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Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero

The DVD Shelf

Cabin Fever 3 Patient Zero DVD 001Disease and flesh-eating parasites are genuinely terrifyingy things which is what this film preys on. Body horror operates at the visceral level taking advantage of our ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of the characters by giving us an echo of the pain in our own bodies. Zombie films seem to fill much of the horror genre’s discussion of these topics while the more serious films tend to be more action thrillers. Eli Roth changed that in the first film by blending the contagion storyline with a slasher movie set-up of a gang of annoying college students in the woods for a party. Then the sequel took it back to high school but was not as successful.

Patient Zero is the name used by epidemiologists for the first person in a population infected with a pathogen or so the movies have told us. Patient Zero for this flesh eating disease is Porter (Sean Astin) and he’s held captive in a “secure” medical facility on a remote island.  He is not a heap of diseased flesh begging to die which means he is immune and potentially can help researchers find a cure. The facility is being run by Dr Edwards (Currie Graham) with a fairly large staff and two assistants Bridgette (Lydia Hearst) and Camila (Solly Duran). Porter is sick of being abused and still traumatised by what he has been through and it is clear Edwards is never going to let him go.

There is a second plot that involves a small stag party taking a boat to remote island for dope, booze and stargazing or whatever. Only in horror films do characters go away from civilization for a stag party. Let’s get the soap opera details of this plot out of the way. Marcus (Mitch Ryan) is getting married to Katia (Claudette Lali), a wealthy young woman. His best friend and business partner Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) is there, as is his embarrassing younger brother Josh (Brando Eaton) who has brought his girlfriend Penny(). Marcus had short passionate relationship with Penny before she was with Josh and of course this is going to come up later.

The film cuts between the two plots before revealing how they are connected. The plot of the stag party follows the plot of the first film with one of the friends getting infected and slowly getting sicker. This is where the film does a good job of doing gross-out body horror with impressive make-up and special effects but the soapy drama around it seems just too trivial. The mad science plot seemed more promising until Edwards goes full Dr Mengele crazy. I had no idea that the fourth Cabin Fever film is due to be released later this year and I wonder how much this film is just setting up that film.

Patient Zero has some powerful scenes but a weak storyline with a bit too much wandering through dark tunnels. I only recently found it was a prequel but there is nothing that necessarily suggests this in the film. Sean Astin really does a good job playing Porter but he’s really on his own in a story that doesn’t give us anything new. It is an improvement on the other sequel but doesn’t really match the original film and It takes a bit longer for the flesh to really start falling off on this one. It does have some interesting twists and some really outrageous scenes so may of interest to fans of the first film.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Society

One From the Vaults

Society DVD 001When this film appeared in the 80s I had thought it was going to be a normal sort of horror film and for most of the film it certainly seems that way but then this film turns into an over the top comedy about the parasitic nature of the ruling class in society with one of the sickest most depraved endings in a film that isn’t an experimental art house feature.

The film opens to the tune of Eton boating song, a song that really stinks of upper class privilege here in UK and is sure to set the teeth of any socialist on edge. Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) is a typical high school jock in Beverley Hills with a stinking rich family who seem to only tolerate his existence. The jocks aren’t the bullies at his school: instead it’s the filthy rich kids who run the school but even though he’s rich Billy just isn’t “one of them.”

Bill becomes aware that something strange may be going on when his sister’s ex-boyfriend David Blanchard (Tim Bartell) plays him a tape-recording that he made of his family taking about her coming out party. This is the tradition in the European upper classes of parties to present the available breeding stock of the next generation to the rest of society. What is on the tape is extremely perverse with hints of free for all sexual shenanigans that certainly seem to include incest. Bill’s anger at Blanchard for making the tape rapidly gets turned into disgust and anger towards his family but leaves the tape with his.

While Bill would rather keep away from the rich brats his nagging girlfriend Shauna (Heidi Kozak) wants to get invited to their party so Bill has to do some kissing up to the obnoxious Tad Ferguson (Ben Meyerson). He is getting even more suspicious of them but still can’t help getting turned-on by Clarisa (Devin DeVasquez) who openly flirts with him in front of Shauna. At the party Bill has a run-in with Ferguson but leaves with Clarisa. After having sex with Clarisa he wakes and is shocked to see her legs twisted into an impossible posture but she just laughs at him. Earlier he thought had seen an equally impossible posture by his sister when she was showering

Blanchard turns up dead and this makes Bill even more paranoid but no-one takes him seriously since the only person who would is now dead but his best friend Milo (Evan Richards) agrees to go along with him for now. They go to see Blanchard’s body before the funeral and Bill accidentally pokes a hole the face, revealing it to be fake. This might be justified but is another sign of something strange going on.

Bill gets a call from Petrie (Brian Bremer), the rich brat competing against Bill for class president. He hints at being able confirm Bill’s suspicions and agrees to meet him. When Bill gets there he finds Petrie’s car off the road as if he has crashed and Petrie is dead with his throat slit.

When he tries reporting it to the police the body is gone by the time they get there, as is the car and the police have more interest in arresting Bill than investigating Petrie’s death. Next day Bill tries telling the whole school about his suspicions and Petrie’s death but his passionate rant sounds even crazier when Petrie himself appears, apologising for running late. Bill starts doubting his sanity but Milo had followed him to his meeting with Petrie and saw some very strange coming and going that confirm Bill’s story.

Bill goes home and the rich and powerful are all there. Bill start his ranting again but he gets seized by two paramedics and drugged by his psychiatrist. He gets taken to the local hospital and Milo follows. Milo tries asking for Bill at the reception desk only to be told that he’s dead. Bill wakes up in a hospital bed and leaves, meeting Milo outside who tries to convince Bill of how dangerous this all seems.

Bill knows he’s being set-up but returns home. This is when the deep weirdness starts and this is all a spoiler from here so if you haven’t seen it lets just call it body horror with some really sticky looking 80s special effects from Screaming Mad George .

All the rich are really hiding in dark waiting to catch Bill. The rich are all a disgusting separate parasitic species and they consume poor humans in a process they call the Shunt. They all get naked and rub each other in some jelly that makes their flesh plastic and malleable and they do this to their victim too which the merge with bodies melting together and they engage in all sorts of perverted sexual coupling too. It turns out Blanchard is not dead but is their first victim so Bill has to watch them consuming and absorbing him.

Clarisa manages to get Bill free and he escapes only to see his family having their own twisted perversions in their bedroom. This includes seeing his mother walking around with his dad’s arms for legs and his sister coming out of her vagina; meanwhile Dad has his face coming out of his arse and makes fart noises as Bill runs off.

Bill gets caught again and dragged down to the disgusting orgy. He challenges Ferguson to a fight over Clarissa which the parasites think sounds hilarious and to be fair Ferguson smacks the shit of Bill. Bill pulls out one desperate move, shoving his arm right up Ferguson’s arse and pulling him completely inside out. He then escapes with Clarissa and Milo while the parasites seemed unmoved by the death of one of their own.

There’s an obvious element of social satire in the set-up but to honest I don’t think a film that goes so over the top is making any deep social commentary. The rich are a filthy inbred amoral protean mass and they have to steal anything original and special from real humans and that is exactly how the film portrays them.

The acting is very variable in this story with poor Billy Warlock a bit overstretched but he is better in the scenes near the end. The special effects are just what you’d expect from an icky 80s horror film. The film does drag on a bit before it gets to big climax. There’s not much gore in this film but much more fleshy and slimy fluids. The delightfully depraved imagination that went into recreating The Shunt is really what make this film stand out as a must see but it’s definitely not for the squeamish.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Excision

DVD Review

Excision DVD 001This is a film that I heard about but I had no idea what the film was about since I tried hard to avoid spoilers. This film was in the horror section and while it has that transgressive element common to horror it is also a family drama but with quite a lot more blood and gore than is typical in that genre and that is right from the opening scene. The majority of the gore is in fantasy sequences in the head of the main character.

