Thursday, July 20, 2017

Little Evil (2017)








DIRECTOR: Eli Craig

WRITER: Eli Craig

CAST:

Evangeline Lilly
Adam Scott
Owen Atlas
Bridget Everett
Sally Field
Clancy Brown
Donald Faison
Chris D'Elia
Marcus Terrell Smith

PLOT:

Gary has recently married the woman of his dreams, Samantha. Samantha comes with some baggage and has a young son named Lucas. Lucas is quiet and reserved. Now that she is married to Gary, she is hoping that Gary and Lucas will get along as he's now his stepfather. When strange things begin happening around Lucas, Gary believes that his new stepson may, in fact, be the antichrist.







From the director of the critically acclaimed and much-beloved comedy horror Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, comes his second film Little Evil. When the poster art was originally released by Netflix, I immediately got the impression we were looking at a parody of the classic horror film The Omen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work that much out. I've always been a fan of the original Omen, but unlike a lot of other horror fans, I wasn't a huge fan of his first film. I find comedy horror to be a dime a dozen, and I just didn't get it. Maybe, in time it'll grow on me.

I won't beat around the bush. Because I didn't find Tucker and Dale vs. Evil the laugh riot that everybody else had, I was a tad bit worried about Little Evil. I'd assumed the comedy would be in the same sort of style as his first feature film. I was hoping that if I didn't enjoy it, I'd at least like the gore because I thought Tucker and Dale at least delivered on that front. I hate having expectations about a film before seeing it, but it is a fact of watching a movie. Anyone who says they go into a film with an open mind one-hundred percent of the time is a liar.

After finishing Little Evil, I was left somewhat disappointed with the final film. I have brought it up countless times that I have a hard time with the comedy horror genre. It's comedy in general. It's probably the hardest genre to impress me. These sort of films need to ride that fine line and get the balance right, or otherwise, they end up feeling uneven, or they feel more like one than the other. It's a balancing act, and I think this sadly saw the comedy outweigh the horror. It wasn't by a little bit; this is jokes every minute and more than not, they didn't land for me.

What I think Little Evil gets right is that this has a lot of heart. Going into a film that is a send-up of The Omen. You think this will lack heart like the film it parodies. The Omen was dark. It saw a lot of dark themes explored. The ending is also a complete bummer. So I went in expecting this to take the piss, be mean-spirited, and that was the end of that. What I wasn't prepared for was the emotion and sentiment involved. I found myself invested in the family dynamic. I didn't want to see this kid die like I did with Damien Thorn. This kid just needed that male figure to get through to him. He needed that evil heart thawed out. For the most part, this is pretty cute.

The acting was solid for the most part. I have always enjoyed Evangeline Lilly since first seeing her in Lost. I think she holds her own against Adam Scott. I found myself connecting more to her character Samantha. I thought she had a lot of the best jokes between her and Adam Scott. She plays coy and nonchalant as her tyke is clearly the one behind these gruesome murders, accidents, and acts of God. I also enjoyed Owen Atlas as Lucas. For his first feature film, he does a solid job of playing the creepy, evil kid. I hope he continues to work as I'd like to see what he does next.

The supporting cast is also great here. Bridget Everett steals the show as the butch lesbian work mate of Adam Scott. She really does get all of the best one-liners here, and if I was laughing out loud at all, it was her performance. Sally Field comes in for a minute in a surprising guest turn as a child protection agent named Miss Shaylock. A nice little nod to Mrs. Baylock from the original Omen. I thought the highlight of the film in terms of comedy comes from the therapy scene where a bunch of stepfathers talk about their evil children. A funny take on the AA meeting idea.

Visually, I found the film to be very reminiscent of Edgar Wright's work. A lot of the camera work, editing, and transitions into new scenes felt almost identical. I don't know if Eli Craig is inspired by Edgar Wright, but it had him written all over the way this thing was shot. It has the quick action montages, the fast-paced editing into new scenes. I was honesting expecting to see a cameo scene from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost walking out of a pub or something. That's how similar the film felt on a visual level. I hope he wrote Edgar Wright a cheque.

Lastly, we come to the gore and violence. I think the original The Omen is far more bloody and violent than this movie. There are scenes where people die, but a lot of them are quickly cut or all aftermath shots. I think had this ramped up the gore and bloodshed; we may have seen this lend itself a little more to the horror and balance out the comedy. I do sort of admire that they at least tried to provide us with a few death scenes that gave a nod to the original Omen. Still, sue me for wanting a ton more of the red stuff.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is pulled off of a spiked fence.
- A clown at a party catches on fire.
- A man is sucked up into a tornado.
- A man repeatedly whips his back with a Cat o' Nine Tails.
- Earthworms pour out of a man's nose.
- A priest is punched in the face and falls into the pits of hell.
- It begins raining blood.
- A man falls back and hits his head on the side of a bathtub.
- A dwarf is impaled on a piece of wood.








While Little Evil is endearing more than it is evil, it still fell short for me. A hilarious supporting turn from Bridget Everett, some great chemistry between the three lead actors, and a great therapy session scene aren't enough to save this comedy horror film. Light on the horror, minimal on the laughs. I think I'd prefer to just stick on the original Omen than watch Little Evil again. I'm sure this will find it's audience but it wasn't for me. Keep an eye out for a supporting turn from the great Sally Field. Worth streaming on Netflix for that alone.
 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Dark Tower (2017)








DIRECTOR: Nikolaj Arcel

WRITERS:

Akiva Goldsman
Jeff Pinkner
Nikolaj Arcel
Anders Thomas Jensen

CAST:

Idris Elba
Matthew McConaughey
Tom Taylor
Jackie Earle Haley
Dennis Haysbert
Claudia Kim
Fran Kranz
Abbey Lee
Katheryn Winnick
Nicholas Pauling
Jose Zuniga

PLOT:

The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim, who is also known as the evil and powerful Man in Black. Roland is determined to prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower which holds all the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, Roland must defend the tower from the Man in Black in a battle of Good vs Evil.







