Friday, September 30, 2011

All Things Horror Presents Shudder Fest!

My good friends over at All Things Horror, Mike and Chris, put their money where their mouth is. Never ones to complain about the lack of support for independent genre films, they always give even the lowest of budgeted films a fair shake. If that wasn't enough, they put on monthly screenings at the Somerville Theater in their hometown of Somerville, MA. And they are two of the coolest cats around!

For the month of October, they have put together one heck of a lineup which includes two films (Absentia and Ashes) that are on my best of list for 2011. Definitely check out this fest if you are in the area and support fine independent works of horror.

Here is a press release with all the deets:

All Things Horror Announces “Shudder Fest” Schedule
Four Features-Twelve Shorts
October 14th & 15th
 (Boston, MA) ALL THINGS HORROR ONLINE is thrilled to announce a two night movie extravaganza that will save horror loving social malcontents and shut-ins the indignity of being stuck with SyFY Channel Original Films and edited for television SAW marathons this Halloween season.

Friday October 14th and Saturday October 15th at the Somerville Theater (55 Davis Sq. Somerville MA) we’re bringing genre fans two nights of double features and a full slate of short films. Our quartet of features represents the best of what the world of independent horror has to offer.

Fresh off its victory for Best Screenplay at Fantastic Fest, THE CORRIDOR (imdb) returns to Massachusetts with a tale about a group of friends travel to a cabin in the woods only to stumble onto something other worldly.
ABSENTIA finds a woman and her sister linking her husband’s disappearance to a strange tunnel at the end of her block. Dripping with atmosphere, ABSENTIA often feels like ALIEN set in suburban Los Angeles.

Splatter filled horror comedy hybrid I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE (imdb) has been hailed as “The Best Horror Film since Sam Raimi unleashed The Evil Dead upon the world” (Bloody-Disgusting) .

Shudder Fest marks the Boston debut of ASHES (imdb). Elias Matar’s debut feature examines an obsessive doctor whose quest to cure AIDS triggers a response that destroys the body and enrages the mind.

As part of Friday’s programming, we’re turning the short film spotlight onto Devi Snively and Deviant pictures. In 2007 Ms. Snively was one of eight participants chosen to take part in the prestigious AFI Directing Workshop For Women. Her films are noted for their whimsical take on horror and visual style that evokes memories of the four color heyday of EC Comics. Films screening include Last Seen On Dolores Street, Death in Charge, Teenage Bikini Vampire, Confederate Zombie Massacre, Raven Gets A Life and I Spit on Eli Roth.  

Tickets are available for individual films ($8 in advance online, $10 cash only at the door). Discounted double feature of all-film passes are also available. For more details, trailers and screening schedule visit our site 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements (2008)

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

Seeking Wellness is a horrifying yet oddly redemptive piece of work. Four vignettes comprise the film all of which are disturbing but on different levels. As such, it may be difficult for some to get through because of the content. On the back of the DVD cover it came with explicit directions: 'ATTENTION: Seeking Wellness is a conceptual video cycle intended to be experienced from beginning to end without interruption. If you choose to experience Seeking Wellness in another manner you will not yield maximum emotional stimulation. Please watch Seeking Wellness in its entirety without pause.' This isn't hype or hyperbole. It actually happens to be the truth as this is a film experience that evokes a whole range of emotions.

The first 'video' has no sound but the buzzing of an electrical current which feeds multiple cameras within a hospital. It appears to be a hospital in which folks are rehabbing from some sort of serious injury (i.e. losing limbs or perhaps serious burns). The camera constantly rotates between patient rooms, the reception area, a break room and a storage closet which contains drugs. Things soon turn into a nightmare as a pair of masked men storm the hospital, drag the woman at reception into one of the rooms with a patient occupying and start to rape her, brutally killing her, the doctor, and patient in the process. The cameras continue to switch and we see the men viciously murder the other patients one by one, the constant rotating giving you the feeling of a cycle that will not end and with that, a feeling of utter hopelessness.

