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4/10
Mediocrity Falls
24 August 2010
"Darkness Falls" is notorious for one thing: being one of the most underwhelming horror films of 2003. You can thank the studio behind it for that. The ghost story with a tooth fairy twist had its teeth knocked out one by one during its production and in spite of the efforts of director Jonathan Liebesman to rise above it, one can't help but feel cheated by the film, which barely clocks in at 80 minutes.

When he was twelve years old, Kyle (Chaney Kley) was terrorized by the blood-thirsty spirit of Matilda Dixon. A child-loving, sun-fearing old woman with an apparent fetish for teeth, Matilda was mistakenly murdered by the local townspeople and now stalks children upon the loss of their last baby tooth as a form of revenge. A decade down the line and Kyle – now a mopey 20-something who spends his free-time popping pills, collecting flashlights and brooding alongside some generic hard rock – finds himself returning home to assist his childhood sweetheart (Emma Caulfield) whose child is being haunted by the same spirit.

Despite its strong opening, "Darkness Falls" is a mess of a film seemingly in a rush to reach its conclusion. Rather than spend time on developing its characters, the film instead casts them off as quickly as possible, leaving little room for suspense or, you know, genuine horror. While the gorgeous cinematography goes a long way in establishing an appropriately foreboding atmosphere, the film resorts to cheap gags such as fast editing and jarring sound effects to get its jollies. It's also worth noting that the film is also host to one of the most face-palm inducing cat-jumping-into-frame scares. Liebesman has a great eye and tries his hardest, but at the end of the day, the film feels incomplete and hollow. If the studio intended to deliver a film that looks good but features nothing below the surface, then consider it a job well done. For the rest of us, it's about as scary as a routine trip to the dentist.
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976-EVIL (1988)
4/10
Please Hold.
10 August 2010
Nerdy kid in town (Stephen Geoffrey of "Fright Night") gets revenge on everyone who ever wronged him when he hooks up with Satan, via horror hot-line "976-EVIL." Directed by Robert Englund of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" fame, the film is obviously very low budget but not completely without charm. As an actor turned director, Englund obviously cares about his characters first and foremost, and in turn, his film gives them ample time to breathe. Also, the man obviously paid attention during his tenure as Freddy, as his film takes many visual cues from the "Elm Street" series and tries its best to rise above its meager budget. There's also an underlying sense of humor (again, a byproduct of being Krueger) that helps make the whole easier to swallow.

A shame, though, that aside from some decent characters and solid cinematography from Paul Elliott which attempts to establish a foreboding mood, the film barely has enough juice to reach its lame conclusion. While the first half sets our characters up nicely, the second more or less tears down any progress made by dispatching of decent characters too quickly and wrapping things up in what feels like a very rushed and hap-hazard sort of way. The film's main weakness is in its script which stretches its premise far too thin and requires its audience to fill in the blanks a few too many times. Also, the gore and make-up effects from the usually consistent Kevin Yagher are surprisingly substandard and, at times, laughable. What should be an undeniably enjoyable 80's cheese-fest is instead a frustrating and uneven dud that could have and should have been much more. Stephen Geoffrey aside, horror fans will recognize Lezlie Deane from "Freddy's Dead" – another actor whose career went absolutely nowhere in the following decade.
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Incubus: Look Alive (2007 Video)
8/10
Dig It.
5 August 2010
A decade after their breakthrough into the mainstream with "Make Yourself", Calabasas California's Incubus chronicle their continued success with the release of "Look Alive". Part concert, part documentary, the film follows the group as they rehearse, travel the globe, take in various cultures and, of course, perform to thousands of fans who seemingly know every lyric in their songbook. Through it all, we see the band interact with each other, seemingly as chummy with one another as ever -- with the relationships between founding members Brandon Boyd (vocals), Mike Einziger (guitar) and Jose Pasillas (drums) being particularly strong -- which translates into their dynamic and colorful live performances.

Longtime fans may grumble a bit, as the set focuses mostly on material from 2006's "Light Grenades" -- the album which they were touring on at the time -- and chooses to ignore even their biggest hits such as "Drive," "Pardon Me" and "Wish You Were Here". Never fear, though, as the band packs a strong enough punch with the new material that you'll barely miss the tried and true tunes (side note: there are several other live releases from the band that may quench your old-school thirst). Not only do tracks like "Rogues" and "Love Hurts" spring to life in a live setting much better than on record, but older, more obscure cuts such as "Nebula" and "Redefine" are given make-overs, with the latter track transforming into a completely different tune altogether. Overall, the band sounds great, with guitarist Mike Einziger being the star of the set. Not only has he shown increased talent and range with each successive album, but he has stepped into his own as a modern guitar hero of sorts. Watching him bust out the Chinese Pipa on "Aquaeous Transmission" and noodle away on "Sick, Sad Little World" is about as awe-inspiring as today's modern rock gets, folks.

