Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Their Skin -- AKA Replica (2012)

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

In Their Skin is a taut home invasion thriller very reminiscent of the film Funny Games. But whereas Funny Games centers on two psychopathic and narcissistic teens, the focus on In Their Skin is on something altogether personal and just downright frightening. Even though the film suffers in parts due to some bad logic and a towards the end as it begins to lose some steam, it's still a terrifying and harrowing experience.

Our story focuses on a family of three: a husband, his wife and their young son. The family is grieving the loss of their young daughter and it's evident that they have been for quite some time now. Unable to shake their grieve, the bonds that hold a family together, are in serious need of repair. Especially between the husband and wife who are on the verge of throwing in the towel on their marriage for good.

Heeding the advice of a therapist, they make a trek out to a home they own in the woods, far away from the trappings of everyday life with the hope that bonds can be renewed and a marriage can be salvaged. Upon arrival, they try to settle in but not much time passes before the husband is greeted by a trio of family members similar in makeup to their own: a man, his wife, and their young son. General chit chat gives way to the family inviting themselves over for lunch much to the reluctant approval of a father who's hoping to spend some alone time with his own. And the fact that this family just happened to be lingering around their home should have set off an internal alarm.

But our intruding family comes over later that afternoon, and makes friends with the home owner's young son and wife (played by the always incredibly gorgeous Selma Blair).  The two families share lunch and then it's play time for the kiddos as they head upstairs and start playing video games. Things go from the general bullshit, getting to know you, types of questions to the borderline weird and way too personal. When the intruding family's son literally pulls a knife on their kid it goes from weird to now a threat on one of their lives.

So our grieving and hoping to make amends family asks the obviously batshit crazy one to leave and they oblige amidst profuse apologies. But that of course is not the last of them as they make their way back to the home later that night and hold the family hostage. And it's all downhill from here as the family that is keeping them hostage makes it clear that they want to physically be them. From forcing them to perform daily routines to perverse sexual acts to the crazed family literally copying their mannerisms, this is one fucked up and perverse trip.

The film falters a bit in the closing minutes as it doesn't quite pack the emotional wallop it should. And there are many instances where the family could have eluded their captors or had the opportunity to alert someone as to what was going on. But getting caught up in all that would detract from a truly terrifying experience. If you like home invasion thrillers, you won't find much better.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sushi Girl (2012)

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

I know many of you may think that you need another pseudo-grindhouse film like you need a hole in the head. But when done right, and the 'spirit' is captured sans the gimmicky cigarette burns and 'missing reels', it can be a lot of fun. So sue me. I'll continue to check out these films as I can't get enough of them no matter how many genre fans scream this type of filmmaking is lazy. Enter Sushi Girl. A film heavily inspired by those films of yore and one Mr. Quentin Tarantino. In fact, it's very reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs (which oddly was alleged to have aped a Hong Kong production) with its scenes of torture and undercover cop conspiracy. Enough of my blabbering. On to the review!

Tony Todd plays the role of the main baddie Duke who brings a diverse group of mean and eccentric thugs together to greet one of them who's just been released from jail. He's put together an elaborate sushi spread and hand picked a beautiful woman to be the main centerpiece. Duke sees each member of his ragtag group enter the establishment with the zaniest of the bunch being his longtime buddy Crow (played with maniacal glee by Mark Hamill). So our served his time and didn't blab to the police jewel thief eventually joins the group only to have them question him over the spread of exquisite sushi. They think that he's hidden the diamonds that were stolen and they want their cut.

Between flashbacks of the jewel heist and subsequent getaway, are scenes of grueling torture as our recently released thug refuses to spill the beans on the whereabouts of the lifted diamonds. One by one the group takes their turn with no one having more fun than Crow. Hamill is really fantastic here, completely stealing the show. He's like a cross between his maniacal Joker from Batman The Animated Series and a flamboyant queen. You can tell he really had fun with this role.

So how and why does our sushi girl come into play? Well I won't play the spoils here as, throughout this entire process, she remains still and lifeless as trained. It's not until the end when things come to a head with our tortured thief and one of them who's in with the cops, that she becomes a force to be reckoned with and also the life of this demented 'party.'

