Monday, May 28, 2012

Day of the Dead (2008)

A George Romero remake with B-list actors?  You don't say.  We've definitely never seen that before!  In this iteration of Day of the Dead, we're treated to such talents as Nick Cannon, Mena Suvari, Ving Rhames, and AnnaLynne McCord.  Nick Cannon pretends to be 'hood, AnnaLynne's abs look fantastic, and Mena sports the same pout from American Pie.  

The premise?  A small Colorado town (repeatedly referred to as a "shithole") is overrun by zombies that were part of some failed government experiment.   Basically, people get what appears to be a cold, and then turn into flesh-hungry monsters.  But apparently these zombies retain some part of their former personalities, like a vegetarian zombie who won't eat people.  Sara (Mena Suvari) is an Army corporal who has been assigned to patrol the roadblock on the outside of the city.  However, she becomes worried about her mother, and stops by to check on her.  Finding her sick, she brings her to the overcrowded hospital, which is filled with people about to become zombies.

Sara, fellow officer Salazar (Nick Cannon), Bud (Stark Sands), her brother Trevor (Michael Welch) and his girlfriend Nina (Annalynne McCord) are forced to battle the zombies as they struggle to find a way out of town.  They face interpersonal battles, as well as those against the zombies.  Although the zombie special effects were pretty cool, the acting was meh, and the plot fell pretty flat.

Calling this a "remake" is a bit of a stretch.  Although it used the name of the 1985 Romero film, it actually has very little in common with it.  This skipped the theaters entirely (I wonder why?) and went straight to DVD.  This was thought to be a sequel of the popular 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, especially since Ving Rhames was also cast in this film.  However, that was probably done purposely so that people would think this would be as good as Dawn, since he played an entirely different character in this movie.  I personally love the remake of Dawn but this is definitely one to skip.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

I've never liked Jeepers Creepers.  This flick definitely has a cult following, and was popular enough to spawn two more movies (apparently the JC3 is on deck for 2013), and possibly a third (MGM is apparently interested in filming JC4 directly after it).

Darry (Justin Long) and his sister Trish (Gina Phillips) are traveling to their parent's house for spring break.  Trish seems a bit torn up over a boyfriend, so she insists that they take the "back way" home to kill some time.  While they're driving, bickering, and playing license plate games, they are rapidly approached by the now-infamous "beatingu" truck:

Shaking off the strange truck, they drive on, only to see the truck again up ahead on the road.  They observe the driver of the car dumping what appears to be bodies down a sewer drain.  They attempt to drive on, but the driver has already seen them.  He gives chase, but they're able to shake him off.  After much debate and guilty feelings, they decide to return to the site of the body-dumping and investigate.  Darry falls into the pipe, where he discovers a dying young man, and a plethora of bodies stitched together lining the walls.  Finally able to escape, Darry and Trish call the police from a nearby diner/gas station.

We learn the "Jeepers Creepers" connection, as a random lady calls Darry and Trish to tell them that when they hear that song, terrible things will happen.  She also mentions tragedy surrounding a scene with many cats.  The police that have arrived to help are particularly unhelpful. For the remainder of the movie, everyone runs from "The Creeper," a creature that emerges every 23rd spring for 23 months to feast on body parts.  Um, okay?  Apparently he smells fear, and likes this brother and sister in particular.

There are some creepy moments in this movie, like the scene under the church, the creature eating body parts, and the conclusion of the "eye" storyline.   But after another watch, I still kinda hate this movie.  I don't like Justin Long, and I just don't freakin' get "The Creeper."  We're supposed to be scared of some stupid song and a dude that only comes around every 23 years?!  WTF? 

The Skin I Live In (2011)

**Sort-of spoilers's hard to review this one without giving some things away**

The Skin I Live In is like a combination of Nip/Tuck, Victim, and Oldboy.  It's a Spanish movie (so be ready for subtitles) about a brilliant plastic surgeon who lost his wife in a car accident.  In memory (honor?) of her, he attempts to make a synthetic skin that can withstand any impact.  Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) seems to be doing continuous work on a woman that is residing in his home, Vera (Elena Anaya).

This story is a little hard to follow at parts, because it jumps back and forth to different times in Robert's life.  Basically, his wife was nearly killed in the accident, but he rescued her in the last moments of life, hoping to heal her completely.  After hiding her from her deformed face and body for several months, she catches a glimpse of herself, and immediately commits suicide.  The couple's daughter, Norma (Blanca Suarez) is extremely affected by her mother's death, and is committed to a mental institution to recover.

