Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Birdemic 2: The Ressurection!

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

frosty

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 (http://www.cinedelphiafilmfestival.com) 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
exfestposter

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.

JENNY’S MOST WANTED
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?

Awards Season 2012 Part 1: The Lucky 13

Posted: February 24, 2013 by StayFrosty in Film, Lists, Reviews

frosty

We thought we weren’t going to be able to find 10 best films this year, let alone 13.  But when JennyD, crow and myself actually sat down and went through our lists, we found plenty of gems that we felt needed to be recognized.  This list runs the gambit from independent hauntings to adorably disturbing stop-motion to big budget sci-fi horror.  So there’s plenty for every type of fan out there.  And compared to last year’s highly gorgeous, well-made but incredibly depressing films, this list is a picnic (a blood drenched picnic, but still).

The real winners this year are the monster kids and kids-at-heart – we saw a resurgence of the creepy, weird and wonderful films for younger viewers.  JennyD called them gateway films, and she’s not wrong.  These movies, aside from being fun, scary and touching all at the same time, help introduce kids to a world where although things may seem normal, by the end of the film they (and we) are taught normal is boring and weirdness is something to be celebrated.  Good lesson for people of any age.

Of course, we didn’t get to every film, so we freely admit there’s some stuff that should be on this list that isn’t there solely because we couldn’t get out to the theater.  We do our best.  So here it is, the Lucky 13 of 2012:

  1. ABCs of Death – The anthology film has made quite the comeback in 2012, and I’d say ABCs is the strongest of the bunch.  26 short films made by 26 different directors, each with one letter of the alphabet to guide them.  With that many shorts, the odds would tell you that most of them would be fair to mediocre, with a few gems and a few total bombs. There were definitely a few that should have been left on the cutting room floor, but that’s to be expected in any movie with 26 directors.  However, the pleasant surprise is that well more than half of these creepy, gory and sometimes intensely disturbing shorts were not only enjoyable, but beautiful and thought-provoking as well.  Special mention to letters A, D, O, R, U and X.  I’d say why, but that would be giving too much away.  Just check it out for yourself.
  2. The Bay – You most likely didn’t even know this film existed unless you have an Xbox (that’s where we found it), and that’s sad for everyone, because The Bay is a creepy found footage flick that’s a little too close to reality for my comfort.  It’s directed by Barry Levinson, whose best known for more kind-hearted fare like Rain Main, Toys and Wag the Dog.  But then again, he also did Sleepers, which is pretty damn horrific, so he’s got it in him.  In The Bay, a small town in the Chesapeake Bay area is overrun by a ecological virus/disaster.  The incident is covered up by the government, with the movie consisting of the leaked footage of what really happened.  It combines Jaws with early Cronenberg body horror films.   The creepiest part of this whole film is that according to Levinson, about 80-85% of it is fact-based.  Originally, Levinson was approached to make a documentary about the Chesapeake Bay, but after he realized there was not only viewer apathy but a Frontline documentary that covered most of the information, he decided to tweak it for a feature film.  Isopods are real, the incredible amount of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is real.   The film is a great watch, but the reality is scary enough.
  3. Cabin in the Woods – We already reviewed this wildly hilarious film earlier in the year, so most of what we needed to say was said there.  This movie rocks – probably my pick for best of the year.
  4. Frankenweenie – I love Tim Burton, but I won’t lie that in the last several years I haven’t loved most of his output in general.  It’s just seemed less…weird.  And special – that special strange that he used to deliver in spades.  However, Frankenweenie, a stop-motion animated tale (based on Burton’s 1984 live action short ) is a much welcome return to form.  It’s also a love letter to monster kids and monster movies, with references to so many classic films it’s hard to keep track of them all.  But if you love your Burton in the flavor of Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas (yes, I know he didn’t direct it. It’s still part his. Shut up), this is definitely one to watch.  And bring the kids.
