Sunday, May 31, 2009

Splinter (2008)

This movie really impressed me. I found myself enjoying every minute of it. The gender role reversal of Jill Wagner and Paulo Costanzo, whom I haven't seen since Road Trip (2000), and their interaction as boyfriend and girlfriend was not only believable, but compelling--that is, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment they interacted with one another. The relationship was real, and having Jill Wagner as the more aggressive, masculine of the two (Paulo basically played the same brainiac character from Road Trip) was a great idea. Jill Wagner is the girl who hosted the recent TV show Wipeout, in case you were wondering.

If you're in the mood to be entertained, I recommend this movie. In fact, you don't even have to worry about "wasting money" if you have a Netflix account; Splinter is available for instant viewing! Seriously, the film doesn't waste a moment on screen. Every shot, every word, adds to the film's delivery. And on top of the acting, a surprising amount of gritty gore is thrown in! It's amazing what was pulled off in the low-budget horror flick.

The best line from the movie is Jill Wagner's reassurance to the fugitive: "It's okay; we're cutting your arm off."

(P.S. I know I didn't mention anything about Shea Whigham.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Martyrs (2008)

Not sure how to review this one! It's an intense movie split into three acts, but to review all three acts would be to give the movie away. As such, I will attempt to be as evasive as possible. Once again, the only way to experience the full effect of this horror flick is to forgo reading synopses and watching trailers. Just go in cold, let it ruin you, and deal with it.

The first act was amazing. It was entertaining, intense, gory, fast-paced; everything about the first act screamed high production value, the right choice of actors and actresses, and skilled directing. Both the visuals and the sounds were heightened for our viewing pleasure. Truthfully, the movie could have ended with a little twist at the 45-minute mark and I would've been a happy camper. But it didn't.

In order to keep from ruining it for those who read reviews without watching the movie first, I'll refrain from saying anything about acts two and three.

If you've read anything about this movie, you've probably read that the movie left people stunned, numb, low, and speechless. Well, it's true. When this movie ended, I looked at my friend with whom I watched it and saw a pallid, silent figure who resembled the otherwise jocund hockey fanatic. We both agreed that the second act was a bit too long (i.e. too hard to watch, especially for that length of time) and the third act was just outright bizarre!

Today I feel as though I'm floating through space while my subconscious performs the temporal motions of my usual life. I can't decide if I liked the movie as a whole or not. As I've said, the first act was an A+, but combined with the rest of the movie, I just don't know. It definitely messed with me, which is why I watch horror movies to begin with, but I don't know if I wanted these particular emotions stimulated (or, rather, singed off!).

This is not a movie for everyone, but if you love being pulled down into the dark recesses of misanthropy, by all means, throw this DVD into the player, heat up the Jiffy Pop, and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Valerie on the Stairs (2006)

This movie wasn't by any means outstanding, but as an aspiring fiction writer myself, I couldn't help but embrace the plot. Also, all the little "writer" details were pleasing: the use of Courier New font; the backspacing and correcting of the film's title; "Doc Brown's" (he will never be Christopher Lloyd) self-correction of well versus good; the constant reminders that writer's a far from sane; and, of course, the rejections slips. Other than that, the movie was just okay. A few musical stings and some cliche mirror stunts.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Skin Crawl (2007)

Solve a crossword puzzle, read a book, knit a sweater, play a game of tetris; whatever you do, don't waste your time with this garbage!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Bloody Valentine (2009)

Synopsis: A vengeful coal miner threatens a small mining town.

Like(s): This is the first DVD I have purchased in years. I made the purchase solely for the 3D technology (and, of course, the nifty 3D glasses); Netflix didn't appear to have the 3D version. It was better than I expected, despite the deteriorated vision in my right eye. Objects in the foreground effectively stood out right there in my living room, freshets of blood spurted into mid-air, and a pickax was in my face more than a few times! It was definitely the most fun I've had in a long time. In fact, I spent more time paying attention to the details of the 3D technology than to the plot (not that I seemed to miss anything in the end).

Dislike(s): The character's were paper-thin. I really felt like I was watching an audition. And, yeah, it was a generic 90's style slasher. (Also, the poor vision in my right eye caused everything to look far "greener" than I would have preferred, but that's not the movie's problem!)

Candidate For Omission: Not unless you watch in 2D.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Black Cat (2006)

Synopsis: Events that inspire Edgar Allen Poe to write The Black Cat.