After the sledgehammer to the face that is the beginning, our next video centers on a divorced man and his two kids at Christmastime. What starts as a fairly run-of-the-mill family experience as dad shows old pictures via a slideshow, it slowly devolves into utter shock and horror as he stops on a picture of his uncle. He tells about the 'special' relationship he had with him and how his uncle 'prepared' him for the intimate relationship they were going to have. When the projector malfunctions, dad hits the lights and daughter and son are seen hands folded on the coach with heads down. Clearly, they do not want to be there. Reluctantly, they grab Christmas presents from under the tree and begin to open them. The son gets a fairly boring Rubix cube but it's the daughter's present which causes the most gut wrenching moment. In one single gift giving act, the father signals his intent to 'prepare' his daughter for the same sort of relationship he had with his uncle. It's a scene like this that levels any you've seen in a horror film filled with blood and guts. This is real-world horror that shakes you to the core.

Our third video, involves a woman giving a college class final presentation. Her subject is a man whom she follows around and video tapes. He reveals wishes for nothing more than to contract a terminal illness which will hopefully bring his ex back into the picture and to his side when she finds out that he is gravely ill and in need of care. The woman's thesis is about how people inflict harm upon themselves in order to feel some sort of accomplishment or sense of purpose. Her subject even talks about having never amounted to much and giving himself cancer would be his 'grand' achievement. As such, he researches carcinogens and does everything he can to contract cancer: he hangs out at factories, sleeps on newly painted rooftops, to name a few. In one scene that drew a laugh from me, he's shown eating paint that's peeling away from a wall.

After it's clear that he's given himself cancer, the film awkwardly transitions into the final video which is set in the same classroom as the 3rd. Our carcinogen ingesting subject (who's heavily medicated) is placed on a gurney and members of the school's medical staff join the presenter as they cut into him and extract a significantly large tumor that's grown on his left side. In a grotesque scene, the students participate in a bit of a feast as it's explained to them that this man's commitment and sacrifice should be acknowledged and they should give thanks. This one scene is the connective tissue that makes the other 'videos' make sense.

From hopelessness to despair to self-inflicted injury to sacrifice and purpose (as odd as it is), Seeking Wellness is not an easy film to get through. Much like The Bunny Game which I experienced earlier this year, the film is extremely trying but ultimately, it is the prime example of why I love horror and why I run this site: it's thought provoking and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, September 26, 2011

Exhibit A (2007)

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

Exhibit A is a found footage flick from our friends across the pond, the Brits. Oh bloody hell Cortez, not another one of these types of movie pictures! Before you get your trousers in a bunch, this found footage flick actually has something interesting going on. No cheap scares. No bumps or thumps in the night. No loud jolt you out of your seat moments. Just a family completely deteriorating with an absolutely nutty father leading the way.

Our film begins with a seemingly normal family: a mother, father, teenage son and daughter. Laughing and joking around in the kitchen, the daughter plays with the new family toy. What else? A video camera. Moving away from the kitchen and into her room, we see the girl as she talks to the camera and shows us the various objects which adorn and take residence in it. She stops talking to the camera as she notices a young teenage girl, a neighbor, playing basketball in the driveway. At first, we think she's just filming her as she's basically shooting everything within view of the new toy. But after a prolonged period, we get a sense that the daughter has a particular interest in this girl.

Dad is revealed to be a career focused man. Hopeful of a promotion that is sure to come his way. Scratch that, more like he knows he has it in the bag. So much so, that he's taken the family out to the British coast and they've fallen in love with a particular seaside home. Even further, he's put money down on the place as surely, the promotion is coming his way soon.

As the daughter continues to document the daily doings of the family, little things start to come to the surface that initially, she thinks nothing of: she finds stacks of lotto tickets in the garage, she finds dad having a hushed conversation on his cellphone one night in said locale. But she soon grows worried after more late night conversations take place and even more so when dad insists on digging up the backyard and installing a pool to increase property value. Even crazier, it's revealed that a fellow co-worker of the father was severely beaten one night. And slowly, secrets start to unravel. Not just that of the father, but secrets that are being carried by each member of the family.

Things come to a head when we learn the father's promotion did not go through, he was in fact responsible for the beating of the co-worker, and the purchase of the seaside home fell through. What was meant to be a BBQ to celebrate with family and friends turns into a terrifying spectacle as dad begs to anyone within a 5ft. radius to dance with him in the back yard to some reggae music. Dad completely flips. It's the most uncomfortable moment in the film as the appearance of this 'I have it together' family man completely falls apart. Things get much worse from here on out as the father, brutally chastised by the family, turns on each member and exposes their secrets. And all of this leads to one horrifying and fateful finish.

Exhibit A is exactly the type of film we need in order to keep the found footage sub-genre relevant, interesting and fresh. It's not without it's faults (there were times where all 4 family members were on camera so you wondered who the heck was filming them). But it's engrossing, slow burning and ultimately, it's what we want from a horror film: it's shocking and terrifying. This film should be garnering more notoriety than it has.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, September 19, 2011

Red State (2011)

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

Kevin Smith's first foray into horror films deals with an insane and over-the-top religious cult. Which is kind of ironic in and of itself because that's how most of his fans are: nuts and cult-like. The acting is top notch and it paints a pretty horrific picture (not in an overly gory way but more because of the extreme characterizations). It's a worthwhile watch that is captivating from start to finish. And it has a practical message that you aren't force fed or beaten over the head with.

Our film begins with a trio of teenage boys using the interwebs to browse profiles, rate, and (hopefully) coax some fine sophisticated woman into having sex with the three of them. In this day and age of readily available porn and unmonitored kids this idea, while initially seeming silly, actually made sense given my feelings on kids today (I'm becoming an old crotchety bastard) and their insatiable needs of instant gratification. A woman of particular interest responds back to them via email and they set up a rendezvous for later that night.

After commandeering a family ride, they drive out to Nowheresville and quickly learn that they aren't going to get to bang bedposts. Instead, they're knocked out, bound and hauled off to a local preacher's church. When one of them comes to, we see him being wheeled out in a cage with a blanket draped over it, his screams drowned out by a congregation's singing.

What happens next is a preacher's sermon which sets up his group's belief structure and his own whacked out ideologies. It's not too far off from your Westboro Baptist Churches of the world (in fact, they're even referenced in the film). But there is one cruel distinction: they actually take matters into their own hands not only passing judgment but executing the threat to their way of life and ideological existence. Michael Parks (Maidenhead, Kill Bill Vol. II) makes the film what is as a pastor who's one vicious bastard. He's also not afraid to use and equip his followers with an arsenal he has stashed inside the church and compound.

And that's exactly what happens as the boys try to escape and the FBI stops by for a visit. Lead by Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), a tough yet affable man, the group is given unbelievable orders as they are instructed to kill everyone inside. After a fit of conscience, a brutal standoff comprises the vast majority of the rest of the film. Our story concludes with Keenan being interviewed by his superiors as to the 'whys' behind this group and their extreme belief system.

Here is where Smith shows a surprising amount of restraint: instead of going off on some wild rant about organized religion, how it's brainwashed the whole of humanity or how its been responsible for more bad deeds than good, we learn that what actually drew the group out of the compound and into the hands of the FBI was not a perceived act of divine intervention. But rather it was a perfectly explainable, of this world, type of occurrence. I think you can draw your own inferences here about what he's trying to say.

Not a film classic for sure but certainly not worthy of some of the negative pub its received, Red State may pleasantly surprise you. For a filmmaker that's prone to over the top-ness and copious amounts of dick and fart jokes, I found this interesting and unexpected.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Perfect House (2010)

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

Over the past couple of years, there's been a resurgence of the horror anthology. Results have ranged from pretty darn good to the unbearably awful. The Perfect House falls into to the latter category. This is one boring, lackluster, uninspired mess.