  5. The Grey – If seeing Liam Neeson tape broken bottles to his knuckles to fight wolves isn’t enough incentive to see this movie, well, you probably won’t see it based on this recommendation either.  The Grey got a little lost in the shuffle (and the cinematic black hole that is January), and probably suffered from misleading marketing as well.  The trailers made it look like an action-packed Taken 3: Wolves!  Not so much, marketing team.  Liam Neeson and a bunch of other plane crash survivors must battle not only the freezing temperatures, blinding wind and lack of food, but some big ass wolves decide they want in on the free dinner.  Given that the tone of the film was completely misrepresented, I can see why people would feel a little cheated.  But go in with an open mind, and you’ll find that while it might not be what you expect, there’s a great survival horror film in there.
  6. Livide – It’s French.  There’s a creepy ballerina girl.  Do I really need to say much more to catch your interest?
  7. The Loved Ones – I reviewed this one already, so there’s not much to add here.  It’s great.  Keep up the good work, Australia.
  8. Lovely Molly – Directed and co-written by Eduardo Sanchez (one half of the pair behind The Blair Witch Project), Lovely Molly is one of those films that on paper didn’t seem so great.  But I very much enjoyed the Wicker Man-type vibe, the strong performance from Gretchen Lodge as Molly, and the open to interpretation ending.  I liked it even better the second time around.
  9. The Pact – After her mother’s death, a pair of sisters (Caity Lotz and Anges Bruckner) move back into their childhood home, where things are not what they seem.  The film focuses mainly on Lotz in a strong performance, with Casper Van Dien in a supporting role.  The film handles the building tension well, without showing too much, and Haley Hudson plays one freaking creepy girl with a connection to the supernatural.
  10. Paranorman – Another gateway movie, this time about a young boy who can see and converse with the dead, and how sometimes even the dead can be misunderstood.  I really loved this movie, both for its sweetness and for the references that came about every minute (but didn’t distract from the film).  Double feature this with Frankenweenie and you’ve got a great night of creating some new horror fans.
  11. Prometheus – I have so much to say about Prometheus that it’s almost impossible to cut it short for this top 13.  And since crowbait already covered this one, I’ll leave my thoughts until later.  An imperfect creation this might be, but it’s head and shoulders above most other director’s best work.  Alien fan or not, it’s a must for any sci-fi or horror fan.
  12. Sinister – If you saw the trailer for Sinister, I’m sorry, because it gives SO much away (not that this is a huge shock, since trailers pretty much always do that now).  It’s especially a shame here, though, because while Sinister doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does go for a different take on a standard formula.  Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer so desperate for another successful book that he moves his family into a house where some horrific murders occurred.  He also discovers some suspicious-looking filmstrips and player in the attic, sitting all by itself.  When he starts to watch them (like you do), he begins to uncover not only some creepy footage of murders but clues that all of these deaths may be linked.  Hawke plays his character well, and by that I mean he’s not particularly likable – he lies constantly, he’s selfish and kind of a jerk.  But he also loves his kids and thinks he’s doing something that will help them (even though he is WILDLY off base about the whole “help” thing).  His choice to try and solve these filmstrip mysteries is a terrible idea (or there wouldn’t be a movie), and once things start getting weird there’s some great creepy scares – and yes, a few crappy jump scares and stings.  But when the scares are played right, they really work.  Using multiple media (filmstrips, photos, computers) create some effective moments, especially when they’re not telegraphed.  I can’t emphasize enough how much better the mood and scares are when they’re not telegraphed.    The film boasts some excellent lighting (especially in the darker, low-lit scenes) and carries an atmosphere of dread for most of its running time.  Definitely an enjoyable, unsettling flick.
  13. V/H/S – Our second anthology film on this list, V/H/S is a little uneven but still interesting and unique enough to earn a place on our list.  Special mention to “Amateur Night” and “10/31/98” – definitely the strongest of the set.  But almost all of them (with perhaps one exception) have something interesting to keep your attention.

