Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review: The Crazies (2010)

The Crazies is a remake of the 1973 George Romero classic of the same name. Unfortunately, like so many modern remakes, it has very big shoes to fill and it was birthed with tiny baby feet. While not an absolutely terrible movie by a long shot, the 2010 model of The Crazies just feels lackluster, boring and predictable. Also like so many of the modern remakes, it's a slicker, shinier variation of a film that's better off a little grittier and dirtier.

In this version, the residents of the tiny town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa are besieged by an unseen and unknown catalyst that's turning normal, everyday Joes and Janes into bloodthirsty maniacs. The military quickly comes in to try and maintain control and only serves to make matters worse.

The Crazies stars Timothy Olyphant and Silent Hill's Radha Mitchell and they work well as a husband and wife team. Also putting in a nice performance is Joe Anderson as Deputy Clank. Good acting aside, the film suffers from way too many cliches and last second heroics. There's never any sense of real tension and there's only one death that sorta catches you by surprise. The film does have some nice choreography and visuals but that doesn't save this film from just being ho-hum.

Needless to say, I wasn't crazy about the 2010 remake of The Crazies. It gets ** out of *****.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Movie Review: Vindication

OK, let's talk about escalation. You know that escalating fear you get when you think something is going to happen? It's a feeling in the gut and a tension in the shoulders that tells you something bad is coming up? The tension builds and builds until you can practically no longer stand it. This is exactly the feeling one gets when watching Bart Mastronardi's directorial debut, Vindication.

I'm telling you, I have never felt a movie escalate quite like this one. It is INTENSE! And when it finally comes time for the cork to pop, boy does it!

Vindication is a brilliant portrayal of the darkness and guilt that resides in each one of us and how if damaged enough from the rigors of a terrible life, someone could be susceptible to horrifying actions.

After young Nicolas Bertram attempts suicide, he starts to experience severe guilt, hallucinations and nightmares. He's constantly being prodded by an eyeless, white-faced demon for him to act upon his guilt. Throughout the film, we see the constant struggle Nicolas endures until it gets to the point that he can no longer stand it.

Mastronardi paces the film marvelously, each scene building tension upon the one previous. The film starts with barely any music, and it too escalates as it progresses. I don't know if this was done intentionally or not, but man, it has an incredible impact when you're watching it. And speaking of the music, the score is absolutely fantastic. It completes and accentuates the film perfectly.

Now let's talk acting. Jerry Murdock, Alan Rowe Kelly, Zoe Daelman Chlanda are all excellent in their supporting roles, as are the rest of the cast. But, Keith Fraser's portrayal of Nicolas Bertram was something to see. His expressions and mannerisms screamed torture and his suicide attempt scene in the bathtub was unbelievably intense. It was an unbelievable performance to say the least.

As writer, director and producer of Vindication, Bart Mastronardi has proved himself an incredible talent. He's created a truly unique horror story that doesn't compromise intelligence for gore, although it does have plenty of the red stuff! An incredible debut, I highly recommend Vindication and can't wait to see what's next. Vindication stabs ****1/2 out of *****.

Check out the trailer for Vindication here!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Movie Review: The Human Centipede

In the last 10 to 15 years, with the success of the Saw and Hostel films, many horror movies have fallen under the moniker "torture porn," in which various people are violently and graphically manipulated through numerous inventive methods. But while these films explode on the screen with blood, guts and relative carnage, are they really scary? OK, the Hostel films do carry a certain "this could really happen" type of fright to them, but they're made more for the gore than psychological terror. So, where does The Human Centipede fall into the mix?

The Human Centipede is not gory. It's not even scary. But, it's one of the most effective horror films of the last 10 years. How can that be? Because this film sits with you long after you see it. The events that transpire are truly horrific. And it's bolstered by the fact that what happens is quite medically possible.

The film centers on two young American girls traveling through Germany. On their way to a party, their car gets a flat on an isolated, wooded road. Rather than stay in their car and wait for a helpful passerby who's not a pervert, they head off into the woods in the pouring rain. They come upon a nice looking house out in the middle of nowhere. It's here they meet Dr. Heiter (brilliantly played by Dieter Laser), a renowned surgeon who specializes in separating conjoined twins.

Herr Doctor isn't quite right in the head as he is planning on using his special talents for joining people these days rather than separating them. And just how does he join them? Ass to mouth! Oh, the humanity!

The Human Centipede is one of those movies that you have to see to believe. You will find yourself recommending it to everybody you know, but you probably won't want to watch it a second time. It's a brilliant example of a true horror movie. ***** out of *****. Check out the trailer below!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Movie Review: A Far Cry From Home

Holy moly! Where do I begin? A Far Cry From Home is the latest short film from the magnificent Allan Rowe Kelly and it's one of four films included in the Gallery of Fear horror anthology created by Kelly and Anthony G. Sumner. And what a film it is!

A Far Cry From Home centers on a young, gay couple (played by Kelly and Don Money) who stop at a creepy antiques store while taking a shortcut through the wooded backroads of New Jersey. Unbeknown to the couple, the place is inhabited by a family of uber-Christian hillbillies with a severe hatred for people of alternative lifestyles.

