10.17.2017

Happy Death Day (2017)

DIRECTED BY
Christopher B. Landon

STARRING
Jessica Rothe - Tree Gelbman
Israel Broussard - Carter Davis
Ruby Modine - Lori Spengler
Rachel Matthews - Danielle Bouseman
Charles Aitken - Gregory
Rob Mello - Joseph Tombs

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Slasher

Running Time - 96 Minutes


PLOT
Unlikable Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) treats the people around her like dirt, even though her friends and sorority sisters are treating her with a surprise birthday party. However on the night of her party, Tree’s murdered by a killer wearing the mask of the school mascot. Normally that would be the end, but Tree continues to wake up over and over - dying in different ways by the same killer. Frustrated by these chain of events, Tree figures out that she needs to find out who her killer is and stop them before the deja vu ends up weakening her and ending her life for good.

REVIEW
HAPPY DEATH DAY is a film that snuck up on me a couple of months ago. It’s inspired GROUNDHOG DAY storytelling peaked my interest, as I really enjoy that comedy. Add a slasher twist to it? You know I’m there, regardless of it’s PG-13 rating. And with Blumhouse’s recent track record with horror films [GET OUT, THE PURGE, THE VISIT], I knew HAPPY DEATH DAY would be at least somewhat decent. I just didn’t expect how fun it would end up being, even if it won’t reinvent the wheel.

Like I mentioned already, HAPPY DEATH DAY is pretty much the horror remake of GROUNDHOG DAY. And if you’ve watched GROUNDHOG DAY, you pretty much seen HAPPY DEATH DAY. The lead character, again, is very unlikable at the start of the film. Tree is a sorority member who is pretty much a bitch to those around her. She looks down on people. She criticizes others. She sleeps around because she’s beautiful. She’s distant with her father. She’s extremely self-centered, leading to someone wanting to murder her. And like GROUNDHOG DAY, Tree begins to change into a better person as she experiences the same day multiple times, realizing that she must change in order for her to see the next day. She also must figure out her killer before the deja vu ends up killing her for good. It’s a simple premise that we have seen before, but done in a horror twist that surprisingly works in its benefit. Watching Tree approach the same day in various ways is entertaining, as it reveals a lot about herself as well as the people around her. The secrets she finds out are sometimes hilarious, making the deja vu aspect worthwhile for comedic purposes.

I also think the GROUNDHOG DAY aspect of HAPPY DEATH DAY is a joke on the slasher sub-genre itself. Usually when you watch a slasher film, you pretty much seen them all but in a different variety. Slashers have always been accused of being repetitive, or being the same film but with a different killer. The fact that Tree lives out multiple slasher scenarios with a killer who uses different methods of murdering her each time seems to be a commentary on how many critics view slashers, and probably horror in general. I like how subtly it makes fun of the world it’s in, making HAPPY DEATH DAY a fun watch.

I also think the mystery of the killer works well for the most part. I figured it out pretty much halfway through the film, but other people in the theater I was in were shocked by the person’s identity. I give the film credit for having many red herrings, some of them actually quite convincing enough. I think the mystery is actually pretty satisfying and its conclusion is pretty great. It helps the ride getting there is well written and charming, making us care about what we’re watching.

I will say that HAPPY DEATH DAY is not a scary film, nor does it have any sort of gore that slasher films are known for. It relies on jump scares at times and it may rely on the gimmick a bit too much at times. It’s also nothing that hasn’t been seen or done before, which may turn off fans who are looking for something new with their horror. But if you can get past the PG-13 rating and lack of scares and blood, you’ll have a good time.

The direction by Christopher B. Landon is confident. Even though HAPPY DEATH DAY is a horror film, and directs those slasher moments really well, Landon also knows how to balance comedy within that horror. He uses the gimmick almost to perfection, using clever transitions that start with Tree’s murder leading into her waking up in bed all over again to restart her day. The film also looks nice to look at and it’s paced extremely well. And each day that Tree experiences plays out the same, but feel different each time, which is a testament to a good director. 

The acting is what makes HAPPY DEATH DAY a joy to watch. The standout is really lead actress Jessica Rothe, who makes for a charismatic, engaging actress. She has great comedic timing, understands when her character needs to be serious or funny, and she’s not bad to look at either. The fact that she starts off so unlikable and manages to be extremely sympathetic and charming by the end of the film is a testament to Rothe understanding her character arc. I expect we’ll see more of her in movies because she carries the film without much of a sweat. I thought the other standout is Israel Broussard as Carter, the potential love interest for Tree. He played the awkward, quirky male lead very well and shared comfortable chemistry with Rothe. I thought their love story arc was very cute and I enjoyed watching them grow closer throughout the film. The other supporting actors all play their roles well and add to the appeal of HAPPY DEATH DAY.

THE FINAL HOWL
HAPPY DEATH DAY surprised me with its charm and cute approach to the GROUNDHOG DAY deja-vu premise. While more of a comedy and romance film with slasher elements filtered in to move the story along, HAPPY DEATH DAY would rather have fun with its premise than play it up for scares or suspense. This film doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but everything about it is solid - especially Jessica Rothe’s lead performance. The PG-13 rating and lack of “serious horror” may turn some people off, but HAPPY DEATH DAY makes an effort to be just a good, fun time. And it definitely succeeds in doing that over and over and over again…


SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4


10.14.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 128: "Sexy Like the Wolf"


October is finally upon us and we’re already basking in it’s radiant glow—or maybe it’s in the pale, pale light of the moon glow? We’re kicking things off this month with some sexy werewolf flicks—starting with WEREWOLF WOMAN (1976), then, because we can’t have a sexy werewolf episode without Paul Naschy, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF aka THE CRAVING (1981) and finally the sexiest of all werewolves, Sybil Danning in HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985).






 




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10.11.2017

Cult of Chucky (2017)

DIRECTED BY
Don Mancini

STARRING
Fiona Dourif - Nica Pierce
Brad Dourif - Voice of Chucky
Alex Vincent - Andy Barclay
Jennifer Tilly - Tiffany Valentine
Michael Therriault - Dr. Foley
Adam Hurtig - Malcolm
Elisabeth Rosen - Madeleine
Grace Lynn Kung - Claire
Martina Stephenson Kerr - Angela
Zak Santiago - Nurse Carlos

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Supernatural/Slasher

Running Time - 91 Minutes


PLOT
Following the events of 2013’s CURSE OF CHUCKY, Nica (Fiona Dourif) is sent to a psychiatric hospital due to Chucky pinning all of his murders on her - which she can’t disprove believably. Though hypnosis and shock therapy, Nica is convinced that she did murder her loved ones and that Chucky is a figment of her imagination. This works well until Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault) pulls out a Good Guy doll, triggering memories of the events in CURSE.

Nica starts believing that the Good Guy doll is really Chucky, bringing himself inside with Nica to torture her and end the job he started years prior. Soon enough, other patients end up getting killed in brutal ways, making many believe Nica is the one behind it. While considered the main suspect, Nica realizes that Chucky is indeed back - with a visit from Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) confirming that they’re working together to make her life hell. However, Nica doesn’t realize that a grown up Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) has his own version of Chucky at his home, wondering how he’s pulling murders off in multiple places at once. Realizing the only way to find the answers is to commit himself with Nica, Andy hopes to stop Chucky’s new plan before it’s too late.

