Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pieces of Talent

Director - Joe Stauffer (Dream)
Starring - David Long, Kristi Ray (Celebrity Ghost Stories), and Nate Panning (Piranha 3DD)
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Comedy/Horror
Tagline - "Beautiful horror"
Format - Streaming (online screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Horror has always been a genre full of trends that suddenly pop up.  These trends usually last a few years and then die off when the masses start to realize they have been duped and go off for the next fad.  Recently we have seen an over abundance in torture porn underground horror flicks along with countless zombie flicks riding on the coattails of AMC's The Walking Dead.   On top of all that we are now plagued with film after film stealing the plot from Paranormal Activity.  We now have Paranormal Whacktivity, Haunted House and it's sequel, Paranormal Entity, Paranormal Haunting, and so on and so on.  However, in a time of copycats and duplicates one filmmaker usually rises up and gives us something new and breathtaking.  Que in director Joe Stauffer and his indie masterpiece Pieces of Talent.  Fellow reviewer Denver Johnson reviewed this film and his review intrigued me but once horror friend and reviewer Jason Limberg mentioned it to me I had to fucking see it.  I reached out to star David Long and he was nice enough to hook me up with a screener. Thank you for forever changing my life David!
     The film follows the beautiful Charlotte (Ray).  She works as a waitress at a strip club while she tries to land roles as an actress.  One night while having a smoke she catches the club's bouncer beating the shit out of a man holding a camera.  She intervenes but he is beat up pretty bad.  She puts him in his car and drives him around until he regains consciousness.  When he awakes he tells her he is a filmmaker himself and the two exchange numbers before he takes her home and drops her off.  He then returns back to his home to work more on a film he is working on.  It turns out that David Long (playing himself) is not your typical filmmaker.  In fact, he is a snuff peddler making his on snuff film.  David takes a liking to Charlotte and wants to make her the center of his work in progress.  Things take a gruesome turn when Charlotte discovers this very plot and is now faced with fighting for her life.
     When I first saw the poster work (shown above) I assumed this film was a blood soaked underground film that surely had more scenes involving torture porn than I cared to see and probably crude sex acts that left me feeling disgusted rather than entertained.  However, after I started watching it I quickly realized that this film was far from that.  In fact, this was a beautiful stylized horror film.  The acting in this one is phenomenal.  Kristi Ray is a powerful lead actress that has just as much beauty as she does talent.  If I don't see her beautiful smile grace more films in the future I will be highly pissed.  David Long also has an extreme amount of talent and his presence really made the film as powerful as it is.  He has crafted one of the greatest indie horror icons to come out in recent years.  The story for this one is fun and slightly original.  The film has a little bit of romance which is unusual for an indie or underground film.  It's not enough to ruin it for the testosterone filled viewer but just enough to really get a feel for the characters and fall in love with them.  The film is also able to throw in a lot of laughs while still keeping the horror elements.  Not a lot of horror comedies are able to balance the two resulting in one genre over-powering the other.  I also love how the characters were written.  Charlotte is a very strong and innocent woman who keeps finding herself in sleazy and uncomfortable situations.  David is a charismatic character that truly deserves more films.  I could tell this character of David was written for David Long because no one else could pull him off like he did.  Finally, the film has some very impressive kills.  I knew the film would be bloody but I had no idea it would have so many fun and inventive kills as it did.  The film also has some decent practical effects as well.  None Savini quality but "A" grade in comparison to most other indie flicks I have seen.  Overall, Pieces of Talent is a fucking work of art.  David Long is a character that will join the ranks of some of the greatest horror icons of all time.  I can not recommend this movie enough or say enough good things about it.  Fucking watch it instead of reading my incoherent ramblings!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Doll Boy

Director - Billy Pon (Circus of the Dead)
Starring - Sergio Gracida (Circus of the Dead), Jed Duesler (Earthling), and Venus Monique (Open When Johnny Can Read)
Release Date - 2010
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "He has the heart of a a jar next to his bed"
Format - Streaming

Rating (out of 5):
     When it comes to indie horror the only real advertising the film receives is by word of mouth. This is a cheap and effective way to get the word out about your film.  Sadly, not everyone has the same taste in films.  A few years back multiple horror forums I was apart of was in an uproar over the short film Doll Boy.  The short was praised highly but I never had the desire to watch it because I thought it would never live up to the hype it was receiving.  I also thought the title was a little on the lame side so I just ignore it and brushed it off.  A few weeks back I became friends with Billy Pon on Facebook and he was nice enough to send me a link to his short along with a screener for his new flick Circus of the Dead.  Thanks Billy for that!
     The film follows a group of people who are trapped in a decrepit building.  The group is confused and frantically search for a way out.  However, they are not alone.  A large man wearing the face of a doll is stalking them and murdering them one by one in the most brutal ways.

