Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HAPPY CAMP (2014) movie review


Happy Camp (2014) d. Josh Anthony (USA)

It’s hard to believe that The Blair Witch Project, the flick that launched an infinite number of copycats, was released 15 years ago this summer.  Harder still to believe, however, is that modern filmmakers think they can follow that phenomenon’s template and recapture the same lightning in a bottle, or that cinema fans with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the genre won’t call them out for it.  Witch writer/directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick had the advantage of the then-novelty of “found footage” working to their advantage, not to mention a brilliant sense of how to build tension and execute chills.  In this age of reality TV and every living, breathing moment of any individual on earth being uploaded to YouTube a billion times a day, artists have to think outside the box. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Interview with BENEATH Director Larrry Fessenden!!!

“I’m on the side of the fish.”

In the nearly two decades since his 1995 festival hit, Habit, was released, Larry Fessenden has established himself as a proud independent godfather of sorts, with his NYC-based production company Glass Eye Pix fostering such rising talents as Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), James Felix McKenney (Satan Hates You) and Jim Mickle (Stake Land). He also continues to direct (Wendigo, The Last Winter) and act (lending his memorable gap-toothed mug to four to five screen roles each year), seemingly content to thrive outside the Tinseltown web of wheeler dealers. His indomitable spirit remains alive and well, trumping high throttle studio machinery with the power of a simple story well told.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

STRANGE BEHAVIOR aka DEAD KIDS (1981) Blu-ray review

Strange Behavior (aka Dead Kids) (1981) d. Michael Laughlin (Australia)

A most peculiar bloody little treat from Down Under (although shot mostly in New Zealand), featuring a surprisingly prestigious cast, a funky script co-written by future Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Chicago) and director Michael Laughlin. Something mysterious is taking place within the small town of Galesburg, IL, where cash-strapped high school students are invited to serve as test subjects for experiments going on at the local college. Rather than rashes or mood swings, however, the unexpected side effects in this case include gashing, slashing, and murder.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

IN FEAR (2013) Blu-ray review

In Fear (2013) d. Jeremy Lovering (UK)

Despite its ridiculously generic title, this latest Brit export starts off as one of the more promising white-knuckle thrillers we’ve seen in a while. The set-up is simplicity itself: only a couple weeks into their relationship, a young couple decide to take a road trip to Ireland for a music festival and some camping. Unbeknownst to Lucy (Alice Englert), Tom (Iain De Caestecker) has designs for a romantic getaway at a secluded hotel, directions to said lodging cordially provided by following the establishment’s vehicle. But after being escorted to the hotel’s driveway, the truck departs, leaving our heroes to find their way via helpful handy signs with helpful handy arrows that only lead them deeper into the twisted back roads and helplessly in circles. As night falls and fuel levels slowly ebb, the two young would-be lovers desperately search for a way out. And then Lucy sees a white-masked figure in the dark....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

THIRST (1979) Blu-ray Review

Thirst (1979) d. Rod Hardy (Australia)

For decades, viewers have thrilled to traditional Gothic settings of the bloodsucking undead, but there is equal pleasure to be had bringing the vampire into a contemporary (or even futuristic) setting. This offbeat Ozzie fright flick possesses equal measures of both. A descendant of Elizabeth Bathory, Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), is kidnapped from her home and secreted away to a remote location where a blood-drinking cult attempts to indoctrinate her into their fold. Under close observation, she is introduced to “the farm,” observing the human “cattle” being bred and bled for the superior race’s eager appetites. Though initially (and understandably) repulsed, Kate is painstakingly conditioned to reject more plebeian forms of favor of a refined and iron-rich liquid diet.

Monday, March 10, 2014

CHASTITY BITES (2013) DVD review

Chastity Bites (2013) d. John V. Knowles (USA)

In the small conservative southwestern community of San Griento, life is its own particular brand of hell for fiery liberal high school student Leah (Allison Scagliotti, Warehouse 13) and her demure bosom buddy Katharine (Francia Raisa, Secret Life of the American Teenager), being the constant butt of taunts and jokes from the popular clique of chicks dubbed “the Hiltons.” But there’s a much more serious threat on the horizon in the form of Liz Batho (Louise Griffiths, The Revenant), a newly arrived and seemingly radical extremist seeking to promote abstinence among the fairer sex. The new spiritual leader soon has the town – and Katharine – wrapped around her immaculately manicured and suspiciously youthful fingers, even as exclusively virginal bodies start piling up in her wake.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Slumber Party Massacre, The (1982) d. Amy Holden Jones (USA)

Released toward the end of the early ’80s’ slasher-flick explosion, what makes this relatively pedestrian entry with the drive-in-ready title most worthy of note is that it was written, produced, and directed by women. More surprising is the fact that, at first glance, it does little to distinguish itself from its male-directed counterparts, with its helpless, screaming female victim characters just as seemingly objectified via an abundant amount of gratuitous nudity. The only visible novelty is arming the male killer with a two-foot-long power drill (compensating for something?) and framing him onscreen with his (ahem) tool from various suggestive angles.

