Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Woman In Black (2012)

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

Sporting more jump scares than an amusement park thrill ride (and probably setting some records with their sheer number), The Woman in Black is a throwback to Hammer's heyday. It's nice to see the label giving us some decent gothic horror once again. Not a classic by any means but it's still pretty fun nonetheless.

Daniel 'Harry Potter' Radcliffe is a widowed lawyer (named Arthur) who's having a tough go of it as of late. His employer is skeptical of his work and his pint-sized son remarks about his constantly sullen demeanor. When his boss gives him the undesirable job of settling a woman's estate with a 'This is it or else' undertone to it, he has no choice but to accept it. And it just so happens to be way out in the middle of the English countryside.

Once he gets to his destination, he's instantly met with a coldness by the innkeeper who runs the place. He remarks that they have no record of his booking nor any open rooms. Despite his insistence on a booked room, Arthur is told that absolutely nothing is available. He's saved by a female caretaker as he's offered a bed in the establishment's attic instead. Coupled with a next day meeting where a local businessman is more than a bit obstructive when he requests to be lead out to the house and you start to get the feeling that something is amiss in this small town.


He eventually makes it out to the abandoned house later that day and before you can say 'Bob's your uncle,' he's graced with the presence of a spirit that haunts it. It's subtle at first but then we see her in the surrounding marsh in all her glory, a woman cloaked in a dark outfit complete with headdress.

Getting back into town that evening, things grow more troublesome as some of the local's kids are dying in strange ways. Thinking him the impetus, the superstitious townsfolk attempt to drive him out. But he's given temporary shelter from a local man who also befriends him. Arthur asks him to take him back out to the house for just one night where he'll work through it, uninterrupted, and in peace. The local man drops him off and it's at this point where the real fun begins.


For the next 40 min. or so, you're bombarded with a constant stream of jump scares as our apparition terrorizes him throughout the house. For some, this can feel cheap and cliched but they worked well even though they became a bit tiresome. So as his hellish night wears on, Arthur finds out why this ghoul is tormenting him and more importantly, why she's killing off the town's children.

Powered by a steady diet of jump scares, The Woman in Black might be a turn off for some. I dug it (for the most part) as the story is interesting enough and the acting and cinematography were both stellar. I recommend it for a Friday night of cheap thrills and a good one to snuggle up with your sweetie to.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Share Your Lunch Break With All Things Horror!


The fine cats over at All Things Horror recently debuted a new series entitled Lunchbreak Horror. Every week they'll post a new short film that can be found via sites like Vimeo or YouTube but will save you the trouble of getting lost in the abyss that can be both sites. One click on the magic linky below and you can enjoy some quality horror as you devour your PB&J and coat your facehole with Cheetos crumbs.

They're already two posts in so get to watchin'! I mean it's FREE for cryin' out loud!

http://www.allthingshorroronline.net/search/label/lunchbreak%20horror

Cortez the Killer

The Tortured (2010)

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

The Tortured is the most superficial and soulless film I've seen this year. If torture porn was a real thing (I don't consider it to be a true sub-genre), this would probably be the definition of it. There is no justification for any of our character's actions and every single one taken within the story is hollow and again, without purpose. Not too mention it has some of the worst acting I've seen in a genre film, starring two washed up actors who made their name in teen flicks.

Elise and Craig (Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe respectively) are two grieving parents. They've come to find out that their son, who had been abducted from their front yard, was sexually assaulted and murdered by a dirty old man driving around town in a beat-up van. Not much is known about him except that he's dirty, creepy, and drives around in said van. The child killer is played by non other than genre vet Bill Moseley who's quickly become a parody of himself. It's like someone gave him a stack of 100's, pointed a camera in his face, and said 'OK Bill, now act creepy.'


So mom and dad can't handle the death of their only child but instead of letting the justice system do it's thing they decide to take matters into their own hands. They hatch a plot to intercept the killer's prison transport and overtake it. Mom and dad suddenly turn from grieving parents into expert hijackers. They disable the transport and incapacitate the two armed guards and extract our child killer.

