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American Mary (2012)
American Mary is a sleek and sexy film that is unpredictable and fairly unique. The story is dark, daring and entertaining, and solid production gives it clean and smooth look. It's body modification theme is edgy yet tasteful, and at times quite thought provoking. Katherine Isobelle plays the lead brilliantly; cold and brutal, but at the same time, empowering and elegant.
As for Faults, well, American Mary is a great film, but it peaks two-thirds of the way in, and by comparison it's ending feels a little timid and noncommittal.
Now, this is a bit over critical on my part, and it's only a minor flaw, but one that stands out as there are so few in the film. It's the cameo from the Soska sisters, I get it, I do, If I made a horror film, I'd want to be in it too, but this just wasn't the parts for them. Although I suspect they probably wrote it with themselves in mind. It's only a short scene but one with so much potential. The Soska sisters play big characters in a scene that could have been wonderfully unsettling, but instead its a bit flat and clumsy. The girls just didn't have the physical presence or screen confidence required to fill out the roles.
American Mary would have been excellent if it wasn't hindered by a few minor flaws and a weak ending. Overall, a delicate, but by no means tame, addition to the torture porn sub-genre. This film could easily become a horror cult classic, and deservingly so. I will be interested to see what the Soska sisters do next.
Piranha 3DD (2012)
These sort of films are supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, over acted, and trashy, the story plot full of stereo typed characters and bad decision making, along with good measures of tasteless gore and dark humour. Yet having all the right ingredients doesn't mean you can make a good cake. It takes a brilliance to balance these elements together and make something special, something marvelous. Director, Alexandre Aja, achieved this when he delivered Piranha 3D in 2010. Piranha 3DD does not. It feels like they've bought together a collection of not-so-funny one liners and cameo's and written a story around them, filling in any gaps with recycled material from the first film and Jaws 3D. (Certainly an interesting decision, given that Jaws 3-D was a horribly disappointing sequel itself).
The production quality wasn't bad, and the sound was okay. The CGI and effects were a bit dodgy in places, but on the whole, passable. The real downfall for this film is the script. The dialogue starts a little wooden, but becomes increasingly worse as the film progresses and towards the end it's cringe worthy. The jokes are shockingly terrible, and I don't mean offensive, as in edgy or dark, they're just bad. The characters are two dimensional and dull with virtually no relationship building; it's difficult to care whether they live or die. Piranha 3DD is just sloppy (or lazy) writing. It's just a bunch of unexciting ideas that have been forced together to fill up 90 minutes. I never thought I'd say this, but by halfway through I was desperately hoping the piranha would sprout wings.
The humour might appeal to some, and there's generous nudity throughout. Christopher Lloyd has some brief screen time and he is superb. It may be enjoyable with a group of guys over a few drinks and a stack of pizza, but I'd probably give it a miss and re-watch Piranha 3D instead.
Underworld Awakening (2012)
Kate Beckinsale returns as the latex clad, vampire warrior, Selene, caught up in a war between Vampires, Lycans and Humans. Kate's Husband, Len Wiseman has stepped out of the director's chair for this latest addition to the Underworld series, handing the reins to Swedish duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, making their theatrical debut.
First, lets get one thing out of the way, Underworld: Awakening has shamelessly ripped off Resident Evil: Afterlife. The similarities are numerous, from the way the film is shot to the story line. But then, why not? Resident Evil : Afterlife breathed life back into the Resident Evil series, and if there were ever a series that needed resuscitating then Underworld was it. How the series managed to ride the success of the first Underworld, through almost ten years and two lousy sequels is an impressive accomplishment of its own. It took four attempts, but they finally got it right.
Underworld: Awakening is fast and exciting from the opening scene to the credits, its packed with edge of your seat action that doesn't flag or become repetitive. Some of the Lycan CGI is questionable, but the rest of the film looks beautiful and sleek, using the series' signature dark greys, solid blacks and striking blue tones, blended with bold lines and sharp angles. The story moves extremely quickly but is easy to follow, and barring a few minor plot holes, makes sense. There are a few things that will make your jump and cringe, but this is more of an action horror so don't expect to lose any sleep. After seeing this, your more likely to go out and buy a cool leather jacket than go to bed with the lights on. At 88 minutes, it's relatively short, but it doesn't feel like it, the ending wraps up perfectly, leaving you wanting more. Underworld: Awaking is a lot fun.
