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"August Underground" is an unbearably vile experience, but that's mainly because it's so realistic. This looks like a genuine snuff film. With absolutely no build-up we see a girl being tortured by a deranged serial killer, while his friend conveniently films everything. The acting of both the killers and the victim is incredible, and so are the make-up effects. I'm assuming all the dialogues are improvised, if only because the two main actors are also credited as the writers. The main criticism to this movie is that it has no plot, but that's kind of the point. Would an actual serial killer's video diary have a plot, or would it just be random, unrelated vignettes like these? With that said, I did wish director Fred Vogel would have come up with a slightly more intriguing ending. That's something "The Blair Witch Project" (the inevitable comparison) did well, cutting away at an interesting point. This movie just ends on a total dud. "August Underground" is an interesting gimmick, but it's not exactly something I'd rewatch.
I've never really hated Uwe Boll for his video game adaptations, mainly because he was brutally honest about them. He clearly knew he was making garbage and was not ashamed to say he just wanted to cash in. I don't applaud that motive, but Boll was a bearable director back then. "Seed" on the other hand is from the phase where his movies actually started 'meaning' something. On the surface it's a poorly made (and extremely poorly lit!) slasher movie about yet another mute serial killer with yet another ridiculous disguise, but don't be fooled. According to Boll it's actually about all the evils man can do! Boll recorded a hilariously pretentious commentary for this movie, which is good because the movie is dreadfully boring without it. The scene he's apparently most proud of is the one where an elderly woman gets bludgeoned to death for five straight minutes, a scene which might have the worst CGI effects I've ever seen outside of the SyFy Channel. I could buy Boll as a clever businessman. I can't buy Boll as a filmmaker that actually has something to say, because it all seems so fake to me.
"A New Beginning" is often seen as the biggest failure of the entire "Friday The 13th" franchise. It still did okay at the box office, but it was universally hated by critics and fans. The main offense was that the series tried to establish Tommy Jarvis as the new villain, taking over killing duties from Jason. This idea was so misguided and unpopular that the following sequel actually had to be called "Jason Lives!" just to let everyone know they weren't going through with it. Is the movie really that awful? Not really. The story is a mess, but the movie is genuinely entertaining and the opening scene is actually pretty creepy. The movie's also laced with some bizarre, dark humour. The following sequel went for slapsticky humor and parodies, which I could appreciate. This one somehow uses the death of a mentally retarded teenager as comic relief, which might somehow be better. "A New Beginning" certainly isn't the worst of the franchise, though the experimental story hurt it tremendously.
I rarely rip on the acting performances in creature features from the SyFy Channel, but Jesus H. Christ. Where the hell did they find all these people? A project like "Triassic Attack" isn't going to attract the cream of the crop, but this cast goes well below the minimum requirements. For one thing: nobody in this quiet, rural American town manages to hide their British accent. For another, the inevitable comic relief character has the comedic timing of an orphanage fire. The Native American character does seem to be pulled straight from an SNL sketch, but I think those scenes are supposed to be taken seriously. The effects are never that good in SyFy movies, but they are especially bad here. These dinosaur skeletons seemed very difficult to animate, they move in a really unnatural way. There are several scenes where we get dangerously close to "Birdemic" territory. Overall though, the most bothersome thing about this movie is that it just doesn't give the audience what it wants. All you want to see is dinosaurs eating people, and it barely has any of that. And on the rare occasions you do see it, it appears to be completely bloodless because adding CGI blood is more work. Not even good for a laugh.
"SS Hell Camp" starts of rather promisingly. In the opening scene we're
introduced to an evil Nazi doctor (German actress Macha Magall, playing
the role with gusto) AND a weird ape-man creature who has become
extremely sex- crazed due to various unspecified experiments. So the
idea is that they throw any girl who doesn't collaborate into his cage,
so he can awkwardly hump her (without an erection, but why do I check?)
until she somehow dies. To me that's a good enough gimmick for 80
minutes of Z-grade schlock, but writer/director Luigi Batzella is a
lazy, lazy man. In 1970 he made a war movie called "When The Bell
Tolls" that nobody saw, so he figured...why not splice it into this
one, almost entirely? If you don't know that in advance, this is a
really confusing mess. The war scenes come out of nowhere, but they end
up making up more than half of this movie. It's so glaringly obvious
that Batzella is just using these scenes as padding, while you just
want to find out what's going on in the torture chamber (spoilers:
torture). So you get fifteen minutes of terrible, yet delightfully
cheesy fun and an hour of intensely boring "sub-plots" that barely
pretend to be from the same movie.
The main saving grace of this movie is the aforementioned Macha Magall, an unknown actress that made her last movie in 1982. For shame, because she finds the perfect balance between attractive and freightening. She's certainly an interesting screen presence, but because of Batzella's penny-pinching our lead actress is actually barely in this movie. She deserved to be in much better projects than this, but somehow never really made it into the mainstream. Then again, I guess the lack of a real legacy or any other background information does give her some kind of mystique.
Andy Milligan might be some kind of legend within the exploitation genre, but this off-brand version of "Poltergeist" doesn't really provide any so-bad-it's-good moments. It really only has one scene that it worth your time and money. The scene where one of the ghosts disembowels the burglar is incredibly cheesy and thus incredibly entertaining, mainly because his 'guts' are very clearly spaghetti. The movie has more gore than that (and one surprisingly bloodless decapitation), but that scene really sticks out. Most of this movie is just dreadfully boring. I know "Poltergeist" also got most of its suspense from shutting doors and moving objects, but that movie had a director who knew what he was doing. Milligan apparently saw "Poltergeist" and figured 'that doesn't look difficult', only to prove that it's extremely difficult. It also doesn't help that his actors are all well below porn standards. Hell, some of the men even have failed attempts at porn moustaches. None of these people ever appeared in something else, and you immediately understand why. "Carnage" is obviously a quick cash-in, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't at least try to go for something entertaining.
"Bait" looks like the kind of movie the Syfy channel seems to produce every week, but it manages to be slightly above those standards. It doesn't give you much to work with when it comes to a story, but you get just enough to keep you entertained. The scene with the robbery is a pretty good set-up to the story, we get some characters we can actually care about and the switching between two main locations keeps things relatively fresh. There are really only two problems I can have with "Bait". Firstly, the special effects are incredibly bad. Even to the CGI standards of a cheap B-movie, this just looks awful. Just look at the ending scene (watch the rest first, preferably), it almost looks like an animated movie. Cartoon sharks are not scary. And secondly, this is one of those horror movies that leaves way too many main characters alive. These people sure are lucky this huge supermarket full of decaying, bloody corpses only attracts two sharks, and both of them are ridiculously easy to trick. Wouldn't this place be infested by sharks within an hour or so? It's a decent effort, but it's not without its frustrating problems.
This episode of "Columbo" features a pretty clever twist. The two
murderers are college kids that aspire to be lawyers, so they get to
'help' Columbo throughout his investigation and throw in as many fake
leads as possible. These are really well-written villains, because they
clearly show no respect for a character the viewer has been respecting
for twenty years. They're just seeing how far they can go, barely able
to contain their laughter while talking to Columbo. It makes the
inevitable big climax when they're caught so worthwhile.
This is one of my favorite episodes because Peter Falk is just amazing in it. Columbo never appears as smart as he actually is, but here the character has to take playing dumb to a whole new level. He needs the killers to see him as no threat whatsoever, he needs to jump on every obvious red herring that they feed him. These college kids clearly have no idea who they're dealing with, and he has to pretend that he's not gloating. It's a fantastically nuanced performance by Falk, and it makes this an infinitely rewatchable episode.
I wasn't expecting that much from this movie, because it all just
seemed very familiar. Evil children turning on their parents who are
too dumb to notice anything's wrong until it's too late, there are at
least a dozen movies like that. Combine that with an incredibly
uninspired title and you get a movie that just sits on my shelf for
Unjustly, because as unoriginal and predictable this movie is...it's also really freightening! The scary atmosphere is done really well, and it helps that you don't actually see the children kill for the first two acts. It's all in the power of suggestion, and in the feeling of dread you get from every scene. The child actors are also great, their blank, unemotional stares send shivers down my spine. The plot follows the creepy kid formula beat by beat, but it's not a problem. Just take the obligatory first kill, the one that always looks like it's an accident. That scene is executed perfectly, really unnerving. The movie never really drops the ball from then on.
There's nothing ground-breaking about "The Children", there's not even anything interesting to the plot. It's very much style over substance, but the style is great and that's enough for me to recommend it.
"The Nice Guys" has some trouble finding its footing in the earlier scenes, but it becomes incredibly entertaining once it goes completely off the rails. When your story is about two shady characters trying to solve the murder of a porn star in the 1970s, I want everything in the movie to be ugly and slightly disturbing. Shane Black (of "Lethal Weapon" fame) has certainly managed that, particularly the current Russell Crowe is just perfect for a role like this. The plot is also slightly more interesting and unpredictable than in an average action movie, this movie has enough unexpected deaths to make you genuinely worry about the protagonists. Particularly for Angourie Rice, who just steals every scene she's in. The thing I loved most though is the incredibly dark comedy Black puts in throughout. It's not forced, it's not shocking for the sake of being shocking, it's just there because it's funny and it fits the rest of the movie so well. "The Nice Guys" is one of the funniest movies I've seen all year, infinitely rewatchable.
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