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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alien Predators (1985) Horror Aliens

Alien Predators (1985) - (based on original screenplay "Massacre at R.V. Park" as Noah Blogh )  Well its been awhile, with work being so crazily busy that looking at a computer screen any other time is just too much of a hassle. So a long break it has been and while I hate that I am not keeping a decent schedule it just has to be that way. Today though is a new day, my birthday (53) and I am spending the morning watching Alien Predators (1985) on VHS. The film was made in 1985 but was not released in the United States until 1987. It starts by letting the audience know that the reason for Skylab was so the US government could do experiments that were illegal on earth. Then explains it fell back into the atmosphere in 1979 in Duarte Spain. Now anyone as old as I am knows that Skylab fell to the ground in pieces over western Australia but of course we can let this fact go for the sake of storytelling.  After the establishing shot of US officials in airtight suits looking over the remains of the lab the story shifts to a bull wandering around but progressively seen as more bloody and sick until it finally collapses. When the dogs come to feast on the carcass on is pulled inside the bull with growls that are not of this world. So now we know something has killed the bull from the inside and survived the crashing of Skylab.
 Needing to establish the main players the first three being some American students on Holiday in Spain, Damon (Dennis Christopher), Michael (Martin Hewitt) and Samantha (Lynn-Holly Johnson). Riding in an RV and pulling their sweet dune buggy these are just young people out to travel and have a good time. When Michael almost hits the bull in the road he gets out to investigate finding guts and goop everywhere. The goofy writing in establishing these character suggests comedy. They pull into an RV park for the night and in the morning Michael's blood covered shirt is disposed of outside in a barrel,  The "RV park" consists of two trailers on a Spanish hillside. The neighbors a horrible characterization of an Indian family leaves this more modern version of a man cringing at the stereotype. Our group literally bumps into Dr. W. Tracer, (Luis Prendes) NASA who may be responsible for the creature now free in the countryside. He and Capt. J.J.Wells (J.O. Bosso) go to examine the body of another investigator who has a quite disgusting alien growth on the side of his neck. Apparently NASA has a free run on this town because they have a base in an old stone fort with multiple levels below the ground. It's a giant facility and the implications that the Spanish government allows this is just a bit of a stretch. Apollo 14 apparently found dormant microbes on the moon and wakened them on Skylab and lost control. Thinking they would burn up on reentry they did not and now earth is threatened with a contagion that could end humanity. Of course instead of sending everyone to the area to try to contain the issue only a couple guys are sent to try to keep it secret.
  Things start going crazy as the town folk are infected with the alien virus and start acting aggressively towards the tourists. At first the trio is played for comedy and you think that they are just unwanted Americans but when Tracer kidnaps Samantha in the dune buggy and makes her drive him to a working phone we learn the seriousness of the situation and the comedy is less frequent. The CB radio in the dune buggy lets the guys know that Samantha is in trouble and they get on the road to try to and eventually find Tracer and Sam. Tracer shows them that the last road out of the town is being blocked and that they are trapped in the town with the alien parasite. It works where the alien uses the DNA of the host human to grow causing psychosis and then death. Tracer is going to work on the antidote for the plague but the four must survive until they have it. The continued jousting between the boys for the affections of Sam is a real strange thing to have continue while in crisis mode. In fact all the character non nonchalance of the young people takes away from the seriousness of the situation. Like when Michael goes for the canister from Skylab that tracer left in the lab. He drive through the streets singing. It is just weird and really pulls the watcher from the story itself.
  Written and Directed by Deran Sarafian appears to have built a career as primarily a television director, after some earlier film credits like Death Warrant (1990) and Terminal Velocity (1994) does a good job on the plot side making the threat real and the alien encounters scary. As noted above the interpersonal dialog does not fit as well taking a more playful approach in the dead serious plotting. I would have liked more of the strange psychotic behavior of the inhabitants of the village to build and threaten before going full steam into the finding of a cure. Noticing Michael's multiple exposures to the alien goop it leaves me thinking either that this will need to be a race time to save him or that he is the immune key to a cure.
  He successfully retrieves the canister in a heart pounding race against time as the station self destructs and he escapes in the nick of time. Then with upbeat 80's music Michael races another car, aggressive townspeople through the streets needing to lose the other car before returning to the RV. Again it is a duel the film takes way too lightly making it cartoon-ish even though we have a decent survival story going on. Then ending with Samantha kissing him even though he has been contaminated repeatedly. So how are the towns people all infected but the new comers are not even though exposed over and over again to the alien stuff?
  After each gets a shot of the antidote they realize that Tracer has sacrificed himself so the three of them can get the antibodies they want to save him but the man meets a horrible end in the streets of the building. The three flee as jets (F-14s) fly overhead a sign that the village will be destroyed. Again seems like the US is really running the show here. They race out through the barricade on the bridge being chased by crazies in a truck. Naturally they make it out in the nick of time. Their hope is to make it to Madrid but we see Damon Driving and close with blood dripping from his nose, a sign he is infected.
  Filmed entirely in Spain so we can guess that maybe they really used Duarte Spain as the location. Looking around on google maps I did not see anything I could recognize from the film. Overall I think this film is a mixed bag where there is some good stuff with infection could have made it like The Crazies (1973) dark and dangerous. Certainly the best parts of this film is when it is firmly on this ground. Then there is mixed in the lighthearted competition for the affections of Samantha and the even stranger musical chooses when the young people are doing this or that. It pulls the user right out of the film every time this stuff was interjected. It is like Night of the Comet (1984) without the satire. Still I have to say this piece of VHS madness was sort of fun so if pushed I would recommend it as a piece of mid-eighties sci-fi/horror film making.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 210 people while the followers is only 34 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blair Witch (2016) - Horror

Blair Witch (2016) - Originally I was not very excited about this film, the Original The Blair Witch Project (1999) although a real game changer for how small budget horror could be made and marketed, it was not the best of films. Most people remember the tent scene and the final scene in the abandon house but forget that most of that movie is about people lost in the woods making incredibly stupid hiking decisions. They may also forget that in the end we really don't seen anything, nothing about the demise of the characters is shown on screen. I remember being in the Kenmore movie theater when the film opened, obvious a victim of the advertising and the lights came up. I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Sure the film can be a marker for the rise of the found footage era and it made a shit load of money with its clever marketing campaign with the spreading of B roll and creation of the mythology documentary. Still there was something missing from that movie, a villain and I don't mean a villain like the piss poor judgement of the characters. It was missing the killer the one we want to despise and fear, instead there was this origin story but the villain never really materializes.
   I did start getting excited for this film when I saw they (the studio) had brought on the writing, directing team of Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard. Barrett a talented, successful writer, if not financially at least with respect to his body of work, Dead Birds (2004), A Horrible Way to Die (2010), You're Next (2011), The Guest (2014) all are good solid films and his writing compelling. Wingard worked with him as director on those last three films mentioned and is a real talent in his own right. I really love both You're Next and The Guest and when I saw the team attached to this project my interest level went way up. So it was with a bit of excitement that I went off to see this film and that my friends does not happen often to this 50+ year old horror veteran.
