Thursday, February 4, 2010

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Review written by Steven M Duarte

Academy award winning screenwriter? Check
Really hot actress? Check
A really horrible film that never reaches it’s potential and ultimately bores the shit out of you? Check.
This film had all the makings of a decent horror film but ended up being a waste of time. Academy Award winner Diablo Cody wrote Jennifer’s Body after finishing work on Juno. The film really could have been much better than it turned out to be.
The film follows high school teenager Jennifer who is very popular in high school and with the opposite sex. She has a best friend named Needy who is nowhere near as popular as she is. The two attend a concert to see an Emo band at a local bar. A fire occurs during their set and everyone runs for their lives. Jennifer ends up leaving with the band in their Scooby Doo Mystery Machine van while her friend Needy pleads with her to not go. To make a long story short the band does a satanic ritual with Jennifer in order to gain national fame. Jennifer ends up turning into a human/demon hybrid that feeds on boys to maintain her beauty.
I keep stating how much better this film could have been because it really did have potential. One huge issue I had was the band that was involved in doing the satanic ritual. I mean there are many black metal bands out there that are actually Satanist and who are actually creepy in real life. I don’t agree in making the band some Emo Pussies who probable have never even seen the Exorcist. Throw in some black metal type band such as old school Venom or Gorgoroth and you will have a believable story line.
Another issue I had with the film was the moronic dialogue that plagued the entire film. Yes I get it, they’re in high school and their stupid teenagers, but I just couldn’t deal with their banter between each other. 1980’s horror films had cheese and dumb banter that made the film work and actually added to the overall charm of the film. This films dialogue just dumbs it down and makes you want to hit mute while you watch Megan Fox bounce her titties around the screen.
Megan Fox shows yet again that she cannot act for shit. I’m really not complaining since she is so easy on the eyes, but hope that she actually tries to act in future movies.

Final Thoughts:
The film was really a waste of time as I found myself constantly looking at the time. The film was a visual treat for male viewers but that does get old after the first hour into the film. Jennifer’s body added nothing to the horror genre and was not a fun film.

--Steven M Duarte

Review written by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Mark Rosman
Cast: Kathryn McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Janis Ward

Hey boys and girls, remember that completely awful remake that came out last year of a 80s classic slasher movie? Oh I know, you’re asking which one I mean because there are so damn many of them. I’m talking about the totally insipid Sorority Row, the “reimagining” of the 1983 classic, House on Sorority Row. Yeah, that new movie stunk on ice, didn’t it? But it did produce one good thing, it gave DVD production house Liberation Entertainment a reason to bring the original back out on DVD in a 25th Anniversary Edition. So let us all try really hard to forget the disappointing remake and dive back into the fetid pool of the first Sorority.
If you have never seen HoSR then you are in for a treat. It’s got all the staples of 80s slasher goodness covered. Pretty college girls? Check. A mean old lady with a secret? Check again. A harmless prank gone too far resulting in the accidental death of the mean old lady by the pretty college girls who then freak out and sink the body into a nasty, unused swimming pool so they can continue to have their wild party at the sorority house while the token good girl feels guilty and starts to notice that her friends are disappearing only to later have them turn up as bloody bodies? Well of course it’s got that. Oh, and it also has decent amounts of blood, some nudity, and a walking stick that becomes an unusually effective murder weapon. If that wasn;t enough, House on Sorority Row also has an interesting little mystery to solve, it is well acted and shot, and in all way, shape, and form is the embodiment of the phrase I love so say, “a classic 80s slasher.” I love these kinds of movies, and if you do too then you’ll love this movie. It is surprisingly low on cheese factor but still entertaining as all hell. Better still, the movie has never looked or sounded better.
Liberation has put out a disc mastered from a recently discovered pristine 35mm print so the film looks great. And with both a new 5.1 and the original stereo soundtracks, not to mention audio tracks in French and a commentary track with director Mark Rosman and stars Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil, this House has never sounded better either. Additional DVD extras are few, but that’s to be expected from a movie this old. However there are trailers, a photo gallery, storyboard comparisons, and a really neat discussion, with photographs, of the director’s original ending that in my opinion would have been much better than the happier one the Hollywood suits forced him to use.
If you’re a slasher fan then House on Sorority Row needs to be in your collection. You could, and probably should, skip the remake, no point confusing that garbage with this movie’s greatness. I love this film to death and I’m positive you will too. Get it today.

--Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

HALLOWEEN 2 (2009)
Review written by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane.

Confession time: I really like Rob Zombie. I liked Mr. Zombie when he was heading up the metal group White Zombie. I liked most of his solo albums. While I have never met him in the flesh, in every interview I’ve ever seen or read with him he seems like a cool, remarkably intelligent and down to earth person. And yet I usually hate the movies he makes. The one exception to that is his The Devil’s Rejects, which is easily his best and a great film. That said, my general disgust for his feature films includes his 2007 remake of Halloween which I thought could not have missed the mark on what made Michael Myers such a great and memorable boogeyman more if it had tried to. I will not go into all that again and will try to review this sequel based on its own merits and flaws. I said I will try, but I promise nothing. So grab your plastic pumpkin candy pails, put on your William Shatner masks, and let’s go trick or treating with Rob Zombie’s second attempt to reinvent a classic movie monster.
The movie begins as a homage to the original sequel, that is its set in an oddly deserted hospital on the same Halloween night as the first movie. Poor Laurie Strode is recovering from multiple traumas but before you know it, Big Mike is stalking around the halls and slicing up the nurses. There’s some bloody, brutal kills, a good chase scene, and a bit of a shocker moment, but it’s all for naught because surprise, surprise this is all a dream. Psyche! Flash forward to two years after the deadly All Hallows Eve and Laurie is a mess. She’s scarred, both physically and mentally, and having a hard time coping with big brother Mikey’s attack and the fact that despite getting a .357 lobotomy his body disappeared and hasn’t been seen since the night she herself introduced his brain to a bullet. Well there is good reason for her dread, not only is Michael alive and well and coming back this Halloween to finish what he started, but both he and her are having the same weird dreams of their dead mom riding a white horse and trying to be as creepy and cryptic as possible. Herein lays my biggest gripe with this film.
In the first movie I hated that Rob Zombie took away all the mystery and the truly evil aspect of Michael Myers by making him a the byproduct of a white trash family instead of an unknowable monster that one day switched from little boy to unrelenting killing machine. It seems that with this sequel Mr. Zombie wasn’t done destroying the iconic character and now Michael has mommy issues. You see Mike’s driven to kill by the ghostly visions of his dead mother telling him such chestnuts as, “Only a river of blood will bring us together.” To pile unbelievability on top of corniness, Laurie is having the same wacky dreams. Gee, can anyone not see the “shocking ending” of this movie coming from a mile away after seeing that? This new take on the characters is so silly, and yet is made such a key plot point, that the only reason I can think of for it existing is because Rob wanted to have his wife, who’s always in all of his films, back in the sequel despite her character dying in the first movie. Now while I think Sheri Moon Zombie is very easy on the eyes, this just smacks of nepotism of the most obvious nature. This new twist adds nothing to the story, except for unintentional hilarity, and just further ruins the classic slasher that John Carpenter made famous.
However to be fair there are some good things about this movie. First, Brad Dourif does a great job as always. Second, Malcolm McDowell is wonderful in all his scenery-chewing glory. Third, even Tyler Mane, who only says a single word in this film (yes, Michael Myers talks…once) does a fairly good job at bringing this hulking, much more violent version of The Shape to life. Finally, for the gore hounds out there, and brothers and sisters I count myself among your numbers, there are some great, bloody, and brutal kills. My favorite is where Michael literally stomps one guy’s head to mush. But sadly, that’s about all this movie has to offer.
While I am not a fan of this movie, the DVD from Sony has quite a lot to offer those that do like it. Once again Rob Zombie impresses me with an entertaining and informative director’s commentary. This unrated directors cut also offers some scenes not seen in the theatrical release and maybe a bit more blood, although I really couldn’t see any difference. There are a handful of deleted and alternate scenes, a blooper reel, footage of makeup tests, and even a half dozen spooky music videos. Perhaps the oddest extra bit is some stand-up routines from “Uncle Seymour Coffins”, and old style Creature Feature type host, too bad they’re not really funny.
As I said above, I really don’t like this movie but this is a good DVD. If you are a fan of Rob Zombie’s vision of Michael Myers then you have to get this disc. If you’re not a fan then at least give it a rent. It’s worth a watch, if for no other reason than to see some bloody good kills and to listen to Zombie’s commentary.

--Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

PIECES (1982)
Review written by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Cast: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Braña, Edmund Purdom

This weird, weird, freakin’ WEIRD movie is one of my all time favorite slasher flicks, and not because it’s a great film. No it is far from that, and yet it is not laughably bad either, like so many other “crazy killer” flicks that I actually can’t stand to watch. This movie exists in a world of its own for me. It’s got lots of blood and naked woman, the staples of all good slashers, but it takes so many trips into far left field that it leaves you scratching your head or laughing out loud. This Spanish film, with many English speaking actors in it, is one import not to be missed by fans of off the wall splatter flicks and at long last the mad geniuses over at Grindhouse Releasing have given it the two disc special edition DVD treatment it deserves. So come on everybody, let’s dive into the pure insanity of Pieces.
The story begins with a little boy putting together a jigsaw puzzle with a nudie girl on it. Mom catches him and freaks out. The boy tops his mother’s freak out with one of his own, except his involves an axe and her face. Many years later and the story picks up at a college where the same boy, now all grown up, wants to make his own naked woman jigsaw puzzle. So naturally he breaks out a chainsaw and starts collecting limbs from all of the lovely coeds. Oh, and then a girl on a skateboard crashes to her death through a mirror two moving men where holding up across a sidewalk. What, you didn’t expect that? Well that’s what makes this movie great; you’ll never see what’s coming. Now I don’t mean that about that plot, that’s pretty basic slasher movie fare. No, what you’ll never see coming is a woman walking alone on the campus at night suddenly getting attack by a Bruce Lee impersonator who, after three minutes of punching and kicking at the air, says sorry and goes on his merry way. Or when the killer sneaks into a tiny elevator with a potential victim and he is hiding his chainsaw from her by holding it in one hand behind his back. Or the amazing way actress Linda Day George delivers the line, “That bastard! Bastard!!!...BASTARD!!!!!!!!!!!” Honestly, this is one of those rare movies that descriptions really can’t do it justice, it must be experienced firsthand to be properly appreciated.
Now this movie had come out on DVD a few years back but that edition was pretty horrible. The picture and sound was bad and it had no special features whatsoever. Thankfully Grindhouse Releasing swooped in to save the day. Their edition, the only edition worth buying, gives us the movie uncut so it’s packed with gallons of blood and gore. And what good are buckets of blood if it doesn’t look good? Thankfully the picture and sound have both been beautifully restored. Then there are some new and very cool special features on the discs. There’s an audio track recorded during a live screening of the movie at the Vine Theater in Hollywood so you can get the full theater-going experience. A Spanish soundtrack if you want to hear the film as it first came out. Interviews with the director and genre star Paul L. Smith who plays the crazy campus caretaker. A few hidden Eater Eggs (one being a great one with noted horror director Eli Roth), and in this day of opening up a DVD case to find only a DVD inside and nothing more, Grindhouse included a mini poster and liner notes by horror historian and author Chas. Balun. With all this love shown to it, Grindhouse Releasing has set the bar pretty damn high on how a little DVD releasing company can take a cult classic (at best) and do it up right like it was a multi-million-dollar making movie. All other DVD producers, including some of you “big names” out there, really need to get these discs, watch them, and take notes.
As I said at the start, I love this major league weird movie. If you’re a slasher fan with tastes as warped as mine then I know you will too. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Grindhouse Releasing’s Pieces DVD.


I just wanted to take a moment and express my sadness over the news that noted author, horror fan, and by all accounts one hell of a great guy, Chas. Balun had just recently passed away at age 61. R.I.P. Chas., you’ll be missed.

--Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Review written by Brian M. Sammons

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Cast: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Tracy Bregman

I haven’t thought about this slasher classic in years until the other day I stumbled across it as a new DVD put out by Starz and Anchor Bay. Right away it grabbed my attention with the movie’s original cover on the case of a guy getting a shish kabob skewer rammed into his open mouth. Now while it’s not a great cover in and of itself it is a classic, iconic image and such things do mean a lot to me and other fans of these films. Case in point, while I love the DVD of NIGHHT OF THE CREEPS I must admit that it had a completely hideous cover that I’m convinced was more of a detriment to sales than an asset. Additionally, upon decided to review this DVD I did some research and found a previous release of this film from another studio with yet another “new and improved” cover of a girl holding a birthday cake with a big knife sticking out of it. How yawn inducing. I am tickled to see Starz/Anchor Bay do it right with the original artwork. But ok, I can hear you now saying something about books and covers and not judging, and you’re right so let’s move on.
If you have never seen this movie then STOP! Yes that’s right, stop reading this and go out and see this classic of 80s slasher cinema. Ok now that you’ve seen it you’ll notice I said “classic” and not “great”. That’s because while I love this movie it is not without its flaws. A good example of that would be the ending where the mysterious killer is revealed; it really is quite silly. Yet the off the wall ending and the film’s other minor foibles add to my love of the movie, not take away from it. So what I’m saying is, if you didn’t grow up watching these kinds of flicks then you might not appreciate them, and for that I am truly sorry for you. However if you are a child (or just fan) of the 80s like me then you’ll love it, and if you’ve seen it before then you’ll be in for a great trip down murderous mayhem memory lane.
The story is about a young girl (played by LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE’s Melissa Sue Anderson) who is socially snubbed on her birthday and then suffers a horrible accident that kills her mother and damages her brain. Some years later she’s at school and now friends with all the “cool kids” that had snubbed her. Too bad for the cool kids that they start getting picked off one by one. This is really where the movie shines. You see, after FRIDAY THE 13TH it simply wasn’t good enough to run around, sticking knives into horny teenagers, you had to kill with style and creativity and BIRTHDAY delivers on that in spades. Without giving away some of the best bits I’ll just give a few hints as math equations; a guy’s face + a racing dirt bike tire = ewwww. Want another? Ok; a weightlifter – someone spotting him + barbells dropped on his package = ouch! And yes, there the poor guy getting force fed the shish kabob. While none of these killers are overly bloody, they are fun to watch…that is, if you’re sick like me and find watching such things “fun”. The main mystery of this movie is whether or not goodie two-shoes Melissa Sue Anderson is wasting the kids that bailed on her birthday bash and caused her injuries and the death of her mother. Well for that answer you’ll have to see the movie and trust me, it’s worth it.
As for the technical specs of the DVD, sadly there’s not much to talk about. There are no special features whatsoever. While I can forgive some of this, after all when they were making movies in the 80s no one worried about making “behind the scenes” or other featurettes, but would it have killed the producers of this disc to find some of the original cast and crew for a commentary? Or how about some guest or fan commentaries? HELL HIGH is an awful movie, but for its DVD they got Joe Bob Briggs to do a special commentary track that actually makes the movie watchable. If you’re reading this Starz and Anchor Bay, you can have that little bit of advice for free, my gift to you. But in all seriousness, the meat and potatoes of this DVD is the movie and it is presented here with a picture that looks better than ever and the sound is decent enough. For a long forgotten gem that’s almost thirty years old (boy now don’t I feel old) that’s really all that counts. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME is a great fright flick from a bygone era. You know when people say, “They don’t make them like that anymore”? Well they’re talking about movies like this. Slasher fans need to have this DVD in their library and that’s all there it to say.

--Brian M. Sammons

Review written by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Adam Fields
Cast: Ron Jeremy, Amber Benson, Charles Napier, Veronica Hart

A group out to make a porn movie, with porn star Ron Jeremy at the lead, go off into the Californian countryside for a remote shoot. Before things get too hot and heavy, Ron gets zapped by a mysterious ray of light, then dies, but his legendary nine-and-three-quarters-of-an-inch-long penis lives on. It rips free of his body and goes off on a bloody spree, raping and murdering anyone it lays its one eye on in an alien plot to take over the world. Now I know what you’re thinking, didn’t Disney already do this story? Well I thought that too, but no this is an original tale. It’s completely tasteless, off the wall and some may find it highly offensive, but it is original. In this day of remakes, reissues, re-imaginings, and re-everything else, originality, even if it’s very strange, should be applauded. So believe it or not, I’m about to give a flick about a psychopathic, sentient schlong a good review. My mother would be so proud.
Now naturally the movie is as silly as you can imagine and the humor could be described as “bathroom” at best, but you know what, I’m ok with that. Sometimes I really enjoy a stupid, dirty comedy and this film is as dumb and filthy as they come. Well actually it’s surprisingly not that filthy. While there is plenty of prosthetic penis to be seen as the murderous member runs amok there is surprisingly little nudity. Other surprises this movie springs on you would be Amber Benson (of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) popping up in a starring role, veteran actor Charles Napier agreeing to appear in a movie about terrifying tallywacker, Ron Jeremy coming of less sleazy and more endearing, someone actually saying that they would like to screw Paris Hilton in the mouth (ewww, you don’t know where that’s been), and Napier’s twist on Quint’s USS Indianapolis shark attack speech from Jaws. Oh, and one more surprising thing, how much I liked this film when at first I was all set to be bored by it. I counted at least a handful of times where I laughed out loud and many more where I chuckled or smiled, and for me and my “love” for modern comedies, that’s saying something. Put it to you this way, I laughed a lot more at this then I did at the last four Will Ferrell movies combined.
Liberation Entertainment are the ones you can hold responsible for unleashing this One Eyed Monster upon us, but at least they did it well. There are the usual photo galleries, trailers, deleted scenes, bloopers, and commentary track that all good DVDs offer, but then there are two extras unique to this disc. One is a slightly humorous spotlight of a “dick wrangler”, a guy that made his living, as his father before him did, handling and managing penises for all the big movies. The other is a lengthy and rather in-depth conversation between Ron Jeremy and Veronica Hart, tow old school porn vets, about the glory days of their industry. These, combined with the rest, means this disc is pretty meaty with extras.
So let’s wrap this review up with a happy ending, shall we? If you think you’d like to see a funny movie about a fatal phallus that is well shot, pretty well acted, and has some neat gore effects, then this is the movie for you. In fact, outside of a short scene from Beyond Re-animator, if you want to see a flick about detached, deadly, dickie doos then One Eyed Monster is the movie for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and as long as you don’t take it too seriously then I think you will too.

--Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Review written by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer
Cast: Lance Hennriksen, Bill Moseley, and Danny Trejo, Rick Yune

The first Alone in the Dark movie, based…sort of…off of the long running horror video game series of the same name, is a film derided by most but I never thought it was completely horrible. I will not say it is a great movie, nor even good for that matter, but I did enjoy it. Now that might have been because I saw it with one of my beast buds and admittedly we did give the film the Mystery Science Theater 3000 business, but however it was accomplished the end result was a fun night watching a flick and that’s all I ask of any movie. Sadly the same cannot be said about my experience of watching the sequel, and for this screening I even invited by friend over to help recapture the fun we had with the first movie and despite our best efforts, it just wasn’t happening. That is because Alone in the Dark 2 commits the one unforgivable sin that a movie can make; it is boring, boring, boring! So pop some NoDoze pills and let’s try to get through this one as quickly as possible.
This is a sequel in name only as it has no connection to the first film save for the name of the protagonist; an occult detective (who never actually detects anything during this entire movie) named Edward Carnby. Those of you that played the Alone in the Dark games will recognize the character, those that saw the first movie will not as the character has gone from being Christian Slater and Caucasian to Rick Yune and Asian. That tenuous connection aside, the films have nothing to do with each other. The first one dealt with a dark dimension where spiky lion-dog things lived that really enjoyed eating people and only illumination harmed the beasts. This one is about a witch and that’s about it. While this movie says repeatedly that the witch can be driven off with light, there are plenty scenes where the ghostly witch walks into well lit rooms without so much as a look of annoyance on her face.
Ok, week connections to the first film and stupid technical gaffs aside, as those things happen in many sequels that are still enjoyable, how does this movie take the detour into snoozeville? Well three ways. First it dumbs down the gore by going for the more lucrative PG-13 market. Even a bad movie can be made slightly better with some innovative splatter shots, but there are none to be found here, so let’s move on. Second, great genre actors and fan favorites are completely wasted in this movie. Lance Hennriksen, Bill Moseley, Danny Trejo, and P.J. Soles (from the original Halloween) can be found in this flick, but some only briefly appear and all never fully commit to their roles. Now if it was only one actor phoning in his lines for a paycheck that could be explained away, but when every actor does it you’ve really got to ask yourself why. Were they all as bored while making the movie as I was while watching it? That’s a scary thought but it could be the answer. Lastly reason number three is the aforementioned, mind numbing boredom you’ll experience if you choose to watch this movie. The film has a glacier pace at best, nothing exciting ever happens, there are no twists or turns that you don’t see coming from a mile off, no scares, thrills, or shocks. Hell, even the old spring-loaded cat flying into the scene out of a dark closet would have been better than the complete and utter black hole of entertainment this film became.
I guess for the sake of completeness I should recap the rice paper thin plot of this movie so here it goes. There’s a ghostly (as in badly done CGI) witch with a magic knife. If you get cut by the knife then the witch can possess you. Edward Carnby gets cut by the bad blade, a group of witch hunters (no, really) happen to find him and together they face off against the witch. There, now you really have no need to watch this movie. I just saved you 91 minutes of boredom. You’re welcome.
In all seriousness there really is no good reason to watch this film. Is it scary? Nope, not even for a second. Does it have great special effects or lots of blood and gore? In a word, no. How about gratuitous nudity? Hey I’m not judging, I’ve watched some heinous films back in my younger days for some tasty T n A. Well sorry to say young ones, there’s none of that here. Ok, forget all that, how about just sitting back and enjoying some usually fine actors show off their craft with style? No you can’t even find that here. In all ways Alone in the Dark 2 is a bust. It should be avoided at all costs, unless perhaps you are suffering from insomnia, then watching this flick might do you some good. For the rest of you, do yourself a favor and pass on this one.

--Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons