Friday, September 16, 2011

Cold Fish (2010)

Like a lot of Asian horror films, this one was about one hour too long. Had that been trimmed, I probably would've walked away more satisfied. As it is, I'm just sort of indifferent to the film, nothing really stuck with me except my impatience for the thing to be over. It's your typical good-guy-gets-bullied-and-caught-up-in-the-wrong-crowd plot, and it seems the movie was made more to make gratuitous use of Megumi Kagurazaka that anything else. So, if you're in the mood for a crime drama wrapped in typical black humor, this great. But, then again, I guess I have to be thankful that I watched a J-horror flick sans ghosts!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Clinic (2010)

Now here's a film that surprised me. In my usual fashion, I had eschewed information about the movie, including trailers, reviews, etc., so the only preconceptions I had were based on the cover art printed on the Netflix DVD. And based on that, I figured this was either (a) another vacation that ends in a black market ring for body parts, or (b) another gross-out torture flick. Well, sure, conventions are used from both subgenres--many well known horror conventions are melded together--but it ends up being fresh and interesting nonetheless. I commend James Rabbitts for his ability to keep the pacing with a slowly unfolding exposition regarding what, exactly, the point is with everything that's going on. There are carefully placed moments of plot-thickening and mystery, which compels the viewer to stick around until the very end. And there are a lot of wince-inducing flaws that are inevitable with such an ambitious, heavy plot, but overall the movie is very well done and interesting from start to finish.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tales From The Hood (1995)

I was just talking to someone the other day about how there seems to be a serious lack of good horror from the 90s; there are mostly brainless slashers and teen screams. And it's strange, too, because most people are bias toward the music and movies they grew up with. In my case, I grew up with 90s horror movies, but I favor the 70s, 80s, and 00s. Not sure why it took me so long to see Tales From the Hood, but before this one I could cite Braindead (Dead Alive), Event Horizon, and a couple others as good 90s horror. Now I can add a new selection! This one is packed with racism and social commentary, intertwined with big laughs and the quirky sci-fi format of Tales From the Crypt storytelling. Not to be missed!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Malevolence (2004)

Having watched Bereavement first, i.e. out of chronological order, I wondered how the experience would be. But it was hardly a factor; I probably could've watched them in either sequence with the same effect because the "big reveal" isn't so grand whether you know or not. There's more focus on the composition of shots, the coldness of kills, and the score. I didn't catch this with Bereavement as much, but in Malevolence Stevan Mena is essentially recreating Carpenter's Halloween. And the crazy thing is that, for me, it isn't off-putting. I quite enjoyed watching Mena work with Carpenter's materials: pillow case/mask, pulsing, stinging score, nondescript mechanic's jumpsuit, and so on. So, in sum, the movie as a whole is average, but as an homage to Halloween it is highly enjoyable.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Frostbitten (2006)

If I didn't know any better I'd think this was a product of the UK, for it displays that brand of British humor wrapped into a conventional vampire plot. But, lo, it's a Swedish export that proves they can do more than the no-nonsense, steadily paced, artistic Let the Right One In. When it comes to Swedish cinema, most are familiar with the bleak, fractured oeuvre of Ingmar Bergman; and coupled with the aforementioned 2009 hit (remade in the US as Let Me In), it's easy to view Swedish movies as inherently ominous and gloomy. Frostbitten is a fun, entertaining vampire flick devoid of dull moments, with well-paced and well-placed comedic value.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bereavement (2010)

This year I'm doing everything I can to stay on top of all the DVD releases so as to increase my selection for my end-of-year top ten picks. Not sure how I came across Bereavement, but after watching it I found that it is actually the prequel to a 2004 release entitled Malevolence, also helmed by Stevan Mena. So I'll be watching Mena's films in chronological order at least. The plot isn't as interesting as I'd hoped (perhaps watching Malevolence first would've changed that), but the production value was high enough to enjoy the film despite it surpassing the standard 90-minute mark. The acting was decent throughout with superb screaming that conveyed pure dread. Alexandra Daddario carried the weight of her heroine role deftly, even in the face of parodic family drama. So, all in all, worth a watch if you're not expecting too much. Also, bonus points for nods at Halloween.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Carrie (1976)

Sissy Spacek was absolutely the perfect choice for this adaptation of Stephen King's debut novel. Her performance was repugnant and charming, often at the same time. I felt terrible for her but I was horrified of her. In the end, though, I was rooting her on. Brian De Palma didn't waste any frames on this one; and the pacing of the final climactic prom scene creates whiteknuckled tension. Extra points for the effect of the car going backwards in the dream sequence!

Monday, August 22, 2011

BOOK: Shock Value (2011)

Just finished Jason Zinoman's book Shock Value, and I'm thoroughly satisfied with my experience. Zinoman's goal is to locate, trace, and analyze the transition from Old Horror (the costume dramas of Frankenstein, Dracula, etc., dominated by Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, et al.) to the New Horror. He uses Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho to define the inception of this transition to modern horror, and Targets (1968) as a killing-off of the Old Horror. From there, Zinoman dissects the innovation and progression of modern horror with Rosemary's Baby, The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, Carrie, Alien, and others. But more than just a history of modern horror films, the more intriguing, entertaining element of Shock Value is its abundance of anecdotes and bric-à-brac of behind-the-scenes tidbits taken from numerous interviews. Definitely a must-read for any horror fan.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zombie (1979)

Also known as Zombi 2, this is Lucio Fulci's own vision of a sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which was very successful in Europe (Dario Argento worked with Romero to create his own cut for the European market). Zombie has that classy washed-out, sandblasted look of 70s Italian-produced movies we're used to. But what sets this one apart are the crowd-pleasing FX and chilling macro-zoom angles. Sure, it's a typical zombie plot, but it boasts one of the most disgustingly memorable eye trauma scenes I can think of! And, as I've said, the FX and makeup design are phenomenal.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ward (2011)

This could've been a great movie. I'm all for the exhausted confused-girl-in-a-ward plot if the filmmakers are willing to do something new and exciting. And sure, the set design--lighting, colors, composition, etc.--was great. But the technical aspects of a veteran director weren't enough to save the film. It was terribly formulaic and rigidly acted (every character was a parody) thus blunting the ending's epiphany. Taking this one into account with Craven's recent My Soul to Take, I feel sure that these iconic directors are stuck in an earlier era.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dream Home (2010)

The only other Hong Kong-produced horror movie I've seen is Dumplings, and like that one this movie is centered around the social drama and a female character's obsession. Using the recent economic crises as a macrosociological argument, the film focuses on the individual's struggle for personal gain. Make no mistake though, it's a bloody violent experience with unforgiving camera work and gritty, claustrophobic colors and angles. The contrast of brutal scenes against a maudlin, sentimental, melodramatic exposition, interwoven chronologically, drives the movie headlong.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Saw the Devil (2010)

It's almost redundant to tag a movie as both "Korean" and "revenge," but at least the Koreans do the revenge plot better than anyone. For proof watch the Vengeance trilogy by Mr. Park or the recent release, The Man From Nowhere (more of an action thriller than horror). Luckily I went into this one cold; I knew nothing about it other than the cover art and the fact that Netflix predicted I'd like it 4.5 stars--quite high for my usually stringent rating. About 30 minutes in I felt like the movie had blazed through all the stages of a story: setting, characters, plot, conflict, climax, dénouement. I wasn't sure what could be done with the remaining 2 hours! Suffice it to say that I was thrilled with the direction of the plot, and the two leads could not have been more perfectly selected. And even though it was much longer than my usual ADD limit, I was glued the whole time, not to mention exhausted by the end. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Meadowoods (2010)

After the first thirty minutes I was ready for the girl of the trio to disappear. I get it. You're disturbed, angry, mad at the world. You hate life. The first act is largely a rumination of nihilistic inquiry that constantly ventures into foolish absurdity. But the movie redeemed itself for a while with a shot and mention of Oldboy! Then they select their victim and begin interviewing her. These interviews revived the movie. Whenever she was on the screen the movie worked. That is, it felt real and dreadful--undoubtedly what the filmmakers were going for. In the end, however, it's exactly what's expected and the last two shots (cuts to earlier interviews with Travis and Stephanie) should have been omitted.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Puppet Master (1989)

Ground-level POV accompanied by shrill synthetic tones, and it's not a Chucky movie. But the dolls don't seem as important as the boring group of psychics--perhaps a limitation of funds that restricted what could be done with the dolls? In any case, I'm looking forward to more interesting uses of the puppets in the subsequent installments.