  Going to the first show of opening day is not the best way to catch the reaction of the general public but it does ensure that a bunch of noisy teens won't be present. The film is definitely being pushed as a big weekend movie, with seven previews before that actual film started rolling. Incarnate , Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachael McAdamsOuija: Origin of Evil still looks very entertaining from the previews. Annabelle 2 , Resident Evil: The Final Chapter looks to be just that. I don't know if anyone is still looking forward to those films. If not maybe they will with Resident Evil: A New Beginning. Then there were a couple previews of films the studios feel they really have to sell to make hits. Deepwater Horizon and Hacksaw Ridge the first pisses me off in principle making the second greatest ecological disaster (the Chernobyl disaster is only greater) in the history of the world being turned into a hero story for those responsible for keeping it from happening. Hacksaw Ridge the latest reclamation project for anti-Semitic director Mel Gibson is about a soldier in WWII who refused to carry a gun but saves a bunch of his fellow soldiers to regain respect is Gibson's way to do the same.
  Blair Witch is the sequel to 1999's The Blair Witch Project. In that film a crew of three are making a documentary about the Blair Witch a fabled spirit of Burkittsville MD and her (the Witch) creating a child killer in the same woods years later adding to the story of the forest's bad mojo. They get in the forest and very quickly show their incompetence at navigating through the woods. They can't read a map or use a compass so they are lost before they actually are. Lost and on each others nerves the ante is upped with rock cairns appearing outside their tents and noises in the night.  It was a great bit of myth making back in the day and an amazing buzz creating advertising campaign. It was also an excellent take on what you can do with video by passing big movie making for a more personal hand held approach. Eventually Heather the lead character is alone and find the house where the serial child killer did his work under the witches influence. The ending was tense but you never saw anything it was a whole bunch about creating in the audiences mind what they imagine to happened. That disappointment took away a lot of what was built for that film.
  The new film written by Simon Barrett ups the ante all around and with great effect. The film picks up the story 14 years after the first film. James (James Allen McCune) is the little brother of Heather from the original. He has been haunted by her disappearance when he was just four years old. He has come across a video on the internet that he believes is the last piece of video showing her in the house in the woods outside Burkittsville. Filming him is Lisa (Callie Hernandez) who is doing her school film project on his search for what happened to his sister. His and her mutual interpersonal interest in each other is hinted at but not exercised. This seems a bit of trend as the love interest has become passe in film these days. They with friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) are going to head out to the woods to try to find what they can and maybe James can find peace with his sister's demise. They head out to meet the people who claim to have found the video Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) who proceed to force their way into the adventure. So already we have upped the ante by having twice as many characters as the original film. They are going to show the group where they found the video and James hopes that by doing so he may find some clues of what happened to his sister.
  Upping the ante also means using modern technology on the trip to record the proceedings. We get a exposition laden run down of the gear. Ear cameras, with GPS, a handheld GPS  Cameras, walkie talkies, and a drone camera. No simple map and compass on this trip. No just wandering into the forest and getting lost and throwing away the map. Since the technology is better there also has to be an upgrade in what the woods can do. Sure we are going to get the expected stick figures and rock cairns, and loud noises in the night we also get a forest that creates time shifts and magically nullifies the ability of GPS to work properly. Not only is the forest upgraded but we get a couple characters who are outside the group in Talia and Lane. The story line for them are a nice counter to the supportive groups the four friends are. Without giving anything away let's say the addition of the couple adds a element of uncertainty for the rest of the group. Finally the upping of the ante in the ending where we do get the main thing missing from the first film makes this so much more superior.  Outside of the in story improvements I also enjoyed the improved camera quality of the film. I am a person who feels the found footage film is a bit played out. In particular I feel the purposeful making a shot look shitty so it can be a security camera or whatever is just intolerable in today's age of digital imagery. I am still paying the same price for a ticket so I want the film to look good. This film I think shot in 35mm looks good all the time and is appreciated. I also appreciated the use of not overly popular actors who were all competent but not so recognizable that it was distracting.
  Things in the woods go as you would expect in a Blair Witch film and it is not long before people are hearing noises and losing each other and finding stick figures. Time is lost and the way out can't be found.  The modern technology is suddenly useless with the GPS on the fritz and the drone just as frustrating for the users as it was for the audience. It is used to help in the demise if a character but also we feel the characters frustration that the new toy is not helping. Such is the way with new technology but why have the drone and all the cameras if they are not going to be used in an interesting way to drive the story forward? Literally the drone flew up a couple times but showed nothing that would do anything for the group. When lost it played a small part but other than that the cool factor was all that it was for. So those things all hit the right notes. With an injured friend James, Lisa and the rest are stuck only heading further into trouble with little hope of getting out. At first I was a bit annoyed with the jump scares where a loud noise was used to make the audience jump. Since it was also what was scaring the characters though I just had to let that prejudice slide and just understand we are all in it together. The conflict in the group was a little obvious of a setup with both Talia and Lane being obvious Blair Witch conspiracy theorists. The juxtaposition of having Peter countering the obvious craziness was some good writing.  The classic rain storm at the climax is always so wonderful tension builder. I remember the first time I noticed the technique when watching 12 Angry Men and thought how ingenious it was. Most of all in this film we get the villain and the mythology of the Blair Witch goes to the next level. It is so wonderfully done that the stunted ending of the first film is replaced with an ending that makes a lot more sense, is more intense and pays homage to the original while also improving it.
  This is a film you should go see in the theater. Even if you did not like The Blair Witch Project you will probably like the sequel. It is not the best movie or the scariest but it at least takes the Blair Witch story and does it better than the original. It may be though that too much time has gone by since the first film and maybe audiences are not in the same place at the end of the found footage era than where they were at the beginning. Still get out there and see horror at the movies.  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 210 people while the followers is only 34 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :) (Note: Boy do I need an editor when I am rushing new movie reviews out. There were so many mistakes in this but all fixed now I hope.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Disappointments Room (2016) Horror

The Disappointments Room (2016) - When this film showed up at my theater this week without any advertising at all I wondered about the quiet launch. Often this lack of promotional money is one of two things, either the studio, in this case Rogue, is hoping early buzz from the few people who wander across the film will make worth their while to sink more cash into it. The other less promising option is that the film did not test particularly well and Rogue just is dumping it on the market trying to recoup some of the fifteen million it spent making it. Seeing that the lead actress Kate Beckinsale is a pretty well known quantity I have to think there might be something wrong with the film. She certainly has been in enough money making features that the studio could have thrown a couple million into promotion on her name alone. This review WILL have spoilers so bear that in mind if you are thinking about seeing this film. I think we all should go out and see horror in the theater this one maybe less than others but don't let me stop you, not every movie moves every person.
  Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, These first two made sense horror or fantasy previews in a horror movie, then we got The Accountant Ben Affleck as a accountant for the criminals who has real problems socializing, Why Him? A Brian Cranston, James Franco comedy about Cranston's daughter picking a weird irritating man (Franco) to get hitched to and the shenanigans of Cranston trying to stop the ill conceived coupling. Finally the last film was a thriller that looks to be a long car chase in KidNap. Halle Berry stops at nothing when her son is kidnapped and she see the car driving away. Sort of a really mixed bag of previews before a film that was also sort of a mixed bag. So what's the message in those choses the first two are for horror / fantasy people the accountant is certainly for older people, the Why Him? film is all about teens and the last thriller hell its a muddled mess according to the previews.
