Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Altitude (2010)

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

I'm going to get straight to the point: Altitude is trite, boring, listless garbage. Any number of possibilities could have found its way into this mess making it far more interesting than the crapfest I viewed onscreen. Instead of being thoughtful and original the filmmakers chose stock and simple. This should be renamed Dipshits On a Plane.

Altitude tells the story of five soon-to-be college friends who, instead of opting for the usual vehicular road trip, they take an airplane piloted by their gal pal out to a concert. She lost her mom years before in a plane crash, her mother being a private pilot herself. Despite the fact that she isn't fully certified and that her dad (yes, he's a pilot too) doesn't want her to fly on her own, she decides to anyways. Great idea!

The five kids themselves are of the garden variety horror type: the bimbo with a drug problem, the jock who wants to do nothing more than to binge drink, the pseudo boyfriend with an unrequited love, the aforementioned pilot girl who is completely self-centered and loner guy who's along for the ride for God knows what reason. So they all board Dumbass Air and it's off they go into the wild blue yonder.

After some superficial dialogue about life, what they're going to do after they graduate, and some bickering between the now belligerent jock and unrequited love guy, they find themselves flying straight into a nasty storm. At this time, our pilot thinks it a good idea to inform the group that she hasn't received her full certification and that she's not permitted to fly into storms or cloud cover. If she can't see the ground, she can't fly at all. But things go all weird when the plane inexplicably increases altitude and strange monster-like groans are heard outside.

Some more bickering takes place and our group flips out and becomes completely irrational (read: annoying as fuck). All that you hope for at this point is that they make dumb decisions and die. And that's what essentially happens. They think it a good idea to have one of them exit the plane while tethered to the inside of it to fix the now stuck back tail. The hope being that a properly functioning one will help lower their altitude. Poor loner guy gets the job and monster lurking in the clouds strikes. Basically all hell breaks loose from here on out as druggie girl overdoses and jock and lover boy continue to fight.

All of this leads to one lame revelation of why they are in this elevation ascending and monster infested cloud cover: *SPOILER ALERT* unrequited love guy is a comic book and fantasy geek who, whenever he reads comics or a particularly engrossing book, the monsters actually leap off the page and into reality. Dead. Fucking. Serious.

This could very well have been a cool blend of The Twilight Zone and Lovecraft. Instead it feels cheap and basic. Instead of creating likeable characters we felt for we were given standard genre fodder. Feigned drama was preferred over creating genuine tension and fear. And numerous emotional avenues could have been explored which were not.  Like give one of the characters a genuine fear of flying or another one having lost a loved one in a tragic accident that plays well into their fears. Something, anything that would make me latch on and make me care over and above the beaten to a dead horse 'that guy's a jock' or' that girls a bimbo.' Cheap, boring, lazy, skip.

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Salute Your Shorts!

I recently had the pleasure of checking out the following short films. Be on the lookout for them as they make their way through various film festivals and por favor, check out the filmmaker's sites for more details surrounding these and other works. They are definitely worthy of your time and attention.  

Familiar (2012)

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

Coming from the same production team behind 2010's Worm, Familiar is a perfect companion piece to that film. Whereas Worm focused on the inner maniacal ravings of a teacher, bogged down by the system, and the rut of his everyday job but ultimately, he's pretty harmless as he never acts out the horrors that are swirling in his head, Familiar sees the exact opposite happening....with a much more startling effect.

Starring again in the title role, Robert 'I want to see him in a feature length production so badly!' Nolan, fantastically plays a father beat down and cynical by the trappings of every day life. But he's oh so close to getting his only kid out of the house, on to college, and then it's onwards to enjoying retirement. Despite the drag of it all, it's this one thing (and the idea of purchasing a new pickup) that keeps him going. But his fantasy is crushed when he learns that his wife is expecting.

So what does he do? Let's just say he works to rid himself of the 'problem.' But there is one more festering within, a monster that needs escape, needs release and needs to make sure that what he ultimately desires is fully realized. A fantastic psychological horror that will make you cringe during its climax.



House Call (2011)

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

House Call focuses on a young couple, happily celebrating their 1 year anniversary. The only problem? The girl killed her abusive ex and crazy mom that was holed up in an asylum is actually out and just so happens to be a witch. And she places a curse on them both. The spirit of her dead son comes back, he's pissed, and out for revenge.

Not a whole lot of depth here other than what I've outlined above. But where the film really shines is with the genuine scares that are delivered and an honest to goodness reliance on practical gore effects. I actually shed a tear. It was beautiful. Had CGI been used, this film would have been knocked down a few rungs on my ladder of awesome.



Microcinema (2011)

Fear 2/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5

Another great psychological horror thrill, Microcinema breaks the typical slasher mold. Instead of playing within the confines of your standard sub-genre tropes, Microcinema seeks to explore the actual rationale behind the killer's doings. It's not just some 'Mommy messed me up really bad' justification. Or 'I was wronged by the school jock' impetus. This is one born out of a perceived practical application. And the script and dialogue are both masterfully written and delivered.

Where the film goes next is interesting (to say the least) as our central character actually runs into someone who is just as much if not more of a monster than he is.

You can actually check out Microcinema RIGHT NOW for the paltry sum of $0.99 cents. Put down that pack of gum and check this out!


Microcinema Trailer from Harvest Tide Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, February 20, 2012

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

Fear 2/5
Gore 4/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 1/5

I'm dubbing Scott Spiegel (Hostel III) the king of the direct-to-video horror sequel. As a matter of fact, this sequel is just as much zany fun as the original. I had never seen it before until I bought a cheapo quad feature BluRay disc on sale at the local Target for $10. Never has an Alexander Hamilton been better spent.

After a neato false start (featuring a movie within a movie starring Bruce Campbell and Tiffani 'Kelly Kapowski' Thiessen), we are introduced to Buck, a complete low life who's hanging out in a Texas motel with his girlfriend. It's not long before the local five-o comes rapping on the front door, entering the establishment and pestering the heck out of Buck about Luther, a good buddy of his who's just escaped police custody. Buck claims to have no idea about where he is and despite multiple attempts to get him to cough up the whereabouts, the police leave with nary a clue.

Buck soon gets a call from Luther with an offer of a job. Seems that just across the Texas border in Mexico, there's a bank that's keeping a huge some of money with very little security watching it 'round the clock. Along with a handful of other miscreants, they plan to meet up at a motel just across the border. But things get a little side tracked when Buck's buddy drops by the infamous Titty Twister bar seeking a ride after his car breaks down. Luther eventually meets up with the rest of the gang but he's definitely not his usual self.

An insane bloodbath ensues as Luther attacks a roadside harlot who's decided to shack up with his chicano buddy at the motel. A fantastic scene here as he attacks her while she's taking a shower and a Psycho-esque death plays out. El chicano doesn't get out without being turned himself but not before he kills his big breasted bed buddy. He and Luther then meet up with the others and they all head out to the bank to pull off their heist.

The group make their way to El Banco and easily take out the unsuspecting guard. The job becomes a little tougher than they thought when they enter the well-secured bank vault. But that's the least of their worries. The vampire turned friends have it planned to take the money and do their buddies in. However, all of that becomes compromised when La Policia show up and another bloodbath ensues as our gun toting friends and their fang bearing brethren have it out with them.

As you can see, this sequel has just as much of a thin plot as the original. But there are some things here that filmmaker Scott Spiegel does that makes it interesting (similar to the touches he added to the Hostel mythos). There's a neat scene in which the chicano fights off his lady of the night attacker with a bedside bible in his motel room. And the standoff at the end features a solar eclipse that our undead beings have to contend with. Great additions that really add to the overall affair and makes it not just a carbon copy of the original. Oh yeah, and it's fun as hell too.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Help Finance Haunted

Being the proprietor of this here interwebs blog, I get numerous emails monthly asking me if I'd help spread the word about a fledgling filmmaker's efforts in obtaining money to finance their feature. I'll admit, having a full time corporate day job doesn't allow me to post about each and every one. I'll mention it on Twitter or give a news shout out if and when I can, but by and large, well, the concepts themselves are just plain awful. And I won't post about it unless I myself would (if I had the financing and great script in hand) undertake such an endeavor.