Stake Land (2010)

A blend of many genres: apocalyptic, religious, survival, action, and of course vampire. I wasn't exactly thrilled to watch another vampire movie, but this one stands out. Great acting. Vicious effects and action sequences. Strong emotion. A likable hero. And Danielle Harris.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

It's a slow burn, and about an hour in it goes in a million bizarre directions. The acting and dialogue become laughable. The lead looks amusingly similar to Dane Cook at times. The ending did not have the payoff the preceding 90 minutes required. I'm bored and hungry.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Troll 2 (1986)

The town is called Nilbog (very creative), boasting a population of (if I remember correctly) 25. Enough said.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

[REC] 2 (2009)

When the original [REC] (known to American audiences as Quarantine, the remake) was over I wanted more. In fact, I wanted the movie to continue from exactly where it left off. Well, little did I know the franchise would continue as desired. And there's a third installment on the way! I really like what they did with this one. The action begins immediately and the filmmakers make use of multiple character/plot POVs and fancy PIP (picture in picture) cameras to keep the movie interesting (we know the real deal at this point after all). Plus, we get another great ending that has become the trademark of a great new horror series. Well done, Spaniards!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Insidious (2011)

It's been a while since I've seen a new release. Or, rather, it seems as if it's been a while--probably more like a month. I just haven't been blogging. Anyway, I've managed to steer clear of reviews, trailers, and other spoilers, diligently taking note of upcoming release titles and filling my Netflix queue, waiting patiently for DVDs to arrive. There are a lot of titles I've been waiting for: Cropsey, Stake Land, YellowBrickRoad, Serbian Film, The Ward. And as with Insidious, I know nothing or almost nothing about these films.

The problem is that I can't tell if being caught off guard was a good thing or not this time around. Typically I stave off all hype because I don't want my imagination to start shaping the movie, potentially resulting in a huge let-down when I realize that the movie "isn't what I expected." I don't want to expect anything, and this usually secures the fun and entertainment of experiencing someone else's creativity. With Insidious, however, I don't think I could have prepared for its often bonkers antics at all. I was caught completely off guard, and I'm not sure I liked it.


The scares are not really scares, and there's very little of the subtly that viewers will expect since Paranormal Activity is plastered on the marketing material. After the opening montage, which itself has a really odd tone, the viewer knows the deal: it's a haunted house without the mysteriousness of invisible entities. Every entity is placed right there for the viewer/character to see. Halfway through it gets very old. How many more ways can they show me another entity, I found myself thinking. So, again, I'm caught in this weird state of not knowing whether I liked being caught off guard by the nonchalance of the merging of the two dimensions, the matter-of-fact manner in which entities appeared, or not.

Not to mention the array of cliché devices that were halfheartedly deployed. In an attempt at brevity I'll stick with three. First and most obvious, the police are never involved. But reading Richard Laymon novels has rid me of my incessant need for characters to call the cops! Then again, the alarm is going off in the house, the front door is open, the wife and kids are upstairs, and this dude decides to wield a firepoker and mosey around for himself? Later in the film, the husband refers to himself as the "voice of reason," but he moves them out of the house (a first in haunted-house genre history?) and entertains the trio of paranormal investigators.

Second, the allusion to a husband with a big secret. This was the strangest portrayal I've ever seen. He's a (high school?) teacher who works until nearly midnight, telling his wife he's been grading tests and working late to pay medical bills. Two things here: teachers don't stay at work that late to grade papers, and they certainly don't get paid extra for it. Plus, just in case we're wondering about an affair, we get shots of him in an empty schoolroom doing nothing but flashing to the same bland shot of a kid in bed, which is used later.

And third, the exposition underpinning the husband's vague visions and the little quip about how he's terrified of having his picture taken. What was supposed (I think) to be a shocking revelation was delivered in yet another pattern of casual storytelling. I found myself thinking, Oh, okay, figures. Then, in the end we realize that it's another means of being able to show more entities in creative ways. Oh, and a setup for the ending.

