Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Drive-In Massacre (1976)








DIRECTOR: Stu Segall

WRITERS:

John F. Goff
George 'Buck' Flower
Stu Segall

CAST:

John F. Goff
Douglas Gudbye
Robert E. Pearson
Norman Sheridan
John Alderman
Bruce Kimball
Jacqueline Giroux
Sandy Carey
Myron Griffith
Martin Gatsby

PLOT:

Set in a small Californian town, two police detectives are currently on the hunt for a serial killer who is murdering patrons of a small drive-in theater. The killer's weapon of choice is a samurai sword. No one is safe as the two detectives are having a hard time trying to pin down the killers motive and are no closer to finding a reason as to why he is killing these innocent people.







I remember about eight years ago, I purchased one of those fifty movie DVD packs off of Amazon. One of the movies that came part of the movie-pack was Drive-In Massacre. I can remember not being a fan of the movie at all when I first saw it all those years ago. The version of the film I saw was really grainy and it appeared that no effort went into any of the films that made it into the box set. I guess that's what you get when you pay thirty dollars for fifty horror films.

When I decided to do my seventies and eighties slasher retrospective, I knew that I would have to rewatch and review Drive-In Massacre. I mentally prepared myself for the task of having to sit through this movie again. This time around, I got my hands on a much better copy of the movie which eased a lot of the fear that I had about watching this for the second time. At least this time around, I would be able to make out what is happening in the film.

The movie begins with a couple sitting in their car while at the drive-in. When the guy is unable to hear the movie through the speaker, he leans out of the car and in bloody fashion, has his head lopped off with a samurai sword. His girlfriend is then stabbed in the throat with the same sword. While the scene looks incredibly silly and fake, it's a fun way to begin this slasher. Eight years ago, I was really unimpressed when I saw the cheap gore. With age, I have come to sort of appreciate this sort of low-budget, cheesy gore.

The gore and violence in this film are probably the most rewarding aspect of Drive-In Massacre. The gore and violence is all incredibly fake looking. Nothing about this film screams that 'this is impressive' makeup effects work. But if you go into this movie knowing that you will see a lot of dummies being decapitated or stabbed, you will probably enjoy the outright silliness of everything that takes place in the film. If any points are rewarded to Drive-In Massacre, it's based on the fact that this movie does get pretty bloody at times.

In terms of the whole whodunit aspect of the story, this movie is a huge mess. The film doesn't ever really reveal the killer. I'm all for leaving things open or on a dark or bleak sort of note but here, we don't really get a reason why this serial killer is killing people or the identity of the killer. So we sit through seventy-five minutes of murders and police interrogations and it's all for nothing. It feels like a rather large letdown because most of the film is pretty poor. So no resolution feels like they just didn't know how to wrap the story and this is another negative for this slasher.

The film offers up two or three red herrings throughout the story yet nothing ever comes of them. We have a weird voyeur who likes to watch couples fool around in their cars. Another is the owner of the drive-in who is a huge pig. There is even a very odd scene inside a warehouse that basically has nothing to do with the rest of the story. A father stalks his young daughter with a machete but he's not the killer. Nothing makes sense in this film and it's frustrating when you want to see why this killer is doing what he is doing.

When it comes to the acting in the film, it's all very hit and miss for me. I'm not singling any of the actors out but all of them either felt like they have never been in a film before or they were paid with catering to get roles in this film. This movie is extremely low-budget so that would explain why I've never personally heard of any of these actors and their less than convincing performances that they deliver in the film. No award winning scene stealers in this massacre.

Lastly, I need to talk about the sound design and soundtrack for Drive-In Massacre. It's terrible. The sound design even on this latest copy of the movie that I got to see still had a lot of buzzing and feedback. I didn't expect much but compared to the last time I watched this film, I expected them to clean all that feedback up but nope, it still sounds pretty rough. The soundtrack is even worse than I remember from the first time I saw this film but what makes it even worse is that the sound design drowns out a lot of the soundtrack. It clashes a lot in this film.







DEATH TOLL: 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is decapitated with a samurai sword.
- Someone gets stabbed in the neck with a sword.
- A pregnant woman and her boyfriend are stabbed with a sword.
- Someone has their throat slashed.
- Someone has their head cut off.
- Someone is killed in the projection room.
- A corpse is shown stabbed up on a wall.







When I first watched Drive-In Massacre almost a decade ago, I hated the film. I saw a pretty terrible version of the film. Going into this movie again, I watched a better transfer of the film and still, a lot of the problems I originally had with the film, are still apparent. This is badly acted, the make-up effects are cheap, the movie makes no sense in the end and the technical side of the film is still pretty terrible. I think knowing the problems that I had the first time around, I could be less critical of the gore and violence and for a killer murdering people at a drive-in with a samurai sword, it has a silliness about it and would say watch it for that reason alone.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Don't Kill It (2017)








DIRECTOR: Mike Mendez

WRITERS:

Dan Berk
Robert Olsen

CAST:

Dolph Lundgren
Kristina Klebe
Billy Slaughter
Michael Aaron Milligan
Jasi Cotton Lanier
Michelle West
Sam Furman
Miles Doleac
Aaron McPherson

PLOT:

Jebediah Woodley is a demon hunter. He is currently on the hunt for a demon that has been unleashed on a small town in Mississippi. This demon is able to move from human to human and possess them. The demon when taking possession of a body is enraged and has the urge to kill anyone around it, the person who manages to kill the possessed body is themselves taken over by the demon and it can continue its killing spree. Jebediah and a female FBI agent must try and stop the demon before the entire town is wiped off the map.







I'll be the first to admit, I almost didn't watch Don't Kill It. The reason I didn't want to watch it was due to the fact that Dolph Lundgren was the main star of it. I was a child born in the late eighties. I missed the entire craze of the macho action star. I think the one that I connected to most was Arnold Schwarzenegger because I seen him in movies like Kindergarten Cop and T2. I wasn't very big on the whole straight to video action star which I always lumped Dolph straight into the crowd.

