Elsewhere (2009)

OCTOBER 31, 2009


I kind of like the irony that the three horror films I grabbed for my Halloween trip home were largely un-horror-y. Really, of all the days of the year, how did I manage to pick Elsewhere, which barely qualifies as a thriller, let alone a horror film? Apart from one (kind of tense) scene where our cute heroine (Twilight’s Anna Kendrick) is menaced in her own home by the guy who has seemingly kidnapped her friend, there is nothing scary/suspenseful about the film, seemingly by design.

It’s not enough that anyone with half a brain will identify the villain from the second he is introduced, but so much of the film is devoted to Kendrick looking at online profiles (she believes her friend was the victim of a cyber-stalker), or talking to the weird girl she works with, or palling around with the dorky computer tech guy that helps her access the Myspace-esque site in question at the school library (why not just have him uninstall the “Big Brother” program her mother has put on their home computer which is the reason for using the library one in the first place?), that the movie seemingly forgets to have anything exciting happen. It picks up a bit in the final 10 minutes, obviously (it’s the first of these three movies to have a genuine climax, I’ll give it that), but again, since the killer’s identity was so obvious, it doesn’t pack the punch that writer/director Nathan Hope probably intended.

Oddly it works better simply as a sad drama about how people deal with loss. The central focus is the disappearance of Kendrick’s best friend (played by Lost’s Tania Raymonde, a bit out of her range as the town bad girl), but there have been other disappearances as well, and the film’s best scenes involve the shattered mother of one of the other girls, who still posts missing fliers around town and listens to her daughter’s voice on her voicemail, five years after she went missing. And Raymonde’s mother is a complete monster who doesn’t even seem to care that she’s gone, but ultimately breaks down and cries as she enters her daughter’s empty room (she heard a noise - Kendrick snooping - and assumed (hoped?) Raymonde had returned).

But the other problem is that it doesn’t spend enough time developing Raymonde’s character. She’s gone at the end of the first act, and the film never offers old videos or flashbacks or things like that to help make us feel her loss. In her few scenes, she’s sort of an annoying bitch - and I failed to see why Kendrick’s character even hung out with her, let alone would go through all of this to find out what happened to her. There is some minor plot details concerning Kendrick’s own mother issues (“I have to wash my makeup off before I go home”), but again, the mother disappears from the movie after a while anyway, so this subplot is largely pointless in the long run. If anything, the film might have worked better if Kendrick was kidnapped and Raymonde was forced to act responsible for once in order to try to help her friend, because she was all that she had or whatever.

Hope and one of his producers offer a commentary, but the producer has absolutely nothing to say (he merely chuckles when appropriate and agrees with whatever Hope says), and Hope himself goes quiet more than once or twice. When he DOES talk it’s the same sort of stuff you’d expect (shooting delays, multiple actors filling in for hooded figure roles, etc), other than the maddening frequency in which he discusses deleted plot material. It’s maddening because the six deleted scenes are just scene extensions (some of which I couldn’t even spot the difference), with only one legit excised scene (of little importance) and none of the character stuff he mentioned in the commentary. There’s also a brief making of (where Hope says it's not a horror film, though one of the actors says it IS) and a photo gallery, plus the trailer that oversells its limited thriller aspects.

Maybe if I went in for a drama I would have liked it more. Kendrick is an engaging lead, the teens largely act like teens, and the (again, ultimately fruitless) cyber stuff is largely accurate - I believed they were indeed on a Myspace ripoff, and not some completely made up thing bearing no resemblance to a legit site (likewise, text messages look like text messages, not the full-screen graphics we usually see), which helped ground the film in reality. But as a kidnap thriller (and certainly as a horror film) it’s not up to par. Hell, even FOX’s Vanishing remake had a few good chills going for it.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


The Skeptic (2009)

OCTOBER 30, 2009


I was a big fan of 1408, so I was intrigued by the setup for The Skeptic, in which a similarly non-believing regular guy is placed inside a potentially haunted house. But where 1408 managed to milk a lot of entertainment value from a single room, Skeptic does nothing with its creepy old house setting, and ultimately resembles a TV movie, right down to the compact, abrupt ending that feels like the result of the filmmakers prematurely hitting their maximum allowed length than the actual end goal for a half dozen characters and subplots.

It also squanders a good cast. Tom Arnold may not be a shoe-in for any acting awards, but he’s usually an amiable presence, and he is cast here as the hero’s best buddy, something he’s often excelled at. But he has little chemistry with Tim Daly (how awesome would it be if Steven Weber was cast instead of Daly?), and their scenes are largely inert because of it. And the rest of the cast is filled with ringers like Robert Prosky (in his final role - bummer) and Edward Herrmann who never get much to do beyond deliver exposition (without ever giving a good explanation why they withheld this information from Daly for so long to begin with). Rounding things out is Zoe Saldana, whose character and scenes seem grafted in from a different film entirely. I’m racking my brain now; does her character even have a concluding scene? I know Arnold’s last appearance is ordering a drink at a bar so Daly can talk to Herrmann, but Saldana I don’t think even gets that much for closure. Again, the ending is as abrupt as they get, and the fact that none of the cast save Daly even factor into the climax (which is given away in the trailer) makes it all the more frustrating.

There is some admirable (and largely successful) effort to leave it up to the viewer as to whether or not the house is indeed haunted or if Daly’s character is suffering from delusions stemming from the failure of his marriage, medication mixed with alcohol, and resurfacing guilt over the death of his mother. But unfortunately, the story is so plodding (with so many go nowhere subplots distracting away from it to boot), I never really gave a shit either way. In Emily Rose, for example, I was generally concerned whether what I was seeing was real or imagined, and I enjoyed hearing both sides of the argument. Here, every time a plausible explanation was given for the latest sighting, I was just annoyed. “Fuck you movie, if the ghosts aren’t real then you got nothing good going for yourself.”

Plus the final reveal is just completely weak-sauce. He left a toy on the stairs which caused his mom to trip and break her neck? That’s it? The trailer was cut in a way to make it look like there was some killer doll action, but it was just that, clever editing. The biggest jolt in the film is when Saldana suddenly freaks out and breaks a glass. Even if everything WAS real, this is the least vengeful and thoroughly un-scary ghost in movie history.

On the plus side, it’s well made, largely well-acted (again, there are some chemistry issues, not just limited to Arnold and Daly), and the hero is a guy from Massachusetts named Brian (OK, BrYan), so there was some minor value in that for me. But it feels way too much like a 90s TV movie that was made on the quick in response to some theatrical hit (I wasn’t surprised to learn later that the film has been on the shelf for years).

