Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dismembering Christmas Review

My love of holiday themed horror is well known. I also happen to be a big fan of the work that Kevin Sommerfield and the guys over at Slasher Studios do. Earlier this week, I got a chance to check out their latest, a holiday themed slasher, Dismembering Christmas. As with earlier Slasher Studios releases, this is yet another enjoyable example of what an independent company with a passion for the genre can manage to accomplish without a huge budget.

Dismembering Christmas centers around a group of teenagers who are celebrating the holidays together, away from their families, at a lake house owned by one of their fathers. What begins as a weekend full of drinking and partying quickly takes a sinister turn as the group gets a visit, and ominous warning, from a local wandering by. When night falls, the group begins to disappear one by one as they are stalked by a masked killer out for revenge, who has a past connection with the secluded cabin.

That plot description may not sound like the reinvention of the wheel, and it isn't. That's the thing about the slasher genre, most of the plot lines are pretty paint by numbers. You get a group of kids, throw them in a secluded location, and have them killed off one at a time by some sort of masked killer who most likely has a past connection with either one of the kids and/or the location. Throw in some nudity, inventive kills, and a plot twist at the end, and you have yourself a movie. It's what slasher fans expect, and enjoy. That's why I love Slasher Studios so much. They deliver old school slasher films for fans of the genre because that's what they themselves are.

The cast all performs well, with the standouts for me being Baker Chase Powell as Mark, and Nina Kova as Sam. The both played well off each other, and delivered believable performances. Effects wise, everything is practical, so fans of the real stuff will undoubtedly enjoy the gore. The kills themselves range from tame to deliciously clever. I always love it when the holiday decorations in one of these movies come in to play, and let's just say I don't think I've ever seen a better use of a Christmas wreath. The killer looks good, the pacing is almost perfect, and all around this is just a really fun holiday horror film.

With Dismembering Christmas, Slasher Studios once again managed to capture the magic of an 80's slasher, just as they did with Don't Go to the Reunion and their other films before it. The difference this time though? Polish. For as good as Reunion, Popularity Killer, Teddy, and the others are, they are admittedly a bit rough around the edges. Dismembering Christmas adds some finesse, camera work, a tight script, and other little enhancements that makes it their best production to date.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Morbid on DVD today

Chuck Conry's directorial debut Morbid is officially available on DVD today! This fun throwback to classic 80's slashers is entertaining from start to finish, with lots of comedic elements as well as a mean streak a mile long. Highly recommended, and you can read my full review below. 

The extras on the disc include three commentary tracks, a radio interview, deleted scene, a behind the scenes video, and trailers. The film itself has also been recut and features footage not included in the review copy I got to see early.

Get yourself a copy HERE.


Morbid is the directorial debut from Chuck Conry of Zombies Don't Run fame. I'm a long time reader of his blog, and he graciously allowed me to view a screener recently. I can honestly say that I didn't have the highest of expectations for it, I simply expected to be entertained, and in the long run I think that's exactly how Morbid should be viewed.
The films official synopsis sums it up perfectly and does so better than I could, so here it is:
A small town becomes the playground to a masked killer stalking and killing the locals for no apparent reason. With the town's sheriff and locals still more worried about a high school football game than getting to the bottom of what's going on, one detective from out of town must rush to save the lives of a group of teens tossing a party in the middle of all the chaos. But, as we soon learn, these teens have some complicated issues of their own.

It's obvious from the very beginning that Conry is as much of a fan of 80's slasher flicks as most of the rest of us. Morbid is a love letter to those glorious days in horror's history. It's got all the ingredients, a bunch of partying teenagers, bumbling police officers, and a killer with a badass mask. Surprisingly, it even had a good amount of gore. The only thing holding Conry back was a budget. I can only imagine what this guy could accomplish with a little more money to work with. The characters are all fairly cliche, with the regulars all making appearances, the jocks, nerds, metal kids, etc. The dialog is purposely awful at times, filled with genre references, and made me laugh out loud several times. These movies aren't known for their convoluted plots filled with twists and huge reveals, and that's the point.