Like(s): I'm currently writing a paper on Poe and his personal theory on dreams (specifically viewing "wakeful dreams" as an achievement of the profound), so when I saw that there was a MoH film based on Poe and his story The Black Cat, I couldn't resist. And I'm glad I didn't. This movie combined other stories (e.g. The Tell-Tale Heart and The Imp of The Perverse) with a short overview of Poe's later life, specifically the trials and tribulations he faced. Elyse Levesque played a dazzling Virginia Clemm and Jeffrey Combs portrayed a striking Poe. Thank you, Stuart Gordon, for taking the time to freshen up this nineteenth century masterpiece!

Dislike(s): I have no qualms with this movie. As much as I want to say 'it could've been longer,' I know this was intended to be short, and it sticks to Poe's theory of brevity, as found in "The Poetic Principle."

Candidate For Omission: No.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Them (2007)

Synopsis: A couple is toyed with at their secluded home. (Seriously, this is the kind of synopsis I wish they'd start writing for movies. Even the terse synopses on Netflix say too much. And don't even get me started on trailers.)

Like(s): Olivia Bonamy, first and foremost. The use of sound--make sure you turn the volume up--really kept me guessing! The film gripped me with its heightened suspense and threatened my life until it was over. Though I enjoyed The Strangers, I have to head over to I Like Horror Movies and tell Carl that I'm casting my ballot for Them.

Dislike(s): If I told you, I'd be handing out spoilers. Suffice it to say the one thing I disliked by no means took away from the quality of this movie.

Candidate For Omission: No.

Also Try: The Strangers, High Tension, Funny Games, Eden Lake.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Descent (2006)

Synopsis: A group of women go spelunking and end up fighting for their lives.

Like(s): The chemistry between the girls, especially the night before their adventure, is outstanding. I felt like I was right there, hanging out and laughing with them. A few scares actually caused me to jump, and the creatures were eerily realistic! (I especially liked the close-up shot of the North Carolina license plate to give the appearance that this is actually in the Appalachian wilderness.)

Dislike(s): It was slow at times, but I can't call that a true "dislike" as it heightened the psychological dread of being in tight spaces two miles underground.

Candidate For Omission: No.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three... Extremes (2005)

Synopsis: Three short films from three extreme Asian directors: Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park, and Takashi Miike. Chan's Dumplings features a woman who will stop at nothing to recapture her beauty. Park's Cut features a disgruntled extra. And Miike's Box features a dark mystery surrounding a successful female novelist.

Like(s): I liked the diversity found in each movie. Going into this, I figured it would be an over-the-top gross-out fest, but Miike, especially, held back and delivered an artistic psychological film that I will watch again. In fact, Miike's entry was appalling in its tact; I'm used to a very different Miike. I haven't seen any other Fruit Chan movie's that I can recall, but Dumplings was by far the most disturbing of the trio. Park's was visually stunning, well-acted, and proved his skills as a director. Though the title implies that this is going to be "extreme," only Chan's entry begins claiming that status.

Dislike(s): Park's ending. Somebody explain!

Candidate For Omission: No.

Also Try: Oldboy, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Lady vengeance, Audition, Imprint.

The Mist (2007)

Synopsis: An inexplicable mist rolls into a small Maine town, trapping a group of people in a supermarket.

Like(s): This was a superb adaptation of a Stephen King short story. Unlike the open ending of the actual story, the movie's ending drove the theme of hope home. Speaking of the ending, it is almost as if Darabont wanted to make-up for the film adaptation of Cujo. The monsters were vicious. There were more than a few tense, suspenseful moments that had me holding my breath.

Dislike(s): Nothing comes to mind.

Candidate For Omission: No.

Also Try: Movies in the same vein.

Shrooms (2006)

Synopsis: A group of wily youngsters venture to Ireland to trip out on shrooms.

Like(s): It was unexpected. Read into that how you will. Perhaps my expectations were already quite low since I hadn't heard of this movie before. It was visually stunning, sprinkled with creepy scenes, and the acting was decent.

Dislike(s): The twist with the Final Girl was just okay, nothing mind-bending. Some of the POV stuff was lame.

Candidate For Omission: Yes.

Also Try: Timber Falls.

Audition (2000)

Synopsis: A formidable father sets up a mock movie audition in hopes of finding a new wife. His pick turns awry.

Like(s): Solid character development through slowly-paced drama. The last fifteen to twenty minutes are brutal. The female character is ever so creepy!

Dislike(s): Too slow despite the intended effect.

Candidate For Omission: No.

Also Try: Miike, Park, et al.

Lady Vengeance (2005)

Synopsis: The title says it all: a lady exacts revenge after being wronged and jailed. If you're familiar with Park's Vengeance Trilogy, you know the synopsis.

Like(s): Yeong-ae Lee's superb performance. She really lights up the screen. The actual "revenge" is brilliantly executed.

Dislike(s): It drags for a while.

Candidate For Omission: No.

Also Try: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy

Ichi the Killer (2001)

Synopsis: A sadistic killer...a gang leader...some violently assaulted women...well..schizo maniac...I give up. Suffice it to say this is a Miike film

Like(s): Nothing, literally.

Dislike(s): Bad acting, bizarre violence, wasted effort to "grose out." I don't hate Miike's stuff after seeing Audition and Imprint, this was just too bizarre for me.

Candidate For Omission: Yes.

Also Try: Audition, Imprint, Oldboy

Deer Woman (2005)

Synopsis: An attractive Native American woman enchants guys and then slaughters them.

Like(s): I liked the humor; it had the feel of an episode of The Office.

Dislike(s): This was by no means a horror movie. It was excessively cheesy..

Candidate For Omission: Yes.

Also Recommend: Anything else.

The Uninvited (2009)

Synopsis: Young girl struggles to connect the mysterious fragments surrounding her mother's death.

Like(s): I have a propensity toward anything with a Maine setting--perhaps it has to do with my voracious reading of Stephen King's work. The two sisters are likable and pull you into their lives. Their father, David Strathairn delivers a solid role, as always.

Dislike(s): The movie obviously targets a young crowd, thus the scares are few and always minor. Elizabeth Banks's character is overacted; they have her try too hard, therefore making her innocence almost immediately apparent. The twist is more pronounced than the original: A Tale of Two Sisters.

Candidate For Omission: No.

Also Try: A Tale of Two Sisters.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Brøken (2008)

Forget Voices, The Brøken is currently my favorite ADHIII film! How coincidental is it that I am currently working on a research paper that involves Poe's life and literature under psychoanalysis? When the movie opened with a quote from Poe's work, I sat back and soaked up the next hour and a half. Just like Poe's work (e.g. The Tell-Tale Heart, The Imp of The Perverse, etc.), the movie poignantly unveils a darkness within. At the same time, the movie is artistic and effectively builds suspense. The best part--and most Poe-like--is that it doesn't attempt to rationally explain why things are happening. When it comes to the human psyche, inexplicability is enough.

Some may consider it to be slow, but I interpret its "slower parts" as part of the underlying tone of dropping into a downward spiral. The movie has a handful of moments, such as the bathtub scene with Lena Headey, when it turns up the suspense and you just know something is about to make an appearance: sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Other cliches, like the person in the mirror, are dispelled and traded for more unexpected (and plot-fitting) scares.

There is one short collage while Headey is dreaming that is particularly disturbing and really made me feel the insanity as rendered in a Poe tale. It's amazing how they were able to carefully draw out the movie within an hour and a half without seeming to rush through everything--perhaps this is why they didn't try to explain the events that were occurring. And, to my knowledge, the closest Poe comes to actually explaining the madness behind some of his characters and stories is in the Imp of The Perverse.

The car crash scene, though a tad excessive with flashbacks, was great as well. I enjoyed seeing the slow motion and multi-angle playbacks, especially with zillions of tiny pieces of glass suspended in mid-air. This is atypical for an ADH entry, so I savored the special effects.

The Brøken takes its time crawling around in irrational psychological aspects and delivers a chilling film with the stunning Lena Headey at the forefront.

Final thought: Having recently watched Step Brothers, I struggled to take Richard Jenkins seriously!

Review Soundtrack:
Dave Matthews Band - "Jimi Thing"
System of a Down - "Toxicity"
Pink Floyd - "Have a Cigar"

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Autopsy (2008)

Though this is probably my least favorite so far (I've seen 5/8 from ADHIII now), it still didn't disappoint me. In fact, despite having seen this plot time and time again, Autopsy was fast, fun, and bizarre. Jessica Lowndes overshadowed perhaps everyone else on screen with an amazing Final Girl performance; it truly made me forget that I had seen this before.

I admit that I (a) forgot to take notes while watching the movie, (b) watched the movie very late, (c) am writing this post several days after watching the movie. So, perhaps you can read into this: I don't remember anything specific about the movie, but I enjoyed it overall. Usually I walk away from movies with a specific scene or quote that stuck with me, but in this case I have nothing. The best part about the flick is perhaps when we finally get to see the insane "human" life support system at the end.

Whenever I get to the point where I ascertain that the plot revolves around people being captured for torture, body parts, and so on, I immediately want to know why. Had this been The Brøken I would never have my explaination, but the plot behind the madness seemed to be that Robert Patrick (always creepy) was capturing people, tasting their spinal fluid (?), and using them to keep his wife alive. So, yeah. He has hired two brutes and a strange, buxom lunchlady (intone with Adam Sandler's song here) to govern the people that make their way to the pseudo-deserted hospital. In typical horror movie form, the film does a good job causing the audience to ask their television screen over and over, Why can't you people see that something is wrong here? But, to be fair, in Jamie Foxx's terms, we could "blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-co-hol!"

To sum it all up, it's not the best I've seen of the ADHIII so far, as I've said, but it's equally entertaining. You will be dazzled by Jessica Lowndes and perplexed by some of the movie's antics. But it is by no means worth missing.

Review Soundtrack:
This Or The Apocalypse - "We Are Debt"
Jamie Foxx - "Blame It"

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dying Breed (2008)

I know I said Autopsy was next, but despite the fact that it was at the top of my queue, Netflix popped down and shipped Dying Breed instead. The is the third movie I've watched from this year's ADH, and it maintains the continuity of a satisfying trend. Though not as good as Perkins' 14 or Voices--especially Voices--Dying Breed holds its own and delivers a gritty, frenetic horror movie, complete with likable characters and a good portion of suspense despite knowing by the cover and the title it's a cannibal flick.

Before saying anything else I'd like to mention that I spent the first 45 minutes straining to hear the movie over the most tumultuous dishwasher invented! Sometimes I wonder if it actually destroys all the dishes, cleans the fragments, and then pieces them back together. Also, I fell asleep just after it stopped and had to finish the second half the next day (just now). Not that it was so bad at the 45-minute mark I fell asleep; I was seriously fatigued after spending four hours in the sun, wearing a black graduation gown. The movie was a treat. I'm anxious for next year's selection if this is the route their headed.

The movie plays out like the best of horror movies and novels. We get a simple sequence of events in the beginning to alert us that 'this place is dangerous.' Then, four classic characters are introduced and sent to the dangerous place from the beginning. We have Nina and Matt--the only two who seem to be there out of scientific curiosity; and Jack and Rebecca, who seem to be there to hunt and to die, respectively. Nina plays the classic Woman Devoted to Research. Matt plays the Softy Who Has a Thing For Woman Devoted to Research. Jack plays the tattoo-plastered jock who engages in copulation (one of my favorite words, ever) with Rebecca, who plays I Am Only Here to Die. These characters were truly a joy to watch; they owned their roles and executed brilliant performances. Like I said, this movie keeps the streak alive for this year's fest. So far, it looks like whoever had a hand in accepting films wasn't in a hurry to get the selection over with.

The characters venture into Tasmania in search of the mythical Tasmanian tiger. They 'touch base' at a little town where everything is named after the Pieman (watch opening scene for background on that). For a while, the film plays out just like movies like Wrong Turn, and countless other films where city folk encroach on hillbilly territory, though it quickly redeems itself as it reveals some unsettling truths. The movie includes some flashbacks that appear to play in the mind of one of the locals, which is a nice touch.

Let's be honest with ourselves and call it what it is: a cannibal flick. So, yeah, it has a fair amount of predictability for a while. One of the group members ends up missing (can you guess which one?), the group gets split up, and a fair amount of flesh is torn. But unlike most flicks, Dying Breed has a handful of scare tactics that it utilizes effectively. And it takes a dark turn into a bleak hole and continues to plummet until a sinister ending! Seriously, all I could think about was Jack Ketchum's Off Season!

The only bad thing I can say is that it seemed like they really tried to shove the motive for the savage locals in the audience's face at the end. By that point, you pretty much understand that they are keeping their lineage alive by using female tourists to procreate (e.g. all of the flashbacks to Nina's sister giving birth). Also, it was as if they tried to lead you astray by inserting the Tasmanian tiger plot. Were they trying to fool us into thinking that the title and all of the brutality had to do with this rare species? This was a little confusing. Then, to further confuse matters, the closing frame revealed the fact that there really was a Tasmanian tiger in there with them after all, even though we saw it with our own eyes back when that scene happened!

The absolute best part is the nice little 'film splice' during the credits to reveal what was really in the pie our 'native' officer urged his fellow officer to indulge in. I had a fairly good idea what it was already, but the movie gets points for this. Thanks for the meat pies, Sweeney Todd!

Review Soundtrack:
Opeth - "Hex Omega"
August Burns Red - "The Seventh Trumpet"

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Voices (2007)

Just when I thought Perkins' 14 must have been the finest entry in this year's ADH, Voices, a Korean gem, viciously slaughters its way into first place (this could change, as I've only seen two of the eight films). What is it with Korean actors, actresses, directors, etc.? They just 'get' horror films; they understand what the audience is looking for. Voices makes you think, keeps you in suspense, twists, turns, disturbs, and soaks the screen with crimson gore! It also features Jin-seo Yun, who happens to be the gal from Oldboy and Lady Vengence--also great movies.

In typical Asian horror film fashion Voices is about a curse that will not go away, no matter what the characters try. After a lot of brutal violence (seriously, it's amazing for an ADH movie), the heroine seeks out a Wise-Old-Dude-Who-Understands-What-Is-Going-On, although he doesn't come right out and get to everything. He draws it out with his own story and then we (and the heroine) are left to digest it. Finally the movie picks back up with some closure and a twist that secures an enjoyable second-watch of the movie. Although, I have to say, this sort of twist is becoming a common theme in the movies I've been watching lately.

So, why I loved Voices. Not only was it violent, it actually had a handful of jumpy shock scenes that actually caused me to flinch. As my heart steadied, I revelled in the adrenaline that was pumped into my bloodstream and realized that this is what we watch these movies for. I also realized that it had been way too long since the last time I saw a movie that caused me to flinch, jump, and smile with satisfaction. Lately movies seems to be playing off of disturbing gore alone. Voices has more than a handful of scenes that will 'get' you, especially if you crank the speakers!

I'm going to stop there before going into anything else that would steal value from a first-time viewer (I know you're reading this, too, despite the "contains spoilers" warning). I would advise you to procure a copy of this film, kill the lights, crank the speakers, and enjoy. Don't even read the synopsis; as I've said, it's your typical Asian horror plot, but Voices resorts to great acting, invigorating special effects, and pulse-pounding action. Voices does NOT play out like your bottom-of-the-barrel B-movie.

In keeping with the Horrorfest III lineup, Autopsy is next...

Review Soundtrack:
Parkway Drive - "Pandora"
Becoming the Archetype - "St. Anne's Lullaby"
All That Remains - "Two Weeks"

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Perkins' 14 (2009)

I was actually a trifle speechless when the end credits rolled on this one. I mean, based on the previous After Dark Horrorfest entries, I expected the same hot, wet garbage juice as, say, Nightmare Man. And on another note, what's up with the advertsing of this year's already-passed festival? Back in February I went to get the dates and found the fest had already come and gone! Anyway, why was I speechless after watching Perkins' 14? Because it was simply a decent horror film; it was actually pretty good.

Okay, here it is: I am partial to Maine locale whether in books or in movies. Perhaps this is the sole reason I thoroughly enjoyed The Uninvited (US remake of A Tale of Two Sisters). Maine, for me, conjures up all of the great characters, plots, and atmospheres delivered by Stephen King in the 35 novels and 42 short stories I've read to date. Plus, Maine is just a darn great place to be! Though this movie didn't fixate on the typical lakeside cottages and rocky coastline, or lobster roll loving locals. Conversely, it delivered its punch mostly between a graveyard and a jail.

I'll be honest up front and admit that while the film is not necessarily horrifying, it effectively executes a dark, dismal atmosphere with its main plot (a troubled psychopath has abducted children and turned them into über zombies) and its subplots (a cop struggling with the abduction of his son; the cop's unfaithful wife due to an unfulfillment of needs; the cop's daughter hanging out with stoners in a graveyard and considering losing her virginity to the lamest male character I've seen in a long time). Everything about the movie shares a common theme: fear and regret.

And there was a good amount of gore! I was a little put off by the first few bloody scenes, as they seemed toned down, but as the film rolled on I realized that they were saving the good stuff for later--I've always hated movies that shove the goriest parts in your face at the beginning. It's not exactly on par with 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later, but the movie has its own small-town charm, and a deeper story than a science lab disaster. My only complaint with Perkins' 14 is the lame (Goth?) guitarist/boyfriend.

It seems to me that this year's entries could just be a turn in the right direction; that direction being the horror genre. This flick even has a great ending, even if it gets a bit predictable in the midst of the massacre. I'm looking forward to my next ADH movie, Voices, which should arrive from Netflix today.

Review Soundtrack:
Greeley Estates - "Desperate Times Call For Desperate Housewives"
The Dillinger Escape Plan - "Sunshine The Werewolf"

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