referencing the current president's administration, from an actor that does a spot on voice over of everyone's favorite Texan to a crying, angry, pleadful mother a la Cindy Sheehan. These zombies have a purpose, encouraging people to vote, giving speeches on television and telling their fellow Americans and reanimated brothers why they must do their civic duty. These are 'smart zombies', true fucking road scholars. It was touching to see the zombies vote and then slump to the ground after doing so. Of course, that was the only reason why they came back. Only after voting, could they then truly rest in peace (please excuse me while I go vomit).
But like true modern times, the zombie votes were not counted and the douchebag president went on for a second term. Hardly entertaining, really dumb with its over the top stance on politics (Romero was much more subtle in his commentaries) and it breaks the cardinal rule of ALL zombie movies--necessity for copious amounts of gore. Hardly any could be found. Luckily, episodes in this series only run an hour. Hey Dante, maybe you'll have better luck with Gremlins 3: A 3rd Batch of Suck. Because this movie was surely a shit inferno.

Cortez the Killer

Night Watch (2004)

Fear: 0/5
Gore: 2/5
Entertainment: 1/5
Creepiness: 0/5
Nightmares: 0/5

Oh jeez, you'd think that a country as bleak as Russia would be a horror flick heaven just waiting to happen. Not only would you be wrong, but Night Watch is the first in a trilogy of sucking flicks that are about Vampires and the ancient struggle between good (the light) and bad (the dark).

I know what you are thinking, usually here at Planet Terror we savor rolling out the plot of a film, but um, that was pretty much it.

Some forgettable characters are sort of vampires who are a part of the Nightwatch (who are actually "the light") and they keep the Daywatch (the name of the second installment, who are also "the dark", and more like regular vampires) under control by offering them humans to feed on. Somewhere in here is a unit of police that is strictly Nightwatch who arrest members of the Daywatch for killing humans. At some point there is a little kid, a leading man who is the Nicholas Cage of Russia and an epic battle at the end with some decent gore and countless poorly cgi crows.

The writing is comical in a very unintentional way. It's like Russia saw "The Crow" and decided to dedicate the entirety of it's creative talent in the country to making their own lame version with vampires.

And seriously, is anyone afraid of vampires anymore? I think I'm more afraid of Russian pop culture at this point than I am of a vampire.

I highly suggest staying away from this one. It's more aggravating than it is entertaining.

- the fucking beard

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Wicker Man (2006)


Fear 0/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5
The plot is essentially the same as the original, but this time around things are dumbed down to make it very clear to the audience what's going on.
The pagan islanders are no longer regular looking people who happen to have a different set of beliefs, they are now characterized as less modern than the Amish and have reverted to a pre-industrialized society where there is no police force, electricity, cars or anything at all. Completely unbelievable. SOMEONE would have noticed their little "secret".
The island is run by women with some very heavy-handed and non-subtle analogies to a beehive - there is a queen bee, there are male drones who simply follow orders and are forbidden from speaking and other corny, unnecessary touches that are insulting to the audience. This however, allows Nicolas Cage ample room to ham it up as the swaggering, wound-up, Elvis impersonator he plays in every movie he's in. The director thought that having the island be run by women would be a feminist statement, so I'm not sure what he had in mind when he had Cage's character start punching them all in the face. Regardless, it's mildly amusing, though I doubt that was the intent.
And let's stick with Cage while we're here. If ever there was a performance that was phoned in, this may be it. Plus his character just doesn't make any sense. A California Highway Patrolman, he is way out of his jurisdiction on a small remote Washington island. So the fact that the residents refuse to acknowledge his authority is not only sensible, but totally legal. At least in the original the cop has "legal" authority which made it somewhat scary when he could not manage to get anyone to even give him the time of day. Here, it's just dumb. And Cage is bad. And ridiculous. I hate him.
- Complaint Dept

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Fear 0/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 0/5
Nightmares 0/5

Directorial debut for Stan Winston, the man responsible for bringing H.R. Giger's Alien design to life. It also stars Lance Henriksen so there's two things going for it. And it's totally ridiculous which makes it three for three. A winner.

Henriksen is a dude who lives out in . . . well, let's just say "the sticks", though from the look of the area it's definitely Southern California. But let's say it's not so that the hillbillies who live near him make a little more sense. Mayim Bialik, star of TV's Blossom, makes a brief appearance as one of the little Deliverance kids. So that's four things going for it. Whoooa.

Anyway, Henricksen lives out in the sticks with his little son. They run a small grocery store along the highway. One day, some rowdy teenagers stop in on their way to "the cabin". With them they have their dirt bikes and they decide to start riding them there and then while the girls go in to fetch sodas and other sundries. One of the teenagers accidentally runs over Henriksen's kid and kills him. They bail to the cabin to avoid the consequences (since the most New Jersey-est of them already is on probation for. . . something really cool, I'm sure).

Henricksen, understandably distraught over his son's death, heads out to find Haggis the Witch so that he can find some way to avenge his son's death. The witch has him follow some instructions that wind up resurrecting a demon that will kill everyone responsible for the death. The catch is that Henricksen starts to become one with the creature (Pumpkinhead, duh) and sees the deaths and feels the pain of the monster. After a couple of the kids are killed off, Lance decides he wants no more of this and decides that Pumpkinhead must die.

This is the kind of movie where hillbillies call their children "young 'uns" and refer to outsiders as "city folk". It's the kind of film where every set is filled with fog and smoke and good and bad are black and white. It's the kind of film where dialogue, story and continuity simply mean shit as long as the monster is sufficiently cool looking. And it is, more or less. It's a big, gawky looking rubber thing that kind of looks like a cross between Giger's aforementioned Alien and Eddie. It's obviously a guy on stilts, but whatever, are you really criticizing anything in a movie about a monster named "Pumpkinhead"?

I was very entertained, but wished there was more blood and gore. Otherwise, a great teen monster movie. Followed by a slew of sequels.

-Complaint Dept

The Wicker Man (1973)

Fear 0/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 3/5
Nightmares 0/5
Grooviness 5/5

A dollar bill is only worth a dollar because we, as a society, acknowledge that fact. We've assigned worth to it and to make things work in life we all pretend that that small sheet of paper and ink is worth one dollar despite how much it actually cost to produce it. This sort of high-school philosophizing is the basic premise behind The Wicker Man whose underlying theme is that "the law" and "religion" only function when everyone around you has the same set of fundamental beliefs.

Edward Woodward (who would later go on to play TV's "The Equalizer") is Scottish cop who receives a mysterious letter begging him to help find a missing child. The child lives on the remote island of Summerisle and Woodward flies out to begin his investigation. There he finds the entire population are members of a pagan religion who revel in drunken orgies and ritual sacrifice. The group's leader is played to the hammy hilt by Christopher Lee. If you're looking for a movie with lots of bizarre Summer of Love residue mixed in with the love affair the early 70's had for Satanism (Rosemary's Baby, Mephisto Waltz, The Exorcist, etc.) this is your film.

Woodward's character a devout Christian and virgin is stymied over and over by the island's residents who refuse to acknowledge the child's existence despite his finding more and more evidence to support his believe that the child is in grave danger. He is also, as a devout and virginal Christian, tempted over and over by the sexual rituals going on all around him - most notably in a very very weird sequence where Brit Ekland does some sort of ritualistic nude dance in the room adjoining Woodward's. It's strange and weird enough to be creepy as shit. Eventually Woodward comes to the conclusion that the child is going to be sacrificed at the "May Day" ceremony that is coming up soon and he tries desperately to stop the event.

The Wicker Man is one of these movies that is critically lauded by just about everyone, and while it's not a bad movie by any stretch of the word, the hype and acclaim is has piled on it year after year is not justified. It's simply not an amazing film nor is it even an amazing horror film. It's good, but not mind-blowing. Worth seeing, but really only once. It's smart and well done, but not genius or classic. But recommended.

-Complaint Dept



Also, Iron Maiden has a song called "The Wicker Man". It's ok. Reminds me of "I Wanna Make You Scream" by Battalion of Saints.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Beneath (2007)

Fear 1/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 2/5

Despite the fact that the title is actually "MTV Presents Beneath", this turned out to be better than terrible, but slightly less than good. It's like Derek Smalls: lukewarm water.

Beneath has many of the classic (read cliched) elements of any by-the-book horror mystery. A car crash leaves one sister (Vanessa) horribly burned and disfigured while the other (Christy) walks away unscathed. Vanessa eventually dies, but not before Christy begins seeing nightmarish images and hearing sounds that she can't explain. At her sister's funeral she is convinced that Vanessa is still alive inside the coffin and creates a scene trying to get her out. This leads to 10 years of therapy and isolation in various schools and hospitals until she returns to her small town home to attend the funeral of her sister's husband's father (it's confusing).

Once back in Smallville, she begins to experience the visions and nightmares all over again, consulting her book of drawings she has kept for years where the images she has dreamt and drawn out, suddenly become scenes in her real life. This leads her to start snooping around and as the movie unfolds, we begin to understand that Vanessa's death may not have been the result of the car accident...if she even died at all (Insert exclamation points here!!).

It's not a bad movie, and the fact that it's relatively slow is forgivable given that it's only 81 minutes total. The acting is passable, if not good, and the storyline is decent, if a little confusing and convenient at times. One thing that works especially well is the special make-up effects for the Vanessa character. One of my biggest (and hopefully irrational) fears is being burned to death and the burn scars here are convincing and terribly frightening (to me at least). Her eyes, especially, freaked me out. There are a couple of scenes here that definitely had me on edge and actually afraid to look at the screen. So bravo there. And I liked the ending. So, again, not too shabby.

Otherwise, Beneath is decent teen-horror fodder for teens that like their movies a little more sophisticated than, say Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer (both fine films in their own right). And it's nice to see MTV aiming slightly higher than the crotch for once. Now, if you'll excuse me, Parental Control is on and I can't miss the end. Who is she going to pick?! not the dude with the hair thing goin' on - that guy is gah-ross.

- Complaint Dept

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Severed (2005)


Fear 0/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 0/5
Nightmares 0/5

Round 2 of the Cortez family horror movie watching night, was my shit-tastic selection of this very boring zombie flick. Severed focuses on a group of young teens trying to save the local forest by protesting against the evironmentally unfriendly loggers who make a living of hacking away at helpless trees. They come to find out that there is a 'super sap' within the trees and these genetically enhanced trees, once chopped down, rapidly grow back serving to re-populate the forest and provide a continued abundance of new lumber.

So the kiddos, angry, bitter and totally stale in their feigned delivery of emotions (probably due to the script master and the retarded dialogue that was written) continue their protests and demands of stopping what they are doing. Enter geneticist and 'spokesman' for the logging company, proclaiming that what he is doing is actually good for the environment.

Flash forward to a scene of loggers cutting down said trees, and the super sappy trees spew forth some of its contents. And guess what? Yup, that's what turns them into flesh eating zombies. So the kids, the geneticist and the loggers spend the rest of the film fighting off the zombies, with cut and slash camera movements that mimic 28 Days Later. Only there is very little gore and these zombies are totally boring.

What made this film worse, was the diatribe by the group of loggers in the middle of the film about messing with nature, what you reap is what you sow, blah blah blah. Granted some zombie movies have a message (political, societal, etc.) but this movie was set up to beat you over the head with it. My dad said it best, 'I'm surprised that Al Gore wasn't one of the zombies. He's just as boring and stiff.' Well played pops, well played.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)


Fear 1/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5
Nightmares 1/5

Last week was spent in Lake Tahoe with the fam and la familia de Cortez, decided to have a horror movie night. With my father being a fan of this movie genre, it was a no brainer. As we discussed about our potential movie selections the night before, to his shock, he came to find out that I had never seen this classic film. So the next day, off to the hole in the wall mom and pop video store we went. Lake Tahoe is stuck in a pseudo 80's strip mall vibe where the only places that you can rent videos are dingy hole in the wall joints. Walking into one totally reminded me of perusing the shelves at the local Video Library as a kid, long before the retail behemoth of Blockbuster charged onto the scene.

Some folks don't like old black and white horror films because they claim that they are not shocking or terrifying enough. Maybe the fact that the film is black and white and many movies back then lacked any overt gore or outrageous torture or snuff. Many of today's film goers will undoubtedly find this movie too passe. What I try to do when I watch films of this era, is to go into it with a mindset of imagining the times in which the film was made. What was the history of our country at the time? What was popular culture like? What other types of movie genres were popular that make this film a truly horrifying experience for some?

The film itself involves a small town doctor who is constantly hearing stories from the local townspeople that something is just not quite right with its inhabitants and that something 'evil' has taken over the town. The doctor laughs off the claims that their loved ones have turned into emotionless monsters and that they look the same but are just 'different'. He goes on as if life is normal, taking his girlfriend for a night on the town. Upon entering a normally busy restaurant establishment, it becomes clear that something is a little off but not too concerning for our doubting doctor. The bartender speaks of business not being the same and that the establishment is normally filled to the brim with patrons.

The doctor is soon called from dinner, asked to come to a home of someone claiming there is a dead body there. It is at this point that things start to get a little interesting. The doctor enters the home to find the dead body strewn across a dining room table. He lifts back the sheet covering it to reveal a body that looks similar to the person who inhabits the home. It is in this shocking moment that the doctor proclaims 'Its not you yet, but a structural likeness' (cue the 'dun dun dun' music). The doctor soon discovers a group of pods within the greenhouse of the man's home and it is within this scene that it becomes apparent to the doctor that something is very wrong.

As the movie progresses, we come to find out that everyone, the business owners, phone operators and police officers have all been taken over by this alien life form. Our doctor takes on the role of wanting to warn the townspeople in the next town over of the impending 'invasion'. We come to find out (just 'why' exactly, is never clear )that if you fall asleep, you become one of 'them'.

The movie makes a statement at the time about life in McCarthy era anti-communism about being blacklisted and viewed as 'alien'. For me, the message is not quite as relevant but for my dad the message rings through a little more clear. Fears of being the same and turning into one of 'them', I imagine, would scare the absolute bejesus out of anyone watching this film when it first came out in 1956. Viewing it in a modern context, its a great movie for its subtle scares and chills and really triumphs without any sort of over the top extremism that is present in most horror films today. The simpleness of this film is what I enjoyed the most. Truly a classic film, horror or otherwise.

Cortez the Killer