Sunday, October 23, 2016


Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched: 4
Total Movies Watched: 22
Total First Time Views: 12
Scare-A-Thon Pledges: $698.06

Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2016 (benefiting THE GREATER CHICAGO FOOD DEPOSITORY) at any time, drop me an email at to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Backcountry (2014) d. MacDonald, Adam (Canada) (1st viewing) 92 min

Serviceable but hardly notable “lost in the wildnerness” entry from our neighbors to the north. Weekend warrior Alex (Jeff Roop) decides to take his citified girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregrym) off to the woods to show her the great outdoors of his youth, including the infamous Blackfoot Trail. Well, wouldn’t you know it, when they get to the park, our trail of choice is closed, but that’s not going to stop our impetuous romantic, despite the fact that it quickly becomes clear that he’s ill-equipped for the role of survivalist hero. Further complicating matters are the combined presences of a mysterious packer (Eric Balfour sporting a dodgy Irish accent) and a ferocious black bear. While there are a couple decent suspense/gore sequences, the film falls flat in the character department since we quickly grow to hate Alex (and subsequently Jenn for hanging out with this arrogant, self-centered, immature sap), and can’t wait for the trail to come to an end for the two of them. Available from Shout! Factory

Bloody Knuckles (2014) d. O’Mahoney, Matt (Canada) (1st viewing) 83 min

Not-bad equal-opportunity-offender horror/comedy that centers around provocateur cartoonist Travis (Adam Boys) who draws the ire of local crime boss Leonard Fong (Kasey Ryne Mazak) and gets his hand chopped off for it. The freed appendage, however, decides not to go quietly into that good night and instead returns to harass its former owner into vengeful action. There is no shortage of colorful characters (including the scene-stealing Dwayne Bryshun as masked S&M superhero Homo Dynamous), explosive gore effects, and raunchy dialogue/scenarios, and while it doesn’t quite conjure the enthusiastic mayhem spirit of the Troma oeuvre O’Mahoney and Co. are seeking to emulate, it handily earns its spot in the pantheon of murderous manos movies.

30 Days of Night (2007) d. Slade, David (USA) (2nd viewing) 112 min

Based upon the graphic novel by Steve Niles (who also worked on the screenplay) and Ben Templesmith, this big-budget adaptation delivers the goods with a brilliant high-concept plot (the Alaskan village of Barrow is waylaid by vampires during the month-long period during which the sun fails to rise). Slade’s visual style provides some striking imagery – the overhead shots of the first night’s carnage are both horrifying and poetic – while the individual performances are strong on both sides of the undead fence, including small town sheriff Josh Hartnett, his spirited, estranged spouse Melissa George, Danny Huston’s natty head vampire and Ben Foster’s marvelous turn as “The Stranger.” Additionally, the vicious band of bloodsuckers themselves, outfitted with rows of saw-like teeth, is a welcome change from the time-honored capes and fangs.

Slade is less successful, however, in conveying the passage of time, and not just due to the lack of sunrises; welcome would have been any sense of the mundane and/or excruciating waiting for the day when the sun would finally rise. (Jump cuts to longer facial hair on the male cast members and a “day counter” in the corner of the screen don’t quite cut it.) Side comment: with the (undeniably impressive) savagery of the first night’s massacre, one wonders why the vamps needed a 30-day time frame if they were going to wipe out the entire population in a matter of hours?

Feast (2005) d. Gulager, John (USA) (4th viewing) 87 min

I still find it hard to believe that this, the third (and only profitable) movie to come out of the mid-2000s reality show Project Greenlight and one of the more enjoyable horror/comedy flicks in recent memory, couldn’t find its way to a theatrical release, though it has certainly built a loyal following on home video. Director Gulager (son of screen veteran Clu, who appears as a crotchtey old bartender) and screenwriters Marcus Dunston and Patrick Melton (Saw IV-VII, The Collector) take a terrific, well-worn scenario (varied group of people inside, scary beasties outside) and goes hog wild with it, tweaking expectations and conventions all the way. So much over-the-top fun, energy, and well-done gore than we should have any right to expect from a semi-studio operation. Hats off to the uber-game cast (which includes Balthazar Getty, Judah Friedlander, Navi Rawat, Krista Allen, Jenny Wade, and a brilliantly against-type Henry Rollins) for being willing to get more than a little messy and to effects maestro Gary J. Tunnicliffe for coming up with some amazingly ugly and fearsome monsters. Followed by two sequels (which I still have yet to see) with the same creative team in place.


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