 So the theater experience: Since I am trying to see more film in the theater lets talk about what that experience was like. maybe there is some insight about the movie by who went and what previews were shown. There was only one other person there when I arrived 10 minutes before the show was to start. Eventually as the previews ran out we were up to 8 people, not totally out of the norm for an early afternoon Saturday showing. Weather has also been particularly wonderful in New England which I am sure had an effect on attendance. All but to of the people seemed to be over fifty with the other couple thirty somethings. Now this is interesting because it may say something about the attractiveness of the name of the film. The young audience is really what the industry is after but the name "The Disappointment Room" may not be appealing to younger people. The previews in order were
  This is a story of a family Dana (Kate Beckinsale), her husband David (Mel Raido) and their son Lucas (Duncan Joiner) who have suffered the tragedy of the death of their infant child Catherine. After that trauma the family near what would have been Catherine's first birthday, is moving from New York City to a giant manor in the fictional Willow Glen North Carolina. This believe this  premise seems so familiar there has to be other films with it. We get the impression from the conversation in the car that most of this move was David's idea. He sold his business is moving the family as a way of distracting Dana at this difficult time of year. He figures that the old place will need a lot of renovation and that former architect Dana can embrace that to stay busy. Certainly he is not thinking that his medicated wife who is still struggling with the death of her child would be better served in the city around friends and neighbors. No to him isolating her in the countryside seems the best route to mental health. Things do not go as planned, of course as we get some imagined black Sheppard prowling around the place.
  Dana really is struggling and we see this through her at first mild and then stronger hallucinations. She also makes a point to stop taking her medication which is never a good for someone having vivid violent visions. Add on top of this her nightmares every night and we have a mentally ill woman with active violent hallucinations, lack of medication, and is not sleeping well, pulled into an isolated setting at a significant date to the child she lost. David pushing the "We'll get through this together." attitude soon decides he has to go back into the city to close his sale deal, leaving Dana and Lucas on their own. Dana starts with seeing lights in the upper part of the house in a room that is not on the blue prints. Investigation shows a room hidden behind a wardrobe and it is not long before she finds out what it is all about.
  Dana's dreams and hallucinations get more scary as time goes on with visions of the rich family that used to own the house,Judge Blacker (Gerald McRaney) the father tall and intimidating with his barking black dog, his feeble wife (Jennifer Leigh Mann) and their facially deformed daughter (Ella Jones) who of course lives in the disappointments room. We over the course of the film learn the story and outcome of having such a child. The problem with this particular set of scares is that the are not really connected to the really big revelation in the climatic scenes. The dog in particular is a convenient tool in creating shock. In fact the whole back story of the disappointments room are strangely constructed around Dana's own more important story. It is like the film could not decide if it was going to be a ghost story or a story about a woman struggling with mental illness brought on by guilt. Sure the imagery of the ghosts were useful for creating some scares, in particular the imagined dog attack on Lucas. Really though none of that was real and just in Dana's head. It brings up the point of why the film makers had the ghosts do things for the benefit of the audience if the ghost are not real. At times the ghosts are seen behind Dana or watching her but since they are in her head why show that? Like when she is looking through the keyhole to the disappointments room and after she leaves we get a shot of an eye appearing in the keyhole. It does not make sense. Even though we know our main character has stopped taking her medication and that the psychological angle is the one the story eventually settles on in the middle we are still more ghost story by the records keeper in town.
   Ms. Judith (Marcia DeRousse) at the town records hall gives us a really awkward bit of exposition explaining what a disappointments room. In the old days when a rich family had a deformed child they would build a disappoints room and lock the child away never to become an embarrassment to the family. She kicks in a bit about vengeful ghost to up the ante a bit too. It would be interesting to see the first few drafts of this script, I would be interested to see if whether it was a ghost story first or a psychological thriller first. Written by Wentworth Miller and directed by D. J. Caruso there are some good things in this film but what it ends up being is a bit of a duel entity where neither story gets the full attention it needs. I say it settled on the mental illness angle and there is a scene where on what would have been Catherine's first birthday, David invites friends Teddy (Michael Landes) and Jules (Michaela Conlin) out for dinner, and Dana slips out of the mansion and heads into town to get drunk. We catch up with her when she returns really late and brings out a birthday cake for her daughter and then proceeds to yell and tear the room up in what is the tour de force scene for the actress and Beckinsale really goes for it too.
  There are a couple things in the film that went nowhere or did not make sense. The primary one was there is this roofer guy Ben (Lucas Till) who is a young man who while coming around to work on the house continually offers himself through slick dialog to Dana. It is never anything but words but for what purpose. To make the main character feel attractive, was there in some draft a relationship? This flirtation happens in every scene they are in together but ultimately that entire sub plot is dropped. Then there is the vanishing child syndrome, where Lucas for large chunks of the film is nowhere to be seen. Sure maybe they have him tucked in bed but we never see any of that parenting. He just vanishes at times so the adults can play out there scenes undisturbed. It was just too noticeable and became a distraction.
  Finally the climax of this film which could have saved it through a punch to the stomach for the audience never got there. We know that Dana is losing her grip on reality and on a dark stormy night the lack of medication and hallucinations of ghost come to a head. She has a fight with the Old Man ghost who says he is going after her son and sics the black dog on her. Paced so that she has to do everything in her power to save little Lucas she fights the dog off eventually snapping its neck. She runs around and around down the mansions spiral staircase trying to catch the mean old man ghost before he suffocates her son. She reaches him as Lucas struggles under the pillow. She hits the ghost and he falls onto the bed. She slams his head with her hammer more and more violently crushing his scull. feathers from the pillow fly, Davis breaks into the house and reaches her and flash, there is no ghost. Did Dana just beat her son's brain in. Oh my what a powerful ending as she killed her other child. but no the film completely pulls that punch what could have saved the film was reduced to she was killing a pillow and Lucas was on the other side of the bed. We finally learn why Catherine died, not a dog mauling, not SIDS but that Dana could not stand her colicky baby and in her postpartum depression suffocated it. After she gets past this there is actually a happy ending where David is taking the family back to the city realizing what a horrible plan coming to the country was in the first place. To finish us off with more muddling of story we see the ghost Dad looking out of the window as they pull away from the house but why?
  That is pretty much and encapsulation of this film disjointed not sure what story it wanted to tell it ends up being Dana's but with too many artifact of the second story that was too ell developed to be put in the background as symptoms of her mental illness.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 200 people while the followers is only 33 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :) 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Kwaidan (1964) Horror Anthology

Kwaidan (1964) - I am going to borrow and credit this short description from the Criterion Collection which is a very nicely written and the version I watched for this review.
     "After more than a decade of sober political dramas and socially minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. This version of Kwaidan is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States." - Criterion Collection description for Kwaidan
 Toru Takemitsu adds an ambience of sullen e
xpectation. Director Kobayashi paces the pieces with at a confident walk idling every now and again so not to get winded; Modern audience may find it a bit too slow but for this viewer it felt like a lovely stroll.
