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Offspring (2009)
13 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Another failed Ketchum adaptation, 17 October 2009

Jack Ketchum is one of the best current horror-novelists, Stephen King and Psycho novelist Robert Bloch among those screaming their praise for his gruesome and down-right disturbing stories (it's hard to find a single Ketchum book without a King quote plastered on the jacket somewhere). However, Ketchum film adaptations haven't lived up to their original text and most of them have been forgotten...despite all coming out within the last few years. With the release of Offspring, I found myself hoping Jack Ketchum film adaptations existed within some Bizzaro universe, where good books made bad movies and bad books made good movies. Offspring wasn't a particularly bad novel, but was definitely one of Ketchum's weaker efforts. A sequel to Off Season (which hasn't been filmed yet due to a rights issue), which was your typical generic cannibal movie in book form, Offspring followed a group of children cannibals terrorizing some cardboard cut-outs from Maine. If Ketchum's more enriching experiences couldn't be duplicated in film, maybe one of his more generic pieces would lend itself better to the medium of film. Unfortunately, my parallel universe fantasy was dead wrong and what we're left with is incrementally worse than any prior Ketchum adaptations.

It's easy to forget that film-making takes immense skill, work, experience and luck to produce anything of quality. It seems like every other month there's another critically acclaimed independent film from someone who had nothing but a dream and a few grand. Unfortunately, these are the very rare exception and the reason why The Blair Witch Project, Clerks, El Mariachi, and Paranormal Activity are so famous is precisely because they are the exception. For every low-budget, low-experience success, there are numerous failures. Offspring is a harsh reminder of this. Everything about it shouts out "student film" or some deviation on the word "amateur". It's rare to see something of this low quality on the rack in a video store, let alone with distribution from Sam Raimi's Ghost House Underground and the only reason for this surely must be the link to Ketchum.

The picture is cheap consumer digital video, fluctuating in and out of focus. The camera-work is utterly bland with no sense of purpose or reason, simply shooting from one seemingly random chosen angle. Editing is sporadic, sometimes going through the standard way to edit a sequence (conversations cut almost on cue to the three requisite angles: long shot, over the shoulder 1, over the shoulder 2), other times apparently unintentionally jumpy. The lighting is so evidently off studio lights, particularly in the cannibals cave dwelling which looks like a cheap studio set. The sound effects are of the variety downloaded off the Internet, including the monotonous cricket loop, the popping gun sound and cheap thwacking sounds for axe impact. These are all aspects of film that are not always apparent upon viewing, but do make a gargantuan difference in quality and effect. Offspring, because of all this and more, appears to be a cheap student exercise rather than a real, albeit low-budget, production.

There are more superficially obvious muck-ups among Offspring though. The acting is quite frankly horrendous. Whether floundering under lacklustre direction or just simply bad, the actors appear to be attempting to outdo each other in lack of emotion or personality. However, it reaches its apex when paired with the atrocious costuming of the cannibal children. Drabbed with loin cloths straight out of Tarzan Halloween costumes and with tacky Walmart wigs atop their heads, these have to be the some of the least menacing cannibals possible. It isn't until they begin giggling like Chucky had he been sucking on helium that they become the least menacing villains possible, dethroning the killer leprechaun from Leprechaun and the killer snowman from Jack Frost. They run, scream, and jump around with the overacting zeal of an ecstatic kid playing charades.

The biggest problem however, is the script itself, which sadly was written by Ketchum himself. Few would have any doubts about his ability as a novelist (even if some critics do find his material repugnant or without any substantial merit), but his first foray into screen writing is deeply flawed. He has essentially transcribed the glut of the scenes from the novel directly to the screen with little to no alteration. An endless battle over the course of a night with cannibals worked within the context of the novel as the written form allows us to explore the characters thoughts, feelings and experiences, making it something more than just endless fighting. Here, this isn't true; the scenes are, when taken out of the context of the novel, pointless and meandering. The characters are stripped of their character. The story is stripped of all its insight and intelligence, already quite limited. Film and writing are two different mediums and in this case what worked decently well in one doesn't work in the other. We don't know why, for instance, the Sheriff so willingly helps track down the cannibals (don't worry, this is essentially the first plot point). In the book, we learn through his thoughts that it's motivated by a previous encounter with them that scarred him deeply. Here, he just does it and we don't care, true of nearly every event. The despicable menacing ex from the book comes across as a mere d-bag, the three adult protagonists as boring and shallow yuppies who speak constant cheese dialogue.

Of course there are those who will propose that Offspring is primarily a bloody, gore-fest and that if the film succeeds in delivering the carnage, it's a success. All I can say is that if baby dolls smeared with blood in plastic bags and the sporadic blood spraying of an insecticide pump filling in for a severed vein, there isn't much here to recommend.

- Dylan,

48 out of 74 people found the following review useful:
Pumpkin men, Weird Al, and a ghost horse; Halloween II is one bizarre movie, 30 August 2009

It was quite the dilemma deciding whether Halloween II was a good film or a bad one. One thing is certain: it's a "weird" film, undoubtedly the most bizarre major studio release of the year. Rob Zombie's sequel or "vision" – as it's being touted – seems to have been envisioned with the aid of various hallucinogenics and mind-altering substances, withering away whatever was left of the original John Carpenter Halloween mythology after Rob Zombie's remake and leaving a nonsensical, uber-violent mess in its wake. This isn't a so-bad-it's-good movie, nor would I call it a just-plain-bad one; this is a so-weird-it's-good movie, a blood-drenched collage of absurdities and irrationality, which like a train wreck (a term some would use to refer to previous Zombie efforts), is hard to look away from. Little of the iconic original Halloween is left here – all that's left is Michael Meyer's mask, which itself is less recognizable beneath the grime and torn pieces – but perhaps it would be foolish to try to match the original masterpiece anyway. Zombie has crafted something entirely different; something quite frankly silly, dumb and, for lack of a more politically correct term, "retarded", but nonetheless entertaining, not in spite of, but because of this.

Picking up where the remake left off, Halloween II sees Laurie Strode recovering from her ordeal with psychopath Michael Meyers. Mentally-traumatized after both the Halloween day massacre of nearly everyone she knew and her own dispatching of Meyers – by way of shot to the head -, Laurie finds herself dreading the one-year anniversary of the serial killings, plagued with the irrational fear that the deceased Meyers will return to small-town Haddonfield to finish her off. Well, low-and-behold, Meyers is alive, and he makes it his mission to track down Laurie and finish what he started.

The general plot outline is as generic as can be, but it's hard to fathom or comprehend the insanity that occurs. Michael Meyers, the original mask-wearing soulless psychopath, the "pure evil" murderer, the "Big Cheese" of all horror movie villains, has now been transformed into a homeless vagrant who randomly eats dogs. Yep, that's right, he's a hobo that eats dogs now. When a film is remade, one expects some alterations, but this is akin to remaking Indiana Jones and turning him an extraterrestrial who molests children. There is practically no semblance of the original character...and the new ones just messed. As well, Meyer's is followed by his deceased mother, himself in child-form and a gigantic white horse, seemingly all figments of his imagination. Except they interact with Laurie as well...making them ghosts? Except Meyers isn't deceased, so it makes absolutely no sense for there to be a ghost version of him. Maybe Laurie is inexplicably psychic and seeing into Meyer's mind? Or maybe Zombie just ate a few too many shrooms. Either way, this mom-boy-horse trio follows Meyer's around as he kills various victims, instructing him on what to do next. It's as stupid as it sounds.

Dr. Loomis has also been changed significantly. The remake hinted at Loomis profiteering slightly off the Meyers incident, but here it has been taken to ridiculous proportions. He's now a prima donna celebrity who travels around in a jet black limo with his publicist, throws hissy fits at reporters and threatens to beat on woman. One sequence has Dr. Loomis appearing on a talk show alongside Weird Al Yankovic, with the famed disc-joker lampooning the doctor and Michael Meyers (making puns about whether this is the same guy who starred in Austin Powers) until Loomis finally explodes with anger on air at the hosts assertion that Meyers is a shark. If it sounds like this has nothing to do with the film, it's because it doesn't. This irrelevance not only pertains to the Weird Al scene, but all of Dr. Loomis's scenes. His entire role is a completely separate, unrelated tangent in which he gallivants around the country promoting his book. For that matter, even Laurie and Michael have about ten minutes in the way of plot. Laurie, up until the last fifteen minutes, never encounters Michael. The near entirety of Halloween II is Michael fighting random people – farmers, strippers, tough-guy scumbags – while Laurie lives her life as per usual.

The rest of the film is a compilation of pumpkin people, vans running into cows, "golden showers", discussions about fornicating with corpses, and sex with a guy in a wolf costume who sounded suspiciously like Michael Cera. It's weird, undoubtedly convoluted, but in the end it's pretty entertaining. It's punctuated with displays of head smashings, throat slittings, and other displays of excessively graphic violence. Nudity is slightly down from the first one, but there are still several scenes involving bared breasts. In the end, between all the nonsense, gore and nudity, Halloween II is a big-budgeted, toned-down Hollywood stab at a Troma movie. In other words, a pretty fun movie.

I'm one of the few who actually enjoyed Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween – a lot. For reasons I won't get into here I enjoyed it immensely, but at the same time I could completely understand why so many disliked it. It took some of the things that made the original Halloween so great in many people's eyes and switched them around completely. Those who despised the first Halloween for that reason will likely loathe this second installment with a passion. However, if one can go into Halloween II not expecting a Halloween movie – or even a reasonably scary horror – they might just have a good time. It's not "bad" per say – although it's hard to say what Zombie intended it to be – but it's enjoyable in its bizarreness. Worth checking out if you don't mind Carpenter's story being completely bastardized.

- Dylan,

35 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
One of the more bizarre films you'll see, 30 August 2009

Japanese culture is as bizarre as it gets, among the various oddities that have sprung from it are game shows which consist of male contestants being whacked in the genitals and animated pornography, termed "hentai", whose various sub genres involving bestiality and lactation have become widely popular amongst the population. Hell, they even sell toilet paper with short horror stories printed on it for god knows what reason. This utterly insane culture extends into their film as well and one doesn't have to look any further than Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl for an example of how depraved, grotesque and downright "weird" their movies can get. There are very few American-produced films that can match the sheer lunacy occurring within this "versus" circus freak show. Continuing in the tradition of previous hyper-violent, excessively-sexual Japanese horrors centered on attractive school-girls (popular films like The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police), Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl throws a whole bunch of other peculiarities into the mix, including blackface, a kabuki mad scientist who air guitars using his victims spinal cords, an oversexed nurse with eyeballs sewn onto her nipples, a wrist-cutting competition, and copious amounts of blood equal in proportion to the accumulation of ten regular horror movies. If it isn't one of the strangest films of all time, it certainly is of this year.

Throwing up an assortment of depravity and blood-drenched insanity into a film always makes for good fun, but never makes up for a lack of plot, lazy writing or poorly-executed film-making, a few key problems that permeate through many of these gory, low-budget efforts. These are all issues readily apparent in The Machine Girl, a prior similar undertaking which, for all its excessive gore and dismemberment, was at its core really nothing much different than most substandard Hollywood fare. Here, directors Yoshihiro Nishimura (who tread similar ground with Tokyo Gore Police) and Naoyuki Tomomatsu have crafted both an emotionally-charged teen love story and a hilarious satire of popular trends, the film elevated by the over-the-top absurdities rather than reliant on them. High-school heart throb Mizushima finds himself in the center of a vicious tug-of-war between two lovers: Keiko, his high-maintenance girlfriend whose spineless vice-principal daddy bows to her every demand, and Monami, a new student in the school who falls for Mizushima's kind personality...and who also happens to be a vampire. Of course, when the two girls get into a feud, Keiko is no match for the supernatural Monami and is killed. However, Keiko's father moonlights as a mad scientist and he reanimates Keiko, upgrading her with a variety of different physical attributes swiped from corpses. Now, the Vampire Girl and the Frankenstein Girl find themselves facing off in a battle to the death for Mizushima's affection.

There are a plethora of outlandish gags to please any hardened gore-fan. Among the best are the Vampire Girl tearing a hole in a girls face and unraveling her skin like the wrappings on a mummy, a reanimated foot-hand creature, blood drops with a life of their own and the Frankenstein Girl tearing off an arm, screwing it onto her head and using it as a helicopter propeller to zip around through the sky. This is the love-child of a three-way between Looney Tunes, an early Peter Jackson film and a Troma movie. Nary two minutes go by where someone's head isn't being crushed in or where some appendage isn't being attached to some other ludicrous concoction. It is amazingly fun, completely original and absolutely never dull. Even those who don't enjoy the film, possibly too much for their tastes, will likely be enthralled by the madcap display enfolding in front of them.

However, it's when the film steps back from the lunacy that it's at its best. The characters at their best, particularly Monami and Mizushima, are surprisingly fleshed out, likable and quite funny; at their worst, over-the-top caricatures that are usually funny and always interesting. There are a lot of laughs mined from the absurd notion of falling in love with a vampire, as well as the battle being waged for Mizushima, the tone always light and self-deprecating; one comical part has Mizushima proclaiming, as he narrates the battle, something along the lines of "Has anyone ever asked my feelings about this", which sums up the ridiculousness of the obvious lapses of logic that allow the fight, and pretty much the entire film, to occur. Perhaps the funniest scenes involve those lampooning current teenage trends. The "emo's" are part of an after-school wrist cutting club. The trend of imitating black culture is taken to absurd limits with a trio of girls not only in black face, but with afros, over-sized lips and the refusal to drink any coffee but black. Not only isn't there a boring minute, but there isn't one that's not either laugh-out-loud hilarious or just plain crazy.

The only shortcomings are the occasional limitations of the low-budget paired with the wide scope of the films imaginative dismemberment. Some of the effects, although most often not, are poorly executed. As well, the arterial spray of blood throughout the film is less than satisfying due to the reliance on CGI effects, which look both incredibly cheap and silly (in a bad way). The entire film also carries a somewhat cheap vibe to it, which leads me to believe it was either digital video or inefficiency behind the camera. Regardless, these are small prices to pay for the amount of imaginative fun and hilarious splatter that Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl delivers, making it one of the better exercises in this type of frenetic insanity that so often falls on the wayside.

- Dylan,

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
One of the best Christmas horror films, 4 January 2009

Ah, Christmas. Although it has become increasingly commercialized and sometimes appears to be nothing more than a huge crash-grab for multi-million dollar corporations, Christmas have remained popular year after year. While the underlying message the holiday carries with it of caring for one another has been overshadowed by companies desperate attempts to launder more money out of consumers, the holiday-themed films often still carry these reaffirming messages. There's a reason that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" air on TV every year to solid ratings: in today's dour times, where even our popular movies have deviated from escapism and taken on a depressing quality, it is refreshing to see a film that can make us feel good about ourselves and life in general.

This is also why Christmas-themed horror movies are often more disturbing than their regular themed counterparts. Christmas has become representative of joy, cheer and ignorant bliss, and even the most jaded of adults can remember with fondness the excitement they felt as children at the idea of Santa. When you give Santa an axe and have him hacking people to pieces, he might as well be hacking up all our good feelings for the holiday. Christmas is supposed to be happy and people can't stand to see it represented as otherwise. This is why "Silent Night Deadly Night", a slasher that is no more violent than your average Friday the 13th film, was targeted by a massive protest during its release in 1984 and subsequently pulled from theatres and home video. People couldn't stand to see the feel-good time of year used in such a depressing manner and their childhood idol, Santa Claus, turned into some sort of psychopathic murderer. It wasn't just ultra-conservative Christians that fought to have this movie banned: even Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel shamed the entire cast and crew on their show.

The movie starts out with a series of tragic events on Christmas Eve that instill a warped view of St. Nick into young Billy. First, Billy's family pays visit to his clinically insane grandfather, who warns Billy that Santa will punish him for his naughty behavior. Then on the drive back from the institution, a criminal dressed as Santa murders his father and rapes his mother, slitting her throat afterwards and leaving Billy and his baby brother without parents. The two children are brought to an orphanage, where head-nun Mother Superior consistently punishes young Billy for the rest of his childhood, especially around Christmas time, which is usually when Billy begins acting out with memories of his parents murder still fresh in his head. By the time Billy has reached his eighteenth birthday, he lands a job at a local toy store. However, when he is required to don a Santa's suit for Christmas Eve and the co-workers begin referring to him as Santa, Billy goes over the edge, setting out to punish those who have been naughty...with the help of an axe.

Silent Night Deadly Night is another entry in the long list of eighties slashers, and while some may see it as nothing more than Friday the 13th featuring Santa Claus instead of Jason, it differentiates from other slashers in several ways. The over-the-top gore, often a staple of the slasher film, is toned down here, with much more tonally realistic violence, excluding an instance of death-by-antlers. However the biggest difference is the subject matter, which is much more grim than usual, including such topics as rape, sexual abuse and child abuse. Juxtaposed against the cheery Christmas setting, these factors propel Silent Night Deadly Night to a disturbing level that most other slasher films don't ever reach. Sure, some of the deaths are good old fun, but the murder and rape of Billy's mother, as the young child watches, is fairly shocking, as are several of the other sequences throughout. The grainy camera quality smears another layer of sleaze and grunge over top the film. While Silent Night Deadly Night isn't quite as vile and disturbing as the notorious Maniac, it is pretty darn close.

Slasher films have never been known to feature the most likable characters, and Silent Night Deadly Night is no different. In fact, here the films sole attention is on the murderer himself, Billy, with his victims usually getting nothing more than a minute or two of introduction before being snuffed. And while Billy isn't likable (and I would be a little scared of anyone who said he was), he generates a certain amount of pity, stemming from the fact that he is not a bad guy. He is a good guy who has been driven insane by the constant abuse he suffered as a child. He is a product of his environment, and while he may not induce much compassion as he begins to pull a box cutter on a child, he is a sad case of the effects child abuse can have on a human, and generates empathy despite his heinous crimes. There is more depth to Billy than Jason or Freddy, and that is part of the reason the film is more disturbing than most other slashers.

The final aspect of Silent Night Deadly Night that really propels it above most other slashers is not a variation from other slasher genres (like the previous things I have mentioned), but an improvement on most others. This is to say that there are actually some very creepy and frightening sequences, particularly the ending which sent shivers up my arm. The infamous protests that greeted this films release may lead people to believe that Silent Night Deadly Night is nothing more than some sort of exploitation piece. This is not what it actually is though. It is a depressing, quite suspenseful and well-done entry in the sleazy slasher genre, and possibly one of the best Christmas-themed horror movies out there.

13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
One of the worst sequels of all time, 4 January 2009

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is the film version of those terrible recap specials that come every couple seasons or so on a popular television show. Comprised of recycled clips from previous episodes, these specials usually are close to un-viewable. They take the best clips from the series that most people have already seen and place them one after another out of context, thus stripping them of any of the original comedic value or suspense. Likewise, Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is mostly comprised of footage from its predecessor. In fact, over forty-five minutes of the footage has been cribbed from the original. This has never really been done in any movie before, and there's a good reason for this, even beyond that these clips have to be viewed in their original context to retain the same power. Most people watching the sequel have already seen the first entry. No one wants to sit through the same stuff over again. Sequels are supposed to continue the story, not rehash it. This is why while the original Silent Night Deadly Night is a personal favorite of mine, this film is possibly one of the worst sequels of all time.

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 focuses on Ricky, the younger brother of Billy who was the original "Santa Claus" killer from the original. Ricky has followed in the path of his brother and become a serial killer as well. Now detained, he recounts his story to a psychiatrist. Cue footage from the first film, used in the form of flashbacks. Not only is this boring, but it makes absolutely no sense at all. Ricky's flashbacks date back to when he was less than a year old in some cases, where it would be almost impossible to have any memory. In other instances it is certainly impossible for him to remember several of the flashbacks as many don't even involve him. The fact that Ricky has memories of things that he was never a part of and would never have a way of finding out, is just one of the many enormous plot-holes.

After about forty five minutes, Ricky begins recounting his personal story of growing up. Thankfully the recycled footage ceases and the audience is presented with something new. Unfortunately, it is insanely stupid, venturing into so-bad-it's-good area half the time and just bad area the other half. Despite not being old enough to have been emotionally scarred by the same events that sent his older brother over the edge, Ricky has also become a psychopath. The difference here is that while his brother was set off by the sight of Santa Claus, Ricky gets murderous tendencies whenever he sees the color red. When he sees a red truck he subsequently murders the owner with it. When he sees a red umbrella, he uses it to impale a gangster in what is possibly the lamest death sequence ever. When he sees a red blanket, he nearly has a heart attack. The problem with this is that it's virtually impossible to avoid the color red on a daily basis, meaning young Ricky would have heart attacks every time he got a test back graded with red marker. Not to mention that this makes for a fairly pathetic serial killer. All you have to do is put on a red t-shirt and he will probably wet himself (although by the end he has inexplicably gotten over this fear and dons a Santa suit).

In one mind-boggling sequence, Ricky takes his girlfriend to the movie theatre to watch the original Silent Night Deadly Night. Keep in mind this is a sequel to Silent Night Deadly Night that continues the exact story from where it left off. Even Ricky has a "huh" moment as the film starts and is revealed to be the first entry in the series. How can Ricky, who was in the first film and has crystal clear memories of events that occurred within it, go and watch the first film in a movie theatre? Does this mean that Ricky is delusional and the events from the original never happened? Or does this mean that Ricky has crossed over out of the movie-universe and into the real world. No, all it means is that the writers were probably snorting cocaine while they typed out this script.

It doesn't go much lower than the movie theatre sequence, but there are still plenty more examples of stupidity sprinkled throughout the rest of the film. Eric Freeman's ridiculously over-the-top acting as Ricky, accompanied by eyebrows that seem to bounce around his face like they've been injected with acid, turn his "Garbage Day" rampage into a laugh riot as he blows up cars with his pistol and shoots at people taking out the trash. The scene has since become a viral video hit, garnering hundreds of thousands of views on sites like Youtube. By the end of the film the director seems to be trying to turn Ricky into some sort of classic horror movie villain, as he is practically unfazed as he is remedially shot in the chest. While this works for inhuman villains such as Jason Voorhees, it makes absolutely no sense for Ricky to be brushing off shots straight through his chest like they are bug bites. Then the ending comes around and it truly is just plain retarded.

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 could have been enjoyable in a so-bad-it's-good way. There are certainly some instances that made me laugh out loud. However, over half of the running time consists of boring, recycled footage from the original Silent Night Deadly Night, which makes it not worth the time to get to the "good" stuff. If Silent Night Deadly Night was a nice, little Christmas gift, Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is just huge lump of coal

12 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
A failed attempt at "creating" a cult film, 4 November 2008

To call Repo! The Genetic Opera a cross between Rocky Horror Picture Show and Saw isn't entirely accurate. While it is a rock opera like the former, and has its fair share of dismemberment and gore (courtesy of Saw IV director Darren Lynn Bousman) like the latter, "Repo!" is really unlike anything that's been done in not only the horror genre, but the entire medium of film. It's nearly impossible to categorize the film – it's a sci-fi, a horror, a musical, and a drama all in one. In fact, the only category the film can be filed under with certainty is as a failure. What could've been one of the most original entries in the horror genre for this decade, ends up being nothing more than a mish-mash of stringed-together musical numbers with some blood and guts thrown in.

It's the year 2057 and an epidemic of organ failure has spread across the globe. However, Rotti Largo sees an opportunity to make money from this epidemic and thus, GeneCo is created, quickly becoming a multi-billion dollar company. GeneCo offers transplants for faulty organs, which must be paid off in installments, similar to an automobile agency. When people fail to make their payments, GeneCo sends out a Repo Man, whose job it is to get said organs back, usually by slitting open his intended target and tearing them out. However despite starting the successful business, Rotti Largo feels as if his time is limited, and he now has to decide which one of his three delinquent children he must hand the reigns to. Once he realizes none of his own offspring are suitable, he eventually sets his eyes on Shilo, a teenage girl afflicted with a life-threatening disease. What follows is a series of intertwined story lines revolving around Shilo, Rotti and the Repo Man himself, as Rotti pursues Shiloh to be the heir of GeneCo.

The premise is one of the most original in any horror film this year, and the ideas of conglomerates taking over the jobs public services, such as hospitals, to help feed a peculiar organ fashion trend, is a chilling comment on the nature of North American society and its media-controlled environment. The plot is very much a horror twist on classic dystopian literature, such as "Brave New World" and "1984". Unfortunately, the movie pays little attention to developing the story, preferring to spend more time on mind-numbingly boring musical numbers. Understandably, an opera usually is comprised of songs in place of regular dialog; however, here it comes at the expense of the story. Not much happens throughout the films running time – maybe about forty minutes worth of story in the whole hundred minutes – and the rest is just overdone, overwrought music video sequences. Throw in the fact that not enough time is spent developing the seemingly endless amount of characters, and you've got yourself a film that falls way short of its potential.

Repo! is being marketed as a "cult" film and cult films aren't always known for being the strongest films in terms of character and story. Unfortunately, Repo! is just too tedious for there to be any fun to be had. The musical numbers are a jumbled mish-mash of opera, industrial, punk-rock, and heavy metal. Although I'm personally not one of those "Rocky Horror" fanatics, the tunes were catchy; they stayed with you. With Repo!, there's nothing that will stay with you once the films over, let alone anything that sounds remotely pleasant to the ears. Bousman would've been wise to at least have incorporated some sort of action throughout the musical numbers, but characters seem regulated to standing around as they belt out their numbers. Considering 95% of the film is told through music, there is a lot of standing around going on, and not much else, save for a couple of gore gags.

