Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Low (2011)

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

Low is a great example of what can be accomplished on a shoestring budget, with a handful of people, and one serious single minded determination to film something quickly and efficiently. It was filmed in just a few short weeks and the end product looks a lot better than most Hollywood productions. Of course, you need a good film on top of all of that and Low succeeds for the most part. It's a great thriller but one that I felt ultimately lacked in emotional 'oomph.'

Our story centers on a young woman who's trying to make a quick entry and exit into a secluded hillside area near her English residence. After she buries a small box in the ground, she heads back but before making it out onto the open road, a look of guilt comes over her and she decides to turn around.

Before she can get back to the spot where she buried her little box, she comes across a middle aged man. She quickly turns and walks in the opposite direction but the man catches up with her, offering politely to walk with alongside and keep her company. But she's clearly not interested in his offer and is more than a little creeped out. However, he's a persistent little bugger, she relents, and begins to chat with the him.


Things turn from more than just informal chit chat to deeply sinister and dark as the man reveals to the young woman what it is he's done and why he was in the same secluded area as her. As he reveals the terrible thing he's done it isn't done so in a cathartic way but more to draw out what it is she's hiding and her purpose for being in the same area as him. You see he knows she's hiding an awful secret and has the same propensity for doing evil things as him.

Histories soon start to reveal themselves and we learn about the back stories of both individuals and how they came to be twisted in their own unique ways. I won't play spoiler here but things come to a head when he brings her hidden secret out into the open and makes her confront it. And things end in deadly fashion as one of them resorts to violence to get what they want out of the other.


The main problem for me lies in the fact that our remaining character's redemption (if you will) doesn't make sense given the horrible and completely selfish thing they've done. They aren't deserving of the end which befalls them and are certainly not fit for what it is they've been given a second chance at. For me, this weakens the overall effort and it just doesn't sit right. I know I'm being totally vague here but it isn't without purpose.

Regardless, Low is a really well made film and its definitely worth checking out. The ending might sit better for you than me and it will no doubt get people talking. I can't wait to see what comes next for British filmmaker Ross Shepherd. A remarkable piece of work even if I didn't particularly care for the ending.

Cortez the Killer


Thursday, July 26, 2012

[REC] 3 Genesis (2012)

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

The [REC] series has now become one of my favorite horror franchises. With an incredible two films already under its belt, it is poised to be the next great horror franchise among hardcore fans. When part 3 was announced, and that the fine filmmaking duo of Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero would be trading off directing duties in parts 3 and 4, I was curious and excited to see were they would take the series next. Part 2 packed one hell of a wallop and its take on the infection/zombie sub-genre was game changing. So does Paco Plaza's solo effort stack up? Read on.

The first 20 minutes of the film is spent documenting the wedding day of Koldo and Clara, one of the best looking couples you've ever seen (they're hot Spaniards after all). Multiple family friends are filming that day's festivities and we're introduced to pretty much everyone in both wedding parties. These early goings do a fine job of introducing us to the characters before the mayhem hits. Particularly we latch on to Koldo and Clara, a couple deeply in love and devoted to each other. One really great moment captured on camera is at the end of their ceremony as both wedding parties break into song. YouTube material here folks.


We're then whisked away to the reception, located on a sprawling beautiful estate on a hillside that is some distance from where they were married. A perfect setting for a bloodbath. Celebrations continue at the large reception hall and the party gets into full swing. But things come to a screeching halt when the uncle of the groom falls from the railings of the 2nd story within the hall and crashes onto a table below. He gets up and promptly bites the nearest reception goer and all hell breaks loose.


And that's all I'm going to discuss about the plot itself as I don't want to give too much away. I just want to comment on a couple of other elements that bloggers and fans of the films have wondered a loud about. As suggested by the trailer, the film does move from found footage to a more traditional narrative. This is done after our first 20 min or so and in such a brilliant way that the transition is seamless. There are other bits throughout the film that show events from the perspective of a camera (i.e. the security cameras at the estate) but for the most part, it follows a standard flow.

Secondly, there is a huge shift in tone after the camera is ditched compared to the first two films (think Dead Alive). It's completely unexpected but no less fun and entertaining. I see this as potentially being the biggest obstacle among viewers but I think it's pulled off extremely well. And as the name would infer, the mythos started in part 2 is expounded upon and again, adds another interesting element that makes me curious to see how it will play out in subsequent films.

