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that's about it.
"Nothing comes before chess, my dear".
Edgar Allan Poe's story sees another adaptation in this 80s made-for-TV outing starring some names in George C Scott, Rebecca De Mornay and Val Kilmer. It's diverting, but very unexceptional and stagy in the details. In honesty it's the strong performances that really carry this one, especially a stalwart Scott and a headstrong De Mornay. How the cast worked of each other kept me glued. Some atmospherics are etched out nicely, with fitting period details of a turn of a century Paris and there's a dark, grim air lurking about. The deaths happen off screen, but there's something ghastly about them and that's mainly due to its effective use of sound. However the story is all about the investigation/mystery of two murdered women and it's somewhat stiff in its execution of it. Even with the script throwing around ideas, theories in its quest to uncover the motive of the puzzling deaths it just fared as a typical crime plot of outrageous circumstances. Still at least it didn't find itself getting distracted by certain sub-plots. Earnest entertainment.
84C MoPic (1989)
"Get that thing out of my face"!
Something like this might not look original now, but back when it was released it was probably refreshing and innovative. An army cameraman (code-name Charlie MoPic) films a small recon platoon to record the procedures of combat situations in the jungles of Vietnam. Think of its low-budget (and it shows) and especially competing with Vietnam war films of the late 80s like "Platoon", "Full Metal Jacket" and "Hamburger Hill". Looking for a different angle to set it apart which I don't know how successful it was, as I only heard of the film for the first time a couple months back. It does remind me of the TV show "Tour of Duty", which if I remember correctly had an episode using this concept.
Still "84 Charlie MoPic" is quite a personal, gut-wrenching and gritty look into the exploits on the front-line. It doesn't shy away either, giving the characters plenty of time to bond and open up with their differing perspectives. It's driven by its dialogues/characters, as it's in the details, commonplace but realistic. Sometimes a little slow and meandering, but those looking for constant action will be hugely disappointed, as when it occurs its only minor and the Viet Cong are kept mainly unseen, but it does have impact because we feel every inch of pain, discomfort and disorientation the soldiers encountered. This is where the intensity arrives from; the chemistry and respect between the men. That when they start getting picked off in quick concession, the intimate styling crafted gave it a more grounded sense that played to its strengths. It's primal, instinctive, as their combat training makes little headway in their quest for survival. There are no rules in this war, where danger is always there. The performances are raw, but believable and well-delivered by a bunch of no names. The low-scale handling gives it an organic, but tight and humid touch Written and directed by Patrick Luncan, he makes good use of the one idea concept and lets it flow accordingly to achieve maximum effect.
"Stop! Let her got b!tch".
After seeing the title, you could say it's a neat homage to Tobe Hooper's horror classic "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". In some regards it's virtually that film, but set on a whaling vessel where the crew (a family; mother and her two sons) practice their trade on unexpected victims. Hey even Gunnar Hansen makes an appearance, but finds himself in the opposite chain of events.
A group of international tourists on a whale watching trip in Iceland, find themselves in trouble when their captain is killed in a freak accident. But lucky for them there is a passing former whaling vessel where they are force to take refuge, but to their surprise it's no safe haven as once they step aboard the ship they become the helpless prey.
The oddball plot might be thin, but the choice of location was fitting and it did offer a surprise or so. However its bitter, mean-spirited tone that really did surprise me, as it doesn't hide its intentions. Especially since after it kicks into gear, it never lets up setting up its bewildering situation. On the other side of that, I did find the majority of the characters (mainly the victims) quite insufferable and disconnected. Very typical, if dislikeable bunch, with the exception of two characters (played with gusto by Terence Anderson and Pihla Viitala). This means there's a healthy body count and numerous over-the- top slaughter sequences. Blood runs freely. It can get really cartoon- like in its graphic depiction, which does disrupt the suspense and raise a chuckle. But still the script does have that dark humorous edge, which never lets it become too serious. Director Julius Kemp's handling is streamlined, being well-shot and confidently paced.
Nothing out the ordinary, but a amusing, rustic splatter horror slasher.
Walking the Dead (2010)
"Everyone here is dead".
Not to be confused with the ever-growing popular TV show "The Walking Dead", this little low-budget horror joint "Walking the Dead" is an atypical, but creative and edgy zombie feature.
