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Review: You’re Next

Cinema Review

Youre Next 001I had heard positive reviews for this film but managed to avoid reading any details so I had only a vague notion of what it was about. The film seems to have being doing the rounds of the film festivals for ages before it finally got into cinemas and I don’t know how long a violent horror film will last since it’s a lot less mainstream than The Conjuring. I knew that it featured home invasion which is not my favourite thriller genre but this film delivered a bit more than a middle class morality tale and I actually enjoyed it, helped in part by the streak of dark humour in the story.

We get a kind of prologue where a man and his much younger lover are brutally murdered and the words ”You’re Next” are written in blood on a window. This sets up the threat from psychopathic killers wearing animal masks and reminded me of The Strangers.

Crispian Davison (AJ Bowen) is driving to his parents’ large summer vacation house with his Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) for a family reunion to celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary. Crispian is a college professor and Erin was one of his students. His parents Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are very wealthy and have already arrived at the house. They passed their neighbour’s house and it’s the one where the murders happened but everything looks fine from the outside so they carried on. Paul is puzzled to discover the front door is open. Aubrey is unsettled but Paul has a look inside and nothing seems to be disturbed.

Aubrey starts taking the dust sheets off the furniture while Paul is unloading the car. She hears the sound of someone moving around upstairs and freaks out, telling Paul they have to leave immediately this would have been a good idea but we’re in a horror film so Paul gets Aubrey to wait outside while he checks upstairs. He was sceptical but when he gets upstairs also hears the sounds of someone but doesn’t find anyone and his search is interrupted by the arrival of Crispian and Erin. The rest of the family are arriving the following day.

When Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Aimee (Amy Seimetz) arrive it’s obvious there is long running bitterness between Crispian and his older brother which stretches the patience of their father. Drake is arrogant and dismissive towards Crispian while Crispian is defensive and aggressive towards Drake. They slip so easily into their antagonistic roles like they are teenage boys again and its quit amusing these overgrown children bickering. The others arrive in a group: Kelly (Margaret Laney) is with her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) and the youngest brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) has brought his unpleasant punky girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn). You can tell this is going to an interesting weekend.

That evening they all sit around the table and we get some very typical awkward interactions. Drake asks Tariq what he does and Tariq says he’s documentary director and when everyone is suddenly interested in Tariq Drake drags himself into centre stage with boorish ignorant career advice for Tariq as if has a clue what he’s talking about. After that he starts with sotto voce comments about the relationship between Crispian and Erin just to piss Crispian off and it works.

The dysfunctional dinner party is interrupted by a crossbow bolt smashing through the window right into someone’s head. Everyone panics and Drake gets a crossbow bolt in his shoulder. I’m not going to give any more details than that but safe to say that we are in a “house under siege” situation and this where Erin steps up from the background as someone who knows how to turn the terrible odds in her favour in some very brutal and creative ways. While the Davison family are coming up with all sorts of ideas guaranteed to get someone killed Erin is tries to stop them doing stupid things such as running out the front door to get to their cars. This is preceded by a very childish argument between Drake and Crispian about who is the fastest runner and of course the stupid plan does result in another death.

This film is more than a home invasion film and the story takes a sharp turn about halfway through but the character of Erin is consistently badass and she really steals centre stage in this film thanks to some cool direction and a great performance from Sharni Vinson. I think the other actors get some unfair stick for their performances but I didn’t see much wrong and the bickering between and Drake and Crispian was very well done. I enjoyed this film which took the home invasion story and give it a twist. It has an interesting soundtrack which deliberately references the music from 80s horror films and reminded me of the music in the films of Lucio Fulci at times.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Stitches

DVD Review

Stitches DVD 001I had heard that stand-up comedian Ross Noble was appearing in a horror film as a killer clown and I knew it was a film I would have to see. This low budget Irish film really won’t get any points for originality but I think it made up for that with a twisted sense of humour and some imaginative kills. If you are in the mood for another story of a vengeful dead person coming back to kill a bunch of high school kids at least the actors in this film look a lot more like real high school students. I know it’s a low budget and the acting isn’t brilliant but I liked it and think Ross Noble was pretty creepy as the dead killer clown.

Stitches (Ross Noble) is having sex his girlfriend when he remembers he’s been booked to entertain the kids at a birthday party. His pathetic efforts at the usual party tricks like juggling, magic and making balloon animals are greeted with ridicule by the kids. One kid Vinny sneaks behind him and ties his shoelaces together then when Tommy, the birthday boy, tosses a ball at Stitches he is startled and falls backward over his big clown shoes. He lands face down on the open dishwasher where we saw Tommy’s mother put a large kitchen knife earlier. The kids go to see what happened and slowly Stitches pulls himself up to reveal the knife has gone into his left eye and out the back of his head. This is when most of the kids run off screaming leaving Tommy alone with Stitches who pulls out the knife and releases a fountain of blood that completely covers Tommy. He goes to attack Tommy with the knife but slips in the blood and falls backwards throwing the knife up in the air which comes down right back into his eye, killing him in a way that has as much slapstick as it has horror.

The night after the funeral for Stitches Tommy is up in his tree house looking at the clown’s grave and he sees a very creepy procession of clowns. He heads down and follows into a strange clown temple with a statue of a clown and shelves full of the eggs of dead clowns and sees a strange ritual performed for Stitches’ egg which is painted with likeness of his make-up and is apparently is something all clowns must do. Tommy gets spotted by the clown leading the ritual who gives him some nightmare fuel by telling him that the spirit of a clown killed before his performance is finished can never rest and jokes are never funny the second time around.

Tommy goes to bed and wakes up six years later as Tommy Knight who I last saw in the Dr Who spin-off series The Sara Jane Chronicles with the late Elizabeth Sladen. He gets dressed for school and goes down to breakfast. Tom complains about his mother not being around for his birthday which also means the anniversary of the death of Stitches which Tom still has nightmares about. His mother suggests he invites a friend round.

At school he asks Vinny (Shane Murray Corcoran) if he can come over on his birthday to keep him company and Vinny realises this a perfect situation for a party since Tom’s mother will be away. His other mates Richie (Eoghan McQuinn) and Bulger (Thommas Kane Byrnes) just hear the word party and before the end of the day Tom is talked into it. One reason he agrees is he has a crush on another classmate Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux). Tom makes invitations and gives them out next day and Vinny sticks up a notice about the party on as an event on Facebook. This mean everyone in the school hears about it including the unpleasant bully Sarah (Roisin Barron) and her idiot boyfriend Paul (Hugh Mulhern). Of course lots of other people are coming too but important for this film all the kids at the party when Stitches died are going to be there.

Tom is clearly getting worried about Stitches and he has a disturbing daydream in class where the teacher is wearing clown make-up and he rips off Vinny’s genitals and holds them up to the class before kissing them! Naturally Tom doesn’t tell anyone about this but he’s on some pills that I think are supposed to treat his nightmares.

The party is very successful and is in full swing when there’s an unwelcome guest in a clown suit. Fortunately it is just Paul who came dressed as a clown with Sarah to freak out Tom. This works better than he hoped because Tom accidentally ate a lot of dope in a cookie Richie made. Of course the real Stitches is on his way intent on avenging his death.

I quite liked this film and I think it’s because I liked its sense of humour. Ross Noble is pretty good as the cynical kid-hating Stitches and he manages to be funny and creepy. The story is very clichéd and the inexperience of the young cast is obvious but it was never too intolerable. The kills really seem to have gotten a lot of the budget and as a result are pretty good, making use of the clown theme in different gruesome ways. If you want a fun silly slasher film then I think you might enjoy this film.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Mars Attacks

Bluray Review

Before the titles a farmer in his tractor is asking a neighbour about his barbecue but he’s not having a barbecue. Soon they find out where the smell of meat is coming from as a herd of cattle stampede down the road on fire. It certainly sets the tone for the rest of this Tim Burton film and it’s followed by a title sequence that has one of my favourite film themes by Danny Elfman. It’s one of those tunes that really gets me pumped up for a big show. The film itself is certainly a big budget star-studded spectacle and is a fun homage to 50s science fiction films.

President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is informed that there are disc shaped craft surrounding the Earth and is shown photographs of the craft from satellites. His press secretary Jerry Ross (Martin Short) is very excited about announcing this to the public but the hawkish General Decker (Rod Steiger) sees this as major security threat. This very sensible view is side-lined by a scientist Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) who is dogmatically tied to the idea that advanced technology and high intelligence suggests a peaceful race just as advanced morally as they are technologically despite the very obvious evidence to the contrary from the only example of an advanced technological species we know about.

They announce the aliens to the public and we see the different main characters. In a donut shop in Nevada we have a quiet geeky emo type with long hair (Lukas Haas). His family live in a trailer park except for his senile grandmother Florence (Sylvia Sidney) who has dementia and gets people’s names wrong and she lives in a care home. His father (Joe Don Baker) is a slob with small-minded views and his mother (O-Lan Jones) and brother Billy Glen (Jack Black) are much the same. Billy Glen has volunteered at the local army base for Martian duty. There’s an ex-boxer Byron Williams (Jim Brown) working in a casino in Las Vegas dressed up like a pharaoh and his wife (Pam Grier) and two sons live in Washington DC. He’s only in Vegas for the work to support his family. Also in Vegasis Art Land (Jack Nicholson) a casino owner and his hippy new age wife Barbara (Annette Bening). Art is obsessed with getting his latest casino running but Barbara is excited by the Martians thinking they have come to save us from ourselves

Kessler goes on cheesy chat show to talk about the aliens with Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker). Nathalie’s boyfriend is a new reporter Jason Stone (Michael J. Fox) and he’s pissed that Nathalie is getting this exclusive interview. It becomes clear why when Kessler starts flirting with Nathalie. Suddenly all the TV signals get cut off and then they receive a transmission from the Martians. The alien design is amazing and though we did not get the cards they were based on over here in UK they do look pretty close from what I’ve seen. The Martians are short and skinny with a head that looks like a skull with big brain bulging out the back. They have big bulging eyes in their lidless eye sockets. The Martian leader quacks his announcement and concludes his speech by tracing a circle in the air.

President Dale is talking to a bunch of senior military staff and scientists about the Martians now that they have seen them. The First Lady Martha Dale (Glenn Close) is revolted by them at first sight but Kessler goes on about how we are probably just as hideous to them. There’s a scientist with a translation machine but what it translates the strange quacks into is nonsense that barely makes any more sense but it sounds just as ominous as it does hopeful.

The Martians transmit landing co-ordinates for the first official meeting in the Nevada desert near a town called Parumph and Decker wants to gets the troops there in force. Kessler advises that they don’t want to seem aggressive so the President puts the wimpy General Casey (Paul Winfield) in charge and tells him to invite a select audience. On the day they have few hundred invited guests and a bunch of hippies hanging around at the back of those seated. Barbara has found herself a perfect place to watch the whole thing from a hill over-looking the landing site. The media are of course there and both Nathalie and Jason are on top of their outside broadcast vans transmitting live.

All eyes are on it as a saucer comes out of the sky and lands right where they said they would. A ramp unrolls from the ship and the Martian ambassador marches out with an escort of armed men. General Casey greets him, putting out his hand to shake and the translation machine turns his greeting into Martian quacks. The ambassador replies and after a minute the translation announces the reply “We come in peace.” The crowd applaud and one of the hippies releases a white dove which flies over the heads of the crowd and over the ambassador. The ambassador whips out a gun and blasts the bird out of the sky then he blasts General Casey, burning off his flesh and just leaving a pile of red bones then other Martians open fire on the crowd. Billy Glen picks up a gun and helmet from a skeleton in a truck and goes to attack the Martians but the gun doesn’t work so he picks up a flagpole and goes to attack them with it but he gets blasted in full view of the TV cameras and his family watch him die. Nathalie gets thrown from her van and Jason jumps down from his van to go to her, crawling on the ground to avoid the blasts from the Martian weapons and the shots fired back by the army. He manages to get to her and grasp her hand but there’s a blast of a Martian weapon and Nathalie discovers she’s just holding a severed a hand and all that’s left of the rest of Jason is his skeleton. The Martians carry Nathalie’s unconscious body on to their ship and take off

President Dale is watching from the Whitehouse with his wife, his daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman), Kessler, Ross and Decker. Decker says that it was exactly what he feared but Kessler is trying to find excuses for the Martian’s behaviour, something that they did that offended them. Taffy comments that maybe bird means war to them. Martha thinks they should be destroyed and Decker is happy that at least one person sees it his way but once more he gets ignored in favour of Kessler’s idea trying to contact the Martians again. President Dale sends a message apologising for any misunderstanding and begging for another chance to meet. When the Martian leader and the ambassador read the message it gives them a good laugh.

Next day they get a message from the Martians apologising for what happened and asking to meet Congress and with idiotic naiveté they agree and get it all set up. There are crowds waiting outside the Capitol building and this time Decker is in charge of the security. President Dale and his family have to watch on TV because the Secret Service insists that it’s not a good idea for the President and congress to be in the same room for security reasons. Kessler is in Congress watching the Leader of the House introduce the Martian ambassador and his two man escort. He takes the speaker’s podium and everyone is nervous when they see him reach into his cloak but he just pulls out his speech on a metal strip. He doesn’t bother with reading it through and instead reaches into his cloak and pulls out his gun and blasts half of Congress and his escort blasts the other half. Kessler pleads with the ambassador for the sense in the violence and destruction and he gets hit over the head by a gun and knocked out. Outside Decker orders his troops to open fire on the spaceship but it really has little effect on the Martians who carry Kessler’s body onto their ship and take off.

Now they know that the Martians are hostile little arseholes and there’s no Kessler to defend their actions this time. Decker thinks he’s going to get the go-ahead to launch a nuclear strike on the Martians. Instead Dale is only interested in reassuring the public that everything will be run as normal and once more Decker is frustrated.

A strange tall woman with a striking hairdo (Lisa Marie) gets picked up by Jerry Ross outside the Whitehouse and he brings her inside to give her a tour of the place. She never says a word, just constantly chews gum but Jerry is capable of talking for both of them. Her walk is strangely pneumatic. Jerry takes her to the secret Kennedy suite. He pours drinks and kisses her. He tries to get her to take her gum out of mouth but accidentally tears her lip open revealing that she’s wearing a mask and underneath it is a Martian. The Martian kills Jerry by clobbering him over the head with a statuette. It makes its way to the President’s bedroom and pulls of its mask. In its purse is a Martian gun and its about to kill Dale when their dog barks at it waking them up. The Martian shoots the dog and then at shoots at the bed but Martha and Dale duck out of the way. The Martian gets shot dead by a Secret Service agent.

The failure of Martian agent to kill Dale infuriates their leader and he orders a full-scale invasion. This invasion by these little buttheads has a lot of similarity to the dark humour of Gremlins. They deface Mount Rushmore, bowl over the heads on Easter Island, and while they pose in front of the Taj Mahal for a photograph a saucer blasts it.

In Las Vegas Barbara is packing and wants to leave but of course Art wants to stay and talk to group of investors. While he talks to them the investors can see Las Vegas being destroyed through the window behind him. He doesn’t know what trouble he’s in until a saucer appears outside the window and destroys the whole building. Tom Jones is on stage singing with his band and backing singers when suddenly the lights go out. When they come back on the three singers have been replaced by three Martians dancing to the music. Tom takes one look and runs off the stage warning the showgirls backstage to get running too. He gets chased by one of the Martians but escapes into the gaming hall where he runs into Byron who has just met Barbara. Barbara wants to get out of town and she has a plane but no pilot since Art got killed. Fortunately Tom can fly a plane. A gambler (Danny DeVito) recognises Tom and asks him for an autograph but the Martians blast their way in and start killing people. With another casino employee called Cindy the five of them make their way out of the casino. Byron sees a Martian about kill an old woman sitting at a slot machine and Byron punches it, breaking its helmet and killing it. They grab its guns and make their way out.

At the Whitehouse everything seems normal and there a guided tour of schoolchildren including Byron and Louise’s sons Neville and Cedric. Their tour guide gets blasted dead right in front of them and soon the Martians are swarming all over the place and blasting people and the Secret Service are fighting back. Neville and Cedric hide behind a dead Martian until the fighting moves away then they pick up the Martian’s weapons. In the hall the Secret Servicemen are getting Martha, Dale and Taffy somewhere secure but they get attacked by Martians and Taffy gets split away from them and Martha gets killed by a falling chandelier. Neville and Cedric take on the Martians and that lets them get Dale to the relative security of the war room.

In the war room Dale is depressed. He gets call from the French president who is having meeting with the Martian ambassador. Dale tries to warn him but he hears the familiar sound of the Martians killing everyone. This really depresses Dale and Decker uses this time to give him the order to sign to use the nuclear weapons. They fire a missile at the leader’s ship but before it gets there the Martians launch a dinky little device that intercepts the missile and absorbs the full blast. It flies back into the ship and the leader puts it to his mouth and inhales the blast which gives him a squeaky voice and the Martians all fall about laughing.

The Martians break though into the war room led by the ambassador. Decker fires his gun at them ranting about how the US military will take them down. The ambassador fires a different type of weapon at him and Decker shrinks to the size of a cockroach, still ranting away in a little squeaky voice and the ambassador steps on him squishing him dead. The Martians kill everyone, just leaving President Dale who steps out and gives a big speech about how powerful they could be if Earth and Mars joined forces. This seems to get to the ambassador who has a tear in his eye and he holds out his hand to Dale who accepts it. Then the hand breaks off and crawls over Dale and down his back where a large metal spike comes out of it and stabs him through the chest. He falls down dead and the Martian flag comes out of the spike and the ambassador and his men salute it

In Kansas the Martians destroy the donut shop and Richie races back home to tell his parents that the Martians are attacking but they already know and are getting armed. Richie asks about his grandmother but they don’t care so he leaves to go get her. Just as he drives off this huge Martian mecha appears operated by a Martian pilot in its head. It picks up the trailer with Richie’s parents and smashes it into another trailer. It drops the trailers and starts sprinting after Richie’s van. Richie manages to keep ahead of it and leads it  into a load of overhead electric cables that trips up the machine and kills its pilot. Richie gets to the care home and it’s under attack by Martians. Three Martians are wheeling up a huge Martian gun right behind Grandma Flo who is listening to music on her headphones and is oblivious. Richie gets there and calls out to her and she turns her head pulling out the headphones. The sound of Slim Whitman singing the Indian Love Call fills the room. The Martians’ heads start quivering like a jelly and exploding to the sound Whitman’s country style yodelling. They wire up a sound system in Richie’s van and as they drive around the sound kills the Martians. They get to the radio station and start blasting out Indian Love Call over the airwaves

Back in Vegas they lose the gambler on the way to the airport and he gets killed by a Martian who is in turn killed by Barbara. At the airport Tom and Barbara get the plane started while Byron and Cindy go open the hangar door. They find out that there’s a squad of Martians just outside. Byron tells Cindy to get in the plane while he distracts the Martians. He marches right up to Martians and challenges them to a fist fight and he beats several of them but they rush him en masse and as the plane takes off they see him being over-powered.

Soon the sound of Indian Love Call is being used to slaughter the Martians and their whole attack fleet is totally destroyed. Taffy presents Grandma Flo and Richie with the Congressional Medal of Honour for saving the Earh. Tom, Cindy and Barbara get to the caves full of happy tame animals and Tom sings It’s Not Unusual. Just for and extra happy ending treat we see Byron is alive and he gets to Washington DC to be greeted by Neville, Cedric and Louise.

This film is a real fun romp and it manages to get a few nice digs at the science fiction genre. In some ways it seems like perfect family fare but it can be very dark at times which might be too much for younger children. The film design and musical arrangements are just fantastic and I loved all the Martian designs.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Kentucky Fried Zombies

The alternative title is Die-ner (Get It?) which is really not much of an improvement but it does seem to indicate the level of humour in this zombie comedy horror film. I can’t fault the acting and for the budget the special effects were pretty good but the story just never seemed to gel for me and I think that is because the story never really seemed to have much point to it.

At a quiet diner off the main road the waitress Rose (Maria Olsen) is telling her life story to a customer Ken (Joshua Grote) who listens sympathetically before he kills her and the cook. Ken is a serial killer and psychopath. He puts both the bodies into the freezer and cleans up the blood. Just then a car draws up with a bickering married couple Rob (Parker Quinn) and Kathy (Liesel Kopp). Ken puts on an apron and pretends to work in the place. He takes their orders and tries to get chatting to them but they want to carry on arguing. Ken is just about to kill them when the local sheriff arrives.

Sheriff Dukes (Larry Purtell) comes in and asks where Rose is so Ken makes up a story about her having a family emergency. Ken has an excuse about where the cook has gone but he’s a bit surprised when Dukes greets the cook who is wandering around mindlessly in the kitchen. Rob and Kathy complain about their food taking so long which gives Ken the perfect excuse to go check up on the cook. He’s a zombie and keeps trying to bite Ken. Dukes keeps calling to the cook thinking the man isn’t talking back because he’s got the hump over being given speeding ticket. Dukes comes into the kitchen and is shocked by the sight of the zombie cook he gets his throat bitten open.

Rob and Kathy help Ken restrain the zombie cook and he uses duct tape from his murder kit bag to secure the zombie to the floor. Everyone figures that there’s something not right about Ken before he tells them and by that time he’s got Dukes’ gun. He lets Kathy put duct tape on Dukes’ wound and forces Rob and Kathy to help him investigate the zombie. These are not the Romero-type but turn out to more like Trioxin zombies. Headshots don’t kill them and when they are cut-up the parts remain animated. There’s really not much not more to the story other than Ron and Kathy do try to get away but they are too stupid to just kill Ken and he gets the upper hand each time they try.

I can’t figure out why but this film just didn’t entertain me. The zombie kills were pretty good and there was one that seemed to be a pastiche of Rhode’s death in Romero’s Day of the Dead. I just think that not enough happened and although the film avoided the zombie film cliché of the characters trapped by zombie hordes this was at the expense of the film actually doing anything else. For a comedy it had very few jokes that made me laugh and the set-up just wasn’t very funny.

Rating 5/10

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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