Bousman would have been wise to strip the film of the opera aspect completely and focus on developing the other aspects of the film, but then again, the musical aspect is key to the "cult" status that this movie is trying so hard to obtain. However, cult films cannot be manufactured. There is a huge difference between Rocky Horror and Repo!: Rocky Horror came out of nowhere and slowly developed a cult following over the years as audiences connected with it. Repo! already had a fan following before it had even finished filming. It's a film where everything from the stars (genre faves like Anthony Stewart Head and Bill Moseley) to the genre (musicals are frequently cult films) have been employed to create a "cult" film. A production company can't make a cult film. Audiences make a cult film. That's why Repo! will fizzle out and be regulated to DVD obscurity, while Rocky Horror will continue to play in theaters for many more years to come.

- Dylan,

Heckler (2007)
42 out of 57 people found the following review useful:
Heckler: Entertaining, but extremely flawed, 5 October 2008

It's a little weird – and very ironic - to review Heckler, a documentary that speaks out specifically on film criticism. Despite the title and promotional materials suggesting that it focuses on those who heckle stand up comedians, the film has a change of heart half way through, switching its efforts over to berating film critics. Therein lies one of the bigger problems with Heckler: the two topics don't have much to do with one another, despite Jamie Kennedy's, the star of the film, attempts at correlating them. Besides this major flaw, Heckler is an entertaining film. Personally, I disagree with nearly every point of view featured within Heckler, but the film held my interest, containing what must be hundreds of different interviews with celebrities.

The first half of Heckler focuses primarily on audience members at stand-up comedy shows who take it upon themselves to interrupt the performance, insult the comedian, or occasionally even try and steal the spotlight by finishing the jokes. While this may not seem like a big issue to most, the film demonstrates how hecklers have become an increasingly large problem for stand –up comedians. Interviews with a myriad of celebrity comedians, including David Cross, Bill Maher and Tom Green among others, show the frustrations, self-doubt and career repercussions comedians face because of unruly patrons. Heckler also documents some of the more extreme cases as well, including an assault on a stand-up by an offended viewer, a musician who smashes his guitar over an unruly mans head, and the infamous Michael Richards incident. This portion of Heckler does a good job of shedding light on an issue most people have never given a second-thought to.

This is soon abandoned in favor of bashing film critics, especially, but not limited to, the internet kind. There are a few legitimate points made about criticism, particularly how in the "internet" age, more attention is focused on deriding and humiliating the actors/directors who created the film, then critiquing the film itself. While this does show a gradual decrease in the quality of film criticism over the years, it's still very difficult to sympathize with the various film directors interviewed within the film, who all seem to take film criticisms, and the small jabs that come with many of them, way too far. Anyone working within the entertainment business has to have thick skin, it comes with the job. One of these featured directors is Paul Chilsen, who supposedly dropped out of film-making because his first feature got poor reviews. This isn't the fault of the critics; he simply wasn't cut out for the business.

However, no performer featured in Heckler comes across as infantile and whiny as the star of the film himself, Jamie Kennedy. It's a wonder the man ever made it through high school, as it is frequently demonstrated throughout the film that he is unable to take the slightest criticisms of his work. When confronting two teenage hecklers, Kennedy doesn't seem to care about the fact that his show was disrupted; his only concern seems to be that they didn't find it funny, as he begins to say "What do you know about comedy? Who are you to decide what's funny". They're your audience, Jamie. They paid money to see your show, and while they don't have a right to ruin it for others, they have every right to decide whether it's funny or not. If you don't feel like people should judge your work, perhaps you shouldn't be performing it for them.

Kennedy also begins meeting with critics who have given his last feature film, Son of the Mask, a bad review. It becomes more apparent that Kennedy just can't accept the fact that people dislike it or other films of his. He blames others for his own failures as an actor/writer. It's not just the insulting reviews that Kennedy has a problem with: he has a problem with any review that speaks negatively of the film. In Kennedy's dream world, everyone would be forced to enjoy every single piece of art out there, for fear of upsetting the artists. Kennedy takes offense to Richard Roeper's review stating he wanted to walk out of Son of the Mask. The ensuing confrontation is hilarious, as Kennedy attempts to change Roeper's mind by saying in all seriousness that the movie was trying to push new having a baby with super powers who could throw people. In another scene, Kennedy confronts a critic, Peter Grumbine, who seems to find Jamie's overreaction rather funny. At the end of the exchange, Jamie actually calls Grumbine evil, putting someone who dislikes his film among the ranks of Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden. Even if you still have the slightest doubt after watching the movie that Kennedy is overreacting, the deleted scenes should clear everything up: Kennedy freaks out on a friend who merely said one of his comedy bits didn't work.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is many of the director's insistence that no one has the right to judge their work, that anyone who speaks negatively of their work misunderstands it. It shows a complete lack of consideration for the audience, and makes one wonder why these self-proclaimed masters of film even bother showing their work to audiences if they don't care about the reaction. The one exception is Uwe Boll, possibly the most hated man in the film-making business. While he does have an organized boxing bout with critics in the movie, letting off a bit of steam, he never once speaks out against film criticism. Perhaps this is why someone like Boll is increasingly getting better (his two latest movies have had some support) while people like Jamie Kennedy, Joel Schumacher and Eli Roth are continuously getting worse and worse. In the end, it's not film criticism that's destroying the film business, but Kennedy's (and others) inability to learn from the criticism.

Horror Business (2005) (V)
A movie about those who will never make it in the horror film business, 28 September 2008

"If you give a monkey a camera, it will go out there and shoot something" – Ron Atkins

A fitting statement from one of the featured subjects in Horror Business, a documentary on the horror film industry that has a lot of monkeys with cameras, but very few filmmakers. One doesn't have to be part of mainstream Hollywood to be considered a director, but most of the no-talent hacks showcased within this movie are shooting stuff at the level and with the same amount of care as a high school student shooting their English Media project. There are a few small appearances from accomplished filmmakers involved in the horror business, such as H.G Lewis, Sid Haig and Lloyd Kaufman, but for the most part the featured "directors" don't stand the slightest chance of ever making it in the horror business this film professes to be about.

The one exception is David Stagnari, an avid horror fanatic that is attempting to jump start a career as a director with his short film "Catharsis". Stagnari is a person a lot of horror fans could easily relate to; a fan since he was a small child, Stagnari intelligently discusses the state of the genre today, what he wants to accomplish as a director and reminisces of his past experiences watching double-features at a drive-in, which has now been paved over and replaced by a "Babies R' Us". The last is something that may strike a chord in many horror fans, as in today's day and age, repertory theaters and drive-ins, the last solace for audiences seeking independent cinema, are being driven out of business by major conglomerates like AMC and Regal. Although only a few clips of "Catharsis" are shown throughout Horror Business, you can tell that even though Stagnari will probably never break it big, due to the nature of the film industry, he is at least trying to create something of substance.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Ron Atkins, a pretentious d-bag (excuse my unprofessional terminology, but it's the most accurate description of the man) who doesn't even try to make anything remotely worth watching. Armed with a consumer camera, Atkins shoots his films without the aid of lighting, a crew, a tri-pod, a script or most importantly, a brain. Throughout the shooting of his cruddy exploitation flicks, he throws in random story lines, such as Dick Cheney taking a dog in the rear, and then begins to laugh profusely at his own terrible attempts at humor. His views that what moviegoers think of his films doesn't matter as long as he enjoys them are despicable and represent everything wrong with the film industry today, but his wife's reasoning that anyone who dislikes Atkins movies actually enjoys them, doesn't even make the least bit of sense. Atkinson even has the gall to begin trashing Hollywood films. Even the average J-horror remake has more talent, work and heart behind it. As well as absent film-making skills, Atkins also has anger issues (he cusses out a teenage Burger King employee) and a tendency to lie, one example being his claim that he's sold over 30,000 copies of his movies. Considering that none of his films have over 80 votes on IMDb, I find this hard to believe, although there is the small chance that his parents have purchased 29,900 copies of his films.

The rest of the filmmakers fall somewhere in between the two: not entirely as terrible as Atkins, but none as likable as Stagnari. There's an alcoholic who chooses his cameraman a few minutes before his shoot, two full grown men still living at home and producing schlock on par with Atkins and an animator who specializes in cheap flash animation. It's about as far from the horror business as you can get. This doesn't mean that Horror Business had to be a complete failure: if the documentary had focused on the pitfalls of the various directors and what holds them back, it could've worked. As it stands, Horror Business seems unfocused. There's no message, no story arc, no apparent point behind the film; it consists of interviews and behind the scenes set footage, stuff that would make a great special feature on a DVD, but isn't sufficient or substantial enough for a film of its own. It's interesting, but it never feels like a movie. That's the real problem with Horror Business: not that it focuses on people so far outside of the horror business, but that it doesn't know what to do with them or how to create a compelling story revolving around them.

- dyl_gon (

Mirrors (2008/I)
130 out of 183 people found the following review useful:
Mirrors: much better than you'd expect of a horror remake!, 16 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mirrors was pretty much doomed for terrible critical reviews from the start. Horror never scores big with film critics; in fact I can't remember the last horror film that got more positive reviews than negative. If the horror film in question is a remake, especially of a foreign movie, it's almost destined for critical failure. There's a reason for that: most horror remakes are utter garbage and are solely created so studios can make a quick buck. However, once in a while, a horror film remake will come along that actually isn't half bad, yet will still suffer negative reviews based on the fact that it's a horror film remake. It happened several years ago with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more recently, with The Hills Have Eyes.

Mirrors has suffered a similar fate. Directed by French horror director Alexandre Aja, the same man behind The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors is a remake of a Korean horror film, as well as the best wide-release horror film of the year thus far. While I'll admit I probably enjoyed the film much more than most will, it's still miles better than the critic's lousy reviews or lackluster promotion would have you believe.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as Ben Carson, an ex-cop suffering from emotional issues after a "workplace accident" and a messy divorce. Sick of sleeping on his sister's couch, he takes up a job as a security guard at an abandoned department store that was devastated by a fire many years back. The job seems easy enough, primarily consisting of walking through the building every couple hours, making sure there are no trespassers. Things take a turn for the worse though, after several strange encounters involving the mirrors in the building, and Ben begins to find that his own reflection is haunting him, not only at the job, but in any mirror or reflective object (or liquid) he comes across. Soon enough, Ben find his life, as well as his families, in danger.

