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Underrated overlooked horrors you should see
A tribute to Bruno Mattei.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
God bless America... and God bless the Korean Hans Gruber!
Korean terrorists attack the White House and it's up to ex Secret Service agent and all round badass Mike Banning (Gerard Butler looking all rugged and gritty) to save the President Benjamin Asher (a steel jawed no nonsense Aaron Eckardt) and also America.
And basically that's the plot and rather than get bogged down in serious chin stroking discourse, director Antoine Fuqua wisely decides to use a contemporary world security issue to revisit the 80s, with Rick Yune standing in for a good Hans Gruber from Die hard, as the silkily evil villain Kang, who's got R rated badassery to go with his suavely evil demeanour.
Any action fan will really be wondering if Olympus has Fallen delivers the goods and the happy answer to this is yes, yes it does. Butler shoots, stabs, tortures and neck snaps his way to the bad guy's lair, delivering a cool monologue on what he intends to do to Kang to boot, and the action is mercifully R-rated, with it basically being chock full of gritty and at times wince inducing violence as well as having a pretty damn impressive looking all out assault on The White House itself. Does it have plot holes? Hellz yes, it's one of the many awesome things about it. Is it brainless? It's more Brainless than Jersey Shore. Again, one of the many awesome things about it. Is it jingoistic and low brow nationalistic? It would rival the likes of The Delta Force, Death Before Dishonour, Invasion USA or any Golan Globus production, circa 1980s in sheer, breast beating flag waving fervour. I'm not even American and even I was shouting "God Bless America!" at the end of this flick. So basicaslly anyone looking for a sober examination of US foreign policy should avoid this one and watch Syriana instead. It has a paunchy George Clooney with a beard as well as a badass mark Strong.
However anyone who really just wishes to see Gerard Butler acting all heroic while delivering the action goodies in a decidedly R-rated manner, then Olympus Has Fallen is a more than adequate time filler and should definitely satisfy. 8/10, loud, vacuous dumb and a whole lotta fun.
And whoever played Mike Banning's wife had the easiest pay cheque on Earth.
A surprising gem from New Zealand
Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is a wild child methamphetamine & drink fueled girl who's not averse to engaging in petty crime to fund her lifestyle. One night, after her spot of smash 'n' grab badly backfires, Kylie is put under house arrest, complete with delinquent offender ankle bracelet, to live with her long suffering mother and her mother's almost permanently silent husband and has to endure being checked in on by her social worker Dennis (Cameron Rhodes) and likable security guard Amos (Glen-Paul Waru)
Kylie and her mother don't get on at all, with neither particularly happy with this state of affairs. Worse still, her mother who tends to believe in the paranormal gets even more annoying by insisting the house is haunted, due to the strange noises and weird sighting in the basement she had. Kylie scoffs at this and finds her mother's incessant chatter and claims even more irritating...
...Until she hears the noises herself one night. Things get even worse when Kylie starts having her own sightings & observations of weird stuff happening. Desperate for help, she and her mother confides in Amos the security guard. Amos, a keen amateur paranormal investigator decides to look into things, which leads to them uncovering some rather creepy info about the house in the process. As the mystery deepens, Kyleigh, her mother and Amos all realise that they're gonna have to solve it before whatever it is that dwells in the house engulfs and destroys them all...
Housebound is a very pleasant surprise comedy horror gem from New Zealand, but with nicely done scares and a creepy atmosphere to go with the chuckles, which come mainly via hilarious interactions with the dysfunctional trio. It also turns into a surprisingly layered film plot wise with some twists & turns in the third act to keep things nicely interesting. With some gold one liners and effective scares, it's emerged as one of the better horror viewings of this year and while frequently hilarious, it's primarily a horror thriller that simply tempers things with some very deft comedic relief.
Overall a highly recommended gem from New Zealand and it went down well with the audience at the Dead by Dawn festival where I caught it, so any horror fan should keep an eye out for this one. 8/10, really decent little horror flick.
Les gouffres (2012)
Georges (Mathieu Almaric) is a renowned speleologist who is called to either a south or central American location, after a group of vast sinkholes/chasms have been discovered in a forest. Accompanying him is his wife France (Nathalie Boutefeu), who has to live in an isolated inn while her husband is exploring.
Alone, with very few people to talk to, France starts hearing things, which she starts associating with the sinkholes her husband is exploring. Other stranger things still begin happening which leads France to wonder if the chasms are as far away as would appear. or maybe they're just getting nearer to her. Or maybe they somehow wish to communicate...
The phrase "interesting premise, terrible execution" immediately leaped to mind for me when watching this as it's quite frankly terrible and amazingly for a film of 62 minutes in length, it feels like a three hour affair, with it being perfectly at home with long lingering shots and exposition and weird ambiguous stupid stuff that doesn't make a lick of sense.
Those that like art-house or fantastical cinema may find much to like here but I was personally bored to tears by it and found it pretty nonsensical. Nicely shot though but precious little else going for it, with nothing really adding up satisfactorily for me. Didn't particularly go down well at the Dead by Dawn Festival either where I caught it. 3/10 a film to be avoided.
Gureitofuru deddo (2013)
Utterly demented and way entertaining film
Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) is a lonely young girl prone to outbursts of left field violence, due to being ignored by her poverty-relief obsessed mother who leaves one day, leaving her with her depressed father and older sister. Nami's dad takes on a mistress and still ignored and with her sister now with a boyfriend, Nami seeks constant solace in in an inane shopping channel, captivated by the gadgets and bargains offered by the smiling host.
Years later, Nami, now a young woman has a peculiar hobby in which she observes and takes notes on sad and very lonely elderly people, who she calls "Solitarians". There's the angry middle aged man who barges by everywhere rudely bumping people aside, and there's the crazy homeless looking guy who feeds the pigeons, all collectively becoming Nami's muse and a source of endearment. One specific solitarian catches her attention. He's Mr. Shiomi (Takashi Sasano) an embittered old man, who once empowered with former status, is now alone, lonely and angry, going through each day with a grumpy, dreary resignation.
Nami is captivated by this with Mr Shiomi providing her with much entertainment. One day however a Christian missionary woman Su Yong (Khobbi Kim) visits Mr Shiomi and asks if he'd like her to engage in bible reading with him. Suspicious at first, Mr Shiomi eventually agrees and a hesitant friendship begins between them with Mr Shiomi, becoming less bitter and finding a new appreciation for life.
Nami is not amused. Mr Shiomi's new found zest means he's no longer a "Solitarian" thanks to Su Yong's meddling. What's to be done about this state of affairs? One thing's for sure, Nami will not have anyone messing with her precious hobby or her viewed from afar subjects...
Grateful Dead is well, pretty great actually with it starting off like a typically quirky Japanese comedy before slowly but inexorably getting darker & darker until veering into outright horror territory toward the third act. However, it's really a (very effective) mixture of genres, combining comedy with drama and some social commentary to boot, before its demented conclusion.
A highly recommended little gem it should be sought out by any horror/genre fan or anyone who likes offbeat films in general.
A strong 8/10, just a highly satisfying and nicely demented (but not at all demented for the sake of it) film.
Big Bad Wolves (2013)
Dark, partially brutal yet surprisingly funny Israeli horror
*No specific spoilers, merely in regards to plot outline*
A brutal sadistic child sex murderer is terrorising Israel.
Miki, (Lior Ashkenazi) is an uncompromising hard- ass cop who makes Dirty Harry and Cobra combined look like bleeding heart liberals. Miki is convinced that the killer is Dror (a great turn from a guy I've never heard of, Rotem Keinan), a mild mannered schoolteacher and is prepared to go to any lengths to get a confession, including beating his suspect senseless.
When his spot of police brutality badly backfires, he is suspended until further notice. However, not one to let such things deter him Miki resolves to get answers, even if it means kidnapping Dror and subjecting him to a bit of third degree in order to get his answers...such as what the killer does with his victims' heads...
However Dror insists- as he has insisted all along- that he's innocent, would never do such a despicable thing and that all of this is a horrible mistake. Miki is not impressed as he's convinced of Dror's guilt.
But ultimately it doesn't matter whether Miki believes Dror or not, because it turns out that it isn't Miki Dror must convince... it's Gidi. (Tzahi Grad)
Gidi is the one neither man have been aware of and he's a man on a mission. He may well have a murky intelligence style background of his own and he wants answers from Dror...because Gidi's daughter was the monster's- the Big Bad Wolf's, you might say- last victim. Gidi is implacable, determined and utterly ruthless and he will get answers. And if that means using the tools at his persuasion to torture said answers from his suspect, then so be it. And if Miki the upstart cop gets in his way, and doesn't see eye to eye with Gidi's plans, well that's just too bad...