After some time spent there, the doctors at the institution believe that some socialization would be good for Norma, so she accompanies her father to a wedding.  There, she seems to be making fast friends, but is unaware that most of the young adults at the wedding are under the influence of drugs.  She goes on a walk with a boy, who rapes her, leaving her traumatized.

Robert is intent on tracking down the rapist, after he discovers that his daughter now fears all men, and he cannot have a relationship with her.  Once he locates the rapist, he formulates an experimental plan for him...

I can't really say any more without giving away the twists of this movie!  I really liked this flick, and there's great acting all around.  The female star is breathtaking, and Antonio Banderas is so un-cheesy!  It definitely won all those awards for a reason.  

The Innkeepers (2011)

Ti West is one of those "love 'em or hate 'em" types.  Some people are on board with his atmospheric and generally low-gore style (save for Cabin Fever 2!)  Personally, I loved this flick.  I wasn't sure at first, if I loved it, but after letting it stew for a couple days, I'm definitely a fan.

The Innkeepers was filmed in an actual hotel in Torrington, Connecticut, at the Yankee Pedlar Inn.  That itself is pretty awesome.  The hotel itself doesn't appear to have any sort of haunted history, but just the fact that it was filmed at a real old hotel was pretty neat.  There's so many sets, and places that pretend to be other places, and this was solid.

The Innkeepers is about a New England hotel that is closing, and two young people, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) who are responsible for manning the hotel during its last days.  They expect no guests, but surprisingly, there are some.  A former actress, Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis!!) is speaking at a nearby convention.  A mother and son are running from the husband/father.   And finally, an old man returns to stay in the same room as he did on his wedding night.

Pat and Claire really don't care about the guests, and are pretty focused on capturing proof of a ghost that supposedly haunts the hotel.  Pat has made a cheesy website about the ghost, and he needs more video and sound to amp it up a bit.  However, it's quickly apparent that Claire is the ballsy one of the two, and keeps going out on a limb to capture scary sounds and strange occurrences.  Where does Leanne fit in?  Well, she's some sort of psychic/healer (and frequent consumer of vodka) and she can feel the presence of the hotel ghost.  She urges Claire to leave well enough alone, but Claire is not hearing that noise.

As the hotel closing day gets closer, the supernatural entities seem to become more apparent, and violent.  As the three try to get away from the hotel, the beings seem to pull them back in somehow.

This flick is definitely allll Ti West.  If you're looking for tons of blood and gore and screams, this is the wrong place.  It's very atmospheric, creepy, and understand like House of the Devil, so if you liked that one, definitely check out The Innkeepers. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Random: Revisiting Martyrs

**SPOILERS AHEAD!!  If you don't want this movie to be ruined for you, read my previous review**

You may find it hard to believe, but I talk about horror movies a lot.  In addition to talking about horror at random, I also get lots of questions and comments about horror movies.   Many people comment that they can't watch horror, since they get too scared.  I've watched hundreds of horror flicks, and I no longer scare easily.  Many people ask me what my favorite horror movie is.  That question ends up being subjective, since my favorite horror movie is not necessarily the one that scared me the most.  For the record, my favorite is The Devil's Rejects.

On some occasions, people ask me the last movie that scared me, especially hardened horror fans who haven't been scared in a while.  Over the last few years, the same name has been coming up over and over again: Martyrs.   When I first saw this movie, I had nightmares for weeks.  It was several months before I could give it a second watch.  It's been lingering in the back of my head lately, begging for another viewing, and I thought maybe another blog post could do it justice.

First off, watching this in French with the subtitles is the only way to do it.  I love watching foreign movies, but I loathe watching them dubbed in English.  In my opinion, it just takes away from the sincerity and emotion of the acting.  The two stars of Martyrs, Morjana Alaoui (Anna) and  Mylene Jampanoi (Lucie) were incredible.  The roles took an almost endless amount of raw emotion, which they were able to deliver perfectly.  Even the small parts are acting precisely, from the little kids in the orphanage to the teenage boy confronted at the breakfast table. 

Their relationship dynamic is also so interesting.  Anna clearly plays the mother role in childhood, and even coddles Lucie as an adult.  Not only does she come rushing to her friend after she commits murder, but she cleans up the mess while Lucie naps. 

The effects are amazing, even the little things, like the blood spattering the breakfast dishes.  The creature/dead girl, the girl locked in the basement, the skinning....amazeballs.  Where so many movies lately use jump scares to make viewers' hearts leap, Martyrs uses visceral scares that cut straight to your core. 

Not everything about this movie is perfect.  Like why does Anna sleep when she has a random dying girl in the tub?  And the voice of Lucie that she hears in the basement borders on cheesy. And why do they bother to clean her, but never change her clothes? And the's a love it or hate it type of thing.  What did Anna say to Madamemoiselle?  What did "keep doubting" mean?  The writer definitely meant for there to be questions left unanswered and room for interpretation. 

Now here's a bonus question for people who have seen it.  Is it at all possible that the girl in the basement with all the metal things is the girl that Lucie left in the beginning?  This was my first inclination, but then I sort of figured that no one could have lived that long in those conditions. 

So the moral of this story?  If you've seen Martyrs, share your opinions in the comments.   If you haven't seen it, definitely check it out.  Multiple viewings have not changed my opinion that this is one of the most horrifying and visceral horror movies ever made. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pet Sematary (1989)

I'm going to go ahead and say it, Pet Sematary is one of the best Stephen King movie adaptations.  It's one of his best books as well, in my opinion.  One thing that King has always excelled at is scaring us with things that can actually happen, and is this story too far out of the realm of reality?  My readers may not know this, but Scream Queen is an avid supporter of animal rights, and while I can watch men, women, and children be chopped to bits on screen, that damn ASPCA commercial tears me up every time.  As for my pets, I have two, both rescues who make me smile every day.

This is Liza and Maude looking out onto East 72nd Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan
They're only 5 and 7 right now, but I can't even begin to think about what I'll do someday when they're gone.  I imagine the idea of the "secret" Pet Sematary will sound pretty tempting to me then, which is why King's story hits so close to home, especially for us crazy pet owners.

In case you've missed the career of SK completely, Pet Sematary is about the young Creed family that moves to a college town in Maine.  There's dad/husband Louis (Dale Midkiff), mom Rachel (Denise Crosby), daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl), and son Gage (Miko Hughes).  Louis is all set to be the new doctor at the university hospital, and Rachel is settling in as stay-at-home mom.

They immediately meet a friendly neighbor, Judd Crandall (Fred Gwynne) who has lived in the area forever, and is excited to show the family the pet cemetary down the path from their house.  It seems innocuous enough, just being a place where mourning children bury their beloved, deceased pets.  However, there's another burial ground beyond the cemetary, where pets come back to life after you put them in the ground.

Louis's obsession with the burial ground starts when when his daughter's cat gets hit by a truck, and continues to grow.  Exacerbating these issues are his wife's trauma over a dying sister she cared for as a child.   (For those who have seen this, didn't you get nightmares over Zelda?  Holy crap.)  After a traumatic experience, Louis pushes the limits of the burial grounds, to see who and what it can bring back.

The acting in this movie wouldn't blow anyone out of the water, except for the OMG AWESOME EVIL CUTENESS of Gage Creed.  Seriously, does your horror-hardened heart not melt at this?

The creepiness of this flick is totally on-point and the special effects are pretty damned good, especially for the late 80s.  When I did The Top Ten Creepiest Kids in Horror Movies Miko Hughes was on there twice for his overwhelming awesomeness as a scary child.  Right now, my top SK move adaptations are Pet Sematary, Shawshank Redemption, Firestarter,  Maximum Overdrive (ha!) and The Stand.   Full disclosure: I love The Shining as a movie, but not as a King adaptation.  And that's a story for a whole different post.   Rock on, Pet Sematary, rock on.

Psycho Ward (2007)

There was an odd trend in the mid-to-late-2000s, where horror movie posters and DVD covers featured random creepy images that had nothing to do with the actual movie at all.  Psycho Ward is a great example.  Looking at this image makes me think of a horrifically neglected mental hospital, where patients are tortured to the point where death is the only escape.  Right?  Only me? 

Anyway, that is not what Psycho Ward is about.  It actually focuses on a somewhat ragtag bunch of filmmakers, who are doing a documentary on mental hospitals that were suspected to have participated in secret government experiments.  This time, they're at Black Creek Hospital (ominous name) being led by a person (Monica) who runs a website about the history of the institution.  The various characters are fairly annoying and vapid, and their leader, Dr. Magellan reads his lines in a total monotone.  The dialogue seems like they're trying to deliver their lines in an American accent (it's a Canadian movie) but it comes off sounding like a junior high school play.

When the group goes in to check out the hospital, they unwillingly become locked inside, and pursued by a masked madman who supposedly had been killed in a fire years prior.  Against basic horror movie logic, they separate on multiple occasions, each time losing someone to the not-so-mysterious killer.  There's some random backstory, like the group thinking Monica is involved somehow, a groundskeeper that never shows, and some vague nonsense about a chapel.  There were some good gory moments sprinkled in there, and the soundtrack was pretty badass.  And I will admit that the production value was pretty high, although the sound was kind of fucked up.  One of those where you have to keep turning the volume up and down.