Final note - it’s a shame Prosky (Grandpa Fred!), like so many others, went out on such a weak film (Paul Newman’s final theatrical release was Cars, Sean Connery retired after League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Gene Hackman has seemingly deemed Welcome To Mooseport as his swan song), but I guess it was nice of IFC to pick it up for release so we could enjoy his presence one last time. Thanks, fellas.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


The Haunted Airman (2006)

OCTOBER 29, 2009


I guess the title The Haunted Airman is technically accurate, but when you play up the film’s horror angle (and point out that “Twilight’s Robert Pattinson is facing new horrors” on the DVD case), I think it’s a bit shitty that he is only being haunted by his own personal demons; save for some nonsense with spiders, the film as a whole is largely horror free.

Basically, the movie is about a guy with some serious post-war trauma to deal with, and little else. Pattinson is fine, but for a movie based on a novel, it’s surprisingly thin on plot and action. Clocking in at just 70 minutes, it still feels padded, and the ending is maddeningly obtuse to boot. I have never read the novel, but I know that author Dennis Wheatley is held in high regard, so I have to assume the filmmakers failed to adapt it properly, or that the novel simply didn’t lend itself to a cinematic interpretation.

And it’s a shame, because I can definitely see an interesting, and yes, SCARY movie in there somewhere. Pattinson’s character may be crazy or he may be seeing ghosts; his shrink may be trying to help, or he may be making him worse; Pattinson may be fucking his aunt (by marriage), he may just be fantasizing about doing so (and if so I can’t say I blame him - Rachael Stirling is stunning). Lot of questions, lot of possibilities for a Jacob’s Ladder style mind trip, albeit set during World War II instead of Vietnam/Iraq. But no, writer/director Chris Durlacher settles for endless scenes of Pattinson rolling his wheelchair around the mansion-like hospice where the entire film is set, occasionally running afoul of spiders. It culminates in a scene that might be tragic had I known for sure what the motives of the involved parties were.

It’s unfortunate that I have been spoiled by several terrific WWII-set horror films, such as Pan’s Labyrinth, Below, and Jeff Burr’s underrated Straight Into Darkness. The ghastliness of the war as a whole lends itself nicely to traditional horror concepts (in this case, a would-be “Hospital that might make you worse” thriller), but the film never really explores this parallel; after the opening scene the war is hardly mentioned at all, which is a waste of a good backdrop (not to mention a baffling choice in terms of the period setting - why go to all of the trouble to set it 60 years ago and not use the actual time period in any meaningful way? The film could just have easily been set now with Pattinson a wounded veteran of any of our current wars).

The disc has no extras whatsoever, so I’ll probably never know the particulars of why this movie manages to waste every opportunity it has to be compelling. I’m sure Pattinson nuts will love it, since he’s in pretty much every frame of the film, and has a lengthy (yet PG-13) love scene for them to drool over. But for everyone else? Even Twilight delivered more horror, not to mention basic entertainment.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Pontypool (2008)

OCTOBER 28, 2009


A while back, I transcribed an interview Mr. Disgusting conducted with the writer and director of Pontypool (which he never ran! Bastard!), and I was pretty baffled as I typed out what they were saying. A zombie virus that spreads by words? Kill is kiss? What the hell were they talking about? Now that I’ve seen it, it makes more sense, but I think the lesson to be learned is even more clear: never transcribe someone else’s interview.

Anyway, it’s a pretty terrific little thriller. The description (three people inside a radio station, merely talking about the zombie chaos occurring outside) might sound dull as dirt, but once you learn how people are being infected, it becomes pretty obvious that a radio station is the perfect setting for this particular story. See, as director Bruce Macdonald said, the “zombies” (he refers to them as “conversationists”) become that way not from a bite or some sort of airborne virus, but merely infected words that they hear and understand. Terms of endearment (“honey”, “sweetheart”, etc) seem to be the biggest culprits, so folks are advised to stay away from close family members and loved ones (what about truck stop waitresses?).

This, of course, presents the biggest problem for the characters - they are radio station personnel, trying to uphold their duty to tell their listeners what is going on, but yet are risking further infection simply by opening their mouths. The film’s biggest “oh shit” moment is when they receive a message in French and the radio DJ (Stephen McHattie, in a welcome non-villain, starring role) translates it live on the air, only to discover that the final part of the French message is “The English language is infected, do not translate this message.” D’oh!

The exact nature of the outbreak is a little fuzzy (I’m guessing the novel, which author Tony Burgess adapted himself, explains things a bit better), but it’s a fascinating concept all the same, and even with the limited setting, it still manages to pack in a number of good (if brief) zombie moments, particularly an out-of-nowhere fight between McHattie and a young child zombie. And the constant pounding at the door is just as terrifying (if not more so) than any typical zombie attack scene anyway, so in that department, it delivers.

It also delivers the rare zombie movie that has metaphorical ties to the real world, something wholly absent from many modern zombie flicks. In fact, I can draw many such parallels. Words being twisted into something evil is something religious fanatics more or less build their entire moronic foundation upon, and of course, in a FOX News world, the idea of people acting like animals simply because they heard someone shouting isn’t even remotely far-fetched. There is also a perverse sort of irony in the idea that this newscaster can best serve the people simply by shutting the fuck up. And Burgess is wise to not include any political, religious, or even social dialogue in the film itself; all conclusions are drawn and not forced down our throats like they would be if someone like Paul Haggis was directing this film.

Other than the slightly under-explained third act reveals, my only other issue with the film is the jarring and distracting dialogue about the radio team’s fourth member, the weather guy in the Skycopter. Apropos of nothing, we learn that he is not in a helicopter but in a Dodge Dart that he drives around near his hilltop home. And this is kind of OK because it’s just as good as any other reason for him to be on the ground (so that he can get infected easier), but later we also learn (again out of nowhere) that he’s a pedophile. What the hell does that have to do with anything? The guy is just a voice on the other end of a radio for the first half of the movie, and then he dies. Why the need for this little factoid?

I also disliked that Georgina Reilly’s screen-time was limited compared to McHattie and Lisa Houle (the Maura Tierney-esque station producer), because not only is she unbearably cute, but also she reminds me of Zoey from Left 4 Dead. I liked the idea of a character stepping out of the most frenetic zombie action “movie” of all time (each level of the game is designed like a movie, with its own poster and end credits and everything) into one of the most understated and stationary.

Sadly the current DVD (a “Blockbuster Exclusive!”) has no features beyond the trailer, but hopefully once it is released proper there will be a commentary track or a making of or whatever, as I would love to learn more about the story and also the film’s production (must have been a great day in the pitch room - “It’s a zombie movie without the zombies!”). I’d also love an explanation for the baffling, Sin City-esque post-credits scene that seems like McHattie and Houle playing a scene from a different movie entirely. In the meantime, you can bet your sweet bippy I’m gonna try to find Burgess’ novel.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Don't Torture A Duckling (1972)

OCTOBER 27, 2009


Lucio Fulci has often claimed that Don’t Torture A Duckling (Italian: Non Si Sevizia Un Paperino) is his personal favorite of all his films, which is interesting since it’s so far removed from the stuff he is known for, and I sort of wish he had gone back to something more realistic (and coherent) during the peak of his popularity (late 70s early 80s). Because while Duckling is a good movie, it has been outdone by other Giallos that came along after it, and it would have been nice to see Fulci show em up.

But in a way that sort of makes the film even more impressive. Having seen so many others, I was worried I would find the movie to be too familiar, not unlike the way I feel when I see a horror movie from the 30s or 40s that has been remade and ripped off over a dozen times since. That was not the case, however - it felt a bit slow at times, yes (particularly in the first half), but by its own design, not from my previous exposure to films that came along in its wake.

I was also struck at how similar a certain sequence was to Last House On The Left, considering that Fulci’s film was being shot months before Last House’s release. In the scene, a would-be suspect is beaten by a few villagers, and she crawls away from them and dies while a cheery 70s ballad plays over the soundtrack; not unlike the death of Mari in Craven’s film. Speaking of the music, I dunno if it was dubbed in along with the American voices, or an original choice of Fulci’s, but the (uncredited) 60’s funk tune that plays prior to this scene practically defines ill-fitting.

Those of you expecting Fulci gore will be pretty disappointed. The few murder scenes are pretty tame (or off-screen entirely, as most of the deaths are that of children); only the killer’s demise would be considered Fulci-esque. And I mean that in two ways, in the gore sense, and in the incoherency sense - when the killer’s head strikes a rock, it sparks. Since the dummy is so bad to begin with, I began to wonder if we were supposed to think that the killer was actually an android the whole time.

I also liked that the film was coherent, with a killer who actually appeared in the film prior to the reveal. So many of these things “cheat”, or simply don’t make any goddamn sense (Four Flies On Grey Velvet comes to mind), it’s nice to see one that one could possibly figure out prior to the climax. Also, since the “duckling” of the title seemingly refers to a Donald Duck toy (for real), I dug the reality of it all. It could have been any generic doll, but having a well-known “icon” play a part as a major piece of evidence (especially one from the notoriously sue-happy Disney) was uniquely awesome.

Blue Underground’s DVD is pretty bare; the only extra is a Fulci bio that I’ve already read on one of the other discs. Too bad Tim Lucas wasn’t as big of a fan of Fulci as he is for Bava; as I am a bigger Fulci fan, I would probably find his dron-y commentaries far easier to endure if he was discussing a guy I had more of an interest in. Oh well.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


13 Ghosts (1960)

OCTOBER 26, 2009


I think, if I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, that I would be spending all my allowance money going to William Castle movies again and again. Assuming 30 years in the past me had the same tastes, I would be overjoyed with the gimmicks, the intros, the whole shebang. Nowadays, I of course watch films like 13 Ghosts whenever I get the chance (will someone PLEASE show The Tingler with the buzzers again around here?), but while the charm is still there, the novelty has worn off a bit, since I am so used to the modern gimmicks (IMAX, found footage movies, etc) that Castle would surely have approved of had he lived to see them.

The gimmick of Ghosts is the “Ghost Viewer”, a device that Castle explained how to use in the film’s opening sequence. If you want to see the ghosts, you look through the red lenses, and if you don’t want to see them, you look through the blue. Of course, you can do nothing and see the ghosts too, and also make out the rest of the image (the red “view” tends to turn everything that’s not a ghost into one solid mush), but you gotta love the concept, and damned if I didn’t switch from red to blue every single time using the viewer was prompted. I was also surprised to see how many of them truly worked; depending on how sharp the contrast was with the background, the ghosts would indeed be invisible when looking through the blue lens. But then you’re just staring at a blank wall or the little kid looking off into nothingness (sort of like watching the behind the scenes of any green-screen heavy modern film), so I would just recommend sucking it up and seeing the ghosts.

Gimmick aside, it’s a pretty fun movie for the most part. The end kind of sucks, but I like the main family a lot (the kid is terrific), and each ghost is different enough to be memorable, from the lion trainer to the executioner to the chef that seems to have inspired a particular Swedish Muppet, they are all fun to watch during their brief appearances on-screen (you won’t need the glasses for more than maybe 10-15 total minutes of the film) and, despite being 50 years old, largely convincing in their ghostly appearance (the fakest effect in the film is a fly that “buzzes” around the mother, with almost nothing done to hide its string).

And how hot is Jo Morrow as the daughter? It’s not often I find myself attracted to women in older films (the hair usually kills it for me) but damn. And she’s a good actress too - it’s a shame her role in the remake went to someone who could only fit one half of that description. I also enjoyed Donald Woods as the father, who cheerfully explains to his son how to use a Ouija board and is hardly concerned for his family’s well-being once he discovers the ghosts in his home.

Back to the remake though, I can almost see why they would make the plot so convoluted, since the story here is so thin. It’s a fun movie and all, but it’s also built around the gimmick, and lacks the devilish fun of House On Haunted Hill. Of course, no one in the cast can match the awesomeness of Vincent Price, but still, I wouldn’t have minded another wrench in the works to keep the middle act afloat, as there’s a large chunk there where nothing seems to be happening beyond people walking around the house and not being scared by ghosts.

The film was preceded by the terrific Castle doc Spine Tingler, which I saw last year the AFI Film Festival (and could have sworn I reviewed at the time, but alas). Work kept me from seeing the whole thing again (I came in during pre-production on Rosemary’s Baby), but I saw enough to remember what a great doc it was, and how well it was put together by Jeffrey Schwarz and his crew. It’s funny, jam-packed with great Castle anecdotes (On Polanski’s obsession with getting a particular shot right: “42 takes? I’ve done entire movies in 42 takes!”), and ends in the best possible manner - with a long line of folks waiting to get in to a New Bev-like theater that was showing The Tingler. There’s something quite fitting about that, and I once again thanked the movie gods that LA has such a great revival scene. Those of you who want to check out the doc (and other Castle films) - a new boxed set, featuring just about every Castle directed film as well as Spine Tingler, hits stores today!

