Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Brian Sammons Hi-Def Horror Hoedown!
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)– Blu-ray
Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Cast: Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Christopher Nicholas Smith
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, if you’ve seen either of the two previous films, then you’ve pretty much seen this one. Yep, spooky ghostly stuff starts to happen to an average family out of the blue and that family decides to get a whole bunch of cameras to record it. Plenty of jump scares, and a few good creepy moments, ensues. That’s the winning formula that has made these incredibly cheap to make fright flicks so successful and profitable. That profitability is the reason why Paramount has been releasing a new PA movie every Halloween since they started. Now I’m not going to get off on a rant here about how Paramount is milking this cash cow to death, and in the process, making everyone sick and tired of what was once original and fun. However I must say that this third time at bat, while not a strike out, is more like a so-so hit that gets a man on base, if only that. Part 3 does do a few new things, but not enough to warrant any real excitement. On the other hand it’s not completely awful, so there’s that, I guess. So grab your video camera, get ready for things to pop up off screen and go “boo”, and let’s watch some new activity of the paranormal kind.
The story this time is a prequel, not a sequel, and if you’ve watched the other PA movies, then you know it would be kind of hard to follow the continuing adventures of two sisters that the paranormal entity has the hots for, mainly because they don’t continue all that much. Well one sort of does, but I digress. So instead of that we get to see the sisters as little girls in the 1980s when the spookiness first started for them. That leads us to my first complaint about this movie; in typical fashion the haunting shenanigans really ratchet up towards the end of the movie, so how the hell did neither girl remember the creepy craziness when they got older and were in the first two movies? I mean there are some hardcore Poltergeist-like stuff happens, not just creaky floorboards at night. You think once someone gets batted all over the bedroom by Casper the unfriendly ghost, they would remember that. Sure there is a throw away explanation when someone starts to do some research on cults and says, “they often brainwash little girls” or some such nonsense, but that seems more like damage control than a believable answer. But then this is a movie about invisible demons, so maybe I shouldn’t get so hung up on what’s believable or not.
Oh and don’t get me started on the fact that in both the previous films it was established that the girls’ house was lost in a fire, and yet here the spooky beastie doesn’t so much as light a match. What, did the writers of this movie just forget that? Or were they hoping that we would forget? Either way, that’s a pretty big oversight.
Luckily not everything here is boo-boos and missteps. One nice thing about this movie is at least it has a plausible reason as to why the haunted family would have so many cameras on hand to record the paranormal activity, and that is because the new hubby to a woman and her two young daughters just so happens to make a living by filming weddings. That combined with the pretty authentic 80s look, complete with a VHS video feel to everything did put a smile on my face. In a similar vein I like the ingenuity they used in order to come up with a camera that would sweep back and forth by attaching a camera to an oscillating fan. Since the best pay offs in any PARANORMAL ACTIVITY come when the camera isn’t looking at something, but then cuts back to a scene so you can see that something has moved or changed, this moving camera really worked and provided some of the film’s best scares.
To be honest, despite being very derivative of the other films, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 still provides some good frights, even if the whole show does have that “been there, done that” feel to it. When you come down to it, that’s all you can ask of any horror movie, so in that regard, PA3 succeeds, if just barley. The sad truth is that not only were some of the jump scares predictable, as they were just variants of what we’ve seen last year and the year before, but so to was the ending, which had its twist telegraphed way early on and was easily the weakest finale of the three movies.