The whole of the rest of the film is mom and dad torturing this guy in a house out in the woods. It just so happens that mom does some real estate dealings on the side and she was able to score this perfectly secluded home, perfect for taking someone into it's basement, tying them up to a gurney, and torturing the shit out of them for days on end.


This film is exhausting and not in a good way. It's slow and plodding. While mom and dad's grief should resonate with the viewer it comes across as both contrived and insincere. This film serves one purpose and one purpose only: to shock. But the only thing that is shocking is that A) this film was produced in the first place and B) IFC thought it was a good idea to pick it up for distribution. I'm going to call a mulligan on this one guys.

If 'torture porn' is your thing, this might be up your alley. But fair warning, the acting is horrid and even the torture aspect you've seen ten times over in other films. This is the most pointless and worthless film watching experience I've had this year.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Madison County (2011)

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

Finally, a modern slasher that's good and doesn't make you want to annihilate every character onscreen within the first 5 min. I love slasher films but loathe a lot of modern ones due to the fact that they adhere way too much to the tried and true tropes and they claim to be unique but really offer nothing different. Enter Madison County, a different type of story with a serious axe to grind (literally). Sure it has its moments where it falls into common stereotypes but it does so with a lot of gusto and some pretty inventive kills.

The first part of this film you've seen a 1,000 times over: a group of attractive twenty somethings head out on the open road for a weekend of camping. Or so they tell a passing motorist. But really one of the boys is a journalism major and has been corresponding with a small town writer who's developing a tell-all book about a local man who's made the town infamous for its grisly murders. He wants to play investigator and interview the writer in-depth and learn more about the notorious past of this small town.


So the kids come upon the town and first come into contact with the locals in a roadside diner. The old woman running the joint claims that she hasn't seen the author in years. Puzzled, our intrepid young man tells the group they'll stay for a bit and check the scene out and see if they can't locate the author themselves. Bad mistake.


There is a bit of a slow build to the film as the gore and grue don't start right away. In fact, our kills don't begin in earnest until about the 3rd act or so. Most of the time is devoted to getting to know the characters and doing an excellent job of building atmosphere and suspense. In fact, can't remember the last time I saw a slasher film that did a great job of building a significant amount of suspense. Indie filmmakers take note.

And then the killing starts. There are nifty kills in this here little slasher ditty with some great practical effects to boot. Surprising kills are hard to come by these days as most you've probably seen before. But these are done and done well. Coupled with the fact that these are some genuinely crazy townspeople that are all in cahoots to keep the kids from leaving and you've got yourself one fantastic modern slasher film which will be in my rotation for years to come.

Madison County is currently available on multiple VOD services. Give this one a go. You'll be glad you did.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Planet of Terror Podcast Is Back!

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. Such is the hectic life of a corporate pencil pusher. But the Planet of Terror Podcast is back and in full effect! And what better way to get back into the swing of it than to interview the remarkable talents behind one of the best indie horror films I've seen this year and a well respected veteran actor.

In this episode, I interview filmmakers Sean Elliott (he also pulls double duty as one of the stars of the film) and Scooter Downey and non other than legendary genre actor Lance Henriksen. In it, we talk about the idea behind the fantastic psychological horror film It's In The Blood, the production of it, and Mr. Henriksen tells us a hilarious story about the Pumpkinhead series and what superpower he may take on if he were ever casted as one.

Sit back, relax, enjoy, and start your week off right!
 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mother's Day (2010)

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

This particular remake seemed to avoid the ire of fans when the making of it was first announced. The original Troma production was both bizarre and downright nasty but not as highly regarded as most films in terms of 'Oh my god, that's a classic! How will they ever top it? What a travesty.' Helmed by Saw series vet Darren Lynn Bousman, genre fans seemed to be genuinely interested in the effort. Coupled with the fact that the mother was to be played by one of my favorite onscreen creepies, Rebecca 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' De Mornay, this felt like a remake that was primed to be better than it's predecessor. Well is it? Read on.