Our feature begins when a family (the mother played by genre vet Felissa Rose) invites their neighbor over for dinner. At the dinner table, the the man of the family reveals that he threw away the neighbor's old weed whacker which he had borrowed. The neighbor is visibly shaken by the news. Presumably, bad things are about to happen. Due to a discarded lawn tool.

Moving right along after the opening credits, a young couple is guided by their real estate through the former house of the aforementioned family. Its perfect for them but they are curious as to why it's listed for so cheap. The agent, a blonde bimbo in a red dress, tells them the house is just looking for the perfect owners. Obviously, she's not being completely forthright and in an awkward turn, she starts provocatively showing off her 'assets' to the husband to get them to seal the deal as quickly as possible. Huh?

This awkward event (and subsequent transition) carries us into the beginning of 3 short vignettes. Not a single one of them are interesting and all share the same quality: dialogue that sounds like it was written by a 5th grader experimenting with creative writing for the first time. A brief rundown of each story is as follows:

- A family of four are holed up in the basement of our on the market home due to a nasty storm brewing outside. The mother is a real mean bitch. We don't know why.  After each flash of lightning strikes, one family member gets the axe. But who's doing the killing? Why do I care?

- A man keeps a girl he's kidnapped locked in the basement of the home. She's fed once a week, raped and then put back in her cage. She watches as he drags back other victims and places them in the cage next to her. She babbles on about her lot in life, some vague reasoning why this guy does what he does and we get to see the guy torture a few people. That's it.

- Our last story involves the family at the beginning of our film. If you said to yourself 'No, that can't be right' when asking yourself if they'd meet their untimely demises at the hands of a neighbor who's pissed about a chucked away weed whacker, well, you'd be wrong. Well not entirely. He kills the family off with some very weak rationale, talking about the discarding of 'unimportant things.' That's all that you get really as a potential motive.

Look, I can appreciate the fact that there is an inherent challenge in making a short story within the anthology framework. But at the very least, there has to be some coherency to it. There was absolutely none of that here. No rhyme or reason to any of the proceedings and any and all dialogue was completely devoid of any clear, rational thought. Again, it seemed as though the dialogue was written in a stream of consciousness with no real regard to motive or character development. It was completely empty.

The film is getting a premiere via it's Facebook page on Oct. 1st. If any of this interests you in the slightest, you can check it out here:

I say avoid this stinkpile at all costs.  

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bereavement (2011)

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

Bereavement is a film I've followed for awhile now as it's made its way through multiple festivals. Along with that, I've read a handful of reviews that have come out, most of which were full of effusive praise. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the premise and the claim that it has 'reinvented' the psycho/serial killer sub-genre. While it does have some interesting ideas, there was a huge logic gap that became too much to ignore and the film ended up being a mixed bag for me.

Our story begins with a young boy, outside in his backyard on a swing. His mother's inside the house, telling the soon-to-be babysitter about his remarkable condition. Namely, he has no sense of pain and can be virtually stabbed, beaten, and sliced without any sort of reaction. Basically, his pain receptors are dead. After that revelation, we cut to the boy in the backyard and a mysterious man approaches him claiming he needs help with getting ride of a bike and that he thinks the boy is the perfect candidate for it. Instead of gifting the boy, he throws him into his van and drives off.

Flash forward a few years and a young twenties something girl is dropped off at her aunt and uncles house. We learn that she is mourning the loss of her mother and father, the victims of a car accident. Along with her cousin, they welcome her in to help her cope and get her life back on track.

It's soon revealed who this man is that abducted the young boy. He's a bit of a hermit, hiding out in an old meat packing plant that his family used to run. But it doesn't stop there. It seems that he has a penchant for young girls, physically beating and bringing them back to the plant. Good intentions are not the order of the day and he strings them up and tortures them for awhile until a final death blow is deemed necessary. As he does so, the now older young boy watches on, with a shy and reserved but ultimately morbid curiosity.

