Friday, May 29, 2015

Films in the Attic: The Ruins

Films in the Attic is a segment that I haven't done in awhile but I always liked it and since the re-launch I was thinking of bringing it back. During these segments will be exploring strange little known or talked about films and films that had a wide release but were over looked and deserving to be rediscovered by fans. All of these films are released in some form. DVD or Blu. VHS only titles are going to get its own segment. 

Film: The Ruins
Directed By: Carter Smith
Written By: Scott B Smith
Year: 2008
Released by: Paramount Pictures
Both a Unrated DVD and Blu release. 

The Ruins is a perfect example of a horror film produced by a major studio can be really good yet somehow get lost among the pile of films that came out that year. On the surface The Ruins seems like another movie about hot 20 somethings going off into the unknown with horrible consequences. Yes it is that but its so much more. 

The Plot: Two young couples are soaking up some fun in the sun in Mexico. Whiling relaxing poolside they meet a German tourist Mathias. He tells them he is going to visit his brother at a Mayan ruins that is totally off the map and according to him very "VIP" He offers to take them and they decide that its something to good to pass up. Dimitri Mathias friend joins them, using a crudely drawn map. After a Taxi ride and a short hike they get to a hidden entrance which leads them to a rather impressive Mayan temple. However they are not alone and a group of villagers armed with bows and one man (who I assume is the leader) is armed with a gun. Dimitir is killed and the rest run up the steps of the temple. What started out as an interesting and exciting adventure quickly turns into a nightmare as more villagers camp out below leaving the group of friends stuck up top. 

When I first saw this film I was expecting to hate it, thinking it was just another film about hot people in danger in a foreign land. Boy was I wrong. First lets talk about the source material. "The Ruins" was based on a book by the same name written by Scott Smith. Stephen King called it "the best horror novel of the new century" Smith also did the screenplay and what we get is non stop action and horror that weaves twists and turns that "leaves" you guessing til the last frame. Besides a small section at the beginning the whole film takes place in one location the Mayan temple, any film that confines itself to one set runs the risk of getting stagy yet Ruins pulls it off seamlessly. The pace is break neck and it never lets up til the end credits. You will be hard pressed to find a more original horror concept. This film has no masked serial killer, monster or vampire yet still shocks yet still has the power to creep its audience out. I also love that the girls are smarter than most of these films. For example when the group get to the secret entrance Amy says hey this is weird and that somethings not right about it. Nobody believes her of course but It speaks volumes and I love when female characters are given a brain rather than just body count fodder. Speaking of Amy she starts out kind of whiny but wisely this is eased up a lot, which is important when your film is confined and you have a tiny cast. Its nice to see the women in this film be proactive and given something to do rather than just screaming and being naked. 

Ruins has a small but talented cast of actors. Jonathan Tucker (Texas Chainsaw 03) Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, Hunger Games) Shawn Ashmore (The Following,X-Men) Laura Ramsey (Lords of Dogtown) play the four friends and between them are some very impressive film credits. They all do a great job and never go over board and take their roles very serious. Chemistry between the couples are believable even though Jena Malone would be so out of Jonathan Tuckers league (but hey its a movie) 

The effects are very effective with its blend of tastefully done CGI and practical. The corpse make up are realistic and obviously handled by someone who knows what they are doing. I don't want to give a lot away but its just skin crawling. 

2008 saw a lot of terrible remakes and just awful horror films. Sadly "The Ruins" got passed over and forgotten about. I hope that someday the film finds its audience and takes it place as the classic that it is. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

British Spotlight Amicus: The Creeping Flesh

Amicus produced a lot of gems, a lot of which were over shadowed by more popular films like "Tales From The Crypt" Vault of Terror etc. In recent years however it has found an audience and gained a cult following.

In our third part series on Amicus "The Creeping Flesh"

Directed by:Freddie Francis

Written by: Peter Spenceley and Jonathan Rumbold

Year: 1973

Starring: Peter Cushing,Christopher Lee,Jenny Runacre etc

Emmanual Hildern (Peter Cushing) is a Victorian age scientist who returns to London with what he believes is the find of the century. While in Papa New Guinea he found a very strange set of bones that pre date the oldest fossils found. He along with his assistant discover that when wet these bones grow muscle and flesh and produce very strange blood cells when reviewed under a microscope. He believes he has discovered true evil embodied and therefore it can be cured. He aims to win the blank prize with his findings, but it seems his brother James Hildern (Christopher Lee) who owns and runs a Mental Institute is also in the running as well. It seems that blood isn't always thicker than water and James will stop at nothing to beat him with his "groundbreaking" book on mental disease.

