March 30, 2014

Movie Review: Maniac (2013)

The film Maniac is a grimy, gritty, unsettling slice of horror that came out back in 1980. The story was developed by the star, Joe Spinell, and directed by William Lustig (Maniac Cop, Uncle Sam). The movie has stood the test of time, garnering itself something of a cult following. The film stands out from the slasher films it is usually lumped together with, as it centers on the killer, forcing you to follow him down his path of madness, murder, and self destruction. I find it curious that such a dark film was targeted by the remake machine as it never had mainstream appeal and an unsavory approach, unlike the Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

Critical Capsule: Sabotage (2014)

Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to movies with a bit part in 2012's The Expendables. Since then he has appeared in that film's sequel as well as starring in The Last Stand and co-starring, with Sylvester Stallone, in Escape Plan. He is back once more in the driver's seat of a new action thriller, and it is probably the best starring role he has had since he left the Governor's mansion. This is not to say it is a great movie, but it is certainly entertaining and almost gleefully violent. It is called Sabotage.

March 29, 2014

Movie Review: Noah (2014)

So, Noah has arrived and it can now stand, or attempt to stand, on its own merits. It is a movie that does not seem to have a precise target audience. It seems to be going after a cross section of the movie-going public. Action aficionados have something there, there are the disaster elements, the obvious religious connection, fans of Crowe/Connelly/Hopkins/Watson, and those who like the director, Darren Aronofsky. I have to be honest, my interest was sealed by Aronofsky. The guy makes interesting films that exist on the fringe of Hollywood. He can attract stars but seems uninterested in playing by Hollywood rules. It made me curious.

Critical Capsule: Wrong

I am not exactly the smartest guy on the block, far from it. This being the case, it is not uncommon for me to be unable to pick up on certain messages and meanings in some movies. In some ways I have found this to be rather freeing. For example, Wrong is a movie that comes across to me as being from way out in left field, a movie that makes little sense, yet flows perfectly well. What is writer/director Quentin Dupieux trying to say? I am really not sure, maybe give it another ten watches and I might get something.

March 26, 2014

Movie Review: Contracted (2013)

Do you have any idea how hard it can be to pick a movie to watch? If you over think it, you may end up not watching anything. Sometimes it is just better to close your eyes and point. That is pretty much how I cam to watch Contracted, a low budget indie tale of body horror that is plenty gooey and initially offers some social commentary before devolving into straight up grossness. It is not a perfect film, but it is one that will get under your skin, as it begins to rot away, that is.

March 25, 2014

Movie Review: Wake in Fright

I will occasionally watch a movie for no reason, well, perhaps a bit more than occasionally. I will watch movies as background noise, because I love them, because I hate them, sometimes I am just curious. Wake in Fright is one of those movies I watched out of sheer curiosity. No other reason, I knew nothing about the movie going in, just the title. And what a title it is. Is Wake in Fright not an alluring title or what? I had no idea what I was in for. I had no idea what an involving, unsettling experience I was about to have. I also had no idea how interesting the story around the movie would end up being. The short of it is Wake in Fright is a fantastic film that you almost never had a chance to see.

March 24, 2014

My Gateway to Italian Horror

This first appeared during 2013's Italian Horror Week at DocTerror.com.

When it comes to horror movies, I have a lot to learn. I was late to the game and missed the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s. So, I guess it goes without saying that I spend a lot of time playing catch up. During that catching up I have found a love for Italian horror. There is something about them that is very alluring. There is a very distinct look and feel to them, they truly stand out from a crowd. When you find one, it is very hard to mistake it for anything else, if anything, you will find films from other countries that emulate that distinctiveness, whether on purpose or not (for a recent example, check out Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem).

March 23, 2014

Movie Review: Random Acts of Violence

Shot in 2010, this low budget black comedy/thriller played the festival circuit under the name Charm. At some point it was retitled Malcolm before settling on Random Acts of Violence. I am not sure what title I actually prefer. It's current moniker does not seem quite right and while I like the idea of Charm as the title, that doesn't fit too well either. As for Malcolm, well, that puts it too close to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Not that I have any better ideas. The film itself is not bad, although it owes a huge debt to Remy Belvaux's Man Bites Dog. If you haven't seen that, stop reading this and go watch that. It's all right, with a small amount of luck this will still be here should you choose to come back.

Movie Review: The Headless Eyes

Barely released theatrically way back in 1971, The Headless Eyes appeared to be one of those grindhouse quickies that was destined to be forgotten, nothing more than a blip on a very large radar. However, the movie found renewed life in the VHS era when Charles Band and his Empire Video label got their hands on it and reintroduced it to the world as a movie that was “Too gory for the Silver Screen.” Of course, that is just a marketing line, this is nowhere near too gory for the movies, but Band knows how to sell stuff and this thought forgotten feature gained new legs through the late 1980's. Of course, that renewed interest seems to be short lived.

March 22, 2014

Movie Review: Anthropophagus

Anthropophagus is an interesting beast. Firstly, it is a film of many names, besides the title seen above, it has been called The Grim Reaper, Man Eater, Cannibal, and Antropofago (probably a few other variations, too). Guess the numerous titles could be due to the difficulty of pronouncing, much less defining, it. On top of that, it made the BBFC's Video Nasty list and has been banned in numerous countries. It has also been mostly available in an edited version with something around 10-minutes excised from it. I have had an uncut DVD sitting on my shelf for a long time, but for some reason it took until now to actually pop it in the player.

March 21, 2014

Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted

Three years ago the Muppets returned to the big screen. That movie had to be thought of as a gamble, I mean, the Muppets have not exactly been on the tongue of popular culture of late. Still, it looked like a fun movie, and it turned out to be fantastic. It was a movie that knew exactly what kind of uphill battle it had, it was a story about friendship and good things as much as it was a fight for survival, a claim for continued relevance. It is a movie that proved to be immensely enjoyable for all ages across all demographics, it was fun, funny, silly, and creative. It was inevitable that we would get a sequel. The biggest question is whether it would prove to be worthy.

Movie Review: Need for Speed

I am not much of a gamer. Sure, I like games enough, but I was never good at them and I don't go nuts over the next big thing (which is, I think, Titanfall these days?). So, when it comes to video games being adapted into movies, all I really want is a movie that has some sort of inspiration from the game but, much more importantly, is a good movie. This last bit is the real trick. Games are not an easy adaptation, lead characters tend to be bland, leaving room for the player to impart themselves onto the role, so they have an idea of what they want before going into the movie. If the movie doesn't match their vision.... look out! The latest adaptation is driving series Need for Speed.

March 19, 2014

Critical Capsule: Drive In Massacre

Here is a movie that if I were in a more forgiving mood I would have turned off well before the final credits rolled. Somehow, I found it to stick with it and watch it all the way to the bitter end. That actually says something as the movie is only about 73-minutes long. It is called Drive In Massacre and was unleashed upon an unsuspecting audience way back in 1976. I actually find it surprising that such a nothing movie as this still finds its way to peoples eyes. This may sound a bit more harsh than it really is, but the movie is seriously dull and feels like something someone made in his spare time as a joke.

Movie Review: The Driller Killer

It was not that long ago that I saw Ms. 45, an amazing excursion into a gritty underbelly of revenge and exploitation. It is a marvelous film that has no wasted frame and features an unforgettable lead performance by Zoe Tamerlis. It can also be considered my first real introduction to underground filmmaker Abel Ferrara. Sure, I had seen King of New York, Body Snatchers, and The Addiction before, but that was long before I gained my real thirst for film and does not really count. In any case, I have stepped back a couple of years and have now experienced Ferrara's earliest legitimate film, The Driller Killer. Let us just saw that it was a unique experience.

March 18, 2014

Movie Review: Dreamaniac

The 1980's saw an explosion in the movie industry, an aftermarket appeared and the videostore was born. This opened up another new market, low budget films, many shot on video, made specifically for these video stores. Now, I am not going to get into this history, but I will say that some men knew how to tap into that market, Charles Band is one of those guys. With Empire Pictures and later Full Moon Pictures, he filled the market with what they wanted. Not always good, but they were there. Dreamaniac is one of those features, produced by Band and directed by David Decoteau.

March 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Thirsty Dead

If you had an idea for a trashy little film and little money to make it with, and it was the 1970's, it was a foregone conclusion that you would somehow find yourself in the Philippines. For a of chunk of years in the 70's, it was the place to go. There is even an awesome documentary on the subject (Machete Maidens Unleashed!). Unfortunately, a few bucks and an idea does not always result in a winning movie. In order to find the good ones you will often find yourself wading through piles of junk. That wonderful thought brings us to the movie at hand, a rather dry little thing called The Thirsty Dead.

March 16, 2014

Movie Review: 300 - Rise of an Empire

Seven years ago Zack Snyder brought Frank Miller's graphic novel, 300, to the big screen dripping int style and intensity. It was a movie that shows how myths and legends begin, how war stories can be turned into propaganda and blown up into gigantic proportions. It was a massive, testosterone driven tale of macho posturing, fighting, with the purpose of defending a way of life, sticking without you believe in and opposing tyranny. It was also a silly slice of overwrought fighting on a digital back lot. Now we are faced with a sort of sequel/prequel hybrid that tells of what was going on in the rest of Greece as Xerxes was marching his men on Greece.

Movie Review: Veronica Mars

Ten years ago Rob Thomas (not the Matchbox 20 guy) introduced us to the character of Veronica Mars and a whole host of colorful supporting characters. It was a show that I took to pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it was canceled after three seasons. The series, of the same name, ended up being another critical success and popular failure that became a victim of the UPN and WB network merger. I was sad to see it go, but that is the way things seem to go. I never did think I would see the character again, despite Rob Thomas talking about bringing the series back or making a movie. Now here we are.

March 12, 2014

Con Recap Part 2: Monster Mania 27 Vendors, Artists, and Auctions

You have already seen my pictorial journey through Monster Mania 27 weekend, but that is not all there is. There is a lot more to the convention weekend that celebrities, panels and autographs, although I will admit that I do love those parts, there is definitely more to it. There is another large room filled with vendors (not to mention a couple of hallways and a couple of smaller rooms, as well) selling all sorts of goods, toys, shirts, artwork, and more. Now, this will not be as extensive as the other piece, but these guys deserve a little love too.

March 11, 2014

Recap: Monster Mania 27

A few years ago I was introduced to the wonderful world of horror conventions. A friend was looking to get the autograph of Doug Bradley (aka Pinhead) and it turned out that he was making an appearance at a convention that was within driving distance. We went, met Bradley and a number of other amazing celebrities and we were hooked. Shortly thereafter I discovered Monster Mania and a love affair was born. Held in Cherry Hill, NJ, twice a year (with a third show in Maryland), they are weekend long celebrations of horror and the community that flocks to it. Run by Dave Hagan and his sons as a tribute to his father, Monster Mania is a family friendly convention that continuously draws huge crowds. This weekend was no different.

March 2, 2014

Movie Review: Non-Stop

Non-Stop is movie that really does not need a lot time spent on it from a critical perspective. This is not a movie that was made for critical reception, it is one made to merely entertain and make some money. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The first thing I thought was that they actually remade that old Ray Liotta movie, Turbulence. Of course, I knew the reality but it was still a humorous thought I had. The only thing I was hoping for when I saw it was for some fun, after all, it does feature Liam Neeson in the lead.