Thursday, July 28, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Husk


Starring: Devon Graye, Wes Chatham, C. J. Thomason, and Tammin Sursok

Directed by: Brett Simmons

Written by: Brett Simmons

Production Company: After Dark Films

Release Date: January 28, 2011

Five friends are off to...somewhere...when crows start slamming into the windshield sending the car careening into a ditch and wooden pole. One of the five quickly goes missing and as the other four come to, two wander through a cornfield toward an old farmhouse figuring their friend went there. Soon, fast moving scarecrows are slashing up the twenty-something year old friends.

The atmosphere of Husk is pretty effective creating a strong sense of isolation, though that could easily be dispelled if our victims stopped and thought about what they were doing.

That's the one disappointing part of the film. Our victims don't seem to think through what they are doing and some of their decisions don't make much sense. I thought there would be a reason for the refusal of two of our victims to leave via the car for which they found keys. Brian said he didn't want to leave his girlfriend Natalie, which is fine. He and other lead Chris clearly don't think the best of each other so when Chris reports he saw her dead and has become one of the scarecrows, Brian refusing to believe him kind of makes sense. But why wouldn't the more bookish Scott leave with Chris? And no attempt was made to explain why Scott is seeing flashes of the past.

But even these don't detract from the mood, the creepy scarecrows, or the cool concept of what is going on. The scarecrows hammering nails into their fingers as claws helps show that there is no salvation for these converted victims. And our victims, clearly being city folk, out of their element in a cornfield, confident to the point of arrogance that all they have to do is find the house and all will be ok, criticizes most of our self-indulgent, flippancy toward our lives. Sometimes the best answer is to just run full speed straight ahead, but how often do we over think it and we veer off into missing opportunities and sometimes even ruin, leaving us as nothing but...Husks.

Related Trailers

Scar - Devon Graye also stars in Scar. Joan Burrows (Angela Bettis) narrowly escapes death by murdering the sick serial killer who held her prisoner in his underground chamber of horrors. Sixteen years later, Joan returns to her hometown to visit her niece (Kirby Bliss Blanton), only to discover that a new batch of teenage victims has surfaced. The crimes carry the killer's signature, but with the man presumed dead, the police begin to wonder whether Joan herself might be involved.

Sutures - C. J. Thomason also appears in Sutures. Jason London stars as a harried detective on the hunt for a madman in this gory horror thriller about a demonic surgeon (Carlos Lauchu) run amok with his scalpel in hand, all in a play to score profits on black-market body parts. But there's a plot twist perhaps no one suspects: At one time, the pitiless predator was someone else's prey. Allison Lange, Kate French, Andrew Prine and B.J. Britt co-star.

Albino Farm - Tammin Sursok also starred in Albino Farm. Decades of religious fanaticism in an Ozark Mountain town have produced an in-bred community of albino misfits who have become the stuff of legend in surrounding areas. Now, four college pals are trapped there when their research trip goes awry. Stuck in a land of pigment-impaired predators, the group struggles for survival in this horror fest.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Chain Letter

Chain Letter

Starring: Nikki Reed, Michael J. Pagan, Brad Dourif, Keith David, and Charles Fleischer

Directed by: Deon Taylor

Written by: Michael J. Pagan, Deon Taylor, and Diana Erwin

Release Date: November 9, 2009

Production Companies: Deon Taylor Enterprises and Tiger Tail Entertainment

 A teen gets spam saying that he needed to forward it to five friends. If he didn't forward it, he would die. In that group of five, many of them delete the chain mail. Then, many of them die.

Chain Letter has a lot of potential. The concept, taking a modern day inconvenience, one which many people still give a sort of superstitious respect, and it leading to bloody carnage and misery is one which could have entertained. Unfortunately, the execution failed.

One problem was the kills weren't very creative. The initial kill, a girl chained to her parents' two cars being pulled apart as they pull away, suggests some creativity to come. Unfortunately, after that it was all pretty dull. One girl was even killed by simply being beaten with a chain. In real life, yes, being beaten by a heavy metal chain would be painful and gruesome. But for a slasher flick, it's pretty dull.

Another problem is that our killer, the Chain Man, doesn't follow his own rules. Forward the email, you should be fine. But some who forwarded it got killed, too. Then there's the kid who got the initial email and started the massacre. Chain Man starts sending him multiple chain letters until the teen is yelling at the computer about how he doesn't know any more people. Now, anyone relatively comfortable with the internet knows it's easy to find email addresses on the internet, and this is a gamer geek, but laying that bit of nonsense aside...sending the kid a deluge of emails until he gives up and hits delete so you can kill him...that's like Jigsaw shooting someone who escapes one of his traps alive, or Candyman appearing and killing someone after he says Candyman's name into a mirror twice...not three times.

Throw in teenage victims who are all the same, who are not distinctive from each other, so it's hard to keep track of who has deleted the email and who hasn't. Who's already been killed, who hasn't. And a police detective who goes investigating at night by himself. And an anti-technology group who may or may not be connected with the Chain Man, but it's never really explained. And the police detective, mentioned above, who has memory flashes of scenes he wasn't there for.