I think what finally sold me into finally biting the bullet and watching the film was the fact that I saw the film had 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm not one to trust a lot of movie critics but when I saw that perfect fresh rating, my mind changed on the film. I then heard the guys over at Shockwaves podcast talking about how much fun the film was and I was sold. I got myself a copy and sat down to watch the film. After watching it, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the onslaught of carnage.

Don't Kill It opens with a man hunting a deer. His dog wanders off and finds an old trinket in the middle of the woods. The dog suddenly attacks and the owner has to put his dog out of its misery. For the next six minutes, we have a man going from home to home killing his family and neighbours. This is not a film that shies away from the bloodshed. We see men, women, and children gunned down and hit with all kinds of kitchen items. It's utter insanity and you'll know exactly what you're in for with Don't Kill It.

The movie is filled with set-pieces and moments like the opening scene and that's where this movie really thrives and wins for me. This is pure batshit insanity. This is director Mike Mendez being given three and a half million dollars and making a balls to the wall, gory comedy horror. I think people will find this overkill but when the movie is not dishing out the gore and carnage, this is where the movie suffers for me. When this movie isn't showing us the demon going on a killing spree, that's where Don't Kill It loses steam.

There are moments in the film where Dolph Lundgren has to stop the craziness to give us a lot of exposition about his past and about the demon. These scenes are where the movie sort of slows the pace and momentum. It's not enough to ruin the experience of Don't Kill It and I totally get that it needs to be done in order for us to get any sort of story and plot but these moments are where I felt like the film loses a point only because I was dying to see what the demon would do to the next person it manages to inhabit.

Another element of the film that didn't always work for me was the cheesiness of the demon itself. While we never actually get to see this demon, every time a person is possessed by it, we have that well-used look of the completely black eyes and the demon just constantly wailing and screaming. I'd say roaring but the sound bite is more on the comedic side of things than anything else. I'm sure Mike Mendez and crew were going for exactly that but a lot of these scenes feel that extra bit silly and play exactly that way.

On a gore and bloodshed level, this is off the charts. This is all practical effects work from what I understand and while some of the gore looks clearly fake at times, I was loving every single second of it. People are maimed, stabbed, shot and eviscerated. We have a scene in a town meeting hall that may be the closest we've come to the Kingsman church scene. This is just fast pace killing sprees every ten minutes and it's a glorious sight to behold. If you want a movie that just delivers violence, this is it.

Lastly, we come to the acting. I've never been a fan of Dolph Lundgren. The only movies I could probably tell you he's been in besides this movie is one of the Rocky films and The Expendables. In Don't Kill It, he is at a career best for me. He plays a grizzled demon hunter to perfection. He looks like he has a lot of fun in this role and it shows. I wouldn't be opposed to a sequel. Kristina Klebe who I've seen in the dark horror drama Dementia is on the good girl side this time and she is a worthy partner to Dolph's Jebadiah Woodley. Both actors have a lot of chemistry.







DEATH TOLL: 53 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man is attacked by a dog.
- A dog is shot in the head.
- A demon is shot.
- Someone is hit in the face with a machete.
- An old woman is hit by a mail van.
- A group of people are mowed down by a mail van.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the heart.
- People are blown up by a grenade.
- Someone has their throat sliced.
- An FBI agent is hit in the back with a tomahawk.
- An FBI agent is hit in the head with a tomahawk.
- People poison themselves.
- Multiple people are shot in the head.
- Someone is stabbed in the chin with a kitchen knife.
- Women, teenagers, and children are shot in the chest.
- A woman's face is shoved into boiling hot water.
- A woman is repeatedly hit in the chest with a meat cleaver.
- A man is slashed down his chest.
- Someone's head is blown to pieces with a shotgun.
- Someone has their head caved in with a rifle handle.
- Someone has their face impaled on deer antlers.
- People's limbs are sliced off with a chainsaw and machete.
- Someone's head explodes from the hit of an ax.
- People are hit in the back and chest with an ax.
- Picking a bullet out of a wound.







Going into Don't Kill It, I was a little weary. After watching the film, though, I have to say that this is a movie that all horror fans should watch. Don't be stupid like I was and turned off that the main star is Dolph Lundgren because you're in for one wild ride. This is ultra violent, at times insane and pretty damn funny. The acting is also pretty good. Where the movie suffers is that when it's not dishing out the gore, it is a little slow and the movie is smothered with a lot of cheese. Still, I recommend that you watch Don't Kill It.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)








DIRECTOR: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

WRITERS:

Dan Gilroy
Max Borenstein
Derek Connolly

CAST:

Tom Hiddleston
Brie Larson
John Goodman
Samuel L. Jackson
John C. Reilly
John Ortiz
Toby Kebbell
Shia Whigham
Corey Hawkins
Tian Jing
Richard Jenkins
Thomas Mann

PLOT:

A team of scientists, soldiers, a tracker and a photographer are sent to the uncharted Skull Island. When they arrive, they discover they have ventured into the domain of the Mighty Kong. A giant ape who doesn't take too kindly to the group invading his home. When the group is left to fight for survival in an unknown land, they will soon realise that Kong is the least of their problems. The island is inhabited by a range of creatures that pose a much larger threat to the group than just Kong.







I will be the first to admit. I have never been a massive fan of the whole King Kong film series. I saw the original as a kid and much-preferred things like Jurassic Park growing up. I think the original King Kong was a little too slow for me at the time. It didn't hold my attention. When I went to see Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong, I wasn't impressed. A great cast couldn't save what was a pretty messy experience for me. It was a far cry from his earlier films and his Lord Of The Rings series. So when Kong: Skull Island was announced, I was a little weary about the latest incarnation of the mighty creature.