As for the new Blu-ray and DVD combo package from Paramount is like the ones that came before it, which means no obnoxious trailers (yay for that) and just a blank menu screen that give you the option to watch the theatrical or extended cut. Yep, there are two versions of the movie here, although the differences between them are minor. Also like the other PARANORMAL movies on disc, there are not a whole lot of special features to choose from. Here there are a few deleted scenes collected together as “lost tapes” and that’s it. So if you’re a special feature fan, you may want to hold off on this one until the special edition version that is no doubt sure to come out someday. However if you are a huge PA fan and just can’t wait then the retro 80s VHS look this film was going for looks far better on Blu-ray than any VHS you’ve ever seen.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 isn’t a bad movie, and I did enjoy parts of it, it’s just really tired and now overused idea. It is the weakest of the three films by far and a good example of why they should take a break from the annual release schedule they’ve fallen in to. Sadly I don’t think Paramount will heed this advice as they have already announced that Part 4 is in the works. Still, if you’re looking for a pretty good spooky film that will give you a jump or two, you could do a lot worse than PA 3.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE (2011)– Blu-ray
Director: Tom Six
Cast: Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black
One of my all-time favorite goofball slashers of the 1980s is called PIECES. It had a poster featuring a cut up woman, a chainsaw, and the tag line, “It’s exactly what you think it is.” That bit of tag line brilliance could have easily been applied to THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE. Even if you never saw the first shocktastic slice of cinema, you probably know exactly what it is and by extension, what the sequel will have to offer. The original movie was one of those films that quickly entered the public lexicon and it became the butt of many late night TV monologs and the punch line for countless morning radio shows. Once SOUTH PARK does an episode on something, it’s safe to say it’s become part of the gestalt of human consciousness. Hell, my 60+ year-old mother knows about the movie, what it’s all about, and she has no interest in the weird flicks I watch. And in the case of this movie, I am very glad she will never, ever see this film. But should you? Well grab a barf bag, you’re sure to need it, and let’s see if anyone can top the over-the-top HUMAN CENTIPEDE.
This film is set in a world where the first CENTIPEDE movie was just that; a movie. That film has become the obsession of a very odd, mentally retarded man living with his bitter mother in England. This sequel is shot in black and white, probably for a number of reasons. The more charitable side of me might say that it was done as an artistic statement. In this world the first movie was “fake” but shot in color. Here in the “real” world things are not only devoid of color, but as the viewers will soon learn; far, far worse than anything that happened in the original CENTIPEDE movie. That said, the choice to go with black and white could also be because of all the gore and various bodily fluids flying all over hell and back in this movie. They might have been too much for anyone to handle in living color.
The start of this show is a demented, roly-poly, bald, bug-eyed, sweaty little troll of a man named Martin. While the villain of the first movie, the awesomely insane Dr. Heiter, had a creepy but cool vibe to him, there is nothing cool whatsoever about Martin. He is completely and utterly repulsive and reprehensible. Martin never once utters a single word, so actor Laurence R. Harvey has only his “unique” physical attributes, and acting without aid of dialog through grunts, facial expressions, and body movements, to portray one of the creepiest nut jobs ever captured on film. I’m sure in reality Mr. Harvey is a charming person, but here as Martin, he is frighteningly icky. Love this movie or hate it, and it seems many people really despise this film, credit must be given to Laurence R. Harvey for creating a nightmare inducing madman you’ll not soon forget.
And that’s where the praise train ends for HUMAN CENTIPEDE II. All aboard the bad taste express. Remember those barf bags I told you to bring? Well you just might need them now.
Martin works in an underground parking garage where he spends all his time in his little booth, watching his favorite movie, masturbating with sandpaper, and dreaming sick dreams of making his own human centipede. One day Martin rents out a warehouse and then starts clubbing random people over the head with a crowbar. When the poor KO-ed people wake up they are naked, tied up in that warehouse, and about to face a fate worse than death. After Martin collects a dozen people for his much larger centipede, he gets to work putting them together. But whereas the psycho in the first movie was a famous surgeon, Martin is a mentally challenged parking garage attendant. That means he has to resort to using pliers for yanking out teeth and a box cutter to slice through the sinews in legs (so that the centipede properly crawls around) and to create the flaps of butt skin used to attach everyone ass to mouth. He then employs a staple gun to make sure everyone stays in place.
Still with me? Ok, on we go.
