June 30, 2010

The Wolfman (2010)

"Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man is bitten, and subsequently cursed by, a werewolf."

Before I begin, I just have to mention that this review is based on the "Unrated Director's Cut" rather than the theatrical release which sucked.

Now, although werewolf films usually suck almost as much as your average vampire and with this being a remake as well, I really thought I was going to hate "The Wolfman" even more than I already despise the over recurring poem in the original. I didn't. It really is much better than the original in many ways and "The Director's Cut" adds a lot more gore.

I do realise that gory special effects aren't everything in a horror movie but, when you are dealing with werewolves in particular, there really isn't much else you can use to sell the idea of their animal ferocity to the audience. We've all seen the heightened senses part done to death and transformations made to look more and more painful. What we all wanted, and what we all now have, are some savage kills wrapped up in neat little werewolf myth.

The theatrical release was so toned down in this regard that I pretty much wrote "The Wolfman" off as just another shitty child-safe remake. I wanted bloodshed, madness and some hairy bestiality like in Charles Band's "Phantoms" (Meridian) only with a big budget. Although I didn't quite get that with this "Director's Cut", Emily Blunt (even with her annoying accent) was pretty damned sexy and the slayings even sexier.

It's still the same story, more or less, as the 1941 original with the same names for the characters and all that good stuff. Well, it is an official Universal remake so you can't expect anything else. Everything is set in Victorian times of course with some rather strange additions to the character list such as Abberline (Hugo Weaving) from the "Jack the Ripper" story. You could probably splice big chunks of the latest Sherlock Holmes movie in there if you were a film editor and I don't think anyone would notice either. There are a few anachronisms but not enough to throw you out of the story entirely. Just a bit of work on the language and accents used may have helped but none of it is as bad as Keanu Reeves in "Bram Stoker's Dracula".

One of the biggest flaws was the casting. In spite of being miserable, Benicio Del Toro just didn't seem to have the brooding ability of Lon Chaney and I think we've all seen enough of Anthony Hopkins churning out the same role too. Both can be fantastic actors when they want to be but I found them to be a very mismatched pair in terms of their relationship to each other and I didn't think they really gave anything but routine performances. But what would I know? I'm not an actor, I just watch a lot of films. They didn't really entertain me as much as they normally do.

A massive change to the original story was the "Teen Wolf" twist which I won't spoil for you but you will be able to predict for yourself soon into the film. I don't know why they went that way instead of keeping the original werewolf as a gypsy but I'm sure it's something to do with political correctness gone mad. Perhaps there have been too many cursed gypsies over the years and they decided not to play to the stereotype. Cutting them down to only minor roles wasn't the greatest decision in my opinion although it did get rid of having to hear "the poem" half a dozen times.

"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." Yeah, I just did it for you to make up for it. Aaargh!

Actually the wolfbane does actually play a real part this time which I was glad of. That really did add something a bit different to the story in a good way though obviously not for the characters affected by it.

I think I need to say something about the special effects. Rick Baker was involved so the practical stuff was as good as "An American Werewolf in London" to some extent. It just wasn't groundbreaking anymore and most of the additional CGI was quite good on its own. Just don't look at the bear too closely! I really don't care how the effects are done as long as they look good. All the make-up and wardrobe people seemed to do a pretty good job too.

Danny Elfman's music in the film sounded a lot like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" to me which was kind of interesting especially as Anthony Hopkins was in that one too. I don't know it actually added a link to that remake or detracted a bit from this one. Either way it's a done deal.

The Victorian setting is something that I'm still trying to get my head around. On the one hand, it looks quite good but, on the other, the actors don't really get into it. I just found them all to be very modern. Again I need to mention the recent Robert Downey "Sherlock Holmes" movie as it suffers from the same thing. Maybe it's the pacing or lack of atmosphere. Both can be tarred with the same brush and both are just sort of "there". You just can't get into the "world" of these films because it is just dressing and doesn't have any substance to it. Period pieces need to have a lot more to them than just costumes and locations. "Superficial" is the word I'm struggling for. You can also add "shallow", "vacuous", or just plain "empty" to the list. Even the low-budget Hammer films from the 50s did Victorian England so much better.

Anyway, I actually enjoyed "The Wolfman" overall. It's not perfect but it wasn't a bad remake. It's sort of pointless and won't be remembered except by people who prefer Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" movies to the originals. I just wish that it had been the most incredible werewolf movie ever made but it sadly wasn't.

The Crazies (2010)

"As a toxin begins to turn the residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa into violent psychopaths, sheriff David Dutton tries to make sense of the situation while he, his wife, and two other unaffected townspeople band together in a fight for survival."

Yes, it's a remake of George A. Romero's 1973 movie of the same name but, in my opinion, it's one of the better remakes owing to how awful the original actually was. In fact I've never even made it through the 1973 version because it bored me to sleep every time I tried to watch it.

Having said that, this is not exactly a brilliant horror film either. There are some good action scenes every now and then but for anybody who has read Guy N. Smith's novel called "The Thirst" (with hindsight also a ripoff of George Romero), there's nothing new here and a lot that could have been done so much better.

Apart from the obvious social commentary about how the government will step in and control everybody to cover up their mistakes (yes, it's "Right at your Door" all over again), there's nothing very frightening for the not-so-paranoid at all. The make-up effects are pretty good but you don't see enough of people being affected by the virus to feel any sympathy for them. One minute they are okay, the next it seems that they are transformed into insane almost zombie things. The transformations should have been more drawn out.

The pacing is actually the biggest problem overall. Everything starts off well and it has a kind of Stephen King quality to the town's inhabitants. But, just as you get involved with the small group of characters that will be the survivors, everything jumps forward too quickly. I can even pin it down to the funeral home scene where I wanted to see if the priest was going to get his mouth unstitched but nothing ever came of it. All of a sudden the army were all over the place and people were being rounded up. Yes, that's a spoiler but you'll notice the big change of pace there too because it's so jarring.

There is also a lot of weird stuff between the sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy (Joe Anderson) who just seem to be in the right place at the right time to save each other. It's almost comical because it happens far too often. Their characterisation is a bit thin but at least there was some attempt at it unlike for any of the other characters. Rhadha Mitchell who plays the sheriff's wife isn't very memorable at all even if she does look beautiful. I thought she was much better in "Surrogates". Absolutely any other actress could have played her role but that's true of every other actor in this movie too. Nobody really stood out or even had chance to.

