Reviews written by registered user

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99 reviews in total 
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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Lean, Mean Thriller Machine, 8 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With the Machinist, director Brad Anderson has created a love sonnet to Hitchcock. If the fact that it has Christian Bale in it rather than Jimmy Stewart throws you off the scent, all you have to do is listen to the music. The soundtrack to the Machinist sounds like Bernard Herman's greatest hits. This purposeful tip of the hat to Hitchcock, and Christian Bale's impressive portrayal of a man who is slowly losing his mind make the Machinist worth watching, despite the fact that it boasts one of my least favorite twist endings.

Bale plays a tortured man who hasn't been able to sleep for a year. The cause of his insomnia is unknown, but it's taking a toll on his health. To say that he's lost a lot of weight is an understatement. Bale is positively skeletal in this movie. As he struggles to maintain his sanity and keep his job at the machine shop, Bale tries desperately to understand why he can't sleep.

Things take a turn for the worst when Bale meets the new guy at work. He's a bald-headed, leering man who lost his hand in some kind of unfortunate circumstance, and now has two of his two sewed on his hand in place of fingers. This guy has a weird way of showing up just when something bad is going to happen, and pretty soon Bale thinks that Baldy has got it in for him. If you've seen SECRET WINDOW, HAUTE TENSION or even HIDE AND SEEK, the big twist of this movie will come as no surprise. Typically, I think this revelation is overused and cheap, which is why I didn't give this movie a higher rating, but at least the Machinist is done with some style.

Taking into account the undeniable Hitchcock style that Brad Anderson gave this movie, and the remarkable acting from everyone involved, especially Christian Bale, I would recommend this movie to horror fans who are interested in thrillers that move a little slower but are thick with atmosphere. The ending is a bit of a letdown, but as with HAUTE TENSION, the telling of the tale justifies at least one viewing.

12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Legion of the Lousy, 5 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With the exception of the newly resurrected Full Moon movies, the Asylum distributes and produces the absolute worst horror movies on the video store shelves. The Asylum's legacy of lousiness continues with their Mummy epic, Legion of the Dead.

This movie is basically like Queen of the Damned with mummies instead of vampires and with Bruce Boxleitner and the kid from Gremlins instead of Aaliyah. This tepid tale begins when a couple of dirt bikers stumble on an ancient Egyptian burial tomb somewhere in the mountains of Los Angeles. You heard me right, this ancient Egyptian burial chamber is in the foothills of Los Angeles. Somehow those wacky Egyptians managed to make it all the way to California with a bunch of their loot and sarcophagus with a Queen Mummy in it. The Gremlins kid (can't remember his name) is an archaeologist who is summoned to the site after the two dirt bikers tell the cops about what they found.

The Gremlins guy leads a team on an expedition into the burial chamber. There's ten minutes of Indiana Jones shenanigans as our intrepid explorers make their way through into the tomb. Poisoned arrows, cryptic warnings written in hieroglyphs and trap doors abound. They make it through a winding maze of styrofoam cave walls and find a sarcophagus with an ancient Queen Mummy in it. Of course, they awaken this mummy from her slumber and it turns into an episode of Scooby Doo. The Queen Mummy reanimates a bunch of her mummy pals and they make short work of our explorers.

As far as the story goes, it doesn't get any more cookie cutter than this. It's shot on someone's camcorder, just like all the other offerings from the Asylum. The acting is cardboard. Overall, it's just a complete waste of time. My hope is that all lovers of horror movies will stop renting and buying these cheap, irritating movies from the Asylum. Maybe if they realize that they can't make a profit churning out these foul flicks, they will stop making them. I sure hope so.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The Mangler Re-Bored, 31 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm movies makes his move away from Don Coscarelli in this pitiful would-be sequel to the Mangler. The original, which was based partially on a Stephen King short story, was about a laundry machine that ate people. Robert Englund played the psychotic owner of the laundry who fed people to the machine. It was basically Little Shop of Horrors with a laundry machine instead of a plant.

This one jettisoned the supernatural laundry machine and went for a more straightforward serial killer tale. The story is about a repairman who buys the old Mangler on eBay and starts restoring it in his basement. Once the machine nears completion, it possesses him and turns him into its minion. The rest of the movie is about this repairman going around and getting meat for his machine. There's a lot of screaming done by women as he hits them repeatedly with a hammer. I have to wonder about the two guys that wrote and directed this movie, and where this misogynistic streak is coming from.

It seems like the writers/directors were going for that unrelenting Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Haute Tension, Saw, Hostel kind of vibe that seems to be all the rage these days. But the Mangler Reborn wound up being unrelenting only in its capacity to bore me.

