Archive for the Horror Showcase Category

Another (Who is Dead?)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , on June 22, 2012 by splatterpictures

If horror is one of the great loves in life, anime would be my secret mistress I cheat on horror with ever now and again. In fact it was anime that got me back in to horror after being generally uninterested in it for nearly a decade. It was anime and going to conventions for anime that introduced me to Sushi Typhoon and obscure J-horror titles that I never would have known about. One of the benefits of animation from Japan is not only the visual style that appeals to me but the twisted gore and hyper sexuality that more often than not goes hand in hand with the genre. For something a little different I’m not going to talk about a movie but rather a series; this series is called Another.

Another is based of a 2009 mystery horror novel written by Yukito Ayatsuji. It was later adapted into a Manga series (Japanese comic) and a 12 episode Anime that ran from January to march of 2012. This isn’t really a bizarre trend in Japan. Many series are developed from Manga or regular novels. In recent years thanks mostly to the internet it has become increasingly more accessible to anyone who has an interest in finding such materials. Japan has answered this massive worldwide interest in Anime by desperately adapting everything they can think of into various series. Honestly the amount out there now is staggering and grows year by year.

The story of Another revolves around a legend that says 26 years ago a popular high school student died. The entire class was grieving until one day a random student jumped up and said they could see their dead friend alive and well sitting at their desk. Slowly the rest of the class started to act like this student hadn’t died at all. They say that at the end of the year- during the class photo- they could even see the deathly image of the student smiling with their classmates. The following year something tragic happened and every since the class has been cursed.

We cut to the year 1998 and  a young man named Kōichi who transfers from the big city of Tokyo to the small town of Yomiyama. Before he is able to join the local high-school he has a sudden medical emergency when his lung collapses which forces him to miss the first three weeks of school. While there he meets a small group of classmates from room 3-3 which is where he is to be placed for the year. They act somewhat suspicious but never really allude to why. They ask him several questions like if he had ever been to the town before but after he explains that this is his first visit they leave.

On one of his last days in the hospital; Kōichi is in an elevator where he suddenly meets a small girl named Mei with an eye patch. Mei,is carrying a creepy ball jointed doll and is apparently going to visit the morgue. When Kōichi eventually makes it to class he is amazed to see that this strange girl is a fellow classmate but the odd thing is nobody seems to act like she exists.

One of the major benefits of this series is that it’s a mere twelve episodes to get the entire story. It’s long enough to really flesh out the characters and their motivations as well as really push the mystery surrounding this alleged curse on class 3-3. It’s defiantly a slow burn like a lot of Japanese horror but I think that’s what made it so effective. I went in to this series with no previous knowledge of the source material and the plot just kept me guessing right until the very end.

The kills are fantastic and wonderfully gory. I won’t give too much away but essentially imagine this series as kind of a final destination scenario. Students and their families are subjected to a random series of events that lead up to their grizzly deaths. I’ve always loved the Rube Gold Machine approach to killing off characters. The last few episodes are a friggin’ bloodbath.

Beyond the gory ends of the hapless students the story really focuses on how we connect with people. Bonds that seem unbreakable can easily be tested when your life or the lives of others are put at risk. It’s interesting to see how certain characters that you do grow to know would change after they become desperate.  It also shines a light on the strength it takes to make decisions that -on the one hand- would save lives but, on the other come at an immense personal cost.

Some of the problems with the series are not so much from the storyline but the fact that it’s an anime. There is a “beach” episode. Before I get in to the episode I’d like to explain first that the “beach” episode is a thing not exclusive to this series or even ten series. The thing that it is cannot really be explained. It’s like “the baseball episode” or the “volleyball” episode. These things exist in anime for a lot of reasons. Usually to break up the series with a light-hearted self contained story with ample amounts of fan service and or comedy. Why not just take all the main characters and put them in bathing suits. It usually serves no purpose and when I started watching the episode (I believe it was episode 9) I rolled my eyes pretty hard. I was pleasantly surprised however when the “beach” episode ended in a healthy dose of sadness that moves the plot forward.