Enter Haunted, a unique take on the found footage sub genre. Before you roll your eyes or say 'Doesn't EVERY found footage film promise to be new and invigorating?', not all films of this ilk have the talent behind it to pull it off. Writers/Directors Brad McHargue and Dan Weissenberger are both accomplished writers, with Brad himself being a highly regarded voice in horror through his work at Fangoria, BloodyDisgusting and as lord and overseer of his own site, Mile High Cinema.

In addition, I had the honor and privilege of checking out an early version of the script and let me tell you, it brings the goods. Not only because it's genuinely scary, but because of the way that the format itself is presented. Here is a brief synopsis which reveals the unique concept:

HAUNTED tells the story of what happens when a group of paranormal investigators finally find what they've been searching for. Andrew, a film student at the University of Michigan, is tagging along with a team of paranormal investigators to document their process for a school project. At first things go according to plan, but as the night progresses, it's clear something in the house doesn't want them there. Taking a unique approach to the concept of "found footage" HAUNTED is presented in a quad-screen/real-time format, showing the audience everything that is occurring inside the house all at once. This bold premise will give the audience, for the first time, the complete experience of what goes on during a paranormal investigation while encouraging repeat viewings, as viewers will be excited to fully see everything they only glimpsed the first time!

If you have the means, even if it's only the cost of a $5 foot long Subway special, I encourage you to donate some coin to make these filmmakers dreams come true. Head on over to the film's KicksStarter page, if you are so inclined. And check out the concept trailer posted below.


Cortez the Killer

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical (2011)

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

It's pretty ambitious, setting out and making a film (of any kind). Making a horror and metal musical, well that takes giganto-sized cajones. While Mr. Bricks seeks to combine two of my favorite things, it doesn't do either one well. At all. Only watch this if you want to torture someone into revealing the whereabouts of a stash of plutonium that Libyans are hiding.

Meet Mr. Bricks. He's a buff, nipple pierced, and full head tattooed muscle bound thug. After being shot in the head by an unknown assailant, he wakes up in a warehouse to find his love, a hooker, gone from the locale of their secret rendezvous. In his anger and heavy metal fueled diatribe, it appears a group of police officers have conspired to take his love and well, I'm not entirely sure what else exactly. The sound is so bad on the screener copy I received, half of the dialogue during the film as well as the words screamed during the musical numbers were completely unintelligible.

Shitty screener copy notwithstanding, there just isn't much of a story here as Bricks stomps around town, looking for the crooked cops and smashing bricks in people's faces. CGI gore is preferred over practical effects and it just adds to the cheapness of the entire thing. And the actual musical numbers, EGADS! It's pain-by-numbers, 2nd rate Hardcore. The only semi-interesting number is the crooked cop who does his best Damaged-era Henry Rollins impersonation. But when Mr. Brick's love kicks in with her own number, my god is it the most unintentionally(?) hilarious thing you've ever heard. It's dying cat awful.

It feels like this was something thrown together with the sheer hope of the concept alone being enough to get people to want check it out. I mean hell, who DOESN'T want to see a heavy metal horror musical? There is just no care at all paid to the story, characters and the one thing it should AT LEAST get right: the music. No doubt the filmmakers may be genuine fans of both artistic genres. But my god if this isn't one of the most terribly executed ideas I've ever come across.

Congratulations Mr. Bricks, you've gained early entry into 'My worst of' 2012 list.

P.S. I don't know how Lemmy sat through this. Give him a medal.

'You Must See This Film.' - Lemmy, Motorhead

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Woman (2011)

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

The Woman is a film that had already gained notoriety long before it became available recently via VOD services. Sundance premiere freak out notwithstanding (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here), it has played to many a film festival and has elicited strong reactions from both hardcore horror fans and Joe Friday movie goers alike. It's on my short list of films I didn't get to see last year and I'm glad I finally got to just a few days ago. But I'm not sure where I sit with this film as its swirled around inside my noggin' these past few days. Visceral, brutal and ultimately strange, The Woman is without a doubt a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

The beginning of our film sees us introduced to two people with completely disparate lives. We watch as a woman, muddied and loin cloth clad, running through a wooded area, through a brook and catching that day's meal with a knife. We see her later on as she retires, curled up and taking shelter in a cave. We are then greeted by the presence of a family man, a man who promises to give a friend a good price on her home with a wink and a nod. He has three children: a young daughter and two teens, both son and daughter. Following him in subservient fashion on his life's journey, is his meek and spineless wife (played by the always fantastic Angela Bettis).

As you can probably infer from my previous sentence, it's not long before we begin to see the cracks in this family. Teenage daughter is quiet, reserved and stays out of the way. But it becomes obvious she's hiding a secret. Teenage son is vengeful, envious and destructive, and almost psychopathic. Young daughter almost seems oblivious to it all, and like most young kids who know they have a rotten home life, makes up a life for herself. And mom, well, she just takes the orders that are barked at her. In the center of all of this is one son of a bitch father. Completely controlling and utterly contemptible.

One day while out hunting around the same wooded area where our feral woman was spotted, he comes across her. He follows her and eventually strikes her down, capturing and dragging her back to his home. Under the guise of rehabillitation and acclimation, he forces it upon his family to accept her and care for her. At first, of course, they are fearful. Each one interacts with her in different ways and eventually, they get used to her presence. With dad being as narcissistic as he is, you know that it's only a matter of time before he takes advantage of her as she's strung up by some pretty strong cable wires.

Things come to a head in our story when the teenage daughter doesn't show for school and we learn that she is pregnant. Her teacher comes knocking to see how she is but at the most inopportune time. You see mom, after scolding the son for spending some time with our locked up Shenan The Barbarian, takes a full on beat down at the hands of the father after she comes down on the son hard. At the risk of exposing them, the father and son take 'care' of the teacher and we are shown a deep, dark secret the family has long kept hidden. A vicious bloodbath ensues with the captive woman being released and all hell breaking loose.

The problem I have with the film is two-fold. 1. The real impetus behind the father capturing the feral woman and bringing her home to assimilate her is never fully known nor does it feel completely natural. 2. The ending leaves things open to interpretation but my tiny pea brain has now come up with it's own. I don't want to share my thoughts because I don't want to spoil your film watching experience.

I will definitively say that it is worthy of your time and attention. For those of you that have seen it, what say yous?

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stained (2010)

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

Stained is an effective psychological thriller that takes many twists and turns along the way. All of which leads up to one grand finale and 'reveal' which you don't see coming. If you do, I want this week's winning lottery numbers.

Isabelle is a beautiful, tall, dark haired but reserved young woman. She's a small bookstore owner and pretty much a social recluse when not at work. Despite her good looks, she'd rather have a night in with a good book and her kitty cats by her side. Even constant encouragement from one of her employees can't coax Isabelle out of her shell.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that she may not have had the best of home lives when she was younger. Bits and pieces of a former life are displayed, a life that was in constant fear of an abusive father figure. Along with that, we piece together nuggets of information from phone conversations she has with a close friend and it seems that a former abusive relationship and the memory of it keeps her from making connections with others, particularly men.

After constant encouragement from her work friends she gives in and agrees to go on a date with an attractive young man. The two really seem to hit it off and she even finds herself back at his apartment. However, a switch is flipped when the two become intimate and Isabelle becomes severely distressed.

She doesn't have much time to recover after this episode as her ex soon re-enters the picture. Despite the prior abusiveness, as is the case with a lot of people who just can't get away from the vicious cycle, she easily falls back into a routine with him. But eventually, abusiveness and ugliness rears it's head.

Things come to a boiling point when Isabelle slowly begins to lose her grip on reality, the constant back and forth with the former boyfriend becoming too much to bear. Further complicating matters, is his distancing of himself from her which only eggs her on even more. To top that all off, her best friend comes to her aide as clearly she is on the verge of doing something drastic. And drastic it is as we come to our horrifying conclusion. But is everything all as it seems? Was the source of her panic and paranoia really real or had it manifested in something else?

Stained is the type of film that hits you with a 90,000 lb. sledge hammer upon its conclusion. A fantastic thriller that would make Hitchcock proud. And a fine effort from first time feature length film director Karen Lam. I look forward to checking out new projects.

The film is currently available to rent via iTunes and Vudu. For more information about it, you can check out its website aqui: http://stainedmovie.com

Cortez the Killer