When the first trailer debuted for Kong: Skull Island, my anticipation grew. I wanted to see this film on the big screen. I was excited. It wasn't until the full-length trailer was released where they began to expose more of the comedic side of the film and that's where alarm bells started ringing for me. My anticipation for the film dimmed. I think I wanted something serious that was more in line with the latest Godzilla. I was scared this was going to play things for laughs and I didn't want to see that in a Kong film. I wanted a serious Kong movie.

After walking out of Kong: Skull Island, I can safely say that this is a very enjoyable film. While Skull Island isn't perfect and has its faults. This is a seriously enjoyable adventure. It's also now my favourite take on the story of Kong. I know the original is seen as something of a somewhat masterpiece and a groundbreaking piece of film, I won't dispute that at all but different strokes for different folks. I think this comes out on top for me. It's just such a fun slice of cinema that it nudges out the other two versions of Kong that I've seen.

First and foremost, Kong: Skull Island is gorgeous to look at. The entire film is just such a feast for the senses. This has to be one of the most beautiful looking mega-budget blockbusters I've seen in recent memory. Lots of slow motion action, stunning sweeping landscapes shots and just some amazing cinematography. I haven't seen anything that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has done previously so I can't speak for his other films but as a director here, he is made for this type of film as this is one fantastic piece of filmmaking on a technical level.

The visual effects in Kong: Skull Island, they're also fantastic. You can tell there was a lot of CGI used with certain creatures in the film but I still think all the visual effects work was very well done. Kong himself looks wonderful. I will even say that the effects work is the best I've seen in a Kong film. I know Peter Jackson and Weta spent a long time on their effects work but here, I think it was a vast improvement. The mega Skull Crusher and Kong fight, the giant octopus fight were both highlights. I also really enjoyed the helicopter attack sequence, the most impressive action scene in the film for me.

When it comes to being a monster movie, Kong: Skull Island is exactly that. This is filled with some extremely creepy and dangerous creatures. I think this movie will be one that scares a lot of smaller kids. Parents going into this thinking they will see a light-hearted adventure film will be sorely mistaken. The threat of danger is around every single corner in this movie. I don't think there was ever really a moment of peace in this film. The only time when we are given a moment to breathe is when we are introduced to John C. Reilly's character.

For a PG-13 or M rated movie, Kong: Skull Island seriously pushes its rating as far as it can go. While this is no Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom in terms of having a rating need to be created to cater to its violence, Kong: Skull Island takes it to the very limit of PG-13. We even have a Cannibal Holocaust homage in this film. People are crushed, blown up, smacked against rocks, thrown into a helicopter propeller, and even impaled. There is also a lot of creatures that are killed in the film. There is a moment with a giant stick insect that felt particularly mean-spirited.

The acting in this film is fantastic. Tom Hiddleston is a great leading actor and action star. I liked his role in this film a lot. Brie Larson is the Fay Wray, Naomi Watts and Jessica Lange in this film. However, we don't get one of those high-pitch screaming scenes. She has a very Ripley or Sarah Conner vibe in the film. Samuel L. Jackson is the villain and his final scene was a cheer-worthy moment, John Goodman is just so good in his role as the man who sets up the exploration to Skull Island and John C. Reilly is the comic relief in this film. I thought, for the most part, he wasn't overkill.

Lastly, where Kong: Skull Island does go wrong for me is that there are quite a few very cheesy moments in the film. There is the slow-motion scene with nasty birds and Tom Hiddleston where he is slicing and dicing them that was just a huge eye-roll moment. John C. Reilly's character is the one that drops the silliest one-liners and at times, I was just cringing in these scenes. We also see Samuel L. Jackson's character continuously putting people in danger because he wants to kill Kong. These scenes are tiring when he slowly descends into this maniacal madman. I was waiting for the stroking of a mustache and holding a cat.







DEATH TOLL: 52 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone grabs a samurai sword with their bare hands.
- Soldiers are killed in helicopter crashes.
- A soldier is eaten by Kong.
- A soldier is hit with a helicopter.
- A giant octopus is ripped apart by Kong.
- Someone is squished in Kong's hand.
- A soldier is smacked against a wall and blown up.
- A ship's propeller is used to slash a Skull Crusher's neck.
- A scientist is pulled apart by a group of Pterodactyl birds.
- Soldier's are stomped on.
- Soldier's are crushed to death.
- A soldier is thrown into a helicopter propeller.
- Many people are eaten by Skull Crushers.
- A giant spider is shot to pieces.
- A soldier gets covered in a spider's guts.
- A giant stick insect is shot.
- A giant water buffalo creature is eaten.
- A Skull Crusher has its guts pulled out by Kong.
- A skull Crusher regurgitates a dissolved human skull.
- A man is impaled through the mouth by a spider's leg.

All violence is PG-13 rated.







I was a little nervous going into Kong: Skull Island. The last couple of trailers were worrying me. I thought the comedy was going to kill this film for me. Luckily, I came out of Skull Island and really enjoyed the film. This is action packed, violent, well acted and the visual effects are great. This is my favourite incarnation of the mighty Kong to date. I can't wait to see what Jordan Vogt-Roberts delivers next as I could see him tackling something really dark or horror orientated.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Deranged (1974)








DIRECTORS:

Jeff Gillen
Alan Ormsby

WRITER: Alan Ormsby

CAST:

Roberts Blossom
Cosette Lee
Leslie Carlson
Arlene Gillen
Marian Waldman
Pat Orr
Micki Moore
Robert Warner
Marcia Diamond

PLOT:

Deranged is based on serial killer Ed Gein. Ezra Cobb is a middle-aged farmer who lives in a rural farmhouse with his elderly mother. When his elderly mother passes away, he decides to dig up her corpse and bring her home. Ma Cobb speaks to him even in death. Ezra starts to go on dates with women in hopes of killing them and collecting their skin to put his mother back together again.
 







Growing up, I was always extremely fascinated with true crime and serial killers. I still watch the Crime Investigation Channel almost daily and read a lot of stuff about the dark side of human nature. It could appear weird to any outsider but for me, I'm very fascinated with it all. So any horror or genre movie that deals with or relates to serial killers, I'm always very excited to watch it. I'll usually be there with bells on. Deranged which is also known as Confessions Of A Necrophile sounded right up my alley but I wasn't sure this would be a slasher.

Ed Gein is pretty infamous. He's one of those serial killers who is up there with Jack The Ripper, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. He was thought to be a necrophiliac and created keepsakes around his house by skinning women. He was seriously disturbed and a lot of movies used him as a basis for their villains. I think the most famous of those films would be Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Deranged was one I had never heard of personally but was excited to see how different it would be from those two films mentioned.

Deranged is one strange little movie. The movie is shot like a faux-documentary or training video. At moments, all the way through this film, we have this narrator step into frame and the actors pause while he gives us exposition. It was very jarring and odd to have a film that deals with a horribly twisted serial killer who is constantly interrupted by this person. At times, I felt like it really messed with the flow of the story. This creative decision feels very misguided to me. It's probably my least favourite element in Deranged.

For a movie, that deals heavily with a serial killer who murders women and teenage girls, goes grave robbing and even skins a corpse, I think Deranged has a heavy dose of dark comedy. There are moments where this film swings between serious horror and black comedy. The tone of this film feels very uneven at times. This may fall back on the narrator popping into the frame or the fact that our villain does lay down a joke or two. A scene where he clearly admits to murder and having the victim at his house to his neighbour was one of the comedic moments that landed for me. The rest were hit and miss for me.

Where Deranged works for me is that when it's taking the horror elements seriously, it's a pretty messed up film. The movie is never really over the top with its displays of gore but there are scenes that made me thoroughly uncomfortable. A scene where we see Ezra Cobb sawing into a corpse's skull while he scoops out her brains is some extremely realistic gore and makeup effects from Tom Savini. This is the goriest part of the film but there is a lot of violence towards women that will likely disturb some more sensitive viewers.

I think out of all the movies that deal with the subject of Ed Gein, I think Deranged may be the most accurate depiction of his story yet. Yes, the names have all been changed but a lot of the things that take place in the film are things that he was said to have done. I really found myself enjoying this as a serial killer tale. As a slasher, I don't think the film is very successful but this works when being a rather low budget almost video nasty type of film. Weird to think this movie suddenly disappeared after it's released in 1974 and a copy was found in 1990.

In terms of tension and suspense, I think Deranged has a few scenes that worked for me. A scene where a bartender is chased around a house and finds Ed Gein dressed as a woman covered in skin is effective as is the final moments where a teenage girl is shot in the head but survives and is hunted in the snowy wilderness. The scene ends pretty horrifically and is quite unnerving. The movie won't make you jump out of your seat but is intense enough at times to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Lastly, the acting was great. Roberts Blossom as Ezra Cobb is extremely creepy. His scenes are mostly uncomfortable and that comes down to his leering stares at all the women or his nervous dialogue when he's trying to pick up women so he can murder them. I was thoroughly grossed out during one sexual attack scene. Micki Moore is also fantastic as a gorgeous bartender who falls victim to Ezra Cobb during the film. I thought her performance was realistic and wanted to see her survive the ordeal.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- An old woman dies. Bleeding from the nose is shown.
- A scene of grave-robbing is shown.
- A woman's skull is sawn open.
- Brains are removed from an old woman's skull.
- A woman is shot in the head twice.
- A woman is hung up and gutted like a pig.
- A teenage girl gets her leg caught in a bear trap.
- A teenage girl is shot in the head.
- Rotting female corpses are shown.
- A woman's head is bashed in.
- A woman's skull is shown on a silver platter tray.







Deranged is a low-budget take on the Ed Gein story. It's probably the closest take on the serial killer that I've seen yet. This movie feels like it would be right at home in the video nasty sort of mid-seventies type of horror shocker. The movie has some solid gore work early on, some horrible scenes involving violence against women which will disturb, a few very excellent and creepy performances. Where the movie falls short for me is that it has this weird documentary and narrator sort of feel to it that upsets the flow of the film. Some uneven comedy also throws the tone out of whack at points. Still worth a watch if you can find it.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Underworld: Blood Wars (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Anna Foerster


WRITERS:

Cory Goodman
Kyle Ward

CAST:

Kate Beckinsale
Theo James
Tobias Menzies
Lara Pulver
Charles Dance
Bradley James
Daisy Head
Peter Andersson
James Faulkner
Clementine Nicholson

PLOT:

Selene, the vampire death dealer is still on the run after the events of Underworld: Awakening. After Selene's daughter Eve goes into hiding, Selene is unaware of her location. The vampire clan requests Selene to come back so she can train the young vampires in hopes of turning them into a group of Death Dealers in preparation for an impending war against the Lycans. Marius, a Lycan is also after Selene and wants the location of her daughter. Selene must try and stop Marius and bring an end to the Blood War.







Back in 2003, I remember going to see Underworld in theaters with my mates. I had walked out of the film and had thoroughly enjoyed the action between the vampires and Lycan clans. It had felt like an original idea at the time. Three years later, I was back in a cinema watching Underworld: Evolution. I enjoyed the sequel even more than I did the original. The movie was, even more action packed and gory than the first film. So at this point, the Underworld series was two for two with me.

While the movies are clearly not award winning pieces of cinema. For me, they are still extremely fun and slick looking action, horror movies. I was having a lot of fun with the series until Kate Beckinsale jumped ship and someone at Screen Gems went ahead and greenlit a prequel to the first two films without her in the lead role with Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans. I think Kate Beckinsale is one of the big reasons I watch and enjoy these films. I was glad when she returned to the series she helped build with Underworld: Awakening and even enjoyed that film more than I did the previous entry.

We now came to the fifth entry in the Underworld series with Blood Wars and I think this series has run its course. This film is just terrible. It's wonderful watching Kate Beckinsale back in the role of Selene but I think after this latest entry, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment can now put a fork in the series because it's done. This is sadly the worst film of the lot. While none of the films have really intricate plots, this feels like the thinnest of them all. The story just moves from one action set-piece to the next with no real story at its core.

Underworld: Blood Wars opens with a really quick rundown of the series. We see glimpses of all the previous films and once we get into Blood Wars, we understand the Selene is now on the run from both Lycan and Vampire clans. She is now being hunted down and we queue up one of the worst action scenes I think I've seen in this series of moderately budgeted action, horror films. Terrible visual effects and horrible frantic editing just make every bit of the opening scene hard to watch. Like Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, things are so quickly cut and edited that it really does hurt the quality of the cinematography.

Len Wiseman who directed the first and second film, his direction was slick and the action scenes were really well choreographed. Everything was just smooth and well presented. I'm glad that a female director has been given a chance to direct one of these films but I think Len Wiseman and the guys behind Awakening just delivered a better-looking film. It probably helps that the budget for Underworld: Awakening was seventy-five million dollars and this budget was half of the previous entry. Still great to see woman are given us some action and horror cinema.

From the opening scene, Underworld: Blood Wars moves onto Selene just moving from one action scene to another. This happens with every one of these films but here, I felt like it was very thinly plotted. There was no real surprise or solid twist with the story. We know almost immediately who is going to come out as villains, which characters are going to betray Selene and anyone on her side. Everything in this story has been done before in other movies of this type. I was very bored throughout the film. It felt like this was the final nail in the coffin.

The acting in Underworld: Blood Wars is hit and miss for me. Kate Beckinsale is an actress I really like and admire. I've even met her in a bar in London and she was very kind and friendly. Willing to take photos with everyone in the bar. I think she is so much better than all this material. Watch her in Love & Friendship, Vacancy, The Aviator, Nothing But The Truth, Brokedown Palace or even Snow Angels and you will see an extremely talented actress who can deliver a solid performance. I think she is the saving grace of these films but deserves much better material.

The supporting cast who are rounded out by talent like Charles Dance who is only in this as a very small supporting role is underused in this film. Both Theo James and Bradley James are both very nice to look at but let's face it, they aren't given much else to do other than fight and be the male eye candy. The villains in this film played by Tobias Menzies and Lara Pulver just don't have the same on-screen presence as Bill Nighy or Michael Sheen who are both thespians. Even Charles Dance would've been a better villain. When you have a class act like him, use him to his full potential.

Lastly, when it comes to the violence in this film, I was left a little underwhelmed. After the brutal Underworld: Evolution, I think you needed to up the gore factor and this sadly didn't even come close. 
There is a really awesome scene where a Lycan is sliced in half with a sword that suddenly happens and it's completely out of the blue but when that's the highlight of the film and you don't remember much else when it comes to an element like the gore, it's really not that memorable overall.







DEATH TOLL: 98 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is decapitated.
- Someone's neck is snapped.
- Lots of people are shot in the head.
- Someone's head is impaled on a metal pole.
- A Lycan is drowned.
- A Lycan gets chopped in half with a sword.
- An arrow gets stabbed into someone's eye.
- A Lycan has its spine ripped out.
- People are drained of blood.
- Someone is stabbed in the head with a sword.
- A lot of throat slashing.
- Someone gets a knife to the head.
- A group of vampires burning to death.
- Someone is shot with a grappling hook.
- A whole group of vampires are shot with UV bullets.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach and spine.
- Someone gets their hand cut off.
- People are stabbed with swords.







In a series like Underworld, you don't go in expecting a high caliber movie. This is not an award-winning sort of film. You're going in to watch a flick where vampires go to war with werewolves. This is meant to be brainless fun. Underworld: Blood Wars wasn't even that for me. This film felt like the death or the series for me. It was the nail in the coffin. I know a lot of people hate these films but the first, second and fourth films were all enjoyable for me. This just felt like enough was enough. I think it's time to call it a day with this Underworld series.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cruel Summer (2017)








DIRECTORS:

Phillip Escott
Craig Newman

WRITERS:

Phillip Escott
Craig Newman

CAST:

Danny Miller
Reece Douglas
Natalie Martins
Richard Pawulski
Grace Dixon
Gary Knowles

PLOT:

Danny is a teenage boy who suffers from Autism. When his mother and father decide to let Danny go camping and fishing alone in the local woods, they are completely unaware that three fellow youths are out looking for him and are seeking revenge. The leader of their group, Nicholas has been informed that Danny has slept with his ex-girlfriend and he wants to make Danny pay with his blood.







Looking at the poster for Cruel Summer, I went into this film thinking I was going to watch a drama about disaffected youth set against an English backdrop. I had no idea that this was a dark and savage little indie based on a true story. This has the word horror written all over it. Coming out of Cruel Summer, I can't in good faith say that this is a pleasant experience. This is a movie that will get under your skin and stay with you. I think this is a film that deserves to be seen.

When Cruel Summer starts, we open on a house. We can hear screaming and arguing coming from inside the residence. It sounds like a domestic is happening inside. We see a young man storm out of the house in a fit of rage. He has just broken up with his girlfriend who has accused him of cheating on her. We cut to him hanging at his female friend's house who tells him that his ex-girlfriend isn't so innocent. She slept with the local retarded kid. This will set into motion a very uncomfortable and at times hard to watch eighty minutes.

After being told that his ex-girlfriend had slept with Danny, Nicholas is hurt. He's not hurt because he believed she was a virgin before she met him but that his girlfriend would supposedly sleep with a guy who suffers from a disability. I think in his mind, his masculinity has been threatened by someone he believes to be an inferior man to him and this puts Nicholas on a war path. For the next forty-five minutes, we see two different stories playing out that will eventually collide in horrific ways.

The first forty-five minutes shows the three teenagers on the hunt for Danny. We see them do a range of things like shoplift, go to the arcade to play games and drinking in the park. A regular day for these three people who seem like they don't have jobs. At the same time, we also cross back to Danny who is setting up camp. I think the first forty-five minutes is pretty slow. There isn't much in the way of action. This is our chance to hang out with some pretty unsavory characters who we'll come to despise by the time the credits roll.

Once we get past the forty-five-minute mark, this turns into a completely different beast. For the next thirty minutes, we as an audience are put through the emotional wringer. This is a nasty and mean-spirited little film. The rest of the running time, we watch Nicholas and Julia torture, brutalize and maim Danny. They don't just hurt him, they humiliate him. This movie is far from entertaining. You won't find this a fun experience but as a piece of horror, this works as an emotional gut punch.

The one shining light in this movie is Calvin. He's one of the three people we follow for forty-five minutes and believe he will take part in this horrific murder. I was all ready to hate. Instead, he plays the guy who realises that he has been lied to by his friends to commit an unspeakable act. Julia lied to Nicholas because she's jealous he never pursued her, Nicholas and Julia lied to Calvin and said Danny is a pedophile to try and drag him into the crime. Calvin who sees through them when things head south tries to help Danny but ultimately fails. I actually felt for him as he tried to save Danny. While still guilty of leaving Danny to be murdered, I think his character turning back originally showed some remorse.

Cruel Summer ends in a way that makes this story even more heartbreaking. The ending with Danny's mother and father waiting in the carpark for him while he lays dead in a field is just heart-wrenching. To know what they will find, I can't help but feel sadder knowing this happened to a real kid. An innocent kid who just enjoyed camping and fishing. The world is a cruel place and this is just one tiny little story of how evil people can be to one another. If I could compare this to anything when it comes to how it's structured and the build-up, I think Bully may be one that comes to mind.

When it comes to scares, blood, and gore, Cruel Summer isn't that scary. There are no jump scares in this movie. But I don't think that's what this movie is trying to go for at all. This is a build up to an explosive and unpleasant third act and it worked for me. While far from perfect, I think the movie succeeds with what it sets out to do. You know something sinister is coming for forty-five minutes and when it does, it's not nice. The movie isn't very bloody either but the violence here is meant to be unpleasant and ugly.

Lastly, the acting is solid. For actors that I've never heard of or seen in anything, I really liked all four of the actors. Danny Miller as Nicholas is evil, plain and simple. He plays that chav type very well. Immediately we hate him and his performance was great. Natalie Martins as Julia is deceitful and at one stage, I thought she was going to somehow have this character arc where she came good. Sadly she is weak and a follower. She was also fantastic. Reece Douglas as Calvin was my favourite performance, outside of Richard Pawulski who plays Danny. Calvin has the most emotional performance while I believed Richard Pawulski suffered from Autism. Great acting from all four actors.








DEATH TOLL: 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A teenager with disabilities is beaten up.
- A teenager with disabilities is repeatedly stabbed with a sickle.
- Someone has a plastic bag put over their head.
- A teenager with disabilities is hit in the head with a stick.







When I went into Cruel Summer, I was expecting a drama about English youth. I had no idea this movie would slowly descend into a brutal and mean-spirited indie based on a true story. Some really great performances from the four main actors, some ugly and unpleasant violence and even some gorgeous cinematography make this a movie that deserved to be seen. While not an enjoyable experience or even slightly fun to watch, I hope this finds a wider audience.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black Christmas (1974)








DIRECTOR:
 Bob Clark


WRITER: Roy Moore

CAST:

Olivia Hussey
Margot Kidder
Keir Dullea
Andrea Martin
John Saxon
Marian Waldman
Doug McGrath
James Edmond
Art Hindle
Lynne Griffin

PLOT:

It's coming into Christmas break and the sorority sisters are making plans for their holiday. While having a party at their sorority house, they start to receive perverse and creepy anonymous phone calls. When one of their own sorority sisters ends up disappearing, they call the local police who don't show that much concern. They only start taking matters seriously when the body of a young girl is found murdered in a local park not too far from the sorority house.







I remember being roughly fifteen years old when I saw the original Black Christmas. At the time, I was still a massive fan of the Scream series and riding high on my love of the nineties and early naughties slashers. I hadn't yet fully matured enough to really enjoy and appreciate movies like the original Black Christmas. I think on my original watch of the film, I found it slow and rather boring. So I put it on the shelf and didn't watch it for another fifteen years.

Doing this slasher retrospective, I finally made it to 1974 and decided to give what some cinephiles would consider being the original slasher movie a watch. I decided it was time to revisit the original Black Christmas. It's been such a long time since I last saw the film, I had completely forgotten just about everything I witnessed in the film. Now at the age of thirty and seeing it with what felt like fresh eyes, I found that on second viewing, I enjoyed this film much more the second time around.

Black Christmas starts off almost immediately. We are thrown right into the thick of things. This is a movie that doesn't take much time in getting into the creepy factor. The sorority house is having their annual Christmas break party. The sorority sisters are all enjoying a drink and a chat with their partners. This is when we get a taste of our first anonymous call. We are informed that this isn't the first time that they've received these type of calls. I was shocked at how perverted some of the things the killer says to the girls, especially being set in the early seventies.

One of the big elements that I really enjoyed in Black Christmas is that whenever the killer is on screen, it is shot from the killer's point of view. A filming technique that was made infamous in Peeping Tom but most people will probably know it from John Carpenter's masterpiece Halloween. I'll never get tired of watching these seventies slashers that use this way of filming as a way of creeping out the audience. This may be blasphemous but I think it is a lot more effective in Black Christmas than it was in Halloween.


I think from the first phone call right up until the final showdown between Jess and the killer, this movie is extremely creepy and effective. As one of the first films to feature a killer calling their victims and also stalking them with the eventual "the call is coming from inside the house", this is certainly the most creepy when compared to movies like Fright and When A Stranger Calls. I think that final realisation from the police officers perspective made the hairs on my neck stand up. A very creepy scene.

