Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Adult, layered, shocking and intense.
I was a fan of Malevolence, but you don't need to see or know that film to enjoy this one; the links between the two films are more of a bonus to fans than an essential element of the storytelling. But kudos to the filmmakers for really getting into the psychology of how broken families/people make other broken people- and thoughtfully exploring the ways people are trapped..whether through isolation, by one's own demons, disabilities, or through another's evil, it's explored in every character.
It's probably the best-shot horror film I've seen in years, and looks like they had a ton more money than I bet they actually did. Ultimately, though it's entertaining, it's not a "high-fiving your friends in the theater" kind of horror.. it's going for something much deeper. Best I can liken it to is a scene where one imprisoned character is helpless to save a friend who the killer (an awesome performance by Brett Rickaby) is sneaking up on and ultimately dispatches; I felt I was witness to a tragedy, and felt terrible because I couldn't do anything to stop it.
That makes it sound like viewing the film is agony, that's untrue..but after years of remakes and watered-down, gimmicky storytelling, it's nice to see something truly disturbing and affecting again. Check it out.
Over the GW (2007)
disturbing and effective, solid debut film.
Tony (George Gallagher) stumbles through a drug haze, with his mother helping him down the street. What was supposed to be a shopping trip begins with a strange meeting at a nondescript building..a moment later Tony is brutally forced to the floor, strip searched, and bullied into signing what amounts to an incarceration form.
Tricked into a rehab center, Tony's well-meaning mother leaves him there feeling this is the best thing to help him clean up his life. Far from following any proved approach to treatment, the place borders on a militaristic cult; and what should have been a monthlong stay spirals into years.
This psychological torture masquerading as discipline and "tough love" consist of sleeping 4-5 to a mattress (or a section of floor), being led around like misbehaving pets, being put in chokeholds and literally sat on for hours until one promises to be "compliant," not being allowed to read(!), and apparently this is a watered-down version of what director Nick Gaglia endured in his teenage stint in the rehab center(the now-defunct KIDS of North Jersey); the story is true, and uncomfortably personal.
Tony and eventually, his sister Sofia are forced and then choose to remain, continually threatened with the idea that survival and sobriety is only possible inside their new home. Even teens with weight problems and average sexual urges are trapped here, repeatedly told they can't have any future contact with loved ones or former friends who could threaten their new states of mind.
A Slamdance 2007 discovery, Over the GW is not a 'horror' movie per se- though your skin will be crawling at points through the film. 24-year old director Gaglia shows admirable maturity and restraint in his storytelling, and would be equally effective helming a tale that didn't stem from personal history, I feel. Particularly noteworthy is his skill with actors and casting; performances are top-notch, across the board. Kether Donahue and George Gallagher both excel as the imprisoned siblings; Gallagher's fearless and layered performance is a confident film debut. Albert Insinnia, as the center's director, exudes snake-oil salesman charm and menace, all the while projecting genuine concern for the 'flock' and an unshakable belief that his (unlicensed) methods are the kids' only way out of their downward spiral. Admirably, neither he nor the (also effectively portrayed) staff, consisting of former program grads, come off as one-note monsters even though they're frighteningly effective. The nontraditional screenplay has a great flair for natural dialogue; if large parts of the film weren't improvised, they certainly feel like it.
Gaglia brings a striking visual sense to the film, stylization that's narrative-appropriate, akin to a surreal documentary: Long lenses and close-ups, jittery hand-held, blurred shifts in focus and a vibrant, sickly color palette create a subjective claustrophobia that perfectly mirrors the states the characters are in. The fractured yet sound narrative intentionally gives little sense of proper time passing..what day or season is it? It's borderline startling the first time we step outside the clinic and hear natural sounds again, and can see something besides concrete walls and pulsing fluorescent lights. The insertion of interviews with Tony's parents and grandparents, docu-style, do fill in some narrative gaps but feel slightly jarring from their infrequency. The story's told well enough that the additional support might not be needed.
This cautionary tale of rehabs gone wrong never comes across as didactic or a bitter victim's expose' story, though the director certainly earned the right to do so if he'd wanted. It's one of the strongest no-budget debuts in some time. I look forward to seeing what he, Donahue and Gallagher do next, together or separate.
retro blast but with a sharp script!
based on an earlier review I did for Icons of Fright after its festival premiere in April 2006- saw it again last night with a packed house.
