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The Ruins (2008)
10/10
Your basic long scream of horror.
6 April 2008
Based on a the horror novel by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, The Ruins is a harrowing tale about several American tourists vacationing south of the border who come across a monstrous evil living within the Mexican jungle. While not a masterpiece by any means, The Ruins is a satisfying horror film with enough gut-wrenching gore and genuine scares to please most horror fans.

The setup is cliché horror (debaucherous white teenagers unfortunately stumble upon something that wants to kill them), until you see what lives in the ruins, which is much more frightening than any human or typical science fiction creature. That's all I'll say to avoid ruining The Ruins for anyone--just believe me when I say that it'll scare even the most hardened horror fan.

Other then an unbalanced ratio of oily man chest to naked girls (you virtually no skin other than the buff dudes who seem to have some sort of freaking allergy to t-shirts), The Ruins is actually quite good. There are moments that are truly terrifying that do not use blood to get a reaction out of the audience, but there are also moments that are almost unbearably grisly, which is a good balance to have in a horror movie.

Despite its shortcomings, The Ruins is an absolutely must-see for horror enthusiasts, and a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book that shouldn't offend those who enjoyed the novel by the same name.
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Raw Meat (1972)
7/10
Flawed but manages to remain enjoyable
2 February 2008
On the poor side, Death Line suffers from a fairly plodding script and wooden acting, which belie its small budget origins. It's also low on scares, but 30 years can make most things look tamer than they first were. The plot itself is membrane thin, all exposition is spoon fed very early on.

While digging a tunnel in 1892, eight men and four women were buried alive under collapsed tunnel roofing. Bankruptcy forced the digging company to abandon the supposedly dead bodies, although some postulated that with pockets of air and enough water, survivors might be alright, as long as they ate each other when the food ran out - the film is also known as Raw Meat in the US.

It is, however, in this difference that Death Line finds its most idiosyncratic strength. Ceri Jones's script works hard to create tangible pity and sympathy for its flesh-eating monster. Known as The Man, Hugh Armstrong invests the character with a wailing anguish at being the only survivor left, grieving his partner's recent death and the blatant tragedy of his abandonment. The horror comes, not from The Man's freakish otherness, but the fact that he is recognizable, identifiable. That and the cannibalism and the long tracking shots of collective rotting corpses and body parts.

Sherman also experiments with minimal and atmospheric sound effects, isolating footstep echoes, dripping leaks and pounding heartbeats to cheap but mostly gritty use. Combined with Armstrong's embittered pre-lingual utterances, the film carries an undeniable visceral punch. It is not pure carnality that leads The Man to venture out to Holborn and Russell Street stations, but the voiceless rage at the confines of his predicament (which we know he had no choice over) and a deeper need to find another partner to be with and care for.

Such prowling brings Sharon (of Jason King) Gurney's Patricia to his arms. She is a sensitive young student, girlfriend to David Ladd's trying-to-be hunky American. With their humble topside abode just as cramped, cluttered and personalized as The Man's inherited lair, the film is able to rustle up some interesting comparisons to modern living.

Finally, holding everything together above ground is the indomitable Donald Pleasance. With spades more gruff than Morse, his Inspector Calhoun is ever more intent on solving wots 'bin going on in iz manar! Pleasance is clearly revelling in the role and pushes his caustic and antagonistic copper as far as he can, his blase attitude to the crimes evolving as the film goes on and he gets more cups of tea. He brings narrative vim and a fair injection of humorous hubris to the proceedings, while Christopher Lee's cameo, as an intimidating MI5 agent, is entirely superfluous. He must have been doing the director a favor.

With "cult" written all over it, this could be a treat for discerning genre fans and is, in many ways, better than the CGI-elasto-plastered pulp that gets churned out every year.
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Chain Reaction (2006 Video)
4/10
This will please Gorehounds
2 February 2008
Loads of gore, decent effects and unintentionally funny characters made this film just makes it bearable. I had to watch this in 3 different sittings and maybe that's the best way to see it without becoming tired of the story.

There are events that set off a chain reaction and sets a series of events into motion.

House of Blood (called Chain Reaction on the IMDb) is really a pretty terrible movie in many respects. Christopher Kriesa is not that bad an actor, but the rest of the cast is pretty bad (except for what is basically a cameo from Jurgen Prochnow). I think the movie was shot in Germany. The gore effects are pretty bloody for the most part and some are pretty good.

Others are not, especially the make-up work. We're left in the end with a lot of important unanswered questions. The whole "chain reaction" aspect and other parts of the writing are pretty poor.