Eventually, the paths of our mourning young girl and the killer cross and she's put into the same position as so many other girls. A local man and her uncle come to her rescue but without any success. And just when it seems like she is going to get out alive, the young boy fully 'turns' and becomes the same monster as the man that he observes daily.

I liked the kind of master/servant nature of the film with the boy going all Michael Myers-like at the end. Reviews that have taken issue with the film, point out the relative lack of motive behind the main killer's deeds. Other than some bible-like rhetoric and talking to the skulls of longhorn cows which are mounted throughout the plant, there really isn't a motive to be found. That didn't bother me so much as I'm not the type that needs sound reasoning spoon fed as long as the acting is convincing. And actor John Savage did just that, doing a phenomenal job playing the killer. I accepted him at face value as just being a fucked-up, crazy guy.

What did bother me, and what presented a substantial logic gap that I could not get over, is the fact that at no time, did ANYONE suspect this man of being a potential suspect. In this small town, with girls going missing left and right, and with a strange guy driving around an old time meat delivery truck and shacking up in his parents abandoned plant, not one single word was uttered about this man being strange or suspect. Not to mention the fact that it's obvious that he's been doing this for quite some time and it's not just some hobby he picked up recently to pass the time.

The film is expertly made and is definitely worth a watch. But I'm not convinced that this is the horror classic everyone is raving about. Sorry Charlie, but that logic gap is Mt. Everest big.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Behold The Power And Glory Of Hard Rock Zombies!

All this week, my good bud Geof Capodanno ( the main proprietor of The Man-Cave) is posting features about the notorious cheesefest, Hard Rock Zombies. What? You've never heard of it? Well I darn reckon' that it should get just as much notoriety if not MORE than Troll 2. I darn reckon' I tells ya!

Head on over to Geof's fantastic site and bask in the film's awesomeness. A retrospective by yours truly will be posted tonight. Tomorrow, a special interview with the film's lead will be featured. It promises to be the craziest interview to ever grace the fantastical site.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Creature (2011)

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

A brief synopsis: 'A group of 6 friends drive out to the Louisiana swamp land for a weekend getaway. But instead of a fun-filled weekend, they learn about a local legend which happens to be all too real. Will they make it out alive?' Sound familiar? Coincidences aside, the film is littered with genre tropes and not a single thing about it is interesting.  I can't even bring myself to write an entire review so let's just go down the laundry list of awful, shall we?

- The aforementioned group is comprised of 3 couples. All ripped from the pages of Abercrombie and each one screaming 'I'm a raging douchwad.'

- Along the way, they stop at a local gas station (which has no gas) and a general store. Oh hey kids! It's Sid Haig, playing the same ol' character he does in just about every film.

- Sid Haig and his mongoloid friends tell the kids about a local legend of a half-man, half-alligator roaming the swamps. Something about a love lorn dude who's soon to be wife (who also happens to be his sister, or something) was taken from him by an alligator. He tracked down the alligator and in his grief, he chopped him up and ate him. And then he transformed into alligator man!

- So of course the kids don't pay heed and head out to their camping spot. Sex and booze becomes the order of the day and one by one they get start getting picked off. Oh, and it's revealed that one of our campers isn't exactly who he says he is. Enter a really lame twist. 

- OK, I'll admit. The creature effects were kind of cool but there is very little blood or gore. A cardinal sin for a creature feature.

- So the 'plan' is thwarted by the last surviving couple. So uninteresting the whole lot of them were I couldn't even tell you about any defining characteristics. OK, that's a lie. One of the girls looked like Megan Fox minus the thumb hands.

- Alligator man dies in a really boring, slow motion fashion as the earth opens up and swallows him whole. The end.

I have no idea how this film is getting a theatrical release this month. Someone did a casting couch favor or something. With all of the exceptional indie work that I've seen recently, it makes me a sad panda to see that shit like this receives notoriety over something original and unique. Avoid this shit sandwich at all costs.

Cortez the Killer