So there it is, horror-loving friends, the FGSG top 13.  We’re looking forward to what 2013 will bring.   ~SF.

Silent Night (2012)

Posted: December 25, 2012 by crowbait in Film, Reviews

crowbaitsilentnightHoliday Mayhem Now With 87% Less Fun!

So you’re paging through the on-demand titles of your video service of choice and you find a supposed remake of the cult classic Silent Night, Deadly Night. “Well that’s cool. The original was a good slasher, savaged by censorship into a toothless mess but with some real promise in its execution. The sequel was another mess, but this one a delightful mis-match of tone stemming from the performances that elevated the mediocre writing to hilarity. And this new one even stars Malcolm McDowell! That’s probably worth a rental!” Well, inner monologue, I hate to disappoint you but that is all that this in-name-only cash-in will do.

Silent Night takes place over a single Christmas Eve, during the annual parade of Santas in a small midwestern town. Officer Bradimore (Jaime King) is a recently divorced police woman who must find the Santa suited killer who is on a murder spree. Suspects loom everywhere and the body count rises as the deplorable behavior of the townsfolk shows that no one belongs on the “nice” list. In the end the killer will be revealed, and will have nothing to do with anything.

Officer Bradimore, despite being an armed officer of the law who is never out of uniform is the target of constant sexual harassment. Not a scene passes by without her needing to talk past disgusting innuendos or shrug away from unwanted physical contact from co-workers, suspects and the creepy reverend. Not once does she ever effectively deal with a male character. She isn’t Laurie Strode, a virginal high-school girl, she’s an officer of the law! Much is made of her recent divorce weighing heavily on her mood but that can’t account for how pathetic she appears when it comes to defending herself from every half-drunk punk in a red suit.

silentnight2

Tell me I’m going soft if you want, but killing an obnoxious 13-year-old girl with a cattle prod just seems mean-spirited to me. Just because she whines to go to the mall and her mom is too strung out to argue with her, I’m supposed to laugh as Santa shocks her into vomiting and collapse? God Bless America wasn’t funny either.

This film hates Christmas. The script is peppered with monologues about how Christmas is awful. A “bad santa” wannabe writes and reads journal entries about how it drives people insane. A drunken drifter in a stained Santa suit tells us about how he uses the holidays to take advantage of people. The skeevy reverend delivers a homily about how Jesus was born into cow shit because we’re horrible sinners. None of these raving diatribes are very well written or well delivered but we’re all going to sit down and watch one wacko or another vent about why Christmas is all wrong before we’re allowed to go back to watching our bad murder-Santa movie! Other Christmas themed horror films don’t spread a message of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, but they also don’t chew up more than a minute or two of runtime with someone complaining that Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Silent Night wants you to know that it’s all Christmas’ fault. So I guess the writer never got that red fire truck he wanted.

silentnight3McDowell is here to do his signature move. Act wacky and collect an easy paycheck. Sheriff Cooper is a raving loon and his portrayal shows another flaw in the direction, a lack of commitment to McDowell’s background. He delivers his lines in a forced broad Midwestern accent but often slips back into his natural British accent. For a small town sheriff out in the boonies, he uses the epithet “bloody” a lot. The confused result sounds like McDowell was told to improvise his lines to be suitably raving but translating to the American accent caused some bumps in the process. Because no one tried to correct these painful moments, I suppose I’m meant to shrug my shoulders and chuckle warmly and say “Hey! McDowell, amiright? As these comedy efforts of the crazy sheriff fall apart there are a few poor executed references to the other films to try for an ironic chuckle, such as a redo of the killer offering a bloody gift to a little girl witness and a poor deputy made to actually speak the line “What is this? Garbage day?” Even the actor is embarrassed of that half-muttered line.

The story tries its hand at several different approaches for the modern slasher. A few early kills borrow the look of Saw or other “torture forward” flicks. Some murders have the 80′s flair for incongruous set ups, including the sexy teen impaled on reindeer antlers ala Linnea Quigley in the original. Victims at first are entirely characterized by sex, such as the cheating husband and the pornographer, so it’s implied that the film carries the “morality play” inspiration of the 80′s original, but then discards that angle. The killer leaves a calling card that the police can’t find but the audience is forced to see as obvious. When Bradimore shoots a suspect a red gift box can be seen on-screen, implying that the killer knew she would have to shoot? Or that the man she shot was the killer? Here’s where the film takes another page from a famous horror franchise.

silentnight4

Once the police are clued in the film becomes an awkward Scream sequel. Suspects are picked off one by one and the script tries to throw suspicion on others as the police race around trying to locate them. But it’s a hack job. The audience is already aware that half of the candidates for the electric chair don’t fit the appearance of the killer. We saw him in shadowy profile in the first minute of the film! No time and attention is actually paid to crafting a whodunnit mystery. In the end the killer is . . . Spoilers! . . . some guy. He’s no one to us because he hasn’t been a character before the reveal. And in that reveal he’s a child in a flashback to a murder from 20 years ago. Simultaneously the killer is a roving madman who appears in a different town every year and a wronged child returning to his hometown for vengeance against the people who shot his father for burning his mother to death while wearing a Santa suit. What?

That’s why Silent Night fails. It tries to be everything horror-film at once and ends up succeeding at nothing. It’s not scary, it’s not funny, and it’s certainly not interesting. The original two films have recently seen a Blu-ray release. Go spend your Xmas money there.

Merry Garbage Day Everyone!

Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon 2011

Posted: October 25, 2012 by Jenny Dreadful in About Us, Events, Film, News, Reviews

Poster by Justin Miller

This post may exclude a number of our readers and I apologize, but the best time of the year is on its way and that means one thing here in the Philadelphia area; The Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horror-thon!

Yeah, you heard me. 24 hours. Noon Saturday to noon Sunday. Equal parts wild entertainment and grueling endurance test, the International House is definitely the place to be this weekend. It’s magic. Sweaty blood-splattered butt-numbing magic.

Now, the Horrorthon sells out fast. Faster every year. I do believe 2012 set a record at just six days and that was back in August. Why am I bothering to discuss the event if most of you can’t attend? If you’re attending for the first time or may attend in the future, I’m hoping to give  you a general idea of what to expect. Hell, if neither of those qualifiers apply, here are a bunch of micro-reviews.