REVIEW
The CHILD’S PLAY franchise will turn thirty years old next year, and it has thrived and survived without remakes and reboots, building upon its legacy in a way most horror franchises have trouble with by its third installment. The first two films are absolute classics, balancing the scares and humor to the point that many of us threw out those talking dolls [such as Teddy Ruxpin and those various Sesame Street characters] to protect us from the trauma poor Andy Barclay dealt with. 1991’s CHILD’S PLAY 3 seemed like the end of the franchise at that point, struggling in the box office due to it being rushed, generic, and causing controversy in the United Kingdom because of placed blame for a series of murders that the film supposedly inspired. However, thanks to SCREAM’s success in 1996, Chucky was brought back along with a new partner, Tiffany, in 1998’s BRIDE OF CHUCKY. While not the biggest box office success, it garnered a lot of critical and fan praise for its self-aware humor and freshness to revive a tired franchise. Unfortunately, 2004’s SEED OF CHUCKY may have jumped the shark for many with its campy, silly humor and lack of scares - even though I enjoy that installment for the most part.

With rumors of a remake/reboot happening, many of us were expecting a new Chucky movie that would start the franchise all over with CGI Good Guy dolls and PG kills that only Hollywood studios would love. Fortunately for us, 2013’s direct-to-video CURSE OF CHUCKY surprised us with how good it turned out. It managed to reboot the franchise while still playing out as a sequel that respected its continuity by adding new characters to interact with memorable ones such as Tiffany and even Andy Barclay. CURSE also pulled back on the humor, capturing the creepiness of the original film and bringing back many fans who had left after BRIDE. It made us realize that even in a new century, Chucky could still be effective and that horror franchises don’t always need a reboot to still be successful.

So here we are in 2017, and the seventh installment of the CHILD’S PLAY franchise - CULT OF CHUCKY - has been unleashed to the world through home video, Netflix, and even on the cable network AMC later this month. With this kind of release, it made me wonder if CULT was that good for all these outlets to jump aboard on. The hype was real with this one, with many praising it, while others feeling very disappointed with CULT’s seemingly new direction for the franchise. I was a bit reluctant to watch this film for a few days due to friends feeling negative on the film. I really enjoyed CURSE and hoped CULT would continue the trend for a revitalized franchise that lasted longer than it probably has any right to be. But I took a chance on this sequel, and I have to say… I really liked CULT OF CHUCKY more than I was expecting. 

This won’t be a long review where I discuss in detail about the narrative and all that. Honestly, CULT OF CHUCKY is a film that’s probably better knowing less about to really enjoy the twists the film presents to the viewer. I will say that it’s a bit more humorous than CURSE, but respectfully so that it doesn’t insult you. And the plot points throughout are so batshit crazy, you’re left to wonder where in the hell this franchise is going in future sequels. Is Nica really crazy? Does Chucky exist? How is Chucky managing to be in multiple places at once to continue his murder spree? And what does he really want with Nica? The addition of Andy Barclay struggling with his own experience with Chucky [which still affects his dating life, believe it or not] adds a new layer that’s much needed, as it makes us remember how evil Chucky was to him as a child. He’s become sort of the Van Helsing or Dr. Loomis to the franchise now, wanting to find a way of stopping Charles Lee Ray from achieving his ultimate goal. Add in Tiffany Valentine, who is still Chucky’s willing and devoted accomplice, and Nica - who seems to be Chucky’s main focus these days - and you have a powder keg ready to explode in future installments. 

I thought the hospital setting was a great location for CULT OF CHUCKY. The film is so crazy in its new direction, that it made sense to add mentally ill characters who may, or may not, believe in Chucky’s existence and/or Nica’s guilt or innocence in terms of her reputation. I think the characters are fleshed out as well as they could be in a 90-minute movie. I thought Malcolm was an interesting character suffering from dissociative identity disorder, with one wondering if Chucky possessed him when he started acting like him. Madeleine, who lost her child, treating a Good Guy doll as her baby was creepy at times - especially when it was possible that Chucky was that doll. And Dr. Foley is probably one of the biggest creeps I’ve seen in a horror film in a while, using his medical expertise to take advantage of certain patients for his own pleasure. He also ends up being the skeptic of the film, manipulating Nica to believe that she was a murderer and that Chucky was just a figment of her imagination. Nica, herself, still managed to be a believable victim. Only this time, her mental state was in question, as she struggled over what was real and what wasn’t. You felt bad for her when no one believed her pleas about Chucky, while rooting for her to get out of this situation with her life intact. Her arc takes a crazy turn in the final act, making me giddy for the next installment. I thought the characters all had a point in the film’s narrative, no one really feeling wasted in terms of moving the story along.

If I did have issues with CULT OF CHUCKY, I think it’s mainly from the fact that the story wants to wow the audience with so many twists, turns, and questions about where things are headed, that it sometimes doesn’t really go into depth in explaining why certain things are suddenly happening that never happened in previous films. Let me just say that out of the blue, Chucky has learned new abilities that allow him to do things in CULT that he never was able to do in six films prior. There’s a cute bit of dialogue that is supposed to explain the reason without going too deep with it, but it honestly bugged me. I think Chucky getting more powerful is a great element to introduce after all this time. But I need more than a “Voodoo For Dummies” line that is supposed to make the audience laugh. Maybe they’re saving this for the next film, but since this ability is a central aspect of CULT, we should have learned more about it here.

I also felt that CULT OF CHUCKY suffered from MCU syndrome. Now you know I love my Marvel movies [well most of them anyway], but I’m not blind to see that a lot of them exist as bridges to a bigger film down the road. That’s what I took CULT as - a bridge to gap CURSE with the 8th installment to complete the story that’s being told. At times, the film felt as if it existed to justify a later film, rather than have a contained story for newer viewers to jump into without much confusion. It’s obvious CULT OF CHUCKY was made for its fan base and it works because of it. But the final act seemed to be the prologue of the next film rather than the ending of the film it was currently in. I guess that’s something we all have to get used to, because franchises and universes are what keep many of us coming for more. I just felt CURSE OF CHUCKY concluded its story more efficiently, even if I did think the ending of CULT was more fun and exciting for the franchise’s future.

The direction by Don Mancini is as confident and strong as ever for the franchise. Mancini, who also co-wrote CULT OF CHUCKY, knows exactly what film he wants to make and goes for broke without looking back. Keeping the film mainly in a single setting allows the budget to be used better towards certain aspects of the production. Because of this, CULT looks pretty damn good picture wise. It’s polished, bright, and sleek. The CGI doesn’t look as bad as it did in CURSE, with Chucky looking better than the previous film. The use of slow motion during certain death scenes is a thing of beauty. Speaking of the kill sequences, CULT OF CHUCKY is definitely the most blatantly violent in the franchise. Heads get chopped off. Wrists get slit. Heads get stomped in. I was impressed by the level of gore here. I definitely was not expecting the film to be this bloody. The film sort of loses its way towards the end, but there’s a charming energy about the film one can’t deny. Mancini has pretty much let the shit hit the fan with this franchise, which is the best thing that could happen to Chucky’s world. It’s a fun time that manages to be infectious. I don’t know what Mancini has up his sleeve for the next installment, but I’m along for the ride. It’s a surreal entry in the franchise that I’m surprised mostly worked in its favor.

The acting in CULT OF CHUCKY is solid. Once again, Fiona Dourif is wonderful as Nica. She’s both vulnerable and strong, struggling with creepy psychiatrists and psycho dolls - both always captivating on camera. I look forward to her arc in the next installment, which will allow her to really stretch her acting chops, I think. Her father, Brad Dourif, returns to voice Chucky. He’s mostly solid, although there were certain parts where his voice just seemed odd and didn’t match what I was watching. I don’t know if it’s age, or a better take wasn’t used. But Dourif has had better performances in this franchise. But when he’s on, Dourif is great as the film’s villain. Michael Therriault is great as the mysterious Dr. Foley, adding to the surreal and creepy vibe of the asylum setting. Adam Hurtig is good as Malcolm. I liked how he changed a bit each time with various personality switches. And it’s great to see both Alex Vincent and Jennifer Tilly back. Vincent’s scenes were really great, and I look forward to his arc in a later film. Tilly can play Tiffany in her sleep, as she comes across more crazy than ever. I still love that she’s technically playing herself as Jennifer Tilly, due to the events of SEED OF CHUCKY. Plus, there’s a surprise after the credits if you watched the Unrated Version. I can not wait to see where this angle leads.

