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137 reviews in total 
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"Hannibal" (2013)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Watchable but not really must-see., 26 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I actually thought the second season was better than the first; an overkill of unbelievably extravagant murder scenes and an annoyingly clairvoyant Will Graham left the first season feeling cheap and contrived. The second season settles down some and is all the better for it. Graham's plight during the first half of it never quite rings true but it's better than what we saw before, and the show as a whole tightens up as the Vergers arrive on scene. I haven't watched the final season yet but so far, I'd say this show is just OK, watchable but not really must-see. I'll update this review once I've finished the entire series.

1408 (2007)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Excessive, and dull., 5 June 2015

It seems to be an appreciated film around here but I really didn't care for it myself. Aside from it being your very typical Hollywood horror production, I just wasn't able to buy into any of it, from the unconvincing (as usual) supernatural psychological occurrences to the over-the-top yet generic CGI room variations. The film lacks any notion of subtlety and is, in fact, quite excessive with its visual hauntings. It all becomes just so tedious and dull. Don't look to the plot for any help either, as sentimental pap is placed above suspenseful mystery here. On top of all this is John Cusack's "deer-in-the-headlights" performance. Looking back, I guess I kinda hated the movie, actually.

A shame they didn't do more with that plot line., 9 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I found it kind of tedious; the old routine of setting up cameras and watching bits and pieces of uneventful footage, just waiting for something spooky to occur, has become tired by this point in the series, leading to it being the most unconvincing of the three films to boot. The scares came at a predictable pace, telegraphed by each new round of footage, and none of them were particularly creepy or memorable. Scenes such as the outline of the ghost in dust or the sheet dropping behind the babysitter fell flat for me, feeling forced rather than haunting. That could just be because this is the third time around for these now familiar "activities" but truth be told, I've never found them to be all that effective or convincing. They play like those reenactments on supernatural TV shows rather than legitimate footage; they are, at best, only superficially eerie. A hint of plot finally rears its head during the last sequence (a coven of witches), which made me sit up for the first time during the movie, but it fizzles out with a shock scene for the audience to gasp at rather than something more interesting or satisfying. A shame they didn't do more with that plot line. Anyway, on the plus side, the success of this film should lead to more supernatural and/or hand-held horror, and hopefully better than the likes of what this series has had to offer.

Infection (2005)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Retains a modicum of creepiness., 14 July 2011

A film for all those who say The Blair Witch Project was tedious, stupid, or poorly acted, or rather, a real example of a film that is tedious, stupid, and poorly acted. Still, despite its many faults, Albert Pyun's Invasion does retain a modicum of creepiness, perhaps a testament to the first-person approach (here, through a cop car's camera) combined with mysterious horror. The end credits run for 16 minutes, or nearly a fifth of the movie's running time. They just keep going and going, and going, and going...and going, and going. And going some more. Is this review now long enough to be submitted? Yes, yes it is.

Hierarchy (2009)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
You can't never go home again., 19 March 2010

Truth be told, I wasn't in any big hurry to watch Hierarchy, a straight-forward character drama helmed by "Bloody" Mike Fredianelli. Oh, he's successfully dabbled with this kind of material before but it's always been supplemented with guns, gangsters, and guidos. Furthermore, such artsy/indie productions which attempt to explore the human condition have enormous potential for embarrassing failure, like the notoriously bad A Decision to Ask Why, resulting in a most pretentious and dull experience. Hierarchy doesn't quite steer clear of all those trappings (a reoccurring character in the form of a grotesque beach bum certainly means to convey some kind of sweeping critique on the film's themes…I'm sure I'll find it quite poignant and perhaps even weep at finally discovering what it is) but for the majority, the characters actually develop into real people, free (mostly) from unconvincing cinematic sentimentality, and without even realizing it, I felt drawn into their conflicted lives. I couldn't directly relate to any of their individual situations but their anger, guilt, depression, and doubt are universal feelings, and the full-layered characters are sure to hit home in some way with most viewers. In this sense, it's a pretty powerful motion picture.

Fredianelli wisely realizes that with a mature ensemble piece, moments of brevity are still a necessity. Scenes such as his character's (a mid-level movie producer named Jeff) highly theatrical lisping of a Shakespeare passage or the threatening Schwarzeneggerian priest will certainly bring smiles to the faces of everyone watching. And being a longtime fan of Wild Dogs cinema, I appreciated some of the subtler touches too, like the brief zoom on a passing 'geriatric in the wild' during a scene filmed at a park.

The success of Hierarchy heavily depended on the main cast (Fredianelli, Anthony Spears, Maggie VandenBerghe, Brian Gallegos, and Ronald Kaplan, who has a wonderful "old-time jazz" singing voice, on full display here), who were all up to task…they each turn in the convincing, naturalistic performances the film required. And the supporting cast is just as strong. Rusty Meyers, for example, is only in one scene (as a Hollywood studio head, he has it out with Jeff, and Jeff's integrity, over a script) but it's one of the film's most brilliant. Jeff's verbal duel of intimidation with Father Mulligan, played by Golden Globe winner Brett Halsey, was also quite noteworthy.

So, initial hesitations aside, I found Fredianelli's Hierarchy to be a thoughtful and very human film. Cheers to everyone involved.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
You won't be the same human after viewing it., 23 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Writer/director/star Michael Fredianelli once again dares to tread where few filmmakers do, bravely melding layers of unsettling racial themes with the current trend of 70's grindhouse throwbacks. In The Minstrel Killer, officer Tex Holland is called to a backwards Texas town to assist with the investigation of a vicious whipping murder, a rarity in those parts beyond the scope of their limited force, namely the local lawman, Pike McGraw (television star Eric Andersen in the part, who brings his considerable experience with such roles to the table). Several more deaths occur shortly after his arrival, involving a hanging and cruel tar-and-feathering. As the slave-orientated murders stack up, additional help arrives with Tyrell Jones (played by the very capable Anthony Spears), a sharp, levelheaded, black officer. All this resonates deeply within Holland, as he deals with a personal problem of his own; he recently discovered his wife (newcomer Vanessa Celso in the demanding role) cheated on him with a black man. And for him, the atrocities of the case have only just begun to unfold…

The Minstrel Killer establishes its suspenseful, gritty roots of post-1960's horror with reverent enthusiasm. Right off the bat, the film opens with a fantastic stalking sequence of a bikini-clad female who is sunning herself in the countryside, a scene that will instantly make any grindhouse fan feel at home, before jumping into effectively crude animation panels that accompany the opening credits. The story does get somewhat sidetracked early on, with a 'left field' subplot involving a family of cannibals (cue Texas Chainsaw Massacre imagery). After it gets there, however, the scene plays out fairly well, with every actor giving convincingly filthy and depraved performances, as if it were second nature to them. Fredianelli's ability to secure and place such talent in these types of roles has always been admirable. For me, though, where the film shines brightest is with the Minstrel Killer himself. In black face, emotionless, complete with suit, white gloves, and top hat, he is a mysterious, striking, and wholly unique cinematic killer. Credited (fittingly) as the Shape, he lurks with chilling menace before swiftly striking at his prey. All his shots are filmed beautifully, whether they are his quickly approaching feet in a victim's background or a simple low-angle close-up, the exposure from the sky making his grotesque face so dark as to only just see the white of his eyes. The part is played by a nearly unrecognizable Michael Nosé and, despite having no dialogue (technically, though his demeanor speaks volumes), it may go down as one of his very finest performances. Whether he's whipping an unfortunate soul or dancing a jig willy-nilly, he owns this character fully.

Fredianelli, an artist who never shies away from controversial themes or graphic content, delivers yet again with The Minstrel Killer, my favorite full-length feature of his so far. The path his troubled character, Tex Holland, leads us down leaves us shaken and provoked, elevated all the more by his powerful portrayal, both emotive and intense. Is Holland consumed by racist rage, or driven to it? Who is the Shape and what is his true motive? Or is he more a metaphorical character, an ironic reflection of prejudice and punishment clashing? Unlike the black and white narrative of 1977's Fight For Your Life, The Minstrel Killer leaves us with complicated questions and, perhaps to a fault, precious few answers but one thing is certain, you won't be the same human after viewing it…par for the course with a Wild Dogs Picture.

On a final note, the original music by Aaron Stielstra (who also has a small part as a scummy, micturating, lowlife hood) must not be forgotten. The extremely moody synth tracks and terrifying stingers, which would've been well suited for any Fulci gut-muncher, fit this film like a greasy glove. I think it is Stielstra's best score work yet.

5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Merely a hard softcore flick, if you will., 21 January 2009

A bondage, humiliation, S&M show, and not much else. The plot is flat, really just a banal setup for the stylishly depraved set-pieces. The host of the aforementioned show, a silly little man who spouts drivel while prancing around the stage in dresses, was almost as painfully distracting as the attempts at artful editing. The dream-like ending felt tacked on. To the film's credit though, Aya Sugimoto was fairly convincing as the tortured lead. Flower and Snake has been compared with Eyes Wide Shut but aside from some minor surface similarities, Kubrick's is easily the more layered, artistic, and atmospheric picture.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Operation Discharge, 21 January 2009

Out of the up and coming production company, Depth Charge Pictures, comes See Naples…Then Die, an Aaron Stielstra directed film that will leave many viewers in a state of fevered delirium and dysentery. As soon as I heard the voice of the introductory read-over, I lol'ed like a tweenage girl watching Blossom reruns, which I now suspect was a setup for the disturbing decent I was about to bear witness to. Mexican street thugs, hillbillies, harelips, Asian and Italian stereotypes, paint sniffers, and obscene man-blobs (fat-stuffed with so much pillow they make those Biggest Losers look almost human) all intermingle, verbally excreting and running rampant through McGinty Springs and the director's personal stock footage of Naples (or similar locations). Truth be told, I had little idea what was actually going on for the first 50 minutes but by then, the aforementioned delirium had taken hold and it was smooth sailing until the end, where a jittery, slow-motion gunfight brings it all full circle. The intricacies of human nature this film explored were both complex and moving, nearly leaving me emotional during its final moments. It was during those moments I realized the film's brilliant, underlying design, a subtle but provocative critique on sociological mores and the very destiny of mankind. Three young children are briefly shown at the beginning, middle, and end; one with what is commonly referred to as a mullet (in Italy, no less!), the infamous Fat Jessica, and Demon Baby, respectively. These afflicted youths relate to and, indeed, validate the main characters in profound ways, and represent the succession of the deepest depths of (in)humanity. Furthermore, taken as a cautionary tale, the parallels between the kids and the ghosts (past, present, and future) of Dickens' A Christmas Carol are impressive, and frightening in their implications, to say the least. Stielstra is clearly a studied talent to be taken seriously. I also appreciated how the gorno subtext cleverly introduced early on contrasted with the subsequent displays of excessive and watery squib-work, a commentary some will surely find controversial but I believe is important to the wellbeing of contemporary cinema.

The overall quality of the production was reminiscent of early Wild Dogs shorts, which is to say it was obviously low-budget and often shoddy, facts thoroughly embraced and wallowed in. The A-list cast, however, shined in their depraved roles, nearly convincing that they really were an assemblage of mental handicaps, hobos, and Backyard Wrestling rejects, if one didn't know better. Stielstra himself bravely assumes a multitude of embarrassing (the latino rap) parts, a brave decision given the obviously demanding forethought and direction SNTD must've required. I reckon most other indie directors would shudder placed in his bold shoes. Established auteur Michael Fredianelli lends his formidable acting talents to the picture but there's only so much salvaging he can do with such shamefully limited screen time. SNTD also boasts a powerful soundtrack made up of 80's and classic rock, viking metal (inspiring a particularly memorable dream sequence), easy funk, and stirring synth riffs, which I loved.

The hand-drawn DVD sleeve was magnificent, as was the lone extra, A Man Named Henry, a heartfelt ode to the great Henry Silva, whose inspiration was felt throughout the film. In all honesty, it's hard to believe adults were behind See Naples…Then Die, it's that experimental. Watch it, and don't decide to ask why, just absorb this boundary-pushing oddity of legitimate IMDb listings.

9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Embarrassingly amusing film, when it's not putting you to sleep., 6 January 2009

This movie is almost like that hilariously politically-correct and painfully obvious atrocity, Crash, only with more of a focus on interracial and multicultural diversity and one character's (Anne Hathaway, in another forced "bad girl" performance) struggle with drug rehabilitation. With this family, no wonder she turned to the needle. I also detected a distinct hint of Gummo essence amongst the proceedings, beyond the shaky docu-cam work and that 'Everyday' song being used in the trailer. The characters may not be poor and filthy (debatable, perhaps) but certainly they have roots stemming out of Xenia, Ohio. All of them. Embarrassingly amusing film, when it's not putting you to sleep.

Xenobites (2008)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
"After all, what love can I give the world if none is ever given to me?", 17 December 2008

A full-length extension of one of the director's early short films, Xenobites is a stylish horror/action noir about a private dick (Icarus Van Calder, another one of Fredianelli's patented nihilist antiheros) who clashes with Asian mobsters and battles demonic law enforcers on the side. The feature is shot in atmospheric black & white with occasional moments of color, such as during the flashbacks and, most strikingly, the many welcome discharges of blood. In fact, I dare say this is some of the best blood and squib work of Fredianelli's prolific career so far. An overly dark scene here or there aside, the photography is quite good as well, professional even. And completing the technical package is Aaron Stielstra's superb synth music, giving the film a moody, Carpenteresque tone rarely found in contemporary cinema. Xenobites' plot is pretty original, though the somber story feels just a bit dry at times and takes a somewhat jarring, albeit stimulating, twist about halfway through, completely changing Van Calder's MO to a much more grand design. Dark themes of self and worldly disillusion fit themselves neatly into the proceedings, conveyed by the cast of dependable regulars and the wonderful addition of Henry Lee as the apathetic Yakuza boss badass. Finally, a Wild Dogs picture wouldn't be a Wild Dogs picture without its gritty violence and potent action, and this one delivers the goods. Beatings and bullets abound, swords cross, and real martial arts enter into one particularly brutal, glass-shattering fight scene. The athletic, stunt-filled foot chase is the best Fredianelli has ever put on celluloid and the elevator sequence, where a Xeno out for revenge is after Van Calder, rivals James Cameron's one in T2. Mighty impressive stuff for a low-budget movie.

I don't think Xenobites breaks much new ground for Fredianelli and company but, in numerous ways, it does pretty much perfect it. And still, it was nice to see a return to his roots, so to speak, with the material, giving it the much-deserved feature treatment. One can only hope he does the same with his infamous Higgy and Puffs saga.

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