Overall, the sound and picture quality of the DVD are top-notch. Presented in widescreen and sporting a 5.1 soundtrack, this is certainly the most impressive Incubus DVD to date. Through the film, we get to live vicariously through the band and see the wonderful landscapes of Iceland as if we were there while a score composed by Einziger pulses in the background. It just doesn't get much better than that. While it may not serve as an accessible, crowd-pleasing affair, "Look Alive" is at the very least an honest and inspiring portrait of a band in love with their craft. Not only does the newer material hold up live, but the band seems as honest and down to Earth as the day they started. It's definitely geared more towards the hardcore fans, so keep that in mind. For more of their hits, look towards "Alive At Red Rocks" or "The Morning View Sessions".
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Hell Ride (2008)
4/10
Running on Empty.
29 July 2010
From executive producer Quentin Tarantino comes "Hell Ride," a throw-back biker flick/vehicle for Larry Bishop, who not only serves as the lead in the film, but also steps up to the plate as writer/director. The film follows the exploits of a hardened clan of bikers known as The Victors whose penchant for booze, women and good old fashioned revenge seems to have bonded them for life.

Bishop, along with his co-stars Michael Madsen and Eric Balfour, manages to conjure up enough charisma in spite of poorly written characters and the cringe-worthy dialog they are forced to spew. Here is where the Tarantino touch would have saved the film, but alas, the famed director's involvement appears to be limited to providing funding and promotion for the film, rather than actually helping to nurse it along. Bishop does the whole Grindhouse/Tarantino/Rodriguez schtick well enough on the surface; the film looks good and has a vibrant soundtrack, but not much else. What the film lacks is true charm and appeal, not to mention, a cohesive or even mildly interesting plot.

Bit parts from the likes of David Carradine and Dennis Hopper may serve to shake you out of the semi-comatose state the film lulls you into, but neither character do much to improve or advance the story. It's almost as if they are there for us to say "Hey, look! Dennis Hopper! Neat!" rather than having the actors put to good use. In the end, "Hell Ride" is all style and no substance. There's lots of eye-candy -- from the babes to the bikes -- but not enough plot to go around, even for it's miniscule 80 minute running time, which still makes for a ride that goes on way too long.
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8 Mile (2002)
9/10
The Real Slim Shady
21 July 2010
Directed by Curtis Hanson, "8 Mile" is essentially a vehicle for hip-hop heavyweight Eminem to tell the tale of how he went from a trailer-park dwelling blue-collar worker to a pop music superstar seemingly overnight. Rather than capture all of the glories of fame, "8 Mile" instead focuses on the rapper's rugged beginnings and, although only loosely based on his life-story, humanizes the rapper, who at the time of the film's release, was the most controversial force in music.

The film opens with our hero, B-Rabbit (as portrayed by Eminem), practicing his routine in front of a bathroom mirror before engaging in a rap competition. Unfortunately, he fails before he even begins, and the rest of the film follows him as he struggles with poverty, his overbearing mother (Kim Basinger), his lesser-motivated crew of friends, his ex-girlfriend, his current girlfriend (Brittany Murphy) who will apparently do anything for her big break and a posse of hardcore rappers who may or may not see him as a threat, but see fit to beat him down at any opportunity anyway.

The amazing thing about "8 Mile" is how realistic and down to Earth it really is. A vanity project this is not, as Eminem clearly had a story worth telling and the film doesn't skimp on the dirt. The cinematography goes a long way in capturing the gritty feel of a decaying city and the people that inhabit it. From the decrepit trailer parking and crumbling buildings to the broken down vehicles that cart the characters around to their various jobs and musical endeavors, everything in the film has a genuine feel. You truly feel like you are on the cold streets of Detroit, alone and depressed. Even Eminem, arguably the most successful pop-culture figure at the time, looks miserable and underfed, which is only amplified by his random fits of rage which come all too naturally but feel justified within the context of the film.

They say it's tougher to play yourself than a character, and if that is so, then Eminem would have been wise to further pursue a film career (you know, aside from his hilarious cameo in "Funny People"). His performance in this film is grounded and realistic, and we often find the rapper acting circles around more seasoned pros like Brittany Murphy (whose role suffers for being poorly written) and Mekhi Phifer (who plays essentially every character he's ever played before, albeit, with dreadlocks) and is sure to convince anyone regardless of whether you're a fan of his music/public persona or not. A few minor flaws do little to drag it down, and in spite of its oppressive tone at times, it's an uplifting and inspirational film that is likely to win over even the most cynical viewer.
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7/10
Good, Mindless 80's Fun.
6 July 2010
For reasons unknown, two valley girls survive a blast from an impending comet only to find the world they know has been transformed overnight into a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested wasteland. Together, the two hook up with a wholesome trucker, fight off the living dead, go on a shopping spree to the tune of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" all while evading who else but a band of evil scientists.

"Dawn of the Dead" it sure isn't, but those seeking a brilliantly cheesy zombie romp (which incidentally doesn't feature many zombies) will find much to rave about with "Night of the Comet." Director Thom Eberhardt apparently didn't take things seriously enough to turn in an effective or particularly scary film, but instead, focuses on lampooning the b-movies it so closely resembles. With tongue planted firmly in cheek (or so it would seem) the director guides the cast through silly scenario after silly scenario with little regard to logic. That's not to say the film is stupid, though; on the contrary, it's quite witty in its extreme characterizations and hammy dialog. It also helps the film's credibility to have two leads in Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, who, in spite of being too old to play teenagers, carry the film with a bubbly sensibility that suits the material at hand perfectly.

