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Monday, January 30, 2012


I always give an extra star to any movie with a title that makes me curious enough to watch it, when I might not have otherwise.  Farmhouse is just such a generic title that would offer almost too much to the imagination with most genres.  However, for a horror movie, it conjures thoughts about as foreboding as thoughts get—isolated, broke down car, no phone service, too far from the nearest city, etc.  Farmhouse borrows from those clichés, only to surprise us with a trip down a most unexpected back road.  

As Farmhouse opens, we flash to a dark moment in someone’s past—a little girl, in church, receiving a rosary from a woman, maybe her mother, being told that it will protect her.  The woman leaves, as if to be gone forever, while a man approaches from behind; he could be a priest, but somehow we know he’s not.  Yes, this is a horror movie already!

As if in a different movie, we flash to Chad and Scarlet—a couple fleeing from something also unknown.  Could it be the man from the church?  Could it be something from their past; something dark, dangerous, and evil, or perhaps, worse, their own personal demons?  Who knows?  I’ll be sure not to spoil the mystery here.  However, one thing is for sure. Whenever characters in a horror movie are running from something (no matter what), you can bet your last dollar that it will catch up with them.  We feel that here, strongly, even before we know what it is.  The plot unravels, through flashbacks and mayhem, revealing threads of danger, guilt, and evil in everything and everyone.

It took me some time to know where Farmhouse was headed on the Space Jockey Rocket Meter.  At first, there was a chance that the launching of this movie missle might have been scrubbed altogether.  If Chad (William Scott) and Scarlet (Jamie Allman) were the main actors alone, Houston would have indeed had a problem.  Their acting seemed stilted and underdone in the earlier scenes.  However, once Chad and Scarlet arrive at the Farmhouse, Steven Weber and Kelly Hu save the movie with the rocket-fueled performances needed.  They nail the part of the unlikely and overly friendly couple who inhabit the Farmhouse.  Even Scott and Allman give better performances at this point, perhaps reacting to energy from Weber and Hu.  Yes, from this point forward Scott and Allman step up to the plate (or rather, the Farmhouse) and show their true acting abilities.

With all the clichés expected from this title, I was surprised that Samael (Weber) and Lilith (Hu) were as ordinary as they as they appeared.  Kelly Hu is more beautiful, coiffed, and dolled up than you’d ever expect the farmer’s wife to be in a horror film; Steven Weber is also far from the backwoods hillbilly.  This is a twist that can almost be disturbing, until you realize you’re expecting a stereotype and, instead, being fooled—or so you think!  “May the worst day from your past be the best day of your future,” although said by mistake, by Samael, reminds us again that this is a horror movie where people are not what they seem.  Instead, everyone is really more like the mistakes they make. 

Outside the Farmhouse are pleasant vineyards, green pastures, and everything to make the most wound up nerve ball feel some slack.  However, once inside, we realize that it’s anything but the picture-perfect Gothic Americana.  Yes, within this façade of the heartland is a most heartless profile of insanity.  Thanks to Kelly Hu’s talent of moving one eyeball independently of the other, we get more than the best special effects crew could do in a scene involving a meat thermometer.  Later, the line “You’re knee is ruining my grater,” is one I’ve already added to my list of favorite film quotes.  As for realism, I wasn’t sure at first if Jamie Allman (as Scarlet) was screaming enough during her torture scenes.  However, since I’ve never been tortured, I can happily say I don’t know enough to be sure.  I suppose, rather than underacting, it could just be how her character deals with it—especially when we realize who she really is!

Farmhouse gets another star from me for doing what so many horror movies don’t.  Many characters in such movies do ridiculous things that increase their chances of being a feature victim.  In most such movies, character stupidity defies even the smallest amount of common sense.  Not in Farmhouse!  There’s a great double-tapping scene that alone deserves to be seen by seen by all horror fans.  Before the second tap, Chad says,“I just want to make sure.”  That’s a line you’ll rarely hear from a would-be victim in a horror film!  In most, it’s more like, “That’s good enough!  Let’s run some more, until he really kills us next time.”

Farmhouse has more twists and turns than a carnival fun ride; however, somehow, we are never as surprised as we could be.  For better or worse, things always seem too ominous from the start to be surprising in the end.  The only exception is the very end.  The last moments of this movie hit me like a brick, far exceeding anything I expected.  This made earlier predictability more like planned success than unplanned failure.  Yes, just when you think you know the story, because you’ve seen it before, you don’t.  Some may find the end too stereotypic with its ultimate arch fiend.  I didn’t, again because I didn’t see it coming.  Even clichés can be fresh, when they aren’t expected.
Farmhouse is not a perfect movie; it’s nowhere near perfect.  If you’re looking for a Hollywood-style production, with evenly-polished acting from start to finish, look elsewhere.  If you’re looking for something that follows everything you expect in a movie called Farmhouse, look elsewhere.  If, instead, you’re looking for a good late-night horror flick that transcends its lower budget, winding up better than expected, you might give this one a chance.  This one has enough mysteries, enough unpredictability, and enough fan fodder to keep your mind working like the Devil till it’s done.

