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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Review: The Undead

The alternative title is Mutant Vampire Zombies from the Hood and it gives a better sense of the tone of this low-budget film than the nondescript title of the UK release. I had bought this a while ago and it got lost and forgotten until today. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill zombie film with the only difference being that the protagonists are LA gang members and their zombies are a bit different. It’s okay and has few good scenes but it doesn’t really stand out.

Two gangs meet in pharmaceutical warehouse to sort out a dispute involving kidnapping and drugs. One gang is led by G-Dog (Tyshawn Bryant) and his girlfriend Latiffa (Rachel Montez Collins) has been kidnapped by Dragon (Robert Wu) the leader of the other gang who wants drugs in exchange for Latiffa. This is being watched by two cops David (C. Thomas Howell) and Jack (Jeremiah Birkett) who are getting ready to bust them all. Two cops taking on two armed gangs is clearly reckless beyond belief and of course one get shot and both get captured when the two gangs start a shootout. Then a wave of radiation from the sun engulfs the earth and changes the sky. Everyone in the warehouse in knocked unconscious.

Next morning G-Dog and his gang get control of the situation and try to figure out what happened. G-Dog and his favourite idiot Larson (KB Holland) go out to look for Darnell another friend. They find Darnell dying with his throat ripped open begging to be killed. Then they see the attacker, a zombie and the pumps round after round in to it but it still keeps coming until someone else blasts it through the skull. This was from an old man Jorge Gonzales (Maxie J. Santillan Jr.) who tells them what’s going on. When the sky changed the radiation from the sun affected everyone but they were protected inside the warehouse and Jorge was in his basement. Everyone else has tuned turned into bloodthirsty zombies, most of them mindless but some still have their intelligence.

G-Dog, Larson and Jorge return to warehouse in time to shoot the zombies attacking the cops Jack and David but they aren’t in time to save Jack who gets his throat ripped open. They go watch a TV which has only one channel still working, a scientist Dr. Reginald Monte (Gregory Alan Williams) who tells them what has happened, which is how Jorge found out. Monte invites them to his house asking them to bring plenty of guns. They seemed unsure until Monte’s daughter Lisa (Johanna Watts) appears on camera and she’s slim and attractive so that settles it, they decide to walk across the city.

Most of the film is just like typical zombie film but they have an encounter with a group of intelligent zombies who want to rape and eat them all. Yeah rape. These zombies are not only hungry for blood they are also very horny.

This film is okay and I thought the solar flare angle was not bad. I wonder what the point of setting up the rival gangs was when they didn’t really use that to set up any tension between the characters after the initial scenes before the flare. Once they know what’s going on all differences are pretty much forgotten. I liked the idea of the intelligent zombies and the scene in their nightclub started out promising but apart from killing off one main character it didn’t really lead to anything and the potential threat posed by them was unrealised.

Rating 6/10

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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Absentia

I really like finding a film that I have never heard of before that manages to creep me out, especially when it does it with such a small budget.

Tricia (Courtney Bell) is a pregnant woman living on her own since her husband Danny (Morgan Peter Brown) went missing seven years before and she is going through the bureaucracy of having him legally declared dead so she can get on with her life. She has invited her younger sister Callie (Katie Parker) to stay with her, possibly because she needs some company at this time, but also because Callie is a recovering drug addict and she needs somewhere to stay. Det. Ryan Mallory (Dave Levine) is the police detective assigned to Danny’s case and he is helping Tricia with filling out the final documentation to have Danny declared legally dead in absentia. Emotionally this is very tough on Tricia and she starts seeing scary images of Danny all over the place and in her nightmares but her psychiatrist assures her that this is a reaction to the highly charged emotions she is going through.

Callie goes jogging every morning and her route takes her through scary graffiti-covered tunnel very close to Tricia’s apartment. When she returns one morning she finds a frail injured man (Doug Jones) lying in the tunnel barely conscious and she assumes he is a homeless junkie. He wakes as she tries to creep past and he seems surprised that Carrie can see him and begs her for help and tries to offer her a handful of shiny baubles and jewels. Carrie assumes he just wants money and promises to bring him out some food. She returns to a few minutes later with food in a Tupperware box but the man is gone so she leaves the box at the mouth of the tunnel.

Next morning after her jog (avoiding the tunnel this time) she finds a bunch of shiny things on the doorstep of the apartment building. She takes them to the tunnel and lays them down at the entrance but is warned to not do that by a strange nervous young man who is there to leave mysteriously animated bag at the entrance. Carrie starts investigating and discovers there have been many disappearances in this area and the threat is much stranger and older than anyone suspects.

This film really did creep me out and it did that with only hints at what is going on. The sound is very important in creating the sense of dread but the direction and acting really does draw me into the story and my imagination did the rest. There is a really emotional portrayal of what it is like to have loved ones disappear and especially how not knowing what really happened to them stops people from being able to move on. I recommend giving this film a look.

Rating 8/10

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I was getting excited about going to see this film, the last part of Christopher Nolan’s batman trilogy. Then I heard the news of the shooting and that people at a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado had died and it tempered my excitement. I cannot imagine the horror of being in that cinema and there are no words that can take away the pain of the loss of lives.

With a more subdued mood I went along to cinema to a fairly empty Saturday morning screening. I’m not totally sure how I felt about the film but it certainly gripped my attention with a story that was not what I expected but it delivered a climax to the trilogy that had really epic feel. I think this film will grow on me like Batman Begins.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired Batman since the end of the Dark Knight and a new Gotham has been built on the foundation of the lie of District Attorney Harvey Dent’s death as a hero at the hands of Batman. This has inspired the city to take a tougher stance against the criminals and crime is at an all-time low. Bruce is no longer fit to be Batman anymore and he lives as a recluse in Wayne manor, withdrawn from any contact with the world and needing to use a cane to walk because of his injuries.

Bruce soon finds that he cannot hide away forever. When Catwoman Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into his safe he comes out of seclusion to investigate. Then a hotshot young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appears at his door and he knows Bruce is Batman wants Bruce to bring Batman back because of a new villain in town called Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane is smart and powerful and has very big plans for Gotham

I really liked the way that film made it clear that playing Batman has had a physical and mental toll on Bruce Wayne and it takes a bit of prodding to get Bruce back into the costume again. Nolan actually sidelines Batman for a lengthy period in the middle of the film and the film gets carried by the supporting cast but in saying that it still delivers a good dose of Batman action too. The cast is fantastic especially Michael Caine as Bruce’s loyal butler Alfred and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Another major character who needs mentioned is Bruce’s love interest Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard. This film seems to have divided audiences and been attacked by fools on both the left and the right so it must be doing something right. If you have seen the other Batman films then this is a must see.

Rating 8.7/10

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Cassadaga

There’s a lack of good films coming out on DVD so I’ve been shopping for bargains in the hope of catching something that I haven’t heard about and I bought this one knowing nothing other than that it had been one the films at the After Dark festival. This is a fairly straightforward supernatural mystery thriller given an extra edge by a twisted serial killer who turns his victims into marionettes.

Lily (Kelen Coleman) a young art teacher gets a scholarship at Cassadaga University and moves in to luxurious rooms in a large Florida country house which are part of the scholarship provided by the wealthy heiress Claire (Louise Fletcher). Lily is trying to get on with her life after the recent tragic death of her little sister Michelle.

Lily is completely deaf but she can lip read and talk and he teaches art to schoolchildren. One of the children she teaches art to introduces Lily to her divorced paramedic father Mike (Kevin Alejandro) and persuades him to pay for additional art lessons. This leads to Mike inviting Lily out for a drink with his work buddies. His friends are having a friendly heated discussion about psychics. One is a total sceptic while the other gives the old line about how most psychics are fake but there is core of reality to it that can’t explained by science. It’s one those stock phrases used by people who think fuzzy thoughts about how nice it would be if there was an afterlife and wishes could come true so that they can pose as an open-minded free-thinker unshackled science’s quest for evidence. For a laugh the sceptic dares the believer to show them their best example of a genuine psychic.

They all go out to visit a medium but are put off by the price which is bit steep for a laugh. Lily says she will pay, wanting to use the chance, however slim, to speak to her little sister again. The medium uses an old gramophone player, getting Lily to touch the stylus while she tries to contact Michelle. This works for a few moments and Lilly talks to Michelle then another presence interrupts the contact causing Lily to pass out from the pain. Lily and her companions rush out with Mike rejecting the medium’s assistant’s offer of help for Lily to deal with any aftermath of the spirit contact because he thinks it’s a scam for more money.

Of course the Lily is having problems with the spirit that interrupted the séance, the vengeful ghost of Jennifer, a woman who was recently murdered and who gives Lily confusing random images and with more crippling pain. There is a sick serial killer in Cassadaga. We saw him as a little boy at the start of the film being told off by his mother for wearing a dress. The boy then goes to his room the blade from a broken pair of scissors and castrates himself. Now as an adult he takes women into a basement when he cuts off their limbs and reassembles them as twisted marionettes. This is some extreme perversion for a film that is otherwise so low-key.

The film follows the well-trodden path of plenty of other supernatural mystery thrillers and it is a fairly interesting story with Lilly trying to discover what happened to Jennifer. My only complaint is that the ending was all over bit too quickly and the killer really didn’t get any development other than the hint that he was just born bad because he liked to dress in dresses as a child. I’m not sure how well those graphic scenes with the killer fit in with mood of the rest of the film but they were certainly well-shot and had an appropriately nasty grungy feel to them. It’s not a very original film and I’ll probably forget about it fairly quickly but it was interesting enough to watch while it is on.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Stormhouse

One from the DVD bargain bin, this low-budget horror thriller rarely manages to be particularly scary or interesting. It delivers its evil military science hokum with a straight face and complete lack of enthusiasm.

Psychic Hayley Sands (Katie Flynn) is admitted to a secret under lit underground research facility called Stormhouse to investigate (or communicate or something) with a supernatural entity that they have captured and confined in a “reverse electromagnetic field” which is some bizarre magic type of radiation that can imprison spirits because they are made of radiation apparently. She has been sent by a British government minister to report to him about the viability of the project.

The base is run by the gruff paranoid Major Lester (Grant Masters) and he has Lieutenant Groves (Grahame Fox) and small group of soldiers who mostly growl and leer at Hayley when they are not making homophobic taunts at one of their colleagues. The film doesn’t try to humanize these characters at all so you can tell what their fate is.

In the control room are a couple of technicians; a scruffy hippy type Justin Rourke (Patrick Flynn) who looks after Hayley and is about the closest to a male lead in this film and the more straight-laced Brandon Faber (Martin Delaney) who hardly seems to ever leave the control room. They are monitoring the imprisoned entity and controlling the reverse EM field which is a wire fence with a spotlight lighting the centre. The entity is mostly invisible but it does manifest for a cheap jump scare on a recording that they. They let her into the room with the entity so she can sort of sense it and it kind of reacts to her.

Hayley wonders why they are doing this and later she sees them bring in a prisoner with a bag over his head and they toss him into the enclosure where this supernatural super weapon beats him up a bit, damages an eye and makes him dance like a puppet while it makes the soldiers clap out a rhythm. Lester justifies this by saying that the prisoner Salim Hassan (Munir Khairdin) is a terrorist guilty of several atrocities. So this film has chosen to comment on the very real subject of human right abuses of prisoners by authorities. This is in addition the narrow-minded stupidity of the fact that they have evidence that spirits exist and have imprisoned one and all they are doing is using it to torture and kill people. Naturally at some point the entity escapes and it kills nearly everyone by possessing people and making them kill the others in the dark until we’re just left with Hayley escaping Stormhouse.

You can probably guess that I think this film is pretty stupid. It is done on a very low-budget and it shows. Nearly every scene is shot in poor quality ambient light. The characters are all plot devices with whatever characteristic the story calls for at any point in the film. The old cliché of the evil secret military project to create insane weapons is not helped by tacking on the heavy-handed sub-plot of the abuse of the terrorist prisoner. I’d say this film is not really worth seeing

Rating 3/10

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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Innkeepers

I enjoyed director Ti West’s film House of the Devil so I was looking forward to seeing to this film but if it appeared in cinemas here in Britain I never saw it so I had to settle for the DVD. It had the same slow build-up of tension with great character development and finishes in a great climax. So many of the modern ghost stories lose it in the third act but I thought this film managed to finish just fine.

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is soon closing its doors for the last time and two employees are left looking after the place while the owner suns himself on a beach on Barbados. Nerdy awkward Claire (Sara Paxton) and geeky college dropout Luke (Pat Healy) want to use the opportunity of the inn being nearly empty to explore the place for signs of ghosts. They are both staying at the hotel themselves so that they can swap shifts on the reception desk. Only one room is occupied, by a woman, who has left her husband for the weekend to teach him a lesson, and her young son.

Another guest arrives; Leanne Reese-Jones (Kelly McGillis) and Claire recognises her as a former TV actress because she’s fan. When Claire takes Lee some towels and tries to talk to her about how much she enjoyed her shows but Lee is just plain bitchy to her and leaves her feeling depressed.

That night Claire is alone at the desk and she decides to try a bit of amateur ghost hunting with a microphone and a tape recorder. She believes the ghost of Madeleine O’Malley haunts the inn after she hung herself when her fiancé left her on her wedding day many decades earlier. Now finally we start getting to the real haunting after a couple of jump scares. As she tries the tape recorder she hears static and faint sounds then a piano playing. There’s a piano in the reception are so she goes through to it and the sound stops. She slowly approaches the piano and something invisible plays two keys.

Claire run upstairs and bashes on the door of Luke’s room to wake him but he’s still half asleep and wants to wait until morning. As she heads downstairs Lee appears at her door to chide her for being so noisy. Claire apologizes then explains to her what she was doing. Lee invites Claire into her room gives her a drink and says she thinks she can help her. Since leaving acting Lee has become a spiritual healer and knows how to contact the spirits. She brings out her crystal pendulum and Claire asks the spirits questions. Lee doesn’t get a very clear answer from them but she does sense danger down the basement and warns Claire not to go down there.

I enjoyed this film. It takes its time to establish the characters and the setting and I felt drawn into the story and keeps the signs of haunting small at first and builds it up to the mad rush of fear at the end. It has some similarities to films like The Haunting by great use of sound to suggest rather than relying on showing CGI spirits. It also focuses completely on Claire and gives the film an ambiguity about whether things are really happening or Claire is just imagining it all.

Rating 7.5/10

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Tape 407

This film was a total blind buy since I hadn’t heard anything about it. It is another found footage film which I didn’t know when I bought it. This means there is no real story as such but this type of film works through the characters and their reaction to the situation. It is fairly watchable and it kept me interested until the end of the film when the film-makers pulled a twist and a big reveal that I didn’t like.

Two sisters are travelling by plane from New York to Los Angeles on New Years Eve. 13-year-old Trisha (Abigail Schrader) is annoying her older sister Jessie (Samantha Lester) by refusing to stop playing with Jessie’s video camera. It’s an easy way to introduce the film’s main characters. There’s the flight attendant Lois (Samantha Sloyan), Jimmy (James Lyons) a photojournalist, air marshal Laura (Melanie Lyons), Charlie (Brendan Patrick Connor) an obnoxious whiny overweight businessman and Tom (Ken Garcia) who is travelling with his wife.

After some turbulence the plane crashes in some remote area of desert scrub. The characters I named above are the survivors along with another man Marshall who doesn’t survive for long. They were all in the rear section of the plane and the front is somewhere else. Trisha has broken her arm and its bleeding. Everyone else has cuts especially to the head. Charlie whines and complains but people rapidly lose patience with him. Jessie is filming everything with her camera which is also the group’s main source of light. Laura uses a belt as a tourniquet to stop Trisha bleeding. Tom runs off to try to find his wife who was in the front section during the crash despite Lois saying they should stay together. Lois also says that rescue will be on its way to them soon. The other guy Marshall runs off to help Tom.

When rescue keeps failing to appear they get more concerned. They hear the sounds of something moving around in the dark. Then they hear humans screaming in the distance. A few minutes later Tom staggers back to them clearly shocked. He tells them that everyone from the front section is dead and so is the guy who followed him. Lois goes into the plane and fetches snack food for them though water would have probably better. Jimmy also goes to fetch his camera so they now have two cameras and lights. When Lois goes to get more food for Charlie she gets attacked and killed by some creature we don’t get to see yet. Everyone runs away and when they stop and agree to head for road Tom says he saw.

They come to an abandoned building while being chased by the unseen creatures which run around outside try to to get in. Laura and Tom got the best look at them and they agree that the creature has teeth and a tail!? Perhaps they mean big teeth and a big tail which is partly confirmed when we see a creature trying to get in the door. There are gunshots outside and car stops in the distance. The armed guys in the car are only interested in how many survivors there are, then they drive off without helping them. Suddenly they notice a large box in military green and inside they find torches.

For some reason they leave the building and are attacked so they all run again. They all get to a road which takes them to a ghost town where they take shelter in one of the buildings. The characters get picked off one at a time but these scene sorts of blend in together and I can’t even really most of the deaths.

This film had an interesting story but like most found footage films it gets bogged down by the technique and it rarely addresses the implausibility of keeping the camera rolling while running for your life. The actors are okay and the directing style seems to be to allow the actors to improvise most of their scenes without much scripted dialogue. This works sometimes but other times it got repetitive. The best scenes were when they were out in the open running from the creatures. The ending is where we get to see what has been hunting them and if you haven’t guessed what it is by this time you will be hit with very big WTF. This is a bit bland and not very interesting. It has its moments but the annoying bits and the boring bits are more common.

Rating 4.5/10

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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