Another subplot that I thought was handled well in Black Christmas is the pregnancy and abortion storyline. I can only imagine the controversy this would've caused with the pro-life groups at the time. Being that Jess was the one that wanted to abort the baby and her boyfriend was the one wanting to keep it and was the most affected by her choice. While we never find out if she goes through with the abortion, it gives the film this other element on top of the stalk and slash and psychological element.

Where Black Christmas does go wrong for me is that the film sort of has moments that make me question the intelligence of the police officers and even some of the characters. Early on, one of the sorority sisters is killed off. Her father comes to pick her up the next day and none of the police officers think to search the entire sorority house? Her body sits in the attic, right by the front attic window and no one simply looks up and see's her suffocated corpse sitting there? I always find it weird when someone goes missing, they never check the residence before they decide to spread out with a search party.

When it comes to the acting in the film, I loved the performances. I thought Olivia Hussey as Jess was fantastic. I loved that she was extremely tough and even with the abortion storyline, she was the one wanting to go through it. A very strong final girl. The only thing that annoyed me was whenever she answered the phone, she screamed into the receiver which I thought was weird. Margot Kidder as the bitchy sorority sister was fantastic. I loved her one-liners that she delivered. The last role that I loved was Marian Waldman as Mrs. Mac. The booze swigging house mother was hilarious. She gave this dark film a sense of levity.

Lastly, when it comes to the gore and bloodshed, Black Christmas is pretty restrained with the red stuff. This is all about mood and tension. The film does have one pretty bloody death that involves a major character and a glass unicorn. I thought this scene was the highlight when it came to the kills. I think where the movie lacks in the gore department, it makes up for with solid amounts of suspense and tension. At times this is a successfully eerie little slasher film.








DEATH TOLL: 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is suffocated with a plastic bag.
- Someone gets a hook winch to the neck.
- A child is found murdered in the park.
- Someone is stabbed repeatedly with a glass unicorn.
- A woman is killed off screen.
- Someone has their throat sliced.


Going into Black Christmas, I was a little worried. The last time I had watched the film, I was a teenager and wasn't a big fan of the film. Fifteen years later, going in with what felt like fresh eyes, I thoroughly enjoyed it on a second viewing. Some silly character decisions can't sink this extremely creepy and nerve-shredding slasher. Clever uses of killer POV, some extremely eerie and perverted phone calls, strong female characters and a nice little reveal at the end are the reason Black Christmas has held up as a horror masterpiece.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973)








DIRECTOR: Theodore Gershuny

WRITERS:

Jeffrey Konvitz
Theodore Gershuny
Ira Teller

CAST:

Patrick O'Neal
James Patterson
Mary Woronov
Astrid Heeren
John Carradine
Fran Stevens
Walter Abel
Philip Bruns

PLOT:

When a man inherits an old mansion, he soon discovers that it was once a mental asylum that housed the criminally insane. As he begins to investigate the history of the old house, he soon uncovers crimes that have happened over the course of the house's history. When the man decides to sell the place, he will have a tough time trying to sell it as a serial killer has escaped from another mental institution and has taken refuge inside the mansion.







Here we have another early slasher film that I had never heard of when compiling my list for my Slasher Retrospective. So going into the movie, I was a little excited to see what would be on offer as I went into Silent Night, Bloody Night, completely blind. When I read the title for this film, I thought the title may have had some sort of connection to the infamous Silent Night, Deadly Night that came out eleven years later. So I was pretty excited to sit down and watch this Christmas slasher.

Silent Night, Bloody Night takes a rather slow burn approach with the pacing and storytelling. The film opens with our owner of the house bursting out of the front door. He's been set on fire and he collapses into the snow and dies. It's a nice little start to the film that sets the rather dark tone for the rest of the film. We will soon discover that this house has a much darker history than anyone in the town could've ever imagined. Welcome to Silent Night, Bloody Night.

Now we jump twenty years later. A lawyer and his mistress who are trying to sell the mansion on behalf of the owner's grandson decide to spend a night in the old asylum. Little do these two realise that they're being watched by a serial killer. The end result of the cheating lawyer and his mistress being hacked up with an ax is the highlight of the film for me. It's a glorious scene where the red stuff is used in buckets. It's also a scene that really shocked me as I thought these two were the main characters in the film. So when they are dispatched of so violently, I had my jaw on the floor.

After this rather brutal scene, we are introduced to the proper main character and the man who is eager to get rid of this house. He wants to sell it off and be done with it. I think it was a nice choice on the writer's part to subvert expectations somewhat. I liked that they actually tried to dedicate half an hour of the film's running time to the terrible history of the house. I was really enjoying the death scenes of people who were coming into contact with the house. It was a nice way to move the movie along even if these scenes are quite slow.

From this point on, the mystery and whodunnit sort of kicks in. We get our two leads trying to uncover the mystery of who is killing the townspeople. Cue a few scenes of them doing their best investigating. These scenes sort of just get us to the third act. The scenes of them going around the town trying to find out what happened to the local sheriff and stuff didn't do much for me. It's sort of feels like it's there to knock off one of the supporting characters and to get us into the reveal of our killer.

There is this rather impressive twelve-minute backstory scene that gives us some very dark reveal into the history of the house and original owner. It is shot in this 'yellow' drenched sort of 'old-timey' aesthetic. They have done something to the film stock to give us this classic look and feel. I enjoyed this moment in the film. Even though it goes for twelve minutes, I was really enjoying how they sort of changed the way the film looked to make it clear we have gone back in time. It was a nice little touch to the film that I wasn't expecting them to deliver.

The final few minutes of the film felt anti-climactic for me. I think after the rather excellent backstory and reveal of the original owner and the killer finally revealing themselves, we have two of the three remaining characters are killed off in a sort of pistol duel. We basically have this remaining character kill the killer and they walk off into the sunset. It's all very light-hearted in the end. We also never get any sort of send off for the townspeople who have been killed. Still, the film is more positive than negative.

Lastly, the acting in Silent Night, Bloody Night is great. Patrick O'Neal plays the cheating lawyer to perfection. Mary Woronov is my favourite thing in this film. She plays a tough as nails woman who takes no shit from any man. When we meet her, she welcomes a man into her house and holds him up at gunpoint. I loved this scene. Lastly, James Patterson plays our grandson who has inherited the house plays that brooding, red-herring pretty well. For a few minutes, I thought he was the killer.







DEATH TOLL: 12

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is set on fire.
- A dog is stabbed.
- Someone is hit by a car.
- Someone has their head bashed in with a shovel.
- Someone is stabbed in the eye with a cocktail glass.
- Two people are hacked up with an ax.
- Three people are shot dead.
- Someone is killed with an ax.
- Someone is found dead.







Silent Night, Deadly Night is a movie that is a very slow burn slasher. It almost felt like a sort of Hammer Horror take on the slasher film. It has the grand old location, it has the extremely talented cast. I found myself enjoying it more than not, though. The film has a few brutal deaths and a couple of little shocks and surprises in store for the audience. While the movie isn't scary, it will be bloody enough for horror fans. Keep an eye out for the flashback sequence and ax attack as both scenes elevate this low budget slasher.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't Look In The Basement (1973)








DIRECTOR: S.F. Brownrigg

WRITER: Tim Pope

CAST:

Bill McGhee
Jessie Lee Fulton
Robert Dracup
Michael Harvey
Harryette Warren
Jessie Kirby
Betty Chandler
Camilla Carr
Hugh Feagin

PLOT:

When Dr. Stephens is murdered by one of his patients at the mental institution he is in charge of. He was in the process of hiring a new psychiatric nurse to assist him. When she soon arrives after his passing, she discovers that something is not right in this asylum. While trying to help the patients, she is put through varying degrees of torment by the very people she is trying to help. Little does she realise that someone is also murdering the patients.







Don't Look In The Basement which is also known as The Forgotten is a movie that I had never heard of when I was compiling my list for my slasher retrospective. I had no idea if it was even a slasher when I had added it to the list of films I must watch as a part of the retrospective. I've found that when I've added films to the list, they haven't turned out to be very-slasher like. So reading comments about this film, I was a little worried that I would watch this and it wouldn't be a slasher film.

While researching the film after I got a chance to watch it. I had no idea this movie was on the Video Nasties list. One of 72 films to join the infamous list of films that the BBFC had stated it violated the Obscene Publications Act. I also found out while doing some research that in the early seventies, this movie had played at drive-ins alongside a double bill of Wes Craven's infamous The Last House On The left. If you look at some of the posters for the film, it has the same tagline and poster design as that film.

After watching the film, this definitely has several elements of the slasher genre. It has a killer who is picking off patients one at a time, the plot also plays like a sort of whodunnit mystery and the ending has the big killer reveal. This film, however, is set within a mental asylum and that's where this film plays very differently for the first hour of the film. I think this is a movie that a lot of people will either turn off or not stick around for as this is very slow burn in its approach to the storytelling.

This movie spends a vast majority of its running time introducing us to and asking the audience to go along and watch a bunch of unsavory characters who are the patients of a mental asylum. I found this part of the film to be a real trial to get through. While I enjoyed the fact that this is an asylum that doesn't lock up any of the patients and lets them simply just roam the corridors, the characters were just hard to tolerate at times as they ranged from disturbed to downright crazy and a lot of these scenes played quite cheap.

Having the patients being able to just move around this asylum at their own free will and letting them act out all their craziness was an okay idea for the simple fact that being crazy, everybody is a suspect and anyone could be the killer. It gave this film a sense of uneasiness as the two female nurses are the only ones on duty and they are trying to keep the patients under control. This feeds quite well into the whodunnit side of the plot. It keeps you guessing until the film starts getting messy and bloody in the third act.

Where the film does get a few points is that it delivers a pretty clever twist. It's the sort of twist that if done today, I could imagine that M. Night Shyamalan would've probably come up with it. It's a pretty nice reveal and back in the seventies, it may have even been a solid gut punch. I think the twist is a moment in this film that sort of elevates and holds the film up. Had this film ended any other way, it may have been a complete disaster and a waste of time. I wouldn't have gifted this film a five, that would've been way too high without this twist.

The acting in Don't Look In The Basement is very hit and miss. I am only going to mention the ones that I really enjoyed. The standout performances are delivered by Annabelle Weenick and Bill McGhee. For the entire cast, a lot of the supporting cast and their characters playing mental patients come across as pretty annoying. The saving graces are Bill McGhee and Annabelle Weenick who both deliver frantic and frenzied performances.

When it comes to gore and bloodshed in Don't Look In The Basement, it actually delivers a lot of solid carnage in the third act. We have a nice scene that involves a female patient's head being slammed down on a metal skewer with gory results or one of the main characters who is hacked up with an ax by a group of patients. This scene is bloody and the screams will chill you to the bone. While the scene is called for, I can understand this would have messed up audience members of the film back in the early seventies.







DEATH TOLL: 12

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone has their throat slashed.
- Someone's head is bashed in with a toy boat.
- A man is hit in the neck with an ax.
- A nurse is killed by a patient.
- Several patients are killed with an ax.
- Someone's face gets pushed onto a metal skewer.
- A nurse is repeatedly hit with axes by a group of patients.
- Someone's tongue is cut out.







Don't Look In The Basement is a film that missed the mark for me. The first hour of this film is pretty boring, to say the least. The movie spends a lot of time introducing us to the characters of a mental institution. A lot of the characters are quite annoying and not very likable. It becomes very hard to tolerate these characters. Where the film does go right is a bloody and violent third act and a nice twist that would've played well back in the seventies. For being on the Video Nasties list, it deserves a watch for that alone.