Well-written with a cast of great characters (it also features special appearances by Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, and Sonny Chiba), Sushi Girl could easily be included and fit nicely within a re-edited version of 2007's Grindhouse. I'd also squeeze in Hobo with a Shotgun as long as we're tinkering. Someone get on that, STAT!

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We will return you to your regularly scheduled programming of terror and mayhem shortly.....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanatomorphose (2012)

 Fear 5/5
 Gore 5/5
*Entertainment 5/5
 Creepiness 5/5

*Disclaimer: this isn't entertaining in a play with puppy dogs or frolic in the fields with lollipops kind of way.

From the French word thanatomorphose
def. The visible signs of an organism's decomposition caused by death. 

I'm fortunate to have met many a fine folk while writing for this interwebs blog. And I'm also fortunate to be friends with a group of bloggers who share with me some of the best indie horror films out there and I vice versa. Like me, they weed through the good and the bad so that you don't have to. So when Chris over at The Conduit said that Thanatomorphose is one you have to check out and it's also one of the sickest movies he's ever seen, well needless to say I knew that he meant business. Warning: this one isn't for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. In fact, there have only been a handful of films that have ever made me physically ill. Thanatomorphose is one of them.

Right off the bat, the film has a voyeuristic quality about it. A filming from a dark corner of the room or through the cracks of a closet's shades type of a feeling to it. This quality gives a sense of realism to our proceedings and makes you (the viewer) feel as a though you're a complicit participant to it all. The story itself, centers on a young woman who has become nothing more than a play toy to a physically and emotionally abusive boyfriend. From sex to shaming her in front of her friends, there really isn't a regard for her physical or emotional well being at all.

One morning, she awakens and finds a strange bruise on her right arm but doesn't think much of it at first. She then goes about her day which reveals even more disappointment in her life. She comes home from work to read some sort of rejection letter that's presumably tied to her love of sculpture. Backgrounds and motives are not delved into too deeply with our characters throughout the course of the film. Rather all inferences are gathered more from action and deed. And some startling images which infer a very cracked psyche with our main character.

Things get progressively worse for her as increased bruising then gives way to finger nails falling off and violent vomiting. For the last 45 minutes or so of the film, it's all about this woman deteriorating right before our very eyes. It's an unrelenting mess as we bear witness to bodily fluids being excreted or limbs falling off. But why exactly is she deteriorating? What is it that's causing her body to transform itself?  This film will not only attack your soul but also your head. For me, the way that she carried herself as this person who was just so meek and subservient to any and all desires and who allowed herself to be both physically and emotionally abused, all gave way to her body just giving up. Almost as though her body was rebelling against her, saying 'Enough is enough.' It's not until our closing moments, before it ends in a goopy, grotesque mess, that she actually takes action on something.

This isn't gore for gore sake or horror as art or political statement masquerading as one (*cough* A Serbian Film *cough*). Thanatomorphose is an engrossing experience that will mess with your brain and tug at your lower intestines. You've been warned.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Bay (2012)

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

And the found footage train just keeps on plowing through, full steam ahead kids! This sub genre shows no signs of slowing down despite film fans crying uncle and wishing immediate harm to anyone that is involved with such a production. Oh, call me a sucker alright. I can't get enough of these films no matter how bad or how good they are. Well The Bay falls into the former category and not in an 'Oh so bad it's good' kind of way. Despite some decent scares, painful dialogue is present throughout as one of the worst protagonists in horror history leads us through the proceedings. Yes it's that bad.

We're introduced to a young female and fledgling (read: hack) reporter who begins to tell us in over exaggerated fashion about the history of her quaint seaside town in Maryland. Throughout the entire film, she's shown through the lens of her computer's camera as she narrates the footage we're watching. The town itself, is full of hardworking and good ol' John Cougar Mellencamp playing Americans who are whiter than a box of Saltines. Every 4th of July, the town gets festive but this 4th will be unlike any other. For some reason, through the course of her relaying the events from that day, she loves to lick her lips for some extra emphasis or something. It's beyond annoying and it occurs multiple times throughout the film.