House of Blood is pretty poor and I'd only suggest a rental if you want something to make fun of or are that desperate for gore effects (lots of the red stuff flows). Thou renteth at thine own peril!
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4/10
Failed slasher flick
2 February 2008
Simple-minded teen sex humor is punctuated with graphic slasher murders in this mediocre genre effort. Also known as Bloody Pom Poms, the film takes advantage of its central character's frequent nightmares to clog up the narrative with disturbing dream sequences. Further confusing matters is the fact that all these pretty young cheerleaders look about the same, so once the bodies start dropping it's easy to stop caring who gets it and when. Cheerleader Camp tries hard to win us over, offering goofy set pieces like horny old men spraying themselves in the face with hoses, a football-themed sex fantasy, and the most horrible "mooning" sequence ever filmed.

Cheerleader Camp won't hold pleasure for any except the most dedicated Z-level celebrity watchers. Exploitation vet George "Buck" Flower mumbles and scowls his way through his role as a crusty red herring, and future hardcore-porn star Teri Weigel gets some practice from a garden tool. Ex-teenager Leif Garrett is bloodless as a philandering boyfriend, and his performance is distinguished only by an awful gelled-up hairdo and his weak, white rap duet with morbidly obese sidekick Travis McKenna. Betsy Russell had a healthy career in low-budget, low-impact exploitation films during the '80s, playing the title characters in Tomboy and Avenging Angel along with starring here. There are two Playboy Playmates and one Penthouse Pet among the toothsome cast members, and director John Quinn went on to helm an assortment of softcore sex films like Fast Lane to Vegas and Sex Court: The Movie.
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Long Weekend (1978)
9/10
Semi-classic mood piece about nature turning on a young couple
2 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) are a modern Sydney couple whose sophisticated lifestyle is ruled by dinner parties, money making and infidelity. With their marriage in near terminal decline, Peter drags his reluctant wife on a camping trip to an isolated northern beach for the long weekend, in the hope that going back to basics will somehow bring them back together. Driving through the dark and the rain, the bickering couple is soon completely lost.

The following dawn reveals a secluded paradise, but if Peter is envisaging a surf-'n'-sex idyll straight out of The Blue Lagoon, what he gets is a nightmare much closer to The Birds, or Open Water. For this savage new landscape seems to resonate with the couple's bitterest secrets, as nature imposes her own strange and implacable reality upon the trespassing city slickers.

Colin Eggleston takes the premise of nature's revenge to its most mysterious and over determined limits. On the one hand, it seems obvious that the many animal attacks in the film serve as punishments for the human characters' repeated acts of hubristic transgression, be it Peter's running over of a kangaroo, chopping down of a tree, shooting a dugong, harassing a possum, or Marcia's angry destruction of an eagle's egg. On the other hand, the bush land, in all its merciless inescapability, appears to be a metaphor for the childless marriage in which the two principals have become trapped. At the same time, it seems that Peter and Marcia are not nature's only victims and casual background references to nuclear testing and oil exploration hint at a broader ecological agenda. Amidst this superabundance of interpretative frames, there are also some moments that are genuinely beyond any kind of rationalisation, lending Long Weekend an air of eerie irresolution.

Under Eggleston's moody direction, even the most minute of sounds is over amplified to explosive volume and the voyeuristic camera-work tends to be from the ground up, as though from the point-of-view of lurking critters, so that the wilderness locations, for all their natural beauty, seem to brim with the tension of unbearable foreboding. Neither Hargreaves, nor Behets, shrink from the narcissistic unpleasantness of their characters, in what are bravely unflattering performances. Best of all is the ending, which, though shockingly abrupt, is, within the film's elaborate nexus of motifs, totally, perfectly right, only to be topped by a final, fern-laden image that is haunting enough to do the actor Andrei Tarkovsky proud.

Made in a country where outback dangers are never more than a short drive away, Long Weekend illustrates the fragile veneer of civilisation, constantly under threat from both nature and the feral heart of man. Surrender to this film's insinuating spell and see if it makes you go wild.
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Hatchet (2006)
7/10
Fans of graphic dismemberment will love it
2 February 2008
Old-fashioned ultra-gorefest allows a half-hour of crass humor and amateur-porn titillation to go by before a motley crew of idiot Louisiana tourists start getting picked off by an ax murderer, one by one -- and not a moment too soon. Re-edited for an R rating after the MPAA slapped it with an NC-17, though the uncensored version should find plenty of twisted takers on homevid.

The basic plot follows the hero Ben, played by Joel Moore (Dodgeball) and his buddy Marcus as they party in New Orleans. Ben is a nice enough, nice enough looking guy. Marcus is more outgoing and self-assured. Ben has gone to New Orleans to forget about having just been dumped by his girlfriend of eight years. Marcus' intention is to sleep with as many women (not what he calls them) as possible.

