Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Good Neighbors (2011)

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

Good Neighbors is one of the most bizarre moving watching experiences I've had this year. Labeled as a comedy, crime and thriller picture (in that order) on IMDB, I was surprised to see it be anything but and more of a thriller with a small sprinkling of horror thrown in for good measure. Funny this was absolutely not.

Our film starts by introducing us to our primary cast of characters residing in an apartment building: a quirky, obsessed with her cats woman; a quiet, paraplegic man that she maintains an awkward friendship with; and a young man who's just moved in, equally as quirky and not particularly adept at social situations. After multiple hallway run-ins, our newest resident becomes bound and determined to get to know them better. Despite a few rebuffs, the three agree to have dinner with each other one night.

Our young man is the first to arrive at the dinner party, indulging in a bit of wine and talking to the paralyzed resident, outright asking him how he came to be so. After apologizing profusely and blaming the wine on his sensitive question, the wheelchair bound man tells him he was in a car accident years ago which killed his wife. Our cat crazed woman arrives not too much longer thereafter and the trio end up spending a nice evening together.

In the backdrop of these events, is a serial killer who's running around town, raping and viciously murdering young women. Our socially inept guy becomes found of our feline loving woman and he offers to walk her home every night from her job at the local Chinese restaurant. As the death toll rises, and the local detective becomes interested in our team of three, we start to wonder if someone is hiding a dark secret.

An alcoholic, obsessed about her ex next door neighbor has a seething hatred for her neighbor's cats. After multiple warnings and profanity laced tirades, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Our cat crazed woman awakes one morning to find her cats dead. She quickly hatches a plan to exact revenge to kill her and make the whole thing look as though the local serial killer is to blame. As she executes her plan and then makes her escape from the woman's apartment out through the back fire escape, we find out another person in our trio isn't who they say they are and things take an even more bizarre turn. Of course, I won't play the spoils here.

The main issue I had with the film is that there was no character development beyond the aforementioned surface level characteristics. There was no real depth to them and their bizarre actions are never fully explained. Even when our 'main' killer is revealed, it's a total head scratching moment as there was nothing concrete that you could point to to explain why they acted so against character.

Still, the film kept my attention throughout and had its moments. If you like quirky indie whodunits, I guess you could do a lot worse. I just don't find myself revisiting it anytime soon.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

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

You ever have those films where you forget about the fact that you've watched it almost instantaneously after doing so, then you reflect back months later and you say to yourself 'Oh yeah, I remember watching that. Meh.' That was me with this flick.

The original exploitation classic, 1978's I Spit On Your Grave (aka Day of The Woman), stands as one of the most difficult film watching experiences I've ever had. I haven't revisited it since I saw it about 10 years ago and I don't intend to anytime soon. When the remake of this film was announced a couple years back, I immediately felt like it was doomed to failure. How could it possibly recreate the intensity of that film and not get an X or unrated tag? Cynicism towards remakes notwithstanding, I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to 'update' this tale and (hopefully) release it to a mass audience. I still stand by my initial assertion that the film has a kick ass title and the only reason why it was remade is because it would make money and put butts in the seat.

The film pretty much follows the course of the original: an attractive young woman heads out to the countryside, in need of some alone time to finish a novel she's working on. Along the way, she stops at the local gas station to re-fill, ogling local men are shown nearby chomping at the bit to get a piece of her. Just when she thinks she'll have a peaceful and productive weekend, her world is thrown into chaos when the men viciously rape her and leave her for dead. And, as is with the original, she doesn't die and it's payback time.

The main issues I took with the film are two-fold. One, the men weren't very menacing. Strip away some of their stubby facial hair and a bit of dirt from them and they could easily star in any day time soap opera episode. Second, when the excrement hit the fan, our lead 'heroine' never really displays any true fear of these men and what it is she may or may not be actually in for. What is displayed felt forced and tantamount to someone just screaming for no real reason. It's hard to actually feel any sort of fear or worry for this woman. What made the original so memorable was that you could actually see the fear in Camille Keaton's eyes. And her screams. So gut wrenching.

Outside of an interesting acid bath kill scene, there is nothing here worth seeing. Don't waste your time.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Exorcismus -- aka The Possession of Emma Evans (2010)

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

I know what you're thinking after reading the post title: another demonic possession film involving a young girl? Haven't we seen this 1,000 times over before? For the most part, Exorcismus pretty much follows suit with just about every possession flick you've ever seen. But the real kicker comes with the twist which is revealed around the 3rd act. And boy, is it a doozy.

Emma is your typical teenage girl: 'rebellious', a Hot Topic frequent buyer and she loves really bad corporate butt rock. She likes to hang with friends, get high and bust out the ouija board, hoping to conjure up some supernatural shenanigans. After a hard night of partying and not remembering exactly what it is her and her friends did the night before, she awakes in her house. It's not too much longer thereafter, she gets into a fight with dear ol' mum and dad. But before she can storm out of the house, she hits the floor and starts convulsing with foam spewing from her mouth. That can't be good.

Mom, dad and little brother rush her to the hospital where they're met by the girl's uncle who happens to be a priest. After running some tests, the doc tells the fam that he has no idea what befell the young girl. Before they head home, the girl has a chat with her uncle and he assures her that all will be right and that he's there for her should she need anything.

When she returns home, things hit the proverbial fan. Emma starts seeing things, has horrible visions, and comes close to drowning her little brother in the bath tub. Things come to a horrible head when she sends her brother's soccer ball in the direction of the street and he goes chasing after it. What do you suppose happens next?

Not paying heed to her cries of something going wrong or the offer of help from the priestly uncle, mom and dad are now supportive of giving their daughter some divine intervention. The uncle only has a couple of rules: he must be alone when performing the rite and he must be allowed to videotape. Kinky.

At first, the uncle's actions seem to be keeping the horned one at bay and lessening his grasp on the soul of the young girl. But when things don't change for the better and our young girl finds what it is the uncle's been actually recording, well, our story is turned on it's head as his true intentions are revealed. Since this is the greatest payoff the film has to offer (and because it 100% hinges on it), I won't give it away. Let's just say the priest is revealed to have less than good intentions and the video he's captured is for purely self-serving gain. Things get out of hand though as the man from downstairs grows in power and ultimately, our padre is served his just desserts.

A unique take on the possession film (more for the gut punching twist than anything), I was presently surprised by Exorcismus. It's definitely not the same ol' same ol'. Check it out now on various cable VOD services.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

TrollHunter (2010)

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

With a summer full of franchises, sequels, fighting robots and lots o' explosions, it’s refreshing to find a film that has the ‘big’ summer movie feel to it just without some of the accompanying bells and whistles. TrollHunter is the most fun I’ve had this year watching a summertime flick. And I didn't actually have to step foot into a theater!

The beginning of our story kicks off with us following a group of documentary filmmakers as they cover stories of illegal bear poaching in the Norwegian countryside. Folks are disgusted at the actions of these illegal hunters and will stop at nothing to catch them in the act. Little do they know it’s all a government backed ruse that's steeped in misdirection, aiming to cover up what’s really going on.

Our filmmakers roll into a mobile trailer park later that day after receiving a report of a man who may know more about what’s going on and may have information about this group of illegal poachers. After being met with silence when they knock on his trailer door, they hang around the site until he decides to head out later. When he does so, they follow him out into the now darkened woods and find that our hunter is dealing with a nuisance far greater than any bear.

The group convinces the rugged and rough man named Hans to let them tag along and document his story and what it is that he does. At first, he’s reluctant but the kids charm him a bit and he thinks it’s high time for the people of Norway to know about what’s really going on. He only has 1 rule: they can’t have the blood of Christians (I had to look up this requirement to see how it fit into the overall folklore). After confirming that neither of them are of the Christian faith (with one of them joking as they ask ‘What about Muslims?’), the group head out together.

As we follow our group in their adventures in staving off a troll advancement (which is pegged as rather odd as they are fairly reclusive), we learn more about Hans and the hazards of his job. No extra pay or health coverage. Long hours, fighting crap weather and terrain, his is a job that is virtually thankless. And to make matters worse, to aid him in getting close to these creatures, he has to concoct a body wash that's made from troll piss. Truly, his is a job that is devoid of any sort of glory or sexiness.

Our adventure gets more hair raising as the group is met with certain peril as Hans must get close to a troll to extract a blood sample (this is part of his 'mission' as scientists seek to understand them more). After this and a harrowing trek through a cave, the ultimate objective still awaits them: kill the 'mega' troll who's destroying the countryside and on the verge of making himself known to the people of Norway. A big no-no.

TrollHunter is the quintessential adventure film and surprisingly, it isn't bogged down or cheapened with bad CGI. The effects are incredible as is the sound. It’s having a limited theatrical run currently and if it’s playing in your area, do everything you can to check it out. It's also available through various VOD services. Check it out. Check it out NOW.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Absentia (2011)

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

A film is here to save me from the recent string of mediocrity that I've bared witnessed to and it is called Absentia. Atmospheric, captivating, terrifying and full of suspense, it's one of the most original stories to play out on the small screen that I've had the privilege of viewing this year.

Tricia is a wife soon to be formally removed of such a status. You see, her husband has been missing for 7 years. No clues as to where he is. No goodbye note, message or text. No body found as a victim of some cruel crime. We're introduced to her at the beginning of our story, a woman still clinging to (maybe) a sliver of hope as she tacks up the last batch of missing signs to telephone poles and bulletin boards. But it soon becomes obvious that she submitted to the grieving process long before. And filling out a formal 'in absentia' court document is the last remaining seal on the proverbial coffin.

Coming to live with her is her younger sister Callie, a drifter who's recovering from a drug addiction. Callie is there to help seal the deal, getting her to move on with her life and out of the place where she and her husband called home. With the mention of the court document on it's way and insurance payments which will subsequently come, her husband (named Daniel) starts appearing in the house, a ghostly white figure with hollowed out eyes. It's almost as if Daniel doesn't want this last bit of formality to occur to make things 'official.' In addition to showing up in the house, he appears as Tricia is signing the now arrived document at her lawyer's office, Daniel standing over her shoulder in obvious anger and disapproval. What plays to such great effect in these scenes are that there are no jolts which are accompanied by a discordant soundtrack. They're genuine scares designed to rattle your cage without a moment of anticipation.

So now that the deal is done, Tricia looks forward to moving on with her life. But things take a turn for the bizarre when Callie goes out jogging one day, through a stretch of tunnel that runs under a highway and connects to a city park. On her return back through, she comes upon a man first believed to be homeless and in need of food. The man strangely asks for a 'trade' and she takes it as nothing more than going home and bringing back some leftovers from dinner that night. She does so, and sets the food near the start of the tunnel when she does not see the man in the same position where she left him. Another man with a garbage bag sets down his own offering and gives the woman a vague warning before running off.

If that wasn't strange enough, Tricia agrees to a date with the lead detective that was working her husband's case. As they head out for the night, they run into Daniel, in the street, pale, bloodied and only wearing underwear. They rush him to the hospital and find him severely malnourished with some strange artifacts lodged in his stomach. Thinking her husband had finally come home for good, she dials family to tell them of the news. When she gets him home, she finds that he's been trapped in another world and the thing which kept him there is not about to let him go.

I won't delve too much more into the story but the reveal of what it is that kept him confined to the tunnel space (along with many other victims) is done really well as a lot is left to the imagination. Sure we see bits and flashes of the creature but the explanation from Daniel of what 'it' looks like, is enough to send your imagination running wild. Which is another element that plays to such great effect. For to have a CGI'd to hell monster or something that is rubbery in the vein of Roger Corman, would have rendered things (and all the great suspense built to this point) all for naught and just plain silly. But do you know what's even more of a mind screw than all of that? By film's end, the sister has resorted to drugs to help her cope and the severly fragile state of Tricia, which very well could have warped her perception of reality, leaves you wondering, 'Was there an actual monster all along?'

See this film. This is the antidote for all things boring, dull, remade, rehashed and unoriginal. Add another to my year end 'best of' list.

For more information about Absentia, check out the film's website:

Cortez the Killer