Movie Review: Rec 4: Apocalypse (2014)

rec4The fourth entry in the REC franchise is now available on DVD-Video courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and is a step above the this installment because it confines it’s horror to a ship and ditched the found footage for a more traditional narrative style with a high production value and plenty of thrills too. After a brief prologue that takes the viewer back to the building and details the protagonist’s rescue follow by the destruction of the building, we now see Angela has been transferred to a ship where an infected monkey starts the whole chain reaction again. Jaume Balaguero returns to direct this installment, which is sold online at retailers like Amazon on demand only.

Otherwise the 16 by 9 widescreen aspect ratio looks spot on and a making of featurette is also included. The DVD can also be purchased at brick and mortar stores like Best Buy and online at Best Buy too.

Movie Review: L.A. Slasher (2015)

LA-Slasher
L. A. SLASHER is directed, written and produced by Martin Owen. Producers are Jeffrey Wright, Daniel Sollinger, and co-producer Sean Decker. Director of Photography is Chase Bowman. Starring Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”), Drake Bell (“Drake & Josh”), Brooke Hogan (“Hogan Knows Best”), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Abigail Wright (“Anger Management”), Tori Black (“Ray Donovan”), Frank Collison (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”), Marisa Lauren (Superhero Movie), Danny Trejo (Machete) and Andy Dick (“The Andy Dick Show”).
SYNOPSIS: A biting, social satire of reality TV and the glorification of those who are “famous for being famous,” L.A. SLASHER takes aim at the current state of the entertainment industry, where it is acceptable (and even admirable) to gain influence and wealth without merit or talent – but instead through shameful behavior, and the notoriety that comes from it. Driven to rage over the tawdry excess of reality television, a self-appointed cultural crusader kidnaps several famous nobodies to make his point – but his crimes only generate more tabloid frenzy.

MY THOUGHTS: Having had my damn fill of the Kardashians, Honey Boo-Boo and the Duck Dynasty crew, this was a refreshing and timely horror/comedy hybrid that I recommend. The direction and cinematography is fresh and the cast really skirts the line between reality and unreality. L.A. Slasher debuted in a limited theatrical release on June 26th. For more info: http://laslashermovie.com/

 

Check out the trailer:

Classic Horror Movie Review: The Others (2001)

The Others old ladyIn 2001, Alejandro Amenabar wrote, directed, and scored a dreamy, atmospheric film called “The Others.” The story followed Grace Stewart, a beleaguered mother of two children afflicted with extreme photosensitivity. With her husband away at war, Grace welcomed three mysterious servants. Thereafter, strange things make her believe the family is not alone in their secluded English country home.

Her head-strong daughter, Anne, drew pictures of four people she claims to have met within their home. Catholic Grace punished her daughter for lying, yet strange happenings distress everyone. Heavy curtains meant to block out the sun and thus protect the children from the blistering effects of the sun were opened, despite such precautions as locking doors to prevent access to rooms. A piano that is not to be played disturbed migraine-seized Grace.

The movie presented the difficult lesson that the living and the dead needed to find a way to exist together.

The Others familyThe superb acting earned Nicole Kidman, who portrayed Grace, and six-year-old Alakine Mann, the actress portraying Anna, acclaim. Fionnula Flanagan, the housekeeper, was nominated for a “best supporting actor” Saturn award. The film won 8 Goya Awards, including best film and best director. It was nominated for 6 Saturn Awards, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA. Nicole Kidman earned the title “Actress of the Year” from the London Film Critics.

This excellent ghost story was spoofed in “Scary Movie 3” and “The Simpson’s 25th” Halloween special. “Hum Kaun Hai” was a Hindi remake of the tale.

Top 13 Supernatural villains

On 13 September, 2005, Eric Kripke introduced the United States to Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester and the convoluted Supernatural world where demons and angels walk around wearing human “meat suits” and Baby is a beloved black, ’67 Impala. These monster-hunting brothers have been to Hell and back several times. They’ve met old-time gods and served as unwitting pawns in cosmic plans. Time travel, historic rewrites, and romps through a confused theology further the story lines. The reluctant heroes exchange witty dialogue while solving weekly stand-alone episodes that evolved into far-reaching plots involving Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and absentee fathers. The special effects and makeup are slick and interesting, and the cool soundtrack introduces younger viewers to cool tunes from the 1970’s. The dark show with its humorous interludes aired on the WB and moved to The CW’s lineup. Its huge fan base inspired merchandising, comics, novels, an anime series, and a spin-off series, “Ghostfacers.” Although the series concludes 20 May, fans are calling for a continuation of the series. All of the seasons are available for purchase, and there is talk of a sequel, “Supernatural Bloodlines.”