Speaking of the ending, the crazy musical sting behind the bold red-lettered INSIDIOUS is so strange in the beginning but a good confirmation at the end. It was then that I realized I should've viewed the bizarre, off-centered opening montage as a staging of the entire pattern of the movie: a normal haunted-house movie slightly skewed at an attempt to be unique. Not sure if I can call it unique or not, actually; I'm not even sure I can consider it a good movie; but it's definitely entertaining if only for the interesting manner in which it is delivered. I can't help but feel the filmmakers took the two biggest complaints of Paranormal Activity (we never see anything, and, they never attempt to leave the house) and addressed them in the extreme.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Soul to Take (2010)

Rating: D-

I'm pretty sure this is a joke. Wes Craven was at a party talking with friends, and they bet him he couldn't rattle off an entire movie idea, complete with exposition, stock characters, and several convoluted twists, in 10 minutes. Well he did, and he took the bet to the next level: he made the movie. The dialogue we get is taken directly from the unedited (save for some minor grammatical and spelling errors) first draft. Thanks, Wes! And to make the joke even better, Craven's only real device is making sure you can't tell whether the movie intends to be serious or funny or both or neither.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

I wondered to myself how in the world one would make a sequel of this movie. Well, here it is, and it wasn't a bad effort. Nothing amazing, but it worked. At times it feels like more of the same, but overall, seeing as how a sequel was inevitable after the enormous success of Paranormal Activity, it was a fine effort.

Outpost (2007)

Had its moments, but nothing amazing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Let Me In (2010)

Rating: A

Seeing as how I picked the original Swedish film, Låt den rätte komma in, as the #1 DVD Release for 2009, I had vehemently sided with the group who truculently cried foul about an American remake...a year after the original...for seemingly no other reason than the "language barrier." So, yeah, I began the film with my arms folded, stubborn, bordering on disgusted. I might have muttered once or twice about how pointless the effort was. But, man, was this an excellent movie, let alone the absolute best remake I've ever seen, bar none.

And to think: Let Me In is helmed by Matt Reeves, director of Cloverfield, which I truly did not care for. Could be, I was at the end of my tolerance for overly shaky hand-held cam movies, but Cloverfield just didn't do it for me. Enough about that, though; I'm a Matt Reeves fan now. Just like that! Two new favorite directors within one week: first Adam Green and now Matt Reeves. This is some of the best cinematography I've seen in American horror. Terrific angles, superb lighting. Reeves captures and maintains the snow-laden bleakness and the 1980s setting of the novel (surely by now it's well known that this is a remake of a movie that was an adaptation of a novel), despite moving the locale from Sweden to Los Alamos, New Mexico. The only visual design I wish had been omitted was Abby's (i.e. Eli's) ocular effects and her erratic X-Menesque movements, both of which took a bathetic dip toward cheesy.

Aside from being beautifully shot, Reeves did a great job with the tone of the film. Somehow (and this is something I was worried about) the film tends more toward a darker, more horror genre film without losing the slow-burn coming-of-age character drama. The two genres are well balanced. There are moments, especially during the procurement of lifeblood, that are brilliantly chilling. And the tension between Owen and the bullies at school is so perfectly depicted, that, by the end, I felt terrified for Owen, the tension was palpable in a way I actually did not feel with the original. Furthermore, the film renders the sadness of Abby's harrowing existential situation and Owen's disheartening filial dilemmas. It's been a while since I've seen a horror movie that can both chill my skin and and genuinely tug at my emotions.

This is absolutely worth checking out. A big thank-you to Carl over at I Like Horror Movies for talking me into watching Let Me In with his recent review. Even if you're an Original Film Puritan, get a copy and give it a chance. This is a remake done right!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hatchet II (2010)

Rating: A+
Experience Vitals: Neflix DVD

I can tell you already, this is probably going to be at the top of my end-of-year list. It's been a while since I awarded a Netflix movie the highly-sought-after 5-star rating, but this one saw me not only clicking that right-most star but taking pride in the act to boot. And to think: I didn't really care for the cheesiness of Hatchet. Perhaps I just wasn't ready for Adam Green's tone and style. But I was reawakened with last year's Frozen, and now, after this masterpiece, it's safe to say that I am, in fact, yet another Adam Green fan.

I can't say I've seen such a great mix of horrific (creative) gore and humor in a movie, save for, maybe, Feast. But Feast isn't the best comparison, because I honestly had much more fun with Hatchet II. The only other movie I can think of that was in this vein of fun is Behind the Mask (which a Hatchet II character alluded to!), though it was sans gore. There were times that I had to pause the movie while I laughed, so as to not miss anything--two scenes in particular are worth the 90-minute treat above all else: the "chicken and biscuits and gravy" bit and the "that's just inappropriate" scene! Worth the whole effort.

