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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Review: ZMD Zombies of Mass Destruction

Bluray Review

Zombies of Mass Destruction bluray 001This is another film to join the growing ranks of zombie comedy films but this seemed to miss its targets a bit more than those it hit and while it was amusing enough for a one time watch it just felt a bit inconsequential and burdened with a crude political subtext.

The zombie plague arrives at the island town of Port Gamble in form of a body washed up on the beach which attacks an old beachcomber. Like most zombie films the story is not about the zombies but about the people. The characters in this film make up cross-section of modern paranoia and prejudice with the sympathetic characters being those subjected to these prejudices. Frida Abbas (Janette Armand) is the American born daughter of Ali Abbas (Ali Hamedani) an Iranian restaurant owner but she gets called Iraqi by her wannabe-redneck neighbour Joe Miller (Russell Hodgkinson) who doesn’t care about the difference. Frida has come back to Port Gamble after dropping out of her studies at Princeton. Ali wants her to work in restaurant and take it over from him but Frida wants something more even if she’s not sure what. Frida has a boyfriend called Derek (Ryan Barret) who used to work as a dishwasher in her father’s restaurant until he got sacked for being late too often. Naturally Ali does not approve of Derek who is a bit of an idiot who also makes the mistake of calling Frida an Iraqi just like her neighbour does.

Tom (Doug Fahl) has come back to Port Gamble with his boyfriend Lance (Cooper Hopkins) to come out to his mother. Lance is comfortably out of the closet but Tom is nervous about the people he grew up with finding out he is gay which is not helped by Lance wearing an ‘I’m with him,‘ T-shirt. They run into Tom’s high school teacher Cheryl Banks (Cornelia Moore) who assumes that they are a couple as soon as she meets them which might be a hint that local people already know but don’t really care.

We get to see the pathetically low congregation at the local church who are listening to the preacher Reverend Haggis (Bill Johns) blaming the Dominionist trio of abortion, Islamic terrorism and homosexual marriage for all the world’s ills. He doesn’t seem very sure of himself so it’s lucky for him, that he will be facing the very apocalypse he hammers on about to the half dozen believers in his church. One of the believers is the town’s mayor Hal E. Burton (James Mesher) [do you get it? Halliburton is the notorious oilfield services with important links to several senior US Republican Party politicians].

The zombie plague has been gradually spreading while we have been getting introduced to the characters. Lance and Mike are having dinner with Mike’s mother (Linda Jensen) and are so preoccupied with Lance coming out to her that they barely pay any attention to the bite on her hand. Lance does his big announcement to his mother while he is in the kitchen but she’s turned into a zombie and attacks Mike. They fight her off but she impales herself on a toasting fork Mike is using to trying hold her off. Mike pins her to the wall and they turn on the TV to see if the news has any answers to what is going on. The TV news has as mixture of information mixed in with speculation and assumption, calling it virus but then calling its victims zombies. The main assumption on the news is that it is a biological terrorist attack.

Frida sneaked out to be with Derek who gets to show us how much of an idiot he is since it’s here he talks about Frida being Iraqi. He doesn’t even get the point when Frida calls him Norwegian in return. He thinks he’s a musician and so Frida has to listen to a song that he wrote about her. This lovely romantic scene is rudely interrupted when zombies attack and Derek gets killed in a very brutal way. Frida manages to escape and she makes her way back home.

Her house is surrounded by zombies but Joe Miller’s wife Judy (Victoria Drake) offers Frida shelter in their cellar. As they get in the cellar a zombie bites Judy’s arm. At first everything is okay but when Joe sees that the terrorist blamed on TV has a medallion like Frida’s he starts getting the delusion that he’s Jack Bauer interrogating a terrorist. If Judy wasn’t slowly turning into a zombie she’d put a stop Joe’s madness but the only other person in the cellar is his teenage son Brian (Andrew Hyde) who is afraid to stand up to his father.

After Lance and Mike get out of Mike’s mother’s house they have to fight through streets full of zombies. They meet up with other survivors who don’t last long. They meet up with Cheryl who has had her own very bad time. They get into the church where the congregation are having a bingo night and seem unaware of what’s going on outside. One look out the door convinces them and so of course Haggis spins it into the apocalypse. When they find out that Lance and Mike are gay they want to cure them so they too can be saved.

I think the worst thing a horror comedy can do is fail to be either funny or scary. This film just plays it too safe and although the film-makers may think themselves brave to include gay characters it plays it safe with a relationship free of any passion or sexuality or any personality beyond their sexuality. As you can probably see this film seems to be mainly a satire about US society and it goes for the easy targets on the right-wing. This did tend to push the zombie aspect of the film to the side which is a pity because the zombie effects were okay though there was some CGI used. I can’t give this film a strong recommendation but humour is very subjective and it might make you laugh more than I did.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: House at the End of the Street

Bluray Review

House at the End of the Street bluray 001I had avoided any trailers for this film and all I knew was that it had Jennifer Lawrence starring in it. For some reason I thought was going to be some sort of cliché haunted house story but I was surprised that it turned out to be a mystery thriller and I’m sure I could re-watch it and pick it apart and see the story fall to pieces but for a first time watch it kept me interested enough.

The film opens with a couple in bed being disturbed by their daughter Carrie Ann walking about in the hall. The daughter brutally kills both her parents with a hammer then runs off into the nearby forest.

Four years later Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence)and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move into a large house they are renting in a town at the edge of a National Park forest. The house would normally be much more than they could afford but after the brutal murder in the house next door property prices in the neighbourhood have taken a nosedive. Sarah is doctor and has got a job at the local hospital while is a high school student. Elissa’s father is a musician and is divorced from Sarah and he spent a lot of time on the road while Sarah’s work kept her busier than Elissa would have liked so there is bit of friction between Elissa and her mother.

At a neighbourhood party (what the hell is a potlach?) Sarah and Elissa meet most of the neighbours. One of the neighbours introduces Elissa to her son Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk), talking about all his achievements and charity work. He is fit and full of himself and Elissa is not very sure about him. Sarah had thought the murder house was empty but it turns out that Ryan, the son of the murdered Jacobsons, still lives there alone. There isn’t much sympathy from the neighbours considering he lost his family. Instead the neighbours seem more worried about how the house’s existence affects the value of their houses.

Next day Tyler invites Elissa to his charity fundraising meeting that night and as soon as Elissa arrive she realise it is really a sleazy drunken teenage party and the charity fundraising just involves handing over some of their allowances to fool their parents. When looking for toilet in a bedroom she finds Jillian (Allie MacDonald) who is lying on a bed feeling a bit too drunk and has to run off to the bathroom urgently. While she is gone Tyler comes in and he’s a gotten a lot drunker and a lot more rapey. After fighting him off Elissa has had enough and leaves.

It is a long ten mile walk back home but passing car stops in front of her and the driver introduces himself as Ryan Jacobson (Max Thieriot), her new neighbour. He offers to drive her home but Elissa is a bit nervous and turns down his offer. A moment later the rain starts and Elissa changes her mind. Elissa wants to know about the murders and why Ryan still lives there. Ryan is happy that someone wants to talk to him  about it since most people in town just avoided him altogether. His story is that he was sent away to live with an aunt and his brain-damaged little sister Carrie Ann killed their parents. Later we find out that the brain damage is because of an accident when she fell off her swing and Ryan blames himself even though his parents were out of their heads smoking meth in the house instead of watching them.

Of course Elissa falls for Ryan but Sarah is a bit concerned when she finds out and has a quiet word with Sheriff Weaver (Gil Bellows) at the hospital. Weaver likes Ryan and has never heard any complaints about him apart from the property value but he does get picked on by other local kids. Sarah wants Elissa to concentrate on graduating high school and is worried that Ryan will distract her by becoming her next ‘wounded bird’ project. She tries to lay down the law that they are never to be alone together but realises she’s over-compensating for years of neglect and guilt at her own wasted youth and Elissa knows it too

The central mystery of the film is what happened to Carrie Ann after the murders? There are of course local scary stories that she still lives in the forest but as Elissa and Sarah uncover the story they find out things are not what they seem.

I think this film is okay but not very memorable. It draws you in and makes you think it’s letting you on its secrets but it has a few twists at the end which you might be able to figure out. It isn’t very original and a lot of the background characters are just sort of there. It really feels like a TV movie that got promoted to cash in on Jennifer Lawrence becoming a star name after the Hunger Games was surprise hit.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Cinema Review

evil deadOh no they’ve remade another classic 80s horror, how dare they sully the memory of this classic film etc. Except that the ‘they’ in this case are the same ‘they’ who made the original film and the original film was put together on a tiny budget with effects that are only amazing if you take the budget limitations into account. If Sam Raimi wants to use this remake as a jumping off point to getting an Army of Darkness sequel made then I am okay with that. As it turns out this sequel delivers in tense gory horror what the original never could.

So the story is the same as in the original film: five friends go to a cabin in the woods but this time the friends are not going to party. Instead they are here to help Mia (Jane Levy) dry out and quit drugs. Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) is there to support her and he’s accompanied by his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). Mia has been brought to the cabin by an old friend Olivia (Jessica Lucas who is a nurse and has been trying for a while to get Mia clean. The fifth member of the group is Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), a stuck-up judgemental prick who is the partner of Olivia. What is really Eric problem is that David left home leaving Mia to take care of their terminally ill mother and was never there to support Mia in her grief when their mother died. Another addition to the group is Grampa, the family dog that has been living with David.

The cabin is not just a creepy run-down hut in the middle of nowhere; it is their creepy run-down hut in the middle of nowhere. Mia and David’s mother owned it and the five friends used to come there for a break. They are not happy to discover someone has busted the lock on the front door and left the place in a mess with smell that Mia finds unbearable. Olivia thinks Mia is acting up since she can’t smell anything. Grampa can smell it and he starts scratching at the floor. Underneath a rug the find a trap door down the cellar and when they open it they all smell what Mia smelled.

At the start of the film there was a short scene of an old woman using the evil spell book called the Necronomicon to drive out the evil spirit possessing a young woman. That is who broke into the cabin and what they find down there is a load of dead animals hanging from the ceiling and a support pillar that has been badly burnt. Eric also finds the book wrapped in black plastic and barbed wire and takes it back upstairs with him.

I have no idea why he does it other being an idiot but Eric takes the book to a back room and he snips off the barbed wire and tears off the black plastic. No alarm bells ring in his head as he open the book clearly bound in human skin and sees desperate warnings scrawled all over the pages of the book telling whoever is reading it to not read it not to touch it but leave it alone. On many pages the writing has being obliterated with crayon. This doesn’t put off Eric who uses his Hardy Boy skills to take a pencil rubbing and reveal the text underneath which he reads out as it is revealed.

Mia is outside in the rain trying to cope with pain of withdrawal. As Eric reads the words from the book Mia hears something waking up in the woods. It’s the POV monster and as it rushes through woods Mia gets creeped-out and runs from it. She gets caught in thorn bushes and sees a deadite who infects her with its evil.

Mia tries to warn the others that they have to leave but they are persuaded by Olivia that this is Mia acting up and wanting to go back to her addiction so they don’t listen to her until it’s too late and soon there’s blood and pain as the evil possesses them and they are fighting against their friends for their lives.

This film is a much more straightforward horror than the original with none of the more fantastic effects and mind screw moments. It still manages to keep the violent intensity and thanks to the use physical effects the gore really has that visceral quality that CGI effects cannot yet replicate. I really enjoyed this film though I am not going to say it surpasses the original. There are a few a call outs to the original for fans to look out for. I’d recommend this to any fans of bloody horror and think fans of the original should give it a try

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Dark Skies

Cinema Review

Dark Skies 001When writing a review I prefer films that I can say that I clearly like or dislike but so many films fall into a middle range and I don’t have any strong feelings either way. This film is another one of those, with reasonable acting some nice atmospheric directing but it has a poor script and a pretty flat ending.

In a nice normal neighbourhood a nice normal family find themselves at the centre of a series of increasingly disturbing occurrences. This is such a common template for so many modern films and this story never really does anything new with it. The Barrett family are very typical with Daniel (Josh Hamilton) who is an unemployed architect and Lacy (Keri Russell) who works in real estate but is a bit too honest to make a decent living from it. They have two sons, rebellious teenager Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and slightly creepy Sam (Kadan Rockett) who is about six.

The film takes its time before the creepy stuff starts and we get to know the Barretts. Daniel fails another job interview and doesn’t tell Lacy. Money is tight and they are relying on Lacy’s job to support them but she warns clients off buying a run-down property.

Okay onto the creepy stuff and it starts off minor with Lacy waking up and finding a mysterious mess in the kitchen. Then next night Lacy discovers everything in the kitchen in tall stacks of perfectly balanced stuff and there’s a strong similarity to Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist. The police think it’s a prank and suggest they turn on the security system. Jesse claims to know nothing but Sam talks about the sandman. This is the name of a character in a scary story Jesse was reading Sam before he went to sleep. They realise this is the name he’s applied to a strange figure who was in his room.

Daniel switches on the security system before they go to bed the next night and the middle of the night the thing goes off. The security company says they can detect a fault. Lacy goes to check on Sam and in the room she suddenly sees a tall shadowy figure standing in the room next to the boy and she screams. Then Sam and the figure disappear. Daniel spots Sam outside the house in a daze. He runs out and grabs the boy and wakes him up.

Lacy is now convinced and there is something happening to them. Sam has done a crayon drawing of a child with three tall dark figures and it really creeps out Lacy. Then hundreds of birds smash themselves into the house. Lacy does some internet research and comes up with an answer but it takes things getting very serious before Daniel is convinced and they go visit Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons) the guy with all the answers in this film.

There isn’t really anything wrong with the film but it is a by-the-numbers collection of common horror tropes and it brings to mind many similar films made recently with this formula including films by the same producers that do it better. It does have a few nice scares and so as long as you don’t expect too much you may enjoy it.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Sightseers

DVD Review

Sightseers DVD 001This is a low-budget independent British film that I had heard about last year when Mark Kermode reviewed it so I was glad to see it finally came out on DVD. It is a dark comedic tale of jealousy, murder and caravanning.

Chris (Steve Oram) is taking Tina (Alice Lowe) on a caravanning holiday around the English Peak District and Yorkshire Dales to visit various tourist attractions. The only thing stopping them from enjoying their holiday are different people they come across but they find a bit of murder helps to restore their peace. Their first problem is Tina’s mother Carol (Eileen Davies) who hates Chris and doesn’t want Tina to go with him trying to use emotional blackmail over her upset at the recent death of her dog Poppy to try to guilt Tina into staying.

The first stop on their trip is the National Tramway Museum in Crich. While they are enjoying a tram ride on one of the elegant old trams Chris sees another visitor (Tony Way) wolfing down an ice cream and casually tossing the wrapper on the floor of the tram. Chris politely tells the man that he’s dropped his wrapper and the man just gives him the finger. This leaves Chris raging at the man’s callous disrespect of the museum but they don’t create a scene. After they have had cup of tea they leave but Chris doesn’t see the same man walking behind the caravan stuffing his face again. Chris runs the man over killing him. Everyone is very upset especially the man’s family but a sly grin plays over Chris’s face making me wonder how much of an accident it was.

Before the accident Tina got a phone call from her mother who had made up some emergency to make her come home but after the accident that is forgotten. It does seem to have made them very horny and they pull into lay-by and have sex in the caravan while a crew of road workers watch in amusement as the caravan rocks about.

The next stop is a caravan site next to somewhere called Dingley Dell. There are only two berths left and Chris races another caravan to get the one that’s not next to the toilets. The blood from the accident is still on the side of the van so they clean it up. Later Chris goes to talk to guy he raced to the berth and tries to talk to him about his caravan but you can tell that Ian (Jonathan Aris) and his wife Janice (Monica Dolan) feel awkward talking to Ian. Tina comes over to join them and Ian tells that he’s a writer travelling and doing research for a book. Chris wants to take a look inside and Tina spots that they have a dog the same breed as Poppy but he’s called Bruno. She tries to give him a potato crisp but Janice panics and screams that he’s not to get junk food. That upsets Tina so out of spite Chris knock plate off a counter and it smashes on the floor.

This incident puts Chris in a funny mood. He’s jealous of Ian and angry at his attitude. At dawn he gets up quietly and sneaks out then he follows Ian as he takes his dog for walk. Ian is standing on a rocky outcrop at the top of a hill taking pictures with his expensive camera and Chris comes up behind him and smashes his head in with a rock, killing him.

Chris returns to the caravan where Tina is awake and is watching a pagan festival taking place across the field. He’s got Ian’s camera now but all Tina notices is the blood on his hands. Chris explains it away by saying that the pagans were sacrificing chickens when he passed them. Tina accepts this since she’s not very observant. She also doesn’t question Chris when he says that he wants to pack up and move on. On the way out of the site they find Bruno running around loose and Tina wants to keep him because not getting junk food is cruel so they take him into the car.

Tina does eventually catch on that Chris murdered Ian but she’s not that worried about it and after seeing Chris beat a posh rambler (Richard Lumsden) to death at a stone circle she gets excited about the idea of being outlaw lovers on the run and she tries her hand at murder too.

This film is a dark comedy with a pair of completely unexpected killers. Tina is a naïve and awkward and dominated by life with her mother. Chris is a quiet guy that has seen more pushy less pleasant people getting on better than him and he feels angry and marginalised. They are so much more normal than the usual killers in films and a lot of the comedy is seeing the disproportionate violence that they inflict. The landscape that they travel through is a fantastic combination of nature and human creation and is really well shot. Comedy is very subjective and this comedy is more the sort to elicit a wry smile than the laugh out loud type with a joke every ten minutes.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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