Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Ward (2010)

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

I've been looking forward to this one for awhile. I'm a huge John Carpenter fan and I awaited his return to feature length horror films with excitement albeit, with a heavy dose of trepidation. After all, over the past 15 years or so, his output has been spotty at best. Does the master of horror have anything left in the tank or is he going the way of most of his contemporaries, with no tricks left and with a clear sign that he should just retire to the horror filmmaker's old folks home? I wouldn't go that far in saying that he should quite the game altogether. On the contrary, he does some things with this film that I do like. But unfortunately, he does far too many things I don't which includes an ending which will elicit many a strong reaction from viewers who have seen this tactic one too many times before.

Our story begins with a teenage girl, shown in front of what we believe to be a childhood home. House ablaze, it's mere moments before the authorities come and haul her off to the loony bin.
She's taken to an asylum which will serve as her new home until she's deemed fit to return to society. The building is quickly established as being a character unto itself as it has that same sort of foreboding vibe that most great horror locales tend to give off. Carpenter from the onset using the setting to establish unease.

Getting settled in, our young lass gets acquainted with a handful of other girls that are also locked up. Not a whole lot is given in terms of background but general pictures are painted: one's antisocial, one's neurotic, one's a bit psychopathic and one's a bit of a bitch. Not really sure why the last one is in the mix exactly. As a matter of fact, outside of their general characterizations, there really isn't anything here that tells me they are truly a danger to themselves or society. Did they kill someone? Did they slit mommies throat? Did daddy not hug them enough? However, this is explained later on in our 'grand reveal' so I guess in hindsight it doesn't really matter but it's troubling in the early goings as you're wondering why they're really there.

As you can probably guess, there is a history at this place. In particular, a previous patient is discovered to be haunting the halls. Some signature Carpenter work here as he employs long hallways to create a wonder and fear as to what could possibly lie at the end of them. When our haunt is revealed we learn that she's there to exact revenge upon the girls for what they did to her. Or is she really?

Look, I don't want to give away the ending but we've seen it done before (hint--*SPOILER ALERT*--: it starred John Cusack a few years back and featured a cast of characters at a roadside lodge). When our 'twist' was revealed, it felt like a complete cop out. Despite the general conditions painted of the characters, Carpenter had been really effective in creating a certain mood and atmosphere. When the reveal hits, it made the prior work all for naught because you just couldn't believe it went the route it did. It's that terrible.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Episode 5 of the PoT Podcast is Large and In Charge!

The latest episode of the Planet of Terror podcast is all up in your bidness and is just in time for Saturday morning breakfast and coffee!

This episode features an interview with writer/director Philip Gelatt. His first EVER feature, The Bleeding House, premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. It's a phenomenal thriller, featuring a family trying to hide a dark secret from their past and moving on with their lives in the process. But it's thwarted by a mysterious man who shows up at their home one day. Initially, he's charming. Ultimately though, he's revealed to have less than favorable intentions.

We talk about the idea behind the film, his experiences during production and our love/hate relationship with remakes. Silliness ensues as we talk about the masturbation scene in Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slashers: Why The Bad Rap?

‘The lowest form of humour’

- English writer Samuel Johnson in reference to the use of puns

The above phrase (substitute ‘humour’ for ‘horror’) often comes to mind when speaking to fans of horror regarding (arguably) its most oft maligned sub-genre: the slasher film. At times, it’s hard to refute that feeling or in some extreme cases, the outright hatred of it. Even though, by and large, zombie films have had a recent run of the generic, slashers continue to be the red headed step child of the horror genre. Why is that? Before we answer that question, a brief run down of its history is essential.

Let’s go all the way back to 1960 when a little film premiered that would pretty much set the blueprint for all slasher films that followed: Psycho. Sure, some films had slasher elements such as 1960’s Peeping Tom, but Psycho was what really gave the sub-genre a formula with which to start: take a socially maladjusted male (or female), a traumatic event which he/she is never able to shake, a disguise to hide behind, an assistant to this soon-to-be vehicle of death (AKA weapon of choice), and a group of people that antagonize him in some way which in turn, sets him/her off. Sure, certain elements have changed over the decades, with some being reflective of the times. But with Psycho, a formula was born.

After 1978’s defining Halloween, it was pretty much all downhill from there. OK that's not quite fair but we did see everything from copycats to outright rip-offs, Friday the 13th, Offerings, Edge of the Axe to name a few; to sleazed out affairs like Aerobicide (AKA Killer Workout), Iced, and Evil Laugh. Movies were churned out en masse and this style of film was beaten like a dead horse. But hot damn I couldn’t get enough of them. They’re like horror’s equivalent of a box of chocolates: you always know what you’re going to get (yes, I just quoted Forrest Gump on a horror blog). It’s easy fun that relieves you from the mind numbing likes of horror’s more serious and exhausting fare (I’m looking at you Martyrs!). Even with the recent resurgence of the sub-genre, and its strict adherence to ‘the rules’, I can’t get enough of these films, good or bad.

So I ask you, why is this sub-genre so oftentimes dismissed? Lack of style or substance? Too paint-by-numbers? The films are mostly shit? What say yous?

For a more critical take and perspective, my friend Jayson over at the Basement of Ghoulish Decadence posted his reply: http://www.ghoulbasement.com/2011/08/re-slashers-why-bad-rap.html

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dream Home (2010)

Fear 3/5
Gore -- It's Off The Mutha Fuckin' Chains!
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 3/5
T&A Factor 2/5

Um, wow. I know I can be prone to hyperbole at times. But hot damn! Dream Home is the most zany, over-the-top, 'holy fuck did that just happen?' modern slasher film I've seen since Inside. Along with it's brutal killings it has completely fucknuts crazy scenes that borderline Dead Alive in terms of cartoony-ness. It will alternately make you squirm and laugh in its ridiculousness. And to top it all off, there is a bit of social commentary going on which will make you think it's not completely implausible in our current keeping up with the Joneses society, no matter how extremely grotesque and insane the film gets.

Meet Cheng. She works a thankless call center position and gets yelled at by people daily when she tries to up-sell existing bank customers with a new service. She also happens to work a part-time job to earn extra money. She has a superficial sexual relationship with an old childhood friend who happens to be a married man. She does so with the hope that he'll loan her some money. All of this is done with the hope that she'll be able to own her own condo in a fancy schmancy area of Tokyo complete with a harbor side view.

Interspersed with her day and night activities, is a bit of a back story. It seems her and her family used to live near the ocean. Even after growing up, she has never let go of a fond dream of one day owning her own picturesque place. She continues her goal as she heads out into the work force but now has to accommodate for her now widowed father and younger brother. But dad's health soon deteriorates and he eventually dies from a revealed sickness, acquired from years of working a factory job. So it's just her and broseph now. And a nice insurance check.

But it isn't quite enough for her to get her dream home. Despite pleas from her lender to look for a cheaper place, she's bound and determined to get a specific condo which she was introduced to by her agent only a few days ago. Against all rational thought (including living within her means), she does the most extreme thing she can think of to get her dream home: kill the tenants! But it's not kill the tenants and just squat in their home. No, no. It's a masterfully planned attack with a focus being on a certain section of the building. The goal? Off as many people as possible in order to bring property values down to a more affordable level. Genius!

Her assault actually begins at the start of our film (it does jump around a bit in terms of timelines) when she offs the night security guard in grisly fashion as she fastens a zip tie around his neck and he struggles with a box cutter to remove it and ends up stabbing himself in the neck. Gnarly. But flash forward and we see her take out a pregnant woman, her adulterous husband and their roommate. She primarily utilizes her trusty utility belt filled with hammers but she'll make due with other items she finds in the house: knives, golf clubs and a vacuum sealer which is used in the pregnant woman's suffocation. Yowzas!