And, on top of the incessant, brutal, gratuitous gore; on top of the brilliantly executed humor; Hatchet II has a spectacular setup--even better than the preceding installment, which is usually not the case. It is typical that a sequel be mere fluff that attempts to ride the coattails of its predecessor. Not so here! In fact, parts of the first act's exposition were quite chilling despite the jocundity and over-the-top horror. Kind of reminds me of one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace, who has the ability to shift gears and dip in and out of different (and sometimes conflicting) emotions within a single page.

The Hatchet Army has a motto that Hatchet II exemplifies: "Here to Save Horror."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)

Rating: D+
Experience Vitals: Netflix DVD.

I'm typically a bit forgiving with the Saw franchise because, argue if you will, it's been a pretty solid long-running franchise. Watch the first seven offerings of either Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street and I think it would be clear that the Saw films have remained comparatively strong. (Here come the pivotal conjunction!) But, that being said, this finale is not only an ultimate flop but a decidedly strange flop.

Halfway through the opening sequence, I assumed it had to be a dream, but, no, it wasn't; and it became clear that the movie intended it to be real and not a device of trickery toward a dreamlike intimations either. Of course, one has to keep in mind that this is another movie made for 3D (which explains the blood-splattered opening credits and various in-your-face elements), but the polished, almost fantastic opening scene didn't fit with the rest of the movie or the entire franchise's modus operandi for that matter. Maybe I missed something, but this opener seemed like more of the recent stock of thrills for the sake of thrills, especially found in 3D movies (I'm thinking of the Final Destination finale, for example).

From there the movie is just bananas. It reminds me of a postmodernism novel where the structure is a plot assembled around a pastiche of events related and/or unrelated events, which, I mean, no problem. I can deal with that, but it has to be done well. Saw VII feels largely unorganized, and I think the filmmakers were hoping to chalk it up to nascent instability and thus more frenetic and hastier than usual. Fine, but these traps were far more aggrandized than previous traps. Tedious, intricate traps, requiring time and precision, and certainly more than a single person, given the miraculous amount of time in which the traps are staged--not to mention the number of people involved. One thing I did like--though it was given away way too early--was the Ocean's 11-style infiltration of the holding cell toward the end. And other similar stunts lent the filmmakers some credibility for thinking beyond 3D-centric goodies.

As for the trademark Saw twist, this one is a reach but I do think it ultimately works. As usual, they reach back into a previous installment and grope for a character to revive (I don't feel this is giving anything away at this point). And it's easy to question how Jigsaw juggled all of these associates, but, then again, the franchise has done an excellent job of reasserting Jigsaw's prowess and intellect, so, yeah, I think it works. is it mind-bending? No. Does it wrap up the franchise well? Cyclically, maybe, but above all, this is a thin, sloppy finale.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

Rating: F
Experience Vitals: Netflix DVD

Because the film gave me so little, I will return the favor with a terse review: Unnecessary filmmkaing. I'm sure the 1970 original was intense, but after how far we (i.e. the audience, the people you make films for) have come, what's the point of this?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hausu (1977)

Rating: B
Experience Vitals: Netflix DVD.

(Credit for this pick goes to BC at Horror Movie a Day.) So, how to explain the movie, or, at the very least, how I feel about the movie? Imagine Evil Dead as a psychedelic acid-trip and you've got Nobuhiko Obayashi's House (Hausu). Well, no, that's not quite right. Imagine a Japanese screwball comedy crossed with a Japanese arthouse film, add in the antics of Evil Dead, and you're almost there! Like Mega Piranha, this one is made to be viewed with friends. This is a film made with one thing in mind: crowd-pleasing!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Buried (2010)

Rating: A
Experience Vitals: Netflix DVD.

There's a reason the name RYAN REYNOLDS is stamped in big block letters above the title of the DVD. Not only is he the only character you ever see, he carries this movie with so solid a performance he's the only character you need to see. And this could have easily been a bore fest, too, because, yes, it takes place inside a coffin for the entire duration of the film and the plot never deviates from the original setup. With this film the actor/actress has a lot of responsibility, and so it's a good thing Rodrigo Cortés locked in Reynolds for the role. Even if you're put off by the idea of monotony and redundancy, you should check it out. Believe me, I'm severely ADD, but the movie gripped me from the start and was over in what seemed like barely an hour. Within fifteen minutes Reynolds and the amazing camera work had me squirming in my chair from claustrophobia! Think of the tight tunnel scenes in The Descent, then amplify the feeling a few notches. At times I was afraid the film was getting too serious to be taken seriously, but I was relieved with a touch of humor (albeit black humor for the most part, given the situation) that not only lightened the mood but pulled me into deeper sympathy for Reynolds--so much so, in fact, that toward the end I found myself in the grasp of the movie's pathos.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ceremony (2008)

Rating: A
Experience Vitals: Netflix Instant on Wii.

Movie Spotlight! Has anyone else heard of this one? I looked around and can't find many reviews. Just like yesterday's movie, The Perfect Witness, this is one I never would've found without Netflix. And it was a hit! I love these slow-burn psychological/supernatural thrillers. The slow-burn structure typically yields more character development/sympathy/empathy and intensifies the creepiness of the subtle horror. I admit that this one, like Lake Mungo, was able to creep me out without overdoing anything--indeed, because of not overdoing it! If you liked The House of the Devil and Paranormal Activity (I recently took a liking to PA, so don't be misled by the old review), you'll like this one. The lead deftly carries the movie through the banal, the creepy, the absurd, and a messed up ending. This one is to be watched late at night, alone, with the lights out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Perfect Witness (2007)

Rating: B+
Experience Vitals: Netflix Instant for Wii.

The Perfect Witness is a small treasure I probably would have overlooked without Netflix's help, and by help I mean the fact that, for a year now, this movie has been shoved in my face every time I log into my account. So, finally, I took the bait, and I'm glad I did because Netflix was absolutely right on this suggestion. This is exactly the type of movie I like: psychological, but also smart (the two don't always seem to go together). It is a palatable execution of philosophical ideas without pretentiously eluding the viewer. Witness never tries to unnecessarily transcend itself. The tension steadily rises and the plot spirals out of control, all culminating in a superb ending. My attention never once waned. If for no other reason, watch The Perfect Witness to savor the performances of Wes Bentley and Mark Borkowski. Great suggestion, Netflix!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mega Piranha (2010)

Rating: A
Experience Vitals: Netflix Instant on Wii around 2300 on a Saturday night, 2 coffees and 1 Red Bull in, munching on gold fish (not a pun intended for the movie) that taste oddly like laundry detergent. Yes: laundry detergent.

How does one talk about a movie like this except to simply bring up scene after scene between laughter? "How about when...[laughing]?" "Remember how the...[laughing]?" "Can you believe...[laughing]?" And so on! A perfect blend of parody and camp and action--serious, large-scale action--all at a blisteringly fast pace, which is not only welcome but actually increases the comedic value of the film. Mega Piranha has to be seen to be believed, and I might suggest watching the big 2010 piranha-production, Piranha 3D, before watching this one because, in a way, Mega could be viewed as a sequel that picks up where Alexandre Aja left off. Also, the contrast of the two makes for a pleasant experience, too, as I feel they are both fine uses of the subgenre that Joe Dante started (not to discredit Jaws, here; I am thinking specifically in terms of scientifically jacked piranha). There is no possible way this movie could disappoint. Like Aja's take, it accomplishes well what it sets out to do. It is absurd, outlandish, preposterous, nonsensical, wacky, campy--but, above all, it is a blast! Like ThanksKilling, it is one to be viewed annually, with friends, savored over the years.

The Maze (2010)

Rating: D-
Experience Vitals: Netflix Instant on Wii, volume competing with violent dishwasher.

At times I felt as though I were watching a stage play. Here's a writer who doesn't have an ear for conversation, and a director who doesn't have sense enough to hear and feel the rigidity of the characters' verbal interactions. But it does have one thing going for it: it lives up to its title. It definitely revolves around a corn maze, and you can tell the filmmakers put most of their collective focus on the ending, which after spending such an extended amount of time in a superbly lighted, banal corn maze, just seems overreaching. But I did laugh once or twice and the unexpected Final Girl (that is, I expected the other girl to be our FG) stepped up at the end and delivered a solid performance.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Lodge (2008)

Rating: D
Experience Vitals: Netflix DVD rental watched at 0130 instead of being in bed, resting up for a full day at work; on favorite chair, munching on honey roasted peanuts and drinking Coke that is supposedly vanilla flavored.

There is another movie that started this way. I watched it recently, and I think it was Babysitter Wanted. The grim opening scene depicts a striking young girl who is bound and being tortured, only to be followed with roughly 85 minutes of mediocrity and pinholes of promise (Babysitter Wanted had the potential to be great, but it took a nosedive after the reveal). With the mystery unveiled at the beginning (The Lodge is not a red-herring type movie), the filmmaker has created the challenge of maintaining any level of suspense without deviating from the most conventional "camping misadventure" formula (which typically means supernatural elements or big-time shockers that connect the good and bad characters in some way one or both did not know). Unfortunately, The Lodge is content with staying mediocre, unlike The Farmhouse, where we know these people aren't right from the beginning but the movie steadily increases the viewer's uneasiness. So what were the pinholes of promise? In this one, I believe a lot could have been done with the jealousy and tension between the character triangle. The movie could have taken a very deeply psychological approach. If you can stay awake through all of the mundane chases through the house (the only set location, which doesn't have to be a mistake) you'll catch the ridiculous final frame.

2010: Top 10 DVD Releases

Another year, another list! This is the second annual Horror Dose Top 10 DVD Releases list, and though last year saw a drop in Horror Dose activity, I still managed to see most of the 2010-released movies I wanted to see (and, as goes with the territory, some released I didn't want to see). Keep in mind, the candidates for this list are for the most part limited to DVDs that released through Netflix in 2010, thus there may be some movies that technically released in 2009.

10. The Collector
9. Dread
8. Antichrist
7. Halloween II
6. Lake Mungo
5. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever
4. Frozen
3. The Human Centipede: First Sequence
2. Dead Snow
1. The House of the Devil

Here's to a new year filled with great horror movies!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bloody New Year (1987)

Rating: C
Experience Vitals: Netflix DVD shipped to house roughly two months back and lost amidst bills and credit card offers, on a full stomach churning from late-night Mexican food, settled into chair around 2345 with, of course, Horror Cup¹.

I thought I'd ring in the new year with a New Year's-themed horror movie. Turns out there aren't a lot out there (please comment suggestions if you know of any), especially compared to, say, Christmas-themed horror flicks. But there was this one, Bloody New Year, and though it didn't stand up to the Thanksgiving-themed flick I had the privileged of checking out over Thanksgiving break (ThanksKilling; yes, that is the title!), it was still a real treat. Yes, it's that type of 80's movie--the one you invite friends over to watch and criticize and laugh at. All the cliché characters and situations are here. We get severed arms but you can see the character's tucked extremity inside their shirt. We get a harrowing sinking boat scene only to find that the boat's (more like the dingy's) terrified occupants are merely fifteen feet from shore! ("You know I can't swim, Tom!") And, to top it all off, this movie is a myriad genres and the "explanation" is well set against the 1959-1960 epoch of government paranoia. At the very least, if you're like me, you'll speak in an exaggerated British accent for the next few days!

[1] Horror Cup is a 16-ounce orange plastic cup with a jack-o-lantern emblazoned on the side, that I have used for various beverages during horror movies for ~4 years.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Devil (2010)

Rating: C+
Experience Vitals: BluRay from Blockbuster, watched in privacy of own home around 2200, fully awake and actually perhaps a bit too caffeine-stimulated.

I know: M. Night Shahm-uh-lawn, right? Steadily downhill since The Sixth Sense save for Signs, and all that, right? Well, yeah, me too, but Devil isn't too shabby, though of course--and maybe because of the fact that--it isn't directed by MNS; the story is written by him then transposed to a screenplay by someone else, let's see, uh, Brian Nelson, and finally directed by John Dowdle (Quarantine [watch the original, [REC], instead], The Poughkeepsie Tapes [this will never release]). And so but anyway, à la District 9's boasting of the name Peter Jackson, MNS's name is plastered everywhere for the marketing of Devil. Don't be fooled. But, also, don't be fooled by my praises either (if they are in fact bleeding through here) because, while it "isn't too shabby," it's not great either. Perhaps this is a good way to sum it up: I remember enjoying the movie, but I don't really remember the movie--and I watched it last night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Last Exorcism (2010)

The first horror movie I've seen since The Human Centipede back in early October, The Last Exorcism is an excellent return to my cinematic love. Sure, draw up a Venn diagram of possession-genre devices and you're bound to see TLE overlapping with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Rosemary's Baby, et al., but TLE still manages to postulate some originality and an unique tone. There are no cheap, ready-made gimmicks, e.g. jump-scares, musical stings, etc., just good old-fashioned suspense-building, tension, and subtle chills. I've seen a lot of people thumbs-downing the ending, but I disagree just as I disagreed with the derision of The House of the Devil's ending. This is a fine film. Good eye, Mr. Roth!