Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October Horror Challenge 2015 - Day 5

Three films for the day and things started off with a double feature of 1990 Italian films I'd never seen before courtesy of the new Blu-ray from Scream Factory. First up was George Eastman film Metamorphosis. I was excited to see this one based on the artwork and that it was directed by Eastman who I love as an actor. Unfortunately the film doesn't take advantage of the potential it had. There's a few bizarre moments that could have made this film something special if the film did more with them but they end up showing up towards the end of the film and we get but a fleeting glimpse of how crazy the movie, or a sequel, could have been.

The 2nd half of the double feature comes from director Claudio Fragasso. Oh, that name doesn't ring a bell? Well maybe his American pseudonym, Drake Floyd, does. No? Okay, well he directed Troll 2. Yeah, now you get it! Beyond Darkness came shortly before Troll 2 but it certainly has a similar feel at times and even co-stars Joshua from Troll 2. This one is a weird mashup of Lucio Fucli's The Beyond, Troll 2 and The Exorcist without being as graphic as The Beyond or quite as ridiculously campy as Troll 2. It has a pretty decent atmosphere and some simple but effective effects work and set pieces. It is far from perfect but I enjoyed this mashup and found it to be an entertaining time.

Finally was Ghoulish Tales, a very low budget independent horror anthology from 2014 filled with gore and nudity. That's really all you need to know. It's a splatter film with a shit ton of girls getting naked. I was surprised that the intentional cheesy writing didn't annoy me as movies of this tone often do but the acting is competent and the stories range from a masked lunatic to vampires and we get everything from castration and disembowelment to full frontal nudity. This would go perfect with a night full of beers.

Today's Rundown
Metamorphosis - 4.5/10
Beyond Darkness - 7/10
Ghoulish Tales - 6/10

Monday, October 5, 2015

October Horror Challenge 2015 - Day 4

A weak day filled with weak quality VHS rips thrown on to budget bin DVDs...

I love that artwork for Funeral Home. It's atmospheric and creepy in its simplicity. You know exactly what you're getting yourself into. I enjoyed the movie but felt had it given us a little bit more of the goods it would be a bit more highly regarded and talked about. The film based around a funeral home turned B&B where guests go missing and wind up dead is a fairly common plot and this one doesn't do much to make it original  but it uses tried and true plot devices to pull together a nice little chiller of a movie.

If my viewing of Carnage could be summed up by what my meeting with the film's director Andy Milligan would be like it would go a little something like this - "Hi Seth I'm Andy Milligan" "Hello Andy Milligan, I'm Seth, and that's about enough of you". My introduction (I'm pretty sure I've never seen an Andy Milligan film before) to the director who has released a handful of titles that have a decent cult following wasn't a good one. This film about a house that is haunted by a husband and wife who committed suicide in it several years prior is pretty fucking awful. The acting (if you can call it that) is dreadful, especially out of the ghost couple. Continuity and quality control on some things are piss poor (just take a look at the flying meat cleaver seen) and the effects work is cheesy as shit. There's something to the effects that was endearing in how obviously fake they were but somehow you still think "that was kind of cool". The movie is a bore as the vengeful spirits are more worried about keeping their house the way it was before they killed themselves than doing anything remotely interesting from a horror film standpoint. What a drag.

Today's Rundown
Funeral Home - 5/10
Carnage - 2.5/10

THE INVOKING 2 (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Various
Written By: Various
Starring: Andrew Fleming, Jessica Fratus, Chara Victoria Gannett
Color/83 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: October 6, 2015

The Film
When I saw that there would be a sequel to The Invoking I stared blankly at the screen for a moment before shaking my head in disbelief and then threw up in my mouth. Okay, honestly I don't remember my exact reaction but it was not a good one, I'm sure of that. The Invoking was one of the most irritating, gets under your skin like a small child crying endlessly. piece of crap horror movies I have ever seen. You can read that review HERE. I then rationalized that there's no way any sequel could be as bad. At least I can say I was right.

Changing things up with an anthology format based around paranormal events, THE INVOKING 2 made a smart movie by being a sequel in name only and having nothing to do with the original movie. Why the title wasn't changed at some point to remove any ties to the first film is beyond me. It isn't as if the first Invoking film is any sort of highly regarded or popular title. It simply came and went.

There are some positives to this sequel, such as an opening segment involving a car wreck that reminded me of classic Unsolved Mysteries segments. The only thing missing was Robert Stack's signature narration. The next segment taking place in an old mental hospital had potential but felt straight out of the mid 2000's era of horror that was packed with subpar ghost movies. The final short which has nothing at all to do with paranormal events and only runs a few minutes was probably the most effective segment in the bunch. In fact, for a movie that is called THE INVOKING 2: PARANORMAL EVENTS in the opening credits there's very little paranormal stuff going on throughout and when it is there it comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

The main feeling THE INVOKING 2 gave me was one of being underwhelmed. This is largely due to most of the segments feeling like they were taken from longer scripts and were severely chopped down to fit this anthology format. Many feel rushed and incomplete. The positive is that the movie is watchable even if its nothing special and not infuriatingly awful like the first.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment's DVD release of THE INVOKING 2 feautres a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks okay overall. Each short was produced independently of the rest so they all have their own look and quality. Some of the better looking segments have solid color and a crisper picture while the lesser ones suffer from poor handling of black levels and compression/blocking issues. None of the segments look particularly bad though. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio track has a great mix job and is free of any background noise or damage.

The Extras

The Bottom Line
Hey, it's better than the first Invoking movie. So I guess there's that.

THE INVOKING 2 is available HERE

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October Horror Challenge 2015 - Day 3

Theatre Of Blood started out day 3 and I can already see this being one of my favorite new viewings for the month. Vincent Price may have never given a better performance than he does here and it's incredibly well written, paced and staged. Beautiful set design of dilapidated and burned out theaters, fancy apartments and great costuming and make up work. There's an irony about the film as Price stars as a vengeful thespian taking out the critics that he thinks ruined his life and while he may never have gone out and murdered a critic he certainly knew of their opinion of his work in horror films and I think a single line involving the term "ham sandwich" sums up those opinions.

This one confused me... I knew I was in for a low budget slasher film but I expected a supernatural element that never showed up. A very brief and vague folklore set up the possibility for it but Satan's Blade never gets out of generic slasher territory and though it kept my attention just fine it was pretty "blah". Something about it didn't let me totally hate it however so the movie ended up being as wishy washy as this brief review of it.

I expected awful things from this one based on what I have heard over the years but the fact that it's a sequel to a movie I love deeply, I had to hold out hope. The Gate 2 takes place two years after the first film and stars Terry, the heavy metal loving best friend from the original who, along with a few asshole trouble makers from school, try to use the demonology for their own personal gain but it comes back to haunt them as it once again opens the path between realms. Unfortunately it's glaringly obvious that the budget from the first film was far above that of the sequel but director Tibor Takacs did the best he could and managed to create a few great scenes including a "final boss" type battle in the demon world. It's cheesy and takes on a strong B-movie look that the first didn't have but I enjoyed it quite a bit more than expected.

Today's Rundown
Theater Of Blood - 9/10
Satan's Blade - 4.5/10
The Gate 2 - 5/10

Saturday, October 3, 2015

POLTERGEIST (Blu-ray Review) - 20th Century Fox

Directed By: Gil Kenan
Written By: David Lindsay-Abaire
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris
Color/94 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: September 29, 2015

The Film
A family moves into a home in a suburban neighborhood and they quickly begin experiencing strange events leading to a full on attack from angry spirits on a night when the three children are left home alone and they abduct the youngest daughter. The family must find a way to enter the spirits plane of existence and rescue their daughter before the spirits use her as a guide to find their eternal rest and the family loses her forever.

This is a remake of the classic Steven Spielberg production that was directed by Tobe Hooper and follows the storyline and events of that 1982 film pretty much straight on. In fact this version of POLTERGEIST feels like a checklist of notable scenes from the original, making sure to get some version of them into the final picture no matter how insignificant they end up being. Things being stacked behind someone's back in an impossible fashion? Check. Spirits in the TV with the line "They're here."? Check. Creepy clown doll? Check. So on.

A cast headlined by Sam Rockwell should be solid and able to carry the picture but instead Rockwell is very uneven in his performance, which hurts the entire rest of the cast in turn. This family is going through some incredibly terrifying and tragic events, and even without their daughter being sucked into the netherworld in the closet, their normal day to day life hadn't been going well but you wouldn't know that from the performances and reactions to the cast. The amount of concern shown is that of passing the remnants of a car accident on the side of the highway... a passing thought hoping everything is okay but not putting too much emotion in to it. "Wow, look at that... I hope everything is okay. I'm sure they're fine. Oh I love this song!"

The movie gets at least one thing right however, it gives us a glimpse into the other side where the spirits are holding young Madison, something the original film didn't do. And question CGI aside it did have an eerie look to it. On top of that the movie as a whole isn't awful, the negatives outweigh the positives but really the entire thing just feels like a Cliff Notes version that was copied down minutes before class. It's all there and it is watchable but the heart and soul of the original is missing.

The Audio & Video
20th Century Fox delivers a gorgeous looking and sounding Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is stunning. Colors are rich and vivid while black levels are deep and inky with no blocking issues. Skin tones are natural and fleshy with no waxiness and surface detail is very high. The DTS-HD lossless audio sounds great and really booms when needed. There's no issues in the mix job or with any damage or distortions. It's no surprise that a major motion picture from 2015 has a brilliant A/V presentation but it is worth praising nevertheless.

The Extras
-Alternate cuts of the film including the unrated extended cut and the PG-13 theatrical cut
-Alternate ending
-Still gallery
-HD Ultraviolet digital copy of the film

The Bottom Line
When it is all said and done POLTERGEIST is a harmless remake that will have its detractors and its fans I'm sure. It isn't worth getting too excited about either way and if you're looking for a recent horror film for your Halloween marathon viewings POLTERGEIST is an easy watch at the very least.


October Horror Challenge 2015 - Day 2

A very late night/early Friday morning viewing of Tremors was perfect. A comforting favorite that was easy to unwind and relax with before calling it a night after celebrating a friend's birthday and a Ravens win over the hated Steelers. There's nothing more to say about this one.

The Poltergeist remake was on deck later in the day and it seemed like a weak checklist of scenes from the original without creating a full investment from the audience like the original did. The acting was uneven and writing lacked common sense. It was surprising to see a family go through such a bizarre, scary and tragic series of events and treat it with such a passive attitude. It's as if they were driving passed the aftermath of a car accident on the highway and it grabs their attention for a few fleeting seconds before they turn their attention back to the road ahead of them never to think of the accident again. I'll sum up the film as "watchable, but little else."

After attending the Monster Mania 32 convention where I was finally able to meet George Romero and talk to him for a few minutes about his film Martin, I came home and popped in GHOST TOWN. I had been anxious about watching this one since Scream Factory announced it and the wait was finally over only to be disappointed. I like the movie but it isn't very exciting. The setting is good and there's some great makeup work on the main villain but overall the movie's cover art conjures up more interesting ideas than the film can deliver on. I enjoyed it but not nearly to the level I thought I would.

Today's Rundown
Tremors - 8/10
Poltergeist - 4/10
Ghost Town - 6/10

Friday, October 2, 2015

October Horror Challenge 2015 - Day 1

October has arrived and that means it is time for pumpkin spice lattes, and dusting off my Uggs! I can't even! Really, it means it is time to begin the quest to watch 100 horror movies during the month of October, as is tradition. Let's just jump in to day 1...

We start out dabbling in mediocrity. CHARLIE'S FARM is a 2014 Australian slasher film co-starring notable horror names such as Bill Moseley who is great in this and Kane Hodder who gets to actually act and isn't bad either. We also get to stare at Tara Reid's sagging face as she stumbles through most of the third act like she's drunk. The movie is uber gory and violent but it drags during the first hour and is nothing special when all said and done.

Getting a bit deeper into the river of mediocrity was ALMOST HUMAN. I had no idea about the plot to this one, only that there's a strong divide in opinions about it. I grabbed it for $2 a few months back and stashed it away for the challenge... I loved the opening sequence. It was tense, well acted and legitimately scary. Then it moves into all too familiar splatter slasher territory and while the effects are very well done the movie is pretty much one note and the attempt at taking it back to the extraterrestrial element the opening scene introduced was weak.

The finest movie of the day comes from the fellas at Astron 6 - THE EDITOR. I've been hearing about how great this movie is for months and during those months plenty of people I know and trust have told me I'll love it. Still, I had doubts. I didn't know how I'd react to a tongue in cheek tribute to giallo and Italian horror films. Well, with the obvious love and knowledge of the movies they're paying tribute to, it was easy for me to sit back and enjoy. They nailed it and it was genuinely funny and well made.

Every movie of the day had been especially gory and violent, not something I necessarily intended and it wasn't something I planned on closing out the day with but it just so happened that THE PERFECT HOUSE pretty much relies solely on torture and violence to get a reaction from the audience. I have a strange dilemma with this movie because it is very much a one note torture film, but it's made fairly well at the same time, especially on such a low budget. It isn't a great movie but not awful either. I didn't care for it but I can't bash it too harshly. It's a more recent indie horror film from Wild Eye Releasing that I'm surprised doesn't have a bigger fanbase.

Today's Rundown
Charlie's Farm - 5/10
Almost Human - 5/10
The Editor - 8/10
The Perfect House - 4/10