Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coming Soon...

 Just wanted to apologize for lack of posts these last few weeks!  Marie and I are hard at work on the upcoming Halloween Festival of Lists!  The "Festival" is something I did for the first time last year...and it was a whole lot of work and nearly wore me out.  I really had no intention of doing it again.
Then Marie signed on as my writing partner and asked me very nicely if we could do the month of lists again.  And I caved.

So starting Monday, October 1st, we will bring you a different list, every day of the month.  What makes these lists different is that the quantity of items in each list coordinate with the day of the month. As in: October 15: Fifteen Ghastly Ghosts (not actually one of the lists this time, sorry - just an example).
Some of the lists we're tweaking are Favorite Villains, Wretched Remakes, Victims We Were Sad To See Go, Sexy Horror Stars, Famous Gravesites...

We've worked countless hours and put a lot of work into this year's Halloween feature, so hopefully you guys find it fun & interesting.

See you Monday!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Roost (2005) : Bats Always Get A Bad Rap

My biggest problem with Ti West's films are the character narratives. They are so. damn. boring.  This was definitely the case (to a lesser degree) with House of the Devil and most certainly with The Innkeepers. And I'd be lying if I said The Roost was any different. I think West tries to make his films too true to life, because let's face it -in life we ramble on and on about absolutely nothing most of the time. Meaningless conversations are the norm, if I'm being honest.  But that doesn't mean I want to sit and watch it for twenty minutes on film, waiting for something - ANYTHING - to start to happen!

Because of the insanely boring dialogue, it makes the characters seem impossibly inane and even harder to give a shit about.  What Ti West does have going for him is an uncanny ability to present thick and delicious atmosphere that very few directors can top. In the three above films I mentioned, atmosphere is the key ingredient.  Dark roads, forboding houses, fog rolling in, strange noises, and unexpected twists and turns...all while we patiently wait between dialogue for something to occur.  In The Roost, West's first feature-length directorial outing, we sure do wait. And wait.  I love a slow burn just like the next guy but man, this is ridiculous.

Before we even get to the "real" film, there is an extended little vignette that is in black and white and introduces us to a television horror host played by none other than Tom Noonan (yay!).  I'll admit, this prelude did add a bit to the film.  It was sort of a tamed down version of something Rob Zombie did two years prior in House of 1000 Corpses.  It is here where you can tell a director who has a serious love of the genre and the old thrillers that were played in the wee hours of the morning, hosted by various characters over the years.
Here, the horror host describes the upcoming film, almost poking fun at it before it begins.
It should be noted that though this is a low-budget outing, West does a good job evoking creepiness and impending doom. 

Four friends (well, I think they're friends- for a while it's hard to tell!) are driving to another friend's Halloween wedding, (which incidentally must be an uber-casual affair - from the way our quartet are dressed in jeans and sweatshirts) when they are driving through a covered bridge and a giant bat slams into their windshield, causing them to (of course) wreck the car, stranding themselves in the deep dark woods.  As is common horror movie tactics, the foursome treks off into the night to look for help.

 Meanwhile, an elderly couple are locking up their house and packing their truck for an apparent trip of some kind.  The little missus asks Gramps if he locked the barn and with a rolling of the eyes, he goes to check.  Unfortunately he has never noticed the giant fucking horde of huge-ass bats roosting there (it is his barn, isn't it?) and he meets an untimely (or timely, as the case may be - he IS quite old!) death, as does his wife when she comes to check on him.
Yep, them there bats are huge- like vampire bats, ya hear?

Naturally our lost kids (again, forgive me as I can't recall any of their names and am too lazy to look them up because quite frankly, I don't care) end up at said house and from there it's just death to all humans.  Weirdly though, West thought it wasn't enough to have giant vampire bats picking off his cast one by one.  Instead, he bizarrely has the victims turn into zombies when bitten by the bats (or by other zombies, natch).
Um, okay.  I was seriously okay with just the bats.  But I guess it wasn't gory enough. Zombies eating people is almost always bloodier than simple bat bites!

Interrupting the film with 'Tom Noonan The Horror Host' at key places within the film was a bit goofy as well. Much as I liked the beginning of the movie and its nostalgic throw back to the Chiller Theater days, it was a little bit disruptive to have it in the middle of the film.

Once again, I have to reiterate how un-enamored I was with the characters. We are not given any back story whatsoever on them and therefore tend not to have any sympathy going forward.  I could barely recall their names by the end  middle of the film.  (West's The Innkeepers was far superior in this, at least. We really got to know the two leads - even though again we are bored to damn tears by their mundane conversations. I think we are supposed to get a hipster feel from them, that they are cooler than they actually are).   

The Roost does do one thing right. It doesn't drag the film out too long. If this would've been a two hour film I think I'd have possibly hung myself from my ceiling fan. Thankfully, it only runs an abbreviated 80 minutes long.

All in all, I can't say I loved The Roost. Far from it. But I didn't hate it and it does have some decent action and gratifying gore, and like I said, atmosphere is key here.  And lets not forget how damn cool it is to watch people get attacked by giant  vampire bats, that always rates high in my book! You could do a lot worse.  But even Ti can do better. And does.  Somehow though, this movie ranked as one of the Top 10 Movies of 2005 by Bloody-Disgusting.  Was 2005 really that bad of a year for horror?

* By all means though, stick around for the extras, which include Ti West's student film: Prey, as well as an interesting little piece on bats that debunks them as creatures of horror and helps to educate on what an important and valuable asset they are!  Bat conservation rocks!

Monday, September 10, 2012

V/H/S (2012): The Anthology Lives!

Review by Marie Robinson

Greetings, darlings! I have been immensely excited for this film since I first heard about it several months ago. I discovered it by looking up director Ti West’s (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) filmography, eager to see what he was going to come up with next. At the time his next project was an anthology-style film called V/H/S, which sounded awesome, and had a bad-ass trailer. In fact, I believe I mentioned it at the end of my review of The Innkeepers. It became my most anticipated film of the year.

You may know that the film was released On Demand this past week, and although I really wanted to see it on the silver screen when it came to St. Louis in October, I could not pass up the opportunity.

The frame story is about a group of assholes that make money off of videos in the “up-skirt” fashion. One of them (we’ll call him Mustache) says that a guy tipped him off about a video that will cash in for a ridiculous amount of money; all they have to do is steal it from a guy’s house.

When the group arrives at the house and break in they find the owner of the house, an elderly man, dead in his armchair in front of several sets of staticky televisions. Whoever tipped off Mustache told him that they are looking for one specific tape; this man happens to have stacks of them, all unlabeled. The only way they can find “the one” is to watch them.

Each tape was done by a separate director; a list that consists of David Bruckner, Glen McQuaid (I Sell the Dead, Stake Land), Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard, a group of directors called Radio Silence, and of course, Ti West.

I was SO excited for this movie that I was actually terrified that it was going to disappoint me horribly. Lucky, it was AWESOME!

Seriously, I’m not exaggerating. There are things that could lead you to believe that it is unoriginal. For example, it is a found footage piece and it is the anthology-style, there are dozens of each. However, this film is different from any other film you have experienced. The frame story and each individual “tape” are each completely original and refreshing. Oh, did I mention that this film is fucking scary? Hands down, the most terrifying film I’ve seen all year. I might also add that it is not for the faint of heart; it has gore that “goes there”.

It is stylish, it is clever, and it deserves applause from the horror community. These directors give us hope for the future of the genre, which we need with so many stupid films making money in the mainstream box office (The Apparition and The Possession are two good examples).

Speaking of horror anthologies, I caught wind of another one coming up next month. Called The ABCs of Death, it is a collection of 26 short films, each by a different director, and each film corresponds with a letter in the alphabet.
Obviously each word will be somehow related to horror, what the word may be was left up to the directors, themselves. Ti West is also on board with this one, as well as Adam Wingard, Ben Weatley (director of Kill List), and a directorial debut by beloved genre actress Angela Bettis (favorite of director Lucky McKee).

There is a short trailer/promo thing for it on IMDB, so check that out if you are interested.
It is scheduled to release on September 15th in Canada, October 4th in Russia, and November 2nd in the US (limited).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lovely Molly (2012): The Slow Burn Returns

From half the team that brought us The Blair Witch Project comes a film that is easily the most unsettling film I've seen so far this year.  Directed by Eduardo Sanchez, Lovely Molly is somewhat of an enigma, as it was rather like several sub-genres of horror working together to present a tense though somewhat melodramatic movie that will leave an impression on the viewer that is hard to shake.  It's got elements of the supernatural which weave into demonic overtones, yet it's a ghostly thriller morphing into drama here and there as well.  And it's downright scary.

Let me get this out of the way first.  Sometimes I tire of horror fans being so hard on films.  Everyone wants things wrapped up in a big bow, tying up all the loose ends and rejoicing in the Disney ending that has everyone slapping each other on the back and guffawing in how wonderfully things worked out.  Ugh.  I like diversity.  I like ambiguous endings. I like characters that endure difficult situations and sometimes don't come out smelling like a rose.
Which is no doubt why I thoroughly enjoyed Lovely Molly.

When Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis, whom I recognized from Sons of Anarchy) move into her childhood home out in the country (I've yet to understand why on earth  people move into their family's old country house/estate when there are horrific memories of something awful that happened either at the house or to the people that live there...or both.  But time and time again, it happens.) it's quickly made known that Molly has had some issues.  With her dad.  With drugs. And evidently with her mind. But she's freshly married and starting a new life!  Ahem...then why would she move back to the likely source of her past undoing?  Maybe it was free? Yeah, we'll go with that.  People that are not rolling in dough oft make impulsive decisions that backfire miserably. We've all been there, right?

Almost immediately, things start to happen to rattle Molly.  Because Tim is a truck driver and spends days at a time away from home, he has an alarm system installed which promptly goes off in the middle of the night.
After calling the police to come investigate, they find nothing amiss except the back door hanging open.  While nothing comes of that incident, once Tim leaves Molly begins to experience things in the house. Voices that seem to be calling her name, odd sounds (was that a horse snorting?), and shadows that draw her to explore places like the basement and the old stables.  Her father's den seems to be an especially sore spot for Molly, yet she pays particular attention to it, staring at the many photos of horses and her father around the room.  Enticed to open a closet door in her old bedroom after hearing a child's voice crying, the film cuts as she starts to go inside - and this is when all bets are off. 

Molly's sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) fears that her sister might be back on drugs when Molly swears to her that their father is still alive. Previous to this, she has in fact enabled Molly's nasty habit by giving her a joint or two on her birthday when Tim was away.  Hannah not only knows for a fact that their father is not still alive, (as we soon find out that she is the one who killed him), but has serious reservations about Molly being back in this house where she can be reminded of "whatever" happened between Molly and their dad. Perhaps he was sexually assaulting Molly?  That information is inferred but never truly spoken of outright.  Again, why she would move into this house (and why Tim would even want to, knowing how much pain it caused his wife) is beyond me.  But it makes for good scares.

Molly's fears escalate as she fears someone - her father? - is following her every move.  She starts to slack off at work and act extremely peculiar.  She is disheveled and cocky, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable.  There is a scene that comes off in a very "The Entity"-kind of way, where an unseen assailant is violently raping Molly at the end of a hallway.  And for some reason, Molly likes to hang out naked a lot.  A scene where Tim comes home from work and finds her sitting naked on a bed staring at the wall is disconcerting. 

The film does have a bit of serious violence and a touch or two of gore.  There are some scenes with Molly interacting with the local minister and one with a deer in the basement (yep, you read that right) that beg an explanation - but don't be thinking that you're actually going to get one.  Molly also takes to following a woman and a young child around for some reason, filming them at random. There is a lot to be confused about here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  As I stated, I like a little ambiguity with my scares.  I won't say Lovely Molly was frightening, in the way that oh say....The Shining was frightening.  Lovely Molly has more of an agitating haze over it.  

There is also some hand-held camera work here.  But don't let that dissuade you.  It's not like Paranormal Activity or Sanchez's claim to fame, The Blair Witch Project.  The hand-held scenes are for dramatic effect only.  The very first scene is a very distraught Molly, speaking into a camera about how something wasn't her fault. It sets the tone for the rest of the film, making the viewer aware that it's not your average horror movie.

I, for one, thought Gretchen Lodge as Molly was a total revelation.  She absolutely owns the part, baring her soul (and everything else!) and digging down deep to give one of the best performances in a horror film in quite a few years, if I'm being honest.  She was so utterly believable, so honest and authentic that I simply can't wait to see what she does next.  She transforms the film from average to distinctively interesting.

There are some disturbing visuals in this movie, and the last ten minutes are no doubt the creepiest in the whole film.  They will certainly have you wondering if Molly is simply depressed and faltering in her surroundings, back to being a raving addict, possessed by a demonic entity, or simply psychotic - in the worst possible way. 

And like I mentioned previously, if you like things to end with all your ducks in a row, you'll be pretty pissed off.  But if you're like me and things can go haywire and end abruptly, you'll be smiling while you scratch your head -  because the best part of this film is trying to decide what might have been going on - and what happened next.  The truth in layman's terms:  Do yourself a favor and see this creepy film, stat.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Eden Lake (2008) : Tell Me Again Why We Didn't Go To Paris?

Written and directed by James Watkins (The Woman in Black, 2012) and produced by the makers of The Descent, Eden Lake is a smart yet disturbing tale of romantic weekend plans gone completely awry.

Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender, before he was MICHAEL FASSBENDER!) are a couple very much in love who are off for a weekend holiday of camping at an off-the-beaten-path lake.  Steve even has the engagement ring in his pocket, awaiting the perfect moment. As they journey by Jeep through the rugged woods to their destination, they nearly wreck into a gang of teenage delinquents on bicycles. Averting that disaster, they once again encounter the hoodlums when they are settling in for a lakeside afternoon on the beach.  The gang makes it a point to blare their rap music at full blast as they party obnoxiously, and their Rottweiler continually makes his way down the beach to the couple's campsite, barking threateningly.  The duo tries to endure the group's mischief and manages to make it through the night.

As morning comes, Steve and Jenny find that their food has been infested with bugs so they decide to make their way to town to look for somewhere to chow.  Steve runs over a bottle that was purposely left under his tire and hastily fixes the tire, cursing that someone needs to reprimand the brats.  They try out the local diner and ask their waitress if she has seen the gang of kids on bikes, admitting to her that they have been harassed by them.  Unfortunately the waitress is one of the kid's mother. Oops! (I might have waited until after lunch before mentioning the gang. Pretty sure they got some spit with their eggs that day.)

Driving back to the campsite (which I wouldn't have even bothered to go back to at this point!), Steve notices the gang's bikes outside a house.  He stupidly checks it out, letting himself into the house.  While searching around, a father of one of the kids shows up and this forces Steve to hide, then dangerously leave through a window and slide down the roof from upstairs, only to jump a fence and run back to the jeep, just missing the wrath of the pissed off Dad, who has been shouting for his son since he walked in the door.  (Now really, isn't it time to hit the road and get out of Dodge? But noooooooo!)

Back at the beach (!), Steve decides to go snorkeling while Jenny takes a nap. (As if I would be able to sleep, knowing those assholes are around somewhere!).  When he heads back to shore, they notice their gear bag is gone.  As are Steve's wallet, cell phone, and car keys.  Uh-oh.  Naturally, when they return to where the Jeep was parked, it is missing.  Soon they are being chased menacingly by the group. 

After searching for awhile, they finally come across the gang hanging out at a campsite and Steve commands their apparent leader Brett (Jack O'Connell) to give back his things.  When Brett produces a knife, he and Steve begin to brawl and somehow in the scuffle Steve accidentally stabs the dog, mortally wounding him.  Brett loses his mind and when Steve and Jenny secure the keys and drive off in the Jeep, he and the rest of the gang chase them on their bikes.

As in every movie like this, Steve somehow manages to wreck the Jeep, getting himself stuck in the car. Jenny is able to escape and she runs off to get help.  She hides in the woods until daylight (so much for going to get help!) and returns to find Steve gone.  She hears a commotion and follows the voices to a clearing where she sees them torturing Steve, who is tied up with barbed wire.  The boys take turn stabbing Steve while Paige (the lone girl in the group) videos it with her phone.  (It should be mentioned that not everyone in this gang of punks are willing accomplices, and in fact in many instances some seem to want to run - until Brett forces their compliance by filming them all taking an active role in mangling and tormenting Steve.)

When Jenny is spotted, the gang takes off after her on bikes, which allows Steve to get away. He's lost a great deal of blood though, so when Jenny finally finds him she does some makeshift first-aid and they plot together to try to get out of the mess they are in.  And it's a chaotic and horrific mess, to say the least. Suffice it to say, Steve will have difficulty finding that 'perfect moment' to propose.

Eden Lake is a visceral, nasty-ass film that holds nothing back and yet seems entirely possible. There are no monsters in the traditional sense - no aliens, no ghosts, nothing supernatural.  It's just man against man in the most primal sense of the word. While Steve and Jenny would seem to have the upper hand, because they are adults, have a car, and most importantly - have the opportunity (several of them, actually) to just leave and write it off as a weekend from hell, they unfortunately drop the ball not once, not twice, but several times - allowing their younger counterparts to use their knowledge of the territory in which they live to their benefit, which it turns out is the greatest advantage of all. 

Whether or not Steve and Jenny make it out of the woods intact and are able to salvage their weekend (and their lives) is not for me to tattle here, for I don't think telling the ending is the best way to close this post.
But I will say that this is a truly frightening and tense film, one that I really enjoyed.  The acting is excellent, though the British accent of the lead bully Brett can sometimes be hard to understand.  He speaks quickly, and if you're not from in country it might be difficult to hear everything.  My husband kept saying "what did he say?" - so I know it wasn't just me.  But what we lose in translation is made up by the gritty performance he puts in as the cruel and sadistic villain here.

Obviously Watkins is a director to watch, though I find it curious that something as ferocious as Eden Lake was his first film, and his second turns out to be this year's remake of The Woman in Black, a classic English ghost story. Seems unlikely, yet it could prove that he is a man of many talents, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. 

All in all, I would have to recommend Eden Lake very enthusiastically.  It's not every day that a film can get this 'terrorizing-a-loving-couple' formula even half-way decent, so to have something of this caliber come along is a real treat.  The only films of late that I find to be on equal footing are perhaps The Strangers (2008) and Them (Ils, 2006)
If you haven't seen Eden Lake yet, don't be afraid to check it out.  You'll thank me later.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mindless Movie Monday: The Pack (2010)

Review by Marie Robinson

Greetings, my ghastly readers! I have been slacking my bum off lately because I just started school up again. I hope you haven’t taken my absence the wrong way.

Just yesterday I watched a French film—The Pack (la Muete)—hailing from 2010. I was kind of going for a mediocre, easy-to-digest film at the time and this little eighty-four minute flick suited my mood perfectly.

It starts off with our protagonist, Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne), a pretty but angsty young woman cruising down the road. Her plan is to drive until the sun goes down and her stack of heavy metal CDs run out. She is being tailed by three extremely unsavory motorcyclists, one on them a presumed ex-love. To avoid them, she pulls over to pick up a hitchhiker (Benjamin Biolay). I don’t know how things are in France, but I have always had the common sense not to pick up strangers off the side of the road, especially when you are a lonesome female. Anyway, she thinks this is a good idea and takes off with the quiet, dark-haired, nameless boy.

Darling Charlotte seems to be toting this “bad-ass, chain-smoking, don’t-give-a-fuck” attitude, traits that I would usually like in a woman, but goddamit she will not stop making stupid decisions. I mean REALLY stupid. As fatigue sets in on the long drive, she decides to take a little napsy-poo in the passenger seat and let Stranger Danger McGee drive! I mean, I’m sure that’s what any of us would do, right? NO!!!

Tall, dark, and creepy drives them up to a small backwoods saloon called La Spack. Charlotte and the hitchhiker settle in and have a cup of coffee, a couple packs of cigarettes (seriously, these two never stop smoking); they’re tellin’ some jokes, havin’ a great time, and guess who shows up.

Oh, you already know it’s those biker douche bags, come to start some trouble. As some sort of fight/rape is about to ensue, La Spack, herself (Yolande Moreau, who I recognized instantly from Amelie), appears with a rifle and chases the bikers out of the place. Charlotte sits down to collect herself while hitchhiker goes to the restroom. 

After several moments pass and stranger boy has not returned, Charlotte goes to investigate. She doesn’t find the boy, but she does find a mysterious door that has been covered over with wallpaper. When she asks La Spack about the door, the woman simply answers that it has always been locked up.

When night falls, Charlotte returns to the saloon, breaking in to unlock the covered door. She succeeds in opening it, but is unable to explore her findings because she gets a two-by-four cracked over her head.

This girl… she is just so dumb! I’m not saying that she deserves to wake up in a basement, in a cage, imprisoned by La Spack and her son—the hitchhiker, but come on, what was this chick thinking. I guess she was just trying to be nice, seeing if little hitchhiker (Who’s name is Max, by the way) was okay…

This movie was entertaining enough, original enough, but it wasn’t anything special. Granted, it is writer/director Frank Richard’s first and so far only film.
The character development is unsteady and confusing; one minute someone is good, the next someone is bad. The action and suspense lacks grip, the soundtrack is terrible, and there are countless plot holes. It is no surprise we didn’t hear any Oscar buzz about The Pack, but it is a film that you can pop on if you are killing some time, or brain cells; no thought required.

Duh! I forgot to mention the pack, itself. When you hear that phrasing, the first thing you probably think of is werewolves—but that is not the case in this film. It actually refers to these blind, pale, fully clothed ghouls that live in the dirt and rise only to feed on human flesh. They look to me like a cross between the cave dwellers in The Descent and the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. Sounds cute, right?
This little jewel is streaming on Netflix!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Bloody Sunday


The Blood Splattered Bride

Piranha ('78)
Premutos: The Fallen Angel

The Sentinel