Archive for the Horror Showcase Category

RINGS: The Rebirth of an icon

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , on February 12, 2017 by splatterpictures

RINGS.jpg

We’ve all got something coming up we’d rather not do. Some complicated project at work, a driver’s test, a dentist appointment. If you’re a creative writer then nothing makes you shit bricks more than an upcoming deadline. Death by appointment is a concept both alien in a literal sense but familiar in a figurative sense.  That is what Samara is to me.

Given the fact that I’m known the world over, or at least to anyone who has been listening to the podcast over the last few years as a massive Ring fan I felt it necessary to return to my written roots of splatterpictures.net. I’ve just seen the latest installment of the Ring franchise out of the West and even though they’ve been released with some regularity over in Japan with the latest being the highly enjoyable monster-mash of Kayako vs Sadako, it’s been twelve years since the last American installment.

The latest entry in the franchise saw its fair share of production woes including a frustrating series of release date changes that saw this film booted from the prestigious horror release month of October to the horror movie dump months of January and February. Not good signs for anyone who pays attention to film. It usually means a studio isn’t confident with the end result. To some horror fans they could see the writing on the wall.

Although I am a Ring fan I am not an undiscerning one. I was vocal about my dissatisfaction with The Ring II, finding it a significant step down from its predecessor. Over in Japan I was even more critical of Sadako 3D, finding it a total mess of a movie. I bring this up because despite what a good majority of reviewers are saying I find this not only a solid entry in the franchise but an excellent movie in the overall sense. Call me a contrarian if you must but hear me out.

The film starts off with the airplane sequence that was widely available as part of the films marketing campaign. It serves to establish Samara as an absolute force of nature that can and will crash a plane to get her intended victim. Also, the panicked victim encounters a fellow passenger who also saw the tape but made a copy and is thus safe. Except for the fact that the plane is going down. Bad luck, lady.  Beyond the power of Samara what this shows us is that over a decade after the events of the first film, the cursed videotape is far more widespread than a few local teenagers gossiping about it in the halls.

I loved how this film needles our vintage loving culture. Some people might roll their eyes at the idea of a cursed VHS tape in 2017 but I know just as many people who claim the only true way to listen to music is vinyl and you can only watch Cannibal Holocaust off a bootlegged VHS tape on a barely working SD television for it to even count.  Although, this is merely a jumping off point. It takes no time at all for the cursed Videotape to finally take the leap to digital.

Our main protagonists, Julia and Holt, played by Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe, don’t do a hell of a lot for me in terms of characters. They are young, hot and in love. End of story. I’m fine with this because by the third installment of a horror franchise I am here to see Samara Morgan, not get to know a couple of love sick Abercrombie & Fitch models but, they are both serviceable in their roles. Although, that first scene needed a redraft.

While I’m on the negative I will say that the script shows a certain lack of trust in the audience. Characters often verbalize things to make sure the audience is keeping up with plot points. It can result in some clunky-ass dialogue but this is a minor complaint. I will say that because of all this expository dialogue this film actually stands alone. You don’t need to see the previous installments to know everything that’s going on.

Rings4.jpgThe real interest lies within Johnny Galecki’s character of Gabriel. Gabriel is a college professor who acquired the cursed tape that was lodged within a VCR he buys at a flea market.  The Ring II for all its flaws had an amazing bonus feature on the DVD that was a short movie depicting a group of teenagers who dared each other to watch the tape. They would then find others to copy the tape and free them from the curse.  This concept merely flirted with on the second film in a bonus feature many likely didn’t see, is in full effect on this film. Years after he watched the tape we find Gabriel is alive and well and running a secret study about the tape where he convinces his students to watch it and then he finds “tails” for currently cursed students to pass their death sentences on to one another in an endless cycle.  One of which is Julia’s boyfriend Holt. This is about the part of the film that I became incredibly engrossed. You think you can predict where it’s going and frankly it would have been enough for me that they pushed the franchise forward in this direction but then they give you even more.

After one of the students fails to find a tail, dying in a way befitting such an unfortunate event, everyone drops out and Holt is left dangling in the wind. With a few hours left until his week is up Julia watches the video. However, something is very different this time. When Julia tries to make her copy it fails and we find out that the reason it does is because the file size has changed. A little investigation shows that within the cursed tape and seemingly for Julia’s eyes only there is a secret message. Additional information that starts Julia on a vision quest to go back to where it all started.

By this time I was immersed. Not only immersed but  I was under the water and then the lid of the well was sealed shut. I was in. In a franchise that the public audience knows inside and out they had the balls to add more to the story.  I’ve heard some complaints that this is both unnecessary and convoluted. On the contrary. I feel that this is not only critical to pushing a franchise forward but it wasn’t convoluted at all. I’m not even that smart of a person and I could follow everything perfectly.

