Monday, December 31, 2007

Sublime (2007)

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

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than the "it was only a dream" resolution. So, regardless of how good the first 90 minutes of this film may have been, the fact that it was all in the main characters head completes negates it. Not that the first 90 minutes are excellent by any stretch.

Sublime is about a self-proclaimed middle aged, liberal white guy who celebrates his 40th birthday with family fiends the night before he is scheduled to go into the hospital for a routine colonoscopy (sp??). The next day he meets with his doctor, gets a quick overview over what's going to be done and is put under.

Oh but things go horribly wrong as main guy awakens with stitches across his abdomen and remains in a post anesthetic haze he never really comes out of. While he's trying to figure out what went wrong he is visited by a stern African-American nurse who changes his drip bag and then, apparently, kills the patient next to him who had most of his limbs amputated. He is also visited by a nurse in a tiny mini skirt, white fishnet stockings and high heels who wheels him around an abandoned wing of the hospital where poor people and immigrants are tortured and operated on in awful conditions. The he and the nurse get it on. Following so far?

Meanwhile, throughout all of this we are treated to little snippets of conversations he had with his friends and family the night before his operation and we start to see elements of this weave their way into his current situation - he sees his friends on the home shopping network peddling the gift they gave him for example. Then the mean Black nurse returns and starts torturing him and rattling off a bunch of dopey dialogue about how he's named "mandingo" and he's here to fuck him up because, essentially, he's white and Mandingo wants his revenge. Still with me?

So while you're trying to put everything together (and wondering how many times the director actually watched Jacob's Ladder before he made this) it is finally revealed that the colonoscopy was botched and the main guy has actually been in a coma for the last 7 months imagining everything. Yes friends, it's all in his head.

Sublime is supposed to be about what happens when one is forced to face their deepest fears and can't escape from them - in this case, the characters deepest fears being people of color, lesbians, his wife's fidelity and a whole bunch of other things one expects white yuppies to be afraid of.

Fucking weak shit here. A stereotype is a stereotype regardless of who it's used on, and it's insulting to any audience looking for something deeper than 10th grade sociology. And the "all in your head" ending is the worst way to end any horror movie. Period. I hated this.

it did make me not want to visit my doctor anytime soon though, I'll give it that.

- Complaint Dept.

Dark Remains (2005)


Fear 4/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5
Nightmares 4/5

Holy heebie jeebies. If you can scare me successfully during the day with a good ghost story, I think you have made a great success (spoken in Borat voice). Just look at the creepy DVD cover that stared back at me at my local Blockbuster.

Dark Remains starts off startlingly enough with a woman who has come home late from work. She kisses her already sleeping daughter goodnight and slips into her bed next her husband who is also counting sheep. A noise awakens her in the middle of the night, she searches the house, unable to discover the cause of the rattling. She checks in on her sleeping daughter, only to find in sheer horror, that she has been brutally dismembered. The cops are unable to find any forced entry and without any clues or leads, the couple takes off for a weekend in the woods, far away from the city that is now all a buzz with the story of a family who have lost their daughter in such a bizarre fashion.

The mother, already in so much pain from her grieving, begins to sense that something in the house that they are renting is watching them. Things go 'bump' in the night, and she begins to wonder if she is losing her sanity. The husband, trying to keep things straight himself, encourages her to take up her old hobby of snapping photos. To pass the time, she takes her husbands advice, taking various pictures of the wilderness around her. One day, she happens upon an abandoned prison. Intrigued, she begins to snap away in the dingy old confinement and she becomes obssessed with coming back, day and night. As she begins to develop her film, she begins to see images within them that are only appearing to her, of spirits that dwell within the prison and in the home.

As stated, if a film can really get to me in the brightness of day (I'm a little silly and mostly like to get into the 'mood' and watch my horror films at night), I'll say its definitely an achievement. Forgoing CGI effects or stereotypical 'jumpy' scares (the hallmark of more recent ghost films), Dark Remains uses real actors with little to no makeup. The scares are not predictible and they got me pretty rattled on more than one occasion.

So why are these ghosts haunting this couple? Does the husband carry a dark secret? Or is it something bubbling much deeper under the surface of the dark and eery town that contains an interesting cast of characters?

Solid ghost story with a twist, coupled with some genuine scares and you got yourself a pleasant surprise of a film. Highly recommended.

Cortez the Killer

The Tripper (2006)


Fear 2/5
Gore 4/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5

The directorial debut of Sergeant Dewey from the Scream series, The Tripper is an interesting, funny, and just plain good ol' take on everyone's favorite horror genre: the slasher.

The beginning of the film shows a boy, intently fixated on the boob tube that is playing a speech by then governor of California, Ronnie Reagan. Extolling the virtues of capitalism and his own unsupportive stance on evironmentalism, Ronnie proclaims that once you've seen one redwood, 'you've seen them all'. The father of the little boy takes his son out into the woods to deal with a bunch of tree huggers that are protesting the logging business that the family owns. The man, with the aide of local authorities, attempts to get rid of the pesky kids but to no avail. The son decides to take matters into his own hands, revving up a chainsaw and striking down one of the hippity dos.

Fast forward a good 15 years or so, and a group of college kids set out to embark on a day of 'peace and celebration' in the woods, complete with the requisite drug induced comas and sexual escapades. A woodstock concert of sorts, the kids find themselves combating against the locals who do not want them there. One in particular, takes his love of good ol' Ronnie boy and extols his own virtuous dispensing of these kids, seeking to have a good time and 'ruin' his woods.

So as you might have expected, the son has taken on the task of ridding the woods of these goofy kids (think of cliched college kids in slashers and you get the picture). The latex rubber that he uses to fashion the Ronnie mask is a little disturbing as it looks entirely too realistic. Add in his one liner quips of 'This one's for Nancy' and you've got some really funny (and fun) horror movie goodness.

Not entirely inventive, but definitely a good spin, The Tripper serves up a good slice of slasher pie. Well done Mr. Courtney Cox. Well done indeed.

Cortez the Killer

Friday, December 28, 2007

Silk (aka Guisi) (2006)

Fear 1/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5

Silk is an excellent ghost story with much more emphasis placed on the sci-fi elements of the story than on the scary parts. But it's a great ghost story, scary or not. The story is kind of involved, but basically goes like this: Japanese scientists create a substance they call "Menger Sponge" that is best described as a cube that sucks in and captures energy. The hope is that the cube will wind up having all kinds of practical uses, the opposite being the case. The scientist who invented the cube leaves Japan for Taiwan and begins finding other uses for the cube- mainly to find and capture ghosts. He is given clandestine assistance from the Taiwanese government who are under the assumption that the scientist is performing his work to help them.

The scientist, Hashimoto, captures the ghost of a small boy and confines it to the room it haunts inside a creepy old abandoned building. Hashimoto enlists Tung, a sniper with extraordinary vision, to help him read the lips of the ghost in an attempt to find out why he still haunts our world. Soon, things take a turn for the worse as the history of the child, as well as the motives and background on the scientist, unwinds and things get kind of spooky.

Silk is wonderfully creative in a nerdy kind of way. Some of the stuff they toss about makes sense, some of it is total horseshit, but it's all very engaging and entertaining. The special effects are not up to Hollywood standards, but they are not really the showcase of the film as the story and characters carry the film 100%. There are even some tender moments that are handled very well, especially for a horror film. And while there are elements of the "traditional" Asian ghost in here, there are inventive twists and angles that make it feel like it's something new.

Silk stands out among the glut of Asian ghost films being mass marketing today and offers hope that the genre can continue to move forward without sticking to the same old tired cliches. I really enjoyed this, despite feeling kind of dorky for doing so, and I recommend it.

- Complaint Dept

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Slither (2006)

Fear 1/5
Gore 5/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5
Nightmares 0/5

Extremely well done splatter film that brings to mind the best that the mid 80's had to offer as well as a bit part from Jenna Fisher.

Slither is an old story, one done to death: meteor crashes in the field and space alien escapes and terrorizes a small town. This time around, the alien is a slug like creature that waits for someone to come across it at which point it shoots a barbed little organism into the chest so it can burrow it's way into the skin and take over the brain. The victim quickly becomes one with the creature and instinctively begins seeking out ways to a) feed on endless amounts of meat and b) reproduce. This is bad news for both the animal population as well as the human population.

Slither is gloriously gory and bloody, but smart enough to know that it can't succeed by taking itself seriously. The script is sarcastic and funny, but not in a dopey kind of way. The movie's not really a comedy, just silly enough to keep you from running out of the theater when the gooey alien/human hybrid whips out it's twin penis-things and "reproduces" with it's victims. Just goofy enough to make you smile a bit when 2 foot pink slugs jump into people's mouths and force their way down their throats. In fact, there is a lot of gross sexual innuendo going on here which makes Slither all the more creepy and, well, funny.

It gets a little ridiculous towards the end, but by then you're having so much fun watching the living dead, zombie hordes melt into one huge, amorphous Jabba the Hut looking creature to fight the remaining people that you'd almost be disappointed if it didn't go over the top.

