Category Archives: Movie review

Movie reviews.

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

Yesterday, I had the luck of convincing a few friends to come see Hobo with a Shotgun at The Times Cinema in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I missed opening weekend because I was out at the Indy 500 on Memorial Day. Opening weekend received such a great response, that The Times brought it back for a second weekend. It was a dream come true. The only trouble was calling up a bunch of friends and begging them to come.

When walking in, I had no clue what to expect. I was more focused on the fact that we could get kicked out any second, not only because we were under-age (according to The Bible), but because my friends and I shoved a bunch of drinks and snacks from the gas station into two little bags. The Times Cinema showed some hilarious fake trailers, many I believe from the Tarantino/Rodriguez GRINDHOUSE Double Feature. They also showed the original fake trailer for Hobo with a Shotgun, which was a no-budget trailer contest entry at South by Southwest.

The film began with “the hobo”, played by Rutger Hauer (The Hitcher), arriving in his new city by train. After only a day of life on the streets, he realizes that he has arrived in the city of “F*** TOWN”, where the safest job is prostitution. While at the pawn shop to buy a lawnmower (49.99), Hauer is faced against a gang of robbers, and instead buys the shotgun (priced at 49.99). After a bad experience with the police, the hobo has to take the law into his own hands and kill off all of the corrupt citizens. I’d love to go further with the plot, but there’s really not much more to it. If you want to see it, you can see it.

Anyway, I LOVED it. It was by far the best (fake) “grindhouse” movie made with a decent budget (According to IMDb, an estimation of $3 million). From the first death to the last death, I don’t think I went 3 minutes without seeing some sort of major special effect involving blood. Most of the effects appeared to be practically done, which I absolutely love.

The ONLY part I didn’t like, and I mean ONLY… Is a scene where the two bad guys set fire to a bus of young children. I don’t care about how offensive this scene was, I just didn’t like how it was pulled off. The fire looked ridiculous and it showed the two guys’ faces while they were setting fire. You could see waves of fire in front of the guys’ faces and it just looked like Harry Potter-quality special effects. It tried to make them look too cool. I think if something offensive is happening in the movie, you may as well show it, because the entire audience could imagine what the bus probably looked like while it was burning.

Despite that corny scene, I’d have to say that this was a fun movie. No other words, just fun as hell! Go see it… especially now that it’s on video!

Heartless (2009)

Director:  Philip Ridley

Writer: Philip Ridley

Cast: Jim Sturgess, Clémence Poésy, Joseph Mawle, & Noel Clarke

Rated: NR

Rotten Tomatoes | Amazon | Trailer

Heartless is another “hoodie horror” from 2009.  This film is a return to directing for Philip Ridley.  Apparently he had not directed a film in 15 years.   I thought this one was interesting but convoluted at times.  A lot of ideas and concepts are squeezed into the 114 minute runtime.

This one focuses on Jamie who has been outcast from birth because of a heart-shaped birthmark over much of his face.  Jamie sees demons donning hoodies in the streets of London.  His mother passes away and he is forced to care for himself after a life of coddling.  Jamie meets a gentleman named Papa B who makes Jamie’s dream come true….to have his birthmark removed and live a normal life.

Well as expected things do not go as planned.  He is forced to pay back the favor bestowed on him by killing specific people, cutting out their hearts, and placing the on the church steps.  Throughout this whole process he falls in love with a young lady and he seems quite happy.   Jamie is forced to choose between his new found love and providing hearts for the bloodthirsty Papa B.

All in all I would say that this was a very entertaining movie.  The main drawback to me is the CGI demon faces on the hooded kids.  This is absolutely horrible.  Some of the worst I had seen in recent years and it really took me out of the movie.   With that being said I really liked the development of the characters in the film.  You can actually feel Jamie’s pain.  The relationship between him and his deceased father was particularly gut-wrenching.   The heart of the film centers around lessons learned and love lost.   Get ready for many twists and turns along the way.

Recommended for a rental

7/10

F (2010)

Director: Johannes Roberts

Writers:  Johannes Roberts

Cast:  David Schofield, Eliza Bennett and Ruth Gemmell

Rated: 18+

Rotten Tomatoes | Trailer

F is one of the most recent entries into the “hoodie” horror trend that has been going on over the past few years in the UK.   It centers around a group of teachers and students that are trapped in a high school at night and picked off by kids in black hooded sweatshirts.

The film opens on a class room where the lead character, teacher Robert Anderson (played by David Schofield), gives an upper class student an F on an assignment.   This student promptly gives Anderson a broken nose via headbutt in return.  The school turns the situation around and all blame is placed on the teacher.

Flash forward to the near future and Anderson is the butt of many jokes around the school.  He has no authority at all and the students take advantage of him.  He has turned to the bottle and now seems to be quite the alcoholic.  You learn that one of the students in his class is his daughter and they have a strained relationship to say the least.   He gives her detention for reading a magazine in class and later that night is when the hoodie kids strike. At first, the attacks seem somewhat harmless and more vandalism than anything.  Things get stepped up a notch and the kids start killing of the cast one by one in various bloody ways.

I have mixed feelings on this one.  The subject matter is odd to me.  The way the initial headbutt is handled by the school seems very reminiscent of the American public school system to me.   Some sort of “no child left behind” program comes to mind.  This part of the film was initially quite intriguing to me and actually held my attention quite well.

Some of the gore in the film is worth the watch.  Nothing to break the bank over but modern practical effects are always something that get my attention.  There are a few scenes in particular that are quite striking in my opinion.  Gore fans will not be too disappointed.

The acting in the film is hit and miss.  David Schofield does a decent job and is perfect for that part.  He can almost carry the film himself.  The security guard (played by Finlay Robertson) also did a good job and provided some comic relief to the film in his brief but memorable role.  All of the rest of the cast gave bland performances.

The hoodie gang kids themselves came off as odd to me.   The kids are almost like monkeys as they climb around on set pieces and hop around the frame as they murder.  It really seems as if they are doing some sort of odd parkour display.  Also, they all have totally black faces.  So black in fact that I originally thought they had digitally removed the faces but later I saw that they wore black masks under the hoods.  The combination of the black masks and the dark lighting of the film really made the faces black and added to the ambiguity of the characters.

Lastly, the ending is something everyone seems to discuss about this one.  I will avoid spoilers so I will just say that it is left open ended and the viewer can form his own opinions about what happened at the end.  I just looked on in amazement when the credits rolled.   After having thought about it for the last two weeks my thoughts have changed.  Now I don’t really think it is that big of a deal and is something different but at first I wanted a resolution…which there was none.

All in all I would say that this is a forgettable film.  Recommended for a rental.  The film has a short runtime (75 min) and I speculate that the ending was not intentional but rather because of budget constraints.  If you like this small subgenre of horror/thriller you should check it out for sure.

I would give this one a 6/10

House of the Devil, The (2009)

Writer/director: Ti West
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig, Mary Woronov, and Tom Noonan
Rated: R (some language, gory violence)
Originally posted at www.criticnic.com
Watch itgirlxragdoll’s video review

The House of the Devil

Up and coming filmmaker Ti West (Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever) takes us back to the late 70s/early 80s with The House of the Devil, a film so influenced by those decades that it could easily be passed for a lost film of that era. From the film quality, the clothes, cars, music, and title sequence it has all that you would want out of an 80s horror flick. The film feels like a slasher mixed with a haunted house film, and topped off with a satanic cult movie. West, who also edited the film, executes it all perfectly.

The movie follows college student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) when she responds to a babysitting advertisement. However the couple who posted the ad is elderly, and without a child. Going against the urge of her friend (Greta Gerwig; Nights and Weekends) and common sense, Samantha stays in the big old house anyway during the night of a much talked about lunar eclipse. Creepy old couple and a large dark house in the middle of nowhere, sounds like a good time!

From the sound of it, you’d think the film can’t miss. However, the middle portion of the film is so drawn out we forget we’re watching a film with any kind of story. Things kick back into gear at the end with some excellent creepy imagery and intense sequences, but the ending itself wasn’t quite satisfying for me personally. Throughout the film it felt as if there was a lot of build up for something big and revealing, but before you know it the end comes and goes.

