By John Roisland & Woofer McWooferson
Join House of Tortured Souls as we celebrate significant dates in the history of horror in July. Click on thumbnails for full images.
July 1 - 7
July 8 - 14
Stellan Skarsgård (actor in Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)) born
July 15 - 21
Aliens released theatrically
July 22 - 28
July 29 - 31
Keep it Evil
I enjoyed the original Cloverfield. While it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I still really liked it. So when a “spiritual sequel” 10 Cloverfield Lane came out of no where I was intrigued. Probably one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood, the trailer was perfect to ramp up excitement while giving away almost nothing. It hooked me, but I was still worried there would be some half assed M. Night twist and this wouldn’t be a horror film at all. Well it was and I loved the hell out of it.
For those who hated the original, and I know a lot of people did, 10 Cloverfield has almost nothing in common with the original. Gone is the shaky cam, which seemed to piss off the most people. Gone was the urban setting with a large part of the film taking place in the underground bunker seen in the trailer. The cast was also streamlined with only three characters getting any amount of screen time, the trio anchored by John Goodman (Roseanne) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) and rounded out by John Gallagher Jr
Goodman gives his best performance in a long time. He is truly frightening to watch. Even when he is not talking, just sitting near motionless with a camera on his face he oozes intensity and insanity. I don’t want to give away any more spoilers than I want to, but you know almost right away, that he’s not a good guy, During the course of the movie he goes from creepy, to scary to psychotic and it all feels way real.
10 Cloverfield Lane managed to hold it’s secrets during filming, and it holds them well even in the movie. Beyond Goodman’s insanity, you never know what strange roads the film is going to go down. All but maybe the last 15 minutes and opening 10 minutes are spent in the bunker, where the tension grows between the three cast members. And it keeps building, then it explodes. It explodes so quickly you are as much in shock as Winstead’s character. Then after a chase, and what we think is a wind down, it ramps up and changes the entire theme of the movie.
One of my peeves about horror movies is that so many lock themselves into a situation where no matter the finish, you feel cheated and let down. I mentioned that let down in my review of The Boy. I was worried that would happen in 10 Cloverfield Lane. During the final chase/hide/escape scene I was worried that no ending would feel right. That I would walk out feeling cheated and duped. But director Dan Trachtenberg and writers Josh Campbell and Matthew Steucken pulled it off. The ending not only left me satisfied but made me want to stand up and cheer “Murica!”
I ended up enjoying it much better than the original (No offense JJ) and I’m giving it a solid 9 out of 10 stars. It’s a damn fine cinema experience, fun, suspenseful and great story telling, with a fine acting job from the three main characters. Now for a few spoilers for those worried about the Cloverfield. connection.
Spoiler alert and stuff
Yes there are monsters. No it is not the Cloverfield Monster although it is very easy to surmise they are connected and have the same origin. Supposedly it is set in the same Universe as Cloverfield. It’s not a true sequel though and possibly (likely) is happening at the same time as the original film. The entire film is not set in the bunker but most of it is. As I said no shaky cam, but there is a car crash that goes shaky, and happens so suddenly it physically shocked me. There isn’t a lot of gore, but some extremely out of the blue, shocking violence. There’s not a lot of objectionable content such as profanity, sex or nudity, but it will probably scare really small kids.
Now stop reading and go see 10 Cloverfield Lane
I know if you are anything like me, you have always wondered, “What if Stephanie Meyers had given up on the Twilight franchise, and instead had written the screenplay for a crossover of Independence Day and They Live ?” Well now thanks to The 5th Wave you don’t have to wonder anymore. The 5th Wave is the new horror/scifi/adventure/teen romance/whatever movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, Carrie). It also stars Liev Schreiber (Wolverine), Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy), Maika Monroe (It Follows), Ron Livingston (Office Space), Nick Robinson (Jurassic World)and Alex Roe (The Calling). So it's a decent enough film, it should be OK, right? Eh, not so much.
Now full disclaimer, this is a young adult movie, based on a young adult novel. It's nowhere near real horror or even real Science Fiction. Still, even giving it this handicap it's pretty bad. The 5th wave was directed by J Blakeson, in his second feature direction. The plot is basically aliens send a giant ship (Ala Independence Day) to circle the Earth and release “waves” to destroy us humans. The first wave, which is actually the most impressive is an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse), which sends the planet back to the dark ages, and kills a lot of people. The second wave is world wide tidal waves, the third wave is a modified bird flu, fourth wave is aliens disguised as humans, and the titular fifth wave is, well that's the big reveal, more on that later (SPOILERS!!!).
The heroine of the alien apocalypse is young Cassie Sullivan, played by Moretz. Cassie is an awkward 16 year old high school student, a role Moretz should have down by now. She lives with her parents and younger brother Sam, when the “others” attack. Her parents quickly fall victim to the evil aliens and her brother Sam is recruited by the military. There he is trained as part of a children s crusade to wipe out the aliens, alongside Cassie's high school sweetheart Ben (Robinson). Cassie sets out to rescue him, and along the way finds love and loses her virginity (assuming she had it to begin with) with ruggedly handsome and well dressed farmer Evan. But off course, all is not what it seems, not with the army, not with Evan, and definitely not with this film.
Ever since Chloe Grace Moretz came to my attention in Let Them In, I have predicted a bright future, and that she would turn into a wonderful actress. While she can claim success, it is time she really showed some potential as an actress. It's past time. She should probably be more selective in the roles she takes. It's sad that some of her more interesting roles like Let Me In, Kick Ass, and Hick came early in her career. I'm assuming she took this role for financial stability, hoping for a franchise along the lines of Twilight. I don’t see that happening.
Not that she is horrible in The 5th Wave. But it's the same awkward, mopey teen role that we have seen so many times before including Carrie, Kick Ass 2, and even to some extent in Let Me In. She does play that role well, but at what point does it cease to be acting and become repetitive motion.
The movie itself starts off with a bang, and the most emotionally charged “real” scene in the movie. It's brutal and what an end of the world film should be. It posits Moretz as a gritty character having to make hard, and wrong decisions. Sadly that feel doesn't really continue after that. Instead we get a typical teen romance/drama with aliens thrown in. There are just so many silly moments, silly decisions that I couldn't enjoy it.
Since it's based on a book you could blame a lot on the original subject matter, but since when does a movie have to stay true? Movies have obligation to fix bad points in the subject matter not parrot them. I haven't read the book but from a synopsis it looks like the movie actually expands some of the worse points. For one instance in the movie the aliens genetically alter avian flu and release it on mankind. Why? Why alter an earth flu when they could introduce an alien disease from their home world. An alien common cold that would be harmless to them but wipe us out. In the book, as far as I have heard this is closer to what happens.
The earthquakes and tidal waves were left unexplained. It comes off as bad in the film, suddenly huge wave almost takes out our heroine, then magically recedes leaving no discernible damage in it's wake. But reading a book summary it's probably best to not go to deep into it's goofy cause of the quakes.
The fourth and fifth waves are just as silly. The fourth wave is they can apparently possess humans. They do this to kill the human refugees, which we are lead to believe they possess a couple of hunters who prowl the woods killing anyone they come across. We find out later the fourth wave is actually a way of initiating the fifth wave so it's a bit of a dodge But here's the kick. They can either posses or replicate the military. They use this to gather children and train them to hunt other humans. Why do they need human kids to kill them? You have guns, planes, tanks and training. Do it your damn self
The fifth wave is where the story blatantly steals from They Live. The children are told you can only spot the aliens wearing special glasses. Glasses that make the alien humans appear to be a green glowing skull. Seriously. I was half expecting Roddy Piper to come back from the grave and start kicking everyone’s ass. Starting with the director and writer of the film.