Slither is a faithful and fun nod back to the days when films like The Re-Animator, Dead Alive and Toxic Avenger were king. Here's to more films like this.

- Complaint Dept

The Cave (2006)

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

Overshadowed by The Descent which was released at nearly the same time, The Cave offers considerably more action than fear, more testosterone fueled rush than gore and mayhem. So, depending on what you're looking for, it's either a good or bad film. Being PG-13, I wasn't expecting too much in the way of chills and gross-out, but I also wasn't expecting this to be as entertaining as it was.

After the discovery of an enormous cave in Romania, a group of experienced cave divers/explorers are sent in to map it out before the scientists and other suit types go in. A fairly manly group of male model looking types, the group is rounded out by a couple of scantily clad babes who occasionally prove their worth by doing something tough and "kick-ass" like scaling 1000 foot cliffs and fighting flying bat monsters with their bare hands. Oh, I didn't mention the flying bat monsters? Yeah, that's what they run into while down in the cave...after the cave in.

The bat monsters are huge, Giger-esque Alien type things that swim and fly through the caverns injecting those they attack with a parasite that transforms the victim into one of them. The caverns themselves, an impressive show of staging, go from fiery-pits-of-Hell to snowy, ice caves to long slide-like tunnels ala The Goonies.

So, essentially, The Cave is Alien meets The Poseidon Adventure meets Goonies meets The Wolfman. How could it not be fun?

Both The Cave and The Descent center around a group of people who get stuck in massive, unexplored caves that each house a group of carnivorous and terrifying monsters. But that's about the only similarity. The Cave boasts a major studio's backing and big budget which is expressed, mainly, through it's special effects. There is a lot of CGI going on here, but it's relatively tasteful and there are few moments where you think "Why why why?" like I did during, say, I Am Legend. They exist mind you, but for the most part, the monsters are subtle and well done.

The acting is decent and the script is, despite it's genre limitations, kind of inventive and certainly kept me watching. There are a few moments that are really well done and kind of kept me on edge - especially a very dark and agoraphobic scene where the group of people dog paddle around in an enormous underground lake while the bat monsters lurk devilishly underneath them.

It's not going to ever make anyone's "best of" list, but it's a little unfair how ignored this film was. Worth a rent if you're in the mood for some good sci-fi action-oriented fun with an occasional scare or two.

- Complaint Dept

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lord of Illusions (1995)

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

So-so Clive Barker offering that asks the question What if magic were real and it were used for evil? It's not a question I've ever pondered and it makes for somewhat ridiculous viewing - especially since the main main guy is played by the same actor who played Kruger on Seinfeld. I realize that's not fair to the actor, but I just picture him spinning in his desk chair saying "Kay-OOGER". There are, in fact, three Seinfeld actors that make brief appearances - Kruger, Mickey and FDR. So watch for that and don't bother telling me I watch too much Seinfeld, I wouldn't understand the words coming out of your mouth.

Anyway, Lord of Illusions has Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) as a tough-guy private eye who is investigating the death of a magician named Swann. Swann died during one of his performances when an "illusion" went tragically wrong and he was impaled several times by swords falling from the sky. The mystery is that he may have been murdered.

Murder you say? Yes, MUUUUURDUH!

But who would want to murder a magician/ Seriously, who wouldn't, but that's beside the point. See, there is some weird background on the dead magician: turns out he was involved with some dude named "Nix" who was also known as "The Puritan". Nix was killed 13 years ago by Swann and some other magician types who knew that Nix's magic was real- and evil.

Evil you say? Yes, EEEEE-VEL!

So after Nix was put into the ground by Swann and his gang of merry pranksters (no, not those Merry Pranksters), his man-servant in gold satin stretch pants began studying up on the evil ways so that he could resurrect Nix and have him complete his apocalyptic plans. Toss in Famke Jannsen in some clingy and revealing outfits and you've got yourself a real movie.

It's sort of a hokey blend of Film Noir detective flicks, corny slasher movies and Criss Angel. Good or bad, that's essentially what it is. For 1995, it's pretty gory - when nix is resurrected, his corpse makeup is pretty icky. And he has some sort of anal looking orifice on his forehead that pulsates and makes me think of the phrase "turtlehead". And I appreciate Barker's love of all things dark and satanic, a vibe that comes across in all of his work. But other than that, it's pretty goofy. Not awful, but just goofy.

- Complaint Dept

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Am Legend (2007)

Fear 2/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5

This marks the third time that the 1950's novel I am Legend has been made into a film, the first two being The Last Man on Earth (review coming soon) and The Omega Man (starring Chuck Heston). While I have never read the novel, I am told that this version strays the most from it so it's odd that they went with the novel's title. This also marks the one millionth time that Will Smith has played the same character. You know, the uber-good guy, the heart of gold man who has nary a single character flaw. The Boy Scout, the superman, the gentleman who saves the day.

In his other films, this has been enough for me to stop paying attention, but here it works in his favor. I Am Legend's premise is a familiar one - a virus has wiped out 90% of the world's population. A minute handful of people have proven to be immune to it while a larger minority have been "changed" by it - turning into superhuman cannibals with their mental capacity dulled to mere instinct and a severe chemical reaction to UV light. Vampires in other words.

Smith is a military scientist who lost his family during the chaos of NYCs evacuation and now is, literally, the last man in the city. His days are spent with his dog, Sam, driving around town looking for food, picking out new DVDs to watch from the video store and slowly losing his mind to loneliness (he holds conversations with mannequins he has placed around his neighborhood and watches video tapes of programs like The Today Show).

Occasionally he comes into contact with the vampire people and attempts to capture them to use in his lab experiments where he tirelessly attempts to find a cure for the virus. This is where Smith's character could really only be played like a guy like him - he doesn't give up and he continues to promise to "fix this", always the problem solver, always the good guy. A guy like Clive Owen would fail miserably in this role since his type of character would have long ago given up and barricaded himself into his home with stacks of porn and barrels of booze.

I Am Legend has some triumphantly scary moments and does an amazing job of making an abandoned city feel menacing. You are constantly waiting for something to jump out at you and there is a level of tension running through the first half of the film. The problem is that when they do eventually jump out, it's a major disappointment. As Hex said last night, "in the future, everything will be animated." Why the producers chose to go with the ridiculous CGI monsters instead of simple makeup on live actors is beyond me. It's distracting and, honestly, not very well executed.

That aside, this is a pretty good movie, much better than I was expecting. Even the moments that are designed to be sad, as obvious as they are, as easy to see coming as they are, got me. It's exciting, simple and kept me very entertained. Worth a viewing, but you may want to wait to rent it.

- Complaint Depart

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

Fear 1/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 2/5
Nightmares 1/5

Supposedly the film version closest to the novel from 1812, Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean roots and predilection towards melodramatics and overblown acting often overshadow what is, otherwise, a very good film. With Robert DeNero cast as the unnamed monster, one could make the argument right there that this was worth seeing, which it certainly is.

The story is close to the novel, though takes a few liberties here and there which isn't such a bad thing. You know how it goes, more or less - Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant young medical student, begins looking for ways to create life out of the lifeless. He is befriended by a older scientist who came frighteningly close to having done this himself (played wonderfully by John Cleese). When Cleese dies, Frankenstein gets hellbent on correcting the mistakes Cleese had made and soon reassembles a "man" from the dead parts of executed criminals (his "raw materials"). Through a seriously wacky process (involving a giant tank filled electric eels) his creation comes to life and in an icky scene is left for dead after Frankenstein believes he has mistakenly killed it. Of course, the monster is not dead and escapes with Frankenstein's journal tucked into the coat he grabs on his way out.

Once hidden away deep in the forest, the monster reads the journal and comes to understand who/what he is. He lives off the scraps of a family farm, watching the family through cracks in the wall and developing a bond with them and their love for each other. Of course, once they find him they are instantly repelled and flee the scene causing heartbreak and rage within the monster who decides his beast course of action is to find "Frankenstein of Geneva" and get his revenge.

Having the monster be someone who is not only literate and vocal, but also painfully aware of what he is and who is he not really makes this much more tragic than other version of the story where the monster is a lumbering beast barely capable of stringing two words together. He is able to articulate the things that the audience could only imagine in their heads (not always a bad thing). When quizzing Frankenstein about why he created him he asks "Do I have a soul?" for example. It's similar to other classic Sci-Fi films in that respect: Blade Runner for example.

Though overwhelmingly a good film, there are some things that could have used a little more polish. While DeNero's makeup is wonderful (he looks much more like what the monster should look like - reassembled corpses) some of the other special effects are truly cheap. The screenplay is written well, but feels rushed and choppy at times with a score that never ceases to play in the background, occasionally muting some of the strong performances. DeNero is wonderful as are the other actors, but they are sometimes fed lines that are just cliched - the raising of one's fists to the sky and screaming "Nooooooooooooo!!!" coming to mind instantly.

Otherwise, thumbs up. Is that copyrighted?

- Complaint Depart

Happy Birthday to Me (1981)


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

Hokey slasher film cranked out during the early boom of teen slasher flicks, HBTM loses it's schlock appeal as soon as the person you are watching it with falls asleep and your wisecracks fall on deaf ears.

