REVIEW: HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES

CAST

Sid Haig (Jackie Brown)
Karen Black (Soulkeeper)
Rainn Wilson (Super)
Bill Moseley (Arm of Darkness)
Erin Daniels (One Hour Photo)
Dennis Frimple (King Kong 1976)
Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight)
Irwin Keyes (The Flinstones)
Sheri Moon Zombie (Halloween)
Michael J. Pollard (Superboy)
Rob Zombie (Slither)
Chris Hardwick (The Lego Ninjago Movie)

Rocker Rob Zombie burst onto the horror film scene with his 2003 movie House of 1000 Corpses.  It took years to get released (and necessitated a change of studios) and the movie was generally slammed by the critics but horror fans understood what Zombie was trying to do; create an homage to the classic 70’s horror films he grew up with.  With a good dose of humor and just as much gore, Zombie succeeded brilliantly.  Now this film has made its way to Blu-ray with a very good transfer, high definition sound and even a bonus JAVA game not found on the SD release. Just before Halloween, four budding authors are researching a book on road side attractions when they stumble upon Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen which also doubles as a gas station and sells “tasty” fried chicken too.  They meet Captain Spaulding himself, a foul mouthed grungy man in clown makeup (wonderfully played by Sid Haig) and he tells them about the local serial killer, Dr. Satan, the two couples head off in the rain to see the tree where he was hanged.
Nearing their destination they spot a hitchhiker, Baby Firefly (played by they hypnotic and ultra-sexy Sheri Moon) and offer her a lift.  When the car blows a tire, Baby takes everyone to her house, a bizarre and unusual affair with decapitated dolls nailed to the walls.  There they meet the Firefly family including the disfigured giant Tiny (Matthew McGrory), crazy Grandpa Hugo (Dennis Fimple), and Mother (Karen Black) who tries to seduce one of the young men.  The leader of this group is Otis (Bill Moseley), an insane psychopath who spends most of his time torturing five cheerleaders that he kidnapped.  After an odd dinner an even more bizarre floorshow starts.  After Grandpa tells some off color jokes, Baby comes out dressed in a slinky outfit and sings a sex song to the men.  When their girlfriends object, a fight breaks out and the four youths are asked to leave in their newly fixed car.  Spooked, they jump into the car and try to leave, but they don’t get very far before the car is stopped and everyone is beaten and captured.  What maniacal plans do Otis and the Firefly’s have for their new victims?
2677_10_screenshotThough there were problems with this film, it is still a very good horror flick.  Rob Zombie takes an everything including the kitchen sink approach to the movie and throws in all the horror conventions: serial killers, demonic clowns, sex-starved older women, disfigured freaks, mad doctors, and a crazy family, just to name a few.  Because of this the movie starts off at a fast pace (with a pair of would-be criminals deciding to rob Captain Spaulding….big mistake!) and never really slows down. This was Zombie’s first directorial effort and he proves that he has a lot of talent.  He used old film clips, split screens, and mirror images to very good effect.  These never came across as artsy or film-school pretentious but worked to advance the story in a visually interesting way.  There were some scenes that really stand out too.  One of my favorites was when Otis confronted a sheriff’s deputy (played by Walton Goggins.)  The deputy is kneeling with his hands up and Otis has the barrel of a pistol touching his forehead.  The camera pulls back and stops, and still Otis doesn’t do anything.  Will he let the man live and tie him up?  Will he kill him?  As the scene goes on with neither character moving the tension builds and builds.
lindsay-lohan-charlie-sheen-scary-movie-5That’s not to say that this is a perfect film.  The four victims aren’t developed at all and it’s hard to feel sorry for them.  The two girls especially, they spend most of the beginning of the movie whining and complaining.  There’s really not much of a plot either, and at the end of the movie there are more questions than answers.  The driving force of the film is really to see what atrocities will occur next, not whether any of the kids will survive.  The reason the film works so well even with the flawed script is because of the strong cast.  Though the four victims are very bland and fade into the background, the other actors create unique and memorable characters are a huge asset to the film.  Sid Haig is the run away star as Capt. Spaulding.  His vile clown is both funny and displeasing at the same time and every scene he’s in is a joy to watch.  He’s at the top of his form when he confronts the robber who’s holding a gun on him.  It’s a classic scene.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SLITHER

CAST

Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games)
Michael Rooker(Guardians of The Galaxy)
Don Thompson (Red Riding Hood)
Gregg Henry (Super)
Tania Saulnier (The Wicker Man)
Haig Sutherland (Valentine)
Brenda James (Stargate: Atlantis)
Lorena Gale (The Fly II)
Rob Zombie (The Devils Rejects)
Jenna Fischer (Blades of Glory)
Magda Apanowicz (Caprica
Lloyd Kaufman (Dead Love)
Ben Cotton (Staragte: Atlantis)

A meteorite housing a malevolent, sentient extraterrestrial parasite crashes into the town of Wheelsy, South Carolina. While frolicking in the woods with Brenda, local car dealer Grant Grant finds the parasite and is infected by it. The parasite takes over his body and absorbs his consciousness and memories. With the alien now in control of his body, ‘Grant’ begins to slowly change into a tentacled slug-like monster.

