Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

9 More Days til Halloween – presenting American Mary

Posted: October 22, 2013 by StayFrosty in Film, Reviews

frosty       Ever since I saw the Soska sisters’ first feature, Dead Hooker in a Trunk (sometimes the title can also be the plot), I couldn’t wait to see what they did next.  These ladies knew horror, they weren’t afraid of gore or difficult subject matter and in every interview I read, I really respected their philosophy and their openness about the genre and their personal experiences working in it.  DHiaT was funny, gory, made on  the very cheap and showed so much potential.  So when I heard that they had made another film, titled American Mary and starring the very talented Katharine Isabelle, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.   I looked forward to seeing what they could do with some more money and some more time.

Oh man, was I not disappointed.

Trust me, I'm the doctor...

Trust me, I’m the doctor…

That American Mary is an incredibly accomplished film, which should be obvious to most anyone who watches it.  Before we even talk about the acting, the atmosphere and look of the film should be mentioned.  The film is beautiful to look at – the lighting and the cinematography are just gorgeous.  It seemed to me that the lighting would change when Mary changed.  The film starts out in with the bright whites and more traditional color palettes, and as Mary descends into madness, the light becomes grimy and sallow.  As Mary vacillates between confused and wounded student, badass doctor and sociopath, we get many shots that alternate between natural sunlight and ones lit only in stark neons. Purposeful or not (and with those ladies, I’m betting it was a plan), it’s impactful.

The Soska sisters cameo in American Mary

The Soska sisters cameo in American Mary

Our doctor is played by Katharine Isabelle, and she – as well as the rest of the cast – acquit themselves well, though Isabelle deserves special mention.  She’s in nearly every minute of the film, and had the actress chosen not been able to handle the subtle shifts within Mary that eventually explode into violent tendencies, the film would have been in major trouble.  Lucky for us all, Isabelle’s talent shines in all of her scenes, and she plays Mary on the razor’s edge of sanity without letting the character ever become a cliché or a caricature. And neither the Soskas nor Isabelle are afraid to show that Mary does become a monster, which is a pretty brave choice.  Lady slashers are very rare (Inside being perhaps the best recent example), and I’m so pleased that the Soskas allow Mary to become a villain.  Even though slashers like Mary are almost always played by men, all of these ladies make it clear that gender has nothing to do with being scary, crazy or intimidating.  Mary is all of these and more.

Katharine Isabelle as Mary

Katharine Isabelle as Mary

If it wasn’t clear by now, I thoroughly recommend American Mary and the Soska sisters.  It’s a very strong genre work by smart, fun, talented directors.  The learning curve for these ladies is incredible – the rise in quality from DHiaT to American Mary is pretty amazing.  I never thought I would say that I can’t wait to see See No Evil 2, but with the Soskas in charge, I’m totally in.

10 More Days til Halloween – presenting Evidence

Posted: October 21, 2013 by StayFrosty in Film, Reviews

      Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  A group of rowdy young people go on a camping trip for one of a variety of reasons (in this case, making a documentary).  They drink, do a little pot, have some sex, but that’s all fun!  What could possibly go wrong?  Suddenly, there are noises in the woods!  Some want to investigate, some want to go home.  Noises continue, then escalate.  Mistrust, fear and death tear apart this group of friends.  WHAT’S IN THE WOODS?  WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THESE MILDLY LIKABLE TEENAGERS????

Chances are you’ve seen this premise about a thousand times.  And you’re probably groaning right about now, thinking about how this shit is played out.  And you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.  When JennyD and I chose the found footage flick Evidence, to be honest, we chose it because it was free.  And I don’t think we would have grabbed it at all if we didn’t have a get-one-free deal going on.  The cover and the description just didn’t make it seem interesting at all.  But hey, free is free, so we took it home figuring if it sucked, we didn’t lose anything.

After about 10 minutes, we were pretty sure this movie was crap.  We were bored, the characters were unlikable, the plot not moving.  We talked about changing over to something that had a better chance of being more interesting.  But we decided to give it 15 more minutes in case it magically turned around.  And by the end of that 15 minutes, we were hooked.  Lucky for us, our first impression was entirely incorrect.  While not perfect, Evidence is a creepy, original take on the found footage genre, handling major plot twists without seeming false and making a variety of smart choices to overcome its lower budget.

