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Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas Horror Story (2015) #441

A film that uniquely celebrates the Christmas holiday, "A Christmas Horror Story" is just want horror fans have been asking for. An anthology of loosely connected stories that are inspired by the various degrees of success. Two of the stories are obviously connected to holiday lore, the third story's holiday or religious inspiration makes enough sense for me, but the the fourth story could honestly have taken place any time of the year. This doesn't change the fact that they're all pretty entertaining stories, ranging from serious to over the top fun. This isn't the best movie and it could have been better given the material to work with, but it is still better than not. 

As I mentioned, "A Christmas Horror Story" is made up of four separate stories that are loosely connected by a single character in a different story. The first story is about three high school students that break into their school on Christmas Eve to film a documentary, the second is about a family that is hunted by the Christmas spirit Krampus, another story is about a police officer who takes his wife and young son out to find a Christmas tree on private property and the horrors that follow after his son goes missing, and the fourth and final story line is about Santa Claus defending himself against his elves after they become ill and turn into bloodthirsty, profanity spewing zombies. William Shatner even guest stars as a radio DJ who makes references to some of the events taking place throughout the film.

It is unavoidable for anyone watching "A Christmas Horror Story" to begin comparing it to the Halloween themed film "Trick 'r Treat". Both take place on a beloved holiday, both have characters that tie the different stories together, and each has several recognizable themes related specifically to their holiday. One film is clearly stronger and more fulfilling than the other but both films can still be appreciated. An interesting side note: the director of "Trick 'r Treat", Michael Dougherty, released his holiday horror-comedy "Krampus" the same year that "A Christmas Horror Story" came out.

"A Christmas Horror Story" may not have much value in watching more than once. The scenes cut from one story to the next quickly and randomly, and then suddenly wrap up a bit too early. The story involving William Shatner was fun and provides a satisfying ending for the film. Recommended for anyone looking for a lite horror film for the holiday season

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pontypool (2008) #439

"Pontypool" is one of the more unique horror movies that I've seen in the past ten years, possibly the most unique since "Uzamaki". This movie is a great example on how to properly tell more than show what's going on, and the fact that the entire movie takes place in a radio station makes perfect sense. The premise of the movie is simple - the residents of the little town of Pontypool, Ontario, are succumbing to a viral diease that makes them crazy and murderous, forming in to mobs and killing the uninifected. But here's the catch, the virus is passed through words, specifically the English language! You can tell when someone is infected when they begin in repeating the same word over and over again, as if they forgot what it meant and they're trying to remember.

Stephen McHattie plays morning radio host Grant Mazzy, a man who is most definitely not happy with where he is in life. This is a great character to watch, a big city personality who bulldozes his way past and through his agent, his producer, and even the audience that he's broadcasting to. He's not a bad person, he's just not suited for a small town setting. His strength is radio presence, his commanding voice, and his ability to take hold of the breaking story. 

There is a delightful underlining sense of humor that sprinkled throughout the film. Some of the moments shine through with the characters honest reactions to the chaos and absurdity. One such moment is when Mazzy is trying to console his producer Sydney after an acquaintance is killed, and she off handly reveals a shocking secret about that person. Another "wtf" gem is a cameo appearance by Tony Burgess, who wrote both the novel and screenplay of "Pontypool". 

"Pontypool" is an extremely enjoyable film that you'll want to watch more than once. It's clever and thought provoking, with just a touch of gore and violence to really set the tone. Easily one if my favorite horror movies in the last few years.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cabin Fever (2016) #440

Dear Mr. Roth,


Why did you produce this piece of garbage? Did this in able you to pay for an upcoming project that wasn't being financed? Did you want to make sure that  someone wouldn't come along and make improvements on your already wonderful film? Why are the scenes, the dialogue, and everything about this film a the same or a cheap imitation of the original? Why couldn't your team hire actual actors that had some kind of screen presence or personality? They all suck! This was worse than trying to watch a high school drama troop attempt to perform "Cabin Fever" on stage. I thought The great John Carpenter was making a mistake when he was an executive producer for the the remake of "The Fog", but you have clearly proven that he was at least attached to a gem that that tried to make the movie their own. There is nothing redeeming about this movie at all and I feel like my time watching it was a waste. I approve of most of the mov that you attach your name to and work on, but this was a mistake that we, the audience, can never forgive. Please don't make this same mistake again.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Blair Witch (2016) #438

"Blair Witch" is a respectable sequel that continues the original legend that is established in "The Blair Witch Project"There are some familar feeling moments in the film as well as some clever use of modern technology, such as ear piece camera/mics and a video drone. The origin of the Blair witch is discussed, what happened after Heather, Mike, and Josh went missing and how the residents reacted. I enjoy the reason why the campers go into the woods, Heather's little brother wants to find the mysterious house where she was last seen alive. I like how the people who go with him are lifelong friends as well as a girl making her own documentary. And I approve how the people who found the most recent clue want to tag along as well. This tallies six potential victims to be picked off one by one. 

"Blair Witch" does stumble slightly as a sequel when it comes to adding something new while building on the original. The downsides of the film, for me at least, include too many cheap attempts at having people jump into the camera and horrible non-subtle noises in the woods at night, a weird Bermuda Triangle style effect about the woods, an odd infection that one of the campers suffer from, and almost the same story beats from the original "The Blair Witch". Finally, this film ruins what the original did so well, it shows too much. 

The ending of "Blair Witch" leaves the question - what happens next? The actual ending of this film isn't as ambiguous as "The Blair Witch Project", but I can't help but wonder if there will be an attempt to make yet another sequel? How would they expand the existing story and what would they add to the established mythology? Will horror fans remember this film as fondly as the original? 

Overall, I enjoyed the movie even though it felt more like a remake than a sequel. There were moments that I laughed out loud at the characters, and parts that I felt engaged and had no idea what was going to happen next. I wished it had been a bit more original but at least I wasn't completely disappointed. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Green Room (2015) 437

'Although "Green Room) may not be a traditional horror film but it does have the intensity and thrilling moments of one. The movie neither failed or exceeded my expectations because I didn't really have any going in. All I really knew about "Green Room" was that it had Patrick Stewart ("Lifeforce") playing the leader of a white supremacist group that's trying to kill a punk band that played at his club, and that is exactly what it is. Stewart's performance is top notched as the character Darcy, a calm and collected leader who is trying to rid his bar of a little "problem". He's dangerous, respected, and he knows what he's doing. 

Anton Yelchin ("Fright Night") stars as the guitar player for the punk bank the Ain't Rights; he is easily believable as the terrified band member who was only trying to do the right thing by calling 911 when he walks in on a murder scene. And Anton's co-star and love interest from "Fright Night" Imogen Poots ("28 Weeks Later") rounds out the cast as Amber, another unfortunate witness of the gruesome murder that occurs in the club's green room. Alia Shwkat ("Arrested Development") is another recognizable face, playing Sam, the group's bass player. 

The action sequences and the violence involved are all rather intense and come across as realistic. One moment that really stands out for me is when someone gets shot in the face by a shotgun; you see enough of the damage done before the camera switches view. There is also a scene where Anton's character, Pat, gets his arm hacked up by machetes, leaving the limb bloody and almost useless. The most brutal act of violence might be inflected by the attack dogs that Darcy's men use on the band members. Again, very intense.

Overall, the movie is worth seeing just to watch Patrick Stewart's performance, a role that he considered to be very challenging. This film also marks Anton's final movie premier before his untimely death, R.I.P.

Monday, September 5, 2016

He Never Died (2015) #436

After watching "He Never Died", it's impossible to imagine anyone but Henry Rollins ("Wrong Turn 2""Feast") playing the lead role of Jack in this film. His performance as Jack is the best I've ever seen of him and his deadpan delivery throughout the movie is pitch perfect. I was weary about watching this film and kept overlooking it because I saw that it was described as a comedy/drama/thriller but that labeling is dead on and actually works in the production. "He Never Died" is a movie that I highly recommend to everyone, horror fan and beyond.

As the movie title suggests, "He Never Died" is about an immortal, Jack, who lives among us but could care less about anything that goes on around him. This is an honest and realistic approach to this kind of character; how long would it take before everyday problems become nothing more than a nuisance to someone who is immortal? Even the during the action scenes, Jack is relaxed and basically unphased by the violence that he inflicts or recives. Jack has a very strict daily routine that hits a bump when he finds out that he has a young adult daughter, Andrea, from a very brief fling he had. He brings her along to bingo and to his favorite local diner. His interactions with her and the waitress of the diner that he frequents are so deadpan and honest that it takes them by surprise, even the the waitress, Cara, who has served him countless times before. 

The antagonists that interrupt Jack's peaceful routine are a pair of mobsters who are looking for a hospital intern that delivers packages to Jack everyday. The intern that works for Jack owes the mobsters money, but their shakedown is interrupted when Jack shows up. After a failed attempt to kill Jack, they resort to kidnapping Jack's daughter Andrea, who was staying with Jack after meeting him a couple of days earlier. Instead of running to her rescue and leaving her to die, Jack is forced to seek out who exactly is calling the shots after a kill team is dispatched to the diner that he goes to every evening. With the help from Cara the waitress, Jack goes out to save his daughter and put an end to the mob once and for all.

The story twists, Jack's dark secrets and mysterious, and the supporting characters making this film fun and unusual. This is most definitely a film to watch for any and all Henry Rollins fans!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Don't Breathe (2016) #435

Intense, intense, intense; that's the best way to describe the film "Don't Breathe", the newest film from director Fede Alvarez ("Evil Dead") and co-producers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert. It's a simple premise that delivers in every way; three young adults break into a rundown house to steal a fortune in cash from a blind veteran. The small cast of main characters keeps the story running smoothly and at a brisk pace and the film doesn't rely on gore or jump scares since the entire film is one long scare. My only complaint is that we really don't get to know too much about the three thieves, so it's hard to sympathize with them too much when things run astray.

What makes this movie work so well is the use of sound as well as visuals in certain scenes. Like the movie "Hush", one of the main characters has a sensory deficiency and that handicap plays directly into the plot. Unlike "Hush", "Don't Breathe" utilizes this detail perfectly and actually makes it important to the premise of the film. In this film, the blind man has home court advantage and it doesn't matter that he's blind because he knows every inch of his house and has grown to live with his disability and has learned to depend on his hearing that much more. 

Jane Levy is the main antigonist/protagonist in don't breathe, returning to work with Mr. Alvarez after starring as Mia in the 2013 "Evil Dead" film. Like most leading women in the horror genre, her character is all kick ass and "can do", more than holding her own along the side of her two male partners. My favorite moment of this is when she tells the other two that she's going to climb through a window so they can get inside; one of the guys tells her she isn't being made to do it, she informs him that she's choosing to by her own choice.

Of course some people may complain that there are a few plot holes or situations where they'll ask why didn't the characters do this or that, but I think that's looking at the film much to closely. This is a great way to spend 90 minutes, just getting lost in the moment of a really fun movie. Fede has proved that he has range as a horror director and I look forward to the next project he works on.