Many pets soon disappear, but Grant is not suspected. However, his wife Starla begins to question his health; he explains the initial changes in his appearance as an allergic reaction to a bee sting, saying that a doctor has already given him something for it, but Starla soon learns this is a lie. Starla contacts the police chief Bill Pardy – her childhood crush – who attempts to reassure and comfort her while not acting on his feelings.

Grant infects the lonely and neglected Brenda with hundreds of his offspring. He hides her in an isolated barn where she becomes massively obese to the point of inflating to the size of a wrecking ball as baby alien slugs grow inside her. Bill leads a small group of officers on a hunt for Grant; they find Brenda in time to see her explode, releasing hundreds of the alien slugs. Most of Bill’s group are infected by the slugs and become Grant’s puppets, speaking as if they were Grant and obsessed with bringing Starla home and holding her to her wedding vows.

Everyone in town is quickly eaten by others infected with Grant’s offspring, or absorbed into Grant’s hive mind except Starla, Bill, mayor Jack MacReady, and a teenage girl, Kylie, who had escaped from her family that were also infected by the parasites. She tells them of how she saw the slug’s memories; it moves from planet to planet, eating or absorbing all life it finds there. The parasite’s consciousness, however, is influenced by the real Grant’s memories and his love for his wife, Starla. The survivors try to escape detection and kill Grant. The townspeople attack their vehicle, capturing Starla and Jack. Bill and Kylie track Starla to her home, and find that the infected are melding into one giant creature. They must risk their lives to stop the infestation from spreading any further. Jack awakens in the house’s basement, where several of the infected are eating; he tries to escape but becomes infected by Grant as he reaches the top of the stairs and opens the door. Starla charms the monster by calling him “Grant” and telling him they can be together, but as they get close to each other, she pulls a mirror from her underwear and stabs him in the chest with the pointed handle. He slaps her with a tentacle and knocks her across the room.

Bill arrives; Jack begs to be killed, and Bill shoots him in the head. He tries to kill the monster with a grenade, but another tentacle knocks the grenade into the pool, where it detonates. The monster sends two tentacles to stab Bill and infect him; one is lodged in his abdomen, but Bill attaches the other to a small propane tank, filling Grant with gas, and Starla shoots the monster, causing it to explode, whereupon all the infected die. The three survivors walk away to find a hospital for Bill.

In a post-credits scene, a cat approaches to feed off Grant’s remains and is infected.

‘Slither’ is made unabashedly as homage to the ‘body horror’ films of the late seventies/early eighties. Think Cronenberg’s ‘Shivers’ and ‘Rabid’, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, the eighties remake of ‘The Blob’, ‘Society’ etc. It reminds us of the joys of physical special effects rather than CGI stuff. Slither has no unreasonable aspirations to greatness; but on its own modest terms it is a small masterpiece of B-movie fun

REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

 

CAST

Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Dave Bautista (Riddick)
Vin Diesel (The Fast and The Furious)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead)
Karen Gillan (Oculus)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
John C. Reilly (Step Brothers)
Glenn Close (Hoodwinked!)
Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)
Lauda Haddock (Luther)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Gregg Henry (Payback)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Ophelia Lovibond (4.3.2.1.)
Rob Zombie (Super)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
John Brotherton (Fuller House)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Wyatt Oleff (IT)

Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)Guardians of the Galaxy stars are a loosely shaped band of intergalactic scoundrels who go from being bad guys to heroes despite their own penchant for greed and self-preservation. Amongst them is a cosmic kidnapping victim who goes by Star-Lord, a terrible alias, which is why most folks call him by his Earth name, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation). Stolen from his parents in the movie’s prologue, Quill has become a spacefaring thief and scavenger. He has recently struck off on his own, betraying his adopted crew to sell a mysterious metal orb and pocket the profits. This action sets off reverberations, angering the orb’s intended recipient, a brutal thug called Ronan (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies), and landing a rather large bounty on Quill’s head. Ronan dispatches one of his minions, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek), to get him the object. Blows are exchanged. Chris Pratt manages the physicality with a surprising ease, while also making it okay for those of us sick of Andy Dwyer to like the perfomer again. Zoe Saldana is at her most badass, continuing to prove that she should be the star of her own action franchise. (She was the only thing good in Colombiana). Further complications arise, however, when her efforts are derailed by the presence of the aforementioned raccoon and tree.Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)Rocket Raccoon and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively) are misfit bounty hunters who intend to collect on Quill’s head. Rocket is a violent little bastard who is the product of some sinister experiments, and Groot is a kindly wood creature who comes from parts unknown. These two steal the movie, I promise you. Cooper’s vocal performance has a glee and abandon I’d like to see from him in the flesh, and those who remember how Diesel tugged at our heartstrings doing similar work in The Iron Giant will be pleased to have him work his magic here, too. Groot can only say one phrase, “I am Groot,” and like Woo shouting out a certain obscenity when talking to Al Swearengen in Deadwood, how he says it is indicative of its meaning. The computer effects team for Guardians easily bests even Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for creating believable, fully realized creatures that simply should not be.Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)The four bad guys tussle on a peaceful planet, and end up arrested. It’s in prison that they find their fifth Guardian, a shirtless bruiser called Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista) who has a grudge against Gamora’s former employer. He agrees to stave off killing her and go along with their prison break if it means they’ll take him to Ronan. And so an unlikely group of heroes is born.Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)The basic plot of Guardians of the Galaxy, which was co-written by Nicole Perlman and director James Gunn (Slither, Super), follows the Guardians as they first try to keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands and then, after they simultaneously lose it and discover what it really holds, get it back before he begins a path of destruction across the universe. The main genre is more adventure than sci-fi, and the tone lighter and more comic than a lot of recent superhero movies, but that’s what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so refreshing.

 

 

REVIEW: GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM

Featureing

Ed Green (On the Brink: Doomsday)
Wes Craven (New Nightmare)
John Carpenter (The Thing)
Debra Hill (Escape From New York)
Rob Zombie (Slither)
Betsy Palmer (Friday The 13th)
Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn)
Lilyan Chauvin (Predator 2)
Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp)

krueger

The slasher movie has always been looked upon with much disdain by critics, fans of ‘real’ film and even some horror fans for many years, which is strange considering its endurance; there are well over 500 in existence from the roots of ‘Psycho’ all the way up to features like ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’ and the remake of ‘April Fool’s Day’. As an advocate of the genre with an academic background in film, I was glad that somebody finally took the time to make a serious documentary that didn’t spend all its time telling us things we already knew.maxresdefaultGoing to Pieces’ is based on Adam Rockoff’s book (which restricted itself to covering the years 1974-1986) and goes through the central elements of the genre with interjections from individuals who have contributed landmark productions to it (Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Sean Cunningham, even Amy Holden Jones!) and clips from a large cross-section of films. The only possible flaw is that it focuses much of its time on the well-known franchises. Even through tribute is paid to the likes of ‘Happy Birthday to Me’, ‘Graduation Day’, ‘The Burning’ and the ultra-trashy ‘Pieces’, where is ‘Hell Night’? More importantly, where is the original ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’? While this is a minor point, it’s more than compensated for with some previously banned footage, most notably the pitchfork-shower scene from ‘The Prowler’, which was heavily scissored by the BBFC.


Time is taken to attempt to defend the genre somewhat, by drawing analogies between ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and other properties and making a case for (most of) these films really being more than simplistic body count gorefests; slasher movies can be cathartic. Genre-haters Ebert and Siskel appear in their famous rant about sleazy horror, which centered around misogyny and the lack of art – I wonder what they’d make of this?

Definitely worth a look for those curious about the genre; even my anti-horror friend was slightly humbled that there could be intellectual thought surrounding these films!

REVIEW: SUPER

CAST

Rainn Wilson (The Office)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Liv Tyler (jersey Girl)
Kevin Bacon (A Few Good Men)
Gregg Henry (PaybacK)
Michael Rooker (Guardians of The galaxy)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Andre Royo (Empire)
Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls)
Stephen Blackehart (Death Racers)
Mikaela Hoover (The Guest Book)
Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses)
Lloyd Kaufman (The Litch)
William Katt (Carrie)