“If I weren’t who I am, I’d think you two were horrible people,” is another line from this movie that I added to my favorite movie quotes!  In the end, the banality of evil is never truer than it is in Farmhouse.  The worst of places can indeed be the most familiar places we know.  If Friedrich Nietzsche had watched Farmhouse, his famous quote might have instead been, “When you gaze long into a Farmhouse, the Farmhouse will also gaze into you.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Bad Karma Bunker or What Comes Around Haunts Around!

The Bunker is about a group of WWII German soldiers who take refuge from advancing Allied troops in a bunker haunted by their own personal demons of war.  It's an ultimate example of bad karma, with victims of war crimes coming back around to victimize their killers--hence "The dead don't pick sides."   I guess you could say that these soldiers should have just taken their chances and surrendered to the Allies!

Before I go any further, I should tell you something possibly disappointing.  There is not one undead zombie skeleton soldier, such as those in the poster above, appearing anywhere in, on, or around “The Bunker,” during the whole 88 minutes of its running time.  Yes, you heard that right!  This alone could leave The Bunker a dud on the battlefield for more than a few fellow gore hounds out there.  I’m always expecting the worst, when I see illustrated package art; it makes me think they couldn’t find a good enough scene from the movie itself.

However, even without the skeleton zombies, I still liked The Bunker.  It’s more pensive than most such movies, with far less obvious interpretations of events and meanings.  For example, I'm not sure how much is going on in the minds of a few demented soldiers and what's really happening on a true supernatural level.  However, I think the not knowing for sure and the multiple interpretive levels are part of the charm here.  Since we get a number of soldier perspectives, rather than what is always one objective view, who knows?  It could be either, both, or any way you chose to analyze it, I suppose. In any case, who cares? It's a war/horror movie, after all.   

The Bunker is surprisingly well acted, but there’s British accents abound!  Yes, you heard that right again!  The Germans are speaking with British accents!  Even the word “bloody” (while literally appropriate for movie events) is used by a German soldier as British slang!  Yes, it was distracting for a moment, but I got over it soon enough to enjoy the rest of the movie.  I do excuse movies about soldier ghosts (or whatever they are) from such movies, most of the time.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve watched an otherwise good German war movie in English. 

This movie is also not as heavy on the blood and gore as some others in the genre I've seen, such as Outpost (also reviewed here).  So, all you gore hounds out there may have to look elsewhere for that too.  As I said earlier, it’s really more of a psychological, thinking man’s war/zombie movie, if you will.  There are horribly-burned soldiers fighting to the point of unbelievable stamina, a soldier being stabbed by an unseen something or somebody, and more than one example of demonic possession (or just simple insanity).

As you might have already guessed, I am quite partial (and at times even a bit biased) towards war/horror movies.  Some will obviously consider this one total trash (or rubbish, as the British would say), so be warned in advance.  It's about how much you enjoy watching a war/horror movie, while having the freedom to draw your own insightful conclusions from multiple perspectives.  Or, maybe it's just about how much of a gore hound you are.  From here, I’ll let you decide for yourself. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012


SS Zombies!  Beware!

A veteran group of battle-hardened mercenaries are hired to lead a scientist into the remains of a World War II German bunker.  Little do they know, but the money couldn’t come close to the price they’ll pay for doing the job.  Inside the bunker are things no living human was meant to see or know, and these guys have had the bad luck of finding out.

I'm not giving you specifics about the nightmarish secrets and horrors within the bunker.  I don't want to spoil potential thrills for those who may watch this little-known gem of a terror tale.  I'll only say that the bad guys (or bad ghouls) in this movie are Nazi SS soldiers, and they’re also no less than superhuman SS zombies!  Yes, you read that right—superhuman SS zombies!  This movie has taken the SS to a new level of terror.  It's complete with secret SS super weapon experiments, creepy relic-filled bunkers, and fake, albeit realistic SS footage from the past.

Outpost is not without its flaws.  However, to me, they are very forgiveable. For one, the uniforms are not always exactly as they should be.  The Nazi zombies wear the black Allgemeine SS uniforms, although they likely shouldn't, but that's more sinister for the purposes.   For all you fans in-the-know about regulations of the period, this could be a distraction.  However, if you're like me, you won't mind at all.  Yes, after all, I'm never really bothered by technical inaccuracies in movies such as this.  We're not talking about Valkyrie here, or any such film about historical events.  This is all out war with the undead!  Creative license here, I think, is totally excusable. When it comes to war/horror movies, I'm just happy enough to even have such movies at all.     

Outpost certainly holds its own as a unique and original war/horror tale that surprisingly exceeds its lower budget.  It effectively delivers everything we want from a movie of its type.  There's plenty of blood, lots of carnage, and no shortage of courageous albeit suicidally motivated soldiers.  Gore and violence are gratuitous, just as fans would expect.  If you have a taste for this niche of war/horror, then you’ll likely love this one.  It’s just a good thing that real bullets won’t kill the already dead.  If that were the case, we'd all be missing quite a lot of fun.  Be sure to watch Outpost.  Just don't take refuge there!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Vampires with a Swedish Nazi Twist!

Frostbitten is a Swedish-made horror movie about vampires with a Nazi SS bloodline. Yes, you heard that right--Nazi SS vampires!  What a combination of the  most overdone villains in movie history, you think?  Well, wait!  This dynamic duo of darkness makes Frostbitten a refreshingly original entry in the annals of modern horror flicks. Topping off the originality is an ironic, but very effective black humor running from beginning to end.  A most sordid story of sanguine suckers, for sure!  If that's not some of the most vampiric alliteration you've ever heard, let me know!
Frostbitten is only in Swedish language, with optional English subtitles. So, if subtitles annoy you then, this one may not be for you, no matter what. If you don't mind reading the dialogue, you may find this one an entertaining and humorous gem of a lesser-known horror film.

For all you hard-core war/horror fans out there, Frostbitten just begins with a war-related scene. However, it's really quite a good one. From there, the war/SS theme runs throughout the movie and continues only as the basis for everything else.

About right now, you're probably wondering where and how the Nazi/war element weaves within this otherwise hardcore vampire yarn. Well, it begins at the very beginning. I'll just say that a group of SS soldiers are seeking shelter in a seemingly deserted, snow-covered cabin in the woods, when they find more than the Swedish army there to greet them. Inside, they fight an unwinnable battle with the undead, producing vampire lineage that survives long enough to star in the movie I'm reviewing here. An SS Officer is later the head of the clan, with all sorts of modern-day vampiric adventures. This movie is in the same vein (no pun intendend) as 30 Days of Night, dealing with a vampire party during a month-long period of natural darkness.

As I said earlier, Frostbitten has some very effective dark humor (which I love). There is a hilarious scene with a talking dog you have to see!  I won't even attempt to explain it, although it does make sense when it happens.  The acting and special effects are also quite good, keeping the movie better than it might be otherwise.

In the end, as promised, Frostbitten does circle back to the the SS soldier theme, with the heroine doing battle with the undead SS vampire fuhrer. It's all better than it sounds, believe it or not. This is one of those movies that only seems ridiculous when you're reading about it.

Trust me!  Frostbitten will take a serious bite out of most anyone who takes the time to experience it.  For some, that bite may be more enjoyable than expected.  So, expose yourself to the thrills, and get Frostbitten today!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Red Riding Hood’s Worst Nightmare!

A British platoon out for an evening of routine war games gets more than they bargained for after finding the shredded remains of a nearby special operations team.  The soldiers soon become bait for a perturbed pack of 8-foot, hungry, upright-walking lycanthropes defending their turf.  Believe me, these wolves are such monsters that no man has a chance of urinating any higher on a tree, much less defeating them in combat.  Dog Soldiers has some very unique and formidable warrior werewolves engaged in serious, modern-day canine combat. 

Why are the werewolves called “Dog Soldiers,” you may ask?  Well, if their soldier-style combat tactics aren’t enough, there’s a rather interesting subplot of a reason why, as well.  However, I’ll leave that morsel of a detail for you to discover yourself. 

There’s even an ever-so-subtle, yet oh-so-distinct undercurrent of a Red Riding Hood/Goldilocks theme.  Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s not really there, but I doubt it.  If anyone else watches this movie, let me know if you see it too.

Dog Soldiers involves human and werewolf soldier combat, with a serious use of guns, explosives, and various other military tactics, weapons, etc.  There’s lots of bullets flying, lots of things exploding, lots of blood, lots of entrails, carnage, and other varieties of violence and gore.  Blood and human remains literally gush from the opened doors of a car, in one scene.  There’s also a tug-of-war between a dog and a disemboweled soldier that’s really better seen than described.  I’d actually rather die than receive some of the first-aid administered in this movie. 

