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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Zombie Dearest (2009)

If you read Thursday's review of "The Giant Gila Monster," you'll know that it was one of two movies that won a viewing during my weekly, "What Movie Wednesday" event.  Well, today, I bring you the second of the double feature I had that night... "Zombie Dearest"...

After spoiling a suprise birthday party that was arranged for him, Gus's wife decides to leave him and return to her childhood home.  Gus, not wanting to lose her, follows her and agrees to fix up the run down farmhouse.  Soon however, Guss digs up a convenient farmhand that will do his bidding.  Too bad that farmhand has a taste for human flesh...

Writer/Director/Star David Kemker brings us an amusing and entertaining tale of a man and his zombie.  The premise is solid, and the writing is pretty good.  The first few minutes actually had me snorting my drink out my nose, it was so silly.

While it's not a laugh a minute type movie, there is humour spread nicely throughout the movie.  Kemker takes his characters (who are humourous in the first place), and puts them in a rather absurd situation- while having them react as if everything was... well, normal.  One of my favorite scenes is the one where Gus and his wife, Deborah, are arguing in the kitchen, while through the window, you see Donny meeting the zombie for the first time.  I couldn't help but laugh at the juxtposing of the mundane with the absurd in the scene.

The characters are actually quite likable- though Gus IS a bit of an arse.  You come to even like Quinto, the zombie.  The actors did a wonderful job with their roles.  Kemker successfully made you like Gus, while making you exasperated at his attitude and choices at the same time.  Shauna Black was enjoyable as his wife, Deborah- and certainly brought sexy to the movie as well.  She brought a nice seriousness to the rather weird situation the characters were in- which only added to the humour.  Serious props go to David Sparrow as the zombie, Quinto.  It has to be hard to express humour with groaning, moaning, and shambling around.  Just a great job, and the make-up looked fantastic too.

"Zombie Dearest" is definately a movie that's worth watching at least once.  In fact, I would probably pop this in the machine whenever I was in the mood for a light hearted horror movie.  I'm going to give it a spot in "The Good."

Special Shoutout:

I want to thank everyone that participated in my "What Movie Wednesday" feature.  I'll be doing it again April 4th.

Big thank you to the following people who voted for "Zombie Dearest":

  • Jay (from "We Came From the Basement";
  • Shawn (also from "We Came From the Basement";
  • Zoey Emily Onyx; and
  • David Stewart

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

This week, my "What Movie Wednesday" feature wound up having TWO winners.  A couple of last minute votes pushed "The Giant Gila Monster" (1959), and "Zombie Dearest" (2009) to a tie.  Since I had already delayed things due to technical difficulties... and because I pre-empted it last week, I decided that rather than try for a tie breaking vote, I would make it a "What Movie Wednesday Double Feature" week!

First up for review is, "The Giant Gila Monster"...

When people start dying in unexplainable car wrecks, Sheriff Jeff and Chase Winstead being to investigate.  As the deaths pile up, the clues point to something HUGE is responsible... something that has a taste for human flesh.  Soon the Sheriff and Chase are in a fight to save the town from colossal carnivore of death...

"The Giant Gila Monster" was filmed by Ray Kellogg back to back with "The Killer Shrews" for Gordon McLendon- who owned a chain of drive ins.  These two films gained some fame as being the first movies to premier as a double feature.

Well, that, and it's low budget cheesiness...

I would be lying if I said this movie didn't have some "charm" to it.  Watching it, I can see how it could easily become a cult classic.  Part of the fun of it IS how low budget and cheesy it is.  This is a movie that you get friends together, drink some beer, have some pizza, watch old B-movies, and laugh and joke around.

Everything about this movie makes it perfect for such a contextual viewing.  The story is a little flawed (though the premise of a large mutant animal has been done quite well in other movies), the acting is laughable at times, the special effects are chuckle inducing, and the scares are not so scary.  While this sort of thing wouldn't be as satisfying on the big screen today, or even watching it alone... it could be quite enjoyable with a group.