A trio of misfit brothers find themselves in a bit of a pickle. They just held up a bank and one of them got mortally injured in the process. Driving around and frantically trying to contact dear ol' mom (De Mornay) on their cellphone (whom they haven't seen in quite some time), they eventually give up and decide to head to their boyhood home with the hope that she's there to help them. The only problem? The house was foreclosed on not too long ago and the new occupants of the house are having a house warming party of sorts. Whoops.


Arriving at their former place of residence, the two non-injured boys encounter the unexpected group and quickly take control of the house. One of the friends is revealed to be a doctor and instantly he's threatened with the notion that if he doesn't save their injured brother, he will quickly be on the receiving end of a high caliber pistol.

The rest of the group party away in complete obliviousness. That is, of course, until they come into contact with one of the brothers who is wildly psychotic and would love nothing more than to kill off the whole lot. But his emotions are kept in check when dear ol' mom is finally reached and she arrives on the scene. Mom comes in and at first, she's a calming presence. She reassures the group that all they want to do is get out and get on with their lives. The only problem? Well there's more than one besides the son being injured. It's also revealed that the boys were sending huge wads of cash back home to mom and either the husband or wife were hiding the money somewhere in the house.


The vast majority of the rest of the film is a bit of a cat and mouse game as certain captives try to escape and get help and one of the boys takes the woman of the house out to get money out of the ATM. They need the money to pay some guy to get them across the border. Oh, and there is a subplot that involves mother being a baby snatcher and a notion that all of her kids may or may not be born of her womb.

The problem with the film is that it becomes very long and drawn out as not only the past of the mother is revealed but also why the money was being hidden from them. In addition, the only character that has more than one dimension is DeMornay's. But even that fact begins to grate as her performance fluctuates considerably. At first a calming presence, subdued, but with a bit of a sinister undertone, it then gives way to being really over the top and just downright silly.

Still, I've seen a lot worse. There are some great gore moments in the film and even though it could have benefited from some serious editing, it still kept my attention throughout. In terms of being better than the original, well, it's just different. Not quite as creepy but just as nasty. It's definitely worth a watch.

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Area 407 (2012)

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

This just might be the found footage film that breaks me. Area 407 is insulting on just about every level and each scare is ripped off from every other found footage flick you've ever seen. And the only thing that makes it unique (read: not involving the supernatural) is revealed in the trailer. To top off this shit sandwich, it features the most inane, laugh out loud and then subsequently go into an expletive-filled tirade ending to a film that I've ever seen. It is truly an affront to filmmaking.

Our story begins with an obnoxious pre-teen girl and her college age sister boarding a plane. Obnoxious pre-teen thinks it a good idea to film everything on her return trip back home and puts her camera in the faceholes of every boarding passenger. No one finds this the least bit suspicious or curious in this post-911 world.

OK, confession time. I fucking hate flying. No amount of drugs or Jack Daniels can curtail my fear and I white knuckle it each and every time. So I may be overly sensitive to this little twat and her camera but it was no less annoying to see her as she ruffled the feathers of each and every damn passenger on the plane.


So of course things don't go so great mid-flight and in the only tense moment of the film, the plane experiences some serious turbulence and begins to free fall. The dreadful screams freaked me right out and the ensuing crash will give me nightmares for years to come. Sadly, this is the only terrifying moment in the film (at least for me anyways).

The rest of our film involves the surviving passengers (which includes an obnoxious fat drunk guy, a stewardess, a journalist, a couple of other throw away characters and our two sisters) trying to find someone to rescue them from the terror that is stalking them in the surrounding woods. What is it exactly? Fucking dinosaurs. No spoiler alert here kiddos because as mentioned, this is revealed in the trailer. Oh yeah, and somehow, during the crash which splits the entire plane in two, the girl's video camera is miraculously unharmed. Of course, she feels the need to document everything no matter what danger is ever so present.