Although the Supernatural world is populated by ghosts and creatures from urban legends, the following list includes some of the memorable longer-lived villains from the show.

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13. Leviathan. This body-hopping blackness from season 7 showed promise, but the story line resolved too easily. Dick Roman (portrayed by James Patrick Stuart) served as leader of the gooey, human-hungry creatures.

metatron
12. Metatron. He’s a bit of a weasel for an angel turned against people and Heaven. Introduced in season 7, his subtle villainy became apparent in seasons 8 and 9 when he locked the angels from Heaven. His presence is felt throughout season 10. (Portrayed by Curtis Armstrong)

Alastair
11. Alastair. Hell’s grand torturer served as secondary antagonist during the show’s second season. (Mark Ralston and Christopher Heyerdahl portrayed Alastair.)

eve supernatural
10. Eve. This ancient “mother of all monsters” made her displeasure known in 2011. With a kiss, she created the Alphas, or first monsters, including Dragons, shapeshifters, wendigo, kitsunes, werewolves, and vampires. (played by Julia Maxwell)

Rowena
9. Rowena. This Mother of evil shows her clever heart is black in season 10. (played by Ruth Connell)

hellhounds
8. Hellhounds. Mostly invisible demonic dogs, or pit bulls from Hell, often work for Crossroad demons or collect the souls of humans whose contract expired. These nasties appear throughout the series, including a successful attack on Dean.

Naomi
7. Naomi. Sometimes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions carried out with questionable tactics in season 8. This powerful angel served as head of Heaven’s intelligence department since before Moses floated down the Nile. (Acted by Amanda Tapping.)

First Born
6. Cain. Father of murder and direct ancestor of the Winchesters, Cain trained and headed the Knights of Hell until he fell in love and retired from mayhem. He gave Dean his Mark, which with the First Blade, provides power – at a cost. (Timothy Michael Omundson portrayed Cain.)

Yellow eyed demon
5. Yellow Eyed Demon. Azazel brokered deals that set the Winchester men on a quest for revenge that lasted two and a half decades. Although they kill him at the conclusion of season two, visions of the demon haunt both Sam and Dean. (The main portrayal of the character was by Fredric Lehne.)

Abbadon

4. Abaddon. In season 8, this Knight of Hell made her presence known to the Men of Letters. Trained by and endowed with powers by Lucifer, she acted as the main antagonist in season 9. (Acted by Alaina Huffman)
Lilith
3. Lilith. This big-bad came in a little package in 2008 and 2009. She was creepiest as a kid. (Adult version portrayed by Katherine Boecher. The toe-headed kid portrayed by Sierra McCormick)

Lucifer

2. Lucifer. This fallen angel uses subtle manipulation to achieve his ends. He’s mentioned throughout the early story lines, but he makes actual appearances in seasons 4, 5, and 7. (Mainly portrayed by Mark Pellegrino.)

Crowley
1. Crowley. Charming little devil has designs to take over Hell – and more. His presence is felt from Season 5 on. (Mark A. Sheppard portrays)

Movie Review: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Poster-Art-bride-of-frankensteinWarning:  Here there be spoilers!

 

I recently wrote an article presenting man’s desire for love and companionship as to the possible reason behind The Bride of Frankenstein being favored over its predecessor.  However, in this review, let’s not dig so deep.  Another valid argument could be that the monster himself gets much more screen time—starting nearly right away.  We get to see him interact, kill, learn, smoke, drink and then be rejected by his arguably hot would-be female companion.

 

The movie begins with bride actress, Elsa Lanchester, playing the role of Mary Shelley, as she tells her friends that the Frankenstein story she had penned didn’t end where they thought it did.  This segues into the meat of the film.

In the audience’s eyes, the Frankenstein monster from the first film was nothing more than an unfortunate and misunderstood man-made creature.  Never meaning anyone real harm.  However, this movie temporarily drops the innocent act, as the monster starts right away with a murderous rampage and outright kills the first two people he sees, as he pulls himself from the wreckage that buried him at the end of the first film.  We momentarily drop that sympathy we once had for the monster only to later return to those old empathetic feelings, as he struggles to accept himself and find companionship in someone…anyone!

Meanwhile Dr. Frankenstein is coerced, though unwillingly, by his old mentor, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, into continuing the experiments, in particular providing a mate for the monster.

bride-of-frankensteinWhile Frankenstein’s monster was nothing but a shambling potpourri of dead body parts in the first film, here he begins to learn bits of the English language as well as lessons on the local culture when he stumbles across an old blind man.  Because the man is unable to view the monster’s hideous appearance, he invites the monster in and they make a party of it—complete with smoking and drinking.  Now normally I would have chalked up the hand-rolled smoke as tobacco, but it seemed it held a wacky component when after a few puffs the monster goes from excited to calm in a second’s time, entering a trance-like state as a result.  Later on, Dr. Pretorius would use alcohol as a lure, coaxing the monster out of the lab using a bottle of whiskey like a carrot on a stick.  The poor guy is “alive” for only a few days and they’re already corrupting him.

It isn’t until the end of the fairly short film that we get to see what the monster would hope would be his companion, a friend—the bride.  However, upon first sight of the monster, his female counterpart shrieks in terror like everyone else he has run across.  While now dealing with the rejection of the one thing he thought would accept his puzzle-piece of a body, he decides to end it all by throwing a switch within the lab that would blow it up.  Before he sheds a tear and pulls the said switch, the monster pleads with his creator and the creator’s new wife to “Go!  You live!” and declares “We belong dead,” referring to himself, the undead bride, and Dr. Pretorius.

Every fan of the genre should see the classics, but I’m with most when I deem The Bride of Frankenstein superior over the original Frankenstein.  I’m not sure I’ve ever run into anyone who has not chosen this film over the original.  Again, my guess is more screen time from the monster.  Any chance we get to see Jack Pierce’s amazing makeup job is a real treat.

Watch the trailer:

UP IN FLAMES: SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION

spontaneous human combustionI recall as a little girl watching a character in some television B-movie burst into flames, and being afraid for the longest time that it could happen to me . . .

A case of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) was reported in the August, 1745 issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 62-year-old Italian Countess Cornelia Di Bandi Cesenate was discovered by her horrified maid one morning in 1731. All that remained of the countess was a pile of ashes, two legs still wearing silk stockings, and half her head – only steps from the bed and other furniture, which were not burned. The attending physician declared that a mysterious fire seemed to have begun in the woman’s chest, and closed the file.

French scholar Jonas Dupont documented cases of SHC in De Incendiis Corporis Spontaneis, published in 1763. Among others, Dupont recounted the story of Jean Millet, a man from Reims accused in 1725 of burning his wife, Nicole, to death. All that remained of Nicole were part of her skull and a few vertebrae. A small area of the floor was burned; everything else in the room was intact. Jean Millet was acquitted by the judges, who concluded Nicole had perished from divine fire sent to punish her for her excessive drinking.

SHC eventually found its way into popular literature. Charles Dickens used it to kill off a certain Mr. Krook in his novel, Bleak House (1853)In Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi (1883), a character named Jimmy Flinn died “of a combination of delirium tremens and spontaneous combustion”. More recently, SHC has been explored on television shows such as The X-Files, Picket Fences, Dead Like Me, and William Shatner’s Weird or What?

Sporadic cases of SHC occurred without attracting much attention, until a 67-year-old widow named Mary Hardy Reeser was found burned to death in her St. Petersburg, Florida home on July 1, 1951. All that remained of Reeser was a section of her back bone, part of her left foot, and her skull, which had shrivelled to the size of a baseball. It was suspected she had fallen asleep with a cigarette, but one medical examiner admitted that the intense heat needed to cremate her body should have destroyed the apartment, which had suffered only minor damage.

spontaneous human combustion 2On Dec. 22, 2010, 76-year-old Michael Faherty’s badly burned body was found in his Galway, Ireland home. For lack of a better explanation, coroner Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin determined Faherty’s death was caused by SHC.