The Jacket (2005)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Full Mental Jacket, 31 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can sum up this movie for you in one sentence: 12 Butterfly Monkeys Flew Over Donnie Darko's Ladder.

The Jacket is really a stew made from pieces of Donnie Darko, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the Butterfly Effect, 12 Monkeys and Jacob's Ladder. The thing about this stew is that the flavors all mesh nicely, and don't compete too much. It's a little bland, and probably doesn't deserve a full-on BAM! but it's better than canned soup.

This movie is a weird kind of psychedelic time travel paranoid thriller. Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) is a soldier in Desert Storm, and he gets shot in the head. Flash forward to years later, he's wandering down a lonely stretch of road and he runs into a little girl and her mother who are broken down by the side of the road. He fixes their car and continues on his way, until he's picked up by some guy who goes on to shoot a highway patrolman and frame Jack for the murder. Jack is found guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to treatment at a mental facility. The head doctor (Kris Kristofferson) utilizes some strange methods in his attempted treatment of his patients. The orderlies strap Jack into a straight jacket, fill him full of drugs, and stick him in a morgue drawer for 8 hours.

While Jack is in the drawer, he somersaults through time to find the little girl that he helped by the side of the road all grown up now. They fall in love, and she tells Jack that he died inside the mental institution. Now Jack has to figure out how he died and who killed him before time catches up with him. Basically, every time they take Jack out of the drawer, he knows a lot of stuff about the future that he shouldn't know.

It's a fairly interesting little concept, and it would probably be a lot more entertaining if it didn't feel so familiar. It's well-acted and directed with style. I can't find any flaws with the execution of the movie, and the production is slick and glossy. The main problem with the movie, and the reason I'm not giving it a higher grade, is that it's too familiar. That familiarity comes from having seen elements of the Jacket in all the movies I mentioned above. If the Jacket had been made before Donnie Darko or 12 Monkeys, it might have felt vanguard and unique, but as it is, this just winds up being a little bland for my taste.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Like Stale Halloween Candy, 27 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Don't worry, I'm not really going to spoil anything for you. This old pumpkin movie is already pretty rotten and spoiled.

A bunch of kids are drunk and then kill somebody on the road. Years later, there's a stalker going around with a pumpkin on his head killing all the kids that were involved. It's like I Know What You Did Last Summer with a pumpkin man. This shoddy production is shot on somebody's home video camera with a bunch of actors who have been recruited from the local shopping mall. It's not really worth spending any more time on it. It's a waste of time for me to write, and a waste of time for you to read. Go ahead and pass this one by, trick or treaters, this movie is like the stale candy that somebody had left over from three years ago.

Ice Queen (2005) (V)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not Thawed Out, 27 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So, the set up for this thing is that some scientist has found a cave woman from prehistoric times frozen in the ice. She's the Ice Queen of the title. While en route back to civilization, the Ice Queen comes to life and rips through the pilot's throat, causing the plane they were traveling in to crash into the side of a mountain. The crash causes an avalanche, which deposits the plane, along with several tons of snow, into the main lodge of a ski resort.

It's late in the season, so there aren't a lot of people in the ski resort, but the few people that there are get stuck in the main lodge with a newly revived blue monster lady. The Ice Queen gets free and starts prowling around, killing ski bums and bimbos until she comes across this one ski patrol guy that she thinks is cute or something. He does his best to stop her rampage until they can put her back into cold storage.

This is like a low budget version of THE THING made by people that have seen too many Godzilla movies and teen sex comedies. The worst scenes of the movie are when the granulated sugar avalanche consumes all these little train villages, and the wet t-shirt contest that takes up the first twenty minutes of the movie. If you're looking for a movie that combines gratuitous nudity with really cheap production values, look no further. Ice Queen is for you.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
See? Even Zombies Can Learn, 20 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The follow up to House of 1000 Corpses winds up being a superior movie to its predecessor. With his second outing as a director, Rob Zombie has definitely come into his own as a storyteller. The movie has style and an energy that brings to mind Sam Peckinpah and some of the maestros of violence from the 70's. Even if you don't generally go for serial killer movies, you might take something out of this movie watching experience.

