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Boogeyman (2012) (TV)
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? I'm locked up in the attic, damned!, 28 July 2016

Perhaps I was just in an extraordinary good mood or maybe my level of tolerance for low-budget horror movies became a lot more flexible over the years, but I honestly enjoyed "Legend of the Boogeyman" … I also have a strange and inexplicable affiliation for the works of director Jeffery Scott Lando. He's not exactly considered to be a prodigy horror director, but I count his "Savage Island" and "Decoys 2" among my guilty pleasures, and earlier this year I watched his latest movie "Suspension" at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and felt it was terrific (albeit derivative) late- night entertainment! "The Legend of Boogeyman" should also be seen as such… The script is flawed and contains quite a few holes, the acting performances are questionable and the attempts to generate suspense are underwhelming, but the titular creature (actually, never really referred to as the boogeyman) is pretty cool-looking, its background is relatively original and there's a fair amount of lightly digestible gore/bloodshed. There you, three negative aspects and three positive ones! The film tells the familiar tale of a couple of irritating teenagers that break into the ramshackle house of a local weirdo/hermit and accidentally release the hideous creature that was safely locked away in the attic. The monster promptly goes on a murderous rampage, but in fact there's more than meets the eye. He's not just a random brainless monster, but an ancient biblical figure on the lookout for a new brother to protect. He's got his rotten mind set on Jacob, the idiotic teen who released him from his attic jail, while the cute female law enforcer Rebecca senses a strong bloodline connection with the creature. "The Legend of Boogeyman" is unpretentious, never boring and features a large amount of massacres that are gory without ever getting repulsive or shocking. But the best thing about the film is undoubtedly the monster's make-up, as he sort looks like a hybrid between a zombie and a mummy.

The Antwerp amateur disaster!, 27 July 2016

"The Antwerp Killer" is the ideal movie (although it doesn't deserve to be called like that) to watch for all young and aspiring but inexperienced film fanatics who dream of making their very own independent low-budget horror movie one day. They might think they're able to direct an instant cult-classic, but for every Sam Raimi or David Lynch, there are a few dozen of untalented and miserably incompetent amateurs. Back in the early eighties, a young bloke named Luc Veldeman also considered himself to be God's gift to independent horror cinema, and he managed to sell his product to a big national festival before he even properly started filming! The result is an infamous but luckily little seen amateur catastrophe that nearly turned into an enormous embarrassment for the festival and all its organizers. The legend states that, immediately after its release and following numerous of mocking reviews, Luc Veldeman's father couldn't handle the humiliation and allegedly traced down every existing copy of the film in order to destroy it. Well, in 1983 that may have been a workable solution, but Veldeman Sr. probably never could have guessed that a few decades later a little something called the Internet would bring all the dirty family secrets right back to the surface! To make the myth even more legendary, there exists an interview with Luc Veldeman in which he claims, straight-faced, that the whole movie was experimental and intentionally clumsy. Yeah right, nice try… "The Antwerp Killer" is hilarious, but naturally for all the wrong reasons. It's a very weak attempt to cash in on the success of contemporary American slasher movies and perhaps even still on the Italian Gialli of the '70s and early '80s, but Luc Veldeman didn't have a script, didn't have ideas, didn't have any inspiration and – most of all – he didn't have a clue! There's a nutbag at large in Antwerp who enjoys stabbing women in dark alleys. The investigating officer promptly arrests the first random witness who comes walking into the police station, but afterwards he's too busy with reading about heroine deals gone awry at the docks and babysitting a mysterious Asian toddler that someone dumped at his desk. Meanwhile the killer cheerfully continues his killing spree and visits his psychiatrist! In case you're looking for a link between the different events or simply even for structure or coherence, don't bother as there isn't any. The movie appears to be improvised on the spot, the camera-work and editing are painfully bad, the attempts to generate tension are lame and the set-up of the action sequences is downright pitiable. The amount of random stupidities is enormous, like the mafia gunfight at the harbor or the chase scene inside the police station, and the acting performances are so incredible that they below in a league of their own. The official running time of "The Antwerp Killer" is 62 minutes, but in fact it only lasts 49 minutes and even that's a sham. The opening and end credits are exactly the same and last for about 3 minutes each, there's at least 7-8 minutes of Antwerp rooftop footage and just past the half an hour mark, there's some sort of "best-of" compilation with recycled footage of the previous 25 minutes! By all known standards of movie reviewing, I'm simply obliged to rate "The Antwerp Killer" 1 out of 10, but I nevertheless have two positive points to mention. The score, composed by main actor Eric Feremans, is exhilarating and raw. Sure it's blatantly copied from the John Carpenter soundtracks, but at least it adds panache to the horrible film! Secondly, I personally find it a major advantage that all the actors/actresses were at least allowed to speak in their own language and even in their local Antwerp dialect! I watched too many Belgian horror movies (notably the oeuvre of Johan Vandewoestijne) where the cast gets forced by the producers to talk in English, and boy does that ever sound atrocious!

Special word of thanks to Steve De Roover, thanks to whom I was finally able to watch this film. Steve's very own documentary "Forgotten Scares: An In-depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema" (2016) will include footage of "The Antwerp Killer" as well as many other obscure horror curiosities from Flanders. I'm very much looking forward to seeing that!

Road trip of souls, 23 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

And here we have another episode of "The Twilight Zone" that is undeniably brilliant, but nevertheless ruins yet another impression I had about my one of my all-time favorite movies. When you're watching the entire series of "The Twilight Zone" you often get confronted with the fact that original, innovative and genre- defining ideas featured here first, and only afterwards the ideas were copied and further elaborated in long-feature movies that are now – still righteously – considered as horror/Sci-Fi milestones. "The Hitch-Hiker" is perhaps the finest example to prove this theory. For several decades now, I regarded Herk Harvey's fantastically atmospheric "Carnival of Souls" as a genuinely original genre masterpiece. What with its uniquely ominous ambiance, inexplicably mysterious story lines and – most of all - perplexing denouement, it's one of those rare movies that everyone should watch at least once in their lives. "Carnival of Souls" naturally remains one of the greatest horror movies of all times, but have to put that "perplexing denouement" part of my review into perspective, now that I discovered that "The Hitch-Hiker" features a very similar denouement and got released a good three years prior. It's a very mood and unsettling episode in which the young and joyful Nan Adams embarks on a coast-to-coast road trip across the USA. She encounters a bit of minor tire troubles in Philadelphia, but from that moment onwards her path is repeatedly crossed by a strange and uncanny middle-aged male hitch-hiker. The peculiar individual is never obtrusive or violent, but he shows up at the most unexpected and illogical places and indirectly causes for Nan to end up in perilous situations. Due to the many years of experience I have in watching obscure genre movies, including the aforementioned "Carnival of Souls" and reminiscent others, I was able to guess quite early on in the episode what the shocking end-twist would be. However, this certainly doesn't mean that the plot isn't brilliantly scripted and predictable! Quite the contrary, "The Hitch-Hiker" is a very intense and frightening tale and I reckon the climax must have made an enormous shock-impact on people when the episode first aired on television in 1960. I often truly regret that I wasn't yet born in that time, because personally I would be much more looking forward to the next weekly episode of "The Twilight Zone" rather than to the new season of "Game of Thrones"….

This is a – WOOF – hold up! Put your paws in the air and give me all your biscuits!, 11 June 2016

Certain seventies movies have such a bonkers plot concept that you have to watch them, if only just to see with your own eyes how they elaborated the idea! Take "The Doberman Gang", for instance. Following a screwed-up bank heist (they put the loot in the trunk of the wrong getaway car) and a romantic night with waitress June, the embittered ex-con Eddie comes up with the brilliant plan to train six fierce Doberman dogs to commit a bank robbery, so that he and his buddies can observe from a distance without running any risks. Brilliant, isn't it? So does this mean that "The Doberman Gang" is a fantastic 70s crime-caper gem with plenty of virulent action sequences and spectacular animal stunts? Unfortunately not … It's more of a slow-paced comedy/buddy movie with enormous amounts of dog training footage and a LOT of country music montages. Eddie enlists the help of former police dog trainer Barney, even though he only worked with German Shepard dogs before and initially doesn't know what he's training the Dobermans for, and puts together a forceful dog pack with the glorious sounding names of legendary bank robbers like Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson and – of course – Bonnie and Clyde. Unless you have a strong affection for this particular type of dogs (like my mother-in-law, who for some reason collects everything that has to do with Dobermans) there's very little to recommend here. The first 70 or so minutes are quite dull and substantially void, unless you like country music, and the only things to enjoy are the charismatic dogs and the reasonably sympathetic acting performances of the second-rate bank robbers Sammy Bow and JoJo D'Amore. The actual bank heist is obviously a lot more entertaining and the tricks of the dogs and their trek back home are quite exhilarating to watch. There isn't any violence or verbal/physical brutality, so it's perfectly suitable for younger audiences.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A small step for man and for mankind?, 11 June 2016

It's a funny coincidence – or perhaps, in the mind of Rod Serling, not at all – that this episode immediately follows the episode "Third from the Sun", because they have a somewhat similar and yet entirely different twist at the end. Both episodes handle about space travel (admittedly like many other ones in the franchise) and end with a revelation about a certain location/destination that is identical, and yet the context is completely different. Quite vague, I know, but I can't possibly elaborate further without giving away essential clues. Also, the outcome of both episodes can be predicted relatively easy in case you pay close attention and if have a little bit of experience in watching Sci-Fi/horror. But that certainly doesn't mean that the end twists aren't original or intelligent; - quite the contrary. In "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" the rocket and 7-headed crew of a space mission disappears from the radar almost immediately after take-off and vanish. The crew on the ground fears they drifted off and pray they are still alive but fear the worst. Then the action cuts to the mission's crew as they crashed on a planet with nothing but sandy hills and the burning heat of the sun surrounding them. Three members of crew died instantly and another one is practically dead as well, and thus tensions regarding leadership and the consumption of the remaining water supplies promptly come to the surface. Crew member Corey emerges as the obligatory egocentric and loathsome survivalist freak and unhesitating to kill the others for a few extra drops of water. The irony of the end twist, and particularly the emotional impact it has on the last remaining survivor, is a masterful little piece of TV suspense.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A lesson in how to build up tension, 25 May 2016

"Third from the Sun" is an episode in the marvelous TV-series "The Twilight Zone" that should be showed in film classes all around the world and ought to be watched by every aspiring scriptwriter who considers writing his/her own (thriller or Sci-Fi) screenplay one day! Why? Not because of its legendary and infamous end twist (because, in all honesty, it's really not *that* difficult to predict), but because this episode masterfully demonstrates pure and non-stop tension building from start to finish! Throughout the entire running time, the three male protagonists behave suspicious, act extremely nervous and only share minimum bits of the information they have, and this doesn't just generate curiosity among their female counterparts but also among the viewers that guess along continuously. William Sturka and Jerry Riden are both employees of a secret governmental nuclear plant and dispose of inside information of a dreadful catastrophe about to happen in less than 48 hours. They plan an escape for them and their families, but their supervisor – the oddly menacing Mr. Carling – has figured out their intentions and subtly (…VERY subtly) confronts them. It has to be said, the twist at the end of this episode is pretty near to pure genius! Unfortunately the otherwise impeccable script, inspired by a short story by Richard Matheson - who else, suggests a little bit too obviously where it's going and the episode's title doesn't really help, neither. Still, also if you did envision the twist, "Third from the Sun" is particularly fun because you can – in retrospect – spot all the ingenious little details. For example, keep an eye open for that curious phone or listen to the bizarre noise of the car whilst driving…

Better stick to the Lenzis, the Di Leos or the Castellaris…, 24 May 2016

Once you get hooked to the Poliziotteschi genre - like I am - there are literally heaps of obscure titles to discover, but in all honesty and fairness a lot of them only contain two or three great sequences while the rest of the film is dull and disappointing. Not coincidentally, the vast majority of these obscure and disappointing movies are written and directed by unknown Italians. If you want guaranteed euro-crime top quality material, you better stick to the works of guys like Umberto Lenzi, Fernando Di Leo, Stelvio Massi, Enzo G. Castellari and perhaps two or three others. The writer/director of this "Day of Violence" is named Luigi Petrini and he clearly isn't one of the more successful names in the industry. The screenplay contains a handful of bright ideas and the film features a few interesting highlights, but most of the running time I was bored and too easily distracted. The good aspects include that the themes of Petrini's script effectively criticize the contemporary Italian political & social circumstances (desperate youth, unemployment, economic recession and revolt against the upper class…) and that the events of the entire film take place during one and the same day. Two twenty-something and sexually frustrated blokes meet each other outside a private party. One got kicked out just before he could have sex with the daughter of the house and the other one couldn't perform when he had the chance. Driven by anger and drugs, they decide to go the girl's apartment and "finish what they started". They rape the poor girl but also murder their neighbor and descend further into madness. The next brilliant decision they make is to invade a fancy restaurant and take all customers hostage at gunpoint. From then onward, you'd expect "Day of Violence" to turn into a blatant imitation of "Dog Day Afternoon" but it doesn't really. The Al Pacino classic was a harsh parody about the influence of the media, but here the action primarily remains indoors and reverts to dreadful clichés like Stockholm Syndrome etc. There's a lot of talking but very little action and even less violence. The acting performances are mundane and the sleaze is unpleasant, but the good news is that the soundtrack is exhilarating and the climax is short 'n' sweet!

The Lodger (1944)
I look forward to seeing you in Whitechapel…, 24 May 2016

Everybody in this world loves enigmas… The best example to prove this remains the unsolved mystery surrounding the Jack the Ripper murders in London at the end of the 19th century. For more than 125 years now, Jack the Ripper has been the source of inspiration for numerous of films, TV-shows, documentaries and novels. Whether based on facts or purely fictionalized, the notorious serial killer continuously remained a relevant and popular horror/thriller protagonist. In 1913, Marie Belloc-Lowndes wrote her novel "The Lodger" and even though her story was mainly pure fiction, the book nevertheless became one of the most prominent Jack the Ripper sagas and got adapted into at least five film scenarios already. In 1927 the book formed the inspiration for none other than Alfred Hitchcock's first steps in the cinema industry with "The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog", and in 1953 the booked help launching Jack Palance's film career with "Man in the Attic". The personal favorite version of yours truly, however, is the stunningly atmospheric and compelling 1944 version directed by the German immigrant director John Brahm and starring the charismatic Laird Cregar as the suspicious and overly introvert lodger Mr. Slade who may or may not be maniac responsible for the gruesome Ripper murders in Whitechapel.

Almost every aspect about "The Lodger" is impeccable and everyone's contribution is equally important. Belloc-Lowndes' source novel narrates the story from a different and fascinating angle. While the entire city of London lives in fear because of the gruesome murders of actresses and/or showgirls, Robert and Ellen Bonting receive a new lodger for their extra room and attic in the shape of the courteous but somewhat distant Mr. Slade. He warns them that he often has to go out during the night and that he uses the attic to conduct medical experiments, but the elderly couple still attempts to connect with him. When Mr. Slade meets their lovely niece Kitty, he increasingly grows fond of her even though she's a stage actress … And Mr. Slade firmly believes that all stage actresses are putrid and on a mission to disrupt the lives of noble gentlemen! As stated above, everyone in this production contributed to the success of the film! Director John Brahm is of German descent, and thus he clearly brought the beautiful influences of silent expressionist masterpieces with him. Cinematographer Lucien Ballard stuffs the film with countless of grandiose camera angles and manages to make the fogbound city look even more menacing than she already is. The supportive cast includes a handful of fantastic names and they each deliver great performances, like George Sanders ("The Picture of Dorian Gray") as the intelligent constable, Merle Oberon ("Wuthering Heights") as the naive but beautiful and sweet object of obsession and Sir Cedric Hardwicke as the ranting newspaper-addicted estate owner. However, they all remain in the shadow – pun intended – of Laird Cregar who depicts his character so good that it's nearly indescribable! Mr. Slade is menacing and simultaneously pitiable, sophisticated as well as primitive and generally speaking just overwhelming to observe! According to news articles that I've read, Cregar struggled with many complexes, regarding his appearance as well as his homosexuality, and the disunity of his own persona definitely reflects here on screen. He wanted to avoid further typecasting and thus went on an extreme and unsupervised diet which cost him his life at the tragically young age of 28. "The Lodger" and another magnificent collaboration with John Brahm called "Hangover Square" were the final achievements of an actor that easily could have become legendary if only he had lived a little bit longer…

And, last but not least, another powerful contributor to the success of "The Lodger" is definitely its time of release! The aforementioned Hitchcock adaptation perhaps came too soon and "Man in the Attic" perhaps came too late, but this version got released during a footnote revolution in the horror movie industry. In the 1930s, Universal dominated the horror business with their grotesque monsters like mummies, werewolves, vampires and Frankenstein creatures. In the early 1940s, on the other hand, producer Val Lewton and RKO Pictures started making eerie and atmospheric horror movies that gave human faces to the monsters. Suddenly evil didn't have fangs or fur anymore, but instead it had penetrating dark eyes and wore stylish suits. Cregar's Mr. Slade perfectly belongs in this horror evolution and easily ranks as one of the most memorable creeps of the decade. Admittedly "The Lodger" also has a few defaults. Mr. Slade often behaves a bit too suspiciously and nervous even though Jack the Ripper is supposed to be cold-blooded and professional, while the naivety of Kitty and the ignorance of Robert Bonting are exaggeratedly implausible. Still, it's a tremendously brilliant film from start to finish, with a breathtaking finale to boot!

How badass is your grandfather?, 24 May 2016

The only possible answer to the question raised in this user comment's subject line is simple and straightforward, namely: nowhere near as badass as grandpa Edmon 'Momon' Vidal in "Les Lyonnais"! Or any of his fellow gang buddies, for that matter! "Les Lyonnais" is inspired by the true story and memoirs of Momon Vidal; the poor son of gypsy parents who built himself up to the leader of a feared gang that committed numerous of violent armed robberies in the Lyon region during the sixties and early seventies. However, all the crimes and trials of that era are narrated and illustrated through flashbacks, as the film primarily takes place in 2010 and opens at the baptism party of Momon's grandson. For the past 25 years he has lived a luxurious and relatively honest life, but now his oldest and dearest friend Serge is in trouble. Serge is apprehended by the police, but prison is full of henchmen of the crime boss that he double-crossed. Since friendship is the most important value to Momon, he organizes a plan to help Serge even though he very well realizes this will bring him right back to his old criminal habits. Given the nature of the plot, protagonist characters and a handful of significant sequences (like for example the baptism), "Les Lyonnais" is inevitably reminiscent to "The Godfather" and – like many other reviews so unmistakably state clear – not as good. Yeah well, so what? Hardly any movie is as good as "The Godfather", but that doesn't stand in the way of "Les Lyonnais" being an extremely intense and absorbing thriller with many brutal sequences, tight atmosphere and stellar performances. The main trumps of the film, apart from the charismatic ensemble cast, are the realistic brotherhood portrayals and the swift transitions between the gang's activities in the '60s and present day. During the flashbacks, being a criminal and kick- starting violent gang wars is glorified quite blatantly, but the script also clearly criticizes the contemporary French juridical system. Momon and Serge initially just were two harmless young troublemakers, but they rolled into the criminal life after they were sentenced to six months in prison for stealing a handful of cherries (which aptly also is the title of Edmond Vidal's memories). The flashbacks are the most entertaining parts of the film, since they seem to come straight out those primarily Italian & French euro-crime/Poliziotteschi movies from the seventies; which happens to be my favorite cult cinema sub- genre. You know, exhilarating chases in crummy old cars, characters with gigantic mustaches, harsh drive-by shootings and relentless executions in the middle of crowded streets! The scenes set in the present day are much more sophisticated and dramatic, but they are still fast-paced and loaded with suspense. Gérard Lanvin gives away a downright phenomenal performance as Vidal, and he's brilliantly backed up by Tchéky Karyo and Daniel Duval.

Face on/off, 19 May 2016

An intriguing title gets half the work done! That's probably what director John Brahm and his crew must have thought and, indeed, "The Four of Us Are Dying" is one of the most enticing and curious episode titles of the entire first season (although on par with "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street") and perhaps even the full series. Obviously this doesn't mean that it's also one of the greatest episodes of the season/series, but nevertheless it's another very entertaining one with a good pace and a fair share of suspense. Pretty much every single installment in "The Twilight Zone" requires a healthy dose suspension of disbelief, but this one right here demands an extreme lot of it. The plot introduces small time crook Arch Hammer; a man with the incredible (and impossible) capacity to change his face! He only has to look at someone's picture or concentrate real hard and his frontispiece switches! Naturally he uses this unique talent to get what he wants, like picking in the girlfriend of a recently deceased musician or extorting a mafia boss. But when he runs into a dark alley in order to escape from a few assailants, he takes on the wrong face. The face of Andy Marshak, a man who broke his father's heart and has retaliation awaiting him. The script never bothers to clarify where Arch's unique gift originates from, and I'm sure you could do more useful stuff with this talent rather than toying with the feelings of a nightclub singer or stealing small cash from the mob? Still, the script of "The Four of Us Are Dying" is quite compelling and the twist-ending is both unpredictable and effectively harsh. The cool title properly makes sense during the climax, in fact! John Brahm's direction is surefooted and skilled as always. I said it before and I'll repeat it forever, but Brahm is truly one of the most underrated directors of the 40s-50s eras.

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