 Divided into four stories each featuring ghost, The Black Hair, Woman of the Snow, Hoichi the Earless, and In a Cup of Tea, and as the description says the sets are beautiful and the print just looks wonderful. I am a fan of older horror and this collection does not disappoint. Besides the look and feel the minimalist score by
  The Black Hair  -  A story about bad life decisions and the consequences and regrets that come with them. Rentarô Mikuni is a husband who has a wife (Michiyo Aratama) who truly loves him. We join the story as the husband is leaving the wife because they are in such poverty that he feels he must leave and change his luck. His wife of course begs him to stay but his mind is made up. He leaves and takes a posting as a samurai marrying a lords daughter (Misako Watanabe). Ten years pass and over that time he realizes just how shallow and uncaring his second wife is. He is haunted by memories of the woman who really loved him. Finally not being able to deal with the memories he goes back to find his first wife. When he returns to his former house she is there waiting. She is so happy he has returned and he speaks of his regret and that he has learned that she is the one he wants to be with. The embrace and sleep together, as he wakes the next morning he learns that things the night before are not what he though they were. Although he reconciled it is not payment enough. This supernatural ending is satisfying since there really must be some consequence for his action. You can never really sympathize with the samurai since it is a foul thing that he did. So when he is with his second wife you may feel he got what he deserves but really it is not until he returns home that the viewer get the true satisfaction of his first wife's revenge.
  The Woman of the Snow - This is really the only vampire story, but with a twist. Two men collecting wood in the forest are caught in a blizzard and struggle to find shelter. Finally finding a shambled hut near a river the two men fall into it. Still not completely safe they fall into a cold sleep, the younger man wakes to see a woman standing over his older companion. She seems to be sucking the life out of him and then notices the younger man.  Instead of also killing the young man she looks at him as a handsome man and says she will let him live but with one condition; he is never to tell anyone what happened in that shack. He promises and is left alive.We fallow ____ when he meets a woman he falls in love with her. They are seen to have a great life loving each other and she bearing his three children. We get hints as we see his wife pass by some locals and the conversation about how she never seems to age.
  On the New Year he has made new sandals for the family and something about the way his wife looks reminds of the Woman of the Snow. He starts without thinking about it to tell her of his experience in the shack. There are consequences for breaking the promise he made so many years ago and the story explains all this but his life will never be the same.
  Hoichi The Earless is the longest of the stories and has the iconic image of the man covered in Sutras that we see in many images for this film. It starts with the explanation of an ancient battle between the Genji and Heike clans some 700 years before the telling. This great naval battle we learn is being told by Hoichi and we learn more of the battle each time Hoichi speaks of it playing his traditional Japanese instrument the biwa. The present day story features Hoichi as a blind apprentice at a monastery who has become more known for his ability to bring historical stories to life. One night when he is sitting on his porch he hears a voice calling him. He is requested to follow the warrior behind the voice and tell his tale to royalty. Being young and blind he does not know that the person requesting his services is a ghost. The Japanese lore behind this is not that anything good can happen to a person who follows the instruction of a ghost. Instead is madness and possession so the dangers for the young man are great. The story follows the Master trying to figure out where the young man is going and then when he learns protecting him from the dangers of the ghosts.
  While he is under the influence of the spirits Hoichi tells the tale of the Battle of Dan-no-ura one of the greatest sea battles in Japanese history. Hoichi in order to avoid being taken over completely by the ghost is covered with Sutras by the monks of the temple and set to meditate instructed not to speak to the ghosts, not to make any noise at all. Its really a cool take on how spirits interact with the humans in this culture. We have again consequences for interacting with them. It seems in this culture there is always some unwanted side effect when dealing with ghosts. Good story and well played out.
 In A Cup Of Tea -  The final story is about the consequences of  finishing an unfinished tale. We are set up with a man reading such tales and explaining that many Japanese stories stop without an ending. He tells the tale of one such tale it is about a samurai soldier who sees the image of another man as a reflection in the water he is trying to drink. Confused at first he tries several times to get new water but each time he sees the image of the man. The soldier frustrated drinks the water anyway and thinks nothing else of it. Later while on patrol at night the soldier is visited by the ghost from the cup. The ghost is upset that the soldier drank some of his soul in the water and wants some kind of retribution for this act. Instead the soldier draws his sword and engages the ghost who has a knack for disappearing and reappearing. The soldier though frustrated manages to wound the ghost with his sword causing it to vanish. That could have been the end of this unfinished tale but the next night the soldier is visited by three other ghosts who represent the first. 
 Again they want some sort of apology but the soldier is a fighter and would rather settle things with his sword. The fight scenes in this section is really cool but it really is a fight to a draw. We leave this story and and go back to the teller's house where his publisher is visiting and the teller is no where to be found. The ending not spoiled here is yet another instance of consequences around now even the telling of a ghost story.
  This was a very wonderful collection of stories based off Japanese ghost lore that is well done and probably worth every penny it would cost to buy the Criterian collection.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Don't Breathe (2016) Horror Thriller

Don't Breathe (2016) - In an attempt to support horror movies more actively I have been trying to commit to see more films in the theater. Tonight Don't Breathe and its bad idea gone worse plot was the target. My wife and I headed over but we never seem to agree on movies since she can not deal with scary at all, so she went off to see Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) while I went in to see this film. At the 7pm showing the audience was about 40 people a mix of young and older with some talkers that were not too annoying. Not a great crowd but at least I could gauge some reactions when the film was over. What I heard was very positive with quite a few people clapping and some of the younger people talking excitedly about the movie. If representative of other audiences I think this film will get some good word of mouth.
  The plot about three out of luck twenty somethings Money (Daniel Zovatto), Rocky (Jane Levy) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) who using information and keys gained from Alex's father's security business are robbing houses for small time gains. Set in Detroit with its bleak abandoned neighborhoods we get the picture that options are really slim for the three. Still Alex is cautious while Rocky and boyfriend Money would love a bigger score. That opportunity comes when Money hears about a blind man who is sitting on a boatload of settlement money. The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) has a sad story an Iraq veteran who was blinded by a grenade explosion who lost his daughter to a wealthy young woman who killed her in a car accident. The settlement money from that event is the target of the three burglars. He lives alone with his rottweiler on a mostly empty street and seems to the kids an easy target. The film does quite a few things that say something about wealth and poverty. Set in poverty we see the thieves targeting mostly nice houses, taking enough from each to survive. The owners of those houses are seen as having more than they need. The woman who killed the Blind Man's daughter got off because "rich girls don't go to jail" so for the poor there is no justice. Both the Robin Hood idea and the injustice of wealthy is to try to build sympathy for The Blind Man and the thieves. Rocky is seen with her really shitty Mother basically having to care for her little sister in her Mom's place. She wishes to get enough money to take her sister and escape to California. The blind man is the victim that will have to loose his money so she can do this so the film makes them both victims.
  After drugging the dog with some tainted meat the trio find there way into what is a really well locked down house. In the house they are not finding much but a door so locked they figure it has to be where the money is. While Alex is outside they are interrupted by the Blind Man who wakes and comes downstairs. Money and Rocky freeze and Money pulls a gun on the man with some unfortunate and awkward line about knowing what's behind the door. His mistake when the Blind Man ends up winning the struggle for the gun. Rocky standing silently watches as her boyfriend is killed. The blind man figuring out that there is at least one more person in the house proceeds to lock every possible exit and start listening. Here now begins the thrilling cat and mouse game as Alex and Rocky try to get out of the house alive and with the money they eventually locate. A twist in the story that should not be given away makes the audience realize that the Blind Man is not so innocent or helpless for that matter. Still Writer director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues pull punches with the character giving ample reasons why he has done what he has done. Maybe its because they made him a military veteran but boy they work hard at making him sympathetic. A injured soldier, grieving father and the last bit on the television report at the end of the movie all really are designed to make things okay with the Blind Man even though he is a killer (granted Money did break in and pull a gun) as well as another twist that is more than repulsive. It can not be overlooked or explained away with grief, the Blind Man is really mentally ill but his actions are awful and should not be explained away.
  The action and thrills with Rocky, Alex and the Blind Man with his again awake dog is really well done. The struggle to survive and escape with the cash and the blind man with a gun are enough to keep the audience on the edges of their seats throughout the taut 88 minute run time. A little slight of hand camera work later in the film is well played in making us think one thing when something different happened. Some really great sequences with quite a few well timed jump scares by the dog make the film really active considering the small set and limited number of characters. Everyone gets bruised and battered by the end fighting to survive The struggle plays out well but the strangely upbeat ending felt like another punch pulled. The acting is good with Lang toning down his regularly larger than life energy to pull emotions without being big. An intimidating actor who is big and strong looking he really is perfect for this role. Levy who is usually the best person in whatever she is in carries her role well and makes a great final girl. She was Mia in the Evil Dead (2013) remake and carried the under rated television show Suburgatory. Alverez does a great job keeping the pacing up and delivering tense, danger filled scenes. This film is very much worth seeing and you should all head out to the theater and give this film some money.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 188 people while the followers is only 31 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Intruders (2011) Horror Psychological

Intruders (2011) - This is the first time I am writing a review while participating at home with a Stream Queens Podcast usually I just follow along at home and enjoy listening to the podcast. This film though is interesting enough that here are a few thoughts on it. First off this movie was a giant bomb if you look at the numbers on IMDB. It is a 13 million dollar movie that never was shown on more than 33 screens in the US and so failed to come close to making its money back and really worldwide made no more tha six million dollars back in 2011 when it came out.  The star of the film Clive Owen was several years removed from a string of good films, SinCity (2005), Children of Men (2006), Inside Man (2006) then more recent such as Shoot 'em Up (2007) and The International (2009) all making him a more known quantity to American audiences; so the fail of this movie is rather surprising. I for one don't really remember this film and maybe there was a lack of resources put into it on the marketing side. It came and went and really quickly and until it was picked for the podcast subject I really had no memory of it. Directed by Jaun Carlos Fresnadillo who also directed the pretty cool flick Intacto (2001) and then later 28 Weeks Later (2007).
Intruders is not bad with some turns that make sense after they are revealed. The story follows two story lines with strong parallels as we switch between each. A young boy, Juan (Izan Corchero) is terrified of night terrors featuring a character he has created called the Hollowman. This boogeyman is a character with no face who wants to steal the face of the little boy. He hides in the dark corners of the kids bedroom waiting, leaving little Juan frightened. Played with Spanish subtitles the and with short on the nose editing this story line seems like it could be happening a world away from our main story.  The second almost identical tale is of Mia (Ella Purnell) a twelve year old English girl who finds the story of the Hollowman in a hole in a tree near her grandparents house. She then uses the story as part of a school project and suddenly the man is showing up in her life. Is the Hollowman real? In both stories the character seems real as can be, Juan and his Mother Louisa (Perez Lopez de Ayala) fight off the Hollowman one night so you know she and he see it. Mia and her Father John also confront the intruder in her room and fight him until he flees. So we have a belief that the Hollowman is an actual person in both stories.
   Ah but that is where things change with the introduction of "Folie à deux (/fɒˈli ə ˈduː/; French pronunciation: ​[fɔli a dø]; French for "madness of two"), or shared psychosis, is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief and hallucinations are transmitted from one individual to another." Now we see that Louisa trying to get help from the local priest (Daniel Bruhl) but the priest being really skeptical. After John fights off the Hollowman he has a camera and alarm system installed in his house. This solution then shows that he also is not really fighting anyone off but is alone in the room with his daughter. He is confronted by the police, his wife (Carice van Houten), and psychologists to this fact and we then spin towards the ending Learning that Juan and John are the same person turns the movie again the story is how he had a shared delusion with his Mother and then as an adult with his daughter.
  As a child Juan's terrors centered around an incident that killed his ex-con Father and the Hallowman was the reaction to that trauma. In adulthood the death of a coworker in a similar fashions triggers the rebirth of the Hollowman this time connected with Mia. The resolution is a bit off with basically the father convincing his daughter that the Hollowman is gone forever. It is a thin premise that this biy/man seems to be able to share his psychosis with his Mother / Daughter but I think the story brings it to the fore pretty handily.  So much of this film depends on the editing the cutting between Juan and John story lines and not without fully giving away the twists that complicate the storytelling. When we finally see the full story that the Hollowman is really a psychological creation by Juan to deal with the trauma of his father being killed. We know that the parallel stories of he and his mother having a Folie à deux and he and Mia doing the same years later are drawn with an ending that is a bit less than satisfying. The whole construction is clever but the story lines too similar that it really feels a bit on the nose. Still this is not a bad movie there is something to take away even if the ending ties everything up in a bow.  So a mild kind of recommendation for this missed horror film.

  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 188 people while the followers is only 31 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Holidays (2016) Horror Anthology

Holidays (2016) - Anyone who regularly checks in on this blog will know that I love horror anthologies. There is always the promise of that distinct clear piece of horror that the short format is made for. Some writer and director work in unison with a small crew to create the perfect little shock, dread, surprise making the viewer remember that story above all the others. So many times one or two parts are the cliche cream that rises to the top. Then of course there are segments that do not get the raves, sometimes by very established writers and directors. It's okay though in this format. Not everything connects with everyone and the great thing about an anthology is that the discussions that come out of this tidbit about personal taste can be just as entertaining. Where I can love the creeping dread of one story, someone else can see it as a plodding road to nowhere. Where the 80's kitsch of one piece is not appreciated by some twenty something it is relished by an older person. There is usually something for everyone though so I will keep reviewing them and welcome feedback about what connected with you.
 Dennis Widmyer and directed by Kevin Kolsch who did the wonderfully creepy Starry Eyes (2014) about how far one can go to find fame. The style is very different in this segment about a picked on dreamer who has a crush on her gym teacher. Written (I'm guessing) to play on the mean teen movies of the eighties and nineties it at first seems the characters are overly stereotyped and acted. Then we shift and see the surreal fantasy of the main character Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) as she daydreams and realize that this is all very much an aesthetic choice. Her crush on her gym teacher and  her abuse at the hands of the mean girls lead by Heidi (Savannah Kennick) put the viewer in one headset only to have it shift a bit later into a more sinister scene. Still playing the line of being a lost segment from a Creepshow film it goes from a cheesy story of a picked on girl to a wonderfully threatening stalking sequence and back to that fanciful if somewhat expected ending.
 Holidays is a collection based on a set of holidays, Valentine's day, St. Patrick's day, Easter, Mother's day, Father's Day, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. Chronologically may be the way to present this review so let's start with Valentine's Day written by
  St. Patrick's Day by Gary Shore plays first on that disturbing child motif where the smiling child just creeps the shit out of you. Shore who directed the recent Dracula Untold (2014) has written a piece that centers around the myth of St. Patrick who drove the pagans from Ireland but is said to have driven the snakes from the Island the more commonly known metaphor. In this little tale a teacher Elizabeth (Ruth Bradley) desperate for a child in her life teaches at primary school with a strange new student. A girl Gráinne (Isolt McCaffrey) who is isolated too being new to the school. Efforts by the teacher to engage are met with a gift, a straw snake with the sentence, "Only your deepest wish can make me smile." Using quick and sometimes off putting editing to move the timeline along the film plays out a story of dark desire and the unexpected consequences a wish can have. Built in to that those is some really creepy child smiling and a continuation of the snake pagan of Ireland myth setup in the first scene. What I like about this film is the sharing of the knowledge of the the baby inside Elizabeth is not quite right and still her insistence that she carry it to term. The strange birthing scene in the tub that shifts to the pagan ritual in the next it all plays out in a cool little crazy journey.
  The simple but dark tale for Easter is about a small girl who is told that little kids have to go to bed the night before Easter and not get up. That they are not allowed to see the Easter Bunny.  The opening scene with her Mother reminded me of putting my daughter to bed and how sometimes it takes a lot to get them to settle and for the parent to get out of the room. To connect the Easter story to Jesus this is a family morning the death of the Father so the kid has questions about death and Jesus coming back from the dead. Now its been a while so I am not totally sure how age appropriate those question by little girl (Ava Acres) but it does setup the late night encounter well. Writer Director Nicholas McCarthy (At the Devil's Door) , (The Pact) does the scary house scene well hitting all the right notes and the effects for the man in the bunny suit (Mark Steger) are wonderful. The dread felt for the little girl is palpable throughout their encounter. Weird but very enjoyable!
  Mother's Day is a twist of a tale where we have a woman with a fertility problem instead of a infertility one. Kate (Sophie Traub) has the problem of getting pregnant every time she has sex. The pain of multiple abortions has her at her wits end. Dr. Harding (Jennifer Lafleur) suggest she go to a women's group centered around fertility. A bit unusual but maybe she can find some solace there. Here is where writer, director Sarah Adina Smith twist things. We all think that the women there are there because they can't get pregnant and that is true; but there is a more sinister meaning to why they want Kate there to be in their fertility ritual. The most adult of the stories in the collection the appropriate nudity is insignificant to the more mature ideas of rape under the influence and kidnapping. The shocking if a bit unrealistic visually, ending does not do justice to what is a serious story in my opinion.
  Father's Day written and directed by Anthony Scott Burns takes a more cerebral approach telling the story of Carol (Jocelin Donahue) a teacher who years before lost her Father. In this present she receives a box that includes a cassette tape. On it is a message from her Father. He apologizes for leaving her but at the same time takes her on a present day journey where they can be reunited. The film covers her struggle with his message and then the suggestion that she could now join him where he is. We watch Carol take the journey. The tape as it plays and guides her melds the past with the present is a very original way. Scary as it draws to its conclusion we relive Carol's childhood trauma while anticipating her future one. A really nice complete story about one woman's desire to see her Father again and the horrific consequences of the desire.
  My least favorite story of the collection was Kevin Smith's Halloween. The unlikable lead character Ian (Harley Morenstein) was just too much to overcome even if he gets his comeuppance. He is a man that lures young woman to Hollywood to be Cam girls, woman who perform on webcams. Taking advantage of young women he is a sweet talking on the phone until he has them at the apartment and then he is a real dick to them. We see this in two scenes one where he is sweet talking girls on the phone to get them to move to his pace, and then his other side as he verbally abuses his current girls because they want a night off to celebrate Halloween. Really the only connection to the holiday is, it is when the events take place. Even the ridiculous monologue about the witches coven does little to add an atmosphere captured more readily by the other stories. I am saying it is a wonderful little torture the three women end up afflicting on Ian making him the star of his own webcam show. The story is vulgar and not really in the spirit of horror more than a revenge story.
  The Christmas centered story is about trying to get the hottest toy on the Market for his kid. uVu is the latest in virtual reality with the slogan uVu shows you you! It's Christmas eve and Pete Gunderson (Seth Green) thinks he has landed the sought after item but after rushing down to the store he finds the last one is walking out the door not held for him as he thought he had an agreement for. Pete tries his best to get the guy who scored the head wear to sell it to him but to no avail. When an unexpected occurrence happens Pete has a morally challenging decision to make. Does he step in to help or take advantage of the situation for his own gain. His wife is thrilled that they got the device and when Pete tries it for the first time he is so surprised at the mental connection and how it shows a surprising fantasy hiding in his mind. Of course these things have a way of flipping and soon the guilt feeling from his decision show him a nightmare that leave him reeling. When his wife Sara (Clare Grant) confronts him later looking at his images since he forgot to log out things shift. Writer Director Scott Stewart, (Legion, Dark Skies) has the story asks questions about the secrets that couples keep from each other and challenges the idea of being completely open in a relationship. Well turned the story is a creepy little tale of unexpected behavior.
  The final story by Adam Egypt Mortimor, written by Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) was quite enjoyable, establishing a sick serial killer who preys on date site victims and then turning it all on its head was really great. Andrew Bowen is the creepy serial killer Reggie who on New Year's Eve get more than he can handle from his internet date Jean (Lorenza Izzo) the last story is tight and taut with tension before exploding into violence and murder. It is a very good capping piece to what is a very good collection. This one is good and recommended so get it and see it.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 186 people while the followers is only 31 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lights Out (2016) Horror Ghost

Lights Out (2016) - After hearing this film talked about on the Zombiegrrlz Podcast I decided to break my general rule of avoiding the movie theater and hop over to Solomon Pond Mall to see this scary little film.  The film based off a short was pretty decent if you want my opinion. Yeah well this is a horror blog and I suppose if you are reading it you actually want my opinion. The film has an opening that sets up the present day story Paul (Billy Burke) is working late and gets a call from his son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) because the son is concerned with the behavior of his depressed Mother Sophie (Maria Bello). His father reassures him that he will get a handle on Sophie's mental health problems but after some really scary stuff does not get the opportunity, Some of the groundwork is set up here, Mom's mental state, how the ghost works in that you can only see it in the dark and it can only harm you if you are in the dark. There really is no story at this point so like the opening scene of Supernatural the scene is to set the stage and all will be explained later.
  The present day story is after old Billy Burke's character was buried and the kid martin is living with his off her meds Mom. After watching Burke on the television show Revolution I have to admit watching him die was somewhat of a secret pleasure. Even though I don't think any actor could save the writing on that show. We are introduced to the female lead of the film, the lovely Teresa Palmer as Rebecca. She is Martin's step sister who left home after the last time her Mother was having hallucinations and she is somewhat reluctant to get back involved with the family. Or anyone else for that matter, she has a boyfriend she can't seem to commit to Bret ( "Say what again!" I know its unrelated but when ever I hear that name). He is a good guy but she has her own issues since her father left the family years before when Sophie's mental illness flared up when she was just a girl. Abandonment issue will mess a girl up. So she lives in a little apartment in the city has a not too friendly relationship with her Mother.
  Martin bears the brunt of the crazy, now alone with Sophie he is terrified of the ghost in the house and because of it is not sleeping so well.  The ghost for its part is a long arm female that does not seem happy that the kid is around. Martin gets in a bit of trouble for sleeping in class and since crazy Sophie is not available the school calls Rebecca. She and Bret ("mmmm, that's a tasty burger.") arrive and when she hears the kid out she decides to go to the house to find out what kind of shape her mother is in. We learn through the story a bit about the ghost named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey) and her connection to Sophie and the kids lives.
The film has a good amount of character development and relationship development that make it a much better film than a horror film. The horror elements are there but are surrounded with a decent story about mental illness and the effects of it on the family. We learn who Diana is and why her ghost is around the family Also though we see the horrible implications of untreated mental illness and its impact on those close to the affected person. The writer Eric Heisserer off a story by David F. Sandberg connects all the dots that explain how this being is connected to the family and the tragedy of the impacts over time for the entire family. The back story of the ghost may not totally make sense with the shaky premise that she gets in peoples heads as the line the viewer has to swallow to suspend disbelief.  That and the way too convenient but necessary power outage but in general a very well constructed film.
  Palmer carries the story with a sure footed and calm performance that hit the right notes for the character. She plays the adult where adults are hard to find with Sophie effective off balance throughout the film. Palmer just seems to hold the emotions until things happen that should get larger reactions, a very convincing job. Bateman adequately plays the scared child and Alexander DiPersia is solid enough as boyfriend Bret ( "Is Marsellus Wallace a bitch? Then why you fucking him like one?")  Maria Bella is just exceptional as the off her rocker Sophie. She is fragile while still being just a bit threatening, using her eyes to carry a great deal of the conflicting emotions the character has. Sandberg directs and seems to have gotten good performances from his cast. The scares are there and are really what we want when we go to a horror film. So this film is somewhat enjoyable and I already have my idea for the double feature with Darkness Falls (2003). So go support horror in the theaters and see this film.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back.. It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 160 people while the followers is only 23 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Island of Lost Souls (1932) Horror Mad Scientist

Island of Lost Souls (1932) - After his ship goes down  in the south pacific Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) is rescued at sea. Thinking of his fiancee Ruth (Leila Hyams) he tries to get a message to her since it is going to seem to her that he is dead. Aboard the ship the Cavena he recovers from his ordeal of being adrift at sea. On the Cavena is a large collection of wild animals as well as some dogs. Mr Montgomery (Arthur Hohl) is a former doctor who is arranging the delivery of the animals and is not pleased with the Captain. The Captain a drunkard attacks first M'ling a part man part animal servant to Montgomery,  Parker seeing this abuse responds by knocking the Captain out. It creates the situation where he is cast off the ship onto Dr Moreau's island instead of continuing on to his beloved Ruth in Apia (a town on the Upolu island in Samoa). It's actually a great scene with the Captain sucker punching Parker and tossing him overboard as his ship pulls out shouting to Moreau that Parker is his problem now.
   Moreau (Charles Laughton) is an egomaniac scientist with a whip and he freely uses it on the creatures he and Parker pass on the way up to the house. Soon Edward has the full story through the delighted telling of it by Moreau. He is taking animals and making them human trying to perfect his techniques. Parker is appalled at the arrogance of the man. A man willing to torture the animals as he forces genetic change on them.  All the Island creatures including the lovely Panther Woman (Kathleen Burke) are products of the mad scientist.
It's very obvious that Moreau is making men out of animals I suppose if you had not read the H.G. Wells book or seen the later versions of the films then maybe you would not know. This writer did though and was wonderfully surprised with the makeup and presentation of the animal men. In the special features of this Criterian Collection there is a conversation about makeup artists, Charlie Gemora and Wally Westmore, who performed the great work for this film doing makeup that really works. 
  Of course in the film genetics are not mentioned, to early for that. More we have the idea that all life forms are trending towards human and Moreau is just speeding the process along. Even though this is an incorrect scientific idea it is used to build the story. Moreau revels in his success the master of evolution, the creator of men. His amazing sexist joke about teaching the creatures to speak and his God complex is a serious problem for Parker. When Montgomery and Moreau get the idea to see if the Panther Woman would be physically attracted to Parker, they hope he and she will maybe mate. What an implication of sex? Oh they will only be watching for science's sake. Parker of course is attracted to the dark haired woman apparently a fine contrast to his blond fiancee back at home but when he sees her animal claws he is at his wits end.
 There is a patriarchal arrogance of this film from Moreau's desire to create a woman and then tries to prove her humanity by getting her and Parker together. His first joke about how hard it was to teach the creatures to speak and Moneau's gleeful quip that it will be so much easier when he creates females. To how absolutely pissed Parker is to learn that Lota  (Panther Woman) is an animal creature too. "Those creatures out there in that jungle were horrible enough, but to have created  a thing as tragic as that girl, An animal with a woman's emotions, a woman's heartbreak, a woman's suffering, ah that's criminal." he continues " I could have overlooked those others, I could have shown you that much consideration, but not now. Now I will expose you to the world for what you really are Moreau." Wow all because he was attracted to Lota. If her hands had not started reverting to animal form Moreau may have fooled him. The attitudes toward women is from the original work by Wells a misogynist comes through all over this script.
  The island full of partial man animals are lead by a creature who is played by the great Bela Lugosi credited as the Sayer of the Law. Which is interesting in itself with his impassioned presentation of the Laws Moreau hopes will control the beast he has somewhat turned into men. What is the Law? Not to run on all fours. Not to eat meat, not to spill blood. With the iron fist of an animal trainer Moreau has taught them to fear him. They recite, His is the hand that makes, his is the hand that kills, his is the house of pain.  "Are we not men?" This seems a temporary solution to this viewer but that may be prior knowledge of the story. What really sells this film is the magically ego filled portrayal by Charles Laughton. He breaths so much life into the part that it really is amazing both cruel and creepy he really is so good. The he turns to get what he wants from scuttling the boat Parker was going to use to leave, just so he can get Lota to hook up with Parker. Other roles are also well filled, from Lugosi's beast man to Richard Arlen as Parker and Hohl as Montgomery full of self loathing, all are really great in this film. Moreau is the mad scientist like Frankenstein, which came out the year before he thinks he is above god and that his creations are under his thumb. Frankenstein conquers death through science, Moreau conquers evolution. This film is a A level film but because Universal was having such success with Monster movies this film which is more serious was not well received.
  When Ruth (Leila Hyams) arrives on the island we move towards the climax of the film. Reunited with Parker she and he want to immediately leave the Island but it is a dark and dangerous place. Since the animal men have seen her there is a rumble down under for some of the males seeing a lovely blonde woman. Getting back to the absolute crazy approach to women Moreau sees that the man beast are very interested in Ruth and sets it up so there is a chance one can get into her room and rape her. He sees it as a natural extension to trying to hook up Lota and Parker. This idea is even too horrible for Montgomery and he expresses to Moreau his anger at the decision. After a creature tries to get to Ruth she Parker and the Captain Davies (Stanley Fields) who brought her decide enough is enough. Davies heads through the jungle in the night to get his crew. Moreau sends a beast man after him with permission to kill him. The biggest mistake of his life since these simple creatures have their world view completely destroyed. They see that men can die and so make the connection that Moreau can also die. The bringer of pain can die. Moreau is so arrogant that he thinks with his whip he can contain the situation. An animal trainer who gets too over confident that he can not recognized the gravity of the situation. His grave ending can not be said to be not deserved.
  In the end the island is destroyed by fire with Montgomery, Parker and Ruth fleeing to Davies ship in what is a sudden end. A really great film worth renting or buying this one is very mush recommended.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Scherzo Diabolico (2015) - Horror Revenge

Scherzo Diabolico (2015) -  The description on the box pales to the actual film. Described as "Tired of his nagging wife and his dull existence as an underappreciated employee, seemingly mild mannered Aram snaps after he is passed over for a well-deserved promotion. Suddenly and menacingly asserting his long reserved power, he devises a plan to kidnap a schoolgirl and keep her tied up in an abandoned warehouse in order to finally get what he feels he is owed. But what seems like a perfect plan soon unravels into his worst nightmare."
It sounds good if a bit creepy and possibly horribly twisted in a control sexual power way. The thing is though this is not that movie. It is more like Falling Down (1993) where for most of the film you think it is just about a guy that snapped but it is really much more deeply disturbing where the road to the final acts have been paved for quite a while. In that film the antics are exaggerated as the Michael Douglas character weaves his way through LA but it is all about his decline. It shares with this film in that at the turn we learn that the motivations of the main character are not exactly as the film is sold. Still this film is different in that it ends up being about the unforeseen consequences of the main characters actions. That the depth of the plot is greater than it is originally portrayed. It is going to be difficult to review this film without ruining the turn and where that leads but I will do my best to do it spoiler free.

  I am a fan of  Director Andrián García Bogliano. When I had my old twitter account we followed each other and I look forward to renewing that twitter relationship with the new account. Since I cleared my account for this current experiment. He is a great writer and director already with a roster of films as strong as any professional working in genre. Rooms for Tourists (2004), Cold Sweat (2010),We are What we Are (2010), Penumbre (2011) with its absolutely stunning ending, and the remarkable Here Comes The Devil (2012). He also directed the recent Nick Demici vehicle Late Phases (2014), all very solid entries and I look forward to getting each new entry in Adrián's resume.
  In this film he gives us a scary look into the beta male psyche and shows how being powerless warps healthy interactions in the world. In this case the main character Aram (Francisco Barreiro) is pressured by his wife (Milena Pezzi)  to do more with his life. He works as and accountant and is a bit of a push over, working long hours saving his boss's hide only to be overlooked and under appreciated. This powerlessness is presented to the audience with a series of interactions setting the character up as a bit of a loser who is unhappy with this life. His boss Licenciado Sosa (Jorge Molina) telling him how much he is appreciated in one minute and then in the next telling him he will not be paid for the overtime he worked is just perfect. Then we get to see that maybe Aram has more too him than we first thought. There is a plan he is working on.  We see him studying a schoolgirl walking home tracking her time in each section of her walk. In a series of scenes we realize he is planning to kidnap this girl. This being a genre film we expect this is the character exercising what little power he has in a psycho sexual way. He will have control over someone he sees as weaker and thus feel empowered while all around him in the rest of his life he is giving ground. These expectations though are deftly thrust upon the audience only to be turned in a surprising new direction.
  Women are intricate to the plot of this film, from the pressuring wife   who is not the most positive female stereotype. Unsatisfied with her husband inability to do more with his life, her dissatisfaction plays out with a coldness and lack of intimacy. A male excuse for misbehaving men since the first women's movements in the 1800's it is not this reviewer's favorite presentation. Lack of intimacy and denied physical contact drives our male lead though and sets us up that he may have the heinous idea of kidnapping a high school girl. Forming in our minds that he is a certain kind of sicko. We see through a series of scenes, one rather shocking one of his preparation always calming himself as he goes by listening to the piano classic the Mephesto Waltz. Later we see Aram getting advice on how to bind someone from a prostitute he sees on the side and so we see he through these early scenes what he is planning how it is being ritualized. She is emblematic of how the powerless male seeks a place where he is in charge, paying for the right to do as he pleases with her body. Still I thought it was telling that he took a passive position during the sex with her on top and in control. Later when he thinks he has won we see a very different approach with his new secretary. Our captured girl Anabela (Daniela Soto Vell) once captive is held and to an extent mistreated but for her the experience changes her from an innocent child to a revenge driven adult. She is shocked with a taser repeatedly as a way to pacify her and it hardens her. She becomes a very damaged woman all so a male can feel empowered.
  When the crime is committed and Aram has this young woman we see more than a man's desire to control a woman, although he is mistreating her there is something else going on too. He is has some reasons we are yet not privy to. Tasering her to get here to beg for her life on camera, having her strip and filming her naked body. They are acts that could fit the sicko profile but he is disturb by his own behavior. Is this the reaction a non alpha man would have? There are hints along the way to what the real motivation is but still the turn is hidden well enough to make it a good plan when it is revealed.
  Aram after successfully executing his plan is a changed man. Now the man who is in charge at his work he is becoming the alpha he always wanted to be. His wife likes his success and he is more attractive to the ladies in the office. Through inter cut scenes we see that success for Aram means an affair with a coworker, his wife's renewed interest, but no more visits with his prostitute since he now has all he desires.Still there is a disturbing truth about this man. He keeps the images and the video of the girl he used to gain what he has, that marks the need to see and feel the control all over again even after he has apparently won. He is still a beta male hiding beneath the skin. While juxtaposed with the recovery of the girl and her family. Everything he did appears to have great benefits for him but the girl struggles to deal with an ordeal that has scarred her deeply and torn her family down. They are never going to be the same and again we are reminded what a small man Aram really is, willing to sacrifice others for the allusion of success.
  Here the need to be vague because there is a shocking turn triggered by the Mephesto Waltz, and what a turn it is. The climax we were not expecting where this little strange thriller about male need for control becomes much more of a revenge flick where finding victims is easier than finding forgiveness. The walls close in on Aram as the consequences of his action are suddenly appearing all around him. Sometimes you wear the mantle but are not really the king. Wonderfully paced the third act raises stakes and takes no prisoners ending in a gory spree of murder. This is a definitely a film worth seeing and you should buy or rent it soon.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back.. It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 160 people while the followers is only 23 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)