Sure, there's not much in the way of blood or even sense (Red dust? Zombies? Which is it?) but beneath the tacky clothing, dated soundtrack and cheesy special effects is a fun little b-movie that knows its a b-movie. There's no social commentary to be found amidst the silliness, and that's a good thing. The film plays like an arcade game come to life and should be treated as such. Spend a night with "Night of the Comet" and you'll be guaranteed a delightfully schlocky good time.
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7/10
A Fun Flick That Will Be Remembered in the Anals (no, not annals) of History!
1 July 2010
If you happen to come across "C.H.U.D. II - Bud the Chud" and are expecting a logical sequel to the 1984 cult-classic, you will only walk away disappointed. If, however, you are in the mood for a nice, healthy portion of late-80's cheese, then this zombie-spoof just may be the ticket!

After two bumbling teenage buddies (Brian Robbins and Bill Calvert) misplace a cadaver intended for their high school science class, they find a replacement in Bud (Gerrit Graham). Bud is a C.H.U.D. (which, if you recall the first film, stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) and seeing as how he is the last of his kind, the government sees fit to stuff him away in a minimum security facility in a podunk little town. The two pry the titular Chud from the facility with minimal effort, and after killing the family dog and clogging the toilet, Bud strolls through town, turning anyone and everyone he comes across into a like-minded zombie, on the prowl for a little fun and a little flesh.

This film is ridiculous, that's for sure. Whether it's the goofball dialog, the "Thriller" inspired dance number or the theme song that accompanies Bud, there is hardly a moment where it looks like anyone took what they were doing seriously when making this film. It has a real fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants spirit that maybe made its producers and distributors nervous, but nevertheless, translates to a gloriously goofy good time. Vibrant performances are in abundance, with everyone from seasoned actor Robert Vaughn, who viciously chews up the scenery, to the beautiful Tricia Leigh Fisher, the supportive girlfriend who finds herself the object of Bud's affection. Go into this one with expectations of a care-free good-time and you'll likely find "C.H.U.D. II - Bud the Chud" to be a blast.
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5/10
My Name is (Father) Jonas
21 June 2010
"Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil" marks yet another turn in the "Prom Night" franchise, ditching the supernatural elements of the previous two entries in exchange for a more back-to-basics slasher formula that is not unlike the original. This time, however, it's a Catholic priest gone mad, with a sharpened crucifix in hand, who unleashes his wrath against a group of fornicators...err...high school kids who ditch their prom in lieu of a remote cabin where they can get down and dirty without anyone around to hear their screaming -- whether that's a good thing or not.

Another direct-to-video installment, the fourth "Prom Night" is not of the highest quality, but at least delivers the goods on the most basic level. Slasher fans will appreciate its dead-pan approach, which is in stark contrast to the goofiness on hand in "Prom Night III: The Last Kiss." Father Jonas, the Catholic priest in question, is played stone-faced by James Carver and makes for an effectively brutal killer, even if he is overexposed by the film which doesn't allow him to lurk or stalk very much. The cast of teens, meanwhile, are just begging to be killed by Father Jonas, and with lines like "Shut up and take your pants off" who can say they didn't see it coming? Sure, it's a low-rent, dirty little horror movie, but at least it tries, and even when it doesn't succeed, "Prom Night IV" doesn't exactly suck, either. At the very least, this last entry in the series is more entertaining and exciting than the remake that would follow 17 years later.
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6/10
Punchdrunk Prom Night
20 June 2010
The third film in the "Prom Night" franchise continues to steer the series further away from its slasher origins and closer to the supernatural and, well, corny. Mary Lou, the undead bombshell from the previous film, returns to Hamilton High and takes a liking to Alex Gray, a football player who is bored with his current situation and craves a bit of spice in his life. When the two hook up, Alex gets more than he bargained for, although, strangely enough, doesn't seem all too shocked or surprised by a lover who is more than thirty years past her expiration date and who will do literally anything for him, which includes killing his teachers and classmates in only the most ridiculous ways possible.

"Prom Night III: The Last Kiss" is the sort of film that doesn't take itself too seriously, and upon viewing it, neither should you. There are no serious thrills to be found in this often cartoonish and over-the-top sequel, but there is plenty of fun to go around. From the silly death scenes, which are complimented by comically underwhelming reactions from star Tim Conlon, who appears to have little to no regard for the value of human life. Likewise Mary Lou, played this time around by where-is-she-now Cyndy Preston, gives Freddy Krueger a run for his money with the amount of cheesy one-liners that are thrown around and with the way she lashes out with those ridiculously long fingernails (side-bar: I'd hate to be Alex's back). There are also other little moments, such as the school-intercom gags and the Charlie Brown-ish phone call that Alex makes to his parents. These bits ensure that the film is hardly threatening in the slightest, and at best, is a light-hearted late-night romp that takes a certain sort of mood to appreciate. Put simply, it's a stupidly funny horror comedy that won't fail to entertain, even if it tends to induce a few facepalms. This film is best taken with a grain of salt.
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7/10
Surprisingly Superb Sequel
14 June 2010
That lovable little rapscallion from "The Omen" has returned to raise more Hell in "Damien: Omen II". No longer a toddler, Damien is closing in on his 13th birthday. While most pre-teens must cope with puberty and the confusion that accompanies it, Damien (portrayed by Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is more pre-occupied with his destiny, which is that of the son of the Satan, The Anti-Christ. He is now living with his Uncle and attends a military academy where he is quick to put his peers in his place and is encouraged by a sketchy teacher (the one and only Lance Henriksen!) who encourages him to read a passage in the Bible that tells him all he needs to know about himself. If only every teenager were given such guidance!

The film faced an uphill battle when its original director, Mike Hodges, was swapped out for Don Taylor, but thankfully, the end results aren't as compromised as one would expect. On the contrary, "Damien: The Omen II" is a rather solid companion piece to the Richard Donner original, with death scenes that are every bit as ground-breaking for their time and still shocking today (all about the crow pecking out the eyeballs) and a great cast that includes William Holden, Lee Grant and Elizabeth Shepard. Scott-Taylor seems born to have played Damien, managing the dynamics of being a sympathetic character turned a bone-chilling menace quite effectively. The film may rush a bit to its ending, which is perhaps its only flaw, but on the whole, it's a worthy follow-up that is almost every bit as mean and memorable as its predecessor.
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4/10
"Blood Wings" doesn't quite fly.
14 June 2010
"Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings" is the direct-to-video follow-up to Stan Winston's semi-classic horror opus. Stuffed with familiar faces from the genre (Andrew Robinson, Linnea Quigley), the film tells the tale of a group of wanna-be rebel teenagers whose penchant for raising Hell comes back to bite them in the butt when they unwittingly unleash the Pumpkinhead demon, who sets out to wreak havoc on the small town with country music and strobe lights in tow.

Solid direction from Jeff Burr ("Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III") and some decent effects from the KNB crew are much appreciated but can't save this flaccid sequel. The story itself is beyond bland and is essentially a retread of the original, minus the tragedy. Add to that a glut of cardboard characters whose intentions are never clear and a tone that is never quite established, and you have a cheap and forgettable affair that does little to live up to its predecessor. Some cheap thrills await fans of the original who, if they lower their expectations and simply want to see the titular character do his thing, may find this a decent watch, but for the rest, it's best left dead and buried.
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6/10
Arnold is The Terrorist Terminator
8 June 2010
In the past, he's battled Predators, Cyborgs and even The Devil but in "Collateral Damage," Arnold Schwarzenegger takes on the nastiest of foes: terrorists! After his family is killed in a terrorist attack, and the government fails to rectify the situation, Arnie takes matters into his own hands, setting out to Colombia where he intends to take down El Lobo (Cliff Curtis), the man responsible for his loss.

Released in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, "Collateral Damage" suffered massive cuts and re-shoots and it shows in the final product. While Arnold, pushing well into his 50's at this point, is in top form and director Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive") knows how to pace the action and cue the suspense, the film can't help but feel somewhat compromised, and, well, neutered. Unlike, say, the "Rambo" flicks, this film is rather mild in its depiction of war and terrorism and, in spite of some of its more thrilling action sequences, is host to some rather shoddy CGI work, especially in its final act, which could be chalked up to the rushed re-shoots.

The action is decent enough, and as always, Arnie carries the weight of the film as best as he can. In the end, it's a passable effort that is, at the very least, engaging and exciting. Yet, one can't help but feel like it could have been more. The second to last film Arnold would star in before becoming The Governator, "Collateral Damage" is on the lower end of his action oeuvre, but is certainly a more respectable effort than, say, "Junior" or "Jingle All The Way."
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Day of the Dead (2008 Video)
3/10
Difference Between this and Other "Dead" Remakes is Night and Day
25 May 2010
It was only inevitable. Someday, somebody somewhere would remake the third film in the legendary zombie saga helmed by George A. Romero. First, there was Tom Savini's directorial debut with a remake of "Night of the Living Dead," which was a load of nostalgic fun for genre fans. Then, Zack Snyder spun the genre on its head with his "Dawn of the Dead" remake that helped usher in a new generation of zombie flicks (as well as a long-awaited return to the genre from Romero himself in "Land of the Dead") and now here we are, for better or for worse, with an update of "Day of the Dead".

Unfortunately, it's for the worse. Director Steve Miner, who himself has a respectable track record with films like "Halloween H20" and "House," seemed like an okay choice for the job, yet the end result is a film that is sloppy and unprofessional on nearly each and every front. In this version of the film, the military -- which includes Mena Suvari in a career-killing role sporting unflattering fatigues -- is brought in to quarantine a small town after an outbreak spread by a common cold is turning its citizens into the living dead. Along for the ride are Ving Rhames -- not reprising his role from the "Dawn of the Dead" -- and Nick Cannon, as a wise-cracking, albeit, irritating force to be reckoned with.

The film was originally intended for theatrical release but was shelved for a few years before seeing the light of day, and it's easy to see why after witnessing the mess that it truly is. The CGI is downright awful, and is rivaled only by the pathetic excuse for acting from Cannon and some of the lesser known actors who portray the teenagers. There are some twists on the original that, while hardly effective, are at least admirable. Bub, the lovable zombie from Romero's original, is transformed into Bud, a love-struck vegetarian zombie. Unfortunately, this whole bit is so silly you can almost hear the sound of palms hitting faces behind the scenes. To his credit, Miner puts on a fast-paced show that keeps the pain to a minimum. At the very least, zombie fans will find some cheap thrills in this "Day of the Dead" redux, but serious horror fans and George A. Romero enthusiasts need not apply.
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C.H.U.D. (1984)
6/10
Don't Feed the Hobos
24 May 2010
Before its streets were cleaned up, and well before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles called it their home, the sewers of New York City belonged to Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, or "C.H.U.D." as they are more commonly referred to.

A cheesy and campy yet fun little romp, "C.H.U.D" is perhaps more notorious for its cast and its mostly improvised dialog than it is for any ground-breaking special effects or actual suspense. The film truly hinges on the trio of Daniel Stern, John Heard and Christopher Curry, as the hippie, the photographer and the police chief who get wrapped up in a subterranean investigation that reveals a clan of guys in suits...err...mutants who take to the streets at night to feed on unsuspecting pedestrians.

The film's biggest hindrance is its painful pacing. The film just drags to its conclusion, which nearly threatens to bring the story crashing down. Thankfully, though, there are enough fun performances and memorable lines to keep the energy pumping, not to mention the slimy and flat-out ugly creatures who serve as a ridiculously awesome throwback to the b-movies of years past. You'll also have your fill of spotting a slew of familiar faces, with John Goodman showing up as a cop, proving that America really does run on Dunkin Donuts. "C.H.U.D." may not be an American masterpiece, nor does it paint a pretty picture of New York City, but as far as a fun and easy 80's cheese-fest, you could do much worse.
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7/10
Love -- Zombie Style.
23 May 2010
Zombies, gore, romance, humor, a hobo and a redhead -- "Return of the Living Dead 3" has got it all.

Tweaking the formula a bit, this third entry in the series started by the late, great Dan O'Bannon plays almost like a zombie-fied Romeo and Juliet. Curt (J. Trevor Edmund) and Julie (Melinda Clarke) are two teenagers madly in love. Although Curt's father -- a prototypical over-bearing authority figure -- doesn't approve, the two seem to have a great life together ahead of them, that is, until tragedy strikes, and the experimental toxin from the previous two films is used to bring Julie back with mixed results. In short, this girl is hungry for love and lusting for blood.

In many ways, this is an improvement over the tepid sequel that preceded it. You can chalk that up to director Brian Yuzna ("Bride of Re-Animator"), whose sci-fi and horror credentials suit the film perfectly. Rather than merely re-hash or dumb down what made the original work so well, Yuzna's film takes chances and has a feeling of freshness that still lingers even today. The characters are just credible enough to sell the romance angle, and the gore, while slightly restrained in the R-rated cut currently on DVD, is as wild as ever. Sure, it has a tendency to sag in its third act, but overall, "Return of the Living Dead 3" is an enjoyable if somewhat tragic thrill-ride that is unlike anything else you'll come across. Unfortunately, the series would continue in the form of two underwhelming made-for-TV movies that failed to live up to this superior sequel.
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8/10
A Hell of a Movie.
22 May 2010
Sam Raimi's long awaited return to the genre that made him isn't so much a scary movie as it is a roller-coaster ride of jumps, laughs and retching that will serve as a reminder to many of us why his ridiculous brand of horror has so sorely been missed.

In "Drag Me To Hell," Christine (Alison Lohman), a young career girl with a big promotion in sight and a devoted boyfriend (Justin Long), finds herself at the receiving end of the Devil's pimp slap. It seems as though an elderly woman (Lorna Raver) whom she denied a loan extension to has burdened her with a curse that gives her three miserable days before she is, well, dragged to Hell.

Without a doubt, Raimi is in full-form here, and in spite of its PG-13 rating, "Drag Me To Hell" is a hilariously outrageous and intense experience much in the vein of the "Evil Dead" trilogy. Not only is the film precise in its effort to creep us out (Lorna Raver steals the show), it gives us a relateable heroine to root for and plenty of over-the-top and flat-out gross effects that only serve as the icing on the cake. Its running time will breeze by as you'll find yourself jumping for joy and trying to wipe the smirk off of your fan-boy face as you find a director who is truly in his element here. While the severe amount of hype that arrived in its wake may be too much for some to bare, it's a film that, if approached in the right mind-set (hint: lower your expectations and avoid all reviews -- even this one (oops!)) will prove to be a rewarding experience and easily one of the most entertaining horror movies in recent memory.
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The Blob (1988)
8/10
An Ooey Gooey Good Time!
22 May 2010
A massive, formless, shape-shifting creature is devouring everything in sight. No, it's not Kirstie Alley, it's The Blob!