This film follows the story of Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), a high school senior who is far beyond merely socially awkward and is definitely has an undiagnosed mental condition. Suffering is not the correct term since it her family that do most of the suffering from her condition. She has the delusion that she is on track to becoming a surgeon and her dreams are filled with bloody necrophilic fantasies of her being worshipped as a beautiful glamorous surgeon.

Pauline’s family find it difficult to cope with her strange behaviour. Her mother Phyllis (Traci Lords) feels the burden of trying to create a normal family environment is totally on her shoulders since her husband Bob (Roger Bart) has delegated all his responsibility to her. Phyllis has little patience with Pauline’s behaviour and in a desperate attempt to civilise her she signs her up for some ritual called cotillion which Pauline desperately wants to avoid. Pauline’s younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter) has cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that damages the lungs and often leads to a shortened life expectancy. The fact that she is beautiful, sweet and loving makes the tragedy of her condition all the worse.

Pauline has absolutely no friends at school and her classmates treat her like a freak but she really seems to have little interest in them anyway. The teachers find her exasperating with her unpredictable disruptive behaviour. Her question in sex education class about the possibility of catching an STD from sex with a corpse is treated as a juvenile joke by the science teacher Mr Claybaugh (Matthew Gray Gubler) but after seeing her fantasies it’s clearly something she really wanted to know.

I don’t know if it was because of the sex education or not but Pauline decides to lose her virginity, something she confides in with Grace who really didn’t want to know and to a god she doesn’t believe in but she pre-emptively asks for forgiveness anyway. After overhearing two classmates Natalie (Molly McCook) and Abigail (Natalie Dreyfuss) joking about size of Natalie’s boyfriend’s penis Pauline approaches the boyfriend Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) and tells him she wants to lose her virginity to him. Adam is embarrassed because he is with his friends and feigns disinterest but he phones her later and Pauline arranges a time to meet. They go to a motel and Pauline takes charge. Pauline had madesure to time her sex to coincide with her period partly to make sure she doesn’t become pregnant but she then asks Adam to go down on her with very predictable results. When it’s over Pauline has no interest in Adam and he is physically repulsed by her.

The drama reaches a terrible but almost inevitable conclusion. Her disruptive behaviour and delusions are too much for the counselling efforts of the local minister Reverend William (John Waters) whose sessions have been reduced to him suffering a torrent of abuse from Pauline. When Pauline physically assaults Natalie as payback for a prank she gets expelled and Phyllis realises she needs professional help. At the same time Grace’s condition gets worse and her doctor puts her on the lung transplant list. There is no doubt Pauline loves Grace and her delusions lead her to implement a terrible plan. This is a disturbing film but it keeps most of the fantastic gore in the world of a highly stylized fantasy in Pauline’s head but Pauline tries bringing her fantasy into the real world and the results are not pretty.

I am not sure what I think of this film. The cast did a great job and I was certainly drawn into the story. There is a scene where Pauline overhears Phyllis breaking down and telling Bob that she can’t love her daughter and this just destroys Pauline. I was a bit distracted by some of the well-known faces such as Ray Wise as the headmaster and Malcolm MacDowell as the maths teacher, both playing exasperated authority figures. Some of the fantasy scenes seemed to deliberately trying for shock and while it will succeed with some people I found it a bit silly. Despite my misgivings I think it is worth a watch

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Videodrome

David Cronenberg is always the director to go to for a very unique video experience. He is famous for his fascination with body horror and the squishier side of metamorphosis. This film is no exception and his smart script explores relationship between people and the media they consume.

Max Renn (James Woods) is a partner in a small cable TV network Civic TV who is always looking for something to draw in ratings and he really thinks he has no limits about he’ll show. Harlan, a video technician at the network, shows Max a poor quality distorted signal he recorded that shows a naked woman being tied up and whipped in a red room. Harlan tells Max it’s called Videodrome. Max wants to see more and he gets Harlan to work on it. Later on we find out that nothing Max experiences from this point is entirely reliable.

Max is the guest of TV show talking about the sort of effect Max’s TV station has on its viewers. The other guests are Nick Brand (Deborah Harry) a therapist with her own radio show and Brian O’Blivion who is on a TV screen. After a bit of discussion in which Max drags up the ancient catharsis excuse he turns the discussion to Nicky’s dress and Max chats her up and she responds while the host talks to O’Blivion.

At the Civic TV studio Harlan tells Max he managed to trace the source of the signal. They thought it was coming from some dodgy country with no human rights and it turns out its coming from Pittsburgh (which really doesn’t mean they were wrong in their first thoughts ;-P)

Max meets up with Nicky and they go back to his apartment. Nicky asks about the Videodrome tapes and Max tries to put her off but the more he tells her how bad they are the more Nicky wants to watch them. Max is interested in Videodrome because it shocks him and he wants to shock people but this shows he does have barriers and knows Videodrome crosses them. Nick however is excited by Videodrome and she begs for Max to cut her as they watch the scenes of torture. She expresses a wish to be on the show which really scares Max.

Next day Max meets Masha, an agent who is pushing her client’s soft porn shows. Max isn’t really interested her shows but he asks her to use her industry contacts to see if she can find out more about who makes Videodrome. When Max is with Nicky later that night she tells him she’s going to Pittsburgh on an assignment and she’s going to audition for Videodrome “I was made for that show,” Nicky says. “Nobody on Earth was made for that show,” Max replies and pleads with her to stay away from Videodrome.

At lunch Masha tries hard to persuade Max to forget about Videdrome. She says it’s dangerous and what is shown is real not fake and that it is snuff TV. The only contact name she gives him is Brian O’Blivion. Max goes to O’Blivions Cathode Ray Mission where homeless people come to get fed and to watch television. The idea is that homeless people can get patched in to TV-saturated society. He tries to see meet O’Blivion but only gets to see his daughter Bianca (Sonja Smits)  who promises Max a video from her father.

Max is woken next day by his secretary calling round with his appointments and the video cassette from O’Blivion. Max slaps her and she turns into Nicky and he slaps her again, then realises he is hallucinating. His secretary leaves untouched but very confused.

The video has O’Blivion talking about television as more real than reality. He talks about how Max’s reality is already half video hallucination and we see O’Blivion being strangled to death by a hooded figure standing over him. The figure removes the hood and it is Nicky. The scene goes straight to deep strangeness now. The camera zooms right in on Nicky’s mouth as she says “Come to me,” until the mouth fills Max’s TV set that starts to writhe and throbs and breathes. Max embraces the bulging screen, rubbing and stroking it.

Max returns to see Bianca about the video. She apologises for thinking he meant to harm her. She tells Max that the Videodrome signal is dangerous, that it causes the growth of tumours that cause hallucinations and eventually death. Then she reveals that O’Blivion has been dead for months from a tumour and all that she has left is hundreds of his monologues on video cassettes. She gives him some tapes of  O’Blivion on the subject of Videodrome.

The next scene of Max watching Brian O’Blivion while playing with a gun is pretty weird. Max’s belly just opens up a big vertical slit, no blood just moist dark pink flesh and looks like… well anyway Max pushes the gun inside and he slit heals up around his arm. He pulls his arm free but the gun has gone. How much is hallucination here and what really happened? I don’t know because the gun is gone.

Max gets a call from Barry Convex, the evil optician behind the Videodrome conspiracy who offers to help him and sends a limo to take Max back to his evil lair inside a high street opticians. Convex gets Max to put a fancy glowing helmet on to record his hallucinations then leaves him to it. As you can guess Mr Convex is not really helping Max and the film climaxes in scenes of death and madness with viewer left as confused as Max about what is real.

This film is the one that really got David Cronenberg noticed. His previous films such as Scanners and Shivers had certainly been noticed but with Videodrome we got a really smart script that I have been told is inspired by Marshall McLuhan‘s writings on television. The special effects had developed enough to do a reasonably good of creeping me out, especially those stomach scenes. Another major plus film is that it stars James Woods as the sleazy amoral Max Renn which is just the perfect role for him.

Rating 8/10

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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