The benefit to finishing this movie?  I no longer have to watch that creepy chick glaring at me from position #7 on my Netflix instant queue.  I feel bad for her, whoever she is, since they never did seem to locate her in the mental hospital.  Unanswered questions, I guess ;)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Staunton Hill (2009)

The Netflix "cover" for Staunton Hill leaves much to be desired, but it looks like they were hoping to rope in viewers with the fact that this movie was directed by Romero.  G. Cameron Romero, that is, who is the son of George Romero.  This movie claims to be reminiscent of flicks like House of 1000 Corpses, Wrong Turn, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre so you know Scream Queen is game for that.  Backwoods murderers are my favorite kind. 

It's 1969 and some 20-somethings are headed to Washington D.C. to join in various protests.  They're hitchhiking, but it's not going as well as they has hoped.   They end up at a general store/mechanic type of place, where they're having difficulty catching a ride until they meet up with Quentin.  However, his truck breaks down pretty quickly, and the group is forced to spend the night in a barn.  They wake up the next morning to encounter a mentally disabled man, his mother, and grandmother.  They find out that the phones are down and the truck is still not working, so they are stuck on the farm for a while.

One thing I never get about the girls in these movies is why go looking for a bathroom?  They're always somewhere where they could just pop a squat behind a tree or something, and they insist on wandering around through god-knows-what in search of an actual flushing toilet.  It would be cleaner and safer to go outside, dipshits.  /endrant.

As to be expected, the family is not exactly the hospitable type.  In fact, it seems they run some sort of operation that requires them to steal body parts, skin, blood, etc. from those who are unlucky enough to end up on their property.  Somehow the driver, Quentin, is involved.  It appears that he is a med school dropout that does procedures using the items gathered on the farm.  This is what I gathered from vague references and random cut edits.  Blood, gore, and lots of restraints ensue.

There are some pretty sweet special effects in this movie, from some willy-inducing skin peeling to foot-sawing and decapitation.    But unfortunately the story never gets as good as the effects and it reads as yet another backwoods killer ripoff.  Not the worst ripoff I'd ever seen, but you'd expect better from the Romero name, especially if you're going to stick it in huge font right on the cover.

Hannibal (2001)

I have a random story about this movie.  When it first came out, I went to go see it in the theater with a friend (I would have been about 18 at the time).  In the front row, a guy threw up during the brain-eating scene, causing quite the commotion in the theater.  I was a grizzled horror veteran by that point, and it would have taken more than a little cerebral munching to turn my stomach.

Hannibal, of course, is the sequel to Silence of the Lambs.  For some reason, Jodie Foster declined to return to this movie, so they had to find someone else.  Julianne Moore it was!  I love her, especially in Boogie Nights and despite her terribly ugly cry-face.  Luckily she only exhibits it like once in this movie.  In this sequel, Hannibal Lecter has escaped from jail after a fumbled prison transfer, and he has relocated to Italy, where he is posing nicely as museum curator Dr. Fell.  Meanwhile, back in the states, Agent Starling is involved in a drug raid gone horribly wrong and is about to get kicked off the force, until a wonderful opportunity arises.  Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) the only living Lecter victim, claims to have more information about him.  Basically he's just using his massive wealth to purchase Lecter-related items, specifically from his old caretaker, Barney.

Starling agrees to meet with Verger, who is all too excited to share the details of his child molestation victim, and subsequent acid trip with Dr. Lecter, which resulted in him peeling off his face and ending up looking like a freakshow.  As he pretends to help the FBI, he has a grand plan in mind, where he will kill Lecter in a manner he has chosen.  With Clarice back on the case, Verger is also collaborating with an Italian detective, who has discovered Dr. Fell's ruse.

Meanwhile, everyone's largest mistake is thinking that any of this is going over Hannibal's head.  Of course it's not, and he knows what's up.  However, he wishes to reunite with Clarice (through a cat and mouse game of sorts), who he seems to have more of a sexual desire for than in Silence of the Lambs.  Oh, also, Ray Liotta is involved.  How could I forget about him?  He's kind of blah blah blah I'm bringing you down Starling through most of the movie, but shines as he eats his own brain.  Awesomesauce. 

I've always loved the scene when they're handcuffed together in the kitchen.  There's just something so perfectly written and acted about that part, and over multiple viewings it still gets me.  "Would you ever say, 'if you loved me, you'd stop'?"  Chills.  Obviously nothing can beat the perfection of Silence of the Lambs, but Hannibal is a close runner-up.  Now available on Netflix instant if you're interested.