The Hatchet filmmakers put their money where their mouth is. It's a brutal slasher that manages to balance over-the-top jaw dropping gore and humor, tailor-made for its core audience.
And that is NOT people who thought Boogeyman and The Fog remake constituted masterful modern cinema.
HATCHET concerns lovelorn and recently dumped Ben (Joel David Moore), doing his best to get through Mardi Gras with his best buddy Marcus (Deon Richmond) and their pals. When the endless parade of vomiting drunks and Girls Gone Wild does nothing to ease his funk, they embark on a haunted swamp boating tour, a low-rent venture run by con man Shawn (Parry Shen, faking a hilarious Louisiana accent and regional history till he's pointed out.) On the tour, they come across Shapiro, (Joel Murray) a pseudo-producer of T+A pics and his wannabe starlets Misty and Jenna (Mercedes Mcnab and Joleigh Fiorevanti), the middle-aged couple the Permetteos (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), and the sullen, concerned Marybeth (Tamara Feldman), whom Ben immediately tries and fails to bond with. It's one of the more enjoyable casts you'll see in a slasher. The cast is game and likable and never boring to watch. Everyone gets his or her share of (intentionally) hilarious line readings, while Ben remains an enjoyable straight man.
Naturally, storms hit, the boat sinks, you know the drill... and they manage to be near the requisite spooky house of one legendary Victor Crowley, deformed child who passed away tragically several years ago. MaryBeth has hopped the tour to get close to this place, actually, as her brother and father have recently gone missing. She knows how dangerous the area can be... and before they can hotfoot it out of there, a very angry Victor comes front and center, bearing the title weapon..
Wholeheartedly embracing some, if not all, of the genre clichés and story tropes we know and love, Hatchet's a blast. If you took the clever dialogue and horror/humor balance of SLITHER and put it in a Friday the 13th installment you'll have an idea of how it proceeds.
The film's fall-out-of-your-chair-hilarious at times, but don't worry. It actually comes out of the characters and situation and never feels shoehorned in. It's a very wet slasher picture. It's not silly or desperately hip or ironic. It's balls out violent and serious when it needs to be. When it's horrific, it stays that way.
Reason to celebrate: no CGI in the film. If there is any, it is not in the makeup effects. Confirmed by the director himself- one of the deaths I have no idea how they pulled off, it's so elaborate- you'll think 'where could the actor have gone?' and have no idea. It's refreshing to actually have some wonder back in the FX in this age of assumptions that computers did everything. The grue comes courtesy of John Beuchler, who gets a nice budget to do some bodily renderings we haven't seen before. They're more technically impressive than terrifying, though one of them is quite tough to watch (you'll know it).
If the audience wasn't wincing at the effects, they were cheering at them! Another reason to grin: Kane (Jason) Hodder as the villain. Kane gets to own another hulking monster role. The villain, Victor Crowley, is interesting it's a return to the hulking, unstoppable force-of-nature villain of old-school horrors... who better to get than Kane himself? He comes with an interesting backstory (which we see in the film when the mythology of 'who haunts this swamp' is revealed), and Kane, out of makeup, portrays Victor's father in a melancholy flashback. Far from the clichéd abusive father archetype, Crowley's father is tender and doesn't forgive himself for a fatal mistake in his life. After seeing it, I'd love to see Kane in more parts acting out of makeup, people forget he's more than just someone who can handle walking through fire and glass. Here's a reminder.
Victor seems visually a cross between The Elephant Man and the skeletal Jason makeup from Friday the 13 th VII. It's impressive to look at... just what he is is barely addressed. Did he survive his supposed death? Is he a ghost? Not sure, (saving for Hatchet 2 I think) but he keeps coming at you and has a fetish for pulling parts off people like wings off butterflies.
There are other welcome genre cameos laced in, Robert Englund and Joshua (Blair Witch) Leonard open the film, and Tony Todd steals his one scene in what's essentially a monologue with a great punchline. In some ways this film feels like a Scooby Doo mystery laced with the gore buckets from Hellraiser, but with no WB teeners in sight.
Entertaining from start to finish, THIS is the kind of flick you go to with 10 screaming hollering friends. Completely made to work on the big screen with a rabid crowd.. if you saw it at home in 6 months on TV, alone, you'll miss out. HATCHET's got its heart in the right place, even if that's ripped screaming from its chest.
PS now having seen the film uncut and R-rated, I can confirm there is not much of a difference..I was worried they would lose a lot of the effects fun but I'd say 98% of it is the same.
Fantastic, smart meta-horror and humor. (very mild spoilers)
Behind the Mask takes place in a world where serial cinematic murderers Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Fred Krueger left real-life legacies and monstrous body counts.
Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), hopeful heir to the Grand Guignol throne, has invited a documentary crew of grad students to cover the beginning of his 'career', as well as observe his tricks of the trade and careful, meticulous planning that often appears to the average person (read; viewer) as effortless, efficient stalking and killing. You have no IDEA how much work goes into what seems like a silent, mindless rampage upon horny teens, and Mr. Vernon is going to show you what it takes, step by step.
Leslie articulates to television intern/aspiring interviewer Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) who makes the right victims and why, the proper way to plant the seeds of destruction and fear, how to pre-rig a murder scene so people fall in the order as expected, and the symbolism of weapons the final victim utilizes for defense.
We also visit a retired old-school slasher (an excellent Scott Wilson) who mentors Leslie and talks about the need for fear in society while comparing his 'hit 'em once and vanish' philosophy to murder to the 'returning every season' ambition of current franchise killers(!).
Taken in by Leslie's giddy schoolboy charm and burning intelligence, Taylor and the crew follow his every step while wrestling with the idea that Leslie is truly going to end lives at the end of this road... When their ethics finally kick in and they realize that he's not all he's led them to think, they find themselves in the movie scenario they feared, trying to stop his reign of carefully prepared terror. If they know all the moves on the chessboard, can they prevent them? Or has Leslie planned for this inevitability from the start? Right off the bat we're in smarter, deeper territory than Scream, and the film-making techniques compliment this. Whenever we're with Taylor and her crew documenting Leslie, the film is shot on high quality/filmic DV, hand-held but not irritating. Whenever Leslie directly envisions what he is planning to do, or goes out and does it, the look changes to lush 35mm film, the sound fills out to stereo surround, familiar string music kicks in, and we're dropped headfirst into a classic slasher; complete with minor time-honored clichés and heightened, melodramatic acting! One of the accomplished results of the film is making you think the slasher, the most maligned subgenre in horror, itself often dismissed, deserves reconsideration, examination and study. They've thought of everything, every genre 'what if' you can think of comes under the spotlight, yet all of this is depicted in a fashion that never dulls or bores the audience simply looking for fun. While it doesn't take the simplistic approach that SCREAM did to pull apart genre tradition, it doesn't come across as a dry academic lesson either. Instead of pulling apart classic horror film structure, the film deftly deconstructs slasher clichés' and motives.
Humor and horror are balanced quite well, coming out of the performances, and those performances are quite good. Special praise has to go to their choice of Nathan Baesel (ABC's Invasion) in the title role. Expect to see Nathan in many more films after this film's theatrical release. It's a terrific performance; Leslie can go from geeky and persuasive to ice-cold menace in a moment and then still manage to regain our (and the camera crew's) sympathies.
We spend much time with him early on, laughing out loud and entertained by his comments on everything to his turtles' longevity to the "survivor girl"(industry term, you know) using his manhood to empower herself as tradition.. Baesel's hilarious, five minutes into the film you will love him letting your guard down... then he gets to the point where he implies he's got no qualms stopping the crew for good if they get in his way. From his breathless excitement at finding his "Ahab" (a person representing all that is good who makes it his life's mission to stop Leslie), to tearfully reflecting on all that's happened in the hours before his life's work comes to fruition, it's rich and layered and you almost wish he could keep talking during the scenes when he has to slip into silent-killer mode. Angela as Taylor is a decent match for Leslie, she has to represent the audience's feelings on this situation and keep our sympathies as well Scott Wilson is great as the retired maniac, a rugged teddy-bear type who still wouldn't have a problem snapping your neck if needed.