In this 1988 update of the Steve McQueen semi-classic, "The Blob," the titular character descends on a small Colorado town to infringe on its residents' favorite past-time of trying to get some on the first date. A pretty but tough cheerleader (Shawnee Smith of "Saw" fame) joins forces with a rebel (Kevin Dillon) without a cause (or apparently a hair-stylist with taste) in an attempt to save the town from the gelatinous blubber while the government has different plans altogether.

Director Chuck Russell and writer Frank Darabont, hot off of the heels of their success with "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors," hit another home-run with their jazzed up improvement on an original. Sure, it's b-movie material, but it knows it, and the outrageous special effects and disgustingly decadent death scenes are the real stars at hand. While a handful of effects have not aged well (most noticeably during the finale) they only serve to add to the charm of the film. This is a true 80's horror classic, from the not-so-subtle jabs at its own genre to the gruesome mullets that out-gross The Blob itself. From front to back, "The Blob" is pure fun that is easy to get sucked into.
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5/10
No Revelations in this Corny Sequel
18 May 2010
The seventh and final (thank you) entry in the seemingly never-ending "Children of the Corn" franchise finds those pesky little rascals stalking (stalking, get it?) a woman whose grandmother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. It turns out that the decrepit building where-in granny lives was once the grounds of the original children of the corn and through the course of the film, the residents of said building find themselves at the mercy of the sadistic children and their thousand yard stare.

Director Guy Magar (whose career was apparently killed with the making of this movie) gives the film a slick look and feel, but the end result can't help but feel like the lame direct-to-video fare it was always meant to be. On the upside, this installment is less insulting to the intelligence than previous entries in the franchise, and seeing as how the original "Children of the Corn" wasn't that fantastic from the get-go, it's fair to say that the bar was never that high to begin with.

80's cult icon Michael Ironside has a bit as a priest in the film, but his moments are so sparse that his presence is barely felt, and incidentally, his character serves no real narrative purpose. Even still, it's nice to see the guy getting work. Claudette Mink gives us someone to root for as the main character, and actually turns in a pretty decent performance. The effects are painfully bad, however, and the deaths in particular are bloodless and -- save for the stripper in the bath-tub scene -- uninteresting. Those who have already wandered through the previous rows of corn (read: prior sequels) could do much, worse though. Even though there are no revelations in this corny sequel, it still manages to kill an hour and a half rather painlessly.
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High Tension (2003)
8/10
Tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.
18 May 2010
The feature film breakout from French director Alexandre Aja is just the kind of grueling and grisly splatter-fest you won't soon forget. However, "High Tension" (or "Haute Tension," if you prefer) is more than just gore galore with a stylistic touch; it's also a psychological horror that not only plays with your mind, but alters your expectations of what a horror movie could and should be as well.

In the film, best friends and college students Alex and Marie find their vacation in a remote farmhouse owned by Alex's parents cut short when a mysterious man in a grungy overalls welcomes himself in. After the family is dispatched of and the man kidnaps Alex in his creepy Scooby-Doo van, Marie pursues him on a roadtrip that finds the carnage mounting as the tension builds, capping off in an unforgettable conclusion.

Proving to be a true master of horror, Alexandre Aja combines arresting visuals with disturbing imagery to concoct a bold piece of cinema that takes the genre to a whole new level. Truly, this film marks the beginning of the French horror boom and gave way to the director's fruitful career in the United States. It's a tough film to discuss without giving too much away, but rest assured, its effects will linger for days after seeing it. It's a film that begs to be seen twice as there is so much to digest and the film leads you to believe it's something it's not the first go-round. Crammed full of suspense, gore and style, "High Tension" is the kind of film that more than lives up to its name.
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10/10
A Dream for Nightmare Fans.
12 May 2010
If you never sleep again, it will only be because you are too busy sifting through all that "Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy" has to offer. This comprehensive 2-disc DVD set serves as a study on the infamous "A Nightmare on Elm Street series" which not only offers a four hour (!) long documentary, but almost as much in special features and extra footage.

Produced by the same folks who brought us "Halloween: 25 Years of Terror" and "His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th" and hosted by Nancy Thompson herself, Heather Langenkamp, the main feature covers just about everything you would ever want to know about the original eight-film franchise. Beginning with Wes Craven's original film and wrapping up with the 2003 hit mash-up, "Freddy vs. Jason," the documentary brings back most of the main cast and crew from each film (sans major players such as Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne and Johnny Depp) as they wax nostalgic about all of the fun, thrills, melodrama, successes and failures that "Elm Street" brought each and every one of them. Each film is given ample time and is expanded upon wonderfully, and not only is it a blast to see how some of them have aged, but a lot of new information is brought to the forefront that, even if you've followed the series throughout the decades, will come as news to you. This certainly is no fluff-piece, as everyone is open and honest, and in spite of its length, it never drags or feels dull.

Once you've plowed through the main feature, there's still a second disc of special features to swallow, and as before, there is not a moment wasted. The main meat of this disc is a compilation of extended interviews that runs almost as long as the average "Elm Street" flick. If you simply can't get enough after the four hours you've just completed, this piece serves almost as a fitting desert. Other features focus on Freddy phenomena such as the character's transition into comics, the music that was used in the series, locations, props and, of course, the fans. There's also a rather amusing bit with the famed Angry Video Game Nerd where he rips apart the Nintendo game based on the franchise, albeit, in a loving manner. There's so much here that it almost justifies its own release.

While the release glosses over the recent remake (save for a few minutes of cut footage), it doesn't spare anything from the Robert Englund golden-era. Those who remember how great this series was in its time will no doubt eat up each and every savory morsel that "Never Sleep Again" has to offer. You're certainly getting the bang for your buck, and even if the studio itself isn't too keen on producing something this informative, it's good to know that independent film-makers with a love for the material are willing to do all the leg-work themselves. Without this DVD, your "Nightmare on Elm Street" collection simply is not complete.
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5/10
One, Two, Freddy's Coming in a Re-do...
10 May 2010
Every town has an Elm Street, and it appears as though every horror classic will have its remake. You knew it was coming sooner or later, and here it is, the remake of Wes Craven's iconic "A Nightmare on Elm Street." From Platinum Dunes, the production company that brought us the "Friday the 13th" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remakes, this re-boot of the surreal horror franchise finds its anti-hero, Freddy Krueger, being re-casted for the first time after eight films from Robert Englund to Jackie Earle Haley ("Watchmen") under the direction of Samuel Bayer (whose claim to fame is the classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video by Nirvana).

Those familiar with Platinum Dunes' track record will not be surprised to find this version of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" coming up short on change. Its biggest crime is that very rarely does it break with the original film, which in turn makes for a stale experience. There is little to no suspense, as many of the death scenes emulate those that were played out in the original, and on top of it, they are achieved with CGI so bad that it makes the effects from 1984 look much superior; case in point, Freddy coming through the wall above Nancy's bed, which is just embarrassing to look at. Bayer, who has a strong visual sense, gives the film a good look, but the film feels hollow, which could be chalked up to an underwhelming script by Wesley Strick.

Aside from Haley, who is criminally under-utilized in the film, the cast appears to be asleep at the wheel, phoning in performances of characters that are wooden to begin with. Here, the heroine of the story, Nancy, is played by Rooney Mara, who perhaps could have been more effective in her role if she were given any personality. All we know about this character is that she doesn't fit in and isn't too happy. Nancy 2010 is, for lack of a better term, emo, and is a far cry from the girl-next-door that was portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. Freddy, on the other hand, is given a bit of a twist to his back-story, in an attempt to make the character more threatening and to set up a twist ending that doesn't quite pan out. To be fair, this little bit of back-story was well-done even if the purist fans won't want to admit it. Haley also brings a few new tricks to the role of Krueger that stand out. The way he grinds the blades on his glove together when stalking his prey is rather effective and his thick, southern drawl adds another layer of creepiness to the character. Robert Englund would be proud.

In the end, though, this new take on the material is just another walk on Elm Street. Just like a hazy dream, you'll forget bits of it quickly upon its finale. What made Wes Craven's film so special is how he did so much with so little. What makes this film so frustrating, however, is that so little is accomplished with so much to work with. Here you have a very well-seasoned and gifted actor in Jackie Earle Haley and a director who excels at strong visuals, but not much is accomplished with these elements. Fans will find it bland, perhaps even surprisingly inoffensive, while newcomers and younger viewers will be left wondering what the big deal is with this Freddy guy anyway. This new "Nightmare" simply isn't strong enough to warrant the kind of franchise that dominated 80's pop-culture and built New Line Cinema from the ground up. Nice try, but the original still reigns supreme.
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8/10
"Liberating, isn't it?"
7 May 2010
There's a whopping back-story to "The Boondock Saints," one which finds its writer/director, Troy Duffy, becoming an outcast in Hollywood, blowing his potential and alienating just about anyone and everyone who cares about him. Knowing this can be a bit distracting when you watch the film, as you can't help but wonder how differently the film could have turned out had it not been met with so much friction and abuse. Case in point: when Miramax dropped the film in the late 90's, Duffy was forced to make the film with another studio with half of the originally poposed budget. Ouch.

Like any director worth his salt, though, Duffy pressed on and in the face of his own self-imposed adversity, crafted a film that has been widely regarded as a cult classic. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, "The Boondock Saints" tells the wild tale of two Irish brothers who, after a message from a higher power, go on a killing spree, gunning down the criminals who pollute their home-town of Boston. They are met with a mixed reaction of glee and outrage from their fellow citizens as well as a flamboyant FBI special agent hot on their trail, played by the great Willem Dafoe, who steals damn near each and every scene he is in.

While the film certainly has a few flaws (mostly dealing with bad pacing issues) the end result is quite a visceral and cathartic experience. The film has a unique take on vigilante justice (Duffy came up with the idea for the film after witnessing a drug-dealer steal money from a corpse) and much like the closing credits which depict the various reactions the Saints are met with by the public, will likely polarize its audience. There's a wealth of ultra-violence and cool shootout scenes are sprinkled throughout, but merely taking its surface appeal away is to do the film a great injustice. In a way, "The Boondock Saints" allows you to live vicariously through its characters, who are only acting in a way that many of us have only dreamed about on our worst day. In the end, it might not accomplish its lofty goals with the greatest of ease, but at the very least, takes entertainment to a whole new level.
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8/10
"Creeps" Will Thrill You
29 April 2010
"Night of the Creeps," the much beloved debut of director Fred Dekker, is a gleeful mix of comedy and horror, with some zombies, aliens and colorful characters thrown in for good measure. Dekker crams his film with as many special effects as he does nods to his influences (fun drinking game: take a drink each time a famous horror director is referenced) and turns in a film that is bold and brilliant and a perfect example of the nostalgic value of 1980's horror.

The film opens with an alien making his escape to Earth in the 1950's with what turns out to be a deadly parasite. Fast-forward to the 1980's and we are introduced to two college freshmen (Jason Lively and Steve Marshall) who, in an attempt to win over the affection of a pretty co-ed (Jill Whitlow) are implicated in a fraternity prank that sets the parasite free once again. Hot on the case is hot-shot cop with a troubled past, Ray Cameron -- as played by genre hero Tom Atkins -- who is as quick with a gun as he is with his one-liners.

While its campy sense of humor doesn't exactly sit well with the likes of the George Romero "Dead" films, "Night of the Creeps" is no doubt a genre classic, a b-movie that knows it's a b-movie and has a blast with it. As Dekker's first feature-film, it's surprisingly stylish and competent, well-written and full of fun and lovable characters. It's got the kind of heart and fun-loving spirit that is rarely found in the genre and is almost guaranteed to be an instant fan favorite.
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9/10
A Monster Mash with Heart
22 April 2010
Fred Dekker's nostalgic cult-classic, "The Monster Squad," concerns a group of prepubescents who idolize and live through monster movies. Together in their treehouse, they escape the world through their love of all things sci-fi and horror, much to the confusion of their teachers and parents. When fiction becomes fact and Dracula descends on their home-turf with a few buddies in tow, it's up to the kids to save not only themselves, but the future of mankind as well.

Co-written by Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon") much of the film's energy comes from the hilarious dialog given to the child actors, who come across as not only likable, but believable as well. In a genre where child actors are usually maligned, it's quite a relief to find a cast so young that can carry a movie so well. It's surprising, then that none of the children went on to have budding careers (save for Jason Hervey who went on to TV's The Wonder Years").

Dekker, who serves as both director and co-writer, gives his film a fun, feel-good vibe, that makes the film more family friendly than the average genre film, but not at the expense of the audience's enjoyment. No matter what age you are, you'll find yourself laughing and cheering along with "The Monster Squad," which is precisely how the film found its audience on video in the years since its release. Seeking a good old monster mash with heart? Look no further.
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RoboCop (1987)
8/10
The Greatest Film About a Robotic Police Officer. Ever.
19 April 2010
In the 80's sci-fi/action classic, "Robocop," Peter Weller plays newbie cop Alex Murphy, whom, after being ruthlessly gunned down by a crime boss and his cronies, is resurrected as a cyborg. As Robocop, Murphy is the ultimate in law enforcement, cleaning the streets of a crime-ridden Detroit (in a not too distant future that we have likely surpassed by now) all while being haunted by some unpleasant memories.

"Robocop" is the breakthrough film from director Paul Verhoeven, whose reign over the action genre was short-lived but certainly left a mark. Like all of his best films, it pushes the envelope and the limits of good taste, all in the name of good entertainment. Verhoeven combines a bit of social commentary with his high-energy, over-the-top style, but thankfully, it still makes for a film that can be appreciated on a superficial level, too. It's just that "Robocop" matches its giddy goriness and intense action with some unexpected substance, and that's okay. All of this is achieved, of course, with the assistance of some solid special effects, stop-motion animation that surprisingly still looks good and a score that sticks in your head for days.

In all honesty, though, there isn't much going in the character department. Peter Weller pulls through, and in spite of the fact that he isn't given much to do besides walk around in an obviously uncomfortable and cumbersome outfit, still manages to bring a human element to his Robocop counterpart. Kurtwood Smith (TV's "That 70's Show") lays it on a little thick as the main baddie but keeps the energy pumping through its final act, while Paul McCrane (TV's "ER") has perhaps the most memorable (read: revoltingly awesome) scene in the film. Verhoeven paces the film just right so that you don't have time to notice its lack of substantial characters and all you can do is just sit back and enjoy the ride. And what a great ride it is, as in spite of its minor flaws, "Robocop" still holds up and manages to entertain after all these years.
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