Now, I have to say that I found the first hour of this movie incredibly hard to watch, and I was about to turn it off. I started off hating the Devil's Rejects for all the reasons that I hated House of 1000 Corpses. At some point, these types of movies stop being horror films and become something akin to gore-driven porn. To me, there is a distinction between horror films and violent, gory exploitation films. In the simplest terms, I feel that a horror film should scare the viewer. I think we can all agree that causing a feeling of deep fear or dread is supposedly the intention of a horror film. With most serial killer movies, I can't say that I feel a moment of real fear. I feel like I'm watching a graphic, unrated version of the 11:00 news. Violent exploitation films like Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, or the Hills Have Eyes don't really terrify the audience, but merely glorify violence and seem to revel in the torture and rape of women. I haven't seen Eli Roth's Hostel yet, but I'm sure it's more of the same. If anything, it makes me wonder if maybe the directors of these films should invest in some therapy and save the rest of us from having to watch their excrement.

Occasionally I watch one of these films, and it starts out like any other violent exploitation movie, but then takes a turn and becomes interesting. This is how I felt about the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Haute Tension. While both of those movies started out like a standard gore porno (gorno?!), they wound up being more complex than I had originally thought. That was the case with the Devil's Rejects.

As I mentioned, the first part of the movie is difficult to watch, and it does seem like Rob Zombie is gleefully wallowing in the violence and depravity he's creating. In fact, he seems to take so much pleasure in how disgusting he can be that it made me question what Rob would do if anything bad ever really happened to him. I mean, this guy is a rock star. How bad could his life be? I'd be willing to bet that if a serial killer got a hold of his wife or his child, that he wouldn't think this kind of thing was so entertaining. Regardless, the movie was shot with a lot of style and had a soundtrack that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. The music is eerily appropriate throughout and adds a powerful counterpoint to the violence you're viewing on screen. So, even though I wasn't enjoying the first hour of the movie and I thought it was basically a porno movie, I had to give Rob points for crafting a really glossy porno. But still, I was getting ready to turn it off...

Now, I don't want to give away anything for those of you who haven't seen it, but I will say this: with the Devil's Rejects, the end justifies the means. While I hated Rob Zombie for dragging me through an hour of depravity and seemingly pointless violence, I loved him all the more for the way he twisted around my concept of good guys and bad guys. By the end of the movie, I was fully engrossed and I found myself having all kinds of strange feelings about the three remaining members of the Firefly clan and the Sheriff who hunted them down. As much as I hate to admit it, I don't think that the ending of the movie would have been nearly as powerful without the violent and disturbing build up of the first hour. End analysis: After House of 1000 Corpses, I thought this retired rocker was just a zombie, both in name and in intelligence. But I take it all back. I think this Zombie has a brain. This is not the work of some wanna-be bad boy who wants to be shocking. This is not an exercise in depravity with no real purpose. This is actually a well-crafted story by Rob Zombie, who apparently has something to say after all.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A Better Beginning, 20 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Every employee at Morgan Creek should be taken out into the courtyard and flogged for burying this movie and letting Renny Harlin unleash his worthless Exorcist prequel on the world in its place. There are certain ideas and concepts that are just meant to be movies, and doing a prequel to the Exorcist is one of them. I really can't understand how anyone could possibly screw up the story. Even Michael Bay should have been able to make a good Exorcist prequel. But Renny Harlin did the impossible, he made a bad Exorcist movie and all the while they had Paul Schrader's version hidden away in a closet.

Now, this is not a great movie, and it doesn't live up to its full potential, but it's not as much of a crime against nature as the version that was released theatrically. If the producers had actually supported Schrader and helped him trim this movie down a bit, we might have had the prequel we were all hoping for.

For anyone who doesn't know the saga of the Exorcist prequel, I will give you the Cliff Notes version. Warner Brothers and Morgan Creek decided to make a prequel to the Exorcist that would basically be the story of a young Father Merrin and how he came to be the Exorcist. Yes, I thought to myself when reading about this... good idea, finally. They hired Caleb Carr, a novelist best known for his book the Alienist, and Paul Schrader a director who's best known for writing Taxi Driver. Okay, now I was starting to get excited. Paul went and shot his movie, but ran into problems when he screened the movie for Morgan Creek and the big brains decided that it was too long and not scary. Caleb Carr started screaming that Schrader was destroying his words. They fired Paul Schrader and brought Renny Harlin in. Renny reshot 90% of the movie and put his hack fingerprints all over it. That was the version that was released theatrically with a pretty dismal box office response.

Meanwhile, Paul Schrader's version languished on the shelf until recently. This movie follows the same basic premise as the Renny Harlin version. Father Merrin suffers a crisis of faith after being forced to watch as Nazis massacre an entire village. He's in Africa and he discovers an entire church that has been buried in the desert. But while the plot line is basically the same, the two movies couldn't be more different. In Schrader's film, Merrin is a tortured man who's struggling with complex issues of faith. In Renny Harlin's film, Father Merrin is more of swashbuckling archaeologist like Indiana Jones. That's basically the difference between the two movies. One is a drama, and one is an adventure. The problem is that neither film is really a horror film. Schrader's film, while certainly more brooding and esoteric, is not that frightening. The possessed boy in DOMINION is nowhere near as scary as Regan was. That might be because there isn't really any identifiable threat in the movie. We all know that Father Merrin is going to survive whatever hellish experience he goes through, because he shows up in the later movie. So, since we know our main character is going to live, there's not a lot of peril in the movie. We are able to disengage from it and never really feel frightened or worried that Father Merrin might not make it out of this experience alive. This is a flaw that should have been handled in the concept stage. This is not a fault that can be pinned on Paul Schrader. In fact, I think Schrader did everything he could with the material he was given. It's still a flawed concept, and the producers obviously didn't give Schrader any money for CG because the hyenas in this movie look like they came right out of a video game. That's the only reason that I didn't give this movie a higher score, and it has nothing to do with Schrader or his direction. It has everything to do with a poorly conceived concept and a lack of care on the part of the producers.

The saddest thing about the Saga of the Exorcist Prequel is that Morgan Creek and Warner Brothers missed a great opportunity and we, the horror fans, are the ones who suffer for it. This movie is definitely worth a rental if you are a fan of the Exorcist series, and if you felt betrayed by Renny Harlin's movie. This will ease the sting just a little bit for you. I don't know if I can recommend adding this movie to your collection, because it still has some problems. Despite the fact that none of the fault can be pinned on Paul Schrader, this movie still ends up getting a C+ in my grade book. It's better than Renny Harlin's, but still not as great as it could have been if the producers had stood behind Paul Schrader from the beginning.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Return to the Dork Castle, 19 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dark Castle continues its assault on the horror genre with this little gem starring Paris Hilton. The plot line concerns a bunch of teenagers on their way to somewhere, who get waylaid in a strange little town where everything is made out of wax. A more apt title for this travesty would have been Town of Wax, but then they couldn't have claimed it was a remake of an old Vincent Price classic. As it is, this movie shares nothing with the original except for the name. This was clearly just a case of Dark Castle wanting to capitalize on the success of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, so they did their best to copy it note for note, substituting Elisha Cuthbert for Jessica Biel. I think Jessica and Elisha might be wearing the exact same tank top though.

Just pathetic. Even when he was alive, I don't know if anyone would have called William Castle a genius, but he was well known for coming up with cheap gimmicks to promote his movies like skeletons dropping from the ceiling of the theater at a key moment. If William Castle could see how badly Dark Castle is tarnishing admittedly shlocky name, I think he might claw his way out of the grave and strangle the whole lot of them. Rather than taking William Castle's name and making poor remakes of his movies, Joel Silver and his happy band of idiots should have set their sites on Ed Wood. He was probably more their style. Then they could have called their company Dark Wood. You know, come to think of it, I better shut up. Knowing how these guys think, they might think that was a good idea. That's all we need, a remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space.

The Hollow (2004) (V)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not Entirely Hollow, Not Solid Either, 18 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

File this one under: Great concept, mediocre execution. The story is about Ian Cranston, a High School kid who carries the bloodline of Ichabod Crane. As soon as Ian moves into Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman returns to life to finish the Cranes off once and for all. Kind of a neat little idea, and it could have been fun movie but the concept got lost somewhere along the line.

It's hard to pinpoint what's wrong with the Hollow. For the most part, it's shot pretty well. There are some scenes that are really dark and grainy, but for the most part the movie looks better than most of these low budget horror flicks. I can't really fault the actors, even though Nick Carter is nobody's idea of a talented thespian and whoever thought casting Judge Reinhold as a football coach should be fired immediately. But the movie is carried pretty solidly by hottie Kevin Zegers and the girl from 8 Simple Rules. The real standout as far as acting goes is Stacey Keach, who really seems to be having a lot of fun with the role of the old grave keeper. I can't fault the writing, because while it's a little clichéd at times, there is a solid pacing to the story.

I think the problem with this movie is that it doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. Part horror movie and part after school special, it winds up feeling like an R.L. Stine Goosebumps episode with some nudity in it. The Hollow's biggest flaw is that it's uneven. The next biggest flaw is the way the Headless Horseman looks. He has a head, for one thing... and it's a completely ridiculous looking pumpkin head. As it is, the Hollow is worth a rental if you're a fan of the old Disney cartoon and are interested in seeing a modern day retelling of the story. I don't plan on adding it to my collection, but if you have kids that are like in their early teens, they might enjoy watching it on Halloween night.

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