And so our arguing, constantly yelling, and crying into the camera group (a la Blair Witch) get killed off in boring and cliched fashion. You have your requisite drag on the ground while the character simultaneously has his arms outstretched and he's screaming only to have it all fade into the darkness as said dragging occurs.  And a host of others take place that I can't bring myself to remember nor do I really care to.

But the greatest atrocity to be committed in this steaming pile of worthlessness is the ending. I'm not that much of an asshole that I'd reveal it because it is a new release. And I know that you, my dear and awesome readers, are smart enough to know when something looks like it has potential and when it's an obvious turdburger served extra rare.  I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a film's ending nor overly cursed the insulting efforts of those involved with such a low rent production. This one gets zero ratings all around.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Caller (2011)

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

Confession time: I originally wrote this film off based off of the trailer, premise, and the heavy use of a rotary phone as plot device. I mean who the hell uses one anymore anyways? Well I needed a bit of a nudge by our Twitter followers to give it a fair shake and the film recently became available via Netflix instant. So I checked it out and boy was I wrong. This is a fantastic Twilight Zone-esque spooker that has the feel of that series and it's one of the more unique horror films I've had the pleasure of watching this year.

Mary is recently divorced and in need of a new place to live and fast. Not really having time to scope out the area as she needs to get away from her abusive husband, she settles for an old apartment in the barrio. Quite literally as there are an interesting cast of characters who call the building home.

It's not long after she settles in that she starts receiving phone calls on said rotary phone that was left behind. At first, Mary believes the woman has simply reached the wrong number as she asks for a man who isn't there. But after subsequent calls and an insistence that the man lives there and that he is expecting the female caller, Mary gets a bit concerned.


During the day, she makes friends with a tenant who takes care of most of the landscaping around the complex. By night, she goes to school and becomes enamored with a male physics teacher who's teaching in a classroom nearby. They strike up a friendship and start to spend time together despite the disapproval of her now ex- husband who still thinks he has a stranglehold on her.

Her is where things begin to enter Twilight Zone territory: after one particular conversation in which the woman (who now has identified herself as being a prior tenant and living in the year 1979), Mary encourages her to 'take care' of her problem. You see the old woman on the other end has an abusive and cheating husband herself and she isn't going to stand for it anymore. But instead of leaving, the woman takes far more drastic measures and Mary is horrified at what she tells her.


The remainder of our film becomes a real mind bender as Mary, her physics teacher, and our caller piece all the puzzles together and the film twists and turns as realities are changed and ultimately intersect. It's a brilliant play on age old story of altering time and realities. And Mary comes face to face with our previously faceless caller. The scene will send chills up your spin.

Well kiddies, there is a lesson here: don't judge a book by its cover. Yes the rotary phone device is a bit silly but it actually plays well to the story and Mary's surroundings (i.e. old run down apartment building). Check this one out via Netflix instant. You'll be glad you did.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Fields (2011)

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

Featuring quite possibly the weirdest top billing in cinematic history (Tara Reid and Cloris Leachman), The Fields is a thriller that is short on suspense and long in drawn out situations that really go nowhere. It's the kind of film that is prone to give one a fit of fury as essentially there is no point or eventual payoff. It looks good in that its shot well, there are some decent performances, but overall, it's completely hollow.

It's the summer of 1973 and a young boy named Steven is sent out to the countryside (where exactly is never explicitly stated) to stay with his kooky grandparents, away from an abusive father and a boozing and partying it up mother. The mother is played by Reid who (thankfully) only has about 10 min of screen time and performs one of the worst emotional breakdown moments ever captured onscreen. Steven is worried about reports of the recent capture of one Mr. Charlie Manson and hears over the radio that some of his cohorts have taken off and are nowhere to be found. But mommy assures him that they are no where close by and that he'll be safe and sound and grandma and grandpa's.

 'Hi, I'm Tara Reid. Give me a paycheck, won't you please?'

