Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cold Moon (2017)








DIRECTOR: Griff Furst

WRITERS:

Griff Furst
Jack Snyder

CAST:

Josh Stewart
Candy Clark
Frank Whaley
Christopher Lloyd
Robbie Kay
Rachele Brooke Smith
Sara Catherine Bellamy
Michael Papajohn
Carol Sutton
Tommy Wiseau

PLOT:

In the small Southern town of Babylon, Florida. A young lady named Margaret Larkin sets off on her bike into town and is killed by a masked killer on her return. Her body is drowned in the creek close to her house. When her corpse is discovered by a local fisherman, the police begin hunting for the killer. The dead never stays buried though and her killer begins being haunted by her vengeful spirit. The spirit plans on getting revenge for her brutal death.







Going into Cold Moon, I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. I didn't witness the trailer before seeing the movie and was only going in knowing about the poster for the movie with the woman lying in water and the bike at the bottom of a creek. I imagined a murder mystery of some sort. Not knowing anything about this movie is probably what made this all the more enjoyable for me. Going in knowing nothing is probably your best bet with Cold Moon. Sure to surprise some horror fans.

When the movie opened and I saw the studio logo for Uncorked Entertainment pop up, I sighed. I expected an extremely low budget horror movie with no-name actors and terrible effects. I haven't had a great run with movies released by that company. So I was already expecting the worse and judging a movie before it has even started based on the people releasing it. It's the same with Midnight Releasing. I expect the worst from them. Probably not a great thing to do as a horror fan.

Based on the novel by the Michael McDowell who wrote Beetlejuice, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Thinner. I started to let my guard down. A man who has written these four films wouldn't let me down if he was writing a dark southern horror film about a vengeful ghost who is haunting the person who killed it. I started to trust in this movie a bit more and wasn't so worried about who financed or released it. I hoped for something at least good.

Cold Moon is an interesting one. The movie has a lot of problems. I won't ever deny it. I hate to say this because there have been many a low budget horror movie that have done amazing things on a small budget. However, I think with a larger budget for Cold Moon, it may have helped the vision be realised a little bit
 more here. I think with this being written by the man who wrote Beetlejuice, there is a grander vision that sadly isn't fully realised. There are so many ghostly happenings here that the budget sadly doesn't accommodate.

The movie could have used a bigger budget for the visuals on display. With heads being ripped off by hand and ghosts bursting out the ground with snake-like bodies and Beetlejuice looking heads. I think they've gone the CGI route and not having the budget for great effects, a lot of the stuff on display here is really cheesy and poorly done. I think had they used practical effects, it would have been better than what they went with here. CGI really does kill a lot of the scenes in this film.

What Cold Moon gets right is that this movie never stops moving. Once Margaret is murdered, the movie is relentless. This is a fast-paced and frantic supernatural story. I also really enjoyed that the movie was able to successfully blend a ghost story with elements of a masked-killer and slasher movie. I don't think anyone will ever call Cold Moon boring and if they do, it's a lie. The film, for the most part, is a lot of fun, even if the visuals are silly and lend a lot of the set-pieces into more comedic territory.

While I don't think Cold Moon is all that scary. The movie on more than one occasion does try to build tension and suspense but I don't think it's always successful. I think that the film does have a few solidly loud jump scares that should scare unsuspecting audience members. As I said before, the movie is always moving so the film is always trying to scare the audience and at times, a few of the scares do land. I think that the Southern setting also adds to the eerieness.

Lastly, we come to the acting in the film. I wasn't expecting such a well-known cast going into this movie. Josh Stewart is playing against type from his Collector films and is the bad guy. I enjoyed his descent into madness. Candy Clark is emotionally distraught and never lets up. Her performance is filled with sorrow. Christopher Lloyd is sadly underused. Frank Whaley is decent as the town sheriff. Anyone hoping for a decent Tommy Wiseau cameo, don't expect much, it's a blink and miss it role.