Yes, Dog Soldiers, I think, very deeply sinks its teeth, so to speak, into the theme of War/Horror, doing so in a most unique and frightfully original way.  Watch it at your own risk, and, by all means, avoid a full moon if you do!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Horror in the Eyes of the Beholder

Five Across the Eyes is a truly horrible movie.  However, before you interpret that, stop and think.  Shouldn’t all good horror movies be horrible?  Well, Five Across the Eyes is indeed truly horrible in just about every way.  As I watched the movie, I wanted to dislike it, but somehow I couldn’t.  Somehow, I liked it anyway, despite its flaws, its sometimes annoying dialogue, its frequent sub-par acting, and other nauseating, stomach-churning acts of depravity.

What’s it about?  It’s simple.  A group of teenage girls are out, at night, driving on a remote Tennessee road called “_________.”  Yes!  That’s right.  I removed the name of the road.  I decided that it gives too much away.  In an earlier draft of this review, I had also explained the meaning of this movie’s bizarre title, Five Across the Eyes.  However, on second thought, I remembered how much mystery and allure there is in a good title.  So, I removed that too.  I remembered how we sometimes watch movies mostly to see what the title means.  This title, for sure, gets my highest score for one that sucks you in!  

Anyway, back to the teenage girls, they become hopelessly lost on that road in the middle of nowhere.  But wait!  That’s just the start of the horror to come…of course.  There are car chases and car chases (yes, I repeated that on purpose), lots of screaming, yelling, cursing, vomiting, and violence (violence which may not be gratuitous, under the circumstances), and overkill unlike overkill you’ve seen before (I guarantee it!).  Truly appreciating this movie requires watching it till the end; trust me on that!  Here, the climax of revenge is what we always wish for in such movies but rarely see.  The ending is odd, sick, well earned by the victim, and the most common-sense way to solve the problem.  (You’ll see what I mean.)  Yes, rarely do we see such morbid intelligence in a movie of this kind.  Compared to the typical dumb victims in most horror films, the girls in this movie are geniuses.  No, I’m not telling you the ending, but I’m almost feeling guilty making you more curious to see it.  I should probably tell you everything to make you NOT want to see it.

The film is certainly as low budget as low budget gets, but that’s the charm here.  The acting is bad at times, but the actors have the excuse of likely never having acted before.  The dialogue is sometimes bad, but likely no worse than what real people (in this case, teenagers) really say when they’re out driving, at night, lost, in the middle of nowhere.  The film is dark and grainy, sometimes making it difficult to know what’s going on, even when the camera is on it; however, as the viewer, we get the feeling that we’re lucky to be seeing it at all.  The camerawork is a shaky mess of ultra-realistic, real-time action that could arguably be called more coincidence than planning, but again, that’s the charm.  With such frenetic movement (car chases and running on foot), the viewer becomes as nauseated as the victims in the movie.  It’s what we see and don’t see, sometimes by chance, through the lens of a handheld camera that, again, gives this movie its charm.  Yes, the charm is often in what we don’t see but nonetheless know and see too well if not better in our own minds.  (The scene with the toolbox dental job comes to mind here quite vividly; I actually felt my teeth ache watching it!)  As the voyeur in this movie, we are treated to more or less, for better or worse.  One often wants to see more of what one shouldn’t see, sometimes forced to settle for ample off-screen screams and groans, while other times seeing what is arguably too much.  Yes, this is all nonetheless “horrible,” as again, maybe good horror films should be.  Just to know what is happening should be enough; however, we often feel not just bad for watching it, but even worse to want a front row seat.  Yes, this movie actually makes horror fans feel bad about being horror fans.  Imagine that!

Considering the simple plot, carried mainly by realism, realism, and more realism, any such movie polished by Hollywood could not have sustained itself beyond the first few minutes.  Hollywood would have made it look too well-planned and ineffective for its ultimately base and brutal purposes.  Yes, this movie has but one purpose—to be brutally horrible, for the pure and simple sake of being brutal and horrible.  There are no redeeming moments; there is nothing to be learned; there is nothing to make any normal person feel good about having watched it.  It is purely and simply a vile and disgusting film.  However, a “vile and disgusting” horror film may not be as bad as it sounds.

If you watch Five Across the Eyes, it's easy to cricicize it too much, simply because its so low budget, rather than just for its vile and disgusting intensity. It was obviously made for next to nothing. I corrected my own initial lower score, remembering this and how it all really makes the movie better, for what it is, anyway. With more money, there's no telling what directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen could have done. Lots of people do a lot less with a lot more money.

