Quick Shot: The Innkeepers

Directed by: Ti West
Category: Horror

So you may have noticed that these have become increasingly short and not very thorough. For that I do apologize. As much as I love watching these films, I just don't have the time to write about them as much as I want, and now I am in the middle of a move and it will get harder. So that's what these "Quick Shot's" are all about. I just want to in the least be able to throw out some quick thoughts on them before I forget I even saw them. At my age, it happens. If time permits, I will delve deeper into these, but for now I hope these quick little blurbs will not annoy you too much. 


Ever since the excellent The House of the Devil, Ti West will always be a name to look out for. Sure he'd made a few films before that one, but it was that film that really put him on the map by creating an eerily authentic horror film reminiscent of some of the best stuff from the late 70's to early 80's. I mean, it honest to goodness looks and feels like it came right outta the 70's, and I love it.

So then I heard he was making another horror independent horror film about a haunted hotel and well, of course I got excited. A lot of the feedback I read about this was mainly about Kelly McGillis's performance, and I must say she was quite excellent. Almost completely unrecognizable for a while until I realized it was in fact her. But she was great, as was the rest of the minimal cast.

With that being said, I can't say that I was as impressed with this one as his last outing, or that I enjoyed it as much. Just as House of the Devil was, this is a very slow burn kinda film, and while that's fine and all when done well, I have to say that I was also a little bored from time to time. Which isn't a bad thing if other elements of the film pay off, but I just didn't feel they did with this one. The "haunting" aspects of the film were okay, but didn't really feel the ending was all that great. I know, it sounds like I'm bashing this thing, and it's not bad at all. I just wasn't really entertained with it as I had hoped to be I guess.

Basic premise goes as this, two employees of an old hotel that's about to close decide to see if they can capture any "haunting" on film as the hotel has a reputation for being haunted, with one of the employees even creating a website to document these occurrences. On the last night a few customers check in, and eerie things start happening.

Very well made, and the cast was great. The effects, of what little there were, were decent. Overall, a nice moody little horror film.


Quick Shot: Belly of the Beast

Directed by: Siu-Tung Ching
Category: Badass Cinema

I should mention right off the bat that as a Seagal fan, I do not like most of his DTV output at all, and if I'm to be perfectly frank, I haven't seen a whole lot of them either because I just don't want to. The ones I have seen are just terrible, where all I end up doing is asking a million questions instead of trying to enjoy the damn thing like "Why do they have someone else dubbing his voice who sounds nothing like him?".

But anyway, I read a very favorable review of this in Seagology: The Ass-Kicking films of Steven Seagal by Badass Cinema reviewer Vern, an awesome read by the way and strongly suggested, and you know, I have to agree with him. This is so much better than you expect it to be and a helluva lot better than 99% of his DTV output in general. I think a lot of that has to do with director Siu-Tung Ching, a Hong Kong action choreographer, action director, stunt coordinator and film director who's worked on some pretty impressive big budget films. But this has a much more polished look and feel than so many of his other films that it's immediately apparent right from the beginning. For me, that makes for a much more enjoyable experience. And it definitely has an authentic Hong Kong feel to it, with even a few dashes of brilliance in the action sequences.

So yea, the first thing you'll notice when this starts is that it just looks badass, because it is. It actually ends up being a pretty good piece of Badass Cinema.
The second thing you'll notice is that Seagal just looks terrible. Up until this point, I can't remember him looking this bad. He's huge and looks so completely out of shape, which is sad if you're an action star, am I right? I mean, is it that hard to hire a personal trainer to a least get you in semi-good shape. We all know he can afford it. You can't honestly expect us to believe he can do any of the shit he "supposedly" does in this in the shape he's in. I say "supposedly" because it's painstakingly obvious he uses a double for most of action sequences. Though there is one hilarious scene in the beginning where he does a summer-salt and they make damn sure you can tell it's him, though it looked completely painful to do if you read the expression on his face.
Third thing  you'll also notice is that this cover art just doesn't represent this film very well at all. I don't remember a car, or one flying through the air for that matter, and either they used an old picture of Seagal, or photoshopped it like crazy because he does not look like that in the film. But whatever.

The story is just plain ridiculous and silly and oddly goes off into other things here and there making it sometimes incoherent and overly complicated, as is the standard for most of these Seagal DTV films. And you know what? I have no idea what "Belly of the Beast" even refers to because it doesn't seem to fit this film at all, but whatever. It's an easy name to remember.

Without getting into the complicated storyline, basically his daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom in another country and he goes off to rescue her. But who really cares? I just wanted to see a good Seagal flick and this certainly delivers. Cool action sequences aplenty, some truly badass moments and a slick look easily raises this one far above a lot of his others from this era. I enjoyed it, I hope you will too.


Quick Shot: Cronos

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Category: Fantasy/Horror

del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers today. He remains one of the last filmmakers whose use of traditional and practical effects, while mixed with outstanding digital effects, give his films more of an organic look and feel. While the majority of filmmakers lean more towards 100% digital these days, he's always been a strong supporter of old fashioned puppetry and practical makeup effects, which just makes him awesome.

Ah, enough of that and on to Cronos. You know, I never got around to watching this one. I always remember seeing that dreadful VHS cover for so many years, and it wasn't until a few years ago that I was even aware that del Toro was behind this. That cover man, it's pretty bad. I'm sure that's the reason I stayed away from it, and after finally seeing the film, I see that that particular lame VHS cover is a total misrepresentation of the film in general. First of all, that chick on the cover isn't even in the film! But this new cover from Criterion is just awesome and speaks volumes about the film as a whole.

I had no idea what I had in store for me. I knew nothing of the story or the cast. And just based on the title alone, I was expecting some sort of sci-fi fable/thriller maybe. Or something to do with bugs? But what I got was something entirely different, and very refreshing. One of the things I noticed immediately was that this is a small film, and only hints at del Toro's brilliance as a filmmaker. It doesn't possess his trademark style, or even much of his standard color palette, but it does offer a solid piece of Independent filmmaking and a very enjoyable one full of mood, atmosphere and a constant sense of dread.

I don't want to necessarily offer a synopsis because I didn't know anything about this and I think I enjoyed it a whole lot more that way. What I will say is that this was a great little hybrid film, as done only the way Guillermo del Toro can do it. Not as ambitious as say Pan's Labyrinth, not by a long shot, but it's very well done with a clever script. One of the more surprising elements for me was that it had none other than del Toro regular Ron Pearlman in this. Again, totally surprised by this since it's technically a Spanish film (yea I know he was also in City of Lost Children - a French film), but I just wasn't expecting it. Sue me.

Sooooooo I'm done. Just wanted to put my two cents in and hope to entice someone else to check this out soon. I'm surprised it took me so long to discover this, and I think it mainly has to do with Criterion's new cover art, to be frank. Brilliant decision on their part.


Quick Shot: Basic Instinct

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Category: Thriller

Can you believe I hadn't seen this until recently? I know, shame on me. It's weird how the universe works sometimes. This was just one of those that always seemed to pass me by. Even the promise of excessive nudity and Sharon Stones crotch shot wasn't enough to get me to make the effort to watch this. Not that I "didn't" want to, I just always seem to go with something else. But I finally sat my ass down to give it a shot, so here we go.

This was great. So, so great. First off, Michael Douglas is just a badass. I miss that guy. The guy who kicked ass in Black Rain (still one of my favorites), Romancing the Stone and Falling Down. Didn't care too much for the erotic thriller's he was becoming well known for, but I'm glad to say that in this one, he's still a badass. Angry, moody, tough and doesn't seem to give a shit about anything. I love that.

Here he plays a cop who's investigating a local author who may or may not also be a killer. Of course, he's ultimately seduced by her because she just has that way with people, male and female, and his life becomes much more complicated as he dives head first into a plot of sex and murder where everyone is a suspect.

I felt a lot of elements in here to be pretty cheesy, but it's taken so seriously and done so well by director Paul Verhoeven that you just don't care, it's still a fun ride. Best of all, when the violence kicks in, you can bet your ass it's going to be bloody and over the top, with the sex and nudity being gratuitous, and I just can't stress enough how much of a badass Michael Douglas was in this. Artistically, I feel Verhoeven knocked this one out of the park. It's just a really slick piece of filmmaking. Great style, score, ensemble cast, feel and oh yea, Sharon Stone is naked a lot. As incredibly predictable as this was from beginning to end, I still had a blast with it. Very fun and intense cop thriller with an outstanding cast all around. I can't believe I waited so long to see this.


Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives

Directed by: Tom McLoughlin
Category: Horror

Wow. What a complete 180 from the last entry in this series. I have to say, Part 5: A New Beginning left a really bad taste in my mouth, as you can tell from my review of that piece of crap. But this one more than makes up for it. In fact, next to Part 4: The Final Chapter, I can easily say this one is my second favorite to date.

Now I should remind you, I have in fact seen all of these before, except for the first one and Jason X, but it was so long ago that I remember almost nothing about them. So it's almost like watching them for the first time, which is really exciting. What stands out from my memories of this one the most was that when it was released, MTV had a badass Alice Cooper video with clips from the film in it and I always remember loving it. Especially of that cool shot of Jason emerging from the wrecked RV after it crashed on the highway. Awesome. Aaaaand, they actually do play that Alice Cooper song in the film, albeit in the end credits.

So yea, I loved every second of this one. Right from it's opening frame down to the last shot. This was a blast from beginning to end. Unlike the last one, this had a certain tongue-in-cheek humor "purposely" injected into the action and horror elements that make such a difference in the tone. Throw in a rad James Bond style opening title sequence, a cameo by Horshack (Ron Pallilo) and Tony Goldwyn (Ghost), and the always reliable Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead) taking over the role of Tommy (Thank Gawd!), and you've got one helluva good Jason film here.

Long story short, Tommy still can't get over what Jason did to him in Part 4: The Final Chapter. As an adult male now, he's pretty fucked up about it still. So he takes his buddy over to Jason's grave to burn him to a crisp and make sure he's dead once and for all. But wouldn't you know, a storm starts a brewin' and with a bolt of lightning to the heart by a strategically placed metal rod, Jason is reborn a la Frankenstein and begins his reign of terror once again. Love it!

I had always thought Kane Hodder took over the role of Jason in this one, but it appears I was wrong (doesn't take over the role of Jason till Part 7), which sucks because I actually thought the guy portraying Jason here was badass. He walks with such a ferociousness that it's just fuckin' scary. And director Tom McLouglin makes it a point to show how ferocious by having lots and lots of shots of Jason walking, roaming and chasing. And though he's not as bulky as the type of Jason we're used to, he's still big and intimidating. The kills were also fun in this one. Not as bloody or as gory as some of the past in the series, but more inventive and certainly more plentiful than what I remember from the last one. Shit, I need to stop hatin' on Part 5 so much. Anyway...........

This is another perfect example and a sad reminder of how great horror movies were in the 80's and where they are now. Speaking of which, I was surprised to see that writer/director Tom McLoughlin, who does such an amazing job on this one, hasn't really ever done anything like this either since this one. Okay, so he did do a few episodes of the Friday the 13th TV series, but does that really count? What a shame too, because he easily give this film a great look, feel and tone that you would have thought this was a genre he had worked in for years before and after this release. But that doesn't seem to be the case, except for one horror film early in his career, he's mainly stuck to television work. Again, such a shame. This guy's got some serious talent, why doesn't anybody else seem to see that?

So to cap this off, I loved this one to death, making it my favorite one next to Part 4.

A special thanks to Mitch over at The Video Vacuum for the words of encouragement. :)


First an apology, then a quick note on Sinister

So I'd like to apologize to my followers, (if I actually have any, I don't know, I don't think I actually do, but you never know) for the lack of posts these past few months. I'm currently in a transitional period in my life and everything is different. I'm still making changes, adjusting to these changes, and then making more changes and honestly, posts aren't high up on the list of priories. Still watching a ridiculous number of films of course, but just not finding the time to be able to sit down and write down my thoughts on them. I do miss it though, and I keep a log of the ones I see so that I can go back and write something someday if I can, but so far I haven't gotten off my lazy ass to do so. So I figure if I try one small one right now, I'll be motivated to do the rest. lol. Let's see. If you all have stuck around, I'm forever grateful. My opinion on films might not mean much, but the fact that you all take the time to sit and read them means the world to me. So here we go........

Review: Sinister (2012)
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Category: Horror

You know, I generally don't ever see these new horror films. They all just look, feel and play out the same. No originality and usually having nothing new to bring to the table. Call me old school, but 80's horror is where it was at. Maybe some 90's too, but I just can't get excited about any of these new films. They all share the same look, the annoying hand held shaky-cam look, whether it's a "found footage" film or not, they all look like them. But they keep making them because they cost almost nothing to make and almost always make money. So yea, I just don't bother. But I had read that this one was written by a former reviewer on one of my favorite movie sites and curiosity got the better of me on this one. And I must say, the premise seemed intriguing and I liked that you could tell what the fuck was going on even in the trailers. It looked like it was filmed pretty straight forward with no lame camera gimmicks to cover up the fact that the director might not have any talent. 

I'm happy to say that this was pretty good. Not excellent, but much, much better than I was expecting it to be. Pretty unusual idea to begin with, and though they don't explain a whole lot in terms of this "Sinister" character, I still enjoyed it. Director Derrickson keeps the movie moving along nicely and gives the film a stylish and consistent sheen that immediately makes it better than most of the horror stuff coming out these days. At least, that's my opinion anyway. I like when a filmmaker takes the time to frame a shot, put it on a track, a dolly or whatever. Things like that go a long way with me. 

I'm sure you've heard this before, as I've read it in several reviews myself, but it's true. Ethan Hawke carries this film squarely on his shoulders. I don't think it would have been as good had he not been the star. He really surprised me in this. He's always been a great actor, no doubt, but it's his passion that constantly amazes me, no matter what genre he's tackling. Here you see him put his heart and soul into this deeply flawed character. A loving family man on one hand, but a conniving shallow person on the other. Some of the decisions he chooses to make in here make you laugh, as well as make you gasp. Nobody's perfect, but he surely seems to make it a point to prove this to the audience. 

The ending was also a surprise, one that I did not anticipate but still left me wanting more unfortunately. But hey, that's just a minor complaint. All in all, it was made really well, plays out smoothly with a healthy dose of jumps and with a unique villain that really only leaves you asking more questions when it's all over.