From Ben's vantage point, drunk women flashing their boobs and throwing themselves at him is no balm for the pain of rejection! The Haunted Swamp Tour is a nighttime boat ride through the Louisiana swamp. Accompanying Ben and Marcus are a Chinese tour guide who sounds like Boss Hogg (Parry Shen), two porn actresses (Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fiorevanti), a middle-aged married couple (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), a filmmaker of dubious distinction (Joel Murray), and an attractive, mysterious young woman (Tamara Feldman).
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9/10
Effectively shocking
2 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Viewing even the first part of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, it's easy to wonder what all the fuss is about. The film is fascinating in the sense that the locations weren't really scouted and the process required amazing pains by the cast and crew. Kerman particularly does an outstanding job. But the film itself isn't truly special, at least not to the extent where it should still remembered twenty-five years later. Even the scenes with Kerman and the tribe seem staged when there is no conceivable reason for them to. It plays like NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC without the cinema verite'.

When they go into the jungle, things change dramatically. At first, it is the extremely disturbing slaughtering of a tortoise who probably lived well over a hundred years before Alan's crew (and Deodato's if we're being entirely fair) came along. Even Faye is unable to take this as she vomits at the sight of the mutilated animal, betraying her tough exterior. Ciardi truly was disgusted by this and her revulsion is not faked. The rest of the group gleefully tears into the creature. Yet, we are taught to simply place this in the context of documentary objectivity. Just the other day, I saw a random image on one of the nature channels. An elk slips through the ice, kicking and screaming and according to the narrator, taking a long time to finally drown. What is left unsaid is that in all that time, the crew never attempted to intervene in the animal's painful death. After all, they had to retain their objectivity and let nature take its course. I can't help but think that the elk may have disagreed. I would never approve of cruelty to animals, but I merely point out that Deodato practiced the same horrible things documentary filmmakers do to this day.

The crew continues to stumble upon or instigate several grisly happenings. As they record every moment, they remind themselves to feign shock and disgust so the audience will not see them as monsters. Looking at the raw footage we know they are more interested in filming violence and tragedy than preventing it. To be fair, Deodato's motives also remain unclear.

When the crew is left without their guide in the jungle, things look ominous, but they play up their quandary, focusing on the work. They do meet up with the tribe and find that while the images are interesting, they just aren't very good television. Under the guise of a nonexistent war between tribes, the crew themselves comes in with their modern technology and brutalizes the tribe. The tribe, which has it's own barbaric customs (including a disgusting reprimand against adulterous wives) are actually not as savage as the advanced interlopers. Eventually, they even massacre them in a scene that recalls the American devastation of Vietnamese villages like Mei Lai.

Things don't continue to go as well for the crew as they try to make their way out of the jungle. The cannibals hunt them down and their footage details their shocking demise. It's brutal and heartbreaking, yet none of us could honestly say the filmmakers didn't get what was coming for them.
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6/10
Worth a look
2 February 2008
This film got a limited U.S. theatrical release in the summer of 2006 as one of the 8 Films to Die For in the After Dark Horrorfest, and it actually started life as a Tobe Hooper film (director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist) called simply Zombies.

Karen Tunny (Lori Heuring) and her daughters Sarah (played as a believably bitchy teenager by Scout Taylor-Compton, who appeared in remake of Halloween reprising the role originated by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Emma (nine-ish Chloe Moretz who was in the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror) move to a remote mountain town in Pennsylvania to fix up and hopefully sell the house Karen's recently deceased husband left to her. The house is filthy, having lain empty for decades, but Karen is financially strapped and has nowhere else to go. Mr. Hanks (Ben Cross), a creepy old man living in a nearby shack anoints Karen's door with blood, and a developer tells Karen that he's the actual owner of the house and that she must vacate to make way for a new ski resort. Unknown to Karen and her daughters, a nearby abandoned mine was the site of an early 20th century cave-in, in which several child laborers were killed. Those children, now flesh hungry ghouls, still roam the woods at night carrying their pickaxes and shovels, and God help anyone who crosses their path.

The film is a bit of a hybrid combining the basic structure of a ghost story with the mechanics of a zombie film, managing to be both creepy and gory. Shot in Bulgaria, Wicked Little Things takes full advantage of its deep woods setting, giving us some of the creepiest forest at night scenes in recent memory. The film's director of photography is to be commended for the way he makes the woods come alive.The movie suffers from a few a few of those horror movie moments when people do stupid things just to move the story along. The scene in which Karen wanders into an abandoned and dilapidated old mansion had me rolling my eyes, and the idea of a woman moving her family into a house she has never seen before stretches credibility. Enjoyment of films like this often depend on how forgiving the viewer can be. In this case, Wicked Little Things has more than enough going for it to counter balance characters doing things that will have you smacking your head. Reminiscent of creepy little kids in films like the classic Village of the Damned and the 80s schlock-fest The Children, Wicked Little Things delivers on the scares despite the occasional lapse in logic.
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The Hamiltons (2006)
7/10
For the fans of 70s and 80s kitsch horror
2 February 2008
So who are the Hamiltons? The eldest brother David (Child) has taken up the role of head of the family following the death of their parents, but is in no way keeping them all under control. The younger more rebellious twins Wendall (McKelheer) and Darlene (Firgens) are becoming increasingly conniving, pushing the boundaries of friendships in a more twisted way than the mind games of Cruel Intentions. Meanwhile, Francis (Knauf), the youngest and most sensitive, is the only one who seems to be normal and trying to complete a school project by filming the daily exploits of them all; something hard to do when there is two local girls bound and gagged in the basement.

The Butcher Brothers provide The Hamiltons with a surprisingly real tone despite all the crazed nastiness, helped along by the nods to The Blair Witch Project with the use of a video camera. As Francis ponders the meaning of families and the sense of belonging they can bring, it is with a wry sense of humor said family torture their captives and syphon off their blood. The Butcher Brothers know how traumatic our teenage years can be and mix it in with unsettling moments to give us a chilling tale similar to Ginger Snaps in the way Francis must face up to his unnatural maturity by the end. As they all try to sort out their own problems with only a social worker who cannot possibly understand them to act as parental guidance, you'll want to know why they are so screwed up.

Although the Hamiltons are hardly the most likable family with the twins pushing their friend Kitty (Hunt) into joining them for unsettling games that threaten to get out of hand, its grim mood gives way to brighter prospects for them all for an oddly uplifting final reel. There is a lot of coldness about The Hamiltons due to a dryness of delivery that hardly welcomes you to watch, however this offers an element of ghoulish black comedy and with an unseen monster lurking locked up in their basement, at times you'll not know whether to laugh or shiver.
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9/10
This movie struggles to distill Rowling's longest book yet.
1 February 2008
This fifth film should please fans who rate the films based on their fidelity to the canonical texts. But for the uninitiated, it's a dry and slightly dreary introduction to the world of Hogwarts and Azkaban, where enchantment and mystery — good and bad — lie beneath a placid surface of English railway platforms, call boxes and pedestrian underpasses. It feels like a placeholder, not because little happens but because so much plot must be served in order to set up subsequent events that there's no room for the gentle human moments that anchor Rowling's heroic fantasy epic to the everyday world.

It opens in a miserable little excuse for a playground in the cookie-cutter suburb where orphaned wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) grimly spends school holidays with his loathsome relatives, the Dursleys. Trapped in a rank underpass by a sudden, highly suspicious storm, Harry resorts to magic to rescue his unspeakable cousin Dudley (Harry Melling) from a soul-sucking Dementor and is promptly expelled for using magic in front of a civilian. In short order Harry is hauled before a Ministry of Magic tribunal, whose intent to railroad him is thwarted only by the fortuitous intervention of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry's much-loved mentor and substitute father figure. But though Harry is cleared, his already sullied reputation has been further besmirched: Head Minister Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) has taken the position that Harry is deluded at best, lying at worst, when he insists that the dreaded Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned from hellish exile, reiterating it regularly in the ministry's house organ, "The Daily Prophet." And many of Harry's classmates have begun to wonder aloud what really happened when he and popular student Cedric Diggory entered a mystical maze from which only Harry emerged alive. Harry has allies, of course, including his oldest friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and his godfather, the fugitive Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). But he also has an implacable enemy in ministry lackey Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), whose cheery pink wardrobe and saccharine smile hide the soul of a lace-curtain fascist.

There's more — much, much more — crammed into the 138-minute running time; it's the shortest film in the series, adapted from the longest book. Both screenwriter Michael Goldenberg and U.K. television director David Yates are new to the series and do an admirable job ratcheting up the darkness. They're supported by cinematographer Slawomir Idziak's icy color palette, which truly does look as though all the happiness has been sucked out of the world. As always, the performances are top-notch, from the series veterans — many reduced by the sheer volume of plot to virtual cameos — to ethereal newcomer Evanna Lynch, who plays witchy little Luna Lovegood. But for a tale suffused with spells and portents, the magic is oddly elusive. --Maitland McDonagh
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9/10
One to raise your adrenaline!
1 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
28 Weeks Later starts, as you'd expect, 28 weeks after the initial outbreak, when all the Infected have died due to starvation and Britain is now disease-free. The US Military is moving in to reconstruct the island and have started to bring civilians in as well.

Within minutes of the film opening, we are treated/subjected to one of the most gripping, heartwrenching sequences to have graced a horror film, including the wicked opening of the Dawn of the Dead remake. Robert Carlyle plays an incredible role as a survivor who manages to outlast the Infection, but at the cost of his wife and safety. Comparisons to the original film are inevitable... while 28 Weeks Later captures much of the same rampant energy, the vicious, snarling packs of rabid Infected, the bloody room, the overall sense of dread, there's something missing that the first film did well. In a tip to Romero, the first film explored the behaviour of people in an apocalyptic world, showing that we are the biggest threat to ourselves.

28 Weeks Later touches on these themes, but butchers it with predictability and cliché. The kind-hearted soldier, the naughty children. The obvious cruelty of the military.

Nevertheless, it's a wild, gripping film, and it spins out of control so fast that you'll be tense. Really tense. So tense that you'll have to eat a big chocolate sundae to settle your nerves.

