Monday, January 14, 2013

The Devil's Carnival (2012)

I'll be honest going into this.  I hate musicals, and I wasn't a big fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera.  But this thing has just been glaring at me from my Netflix instant queue, and with an hour to kill before I have to start dinner, I thought I'd give it a shot.  This is only an hour long, and apparently was created with the intention of having more "episodes" to follow.  This is also one of those projects where everyone and their mom makes an appearance.  We've got Alexa Vega (from Repo!) Dayton Callie (Sons of Anarchy) Bill Moseley, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Paul Sorvino.  Daryn Lynn Bousman is at the helm, and apparently filming was completed in 7 days, elaborate makeup and all.

The Devil's Carnival is the story of three people who have committed various sins in their lives, and find their way to a carnival run by the devil.  As they say, hell is repetition, and they are doomed to repeat the same misdeeds that brought them here.  John (Flanery) committed suicide after the death of his young son.  Ms. Merrywood (Briana Evigan) is shot to death by police after stealing.  And Tamara (Jessica Lowndes) is killed by an abusive boyfriend.  Everything seems to be based on Aesop's fables, of which I don't remember much, so I'm no help there.  The unfortunate part is that there wasn't much character development, and I couldn't really bring myself to care about any of the three "sinners."  Any room for backstory or explanations was filled with singing by the "carnies."

The costumes and makeup in this movie were really incredible, and the songs were great if you're into that type of thing.  I get the vibe from the IMDB reviews that this is one of those cult movies where people are either "meh" or "OMFG THIS IS MORE THAN A MOVIE!1!1!1!"  I get the feeling that this just either wasn't my type of movie, or it just went right over my head.  It definitely isn't in the same league as Repo! and although I'm glad I checked it out to satisfy my curiosity, I won't be rushing to see any of the follow-up installments.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Compliance (2012)

I have to admit, Magnolia Pictures has never stuck much in my mind for any reason.  But when watching V/H/S, I saw the preview for this movie, and I was entranced.  When watching Compliance, I saw the preview for another exciting-looking movie, Deadfall, and now it looks like I am a Magnolia fan.   Scream King is convinced that the main character in this film (Becky - Dreama Walker) is related to Rose McGowan, but the internet says no.  She does look a lot like her, doesn't she?

Compliance is absolutely (and very closely) based on a true story.  In the late 90s and early 2000s, a man posing as a police officer called over 70 fast food locations, weaving a story about a young cashier who stole money from a customer's purse.  The caller claims to have the regional manager on the other line, and says that police will arrive soon.   However, in the meantime, the "police officer" suggests that the store manager could help by strip-searching the alleged thief, both to help out law enforcement, and save the woman a trip to jail later.  This specific movie is based on the incident that led to the caller being caught, which took place in Mount Washington, Kentucky.  This particular case went further than any of the previous calls, and included a sexual assault.

In the movie version, a young cashier named Becky (Dreama Walker) is removed from her cash register by her manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd) after receiving a call that she had stolen money.  The man, "Officer Daniels," (Pat Healy) pushes Sandra to recover the money stolen, first strip-searching Becky and keeping her clothes as "evidence," and also searching her bag and belongings.  After the strip-search, the caller coerces Sandra into bringing in several men to "watch over" Becky, so that Sandra can help out at the very busy counter.  When the men are alone with Becky, the caller attempts to coerce them into sexually degrading Becky, even pushing as far as a sexual assault.

At some points, I would find this story unbelievable, unless I didn't know it was true, and occurred on several occasions.  This case has been compared to the Milgram experiment as it showcased how far people would go in a situation where they're being commanded to do things by people they view to be an authority.  The acting here was great, and the intensity and general creepiness really shined through.  This isn't a cut and dried horror movie, but I couldn't help but review it here.  A really great look at a true-life case. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

I loved Ms. Ahlborn's previous novel, Seed, so I was thrilled to check out The Neighbors, thanks to the Amazon Prime Lending LibraryAmazon calls it a blend of Blue Velvet and Basic Instinct, and I call it creepy as hell.

The Neighbors follows a man, Andrew Morrison, who escapes the trappings of his life and caring for his alcoholic and agoraphobic mother to go live with a childhood friend. As he travels down the street that the house is located on, he is thrilled to see a beautiful neighborhood with immaculate houses.  However, when he arrives at his new rental, it is rundown and completely out of place in the neighborhood.

He tries to make the best of his new living situation with his roommate, Mickey, but things are hard.  The house is a pigsty, and Mickey is mostly uncommunicative and absorbed in video games. The light at the end of the tunnel for Andrew is his seemingly perfect neighbors, Red and Harlow.  Not only is Harlow the perfect mother he never had, but he also finds himself attracted to her flawless looks at well.  The couple immediately takes to Andrew, inviting him over for meals and even give him a job doing housework.  Drew ignores Mickey's warnings against the couple, and spends more and more time there, despite Harlow's increasing flirtations, and overall strange behavior.

There is something dark and scary hiding under the pristine surface of Harlow and Red's perfect life.  But it seems that Drew will discover it when he is already in way too deep.  Not only is there violence involved, but sexual deviance, crazy families, hidden bodies, and conspiracy.

I can't say I liked this is much as Seed, since, in my opinion, I don't think it was ever able to achieve the true eeriness that Ahlborn's previous book invoked.  I also agree with other reviewers/readers that it seems like the author held back a bit.  I saw her heading down the road of extreme horror a la Crouch and Kilborn, but she seemed to snap back and show (maybe a little too much) restraint.  I really liked the story, but I would have appreciated it to go even a little deeper and more gritty.  Definitely worth a read though, and check out Seed if you haven't already!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Afflicted (2010)

Hi, Netflix.  Did you say Kane Hodder AND Leslie Easterbrook?!  Count me in.  It's a slow Saturday night for me here in the Big Apple, making slow-cooker baby back ribs, watching some horror movies and catching up on blogging.  The description of this made me think of Frailty, which is a movie that completely terrifies me.  Also, Baby Blues

This movie is told from the perspective of one of the daughters in the story.  Maggie (Leslie Easterbrook) is a bit of a crazypants.  She always plays such a good ranting lunatic, a la the ranting scene in The Devil's Rejects.  Her husband is Hank (Kane Hodder) who has had about enough of her nonsense and is on the way out the door.  She's not having that, but he's out of her life one way or the other.  After her husband's sudden departure, and with four kids left to raise on her own, fire-and-brimstone Maggie goes off the deep end.  She becomes an alcoholic, and is obsessed with watching a local televangelist who actually sometimes visits her house.

Under the guise of "the Lord," and the preacher spouting "spare the rod and spoil the child," Maggie gets right to work.  She starts by beating her children with the "board of education," but quickly forces her daughter into prostitution.  Maggie also becomes consumed with her escalating weight, and aging looks, blaming it her younger and more attractive daughters.

Apparently this movie is somewhat based on the story of Theresa Knorr who tortured and murdered her children back in the 80s.  Viewers will also draw parallels to The Girl Next Door and the two main women are quite similar.  For a fairly low-budget movie ($180K), the camera/sound/quality was great, and the acting wasn't half bad either, especially the fantastic crazy performance by Leslie Easterbrook.  The soundtrack was memorable, and that's not something I usually pay attention to when watching a horror movie!  I do agree with other reviewers that you have to suspend reality a all of the kids are teenagers, it does seems a little unbelievable that they were not able to escape or overpower her at any point.  But that aside, pretty good flick, and worth checking out!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

V/H/S (2012)

I heard this is one of those movies where you love it or hate it, no in between.  Well the verdict is in, and I fucking loved it.   Basically this is an anthology, based on a backstory of some hired burglars assigned to rob a desolate house for a videotape.  Of course, there are many tapes in the house, and they need to watch a few of them to determine which is the right one.  Each "tape" is led by a different horror director, and all are pretty awesome.  Just a quick recap without giving anything away.

The first installment, Amateur Night, is about a group of drunken guys who have one of their buddies wear a pair of glasses with a camera built in so that he can make an amateur porn later on.  They bring a couple of girls back to their hotel, but one is a littttleee weird...

Second Honeymoon is about a married couple on a little road trip.  They seem to be having a great time, until they encounter a strange girl knocking on their door late at night.  Is she just looking for a ride...or more?

Tuesday the 17th follows a group of twenty-somethings as they go on a camping trip.  Their guide, Wendy, seems to be acting oddly, often mentioning "accidents" and the fact that they will all die on the trip.  Will they survive their walk through the woods?

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger takes place on FaceTime, which is a cool twist.  Emily calls her boyfriend, and complains that she is hearing strange noises outside her door at night.  The whole incident reminds her of something that happened when she was younger.  Her boyfriend promises to help her through her fear, but does he have ulterior motives?

10/31/98 is about a group of guys going to a fun Halloween party at a house in the suburbs.  When they arrive at the party, they find the house empty, but think that it is just a haunted house that will later turn into a party.  But when they make it to the attic, they find more than they were looking for....

I don't get scared too often, and this shit freaked me out.  It didn't use too many cheap jump scares, just general creepiness, unique backstories, and some great visuals and effects.  It's the first time in a while that I had to turn on something "non scary" before going to bed.  

It's hard to pick a favorite installment, but with anthologies, you feel like you always have to.  I'd say that "The Sick Thing..." was my fave, closely followed by "Amateur Night."  Scream King loved "Second Honeymoon," but he has always been a big Ti West fan.  Ignore all the hate about this movie, and definitely check it out.  If you love found footage, anthologies, and just general awesomeness, along with a fresh little twist on the genre, you will dig V/H/S.