Rarely, a victim of SHC survives. On May 25, 1985, 19-year-old non-smoker Paul Hayes suddenly ignited as he walked down a street in London, England. He fell to the ground certain he was dying. Miraculously, the fire subsided and Hayes stumbled to the LondonHospital, where he was treated for unexplained burns to his hands, forearms, neck, and face.

So apparently spontaneous human combustion exists, but what causes it? There are several theories: alcoholism; the burning of body fat, known as the wick effect; a buildup of static electricity; short-circuiting of electrical fields within the human body; peaks in Earth’s geomagnetic field; an explosive combination of chemicals resulting from poor diet; and of course the old standard, divine intervention.

In other words, there is to date no satisfactory explanation for this rare – but terrifying –phenomenon. Just pray it doesn’t happen to you.

Movie Review: All I Need (2014)

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All I Need Director: Dylan K. Narang Writers: Dylan K. Narang, Dylan K. Narang Stars: Rachel Melvin, Caitlin Stasey, Jonathan Erickson Eisley. Foggy Bottom Pictures

Start with a closeup of a young woman in distress, tied up in a strange room wearing only her underwear, coming back to consciousness. Every corner of the room is a veritable slasher’s buffet, both beds, the closet, the shelves, everything, is covered in dead or unconscious women in their underwear. Heavy footsteps announce the arrival of the psycho-du-jour, who drags one of the other girls out of the room to her inevitable doom. The soon-to-be-final-girl must lie on the floor, hands and feet bound, mouth gagged, as she listens to the other girl being tortured and killed in the next room.Cut to the streets outside to follow the story of a vagrant drifter, new to Los Angeles, as his life finishes swirling down the drain. He receives an offer from a mysterious unseen man to begin doing odd jobs around town to make money. Bounce between both stories. A man growing desperate for cash, a woman desperate to save her own life. Tension is the strongest point of ALL I NEED. The story is wanting.

Cut to the streets outside to follow the story of a vagrant drifter, new to Los Angeles, as his life finishes swirling down the drain. He receives an offer from a mysterious unseen man to begin doing odd jobs around town to make money. Bounce between both stories. A man growing desperate for cash, a woman desperate to save her own life.

Tension is the strongest point of ALL I NEED. The story is wanting.
It’s not hard to see where everything is headed, so I hesitate to call this a spoiler alert, but y’know…there’s your warning. The moment the drifter takes his first job, I knew that ALL I NEED would be the story of how he became a psychotic killer. The movie doesn’t go out of the way to disguise this twist. The third act takes a strange turn when the killer actually gets his mask-and-pitchfork job offer from the deranged billionaire boss behind the mysterious unseen man. Said billionaire’s request is made during a rambling, semi-coherent speech, a pitch that isn’t nearly convincing enough to make a man kidnap, torture, and kill young women.

What director Dylan Narang does, he does well. This movie makes effective use of limited viewpoint, music, and sound to ramp up tension quickly from scene-to-scene. The performances from the major characters are all very solid. Unfortunately, they aren’t given much story to work with. The only reason I know the final girl’s name is Chloe is through the magic of IMDB. I know she can survive while wearing only underwear, and…that’s about it. She is otherwise a nameless victim, the trembling mouse in a nature film about a hungry python. We never learn who she is, who she was, how she came to be in the murder room. It’s hard to feel deep sympathy and fear for her beyond hoping she escapes from the killer. She feels less like a true scream queen and more like the main character in a threadbare survival horror game.

Instead, we learn more about Andrew, the drifter. Giving a slasher some backstory and motivation is a great idea. We might be able to humanize and empathize with him, or at least understand what’s feeding his fire, but the movie doesn’t dig too deeply into those details. The leap of faith we have to take to believe he becomes the monster in the locked room is too farfetched. His backstory isn’t established enough to show that he’s desperate enough to kill innocent people, nor focused enough to make us believe him capable of doing the heinous things he does.

Both killer and victim spend a bulk of the second act making supremely dunderheaded choices: Why didn’t he just keep pitchforking when he had her cornered? Why didn’t she kick the door when his fingers were poking through? I was too busy thinking Why? Why? Why? (and not in that fun, bas-movie way) instead of Look out behind you!

There are frustrating moments when Chloe needlessly delays her own escape due to deer-in-the-headlights syndrome, or walks by five things she could use as weapons to defend herself. If Chloe had a backstory, we might understand or forgive her some of these choices. At the end, the movie becomes less about a struggle for survival and more about a most inconvenient day for killer and victim.

Horror films should be getting smarter and more intricate. We don’t need to see jiggly damsels in distress anymore. We love seeing cunning, tough, determined women slay the dragons of their deepest fears. Chloe definitely has the toughness, but aside from seeing copious amounts of her blood onscreen, we never get to see what’s inside that makes her tick. It’s a shame. With a solid story, this could have been a modern horror classic. That said, everyone involved in this movie did the best with what they had, and they will most likely move on to some really great projects in the future. ALL I NEED left me needing more.

Movie Review: We Are Still Here (2015)

We-Are-Still-Here-posterBarbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig star as parents who move into an old New England house in a seemingly quaint little town following the untimely death of their college age son. Following some eerie happenings and accidents around the home, the parents call upon two New Age friends of theirs whose son attended the same college as their’s. Together they discover that not only is there a secret being kept in the town, but their home may be built upon a gateway to a malevolence far more terrifying than whatever else may exist there.
we are still here still 1We Are Still Here is an above average spooky story that delivers on creating a true sense of gloom and doom while delivering well cast performances from talent that also includes Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, and Monte Markham. There are some legitimate chills and great atmosphere created in part from the film’s score and songs chosen for the soundtrack. The makeup and gore effects appear spot on. The film at times may ask the viewer to suspend their disbelief a bit more than they may be inclined it only because the story uses classic elements that have become self referential by default because horror filmmakers in the past have been deconstructing themselves for the last twenty years. This is not a film that deconstructs the genre, but horror film fans may find certain elements to be predictable though for the most part the film is very fresh and entertaining and it moves at a good pace too. The story, while short, also has enough mystery to it that first time Director Ted Geoghegan knows what should .
be left over to one’s imagination while keeping  the viewer focused and entertained throughout.
We Are Still Here will premiere theatrically and on VOD on June 5, 2015 courtesy of Dark Sky Films.

Wrestling with Horror! Turning Face debuts June 12th!

turningface copyTurning Face, a new novella by Terry M. West, is the story of Tojo Smith, an undercover hate demon whose job involves creating hatred in the fans of a local wrestling promotion near Fort Worth, Texas. Portraying the masked heel known as the Crimson Demon, Tojo’s job is suddenly endangered when the fans begin to cheer his devilish antics. Soon after, Hell intercedes and Tojo finds himself on a mission to restore this imbalance before he faces the wrath of Satan himself!

“This is a story that has been knocking around in my head for a long time,” Terry revealed. “Wrestling was a fixture in my youth. I grew up in Texas and I watched a ton of World Class Championship Wrestling in the Fort Worth area. My heroes were the Von Erichs but I always had a soft spot for the heels (bad guys). The Freebirds, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ravishing Rick Rude… these guys entertained the hell out of me. They were the most interesting characters I had ever encountered. They did all of the hard work and had excellent mic skills. I think it is hard to make people despise you on that kind of level.”

And though Tojo Smith is a demon, West insists that he may be the most sympathetic character he has ever given life to. “Tojo is referred to as Eden-born. What this means is that he was born on earth. His parents are two pit demons, disguised as humans, who conceived Tojo topside. As a result, Tojo feels very alienated. He is just a lonely spectator, trying to figure humans out. But he also has no connection to Hell. He is an orphan, caught between two worlds and it is very difficult for him.”

Turning Face has its moments of humanity, but it is definitely a horror tale with a gory finale that defies description. “There is a lot going on with this novella,” West explains. “There’s humor, but not the slapstick kind. There is a lot of wrestling. The tale builds to a pretty gruesome third act. But I will say that Turning Face is the most original thing I have ever created. It is a love letter to old school wrestling and horror/comedies of the 80s.”

Turning Face: A Tale of Horror, Comedy and Wrestling! will be available Friday June 12th as a Kindle e-Book with a paperback edition to follow shortly after.

Turning Face is being offered for the launch price of $0.99 until July 4th!

US readers can order it here and the rest of the world can copy and paste this universal book link in their browser to reserve a copy: myBook.to/babyface