Steven spends his days playing in his grandparent's fields despite the warnings from his foul mouthed grandmother that he is not to go anywhere near them. Here is where things begin to become slow and plodding: Steven plays out in the fields, he goes into town with his grandfather, they talk with some townsfolk etc. etc. Sure some of them are kinda creepy in a hillbilly backwoods-y kind of a way. But nothing appears to be a real threat until they come into contact with a Volkswagen bus full of hippies. Guess who they're supposed to be?


Despite the constant reminding of not to play in the fields, Steven continues to do so anyways and comes into contact with the group as they're hiding out in a nearby abandoned amusement park. Hearing noises coming out of the fun house, he decides to step inside. But before he can see what it is they're up to (and what was building up to be the only intense scene in the film), the group chase him out and Steven runs back through the fields and to the house. 

The remainder of our film involves the presumed Manson followers terrorizing the family as they run around their house, giggling, and throwing rocks at it. Really, that's about it. There is never a feeling that the threat would turn real. No violence breaks out (save for some retaliatory gunfire from the grandfather) and no one gets shot or injured. The police eventually arrive and the group disappears. The. End. Thank. God.

Aside from some funny, laced with foul mouthed moments from Ms. Leachman, this film is completely devoid of any real tension or scares. I'm at a loss for a point to the entire affair and really don't see one. This is an absolute snoozefest which will cure anyone of insomnia.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Penumbra (2011)

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

What a wacky, out of left field, and filled with dark humor little number this one is. It's also a slow, methodical, creeping burner to boot. Penumbra is the type of film whereupon conclusion you'll be exclaiming 'What the fuck did I just watch?'

Marga is a strikingly beautiful albeit bitchy woman. She's in Argentina for a few days, trying to offload the rental of an apartment that her family owns in a sleepy town. She's got places to go and people to do (literally as she's banging it out with a married man) and she has no time for bullshit or games. She needs to rent the place quick and get out of this dumpy town so she can get on with her life, calling the shots at her company, belittling friends and family alike, and having a general disdain for anyone that isn't her.

Enter Jorge, a man with an immediate need for an apartment and just the right tenant to fill the vacancy who will gladly pay more than twice the asking price. Marga, against her better judgement, jumps at the opportunity, disregarding common sense in favor of dollar signs. Jorge says his client will be there soon and he'll be bringing the appropriate paperwork to make this a done deal. After a bit of casual chit-chat, it becomes obvious that Jorge is there to stall things. Marga is completely oblivious though, consumed by her own selfishness and center of the universe tendencies.


Marga decides to leave for a bit as Jorge waits for his client (a man named Salva) and heads to the local store to pick up a few things. She immediately endears herself to a poor beggar, berating him for his filthy existence and then promptly shocking him with her taser. Such a classy gal.  At this point, it's very clear: someone better give this woman a good comeuppance as she is the epitome of an awful human being.


It just so happens that, on that day, a solar eclipse will be taking place. When she gets back to the apartment, she finds a new trio of people have arrived. They initially claim to be a part of the real estate company that Jorge works for. But as they continue to wait for the tardy soon-to-be proprietor, it becomes obvious to Marga that the group has far more sinister intentions. It's subtle at first: using up her prepaid phone minutes and hiding her keys.  But the group then restrain her and reveal to her their plans and that Salva is the man that will be leading the group in a special 'ceremony' during the middle of the eclipse.

From this point on, it is anyone's guess as to what really happens as our film leads up to a startling conclusion. It's one that will divide more than it will bring together. I wavered on this one quite a bit, but overall, I enjoyed it in all its fucked up glory. It's definitely not your typical straightforward genre film. And just when you think it'll steer into familiar territory, well, the ball sails in from left field and smacks you over the head. If nothing else, the film has one of the best beheadings I've ever seen. It's shocking and downright brutal and worth the price of admission alone.

Penumbra is currently available via various VOD services from IFC Midnight.

Cortez the Killer