Dixielord

COMING SOON: The Green Inferno (2015)

Eli Roth's The Green Inferno Will Devour You This September

By Dixielord

The Green Inferno
In 1980, director Ruggero Deodato unleashed one of the most controversial films of all time on the cinematic world. Cannibal Holocaust is probably the best know of the Italian cannibal genre of films, and today, 35 years later, people are still outraged and disgusted by it. Now September 2015, Eli Roth prepares to unleash The Green Inferno, a spiritual successor to Cannibal Holocaust, on the film going public.

The film's plot concerns a group of students who travel to the Amazon to help save a local tribe. On the way to their destination their plane crashes, and in a savagely ironic turn of events, they find themselves held hostage by the same tribe they were coming to help. Things go from bad to worse as the natives begin to sharpen their knives and look at them with hunger in their eyes.

Eli's fans and a lot of horror fans in general have been waiting on The Green Inferno for what seems like forever. Roth announced his intention to make a modern cannibal film back in 2012. Filming began late in 2012, with an intended theatrical release sometime in 2014. Although the film did have a few screenings at horror festivals, financial difficulties prevented a wide screen release, and many fans, including me, feared it was dead, or at most would be a straight to DVD release. Blumhouse Productions rescued it and now it is scheduled for released on September 25, 2015.

It is important to remember that The Green Inferno, despite some early rumors is not a remake of Cannibal Holocaust, or any other film from the late Cannibal genre. The fact that The Green Inferno was the name of the film within a film, as well as being an alternate title for Cannibal Holocaust fueled these rumors. Instead it's more of a homage to the whole family of European cannibal films that were popular in the late 70s and early 80s such as Cannibal Ferox, Mountain of the Cannibal God, The Man from Deep River, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals and many others.

Eli Roth has shown in the past that he has no problems making a bleak and gory film, and the Italian cannibal films are about as bleak and gory as they come. There's just something about the taboo of eating human flesh that makes us all shiver down deep inside, while intriguing us at the same time. Movies like Cannibal Holocaust hit that nerve square on the head, but can Eli do the same thing with Inferno?

Obviously there's no way he can completely repeat the formula Deodato used. The infamous animal slaughter in Holocaust would land the film banned and Roth in jail, and would most definitely end his career. Other than that though, it's a new age, we ardent as easily shocked or fooled today. We know the special effects and CGI tricks, so film makers have to work harder for a scare. The Green Inferno also looks to be a bright, well lit, beautifully filmed movie. That's all well and good, but the cheap, grainy feel added to the effect of the old cannibal films. It made it feel more real, more dangerous, like not only it could happen, but maybe it did happen. Deodato actually ended up on trial because authorities thought he murdered his cast on screen.

The Green Inferno

Some comments made by Roth seem to imply the film will be, to some extent, a condemnation of Social Justice Warriors. Those who get themselves heavily involved in causes and situations they don't fully understand. His group of activists have the best intentions, to protect the noble savages, without understanding just how savage they truly are. It's a topical subject especially with the popularity of social media, and his statements have garnered a lot of attention. Holocaust seemed more an attack on the media, and their willingness to go to any extreme to get a story. His natives may have been cannibals, but the news crew were far more savage in the end.

With all this I still have faith that this film will be a success, that it will be a good film, a film that pays respect to the older films that inspired it. I have faith it's going to make me cringe, make me feel uneasy, and maybe even jump a few times. It wont be easy but I think Eli can pull it off. On September 25, 2015, I will find out.

Posted by Allen Alberson in COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, 0 comments

MOVIE REVIEW: Avenged (2013)

By Dixielord

Avenged

I freely admit that I'm a fan of the brutal movies of the 70s and 80s. Today's film makers just can't seem to get that visceral feel that was rampant back then. At least not often, but director Michael Ojeda managed to capture a lot of that brutality in his 2013 film Avenged.

Avenged (originally titled Savaged) is the story of Zoe, a hearing impaired young woman driving across country to move in with her boyfriend. Along the way she stumbles across the murder of a young Native American at the hands of a group of locals. Zoe is kidnapped, raped and eventually killed, but that's far from the end of things. Seeking to heal her, a local shaman manages to bring her back from the dead, but she doesn't come back alone. Her body is now possessed by the spirit of a legendary Native American warrior and is also fast falling apart with decay. She sets out to get revenge on the men who killed her before her body rots away.

Although Avenged is far from a perfect film, there's a lot to like about it, especially for horror fans. It's a bold, no holds barred movie. The bad guys are really bad, racist murderers with no redeemable values. They brutalize Zoe and you can't wait to see them get theirs. They reminded me a lot of Krug and friends from The Last House on the Left. Rodney Rowland plays the Trey, leader of the band as it were. He's a nasty fucker but one that oozes charisma along with hatred. Physically he reminds me a lot of Jeff Branson from the 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave, but he's a whole lot nastier. He has a hatred of Natives spurred on by his friends and family. He enjoys what he does and he is remorseless in his torture and rape of Zoe.

Zoe, played by Amanda Adrienne, is both hero and victim. She starts out as the classic exploitation victim, helpless at the hands of evil. Even with her disabilities she fights back against her tormentors. She is a tough independent woman but all her fighting is in vain. After her possession, she becomes the invincible warrior, spreading death and mayhem on the ones who did her wrong. With very little dialogue, Adrienne makes us feel for Zoe, and she's also bad ass in the fight scene.

However, the spirit is never fully in control, so while we cheer on her revenge, we still see see the results of her suffering. We see her falling apart and know, even if she gets her revenge it isn't going to end well. That's a key feature in a good exploitation film: while the good guys may win, there's always a price and seldom a happy ending. You wont get a fake happy ending, or M. Knight twist coming out of nowhere. In Avenged the movie plays out like it should, like it has to.

AvengedAs sadistic as Avenged is, it doesn't linger on the rape scenes. It shows just enough so we can be horrified, but not enough to risk it being titillating. While the camera doesn't linger on Zoe's torture, the bad guys are taken out in sadistic glee with knives, arrows and bare hands. Most importantly, it makes you care about the character of Zoe and her boyfriend. It's hard to make a movie work if you don’t care about the lead character, especially in a violent movie.

The special effects are good enough considering the limited budget. There are a few digital effects that were a bit weak, but overall it doesn’t hurt the film. The acting is solid all the way through and anchored by great performances from Rodney Rowland and Amanda Adrienne.

If you like real, gritty horror, horror that hearkens back to the 70s, I think you will enjoy Avenged. It's low budget but it's done well. It might not be a great film, but it's a fun film and it's worth checking out. I'm giving it four out of five stars.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
CON REVIEW: Scares That Care 2 (2015)

CON REVIEW: Scares That Care 2 (2015)

By Dixielord

During the last week of July a horror convention took place in Williamsburg, VA. Now horror conventions are nothing new, you can find one somewhere almost every week, but this one was a little different. This was the Scares That Care 2 weekend, a horror convention founded to let horror fans “give back” by donating all of the proceeds of the weekend to sick and needy families. This was the second year of the convention in Williamsburg and it was successful enough that a third convention has already been announced for 2016.

Tiny LesterA little bit of information about Scares That Care for those who don't know. It was founded by Indy film director Joe Ripple back in 2006. The organization at first raised money by auctions and vending at other conventions. The money raised was then distributed to other charities such as the Make A Wish foundation and the Johns Hopkins Children's Cancer Wing. Once the charity received its 501c certification from the IRS, it began to disburse the money it collected directly to families in need. Since its founding it has raised and donated over $75,000 dollars.

In 2014, Scares That Care held its first horror convention in historic Williamsburg, Va. It included celebrities from the horror genre including Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), and the cast (and car) from Christine. There were also vendors, karaoke, movies, and a costume contest. The show was successful enough to return in 2015 with an even bigger and more ambitious show.

TongueI was lucky enough to attend both the 2014 show and the 2015, and in full disclosure I am partial to the show and the charity. I have volunteered with the charity for several years, and worked as a volunteer staff at the show on Saturday. That being said, I have been to dozens of shows in 13 different states and I can honestly say this is a great, well run show and the most fun I have had at a convention. Scares that Care strives to be a family friendly show, with a little something for everyone, while keeping prices as low as possible.

The biggest draw, and the staple of conventions is the celebrity autograph room. Unfortunately conventions always come with the danger that announced celebrities can cancel, sometimes with little or no warning. The Scares that Care show was hit hard early with numerous cancellations including Tawny Kitaen and Billy Drago. The promoters worked hard and announced several replacements including Chelan Simmons (Final Destination 3) and others. Then a few days before the show another wave of cancellations including fan favorites Kane Hodder and Ken Foree happened with no time for replacement celebs for the show.