Of course eventually Ben finds out the truth. That they are killing other humans and he very casually allows one of his friends to shoot him in the belly. You know, non fatally. No big deal. Doesn’t hurt much apparently.
Meanwhile Cassie is on her way to rescue Sam, and runs across hunky, hipster farm boy Evan. Evan teaches her the finer points of disarming an opponent, and in true Mary Sue fashion she gets it down pat in one lesson. Which is fitting since she learned how to fire a pistol in one lesson (that only consisted of “this is how you remove the clip”), and learned to fire an assault rifle with no training at all. Her and Evan hook up, which we all knew was coming, and he turns out to be an alien hybrid. Or spy or something, who knows. It of course follows that Twilight theme of taboo love between different species. All we can say is Cassie must me a wiz in bed, er in abandoned vehicle, cause one lay and Evan defects to the human cause. Once you go homosapien, you....well... forget you're an alien, I guess. Forget I said anything.
Now back to another point which bothered me. A lot of people might say I'm nit picking but it bothers me. The first wave, world wide EMP blast. The film clearly states, no electricity, no running water....then how the hell is everyone clean shaved, except neatly shaved Evan, and clean. How are they always wearing clean clothes? Even after Cassie is abandoned and alone, shes always clean and in clean freshly pressed clothes! I'm not the world's biggest Walking Dead fan, but at least they try to make the survivors look grungy. Except for Norman, I think he just likes the look. Even when they FINALLY put some dirt on Chloe's face, it looks like it was professionally applied by Merle Norman himself.
And why does the family leave their home? Yes there is no running water and lights, but it has a roof, walls and presumably a basement. As well as a closet that seems infinitely full of clean clothes. But no, they leave their home to move to a tent city in the woods. You know, where the aliens can wipe them out all at once, no walls, no defenses, but already with crops planted and harvested.....I know this is young adult fiction, but come the fuck on!
So here's my thing unless you are a teenage girl, or a dude with the hots for Chloe Grace Moretz, avoid The 5th Wave. There are tons of other movies out there. I wasn't expecting much, and it delivered not much in spades. There are much better alien films out there, better teen adventure/romance, and much, much better Chloe Grace Moretz films to be seen. As far as adult, science fiction or horror fans, don’t bother. One giant green skulled alien star out of ten.
By Nick Durham
Well, this is…something.
What happens when your crazy, war-vet brother claims he’s found something in the woods that is some sort of blood-hungry, otherworldly beast? Well, you go stage an intervention of course! That’s pretty much the basis of Pod; a super brisk (about 78 minutes long) dirge of a thriller that has a quite a surprising amount of positive things going for it for about half of its running time. After that though…well, read on and find out.
From writer/director Mickey Keating, Pod tells the story of bickering brother Ed (Dean Cates) and sister Lyla (Jug Face‘s Lauren Ashley Carter) who unite to take a road trip up north in an effort to stage a possible intervention for their seemingly mentally ill brother Martin (Brian Morvant). When they arrive at Martin’s cabin, they learn his dog has been slaughtered, the windows and doors are secured and boarded and taped up, and there’s something in the basement that Martin keeps referring to as a pod that he claims is responsible for his behavior and the death of his dog…along with much, much more.
Fairly minimalistic in its presentation, Pod has a lot going for it. From the initial trip and tour of the dilapidated cabin to the first encounter between the siblings, this film manages build a shitload of wonderful tense moments. The camerawork, editing, and acting are all wonderfully impressive given the film’s almost barebones nature. That’s all pretty much the first half of the film though, as all the good things that are built up initially are betrayed as Pod stumbles towards its conclusion.
The major flaw of this film is that from the beginning sequence onward, we pretty much know that this monster exists and that Martin isn’t totally crazy. Pod could have benefited as being more of a psychological-based thriller if this wasn’t known right away. If instead the film kept playing with the viewer, making you wonder if this thing is real or if Martin is as much off his fucking rocker as it seems. Instead it degenerates into a creature feature, with a predictable hoot of an ending. Oh, Larry fucking Fessenden is here too in a small, yet pivotal, role as someone whose presence never gets explained. I swear, I can’t fucking escape him.
That’s the other thing about Pod: nothing is ever really explained. We don’t know if the creature is some kind of mutant or a fucking alien or what. The film’s promotional material kind of makes the film look like an alien abduction-style affair (which is what I thought this was at first glance) but in reality it’s little more than a monster-in-the-woods affair. The little to no explanation of things about the film is something I actually kind of dig. There’s no cell phones present and the cars are old models, so we know this film takes place in the past, but we’re never sure exactly what decade. Little things like this kind of elevate the whole thing, at least to me that is.
All things considered, if you’re looking for a brisk and somewhat enjoyable thriller that actually does tension (mostly) right, Pod may be for you. It doesn’t wind up being as promising as its first half makes you think it might be, but it isn’t horrible either. It was just added on Netflix, so give it a look.
By Nick Durham
The Alien franchise has always been ripe for the picking for the comic book medium. Over the decades, the Xenomorph's have had numerous series of their own, many tussles with the Predator race, and have had crossovers with everyone from Superman, Batman, Judge Dredd, Terminator, Stormwatch, and nearly everything else you could probably think of. Many of them have ranged from being pretty good to being downright awful, but there's a very damn few that turn out to be truly great. Aliens: Salvation is one of them.
Originally published by Dark Horse Comics in the early 90s, Aliens: Salvation tells the tale of a deeply religious cook named Selkirk, who works aboard a Company ship. He, along with his insane captain, find themselves stranded on a strange alien planet after said loony tune captain forcibly makes them both abandon the ship. However, Selkirk and the captain aren't the only ones that made it planet-side alive, as the truth of their ship's cargo rears its very ugly head.
While it begins as anything but a typical Alien-flavored story, by the time it comes to a conclusion, Aliens: Salvation is every bit an Alien story; and perhaps even more so than Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, and Prometheus put together (along with those Aliens VS Predator abortions, too). Written by industry icon Dave Gibbons (Alan Moore's artist for the legendary Watchmen) and drawn by the just as iconic creator of Hellboy Mike Mignola, this comic is an absolute treat. Mignola's gothic artwork surprisingly suits the story well, and his renditions of the Xenomorphs is wonderful. Gibbons' script may lack in terms of character development, etc., but it delivers in terms of visceral thrills and entertainment.
If there's any drawbacks to Aliens: Salvation, it's that it is too short. Seriously, you could go through this thing in probably fifteen minutes at the most. When it comes to an end, you'll be wishing there was so much more to keep on reading, and more of Mignola's beautiful artwork to ogle over as well. Dark Horse's reprint of this twenty year-plus old story features some great embossed pages and a nice hardcover wraparound. It's dirt cheap to pick up too, which makes it all the more appealing.
All in all, if you've been turned off by Alien comics in the past and have never read Aliens: Salvation, do yourself a favor and pick this up. You won't regret it one bit. You may be wishing for more by the time you reach the last page, but hey, you'll have a great time getting there, so that's only a minor flaw at best.
By Machete Von Kill
Director: Jim Sharman
Writers: Richard O'Brien (original musical play), Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien (screenplay
Stars: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Richard O'Brien, Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell
Rating: R; Run time: 100 min; Genre: Comedy, Musical; Country: UK; Language: English; Year: 1975
Sweethearts, and OH SO VANILLA, Brad (Bostwick) and Janet (Sarandon), newly engaged, are caught out in a storm when their car gets a flat tire. While looking for assistance, the straight laced couple discover the creepy mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Curry), a transvestite scientist from Transylvania, and a whole new (and FAR FROM VANILLA) world. As their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of over the top characters, including Riff Raff (O'Brien), a creepy butler, Eddie (Meatloaf), a biker from the deep freeze, and Columbia (Campbell), a crazed groupie. During the Transylvanians' celebration, Dr. Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscle man named Rocky.
It's just a jump to the left, and a step to the right...My October just isn't October without Rocky Horror. I honestly couldn't tell you how many times I've seen the movie. I can say I have worn out one VHS and two DVD copies of this cult classic. I know every word and can do the Timewarp like nobody's business. I've dressed up (and would gladly do it again) as Magenta (Quinn) and still find 1975 Tim Curry in drag to be the sexiest thing ever. The movie exposed sheltered, junior high me to kink, men in drag, and many more interesting things than I would see on an average day in my little town. (THANK YOU RICHARD O'BRIEN & JIM SHARMAN!!)
If the story and songs weren't enough, the fact that the movie encourages audience participation makes it even more fun. If you haven't attended a live performance or a viewing that allows fan partici...pation, YOU ARE MISSING OUT! Do it right now! You heard me, go Google it and find a showing or live performance, dress up, gather your props (you can use the fan participation script at the link above), and head up to the lab to see what's on the slab.
And remember, don't dream it, BE IT.
Okay, fans of the Alien franchise, better hold on to your seats. This is kind of big, especially for those who were looking for Prometheus to tie in or act as a prequel to the original Alien directed by Ridley Scott. Scott has now announced that the Prometheus 2 will now be called Alien: Paradise Lost. Now that was exciting enough for me, but just keep reading, there's more.
Overall, fans were mixed about Prometheus, with a lot left wanting more of a connection with Aliens. There were some not so happy that the elephant headed alien from the original turned out as a much more humanoid form of life. However, we did see a definite precursor to the xenomorph we all love, and don’t want near our face. Well it looks like with this name change, and recent comments by Ridley Scott, we are about to dive back into the Alien Universe with both feet.
Lately most of the Alien news has centered on a possible revival of the main franchise with Neil Blomkamp (Chappie, District 9) at the helm. This movie, rumored to cast episode 3 and 4 aside, and totally ignore the Alien vs Predator films, that no one was really crazy about. However in a recent interview Blomkamp stated he wouldn't necessarily be saying these films didn’t exist, only that his film would be set directly after Aliens (Alien 2).
Now however, with the name change and statements from Scott, the big news is back on the prequel series. It looks like we can expect at least two more films in the Prometheus franchise as Scott “backs us into” the Alien films. The title of Paradise Lost of course is in reference to the classic work of John Milton. Milton's Paradise Lost dealt with Lucifer’s fall from heaven, a fall from grace. It's the story of how hubris and vanity brought low a might one, and set the stage for all the evil of the world.
With the first Prometheus, we saw how humanity was genetically created by the engineers. With what we witnessed, and the title of the film, we can allude that (possibly) a renegade engineer stole the secret of bio-engineering and used it to create man. In the classic myth, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. The gods punished him eternally, but his gift caused the rise of man and the downfall of the gods.
It would seem that Alien: Paradise Lost may follow along these lines. Did the engineers create the xenomorphs out of some vanity? Or were they another rogue creation of the engineer who created man. Were they created to destroy man, the renegade species that was never meant to exist? Personally I think they were a weapon, that like Lucifer, was too powerful to be contained and was cast out. Or maybe I'm way off. Right now the project is still early in pre-production with a release date set for 2017, so anything could happen between now and then
What we do know, is that Alien: Paradise Lost will be set on the world of the engineers. Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace will return, but there isn't any other cast attached yet. It will also move us closer to the Alien series, but Scott says the xenomorph will not appear. We will however see another alien species, another step down the road to the face hugging, chest bursting Alien from the original. He also added one more little note that has got me totally pumped.
There will be a connection to Ripley...
By Nick Durham
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm a sucker for nearly anything alien-related. At least that's what I told myself in an effort to feel better after viewing Area 51. The often-delayed and maligned film from Oren Peli, the director of the original Paranormal Activity, has finally seen the light of day...and in all honesty it would have been better for all of us if the film had stayed hidden on the shelf.
A found footage flick about three dudes who decide to break into Area 51 when one of them becomes obsessed with anything extraterrestrial-related. (It's not just hinted at that he's been abducted recently, it gets pounded into your brain...which makes the audience say, "No shit".) Area 51 is a plain old bore. Classifying this film as being "slow burn" is saying it lightly. It takes a long, LONG time for this film to really get going, and when it does seem to get going, it just goes nowhere.
That in itself is my biggest problem with Area 51 - it's just so slow moving. It takes us literally FOREVER to actually get to the titular site, and, when we finally do, it gets breezed through so fast that we barely remember any of the surprisingly cool and creepy things that we do get to see. That being said, those cool and creepy things sadly don't pack enough of an awesome payoff to make the whole affair worth it. Before our trio gets anywhere close to Area 51, they have to break into someone's home to obtain some info to get in. This sequence takes FOREVER as well, and is so drawn out and boring that I actually entertained the idea of turning the movie off.
As for the rest of the movie itself, things aren't flat out awful. The acting is alright, and there are some genuinely creepy moments scattered throughout but definitely not enough to hold interest. Plus, when the audience finally gets to see alien creatures, they're so stock and generic and flat out unoriginal that anyone not asleep will be yawning at the screen.
I really wanted to like Area 51. Found footage style stuff isn't really my thing, but like I said before, anything alien-related I'm fucking over the moon for, so I guess I did kind of look forward to this, even though it was against my better judgment. From a technical standpoint, Area 51 isn't terrible at all, but it doesn't deliver the goods that anyone who's into this particular kind of thing would be looking for. Avoid it except as a sleep aid.
By Nick Durham
I'm a sucker for anything alien-related. I've always had an intense love for science fiction, and any science fiction that gets blended with any kind of horror elements pretty much makes me cream my jeans at the thought. That's why whenever there's any kind of sci-fi/horror flick hitting the scene, I'll usually end up checking it out, even if it's against my better judgment. I should also mention now that if said film involves any kind of alien abduction-type stuff, I'm usually there front and center. That's why when I took one look at the synopsis for Ejecta, I decided to check it out.
A Canadian film from directors Chad Archibald (The Drownsman) and Matt Wiele, Ejecta stars Julian Richings (better known to most as Death from Supernatural) as an alien abductee named Cassidy who gets tracked down by a conspiracy blogger named Sullivan (Adam Seybold). What happens next unfolds out of order, mixing elements of found footage style and traditional narrative styled jump scares and suspense (i.e., you can easily tell that this film had two directors). Somehow, even though this makes Ejecta feel pretty uneven as a whole, it still works...for the most part anyway.
As the film's overarching plot begins to further reveal itself, we get the usual tropes of government conspiracies and alien creature jump scares that end up being fairly predictable, but there are some really surprisingly well-crafted ideas buried within the film's script. Some of these ideas are rarely seen in films of this type, and while they're nothing revolutionary, they make for a welcome change of pace. That, and some really nice twists towards the end, separate Ejecta from other films of its ilk.
The one department where Ejecta deserves a ton of praise is in its acting. Everyone in this film performs really well in their roles, which in all honesty I was a bit surprised at. Films of this type usually feature the standard character tropes of "dude who's been abducted before and knows shit", "dude who believes in aliens and doesn't know shit", and "government operative who knows aliens are real and knows all the shit". While Ejecta does feature all those tropes (in fact, those are our three leads), it uses them all to wonderful effect, and each one is extremely well acted from Richings, Seybold, and Pontypool actress Lisa Houle as the interrogator/doctor who gets way, way more than she bargained for.
Ejecta isn't anything bad, it isn't anything all that special either, and it definitely isn't for everybody. It has its slow burn elements, but when it gets good, it's pretty good. Plus, it runs at a fairly brisk running time, so you could do much, much worse than what this film has to offer. If alien abduction-type scares or anything I've described sounds up your alley at all, check this out.