Bag of Bones (2011)

This miniseries had a huge marketing campaign in NYC, and you couldn't get to work or grab a cup of coffee without seeing that creepy little drowning girl.  I meant to watch it when it aired, but you know how that goes, and blah blah blah that's why we have Netflix instant.  I've read all of Stephen King's books, and I vaguely remember meandering my way through Bag of Bones several years back, but obviously it wasn't very memorable, as I can't recall a thing about the story.  I don't particularly like Pierce Brosnan, but I do love me some Melissa George and Anika Noni Rose, so I thought I'd give this one a shot.

I've been watching a lot of King adaptations recently, and I realized that there's one thing that really bugs me about SK's writing.  I never noticed it as much in the books, but for some reason, in the movies, it's more pronounced.  For the love of God, the catch phrases.  In this one, it's "custody comes with it's responsibilities" but we all know we've heard them in every King piece from The Green Mile to Pet Semetary.  And although they also usually exist in the books, the cheese factor gets seriously amped up in the movie adaptations.

So, to the miniseries.  Bag of Bones is about a writer, Michael Noonan (Pierce Brosnan), who suddenly loses his wife, Jo.  He is deeply morning, and decides to go to their vacation home on Dark Score Lake to have some peace and work on his next book.  There he meets single mom Mattie (Melissa George) and her daughter Kyra (Caitlin Carmichael).  He almost immediately gets the vibe that something weird is going on in Dark Score, and he begins to have weird visions involving Kyra, Mattie, Jo, and a blues singer, Sara Tidwell (Anika Noni Rose).  Hoping to quell these nightmares, he digs deeper into the history of Dark Score Lake.  Meanwhile, he helps Mattie, who fears losing custody of her daughter to her powerful father-in-law, Max Devore.  The story keeps trying to force Mattie and Michael into some sort of romantic relationship, although it just seems so forced and unbelievable.

Michael learns that something terrible happened in Dark Score in the summer of 1939, setting off a curse that affected young girls right up until this day.  With the help of his dead wife, he digs up the ghosts, so to speak, and tries to put their souls to rest.  I really wanted to like this movie, but I just really didn't get anything out of it.  It came across as cheesy and cliched and none of it really resonated with me.  I may consider giving the book another read, just for comparison's sake, but there are much better King adaptations out there than Bag of Bones.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Five Across the Eyes (2006)

I try not to exaggerate when reviewing horror movies.  I've seen a lot of bad horror movies, a lot of great horror movies, and everything in between.  Five Across the Eyes is literally one of the worst horror movies I've seen in my entire life.  This movie kept calling to me from Netflix instant, looking kind of awesome, and inferring that it may have some cool deaths and lots of screaming.  Oh, there was screaming.  And sobbing.  And whining.  Did you think Death Proof had a lot of senseless dialogue?  Did you giggle at Heather's blubbering in The Blair Witch Project?  Well, then brace yourself for the nonsense of Five Across the Eyes.

This flick starts out innocently enough, with pretty awful production values, but a bunch of cute girls riding in a car always spells disaster, right?  The question is, bloody gory fun disaster, or boring-as-fuck and annoying disaster?  Ding, ding, ding!  It's number two!  Basically, this van full of girls is headed home from a high school football game.  Only one of them can actually drive, and she's a new driver at that.  Instead of taking the sensible way back to their houses, they decide to take a shortcut that "some guy" told them about.  They, predictably, get lost and stop at a roadside gas station to get directions.  However, even though they notice they're low on gas, they don't get any.  First mistake, of many.  Upon leaving the gas station, they fool around with their friend by pretending to drive away as she chases the car.  I hate that trick.  While doing this, they rear-end a car in front of them.  Even the stupidest teenager knows you should stick around and exchange insurance information, but this bunch was missing the day God passed out brains.

Really now was the point that I should have turned this movie off.  The next hour and fifteen minutes were a combination of screaming and whining, coupled with the stupidest conversations in history, followed by the most random and depraved things we should have to see in a low budget horror movie.  Have you ever seen a screaming teenage girl shit in her own hand and then throw it at an oncoming car?  Me neither.  What about someone being raped with a screwdriver and then kind of walking around with it in for a while until her friend pulls it out?  Could have lived without that one.

This movie is in real time, meaning that the 90 or so minutes of the movie are actually 90 minutes in the lives of these morons.  And basically the entire movie is filmed from a crappy van.  The villain is laughable, and we never get a motive, which sometimes can be frightening but here is just stupid.  Skip this movie at all's truly that horrible.