I'd like to take this moment to apologize for my absence. It's been a few months, I know, and I fully intend to get my ass back in the saddle here. For the most part, the last few months, before October especially, had been consumed with planning my secret wedding, which by the way, was incredible. But then the holidays come around and with family and all that jazz, it's taken a while to get the groove back. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure anyone ever even reads my reviews, but for me, it's mostly about voicing my opinion about something I just saw and hopefully sharing these thoughts, and encouraging anyone else to see a particular film.

Anyway, I'm back, and I hope you stick around.


Film Review: The Hateful Eight

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Category: Western

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Tarantino's latest with some of my favorite movie pals. While it's a great film, I wouldn't say it's one of his best. It is, however, his most confident and his most talky film. Yes, all his films are filled with an insane amount of dialogue, but this easily takes the cake as it's really better suited as a theater play since 90% of the film takes place inside a cabin and the mystery of who these men really are begins to slowly unfold. In fact, Tarantino is indeed turning this into a play. It honestly feels more like an Agatha Christie mystery that just happens to be set in the old west, during a blizzard, with some clever, witty, and oftentimes hilarious dialogue that keeps things fresh and entertaining 100% of the time.

The violence, of what little there is (for a Tarantino film at least), is brutal and badass, and exactly what you've come to expect from QT's films. On a visual level, Tarantino continues to grow, and Hateful Eight is easily his most visually stunning film to date. It's just a shame that most of the best visuals come from the terrain and snow-covered scenery, which only really happens in the first half hour of the film. But, the 70mm Panavision format is strikingly gorgeous, and combined with Ennio Morrricone's stunning score, gives the film a grande look and feel that you just don't see anymore. Unfortunately this 70mm format doesn't work quite as effectively in the rest of the film that takes place inside the claustrophobia of the cabin. It still looks great though, with each shot carefully and meticulously planned, choreographed and executed.

Overall it's a great film experience. Stunning visuals, great score, superb casting (which he also excels at), and a strong narrative that drives the film forward with enough witty and clever dialogue that never comes off as boring or dull. Just be prepared to sit for 3 hours. In terms of script power, I'd put this ahead of Inglorious Bastards, but not better than the Kill Bill's and even True Romance. But that's just me.


The Delta Force Film Review

Directed by: Menahem Golan
Category: Action

Like any teenager who grew up in the 80's loving action, of course I'd seen this. Hell, I had a video store poster hanging on my wall that I snagged from my local video store back in the day when they used to "give" them away. Now it's different of course. Now employees snag them themselves and sell them on eBay. But it was a different time back then. Anyway, I can't really recall why, but while I love 80's Chuck Norris, I never went back to revisit this particular film after that initial viewing as a kid. When I saw this on Netflix recently, and I was putting some new furniture together, I figured some good ol' 80's action would be nice to play in the background.

Delta Force surprised me from a number of different angles. First, it's really long, clocking in at 2 and a half hours. Second, shockingly, there's really not that much action in this thing. I'll get to that later. Third, the insanely large ensemble cast is really impressive. Fourth, this film is really dramatic, and for the first half of the film, kind of uncomfortable to watch. Lastly, Menahem Golan did a much better job directing this thing than he gets credit for. So let's dig in.

This is an unnecessarily long movie. The first entire hour is a drama, with zero action. Terrorists hijack a plane full of passengers and it's here where Delta Force surprised me the most. Mainly because I was expecting an action film, and instead was treated to a harrowing tale of survival aboard a plane held hostage by sadistic terrorists who have no qualms about torturing or killing on the spot. Though we're nearly 15 years after the events of 9/11, this film was still hard to watch, because it depicts events like what happened so long ago rather shockingly realistic and brutal. Of course this film was made over a decade before those events, but it's not any less uncomfortable to watch.

When the entire first hour consists of a hostage drama, I started to wonder if this was even an action film, because up to that point, I hadn't seen any. The action eventually comes around, at the 1 hour mark. It's sporadic, but it's there, eventually going full force in the last 30 minutes or so. Being an action fan, I was a little let down and more surprised than anything that for a film that pushes the action in it's advertising, there was very little in here. Though I will admit that the action that was here was done well.

The cast is damn near impressive. Sure you got Chuck, a severely underused Steve James (ain't that always the case?), legends Lee Marvin as Chuck's commander and Robert Forster as the main Lebanese bad guy, which he pulls off rather effectively. But the film is littered with numerous legends like George Kennedy, Martin Balsam, Lainie Kazan, Bo Svenson, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters and the list goes on and on. But the most fascinating thing I found about this, other than Robert Forster playing a Lebanese bad guy, is that Chuck doesn't make much of a presence until the second half of the film, The first half of the film focuses on the drama aboard the plane, the hijacking. The second half is Chuck coming in and kicking ass.

This film really does wear it's heart on it's sleeve. It's so overly dramatic in some areas, and overly cheesy in others. The film ultimately suffers because it forgets that its supposed to be an action film for well over an hour, and when the action finally does come around, you almost forgot it's supposed to be an action film. Yet it's oddly charming. It retains enough of what you expect when it's all said and done to keep you satisfied for the most part. One thing's for sure, you'll be humming the impossibly cheesy theme music for days afterwards.


After Hours Film Review

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Category: Dark Comedy

I don't know why, but for one reason or another, I never took the time to see this Scorsese cult classic. I guess I had known for a while he directed this, even though it's completely outside the realm of anything he typically does or is known for, but nothing about this film ever struck me as something I'd be interested in. It didn't help that this film is never mentioned.....ever. Not even when people are discussing Scorsese films. It's just kind of like the bastard child nobody ever mentions. Yet very sporadically, I'd come across the poster image. And still, nothing about that ever got me to get on IMDB or anything and look up what it was actually about, or to head on over to YouTube and check out the trailer. So I didn't, and man do I feel stupid now about that. 

When I recently came across this title on a list of underrated gems from a respected website I follow, it was just the push I needed to finally get on the ball. Luckily for me, a friend of mine happily lent me his copy. On a recent Saturday night, the Mrs.'s and I poured ourselves a glass of wine, and proceeded to have our minds blown for the next hour and a half by a film that is unlike anything you'd expect, either for a black comedy or a film directed by Martin Scorsese. 

Paul (Griffin Dunne) is a bored office worker. One night he meets a Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), a cute girl in a cafe. They quickly strike up a conversation centered around the Henry Miller book he's reading. When he decides to call her late that night, in the pretense of buying a piece of art from her roommate, but more hoping to see her again, little did he know that one single moment would lead him to a strange, dark, and unforgiving odyssey through downtown New York, and a journey that will change his life forever.

I can't stress enough how great Martin Scorsese's After Hours is. Not knowing what to expect going in, we were treated to a dark, surreal, nightmarish odyssey through the streets of New York circa the 1980's, all through Scorsese's brilliant eye. It's an odd and complicated movie to figure out. How much of it is reality and how much isn't is up to the viewer I gather, but all in all, After Hours is a surreal, oftentimes intense, sporadically darkly comical, daring and quirky piece of filmmaking that still surprises me that it was made in the 80's.
Before After Hours fell on his lap, Scorsese had recently seen his dream project Last Temptation of Christ fall apart, and he was left in a depression and wondering what he could do. This bizarre script by a first-time writer made it's way to him via his producing partner and he just knew he had to make it, cheaply, and going back to his indie roots. The success of this film was so great that he was finally able to in fact make Temptation a few years later.
Not everyone's cup of tea, and maybe too weird for the casual viewer, but a definite unique experience for film lovers. Also of important note, Scorsese won Best Director at Cannes that year for this, a fact I was completely unaware of. Had I known that, I know I would have gone to seek this out much sooner. After Hours is a weird journey, and we loved every second of it.


Laid to Rest Review

Directed by: Robert Hall
Category: Horror

Lately, with planning my secret wedding and effectively pulling it off, I've take a few steps back from posting reviews because there's simply just no time. Now that the dust has settled and we can start breathing again, we've taken the opportunity to catch up on shows and films that have been piling up, but still, I haven't found myself running to the computer to write down my thoughts on them. I'm just enjoying the calm since I've missed it so much.

Last night was Friday the 13th, and because of that, we decided to screen a slasher for our movie crowd in honor of this rare date. When my wife and I sat down and tried to pick which Friday the 13th film we wanted to show, we realized that we had already shown the 2 best film in the series; Part 4: The Final Chapter & Part 6: Jason Lives, during past Friday the 13th honoring screenings. So we then decided to settle on a horror film, but not just any horror film. It had to be an old school style slasher in keeping with the Friday the 13th vibe. Doing some digging and research online we narrowed the choices down to Intruder and Laid to Rest. I've already seen Intruder and love it, but when I did some research on Laid to Rest, the consensus was pretty unanimous that this was a solid "new" slasher with some outstanding gore. Of all the sites I visited, I'd say the positive overall percentage would probably be about 80% positive, which in the horror genre is pretty damn good. So I was sold, and it was settled; Laid to Rest would be our slasher screening for Friday the 13th for our movie group.

I wish I could take that decision back. I wish we had just gone with an old favorite, or just gone the complete opposite direction and tried a new horror/comedy that I've had my eye on on Amazon called Gravy. But no, we chose this and we paid dearly for it. What's funny is that 2 members of the group had already seen this, and said they loved it. So with that, we were pumped and started the show. What resulted was one of the worst slasher films we've all ever seen. A dumb uninspired mess that shockingly misses a great opportunity to bring a new character and franchise to the slasher genre with bad direction, terrible dialogue, and a muddled, dull and unevenness that make it hard to stay focused while continuously looking at the clock. Not surprisingly, the 2 members of our group who had seen this already both agreed that it was bad, and were surprised that they liked it in the first place.

What's a shame is that while the film lacks a lot of what makes a solid horror film good, like decent character development for one, where the film does shine is in the gore and effects, which, quite honestly, are pretty outstanding for such a low-budget film. That isn't all that surprising since this films writer/director, Robert Hall, is a special makeup effects wiz, who's effects company Almost Human is responsible for a LOT of outstanding effects work in film and television. What's frustrating is that while the effects work is commendable for being traditional and for the most part, non-CGI, there just isn't enough of those kills and sequences to keep this oddly incoherent and disastrously amateur-looking effort from being a bore.

A few things surprised me about the casting in this. For one, the short cameo's, while not really all that spectacular, were solid enough to elicit audible comments like "She's in this?" and "Him too?!". You know who they are. You recognize them from more commendable work, and all in all, it was the little spice this film sorely needed to keep you invested. The primary actors were not bad, though the dribble they unfortunately had to droll out was embarrassing, made all the more cringe-worthy in their forced overly dramatic southern accents that felt so unnecessary and out of place. It's almost as if it's done on purpose, like caricatures you find in slashers, commonly known as "hicks". Maybe that was Robert Hall's intention after all? Kind of like how Rob Zombie infuses it endlessly in virtually all of his films, including his Halloween franchise. In either case, whether intentional or not, they all come off as silly in Laid to Rest, and it's really hard to take anyone or anything seriously.

While it's not always standard practice to give away "everything" about a killer in a horror film, at least "some" kind of history or motive, even in the smallest detail, would help you understand why anything is even happening. Unfortunately we are not afforded that luxury here. I can only assume writer/director Hall did this on purpose, saving the reveal or even the motive for the inevitable sequel. Which brings on another thought. He really must have been confident enough to know that he would eventually get the chance to make that sequel, because he reveals nothing about the killer in this, and it's incredibly annoying. As I never intend to actually watch the sequel now that I've seen the first one and do not like it, I'll just have to live with the fact that I'll never know why a killer - who never utters a word, or even winces or groans when he gets shot or mutilated in some form, and wears a rather rad looking chrome skull mask that he glues to his face - kills random people, and who seems to zero in on this one particular girl he just won't let go. None of it makes any sense and there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. That, coupled with the uneven tone, bad direction, bad writing, out of place southern accents, and long moments of boredom, make for a near excruciating experience.


Quick Shot Review: Bone Tomahawk

Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Category: Western/Horror

Up until a month ago, I hadn't even heard of this film. It seemed to literally come out of nowhere when a fellow filmgeek on Facebook posted a review of it from a random site. The title alone piqued my interest, so I did some digging and discovered it was some new horror/western film I'd never heard of before, starring Kurt Russell and written and directed by the guy who wrote the novel from which the film is based on. So yea, I'm sold. Fuck yea I am.

Released primarily on VOD a few weeks ago, Bone Tomahawk is a brave film, a film that if you had to categorize, you would be hard pressed to. If anything, it would most closely resemble the weird genre mix of Ravenous, but it's not like Ravenous in tone; Bone Tomahawk is it's own thing entirely. You could say it's mostly a western, but it's also clever and funny in a lot of the dialogue, yet then the film takes a huge detour and turns into something else entirely in the final act, something that would be considered a horror film set in the west.

Bone Tomahawk is unique to say the least, blending different genre's, ideas and themes into one mish-mash of a film that works so well you're pretty sure that had it had a theatrical run, it more than likely wouldn't do very well. How could it? How do you market a film like this? For those thinking it's a horror film, it might turn them off when they see that it's more of a western than anything. For those going in expecting a western, the abundance of gore and insane violence in the last act might shock them. Hell, it shocked even us seasoned gore hounds who didn't know what to expect.

I won't be including a synopsis on this one, because I went in cold, knowing nothing, and my experience was all the better for it. You should do the same. Just know that it's a western with some horror elements, that's oftentimes clever and funny, resulting in a wholly unique experience with some standout performances by Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson, with a healthy dose of cameo's cult film fanatics will appreciate. Writer/Director/Author S. Craig Zahler does an outstanding job building tension, composing impressive shots, and getting the most out of his cast. I for one am looking forward to what he comes up with next.


Quick Shot Review: John Carpenter's Village of the Damned

Directed by: John Carpenter
Category: Horror

As big a fan as I am of Carpenter, I guess I avoided this one all these years because of bad word of mouth. When we finally sat down to watch this on Halloween night, I regret feeding into that false mentality as this is indeed a very good film. Aesthetically impressive and on par with a lot of his best visual work, it's moody, atmospheric, and slow-burn approach drives the films moody overtone, culminating in a surprisingly satisfying conclusion. I'm surprised this doesn't get the same love that some of his lesser successful films like Vampires get. I can't explain it. 

It was great and simultaneously sad seeing Christopher Reeve on screen again, though I found him oddly miscast, as was Kirstie Alley. Regardless, he brings his A-Game and does a helluva job, especially in the third act. Great film experience overall and a highly underrated Carpenter gem. 


Quick Shot Review: Halloween: Resurrection

Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
Category: Horror

This was so bland, so dull, so cookie-cutter, and so generic that I couldn't even finish it. I made it about halfway through, and that's further than I thought I would get. I know the big deal was that they got Jamie Lee Curtis to return yet again for this entry, though thankfully she had the good sense to only stick around for the beginning. The other big deal was that original Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal was returning to the horror genre, and the Halloween franchise with this one. I have to give Rosenthal props for giving Halloween II some decent style, but that could simply be because it was the early 1980's. That was a long time ago; things looked different, equipment worked differently, and Cinema had an entirely different aesthetic in general. Looking back on his filmography, it seems that Halloween II was really just a fluke as most of his work seems to be in television. So was it more of a gimmick from the studio by bring in the director of one of the better liked Halloween films? A way to get older fans like myself interested in the idea of a new one, despite the fact that it starred Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes of all people, and took the webcam idea and killed the Halloween franchise with it? Way to go.

Quick Shot Review: Deathgasm

Directed by: Jason Lei Howden
Category: Horror/Comedy

When the trailer for this starting hitting the net, followed by it's constant festival screenings, my enthusiasm had been growing and growing to a fever pitch. Just based on the insane trailer, I knew this would never get a theatrical run, meaning VOD would be the only way to see it. Then I had kind of forgotten about it since the VOD release date was so far in the future. Shockingly, this finally hit with little to no buzz just a few weeks ago. I had no idea, until someone randomly posted something about it. On a Saturday night I gathered as many of my movie buddies as I could, grabbed a whole lotta beer and hoped for the best.

Deathgasm was awesome. Plain and simple. It was everything we'd hoped for and then some. Combining heavy metal, horror, comedy, over-the-top gore, and likable characters, Deathgasm hits all the right notes resulting in one helluva good time, even if you're not a metal head. Though the story revolves around 2 metal heads who unwittingly summon a demon through a heavy metal song, you enjoying that particular genre of music is of little importance at determining your enjoyment with this. The entertainment factor is so high on this regardless of your specific taste in music. You do have to enjoy horror comedy though. So if films like Evil Dead 2, Brain Dead, Cooties and Shaun of the Dead are your thing, then Deathgasm will be right up your alley.

First time writer/director Jason Lei Howden, who primarily works in visual effects on the biggest of the big Hollywood films, turns out an epic film of metal, gore, laughs and death. The particular way he edits this film together keeps it from being monotonous, resulting in a fast pace that gets to the meat of the story rather quickly, while simultaneously giving us enough characterization from all involved to give them all strong standout personalities. It's clever writing, clever dialogue, and downright hilarious situations that gives Deathgasm the charm that easily makes it stand out from the pack.

Easily one of the most enjoyable horror comedies I've seen in a while, and one of the most original, Deathgasm exudes a fun vibe that comes off as effortless. They simply do not make enough horror films with a Heavy Metal theme. Sure there are films like the awful Rock n Roll Nightmare and the uber excellent Trick or Treat, but they're so few and far between. Though this one's hilarious, it's a good feeling to have a new member of this exclusive club. Grab a few friends, crank up the speakers and give this excellent bit of Heavy Metal horror.


Review: Cop Car

Directed by: Jon Watts
Category: Thriller

Jon Watts is a name you will be hearing more often. I'm sure of it. Having only done short films and a lot of television work, he blew me away with last years Clown, based off of one of his short films from 2010. Clown worked so well because it was genuinely creepy, effective horror. He didn't rely on cheap tricks or jump scares to scare us. It was great compelling storytelling, great direction, great practical makeup effects, and solid scares. In fact, I'd say it was one of the better horror films I'd seen in years. It left a lasting impression, and most of all, it impressed the hell out of me.

Going into Cop Car, I had no idea it was from the same writer/director. Why would I? They're two completely different genre's, and nothing about Cop Car, not the cast, not the style, not the subject matter, would suggest to me that that was the case. Even more interesting was that I didn't find that out until "after" the film, since he put the credits after the film and not before. So that was an even bigger surprise. When "Directed by Jon Watts" scrolled down the screen, I yelled "Holy shit! That's the guy who did Clown!". I said that because my movie partner and I both loved Clown, so this was just a total surprise to both of us.

Cop Car is a thriller about 2 young boys who see a cop car seemingly abandoned in a field. When they take the car joy riding, little do they know that the cars owner, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), has a ton of secrets hidden in that car. Secrets he'd be willing to do anything to cover up. 

Not since Denis Villanueve's excellent Prisoners have I seen a thriller shot as gorgeously as this. Every single frame of film has been meticulously planned out, shot and executed on such an impressive level that even if some people walk away from Cop Car not liking the film in general, they can't say that it wasn't a gorgeous film to look at. Though I doubt anyone would walk away from this film not loving the shit out of it, because honestly, it's just insanely good.

Though the 2 main characters of the film are the two 12 year old kids who steal the car and decide to go joy riding, it's Kevin Bacon's Sheriff Kretzer (sporting a killer 'stache) who steals the show. Bacon is always great in anything he's in, whether it be an 80's dance movie, the villain in an X-Men film, or playing himself in Will & Grace. The guy never half-asses anything and that's all the more evident in his turn as a sadistic and evil Sheriff with secrets he'll do anything to keep hidden, including trying to kill 2 little boys. He's just pure evil here and it's one helluva performance. Wait till you see him hopped up on coke. It's too damn convincing.

What's almost fascinating about this film is how simple the story is, yet it's highly engaging 100% of the time. There's never a single dull moment, even when nothing particularly interesting is happening. It all flows rather well, culminating in a slow-burn style film that get's darker as the film progresses. Even though a lot is left to our imagination in terms backstory for everyone involved, each character is written so well and fleshed out enough that you care about them, or what happens to them, most importantly the 2 kids. You so believe that real kids this age would do the exact same thing, such as haphazardly handling a loaded gun, that you find yourself cringing often at what "might" happen.

Cop Car is a gem in the thriller genre; a gorgeous film with a stunning visual aesthetic and outstanding performances from everyone involved, including the severely underused Camryn Manheim. Jon Watts is a painfully talented filmmaker, and if Clown and Cop Car are any indication, he will be a big name to keep an eye on.


Quick Shot Review: Cooties

Directed by: Carey Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Category: Horror

Having come across my radar through a mutual friend, I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing at all. I avoided the trailer, which everyone seemed to love, and I avoided any synopsis online. But the word on the street was that it was good, damn good, and funny. So when it became available On Demand a few weeks ago, I invited a few friends over and threw it on hoping for the best.

Cooties is without a doubt, one of the funniest horror comedies I've seen in a really, really long time. And I'm not talking stupid slapstick funny. No sir. This was legitimately funny from beginning to end, and downright clever. The laughs fly by so often that you sometimes forget you're watching a horror film, and when it comes right down to it folks, that's just smart writing. Though when the horror elements do come into play, they work well too.

Elijah Woods leads an eclectic and entertaining cast of teachers and elementary school workers who must band together and survive when a virus, born from a school cafeteria chicken nugget, infects everyone with a disease turning them into zombies, resulting in a full-blown outbreak. 

What's great about Cooties is that they've taken a rather tired premise, and made it exciting again. There's really not much else to get into without giving anything away. It's a movie about a virus that turns kids into flesh-eating zombies in a school. It's one of the funniest and well-written films I've seen in years, and the fact that this is a horror film makes it even better. The cast is excellent, the direction is solid, and the vibe is 100% fun. What more could you ask for? Going in knowing very little helped my experience personally speaking. I'd definitely invite a few friends over, because it's a riot, and works so much better with others you can laugh with. Currently on VOD and On Demand.


Review: Last Man Standing, one of the BEST Low-Budget Action films you've never seen

Directed by: Joseph Merhi
Category: Action

I believe it was through the excellent review site Comeuppance Reviews that I came across this film. Before then, I'd never heard of it. I'd heard of Jeff Wincott, but before this, I'd never taken the time to check out any of his films. And leave it to the badass brothers over at CR to keep me in the loop. If you want to know about action, the good ones, the bad ones, they're your guys.

When I read their review, I was sold. They couldn't praise it enough, and when they'res just way too many action films out there to choose from, I need some kind of guidance. So I took their cue, rented this from Amazon Streaming, and took a Sunday afternoon to devour this 90's bit of low-budget action with no interruptions.

The result was one of the most insane, most fun, and most badass low-budget action films I've ever seen. That's no lie. This move is nuts! And in the best possible way. Last Man Standing has everything you could ask for in an action movie. But wait, if you're into 90's action specifically, then you're in for a real treat. There's just nothing that compares to 90's low-budget action. There really isn't. 80's action more so than any other decade, which is why every now and then we get a "throwback" homage to remind us why we loved them in the first place, and to also remind us that they just don't make them like they used to. The same could be said about 90's action movies of course. There's just something about the way they made them back then. Handheld Shaky-cam was unheard of, and the filmmakers seemed to have bigger balls when it came to stuntwork and explosions. And most importantly, there were no lame-ass CGI explosions, gunfire, blood and the like. Which, as you may or may not know, is all too familiar in action films of the last 10 years. So when I find a 90's action-fest that gets it right like Last Man Standing, I'm all kinds of crazy excited. The last time I got this excited was when I saw T-Force and Hologram Man for the very first time, and Last Man Standing easily falls into the same category in terms of quality. Honestly, had I known how badass these films were by Merhi, I would have jumped on them years ago.

Writer/Producer/Director Joseph Merhi is big in the low-budget action world. Often working alongside Richard Pepin (T-Force, Hologram Man) - one of my favorite 90's action directors - as producers on each other's projects, he knocks out action films like nobody's business. In one single year alone, 1988 to be exact, he directed 8 films! Up until now I'd known about him, but had never seen any of his work. And Richard Pepin impressed me so much that I figured nobody could top him as an action director. But now, finally having seen one of Merhi's films as director, I put him right up there with Pepin. He doesn't just shoot anything half-assed. He makes the most of his limited budget with an insane amount of action that tops anything I've seen in any big budget action film of the last 10 years or so. And it's fun, a lot of fun, and even clever. There were things in here that obviously defied logic, or the laws of gravity, which I'd also never seen in any film before, yet looked so badass. You have to give it to the guy for being able to commit to all of this with a straight face, while also making it look slick.

Having someone as talented as Joseph Merhi behind the camera as a triple threat as writer/director/producer is all well and good, but you also  need someone who can lead the damn thing, a solid anchor who knows how to keep you invested, and that's where Jeff Wincott comes in. Much like Merhi, I'd never seen a film of this guys before, and how I went this long is beyond me. Not only is he a great martial artist who can hold his own in any fight, but the guy is an damn fine actor to boot, emitting charisma and a tough cool at the same time. I'm surprised he never made it into big budget action. He's got the goods.

Last Man Standing has everything you could possibly want in an over-the-top action film. On a technical level, it's damn impressive. The action sequences are some of the best I'd ever seen, coupled with Wincott's strong charisma in front of the camera, and an eclectic ensemble supporting cast, you have one helluva fun ride. Take the ride.


Review: Cohen & Tate

Directed by: Eric Red
Category: Thriller

Eric Red is a severely underrate filmmaker. That's just a sad fact. The guy is responsible for so many great cult films of the 80's and 90's that it's criminal that he's not more well known. In the 80's, he wrote the screenplay for the cult classic The Hitcher. He also co-wrote the vampire favorite Near Dark. Going into the 90's he only made a few films, but they were quality works, beginning with 1991's excellent Body Parts as both writer and director, followed by the equally impressive werewolf tale Bad Moon in '96, also as writer and director.

During the 80's though, he was just a screenwriter. That is until he tried his hand at directing with his thriller Cohen & Tate in 1988. Being a huge fan of The Hitcher, Body Parts and Bad Moon, as expected, I was excited to check this out. Knowing it wasn't related to horror in any way, I was curious, and slightly cautious. Horror really seems to be his strength, and going into a thriller about 2 mismatched hitmen who have to travel cross-country with one of their targets while simultaneously trying not to kill each other was an interesting idea, if done properly. When Shout! Factory released a gorgeous widescreen print of this lost gem on blu ray a few years ago, I always had this on my list. When it finally popped up on eBay for a price I couldn't pass up, I finally jumped on it.

Cohen & Tate is a great first film from a first time director. While there are things that come off as amateurish, there is also a lot that he gets right, and a lot that kind of blows your mind at how awesome he puts things together. On a visual scale, Red's directing style is pretty straight-forward, not really having a definable style per say, but it looks good. It looks professional. But then there are scenes that will impress the hell out of you in their structure and execution. There are shots that remind you of the greatness that is to come, of the talent hidden right beneath the surface itching to get out. It's obvious with Cohen & Tate Eric Red was trying to find his groove, and he's almost there.

One of the things that really works well is the casting of Roy Scheider. The guy is a pro, and no matter what film he's in, he only makes them better. Though he was brought in last minute to William Friedkin's monumentally excellent Sorcerer, I can't imagine it being as successful had they gone with their original choice. But of course, that's just my opinion. Adam Baldwin, who plays the other hitman, who's character is much younger, new to the hitman game, and severely immature with a hair-trigger temper is everything that Scheider's character is not, resulting in some memorable exchanges between the two. Baldwin is great casting in this as well, if only somewhat annoying with the constant gum smacking. I always wondered why he never got the big break he deserved. Of course geeks will always remember him from Firefly, but as far as starring or co-starring in studio films, he never really got that big role.

I was surprised that this wasn't as violent as I was expecting.  Of course, I base that purely off of his other works. But even so, the story of two mismatched hitmen, the possibilities are endless. But I found Cohen & Tate surprisingly subdued. Digging into the Special Features though offered some insight into why that is. Writer/Director Eric Red stated that for several of the scenes you expect there to be violence, he felt it would be more strong if he actually didn't show it, rather implying it and letting your imagination do all the work. But then you watch the Deleted Scenes, most of which consist of these violent sequences that were edited and trimmed out of the existing sequence, and I can't help but disagree with his motives. I found the scenes to be so surprisingly brutal and violent that they left a huge impact. My personal feelings are that the violence cut out of the final cut should have been kept in. The cut violence is definitely shocking, making the film much more impactful, and showing how savage these two hitmen can be. I really wish that Red would have released this Shout! Factory release as Uncut, or as a Director's Cut. I like the film enough as it is, but it just would've been better and a much harder film in general.

Cohen & Tate is such a different film than anything Eric Red has done. Sometimes brutal and violent, other times quiet and moody. But as a whole, awesome.


Hannibal Season 3 and a Farewell to a Great Series

When Hannibal first premiered, I went in skeptical. I'm about as big a fan as the next guy of the Hannibal Lecter franchise, but unlike most others, I find Michael Mann's utterly brilliant Manhunter to be the BEST Hannibal The Cannibal film to date. Of course I love Silence of the Lambs (who doesn't?), but there's just something uber cool about Mann's slick Miami Vice infused take on the material. Visually stunning, suspenseful, with a knockout performance by William Peterson as Will, and Brian Cox as Hannibal, it's really Tom Noonan's portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde aka The Toothfairy Killer that steals the show. And man, what a killer ending. But Ridley Scott's Hannibal film didn't really do anything for me, neither did Red Dragon. So I guess you can say I went into NBC's Hannibal more out of curiosity than anything.

Much like with Breaking Bad, I watched the pilot of and I was immediately hooked. Cleverly written, and brilliantly directed by David Slade, who would eventually direct 5 episodes, Hannibal represented smart adult horror. It was also easily the goriest show you'll ever see on TV, not just network television. In fact, I was shocked at how far the show went in the gore department, and were able to actually get away with it.

While the first season was great, it was really the second season that I absolutely loved. With season 2, they seemed to push the envelope in nearly every department, often going further than you ever expect it to. So of course, when that season ended on a cliffhanger, I couldn't wait for Season 3 to finally start, which seemed to take foreeeeever. But it came, and needless to say, I wasn't a fan; not at all. Season 3 was just odd. Set in Italy with Hannibal on the lam, it took on an entirely different tonal shift that seemed so dull and boring compared to the first 2 seasons. Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali took over directing duties for the first half of season 3, and personally speaking, I put a lot of the first half of season 3's problems squarely on Natali's style of directing. While the scripts were not up to par with what was being written before, Natali's constant night shoots made it nearly impossible to make out what was happening half of the time. Shooting in slow-motion 90% of the time didn't help either. It didn't matter what it was - a snail crawling along the floor, water pouring into a glass, a jar falling off a table - everything seemed to be drenched in the slowest of slow-motion that it became annoyingly tedious. For all intents and purposes, it slowed the show down to a crawl, and made it utterly boring.

I was ready to give up on it, and I damn nearly did. But a friend convinced me to finish it out, so I took his advice, despite my reservations. It took 7 looooong episodes for anything remotely interesting to happen, but when it did, it was so nuts that episode 7 almost made up for the severely lacking previous 6 episodes, all of which took place in Italy. It was at this point that Hannibal started to resemble the show that I fell in love with, and from this point on, it only got better, and stronger.

Not long after they introduced the character of Francis Dolarhyde, and the series became great again. It was during this time that the "official" word came that season 3 would be it's last due to poor ratings. Producer Bryan Fuller says that he's not done with Hannibal just yet, and that it will live on somewhere else at some point. It's hard not to think that the very weak first half of this past season didn't have anything to do with that. Who knows? The show had always struggled to connect with viewers and find it's audience. Maybe it was in the cards before season 3 even began shooting? Regardless, it was a sad day when it was announced that it was cancelled.

Luckily, we had the second half of season 3 to more than make up for that sad bit of news. Once The Toothfairy Killer character comes into play, the show finally fell back into place and found it's footing again. I'd read many times that producer Bryan Fuller said that season 3 would be different, that they were going for a more playful approach. I'd read from several different critics who previewed the first few episodes before it's official premiere that it was indeed different, and sometimes funny in a tongue-in-cheek way. I never got any of that. In fact, quite the opposite. It was painfully dull and slow, and had it not been for my friends insistence that I continue, I would have given up on it because it wasn't the great gory adult horror show that it used to be.

In all fairness, the second half of season 3 more than makes up for the lackluster start. Utilizing different directors (not Vincenzo Natali), picking up the pace, ramping up the gore content, and moving the setting back to the US and away from Italy, Hannibal felt and looked great again, thanks in no small part to Richard Armitage's brilliant portrayal of The Toothfairy Killer. The finale, which had a lot of people divided, was extremely fitting and a wonderful sendoff in my opinion. It was shocking, violent, and beautiful. I could have done without the end credits scene, which ultimately leads you to believe that the show isn't done and could very well live on somewhere else, as Fuller has stated numerous times. Compared to what just transpired mere minutes before the credits rolled, that end credit scene just kind of felt cheap and tacked on - like a last second effort to fuck with your head.

Hannibal ended on a high note, and each subsequent episode from 7 on, felt like show that so captured my enthusiasm, my imagination, my heart, and my attention.


Quick Shot Review: The People Under The Stairs

Directed by: Wes Craven
Category: Horror

While I currently have a rather large list of reviews I need to catch up on, having just seen this film for the very first time last night (yes, I have no excuse), I felt the urgency to throw down some words on this immediately.

I don't know why I never gave this film a chance, I have no excuse. For some reason it just always passed me by, and I suppose I never really heard any positive word-of-mouth, which would have gotten me to at least consider seeing it. But no, never heard a word, never saw a trailer, never thought "Hey, it's a Wes Craven film. Maybe I should give it a shot". Maybe it was because Shocker still left a bad taste in my mouth? Possibly. But in any case, I never saw it until just last night, and I went in as cold as possible, not knowing a single thing about the story, the setting, or the characters. Here are my thoughts.

Wow! The People Under The Stairs was nothing like what I was expecting, and I don't even know what I was expecting to begin with, but it sure as hell wasn't this. And you know what? I loved every fucking minute of it. This film is so damn bizarre, and so batshit crazy that I constantly kept asking myself "What the hell kind of movie is this?". It's awesome, that's what it is.

It starts off as an urban tale about a kid from the ghetto who decides to help with a robbery that will potentially yield some gold coins that he can use to help pay rent for his family, who will be evicted the following day by the greedy landlords unless they come up with triple rent. It just so happens that the house they intend to rob is also the landlord of their building. Once inside the house, they got more than they bargained for. From this moment on it turns into a house of horrors type film, and gets considerably more and more nuts as the film progresses. 

One can only guess what was going through Craven's head when he conceived this story. For me personally, the whole urban angle really through me for a loop. It's not generally the type of setting or setup you usually find within a Craven film, or any horror film in general. Once the story settles in the house, it does resemble more of a Wes Craven film in both terms of aesthetic and tone, but even then, it goes so far off the rails that you kind of just throw your hands up in the air (metaphorically speaking of course), and just enjoy the ride, because personally speaking, it was one helluva ride.

I'm not sure how to even categorize this, because it's certainly not horror, though that was the intention I'm sure. While there are lots of thrilling moments, and a few intense ones, I would hardly call it scary, and it's also just so strange and oftentimes funny, that had I seen this and not known who wrote and directed it, I would never have guessed this was a horror film made by one of the biggest horror masters of our time. It possesses a very unique vibe; one that I have a hard time pinning down.

File this under "Total Surprise". This easily became one of my new favorite Wes Craven films.


Quick Shot Review: The Green Inferno

Directed by: Eli Roth
Category: Horror

By now, we all know the history about this film. Having sat on the shelf for a full year after it's completion due to it's distributor's financial difficulties, the long wait only getting us all more and more impatient for it's eventual release. Then word comes that it found a new distributor, and the moment we've all been waiting for has finally come. Of course, I had to see it on opening night. Just the idea of Eli Roth's cannibal film represented a lot of what we had been needing in the horror genre, a genre saturated with lame remakes and tedious PG-13 horror films. So how was it you say?

I'm so torn with Green Inferno. On the one hand it's a brave film, made by a brave filmmaker who doesn't cater to, well, anybody or anything really. He makes his own films the way he wants to, and doesn't make or do anything to satisfy anyone else's needs other than his own. That is a trait I admire in him. He's not concerned with box office numbers, or pleasing the studio heads. Not in the least. He wants to make horror films, plain and simple. And for that, I give the guy mad props, even if he's not the most skilled at it.

On the other hand though, The Green Inferno doesn't quite live up to expectations for a number of reasons. First, it takes it's time setting things up, trying to make us care for the characters as people before their fateful trip. While these setups are necessary, and oftentimes crucial in character development, 30 minutes was just too long, when all we really want to see is cannibal action. That brings me to another issue. When the group, those that survived the plane crash anyway, are captured, we are treated to a pretty brutal killing. And let me tell you, this sequence is the highlight of the film. So much so in fact that the rest of the film couldn't possibly measure up to that one sequence, and sadly, it doesn't. While the rest of the film, which depicts the remaining survivors being tortured and kept prisoners by the cannibalistic tribe, does offer a few intense moments, none of it holds a candle to that one sequence. That's really unfortunate when considering what kind of film this is supposed to be, and what film in particular it takes it's inspiration from.

One of the other issues we all had was that shockingly, this had some humor. While the few sequences were indeed quite funny, it kind of throws you off and takes you out of the experience, because you don't expect it. And that's a complaint I keep hearing from a lot of people, that it was funnier than they were expecting. "Funny" is not a term you think of when going into a cannibals-in-the-jungle film.

Overall it was a fun film, but not a film I will have any desire to revisit again. It takes it's time building things up, blows our minds with an insane kill halfway through, then slowly becomes less and less interesting as it goes on. It never reaches the level you expect it to, and it kind of leaves a lot of questions unanswered, like what ever happened to the tribe's psycho bitch leader, who was the most fucked up and brutal of the bunch? We don't know. She disappears somewhere in the end and is never mentioned again. Roth has never been one of the most talented, or most visually striking filmmakers out there, but he is a brave one. I will give him  that. Sadly though, this won't be going down in the history books or even reach a cult status. It's just not that kind of film, though we were all hoping it would be.


Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Directed by: Kim Henkel
Category: Horror

I honestly don't know what the fuck Kim Henkel was thinking when he made this. I'd long resisted watching this because it's reputation is terrible, and because, well, it just didn't look very good. But hey, it's getting close to Halloween, and I'm in horror mode, which means going out and looking for films I never got around to watching before in the horror genre. I did hope for one thing though; that this would be "So Bad, It's Good". I hoped.

TCM:TNG begins with a pretty killer title sequence. So I'm already feeling a little better about this. As the film progresses for the next hour, I'm actually thinking that this isn't all that bad. While Henkel is no Tobe Hooper, he does give the film a certain Grindhouse look and vibe; it's gritty, washed-out color palate gives the film a much older look than it's 90's setting. But honestly, that's really where the praise stops, because the rest of the film is a fucking mess.

Let's start with the actors. They're annoying as shit. How are we supposed to care about what happens to them when we don't even like them as human beings? Then there's McConaughey, who's so over the top that I think the point was that he would come off as scary, but only comes off as annoying. He made this a year after Dazed & Confused, and before anyone knew his name. The same thing with Renee Zellwegger. But we already know all that history. 2 years later they both went on to hit the big time and have tried to erase this from their memory.

As you know, Kim Henkel, who wrote and directed this, was the co-writer of the original Chainsaw film directed by Tobe Hooper. This was Henkel's one and only directing credit, and has only a few other titles under his belt as a writer. He intended this to be the first true sequel to the franchise because as you know, each film pretty much has it's own universe, not following any coherent storyline from any of the other films before or after, which is one of the things that make this particular franchise stand out from the other slasher franchises with countless sequels. Does Henkel succeed in making this a true sequel? No, because the "family" are all new characters. And that's another thing that might surprise a lot of people who haven't seen this entry yet. Rather than focus primarily on Leatherface, Henkel puts the majority of the focus on the entire family, more often than not zeroing in on McConaughey's character more than any other. In fact, Leatherface takes quite the backseat to the character of Vilmer (McConaughey).  On top of that, Henkel doesn't really add anything new to the character of Leatherface; quite the opposite. You can easily say that this particular film pretty much plays out like a remake of the very first film, even going as far as essentially redoing the end scene with Leatherface swinging his chainsaw in the air in frustration when his victim escapes. Seen it all before.

TCM:TNG is frustrating. When we get to the third act, a whole new character is introduced out of nowhere, with no explanation. He shows up in the middle of the chaos, and seems to be in control of everything that's going on. But who is he? Why or how does he control the family? The indication is that they do all the kidnapping and killing for him, but why? Don't even get me started on the scene where he opens his shirt, only to reveal something truly bizarre, which is also never explained. Then, just to make things even more confusing, the same guy ends up setting the last remaining victim free, "and" even takes her to the hospital! If that wasn't strange and frustrating enough, Kim Henkel decided it would be a good idea to throw in one last, strange sequence. It takes place in the hospital, and the victim, as she's being questioned, looks over to see a woman being pushed in a stretcher. The camera lingers a bit too long on this "anonymous" person, as it does on the orderly pushing the stretcher. You think, "okay, there's something to this. Nobody just shoots a sequence like this for no reason, lingering the camera on these two for this amount of time with dramatic effect as the camera fades out." But that's exactly what he did. No explanation as to who these individuals are or why we're even supposed to care. If you do some digging on IMDB, you'll get the answers under the "trivia" section, but still. it was handled so badly, and whatever the intention was, it's lost on the viewer.

TCM:TNG was a failure, financially and in the eyes of the public and hardcore Chainsaw fans. Henkel never directed again and it took 9 long years before anybody would touch the franchise. Ultimately that would be Michael Bay's Platinum Dune's production company with their 2003 remake, which isn't bad, and far better than this. Personally, I've always loved Part 3, and though it doesn't quite follow the original storyline and characters, and pretty much stays gore-free due to the MPAA, it's the closest thing to the look and feel of a real Chainsaw sequel to me. It's also the one Chainsaw film I've revisited constantly throughout the years, more than any of the others.

Though I went in with hopes of a "So Bad, It's Good" experience, TCM:TNG is just bad. I get it. I understand now why it's never discussed . It's really not that bad in general for most of it, but shockingly falls apart in the third act in such a drastic way that there's just no way to salvage it.


Review: Sleepaway Camp

Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
Category: Horror

I don't know why, but the Sleepaway Camp films have always escaped me. Honestly, I have no excuse. I know they have a large following in the slasher genre, but I suppose I just never heard enough things about it to warrant the effort of actually seeking it out. With Netflix offering part 2 for streaming, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to finally go out and grab the original so I can move on to the sequel, which I've heard more than once is most people's favorite in the series.

One of the things that stands out with Sleepaway Camp more than anything is how light and fluffy it comes across. While it's 100% inspired by the Friday the 13th franchise, among a few others, it's almost like a PG-13 rated version of Friday. The tone is a lot more lighter, a lot more sillier, and a lot of the main cast being a lot younger than the kind of age group you expect in a slasher film. Even when it comes to the kills, they're so far and few between, with none of them really going that extra mile to be shocking or gruesome, that you tend to forget that you're watching a horror film because it more often than not comes off as an edgier coming of age tale set in the early 80's. And that's another thing Sleepaway Camp has going for it. Even if you don't particularly like the film in general, it's hard not to be swept away by it's fun retro vibe. Set and release in 1983, the fashion sense is really the one constant thing my screening partner and I took an insane amount of pleasure in. When you stop and look back on the film in general, it was pretty much the one thing, other than the ending (more on that later), that we took away from.

Like I mentioned before, you oftentimes forget you're watching a slasher as it hardly ever plays like a serious one. In fact, in some ways, it sort of comes off as a parody, but it's fun. It's a fun film, whether you take it seriously or not, and when the kills come along, though elementary, do in fact remind you that you are watching a horror film.

That ending though. It really is this film's saving grace. Had it not had that batshit crazy ending, I seriously doubt this film would have been as memorable as it is. While we did enjoy the film overall, it wasn't until that ending that we were completely sold. Hell, we even applauded. No shit. It's fucking great and so WTF? bizarre.

I get the appeal of this film now, and we're glad we finally got to see it. It's not great, or even very good to be honest. It borrows heavily from other better slashers of it's time, and the kills and gore come off as amateurish, but all of it's failures pale in comparison to it's shocking ending, and what a doozy it is. Here's hoping the sequel delivers the goods as it's reputation seems to indicate.


Review: Days of Thunder

Directed by: Tony Scott
Category: Drama

This is probably the one and only Tony Scott film I never got around to watching. Though I generally love his films, and was pretty sure visually it would be impressive, just the idea about a drama about stock car racing never inspired much interest in me. But after having seen MI: Rogue Nation, I guess you can say I got in sort of a Tom Cruise kick, with plans to check out MI 2 - which I never got around to seeing - and revisiting Minority Report. But I had seen this particular Cruise flick hanging around Netflix for months and decided to just give it a shot.

I've often said that 1990 is the best year in film. So many of my favorite films in every genre were made in 1990; it really was a very special year for film. Unfortunately, Days of Thunder is not one of them. Made 5 years after their breakout and massive success of Top Gun, director Tony Scott re-teams with his star once again for another drama, hoping to capture lightning in a bottle twice, this time centered around stock car racing. One of the first things blatantly apparent is just how cheesy this film is. I mean, when Tom Cruise makes his first entrance, it's epic. Here's how it goes. They're discussing Tom's character Cole, on a race track. When one of them asks "Well where is he?", the cheesy guitar music cue's, and Cole comes riding through a random wall of smoke on a motorcycle wearing a trenchcoat and sunglasses in slow motion. Fucking epic I tell you. If only the rest of the movie was this entertaining.

While Days of Thunder displays director Tony Scott's amazing ability to capture breathtaking scenery and action, the fact is that the film as a whole is anything but interesting. For me personally, the fact that the character Tom Cruise plays, Cole Trickle, is just so damn unlikable for every second of the film really hurts the film. He really is. He's arrogant, selfish, cocky, and moody with a hot temper. Nothing about his personality emits any kind of sympathy or emotion from you other than knowing right up front that this guy is an arrogant dick. It would have been such a different movie had he been more likable, or even sincere. And what kind of shocks me is that there is never a single moment, not even in the end, where he redeems himself with an act of kindness, that he totally redeems himself because when he does ultimately agree to help a bitter rival out, it's really just to get back in the race car after it was painfully apparent there was no other way he would. It's all for selfish reasons.

Hanz Zimmer is credited for the score, and I'm not sure what the directions were from Scott or even the producers, but it is so cheesy, so patriotic, and so overly tacky that it kind of feels forced, and hurts the films overall vibe. I'm not totally convinced that a more subdued score would have helped the film overall, but it would definitely be better than what is currently present.

Tony Scott is hands down one of my favorite directors of all time. Nobody has, and probably never will be able to duplicate his very specific aesthetic. He was a one-of-a-kind tour de force in the film world, delivering some of the most breathtaking, exciting, and downright stellar films in the action, comedy, drama, and thriller genre's of the 80's and 90's. His imprint will be admired for generations, and that's not something that can be said about a lot of filmmakers. Days of Thunder is really just a slight speed bump in his career, because the same year he delivered one of his best films ever with Revenge, and then went on to direct The Last Boy Scout the following year, followed by one of his most important films 2 years later with True Romance in 1993. That reminds me. I need to revisit True Romance again. It's been too long.


Review: H20

Directed by: Steve Miner
Category: Horror

Exactly a year ago I set out to revisit the entire Halloween franchise from beginning to end in order; The Halloween season always does that to me. But after being underwhelmed by Part 4, being annoyed as fuck and just flat-out hating Part 5, only to be left somewhat unaffected at all by Part 6, I pretty much just gave up completely. It's taken me exactly a year to come back to the original franchise, outside of Rob Zombie's Halloween films - which I just love - to finally get around to revisiting this entry, which I only saw once in the theater and remember absolutely zilch about. That's never a good sign.

Let me start off by saying that I've never been a fan of director Steve Miner. I honestly can't understand the love for the guy. Sure he's mostly known for having directed Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3, as well as helming the 80's horror/comedy cult classic House and Warlock, but even when you look at those films, there's nothing really special about them. There's nothing about Miner's ability as a director that makes him stand out among any other paint-by-numbers director out there. Yet somehow his name is always remembered. The films listed above are his only horror efforts, as he's mainly stuck to drama's and television work. So when he was announced as the director for H20 way back when the film got greenlit, I was anything but excited. And you know, I guess my feelings were pretty spot-on because as I said, I don't remember a single thing about this film other than Myer's head getting cut off in the end. So as I sat down to revisit H20, I actually hoped for the best.

I'm more surprised than anyone to admit this, but while not great, or even very good for that matter, I found H20 to be far more competent than a few of the last entries, making it somewhat a better experience than I had anticipated. From a franchise standpoint, it's not a bad film overall. Sure the poster art is uber lame and tacky, and once again, Miner's direction and vision is as bland as I feared, but structure-wise, it's in keeping with a story set 20 years after the fact and logically, some of it makes enough sense.

While the entire first half is a tad tedious in introducing us to all the new characters, as well as getting us caught up with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and what she's been up to since her brother tried to kill her all those years ago, it's really the second half where H20 really comes to life and turns into an all-out slasher, which is what we really came to see isn't it? Except, director Miner films everything with such a bland palate that you can't help but think how much more exciting it could have all been on a visual level had someone else, with a much more visual flare, had been in charge. What's frustrating is that there are a few scenes scattered throughout that surprised me - scenes that implore some impressive camerawork, only for the majority of the film to fall back to lazy handheld steadi-cam work. Watching the special features located on Scream Factory's massive blu ray set, it seems the DoP really set out to make something visually striking in widescreen. I mean, he feels like he did with the end result, but I didn't get any of that by watching it. Even the now classic scene of Laurie coming face to face with Michael through a small round window in a door for the first time in 20 years is treated in a rushed manner, with handheld shaky camerawork, where it would have had a much stronger impact had it been better orchestrated with some stable camerawork. It carries a made-for-tv quality that is almost unforgivable, if Halloween 5 hadn't been so much worse. So in that respect, this isn't a total loss.

Jamie Lee Curtis tries really hard to play it tough here, almost giving you glimpses of Sigourney Weaver tough from Aliens. But it oftentimes comes off as just being mean, arrogant, and very condescending to pretty much everyone in the film. She's pretty annoying overall. But through lots of screams and tears, she does manage to physically fight and outwit Michael through most of the second half, culminating in the films seemingly "final" death of her brother by loping his head off with an ax. But of course, as well all know, producer Moustapha Akkad just couldn't let the franchise die, so we still, somehow, got the inevitable sequel after this, even though Michael got his head cut off. His son Malek Akkad, also a producer on the franchise, is at least forth-coming about some of the bad decisions made in the past in regards to these films, like stunt casting and such. At least he'll be the first to admit when they shouldn't have done something that potentially hurt the franchise.

I liked the stunt actor they cast for Michael this time around; Chris Durand. Tall, big and physically imposing, he's pretty much what you want Michael Myers to look like in a jumpsuit, unlike some of the actors they chose for entries 4, 5, and 6. The scene where Myer's lowers himself from a pipe hanging from the ceiling as Laurie walks past him is fucking killer, but again, loses much of it's impact due to lazy camerawork.

Not the disaster I was expecting, yet very unfulfilling as a slasher that set out to capture some of the magic of the first few entries decades earlier. With H20, it's made abundantly clear that the Halloween franchise is tired and needs a drastic overhaul up to this point, or to just be laid to rest. Of course we all know that didn't happen, with the release of Halloween: Resurrection 4 years later. Thankfully, Rob Zombie really did a remarkable job (personally speaking) rebooting the franchise with his 2 stellar Halloween films beginning in 2007. They may not be perfect, and even I have some issues with them, but you can't deny as old-school style slasher's, they're brutal as fuck and the closest thing we have to a solid entry in that sub-genre next to The Collection.


Review: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner
Category: Horror

I'm pretty late to the game on this one, but I held off on watching it for long enough; it was time to get on it, which was made especially easier since Netflix added it to their streaming site last month. Now I had no excuses.

Since this film initially came out, hitting the festival circuits and then the home video market, I've been keeping up with it - following it's status, buzz and word of mouth. From everything I'd read, it had mostly positive reviews, with some out there that just didn't like it, or understand the love for it. Kind of how I feel about Boondock Saints. And of course, that comes with every film, so it's no real surprise. But the general consensus for Wyrmwood was that it kicked ass. So I kind of went in with some expectations.

Wyrmwood did indeed kick ass, and did not disappoint. I will say though that I half expected it to play out more silly and playful, and it didn't. So that was a surprise. I guess with all the buzz and subject matter, I guess I assumed they would have gone the fun route, but instead took the serious path, which was just fine, because it worked effectively well.

This film is "strong" on a number of levels. Visually, first time writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner
goes the freestyle handheld approach, intermittently throwing in some impressive and stylish "stable" shots. Overall, it works. Being someone who is usually turned off by this freestyle approach, he does it rather well, and never overdoes it to sell anything. It really adds to the films frenetic pace, and in my book, that's a plus.

The effects work is another solid plus. While they do implore a large amount of CGI, mainly in the bullet wounds and head shots, while noticeable, it's not bad. I've seen worse. The practical effects work though is pretty outstanding, and where Wyrmwood really shines.

One of the pluses from taking the serious route, the intensity level is pretty high in this. I found a number of sequences to be pretty spot-on in it's attempt to emit a sense of intensity, dread, and urgency. It's one thing if a zombie film is serious, but if it doesn't get you to care about any of the characters, or what's happening to them, then it's hard to feel any of those emotions. Wyrmwood tackles all of that the right way. You care about these people, and because of that, when shit hits the fan, it's pretty damn intense. But that doesn't keep the filmmakers from having a bit of fun with the idea, because while the film is loaded with creative ideas, witty dialogue and a sharp intensity, it's also fun. A LOT of fun.

Today it's getting increasingly hard to make zombie films, because currently it's probably the biggest and most used horror sub-genre. Hell, I've lost count how many zombie shows we currently have available on cable, and that's not even counting the relentless onslaught of Straight-To-Video or VOD titles that all have pretty much the same cover. So when something like Wyrmwood comes out, it's such a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it's anything but a conventional zombie film. Set in the Australian countryside, first time writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner has put a slightly new spin on the zombie genre, offering up some new and inventively creative touches that easily make this stand out among the crowd. Sure, we'll never get anything near the quality of Romero's Dawn or Day of the Dead, but we can do our best to look past that and embrace the few gems in the over-saturated and cluttered genre. Films like Wyrmwood are a reminder that there are good zombie films still left out there.


Review: Turbo Kid

Directged by: RKSS
Category: Action

The term "throwback" has been used a lot lately, generally when describing someone's attempt at replicating an action or horror film of the 80's more than anything. Sometimes they're successful, and sometimes they're not. But people keep trying, and when it's done correctly, it's quite an entertaining experience. While I have yet to see one of these throwback's that do it 100% correctly, like not using CGI for the effects, not using the shaky-cam style of filmmaking, and not hiring models for the roles, there are examples that come have come really close, like recent films such as It Follows, The Guest, Starry Eyes, We Are Still Here, and the one that kind of got it all started, Hobo with a Shotgun.

When the Turbo Kid trailer first hit, it literally to come out of nowhere, and seemed just what us die-hard retro gorehounds were looking for. Really, it's got everything we could really want in a throwback homage to 80's action films. Post Apocalyptic Future: CHECK. Over the top gore and violence: CHECK. Cult Film Icon: CHECK. Action: CHECK. Synth Score: CHECK. Practical Effects: CHECK. Yes, it's all here and it's fucking badass.

Set in the post apocalyptic future of 1997, water is scarce, and our hero is a comic book loving teenager who has a penchant for collecting random 80's artifacts. When he stumbles upon a power suit straight out of his comic books, he uses his new-found power to rescue his new friend from the hands of a ruthless overlord. 

There is just so much to love about Turbo Kid. It's a fun, engaging, highly spirited and ultra violent homage to post apocalyptic films that ran rampant in the 80's. So much care has been taken to capture the look, feel, and retro vibe of this particular kind of film, and yet, the filmmakers also seem to go through great pains taking everything a step further. There is so much nostalgia drenched into nearly every single frame that it's almost an overload to the senses. Of course, you really had to have grown up in the 80's to appreciate all the sight gags and gimmicks, but even if you didn't, it's all retro enough for you to know how cool and hip these things are.

One of the best things this film has going for it, is that you never expect it to be as violent as it ultimately is. Seriously. When the violence, action, fights, and battles roll in, they will blow your mind. When Turbo Kid finally became available on VOD last week, I immediately rented it, and filled my living room with a dozen friends; friends who love and appreciate these kinds of films. Every single one of us were consistently blown away with every sequence of violence, as each one demonstrated a new kill that none of us had ever seen before. Imagine a room filled with a dozen adults constantly screaming "Oh!!", "Oh Shit!!", and "Whoa that's fucking awesome!". Yea, that's what it was like and it was indeed awesome.

Turbo Kid originally spawned as a short that was submitted to the ABC's of Death producers. Soon after an Indigogo campaign was launched to fund a full length feature film and the rest is history. Written/directed/Co-starring the triple threat duo known as RKSS (Francois Simard, Anouk Wissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell), Turbo Kid oozes style and substance out of every pore. The film is stunningly shot, offering up some striking visuals of the desolate landscape. What I found interesting was that even though there were 3 different directors, you'd never know it. It's all consistent without any one of them having a drastically different style or approach than the other two. This is made all the more impressive when the practical effects work come into play. These moments are genius, impressive, hilarious, much gorier than you expect them to be, and the meat of the film.

While there is a lot to admire and revel in with Turbo Kid, there was one thing that kept it being 100% totally awesome for me, and that was that the film kept shifting from fast to slow repeatedly, never maintaining a consistent pace. I know why they did it. One thing Turbo Kid has a lot of is heart. And for a lot of people that's a bonus, but for me, all these moments that slowed down to a crawl always took me out of the experience because when the film wasn't working so hard to make us care for the characters, it was easily one of the most impressive pieces of Badass Cinema I have come across in recent years. But you know, it's really a small complaint, if you would even call it a complaint. I guess if there was anything I'd be willing to change, it would be that. But even then, it wasn't too much of a distraction for me, and I'm sure it won't be for most others as I seemed to be in the minority on that within my group.

Currently you can rent or purchase Turbo Kid digitally on VIMEO and iTunes. You can also buy a DVD, Blu Ray or VHS through their Indigogo campaign, but be prepared to spend some a large chunk of change on these items as they're not cheap. As of this posting, I haven't heard anything about a planned large scale legit DVD or Blu Ray release here in the US, but I hope it's soon, because I'd love to own a physical copy of this. There will, however, be a DVD/Blu release in the UK on Oct. 5th, so if you have a region free player, then you're in luck!