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MOVIE REVIEW: He Never Died (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: He Never Died (2015)

heneverdied

By Nick Durham

Henry Rollins is one of my all time favorite people ever. The legendary punk vocalist and author is no stranger to the horror genre, having appeared in Feast and Wrong Turn 2 over the years, and now he has the starring role in He Never Died; a very unique film that definitely isn’t how it appears to be on the surface. Mixing elements of pitch black comedy and blood-curdling horror; He Never Died is something surprising and maybe even a little bit special too.

Rollins plays a guy named Jack: an antisocial misanthrope that does little other than sleep, watch TV, and frequent a local diner. The thing about Jack though is that this seemingly middle-aged man is a reclusive immortal, with an occasional taste for human flesh. Jack receives a visit from the teenage daughter (Jordan Todosey) he never knew he had, is gleefully unaware of the waitress (Kate Greenhouse) that has a crush on him, and eventually runs afoul of a crew of local gangsters. Naturally it doesn’t take long for shit to hit the fan, as you can probably imagine.

I have to say this right off the bat: Rollins is wonderful. He’s never really given much of a bad performance in anything I’ve seen him in, but here, good ‘ol Hank is something else. His deadpan delivery makes the comedic scenes laugh out loud funny. His revelations on his origins aren’t loaded with remorse or even emotion; they convey that this is a man with everlasting life that is just so damn tired of going on and on with no end in sight. If there’s no other reason to watch He Never Died, it’s Rollins’ performance.




As for the rest of the film, well, it’s definitely interesting and even somewhat original too. There’s a number of directions that writer/director Jason Krawczyk could have gone with the material, but instead of going full on tongue-in-cheek, he chooses to tell the film in a somewhat serious tone with various sprinkled moments of dark humor. I really can’t imagine the tone of this film being any different, because in all honesty, it wouldn’t have taken much for the whole thing to fly off the rails; great lead performance or not. Story wise, there’s still plenty of questions that don’t get resolved, with the rumor being that Krawczyk and Rollins will return with more adventures of Jack sometime in the future.

So yeah, you’re not going to see many films like He Never Died. It’s startlingly original and features a fantastic performance from Henry Rollins, which is reason enough to check it out. It may be an acquired taste for most however, so proceed with a little bit of caution. It’s currently streaming on Netflix, so now’s your chance to give this a look.

Rating: 3.5/5




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MOVIE REVIEW: The Black Tape (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Black Tape (2014)

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By Nick Durham

Found footage flicks are all over the place these days. For every horror subgenre, there’s about thirty found footage flicks dealing with them. Whether they be about monsters, serial killers, paranormal bullshit, or whatever else you can think of that the horror genre has to offer; chances are there’s a found footage flick out there about it. And why not? They’re relatively simple to make, can have a super small micro budget, and if done and distributed right, can be a relative hit, or at the very least, be done pretty damn well. Ramone Menon’s The Black Tape is one such film, as it manages to be a found footage flick that takes a tired subgenre (voyeuristic serial killer) and manages to make it pretty damned entertaining.

The Black Tape focuses on a voyeuristic serial killer that has made the Wilson family a new target. With their eldest daughter home for the holidays, things appear to be nice and business as usual for the family, but it soon becomes apparent that this is anything but the case. I don’t want to give too much away, but very bad things happen to everyone involved here, and by the time things appear to be all wrapped up in the end, there’s a gut punch of a twist that is surprisingly well done and unanticipated.  Well, mostly that is anyway.

From a technical standpoint, The Black Tape is very well made for what it is. The film is well-shot and well-edited, and there’s a very good sense of atmosphere and dread as well. Things like jump scares are surprisingly not too frequent here, which is actually a big plus. One of the annoying things with found footage horror movies are the amount of cheap jump scares that come with them. I’m happy to say that The Black Tape barely has any if at all. Instead, the focus is on the mystery and psychological horror, which is a very nice change of pace.

So yeah, The Black Tape is a very entertaining and well-made found footage horror flick that delivers the goods. If there’s any drawbacks to the film it’s that I feel it may be a bit too long for its own good, but this is only a minor complaint; it’s still surprisingly good. Be on the lookout for director Ramone Menon as well, this guy is going places.




Rating: 4/5.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Deathgasm (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Deathgasm (2015)

By Nick Durham

Deathgasm

Heavy metal up your fucking ass. That’s what Deathgasm promises, and holy mother of fucking shit, that’s what Deathgasm delivers on. A delirious, New Zealand-birthed film revolving around metal, demons, and hysterical gross out moments, this film is a total fucking treat, and that’s saying it lightly. Fifteen minutes into this movie, I knew I stumbled upon something special.

Deathgasm revolves around Brodie (Milo Cawthorne): an abandoned teenage metal head that is stuck living with some fairly conservative family members that don’t approve of his dress style, taste in music, or penchant for playing some blistering licks on his guitar (it should go without saying that I totally relate to this kid, but I digress). Anyway, Brodie meets local troublemaker and fellow metal head Zakk (James Blake), and of course they decide to start their own band. Before you know it, they inadvertently summon up an ancient evil that begins taking demonic possession of the local townfolk.  What results is some of the most hilariously amazing scenes you’ll see in a horror flick around today.

