Friday, October 30, 2009

The Video Dead (1987)

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

Great Odin's raven! This has to be the best worst zombie movie I have ever seen. Really. It has all the necessary ingredients for a painfully delicious shit-sandwich: uber awful dialogue, gore galore, and a completely non-sensical plot. Are you ready to take a bite of said butt deli delight? It always goes down smooth.

A pair of delivery drivers drop off a boob tube to an alcoholic writer who immediately proclaims that he doesn't watch TV. Who the hell would be sending him such a contraption? One who was looking to get rid of it of course! He switches on the TV but when nothing but a scene from a zombie movie follows from channel turn to channel turn, he unplugs the chord from the wall and heads to bed. Who needs a power chord when it comes back on by itself, becoming a 32 inch' portal of the undead! So what does the zombie do to the resident of the house? Does he rip the man limb from limb, feasting on his bodily innards? No, no. He slits his throat, straps him to a chair and to add insult to injury, puts on a party favor hat and inserts a cigarette. A zombie with a sense of humor folks! A cha cha cha!

After removal of said hog tied body, the house goes on the market a few months later and is bought by a family living in Saudi Arabia. Their kids are living in the states and are tasked with moving everything into the new home for mom and dad. After a day of heavy moving, at the dinner table that evening, the teenage son inquires about the major of his college age sister.

The exchange goes something like this:

Brother: 'So what are you majoring in?' (said in an extremely snarky manner)
Sister: 'I'm majoring in aerobics.'
Brother: (promptly spitting out his dinner onto the plate in front of him)
Sister: 'It may not be higher education, but it’s a degree! And I’m taking it very seriously.'
Brother: 'I’m almost afraid to ask you what your minor is.'
Sister: 'Music videos.'

Yes, this brilliant exchange, along with a handful of laugh out loud and awesomely bad other ones, occurs in the flick.

The brother comes across the housing unit of the undead one day after hearing a voice call out to him from the attic. Of course, he brings it down and plugs it in and watches the same zombie film. After an intense night of reefer madness and subsequent passing out, the contents are fully let out and all the zombies are unleashed upon the neighborhood. And in their sweeping carnage, they dump an elderly woman head first into an already spin cycling washer machine. For shame!

The man who shipped the TV comes out from good ol' Texas to destroy the unit, apologizing profusely for shipping it out in the first place. He bands with the dopey brother, his sister and the next door neighbor to do some zombie huntin'.

Using the bro as bait, they start knocking off the zombies but when one of them figures out how to use a chainsaw (they have a sense of humor AND they can use mechanized devices!) all hell breaks loose. The grand finale finds the sister befriending the zombies after she learns that they attack because they can sense fear. Like a bear and the menstrual cycle! But when one of them catches on to her clever ruse, she narrowly escapes their attack and ends up in the hospital. Only it doesn't stop there. Mom and dad show up and wheel the TV into her room to keep her company. Zoinks!

This finely plated zombie turdfest almost, ALMOST passes the amazing awefulness of Hard Rock Zombies. Chalk up another film reviewed with both Shit-Sandwich AND Recommended tags. You need to see this film.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interview: Will Devokees, Director -- Macabre Medicine

About 6 months ago, I made a MySpace page for this here interwebs blog (hey, we never claim to be up-to-date and totally hip to the new trends in networking). It hasn't done squat by way of driving incremental web traffic but in my search for all things horror, I came across some of the finest in movie poster art that I'd seen in quite some time. Who knew the link would take me to the page of an aspiring filmmaker who has a healthy love for all things horror? Needless to say, I fell for the indie produced film immediately after watching the trailer.

At the ripe age of 20, Will Devokees is in the process of completing the finishing touches on a film which pays homage to grindhouse cinema and exploitation fare. Completely financed by himself, and taking many a bump, bruise, and beating along the way, he and his group composed of directors, editors, actors, accountants and yes, his grandmother, have helped provide invaluable support in bringing his vision to life. All while working for free.

I recently spoke to Will about the film making process, his love of the horror genre, and his disappointment with not being able to get ahold of Norm MacDonald for a role he specifically wrote for him. Instead, he had to settle for Pittsburgh, PA's finest Norm MacDonald impersonator.

Cortez The Killer: Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live?

Will Devokees: My name is Will Hartman. I'm changing my last name to Devokees. There are too many Will Hartman's in Hollywood. I don't really want to go to Hollywood though. I want to stay independent. Anyways, I'm originally from Delaware. Had a lot of problems with my childhood but that story will probably be told in my book which will be published in about 20 years. Probably turned into a CBS movie or premiered on Lifetime. I currently live in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania and I'm attending The Tom Savini School of Special Effects at the Douglas Education Center. I'm working with some great instructors such as Jerry Gergely (X-Files, Silence of the Lambs), Will Ritter (Pirates of The Caribbean, Van Helsing), Shawn Ronzio (Snakes on a Plane, House of 1,000 Corpses) all great guys that know their shit.

CTK: That is awesome. I had no idea that a Tom Savini School of Special Effects existed before checking out your Facebook profile (by the way, I was totally not stalking you). That's like going to a Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson school for heavy metal singing.

Will: The cool thing about going to a school like that is that you learn directly from the pros in that field. Everyone always asks me 'Why didn't you go to the Art Institute?' Everyone at the Tom Savini School has worked in the industry. All of them started off their basement like me, completely self-taught. I have so much respect for these guys. Starting off in their own shops, being self-taught. Because I've done it and I'm still in the process of doing it.

CTK: That's great. Totally DIY, right?

Will: Exactly.

CTK: How is Tom Savini in 'real life?' I've never met him. He seems like a pretty laid back guy, a nerdy dude who really loves and has a passion for what he does.

Will: You'll hear stories on YouTube and I think they are just attention grabbers. I can only talk about my own experience. Tom is fucking awesome. Great guy, a total dream come true to not only meet him but study at his school. I met him for the first time at a convention awhile back and he let me take stuff off of his table for free. He said I paid enough to get in here. A total kickass guy, he genuinely loves what he does. If you are into special effects, definitely look into this school. It's fucking awesome.

CTK: Shifting gears, tell me what got you into horror movies? Tell me about some of your earliest horror movie memories, growing up as a kid. And how it lead into your current passion.

Will: Well I remember being shown horror movies by my father at a young age. I think the earliest memories were films like Night of The Living Dead and Halloween. And I remember being absolutely scared shitless, but at the same time, all I could think about was wanting more. I loved this rush, this feeling of being afraid of the dark. That's about the same time that this creative switch flipped on inside of me and I thought I'd love to get into acting. And then my grandmother told me people actually get paid to do this. But in Delaware, there aren't too many places to act. There is one theater in Georgetown and that's it. So I started to act and direct my own shitty little films that I would make with my friends. We made terrible movies on VHS and high-8. After awhile, I realized, man, these things fucking suck. They're shot poorly without professional actors or special effects. So what I did was rent horror films and take notes. I'd just rent movies, study them and learn about things like camera angles, and that lead to one of my first 'newer' films, shot first person. A thriller type. It was still pretty bad but I then realized I needed to learn about things like editing. Linear and non-linear editing is what I learned how to do next. Then I started getting into directing and special effects, really learning what goes into the skill and craft of making a film. And when it came to the special effects, it was things like me and my friend sitting around in my kitchen, mixing jelly, red food coloring, and some toothpaste, putting it into a glove and shooting it with a pellet gun.

Back when I started, the internet wasn't as big as it is now so I had to experiment. And I started meeting other like-minded people like Ben Bostaph (who plays the main character in the film). We then formed our own film group and me and Ben started to work hand in hand on our current film, Macabre Medicine. Its really been him and me along with my buddies Matt Oken (producer and actor), Josh Lynch (actor and editor) and Adam Clifton. All of these guys have stood by my side throughout the film making process and have been just as committed as I am to making a kick-ass film. All of these guys have brought their skills to the table, acting, directing, editing and also accounting. Its hard enough just getting equipment to make my shitty-ass movie, but when you don't have the talent, and I'm lucky that I do, thats when things get tough.

CTK: Sounds like you have a great support system to carry you through what I'm sure is a difficult and trying process. From what it sounds like, Macabre Medicine is kind of like the culmination of your early experimentations, after your light bulb went off and you explored what it actually takes to get a film done, and getting into more of a professional feel with better directing, editing, and special effects.

Will: Well here's the story about the infamous Macabre Medicine, the film that has been in production for over 2 years. Everyone (well at least cast and crew) have been asking me when are we finally going to get this thing done. And honestly I don't want to rush it. I am going to take my time and give people what they want. Its not a scary film by any stretch but I can promise its going to be a fun film you will watch with friends, drink some beers, made by a dude who probably won't ever work again.

But it all started out as a high school project. Me, Josh and Adam went to see Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse because I am a huge fan of exploitation films. And it was so much fun. And I said that I would love to do something like this for a school project.

I was taking a media broadcasting class, learning how to edit properly from all of my teachers (he names Gary Connelly, Bryan Denbrook, and Tony Borato as being particularly helpful and influential) in addition to how to film a movie properly.

So I had this project for class and I wanted to shoot an exploitation double feature (like Grindhouse) with the first film being Macabre Medicine. I was hoping the school would help me with funds but they wouldn't back it because of its gory and graphic content. So I said I need to find a way to do this myself. I began shooting it with a 160 camera because it was all I could afford at the time, never anticipating that it would turn into what it is today. I revisited some of my favorite exploitation films and re-studied them and even though Macabre Medicine has a 'modern' feel, we've worked really hard to give it that old school charm. I mean we use cellphones and drive Hyundai Elantras which weren't around in the 70's.

I didn't get any backing, had to use all of this shitty equipment and I bought a computer just for which eventually bottomed out. On top of that, the school caught wind of me continuing down the path and tried to shut me down. But I kept on, shooting things by myself, and I HAD to show the teachers something. Me and Ben shot something with his brother one night and my teachers were amazed. Its actually the intro to the film.

CTK: So you previewed the film with the opening shot. What happened after that?

Will: Gary basically said just go with it. And if other faculty members say anything about it, I've basically got your back. When premiere time came around, I was not done, nowhere near complete. I showed the opening credits and sequence, and it made one of the teachers throw up.

CTK: Mission accomplished right there.

Will: Exactly. We had a few other teachers also in attendance and it made me happy. #1, I did my job and made a person throw up and #2, a math teacher came up to me and said 'Man, that feels exactly like an exploitation film. You had the music and everything else.' He shook my hand and I couldn't have been happier.

CTK: Right on. Like John Waters says, if people aren't rolling or puking in the aisles, then I'm basically not doing my job.

Will: Exactly. That's one thing I love about special effects, working hours and hours to make this mask or sculpture just to rip it off of someone's face. I love seeing these creations come to life that I mold. But anyways. So I went forward, continued to make the film, and, hopefully, it'll be completed soon. And maybe I'll make enough money to buy better equipment and make my next one.

CTK: The main reason why I contacted you was because of not only your MySpace Films page, but because of the videos you posted on YouTube. I said to myself 'Now that's a kid that knows what he's doing. He obviously has a healthy respect for the source material and his effects are better than most folks who have ten times the budget.'

Will: Thanks!

CTK: Are you financing this all yourself?

Will: Yes. I am financing this all by myself. I went to Walmart, doctors, dentists.....

CTK: Doctors and dentists?

Will: Yeah. I remembered reading that Sam Raimi went to doctors and dentists asking for money to help fund his first film. Because, well, they have all the money in the world.

CTK: That's a brilliant idea!

Will: I guess NOT because it didn't fucking work! No one wanted to back a horror film. Maybe if it was a comedy or something. I don't know. I'm literally scraping for every last penny now to finish this damn thing.

If you can get past the fact that I pretty much shot all of this myself, with primitive equipment and with cheap effects, you will find that its a really fun movie and not meant to be taken seriously.

CTK: Well that's what got me hooked. Just by watching the trailer (see below) it definitely harkens back to that time period and how those films were shot. Not to mention, the poster art evoked images of Reanimator, one of my favorite films. And overall, the film has that nostalgic and charming grindhouse-y feel to it.

Will: Right on. We actually thought about making the character of Heyward West a cousin of Herbert West but we didn't want to get sued. Reanimator was a huge influence on us. Hopefully fans get the connection and our little homage to the film. And the poster, that was all Ben and Photoshop. I can't even open Photoshop properly.

After the film process stalled, I met a couple of guys through YouTube, Shawn C. Phillips and MJ Kelley who had their own show called Don and Murph. They were looking into getting into horror films and along with Ben, I showed them what I had so far. They loved it and went crazy. They asked my why I hadn't finished and I told them I had no more money and I didn't believe anyone would want to see it.

After, they continued to encourage me and I actually sat down and started writing more every night. And I came up with a finished script and just kind of worked from there. And I continued scraping money. I'll tell you what though. This damn movie is cursed. Every camera we've had has either broken or had problems with it. And of course, money has always been an issue.

But we have a lot of good people associated with this, no one famous, I'm not trying to make anyone famous. I don't care if it sells. For us, it will be a memory of a time with friends. Despite all of this, I'm excited and can't wait to get it done.

CTK: So where are you at in the process now?

Will: We are almost done. A couple more death and dialogue scenes to complete. We started when I lived in Delaware and then I moved to PA. That's really been the main hold up. Shots are being done in Delaware and hopefully we can wrap things up soon. I know the cast is getting restless. I'm tired of the travel back and forth, blowing out tires, and not making any money. I might not make back the thousands I've invested.

CTK: You never know. Before our interview, we were emailing back and forth about Paranormal Activity. That was made in my hometown of San Diego in a week for about $12,000. And now its set to break all kinds of records. You never know.

Will: Well there you go. Macabre Medicine, shot in about 3 years, just a bit under $20,000, maybe there's hope.

CTK: Well you already have a big fan in me. So that's one person who's buying a ticket.

Will: (laughs)

CTK: What else has been difficult about the film making process that maybe you didn't anticipate or foresee?

Will: Well I wrote this one particular character and had Norm MacDonald in mind to play the role.

CTK: No kidding?

Will: Yeah. I figured the dude isn't currently geting any work and I love his stuff. The guy's funny. I'm a huge fan. I tried emailing him and he probably thought 'Who the fuck is this kid?' So instead, we got the best Norm MacDonald impersonator in Pittsburgh. And he plays the role to a T and has one of the goriest deaths in the film.

CTK: Good stuff!

Will: Procrastination is probably the other biggest thing. I'm a lazy guy. But balancing school and work has been difficult.

CTK: So getting back to the movie itself, tell me more about what you wanted to do with the style of film that you were paying homage to.

Will: One thing I wanted to do with the film was show things that I've never seen before, that people have never seen before. This character, Heyward West, moves to town and is very reclusive and can't relate to normal people. In his attempts to better understand people, he takes on gruesome anatomy experiments. He's not studying verbatim or out of a textbook, he's mainly just playing with people's bodies to establish some sort of connection.

There is a scene where he cuts a guys arm open and starts playing with his tendons. I had never seen anything like it before. And another in which we shove a coat hanger down a woman's throat.

CTK: Wow, that sounds gnarly.
What do you dislike the most about modern horror films?

Will: I don't like CGI. Period. There's a debate going on whether or not makeup and special effects artists will have jobs in the future. I certainly hope not. Personally, I think people are tired of CGI. I think its swinging the other way back. People like more practical effects.

Have you seen Quarantine?

CTK: Yes. Excellent film.

Will: That's a film I love. No CGI and simple.

CTK: Have you seen the original Spanish version, [Rec]?

Will: No, but I want to.

CTK: I actually think its grittier and more grainy in the way the film is shot. Overall, I think its a more effective film.

Will: Awesome. That's what I hope to achieve with Macabre Medicine. Its grainy and we've worked hard to bring a more 'real' by way of cheap feel to it. If that makes sense.

CTK: Slow and lumbering zombies or fast and rabid?

Will: I actually like a combination of the two. I have a script idea for a zombie flick that incorporates both types.

*Insert random vouch for by Will's roommate here*

Roommate Matt: The thing about Will is he is completely out of his mind but when he gets on the set, he flips a switch and knows exactly what it is he wants to get out of his cast and crew. His imagination is set free and his script comes to life.

CTK: Thanks for that additional, random bit of insight.

Roommate Matt: No problem.

CTK: Getting back to the main impetus behind Macabre Medicine, you had mentioned seeing Tarantino's Grindhouse and also being a fan of that genre and style of horror. What are some of your favorite horror films from that genre?

Will: My favorite film from that genre, hands down, is Cannibal Holocaust. I love everything about it. How it was shot. How it obviously inspired films like Blair Witch. I like the idea of something so low budget and it relying on something else to sell it. Namely blood, sex and gore.

People also ask me what my favorite horror movie monster is and hands down, its werewolves.

CTK: Have you seen Dog Soldiers?

Will: No.

CTK: You need to get on that. In my humble opinion, its the best werewolf movie ever made. Overall, I think its a genre that has a lot of room for improvement.

Will: Yeah. Films like The Howling and Wolfen are alright but not great.

CTK: Silver Bullet was pretty good.

Will: I agree there. I'll fight people who don't like it.

CTK: What's fucking cooler than a kid in a suped-up wheelchair fighting werewolves?

Will: Totally. I was hoping you'd ask me if I had the chance to remake any film, what would it be?

CTK: (Laughs) Alright, which film would you remake?

Will: I'd remake Phantasm or Pumpkinhead. I'd do it and do it right. Both films could use an update and I wouldn't make either one Prom Night 2008.

CTK: That film was terrible.

Will: Guaranteed both remakes wouldn't be PG-13. And I wouldn't cast overly good looking people. I like to have normal looking people in my films.

CTK: Drag Me To Hell wasn't a bad PG-13 horror film.

-- Dead silence --

CTK: You didn't like it?

Will: It was alright. Personally I thought it was overhyped and not marketed correctly

CTK: Really?

Will: Yeah, they hyped it up to be this super scary, super gory Evil Dead-type flick. The thing that disappointed me the most was the overuse of CGI. Completely overdone. The CGI slime coming out of a woman's mouth? Come on. That was not needed. Your Sam Raimi for crying out loud!

CTK: So, realistically, when do you hope to have everything wrapped up and a premiere scheduled?

Will: Definitely December, 2009. I'm indentifying places in the Pittsburgh area, nothing final yet but I'm hoping for early December with a DVD coming at the end of December.

CTK: Let me know anything else I can do to help spread the word. I'm already a huge fan.

Will: Thanks!

CTK: Closing question. If someone where to come to you and say 'Horror movies, what is this racket? I'm kind of interested. What five movies should I watch?'

Will: Pretty Woman, Ghost....No. But seriously. #1, Last House on the Left -- the remake. Its brutal and the acting is so much better than the original. The original had unnecessary characters. The father in the new version is so much better. The original was gorier but this version was far more brutal and intense. The rape scene was far more disturbing. And the way the film was shot and how the tension was built lead to it being more effective. Its now one of my all-time favorite horror movies.

CTK: Agreed. I think its better than the original because of everything you just described.

Will: #2 horror film is definitely Cannibal Holocaust. #3 is Day of the Dead.

CTK: Better than Dawn of the Dead?

Will: Fuck yeah. The characterizations were better, the zombies looked more realistic and the gore was better.

CTK: OK, so that's 3.

Will: I know everyone says Halloween.

CTK: But that's no reason to not include it. What if this person had never seen a horror film?

Will: What is this kid, a feral child or something? OK, Halloween then. As for my #5, I'd say any indie horror film, shitty or not. There is always something that can be taken away from a horror film, regardless if its good or not.

CTK: Any closing advice to young filmmakers?

Will: My advice to young filmmakers would be to build or write something each week. Get a camera, a tripod or in my case, steal it from your grandma. Use steady and unique camera angles. Study movies, any movies and special effects. Play with stuff. All of the best things I've ever created was through experimenting. Everything I found online or bought in stores sucked. Come up with your own concoctions. And meet people that like the same things that you do.

CTK: Right on. Thanks for your time Will. I had a blast. Good luck with finishing the film. We'll be in touch.

Will: Thanks! And folks, feel free to check me out and contact me if you have any questions about what I'm doing or if you have questions about making films. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Contact Info:


Check out Macabre Medicine's MySpace page here and view the trailer below. Look for more updates regarding the film exclusively at Planet of Terror.

Cortez the Killer

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

For the unadulterated, unedited version of the interview, see link to the MP3 file below:

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Friday, October 23, 2009

House of the Devil (2009)

Fear 2.5/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 1/5

Quite a bit has been made about the way this film looks and moves; Comparisons to late 70's / early 80's are being thrown about and many are loudly trumpeting the triumph of the movie based solely on aesthetics. And while I agree that the producers have certainly been triumphant in capturing a certain feel and that there is a fun and slightly "cozy" feeling of nostalgia bubbling throughout the movie (if that makes any sense), a good look does not a great movie make.

Luckily, there is more going on here than simply looking the part - at least to a certain point. The House of The Devil is, like most good horror films, pretty straight forward in it's plot: College girl needs money to move into a new apartment. College girl takes job babysitting to raise money. College girl learns that there is no baby to be sat, but rather would be ensuring that the old lady locked upstairs does not get out while the extra creepy inhabitants enjoy a night out on the town. College girl accepts the gig only after securing a $400 payment. College girl is left alone in the house and scariness begins.

It sounds like I am oversimplifying the story, but that's really about it. Except that, as the title makes pretty clear, Satan makes an appearance or two. This is good. Keep It Simple Stupid. Where the film succeeds is in the first 7/8ths of the story. The pace is deliberately slow and tense, the locations are creepy and eerie and there are a couple surprise scares to keep you on edge, including one that really, really comes at you quickly and unexpectedly. The tension builds slowly and is very effective. My wife's hands often wound up in front of her eyes as the tension grew and grew and grew. A good sign.

Simply put, the first 80 minutes of this movie are fantastic.

The last 10, not so much, though not bad by any stretch. It's just that there comes a point where this slow boiling and well paced movie suddenly (and I mean suddenly) goes into hyper drive and resolves itself very very quickly. And the ending is a bit stock and unsatisfying.

But a minor complaint as overall, this is a really good horror film that understands pacing, timing and how to scare without insulting it's audience. Regardless of the quick ending, I was still very satisfied with the movie and recommend it to any horror fan.

Plus it totally looks like an episode of BJ & The Bear.

See trailer here.

- Complaint Dept

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Deadgirl (2008)

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

Another in a line of horror films being shown around the festival circuit, generating a ton 'o buzz in the process, Deadgirl has a lot of thematic elements going on but ultimately, it has no central focus. As a result, the onscreen violence is definitely disturbing but never really revealing in its true intent and purpose. Maybe the open interpretation is great for some, but for me, it left me feeling less than satisfied.

The film starts off with a couple of outcast teenage boys skipping class and grabbing a couple of brewskis to sip down as they walk through the California valley (I say Cali because I've lived there and it looks San Fernando Valley-ish). They come upon an old abandoned asylum and post up inside, a perfect getaway for a duo of misplaced teens looking to pass time by drinking beer and vandalizing the long forgotten hospital.

As they explore the underground landscape of the asylum, they come upon a room that is awkwardly sectioned off. Equipment is lined up in front, acting as a barrier for what lies beyond the door. Being the meddling teens they are, they get through the barricade and discover whats hiding behind. Shrouded by a plastic bag, is a naked woman strapped to a gurney. Initially believed to be dead, the woman soon comes to. The more malicious of the two boys, suggests on 'keeping' the girl for reasons not entirely known at first. The less than rebellious and more of a follower of the two, decides that his friend has gone off the deep end and goes home for the night.

He returns to the asylum the next day to find that his friend has decided to take up permanent residence. Taking a gun with, the kid tries to convince his nutty friend to call police and report the imprisoned woman. He instead tells him that he is fascinated by the fact that the woman cannot be killed. Apparently she woke up during the night and started screaming. To stop her from doing so, he repeatedly beat and choked her, swearing that he killed her multiple times over in the process. To make a believer out of his friend, the deranged kid grabs his friend's gun and pumps her with a couple of rounds, and sure enough, she still lives.

His constant pleas to call police falling on deaf ears, the less than willing to participate teen leaves and returns again. This time, he finds another friend in the mix, both of them taking turns as they use the woman as their personal sex toy. Again, his pleas fall deaf and he leaves the two seriously fucked in the head guys with the helpless girl. Still intent on saving her, he returns later that night with a bolt cutter to free her. Breaking and removing the shackles from her wrists, the girl grabs him. He wrestles away and finds a hiding spot, his sick buddy and newly participating friend returning to find the girl halfway released. He sneaks out after the girl attacks both of them, his only attempt to free the girl foiled as they restrain and tie her back up.

From the film's beginning, the more shy and less nutso of the two friends has an eye on a girl who's dating a douchey jock type. The next day at school, he's caught looking at her and is attacked by the jock and a friend of his as he walks out to his car along with the other buddy who's in on the asylum secret. The other buddy shouts at both attackers, claiming that they don't need a girl like 'that' anyways as he and his friends have their own piece of tail, their own girl to do whatever they want with. The jock and his friend are curious to see exactly what it is he's talking about and they kidnap them both and take them back to the asylum. Upon verifying the aforementioned claims, the crazed ring leader coaxes them both into raping the girl. In the disgusting process of taking advantage of the tied up girl, the jock is bitten by her.

The next day, something isn't quite right with the bitten rapist and the asylum friends learn that the girl can pass on her dead-like qualities with a single bite. Leading into the climax, a new 'deadgirl' is created to take the place of the old, and the once unassuming and more straight laced of the teens has now taken on the same characteristics of his more malicious and deviant friends.

As mentioned, multiple themes are at play here: misguided and outcast teens, youthful indiscretions and narcissistic tendencies, overwhelming power without repercussions, etc. All of this combines to tell a cautionary tale about youth which is completely lost on me. The movie lacks a coherent focus. It is however a true horror film in most respects (i.e. its both shocking and disturbing). Ultimately though, there isn't enough substance with the film to ever revisit it nor can I completely recommend it.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Fear 1/5
Gore 5/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5
T&A Factor 3/5

Are all Italian horror films (moreso zombie in particular) completely nonsensical or what? Zombie Holocaust is no exception and its a stupendously stupid affair, one that simultaneously makes you think that your head will explode by the copius amount of plot shifts and it leaves you scratching it by the sheer number of dumb decisions that the characters make.

The pelicula starts off with a group of student researchers who experiment with human cadavers, wondering who in the hey is ransacking their subjects and eating their organs. One night, the researchers and head doctor stumble upon one of the students who's elbows deep in someone's chesticular cavity, and upon finding out that he's been discovered, he bolts and jumps out the 10 or so story high window and plummets to his end. So badly edited is the film, that the dude's stunt dummy comes apart upon impact and an arm flies away from the rest of the body. But in the next scene, he's completely intact. D'oh!

Anywhos, along with one of the student researchers who's a scorchingly hot blonde (and the film makes every ample usage of said hotness with multiple changing out of clothes scenes) partners with a local investigator. Why this student and no other is anyones guess. I'm pretty sure she's in it just for the T&A factor. As a matter of fact, I'm 110% sure she's in it just for the T&A factor. Looky here:

So the investigator learns that the guy is from a small island and is part of an ancient tribe of cannibals. Why he was hiding out as a student researcher in New York, again, is anyones guess. He coaxes the woman into going with him on his investigation (she also double majored in anthropology, imagine that!) to the island and she agrees. Seems like case closed to me, dear Watson. Man feasts on cadaver parts, is happened upon doing so, and he promptly plunges to his death. Nope. Instead, let's go track down this ancient cannibal tribe on a remote island. Um, yeah that's the ticket.

They get to the island, and sure enough, run into the tribe. Along with some other investigators and guides, the group starts getting picked off one by one. A team of zombies enter the picture (yup, totally random) and save the lead investigator and student researcher/anthropologist from the cannibals.

After being saved by the heroic zombies (hey, there's a concept to add to the over saturated genre, zombie superheroes!), they take safe haven with a local 'doctor' on the island. The doctor is revealed to be hiding out on the island, performing experiments on the inhabitants, which includes the taking out of old people's brains and inserting them into younger bodies to counteract the aging process. Instead of making old people young again in new bodies, he's instead creating zombies who exert some human behaviors along with a penchant for chowing down on mammalian flesh.

Foiling their attempt to leave, the doctor takes the invesitgator hostage but the woman escapes. Somehow convincing the cannibals that she is a goddess (again totally random), she turns them against the doctor, free the investigator and both are saved. Hooray!

A cross between Cannibal Holocaust and The Island of Dr. Moreau, Zombie Holocaust is truly a bad movie but in an oh-so-good way. It also has a heaping portion of cheese, gore, and boobies. What more could you ask for? And no Italian horror flick would be complete without a requisite eye gouging:

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Skull Heads (2009)

Fear 0/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 1/5
T&A Factor 2/5

Anyone that's ever seen multiple films from Full Moon Features knows the formula: throw in the latest and (not so?) greatest in stop motion/clay animation, some seriously silly dialogue to go with a thinly veiled plot, along with a decent serving of blood and gore, and you have all the makings of a ridiculously goofy but fun affair. Oh, and toss in some boobies for good measure. Skull Heads is no exception and its a fun little flick.

A family living in a castle in Rome (why they don't speak Italian or have an accent, I have no clue) does so in pretty strip down fashion. They like a simple life, free from the trappings of modern day society: cell phones, iPods, etc. Except for their teenage daughter of course. I only say teenage because the film doesn't specify but if she is a teenager, she is unlike any I've ever seen. Yowsas! Houston, we have a well endowed hottie!

Anywhos, mom and especially dad don't approve of her 'I want to be a part of that world' (cue Little Mermaid) attitude and daddy likes to punish her by taking her to the underground dungeon and strapping her to a medieval rack. Dad of the year award right there.

One day a film crew comes knocking on the door, asking to use the locale of the castle as a backdrop for a film they are shooting. The innocent daughter immediately falls for one of the directors and despite daddy's disdain, invites them over for dinner one night and begs and pleads with pops to let them film there. After the promise of a hefty sum, dad relents and the crew begins to 'set-up'. They set-up all right, we find out that they've been casing the joint and want to rob the family of all their ancient valuables. Gasp!

So where do the Skull Heads come in exactly, you might ask? We come to find out that they are guardian creatures, looking very much like little Jack Skellington's that roam around ancient castles protecting them from evil doers. They pop out when the movie makers/robbers break in. In defense of their turf, they shoot laser beams out of their ojos and turn mom and dad into zombies after they've been capped by the baddies. They try to escape but mom, dad and daughter stop them from doing so. They then live happily ever after.....

Another silly flick from Charles 'Puppetmaster' Band, Skull Heads is a goof riot. Not for everyone, but if you dig the finest in horror cheese, this film is real California cheddar.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Other Hell (1980)

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

Watery and disappointing horror movie that I had high hopes for, if only because it's from 1980 and Italian. The plot here is fairly familiar - strange and unexplained deaths at the convent are investigated by the new Priest in town, one more into psychology than parapsychology. Unfortunately for the priest, it's not mental illness or any "rational" issue that's causing the nuns to commit suicide. It's Satan.

Not a bad premise - at least one that could be a lot of fun. But the film is so botched, so poorly made and so fucking bad that it's never allowed to spread it's Satanic wings and get going. All the pieces are there, but it's all so nonsensical that you can't see them. It's like the film was never edited, each scene feeling as though it should have come 4 scenes earlier or 3 scenes later. You know how a film is shot in random order of scenes based on time, resources and other logistics and then edited to be sequential? I think the producers and editors forgot the second part of that equation.

Plus, it's just cheap. Example - there is a scene where the priest is nosing around a dog kennel (why is there a dog kennel at a convent?) and one dog gets loose and starts chasing him. The priest runs maniacally, terrified for his life. But the dog chasing him is this chubby looking pooch with a big wet tongue and waggy tail who sort of trots after him, not runs. If anyone saw that dog coming to them, they'd immediately squat down to start giving the chubby funster lots of pets and hugs. The point being that they didn't bother to hire a mean looking dog, they just used the cameraman's or the caterer's. Dopey.

And despite Netflix's overuse of the word "gore" in it's description, there really isn't any. I mean, ok, there are some murky and shadowing scenes where you understand that guts are being removed from the body on the table and, much to my distaste, a live chicken is beheaded, but that's it. It's a bad sign when the best gore in the film could only be produced by killing a live animal. That's the one downside to late 70's early 80's Euroshock and I won't support it. Luckily I can give this a shit-sandwich rating based on more than just that since this movie is a big bag of balls.

- Complaint Dept

Paranormal Activity (2009)

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

Lots to do about a whole lot with this flick, its been making the festival rounds and playing in limited release across the country. With interesting viral marketing to boot, this film had a tall order to fill with my (skeptical) expectations shooting through the roof. Not too mention, it exponentially built upon learning that 5,000 people lined up for the premiere in L.A. Un-freaking-real. So did it deliver? Oh yeah, but not in the way that I expected.

The film promptly starts with a young couple that has been experiencing odd disturbances in their home. The boyfriend buys camera equipment in an attempt to capture all the goings on that occur when they sleep at night. They initally invite a psychic in, he tells them something surely funky is happening and centered on the girl specifically (clue #1 that the boyfriend should high tail it out of dodge). He basically trims it down to two possible scenarios: either a genuine haunting is taking place or a demonic entity is gearing up. Great, what's the good news doc? Actually, there is none.

The film continues on day after day, night after night, with the attacks and crazy oompa loompa vibes permeating throughout. See, not only do strange occurances take place at night, but so too are their days filled with unexplainable noises that go bump in the nigh--err, I mean day.

After one particular occurance, the boyfriend replays the tape and discovers that his girlfriend was standing at attention, looking over him while he slept for a period of about 2-3 hours. Clue #2 that he should get he fuck out of dodge.

We come to find out that the woman has been plagued by strange happenings ever since she was a child, the attacks and visits by a strange entity happening every few years or so. Her house even burned down when she was a kiddo and yet she was resigned to believe that it had anything to do with the occurances. Clue #3, dude. You had your chance now you gotta live with it.

As the film progresses, the camera continues to role as it captures all the action, with the attacks growing more and more violent (the particulars of which I won't spoil). All of this leading up to the grand finale, a scene in which is the single greatest payoff of any horror movie I've seen in the last 20 years. No joke. I'm sitting here in my underwear, typing this review at 2 a.m., drinking a beer to calm my nerves. It freaked me the fuck out.

Paranormal Activity is fun, edge of your seat goodness with a come out of nowhere payoff. You have to see this one in theaters. Invariably it will (and has) been compared to Blair Witch. But that's not fair. It has its own unique spine tingling magic going on.

Cortez The Killer

* * *

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

Like Cortez, I had low expectations around this. I had seen the marketing, I had seen the footage of audiences losing their shit and I simply wasn't impressed. The film looked like a cheaper version (read: rip-off) of The Blair Witch Project. At best I considered it a rental and only went to see this in the theater because of Cortez's review.

Well, I too was won over by this "little film that could". Filmed for around $15K (supposedly, though I buy it given that it's four actors, a home video camera and some simple Mac special effects), Paranormal Activity is remarkably effective.

My gauge for this was my wife. See, she grew up in a series of haunted houses and has seen countless things that would fall under the category of "paranormal". I am a skeptic to the nth degree, but have no reason to doubt anything she says. She's not the kind of person that would make these things up. She has no reason to and if you knew her you'd feel the same way.

When we went on our honeymoon to Scotland and Ireland, we deliberatly went on every tour of haunted locations that we could find. Fun story - as we're walking through Greyfriar's Kirkyard in Edinburgh around midnight or so, we kind of fell off the back of the tour and wound up being separated by around 50 feet from the rest of the tour. My wife stops and grabs my hand. "What's up?" I ask to which she replies "there's a woman in white walking around by those gravestones over there." I saw nothing , but she was chilled and affected by it. We quickly caught up with the group in time to catch the tour guide explaining to the group that many people have reported seeing a woman in white floating around the graveyard. Now I was chilled and affected.

This is par for the course for my wife. So a good benchmark for this film, I felt, was how scared she got. . . which turned out to be quite a bit. It's a scary movie for sure without ever stooping to dumb and cheap scares or jolts that have no real payoff (jumping cats for example). And while I wasn't all that impressed with the ending (I actually saw it coming from about 20 minutes into the movie) I still walked out satisified and really creeped out. I won't say that I had nightmares or anything, but I'll say that when I heard some bumps in the dark later that night, I wasn't so quick to write them off as my neighbor or a creaky house.

Well done and recommended - Complaint Dept

Friday, October 9, 2009

Zombieland (2009)

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

Kicking things off with a list of to do's and what not to do's in case of a zombie invasion, Zombieland starts in fine fashion with Metallica's 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' blaring over the opening credits interspersed with scenes of zombified goodness. Hell. Fucking. Yes.

A wayward teen who's been away to college and is trying to make his way back home to his cuckoo crazy family is surviving in a world overrun by the undead. Apparently there is a super strain of mad cow disease that has evolved and gone airborne, making folks all crazy-like and turning them into members of the living dead. Screw the particulars on why this dude didn't become one of them. This film is set up for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill multiple members of the undead, with body counts that far surpass Total Recall. OK, and its also set up to make you laugh your ass off. This film brings the funny.

The teen runs into a tobacco chewing badass who calls himself Tallahassee (as in the city, played by one Mr. Woody Harrelson) as he feels that real names only muddy the situation and it actually makes you all siss-a-fied. But they soon develop a close friendship and come across two sisters that bamboozle them on more than one occasion. You see, they stop at a local convenience store upon leaving beautiful Garland, TX on their way out to a supposed safe haven on the east coast and the girls end up stealing their truck and artillery.

Defeated and wandering through town, the kid and Harrelson happen upon a Hummer that's loaded with guns and they turn their lemons into Lynchburg Lemonade. They soon catch up to the girls who are all too quick to try and steal their newly found goods but despite their own needs of self-preservation, they actually grow attached to the goofy dynamic duo. Awwwwwww, how sweet.

The rest of the film is basically them fighting off legions of the undead with the grand finale being held at an amusement park in California. They decide to head out west instead of east for reasons not entirely known other than the sisters wanted to hit up an amusement park before they die. They drive through Hollywood and take refuge at an actor's home before the final showdown. I won't reveal who's house it is, but hands down, its the best cameo in a movie. EVER. I laughed until I cried.

Completely mindless fun, gore galore to keep the hounds happy, Zombieland is just good ol' fashion fun. Nothing revolutionary or mind blowing. And that's alright by me.

Cortez The Killer
* * *

Fear 1/5
Gore 4/5
Entertainment 1/5
Creepiness 0/5 unless you find Woody H kind of creepy which I do. . .

I was talking about this with a friend from work and he absolutely hated this. When I got him, my wife's friend had lent her copy to us to watch because she loved it. Cortez loved it as well, but it's been established through the scientific method that he and I tend to have differing opinions on what constitutes a good horror movie. My verdict - I'm siding with my buddy from work.

Zombieland is pointless, which sounds odd for a zombie film and for something this is just mindless fun. I mean, "duh" right? But there really is no point - except for the schmaltzy life lesson at the end that friends and family are important. And if there is one place I am not looking for life lessons, it's a second rate zombie movie with one of the cast of Cheers. Anyway, it's pointless in the way that it has no point. Simply put, there is no narrative - no struggle, no tension, no resolution, no point. And that's irritating.

It's also knee deep in some of my own personal pet peeves. The two girls abandon the two dudes to go visit an amusement park. At night. In a world overrun by zombies. So, of course they have to turn on all the power, which of course, attracts thousands of zombies which, of course, leads to a no-win situation that is somehow won. Shit like that, that's so painfully dumb, drives me fucking nuts. As my friend said to me earlier today "I wished all of these characters would die." I did too. But they don't.

And after the initial 15 minutes of the film are over (10 of which involve opening credits) this becomes a snoozy "comedy" with lots of dopey banter between the angsty dweeb (whose previous film was Adventureland oddly enough) and the tough talkin' redneck in snakeskin clothing. It's almost an emo zombie movie. Really.

Not nearly enough zombies - and fuck it, they aren't even zombies - they're infected people ala 28 Days Later. Too much comedy and dialogue and just boring.
The cameo is pretty good. it's Bill Murray. And he gets killed. There, I ruined it for you. Thank me later when you have 1 hour and 45 minutes of your life available to do something productive or entertaining.

Doo Doo.

- Complaint Dept

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Everyone's Doing It!!

My skeptical self thinks the film may be a cleverly marketed one and not much else. From an initially mid-90's-esque, low budget promotional website (now it looks a little more well put together) to online petitions and widget codes to add to blogs and websites, the promotion of Paranormal Activity is unlike anything I've seen (at least in recent memory). In fact, it reminds me of a similar strategy employed by the directors of one Blair Witch Project.

Nonetheless, I am extremely excited to see it (damn you marketing!) tomorrow with a group of friends. A full report will be forthcoming. Until then, here is an article from my hometown of San Diego where, surprisingly, I learned the film was shot.

For those of you not 'in the know', check out the trailer below.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dracula's Daughter (1936)

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

I might get flung some doo doo in my direction for never having seen this film before, but after doing so, I can firmly say this is one of the best vampire films ever made and its almost better than its predecessor. 'Blasphemy!' you might say. Lemme essplain.

The film picks up right after Professor Van Helsing has driven a stake into the heart of Count Dracula, seemingly ending the threat to the fine folks of London. Scotland yard arrives on the scene, and Van Helsing is arrested despite claims of this not being a normal man. He's told to stop talking all crazy-like and is arrested for murder.

The body of the Count is taken to a holding cell at the local jail and its to be held there until proper disposal plans can be made. That plan doesn't last long as a mysterious woman enters the station and casts a spell on one of the guards. The body is stolen and taken out to the woods where its then ceremoniously burned. You see, the woman is in fact the daughter of Dracula and she believes that by burning his body she will be fully relieved of his curse. Namely, that of the blood sucking affliction which she is desperately trying to rid herself of.

The Countess called Zyleska (played in mesmerizing fashion by Gloria Holden) then crashes the party of the local psychiatrist and his group of friends. Revealed as an artist and jokingly told of a friend's dislike of her work, the female co-host offers the Countess a glass of wine. She so geniously replies 'Thank you. I never'.

The Countess builds a quick relationship with the psychiatrist and as the film progresses, so too does the strong sexual undertones that exist between the both of them. One evening, she laments to him about being under the continued spell of something other wordly and begs for his assistance in breaking her addiction. He advises her to deal with it head-on, in the same fashion that one would would treat other addictions. Essentially, confront the craving and bury the urge to act upon it.

She does so, having her faithful man servant pick up a female walking the streets that night, offering her a place to stay and some food in exchange for her posing for his master's work. The temptation proves too much for the Countess and her actions lead to the young girl landing in the hospital and eventually, she dies. The psychiatrist figures out that the Countess had a hand in the death and follows her as she returns to her native homeland of Transylvania with his girlfriend, spellbound and in tow. In the film's finale, she offers the return of his girlfriend in exchange for his life, serving as her eternal lover, forever plagued by the same affliction.

Amazing set pieces like its forebearer, along with some great atmospherics, makes Dracula's Daughter just as successful in setting both mood and tone. But the real star of the film is Gloria Holden. Incredibly beautiful and attention grabbing in every scene that she's in, she carries the movie with grace, style and with a tragic sense of purpose. Save for a fairly lackluster ending, this film is just as good, if not better, than Dracula.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, October 5, 2009

Buio Omega aka Beyond The Darkness (1979)

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

Super cheap, super sleazy, intentionally offensive and stuffed with some pointless, but over the top gore. In other words, a winner.

Plotwise - and please note that by plot I mean "plot" - it goes like this: Fluffy haired Italian dude with clogs spends his days driving a teeny, tiny red van around what appears to be the same village that was the set for The Sound of Music. At night he makes sweet love to his skinny blonde lady-friend. That is, until she is murdered by the dude's maid / nanny / wet nurse (oh yeah) via some sort of voodoo ritual. Then he goes batshit, digging up her corpse, removing all of her guts and stuffing her with some sort of goo that keeps her "fresh". Finally and inexplicably he starts picking up some fine lookin' roller disco queens and kills them off one by one.

The move makes no sense really and is, for the most part, completely devoid of plot or purpose. But that's part of what makes it fun - it's sole reason for existing seems to be to offend with weird sexual perversions and some nasty, if cheap and fake, gore. And, being Italian, you better believe there is some eyeball gore here as well as fingernails being ripped out one by one.

Not the gnarliest thing I've ever seen by far, but it certainly gave me a lot of (unintentional) laughs and kept me entertained. Plus it's got a Goblin soundtrack to boot. So there!

- Complaint Dept

Thursday, October 1, 2009

[Rec] (2007)

Fear 4/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5

Okay, so I'm not going to write a synopsis of the film. It pretty much follows suit (or should I say precedes) the same way that its American remake counterpart does. If you want to know the backdrop, read the first couple paragraphs of Complaint Dept.'s review of Quarantine, here. What I will focus on are the differences, which makes it a much more terrifying movie watching experience.

Fast forwarding to filming a group of people holed up in an apartment complex, the shots, 'footage' and situations are much more grimy, gritty and 'real' than those presented in the American remake. Where Quarantine definitely had its intention of being raw and gritty, it was still mired by a feeling of being a Hollywood film. Sure, it had the herky jerky camera angles that made it the Blair Witch version of a zombie movie, but I couldn't help but think that I was still watching a made for the mainstream, horror movie for the masses. That's not to say that the film wasn't entirely effective in terms of providing some genuine scares. On the contrary, it had its icky moments (again, see Complaint Dept.'s review). But what truly set [Rec] aside from its remake, was its focus on the characters. I had a genuine interest vested in each one. It definitely had its moments (injection of a large needle into an open wound anyone?), but the character development along with their neverending sense of fear, dread, and hopelessness is what draws you in. You want to see everyone get out alive.

Whereas Quarantine had its moments of disposable characters (especially the arrogant guy who basically gave a middle finger to any sort of authority), these folks were working towards a common goal. Each one caring about each other and the well-being of all involved. There were still plenty of 'Why would you do that moments' (i.e. a little kid that's infected chomps on her mother's face and runs upstairs, a cop and firefigher follow) but it's just a bit more permissable than the remake for the sheer fact that everyone involved had this vested care in the person standing next to them. This was partially due to the fact that the woman who played the main reporter really never broke character and continued her role as interviewer and documentarian. This was in the remake but not to the degree of the original.

With not as much gore on display as Quarantine, [Rec] instead pays care and detail to the build-up and the execution, especially when a confrontation with a member of the infected occurs. The end was entirely much more effective as well, with the reason behind the infection being more apparent and the final climax being that much more terrifying and gut punching.

[Rec] is an entirely original film and does for the zombie genre what Blair Witch did for the good ol' fashion ghost story. I highly recommend the original over the remake every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Cortez the Killer