Still the show must go on, and Scares that Care opened with a still impressive list of celebrity signers including Tiny Lister (Friday), Piper Laurie (Carrie), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy), Sid Haig (The Devil's Rejects), and many more. Prices were very reasonable with most celebrities charging $25 dollars, with a few (including Sid Haig) charging $20 and only one (Kim Coates) charging $40. Table photos were free with a autograph purchase for pretty much all the celebrities. All the stars I met were wonderful, fan friendly, and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

It's not all about the celebrities that you see on television and movies, though, at Scares that Care. With the help of author Brian Keene, the convention is quickly developing a reputation of being a friend of horror authors. There was a large contingent of authors signing and selling their books, as well as giving readings from their work. Authors in attendance this year included Brian Keene himself, as well as Johnathon Janz, Thomas Montelone, Kelli Owen, and many others.

kids preparing to trick or treatThe other component of all good conventions is the vendors area. Because of the hotel layout, besides a main vendors room, there was also an upstairs vendor area. Vendors who chose this area were able to rent a room to themselves, allowing for a larger space for their wares, and the ability to lock the room door after hours. It did come at a price of being a bit harder to find than the main vending room. Walking through the area you could find anything from prop weapons to tarot card readings. Inside the main area you could find the usual horror staples, of DVDs, fangs, and artwork as well as everything from horror themed pillows to children's books.

Vendors and celebrities are the meat and potatoes of conventions, but there was so much more at Scares that Care. In the bar area there was Scaryoke for three straight nights starting Thursday night. Friday and Saturday night there were live acoustic musical sets by William Bozarth and Benjamin Samedi.

In efforts to keep the show for the whole family, there was a trick or treat parade during the day on Saturday. The children and their parents were lead through the rooms, where they were able to trick or treat at the tables, ending up back at the will call area where a big bag of candy was divided among the children participating.

Scares that Care weekend wasn’t just for the kids though. On Friday night, there was a burlesque dance seminar and class for the ladies only taught by the beautiful Gia Nova. Sadly, no amount of begging could convince them to let me audit the class. On Saturday night, Gia Nova performed her horror themed burlesque act for a packed audience.

Gia Nova juggling fireThe costume contest allowed kids of all ages to break out their best costumes, both home made and store bought. Cosplay, which is more than an anime and sci fi convention staple is become more popular at horror conventions as well. While most horror conventions have a contest, more and more you are seeing the average conventioner show up dressed as his favorite villain or hero from a horror classic. In order to help keep the show safe and fun for everyone Scares that Care has adopted the Cosplay is Not Consent principle. It's sad people have to be reminded of this, but it's important that shows do provide a safe environment for costumers.

Add to all this, a film festival, all volunteer haunted house, silent auction, seminars, and panels and you have a full show with something for everyone. Did I mention the promoter karaoking Sex Bomb while wearing a pink bra to help raise money? For me, no show is compete without after hour drinking and fun. It's a time to get together with old friends, meet new friends and have a great time with little drama. The atmosphere all weekend was laid back and peaceful and just fun.

It would be totally remiss to not mention the hotel, the Double Tree Wyndam in Williamsburg. The hotel and its staff have been beyond accommodating to the Scares that Care staff and guests. I met several young ladies on staff who were excited to get to meet Kim Coates on Saturday.

Finally, it was announced on August 5th, that this years convention raised a total of $13,000 for the charity. There will be other small events during the year before the check presentations in October. As a fan of horror conventions, I am glad that Scares that Care provides a great convention experience and a fun time. Beyond that though, I am happy that it allows fans a chance to give back, to help those less fortunate than us. I'll be eagerly waiting for next year's show on July 22 and I hope to see you there.

Special thanks to my friends Robert Tongue, Jennifer Hall, and Alfred Guy for the use of their photos.

STC

Posted by Allen Alberson in EVENT REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)

By Dixielord

I'm not a fan of remakes. It's something to which most of my close movie-watching friends can attest. Still, I almost always end up giving them the benefit of the doubt and checking them out. Thus, when I heard that Spike Lee was doing a remake to what I consider a classic - an underrated horror film - I wasn't really excited. However, I also knew that I would end up watching it. The movie in question was Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, a remake of the 1973 film Ganja and Hess.

Ganja and Hess, directed by Bill Duke, used vampirism as a metaphor for drug and other addictions. It starred Duane Jones from Night of the Living Dead and was screened at Cannes film festival. Many think it is one of the most important black films of the era.

Stephen Tyrone Williams in Da Sweet Blood of JesusDirector Spike Lee has called Da Sweet Blood of Jesus a story about “humans addicted to blood”. Lee took the crowd sourcing route to maintain creative control of the film. This is where things get interesting. Spike Lee refuses to use the word vampire to describe the characters in the film. He was secretive about the plot of, and rumors spread that this was intended to be a remake of Blacula, a blacksploitation horror film better known to the general public than Ganja and Hess.

Instead, supporters and fans got what Lee referred to as a “new kind of love story”, which is, in fact, a near shot-for-shot remake of Ganja and Hess. Sweet Blood stars Stephen Tyrone Williams as Dr. Hess Greene and Zaraah Abrahams as Ganja Hightower. The plot follows so closely to the original 1973 film that a synopsis for one works for both.

Dr. Hess Greene is a cultural anthropologist and collector of African art. He is fascinated, in particular, with the work and myths of the Ashanti people (Myrthrian in the original). While researching an ancient Ashanti dagger he is attacked and killed by his unstable assistant, who then kills himself. The ritual dagger, however, causes Dr. Greene to be revived with a taste for blood, and apparently the desire to only drink it off the floor-not from the victim’s neck.

As Hess looks for victims to satisfy his blood addiction, he is eventually contacted by Ganja Hightower, the ex-wife of his deceased assistant. She moves into Greene's home, and the two eventually become lovers. Afraid of being alone, Hess transforms Ganja into another blood addict. While she takes to the bloodsucking life with relish, Greene tires of immortality and looks for a way out.

Remakes are doomed to be compared to their original source material. It's just a fact you can’t get away from. I wanted to review and judge Da Sweet Blood of Jesus as much as possible on its on merits, but found in fairness that I had to re-watch Ganja and Hess. I'm still going to try and judge it mostly on its own merits, or lack of merits, with a brief comparison of the two.

On the positive side, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is beautifully filmed. The opening dance scene, accompanied by a Bruce Hornsby score, is fun and light although weirdly out of place. As a matter of fact, the entire film is light, with only a few scenes happening at night. This seems strange for a vampire film, which Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is despite director Lee's denial. The musical score was another bright point throughout the movie but didn't seem to match the scenes they accompanied.

What I liked most about Da Sweet Blood of Jesus was the story itself. It revolved around using vampirism as a metaphor for addictions, especially to drugs. It also focused on how you can either find salvation and escape from the addiction or you can wallow in its excess. This was what kept me watching Da Sweet Blood of Jesus despite its flaws. Yet how can you credit a film for its story when basically it's the same story you have seen before and with much better execution? I really don’t think you can. It’s almost the exact same story as Ganja and Hess with only a few changes. Most of these changes were unnecessary at best, while others actually hurt the story, especially the scene in the club which is shortened from the original. It changes the whole feeling of the scene and the overall character of Hess Greene.

There were some confusing plot elements that weren't fully explained that hurt my enjoyment of the film. One of the most glaring issues was what happened to the victims of the vampires. It appears that anyone killed by Lee's “blood addicts” became blood addicts themselves. They too are cursed with immortality and a need for blood. However, their final fate is left somewhat up in the air. We do see one victim being buried alive (or undead) without being dispatched. We see another victim wandering around apparently infecting others. In a classical vampire film this would work, but here it seems out of place. Dr. Greene is at least bothered by what he has become. To allow a victim to wander around infecting others or to callously bury them “alive” seems extremely sadistic and out of character.

What is most disappointing and what kills the film for me, is the acting. I can't recall ever hearing dialogue delivered as flat and emotionless as the lines delivered by lead Stephen Tyrone Williams. His conversations throughout the film are painful to watch and listen to. At certain points, I was almost convinced that this was all some twisted joke that only Spike and his cast were in on.

His costar, Zarrah Abrahams, tries to cover for Williams by overacting and overemoting every other line and screaming for no apparent reason. Her interactions with the butler Seneschal, played by Rami Malek, are absolutely idiotic. The entire character of Seneschal seems to be a bad joke - a stereotypical caricature of a gay man that belongs in another age.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus moves along as a snail's pace, similar to the pace of the original. Unlike its predecessor, however, Lee's film doesn't have the acting to keep the audience interested as the story unfolds. Not just the dialogue, but the characters are almost expressionless during most scenes. The times Williams does show emotion it's completely unbelievable, and Abrahams' acting and emoting is all over the place.

Stephen Tyrone Williams and Zaraah AbrahamsOverall, there really isn't much to recommend about Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, which you can’t find better executed in Ganja and Hess. It’s a better looking, better photographed film; but, for me, the grainy look of the older movie was part of its magic. Both films contain quite a bit of male and female nudity, including male full frontal nudity, and sex in both films. There is also a bit of full frontal female nudity and a hot lesbian scene in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.

The only real reason to watch the new film over the original is that it’s easier to find. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is streaming on Netflix as well as readily being available on DVD. Ganja and Hess, as far as I know can only be streamed from Fandor, but there is a now a decent DVD release so it can be found, and in this case, it’s worth the effort to find the original. Over all, I’m giving Da Sweet Blood of Jesus a very generous 2 out of 5 stars. It's a pretty film with pretty music, but over all it doesn't hold up to the original.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments