December 29, 2010

Chernaya Molniya (2009)

(AKA Black Lightning)

Well, it's not a horror film (and only vaguely borders on sci-fi) but since there's nothing else to write about at the moment, I decided to watch and review "Black Lightning" for you instead.

If you are a fan of "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" (as I am) then you were probably really looking forward to seeing this Timur Bekmambetov produced Russian superhero film. It has all the elements in place to fit right into that weird fantasy sub-genre along with "Wanted" and anything else that Timur gets involved with. Well, you'd think that until you realise whoever directed this (Dmitriy Kiselev and Aleksandr Voytinskiy) are certainly not in the same class at all.

To be honest, I was underwhelmed. On the the plus side, it had three actors in it from "Night Watch" (Viktor Verzhbitskiy, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Sergey Legostaev), one from "Wanted" (Dato Bakhtadze) and a lot of pretty Russian TV stars. On the negative side, only Viktor "Zavulon" Verzhbitskiy had much of a role and he was typecast anyway. Everything was unevenly paced and there was just a complete lack of consistency about the leads, Grigoriy Dobrygin and Ekaterina Vilkova (who, of course, you've never heard of), that it was hard to tell if this was a serious film or simply a plagiarised parody of 2008's American batch of superheroes.

If you've ever watched a "Spider-man", "Iron Man" or "Batman" movie then you've seen all this before. In fact, the most memorable scenes of each are used in such a glaringly obvious way that this could be something made by the Asylum people rather than a big name like Universal.

To be really derogatory about "Black Lightning", it could be described as "Spider-man" without a radioactive spider bite mixed with "Iron Man" with a car instead of a suit mixed with "Batman" set in Moscow rather than Gotham. I think there was at least one scene lifted straight out of "Superman" too and the villain's car looks ridiculously like the DeLorean from "Back to the Future".

The funny thing is that if you've never seen any other superhero film then you will probably enjoy it. I liked it for the first half hour or so but the whole thing with the flying car was too silly especially as it was all done better in "Day Watch". All the product placement with the Apple iPhones soon got old as well especially as the same thing happened with the Nokia 7650 in "Night Watch".

The special effects were good enough for this kind of thing. I'm not sure how low-budget this film actually was because there was obviously a lot of work put into the effects even if they weren't all that convincing. I've got a suspicion that "Black Lightning" is really a kids' film anyway (and by "kids" I do mean really little kids) and they probably wouldn't notice all the flaws that adults do. When I was little I thought that "Star Wars" was really good but I can't even bear to watch it now so just envision a generation of Russian children adding this to their future nostalgia collection.

Having seen a few films meant for children over the years both as a child and as an adult, I won't say that this is the worst I've ever seen. I reserve that particular honour for "Stormbreaker" (2006) which I advise you all to watch just before viewing "Black Lightning" if you want to double your disappointment.

Timur Bekmambetov is supposedly going to direct the American remake of "Black Lightning". I don't know if that will improve things or whether it will turn out to be just a bigger budget version of all this childish silliness for the Summer but I'm sure we'll all find out.

December 27, 2010

Crooked House (2008)

"A ghost story about a cursed house. The cursed house - Geap Manor - weaves together three ghost stories set during Georgian times, the 1920s and the present day."

Because I moved to America back in December 2007, I actually missed this replacement to the BBC "Ghost Stories for Christmas" entirely. Since there was nothing worth watching on BBC America this year other than the "Doctor Who Christmas Special", I found "Crooked House" to watch online instead.

Having now watched it a couple of times over (not entirely through choice but because it was so boring that it put me to sleep), I can tell you that it wasn't worth the effort. It must have had a ridiculously small budget even for the BBC and it shows in the lack of sets, special effects, acting ability of everyone involved and, most importantly, the complete lack of any scary moments.

I think it was intended as an homage to the Amicus anthology films of the '70s but, since hardly any of them were any good either, it's hard to tell whether "Crooked House" achieved its goal. I was mildly entertained by the first story in as much as it plagiarised Bram Stoker's "The Judge's House" even more than an old schoolfriend of mine did back in the day by submitting the same as homework but the second story which was set in the 1920s was just dull.

If you don't already know, 'Crooked House" was composed of three episodes of which the final one completed the wraparound main story about a necromancer travelling through time to steal a schoolteacher's unborn child for his master. The denouement and final revelations were predictable and hardly worth the wait but you can't really expect much more from such toned down TV horror anyway.

Possibly the only truly enjoyable moment for me was working out that the schoolteacher's blonde girlfriend was played by the girl who used to be Sarah in "Eastenders". I can't remember her name but she was also in an episode of "Torchwood" as a lesbian alien and it's always fun to see these ex-soap stars again.

Anyway, I can't really rate "Crooked House" as anything other than considerably less than average. It was a bit better than that awful Dennis Wheatley adaptation from October 2007, "The Haunted Airman", but was almost as tedious.

December 26, 2010

New Horror Films 2011

I've been searching around various websites and the IMDb to see what excitement we can all look forward to next year. Apart from one or two crappy handycam movies which are more than likely to be churned out without warning, this is as much as I've been able to come up with.

The Blob (2011) [REMAKE]
It's a remake which will obviously not even be as good as the 80s version.

The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
A twisted and unusual take on the familiar "cabin in the woods" formula. We shall see.

Castlevania (2011)
Yet another obsolete video game turned into a movie but at least it has vampires in it.

Child's Play (2011) [REMAKE]
Another remake which I'll avoid.

Clock Tower (2011)
A woman is tormented by an evil that has haunted her family for generations, but the only man who believes her is the psychiatrist she meets in a mental institution. Together they must find the source of her family's damnation and then fight for their lives, until the curse is finally laid to rest.
I bet it turns out to be crap.

Deathlok (2011)
A man unwittingly finds himself the subject of an experiment which slowly turns him into a cyborg, with computer and robotic parts replacing nearly his entire body...
Not really horror and bound to be inferior to "Robocop".

Evil Dead IV (2011) [SEQUEL]
Is this really going to happen? It's listed on the IMDb but nobody in the know has revealed anything about it. I think it's about as likely as Timur Bekmambetov finishing the "Dozor" trilogy or making "Wanted 2".

Final Destination 5 (2011) [SEQUEL]
Survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there's no way you can cheat Death. Whoopee, here we go again. It has to be better than the fourth one.

Halloween III (2011) [SEQUEL]
Patrick Lussier is taking over from Rob Zombie. Er... yay?

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) [SEQUEL]
I'm doubtful whether this one-trick-pony will be worth the wait especially as we all know what's going to happen. The rumour is that a dozen victims will be joined together this time which could be interesting to see. I hope it's gory this time though.

I, Frankenstein (2011)
I can imagine what this is about, can't you?

Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral (2011) [SEQUEL]
I'm hoping this will be good but I fear the worst.

Scary Movie 5 (2011) [SEQUEL]
I don't like comedies and I have no idea what they will parody after the appalling horror movies of 2010. If they do "The Human Centipede" as a comedy it might work.

Scream 4 (2011) [SEQUEL]
Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.
And ten years have passed since I even cared about this franchise.

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2011) [SEQUEL]
Heather Mason and her father have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn't fully understand, Now on the eve of her 18th birthday, plagued by horrific nightmares and the disappearance of her father, Heather discovers she's not who she thinks she is. The revelation leads her deeper into a demonic world that threatens to trap her forever.
I hated "Silent Hill" and the video games were about as boring as could be but this might be okay.

The Strangers 2 (2011) [SEQUEL]

The Suffering (2011)
I have no idea what this is about but the title makes it sound promising. It'll probably live up to its name for viewers anyway and I'll be able to rip it to shreds on this blog.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) [SEQUEL]
I don't know about you but I have to know how it all ends now. Well, I already do know because I've spoiled it for myself but I still want to see the last two outings with the sparkly vampires and bare-chested werewolves.

Zombieland 2 (2011) [SEQUEL]
There aren't any details available for this either but I should imagine that it will be more of the same only even crappier. I hated "Zombieland" and probably won't even watch it unless it has somebody interesting in it.

So there you have it, another slew of sequels and remakes with a couple of unoriginal low-budget formulaic titles thrown in for good measure. What are you looking forward to seeing next year?

December 19, 2010

Creepy Christmas

Well, it's almost that time again everyone! Only 6 days left! 'Tis the season to be bankrupt and to deck the halls with drunken relatives.

But, if the thought of your in-laws and your relatives' children isn't quite enough to fill your soul with horror, perhaps these seven gifts from Satan's Grotto may be just the thing...

Black Christmas (1974)
Argued by some to be the first slasher film, certainly it was the model for many which followed. Margot Kidder stars as a foul mouthed sorority girl in this festive killing spree.

Gremlins (1984)
Little furry creatures can be so much fun to give as pets for Christmas, but not when you feed them after midnight.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
In the week before Christmas, a group of psychic researchers investigate the most haunted house in the world.

The Toymaker (1991)
A little mute boy is terrorized by his Christmas presents in the best of the "Silent Night, Deadly Night" series.

P2 (2007)
A businesswoman is pursued by a psychopath after being locked in a parking garage on Christmas Eve.

The Children (2008)
A relaxing Christmas vacation turns into a terrifying fight for survival as the children begin to turn on their parents.

A Christmas Carol (1971)
An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by ghosts on Christmas Eve. It's a cartoon but Alistair Sim plays Ebenezer Scrooge and it's really not suitable for young children.

Yes, I know I recommend the same Christmas horror films every year but apart from the "And All Through The House" section of "Tales from the Crypt" (1972) there really aren't all that many good horrors set at Christmas anyway.

Crappy Christmas horrors that I don't recommend are:
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)
Night Train Murders (1975)
Christmas Evil (1980)
Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Santa Claws (1996)
Santa's Slay (2005)
Black Christmas (2006)

I hope everyone in the UK enjoys the new BBC version of "Whistle and I'll come to You" as the latest "Ghost Story for Christmas". There's nothing like that in America so we have to make do with the 1968 Michael Hordern version or watch "Scrooged" and the absolutely awful "A Christmas Story" over and over again. American Christmasses are weird. You can't even buy Warnink's advocaat or those cheesy footballs with earwax in the middle here so pity me as I try to dunk pretzels into Marmite to make DIY Twiglets and wash them down with my own alcoholic version of eggnog.

I've already got my Christmas present to myself anyway, an old Apple iBook (only because it was just $40 on ebay) which I'll be playing with all day while browsing the bargains in the post-Christmas sales.

Leave me a comment below and let me know what you are planning for Christmas.

December 12, 2010

2010 - The Year In Review

It wasn't the worst year for horror films but it was far from the best either. Looking back over the releases for 2010, the best were "A Serbian Film", "The Loved Ones", "The Collector" and "Frozen" (even though it shouldn't really be classed as a horror film at all).

From the others, "Daybreakers" was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, "The Human Centipede" almost lived up to the hype, and "Splice" was another entertaining if not entirely successful sci-fi romp.

I didn't like "Carriers" or "The Crazies", pretty much hated "Case 39", "The Descent: Part 2", and "Paranormal Activity 2", and, as usual, was indifferent to all the comedies such as "Lesbian Vampire Killers", "Neighbor", and "Vampires Suck".

Some of the standout straight-to-DVD movies which I enjoyed were "The New Daughter", "Triangle" and "Sick Girl" although they were all made last year so shouldn't really count.

The torture porn subgenre finally died completely with "Penance" and the final "Saw 3D" and everything else was just average especially the "Predators" reboot, remake of "The Wolfman" and the latest "Resident Evil: Afterlife" which some people claim was fantastic in 3D.

It's pretty sad that the best theatrical experience I had was watching "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" but that says more about the current state of distribution rather than my personal taste.

I've had a year of watching a ton of non-horror genre DVDs from Netflix plus using their online streaming services and I'm sure that I'm not the only one. I also really liked watching "Dead Set" on IFC and "The Walking Dead" on AMC.

According to various news sites, DVD sales have fallen significantly over the last year and even blu-ray isn't making much of an impact. Everybody is watching streaming movies now and the movie companies just aren't getting enough money back to invest in new features. With another year of remakes just around the corner, I doubt that we are going to going to see anything outstanding now since nobody is going to take any risks anymore.

Hopefully there'll be something good from Europe again in 2011 and handycam movies will finally cease to exist. If I ever get back into regularly reviewing on this site, I will just be going through my existing collection from now on.

There's only a couple of weeks left to panic buy all your Christmas presents so I'm going to take yet another break and do the same myself. I'll be watching all the BBC's "Ghost Stories for Christmas" on the big day itself and drinking copious amounts of Harvey's Bristol Cream. I've asked Santa for a Panasonic Toughbook CF-31 but I haven't been a good boy so I'll probably get a ZX-81 instead.

Anyway, have a creepy Christmas and a bloody good New Year!