We don't get to know the intended victims too well, but the situation they're in keeps us attentive to their plight as they send up and honor some stereotypes (innocent virgin, jock, stoners etc.) Genre mainstays Zelda Rubenstein (Poltergeist!), Robert Englund and Kane Hodder make welcome cameos, dispensing exposition and in Englund's case, providing a nice 180 from the characters he usually plays (he channels Donald Pleasance as the "Ahab" trying to stop Leslie.) Unfortunately when the camera crew take center stage with Taylor and the teens, trying to stop Leslie's game, it's tough to sympathize immediately since they feel like "new characters," having been behind the camera for the bulk of the story. But as previously mentioned the scenario keeps us hooked to watch to see who will survive, and what will be left of them. Absolutely worth it and a film that even non-horror buffs could embrace along with the diehards.
Unsettling, eerie, all in 5 minutes
An unsettling standout, this lush, epic-looking short (shot on Super 16mm film in Ireland!) shows what happens when a young girl discovers faeries are not the sweet, gentle beings folklore makes them out to be. It manages to create suspense and suck you in, in under five minutes. A great performance from lead actress Katie Keogh and top-notch visual effects top it off. It's not often we see a short that can suck you in that quickly and make you concerned about a character's fate. A self-aware moment at the end momentarily distracts, but it's required viewing for those who want to tell a complete, eerie story in no time flat.
Satan's Playground (2006)
lush, drugged out fairy tale
I saw the trailer for this a long time ago and saw this at a film festival in San Fran a year ago, still remember it; I'm looking forward to checking it on DVD in a few weeks. It's got the familiar scenario of "The Vacation that Goes Straight to Hell," and pays homage to TCM and Hills Have Eyes where one dysfunctional family meets a much more dysfunctional family. The plot's simple, simple isgood IMO.. Family stranded, strange threatening environment, family meets the people they really shouldn't have, and the the cast countdwindles. It's a more stripped-down horror from a director who usually does films with more nightmare-esquire logic.
It's a lot easier to follow than his previous two, still gets trippy at times..but it still has a crazy elaborate palette of sound/music, and the film(!) stock and look is probably one of the best I've seen in an under-million dollar movie. Interestingly most of the characters are mute(on sides of good AND evil), Mrs. Leeds, the head of the screwed up clan is an unpredictable riot. Freaky and funny. It feels like you took Hansel and Gretel and merged it with Hills have Eyes, kind of like those old Creepy/Eerie comics from the 70's/80's. Mrs. Leeds definitely feels like one of those twisted crones. There's a few welcome moments of humor in it, it doesn't take itself TOO seriously but gets good and mean when it wants to. And it's very cool to see Ellen Sandweiss come back(she hasn't aged!), running through the woods shrieking once again..
Zombie Honeymoon (2004)
Inspired, touching character-based horror
Horror films have always had the 'notch above adult films' stigma, usually used due to an overabundance of splattery special effects and weak(er) acting, usually sacrificed in the service of the former. There's no reason a horror film cannot tick all the boxes of what we've come to expect in the genre, still frighten and disturb us, and not have something to say AND have fleshed-out characters populating it.
Dave Gebroe was smart and jumped on this deficit in the horror genre..aside from Larry Fessenden and maybe Brad Anderson and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, horror films and 'emotional' rarely end up in the same sentence. Dave takes a more dramatic approach to a scary movie. If John Cassavetes was hired to do a zombie film it might be something like this, although the director pours the energy of youth into this film and his leads.
Using an intentionally lurid yet appropriate title to lure us in, the film covers the once vibrant and now deteriorating marriage of Danny and Denise, two psychobilly-crazed, frenetic and all-out happy lovers who are rushing from the altar, newly wed. This euphoric approach, followed by a hilarious scene where they get to their new house, drop everything and start planning to live abroad, sweep us up in the giddy rush of starting a new life with the one who makes your heart sing.
Naturally, because he remembers it's a horror film, things go wrong ten minutes later.
A decaying surfer stumbles out of the ocean and 'infects' Danny who seemingly dies on the operation table an hour later. But a few minutes after that, he's up and feeling OK, if a bit pale. And hungry...