Monday, March 3, 2014

DARKMAN (1990) Blu-ray review

Darkman (1990) d. Sam Raimi (USA)

Scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson, in his first leading role) is working diligently to uncover the secrets of a new synthetic skin, frustrated at his inability to stabilize it past the 98-minute mark. But when his girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) uncovers a corrupt businessman’s (Colin Friels) payoffs to government officials, the noble egghead lands in hot water (or more accurately, boiling acid) at the hands of hired thugs led by the sinister and ruthless Durant (Larry Drake). Awakening in a hospital burn ward, the presumed-dead Westlake escapes and resumes his work, hoping to restore his ruined visage, wreak vengeance on those responsible, and try to become human once again.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fool's Views (1/27 – 2/16)

Use 'em or lose 'em, Doc.  Your choice.

Howdy, folks,

I gotta say, this has been the weirdest winter ever, both in terms of extreme temperatures and logy viewing parties on my part. I mean, when the polar vortex comes to town, shouldn’t it just be a natural reaction to just chill out, flip on the tube, and let the good times roll? In years past, when the weather wasn’t nearly as harsh, I’ve been known to bang out 50-60 movies in January without batting an eye. Yet, here we are with February in the rearview mirror and I have yet to crack the 45-flicker mark or even make it to the multiplex. Oh, the times, they are a-changin’. Granted, much of this has had to do with the ongoing promotion and celebration of HIDDEN HORROR (see Exhibit A), but even the Oscar race hasn't been able to spur the enthusiasm of days gone by.

That said, I’ve enjoyed the fine cinematic diet prompted by the good folks at Shout! Factory and Kitley’s Krypt, not to mention a little dose of nostalgia that sent Burnt Offerings (ergh) and Alone in the Dark (yes!) into the player in between bouts of filming a couple of horror shorts myself. Note: do not sign on for any future projects that involve lying dead in a snowbank in one’s undergarments. It just ain’t worth it.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


BAD MOON (1996) movie review

Bad Moon (1996) d. Eric Red (USA)

I’ll admit to having passed up this fuzzy wuzzy flick a few dozen times on the video shelf (remember those?) due to its lackluster moniker and poster art, and probably would have never thought twice about it had it not been for my recent acquaintance with James Newman’s recent terror-ific tome, 666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions. Since James had seen fit to dedicate no fewer than six, count ‘em, six puzzlers to this DTV title, I figured that if I wanted to get a passing grade in lycanthrope class, I’d better check it out. (To be fair, longtime lycan expert Craig J. Clark had reviewed it on his blog back in 2008, but I don’t know that we knew each other back then.) To my surprise, it proved to be an entirely watchable popcorn flick, with one of the more impressive practical werewolf suits - supervised by f/x ace Steve Johnson - trotted out since the shapeshifting heyday of the 1980s. (However, the less said about the dodgy morphing sequences, the better.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

THE ATOMIC MAN (aka TIMESLIP) (1955) movie review

Atomic Man, The (aka Timeslip) (1955) d. Ken Hughes (UK)

A reasonably effective sci-fi programmer, although the conceit of a man’s mind having slipped into the future – such that he is answering questions 7.5 seconds before they are asked – isn’t really put to much use and plays out only as a device to sustain the mystery surrounding a Cold War spy plot. Adapted by Charles Eric Maine from his novel, the story revolves around a nuclear scientist Stephen Raymer (Peter Arne) who is fished out of the Thames and, despite the bullet in his back and a brief moment of flatline, revives in hospital but absent any memory. Further complicating matters is the fact that the scientist’s doppelganger is continuing his experiments without anyone being the wiser!

ALONE IN THE DARK (1982) movie review

Alone in the Dark (1982) d. Jack Sholder (USA)

Slasher fans, why settle for just one crazed killer when you can have three or four? During a citywide blackout, inmates of an asylum for the criminally insane liberate themselves and proceed to have a high old time in the outside world. Top-billed Jack Palance and Martin Landau are two of the merry murderers (alongside gentle giant Erland van Lidth), while Donald Pleasence plays a head therapist as bonkers as his patients.

BURNT OFFERINGS (1976) movie review

Burnt Offerings (1976) d. Dan Curtis (USA)

With their young son (Ben's Lee Harcourt Montgomery) in tow, Karen Black and Oliver Reed (irretrievably miscast as a “normal” couple) rent a country mansion for the summer and soon become entangled in mysterious goings-on. Predictably directed by TV vet Curtis (Trilogy of Terror) with every surprise telegraphed by Bob Cobert's agonizingly familiar woodwind score, this criminally inert entry in the haunted house pantheon is boring to the point of catatonia.

GRAND PIANO (2013) movie review

Grand Piano (2013) d. Eugenio Mira (Spain)

Returning to the stage for the first time in five years, former wunderkind concert pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) is wrestling with an understandable case of stage fright. But with his glam actress wife (Kerry Bishé) looking on from the opera box, he’s poised to make a grand success (recovering from his last disastrous public appearance, where he blew the crucial climax of the “Unplayable Sonata”) until he turns a page in his musical score mid-concert to find a red-pen-scribbled note: “Play one wrong note and you die.” Soon, the red dot of a laser-sighted rifle is dancing alongside his fingertips, while a menacing voice (John Cusack) via earpiece goads him toward perfection. But why?