As I said, the story is flawed- but mostly because the threads of the sub-plots lack focus and a real sense of purpose.  Characters are introduced pretty much just to set up a kill in pretty much the next scene.  The characters of Sheriff Jeff and Chase Winstead aren't bad, but seemed like typical 1950's teen movie characters- as was the town drunk, Old Man Harris.  They try to bring some depth to Chase's character, but even that seemed a little "typical".

The acting was pretty "cookie cutter" too, though I did enjoy Shug Fisher as Old Man Harris- his scenes certainly made me chuckle.

Even though the special effects where cheesy, I enjoyed them for that reason.  It was amusing to watch the giant Gila Monster (played by a Mexican Beaded Lizard) slowly tromping across the miniature cars at the barn dance.  I actually asked myself how long it took them to set up the train set so they could crash it.

I have to admit though, that there are some decent close up sequences of the giant Gila Monster that I really liked.

The real appeal of this film though, is the fact that you can watch it, and poke fun at it in a non-mean way.  You can crack jokes about the cliches, the main character's hair being perfect, the way the Sheriff's face reminds me of Walter Mathau, or how a Rock & Roll barn dance suddenly stops for a spiritual song sung by the hero.  You can do that and have fun with this movie.  I really liked that about it.

"The Giant Gila Monster" is one of those films that I would recommend watching at least once as part of a B-grade Monster Movie Night with friends, beer, laughter, and wise cracks.  For that reason, this movie is sitting in "The Bad".

Special Shoutout:

I want to thank everyone that participated in my "What Movie Wednesday" feature.  I'll be doing it again April 4th.

Big thank you to the following people who voted for "The Giant Gila Monster":

  • Matthew Little;
  • Tanya Muncy;
  • Bobbie-jo Kampff; and
  • Laura Stewart
Honourable Shoutout to Jenny Deol for casting a vote just after the polls closed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Once should never judge a movie by it's title... but sometimes, the title is a big indicator of the movie's quality...

Safecracker Joey Faust has a mysterious benefactor in Major Paul Kenner when Kenner breaks Faust out of jail.  Soon Faust discovers that the Major has a sinister plan in story for him and the world... one that requires him to become the Amazing Transparent Man...

This is a mad scientist B-movie right to the core.  The premise is silly, the budget low, the acting giggle inducing.  But it's not all bad, though.

I have to give credit to Douglas Kennedy as Joey Faust.  He managed to make the character interesting- and even a little likable.  His face reminded me a bit of Lon Chaney, Jr in "Indestructible Man" (1956).  Marguerite Chapman as Laura Matson was nice to look at, but a little hammy when being hysterical and panicky.  I wasn't much for James Griffith's performance as Major Paul Krenner, however- though I was amused by his fight with the invisible Faust... and the puppy dog look on his face afterwards.  Ivan Triesault was passable as Dr. Peter Ulof- the scientist who invents the invisibility machine.  I liked him, but didn't find him as interesting as Faust or Julian- played by Boyd "Red" Morgan.  Morgan gets a great line in the movie that I loved:

"You know what one of these bullets can do, son?  It'll rip out your spine and roll it up like a ball of string."

There isn't much that can be said about the camera work- it's really simple, and rather plain to be honest.  The special effects used for the turning invisible segments were a little undewhelming as well.  The same can be said for the actual story- which came in at just under an hour.  There isn't even much "amazing transparent man" to be had, actually.  I was rather disappointed in that.

While this is a movie that might be enjoyable as a "Festival des Fromage" night of movies, it's not one that I would pluck off the shelf and re-watch.  I'm putting, "The Amazing Transparent Man," into "The Ugly".

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Left 4 Dead (2008)

Right now, while vampires may be making a comeback in movies on and TV, zombies are reigning supreme in the video game industry.  One of the most popular ones is "Left 4 Dead"...

A strange "flu" has overwhelmed Pennsylvania, turning people into flesh eating zombies.  Four survivors are forced to fight their way through the hordes of the undead in order to escape...

"Left 4 Dead" is a First Person Shooter that hits so many notes correctly.

First off, the graphics are just fantastic.  The detail on the characters and zombies help to make you believe that these are people who have been turned into the undead.  The environment is also equally well detailed and crafted.  The look of the game creates a great atmosphere of mood and suspense that helped to suck me into the action.  It had an almost cinematic feel to it- which was helped by the fact that each part of the over all storyline had a movie poster to go with it.  Just a beautiful looking game.