While we do get all the standard trappings we'd hope for (flesheating carnage), the real and welcome focus is on how Denise copes with her husband's deterioration into something else. An amped-up similarity to THE FLY aside, it's all about devotion to one's significant other. This one's worth checking out. Who knew horror movies knew how to be heartbreaking as well?
Horror Business (2005)
a lot of fun. visual delight! (minor spoilers)
It's about two percent movie making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It's no way to spend a life." Orson Welles Every review of this film will probably state this quote. Which is OK, because the film opens with it. But it's the perfect summary as director Christopher Garetano explores and investigates why we're drawn, filmmakers especially, to horror in general. It's also an examination of the spirit one tries to hold onto in a harsh business to enter, let alone prosper in.
So you wanna make movies? Why? And if so, why horror? What is it that makes us come back again and again to the genre? What would drive you to put "regular life" on hold indefinitely to create these twisted visions? Director Garetano- creator of the horror magazine Are you Going? (which he put on hiatus to make this film) and the award-winning experimental short INSIDE- decides to avoid horror's usual suspects (Stephen King, George Romero, Wes Craven etc.) and focus that question on the little guy, five or six independent up-and-comers with varying degrees of ambition and ability.
We meet such distinct iconoclasts as lone wolf David Stagnari, who spends years honing a surrealistic black-and-white nightmare called Catharsis, and wondering if there's even a place for his work in the era of glossy, soulless, empty films..Button-pusher Ron Atkins, who cranks out over-the-top tales of decadence and madness; John Brodie, a David Icke conspiracy theorist/producer who helps Ron complete a video dramatizing the alien takeover of the American Government; and John Goras, a mild-mannered animator who gets his angst out through titles like Son of God vs. Son of Godzilla. We also spend some time on the set of Zombie Honeymoon, where director Dave Gebroe aims for a more dramatic, character-based conflict amidst the body parts, courtesy of FX master Tate Steinsiek. And with Brian Singleton, who works on his own documentary of the paranormal and his own sci-fi/horror hybrid flicks with no money, time, or apartment to his credit
We also visit on set with Mark Borchardt, who indie and documentary fans will remember from 1999's American Movie. This film, however, is not a sequel; we only deal with Mark as he relates to the theme of the piece. As engaging as always, Mark actually seems to have lost his drive after this previous film Coven in the late 90's and we get to watch him regain it with his first feature Scare Me.
An excitingly visual documentary, Garetano avoids static, talking heads for the most part and peppers his film with colorful visual montages, often dramatizing the spirit of film-making a la Errol Morris; the film opens with a little kid in his bathroom applying KISS-like horror makeup and joining another kid brandishing a movie camera, recreating Night of the Living Dead on a child's level; it perfectly sets the playful tone and will make a lot of struggling indies grin and think back to their formative years. It's never distractingly stylized except for some occasional interviews, which are captured at jarring angles that make you crane your head.
Editing is tight and the timing makes some funny moments even funnier; There's some laugh out loud scenes as we follow these persistent dreamers through their highs and lows, and every personality he follows is at the least, interesting; with egos ranging from swollen to nonexistent. Yet the material never becomes condescending or a point-and-laugh affair, nor a 'Project Greenlight' chronicle of on-set mishaps and doubts. These folks, like all aspiring artists and craftsmen, were touched by films in their youth and will stop at nothing to be able to touch them back. The fact that the films that set them off were full of monsters, gore, madness and suspense is irrelevant. It's an honest yet hopeful look at the no-budget end of genre film-making.
The doc briefly turns to some low budget genre pioneers and well-known horror celebs. H.G. Lewis ('The Godfather of Gore') discusses entertainment vs. indulgence, Sid Haig(The Devil's Rejects, Spider Baby) talks commitment and "how much is too much," Tony Timpone(head of Fangoria magazine) shares his views on the genre's viability, and Joe Bob Briggs nails it when he discusses what usually sucks about low or no-budget films(stop casting your non-actor friends!).
