Friday, 30 September 2016

Christmas Evil (1980)

This is one of those, what did I just watch? movies.


So the movie starts: 30 (ish) years ago Santa comes down the chimney of a house, delivering presents, but watched by a mother and her two young children. Santa notices them and "magics" them back to bed, I think, before going back up the chimney. I mean, they just disappear. As in "special effect" disappear. And I'm not sure if that really happened or not. Maybe it was artsy direction?

Anyway, the two boys are now in bed arguing as to whether it was really Santa, or their father, further fueling my confusion over magic use. That's a give away, right? The use of magic? So the son that believes it really is Santa goes downstairs...for some reason?...only to Kissing Santa Clause. Yes let's go with that. He then, distraught, goes to the loft, and...starts self harming? 


And then cut to "present day" which is in the 1980's. Thus the film begins proper. 

The two brothers, now grown up, lead very different lives. The level headed brother, now living in the old family home with a wife and two children, and the mentally scarred one, living in an apartment, with a Christmas complex.

From the beginning, obvious nutjob Harry Stadling, works in a toy factory (of course he does), and spies creepily on the local children. Making a list. 

Checking it twice.

When the factory says that they won't have enough toys to donate to the children's hospital this year, it pushes Harry over the edge, and sends him into some fevered Santa slasher frenzy, where all adults who as mean to him get what's coming to them. And it isn't a bag of coal. 

The film culminates in a bizarre ending, with Harry fleeing from villagers with burning torches (I shit you not), the police, his family, and the kitchen sink. 

That's right. Hide behind a wall of children. 
Well directed by Lewis Jackson, and with a cast of relatively recognizable actors (Most noticeably Jeffrey Demunn as brother Philip Stadling (The Mist / The Walking Dead)) the film is pretty solid. 

The portrayal of Harry Stadling by Brandon Maggart (Sesame Street / Brisco County Jr.) is well handled. He has a child-like naivety, which when seen by the viewer comes across as weird and creepy, but as the film goes on you realise it really isn't. 

The guy really does just want to do the right thing. And he tries to, until being sent into a rage by heavy-handed employers, and cruel co-workers. People who can't see that he has a problem.

If you expect a slasher movie, you'd be disappointed, although some good stabby kills. The film explores a man with problems. Family detachment. Guilt. Anger.

There are a couple of strange and detracting scenes, most notably the torch-and-pitch-fork scene, where the angered locals in small town USA suddenly have dozens of burning torches to hand, and the ending. Which I won't spoil, but somewhat jumps the shark.

If you like horror, but with some added depth, I would heartily recommend this.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Devil Inside (2012)

This film is pretty good, but for one thing.

This woman is not in the film.

Firstly, I have to say that the nun on the cover, the poster, and all of the marketing material is in the film for about three seconds. She's on a bridge, in a passing shot. You know, marketing films like this:

I arted.
I can't quite find the reasoning behind it. Oh well. The review (which is spoiler laden):

Presented as fact, this is another found footage movie. I've never been a fan of the actual shaky-cam of the genre, but aside from that I don't mind it. Presenting your movie as fact is no different than me suspending my disbelief and believing Star Wars is real. For forty years.

Starting with a phone call to the police a woman states she has killed three people. The film then confirms this by showing us the footage of the police shaky-camming around the house pointing at the dead bodies. Thus the backstory of the movie is told in the first five minutes. A woman undergoing a exorcism has broken free and killed the members of the clergy doing it.

Thus, the movie jumps ahead thirty years to the now grown up daughter of the woman, who will investigate her mother's motives, etc.

Mother was placed in psychiatric care in Rome, the setting for the movie.

Using a making-a-documentary excuse allows us to have the one camera man on duty, trailing around after Isabella Rossi, daughter of Maria Rossi, as she tries to determine whether or not exorcisms and possessions are real, or not.

Rossi, played by Fernanda Andrade, picks up a couple of rogue priests (!) along the way who offer to teach her about the things that the Vatican won't.

It all reads as pretty ludicrous, but it's actually quite well done. Certainly the first 50 minutes of the movie slow burns with some jump scares just to keep you awake, but it does a good enough job of engaging and explaining.

When the movie gets to dealing with the exorcism of Maria Rossi the film turns up the action.

We move from one set piece horror scene to another, with multiple demons and no knowledge of who is possessed and who not.

One of the priests kills himself in the knowledge that he has a demon in him, Isabella becomes possessed, the cameraman, even. Careening down the road on the way to some unseen (possible) savior, the car crashes, the realization that the possessions may be the work of the devil himself comes out, and film stops.

It just stops.

It doesn't finish.

It shows a flash card telling you to go to the website to find out more.

Then runs the credits. Slowly. In silence.

Where's the rest of my movie? It's like they just up and ran out of money. And the worst thing about it, is if you go to the website it's been purchased and is running ads of some sort. I mean, really?

Truth be told, the movie is a fairly 'by the playbook' possession horror, it has some predictable jump scares, but when it finally gets going it's pretty good. It grips.

It's actually good.

But then all of the good work is undone. The movie breaks. Is broken.

It made some money, sure (somewhere in the region of $35mil on a budget of $250K *whistles*), but was panned on release. And it's no surprise. It has 6% on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for the cast and crew? The Director, William Brent Bell, has gone on to do two further movies, Wer and The Boy. Neither have been acclaimed. Fernanda Andrade has done some TV work and Simon Quarterman (one of the two rogue priests, and by far the best actor in the movie) has grabbed a large part in the forth coming TV adaptation of West World.


Give it a miss. Not even so bad it's good. Just broken.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Crazy As Hell (2002)

I'm totally up for this.

La Salle is great in this. Honestly.

This film could have gone a second way. It's a shame it didn't.

Ty Adams, played by Michael Beach (The Abyss / True Romance), is a psychologist with a problematical background - his daughter perhaps - and is relocating to a new hospital where he is going to be making a documentary focusing on his life and work. Beach is an advocate of touchy-feely psychological help, the hospital specializes in drug-induced help, and the documentary team are there to record one way or the other. The doctor in charge (administrator or whatever), played by Ronnie cox (Robocop), is a firm believer in meds.

We have conflict.

The young doctor Beach is introduced to his ward, all admirably playing the unstable, and he goes about his business.

Then Satan checks himself in. Allegedly.

Eriq La Salle (ER) plays a man calling himself Satan, who wishes to seek enlightenment and refreshment of human accuse. A troubled man looking for solace.

Directed by La Salle himself, the film has a few issues. Not to say it is not interesting, or well-made, but conceptually it doesn't seem to know it's place. Part horror, part drama, it sways unevenly from humor ridden horror silliness (which is excellent) to bonkers madness driven drama (which is also excellent).

But it is unsure of which it wants to be.

The scenes with Satan and Adams are great. This should have been the film. Beach takes care with his roll as the assuming and clever doctor, La Salle equally fighting his corner as the alleged Satan. The two of them play off of each other wonderfully. The direction of these sections work.

Never thought you'd see Dr. Benton like this, did you?

The other, and most predominant parts of the film where Adams is fighting his own deamons is well done. Beach is a good actor.

But the two intersecting stories don't ever seem to really meet. It's a shame. With a running time rolling towards 2 hours there was plenty of time for it. The film wants to concentrate on too many things. Adams work, which involves character growth of at least four patients (not including "Satan") bulks the movie terribly. The Satan story (by far the most interesting) ends up in the back seat.

The acting is totally solid. La Salle, Adams, and John C. McGinley (Scrubs) are faultless. There is just too much going on.

And the twist ending is somewhat ridiculous.

If you want to watch a movie with great potential, but not much pay off, this is worth your time.

Oh, and Sinbad is in it too.

See. Sinbad.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Shadow: Dead Riot (2006)

According to IMDB: "Evil voodoo-practicing serial killer Shadow gets executed for murdering pregnant women. Twenty years later the prison Shadow was put to death at has been turned into an experimental women's penitentiary. Tough and fiercely autonomous new inmate Solitaire has some kind of link with Shadow. When Shadow and his lethal shambling zombie minions are resurrected, it's up to Solitaire to stop them."

Um. No.

This is the cover I got.
It lies.

Okay, let me lay down the truth on the blurb. The first line is true: "Evil voodoo-practicing serial killer Shadow gets executed for murdering pregnant women". This happens in the first six or seven minutes. It's very reminiscent of House III, a personal guilty pleasure of mine.

This is the next bit: "Twenty years later the prison Shadow was put to death at has been turned into an experimental women's penitentiary. Tough and fiercely autonomous new inmate Solitaire has some kind of link with Shadow. When Shadow and his lethal shambling zombie minions are resurrected, it's up to Solitaire to stop them." Also true. However, this is the last twenty minutes of the movie. 

So what's with the other hour?

Starring Tony Todd (Candyman) is a lie. As said here, Todd is in it for no more than about twenty minutes. In a bad wig. 

The film actually stars Carla Greene. And she kicks ass. According to IMDB she really hasn't done much acting. Nothing since 2009. She's a good lead, playing a martial arts prison inmate. The problem is the film she's in.

See, after the seven minutes of "twenty-years-previous serial killer" the movie throws itself into full sexploitation.

The film promises:

Eek! Zombies!!
but delivers this:

Revel at the horror of the shower scenes!!


See the lesbian warder intimidate the prisoners!!

...and this...

Watch the prison doctor molest and rape the inmates!!

I mean, I'm sure Tony Todd was blackmailed into this. Really. 

After the initial Todd - who really isn't putting his all into this - is off-screen, we skip to twenty years in the future and the prison he was in is now a women's prison. "FROM THE SS". The warders and wardens are all lesbians blackmailing the inmates into sex, the doctor is randomly drugging and raping inmates. Any inmate that might get harmed in the process is just buried in a hole in the yard.

This is in big city US.

Modern day.

You can't just off prison inmates and bury them in the yard like over-grown onions.

If you are looking for a reason to watch this exploitation tripe, Carla Greene is good. The fight scenes are pretty impressive. I'd like to see her act and fight again. 

Other than that, you need to be 14. Pretty much everyone other than Todd and Greene strip.

Sadly, this is available on DVD and Bluray.

And sadly we don't do zero stars.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Shogun Assassin (1980)

The first in series? Or some of the first in the series? The hell?

Shogun Assassin: 1980

The series "Lone Wolf and The Cub" consists of six movies made in the early 70's (I'm citing IMDB for this), and Shogun Assassin is a 90 minute movie made from splicing together the first two movies in the series. Both of which are 90 minutes long. So... some of the first two movies? I guess. It makes no sense. 

But this is the review of the spliced together one. 

Dubbed into English (although there isn't exactly mountains of dialogue) Shogun Assassin is the story of "the greatest samurai in the Empire" (as told in narration by Cub, played by Akihiro Tomikawa, who was six years old at the time). The Shogun Assassin (or Lone Wolf, or Ogami Ittō), played by Tomisaburo Wakayama, refuses to bow down before the Shogun in servitude, and the Shogun has his wife killed (for reasons I'm putting down to bad dubbing, because I don't know why). So Lone Wolf goes on a rampage...sort of? And is hired as an assassin to kill other people? 

Basically after the first ten minutes or so (according to Wikipedia, the only content from the first movie in the series) the film transcends plot and becomes an 80 minute fight scene.


You've, um, got something on your face. Just there. Yeah. You got it.

Consisting of silly, protracted fight scenes with Monty Python quantities of blood gushing from every cut off limb, Lone Wolf and Cub move from one set piece fight to another. 

They (yes, THEY) hack and slash their way through hordes of ninja, families of Shoguns and The Masters of Death.

All with this hair cut (!)
No wonder he looks pissed.

Basically without plot, Shogun Assassin is 70's martial arts at its finest, with no subtitles if they're not your thing.

But don't expect a plot.

Have a beer, and prepared to laugh. A lot.