Things go both good and bad for Martin in his quest to live his dream. Good: he manages to trick one of the actresses from the original movie to come to London so he can use her in his new and improved centipede. He does this by posing as a casting director for a film (naturally), although that dialog all happens off screen as remember, Martin never talks. Lord only knows how he was able to pull that off. Bad: he accidently kills one of his would be centipede segments, a very pregnant woman, by bashing her brains in with a crowbar one too many times. Good: he makes his human centipede, has it movie around much to his simplistic, sadistic glee, and then injects everyone with concentrated liquid laxatives to recreate the infamous “feed her!” scene from the first movie. Bad: the quite literal shit storm this causes is so overpowering that it even makes Martin sick. Good: Martin gets some jollies when he wraps his penis in barbwire and then rapes the last woman at the tail end of his centipede. Bad: the pregnant woman he thought he had killed comes to, runs for the door as her water breaks, and gets into a car, desperate to escape. In fact she is so desperate, that even once she has given birth in the car and her newborn baby falls to the floor and gets its infant head stuck under the car’s gas pedal, she still stomps on the gas (and thus crushes her newborn’s head) to get away.
Do I need to go on? Because I easily could, there are a whole slew of other atrocities I could recount for you, but I’d like to leave some things as surprises should you wish to punish yourself by watching this movie.
As for the extras on the oh-so lovely Blu-ray from IFC Midnight, there are a good selection for such a low budget and infamous little movie. First off there is an audio commentary track with director Tom Six and actor Laurence R. Harvey, that’s as informative as it is often off-putting. Then there’s a twelve minute interview with the madman who dreamt up all this human centipede stuff, Tom Six. And quite frankly, he didn’t appear as pants-on-head crazy as you would think from his movies. There’s a nine minute on set tour of warehouse were the centipede comes alive that has some nice behind the scenes bits, not to mention a whole lot of fake butts being tapped to actors. There is a very short special on the foley artists who make up all the disgusting sounds for this fine film. Another short is about making the movie poster. A single deleted scene (that adds nothing at all to the film), a short promo piece featuring Tom Six, trailers and teasers round out the extra goodie bag.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE is shock for the sake of shock and nothing more. Its artistic merits are nil, save for seeing just how messed up and wrong a movie can be. Writer/director Tom Six gleefully admits that he wanted to make the most disturbing, sick, controversial, and yes; shocking movie ever made. Did he succeed? Well it would be a good race between this and A SERBIAN FILM for the gold medal of bad taste. But with all that said, if you like to test your limits or to see how strong your stomach is, you might want to give this movie a watch. Or if nothing else, you can play a game of “how much of this crap can you take before you leave the room” with your friends and family should you wish to inflict this upon them. Of course they may not talk to you afterwards, but that’s the chance you take. For the vast majority of people out there, I would say that this movie is not for you. If you read this review and were repulsed by any of the things I described here, seeing the events in the movie are far worse. Consider yourselves warned.
SHARK NIGHT 3D (2011)– Blu-ray
Director: David R. Ellis
Cast: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack
Back in 2010 they made a movie similar to this one, and yet so very different. The 2010 flick was a remake of a 1978 drive in classic called PIRANHA. Now the ways that remake and this brand new movie from Sony are similar are threefold. First, both were about hungry fishes wanting to eat people. Second, both were released in 3D. Third, at their hearts they were cheesy creature features and nothing more. But here’s how they were different; PIRANHA 3D not only knew exactly what it was, but embraced and reveled in it. It was chock full of gore, nudity, stupidity, off-color humor, nonsensical plot points, and more that made it so damn fun. Conversely SHARK NIGHT tries to play things safe for the more marketable PG-13 crowd and in doing so it gets rid of the blood, boobies and most of the bad language. By watering things down it turns the movie into a stale, boring, chore to sit through. It is utterly lacking in anything remotely recommendable and completely forgettable. Now I know I’m being oh so cagy and playing my cards close to my vest, so I’m sure you’re wondering what I really thought of this movie. Well dear reader, keep on reading and I’ll try to be more clear about my true thoughts about this oh so wonderful film.
The flick begins with an obligatory shark munching of a disposable young couple frolicking on the beach, and right from the start we are smacked upside the head with what’s the biggest problem with this film. The woman loses her bikini top in a sad attempt by this movie to be racy, but then the actress makes sure to keep her back to the camera, less the slightest glimpse of a boob destroy the morality of America, or ruin that oh so coveted PG-13 rating. Further cementing this film’s lameness, when the shark attacks the girl, the height of gore for this savage assault is red Kool-Aid in the water.
Cut to the group of college kids who will be our stars of this show, and yet not one of them is likable, memorable, funny, sweet, or in the slightest bit believable. They are an assemblage of cardboard cutouts and shorthand clichés instead of characters with any depth, and remain so even though the next third of the film is a boring slog of a travelogue as they road trip from their campus to a secluded island for some partying. I assume this was done in an attempt to flesh out the characters some more, and that is commendable, but it completely fails here. They all remain caricatures rather than real people, and even the people they’re supposed to be, I don’t like. This also means that for the next what-feels-like-eternity, there are no sharks in this movie called SHARK NIGHT. Oh yay.
Along the way the college kids naturally run into the cast of DELIVERANCE: THE NEXT GENERATION, because you just can’t make a movie where “city folk” go anywhere with more than three trees together without running into dimwitted, overly hostile, raciest rednecks. However, in a bit of inspired and laughable lunacy…
SPOILER WARNING (but go ahead and read it, as you really don’t want to watch this film)
…the rednecks are the real villains here. You see, they’ve been capturing a whole mess of live sharks from the ocean and dumping them into the saltwater lake they live by. I’ll skip over the part where I point out that this would greatly endanger any friends and family these rednecks would have, as they live at, and make their living on, the very lake they’re stocking with hungry sharks. After all, we all know movie villains are mwah-hah-hahing moustache-twirlers who never have any families or connections. The fact that there are at least four members of this crazy cabal, if not more, and one is a well-respected member of the community, shouldn’t matter. Each and every one of them is a psychotic loner more than happy to let their pet sharks eat random people.
As to why the psycho rednecks are doing this, well it’s for the money, of course. You see, in addition to capturing live sharks and transporting them to the lake from all over the world (as the varieties of species they have assembled is impressive) in a feat of nautical knowhow and management that would make Sea World proud, they attach laser beams – oops, sorry, wrong silly movie – I mean cameras to the shark’s heads. Why? To make shark snuff films, naturally. Why? Because “Shark Week” is the most popular week of TV on cable and these guys are making movies to sell to the rich fans of it who want to see “the real thing”. Yes, I kid you not, that is the plot for this film; snuff flicks because people watch “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel.
Do I really need to go on after that? You all know what’s going to happen. The college kids get to an island where naturally no cellular phone works, they get attacked by shark cameramen and get stranded on the island, then there is the “big twist” of who is a baddie when we were supposed to think that they were a goodie. Unfortunately everyone saw that one coming from a mile away. And naturally the sharks can’t just chomp people in the water like that old, boring JAWS movie, so here they do EXTREME! tricks, like jumping out of the water to snag people in trees or racing on jet skis, because gravity and real world physics are just so lame and uncool. Then there’s the showdown at the end with the final girl right out of Slasher Movies 101, the main villain who is oddly immune to tranquilizer darts that were so incredibly effective (complete unconsciousness in 2 seconds) in the previous scene, the death of the lead psycho redneck by poetic means, the fact that the dog somehow survives swimming around in shark infested water for twenty minutes (which is good, as he was the only character I liked), and dear god I’ve got to stop before my head explodes with the stupid. And all that without any real gore, nudity, and none of the classic campiness or fun that it so badly tried to rip off, but was so afraid to commit to.
I started this rant…er, review by mentioning the much better PIRANHA 3D, which was far from a perfect movie, but was still fun and vastly more enjoyable than this turgid, uninspired mess. But let’s go further back in time and compare and contrast this film with another shark movie that, according to the rating system, is even more kid friendly with a PG rating; JAWS. That older and far, far, oh my god so far better film had much better direction, more believable shark effects (and that’s with a roboshark that only worked half the time), superior actors, originality, a better story, suspense and tension, an amazing and memorable soundtrack, characters you actually gave a damn about, and while being a PG film, it still had much more gore and naughty nudie bits that this tepid turkey.
SHARK NIGHT has direction akin to TV pilots, incredibly fake looking CGI shark effects (perhaps one step above SHARKTOPUS), and with perhaps one or two exceptions, a gaggle of grade-B direct to video actors playing “twenty something” college students (quotes used as some of the actors appear to be in their 30s) that are so vapid or cardboard that you could care less about what happens to them. Add to that a laughably bad story that tries to blend JAWS with DELIVERANCE with VACANCY (the 2007 flick about a motel making snuff movies, for those who forgot that forgettable film) and it trades in any attempt for suspense for awesome ninja sharks that can swim faster than speedboats and fly out of the water to snatch people out of midair.
Now is it fair to judge a new, low budget fright flick with an undeniable classic of horror/thriller cinema? No, not really. After all, not every film can be the CITIZEN KANE of shark movies. But it does help to illustrate a point. If you want to watch a good shark movie then go see JAWS, it’s the best there ever was. If you just want to have a goofy, gory good time, go watch PIRANHA 3D, as it’s not afraid to revel in being a campy creature feature and play that up for all its worth. Unfortunately I can think of no good reason for anyone to ever see SHARK NIGHT. It’s not well made. It’s not fun. It’s just a boring, tedious turd and should be avoided at all costs.
THE DEAD (2011) – Blu-ray
Directors: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Cast: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia
This was the best horror movie I saw in 2011. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, and you know what I like and I don’t, and you find yourself agreeing with me more often than not, then stop reading this right now and order yourself a copy of this amazing movie right now. Yes, it doesn’t come out until Feb 14 (and thus would make for an excellent Valentine’s Day gift to that special horrorhead in your life) but reserve your copy now so you can watch it as soon as you possibly can.
Why am I so geeked about this movie? I mean a ton of zombie flicks come out all the time, what makes this one so special? Because not only is it the best zombie movie made in years, and that (sadly) includes the last three Romero zombie movies all rolled into one, but it is actually a very well-made movie first, and a zombie flick second. Do you know how incredibly rare that is? Well sit though as many of the recent-ish, rancid, rash of zombie movies that I’ve seen (off the top of my head; AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION, DAWN OF THE DEAD: CONTAGION, DAY OF THE DEAD (remake), SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 4 & 5, FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, RESIDENT EVIL (any of them), and those are just the ones I can quickly remember from the last 5 years or so) and you’ll be as thrilled as I am when a good zombie movie eventually stumbles your way.
Now I’ve already reviewed this one when it was at the theater, but just in case you missed that, and since I hate repeating myself, the following is what I said then, and it’s still what I think now.
(cue flashback-wavy-dissolve effect)
In the war ravaged continent of Africa, the hell that man has made there for decades has just gotten a whole lot worse as the dead have begun to rise to attack the living. Sure, this is a very familiar story, but it is how that story is handled that makes all the difference in this film. Here the tale begins with an American Air Force mechanic on the last plane out of the blighted continent, but unfortunately for him the plane crashes. For our mechanic, surviving the crash is just the beginning because now he’s lost in the wilds of Africa with more flesh hungry zombies than you can shake a severed head at. Our costar of this movie is an African solider who leaves his post to go back and protect his wife and son. Well like any good zombie tale, there’s enough bad luck floating about for everyone and our solider returns home only to find that his village has been attacked by the undead, his wife eaten, and his son missing. A dying old woman tells him that his boy was taken to relative safety by a group of other soldiers. Eventually our two heroes meet and begin a dangerous journey over the beautiful, wild countryside, with the solider looking for his son and the American just looking for a way out of Africa.
A somewhat typical story, yes, but there are many things that makes this movie so damn good. First there are the slow, shambling, traditional undead, not the hyperactive, super athletes like many modern zombies. And while 28 DAYS LATER and the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake were great, I’ve always preferred the inescapable dread and doom that the slow zombie represents, and that is done to great effect in this movie. Take for example this scene; our Air Force hero gets a car, but it gets stuck in the lucky-to-be-called-a-goat-trail he’s forced to travel. He gets out of the auto to fix it and he looks around, seeing several undead, but they are a good distance away, so he thinks he’s safe. He starts to work on the car, and the camera pans back to show that the silent, shuffling zombies are closer. The guy continues to work on the car…and the flesh eaters get closer. He drops a tool, goes to pick it up, and now there’s a zombie right next to him. No, he sees that there are five right on top of him, and more closing in. That is how it’s done, folks. That is a creepy and effective bit of horror. Now just how would that scene of suspense and tension have been made any better by a zombie sprinting out of the bushes like Jesse Owens and gibbering like the Tasmanian Devil?
Another thing that I loved about this film was the long moments of silence. For much of this movie both heroes are on their own, so who would they be talking to? No one, that’s who. Still, if this was a Hollywood flick, I can’t imagine the filmmakers having enough faith that the audience wasn’t a bunch of A.D.D. addled spazzes that have to have constant droning less they become bored, to allow the movie to shut the hell up just tell its story through visuals alone, like THE DEAD does. No, they probably would have resulted to inner narration if nothing else. I mean, do I really have to point out BLADE RUNNER here?
Perhaps the reason THE DEAD is comfortable with its moments of silence is that the visuals it has to offer are so beautiful and striking. I mean, were talking about Africa here. Sure it’s savage, wild, and sometimes desolate, but it’s breathtaking nonetheless. This beauty is well juxtaposed with the horror that’s happening all over and the rotting zombies that are causing said horror. I can honestly say that this movie is probably the best looking, most visually stunning and memorable zombie movie ever made. For that reason alone, to prove that horror films don’t always have to look cheap and dirty, you should see this movie.
Lastly there’s the normal movie stuff, like acting, direction, music and such, combined with the horror staple of gore, and THE DEAD gets all of that, and more, so right. Perhaps my one and only complaint with this movie was the (thankfully) infrequent use of CGI for gore gags such as bullet hits and the like. I guess such things are unavoidable these days, and at least the ones in this film range from good to ok, but I still don’t like them. I’d just like all films to get the video game graphics out of my movies, but I suppose that will never happen, so I guess I can’t really hold that against this otherwise great fright flick.
(cue flashback-wavy-dissolve effect again to tell the audience we are returning to the present)
As for the specifics of this movie on the new Blu-ray from Anchor Bay, they’re pretty damn good. The film’s amazing visuals are well presented her, but there is still some of grain that gives it that “real film” look. It is more noticeable in some scenes than other, specifically dark scenes. Some people hate that, but I can live with it as long as it doesn’t get too out of control, and here it doesn’t. Still, I thought I’d mention that so the grain haters are duly warned. As for the special features, they’re sadly very disappointing. One is a very short (read as; five minute long) behind the scenes bit that’s just a hodgepodge of production home movies. The second is a single minute and a half deleted scene that adds nothing to the story. And…that’s it? Wow, for as good of a movie as THE DEAD is, ANCHOR BAY really seems to have put this one out on the cheap. I guess they’re too busy giving I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT the deluxe treatment to spend a few more pennies on this silly little zombie movie. There is an informative and sometimes entertaining audio commentary track with the directing/writing Ford Brothers, but that’s about it for these not-very-special special features.
Dearth of good extras on this disc aside, I still must agree with Alice Cooper when he said, “I Love THE DEAD”. It’s got style, good acting, great moments of suspense, zombie gut munching, and a beautiful and unique setting that hasn’t been done to death by dozens of other zombie flicks. I highly recommend this movie, it’s a must have for zombie lovers everywhere.
NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975) – Blu-ray
Director: Aldo Lado
Cast: Flavio Bucci, Macha Méril, Gianfranco De Grassi
Hey remember that grueling horror movie that shocked the world when it came out in the 70s? You know; the one where the two young girls run into a group of lowlifes who sexually abuse and then kill them? The scumbags then just so happen to run into one of the girl’s parents by accident and go back to their house for some hospitality. Then mommy and daddy find out what the creeps did to their daughter and so take their bloody revenge out on the killers? Yeah, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was a true horror classic. It was as brutally honest in its depiction of violence as it was hard to watch and it can be argued that it changed shock cinema forever.
Too bad that’s not the film I’m going to be reviewing today, even though the exact same summary above can be applied to this film word for freaking word. No today I’m going to review the Eurotrash rip-off that came out three years after LHotL called NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS. Now to set the record straight, I love Eurotrash movies when they’re nice and sleazy and not afraid to “go there”. Sadly, that is not the case for this derivative and downright boring “homage” of the much better original. It doesn’t do a damn thing new and worse yet, it plays things oh so safe, as if it’s worried it might offend someone. There is only one semi-shocking moment in the whole film, and for something with the gall to have “more reprehensible than LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT” on its cover, that’s a mix of funny, sad, and unforgivable. Oh well, let’s get this trip over with. So grab your tickets and let’s board this NIGHT TRAIN.
The film begins by showing us two bad dudes in Germany. We know they’re bad because they mug a man dressed as Santa and cut a rich lady’s fur coat. They hop aboard a train bound for Italy to escape some German cops. Also on the train is a mid-thirties woman who we soon learn is into the freaky deaky because she accidently drops her purse and out spills some black and white photos of her in the midst of international group sex. Scandalous! Naturally the two thugs and Frau Sex Fiend are destined to meet up. Unfortunately a pair of nice, young, pretty school girls on their way to one of their parents’ house for Christmas is also predestined to cross paths with the thrill seeking trio.
What’s really unfortunate is that it takes ssssoooo long for that, or anything else, to happen. 48 minutes slowly tick by, over half this movie’s length, before anything horrifying, titillating, or even remotely shocking ever happens. Now if this time was used to flesh out any of the five characters, this lull might be overlooked. But it’s not. Instead here you can thrill to hear people discussing European politics of the 1970s, witness “hot” sex between two fully clothed people in the train’s toilet, and sit on the edge of your seat as a knife fight is over in six seconds without anyone getting so much as a scratch. Seriously, the highlight of edgy for the first half of this snoozefest is when the two young girls lean against the moving train’s wall because the vibrations feel good. Again I say scandalous!
Eventually what you know is coming happens; the two girls get abused and then killed by the creeps on the train, but even this is boring chore to sit through, with the exception for one sick bit I’ll discuss in a second. When LAST HOUSE came out the violence and sadism was like a punch to the gut. It achieved its desired effect of sickening the audience and showing how brutal and dirty violence can be. You can say it was exploitation, and it was, but it was also very real and effective. Conversely NIGHT TRAIN has a tepid, fully clothed rape where the woman looks more sleepy than frightened and some splashed about red paint standing in for the murders. The only effective scene to show how awful the three sadists are involves a knife and one of the young girl’s virginal hymen. This was actually pretty cringe-worth and effectively portrayed without being overly gratuitous. But what does it say about your movie when a switchblade deflowering is the highlight of your film?
Anyway, the girls’ bodies are tossed off the train and the trio gets off at the same stop where the girls were to meet their parents. The sicko woman has a hurt leg, and one of the dead girl’s father is a doctor, so he invites the three up to his house so he can be a Good Samaritan and help them out. Bing, bang, boom; dad learns of his daughter’s murder and that the creeps in his house are the culprits so a quick, and very weak sauce revenge happens and then thankfully this movie is over. Yay.
Now as undeniable bad and boring as this movie is, the good folks over at Blue Underground nevertheless gave it their usual first class treatment in regards to video transfer for this new Blu-ray. This copy looked amazingly great for a bit of mid-seventies European exploitation. Probably better than it had any right to be. In addition to the great picture, there are a few minor extras to be found here. Other than the usual trailers, radio spots, and poster gallery, there is an interview with writer/director Aldo Lado.
Sadly I can’t recommend NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS to rank and file horrorheads. If you are a fan of Eurotrash, or you loved LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT so much that you must have all the horrible rip-offs that groundbreaking movie spawned, then feel free to take a ride on this train. As for everyone else, just take the bus.
NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS (2010) - Blu-ray
Director: Joseph Guzman
Cast: Asun Ortega, David Castro, Perry D'Marco
This is an example of the title being so much better than the actual movie. Come on, how can you not love a movie called NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS? Well when it’s rather boring, that’s how. This flick can be so dull at times that all the naked ladies (and there are a bunch of those here), the few naked guys (for the ladies and dudes who are into that), and all the people getting shot by a vengeful nun with a collection of big guns can’t save this movie from just sort of being a chore to sit through. I know, going into this film I expected it to be a lot of things, but boring sure wasn’t one of them. So is this latest modern day attempt to cash in on the grindhouse nostalgia wave ushered in by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino when they released their fan-appreciated, but financially bombing, double feature GRINDHOUSE in 2007, a complete wash, or can some giggles and ogles be found in this uneven movie? Well grab your habit and your .44 Magnum and let’s find out.
The story begins with a bus full of nuns driving through the desert so that the priest in charge can sell some drugs to a skevy looking couple of bikers. When it is discovered that a package of drugs has been stolen by one of the nuns, the leader of the bikers, Chavo, shoots all the nuns except Sister Sarah. The priest, in order to make things up to the bikers, gives the nun to the bikers who quickly turn her into a drug addicted whore right out of THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE. Continuing the rip-off…I mean “homage” of that Swedish cult classic, Sister Sarah gets a message from God during a drug trip and soon turns into a nun of vengeance! She goes after the gang that turned her out and the entire Catholic Church that seems to do nothing but produce and sell drugs.
What follows is lots and lots of nudity, as pretty much every woman in this movie gets naked in some degree, ranging from popping their tops to full frontal. If you’re a fan of that, rejoice as this movie delivers the NUDE part of its title in spades. As for the BIG GUNS, the violence here comes in two varieties. There are at least three prolonged rapes (two are of nuns, and one is a very old nun) so if that turns you off, as it very well should, then know that before you go into this movie. As for the titular guns, their use is far less graphic and that’s not a good thing for gorehounds like me. Sadly the nun’s rampage of revenge is mostly resigned to blood splattering on walls or pretty fake looking CGI bullet holes.
CGI blood effects, my old nemeses, oh how I loathe thee.
Sorry about that, back to NUDE NUNS which has lots of nudity but rather disappointing violence. Perhaps the blackest mark against it is that it’s just boring. A grindhouse movie should be many things, but boring shouldn’t be one of them. Even with all the gratuitous nudity and violence in this flick, I found myself checking the time again and again, wondering when this movie would be over. It had none of the crazy zaniness that other recent grindhouse-inspired movies had. But it did have a lot of the tedium that quite a few of the original exploitation flicks from the 70s and 80s had, so kudos for “keeping it real” I guess.
That is not to say that everything is bad here. The movie isn’t really horrible, just sort of monotonous. It had a sort of good idea with nun version of THRILLER, a great title, and surprisingly at least one actor who was entertaining has hell. David Castro, whom I’ve never seen before, was wonderfully icky as the murderous, insane leader of the bikers. Whenever he was on the screen he easily stole the show. Then there was the look of the avenging nun, with her white habit and crisscrossed with gun belts, that looked totally badass. Sadly these good parts added together could not a grate whole make.
To top of this rather lackluster stab at over the top cinema, the Blu-ray from Image Entertainment is very lacking in the extras department. There is only a trailer (yay) and a three minute short film also called “Nude Nuns with Big Guns”. However, the entirety of that short film was worked into the larger movie as a scene where the killer nun seduces a lesbian bad girl in order to make good her escape. The scene (and therefore the short movie) isn’t bad, but since you’ve already seen it if you watched the feature film, it makes its inclusion here as the only extra unnecessary, disappointing, and a bit of an insult. To be fair, the HD transfer of the movie looks great, but even that might be a bit of too good looking for its own good. Grindhouse movies really shouldn’t look this good. I’d rather the film had some of the faux grain and crappy film quality that made the GRINDHOUSE and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN movies look the part. But then that could just be me.
NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS took a shot, missed the target, but it was not a huge miss. If it would have had more going for it, or perhaps been a little shorter, it would not have outstayed its welcome so much and have been better overall. As it is, I can only recommend this one to the most diehard fans of nunsploitation films, revenge films regardless of quality, or complete collectors of the modern grindhouse movement.