Friday, 30 December 2016

Lo (2009)

And every once in a while something new comes along.

Lo-Budget Awesomeness

The plot is quite simple. A young man, Justin, summons the demon, Lo, to find his girlfriend, April, who herself has been kidnapped and taken to Hell. To say more is to spoil it.


Brainchild of Travis Betz (writer, director, and editor), this single location, small cast production looks like a horror. No. Quite the opposite. The movie is an exploration in humanity. It is about love, and the lengths that some people will go to. It is about sacrifice. 

And it is stunning in many ways.

Running in at a paltry 80 minutes, the story is simple, but perfect. The stars (Jeremiah Birkett (Lo) and Ward Roberts (Justin)) emote perfectly. Roberts is struck with fear. Trapped for the running time in a circle of salt. Birkett puts in a tormented performance as Lo, a Demon who may or may not help. It is little more than a play, and a play I would put hard cash on the table to see in a theater. 

Director Betz does a solid job. It is a simple film to edit, but he has done so without placing flourishes in that other, less confident Directors, would. 

Nothing detracts from the story. Which is as phenomenal as the story is.

Ward Roberts / Jeremiah Birkett

This film will not scare you, much as it may look like it will. It will leave you wondering. And holding on tighter to the one you love.

In places, it's also funny as fuck.

You need to see this.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Captain America (1979)

Yeah. This happened.

Fighting terror on a motorcycle!!

Look. I'm a fan of these movies. The Spiderman movies are great. This one? Hm.

The plot is...interesting? Steve Rodgers (in this incarnation appearing to be a homeless traveler, having left the army. Think Rambo with a sweet van, and without the angst) is driving to his friends to pick up his mail. Yes. That's the first ten minutes of this movie.

Then people try to kill him. For reasons. It seems to happen because his late father was a serumed-up super soldier, nick-named Captain America. The Government asks Steve to help with continuing his father's work. He refuses.

Then Steve's father's bestie get murdered by the people looking to get hold of "something to do with a neutron bomb". And push him and his bike down a small hill! And he nearly dies! So they turn him into Captain America anyway! Super soldier!

Then he stops "something to do with a neutron bomb".

This is low-budget schlock, but that's what it's supposed to be. So what's the problem, if anything?

The world's most pointless tracking shot

There's only one thing wrong with this movie. It's not the story. Captain America: Origin Story. It's not the acting. Reb Brown (Steve Rodgers) was born for this sort of B-Movie trash. It's got Lance LeGault as the "heavy" bad guy. Colonel Decker from The A-Team TV show.

The problem is pacing.

Running in at 120 minutes (the same length as Captain America The First Avenger), it's well over an hour before you get any "Cap". He's only in two fight scenes.

The movie consists of protracted helicopter shots of cars driving, and motorcycles traversing terrain. The beach shots. Jeez. The beach scenes.

We need less of Reb's chest...

...and more poop spraying.

The film is actually jolly fun when something is happening. Which sadly isn't very often. He trashed his bike like three times. He punches bad guys. Deflects bullets with his shield. He saves the world from a neutron bomb!

But it only lasts about fifteen minutes.

And the rest is Reb's chest.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Primer (2004)

So you understood it first time, did you? Liar.

So...what happened?

Primer is a simple story of time travel. And by simple, I mean...huh? The premise of the movie is actually simple. Man creates time machine, then pretty much fucks everything up. 

Boasting it's own Wikipedia page that attempts to explain the movie (which I'm not going to do here), Primer is undoubtedly a film about whether you should, veiled heavily in hard science fiction.

It's a damn fine movie too. 

The problem the movie has, is that it is mindbogglingly complicated. 

Written, directed, and starring Shane Carruth (also Composer, Producer, Editor, and Cinematographer), Primer starts as it means to go on. The first minutes of the film are a drawn out discussion of advanced physics. It sounds very complicated, and I understood nothing. In fact it could, and has been suggested that it is, mumbo jumbo. Once the film finds flesh it becomes intriguing. 

Two inventors, Aaron and Abe, seemingly stumble across proof of concept of time travel. Abe then refines the concept alone, and builds a box allowing him to travel six hours in time. Of course he uses it to jimmy with stocks and make money. Then he introduces Aaron to the machine. Then the two of them travel in time, there are multiple copies of them, they time travel with time machines to create new time machines...and welp.

