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At Midnight I Will Take Your Nailclippers., 31 May 2015

At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul marks the debut of Brazilian director José Mojica Marins' cult character Zé do Caixão (AKA Coffin Joe), a sadistic undertaker who will go to any lengths to find a woman to bear his son (it's not easy to find a willing mate when you're a leering, sadistic creep in dire need of a stylist—those nails, that hat, the cape: they've just got to go!). To understand the film's importance in the annals of horror, one must put it into context: when it was originally released in 1964, the amoral nature of Marins' bizarre creation would have been extremely shocking to its native, largely Catholic audience—a truly disturbing villain who pushed the boundaries of taste.

However, in today's cinematic climate, where blasphemy is no longer such a taboo, and violence has been pushed to extremes, At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul no longer possesses such an impact…

As played by Marins, Zé comes across like a camp cape-swishing pantomime villain, more likely to elicit laughter than fear. His wanton behaviour is almost comical, as he proceeds to do whatever the hell he likes, raping and killing at will, the locals cowering in fear rather than forming a lynch mob and dealing with the fiend en masse, as they could so easily do. The film also features such trite spooky elements as a wizened old gypsy hag who warns Zé of his impending doom, a stuffed owl screeching from a tree, a raging thunderstorm, a foggy graveyard, and a ghost surrounded by badly animated glitter. One or two moments still hint at the power the film would have had on its original release—the brutal beating of Zé's friend's fiancée, Terenzinha, is surprisingly vicious, and the savage mutilation of a man's hand with a broken bottle was clearly explicit for the era—but there's almost nothing here to cause concern for modern day horror fans, making this one of interest only to cult movie addicts interested in seeing outdated oddities for the sake of completion.

5/10 for making me laugh a bit.

10 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Measures a 7.5 on the BA_Harrison disaster movie scale., 30 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Awesome. Magnificent. Spectacular. Breath-taking. But that's enough about buxom beauty Alexandra Daddario in her tight vest… what about the rest of the film?

Well, San Andreas delivers precisely what one might expect from a big-budget disaster movie starring Dwayne' The Rock' Johnson: a scientist (Paul Giamatti) who tries to warn of the impending disaster; a strained relationship between hero Ray (Johnson) and his tasty wife Emma (Carla Gugino), which will, of course, be resolved before the end credits roll; the destruction of several famous landmarks; a resourceful, plucky daughter (Daddario) who has learnt all she knows from her resourceful, plucky father; numerous narrow escapes for all of the main characters, from falling buildings, explosions, crashing vehicles, and tidal waves; impressive CGI effects that pervade almost every single frame; and a nasty character who gets what he deserves (a container ship on his head!). In short, San Andreas delivers almost all of the expected clichés of the genre—all that's missing is a cute dog saved from the jaws of death in the nick of time.

It's highly preposterous and predictable Hollywood nonsense the likes of which we have seen many times before, but it is sufficiently loud, chaotic, and expertly executed to be worth the price of a ticket for most disaster movie fans.

My favourite moments (apart from Daddario sunbathing in her bikini and her underwater swim, that is): the ground breaking open and a tube train spilling out onto the streets of San Fransisco, and the big surprise waiting for Ray and Emma at the top of the tidal wave.

7.5 out of 10, happily rounded up to 8 for—you guessed it—Alexandra Daddario.

Kung Fury (2015)
5 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Not bad, but not quite 80s enough., 29 May 2015

A street cop (David Sandberg) is hit by lightning and bitten by a cobra, transforming him into Kung Fury, a powerful martial arts master dedicated to fighting evil. When Adolf Hitler (Jorma Taccone)—the Kung Führer—travels to the present to kill Kung Fury, our hero leaps into action—by travelling back in time to 1940s Nazi Germany to battle the dastardly dictator.

We've already had faux 70s grind-house and retro 80s horror; now we have faux straight-to-video action in the form of Kung Fury, an outrageously daft short that offers up such silliness as a killer arcade machine, a sexy, wolf-riding Viking warrior woman armed with a mini-gun, dinosaurs with laser eyes, a cop with the head of a triceratops, and a hacker who uses his computer skills to heal bullet wounds.

The film features a heavy dose of tasteless 80s graphics, a fitting synthesizer soundtrack and even goes so far as to throw in video tracking problems for that authentic VHS vibe; sadly, it also includes an awful lot of unconvincing CGI which seriously detracts from its credibility as a product of the 80s. Had the makers gone 'old-school' and used some shonky stop-motion for the robots and dinosaurs and a few bad matte paintings for the backdrops, it would have been a whole lot more convincing—and, as far as I'm concerned, a lot more entertaining.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Where wolf?, 28 May 2015

Cantankerous, blind Vietnam veteran Ambrose (Nick Damici) moves to Crescent Bay, a gated retirement community situated next to a forest. On his first night in his new home, his neighbour Delores (Karen Lynn Gorney of 'Saturday Night Fever' fame) is killed by a large creature that also tries to maul Ambrose; luckily for the ex-soldier, his guide dog Shadow intervenes and scares off the beast, but is mortally wounded in the process. The police blame the attack—just one of several in recent months—on a wild animal from the nearby woodland, but Ambrose believes that a werewolf was responsible and attempts to figure out who the lycanthrope is.

While Late Phases is in 'whodunit' mode, with Ambrose playing detective, it proves to be extremely entertaining stuff: intriguing, well written, and smartly directed, with a strong central performance from Damici. Unfortunately, once the identity of the werewolf has been revealed, the film becomes far more predictable, which mightn't have been so bad if only its monster had been the stuff of nightmares. Director Adrián García Bogliano delivers a reasonable transformation scene that owes more than a little debt to An American Werewolf in London, but fans of the genre will more than likely feel let down by the resultant werewolf, a rather ropey man-in-hairy-suit creation with a ridiculous fixed grin that is more likely to elicit giggles than shivers of fear.

The film also boasts a couple of moments of decent gore (including a nasty bite to one victim's arm and a juicy shotgun blast to a werewolf's head), but ends in a weak fashion that only adds to the overall sense of disappointment.

5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.

Leone overcooks his spaghetti., 28 May 2015

'The Good' is sharp-shooter Blondie (Clint Eastwood), although how someone who runs a bounty racket, betrays his friend, and shoots numerous people dead can be deemed good is beyond me. Bandit Tuco (Eli Wallach) is 'The Ugly', which I think is a little unfair to the bloke: he's no George Clooney, but he's not Quasimodo either. That leaves cold-hearted killer Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) as 'The Bad', which he most definitely is, even going so far as to kill a child in order to achieve his goals. After Blondie and Tuco chance upon a dying Confederate soldier who reveals to them the whereabouts of a fortune in gold, the pair come to the attention of Angel Eyes, who will do anything to lay his hands on the treasure.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the third film in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy, is an epic spaghetti western that benefits from iconic central characters, an undeniable sense of cool, and, of course, that classic Ennio Morricone soundtrack (Waaawawah, waa waa waa!). Where the film doesn't fare quite so well is in the pacing and storytelling, the basic plot—three guys go in search of hidden treasure—stretched painfully thin, particularly in the Extended Cut, which clocks in at approximately three hours. The expansive historical backdrop—the American Civil War—frequently detracts from the flow of the story and Leone has a tendency to labour a little too much over his style, lingering on his characters for an eternity and repeating similar shots ad nasueum, all of which causes scenes to drag. Fortunately, some nice touches of humour and a couple of neat plot twists help to make matters a little easier to digest.

6/10. Not quite as hard-going as Once Upon A Time In The West, but not a patch on the earlier Dollars movies, or indeed, Leone's underrated A Fistful of Dynamite.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Bigger doesn't mean better., 24 May 2015

I've been a big supporter of writer/director Tom Six and his taboo-busting Human Centipede films since the beginning: I rated the first film 8/10, and gave the jaw-droppingly twisted sequel 9/10. The only reason I didn't give Part Two full marks was because I believed that Six still had a few tricks up his sleeve and would probably surpass himself with his third film.

As it happens, I was wrong.

As far as the controversial content is concerned, the film delivers numerous scenes that live up to Six's notorious reputation, kicking off with some sexual abuse, before proceeding to serve up such sordid treats as the torture of a prisoner with pans of boiling water, a nauseating castration scene, the insertion of a gun barrel into a man's stoma, the consumption of human testicles and dried clitorises, some wound-rape and coma-rape, and, of course, the creation of not just the biggest human centipede yet, but also a human caterpillar, the surgical process for both depicted in graphic detail.

But while the film doesn't wimp out on the deviancy, it does suffer from two major problems that make it a very unsatisfying experience overall. The first is the prison setting, which is so implausible that it renders the whole movie utterly ridiculous. The first two films, while unlikely, were at least vaguely plausible: it was possible to believe that a raving lunatic might try to stitch a few folks ass-to-mouth out of curiosity, but the notion that the head of a large correctional facility could do the same, with the co-operation of his staff, is absurd in the extreme and seriously detracts from the film's overall effectiveness as a shocker. Even when viewed as a black comedy, it's still a dumb premise.

The second issue I have is with Dieter Laser (the actor who played Dr. Heiter in the first film): his performance as sadistic warden Bill Boss is hugely irritating, the guy drawing out every single syllable at the top of his voice to the point where I would have liked to have seen HIS mouth sewn to someone's ass just to shut him up. Laurence Harvey (bug-eyed star of the second film) is also crap, but at least he's not quite as annoying. Both guys are out-acted by porn-star Bree Olson, who is also a whole lot easier on the eyes.

If the subtitle 'Final Sequence' is to be believed, this film sees an end to the Human Centipede series; it's a hugely disappointing way to wrap things up. Let's hope that Six's next film sees the director back on form: we need something to flush away any memories of this rather obnoxious mess.

Leone overdoes it., 23 May 2015

A nasty railroad magnate hires some bad, bad men—led by evil gunslinger Frank (Henry Fonda)—to ensure that nothing gets in the way of business. Mysterious stranger Harmonica (Charles Bronson) and bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards) do their best to stop the baddies in their tracks. Beautiful widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) gives the men something else to think about other than shooting each other.

There are those who consider Once Upon A Time In The West to be director Sergio Leone's magnum opus: with a magnificent cast, and contributions from some of Italian cinema's greatest names (the script is by Leone, Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, the cinematography is by Tonino Delli Colli, and the score is, of course, by Ennio Morricone), the film certainly has an excellent pedigree.

However, while it does boast solid performances and is often very impressive to look at (the widescreen cinematography is terrific), the film suffers from a severe case of over-indulgence, Leone taking his trademark themes and visual touches to the nth degree, the exaggerated style ultimately getting in the way of the storytelling. The director's signature moves are so excessive and drawn out that Once Upon A Time In The West proves hard to get through without dozing off at least once.

Watch if you want to waste several minutes of your life as Jack Elam tries to blow a fly off his face, or to hear Charles Bronson repeatedly playing the same few notes on his harmonica, but give it a miss if you're looking for something even remotely as cool as any of Leone's Eastwood movies.

Found (2012/III)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I'm so glad I found this film., 20 May 2015

Having recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed retro-slasher Headless (2015), I immediately sought out Found (2012), where Headless began life as a 'film-within-a-film'. Like Headless, Found revolves around a psychotic killer twisted by his upbringing, but the two films couldn't be more different in style: where Headless is an all out exercise in depravity and splatter, with as much in-your-face deviancy and gore as possible, Found takes a more thoughtful and believable approach to its horror, although it proves no less shocking in the end. If anything, the fact that it all takes place in a very real world makes it even more disturbing than Headless's cartoonish excess.

The film starts with young horror movie fan Marty (Gavin Brown) declaring "My brother keeps a human head in his closet": as opening gambits go, it's a corker, immediately setting the tone—one of brooding menace, slow-burn tension, and macabre horror within a seemingly normal suburban setting. We watch as Marty sneaks into his brother Steve's bedroom to look at a series of severed heads; the boy studies them with a mixture of fear and fascination, too young to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, unsure of what course of action to take. Marty tells no-one of his discovery—that his brother is a serial killer—frightened of what might happen if Steve (Ethan Philbeck) ever found out.

Of course, Steve does eventually realise that his brother knows his ghastly secret, and what follows is a gradual descent into hell, culminating in a final bloody image guaranteed to sear itself into the mind and remain there for quite some time. The film also resonated with me both as a parent and a horror fan: Steve's psychosis is the result of failed parenting—his father's bigotry, his mother's apathy, and an over exposure to violent imagery at a young age. It's made me think long and hard about how I speak to my kids, how much attention I pay to what they are doing, and what level of on-screen violence I expose them to. One thing's for sure, they're not watching August Underground's Mordum for at least a few more years.

8.5/10, rounded up to 9 for IMDb.

Headless (2015/I)
Extremely gory throwback slasher fun., 18 May 2015

Headless began life as a fictional film within a film: an obscure late-70s slasher featured in 2012 indie horror Found. Now, as the result of a successful crowd funding campaign, it has been turned into a movie in its own right—a gloriously demented, retro-styled gore-fest that holds nothing back in its depiction of a mentally deranged and extremely vicious, mask-wearing, machete-wielding killer at work.

Director Arthur Cullipher starts as he means to go on: before the opening credits are over, he's already shown us a disgustingly gruesome decapitation, his antagonist (Shane Beasley) proceeding to scoop out and eat an eyeball, before boning the severed head in the neck—the killer's preferred modus-operandi. And so it continues, with numerous nubile young women meeting the same grisly fate, the wholesale slaughter interspersed by freaky hallucinatory scenes and disturbing memories from the killer's childhood, when he was caged like an animal by his mother (Emily Solt McGee) and tormented by his sister (Olivia Arnold/Jessica Schroeder).

It is through one of these flashbacks that we see how the sadistic sister made the mistake of unlocking the door to her sibling's prison; unsurprisingly, the lad seizes this opportunity to rid himself of both his tormentors, and, accompanied by his imaginary friend, a small boy with a skull-head, sets out on a long and bloody path of murder, one that ultimately leads to a roller rink where he targets the employees, including pretty waitress Jess Hardy (Kelsey Carlisle). Will Jess's decapitated and defiled head be added to The Killer's collection, or can she turn the tables on the sicko?

From the outset, Headless does well to capture the atmosphere of a genuine 70s slasher, with a gritty lo-fi look, great attention to period detail, and authentic sounding music. The film also delivers plenty of impressive old-school practical effects, although the level of depravity on display is far greater than anything I have ever seen in a genuine slasher from the purported era—even the most extreme examples. Not that I'm complaining: it's the mean-spirited violence and general deviancy that makes this such a blast…

How could any self-respecting gore-hound/sleaze-fan not have a good time with the following: horror hottie Haley Jay Madison getting a machete up the holiest of holies, before having her breast sliced off, and losing both of her legs to the madman; The Killer using a pretty hitch-hiker's head to get his rocks off on a pile of dismembered corpses; the twisted sister quenching her caged brother's thirst by urinating on him; the mother feeding her son a freshly severed rabbit's head; Jess's waster of a boyfriend having his junk cut off; The Killer doing his special routine on his own mother (including boffing her bonce!); and roller skate-wearing waitress Betsy (Ellie Church) doing the dirty with her sleazy boss before being chased topless across the roller rink by the killer. Trust me when I say that it's ALL done in the worst possible taste.

My only complaint with the film—and it's a small one—is that the whole ritual of decapitation, eye removal, and head-humping eventually becomes a little too repetitive. I know it's The Killer's signature (and an unmistakable one at that), but I'd liked to have seen him switch things up a bit. After all, variety is the spice of life—even for a criminally insane mass murderer with a creepy skull-headed boy for a best friend.

Teen Wolf (1985)
With great power comes great fur., 17 May 2015

In Teen Wolf, Michael J. Fox unexpectedly changes from an average teenager into a suave werewolf; having already made the transformation from TV star to movie star a month earlier with Back To The Future, the young actor puts in an effortlessly charismatic turn that goes a long way to making this otherwise corny and predictable teen fantasy a reasonable amount of fun.

Fox plays dweebish high-school basketball player Scott, such a loser that he can't even see that his extremely cute longtime friend Boof (Susan Ursitti) has the serious hots for him; instead, he pines after slutty head-cheerleader Pamela (Lorie Griffin), which brings him to blows with her boyfriend Mick, his rival on the basketball court.

Scott's luck changes, however, when he discovers that he is a werewolf: as his alter ego, Teen Wolf, he is confident, talented and popular, scoring the hoops, scoring with the ladies, and scorching up the dance-floor. But for Scott to be truly happy, he must be content with who he really is under the fur—and so when his basketball team makes the championship finals, Scott leads the way while Teen Wolf takes a back seat, much to the surprise of his loyal fans.

Teen Wolf could definitely have benefited from a few more solid laughs, but with an engaging central performance from Fox, likable supporting characters, lots of 80s atmosphere, and a general good-natured approach, the film has a charm about it that is almost impossible not to like. It's a feel-good movie—nothing more, nothing less—and as such, it does its job well.

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