Some of the work we see from the directors is barely above the amateur level, some more ambitious and detailed; but their resulting work isn't the point. (though there's a great ending sequence where a lot of them accomplish their immediate goals) Against all odds, they are out there shooting, getting it done, (hopefully) learning more about their craft etc. How many filmmakers start out that way and end up just talking?
good first time effort
anyone who got stuck in and suppressed in Catholic or boarding school will squirm at this.. while I wish he got a decent/bigger budget for the film, the director makes some interesting points about the dangers of repression, the equally liberating and damning aspects of religion, (it's about the dark side of religion, while not really an all-out slam on Catholicism) and how abuse comes back to (literally) haunt oneself. The sound is awesome, this could really use a soundtrack, much better than general indie scores. Is that all Jersey woods? Vincent Lamberti is creepy as a priest with too many secrets, and those who want clearcut answers to their basic stories may be disappointed. But it's got a neat dream-logic that will either make you nervous or just baffle you.
Mimic: Sentinel (2003)
Stylish and smarter than most "III"s in franchises (minor spoilers)
Director JT Petty manages to hold interest, keep his personal stamp on things, and revitalize a franchise that had been given the opposite treatment, somewhat, in its previous installment. Altertating between a subtle black comedy (IMO) and a creepy art-house horror flick, Petty manages to make a smart style the substance of Mimic: Sentinel. Having seen his previous super-low-budget film, the inventive and disturbing SOFT FOR DIGGING (worth checking out if you can find it), I found a lot of similar themes; the leads are isolated loners who most people would be suspect to take on their words; they witness something horrifying that they cannot confirm actually happened; and when they try to shut out the horror, it breaks down their door and comes to THEM.
It's a good way to get around the 'one set' idea of low budget films, and hey, we all need to see Lance Henricksen's familiar fate in every film he's in. Leads are likable and it's always good to see Amanda Plummer in anything..
The insects are frightening and will stay in your head in this one. Obviously a fan of animation, Petty in his previous film managed to pioneer a technique of pixillating humans and images so they resemble the startling suddenness of an insect moving, something that is used effectively here and had to be noticed by the producers when scouting for new blood. Looking forward to what JT does next.
serious, scary, unlike recent 'horror' films (minor plot spoilers)
When your beloved horror genre turns into a limp parody of its former dangerous, exciting self, (Grudge? Boogeyman??? WTF?) you can count on new indie horror filmmakers to jump into the lion's den and take their genre back. Add Stevan Mena and his debut film MALEVOLENCE to that list. Stevan joins the ranks of the new blood (yeah, I know) waiting in the wings who got tired of corporate 'scare' films and gave their contribution to the down-and-dirty indie horror basics.
A festival favorite with several awards to its credit, MALEVOLENCE opens in 1989, with an unidentified man in a basement opening a burlap sack, revealing his newest catch-a young boy. Instead of immediately dispatching him, the boy is made to watch the fate of the unseen kidnapper's previous find; a young woman Cut to the present(well, '99). A young couple (Brandon Johnson and Heather Magee) fret over their decision to aid her brother(Chambers) in a robbery, to free them of their crushing debts. Needless to say, the heist doesn't go off without a hitch, and not only does this result in fatal injuries for some, but crime cohort Kurt(Glover) breaks down with the money miles from the rendezvous site(the requisite spooky house in the middle of nowhere). Taking a young mother (Samantha Dark) and her daughter hostage, he arrives at the decaying house to wait for the others.
Daughter Courtney (Courtney Bertolone) escapes, running to a nearby slaughterhouse for help. Needless to say, who she finds there is not pleased to be disturbed..could this have anything to do with the basement maniac glimpsed in the film's opening? Stevan Mena manages to take the general premises we've seen before, and while not necessarily twisting them on their heads, completely delivers the goods in a way that feels fresh because we've seen it done WRONG so many times.
It's a relief to see a lack of hip irony, characters that know other horror films well, Loud noises masquerading as "scares", poorly placed rock songs that exist only to sell CDs, teens having sex during a situation that demands you stay alert, characters who leave weapons behind as they walk down the dark hallway, etc. Mena's one objective is to get audience members to jump, and he does it. Again and again. Every horror fan knows the beats of the genre and yet he still manages to make you jump out of your chair left and right.
Mena keeps the atmosphere (with effective widescreen 35mm photography by Tsuyoshi Kimoto) and tension strong and never takes a break with it once it kicks in. The characters are developed enough that they keep our interest, and Johnson and Dark's leads are appealing.
Mena wisely restrains the violence and on screen bloodshed, instead letting your imagination do the nerve-rendering. The musical score, probably the best I've heard in a low-budget film, plays like a combination of John Carpenter(natch) with hints of Mark(Millennium, X-Files)Snow's darker compositions.
There's a nice twist and explanation of what's transpired at the film's end, and Mena(the writer and editor too!) manages to drop in some interesting points of social commentary on what creates a killer or criminal in modern society..none of this gets in the way of the film's primary task, which is to freak you out and remind you how it was done in the days of the late seventies.
I don't have to see new ground broken just as long as it's serious and scary. The references to genre classics, particularly HALLOWEEN, are thick..but who cares? At least they know the right people to pay tribute to. Psyched for MALEVOLENCE: YESTERDAY going into production!
Phantasm II (1988)
Haunting, superior sequel despite compromises (minor spoilers)
Phantasm II manages, within a minuscule budget, to nearly outdo the original film's atmosphere and scares while sticking to a more linear storyline. Despite Universal's interference and insistence on a less dreamlike narrative (the backbone of all the other Phantasms), director Don Coscarelli manages to give this installment the most polished look and measured, exciting pace of the series.
While being stuck telling a more on-the-surface story than the first film, he manages to plant extremely frightening, original, surrealistic images throughout the film that stick in the viewer's mind forever(I first saw this when I was 12 in a theater, and have never forgotten it). A priest's worried look over his shoulder at his empty town; a writhing, screaming parasite burning to death.. auto parts hanging from a burning tree after a car crash..gasmasked beings carting exhumed coffins across a porcelain hallway; an abandoned mortuary..full of freshly lit candles! The stark simplicity of the doorway to the villain's homeworld. Hooded creatures storming Reggie's kitchen in the dark. And on, and on..
The story is simple enough, seven years after the original a teenaged Mike (now played by James Le Gros) is released from an asylum and is immediately drawn back into the Tall Man's game, traveling through an emptied America into a nightmare that could very well all be in his mind. This early in the series, the mysterious Tall Man is just that.. he probably has ten minutes screen time in the film, and yet the mood and pacing always make you nervous that he'll appear behind you and cart you off to be part of his experiments. Where IS he? What is he doing when we do not see him? This lack of resolution actually works for the picture's benefit, and not against it. Indeed, though Phantasm spawned an additional two intelligent, emotional sequels, as we learned more about the villain Mike and Reggie are up against, we're much less frightened of him.
Angus Scrimm is at his creepiest in this installment. Reggie begins to take his place as audience favorite, a reluctant hero on par with Ash (Evil Dead) and Dr. Loomis. Le Gros does well as the buff but still doubtful Mike. Kudos to character actor Kenneth Tigar for his role as the tortured priest, who "can't close his eyes to the things he's seen", who manages to draw us in with his nuanced, emotional performance. He could have easily shown up to give exposition and get killed, instead he manages to keep the viewer hooked AND meet his untimely end.
Full of suspense, scares, and action, Phantasm II may not be the mindbender of the original, but it's no a less worthy chapter of the most surrealistic, thought-provoking horror series ever created.
gets under your skin if you let it
Very eerie, abstract film, with terrific sound design. You can play this on your machine while you're writing and slip into a trance from the mood-drenched noises.. While it's a much better film than Desecration, (which still has great potential but not enough funding behind it) in terms of acting/production design, It causes more of a subconscious reaction than an obvious one. It's kind of like David Lynch's creepier works..you're not sure why you're nervous.
OK, it doesn't have ten million behind it or big stars..WHO CARES? I have yet to see a good horror film made for $35 million yet...To the people on the boards mindlessly ragging on it-have you made a film to match it? Look at some of the raves from the (real) online critics. For some people, they want a straightforward scare flick, and that's OK..this is not one of them. Tomaselli, with this film, is dealing with dream/nightmare logic. It's not that he can't tell a straight story, it's that this is not intended to be one of them.
The whole point in this film, IMO, is it's an unsafe world where nothing at all can be trusted. Memory, logic, behavior, perception, all of it is fragile and deceptive in this film. The characters are not safe at any time, and that's what the director nails. Very cool. I think that his next film, Satan's Playground, will satisfy both camps since the storyline will be more linear, but the visuals and sounds just as trippy.
Moonlight by the Sea (2003)
Smart, disturbing, sci-fi thinker
Before the accelerated evolution of special effects and 100 million dollar event films, science fiction could consistently be counted on to point the mirror back at us, and discuss topics and ideas that were often not addressed out in the open. Though one may often wonder "how can you accomplish a science fiction film without a hefty budget?" Director Justin Hennard does just that in his MOONLIGHT BY THE SEA, a bordering-on-experimental, hypnotic and disturbing new film that dares to ask questions like "what makes you think you could handle complete freedom, if it was at all possible to regain?"
MOONLIGHT takes place in an unnamed (future) time, an unnamed and overdeveloped city. The Corporation owns, manages, controls, directs, and distributes literally everything in this future world; even illegal drugs are regulated through them, stamped with the bizarre Corporation seal of approval.
Albion Moonlight (Sean Allen) has been a top Corporation salesman for so long he no longer remembers his true name, only his mission. His confining, single-seat spaceship (which he is literally connected to through hundreds of wires) malfunctions on a sales call and crashes on a barren desert planet with limitless borders and wide spaces are far as the eye can see. With no human or Corporation contact, no guidance, no schedule, and no rules, Albion is alone and allowed to think on his own for the first time in his life. And he's never been trained to handle it.
After a flood of thoughts and ideas nearly kills him, he alternates panic, fear, regret, and wonder as he begins to ponder the merits of his lifelong servitude and the whereabouts of his former wife, who was 'removed' from his life many years ago by the Corporation. For the first time, he questions.
Two beings begin to appear to him, the panicked Stranger(Kingsly Martin), a possible copilot of Albion, who is so dependant on the Corporation for guidance that he literally short circuits from his disconnection, and Nomman, (Prince Camp) a charismatic yet slightly sinister man who attempts to pry free thought from Albion's mind at any cost. Do they exist, or are they the representations of Albion's dual allegiance (Corporation-sponsored thought vs. unrestricted thought)? Albion soon learns that either side can be too dangerous for a naked mind.
Running the operation to locate Albion is Gwen Klaus, (Mylinda Wenz) a beautiful and manipulative Corporation official who may know of Albion's whereabouts, but doesn't seem to let on. Is she living vicariously through Albion's escape? Gwen's personal escape is through the Corporation-brand drugs, illegal if taken by members of the ruling board; she alternates her teasing and manipulation of Captain Santop (Gary Peters), who does his best to placate Gwen and the unseen 'Chairman', and is rewarded with brutal mental reconditioning.
Both Albion and Gwen are searching for connection and understanding, in a world that only approves of superficial connections through products that they're continually told will improve their lives and standings. Characters are constantly observed by cameras manned by unseen monitors and the system is so overwhelming that any rebellion will be limited to the realm of thought, or officially sponsored by the Corporation. No, doesn't seem relevant to the times I live in
Director Hennard knows that the genre is about ideas and isn't afraid to lay them on, digging much deeper than the easy statements the plot could jump on("Corporations big and bad, freedom good"). Among the more haunting ideas the film touches on is that it may be truly too late to alter the system before it absorbs and alters us, and that the only way out may be total disconnection(death). Perhaps people could not handle infinite choices and directions they could go in... One also gets the idea that the system has been running on autopilot for too long, with truly nobody at the top; and that even unrestricted thought may be purchased and co-opted by outsiders.
The impressive black and white cinematography hearkens back to the stark, arresting visuals of The Twilight Zone. The droning, eerie sound design is also a standout; when one doesn't have the budget to truly depict a megalopolis or a spaceship crash, one falls back on their strengths and Hennard manages to use his visual design and soundscape to fool us into thinking we've seen something with a much grander budget than there is. Crossing the look and pace of Eraserhead with a Philip K Dick story, it's a sci-fi parable told as a bizarre dream, through a mellowed pace and symbolic layers of imagery. It may seem pretentious to or throw off casual viewers, but those who can unplug themselves from the machine for a brief period will find plenty to chew on. One of the better-acted indie films I've seen, Sean Allen and Mylinda Wenz keep us hooked, ditto the supporting cast.