Nearly everything about Deathgasm is wondrous. The film’s screenplay and scenes are peppered throughout with various metal-flavored in-jokes and nods to the metal genre. Combined with the pitch-black comedic moments and even more nods to 80s horror flicks (this film owes a lot to The Evil Dead (1981) and Demons(1985)), you won’t be able to do much else other than love this fucking film. The film’s makeup and gore effects, and especially the soundtrack, are totally fucking killer.

Now for as much as I love Deathgasm, it isn’t perfect. In fact, it falls just short of being an all-time classic, albeit just barely. The bro relationship between Brodie and Zakk, and the love triangle with the super fine Medina (Kimberly Crossman), doesn’t get as much depth served to it as I would’ve liked. That and sometimes the film’s pacing is sometimes all over the place. All of that aside, this is a fucking great time.

All in all, if you’re a longtime fan of metal music, you owe it to yourself to see Deathgasm. Even if you’re not into metal music, you’ll find a lot to admire here regardless if anything like The Evil Dead or Demons (1985) is up your alley. If you don’t get even a smidge of enjoyment out of this, I think something may be wrong with you, and we just can’t be friends.

Rating: 4/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Inhabitants (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Inhabitants (2015)

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By Nick Durham

We’ve had a bit of a renaissance lately in terms of some small-budgeted spooky movies that deliver the goods without buckets of blood and gore and rely more on old school tricks to give the viewer goose bumps. A lot of these films tend to be of the slow burn variety as well…which has its own share of likeable qualities (and some serious hate-worthy qualities as well). The Rasmussen Brothers (writers of John Carpenter’s The Ward and helmers of Dark Feed) throw their hat into the ring with The Inhabitants, which actually manages to make a fairly good impression despite its shortcomings.




The Inhabitants revolves around married couple Jess (Elise Couture) and Dan (Michael Reed), who have just purchased a New England-based bed and breakfast. Of course, as these things tend to go, the house itself holds some terrible secrets thanks to its past inhabitants. These come to light when Dan has to take an emergency business trip and leaves Jess all alone in the big, spooky house. All the creepy house hallmarks are here: scary shadows and figures, creaking sounds, and some creepy camera angles.  The film offers plenty of atmosphere that really gives the film an ominous tone and it works really well.

While The Inhabitants offers good atmosphere, there’s some other elements where the film sadly lacks. It begins with our leads in all honesty, neither characterization really reaches out to the viewer at all in any way. Not to mention the fact that there are some serious plot holes and flat out leaps in logic that pop up as the film crawls towards its conclusion. Granted the film’s story is a little inventive compared to other films of its ilk, so it does have that going for it at least.

All things considered, I could think of worse ways to kill an hour and a half. The Inhabitants isn’t half bad, but it doesn’t offer much either in all honesty. Still though, it does show that Michael and Shawn Rasmussen have talent and promise as filmmakers. Here’s hoping that they only go onward and upward.

Rating: 3/5

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: No One Lives (2012)

MOVIE REVIEW: No One Lives (2012)

By Amy Mead

No One Lives movie poster

No One Lives

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura 

Written by David Lawrence Cohen

Starring Luke Evans, Lee Turgesen, America Olivio, and  Adelaide Clemens

Betty and her nameless companion (credited only as "Driver") are a couple who are on the road, making a move. Straight away, we can see that there is tension between the couple and things seem more than a bit off in their dynamic. It appears as though Driver has done something terrible to expedite the cross country relocation and Betty seems both resigned and reluctant and there is a sense of despair that seems to emanate from her.  

They find a hotel for the night and decide to get something to eat. Before long they encounter seasoned criminal Hoag and his crew of accomplices while having dinner in a dive bar.

The band of would be robbers have just come from a robbery gone completely awry. One of the crew, Flynn, had an itchy trigger finger when the homeowners showed up to their vacation home unexpectedly, killing them and causing Hoag to call the whole thing off. Hoping to redeem himself for the botched robbery and killing a few people, Flynn set his sights upon the young couple, and targets them, convinced that they are wealthy and can help offset the crew's earlier losses. 

When the couple leaves. Flynn decides to have them run off the road and apprehended by another one of their crew, Ethan, who then holds them captive and attempts to question them about where their money is and how to gain access to their funds.

Things take a shocking turn when in the middle of all this, Betty suddenly gives Driver a speech about how she "can't do this anymore" and suddenly commits suicide by slamming her neck onto the blade Ethan is holding against her throat. This sends Driver into a rage and he breaks free from his handcuffs, killing Ethan. 

Meanwhile, Flynn takes the couple's vehicle and trailer back to Hoag's house and soon makes a shocking and unexpected discovery that changes everything. It seems this couple has been holding a young woman captive in the trunk of their car. Shortly after this discovery, Hoag's daughter realizes she has seen this woman before. She is Emma Ward, daughter of a well to do family, who vanished from a party where many of her friends were violently slaughtered. The crimes, her disappearance, and the two million dollar reward for her safe return have all been highly publicized, and after seeing the story on a rerun of a crime show, the crew thinks they have discovered their golden ticket. But Emma is no cash cow. They have no idea what is in store for them or the lengths that Driver will go to get her back...