DEATH TOLL: 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is drowned in a river.
- A snake comes out of a dead girls mouth.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach with a sword.
- A young man is decapitated by a sword.
- A woman is seen standing in a puddle of blood at the bank.
- A woman is hit in the head twice with a brick.
- A teenage boy has his head pulled off.
- A man's body is found in the river with his ear missing.








Cold Moon is a supernatural slasher that is sadly hindered by a low budget. A lot of the visual effects come across as cheesy due to an overabundance of CGI. Still, Cold Moon is an above average horror movie that is never once boring. The movie never stops moving from the first murder. We have a solid cast and the southern location only adds to the eerieness. You could do a lot worse than Cold Moon. A welcome surprise that I had originally passed off before even watching it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Red Christmas (2017)








DIRECTOR: Craig Anderson

WRITER: Craig Anderson

CAST:

Dee Wallace
Sarah Bishop
Geoff Morrell
David Collins
Janis McGavin
Sam Campbell
Deelia Meriel
Gerard Odwyer

PLOT:

When an estranged family comes together for Christmas at their rural family home. Little do they realise of the horror that is about to befall the family. When a cloaked and masked man holding a letter knocks on Diane's door. It soon becomes apparent that a decision she made twenty years ago has returned to seek revenge on her and everyone that she loves. Diane will need to put an end to this person once and for all before he ends up killing her entire family.







There is something pretty amazing about watching an iconic actress like Dee Wallace come all the way down under to Australian to shoot and headline a gory, bloodsoaked Christmas slasher. An actress who has starred in classic movies such as The Howling, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Cujo, Critters, The Hills Have Eyes, The Stepford Wives, 10, and The House Of The Devil has taken time out to film a low-budget horror movie in my country of birth. I feel like it's a proud moment as a horror fan.

Looking at the poster for Red Christmas, you may be mistaken for thinking this is just another Christmas themed horror movie. Lately, they seem to be all the rage. But Red Christmas isn't your typical slasher movie. There are some truly dark themes that run deep in this movie that elevates it beyond just your standard masked killer who is out seeking revenge which has been done countless times. This is a flick that I think will get certain groups, up in arms over some of the content portrayed in the movie.

While the movie features a plot that feels very similar in structure to a lot of slashers. I think what I enjoyed most about the film was the motive of the killer. While this film is heavily steeped in revenge, the killer is seeking revenge for an attempted abortion that happened twenty years ago. It's probably one of the darkest motives that I think I've ever seen in a slasher. It also raises a lot of questions about terminating unborn children who may have a mental disability. It asks you which side of the fence you sit on and where your moral compass lies.

One of the biggest issues that I had with Red Christmas was the family dynamic. Most of the family are utterly unlikable. Nearly every single character but a few spend the entire film arguing and fighting. So for the most part, I didn't care if three-quarters of the family died. The only two people that I cared for here are Dee Wallace's Diane as she is the most seasoned and has the most to work with and her youngest daughter Hope who seems to be the nicest one in the family.

The highlight of Red Christmas is the practical gore effects and the death scenes. For a low-budget Australian horror film. The gore here is top-notch. We have some of the bloodiest and goriest kills that I've seen in a slasher all year. We have people split in two with an ax, heads shoved onto broken blender blades, blood geysers, and a bear trap death scene that is one of the best I've seen since Ravenous or the Straw Dogs remake. Gorehounds will walk out of this smiling.

When it comes to the suspense and tension. I don't find Red Christmas all that scary. But what I think it does successfully is that from the moment the killer knocks on the families front door, it has this sense of eerieness to it all. It also never lets up or slows down from this point on. Once the killer begins picking off the family in pretty glorious fashion, its always moving. I think the earlier scenes have this sense of dread about them. As the killing start taking place, I think that the movie is injected with a huge dose of urgency.

