Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Outtake Reel (2010)

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

Outtake Reel is a film that clearly has its sights set on the horror genre. It questions the notion of horror as a thought provoking art form and if it has any place within a genre that celebrates sex, gore and not a whole lot by way of substance. It's shot with a found footage-like feel but the device isn't pounded over your head (i.e. herky jerky cameras, extreme close-ups, etc.). Overall, the film does leave the viewer with some things to ponder but it's the clunky conclusion which leaves a bit to be desired.

An FBI agent introduces us to a film that has been put together which we are about to see. The spliced film, as it's explained, shows the last remaining days of a horror scream queen who's in the middle of her latest production. As we begin to watch the film we're introduced to an extremely opinionated genre director and the oddball character who's tasked with filming the production.

Our goofy camerman, named Danny, follows the daily production much to the dismay of the filmmaker. But he endears himself to him with his persistance and comedic relief. As his capturing of the production continues, we come to see that he isn't just a bystander. Rather, he's influencing the production, putting into the ear of the lead actress the notion that she is deserving of a horror film that is so much more. Namely, the exact opposite of the kind that our more story and character driven director is seeking to make: one full of blood, boobs and gore.

The camerman, after having made a stop at Home Depot, kidnaps the lead actress and brings her back to his house. The director is invited over and our cameraman reveals to him what he plans to do. I don't want to spoil what happens next but our filmmaker goes against what he stands for and becomes an active participant in the type of film that our cameraman is attempting to make. And the main question being pointed to us, as this filmmaker turns his back on what he stands for, is this what we really want as genre fans? And to a larger extent, is this the type of film that filmmakers should focus on to make a buck?

I mentioned the awkward ending which for me, really was a disconnect compared to the rest of the film. Namely, the character of Danny and his transition from goofy camerman to a sinister, scheming, force, twisting the hand of our filmmaker to commit heinous acts. It doesn't happen in a really natural way thus when it happens, it just doesn't seem within his character to do so. There is no natural progression and it just seems completely out of character. Thus, the larger point and question being made feels a little forced.

Regardless, Outtake Reel is an original piece of filmmaking and actually has a point to its madness. That is something that can't be said for about 99% of genre fare being served to us these days. It's certainly worth a look.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March Is Evil And Such

So you've probably noticed that my posts have been fairly slim this month. Chalk it up to my corporate day job. It can be a drag sometimes but I love it.

Anyways, I thought I'd get a discussion going seeing as how I've had little time to put a serious dent in my screener pile. The wife and I caught the recent Best In Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Times show on ABC this past Sunday. In it, they counted down the top 5 movies (by genre) based on America's votes (allegedly). They also had some stupid top fives like Best Kiss and other stuff normally reserved for the MTV Movie Awards.

Anyways part deux, they kind of teased you with snippets leading you to think there was going to be a list of top 5 horror films. Instead, it was labeled as best Thriller/Suspense with the likes of Silence of The Lambs and Jaws sharing space alongside Pulp Fiction. WTF? Seriously. This aversion to labeling anything horror needs to stop. Arguably, the genre has never been more popular. Why does it continue to be a black sheep? Shit, if metal has it's own category at the Grammy's, why the hell can't horror be acknowledged?

Did you check out the show and what are your thoughts?

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Absent (2011)

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

A film made by two folks who had a hand in I Know Who Killed Me and the Night of The Demons remake should be signal enough to avoid it at all costs. But I actually enjoyed I Know Who Killed Me. Call it a guilty pleasure. It was like The Parent Trap with boobs and gore. And you can never have too much Lindsay Lo. The Night of the Demons remake however was just plain awful. The Absent will give you a mad case of verbal diarrhea and leave you calling aloud 'How the fuck does shit like this get made?'

We start off our film with a little boy who obviously hates his mom and stepfather. The stepfather may or may not be using the mom for her money. We never really know why the kiddo hates them. Does mom fuck up his mac n' cheese once too often? Does stepdaddy delete his World of Warcraft account? Who knows. But the little fucker poisons their breakfast one morning and he's hauled off to the loony bin, his little brother left to pick up the pieces.

Flash forward about 25 years or so and we see non-wacko brother teaching at a local high school. He's received letters from his brother while locked up and it looks like he's going to be released soon. Students are hot for teacher and one in particular is invited to his cabin out in the woods. They meet up one afternoon for a little game of 'Hide the Lincoln Log.' But before they can get jiggy with it, cuckoo nutso brother kills the girl and sets the place on fire. And from here on out, it's all downhill.

Cuckoo brother starts offing the other kids from his brother's class in really lame and uninspiring ways. The kids are your typical horror fodder and completely uninteresting. You don't give two shits when and why they're killed but really, they're just a set-up anyways for the 'grand reveal.' In a completely convoluted way, it's shown that the two brothers are actually one in the same! Or something like that. Honestly, I was drifting in and out of consciousness by this point.

Boring, dull, unimaginative, and completely lifeless, this film will bore you to tears. The Absent? More like the absent minded.

Cortez the Killer

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good Morning, Beautiful (2011)

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

Right away, we are drawn to a late 30 something couple as they sit in a hospital, grieving the loss of an unborn child. They eventually return home and we see the couple, sitting at a dining room table, discussing the possibility of trying again to conceive despite the advanced age of the wife. It's also clear that she is having a difficult time with the loss. Later, with some family members there for support, the husband acknowledges the grief being felt and he expresses his worry for her. But it's not her mental health that we should be most concerned about.

In between going about his day, caring for his grieving wife, and talking to his family about the loss, the husband sees a doctor about a peculiar sore which has formed on his right arm. The doctor advises him that it's nothing to be worried about and that he should stop picking at it. In between visits to the doc, our husband comes to be in the middle of a few strange occurances. One of them, finds him awakening in the dead of night to the sounds of something going on outside. With the TV blaring and actually displaying onscreen what's going on outdoors, a surreal moment occurs when he walks out into the backyard to witness the same: a man with a blurred out face brutally beating another man in the alleyway. He calls the police and they come out but are unable to find a man nor a body.

After attempting to confer with his neighbor about the events from the previous night and not receiving any confirmation, he again takes himself to the doctor, his sore getting a lot worse. The off kilter-ness of the film continues as the waiting room grows with afflicted patients, a woman with increasingly severe injuries and bandaged bones being the only constant every time he visits.

Our strange occurances continue for our would-be father to a point where he's thrown into an anxiety filled rage. A whirlwind, off-balance, keep you guessing to the final fateful frame build releases which leaves you completely breathless. I can't remember the last time I was thrown for this much of a loop while watching a film.

Good Morning Beautiful is premiering right now at the 2011 edition of the South by Southwest Film Festival. Keep your eye out for it along with future works from filmmaker Todd Cobery.

For more information about the film, check out its website:

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Episode 3 Of the Podcast Is All Up In Yo Face!

Episode 3 of the podcast is lubed up and ready for insertion into your earhole. On this episode, I shoot the shiznit with two of my favorite pals: writer/director Dom Portalla, he of the fabuloso film The Darkness Within and Geof Capodanno, proprietor of the awesome blog The Man-Cave.

Specifically, we talk about Dom's film, recent horror offerings and the return to a more suspense-filled storyline, as well as A Serbian Film, horror cons, and old school Nintendo. It's a hoot. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Score One For The Little Guy!

Dawning is a film I've been babbling about for awhile now. Featuring it on this here blog many a time, other sites that I write for, podcasts as well as mentioning it to everyone that I know including my grandmother, etc. etc. In short, it's an incredible film that hadn't found a distribution home. Until now.....

To read more about the film, it's release as well as the trials and tribulations that the filmmaker had to go through, check out my recent article over at the fabuloso El Bloodsprayer.

Many congrats to filmmaker Gregg Holtgrewe and everyone involved with the production of this fantastic film!

Cortez the Killer

Dawning Movie Trailer from Gregg Holtgrewe on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Super (2010)

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

George is owner and superintendent of a building that demands a lot of his attention. Despite his constant work to maintain it and complaints from his wife about retiring, the former war vet stays steadfast, taking pride in the fact that it's been in his family for years. What starts out as that 'nice old man' taking care of the place and being friendly to all, the film takes a sharp turn towards the dark as we learn that something isn't quite right with good ol' George.

Our film starts as George goes about his daily business, fixing things around the building, helping tenants with bags or boxes up the stairs and following up with slackers who haven't paid that month's rent. He immediately endears himself to a young couple who's just now moving in as he helps them with their belongings. He also offers to help them find a Christmas tree. After the kids deny his kind offer as they aren't much of the religious or holiday type, he barks at them for not having a sense of tradition. And after a confrontation at the local watering hole that night, we begin to suspect that there are more than a few screws loose with old man.

What starts as a creepy stalking of his neighbors, soon turns to violence and murder as George just loses it completely. Why exactly we do not know nor are we ever given a complete explanation. From dismemberment to necrophilia, George goes from nice old man to completely fucked up and psychotic.

Assisting him in his efforts and cover-up, is a Russian female tenant who has a penchant for filming snuff. She plays Robin to his Batman and assists him in the killings, recording them and also assisting with the cleanup. Just when they think that all is right in their sick and twisted little world, it all comes undone when a crooked cop shows up. At first, he agrees to help them get rid of the bodies but that plan is immediately compromised when he can't get George to stop his murderous ways and the body count continues to rise. As the film ends, we see George completely hit rock bottom and we learn that the life that he lead as a loving husband and father is not all as it seemed.

The problem with The Super was that there was no real rhyme or reason for any of the onscreen madness that was perpetrated. George was a bit kooky and may have had some screws loose already because he was a war vet. But we really didn't get a sense of any history of violence, post war syndrome or any other sort of mental sickness. The kills and gruesomeness of some of the scenes are enough to please the gorehounds. But there is very little here by way of substance or purpose. I won't say steer totally clear of this one. But there was just nothing here that I could get particularly excited about.

Cortez the Killer

The Super - Red Band Trailer from Alex Lugones on Vimeo.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Serbian Film -- AKA Srpksi Film (2010)

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

I can’t recall another horror/exploitation film garnering as much attention in the past few years, heck even decade, as this one has. Can you? Forget the story, it’s been pretty much painted as an endurance test among genre fans and cinephiles alike. But is there substance to the actual film? Regardless of political allegory (which I believe to be suspect), does the film have anything to offer the viewer? Read on.

Most people who’ve followed the film or have read about its infamy, know of the basic storyline. But just in case you’re unaware, here it is: retired porn star and family man Milos is given an offer he can’t refuse. A new style of performance art pornography is set to go into production with the effort being lead by a mysterious man named Vukmir. At first, Milos is reluctant. Promises of a life that will be forever taken care of tempt him, while at the same time, he's also reminded of the current financial struggles that his family faces. The promise of never ending fortune becomes too much for him to pass up. Once the dotted line is signed and he to goes to work, we become sickened by the unspeakable horrors that Milos is asked to commit.

The horrors of this film are well documented and the most notorious scenes are described in great detail on other sites. So I won’t go into that here. If you're really interested, a quick Google search returns many results. What I will say is that, while the extremity of the situations and the acts being asked to commit were certainly gruesome and disgusting, none of them really justified either point the film was/is trying to make. A diatribe about life and society is given by Vukmir when Milos is ready to walk away early on. His point and the point of the film (at least for me) is completely negated when he says that really all he’s trying to do is create a new sub-genre, ‘newborn porn.’ Again, I think this aspect of the film is completely suspect.

If we take the film at face value for what it is trying to portray, the slipping of one man to the point where he completely loses touch with reality, that is also a hard sell as we aren’t really painted a picture of a family that is truly struggling. At the beginning, we see them in their nice home (a mansion by most peoples standards), completely furnished and without bare. Other than the couple simply saying that they have money problems, the only time we see anything that physically amounts to issues with finances and falling on hard times is when Milos reluctantly digs into his pant pocket to fork over some money for his son’s piano lessons. So daddy goes on a disgusting, drug fueled, murderous and psychotic sex rampage for some piano lessons? I’m not trying to oversimplify things here but that’s essentially what the film boils down to. I didn’t really get the feeling that the family was in that dire of a situation and as a result, the ends didn't justify the means.

As such, with about 20 min. left in the film, I just wanted it to be over with. There was no point at all to any of the onscreen madness. If you want to experience a similar film that is shocking with a much better painted picture of sickness and depravity, and it even has a redemptive quality about it, keep yours eyes peeled for a film called The Bunny Game (review here and filmmaker interview here). It will stay with you long after the credits roll unlike A Serbian Film which I've already forgotten about.

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fugue (2010)

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

I love the types of films that have you completely hooked and bought into what the filmmaker is initially presenting only to have it do a complete 180, flying in out of left field and smacking you over the head. Fugue is no exception and it's a brilliant example of how misdirection and a little sneakiness by the filmmaker can make for an awe inspiring film watching experience.

The film starts with a young couple moving into their new home. It's not long before the wife (Charlotte) begins hearing and seeing things. I know what you're thinking 'I've seen this before and it's every haunted house film ever made.' Stay with me.

What starts as thumps and bumps in the night along with finding some strange artifacts around the home, our story turns into a full-on supernatural haunt as a female presence makes herself known to Charlotte. And it's made very clear that she isn't happy with her being in her home. The thing that I appreciated most about how the filmmaker handles this presence is the fact that we aren't given the usual tropes associated with this sub-genre of horror. Yes there are thumps and bumps but there are plenty of times where our lead is standing in front of a mirror and nothing happens or she's shown sleeping in bed and nothing happens. This preys on the mind of the viewer and it plays to such great effect. When the presence makes itself physically known, it's in broad daylight. And it's handled in such a way that it made it more terrifying than if it had taken place at any other time.

So anyways, we come to learn that Charlotte was involved in an accident not too long ago where she was in a coma for a short period of time. The husband initially plays off the strange occurances as a side effect of her accident (visible scars are seen and prove it). But even though he shrugs it off, she wants to now more about what actually happened. And as she goes deeper and deeper into an obvious cover up by her husband, we come to find out just what it is that haunts her and why her husband chose to implement this intricate ruse.

I know I'm being fairly vague and its not without purpose. You really need to experience this film. It flows from the supernatural to the very real in a seemless manner and in the hands of someone less capable, the film would fall totally flat. Because of that, I must give a huge credit to filmmaker Barbara Stepansky. She knows how to weave an intricate tale and successfully change direction without the end product suffering whatsoever. When the grand reveal occurs and our brutal climax hits, the viewer is left completely breathless. Easily, this makes my top 10 list of 2011 and we aren't even a full 3 months in.

Cortez the Killer