Melissa Sue Anderson of Little House on the Prairie fame stars as a high school kid suffering from an inability to remember the accident that resulted in her mother's death. As time goes by and her sessions with her therapist (played by John Ford of all people) become more productive, it soon emerges that she has had some sort of experimental brain surgery that "rebuilt" her brain after it was severely damaged. So she's kind of like the Bionic Woman.

Meanwhile, her group of friends each start getting picked off by a slasher who kills them in creative and ridiculous ways, my favorite being death by barbell. The plot isn't difficult to follow as much as it's just a mess. Who's killing whom, is it someone they know, is it someone they don't know, are people actually dying, is it all a hoax or (gasp) is it all in her mind? The end of the film is beyond implausible, but by the time it rolls around you really don't care much. Any kind of resolution that brings about the end of the film is welcome. Still, I did enjoy the fact that the film ends unhappily.

For a poster depicting a guy about the be skewered by his shish-ka-bob, the gore here is light, often being implied more than it's shown. One could chalk this up to a low budget, but that's probably not the case. Me thinks it's more a matter of being unwilling to "pull the trigger" so to speak.

There is, however, an overabundance of muscle cars and satin jacketed mulle-tude going on, as well as an amazing disco scene, it being 1981 and all. So if that's your thing....

Complaint Depart

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Antibodies (2005)

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

Heralded as a genre defining film, Antibodies is a German flick that is certainly entertaining but hardly breaks any new ground. The opening starts with a police raid on a run down apartment that is adorned with human 'paintings' that are fashioned out of body parts. The main proprietor, both bloody and nude, paces around his dingy apartment taunting the police officers as they stand outside. One by one he picks them off, firing off shotgun blasts and dispensing his intruders. As he is cornered, he makes a mad dash through the front door,down the hall and crashes through a window and falls a few stories and hits the ground with his man parts fluttering about. Cringe inducing indeed.

Anywhos, the obvious bad guy is captured and is taken to a police station where he is questioned about a series of killings. Apparently our accused serial killer has a penchant for teenage boys, having his way with them and then waxing them in extremely violent ways. Each one he collects an artifact from and houses them in a pseudo trophy wall.

We come to find out that a cop in a small town not too far from where the killer allegedly committed some of the crimes, is searching for a suspect in the death of a teenage girl and believes that the man captured is the 'guy'. The cop shows up and begins to try and build rapport and trust with the killer. The killer latches on to the cop only wanting to talk to him instead of the detectives who have been hounding him round the clock, day and night.

In so many instances in the film, primarily in the relationship of the killer and the cop, similarities could be seen with Silence of the Lambs. So much so that the killer makes a crack about Hannibal Lector, signaling that maybe the writer and director of the film thought that his film was almost TOO similar. So instead of Hannibal's cannibal fetish, we instead have a sick and twisted guy that likes little boys. Why then a dead girl you ask?

In the building of the relationship between the killer and the cop, we come to find out that the cop has a teenage boy who is a little disturbed. Flashing his wee wee to the girls at school, killing rabbits by impaling them on barbed wire, the dude has some issues. The cop is convinced that the man that the police have in custody is the real killer, all the while the thoughts, emotions and feelings that the killer is feeding him start to well up in the small town cop and he starts to think that maybe his son is the real killer.

What would have made this film that more compelling was if the director went with this as it fed into the ending instead of the one that was incredibly boring and fell flat on its face. The cop was in denial about his son and as his sanity and grip on reality started to slip (at the hands of the sadistic killer feeding him lines) he was prepared to go after and 'end' his son. What we are left with is both lame and dull as the cop finds out that the killer set up the son and at the same time, he has his trigger finger on the kid (whew, that was close one). Pan to awkward man hug in the woods, roll credits.

Entertaining but hardly ground breaking (the many similarities between this film and Silence of the Lambs was too much to overlook), Antibodies is worth a rent but not a repeat viewing.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Hunt (2006)

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

You want to be kind to independent filmmakers because you understand the limitations they have to work with. It's like a classic hardcore record - it sounds like shit because you know they only had $300 to spend on recording it. But the songs themselves are good, the performance good, just not the production.

That's almost the case here. The Hunt has a neat premise behind it, if slightly unoriginal. A couple of guys decide they are going to make a hunting DVD to market, so they head out to the woods with a kid in tow to film themselves stalking and hunting a deer with just a bow and arrow - old school style. This, we soon learn, took place about 7 or 8 days ago as present day footage is mixed in of a search and rescue team attempting to find the two guys and the kid. The film is a mixture of standard film work mixed in with first person "footage" of the actual hunt and the actual rescue mission.