The story is pretty simple, and doesn't really get developed all that much during the game, but you don't really notice it that much since you get so involved in simply surviving the onslaughts of hungry zombies as you run, shoot, and hack your way from one safehouse to the next.  The characters aren't exactly developed either during the course of the running, shooting, and hacking... but I found myself becoming quite attached and fond of my character with each blast of my shotgun to a zombie's brain-lusting mouth.  While I would normally be disappointed in a game that shows little real story development, I wasn't in this case because there was so much action to keep you interested and active in keeping your character alive.

I said earlier that the environment looked great.  This is enhanced gamewise by the fact that the environment included destructible parts that ramp up the tension and help to keep you on your toes.  In most games of this nature, if a window was boarded up, or a door closed, you could rest safe in the knowledge that the enemy could not get through.  Well, in "Left 4 Dead," the boards on the windows, and the doors themselves are destructible- meaning the ever hungry brain munchers can smash them to pieces and deprive you of even that respite.  I loved how it made even a fairly defensible room a potential death trap.

The zombies themselves are great too.  This game kinda breaks the rules and mold of conventioal zombie lore by create mutant zombies with special abilities- and giving these particular zombies a slightly higher intellegence than the average zombie who, while fast, are still fairly easy to dispose of in small numbers.  You have zombies that puke bile on you- attracting other zombies, zombies with long tounges that drag you within reach of its arms, zombies that are huge hulks that can toss a car at you, and zombies that can take you down faster than you can say, "George A. Romero," with its Wolverine-like claws.  Really helped add a new dimension to the game and genre.

For me, the best part is the multi-player aspect.  My niece and I would often sit down and play this game together, and had a blast.  The actions and reactions of other players added to the entertainment value of the game in my opinion.  Verbally communicating actions to defend a location, screaming as a Smoker grabs you and drags you away to the dark, or simply saying, "I have a bad feeling about this..." just before your partner disturbs the Witch with their flashlight is part of the fun of this game.

"Left 4 Dead" is one of those games that makes spending an hour or so playing a video game seem like it's only a half hour, because you just lose yourself to the action on the screen.  I would definately recommend this to lovers of zombie games- and I'm putting it in "The Good".

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Damien: Omen II (1978)

Last month, I reviewed the 1976 release of "The Omen," and it's 2006 remake.  This month, I bring you my thoughts on "Damien: Omen II".

Seven years after the deaths of his parents, Damien Thorn is staying with his uncle and aunt.  He lives a safe, happy life until people start dying.  Soon, Damien learns the truth: that he'll play a major role in the battle between good and evil

The storyline is pretty good in this movie.  It was fairly easy to follow, with enough side stories to provide depth to the main plot.  The pacing of the story in this movie is also a little faster than in "The Omen," so I wasn't bored with it.  There is a serious flaw though with the storyline, and that's the fact that it relies on people having watched the first movie to understand a bit more about the plot.  One it's own, the story isn't as effective.

The story was certainly strong enough to allow for decent development of the characters.  Even though the movie is mostly about Damien, the supporting characters were equally interesting.  I really liked how they weren't just stereotypical characters too.  Each character was unique with a distinct personality.  I also really liked how the evil in the "bad guys" was subtle, rather than in your face and obvious.  Even though I suspected a couple of them, their characters were human enough to surprise me a bit.  The relationships between the characters really added to the intrest factor of the story.  The relationship between Damien and his cousin Mark is a good example of an interesting relationship that sets up certain events nicely.  The interactions between Richard Thorn and Dr. Charles Warren is another good one that really helped to propel the story forward.

"Damien: Omen II" had a great cast.  William Holden as Richard Thorn was fantastic, bringing a reality and humanity to his character.  I also really enjoyed Jonathan Scott-Tayler in the role as Damien Thorn.  He looked great in the role- bringing a sense of charm and sinister potential to his performance.  The tone of his voice added an extra layer of personality to Damien as well.  It was a joy to watch Sylvia Sidney bring Aunt Marion to life as well- I've always enjoyed her acting.  The only actor I had a problem with was Lee Grant as Ann Thorn.  She looked good, but her acting was a little too stage theatre for me.

There is also some really good camera work in this movie- simple but effective.  There's energy and motion and artistry to the sequences and shots.  You could take quite a few of the shots from the movie, and compile a decent comic version from the stills.

As I said before, the requirement of having some knowledge of  "The Omen," weakens the strength of this movie as a stand alone experience.  Because of this, "Damien: Omen II" is best watched as part of an "Omen" movie marathon, and is being placed in "The Bad".

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sins of Rachel Ellis (Philip Caveney)

I find horror novels that start out gently and proceed to increase the roughness and intesity as the story goes along quiet satisfying company on those cold, dark nights where the flickering light of the candle causes soft shadows to dance in the corners of my room.  Helps to remind me that the dark has yet to reveal all of its secrets to me... much like the darkness inside us keeps its own secrets tightly within its grasp...

Pandora Ellis has been invited to spend the summer at her great aunt Rachel's estate while her parents take time to mend their marriage.  From the moment she steps foot inside of "Savannah," she is confronted by mysterious occurances.  Occurances that may lead her to solving the secret of Rachel's suprisingly youthful appearance... but with the price being her very soul...

Philip Caveney is a British author that started writing children's books in 2007.  Before that, however, he wrote adult thrillers- including "The Sings of Rachel Ellis."  Even in this book from 1978, you can see the sensibilities that a children's author has in their writing.

The writing style is fluid and flows nicely- setting the environment and mood pretty well.  He present us with interesting characters in the form of Pandora Ellis, Rachel Ellis, and Ewen the gardener.  I wanted to learn more about each of them, and actually cared about Pandora as the story progressed.  The only serious flaw in regards to character is that Caveney writes Pandora in such a way that you forget that she's a twelve year old girl.

The premise and plot was interesting and meshed nicely with a couple of the sub-plots.  My complaint lies with the lack of scares in the story.  You're uneasy, certainly- but you're not scared of what might happen next.  I think part of this problem comes from the sensibilities that a children's author tends to have.  He writes with a light touch- which is nice for building up the tenstion, but that light touch extends to the scenes that should horrify us.  The best example is the statutory rape scene.  For a scene that should horrify us and shock us, it's kinda brushed against gently and softened- softend to the point where Pandora's own reaction is kinda blase about it afterwards.  This light touch deprives such scenes of their punch and impact- leaving the reader wondering what the point of it was.

As much as I liked the flowing style of Caveney's writing, I was left wishing he'd been a little rougher on me in the scenes that should normally horrify and scare people.  I'm going to have to place, "The Sins of Rachel Ellis" in "The Ugly".

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Harvest of Fear (2005)

One of the things I enjoy about my "What Movie Wednesday" series is that I can get my readers involved in the content of this site by telling me what movie to watch and review.  Another thing I like is the spontaneous nature of it- I never know what to expect from the voting, or the movie either.

Such was the voting yesterday.  It was actually pretty close between the three movies- I was almost afraid there'd be a three-way tie, to be honest.  Fortunately, there was a winner- "Harvest of Fear".

Medical intern Billy McKinley has arrived at Devil's Lake at the wrong time.  Someone has started killing off teens attending the Harvest Festival- mimicking a series of killings from twenty years before.  Is it the same killer, or has Billy gotten dragged into something much darker?

There are some pretty decent things in this movie- and some not so decent things too.  I will admit that the premise is a little cliched, but still capable of providing a decent skeleton for the story.  Provided, the story had enough flesh to hide the cliche, which unfortunately, the storyline here was rather skinny in that regard.  There are four plot lines that could've worked well together, but didn't connect properly:
  1. The police investigation into the killings;
  2. Billy and Stacey's relationship as they investigate the killings;
  3. Jake and Stacey's relationship and how it could relate to the killings;
  4. The group of teens that are being killed off.
These four plots are treated almost completely seperately- with only a couple of soft bumps against each other.  I think the story would've felt more complete if all four had been entwined and connected a bit more- would've provided more material for character development, suspense, and probably added more to the ending.  There was some interesting ideas introduced that could've served as suitable plot twists, but none were followed up properly or presented well.

This brings us to the characters involved.  They felt almost like cookie cutter characters you'd find in any Mainstream Hollywood horror franchise... and just as cliched.  Of the characters, the only ones I liked were Stacey, and  Old Man Carter.  Of the characters, they're also the ones with the most actual development- though Old Man Carter was a stereotypical Hillbilly Who Knows All That Goes On In Town type character.  Bill McKinley was supposed to be charming, but I found him slimey from the start.  Jake was a douche, and Dr. Carpenter was a jerk.  I felt sorry for the teens, because they seemed only to have been introduced to provide fodder for the killer.

Since we're talking about the characters, we have to discuss the acting of them.  The best of the lot, as the stereotypical Hillbilly, Old Man Carter, was Tobias Anderson.  I absolutely loved his almost biblical portrayal of his character- as if he was Moses speaking from the mountain.  A close second for performance was Carrie Finklea as Stacey Rogers.  I came to like and care about her character, and enjoyed the strength she brought to it as well.  I would be interested to see other films with these two in them.

The rest of the cast however, was fairly lackluster.  The worst in my opinion was Ryan Deal, playing Billy McKinley.  He just couldn't get me to like the character at the beginning of the movie.  Since I didn't like him to begin with, the "twist" at the end lost a lot of its punch.  Justin Ament as Jake Barker- one of the deputies, was annoying and constantly had a dopey look on his face... even when he was trying to look tough and mean.  He reminded me of so many of the dumb jocks who used to bully me growing up.  I liked the way Don Alder LOOKED as Sheriff John Roberts, but found his acting a little lifeless.  I know Thomas Nabhan's character, Dr. Carpenter, was SUPPOSED to be a bit of a jerk, but I found his performance a little forced and hard to tolerate.  As for the people playing the teens getting killed?  Decent enough for characters there just to get killed.

And the killer himself?  Depsite wearing a mask that looks like it's made from human flesh, I found it hard to feel intimidated by him.

And speaking of kills, I was rather disappointed in the kills in this movie.  I'm aware that "Harvest of Fear" was filmed on a low budget, but they could've spared more cash for the blood.  I was hoping for some nice splash and spray from a guy who looks like he's wearing a mask made from human flesh, but got mostly dribble and drabble.  There IS one scene though with some decent splatter.  It's the scene where the goth costumed girl and her boyfriend are in the woods having a bit of pot and the killer gets her.  The pitchfork scene was a nice concept that would've been impressive with more blood and grue.  But two decent kills out of nine or ten is less than stellar.

I did like the camera work though.  There was some decent sequences in this film that look really good.  One sequence I thought looked decent was the green hallway kill.  I liked the green lighting, the off kilter framing, and the the distant shot of the killer.  If only the same sort of care and skill had been put into the blood effects, and I would've been happier.

The combination of the cliches, lost story opportunities, uninteresting characters, sub-par acting, less than intimidating killer, and low grue content, the positives brought by the decent camera work are so over ridden that "Harvest of Fear" sits solidly in "The Ugly"

Special Shoutout:

I want to thank everyone that participated in my "What Movie Wednesday" feature.  I'll be doing it again March 21th.

Big thank you to the following people who voted for "Harvest of Fear":

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Skew (2011)

This past weekend (March 9th & 10th), my friends from "Film Reviews From the Basement" hosted Dark Fest 2012.  Also on hand was director SevĂ© Schelenz, to bring attendees his award winning film, "Skew".  I was unable to attend the festival myself, but Jay has kind enough to lend me his copy of this film before hand so I could watch and review myself.

Simon has a new camera, and decides to videotape him and his friends- Rich and Eva as they travel on a roadtrip to attend a wedding.  Unfortunately, something seems to be wrong with Simon's camera... it's showing him things that will leave a lasting impact on him and his friends before the trip is finished...

"Skew" wasn't that bad of a film- but it wasn't what I would call a great film either.  I loved the premise.  It added a nice supernatural element to the story- especially when it's revealed that only Simon is able to see what's being shown him through the view finder, and not on the footage itself.  While the film did drag in a couple of spots, they did help to develop the character of Simon and his relationships with the others.  The ending was clever as well- being open to various possibilities- but leaving it up to the viewer to decide for themselves what the "truth" is.

For using a simple camera, there is some really good shots and special effects.  Schelenz using the camera to nicely paint the mood of the story, and even as a character of its own.  I liked the way they "skewed" people's faces through the view finder, and the make up for the apparitions.  The effects and the camera usage worked well together to make the jump scares and the pacing interesting and effective.

If this movie were to have a flaw, I would have to say it was with the characters.  I had a hard time from the beginning believing that these three were really friends.  Their relationships seemed strained already... as if Rich and Eva only tolerated Simon.  Not only that, I didn't even really care much about the three of them.  The only character that held my interest was Simon- but only because he was a bit of a creepy bastard.  Beyond that, I felt little emotional investment in them.

Would I recommend "Skew" for at least one viewing?  Yes.  Would I recommend it for a POV/Found Footage movie night?  Yes.  Would I recommend it for multiple viewings?  Probably not.  Because of that, I'm going to have to put, "Skew" into "The Bad".

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thirst (2009)

For my latest, "What Movie Wednesday," feature, I offered up three movies, and let people vote for which one I would watch, tweet along to, and review.  The three movies that were suggested were:

  • "Legacy of Blood" (1971);
  • "Orphan" (2009); and
  • "Thirst" (2009)
 People spoke, and the movie chosen was the 2009 Korean vampire movie, "Thirst".

Father Sang-hyun is a priest afflicted with doubts about the value of the work he does with the sick and the dying.  Wanting to do something truly meaningful, he volunteers for a medical experiment in search of a cure for a deadly virus.  Infected by the virus, Sang-hyun receives a blood transfusion, and miraculously recovers. Soon afterwards, he meets Tae-ju- a woman married to an old family friend of Sang-hyun's.  Their attraction to one another pulls them down a dark path of darkness, violence and death...

I found "Thirst" to be a beautifully made movie.  Even the most mundane scenes of the characters playing mahjong is filmed in an almost poetic fashion at times- with so much being said without words.  Much of the story in these scenes are told through the glances characters give each other.  The rest of the camera work is equally well done, with interesting angles, and mixtures of close, medium, and long shots edited together to form a visually engaging piece.  Director Park Chan-wook knows what cameras are capable of doing visually, and it shows.

The story is really good too.  There are a few moments where it feels like things go off the track a bit, but they usually get right back on quickly.  Of course, part of that could be the fact that subtitles don't always match what is being said on screen.  The lead characters of Father Sang-hyun, and Tae-ju have depth and personality, and are different enough to add dimension to their relationship and the conflict they find themselves in.  While the other characters are mostly filler, they are still interestign in their own right, and do add enough to the story to make it a solid piece of work.

Song Kang-ho was great as Father Sang-hyun.  He brought such an earnestnes to the character, that you couldn't help but like him, and feel for his dilema.  Kim Ok-bin, as Tae-ju, balanced out Kang-ho wonderfully.  She was able to take a character that was not entirely sweet and innocent, and make you feel some compassion for her when you consider how she got to be who she was.  These two were just a remarkable team to watch on the screen- especially during the darkly humourous scenes.  The final scenes, especially were of note.

If I were to have a complaint with this movie, it would be with the special effects.  While I loved the way they dealt with the display of blood (it was really well done), I had some problems with the "wire-fu" elements.  These parts were a little jarring when compared with the visual smoothness of the rest of the film, enough so that my suspension of disbelief evaporated until those scenes were done.  Having said that, I was impressed with the blood flow in this movie.  A great exaomple is the "White Room Scene" where Tae-ju projectile vomits blood on her nice white floor.  The visual contrast was just great.

In an era where vampires are sparkly, angsty, emo teens, it's great to see a vampire movie where the vampire still has some bite to it- even if he does have some humanity left.  I'm going to give "Thirst" a spot in "The Good".

Special Shoutout:

I want to thank everyone that participated in my "What Movie Wednesday" feature.  I'll be doing it again March 14th.

Big thank you to the following people who voted for "Thirst":

  •  Dennis M Heald;
  • John O'Donnell; and
  • Matthew Little

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seventh Moon (2009)

Western culture and Eastern culture.  Belief and disbelief.  The living and the dead.  These are often some of the themes used in the entertainment industry.  Sometimes to educate us, sometimes to amuse us... and sometimes to scare us.

Melissa and Yul have gone to Hong Kong for their honeymoon, taking part in the "Hungry Ghost" festival.  They learn that it believed that only by offering a living animal will the dead be appeased when they roam during the full moon of the seventh lunar month.  This is a lesson that may just cost them their lives... and their souls...

"Seventh Moon" was directed by Eduardo Sanchez- who brought us "The Blair Witch Project".  While I wasn't too keen on that movie, I was happier with this outing.  While there is still some disorienting camera wobbling and spinning, it is at a more tolerable level in this movie. In fact, there is some pretty decent camera work done in this movie.  One particular scene that showed style was the nicely hypnotic love scene in the house by the graveyard.  I was impressed by the artistic flair shown.  I also liked the use of the cell phone light in the cave tunnel sequences- created a good claustrophobic, closed in feeling that enhanced the tension greatly.

The three primary characters were very well done.  Not only did I come to like them, but I felt that their reactions were pretty realistic and logical given the situation they found themselves in.  Amy Smart was great as Melissa, and I felt for her as the story progressed.  I also really liked Tim Chiou as her husband, Yul.  He brought a nice touch of humour to the character in addition to strength.  The scene in the cave of the dead really stood out for me in regards to feeling for the character.  Ping, played by Dennis Chan wasn't in the movie a lot, but I felt that he did a good job of the role.

I was also really impressed by the effects in this movie.  Rather than using CGI like many movies, Sanchez went with a more practical method of portraying the dead: paint a bunch of naked guys grey, and let them run around in the bamboo and tall grass.  The make-up was just fantastic.  Just loved it- mad props to Mike Elizalde and Cass McClure for the work they did making the dead look creepy and  unearthly.

The story itself is fairly simple, and gives ample room for scares.  The pace is tight and moves pretty quickly.  I found it hard to believe that this movie was 87 minutes.  "Seventh Moon" isn't bogged down by unnecessary dialogue, or backstory.  You don't need to know more about the guy Melissa and Yul hit with their car, and you aren't told more.  The movie focuses on what was important: two people who find themselves outside at night on the ONE night they shouldn't have been roaming around.  Some movies would explore the mythology that this movie is based on, but this movie doesn't do that.  It gives you the essential belief and leaves it at that.  That's something that many movies now could learn from this movie.

I found "Seventh Moon" to be a quick, enjoyable dose of scares that I would pop into the machine again- especially as part of a horror night featuring movies based on myths and legends.  I'm going to put this movie in "The Good".

Friday, March 2, 2012

What Movie Wednesday!

This past Wednesday, I started a new interactive feature for my blog- "What Movie Wednesday"!

"What is this new feature about," you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

Every Wednesday, I will be posting on my Facebook group page, my personal Facebook Profile, Google +,  and Twitter a bit of a poll.  In the poll, I will be asking YOU, the reader, which of three possible horror movies I should watch that night for review.  At that point, you will then be able to vote on which movie I watch.  The movie that gets the most votes wins (natrually).

The polls will be posted at 12:00 am (Pacific Standard Time) every Wednesday morning, and voting will continue until 7:00 pm that same day.  At that time, I will announce the winning movie, and begin watching it.  I'll also be doing a bit of a running commentary of the movie on Twitter while watching it.  The next day, I will sit down and write my review of the movie here.  At the bottom of the review, I will acknowledge all those that voted. If you voted via Twitter, the shout out will also include a link to your own Twitter Account.

Why am I doing this?  Well, I don't want my blog to simply be "blah blah blah..."  I want those that actively read my blog to be a part of it- and contribute to the content on it.  I'm hoping that by doing this, readers will feel comfortable coming forward and saying, "I'd like you to watch this, and review it!"  This feature, I believe will also bring a sense of fun, spontanaiety, and uniqueness to this blog.

The next "What Movie Wednesday," will be March 7th- so keep an eye out for the notices.  I post the notice throughout the day on my Facebook Profile.  If you join my Group Page, you'll get an invite message for it- in addition to my posting about it on the page itself.  On Twitter, make sure you watch out for the hashtag #WhatMovieWeds.

I'm looking forward to making "What Movie Wednesday," a fun, regular part of "The Corner of Terror," and seeing you all vote during it!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The House That Screamed (1969)

As part of my new series- called, "What Movie Wednesday," people who follow me on Facebook and Twitter got the chance to tell me what movie to watch and review.  The people chose the Spanish made 1969 film, "The House That Screamed"...

A young woman arrives at a French boarding school, and discovers a world ruled by a strict, uncompromising Headmistress, and a small clique of her "enforcers".  Mixed into this world is a the Headmistress' charming son, rebellious girls, and a dark figure stalking all of them one by one...

When I come across foreign films, my interest is always piqued, and "The House That Screamed" certainly piqued mine.  This Spanish film was originally released under the name, "La Residencia"- with the English release being called, "The Boarding School," and "The House That Screamed".

This film had a very gothic, moody, feel that reminded me heavily of the Hammer horror films from the same period.  The sets and costumes are excellent and reflect the personality of the Headmistress.  From the cold, impersonal nature of the shower room, to the claustrophobic, musty feel of the attic, the sets were just beautifully set up and dressed.  The Victorian costumes are just as fantastic- with each one fitting the character wearing them nicely.  The ones that really stand out for me were the ones worn by Lilli Palmer (the Headmistress), Cristina Galbo (Teresa- the new girl), and Mary Maude (Irene- the Headmistress' chief "enforcer").  Palmer's costumes evoked such a strong sense of her authoritarian personality and strength of will, that I could see her cowing men to her wishes.  While Galbo's expressed the character's attempts to rise above the origins of her birth by a cabaret singer.  The costuming of Maude is notable because when she the Headmistress' chief enforcer, the clothes emphasised her position of authority and coldness, but when she gives up that position, her outfits change to reflect her change of heart and her drop from a figure of authority to being on the same level as the other girls.

The acting was also quite good in this film- with the English dubbing actually fitting the feel of the dialogue (which is really rare, I find).  Palmer, Galbo and Maude all put in great performances- engaging your emotions appropriately- and giving depth and realism to their characters.  John Moulder-Brown as Luis- the Headmistress' son wasn't bad, though he wasn't as interesting to me- or as engaging, as the three main actresses.  I will say that his performance in the climatic scene was excellent.  The remaining supporting cast was quite good as well.

I felt that the premise was interesting and had a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, despite the fantastic sets, costumes, and acting by the three leading ladies, the actually plot fell a little short of my hopes.  The movie had three storylines involved:

  1. The rather strict Headmistress and her relationships with the girls under her charge;
  2. The slightly unbalanced relationship between the Headmistress and her son; and
  3. The stalking and killing of the girls one by one.
"The House That Screamed" finds itself unable to keep focus on one or another of the storyline... or even on all three as a single piece.  It was almost as if director Narciso Ibanez Serrador was trying to cram three feature length movies into one.  Because of this, all three plot lines lose any serious punch.  This is especially evident in the third plot I mentioned, since there are only three deaths in the entire movie.  I wanted to know more about all three... but was left feeling like I only got part of the meal I asked for.  Having said that, I did like the ending a lot- I was able to guess 1/2 of it, the other half was a pleasant discovery.

There's some really good camera work in this movie too.  I especially thought the death of Isabelle (played by Maribel Martin) was done very artisticly- using overlaid images to create a sureal feel to the scene.  The final splotch of blood bouncing out of her mouth when her body hit the floor was a nice touch too.  My only complaint with the visual work was the lack of grue in it.  There is very little blood.  I would've liked to have seen a bit more splattering in the kills.  Beyond that, the way the camera plays with light and shadow was great.

As much as I enjoyed the look and feel of "The House That Screamed," the fact that I was left a little disappointed with the treatment of the plots, I'm going to have to put this movie in "The Bad".