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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Cry Havoc

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Many of the movies I love are a kind of heightened or polished exploitation. They’re the standout kicking and stabbing movies that were mass-produced in the ’70s to fill slots at drive-ins but exceeded their mandate and ended up acing the test of time. Or they’re the modern, more expensive movies in popular genres that evolved out of the best b-pictures. But occasionally I’ll take the seatbelt off and step into the muck of legitimate 21st century exploitation.

That’s what I would consider CRY HAVOC, a mashup between a slasher movie and a Charles Bronson movie that came out on VOD and DVD this week. I don’t mean a Charles Bronson type movie. I mean there is a straight up Charles Bronson impersonator trying to rescue his daughter from a masked slasher. And it’s important to emphasize that this is not a SHARKNADO deal. There are zero jokes in the movie and if it’s meant to be funny it wisely doesn’t let on.

I first learned of the Robert Bronzi phenomenon in 2018 when I reviewed DEATH KISS. Writer/director/editor/cinematographer Rene Perez, who has been doing horror and fantasy b-movies since 2010, spotted him in a wild west stunt show in Spain and put him in a horror western called FROM HELL TO THE WILD WEST, followed by that DEATH WISH riff. Both DEATH KISS and CRY HAVOC take place today but make Bronzi look like the actual Charles Bronson, transported through time, mustache, clothes and attitude intact. A timeless, ageless, nameless spirit of vengeance. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood Quantum

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I keep having to write this same exact preamble, so here’s the short version: yes, we all think we’re sick of zombie movies, but here’s another really good one. (See also: TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.) The fresh spin on BLOOD QUANTUM – a Canadian one that opened the Midnight Madness portion of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and got a surprise release on Shudder this week – starts with it taking place on a First Nations reserve (or Indian reservation as people here call it).

It has a vivid weird-day-unfolding feel, like a serious THE DEAD DON’T DIE, rolling out the odd characters in town through the point of view of Red Crow reserve chief of police Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, DANCE ME OUTSIDE, FIRESTORM, Fear the Walking Dead, True Detective). But it starts on his dad, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman, a sturdy, bald old badass with no other acting credits) gutting a bunch of salmon he caught. The fucking things won’t stop flipping around like they’re in that Faith No More video. (read the rest of this shit…)

Girl on the Third Floor

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR is a 2019 horror film that’s been on video for a while and recently showed up on Netflix. It stars Phil Brooks (RABID), better known under his pro-wrestling name CM Punk, but it’s not a movie designed to star a muscleman, and not released under the prestigious WWE Films banner. That might be because they don’t do as many wrestler-based movies anymore, or because he’s a mixed martial artist now, or because he left WWE on bad terms saying he would never work with them again and accused their doctors of malpractice on a podcast and was subject of a defamation lawsuit for it and won. Could be any of those reasons that he had to go out and book a normal acting role.

To be honest I had to look that stuff up, I don’t know much about him. I didn’t even know that he looks like Jon Hamm. He slimmed down to regular-muscular-guy size as opposed to wrestler size, but doesn’t hide that he’s covered in tattoos. His character Don Koch is an ex-lawyer infamous for ripping off his clients, but doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of somebody like that since he’s got the ink and listens to Neurosis and stuff. That helped me not hate him as he tries to start over in the Chicago suburbs.

That’s where he’s just starting renovating a rundown house, his pregnant wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn, LITTLE CHICAGO, Banshee) periodically checking in on Facetime. He’s alone with his dog, some power tools, some personal demons, and maybe some supernatural entities. At least that’s my interpretation of the various goos dripping from outlets, lightbulbs and holes in the walls. (read the rest of this shit…)

Absentia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

I think it’s pretty widely agreed now that Mike Flanagan is one of the most qualified candidates for a new “Master of Horror,” right? Two others would be Jordan Peele and Ari Aster, but they only have two movies each to go by. Flanagan has more evidence on file. I know it’s a title previously reserved for the guys we read about in Fangoria when we were growing up, and here I’m nominating three guys I’m older than. Time is a bastard. But we need fresh blood. The Masters need heirs.

I didn’t review them, but I thought HUSH and GERALD’S GAME (both not-on-DVD Netflix exclusives, unfortunately) were good. I think DOCTOR SLEEP is truly great, and will likely be near the top of my best of the decade list. But of the one’s I’ve seen so far his true masterpiece is the TV series The Haunting of Hill House. I’m a guy who generally doesn’t give a shit about ghost stories, and has a hard time keeping up with TV shows, but I found that series absolutely captivating, deeply moving, and at times really fuckin scary. I didn’t even need the ghosts to show up very often, honestly. I was so into the characters. As thrilling as the climax was, I was kind of sad to get to the last episodes because I just wanted it to keep going.

DOCTOR SLEEP and Hill House have many themes and elements in common, despite being adapted from unrelated books. And since they’re his biggest and most expensive to date, they’re kind of like the ultimate Mike Flanagan films. Both could be described as sprawling – they have multiple time periods and locations, some giant sets, large casts, great FX and a type of high level cinematography I love with very complex and effective camera moves (including long takes). So I really didn’t know if his first feature ABSENTIA, which had a $70,000 budget raised partly on Kickstarter and was filmed mostly in his apartment in Glendale, would seem that much like what we now know is a Mike Flanagan film. (read the rest of this shit…)

All Cheerleaders Die

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

A week or two ago, when I reviewed Lucky McKee’s Lifetime thriller KINDRED SPIRITS, I said I’d watch anything by him because of how much I loved THE WOMAN. But after I wrote that I felt like I was a little full of shit because I knew he did a movie that I hadn’t gotten around to yet. So I got around to it. I watched ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (2013) on Shudder, but I think it’s also on Tubi, if that helps you to watch along at home.

I know I should’ve watched it a long time ago. I guess I hestiated because the title sounds like a comedy, and it sounds like it’s about a thing that’s not all that interesting long before you get to my age. And he’s only co-director and I thought it was some previous unfinished thing because I remembered that title being on his IMDb profile a million years ago. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Omega Man

Monday, April 13th, 2020

THE OMEGA MAN has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it on cable as a teenager. I would later read the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (love it) and see the first adapation LAST MAN ON EARTH (pretty good) and third one I AM LEGEND (in some ways the best adaptation, despite its flaws). The story of all these versions is of a scientist (usually named Robert Neville) who is immune to a plague that wipes out most of the population and turns the rest into vampires/ghouls/mutants.

So during daylight he’s alone in the city, at night he hides in his well-stocked home, holding off the attacking hordes, as he searches for a cure. It’s the holing up, of course, that kept coming to my mind a few weeks into Washington state’s shelter-in-place order for the Covid-19 pandemic (if I read that sentence six months ago I would’ve thought it was a reference to some sci-fi movie). I’ve mostly been looking for escapist entertainment – I’m definitely not planning on watching CONTAGION again, as seems to be popular – but I’m doing okay with genre movies that have parallels to the situation. So I watched THE OMEGA MAN again. (read the rest of this shit…)

Seoul Station

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

By now most horror fans have experienced or heard about the greatness of TRAIN TO BUSAN, the 2016 South Korean fast-zombie-plague movie. If you’re in the latter category, I know it’s easy to believe the hype but still feel no urgency to see it, because yeah, I get it. Zombies on a train. So I’ll just say again that while it’s impressive that it made me think “Okay, it turns out I do want another fucking zombie movie,” the real achievement is making me so attached to the characters and attuned to the tragedy of their horror movie circumstances that I produced actual tears near the end. Have I ever cried from a horror movie before? Not that I remember.

When I went to write the review I was surprised to learn that writer/director Yeon Sang-ho’s previous movies were all animated. He’d been doing animated shorts since the ‘90s, before the features KING OF PIGS (2011), THE FAKE (2013). Even more interesting, TRAIN TO BUSAN is sort of a sequel or tie-in to an animated feature called SEOUL STATION that Yeon did immediately before it. I didn’t realize it had come out in the U.S. until I noticed it streaming on Shudder. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dagon (R.I.P. Stuart Gordon)

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

You know how it is: you have these reoccurring nightmares about a sexy mermaid, and then you’re on a yacht trip with your girlfriend and an older couple, and a violent storm hits out of the blue and the boat wrecks and your friend is injured and you try to get help on the nearby island of Iboca but everyone’s weird and people have noticeable gills and tentacles and shit and a homeless guy explains to you that years ago a guy convinced them to give up Christianity and worship the sea god Dagon, who is different than Jesus in that he requires his followers to throw him women to impregnate with immortal monster babies. We’ve all been through it, and H.P. Lovecraft wrote about it in 1931, so Stuart Gordon made a movie about it in 2001.

Gordon is a rightfully designated Master of Horror, but I think deserves more recognition than he receives. Every time I watch or rewatch one of his movies it ends up being better than expected or remembered. In this case it still had the same issue I remembered, but it’s pretty good. Maybe pretty good plus. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Invisible Man

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

When we last saw Australian writer/actor/director Leigh Whannell two years ago, he had graduated from James Wan’s main writer (SAW I-III, DEAD SILENCE, INSIDIOUSes) to director of “a ferocious low budget cyberpunk action thriller” (source: outlawvern.com) called UPGRADE. I guess not very many people saw it, but Blumhouse still liked him enough to listen to his pitch for a remake of THE INVISIBLE MAN. And it was apparently a good one.

It had me not long after the simple, eerie title sequence – yes, you can still have a title sequence! – of waves crashing on rocks, splashing up and dripping off of invisible letters. The opening takes place high above those rocks in the mansion of super-rich-tech-genius Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, FASTER, The Haunting of Hill House), who is asleep. His girlfriend Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss, SUBURBAN COMMANDO) is trying to sneak out, something she has clearly planned for and is very scared about, with a go-bag in a hidden compartment, a plan for turning off the security system and a rendezvous point with her confused sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). (read the rest of this shit…)

In Fabric

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

IN FABRIC is a unique little movie – a horror film that’s not exactly serious, but not adverse to making its absurd premise work; a comedy too, but dry as freshly folded laundry. It’s primarily an exercise in style, a period piece exalting the golden era of Italian horror with its slender beauties and very good retro score – more proggy than the synthy stuff everybody is doing now – by somebody called “Cavern of Anti-Matter.” It fetishizes retail fashion, taking place in and around the women’s department at a ritzy London department store, frequently featuring montages of (and a nightmare about) catalog models, having its characters repeatedly make small talk about “the sales,” and whether each other found anything good to buy. And of course mannequins. Lots of mannequins the look like people and people that look like mannequins.

And it’s about a killer dress. (read the rest of this shit…)