Monthly Archives: January 2014

John Dies at the End

The Hard Drive

photo_08I have been waiting a while to see this film because I’m a fan of director Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm films and the excellent Bubba Ho Tep but like almost all independent films it never got cinema release and the their UK distributor went bust so there’s still no UK release yet but it is available on iTunes so I downloaded it. I heard very mixed reviews but that just intrigued me more. Fortunately my wait was rewarded with a strange quirky film with a good sense of humour and I  have already watched it a few times.

This film is narrated by its main protagonist David Wong (Chase Williamson), a young man who has a meeting with a writer Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) at a quiet Chinese restaurant. David has something he wants to tell Arnie but the story is so fantastic he is approaching it slowly. The film is basically the stories that David recalls as he talks to Arnie, often in answer to a question from Arnie but there are many asides to the audience too.

There is not a obvious central plot but the stories revolve around the effects of a strange new drug called soy sauce and David’s adventures with his best friend John (Rob Mayes) afte they have taken it. This is a black liquid that seems to move around as if it has life of its own. John gets the drug from a fake Rastafarian who talks bollocks called Robert Marley (Tai Bennett) and he calls David in a panic the morning after. The main effect of the soy is to change the user’s perception of space and time so they can perceive past, present and future in different order. One example is when John is trying to explain this to David and David gets a phone call from John from some other time. One side effect of the soy is the ability to perceive creatures from other dimensions and portals into them.  Now they use their soy abilities to help people who are having strange problems and we it has other properties and other sinister secrets.

There’s a plot of sorts involving a police detective (Glynn Turman) who is investigating the deaths a group of soy users who all exploded including Robert Marley but this only a small part of the film. There’s a charismatic TV psychic Dr Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown) who helps the boys out with guidance and practical assistance when the boys find themselves in over their heads. There’s also a strange intense man called Roger North (Doug Jones) who seems to be wanting to guide the boys.

The lack of overall plot wasn’t too much of problem for me because I liked the characters and their sense of humour. It is a stoner horror and there is a sense that like other stoner films this film is a series of stories linked only by the characters and mood and the conversation between David and Arnie. The effects are weird more than horrific with a mixture of CGI and physical effects with puppets etc and they help create a dreamlike quality to this film that is similar to the feel of the other films Coscarelli has done. I Like the quirky sense of humour and think I’l be watching the film a lot and as a bonus the music is pretty good too.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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The Last Exorcism

The DVD Shelf

the-last-exorcismI saw this film when it first came to DVD but my main memory was of the over the top ending which took me out of the film. After seeing the sequel I decided to give first film another watch and this time I got a lot more enjoyment out of it second time around and could actually see the way the ending was being set up. I think I was more committed to the type of film this was initially pretending to be when I first saw it but now that I know it is a supernatural horror I can appreciate the way they mislead the audience.

This is done by use of a documentary style which is setting out to be an exposé of the fraudulent practices of exorcists or at least the practices of the main character, Evangelist preacher Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian). The documentary format does at least do the job of justifying the presence of the camera and the shaky cam. There’s only a guy with a camera and a sound recordist so there isn’t a big crew following him around.

Cotton was brought up by his evangelical preacher father to be a preacher from an early age to impress the flock with his showy style of noisy preaching and the novelty of his yourh. Part of the act is performing exorcisms which were fine while Cotton believed he may be doing good but when he read of child being horrifically killed during an exorcism he wants to expose it as the dangerous fraud he now thinks it is. He seems to have lost his faith and after this last exorcism he is quitting

He picks a letter at random from Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), a farmer who is convinced his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed by a demon. Louis is a widower trying to raise his two children Nell and Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) while they are all still grieving over the death of Louis’ wife. Louis is a very religious man and is worried about the forces of evil getting to his children so he has taken Nell out of church and school. Caleb is openly hostile to presence of Cotton and the documentary crew but when he spots Cotton pulling off a stunt he seems more amused by the show.

Cotton goes through with his performance but lets the documentary team in on the tricks. It manages to impress Nell and Louis and Cotton leaves with crew. They are staying in nearby hotel but it is far enough away that when Nell turns up barefoot at Cotton’s door in some sort of delirious state they take her to the local hospital.

This event sees the focus of the film move to Nell. Cotton and the crew are genuinely worried about Nell. They see her problems stemming from the isolation being imposed by Louis and when they speak to local pastor he reinforces their fears. Cotton and the crew try to talk Louis into getting professional help for Nell but when she attacks Caleb it drives Louis to seek drastic action. Even worse for Cotton the idea for this action came from something he said during his con script to convince Louis that the exorcism was necessary.

This leads to final act where Cotton desperately tries another exorcism and the film takes its final twist into full on supernatural horror. I had missed all the clues about what the film was really up to so this seemed at odds with film I was enjoying – I’m just guessing here but basically I just didn’t get into the ending. In the second viewing I was watching out for the clues and they are pretty clear.

The film plays about with the idea that our outlook on the world depends on our beliefs about it, especially in the middle of the film where assumptions about Louis are based the belief that he’s wrong in how raises his daughter because he’s obviously an ignorant superstitious man. The film then smashes away the foundation of those assumptions in the final act and it manages to bring things to a horrific conclusion a bit better than most other found footage films. It isn’t the most original of stories and it has elements inspired some classics of the horror genre but the set-up was very well done and the main cast are all great.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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My favourite films of 2013

My Favourite films of 2013

Everybody seems to getting out their best and worst of 2013 lists so may as well get mine out too. Overall the standard of films this year has been mediocre but there were a couple that really stood out. I was a bit disappointed by the horror films this year with some run-of the-mill horror (Dark Skies, The Conjuring) getting cinema time while the more challenging stuff (Lords of Salem, American Mary) were forced to go straight to DVD but then when isn’t that the case, especially if ye don’t live in New York or Los Angeles. these are al film I am happy to add to the Bluray Shelf

  • 12. Curse of Chucky I doubt this film is going get on many best or worst lists but I think it is a solid film that has brought the series back to being a tense horror thriller instead of a self-aware comedy. A Good Guy doll gets delivered to a woman who lives with her paraplegic daughter Mika.and its not long before people start dying and Mika discovers that her family have links to the dead killer Charles Lee Wray. Though it is less comedic than than last two films it still has a dark sense of humour.
  • 11. Star Trek: Into Darkness This is J J Abrams’ second film in this reboot of the franchise and it’s another faced paced adventure film. I did think there was a bit of cheesiness in the way they tried to shoehorn things like the Uhuru-Spock romance in but the stuff with Kahn and Admiral Marcus was fantastic. It is great to see it continue the old Star Trek tradition of using science fiction to comment on contemporary issues by the medium of running (lots of running) jumping and punching.
  • 10. Grabbers This Irish alien invasion comedy is a little independent film that hits well above its budget with great characters and a really creative creature design. Having the aliens’ weakness be alcohol gives a perfect excuse for a booze filled climax. Like in a lot of Irish comedies a lot of the humour comes the dialogue between the characters
  • 9. The Lords of Salem  I knew Rob Zombie still had some decent ideas in him and this film suggests that he flourishes best when he is free to express his own ideas creatively. A rock DJ at radio station in Salem receives a record in a wooden box that is connected to satanic cult who were killed in 17th century. This record is part of the cult’s plan to bring the antichrist into the world and Heidi is key to their plan. This film has a great cast, especially Meg Foster as cult leader Margaret Morgan and Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson and Patricia Quinn as three modern day cultists.
  • 8. Pacific Rim Giant Robots fighting giant monsters is such a simple concept but this film makes it look believable and is just such a blast. I found bit easier to appreciate the action after a second viewing on Bluray especially as I know what to look out for. I also found my attitude to the annoying scientists has mellowed with repeat viewings
  • 7. Thor: The Dark World  I enjoy comic book films and so was happy that Marvel’s phase 2 gave us very separate films while still acknowledging the events occurring in the shared universe.Natalie Portman on Earth stumbles on a weapon the dark elves want to destroy the nine realms so Thor whisks her off to Asgard. Thor has to team up with his devious brother Loki to save Asgard and stop the elves. There’s a lot more Asgard in this film the comedy relief from Earth do get to play an important role in the big climax.
  • 6. Maniac  This remake with Frodo as the titular maniac puts us in the head of the killer as he stalks and kills his victims. It is violent and gory in the world of mannequin restorer whose relationship with his promiscuous mother has led to him to murdering scalping the women he desires. He tries to develop a normal relationship with Anna, a young photographer but there no real chance of a happy ending for Frank. The films has striking visual style reminiscent of Drive and that also carries to the an 80s influenced electronic soundtrack
  • 5. Elysium This is a film I just watched and just like Dredd is one that would have been great to catch at the cinema. This is Neill Blomkamp’s second feature film and just like District 9 it is a science fiction film with a strong element of social commentary. The rich have all left Earth to live in luxury in a space wheel called Elysium where they all have access to miraculous medical treatment while the proles live short brutal lives on an impoverished overpopulated Earth. Matt Damon is a prole who gets a lethal dose of radiation and since only the medical robot on Elysium
  • 4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug This another epic journey through Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. I saw this in 3D IMAX and to be honest felt a bit too close to the action but despite the sensory overload I still enjoyed the story a lot. It sticks to the book a bit closer and we get to see Smaug the dragon who is impressive. I thought the dwarves blended into each other in the first film but here there is much more individuality and it’s not all just Thorin and Balin. The barrel scene did happen in the book is but Jackson has turned it into an extended cartoonish action sequences with arrows and orc heads flying all over the place. It’s a lot of fun and sticks two cheeky finger up at the laws of physics The ending seemed abrupt to those not familiar with the book but I thought it a is natural break point and leaves me anticipating the film later this year.
  • 3. The Wolverine  It’s great to see the X-Men series back on track and this story of Wolverine in Japan gives a smaller scale story that focuses on Wolverine’s character a lot more than the previous attempt. I’m aware of the story of Wolverine visiting Japan in the comics but this film changes some things around. Wolverine is grieving over the events of Last Stand but is drawn back into the real world by Japanese man he saved from the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki who wants to see him before he dies. This results in Wolverine getting ensnared in family politics with ninjas, Yakuza and samurai… well one samurai.
  • 2. Iron Man 3 I know fans of the comics are not happy with certain character developments but just taking the films on their own this is the best of the series and a decent conclusion to the Iron Man story. It has some really intense action scenes including one stunning set piece where Tony has to rescue people dropped from a plane. Director Shane Black keeps the film focused on Tony and it has lot less of the robots hitting each other, instead the suits get used in a variety of different ways which leads to a very exciting action packed climax.
  • 1. The World’s End  My favourite film this year was the easiest to select. I loved the writing team of Pegg and Wright since their TV series Spaced. This film has the usual mixture of genres with a dramatic comedy melded with a science fiction alien invasion story. The characters are are all so familiar especially Gary King. I got tingles in my spine at some scenes and think time will see it judged as good as the two previous films by Wright, Peggy and Frost.

My least favourite films were not really as bad as in past years and are mostly just bland or cheap stuff made for TV that I bought cheap in supermarket bargain bins. I don’t choose to spend money on big-budget disasters and usually avoid the stinkers that are getting rotten reviews from most critics and audiences. Anyway these are all films that are destined to be returned to The DVD Pile.

  • 5. Dead Souls This wasn’t totally terrible but it just wasn’t very memorable and I really needed to look at my write up to remember it at all. It a haunted house film about a house with dark secret and it’s inherited by a relative who discovers the truth about his psst
  • 4. Smiley This just wasn’t very original and  it just seemed like a mish mash of ideas taken from better films.  a n urban legend seems to be killing off people in the hacker community when someone sends them a particular message on a chat roulette copycat site. the main character worries that she may have caused someone to be killed and the Smiley is real
  • 3. Seeds of Destruction This film has the stink of SyFy all over it with it terrible special effects and stupid story. A killer plant is accidentally released so its up to a scientist and a secret agent with sexual chemistry to save the world from destruction.
  • 2. You Can’t Kill Stephen King Comedy is very subjective and if you enjoy the antics of the writers and stars of this film you may love it but I found them annoying and the film was just not good. A bunch of friends go on holiday in Maine and make nuisances of themselves before being brutally killed in ways that sort of resemble the less memorable kills in the books of Stephen King
  • 1. The Wrong Road. This is a fairly mediocre film that lost marks for being incomplete. There’re teenagers playing around with ghost stories and a killer on the loose. It could go either way if it ever gets finished

Well that’s my lists for the old year done so I hope everyone has a great New Year.

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

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