I suspect that most people will not like Five Across the Eyes, no matter what.  Most people will not admit that they like it, even if they do.  Surely, some will even curse me later for giving them enough curiosity to watch it at all, to spend even a moment considering it, even a pittance of money renting it, let alone buying it.  So, if you do watch this movie, don’t say I didn’t warn you of more than a few things that could make you wish you hadn’t.   Yes, somehow, I liked Five Across the Eyes, despite the fact that it’s a horrible movie about horrible things that people probably shouldn’t be watching anyway.  However again, I suppose that the best horror movies should actually be as horrible as this one, if not worse.   

Five Across the Eyes is a true feast only for the most devoted horror junkies--those unconcerned about the little things that make a movie less than perfect, less than Hollywood, and perhaps, more refreshingly, far from typical.  If you are one of the uncommon fans who fall into this niche, then sit back and enjoy (with guilty pleasure aplenty) this movie that goes off the beaten path, literally and figuratively, into places you may never want to go again.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Yes, There Will Be Blood!

This movie is so graphic in so many ways that I had to edit my original review in order to make it decent for the general public.  So, if, after reading my review, you think this movie’s extreme, then multiply your expectations by about ten to be prepared for it.  

In the not-too-distant-future, “engineers” and their genetically-altered spawn are able to generate mutated bio-weapon appendages from their wounds.  The Tokyo police have become privatized for “the good of society,” as their motto goes, and specifically to eliminate the “engineers” and their bio-engineered spawn.  Claiming to be a better, more effective instrument for civil control, the Tokyo Police Corporation, as it’s called, also ironically carries out summary executions of anyone, for the largest to the smallest of crimes.  This is all done in the name of justice, efficiency, and eliminating “engineers.”  In one scene, for example, a man’s hands are cut off for copping a feel on a crowded subway.  In another scene, a call-girl madam is dismembered and impaled, through the mouth, with the wooden handle of a garden tool.  Does retribution really get much better than that?  I doubt it. 

Oh, yes!  There’s also the main character Ruku played by the gorgeous Eihi Shiina!  (What would a movie like this be without such a babe?)  She’s a crack, bad-girl engineer-hunter, motivated for revenge, after seeing her father killed by an engineer, as a child.  Ruku is serious eye candy, gracefully kicking butt in all her perils, and always looking good enough to turn heads on or off a body.  She even looks good with half her face blown off, a mutated eye, and a claw-like, genetically-altered arm appendage!  Yes, trust me, this woman cannot look bad! 

As with most unchecked forms of government, corruption is the result, and this movie has just that as part of its message.  Beyond that, there’s not much else mental about it.  However, that’s not a bad thing here at all.  Anyone who watches a movie titled Tokyo Gore Police wants one thing for sure—gore, gore, and more gore!  Well, this movie will certainly NOT disappoint in that area.  As the title implies, there is, indeed, gore aplenty.  From the first seconds of the movie, the viewer is soaked in scenes of blood, carnage, and gratuitous violence.  The first scene of the movie involving an “engineer” with a chainsaw sets an over-the-top tone from the start.  This scene will have you ducking and dodging, or looking for your raincoat, even as a viewer. 

The violence and gore in this movie are excessive throughout.  There are numerous decapitations, dissections, dismemberments, disembowelments, and heads split in half.  In every scene, blood sprays from wounds like water from a hose, for periods far longer than anything remotely possible.  Yes, this movie is far from realistic, but no less effective as a result.  The excessive blood, violence, and gore, along with over-the-top personalities and plots, give this movie more of a live-action comic book look.  Ironically, the pulp effects also help to tone the movie down to some arguably reasonable level.  Anything more realistic in a movie this gory would be impossible to market as entertainment, by any stretch. 

Of course, there is the inevitable and necessary heroine/villain showdown in this movie.  No other end could make it complete or worthy of viewing after a point, anyway.  The bad guy and the good gal go at it to the bitter end with results I won't spoil here.  However, as I said, the good gal Ruku still looks good anyway.  So, who cares?   

Again, this movie is clearly NOT for everyone.  It does, however, satisfy a serious gore fan’s niche for the more extreme in violent, over-the-top cinema.  If you’re one of the lucky lover’s of copious carnage and blood, then, by all means, dial 911 for the Tokyo Gore Police today!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Scarce is the story of three guys, traveling across country, who get lost and wind up in hillbilly hell.  You might already be saying, “Okay, I’ve seen this before.”  But wait!  This one actually has some qualities (if you can call them that) that make it stand out and take a respectable place on the must-see list of such movies.   While the title may indeed be scarce, it is certainly one to seek out.