 

The list of films seen last year, in the order they were shown, along with the dubious hints included in the program:

1. Psychomania

Hint: Fun 1970s British film that successfully combines two specific horror and exploitation genres.  Year: 1971

Jenny: Obnoxious biker teens become the living dead through ritualistic suicide. Horror elements are overwhelmed by unintentional silliness and that’s just fine. Lots of fun.

StayFrosty: This was a great choice to kick off the Horrorthon, because this movie is totally nuts.  And by nuts I mean hilarious.  Between asking for the secrets of the living dead while angrily eating a sandwich (where did it come from? Where????) or a graveyard makeout ending with a frog hidden in a coat pocket (you heard me), the audience was engaged and laughing pretty much throughout.

crowbait: The British films I’ve seen from this era are often so . . . bleak. Even while they are camp entertainment. The villains enjoy a reign of terror while the “heroes” are woefully ineffectual police officers, stuffy officials who are cut down by the gleeful satanists and monsters. Youth are revolutionary and evil and will not be stopped except by their own self-destruction! Yeah, sure it’s done for laughs here but with some better acting and less witchcraft, this could be A Clockwork Orange. Or not. 

 

2. Rodan

Hint: Giant monster movie classic.  Year: 1956

StayFrosty:  I’ll admit I slept through most of this.  I was trying to get my sleep in early.

crowbait: The Japanese dig too greedily and too deep and awaken the winged Godzilla-alike. The impressive destruction of model cities fills the second half of the film and makes up for the ponderous narration that weighs down the first half. Par for the course really with Toho features. I remember watching these movies as a kid, filling in the boring “talking” parts with my own dinosaur toys.

Jenny: No doubt a classic of Japanese monster flicks. I was so bored though. I’m so sorry, Japan! I want to love your giant rampaging kaiju. I just don’t have the strength.

 

3. Frightmare

Hint: Little seen supernatural shocker that marks the horror debut of a future genre icon.  Year: 1981

Jenny: The future genre icon in question here is legendery actor and reanimator, Jeffrey Combs, appearing in his first horror film role. I was thrilled to see him and the pissed-off undead horror star (in the tradition of Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi) was an amusing choice for a villain. With a plot strangely similar to Weekend at Bernie’s and a goofy gothic aethsetic, Frightmare is campy slasher fun. It’s overlong, unfortunately, and gets surprisingly dark. Dark is fine, but it’s an odd change in mood after the setup. Despite criticisms, I enjoyed it and I’m glad I had a chance to see it.

StayFrosty: This started out pretty fun, and it’s a cool idea to have a Bela Lugosi-type actor be all evil with mind powers, but it just doesn’t deliver the goods.  Too many long shots of our villain touching his head and making big eyes, not enough stuff actually happening.

crowbait: Yeah. I thought with some tighter editing, this could have been one of my faves. Unfortunately, when you have 30 minutes to wait around for the villain to even start moving you have plenty of time to notice “hey, this movie isn’t as clever as it thinks it is.”

 

4. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Hint: Just when you thought you were having fun, along comes Movie #4 to completely depress you with its stark brutality and nihilsim.   Year: 1986

StayFrosty: I’d seen Henry before – it’s an impactful, rough film.  I still felt this way watching it on the big screen, and I also realized I now know where Rob Zombie got his inspiration for every character in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects (they’re pretty much all Otis, including Sid Haig, who plays a guy named Otis).  Michael Rooker does an amazing job here of showing us a dangerous, frightening man who is still trying desperately to do the right thing with the one woman he might be able to care about.  Watching the scenes where she wants to be close to him and he is so desperately trying to stay away to avoid hurting her still carry weight on the second viewing.  In fact, I think I appreciated those types of scenes more this time around.  This isn’t an easy movie to watch, but I think it’s one that should be seen.

Jenny: They’re not kidding with that hint. This is a really severe shift in tone after the last few flicks, but it’s a classic. Horror fans willing to explore such a hopeless and violent place should see at least once. However, viewers uncomfortable with sexual violence in film should use caution or skip it entirely.

 

5. The Dead

No hint needed. Film announced in advance.   Year: 2010

StayFrosty:  Much like everything filmed in Australia, Africa is a gorgeous place to shoot a film.  This movie has beautiful landscape shots and lovely natural colors.  I was very much looking forward to this, and while I enjoyed it, I think it lost its footing in the last third of the film.  However, there’s some excellent imagery and a few very creepy moments.

crowbait: It’s always really interesting to see a zombie movie play out in a foreign environment. The zombie has always been seen as a metaphor for disease and witnessing the destruction of Africa this way, as the white people flee, is poignant. The antidote for the Resident Evil 5 video game, which started with a similar premise and quickly lost its way.