Shit goes off the rails when her party crashing antics takes place with the neighbor next door. Two dopeheads are entertaining two completely smashed girls with the hope that a 4-way will ensue. One of the girls passes out on the couch and one of the guys ditches his buddy with the other girl and exits stage left to the bedroom. After another guy enters the house to deal some drugs, enter our determined home owner and all hell breaks loose. She takes a knife to the drug dealer and promptly disembowels him, stabs and hammers away at the passed out girl who's puked all over the place, and does the same to the other kid who's not getting any tail tonight. What a drag. If you're going to go out that way, might as well have gotten some tail beforehand. Right? Speaking of which, our now banging from behind guy gets one through his back AND has his penis removed and thrown onto the pillow next to our face down female. I won't play the spoils for the other, oh, 3 or so more body counts racked up. But lets just say things conclude with one of the best 2X4 impalements ever committed to film. So does Cheng get away with it and get her dream home? Well, you'll just have to watch silly.

You'll laugh, you'll cry (maybe not) but more likely hurl, Dream Home is one of the most insane horror films I've ever seen, slasher or otherwise. I saw it a few days ago and I still have the compulsive need to shower. The most epic tags ever to appear on a post in 5...4...3...2...1...

BTW, you can check out Dream Home now via NetFlix instant.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ghost From The Machine -- aka Phasma Ex Machina (2011)

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

Ghost From the Machine is an original and ultimately heartbreaking ghost story. Subtle and nuanced, the film tells the story of an afflicted young man who's bound and determined to reach and bring back his parents from 'the other side' at the expense of maintaining personal relationships. You hope he achieves his singular purpose because if not, he stands to lose a lot. After many trials and some success, he learns a difficult lesson in that no one is meant to ever come back.

Our story begins with a funeral, our main character, a young twenty-something named Cody, is mourning the loss of his mother and father. Later on in our story, we come to find that they died in an accident that could have been avoidable. We flash forward in time to his home, his younger middle school aged brother asking him about a device that he's spent a considerable amount of time developing. It seems that Cody has been studying what defines supernatural occurrences and has narrowed down the void that prevents spirits from crossing over: the joining of negative ions and electromagnetic activity. This marriage, he believes, will serve as a bridge and bring back dear ol' mom and dad.

After multiple failed attempts, Cody presses on as he visits a local thrift store to fish for parts. He figures that something has to give and that all of his careful planning, mapping, fizzed out and short circuited attempts and re-attempts will finally work out. It must. It has to. His grief has cost him friends including a girlfriend and if he doesn't start being more responsible, protective services is not too far away from removing his younger brother from the childhood home that they share.

A tip from the thrift store clerk finds Cody visiting an old tech nerd, a man who's asked to catalog and maintain outdated military equipment just in case it's ever needed again. In his possession, the man has a solar panel which will provide a better energy source for Cody's machine. The old tech nerd sells him the part and Cody returns to his garage to continue work on his machine.

It seems that his latest addition is the magic trick. Strange noises and voices are now heard regularly in the house. Radios turned off come back on. Our old tech nerd back at home, finds his dead wife's framed picture inexplicably re-positioned in the living room. One particular morning, his breakfast bowl takes a trip across the kitchen table as he's reading the paper. Cody takes note of things happening in his own home but they don't compare to the more violent instances of paranormal activity (sorry, I couldn't resist) that he and his brother are about to face.

Our widowed tech nerd awakens one night to find his dead wife washing dishes in the kitchen. At first, he can't believe what he's seeing. After a couple of days and some initial hesitation, he begins to settle in to his old life. After all, he had plans and his wife was unfairly taken from him. Although his curiosity gets the best of him one day and he ventures out in search of how this all happened. Being the science man that he is, he takes an EMF reader and scours the neighborhood. Who do you think he bumps in to, working in his garage? Initially, Cody shoos him off but eventually and after another visit, he tells him how it all works.