Scarce gets off to a good start with a naked man drenched in blood, running frantically through the woods, attempting to escape something or someone unknown. From there, the movie switches to a party scene, loaded with goofy dialogue and behavior that insults even the most brainless party goers. There, the fast women are too fast, and the libido-loaded men are oddly too slow. Sex and nudity are there just for the sake of being there, and fan service is the likely goal. Judging from the credits, the director knows what he’s doing here and intends every bit of it. Some characters from the party are even named “Gratuitous _______ #1 and #2” in the credits. I’ll leave it for you to discover what goes in the blank.
After the brainless party scene, the movie speeds up again and makes up for the slow time earlier.  It’s as if the viewer is suddenly watching a different movie.  The tone becomes more serious, and the actors even seem to act better, or at least more “professional”.   Yes, after the party, it’s full speed to the slaughter!  No, I wouldn’t normally say that, but in a movie like this, we all know where it’s going anyway.
The performance of Steve Warren (who plays Ivan) is what really makes this movie stand out.  From his first appearance, smiling proudly with rotten teeth, we know we’re in for a treat.  This guy is creepy, even when he’s trying to be “normal”.  I’m not sure if it’s bad acting that coincidentally works for this character, or if Warren does it all with the calculated finesse of a seasoned professional.  In any case, he nails the part from the start.  This guy is a true caricature of a rotten-toothed, down-home hillbilly, naïve only in outward appearances.  He has the stereotypic behind-your-back stare of a killer down to an art, as well as the fuax-normal behavior you’d expect from a backwoods deviant up to no good.  Yes, this guy personifies a sense of dread about what’s coming, from the moment he shows up.  From there, it’s hard for audiences of this film to be disappointed.
Refreshingly, after the opening party scene, there are no more people doing anything particularly dumb.  The deviants do what deviants do, and the party-going guys do what all party-going guys do when they get caught by deviants.  They start acting like they have some sense, or at least develop a maturity about trying to escape and avoid death.   (Yes, it’s amazing what a little selfish drive to survive will do to even the most witless of party fiends.)   As a matter of fact, the later realism is an effective, ironic contrast to the moronic behavior earlier.  It somehow makes the movie seem even more real, for better or worse.  For example, while the victims are running for extended time through actual snow, they are also actually barefoot and half-dressed, falling in the snow, and surely also as cold as they look.   The viewer can nearly feel the pain in such scenes.  Yes, I actually felt cold just watching it! 
As for ironic contrasts that increase impact, there are also the dry but obvious doses of dark humor throughout.  For example, Ivan’s line about the ultimate fate of his victims (repeated just before the credits role) is an example of the darkest of cult-film dialogue.  This line alone is likely to live on for some time in the minds of most viewers.  I won’t repeat it here for more than a few good reasons.
As for the expected blood and gore, there is more than plenty.  Yes, the gore is even gratuitous here, in as much as it can be gratuitous in such a movie.   There is cannibalism, as well as graphic depictions of what cannibals do to prepare a meal.  We don’t just hear the cleaver chop; we also see what it chops.  Yes, the scenes linger on the gore, letting the viewers soak it in, whether they want to or not.  There are also various acts of deviance that I won’t go into here for reasons of decency as much as for avoiding spoilers.  I’ll let you discover those for yourself. 
Scarce is unsettling too many times to count, but, of course, that’s how such movies are supposed to be.  Without being unsettling, deviant, and gory, what value would there be?  Without all that, it would be just another movie about a bunch of rotten-toothed deviants who sit around and just think about being rotten-toothed and deviant.  Or, perhaps I should say that it would be the only such movie.  I say seek out this “scarce” gem of a movie!  If you’re like me, you’ll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Better Than Your Worst Nightmare!

I have read reviews that praise Laid to Rest as one of the best movies of its kind, while I have also read those that condemn it as one of the worst.  Ultimately, with this movie most especially, it’s all about what exactly one expects from a slasher film.  If it’s an information-rich plot that explains who the killer is, why he’s killing and/or specifically why he kills who he kills, you will be sorely disappointed.  Otherwise, I think you will be most highly pleased, as I was.

Laid to Rest, quite honestly, has some of the most brutal and graphic kill scenes I’ve ever seen in a slasher film.  What’s more is that these kill scenes are given more on-screen time for the viewer than those in most any other I’ve seen.  The camera never cuts away too soon, and, for better or worse, little is left to the imagination.  For example, when a certain victim gets a knife through the head, the viewer sees a most uncommon amount of detail.  When the knife is finally pulled out of the impaled head, the victim appears to be truly real, with bloodying eyes twitching, and skin on the head pulling and stretching, as the knife is removed.  To be honest, I’m not even sure how they did it.  Yes, one can quickly tell that director Robert Hall loves the genre with a passion, since he goes all out to satisfy his fellow fans.  Such exceptional gratuitous detail is dished out more than once in Laid to Rest, as each victim is eliminated by Chrome Skull—the stylishly-masked psycho slasher.  In other scenes a victim’s head is filled with air, through his ear, via a tire flat-fixer, a woman’s head is sawed off, and a man’s face is literally chopped off of his head.  Don’t worry.  I won’t spoil everything.  I’ll leave the excessive details for you to witness yourself.  

Speaking of Chrome Skull, here is a killer that is as original, vicious, brutal, and scary as he is lacking in personality and/or background.  This villain literally comes from nowhere and kills everyone he kills for no particular reason that is ever explained.  Chrome Skull has no context.  There is not even a hint of who he is and why he does what he does.  From the film’s very beginning, a woman wakes up in a casket, escapes, and quickly finds that she is being pursued by someone trying to kill her.  From that point, everyone with which the woman comes in contact is either killed or meant to be killed by the villain.  The viewer never knows why anything is happening, and never has as much as a single clue to make an inference.

Yes, this lack of context is one of the main criticisms I've read about in many other reviews.  However, in all truth, exactly how much of a difference does context ever make in such movies anyway?  So what!  If anything, we get the clichéd, dicey background about some vengeful social misfit who vents his rage on those who arguably deserve it and/or society in general.  Yes, is it ever that much different, and how much of a difference does it ever really make?  Is that really why we watch such movies anyway?  Of course not!  In reality, we mostly watch slasher films for the very things that Laid to Rest concisely and copiously delivers—blood, guts, gratuitous gore, and killings galore!  No pedigreed gorehound can walk away from this one without at least being satisfied on that level.  If you want more, maybe you’re looking for something different anyway.  Maybe wanting more and watching Laid to Rest is like watching a movie you know you won’t like, just wanting to gripe about something.  Well, from this point forward, let it be known that you have been warned about what exactly this movie is.  From this point on, if you watch it anyway, spending your time and money on it anyway, then maybe it’s really you who should be criticized.

Laid to Rest is much like a bad dream, if that’s not exactly what it is meant to be.  The setting is almost surreal at times, the inhabitants don’t always act as they should, and reality is not always what it should be.  No, the movie doesn’t make total sense, it doesn’t answer enough of our questions, the logic is not always what we want, and even clues are nonexistent.  However again, like a bad dream, it is sufficient to accomplish the goal it pursues.  It delivers, very concisely and thoroughly, one very effective nightmare of a movie. 

Monday, January 16, 2012


After reading reviews of Eden Log, and after seeing the movie myself, I agree that you either love it or hate it.  There is little room for a middle of the road reaction to this one.  As with so many others, it’s all about what you expect and appreciate from movies that break the mold of formula and predictability.  Science fiction, after all, should be held to some of the highest standards for mold breaking, since it has so much room to do so.  New worlds, new life forms, and new rules can be composted with the stroke of a pen (or the tap of a keyboard), and "ringing true" is not on the rubric for judgement.

I tend to be more in love with Eden Log for its uniqueness above all else.  In a world where everything has already been done, making the newest of movies a clichéd rehash of something seen before, this movie goes all out to avoid those pitfalls, becoming something refreshingly new.  Of course, the inescapable and limited themes (man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself, etc.) are there, but that’s where the familiarities end.

I must stress, however, that creating something avant gard (as this movie is) also involves a large amount of courage to create what can largely be disliked.  The director and writer of this movie, Franck Vestiel, had some serious courage, for sure.  Eden Log is incoherent much of the time, defying most attempts to make any sense of the plot through the better part of its running time.  However, any astute viewer will quickly realize that this movie is confusing by intention rather than by chance or failure.  The same viewer will also likely appreciate this as well.  Of course, I’m not suggesting that a movie can be good merely because it is confusing.  There is, I think, in this movie, order and meaning to be discovered, with enough patience and thought, within all the chaos and confusion.  Yes, from the very beginning, the viewer is offered a most unique puzzle to be solved.