Big Bad Wolves is a dark and rather brutal horror that's also infused with some surprisingly successful (albeit pitch black) humour that shouldn't, but does work for the film as a whole and actually balances out an otherwise quite dark and grim horror quite nicely and gives it a quirky unpredictable edge. It is NOT however a horror comedy but a quite dark horror with blackly humorous elements to it.
From the makers of Kalavet/Rabies (2010), (which I also liked for what it was) it's a marked improvement on its predecessor in terms of style, plot and character development and directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado are two talented up-comers that any self respecting horror fan should keep an eye out for and I'm personally looking forward to their next potential project to see of they can offer up a third win.
8/10 a taut, well made and well acted horror thriller and well recommended for any horror fan.
Mon Ami (2012)
Solidly enjoyable lo fi comedy horror
Best friends and co-workers Teddy & Cal are bored and disgruntled with their dead end job. Bored because it sucks and disgruntled as Teddy is passed for promotion in favour of the company owner's sons.
One day they decide that a great way to solve their problems and get rich quick would be to kidnap their boss's daughter and extort a ransom, thereby making enough $$$ to live on easy street for life. The only problem is, that if you looked up the terms "inept", "horribly disorganised" "bumbling", "Likable but kinda dim" and "worst kidnappers in the history of kidnapping", you would undoubtedly find the faces of Teddy & Cal staring back at you, probably while grinning inanely too.
And when you have two people whose planning capability could be written on the back of a postage stamp with room to spare, deciding to engage in an actual kidnapping, then you just know things are gonna end in tears. And blood. And dismemberment...
Mon Ami, while clearly shot on a shoestring budget is still a solidly enjoyable comedy horror that comes across as semi experimental and has a nice sense of unpredictability to it. It does have its flaws, with it being more restrained than I would have liked, although in fairness this was probably due to budgetary constraints. It also could have benefited with some slight trimming,with some scenes going on overlong. I personally found some of the performances akin to the hysterical performances of the screwball comedies of the 30s/40s, which I found slightly grating, and also probably due to budgetary constraints, the film relies on classical music for a score, which doesn't always work for it. That having said,it has a ton of heart,some decent dialogue and good believable chemistry between our two bickering buffoons and is in tone at least, nicely nasty in parts.
Overall it's a solid and ultimately satisfying lo fi indie comedy horror from the ever underrated Canada and worth checking out for any fan of indie comedies, horrors or thrillers and any horror fan who enjoyed the likes of Trent Haaga's Chop (2011) or The Cottage (2008) should have a reasonably good time with this. 7/10, a solid little film and an enjoyable watch.
An overlooked gem
Lila Lee (Cheryl Smith) is an angelic 14-year-old girl, in the care of the local church after her vicious gangster father goes on the lam, after he commits a double murder.
One day, Lila receives a letter from the mysterious Lemora (Leslie Taplin) telling her that her father is gravely ill and that she may see him, but only on the condition that she tells no- one. So begins a dreamy, garishly coloured and magical journey for our innocent protagonist to reach her mysterious destination. However, it turns out that Lemora is not who she appears to be and has her own special plans for Lila, that will change her forever...
Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural is a film that I had on my "Film to see" list for quite some time now and when I finally watched it, I gotta say I was absolutely kicking myself, I'd neglected to see it for so long as it really is a gem. Set in 1920s/30s America, it veritably drips atmosphere and has a languid, dreamy (or nightmarish if you like) tone, reminiscent of Let's Scare Jessica to Death, (1971) or perhaps more pertinently Messiah of Evil (1973) in terms of visual style and in fact, due to its visual overall look, I can't help wondering if a certain Mr Argento seen Lemora back in the day,and whether it influences his Suspiria, as both films have an undeniable similarity in style, visually. Cheryl Lee gives a very effective performance as the lost and innocent Lila, with her expression consistently exuding fragility and vulnerability, and Leslie Taplin is great as the mysterious,alluring and subtly sinister Lemora. For a (U.S.) PG-13 film it's surprisingly dark in tone, with certain touching upon sexuality themes that I'm not sure would be passed today in a PG-13 film and emerges as a decidedly adult fairy tale and an intelligent one at that.
Any horror fan who liked the aforementioned films should check this one out immediately. While I see threads on the film on the IMDb horror occasionally and know it has a place in the hearts of several regular posters there, I'm still somewhat surprised it apparently doesn't seem to get its proper dues as it truly deserves its place in the annals of classic/iconic horrors, as it's one of the best I've seen of its decade, and this is coming from a decade of absolute quality in regards to horror cinema.
8.5/10, a highly recommended gem that puts an innovative and intriguing spin on an established horror sub genre, it should be sought out by any self respecting horror fan.
Cannibal Diner (2012)
Cannibal Generic Holocaust... lite
A bunch of nubile German chicks head off to an abandoned diner before discovering that it's really home to a den of cannibals. One by one they are picked off in tame cutaway ways until the one that's left runs around a lot while whimpering. You ever see a film with a pretty cool cover which makes you think it might at least have some nice gore and be a passable entertaining time filler? Only then you put it on and it's absolutely dire and generic and totally devoid of any tension, suspense or fun? Yeah. Cannibal Diner is one of those films. Basically, it's a generic badly directed mess and most unforgivably of all, it's really boring. The director is apparently under the bizarre delusion that jumpy flashy cut off editing and long scenes of a chick stumbling around to intense urgent music equates to tension. It doesn't.
I don't want to sound too harsh here because I never expected much to begin with, and sucker as I am for all things cannibal related in horror, my standards tend to be fairly low in this regard. All I ask for is some nice gore and some perky nudity. Now while there is admittedly some perky nudity here, it's still an utterly abysmal film, that failed to even meet my low requirements, and I gotta say, I'm actually amazed that films like this even get financed. I firmly believe that for all its flaws, indie or low budget horror is actually the lifeblood of the genre, in terms of quality, but just like big budgeted and decidedly bland remakes, indie horror unfortunately throws some turkeys our way also and Cannibal Diner is a film to be avoided, as it's one of those films where your finger is itching to press the fast forward button 30 minutes in and even at 66 minutes (6 minutes are end credits) it still outstays its welcome. 2/10 a really bad and boring horror film and far too tame.
Only God Forgives (2013)
Only God Drives Brooding I mean Only God Forgives
A film by Nicholas Winding Refn
Starring Ryan Gosling as Moody, Broody Soulful Antihero
Kristin Scott Thomas as Moody Antihero's Ice Cold but Milfy Ma
Vitaya Pansingram as The Thai Terminator
And introducing: Lots of Thai ladies in 1950s Suzie Homemaker dresses, as the supporting cast.
Thailand. The present day.
Ryan Gosling is moody, broody, laconic soulful drug dealer and Muay Thai kick boxing gym owner, Julian. His life consists of dealing drugs, not saying much and staring at nothing in visually stunning surroundings, to an 80s tinged quasi retro synthesizer score, when he's not having digitally probing hand sex with a Thai hooker called Mai. One day Julian's rather addled brother is killed for doing something really really (REALLY) bad. When Julian hears the news he stares and then stares some more, in even more visually pleasing cinematography, as being a drug dealer is hard and requires much intense soulful reflection.
Things aren't helped when Julian's ice cold and rather milfy Ma appears on the scene. Julian's Ma is exactly like Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel, only far more vicious and abrasive and she has no time at all for Julian's brooding. She viciously belittles him at dinner, in front of his hooker bird Mai and then bizarrely, starts talking about her dead son's wang in a disturbingly graphic manner, even using a word which rhymes with mock. Bottom line- she wants revenge and when an ice cold milf is looking for revenge and she's yer Ma no less, well...
...Julian broods. And stares, while that awesome soundtrack plays. And... not much happens for quite some time...
However, it turns out that Julian's (thoroughly despicable) brother was killed only with the permission of a certain cop. This cop is The Thai Terminator and he's indescribably bad ass. He's so bad ass that his day typically consists of walking in slow mo while waving a short but very lethal looking sword about, in a highly stylized choreographed manner, while another 80s retro synthesizer score throbs in the background. It's almost like the Thai Terminator is really God ,(albeit a relentlessly homicidal and incredibly badass Old Testament blood and vengeance kinda God as opposed to his metro son who appeared in the sequel, the New Testament), Julian's Mam is the Devil and they are battling over his redemption seeking and admittedly soulful soul... (It's also almost like Gosling's actual character, Julian is really the driver from Drive, who has hightailed it to Thailand, to get into a showdown with a Thai and far more bad ass version of Albert Brooks).