The film concludes with Aaron attempting to build another machine, in France, and Abe attempting to wipe out the whole experiment.

I think.

Carruth is a competent Director. 

The breakdown of the relationship of the two protagonists is fierce, and as power is afforded them, they cannot cope. Clearly one of them is dealing better with it than the other, the other quickly becoming manipulative, distrusting, and devious.

The ending of the film portrays where the two men end up within their own relationship.

Under the hard science, there is a dark and gritty undertone, and the film is not, well, happy. It's not a light film, and shouldn't be watched instead of, say, Back to the Future.

And the answer?

No. Don't time travel.

I think.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Derailed (2002)

Van Damme has had a career of ups and downs. He started well, much like others of his ilk (Seagal et al) with movies fondly remembered, Bloodsport and Universal Soldier, and like others when trends changed he started to struggle to find quality work. But he made a comeback! JCVD is great!

This is before the comeback.

Not to be mistaken for 2005's Clive Owen movie of the same name

The problem with this film is not just the plot. It's silly schlock, but still. JCVD is a high tech bio-weapons agent on holiday with his family, when shock horror, a job comes up. He must escort Galina Konstantin - defecting, I guess - to safety carrying bio weapons. On a train. Then the bad guys show up because of double crosses! Then his family show up because of plot convenience!

Okay, everything is pretty much lifted from other films. Part 'True Lies' (1994) and part 'Under Siege 2' (1995) the plot offers little. But hey, it's an action movie. As long as that works, then all is good.

Van Damme always has a good fighting style. He's always up for the challenge. The problem here is space. And direction. There is no space for the martial arts as every notable fight scene is on a train, and the direction is fast. I mean really fast. The average length of a shot is 1.53 seconds.

You can't tell what the fuck is going on.

And then there is the budget.

Hornby must've made money on this.

Toy trains. Seriously. This is the train from the movie. 

There are virtually no practical stunts. 

Everything is made of a screen of green...

And then there are some ... interesting ... plot holes. Like the secret agent on a train, who swapped compartments in secret. And then his wife and kids just turn up.

He's supposed to be a banker. How did they know he was on this train? How did they know what compartment he was in?

How come smallpox vaccines are so easy and quick to manufacture?

How come his son survived?

We want answers, dammit.

Alright, we don't.


This film is terrible.

Friday, 2 December 2016

I, Frankenstein (2014)

Why, Frankenstein?

Nice poster.

Penned by Kevin Grevioux, the comic book (graphic novel, whatever, leave me alone) is supposed to be good. Like really good.

Apparently, that didn't translate to the movie's writer and director, Stuart Beattie.

The plot revolves around Frankenstein's monster, who after the death of Victor, is attacked by demons, saved by gargoyles, and who then spends the next couple of hundred years hidden in the shadows, being a demon hunter.

I'd like to see that story.

But no, that's the prologue. The Demons are trying to find the secret to creating life to raise an army of...more demons. Doing so by capturing Victor's monster and studying him.

Frankenstein's MONSTER. 

Okay, so the film has some issues. Let's step by step.

The cast is largely stellar. I'm a massive fan of Aaron Eckhart. Dude needs some serious leading man work. Bill Nighy? Man's a legend. Even Kevin Grevioux gets in on it. He's good. The supporting cast are good. But I still have the question of why does Jai Courtney keep getting work?

The story is...meh. It's there, but plays out like a monster of the week episode of Supernatural. In fact, casting Jared Padalecki as the monster wouldn't change a thing. It's set piece after set piece action. Demons bad. Gargoyles good. 

But that leads to the makeup and effects. Oh dear. Look, I have issue with Frankenstein's Monster looking like a model. I know you don't want to hide the face of your star, but he looks like an underwear model that's been mugged. What happened to this?

Robert D. 

Aside from that, the film feels like it ran out of money halfway through. Suddenly there is a drop in CG quality.

Overall, it's watchable if you want nothing from it, and care not to pick holes in it. Which I did.

The gargoyles have hidden from sight for hundreds of years.

HOW? They're flying down a New York street.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Broken (2008)

Sometimes low budget horror can actually surprise you.

The Broken

Starring Game of Thrones Lena Headey (or more importantly, Dredd) The Broken has a subtle horror about it. A little 'thinky'.

Set in London, Headey portrays radiologist Gina Mcvey. Coming out of a phone booth, she sees herself driving a car, and follows back to her apartment, where she finds a photo of herself and her father (Richard Jenkins: Cabin in the Woods / Six Feet Under) of which she has no memory. Straight out of panic she takes her car and is in a crash which causes her amnesia.

And some things don't sit right with her after that.

Saying much more will spoil it, so I won't.


Coming straight from the genre 'paranoid horror', The Broken challenges the viewer to conclude what is real, and what is not. Playing the card of films such as Mirrors, The Game, or even Sucker Punch is a tricky one to gamble with. Give too much of your hand away and there is no payoff. Don't show enough and the viewer can become bored. The movie trite. This movie works far better than Mirrors, in not showing too much, and Sucker Punch for not showing enough.

Headey plays character excellently, proving what a fine actress she is, and the rest of the cast support well. 

The twist is certainly a surprise, and seeing some of the comments on IMDB, perhaps a little confusing for some. I loved it, and although the film is certainly not a cerebral clusterfuck like, say, Primer, you do need to pay attention.

But don't be put off. It's an excellent watch, and one I'm glad I have in my collection. Another from the 9 movies on two discs from Walmart.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Pact (2012)

I'm pretty good at watching movies. I usually don't try to find the twist. It's there to surprise you. Let it. That said, there's no way you're guessing this one.


Okay, first off, if you haven't seen this, I'll be spoiling the shit out of it. You've been warned.

Annie (Caity Lotz: Arrow) is in town with her sister for their (somewhat abusive) mother's funeral. Her sister, Nichole, promptly disappears. Plagued by supernatural happenings, Annie becomes fearful that her mother's ghost is seeking some sort of vengeance and is responsible for her sisters, and then her cousins, disappearance. 

Of course, she is the prime suspect. 

During the investigation of the house, and with the help of psychic, Stevie, Annie discovers frightening truths about her family and home. 

Now this is low budget horror done well. 

Spewing atmosphere, and being truly scary, the movie leads you toward one conclusion, and then snags you in another direction. And then another. Having it focus on the mother/daughters relationship is a stroke of genius. It's early Shyamalan good. 

The reveal of the mother's brother, who disappeared years ago over halfway through the film is brilliant. Finding out he was a serial killer is better. The dynamic of the ghost/daughter relationship is tipped when it then appears that the ghost is actually Uncle Serial-Killer.

Then, twist, finding out he's still alive and living under the freaking floor. BAM. Mother's the ghost after all and trying to help.

Twisting genius.

This look. This one. Haley Hudson, people. 

Anyway, enough fawning. The acting is good. Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) is highly credited, but barely in it. Star, Caity Lotz is excellent and psychic Stevie (Haley Hudson: Marley and Me (!)) is fantastic. 

The special effects are scant, but well done, with budget obviously playing a factor.

Script and screenplay are what makes this one unmissable.

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Last Days on Mars (2013)

Zombies! On Mars! With bizarre movie science!

And bad decision making!
Starting with a study on Mars (which is very brief before we get to the action, so I'm not 100% sure why they're there), with only twenty hours before their departure window, one of the crew of the Tantalus Base discovers, potentially, bacterial life.

Then he falls down a hole.


Then there is a whole bunch of bad decisions by the Captain.

This leaves most of the crew infected by the bacteria, and flesh eating zombies. For reasons.

See. Zombies.
Basically set up in a similar vein to the far superior The Thing, Last Days is the unknown in a claustrophobic environment. And it's better than it deserves to be. 

The plot is non-existent, but then it didn't need to be. The acting is pretty solid throughout. The CGI is noticeably better than other films with much larger budgets. It's a recommended watch. But there are a few bizarre things that let it down.

Let's start with the Captains decisions. 

