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23 reviews in total 
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The Ruins (2008)
3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Your basic long scream of horror., 6 April 2008

Based on a the horror novel by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, The Ruins is a harrowing tale about several American tourists vacationing south of the border who come across a monstrous evil living within the Mexican jungle. While not a masterpiece by any means, The Ruins is a satisfying horror film with enough gut-wrenching gore and genuine scares to please most horror fans.

The setup is cliché horror (debaucherous white teenagers unfortunately stumble upon something that wants to kill them), until you see what lives in the ruins, which is much more frightening than any human or typical science fiction creature. That's all I'll say to avoid ruining The Ruins for anyone--just believe me when I say that it'll scare even the most hardened horror fan.

Other then an unbalanced ratio of oily man chest to naked girls (you virtually no skin other than the buff dudes who seem to have some sort of freaking allergy to t-shirts), The Ruins is actually quite good. There are moments that are truly terrifying that do not use blood to get a reaction out of the audience, but there are also moments that are almost unbearably grisly, which is a good balance to have in a horror movie.

Despite its shortcomings, The Ruins is an absolutely must-see for horror enthusiasts, and a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book that shouldn't offend those who enjoyed the novel by the same name.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Failed slasher flick, 2 February 2008

Simple-minded teen sex humor is punctuated with graphic slasher murders in this mediocre genre effort. Also known as Bloody Pom Poms, the film takes advantage of its central character's frequent nightmares to clog up the narrative with disturbing dream sequences. Further confusing matters is the fact that all these pretty young cheerleaders look about the same, so once the bodies start dropping it's easy to stop caring who gets it and when. Cheerleader Camp tries hard to win us over, offering goofy set pieces like horny old men spraying themselves in the face with hoses, a football-themed sex fantasy, and the most horrible "mooning" sequence ever filmed.

Cheerleader Camp won't hold pleasure for any except the most dedicated Z-level celebrity watchers. Exploitation vet George "Buck" Flower mumbles and scowls his way through his role as a crusty red herring, and future hardcore-porn star Teri Weigel gets some practice from a garden tool. Ex-teenager Leif Garrett is bloodless as a philandering boyfriend, and his performance is distinguished only by an awful gelled-up hairdo and his weak, white rap duet with morbidly obese sidekick Travis McKenna. Betsy Russell had a healthy career in low-budget, low-impact exploitation films during the '80s, playing the title characters in Tomboy and Avenging Angel along with starring here. There are two Playboy Playmates and one Penthouse Pet among the toothsome cast members, and director John Quinn went on to helm an assortment of softcore sex films like Fast Lane to Vegas and Sex Court: The Movie.

Raw Meat (1972)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Flawed but manages to remain enjoyable, 2 February 2008

On the poor side, Death Line suffers from a fairly plodding script and wooden acting, which belie its small budget origins. It's also low on scares, but 30 years can make most things look tamer than they first were. The plot itself is membrane thin, all exposition is spoon fed very early on.

While digging a tunnel in 1892, eight men and four women were buried alive under collapsed tunnel roofing. Bankruptcy forced the digging company to abandon the supposedly dead bodies, although some postulated that with pockets of air and enough water, survivors might be alright, as long as they ate each other when the food ran out - the film is also known as Raw Meat in the US.

It is, however, in this difference that Death Line finds its most idiosyncratic strength. Ceri Jones's script works hard to create tangible pity and sympathy for its flesh-eating monster. Known as The Man, Hugh Armstrong invests the character with a wailing anguish at being the only survivor left, grieving his partner's recent death and the blatant tragedy of his abandonment. The horror comes, not from The Man's freakish otherness, but the fact that he is recognizable, identifiable. That and the cannibalism and the long tracking shots of collective rotting corpses and body parts.

Sherman also experiments with minimal and atmospheric sound effects, isolating footstep echoes, dripping leaks and pounding heartbeats to cheap but mostly gritty use. Combined with Armstrong's embittered pre-lingual utterances, the film carries an undeniable visceral punch. It is not pure carnality that leads The Man to venture out to Holborn and Russell Street stations, but the voiceless rage at the confines of his predicament (which we know he had no choice over) and a deeper need to find another partner to be with and care for.

Such prowling brings Sharon (of Jason King) Gurney's Patricia to his arms. She is a sensitive young student, girlfriend to David Ladd's trying-to-be hunky American. With their humble topside abode just as cramped, cluttered and personalized as The Man's inherited lair, the film is able to rustle up some interesting comparisons to modern living.