A disgraced journalist (a dry, fish-out-of-water performance by Sam Voutas) hiding out in Beijing is given one last chance to revive his career when he stumbles across a letter involving an uncle burying his niece alive. So he travels to that isolated Chinese village to only find its mostly a ghost town, those inhabitants still there are less than friendly and a mother (Angela Tong) frenetically searching for her daughter. But what they discover is quite horrifying, a man known as The Walker - who has the ability to revive the dead and is creating an army.
It's beyond strange (with that "Silent Hill" vibe), but it works delivering on atmosphere by using local colour, shadows and displaying grisly details. The direction can be patchy, and its shocks and jump scares can somewhat cheapen the mood (like the thugs getting picked off). The pacing is low-key, but this only builds upon the unnerving and grim nature of the incidents that are unfolding. Sure it's on the cheap, but there's certain slickness to it and its shot-on-video styling is well handled for most part. Visually speaking it's impressive, but this is due to its choice of location and positioning more than anything else. The countryside village is like a maze, where it isolates and disorientates those trying to escape from the horrors awaiting there. The plot is told through our protagonist recounting to the police what he has encountered. It's rather straight-forward and we are kept in the dark, up until it comes to an unexpected revelation like out of the "Twilight Zone". The script really does take a sudden turn, ridiculous, but surprisingly deft. Little story is hanging from it and because of that it can feel drawn out in its long-winded stalk format, but it's driven by local folklore that simply engages. "The Walker" is an imposing figure, mysterious but brutal decked out in his straw hat and dragging along his axe while controlling his resurrected walking dead. The acting can feel amateurish, but it's not a killer.
Not perfect, but different.
"We Will change forever".
Walking through my local DVD shop I came across this title, "The Station". Quite plain sounding, but it was the comment at top of the case that caught my attention; "A slice of horror reminiscent of John Carpenter's 'The Thing' ". Being at massive fan of that film, I decided to take the chance and in some regards the Austrian made "The Station" comes close. Hey I even enjoyed it more than the prequel / remake that came out a year or two back. What it has in common with Carpenter's film is more so the ice setting, an unknown threat that is a single-form alien organism transforming the local wildlife into gigantic monster mutations and hybrids. It's like "Day of the Animals", but on steroids! Then there's the ending that only paints the apocalyptic mood playing out. This is a basic straight-face creature-feature at heart with a climatic cautionary warning, which tells a simple story that effectively lays it out with a strong grizzled protagonist (a very solid showing by Gerhard Liebmann), well timed suspense, gruesome thrills and a sense of mystery of mankind's fate. The final frame of the film is surprisingly effective in its suggestion, but they spoil it on an uncalled for tacky jump scare.
The premise is far from unique and quite down-pat; a group of scientists/ technicians discover a glacier of blood (an inspired image when shown) high in the mountains, which after testing the liquid discover it contains an alien organism. As they try to survive and hold up against the effects of this organism, on a hiking trip to the station for an official visit is the Minister of the Environment.
The feature is slickly photographed (despite some shaky camera movement early on) and makes excellent use of its vast, breathtaking backdrop. There's a definite sense of isolation and uneasiness, but never does it struck a feeling of claustrophobia and dread. The tension seems to unfold from threatening situations and the punctuated shocks. Its momentum is fairly sedate, but it becomes crazy, excessively so as it goes along and the director keeps a fairly tight hold.
What I got a kick out of was that CGI was virtually little, if unseen, opting mainly for traditional special effects and they do pay-off. The creature designs are creative and horrific with beetle-fox hybrids, giant wood lice, flying crossbreeds. There's a whole range of beasties and they're not friendly. Squamish moments are plentiful and there a creepy developments. While the generic script doesn't over feed itself, still it had some issues like an appearance of a sudden character for them to only disappear with a poor explanation. The performances are adequate, without anyone really standing out, other than Liebmann.
Clichéd, but fun, strange sci-fi / horror monster romp.
And the title "Blood Glacier" sounds so much better.
The Gladiator (1986)
"This is an citizen's arrest. Pull over now"!
After making films such as "Driller Killer", "Ms. 45" and "Fear City", we would see film-maker Abel Ferrara direct a straight-to-TV movie "The Gladiator". With this being the case, the limitations are there and I could only think what could have been if he was given full control as the context of the story was right down his alley. Maybe this is what interested him to the project, or those who hired him saw his previous films and would have liked to see him recapture the spirit of those features for his production. Still even with those restraints, "The Gladiator" for most part is an effectively brooding revenge piece shot on the cheap, but filled with some grit and style in the signature touch of Ferrara. The nigh-time sequences pack atmosphere with its neon lighting and Ferrara does a tidy job framing it with its rocking soundtrack. It's "Death Wish" on the motorway.
A maniac in a custom-built car known as "The Skull" is terrorising motorists and after the death of his brother one night, mechanic Rick Benton vows to end it. He converts his pick-up truck into an armed and dangerous machine calling himself "The Gladiator". Every night he goes out on the road searching for "The Skull", but also trying to rid the roads of any reckless drivers, but the police led by Lt. Frank Mason see him as a menace. Also people who constantly call into a radio station seem to be divided on the actions of "The Gladiator".
The smart script attached does seem to have more to say, than being a straight-up action exploitation fare. There it tackles the issue of taking the law into your own hands, how things can get out of out-of- control and while at same time spitting out facts and statistics of the danger of drink driving. It does kind of get heavy handed on the last point, but never does it take away from the film's enjoyment. A laid- back Ken Wahl plays the lead role as the young man haunted by the death of his younger brother and agreeable in the part. You do feel sorry for his character, as he portrays a level-headed and reflective character that slowly goes off the rails. Across from him is very solid support by Nancy Allen, Stan Shaw and Robert Culp as the detective in charge of "The Skull" case. The maniac driver motivation seems to be road rage (accidentally provoked or just waiting to be) and he's never seen, until the final shot where Ferrara pit's the two in a thrilling demolition climax in a junkyard. There are some exciting set-pieces, but the final 10 minutes top it.
Rites of Spring (2011)
"It has started".
What start off are the often used pre-credits explaining the disappearance of women over the years in the area to only follow it up with a sequence of two young ladies one night being kidnapped. Where they awake to find themselves hanging from a rope in a barn. Then the story shifts to a group of clueless kidnappers planning a napping. At first I wasn't too sure if the scenes were somehow linked and it this was going to be told through fragmented flashbacks, but as it goes along we find out it's not the case. An old man who we see early on seems to have different intentions for these girls that involve springtime ritualistic sacrifices to a monster so he gets a good harvest from his cornfield, while the kidnappers actually have their eyes on a young daughter of a wealthy socialite. So firstly it moves back and forth, but how these two story threads come to meet, is that the kidnappers chosen hideout happens to be the area where the old man resides with his grim secret. Also there are some other twists in the story, which do seem a touch too convenient, but nonetheless never all distracting.
When watching the indie horror "Rites of Spring" it was reminding me of a serious take of the British 2008 horror comedy "The Cottage" with lashings of "Jeepers Creepers" (2001) and "Malevolence" (2003). The action starts off quite slow, setting up the situation and trying to give the kidnappers some reasoning where it shows guilt soon overtaking certain participates. The traits, motivations and developments are beyond clichéd and the stupidity of certain actions only highlighted their inability to follow it through, but that's soon all forgotten when they become the hunted. Nothing fresh and simple-minded, but serviceable in its execution.
There it becomes a conventional, but primal monster film, as the body count piles up and during the maniac final third the tension picks up with its typical chase format. It can be brutal, vicious and it doesn't hold back (as buckets of blood runs freely), but I didn't think it was as disturbing as it could have been, but it made up for it with its odd surprise or two. The last five minutes would have to be my favourite part of the film though, as it seems to open a real can of worms if there's a lot more going on than you were originally meant to believe. Then the final shot uses the foreground to great effect, having that potent old school touch where its pay-off is sudden but effective in that it leaves you hanging. Writer / director Padraig Reynolds goes for a moody / sullen approach in favour of build-up then anything truly flashy and illustrative, where he makes good use of the isolated backdrop and when he needs to crank it up, he does. The running time is only short, so I didn't find it to lull about. The script ably does the job despite some loose ends (which I don't find the creature's fate one, as I thought its obvious with the sequence that occurs after the credits have finished rolling), but won't set the world alight and the performances (especially AJ Bowen and Anessa Ramsey) are capable enough in delivering the predicaments. While another star the creature design "worm-face" is basic, but successful for such a low-budget horror film. It looks like some scarecrow come to life, with ragtag clothing and a decaying face with worms crawling about.
Leprechaun 2 (1994)
"Happy St Patrick's day, boys"!