Another thing that really bothered me was how the entire plot could have been unraveled if the students, or anyone in the town was just upfront about the circumstances of class 3-3 especially considering Kōichi missed the first three weeks due to illness. Again this is something that is uniquely Japanese. It’s very common when dealing with superstition or death that you simply “do not speak of it”. It can be frustrating as an audience to watch. Lastly, I don’t feel as though they went in to detail enough about the big plot twist at the end. I love a good mystery but part of the fun for me is trying to figure it out before the big reveal. While some evidence they present is purposefully misleading the last part I really feel was totally out in left field. Maybe there were more clues to it in the original source material.

For fans of J-horror or anime or any combination of the two;Another is a series that you just can’t miss. For new comers to Horror Anime in particular I think it’s an excellent series to get acquainted with. It has a lot of familiar elements prevalent in Japanese animation speckled in there with a little Whispering Corridors and a healthy dose of Final Destination. The series length of twelve episodes is also pretty painless and the plot will keep you wondering just who is dead?

The series isn’t available in the west yet or even on DVD but your old pal the internet has got you covered. I found it sub-titled in about 30 seconds on Google. Check it out.

ALSO Random Dance Sequence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers Day (You don’t call a man a tree)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , on June 16, 2012 by splatterpictures

My dad and I had this long standing joke when I was growing up. Anytime a movie would come on TV that would say: “Warning the following contains violence, course language and nudity viewer discretion is advised” We would look at each other and say; “Oh good it’s got everything a good movie should have” Well if your dad is anything like mine feel free to crank that shit to eleven with Tromas Fathers Day.

Being a Troma film I feel is its own explanation and if I was lazier I would have a one sentence review that describes it as such but for the uninitiated Troma is arguably the premier company making shock exploitation films. They not only make low budget B movies they embrace it to some sort of twisted art form. Of course Tromas biggest strength is the tongue and cheek self awareness of their own ridiculousness.

Fathers Day starts off with a bang as we watch a man get brutally hacked to pieces and then sexually assaulted, which I couldn’t help but notice a lot of parallels to recent news events. We’re treated to a short chase, when a stranger barges in on the killer that ends with a gunshot and the eye patched Ahab (Adam Brooks) declaring happy Fathers Day. It’s grindhouse cheese at its best.

The rest of the film is a frantic and off-beat story about a notorious fathers day killer named Chris Fuchman (I’m sure that was on purpose) who has a habit of raping and killing fathers. Why is it exclusively fathers? Who knows but that’s not important. After a long hiatus he’s back and they need Ahab to take him down. So a blind preacher sends his disciple  Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) to Ahab who has become a recluse at the end of the world, or what I would assume to be the mountains of Canada where he makes maple syrup. I mention the syrup because it seems to come up several times in the film.

A troubled teenaged male prostitute named Twink witnesses Fuchman kill his father and now is on the run seeking out help with Chelsea (Amy Groaning) Who just so happens to be Ahabs estranged sister. She’s a stripper (obviously) who has been following the Fuchman case for years and of course wants nothing to do with her brother. The group comes together to take down the psycho killer once and for all. If only it were as easy as just killing him though.

Fathers day is like watching a hyperactive child hopped up on pixie sticks tell you about their day. It’s fast and chaotic at times. Characters spew out their dialogue and then random stuff happens. It took me the first 20 minutes or so to get used to the pace but once I allowed myself to bow to the absurd I started liking it more and more.

The gritty close ups and grainy quality of the film go a long way in to giving it that old Grindhouse feel which is absolutely what they were going for. Also the inclusion of the bumpers before and after the credits along with the commercial break that advertise a terrible looking sci-fi Star Raiders really made me feel like I was sitting at home watching this on a random station at 2 AM wondering why I was still up.

I’d say the standout in this movie once you get past the gore is the comedy. The laughs are unpredictable and are somewhat muted at times. What I mean is you’re dealing with a narrative where all of the characters are taking themselves as seriously as possible and then bust out into some hilarious dialogue or sight gag. It’s a slow burn but by the end of the movie I found myself laughing more than I was cringing at some of the violence and holy hell there is violence. I could have gone my whole life without watching somebody cut their penis lengthwise with a knife but, yeah.

The violence is extreme, but effective and really breaks up the comedy. Which works there is something enjoyable to me about watching something that I can’t decide is funny or offensive.

Fans of Troma films that haven’t seen this one yet are doing themselves a disservice. It’s a non-stop exploitation comedy that isn’t afraid to be as outrageous as possible. Truly, Fathers Day is Troma at its best. That being said anybody who generally dislikes B movies or is offended by: Graphic violence, graphic sex, necrophilia, incest, rape, mutilation, blasphemy, maple syrup and more incest would do well to avoid it. In other words; Viewer discretion is advised.

Vrmmm Vrmmm VRMMMMM

Prometheus (Evolution is a hell of a thing)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , on June 12, 2012 by splatterpictures

When I heard that this movie was getting made I didn’t care. I love Alien, and Ridley Scott has the skills to pay the bills but for some reason it just didn’t blip on my radar. Then, holy hell did the hype start pouring in. I checked out the trailer and still wasn’t impressed. Sure it looked like it had high production value but I couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was trying to tell me. It didn’t help that the earliest reports were calling it a prequel to Alien and then by the time trailers were emerging (it seemed like a slightly different one every other week) everyone from camp Prometheus were adamant that it wasn’t really a prequel. It was clearly stated that this was a story that occupied the same universe as Alien and all of its sequels but that it was a story that would launch the events of alien and then run adjacent to the original franchise. So why were their still people confused? Probably because people just don’t read/listen. That’s probably a good lesson to anyone looking to promote future projects: Make sure your first message is the right one because that’s pretty much what us ignorant masses will remember.

I finally broke down and checked it out and I feel as though Ridley Scott just strutted into the theatre I was in, punched out a few pimply-faced theatre employees and blew a fucking hole in the wall with his Prometheus cannon to let the fresh air in. Ladies and gentlemen I have seen the light and it is Prometheus.

(Some small spoilers ahead, consider yourselves warned.)

The film starts off ominously enough, with a strange alien who looks like he is an avid watcher of fitness made simple, drinking some black goo, which results in him dying a horrible death. Cut to the not too distant future of 2089 and we find two archeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) in the midst of a major discovery. It seems that throughout earth there are cave drawings that indicate we were the product of alien creation. They dub the aliens “Engineers” and the Weyland Corporation (yeah the same one from Alien) finances a trip to the distant world to find them.

When they finally arrive in 2093 we meet the Crew which is made up of characters that are very much in keeping with the entire feel of the films that came before it. The synthetic David, (Michael Fassbender) The corporate douche (Charlize Theron) The grizzled but weary Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and a bunch of other character types you’ll find in any of the other alien movie are present.  The tech they use, the ship they have and the overall feel of “truckers in space” is there also. I defiantly felt like I was watching an Alien movie. That fact is almost a complaint because I found myself a little too familiar with what I was watching at first but thankfully plot elements and characters really surprised me in the end. The biggest question I’ve heard from people is; are their Xenomorphs (Aliens) in the movie? Well I won’t say much more than evolution is a hell of a thing.

The movie was visually breathtaking. It had equal parts gritty industrial and slick, clean and futuristic. The biggest joy for me was the use of practical special effects on many of critters that were running around. It just looked fantastic. There were some moments watching it that I had wished they didn’t use CGI but it’s just the nature of the beast, hint that means two things *wink wink*

Fassbender’s character of David is compelling and is easily the most interesting one of the bunch but I have to say that Noomi Rapace has a scene in the movie that is probably the most stomach turning example of being a badass I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying she’s Ripley level of badass here but damn. Big brass balls award goes to her character. Which reminds me, the deaths and gore in this film are top notch. There is a decent body count and they defiantly earn that R rating.

Some of the things I didn’t really care for were how rushed it seemed towards the end. I also felt like we didn’t get to spend enough time with characters before they were inevitable killed off. I hear that the directors cut is going to have another 20 or so minutes added to it so I have a feeling that will be cleared up. Also I realize it’s just a movie but the idea we would have fully sentient androids, deep space travel, hyper sleep and half of the other things they were using in less than 100 years seems a bit far fetched but whatever it’s a movie.

Finally I’ll address the general complaints I’ve been hearing about too many unanswered questions, or the plot wasn’t solid. While I agree there were unanswered questions Ridley Scott said they would be answered in the sequel if they get one but he worked hard to make sure Prometheus stood on its own. I actually don’t really think that it does. I mean I liked it a lot but not so much that I would deny it suffers from the same pitfalls as any film that is intended to be the first in a trilogy. I am really hoping for a sequel because I loved how it left off.

Prometheus is wonderfully written, visually stunning and full of characters that are destined to become part of pop culture history. There is still room in this world for R rated blockbusters and they don’t have to pander to the audience and Ridley Scott just proved it. Prometheus has busted the lore of the alien universe wide open and I want more.

“Oh God, what did I eat?”

A Little Bit Zombie (Who brings hooker boots to a weekend at the cottage?)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by splatterpictures

Horror and comedy is a tricky formula to get right, many times there can be too much of one and not enough of the other. Recently I was able to check out the Ottawa premier of A Little Bit Zombie, a slickly written and well produced little-big Indie-horror, home grown (well my home) in Canada.

The film was directed by Thunder Bay, ON native Casey Walker, and brought to us by Cave Panting Pictures and the producers list is as long as my arm because the film was crowd funded which explained to me how it looks so good and managed to snag fantastic actors.

The story is about a soon-to-be-married couple named Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe) Tina is the typical perky but overbearing control freak that is dreaming of the perfect wedding while Steve is the mild mannered HR representative that is just looking forward to a quiet and stable life. They head on up to a weekend vacation at the cottage with Steve’s sister (Kristen Hager) and her husband Craig (played by a very buff looking Shawn Roberts). Unknown to the foursome is that a short distance away two professional Zombie hunters, Max and Penelope (Stephen McHattie and Emilie Ullerup respectively), are taking down a small outbreak while one of the undead are bitten by a mosquito. The insect becomes infected and makes its way to the cottage that everyone is vacationing at.

Steve gets bitten by said insect and slowly starts to become infected. He retains his memories and personality, but starts to grow pale and lose the feeling in his body. Of course there is the unfortunate fact that he is unable to eat anything without projectile vomiting. With the hunters hot on his trail and his wedding just a week away, Steve and his family try to cope with the reality that in order to stay sane he’ll have to consume the brains of living humans.

The writing in this film is fantastic. Dialogue comes at you fast with several jokes firing off at once with a lot of added physical comedy. All of the actors play their parts well and it was a special treat to watch Stephen McHattie play out the grizzled zombie killer. Crystal Lowe also steals every scene she’s in as the bride to be trying to do right by her man. There is a scene where she tasers a potential victim and cheerfully remarks on how cute her pink stun gun which had me laughing pretty hard, but the best line comes out of Shawn Roberts: “Who brings hooker boots to a weekend at the cottage?”

I would say that on the horror versus comedy scale it’s leaning far more into the comedy area than anything else. The horror elements are there and, as a director, Casey Walker’s influences can be seen quite obviously (especially Evil Dead), but for the most part I would say the horror is pretty tame with nothing more or less grotesque than some of the mainstream comedies out these days. There are some great special effects though, and all in all, it was decent but I could have done with a bigger body count or a few more scenes with zombies.

A few story elements I found somewhat confusing. One of the hunters, for example, uses a seemingly magical orb to locate the undead but as far as I remember they don’t really go into any detail about where they got it or how it works. Emilie Ullerup’s character Penelope also seems to believe that Steve is somebody who could eventually find a cure for the zombie plague since he can resist the effects somewhat, yet they never really explain how he is able to. Also I couldn’t help notice that the plot had similar elements to that 90’s comedy My Boyfriends Back which was essentially about a fun-loving but zombie afflicted teenager who still retained his mental capacity. Now that I think about it, I might be the only one who remembers that dumb movie.

Walker said before his film started that this was his love letter to the Zombie genre and it’s apparent that he is a lover of the genre, but I would have to say this works far more as a comedy than it does a horror. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does go to show how precarious a balancing act horror-comedies are. Without the solid group of actors carrying this film it would have probably ended up being fairly forgettable with too much comedy and not enough gore.  I say check it out when it hits DVD shelves this August

“So, what is that exactly?” “Zombie tracker-orb-thing-plot device. Don’t question it!”