Julia and Holt try to piece together what her vision might mean and they encounter a blind priest named Burke played by the amazing Vincent D’Onofrio.  I was so thrilled to see him in this film. He does what he does best. Play a giant and intimidating guy that just might snap at any minute.

They have more than enough tense sequences to get the blood pumping, a fascinating new mystery to uncover and they show immense restraint with the use of Samara. Yes she’s in the film often enough but there are other threats in this film to consider. I think anyone coming in to this film wanting to see Samara be a bad-ass will be very pleased. Modern special effects have been very very kind to the gruesome ghost girl. There is a sequence that involves cicadas that’s instant classic to me.

TRIngs2.jpghe last half of this movie is just amazing. Even though Julia and Holt don’t have the benefit of being intrepid reporters like Naomi Watts character of the first film, they still manage to have several really cool moments of investigating what we find out, to be the true origin of Samara Morgan. I won’t give it away in this review but I will tell you it’s dark as fuck. I loved it. The final twist is something so delicious that I am on my hands and knees begging for a sequel. It cements the fact that Samara will play on your sympathy but, make no mistake. She is and always will be a being of pure malevolence. And she will never stop.

I submit to you dear readers that not only is this a worthy addition to the Ring legacy but that it’s also the kind of Ring movie I’ve wanted to see for over a decade.  This film takes familiar themes and expands upon them, shoots them in a new way and then bravely adds to it. They did it. It’s good and even if every other review pisses all over it I will buy this  when it comes out on blu-ray and then, like it was a cursed tape, show it to as many people as I possibly can in hopes that they will do the same. Almost as if my very life depended on it.

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Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol 1 (review)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by splatterpictures

 

 

What’s going on at Nuke Em High? Jesus Christ, that’s what I’d like to know…

 

 

 

It’s beeReturn-to-Nuke-Em-High-Postern awhile. I left to chase the comic book dragon for a couple of years and at least for now I have an immense burning desire to return to celebrating horror. (Technically reviewing them) Since I’ve been away there have been a lot of comings and goings in the horror movie industry but, considering that this is a return for me I want to talk a little about Return to Nuke Em High Vol 1. Like me, it’s an instalment to a franchise that hasn’t seen life in about twenty years. Well I haven’t been away that long but it sure feels like it. Let’s go!

 

 

 

Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol 1 is as the name suggests. It’s not only a return to the Troma franchise Class of Nuke Em High from 1986 it’s also the first part of a two part movie. Apparently Quentin Tarantino told Director and co-founder of Troma, Lloyd Kaufman to split up the film in to two parts like Kill Bill. The Film Stars Asta Paredes and Catherin Corcoran.

 

 

The film opens with narration (provided by Stan Lee) that breezes us past the last three movies general plot which is; a high school in Tromaville that’s built next to a nuclear power plant. We’re then told that Nuclear activism is passé so instead the plant is demolished and replaced by Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. They are evil and power hungry. So much so that they end up feeding toxic Taco’s to the student body. The foodstuffs still contain the very same toxins from the nuclear plant and well…they mutate the kids in to Cretins. Cretins are essentially evil 80’s punk-rockers.

"We thought we were in that other "return" movie"

“We thought we were in that other “return” Movie”

 

Troma films have their own brand of humour, violence and sensibility that make them wholly unique as a company’s brand but not on an individual level. What I mean by that is that this film will feel very familiar to Troma fans. Viewers unfamiliar with the company will be taken aback by the amount of nudity and violence in it. It goes for it in a big way. Duck-Rape, melting bodies, giant mutated dicks the works.

 

Casual people may dismiss it as crass and cheap entertainment but there are moments where this movie’s humour is brilliant. By calling attention to absurd plot points or the narrative structure it generates genuine laughs that won’t make you feel too immature for going along with. I liked all of the casting in this movie. From the leads to the minor characters, everyone seemed very game with the material. Also, the amount of cameos in this thing is ridiculous, most of them friends of Lloyds and independent films who took one afternoon out to do minor scenes. Christ, some of them could have been filmed at any time.

 

The weaker moments in the film are honestly hard to really pin-point. The frantic script is something of a patchwork. For all of the diologue that’s fast, slick and genuinely funny there are just as many moments that are dumb and cliché. Three official hands passed over it; Travis Campbell, Derek Dressler and Aaron Hamel. If that wasn’t enough there was added material by Lloyd Kaufmen and Casey Clapp.

 

 

Kaufman’s hand in direction and “added material” are very apparent. He’s a man who does a lot of interviews so if you follow him as many fans do you can tell he let’s his opinions and humour speak through many of his characters. I Honestly believe I can pick out any line he wrote himself. Mainly jokes involving Obama care, Justin Beiber and Miley Cirus. These Jokes come off as lazy and will do nothing but serve to lock the film within the timeframe it was made. They also poke fun at kids obsession with cell phones and instagram. In a word. Snore. It seems very much like the franchise that started in 1986 was still trying to exist there with a few pop cultural jokes to make it current but oddly comes off as anachronistic Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but they were eye rolling as oppose to laugh inducing. There are ways to do that kind of humour beyond the joke itself being saying that Justin Bieber exists.

 

The special effects are fantastic which I’ve come to expect from this company. People die in gooey gruesome and outrageous fashion. Myself being a fan of Japanese Grindhouse, the giant mutated dicks and breast milk didn’t phase me but the uninitiated might be shocked. The apathy of the characters towards the copious amounts of sex and violence in the movie is oddly charming.

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“It’s exactly what it looks like”

 

The biggest problem this film has is the ending. While, I realize it’s meant to be cut up in to two pieces I think it could have been cut up better. I’ve taken some time to consider the plot and have come to realize that the reason I disliked the ending is because it doesn’t have one. If we take, for example, Kill Bill which was also one movie cut in two, both parts still adhere to a basic three act structure. This film however, doesn’t really have a climax. Nor does it really have a cliff-hanger. It just sort of ends. Considering this film has a very sparse eighty minute run time I think they could have goosed up the material and maybe brought this film to a satisfying conclusion or even just set it up so you’re excited for the next one. People on the fence with this movie will not be compelled to seek out the next one at all.is a shame because there is some great stuff here.

 

Return to Nuke’em High is a really fun movie and comes within striking distance of being as good as the original but I honestly believe breaking it up in to two movies was a huge mistake. We’ll have to see how Vol 2 plays out but until it does I don’t recommend bothering with Vol 1 until you can view both films together.

Dracula’s Daughter

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags on October 2, 2012 by splatterpictures

We’re hitting up another classic horror movie with Dracula’s Daughter. I realize the one I just did was Son of Frankenstein – I guess I am in the mood to talk about the succession on famous monsters (or I guess creators of famous monsters in Frankenstein’s case)

I have long had the secret shame that isn’t so secret that I don’t really like 1931’s Dracula. Although I would never deny its significance to horror or film history nor would I knock Bela  Lugosi’s performance which today over 80’s years later is still the most recognizable portrayal of horrors most famous vampire. For one reason or another that I’m certain would be heavily contested it was never one of my favorite universal creations. Dracula’s Daughter on the other hand has always remained fascinating to me.

The creation of this film went through a lot of stages before finally ending up officially in Universal’s hands. One of the biggest problems of going forward with the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was how to have a sequel when the titular vampire had met his end in the final act of the original film. One of the solutions was adapting a film based off of the supposedly omitted chapter of the original novel that’s called Dracula’s guest. However the script went through so many changes due to 1930’s censorship that the film in question uses nothing from the works at all.

Finally released in 1936 after many changes the film stars the Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska or as she’s revealed in the film “Dracula’s Daughter”. Now it’s never made perfectly clear but my assumption is that she isn’t his biological daughter but rather someone who had also been turned in to a vampire. Kinda like the Brides of Dracula thing.

The story starts off immediately following the events of the first movie. Two police officers discover the dead Renfield and staked Dracula. (FUN FACT: Bela Lugosi wasn’t in the film but his likeness was used for the wax dummy they used for the body) The only survivor there is Von Helsing played again by Edward Von Sloan. He admits to killing the count and is arrested and to be set to stand trial for murder. He of course believes that he can’t be charged with murder because he killed someone who was already dead. He sends for an old pupil of his Doctor Garth (Otto Kruger) who’s now a psychologist to argue his sanity.

Meanwhile a mysterious woman named Countess Marya comes to London to retrieve Dracula’s body. Not to resurrect it but to destroy it. The reality is that Marya loathes that she is a vampire and wants nothing more than to be a normal person once more. Yet, every night she can’t help her cravings for blood and sets upon the city for fresh victims.  She becomes fascinated by Doctor Garth and his comments he makes to her at a party about the mind being able to conquer mental illness and demands that he help him. When it becomes obvious she is the one committing the crimes he refuses her and in a desperate act she kidnaps his assistant then brings her back to Transylvania in order to lure the good doctor to her to make a choice: Save the girl or become her immortal partner.

The films high points are definitely the interaction between Countess Marya and her assistant Sandor played by Irving Pichel. While she is miserable being a vampire and longs for a normal life – he revels in the reality that she is a bloodthirsty killer and also wants to become a vampire. Really, Holden’s performance in this film is something that ahs stood the test of time. She plays a strong aristocratic woman that has an equal sense of superiority as well as a healthy does of self-hatred.  It portrays the curse of vampirism as an addiction that she can’t help but fight.  Even though some of the lesbian undertones were toned way down from the original script for a 1930’s audience I’m still surprised some of the scenes still played out the way they did. It’s wonderfully effective and pretty interesting considering the films age.