[REC]3 is not what I expected but it was hell of a lot of fun. When Clara rips her wedding gown and grabs the nearest chainsaw, you can't help but crack a smile as a full-on gorefest ensues. One of my tops of the year.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Awakening (2011)

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

The Awakening starts off as an interesting period piece and haunted house thriller. Full of intensity and moments that make you want to grab a pillow and bring it to your face in hysterics, it was gunning for entry into my list of favorite haunted house spookers. And then the bottom drops out with its completely emotionless and  nonsensical ending.

It's just after World War I in England and many of its inhabitants have become affected by widespread influenza.  Our story itself, centers on a young woman named Florence who verifies the veracity of people's ghostly claims. Or rather she invalidates them as she isn't much of a believer and has written a well publicized book on how science can explain all things. Basically, their experiences are a bunch of hooey and she works to expose them as frauds.

A teacher at a local boys boarding school comes by her home to ask for her help. He talks about the history of the school and shows her pictures which contain a ghostly image of a little boy who's appeared in class pictures over the years. As the story goes, the boy was murdered there but why exactly no ones knows nor does much information exist about who owned the estate previously. Reluctantly, Florence agrees to help out the pleading teacher after he reveals that an asthmatic child was literally scared to death at the sight of the ghost.


Upon arriving at the boarding school, she is greeted by Maud, a nice old woman who oversees the care of the boys, making sure they get three squares a day. The boys adore her and she treats each one as she would her own son. So it comes as no surprise that she is worried about the spirit who is haunting the school, scaring kids to death in the process. Florence assures her that she has nothing to fear and she promptly gets to work setting up her homemade ghost hunting devices.

Our creeping fear starts as we first hear bumps and thumps and then see prolonged camera shots that stare down dark hallways. Things then give way to multiple ghostly appearances and a dollhouse which looks like the home itself. It's complete with figurines that look like the current inhabitants, posed in positions, and acting out events almost in real-time. It's enough to make you squirm along with the hair on the back of your neck standing up.


But as our story progresses, things begin to unravel and not in a good way. The boy who Florence befriends while doing her ghost hunting isn't all that he seems to be and we are clued into the history of the home. In particular, it involves Florence and some very repressed memories. How it fits into the context of the film makes little sense and there is no emotional weight as the events which occurred previously aren't thoroughly explained. Think The Others but with very little care or intrigue.

The Awakening looked to be very promising and it does a lot of things right: great atmosphere, tension, and if you are going to film a period piece/countryside haunted house story, cinematography is key. It was really fantastic. But egads, that ending! It really is the film's undoing and it brings the entire affair down so badly, it makes it hard to recommend.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Munger Road (2011)

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

Simply put: Munger Road is the most insulting film I've watched this year. Not only does it not know what it wants to be, its real sin lies in one monstrous cop out of an ending. I will never understand why endings like this exist and why filmmakers decide to employ them. They should have their heads examined. It undermines all of the preceding events in the film and it makes you look like you had no end state in mind.

Our film starts off with a pair of college age couples, meeting  up at a local diner and discussing that nights plans. What is it exactly do the boys want to do that they've dragged their less than willing female counterparts out to do? They want to traverse the famed Munger Road and stop at its end just before the train tracks. At the end, they hope to capture evidence of a story they have long heard about. You've heard the urban legend: a school bus stalls on the train tracks, a locomotive comes barreling along, plows into the bus, and kills all of the passengers. As it goes, if you stop on the tracks at night, your car will be pushed safely to the other side.


At the same time, the local police chief (the only good performance of the film belongs to long-time character actor Bruce Davison) and his deputy are prepping for a swarm of tourists who will descend upon their fair city for an annual carnival. Only they get some really alarming news. Apparently, a former priest turned serial killer escaped from his police transport when it flipped over, no doubt due to his actions.

Cut back to our group and it seems that they get real evidence of the group of ghostly do good-er kiddos when they stop their SUV on the train tracks, turn off the lights, and put the car into neutral. But is it really the ghosts or our returned murderous priest?


The rest of our film involves the surviving kids and our dynamic duo of local cops (actually, they're pretty inept) trying to figure out who is at the source of all these killings. Just when you think you are going to come face to face with the vengeful padre, you are instead met with the notion that maybe it was one of the douchebag, ghost hunting jocks. But before a Scooby Doo grand reveal can occur, well, you're met with one lazy, swear word inducing, completely idiotic ending.

Overall, Munger Road is too boring and bloodless to be a slasher and too devoid of tension and intrigue to be a thriller. Combined with the really 'Did they just do that?' ending, you have a serious recipe for disaster. One of the worst horror films I've seen this year.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Answer The Phone! (1980)

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

Don't Answer the Phone! is the kind of sleazy film that is indicative of horror in the 80's: zany one liners, ridiculous and random scenes of boobage, all driven by the mad antics of a super psycho, sweaty, dirty, killer. This folks is a classic. And if you're looking for something silly, over-the-top, and unplug your brain from the matrix silly, you will find a vintage none finer than this.

