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The Shrine (2010)
A fun alternative to the Horror norm
I wasn't expecting much when I sat down to watch "The Shrine". The premise looked all too familiar in a sea of excruciatingly bad horror titles. The opening scenes did little to quash my suspicions, however, I decided to stick it out and go for broke. I'm actually really glad I did.
There is very little contrived material here. The film sets up it's story and moves forward convincingly. While some of the dialog tends to border on silliness, a rather strong cast is able to deliver it in a believable fashion, which, along with the top notch cinematography, sets "The Shrine" apart from it's contemporaries. Yes, the Polish accents were brutal, as were the ceremonial robes, however the suspenseful scene direction more then makes up for it. It's one of those films, where as, you don't really care all that much about the characters, but you really dig what the film is doing with them. It's easy entertainment, and sometimes that's all it takes.
No, this is not a film that is destined for cult status or a franchise tag, but it is an enjoyable little horror film that reminds us of why we love this genre
Because it's fun.
Middle of the Road Horror...
"Fingerprints" is an all around mixed bag. Some brilliant moments of creepiness mixed with moments of complete Duh
At its heart is a ghost story. However, someone came up with the idea to make it a slasher film as well. While the paranormal elements tend to work well, the masked killer segments do not, partially to do with the fact that the killer's costume is laughable at best.
The premise is quiet simple, if not clichéd. A small town with a big secret and tragic past. Enter a castaway to learn about, and then attempt to solve the mystery. One big problem that I had was with the flashback sequences. They seemed to really cheapen the film and story. A few flashbacks would suffice, but the movie tries to hurl them at you and make things more confusing and less entertaining.
The acting is also a mixed garden salad. Plump full of ripe tomatoes and rotten prunes. I was pulled out of several scenes because of this and found it harder to concentrate on the plot. The main characters are well portrayed, particularly Leah Pipes as "Melanie" and Andrew Lawrence as 'Mitch". During the finale and reveal, things became quite rushed (budget issues?) and I was left a bit unsatisfied. However, everything is presented to you in a nice little package, so at least you understand the story.
Not bad if you're looking for a ghost story. It may even be appealing to some slasher fans. It's a middle of the road type film, not really bad, but not really good either. I guess it all depends on what you're looking for. For me, it was half and half. So on a scale of 1 to 10, I'll give it an even 5
Right smack dab in the middle.
Frosted nuggets of brilliance
"Frozen" is an unlikely story to be called horror. It literally oozes suspense and unease, but horror? However, just as you start to think it's your typical disaster movie; the horror is thrown at you in large doses.
Adam Green's story of a few friends trapped on a ski lift is all of the above, and relies heavily on the "what if?" factor. Well acted and directed, with loads of breath-taking cinematography, the film pulls you in quite easily and doesn't let up until the very last frame. After reading the synopsis, I thought: "Come on, how could this be any good?" but I was dead wrong. It was fantastically mesmerizing.
Best way to describe "Frozen" would be "Open Water" meets "Alive". Its hopelessness at it's finest. You instantly identify with these characters, because chances are that know someone just like them. It's easy to care for them and their dilemma, which makes it all the more frightening.
Far better then I ever could have expected and certainly one of best of 2010.
The Book of Eli (2010)
A New Approach To An Old Theme
A far better film then I'd first anticipated. The trailers showed a post-apocalyptic renegade (Washington) fighting for some unknown reason against the forces of evil. We've seen it before, and will most likely see it again. The difference here, is the star power they've assembled for this type of piece. Not since Mel Gibson donned his "Thunderdome" wig, have we seen Hollywood give this sub-genre such attention, but in the context of the subject matter, it just sorta makes sense. "The Book of Eli" is a slow-paced story, however it subconsciously packs a lot in. Through beautiful cinematography and a well thought out plot, it manages to gradually pull the viewer into this man's world. Portrayed flawlessly by Denzel Washington, we are routing for our anti-hero to complete his reckoning as the story unfolds in bits and pieces. The cast is solid, with Gary Oldman doing the "Baddie" role, like only he knows how. Secondary characters like Jennifer Beals hold their own, with the weakest link being Kunis, but this doesn't take away from the experience in any major way. The fight scenes were quite cheesy and far beyond believable, but again it didn't seem to matter to me, as I was caught up in all other aspects. Some dialog could have benefited from another draft but alas, the point made it's way across. Besides it's slower moments and Kung Fu fight scenes, "The Book of Eli" gives the viewer a fresh storyline, and well thought out twists that should make M. Night mad that he didn't think of it himself
As long as a "Part 2" is never conceived or made, this film should stand the test of time.
Reality Horror done Right..
First off, let me just tell you that I am NOT a fan of reality horror. I thought Blair Witch sucked and was the least bit frightening. Cloverfield bored me to no end and Paranormal Activity was slow but my favorite of the genre. It took me a long time to actually see Quarantine because I really had No desire to do so. I had read some reviews and watched the trailers and thought: "Oh great.. Another try at scaring the reality TV kids.." Well, I was wrong. Quarantine started off quite slow and I was certain that it would become the bore-fest that I expected, again, I was wrong.. Director John Dowdle had done his homework, and most likely realized why the foe-mentioned reality horror films didn't quite work on a massive level, and corrected the problems. Quarantine has some down right creepy moments, and keeps the viewer on edge through out most of the film. You can certainly feel the dread of the characters and place yourself into the situation, which is why it worked for me. Once the horror starts, it seldom lets up, and that is what makes Quarantine a much better film then it's predecessors. Highly dramatic segments that make you feel like your in a spook-house, just waiting for something to jump out at you...and they do! Solid performances and writing, my only gripe would have to be with the constant shaky-cam which always pisses me off, but I can at least understand why it's there, because the characters are running for their lives through out 90% of the film.. Well done and certainly worth a gander by any true horror fan.
