Sunday, 31 May 2015

Poltergeist (2015)

"Poltergeist" (2015, Gil Kenan, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Ghost House Productions, Vertigo Entertainment) is the remake of the Tobe Hooper 1982 classic of the same name. It was produced by Sam Raimi, whom I have utmost respect for, but I'm afraid I still am not a fan of this film.

Firstly, the film did not need to be made. The original film is still a great scare-fest to this day and stands up well when compared to its modern day contemporaries. This redo is essentially a vanity project for its makers and nothing more.

Secondly, the film isn't really sure what it is. Is it a retelling of the story? Is it a modernisation of the story? Is it a kind of sequel? Is it an abrupt collection of all the best bits from the original quickly drafter together with more modern effects and rammed into a rather dull, predictable and essentially soulless redo of these scenes? Personally, I think the last one there hits the nail on the head.

The plot is altered, which I have no problem with except that it adds a few holes into the hows and whys of the haunting. My main issue, however, is that the film just seemed to be jumping from famous, iconic scene to famous, iconic scene without so much as a plot or a character development. And as adorable as little Madison (Kennedi Clements) is and as convincing as she is in her role, the delivery of the best line of the film "They're here" just doesn't quite pack the oomph of the original. By far the best acting comes from little Griffin (Kyle Catlett) who manages to keep the plot going.

I did like the Carrigan Burke character (Jared Harris) who replaces the Tangina character from the original. I admit I had my misgivings about changing the medium character so much, but he brought a much needed sense of banter to the cast.

Also, some of the new effects are indeed fantastic. The television scene is really quite chilling and the glimpse into the other side was really well realised. However, remaking a whole film just to show off your updated effects seems a bit tired to me. Give us something new!

All in all, if you haven't seen the original you may enjoy this film. But to me it was just an unnecessary rehash with more jump scares added and a much less frightening clown doll scene.

[Image: Ghost House Productions, et al]

Saturday, 30 May 2015

They Live

"They Live" (1988, John Carpenter, Alive Films, Larry Franco Productions, Universal Pictures) is a satirical alien movie.

Nada ('Rowdy' Roddy Piper) is a drifter looking for work. He finally lands a construction job in L.A. and becomes friends with fellow worker, Frank (Keith David). Nada is convinced that there is something very wrong with the modern world's balance of power and wealth, and he's proven correct when he finds a pair of sunglasses which allow him to see the shocking true faces and harsh reality of the world: we are not alone and we are not in control.

The world is a scary place full of subliminal, brain washing adverts and Nada is determined to do something about it. He and Frank set on a journey to make the world aware of their alien overlords and put an end to it.

A fun 80s film with a tongue-in-cheek message about society, some really iconic alien effects and a great, cheesy score. You've got to love Roddy Piper as our classic B-movie hero, spouting one liners and strutting about.

Whilst, yes, it remains firmly planted by its B-movie roots: cheesy acting, some slow scenes, less than perfect effects - "They Live" remains a fabulous cult movie which is both watchable and enjoyable.

I love it!

[image: Alive Films]

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


"May" (2003, Lucky McKee, 2 Loop Films, Lions Gate Films) is a film about a lonely young woman who's only friend is a creepy doll her mother made her.

May (Angela Bettis) has always been an outsider. As a child (Chandler Riley Hecht) she had trouble making friends, so her mother made her one: a china doll called Suzy.

Now as an awkward adult working as a nurse in an animal hospital, May still has no close friends. She lives alone with her doll, to whom she shares all of her secrets. She has a crush on a cute mechanic from down the street who enjoys making macabre home movies and she has a complex relationship with her colleague, Polly (Anna Faris), a quirky lesbian woman who has a soft spot for May, but won't let that get in the way of her affair with another woman called Ambrosia. May is also prone to self harm.

As May's attempts to make friends with those around her fail she becomes more frantic. She perceives her failings to be the cause of Suzy and blames the doll for her situation. Although she tries desperately to fit in and to be a good person, as the film goes on she becomes more dangerous in her desperation.

I enjoyed this film. It's fairly slow burning with a nice balance of crazy and empathy built up around our title character. Bettis creates a three dimensional character who you really feel for, but know that she's not able to cope with normality. The plot keeps moving and there's a good amount of gore, suspense and fantasy. The final scenes are a good pay off and the end scene is very reminiscent of a favourite film of mine: "Pieces". There's enough humour peppered throughout to keep the tone light and the scenes are well shot and put together.

All in all, a really fresh film, even a few years on.