I think "The Crazies" does look good. At the start I wondered if I was watching a new movie or the 1973 version. I blame most of that on the way that small town America doesn't ever seem to change more than obvious set dressing. I found myself wishing that it had been set in the 1970s though and not modernised because it might have made the whole thing more interesting.

It was all just way too predictable and I'm getting tired of all the apocalyptic virus movies that I've seen. It's not just "28 Days Later", "Carriers" or "The Horde" that ruined it but everything goes back to "Night of the Living Dead" anyway. There really can be nothing overly original after that.

The downbeat ending (think of "Return of the Living Dead") is de rigeur for nearly all these "infection" movies too. I still sat and watched the whole thing like an idiot even though it was telegraphed with the satellite targetting shots right from the beginning.

So how should "The Crazies" be judged? As a standalone film it has nothing new to offer but as a remake it isn't a bad one. I'd probably rate it as "just average" in the great scheme of things. The latest generation of moviegoers seem to enjoy it but then I question their tastes about liking the remakes of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Halloween" more than the originals too.

June 29, 2010

An interview with Rena Riffel

Rena Riffel is an actress best known for her co-starring roles in "Showgirls" (1995) and "Striptease" (1996). However, she also has a darker side with aspirations to become the world's greatest scream queen!

With several horror roles already under her belt, including playing Lena in "Candyman: Day of the Dead" (1999) and Detective LaRue in "Dark Reel" (2008), she is already well on her way. Rena also directed/produced/wrote and plays the lead in "Trasharella" (2009).

Rena recently took some time away from her hectic Hollywood lifestyle and kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me. Here's what she had to say...

How did you become an actress?
I started taking an acting class, there was a showcase day with an agent that came to see the class. The agent signed me and a week after, he sent me on my first audition. It was for Bert I. Gordon, the director of a lot of famous cult films from the 50's, 60's, 70's like "Village Of The Giants", "Empire Of The Ants", "Earth Versus The Spider" "Attack Of The Puppet People"! Great titles!! So, I auditioned for him and he called my agent and said, "I am the best fuckin' actress to walk through his doors in a very long time". It was a death scene I auditioned for. And he read the lines with me. I was 18 or 19, so I did my reading as if it were a dramatic piece. I screamed so loud that I was embarrassed after the audition. They told my agent that I would have to drop a few pounds because I was playing a high fashion model.. so I starved myself. The film is "Satan's Princess". My Mom was on set with me. It was a great time. I thought I had really made it big at that point. LOL! That was Bert I. Gordon's last film he made. Though, he is still alive and well. I wish I could see him and thank him for my big break into acting. He "taft-hartley"-ed me. Which means, if you are non-union and get hired on a Union project, the producers have to pay more to get you into the SAG Union. So, I was really fortunate I got into SAG that way.

Did you do well at school or did you hate it?
Both. I got good grades, I was an over-achiever. But, I couldn't wait to graduate and get on with my life and career.

What has been the high point of your career so far?
Getting my hand prints and name in cement in front of the Hollywood Vista Theater at the MGM Showgirls DVD Box Set red carpet premiere in 04'.

And the lowest?
Lots of highs and lows. Mr. Skin said I have the most "schizo" career.

What part of the industry really pisses you off?
Auditioning and not getting the part.

What would be your ideal role?
A lead role in an A-List big budget film directed by a genius talented director.

And the worst one?
A stripper with one line in a non-union no budget movie with a bad script to start with.

If you were cast in an episode of 'Desperate Housewives' who would you befriend and who would you least like to have an onscreen romance with?
Marc Cherry.

Have you ever thought of being on a reality TV show such as Big Brother?
I was in a pilot called, "The Real Hollywood" with Season 1 Big Brother winner, Mike Boogie. I would like to be on a reality show, as long as I don't have to eat worms or be in a rehab.

What would you like to win?
A new car, money, a vacation to St. Martin...

If you were to be given a million dollars right now, what would be the first thing you'd do?
Buy a nice house to live in.

What are your current projects?
A thriller dance movie, two films in pre-production with Tony Todd, Inner Balance with Josh Eisendstadt, a couple horror scripts I am writing/producing, some low budget horror films, a documentary I am making... ok, I'll stop there.

Do you like to break rules or are you a good girl?
I'm a good girl.

Who do you admire in show business?
Naomi Watts. Drew Barrymore.

What is your favourite film ever?

If you could be anyone else for a day who would you want to be?
Ennio Morricone. Or Madonna.

As a model, what would be your ideal photoshoot?
In the French Riviera shooting with Helmet Newton. I was scheduled to do a shoot with him in 1994 while I was at the Cannes Film Fest. The director was good friends with him... but we never made it down there.

And the worst one?
Shooting with a psycho pervert.

What is your favourite brand of make-up?

Who is your favourite fashion stylist?
Dita Von Tease.

What do you like to do most when not acting or modelling?
Be alone, write, workout, dance class.

What music do you like?
I am loving Ennio Morricone and Piero Umiliani.

Do you play any instruments?
Kind of, a jack of all instruments. A master at none.

What time do you normally get up and go to bed?
Late to bed, late to rise.

Have you ever stayed awake more than 24 hours in a row, internetting for instance?
Only when taking long flights to Europe or when I went to the Carribean for Dante's Cove... I can't sleep on planes.

Have you become addicted to the net yet?
Yes, I sometimes get addicted to the internet... but mostly, just addicted to my computer and working on scripts or editing film.

Do you have a favourite website?
Of course, Dr Blood's Video Vault!

Have you ever bought anything from ebay or a garage sale?
Yes, a 1950's desk at a side walk sale and a 1930's hat from ebay. The hat was much smaller than it appeared to be in the ebay picture.

Would you have your picture taken wearing nothing but a Dr Blood's Video Vault t-shirt if you were sent one?
LOL. Of course!!

If you were stranded on a desert island which three things would you like to have with you?
Food, Water, and Internet. (that includes my computer)

What is your favourite meal? Do you have a favourite recipe?

If you were able to go anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you do there?
I would be on stage as Josephine Baker in 1920's France doing the banana dance.

Do you get any scary fans or have they all been nice to you?
My fans are nice and wonderful people.

What scares you?

If you were a cartoon character who would it be?
I like Jessica Rabbit. Hhhmm, Olive Oil. Or no, Speedy Gonzales.

What advice would you give an aspiring actress/actor?
Don't do it!!! Just kiddin'. I would tell them to get my upcoming book, The Starlet Survival Guide. Then they can survive in this industry, like I have managed to do.

Do you read a lot of books? Who is your favourite author?
No, I wish I would make more time for reading. It's on my list.