What am I doing watching this film? I disliked the first film, and I've seen "In Space" which was completely stupid. So far what I've seen, hasn't clicked. This first sequel is an improvement, but not by much. Mediocre at best, nothing flashy. This time there's some sort of narrative attached, if trivial and slight, but it bears no relation to the first film other than having Warwick Davis' fiendish leprechaun returning to cause havoc. Dead bodies begin piling up and the jokey humour looms large. It clearly plays for cheap laughs and jolts. This time it's set in the big smoke, where the centuries old leprechaun finds himself in Hollywood on St Patrick's Day to claim a bride who sneezes three times. This feature is playful, crude, risqué and mean-spirited, but moves at a welcoming pace. The make-up effects stand-up really well and the set designs, especially the hidden lair demonstrated some visual candy. In the title role Davis is having fun, spitting out those witty puns and it shows with him being truly being unrecognisable in costume. While the rest of the cast are acceptable, without making all that much of an impression. Although Shevonne Durkin sure was easy on the eyes. Still there are a lot of TV stars showing up in small/cameo parts. The eccentric set-pieces do standout more so than the story, but there is some creativity and twisted ideas around its daftness. Too bad I find it all to end on a whimper though, after a smart gag to outwit the leprechaun.
The Jungle (2013)
"Something is watching us".
I thought "Black Water" was excellently pitched eco-horror, while "The Reef" was a modest survival horror. So when it came to "The Jungle", I had some high hopes from Australian film-maker Andrew Traucki. Again very similar in formula to his previous films, but just a different threat. "The Jungle" is a simple story (ala "Blair Witch Project") that takes advantage of the found-footage market. Does it work? Yes and no. It's durable, but unexceptional in that we have been here before.
Animal conversationalist Larry Black along with his brother head to Indonesia to track down and film a rare breed of leopard to get documented evidence of its existence in the jungle. However in the area where they would be searching are rumours of a black magic demon, which Larry considers just local superstitions? But his guides are not so convinced.
I came away liking the taut situation and the overall build-up of it. It had me engaged (be it the characters and motivation behind the trek) and there was a grounded realism, but the pay-off was less than desirable. In what becomes a whirlwind of frustration, sudden camera movement and off-screen action in the last ten minutes. It's jerky in its execution, as the repetitiveness of certain actions started to become wearisome and the jump scenes simply erupted. You are kept pretty much kept in the dark, but that didn't bother me. Although the disappearance of a character in the final few seconds baffled me. It just I didn't feel like the back-end truly captured the suspense and horror of the situation as effectively as the lead up did.
The tag less is more, is used very much here. Only glimpses (glowing eyes), noises (snarling and branches breaking), symbols (black sorcery), signs (prints, blood and remains) and the humidly suffocating environment help it come alive. A creepy superstitious back-story helps a lot too. Throughout sound effects were well used, as well as the eerie jungle backdrop in isolating the danger and uncertainness the characters found themselves in. Majority of the reliable tension is fuelled by the character interactions of the unknown, than that of the unsighted beast stalking its prey (although there's one scene involving it climbing down a tree where you only see its hands is fairly unnerving). Why this works is because the performances are appealing and they're well written giving them such weight to standout from each other. The acting led by Rupert Reid is hearty and intimate by all in style that only lends well to the story and chemistry. I can why some people might not like it, but for me it does have its moments beyond its wandering nature and not entirely seeing the creature wasn't a problem. You get a good enough look in the final shot.
"The Jungle" starts off strong with its gripping slow-burn format to only go off the beaten track in standard clichés and a disappointingly frenetic close.
Terminator II (1989)
"Christ! They're shooting all over the place".
Wow. I'm kind of surprised by its decent rating on this site. But, talk about plagiarism. "Aliens" is what it wants to be. And "Aliens" it is not. It blatantly lifts scenes, dialogues ("Please, kill me"), characters, story arches and ideas. It's that obvious
you'd be in amazement. Yeah, you could probably play a drinking game with what it tries to squeeze in. It simply becomes a waiting to see what they rip- off next. And throw in a touch of "Terminator". Especially within the film's dying stages and misplaced climax. Well in some countries it does have the title "Terminator II". Wonder what James Cameron would have made of it? Director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso are no strangers to trash, and the grungy "Shocking Dark" is no exception to the trend. Too bad it's not as exploitative in its visuals. Even though it's on the cheap, daft in every sense, the plot doesn't make a lick of sense and junky as it can be
what killed it for me was how flat, sluggish and meandering the action and story came out to be. No great shakes that the acting is wooden (and that constant screaming from the Newt character gets truly unbearable), the genetic monsters look completely goofy and the thrills are more silly than rousing, but it's not as fun as it could have been. Good idea of the setting; a polluted Venice, despite most of the time is spent in dark, dingy and long underground corridors, which is caught by murky photography. Lame-brain, but it gets bogged down too often and doesn't let its outlandish nature implode.