Meanwhile Hildern's mousy daughter Penelope lives an extremely sheltered life, never leaving the house and taking care of things while her father is away. She believes her mother died a long time ago, yet in reality we learn that she recently died at James Hildern Institute. Penelope is desperate to know more about her mother but is kept in the dark for fear she will be upset by what she learns. Using his daughter as a human genie pig he secretly injects her with an experimental "evil antidote" But of course things back fire horribly.

You cant help but be in awe when you see the two titans of horror Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on the screen. Its a lot of fun watching the two both try to out do the other. The result is as always pure entertainment.Alas that is the only thing that makes this movie worth watching. Someone should have reminded the film makers that this was a "horror" film. Creeping Flesh plays more like a melodrama than horror, with only splices of fright mixed in. I really dug the beginning of the film and how Lee was playing a Dr Frankenstein like character i.e tinkering with dead limbs etc. But what followed was very a very flat family drama. Its heavy handed without any sense of irony or black humor to balance it out. I`m all for developing characters but its just boring and lacks any fun. Films like this can benefit from a dose of the serious but this is way over kill or in this case under kill.

What makes me most troubled about this is they take a brilliant concept and do nothing with it. You see the skeleton which is very bad ass looking and like me your excited for the pay off which when it comes is very disappointing. As I said this film has gained a small cult following and I really don't understand why. Its like a movie that fails on so many basic levels.

Lets talk effects. They are BAD! When the finger of the skeleton grows muscle and flesh it looks laughable. Its fat and veiny and when put in the jag it looks like a penis. I`m sure they were working on a low budget but even a 1st year effects major could have done a better job.

"The Creeping Flesh" would have worked much better as a segment in an anthology rather than a padded out full feature film. Even Chris Lee and Peter Cushing as good as they are cannot fix this very limp melodrama. While I never spoil an ending, its very predictable which I figured out in the first 5 minutes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hollyweird Here I come! "Maps To the Stars" Review

Maps To the Stars

Directed by David Cronenberg

Written by Bruce Wagner

Year 2014

With such genius films as "Shivers" "Scanners" and "The Brood" just to name a few, Cronenberg is the last and final word in body horror, the man single highhandedly made the sub genre. In recent years however he has shifted from this but still retained his razor edge weird style that fans have came to love. With his latest he takes a stab at Hollywood..Or maybe Hollyweird?

Hype as we all know can be a slippery road. Sometimes it can be well deserved and other times its full of hot air.  The buzz was louder than on the set of "The Fly" and the verdict was that "Maps to the Stars"was a film not to be missed. But atlas even us critics can be wrong at times.  In the case of this film, it was not. This dark twisted comedy satire on the horrors of Hollywood is the most fun watching a film in a long time. I`m someone who already loves films about how dirty and sleazy the business is and Cronenberg takes this to a whole other level, taking sheer mad delight in rubbing our noses in it. I think it taps into the huge fascination with celebrities and the the "glamour" of Hollywood and plays like total camp. Not since Billy Wilder's "Sunset Blvd" has there been such a genius, disturbing and humorous take on the underbelly of tinsel town. Wagners screenplay is powerful with compelling characters,great drama blended perfectly with surreal comedy that gets pretty black. You have all the Hollywood types in the film, the bratty child star, the has been wanting her come back etc. Even the young jaded girls in the club that think anyone over 20 is an old hag. And lets not forget the working stiff trying to become an actor and screenwriter (of course.)

The use of recurring themes and the "haunting" as personal demons metaphor is another stroke of brilliance. It is weaved into the plot and doesnt feel like it was just random weirdness. The cast of Maps is top notch with Julianne Moore, John Cusack,Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson (yes the Twilight heart throb) along with a fun cameo by Carrie Fisher playing who else Carrie Fisher. Moore lately has been making better film chooses and she is fearless in the role of Havana Segrand a washed up actress whose legacy is mainly built on her Mothers cult fame and tragic death. She really lets it all hang out and really gives it her very best. Also nothing tops seeing the now Academy Award winner taking a shit while talking to Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska) fart noises and all. Funny sure, but it also takes a lot of balls to do that. Even Cusack whom I`m not a big fan of, does a very good job as a hacky shrink who cares more about the dollars than actually helping people. He and Mia have a scene together; its a reunion of sorts and he plays it both ice cold and strangely tender, the two worked so well together it makes for a very weird moment. The only actor I thought was the weakest was Pattinson whom it seems Cronenberg has found a muse in.  Honestly its not the fact he was in the tween vampire series that colors my opinion of him, hes just simply is not a very good actor. When you are in the movie with so many heavy weights you really need to bring your A-game and what we get is very wooden phoned in performance.

Maps to the Stars is one the best movies i`ve seen recently and I can honestly only see myself viewing this another 100 times or so. Cronenberg peels back the slick polish of the Hollywood system to show a very dark perverted rotten side that will surely leave you with a mixture of feelings but overall its a thrilling ride!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Blood Splattered Blu: Latest Blu Ray Review: Vampyros Lesbos by Joe Mazzella

Film: Vampyros Lesbos
Director: Jess Franco
Company of Release: Severin

Written by: Joe Mazzella

Well after long last we have the long awaited blu-ray release of Jess Franco's female vampire classic Vampyros Lesbos (aka Les Vampiras)  an absolutely stunning film with the extremely sexy Soledad Miranda as the vampire vixen ,all of Soledad Miranda's scenes are both sensual and haunting as she is the reason to enjoy this great work.  

Plot: Our story concerns Linda (played by Ewa Stromberg ) who travels to see the vampire at her home that she inherited from Dracula himself and while there falls under the unstoppable spell of Soledad. Linda is eventually turned into a crazed victim in need of her new love but ends up in an insane asylum as her doctor (Dennis Price from Horror Hospital) tries to figure out if her tale about a vampire is true and how can he contact her so he to can cross to the. Other realm. Not to give so much away we do have a highly erotic and bloody film with great love scenes and an amazing cast that also includes Paul Mueller as Linda's psychiatrist and also Jess Franco himself as the hotel clerk with a secret passion for torture murder and bloodletting . I highly recommend this Jess Franco film .  
Picture: As for the transfer it is crisp sharp and amazing. It is in German language with English subtitles and the music score is truly amazing . 

Extras: The special features are also excellent :A featurette about Soledad Miranda with Soledads  historian Amy Brown is very informative and entertaining covering her entire career. There's also Vampyros Jesus-An interview with Jess Franco. Also a very good feature covering a lot of background on Soledad and the film.  There's also a German trailer and an alternate German opening title sequence which I enjoyed .  
All in all its was amazing viewing and I definitely recommend seeking it out.    Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Dark side of Hollywood part 1: Old Hollywood 1950s-early 1960s

Everyone no matter if they admit it or not has a fascination with Hollywood. As long as their were star's there has been a worship of them like the Gods and Goddess of Greek myth. We are going to look at a series of films that peel back the beauty, glamour and bright lights to show a more sinister side of the business called show.There are almost endless movies you could attach to this sub genre of films so I made some rules on what could and couldn't be on the list... Here are the reasons why maybe some of your favorites aren't on the list.

Comedies for the most part. Unless they have a real dark biting humor. Also films about people making amateur films such as "Man Bites Dog" or Last House on Dead End Street" also do not make the list. In the same vain no found footage films. Yes that means Cannibal Holocaust, while its a fan favorite and certainly one of mine it works outside of the construct of Hollywood therefore its not included. By the same logic indie film satires such as "Living in Oblivion" (1995) Films that are about the making of a real film (Hitchcock,Ed Wood, Shadow of the Vampire) are also excluded. And straight up documentaries such as "Overnight" as well. 

Dark Hollywood:  1950-55
Films focusing on the making of films as satire has been around since for a long time. In fact "Something to Sing About" (1937) is considered one of the first to satire film making. 

At the end of the second World War America was forever changed and therefore the kind of cinema people wanted to see changed as well.  

Enter the film Noir a film style made popular by early films such as The Maltese Falcon (1941) Laura (1944) and Out of the Past (1947)  Film goers wanted more gritty realism and to explore subject matters that pushed the limits of crime,sex and violence. Noirs was the perfect template to explore the corrupt side of what many saw as a very clean almost perfect place. Also keep in mind that the scandal machine and gossip rags were no where near what it is today and this would be decades before the internet.  For many people sitting in the dark theater these films really ripped apart the pre conception of a place where nothing bad happened and where all your dreams came true. But some dreams can turn into nightmares. 

Sunset Blvd (1950) Billy Wilder
Its an image etched into every film lovers brain. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) the aging silent film doing weird hyper surreal almost dance like moves as she descends down the staircase, reporters and camera flashes all around her. Shes part glamorous vamp part movie monster. She then says one of the MOST misquoted quoted film lines ever "Mr DeMille i`m ready for my close up" Often quoted as "I`m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille"  This is the grand daddy of all meta Hollywood films, way ahead of its time. Strange even by noir standards this film never ceases to surprise and entertain. It features cameos by DeMille himself, Hedda Hopper,  Buster Keaton. just to name a few Also look for a very young Jack Webb. Dark and weirdly funny, not to be missed. Its rumored that Mae West was considered for the role of Norma. 

In a Lonely Place (1950) Nicholas Ray 
Bogart plays a down on his luck screenwriter embroiled in doomed romance and possibly murder in this Noir classic. Bogart's character is stripped down in the most bare and raw way unlike anything we've seen from him. Sure he's known for playing dark characters but Dix Steele might be his darkest. In one scene he almost beats a mans brains in with a rock (over petty road rage) had it not been for Gloria Grahame's character stopping him. He really gives a amazing performance under the helm of Rebel Without a Cause directer Nicholas Ray. I feel its one of his most underrated film roles. Only lately has it finally gained its place as a true Noir gem. Its easy to find on home video and I suggest you check it out.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) Vincente Minnelli
Kirk Douglas plays a film producer who isn't very well liked. Mostly done in flashback a group of people explore how he "ruined" his life; but by the end they seem to realize maybe he wasn't such a bad guy after all. This is a case where the title does no justice to the film (sounding like a bad soap opera) Douglas is amazing as always in this self aware satire on Hollywood and its inner workings. There has been a lot of debate about which real life people Douglas's character was based on. Vel Lewton was one which is very obvious by the title of his first picture "Doom of the Cat Men" a clear reference to "Cat People" Its also thought to be a blend of legendary hot head David O Sleznick. Even Leo G Carrolls character is thought to be modeled after Hitchcock. In any case its a fun film for movie lovers.

The Big Knife (1955) Richard Aldrich
From the director of such films as "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) and later "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962 and also on the list) comes "The Big Knife" based on play of the same name. Jack Palace plays Charles Castle a successful Hollywood actor who is manipulated by his studio boss to help cover up a potential murder in order to protect his own career. A very dark film that really opened the veil of how corrupt and corrosive the Hollywood machine could be.  Its at times very over the top but its still a lot of fun to watch. Look for a young Shelley Winters. 

1959-60s: End of an Era:  "Touch of Evil" (1958) is largely considered the last film in the classic Film Noir genre. America was embroiled in yet another conflict Vietnam (starting in 55') and like WW2 the films themselves were very much changing. Many grand epics that the studios were making were no longer considered "cool" by the growing counter culture that wanted films that reflected things they were dealing with. 1960 saw a landmark film that would help spawn not one but two sub genres. "Psycho" (1960) was a game changer and helped to create the "Psychological thriller" sub-genre as well as pave the way for the "slasher' genre" that would really explode on the scene much later. (but more about that later) A product of this can be seen in other films in our list (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane being a great example) That same year a film from Britain "Peeping Tom" would also explore similar themes yet unlike Psycho it makes our list for being set in the back drop of the film system. 

Peeping Tom (1960) Michael Powell 
First off "Peeping Tom" is a film about making films YET is the only one on our list to not be set in Hollywood. But I felt that this was such an important film that I would allow it anyways. Released at the same year as "Psycho" Powell's raw disturbing and dark humored "Peeping Tom" may be less well known as Hitchcocks film, but its a classic none the less and for my money is edgier and better than Psycho. So much has been written on this film that i`ll spare you a full review but simply put its a must see. 

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) Richard Aldrich
Similar in tone to Sunset Blvd. WHTBJ is a twisted,dark, funny and genuinely disturbing and often campy film. Its also over time has become something of a legend in Hollywood itself for the off screen hatred between its two bigger than life stars Bettie Davis and Joan Crawford. Many people have tried to do something similar but never has captured the magic of the film, its truly one of a kind. So if you've never seen it I suggest you not watch any of the remakes, parodies etc, just go in fresh and experience it. This film was so successful that William Castle  went on to use Crawford in another horror film "Strait Jacket" which is also A LOT of fun. 

That is part 1 of this multi-part series. Hope you enjoyed and please leave feedback.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

British Spotlight Amicus: And Now the Screaming Starts

The second film in our series to Spotlight British Horror is another Amicus film.

Title: And Now the Screaming Starts

Year: 1973

Written By: Roger Marshall and David Case

Directed By: Roy Ward Baker

Plot: The year is 1795; England. Charles Fengriffen and his brand new bride to be move into his Castle estate. She is interested drawn to a series of family portraits. One in particular seems to catch her eye, that of Charles Grandfather Henry Fengriffen. It seems to cast some sort of evil possession over her. The two marry and what should be the happy ending to their fairy tale is just the beginning of a nightmare that includes being sexually assaulted by a evil spirit.  

The early sixties through mid seventies were a turning point in horror cinema in both America and Britain. With films like Psycho (1960 US) Peeping Tom (1960 UK) Repulsion (1965 UK) Monsters and ghosts were no longer in vogue; now ticket buyers wanted to see real life boogeymen. "And Now the Screaming Starts" goes way against the budding psycho thriller genre (and soon to morph into the slasher sub genre) and hearkens back to a more moody Gothic style period film which Hammer did so well themselves in the 40s-60`s.  I only recommend this film for those who like these types of films. For those horror fans only looking for gore and tits, this will not entertain you. Even though I love the splatter film as much as the next, I do also enjoy these types of films that sadly are rarely if ever made anymore. So with that out of the way lets get into the review! 

Its not often when you have a film about a ghost that rapes a woman, due to a revenge curse. Even by today's standards its a pretty far out plot.What could easily have been a hot mess thrives under the helm of veteran director Roy Ward Baker. He never once hams it up and keeps everything dead pan. It also helps that you have a clever script by Roger Marshall and David Case (uncredited) They weave a mystery with a horror twist that keeps the audience guessing until the end. There is never a dull moment to be had. 

I`m always so floored by how these British productions could really make a film look great on a small budget. This is no exception. The amount of detail in the sets is just stunning and it really makes you feel like your in that time and place. 

The effects are pretty impressive for 1973. For example through out the film there is a crawling hand. It might seem very low tech but think about it, this was pre-CGI when you had to come up with everything live. I think its very effective in being creepy. The ghost of Henry Fengriffen is pretty damn freaky looking without going super silly. 

Denys N. Coop the legendary D.P of such films as "The Third Man" & "Lolita"lends his skills to this film and the results is some very inventive camera work that really helps ground and give polish to a very strange script. Also It just adds to the feeling of spooky dread layered through the story. It also helps when you have such an amazing cast. Screaming has a wonderful collection of English character actors. Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee (Clockwork Orange,Barry Lyndon) Hebert Lom (Pink Panther movies) Guy Rolfe (Dolls, Mr. Sardonicus) Janet Key (The Vampire Lovers,Dracula A.D 1972) just to name a few. Its always great when a film can cram this many great actors into one project. That alone makes it a must see for fans of British horror. It is sad that Peter Cushing's character is not used more, but even still his time on the screen is always powerful. 

And The Screaming Starts can be seen as a sort of time capsule of a film. It is one of the last great Gothic period films, with moonlit nights, castles, creepy cemeteries etc. To give you perspective, it would be a mere year later when the "face" of horror would change forever with Tobe Hooper's horror opus "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) and 4 years after that "Halloween" (1978) It may not be as sexy and bloody as some of the later revival Hammer period films, but it is a interesting story with a great cast which I still fill holds up well after more than 40 years. 

TRIVA: If the Fengriffin Castle looks familiar it was used in many horror films but most famously in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

British Spotlight: Amicus Productions: Asylum 1972

Gorehound Mike`s British Spotlight on Amicus Studios

 When one thinks of British horror most fans will think of Hammer the legendary studio that revived many of Universals stable of monsters. They gave horror a certain class and charm without skimping on the nasty. During Hammers glorious run another British studio was also making mayhem, with titles you no doubt are familiar with. The studio was Amicus.  Stars like Christopher Lee,Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt also worked on there films giving Hammer a run for its money. While it`s not as famous as Hammer it still produced some very interesting horror gems. 

Will be looking at a series of films from this company and hopefully unearth some horrors you can enjoy!

A few notable films of the studio:
Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror,The Skull, From Beyond the Grave etc. 

Title: Asylum (aka House of Crazies) 
Year: 1972

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, Patrick Magee

Written by Robert Bloch (Writer of the novel Psycho)
Since this is an anothlogy i`m going to review in break downs of the stories. 

It was actually through the website Trailers from Hell that I discovered this tucked away gem and to my delight Dark Sky Films had put out a nice boxset of Amicus horror which includes And Now the Screaming Starts and the Beast Must Die. In the bottom of the blog I will post a link to the trailer and if you havent checked the site out its amazing and you can pretty much spend three or four days straight just watching trailers (with commentary) It has since turned me on to a few films that i`ve really enjoyed. 

Framing Story: Plot 
Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at a rather sinister asylum "for the incurably insane" for a job interview. Dr.Rutherford (Patrick Magee) who is wheelchair bound explains that he recently suffered an inmate attack and that the the former chief and head of the asylum Dr.B Starr is now a patient. He makes him a very strange deal, interview the patients and if you can guess which one is Dr.Starr you are up for the task and can have the job.  It seems bizarre but he agrees and begins interviewing the patients.

The framing device sets the mood wonderfully using the score "Night on Bald Mountain" which any horror fan will be familiar with. Patrick Magee (best known for Clockwork Orange) is great as always, he really sets the tone for what your about to see. Its one of the more interesting framing (or wrap around`s) to an anthology. 

Frozen Fear: Bonnie (Barbra Parkins) the first patient recalls the events that brought her to the asylum. She and her lover Walter (Richard Todd) plot to murder his nasty rich wife Ruth(Sylvia Syms). But it just so happens Ruth has been studying voodoo in her spare time and wears a charm around her wrist. Needless to say things don't work out for the two would be murderers.

The first segment is by far the cheesiest but its also a lot of fun. The actors never play it tongue and cheek, even though i`m sure it would have been very hard not to laugh during the take. Its not very long but it delivers just enough of wacky horror to leave you wanting more.

The Weird Tailor: Things are looking rather grim for an old tailor named Bruno (Barry Morse), who is past due on his rent and is facing the very real possibility of being on the streets. But as if by some miracle he is soon visited by a mysterious gentlemen known only as Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) who wants a suit made. He quickly learns Mr.Smith wants a very special suit made with a strange glowing material and that it must be made only strict guidelines. Bruno is offered a handsome price for the suit and he cant say no. But it seems he might have just made a bargain with the devil. 

By far the best segment. First lets talk about how great Peter Cushing is in this. He really brings a powerful performance and sells the story and his character motivation. His sheer presents is unmatched and he knocks it out of the park. The story is also amazing,with twists and turns aplenty and a ending that will knock you for a loop. Baker also does some brilliant work with creating mood with lighting, its really a shame this couldn't have been stretched for a whole film. 

Lucy Comes to Stay: Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) tells her story of coming back to live at her home with her brother George (James Villers) and a live in nurse Miss Higgins (Megs Jenkins) after being in a asylum. We quickly find out she has a friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) who has a talent for getting her into trouble. 

We come down off the high of the "The Weird Tailor" to Lucy, which is actually the weakest in the film. The only real draw in this tepid psycho drama is Britt Ekland who is best known for her role in The Wicker Man 74. But even Britt amazing star power cannot save the story which is very limp and anyone with a half a brain can guess the outcome.

Mannikins Of Horror/Epilogue:The final segment and wrap around strangely blend into each other so its hard for me to sum up without spoiling the ending so i`ll give you the short version to keep the surprise. Martins final interviewee is Dr.Martin  who has a collection of dolls that he plans to bring to life. 
I like how this strange final segment blends nicely with the wrap around. It doesn't have the bang one would hope but its interesting enough to be entertaining none the less. 

Overall:  Asylum is one of the better anthologies and despite some weak points its wildly entertaining with some fine British actors, who never ham it up despite the off the wall stories. It easily ranks up there with other films from the studio like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horrors etc. As stated you can find this in the Amicus boxset from Dark sky films. 

Trailers from Hell:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Exists: The Big foot Project

Title: Exists
Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez

Minor spoilers ahead- Nothing major but you may want to see the film first. You`ve been warned.

First let me start off by saying I`m a fan of Eduardo Sanchez. I really enjoyed Blair Witch and I thought Altered one a sorely underrated gem, considering its difficult to make an alien film not cheesy even on a high budget let alone a low one. But with a clever script that includes great character development and off beat humor mixed with some good gore it pulls it off brilliantly. When I heard he made a Big Foot movie I was really excited to see what he would bring to the monster of myth (depending on how you ask)

Plot: A cabin in the East Texas woods seems like the perfect get away for a group of kids, whose sole plan is to bike, paint ball and make videos. As the group is driving to there Chainsaw getaway they hit something but figure it was just a deer and continue on. The first night they hear strange crying and howling which they ignore. As the vacation progresses they quickly discover there is a hairy beast stalking them. Things go from worse to fucked when there car is wrecked, no phone signal and nobody knows they are there. Its man versus mythic beast in a savage battle.

Exists is a case of a decent movie that with more care could have been something really great.Lets talk writing. The five kids are standard horror stock (jock,stoner,air headed girl etc) which is so over used its a thing of self parody. With that being said the two most interesting characters are the two guys Todd (Roger Edwards) and Brain (Chris Osborn).  Todd starts off as a bone head jock type but takes on the role of level headed leader when the things go ape shit. Brian the stoner starts out as this goofy hipster, getting high and making Big foot calls late at night, but he to also matures and at one point is about to light up a jay and decides not to. Alas as good as this is its never taken far enough and you never feel like the character arc`s are taken to completion. Like Brian he was half baked.

To make things worse this film isn't sure who the hero is. At first Todd takes the role while Brian (the more interesting of the two) has nothing to do for a good chunk of the film as he is filming. This is fine until we the audience has to shift from Todd as the hero over to Brian. The girls roles are terribly written with nothing to do but bitch,cry and scream. This isn't to suggest they are bad actress`s they just do not have much to do or character substance. At one point Elizabeth (Denise Williamson) is basically written out towards the middle of the film (guess she wasnt important anyways) Had the writer taken more care with characters it would have helped this movie a huge deal. I`m actually surprised because Jamie Nash who previously wrote "Altered" also wrote this. Also some of the dialog is just cringe worthy,Todd has some gem on liners. "Shut about a Sasquatch" direct quote.

The other problem with this film (and its a big one) is its a found footage style film. Now i`m curious why he chose this format when you know it will be compared to I dunnoo say BLAIR WITCH! This style is lazy and has more than tired itself out (ironically mostly starting with TBWP) and as I mentioned above totally cuts out an important character out of the film.I`m sure Eduardo wasn't going for a Blair Witch feel its very hard not to compare the two (again the footage style doesn't help)
You almost expect to see twig man and piles of rocks everywhere. The problem with this and other Found footage films is just simple logic. Would you REALLY be filming during all of this? Its not as if they were there making a documentary and the sole purpose was to capture everything.

So now for what I enjoyed about Exists. The pacing is brisk, wasting little time before eerie things are a foot or big foot in this case. Its clear that Eduardo has a grasp at creating tension and using the shooting locations to set a certain mood. I like the restraint he shows in only giving us slight glimpses and sounds, letting us the audience fill in the blanks with our minds, until it builds to the actual creature. Speaking of, in a Big Foot movie the one thing that has to be awesome is of course the monster and Exists does not disappoint in well done ape make up. A true test is when you see the beast in the sunlight, which as you know hides nothing. Yet it still holds up as a believable living creature. Its also worth mentioning the actor inside the costume Brian Steele for bringing a real fury to the part.

Also there are some great visuals like the bike being tossed into the cabin like it was a paper doll. Its a jolting moment that makes an impact. I was kind of sad that the tree sticking out of the top of the car was not used (as in the poster art) but it does end up in the film in another way. Still a striking image.

Exists is a fun movie with some gripping moments despite its short comings, yet I cant help feel frustrated at thinking what this movie could have been had the writer taken more care with the script and more importantly the characters. Also if they would have opted out of the over used found footage sub genre. Its not an unwatchable movie and in the right frame of mind its quiet enjoyable. But its not great either. It seems finding a really good Big Foot movie might be as hard as finding the actual monster of legend himself. This reviewer might have to track down "Willow Creek" next.