WWE Studios film, No One Lives has gotten a lot of flack from many critics but I don't share the general opinion of most of them. I had a lot of fun with this film. I had originally seen the film when it first hit the new release shelves back in 2013 but was distracted during the viewing and didn't give it my full attention. I put the DVD away and then just sort of forgot all about it.  I recently pulled my copy out and gave it a second watch and I was seriously blown away by it. How did I miss all this the first time around? I could kick myself. I have been missing out and if you have yet to see it, so have you. 

While this film is nothing groundbreaking by any means, it is fast moving, entertaining, and if you are into gore, this film should be right up your alley. There is gore aplenty in this action packed thriller and some of the kill scenes are so brutally unrestrained that I was actually cringing and squirming in my seat. There's just something about seeing someone's head being lowered into a metal grinder that does it for me. And the best thing about it? It's practical effects, no fake looking CGI to be had here, folks. It's fucking beautiful. Truly something to behold if blood, guts and gore is your thing and on that basis alone, I can't recommend it enough. I can't help it, I love the gore and Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train) unflinchingly delivers as far as that goes. 

However, that being said, there are a few things I had issues with that many may not be able to get past. some of the acting isn't the greatest and the way this band of idiot criminals are always screaming at each other and making some pretty dumbass decisions gets a little annoying. The acting talent of  Luke Evans and Adelaide Clemens are truly the saving grace of No One Lives. Unfortunately, there isn't much to be had by way of a story line here and at times, the dialogue is flimsy and just a touch annoying. Overall, the story seems like maybe there is something missing and seems a bit incomplete but it was a fun watch for me all the same. There's nothing wrong with a little mindless carnage and blood splatter from time to time, at least not for this girl. 

I give No One Lives 6/10

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Extreme Jukebox (2013)

MOVIE REVIEW: Extreme Jukebox (2013)

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By Nick Durham

Well here’s something you don’t see everyday. An Italian-imported, heavy metal-themed slasher movie that proudly bears the Troma logo? You know what I have to say to that?

Sign me right the fuck up right fucking now thank you very fucking much.

Well, I’m sad to report that Extreme Jukebox isn’t the wonderful amalgamation of all things Italian, bloody, and metal. In fact, it really isn’t much of anything other than quite a few laughs and some heavy metal in-jokes, which is fine by the way, but it never lives up to the promise that you think it will end up doing.

The story of Extreme Jukebox revolves around rising star metal frontman Jessie Cake, who finds himself in the middle of a metal massacre involving a masked serial killer and a vengeful spirit. That is pretty much the gist of the film, along with a bevy of jokes, pretty funny dialogue, and some surprisingly good music as well; of which are sung in English while the rest of the film’s dialogue is in its native Italian.

The one thing that I am severely disappointed by with Extreme Jukebox is its lack of blood and gore. I mean it has a little here and there, but nowhere near what one would expect from a movie like this, and a fucking Troma movie at that. It just feels too restrained, and far too much for its own good to boot. Despite that, the film does manage to pack a shitload of really funny moments and sometimes it can be downright fucking hysterical. Throw that in with some decent performances and some pretty good music, and you get a worthwhile diversion while it lasts.

All in all, Extreme Jukebox is a brisk, mildly entertaining, Italian metal-injected flick that doesn’t deliver in terms of the visceral thrills that Troma fans would expect from it. Still, it’s not awful, which in itself is something notable on its own. If you do end up checking it out, don’t go into it expecting anything too special, and chances are you’ll find something about it that you’ll dig.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Bound to Vengeance (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Bound to Vengeance (2015)

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By Nick Durham

Good old fashioned revenge flicks have made a bit of a comeback over the last couple years. One of which, 2013's Blue Ruin, probably being the best of the bunch (and by all means, you need to go check that out). In this little revenge flick renaissance, I've come upon Bound to Vengeance (thanks Netflix); a relatively brisk film about a captured young girl (Tina Ivlev) who turns the tables on her captor (Richard Tyson, aka the asshole villain from the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Kindergarten Cop).

Bound to Vengeance begins with Eve (Ivlev) waking to find herself in the captivity of Phil (Tyson). It doesn't take long for her to free herself and turn the tables on our villain though, and it takes even less time for Eve to embark on a journey to find and rescue all the other girls that Phil seems to have captured and scattered all over the place. Of course things don't seem to work out well for anyone involved, and naturally, things aren't quite what they seem either. What? You thought this would be by the numbers and easy to follow? You've come to the wrong place then motherfucker.

That's the main problem with Bound to Vengeance: it tries too damn hard. First it tries to be somewhat subdued in terms of the extremes this kind of thing could offer...then it tries to get all twisty and even a tad noir-ish. It doesn't work as either sadly, and comes off as a more bloody and less overacted episode of Law & Order: SVU instead. The film also has a severe lack of atmosphere and for being a 79-minute long movie, it often drags along. At least the cast is good though. Tina Ivlev has a bright future ahead of her, and Richard Tyson is a typically wonderful scumfuck.

So yeah, Bound to Vengeance isn't anything special or remotely good. Still though, you can certainly do far, far worse in terms of revenge flicks. It's short and new to Netflix, so if anything I've described sounds interesting to you, give it a look. Then again, you'd be much better off checking out Blue Ruin instead.

Rating: 2/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Bloody Knuckles (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Bloody Knuckles (2014)

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By Nick Durham

Do you want to be offended? I don't necessarily say that in a mean way or anything like that; I mean do you want to be offended in a way that will make you end up cracking a smile and just hating yourself a little bit after? Then you should watch Bloody Knuckles. This Canadian horror comedy is a surprisingly hilarious, and oh so juvenile, film that underneath all the dick and fart jokes offers up a surprising commentary on the nature of offensiveness in this politically correct world.

The story of the film revolves around underground comic book artist Travis (Adam Boys), whose comics are delightfully offensive and unflinching in honesty. His work manages to piss off a local crime lord, and before you know it, Travis has his drawing hand severed. Travis subsequently begins a downward spiral into depression...until his severed hand mysteriously comes back to life and begins a mission of bloody, and hilarious, revenge. Along for the ride is Travis' plucky newspaper reporter love interest (Gabrielle Giraud) and eventually a gay, S&M themed vigilante (seriously). There's more going on too, but seriously, you've got to see this shit for yourself instead of reading me describing it.

Written and directed by Matt O'Mahoney, Bloody Knuckles is a total fucking hoot. Though it offers up plenty of offensiveness and all, like I had said earlier, it's never mean spirited. When this movie is funny, it's funny and supremely enjoyable. The cast somehow manages to keep straight faces throughout the absurdity of it all, and all of them turn in some pretty good performances too. It should also be mentioned that for a low budget film, there's some surprisingly good effects work in terms of makeup, blood, and the severed hand moments as well.

Now Bloody Knuckles isn't going to win any awards or anything, but for what it is, it's pretty damn good. It offers up enough blood and laughs to keep you entertained, and it's briskly paced enough so you'll be glued to the screen for its whole running time. If any of what I've described sounds up your alley at all, give this a look.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Let Us Prey (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Let Us Prey (2014)

Sin wears many faces

By Amy Mead

let-us-prey-poster-us

Let us Prey

Directed by Brian O'Malley
Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Bryan Larkin and Liam Cunningham

 

Let Us Prey opens up on waves crashing upon a shoreline and a man, mysteriously appearing on top of the jagged rocks and then advancing toward the rural seaside Scottish village. 

This mysterious man, (known to us only as Six) has decided to appear on what is PC Rachel Heggie's first night on the job and almost immediately, craziness and confusion begin.

After waking from a horrible nightmare, Rachel prepares for work and on her walk into the precinct, she witnesses a  speeding car hit a man who is just standing in the middle of the road. She approaches the vehicle, but upon further inspection, she sees that no one is there. No wounded, broken body. No victim. The man has simply vanished. She hauls the driver in and alerts fellow PC's to be on the lookout for the man. 

A team of fellow officers apprehend the man and bring him to the station. Straight away things seems off with him somehow and begin to get weird and this man Six, seems to know a lot things he shouldn't about the other people in the building, officers and criminals alike. Things that there are no way he could possibly know.

Before long this mysterious stranger seems to be running the show and seemingly takes over the minds, and souls, of everyone present and they all become increasingly aware of the various crimes they are guilty of, as well as the price that must be paid for them. 

Through a series of flashbacks, it becomes evident that Rachel survived some sort of horrific ordeal when she was young and we see that she and Six have met once before, a long time ago and we begin to get a sense that maybe this night's happenings are not as random and off kilter as they appear...

Let Us Prey moves along a little slowly and is slightly confusing at first but in the long run, it does a lot to help feed into the apprehension and tension of the film. Once the film gets moving, and some questions are answered, the more carnage there is. There was a fair amount of blood, for a gore hound such as myself to enjoy and some of the kills were pretty gruesome indeed (My personal favorite is the table leg in the socket kill) and once it starts, it's pretty much relentless until the very end. 

In addition to blood and carnage,  I am also a big fan of watching total douchebags who deserve a proper ass kicking get what's coming to them and Let Us Prey definitely delivers in that aspect.  Watching Rachel's fellow officers get their comeuppance was truly a delight and even though I could sympathize with the prisoners more than the officers, it was fun watching them meet their end as well. 

I also really enjoyed the acting by the whole cast but particularly the interaction between Rachel and Six, especially at the films climax. 

In spite of the slow burn I did enjoy this one tremendously and would recommend the rest of you giving it a watch. There are far worse ways to waste your time and money, trust me. Do yourself a favor and check this one out. 

I give Let Us Prey 7/10 assholes who had it comin'

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MOVIE REVIEW: Gravy (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Gravy (2015)

By Nick Durham

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Well this kind of came out of nowhere. Co-written and directed by Psych star (and die hard horror fan) James Roday, Gravy is a nasty and super funny little dirge about what happens when you mix Halloween night, a trio of cannibals, and a Mexican restaurant. Yes, this film is every bit as enjoyable as all that sounds.

A handful of employees at a local Mexican cantina find themselves on the menu as they are invaded by a few costumed cannibals played by Michael Weston (who seems to be doing his best Charlie Day impersonation throughout the whole film), Jimmi Simpson, and Lily Cole. What results is an often very darkly funny and super bloody affair, and like I said above, it's super enjoyable to boot.

There's really not that much more to Gravy other than the brief synopsis above. We are introduced to quirky characters that don't want to become chow for our funny cannibal friends, and there's an assortment of funny dialogue from everyone involved. Our three cannibals know what they're doing is wrong...and they accept it. Weston, Simpson, and Cole are hilarious and deadpan in their roles as the self-aware cannibal killers, while the cast of victims (which includes Sutton Foster and Precious star Gabourey Sidibe) are great as well.

If there's any downside to Gravy, it's that maybe it prods on a little too long for its own good. This is really only a minor complaint though, as the rest of it is surprisingly unpredictable, plus it features some great blood and gore effects work, and a really well-selected soundtrack of songs to boot...but maybe that's just me. Anytime I hear a Tears for Fears song in a movie I find myself singing along to it, and I end up hating myself for a brief period of time, but that's another story. There's also a really funny cameo from Roday along with his Psych co-star Dule Hill, and a small role from Sarah Silverman that I wish would have had more to it.

All in all, Gravy may not be for everyone, but this film is a surprisingly good labor of love from James Roday, and it is immensely enjoyable. The fine folks at Scream Factory have given it a pretty good Blu-ray release as well, with a couple features that show how much Roday and his crew put into making this film. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Rating: 4/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: Harbinger Down (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Harbinger Down (2015)

By Nick Durham

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Want to see something that looks promising at first glance but doesn't take long to go spiraling down the shitter? Look no further than Harbinger Down: a creature feature that would otherwise be ignored by one and all were it not for the pedigree that it manages to boast in terms of just how the film is made up. Directed by Alec Gillis and produced by Tom Woodruff (aka the guys who have worked on previous films in the Alien franchise) and proudly boasting that it features all practical effects work, Harbinger Down is a glorious failure indeed.

The story revolves around some asshole grad students that take a trip on a commercial fish trawler piloted by the grandfather (Lance Henriksen) of one of them, in an effort to study the effects of global warming on whales or some shit. They discover a crashed Soviet spacecraft in the ocean, which still contains the dead pilot as well as the experiment contained wherein that soon grows, infects, and kills off the crew. Yes, it sounds like a much less imaginative take on The Thing, and that's because it really is. The acting is lame, the characters are lame, the whole affair is super predictable, and it really is for the most part just a plain old bore.

Now, let's talk about the effects of Harbinger Down, which as I said before, proudly boasts about the fact that they are practical. Well, I really can't confirm if EVERY part of the creature effects are practical, but what I can say is that it is refreshing to see practical effects take center stage for the first time in a long time...or that is what I would say if said effects actually looked as great as I wished they did. I don't want to shit on the work done here, because I know how hard it is to do this kind of thing, but the creature looks just aren't convincing one bit. There is good use made of stop-motion effects, miniatures, and animatronics in addition to some of the prosthetic effects, but the full-on body shots of the film's monsters are laughable at first glance. The effects were done by ADI, who also did the practical effects for the 2011 take on The Thing, which chances are you never saw because their work was discarded in favor of the shitty CGI that was seen in the final cut of the movie. ADI ended up funding this film on Kickstarter, out of the desire to bring practical effects back to the forefront. While I may not have enjoyed this film, I will gladly say that those guys have my respect for that alone. Practical effects work is a dying thing, and the film world is a worse place without it.

All in all, Harbinger Down is a brisk but sadly disappointing creature feature that ends up coming off as a just plain stupid version of The Thing. The practical effects that it boasts about having are a mixed bag, but at the same time, it's just so good and refreshing to see them take the forefront in a horror film again. It's not god-awful and you can certainly do worse with this kind of thing to kill an afternoon, so give it a shot at your own risk.

Rating: 2/5/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: We Are Still Here (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: We Are Still Here (2015)

By Nick Durham

WE ARE STILL HERE barbara

It's really not every day that you hear about a movie coming out that claims itself to be a tribute to the films of Lucio Fulci, but that is something We Are Still Here claims itself to be, and it's easy to see why. Written and directed by Ted Geoghegan, this is a surprisingly pretty damn good little horror dirge that not only pays a nice tribute to the films of Fulci, but manages to stand on its own as a very worthwhile haunted house trip.

The film takes place in 1979 as an older couple (Re-Animator and From Beyond babe Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) moves to their newly purchased New England home following the death of their son. The grieving mother believes their new home to be inhabited by the spirit of their deceased son, but it doesn't take too long to realize that isn't the case, and it isn't just the haunted house that winds up causing the most trouble for our couple either. While all of that may sound a tad predictable, what unfolds ends up being kind of surprising, in a good way that is.

As I said before, We Are Still Here fashions itself on being a Fulci tribute, and in that regard it works pretty good. There is heavy atmosphere and inventive camerawork and scene boxing, along with a surprising amount of blood-letting as we hit the film's climax when shit starts hitting the proverbial fan. All of this happens in a brisk 83-minute run time, which I have to admit ends up being a perfect run time. If We Are Still Here was any longer, it would end up losing its luster and appeal; something which some Fulci films ended up doing in spite of themselves (I'm looking at you A Lizard in a Woman's Skin). The acting is pretty great (our good friend Larry Fessenden is here as the hippie husband to Lisa Marie's psychic friend of the couple) and the effects work is fucking wonderful as well.

All in all, We Are Still Here offers enough in terms of spookiness, atmosphere, and bloodshed to rightfully claim its place as being a Lucio Fulci tribute. It isn't anything too special, but it manages to be massively enjoyable for what it is, and you shouldn't have any problems eating this up. Check it out if you're looking for a well-crafted and brisk thrill.

Rating: 4/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: Spring (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Spring (2014)

By Nick Durham

Spring

Here’s something that came out of nowhere. No seriously,Spring seriously came out of nowhere, at least for me personally. I don’t remember seeing any promotional materials or anything in regards to this film, and totally went into it not knowing a damn thing at all. With all that in mind, I came out of this film very satisfied and overall surprised at just how this film is, and just exactly what this film is.

The film revolves around a Californian dude named Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci from Evil Dead (2013) remake) whose life is spiraling downward. Seeking a major change in his life, he leaves the States behind and ventures to Italy. There he comes across the sexy Louise (Nadia Hilker) and a love affair begins to blossom…and then we find out that Louise isn’t exactly normal. There’s some bloodshed along the way as Evan comes to grips with what exactly he’s gotten himself into, and just how far he is willing to go to make things work.

Billed as a mixture of a romance and monster movie, Spring is certainly all that and more. I can’t honestly remember the last time I saw a film like this, if I ever have really. It would have been incredibly easy for the film to descend itself into self-parody given the subject matter, but somehow, someway, it manages to be an earnest and surprisingly emotional amalgamation of creature feature and love story. No seriously, what the fuck am I watching here…and how is it so good?

The performances from everyone involved are more than solid. The chemistry between Pucci and Hilker is believable, and the creature effects and assorted minimalist visual effects are shockingly well done given the film’s low budget. Not to mention the fact that Spring boasts some gorgeous cinematography and camerawork. Directed by the pair of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (who also served as cinematographers, writers, and editors, and were also behind 2012’s excellent Resolution ), Spring is truly something unique. These two are going to be big names in the horror film world very, very soon.

If there’s any drawbacks to Spring , it’s that perhaps the film runs too long. Clocking in at 110 minutes, it definitely could have been trimmed down here and there to feel a bit overall tighter. That aside, it doesn’t hurt how unique the film ends up being. We really get to know our leads and actually get a surprising amount of emotion invested in their relationship, and how it turns out when things get revealed and blood starts to flow.

It goes without saying that Spring isn’t quite for everyone. That being said, go into this film with a clear state of mind, and you may come out surprised at just how good this damn thing ends up being. You won’t see many other films quite like Spring at all these days, and that in itself is a crying shame. Seriously, go check it out as soon as you can. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 4/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: Area 51 (2015)

By Nick Durham

area51
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.

Rating: 1.5/5

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: Society (1989)

By Nick Durham

society2

Arrow Films, you treat me so good.

Long out of print on DVD, Brian Yuzna's delirious and insanely underrated Society is finally available on Blu-ray on this side of the pond, and holy sweet fucking Jesus, it's totally fucking amazing. This is quite possibly the definitive Blu-ray horror movie release not just of this year, but perhaps any year. Yes, even more so than Scream Factory's Nightbreed set. That's right, I said it.

Anyway, for the uninitiated, Society is about a teenage boy (Billy Warlock, which is probably the greatest name for an actor in a horror movie in the history of ever) who often feels out of his place with his wealthy family and contemporaries. Turns out it's because almost everyone he knows in high society is a humanoid creature that feasts upon the nutrients of the humans. Yes, the rich literally feed on the poor. The social commentary is far from subtle, but that is quite okay, because even to this very day, this 1989 (though not released until 1992) film remains shockingly and frighteningly relevant.

The real main attraction of Society is the makeup effects, which you probably already know about. Designed by Screaming Mad George, the effects here are shockingly imaginative, inventive, and totally fucking disgusting. The concluding "shunting" scene is something that you have to see to believe. Even if you've never seen the film nor have any desire to, look it up on YouTube, right now. You'll never forget what you're about to see, trust me.

I had mentioned in the beginning that Arrow Films really went out of their way with this Blu-ray set, and I wasn't kidding. Packaged in a deluxe case/box and featuring a reprint of the comic book only sequel Society: Party Animal, as well as the typical Arrow collectible booklet. There's a new commentary from Brian Yuzna, as well as new interviews with Yuzna, George, Warlock, and others involved in the film. There's a featurette on the effects work, a Q&A with Yuzna, and tons more as well. This set is fucking brilliant to put it bluntly.

I could gush over Arrow's Society Blu-ray forever, but I won't. I know I've said to pick up every other Arrow Films Blu-ray release before, and I still mean that, but you should pick up Society first and foremost. This is an absolute must own. I'm not kidding, stop what you're doing right now and go pick this up. Thank me later.

Rating: 5/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ejecta (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Ejecta (2014)

By Nick Durham

ejecta2

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.

Rating: 3/5

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: Corruption (1968)

By Nick Durham

Corruption

Did you know Peter Cushing was once in a film where he played a semi-crazed plastic surgeon who goes on a spree murdering young women in an effort to harvest their glands to preserve his younger fiancé's damaged face? If I told you any of that, would you even believe me? Well guess what guys, it's true. Peter Cushing, known as one of the classiest thespians ever in the horror genre, starred in this little known flick that provided ample amounts of blood and boobs. Thanks to the good folks at Grindhouse Releasing, now we can call see Corruption in its wonderful, depraved, swingin' 60s glory.

As said already, Cushing plays a jealous plastic surgeon named John Rowan, whose hot model fiancé (Sue Lloyd) suffers a nasty facial injury. Feeling responsible, Rowan believes he knows a way to fix the damage, a method which involves harvesting the skin glands of voluptuous young ladies of course. What follows is lots of blood and boobs, and just the right amount of enjoyable schlock gets packed in without the film itself ever feeling like absolute filth, if that makes any sense at all.

Never before seen uncut in the U.S., Grindhouse has happily given us Corruption in all its nasty glory. Hell, I do believe that this is actually the first home video release of Corruption here in the States at all. It's funny watching it now, because even when it gets to its nastiest moments, the film isn't as graphic as one may think it is. Granted that the time this came out I'm sure it ruffled enough feathers, but even in its silliest and nastiest moments, Corruption manages to have a small touch of class attached to it. This is mostly because of having Cushing in the lead villainous role. I couldn't imagine that he was super comfortable in the role, but the man was a total pro, and he's wonderful here as the main attraction. In fact, the cast as a whole is pretty damn good, which also includes Vampire Lovers hottie Kate O'Mara as well.

Grindhouse Releasing, which has managed to supply us with wonderful releases and re-releases of little-known or lost films with tons of extras and care, has really delivered with this Blu-ray release of Corruption as well. There're two versions of the film as well as vintage and new interviews, an audio commentary that features Cushing's biographer David Miller, awesome reversible case cover artwork, and tons more. Needless to say, this deserves to be in your collection, especially if you're a Cushing fan.

All in all, Corruption is a surprisingly little known film that deserves your time and attention. It's also another wonderful example of what makes Grindhouse Releasing so awesome in terms of releasing little-known vintage films on modern physical media. Like I said before, Corruption deserves your time, and you need to pick it up. You won't regret it.

Rating: 5/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: Last House on The Left (1972)

By Nick Durham

the-last-house-on-the-left-1972-00-650-75
With the passing of Wes Craven, I've been going back through a number of his films that I haven't seen in a while. With that in mind, please know that I mean no disrespect to the man at all with the words you're about to read here about his infamous debut feature film. Anyone who knows me well knows my feelings about The Last House on the Left, and in retrospect, it's easy to see why, too, especially when you watch this movie again if you haven't seen it in a long time.

Keeping all that in mind, I'll say here and now (and again for anyone that actually knows me) that I fucking hate this movie so much. I really, truly do. I hate everything about it (almost). From the super out of place goofy interludes featuring bumbling Podunk cops, to the flat out atrocious dialogue, I despise this movie and I'm not afraid to say it. Not one fucking bit.

All that being said now, I will also say here and now that I respect Wes Craven's original The Last House on the Left, because despite how much I shit on it, it remains a powerful film that was a product of its time. It also set the beginning stage for one of the biggest and most revered directors in modern horror history. So yes, I respect this movie and loathe it all in the same breath.

You all know the film's synopsis by now, so there's no need for me to go through it again. What I will say is that this re-working of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring still manages to pack a punch all these years later believe it or not. That scene where Mari, knowing she's going to die after being brutalized by Krug and his crew, walks out into the lake and awaits being shot to death, is truly a powerful piece of filmmaking. The late David Hess, who would end up making a career out of playing sick fucks, is a terrifying villain. Other than those two pieces of the film, I can't stand the rest of it. To this very day, I still can't.

Now, as a die hard horror nut, I've seen much worse films that feature much more graphic cruelty and violence, but I have a hard time watching rape scenes in ANY film. I often get a lot of shit from fellow horror fans/friends of mine because I won't watch A Serbian Film or the August Underground flicks. I just can't do it and I fucking refuse to as well. With The Last House on the Left, the brutality on display here is relatively tame compared to what we've seen in the years to come since its 1972 release, but it's the way the film is shot that has always made it so disturbing to me. The film's low budget and Craven's ingenuity give it an almost pseudo-documentary feel, much like Tobe Hooper would do with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre just a couple of years later. That gritty sense of realism makes it all the more disturbing. I can mostly deal with that, but when you get the aforementioned scenes of bumbling idiot cops (complete with bumbling idiot music), the overall effect gets lost. You wind up thinking to yourself, "what the fuck am I watching? Is this a super dark comedy or some shit?"

So yeah, that's my thoughts on Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. No matter my feelings towards it, I have the utmost respect for it, and I always will. Thankfully Craven would end up refining his style and churning out some genre classics that we all know and love, but everything began here with The Last House on the Left. That alone is reason enough for you to see it if you've never dived into it before, but don't expect to keep it around for repeat viewings.