Anywhos, Dimwit McTwittleFuck talks about the evil local mayor who's been hiding the secrets of the town. You see they are mostly known for their chicken farm, a farm that produces more chickens for mass consumption than almost anywhere in the US. So much so, that the excrement from the chickens spews out from the farm and has entered the local waters rendering it mostly devoid of life. That is until parasites are found within some fish that are caught and they love to squirm their way into the mouthfaces of their victims (think of Night of The Creeps).  As you can imagine, the whole town becomes infected on the 4th through both the food they eat and the insanely tainted water supply.

And back and forth we go during the rest of the film between our reporter annoyingly narrating it all and the multiple pieces of footage that were recorded that day (i.e. police cruiser, families on outings, hospital security cams, etc.). As mentioned, some decent scares are employed and there's some icky scenes as the first stage of 'infection' involves boils and lesions. But my god, the dialogue is just so unbearably awful and valley girl-ish that it's hard to take anything seriously and it really rips you out of the experience. And that damn lip licking thingy!

All in all, I've seen worse (Area 407 anybody?). Maybe The Bay would have worked better as a B- movie instead of employing the found footage conceit. Regardless, this is a pretty bad movie and for the life of me I can't figure out why it's getting love from critics and scoring so well on Rotten Tomatoes. Go figure.

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's In The Blood (2012)

I originally posted this review back in April. I'm re-posting it as the film has recently hit various VOD platforms (including Amazon and iTunes as well as a number of cable providers). Hands down, it's one of my favorite genre films of the year and it just may be the best. I can't recommend this film enough and I hope that you check it out. In a sea of blandness, we need more films like It's In The Blood.

~ Cortez the Killer

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

There are many times where I've questioned myself as a blogger (and subsequently lost a bit of motivation) due to the overwhelming amount of bad films that I make myself endure. For as many posts as this blog has seen, there are an equal amount of films that are not represented because 1. I either couldn't get through the entire film and had to turn it off or 2. It was so painfully awful that I could not bring myself to write a review much less anything remotely intelligible. But then there are those rays of golden light and those experiences you have like I did this past weekend. I saw the fantastic film The Cabin In the Woods and then followed that up by watching the equally incredible independent film It's In The Blood. And I fell back in love with the genre again, all is right with the world, and it's much easier to put fingers to keyboard and bang out a review.

Much like The Cabin in the Woods, this is a film I cannot delve too much into without spoiling its wonderful surprises, twists, and turns. However, a proper setup is needed. October is a young man who's in the middle of medical school and reluctant to come back home for a reunion of sorts with his estranged father (Lance Henriksen). His father lives out in the countryside surrounded by a heavily wooded area. It is here where a tragedy befell the family a few years prior.

Within the opening scenes of the film you learn all you need to know about just how bad the relationship between father and son is. October finds the family dog seized by a bear trap meant for local coyotes. He frantically works to save the dog, removing the clamp, and quickly inserting a makeshift shunt to help clear liquid from the dog's lungs. But dad coldly and quickly decides that the dog will not live and he needs to put it down. Along with this, comes a car ride out to the spot were they're meant to go hiking in which dad basically questions his son's manhood.

Interspersed between the scenes of father and son (and eventually the horrific drama that unfolds onscreen), are a series of flashbacks that help us understand what happened to this family which caused it to fracture so badly. The greatness of the film is the fact that it doesn't give us all the answers right away. Each flashback is done with a skill and grace that invites the audience to be an active participant. It allows them to fill in the gaps themselves and then be punched in the gut when the final piece falls into place.

So where does the real horror of the film come in to play? Dad gets spooked by a creature that he sees in the woods and ends up stepping off a cliff. Not high enough to kill him but enough to severely break his leg, dad is knocked unconscious and his son comes to the rescue. For the majority of the rest of our film, in between the moments of fill-in-the-gaps flashbacks, they are threatened by tall, dark, and lanky creatures in the woods who make them feel as though there is no way out. As the story unravels further, and father and son repair old wounds, we begin to wonder, are the monsters real or are they merely representative of the anger and pain which each man harbors?

The film fantastically plays out all the way until the terrifying end. The creature design (hooray for good practical effects!) is also great as well as the atmospherics which give off a pervasive feeling of dread throughout. And the irrepressible Henriksen is absolutely brilliant. It's In The Blood reaffirms why I love horror so much and its the type of film that makes enduring so many bad ones all worthwhile.

For more information about the film, check out its website:

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Toad Road (2012)

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

Toad Road is the first film that will be released under Elijah Wood's (yes, that Elijah Wood) new production company The Woodshed. It's interesting that this particular film was chosen as it's anything but conventional. Reading the mission statement of the group, I think that is exactly what they're aiming for: exposing and bringing to the masses unconventional, challenging horror. This one will challenge most viewers and is definitely not one for the casual horror fan. For me, the film is a bit of a mixed bag but a couple of things are for certain: it's a tough watch and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

The film centers on a group of young teens and twenty-somethings, wasting away their days in AnywhereTown, USA. Living in a back woods, country setting, they waste time and brain cells by drinking themselves into oblivion and doing loads of drugs. Some of them are in bands, some have notions of getting a higher education but by and large they're lost youths. And youths that have no parental figures around at all. In fact, you don't see a single family member (nor any adults for that matter) during the course of our film.

Our story begins to focus on one couple in particular: the ring leader so to speak of our group and his beautiful girlfriend who seems to be the more sensible one of the bunch. You see, she goes to school and does not partake in the daily excesses of this group that's headed for an early grave fast. But a hot and heavy relationship combined with her own curiosity around the effects of drugs leads her to experiment and things soon spiral out of control.

As she pushes the boundaries of her drug use, she becomes more and more obsessed with a local legend. As it goes, past a gate and through a long and winding unmarked road, are various passageways. Each one gets progressively worse and if you make it to the very end (which no one has), you enter hell itself. Not only does she think she can make it all the way, but she also thinks it to be the vehicle by which she can experience the ultimate drug induced high.

Amid some horrifying visions and continued drug use, she convinces her boyfriend to go with her on her journey. They then set out and as they enter the 2nd or 3rd passageway, they begin to experience certain sensations. But you don't know if they're real or drug induced. Things escalate as they continue on and begin to hear voices. Our obsessive girlfriend wanders off and soon goes missing. From here on out, our film continues to play into the mind of the viewer as to what's really going on: is something supernatural at work or is this just one long, dark, bleak, and utterly fucked up cautionary tale?

And that's kind of where the film is a bit of a mixed bag for me, it wasn't definitively one or the other but I'm leaning towards cautionary tale. It has a very real feel to it as all of the booze and drug use is in your face and very raw. Much like The Bunny Game before it, it makes you wonder aloud how much of it was real as it pushes the boundaries of performance art. If you like challenging horror and unconventional filmmaking, Toad Road just might be up your alley.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Splinter (2008)

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

Without a doubt, Splinter is one of the best creature feature flicks I've ever seen. And dare I say it's also one of the most underrated horror flicks of the past decade? Yes siree kiddos. If you haven't seen this one already, get on it ASAP.

A pair of couples, both total polar opposites, come upon each other while out in the woods. One of the couples is on the run from the law and they need to get the hell out of Dodge. They hold the other up at gunpoint and commandeer their ride. The other couple, a gorgeous gal and her tree hugging scientist husband, have no other choice but to go along. However, things get a little side tracked when they encounter car trouble and have to stop at a roadside gas station. As you can imagine, things are about to get a whole lot worse for the four of them.

OK kids, the plot is really not all that involving from here on out: they hole themselves up in the gas station, something outside is trying to get them, the local po po tries to intervene they get waxed (or should I say infected), some of them make it out and some of them don't. The End.

BUT, all of that is done with a lot of gusto and with some really incredible practical effects. VIVA LOS EFECTOS DE PRACTICO!! It's a full on gorefest as this organism, well, splinters off and infects it's host. It's very reminiscent in fact of The Thing minus all of the snow and amazing beards.

Good God this was a lot of fun. I want a sequel!

Cortez the Killer