The Thai Terminator is SO bad ass, that he thinks nothing of singing Karaoke- for AGES- after horribly and jaw-droppingly graphically, torture-murdering a thinks- he's -hard- but- really- isn't- compared- to -the- Thai-Terminator, not so hard ass Assie drug lord. (read that last sentence back again, slowly. It'll make more sense once you break it down:))
Yes, the violence in Only God Forgives out-drives Drive in the sheer left field icky gooey in yer face violence stakes, but it's all so visually sumptuous, it becomes beautiful. In fact, EVERY damn scene in this film is beautiful. I actually wept and had a spontaneous and simultaneous climax when watching it, and the climax was purely due to Only God Forgives' sheer aesthetic beauty, and that's never happened to me when watching a non pornographic film before, but considering I've just given way TMI there, I'll simply move on gracefully and say see this film.
It's so pretentious and self indulgent it makes both Antichrist and The Idiots combined seem really really non-pretentious but it's just so soul achingly beautiful, you really won't care. Its pretentiousness and self indulgence actually make it even more awesome. And by all rights I should hate this film, as I'm an admitted philistine in regards to art-house cinema and will be the first to confess that I normally have no time for this kinda arty farty claptrap, but man... this film rocked and had David Lynch had have directed it, it would have been cheered instead of booed at Cannes. I intend to revisit it again soon and hopefully weep (and um... y'know, ahem) again at its sheer ethereal beauty.
A solid 7.5/10 rounded to 8 for IMDb, pretentious as hell (and I know a lot of people hate the use of the word "pretentious", and certainly not without justification either, but trust me folks, it really does apply here:)), but awesomely beautiful. And it also has Ryan Gosling having a bad ass fight while wearing a suit that undoubtedly cost more, than the non existent down payment I never put down on the apt I don't own... which is reason enough to see it.
And anyone who Liked (as I did) Valhalla Riding should REALLY dig this one, as it has the same dreamy & surreal style/tone. Only even more badass.
And joking aside folks, Vitaya Pansingram is actually excellent in the film and exudes a sheer commanding menacing presence, while not actually saying much, which is rather difficult to pull off successfully, but Pansingram not only manages to pull it off, he pretty much elevates the film in any scene he's in. To stand out in such a beautifully shot surreal film via your sheer presence is quite a feat and my hat's off to him.
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)
I gotta be honest.I kinda...liked it
Our homicidal mutant mountain hillbilly thingies this time descend on a town which is holding a mountain man hillbilly mutant thingie festival, in order to spring their not-mutant-&-capable-of-speech-but-just-as-mean Pa from the town's jail. It's up to a bunch of spunky twentysomethings posing as teens and a just as spunky and suspiciously kinda hot female sheriff to thwart their plans.
So, let's break a film called Wrong Turn FIVE (my emphasis) down objectively and examine its pitfalls. Yes the acting is dire from most of the players. However that doesn't matter because there's nigh on zero character development anyway, as everyone is really just a ninepin to be bloodily bowled over.
Yes, the characters make dumb stupid decisions... like they do in many many other really dumb but nonetheless fun horror flicks.
Yes, some of the CGI is pretty damn unforgivable but... um, well at least they throw some old school, FX into the mix as well... I guess.
Yes it has stupid plot holes like a town holding a festival suddenly becoming deserted but on the other hand it's from a franchise about mutant hillbilly thingies going on a rampage for no discernible reason, which isn't particularly realistic to begin with so y'know, let's not nit pick here.
But look... if you're really the type of horror fan that demands critical merit from each and every one of your horror films, then sorry but with respect, you've no damn business watching a fourth direct to DVD sequel about a bunch of murderous mutant hillbillies to begin with.
However, anyone who has actually watched the previous four Wrong Turns and pretty much lowered their expectations after the first film, will probably have two blunt fundamental questions:
#1) Does this deliver in the gore department? Hell yes. This is to the Wrong Turn franchise what The Collection was to um... The Collector but point being, it's basically a succession of really sadistic set piece kills, and although the characters are pretty well, characterless you still can't help feeling sorry for them as the manner in which they die is quite frankly unutterably cruel and just plain wrong. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how mean spirited it is, but it really is a nasty piece of work altogether which in my world equates to win.
#2) Does it have boobage? Yep. Perky ones too.
And as well as that, it's nicely paced and that's all anyone needs to know when watching a film called Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. It's cheap, dumb and vacuous but delivers in what it sets out to do, is never dull and is probably best watched with like minded mates when drunk or else altered in some other manner, like the way many characters are kinda altered in Bates Motel. And again it's way mean spirited so if you're ever bored and have nothing else to stick on, then you could do a lot worse and it should reasonably entertain, so long as you're willing to park your brain at the door, and as somebody stupid once probably said (and probably said it defensively) "brains are overrated anyway.."
Anyway, 6/10 for Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. Daft film, but pretty fun.