Directed by Howie Askins and written by Ryan McCoy,  Evidence takes us on a first-person journey with a cast of relative unknowns, much like modern verite films such as The Blair Witch Project and Pararnormal Activity.  Our unknowns play characters that share their first names, (as in The Blair Witch Prject).  As previously stated, this group of four doomed campers (Ryan McCoy, Brett Rosenberg, Abigail Richie and Ashley Bracken) are not a likable crew – they range from jerk to bigger jerk to other kind of jerk.

What really helps to make this film is that you really think you know where it’s going (into the crappy pit of tropes that are many of today’s found footage movies), but around the halfway mark it takes a sharp left turn that I’m sure divided audiences.  Those of us here at FGSG found it an interesting choice, and a refreshing change from the norm.  The film is not without its mistakes, but on the whole is thoroughly watchable and a strong attempt to try something new in a played out sub-genre.

My Amityville Horror

Posted: August 14, 2013 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, Reviews
jennydWatched Eric Walter’s documentary My Amityville Horror last night (via Netflix Instant). I was definitely interested in the subject matter. I’m skeptical, but have always been just fascinated and terrified by tales of the supernatural (many run in my family). Whether I believe or not, ghost stories are the ones that really get me, as far as fiction goes. They give me the dread I’m looking for.

Before I go on, I should say that familiarity with the material–whether it’s the original book that spilled the exaggerated details of the whole affair in the 70s, true-life analysis of the case and the Warrens, the Lutz family’s many television appearances, or the film adaptations–is a pre-requisite. And hey… whether you think the whole thing is bullshit or not, that first movie is a classic, so you might as well.

myamityvillehorrorMy Amityville Horror is a deep examination of the character and experiences of Daniel/Danny Lutz; the eldest of the 3 children living in the house when whatever happened… happened. Anyway, I went in assuming bullshit but tried to keep an open mind. The documentary introduces you to grown-up Danny, a troubled and gruff man who plays the guitar and agonizes over his childhood traumas to this day. We see him answer questions from therapists, the filmmakers and the reporters he knew during the whole affair. We follow him to a reunion with Lorraine Warren at her spooky museum of a house. We explore the facts from the perspective of the reporters responsible for breaking the story and creating the media sensation that lasts to this day. We hear from psychologists theorizing on Daniel’s state of mind. Although little new is discovered during the documentary, they do a decent job of remaining impartial, neither representing his tales as true nor outright painting him as a fraud.

The biggest problem, honestly, is Daniel himself. He is such a douchebag. (That’s a technical term.) He behaves as if the filmmakers are forcing him to talk, but clearly agreed to make a documentary. He is rude, confrontational, flies off the handle any time his story is questioned (the final scene, involving an inquiry about a lie detector test is particularly uncomfortable). He’s incredibly unlikable and I struggled with not turning the thing off and doing something else just because he was so irritating. However, I must say that his manner and behavior IS in line with the men I’ve known who have faced violent, traumatic pasts (I say “men” because of the effect expected gender roles have on all of us, and admit to generalizing). So I have to step back and accept that. Whether it was supernatural or physical violence or something else, he is obviously recovering from some kind of trauma and I’m not sure it matters if he’s telling the truth as it really happened, suffering from delusions inspired by fictional accounts, or lying his ass off. It’s an interesting character study either way.

So yeah. Interesting look at the events, but nothing new aside from the close examination of Danny Lutz. A few spooky moments, some bullshit, and interviews that can be a chore to get through. Warning: Your eyes might roll too hard and burrow backward into your brain. Please use caution.

Birdemic 2: The Ressurection!

Posted: May 8, 2013 by StayFrosty in Events, Film, Guests, Reviews


Okay movie friends, if you’ve clicked on the link to read this review, you’ve probably already experienced the original Birdemic: Shock and Terror, directed by master of the Romantic Thriller James Nguyen. Or it could be you’re just intrigued by the word “birdemic” – and who wouldn’t be?  This also means it’s likely you already know if you’re going to enjoy the sequel, and there’s not much I can do to change your mind.  Most people who’ve seen Birdemic have strong feelings about it.  Love it or hate it, the one emotion I haven’t encountered is ambivalence.