Kill Keith (2011)
Kill Keith is the directorial debut from Andy Thompson. It isn't a big budget blockbuster, and its creators are well aware of this, they don't try to push the film beyond its financial limits and the result is a crisp, well polished production.
Kill Keith is a slasher/horror comedy, and besides a few cheap, cringe worthy jokes, the humour is lighthearted and clever. The facetious, cheesy dialogue walks a thin line but is delivered flawlessly by the main cast. The celebrities in the film, which are well known UK presenters, including Joe Pasquale, Russell Grant, Tony Blackburn and of course, Keith Chegwin, all gave surprisingly good performances and played their parts for free. Watch out for Brian 'The Vampire' Stokes (Stephen Chance) who is brilliantly funny throughout the film.
This movie isn't going to be for everyone. The scripting around Tony Blackburn's alter ego is not as strong and doesn't have the witty edge of the other characters. Also, at times, it drags slightly, it's easy to forget that people are getting killed due to the heavy focus on the romantic comedy between Danny and Dawn. However, overall the film is an enjoyable watch, and its fun.
American writer and atheist, Joseph Crone, receives word from his estranged brother, that his father is dying. He travels to Spain to see his father on his death bed, where he discovers that his younger brother has followed his fathers calling and become a catholic Pastor. Together they have established their own chapel on the grounds of their family home. Joseph's life has been plagued with strange happenings and tragedies, which seem to be connected to the number 11. His intrigue soon uncovers deeper mythological and religious significance to the number and possibly his family.
11-11-11 is written and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who previously brought us Saw 2 – 4 and the superb 2010 remake of Mothers Day. Bousman has made skillful use of popular synchronicity around the number 11, where numerologists and string theorists believe that events linked to the time 11:11 appear more often than can be put down to mere chance or accident and has great symbolism in the universe.
The basic idea for the movie is engaging with lots of potential, unfortunately, this is where the films merits end. The plot becomes tedious and bland fast, holding this pace for the majority of the film. The scares consist of frightening faces appearing in the shadows or windows, but they fail to show any snap or shock value, becoming repetitive and tiresome early on. The special effects, especially the costumes and make up, feel amateurish and almost laughable a times. The acting and dialogue is decidedly mediocre, the characters are difficult to like or relate to in many ways. The twist ending of the movie was better than expected, however, it does not make up for its unexciting story and production short comings. Overall a great idea, wasted.
The Dead (2010)
Murphy (Robert Freeman) is the sole survivor of a plane crash. He crosses paths with Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei), who is searching for his son after their village was torn apart by an attack from the living dead. The two men join forces as they travel across Africa.
The Dead is brought to us by new film-makers Howard and Jonathan Ford. The movie was shot on 35mm film, giving it a deliberate retro feel. The zombies are slow moving, and the whole tone of the story is decidedly bleak, a nostalgic nod at early George A Romero films like Day of the Dead (1980).
The scenery of the film is a stunning tour of Africa. The contrast between Africa's beautiful landscape and blood soaked zombies eating people is visually striking. It creates a real atmosphere of detachment and isolation. Howard and Jon Ford introduced the film on the festival circuit stating they had put 20 years into the film and risked life and limb filming in such a dangerous area.
The special effects are superb, I personally didn't notice any CGI, and in many cases, real amputees were used to play the role of zombies missing limbs. The gore is not excessive and looks fantastic. The camera work and sound track are excellent, giving the whole movie a polished, professional quality.
Unfortunately, It's quite boring. There are only two real characters, and we learn very little about either, it's difficult to relate to invest in them. There isn't an awful lot to the story, which becomes very repetitive and the pace is slower than the zombies. The Ford brothers get full marks for effort, but overall, the film becomes drawn out and monotonous by the 45 minute mark.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
A young girl, Sally (Bailee Madison) moves in to a new home with her Father and his girlfriend, played by Guy Pearce (Memento) and Katie Holmes (The Gift). Once there, she begins to hear whispers from the air vents and basement. It is not long before Sally is being tormented by a horde of small bald, CGI monkeys that are afraid of bright lights. The film dips momentarily into the history of the creatures and even playing on a twisted tooth fairy premise, but neither are enough to capture the viewer's interest or provide a solid back story.
Still, the movie starts off well, the house and art work featured in the movie has its own darkly charming style complimented with some clever lighting which gives the scenes a soft, eerie glow. Unfortunately, the more we see of the creatures, the less scary they become. Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison deliver solid performances, but the script doesn't develop or build the relationship between the two. Subsequently the movie fails to chill or scare, leaving a handful of unanswered questions and little emotional connection to the characters.
Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark isn't a terrible movie, not by a long shot and had I been in my early teens, I have no doubt, I would be hesitant turning off my light before crawling into bed after seeing it. If you can overlook a few minor plot holes and the cliché story I suspect you will enjoy it.
Written and produced by Gullermo Del Toro, the creative driving force behind Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. This film is a loose remake of the superior, 1973 TV movie of the same name, which in turn was based upon Lovecraft's Rats in the Walls.
The Human Centipede II
Martin (Harvey) lives with his mother in a grim housing estate where he becomes infatuated with the first Human Centipede film. Mentally disturbed, he obsesses over the fictional Dr. Heiter – from the first movie. Martin soon decides to make his dream of creating a twelve person centipede a reality.
Tom Six wrote and directed this sequel to his surprise shock cinema hit of 2009, The Human Centipede. In June 2011, the BBFC refused the film a certificate in the UK, in effect banning it from cinema or DVD release. Eventually realising that banning films in today's information sharing society is a futile endeavour together with a hefty amount of anti censorship pressure, the BBFC granted the film certificate in October with 2 minutes and 37 seconds of cuts.
Increasingly popular Shock Cinema combines pornography with ultra-violence and is the today's equivalent of the famed 70's and 80's Video Nasties. The Human Centipede II joins this sub genre, alongside films such as A Serbian film and Antichrist, pushing the moral and ethical boundaries of modern cinema.
Harvey does an outstanding job in his debut acting role as the pitiful and twisted Martin, executing an unsettling and terrifying performance, despite not having any dialogue throughout the film. Still, Overall, The Human Centipede II lacks the dark humour and originality of its predecessor and for the most part, feels like a tedious labour through depravity and perversion. The movie should succeed in making most viewers, at the very least uncomfortable, but it fails to surprise or build suspense between shocks. The pacing is painfully slow at times, although it does redeem itself somewhat in the last twenty minutes or so. Die-hard fans of shock cinema will no doubt enjoy it, however, on the whole it is essentially drawn out torture porn without a climax.
Grave Encounters (2011)
Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and the crew of "Grave Encounters", a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside an abandoned Psychiatric Hospital. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorised by the ghosts of the former patients. The film is introduced and viewed in the format of 'found footage', a trend popularised by The Blair Witch Project, and recently utilised by films such as REC and Paranormal Activity. All the shots are from unmanned fixed cameras or shaky handhelds, where the quality is often deliberately poor and grainy.
First, lets be clear: this film is nothing original. It has borrowed its concept, plot, effects and production from a selection of recent horror movies, dusted them off and patched them together on a modest budget. The acting is decent, there is terrific on-screen chemistry between the characters and you can relate to the crew's group dynamics within the first few scenes. The beginning of the movie has a fun, almost tongue in cheek undertone, then gracefully moves the crew into a decidedly creepy setting, successfully managing to build a good measure of suspense as it does.
However, Somewhere in the middle it looses its edge, becoming repetitive and in places, boring. The ending becomes predictable and unsurprising far too early in the story for it to retain the viewers full attention. The film isn't going to win any awards and will probably go largely unnoticed, but if you want something enjoyable and you've already made your way through all the notable horror movies currently out then this will probably be entertaining enough.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Paranormal Activity 3
Based in 1988 and shown through a series of VHS tapes, Paranormal activity 3 is a prequel to its predecessors. The movie revolves around a young family and the strange happenings within the family home. The connection between the events in the house and the seemly innocent arrival of the youngest daughters invisible friend, Toby, soon unfold.
Written by Oren Peli, who brought us Paranormal activity and this years earlier box office hit, Insidious. Oren doesn't bring much new to the table with Paranormal activity 3, essentially it's the same scares and slick camera tricks, what I would say is that they have taken this successful formula, refined and polished it. The film effectively builds suspense throughout which winds up the viewers nerves before splintering them with a succession of jumps and frights. With the most likable cast so far, significantly better acting and a much needed dose of humour, this makes an excellent addition to the series. The attention to detail and 80s memorabilia is noteworthy, the much loved Teddy Ruxpin bear is a gentle wink to 80's children watching the movie as adults.
At 84 minutes, the movie is short by any standards, with the last fifteen minutes or so, attempting to address some unanswered questions and add some weight to the plot, unfortunately, its obvious, unremarkable and a little messy. The ending feels like its focusing far too much setting up the inevitable fourth sequel rather than wrapping up the third. The strong body of the movie is lessened by a weaker ending. However, overall Paranormal Activity 3 is a decent film, it does exactly what it says on the tin and is notably better than Paranormal Activity 2.
The Hike (2011)
Kate, played by Zara Phythian, meets up with five old friends after the sudden death of her partner, together the group of girls set off on a camping trip to a picturesque, remote area of the British countryside. As night falls they are attacked and captured, Kate is left for dead after being pushed from a cliff ledge, which she survives. The girls soon realise their survival depends on each other. The Hike blends, I Spit on Your Grave with The Decent and is the first feature film written and directed by Rupert Bryan. Hostel favorite, Barbara Nedeljakova, won best supporting actress at The British Horror Film Festival for her role. The movie begins with a gripping cold opening scene and slick opening credits. The five women that make up the group about to embark on their journey all look very attractive, are dressed to kill, if not somewhat inappropriately for hiking, in skimpy clothes and high heels. Their questionable acting coupled with the unimaginative dialogue are initially easily forgiven, as most fans of the genre would just assume these girls have been chosen by their readiness to take their clothes off and shoot scenes of graphic violence. This is not the case. In fact, the whole film is relatively tame. It starts off well with good pacing and a reasonable attempt at character development. First-rate camera work, topnotch music and beautiful scenery give the low budget movie a refined, professional look. However, as the story unfolds through a series of unsurprising twists, it begins to feel rushed, and in places, it becomes difficult to easily follow the action. On the whole, The Hike feels like exploitation / torture cinema for beginners, for those looking to gently warm to the sub genre.
The Woman (2011)
When Chris Cleek, played by Sean Bridgers, goes on a hunting trip in the forest near his secluded family home he discovers the last remaining member of a primitive, savage clan. We've all been there. So, he does the only sensible thing, he tracks her down, throws a net over her, clubs her with his shotgun a few times and chains her up in his basement.
The exploitation of the captured women was a lot softer than I expected. It doesn't deliver the shock, gore or cruelty that similar films have done recently. It is often over-shadowed by the male lead's sexist, perverse and sadistic control over the women in his life. Angela Bettis plays the damaged and obedient wife, her brilliant performance being joined by that of Pollyanna McIntosh as 'The Woman.' The alternative pop soundtrack is an odd choice, notably out of place and poorly timed throughout the movie. It feels as if someone is trying to show off their personal playlist, rather than finding music that works for the story.
Overall, the film is well made, with solid acting and dialogue. The pace seems unnecessarily slow, failing to spend the time effectively building tension or atmosphere. However, this is replaced by admirable attention to character development.
Directed by Lucky McGee, the guy that brought us the masterpiece 'May' in 2002, and written by Jack Ketchum, 'The Woman' doesn't do justice to their combined creative talent. The film release is being accompanied by the release of the novel, a sequel to Ketchum's previous gruesome novels; 'Off Season' and 'Off Spring,' both featuring 'The Woman' as a surviving character. There was also a low budget film adaptation of 'Offseason' in 2009, which received poor reviews.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
Tucker & Dale vs Evil : Oh hidy ho officer, we've had a doozy of a day.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil : Oh hidy ho officer, we've had a doozy of a day.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil is an entertaining horror comedy staring Alan Tudyk (Firefly / Dodgeball) and Tyler Labine (Reaper) as a hapless hillbilly dual that cross paths with a group of American teenagers on a camping trip with comically disastrous results. The story unfolds as Tucker and Dale inadvertently kidnap one of the teenage girls, setting off a series of misunderstandings between the two groups.
The jokes are sharp, surprising and smart. The gore is relentless and blackly brilliant, paying homage to cult horror films of the slasher sub genre, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. The acting, by some of the teenagers is questionable, especially from Jesse Moss (Final destination 3); however, they all look beautiful and fit their stereotypical characters well. The story and plot is solid, fun and original. Ultimately the films merits are overshadowed by flawless performances from Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as the lovable Tucker and Dale. The chemistry between the two charms and captivates the viewer from beginning to end. The only negative I should point out is the trailer, in three minutes they manage to reveal important story plot points, the top gags and most of the ending, leaving very little to speculation. Skip the trailer and go straight to the movie.
The film was made in 2010 and has had limited screenings through 2011, primarily at independent cinemas, film festivals and special events. It is being release on DVD on 26th September 2011. There are already active talks of a sequel.