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.