28 Weeks Later is a sweet-ass throw back into the zombie genre, but without the religious sentiments. It's blood-splattered, machine-gun ridden and gives you absolutely no sense of hope for the human race in the face of disaster. Through the film, we are faced with our own cowardice and the desire to flee. A terrible movie to watch before bed, unless you relish the idea of nightmares
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5/10
Boring is a good word for it.
1 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Overall, this movie wasn't terrible. It was just boring.

Sure, there was some fun action - the usual type from alien action movies. But, there was one predator and it didn't even make nice with humans. I keep waiting for these predator things ("yautjas") to somehow use humans to help do their hunting bit. OK, there was one thing in this movie: the predator uses one human as bait to catch an alien.

The only remotely interesting scenes - as usually happens with me in science fiction films - are the last minute feeling back-stories. We see the predator home planet (or maybe a colony?) ever so briefly when the predator - we'll call him Jerry - figures out there's some aliens to hunt.

But then I'm thinking - ever searching for the back-story - "is Jerry going to hunt the aliens, or clean-up the crashed space-ship? Is Jerry someone important, or is he like, 'oh, here's a fun way for me to get some glory hunting the Alien-thing." And then, it's sort of like, "why is Jerry the only one there? Why didn't Jerry's friends come?"

And then there's this guy called "Colonel Stevens" who flies around in a AWAC and at the end delivers the Jerry's left-behind gun to some skinny Asian lady in a washed out city-scape. What the hell was that two minutes at the end?

With a little research, you can figure out that the Asian lady is Yutani of "Weyland-Yutani", the corporation in the Alien backstory. So, you know, it's like, "hey, that's how they started things" or something.

Maybe we can get an Umbrella Corp. tie-in. That'd be great.

Let's recap some good stuff in the film though. These are mostly "novel" things:

* We see a kid get attached by an alien face-hugger thing. Yay! Films seems to shy away from showing us kids eating it. On the other, they only imply that a room full of new borns get killed by aliens. Who wants to show a blood soaked nursery. Not "The Brothers Strause" apparently.

* A room of pregnant ladies getting infected with aliens worms.

* At least we get to see the predator home (?) planet. That part was kind of cool.

* Dual, stoner head explosion at the hands of Jerry. Nice work.

* Seeing the predator city and inside of predator ships. Nifty!

Yup. It's not really bad like you're expecting. It's just not too interesting. Like a burger with just buns.
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8/10
The definitive Eddie Murphy movie.
31 January 2008
Murphy is cocky, street-smart and above all funny as motor-mouthed Axel Foley, the Detroit detective who takes an extended vacation in the super-bling surroundings of Beverly Hills to investigate the murder of an old buddy (James Russo). Ever-accompanied by Harold Faltermeyer's irritatingly-catchy "Axel F" backing track, Foley ruffles more than a few feathers as he winds up waist-deep in a secret world of mobsters, drug-smuggling and extremely plush-looking finger buffets.

Judge Reinhold and John Ashton are the local detectives who end up working alongside Foley, via a banana in the tailpipe. Steven Berkoff is the curiously-accented villain-by-numbers Victor Maitland, whilst Jonathan Banks is Maitland's token lazy-eyed henchman.

Murphy keeps us reminded that he's indeed no stranger to the letter 'F', though the swearies are generally infrequent enough not to interfere with the good comedic quality of the script.

And, if you're up for some unintentional humour, look out for the big-boned Daley Thompson look-a-like appearing on screen for a split-second as Murphy's double in the scene where Foley throws Maitland's henchman over a restaurant table. Had me in stitches first time I had that pointed out to me.

It's got an 80s-tastic soundtrack, complete with Glenn Frey, the Pointer Sisters, Patti LaBelle and the mighty Mr Faltermeyer, what else do you need?
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Open Water (2003)
9/10
Harrowing film which expands the horizons of watery terror
31 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
'Open Water' is also very suspenseful, with enough tension to have you gnawing furiously at your own extremities, and nodding in uncomfortable agreement with Susan as she says "I don't know what's worse, seeing them or not seeing them". There are sharks everywhere in this film - viewed murkily underwater through Daniel's goggles, unexpectedly breaching the surface mere feet away from the hapless pair, snapping at seagulls, or, in an unforgettably horrifying image, filmed from above circling in a pack beneath Susan while she sleeps.

Yet even when the sharks are not visible, the knowledge of their presence fills the film with indescribable dread - an effect taken to its very limit in a night sequence shot in total darkness occasionally punctuated by lightning that reveals hysterical humans and the odd flash of shark. The film lacked the budget to employ cheesy Jaws-style animatronics or 'Deep Blue Sea'-type CGI - but the real deal proves to be less predictable and far more frightening, making you catch your breath not just on behalf of the characters, but also of cast and crew who were in the water surrounded by the toothy predators.

Tense, strangely poetic drama which will change forever the way you think about holiday snaps.
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8/10
Easily squeamish beware!
31 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The first installment of this notorious horror series is presented as if it were a snuff film discovered by the producers and set up like an amateur camcorder tape, complete with a digital timer at the bottom of the frame. It presents a woman being kidnapped by a gang of black-clad men who torture her for several days before finally killing her. The hapless victim is beaten savagely and pelted with raw meat before having her fingernails pulled out with pliers, her hand smashed with a hammer, her eye punctured with a needle, and so forth.

In the most nauseating scene, the woman's captors burn her with hot water and drop live maggots into the burns. The series received a great deal of publicity when American actor Charlie Sheen, believing the series to contain actual murder, attempted to ban its distribution in the United States. An FBI investigation revealed that the films were only what they appeared to be to most viewers -- sick re-creations using nasty, but obvious special effects. Gruesomely staged by acclaimed Japanese comic-book artist Hideshi Hino, who also directed the third and fourth episodes, this film is a sure way to clear all but the most tolerant of rooms. But, gorehounds probably won't find anything special.
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7/10
Disturbing Watch
31 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Satoru Ogura, your average Japanese horror fan, had pretty much lost faith in horror at one point, and therefore decided to make some of the most gruesome horror movies ever. Fake snuff movies, showing nothing more than brutal torture and murder, in all too revealing detail. And so the Guinea Pig series was born. After teaming up with famous manga artist Hideshi Hino, the two quickly started shooting two movies simultaneously - Ogura and Hino both did one. The first movie to actually be released (in 1986 to be exact) was the Ogura-directed Devil's Experiment, and a quick summary on its contents would be 'three men torture and murder a woman'. In short, the movie had nothing to offer but humilation, gore, and torture - but surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) proved to be some sort of success. Although it was only available at underground porn shops and the like, the video quickly found its way to fans of extreme horror and gorehounds.

It appears that our samurai has actually set out to add this woman to his so-called collection - by cutting her to tiny, little pieces that is. He uses pretty much everything to do this - knife, chisel, saw, axe; you name it, he's got it. At points, the man addresses the camera and informs the viewer on what's he going to do next, whilst mixing in some random philosophy on flowers, flesh, and blood. Now, if you thought the story was only just starting to unfold, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Flower Of Flesh And Blood both starts and ends at the exact same point - literally.

The actors deserve at least some credit. The male actor (his real name has never been revealed) does a great job at portraying the psycho cosplay killer, making him look just as insane as you'd expect a murderous maniac to be. The female actor (presumably Kirara Yugao) does not much more than lying around and moaning - but she does it all too well. The moaning is at times somewhat reminiscent of that heard in porn movies, but is far less distracting than most other sound effects. The chops, gurgles, cuts, guzzles, and burps seem to be inserted randomly and take away from the presumably desired snuff effect.

In all its simplicity, Flower Of Flesh And Blood tries for some basic cinematic 'tricks' (if you could even call them that) to spice up the movie for a bit. Camera angles switch often at times, preventing the viewer from falling asleep, and some, err, interesting points of view are also thrown into the mix - most notably the chicken's. However, that's it - all of it.
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7/10
Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom
31 January 2008
You'll see more graphic sex and violence in other films but these are usually punctuations within a wider context - in SALO these elements are present constantly. Not for one moment are we offered any relief from the emotional and psychological torment being inflicted upon the fascist's victims, and just when we think the film is all bark and no bite, it offers a final scene that is horrific not only for what it portrays but because it can be the only logical conclusion.

I believe that SALO is not as controversial for its content as it is for the conditions it imposes upon the viewer from the outset: that there is no hope, that there will be no rescue, that these young people will suffer and that we will be witness to every moment of it. Because we accept these conditions and view on regardless we get the feeling that we are conspiring with an agenda of the film-maker's. Is it a film that exists more in the reaction to its content than the content itself? Is the event of the film emulating the anarchic argument behind De Sade's own scandalous writings? What's problematic with SALO is that by means of blasphemy, cruelty or depravity it positions itself as a dialogue with which the audience cannot help but engage, overwhelming conventional attitudes of storyline or character.

I also can't help feeling that Pasolini's decision to update the text to a wartime setting is pure strategy on his part, as if allegory conveniently excuses his indulgence. It's not a film that should be banned (there were lines around the block when I went to see it), or that people should be discouraged from seeing, or that most people should be encouraged to see, for that matter. Ultimately, despite its controversy, I'm left with a muddled reaction to SALO. It's certainly disturbing, but probably for the wrong reasons. Just as De Sade's book tells you more about the man who wrote it than the work itself, so too do I think less of SALO as a film than the end-product of the man who made it.
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Saw II (2005)
8/10
Better than the first!
31 January 2008
Saw II is a better film than the original 'horror class'. It's more layered, tightly paced, and has elements of suspense as well as ghastly horror that exceed its predecessor. It is not, however, for everyone, and particularly not the squeamish. For the fans of the ghoulish, it has more cringe elements than the first and most of the horror films i've seen, although such visceral elements here fit the logic of the film rather than being gratuitous.

Nevertheless Saw II is a satisfying horror film, as nasty as it is. It's hard making a good horror film. A comedy can score on half its jokes and that would be a success. Horror, however, has to keep you on edge throughout otherwise it gets boring and/or silly, and on this point Saw II scores. Saw II is a relentless, disturbing assault on your senses.

-Matt Woods
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1/10
Truly an abomination.
31 January 2008
If you thought that date movie was a bore, then your in for the same ride with this movie. Don't waste your time. Within the first 15 minutes, I watched 5 people walk out and then another 20 minutes later 2 more people walked out! Seriously, this is most likely among the worst comedies I have ever seen. If you string together a bunch of internet fads and weak pop culture references and put it on tape, you would create Meet the Spartans. Comedy is wit, not a constant bombardment of poorly thought out jokes. I mean, everyone was guaranteed to crack a smile, not because all the jokes were good, but because the makers of this film replaced any plot with mindless jokes.

Another thing, if you have seen the preview for this movie, you have seen the movie. There are a couple offensive jokes thrown in there and a couple of other movie references, but thats it. Please, don't see this movie if you have ever processed a thought in your brain, because if you have you will not like this film!
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Hot Fuzz (2007)
8/10
Hot Fuzz works!
31 January 2008
Hot Fuzz opens with Detective Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) getting sent to the small town of Sandford because he's so good at his job that he's made the big city police force look bad in comparison. Angel gets a doughy sidekick (Nick Frost) and is forced to fix problems like escaped swans and rowdy jugglers. When a series of unusual accidents start to befall the residents of Sandford, Angel realizes that crazy doesn't always distinguish between the city and the country, forcing him to take justice into his own hands.

Do you remember how well co-writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg used zombie influences to tell an actual story in Shaun of the Dead? At first, horror fans were just trying to spot the references to various zombie movies, but - and this is the reason why Shaun continues to grow in popularity - the movie quickly became enjoyable and interesting on its own terms, completely independent from the films that inspired it. Hot Fuzz does an even better job at taking a genre and not just spoofing it, but actually becoming a part of it. And it does it by being hilariously over-the-top and yet miraculously unoffensive. Without giving too much away, Hot Fuzz features some of the most insane gore you'll see all year, including an old lady getting kicked in the face, and a priest getting shot and shouting "Jesus Christ!" as he hits the ground. On paper, it sounds like the kind of thing that would offend most of the Red states, but it's so incredibly engaging and well-done, you'll have a hard time imagining anyone not having a good time. Hot Fuzz is so much pure fun, that if you don't like it, you don't really like movies.

Finally, let's make one distinction clear. There's a whole genre of comedy nowadays that just takes what's familiar and simply regurgitates it with more fart jokes and mugging. ("Remember Borat? Wasn't that great?") Hot Fuzz is absolutely not "Action Movie" (although that's probably not too far down the road from those Epic and Date Movie folks). Writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg LOVE action movies. Movies like Point Break are easy to make fun of - anyone could do that - but it's really difficult to find a way to both make fun of and pay respect to the cheesy action genre that most of us secretly hold as a guilty pleasure. The final act of Hot Fuzz actually becomes an over-the-top action extravaganza with some shoot-outs and car chases that are as well choreographed as most of the action movies released this year (it doesn't hurt to have recognizable genre faces like Edward Woodward and Timothy Dalton in major roles). In fact, at the end of the year, Hot Fuzz may be both your favorite comedy and your favorite action movie of 2007, and that's no joke.
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Dexter (2006–2013)
10/10
Quite simply the best show on TV!
31 January 2008
Dexter works for the police department as a blood splatter specialist by day...and by night, he's a serial killer. And the twist is that he only kills the bad guys. So that makes him a good guy, right? And that's the paradox with Dexter. He is at once likable, lovable, and funny. We're often in his head listening to his monotone and sarcastically witty comments. He knows he's a monster, but we also catch glimpses of his human side. However, the killing he does is graphically violent and disturbing. As much as you like him, you're repulsed by him.

The writing is top notch, and the acting by Michael C. Hall as Dexter is flawless. I originally wasn't interested in this show based on the violence, but I was totally sucked in after watching the first episode.

Dexter currently has two complete seasons and has been renewed for a 3rd season. The show is based on books by Jeff Lindsay. I read the first 3 books---they are good, but the show is actually better. Every episode has me on the edge of the couch. As much as I want Dexter to be all good, it's the dichotomy of good/evil that keeps me coming back for more.
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Se7en (1995)
9/10
No one is without sin
31 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those dark movies, where it's constantly raining and wet and where the light always seems to be dim. Appropriately enough, this changes to bright and shimmering heat in the very end. As a kid, I hated dark movies. But perhaps it is appropriate in this case, because Seven attempts to be a statement about humanity: no one is without sin.

The seven deadly sins are gluttony, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and wrath. Prime examples of people committing these are being punished one by one, brutally and efficiently, by a psychopathic killer. Detectives, and reluctant partners, William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt) are assigned to track down the killer. Needless to say, the job gets accomplished. While some might argue it is done surprisingly, I'd argue otherwise.

For once, I wasn't impressed with Pitt's acting. I thought Freeman did a great job. As usual, the villain, John Doe played by Kevin Spacey, provides a chilling performance, even though he is not given as much center stage as, say, Anthony Hopkins was in Silence of the Lambs. In fact, the whole movie seems to hurry through without giving key characters enough time to build up their emotional worth, particularly Mills' wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow).

In the end, Seven does manage to get its point across effectively. While watching the movie itself, I thought it a bit anti-climatic, but when mulling it over later, the images echo very strongly in my mind. One of the most disturbing films I've seen.
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Cloverfield (2008)
8/10
Cloverfield is audacious.
30 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
this review contains spoilers!!!!! - That's a word I certainly didn't think I would be using in conjunction with a movie that I have been sort of dreading, a movie wrapped in a nonsense blanket of mystery marketing. Here's the answer to the mystery: Cloverfield is about a big monster who attacks New York City and the group of annoying, pretty yuppies who have to deal with it while filming it all. That's it. There's no Slusho, no conspiracy, no deeper meaning. There isn't even a reveal of the monster's origins, and it never gets a name. It's actually surprisingly straightforward.

That's one of the two big things that writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves got right; the other is the monster mayhem, which is impressive in scale and presentation (if not always logical - the monster's path through Manhattan makes no sense unless he is specifically pursuing our hapless and hated heroes). The monster is revealed in full, but the movie takes its time getting there, which is appreciated - especially since I wasn't completely over the moon about the final shots of the beast, which are pretty much full frontal. The monster works incredibly well in bits and pieces, especially because its anatomy is so strange; trying to figure out how these disparate body parts fit together is kind of much of the fun. And the flashes of the beast - especially its first face shot during a pitched battle with the National Guard - only add to the nightmarish surreality of the film.

Sadly, Reeves and Goddard messes other things up. There's not a single character in this film to root for, and it's not because they're meant to be difficult characters to enjoy. They're shallow, vapid, beautiful yuppies, the kind of people who, when they start showing up at your favorite dive bar, signal the end of that establishment as you knew it. The main character, Rob, has a huge apartment on the Lower East Side that boggles the mind; we're talking about a space that costs millions in today's market, or even a couple of years ago, if we're assuming Rob bought it while the neighborhood was still 'up and coming'*. None of this would be that big of a problem - after all, I could just revel in seeing these people in terror and pain - except for the fact the movie is structured in a way that indicates we're supposed to care about these people and their relationships.

What pushes the film's narrative forward is the fact that Rob desperately wants to find Beth, a girl he loves but has treated poorly, to save her from the chaos visited on the city. The main characters skip an opportunity to leave Manhattan with the army** to go with Rob on an insane mission to find this girl in a city being torn apart by a massive beast that has risen from the sea and that has little monsters falling off of it, eating people. Watching the movie I found this outrageous - how stupid could these people be? - but talking this point over with Nick I came to a weird realization: I had once done the same thing. On the day that the Twin Towers fell I was home, having overslept. My office was three blocks from the Towers, and my best friend was there - she had actually gone into the city when she saw the first plane hit the Towers because her father worked there. My first reaction was to run as fast as I could to the Brooklyn Bridge to get into Manhattan to try and find my friend. This was a stupid reaction, and a futile reaction, but it was the first one I had, and it was primal and happened without thought. And yet I couldn't buy Rob doing essentially a heightened version of the same thing, and I especially couldn't buy his friends going with him. To me it's a reflection of how little these characters resonated with me - even a reaction that I could identify with from experience feels alien coming from this phony person.

I could go on nitpicking Cloverfield, but this is a positive review. The movie is flawed, deeply, but it works while you're sitting there in the theater, and with a movie like this, that's the main goal. I don't know if Cloverfield will hold up to repeat viewings or not but that first time is a blast. The action propels you along fast enough that you barely have time to raise the logical questions while you're watching, and the set pieces are done with style and verve. The movie has no music until the end credits, which have a bombastic, monster movie theme by Michael Giacchino called 'Roar!'; that theme belongs to the bigger picture movie that tells the full story of what happened in New York City that night, but I'm glad that Cloverfield focused on the small moments (well, as small as they get when the monster seems to be specifically chasing the characters in the film). In a lot of ways Cloverfield reminded me of the seminal graphic novel Marvels, which told the history of the Marvel superhero universe through the eyes of the man on the street. That perspective makes a moribund genre like the monster movie suddenly come roaring to life.
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