Which question would you most like to be asked?
How old are you and how much do you weigh?

And the answer to that question?
I don't really want to be asked that. How bout, would you like to join us for some champagne, caviar and crackers in Monte Carlo and we can discuss the financing of your new movie? And YES!

Thank you.

All pictures of Rena Riffel on this page are copyrighted to Rena Riffel and are used here with permission.

Please visit her website at www.renariffel.com for more details.

Rena can also be contacted at: http://www.myspace.com/renaonmyspace or visit her IMDB page.

Splice (2009)

"Elsa and Clive, two young rebellious scientists, defy legal and ethical boundaries and forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism. Named "Dren", the creature rapidly develops from a deformed female infant into a beautiful but dangerous winged human-chimera, who forges a bond with both of her creators - only to have that bond turn deadly."

Yet another so-called horror movie that turned out to be Sci-Fi and had all the fanboys wetting their knickers over a bit of nudity and bestiality. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad film, but it adds nothing new to the "Frankenstein" subgenre.

"Splice" is little more than a ripoff of David Cronenberg's "The Fly" but with genetic scientists rather than a teleporter splicing animal and human DNA together. Mercifully, however, there isn't any techno-babble or anything to really make the science involved seem credible. I'm sure that something like this might be possible one day but certainly not in the very near future.

So what are the fanboys on about? Well, it's all about the creature, Dren ("Nerd" backwards!), who gets produced from this gene-splicing experiment. She's a girl, and she's sort of pretty, so that's enough for some people. Yeah, you get to see her nude too. Whoopity-do! Without giving too much away, she later has sex with her "father" and "mother". Yeah, okay, so that really did give it away, but that will be the only reason anyone will want to watch this film in the first place. It's not as if I've told you how and why.

I suppose the acting is competent even if the characters aren't all that likeable. The practical effects look good as well, but without checking in to it, there seems to be a lot of CGI too. I might be mistaken about this, but I really don't see how else some bits were accomplished.

The story itself is, as you've gathered, about scientists playing God and getting their just deserts in the end. Maybe there's a moral message in there, maybe not. There's certainly some outright satire about corrupt corporations, but that will probably be wasted on most people who just want to see "the creature". I noticed it, and it made me a little bit angry. I only wanted to see the creature too.

Anyway, the bottom line is that "Splice" isn't a horrible film, but it's very derivative and not the "saviour of the horror genre" in any way. It's worth a rental, and maybe a purchase, but it's not something I would ever want to watch again.

June 28, 2010

The Human Centipede (2009)

AKA The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

I'm pretty sure that the infamy of what occurs in this film has eclipsed any chance I have of writing a fair review, but I'll give it a go anyway.

In case you didn't know, "The Human Centipede" is yet another in a long line of "torture porn" atrocities which, on a purely personal level, I think are absolutely fantastic! What happens this time? If you didn't click straight on the trailer above, here's the synopsis from the IMDb:

In Germany, two American women and a Japanese man fall victim to a demented surgeon who plans to recreate a horrific operation with humans that he performed on his three beloved dogs: reverse-engineering Siamese triplets by attaching their digestive systems.

So can you figure it out yet? How would you attach three human beings together? Obvious, isn't it? ASS to MOUTH! Yes, that's the bloody deal here. It's a bit of a one joke act, but that's the be all and end all of "The Human Centipede".

For those of you expecting a real gore fest, you are going to be sadly disappointed. Most of the horrific operation stuff occurs off screen presumably due to budgetary constraints. I suppose that accidentally makes this very "old school" in that what you imagine is actually worse than what you will see. But, rest assured, you do get to see the centipede in all its glory for the next two-thirds of the film.

The real horror of it all is from empathising with the two girls and man who have been sewn together. The only problem is that the man is Japanese (and doesn't speak a word of English) and the girls were both a pair of annoying airheads who nobody would feel sorry for anyway.

It's not as if there really could have been any better characterisation because these girls are pretty much in "Hostel" territory, out for a good time and not using any common sense. How the Japanese guy was captured is anyone's guess, but it undoubtedly involved a tranquilizer gun. He does have a backstory which comes into tragic effect later, but he isn't a very sympathetic character either.

None of the victims do anything particularly wrong to get themselves captured by the mad doctor (played admirably by Dieter Laser). He's a first class psycho who has it all worked out. What he wants, he gets, and they really didn't stand a chance. Again this is a recurring theme in the "torture" genre. Bad things just do (and will) happen to good people. Is that scary or just life? I'll leave that for you to decide.

Seeing the human centipede being trained like a dog, and the obvious nastiness of how it eats, is nothing compared to something like "Salo". But, yes, the predicament of the three people is horrible and you wouldn't want to be the middle one! Again, it's all down to how much you could think yourself into their place and what you would do that makes this horror either work or fail.

You'll just have to watch this yourself to see what I mean. It's the kind of film that makes you question a lot of what you've seen after it ends, and that's always a very good thing. Whether or not it scares you or just makes you feel a bit ill is another matter.

Technically everything is really good. It doesn't look "low-budget", the camerawork is professional/steady, the sound is clear, and the effects are nicely done but underused. The acting is actually pretty good too.

There's due to be a bigger budget remake next year so who knows what other horrors the director, Tom Six, will have for us. I think you'll like "The Human Centipede" when you get chance to see it, mainly because it's something a little bit different. I liked it anyway.

June 26, 2010

Let the Right One In (2008)

Although "Let the Right One In" (Låt den Rätte Komma In) may be overlong for those with small brains and no ability to enjoy anything other than the trend of grainy, low-budget, shakycam nasties which we have been subjected to over the past few years, for me it was very nearly perfect. In fact I wish that it was even longer as it is yet another film that you get so caught up in that you really don't want it to end.

Everyone mentions the "beautiful cinematography" but the sad thing is that this is just how films used to be shot and should still be shot to get audiences back into the movie theaters again. There are no bits that are too dark to see and nothing which will leave you with a splitting headache. It's just how a movie ought to be.

The plot is a simple one, not overly original but not too derivative either considering it is really just another vampire story. There is an independent movie by Jay Reel called "Dawn" (available from Tempe) which is pretty much the same thing but I doubt that anyone will have seen it so the best analogy is to say that "Let the Right One In" is like a children's version of "The Hunger" mixed with the kids' scenes from "Near Dark" and "Interview with the Vampire".

It also pays a fair bit of homage to a few scenes from "Innocent Blood" as well. There isn't a lot of humour in this, in spite of some bad CGI cats in a scene straight out of "Sleepwalkers" but it isn't overly scary either. Gore effects are realistic and minimal so think drama rather than horror and you'll be on the right lines. It's a hard film to fit into any genre really as it does tend to straddle quite a few non-horror themes most of which it deals with very effectively.

As far as the acting goes, since this is a Swedish film, it's hard to tell if the performances are anything other than just ok. I've heard from Swedish friends that some of the dialogue is a bit weak, verging on humorous, but, in translation (and with subtitles), this doesn't seem to matter to any English speaking audience. From what I could tell, the boy who played Oskar was a bit expressionless but seemed to have good chemistry with the girl who played Eli.

This is, without doubt, the best vampire film that I've seen for years and is one of my top films from this year alone. Apart from "Teeth" all this year's horror movies have been awful so this was a pleasant surprise at the end of the year.

I recommend "Let the Right One In" to everyone who likes good movies not just good horror movies. There's something here for everyone.

June 25, 2010

Vampire Killer Barbys (1996)

Yes, that is the correct spelling of the title even though the band featured in the movie is named "Killer Barbies" just like the famous dolls. Being English, I have the UK version of this movie which I bought from Poundland (a lot like Dollar Tree) a couple of years ago for the princely sum of, yes, you've guessed it - £1. It's just known as "Killer Barbys" everywhere else for obvious reasons.

Now, knowing my taste in movies as you may or may not yet do, you'd expect me to absolutely hate this lesser valued Jess Franco effort with a passion usually only spent vilifying Hollywood remakes. But you'd be wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Perhaps the main reason I liked it was because of all the boobs and blood. Yeah, baby, I like those. I also liked it because it reminded me of yet another "bad movie" from 1985 called "Der Formel Eins Film" ("Feel the Motion"). How can that be when "Killer Barbys" is a vampire horror movie and "Feel the Motion" is just a load of Europop bands performing amidst a weak storyline? Well, the truth is, "Killer Barbys" is just a vehicle for promoting the Spanish rock band of the title amidst a weak and cheesy storyline too.

Now, using an unknown (to the rest of the world) mid-90s rock band who all travel in the same van and have sex with each other as the focus of a movie may seem like wishful thinking on the part of "Scooby Doo" lovers everywhere. Well, it certainly was for me. But more than that, even in spite of poor dubbing and dialogue, I really liked the characters. We're not talking about something of quality like "The Monkees", "The Beatles" or even "Cliff Richard" with this little adventure though as none of them could act their way out of a wet paper bag. I could however see a great parody of "Summer Holiday" here as, in many ways, it was just as if Cliff and the gang somehow took a very wrong turn and ended up in Transylvania

The Killer Barbies unfortunately do not actually end up in Transylvania either. They are very much in Spain all the way through but it's always nice to see a bit of Europe that you haven't seen before. The camerawork is generally pretty good and things don't look too low budget even though they obviously were. It's really only some of the poorer practical effects that let it down but there's nothing too noticeable apart from a couple of really fake bodies and heads.

Which brings me back to the nudity. Heads? Nudity? You will see my reasoning when you learn that the vampire Countess who the band encounters when their van breaks down exists on a diet of blood and semen. Oh yes, and there's an oral sex scene too just before to make sure I complete the segue.

Mariangela Giordano plays the Countess with a great deal of sexual allure considering that she is the least attractive of the three female leads and is actually 59 years old! Seeing her naked isn't actually the horror you might expect from a woman her age which has me feeling a bit ill for some reason. Silvia Superstar who plays the lead singer Flavia also spends a bit of time nude and is one of the better looking women I've seen in any Spanish movie so I'm sure she'd be rated as the most attractive by a lot of viewers. The one who did it for me though was Angie Barea. She plays the overly horny blonde backup singer and is hot as hell! Trivia fans will love that she used to host a sex programme on Spanish TV too. Obviously she was typecast.

There's very little for straight females to enjoy here unless they like seeing a hairy willy in a bath. Now there was horror for me as I certainly didn't expect to see one of those half way through the film! I wouldn't say all the males in the film are ugly or anything, but they are quite plain in comparison to the women. There are even a couple of dwarves in it, but they don't do much at all really which is a shame.

The big question is should this even count as a horror movie. Hell, yeah! I even got into the story though it's certainly nothing original. Is it scary? Hell no! It's not scary at all unless women of nearly pension age rubbing blood all over themselves is a phobia of yours. Actually it might be one of mine now even though it turned me on!

If you are feeling a bit down and there's nothing else to watch then I can thoroughly recommend "Vampire Killer Barbys". It's worth the conversion rate of $1.50 of anybody's money but if you can't find it to buy then I suggest a rental. As "bad movies" go, it isn't actually that bad at all.

June 24, 2010

Unholy Reunion (2009)

When I first thought about reviewing this slasher, I wondered how I could turn the words "complete and utter crap" into something more meaningful. Every film has its merits so perhaps those four words wouldn't be entirely accurate even though that was the overall impression that I got from watching the screener.

I'll start off by giving some kudos to the first time director, Ric McCloud, for having no less than 5 credits on IMDB for this film. He not only directed, produced, wrote, and edited the thing but was also a stunt driver in it. Also, since he managed to involve nearly the entire state of Minnesota somehow, I have to mention that you will probably never see such a huge list of credits for family members and friends who all helped out on the movie as you will find at the end of this one.

But having given him his props (as you hip Americans say), "Unholy Reunion" is simply not a good film. I wanted to like it but it was so very amateur that I just couldn't get past the bad acting of the leads, poor dialogue, ridiculous (yet amusing) fight scenes and general awfulness of it all.

Since two actresses that I've known for a long time were involved in this, Nicola Blessing and Rachel Grubb, I was hoping to heap lots of praise on them for their performances but, even though it's likely to put my friendship with them in jeopardy, I really can't. Rachel Grubb gets most of the mentions across the internet for "Unholy Reunion" even though she only has a very small role at the beginning. It's not a bad role and she doesn't do a bad job at all considering what she had to work with but I have to say that if she hadn't got her norks out then her part would be quite forgettable. Yes, I watched this because I wanted to see her boobies too. Is that such a bad thing? No, she's a lovely girl with a Bettie Page haircut who just happens to have some nice orbs. I can't fault her there at all.

Nicole Blessing, on the other hand, who has a much bigger part as drug-dealer Liz really doesn't do very well at all until the end. It's a big waste of her talent to get caught up in projects like this and, unfortunately, she doesn't get her bunny rabbits' noses out to make her performance memorable at all. I did like how she looked and the fight scene where she knocked out the female psycho played by Jessica S. Lange (not THE Jessica Lange obviously) but she didn't even get a chance to really act until the end.

It's not just her though but everyone involved seems to get a bit better as the film goes on. If you based any opinion on the performances in the first 20 minutes or so of the film then you'd probably dismiss the whole lot as a pile of crap and hope to never see any of these people work again. Yes, that is harsh but the "party scene" with its terrible dialogue and poor camerawork is even worse than watching "Cloverfield" and that's saying something. Actually there's probably nothing much worse than watching Phil Berbig (as the psycho Adkov Telmig) since he really has no real menace to him and doesn't come over very psychotic at all. Flawed writing or miscasting a nice guy who can't act into the role of the villain? I'm still not sure.

That's really the trouble with all these ultra low-budget independents though as people tend to rely on family, friends and acquaintances to fill the parts. Sometimes a filmmaker gets lucky and a few talented individuals stand out but unfortunately nobody stands out in a good way in "Unholy Reunion" apart from Shannon McDonough (as Vicky) who does look genuinely frightened during the denouement.

The only saving grace of the whole film is not blonde Jessica S. Lange's very predictable twist from becoming the nice Rebecca Davis into a crazy version as I really couldn't tell the difference but Jarrod Crook's performance as Scott (her kung-fu loving boyfriend). The fight scenes were so well choreographed that you just have to marvel at Jarrod's energy even if they are somewhat ridiculous. They aren't exciting as such but are well done and you can see the work that went into them.

Other than that I can't recommend "Unholy Reunion" to anyone. It's not just that I don't like these handycam-filmed, glorified YouTube videos in general but also that this one is a particular stinker. The only memory that I'll take away from watching "Unholy Reunion" is how all the actors stared into space for about 2 minutes after their characters were killed to make it look as if they were dead. It worked the first time but after that it just became boring and made me want to sit and stare into space myself rather than watching this film.

June 23, 2010

Trasharella (2009)

When I first saw the name of this movie, I feared the worst. "Trasharella" initially sounded like the kind of low-budget dreck that a studio like Troma would release as a bad, sexed-up parody version of "Cinderella" but with even less chance at cult status than any of the other "-ellas" already out there ("Barbarella", "Cadaverella", "Vampirella", "Stripperella"... the list goes on). But, when I saw that Rena Riffel was not just the star of this but also the first time director and producer, I was intrigued enough to give it a chance. I'm glad I did too.

In case you've never heard of Rena Riffel, she was Lena in "Candyman: Day of the Dead" (1999) but is best known for playing Penny/Hope in Paul Verhoeven's "Showgirls" (1995). She's also hot, uber hot, and there's a damn good reason why she has often been referred to as having the best body in Hollywood. Rena has done a lot of topless roles over the years and I always find that a good thing when it comes to actresses.

Really if you are going to watch a bad movie then it's pretty much a necessity to have a lot of eyecandy to keep your interest and with Rena Riffel in a movie you can be sure that all your hopes there will be taken care of even if she keeps her clothes on. She's also one of the sweetest people you could ever hope to meet and that part of her personality shows through in every character she plays. To watch her is to love her in ways that you'd probably only experience from watching old Audrey Hepburn movies. Rena is perhaps more of a Marilyn Monroe than an Audrey but I'm sure you'll agree with my point once you go back and familiarise yourselves again with her previous roles.

So when I put the "Trasharella" screener into my DVD player, I have to admit that an element of bias crept into the equation. For that reason, I didn't even read the synopsis and certainly no other reviews. I knew that I was going to like watching the beautiful Rena but I had to clear the playing field of anything else that would influence my viewing pleasure. With a pie in one hand and the remote control in the other, I was free of all distractions and ready to devour not only the pie but every frame before me.

The movie begins in black and white with occasional added digital effects including some faux film scratches and a grainy look to make everything look more "grindhouse". Cinematography is generally very good thanks to Dave Edwards. It's not done perfectly, but you can see what was intended and it isn't too distracting. Some useful "Zombie Walk" extras show off their make-up briefly just to make sure that everyone knows that this is going to be a horror fairy tale.

It's during these scenes that we learn the origin of a vampire curse on Hollywood starlets which began 75 years ago during one of Helena's past lives in France. Everything turns into a silent movie for a while and it's a clever idea. My only real criticism of this section, taking into account the low-budget (and avoiding mentioning the sparseness of the sets), is that technically it needed to be a bit blurrier and darker to make it look more authentic. Everything was a bit too sharp which undermined the other effects used to make it look like old footage. Rena looks great though as an aspiring silent movie actress and hams it up nicely.

Then we're back to the present day and things switch to colour. Rena's red wig and green dress really stand out. Everything stays grainy though and saturation levels are changed from time to time to slightly posterise the look of what now turns into a live-action comicbook adventure. It's hardly going to be another "Blade" since Trasharella's enemy is none other than the comedic Count Smokula.

In spite of the presence of this stereotypically Jewish vampire Count, there's nothing too horrific in any of this apart from a lot of the obviously improvised dialogue. Some aspects of this work better than others and there are some good lines, but they are few and far between. What set this out of the ordinary though was when Rena suddenly burst into song. I really wasn't expecting that at all.

The songs in "Trasharella" wouldn't be out of place in a bigger budget Hollywood musical though they are equally camp enough for fans of Rocky Horror too. Rena Riffel has a beautiful voice which sent shudders down my spine during the very catchy "Perfectly Imperfect". There's another catchy yet not quite so memorable song by Count Smokula in the middle but the final number, which I think is called "Beauty is Pain", performed again by Rena Riffel, reminded me a lot of Blondie. Yes, the musical numbers really are that good! The full 2-DVD set also contains a couple more music videos it seems, but I was suitable impressed by the ones contained within the movie itself. "Trasharella" has a lot of hidden gems and not just the ones inside her magic lipstick (but more about that later).

While not being entirely a "girl power" movie, there's a definite female empowerment message at the heart of "Trasharella" and some not too thinly veiled satire/social commentary about Hollywood in general. Count Smokula comes across as representing male oppression through the ages while the starlets themselves are forced to become sleazier and trashier to succeed. It's not giving too much away to say that, when Helena transforms into Trasharella with the aid of a Betty Page wig, magic lipstick, and magic pumps to conquer the vampire's curse, it's not without severe consequences to her own psyche. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it but the whole film could be considered a warning that if a girl wants to succeed in showbusiness then the necessity of becoming trashy will be detrimental to her mental health. It's a good job that Rena only does these wholesome G-rated movies then, isn't it? Yes, I probably read too much into it. It is supposed to be a comedy after all.

