Sunday, September 24, 2017

Amityville: No Escape



Director - Henrique Couto (Nothing Good Ever Happens, Scarewaves)
Starring - Allison Egan (Halloween Spookies, Her Name Was Torment 2), Julia Gomez (Calamity Jane's Revenge), and Josh Miller (CarousHELL, Applecart)
Release Date - 2016
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "No one leaves"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Most people see a movie's title or artwork and instantly bashes it.  I tend to be more open minded to film.  With that being said, I typically don't like found footage flicks.  There has been a few that has popped up over the years that I did.  I did enjoy the classic The Blair Witch Project and Henrique Couto's Alone in the Ghost House.  Sadly, most of the other's I've seen were not that great and left me extremely bored.  Just because I tend to dislike found footage flicks doesn't mean I go into them full of hate.  I'm always open minded.  Recently, Couto released a new found footage film that taps into a classic paranormal phenomenon, Amityville.  His new film, Amityville: No Escape once again takes fans down the found footage rabbit hole.  I was able to pick up a copy at Cinema Wasteland from Couto and couldn't wait to check it out.
     The film follows a group of college students working on a documentary as they head to Amityville to hopefully capture some supernatural presence on camera.  One of the crew members was able to get their hands on a VHS tape that belonged to someone who bought the famous Amityville house in 1997.  The group spends a few nights in the woods and are terrorized by a young girl wearing a dress.  When they try to leave they quickly discover that the woods are alive and it doesn't want them to leave.
     A lot of the pop horror fans love the Amityville Horror films.  I have to admit that I enjoy the first one as well but this story has been run into the ground with all the sequels, remakes, and unofficial sequels.  Henrique is a very versatile filmmaker that has surprised me with his horror and comedies.  I can only think of one time that I was not a fan of Couto's work and that was his film Bleeding ThroughAmityville: No Escape is another flick of his that I just did not enjoy.  The acting in this one is hit or miss with me.  I really enjoyed Josh Miller, Julia Gomez, and Allison Egan's performance.  They all work very well with each other and their dialogue just feels natural.  The supporting cast alright but they do come across as forced.  The story for this one feels like two different films came together to create what we are given.  The segment following the lonely woman in the house feels like a great found footage angle that was never full capitalized on.  There is so much that could have been done with this.  The second portion, the film crew camping, doesn't really feel like it was meant to be an Amityville film.  When most people think of Amityville they think of the unique looking house where the couple was murdered.  They typically don't think of people camping.  It feels like these two things were filmed separately and put together to make a longer film.  Pulled apart they would be better films but together you run into an inconsistent film.  Finally, there is a few deaths but they take place off camera and are nothing that bloody or gruesome.  The effects we get are very minimal considering what we get.  Overall, Amityville: No Escape was not for me.  The story felt like it was pulling apart and borrowed some from The Blair Witch Project.  Fans of found footage will enjoy it but it just wasn't my cup of tea.  




Friday, September 22, 2017

Amsterdamned


Director - Dick Maas (Saint, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Masks of Evil)
Starring - Huub Stapel (The Dark House, The Lift), Monique van de Ven (Daylight, Paint it Black), and Serge-Henri Valcke (Slaughter Night, No Man's Land)
Release Date - 1988
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The danger lies just below the surface"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     After checking out the relatively unknown slasher Victims! I wanted to keep the slasher films going.  After going through my stack of flicks I need to review I came across several slashers waiting to be put on the chopping block.  One film that really caught my eye and stood out was the Blue Underground release of Amsterdamned.  This was a new one on me and the title alone was enough to sell me on it.  I love clever titles and that was part of the charm of renting slashers back in the day on tape.  I also really enjoyed the film's artwork.  Knowing Blue Underground and their track record I knew I was going to enjoy myself.  I want to take a moment and thank Blue Underground for sending Amsterdamned by way for review.

     The film follows a police detective who is investigating a series of grisly murders that occurred in the murky canal of Amsterdam.  His investigation leads him to a diving club in Amsterdam where he falls in love with a beautiful scuba instructors.  Their heated affair causes a stir between the instructor and her therapist who secretly likes her.  The investigator suspects the therapists is behind the attacks but quickly learns that it is someone else committing the crimes.

     I knew I was going to enjoy Amsterdamned.  I mean, who wouldn't like a movie called Amsterdamned?  The slasher was well put together and looks fantastic which is weird to say considering it is a slasher from the 80s.  Typically, the slashers from this time period that I watch are gritty and dark.  The acting in this one is great.  The entire cast is perfect and does a fantastic job in their roles.  I really enjoyed the characters that they brought the life.  The cast is what makes the film so much fun.  The story for this one is solid.  It does stray away from the typical slasher formula that we all know and love but it still delivers on the body count.  The film does have a bit of a slow start but eventually picks up and delivers that Scooby-Doo ending with the reveal of the killer.  I really enjoyed that.  Finally, the film does have a body count.  Most of the kills are slashings done with clever camera tricks and practical effects.  The kills are not that gruesome but they do fit the style of the film.  It may not have Friday the 13th type kills but the kills fit the film and entertain.  Overall, Amsterdamned is a fun film.  It is a well polished slasher that doesn't have the gore but it does satisfy.  Horror fans will want to check this one out.  




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Victims!


Director - Jeff Hathcock (Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell, Night Ripper)
Starring - Ava Kauffman, Robert Axelrod (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Check It Out! With Steve Brule), and Lonny Withers (Streets of Death)
Release Date - 1985
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Four girls alone in the desert.  They all became his...victims"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     I love crossing paths with rare slashers.  Most horror fans look for lost and unknown S.O.V. horror flicks but I find more joy out of washing slashers.  I love their simple premises and clich├ęd deaths.  I've found several while movie hunting over the years in different pawn shops, thrift stores, and flea markets.  Some of the ones I found were bootlegs with no proper release of them to date.  Not long ago Olive Films announced their collaboration with Slasher//Video on the release of their film Victims! on blu.   This was a slasher I was not familiar with but with Slasher//Video's track record I was excited to check it out.  I reached out to Olive Films and they were kind enough to send a review copy my way.  Thanks guys!
     The film follows four young women who want to get away from life, and their men, who head out to the desert for a weekend getaway.  Things start out perfectly with the four enjoying themselves and relaxing but things turn deadly when they find themselves being stalked by two serial killers with a taste for women.  They abduct the women and force them to do crude things to each other before they start fighting back in order to survive.
     I love slashers.  They are easily my favorite sub-genre next to zombie pre-The Walking Dead.  I really enjoy those gritty slashers where you have to adjust the setting on your television to just be able to see the people.  Those were some of my favorite film to rent growing up so its nice to see labels like Olive Films releasing these films on blu.  Sadly, Victims is not one of the best slashers I've seen but I'm glad I was able to watch it.  The acting in this one is solid in some of the scenes and horrible in others.  In a few of the scenes we get some genuine dialogue and solid acting.  Sadly, in other scenes we get some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard spewed from an actor's mouth.  This, and some horrible fight scenes, result in a almost laughable performance from the cast.  The story for this one could have worked and been a better slasher than The Forest but the film failed to actually to feel dangerous.   As the film unfolds the viewer never fears for the girls' life.  The film just doesn't feel scary...at all.  The killers are weak and not menacing at all.  Finally, the film does have a few kills that look fun but as the film progresses they are nowhere to be found.  The practical effects are simple but fun for a slasher.  Overall, Victims! has a lot of problems.  There is several things working against the film but I still enjoyed myself mostly just the nostalgic feeling of watching an relatively unknown slasher that I had never seen before.  Slasher fans will want this release to add to their collection.  




Come Get Some!


Director - Jason Griscom
Starring - Steven A. Grainger (Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, Super Tromette Action Movie Go!), Colleen Galeazzi, and Jennifer Strickland
Release Date - 2003
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Zombie problems?  Not anymore!  Just...Come Get Some!"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     After watching a little more well known horror films with bigger budgets, I decided to venture back to the no budget indie flicks that I absolutely adore.  With Tank 432, Willard, and Ben I was able to see some rather unique stories that I often don't get to check out but with indie horror there is several sub-genres and trends I enjoy depending on when they were made.  Zombie films seem to be everywhere right now thanks to the popularity of The Walking Dead but just 10 short years ago the horror community rarely got zombie flicks with the exception of a few no budget flicks here and there.  One of those films is the 2003 horror comedy Come Get Some!  This was a new one to me after seeing a few images shared on Facebook.  I was able to track down actor Steven A. Grainger and he was kind enough to send a review copy my way.  Thanks Steven!
     The film follows a small town facing a zombie outbreak.  A group of kick ass girls fight back but find themselves overpowered and that is when a special agent of a zombie task force steps in to help where they learn that the outbreak was planned by a secret agency trying to use the situation as a way gain funding.  Now, the group must stop the organization and their undead army before the place is level by a bomb designed to prevent wide spread infection.
    



     I've always had a love for no budget horror films.  This can quickly be traced back to when I first saw films like Night of the Living Dead and Evil Dead.  Granted, both these films had bigger budgets than most of the films I watch but they still don't have the polish of most of the theatrical flicks we can find everywhere.  What they lack in money they more than make up for in heart.  Come Get Some! was made on a shoestring budget but was still able to deliver a fun watch.  The acting in this one is fucking entertaining but you can easily notice the amateur cast that, at the time, lacked on screen experience.  They had fun and gave it their all which really shows.  The story for this one is pretty bold considering the film's budget.  We have government conspiracy, zombie slaying, and redneck wrestling.  The film has a lot going on which will be very enticing for b-movie fans.  The pacing is great, the story is just so out there it works for a horror comedy, and it is able to deliver some funny moments and memorable characters.  Finally, there is plenty of on screen kills in this one.  The kills do show the film's budget but incorporate a lot of classic movie magic and camera tricks.  These kills are gruesome and bloody but the effects could be a lot better.  Overall, Come Get Some! is a classic no budget zombie flick that is perfect for some late night viewing with some beer.  Check it out.  




Monday, September 18, 2017

Ben


Director - Phil Karlson (Walking Tall, The Hornet's Nest)
Starring - Lee Montgomery (The Midnight Hour, Mutant), Joseph Campanella (CSI, Star Trek: Voyager), and Arthur O'Connell (Night Gallery, A Taste of Evil)
Release Date - 1971
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Where Willard ended...Ben begins.  And this time, he's not alone"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

      So many amazing films have great sequels.  Frankenstein has Bride of Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead has Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead has Evil Dead II, Re-Animator has Bride of Re-Animator, Alien has Aliens, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, and the list goes on and on.  One film I was surprised had a sequel, yet alone a great sequel, was Willard.  Willard is one of those films that I had always wanted to watch and knew it would be entertaining to an extent but didn't expect it to be life changing.  The fact that is spawned a sequel shocked me.  Hell, I didn't know it existed until Scream Factory announced it's release.  Ben was a new one on me.  Would it be a mild drama for most of the film like Willard or would it pick up where Willard left off taking the viewer into a traditional horror film?  I had to see for myself.
     The film picks up moments after Willard with his death.  The police are on the look out for an army of rats and their leader, Ben.  The police are searching every house, sewers, and any other place you can think of to find the rodents.  What they don't suspect is that a young boy, suffering a terrible illness, has befriended Ben and his rat army.  They protect the young boy and when those that bully him are attacked by Ben and his army it is easy for the adults and the police to trace them back to the young boy.
     I enjoyed Willard but it just didn't feel like a horror film until the last 20 minutes or so.  Honestly, it felt like a depressing dark drama before the bloodshed erupted.  Ben was a faster moving film that genuinely felt like a horror film.  In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than Willard.  The acting in this one is not the best.  Lee Montgomery is a familiar face though he is a lot younger than his appearance in one of my favorite horror films growing up, The Midnight Hour.  The child actor does a solid job in his performance but there was still a lot of room to grow.  The remainder of the cast is on the same level.  They oversell a lot of the scenes and remind me of a theatrical production.  The story for this one is more or less the same as Willard except the antisocial misfit is a kid with a critical illness instead of a socially awkward adult.  What I really liked about this one is how it looked and felt like a horror film.  The story had better pacing and the some of the scenes stick with me.  Finally, the film has the same type of kills as the first film.  The effects are almost identical and no imagination or creativity is tossed in.  The effect s are minimal as well resulting in some lackluster kills.  Overall, Ben is a worthy sequel.  There is some missed opportunities but the film is better than Willard in my opinion.  I can't recommend this one enough.




Willard


Director - Daniel Mann (Journey Into Fear, The Revengers)
Starring - Bruce Davison (X-Men, The Lords of Salem), Sondra Locke (Tales of the Unexpected, Death Game), Ernest Borgnine (Escape from New York, Deadly Blessings)
Release Date - 1971
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "This is the one movie you should not see alone"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     I've heard of a lot of movies that I needed to check out when I first started getting into horror.  Most told me to check out the more common horror films like the Universal monster film and Hammer Horror flicks.  These were already films I was very accustomed in.  Others made me take a more obscure route with films like Frankenhooker, Basket Case, Neon Maniacs, and so on.  While others in different horror groups were recommending the same movies over and over again I did have a few people offer up things that were different.  One of the films was Willard.  Around this time there was a remake in the works starring Crispin Glover.  I had always wanted to see it but never had the opportunity to do so.  That changed recently when Scream Factory released Willard and the sequel Ben on blu.  I reached out to them and they were kind enough to send review copies my way.
     The film follows Willard (Davison) who finds himself as everyone's punching bag.  The company his father created was taken away from his family and the boss treats him like shit.  His mother is terminally ill and continues to belittle him.  The only friends he has is two rats, Ben and Socrates.  He secretly takes them with him everywhere he goes but his adoption of them has created a problem when more and more rats pour into his basement seeking sanctuary.  When he takes them to work one evening, his boss finds them and kills Socrates.  Ben becomes infuriated and Willard is tore up over the ordeal.  He then gets his rat army, lead by Ben, to take those that wronged him but once he tries to stop Ben turns on Willard and kills him.
     I've always enjoyed the "when nature attacks" horror films of the 70s so it only made sense that I had wanted to watch the movie that started it all.  I knew I would enjoy Willard but I was always curious to see how it played it.  I knew it wouldn't be something that changed the way I saw horror but deep down I knew it would entertain.  The acting in this one doesn't really sell me on the cast.  I loved Ernest Borgnine and his crude character.  He is an asshole boss that we have all had before.  Sadly, I just wasn't feeling Bruce Davison as Willard.  He's an amazing actor but he just doesn't feel helpless and lost like you expect Willard to be.  The story for this one is extremely fun but does take a very long time to feel like a horror movie especially when you consider the wonky music that plays throughout the film.  The film feels like a depressing drama until the last 30 minutes or so before we get anything remotely considered horror.  It is still an effective story but should not be billed as horror.  It is a slower burner that makes very good use of it's time with character development and backstory.  Aside from the lack of horror elements I still rather enjoyed the story.  Finally, the film does have a few on screen kills.  They are entertaining and cheesy but not very memorable.  The rats "attacking" people is literally the rodents walking across their bodies with random blood spots applied.  What makes these so damn entertaining is watching the actors scream like they are really in pain.  Overall, Willard is a fun late night movie that I'm sure was a blast at the drive-in.  Not as effective now as it once was but it is still a fun film.  Check it out.