Our film centers on a burly, sweaty, mountain of a man, driven by a very odd combination of religious fervor and narcissism to kill all women he comes into contact with and then subsequently stalks. When they strip naked or have come out of a so fresh and so clean session in the shower, he gets all horned up and psychotic, ripping off their clothes and strangling them.


But fear not! A couple of astute detectives (er, I mean completely clueless) are on the case! This foul man will be off the streets in no time. I mean this guy's m.o. is to rip women's clothes off and then sexually assault them. So they are totally on the trail and completely in tune with what's going on when one of them asks this gem of a question and other responds accordingly:

Detective 1: 'Was she sexually assaulted?'

Detective 2: 'Every orifice she's got.'


So our burly, dirty, sweaty, huff and puff mountain of a man likes to call in to a local radio talk show. He likes to air out his dirty laundry on radio so much so that the host starts to think that she's going to be a target. Our killer likes to be very chameleon-like, first appearing with an army jacket (seriously, the dude is walking down the street, in Los Angeles, in broad daylight looking all mean and dirty with a military jacket and NO ONE thinks him the least bit suspicious) and then as a 'professional' photographer.  He first gets into ladies' knickers saying he works for a film studio and he's there to take head shots but really he's there to kill them and take nasty skin rag pictures. Only they're dead. And once again, one of our crack detectives hot on the case (this after rummaging through belongings he thinks are the killer's in THE WRONG HOUSE) remarks:

Crack Detective: 'He doesn't look like a porn photographer to me. He doesn't even have a blowup suck me Suzy doll.'


His daily affirmations of looking into a mirror while holding a beer are classic.

So our completely cuckoo nutso killer ends up at the house of our radio host and a final standoff ensues between our killer and one of the detectives who has fallen for the talk show host. They brawl and both of the dirty, smelly, sweaty bodies collide in pseudo-homosexual bliss. There is so much sexual craziness to this film, it's insane.

If you like cheesy, dirty, and just downright sleazy films from the 70's and 80's, you will find none better than this. It's a hoot and if you don't take it too seriously, you'll have yourself a riotously good time.

Oh and an 80's horror film is not really a horror film without a random scene of a woman groping her supple breasts:


Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dead Weight (2012)

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

Post apocalyptic terror seems to be the name of the game lately. With the end of the Mayan calendar upon us, it makes you wonder if filmmakers are purposefully constructing tales around current events. I mean horror has always had a bit of a current events vibe to it through the decades so it's not that much of a stretch. Regardless if this was a motivation for these particular filmmakers or not, the folks behind the indie feature Dead Weight have attempted to do things differently. Instead of focusing solely on a group of people trying to survive in end times (there is definitely that element going on), it's primary focus is on a young man who's seeking to reunite with his love. More pointedly, it asks of the viewer 'How far would you go for someone you love?'

After being introduced to our main character Charlie via his daily morning routine, he receives a frantic phone call from his girlfriend. It seems that something has infected the city and the area around her office building has been quarantined. But she has a coworker who thinks that they can get past the barricade and out of the city. Quickly, they hatch a plan to meet up in a nearby small town where they originally met at a friend's wedding.

Flash forward a few months and we see Charlie as he's now become part of a group of survivors, walking through the countryside to a particular destination that Charlie has planned out. This group has entrusted him with their care and guidance. But as our story plays out, we find that Charlie's motives are not for the greater good of the group and without hesitation, he will use them as fodder for the infected that are roaming the countryside.


Sounds like a fantastic premise right? While the cinematography paints a great picture of the bleakness of it all, the film's major problems are two-fold: the performance of the actors and the really sub-par dialogue. There is very little here by way of gore and grue as we don't see much of the infected and when the group comes under attack, not much is shown of it nor the aftermath. For the most part, this is a character driven film (which is OK by me). But every performance in the film is annoying and non moreso than the one from the lead who plays Charlie. He never comes off as real or genuine but rather some guy his girlfriend should have ditched years ago (read: he's an asshole). You never get a sincere moment from him throughout the course of the film. For a relationship-based film like this, where you are supposed to empathize and be repelled when they eventually do unspeakable things, you have to have strong and believable performances. Nary a one could be found throughout.


In addition, the dialogue was awfully generic and not doing any favors for the onscreen actors. It was so basic that it felt like the script writer's relationships never extended past middle school. There was no depth at all to anyone and the flashback sequences between Charlie and his girlfriend only exacerbated the problem and did little else to shed light on the love that is the focal point of our story. Not too mention the shoddy and just plain bad explanation of how the infection came to be. Instead of adding gravity to the situation, it came off as lazy and half baked.

These factors contribute to a long, drawn-out, and miserable movie watching experience. When you get to the 'shocking' climax after the painfully slow build, you are left with only a feeling of relief that the experience is now (thankfully) over with. A shame, because based on the premise and how the film was set-up, it had some potential.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Piranha 3DD (2012)

Fear 0/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 1/5
Creepiness 0/5

Oy vey, this is lowest common denominator bullshit. 'But Cortez, it's CALLED Piranha 3 Double-Fucking- D!!!' This type of expression my friends is becoming an alarming trend in defense of really bad or mediocre films. A bad film is a bad film and this is surely one.

A plot (if you must know) synopsis: an opportunistic sleazeball (David Koechner, reprising his 'WHAMMY!' role from Anchorman) buys a water park. He enlists his daughter's help in running the joint and he does so like a 'Girls Gone Wild' audition tape. Knott's Sleaze City at its finest.


Of course, a group of douchebaggy, young twenty somethings decide to be patrons of the joint. A seismic shift (shit?) happens, the ocean floor opens up, and our voracious appetite little munchies enter the park and all hell breaks loose.


The problem with the film lies in its really ill-timed and obvious jokes. Whereas the first film (remake) was sleazy and cheesy but still had a healthy respect for its audience, this installment is lazy and trite. From the one liners to the obvious and uncreative use of David Hasselhoff, it's uninspiring and ultimately boring. And I can't even begin to imagine how bad the 3D looked in theaters during its limited run. Because the 2D on my home setup sure looked awful. SyFy could have put a better production together than this one.

Save your $5 rental fee, even if you're mildly curious. Check out recently reviewed films like Exit Humanity, We Need To Talk About Kevin, or the just released (and insanely funny) Some Guy Who Kills People instead. You're welcome.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, July 2, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

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

By now, you've probably heard a lot about this film. Unless you live under a rock or were never a fan of the Aliens films to begin with (stop reading this blog, just kidding, no really) and have tuned out any and all marketing. The film has been really polarizing with no one taking a middle ground. Viewer's comments vary from the very philosophical (espousing the virtues of various metaphors) to the film being a total mishmash of ideas that go nowhere which ultimately renders the film pointless. Put me squarely into the latter category. I can't remember the last time I was this disappointed by a film going experience.

Warning: spoilers abound.

Our film begins with one of the architects of the world in which our characters and chest bursting aliens live in (hinted at in the original films, now known as Engineers), setting things in motion by contributing to the primordial ooze. The implication being here (I think), that they originated human life.

Flash forward many years and a husband and wife team of archaeologists (Logan Marshall-Green and Noomi Rapace, respectively) uncover ancient cave paintings, that when put together alongside many of civilization's examples, seem to suggest that a group of powerful beings created the universe. The team also infers from these paintings that their creators want to be sought out but who knows why exactly. 'Who knows why exactly' will be a common sentiment as you sit through this film that frustratingly goes nowhere and who's only purpose seems to be to fit into the Aliens universe.


Flash forward in time once again and we see an android named David (Michael Fassbender) on board a ship as he learns about human life through language and cinema. He's also taking care of the crew who are in hyper sleep as they make their way to the 'promised land.' As they begin to awaken from their slumber, we're introduced to the group which includes the husband and wife team and a woman named Vickers (Charlize Theron) who represents the interests of her financier. He was obsessed with getting in touch with these god-like creatures and even in death (or so it seems), he wants this group to prove what he believed all along. Namely, that they were the originators of life on earth.

From here on out, our group explores what seems like intricate tunnels and passageways, coming upon the dead remains of various Engineers who were there at one point. But what killed them all? They come to the horrifying realization as various crew members come into contact with canisters of black goo and foreign bodies which seek to take over their physical selves.


The problem with the film is two-fold: there are too many story threads running through it which are never tied together (read: tons of plots holes) and the film, while philosophical on some levels (i.e. man is undeserving of what it has been given), never answers any of the questions the viewer grapples with by film's end. As such, the film expects entirely too much of the viewer (in terms of deciphering what it all means) but offers little in return. There just isn't enough here to grasp on to.

Maybe more answers will come in the next films (which will definitely happen) but I don't expect them to. The closing scene alone points to the film existing for one thing and one thing only: to bring us into the Aliens universe. But as my movie going buddy said to me 'Despite how much I was monumentally let down by this (seriously, 30 years for this?), I will probably see the sequel.' And dammit if I didn't agree with him. I think that speaks to the power of the franchise and how much we love it.

Cortez the Killer