Expertly acted, brilliantly paced and incredibly brutal and thought-provoking, A Far Cry From Home is not only Kelly's best film yet, but one can only imagine the havoc he could wreck with a larger budget. This film, small budget aside, has some of the most amazing environments and blood-soaked effects of any independent film I've ever seen.

As usual, this film shares many of the traits of previous Kelly films, like The Blood Shed and I'll Bury You Tomorrow, including expert cinematography, a spine-tingling soundtrack and a stellar cast. In fact, Jerry Murdock puts so much into his character, I have to believe he went home physically and mentally exhausted at the end of each day of filming.

A Far Cry From Home is intense and definitely packs a punch. The film is a testament to what people of alternative lifestyles have to deal with from close-minded people (who happen to make up the vast majority these days). While over-the-top and wrapped in a horror movie setting, it's definitely a statement of the times. Bravo, Alan for having the guts to make this film... and for making it so damn good!

A Far Cry From Home gets ***** out of *****. Check out the trailer below!

Friday, May 07, 2010

DVD Review: Banshee!!!

I love monster movies, so when I saw the trailer the other day for Banshee!!! (that's right, with three exclamation points), I put it right at the top of my Netflix queue. It arrived yesterday and I had a chance to watch it last night. It was just as I had expected.

Banshee!!! is a fun monster movie that never takes itself too seriously while providing some really decent kill effects that you wouldn't expect from this low-budget of a film. The acting's not that bad either, with Kevin Shea putting in a very credible job. Sure, the rank and file actors aren't the greatest at their craft but that doesn't matter here.

The film follows a group of old-looking college students who go the cheap route and choose to take their spring break out in the woods. Well, it doesn't take long before they're being shredded one by one by a creature that has the ability to shape-change and alter their perception. The computer-generated banshee creature is decent, when it's not the focal point of the scene that is. Shown up up close and personal, it's kind of lame (as the cover proves), but when it's in the background or just off to the side, it's definitely more effective.

The film isn't without its absurdities, like one of the guys having to stop and take a piss with the banshee hot on their tails, or when the aptly-named Rocker kicks the banshee's ass with rock and roll during a music video-like action sequence (which I thought was AWESOME!).

All in all, Banshee!!! delivered exactly what it was selling, and I like it when a film does that. I'm sure other reviewers will pan this movie, but I give it **** out of *****.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movie Review: The Reeds

The Reeds is a British horror movie that was featured as part of this year's AfterDark Horrorfest. I finally got around to watching it and well, it's one of those rare films that require two days to really watch it. Why two days, you ask?

Because I fell asleep midway through the first viewing.

Yes, The Reeds really is that boring of a movie. It also features characters that you really don't care about and at times, you find yourself wondering "what the hell's going on?"

The Reeds is about a group of 20-something Brits who plan to spend the day cruising through the reeds of the Norfolk Broads. Eventually, their day of smoking and cavorting turns into a nightmare after they get lost among the reeds and their boat runs aground. The group is terrorized by a gang of young punks (or are they?) as well as being hunted by the killer fisherman (sans hook) from the I Know What You Did Last Summer films. It all comes to a head in an ending that felt like it was just thrown together. It was like the filmmaker's opened the Big Book of Movie Cliches and said, "Yeah, let's go with that one! It's only been used 88,958 times so far!"

The Reeds is a crappy movie and for the life of me I don't know why it was included in the AfterDark Horrorfest as it wasn't the least bit scary. Not recommended (unless you're an insomniac, then it'll work wonders for you!). 0 out of *****.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Book Review: Plague of the Dead by Z. A. Recht

Zombies are, and have been for some time now, all the rage in the horror genre. From books to movies, the undead are enjoying more success now than at any time in pop culture history. But, with so many variations on a theme, they can't all be good. And this brings us to Plague of the Dead by Z. A. Recht.

Plague of the Dead tells the tale of the zombie apocalypse, how it begins and the tough S.O.B.s that stand on the front lines of the war. Unfortunately, everything in this book is so cliched that at times, I wanted to hurl the book across the room. I'm telling you, there were times I had to close the book in mid-sentence, close my eyes and pray for patience. And this is coming from someone who loves over-the-top, B-grade horror! This book was the single hardest book for me to get through in years.

The story starts out promising enough, but once the Marines come into the picture, forget about it, it's all down hill from there. The dialogue was contrived and stereotypical. It was like all of these guys were withdrawing from steroids or something. And, why fill the book with so many characters whose names start with the letter D? Between the terrible "Marine dialogue" and trying to keep track of all of these similarly-named characters, it was just too much. Not to mention that there is not a single character who's appealing to the reader. When a character dies, who cares? Not me. It's a tough sell when you wish the zombies would take out the supposed good guys because the good guys are all such assholes.

Need another reason I didn't care for this tale of woe? The book is filled with WTF? moments. For instance, there's once scene where the Marines are trying to get into a gun shop because during a reconnaissance, they learned that there were some really old MREs and weapons available in the shop's basement. The leader of the group's like, "We have to get that food if we want to survive!" My first thought was - doesn't this town have a grocery store? I mean, with millions dead (and it all happened so quickly), the grocery aisles should be pretty clear and relatively well-stocked, don't you think?

But the biggest problem with Plague of the Dead is that it doesn't end here. This is the first in a series. If you really, really, really love zombie stories and you won't feel complete unless you see and read every last one of them, then by all means, pick up Plague of the Dead. But, as for me, this was the first book that caused me mental and physical anguish.

Plague of the Dead gets 0 out of *****.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans

Growing up as a teenager in the late 70s/80s, there were basically two movies that mattered - Star Wars and Clash of the Titans. While I loved Star Wars, Clash of the Titans always held a special place in my heart as one of my favorites of that era. So, I was filled with anticipation when I heard they were remaking one of my all-time favorites. The possibilities were endless, with modern film making technology capable of incredible feats, this was one film that would be vastly improved over the original, right? I mean, this is a no-brainer. They can't possibly screw this up, right? Uh, right?

Well, to call this movie Clash of the Titans is near to blasphemy in my opinion. This film, with all of its pomp and circumstance takes a giant, Kraken-sized crap all over the original. Not only does it completely disregard the mythology, but it turns it into an unbelievably lousy story.

Rife with crappy acting the likes you have never seen, this version of the film often has the look of a Sci-Fi Channel Saturday night feature. The public settings with all of the people look terrible, cheap and poorly executed. The Gods look like a bunch of hair metal rejects, and what can possibly be frightening about Hades' receding hairline? I mean, this thing is almost a joke. In many ways, the original was not only better, but it had better effects! If you have ever seen the History Channel's Clash of the Gods program, you'll wonder how a show on the History Channel can get their Gods so right and yet this multi-million dollar epic can't.

This film has way too many bad things going for it to list here. So instead, I'll focus on the one good thing it has to offer -- the Kraken. It seemed like all of the film's effect budget went into making the Kraken, and it was quite an impressive sight for all of it's two minutes of screentime.

If you have any love or respect for mythology, or if you have fond feelings for the original film, don't go see this new version of Clash of the Titans. You'll leave the theater very pissed!

Clash of the Titans gets ** out of *****.

Movie Review: Shutter Island

I'm going to start this review by saying that I've never been much of a Martin Scorsese fan. Or Leonardo DiCaprio for that matter and since they pretty much only work with each other, I haven't had the pleasure of seeing many of their collaborations, which is tallying upwards of around 40 or so, right? Well, Shutter Island, a film about psychopaths locked up on an island, I just couldn't ignore.

Shutter Island is shot extremely well. The style harkens back to the golden age of movies, when men smoked a lot of cigarettes and said things like, "What, are you a wiseguy? Keep it shut, she!" The design of the movie, the score, the screenplay -- it all adds up to a spectacular re-visting of detective noir movies from the 40s and 50s.

Having said that, the film suffers due to two major influences -- Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. These two don't look comfortable at all working with each other and when they're on the screen together, it looks like two schmoes playing detective. Ruffalo looks bored just being involved and DiCaprio looks like he's trying to get an Oscar video bite out of each second with his ruffled brow and steely-eyed glare. The supporting cast is just great however. It's unfortunate that Scorsese couldn't look beyond his man-love for DiCaprio and get somebody a little better for this particular role. Case in point, John Carroll Lynch, the actor who portrays Deputy Warden McPherson, is miles better and more believable and entertaining in his miniscule role than both Ruffalo and DiCaprio are in theirs.

The film does have its share of twists and turns, it just takes an extremely long time getting there and by the time the end comes, you're just glad the marathon is over. At the end of the day, Shutter Island feels over-expanded and exhausting. I give Shutter Island **1/2 out of *****.

Movie Review: Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo is one of the films featured in 2010's Afterdark Horror Filmfest. But, don't think that this one is a scare-your-pants-off monster movie. Lake Mungo is barely a whisper of a horror film that relies on the pure emotional distress of losing a child. And that is where the heart of the "horror" lies in this film. Sure, there's a ghost story tied in here, but that was, to me, a sidetrack to the real horror displayed here.

Lake Mungo is an Australian faux-documentary on the accidental death of 16-year old Alice Palmer and how her death impacted her family. All of the actors here are incredibly believable and if one wasn't already aware that this is, in fact, fiction, it would be easy to believe that what we are seeing is real.

Not long after Alice's death, strange things begin occurring at her family's house. Her brother, Matthew, catches odd images in his pictures and videos that lead the family to believe that their daughter is either still alive or haunting their home.

As the movie progresses, the family discovers things about their daughter that they never knew. This is where the film took a turn for me as many of the "discoveries" were extremely convenient and in truth, didn't add anything to the film. If anything, it stole some of the fire from the family's plight.

Lake Mungo was a disturbing movie, no, maybe "unsettling" is a better word to describe this movie, especially if you have a teenager of your own. But, for those looking for a strong ghost story, look elsewhere. I give Lake Mungo *** out of *****.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

DVD Review: The Good Sisters

The other day, I received a screener for the film The Good Sisters. The insert that was included with the disc, proudly proclaiming that what I held in my hands was the hot, psycho-sexual director's cut of the movie. Well, it had my attention, that's for sure! But while watching the film, I was sort of taken aback, but not in the way you might think.

The Good Sisters is the latest film by Jimmyo Burril and it stars his wife, April Monique Burril (of Chainsaw Sally fame) and iconic scream queen, Debbie Rochon. While I was prepared for film to be highly sexual, what I wasn't prepared for was for the film to be as good as it wound up being. In fact, for all the sexual proclamations, the particularly hot scene in question is near the end of the film and it fits perfectly within the context of the movie. This is not a movie filled with gratuitous nudity as one might imagine.

The Good Sisters is a film about two sisters, Breanne and Kindra, who are 10th generation descendants of a witch. With their kind being hunted and persecuted for hundreds of years, the girls live in a constant state of paranoia, which is heightened when they start to believe that one of their neighbors is a witch hunter. In fact, they start to question everyone who lives around them in their small apartment complex. The paranoia is fed when the sisters find messages like, "Suffer not a witch to live" and "We are watching you" written in chalk near their home. As one watches the film, you do start to question which one of these apartment dwellers are responsible for the psychological attacks. Without divulging too much, eventually, the suspicion gets the most of the sisters and they turn to their craft for help.

The first thing about this film you notice is how comfortable Debbie and April are working with each other, and this comfort is significant in lending their sisterhood a believable feel. Also realistic is the film's use of witchcraft. I was impressed with the authenticity of the spells (actual spells were used in the film), and it's portrayal of the modern day witch was spot on.

As I watched The Good Sisters, I was continually impressed with how Jimmo crafted this film. He must have put in many hours of research before he even wrote a single line of this script, and that level of dedication definitely comes through.

I'll tell you what, even the film's soundtrack is perfectly suited for it, as it constantly keeps one feeling a little on edge throughout the movie, much like the characters on screen. Funny how big budget Hollywood films about witchcraft are so overblown and unrealistic, yet this little gem made on a shoestring budget can be so authentic.

That's the big difference here, folks, and this is why independent films will forever be my favorite type of film to watch. From Jimmo and April to Debbie and rest of the gang, they worked hard to get it right, and in The Good Sisters, that work pays off!

The Good Sisters gets ****1/2 out of *****. The director's cut of The Good Sisters will be available on April 27, 2010, so go out and get a copy!

Friday, March 12, 2010

DVD Review: Carriers

The other day, I reviewed the end-of-the-world spectacle, 2012, in which I had mentioned that there was no emotional feeling in regards to the devastation that was occurring all around the characters. Here, in Carriers, we have another such film where only a few survivors are left after a terrible plague hits the planet. Let's see how this one pans out.

First, let me start off by saying, Carriers portrays a much more realistic vision of what can happen to people put in this situation (for the most part). Trust issues arise. Decisions have to be made between helping others or leaving them to fend for themselves. That said, the movie is still really lacking something. And for me, it all has to do with the characters.

My biggest complaint is with the character played by Chris Pine. This guy rubs me the wrong way, and if I were one of the last few left on the planet, I would probably eventually have to kill him off. I would say, "This here world is mighty big now that we're the only ones left. Even still, there's no room for assholes." KABLAMMO! Of course, when I utter my memorable line, I say it with Sam Elliott's voice so it's more authentic. The characters you care for the most, the dad with the little sick girl, should have been the focus of this movie instead of the four deuchebags we're left watching.

Besides the characters, the film's other downfall is that it leaves a ton of loose ends all throughout the movie, which I won't go into for spoiler reasons. But, it also doesn't explain much either. For example -- who is the second girl, where did they pick her up and why won't she tell them her last name? Why, after the one guy shoots a dog that was eating a corpse, does he not get infected after the blood gets all over him? How can a big gas-guzzling SUV drive across the desert on a single can of gas? How did the plague start? Why is Chris Pine's character still alive? Why, after cleaning a car's interior with liquid bleach, is no one's clothing faded? How can the guys in truck NOT see the protagonist's bonfire in the pitch black night of the desert? And who were the guys in the truck? There are just too many improbabilities here!

You know what, the more I think about it, the less I like this movie. It's better than 2012, not that that's saying much, but not by far. I give Carriers ** out of *****.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Movie Review: Dead Snow

The snow's just about all melted here in South Jersey and Spring is right around the bend, so I thought there's no better time than now to check out Dead Snow.

Dead Snow is a Norwegian zombie pic that has its tongue set firmly in cheek. The story follows a group of twenty-somethings as they head out into the mountains for a vacation of snow games, beer and sex. While waiting on the cabin's owner, Sara, to make her way across the mountain on foot, the rest of the group arrive at the cabin early and in the meantime have an encounter with an old grizzled local who proceeds to warm them about the "evil that lurks in these mountains."

He goes on to tell them the story of a group of Nazis who terrorized the town during World War II. Eventually, the locals had enough of the torture and revolted against the Germans. Most of the Nazis were killed, but a group escaped into the mountains, including their general, Herzog. Local legend has it that the Nazis are still up in those hills, killing and torturing any and all who they happen across. Of course, the kids think nothing of it and the old guy goes on his way. Why Sara's family never knew about the evil presence right outside their cabin door is unknown, but I digress.

Anyway, what we wind up having is a group of Norwegian kids taking on droves of Nazi zombies in a blood-filled homage to many a horror film, most notably, the Evil Dead.

Dead Snow is not perfect by any means, but its positives greatly outweigh its negatives. The film is beautifully shot, nicely acted and the gory effects are just fantastic. Overall, the movie was just plain fun to watch.

Dead Snow gets **** out of *****.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

DVD Review: 2012

I love end-of-the-world epics! And with 2012, we're expecting the be-all, end-all of Armageddon films, right? I mean, it's made by that dude who just loves to blow stuff up! No, not Michael Bay, that other guy, whatshisname, the guy who ruined Godzilla... Roland Emmerich, yeah that's him!

Well, I'm sad to say, he ruined the end of the world, too.

Here's the thing. This is the END OF THE WORLD (as we know it) we're talking about. This film has absolutely no emotion whatsoever. Plus, what's worse, it's filled with stupid WTF moments, like a guy who doesn't know how to fly a plane all of a sudden becoming a top gun pilot capable of avoiding falling buildings and flying through pinpricks of open space! Talk about being in the zone, WTF!?

This film is chock full of idiotic things like that. I can just imagine the screenplay for this film. It must read like this:

John Cusack falls into a crevice... WHEN AT ALL OF A SUDDEN, HE...

John Cusack is underwater, unable to breathe... WHEN AT ALL OF A SUDDEN, HE...

John Cusack is driving the 1972 Winebago 150 mph down a mountain, with a wall of fire nipping at his tailpipe... WHEN AT ALL OF A SUDDEN, HE...

At the hour and a half point of the movie, I'm ready to turn this thing off... WHEN AT ALL OF A SUDDEN, I... realize there's still over an hour of this drivel to go.

At the end of the day, here's hoping that when the end of the world does come, it's nowhere near as long or as torturous as watching this lump! 0 out of *****. Do you see that tagline at the top of the movie poster? Yeah, we WERE warned! We just didn't learn after The Thirteenth Floor, 10,000 BC, The Day After Tomorrow, etc., etc.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Movie Review: The Graves

Let me start off by saying I was really excited to see The Graves. After all, it stars Bill Moseley, Tony Todd and features a cameo by one of my favorite bands, Calabrese, so how bad can it be, right? Well, let's count the ways...

For starters, The Graves is way too long. It would have been great as a half-hour short story, but as an hour and a half film, it feels like director Brian Pulido just stretched it out like a friggin' Stretch Armstrong doll.

Next, the acting is really tough to watch here, with the exception of Shane Stevens (Jonah) and Tony Todd (Reverend Abraham). They were at least fun to watch. The two primary players, the Graves girls, played by Jillian Murray and Clare Grant, may have been easy on the eyes, but their acting was tough to sit through. There's one scene where Grant's character, Megan, is trying to escape from Bill Moseley; she crawls halfway up the hill and slides back down...not once, but three times! That scene is a perfect example of what it's like watching The Graves.

And speaking of Bill, I don't know what Rob Zombie did to Moseley to get him to act the way he did in the Devil's Rejects, but nobody has been able to tap into that well of genius ever since.

On a positive note, the film's music was pretty good. I loved the song that played over the opening credits, and I even liked the little ditty that played over and over and over again at the entrance to the Skull City mine (where all this takes place).

For me, The Graves was all over the place like an armadillo on an Arizona highway in July. By the end, I was getting antsy, praying for the credits to roll already. And that's no way to feel when watching a horror movie. I give The Graves * out of *****.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

CD Review: Hellbilly Deluxe 2 by Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie, that multimedia master of horror, is back with his first brand new album since the disappointing effort that was 2006's Educated Horses. It's been four long years since we've heard new music from Rob and with the release of this album, fans longing for some down-n-dirty, groovin-n-movin tunes are hoping he gets back on track.

Here's the gristle -- Hellbilly Deluxe 2, the supposed sequel to 1998's fantastic Hellbilly Deluxe, is nowhere near up to par. I'm terribly sad to say this album sounds like these tunes were leftovers from the Educated Horses album.

The album's highlights, for me, are the songs What? and Werewolf Women of the SS, and I don't even particularly love either one of these either. The album starts off with Jesus Frankenstein, and to be honest, I was liking that tune until he got to the chorus. That shitty-ass chant totally throws the song off rhythm and turns it from a decent jam into a hard to listen to turd.

I don't know, ever since Zombie started doing films, his music has suffered. This is hard for me to write because I love Rob Zombie. I think he's a true original, but I just don't like this CD. And to boot, he caps the recording off with a nearly 10-minute song that features a drum solo through most of it. Now, who the hell puts a drum solo in a song that's NOT on a live album? And to make matters even worse, the drum solo totally sucks! There are eleven year old kids on YouTube that can pound the skins more impressively. The song, titled The Man Who Laughs, might just be about Rob himself, as he's pulled the wool over the eyes of those who thought this was going to be anything like Hellbilly Deluxe. Oh, what a cruel, cruel joke.

Hellbilly Deluxe 2, like most sequels (with the exception of Devil's Rejects, of course), is substandard. It gets ** out of *****.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Movie Review: The Collector

When I sat down to watch The Collector, I was in a rare state of having no expectations about the film I was about to watch. This movie was out a while ago, and it basically came and went without much fanfare, so I really didn't have any idea of what I was in for. And I must say, man, was I glad I didn't know what I was in for!

The Collector took me surprise. This is as well-made a slasher story as I've seen in quite a while. But even more than that, The Collector is rife with tension, which is greatly accentuated by the heart pounding (literally) soundtrack and exceptional cinematography. Watching it, I realized that I haven't felt this level of tension in a film since I saw David Moreau's French masterpiece, Them.

The plot of the film follows ex-con Arkin as he attempts to settle his ex-wife's debt by robbing his new employer's home when they're supposed to be away on a vacation. But, once Arkin is inside the home, he realizes he's not alone. There's somebody far worse inside the house with him.

Now, as much as I loved The Collector, the film is not perfect. There are some things that make you say, "Now, how did he..." and "What the..." But overall, this is a truly enjoyable film that really deserves a larger following. Screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan did some collecting of their own, as you can see certain aspects of some other great horror films at work here, not the least of which are the Saw movies, which they also happened to co-write (from part IV on).

As the horror genre has become slogged down with crappy remakes, re-imaging or whatever you want to call it, it's exciting to see fresh, new blood on the serial killer scene. The Collector is a fun ride, one filled with blood, guts and edge-of-your-seat tension. I give The Collector ****1/2 out of *****.

Monday, February 22, 2010

CD Review: Calabrese III: They Call Us Death by Calabrese

A couple of years ago, I took a shot and ordered a CD called 13 Hallowe'ens from a then-unknown horror rock band called Calabrese. To say my socks were blown off is an understatement. These guys kicked serious ass!! In fact, they got my first-ever six-star review. Then, in 2008, I got their second release, The Traveling Vampire Show and it too garnered a six star rating. So now, here it is, 2010 and Calabrese is back with their third effort, Calabrese III: They Call Us Death. Will the guys from Arizona, voted the World's Best Horror Rock Band, continue their trend? Let's see, shall we?

The first thing I noticed about the new CD is that the packaging is simply incredible. The artwork on the digipak is better than ever, and dare I say it, way better than you find on an artist who's backed by a major label. This is just top quality stuff here. But all that's just window dressing. What about the tunes, man?

On Calabrese III, the Calabrese brothers come to kick you in the ass, forget taking names, they aren't interested in that - they're out for blood! And man, do they get it! The songs on this disc are harder, faster and grittier than anything they've put out thus far. Get one thing straight, this ain't fancy, howdy-do music here. It's in your face, punch you in the gut rock and roll, baby!

I've said it before that Calabrese is more than a horror rock band. They're an ass-kicking rock and roll band! That said, their songs are more sinister, evil and demented than ever so you've got to give them props on the horror-scale! Remember back when that panty-waste Axl said he wanted to see you bleed? Well, Calabrese is looking for bucket loads of the red stuff, and boy do they get what they came for. Might as well make it an even 6-6-6 -- ****** out of *****! Quite simply the best from the best!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Short Film Review: Contact

is a new short film directed by indie horror master, Jeremiah Kipp. To say that the film leaves an indelible mark is somewhat of an understatement. I mean, is there a director working today who can do more with 11 minutes of film? I dare say not!

Contact is an artistic and visually stunning display of workmanship, from the gritty black and white color of the film to the perfectly accentuated music, this is like high couture art house horror. The viewer is simply mesmerized and for the next 11 minutes, we're in Kipp's hands, the world around us, oblivion.

Perhaps what makes this film so remarkable is that it contains practically no dialogue. Facial expressions and music show us the core of this story, which in the end, the viewer is left to their own conclusions. The film stars Zoe Daelman Chlanda and Robb Leigh Davis as the two principal characters with brilliant turns by Allen Rowe Kelly, Katherine O'Sullivan, Tom Reid and Danny Lopes in supporting roles.

While watching this film, I was reminded of one of Kipp's earlier works, The Pod. Contact felt like a stripped-down, or un-plugged, version of that earlier movie. In Contact, the emotion of what's happening on screen are displayed in their rarest and rawest form.

In the end, after watching Contact, the viewer is left near breathless. Never before have I watched 11 minutes of film and felt as is if I had watched an entire movie. That's a truly remarkable experience and another reason why Jeremiah Kipp is one hell of a director.

I give Contact ***** out of *****. Want to see it for yourself, check it out HERE!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DVD Review: London Betty

London Betty, the latest movie by independent filmmaker Thomas Edward Seymour, is one the films that I have been anticipating to see in 2010. It has done very well on the indie award circuit, having grabbed Best Connecticut Film at the Silk City Film Festival, Best Feature Film at the Accolade Film Competition as well as receiving the Underground Spirit Award at the New Haven Underground Film Festival. Not to mention the fact that these guys even got Clint Howard to do the narration on the film, Broadway starlet Nicole Lewis to star in it and Daniel Von Bargen to play a part as well. And with Seymour's past efforts being some of my favorite independent films (Land of College Prophets, Bikini Bloodbath, etc.), needless to say, I was stoked when I found it in my mailbox.

London Betty tells the tale of a girl (Betty) who comes to America from England in search of a job as a journalist for a reputable newspaper. Instead, she finds herself working for a recluse (Von Bargen), making friends with thieves, whores and a tranvestite ex-soldier, getting kidnapped, fighting for her life and more.

This film, like Seymour's past efforts, is filled with hilarious characters, each of which is wonderfully acted by the usual cast of actors, including Seymour himself, Russ Russo, Dick Boland, Phil Hall, Philip Guerette and Matt Ford. But what sets this film apart is that it shows a more mature directorial effort as the quality of the film is simply the best that Seymour has produced thus far. From his earlier efforts through London Betty, each film shows a progression in his experience as a filmmaker and this film has the awards to prove it.

Do yourself a favor and check out London Betty. This is a hilarious film that's definitely worth watching. I've been saying it for years that truly original movies are not coming out of Hollywood any more. They're being done by the independent filmmakers who unfortunately don't get the recognition they deserve. London Betty is a perfect example of my belief. With an excellent story, engaging characters and a few plot twists, London Betty is a fun movie to watch. And just wait until you get a load of Sgt. "Barbara" Stone!

Oh, and for fans of Land of College Prophets, keep your eyes peeled and you just might catch a glimpse of The Well That Ate Children. Nice touch!

London Betty gets ****1/2 out of *****. Mmmm...Tasty!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

What can you say about Stephen King? Like a fine wine, he gets better with age. And King's latest tome of a novel is one of his best. Under the Dome is a brilliant story that unfolds over a week or so in the tiny Maine town of Chester's Mill, where on a bright sunny day in October, a mysterious dome settles over the town, cutting off those within from the outside world.

The story brings us into the lives of those under the dome and we discover many secrets along the way. We share the fear, the heartache and the general pissed-offedness of Chester's Mill's residents. We follow Dale Barbara, the ex-lieutenant from the war in Iraq, Julia Shumway, the town's scrappy newspaper editor, James Rennie, Chester's Mill's Second Selectman (and one downright evil cotton-picking son of a buck) and a hundred or so others.

Yes, at over a thousand pages, the novel is large. But King writes this story like it's no big deal, and that's where the beauty lies. Start reading Under the Dome and you will become a townie. You will feel as if you are there. And that's the hardest trick of all for a writer to pull off, but this is why King is one of the greats.

In my opinion, Stephen King is the literary world's George Romero. Like Romero's zombie movies, King's tales have an underlying message relating to current-day, real-life issues. Sure, it may be covered by blood and guts, but the message is there. At its core, Under the Dome sheds a light on the all-too real horrors that are of growing concern in this country, such as the damage to the environment and power-hungry politicians with one hand on a gun and the other on a bible. King shows us how bad things can get, and how quickly, when the situation allows it. As entertaining as Under the Dome is, it is equally a sobering and contemplative piece of work. No, there are no monsters, but King shows us that sometimes, humans can be quite horrific if the situation is right, and in his work, Stephen King never lies, my friend, he never lies.

Read Under the Dome. It's a literary work of art that may change the way you view the world and those around you. Believe me, you'll never look at ants the same way again. Under the Dome gets ***** out of *****.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Movie Review: The Road

What will the world be like when the end comes? When life as we know it ceases to exist and all we're left with is a barren wasteland and very few survivors? The Road gives us an extremely realistic vision of what's probably sure to be our future if Sarah Palin ever gets in the White House.

Based on Cormac McCarthy's bestselling novel, The Road follows the plight of a father and son as they make their way across the dead land to get to the sea. Every day is a struggle to stay alive. Cannibals roam the land, people have become even more self serving than normal and the physical toll on their bodies alone proves to be overwhelming. While the screen is filled with amazing images of destruction and isolation, at its heart, The Road is a love story. It tells the story of a father's love for his son and the lengths he will go to to protect him.

As for the film itself, I was amazed at the job accomplished by director John Hillcoat. This film looked like the end had come. The settings were just incredible. In fact, it's my opinion that the environment was the film's star. The barren woods, the ruined buildings, the rusted-out vehicles -- it was incredibly realistic, and to be quite honest, sobering. And Viggo Mortenson's portrayal of the father lends an unrelenting truth to the story being played out on screen. It was also nice to see Robert Duvall put in just an incredible performance as the old man, Eli. His time on screen was brief, but he was mesmerizing to watch.

The soundtrack for The Road was perfectly scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, masters at creating moody, melancholy music that is truly a musical representation of what's happening on the screen. Their work, as usual, fits the emotion of the film perfectly and I don't think there are any other composers working today that could have done a better job with this material.

As you can probably tell, I liked The Road a lot. The only thing I really didn't care for, unfortunately, was the ending. I felt came a little too quickly and in regards to the story, I felt it didn't really fit.

The Road
is not the feel good movie of the year, but it does represent a startlingly realistic vision of what lies ahead for us if we don't get our heads out of our asses. I give The Road **** out of *****.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones

I was mildly surprised when I heard Peter Jackson was going to be directing The Lovely Bones, but now that I've seen it, I have to go on record as saying that he is one of this generation's most gifted directors. Now, that was probably already evident because of what he did the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but those were one type of picture; this is another type of film entirely.