Though the film fell short in a few areas for me, I still can’t help but praise West’s efforts and skill. There is a scene I absolutely loved with the lead dancing around the creepy old house with her Walkman playing “One Thing Leads to Another” which screamed 80s, but when looking at this scene in the whole film it seemed almost pointless. Perhaps West got too caught up in paying homage to the flicks he knows and loves. In the end I loved watching this film and the feeling a lot of the scenes gave me, but much of the story seemed to have got lost in the process. IMDb/trailer | Official movie site

Chain Letter (2010)

Director: Deon Taylor

Writers: Deon Taylor, Diana Erwin & Michael J. Pagan

Cast: Nikki Reed, Keith David, Betsy Russell, Brad Dourif, Ling Bai, Michael Bailey Smith, Noah Segan, Clifton Powell, Matt Cohen, Cherilyn Wilson

Rated: R (Blu-ray), DVD is unrated

IMDB | Chain Letter [Blu-ray] | Youtube Trailer | Youtube Review

 

Chain Letter had a limited theatrical run in late 2010 and was released on Blu-ray/DVD in the US on 02/01/11.  This was recommended to me by fellow House of Horror reviewer and founder Savini1979.  John and I are usually on the same wavelength on horror so I went ahead and made the purchase.  All in all this was a fun watch.  The film seemed very reminiscent of the teen slashers from the early 2000s such as Final Destination.  With a few spots of social commentary and excellent gore this one was not a disappointment to me at all.

The plot on this one is significantly predictable and far-fetched but don’t rule it out just yet.  A chain letter in the form of an email is sent out by a madman to the “usual suspects” group of teenagers.  If they delete the email then they will be murdered.   You all know how that is going to play out.  But I will tell you the ending will surprise you and is very much against the grain o f the average Hollywood horror these days.  I did enjoy the ending very much.

We also get some great co-stars from other horror films.  Brad Dourif and Keith David both have sizable roles in the film.  These are not the one scene brief cameos you may be expecting.  They actually have roles that are pivotal to the plot of the film.  Another face familiar to horror is Michael Bailey Smith.  Smith played Pluto in “The Hills Have Eyes” remake.  He adds some brawn to the lead bad guy (Chain Man) in the film.  I figured it was some wrestler playing the part until I saw the credits.

What sets this one apart from the flock is the gore.  The gore effects in the film are excellent and some of the best I have seen in some newer flicks.  Very original kills in this one…something you don’t really hear very often.  Multiple horror elements are combined to make a fairly convincing and scary killer.  The film also looks good on Blu-ray.  It has that “polished” look that most modern horror films have.

All things considered, I would recommend this one for a rental.   If you are a huge fan of slashers and love gore you may want to pick it up.  It looks great in HD and is still relatively inexpensive on Blu-ray.

6.5/10

High Lane (2009)

Director: Abel Ferry

Writers: Jennifer Johanne Bernard, Louis-Paul Desanges

Cast: Fanny Valette, Johan Libéreau and Raphaël Lenglet

Rated: Not Rated

IMDBDVD | Trailer | Youtube Review


It seems the “new wave of French horror” is not the head turning phrase it once was just a few years ago. Many of the recent French horror films I have seen have been hard to watch. So having been disappointed multiple times in the past year I kept my expectations relatively low. High Lane was released on DVD in the United States on 02/08/11. It has been out in other countries since its original release in 2009. I gave this one a watch this past weekend.

Well the lack of discussion in the horror community should have been an indication of how this one played out. This is not really a bad film but it is nothing you have not seen before. It really reminded me of Wrong Turn in Croatia. No original kills and little gore to boot. Also, it was quite boring at times also.

The plot of this one is a group of 5 friends, who get their jollies from climbing mountains, decide to travel to Croatia to climb rocks and see a famously dangerous bridge. When they get there the trail is closed but they decide to push on and climb that sucker anyway. They get to the bridge and things take a turn for the worse. Some of them fall prey to traps set around the area. Eventually the kids start getting picked off one by one and they learn they are being stalked by a crazy hill person. The whole thing turns into a slasher a la Wrong Turn and you can imagine what happens from that point on.

The cinematography is one of the positive things about the film. The shots in the beginning of the film when they are climbing look great. I can only imagine how that would look on Blu-ray. Also, the acting is not too bad. Some of the characters were kind of annoying at times but I guess that is the purpose in the first place. The gore effects are few but well done when present. And finally, I did really enjoy the ending. Nothing like I expected.

