Jan 31, 2013

TOOTH FAIRY


Jan 29, 2013

REVIEW: THE MILLENNIUM BUG


The year was 1999. The Brooklyn Dodgers had just won their 17th pennant.  Dewey did NOT defeat Truman. World War II had just begun.

Just kidding, of course. The truth is, nothing happened in 1999 except the Y2K scare and the release of the feature film End of Days.

If you remember Y2K, you remember how stupid you felt the minute clocks struck midnight, welcoming the year 2000, and computers did not become self-aware and begin enslaving the human race. Either that, or they didn't shut down and wipe out our account balances and cease to remember how to function. I forget which was supposed to happen.

But the point is: all the people who had stock piled water, canned foods, batteries, flash lights, etc, felt really, really embarrassed. And they should have, because, seriously. If ever there were a more ridiculous fear campaign perpetrated by the media, I haven't heard of it.


Were there some folks who took it one step further and retreated into the middle of the woods, far from technology, just to play it safe? It's possible. In fact, more than possible, because I can say for certain that the Haskin family did just that. With their car packed to the brim with luggage, Christmas cookies, and good intentions, the Haskin family 2.0 - now featuring a new stepmother - have set off for their first New Year as a New Family. It is a quasi New Year celebration mixed with a honeymoon mixed with an escape of the alleged Y2K everyone's been talking about. It was supposed to be nothing but champagne, noisemakers, and stupid hats.

Until an inbred family of maniacs crash the party and kidnap the family. 

But wait! Seems there is a large mutant bug running around the woods as well!

But wait! Seems as if there is an archaeologist or a zoologist or some kind of ologist tracking the mutant and recording nearly every move!

But wait! Seems as if someone is giving birth to a mutant baby!

For having such a stupid concept, The Millennium Bug has a lot going on. We have the Haskin family venturing into the deep dark woods; we have a minute military presence wandering around those same woods; and we have a Texas Chain Saw Massacre-inspired family of inbreeds living in a cramped farmhouse in - you guessed it - the woods. It's natural that all of these subplots would soon meet as one, and the results are...odd. 


A large part of The Millennium Bug's marketing campaign has focused on the whole no CGI/practical effects only thing. Is that something to be proud of in 2013? Even with insanely low budgets, yes, it is. For far too long filmmakers have used CGI to tell their story - and I'm not even talking about low budget productions. So many of Hollywood's biggest films are nothing more than promo reels for the visual effects artists responsible for destroying the world, or resurrecting gigantic robots, or destroying the world by resurrecting gigantic robots. The magic is gone. Demands of "how did they do that?" have become irrelevant, as the answer is now boring, and one word: "computers."

That is where The Millennium Bug shines. It wears its humble influences lovingly on its latex-covered shoulder. Rubber heads, red-dyed corn syrup, camera tricks. The golden age of cinema - in both technique and concept - is temporarily back. But with it comes the unfortunate pratfalls that littered those "classics" as well, the biggest offender being the less than convincing acting. But this is throwback territory, after all.

At times it feels as if there is a bit too much going on. The Haskin family, the scientist, the weirdo inbred clan - though they all intermingle in a perfectly fine way, it still feels a bit too crowded. The scientist, for example, could easily have been lost and not affected much. He exists for no other reason than to provide exposition, which no one requires in a movie of this ilk, anyway.

The mutants of the '50s and the grime of the '70s are ever present. What we have here are two fairly straightforward and familiar horror tropes - the mutant in the woods, and the inbred crazy family - instead they've been joined together, and the events legitimately become unpredictable. Characters whom we're led to believe will be the hero...definitely aren't. Those we're sure will survive get bullets through the head, or hatchets to the chest.

We also get multi-nippled breasts, which no one ever expects. 

The actual in-camera effects are admittedly great. This deserves special attention, as this is definitely a low budget affair. The effects become less convincing when greenscreened in behind a fleeing character, but again, given its budget, it feels spiteful to point that out.

The best thing about The Millennium Bug is that it does not want you to take it seriously. A throwaway joke involving a man carving what looks like a penis until he turns it around to reveal it's some kind of holy relic pretty much solidifies that fact. It's there for no other reason than to make its audience laugh their best Beavis & Butthead laugh and say, "that's a wiener."

Will audiences be talking about The Millennium Bug in years to come? Probably not. But it certainly makes for some good present conversation, as there is currently nothing else like it.

Jan 28, 2013

CREEP

There have been sightings of the black car near a small town an hour drive to Ottawa, Ontario. We found out out the hard way.

The place is very eerie and quiet. Myself and 2 other friends were driving to Ottawa late night when we decided to stop by for some food and use the restrooms at a nearby small town. To reach the town, you had to drive through a section that had nothing but corn fields left and right.

While we were driving, headlights shone behind us. It was pretty bright. We decided to slow down and let it pass. My friend and I both looked out to see the car (1930s classic Ford). Inside were an elderly couple. As the car passed by us, behind the moonlight, the man looked directly at us: he had no jaw, just the upper jaw and the eyes did not twinkle in the moonlight, as if they were dead eyes, or a matte black. We slowed the fuck down to a crawl, freaked out by what we saw. The driver, being the ass that he is, decided it was a good idea to chase the car down.
He gunned it. We were doing 120kph on this narrow and bumpy road. The next exit was a turnpike a few KM away. There is absolutely NO WAY that car had the speed to match us. There were no houses, no exits, just corn fields. Where it went, we had no idea.

Creep.

Image.

Jan 27, 2013

DELETED ENDING

Screenplay for the deleted original ending of The Shining. When the film was first released, a hospital epilogue was located between the shot of Jack frozen in the snow and the long dolly shot through the lobby that ends on the July 4, 1921 framed photo.

Kubrick decided to remove the scene very shortly after the U.S. opening, dispatching assistants to excise the scene from the dozens of prints showing in Los Angeles and New York City. All known copies of the scene were reportedly destroyed, although it is rumored that one surviving copy may exist.


Stolen with love from The Overlook Hotel.

Jan 26, 2013

NO SHAME

This is too amazing.

From a review of The Asylum's Hansel & Gretel by Dread Central:
No doubt designed to capitalize on the big screen release of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Asylum’s Hansel & Gretel is a mockbuster in name only. A different beast altogether, a Texas Chainsaw fairy tale of sorts, in which two modern teenagers named Hansel and Gretel get trapped in cannibal witch Dee Wallace’s gingerbread house of horrors where innocent young people are turned into meat pies.

Hold on a sec!

Wait just a minute!

What’s that quote on the cover art?

I guess I don’t need to bother finishing this review since, according to the box art, I already did.

“PRETTY DAMN GOOD HORROR MOVIE” – DREADCENTRAL

I’m the only person on this website who has ever written about this film so I know it has to be my quote. In fact, here’s the quote:

"…it looks like it has the potential to be a pretty damn good horror movie judging by the preview."

That’s from a story I wrote about the Hansel & Gretel trailer back in October – not a review.

I guess that’s good enough.
That is a new low, The Asylum. I am in awe of how scummy a tactic that is.

Although it's still better than the unattributed, unquoted one-line praising statements that usually appear on your garbage,

Jan 24, 2013

HOLY SHIT

Parasitic Worm VIDEO Shows Huge Nematode Emerging From Dead Spider Host, Biologist Says 

When YouTube user Brent Askwith saw a freakishly large worm slither out of a spider he had just killed, he recorded the ghoulish event and appropriately named the video "WTF IS THIS?!?" 
"I was just editing my latest montage and this huge spider came out, so I sprayed it and killed it, then this fricken alien worm came out," Askwith wrote in the video's description. 
That "alien worm" is actually a parasitic nematode, also known as a roundworm. While the nematode in the YouTube video is larger than most, Harvard University entomologist Dr. Brian Farrell told The Huffington Post that every human is infested with thousands of tiny nematodes. 
"Most have no obvious effect on us, and we are mostly unaware of their presence," he wrote in an e-mail, "but a few are large enough to cause diseases such as trichinosis."


Source.

Jan 23, 2013

THE PANZRAM FILES


I have kind of a thing for Carl Panzram. I've covered him previously here, here, and here.

I've long thought and will continue to think he might be one of the most fascinating figures in the 20th century. (If you don't know the man, catch up.)

Which is why it is beyond awesome that San Diego State University, to whom former prison guard/Panzram confidant Henry Lesser donated all the original writings by Panzram himself, has digitized and made available for free download the entire hand-written manuscript that went on to become A Journal of Murder we all know and love today.

Panzram's words are still as powerful as ever, but to see them in his own hand is pretty remarkable. 

The page below will lead to so much more. Click if you dare.


Jan 22, 2013

MANIAC


I've been on the fence about this whole Alexandre Aja-produced remake of Maniac since it was announced. While I don't love the original, it was certainly brutal and daring, and Joe Spinell made a very complex and fucked-up villain.

Still, early word on the film has been great, so I'll reserve judgment until seeing it.

What I can say now, however, is the soundtrack by "Rob" is fucking fantastic. Fans of Carpenter's early 80s synth scores, as well as those by Goblin and Tangerine Dream, are in for a treat. I've been listening to this thing on repeat since nabbing it.

Jan 21, 2013

I'M A GOOD BROTHER

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with horror films, horror literature, etc. But what happened to me last night is so patently ridiculous that it needs to be shared. I apologize for the non-theme content, but this needs to be exorcised from my person.

Here goes.

I'm a good brother.

And it had been a good day.

As you may have read in last night's post, I took a few hours off to head to the theater to see Arnold triumphantly return in The Last Stand. It had been a mighty good time; we laughed where appropriate, and on more than one occasion I blurted out some variation of a curse word in shocked surprise at the violence or brutality I saw unfolding on screen. It had been glorious.

I then returned home to the two dogs I told my vacationing brother I would watch for the week. One of them, Lucy, I've watched before, and she is an angel. The other is a new addition:

Roxxy. The devil.

She is the catalyst in the evening that went so extremely wrong.

The perpetrator.

At this point, Roxxy is eight months old, which means she is a gigantic ball of enthusiastic, uncontainable energy. And that's all well and good because puppies! I have never watched her before, but the good part of me agreed to take her in for the week; otherwise she would have been boarded, and considering she is a shelter dog, I would not hear of her being sent back to a similar environment for that length of time.

So this is what happens:

I return home. The dogs freak out in happiness because I'm awesome. I take out Roxxy first, since she flips out otherwise and slams against either door through which she is watching me walk Lucy. Roxxy takes a couple pees and a nice sized poo (much to my relief, because she'd already been with me over twenty four hours and hadn't yet done so). I  take Roxxy back inside and switch off the leashes so I can take Lucy out for her turn.

I should probably mention that I live in a townhouse complex, which means there are no fenced-in backyards - only very spacious common areas. This means all dogs must be on leashes at all times.

I should also mention I take them out through my back patio door.

Lastly, I should mention that my door has one of these locks:


Can you see where this is headed? If not, allow me to continue.

Roxxy, with her undying energy, propels herself against the patio door, paws outstretched, over and over. During one of those lunges, she brings her paw down over the latch, sliding it down into the locked position.

I'm now locked outside with a just-as-confused-as-me Rottweiler. It's 40 degrees and falling. It's about eight o'clock on a Saturday night. My cell phone sits on the coffee table in the living room, not five feet from where I stand...on the other side of the very locked door. 

I immediately start thinking of what I can do. I figure that maybe the lock isn't fully engaged, so I try rocking the door open, pressing up with my palms against the glass to raise the door off the track a bit.

It doesn't work.

I try repeatedly opening the door with great force, hoping to somehow break the mechanism (which, if successful, would have proved it to be the most insecure door in the history of doors). 

It doesn't work.

I try the front door. Locked up nice and tight, which is what I generally do after arriving home from anywhere. 

I try the small kitchen window right next to my front door. I tear the screen permanently and bend the corner nearly in half, finally ripping the entire screen free from the jamb.

For nothing, it turns out, as my windows are surprisingly secure from the outside. 

During this, Roxxy is on the other side of the window barking her head off, wanting to know why I am messing around when I should be inside entertaining her. 

I go to my neighbor's house - let's call him Carl. 

I explain the situation to Carl and ask to borrow a screwdriver, figuring I can jimmy the small separation that appears between my patio door and the jamb and try to work loose the lock. He lets me borrow a flat-head, and on my way back to the patio door I have a genius thought. As I look at the lock box on my front door knob (because my home is currently listed for sale) I realize that if I could just get the code from my realtor, I could unlock it and retrieve the spare key. I would have to call her cell phone - a number I don't have memorized (who would?) and, again, is stored in my cell sitting uselessly in my home. I realize the only way to retrieve this number is to get into my e-mail and find one of the many trails in which she and I had taken part to snag her number from her signature. 

I ask Carl if he has a computer. He doesn't. (Can't say I blame him.) 

Using Carl's kitchen phone, I call the only friend of mine whose phone number I have managed to memorize.

He doesn't answer.

I leave a message telling him it's me, acknowledging that he's probably not picking up because he doesn't recognize my neighbor's number, and tell him to call this number back as soon as he can.

Meanwhile, I go across the street to knock on another neighbor's door, whom I know has a computer.

No one answers. 

I go back across the street to Carl's. I use the phone to attempt to make up variations of what I believe my parents' house line to be. (My mother does not answer her cell phone, you see, because she keeps it in the car for some very inconvenient reason.) After a few wrong numbers (all of whom I was incredibly tempted to ask for help, anyway) I ditch that idea. I try locating the number through automated information instead. I'd've been better off trying to dissect a dead frog with a hammer. 

In the meantime, I look across the street to the neighbor's house I had just attempted and see that another of them has arrived home, confirmed by the newly-arrived car in front. I go back over there to knock again, hoping someone will actually answer this time.

No one does. 

I should note that all this time, Lucy is leashed to my arm. She has no idea what's going on, and she is freezing to death. There's nothing I can do with her. I have no backyard where I can stick her, and I can't even accept Carl's invitation to come inside his house where it's warm because I would have to leave the dog tied up outside somewhere, and that's something I just wasn't going to do. If suffering was to be had, we would do it together.

Carl gives me the cordless phone to let me make calls from outside. I try calling the only uncle whose number I remember in an effort to get my parents' house line. No one is home. I leave a voice mail along the same lines of the one I'd left for my buddy explaining I am next door and that's why they don't recognize the number and OMFG PLEASE CALL. 

As I make my way back across the street to the unanswering neighbor's house for one more attempt, Carl pops out of his house and says my buddy has returned my phone call. I run across the street and grab the phone. I've nearly interrupted his Spam-A-Lot (haha) so I kind of feel like a dick. I have him access my e-mail through his wife's phone to retrieve my realtor's cell phone number.

He does.

I thank him and hang up.

Someone walks by with their tiny dog and Lucy nearly tears my arm out of its socket. I tie the leash around a lamppost in front of my townhouse to give myself a break.

I call my realtor. Her voice mail confirms she is out of town for the weekend and not listening to messages or reading e-mails until Monday. I nearly cry. I leave a message anyway, explaining I've been locked out and need the lock box key. The tail end of her outgoing message had advised me, in the event of an emergency, to call the phone number she provided.

For the hell of it, I do.

I successfully reach a fax machine.

I hang up and retry my mother's cell phone.

No answer.

I call automated information to reach the local real estate office for whom my realtor works, hoping their recording would provide a different emergency hotline.

It doesn't.

I go back across the street yet again to the unanswering neighbor's house, and along the way, yet another neighbor - let's call her Elaine - pops out with her dog. She can clearly see I am distressed. She asks what's wrong and I explain the situation. (She can see that I have lashed Lucy's leash around the lamppost that sits in front of my townhouse.) She asks if there is anything she can do to help, and I ask if she has a computer.

She does.

I ask her if I can hop on it for two minutes to shoot an e-mail to my mother, father, and brother, hoping that at least one of them is in front of their computer (or smart phone) at that very moment.

She lets me in and I send this e-mail:
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMEONE CALL ME AT THIS NUMBER: 

[number removed] 

 It is the number for Carl and his wife next door, I am with them. CALL ME. 
Part of me considers adding that I'm fine and this should be considered only a semi-emergency, but then I remember the odd, odd fact that my mother leaves her cell phone in her car for no particular reason, so I send the message above as-is, deciding a little alarm on my parents' part is warranted, and it will give me some spiteful satisfaction.

I go back to Lucy, who is shaking from the cold. Though I keep telling Carl otherwise, I am beginning to freeze. I stand with her for a few minutes.

I go back inside Carl's house and he has his phone book waiting for me, open on a very specific page: locksmiths. I start flipping through, really regretting that this is what it's come to. 

As I do, he asks: "Why not just call the operator directly, give them your parents' city/state, and ask them for the house line?"

This was something I had briefly considered much earlier, but then quickly dismissed, as there was no way my parents had allowed themselves to be listed in any possible way. But, figuring I literally had nothing to lose, I call. A very impatient and rude operator asks for the city and state. I give it. I am transferred elsewhere, and the line rings for what feels like full minutes. Someone finally asks what listing. I tell her.

And just like that, she gives me the number.

I am beside myself, thinking I could have avoided a whole lot of damage, cold, and embarrassment, if I had just called the goddamn motherfucking operator. 

I finally get my mother on the phone. Through unrestrained fury, I explain that I've been literally locked out of my house by an eight-month-old puppy, and I need her to come with the spare and let me in. Naturally she agrees, but here's the rub: she lives an hour away, and it's getting so much colder. Lucy is cold to the point that she is crying. I give the phone back to Carl, explain that all is "well" - my mother is coming - so I am going to continuously walk the dog to keep us both warm.

And I do. I walk Lucy around my complex about three times before expanding our journey to a neighboring barracks-like 55+ community. We walk for a long time and we're successfully keeping the cold at bay. I also take this time to marvel at how many people still have up their Christmas decorations, and also how many people have dogs that look like baby sheep. Lucy stops and attempts to piss so much that after a while she's shooting out dust and rain checks labeled "urine."

After a while (I have no watch, so I can't say specifically how long), we head back to the house. We walk up to the back patio door to see if I can check on Roxxy. She trots over to the door and becomes insanely jealous that the walk I am giving Lucy is much longer than the one she got. She begins barking and jumping up against the door again, as if recreating the event that has led to this disaster. If I could have somehow breached that glass and punched her in the face, I would have.

I sit there against the patio door for about ten minutes and watch an audioless portion of This Means War, with Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon. Even without audio I can somehow tell it's terrible. 

At this point Lucy is so cold that I am concerned. I sit down next to her and start rubbing her chest, sides, and stomach, trying to generate some heat. It seems to be working, as she sits perfectly still and lets me, for once not being incredibly distracted by all the outdoor smells surrounding her. 

I bring her to the front of our townhouse row and start walking her back and forth to keep our blood pumping. At one point a cop drives by, and I secretly hope he'll think I look suspicious and pull over to talk to me, because this story of mine is so fucking unbelievable that I feel the need to tell someone. He passes right by, not even slowing down. Why would he? Not many robbers take their dogs on a job. 

Finally, I see the headlights of my mother's car as she makes the turn into the complex. She sees me and flicks her high beams to let me know salvation has arrived.

She unlocks the front door. I push Lucy inside, Roxxy away from us, and shut the door again. I immediately hug my mother and apologize for having flipped out on the phone. She's a mother, so she's just glad I'm okay.

My body is somehow freezing and on fire at the same time. My head is killing me, the need to...er...evacuate is overwhelming, and I am starving.

We go in, share a cup of coffee, and discuss Ben Affleck's suspicious snub at the Oscars.

I ask her if she, during the drive, listened to the very angry voice mail I left her, in which I derided her for leaving her cell phone in the car.

She says no.

I tell her to erase it without listening to it.

She laughs and agrees, and leaves soon after.

I eat, I take head pills, and I settle onto the couch. Finally, my tumultuous night has come to a close. I can finally enjoy some semblance of a relaxing, trauma-free night.

Then Roxxy shits on the living room floor, right in front of me.

I had no choice. I killed her, right then and there, on the spot. Here is her body:


(Just kidding.)

But seriously, I'm the best fucking brother who has ever lived.

Jan 20, 2013

REVIEW: THE LAST STAND


I am an Arnold Schwarzenegger enthusiast. I've seen literally every film he's ever made, even the early obscure titles like Stay Hungry and The Villain. I sat through the infamous torture that was Batman & Robin. I even went to see The Expendables simply because of the 1-2 minutes he actually appears. (The remaining 88 minutes was nothing more than a bonus at that point.) Lastly, I have probably seen Commando more times than a 70-year-old has celebrated their birthday.

So, is Arnold the "greatest actor in the world" that he, one day long ago, said he'd be?

Of course not.

But he did manage to become the biggest movie star instead, and that's just as good, if not better. When you get top billing in a Batman movie over the guy playing Batman (who happened to be George Clooney), you know you're in a good place.

Through titles like The Terminator and Predator, he not only secured his place in cinema history, but he became synonymous with the action genre. Soon he was able to write his own ticket, and his roles - and paychecks - became bigger and bigger.

Then he did the whole governor thing. For eight years, that was a thing. His future in movies seemed uncertain. Most assumed he would do what most other retired politicians did: write their memoirs (which he did) and then disappear into the background.

Think again.

His fun cameo alongside Bruce Willis in the first installment of the Stallone-spearheaded Expendables didn't scratch the itch of the legions of fans who yearned for his return to the big screen - it served instead only to tease. If you're an action fan, there is no denying that Arnold changed its face and turned it into the cartoonish, over-the-top collection of punchline spewers that still lives on today. And even if you're not an action genre fan, there's no denying that the greatness of films like Predator or the first two Terminators transcended that genre barrier and have become some of the most celebrated films - of any genre - of all time.




The concept of The Expendables was a fucking great one: a collection of our favorite action stars from yesteryear all kicking ass together. Though it worked better as a nostalgia piece than it did as an actual film, it proved one thing: audiences still cared about Stallone, Lundgren, and all the rest. (I'd be really curious to see how many people were driven to see it because of the much ballyhooed Arnold cameo.) If The Expendables was instrumental in proving to Arnold that audiences still desired old school action, then god bless it, because it may very well have led us to The Last Stand.

In the two Expendables films, Arnold's age shows. Boy howdy does it. He has a nice little paunch and some loose skin around his neck. And somehow after living in America for forty years, his accent is no less prevalent. One thing that remains, and will likely always remain, is his charisma. It is palpable. It is a living entity. And in The Last Stand, it remains ever in place.

Schwarzenegger plays aging sheriff Ray Owens, formerly of the Los Angeles narcotics division, before too much death and bloodshed forced him to leave it all behind for a quieter life. His life of solitude is disrupted by the FBI-evading, race-car-driving (seriously) drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez, who is intent on heading for the U.S./Mexico border...which will lead him right through Owens' town of Sommerton, Arizona. 

Needless to say, Arnold has no choice but to stop him.

With The Last Stand, the film wisely acknowledges that Arnold is old. A sheriff in a piss-ant town where nothing much happens is probably allowed to be. While the film never continuously elbows you in the side to make old jokes, the point is made all the same: Owens is older and slower than in his hey day. But he is still a force to be reckoned with.

The Last Stand is being sold as Arnold's return to action starring roles. That is why I and 100% of anyone who saw it went in the first place. This ultimately is the film's blessing and curse. Arnold is certainly the focus of the film, and he certainly kicks ass...but not right away. Though the film touches base with Arnold every so often during the first third of the film, the story focuses much more on the Forest Whitaker/FBI side of things...to the point that you begin to doubt all the marketing you may have seen: Arnold's face on the poster, his overwhelming presence in the trailers.

All I can say is...hang in there. It very much realizes that. It just wants to tease you.

In The Last Stand, we experience the birth of Arnold 2.0. He is aged, yes, and though the film is manic, violent, and very nearly a comic book, it wisely takes time to stop and allow our characters to show genuine emotion when things get tough. Arnold...acts. And you can see that he wants to. You can see he really wants to humanize Owens, as well he should, being that this is the first time Arnold has played your everyman. He's played a commando, a terminator, a special ops bad ass. He's battled clones, Batman, and the devil himself. But he's never played just a normal human being. In The Last Stand, he is, and for someone who idolizes Schwarzenegger's larger-than-life swagger, it's incredibly refreshing. In other words, Ray Owens has progressed the same way that John McClane should have: he's a simple man, aged not just by his years, but by the things he has seen and done, and he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. And when shit is fucked, he's not afraid to express his fears, doubts, and solemn sadness.



Spoilers.

The ending sequence, in which Arnold squares off against the main baddie, is incredibly well done. There is no Commando-esque, guns-thrown-aside nonsense, because neither man has one. There's no exhibition of martial arts or impressive hand-to-hand combat. What we have are two men - one young and one old - beating the ever-loving shit out of each other. It is not in the least bit graceful, and contains not the least bit of technique. Instead, it is brutal, and animalistic, and to sound like a fifth grader, incredibly manly. It's about brute force and dominion, and neither opponent disappoints. (Arnold even removes his jacket before the fight commences, which, while admittedly cliche, is incredibly bad-ass.) It really was the perfect way to end the film, because in order for Owens to prove his honor, he had to suffer. He had to take his licks. And he had to take his prisoner alive. To simply blow the dude's head off would have been counter to what Owens, in his golden years, was trying to establish: that he still served a purpose; that he could take alive the man that even the FBI let slip through their fingers.

Mission accomplished.

End spoilers.

In Jee-woon Kim's first English production (following his acclaimed I Saw the Devil), he wisely chooses to shoot Schwarzenegger in the way he ought to be shot: eye level, with little aplomb. He's not a hero, after all - at least not yet - so Kim saves the close-ups for the steely lines that come when Owens realizes he is the only thing standing between a bloodthirsty criminal and the land of non-extradition. Kim lets several shots go on and on, capturing a massive amount of on-screen action in all directions, and he loves the red stuff, which always helps. One gag in particular involving a flare gun and one very dead bad guy is as ridiculous as it is incredible.

Most importantly, The Last Stand is just a hell of a lot of fun. Fun supporting work from Luis Guzman and even Johnny Knoxville infuse the ride with some easy comic relief. It allows you to be okay with blurting out joy when someone explodes on screen. Is The Last Stand the return-to-form for Arnold that we all wanted to see? It's hard to say. Arnold has managed to work in many different facets of the action genre - the gonzo (Commando), the thrilling (The Terminator), and the fantastic (End of Days) -  so it's hard to really pinpoint to which form he is supposed to be returning.

But I will say this: if we lived in Bizarro World and The End of Summer was a brand that actually carried some weight, the official pull quote would be:

"Arnold's best movie since True Lies."

As I write this, the box office numbers for Saturday are still being compiled. But based on the amount of folks in the audience at my showing (day two of release), I am a little hesitant to see them. I'm scared at the prospect of The Last Stand's opening box office take being incredibly underwhelming. I'm scared of it affecting all of Arnold's potential future projects. He's got two more in the can already, and for those I am equally as excited, but I sincerely hope this next phase of Arnold 2.0 will see great success for him - with audiences and the box office. 

Jan 19, 2013

GONE STANDIN'


I have been waiting for Arnold's return to action like you don't know.

Off to the cinema! I'll be back!

Hey, get it?

Jan 18, 2013

REVIEW: ASYLUM BLACKOUT


Asylum employees George (Rupert Evans), Ricky (Joseph Kennedy), and Max (Kenny Doughty) believe they are meant for better things, and they believe their unnamed rock band will take them there. It's for this reason that they've seemingly made their peace with working in the kitchen of an asylum serving food to the criminally insane day-in and day-out. 

As the title suggests, a power failure within the asylum kills the lights and puts them on automatic lock down. It's not soon after that the inmates soon begin to slowly take over (that old adage), seemingly led by the brilliantly-blue-eyed Harry Green (Richard Brake, probably best known for taking the lives of the Waynes in Batman Begins, and taking a dump in Doom). In an effort to assist the security team of escorting the inmates back to their rooms, the friends become isolated from each other in different parts of the hospital. And the inmates don't make it easy - not when they're throwing kitchen knives and beating weaker patients to a pulp.


Director Alexandre Courtès and co-writers S. Craig Zahler and Jérôme Fansten are smart enough to set the story in 1989, rendering arguments of "they could have used their cell phones to call for help!" obsolete  And though it's a dream that will forever remain timeless, the year also makes the idea of these young fellows endeavoring to become grunge rock 'n roll stars a bit more palatable, using their location (damn-near-Seattle) and their Nirvana-inspired lifestyle to easily establish just what we would expect of our characters. If the aspiring musician movie trope has taught us anything, it's that country boys are simple, rappers are playas, and rock stars start off with the best of intentions but soon teeter on the edge of losing themselves to drugs, alcohol, and "the life." Today, the grunge movement - and Nirvana specifically - are bemoaned for putting the final nail in the coffin of "true" rock 'n roll (as if there were still a place for Kiss and Bon Jovi in the land of triple-priced coffee) before putting another nail in their own. The grunge movement was the most short-lived in musical history. This does not bode well for our characters.

Asylum Blackout is a simple story, and simple means are used to tell it. Our actors are perfectly competent, and in the case of Evans' George, likable and sympathetic. Courtès rests on old techniques - slow motion,  the Wilhelm scream, distant blurry flashes of "what the fuck was that?" - but manages to use them effectively. He lets the story tell itself, not necessarily in the mood to ramp up the action for the less than patient crowd. But at the same time, there is that indescribable feeling of unfulfillment that permeates the hallways of Sans Asylum. The makings of a potentially unnerving and disturbing tale is here, somewhere, but for whatever reason it never comes to fruition - at least not on a significant level. As a piece of pulp, however, it works just fine. It is a zombie movie without the zombies. It is Friday the 13th with a dozen killers. People die, oh yes, and in brutally bloody ways. The set pieces in this regard are effective and are capable of providing a few thrills, cheap though they may be. The political or societal subtext of George Romero are nowhere to be found (which I bring up because this feels like something he would have made somewhere between Night of the Living Dead and The Crazies) and it makes you wonder if director Courtès ever had any intention of attempting such. IE, yes, Richard Brake biting off one of his own fingers and slowly chewing it is messed up, but after you're done squirming, you wonder what was the point.


If your horror film is set in a lunatic asylum, then that's half the battle. Even the most rudimentary filmmaker can gain some mileage from the dark, barred, and hopeless surroundings in which their characters find themselves, but those with a fine eye and keen sense are apt to deliver a minor horror classic. Brad Anderson's Session 9 comes to mind. And though it didn't set the world aflame, Carpenter's The Ward utilized its institutional environment to maximum effect. And let's not forget the over-the-top-but-wonderful remake of House on Haunted Hill, boasting perhaps the creepiest asylum captured on celluloid. 

In Asylum Blackout, Sans Asylum of Washington State is no different. The place is sprawling, and it's entirely constructed of white brick and gray metal. Dimly lit corridors stretch off into dull darkness, and what light there is becomes lost in a nauseating haze.


Asylums are naturally creepy and very sad. They exude an effortless history - more so than medical hospitals, ancient universities, and even museums. Within the confines of an asylum, even the most mundane object has the power to make your imagination run away; a wheelchair, a master key ring, a tray of pills. They only hint at the madness and the despair you'll find within each room.

While this is all well and good, the problem is Asylum Blackout depends only on the "they're ALL crazy, be afraid!" mindset to shock its audience. It also relies on the idea that the insane behind their cell doors are just dying for a chance to take back, violently, the prison that houses them. In filmdom we're supposed to let that slide and not take things so seriously, but it can't help but feel as if there were a real missed opportunity to say something about the environment of the asylum and those that are housed there. A suggestion that one of the inmates, Pete, is meek and harmless is interesting and injects a little much needed humanity, but his character is never used to full effect. Instead, the innocent are stabbed with crowbars, and bare eyeballs endure tasers.

I've read of critics' dismissal of the film's twist ending (because every horror film needs one these days) but I rather like it. It's in keeping with the aforementioned sadness and despair that asylums exude. That is, until, the last horrific gag of the film - and then you're reminded that Asylum Blackout doesn't want to do anything other than shock you. And I suppose that's okay, depending on what you want. To expect anything more, however, is crazy.

Jan 16, 2013

IT'S A WONDERFULL LIFE

"Well, there I was so awfully dead in that electric chair. I didn't like it. Would you? It's upsetting. There was still so much killing to do, and there I was, in the void, without a body. But then along came - well - my friend. You know. One of them. Those others over there. The cruel ones... the Master. He thought my work should continue. But in this body. This body in particular, in fact. Let's call it revenge. A certain matter of an exorcism, I think, in which your friend Father Karras expelled certain parties from the body of a child. Certain parties were not pleased, to say the least. The very least. And so, my friend, the Master, he devised this petty scheme as a way of getting back, of creating a stumbling block, a scandal, a horror to the eyes of all men seeking faith, using the body of this saintly priest as an instrument of, well, you know - my work. But the main thing is the torment of your friend Father Karras as he watches while I rip and cut and mutilate the innocent, his friends, and again, and again, on and on! He's inside with us! He'll never get away! His pain won't end! 
... 
Gracious me. Was I raving? Please forgive me. I'm mad."

Jan 15, 2013

SHITTY FLICKS: HAPPY HELL NIGHT

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


“We only check on this one twice a week…to see if he’s STILL ALIVE,” grumbles a cynical-to-the-point-of-devious orderly, staring through the window into the dark cell, just one of many nestled in the Winfield Mental Hospital. His colleague, a nervous nurse, also peers through the window. Upon seeing the huddled figure in the dark room, she lets out an alarmed shriek, to which the orderly barely responds.

“Twenty-five years he’s been here. He doesn’t move or speak. I don’t even know how he’s still alive. Probably eats the bugs in there, I suppose,” he says, smiling like a dick, as if this is awesome. “It’s like he’s waiting for something.”

We then flashback to October 31st, 1963.

(Only two minutes in, and the core essence of Halloween is successfully ripped off.)

Henry Collins (Sam Rockwell, beginning his four-of-roughly fifteen-second appearance in this film), approaches a sleeping Father Cane with a bloody cross and beckons to him to help.

I say beckon because he literally doesn’t have any lines in this movie.

Father Cane obliges, venturing down into the creepy depths of an underground tomb located below his church (I think). His flashlight shines across disturbed coffins, bloody pentagrams dripping off the wall, and cut-off hands. It then shines across the figure of a man—sort of—albino, with dead black eyes, dressed in a priest's garb. The site of him, lit only by the beam of the flashlight, and set back in the corner of the room as if he were a frightened nocturnal creature that wasn’t supposed to be noticed, is genuinely unnerving.

For about two seconds.

Then he speaks.

“No peace!” it mutters, its voice sounding an awful lot like the fattest chipmunk brother of Alvin.

Father Cane runs out of the tomb, locking him in. I assume then that he is taken away by authorities and committed to a mental hospital where he will sit, not move, and eat bugs.

We flash forward to the present again and steadily go through our roster of teen characters for whom we will grow to deeply care, as they shove their tits into our faces and listen to bad early 90s garage rock.

Hey, guy with the bandanna: Bon Jovi called.

He said you’re a fairy.

Teening it up at a local college bar, a group of lovely young men see how many sex references they can cram into a single scene. Liz, the girlfriend of one of those men, Eric, whispers about a conflict with her girlfriend, and they both leave the smokey, punk music-ridden bar.

As Eric watches Liz leave, annoyed, he allays the concerns of the other guys that his brother, Sonny, will indeed be attending the frat’s Hell Night party that is to take place that night. As they all obnoxiously joke about the ridiculous stunt they will make him perform, in walks Ned Bara, host of STV (read: One Fuckhead in Front of a Sheet), the college’s very local-access one-man show. Bara looks alarmingly like Steve Buscemi, but uglier, if you can believe it. He’s definitely a future little-kid-lover.

He brags about having found the perfect tool in their soon-to-be-hazing of their frat candidate…and it involves the spooky hospital where the spooky albino eats spooky bugs and gives us the all-around creepers. He regales the dudes with the murderous events of 25 years past—and how all the victims were members of their very same frat!

The frat laughs it off and Bara leaves to prepare the next edition of his shitty show that still manages to be more useful to the world than Glenn Beck's.

Liz, though going steady with Eric, has a rendezvous with a mysterious biker with flowing black hair and dangerously crisp eyebrows. Boy, he’s dreamy…

And Sonny!

Eric’s brother!

Holy fragiole!

That’ll make for some tension at their next Easter brunch.

The local sheriff drops by the fraternity’s house for a visit, and to inquire about the whereabouts of Bara, and why he would have stolen documents from City Hall in regards to the local hospital. The boys play dumb, and the sheriff wanders over to the mantle and admires an old mountain pick affixed to a plaque; a plaque that had been awarded to Henry Collins, Eric’s father.

Let that be a reminder to you all, kids…even if you barely escape being mutilated by a demon albino priest, you can move on with your life and still accomplish life’s goals, like fucking until you have kids, and mountain climbing.

In what I have decided is my absolute favorite continuity error of all time, the sheriff leaves the two boys alone in their large common room to commiserate.

Eric sits on the couch in the common room with his hands at his side while his greasy looking friend sits in an armchair opposite of him.

“Hey Eric,” calls a voice from upstairs, and we cut to see a housemate standing at the stairwell. “Your father’s on the phone!”

We cut back to the common room and we see that Eric is now suddenly holding a red bowling ball on his lap…and that an entirely new character—a young man dressed in a fancy suit—is suddenly standing between the two chairs.

See for yourself:



Eric fields the call from his father…Henry Collins, formerly young Sam Rockwell, but now played by A Christmas Story’s Darren McGavin!

Henry says that he is calling to see if Sonny had made it to town, and what the big plans were for Hell Night.

Eric asks him what he knows about some frat members being murdered 25 years ago. Well, sudden discordant guitars, slow motion, and a worried Darren McGavin says it all…

It rocked!

In the scary way!

Following Henry’s unwanted flashback, we get a montage of a dark figure, fire, and other creepsters, finishing with a mood-killing shot of Sam Rockwell smiling a very goofy smile and laughing, looking the absolute happiest he’s ever been in his life. Its inappropriateness brings a laugh to my belly.

Sure, Sam Rockwell seemed affable enough, but only because
he was mere seconds from spitting a moon pie in your face.

Henry mumbles a lie and quickly hangs up on his son, only to immediately order a car to his office. Looks like Henry’s crashing Hell Night, too!

Gentleman, lock up your mothers!

Eric, on a drive through town, spots Sonny’s bike parked in the lot of a motel. He peers inside a window and sees his girlfriend atop Sonny’s bod, engaging in what appears to be—hinted at by his girlfriend’s expression—stimulating, but perplexing, sex. Instead of reacting in any perceivable way, Eric leaves.

And then Hell Night, the most rockingest party of ’91, begins! And you know it’s rocking, because a shitty punk song, whose lyrics are:








radiates throughout the room.

Sonny shows up to the party and sees his brother, Eric.

“What’s up?” Sonny asks.

Eric stares, hard.

“What’s up?” Sonny asks again, not befuddled.

“Where’s Liz?” Eric asks.

Sonny shrugs his shoulders. Eric then delivers a soundless punch to Sonny’s face.

Note to filmmakers: while it can be difficult to find that perfect sound effect for punching (like, say, Indiana Jones), always remember to at least use ANYTHING AT ALL.

Instead of explaining to the shocked bystanders the reason for the punch, Eric instead smarmily tells Sonny to get ready for his initiation, which Sonny obligingly does, instead of attempting to explain or apologize for fucking his brother’s girlfriend.

Sonny sneaks into the hospital along with Ralph, another frat boy who looks like the love child between Tate Donovan and Judge Reinhold, with a dash of Matthew Lillard thrown in to explain the not-so-bright-looking face.

Sonny and Ralph wander around a dark, basement hallway, trying to locate the cell of the albino jerk-off who ate a few boys back in the day. The boys unwisely remove a cross affixed to the door and look at it questioningly. Reasoning that no human being could ever survive in the cell they are examining, they assume that they were misled and ordered to break into what’s essentially an empty cell.

Well…not.

Ralph goes into the cell to take pictures and ends up taking pictures of the albino murderer himself!

Holy squirts!

He gets his hand ripped off and falls down.

Sonny, against his better judgment, goes into the cell and sees his friend bleeding like a vagina at the feet of the albino, real name Zachary Malius. Despite this movie’s decision to be awful, it, again, manages to be a little unnerving, as the albino villain with the eyes of dark oblivion stares emptily forward. Then they blow it. Again.

“I’m bleeding to death!” Ralph cries.

“No kidding!” replies Malius, as I sigh.

Dr. Underhand lost many patients on his watch.

The scene fades to black so as to make us assume Sonny also will get bled to death. Well, not. And if I ruined it for you, you’re taking this too seriously, and get away from me.

On his way out the door, the albino drops by the nurses’ station to say goodbye to the night nurse. He stabs a scalpel through her hand and through the remote under it, and though he is keeping her pinned down with his right hand, he manages to raise the same right hand with the same scalpel and make a single stabbing motion, leaving a deep gash in her throat.

Continuity, in case you hadn’t noticed, is not a high priority to Happy Hell Night.

“No TV,” he gurgles.

Meanwhile, at the party, Liz tries to explain to Eric why she is fucking his brother, but he only grasps his booze bottle, whines, and walks away.

Eric later meets up with Girl, played by Jorja Fox, who he swoons.

“Wanna fuck?” he suavely asks.

“Sure, why not? Later in life, I’ll be on 'CSI,'” says Jorja Fox, agreeing to the fuck.

Liz goes to see Bara, who is watching the monitor of a camera he has hidden in a room full of fucking. Bara creepily watches until he sees Liz standing behind him, and the two have a conversation unrelated to the fucking, all the while the fucking plays awkwardly behind them, in glorious George Lucas-surround.

In fact, for the rest of this movie, Bara will stay in his little room and record VHS tapes of his various frat brothers fucking various girls in their room, which, frankly, is one of the saddest lives ever lived by someone who looks so closely like Steve Buscemi.

And despite the fact that he appears just a few paragraphs above this one, albino killer priest hasn’t been in his own movie for roughly 30 minutes, nor has anything else really happened worth reenacting.

Eric and Jorja Fox enjoy some heavy petting, but when Eric leaves to find a rubber, she abandons him for no real reason other than she’s a girl, and she can.

Well, the quintessential albino defender of all blue balls everywhere finally shows up again, grasping that mountain climbing trophy pick. Plunging it down over the top of the car and directly into a Jorja Fox’s skull, he removes the blade, and rattles:

“No parking.”

Huh?

As Jorja Fox is dying, she solves the mystery surrounding her own death using Crime Scene Investigation techniques.

It was the pick in her brain.

"CSI" joke!

The albino, who I guess is making up for lost time, suddenly appears in the bathroom of a showering girl, whom he quickly dispatches.

“No sex,” he says, before the ensuing murder is brutally edited out of the sequence.

And he appears in yet ANOTHER room, this time hacking up a girl who had handcuffed herself to the bed, awaiting a cock.

After her offscreen death, he holds up the bloody handcuffs.

“No more.”

Sick of that, yet?

Meanwhile, Henry Collins meets Father Cane over at the church to discuss what needs to be done. Not much discussion is had, however, as Father Cane has been crucified on an upside down cross and hung from the church rafters.

Boy, for an albino, this guy sure has been busy. A pity we didn’t see ANY OF IT.

Liz wanders around the massacred house and finds everyone’s body one-by-one. Eventually she catches up with Eric, Sonny, and her friend, Susan, who was hidden in a closet.

And in one of those continuity-destroying moments with which this movie is riddled, we see the following:

Liz stands, clearly holding Susan’s hand offscreen, but with their two hands right in front of the camera.

“Susan, please, you’re going to break my hand!” she complains, insinuating that Susan is squeezing too hard.

Well, the camera cuts to a shot of Susan suddenly sitting in a chair with her back to everyone across the fucking room. And no, they weren't trying to set up a "Oh my God, I thought I was holding Susan's hand, but I was actually holding the killer's hand" scare. Instead, they opt to just ignore their own gaff completely.

The boys walk over and see that Susan is dead, her head tumbling to the floor.

Being that Susan was somehow killed and decapitated in the SAME ROOM where everyone is with no one noticing, the kids take up various weapons to help defend themselves.

Suddenly a figure lunges at them.

It’s Dad from A Christmas Story!

He tells his children of how the evil began, and Bara, watching this on one of his hidden camera monitors, attempts to broadcast it to the campus, because man, he really doesn’t know when to quit.

Well, Bara’s broadcast is cut short by the spike in his eye, administered by an albino.

“No STV.”

Jesus Christ.

At this point, the only living characters are Liz, Sonny, Eric, and Henry. And because they are all striking, in-depth characters, we will genuinely fear for their lives.

Haha.

As Henry boldly vows to right this wrong, he is hacked through the door and passes out. The kids barricade the door, and then lay the injured Henry in bed. In doing so, they find his journal that conveniently and painstakingly describes how to stop the evil.

As Eric and Liz shimmy out a window, Sonny turns to see that his father is no longer in bed. Sonny creeps down the hallway, not locating his father. He doubles back to the room and sees a figure lying on the bed, covered in a sheet. Sonny silently creeps forward, weapon in hand, and attacks, attempting to stop the killer before the killer can attack him!

Sonny delivers a very satisfying stab to the figure’s stomach, and oh crap, it’s Dad.

Henry sits up and stammers out a very unenthusiastic “YAAAAAAAH” before dying for good.

What the fuck was that, Henry?

Why did you momentarily get off the bed just to come back and lay down again?

Thanks, Darren McGavin. Thank God you made better movies which we can use to remember how great you were.

Liz and Eric attempt to begin the ritual down in the tomb where this bullshit began, but Eric leaves, citing worry over his brother. Well, Eric comes right back, but with a hook inserted just under his chin, and being drug by the albino.

He drops Eric, and Liz closes her eyes, awaiting her own whack.

Suddenly, Sonny’s whiny motorbike comes rushing in at the albino, aided by some super-cheesy obvious fast motion, and knocks the albino right down into a bear trap, which is there for some reason.

"Hmm...we're not ripping off Halloween enough..."
"Better."

As they continue the ritual, the albino grabs a conveniently placed scalpel and cuts his own hand off, freeing himself from the trap. He handcuffs himself to Sonny for reasons unknown, and Sonny stabs the albino in the heart, accepting the fact that he, too, would have to go to hell along with this displaced demon.

Get it? Sonny wanted in on Hell Night? And now he’s in hell? For real?

Get it?

Not all is lost, however. Liz climbs into an ambulance, since Eric’s still alive.

Somehow.

And together, they’ll forget all about the albino.

Oh wait, no they won’t. The albino is driving. And he’s got a hat on!

“No problem,” he says directly to us.

What’s not?

The end.

Jan 13, 2013

BEWARE

Her name was Mary Shaw...

...the ventriloquist who lost her voice.

 

Ever since she was buried, Raven's Fair has been plagued by death. 


Families...murdered. 


They were found without their tongues, posed in family portraits.  



No one in this town dares speak Mary Shaw's name, let alone go near her grave.




They know she won't stop killing until the screaming does...