        When I heard of the short I assumed it was a film with a stupid title that probably involved a shitload of torture.  After watching the short after Billy sent it to me I have to admit that I feel like a fucking fool for putting off watching this for so fucking long.  This short was nothing like I expected.   I have to admit that, rather any fan wants to admit it or not, but the film is actually a textbook example of the perfect slasher.  The acting in this one is solid by the entire cast.  Some members made their characters so believable while others were able to pull out the viewer's emotions which is rare in the indie scene.  They really gave this short their all and it shows.  The story for this one is nothing new nor is it something that is told in a new light.  With that being said, the killer is genuine which made the film really fun.  It actually reminded me of a more darker and brutal version of Jacob.  Finally, the film does have some brutal, yet simple, kills that have decent special effects.  The kills are nothing crazy or over the top but they were bloody.  Overall, Doll Boy is a short slasher that definitely delivers.  Check this short out because you will not be disappointed. 

A Measure Of The Sin

Writer: Kristy Nielsen, Jeff Wedding
Director: Jeff Wedding
Starring: Katie Groshong, Stephen Jackson, Starina Johnson, Dale Rainey
Availability: DVD available at or

    You can call Jeff Wedding's A Measure Of The Sin a lot of things, but one thing you can't accuse it of is being a traditional horror film.  It's a beautiful, haunting, mesmerizing piece of art.  I first saw this film several months ago, and I remember being absolutely blown away by its simple beauty.  Re-watching it now, it occurred to me this isn't simply a refreshing breath of fresh air in indie horror.  It's a modern day indie masterpiece.

    Katie Groshong gives a note perfect performance as Meredith, a girl living in seclusion with two other women and a charismatic head of household, known only as the Man (Stephen Jackson, crafting a perfect balance of warmth and menace.)  The Man convinces all these women that they must never leave, because the world is far too dangerous.  Flashbacks show that it was Meredith's mother who envisioned this as the type of "freedom" she wanted for her daughter.  They exist in a world that almost feels out of time.  They are not burdened by modern life.  They enjoy a quaint, peaceful existence.  That is, of course, until Meredith keeps being attacked by this bear who everyone is convinced is only a figment of her imagination.  Meredith decides, against the Man's wishes, that she might want to see if she can survive out there.

    In a lot of ways, this is a movie that hit close to home for me.  I grew up in a cult.  Before you ask, I am not making this up.  I have pictures.  It was a very strange environment, but at the same time, when you are a child who knows no other life, it seems perfectly normal.  This is the dilemma Meredith is forced to face.  She has no frame of reference to realize that this is not how "normal" people exist.  These people are her family, and this is the only life she has ever known.  Her curiosity is no different than the curiosity any of us have.  We are always wondering what else is out there for us.

    First things first, I have to seriously commend Wedding for deciding to shoot A Measure of the Sin on super 16mm.  Not only does it heighten the beauty of the film, but it gives the entire thing an almost dreamlike, fairy tale quality.  The shot compositions are exceptional, and can rival the camerawork seen in a lot of Terence Malick's films.  That's right.  I just compared Jeff Wedding to Terence Malick.  Between the elegant, fluid camerawork and the film's heavy use of inner monologues, the comparison is more than valid.  This is a movie that recalls the great independent films of the 1970s, a time when people cared more about the art of film, than the amount of money they can make with it.

    Every performance is this film is a small miracle.  The movie is not heavy on dialogue, yet these actors and actresses are still able to carry the film.  It's not a movie that's going to be for everyone.  Sure, there's an insane amount of nudity on display.  That's really about the only exploitative element to be found there.  This is much more of an arthouse, avant-garde mood piece.  It's deliberately paced, yet the final act, which I refuse to spoil here, packs a true wallop.  After the credits started to roll, I had goosebumps, and very few films are able to move me like that.

    A Measure Of The Sin is the type of film that reminds me why I fell in love with the movies in the first place.  With its haunting score, piercing performances, and captivating visual look, it's something you may not love, but you will never forget it.  Jeff Wedding could very well end up being one of the greatest directors of his generation.  We'll just have to wait and see.