The viewer is introduced to the main character in the pulsing bright light of an otherwise pitch-black cavern.  As for where this dark place is, no one can possibly know.  Even whether it’s on earth or elsewhere is not to be known.  As we watch the man emerge sluggishly from the mud and muck, we are, with flashing lights and confusion, about as disoriented as he is himself.  From there, the man attempts to learn who he is, just as we do, clumsily and often incorrectly connecting piecemeal clues found here and there.  Yes, this movie puts the viewer in the first person position, with virtually no objective views of anything.  All we see, hear, and experience are as subjective as that experienced by the main character.  He is pursued by mutant creatures of unknown origin, through endless passageways that mostly lead nowhere of importance.  Of course, I won’t go on with anything more; I wouldn’t want to spoil the charm of this movie for all those who may choose to see it.  Certainly that is the way this movie is best-watched anyway—without a single clue revealed by another viewer.  The not-knowing is what makes this movie so truly unique and effective.  Of course, some of the best movies leave much meaning to the mind of the viewer, instead of revealing everything there is to think and know.  Eden Log indeed plants many unique ideas in the mind of every individual who sees it. 

Eden Log could have been another monument to mediocrity, easily forgotten and lost amongst everything else of its kind.  It could have played it safe and been like a million other movies getting, at least consistently, more so-so reviews.  Instead, it dares to be different and transcends the muck. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The Essence of 50s Sci-Fi!

Let's face "It," you either love 50's sci-fi, or you don't!  If you are one of the lucky who love it, then this is, unquestionably, one you'll want to see.  It has everything a 50's sci-fi lover loves: painted outer space backdrops, a rubber-suit monster, subservient female astronauts, and a classic missle-shaped rocketship with a sparkler propulsion system. Yes, it's classic 50's sci-fi, and this is the essence of It's charm. It has all the standard nostalgia that the lover's of its kind have grown to expect and endear.

This is the type of movie that should be forgiven for the limitations of its time and appreciated for its story--a story which is actually, on its own, exceptionally good for any time. Yes, any lover of the genre will appreciate It's originality--the fact that never before had a monster been brought back from an alien planet on a ship. Never before had a monster on a ship picked-off astronauts one by one, as it slipped through air ducts. Yes, this reminds me of another of my all-time favorite films from another time and place. "It" also reminds me that great special effects are only a small part of what makes a movie a classic. So, sit back, turn out the lights, forget what the year is and where you are, and enjoy It!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

PROMETHEUS: Thinking Back and Ahead

I will never forget seeing, for the first time, the Space Jockey, in his alien cockpit, fossilized on the big screen.  Since then, back in 1979, I have, with each repeated viewing of the movie Alien, only imagined the mysteries behind this surreal specimen, preserved and painted permanently in my mind.  Giger's work of art, his ancient alien, had come to life, even in its death, with a past I wanted to know.  Who was the Space Jockey? How did he come to be where he was?  What was he doing?  Where did he come from, and where was he going?  Even though he was really but a prop, likely discarded or destroyed long ago, I wanted to know, as if he was still arrested for all times, on that alien planet, in that cavernous shell of his derelict ship.

I have always hoped that, someday, the Space Jockey's story would be told in a way that the most dedicated fans would hope for and appreciate.  Yes, I would have also said, as if asking too much, that I want it to be done by a director who knows the origins and continues the story with a passion that gets it right.  Well, as I'm sure everyone knows by now, that story is being told, finally, by none other than Alien's original director, Ridley Scott. 

So far, I've been lucky enough to get most of what I always wanted--an Alien prequel done by the right director!  All that's left (and it's a lot) is for this story to be something I can happily add to the the narrative I so love in the original.  Yes, I have high hopes that Prometheus will be the movie that was meant to be, with a story that could never be anything more than what is finally told.  The mystery was great; now, I'm hoping the truth is even better.

Of course, I'm a realist as much as I too consider myself a surrealist. So, I know there is the possibility that Prometheus may not be what my mind expects. That is the danger in liking the first movie too much; that is the danger in writing the story in my own mind first. That is the consequence of having 33 years to think about it.

Yes, I have heard the rumors about the Space Jockey (as we have seen him) being the exterior of a biomechanical space suit! I have heard rumors that that he (or she, or it) is an ancestor of humans, an "engineering" god of the universe, and so on. I have also heard that all of what I have heard is but a rumor started by Ridley Scott himself, only to surprise us all the more in the theater. Who knows if any of it’s true, but it sure gets the atomic wheels of my interstellar mind spinning all the faster.

Yes, expectations are indeed the darndest things! Coping with them can be a real pain in the brain! In the meantime, I'll just be happy that there is a prequel at all. It's at least consoling to know, finally, that, in space, someone can hear you scream.

If you're interested in taking a peek at the future, here's the trailer: