Movie review : The Seasoning House (2012)

933911_10151443621741344_1309589823_n Set in the midst of a brutal war in the Balkans in 1996, The Seasoning House is a film dripping with atmosphere. From the opening scenes set to the sounds of one girl weeping as another crawls through an air vent, we are forced to vicariously take part in the secret goings-on of a horrible place.

Seasoning_House-posterThe Seasoning House an old rickety place, filled with the spoils of war. Meaning a recurring supply of kidnapped young ladies who are forced to pleasure the weary soldiers who have most likely murdered their entire families.
“What ever life you knew is gone,” the girls are told as they arrive, and it proves to be sadly true.
Our main character is “Angel” a young birth-marked deaf-mute girl who somehow gets taken under the wing of the otherwise sadistic owner of the house, Viktor.
In order to keep herself under the radar of the housemaster and his lecherous guests, Angel scurries around through the walls, and performs the dirty jobs of shooting up the other girl’s with heroin and smearing their faces with makeup.

The-Seasoning-House1The first half is an unflinching look at the inner workings of this shameful rape house, and does the job of making the audience squirm. Angel does what she must to survive, as do the victimized women, but the monsters are real and they are horrible.
The atmosphere of filth and dread is almost unbearable.

Angel makes a connection with one of the girls, who happens to know sign language. Through flashbacks we see Angel’s abusive relationship with her own father, and her family torn apart for sport.

The-Seasoning-House-2-DIWhen her mother’s killer shows up at the House with a patrol of men on a break, Angel makes her move to try and save her friend and escape the House. It is a bloody turning point about halfway through the film. From then on we thankfully don’t witness any more rapey stuff, but the film follows Angel’s escape, which plays out something like “People Under The Stairs vs. The Military”. I mean that in a good way.

It is a complete tonal shift from the first half, as the resourceful young girl makes a sport of these militarized heathens. She is wonderful in the role, agile and smart and I found myself rooting for her escape whole-heartedly.

the-seasoning-houseThe film as a whole may be uneven, and the rapy-er parts might turn some viewers off, but all in all I found The Seasoning House to be an interesting and well-told tale.
Find it on DVD here, or catch it on Netflix Streaming!
Recommended.
Grade : B




Doomsday is coming. What are you going to wear?


Movie Review : Contracted (2013)

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Contracted is definitely not a film for the squeamish.
Telling the slow burn story of Samantha, a young lady in modern Los Angeles with dreams of making it big, it is clear from the very beginning that it will not end well for her.

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After a drunken one night stand with a mysterious stranger, she begins to notice severe changes, many of which are ripped directly from our nightmares (and the films of David Cronenberg).
Samantha’s life is falling apart as her body deteriorates, and she does nothing but try to hide her degeneration from her friends and family.
Affected by what is essentially a sexually-transmitted version of a “zombie virus”, Samantha falls apart mentally and physically, with all of the grossest effects you can think of.

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Unfortunately, aside from Samantha, the supporting characters are fairly empty, including her “best friend” Alice, her experimental lesbian stereotype lover Nikki, and her obsessed stalker/suitor, Riley. Although this could be intentionally to satirize the vacuousness of the hip young L.A. crowd, it really hampers the believability of the characters and their motivations in the final chapters of the film.

What is effective is Samantha’s growing desperation as her body fights against her.
Her metamorphosis is the star of the movie, and the make up effects are well done, as she rots away and maggots fall from her girl parts.

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In a market buried in zombie releases, at least this film tries to give us a unique spin on it, and the paranoia and desperation of the main character’s degeneration is the thing that sticks with me most, more than a week after seeing the film.

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Although it veers from believability toward the end when Samantha begins to succumb to her primal zombie urges, the overall effect is a horrifying commentary on the choices we make and how they may come back to bite us in the end.

Grade : B
Recommended.

This film is now playing in select theaters, and available On Demand from several different options, including Amazon Streaming.
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Doomsday is coming. What are you going to wear?


Movie review — Would You Rather (2012)

933911_10151443621741344_1309589823_nAfter passing it up for a while now, I finally caught Would You Rather late last night.
The trailer looked interesting, and it does have Jeffrey Combs in a starring role as a sadistic philanthropist. Worth a shot, right?
So I went in, not really expecting much, but it turned out that I loved this mean-spirited subversion of the “torture porn” trend turning up in many current horror films.

would_you_rather_ver3_xlgThe story opens as Brittany Snow’s character Iris is job-hunting and struggling with bills and her very ill younger brother. After an unsuccessful interview, her mounting desperation leads her to accept an offer to join a dinner party from a mysterious benefactor (Combs), at the urging of her trusted doctor.
The subtlety of the film is striking, (and continues throughout, even as things get grislier) as Iris’ situation is painted in broad strokes, but it works very well. We don’t need to know everything about her (or the other characters, which are outlined just as loosely later), we only need to know she is a good-hearted person in need.
As the odd dinner party commences, Combs steals the show with his shifting mixture of forceful menace and feigned tenderness. His role as the generous father figure with a dark side is hypnotic to watch.

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I loved the minimalist style of the whole movie, which sounds odd given Jeffrey Combs’ over-the-top performance, but he injects a lot to his character in the quieter moments. He is clearly having such a good time that one can’t help resist feeling a certain amount of complicity with his sadistic game.

The game starts off simply enough, as the host treats Iris and a group of seven other guests to a lavish dinner spread. The first hint of things not being what they seem occurs as Combs amuses himself by tempting vegetarian Iris to eat her meat for $10,000 which she agrees to. He ups the stakes, and his gleeful sadism, when he offers another guest who is a recovering alcoholic the sum of $50,000 to drink an entire decanter of Scotch.

would-you-rather-2His point is that everyone has a price, and desperation can drive people to do things that they claim to be unable to. Any one is capable of any thing, and Combs’ character knows this. He continues to exploit it throughout the rest of the film, as the game gets progressively meaner and bloodier, and the other players get “eliminated”.

The film is mostly set in a single fancy dining room, creating a claustrophobic quality that makes the audience feel as helplessly trapped as its characters. The scenario escalates with each round of the game, and there are little to no hysterical outbursts, another thing that I appreciated about the story. Each character has their own reasons for being there, and they tend to react (mostly) reasonably given their predicament.

wyr5Obviously, there can only be one winner of the game, and the last scenes ratchet up the tension until it all ends with Combs giddily driving his point home. The final scene is one of the cruelest punchlines of an ending since Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Mist.

I very much enjoyed this harsh low-budget game of chance, and I honestly am not a fan of most torture porn flicks. Jeffrey Combs has another memorable role to add to his already impressive resume, and director David Guy Levy is now on my radar for people to watch out for in the future. This one actually had a point (albeit a mean-spirited one) and was a well-done and effective watching experience, including one sequence that actually made this hardened gore geek squirm and look away!

Recommended!
Grade : B+

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Gallow Walkers 2012

Gallowwalkers_ss_r7My mother and I have this tradition, it’s called Friday Night Movies. Being the lucky daughter that I am, my mama has a thirst for horror flicks. My father and I also have our own movie tradition, except we watch Westerns instead of Horror flicks. I can honestly say, no one that I know was more excited than I was to see Gallow Walkers come to RedBox. Blade was one of my favorite Marvel characters growing up and seeing Wesley Snipes adapt his character on the big screen left me giddy with excitement. Besides, he even had the pleasure of working with Norman Reedus in Blade 2. I digress. So here we have Wesley Snipes, who originally started filming for the role in 2006 before he was arrested for tax fraud. He returns to the role, fresh outta the joint and back in one of his most beloved characters. Vampire Hunter. Even better yet? A vampire hunter set on a mother frenchin’ Western backdrop. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. Finally something both my parents would agree on.

So let us begin with “Gallow Walkers (2012).”

The story begins with a sweeping view of the desolate, western mountains. Wesley Snipes narrates as he tells the story about a secret sisterhood of nuns that guard the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. Later in the movie it is revealed that Aman (Snipes), was the son of a nun who was forced to give him up after joining the convent. Or as he narrates- the gateway to hell is no place to raise a child.

snipesvestThe opening scene narrows on a young, impossibly blonde child as he works his way through a slaughterhouse/farm home carrying buckets of blood. Off in the distance there’s a lone rider. Snipes wearing a fabulous maroon vest and boasting some impressive dreadlocks, that approaches dragging a grotesque, red-headed corpse. The scene cuts to a mysterious older woman who, using a mighty large ax, decapitates the body. Wonderful opening that sets the scene for a great movie.

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It doesn’t stop there. There’s a scene where Snipes rips the head (with the spinal cord still attached) straight off of a poor guy’s shoulders, blasts people away with perfectly placed shots- it’s just amazing.

Wesley Snipes stars as a lone gunman Aman whose victims have returned from the dead, leaving him to hunt them for a second time. As the movie progresses, we meet the gorgeous Riley Smith (Fabulos) who is in a predicament with a curvaceous prostitute with exceedingly bad luck played by Tanit Phoenix (Angel). These two, along with other arrestees are tied up and awaiting transit to the gallows, which means it’s a perfect opportunity to showcase some good ol’ western gunslinging skills. From a mile away atop of a rock with his pistol, Aman shoots down the lawmen, Fabulos takes cover and only by pure intuition holds up his shackles as a target- Aman blows them apart. Seeing his chance to escape, Fabulos jumps on a horse and races to catch up with his mysterious savior while poor Angel is left with a pouty face and sigh saying “What’s a girl gotta do to get rescued around here?”

FabulosFabulous catches up with Aman, and being the vague and mysterious gunman of the west, he offers no explanation other than the offer of a job. Brought to an undisclosed house in the middle of nowhere, Fabulos is tricked and falls through a trap door where he encounters- for the first time, Gallow Walkers. Aman is tests Fabulos’ skill with the gun, and the handsome young rider clearly passes. Slowly it is revealed why Aman needs his help.

Spoilers incoming!

We all know Wesley Snipes can act, but there is a monologue where he reveals a story about a boy who was given up by a mother and adopted by a woman who ran a slaughterhouse. For those who want to roll their eyes at this scene at how cheesy it sounds, it is done this way on purpose- I assure you.

GallowWalker Production StillContinuing on with the story. The young woman also had a daughter. As with all good westerns, this is a story about love. The Boy was Aman, and the daughter, her name was Sueno (played by Alyssa Pridham). The tale takes a tragic twist when the boy- now a young man leaves with his adopted mother to sell the meat from their latest butcher. While he was away, the antagonist, Kansa (Kevin Howarth) along with his gang of outlaws and his son come upon the house. Kansa forces his son (barely a man) to rape Sueno. During this scene, we see flashes of the red-headed decapitatee from the beginning, and several other familiar faces that Aman has been cleaning up and killing thus far.

gallowwalkers-evil-womanKansa and his gang of vampire/zombie/undead whathaveyou’s have a problem with keeping the skin on their flesh. So much to our delight, there are vivid scenes of victims being skinned for their…well, skin as Kansa wanders in search of the sisterhood in order to resurrect his son. For reasons unbeknownst to him, while all of the others in his gang came back from the dead, his son was left as a corpse. He wants answers, and he’ll stop at nothing to get them. Unless Snipes has something to do with it of course.

I won’t give the rest of the film away, but I’ve seen some pretty harsh reviews out for Gallow Walkers and I had to intercede. Those reviews were written with the expectation that it was supposed to be a straight up horror/thriller. I was shocked, much the same when I saw awful reviews about Cabin in the Woods 2012. The people who wrote those reviews didn’t understand what type of films like these were supposed to be.

1716544440The movie should not be viewed by the horror fan with the expectation of something dreadfully scary and shocking. It plays as more of a dark comedy feeding off of a playful western stereotype, with plenty of blood and guts for the gore lovers. The special effects makeup in this film was phenomenal, undoubtedly due to the skills of Brian Hillard from Tatopoulos Studios and Paul Hyett on as part of the crew. It is meant to be cheesy, it’s meant to seem over the top. You’re supposed to laugh at it, roll your eyes and go “unfreakin’believable,” and as far as the story goes I thought it was well written and enjoyable to watch.

I give this film an A.

It was awesome, go watch it, it’s currently out at RedBox, it’s only a $1.29, it won’t kill you. :]

Watch the Trailer here!

 

Doomsday is coming. What are you going to wear?


Insidious 2 (2013)

insidious11192012Growing up, I’ve always been somewhat of a horror snob. I’ve retained an old school mentality “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to” attitude when it comes to horror movies. So it’s always a shock when I see a newer horror movie that legitimately gives me the goddamn creeps. Insidious (2010) did that for me. With movie mediums like Redbox, HBO, Vudu and the like, I rarely purchase movies anymore- Insidious made the cut and has a prominent place on my shelf. It had all my favorite elements: dark, creepy, jump scares with an amazing score that just sent chills up my spine. I haven’t been scared by a horror movie in a long time, but Insidious left me saying “what the f@!$” more than once, so I was excited when I heard the news Insidious 2 was coming out this year.

With that being said, I waited a couple weeks to go see it to get opinions from people who had seen it and to avoid the box office rush (It grossed 41.1 million opening weekend) of tweens that would scream at every little scare and trash my movie going experience and I was quite shocked at the reaction. What I deduced from friends and acquaintances was that you either really love this movie or you absolutely hate it. I haven’t met one person who was in between. It breaks down to whether or not you got what James Wan (story writer) was trying to portray. So without further adieu, onto the review for Insidious 2 (2013). The below will contain minor spoilers, don’t worry I’ll warn you when we get to the major ones!

The story follows the protagonists and returning actors Patrick Wilson (Josh), Rose Byrne (Renai), Ty Simpkins (Dalton) and Barbara Hershey (Lorraine). The cliff hanging climax of Insidious left us with the impression that the mysterious woman in Black has possessed Josh’s body and murdered Elise, played by Lin Shaye and the days following the incident.

0The movie opens with a flashback to when Josh was a child and the first time he meets Elise and it is discovered he can use astral projection to travel into the further. A young Elise (Lindsay Seim) wanders the home in search of the entity that is haunting Josh, after reviewing pictures that shows the mysterious woman in black- later dubbed the Bride in Black. She finds the evil spirit in Josh’s closet and Elise investigates after Josh insists Elise should leave- and of course, the spirit injures her. The scene progresses to where Josh stands in a hypnotic states and says “I’ll show you” wanders into a hallway, points at a door and it opens by itself- causing Elise and Lorraine to make the decision to wipe his memory of his ability to astral project.

Now we flash forward to current day. Renai is in the police station and the investigators are suspicious of Josh’s involvement in Elise’s death. It is clear Renai is doubting Josh, but wants to desperately believe that he is not capable of murder. The family has moved back into Josh’s childhood home with Lorraine during the investigation. The movie is a bit of a slow starter, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as we get to see Patrick Wilson make his slow descent into madness- which he does tastefully well by the way. The first one to spot a spirit is Lorraine, and naturally she confronts her son Josh- who insists that all of the evil was left behind them when he came home from the further and to drop the subject.

This is where things start to get weird. Lorraine goes into Dalton’s bedroom to check on him, and in an ominous tone that only Ty Simpkins seems to achieve informs Lorraine that “there’s someone standing behind her” while he’s dead asleep. This is where we start to see “The woman in white” quite frequently throughout the film. Renai gets the brunt of the hauntings. She is plagued by the annoying sounds of a chiming musical baby stroller going off on its, the piano playing the song she wrote for Josh in the first movie, and other various creepy happenings. The woman in white seems to love tormenting poor Renai for some unexplained reason. The apparition even goes as far as smacking the living daylights out of Renai and knocking her unconscious. What I did notice is the lack of the serious tone the first movie had. There are still jump scares that make your heart skip a beat every now and again, but it doesn’t leave you with the same creeped out feeling it’s predecessor did.

Moving onto some major spoilers as the story progresses…

insidious-chapter-2-headerDalton later informs his mother that, during the dream sequence where he warned Lorraine about the woman in white, he woke himself up and heard Josh talking to someone that wasn’t there and asks “is something wrong with daddy?” This is where things start to get interesting and where the film really captivated my interest. By now, it’s pretty apparent that it wasn’t Josh’s spirit that made it back from the further but the Bride in Black. Josh starts getting pale, losing teeth and he slams his fists down in frustration pleading “no, not yet!” Then there’s the mysterious womanly voice that whispers inside of his head “Your dead soul is rotting that live body.” Lorraine is the first one to figure out that something is really wrong with Josh and she calls Carl (Steve Coulter), the old associate that introduced her to Elise. Together with fan favorites Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Carl and Lorraine attempt to contact Elise in the further using Carl’s medium technique…scrabble dice.

The dice lead them to a Hospital that Lorraine used to work at, these discovery scenes were much too long in my opinion so I’m going to fast forward through them. Lorraine realizes that there was a patient the dice were leading her to named Parker Crane (Tom Fitzpatrick). The hospital is old and dilapidated but they manage to find an address that leads to an even older and more dilapidated house.

Inside they find some pretty disturbing stuff. With plenty of comedic relief from Specs and Tucker- the film starts to take on the direction of a dark comedy more than a horror film- which I thoroughly enjoyed. In this home they discover two apparitions, the spirit of a little girl with pretty blonde pigtails and the woman in white. It’s then Carl realizes they’ve been duped, and they were never really communicating with Elise, but in fact, the woman in white who deems herself the Mother of Death. They find a hollow bookshelf that leads to a lovely room filled with about twenty or so corpses all wearing veils and poised to sit in church pews where they discover that the Bride in Black is actually a notorious serial killer from a few decades ago. Even worse, that this is the spirit that is now inhabiting Josh’s body. (dramatic music)

3S7C1751.CR2Together, Lorraine, Carl, Specs and Tucker devise a plan to tranquilize Josh in attempts to give the real Josh a chance to slip back into his own body. Things get a bit crazy. Lorraine tells Renai the plan and she slips away with the kids while Carl goes to tranquilize Josh with Specs and Tucker for backup (This can only end well right?) It doesn’t. It does not end up well. The Mother of Death apparently keeps in contact with her Bride in Black (who we’ve all pretty much guessed was forced to dress up as a little girl by his mother and is Parker) child and Josh (Parker Crane Josh) is aware of their plan before Carl has a chance to tranq him down. It all goes downhill from there.

Meanwhile, in the further we get into some really interesting lore within the Insidious world- despite the lack of horror and scare the first film gave me the expectation for, this is where I truly fell in love with Insidious 2. I don’t want to spoil the entire film, but the real Josh finds Carl laying on the floor of the home in the further world (Yep, Bride in Black got him). Together they journey into the further darkness and this is where stuff gets cool. We learn that time isn’t relevant to the dead. The story loops back to the first film- particularly to the scene where Renai spots the creepy long haired villain in the baby’s nursery and the door opens on its own setting the alarm off. Turns out, Josh was the one that caused the door to open as he forced himself inside of the house to save his daughter from the vengeful spirit. Pretty neat eh?

Insidious2ghostElise suggests that the only way to defeat the Bride in Black is to find her (well, his) home in the further and find something to use against him to draw him back. The time looping doesn’t stop there, without any memory of the woman in black Josh has to go back to at time where he does remember. Ringing any bells? The opening scene! Josh goes back in time to the very first session with Elise and says something along the lines of “I need to find where the woman in black lives.” and young Josh stands up and proclaims ‘I’ll show you.”

Flashback to the real world, the possessed Josh decides to go on a murderous rampage since it’s the only way to keep his body from decaying and has Lorraine, Renai, Specs and Tucker held captive more or less and they’re all fighting for their lives locking themselves in the basement. Dalton decides he’s going to astral project to help his dad get back to the body and Renai smacks the possessed Josh in the head with a pipe.

ew-insidious-2Back to the further, There’s some pretty creepy and at the same time comedic scenes to follow, including the woman in white getting beat to death (again?) with a rocking horse. After the woman in white is slain, the bride in black is called back into the further and we’re left with the impression that Carl (who apparently still had a heartbeat), Josh and Dalton all made it safely back and the Bride in Black is no longer a threat.

The movie concludes with a teaser for the third film that has already been announced due to Insidious 2’s successful box office.

This concludes any major spoilers. As I stated earlier, the film translated more as a dark comedy and lost the serious tone the first movie had. I’m left with the impression that James Wan wrote this part of the story as a way to explain some things that were left wildly unexplained in the first film. Specifically how the further works and how spirits are able to haunt a person rather than just a solitary area. I also believe that because Insidious was so good, perhaps they believed they would not be able to top it and left horror behind for comedy. I don’t feel that it “fell short” with horror, it’s my understanding that true horror simply wasn’t the direction they were going for when they made this film. Not that I’m complaining, I laughed several times throughout the movie and I can guarantee you’ll laugh more than you’ll feel scared or anxious for the characters. With that being said I feel that the types of people that will enjoy this movie are the ones who are invested in the story and not just looking for the thrill of being scared. If you’re that type, it’s still definitely worth the watch just wait for it to come out on Redbox rather than seeing it in theaters. For those who enjoy a good dark comedy, feel free to go see it and judge for yourself keeping an open mind.

Horror Grade: B!

The only thing keeping it from an A, was the expectation set from the first film.



Doomsday is coming. What are you going to wear?


Fido 2006

59066_379931332090459_1428770053_n“In the brain and not the chest. Head shots are the very best.”

How to live with Zombies…Fido style!

fido2dfrontBeing a zombie fanatic has its drawbacks. Watching film after film, the respective plots almost seem repetitive with few redeeming qualities. With that being said, every once in awhile I come across a Zombie flick that really stands out to me. Fido (2006), directed by Andrew Currie, is one of those zombie flicks that will always remain a favorite and has a special place in my rotting heart.

Fido opens with a delightful 1950’s black and white stylized introduction. Cheerful music chimes in the background and introduces you to Zomcon- the pioneers behind eliminating the zombie threat. Just how did they accomplish this? Dr. Geiger, the mastermind behind Zomcon, was the innovative force that realized destroying the brain eliminated the threat from the undead. Geiger also created a pacification collar that renders the undead into labor slaves, reforming them into productive members of society.

movies_20_greatest_zombie_flicks_15After this cheeky introduction we find ourselves in the town of Willard- which is a nice little easter egg reference to the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead. The film follows the story of a little boy named Timmy Robinson (K’sun Ray) living in a middle class suburb. We find ourselves enveloped in a world where one of the primary concerns of the middle class suburbia is to accumulate enough money to afford a Zomcon funeral- a guarantee that once you die, you stay dead and thus do not have to suffer the fate of becoming a Zomcon undead slave. The struggle is primarily shown through Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker) who is deathly afraid of zombies, but finally tolerates one due to his wife’s incessant urgings. Timmy’s family receive their first Zomcon pet, whom Timmy lovingly names Fido (Billy Connolly.)  It is hard to delve too deep into the film without giving away significant spoilers, but the dark comedy plays out the events of Timmy and his faithful Fido attempting to overthrow the evil Zomcon (hey, someone’s gotta be the bad guy.) There’s plenty of drama and struggle that create an interesting character arc, including Timmy’s mother, Helen (Carrie-Ann Moss) who develops a love interest in Fido. Beware there are minor spoilers below!

MovieQuiz_687-94While owning a zombie pet is not necessarily frowned upon, hell, there’s even a neighbor of Timmy’s who keeps a zombie girlfriend, there is still a stigma surrounding zombies that makes people uneasy. And deservingly so! The education of young children includes shooting lessons in the schoolyard.

“Now, I know you’re not supposed to have a hand gun until you’re twelve… but it can come in real handy.”

fido-5So Fido, in his newfound home faces the prejudice of neighborhood bullies and a faulty Zomcon collar. As a result of the faulty collar, Fido unfortunately kills a neighbor and turns him into a zombie. Timmy tries to rectify the problem by killing the newly zombified neighbor, but a small outbreak manages to occur. After some futile attempts to cover up the incident, Zomcon eventually takes Timmy’s beloved Fido to be destroyed.

59d6e6073853a4d1737408362c4b106dOf course, Timmy can’t sit idly by while his beloved friend is destroyed. Timmy manages to hook up with ex-security chief Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson) to get into Zomcon to rescue Fido. Of course, this is where all hell breaks loose. Timmy is thrown into a zombie “wild zone”  by new security chief, Jonathan Bottom (Henry Czerny,) after uncovering Zomcon’s dirty little secrets. Timmy’s father, Bill finally overcomes his fear of zombies and comes to the rescue- only to be tragically killed by Mr. Bottom who Fido viciously kills to protect Timmy. So after plenty of blood and death, Fido does have a happy ending that most zombie flicks lack. Fido is returned to the Robinson residence where he adopts the role as father of the household, much to Helen’s delight. Timmy welcomes a newborn sibling into the world (don’t worry, it’s Bill’s) and Helen remarks that she is happier with Fido than she ever was with Bill (ouch.)

Grade: A big resounding A.

fido - billyWhat I love most about this film isn’t necessarily the dark comedy aspect, but the breath of fresh air it is. It’s a unique concept, the plot is great and keeps you interested and there’s a lightheartedness about the film that’s hard not to find endearing. This film is a must see for the zombie fanatic. It’s nice to take a breather from the seriousness and gore of traditional zombie flicks and it has a well deserved place right next to Shaun of the Dead.

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Dead Moon Rising

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Oh man, if you love a little humor with your horror, have I got a movie for you! In today’s class, we are going to be reviewing a B flick movie called “Dead Moon Rising”. Of course, it’s a zombie flick…but hey, you can never get enough of zombies, right? This movie was released on April 1st, 2007 so it came a bit before all the zombie craze. The movie was filmed in the great city of Louisville, Kentucky and stars Jason Crowe, Mike Seely, and Erica Goldsmith as well as many other talented actors. Before anyone asks…yes, it’s a B flick that is meant to look like a B flick.

"Dead Moon Rising" DVD Cover

“Dead Moon Rising” DVD Cover

Zombies take over the world, people meet up and travel together for survival, and it ends in some climactic scene where everyone lives happily ever after…right? That’s usually how a typical zombie movie would go, but “Dead Moon Rising” has a unique take on the zombie genre. Plus, let me reiterate that it’s a B movie, so it’s supposed to be fun. It all starts out with Jim, played by Jason Crowe, and his coworkers go through their normal day. Then they begin to notice unusual things happening when a customer enters into the store.

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Actor Jason Crowe showing the group how to slaughter zombies

The group then is forced to travel from their location, where they pick up more survivors. They meet the barely legal April, Jim’s hot ex-girlfriend Vix, and even his brother tags along for the adventure. Of course, I’m not going to spoil the rest of the movie for you because I would love to see my students do their horror homework and watch the movie! It is available for purchase on Amazon as well as 7 day rentals.  Still not sure what you’re signing up for? Then click here for a small preview of one of the scenes.

Nymphetamine Jade’s Grade: B+

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Jason Crowe as Jim
Artwork done by Nathan Thomas Milliner



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The Lords of Salem

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The Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie’s newest endeavor. The film has been hinted at for years now, with various teaser posters and trailers popping up all over the internet. Being a huge fan of all of Zombie’s films (yes even both of his Halloween re-imaginings) I couldn’t wait for this film. It made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2012. Not being anywhere near Canada, I would have to wait until April 19, 2013, if indeed, it was playing at my local theatres due to a limited theatrical release. But I was given something by Grand Central Publishing, in March, to hold me over. A novel. So this review will cover both the Lords of Salem film and the novel.

Having read the novel, seeing the movie on opening night in the theatre, and watching the Blu-ray three times, (once with the Rob Zombie commentary) this will still be a difficult review to write, as this is a great movie that is not easily described. I will try to make it as spoiler free as possible, as I do believe this is a film that should be viewed.

Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a recovering drug addict and local DJ. Struggling with sobriety and depression, she receives an anonymous gift at the radio station. A wooden box containing a vinyl record for a band that only identifies itself as “The Lords.” As a joke she decides to play the record in their “smash it or trash it” segment. Something comes over Heidi and other Salem female listeners after hearing it. What unfolds is a slow decent into madness.
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The film stars Sheri Moon Zombie (Heidi Hawthorne), Bruce Davison (Francis Matthias), Jeff Daniel Phillips (Herman “Whitey” Salvador), Judy Gleeson (Lacy Doyle), Meg Foster (Margaret Morgan), Patricia Quinn (Megan), Ken Foree (Herman Jackson), Dee Wallace (Sunny), and Andrew Prine (Reverend Jonathon Hawthorne). In my opinion an all-star cast.

Rob is a talented film maker. With a recognizable visual style all his own, he has come a long way since House of 1000 Corpses. This is the first film he has directed that he actually had full creative control over, and it shows. Like a twist combination of a Kubrick/Argento film that has hints of Rosemary’s Baby and Suspiria in it, it’s the best way I can describe it. It is a film that has divided his fan base even further, after his ambitious Halloween films.
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The Lords of Salem is completely drenched in atmosphere. Without the buckets of blood and gore Zombie has become known for, this film has very little of these things. Instead he chose to build up on the dread as we watch Heidi delve deeper into hallucinatory insanity, and he conveys this masterfully. This is a disturbing film with scenes of odd and nightmarish pieces, the hellish “mummified” priests stroking dildos comes to mind, but this effect is not just Rob Zombie’s genius behind the director’s chair. Sheri Moon Zombie, being the lead in the film, actually carries the story very well with her acting, her best performance yet. The score John 5 (Rob Zombie’s guitarist) presents, perfectly compliments the film. He stated that he wanted to make a soundtrack that wouldn’t distract the audience, but would also not easily be forgotten, and he did exactly what he set out to do.
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2012, THE LORDS OF SALEM

The acting that we get from Meg Foster, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, and Judy Geeson, was nothing less than fantastic. Meg Foster playing the “lead” witch of the coven, delivers her dialogue with excellent potency. The choice to cast these older women who would normally be seen as playing nice “Grandmother” type characters was a great decision, given they do some abnormally fiendish things.
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For me the novel, written by Rob Zombie and B.K. Evenson, was a must to complete my experience, even though it was a different experience altogether, they both complemented one another strongly. While the whole of the novel was mostly akin to the film, there were some violent scenes and other small changes in the novel that didn’t make it onto celluloid. Now I love violence and gore as much as the next horror fanatic, but I don’t think most of it would’ve worked well with the film, as it would have taken away from the ambience and atmosphere that Rob had worked so hard to build throughout. It fills in some gaps that aren’t really explained in the film, but aren’t completely necessary either. For a debut novel, it was very well written. It’s classic Zombie from start to finish.

I would grade the film a B+ and the novel an A-. However, I don’t think the novel could exist without the visuals of the film.



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Movie Review : An American Ghost Story (2012)

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Also known as its original title, Revenant, the story follows struggling writer Paul Anderson (Stephen Twardokus) and his girlfriend Stella (Liesel Kopp) as they move into a house that is rumored to be haunted. Paul is hoping to write a book about the house and his paranormal experiences therein. While quiet and unassuming at first, they soon realize the stories about the house are true. Strange things begin to happen and they soon find they are not alone, something evil resides in the house with them.

With the original title being changed from Revenant to An American Ghost Story, I can’t help but feel like they are trying to cash in on the recent box office success of The Conjuring. The film seems like a mixture of Sinister, Poltergeist, and Paranormal Activity. While slow going at first, the first scare is something we’ve seen a thousand times. You all know the drill, you walk into the kitchen and a cupboard opens up on its own. Then more, and suddenly every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen is open. Throw in a chair sliding across the room and you have the start of a predictably generic ghost story.

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The entire movie felt too slow. I was constantly waiting for something to happen in between the meaningless and sometimes boring dialogue, and when it did I thought to myself, that can’t be it, it’s building toward something. There are better scares to come. I waited and I waited, and before I knew it, the end credits were rolling.

While the film played on things we’ve all seen before, I didn’t hate everything about it. There were rare scenes that I thought were great ideas, I just didn’t feel like they were executed very well. One in particular, Stella had already moved out after the kitchen scene, being overly dramatic (Liesel’s acting and her character being terrified) about her “cupboard and chair” experience, even initially knowing she was moving into a haunted house, Paul is asleep in bed and stirs from sleep to clearly find a full bodied entity under the sheet with him. As he attempts to touch the body that is laying next to him, the head clearly turns toward him. The director uses this a couple of times throughout the film. There is something menacing and terrifying about seeing the head, under a sheet, suddenly dart in the direction you are standing, knowing it is looking right at you. While I really liked this idea, and thought it was one of the better and original ideas implemented, the director overdid it. The sheet over the ghost thing got tired after the first few times, especially at the end when Paul wanders around the house trying to find the ghost by holding a sheet and randomly covering and swirling it around open spaces, until it actually comes into contact with the entity. And this is where we find out that the ghost actually has some kind of “powers” and is able to push objects and grab Paul without actually touching them.

aags-cap-3The empty dialogue and banter between characters, clearly there to add depth to the characters and make us care about their situation, I felt did not work at all and just fell flat. The acting was not strong enough to convey any genuine emotion or emphasis on their characters. Some of the best acting came from Wendy Haines, playing Sue, a former tenant of the house who Paul interviewed about her experiences in the house.

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To no surprise, the ending was about as predictable as the rest of the film, when once again we see the sheet rise out of the suitcase, after Paul finally moves out of the house.

All in all I would say this movie was quite lackluster and somewhat boring, from the generic and predictable storyline and one dimensional characters, to the acting, the score, and the execution of the director. The movie is slated for release on DVD on August 20, 2013.

My grade for this film: D



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Movie Review : Magic Magic (2013)

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I’m not even sure where to begin with this film, but I can tell you one thing for certain.
Do. Not. Watch.
Salvage that 97 minutes of your life and never have a single regret about skipping this movie. Don’t worry, I’ll most definitely explain and this review will be full of spoilers so that I can save you multitudes of disappointment.

magic2So I’ll start with the good. Juno Temple (Alicia), Emily Browning (Sarah), and Michael Cera (Brink) all did a fantastic job with what they were given. The acting was not the problem here, and I’m sure if they used the film to display their acting abilities, they’d be able to get more roles from it- especially Michael Cera who is breaking away from the comedy into a more thriller/suspense genre. What makes this movie a downright travesty is the fact that, we, the consumers and viewers, were blatantly lied to.
See the trailer below :

When you watch the trailer, it has everything. It teases and taunts you with the possibility of a fantastic thriller. A young girl trapped on a remote island with a bunch of crazy teenagers. What’s going on? Is there some voodoo curse that’s causing animals to act strange? Is she slowly losing her mind? Are the teenagers she’s trapped with really as crazy as they appear?

The movie starts out great. You get the set up from any traditional horror/suspense movie where things start good and then something bad happens creating a slow build up. In this case, Alicia is visiting her cousin Sarah in South America (Chile to be precise). Sarah’s boyfriend Agustin (Who is also named Agustin Silva), Brink (Cera), and a mutual friend Barbara (Catalina Moreno) are along for the ride to an island where they plan to spend a few days. Perfect! This creates a nice tone of isolation right?

Sarah gets a phone call and says she has to go back to take an exam. Alicia naturally doesn’t want her cousin to leave. She doesn’t know any of these people, she is in a foreign country, but Sarah insists on going alone. This is going to be good! We think to ourselves, right? This movie has an ultimate goal in mind. You’ll keep thinking to yourself throughout “This has to get better. It’s just a slow starter. It’s going to be better.” But then Magic Magic keeps slapping you in the face saying- “Nope, no I’m not. I’m not going to get better. I’m going to get worse.”

So for some unexplained reason, the group of teens, minus Sarah has to pick up some older lady. They find two abandoned puppies, Brink insists on taking one and they do- only to abandon it on the side of the road several miles later after it wouldn’t stop crying.  Alright! We’re thinking to ourselves. This is setting the tone for some sadistic stuff down the line!

……Nope.

The movie drags on as they get to this island. Tensions are high because Alicia accidently dropped Barbara’s backpack in the water (that’s probably the most exciting part in the movie). Alicia feels isolated, and has a crappy night’s sleep. There’s no cellphone reception so Agustin and Brink the next morning offer to walk with Alicia so she can call Sarah from a hill. During which time we see a moment from the trailer that promised us excitement. The scene where Brink shoots a parrot after Alicia begs him not to. She’s clearly upset, she calls her cousin Sarah and calls the kids she’s around sadists. Sarah says she’s going to be gone another day – blah blah blah, then Alicia gets humped by a dog for a moment.

magic_magic20 minutes of boring, absolutely nothing going on later, Sarah finally makes it to the island. Brink finds a picture of the parrot he shot and writes I’m sorry with a smiley face on it and puts it under Alicia’s pillow. They all go to a rock to go cliff jumping and Brink tries to make amends with Alicia for shooting this bird. Everyone jumps off this cliff but Alicia and she has a mini panic attack.

Sounds riveting and exciting right? It’s gets better- for about 3 minutes.

Turns out Agustin is an amateur psychologist/hypnotist and he tries to hypnotize Alicia- who we’ve come to discover hasn’t been sleeping the past three days. Under hypnosis, Brink manages to get her to dance “like a whore” and then stick her hand in the fire.

At this point, everyone is beginning to think Alicia is crazy and mentally ill, with good reason. She takes some muscle relaxers but doesn’t go to sleep- instead leads to the only redeeming moment in this movie. She sneaks into Brink’s room, takes her pants off and jams his face in her crotch and suffocates him for a minute then lets him go, puts her pants back on and walks out of the room.

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The look Michael Cera had on his face was just hilarious. It made me laugh for 3 minutes straight. Then the movie went straight back to boring.

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That’s kind of the look I had on my face when the movie was over

Turns out- nothing really was going on except Alicia was having trouble sleeping. She overdoses on muscle relaxers and sleeping pills and they take her to some “voodoo witch doctor” where she died on the table during some stupid ritual. The witch doctor lady says “No no, she’s not really dead, just keep rubbing some herbs under her nose and keep her body warm. Her spirit will come back into her body”

Cut scene to them on a boat sailing towards the mainland to reach a real doctor who they should’ve went to in the first place, Emily Browning rubbing herbs under Juno Temple’s nose, Agustin’ rubbing her legs, and Michael Cera sitting there with a stupid look on his face. She’s still dead, clearly not waking up. The end.

Nope. I’m not joking. That’s the entire movie.

I try to find the artistic value in every film I watch, and like I said, the acting was not bad in this movie. It’s the fact that we were lied to that irritates me about Magic Magic. The trailer sets up false expectations for something that is reminiscent to Last House on the Left or Spit on Your Grave and what we get instead is a very slow, very stale borefest  where we’re constantly waiting for something to happen. Then the movie ends on an unsatisfying and bitter note, very abruptly.

What kills me is the potential this movie had. It had the perfect setup for something truly sinister. It could have gone a number of routes- the black magic, voodoo route as to why she wasn’t sleeping, the murderous sadists, or even keeping with the theme that all the horrible things happening was actually Alicia and it all turned out to be some mind warping twist. But no, it was a tale about a teen who was suffering from insomnia and overdosed on pills. A horror tragedy.

Horror Homework Grade: F.

Don’t watch this movie, unless you like that kind of thing.




Great Halloween Costumes for the whole family.

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