It's common knowledge and a thing of legend about the troubled production history of The Dark Tower movie. Getting this onto the big screen has been filled with many ups and downs. In 2009, J.J. Abrams had the rights and bailed on it for fear of messing it up. The rights were nabbed by Ron Howard back in 2010. After budgetary concerns, budget cuts, and years of development hell. It looks dead in the water. We finally got a movie adaptation after poor test screenings and reshoots. It looked set to fail.

My partner is a massive fan of The Dark Tower universe. I waited to watch the trailer with him when it initially debuted online. I wanted to get an idea of what a fan of the books thought of the movie trailer to one of his most beloved and cherished novellas. After he had watched the trailer, the footage was met with disdain. Frankly, he wasn't impressed and upset with the footage. Apparently, it looked and felt nothing like the book series. I thought nothing of it as I didn't have that same love for the series. I've only read several of Stephen King's more horror-themed novels.

When I went into The Dark Tower, I had no preconceived notions about what I was to expect from the movie. I was well aware of the backlash from critics and the die-hard fans of the novels, but not being one of them, myself. I went in with an open mind as I had no previous attachment to the series or this sprawling universe. I just hoped for a fun, action-packed horror movie that would at least do a decent job of keeping me entertained for an hour and a half.

After watching The Dark Tower, I was left with so many questions. Not because I'm not a fan of the books, but because the story felt convoluted. The eight novels span 4,250 pages. I have to assume there is a lot of backstory for each of the characters that play an integral part in this first chapter. My partner had said that after watching the movie, it's like they've taken elements from each of the eight books and thrown it into a blender. You can tell you have a monumental mess on your hands when a story feels like it says a lot but somehow still feels like nothing at all.

The movie runs at a short ninety-minutes. I assume had they given us another thirty or forty minutes of running time to flesh out the characters and their backstories. We may have had a story that made more sense to an audience who are unfamiliar with the novels. What transpires in this lean ninety-minutes is a maniacal villain in black who has the power to command the death of people by just saying the words, a boy who can see monsters, and a gunslinger who is handy with guns and out for revenge. There is no real history of the Dark Tower. We get no exposition at all.

Tonally, The Dark Tower makes no sense either. The film is part science-fiction meets western. We have elements of horror and comedy. There is a ton of action meets big-budget spectacle. The most uneven aspect is the comedy. The jokes that Roland has with the kid over our world and the weird things he doesn't understand feels like that T2: Judgement Day dynamic, only there is no chemistry and it's just not very funny. It feels bizarre to watch. I have to wonder if studio interference played a big part in the debacle that is the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower.

The things that I enjoyed were all the references to other Stephen King stories. The Pennywise circus being located in the forest. Cujo being led along by a family. The kid pushing the Christine Plymouth Fury around in the bedroom. We see a photograph of the Overlook Hotel. These little nods felt like a game during the movie. I was looking out for sneaky hints in every scene. I thought this was a nice touch in world-building that we sadly won't see if the box-office and critic reviews have anything to do with it.

Visually, I think the movie looked well made. Based on the poster, I thought we would get an Inception type of world. This was more reeled back in scale as the budget was slightly minimal when you think of how much gets spent on comic-book movies these days. I thought that for a basic sci-fi action movie. The action and visual effects were pretty good. Not groundbreaking by any means but enough to give us something to enjoy in this otherwise extremely messy production.

Lastly, we come to the acting. I've heard many people complain about the entire cast here. Idris Elba is a solid actor. Sadly, with the screenplay that he has to work with, it feels beneath his talent. Matthew McConaughey is in the same boat. He's received the most maligned reviews but I believe that is due to him being underdeveloped as is his powers. He comes across like he's chewing the scenery and I actually began to enjoy the silliness on display. I thought the biggest upset here was Tom Taylor as the kid. I have no idea who this actor is, but he was miscast. I don't know the character either, but his performance was wooden. That may be down to the fact the kid is written as angsty and devoid of personality. I just didn't enjoy his performance at all.







DEATH TOLL: 46 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A little girl is strapped to a seat and has her mind warped.
- A man is burned alive by the Man in Black.
- Two kids have a punch-up in the school cafeteria.
- A man stops breathing and dies when commanded to by the Man in Black.
- A woman is turned to ash.
- A woman is made to answer a question and bleeds from the nose and dies.
- People are killed by demons with swords.
- A monster pierces a man through the shoulder.
- Groups of demons are shot dead.
- A drops dead at the command of the Man in Black.
- Two people are made to fight to the death in a deli.
- A man is stabbed in the chest with a sword.
- A man is pierced with a shard of glass through the hand.
- A woman's face is burnt.
- Many henchmen are shot dead.
- A man is shot in the heart and head.
- A man is killed by having the Man in Black places his hands over his eyes.







As someone who isn't an avid reader of the sprawling 4,250 page, eight novel saga of The Dark Tower series. I can't speak for the comparisons of the movie to the novels. I can only go off my opinions of a guy who has just witnessed the film. At a very short hour and a half, this story is a disaster. With so much world-building to cram into this origin story, we are thrown into the middle of a story that feels incomplete. With little to no backstory, an uneven tone, subpar performances, and a short running time. We have the result of what feels like a rush-job. Sadly, the Stephen King connections and some well-done visuals can't save this bombastic mess.

Monday, July 17, 2017

68 Kill (2017)








DIRECTOR: Trent Haaga

WRITER: Trent Haaga

CAST:

Matthew Gray Gubler
AnnaLynne McCord
Alisha Boe
Sheila Vand
Sam Eidson
Eric Podnar
Lucy Faust
Hallie Grace Bradley
James Moses Black

PLOT:

When a young couple steals $68.000 from a sleazy john, things don't go as planned. 