Dead Air (2009)
Terrorists Newest Weapons... Zombies!
"Dead Air" is a zombie film with a few different elements of surprise thrown in for good measure. An overtly, competent talk radio host (Bill Moseley) speaks his mind to a late night audience, while an outbreak of toxic zombie-juice (brought on by Muslim terrorists) engulfs an unsuspecting city. Not a bad premise, but really nothing new. It was a bit preachy for a horror flick, and spent a lot of time using underlining character relationships to tug at the viewer's heart-strings (sorry, didn't quite work here) and this slowed the pacing down for much of the film. Moseley, along with the (always sexy) Patricia Tallman do a decent job as the film's protagonists, while the zombies themselves (with blood dripping from their eyes) tear apart their victims. I'm guessing the film's Armageddon theme was a lesson in hatred, and the writer's views on the world today. I didn't realize until the end credits that "Corbin Bernsen" was the director... I guess I didn't even realize that he was a "director" for that fact, but "Dead Air" is a pleasantly fun zombie movie if zombie movies are your thing. Breaks no new ground, but none the less "entertains" the way it's supposed to.
Satanic Panic (2009)
Don't Panic... It get's Better!
Watched "Satanic Panic" on-line last night, and I have to say I became a bit "Panicked" when the film opened. It begins in a docu-style (A.K.A. "Blair Witch Project") with a rather flamboyant Satanist showing us photos of his poodles
Huh? I watched a few more minutes and just before hitting the "Stop" button, the movie changed to a more traditional Indy-style horror film. A brother and sister (twins I believe) are abducted by a satanic cult, but the girl manages to escape and tell her horrific story to the local police and press. Now we fast-forward ten or so years and a group of old friends are gathering for a weekend of camping and reconnecting. Although these characters tend to be a bit cliché, so does the whole (slasher in the woods) scenario, so I won't harp on the film for that. Truth is, there were a few fresh story line twists here, including a terminally ill women and a past (lesbian) affair that garnished a few extra bonus points for "Satanic Panic". At least there are a couple of characters that gave the viewer someone they could feel for. From this point on, the story moves at a much quicker pace and our cliché characters are dropping like flies, in some unique fashions and this is always a good time for horror fans. Decent gore and acting, the one thing that continually bugged me was some of the costuming choices. The Satanic robes were a bit silly and cheap looking. The Orville character, which's supposed to be some creepy backwoods-guy, wore overalls and a straw hat. I think having him look like one of the mountain men from "Deliverance" instead of a "Hee Haw" reject, would have done the film more justice, but maybe I'm missing the point here
Not likely to tread any new water or win an academy award, but fun for the most part. Besides having the crap scared outta me in the opening scenes, I found "Satanic Panic" an enjoyable low budget horror movie, and certainly worth a viewing.
Silent Venom (2009)
Oh Berenger... Where Art Thou?
"Snakes on a Sub" (or "Recoil" or "Silent Venom") was on my list of films to see, simply because I had to know why some (once mighty) actors would want to appear in a Fred Olen Ray (or whatever name he's going by this week) movie... The answer is (obviously) money.
The film wastes no time in letting the audience in on what to expect. Really (and I mean really, painfully) bad CGI snakes, that the average 12 year old kid could do a better job with on his home PC. It makes you wonder if they even tried? Yes, they look like cartoons of the worse kind. That being said, the story is not all that bad... Once the premise switches over to the what (and why) a submarine is involved, it actually pulls you in, and you begin to forget about the stupid snake storyline. There is an underlying war-themed adventure about an out of commission sub (and crew) that accidentally wanders into enemy waters. Very well acted by both Berenger and Perry, this part of the film really worked for me, and I became engrossed in the story. The dialog appears to follow proper Navel protocol, and you begin to feel for the characters. Unfortunately, we are soon reminded that this is "Snakes on a Sub" and the B-Movie resurfaces. I think it could have made a decent war drama on it's own, however not many people would likely rent (buy) it for that.
Thus, we are left with good acting and really, painfully, horribly, cheesy FX and an hour and a half of our lives gone forever...
Enter at own risk.
Dying Breed (2008)
Tasmanian Axe Massacre...
Inbred and hungry cannibals... Out of their element young folks... Yeah, it's safe to say we've all seen it a dozen times before and "Dying Breed" is more of the same.
Director Jody Dwyer brings this familiar story to Tasmania with most of the same repercussions. However, the cinematography is stunning and the acting is well above most in the genre. Cliché? Absolutely... You pretty much know exactly what is about to(and does) happen through-out the film. The gore is admirable, yet the individual performances by the all-Aussie cast is the movie's saving grace.
Certainly worth a viewing, if for nothing more then the great acting and the wonderful scenery.
As low budget indies go, you will usually find that you get what you pay for, and let me just say, I didn't pay much for "Frightworld"...
Writer / Director: David R. Williams brings us the story of an abandoned amusement park, besieged by the vengeful spirit of a slain serial killer. Not a bad premise, but executed with a bevy of low budget mistakes. The camera work tries to be too cleaver for it's audience, by constantly using shaky quick-cuts to cover the fact that they really have nothing gory or scary to show us. This becomes evident right off the bat, as we are introduced to the would-be killer, and soon realize that the (acting) is the scariest thing happening... After a painfully long title sequence we are brought back to modern times, yet the acting remains the same. "Frightworld" does generate some rather unique cinematography when showing scenery from inside the fun-house, but with an extremely long running time, it can't save the film from it's below average indie hell.
There is some mediocre nudity, but not much for gore, which is usually the saving grace for these types of movies.
Fans of really bad B-Movies might find something of interest here, otherwise, don't spend a lot of cash.