Played by the always watchable Elias Koteas (Gattaca / Shutter Island), Captain Brunel makes some really obviously bad decisions. The first, and most noteworthy, is the decision to leave crew member Dalby (Yusra Warsama) alone, to watch over the hole that crew member Petrovic (Goran Kostic) has fallen into. She clearly has feelings for him. She's visibly distressed. He might still be alive. 

It was never going to end well. 

The science is a bit iffy, too. 

It was filmed in Jordan, which according to the movie has the same gravity as Mars. I checked. You can't jog on Mars. And there's a lot of jogging in this. Also, there is very little deterioration of the flesh when exposed to martian atmosphere. For hours. 

But honestly, I nit-pick.

It's a good science fiction horror movie. One of the best Mars films of recent years too.

And why was it called Last Days on Mars, when the film happens over a nineteen hour period?

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Night Crew (2015)

I like Luke Goss. There, I said it. He kinda always plays himself (in a Jason Statham sort of way), but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Why didn't Jason Mewes make the cover?!

Okay, so...a little shy on plot. Bounty hunter Wade, played by Luke Goss (Hellboy II / Blade II) leads his team into Mexico to nab some woman who will testify against a drug cartel, faced by Danny Trejo in a very limited cameo. He's clearly on the cover to sell dvds. This leads to a standoff between Trejo's men and Goss's team in an abandoned motel.

There's supposed to be a shocking twist at the end, but you sort of see it coming, and it presents sequel bait I'd pay to see, that will likely never get made (mostly, because it's already on TV in the UK less than 12 months after release).


The problem with films like this is that the "generic" gets kicked about a lot. And yes, I could say this is a generic action flick. But is that a bad thing? It's an action film. Apart from the cast, was The Expendables anything other than a generic action flick?

So the plot's okay, the acting is okay, perhaps a little better than just okay. The gun fights are okay.

Have a beer. Enjoy its gratuitous generic-ness.

And yes, Jason Mewes is in it.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Crawl or Die (2014)

I like films that have beginnings. This one does not.

"Coolest Creature Design Since Aliens" - see images below

It's not that this is a bad film, as such, more than it isn't a film. Normally, here, I would be writing a synopsis, but I don't know what to write, as I have so many unanswered questions.

Basically the beats of the movie are such: People are in a forest in a gun fight. They climb down a hole. They blow up the hole. People die. Flash back explaining they are transporting the last pregnant woman alive. More people die. Monster. Crawling. Get out of hole.


So many questions. Who are they fighting at the beginning? If this is "Earth II" why did we colonize a planet teaming with aliens (that look suspiciously like xenomorphs)? Where was the transport? Why do these tunnels exist? Spoiler: If you shot the last pregnant woman alive in the face (which you did) aren't we all a bit fucked?

Okay, so it's a bit plotless. Lets try something else.

Of the cast, the only real player is Tank (yes, they all have names like that), played by Nicole Alonso (who composed the theme music and produced the movie). Her acting wasn't terrible, but she's clearly not a seasoned actor. It's directed by Oklahoma Ward. Not bad either, but nothing noteworthy.

Creature effects?

Well. Here's some images:

Yep. Even a mouth in a mouth.


To be fair, the creature effects are pretty good, but damn, that's a straight rip off. Director Ward stated on IMDB: 

"Why so ALIEN like - well - the drawings I have - it is not so ALIEN like. But creating my drawing - well lol - we did the very best we could ( and am proud-of) what we physically created. The monster is more spider-like with a dash of metallic alien qualities which in the sequel will be more fleshed out via more time and finances." 

Overall it's a watchable movie, just not really finished. Or explained. And apparently we're getting a sequel. 

And there's a lot of gratuitous ass shots. Quick, bad-ass female protagonist, get down to your underwear! 

Ripley she ain't. And this ain't Alien.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Hallowed Wednesday: Evil Dead (2013)

The final of four utterly terrifying suggestions for you All Hallows Eve viewing...

From director Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe) and starring Jane Levy (Don't Breathe / Monster Trucks) comes the twisting remake of total classic, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

The set up is simple, but different to the original. This time our group of friends come to the cabin in the woods to help one of them go cold turkey. Cutting off all lines of communication for the same reason is a good way of getting around the now problem of cell phones and the like, and of course there is the Necronomicon, and the unleashing of the horror.