Finally, holding everything together above ground is the indomitable Donald Pleasance. With spades more gruff than Morse, his Inspector Calhoun is ever more intent on solving wots 'bin going on in iz manar! Pleasance is clearly revelling in the role and pushes his caustic and antagonistic copper as far as he can, his blase attitude to the crimes evolving as the film goes on and he gets more cups of tea. He brings narrative vim and a fair injection of humorous hubris to the proceedings, while Christopher Lee's cameo, as an intimidating MI5 agent, is entirely superfluous. He must have been doing the director a favor.

With "cult" written all over it, this could be a treat for discerning genre fans and is, in many ways, better than the CGI-elasto-plastered pulp that gets churned out every year.

Chain Reaction (2006) (V)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This will please Gorehounds, 2 February 2008

Loads of gore, decent effects and unintentionally funny characters made this film just makes it bearable. I had to watch this in 3 different sittings and maybe that's the best way to see it without becoming tired of the story.

There are events that set off a chain reaction and sets a series of events into motion.

House of Blood (called Chain Reaction on the IMDb) is really a pretty terrible movie in many respects. Christopher Kriesa is not that bad an actor, but the rest of the cast is pretty bad (except for what is basically a cameo from Jurgen Prochnow). I think the movie was shot in Germany. The gore effects are pretty bloody for the most part and some are pretty good.

Others are not, especially the make-up work. We're left in the end with a lot of important unanswered questions. The whole "chain reaction" aspect and other parts of the writing are pretty poor.

House of Blood is pretty poor and I'd only suggest a rental if you want something to make fun of or are that desperate for gore effects (lots of the red stuff flows). Thou renteth at thine own peril!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Semi-classic mood piece about nature turning on a young couple, 2 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) are a modern Sydney couple whose sophisticated lifestyle is ruled by dinner parties, money making and infidelity. With their marriage in near terminal decline, Peter drags his reluctant wife on a camping trip to an isolated northern beach for the long weekend, in the hope that going back to basics will somehow bring them back together. Driving through the dark and the rain, the bickering couple is soon completely lost.

The following dawn reveals a secluded paradise, but if Peter is envisaging a surf-'n'-sex idyll straight out of The Blue Lagoon, what he gets is a nightmare much closer to The Birds, or Open Water. For this savage new landscape seems to resonate with the couple's bitterest secrets, as nature imposes her own strange and implacable reality upon the trespassing city slickers.

Colin Eggleston takes the premise of nature's revenge to its most mysterious and over determined limits. On the one hand, it seems obvious that the many animal attacks in the film serve as punishments for the human characters' repeated acts of hubristic transgression, be it Peter's running over of a kangaroo, chopping down of a tree, shooting a dugong, harassing a possum, or Marcia's angry destruction of an eagle's egg. On the other hand, the bush land, in all its merciless inescapability, appears to be a metaphor for the childless marriage in which the two principals have become trapped. At the same time, it seems that Peter and Marcia are not nature's only victims and casual background references to nuclear testing and oil exploration hint at a broader ecological agenda. Amidst this superabundance of interpretative frames, there are also some moments that are genuinely beyond any kind of rationalisation, lending Long Weekend an air of eerie irresolution.

Under Eggleston's moody direction, even the most minute of sounds is over amplified to explosive volume and the voyeuristic camera-work tends to be from the ground up, as though from the point-of-view of lurking critters, so that the wilderness locations, for all their natural beauty, seem to brim with the tension of unbearable foreboding. Neither Hargreaves, nor Behets, shrink from the narcissistic unpleasantness of their characters, in what are bravely unflattering performances. Best of all is the ending, which, though shockingly abrupt, is, within the film's elaborate nexus of motifs, totally, perfectly right, only to be topped by a final, fern-laden image that is haunting enough to do the actor Andrei Tarkovsky proud.

Made in a country where outback dangers are never more than a short drive away, Long Weekend illustrates the fragile veneer of civilisation, constantly under threat from both nature and the feral heart of man. Surrender to this film's insinuating spell and see if it makes you go wild.

Hatchet (2006)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fans of graphic dismemberment will love it, 2 February 2008

Old-fashioned ultra-gorefest allows a half-hour of crass humor and amateur-porn titillation to go by before a motley crew of idiot Louisiana tourists start getting picked off by an ax murderer, one by one -- and not a moment too soon. Re-edited for an R rating after the MPAA slapped it with an NC-17, though the uncensored version should find plenty of twisted takers on homevid.

The basic plot follows the hero Ben, played by Joel Moore (Dodgeball) and his buddy Marcus as they party in New Orleans. Ben is a nice enough, nice enough looking guy. Marcus is more outgoing and self-assured. Ben has gone to New Orleans to forget about having just been dumped by his girlfriend of eight years. Marcus' intention is to sleep with as many women (not what he calls them) as possible.

From Ben's vantage point, drunk women flashing their boobs and throwing themselves at him is no balm for the pain of rejection! The Haunted Swamp Tour is a nighttime boat ride through the Louisiana swamp. Accompanying Ben and Marcus are a Chinese tour guide who sounds like Boss Hogg (Parry Shen), two porn actresses (Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fiorevanti), a middle-aged married couple (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), a filmmaker of dubious distinction (Joel Murray), and an attractive, mysterious young woman (Tamara Feldman).

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Effectively shocking, 2 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Viewing even the first part of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, it's easy to wonder what all the fuss is about. The film is fascinating in the sense that the locations weren't really scouted and the process required amazing pains by the cast and crew. Kerman particularly does an outstanding job. But the film itself isn't truly special, at least not to the extent where it should still remembered twenty-five years later. Even the scenes with Kerman and the tribe seem staged when there is no conceivable reason for them to. It plays like NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC without the cinema verite'.

When they go into the jungle, things change dramatically. At first, it is the extremely disturbing slaughtering of a tortoise who probably lived well over a hundred years before Alan's crew (and Deodato's if we're being entirely fair) came along. Even Faye is unable to take this as she vomits at the sight of the mutilated animal, betraying her tough exterior. Ciardi truly was disgusted by this and her revulsion is not faked. The rest of the group gleefully tears into the creature. Yet, we are taught to simply place this in the context of documentary objectivity. Just the other day, I saw a random image on one of the nature channels. An elk slips through the ice, kicking and screaming and according to the narrator, taking a long time to finally drown. What is left unsaid is that in all that time, the crew never attempted to intervene in the animal's painful death. After all, they had to retain their objectivity and let nature take its course. I can't help but think that the elk may have disagreed. I would never approve of cruelty to animals, but I merely point out that Deodato practiced the same horrible things documentary filmmakers do to this day.

The crew continues to stumble upon or instigate several grisly happenings. As they record every moment, they remind themselves to feign shock and disgust so the audience will not see them as monsters. Looking at the raw footage we know they are more interested in filming violence and tragedy than preventing it. To be fair, Deodato's motives also remain unclear.

When the crew is left without their guide in the jungle, things look ominous, but they play up their quandary, focusing on the work. They do meet up with the tribe and find that while the images are interesting, they just aren't very good television. Under the guise of a nonexistent war between tribes, the crew themselves comes in with their modern technology and brutalizes the tribe. The tribe, which has it's own barbaric customs (including a disgusting reprimand against adulterous wives) are actually not as savage as the advanced interlopers. Eventually, they even massacre them in a scene that recalls the American devastation of Vietnamese villages like Mei Lai.

Things don't continue to go as well for the crew as they try to make their way out of the jungle. The cannibals hunt them down and their footage details their shocking demise. It's brutal and heartbreaking, yet none of us could honestly say the filmmakers didn't get what was coming for them.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
For the fans of 70s and 80s kitsch horror, 2 February 2008

So who are the Hamiltons? The eldest brother David (Child) has taken up the role of head of the family following the death of their parents, but is in no way keeping them all under control. The younger more rebellious twins Wendall (McKelheer) and Darlene (Firgens) are becoming increasingly conniving, pushing the boundaries of friendships in a more twisted way than the mind games of Cruel Intentions. Meanwhile, Francis (Knauf), the youngest and most sensitive, is the only one who seems to be normal and trying to complete a school project by filming the daily exploits of them all; something hard to do when there is two local girls bound and gagged in the basement.

The Butcher Brothers provide The Hamiltons with a surprisingly real tone despite all the crazed nastiness, helped along by the nods to The Blair Witch Project with the use of a video camera. As Francis ponders the meaning of families and the sense of belonging they can bring, it is with a wry sense of humor said family torture their captives and syphon off their blood. The Butcher Brothers know how traumatic our teenage years can be and mix it in with unsettling moments to give us a chilling tale similar to Ginger Snaps in the way Francis must face up to his unnatural maturity by the end. As they all try to sort out their own problems with only a social worker who cannot possibly understand them to act as parental guidance, you'll want to know why they are so screwed up.

Although the Hamiltons are hardly the most likable family with the twins pushing their friend Kitty (Hunt) into joining them for unsettling games that threaten to get out of hand, its grim mood gives way to brighter prospects for them all for an oddly uplifting final reel. There is a lot of coldness about The Hamiltons due to a dryness of delivery that hardly welcomes you to watch, however this offers an element of ghoulish black comedy and with an unseen monster lurking locked up in their basement, at times you'll not know whether to laugh or shiver.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Worth a look, 2 February 2008

This film got a limited U.S. theatrical release in the summer of 2006 as one of the 8 Films to Die For in the After Dark Horrorfest, and it actually started life as a Tobe Hooper film (director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist) called simply Zombies.

Karen Tunny (Lori Heuring) and her daughters Sarah (played as a believably bitchy teenager by Scout Taylor-Compton, who appeared in remake of Halloween reprising the role originated by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Emma (nine-ish Chloe Moretz who was in the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror) move to a remote mountain town in Pennsylvania to fix up and hopefully sell the house Karen's recently deceased husband left to her. The house is filthy, having lain empty for decades, but Karen is financially strapped and has nowhere else to go. Mr. Hanks (Ben Cross), a creepy old man living in a nearby shack anoints Karen's door with blood, and a developer tells Karen that he's the actual owner of the house and that she must vacate to make way for a new ski resort. Unknown to Karen and her daughters, a nearby abandoned mine was the site of an early 20th century cave-in, in which several child laborers were killed. Those children, now flesh hungry ghouls, still roam the woods at night carrying their pickaxes and shovels, and God help anyone who crosses their path.

The film is a bit of a hybrid combining the basic structure of a ghost story with the mechanics of a zombie film, managing to be both creepy and gory. Shot in Bulgaria, Wicked Little Things takes full advantage of its deep woods setting, giving us some of the creepiest forest at night scenes in recent memory. The film's director of photography is to be commended for the way he makes the woods come alive.The movie suffers from a few a few of those horror movie moments when people do stupid things just to move the story along. The scene in which Karen wanders into an abandoned and dilapidated old mansion had me rolling my eyes, and the idea of a woman moving her family into a house she has never seen before stretches credibility. Enjoyment of films like this often depend on how forgiving the viewer can be. In this case, Wicked Little Things has more than enough going for it to counter balance characters doing things that will have you smacking your head. Reminiscent of creepy little kids in films like the classic Village of the Damned and the 80s schlock-fest The Children, Wicked Little Things delivers on the scares despite the occasional lapse in logic.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This movie struggles to distill Rowling's longest book yet., 1 February 2008

This fifth film should please fans who rate the films based on their fidelity to the canonical texts. But for the uninitiated, it's a dry and slightly dreary introduction to the world of Hogwarts and Azkaban, where enchantment and mystery — good and bad — lie beneath a placid surface of English railway platforms, call boxes and pedestrian underpasses. It feels like a placeholder, not because little happens but because so much plot must be served in order to set up subsequent events that there's no room for the gentle human moments that anchor Rowling's heroic fantasy epic to the everyday world.

It opens in a miserable little excuse for a playground in the cookie-cutter suburb where orphaned wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) grimly spends school holidays with his loathsome relatives, the Dursleys. Trapped in a rank underpass by a sudden, highly suspicious storm, Harry resorts to magic to rescue his unspeakable cousin Dudley (Harry Melling) from a soul-sucking Dementor and is promptly expelled for using magic in front of a civilian. In short order Harry is hauled before a Ministry of Magic tribunal, whose intent to railroad him is thwarted only by the fortuitous intervention of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry's much-loved mentor and substitute father figure. But though Harry is cleared, his already sullied reputation has been further besmirched: Head Minister Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) has taken the position that Harry is deluded at best, lying at worst, when he insists that the dreaded Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned from hellish exile, reiterating it regularly in the ministry's house organ, "The Daily Prophet." And many of Harry's classmates have begun to wonder aloud what really happened when he and popular student Cedric Diggory entered a mystical maze from which only Harry emerged alive. Harry has allies, of course, including his oldest friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and his godfather, the fugitive Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). But he also has an implacable enemy in ministry lackey Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), whose cheery pink wardrobe and saccharine smile hide the soul of a lace-curtain fascist.

There's more — much, much more — crammed into the 138-minute running time; it's the shortest film in the series, adapted from the longest book. Both screenwriter Michael Goldenberg and U.K. television director David Yates are new to the series and do an admirable job ratcheting up the darkness. They're supported by cinematographer Slawomir Idziak's icy color palette, which truly does look as though all the happiness has been sucked out of the world. As always, the performances are top-notch, from the series veterans — many reduced by the sheer volume of plot to virtual cameos — to ethereal newcomer Evanna Lynch, who plays witchy little Luna Lovegood. But for a tale suffused with spells and portents, the magic is oddly elusive. --Maitland McDonagh

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