Thursday, November 4, 2010

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

CENTURION (2010)– DVD review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko

So what is a movie about some Romans running around in ancient Brittan doing on this site? Well how about this; it was made by Neil Marshall who gave us the very good DOG SOLDIERS, the excellent THE DESCENT, and the sadly mediocre and best forgotten DOOMSDAY? Not enough? Ok, well then it’s got some great gore gags because swords and spears do such nasty things to flesh and blood. Still not cutting the mustard? Well how about it’s just a great, fun, action packed flick? Surely that’s enough for you, or at least it should be. If not, then I weep for you. But if you do dig some sword in the face action, then keep reading.

CENTURION is about the legendary Roman 9th Legion that all but vanished one day from the history books along with its nearly 4000 men. While what exactly happened to the legion isn’t known for sure, the most commonly believe theory is that the Romans marched against the Pitcs (the people who lived in Scotland before it was Scotland) and never returned. Neil Marshal takes this tantalizing tale and runs with it, putting us in the shoes of a small group of Romans who survived the slaughter of the 9th Legion. This band of brothers then has to make the arduous trek back to the lands controlled by Rome while being hounded by a group of mounted Picts out for blood lead by the wrathful, mute, and beautiful Etain. Yes this kind of outnumbered, behind enemy lines, and running for your life story has been told a hundred times, with one of my favorites being 1979’s THE WARRIORS, but there is a reason it’s used so much; it works. This most recent retelling of that classic tale is no exception.

This film has a lot going for it. First off, set in the wooded wilds of the Scottish highlands, it looks gorgeous. There’s plenty of natural beauty here with all the sweeping shots of majestic vistas. Speaking of natural beauty, Olga Kurylenko is always nice to watch, even when she’s chopping off heads and screaming without a tongue. However, in addition to her good looks, she does a great job portraying her damaged, sad, bloodthirsty, brutal, and psychotic barbarian goddess from hell. Not to be outdone, Dominic West does a fine job playing a rowdy Roman general beloved by his men and for good reason. A handful of other costars round out a great ensemble cast and while not all the actors bulls-eye the quality mark, even those that miss don’t miss by much. This film has a great location, a time-tested story, good direction and acting, did I miss anything? Oh yeah, the blood. This movie has more splattery kills than almost any 80s slasher flick you can think of. So horrorheads, there’s that if nothing else for you.

The DVD by Magnolia has a bunch of extras on it if you need further enticement to pick this up. There’s a very informative and entertaining audio commentary track as well as deleted scenes with additional commentary. A collection of outtakes, interviews, photo galleries, and behind the scenes footage are also rounded up for the disc. A short doc from HDNet and a longer one called “Blood, Fire & Fury” which is your standard making of and behind the scenes thing, rounds things out.

CENTURION was a fun, action-packed flick set in a time and place most films fear to tread. I really enjoyed it and if you miss action films with balls, and without superheroes, then this slice of classic chaos will fulfill your cravings. It did mine.

--Brian M. Sammons

Night of The Demons (2009)- DVD
Review written by Steven M Duarte

The original Night of The Demons will forever be remembered for two scenes in the film. The first one being the seductive dance by the demon Angela and second the lipstick boob scene with horror vet Linea Quigley. The remake actually does a decent job of updating these scenes and actually takes a spin on the original scenes.

As with all remakes I expected this one to really suck. To my surprise it did not suck and was actually quite entertaining. Now before everyone cries foul that it’s not as good as the original….. I say yes of course I know that and I am not implying that. I merely want to convey my overall thoughts on the film as a decent horror film to watch with friends and enjoy. The film did a good job of keeping the punk theme that the first one conveyed. Punk music if featured throughout the movie. Took me back a little to the music featured in Return of the Living Dead. With that being said the premise for the film is basically the same. Goth girl named Angela throws Halloween bash at old creepy place, shit happens and demons are out for blood.

Angela is played by the smoking hot Shannon Elizabeth which made it fairly easy to watch. That is of course until she turns into demon Angela which was a different take on the demon look from the original film. The effects work is respectable and features a boob and face rip scene which will probably leave you with a look of disgust on your face. The famous Angela dance scene is nicely done with Angela dancing to Black No. 1 from Type O Negative. I found it to be a nice reimaging of a scene that will always be remembered from the first film.

The acting in the film is pretty much your standard direct to video fare. Edward Furlong stars in the film and I’m pretty sure he ate Linda Hamilton; because holy crap did he put on some weight. Linea Quigley makes a cameo as a homeowner giving candy to trick or treaters.

Final Word
Again this is a decent film to waste some time with. Not better than the original but definitely something to watch with some friends for some awesome music, some decent gore scenes and some eye candy courtesy of Shannon Elizabeth.

--Steven M. Duarte

DOGHOUSE (2009)– DVD review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Jake West
Stars: Danny Dyer, Noel Clarke, Emil Marwa

Zombies are everywhere, or at least they seem to be in the world of horror books and movies. Everyone seems to want to put their own stamp on the much loved cavorting corpses, but rarely does such re-imaginings work. Rarer still does the zombie comedy (or zomedy) work. Sure there have been notable exceptions like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND, but more often than not you get ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2. Thankfully this British import is both unique and laugh out loud funny. It’s also not very PC, and I loved it all the more for that. So get a bunch of your best buddies, or blokes, together, crack open some brews, eat lots of seared, dead animals, and fart whenever the hell you want, because this movie both celebrates and pokes fun at the usual male tropes and shows you a battle of the sexes like never before.

A group of rowdy guys go off to a small town in the English countryside to cheer up their buddy who’s going through a divorce. The collection of gents run the gambit from cliché to well written, to down right refreshingly original. Case in point, one of the friends is openly gay, and yet he’s not a mincing, lisping, stereotype nor is he the butt of all the jokes. He’s just a guy, who happens to be gay, but he’s as rude, crude, and typically “guy-ish” as all the others. That is just one example of the fine writing and depth of characters that was a nice surprise in what at first glace looked to be a silly zomedy. Oh, but don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of silly to be found here and thank God for that.

The reason the fellows are heading to the proverbial middle-of-nowhere is supposedly the woman outnumber the men there four to one. Unfortunately for them, that turns out to be true and just days earlier a biological weapon was tested there. The aim of that weapon? To turn half the population of an enemy force against the other half. The half that gets changed into drooling, blood-lusting psychos are the women and the focus of their primal rage is anything with a Y chromosome. Soon the boys are being chased all over by a huge pack of axe, sword, and scissor wielding she-zombies looking to dismember their ah, members, amongst other things. Only teamwork, togetherness, a sonic doohickey, a bit of bromance, and some cross dressing will save the day.

As for particulars, the acting and direction are both very well done. The special effects run from splatstick silly to goretastic. Most importantly, the comedy actually works. You will laugh a lot with this film, something that a lot of “comedies” just don’t seem to be able to pull off anymore. Oh, and is it weird that I think some of the monster-faced zombie chicks are still kind of hot?

The DVD by IFC Films sadly only has a few special features to help entice would be purchasers. There’s a 40-something minuet behind the scenes/making of featurette which is easily the best of the extras on the disc. There are a collection of bloopers, some deleted scenes, a few trailers and TV spots but that’s it. The most notable omission is the lack of any commentary track. I love those little things and whenever one is missing, especially these days; it’s painfully noticeable, like a missing limb. That said, the main reason to get any DVD is for the movie on it, and not one is this flick great but it both looks and sounds good, so lack of all the usual extras aside, this DVD is still very much worth a get.

--Brian M. Sammons

Giallo (2009) DVD
Review written by Steven M Duarte

Originally filmed in 2009 I thought this film would never see the light of day. I try to watch pretty much anything from Argento and was all giddy inside when I found out his new film would feature Academy Award winner Adrien Brody in a new Giallo style film.
News of problems from the production of the film to issues with actors walking off the set led many to believe that it may never see the light of day. Adrien Brody is even claiming to have not been paid his agreed upon salary for the film and is seeking an injunction against the world wide release of the film.

The big question is, did all this drama affect the final film product?

It sure did because this film can be chalked up as one of Argento’s weakest films to date. I’m not really sure where to start since the film is a mess. There’s not too much character development which leaves you not giving a shit about the characters. Women who we don’t know much about end up getting killed and Adrien Brody a detective in Italy investigates their murders. The killer is called Yellow because he has a liver disease that has turned his skin yellow. That’s pretty much the just of the film. It’s like the writers of the film made a checklist of what they wanted in the film then got half way writing it and said fuck it and gave up. It’s worth taking note that Argento did not actually write the story for the film.

For an Argento flick the gore is very tame. The camera often pans away as Giallo does something gruesome to his victims. Old Argento would show an exposed heart still pumping blood as it was stabbed. Argento now ops for the pg 13 route of allowed gore, pretty disappointing indeed. The killer himself is uninspiring and boring. He wears a wig that was probably purchased at a flea market somewhere in the slums of Italy. He says ridiculous one liners and masturbates to pictures of dead women…yeah it’s that bad.

Giallo is basically a castrated Argento film. There’s no darkness or awesome cinematography, no killer who’s so absurd that it actually works for the film. There’s no over the top gore or awesome music by Claudio Simmonetti. He basically took the safe route and made a shit film. If in the mood for some newer Argento film viewing you’re better off watching Mother of Tears that seeing this pile.

--Steven M. Duarte

LAKE PLACID 3 (2010)– DVD review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Director: G. E. Furst
Stars: Colin Ferguson, Yancy Bunter, Kirsty Mitchell, Michael Ironside

Let me get this out of the way right at the start; this is a SyFy original movie, as in the SyFy Channel. For some of you, that right there is enough to have you stop reading and write this direct to basic cable movie off. Knowing history of movies made for and by SyFy, I wouldn’t blame you. But does this one defy expectations and actually turn out to be good? Well, at least watchable, as the first movie wasn’t really good. I mean, the first LAKE PLACID was enjoyable in a campy, creature feature kind of way. It was ably made, had decent special effects, and was well acted, especially with a great performance by Betty White as the old crazy croc lady. So can this sequel once removed deliver the same kind of goofy fun?

In a word; no, a big fat no on all counts.

This movie is set at the same titular lake and begins with the nephew of the crazy croc lady moving into her lakefront home after her death with his wife and son. Once there the son finds great auntie’s baby crocs and starts feeding them. I guess stupid crazy is in the genes with this family. This goes on for two years with the father and mother never catching on, even when mommy sneaks up behind the kid right as he’s feeding the crocodiles and yet she doesn’t see them. What, are they are stealth crocs? Oh no, sorry, just lazy screenwriting, my bad. Anyway, one day the kid runs out of meat, or the crocs just get too big, and they start munching on the locals. And well, that’s about it for story, but then you could have guessed that. What you could not have foreseen was how many ways this movie epically fails.

The acting is atrocious. Community Theater level at best. Every time the actors opened their mouths I just wanted to smack them upside the head and tell them to stop it. The one exception to this is Michael Ironside who pretty much plays Michael Ironside as he always does. So I don’t know if that can be considered “acting” or not, but it’s still enjoyable after all these years. Now to be fair, the horrible performances can’t all be blamed on the actors as the lines they are given to recite are stilted, wooden, and unbelievable. With that in mind, I can only guess that the director must have been awed by the amazing script because he was determined to match it in quality. Well he succeeded. Atmosphere, suspense, dread, thrills, shock, surprise, believable emotion of any sort, yeah this movie has none of those things. Only the very basics of “point camera and hit record” is evident. The very same skill any twelve-year-old borrowing his parents’ video camera has mastered. Last but oh so not least, there are the movie’s special effects, which are easily the best thing this film has to offer. Not because they were so good and believable, but because they were so laughably bad. While the splatter is passable (how hard is it to toss around blood and latex thirty plus years after Tom Savini) the CGI crocs are fall-down-laughing-till-it-hurts silly looking. The only enjoyment to be had by watching this dreary little movie is to howl with laughter every time one of crocs wanders into the screen looking like it just escaped from an old 8 bit Nintendo videogame.

Knowing how good this movie was, Sony has given it the DVD release it so richly deserves. That is one devoid of any special features whatsoever. There’s not even a commentary track, but with a movie this good, what would it say? If it did exist I would bet it would be 90 minuets of the filmmakers saying “we’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re so damn sorry” over and over again. At least it should be.

In closing, the only enjoyment to be had while watching this movie is if you and your fiends get drunk and mercilessly rip it apart, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 style. As such it is a rental at best and a big old skip it otherwise.

--Brian M. Sammons