Tag Archives: monsters

Now Playing: Apocalypse is Feast for the Imagination in ‘9’

10 Sep

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9 (PG-13) Directed by: Shane Acker. Writers: Pamela Petter & Shane Acker  79 minutes.

cinemagrade A  Shane Acker’s 9 is all kinds of proof that good things–great ones even–can come in small packages. Trumped up and marketed out of the wazoo recently (it’s nice to see studios finally coming behind their more unique fare) this sci-fi fantasy isn’t just a story about diminutive warrior dolls battling robotic monsters in a burned-out future, it’s also an elaborate fable that approaches art. The most fascinating part is that it does all of this in a scant 79 minutes. It’s fast-paced, exotic and beautifully rendered in tones of steampunk apocalypse and Victorian gothic horror. It may be animated, but it isn’t exclusively for children. I’d dare to guess that it will more than frighten most younger children. But when the familiar and haunting strains of Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ echo across a fractured, nightmare landscape, Acker demonstrates that he isn’t just a crafty visualist but also a gifted filmmaker. He shakes up several different genres, themes, motifs and myths into one large stirring pot and what emerges is both unique and fearsome. Continue reading

Maurice Sendak talks Wild Things, Spike Jonze, and the new movie!

28 Jul

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July 28th, 2009–

This is really cool. I’ve been a big fan of Maurice Sendak and his work ever since pulling that battered, old-glue smelling copy of Where The Wild Things Are off the school library shelf some 25 years ago.  Over the years, I’ve attempted to keep track of the man and what he’s been up to, but it’s neat to see him here reflecting passionately on his now 40 year old book. It’s also a good sign, and a vote of confidence, that Maurice seems to be just as excited and encouraged by what Spike Jonze has done with the movie. If you are a Wild Things fan, a Sendak or Jonze fan, or just love seeing people discuss their art then this will be a bright spot in your day.

If nothing else, you get to see some Wild Things clips and some great talking head stuff by Sendak.

Check it out HERE.

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Trick ‘R’ Treat will be making the rounds this October–DVD/Bluray art to prove it!

17 Jul

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July 17th, 2009–

You know how there are those movies you feel like you have been waiting forever for? Like Avatar, which Cameron has been talking up for the better part of 12 years now, ever since Titanic docked at the box office. For me, Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R’ Treat is one of those movies. Not to be confused with the Gene Simmons, Ozzie Osbourne horror flick from the late 80s, this one (for those who don’t already know) is an anthology flick following several interconnected stories taking place on Halloween night and starring the likes of Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb. The little character portrayed in the posters is apparently featured in all of the stories, particularly in a segment where terrorizes Brian Cox’s old grizzled Halloween-hating recluse. Theres a nine minute clip online that can be found HERE that gives you a flavor for that scene. Continue reading

Now Playing: ‘Blood:The Last Vampire’ is anemic

10 Jul

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Blood: The Last Vampire (R) 91 min. Directed by: Chris Nahon. Written by: Chris Chow.based on characters by: Kenji Kamayama & Katsuya Terada. Starring: Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, Maisela Lusha, JJ Field, Koyuki, Liam Cunningham. Cinematography: Hang-Sang Poon Original Music by: Clint Mansell

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Looking like the bad dream half-breed of the Martial Arts Matinee and the Saturday Creature Feature, Blood: The Last Vampire comes stumbling into theaters this weekend with little of the style or atmosphere of its animated source material. Based off of a 2001 anime of the same name, Blood tells a story that horror fans could recite in their sleep. There’s a race of terrible creatures who hide themselves among the human population, feeding off of them, and in the midst of this secret tribe is a once-human warrior who rejects her monstrous pedigree. Her name is Saya and along with help from the enigmatic Council, she tracks and kills the vampires (she refers to them as either demons or bloodsuckers) wherever she finds them. Existing forever in a perpetual teenage state, Saya is searching for the head vampiress who turned her and murdered her family 400 years ago.

The culprit is Onigen, a female spirit who looks like a Geisha crossed with a pirahna, and who has most recently taken up resident at an American military base in Japan. When dead and not-so-dead bodies start turning up on base, the Council sends Saya in, undercover as a high school student, to destroy the blood suckers. With a plot like that, one could almost expect a silly gonzo comedy, like the upcoming Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl or a hard-edged super-hero thriller like the Blade films. Instead, what flops out on screen is a choppy, half-baked fantasy with so little sense or imagination that its only source of comfort is that it is at least three times as good as the overblown Transformers 2. And trust me, that is meager consolation indeed. Continue reading

70 Years of Cinema-1939: The Son of Frankenstein

8 Jul

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 THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (no rating–today it would probably be a PG) Directed by: Rowland V. Lee. Written by: Wyllis Cooper. Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill, Josephine Hutchinson. Cinematography: George Robinson Original music by: Frank Skinner

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I honestly can’t believe that I had never seen this until now. I imagine I would have gone on not seeing it too, if it weren’t for this little experiment. The weirdest part is, I’m a huge Frankenstein fan. I adore Shelly’s book, absolutely love  James Whales’ first two films (did a double feature of both back at Halloween) and have watched pretty much every other incarnation of the character. As a child I was enchanted by Karloff’s version of the monster; it was then, and still is, the only one that mattered. In the mid  80s there was a Philly(I think) station that used to run a Saturday evening double horror feature hosted by a guy called Dr. Morgus. Living in the boonies of Maryland, with a cheap attenna, somehow we managed to pick it up.  Any of you out there remember him? If so, check this out. Continue reading

Now Playing: ‘Big Man Japan’ trades zero for hero

29 Jun

 

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 Giant monsters tromping around wrecking cities sounds like alot more fun than it actually is. I’ve been listening to nearly every beleagured friend who has seen the new Transformers movie complain; ‘it’s just giant things punching each other–that’s it!’ Well, duh. In their case, though, I have the perfect remedy; Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Dai Niiponjin, or the english translation, Big Man Japan. 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

Remembering David Carradine and ‘Q: The Winged Serpent’

7 Jun

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June 7th, 2009-

There have been a fair number of articles and retrospectives in the past few days looking back over the career of veteran David Carradine, who died last Wednesday in Thailand. One of the most interesting was a eulogy by Carradine’s friend and fellow actor Michael Madsen which you can find HERE. Elsewhere, it’s all Kung-Fu this, and Kwai Chang Caine that and for the younger generation he’s mostly just Bill who Uma killed by edict of Tarantino. Sort of strange to be remembered for so few performances when your filmography contains over 200 acting credits. Continue reading

Monster fans, prepare to squeal like a pig for ‘CHAW’ teaser trailer!

28 May

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May 28th, 2009-

Giant killer pig movies. There really aren’t enough of these out there. Even the Sci-Fi Channel hasn’t really exploited the unsavory idea of hordes of mutant hogs attacking the human population. In fact, the only predatory pig film I can think of is Russell Mulcahy’s australian thriller Razorback from 1984. The image above is actually pulled from that movie, as CHAW has yet to release images of its sinister swine.

Korea has been sitting pretty at the forefront of asian cinema in the past few years and they have even given us a great bonafide creature feature in the form of The Host, an instant classic about a dysfunctional family fighting an aquatic mutant to reclaim their youngest member. Think of it as Little Miss Sunshine meets Godzilla.

The trailer for CHAW elicits both a pure schlock vibe and an popcorn action movie vibe. The hog looks quite cartoony, but as long as the movie manages to capture the same sort of discomfort and amuesement one gets when looking at the below photo, it has a chance of success.

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As for the title, while it isn’t as iconic as say, Hogzilla or Super-Swine: The Porcine Project, CHAW has a nice, grotesque ring to it. While I think it’s the giant pig’s name, it actually evokes images of a less than appeasing nature; whats the chance that we might get scenes of a giant pig happily munching on a human cranium?

Anyway, you can read more about CHAW over at TWITCH, the foreign film fan’s one stop shop for all current international and exotic film projects. 

You can catch the trailer itself HERE.

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.