Based on the novel by Alice Sebold (which I didn't read so I have no idea how loyal the film is), The Lovely Bones is a heartbreaking, realistic and frightening film that works on many different levels. As a parent, this is the most horrific type of film you can watch (even though Jackson left all of the gruesome happenings off-camera). Even still, it's like a punch to the gut.

For those who don't know the premise, it's the story of a teenage girl who gets abducted and killed by one of her neighbors. Her spirit resides in the In Between where she watches as her family tries to cope with her death and her father tries to find her killer. She's torn between her want for vengeance and wishing her family could heal.

The Lovely Bones is masterfully paced, brilliantly acted, especially by Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan (who I think should have gotten an Oscar nom), and one of the best major movies of 2009 in my opinion. For the life of me, I can't see how Peter Jackson wasn't nominated for a Best Director Oscar for this remarkable film.

I give The Lovely Bones ***** out of *****. Why 5 stars? Because I'm a cold hearted bastard who rarely gets emotionally moved by movies, yet this one did just that.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Movie Review: Legion

I must admit, I'm a fan of apocalyptic stories. And I also love tales of good versus evil. But, what about an apocalyptic story of good versus good? Well, that's kind of what we have in Legion. You see, God has given up on mankind because we pretty much suck (He's a little late to the party, but I digress). So, He has a temper tantrum and decides to send his angels down to Earth to open up a can of whoop-ass. There's one particular baby God has instructed his "legion" to kill. Unfortunately for Him, the Archangel Michael loves the humans so much that he gets here before God's army to help protect the unborn baby. So, it's a machine gun-totting Michael and a rag-tag group of ordinary folks stranded at a desert truck stop versus God's army.

"Professional" film critics pretty much panned Legion for its tired premise (which is similar in tone to the TV show Supernatural), lackluster acting and poor script, but I'm here to say, the hell with that! You know what? I liked Legion. I thought it was a fun escape on a Saturday afternoon and well, isn't that what a movie experience is supposed to be about? There's plenty of action, some chuckles here and there, yeah, some deadpan acting, but hey, this isn't supposed to be high-class theatre. If you're looking for high couture filmmaking, get a ticket to the thespian-filled When in Rome for Christ's sake. I mean, the poster alone, with the angel holding a knife in one hand and an uzi in the other should tell you this isn't Brokeback Mountain.

As much as I liked Legion, the film is not without its own share of problems. For starters; why is it that angels speak with British accents? Are all of God's top advisors from across the pond? And, if these are angels coming to kick ass and take names, why do they look like demons? And if they're angels, why do they curse and say terribly insulting things before trying to bite our throats out with pointy baby teeth? They're not exactly acting angelic!

Look, if you like films that provide a simplistic escape from everyday life for an hour and a half, then Legion is a fun-filled ride. If you're looking to come out of the theater with your life changed after witnessing a moving, well-acted masterpiece, then forget about it. I give Legion ***1/3 out of *****, exploding lesions and all.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movie Review: Daybreakers

Daybreakers is a futuristic take on the vampire genre, and while it certainly has some pitfalls along the way, it's ultimately not a bad movie. In a world where vampires have overrun the population, food is becoming scarce (food in this case being humans). There's just not a lot of us left. So, an enterprising company (sleazily played by Sam Neill) has started harvesting humans as blood donors (this is the contraption you see in the movie poster above). Meanwhile, the company has some top-of-the-line vampire scientists trying to come up with a suitable blood substitute (one that doesn't cause the user to violently explode, that is!).

And in this story, when the vampires don't get blood on a regular basis, they recede into hideous, demonic creatures that are forced to live in the subbterranean levels of the city. They're looked upon as an entirely separate class of people and despised by the good-looking vampires.

Heading up the blood substitute program is cigarette-fiend, Edward Dalton (played rather gloomy by Ethan Hawke). Edward is feeling down that the humans are all but being eradicated. Like Frank Castanza as he's fighting for the Christmas doll for George, he feels "There's gotta be a better way!"

Thankfully, Edward smokes so much inside his car with the windows up that he doesn't see an oncoming car filled with escaping humans. They crash, he helps them avoid the cops and eventually, they meet up a little later and he joins their coalition, led by Lionel "Elvis" Cormac (played by the seriously cool Willem Dafoe). It's the goal of this coalition to find a "true" cure for the vampiric condition, which of course, the bad vamps don't really want.

This film has its good and bad moments. For me, I wish they would have spent more time on the undercity dwellers as that was an interesting twist in an otherwise tired genre. I also didn't think there was as much action or gore as many other reviews of the film have touted. I don't know, when I read a review that says the film was a gore-fest, I kind of expect it to be. This was a well made vampire drama with some action scenes and a couple of scenes where the wetworks fly. And to tell you the truth, Edwards chain-smoking was kind of ridiculous to me, not that I care about him smoking, but it was almost as if Marlboro financed the damn thing. Even still, it was a decent film and one that really shows the growth of the Spierig Brothers as filmmakers.

I give Daybreakers *** out of *****.