Directed by: Richard Bates Jr.
Category: Horror/Drama

I see a lot of films on a regular basis. You can assume I have no life and am a rather dull person, and you may be right. But movies are my passion, my escape and my own personal form of meditation. I watch so many in fact that I often find it hard to pick which ones I will take the time to write about. As I easily have about 8 other films in my blog list waiting to be finished from the past few weeks, having just seen this particular film the other night, I feel compelled to let as many people as possible in on a little secret. That secret is that Excision is probably one of the best, most refreshing little horror/drama/thriller's you haven't seen.

That's a bold statement, I know. But it's true. Even if this film is not your cup of tea, and is surely won't be for everyone (more on that later), you have to admire the guts writer/director Richard Bates Jr. has for putting this thing together, and as well as he has. Already with a preconceived notion of what kind of film I was going into, Excision was the complete opposite of what I was expecting....and the more I think about it, the more I feel that that is a great thing. 

The closest thing I can compare Excision to is Donnie Darko, writer/director Richard Kelly's brilliant sci-fi/drama/thriller/coming-of-age hybrid from 2001 that literally blew my mind, with hints of NBC's amazing Hannibal television series. Except Excision would be much gorier and darker playing with completely different ideas. I compare it to Donnie Darko more than anything because of it's style and overall vibe. While the subject matter is pretty fucked up, the way writer/director Richard Bates Jr. gives the film an almost playful and light vibe that takes you by surprise. This isn't the film I was expecting to see and it's all the better for it. 

Paline (AnnaLynne McCord) is an 18 year old high school student has absolutely no social skills, friends or need/want to fit in. Her desire is to become a surgeon, which slowly becomes an obsession. She lives in an upper class environment with her over-bearing mother (Traci Lords), submissive father and sister who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. Pauline's delusions of becoming a surgeon often manifest themselves into blood-filled sexual fantasies that often appear to be the only way she gets sexually excited, which becomes even more apparent during her first sexual encounter. Everybody thinks she's weird, but nobody knows how far she's willing to go to fulfill her desire to become a surgeon until it's too late. 

I had first caught wind of this film when a site (Cult Movie Mania) I regularly follow sent out an email newsletter about this film. I have to tell you, when they push something they really sell the shit out of it. I've purchased or seen several films I'd never heard of before simply based on their suggestions and reviews alone. From what I remember, CMM was really pushing the gore aspect of this film, but I think what surprised me more than anything is that it wasn't nearly as gory as I was expecting. Yes, the gore sequences are just nuts and visually artistic and reminiscent of most of the gore sequences from the Hannibal TV series, which is just great by the way. But what surprised me was that the film doesn't go there as often as I was expecting. Whereas I was expecting a full throttle blood-and-guts assault, I was instead treated to a stylish, yet disturbing look at suburban teen life through the eyes of an insane and delusional teen girl. And I have to admit, it was pretty fucking great. 

The little reading up on this I did beforehand didn't prepare me for how different and thoroughly entertaining this little film was. Since it's going on 2 years old now and I'd never heard of it until now, I was almost expecting a shot-on-video low-budget quality with a bunch of no-name actors. And the cover art above, while amazing, is not the original cover art I had seen, which was a little more subdued and not as artistic. So right from the beginning I'm already kind of thrown for a loop, and then for the next 30 minutes or so, what kept shocking me over and over was the amount of cult figure icons and other notable actors that appear in this. Traci Lords as Pauline's extremely religious overbearing mother, John Waters as Pauline's pastor and therapist, Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Pauline's ailing and good-natured sister, Malcolm McDowell as Pauline's teacher, as well as Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), Marlee Matlin, Jeremy Sumpter (Frailty), Mathew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) and Roger Bart (Hostel: Part II). Every few minutes I felt like I kept yelling "They're in this?!". But what I think will shock most people more than any of these great actors is how good Traci Lords is in this. No one was more surprised than me, and when you have a film filled with credited professional and character actors and you walk away stunned by Traci Lords performance, then you know you're in for something special. She was phenomenal. And that last scene of the film with her; just......wow. 

Before this, I had never heard of AnnaLynne McCord. In fact, I assumed it was some new no-name actor who they found through a casting call or something. I should have been known better though, this actress was too good as the strange, awkward and confident Pauline, even under all that makeup to make her look as unflattering as possible. Apparently, if you follow teen shows or primetime soaps, she's well known as she's starred on rebooted dramas like 90210 and Dallas. Her delivery was spot on and really good. And I knew whoever was playing the part couldn't actually look that bad, but when I did some searching and saw what McCord really looks like, I was flat out shocked at how gorgeous she is compared to her character under all that makeup. Kudos to the makeup department on that one. 

Despite being unique in its own right, what will set this film apart from many others are the dream sequences. Or rather, the fantasy sequences. These are the images young Pauline plays out in her head when she's getting off alone in bed, or during her first sexual encounter with a young lad, or when she's dreaming. These images are what I actually thought the film was going to be about for the most part, because that's what a lot of other reviews on sites like Netflix and IMDB had commented on; how sick, grotesque, twisted and disgusting it was. So you can imagine my surprise when I discover this film actually has structure, less gore than I was anticipating, and it tells a pretty straight-forward story, albeit a twisted one. And on a technical level, these fantasy sequences are simply stunning. Disturbing for sure, especially the abortion one, but there is so much to admire when you look at all of them. Visually they're on par with anything Hannibal the series has been able to conjure up, and if you want to see blood and nonsensical gore, these sequences will satisfy the gore-hound in you. And it's with these particular sequences that I struggle with. On one hand, these images are so stunning and twisted that I kind of want a whole entire film that looks and feels like that. But on the other, I also love how this film ultimately played out because it was so good and surprised me in so many ways, not least in it's competency. 

If there is one single complaint I have, and believe me, it was hard to find one, it would be it's running time. It's too damn short, barely clocking in at an hour and 18 minutes. When most films have a standard hour and a half on the short end to tell a story, this one feels like it's just too short. In hindsight, it get's the job done and maybe it only needed an hour and 18 minutes, so I guess my complaint is really that I enjoyed it so much that I wanted more. For me, Excision gleefully excels and succeeds where other recent notable low-budget indie horror films like American Mary and Nurse 3D have failed. 


X-Men: Days of Future Past

* Rather than subject you to yet more lame over-photoshopped nonsense official poster art, I thought I'd instead give you a piece of amazing fan art courtesy of artist Harlan Elam

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Category: Action

So here was my experience this past $5 Tuesday at the theater. Being as I rarely, if ever, get to an actual theater, you can bet your ass it will always be either the "early bird" special or on $5 Tuesdays, where every showing is just $5, no matter what time of the day. Godzilla had already been out for 2 weeks now and so I figured the crowds have surely died down somewhat enough to be able to enjoy seeing the film without a filled to capacity theater, especially when you take into account the new X-Men film just came out this past Friday. Well I was wrong. Even though Godzilla took a considerable drop percentage wise in it's second week of release, a LOT of people are still hitting the theater to see this latest iteration . My intent was to see the big guy on the big screen, one of only a few times I would actually get my lazy ass to a theater, but unfortunately my showing was sold out and the only other film I was interested in seeing that was playing relatively close to the time I had intended to see Godzilla was X-Men: Days of Future Past...........in 3D. Ugh! I'm not a fan of 3D....at all. And it's mainly for 2 reasons. One, it's just fucking ridiculous how expensive it is. For the two of us to see X-Men, it was $30. I'm always left thinking what better way I could have spent that money. Secondly, 3D glasses darken everything in the film, and I find that annoying as hell. And if you're watching a film with a lot of "night" scenes, then 3D only makes everything more muted and seriously takes away from the experience.

But alas! Here I was, in a theater, watching a major blockbuster, in 3D, and very apprehensive. So was it a terrible experience? Absolutely not. In fact, I was flat-out shocked at how much I enjoyed this. Despite it's many, many night sequences, it's outright obvious that director Bryan Singer took great pains to make this a 3D movie experience, and it was a blast. For me, even with all the segments that involved the present day that took place at night, it wasn't that bad and above all else, the many awesome things that this film has going for it trump my petty issues with the muted color tones and annoyance of having to wear 3D glasses over my existing ones. The 3D works effectively well when incorporated and when it's not, you barely notice.

As with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Days of Future Past starts with a bang with it's very first shot where you're thrown head-on into the fold. It's a dizzying 15 minutes of insanely technical action that left me both in awe and confused. But that's just something to wet your appetite. Once the film keeps going from it's opening attack of the senses you're treated to one of the two best X-Men movies to date, next to X2. I've said it before and I'll say it again; Bryan Singer was born to make X-Men movies. He just needs to stop trying anything else and stick with what he's great at. Sure he's done other things, and succeeded rather well in the Thriller genre with The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, but when he continues to go after big budget effects heavy films like Jack The Giant Slayer or Superman Returns, well we know how those ended. Jack was a mess. But I won't beat up on Superman too much. There's just as much to love about it as there is to hate it. Visually stunning and brilliantly cast, especially Brandon Routh as Clark/Sups, but way too dopey, sad, boring, and most of all, melodramatic. I don't think we were prepared for an existential Superman movie. We wanted action.....a lot of it. Something Superman Returns was sorely missing.

But after the Jack the Giant Slayer debacle, it was announced he'd be returning to the franchise, where he famously abandoned X-Men: The Last Stand in favor of directing Superman Returns, much to everyone's excitement. Now he's set to direct another X-Men film after this titled Apocalypse. The X-Men films just seem like the perfect fit for a man of his talents. When you go all the way back to the first X-Men film in 2000, while the film's effects work wasn't anywhere near spectacular the way we come to expect these days, his talent for telling the story and combining all the right elements shine through above all else. Regardless of the substandard effects work, the film looks great as a whole, visually, thematically and stylistically.

14 years later and we are now at Days of Future Past, his 3rd go around as director in the franchise, and one of the best films in the series, including the Wolverine standalone films. The Days of Future Past storyline, which ran for 2 issues in The Uncanny X-Men in 1981, is highly debatable as there have been obvious changes made to the story as well as deleted scenes and plot holes aplenty. You can rip this film's story-line to pieces if you wanted to, but is it worth that effort? No. Just enjoy the film for what it is and go along for the ride. In doing so you'll find a film rich with subtext and fascinatingly enjoyable from beginning to end. Thrilling, exciting, funny, and most of all entertaining.

I began collecting comics in the 80's, but after this particular story-line. I even followed along when Jim Lee revamped the series in the 90's and so on. But I was never a huge X-Men fan. I enjoyed them and they were a fun read, but I could never win a debate or have an intellectual discussion on them. So as far as how close these films and characters follow their comic origins is not a big deal to me because I just don't know. I guess that's why the last X film, The Last Stand didn't bother me as much as it did everyone else with the changes they apparently made to the Phoenix story-line. Going into each of these films always end up a fun experience overall for me.

The effects work is top notch, the actors have all brought their A-Game to the table; most importantly Hugh Jackman, who continues to kill it as Logan/Wolverine, bringing new depth to the character every single time he returns to the role. What I loved more than anything though is how the film is peppered with plenty of "Wow" factor. The Quicksilver sequence in particular was just balls-out nuts and amazing! If that sequence doesn't put a smile on your face, then you're not human.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Category: Action

So this one's a long time coming; 2 months to be exact. I had taken a huge break from reviews and in the middle of this long break, I had gone to the theater to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier the weekend it premiered. I know, I know; I never go to the theater. If you know me even in the slightest, it's a big deal when I go pay good money for a film at the theater because I generally don't enjoy it. Crowds are not my thing, nor is having a theater full of screaming kids, annoying teenagers or dumbasses who refuse to stop browsing Facebook on their phones in the middle of a movie. And these movie prices are just getting ridiculous. I would go broke if I went to go see every movie I wanted to when it hit the theater. So 99% of the time I just avoid it and wait for the DVD or Blu-ray to come out. I much prefer to watch movies on my couch in the comfort of my own home. But Captain America was a special occasion. You see, next to The Punisher, he's my favorite comic book character, and while the first film didn't wow me at all, I do understand they needed to establish the character, as opposed to just throwing you into a story already knowing the background of the character. Those first films do succeed in both wowing and entertaining us while simultaneously being an origin story, Iron Man and Spider-Man gleefully succeeded in that area, but it doesn't always happen. Captain America is a prime example of that. Great casting and production value, but I felt it to be too tedious, melodramatic and slow.

But hey, It's Captain America. Flash-forward 3 years later and we have another. I love the new team behind this one, the Russo Brothers, who are responsible for the great and geek-worthy Community series, so I was really excited. Plus, the origin story has been established. Now we can delve into a full-fledged story and make things happen.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier starts with a bang and doesn't let up for the entire 136 minute running time. It's as if writing partners Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus (The Chronicles of Narnia, Captain America: The First Avenger, Pain & Gain, Thor: The Dark World) took all the criticisms of the first Cap film and decided to just go full-throttle action and excitement. It might also be because this Cap film is set in the present, whereas the first one took place in 1942. Either way, what the Russo Brothers and screenwriters McFeely and Markus have done is constructed a film that, more than anything, plays out like an excellent modern day espionage thriller reminiscent of some classics from the 70's. No joke. It's a weird way to describe it, but it's 100% true. It's essentially a big tale of corruption, double-crosses and sabotage all tied together by the mysterious figure known as The Winter Soldier, who shows up randomly to wreak havoc and seriously fuck shit up. But that's just part of the story, as even though the film is called The Winter Soldier, he's actually just a sub-plot of a much larger story. A lot of other reviewers have complained that he should have been the one and only central story, given that the film is indeed called "The Winter Soldier" after all, but even though he's not, I found the whole thing fascinating and entertaining as hell.

Furthering the films "70's Espionage Thriller" vibe, the Russo Brothers have decided to go the more practical route and tried to go as far as they could using practical stunts and effects work rather than relying on an overabundance of CGI, something that's way too common in these films these days. Lots of car chases ensue and let me tell you, they are awesome. Lots of hand to hand combat and physical fights leave your head reeling. Don't get me wrong, this is not without an insane amount of CGI, because the last act of this is just smothered in it. But there's a difference between needing CGI to actually make the scene or relying on CGI just because it's easier and cheaper than doing it the old-fashioned way. That's where my issues with CGI come in. Director's rely way too much on it when it's completely unnecessary. Yes I know these superhero films need CGI for a lot of these sequences because realistically, there's just no other way to do it. But when you can't even produce a car chase without using it then it's gets to be extremely tedious. It's like certain directors don't even want to try doing it the old fashioned way. Here, the Russo Brothers deliberately take a step back away from the overuse of CGI and use as much actual stunt-work as humanly possible and it shows. Instead of having a CGI sheen all over the whole thing, the film looks and feels organic and it pays off big time.

Every important marvel character returns for this sequel, but I was surprised that Black Widow was basically co-starring in this film. I mean, she's in the entire thing. I don't think that I picked up on how much she would actually be in it in the trailers. So instead of it just being a Cap flick, it's really more of a Cap and Widow flick. And The Winter Soldier was seriously badass with Sebastian Stan really nailing the look and feel of the character. The best thing is that he's just as fast and strong as Cap, which makes for some killer fights.

I've been collecting Ed Brubaker's take on Captain America ever since he revamped the series for Marvel in 2004 and collected every single issue he's done through his end on the series in 2012, which is just a stellar title to get hooked on. The Winter Soldier storyline was created in this series and the film does an excellent job of following it pretty accurately. And as I stated before, Sebastian Stan is just great in the role.

I realize it took  me a few months to finally get this out, but seeing as it's still making a ton of cash at the box office, if you haven't yet experienced this throwback to 70's Espionage Thrillers, you best get your ass to the theater pronto.


Best Night Ever

Directed by: Jason Friedberg, Arron Seltzor
Category: Comedy

When I sit down to watch a movie, rarely do I ever think of comedies. I do occasionally, but they're not always my first choice. I'm more of an action, horror, sci-fi or thriller kinda guy. But I had come across a quick blurb on this one a few weeks back that basically described it as a female version of The Hangover; meaning raunchy as hell and crazy. This reviewer also stated that it was pretty darn good and a lot of fun. The moment I saw it was available on Netlfix Instant, I jumped on it.

Best Night Ever did not disappoint. Right from it's opening shot, you know exactly what kind of movie you're getting yourself into. Even then, it goes places you never expect it to. I consider myself a pretty open-minded guy. Nothing really shocks or surprises me. But shit, even I found myself with my jaw dropped to the floor on several occasions and flat out shocked at how far they went with this one. It's non-stop hilarious with never a dull moment. But I think a lot of the laughs come from it's shock value, because they really push the envelope in this one. So if you're prudish in any sort of way, then this film is certainly not for you.

I won't get too heavy into this one, other than to say that it's, again, really just a female version of The Hangover, only pushed a little further. And even a bit creative at times, with nods to American Psycho, slasher films, and even Spring Breakers for good measure. Their quick and brief, but if you're a movie buff, you will catch them. What's most shocking more than anything to me is that I can't believe the guys that are responsible for films like the Scary Movies, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie and Vampires Suck did something a helluva lot more entertaining with Best Night Ever, but they did. I just can't wrap my brain around that. But thankfully, they turned out a good one with this and if you like shocks and laughs, you can't go wrong with Best Night Ever.

Red Dragon

Directed by: Brett Ratner
Category: Thriller

Has anybody actually ever said out lout that they love Red Dragon? Sure I've heard that plenty of times when referring to Silence of the Lambs or Manhunter (the first Red Dragon adaption), but have you ever heard that said about this mediocre attempt at Thomas Harris's novel? No. Or at least, I haven't. You hear it's good, but that's probably because they have nothing to compare it to.

Above anything else, Red Dragon is an unnecessary bore. Lame, tedious and uninspired from almost every angle, it seems that they felt that the far superior Manhunter (also based on the novel Red Dragon), needed an update as Michael Mann's excellent thriller is steeped in 80's Miami Vice cool. But you know what? With their update, Brett Ratner and company have only proven how much more brilliant, beautiful and entertaining writer/director Michael Mann's original 1986 film is, even with it's mid 80's Miami Vice aesthetic.

It feels like that the studio, or whoever spear-headed this latest attempt, was attempting to capitalize on a film series that was quickly dying. Maybe they also felt that Hopkins wasn't getting any younger, so if they were going to make this prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, they better get on it ASAP. I don't know. I'm just guessing. Regardless, Red Dragon was almost a shot-for-shot remake of Manhunter, just not nearly as stylish, intense or satisfying.

Director Brett Ratner has always been a dull filmmaker to me. He's not a bad one, not by a long shot. But he's not an interesting or exciting one either. Most people either love or  hate him, but I personally just don't care enough to categorize him that drastically. I'll give him some credit though, he's at least consistent. While he's never blown me away with any of his films, he's certainly never made a terrible film. If I had to pick one, I'd say Tower Heist was bottom of the barrel stuff, but I've definitely seen worse by other high powered directors. But my issue would really be that he has no identifiable or distinct visual style. It's just sort of......there. Like, you can't say "Oh that's a Brett Ratner film" like you would with say Tony Scott, or William Friedken or Michael Mann or any other director who has a specific visual style. And as much as people like to hate on X-Men: The Last Stand, I don't find it that bad at all. Hell, it made more money than any of the others. How does that make any kind of sense? But we've come to a point where if you mention his name, it's like "Oh he fucked up X-Men", or "He's a terrible director". I'm not anywhere near those kinds of feelings. I actually quite enjoy X-Men: The Last Stand and even the first Rush Hour. I just feel he's a very uninspired one.

With Red Dragon though, Ratner seems to be firing on all cylinders and trying his best to give us a top notch thriller. And it's really on what your preference is as far as a thriller's overall impact goes. For me, there was just no punch in this second adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon. It all felt very bland, and when you consider how so much of the film is almost identical to Manhunter, with the exception of a few changes of course, it just all feels so damn unnecessary. Manhunter kicks your ass and has one helluva finale that you won't soon forget. Red Dragon, which ends with a different ending that Manhunter, still doesn't do anything to intensify anything. Even the famous "wheelchair on fire" scene is shockingly short, dull and filmed in such a way that it's almost a throw-away scene. Like, you blink and it's over. I couldn't believe how little they paid attention to that scene and how little they felt of it's importance. But you know, that's how the entire film plays out; standard and rushed.

I've been told that this is people's favorite version of Red Dragon. But more often than not, they say it's because they've either never seen the better-on-every-level Manhunter, or that they saw Red Dragon first. Guess what? I saw Red Dragon first, and still feel Manhunter is a far superior film.

The thing that's most frustrating is that this is a big production. It's got all the bells and whistles that could make a great Hannibal the Cannibal film. Anthony Hopkins is great as always, though he seems to be hamming it up a lot more this time around. And the rest of the cast is fine, with Ralph Fiennes doing okay as The Tooth Fairy Killer. He didn't knock my socks off the way Tom Noonan did in the same role. The effects work is fine. Even the screenplay, by Silence of the Lambs screenwriter Ted Tally is fine. It's just the execution that comes up lacking. If you can't put it all together correctly, it's just not going to work. While Ratner has dipped his hand in a lot of different genre's, Red Dragon was his first attempt at an all-out thriller, and it shows. Maybe had he had a little more experience in the genre, he would have fared a little better. But hey, Jonathan Demme hadn't done a thriller before Silence of the Lambs, and look how well that turned out, winning an Oscar for Best Director. So maybe they thought they could capture the magic a second time, but unfortunately lightning didn't strike twice.

At this moment, Hannibal is my absolute favorite show on television. The goriest, most stylish and unrelenting show that I have ever seen produced, and the fact that it's on network television still shocks me with every episode. It's because of my love for this show, now on hiatus after finishing season 2, that I've wanted to revisit the films again, beginning with the excellent The Silence of the Lambs, which is just as good today as it was the first time I saw it. Next I tried Ridley Scott's Hannibal again; I don't even know where to begin. A much more boring and unnecessary mess than Red Dragon, even with legend Ridley Scott at the helm. If you haven't seen the film Hannibal in quite some time, do yourself a favor and leave it at that. If you want to watch something truly excellent that far surpasses the quality, shock value, visual panache and intensity of both Red Dragon and Hannibal the film, you need to watch NBC's Hannibal the TV series. It is the BEST show on television, bar none. You can currently watch the entire first 2 seasons for free on Hulu. If that first pilot doesn't grab you, I don't know what will. Word to the wise, you need a strong stomach to watch it.


A Field in England

Directed by: Ben Wheatley
Category: Drama/Horror/Thriller

No other film has surprised me more this year than A Field in England. These days, it's a rare thing indeed to be surprised anymore. Especially when it comes to something you've never heard about or when you go in with no expectations at all. As I sat down to watch this film, I knew absolutely nothing about it. Nothing, other than the fact that Drafthouse Films picked it up for distribution and even created a gorgeous poster print courtesy of artist Jay Shaw, who's quickly become one of my favorite poster designers of the last 25 years. But I was told on more than one occasion that should the opportunity present itself, I need to see it. Thanks to Amazon Instant Video, I was able to do just that.

A Field in England was like nothing I was expecting it to be. But to be honest, I didn't know what to expect....period, so I guess that's not really a fair assumption. Either way, I didn't know what to expect and it literally blew me away. A tour de force of inventive minimalist filmmaking at it's best and incredibly hard to categorize. At times dark, brooding, trippy, dramatic, and often times funny, yet from it's beginning, stunning on almost every level with some truly original creative choices. I'll further my point a little bit. As it began, it literally just throws you into a scene and you're wondering what the hell is going on. And nothing about this beginning sequence looked or felt inspired, or makes any kind of sense, which had me somewhat worried. I felt lost for a good 15 minutes. And that's what you should expect too. It doesn't take any pains in trying to explain anything to you right up front. Rather, you have to invest yourself fully; to throw any sense of normalcy or ordinary narrative out the window and just go along for the ride. Not always an easy thing to do, I know. But once you do, and which you will have to do with A Field in England, you'll be handsomely rewarded with a truly unique film experience.

The film takes place entirely in , wait for it.......a field in England, and consists of just a cast of 5, which is rather impressive when it's all said and done. Not once does this film feel or look small in scale. It isn't until it's all over and you're replaying the entire thing in your head, which you will be doing by the way, that you realize "wow, that whole film took place in a field and there were only a handful of actors?". Writer/director Ben Wheatley, along with frequent collaborator partner Amy Jump, has created a visual and psychological experience unlike anything I've seen.

Not a film for everyone, but for lovers of film and cinema, especially those for a taste for something wholly original, different and inventive, it's most definitely one to be experienced.

Described by Drafthouse Films as "A psychedelic trip into magic and madness" and "A most original and stunning cinematic experience" by director Martin Scorsese, A Field in England begs to be seen.


Motel Hell

Directed by: Kevin Connor
Category: Horror

I'll be upfront. This post is going to be short and if anything, more of an excuse for me to let out my insane frustration of cult film Motel Hell. You can probably tell, I did not like it.

Released in 1980, Motel Hell has gained somewhat of a cult following. It's been mentioned in lots of "Best Of" horror lists and if you haven't seen it, you've surely seen the poster, vhs tape floating around on the internet somewhere, or you've heard of some of the characters mentioned randomly like Farmer Vincent.

I think part of what keeps Motel Hell in the horror community's conscious is in that it's never really gotten a full-throttle release on DVD before, at least not in the U.S. anyway. Despite it's cool looking MGM Big Box VHS and Laserdisc releases in the 80's, it's only ever been released in either a Double Feature or Triple Feature horror DVD compilation. That is until Scream Factory releases their Blu-ray this coming August. So automatically it's been registered as somewhat of a "cult" film. Or rather, one of those lost gems that never got the proper release it deserved.

It was apparent right from the beginning they were going for a tongue-in-cheek style humor/horror combo. You know, if it's done right, it works. Evil Dead 2 and Return of the Living Dead are prime examples. But where those films used that concept to great effect, Motel Hell fails miserably. I can tell that it was supposed to be a little playful and "supposed" to be a little funny, but it just doesn't work and instead comes off as boring, weird and amateur. It's so sad too because it starts off strong with some flashy killer credits that get you excited, only to leave you scratching your head after a few minutes wondering "I thought this was supposed to be a horror film?".

Maybe the ending made up for the lackluster first half, but by 50 minutes in, I had no desire to finish it and find out. Whatever tone it was going for was somehow lost on me and all I could think was how dull, amateurish and weird it was. Am I alone in this?



Directed by: Eric England
Category: Horror

Recently a friend of mine, who loves horror movies by the way, had written a post on Facebook about having watched this particular film and how disgusting it was, which was a good thing. Well, that was all you had to say to pique my interest. I was sold. Streaming on Netflix, I seized the opportunity immediately.

I have to admit, Contracted was a fun, and yes-gross, little horror film. But it's slightly different than your average horror film. In fact, as soon as it was over, my first thought was that this should be a film they show in Health Education Class in all High Schools. Sounds weird, but there's a reason. Contracted's simple premise is basically a girl has unprotected sex with a guy she meets at a party, even though she considers herself to be a lesbian. Soon after strange things start happening to her body as some sort of disease starts taking over. I won't spoil the entire thing for you, but it's pretty disgusting the way her body starts changing that result in a film that ultimately creeps you out and will make you think twice before hooking up with some random person after a drunken night of partying.

So there, now that I've told you that if you like gross-out horror, you should definitely give this a shot. It's a film that will affect you in some sort of way. With that being said, it's not a perfect film and it's got just as many "bad" things going against it as it does "good" things going for it. Let's begin.

The Good:
Considering it's budget, which is very small if you read into the production, it's very stylish and contains a super slick look and feel for a film this small. Impressive is a good word to use because you'd never know it. It doesn't look like a low-budget film. Props to director Eric England for pulling that off.

Among it's strongest assets is it's impressive practical effects work. Seriously, a lot of the stuff you see in here will make you cringe because it's done extremely and realistically well and very effective.

The story; A one night stand where a woman contracts some sort of unknown disease that radically begins turning her into something that resembles a zombie. I think a lot of people can relate to the one night stand part and well, I think this film will certainly make certain people think twice before having unprotected sex with a total stranger.

The Bad:
While a fun movie to watch if you switch your brain off, the plot holes in here are so damn huge that you can't help but get annoyed when it's over. I won't get into the specifics for fear of ruining any plot details, but they are massive and leave you scratching your head.

I think what goes into creating a great story is giving us characters to really root for or believe in. Or hell, just a character to like in general. Unfortunately that cannot be said for Contracted, which is full of some of the most horrible and stupid human beings ever written, including lead character Samantha played by the gorgeous Najarra Townsend. Writer/director Eric England couldn't have written a worse character to have these horrible things happen to. Every situation that she is brought up against because of her transformation is only amplified ten fold and made so much worse by her ability to make the absolute worst decisions possible because of her bratty, selfish nature. Instead of feeling any sort of sympathy for her, you scream at the television screen every ten minutes in frustration asking "What the hell is wrong with you!?".  With the exception of one guy, almost every other character in this film doesn't fare any better. But even he does the most utterly stupid thing imaginable, so he doesn't get off that easy.

It feels odd saying this, but in the end, when it's all said and done and the effects of a fresh fun horror film have worn off, a LOT of things aren't explained and leave you with more questions than answers.

Great effects work. Great camera work. Interesting and promising premise. But weak, annoying and poorly written characters along with massive plot holes leave a lot to be desired. Not quite a home run, but definitely worth a watch for some old school gross out horror.


Confession of Murder

Directed by: Byeong-gil Jeong
Category: Thriller

Here is a film that I've been reading about for the last month. For one reason or another, it's popped up on my radar on various forums, but always spoken with the highest regard. After having finally seen it, I can understand why. Korean thrillers are quickly becoming my new favorite genre, and if anything, Confession of Murder is another prime example of why.

The last little review I had read about it mentioned that "This is how action movies should be made from now on". So that was my first little indication that there was indeed some action; something I was unaware of from everything else I had read. Most others categorized it as a suspense thriller, or a cat-and-mouse chase. And all of these things are true. In fact, there is a  little bit of everything in this film, which makes it extremely hard to categorize. But I'll get into that in a bit.

Confession of Murder is a great film that starts with a bang. In fact, I wish more films were made this way. The way you're thrown into the story head-on this way kind of took me by surprise. It's intense, fast paced and deeply effective in it's execution. It's during this sequence that I understand the "This is how action movies should be made" comment. The way writer/director Byeong-gil-Jeong shoots and edits this opening sequence is nothing short of brilliant. In fact, as the action was unfolding, I kept commenting that I've never seen some of these specific shots used before. They were fucking awesome.

As the film progresses however, the film's structure and pace seem to jump all over the place, which is a little weird and takes some getting used to. While a thriller more than anything, the absurd action sequences, of which there are 2, and the sometimes goofy dialogue and tone from time to time make this a film that might not be for everyone. However, it's in the films third act where it recovers and is an excellent example of a Korean top-notch thriller. The surprise ending even threw me for a loop. It's the kind of ending that M. Night Shyamalan keeps trying to attempt but ends in disaster. It's one of those "punches you in the gut" twists that make you play the entire movie back in your head and makes things that didn't make sense before, finally make sense.

Speaking personally, I'm finding Korean thrillers to be the cream of the crop for me. I have yet to be let down by one. The Man From Nowhere and I Saw the Devil are 2 of the best films I've seen in years. While I don't think Confession of Murder is quite up to that caliber, it's very close. I think it's uneven tone is what ultimately hurts it's chances of becoming something stronger like the 2 films I mentioned above, because when the 2 action sequences hit, they're just so over-the-top absurd that you're like "am I watching the same movie?". And then when the serious tone takes over, it's a helluva taught and tightly constructed thriller. Better than any thriller you'll see in American cinemas this year anyway. I feel that had a more experienced filmmaker been behind the camera, this would have turned out more even tonally. Which brings me to a quick little blurb that surprised the shit out of me. This is the only movie Byeong-gil Jeong has ever written or directed. I just can't believe that. It's nuts when you take into consideration the impressive shots he's able to accomplish and some of the stunts he pulls off. Not to mention how badass it is overall, and to be able to end it with such a huge twist ending that's wholly original just surprises me to no end. This guy's talent is enormous. It just seems he needs time to refine his pacing skills.


Why Walter Hill's Another 48 Hrs. is one of the most underrated and BEST Action/Buddy films to come out of the 90's

Directed by: Walter Hill
Category: Action

Let me just get this out in the open first before I go any further. Another 48 Hrs. has got to be one of the most badass, underrated, testosterone driven action films to ever come out of the 90's. As many times as I've seen it, I have yet to find anything I don't like or love about it. In my humble opinion, it's quintessential Badass Cinema material. Seriously people, despite some comedy for good measure (It does star Eddie Murphy after all), it's a straight-up tough as nails hard-edged piece of 90's Action Cinema if there ever was one.

Recently I decided to check out the original 48 Hrs., the 1982 film that catapulted Eddie Murphy from Saturday Night Live regular to superstardom. You know, it's a great film. If you're ever in the mood for some good old fashioned 80's action/buddy cinema, you just can't go wrong with 48 Hrs., a prime example of why director Walter Hill is a legend in the field of action, having been responsible for some of the best and most notable action films in the last 30 years.

Comparatively, 48 Hrs. and it's sequel Another 48 Hrs. are quite different from one another. The 1982 original, while drenched in an early 80's aesthetic, seems to play more for laughs, which was more common then than it is now. It was also the perfect vehicle to showcase Murphy's comedic chops and timing. Beverly Hills Cop a few years later would cement his status, but 48 Hrs. was a helluva good start. Not to say it's a comedy like say Coming to America or Beverly Hills Cop, but it's pretty damn funny and I found it to have more comedy than action at the end of the day. It's sequel 8 years later takes a different approach. Rather than being a carbon copy of it's predecessor, Another 48 Hrs. can only be described as 48 Hrs. on steroids. It hits the ground running right from the opening credits and literally does not let up until it's fantastic showdown at the end. And while they throw in a few good one-liners here and there, it's nowhere near as funny as the first one, which is a good thing. It's over-the-top let's just blow shit up and quadruple the body count at any given turn approach is what makes 90's Action Cinema what it is. While there are other prime examples out there (right off the top of my head, Tango & Cash), few turn out as badass, as full-tilt balls to the walls awesome as Another 48 Hrs.

A few things have changed since the original. For one, Eddie Murphy is now the lead actor, where as in the original Nick Nolte was first billed. By the time another 48 Hrs. rolled around, Murphy was the biggest movie star on the planet and one of the biggest box office draws with his star power quickly fading as his directorial debut Harlem Nights was a major flop the year before. Producing Another 48 Hrs. under his production banner Eddie Murphy Productions didn't do anything to raise his success rate either. While a solid box office hit, even by today's standards, earning $80 million, sadly his star only started to fall with each film after this. Not until 1996's The Nutty Professor remake, was he a bonafide box office draw. Even then, his output was extremely spotty to say the least. For every Shrek and Dr. Doolittle, there were plenty of Holy Man, Showtime, Life and The Adventures of Pluto Nash's in his resume. But anyway, I'm getting off topic.

Now, I don't want to make it seem like this film redefined the genre or anything, because it doesn't. In fact, in a lot of people's eye, it's not very good or, depending on what review you read, not a very good sequel altogether, which I've never understood. It is a both a great action film and a superb sequel, often eclipsing the original in so many different ways. It's not a perfect film, and if you sincerely care enough, you can probably pick it apart. Currently holding a 5.7 rating on IMDB (average), and only holds a fresh rating of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes (pretty low), it's not the kind of film any action lover thinks of when trying to come up with a list of their favorites. But guess what? It's a good fuckin' action movie plain and simple.

Overall a much harder and brutal film than it's predecessor. Director Walter Hill, a hit-or-miss director for me; especially in the late part of his career, has infused this film with so much hard-edged style and testosterone that I certainly consider it one of his best films. James Horner, once again channeling his trademark sound from some of his previous films like 48 Hrs. and Commando, kind of rehashes that same distinct sound again with this score, only marginally changing it up a bit. But it works effectively well, adding a little thunder to the storm.

It's really Hill who's the driving force behind why so much of this works. Known to change up his style from film to film, it's with this film where he combines his straight-forward hard-edged style of previous films like Red Heat and Extreme Prejudice with the more freestyle visuals of his later films like Trespass. I'm not generally a fan of the freestyle approach, especially when it comes to Walter Hill. In his later films like Trespass and especially Wild Bill, it just comes off as something new he's trying that doesn't quite work. Thankfully though, it's extremely minimal in Another 48 Hrs. and barely noticeable. But it is there.

By no means a game-changer or an action film that redefined the genre. But at it's core, a rock solid effort in the action/buddy genre that begs, no screams an opportunity to be revisited.


Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Directed by: Scott Glosserman
Category: Horror

Ya know, I'd seen a few images from this film from time to time (nothing terribly exciting) on various lists of horror films and horror sites, but honestly, the photo's I did see and the cover art didn't really do anything for me. And something about that title always bothered me. It's an odd title, especially for a so-called slasher film. It sounds too serious, for my taste anyway.

Well, it was suggested as a must see on a recent "Best B Films You've Never Seen" list on some website, which was then backed up by a fellow filmgeek as being pretty darn good. So now my interest is piqued and I thought, what the hell; let's give it a go.

* Slight Spoilers Ahead
Knowing absolutely nothing about this film going in, I was immediately thrown off by it's supposed "found footage" angle. A few minutes in and my concerns were somewhat put to rest when I discovered the film takes more of a faux documentary approach rather than full-on "found footage" one. Thankfully, there's no shaky-cam found in here. Hallelujah! Even then, it's only partly documentary style for the most part, as they ditch the documentary angle and go into an actual film in the third act, which is in itself, an interesting and bold move.

One thing that does and will set this apart from a lot of other films of this type is that it's pretty darn clever.
Essentially what we have here is a world where serial killing legends like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger are real individuals, not just movies. And so a documentary crew decides to follow the exploits of a serial killer by the name of Leslie Vernon as he plots and plans out his attacks, which will culminate in an old abandoned house on the anniversary of his supposed death as he's meticulously constructed a scenario where if all falls into place, will lead a group of horny teenagers to their demise.

Whats fascinating about this film is that for a good 75% of the way, it's not necessarily a horror film. It's a documentary that's more funny and amusing than anything as Leslie Vernon, in his charismatic way, deconstructs the myths of horror films and the killers that star in them. It's not until the third act of the film that things finally get down and dirty and we're thrust into a full-on old school slasher film. Not one that will knock your socks off or redefine the genre, but an entertaining one. And regardless of whether you find the end to be a rehash of every popular slasher film that has come before it or not, you can't deny the film's charm as a whole. It really is quite fun. Add to that some fun cameo's by Freddy himself Robert England, the best Jason on the block Kane Hodder, along with Zelda Rubinstein (You know, the cleaner in Poltergeist. I had no idea she was still alive!) and Scott Wilson, Hershel from The Walking Dead.

Surely a good time is to be had here if you take the time and go in with an open mind. Currently this is streaming on Hulu Plus.



Directed by: Joey Figueroa, Zak Knutson
Category: Documentary

I've always been a fan of writer/director John Milius. Sure, not everything he's done has been a slam-dunk for me, but overall he's put out an insane amount of badass work as either a writer, director (sometimes as both), consultant or script doctor that it's hard to argue the guy is who you call to add a little machismo factor into your film. Milius, best known for writing Apocalypse Now wtih Coppola, and for writing Conan the Barbarian with Oliver Stone while also taking on directing duties on that one. Did you know he wrote Dirty Harry and it's sequel Magnum Force? Or that he wrote the Robert Shaw speech inside the tugboat in Jaws? Or Sean Connery's motivational speech to his crew in The Hunt for Red October? He's been sort of tapped as the go-to guy for some macho dialogue if a film is missing something. As Francis Ford Coppola states it, John Milius s responsible for every piece of incredible dialogue in Apocalypse Now. Or hey, did you know that he was the inspiration for John Goodman's character in The Big Lebowski? And I shit you not, that's not even touching on this guy's personal life, which is the stuff of legends.

John Milius was and is a larger than life figure and this documentary explores his start in the industry when he attended film school in California with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola and venturing off into various projects while leaving his stamp of Badass on almost everything he touches. Speaking from a personal experience, I'll always remember him as the guy who directed Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn and came up with the story for the insanely badass Extreme Prejudice. For me, Milius and Walter Hill were like Gods to me growing up as an 80's kid obsessed with action movies. So it's good to see the guy finally getting his due with this in-depth and thoroughly entertaining documentary on one of the unseen voices in Badass Cinema.

As much as I've always known about John Milius, I was amazed to learn about how much I didn't know about John Milius. Furthermore, his personal life is just freakin' nuts. Listening to him talk about his escapades or any of the Hollywood Big Wigs recounting a number of stories or encounters regarding the legendary John Milius is pure entertainment.

You can currently watch it streaming on Netflix Instant.


Bad Movie Night: The Visitor

Drafthouse Films DVD/Blu-ray Cover

Directed by: Giulio Paradisi
Category: Sci-Fi, Horror, Action, Suspense, Thriller, Etc.

Every so often a film comes along and just completely blows your mind. The Visitor is that film. Long an underrated and overlooked piece of 70's Italian cheese that nobody ever talked about, or even knew existed. That is until Drafthouse Films picked it up and released it under their banner theatrically and then onto DVD and Blu-ray this past year, exposing the world to the insane onslaught of weirdness that is The Visitor.

I don't even know where to begin. The Visitor is just about the greatest things I've ever seen in my life and one of the best film experiences I've ever had. It's fucking nuts, insane, weird, beautiful, unintentionally hilarious and brilliant all at the same time. Words alone cannot describe the experience of watching one of the best examples of WTF?! Cinema in recent history. It's an assault of the senses. You just need to experience it for yourself, and you'll thank me later.

This was one of those rare examples where I just knew I was going to love it, so not knowing too much about it forked out my hard earned dough and bought the Blu-ray. After having my mind blown, I've since watched the interviews included in the Special Features and done some reading on those involved and it's quite a doozy. Logistically, The Visitor makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It appears that they took a couple of the biggest films out at the time, like The Exorcist, The Birds, The Fury, The Omen, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind among others, mixed them together to create some visually stunning sequences and then made shit up to fill in the blanks. Yes, I said Star Wars. Even then, it's one of the biggest head-scratching experiences you will ever have. Don't bother trying to figure it out, because it's a lost cause. Just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

Mondo's Limited Edition Poster
The sheer talent involved in this is just insane. In front of the camera, it stars Lance Henriksen, John Huston
(yes, the famous director) as an intergalactic warrior, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, Sam Peckinpah (yes, another famous director), Mel Ferrer and Franco Nero who appears briefly as a God-like character. As far as behind the camera goes, you've a nonsensical script, amazingly stunning visuals that need to be seen to be believed, a kick ass 70's score that kicks in at all the wrong unintentionally hilarious moments and some impressive practical effects and model work. Throw in an insane motorcycle crash and you really do have one of the biggest mind-fuck's you'll probably ever see.

It's best that I just leave it alone now and let you experience this masterpiece of WTF?! Cinema for yourself first-hand. It's like nothing you've ever seen. Drafthouse Films just released a stunning widescreen print on Blu-ray and people, that is the best way to go. If Blu-ray is not your thing, you can stream it on YouTube and Amazon for a cheap fee. But seriously folks, this is hands down a "purchase". I know I'll be showing this to all my friends for Bad Movie Night for years to come.

Now, the story, if you can call it that, is hard to decipher. But Drafthouse Films has done a good job of trying their hardest to put one together so here's their own synopsis of this Italian classic:

John Huston stars as an intergalactic warrior who joins a cosmic Christ figure in battle against a demonic 8-year-old girl, and her pet hawk, while the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. Multi-dimensional warfare, pre-adolescent profanity and brutal avian attacks combine to transport the viewer to a state unlike anything they've experienced... somewhere between Hell and the darkest reaches of outer space.

To wet your appetite, feast your eyes on this trailer and prepare to have your mind blown.


The Rage

Directed by: Robert Kurtzman
Category: Horror

If you're a horror fan or make-up enthusiast, you'll most certainly know the name of Robert Kurtzman. If not, he's one of the founding members of K.N.B. EFX Group along with Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, starting his makeup effects career with films like Night of the Creeps, Evil Dead II, Phantasm II and Intruder. Working continuously, he left K.N.B. in 2002 to form his own production company, while still working on film and television projects in every genre. Occasionally he takes the time to write and direct (sporadically), which leads us to his 2007 feature The Rage. I'd actually never even heard of this film until recently when I saw it mentioned in a comment on someones review of his directorial debut of Wishmaster.

Oh boy. So, going into this, I had very high expectations. I mean, it's not every day that one of the biggest and best effects wizards in the industry takes the time to direct a film. Sure, it does happen from time to time; some with more lasting results than others. Stan Winston only directed 2 films with Pumpkinhead and the bizarre A Gnome named Gnorm. Tom Savini has only ever directed one single feature film to date with the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, which by the way, as far as remakes go, is an insanely underrated horror film. One that deserves a higher reputation than it currently has. So while going back to Kurtzman; in 1995 he made his directorial debut with The Demolitionist, which I have yet to see, then delivering Wishmaster two years later, which I absolutely loved and was so much fun. So you can understand my excitement going into The Rage, a low-budget effects driven horror film fully financed by his production company. Immediately I'm thinking something like Wishmaster X 1,000.

The Rage is basically a Made-for-TV quality Syfy Channel movie, only with the gore content turned up to 11. Gone is the competency and maturity Kurtzman displayed with Wishmaster, and what we have instead is  If you didn't already know before going into this that he was behind the camera, honestly you never would have guessed while watching it. It's as if they hired any schmo right out of the Syfy Channel's endless lineup of made on the cheap Creature Features. If you're into low-quality filmmaking, then you might enjoy this. I mean, it's clear they were having fun here. The film itself is pretty damn crazy from start to finish, but overall just a mess. It really does fall in the lowest of the low category as far as quality goes. Now don't get me wrong, I can enjoy one of these films any day of the week, when they're done right. I fucking LOVE bad movies. However, everything about this one just felt off from pretty much every angle. Bloody, yes. Entertaining, no.

While the practical effects work just fine, it's everything else that falls completely flat like the camerawork, the acting, the gawd-awful CGI effects, the editing, everything. I should also mention besides directing, he came up with the story, produced it, along with several other family members, and produced the many special and visual effects and also worked as his own cinematographer.

Wishmaster was a huge step in the right direction as far as moving into directing feature films. The Rage is a huge misstep in the opposite.

Nurse 3D

Directed by: Douglas Aarniokoski
Category: Horror

Here's the thing with Nurse 3D. You're either going to love it or hate it. No two ways about it. I have in fact, read some positive reviews for this. Me? I didn't particularly like this one at all. For me, with all it's creative marketing and subject matter, Nurse 3D and the team behind it missed the mark by a fucking mile. Read any synopsis and review and you have a misconception of what the film is supposed to be about, or "should" have been about, yet for some strange reason they felt the need to deviate drastically from that initial setup and go in a different direction, one that is not nearly as entertaining as the one they lead you to believe in the beginning.

* Spoilers
So here's the thing. You're led to believe Nurse 3D is a movie about a hot psycho nurse who lures cheating men with the promise of sex to their ultimate demise. See, that right there is a fantastic premise. It's a fun one and with that set up alone, you can do so much. I had actually envisioned a film where a psychotic sexy nurse just lured men one after another into some increasingly creative kills until she ultimately met her match. But in this particular film, that was not meant to be. Instead we get a film that starts off on the right path, for about 15 minutes, until it veers off into a different direction for the majority of the film's short running time and ends with an interesting blood bath to say the least, but not one that made up for the lack of gore or violence for the majority of the film. At least for me anyway. Throw in the fact that since this film was shot in 3D, the majority of the blood is CGI so they can have it thrown in your face, which only takes away from so much of the potential charm.

Entertainment wise, Nurse 3D is a dud for me. But it's not a total loss. Amazingly, the eclectic cast is pretty stellar for a film of this particular type. Not taking into consideration the familiar faces you'll know from TV shows and other low-budget films, seeing Judd Nelson in here as a sleazy head doctor and then Kathleen Turner in a cameo kinda blew my mind. And then there's the lead in this, Paz de la Huerta. I think the main reason most people will go into this is the chance to see de la Huerta nude, which she frequently is in this. I'll admit, the girl has a killer body, but overall she just doesn't do it for me. I've never actually seen her in anything else, but at least in this particular film, she's just terrible. Not sure if that's on purpose, or if she really is that strange in real life, but her line delivery is awful.

Another plus, Nurse 3D is shot surprisingly well by Douglas Aarniokoski, who's been working as a first assistant director since the early 90's with low-budget fare regularly transitioning to films like From Dusk Till Dawn before moving into directing full time with some low-budget films and television shows. So while the film lacks a "lot", it's at least visually competent. You can't say it looks like garbage. And as I mentioned before, the marketing promo's for this are remarkable. In fact, better than the actual film, which is a damn shame.

Final thoughts:
I'd pass on this one, unless you have a thing for Paz de la Huerta and want to see her naked. A missed opportunity on almost every level and extremely short by today's standards not even making it to a full hour and a half. But I think in this case, that's a good thing.


The Sacrament

Directed by: Ti West
Category: Horror

* Spoilers Ahead

Ti West is a director I greatly admire. I think more than anything, he has a genuine talent as a filmmaker and most importantly, he doesn't like to do the same thing twice. Depending on the type of film and story he's trying to convey, he knows what specific elements are required in trying to get that across into making an authentic horror film. So while he's only made a few films in his short career, they're all vastly different from one another and for this reason alone, he's definitely got my attention with whatever project he's got his hand in. The House of the Devil is still a favorite of mine, and while The Innkeepers didn't necessarily knock my socks off, it was a valiant attempt at a ghost story and made extremely well. There's talent there folks. He might not knock it out of the park every single time, but you can't deny that the kid knows what he's doing.

Which leads us to The Sacrament. I knew basically nothing going into this one, which is usually always a good thing. So on different levels, this one surprised me quite a bit. But I'll get into that in a second. First off, let me just say that this is basically the story about the Jonestown Massacre. Though they don't specifically call the commune Jonestown in this, instead going with Eden Parish. But while the name of the location and characters are different, the story and a whole bunch of specific details about the massacre are the same, so essentially, it's a story about the Jonestown Massacre. Watch any documentary on the subject and you'll know what I'm talking about. How they work that concept into the overall design is a cameraman for Vice receives a message from his missing sister asking for his help. He gets cryptic and mysterious directions to an island where people have left their civilian lives and personal possessions and all live happily ever after in a commune run by an inanely charismatic preacher who goes by the name of Father. With 2 colleagues (a cameraman and his editor) in tow, they go looking for the story of a lifetime and get more than they bargained for.

The Sacrament was better than I was expecting it to be, and nothing like what I was expecting it to be at the same time. But while I wouldn't necessarily call it a horror film, it's got some good tension and a few disturbing scenes that will stay with you. Most of all though, it is in fact entertaining. One thing I've noticed with his films is that he hardly ever uses a lot of blood and gore. While this film is not the exception, there is a little more than what we're accustomed to in a Ti West film, so that was somewhat refreshing. I also wasn't expecting the "found footage" angle, which as you know I HAAAAAATE with a passion. But you know what? It looks like West studied up on all the found footage crap out there and figured out a way to do it creatively that it doesn't really look like a found footage film. Or in the least, you don't want to throw up from the constant shaky-cam like most of those damn movies leave you. Good job Mr. West. Interestingly enough, I found myself wondering from time to time how he was able to pull off a few shots and sequences if it was supposed to be "found footage". And he does in fact creatively explain those instances away. Well done sir.

The cast is littered with a few familiar faces, but mostly a cast of unknowns, which includes the actor who plays Father, Gene Jones. I don't know where they found this guy, but holy shit was he good and made for this role. I just can't explain it any better than that. It's almost eerie how well he comes across in the part. Whether you end up liking the film or not, I think more than anything, you'll walk away in awe of this guy's performance as the Jim Jones doppelganger.

So I'm kind of torn with this one. Since it's essentially a story about the Jonestown Massacre, even going so far as to take lots of specific details about that incident in history and weaving them into the story here, I don't really find it to be an interesting original story. And the "found footage" aspect threw me off initially since he was the last person I would have thought to embrace that lazy concept. But it's got some genuine moments of chills and tension along with a really standout performance by Gene Jones as Father. And believe it or not, the "found footage" angle actually works in it's favor.