Tom Challice has the most memorable comic performance for me as Helena's psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Fieldsgoodman, when he turns himself into a Red Injun brave while taking notes of her problems. I know I should find Count Smokula more amusing than I do, but I also found him to be a bit too sinister to carry the comedy off. Maybe I'm just jealous that he got to have Rena as his slave even if it is only acting.

Other notable things about "Trasharella" include some fine naked boobage on display from Mary Carey (as Lucy Les Rue) and Rena herself. An amusing laundry room tease had me thinking that Rena was going to keep her goodies covered up for the whole film, but thankfully she didn't. There's some almost erotic lesbian sexual tension between Helena and Lucy but it doesn't really come to anything. A tiny girl to girl kiss much later (involving sharing the magic lipstick with Jade Paris as Becky Bardot) is also over far too quickly. There are no sex scenes as such though because, quite simply, they wouldn't add anything to the plot one way or another. It's all just a bit of a burlesque tease which again is a clever way of tying "Trasharella" back into "Showgirls" and "Striptease" for Rena Riffel worshippers everywhere.

I also have to mention the TV Batman-style fight scenes with onscreen "Kapows". I wish that they had gone on longer mainly because I could watch catfights like this all day especially if they involve Jade Paris. I know from Rena herself that a lot was unfortunately edited out because the movie was getting too long. The whole thing now runs for 102 minutes.

With all its flaws, "Trasharella" is firmly entrenched in the "so bad it's good" genre and only falls short slightly from having a guaranteed cult status. I can still see a cult following of convention girls wearing nothing but dresses made of black plastic bags, maple-heeled pumps and buying "magic lipstick" replicas complete with Austrian crystals inside the cap. Actually even if it never happens that little excursion into the realm of my imagination was a special moment.

If you are into Ed Wood then you'll love "Trasharella". Comparisons to the British "Razor Blade Smile" (from 1998) can also be drawn as Trasharella is an equally iconic character to Eileen Daly's Lilith Silver but without the vampiric elements. Perhaps if Trasharella had become a leather-clad vampire rather than a trashbag-wearing vampire slayer then she would have been even sexier. Maybe there's an idea for a sequel... "Pleatherella" perhaps?

"Trasharella" definitely needs a sequel as the ending really didn't go the way I expected it to. Count Smokula seems to be indestructable in spite of being "killed" twice in this movie (once with a Barbie doll "crucifix" of all things) and would certainly benefit from a repeat performance as Trasharella's nemesis. Anything that gets Rena Riffel to cover her chest in fake blood again has to be a good thing, right?

There are no big special effects other than some blood spatter but boobs and blood are usually the only elements needed to please me even if a movie lacks in most of the qualities that normal people (and I use that term very loosely) need to justify the amount of entertainment they derive from it all. The fact that one of the pairs of boobs here belongs to Rena Riffel is the most special effect of all. Did I mention how Rena looks so beautiful in every scene that it makes you want to lick the TV screen? Well, I have now.

Apart from her physical charms though, Rena shows that she has a considerable amount of talent. In truth, she's a Jill-of-all-trades and most of her creativity is yet to be tapped but "Trasharella" is very much a step in the right direction. It not only makes me wonder what Rena would do with a bigger budget, but also how much success she could achieve if she were to pull things up a couple of notches and continue to direct other less Rena-centric, projects.

It's no secret that, in spite of watching a lot of bad movies, I'm hardly the biggest fan of this genre, but to be fair, "Trasharella" is simply the most refreshing low-budget, independent movie that I've seen for a long time. I recommend it, and I'm quite pleased to have it in my collection. It's not much of a horror movie and is certainly not going to win any mainstream awards, but you won't be disappointed if you like bad movies which are intentionally made to be that way.

June 20, 2010

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Like a lot of people, I have never been overly enthusiastic about Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left" (1972). I have it in my collection for completeness but it's not exactly brilliant, is very mean-spirited and is really quite embarrassingly bad compared to other movies from the same year. The funny thing about "Last House on the Left" was that, despite its awfulness, it was banned during the UK's "Video Nasty" purge in the '80s and remained that way for over 20 years. Although a few slightly censored versions came out, it was only this time last year (March 2008) before it was even legally available as a fully uncut DVD and a lot of people were very disappointed that its notoriety couldn't match up to its content.

So it was obvious that something had to be done and Greek director Dennis Iliadis (previously known for directing "Hardcore" in 2004) obviously set out with good intentions to make a version of "Last House on the Left" which horror fans would actually like. With even more hype than the original ever received, everyone was onboard with this film and wanted it to be the most brutal, horrific thing that they had ever seen. But did Dennis Iliadis succeed where Wes Craven failed? Well, yes and no.

To begin with, "The Last House on the Left" (2009) is not a scene by scene remake but with added gore. That would have been the easy way out and probably wouldn't have been any improvement. It's not a total re-imagining either because, as we all know, the likelihood was that the whole project would have turned into something as hated as Rob Zombie's "Halloween". Instead there are subtle storyline changes, slightly more likeable characters and a lot more realism.

With quite a spiteful opening scene to highlight the nature of the villains, the rest of the characters are all introduced well and enough time is spent on them to get to know them but without creating a lot of empathy or overdoing it. There's room left for them to create their own exposition. While the Collingwood family still remain mostly two-dimensional, some subtext about a dead son, Ben, is brought in to flesh them out but it's never fully realised. It does provide a useful plot device later on and helps to explain a little bit of the motivation behind the way they interact with each other and the gang/family of criminals, but I wanted to know more about their previous tragedy and it just wasn't there. This was a lot different to the beginning of the original "Last House on the Left" though and at least showed an attempt to subtley create a more credible flow to the story.

More important changes occur with the rape scene. It's one of the nastiest rapes that I've ever seen on screen and is definitely up there with "I Spit on Your Grave" (which is also due to be remade this year). Having said that, its realism is somehow marred by being a lot less graphic and it's all over a lot more quickly than you'd expect. It's probably the building tension and the absolutely inescapable certainty of what is going to happen that makes it all seem a lot worse than it is, and Sara Paxton (as Mari Collingwood) is very convincing. What makes it different to Wes Craven's version though is the final outcome of the victim and how it effects the rest of the story. Without giving too much away, this obviously changes the motivation of her parents later from purely revenge to a need to protect and survive at all costs. That was a nice touch.

The parents are played by Monica Potter (as Emma) and Tony Goldwyn (as John). If they look familiar to you it's because, like the rest of the cast, they have both done a lot of TV work. The irony of the actor who played a modern day Jesus in the film "Joshua" (2002) now killing the bad guys was not wasted on me.

Similarly, Garret Dillahunt (as the psychotic Krug) is better known recently for playing the robotic Cromartie in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles". Once you start to identify any actor with a previous role it spoils the "willing suspension of disbelief" and no amount of make-up or beard-growing is going to change that even though I must admit that even I didn't immediately recognise any of them. Garret Dillahunt is a lot colder in the role than David Hess but unfortunately doesn't come across as at all scary when compared to his lecherous brother Francis (played by Aaron Paul). Spencer Treat Clark (as Krug's son Justin) was the one who gave the best performance in the film, perhaps because he is the least recognisable and can be judged more on his own merits.

One fake recognition for me was with Riki Lindhome who played the evil Sadie and was the only one of the beautiful girls in the film to get her boobs out. From certain angles she looks just like Juliet Landau from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", but amusingly for me once I'd found out my mistake, she played a completely different character in Joss Whedon's series. She's absolutely gorgeous though and has a great topless fight scene near the end which is almost worth buying the eventual DVD for just to keep repeating it.

The practical effects, camerawork, music and overall production values are very good. The only major problems with "The Last House on the Left" which stopped it from being a lot better than the original are the average dialogue and the lack of satisfying kills when it comes to the gang of criminals getting their comeuppance.

Here's where I spoil it all for you (although the trailer above already does that quite well too). The first death is overlong, the second too short, and the final one involving a broken microwave is simply ludicrous. The placement of this scene also leaves a lot to be desired.

Whereas the rest of the movie was nicely paced, the whole "revenge" section is rushed in comparison and the disjointed ending seems tacked on. I didn't get any satisfaction out of it and just felt absolutely nothing at all.

In fact, the ending of "The Last House on the Left" simply nullified the rest of the movie and the little bit of enjoyment that I was getting. The only reason that I can think of for it being that way is that the director first wanted a happy ending and then wanted it to end with a bang but couldn't think of how to put the two together.

Whatever Dennis Iliadis' choices were, he was doing well until he eventually made the wrong one and killed any chance of this film being memorable. It's a shame. "The Last House on the Left" is better than the original in many ways but just as bad in others.

June 18, 2010

Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

(AKA Vampire Killers)

"Their women having been enslaved by the local pack of lesbian vampires thanks to an ancient curse, the remaining menfolk of a rural town send two hapless young lads out onto the moors as a sacrifice."

As much I as loathe and detest horror-comedies when I saw the title of this film and heard that it had two of my favourite British actors in it (neither of them being James Corden by the way), I was really looking forward to seeing it. I also had a feeling that I was going to be disappointed, but to what extent I couldn't possibly imagine.

For an adult sounding film "Lesbian Vampire Killers" is just on the wrong side of childish no matter what your horror or comedy tastes are. There's no real gore or nudity even if there are some very beautiful semi-clad women in it who kiss and fondle each other. I suppose you might find it sexy if you are eleven years old and get a giggle out of the title.

The comedy, such as it is, would seem puerile even in a real teenage comedy such as "The Inbetweeners". The British swear words and attitudes are refreshing, but two thirty year old men acting like pubescent teenagers is more pathetic than amusing. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with either Mathew Horne's or James Corden's performances, but the script isn't particularly funny. I'll admit that there are a couple of good lines though they aren't exactly side-splitting.

It's all really a very bad parody of "An American Werewolf in London" and the Hammer "Karnstein" films with a title inspired by Roman Polanski's much better spoof.

I was hoping that Paul McGann (my main reason for wanting to see this) was going to make the whole sad affair a little bit better and he did. His role as a vampire hunting vicar is a highlight for sure even if it doesn't really amount to anything much.

Now in case you are thinking that I'm being too harsh, I will say that "Lesbian Vampire Killers" had good production values and was very watchable. If it had been a lot more adult then it would have been really enjoyable even with all the cheesiness. Of course, the comedy would still not have been funny and the horror still not scary, but that's nearly always what happens when you try and mix the two together.

It's all pretty quick over the ground which is no bad thing unless you equate that with the word "shallow". For what it is, "Lesbian Vampire Killers" isn't totally horrible, but I have no idea who the target audience was meant to be or why this movie was even made in the first place.

I have, unfortunately, seen a lot of movies which are far worse than this so I won't rate it as an absolute turd. Horne and Corden are hardly the new Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey of laddish behaviour, but I don't honestly think they even try to be. Mathew Horne has done some outstanding stuff on British TV and he can walk away from this pretty much unscathed. The same can not be said of anyone else involved.

June 17, 2010

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

Hot lesbian ghosts, gore scenes that have you saying "Lush!" everytime they occur and enough CGI to keep video gamers entertained for years. Yes, this had it all!

It wasn't as clever as the original by any stretch of the imagination but it was about equal to the remake. You can't really hope for any more than that when it comes to sequels to remakes anyway. At least this one had a lot more ghosts.

I liked the first hour of it but things started to run out of steam towards the end. All the best death scenes were used up by then. It all started relying on far too much CGI and was verging on the crappiness that was "Silent Hill" by the time everyone reached the crematorium. None of the jump scares worked and it lacked any real atmosphere.

Characterisation was quite minimal but adequate and it looked good for a straight-to-DVD product. There really isn't much more to say about it. It was predictable and unoriginal but still very gory and quite entertaining. Jeffrey Combs was completely wasted in it though. I hope he got paid a lot for his one line.

June 7, 2010

The Big Lots $3 Horror DVD Master List

Since moving to America three years ago, I've been regularly buying DVDs from my local Big Lots for $3 each.

Various sites have attempted a "Master List" of all the titles they were selling, but none have made a definitive horror DVD list... until now that is. Here it is.

$3 DVDs
100 Feet
After Midnight
Alone in the Dark
An American Werewolf in London
The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror (remake)
Amityville 2: The Possession
Amityville III/3D
Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid
Anatomy 2
April Fools Day (remake)
Attack of the Puppet People
Basket Case 3
Black Cadillac
Blade II
Body Snatchers
Bone Eater
The Bone Snatcher
The Boogeyman/The Return of Boogeyman
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (DVD + CD)
The Bride
The Brood
Bubba Ho-Tep
A Bucket Of Blood
Burnt Offerings
Cameron's Closet
Candyman 2: Farewell To The Flesh
Candy Stripers
Carrie (TV remake)
The Cave
The Cavern
The Changeling
Christina's House
Chupacabra Terror
Count Yorga, Vampire
The Creeping Flesh
Crimson Rivers
Crimson Rivers 2: Angels Of The Apocalypse
Curse of Frankenstein/Taste the Blood of Dracula (Double Feature)
The Dark
Darkness Falls
Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Decoys 2
Dead Calm
Dead Silence
The Dead Zone SE
Deadly Friend
Death Tunnel
Demon Seed
The Dentist
Die Monster Die!
Dr. Giggles
Dr. Phibes Rises Again
The Dunwich Horror
Earth vs. the Spider
Eight Legged Freaks
The Exorcist
The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen
Exorcist II: The Heretic
The Exorcist III
The Exorcist: The Beginning
The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
Eyes of a Stranger
The Fall of the House of Usher
Final Destination
Final Destination 2
The Fog
The Fog (remake)
Freddy vs. Jason
Frightmare (aka Paranoid)
The Frighteners
Funny Games (remake)
Ghost Ship
Ghost Stories Vol. 2
The Ghoul
The Glass House
Glass House: The Good Mother
Godzilla: Monster Edition
The Grudge
The Grudge 2
The Hand
The Hannibal Lecter Anthology (Hannibal/The Silence of the Lambs)
He Knows You're Alone
The Hitcher
The Hitchhiker
The Hitchhiker Vol. 2
The Hitchhiker Vol. 3
Hollow Man
Hollow Man 2
Horror of Dracula
House of Wax
House on Haunted Hill (original)
House on Haunted Hill (original and remake Double Feature)
House on Haunted Hill (remake)
How To Make A Monster
The Howling SE
The Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf
Howling 4 - The Original Nightmare
I Bury The Living
I Know What You Did Last Summer
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
I Walked with a Zombie/The Body Snatcher (Double Feature)
Identity SE
I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
Isle of the Dead/Bedlam (Double Feature)
It's Alive
Jason X
Joy Ride SE
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
King Kong
Land of the Dead
The Marsh
Mary Reilly
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Monster High
The Monster That Challenged the World
The Mothman Prophecies
Mute Witness
Needful Things
Nightmare on Elm Street
The Omen (2-disc CE)
Once Bitten
Of Unknown Origin
Phantom of the Opera
The Pit and the Pendulum
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Planet of the Vampires
The Possession of Joel Delaney
Premonition (aka Convergence)
Population 436
Psycho (remake)
Psycho II
Psycho III
The Pumpkin Karver
The Rage: Carrie 2
Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders
Red Dragon
Red Water
The Return
The Revenge of Frankenstein
Rosemary's Baby
Salem's Lot
Seed of Chucky
Shaun of the Dead
The Shining
Single White Female
Single White Female 2: The Psycho
The Skeleton Key
Species II
Species III
Spirit Trap
Stephen King's The Night Flier
Stephen King's The Shining (TV miniseries)
Swamp Thing
Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The Thing With Two Heads
Thir13en Ghosts
Torture Garden
Tremors 2
Tremors 3
Tremors 4
Urban Legend
Urban Legends: Bloody Mary
Urban Legends: Final Cut
Vampires: Los Muertos
When a Stranger Calls
When a Stranger Calls (remake)
White Noise
White Noise 2
Wind Chill
The Woods
X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes
Zombie Strippers

$5 DVDs
30 Days of Night
Prom Night
Snakes on a Plane
Moscow Zero

$6 DVDs
Ghost Ship/Dreamcatcher (Double Feature)
Gothika/Queen of the Damned (Double Feature)
The Lawnmower Man/Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War (Double Feature)
The Lost Boys/Lost Boys 2: The Tribe (Double Feature)
It/The Shuttered Room (Double Feature)
It's Alive/It's Alive II/It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (Triple Feature)
Psycho II/Psycho III/Psycho IV: The Beginning (Triple Feature)
Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned (Double Feature)

$6 DVD box sets
Blade (Complete TV series)
Chilling - 20 Movie Pack (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Friday the 13th: The Series (Season Two)
Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes (TV series)
Strange Tales - 20 Movie Pack (Mill Creek Entertainment)

$8 DVD box sets
Chilling - 50 Movie Pack (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Drive-in Classics - 50 Movie Pack (Mill Creek Entertainment)

If I find any more, I'll add them to the list. Titles and restocks vary from store to store, so what you find in one may not turn up in another Big Lots for ages. Happy hunting!

June 4, 2010

Phantom Racer (2009)

Now I know that I'm going to drop myself right in it with the other horror aficionados out there but I actually enjoyed this SyFy TV movie.

Yes, I do realise that it's just a really low-budget mix of "The Car", "Christine" and "The Wraith" but none of those movies had Greg Evigan or Nicole Eggert in them as far as I know. It's pretty much their performances that carry this silliness and make it one of the most entertaining things that I've seen for weeks.

For those of us of a certain generation, the in-joke of Greg Evigan playing a truck driver again with only one letter changed in the name of his character, not B.J. but J.J., might make some people think that you shouldn't take any of this too seriously. The way his onscreen daughter chides him with, "You killed my two dads!" confirms it. The teenagers that this movie is really designed for wouldn't even notice though because everybody plays their parts as straight as the script allows them to. I'll have to watch it again to see if there were any less obvious Baywatch jokes for Nicole Eggert.

Obviously every horror fan will compare "Phantom Racer" unfavourably with the other possessed car movies and I'd be foolish not to join them. It really isn't in the same class at all but some of the gore certainly is. Not to spoil it for you too much but there really are some quite visceral kills which, although over far too quickly, really crank this up a few notches from the usual kiddie-safe SyFy fodder. I particularly enjoyed the windscreen wiper scene but, in all fairness, it was really far fetched. Yes, as far fetched as an evil ghostly driver coming back for revenge in his old racing car, I suppose.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into all the bad parts such as the uber clichéd car chases or anything like that because this is a pretty fast paced movie and there's nothing in it which will bore anybody for too long. A couple of the performances were a little bit weak but you'll hardly notice them. If it had had a bigger budget then it could have been a lot gorier for my tastes but it would still have been the same ridiculous story so it doesn't really matter.

"Phantom Racer" is just an amusing time-filler for a wet afternoon or an early morning when there's nothing else to watch. I would even go so far as recommending it for purchase as well if you really like the subgenre. For others, I think this is only worth a rental unless you manage to catch it on TV for free.