How can you not love this photo?

How can you not love this photo?

JennyD and I (joined by some bird loving, hanger-carrying friends) saw Birdemic 2: The Resurrection at the closing of the Cinedelphia Film Festival ( at PhilaMoca, late at night with a bunch of other people who were there to enjoy the shit out of this movie.  On top of that, we were joined by Director James Nguyen, Producer Jeff Ross, and star Alan Bagh (“Rod”)!  How much better could a premiere get?

Not much better, as it happens.  I can’t recall the last time I laughed and enjoyed myself so much at an event like this.  It seemed like everyone was having a great time – they laughed, they cheered, they freakin’ sang along to the original movie’s now classic song “Just Hanging Out”!  I love a sing-along at a movie!  Clearly, almost every single person there knew what they were in for, and were loving it.  And with a movie like Birdemic 2, that’s exactly the way you need to go into it.

In the film, we continue to follow the exploits of Birdemic‘s brilliant computer engineer Rod (Alan Bagh) and his girlfriend Nathalie (Whitney Moore, clearly very much in on the joke this time around), along with Rod’s adopted son (!), a boy he rescued in the first film and in this film only makes an appearance in one scene (hey, children are expensive to hire in the movie world).  There was a sister in the original too, but since the film didn’t have the budget for two kid actors, she was conveniently dealt with offscreen in a way that is far too awesome for me to reveal here.

birdemic 2

Joining our intrepid couple is Bill (Thomas Favaloro), an independent film director struggling to make it in Hollywood despite resistance from the big studio system (those jerks!).  And given how much screen time is devoted to him walking around town, it’s clear the poor guy needs some big studio cash.  Lend this man some money for a cab, people!  Bill just wants to make the movies he wants to make, like his current project, Sunset Dreams, but he needs financing since the studios just don’t understand him.  Fortuitously, his good buddy Rod just happens to have a MILLION DOLLARS from his software sales!  Executive producer/director high five! (I should note the high fives in both films are epic).  Now Bill can make his movie, but where shall he ever find a lead actress with the right amount of beauty and talent?

Cue waitress/aspiring actress Gloria (Chelsea Turnbo), whom Bill meets for about 5 seconds before he decides not only would she be perfect in the lead role, she’s perfect for him as well.  And with some of the worst pickup lines – but the best eyebrow work – in cinematic history, Bill gets his leading lady.

All this blossoming romance signals it’s about time for some bird chaos!  Instead of a detailed explanation, how about I offer you this: Millions of eagles and vultures are attacking Hollywood!!!  It’s raining blood!!!  Who will survive and what will be left of them?!?!?!

birdemic 2-3

Our intrepid heroes

I could discuss the subplots about global warming and blood somehow resurrecting creatures from the La Brea tar pits, but why do that?  Cue attacks!  Cue hangers!  Cue exploding birds!  Bagh and company combat the winged threat with weapons including not just the famous hangers of the past but guns, umbrellas, tripods and (most wonderfully) totally badass karate moves!  And during all this madness Rod and Nathalie never thought to mention that THEY’D ALREADY BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE!!!   The. Exact. Same. Thing.  Eventually they think to bring up this minor tidbit of information – about 15 minutes before the end of film.  You know, when it’s important.

It's not hangers, but it will have to do.

It’s not hangers, but it will have to do.

I’m leaving out all sorts of hilarious moments – zombies, cavemen (don’t ask, just accept) and another rockin’ dance scene complete with a new song from Damien Carter. But it’s no fun to hear about that stuff from me, so I’ll leave some secrets for when you watch.

After the movie’s rather abrupt ending, we were treated to a Q&A with James Nguyen, Alan Bagh and Jeff Ross.  I was initially worried that people would be jerks and ask crappy, jerkish and awkward questions.  I get it, the movie’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but in my opinion being obnoxious to the director is just bad form.  However, with few exceptions, everyone was there in the spirit of fun, and the questions reflected that.

The surprise for me was James Nguyen.  I wasn’t sure prior to this screening if he thinks he’s making great movies or if he’s just very clever and knows exactly what he’s doing.  The jury’s still out on that one.  Before the film started he asked everyone how many drinks we’d all had, and later compared the Birdemic viewing experience to Rocky Horror, which suggests he’s in on the joke, but the way he answered some of the questions implies otherwise.  So who knows?  And does it really matter?

Director James Nguyen

Director James Nguyen

Here’s what I do know – the guy seems incredibly sincere, and he knows about movies.  Whether or not he knows how to make them is not in question at this time.  He loves Hitchcock, which is no secret, but he also knows his Hitchcock.  These are two different things.  He can discuss, in detail, camera angles, lighting design, film history and theory.  He cites a reference from a David Lynch film that he put into his movie, and damned if I didn’t see it.  I saw it in a scene of questionable quality, but I saw it nonetheless.  He has a wealth of knowledge; however, his ability to apply said knowledge to his own films is perhaps not his greatest strength.

Either way, he loves what he’s doing and he’s thrilled that people are enjoying themselves watching his movie.  He was very up front about his budgetary restraints and some of the adjustments he had to make.  He also brought up what I thought was a very good point – that if the movie was perfect, we probably wouldn’t be out at PhilaMoca late at night laughing and cheering.  He’s probably right.  Sincerity doesn’t make your movie better, but it does deserve some respect.

Jeff Ross and Alan Bagh didn’t have nearly as much to say, but we were treated to not one, but TWO karate kicks from Bagh!  Those kicks in the movie weren’t just fancy camera angles, friends!  They were REAL!

And that was our adventure with Birdemic 2: The Resurrection!  If you are going to watch this movie (and hell, why not?), I suggest you get a group of (open-minded) friends together and enjoy the ride!  Looking forward to BIRDEMIC 3!  ~SF.

ex-Fest III post-marathon report

Posted: May 6, 2013 by Jenny Dreadful in Events, Film

Poster by Justin Miller

jennydThis past weekend was ex-Fest III, a 12-hour exploitation film marathon run by our friends at Exhumed Films. As with their fantastic 24-hour Horrorthon, there is no film list provided and the audience finds out what films are playing as they appear on the screen. We attended last year’s ex-Fest and I had a good time even though exploitation is not my favorite subgenre.

Unlike many folks who care about social issues and real-world violence, though, it’s easy for me to get into the right mindset to enjoy them. Many stories and dialogue that would usually offend me become hilarious or entertaining because of the context; the bizarre over-the-top place where all of these films live, and the fascinating history behind them. Depictions of sexual assault, violence and hate bothered me most last night when they DIDN’T fit into the classification of an exploitation film, when they were fit into the framework of “the real world.” I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re interested in what we saw yesterday, here’s my official report.

1. Sunday in the Country (1974)

AKA Ernest Borgnine tortures and kills some dudes. This film was a wee bit dull at times, but fairly amusing. Seeing Borgnine, a devout church-goer and doting grandfather, turn sinister when dangerous criminals visit his farm was shocking and fun.

StayFrosty: I was expecting your basic rape/revenge, but this movie takes a very sharp turn away from all that.  I mean, there’s still revenge, but it came from an unexpected source.  Namely, Borgnine.  I loved that this was sort of an Amish version of Saw (minus the weird little puppet guy).  A good, offbeat, violent beginning to our day.

radioactivedreams2. Radioactive Dreams (1985)

Oh my god. A very 80s post-apocalyptic adventure following Phillip and Marlowe (GET IT?), two 40s-obsessed young men exiting the bunker they inhabited alone for 15 years to explore what’s left of the world after a nuclear attack. It was a little slow to start, but it soon became my favorite of the marathon. There are roving gangs of thugs, all styled after a particular decade’s film and music culture (I suspect the folks behind Six-String Samurai found some inspiration here), hilarious musical interludes, silly sci-fi tech, and fabulous monsters. It even ends with a dance sequence. It’s not perfect, but I think I have to own it.

PS: I understand I’m in the minority on this one!

StayFrosty: If JennyD and I are in the minority about this movie, I don’t know why.  It doesn’t fit into what most people would define as “exploitation”, so maybe that’s the problem.  This would fit perfectly in with films like Miami Connection – in fact, that would be a hell of a double feature.  In this case, I’ll happily stay in the minority, thank you.

3. The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

I missed the very beginning of this film because we had a date with some gigantic hot dogs. I kind of wish I had caught it. The film’s title and poster are not representative at all of this film. It’s a bizarre psychosexual thriller about a woman remembering childhood abuse in pieces and killing television personalities she’s attracted to. Her dialogue and behavior is jaw-dropping. I hardly know how to describe it. Random, lewd, terrifying, non-sensical? And the film moves at a quick and disjointed pace. I don’t know what I think of the film, but I’ll tell you one thing. I was never bored.

4. Vigilante (1983)

A film from William Lustig, known for the dubious classic Maniac. It was fine. I was a bit bored, but it had good moments. Honestly, I hardly remember it. Woops.

(Frosty and I missed the beginning of this one because we were finding someone who was trapped in part of the building via Twitter and saving them! True story! No regrets!)

5. Lightning Swords of Death (AKA Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972)

These movies are classics and I know I’m a jerk when I say I was super bored and falling asleep. The setup was fun and it was worth hanging in there for the last act when the violence and bloodshed got crazy, but the squishy middle bits had me snoozing. Also? Surprisingly rapey. Not a fan.

6. Get Down & Boogie (1975)

This is the craziest, silliest, most fun Blaxploitation film I’ve ever seen. After this colorful, energetic, slap-sticky marvel, all is forgiven. There’s a lot of material in here that would otherwise be offensive and uncomfortable, but I was charmed by its super positive attitude and message. I would watch it again. No question. My 2nd favorite of the day.

pick_up_summer7. Pick-up Summer (1980)

A teen sex comedy from Canada. I don’t even know where to begin when I tell you how much I HATED this movie. We’re following two boys who enjoy pranks and chasing girls and we’re supposed to like them, but I WANTED THEM TO DIE. I suppose it’s a different time, but these protagonists we’re cheering for are committing sexual assault, invasion of privacy, vandalism, and bullying throughout most of the film, and we’re supposed to laugh with them and enjoy their whacky antics. I would have had these fuckers arrested… or maybe gotten myself arrested for murdering them. Like I mentioned at the beginning of my report, this stuff is much more irritating to me in this context… “boys will be boys, summer, woooooo!”… than the over-the-top disrespect and violence found in the cartoony wastelands of true exploitation cinema. Fuck this movie.

8. Gums (1976)

An explicit  oddball porn parody of the Spielberg classic Jaws. Whoa. They warned us, but this is crazy-pants. Well, without the pants. In this case, the threat is a love-sick mermaid who uh… um… sucks poor men to death. If the last movie hadn’t drained our very will to live, this would have been a lot of fun. Certainly a memorable way to end the marathon for sure. Not uh… not for everyone!

That’s it! I think I had more fun last year… my personal hits to misses ratio was more favorable… but it’s always fun to see what bizzare films they’ll have on offer and it’s a pleasure to meet fellow film freaks and catch up with friends. The Horrorthon is more my speed, but I’ll be back for ex-Fest IV. Wild mermaids can’t keep me away.

Carrie (2013) Official Trailer

Posted: April 5, 2013 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, News

The first official trailer for the newest adaptation of Stephen King’s CARRIE just came out yesterday. Thoughts?

All remake angst aside, I’m not feeling so great about this one. I love love love Chloe Moretz (Let Me In, Kick-Ass), but this might be some serious miscasting. I’m also a little turned off by what I can see of the effects. However, I hope for the best. It’s encouraging to see more mainstream horror films directed by women. Maybe Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) can give this overused source material new life with a feminine point of view. Looking at current events, there’s no doubt that the issues raised in King’s 1974 novel are relevant as ever.

The Return of Jenny: The Revenge

Posted: April 4, 2013 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, News

jennydWow, it sure has been a while since I spent my time geeking out here on ye olde horror blog. I spent most of 2012 working on a very large-scale art project, so my movie watching and writing took a back seat for months. The big silly thing is off to the printers now and I’m super proud of what I’ve accomplished, but it’s time to reconnect.

I missed my chance to chat with you about a number of interesting titles while they were new. The ABCs of Death for instance. Or Warm Bodies. Instead of trying and failing to catch up, let’s start fresh. What are you looking forward to most in 2013? I’ll go first.