A few missteps were the comedy aspects of the movie. Doctor Garth has a relationship with his own assistant Janet (Marguerite Churchill) that’s something out of a romantic comedy. The scenes are so contrary to the horror elements that it almost seems cut in from other films. While Churchill’s performance is wonderfully energetic and funny with the added benefit of me personally enjoying her character I wish it was far less overbearing. Then again the first portion of the movie is so slow that without it there might be trouble paying attention.

The ending of the movie also felt very rushed. No lie that they get to Transylvania to rescue Janet and stop Dracula’s daughter within the last eight minutes of the film. I would have liked to see that portion far more drawn out with more action.

Still if you’re looking for another Vampire film from Universal’s catalog check this one out. It’s available as part of the Dracula Legacy collection or you could probably find it online.

The Possession (Imma eat pancakes like OM NOM NOM)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , on September 1, 2012 by splatterpictures

I took a little time out of my day to hit the theatres for the latest possession horror story to come out of Hollywood. Appropriately named The Possession These movies come out fairly often and I am the first to admit I have a weakness for the format. I always enjoyed possessions, demons and ghosts in my horror and for some reason they seem to be the big trend in a lot of mainstream horror – which is good for me I guess.

The film was directed by Ole Bornedal and was produced by Sam Rami; it stars much to my enjoyment Jeffrey Dean Morgan who you all will most likely remember as the Comedian from Watchman. Special mention goes out to Natasha Calis as Em who plays the victim of this tale. Well I guess there are more victims…whatever.

The story revolves around a family in the first year of a divorce. A father (Morgan) gets his kids every weekend from their overprotective mother. The mother is dating some douche dentist. Things come to a head when the father takes his two young daughters to a yard sale to buy some supplies for his new home. The youngest daughter Em (Calis) becomes intrigued by an old box with strange carvings on it. In what I assume is an attempt to buy his daughter’s love the father just buys it for her and that sets off a series of events. You see this box is no ordinary box it’s what’s called a Dybbuk box which is from ancient Jewish faith. Its purpose is to seal malevolent spirits or demons. I should mention at this point that the story is based on “true” events.

It’s a classic horror trick I love talking about and for those interested I’ll take a little aside and explain that technically this movie is based on true events. There was a famous Dybbuk box that made its circulation around ebay a few years back and in its travels people reported all kinds of horrific nightmares, hair falling out, visions of an old hag and even being covered in welts. It was eventually bought buy a collector who had the box “re-sealed” and now won’t divulge the location of it. From what I understand this Hollywood story is an amalgam of several different accounts put in to one narrative. I found the concept pretty interesting and was eager to see how the film would play out but even from the trailer I was getting a sense that it wouldn’t exactly be cutting edge storytelling.

The acting in this movie is pretty decent, you have every roll competently played and I was suitably impressed with young Natasha Calis who handled a demanding roll quite well. Child actors can be very hit or miss and a lot of the scares come from her ( and special effects). Jeffrey Dean Morgan was fantastic as a father trying to do right by his kids through any means necessary. Even Grant Show as the well meaning but annoying “new boyfriend” plays his character well. He comes off as a bit of a wiener but believable. He also gets one of the best scenes in the movie that would be a nightmare to any dentist. The only person I had a problem with was Kyra Sedgwick’s character of the mother. She flailed a lot and was just unpleasant to me. Moments that required her to emote were way over the top and came off as more funny than dramatic. Everyone else does fine. But it’s just that; fine.

My problems with this film start at the plot. It’s about as paint-by-numbers as you can get. I’m not going to knock an entire sub-genre of horror for sticking to formulas but this movie felt entirely too safe for me: A family moving or otherwise changing from the norm? Check Is there a slow possession where one person believes but nobody else does? Check. Bugs? Check. Random, occult professor? Check. Exorcism scene? Check. The end…or is it? Double check. It comes of as predictable which is a shame because it really is well put together otherwise. The special effects and the lore behind the box are great and as I mentioned before it’s acted well for the most part.

“these Boots are made for walkin’…erm swinging”

Now, even though the framework of the story isn’t getting any points for originality from me it isn’t accurate to say this isn’t a good movie it’s just  an okay-so-so-not bad-not-great-  film that will probably end up being forgotten amongst the dozen or so movies exactly like it in recent years.

I will say its leaps and bounds better than the similar but different Apparition that’s also out in theaters  and with Paranormal Activity 4 and Sinister also on the way it’ll be even harder for this movie to stand out amongst the crowd.  If you’re a fan of this genre of horror and are looking to get your ghost on; I would say check it out but for everyone one else you might wanna just Netflix this when it comes out.