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Centre Place (2010)
A delightful romantic comedy
I just received a screener for this film as I write movie reviews for a small emagazine on the web. I am not particularly fond of romantic comedies and am drawn more to action and horror--and if you check out my other reviews on IMDb, those will bear this statement out--but I know a good film when I see one, and Centre Place is the Real Deal.
It is a wonderfully sweet film about a somewhat self-centered young lady having a hard time finding happiness. When she is summarily dumped by her longtime boyfriend, she goes into crisis. The film is about how she changes her life, and how her friends and family are changed by her.
I enjoyed everything about this film. The acting is pitch-perfect, the cinematography and set design are wonderful, and the music is tremendous. Julia Markovski plays the lead and she is totally captivating as a lost young lady trying to figure out what life has in store for her.
The film will be released on DVD in February and it is well worth purchasing. Highly enjoyable and definitely recommended!
Please see review in comments section
I write for a well-established e-magazine called Rogue Cinema. When I see films I think are really worth others' time, I try to help the filmmakers out a little bit by spreading the word, so I try to post to this site as well. I wanted to post my review of this wonderful film short here, but it was too long for IMDb's 1,000-word limit; however, I hope you will either go to the link for my original review at http://www.roguecinema.com/article2932.html or to the "Discuss this movie" section where I will post the full review. The film deserves to be seen--and at under 10 minutes, what do you have to lose? Give it a shot!
Fantastic first feature film
I attended the world premiere of this film last night (11/7/09). You never know what you're going to get with a micro-budgeted indie film, especially from a tiny place like Henderson, Kentucky. I was more than pleasantly surprised.
I see tons of these no-budget films as a reviewer for an indie e-magazine and I can say that this film is better than dozens of films that get some kind of release, either regionally in theaters or on DVD by a legitimate distribution company.
Yes, the director has never done a "feature film" and yes, the main actors are all local amateur talent. But the director has been in the film/video business in various capacities for nearly a quarter of a century and the actors all have a great deal of theatrical experience.
The film is a crime thriller about a rapist/murderer (played by a creepy Seth Cheek) who was caught in the midst of completing his thirteenth and final crime. While he was wounded before he was able to end his victim's life, he does manage to blind her before being shot (hence the title "VictimEYES", a nifty play on words as well as a hint as to the action in the movie).
13 months later, the lone survivor of the rampage (played by Katie Morton) is struggling to cope with her new handicap, which causes friction in her relationship with her boyfriend. She is still getting used to her blindness and feels safe in her own home where she knows where everything is located, but her boyfriend feels like she is wasting away at home.
Things really begin to pick up when the rapist escapes from prison and begins a second series of murders, with his goal being to finish what he started by killing the lone surviving victim of his previous crime spree. Will the killer be able to complete his mission, or will his blind victim be able to survive a second attack? Director Chaney shows a real knowledge and flair with the camera and gives us numerous interesting shots and camera angles, and he doesn't shy away from filming some pretty rough material. However, even though we have some nudity and graphic violence, the rapes are filmed fairly tastefully (if there can be such a thing), with the camera concentrating on the reactions of the victims as opposed to the more lurid aspects of the action.
The film is populated with stereotypical characters such as the smart-ass girlfriend of our blind victim, the hard-nosed police captain, the alcoholic ex-cop who lost his job after an embarrassing incident, and the rookie cop stuck in the middle. Our police captain, played by Frank Furbush, does a great job, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, of portraying the tough, crusty, middle-aged leader of the police force who is used to taking charge, but also likes to "mentor" the younger female detectives, if you know what I mean.
While some of the characters are classic stereotypes, Chaney proves deft at playing these scenes for fun and the result is a bit of comedy, which is needed to help lighten the dark tone of the film. Ashley Sides, as our blind victim's smart-ass girlfriend also provides some good comedy. The audience laughed out loud at a couple of her quips.
Chaney also did a fabulous job in the film's opening in introducing the history of the crime spree by alternating between a montage of crime scene photos and the latest victim being attacked, bringing us to the present by ending with a crime scene photo of the latest victim as the attack ends. Very powerful stuff.
Overall, this was a terrific little thriller and first-time feature and I think most people who enjoy independent films will be happy with this one. Hop over to the official site and buy a DVD for $10!
not as bad as the reviews make it out to be...
First off, I am reviewing the "43 minute condensed version" that is found on KINO's "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," so this is the longest version currently available on video.
It's hard to talk plot line since I have no idea how the somewhat tenuous plot of this version compares to the apparently complete version locked up in Germany, but I can say that the subtitle "A Tale of a Vampire" is erroneous as there is no vampire in this film. The original subtitle is "Tragedy of a Strange House," which is much more accurate to the film in the version I own.
While there is very little to go on story-wise, the set design and imagery is fantastic! While of course, the sets look like painted cardboard (because they are), one must ignore that fact and look at the pure artistry put into the set design. There are some truly disturbing images, such as a skeleton with a clock for a head. And while actual camera movement is absent, this is an early example of a film that allows some action to occur at the fringes of the lens instead of dead center (like you are watching a play). This allows for some interesting and startling entrances from Genuine herself.
Speaking of startling, there is a scene in a slave market that features two women in a gauze-like material. You can see their breasts clearly, one of the earliest examples of nudity in a mainstream film. The nudity isn't highlighted and isn't used for eroticism, but I was surprised to see nipples so clearly in a movie from 1920.
I also must mention the brilliant score. While it is repetitive, it isn't annoying. It seems a perfect fit for such a strange little film. I found the score to be quite complementary to the imagery, and very beautiful as well.
This may not be "Caligari," but it shouldn't be dismissed as it seems to have been by others on this forum. And in its full form--if we ever get to see it--it may just be another "Caligari." Short on plot, but a hallucinogenic, dreamlike, and fascinating trip into a strange world. Try it!
New review for new release of a bad movie
Since "Lucker" has now been released by Synapse Video here in the U.S., I felt like a new review for the DVD release would be appropriate.
"Lucker" has been an (in)famous flick for over 20 years. Never released in the U.S., it could only be found as a multi-generational bootleg copy, the original negative long since destroyed. It made a huge splash in the late 80's because of the graphic content (remember, this is before "Nekromantik"), and I think it helped that the only copies available were blurry bootlegs. Viewed now with a little extra clarity, the effects are very poor.
The plot is so simple, I don't think I'm spoiling anything with this synopsis: a maniac escapes the hospital in search of the one surviving victim from his previous killing spree. Along the way, he encounters new victims as he searches for "the one that got away." There are a couple of decent gore scenes, and admittedly the corpse rape is pretty disgusting as long as you don't look too closely at the poor effects. Compared to "Nekromantik", this film just doesn't hold up. "Nekromantik" is much better filmed, of higher quality, and generally has better special effects.
One can even argue that Buttgereit backed off a little with his corpse sex as it is filmed with a blurred camera effect, as if to say, "You don't need every detail, just the idea of what is happening is sick enough." In contrast, John Lucker just hops on the corpse and grinds away--a much more depressing vision than "Nekromantik." This is probably the most disgusting as well as the most effective scene in the entire film.
But take away a couple of murders and the rape scene, and "Lucker" has absolutely nothing of interest to note. Mostly Lucker just wanders the streets in search of victims, but his ramblings are way too long and ultimately boring. The music is atrocious, the acting is non-existent, and as already mentioned, the plot is threadbare. In short, this film reminds me of a film I might make: I would want it to be gory and shocking, even over-the-top; however, it would be doomed to be bad because I have no knowledge of film-making and neither would the friends I might assemble to help me out. That's "Lucker" in a nutshell--very amateurish and poorly done.
The new DVD release comes with two versions of the film. One version is the original uncut version, taken from a Dutch VHS dupe. It's dubbed in English with Dutch subtitles, but for horror completists, it is a great gem to have as it represents the only original English-language version of what is essentially a "lost" film since the negative has been confirmed to have been destroyed. The second version is a "director's cut" but is essentially the same film, same plot, but with some new snippets filmed and added in while a couple of meaningless scenes have been removed.
The director's cut is certainly an oddity as it jumps from brand-new digital video footage to grainy, blurry, VHS footage. The new footage is meaningless as well--for example, extra shots of Lucker walking along the highway and shots of the elevator door with an "Out of Order" note on it. If I'm given money to re-shoot, you can bet I'm going out to re-shoot the important parts of the film, not the extraneous shots! The only good thing I can say is that the director's cut tightens the already-short film (74 mins.) to an even shorter 68 minutes.
The best DVD feature is an interview with the director who explains the background of the film and tells some stories about filming. I thought it was entertaining as well as enlightening.
All in all, this DVD is for hardcore horror completists only. Don't buy it just because you've never seen it--borrow a copy or rent from Netflix or something, because chances are you won't want to own it after you have viewed it.
El orfanato (2007)
One of the best horror films of 2007
I happened to be in Denver on business and the Denver film festival was in full swing. When I found out this film was playing at midnight on my last night in Denver, I jumped at the chance to walk 20 blocks one way (and in November) to see it. I was not disappointed.
I was not impressed in the beginning because the film seemed a bit derivative to me. I mean, just how many ghost stories concerning children are there? And with imaginary friends, too? I was thinking "Amityville Horror", "The Shining", "Wicked Little Things", et al ad nauseum. But, boy was I wrong! There are entire sequences that are reminiscent of classic fright films: of course the boy with imaginary friends, as mentioned above; but also a psychic and her entourage right out of "Poltergeist"; there's a death I've seen before as well, I think out of one of the "Final Destination" films; and of course, the general outline--a ghost story set in an orphanage--is vaguely reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro's own "The Devil's Backbone". All the ghostly trappings we have come to expect from classic fright films are there as well, from mysterious noises and bangings to ghostly visions. I'm not saying that this film ripped off any other film; on the contrary, it was great fun recognizing all these classic fright moments, and they weren't done in an homage type of way--they stood on their own.
I can't tell you the last time a film made me jump. It has been a long while since I've attended a film that made the entire audience jump. This one does it not once, not twice, not thrice, but several times. It is spooky and atmospheric in places, it has some jump scares, but it also has some out-and-out scares that are guaranteed to get to you, no matter how hard-core you think you may be.
I do have to say that I guessed early on what happened in the end. I didn't know exactly why or how, but I did guess the cause of the haunting. I don't think it mattered, I don't think it was being hidden. I think it was obvious that the orphanage was haunted because of some terrible past event involving children (why else would you call it "The Orpanage"?!). But the reason behind the event was solid and the way the protagonist finds the information is cool. Besides, wasn't it Alfred Hitchcock who said that it isn't the bomb under the table that makes the scene scary, it's the fact that you don't know when it's going to blow up that creates the tension. So it didn't matter that I understood early on WHAT had caused the haunting.
And finally, the ending is bittersweet. It isn't a typical American ending in that everything is wrapped up and presented to the audience with a bow. It isn't a sanitized ending, and it isn't necessarily a perfectly happy ending. I like that. It seems more real to me. I hate the fact that we Americans tend to want a sugary sweet ending so we can walk out and smile about the film without any more thought given. In fact, the last American film I can think of that didn't deliver the sappy ending was Sandra Bullock's "Premonition", and it flopped at the theater.
Another film that I would draw comparisons to is Kevin Costner's "Dragonfly". It is similar in theme in that it is pretty creepy and scary until the end when you have some resolution for the protagonist, but not a typically happy American ending--a bittersweet ending, much like "The Orphanage".
Overall, I truly enjoyed this film. It was spooky, it made me jump, it was fun, and it had a good ending. I hope the director makes more like this.
The Angel (2007)
nifty film short
I saw this short at the Denver film festival just this week. I thought it a very good piece of film work. I particularly enjoyed the cinematography. The director did an excellent job shooting this interesting little gem. Someone else described this as part J-horror and part "The Matrix", and I think that is quite accurate. The first couple of minutes are a creepy, eerie, atmospheric Asian horror film before it breaks into all-out action. There is a "surprise" twist at the end, which might catch some off guard. I knew where it was going, but that didn't diminish the impact at all.
The message is clear: don't judge a book by its cover.
We had a chance to talk with the director who was very humble and quite nice. I wish him luck in the future because he has certainly showed some promise.
Luca il contrabbandiere (1980)
So bad it should be considered "contraband"
WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT ...but who cares because this is a complete stinker...
First off, I am a proud owner of most of Fulci's flicks, so I am not anti-Fulci. I also love watching bad movies, so I'm not some artsy-fartsy type who bashes films a great deal, so rating a film this low is something special for me.
This is a blatant rip-off of the Godfather series. Entire scenes are plagiarized, even if the lines are altered. Scenes like all the "godfathers" having a meeting to decide how to deal with a particular situation and the main character splitting with his wife are basically Godfather rip-offs. But this film is so bad that in the "godfather meeting" scene, they democratically take a vote by a raising of hands. Wait a minute...isn't the head of the family supposed to sit in silence and then TELL everyone what to do? What's with this "all in favor for choice one raise your hands" BS?! And the scene where the husband and wife split up is pathetic because in the next scene, she mysteriously shows up to take care of him and all is well! The plot is thread-bare and the dialogue is worse than a porn flick. Speaking of porn, what's up with the soundtrack? I think that very soundtrack was used in every porn flick from 1975-1985...you know, the one where you have a heavy, pulsing bass track with a screeching lead riff in the background. And when the porn track switches off, again with the plagiarizing...I'm sure the track is just a slightly altered version of the Godfather soundtrack.
Yes, this is a gory film. But it dragged so much in-between the violent scenes, I found myself fast-forwarding. The gore ranges from great bloody squibs to totally fake effects like the candle-in-the-face scene. But there are some spectacularly gory sequences that work, and the rape, while never actually shown, will make you squirm just because of the screams of the actress. I must say, she really went for it.
Overall, not really worth the effort. If you can get a 2 or 3 minute montage of the gore, that's what I'd go for.
Haute tension (2003)
Hands down the most grueling, bloody film in a loooong time
After hearing raves (or groans as the case may be)for "The Devil's Rejects", "Wolf Creek", "Kichiku dai Endai" , and "Hostel" and how gruelingly violent they were, and watching all four films in unrated form, I was totally let down by the sheer LACK of violence in each of these films. Harrison Ford's "Firewall" was more bloody and violent than any of the aforementioned films (well, maybe not Kichiku's last 25 minutes or so...), and it was PG-13!! I had been putting off watching "Haute Tension" for the same reason: I kept hearing how violent it was (so of course, I was suspicious) and also it got a lot of bad press for what many people termed a terrible ending. But I finally got around to obtaining a copy (naturally, in unrated form), choked down my skepticism, held my breath, and turned it on.
91 minutes later, I started breathing again...
Wow! Was I ever in for a pleasant surprise! I can count on both hands the number of films I have seen in my lifetime that scared me or at the very least made me sit on the edge of my seat. I have to count "Haute Tension" as one of the very few films that caused some genuine anxiety on my part. In my opinion, the title of this film is quite appropriate. This movie is genuinely creepy, edge-of-your-seat, roller-coaster, thrill-ride entertaining. I could do a "Top Ten" best moments, but for those who haven't seen it, I don't want to spoil the suspense for you.
And the violence, oh, the glorious, over-the-top gore...the film wallows in it, revels in it, is covered in wall-to-wall gore! But that's to be expected by filmmakers who seek out the illustrious Gianetto de Rossi to man the SFX and use the majority of their budget on those SFX. But this isn't just an effects-driven movie, oh no, it is so much more than that. The actors are all high-caliber and do an excellent job. Phillipe Nahon (whom I was not impressed with in "Seul contre tous" (AKA "I Stand Alone") was a tour-de-force of creepiness, and both leading ladies reached into the pits of their stomachs for several moments of raw emotion that were absolutely incredible.
Great acting, great direction, creepy soundtrack, bloody as hell, what else could I ask for? Oh, yeah, the ending...
I can't say I hated the ending. I'm just ambivalent towards it. I felt like the first 75 minutes of the film was a grueling, no-holds-barred, edge-of-your-seat stalker film. I like the fact we don't know why the killer chose this family, we don't understand his motivation--nor are we at all concerned with it because we don't have time to worry about it--in fact, the terror is in the fact that as far as we know this was a completely, totally random act. It could have happened to any family along this lonely highway lined with farms. All we know is that it happened to this poor family and we have to watch. Kind of like what just happened the first week of June, 2006 in Indianapolis, Indiana: two guys walk in, kill a family of seven, including four kids, and at this point, all the police know is that it seems to be a completely random act. Terrifying stuff.
Back to the ending. I was okay with the "twist". At first, I thought, "Oh, no, what a cheat!" Then I realized it really didn't matter. The thrills and gore kept right on coming and I don't really think it lessened the impact of the movie itself. I do feel like the movie would have been more satisfying if it had played out to the end the way the first 75 minutes or so had been--same killer, no explanation, no motivation, just random. I guess the director felt like he needed some sort of justification or explanation--and maybe most people do--but I don't.
8.5 out of 10 It would have been a perfect 10 but I think the filmmakers fumbled the ending, but at least they got the ball back and scored anyway.
Wolf Creek (2005)
Whaaaat a letdown!
Maybe minor spoilers, but I don't think I'm giving away anything with this review. Nevertheless, I put out the warning, just in case...
After reading all the posts about how terrific this movie is, how brutal, how astoundingly violent, creepy, spooky, yadda yadda yadda, I finally got around to viewing it. I viewed the unrated version, in my opinion the only way to go.
The first 45 minutes of this film are the most boring thing I've seen in a while. If I wanted to watch three young people drive endlessly for miles through the Australian outback, I'd have tuned into the Discovery Channel. Absolutely NOTHING happens for 45 full minutes. Dullsville...
At the 45 minute mark, we are introduced to the setup of the film--car broken, stuck in the immense and empty vacuum of the Oz outback. Along comes the good samaritan, who of course ends up being the bad guy.
There is some creepy talk around the campfire with the good samaritan--enough so that you know all is not well. I admit this part was atmospheric and effective, but not enough for me to want to sit around for 45 minutes to see it.
As for the violence, I'm certainly glad I saw the unrated version, because the R-rated version must have been bloodless. There is very little overt violence and certainly nothing that should cause any censorial cuts. For all those raving about the violence, PLEASE go back to watching Disney movies. If you consider this a rough movie, then you haven't been trained correctly in the horror film genre.
Overall, I was extremely disappointed. I'm glad I got a cheap used disc and I'll be swapping it in for something with a little more bite, maybe "Bambi II."