5. The Conjuring

July 19th

conjuringThe Conjuring, the newest spooky picture from James Wan of Saw and Insidious fame, stars Vera Farmiga (Norman Bates’ mum in the Bates Motel series) and Insidious star Patrick Wilson. Looks like he’s working with a screenplay from brothers Chad and Carey Hayes (Whiteout, The Reaping) this time rather than long-time partner Leigh Whannell. They always made a killer team, managing to scare the pants off audiences with little to no budget, and I’m a little sad to see the lineup changed. Can The Conjuring deliver the same level of fear and creativity that we’ve come to expect from Wan? I’m feeling optimistic. The trailer is simple but effective, and I love the classic 70s horror vibe I’m getting from the poster and promotional stills. (Bonus: more music by the terrifying Joseph Bishara!) I love a good haunted house flick. I’m in.

Update: Oh, snap a new trailer comes out right before I post this. Sheesh! I like the more subtle video above, but I’m intrigued by the newer, flashier ad too. There are some cheap shots, but I’ve come to expect that from all horror trailers these days. So, for the sake of completion…

4. Maniac

June 21st

maniacAlthough I’m not a big fan of William Lustig’s gritty 1980 classic Maniac, I’m surprisingly excited about this slick-looking remake from Franck Khalfoun (P2) and French horror master Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha, the upcoming adaptation of Joe Hill’s Horns). Elijah Wood, known for pretty blue eyes and an epic adventure in Middle Earth, may seem like an odd choice to replace original maniac Joe Spinell. Anyone who has seen his startling appearance as Kevin in Sin City, however, knows he’s got what it takes to pull this off. It looks beautiful and the buzz is good. Looking forward to checking this out very much.

3. American Mary

May 31st

americanmaryAmerican Mary, directed and written by the Soska sisters of Dead Hooker in a Trunk, stars Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) as a demoralized medical student who turns to a dark new world of easy money and power; an underground practice of illegal surgeries and bizarre body modifications. Between my appreciation of Jen and Sylvia Soska–the kind of hardcore female presence this genre sorely needs–and the sexy and disturbing experience promised by this trailer, American Mary is a Final Girl Support Group must-see.

2. You’re Next

August 23rd

yourenextAfter about 6 months of buzz and frantic anticipation, the trailer for Adam Wingward’s You’re Next hit the web last Thursday. The excitement of the horror community leading up to the release of the trailer and the response afterward is the kind of energy usually reserved for big-budget geekery (e.g., Pacific Rim, The Hobbit, The Avengers). It’s been wild to see fans all a-flutter over a genre ad.

One reason for all this enthusiasm is the cast and crew, featuring classic scream queen Barbara Crampton (Reanimator, From Beyond) and a collection of new-school filmmakers including Ti West (The Innkeepers, House of the Devil), Joe Swanberg (V/H/S), A.J. Bowen (A Horrible Way to Die, House of the Devil), and–of course–writer/director team Adam Wingward and Simon Barrett, most known for The ABCs of Death, V/H/S, and A Horrible Way to Die. You’re seeing a lot of repetition with the titles here and that’s because this is a close-knit group of actors, writers and directors who love the genre and collaborate often.

And I’ve said nearly nothing about the film itself. Home invasion isn’t my favorite sub-genre, but I can appreciate any truly great horror movie. Based on this beautifully shot trailer and festival reviews, I think You’re Next could have the atmosphere, performances and tension we’re looking for.

1. Evil Dead

April 5th

evildeadOk. This one is… kind of cheating. Because we maaaaaaaayyyy have already seen it on Tuesday. But I assure you, my excitement as I waited months to see the new Evil Dead remake was almost unhealthy. I’m surprised no one planned an intervention. The obsession was a pretty intense. I mean, look at this redband trailer. It ranks among the bloodiest, nastiest mainstream film ads ever. Maybe THE nastiest. COME. ON.

Did it live up to my ridiculously high expectations? I’m not telling. But I AM saying folks with the stomach for buckets of gore and an appreciation for practical effects should go see it this weekend. A review with more details coming soon.

Your turn. What are you looking forward to most?