    Until next time, my fellow freaks and weirdos...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Castle Freak

Director - Stuart Gordon (From Beyond, Re-Animator)
Starring - Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, The Wizard of Gore), Barbara Crampton (You're Next, The Lords of Salem), and Jonathan Fuller (Campfire Tales, Arcade)
Release Date - 1995
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Hideous, hungry, and loose"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection)

Rating - (out of 5):
      When I was in middle school and high school I often visited my local video stores, Dewey's Video and Buck's Home Video, to scout the racks of films they had to offer.  Lucky for me the owner of Dewey's Home Video had a soft spot for horror so the horror VHS was always in abundance.  The store did offer a pretty solid Full Moon collection and among all the VHS in the lot was a copy of Castle Freak.  I always saw it after I had rented something else and when I returned to get it some other lucky fucker had rented it out throwing me in a game of cat and mouse for years until I finally forgot about the film.  Years passed and me and my friends decided it was time to finally watch it.  A friend of mine ordered a VHS copy of the film and we finally sat down to see it.  Sadly, the VHS was fucked up and were unable to see it.  Sometime passed and that same friend was able to secure yet another VHS and we were finally able to give it a go where I fell in love with it.  I would borrow that VHS multiple times until it finally stopped playing and I would once again go without the film until last year when my wife ordered the 18 film Full Moon archive set.
     The film follows American John Reilly (Combs), his wife Susan (Crampton), and their blind daughter, as they travel to Italy.  John just inherited a castle from his aunt who just happens to be a duchess which now makes him a duke.  John and his family traveled to Italy to prepare the estate for auction and we see that John and Susan are far from perfect couple.  Some time ago John was driving his daughter and son home for dinner while drunk wrecking the car.  This kills his son and blinds his daughter.  This is something Susan has not been able to forgive John for.  Now John is trying to use this castle as a second chance with his wife but things are not as peachy as he would like.  In a drunken rage he brings a prostitute back to the castle and bangs her in the wine cellar.  He continues to drink and she leaves but something lurking in the dark snags her and kills her.  The police suspect John is behind her disappearance and stop at nothing to prove he is guilty.  The police search the castle grounds and find her mutilated body along with the body of the lawyer's sister.  They arrest John but he quickly discovers a dark secret involving his aunt, mother, and a deceased child that never died and was tortured his entire life.
     Full Moon's films of the 90s had a look all their own. These films are hard to mistake and even harder to ignore.  With that being said, Gordon's Full Moon flicks had a unique look all their own as well and set themselves apart from other Full Moon films.  You can expect to see some decent gore, witty one liners, and the beautiful Barbara Crampton and Castle Freak delivers on all of those.  The acting in this one is great.  Jeffrey Combs delivers a superb performance.  This man is one I truly admire and I find it to be a damn shame he doesn't have more roles in modern horror.  Barbara Crampton once again shines in her role just a little disappointed we don't get a more unclothd performance like we do in From Beyond and Re-Animtor.  The remainder of the cast did a solid job as well.  This is one well acted film which is something Full Moon is not known for.  The story for this one is nothing original at the time but sure is bloody and fun.  A family moving into a home with something dark lurking about is something told before with films like Poltergeist.  This unoriginal story has the Gordon style and wit which sets it out from the others.  Finally, the film has several original and bloody on screen kills with some great practical effects.  This film has several impressive kills that stand out and one in particular that will leave the viewer saying "what the fuck."  Overall, Castle Freak is an underrated Full Moon classic that needs to be seen.  Check it out because I highly recommend it.