So, to cut to the chase, the hunters wind up wounding a deer and as the track it they cross under a fence with signs reading "do not trespass". But they miss something that the rescue team later picks up on: there is razor wire inside the fence they went under, indicating that whoever doesn't want people trespassing is also keeping something inside. The hunters start hearing some weird noises and seeing things out of the corners of their eyes and it becomes somewhat similar to The Blair Witch Project but not nearly as clever. So far, so good, if not a little on the boring side.

Oh but then, and you knew this was coming, the horribly rendered CGI aliens arrive and we are led to understand that the area they wound up in is a hunting ground for aliens being run by the government. Huh? Yeah, and there are prisoners who find the people for the aliens to hunt. They "have no choice". At this point I rolled my eyes, vomited, and gave up my love for the whole "indie rock" thing. Interesting concept meet dumbfuckery 101.

This could have been a nice little indie film that understood it's limitations and strove to work effectively within them. It seemed, for a moment, that it understood how well made and well done horror films worked. But that moment was brief. The impression I am left with is that of some producers seeing an opportunity to make a quick buck since horror films nearly always earn their money back. No artistic intent, no creative energy. Doo Doo Deluxe.

It looks as if it were shot straight to digital video and, if the accompanying documentary is to be believed, it was shot for less than $100K. That's not much which makes it all the more sad that it was directed by Fritz Kiersch who directed 1984's Children of the Corn. Not that it was a good movie or anything. Just that in 20 + years he's actually gone backwards in terms of artistry.

- Complaint Department

The Blob (1988)

Fear 1/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 0/5
Nightmares 0/5
Kevin Dillon Mullet Alert 5/5

Seriously people, this one was worth the price of admission just for Dillon's spectacular mullet. I know it's most likely a wig, but I don't care. The fact that someone went to the trouble to make him look like some Hollywood dude's idea of what "cool looks like" makes me believe in the afterlife.

This, of course, is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name with Kevin Dillon in place of Steve McQueen and a shitty motorcycle in place of a nice hot rod. The plot is more or less the same as the original. "More" in that something comes crashing to the earth from space and a gelatinous goo escapes from it devouring everything it can slime itself over (usually people). "More" in that the rebellious teenager and the prom princess are the only ones who seem to know what's really going on and can't seem to convince the adults that something "not of this world" is taking place. Isn't that always the case? "Less" in that there is a lot more blood and melted skin this time around - including an annoying little boy who get partially devoured by the Blob and winds up a slobbery pile of goo. Gotta love that. "Less" in that the Blob is not an alien but rather a man-made virus that mutated within a satellite that came crashing back to Earth.

Still, like the first one, it's a ton of fun. The dialogue is ridiculous and the plot is barely held together by a tapestry of one liners and bad jokes, but you smile the whole way, occasionally pointing and laughing at the "Ghostbusters"-esque Blob itself and having a grand ole time. Plus Crazy Joe Davola from Seinfeld makes an appearance which is also a fun moment.

And the price of admission for me? Nada. Which is why that mullet was worth it.

- Complaint Department

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bug (2007)

Fear 1/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5
Nightmares 0/5

Raw and bizarre film about (I believe) extreme paranoia. Ashley Judd plays a lonely woman living in a tiny hotel in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere (Oklahoma). Aside from working as a waitress in a lesbian bar, she seems to do nothing but smoke pot, snort coke and lounge around. She is harassed and abused by her recently paroled ex-husband (played very convincingly by Harry Connick) and continues to lament the tragic disappearance of her son who was kidnapped some 10 years ago.

Enter Peter, a quiet and strange guy that Judd's friend R.C. brings home from the bar one night to get stoned with them. Judd and he strike up a weird relationship where he begins to explain that he is currently AWOL from the Army after coming to the conclusion that he was being experimented upon after serving in the first Gulf War. He subscribes to a number of insane ideas, not the least of which is his belief that there are minuscule aphids in his blood sending transmissions to "them". It's difficult to tell if Judd goes along with his crazy ideas simply out of loneliness and a desire to have someone around in her life or whether she truly believes him. Often Peter's theories could almost be plausible, if one were to discard logic and simply go with it (which is kind of scary in itself).

Either way, when his delusions start to become more real (yanking teeth out of his head for example) she begins to exhibit the same behaviors and the movie gets really freaky. He crushes the tooth and places it under a microscope, peers in and then hands it over to Judd who gasps and blurts out "millions!"

This is a unsettling movie boiling with tension and stress. It has some great visuals and very good use of color. Connick is a menacing presence and Michael Shannon (who played Peter in the play the film is based on) is outstanding. But know that this is not the kind of film that offers any easy answers or resolution and you won't leave feeling happy or relieved. It's never made very clear what is actually happening (though the straight ahead assessment that he's crazy and she was waiting for her cue is good enough for me) and it ends rather suddenly and startlingly with a few open ends. The performances are great and the dialogue is fantastic.

A long time ago I held a job working in a group home for mentally challenged men. One of the men suffered from schizophrenia and would often ramble on about nonsensical things that really only made sense if you were in the same mindset as he was . Occasionally he would have these jarring moments of clarity where he would speak and move like any other person you knew. It was very unsettling. That's the impression I get from this - creepy, weird and scary because I can't get a grip on it. Well played.

Complaint Department

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I rented this movie based on Complaint Department's sterling review. It was totally different than what I thought it was going to be. From the name and the trailers that I saw, I thought it was going to be a creature feature a la The Fly.

I too drew the same conclusion in regards to Ashley Judd's character although I think its the only one that fits. The scene where her character begins to hear helicopter blades whizzing in the air was the turning point and particularly telling.

This film was completely unnerving and became even more so as the end began to unravel. As the credits rolled, all I could say is 'wow'. Recommended indeed.

Cortez the Killer

New Year's Evil (1980)

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

Chalk it up to the flu. When you're really sick, you'll watch anything as long as it passes time. Hence my viewing of this gem from 1980.

So many things about this reeked of shit, but I was so entertained in so many wrong ways. New Year's Evil is about a middle aged woman with way to much blush on who hosts a weekly "rock and roll" show on TV. She is named Blaze and is played by Roz Kelly from Happy Days - yes, Pinky Tuscadero ladies and gentlemen.

It's New Year's Eve and she is hosting a special edition of the show ("Hollywood Hotline") where two "New Wave" bands are playing as they count down to the new year. Every hour she gets a call from a guy calling himself "Evil" (pronounced "Eee-vel") who speaks through a voice modulator which makes him sound like Stephen Hawking. Evil goes around dispatching young ladies with a switch blade (and occasionally a plastic bag) because (as we later find out) he just hates women. It's that simple. It turns out that that Evil is actually Blaze's husband and he attempts to kill her, but winds up killing himself instead when cornered by the cops. But, in a strange twist (ahem), Blaze's son, who's been taking drugs and trying on mom's pantyhose up in his hotel room the whole time, decides to take over dad's business and the last scene is of Blaze being loaded into the ambulance only to find out that the son is behind the wheel with the driver dead on the passenger side floorboard. The end. Or is it??

This is an awful movie, even by 1980's slasher standards. There is no blood or gore, very very little in the way of surprises or scares and the acting and script would insult even the most die-hard slasher fanatic.

Still, there are some fantastic MST3K moments. The two bands performing on "Hollywood Hotline", Shadows and one other whose name I forget, are fucking amazing. Shadows are not a new wave band, but are instead a very bad heavy metal band dressed up to look like The Weirdos circa 1978. At one point they are playing a slow blues song to a crowd of Hollywood, postcard punks who are slowly, gently slamdancing to it. It's mind boggling.

Oddly, for an 80's slasher film, the killer does not hide his face (though at the end he does put on a silly looking rubber mask). This works for me because it's 1980 and everyone on the planet was terrifying to look at period. I am convinced that history books will eventually refer to the period of 1970-1980 as the ugliest period in the history of mankind. Evil, the killer, does change his appearance as he goes around picking up women to kill, but this involves things like a fake mustache and a priest shirt. Otherwise, it's all him and his feathery locks blowin' in the winds of freedom.

Check out the trailer below and tell me you aren't intrigued by this.

- Complaint Department

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Basket Case (1982)

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


How have I missed this movie from the endless number of classics that were made in the 1980's? This movie is ridiculously awesome (and just plain ridiculous) on so many levels.

A young guy who is toting around a basket, rents a room at a run-down hotel in New York. The hotel manager quizzically asks whats in the basket only to be told its 'just clothes'. The manager thinks nothing more of it as he hands over the keys to the hotel room, not knowing the heap of devouring destruction that resides within. The picnic basket carrying kid heads out to grab some grub, comes back, opens the basket and whatever is inside grubs down like a fiend.

When we are exposed to the contents of the basket, it has to be one of the silliest moments EVER in cinematic history. A claymation slob of gobbily goop, this thing looks like the midget bastard child of Jabba the Hut and Slimer from Ghostbusters.

So we come to find out that little claymation freak show is the mutated siamese twin brother of the basket carrying guy. They share a 'special bond' and against their will, they were separated when they were younger by a group of doctors. Little freaky deeky, was thrown into a garbage bag and left for dead, only to have his bro rescue him because of their strong telepathic connection (what genius script writing!).

The brothers are in New York hellbent on revenge against the doctors who separated them. The scenes in which they are brutally devoured by the glob of clay are pretty damn silly as it flies through the air sounding like a rabid tasmanian devil. A subplot to the flick, is the fact that the un-mutated brother is trying to live a normal life, meeting a gal and going out on a few dates. Basket dwelling freak gets jealous and in both a disturbing and laugh out loud sequence, he decides he's gonna get jiggy with his brothers gal. Good lord this scene was classic.

Totally silly, cheesy and essential, Basket Case is great horror movie faire. Gore off the charts and a mutated pile of clay killing people? I ask anyone to explain to me how this is NOT awesome.

Cortez the Killer

Disturbia (2007)

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

60 minutes into this the "scary" stuff finally begins, but then lets up for another 15 minutes or so. Prior to this we are subjected to the drawn out, boring and painfully teeange-aimed story of how the main dude lost his dad in a car wreck and went from nice guy to bad boy. And some boobie comedy without the boobs (American Sugar Free Pie perhaps?).

When he punches his Spanish teacher out on the last day of school, he is sentenced to wear one of those don't-go-anywhere ankle collar things for the next 3 months. Moping around the house he decides that spying on all of his neighbors with binoculars is a fun way to pass time. First on the list is his "hottie" next door neighbor who just moved in. Soon, she and he are flirting endlessly, exchanging terrible dialogue and being everything Hollywood expects dopey teenagers to be. BORING. And it goes like this for a full hour.

Then they start to suspect that their other neighbor is kidnapping women, killing them and disposing of their bodies. How they come up with this is a bit like watching Duck Tales or Scooby Doo, suffice it to say that they are right. Duh. Actually, I was kind of hoping that they were wrong, that is was all just a comedy of errors like some serial killer themed episode of Three's Company. That would have been better. Or maybe if it had all been a dream.

So once the scary stuff starts it gets a little better, though only a little. The scenes where things get tense are ridiculous because they are only tense because of the inane things the people on screen are doing. And, like most teenage slasher films, you're expected to swallow a lot of bullshit for things to work.

Disturbia is ok, not awful, but far, far, far from being good. Mmmm. Yeah, actually it was awful. It sucked. And yeah, it's basically Rear Window. Next....

- Complaint Department

The Last Winter (2006)

Fear 1/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5
Super bad CGI effects that totally ruin the film 5/5

Yeah, so you already know how this ends: badly. But I'll get there in a second.

The Last Winter starts well. It's got a lot going for it, not the least of which is Ron Perlman as the stubborn, Midwestern, steak goblin' perhaps too stereotypically Republican central character. He's in charge of a group of oil drillers who have been given the task of being the first to drill in the recently opened Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. This is because the energy crisis is out of control and the American people "want this." So, presumably this is set in the future, but not the distant future. maybe like 10 years.

Problem is, Perlman's not very good at his job. His other problem is that the arctic refuge was opened up with the agreement that the drilling would be done in a sustainable way which is where main character no. 2 enters - a bearded, sensitive brainiac who is all about putting the kibosh on Perlman's plans. How do you spell kibosh?

Perlman's third problem is that sensitive eco-dude is absolutely correct when he states that the drilling equipment can't be brought in because the ice roads just won't freeze anymore. Global warming, it seems, is melting the permafrost and it's just unsafe to drive.

Meanwhile, the people reporting up to Perlman are slowly starting to see things, hear things and start going "mental". Eco-dude's theory is that the melting permafrost, having been frozen for nearly 10,000 years, is releasing some "sour gas" that is affecting the minds of the people stationed up there. One of the guys going nuts has a more fun theory which is that the oil they are drilling from is actually haunted. It is, as he says, really just the remains of millions of years worth of animals and plants.

Director Larry Fessenden does a good job of exploring the bleak isolation of the Great White North and creates some creepy moments. He also knows when to keep things subtle and allow the audience to fill in the blanks. For a while, I was really enjoying this.

So, people start going nuts, start dying, start crashing planes and snowmobiles, catching on fire and getting burned to a crisp. It's nice and the panic level starts rising as no one knows what's going on. Sticking with the "sour gas" theory, it actually, kind of, seems plausible.

Then the CGI ghost reindeer monsters arrive and the movie suddenly assumes that the audience is made up of 10 year old boys and starts to seriously suck shit for the last 10 minutes. It's like the director of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was called in at the last minute. No thanks.

- Complaint Department