It must also be mentioned that Red Christmas is a pretty dark movie. If you're hoping for some relief by the end of the film, don't. While the film is filled with all these neon colours, it's far from colourful. The movie is basically watching an entire family being brutally murdered. Three generations being massacred and wiped out. I do like that Australian horror films aren't afraid to end on a dark note. I think Craig Anderson has crafted one mean-spirited little horror film.

Lastly, we come to the acting. I've mentioned several times already that this is Dee Wallace's show. She is the star and producer of the project. As the matriarch of the family, she is given the most to work with and is the catalyst for all the horror that takes place. An iconic actress that even when doing a low-budget Australian horror film gives it her all. I think she is fantastic here. I also felt incredibly sorry for her character Diane. A mother who watches her entire family and all those she loves being wiped out.







DEATH TOLL: 12

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man has his penis ripped off.
- A man is shown with his face smashed onto a table grinder.
- A woman is sliced down the middle with an ax.
- A man is hit in the middle of the head with an ax.
- A man is strangled to death in a car.
- A teenager with Down Syndrome is shotgun blasted.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach.
- Someone's eyes explode and blood sprays everywhere.
- A woman has an umbrella shoved through her eye.
- A woman hangs herself.
- A man is hit in the chest with an anchor and pulled out a window.
- A police officer has a bear trap shoved on his head.
- A guy's heard is shoved onto a broken blender blade.








While Red Christmas sticks to pretty standard slasher formula and has a vast array of annoying characters. Red Christmas is still an enjoyable holiday horror treat. You'll be gifted with buckets of gore and a pretty dark and mean-spirited little Australian horror film. The practical effects are fantastic and Dee Wallace is in fine form. The movie also deals with some darker subject matter that will more than likely piss off anti-abortion and pro-life groups.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Another Evil (2017)








DIRECTOR: Carson Mell

WRITER: Carson Mell

CAST:

Steve Zissis
Mark Proksch
Jennifer Irwin
Dax Flame
Steve Little
Dan Bakkedahl

PLOT:

When an artist and his family are staying in their vacation home and witness a ghost, they end up hiring an exorcist who is recommended to them by a friend. He is said to be an assassin of the paranormal. Soon after he arrives, the family soon realises that the spirits may not be the only things to fear in their house. As they begin to remove the ghosts, their new exorcist may be harder to get rid of than the actual specters.







When I first finished Another Evil, I had wondered to myself am I too hard to please? I pondered this because not once during an hour and a half did I find this movie even remotely funny or enjoyable. The movie is a comedy horror film. For me, they are one of the hardest types of films to pull off because they need to get that balance right to be successful in both genres. If one outweighs the other, it could end up disappointing both horror fans and fans of comedy horrors.

Another Evil starts off rather well. As a horror film, it's actually effective during these early scenes. The movie opens with our family hearing sounds upstairs while they are downstairs in the living room playing a game. The father goes upstairs to investigate to find a chair overturned and some paintbrushes arranged in a triangle. Things only escalate from this point on and for the first ten minutes of the movie, I genuinely got chills during the night scenes where the family hear and start seeing ghosts.

For the next hour and fifteen minutes, the movie just sort of flatlines for me. Once we are introduced to the exorcist who is a paranormal assassin. This flick turns from this somewhat chillingly creepy horror movie into a quirky exchange of words between its two lead characters. This is where the movie tends to try for comedy but didn't work for me. One is a family man and an artist that is growing increasingly frustrated with the exorcist. The exorcist is a weird loner who you don't know whether he is actually really gifted or a complete fraud.

I find comedy to be the hardest genre to enjoy. I think getting someone to laugh is a lot harder to do than any other feeling or emotion. I also think horror is as equally as hard. It's hard to create tension, suspense, and to craft a well-built scare. I think that the comedy in this movie for me felt like that awkward 'The Office' type comedy just without the characters ever looking at the cameras. It just wasn't funny for me. So I spent an hour and a half being bored more than anything. After the first ten minutes, it lacked both horror and comedy.