All in all I would recommend skipping this one unless you just really like creepy mountain mutant movies. This one pales in comparison to most of the well known French horror films of the past 10 years.
5/10

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

Director: Marcos Efron

Writers: Jennifer Derwingson, Marcos Efron, Terry Nation & Brian Clemens

Cast: Amber Heard, Karl Urban and Odette Yustman

Rated: R

IMDB | And Soon the Darkness [Blu-ray] | Trailer

I had been curious about this one since it I had heard it was being made. The theatrical release was toned down to a limited release and I still had heard nothing about it. No buzz, no bashing or negative talk…..nothing. It was released on DVD & Blu-ray on 12/28/10 and still I had heard nothing about this one. No reviews or anything. Well I finally watched the film and I can understand why no one is schmoozing it up.

Like many horror films to come out in recent years this is a remake. The original film with the same name came out in 1970. In my opinion it is an underrated film you never really hear anyone talk about either. This leads me to ask the question “why remake a film no one will recognize?” I thought the whole purpose of these remakes is to cash in on the name recognition and popularity of the original. Well most teenagers with fat pockets will not have even heard of the original film. But I think these film studios threw logic out the window years ago anyway.

The film stars two lovely young ladies Amber Heard (Zombieland, Pineapple Express, Never Back Down, Etc.) and Odette Yustman (The Unborn, Cloverfield, You Again, Etc.). They are the main draw of the film and both do a decent job acting. These two also have both seem to be making names for themselves in the horror genre. Amber has been in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Zombieland, The Stepfather (2009) and the upcoming John Carpenter film The Ward. Odette has been in Cloverfield and The Unborn. I always applaud when actors continue to work in the horror genre considering the stigmas placed by Hollywood.

Taking a break from travel

Well the film essentially has the same storyline as the original film with a few small differences. In this film best friends Ellie (Yustman) and Stephanie (Heard) are cycling through Argentina (not France as in the original). They party too hard one night and miss their bus the next morning and are forced to try to peddle to the next town. They stop for a little break and slip into some revealing bikinis to sunbathe. After they have an argument, they split up and Stephanie goes on her own and Ellie is kidnapped. Stephanie then searches for her lost friend for quite a while and finds out the dark secrets of this town. If you have seen the original film you know what happens from here on out.

The writing is probably the weakest part of the whole movie. On a positive note it does look very good on Blu-ray and the acting is not terrible. Some very unique camera angles are used also. Some of those work out and others just come off as cheesy and pretentious. If you are curious why the ad campaigns were so non-existent you will find out a few minutes into the film. Overall it a fairly boring watch and they could have trimmed it down quite a bit. About half-way through I started checking my watch for the runtime. I would avoid this one but I would recommend picking up a copy of the original film.

Under the Salt (Bajo la sal) (2008)

Director: Mario Muñoz
Writers: Mario Muñoz and Angel Pulido
Cast: Humberto Zurita, Ricardo Polanco, Plutarco Haza, Emilio Guerrero, and Irene Azuela
Rated: Not rated
IMDb | Official site/trailer | Distributed by Maya Entertainment

Bajo la sal - body in the salt

Uncovered victim in the salt mine

In Santa Rosa de la Sal, a body turns up in the local salt mine. In comes commandante Trujillo (Zurita), veteran cop, to check on the case. Suddenly the small town becomes the scene of grisly murders and the mysterious string disappearances of teenage girls who all happen to attend the same high school. The victims’ bodies turn up at a local funeral home where we’re introduced to Victor (Polanco), an emo horror movie-loving loner who’s suspicious nature begins to get the law’s attention.

As more clues are uncovered about the murders and disappearances, we dive deeper into the connections dealing with the high school as well as el commandante himself. The film is comprised of part dark whodunit mystery, and part everyone-is-a-suspect slasher. Sure, Victor becomes a natural suspect, with his twisted stop-animation horror films (which are done quite impressively by the way) scattered across his Hot Topic inspired digs and almost stalker-like attraction to the beautiful yet elusive stripper Isabel (Irene Azuela). But really, almost every character we’re introduced to seems to have something they’re not telling us.

Bajo la sal - animation

One of Victor’s “stars”

The acting is very well done. While the character of Victor seems a little cliche, Polanco still did a great job and really allowed us to feel something for his character. I was also especially surprised by Irene Azuela as the redhead beauty Isabel. While her role was small, she stood out to me the most and her character was really the most interesting which left me wanting to learn so much more about her. My only somewhat negative comment regarding the acting would not be with the actor’s themselves, but the voice actors in the dubbed version of which I watched. The voices were a bit mixed across the board, but a few really did not seem to fit at all (I usually prefer subtitles, but it was late and reading makes me tired).

Bajo la sal - Isabel and Victor

Isabel (Irene Azuela) and Victor (Ricardo Polanco)

The atmosphere in the Mexican small town is pretty standard, but the element of the salt mines gave it a bit of a more eerie and bleak feel. The film itself is a slow burner, but it takes its time introducing the characters and allows us to guess how each of them fit into the whole puzzle. The slow-building suspense leads up to a pretty intense final showdown that really topped off the film perfectly. Everything in this film worked for me, and while I have to admit I had the killer picked from the moment I laid eyes on him, the steps the film took to lead me to that confirmation were very well executed.

Splinter (2008)

Director:  Toby Wilkins

Writers:  Ian Shorr & Kai Barry

Cast:  Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Rachel Kerbs and Shea Whingham

Rated: R

IMDB  |  Amazon [Blu-ray]  |  Trailer  | Video Review

You may be asking yourself just how scary is a parasitic pool of oil that grows spikes and eats people?  Well the answer is pretty damn scary.  With exceptional practical effects and nods to such creature features such as The Thing (1983) and Dead Alive (Braindead) this one is sure to please gore hounds.  You could also consider it a modern take on the classic creature feature.

Splinter opens on young couple Seth and Polly (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner) trying have a romantic camping trip in the woods.  They are then taken hostage by wanted fugitives Belisle and Dennis Farell (Rachel Kerbs and Shea Whingham).  The jeep overheats and they are forced to stop the next convenience store.  Well this place has already been overtaken by a monstrous parasitic force that captured and is controlling the store clerk.  From that point on they are trapped inside the station and seeking refuge from the creature outside.

I have warmed up to Splinter since my initial viewing when it was first released on DVD.  The main reason I hold the movie in such a high regard is the somewhat lack of CGI and the attention paid to practical effects.  The gore effects in this one are top notch.  Also, the creature is original as well.  This consists of a black oil-like substance that grows on living tissue and produces spikes (or splinters) on whatever it grows on.  Pretty cool idea in my book.  The acting is lackluster but considering this is an independent film I can cut it some slack.  So if you enjoy seeing bloody body parts assembled in a makeshift fashion by some kind of an alien being you should check this one out.  The region A Blu-ray looks great and has a low price tag to boot.

 

May (2002)

Director:  Lucky McKee

Writer:  Lucky McKee

Cast:  Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris

Rated: R

IMDB  |  AmazonYoutube (trailer) |  Youtube (review)

May is a great little family fun flick.  Okay not at all but this is a great one that needs much respect in the genre.  I just rewatched this one for the first time in years and I just had to express some feelings on it.  May has graced the lips of many horror fans since its 2002 release, but with the upcoming release of director Lucky McKee’s newest film ‘The Woman’, I though what a great time to dust off this gem.  Over the years I have really grown to enjoy Lucky McKee as a filmmaker and as I have been preaching for the past few years he is a very talented and underutilized director.  In light of a somewhat stale and boring horror genre, it is directors like him that need to be getting the big budgets and artistic freedom to work with.  But alas these jobs have been going to unknown music video directors with little or no experience directing features at all.

May focuses on a young, awkward woman named appropriately May (played by the wonderful Angela Bettis).  May works in a veterinary clinic assisting in various surgeries.  She is quite socially retarded and has a “lazy” eye.  She has had a tough and lonely life where her only friend has been a doll in a glass case.  May has been reaching out to people in her life for companionship with no avail.   Her social skills need work but May befriends her coworker Polly (played by Anna Faris of Scary Movie fame).  She then falls in love with a young mechanic named Adam (Jeremy Sisto).  Oh and did I mention that she is really infatuated with certain body parts….well that comes into play later on.  May is dumped by Adam and her life is in shambles.  She snaps and decides to create her own life-sized doll, a friend that will never leave!

Okay so I am being deliberately vague on the plot synopsis.  Please watch the film and see for yourself.  The thing that separates May aside from others in the genre is that May is female.  That’s right a female serial killer, a subject that should really be touched on more often.  But yeah aside from the excellent camera work and editing is Angela Bettis’ performance as May.  I think that this is the fundamental factor that makes this film so unforgettable.  She becomes May.  The utter insanity is totally believable in this one and I love it.  Great gore, great acting, and great writing!  If you have not seen this one I strongly suggest you do so and this film could easily go from just cult classic to classic.  By far one of the best horror films from the last decade.