While our tech guy carries on with his now returned wife, Cody and his brother encounter some spirits that have less than favorable intentions. Instead of welcoming back mom and dad, they come face to face with the previous occupants of their home, an old couple who ran a day care. It seems that some wrongdoings were carried out there and the husband turned to violent action to resolve their problems. Cody realizes there is only one way to get rid of their unwanted guests and that is to destroy the machine. But as he struggles with if he should really destroy it and keeping it going for the tech guy now turned friend, he takes his attention off the one thing he should have taken care of all along: his brother. Our film ends in heartbreaking fashion as Cody loses out entirely. But it seems like someone might be willing to pick up the reins on his obsessive project.

At it's heart, Ghost From The Machine is a more character based film than pure horror. Sure, it has its scares and genuinely creepy moments, but it's the focus on the characters which really drives the film. When I stated that it's subtle and nuanced, I meant it is in such away that it never really force feeds you the 'why' of Cody being so single minded. You just know that he is extremely grief stricken and in some way, feels responsible for what happened. The same with our widowed tech geek. You never really know the ins and outs of his relationship with his wife. You just know that she was the love of his life. The horror elements are balanced carefully with our character driven moments and the filmmaker pulled off this balancing act exceptionally well. Had he not done so, the ending would not have packed as much of an emotional of a punch as needed. Truly not a made for Hollywood ending.

Ironically, it's getting the remake treatment through Universal Pictures. It will be interesting to see what comes of the ending. Regardless, I can't wait to see what else is in store first time feature length filmmaker Matt Osterman.

More info about the film including release info can be found via its website: http://www.ghostfromthemachine.com/

Cortez the Killer

Friday, August 12, 2011

News You Can Use!

From the folks at Fatal Pictures comes the film Familiar. I'm excited to check this one out for a couple of reasons. The first being the talented folks behind the production. We reviewed their fantastic short Worm not too long ago (click here for the skinny). The second, it stars Robert Nolan who played the twisted lead in the aforementioned film. I haven't seen a performance quite like his in some time and he just played his character with such maniacal brilliance that I couldn't wait to see what he did next. And it looks like I might find out soon enough.

Art for the film can be seen to the very left of this here post and a brief synopsis and more about the film's details can be found below.


Through a series of tragic events a middle aged man grows to suspect the negative impulses plaguing his mind may not be his own.

Starring: Robert Nolan Astrida Auza & Cathryn Hostick

Cinematography & Co Producer: Michael Jari Davidson Special Effects by: Ryan Louagie Carlos Henriques & Steven Dawley Produced by: Zach Green Written & Directed by: Richard Powell



Congrats to our friends over at MonsterPants Productions on getting distribution for their zany Christsploitation horror romp, Satan Hates You through TLA 's Danger After Dark imprint.

Be on the lookout for this one in October as it gets a proper DVD and VOD release. More news to come.


Friend of PoT and fellow blogger Joe Lopez aka the Terror Scribe, is unleashing his first production, a short film, upon the unsuspecting masses! I had a chance to check it out and it's a neat little nightmarish flick with Lovecraftian themes.

More info about it including an upcoming screening can be found below.

A rare book dealer receives a strange book with a small note that reads only, "The world must know." As he attempts to decipher the contents, he finds himself faced with deeper and darker levels of occult knowledge that chips at his sanity.

“Annotated”, a short film of Lovecraftian horror adapted from an original story, is the first film by a dedicated collection of first-time film makers. Calling themselves “the TerrorScribe Mafia,” the group is made up of writer/director Joe Lopez, cinematographer Keith Bates, makeup effects artist Tammy Dupal and producer Stacia Langenheder.

“Annotated” is also an official selection of the 2011 Unnameable Blood Bath Film Festival which will be held August 20th at the historic Texas Theater in Dallas, Texas.


And last, but certainly not least, the fantastic short Alice Jacobs is Dead can now be streamed for FREE on Hulu (review here).