When all was said and done, I ended up having a blast watching Morbid. The location, atmosphere, and actors made me feel right at home, largely due to the fact that I believe Mr. Conry is from my neck of the woods. It was like watching something me and my friends would've done had we had some money and access to a camera to play around with. Morbid is a hilarious, gory good time. I can't wait to see Chuck's next film.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pernicious Review

I can't remember exactly how I became familiar with James Cullen Bressack, but I do remember that the first of his work I was able to see was Hate Crime when it hit vod. I rented it, then bought it and everything else he'd done and has done since. I've said since then that his was a name that horror fans needed to be aware of. Pernicious is his latest, and most ambitious feature, and last Friday it made it's way to vod and I immediately checked it out. This feels like the first time Bressack has worked with any kind of a substantial budget, and not only does he not disappoint, he managed to exceed all of my expectations.

Pernicious follows three college aged American girls on a summer trip to Thailand. When they arrive, they discover an ancient golden statue of a small girl in the house they're staying in. Their trip takes a turn for the worse after they uncover the statue, unleashing an evil spirit housed within. As the body count rises, the mystery deepens as they attempt to figure out why the spirit is bound to the statue and the reasons behind it's bloody desire for revenge.

This is one of those films that at times reminds you of others, and you think you know what's going to happen next based off of those, but then it flips the script on you. It's at times part Hostel, at times part The Grudge, and there's even a hint of Pumpkinhead in there, yet it still manages to be it's own thing. It's hard to explain. As the plot played out, every single time I thought I knew what was going on, it threw a twist at me. It never went off the rails, but it kept me guessing. Whenever a movie can do that, I definitely consider it a win. The cast mostly performs well, with Ciara Hanna and Jackie Moore being the standouts, as Alex and Rachel respectively. The third of the girls, Julia, was played by Emily O'Brien and she had a few brief moments where reactions were a bit extreme to situations, but she was far from the worst I've ever seen.

Effects wise there was your standard practical/cg mixture. Thankfully most of the blood and gore was of the practical type, while the cg was left mostly to animating the statue. The practical stuff was great, the cg was probably serviceable at best. The budget for this movie went into so many things, practical effects, camera shots, location, etc., that I am more than forgiving if what little cgi is in it isn't quite cutting edge. It looks fine, trust me.

Coming from a guy who shot and edited an entire movie using an iPhone once, Pernicious is a great example of what James Cullen Bressack can do when he's given a real budget and let loose. Gore hounds will appreciate the head bashing and throat slitting, fans of supernatural fare will enjoy the creepy atmosphere and overall tone of impending dread. It's brutally violent at times, moves at a good pace, and tells a story that's entertaining and intriguing from start to finish. Highly recommended for fans of ghost/revenge movies, but Pernicious has a little something for everybody.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Infected Review

I never thought I'd see the day where I would say the words "I'm tired of zombies", but here we are. Actually, let me rephrase, I'm not tired of real zombies, I'm tired of these "infected" zombie movies. They're all the same. At this point in the game, I'd like to think we are way past being able to just throw some tattered clothes and fake blood on a mob of people and have them run screaming at other people, but sadly we aren't, and there's a new one of these movies getting released every other day. The filmmakers behind stuff like this aren't even trying anymore, and I, for one, am just tired of it. Enter Infected, yet another in the long line of cookie-cutter infected zombie fare, which does nothing to set itself apart from the pack.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. There's a group of kids in a club, drinking, dancing, and having a good time until one of them suddenly feels ill. One thing leads to another, and he ends up running around biting everyone. The people who are bitten do the same. The town becomes overrun, and ultimately the military shows up. The "zombies" end up being too much for them, and a small platoon is all that survives. The soldiers hole up in a school with a few other surviving 20-somethings and before long the two respective groups turn on each other.

You name it, and Infected has got it. There is absolutely nothing in this movie that's even remotely original. Cliched characters, the same plot as hundreds of others in the genre, awful cgi blood, bad acting, horrible sound, and so on. Hell, even the name of the movie is boring and generic. It's inexcusable in a world where people are literally making far better and more entertaining movies on their iPhones. The absolute worst thing about Infected though, is that it commits the cardinal sin of a movie of it's type by having a two hour run time. Yep, I sat through TWO HOURS of this garbage.

Infected is sort of like a two hour film class student's project for finals. I can't imagine anyone who wasn't in this, or is friends of someone in this, enjoying it. About the only way I'd say give this a watch is if you 're a person who absolutely, positively HAS to watch every single piece of zombie related media in the universe, and if you're that guy then I weep for you, friend. As for the rest of us, do yourselves a favor and look elsewhere for your flesh eating fix.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Private Number Review

I was initially drawn to Private Number because of Tom Sizemore and Judd Nelson. The premise sounded interesting, but it was their involvement that really caught my eye. As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to give this indie thriller a watch, and while Sizemore and Nelson are in fact in the movie, they both only have bit parts (despite being displayed prominently on the cover art) and don't have a lot of screen time. Still, this mystery/supernatural/thriller doesn't need to rely on star power to make a name for itself.

Plot synopsis from the Summer House Pictures website:

A series of sinister phone calls haunt an ex-alcoholic writer as he struggles to finish a novel. Efforts to trace the calls result in dead ends, leaving the author with no choice but to solve the mystery himself. As he pieces together scant information he discovers the local police are hiding details about a horrific serial killer. In his obsessive search for answers, he loses his grip on reality, and spirals downward into a maelstrom of violence and terror.

Private Number kept me guessing. It takes inspiration from several different places, part The Shining, part Se7en, and while it isn't as good as those films by any means, it's impossible not to make the connections. There's definitely more of a supernatural vibe than I was expecting, which ended up being a good thing. Just when you think you have a handle on where the story is going, the film shifts in tone. In some instances this can be jarring, but writer/director LazRael Lison handles the transition well, raising questions but never so much so that you feel lost. Things continuously ramp up to what was ultimately a bit of a disappointing ending. It's not so much that it was a bad ending, just an abrupt one, and I was still ready for wherever else the story was going. 

The film mainly focuses on Michael and Kathy, played by Hal Ozsan and Nicholle Tom respectively. The two turn in solid performances, as Michael struggles with the horrific hallucinations and trying to stay sober, and Kathy has to deal with her husband slowly going crazy, as well as her own deteriorating health. There's a lot of delicate subject matter, on top of the hallucinations and murder, which keeps the movie grounded throughout. If the cast hadn't been up to the challenge, this could have been disastrous. 

Private Number is an easy recommendation for fans of thrillers with light horror elements, Stir of Echoes comes to mind. It may lack the polish of similar bigger budget affair, it does enough to entertain for it's 95 minute runtime. For those looking for a more traditional horror experience, there are definitely things to like here, but not enough to likely satisfy. 

The film is available on DVD tomorrow, June 2nd. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Kung Fury

This is the greatest thing you'll see today, and possibly ever.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Pigman Murders Review

Normally, I'm a sucker for a guy in a mask, esepcially a cool mask like a pig one. Pigs freak me out. I'm also not a found footage hater, and most of the time I dig indie cinema. Knowing that, you'd think that The Pigman Murders was going to be a fairly entertaining movie for yours truly. You'd be wrong, but I can see where you'd think that. As it turned out, Pigman was disappointing, and at times downright annoying.

Plot wise, there's not a lot to get into. A group of guys are getting together to celebrate the life of a friend of theirs who has recently passed away. They hire a camera man to film the entire weekend, filled with drinking, fighting, and tales of debauchery involving their fallen mate. The plan is to give this footage to the guy's family...because that's what every young man's parents want to see. Things take a turn for the worse when they enter the woods though, and the guys end up on the run from a ruthless killer in a Pig Mask, probably.

I said probably there because this movie commits the cardinal slasher film sin of almost no screen time for our masked hero. Movie people, we come to these things for the killer. Plain and simple. If we don't get to see the killer, we won't be very happy with your work. I really, really wanted to like this movie. The cover art is sick, and as I said, a pig mask is just an awesome visual. Aside from a lack of presence from the killer, the other thing that bugged me about this movie is the constant flicker and skipping of the "tape". I get that this is supposed to be the footage found in a camera in the woods, but it was literally every 10-20 seconds. I hoped as time went on it would lighten up a bit and just play the movie, but it never did.

The kills themselves were the one bright point in the movie. They weren't inventive, they almost all happened off camera, and they weren't particularly brutal, still there was some decent practical gore, and when the rest of the movie is as disappointing as Pigman was, you'll be surprised at what you focus in on for positives. The cast was also not terrible, for this sort of microbudgeted production.

Don't let the fantastic cover art on this one fool you too. I want to believe The Pigman Murders had it's heart in the right place. It definitely had potential. I can't imagine it was all that difficult to throw a pig mask on a guy and have him run around in the woods with a knife, hell I would've done it if they'd called me, but for some reason this movie focuses far too much on the victims, and gives the killers an almost indicated presence. If you're a die hard slasher fan who has to see every single one that's ever been made, check this out for some ok gore and not much else. Everybody else, look elsewhere for your mask wielding maniacs.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Raiders of the Lost Shark Review

Do you like a little silly with your low budget giant killer animal movie? Boy do I have one for you. Raiders of the Lost Shark is every bit as ridiculous as that title suggests, but it's the right kind of ridiculous for a select few of us who are able to just take it for what it is and have fun with it. This is the kind of flick that you put on at 1 in the morning after you've had a few drinks, preferably surrounded by friends. I laughed nearly from start to finish.

The plot is as simple as you can get, as is to be expected. Some company is drilling in a lake and accidentally comes across an underwater cave, unleashing a prehistoric Megalodon. That's right, an enormous prehistoric shark was living in a cave at the bottom of a lake. A couple of police officers getting into some extra curricular activities with some trashy looking ladies get eaten, an investigation ensues, more people get eaten. Then, from out of nowhere, the shark starts flying. Yes, flying. Through the air. Some sort of mad scientist comes into play, and a college professor (who has flashbacks to her sister dying in the same lake) has to put a stop to the Megalodon's reign of terror.

If the above paragraph didn't totally sell you on Raiders of the Lost Shark, then this movie simply isn't for you, and feel free to kindly move along. For those still with me, this movie is an absolute blast. It's awful, but in all the right ways. The acting is bad, but the script is written in a manner that the cast almost seems to be making fun of themselves before the viewer can. Case in point, the Captain that takes the professor and students out on the lake to search for the shark is obviously the "Quint" of the movie, but he also just so happens to have just a slight pirate accent to go along with his over the top performance. These movies are often of the make it or break it variety when it comes to the animal in question, and to be honest when I first put the disc in, I fully expected first person camera shots (ala Jaws) and maybe some stock nature footage from Shark Week cut into the movie. So you can imagine my surprise when a fully CGI shark leapt out of the water, growling, and snapped up another trashy young lady who was doing a photo shoot in the water. It wasn't a particularly good looking CGI shark, and they probably blew most of their budget on the two or three scenes where the CG was used, but it was there and that was something I never expected.

For killer animal purists, Raiders of the Lost Shark is probably a pass. It lacks the seriousness of even the typical SyFy fare, which itself is often not really serious. I wouldn't go so far as to call Raiders of the Lost Shark a spoof myself, but I can see where one could make that argument. If you have the ability to just sit back for an hour and some change, get some friends together, partake of some sort of mind altering substance, and just enjoy yourself though, there's a good time here. I dare anybody to watch the part were the shark just starts flying around for no discernible reason and not laugh. It simply is not possible.

Monday, May 18, 2015

American Poltergeist Review

Ever since Paranormal Activity came out, ghosts have been giving zombies a run for their money in the micro budget indie/direct to video market. I guess the cheapest thing to put in front of a camera is either an actor with some faint eye makeup and blood around their mouth, or an invisible ghost. Just as with their zombie brethren, some of these haunted house flicks have been ok and some have been just plain bad. Enter American Poltergeist, another small hopeful looking to make itself heard amongst the masses.

The movie centers around a group of paranormal investigators who are just getting their start in the ghost hunting business. So far, they've had no luck in capturing any evidence, and their optimism is dwindling. When a night spent in one of the reputable haunted locations in their area turns up nothing yet again, it causes one member of the group to start verbally abusing the alleged spirit inhabiting the building. While at first, even this tactic appears to bear no result, it's not long before strange things begin to happen to his wife at their house. It looks like not only did he anger the spirit, but it followed him home.

American Poltergeist is as micro budget as micro budget movies get. I get the feeling to truly get anything out of this one you either need to have been involved in the making of it, or be friends with someone who was. At one point, when the ghost attacks, he's supposed to be choking the wife against the wall, and I swear the shadow "effect" was literally someone standing off camera in front of a large light, making a choking motion with his arms so it would look like some sort of shadow figure had it's hands around her neck. The acting is not a whole lot better either. Performances basically range from " I have no idea what I'm doing" to worse. I'd be surprised to see any of the actors and actresses in this movie in anything else ever again.

Still, there were some fairly cool points. When there actually were practical effects, they were decent. There's a good burn makeup toward the end, as well as a little girl apparition with her eyes missing and lips sewn shut, and they both looked good. The other thing I can praise American Poltergeist for that I can't a lot of others is that it doesn't overstay it's welcome. At just over an hour, at least there's not a ton of down time and useless dialog between the uninteresting characters. So there's some good, the problem is the good was just few and far between, and was heavily outweighed by the bad.

It's hard to recommend American Poltergeist, even though I think it's heart is in the right place. As with a lot of indie efforts, I feel like budget constraint was the main issue. That and it didn't do a whole lot to help itself stand out in a grossly saturated sub genre. With ghost hunting being so prevalent these days, there could have been a really cool movie here. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. If you're a die hard fan of these low budget haunt affairs (those people exist, right?), maybe give this one a look, but I can't imagine anyone being anything but disappointed with it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Zombeavers Bluray Review

I got a chance to see Zombeavers a while back, and had an absolute blast with it. It's a horror/comedy that brings both in spades. This is the kind of thing that some people will turn their noses up at immediately, and to those people I say lighten up. There's absolutely nothing wrong with turning your brain off  for an hour and just enjoying yourselves. 

The Movie

When an auto accident sends a barrel of some toxic badness crashing into a lake near a beaver dam, it turns the normally docile furry little guys into rabid, flesh eating monsters who prey on a group of college kids who are spending the weekend at a cabin near by. With a film like Zombeavers, you basically learn everything you need to know from the title. It's obviously not meant to be taken seriously, and thankfully everyone involved seemed to understand that. While there are definitely horror elements, and a good amount of gore (although mostly of the beaver variety), the comedy aspect is the main focus, and it totally hits the mark.

There appeared to be a very tiny bit of CGI used for the effects, but I'd say probably close to 90% practical. Again, the zombie beavers all look pretty cool, but watching the way they move around and listening to the sounds they make is intentionally silly. There's a bit of a twist during the final act of the film that was also both hilarious and awesome at the same time, but no spoilers here. The cast all turn in fairly decent performances, they obviously knew exactly what they were getting into and what was going to be expected of them, and there were even a couple of great cameos. 

When all was said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed Zombeavers both times I've watched it now. Horror snobs will likely not even give it the time of day, and I hesitate to say even fans of things like Sharknado and the typical SyFy fare may not be able to really get into it, as those movies tend to at least attempt to take themselves somewhat seriously for some unknown reason. If you're looking for an excuse to have a couple of beers and watch some college kids meet their demise at the big buck teeth of zombified beavers, and you fully understand how ridiculously hilarious that concept is, Zombeavers is a complete and total riot. 

The Disc

The bluray boasts a pretty large amount of extra content. There's a cast and crew commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, a deleted scene, cast auditions, a building a beaver featurette, man becomes monster featurette, storyboards, trailers, and more. While initially that amount of stuff was exciting, sadly most of the featurettes only last one to three minutes. I love the behind the scenes, building a beaver, and man becomes monster segments, but ultimately they only act as teasers leaving you wanting more. My favorite was a mock-interview between Stephen Merchant, Bill Burr, and John Mayer which was completely hilarious. It's hard to be disappointed with such a large amount of bonus content on a disc like Zombeavers. It may not all totally satisfy, but what's there is highly enjoyable. 



Final Score

Movie - 3/5
Disc - 3/5