But...there's Brad Dourif...and Charles Fleischer...and Keith David. While Keith David's role as the detective was poorly written, he did a very good job with it. Fleischer's role was all too brief, but he played it to the hilt, and Brad Dourif was, as always, awesome.

Too many plot holes, too many dangling plot strings, and a bunch of mediocre victims killed in mediocre ways take what could have been an interesting idea with some great veteran actors and relegates it to...the trash. Just hit delete.

Related Trailers

Nite Tales - Michael J. Pagan also appears in Nite Tales. Deon Taylor delivers twice the chills in this fright-filled double feature hosted by Public Enemy rapper and reality star Flavor Flav. In Storm, a spate of murders accompany a sudden downpour, and in Karma, a group of bank robbers pulls off a heist -- only to find themselves pursued by a killer cannibal.

The Exorcist III - Brad Dourif also appeared in The Exorcist III. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the original novel The Exorcist and the Oscar-winning screenplay, writes and directs Part 3, which is based on his novel Legion. When a supernatural serial killer strikes again, police detective Bill Kinderman (George C. Scott, taking over Lee J. Cobb's role from the first film) investigates. The original's Father Damien, Jason Miller, returns in a guest role.

The Thing - Keith David also appeared in The Thing. Scientists working in Antarctica are forced to abandon their research after a helicopter crashes near their camp, bringing a lone dog into their midst. But the plot thickens when the otherworldly canine changes form in the middle of the night. As it turns out, the dog is a shape-shifting alien that can attack animals -- and unsuspecting humans.

Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight - Charles Fleischer also appeared in Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight. A wanderer who goes by the name of Brayker (William Sadler) holds the last of seven keys that hold the power to eliminate evil and protect the world from darkness in this rousing horror flick. The evil Collector (Billy Zane), however, possesses the other six. Anxious to hold the final key, the Collector assembles a team of walking dead to take out Brayker, Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the other residents of a rundown boarding house.

Dead Tone Deon Taylor also wrote and directed Dead Tone. A seemingly innocuous pastime involving fun-loving collegians and prank phone calls turns into a lethal cat-and-mouse game in this blood-drenched fright fest starring Rutger Hauer and Brian Hooks. While vacationing at a secluded mansion after finals, a group of university students dials random telephone numbers and tries to unnerve the person on the other end. But their fun is short-circuited when one of them unwittingly connects with a slasher. The film was originally titled 7eventy 5ive.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Salvage


Starring: Lauren Currie Lewis, Chris Ferry, and Cody Darby

Directed by: Jeff Crook and Josh Crook

Written by: Jeff Crook and Josh Crook

Production Company: Crook Brothers Productions, Off Hollywood Pictures, and The Seventh Level

Release Date: January 19, 2006

"What if every day you relived your own murder?" That's one of the teasing taglines for the little know horror gem Salvage. I discovered the film in a 4 movie "Horror Collector's Set" I was given a a gift. One of those 4 movie on one disc for $10.00 deal where you figure you won't see anything too good, but there probably won't be anything too bad. A collection of entirely forgettable films. So when one turns up to really be enjoyable, you are taken aback with surprise. And Salvage will surprise you.

Claire (Lauren Currie Lewis) keeps having these nightmares where she seems to be reliving her murder at the hands of Duke Desmond (Chris Ferry). The local police believe she's having nightmares even after she presses the alarm at the gas station where she works nights. After all the camera doesn't see any one but her in the store and the man she accuses has already been shot and killed. The story, the theory goes, is that she saw the reports and now is having nightmares about the killer.

We spend a large part of the film trying to figure out if it is a dream and we're expecting a Freddy Krueger kind of thing going on, or if she really is reliving her assault by Desmond. Surely she's not reliving her murder? But maybe...jut maybe...

The Crook Brothers end Salvage with an unexpected surprise hard to muster in a post-Sixth Sense world where we viewing audiences go to any movie half expecting a twist and looking for it so we can smugly say, "Oh, yeah, I knew it the whole time."

Now, let's deal with the unpleasantries. The film was made on a scant $25,000. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and then was released to DVD. It' a B-Movie. Some will not like the less than crystal clear camera work. Some will want to pick apart the acting of the three main actors who have a total of 18 acting jobs total combined. But if you can have the ability to see past the limitations inherent in small budget productions, then this is a gem you should check it out.

And, for the record, Lauren Currie Lewis does a fair job in a tough role, and Chris Ferry is suitably creepy as Duke Desmond. They have room for growth, but they weren't just giving a static recital of their lines and a shallow emotional performance.

Related Trailers

Rise of the Dead - Chris Ferry also appears in Rise of the Dead. Laura Childs's (Erin Wilk) troubling past comes back to haunt her, as the spirit of the now-deceased infant son she gave up several years ago returns for retribution and takes possession of those closest to her to exact its revenge. Now, Laura must come to terms with the decision she's tried so hard to forget and put her demons to rest once and for all. Directed by William Wedig, this indie shocker written by Jeff and Josh Crook also stars Stephen Seidel and Vickie Myer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Horror Movie Review: The Crazies

The Crazies

Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, and Joe Anderson

Directed by: Breck Eisner

Written by: Scott Kosar and Ray Wright based on George Romero's 1973 movie

Production Companies: Overture Films, Participant Media, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, and Penn Station

Release Date: February 23, 2010

Remaking a horror film, well, any film really, is tricky business. Generally speaking you want to honor the original, stay true to it to a certain degree, and at the same time separate your remake from it and still be enjoyed. Even if a director can accomplish this, there are some who will dismiss the remake entirely and disregard its existence. Others might be willing to go into it expecting to be disappointed, annoyed, frustrated, or even angered and ready to tell everyone how the remake is inferior. But Hollywood seems to have no problem with doing remakes so they must be able to get enough business from those curious but sceptical types and those who have never seen the original and may not even know it's a remake to make just about any movie older than 10 years worthy game for a remake.

I personally try to watch a remake as a beast unto itself, but I do tend to compare to the original as well. It depends on how familiar I am with the film or how recently I saw it as to how much I compare the two. I knew Breck Eisner's The Crazies would get a lot of comparison with George Romero's The Crazies.

It's the same story: A plane carrying a military created bioweapon crashes near a small town. The citizens of the town become infected, one of the symptoms is insanity, and the military comes it to control the situation. A small group tries to avoid both "the crazies", the military, and the disease and escape the town.

Breck Eisner's The Crazies does a better job of creating a tense, horrific tone to the film. The crazies, with make-up to give them a diseased look, are scarier than original version. They are slower and more methodical about their insanity. It creates an intensity missing in George Romero's original.

But the ending to the original is more satisfying than the remake. In fact, the trials of the runaway group is generally more gripping. We get a little glimpse of Russell getting the Crazies, while in the original, his counterpart, Clank, was clearly infected. Judy's infection in the original gives George Romero's version more tragedy. Also, in the new version we have Becca, whose only purpose seems to be cannon fodder for the crazies where in the original Artie and his daughter Kathy add tension to the groups dynamic and more cases of the infection for us to see the progression of the disease.

But the one thing I really missed in the remake was the look at the military side of the events. Removing the close look at the military's procedures removes a lot of social commentary that made the original interesting.

Breck Eisner's The Crazies is scarier than the original, though I was a little disappointed in the uncreative craziness of the infected, and is a worthy horror film in its own right. The perfect version of the movie is somewhere between the two mixing the horror of the remake with the careful use of roles and the commentary in the original. So until that happens, in maybe a sequal since the remake left room for one, we'll have to watch both...and that's fine with me.

Related Trailers

Dreamcatcher - Timothy Olyphant also stars in Dreamcatcher. Four boyhood pals perform a heroic act and are changed by the powers they gain in return. Years later, on a hunting trip in the Maine woods, they're overtaken by a vicious blizzard that harbors an ominous presence. Challenged to stop an alien force, the friends must first prevent the slaughter of innocent civilians by a military vigilante ... and then overcome a threat to the bond that unites the four of them.

Silent Hill - Radha Mitchell also stars in Silent Hill. Determined to save her terminally ill daughter (Jodelle Ferland) from death, Rose (Radha Mitchell) ignores the wishes of her husband and takes her to a faith healer. But her well-intentioned efforts somehow land them in an alternate reality. Now, Rose is in the deserted town of Silent Hill, where her daughter mysteriously disappears and she's left to search for her child in a world of darkness and shadow.

The Ruins - Joe Anderson also appeared in The Ruins. An idyllic Mexican vacation in Cancun takes a dangerous turn for four young Americans when a mysterious tourist persuades them to join an archaeological dig, and they subsequently find themselves lost within the cursed ruins of a forgotten city. Jonathan Tucker, Laura Ramsey, Jena Malone and Shawn Ashmore head the cast in director Carter Smith's bone-chilling thriller, adapted by Scott B. Smith from his novel.

The Amityville Horror - Scott Kosar also worked on the script for the remake of The Amityville Horror. Hapless home buyers George and Kathy Lutz (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) discover their dream home is possessed by evil spirits in this terrifying remake of the 1979 horror classic, based on Jay Anson's popular book -- and a reportedly real-life haunting. As it turns out, the Lutzes home has a bloody history (a former occupant killed his entire family there just a year earlier), so it doesn't take long for terror to come knocking.

Case 39 - Ray Wright also wrote the script for Case 39. To save 10-year-old Lillith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland) from her abusive parents, idealistic social worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) welcomes the girl into her own home -- only to discover that Lillith isn't quite the innocent victim that she claims to be. As Lillith's mysterious past comes to light, Emily finds herself in a world of danger. Christian Alvart's terrifying thriller also stars Ian McShane and Bradley Cooper.