[Image: 2 Loop Films]

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Lost Boys: The Tribe

"The Lost Boys: The Tribe" aka "The Lost Boys 2" (2008, P.J. Pesce, Thunder Road Pictures, Hollywood Media Bridge) is the sequel to 1987 vampire film, "The Lost Boys".

I am a huge fan of the original film. It's funny, silly and gross and full of good tunes. The sequel, unfortunately, pales sorely in comparison. Even the extremely goofy third film, "The Lost Boys: The Thirst" manages to outshine the second one, even if it's only because it actually attempts to alter the plot somewhat.

The problem with "Tribe" is that it is a badly done redo of the original. Instead of the two Emerson brothers being forced to move to the fictional seaside town of Santa Carla, California to stay with their nutty grandfather and their kind of loopy divorcee mother, it is brother, Chris (Tad Hilgenbrink), and sister, Nicole (Autumn Reeser), also named Emerson, who move to Luna Bay (also a beach town), to rent a house off of their nutty aunt after their parents are killed.

Other parallels include the surf shop scene which is essentially the same as the comic shop scene, except instead of meeting the Frog brothers there, they are recommended to visit the Frog brothers' van by the surf shop guys.

The surfer vampire gang attempts to follow the same layout as the previous film's biker vampire gang. This is pretty forgiveable because it would make sense, I suppose, that vampires share the same habits and hierarchy. I did appreciate Kiefer Sutherland's half brother, Angus Sutherland, playing the part of head boy vampire, Shane, but it really wasn't enough of a nod to save the film.

Hands up, I've admitted my, possibly misguided, appreciation of Corey Feldman before. But even I can say wholeheartedly that this film sucked and his performance did not help it. The nods to The Goonies also did it no favours.

Essentially, the protagonists are annoying and lack the more three dimensional characteristics of Michael and Sam from the original and the badly scripted dialogue doesn't give the impression of being tongue-in-cheek and comes across as more stilted.

I have a high tolerance for bad films, but I just wasn't feeling this one, and the end scene with Corey Haim remains a sad homage to the troubled actor. I also just feel plain bad for Jamison Newlander who's scenes were deleted. Although, maybe he's happy about not being officially credited in this film... I don't know.

All in all, I'd recommend either sticking to the wonderfully funny, cheesy 80s original and pretending there were no sequels at all, or giving the extremely crappy, cheesefest third one a spin and ignoring this one altogether.

[Image: Thunder Road Pictures]
Can I ask what's meant to have happened to Edgar Frog's neck tattoos between film 2 and 3 or do we not talk about those?


Tuesday, 19 May 2015


"Maggie" (2015, Henry Hobson, Grindstone Entertainment Group, Gold Star Films) is a zombie film, but not your average zombie film.

With today's over saturation of zombie everything (movies, comics, jewellery, clothing, TV series, novels, cupcakes.... You name it, there's a zombie version of it), it's nice to see a film that brings something fresh and new to the genre. "Maggie" manages to create a thoughtful, emotive film with a different feel to the usual guts and gore zombie feature.

Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) is stuck in the city during a semi-post-apocalyptic time. Most of the country has been ravished by a terrible virus which slowly turns its victims into the shambling, decaying dead. Those infected, like Maggie, are being rounded up and placed in quarantine, a happy place where the diseased and dying can frolic together, being chomped on by those in a more progressed condition than themselves. Fun, fun.

Maggie's dad, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger, in what is a very different role for him, but he still gets to get all badass on a few zombies here and there), finds her and takes her out to the country to stay with his wife, Caroline (Joely Richardson).

There Maggie is to live out her remaining days before the infection worsens and then she is to be taken to the dreaded quarantine area. She mostly spends her time hanging with friends, some of whom are also infected, feeling sorry for herself and occassionally chopping off a few rotting appendages or accidentally killing wildlife... You know, the usual.

But the good times must end at some point, and Maggie and Wade have to make a decision...

A really interesting film, it manages to create solid characters and relationships and still have a few gory scenes to keep it moving. It is a very slow burning plot, however, and definitely doesn't fall completely into the 'horror' basket; I'd label it as more of a thriller myself. But it does benefit from very good effects and makeup. One criticism I would have is that the film is so dark that the full gory beauty of the effects can not be fully realised.

Schwarzenegger creates a very gritty, realistic and endearing character with a lot of depth. You really feel his pain, and the film plays out as more of a study on all the characters' emotions than it does about zombies. Abigail Breslin equally portrays the doomed teen character with a lot of realism and emotion. Her situation is palpable and you truly feel a part of her horrific journey.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film despite its very slow pace. It wasn't my usual kind of film at all, but it was a pleasantly serious take on the genre and something different to watch.

[Image: Grindstone Entertainment Group]

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Anarchy Parlor

"Anarchy Parlor" aka "Parlor" (2015, Devon Downs, Kenny Gage, Gravitas Ventures) is a gory horror about a strange tattoo artist known only as "The Artist" who practices much more than tattooing on the unwitting tourists who wander into his parlor in Lithuania.

Some college friends are travelling Europe and have just landed in Vilnius, Lithuania. They encounter the party scene pretty quickly with some unconvincing drunken scenes, which are overly reminiscent of Eli Roth's "Aftershock" (2012), and some terrible decision making already paving the way to disaster.

One of the gang encounters the beautiful but violent tattoo apprentice, Uta (Sara Fabel, the Finnish model and artist), and is soon introduced to her tattoo mentor, The Artist (Robert LaSardo). The Artist is keen on tattoos, torture, flaying and talking at length about these subjects.

Ironically, whilst this film is making a social comment on how tattooing has went from a counterculture, individualist statement to a popular, societal norm, the film is pretty much the clichéd horror torture porn that represents the decline of horror from subculture to generic in the same way.

We have a group of ignorant, self-important young asshats, we have a foreign culture element, we have the big bad people bent on killing the group of asshats, and we have heaps of gore, blood and constant screaming. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer being scared to being grossed out. I love a bit of gore with my horror (I'm actually a huge fan of gore), but prefer it to be peppered with comedy, real fear or mystique... Frankly, watching a guy carve up bound teens whilst a hot, blonde, tattooed chick acts fierce in the background does not constitute good horror for me.

Also, "Fuck you. You're sick." repeated several hundred times loses its relevance after a while, especially when it's all in the one scene.

The plot also made little actual sense and the finished 'canvases' were unintentionally hilarious. I think I could have painted/inked better!

All in all, the effects were indeed gross, but the lack of good plot, unintentionally hilarious props and scripting and abundance of tropes used, this film winds up as just another generic gore fest.

[Image: Gravitas Ventures]

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Man Who Laughs

"The Man Who Laughs" (1928, Paul Leni, Universal Pictures) is a wonderfully dark silent film based on the book by Victor Hugo. Whilst it was not intended to be a horror film, the plot and the gloomy expressionist styling of the production lend itself to the genre.

Based in England in the late 1690s, we are introduced to King James II and his psychotic jester. A Nobleman has insulted the king and is swiftly executed via the infamous Iron Lady. Before his demise, the nobleman learns that his only son, Gwynplaine, has been captured and delivered to the monstrous Comprachico surgeon, Dr. Hardquannone, who has surgically disfigured the child's face into a horrific and permanent grin.

On a cold evening, young Gwynplaine (Julius Molnar Jr.) is seeking shelter when he finds a dead woman clutching a still-living, blind infant. He takes the baby girl with him and seeks help at the nearest house, that of Ursus (Cesare Gravina). Ursus quickly sees an opportunity to use the disfigured boy to make money.

Years pass and the now adult Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt) is making a relatively good, but unhappy, living as a sideshow attraction known as "The Laughing Man", with Ursus and the captivating and kind hearted, blind girl, Dea (Mary Philbin). Gwynplaine has fallen in love with Dea, but although Dea returns his feelings and Ursus has offered to marry them, Gwynplaine does not think his grinning visage is worthy of such a beautiful creature.

On their travels, Gwynplaine's noble heritage is discovered and Queen Anne (Josephine Crowell) decides that the raunchy, badly behaved Duchess Josiana (Olga Vladimirovna Baklanova) should marry Gwynplaine as the true heir to his father's estates. Things do not go well, as you can imagine.

This film is wonderful. It is shocking and dark with such a horrific premise. The styling of the "Laughing Man" character is very ahead of its time with impressive prosthetics and makeup. He portrays a grotesque yet sympathetic character.

The silent era of films created such beautiful and disturbing films. If you have not seen one yet, I would recommend starting with The Man Who Laughs due to its beautiful score by Ernö Rapée, Lew Pollack and Walter Hirsch (which you will recognise as having been sampled for some of the Batman movies), clear imagery and acting, relatively fluid plot and swashbuckling scenes.

The Man Who Laughs was also the key inspiration behind the Joker character from Batman and Rob Zombie also has a track named in the character's honour.

[Image: Universal Pictures]