Bad Chicken

Director - Carter Mays
Starring - Isabelle Gardo (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), David Schweizer (A Dog Goes From Here to There), and Michael Palaniuk
Release Date - 2013
Genre - Comedy/Drama
Format - Streaming (Online Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     A few years back we saw a surge in films attempting to be throwbacks to grindhouse type flicks.  This surge was further skyrocketed when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino created the Grindhouse double feature. Since then we have had countless films try to capture that grindhouse look and feel but add their own twist to it.  I have seen grindhouse style flicks featuring bikers, bigfoot, Frankenstein, ninjas, and so many other unusual things but I have yet to see one featuring puppets. Several months back fellow reviewer Denver Johnson told me to check out the indie puppet flick Bad Chicken.  I did a little Facebook search and found the page for the film.  The film definitely caught my eye so I reached out to them for a review copy.  Some time passed and the film slipped my mind until recently when they finally answered me back.  Better late than never!
     The film follows three criminal chickens who con women into giving them a little bumper action.  This time around they are setting up a faux reality show and trick Norah and Isaak into joining the cast.  Norah is gorgeous and the chickens manipulate her to create tension between her and her boyfriend so Charlie (the lead chicken) can get a little tail. They pack up and head out into the desert so Norah can spread the ashes of her deceased cat.  During the trip Charlie starts to fall for Norah and tries everything he can to come between them.  However, nothing he tries works so he resorts to a more deadly plan and tries to murder Isaak in the desert.  He succeeds but the outcome is not what he expected.  He is arrested and while he is locked up Norah turns to BDSM porn.
    It is a shame that there is not more flicks aimed for adults involving puppets.  Sure, we have the films of Dustin Mills, Meet the Feebles, and Misfit Heights but that is just not enough.  I have yet to see a film with puppets that sucked and Bad Chicken is no exception.  The film really drew me in and held my attention like I was 9 watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers all over again.  The film is able pull out the child-like wonder from the viewer and hold their attention the entire time.  The acting in this one is solid.  Norah and Isaak was perfectly casted.  Isaak is a solid character and is able to portray the perfect boyfriend scenario while Norah is a solid actress and smoking hot.  That is all you need.  The story for this one is fun as hell and that is no exaggeration.  The film has a beautiful girl, three puppets that are perfectly written characters, and a story that pulls you in and will not let go.  This is truly a project made out of passion.  Finally, the film does have a few laughs.  You can tell this film was initially a comedy but changed direction sometime during filming.  The puppets also look great.  Sadly, this film is not a horror flick so we do not get any kills or special effects but that does not take away from the film.  Overall, Bad Chicken is an amazing film that has sex, foul-mouthed chickens, and a story that will pull you in.  If you like beautiful women and sleazy flicks then this one is for you!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friday the 13th: The Curse of Jason

Director(s) - Jack Norman (The Wicked One) and Brandon Prewitt (The Woods Within)
Starring - Jack Norman, Christy Faulkner (Watch This, Scarewaves), and Tiffany Jordan (Chasing Ghosts)
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Horror
Format - Streaming

Rating (out of 5):
     The idea of a fan film is exciting to the die hard movie, comic, book, and so forth fan. Fan films can be an expansion of some of our favorite stories given to us by fans that love the stories for the same reasons we do.  Sadly, fan films are something I just recently came across when I started following the indie production company Studio 605.  After the slasher The Campground they started work on a web-series that was actually a Friday the 13th fan film.  I caught the first few episodes but I did not want to just review each episode as if it was a stand alone film so I waited and when they released them all together I had to review it.   I just had to wait until I had time.
     The film opens with a group of teens/twenty-somethings sitting around a camp fire having a good time when Jason Voorhees shows up wearing a sack over his head and wielding a pick-axe. The group tries to flee but Jason is relentless and murders them all.  We then jump a year into the future and the camp is trying to re-open when Jason attacks again killing everyone except one teen and finds his trademark hockey mask.  The boy becomes obsessed with Jason and this forces him into seclusion.  We then jump 10 years and Jason (or is it the young boy that is all grown up?) is at is again killing everything that moves or has a good time.
     When I was younger, middle school age, my dad and I watched Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter on VHS.  This was part IV in the series but it was my first exposure to the Friday the 13th franchise.  I had seen my fair share of slashers before but I had yet to see a Jason flick.  However, after watching that particular film I had to jump on the bandwagon and watch them all which lead to a lifelong obsession to the point I now have a Jason tattoo.  When I heard Studio 605 was creating a fan film for the series I had to see it.  I knew their love for slashers would lead them in the right place with the film, as well as, Jason Voorhees.  After watching the first episode I knew these guys were heading in the right direction.  The acting in this one is hit or miss.  Director Jack Norman did a great job portraying Jason.  He was brutal and really channeled the moves the character was known for.  Also, several key characters showed a lot of talent but really lacked the experience.  My biggest complaint is the fight scenes.  The characters had a hard time making the fight scenes seem convincing.  That really brought some of the action packed scenes down.  The story is a fan's look at several key moments from the series involving Jason from Part II, Jason getting the mask in Part III, the obsessed survivor similar to Tommy Jarvis, and all the kills.  Finally, the film houses several great examples of great practical effects, the same kind used in the actual series.  Sadly, not all the kills are on screen.  In fact, a great deal take place off camera which is a bit of a disappointment.  Overall, Friday the 13th: The Curse of Jason is a great fan film that is worthy of the Friday the 13th name.  Check it out and enjoy!