Jenny: The only new release shown and the only title projected digitally; both very unusual for an Exhumed Films event. I was very excited to see The Dead because I’d heard lots of intriguing things. That it was dangerous to film, that the locations were both beautiful and breaking new ground… it sounded amazing. After seeing it, I do appreciate the choice of setting and its relevance to social issues, but was rather disappointed by the film itself. Just another zombie movie.

 

6. Trick or Treat

Hint: Totally stupid, totally awesome Satanic silliness.  Year: 1986 

crowbait: Yes! One of my favorites! I’d seen it before of course but I’m never going to complain about having a chance to see this rock and roll nightmare. What’s really great about this film is that you can tell real fans of shock rock were behind it. It never descends to the level of parody: Embracing it’s subject matter for laughs rather than abusing it. Even though it’s about a satanist rocker using back-masking to cast spells and resurrect himself from the dead to get some revenge, there’s never any preachy nonsense about devil music, except for a hilarious cameo by Ozzy Osbourne as an anti-smut reverend.

StayFrosty:  Crow is right on all counts.  I hadn’t seen this before, so it really was a great surprise.  I loved it.  And the facial expressions on our Satanist rocker – oh man, they are excellent.

Jenny: I’d seen this before and I was so happy to see it again. The Osbourne cameo is fantastic and the villain is hilarious. Best movie ever? Well… maybe not, but a must-watch if you don’t hate fun. Possibly my favorite film screened at the Horrorthon. 

 

7. Night Warning

Hint: Underappreciated, over-the-top slasher/psychosexual thriller.  Year: 1982

Jenny: I’m so confused about this one. I’ve seen a number of post-Horrorthon reports taut Night Warning (AKA Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker) as the pick of the event. There’s definitely some dialogue here, featuring over-the-top homophobia and incestuous professions, to shock and amuse slasher fans, but I don’t get it. I got bored and left, so I can’t give it a proper review. There’s plenty of love going around for this tale of serious family dysfunction, though, so folks into exploitation may want to check it out.

 

8. Frankenhooker

Hint: Unconventional adaptation of a literary horror classic #1.  Year: 1990

StayFrosty: This was my first time seeing Frankenhooker.  Very much in the vein of Re-Animator (except our mad scientist is from Jersey), it mixes humor and horror in equal measure.  Probably more humor than horror, but a very funny and clever take on the Frankenstein story.  The stuff with the super crack wasn’t really necessary, but what can you do.

crowbait: Once the actual monster awakens and the rampage begins, the movie’s entertainment value soars. Unfortunately, it’s a long slog to get there and it doesn’t last long. There’s some tacked on commentary on the sad state of women who fill a need that has always has been a part of society and who are abused and destroyed for doing so but that’s never allowed to get in the way of gratuitous, unattractive nudity, pimp-slapping and “super crack.”

Jenny: I have tried (Basketcase) and I have tried (Bad Biology), but I’m just not a Frank Henenlotter fan. With that said, I really enjoyed this sleazy little flick. I’m sure the party atmosphere of a tired giggling crowd contributed to the positive experience, but I do think it’s worlds better than the rest of Henenlotter’s catalogue. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for laughs and trashy fun.

 

9. Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde

Hint: Unconventional adaptation of a literary horror classic #2.  Year: 1976

crowbait: I have to wonder about the underlying message here about how black people shouldn’t try to “be white” by becoming well-educated medical professionals and scientists. Eh, maybe I’m reading too deeply into what is obviously an excuse to see pimps and cops destroyed by a black man with a bullet-proof layer of white skin. (That’s a whole other can of symbolic worms.)

Jenny: It’s getting late at this point and the audience is tiring. I suspect some of the weaker less engaging selections are placed in this slot where folks inevitably start zoning out. So many of these blaxploitation twists on classic monsters start out with promise, but turn out to be slow-paced disappointments that drag on and wear out their welcome before long. Especially hard to get into after the rude guilty pleasures of Frankenhooker, I was very bored.

 

10. The Legend of the Wolf Woman

Hint: Infamous, sleezy, and bizarre Euro-horror/sexploitation movie.  Year: 1976

Jenny:  Basically an Italian rape-revenge movie with gratuitous full-frontal and delusions of lycanthropy. I’d seen Wolf Woman before; found in one of those cheap and glorious 50-packs Mill Creek churns out constantly. I sort of half-watched it then and I fear that’s the best way to do it. Once again, it’s amazing how some of these films with bad dubbing, hilarious dialogue and silly effects can get boring so quickly if the pace is slow and the scenes are repetitive. Even viewers attracted to the female form will tire of seeing this lady dance naked in a circle of torches for eternity. Adding goofy werewolf prosthetics to the naked dancing can only help for so long. It might be fun to throw it on during a party, but it doesn’t deserve your full attention. I fought sleep so hard during this film and I’m certain I lost.

 

11. Blood Diner

Hint: This is a goofy gore/sleaze-fest that will probably make your brain hurt with its sheer stupidity. It’s 5:30 in the morning, what did you expect?    Year: 1987

Jenny: I’m afraid this isn’t a review at all. This is the inevitable movie I slept through. I didn’t want to. I’m so ashamed. Every time I woke up for a minute, something tacky and horrible was happening onscreen and then I was out again. I’ve been told by more than one source that what I’m describing is the best way to enjoy Blood Diner, so I’m fighting my desire to seek it out and rewatch while awake. Dare I ruin my delirious 5:30 in the morning memories? Uh… highly recommended as a movie to sleep to.

 

12. The Burning

Hint: Star-studded” slasher semi-classic.  Year: 1981

Jenny: After a nice breakfast break, I’d recovered from my Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde and Wolf Woman woes. The Burning, definitely a classic, was a great way to start a new day of film overload.

Regarding the hint, both Holly Hunter and Seinfield‘s Jason Alexander made their film debut in this campgrounds slasher. Based on the old “Cropsey” urban legend, a summer camp caretaker is horribly burned and disfigured by a group of campers when a prank goes terribly wrong. Years later, Cropsey returns to the camp for brutal revenge. Slasher fans should check out The Burning for creepy kills (many featuring that terrifying pair of shears), successful shocks, and a rare Final Boy.

 

13. Maximum Overdrive

Hint: Usually, this is the spot where we show an “animals attack” movie. Well, there are no animals here, but people definitely get attacked in this silly sci-fi/action/horror amalgam.  Year: 1986

crowbait: Ugh. I guess it’s a good thing this was made when Stephen King was frequently face down in a bucket of cocaine because then he at least has some excuse. Nonsensical plot inconsistencies, schizo characters, ill fitting music and overlong scenes.

Jenny: I am generally a fan of King, but I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t. The man shouldn’t direct. I left.

 

14. Meet the Feebles

Hint: For the first time ever, the Horror-thon does not end with a zombie film. In fact, it technically doesn’t even end with a horror movie. Instead, we close with this jaw-droppingly ridiculous/offensive/just-plain-wrong cult film favorite.   Year: 1989

Jenny: Meet the Feebles. Where do I begin? It’s The Muppets gone horribly horribly wrong presented by madman Peter Jackson. A relic of his wonderful and disgusting pre-Hobbit years.

This was an amazing conclusion to over 20 hours of movie madness. In a sick twist on the Henson characters we all know and love, puppets running a variety show succumb to their many vices—greed, drugs, sex, violence—and circle the drain as we cringe and follow along. It’s childhood corrupted. It’s both awful and hilarious. Peter Jackson, what have you done?

And that’s the last movie!

___________________________

Despite the occasional misses, the Horror-thon is a great time. There’s something special about not knowing what comes next and sharing the bewildered experience with an enthusiastic crowd of fellow genre nerds. With our senses and backs throughly assaulted, we are victorious, and go blinking into the sunlight. The end.

The Deadly Spawn

Posted: October 4, 2012 by crowbait in Film, Reviews

Filmed in New Jersey on a shoe-string budget with a cast of unknowns but some excellent monster effects, The Deadly Spawn is one of those cult horror films that, with an Arrow release, has remained cult.

A meteor crashes in the hills outside a typical sleepy town. Campers are the first to be shredded by the creature that emerges; a 6 foot high, three-headed, fleshy and phallic collection of toothy maws that soon finds its way into the basement of a nearby house. Once it has set up shop, the creature begins to populate the flooded basement with dozens of tadpole like spawn, equally hungry for fresh meat.

The action of the film takes place over a single rain-soaked day in Charles and Pete’s house. Pete is a typical high school nerd. Worried about his grades and trying to get his study partner to recognize his romantic interest in a passive/aggressive way. Charles is a different variety of geek; obsessed with horror films and with a bedroom full of zombie movie posters and special effects toys.

Their parents are the first to go, venturing downstairs to meet a grisly end. Then the electrician wanders in and is similarly chomped to pieces.  By this time the creatures mobilize and spread out from the house and it isn’t long before the tadpoles attack neighboring grandma’s vegetarian luncheon, chew their way through uncle Herb and force the kids to barricade themselves in the upper storeys of the house. Charles, like all young boys with an affinity for chemistry, mixes up some explosives to put the monster down in a fountain of gore.

The greatest attention was obviously paid to the special effects featuring lots of animated monster puppets and full prosthetic bodies being eaten into bloody chunks. Performances are so-so, with some more earnest work by the adults while the teens chew scenery. Young Charles is forced by the script to stare at monsters in confused horror for long stretches as the effects play out, and there’s only so long he can hold the expression before it looks more like quiet concern than fear of gory death.

The two young female characters are painted in very broad strokes. There’s Ellen, the good girl honor student on one side and Kathy, the naughty girl on the other. One of the more interesting twists in the filming is that Ellen needed to leave the project, so it’s the good girl who gets killed while the naughty one makes it to the film’s end. A reversal of the script that feeds into the ending in which the survivors are traumatized rather than triumphant.

The filmmakers borrow heavily from other horror films in what might be seen as homage but what I experience is more a grab-bag of ideas. Not all of them are appropriate. There are comedy moments, with grandma grinding up a tadpole in a food processor and serving it to her guests, some scenes that recreate the last few moments of Night of the Living Dead, and plenty of Fulci inspired prolonged kills but with the zombie replaced by the toothsome spawn. Scenes just happen and then end; the sense of time is confused between the concurrent and consecutive events.

Which would matter, but we’re really just here for the gore. And if you are too, it’s worth your time to watch The Deadly Spawn.

Submit to the 2013 Viscera Film Festival

Posted: October 2, 2012 by Jenny Dreadful in Events, Film, News

Big news this week for women in horror! The Viscera Film Festival is now accepting submissions. Check out the official press release and the festival’s horribly beautiful poster below! -Jenny

FEMALE HORROR FILMMAKERS CALL VISCERA HOME

2013 Viscera Film Festival: Call for Submissions is Open!

Horror photographer Joshua Hoffine, known for his work depicting children’s nightmares, lent one of his frightening images for the call for submissions poster… a menacing monsteress lying on a field of rose petals in the style of American Beauty, which illustrates the horror and beauty of Viscera’s mission in gorgeous, full-blooded color.

 

LOS ANGELES, CA, October 1, 2012 – Now that Halloween is drawing near, female filmmakers working in genre cinema are stampeding to Viscera as it announces its 2013 festival call for submissions. From October 1, 2012 through February 28, 2013 (culminating in Women in Horror Month), Viscera is accepting digital submissions for its 2013 festival season. Unlike most festivals, Viscera does not charge submission fees. Filmmakers interested in submitting should head to the Submissions tab of the main website, www.viscerafilmfestival.com.

For filmmakers whose work is selected, gore-soaked masses of thrilling experiences await. On the Viscera Film Festival Bloody Carpet Event, filmmakers pose for photos and meet fans and fellow filmmakers, as well as big-name celebrity guests. Films are screened in front of enthusiastic crowds (this July, Viscera screened at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles). Uniquely beautiful awards are given out, and there’s always an after-party. But the Viscera World Tour is the real draw: Festival-selected films are shown around the world throughout the year. As every filmmaker knows, the more a film screens, the greater the opportunity is for furthering a career in the industry.

Although Viscera’s primary mission is to promote female filmmakers, the Organization doesn’t believe in exclusion or domination, but in equality. Many men are co-directors/co-producers of the films programmed. Even scary little monsters (filmmakers age 18 and under) can gain support in their budding careers via Viscera’s Fresh Blood category.

I believe in the Viscera Film Festival and what it has done for women filmmakers everywhere by creating one of the few venues available to showcase the work women are doing in the genre and avant-garde film world. It is a small but steadily growing community and the Viscera Film Festival, along with its ancillary endeavors, act as a support system and a bridge for these filmmakers to find one another and connect on a creative and professional level. Without the film festival, I would not have met many of the bright and talented women filmmakers, actors and producers that I now work with on a daily basis.”

Amber Benson, Director/Actress (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drones)

As a producer of genre films, I can assure you that there is no other organization in the United States which has taken on these objectives with the degree of passion and commitment as VFF.”

Elizabeth Stanley, Producer (Dark Path Chronicles)

Thanks to their championing of females who write, direct and produce horror films, I have been given the chance to share my voice and vision with a wider audience, which has facilitated some significant opportunities in my career.”

Devi Snively, Filmmaker (Confederate Zombie Massacre)

About the Viscera Film Festival and Viscera Organization:

The Viscera Film Festival was created in 2007 by Shannon Lark to encourage and promote the work of women horror filmmakers. The fest has grown each year, morphing into a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with an ever-expanding, dynamic staff of men and women who eat, sleep, and breathe genre cinema. Beginning, as a touring festival, Viscera has become a highly anticipated genre event in Los Angeles, complete with red carpet (what we affectionately refer to as the “Bloody Carpet”), celebrity guests, and a raucous after-party. 2012 marked the third annual Bloody Carpet event in Los Angeles at the Egyptian Theatre. Viscera’s tentacles have encircled the globe and films programmed at the festival have screened all over the world.

About Viscera’s other festival and organizations:

EtheriaFilmFestival: Viscera’s brand-new sci-fi/fantasy festival recently premiered in Boston, MA on September 15, 2012 to a nearly sold-out crowd or ravenous sci-fi fans. This sister fest was created because of the enormous amount of high-quality fantasy and sci-fi films were submitted to Viscera; the Organization created a festival just for these films. http://www.etheriafilmfestival.com

WomeninHorrorMonth: Women In Horror Month remains under Viscera’s bloody umbrella, as Viscera and WIHM, founded and executed by Hannah Forman, shares the same positive mission: To educate the public about women’s roles (via the horror genre) and how equality can be attained. The WIHM Board of Directors approves WIHM-created content. Wherever you see the WIHM seal, you’ll know that it’s “WIHM Approved”.

http://womeninhorrormonth.com

The Loved Ones

Posted: October 1, 2012 by StayFrosty in Film, Reviews

All proms come with power tools, right?

What better way to kick off the best month of the year than with a little blood-spattered love story?

Made in Australia in 2009 but just finding a release in the States now, The Loved Ones, written and directed by first-time filmmaker Sean Byrne, centers around Lola (Robin McLeavy), a shy young lady who asks cute but damaged Brent (Xavier Samuel from my new favorite shark movie, SHARK IN A GROCERY STORE!) to the prom.  Brent must say no – he’s in a relationship with a nice girl who’s helping him heal after a tragedy.  Lola, however, is not a lady who takes no for an answer.  So logically, the best way to deal with this rejection is to kidnap Brent, tie him up, dress him up in a tux, and subject him to various tortures?  It’s just like a normal prom, right?  It’s like Pretty in Pink by way of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (complete with a clever homage to the dinner/hammer scene).

This movie has a reputation for being gory, and that’s not a lie.  Brent suffers some serious brutality in the name of love and prom.  But the real star here isn’t the red stuff.  It’s the characters, especially Lola and her rather questionable relationship with her “Daddy.”  McLeavy as Lola is just terrific – completely unpredictable, petulant and demanding like a teenager, sexual like a grown woman, and totally, gleefully insane.  This girl knows she’s nuts, and is perfectly okay with it.  You know she’s going to hurt someone (the poster can tell you that), but you can never quite guess which direction of crazy Lola’s going next – and how extreme that mood swing will be.  But it’s all in the name of love, right?  She’s just looking for love!  And she has her family around to help her fulfill all her prom dreams.  Especially her Daddy.

John Brumpton as “Daddy”

Daddy, played with few words but incredible facial nuance by John Brumpton, brings the creepy so strong that even though Lola’s the one with the knife, it’s Daddy who you keep watching out of the corner of your eye.  And the two of them together give you a relationship that is absolutely unsettling (their cheerful yells of “We can’t hear you!” over Brent’s tortured screams is especially effective), but also strangely similar to a touching portrait of father and daughter.  You know, if father and daughter were both psychotic torture/murderers.  For them, this is like a game mixed with a sort-of romance that’s about as screwed up as it gets.  Again, Brumpton conveys so much of this wordlessly, and McLeavy excellently plays the knife edge (sometimes literally) of young-girl ignorance and womanly awareness.  And while it’s pretty damn obvious that Lola and Daddy’s feelings might be more than familial, with one possible exception, it’s not overplayed.

Maybe he’s okay…

As a director, Byrne makes some smart choices.  He creates likable characters – when Brent turns Lola down, it’s not because she’s a loser, it’s because he already has a girlfriend.  He doesn’t mock or torment her.  It’s a perfectly normal reason to say no to someone, and it makes his capture later that much more upsetting, because there’s no “jerk guy comeuppance” to enjoy.  This is an honestly nice guy with some shitty life experiences even before Lola; a tragedy from his past that not only helps him endure the impending tortures, but even gives him reason to suspect he deserves them.  It’s not “he’s a MAN, so he’s so tough and can handle all this torture stuff!” These are sympathetic and realistic character traits absent in most films in the genre.

Just another normal family dinner

There’s a lot more to this movie, such as a subplot with a couple actually attending the prom, but I don’t want to give too much away and spoil all the fun.  Personally, after the credits rolled, I kept remembering the scenes with Brumpton and McLeavy (and Samuel, but his character was a little out of it at the time).  These two give special meaning to the word dysfunctional, and you’ll enjoy watching them play it out.  As for Byrne, he can count me as someone who’ll be looking forward to what he does next.

Given how much derivative crap is out there, this wild, brutal and just plain crazy original is well worth your time.