I've long been a fan of this film and I had the honor and privilege of screening it at last year's edition of the Crypticon Horror Convention in Seattle. Starring Adrienne Barbeau and John Lazar, Alice tells the story of a doctor who's determined to find a cure for a disease that has afflicted much of humanity. But what lengths will he go to find one and will it compromise his life in more ways than one?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grave Encounters (2011)

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

Another in a line of recent films that I've been hotly anticipating, Grave Encounters seeks to put a bit of a spin on the found footage sub genre. How exactly do you say? Well for starters, it's a bit of a mockumentary at the onset. Not really Spinal Tap levels of silliness but its not too far off. After a television exec gives a bit of background around a group who were shooting a pilot for a new paranormal investigation show, we are shown a video which we're told has 'not been doctored in any way.' The beginning introduces us to our cast of characters and they're all what you'd expect, characters ripped straight from Syfy and Travel channel's finest and most hokiest: a female occult expert, a psychic, a tech guy and a cameraman. The team is rounded out by Lance Preston, the lead investigator. He's not too far off from the douchebaggery that is this dude:

Lance begins talking about Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, the site of mass lobotomies perpetrated by the resident doctor and the location of their most haunted shoot to date. They go through the routine of setting up their equipment and listening to the stories of caretakers and kids who are squatting in the facility. But when the camera stops rolling after a particular segment we see that the whole lot of them are basically full of shit. The girl isn't really a hardcore occultist, the psychic puts on this elaborate act when entering the building and walking through rooms, and our lead doesn't really seem all that committed to capturing real paranormal occurrences. Rather it seems that he's more focused on selling the idea of his show.

As you can imagine, the tables get turned and our group really comes across a horror far greater than any simple bumps and thumps in the night. But before that happens, they get locked in for the evening by the caretaker and he's told to come back at 6am sharp. They spend a significant amount of time surveying the area with Lance completely in character, his hokey, spaced out, William Shatner-like dramatically paused delivery in full effect. You're just waiting for something to happen but nothing does. This is where the filmmakers (dubbed The Vicious Brothers) do a commendable job drawing everything out and creating a bit of a slow burn. They know, that to give you the goods immediately, would ruin the film and render actions completely pointless. For the film truly to be effective, we need to see this hokey, halfheartedly believing group really break down emotionally and come to realize they aren't getting out alive.

Our investigation is in full swing when supernatural occurrences start off pretty tame: a moving wheelchair, a closing door, a brush of someone's hair. But things soon get more violent and our crew comes face to face with some of the institution's lingering residents. The first batch of scares are really effective and you are just waiting for the tipping point where this group just completely melts down and loses all hope and rational thought.

But this is where the film ultimately fails. Yes the characters 'freak out' but you don't really feel like they are breaking down and really away all that much from character. Even Lance is more concerned with capturing everything on camera. It's not until the fateful end that we really see him breaking down. For it to break away from the hokey nature it set out with you'd really need to be sold on the fear of the group with their mental faculties just completely breaking down. That never really happens. What would have worked to great effect is if the group actually had more infighting or even more terrifying than that, so determined with his footage, Lance lashes out at one of the group members and causes mortal harm. Something, anything to convey that some or all had completely lost it would have worked wonders. Instead, what we're left with are some effective scares and essentially a long episode of Ghost Adventures.

A tough balancing act and transition for sure, but one that ultimately needed to happen. Unfortunately, the film as a whole just doesn't work. I do appreciate the attempt here at doing something different. And I'll definitely keep tabs on what the meanly moniker-ed Vicious Brothers do in the future. I do think there is enough talent here to pull of something really great.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Start Your Weekend Off Right!

So you may find this hard to believe but I dig things other than horror films. I know, I know. Shocking. One of them is heavy metal. But this post is the furthest thing from jean jackets and bullet belts. The other thing I like is cheesy electro pop. Stuff that's catchy as herpes and gets your head a bobbin'. So how in the eff are both of these related? Well one of my favorite metal blogs, MetalSucks (irony folks) posted a video by some dude named Miles Fisher. Not only are his videos hilarious, but they also have a horror aspect to them.

First up, is the video for his single New Romance. Not only does it have a Saved by The Bell theme (even lifting scenes from the actual show), but the main characters are offed in Final Destination-like fashion.

Next up, is the video for the single This Must Be The Place (a cover of a Talking Heads tune). It features an American Psycho theme (again lifting elements) and features a pretty dead on ringer and impersonation of Christian Bale by Miles himself. The hooker scene in the bedroom is fucking hilarious! ENJOY!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

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

Jumpin' jehosaphat, wow wee!! Tucker and Dale is a rip roarin', big ol' jug of moonshine drinkin', bust out your banjo and get on down with some square dancin', good time. Seriously folks, this film has instantly become one of my all-time favorite horror comedies. You'll be slappin' yo momma if you miss this one!

Kicking off our backwoods fiasco, is a group of douchey (and I mean douchey of the highest order, like popped Izod collars levels of douche) college kids on their way out to a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains for a little weekend getaway and hanky panky. Why they chose Deliverance Land who knows. Along the way they totally flip out as they forgot the beer! Bummer bro! So they stop at a little roadside shop where they run into some locals and they immediately peg them as hicks. Kids today, so judgmental!

On their way out, they run into Tucker and Dale, two best friends that want nothing more out of life than to drink beer, fish and fix up an old vacation house they bought so that they can enjoy it any ol' time they pleases. Dale is a bit of a shy guy, not too self-assured and definitely not the lady magnet. Tucker dares him to go over to one of the ladies and talk to her but before he can string something coherent together, the kids flip out because (of course) every country dude is out to rape you and make you squeal like a pig.

So the douchey kids head out and eventually make it to their destination. Tucker and Dale find themselves not too far away from the gang but they aren't there to make their weekend hell. Instead, they're focused on fixing the house, doin' some fishin' and beer drankin'. But their peaceful weekend is interrupted that night when the kids go skinny dippin' and one of the girls decides to jump off a large rock. She bumps her head on the way down and Dale jumps into the water to rescue her. He then pulls her unconscious body back into their fishing boat. The rest of the kids think that they've captured her and are intent on carrying out unmentionable things. Unmentionable I say! But all they do is take her back to their place to treat her head knock and let her rest. Awwwwww.

The girl awakes the next day and instantly, Dale is shown to be smitten. Against Tucker's wishes, he insists that she stays there and get some rest. Here is where the fun comes in: the rest of the douchey gang plot multiple attempts to rescue the girl from the perceived evil clutches of our good natured backwoodsmen and in the process, they become the evil that Tucker and Dale find themselves fending against. Sort of. Because the hilarity comes in the form of the clumsy kids who actually fumble and bumble their way to their own demise. It's enough to make Wile E. Coyote blush with jealousy. Self impalement, a head first dive into a wood chipper, a swing, duck and a miss from a lawn edger and subsequent facelift. And even though the kids essentially die by their own idiotic hands, Tucker and Dale come under the scrutiny of the local sheriff. But even that doesn't last long as another series of whacked out, cartoon-y killings take place. And as our film nears its final act, we learn that one of the kids has an unfortunate tie to the local area and why he's so particularly hellbent (even though the other kids want to skedaddle) on killing our reluctant heros.

Smart, funny and just so much damn fun, Tucker and Dale is one of the best combinations of horror and comedy that I've seen in some time. Shaun of the Dead levels of hilarity here folks and it just might be even better. When I first watched the trailer many moons ago, I thought they'd be up against some minions of the undead or horrific monsters. Loved the twist (and I'm not giving anything away by saying that) of the douche baggy kids ultimately being the worst enemy. Classic flick.

