Tag Archives: gore

Cinematropolis Review: Woody and the gang bring the funny to ‘Zombieland’

18 Sep

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Zombieland (2009) R 85 min, Directed by: Reuben Fleischer  Written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

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Let’s get one thing out of the way up-front: the zombies are starting to lose their luster.

Whether lurching, creeping, shambling, or sprinting, the living dead have more than worn out their welcome. Resuscitated by 28 Days Later, sustained by the Dawn remake and catapulted to stardom by Shaun, the genre has crawled from its grave and now runs amok eating the brains of indiscriminate horror fans everywhere. Fortunately, Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland is about to come along and joyfully hammer the last nail into this cinematic coffin. Continue reading

Fantasia Fest 2009:Not So Amazing ‘Grace’

20 Aug

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Grace (R)  85 min. Written and Directed by: Paul Solet. Starring: Jodan Ladd, Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris, Malcolm Stewart.  Cinematography: Zoran Popovic Original Music by: Austin Wintory

cinemagrade c I was initially very wary about Paul Solet’s Grace, a Canadian horror feature about a newborn who prefers human blood to mother’s milk. My wife and I were planning to take in a film together, and while I wasn’t too concerned about the content for myself, I know she’s a bit more sensitive and this particular subject matter was probably a tightrope walk for her anyway. On the internet, critical consensus seemed to be that the film was mucho disturbing and in some cases straight-out disgusting and in bad taste. Expecting mothers were warned away from it, and some festival reports cited people fleeing the theater. Continue reading

Fantasia 09 Review: Whose Watching ‘The Children’?

27 Jul

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The Children (R) 84 min. Directed by: Tom Shankman. Written by: Paul Andrew Williams. Starring: Hannah Tointon, Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelly. Cinematography: Nanu Segal. Original Music by: Stephen Hilton.

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I’m a little conflicted about Tom Shankman’s  Brit thriller, The Children. Running only 84 minutes, the first 20 minutes are a little too sedate and clunky, and the last 20 too overtly shock-centered. Those 40-some odd minutes in the middle though, after the film has revved itself up, are nothing short of terrifying. It isn’t very often I’m unsettled by a movie, and even less often that one actually manages to scare me. But like it’s older cousin, Descent, this nasty bit of creepy kid horror intensifies to the point that even ominously structured glimpses of day-to-day life become anxiety-inducing. Forget Orphan, Joshua, The Good Son, or any of those recent milque-toast dramas about bad seed progeny chasing their unwitting parents. The Children reaches all the way back to the The Bad Seed and Ray Bradbury’s short story, The Small Assassin and draws on a deeply-buried fear of those small versions of ourselves we give our lives to trying to raise. Continue reading

Fantasia 09 Review: Clive Barker’s ‘Book’ is a Yawn of the Dead

14 Jul

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 Clive Barker’s Book of Blood (R) 108 min. Directed by:  John Harrison Written by: John Harrison, adapted from the Clive Barker stories Book of Blood and On Jerusalem Street. Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Sophie Ward, Doug Bradley, Simon Bamford, Paul Blair. Cinematography:Philip Robertson   Original music by: Guy Farley.

 

The dead have highways…running through the wasteland behind our lives, bearing an endless traffic of departed souls. They can be heard in the broken places of our world, through cracks made by acts of cruelty, violence and depravity. They have signposts, these highways–and crossroads and intersections. And it is at these intersections that the dead mingle and spill over into our world…The dead have highways….only the living are lost…

cinemagrade c-The above is the entire thematic gist of Book of Blood, the newest film adaptation of the work of horror maestro Clive Barker. In fact, that little bit of exposition is repeated no less than five seperate times in Book of Blood, as if the filmmakers want to constantly remind the audience that their film is about the nature of storytelling and mortality. After the third time, I wanted to shout at the screen “stop telling us and show us already”. This was to no avail. Dabbling in the darker corners of dark fantasy(and this is far more a resident of that genre than straight horror), television director John Harrison brings the framing stories of Barker’s Books of Blood anthology faithfully to the screen but he doesn’t seem to understand that all he brought along was the binding. The pages here are empty. What he fills them with ends up amounting to one of the most notoriously boring thrillers in recent memory.   Continue reading

The Weekly Creepy: A hand-made case of ‘Parasomnia’

13 Jul

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Welcome to the Weekly Creepy. The goal is to help expose you the audience to newer horror/thriller films that might have slipped under your radar. Dedicated to obscure, foreign and indie fare (as well as the glorious world of DTV), The Weekly Creepy will tackle a different pic each week, with reasons why it is or isn’t worth your precious time or money.

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Parasomnia (R) 103 min.

cinemagrade bI knew absolutely nothing about Parasomnia going into it, including the identity of any of the stars or the director.  I knew it was low budget and not a studio product, but apart from that I was clueless and the title and poster art didn’t exactly have my confidence up. But then it began and I was riveted during an opening sequence featuring Sean Young taking a cell phone call from a roof-top that she would minutes later jump off of. And when she climbs to the edge, teeters there long enough to spark our anticipation, and then jumps, the camera follows her descent all the way to the pavement where we are treated to a strangely eerie shot of a man standing over her broken body. Cue the impressionist art opening credits.

Just like that, I was drawn into the film’s world and what follows is a well-made, ambitious and inventive little horror movie that feels so much like a product of the 1980s that I imagine  people will seek it out just for the thrills of nostalgia it will give. Now, not everything is smooth sailing; the dialogue is often trite, the plot full of so many holes it could be a donut shop, and sometimes the film is overstylized to a fault. However, debuting in a frequently abused genre(dream-centered horror), Parasomnia turns out to be a refreshingly fun entry filled with imagination and energy.   Continue reading

The Weekly Creepy: What a Croc! Vartan and ‘Rogue’ head to the Outback

20 Jun

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Welcome to the Weekly Creepy. The goal is to help expose you the audience to newer horror/thriller films that might have slipped under your radar. Dedicated to obscure, foreign and indie fare (as well as the glorious world of DTV), The Weekly Creepy will tackle a different pic each week, with reasons why it is or isn’t worth your precious time or money.

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 June 19th, 2009-

Rogue (2007)

 

Trends come and go in the world of horror filmmaking. Right now, zombies and grotesque torture hold the spotlight. A few years ago it was ghosts and the supernatural. Wait a bit, and it will change all over again. Whats more interesting to me are the mini-trends; when three or four films of a very specific subset get released and they aren’t based off a popular concept(I think back to the “seafood” horrors of the late 80s like Leviathan and Deep Star Six). In 2007, it was killer croc pictures, which mystified me since there have been very few over the years and the most recent, Lake Placid, wasn’t exactly a mega-hit award winner. Continue reading

DVD review: The Old West meets the dark underneath in The Burrowers

22 May

 

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The Burrowers begins as a straightforward western, and enhances its small scale drama with heaping doses of creepiness. The story is set in the Dakota territories during 1879, only three years after Custer fought and lost The Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana. Small homesteads sit between long, isolating prairies and forested mountains; the threat of the Sioux still looms large in the minds of settlers.

J.T. Petty’s odd little film opens on the small farm of the Stewarts, with a narration involving love-sick Irishman Coffey asking the elder Stewart for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Images of a gentle and languid beauty play out on the screen as he speaks, and his courtship with MaryAnne is captured in visuals that would not be out of place in a more ambitious film like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

The reverie is broken by an attack on the Stewart house where unseen intruders kill the father and force the women and children into the basement. Coffey isn’t there when it happens. This sequence is abrupt and unnerving, and breaks from the idyll of farm life. The point has been made. Peace and calm can be shattered in an instant on the prairie and the film lets us know it won’t hold back in shattering our own calm.
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Coffey comes calling on Maryanne the following morning, and finds the Stewarts missing, with other neighbors dead in their homes. He runs into John Clay, a no nonsense rancher with a weathered hardness to him, who is also looking for the vanished settlers. The burly, square-jawed Clay is played by the always compelling (and imposing) Clancy Brown and when Clay recruits another rancher, Parcher, to form a search party, he turns out to be Brown’s fellow Lost alumn, Will Mapother.

At this point, I was excited; two strong character actors in prominent roles and both not traditional leads. Their rugged looks combined with the ominous vibe both give off works quite well for the characters. These men don’t come off as classic heroes, but as something more along the lines of anti-heroes. Even in the darkest portrayals by John Wayne, he was never anything less than the hero. Not so here. Parcher and Clay care about the people who are missing and they help Coffey when they can, but survival is higher on the menu than honor.

When Coffey, Clay and Parcher join up with a nearby army militia, they butt heads with that unit’s vile commander, Henry Victor (Doug Hutchison). Hutchison, a veteran himself at playing dark and sinister characters(he’s the third actor in the cast to have appeared on Lost) makes Victor the kind of man who never thinks too deeply about his actions. Henry has adopted the mindset and values of men like Custer completely. He hates the Sioux and all “indians”. It goes beyond seeing them as a threat. When they capture a Sioux warrior, Victor tortures him for amusement, not necessity. At this point, Petty draws the historical realities of the time in clear, bloody strokes. The immigrant Coffey and Calahan, Victor’s black cook, watch on in unease at the violence done towards the native americans—probably musing on their own “inadequate” status in this frontier world.
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The film starts to switch gears between western and horror when Coffey and his group break off from Victor, and set out to look for the Stewarts on their own. Along their path, they encounter Sioux who talk of a mysterious tribe known as the “burrowers” who do not kill, but capture and kidnap. The details the ranchers get are unclear to them, and have the appearance of riddles.

Petty starts seasoning the film with signs of the unusual. Wide, staring eyes look up from beneath the dry Dakota soil, ominous, gray writhing shapes shuffle through the night prairie, and strands of fair, blonde hair seem to be growing from the earth itself. One of the film’s most intense scenes comes when Clay and Parcher discover the body of a young girl buried shallowly in ground. There is a terrible scratching sound which seems to be coming from inside of her. As the bewildered men search for the source, they realize it’s in her boot. As tension coils like a rattler, the boot is removed to reveal a single twitching toe;she is still alive, but paralyzed.

Where the film goes from there I will leave for you to discover. I will tell you I was riveted for the first half, and while I enjoyed the revelation of the burrower tribe, it’s in the second half that the film loses some of it’s epic feel and grandeur. It’s a smaller story, to be sure, but by the time it wraps up, the film is focused on nothing but the monsters. There is a final coda that reminds us of the earlier themes, but that’s it.

Part of this problem is the burrowers themselves. We are given a slight back story that doesn’t explain them as much as it hints at an explanation. Their physiology and methods puzzle me, including the manner in which they can be destroyed. They don’t seem like beings intended to live on (or under) flat plains. Were they imported? From another country? Another dimension? Who knows.
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Petty is a talented director and he’s a canny writer in the early going. Indie films have a tough time appropriating the western genre. It’s usually a question of budget. Bright shiny sets on a dusty lot don’t evoke the same mystique of location shooting. Often, the photography is pedestrian, and holds too close on the actors in an attempt to cover shoddy production. A lack of research results in vague writing that fails to capture the details and reality of the time period. The Burrowers doesn’t have these problems and is amazingly strong in those aforementioned areas. It’s a full blown western, and it takes its time in developing a believable reality. It also blends a contemporary tone with one befitting a campfire ghost story circa 1870.

Joseph LoDuca’s score is haunting and melancholy. It underscores the shadowy threat of “the burrowers” and the brutal atrocity committed by the humans in the story. The breath-taking scenery and cinematography make the film come alive, and the washed out film stock adds menace to the arcane imagery.

Due to the strength of all the elements in the earlier portions of the film, I’m led to believe that budget constraints resulted in paring it down to a point where it resembled a short story more than a satisfying, three act adventure. This happens sometimes. Look at Mimic, and then look at how well Del Toro turned out.

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Petty, whose first film, Soft for Digging, was a ghost story set in Western Maryland, seems perfectly capable of handling a larger scale film. What he delivers here is a creepy, engrossing drama that embraces it’s setting and characters. The story it tells, it tells well.

I only wonder what could have been done if Petty had breathing room, and we could have seen all of the ways that his burrowers intersect with the native people who discovered them and the white encroachers on their land. It could have been an epic and affecting story; a giant of the genre. Me, I want to see what a real budget could do for those flashback scenes in which the burrowers are glimpsed taking down buffalo.

The Burrowers is available on DVD. You can catch a look at the trailer HERE.