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


HMAD Second Chances: Wind Chill

OCTOBER 26, 2009


I wanted to do “second chance” reviews as a mini "October Extras 3", but with this being the only entry for the month, I guess I’ll just turn it into a monthly feature (so keep the suggestions coming!). But I definitely wanted to kick it off with Wind Chill, which I didn’t like much at all when I saw it in theatres but always had the suspicion that it would play better at home. The isolated setting, the emphasis on atmosphere... it’s far more fitting for a small television than a 60 foot screen.

And I was right! It IS indeed better. But sadly, not by much. The two main things that I disliked about the movie (overly convoluted third act, unlikable protagonists) will be constant regardless of how the film is viewed. Sure, both are easier to digest (I think I even get the ending now, though I’m still a bit fuzzy as to whether or not certain events actually happened), but it still kept me from getting really engrossed in the film. Blunt’s character is introduced as, and for the most part remains, a complete bitch to the guy, and he’s no prize either, what with his creepy stalker-ness and inability to act like a human being. Who argues about laser surgery?

I do love how the film was shot though. Most of my issues are script-based; director Gregory Jacobs and DP Dan Laustsen did some terrific work here (something I did not appreciate my first time, but in my defense I am usually focusing on story when I first see a movie, not technical aspects). Having driven through Pennsylvania/Delaware backroads in the middle of winter myself, I am astounded at how well they fake Canada for them, and they match that gloomy coldness perfectly (I love how all of the daylight scenes seem to have been shot at 4 pm). And while the 2.35 aspect ratio is a bit surprising due to the confined setting, Jacobs fills it well all the same. Carpenter would be proud.

The DVD has a 15 minute making of (it was cold, everyone worked hard, etc, etc) and a commentary by Jacobs and screenwriters Joseph Gangemi and Steven Katz. I enjoy this type of track, as you get story details, casting details (they wanted Shannyn Sossamon - fools!), and technical nuts and bolts stuff, plus the three men occasionally rib each other. One thing they do NOT mention is executive producer George Clooney, whose involvement I am beginning to suspect was honorary.

As one of the few thousand people who saw this film in theaters (US anyway), I almost feel kind of bad not being a big fan of it. Like any film, the hard work of everyone involved shouldn’t be tossed under the rug, even if it wouldn’t have been a very big hit (then again, I always wonder - don’t the executives read these scripts before spending 10 million or whatever on making a noncommercial film?), and I would have liked to have championed it. With a little less convolution and maybe some toning down of Blunt’s bitterness, it would have been a pretty great little chiller, instead of a mildly enjoyable one.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Stan Helsing (2009)

OCTOBER 25, 2009


You know what Airplane, Naked Gun, and Hot Shots all have in common, besides being awesome? They’re all PG or PG-13, which means that the 12 year olds who find flatulence jokes funny are actually in the crowd. But Stan Helsing is rated R, so I can’t for the life of me understand why the movie not only has such lowbrow humor, but positively revels in it, as opposed to making jokes about actual horror movies.

I’m not really picky when it comes to comedy - I am amused by Caddyshack II, I found Joey to be a pretty fun show, and I’ve even liked most of the Scary Movie films. And even though I don't smoke pot, I even enjoyed "stoner" movies like Half Baked and Harold & Kumar. However, the most entertainment I got out of Stan Helsing was my own bewilderment at how unfunny it was. I legit only laughed THREE times during the entire fucking movie (and its extras), and only one of which had anything to do with horror movies (a reasonably cute sight gag involving people returning The Ring at a video store).

And I hate the movie more for wasting a theoretically good concept. Having a sage-like teacher instruct a young, slacker descendent of Van Helsing in order to fight modern monsters (Jason, Freddy, etc) would be a pretty great comedy, I think. It could be structured like the (not as bad as anyone thinks it is) Buffy theatrical film, and every ten minutes or so Stan could fight another movie badass, with the final villain being some surprise has-been (Horace Pinker? Dr. Giggles?) who had been pulling the strings.

But no! Stan Helsing instead follows four unfunny and uninteresting folks (including Stan) as they go on a Macguffin quest to drop off some videos at Stan’s boss’ house and get lost in a town populated with the aforementioned monsters. Well, “hilarious” parodies of them. So Michael Myers is Jewish for some reason, and Jason wears a hockey jersey, and Leatherface has purse handles on his mask... all stupid shit like that. But Stan never really lives up to his namesake either; the entire movie just has him and his pals briefly encounter one of them, make a bad joke, and then run away. Then there’s a cut and they are walking again, apparently no longer in any danger. The entire movie plays out like this, until they eventually have a karaoke contest to see who can escape. Even for a spoof film, there is no discernible plot or character arcs to invest yourself in (even Airplane II had these things), and the fact that none of it is ever even grin-worthy funny makes these issues all the more apparent.

It’s also strangely lacking any legit spoof scenes. They keep playing up the ties to Scary Movie (writer/director Bo Zenga was one of the original writers on SM), but other than the concept itself, nothing plays out like a traditional spoof. Granted, this material has already been largely covered by the Scary Movies, but with the sequels and remakes (and the fact that the Scary Movie franchise has been dormant for over 3 years) there’s still plenty of ground to cover. But in fact, the monsters are hardly in the movie at all anyway; they only make up maybe 15 minutes of the 90 minute film. The rest of the time we are just watching our four leads carry out the same bad jokes and character stereotype behavior: the slutty girl says something dumb or slutty, Kenan Thompson thinks they should leave and/or run, Stan wants to chill out, and Diora Baird (the only one who escapes with some dignity) essentially reminds everyone else how stupid they are. Over and over and over and over...

The Blu-Ray comes packed with equally worthless shit. The commentary track (by Zenga, Thompson, and the girl who plays the slut) was apparently recorded with the movie muted, so half of it is the actors saying their own lines as if this was an impromptu ADR session, and the other half is the three of them giggling at what they must assume is a funny line or gag. Then there are some outtakes and deleted (mostly extended) scenes that are just as terrible. The making of is probably the best of the lot, since it’s just everyone insulting each other. It’s not funny either, but it beats them saying how great each other is.

In the end, the most telling thing about the entire production is something Zenga says on the commentary track. Over a scene that introduces a minor character, he claims that the actor wasn’t told that the film was a comedy. And my first thought was “So this WAS a comedy?”, followed by “Did you tell yourself that too?”, and then finally “Hey, this will be my first ‘crap’ entry in a long time!”. And not to toot my own horn, but any one of those responses is infinitely funnier than the best joke in this film.

Oh, and for the record, this movie, which probably cost a couple million, was released theatrically on about 30 screens, where it pulled in about two grand, or 73 dollars per screen, which by my math means that there were more showings of the film per theater over the 3 day period than there were customers paying to attend them. The number 1 movie was the 11,000 dollar Paranormal Activity, which Anchor Bay (who distributed Stan) passed on over a year ago. Good call, fellas!

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)

OCTOBER 24, 2009


Shelved for years, disowned by its director, and lacking the involvement of original creator Eli Roth, there wasn’t very much to expect out of Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. But damned if it didn’t actually turn out to be a worthy followup, with even more disgusting body part-related deaths, a game cast, and a tone that never veers off into a slightly more serious direction (something that hurt the original a bit).

It’s also the first Ti West film (he can disown it all he wants, but 95% of the film is comprised of his footage; the only re-shoot of significance was the end, which is also the worst part) where his tendency to let things go on forever was kept in check. It still takes a tad long to get crazy, but there are a couple of isolated gags in the first half hour or so to make up for it, and unlike the first film, we actually have a few likable characters this time around (lead hero Noah Segan has one of cinema's all time best "Why do girls like assholes?" rants), so it’s not the end of the world to have to spend time with them as they chat instead of getting virus-y.

And even in these scenes, there is a perverse sense of humor to enjoy. A blow job from a girl with braces and a disgusting growth on her lip; a principal (Michael Bowen!) who lives with a guy that seemingly stepped out Nightmare on Elm St 2, a janitor pissing blood into the punch, etc. Like Human Centipede, the goofy tone of it all allows for even the most disgusting moments to entertain rather than make you sick. And again, the cast gives it their all; there’s a full frontal nude scene (male and female) that would make John Waters proud, culminating in the moment where the vastly overweight female member of the pair loses her tooth during a makeout session.

The soundtrack is terrific (something even Roth reportedly claimed). I can’t help but love the idea of a prom playing Paul Zaza’s theme song from Prom Night, and the other tracks from the prom and surrounding scenes are quite enjoyable as well. Lionsgate should pack a copy with the DVD and charge an extra couple bucks; I guarantee no one would mind the extra cost as soon as they pop in the disc.

I also like that it continues the spread of the virus without feeling like a remake, as many sequels do. No one goes back to the woods; instead the bulk of the film takes place at the school, with only the (surprisingly few) Deputy Winston scenes occurring elsewhere, as he tries to figure out what is happening, and once he does, tries to escape with his cousin Herman. I would have liked for his storyline to mesh with the main one a bit sooner (i.e. at any point before what should be the final goddamn shot of the film) but it’s still nice to have him around again, and Giuseppe Andrews steps back in the role easily.

As I said, the ending is the only real problem. Winston and the lone survivor of the A story just drive off, and while it is abrupt it still would have been better than having another 5-10 minutes, where we see what happened to a minor character from the beginning of the film. This sequence (which features jarringly pointless cameos from the film’s executive producers) goes on too long, serves no real purpose, and generally sucks, and I wasn’t surprised to learn later that this was the stuff that was shot without Ti West. My only theory that it’s in there at all is for the producers to stroke their egos, otherwise I would guess anyone with half a brain would end it with Winston driving off, trading an abrupt ending for a draggy, terrible one.

I hear the DVD is coming out in February, which is fine. I’d hate to see the film become even more compromised than it already is in order to get an R rating (though, given the goofy tone, it might not be an issue with the MPAA - sometimes they ‘get it’ when it comes to such things), and despite its relative quality, I think it would be a major dud in theaters (especially since the release of the first film was now over six years ago). It’s a shame that various shenanigans have kept the film buried for so long, but at least it’s finally seeing the light, and the DTV release, I think, will be beneficial in the long run thanks to its inherent lowered expectations and far less worrisome competition.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Triangle (2009)

OCTOBER 24, 2009


When Stir Of Echoes came out in the fall of 1999, lots of really stupid people declared it a ripoff of The Sixth Sense, idiotically assuming that a film could be written, shot, edited, and released in a span of about 7 weeks in order to have a response/cash in on a similarly themed film. Unfortunately, Triangle won’t have that timeframe on its side, as it is incredibly similar to Timecrimes, which was released about a year ago. Director Chris Smith announced it as his next film way back in early 2007 (before Timecrimes had debuted anywhere), but again, people are idiots, so I don’t envy him when it comes time to sell the film to an audience.

The gimmick is exactly the same though, right down to the fact that the “killer” is disguised via a wrapped cloth around his head. But unlike Timecrimes' sci-fi based time travel machine, there is nothing here to explain why Melissa George finds herself in a time loop (the “Triangle” of the title does not refer to Bermuda) that results in a 2nd act revelation that the person she has been attacked by is none other than herself from a previous timeframe.

Instead it’s more like Groundhog Day, where she has to keep repeating the sequence until she gets it right. But, in the film’s best invention, she is not going back in time per se, but instead everything is sort of regenerating. So as she tries again and again to escape the loop, she discovers evidence of previous attempts; bodies of seagulls pile up, a floor is littered with crumpled papers, all of which contain the same hand-written note, etc. Sort of like when you respawn on Halo and see your old corpse still lying on the ground near the rockets you died trying to obtain. These little “oh SHIT” moments are the highlight of the film, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much more fun I’d be having had I not seen a film with the same central gimmick.

It’s certainly a step below Timecrimes in the protagonist department. While I love to look at Melissa George, she’s simply not given a very compelling character to play here, and I got tired of her failed attempts to intercept the other people on the boat before her double did Why she can’t just approach one of her selves and explain what’s going on (there is certainly enough evidence thanks to the body piles) is never addressed, to the movie’s detriment.

It also doesn’t use its supporting cast enough. Again, I’m not complaining about having to look at George the entire time, but the others are dispatched too quickly time and time again; each of them get a single scene to play against George, but are otherwise sidelined throughout the process. One guy in particular all but completely disappears, which I guess is Smith’s way of making HIS dedicated scene all the more meaningful when it comes up (near the film’s end), but actually has the opposite effect, as his lack of involvement in the proceedings made the character feel less significant than he was designed to.

Still, it’s an engaging premise, and a well-shot film to boot. The final twist (well, 2nd to final, the actual final one is a bit of a groaner) that sort of explains why she is in this predicament is not only interesting but somewhat daring, and given the rather poor history of horror movies set on boats, the fact that it’s pretty good is somewhat of a major achievement on its own. But even knowing that it was not a ripoff left me feeling a bit cold on the proceedings (and in turn, those who see this before Timecrimes will likely find THAT film to be a bit underwhelming), so ignorant audiences are likely to find little to enjoy here. And if nothing else, the film proves that Smith (who wrote the script, as he did for Creep) is a better director than a writer, as he now has three films and the one that is by far the best (Severance) is the only one he didn’t write alone. Trust in others, mate.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)

OCTOBER 23, 2009


John C. Reilly is one of those guys who I will watch in anything. Bad movies are made OK due to his presence, and good movies are even better as soon as he first appears. So it's not too surprising that he is the best thing about Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Apprentice, a well meaning and sorta fun movie that is weighed down by a wealth of source material, and a somewhat arrogant approach to the script that more or less depends on a sequel that we might not ever get.

Apparently based on the first few books of a 12 part series, there is simply so much stuff to set up for this particular mythology, I often felt like I was watching an extended pilot for a TV series instead of what should be a fairly self-contained film. Obviously a franchise is hoped for, but there is a way to do it where you won't feel like you're greatly missing out should a sequel or two never come to pass. If you watch New Hope, you see a great example of how to start off a mythology-heavy franchise: there's a traditional structure, a big battle at the end, and while there are still a few questions, it's still a pretty complete story. Freak is more like Empire, where it ends on a giant cliffhanger, one that promises a more exciting followup to boot. The difference is, Empire was a sequel to a hugely successful film, so there was no doubt that George Lucas would get to tell the rest of his story. Cirque Du Freak, on the other hand, is a new franchise that has to face off against other horror contenders (Paranormal Activity and Saw VI), as well as other young adult literary fare (Where The Wild Things Are).

The backstory of the movie is about a brewing war between two vampire types; the Freaks and the "Vampanese", who are far more villainous. Throughout the film we are told about how the war seems imminent, and at the end of the film it has seemingly begun. OK, great - but what if part 2 doesn't happen? The movie is all foreplay, with only a slight/short battle between Reilly and his villainous counterpart, Murlaugh (played by Ray Stevenson) for a climax, as well as a brief, largely incomprehensible skirmish between the film's tragic two best friends.

And that's the other problem with the movie - you get Reilly, Salma Hayek (even with a beard - still one of the most beautiful women in the world), Willem Dafoe, and other dependable performers, but our teenage leads are as dull as dirt. I'm not sure in what world Josh Hutcherson qualifies as a gifted young actor, but in the handful of movies I've seen him in, he just annoys and never displays any range, which is kind of a problem when his character has the film's biggest arc (from hero's best friend to his biggest rival). I actually thought he was just pretending to be bad in the film's 2nd half, because he was so unconvincing as a rebellious youth who turned to the dark side. Christ, he makes Hayden Christensen look good.

The other guy (Chris Massoglia, the titular assistant) I've never seen before, but based on his work here I won't be rushing out for his other movies. Like Hutcherson, I never got the sense of his character's plight (becoming a half-vampire, missing his family, etc). He's just THERE, saying lines and running around a bit when the script requires him to. Come on guys, of all the actors in the world, were these two really the best you could do?

But it might not be their fault. The film either has the worst editor of all time*, or was neutered for whatever reason. Scenes often shift from one to the next without any sort of idea of how much time has passed between them, and there are more than a couple spots in the film where a segment was clearly excised. For example, the bad guys show up in Massoglia's tent, which he shares with Patrick Fugit (who comes a close 2nd to Reilly in terms of bringing the movie to life). They just enter, and then there's a jarring cut to another area of the Cirque. A few minutes later, Massoglia is back in his tent with Fugit, who has a bandage on his head. Clearly he was attacked, but the jarring edits seem to suggest such a scene was filmed and then removed. And it's a remarkably tame movie; I would have guessed it was PG had I not seen the poster which proudly announced its PG-13 rating for "sequences of intense supernatural violence and action and disturbing images" (where?). Even Twilight had more on-screen action.

And while Paul Weitz did great work with American Pie and About A Boy (one of the most underrated films of the decade), he doesn't seem cut out for this sort of material. At times he seems to be aping Peter Jackson's penchant for off-kilter closeups, and there are some weird zooms and shakicam during the few fight scenes that just distract. All it did was continuously make me wonder if the film would have been better had they gotten someone like Guillermo Del Toro or Alfonso Cauron (he who made the best Harry Potter film) to call the shots.

All that said, it's hardly a dull affair. The production design and costumes for the various freaks are pure eye candy, and again, Reilly is wonderful as the awesomely-named Larten Crepsley. His hilariously dry response to Hutcherson's request to become a vampire is worth the price of admission alone, and his all-too-brief scenes with Salma Hayek are charming and sweet. Also, the opening title sequence is a marvel onto itself - if you're watching this on DVD, do NOT skip over it.

I hope the film does well. Not because it's particularly great, but because I sense the creative team was burdened with telling an origin story that wasn't as interesting as what follows, and I would like to see these folks in an adventure that can skip the introductions and just get on with it. And considering the number of known co-stars who aren't given anything to do in this story (Orlando Jones, Frankie Faison, and Jane Krakowski - who I don't even think has a single line - chief among them), it would almost be a waste to bring them onboard and never let them shine.

What say you?

*Strangely enough, the editor is one Leslie Jones, who also cut The Thin Red Line, a film I kept thinking of when I would see actors like Krakowski appear in the background of scenes and not do anything, which is what happened to several of the actors in Line (due to the film being cut from 6 hrs to 3). Adrien Brody, for example, was initially the lead role, but his performance was whittled down to a handful of largely non-speaking shots.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


The Mummy's Curse (1944)

OCTOBER 22, 2009


Rebounding slightly from the last film, The Mummy’s Curse is still far too similar to the previous two entries, and despite numerous attempts to create its own identity, screenwriter Bernard Schubert unfortunately relied too often on scenes we’ve seen 3-4 times now. Old man explaining Tana leaves? Check. Frankenstein-esque finale? Check. Mummy bursting into a tent, killing someone and scaring away his intended target? Check! It’s all here; the 1940’s equivalent of someone in a Star Wars film saying “I have a bad feeling about this....”

But like I said, it’s a bit better than the last one, thanks to a different setting (New Orleans!) and a few new elements added to the mix. For starters, they wait a full FOURTEEN minutes to get to the standard Tana leaves segment, and there is also a better than usual explanation for how the Mummy was revived (perhaps to make up for the fact that he drowned in New England but resurfaced in New Orleans - a skill he apparently passed on to Jason Voorhees). They also add a horribly stereotypical black guy, who makes bug eyed faces whenever he can and generally runs around like a disabled person, scared out of his mind at every sight and sound. I consider this a benefit to the film only because it helps give it its own identity - I am still pretty put off by these type of characters as a rule. He’s not as bad as Mantan Moreland in King Of The Zombies, but it still makes me embarrassed to watch.

Also the human villain guy sounds a lot like Vincent Price, which is awesome. Whenever he had a particularly sneer-y line I just pretended it WAS Price and had a grand old time. I was also tickled by a particular line about halfway through the film, after our Mrs. Goldberg-esque bartender lady (who opens the film by singing a song to all the bar patrons) is found killed. Without a hint of irony, someone cries “I don’t know why someone would want to kill her, she’s always singing and trying to make people happy!” You just answered your own question dude. I would probably want to kill someone who kept singing when I was trying to talk to friends at a bar, too.

It was around this point that I realized the timeline of this series was particularly wonky, with each film taking place anywhere from 5-30 years after the one before it, despite the fact that they were all released in a 4 year span (ignoring the unrelated ‘original’ movie anyway). I double checked with IMDb, and indeed, if the timeline was followed correctly, the setting for this movie would be about 1997 (which coincidentally is around the time Universal began putting together the Sommers update).

The Dracula and Frankenstein series were pretty much consistent in their value, but Mummy was largely hit or miss, due to a more careless approach to continuity and inexplicable rushing of the films (both this and Ghost came out in 1944). I think depending on the same Mummy every time out (again, disregarding the Karloff original) crippled the series’ creativity; they should have just had new people in a new locale find a new Mummy and see what else they could do differently. Oh well. At any rate, now with all five films out of the way, I have finished off my Mummy collection, and will now try to get Invisible Man or Creature From The Black Lagoon’s similar sets and work on those franchises. All hail Universal!

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Saw VI (2009)

OCTOBER 21, 2009


Both Saw IV and V played better in repeat viewings; my general dissatisfaction with the films when I watched them in theaters was eroded on a 2nd view, when their flaws (weak protagonists chief among them) were easier to digest, and their strengths (tricky narratives that ‘worked’ with what came before, less of a focus on having wall-to-wall kills) were even more apparent. But Saw VI is an improvement over those two in every way; it’s the best one since III (which it often resembles) and gets the series back on track.

Director Kevin Greutert has been with the series since the original as its editor, so there is probably no one in the world who knows these movies as well as he does. And that pays off with this flashback heavy entry; I don’t think any film in the series has gotten so much use from events in the previous entries. These scenes are represented both by recycled footage as well as “When this event from part ___ was occurring, this is what you DIDN’T see on the other side of the wall” type sequences (if you’re a casual Saw fan, I would suggest revisiting at least parts III and V to help provide a little more context). He even finds ways to answer questions I forgot I had (Amanda’s note from III), primarily using that film’s footage to do so. It’s a bit distracting at times (Costas Mandylor has padded out quite a bit in the past, what, two weeks that these films have taken place?), but it’s a great way of tying up loose ends, and as an editor myself, I loved seeing how those skills can pay off when one ascends to the director’s chair.

But credit must also be given to Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, who have found their footing on their 3rd entry as screenwriters (now that they are doing VII, more Saw films have been written by the pair than have not). With IV they were tasked with making a direct sequel (well, sidequel) to a previous entry that they had nothing to do with, and V was allegedly weakened by meddling throughout the production (which resulted in the loss of how the B story tied into the Saw mythos, among other things). But it seems their story was left intact here, and gets the series back to its original concept about people taking life for granted (something wholly missing from V and largely half-assed in IV - a cop who was trying to do his job? That’s admirable, not damnable).

See, our protagonist this time around is William (Peter Outerbridge - perfectly playing the line between douchey and sympathetic) a health insurance company exec who, as Jigsaw himself points out, decides who lives and dies. Early on we see him deny coverage for a guy with a heart condition, because he failed to report having a cyst on his lip removed when he was a child - which is not as far-fetched as it sounds (Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko had a number of similar stories), and, unsurprisingly, he was also responsible for John Kramer failing to get the treatment he needed for his cancer. So we think he’s complete scum*, but as the film progresses we learn that he’s not as black and white evil as originally expected, and like Jeff in III, his tests largely involve harming himself in order to save others (and unlike III, these people are completely innocent - one is just the mail guy from his company).

And that brings us to the traps, which are, again, the best in quite some time. Too many of the previous film’s traps revolved around people sticking their hands into things, and largely had no thematic tie to the characters. But that is not the case here - every trap is based on choosing who lives or dies, and their designs are all quite inventive as well. My personal favorite is a sort of weighted system, in which William is holding on to two bars (one with each hand) that are ever stretching away from him. These straps are connected to two innocent people, and if he lets one go, that person will die while the other will be saved. So he has to decide which one to save, but his arms are increasingly getting closer to being pulled out of their sockets while he makes up his mind. He could just let go of both and save himself some agony, but again, he’s not a complete ass, and he waits until the last possible second (at much personal expense to his well-being) to finally break down and save one. Great stuff.

Also, having just played the Saw game, I kind of dug the one right after that, where he had to guide someone through a maze that was peppered with steam blasts. He could shut the steam off for her, but that would mean getting blasted himself. Not only is it a cool scene, but as the game had several steam based puzzles, it actually gave the game an inadvertent tie to the series that was not intended in any way (Dunstan and Melton were not involved with the game’s creation). And it ends with a good ol’ fashioned “the key is inside you” thing, which we haven’t seen for a while.

Oh, and series’ fans should get a pretty big chuckle out a throwaway line from Amanda concerning what Hoffman is most useful for. Likewise, there’s a strange, possibly improvised bit from Tobin Bell that I laughed at for at least a minute. The series has never really had much in the way of humor, so it was appreciated and unexpected levity. Also, the health care stuff (along with the opening kill, in which two bank loan folks have to extract their own “pound of flesh”) gives the film a sense of timeliness that no other entry can claim. In fact, it was at this point that I realized for the first time how insular these films are; there has never been any “real world” ties whatsoever; everything from coffee cups to television stations are generic, and no one has ever mentioned a sports team or movie or anything like that. It’s not an issue; I sometimes have trouble identifying with a film that is clearly manufactured, but since this is part 6 and I’m just noticing, it clearly hasn’t been a problem with this particular series.

If the film has any flaw, it’s that it starts off a bit slow while we introduce William and the various folks that he will need to save later. The series is so intertwined, you always end up wondering why you are watching these previously unseen people for so long, and the lengthy backstory involved takes time to set up as well. Also, the Hoffman story is a touch similar to V’s, he is once again mostly wandering around looking at monitors and ruffling through files while trying to maintain his cover (I like that they pay off why he always seems to have a cup of coffee in his hand though). There’s also a bit of unnecessary ret-conning near the end involving Amanda (Shawnee Smith returns - yay! - but is not in the film as much as I expected), which seems to exist solely to re-enforce the fact that Hoffman is a douche. But Christ, for the SIXTH film in as many years to be watchable at all is a laudable achievement; that it only suffers a few minor flaws is damn near miraculous.

After III (the high point for world-wide gross), each subsequent film has made less than the one before, and V was the first since the original to fail to open at #1. Plus they’ve all largely had zero competition on their opening weekends, but that’s not the case this time - not only is Paranormal Activity expanding again, but Cirque De Freak is also opening. That film is PG-13 and the former has been playing for a few weeks, but still - with all of these factors at play, I worry that Saw VI will perform below par, which would be a shame as it is obvious that every effort has been made to get the series back on track and deliver everything fans expect (good traps, answers, and yes - a great twist at the end that I didn’t see coming). Don’t let that happen, folks! Support your local Jigsaw!

What say you?

*I don’t want to spoil the exact nature of it, but he also seems to have forgotten his wife’s birthday - which is precisely what I joked would be the type of person Jigsaw would eventually be going after in my review for Saw IV. Do Marcus and Patrick read this site? If so, stop stealing my jokes!! Or pay me for them. Or put me in VII.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


The Revenant (2009)

OCTOBER 20, 2009


I have been hearing good things about The Revenant, which allowed me to forgive the film’s reported two hour runtime. At least, that was the case BEFORE the movie. As yet another reel was loaded in, past a point where I felt the movie should have ended (time-wise, not narrative-wise), I began to wonder if director Kerry Prior was still filming the thing, and feeding reels to the projector as they came in (indeed, part of the film’s climax occurs right outside of the Mann’s Chinese 6 that we were sitting in - weird moment). But that's my only real concern with what is otherwise a terrifically funny and unique movie.

In fact, for the first 90 minutes or so, the movie is damn near perfect. The physical similarity of Bart and Joey (our main characters; Bart’s the zombie) to Shaun and Ed is a bit unfortunate, but it’s luckily NOT a Shaun clone in any way, and the main characters’ chemistry is more Kevin Smith than Edgar Wright. They’re a bit irate, they swear (a LOT), and they generally get on each others’ nerves while retaining their ‘best bud’ status. But the comedy comes not from winking homage to other zombie films, but in the way that Prior presents some of the obstacles that might arise from their situation.

For example, when they need blood, they try a hospital, hoping to get it in a bag instead of from some poor sod’s neck (a revenant, apparently, is a sort of vampire/zombie hybrid). But he is thwarted by a Scientologist nurse who tries to get him to take a Thetan test, as she assumes he is a confused goth kid. And when they decide to turn to criminals to satisfy Bart’s hunger, they inadvertently become vigilantes, saving would be rape victims and liquor store owners from harm (and then grossing them out when said folks see what they were really there for). It’s the unique film that takes a familiar premise and manages to avoid cliché (and even expectations) for the rest of its running time.

There are also a hefty number of sight gags and throwaway lines that kept me chuckling and guffawing throughout the runtime. Bart writing “General malaise” under symptoms when he goes to the hospital to find out why he’s behaving like a zombie is one of the biggest laughs in the film, and Joey’s apartment features a gloriously tacky neon light with the classic Last Supper image in the center that made me laugh every single time it appeared in a shot. In fact, the production design as a whole is largely terrific; not only does Joey have normal objects in his house like an Xbox 360 (for some reason, a lot of movies feature way older consoles in people’s apartments, which always makes me think the prop folks are way out of touch), but the various convenience stores feature Coke and Miller Genuine Draft, not Movie Wow Soda and (insert random word) Beer. Things like this help ground the film in reality, and it’s always appreciated.

It’s also oddly moving at times, which is tricky to pull off given the outlandish premise and abundance of humor. There’s a touching scene where Bart finally confronts his girlfriend and explains his situation, and Prior makes the brilliant choice of drowning out their dialogue and letting their body language (and a nice singer-songwriter ditty on the soundtrack) obscure what is likely to be silly dialogue anyway. And the final scene between Bart and Joey (well, his head) also resonates, as it ends a friendship that has obviously been important to both men (Joey seems more distraught than the girlfriend at Bart’s funeral (which opens the film), and his is the first place Bart turns to when he rises from the grave). I also enjoyed Prior's direction, which favored long takes of master shots over close-ups and quick cutting, which again reminded me of the best work of Kevin Smith, and the largely un-showy style was perfect for this outlandish but still somewhat laid back story.

But the final 20 minutes just try to cram in too many ideas, and it also seems that Prior felt the film needed a big gory climax, which I don’t think it needed at all. (SPOILERS AHEAD!) So instead of something a bit more low-key (like the rest of the film) and funny, we get Bart rampaging through the LA Subway, only to surface at the corner of Hollywood & Highland, where the police are all aiming guns at him. However, the frightened passengers begin running out of the subway entrance, which spooks the police into opening fire and killing dozens of innocent people (via really terrible CGI bullet holes and blood spray). Then Bart runs between the cops to escape, and they all shoot each other in the fracas. It’s way over-the-top, not amusing in the slightest, and just seems grafted in from a different movie entirely, not to mention lengthens the already overlong film. Then the final scene is fine (and contains terrific usage of Weezer’s “Only In Dreams”), but it feels like a sequel setup and (again), comes out of nowhere. I have heard that there is a shorter cut floating around, let’s hope that if that’s the one that gets wide release, that it fixes some of these pacing/length issues (the length was a common complaint amongst folks I talked to after the film, all of whom otherwise enjoyed it as much as I did).

How this movie has no distribution yet is a bit of a puzzler. With zomcom’s back in style thanks to Zombieland, you’d think an equally funny and slightly more original film in the sub-genre would be in the middle of a bidding war. Hopefully whoever DOES pick it up (Magnolia?) presents it in its best cut (with maybe a few bucks to fix some of the CGI issues) and gives it a nice release. It may lack big stars (I only recognized David Anders, who is hardly a household name) but it delivers big-screen entertainment all the same, and up there with Human Centipede as one of the no-contest highlights of this year’s Screamfest.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget