Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

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

The first Quarantine was an exact remake of [REC]. Sure, different camera angles were employed and of course, different actors. But it's pretty much the same exact flick. Both films were great in developing tension and fear (gotta tip my hat in the direction of [REC] as I think it did a better job) and both were really solid films. So when [REC 2] came out, it was inevitable that a sequel to Quarantine would soon be announced. However, Quarantine 2 is it's own beast and doesn't follow the storyline of [REC 2] whatsoever. It's problem lies in the fact that it does absolutely nothing to expand upon the original and it's exceptionally dull.

Our film starts off with a group of passengers boarding a plane. Final destination: Nashville. The passengers are pretty much of the garden variety: douchebag dude, token black guy, little kid who's traveling by himself, an old couple, etc. etc. One of the passengers is supposedly a teacher, carrying on his classes' hamster. Why he's carrying a hampster onto an airplane no one knows. Actually, yes you do. 'Cause guess what spreads our infection?

What's a good infection flick without a case of mouth herpes?

After this piece of ridiculousness is discovered, another one of our passengers who's a drunken mess before he even boards the plane, assists the man with putting the cage into the overhead bin and is subsequently bitten. Guess who's going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs first? Before that happens and after take off, absolute nonsense transpires as a couple makes out in their seats and the stewardesses get into an argument with a dude who refuses to get off his cellphone mid-air. Who has witnessed anything like this ever happen on a plane before? OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. I once saw a guy dangle his baby over the center aisle while a plane was taking off. Why the fuck would anyone do that? I digress. My point is this took me out of the film at a time when tensions should have risen.

So our drunken passenger eventually goes all haywire and the passengers band together to take him down and subdue him. They then throw him in the airplane's bathroom. The pilots make an emergency landing at a smaller, nearby airport and almost immediately, they're quarantined (duh) and guarded by some military folks. As you can imagine, more of their party gets infected, one by one they're killed off, people make dumb decisions, and only one gets out. The end.

The only connection between the events in this film and the first is one our supposed teacher watches the events of the apartment lockdown from the first film live from his laptop as it's happening. And there is another mention when it's revealed later in the film who he actually is. But that's about it. It doesn't do itself any favors by not expanding upon what we already know from the original. I appreciate the fact that it tried to be it's own animal as I think it would have crushed under it's own weight had it taken upon the concepts presented in [REC 2]. It's obvious this film geared itself toward's a mainstream release. But as the end product shows, it's only worthy of direct to DVD.

Cortez the Killer

Friday, June 24, 2011

Enter The Taint!

From now through the end of June, you can check out one of the zaniest, most ricockulous films I've ever seen absolutely FREE. Here is a little quote-y, thing-a-ma-jig I said immediately after watching it:

'The most deplorable, disgusting, trashfest I've ever seen. I fucking loved it!'

Check it out on the player below or clicky the little icon in the lower right hand corner after hitting play to fully erect!

The Taint from Dan Nelson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Silent House -- aka La Casa Muda (2010)

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

Described as being filmed in one continuous shot (no edits or cut aways), with a tagline of 'Fear in Real Time' and with a well cut trailer that piqued my interest, The Silent House got thrown onto my 'must see' list for the year. The claim of one continuous shot is an interesting one (I mean, who could deny such a claim if you were at all involved with the production?). It did feel as though it made no error in what it wanted to do filming-wise as it sweeps and zooms around certain characters and also in the mirroring of their body movements and flow as they explore a house that isn't quite right. Along with some really great use of shadows and sound, The Silent House is a uniquely produced film but one that ultimately falls flat.

We are introduced to an old man and his daughter as they walk through a country field and out to a cottage in the middle of Nowheresville. We learn, as they briefly meet with the owner of the house who's looking to sell it, that they are there to renovate over the next few days. After speaking with him, they head inside and find the house dark and boarded up. They settle in, take brief residence in the study, and make plans to start early the next morning. They have no idea that they won't make it through the night.

As the young woman gets ready for bedtime, and dad has already dozed off, she starts hearing strange noises coming from the room above them. Dad initially shoos her away when she wakes him up but he gets concerned after she does so a second time after hearing even louder noises. He gets up and cruises upstairs to learn the cause of his daughter's fear. From the room below, she hears a struggle and a subsequent yell and thud as daddy hits the floor. Freaked out, she makes a dash to the front door but finds it locked. After hearing some children's music playing from upstairs and investigating it only to find no one, she comes back downstairs and into the study. She finds dad bound at the hands with blood covering his face.

Frantic and trying to find a way out, she explores the rest of the house with her trusty neon lantern. What plays to such great effect in these moments is that she comes across antique mirrors and pictures and as she does, you expect to see something in the reflection or behind her but you don't. You're constantly thinking 'What is it?' in the home and what has done this horrible thing to her father. After heading into the attic, she hears footsteps and quickly finds a hiding place. She sees someone enter with a knife and stays in her spot until he leaves. She makes her way back downstairs and this time, heads out an unlocked front door into the woods.

Thankfully, she runs into the owner of the home as he's driving along the country dirt road. But he assures her that all is right and that no one is in the home. Despite her hysterics, they head back to it. After arrival, the owner walks inside while the woman nervously waits inside the car. He looks around and comes back out to tell her that no one is there. He leads her back into the house and she takes him to the study where her father's body was, only they find nothing there. After exploring the darkened house some more, they get separated and the young woman's light goes out in her lantern. She grabs a Polaroid camera and uses the flash to find her way out of the room as she's screaming and frantically trying to find a way out. The best scare in the film comes as the camera flash goes off for the second or third time and we see a little girl in the room.

At this point, I was sucked in, hook, line and sinker. But how does it go so horribly wrong? So our young woman, as she gets out of the room and begins to explore the house some more learns about the family that used to live there. The reveal of what happened there and how she's mixed up in it all, well, it hit with a big, resounding thud. I don't want to get into it too much. I will say that it's very High Tension-like in the revealing. That's all I'll say.

Even though it has a creepy and intense atmosphere and one of the best scares employed in any film I've seen this year, The Silent House is OK when it could have been really great. The ending completely killed it for me. I mean, you can definitely do a lot worse. But this is one I won't find myself revisiting anytime soon.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pieces (1982)

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

Pieces is one of my all-time favorite slasher films. Along with a healthy dosage of 80's sleaze and cheese, it contains some of the most brutal kill scenes that have ever graced the sub-genre (2nd only to The Prowler, IMHO). Throw in four legitimate red herrings for good measure and you have yourself one sweet elixir of gore soaked awesomeness.

Our film starts with a young boy, fascinated by a Playboy centerfold-like jigsaw puzzle he's putting together. Mom interrupts him and flips out, berating the boy and shaming him to no end. The little boy flips out and briefly exits his room. Upon re-entering, he takes an axe he's grabbed to dear ol' mum and pulverizes her. The cops soon show up but our blood soaked kid blames it on an intruder and gets away with it.

Flash forward 40 years and we're introduced to a college dean who's dealing with a recent murder on his campus. The murder is kept under wraps from the kids with the anatomy professor, the lead detective, the college groundskeeper (who always has this look on his facehole....

....) and the dean instantly becoming each the equal suspect. The bodies begin to mount at an alarming rate, each one more viciously sliced than the last. The killer's main weapons of choice are a chainsaw and a large knife. From decapitations to dismemberment, our killer is on one brutal and relentless quest. But it's all for one purpose and one purpose only: he's putting together a real-life puzzle pieced woman, doing his best to match the same likeness he fawned over as a young kid in his room all those years ago. You see, he's taking specific body parts with each kill and sewing together to make a 'real' woman.

A female undercover piece of meat (that's essentially what she is as the lead detective tells her that they need another warm body on campus), soon begins to roam the campus with the goal of getting close to each of our potential suspects. After a news reporter also falls victim, she meets with the one suspect she hasn't met face to face with yet and learns that he's our killer. I'm not going to ruin the surprise if you haven't seen the film although it is fairly obvious who it is around the 3rd act or so. The real fun comes by way of our other red herrings who always seem to arrive on the scene much to quickly after the killings. You know, the kind of just rounding the corner and 'Surprise, I'm here!' and ' Oh by the way, there's a dead body in the locker room.' I know this gets played ad infinitum in slasher films, but I still find it to be a fun aspect, especially in this film.

As mentioned, there is a healthy dose of sleaze and cheese in the film as college kids care about only a handful of things. Namely, getting fucked-up and fucking. Example, this sassy bit of dialogue here:

Lady Student 1: Have you ever been laid on a waterbed?
Lady Student 2: The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed. At the same time.

Later on in our film, our nosy reporter gets waxed on a waterbed which makes for one of the best slasher kill scenes of all-time.

With lots of the red stuff and gore and eye rolling-ly bad dialogue, Pieces is a shit ton o' fun. Check it out ASAP if you haven't done so already.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tunnel (2011)

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

The Tunnel is a found footage flick that has so much anxiety filled moments packed in it you'll be phoning your doctor in the morning for an Atavan or Prozac prescription. The filmmakers also have a bold and unique business and distribution plan (more on that in a hot minute).

Our film starts off with the mention that what we are about to see is law enforcement evidence, it's confidential, and all that jazz. Along with some news clippings, we are introduced to two primary individuals who will serve as the main narrators of our story: a female investigative reporter and her lead cameraman. The clippings and our central characters talk about the area of South Wales (Australia) and how the government is seeking to use an abandoned subway tunnel which now holds water. Their goal is to turn it into a water recycling facility in order to address their current crisis of severely low water levels. But we learn that plans are derailed when efforts to move the city's homeless (who are the current occupants) out of the tunnel but the officials find no vagrants. Why they're missing or can't be found is never fully explained.

Despite multiple attempts to get the real story of why they ditched their plans from city officials, the reporter and her cohorts are left with no sound reasoning. But instead of being resigned to this, they have an instinct to go all Geraldo Rivera a la Al Capone's vault. But instead of finding nothing, they come face to face with a horror far worse than anything they could have ever imagined.

Along with another cameraman and crew person looking to help them out, our group sneaks their way into the abandoned underground tunnel. Right away, the tunnel serves as a restrictive force and would make a claustrophobe squirm in their seat. The early explorations serve as a means to create atmosphere and dread as you begin to wonder what could be around each and every corner. Primarily relying on flashlights and camera lights to help them see their way, the group goes deeper and deeper into the tunnel and through it's intricate offshoots and passageways.

Getting well into our exploration and learning that parts of the tunnel were used as a bomb shelter during World War II, things take a sharp turn for the strange as our 2nd camera guy begins to hear whispers in his headset. Coming across a large bell which was rung to signal imminent danger way back when, our cameraman again hears a voice in his headset when the bell is struck for amusement by the group. Only this time, the voice is really pissed off. When it's played back for us to hear, it's the first 'WTF?' moment in the film.

So of course our action is then turned to 11 as one of our crew members goes missing. It's a find and escape mission from here on out, our narrators guiding us through what happened combined with the actual footage which was captured. When they come face to face with what it is that's down there, it's a curl into the fetal position moment as not only is it terrifying but it's so expertly pulled off as the shadows and night vision camera combine along with the creature's movements. But what is it exactly? You'll just have to see for yourself.

And that's where the cool part comes in. The filmmakers are encouraging folks to download their film for free. Yes, you read that right. You can download it via Bit Torrent absolutely free. Don't believe me? Click here: http://www.thetunnelmovie.net/ After watching it, it's compelled me to buy the proper DVD version as well as a frame or two of the actual film for a $1 each. Interesting business model, eh?

Check this one out ASAP. You really have no reason not to. One of the most terrifying films I've seen all year. For fans of films like [REC] and The Descent.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, June 9, 2011

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

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

YellowBrickRoad was my most anticipated film watching experience of 2011. Having gained notoriety through various film festivals and having the mighty Bloody Disgusting step up and showcase it as its first offering in partnership with AMC theaters (more on that here), the film was positioned and poised to be one of the year's biggest indie horror hits. For me, it was my biggest disappointment.

Our film starts with being shown town archived photographs and hearing the audio recording of the lone survivor of a mass town exodus and subsequent disappearance. It seems that one day in 1940, the good folks of Friar, New Hampshire randomly decided to up and leave their little town and walk up a winding mountain road. Why exactly nobody knows but aside from the survivor, the rest were never seen or heard from again. To mark the trail, the words 'YellowBrickRoad' were etched into a rock at its starting point. And the townspeople never spoke of the incident again nor did they attempt to re-take that fateful trip.

After our history lesson, a man enters what appears to be a town's hall of records. Behind a fogged window and desk, an older man slides a file of papers under the window's opening and into the hands of the elated man. It seems like he's waited a long time for this information despite numerous attempts to keep it from him. Upon reviewing the file with his wife and friend, we learn that it contains much more detailed information about that mysterious trip.

We also learn that the man (an aspiring filmmaker***ed. correction, book writer) along with his wife and friend want to make a documentary about that day, complete with interviews from the townsfolk and an actual trip up the ill-fated mountain trail. Along with a group of other tag alongs, which includes a shrink, a botanist, a tracker and a few others (the characters are so thinly painted it was hard to keep track of who was who), they set out on their journey. But why a shrink you might ask? Apparently, the original group was going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs during their trek and our lead documentary filmmaker thought it was a good idea for one to come along and give random sanity spot checks. Are you with me?

After getting into town and having a few awkward conversations with the townsfolk about the actual locale of the road (after all, it's not outright documented on any map), a zealous worker at the local cinema house forces her way into the group and tells them she'll lead them up the road. Making their way out onto the road and starting off on their adventure, nothing of consequence happens in the early goings.

Here, instead of really focusing on character development to make us empathize with characters and getting us to do what all good movies should (make us care), we are instead exposed to side conversations that are very superficial and really don't reveal too much about who these people actually are. They're akin to 'I'm here and I'm along for the trip because this is what I do as a insert profession here____' types of conversations. Nothing interesting happens until we start hearing the sounds of big band era music pumping through the woods one day. At first, its met with a welcome to break up the monotony as there is a certain charm about it. It's hardly threatening. But what's odd is that no one decides to turn back around or make a run for the hills. Anyways, after a few days, the music becomes grating and representative of the group's rapidly deteriorating psyche.

So of course, our group starts to go nuts and people fly into inexplicable rages. When the proverbial shit hits the fan though, sure there is a brutality about it but in terms of caring, it's completely lacking. Despite the group's turning on each other, our lead filmmaker is bound and determined to make it to the end of the road, even leaving his wife behind to do so. When he makes it to the end, it's both confusing and uneventful. Somewhere, I think a larger message was trying to be conveyed. I thought that some sort of spiritual message was being imparted as one of our travelers mentions God in his conversations but any connection made with how the film actually ends just doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I know I'm being a bit vague here but I don't want to be spoiler-ish in any way.

Overall, YellowBrickRoad is flat out underwhelming. A real disappointment considering how much I was looking forward to it.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Joshua (2007)

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

This film should be receiving more fanfare. If there's room in the horror classics category for recent creepy kid films like The Children and Orphan, then Joshua certainly deserves a spot right alongside.

From the start, it's like the filmmaker is messing with the viewer as I'm sure most (when starting the film or viewing the trailer) instantly have visions of little Damien dancing in their heads. As a matter of fact, I'm 110% positive that the filmmaker is playing into our notion of the creepy, possessed, driven by Satan kid. We're introduced to our family who have just welcomed a new born daughter into their lives. Their nine year old son is immediately shown to have a strangeness about him both in how he talks and how he engages his family members. He takes to playing the piano as mom and dad talk to grandma. This is clearly a kid of a certain smarts and born into a certain lifestyle (namely, rich and privileged). Talks of religion begin with grandma being a bit of a bible pusher but mom and dad won't have anything to do with baptizing the infant. Exhibit A in the case of the filmmaker beginning to mess with us. Exhibit B comes in the form of mom (played by Vera Farmiga) who's sporting Mia Farrow hair a la Rosemary's Baby. And it's uncanny how much she bears a resemblance to her. Coincidence? I think not.

It's not too long before we see little Joshua becoming jealous of the baby. After all, he's been the center of attention for so long. Initially, comments and facial expressions here and there don't do much other than display your typical older kid being jealous of the new one. But things take a far more sinister turn when the oblivious dad (Sam Rockwell) starts hearing choking sounds over the baby's monitor.

Things reach a point where actions can no longer be ignored when the killing of the family dog occurs at the hands of Joshua. Dad is still in denial saying he couldn't possibly have done it but mom at this point has flipped out. So much so, that she constantly interrupts dad at work and has turned to full-on paranoia at each and every one of Joshua's actions. It's obvious he's purposefully messing with her. As a result, daddy has to put her in a 'special' home.

A turn for the far worse occurs when Joshua is taken to the local museum with grandma and little sister in tow. Back at home, dad gets an inkling that something just isn't right with Joshua when he picks up the family camera and plays a video recording of Joshua, standing over his sister's crib with a menacing look about him. He rushes to the museum and is greeted by Joshua, pushing the stroller to the edge of the steps which lead up to the museum, grandma running as fast as she can behind. He catches him at the top of the stairs, picks up the stroller and momentarily turns his back, leaving Joshua and grandma standing at the top of the stairs. You can probably guess what happens next. Things culminate with dad taking things out on little Joshua, quite literally as he assaults him in public. This lands daddy in trouble and Joshua in the hands of another caretaker. All seems right until he approaches a piano in his new home, begins to play, and looks into the camera with a grin breaking his face.

With great performances and a foreboding sense of dread throughout, Joshua is a nerve racking little thriller. Not for the blood and guts crowd but if you dig the creepy kid flick, this one delivers. And it may make you think twice about having one.

Cortez the Killer

Friday, June 3, 2011

The PoT Podcast Is Back!

After a bit of a hiatus due to two pesky things known as work and life, the PoT podcast is back!

In this episode, I talk to writer/director Barbara Stepansky about her atmospheric and brutal independent horror feature entitled Fugue. We talk about the idea behind the film and how it came to be, her experiences as a filmmaker (including working with Christopher Nolan, name drop!) as well as her upbringing in Germany. She grew up with a perfect view to a cemetery just outside her bedroom window. Um, I'd be out of that casa in two shakes of a lambs tale. You dig?

Anywhos, click on the player below and enjoy!

P.S. I need to come up with a better sign off. If anyone can think of a neat-o one for me, there just might be a prize involved.

Cortez the Killer