With gore and scares by the bucket, Alvarez's remake captures the essence of the original well, without coming across as a retread like some many other remakes do.

It's gross, sure, disgusting, and bloody. A good Halloween movie to watch with beer, friends, giggles and squeals.

So they're your choices: Evil Dead, Inside, Triangle, or  Eden Lake. Which will it be? Or maybe more than one. Let us know in the comments, and have a horror-filled Halloween.

Friday, 21 October 2016

They (2002)

Completely under the radar, this is one not to be missed:

"They" are absorbingly frightening.

I picked this one up on one of those ten-films-on-two-disks malarkey's in Walmart. "Wes Craven Presents". It never sounds good, does it? On face value this had no right to be good. 

But damn, it is.

Beginning some twenty years previous, little Billy Parks has a monster in his closet, only no one will believe him. It's a strong start. Young Billy, played by Alexander Gould (voice of Nemo, Find Nemo) gives a strong performance from a young actor, 8 at the time. The opening is, honestly terrifying, ranking up there with openers like Nightmare on Elm Street.

Cut to 20 years later, and we're all grown up. Protagonist, Julia, played by Laura Regan (Dead Silence / Minority Report TV series) is friends with slightly deranged Billy, who promptly kills himself after announcing that he was marked by "They" when he was younger. 

This turns the narrative to Julia, and Billy's other friends, Sam and Terry, and allows them to decide whether there is a monster in the closet, or if Billy's psychosis has, well, rubbed off on them.

Directed by Robert Harmon (The Hitcher / Nowhere to Run), the film is deeply atmospheric. It's true to say that there are some standard horror tropes - running up the stairs, not running away, being stupid - but largely this is forgiven in the story telling. It relies on fear, not jump scares. 

The acting is pretty decent all round (particularly creepy artist, Sam). The special effects are extremely well used. Underlying CGI, which isn't great is hidden in darkness and shadows with great effect.

Ethan Embry as Sam

All round this is a good film. It scares. It's intense. I'd like a sequel, to be sure, and definitely check it out.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Hallowed Wednesday: Inside (2007)

The third of four utterly terrifying suggestions for you All Hallows Eve viewing...

Another movie recommendation that I'm going to use the word brutal about is Inside, from directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (ABC's of Death 2) and starring Alysson Paradis (Riot on Redchurch Street).

Pregnant, Sarah and her husband are involved in a car crash, in which she and her unborn are the survivors. Four months later, mourning the death of her husband, she prepares to give birth, when there is a knock on the door, late at night.

A slick home invasion movie at it's heart, Inside is brutally violent, and increasingly terrifying. The premise of "I want your baby, and I'm gonna cut it out of you" is hard enough to write, let alone watch. Gory, and heart-wrenching, this French language film is silent for long stretches, eeking out the suspense to unbearable levels.

Another shocking film for the recommendations, only for the strong stomached, and don't watch it if you're pregnant.

Next week bring buckets of blood!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Lesson of the Evil (2012)

Director Takashi Miike (Audition / Ichi The Killer) knocks another one out the park with this twisted tale of horror.

Lesson of the Evil

Popular school teacher Hasumi, portrayed excellently by Hideaki Itô, is smart, handsome, and deranged. He orchestrates a twisted plan to kill, well, everyone, and get away with it. And that's basically the plot of the film.

The movie starts with a fourteen year old boy murdering his parents. It's presented in a similar fashion to the beginning of Carpenter's Halloween, with the exception that you don't know what happened to the boy afterwards. It quickly transpires that the boy was Hasumi.

Cut to present day, and Hasumi works as a language teacher at a school (even research after watching didn't present me with the name of the school), where things are Most notably, student-teacher "relations" are somewhat prevalent, there is a vein of bullying, and cheating in exams is common place.

The first 60 minutes of the 129 minute run time is given to Hasumi starting off as the students friend, and slowly becoming more and more intense and creepy. Flashbacks show us that in his time in the US he was killing there, too. Working with another man who was killing for fun, Hasumi finds himself distanced from his fellow killer, proclaiming himself as "not the same".

Then, around the halfway mark, things get dark.

Pitch black.

Hasumi goes on a killing spree with the school. It's hard to watch.

Brutal, and bloody

Miike is no stranger to gut churning horror (*cough* Audition), but the massacre in the school, directed so masterfully, brings only thoughts of real-life similar instances. And Hasumi's plan is pretty flaw-less. 

Going into the movie cold the issue is that for the first hour the film feeds a little backstory, and some disturbing behavior at the school, but little in the way of horror. I might have given up on it, if the acting wasn't so solid. When the movie goes dark, it ramps up to unbearable in places, and is terrifying. 

Given the pace of the first hour, if you don't like subtitles (!) you may struggle with this, but it is worth holding on, for one of the most effectual horror movies in many a year. It would have made my Hallowed Wednesday's Halloween Recommendations this year, had I seen it earlier. 

One to seek out and see.



Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Hallowed Wednesday: Triangle (2009)

The second of four utterly terrifying suggestions for you All Hallows Eve viewing...

Christopher Smith (Severance / Creep) directs an cerebral little horror in Triangle, starring the excellent Melissa George (30 Days of Night).

I have to mention the supporting cast of this one, including Liam Hemsworth and Michael Dorman. This film wouldn't work without them, although it is held up by the increasing loss of sanity imposed on George's Jess.

With friends going on a yachting trip, and coming across a seemingly abandoned ocean cruiser, this is a twisting story, and one that needs paying attention to. Perhaps a second watch. It's fun. Has elements of strong horror, but is a beer with your friends and talk about it afterwards affair.

I can't say too much without spoiling it, but if you like horror that you need to think about, some good scares and a bit of blood, this is one for you.

Next week, we're upping the terror with something a little more...stabby.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Code of Honor (2016)

The older Steven Seagal gets the weirder his movies get. I don't mean surreal or anything like that, but it seems that he doesn't try, other people don't try, the studio interferes, they try to do something different and then chicken out and play the old switcheroo at the end. That sort of thing

Code of Honor falls into the later of that list.

Dude, you're like 65.

Okay, so it's a Seagal film, so don't expect too much plot. It is thus: Robert Sikes (Seagal) is an ex-special forces ghost (surprise, surprise) whose wife and child were murdered by drug trafficking hoods. He takes the mantle of vigilante to rid the city of crime.

Sort of a fat Batman, with guns. Oh, so many guns.

The difference here, as opposed to Seagal's other movie <insert any title from the last 15 years here>, is that this "Code of Honor" spoken of in the title is less Klingon honor, and more murdery rampage honor.

Seagal sits on roofs with sniper rifles and rocket launchers and straight up murders everyone in sight. Which is a nice change from the usual mano-a-mano, I'm better than you so will kill you up close. A switch up for a Seagal movie.

Then enter William Porter, ex BFF and protege of Sikes, now FBI agent, who's here to stop him. Two mighty forces shall meet.

And it runs as a standard thriller from that point.

Porter, played by Craig Sheffer (Nightbreed), is a drunk, portrayed as a man who'll do anything to run down a man he's hunted for months.

They cat and mouse, the local police bumble, there's the obligatory Seagal's contractual (I expect) strip club scene.

Largely the acting is uninspired, the direction boring (Michael Winnick also directed some other films I haven't heard of), and the set pieces predictable. Sheffer either dumbed down his acting at the request of Seagal so as not to embarrass him, or he's actually getting worse with age.

Murder! From afar!

Then it all comes crashing down at the end. It transpires that Seagal didn't kill all these guys, and it was Sheffer, with a split personality. OR was it?

It becomes very confused, and not for the first time in a Seagal movie am I left wondering what the hell the end meant.

Sheffer's Porter is revealed to be the killer all along, leaving you with no doubt that Sikes doesn't exist, and is only a figment of Porter's psyche. Except we saw military records documenting Sikes existence. So Porter projected his psyche onto a fallen friend perhaps? That could be it. But then Sikes shows up, and kills himself. And Porter is witnessed (off screen) by a child. 

So he was real?


Still, the theories on IMDB are worth reading.

Note to writer and director Winnick: If you're not Christopher Nolan, and people are theorizing on your action movie because the end doesn't make sense, you're doing it wrong.