The movie in the final few minutes reverts back to being a pretty dark horror movie. This is where I thought the movie began to get some life again. It's just too little, too late by this point. I spent close to eighty-five percent of the movie being utterly bored by both the characters, their dynamic and the comedy that the little bursts of horror weren't enough for me to find much at all to enjoy this film. I think that critics, on the other hand, will find a lot to enjoy as this seems just quirky and odd enough from the other films this year that it might stand out as an indie hit.

When it comes to the suspense and tension. I think the first ten minutes and the last several minutes of the movie are actually pretty effective as a horror movie. There is a scene early on when the teenage son wakes up and we hear this horrific moan in the dark hallway that sent chills up my spine. There is also a nice little ghost on the staircase scene that felt like a homage to The Grudge. The ending is also pretty dark. I didn't see where this movie was heading early on but I think I enjoyed the horror elements more than the comedy.

What I would have liked to see in the film is a little more backstory on the ghosts. We see a range of paranormal entities during the course of the movie and we believe that The Exorcist is also aware they are there but we never find out why they are stuck or how they came to die. So we get these pretty cool looking ghosts but never get any explanation. I get that they have left things unanswered but the scene where we see a ghost with a tentacle coming out of its vagina is almost alien-like in nature. I would have liked to see more of the backstory.

Lastly, we come to the acting in the movie. I think the acting is hit and miss for me. I didn't connect or like basically any of the main characters so it was hard to enjoy their performances. I think the standout here is Steve Zissis as the artist and family man. I think he played his role well enough that come to the end of the film, I wanted to see him survive for the most part. Mark Proksch as our exorcist is the one I couldn't deal with here. He is so annoying and over the top that his performance felt grating to me. I didn't care for the character at all or his influence over the others.







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A demon is seen crawling up the stairs with blood on its face.
- A ghost with a tentacle coming out of its vagina is shown.
- A man is hit in the face with a bowl.
- Two men fight in the desert.
- A man is shown with a bloody face.








Another Evil is a movie that I think will be a hit with the critics and indie horror fans. The movie has this quirky character dynamic to it all. For me, the movie sadly misses the mark. The movie is light on horror and laughs. The comedy is probably the films biggest weakness. It's all played fairly deadpan and I simply wasn't a fan. It's also not helped that the villain is not likable in any sense of the word. The first ten minutes of actual suspense and solid tension and a dark ending can't save this movie from being lifeless. Another Evil is a miss for me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Lake Bodom (2017)








DIRECTOR: Taneli Mustonen

WRITERS:


Aleksi Hyvarinen
Taneli Mustonen

CAST:

Nelly Hirst-Gee
Mimosa Willamo
Mikael Gabriel
Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla
Pirjo Moilanen
Ilkka Heiskanen

PLOT:

In 1960, three campers are found dead in their tents while camping on Lake Bodom. They were found stabbed to death and brutally murdered in their tents. Based on real unsolved murders, four friends decide to head to Lake Bodom to try and recreate that night to see if they can solve the murders. Little do they realise that the original killer may still be alive and hunting Lake Bodom for more victims.







For anyone who reads my little website or follows the Schlock Horror Twitter account, knows that I'm a huge fan of true crime. Going into Lake Bodom, I wasn't aware that this movie was actually based on a real unsolved murder case that happened in Lake Bodom in Finland in 1960. I went into this one expecting a foreign slasher film. I may have underestimated this film thinking it would be nothing more or nothing less than your run of the mill slasher.

Lake Bodom has the honor of being a pretty entertaining and dark little slasher film. One of the most original to come out of the last decade if I don't say so myself. What it does first and foremost is that it subverts expectations. Taking those typical slasher tropes that we've all come to expect and ends up turning them on their head, offering the audience a couple of very clever surprise twists. The first being so surprising that I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.