1Frank (Rainn Wilson), a not-that-bright, not-that-handsome guy who can count the good things that have happened to him on one hand and who works as a cook at the greasiest spoon you’ve ever seen, has lost his recovering-addict wife (Liv Tyler, The Lord of the Rings)–one of those precious few good things–to a sleazy, drug-dealing club owner (Kevin Bacon). This unbearable injustice is the last straw for Frank, who has, to be sure, experienced no shortage of injustice in his time. After some surreal, hallucinatory soul-searching, and egged on by young, hyper Libby (Ellen Page)–a comics-shop clerk who nags her way into the role of his official sidekick–he becomes “The Crimson Bolt,” a fed-up DIY superhero who is going to not only save Frank’s wife and get them back together, but also make the world safe at long last for all the nice, mild-mannered people who have had enough of playing doormat for the world’s pushers (of all kinds) and shovers.Super_filmFrank is at the end of his rope; overstimulated Libby is terminally bored. They are in way over their heads, but they are too inspired to care, and The Crimson Bolt, accompanied by sidekick “Boltie,” can be heard to utter his catchphrase, “Shut up, crime!” as they use their trademark pipe wrench (for The Bolt) and Wolverine claws (Boltie) to whip violators into shape; whether you are a child molester or a smug, self-centered jerk who cuts in line at the movies, you had better watch out, because their adrenaline is pumping, and you are likely to end up in the emergency room with severe lacerations or a crushed skull. Gunn shies away from neither the ghastly injuries nor the pleas and cries of pain emanating from those on the receiving end of justice, Crimson Bolt-style. By now, we have been intentionally “shocked” often enough by movie violence, whether it be the flippant, choreographed Reservoir Dogs kind or in the devastating (and, I think, much more conscientious) Funny Games mode.super-movieIn the case of Super, though, the Taxi Driver comparisons Gunn has garnered for his film are apt; regardless of how many movies and TV programs may encourage cheering it on, “justified” violence is as ugly and difficult to stomach as any other kind, and it may even be more painful to watch a character whom you can relate to and whom you know to be acting out of conscience doing such unconscionable things. But Gunn’s film is quite different from Scorsese’s masterpiece in its willingness to wear its heart directly on its sleeve.Both Frank and Libby are damaged people whose emotions have been run roughshod over by life, they are rife with insecurities and uncertainties, and they want the reassurance of a fantasy world in which one’s moral certitude translates into real action and results. It is very, very easy for us to understand and sympathize with them…but then we cringe at the cruelty they rather randomly inflict as retribution for life’s crumminess (not to mention at the uneasy romantic tension that develops between the very married Frank and Libby, with her underfed emotional and sexual appetites). Gunn does not skimp on fully exploring either the righteousness of Frank and Libby’s rage or the unacceptable brutality that results from it; Libby’s comics-bred (over)enthusiasm might be able to override her less-than-fully-developed conscience, but Frank’s is too powerful not to impede his enjoyment of what they are up to, and he also seems burdened by the felt responsibility of being the older one, Libby’s role model and moral compass.
MV5BODNmODZmMTMtYTA0NS00ZDE1LThiZTQtMTQ4OWZhMTJlNTRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_A great deal of the credit for the film’s ability to move us belongs to its actors. When it comes to embodying Frank in all his poor, pathetic put-upon-ness. It would have been a tragic misfire to play such a character as a dismissable laughing stock, and Wilson fortunately avoids that entirely, making Frank a character whose feelings are very real and every bit as valid as any of ours would be. Page does the same for the misguided but charming Libby, with her fumbling but authentic sexuality and her game-for-anything attitude that is hard not to like even as it tips her right over the deep end. It grows into a real pleasure as the film goes on, seeing the actors match, scene for scene, the physical boldness necessary for all their maladroit running, jumping, and ass-kicking with the emotional courage required to sympathetically depict their characters’ social and romantic clumsiness. Tyler and Bacon shine in their smaller parts, too.thumbnail.24481.4Gunn has not only pulled off his risky idea with aplomb, but at the visual level alone, he and cinematographer Steve Gainer have used the red digital video camera with a great feel for the visuals it can provide and the way the images it can produce–distinct from film, but offering a full palette from which to work cinematically–are able to serve the film’s story and tone. They expertly create a world for Super that is not movie-“ordinary” but really ordinary, in the litter-on-the-streets, used-car, rundown-buildings kind of way; the walls of Frank’s workplace, Libby’s apartment, and the comic book shop appear to actually be sweating. (Gunn uses a lot of handheld camera to add to the inelegance of “real life,” and for once it is an actually suitable as opposed to merely cool choice, really contributing something important to the film’s feel.) That realism clashes with some of the more graphically poppy, self-conscious elements in the film such as comic-book titles appearing up now and then in the most unlikely circumstances and, of course, Frank’s and Libby’s brightly colored costumes standing out starkly against the drab environment), and the jarring shifts works quite well to complement, on the visual level.