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grave Encounters: Coming Your Way Soon!

We featured the trailer for Grave Encounters on here quite some time ago. It genuinely freaked me out (check it out for yourself below). I mean just look at that face!

After playing a few festivals, it will have a small theatrical run and a showing via Tribeca film's new On Demand service. All the deets are as follows:

The film debuts theatrically with special midnight screenings on Friday August 19th and Saturday August 20th in New York (Village East Cinema) and Los Angeles (Sunset 5), followed by a week-long engagement in New York City beginning September 9th. Do you want GRAVE ENCOUNTERS to come to your hometown? Join the thousands of fans around the country who have already requested screenings via an Eventful DemandIt campaign, which can be accessed via the film’s official movie site. GRAVE ENCOUNTERS also becomes available nationwide via Tribeca On Demand starting August 25, as well as iTunes, Amazon and many other outlets.

Official Synopsis:

Lance Preston and the crew of "Grave Encounters", a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena has been reported for years.

All in the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted - it is alive - and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. They soon begin to question their own sanity, slipping deeper and deeper into the depths of madness, ultimately discovering the truth behind the hospital’s dark past…and taping what turns out to be their final episode.

Written and directed by The Vicious Brothers, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS has redefined the found footage horror genre, being hailed as "the scariest film since ‘The Ring’ by New York Press.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stake Land (2010)

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

Stake Land is a film that has been on my radar for quite some time now. It generated high praise when it first started playing festivals last year and it was later picked up by Glass Eye Pix for distribution. In addition to IFC's announcement that it would be featured as a part of it's midnight series, many critics have hailed it as a return to a more serious take on the bloodsucker story along with being one of the most gripping post apocalyptic films ever made. Needless to say, my soaking hot pants of anticipation became even more soiled. Did it deliver? Read on.

Our story starts with a monologue about the current state of the world, painted very vaguely by our narrator. Upon conclusion, we bare witness to a traumatic experience as we see a young man watch the vicious slaughter of his family at the hands of our blood sucking centerpieces. Arriving on the scene is a rough and tumble man who quickly makes work of them. It's obvious that he knows a thing or to about how to get rid of these pesky things. After saving the boy, he takes him under his wing, teaching him all that he knows about them and the 'rules' he lives by. But no rules are ever really explained. All that we know is that a stake breaking the chest plate is the way to go. The boy affectionately takes to him, referring to him as Mister and they form a bond close to that of father and son.

Out on the open road, we learn that the pair are headed to Canada, a place dubbed as the 'New Eden.' Apparently, it's free from vampires and another source of concern, rogue religious cults that are out for their own gain. The downfall of civilization and how the vampires and cults came to be is never fully explained. Along the way, they pick up a nun (Kelly McGillis), a pregnant woman (Danielle Harris) and a black man left to die in a roadside restroom. We follow them on their harrowing trek to the Great White North as they contend with the aforementioned obstacles.

I'm not going to sugar coat anything so I'm going to just come out and say it: this film is painfully boring. None of the characters are interesting in the least bit and they are so thinly painted that it's hard to invest yourself fully. For a post apocalyptic type of film, that is a death sentence. Add in multiple monologues about life, death, and perseverance that sound like fortune cookie inserts and a irritatingly repetitive soundtrack, and you have one of my most disappointing film watching experiences of this year. I can't express enough how maddening the soundtrack is. In any film, a soundtrack should be used to heighten emotional effect. It was exhaustively used in 10 min. intervals throughout the film to make EVERY scene seem as important as the one that preceded it. I don't think I've ever been so irritated by a film's soundtrack.

Sure it was nice to see vampires be a real threat for once (the creature designs were excellent) and not some brooding teen or euro trash douche bag. But this film fails at the two basic principles of filmmaking: tell a good story and make characters that matter. I won't even go into the ending that gave me angry fits and ended the film on a limp note. I think you get the idea. This film was incredibly disappointing.

Cortez the Killer