What I thought Lake Bodom did well in setting itself apart from other slasher films is that the entire setup has this meta sort of feel to it all. Being that the movie is based on a real-life unsolved crime. I liked that this group of teenagers goes to the original location and tries to re-enact the crimes to see if they can solve the case once and for all. It's only then do we head into the more familiar slasher elements. I thought it felt similar to The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake.

Where Lake Bodom will get the biggest complaints lobbed at it is for the end and the pacing. I think at times, Lake Bodom feels like it lags. When your movie is a short and sweet hour and twenty-four minutes. Any time that the story feels like it gets bogged down in exposition, you can feel it here. I think the several times that we actually get exposition, it kills some of the intensity. The choice to deliver these moments in times of chaos feels like a bit of an odd choice. That's not to say that this isn't successful as there is plenty of tension to be found here.

I also have to mention that the version of the movie that I saw had some of the most terrible subtitles that I've seen in a recent foreign film. I believed I had been supplied the Shudder version of the film. I'm not sure if Finnish doesn't translate to English as well as other languages but there are times when the subtitles make no sense. Entire words or sentences seem to be missing. Is this just the Shudder version or was this lost in translation? It was very distracting.

Visually, I think Lake Bodom is gorgeous in a very dark and moody way. I think the movie looks fantastic. There are some beautiful shots of the locations of where the film is set. You would be hard pressed to film a movie in Finland or Estonia and have it come out looking terrible. There is just so much beauty and lush scenery that the director has captured on film perfectly. There is also one of the most spectacular car crashes committed to a horror film since the High Tension forest chase.

When it comes to the gore in the film. I read a lot of reviews for the film stating that this is brutal and extreme. I actually found the carnage to be restrained. While there is blood and violence in the film. I think a lot of it is mostly implied and offscreen. As the movie builds towards the third act, it starts to get a little more gruesome but it's a gradual build towards the bloodshed. I think the ending of the film is where people will be left most shocked as this is not a very happy ending. This is as far as a happy Hollywood ending as you'll witness.

Lastly, I think the acting from the four leads is solid. I think the two leading actresses get the most to do within their roles. At first, all four characters begin as your typical horror high school kids. We have the party girl, the quiet girl, the horror nerd and the cool guy. The middle of the film is where shit hits the fan, things are reversed and we get to see two of the four characters become something entirely different and it really is a blast to watch. The performances can't be disputed.







DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Lots of shots of crime scene photos.
- A man is stabbed in the back.
- A man is repeatedly stabbed to death.
- A woman is stabbed to death in a tent.
- Two women are injured when their car flips.
- A woman is attacked by a dog.
- A woman's face hits a steering wheel.
- A woman is smacked in the face with a wrench.








Lake Bodom was a movie I had heard a lot of people praising before I got a chance to witness it. When I first saw the film's poster, I expected just your run of the mill, low budget slasher. I expected nothing more from it. I think my low expectations for the film may have yielded positive results. This is a clever, meta-filled and dark slasher. There is even a few nice surprised and some solid acting. Go in not knowing a thing and you should be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Bad Batch (2017)








DIRECTOR: Ana Lily Amirpour

WRITER: Ana Lily Amirpour

CAST:

Suki Waterhouse
Jason Momoa
Jayda Fink
Keanu Reeves
Jim Carrey
Yolonda Ross
Giovanni Ribisi
Louie Lopez Jr.
Aye Hasegawa

PLOT:

When Arlen leaves the fenced-off world where civilization lives. She wanders into the Texas wasteland where there is no law or government. In the unforgiving landscapes, she is captured by a band of savage cannibals who are using their fellow travelers for food. With her life on the line, Arlen decides to travel the wasteland in search of the charismatic man known as The Dream.







I still remember back in September of 2016 when The Bad Batch was unveiled at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. The word of mouth from the critics who witnessed it, was pretty mixed, to say the least, but what followed from that was an excitement and anticipation. An apocalyptic cannibal film from the director of the highly beloved A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. I was extremely excited to see what director Ana Lily Amirpour would turn out for her second feature film.

Going into The Bad Batch, I was immediately taken aback by how beautiful this film looked. The movie is one of the most gorgeous films I've seen all year. Every single shot of the film felt like it was framed to be able to be used as a snippet or piece of promotion for the movie. The huge wide desert landscapes, the cannibal villages, the rave sequence, the night time desert shots, The Dream's mansion. Every single scene in this film felt like it was something to behold.

That is sadly where it ends for me with The Bad Batch. While the movie is full of style and every scene has something to admire about it. That's all it was for me. The film is all style and very little substance. While I enjoyed the hell out of The Neon Demon. I think The Bad Batch will draw similar comparisons to that movie. Both filmmakers are talented and have such a unique visual style and eye, that it may actually be the only thing that saves these movies as they have very little story at the core of both films.

The Bad Batch moves from one set-piece to another without ever really feeling like there is much of a story there. There feels like there is no weight or heft. It doesn't feel like it has anything really important to say. Minus the theme of immigration that seems to be used as an important character reveal. I didn't find much else here. The film feels ultimately shallow. In saying that, there may have been something deeper here that I just didn't pick up on. Give it a few years and critics will be writing about how important this film is and make me appear brain-dead.

Another element of the movie that I really enjoyed was the soundtrack for the movie. The soundtrack features a mixture of the eighties and nineties that is thrown together with heavy club-ready new wave and house. It is so perfectly matched to the visuals within the film that it almost had this sort of euphoric effect on me. It was almost like a drug. The rave scene and Arlen's drug-trip in the desert are two of the scenes that use both music and cinematography and visuals so expertly.

While some horror fans might find the lack of gore in The Bad Batch disappointing. I still think that the film is shot in a way that feels like less is more. The violent scenes are never once gratuitous. I think while the movie has moments that do lend itself to the horror genre, this may feel more like a drama or a romance which is set among an apocalyptic landscape with unsavory characters more than a flatout scary, bloody or intense horror film. This is pretty light on the horror elements.

When it comes to the acting in The Bad Batch, I think the movie is a little all over the place for me. Suki Waterhouse is just gorgeous to watch on screen. I think that Arlen was actually the most sympathetic character in the movie. She is given the most to do emotionally and if The Bad Batch is anything to go off, she'll be a big star who will headline tentpole films one day. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Bay comes after her for a Transformers film or something down the line. She carries this film.

Lastly, the supporting cast is where the movie feels a little hit and miss for me. Jason Momoa puts on an accent and it feels completely distracting at times. However, he's easy on the eyes, so as a leading man and cannibal, he does the role justice. Keanu Reeves is taking all these weird indie roles of late and I admire the direction. Just in The Bad Batch, he's not good at all. I found his role to be laughably bad here. Finally, we have Jim Carrey as 'The Hermit'. I had no idea it was him until I started writing this review after seeing the film. So under all that beard and costume, it was Jim Carrey all along. I was actually shocked.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman's leg and arm are sawn off with a hacksaw.
- A girl rubs herself in her own excrement.
- A woman smashes another woman's head in with rebar.
- A human leg is seen being cooked.
- A man is shot in the chest.
- We see a man's hand being cut off.
- A man is hit in the leg with a knife.
- A man is hit in the back with a meat cleaver.
- A woman's neck is snapped.
- A woman is shot in the head.
- Crows are seen pecking a dead woman's face.
- We see a man carving up human body parts and cooking them.







The Bad Batch is a movie that feels like style over substance. There is very little plot to be found here. At almost two hours, it feels very long. At times, the movie feels like it could have used a lot of editing to cut the film down. There feels like there is a lot of fat that could be trimmed. Where the movie lacks story, it makes up for sheer gorgeous cinematography and visuals. It also has a great soundtrack and score. Suki Waterhouse carries this film. Worth a watch but don't expect anything with depth.