Friday, January 31, 2014

MNII: Summer's End


Director - Ryan Stacy (Watch This!, Midsummer Nightmares)
Starring - Scott Gillespie (Bludgeon), Kelci C. Magel (Run This Town), and Stacy Freeders (Midsummer Nightmares)
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Horror
Format - Streaming (Online Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Sequels are always a bitter sweet love affair.  You always look forward to seeing where a story you enjoy is taken next but you fear the film will be nowhere near as good as the film that started it all. However, in the indie world a lot of filmmakers learn a lot making their first film resulting in a sequel that tends to surpass the original.  That brings me to MNII: Summer's End.  This sequel to the 2010 slasher flick, Midsummer Nightmares directed by Ryan Stacy, is a film that I have been nervous about viewing.  I reviewed Midsummer Nightmares (read my review here) last April and it was not the film I was hoping for.  The poster made me think it was a throwback to the 80s slasher but what I got instead was a post-Scream slasher that was dialogue rich.  Since my last viewing of MN I have seen Stacy's segment Ladies Night in the anthology film Watch This!  This segment showed so much creative growth and experience since MN and this gave me a glimmer of hope for MNII so when I received a link to the screener I was a little excited to see where the film went.
     The film begins where MN ends.  We then jump three years and the survivors of that horrific night have drifted apart...that is until the white mask wore by Danielle Winters (Freeders) in the original MN is discovered.  The two ladies that discover the mask try to warn Aubrey Small (Faulkner) but she does not heed this warning.  However, bodies start to pile up forcing everyone involved in the original massacre to search for answers.  They then begin to suspect that Danielle is still alive or someone has picked up where she left off.
     When it comes to slashers I am one of those assholes that split slashers into two distinct eras.  The classic, or golden age, of slashers spanned from the late 70s to the early 90s when the slasher sub-genre died out.  Until Craven brought it back from the dead in the mid-90s with Scream ushering in the second era of slashers known as the post-Scream slashers. Personally, I prefer the classic slashers over the post-Scream slashers, however, I respect the hell out of them all.  As for MNII, this film is the perfect example of a post-Scream slasher.  The characters in the film are aware they are in the midst of a slasher, the film opts out to have a dimwitted "final girl" and replaces her with a powerful female lead (in this case three strong female roles), and this film is heavy with character development which is something most classic slashers skipped on to make room for bloody deaths.  The acting in this film is hit and miss.  Freeders once again does a great job convincing the audience that she is crazy and Kelci C. Magel is a natural in front of the camera.  The rest of the cast once again has a hard time with volume control which is something I remember was a problem in the first film.  The film obviously circles around a group of females but it seems like all they do is scream at each other especially Christy Faulkner who portrays Aubrey Small.  Her character is afraid and worried but it just came across as her being bitchy to the other characters.  This did get a little old throughout the film.  The story is more of the first film with an even bigger twist ending.  The only real downside to the film is once again it suffers from slow pacing and dialogue rich scenes.  That is as far as I want to go with that for fear of spoiling the film (which I promised I would not).  Finally, this film has the same stock kills that the slasher genre is known for but this time around the special effects are tremendously better.  The kills in the original were very bland and not that fun.  However, this time around I actually enjoyed the kills.  Overall, MNII is a textbook slasher that offers up beautiful women and blood.  It may be slow paced but the kills do more than make up for it in the end.  I recommend it!








Thursday, January 30, 2014

Baggage

 

Director - Jeremiah Kipp (A Chance in Hell)
Starring - Rob Dimension (The Chainsaw Sally Show Season 2, No Clowning Around), Ilaria Malvezzi, and Jerry Janda
Release Date - 2013
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Benjamin is normal..."
Format - Streaming (Online Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Modern horror is known to contain immense amount of nudity, gore, blood, foul language.  I actually love all four of those but sometimes the director forgets to add style and depth to their films.  They try to cram as many bloody tits as they can into their film without giving the viewer some decent plot twists and a story that is actually entertaining.  That brings me to my next review for Baggage.  The short was directed by Jeremiah Kipp and stars fellow director Rob Dimension.  I knew this short would not be my normal run of the mill horror flick that will leave me sticky with blood.  Hell, the poster gave me that much of a hint.  However, I wanted to see it and Dimension was nice enough to hook me up with a screener.  Thanks Rob!
     The film follows Benjamin (Dimension).  Benjamin is your typical 9 to 5er that  often flies under the radar.  He enjoys his job but the one thing he wakes up for every day is the love of his lady. He also has a strange obsession with his work bag.  He holds it tight to his body all the time and this attracts the attention of two thugs.  The thugs try to take his bag but they do not know Benjamin and the darkness his harbors.
     
     What I like about shorts is how quick they get to the action, blood, and carnage. The downside to a film being a short is that the story has no time to fully develop.  However, Baggage is able to do the opposite.  In the film's short running time we are able to get a very well written and thought provoking film that goes well beyond my expectations.  The film is able to accomplish what full length films are able to do in a short period of time.  The acting in this short is damn amazing. Dimension is known for his roles behind, as well as, in front of the camera but this film shows that his real place in film is in front of the camera.  He really needs to take more starring roles because his roles on camera are always fun as hell to watch.  The story is not that original but it is a story done in a more unconventional method giving this short a very unique look and feel.  I don't want to go any further into the story for fear of spoilers.  Finally, those looking for great on screen kills and amazing special effects will not find them here.  This film is not here to boast a body count but to tell a story of just how far people will go to get what they truly want.  Overall, Baggage is an abnormal horror film that takes beauty and the mundane to give the viewer a rather new viewing experience.  I highly recommend it!




    


Monday, January 27, 2014

You're Next (2013)




You're Next (2013)
directed by:  Adam Wingard
starring:  AJ Bowen, Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney, Ti West, Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden
Format:  Netflix NTSC: Region 1 DVD

(out of 5)

      I so wanted to like this movie.  Home invasion, Larry Fessenden, Ti West, Barbara Crampton, what else can a horror fan want?  Well how about a lot less comedy.  This is home invasion not Home Alone.  Maybe it's just me but home invasion stuff for me is terrifying and yeah sure every movie needs a little comic relief but this just went too far with the clumsy baddies running around getting their asses handed to them by our heroine super girl.  I say super because this girl was unstoppable and had the creative sense of McGuyver.  Oh yeah sure she grew up in a survival camp and...yeah not buying it.  She was cool at first and they just took it overboard.  Especially with the ass kicking, oh but it's more realistic when the baddies act clumsy and weak...no it's not.  Sorry like I said all that stuff was cool for a moment then it was just too much.  I wasn't sickened or concerned for the characters at all half way through.  And the great twists everyone likes to talk about were easily guessed.  All three of them, by me, no lie.
    What did I like about the film.  The actors were great, especially Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden.  Ti West was in it as a cameo but I don't think he had any lines outside of being introduced to the family.  Oh well still cool to see him in the production.  And the fx!  No cgi blood was one of the first things I noticed and in this day and time it's rare.  Cgi is ok for certain things but never for blood.  I mean if you're making a film with some sort of artistic cgi ok I'm with ya but for regular splatter and gushing nothing looks more fake than cgi blood.  You just can't replicate blood running and splattering with a computer.  That's it.  I have nothing else to say about this movie.  Such high hopes.

     And as far as everyone comparing this to the Purge.  Well all I can say is I'd give the Purge 4 Bloody Handprints and this has 2 and a half so there's my opinion on that.  Oh wait the Purge was Hollywood fodder....yeah no it wasn't that's your anti-Hollywood attitude talking.  Me I'm not big on Hollywood films but I certainly don't rule them out like some of my fellow horror fans and reviewers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Trail of Blood


Director(s) - Joseph Guerrieri (The Jackalope) and Justin Guerrieri (Rocketboy)
Starring - Robert Picardo (Mansion of Blood), Tim Barraco (Jericho), and Trevor Torseth (American Horror Story)
Release Date - 2011
Genre - Horror
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Sometimes a relatively unknown horror or exploitation film will get a big name director, actor, producer, etc to "present" the film opening it up to an even bigger audience.  One of the most recent examples of this is Quentin Tarantino presenting the first Hostel.  Director of Hostel, Eli Roth, was coming off the the success of Cabin Fever and had a decent fan base by this point, however, by throwing Tarantino's name on the film the audience base grew tenfold.  That brings me to my next review for the film Trail of Blood or as the poster artwork and DVD calls it Joe Dante Presents Trail of Blood.  Joe Dante has made a name for himself in the horror community, as well as, other genres.  However, directors Joseph and Justin Guerrieri has not done so and in order to have this film reach a wider audience the company releasing the film had Dante attach his name to is.  After watching this movie I have to say that Dante did the right thing!
     The film follows a group of twenty-somethings as they head out for a camping trip. One of them plans on telling his girlfriend that he is joining the Marines but she is hoping he will ask her to marry him.  Sadly, their trip turns south when they come across a campsite covered in blood.  While they are looking the site over another couple comes by brandishing a gun and a knife and accuses them of committing the crime.  The pair holds the group captive where they push them to their limits of sanity.  After killing some of the group the pair admits they killed the other campers and the man is actually a Marine himself that is on a cross country killing spree.  Chasing after him is a detective of some sort who partners up with another officer of the law.  Before the homicidal couple can kill everyone in the group the surviving members start to fight for their lives.  When the authorities arrive they then have a hard time time discovering who the real murderers are and who are the victims.
     As a reviewer I am always receiving films to review that I have little to no knowledge of.  From the two years I have been writing reviews I have noticed that if I have not heard of the film then it is for a good reason.  If you read my earlier reviewer here or on my blog before HS then you see me always meet these films with an open heart and excitement only to be crushed beneath the weight of a shitty film.  Though it is rare to come across a relatively unknown film that exceeds my expectations it can still happen.   Boy, did that happen with Trail of Blood.  When I saw that it had "Joe Dante Presents" before the title I assumed that this would be a below average flick relying on the credibility of someone who has already established themselves in the horror genre.  Instead, I was treated to a film that has just as much if not more tension than the original Last House on the Left.  I have seen so many films in my short life but very few films were able to show such savagery and hostility among mankind like Last House on the Left.   With that being said, Trail of Blood came damn close.  The film showed no moral restraint when it came to death and really showed how fragile human life can be.  This film is the perfect example of real life horror.  The acting in this film is top notch.  Every actor and actress really gave the film their all but one actor really stood out.  Trevor Torseth made his character seem real which is scary when you really think about it.  He plays one convincing killer and I loved that.  I really hope he can find roles similar to this one in the future because it would be a shame if he does not.  The story for this one is not something original but this one is fun.  The film, like I said earlier, does flow like the original Last House on the Left.  However, that is not a bad thing because the directors behind this film was really passionate about their project and it shows tremendously.  Finally, those looking for great on screen kills will find a few here.  Sadly, it was not as much as I would have liked but it did not take away from the overall flick.  The special effects that do accompany those deaths were great.  They really made the deaths even more enjoyable.  Overall, Trail of Blood is one unrelenting horror film that shows how far mankind can be pushed before they push back!  I highly recommend it.






Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Measure of the Sin


Director - Jeff Wedding (M is for Monastery)
Starring - Cody Cheyenne (Vicious Cycle), Katie Groshong (Jug Face), and Stephen Jackson
Release Date - 2013
Genre - Horror/Drama
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     When I find a movie I have never heard of before I never know what to expect.  Sure, I can study the poster art and watch the trailer but those just give me a small glimpse of the film. You will never know what the film has to offer unless you actually watch it for yourself.  With that being said, that brings me my next review for the film A Measure of the Sin.  The same indie lover that recommend Nightmare Box and Gallery of Fear turned me on to this film and I had to check it out.  The name and poster art really intrigued me so I reached out to the Facebook page.  They were kind enough to hook me up with a screener and for that I would like to thank you!
     The film follows Meredith (Groshong) who flees her troubled home and moves into a household with several other women. These women and their children are controlled by a man (Jackson) who controls every aspect of their lives.  The man warns the women about the dangers of venturing out into the real world and does not give them the benefits of modern technology and advancements.  The women live a lifestyle of a time long forgotten.  Meredith still remembers her mother and her views of freedom but refuses to leave the man and his other women.  However, she has a change of mind when she sees a creature she thinks is a bear trying to attack her.  No one else seems to see the beast and this sets her in her way of leaving.
     I absolutely love it when horror crosses with other genres and sub-genres.   These films tend to be unique and you will usually see nothing like it. However, my experience with art house films is limited which goes along with my experience with art house horror.  However, after just several minutes into this film I knew this flick was an art house/horror hybrid.  I honestly know nothing about art films other than they are made for expression rather than for sheer entertainment.  Now, I don't see this film as an outlet for expression but I do believe this film had a story to tell.  The acting in this one is spectacular.  Every cast member really gave it their all and it shows in every second of every scene.  The casting in this film is perfect and it really shows through out the film.  I would also like to take a minute to acknowledge the female cast members.  They are absolutely beautiful.  This film begs to be seen just on that fact alone.  The story in this one is one of the more detailed stories I have reviewed yet.  The story is so surreal and trance like that it is actually hard to follow at times.  That is actually my biggest complaint with this film.  The pacing is so slow and the story is so dreamlike that is makes it really hard for the viewer to follow.  However, this could also be just me because I am a fucking idiot.  Finally, those of you looking for great on screen kills and special effects will not find them here.  Instead, the film relies heavily on a rich story and beautiful cinematography.  Overall, A Measure of the Sin is a film that has a bold story and beautifully shot scenes but the pacing makes this film hard to watch.  If you like films that is story driven and not that lucid then this film is for you.  However, if you are an idiot and like your films straight forward then this one is not for you.





    

Megan is Missing (2011)


Megan is Missing (2011)
directed by:  Michael Goi
starring:  Amber Perkins, Rachel Quinn, Dean Waite,
format:  Personal Collection NTSC:  Region 1



(out of 5)


     I friggn' love found footage films!  I try and see everything I can in that department.  The more shakey the camera the better I say ha ha ha.  For me there is no film style out there that puts the viewer inside the movie like pov/sov movies.  I guess the first one I ever saw was Cannibal Holocaust and maybe before that The Legend of Boggy Creek but really that's more of a mockumentary film.  People complain about these types of films to no end and my question every time is, "Why do you watch found footage movies when you know exactly how they are shot?"
 
But I digress.  Megan is Missing is a terrifying look into the lives of teenaged girls today.  Having a teenaged girl in my home only made this movie even more scary for me.  I really dug into this flick and towards the end I was literally locked to the screen.  We follow friends Amy and Megan and their daily lives of high school, boys, parents, and parties.  The screen jumps around from cameras to computer chat screens.  The girls are both very different, Amy is a girl next door type both modest and quiet while Megan is quite the opposite being very out going and popular.  Megan and Amy tell each other everything sex, Megan being raped by her stepfather, school gossip.  Soon it's revealed that Megan has a male online friend named Josh and after a short time they make a date.  Well Megan never comes home from that date and when Amy confronts Josh online about Megan's disappearance he claims the girl never made it to their meeting place.  Days go by and Megan is still missing.  Everyone in the town is searching for her and there is even a cable show about her possible abduction and a video is released of Megan walking through a parking lot and getting picked up by some unknown man whose face is just out of the camera angle.  Amy is a little na├»ve at first but soon enough figures out that Josh is more than a little suspect.  Amy publicly blames Josh for the disappearance and that's when her own problems start. 
     She begins taking video herself in a park still looking for her best friend when she assumes that everyone else has given up after weeks and weeks of searching.  We see as the viewer in one shot in particular it appears as if some one is watching from the trees.  Amy never notices this.  The video ends with a man's arm reaching for her and goes fuzzy.  Later the camera is found in  a trash can in the park when the police begin searching for now Amy.  Soon after the last 22 minutes of the camera are shown and this is where things get particularly disturbing.  Photos of a tortured girl also show up on a website of a girl bound to a sort of table with holes for a head and two hands.  Amy is shown on the video being forced to eat from a bowl using no hands or utensils.  She is raped on camera and then finally she gets to see Megan.  And that's where my review shall end.  I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys found footage films.   I loved it.  Disturbing but not over the top.  Even the rape scene (for those who can watch people die or be tortured but can't watch a rape) isn't as nasty as it truly could have been the camera never leaves her face. 
     Both actresses in the movie did a superb job I was very impressed.  Even their bitch friends from high school were very natural.  The movie for me just didn't have anything too negative at all and I would have possibly given it a 5 bloody hand print rating if it weren't for the far too long shot of "Josh" digging a hole.  It goes on an on way too long.  But that's it, that's my only complaint.