Mirrors biggest strength is the storyline, easily one of the best horror premises to hit the screen in years (even if it is recycled). Reflections are practically inescapable, not only appearing just in mirrors, but in doorknobs, windows and water. The inescapability of reflections is what makes the idea of one's reflection out to get them so chilling. They're everywhere. You can't escape them. Not since Nightmare on Elm Street, where ones own dreams were the cause of death, has there been a supernatural premise that has gotten so much under my skin. The fact that whatever the mirror images do to themselves happens to their real life counterparts, only heightens the hopelessness of Carson and his family.

Alexandre Aja has already proved his ability to create genuine scares with previous films, but most have been of the brutal, violent kind, as opposed to the atmospheric chills usually employed in supernatural horror movies that are more reliant on the mood and feeling than shocking acts of brutality for scares. Surprisingly, Aja's penchant for gore and violence complements the film surprisingly well. The sequences inside the derelict department store at night build up suspense very well, utilizing the eerie location with corpses manifesting themselves within the mirrors and screams emitting from within deep recesses of the building. It's fairly generic stuff for movies like this, but Aja is talented enough stylistically to pull them off. However, it's the sequences where Aja really lets loose that prove to be the most frightening. One sequence that takes place in a bathtub ends up being one of the most brutal and unsettling death scenes of the year. There are several of these sequences sprinkled throughout the film and they are extremely effective, utilizing a combination of brutality and atmospheric suspense that are, at the least, shocking. When a ghost pops out in one scene, it isn't a pale, long black haired Asian woman, nor a semi-transparent floating apparition: it's a half-naked female with half her body burned off, the flesh still sizzling off her burnt carcass as she wails in pain. That's the difference between Mirrors and most other ghost films.

The biggest downfall of the film is when it tries to provide an explanation for the horrific events taking place in the second half. The idea of one's image terrorizing oneself is horrifying on one level, but at the same time, it's extremely unrealistic. Trying to explain why this happened back fires on the film, as no explanation is going to make sense and instead, will just draw attention to the fact that this would never happen in real life, destroying a bit of the film's effect. The audience doesn't need to know why this happens. Ambiguity in this case would be much more frightening and wouldn't take away from any of the other scares. Once you throw in a sub-plot about mental institution experiments and haunting tragedies taking place in the building, you lose a lot of the suspense. Despite the unwise direction the movie takes in its second half, it's still entertaining and manages to retain a few good scares here and there, while finally rebounding in the last act.

Mirrors isn't perfect (what film is?), but its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses and in the end, it's the most enjoyable wide-release horror film of the year (although personally, the only other decent wide-release horror film this year would be The Strangers). Benefiting from a brilliant premise and the unlikely combination of French director Alexandre Aja's love of blood and brutality with an atmospheric, supernatural storyline, Mirrors is definitely much better than what one would expect of a typical Korean horror movie remake, let alone any horror movie that hits theaters.

- Dylan,

11 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Jack Brooks: Insomnia Slayer, 4 August 2008

After viewing "Still Life", a short film directed by Jon Knautz, I was genuinely excited for his feature film debut, "Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer". "Still Life" had perfectly captured the essence and feel of an episode of "The Twilight Zone" and I was eager to see what Knautz could do when taking on the horror-comedy genre. The campy nature of the name and promotional materials suggested something along the lines of "Evil Dead" or "Army of Darkness"; a fun, gory, 80's style horror flick with lots of monsters. While that was what Knautz was going for, he utterly fails at capturing any of the fun or entertainment value these movies had.

The problem with "Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer" is that it completely lacks an understanding of what made these horror-comedies, that it tries to evoke, so great in the first place. Two-thirds of the running time is primarily devoted to the film's hero, Jack Brooks, a plumber and college student, as he goes to class and attempts to deal with his uncontrollable bursts of anger. There's nary a monster in sight for the greater part of the film, barely even a drop of blood or the slightest attempt at anything horror-related. Even if "Evil Dead" or "Dead Alive" had subsequent amounts of the gore cut out, they'd still be entertaining. "Jack Brooks" isn't. It's plain boring, which is the worst thing a film of this nature can be. Jack Brooks himself is not all that interesting, at least not enough to warrant the amount of screen time he's given. All one needs to know about him is revealed in the films first ten minutes and from that point on, whenever he's not beating the pulp out of a monster (and he rarely does), he's not worth watching. The movie goes nowhere, following him around on psychiatric sessions and scuffles with classmates.

Eventually things do pick up. Jack Brooks battles a few monsters, some heads are crushed, a few humans are slaughtered, and then it's over. Just like that. All within the span of about fifteen minutes. It is a good fifteen minutes. The monsters are all fairly inventive (and done entirely in camera) and there's some great gore gags (the best being a zombies head crushed in), but after sitting through seventy-five minutes of pure tedium, fifteen minutes just isn't going to cut it.

That's really all there is to it. I could ramble on about the acting which is fairly well done (especially horror icon Robert Englund in a non-traditional role) and how the creature prosthetics are a nice throwback to the days when films didn't use CGI, but it really doesn't matter. "Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer" is utterly boring and while Jon Knautz obviously does have the talent to create a good film (once again, the last fifteen minutes are killer and "Still Life" was amazing – check it out), "Jack Brooks" completely misses the mark. It has its successes (acting, make-up), but those don't change the fact that it's not very entertaining at all. The screening I caught this at had the director and cast in attendance. One piece of information I picked up was that a sequel was in development and that this time, it would focus more on fighting monsters as opposed to "the creation of a hero". My advice: skip this one and wait for the sequel.

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