My honest rating: 2/5

Legacy rating: 4/5

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MOVIE REVIEW: As Above So Below (2014)

As Above So Below:
Finding the Philosopher's Stone

By Woofer McWooferson

As Above So Below
Director: John Erick Dowdle; Writers: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle; Stars: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge; Rating: R; Run Time: 93 min; Genre: Adventure | Horror | Mystery | Thriller; Country: USA; Language: English | French | Latin; Year: 2014

MINOR SPOILER ALERT FOR PLOT POINTS

Once in a while a film comes along that is refreshingly different and surprisingly good, and As Above So Below strives to be that film. Indeed, it is ambitious in scope but flawed in execution. As Above So Below is very much like Laura Croft meets National Treasure in the Catacombs. The story follows Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) as she tries to finish her deceased father's quest for the philosopher's stone. She has multiple degrees, speaks and reads several languages, and is a black belt in Krav Maga (of course), but she must seek help from George, a former lover and friend (Ben Feldman), to complete translation of the clues. It is often mistakenly categorized as found footage due to the shaky cam of videographer Benji (Edwin Hodge) who is filming a documentary on Scarlett and her quest. As Above So Below begins on a bus in Iran where the key to the rest of the puzzle is located.

Scarlett and George ultimately realize that the clue points to a location beneath Paris and is only accessible through the catacombs. After finding a guide, Papillion (François Civil), they hire him and his crew before heading into the catacombs to locate the stone. The rest of the film takes place in the French catacombs and was actually filmed there. Thus, there is a very real sense of claustrophobia and disorientation as the group's quest takes them deeper into the tunnels. With the site they seek not located on any map of the catacombs, they venture into uncharted areas as a sense of unease settles over all.

As Above So Below

Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) and George (Ben Feldman)

As Above So Below is an interesting film that is hampered by its own quest for depth and meaning. With references ranging from Dante's Inferno to Philip Marlowe and from St. George slaying the dragon to the Steve McQueen movie Papillion, As Above So Below has lofty ambitions. It is a tale of sin and redemption, and each person must conquer his own demons to survive. Unfortunately, geographical, historic, and linguistic errors combined with characters who are a little too capable (Perdita Weeks is not entirely convincing as a multi-degreed, multi-lingual, academic and physical juggernaut) and liberal artistic license prevent it from being a really good movie. As long as one can suspend one's disbelief, it is more than enjoyable and even worth a second watch to catch the all of the clues.

6/10 claws

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

MOVIE REVIEW: Dracula 3-D (2012)

By Nick Durham

dracula3d

What the hell happened to Dario Argento?

I know this topic has been covered so many times before that it's grown redundant as fuck, but seriously, what happened? So many of his films have resonated with me over the years since I'd first seen them, from Suspiria to Phenomena to Inferno to Tenebrae; his body of work has meant a lot to me personally. That's why it kills me to see Dracula 3-D, because watching this cinematic abortion is the equivalent of seeing Argento's career die a slow and agonizing death. I thought Giallo and Do You Like Hitchcock? were bad...but Dracula 3D is something else entirely.

From its opening titles onward, you know you're in for a smorgasbord of supreme shitiness. You know that brilliant cinematography and film framing that Argento films have always been known for despite their varying overall quality? There's none here...like at all. Everything in this film just looks so cheaply put together. I've seen shot-on-video trash that looks better than a majority of this film's production. Maybe I'm just being too picky, but none of it is made any better thanks to the schlocky 3D. Watching the film in 2D kind of reduces how cheap everything looks surprisingly, so maybe that's the way to go if you feel like punishing yourself by watching this piece of shit.

The film's storyline doesn't adheres to the source material off and on, which is fine honestly, because not every film adaptation of Dracula needs to be one hundred percent faithful, I mean look at the Universal Dracula and Hammer's Horror of Dracula; those films are perfect. Now comparing either of them to Dracula 3-D is like comparing a juicy t-bone steak to a piece of kangaroo meat posing as a McDonald's hamburger patty, but I digress. We get the usual characters with the Count (Thomas Kretschmann), Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer), Harker (Unax Ugalde), Mina (Marta Gastini), and Lucy (Asia Argento); all of whom range from atrociously bad to hilariously bad in their performances. Hauer in particular looks like he wants to wink at the camera whenever he's on screen like hey guys, I know I'm in this piece of shit...I need to pay the rent. Now maybe this isn't all necessarily the fault of the actors, considering I'm sure they all know the absurdity of what they're involved in. Asia has no excuse though, she's used to this by now. I hope when Father's day rolls around in the years to come since the film's release she gives dear old Dad a punch in the groin for this.

The other thing about Dracula 3-D is its running time. Clocking in at close to two full hours, the film drags and drags and drags. Maybe if it were packed with more ridiculous moments like Dracula turning into a praying mantis (yes, you read that right), things might be a little more enjoyable, but alas, that's not the case. The film just plods onward, always threatening to bore you to tears, and once something occurs that gives you a slight sense of hope that things might not be so bad, you get fucked in the head back to reality of how un-engaging, poorly put together, and overall just plain lame this film truly is. I really can't believe this is from the same guy that gave us Suspiria and all the other films of his that we've raved about for years and hold near and dear to our hearts. Seriously, what the fuck happened?

No matter how much shit I talk on Dracula 3-D, it doesn't do the shitiness of the film justice. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I really recommend you watch it just to see what I'm talking about here. I'm dead fucking serious. I can't guarantee you'll make it through the whole way, but I can recommend you'll find something funnier than Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It could ever hope to be. In fact, I think we should all start a drinking game just for this movie. Every time you hate yourself for watching it, take a shot. You'll be so smashed you may be declared legally dead within the first twenty minutes or less.

 

Rating: 1/5

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