Thursday, 22 June 2017

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Okay, so this one suffered a little with the effect of rose tinted glasses.

House II

Completed unrelated to the first House movie, The Second Story focuses on events within a different house, and while riffing on ideas from the first movie, doesn't go in the same direction. Jesse (Arye Gross - Castle) has inherited the house in this one, and decides to go and stay with girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln - Knots Landing), and friends Charlie (Jonathan Stark - According to Jim (creator)) and Lana (Amy Yasbeck - Wings). When they settle in Jesse finds evidence in the house that a skull, discovered by his Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandfather is missing, and that it was supposed to have mystical powers. So in a fairly big leap, they exhume his body from the burial plot out back, finding both the skull and zombie Gramps (Royal Dano - Twin Peaks).


Royal Dano

At this point, you realise that the movie is completely bereft of horror in favor of humor. Not a bad thing, but it isn't great. Anyway.

Gramps goes on to explain that he had a falling out with his partner over the skull, and he turned evil (or more evil, or whatever) and that they must protect the skull from him, and anyone else who wants to take it. Cue, shenanigans. Taking ideas from the first movie, the house now becomes more of a player, with different rooms leading to different points in time, with cavemen, and dinosaurs trying to steal the skull, along with a Mayan ritual to kill a virgin, and take the skull. It all culminates with Gramps partner, Slim (Dean Cleverdon - Sundown), turning up to battle it out with Jesse and the gang. When the law shows up, Slim is gunned down, Gramps passes away, and the house burns leaving the heroes to escape to the old west, via time portal.


Slim, Charlie, Jesse, and Gramps


The immediate flaw with the movie is the heavy reliance on humor, which, at times is extremely childish for lack of a better word. At one point a baby pterodactyl steals the skull, another there is a puppy-caterpillar creature. Both of these suit The Neverending Story better than an adult horror. That said there are moments that shine, and the underlying movie isn't bad.


Ayre Gross / John Ratzenburger

Shine definitely comes in the form of John Ratzenburger's turn as Electrician / Adventurer, Bill, the cool wisecracking hero. When Slim turns up he brings the horror, even if it is only for the last few minutes of the film. Ayre Gross is a likable buffoon of a hero, and Jonathon Stark plays the comedy sidekick with aplomb.

The flaws come from the story. It errs too much on the comedy aspects of the first movie - missing the point of horror/comedy. Sadly, I feel this all falls on Writer/Director, Ethan Wiley. The first movie was written by Fred Dekker (who also wrote Monster Squad) and Wiley adapted the screenplay. Here Wiley is responsible for both, and sadly didn't judge the balance well.

It's not a remarkable film, but an average one - watch the trailer below, even that knows where its strength lies.






Tuesday, 20 June 2017

For the Love of Shorts: The Moonlight Man (2016)

Director Danny Donahue drags spine tingling horror along for this 2016 horror short.

Very much a lesson in what not to do when out alone at night...





Friday, 16 June 2017

Ritual (2002)

Tim Curry. You're better than this.


Ritual


Dr. Alice Dodgson is suspended from her job for handing out trial drugs to a patient and killing them. She takes a job as a private physician to Wesley Claybourne in Jamaica for her two year suspension period. While there she befriends local Caro, and is drawn into a web of voodoo.

This movie doesn't work on many levels. Starting at the beginning when Alice (Jennifer Grey - Dirty Dancing) mis-prescribes drugs. She is slapped on the wrist, and allowed to work elsewhere. I would have suspected more of a - I don't know - manslaughter case? Immediately our "hero" is not just flawed, but largely unlikable. Upon arriving in Jamaica the rest of the cast are rolled out. It should be good, the cast is good. Joining Grey, we have obvious villain, Craig Scheffer (Nightbreed), Tim Curry (IT), Daniel Lapaine (Zero Dark Thirty), and Kristen Wilson (Doctor Doolittle). Sadly they don't live up to their reputations.

It's also all very...white.


Tim Curry / Jennifer Grey
 
Focusing on doctors and scientists, landowners, and such, there is very little authenticity to the film. Most of the cast are American. The local township, villages, and people are glossed over for this sub-par who-done-it, set only in Jamaica so that voodoo can be used.

Daniel Lapaine plays Scheffer's brother, and is convinced he is a zombie. Alice is told that he is suffering with encephalitis. It's all washed over with vagueries, in favor of sultry imagery and titillation. Alice starts to suffer with strange dreams and hallucinations, and it becomes apparent that someone is drugging them... with voodoo. *waves fingers at screen*

As the conclusion of the film is reached, it is revealed that local Caro is in fact third in line to Scheffer and Lapaine's land, and she plans on killing everyone to take the land for herself. In fact, an earlier reveal shows that everyone in the main cast is in on some plot to get rich off of the land.

Sadly, the film is not that engaging, the story lines are trite nonsense, and any underpinning of a good movie is lost as the film plays out the finale to a twisted and unpleasant solution, leaving a bad taste in the mouth. But more on that in a moment.

There is some good. Daniel Lapaine plays his character well. He acts most people from the screen with a charming arrogance, making him one of the few likable characters in the cast. The other noteworthy appearance is Gabriel Casseus as J.B., Grey's guide through the film, although he's given little to do except exposit.

The rest of the cast pretty much mumble and sleepwalk through. Never have I seen Tim Curry so restrained and phoning it in. What happened to you Scheffer? Man, Night Breed is one of my favorite films.

Kristen Wilson

As a horror film, it fails. It's not scary. Let's just put that out there. It's also deep veined with voodoo bad. Medicine good. It's a little, black and white about things, if I can put it that way. And there's also the ending.

Hm.

Throughout the runtime, local Superintendant Archibald (a dead-eyed Ron Taylor - Trading Places) had expressed a physical attraction to Caro. A real creepy one too. At the films conclusion Caro is turned into a zombie by Alice, meaning she now lives in a practically comatose state. It transpires that Archibald has taken her, and married her, with the final shot being of him laying her un-moving body on the marital bed.

How about no? Closing the movie on the note that this woman is enslaved to a man, who is likely to rape her time and again is no way to end a film. It shouldn't be in the film.

I find little, if anything, to recommend.






Wednesday, 14 June 2017

For the Love of Shorts: Bedfellows (2008)

Short, yet effective, horror directed by Drew Daywalt.

A woman, a phone call, that's it. It's amazing how much terror can be placed into something so short.






Friday, 9 June 2017

Bestseller (2010)

Bestseller is an interesting Korean thriller from 2010. Director by Jeong-ho Lee weaves a story that you're not expecting...but does he do it well?


Bestseller


Best selling author Hee-soo is accused of plagiarism shortly after the release of another high selling book. Everyone is against her. Even, it appears, her husband. Two years on, still struggling with life after the accusation and now separated from her husband, Hee-soo travels to a lodge with her now six-year-old daughter, Yeon-hee, to write a new book. When they arrive, Yeon-hee meets a new friend - an invisible one - a turn to the bizarre, and then a new novel is written...but of course, there is more here than appears.


Jeong-hwa Eom / Sa-rang Park

Firstly, sold as a thriller, this is very much a horror. Anyone familiar with Asian horror, is going to see some of this coming, but it's not a bad thing. Asian cinema is fabulous in its story telling and this is no exception. From the arrival at the writing lodge something is off kilter and watching it, some viewers may think they can see what's coming.

I guarantee that they'll be wrong.

Plagued by writer's block, Hee-soo begins to crumble under the weight of her editors anticipation. She can't get a word on the page. When Yeon-hee's invisible friend starts to tell a story - which Hee-soo writes into a best selling novel - the *coughs* skeletons start coming out of the closet. But I won't spoil them here.

The acting is strong - but standout performance goes without doubt to Sa-rang Park as daughter Yeon-hee. Only seven years old at the time of release, she plays the innocent yet tortured little girl with maturity and applause. She ranks up with some of the best child actors I have ever witnessed a performance from.

Sa-rang Park

The adults all put in a solid performance, and the direction is well done. With few effects to work with, the movie is a good character driven horror piece, with a great twist no one will see coming.

Highly recommended.





Wednesday, 7 June 2017

For the Love of Shorts: Selfie from Hell (2015)

Directed by Erdal Ceylan, who is going on to direct and produce a feature based on the same premise, comes a horror short of near perfection.

Rolling in at exactly 1 minute 30 seconds long, Ceylan drags a perfect performance from lead, Meelah Adams.

Short as it is, it's worth the underwear loss.






Friday, 2 June 2017

Soldiers of Fortune (2012)

What have Christian Slater, Sean Bean, Colm Meaney. Ving Rhames, Dominic Monaghan, and James Cromwell got in common?


Soldiers of Fortune

They're all in this film you haven't seen.

Stumbling across Soldiers of Fortune on a late night channel hop, I thought, hm. Christian Slater? I like him. Sounds like a bad war film. So I stuck it in the PVR queue.

Then I found out it was a B war movie, dirty dozen, Expendables type with an all star cast.

Well. Score.

Slater is disgraced army vet Craig McCenzie (Yes, I triple checked the spelling), down on his luck, and broke. While gambling to help pay the bills of fellow disgraced army vet Mike Reed (Freddy Rodríguez) he is hired to lead a team of civilians to a live battle zone. A sort of extreme vacation. With live ammo.

Of course, everything goes wrong from the get-go. Slater's team of pros are all killed (quite coldly, I might add) including Reed, leaving McCenzie trapped on an island of hostiles with a bunch of would-be have a go heroes.

From left: Sean Bean / Dominic Monaghan / James Cromwell / Ving Rhames / Christian Slater

There is more to it than that, obviously. Each super-rich civ has a reason to be there. Twists. Turns. And Colm Meaney as the scene stealing bad guy is always fun.

So, it's a tongue in cheek action movie, sure. But it's good, and mostly for one reason. The cast is stellar - and not just because of big names.

James Cromwell pretty much acts everyone off the screen in every scene he's in. You don't rack up nearly 50 years in the business by not being able to act. Sean Bean, Ving Rhames, and Christian Slater are all solid leading men in their own rights. Monaghan generally plays supporting roles - but if you've seen him in Lost you'll know how versatile he is.

So packing a movie, set in largely a single location, with great actors should be a win.

Then, there's the action scenes. Director, Maxim Korostyshevsky (who has weirdly done nothing before, or since) pulls a solid job, and there's a big enough budget to have Expendables size action.


Soldiers of Fortune: BOOOOOOOOOM

It's a solid, reliable, action movie. It's cast is lovable. Dominic Monaghan is always adorable. It's cheesy 80's action at it's best. Sure, it's an Expendables movie. Hell, the trailer even claims:

THIS TIME
NO ONE
IS 
EXPENDABLE 

What's not to like?

And, it teaches you things. I learned that even trained vets don't look at explosions. Civilians with machine guns are super dangerous. James Cromwell could snap me in half like a twig.