When I went into 68 Kill, I thought I was about to witness a horror movie. I had also purposely kept away from watching the trailer or any clips for the film. Knowing only the cast for the film and seeing the poster. I had initially thought this was directed by Richard Bates Jr. as he's worked with both the two leading actors AnnaLynne McCord and Matthew Gray Gubler on his three films. I was shocked to learn that he actually had nothing to do with this movie and this was just a reteam of these two actors.

I quickly discovered that 68 Kill plays like a violent, erratic, crime thriller with lots of pitch-black comedy thrown in for good measure. Some of the moments that happen within the movie could very well lend this premise to the horror genre, but I thought it was funnier than anything else. The closest movie that I could compare this with is Gregg Araki's The Doom Generation in both tone and visual style. The movie is like a blood-soaked road-trip into hell.

When it comes to the story, I don't think 68 Kill will break any new ground. The plot is pretty simplistic. Chip and Liza, a couple decides to rob the sugar daddy who Liza has been sleeping with for money. It turns out that she is much crazier than Chip initially believed when she brutally murders the sugar daddy. It just so happens that a young woman working for the Sugar Daddy witnesses the entire thing. Chip not wanting to hurt the young woman kidnaps her and takes off with the money. Liza, crazier than ever pursuits them both.

This is incredibly fast-paced, and it never once stops moving. It's the winning aspect of the film. From the very first moments that the story begins, it has this energy that feels unstoppable. The entire thing looks and feels frenetic. I think AnnaLynne McCord as Liza is what helps this along. She's playing a white-trash psychopath who loves to murder people and wants her money. She is always looking to mess stuff up. You can bet when she's around, things will blow up, and shit will hit the fan. She is a brilliant companion to Matthew Gray Gubler's Chip who plays this sappy, downtrodden, loser.

The violence is also standout here. If you want bloodshed and murder, you'll get it by the bucketloads. 68 Kill is one violent little crime film. People are stabbed, shot, have their throats slashed, women are brutally attacked with machetes, and people's arms are blown off with a shotgun. While some CGI is used to enhance the violence, which I'm not a huge fan of, this is mostly practical, and for the most part, it looks great on screen. Just don't go in expecting this to be scary as this is funny, not suspenseful.

The issues that I have with 68 Kill all fall back on the movie being a little repetitive. While I'm a big fan of all the bloodshed, carnage, and gore. It sort plays itself out. It becomes so over the top that it borders on being silly by the end of the movie. I also wasn't a fan of the subplot of the serial killer brother who likes to dissect and murder women. It begs the question of why the cops weren't ever investigating it. All seemed very convenient. It was another moment in this bat-shit crazy film that you shouldn't really ask questions about as you'll never get a straight answer.

Another issue that I had with the film is that we get a character into the mix who we believe to be a new love interest. She is kinder than Liza. They build her up to be a possible love interest with a romantic subplot for Chip. They then kill her off in such horrific fashion. It was a moment that I found incredibly cruel. I think because every single character minus Chip was bonkers and evil, her character felt like this happy ending and when she is killed, its disappointing to see her go out brutally.

Lastly, we come to the performances. The standout for me is AnnaLynne McCord as Liza. This girl does crazy well. Watch Trash Fire and Excision to see her deliver some excellent whacko performances. Matthew Gray Gubler as Chip is also great in his role. I think he plays the loser well and is sexy enough to have you feeling sorry for Chip. Alisha Boe as Violet is the light in a very dark tunnel, and lastly, we have Sheila Vand as a goth girl who dishes out some brutal punishment. I actually thought she played evil very well. A solid cast that relish in the madness.







DEATH TOLL: 12

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Men and women have their throats slashed.
- A woman is stabbed in the side of the face with a hunting knife.
- Snuff footage of a woman being dissected is seen on TV.
- A man's arm is blown off with a shotgun.
- A woman is sliced down the chest with a machete.
- A guy is beaten with a golf club.
- Women are is shot in the throat and face.
- A man pisses out blood.
- A man is shot dead.
- We see shots of blood-soaked money.
- A man is shot in the chest.
- A woman is shown with her intestines pulled out.
- Two women are dragged into a room, and one is brutally murdered.
- A man is shotgun blasted in the penis.
- A man is hit in the head with a machete.







While 68 Kill is not a horror movie, this is a bloody and bat-shit crazy dark comedy about $68.000 that's gone missing. Filled with unsavoury characters, over the top gory violence, gratuitous sex, and some solid laughs. This is one hell of a fun time. The movie won't break any new ground, but as a sordid tale of white-trash, that is sure to offend many. Will it be seen as a classic? I doubt it, but I still recommend this movie to those looking for some absolute insanity.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

WTF! (2017)








DIRECTOR: Peter Herro

WRITERS:

Peter Herro
Adam Buchalter
Christopher Lawrence Centanni

CAST:

Callie Ott
Nicholas James Reilly
Andrea Hunt
Benjamin Norris
Sarah Agor
Adam Foster
Johnny James Fiore
Perez Hilton
Chloe Berman

PLOT:

Rachel is a young woman who was the sole survivor of a gruesome murder spree that took place in a secluded cabin in the woods. Now that she has moved on with her life and on from the horrific events of her past, her new group of friends convinces her to come away for a weekend of partying, drinking, sun, and fun. When they arrive at the cabin, they begin being brutally murdered, one by one, by a hooded killer.








I went into WTF! pretty excited to watch the movie. I had witnessed the uncut poster with the naked woman who is holding her breast, screaming, covered in cuts, slashes, and blood. It looked like a bloody, good time. Also, I couldn't really pass up a chance to watch a movie with a title like WTF: What The Fuck. I had expected a blood-soaked slasher. Something that may possibly be a hell of a lot of fun. A great title and poster, sadly do not make a great movie.

The movie opens with quick glimpses and shots of people being maimed in a secluded cabin in the woods. We witness a woman defending herself while stabbing a bloke to death. I was with it for all of about two seconds. That was until we cut to present day and see the camera open up on Perez Hilton who I assume is meant to be throwing a frat pool party and playing a frat boy himself. The man has aged like a withered boot. The first big mistake is having the audience believe that Perez Hilton is a gay frat boy.

We are quickly subjected to the group of soon-to-be victims. All of the familiar horror movie stereotypes of the young woman who is uptight, the slutty one, the rich snobby bitch, the stoner, the jock, and the nerd. Sadly, not one of these monsters is likeable. Luckily for us, Perez Hilton is made scarce after he admits to the rich bitch that he is keen to bang her so he can get his straight-v card. The movie is bloody and gory and the only time I wanted to throw up in my mouth was listening to Perez Hilton mention him wanting to go straight for the night. Us, the gay community don't want him. I'm sure as shit the straight community doesn't either.

Once our group of douche-canoes gets to the cabin, we just sit around watching them strip off and get naked, go skinny-dipping, talk about rooting each other, witness the two hot girls make out, drink, and do drugs. While the entire cast is gorgeous to look at, in and out of their clothes, they are all so insipid. The dialogue is hideous. That's to be expected when you have three guys writing the words of college kids. I'm sure they sat around trying to come up with naughty phrases for vocal-fried valley girls and himbo jocks. In all honesty, though, I didn't expect Shakespeare.

What does WTF! get right? Well, the movie has some solid death scenes, blood, and gore. We see people's heads get set on fire, appendages are chopped off, throats are slashed, and we see someone have their intestines pulled out. When the movie finally decides to start killing off the cast, I thought that the carnage wasn't half bad. I found myself relishing in the pain and misery of these characters. As I didn't connect to any of them, it was enjoyable to watch them suffer. At least they got the violence right.

WTF! also has one of the most beautiful looking and luxurious cabins I think seen in a horror movie. I'm not sure if you'd consider this more of a holiday house as it comes with a pool and all the amenities but I loved the place. This may be the first time that I've ever used my love of architecture as a positive for a movie that ended up being a disappointment to me. It's just that this movie doesn't have all that much going for it and the things that I enjoyed are far and few between.

One of the most significant issues that I think people will have with WTF! and will be annoyed by is the ending twist. When the movie reveals the killer, and it wasn't all that surprising. You spend the movie having flashbacks of this sole survivor being interviewed by police and then she's now at a second cabin, and people start getting murdered again. It's not a shock to find out who the killer is and where this movie was going to end up. The biggest issue with the twist is that they throw in a second 'imaginary' character who was never there all along and it's just poorly executed.

Lastly, we come to the acting, and I sadly can't give it much praise. The characters are so poorly written that the acting is only as good as the writing allows it to be. These characters are all obnoxious, and they aren't at all likeable. So their acting comes across as the same. I think the screenplay has a lot to do with how bad the dialogue is but watching the actors try and spit out this dreck was painful to watch. I'm sure if these actors were given a better script to work with, they might have been able to deliver better performances.







DEATH TOLL: 8

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A guy is stabbed and has his penis cut off.
- A woman is hit in the back with a tomahawk.
- A man is repeatedly stabbed and has his intestines pulled out.
- A woman is seen with a massive gash on her face.
- A man's throat is slashed.
- An old man is stabbed and punched in the face.
- A woman with her throat cut is shown.
- A bloodied woman is stabbed in the back.
- A victim is stabbed offscreen.
- A woman steps on a nail.
- A man is stabbed in the back.
- A body is seen with its eyeballs ripped out.
- A woman's face is burnt off with a lighter and can of hairspray.
- A woman is kicked in the face.
- A woman has her head repeatedly smashed on the ground.








WTF! has a pretty awesome poster and a pretty cool title. The movie also contains some solid gore and bloodshed, but that's where it ends for this cabin in the woods inspired slasher film. The movie is filled with obnoxious characters, terrible dialogue, a predictable killer reveal, and a second twist that has been done in other movies and a lot better. If you're looking for something original, you'll be sorely disappointed. Go and check out the uncut poster as it's much more impressive than the final film.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Cut Shoot Kill (2017)








DIRECTOR: Michael Walker

WRITER: Michael Walker

CAST:

Alexandra Socha
Alex Hurt
Phil Burke
Jay Devore
Lexi Lapp
Zanny Laird
Josh Salt
Kett Turton
Ian Flanders
Kyle Harris

PLOT:

Serena Brooks is an ambitious young actress who has just been cast as the lead in a small independent horror film. The production is filming out in the backwoods. When she arrives on set, she discovers that the production is far removed from the closest town, and there is no reception or internet on location. As production begins filming, she quickly realises that the crew aren't at all who they appear to be. Her chance at her big break may be her really fighting for survival against a group of backwoods filmmakers creating their very own snuff film.







When I had initially finished Cut Shoot Kill, I was left a little unimpressed. I thought that while the film took an exciting approach to the found-footage genre, it felt like something was still missing. I couldn't put my finger on it. I sat there for days with the intention of giving the movie a five out of ten. It was until I started to write the review that I thought that maybe, the positives outweigh the negatives here. While flawed, this movie felt like it wasn't like anything I've seen all year.

I and the found-footage genre have a hate and love relationship. It's kind of like the zombie genre. The two sub-genres are so overly saturated with content that it's hard to find something that truly blows me away. I see that a lot of filmmakers attempt to try and bring something fresh to their movies even if minimal. Sadly, the minimum is not really enough these days. We need to see something new. Something that really surprises or even shocks me.

What I liked first and foremost about Cut Shoot Kill is that this wasn't supernatural, aliens or a documentary crew filming a haunted location. This was about a film crew working on a horror movie production and things get really dark. They just so happen to be shooting the entire massacre which lends itself to the found-footage sub-genre. I think that while there are a lot of moments that playoff tropes that we've all seen a million times in these films, I still feel that it was a somewhat fresh perspective.

Another element that I enjoyed in Cut Shoot Kill was that unlike a lot of these found-footage films; this plays out like an almost slasher narrative. A lot of the supernatural or extraterrestrial found-footage films only really start to go haywire in their third act. This spent most of it's running time dishing out the violence. It was never once boring as there was someone always being killed off after the crew and cast introductions. It is when the twist is revealed, it turns into an all-out bloodbath.

I think Cut Shoot Kill also did a pretty decent job in throwing the audience off of what was happening throughout the movie. When the cast starts to get killed off, I honestly had no idea if it was actually real or not. You don't know if its part of the movie within a movie or they are really being killed. The story starts to play with your mind as the characters disappear and reappear. I think while it's a clever plot device, it may also confuse people as it did with myself. I wasn't sure if the movie was playing across two timelines at certain moments of the film.

Now we come to the problems that I had with the film. The characters are thoroughly unlikeable. Basically, every character is either unsavoury or stupid. That includes our leading actress. The one time that I appreciated a person was the blonde supporting actress who refuses to take her bra off in her shower scene after already signing her contract. Being that the current climate in Hollywood is ripe with actresses and actors calling out their abusers or those who take advantage. I thought that this scene was very topical and held a lot of weight.

The leading actress who you are meant to root for is so annoying in the early scenes as she is pissed off that she can't call or use the internet. Like an actor who is refused entry into a party and yells out 'Do you know who I am?'. She is grating. The plot also tacks on this ending where the leading actress, who has spent the whole film fighting for survival is made to essentially go against everything that came before it to give us a dark, gut-punch ending and it really didn't sit well with me. I know what it's trying to say, but I'd have taken a kickass final girl ending over the one we are given.

Lastly, we come to the blood, gore, tension, and suspense. I'd talk about the acting, but because I found the character choices and personalities tedious, I will choose to focus on the carnage candy. This movie delivers on blood and gore. Towards the end, people are repeatedly stabbed and shot. The red stuff flies all over the place, and I really enjoyed the violence. As for the tension and suspense, I thought it was decent. It's no scary, and there are no real jump scares, but there are several scenes where the suspense gets ramped up.







DEATH TOLL: 15

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Men are repeatedly stabbed and have their throats slashed.
- A woman stabs and shoots a man with a shotgun.
- A makeup artist pranks the cast while covered in blood.
- Fingers and body parts are found in jars.
- A girl is stabbed in the stomach.
- A police officer is stabbed in the back.
- Intestines are seen on a chopping block.
- A man steps on a shard of glass.
- A woman slices a man's throat.
- A woman repeatedly stabs a man.
- A man is shot in the chest.
- A man is stabbed in the leg and chest.
- A woman stabs herself in the stomach.
- A dead body is seen in a grave.
- Two makeup artists are shot with a shotgun.
- A man is hit in the head with a plank of wood and set on fire.
- A man's arms and legs are cut off, and he's found on a slab.
- A man is stabbed in the back and breaks his neck falling down the stairs.
- A man is found in the boot of a car covered in blood.
- Men are shot in the stomach with an arrow.


Cut Shoot Kill takes the found-footage genre and adds a neat little snuff film twist on it. When I first finished the movie, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. But as I thought more about it and went on to think about the current climate of found-footage. I soon realised this did just enough to set itself apart from the rest. This is not a perfect film by any means and has a lot of flaws, but with some solid gore and clever tweaks, it was enough to give it a pass.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Awaken The Shadowman (2017)








DIRECTOR: J.S. Wilson

WRITERS:


Skyler Caleb
Woodrow Wilson Hancock III
James Zimbardi

CAST:

James Zimbardi
Skyler Caleb
Jean Smart
Emily Somers
Andrea Hunt
Grace Van Dien
Casey Kramer
Sophie Labelle
Raam Weinfeld

PLOT:

When Adam receives an emergency call from his estranged brother Jake. He is told to return home as soon as possible as their widowed mother has suddenly disappeared. Without delay, Adam brings along his wife and their new baby for support. Once they arrive, he meets his mother's new bereavement support group who aren't at all what they appear. As he starts to unravel the mystery, he will soon learn that the cult-like group have other plans in store for his family.







Looking at the poster for Awaken The Shadowman, I was under the impression that I would be watching another found-footage movie about a woman who has given birth to the antichrist. I couldn't have been more wrong with this film. The film opens with a woman running through a dimly-lit basement while holding a baby. She is suddenly come upon by a group of hooded men. The movie cuts to black. It was clear that we were going to be taking a different route this time. A welcome relief for me.

Awaken The Shadowman has several elements going for it, but I sadly think the first time writers and director haven't crafted a coherent story. When put to film, it really doesn't make all that much sense by the time the movie has abruptly ended. There are little moments of exposition sprinkled into the story, but the film moves incredibly quick, from one scene to the next. There is never any easing into each new scene. I think with a longer running time and some more in fleshing out the story, this may have been something special.

What works in the movie is the mood. This is a very sombre story. The film from the very first scene is steeped in dread. I think these guys at least get that element right. We get glimpses of the Shadowman throughout, and I think the director has taken his queues from James Wan and Insidious. While the Insidious franchise has several very well-placed jump scares, this is much more restrained. This is all handled in the way of entering rooms, and the Shadowman is watching in the corner or standing behind our main characters. I liked the build-up of tension.

The movie also has some gorgeous cinematography. This movie looks incredibly well made regarding the scenic shots that play over the opening credits and all throughout the film. Not sure if the budget had allowed for shots using a helicopter or drone, but passing through the treetops of forests, over the roofs of cars as they travel through mountain ranges or the use of time-lapse to pass the days and nights. This isn't a bad looking film for what I assume had a relatively lower budget. Had this been released by a studio, it may have even been better in pulling off a lot more of the visual flair.

The first significant problem is that there is little to no exposition on any of the main or supporting characters. We are aware that a fire in the town killed several members of the community. Some people lost their family members. It's never really brought up again. Gateways, the mysterious cult are clearly the villains and come into play in the third act, but the one minute of linking them to previous tragedies on newspaper clippings and baby snatching doesn't feel like enough plot. The cult gets less than ten minutes of screentime. A baby is taken, and that's it.

The leader of the cult is said to be a monster by the harbinger of doom. We never get any clarification if he is, in fact, the Shadowman. The harbinger of doom is seen only twice. She's the one to let the main character know important details on the cult, and it's young, mysterious leader. We even have our brothers go to talk to their mother's ex-boyfriend in this weird exchange at a junkyard. It felt cheesy. These characters are odd, but nothing ever becomes of them. It doesn't provide any concrete answers for the audience, so everything feels really messy.

We also have this moment at the end where it feels like it was tacked on. Our main character is on this crusade to find his missing baby daughter who was taken by the Shadowman. We see him all shaven, wearing a hoodie, and looking like he no longer sleeps. We have no idea on what happened to his wife and the cult. We assume he's now on the run. But it feels like they've set up a sequel if this was ever successful or anyone wants to finance it. It just feels out of place and an afterthought.

Lastly, we come to the acting and performances, its a bit hit and miss. I thought our two leading actors James Zimbardi and Skyler Caleb were both fine in their roles. I even liked their wives played by Andrea Hunt and Emily Somers. Jean Smart is the most well known and established actor in the cast and is excellent in her small role. Casey Kramer as the neighbor is also great who has the most emotional role in the film. It's a shame that all of the other supporting cast feel like they are reading off cue cards. Not very professional.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Black blood is seen dripping on popcorn.
- A man is smacked in the head with a plank of wood.
- A charred corpse is found under a sheet.
- A baby is taken by a demon.

(There is no blood in the film)







At one time, there was probably a longer screenplay that had much more exposition and character development. I think this is a case of a director and writers having to make do with a smaller budget and minimal time which in turn had them having to reel in their vision. The movie while having the foundations for a solidly scary movie are let down by rushing everything. In rushing the story, they have a film that feels all over the place and answers nothing as it explains nothing. Some fine acting, great cinematography, and incredibly effective mood can't save this film.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Okja (2017)








DIRECTOR: Bong Joon Ho

WRITERS:

Bong Joon Ho
Jon Ronson

CAST:

Tilda Swinton
Jake Gyllenhaal
Seo-hyun Ahn
Steven Yeun
Paul Dano
Lily Collins
Giancarlo Esposito
Shirley Henderson
Daniel Henshall
Devon Bostick

PLOT:

When the family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation decides to breed twenty-six super pigs in each country that their offices reside in over the next ten years. They plan on creating a super pig that will leave a minimal footprint on the environment; they will consume less feed, produce less waste, and taste good. When the Mirando corporation decides to take a super pig that was raised in the mountains of South Korea. The young girl who has befriended and grew up with Okja decides to take matters into her own hands and go on a risky rescue mission. Mija soon crosses paths with a group of animal activists, an evil corporation, and greedy capitalists all looking at different ways to control the fate of Okja.







From the director of Mother, The Host, Snowpiercer, and Memories Of Murder brings us his latest movie. A movie that is hard to categorise as it feels tonally all over the place. In the past, I have skewered movies for being tonally uneven but even when Okja feels like it doesn't really know what it wants to be on a genre level. There is so much to love and admire here, and that falls right back on how much of an excellent a filmmaker Bong Joon Ho is. Here we see Netflix letting him just go all out and not reeling in his vision for Okja.

It should now be a prerequisite that all movies begin with a four-minute monologue from the brilliant chameleon that is Tilda Swinton. To riff on a quote by the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained, you already had me curious, but now you have my attention. As soon as Tilda Swinton's character walks on screen and it ends with her rousing speech about the super piglets tasting fucking good. I was so into this movie. There are very few actresses or actors who can command the screen like Tilda can. She is that good.

The movie pretty much catapults the plot to ten years later where we see a now fully grown up Okja. I'm shocked that with such limited time in witnessing her growth and us getting such minimal screentime of their early relationship and bond between Mija and Okja that we immediately care for these two. We believe in the rescue mission as soon as the Mirando Corporation takes Okja away from Mija. We never second guess it; we want to see them reunited. The movie captures that relationship immediately. Some movies run at two hours and can't even produce even a quarter of the heart that Okja contains.

The tonal shifts of Okja are where I think a lot of mainstream audiences will be put off by it. Okja navigates a very zig-zag line between comedy, thriller, science-fiction, and environmental horror. The film is peppered with fart and poop jokes during incredibly intense chase scenes. We have actors being over the top and manic during dark and barbaric scenes of animal cruelty. The movie at times feels like there is an underlining agenda that I think a lot of people will be turned off. The whole idea that the movie is trying to shove an environmentally and cruelty-free message down their throats may rub cinemagoers the wrong way.

Visually, Okja a work of art. Every single shot and scene has something to marvel and admire. I was shocked at how lifelike Okja looked. His integration into the scenes that featured real-life actors was close to being seamless. When it came to the overall look of the movie, it was gorgeous to watch. Cinema has that power to leave you amazed, and Okja did just that. Bong Joon Ho is such a talented filmmaker. He is really is such a visionary. I say that word gets thrown around a lot, but I truly believe he is one of those filmmakers that deserves the title.

The film gets most of its horror elements from the final few minutes. When Mija first enters that animal farm and slaughterhouse, this is where the movie gets real bloody, disturbing, and heartbreaking. While all fantasy and only a Hollywood glimpse of the real mistreatment of animals, I still found the final slaughterhouse scene to be pretty disturbing and dark for a movie that spends most of it's running time being a science-fiction black comedy. It's a real sharp turn at the end and will shock parents who go into Okja believing it to be a family film about a girl and her giant pig.

When it comes to the negatives of Okja, I think this could've played better as several films or a series. The movie moves so quickly that we jump in time and into the next scenes without ever much editing or the last scene feeling complete. There is a lot of plot that I think was left on the cutting room floor. We had the potential for an entire thirteen episode series here. On Netflix, I could see this as one of the Netflix Original shows. Some exposition on the Mirando Corporation and animal activist group would have fleshed out the characters and the backstories more. It's a bit of a nitpick, but I could've watched this for another eleven hours in a series format.

The acting, for the most part, is fantastic. What can be said about Tilda Swinton that hasn't already? She is one of this generations greatest actresses. She looks like she has an absolute blast here. Jake Gyllenhaal is the worst thing about Okja. Here his acting feels almost Razzie worthy. He is playing a sadistic and drunk TV Show host, and while he lets loose, it's almost painful to witness. Seo-hyun Aho is fantastic as Mija. A very young actress that I hope to see in more and lastly, Steven Yeun is also great in his role as an animal activist. He's having a great year.







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A shard of glass is pulled out of Okja's foot.
- Infected pigs are shown in cages.
- A man has his head slammed against a table and is beaten up.
- A little is bitten on the arm.
- Super pigs are lead into a slaughterhouse.
- We see blood-soaked slaughterhouse floors.
- Meat is extracted from Okja.
- Protesters are beaten by a swat team.
- Super pigs are seen being cut in half with saws and shot in the head.
- Okja is electrocuted and forced to be mated with.
- Slaughterhouse workers are seen covered in blood.








Okja joins the long list of visionary films from Bong Joon Ho. Another step in the right direction of securing him as one of the best filmmakers, cinema has to offer. A small misstep for Jake Gyllenhaal, at times an uneven tone, and underdeveloped backstory can't take away from just how gorgeously shot the film turned out. Visually beautiful, at times equally hilarious as it is dark and disturbing, an excellent cast and amazing creature effects make this a wonderful film filled with tons of heart and emotion. 



Saturday, July 08, 2017

Kuso (2017)








DIRECTOR: Flying Lotus

WRITERS:

Flying Lotus
David Firth

CAST:

Arden Banks
Hannibal Burress
George Clinton
David Firth
Byron Bowers
Pretty Ricki Fontaine
Zack Fox
Tim Heidecker
Mali Matsuda
Lexington Steele
Iesha Rochelle

PLOT:

Events unfold after a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles.








There was a movie that was unleashed on audiences back in 2016 by the name of The Greasy Strangler. It was a film that divided critics and audiences alike. Cinema-goers either dug the gross-out comedy and horror of it all or it utterly repelled people. The hype train was travelling so fast that it almost came off the rails out of its festival run. People were talking about the movie like it was the next great horror classic. I sadly didn't get the hype. I didn't find much at all to love with that film.

I bring up The Greasy Strangler as a reference point because I believe that Kuso, is this year's version of that movie. A graphic, bizarre, and an utterly repulsive film that feels like it didn't have a redeemable quality to it. I will always champion filmmakers and movies that try to push the boundaries of cinema. Hell, John Waters is one of my all-time favourite directors. I also own an original out of print copy of Salo: The 120 Days Of Sodom on Criterion. So I'm all for having my limits tested, and boundaries pushed, but I just didn't get or enjoy Kuso.

Kuso is an anthology movie that is made up of many segments that revolve around the people that have survived a devastating earthquake that has rocked LA. It's only that this time around, every single segment is directed and written by the same two guys. So while there is a unique vision for each segment, the anthology is just two guys as opposed to a group of filmmakers coming in to write and direct five or six different short films. So these warped tales are all from the minds of just two men.

When it comes to those twisted tales that I speak of, I didn't find any of them really enjoyable. Completely unique and original but I just didn't get off on them myself. If I were to say anything nice about Kuso, it would be that you're unlikely to see anything quite like this movie. This is an entirely incomparable to anything else that I've seen in recent memory. It so weird that I imagine John Waters and David Lynch would say 'what the fuck did I just watch?'. I can at least see the originality here, and for that, I can't hate on it for trying to set itself apart.

Now we come to the content of the segments. Kuso was just gross and unpleasant to witness. This is a film that tries to throw as much sickening and nasty imagery at the audience, and I honestly found it disgusting. It sets out exactly what it set out to do, and that was to turn my stomach. It succeeded in its mission. It's not so much gross in the horror sense, but everything just looks so repugnant. I wouldn't be able to sit here and say that this is a something you enjoy. It's a bizarre experience but one that I wouldn't want to relive again.

Every sort of taboo that you could ever imagine is in this movie. Every single bodily fluid is chucked on the screen. Nothing is off limits when it comes to sex and bodily functions. These segments use shit and semen like it's going out of fashion. It makes for a tough film to sit through. Watching a man penetrate what I can only describe as a woman's tumour that has morphed into a sex-starved creature that is attached to her body is like nothing else I've ever seen. Eating his semen at the end was enough to make me dry-heave. Don't even get me started on the prolapsed doctor shitting who shits out a  giant alien cockroach.

Another big issue that I had with Kuso is that I wasn't at all invested in the story that strings together all of the short films. The segments are so over the top and stomach-churningly gross that I kept forgetting that the central narrative revolves around this earthquake and is set in and around the Los Angeles area. There really doesn't have to be a consistent storyline as it's an anthology but a way to somehow bookend the stories without a song and dance and a thin paper plot may have made this oddity a little bit more cohesive and not so messy.

Lastly, we come to the acting. The acting is all over the place. While we one or two actors who have actually had careers appear in the film. We have a lot of actors I've never seen before, and that's where we get a lot of the uneven performances. I have to praise all of the cast for going to some of the places that they do in this movie. It can't be easy being shat on even if fake. To get into that character's mindset must be difficult. With a lot of bodily fluids being sprayed around. I have to say that the entire cast goes to some really dark and disturbing places.







DEATH TOLL: 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man fingers a bloody wound, and his finger is chewed off.
- A crayon is shoved into a man's pee-hole.
- A girl eats a cockroach.
- Fecal matter is wiped over a monster's tongue.
- Infections and pimples are popped.
- A fetus is ripped out and chucked at a woman's face.
- An eyeball flies out of a man's eye socket.
- An infected man is dragged off and blood splatters on the wall.
- A woman has intercourse with an alien tentacle.
- A guy is shat on.

- Someone vomits on someone else.

- A guy shits out a giant alien cockroach.
- A woman pulls a remote out of her vagina.

- Jizz is rubbed over someone's face.

- A woman is seen ripped in half and trying to crawl away.
- A man has a metal rod shoved into his pee-hole, and blood sprays out.
- A guy fucks a woman's tumour creature, and it eats his cum.







If I have one nice thing to say about Kuso, its that you'll never see anything quite like this movie. For those of you who are seeking out a surreal nightmare that pushes the limits of decency, you should enjoy it. As a fan of extreme cinema and gross and icky horror, I think I just didn't get this film. I went into this one with such high hopes and was sadly left underwhelmed. It was unpleasant, repugnant, and worst of all, a boring anthology horror that missed the mark. I do recommend watching it just to say that you've seen Kuso as I believe this will be one of those movies that extreme cinema fans will hunt down.


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Wish Upon (2017)








DIRECTOR: John R. Leonetti

WRITER: Barbara Marshall

CAST:

Joey King
Ryan Phillippe
Elisabeth Rohm
Sherilyn Fenn
Shannon Purser
Sydney Park
Ki Hong Lee
Alice Lee
Josephine Langford
Mitchell Slaggert

PLOT:

When Clare's father gifts her with an antique Chinese Box that he found on one of his rubbish finding trips, she soon discovers that the box grants her seven wishes. When she starts to use the wishes for her own personal gain, bad things start happening to those closest to her. She must now try and reverse her actions before everyone near, and dear to her heart dies a gruesome death.








There is a Richard Matheson short story by the name of Button, Button. It was made into a movie by Richard Kelly called The Box. The movie featured a small wooden box that if gifted to a young couple and when they push the button, someone, somewhere will die. Once the person dies, they will receive one million dollars. I only bring this up because Wish Upon has very similar elements in the sense that a small wooden box is gifted to someone and people end up dying.

While The Box was maligned by critics, I thought it was a beautifully filmed and pretty trippy mid-budget thriller. Only a director like Richard Kelly could deliver something so wildly ambitious. Wish Upon is a movie that clearly caters to the teenage crowd. Here we have a movie that is never trying to be anything more than a teen-horror film that involves some gruesome deaths and flashy visuals. Wish Upon is not out to break new ground. It's all very routine.

What I enjoyed about the film was the entire premise of the small antique box. Every single thing about it was genuinely creepy. While the movie is almost scare-free. This little box that the story revolves around is where we procure most of the tension and suspense from. We have loud noises, and many attempts at predictable jump scares but I thought that every single time that the box opened, the cogs moved, and those symbols started ticking over. This is where we got a massive sense of dread from.

I was also pretty invested in the relationship between our lead teenage girl and her father, played to DILF-like perfection by Ryan Phillippe. I too loved Sherilyn Fenn as the lovely neighbour, Mrs. Deluca. Her death scene while very early on is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the flick. The entire time, I wanted to see her character survive just as I wanted to see our father character survive. While the entire teenage cast are written as teen horror movie stereotypes. I found the adult roles to have a lot more depth to them.

Now we come to the first big issue that I had with Wish Upon. The decisions that are made by our leading character are utterly frustrating. After the first and second time that she makes a wish, her greed sets in and people around her die. She knows that the box is responsible but continues to be greedy, and as she makes more and more wishes, the deaths begin hitting closer to home. Instead of trying to hide it away, she continues to make wishes. She's the catalyst for all of her own suffering.

The way the movie ends is kinda ballsy for a studio theatrical release. I was shocked to see that the movie ended on such a dark note. It's not a pleasant ending and takes some massive balls for a studio to go where it goes with that final death. While I feel it's warranted for all the stupid character decisions, it's sure to divide audiences. It's just a shame that everything leading up to that and the obligatory sequel set up is all pretty predictable and almost takes away from that final death scene.

I managed to watch the uncut version of Wish Upon and found it to be rather horror-lite. There are a few death scenes that are actually pretty inventive. There is a death scene involving someone's hair getting caught in a garbage disposal which results in a scalping and broken neck. The best scene in the movie for me. We also have a scene involving a falling chainsaw that is cut way too early for the uncut version. Several of the death scenes are sadly aftermath shots or are helped along with CGI which sort of ruins the scenes.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Joey King is a talented young actress. I thought she was phenomenal in The Conjuring. Here she is a good, but the writing and character decisions play heavily on how her performance comes across. Ryan Phillippe is solid here. It was good just to see him playing the fatherly role. Sherilyn Fenn is also great in a small supporting role. I thought her final scene was the most heartbreaking and sad moment in the film. She commands the screen in even the most minor of roles.







DEATH TOLL: 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is killed in an elevator accident.
- A man is hit in the back of the head with a chainsaw.
- A teenage boy cuts his own wrists.
- A woman's hair is caught in a garbage disposal, and she is scalped.
- Her neck is also broken when pulled back onto the corner of the bench.
- A teenage girl is hit by a car and thrown into the windshield of another car.
- The aftermath shows her with glass in her chest and face.
- A teenage girl's face is impaled on a spike.
- A woman commits suicide by hanging herself in an attic.
- A teenage girl wakes up with her skin rotting.
- A dead dog is found being eating by rats.
- An old man drowns in a bathtub when he slips and hits his head.








Wish Upon is a movie that has its moments. Sadly the bad outweighs the good here. The movie has some inventive death scenes, a pretty sinister and impressive antique device that lends the film most of its creepiness, some passable performances, and a dark and moody ending. Shame the movie is predictable, has a lot of flawed character decisions, and no exposition or backstory on the device itself. It's a little bit flimsy by the time the credits roll around. Watch The Box instead.