THE FINAL HOWL
I can probably see where some were disappointed in CULT OF CHUCKY. But it surprisingly won me over with how surreal and crazy it ended up being. The acting is solid, especially by Fiona Dourif. It’s great to see Alex Vincent officially back into the fold. The direction by Don Mancini is competent and confident, as he certainly has control over the film he’s probably been wanting to make for a while now. And while certain story elements could have been explained more, as well as wishing CULT was a more self-contained story rather than a set up to a bigger film down the line, I thought the narrative added some freshness to Chucky’s character arc and future success of the franchise. It’s amazing that after 29 years, CULT OF CHUCKY proves that the franchise is still hanging on strongly without a reboot and with a strong sense of continuity. The next CHILD’S PLAY is going to be something and I can’t wait to see what craziness comes next.


SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4


9.30.2017

The Houses October Built 2 (2017)


Directed By: Bobby Roe

Starring: Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson

Running Time: 141 Minutes

Genre: Horror/ Found Footage


PLOT (from IMDB):
Recovering from the trauma of being kidnapped last Halloween by the Blue Skeleton - a group who take “extreme haunt” to another level - five friends (Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson) decide they must face their fears in order to move on. Heading back out on the road to visit more haunted house attractions, signs of the Blue Skeleton start appearing again and a new terror begins.


REVIEW
If you remember my review for 2014’s THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, I found the found footage horror film quite bland until the last twenty minutes - even though I thought the “documenting scary haunts” idea was actually pretty interesting. I just felt there wasn’t enough that was done with that aspect, with those scenes forgetting that THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT was a horror film rather than a documentary. I never bothered with watching the first film again due to my dislike of it. But here am I, taking the time out to watch its surprising 2017 sequel and quickly reviewing it.

Let me just say that my feelings for the first film pretty much match my feelings for the sequel. I went in hoping for something new and different, but ended up getting the same exact film as the first one for the most part. We get the haunts aspect again for the first hour, and then the sequel remembers its a horror film for the rest. The characters are still pretty stupid and unlikeable. The situation is still not scary or tense in any way. Even though I wanted to care about these people and the situation they’ve put themselves into, I have trouble rooting for fame whores who didn’t learn their lesson the first time.


While I didn’t root for anyone, I thought the worst character was Brandy. The ending of the first film has been retconned for this sequel to even exist, as all the characters survived their encounter with the Blue Skeleton - even though some of them apparently were killed by the group. While the male characters are using their encounter for fame and fortune [of course], Brandy has been traumatized by the event and refusing to document the haunts with her friends. Well, she does for about 30 minutes before joining the guys again after being promised they won’t take her to similar haunts like the last time. And when strange things begin to happen, she complains to her friends [who don’t believe her] and threatens to leave [which she never does]. Then the Blue Skeleton tortures everyone all over again, and I don’t feel sorry for her or anyone else. You’d think these people would be smarter the second time around. Silly me.

I won't say THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 is a total failure. The film looks pretty great presentation wise. The found footage stuff is heightened by the use of a drone that shoots some beautiful overhead shots. The acting feels as natural as ever, which works for a film like this. I liked that the haunts were different and added variety to the film, unlike the same-y feel of the last film. And the twists in the film were actually interesting and could lead to a hopefully different type of film in the third installment. Honestly, I wish this sequel had explored the twists in the story more. I probably would have been more excited about it. But instead, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 was more of the same.


THE FINAL HOWL
I still like the concept of this budding franchise, but THE HOUSES OF OCTOBER BUILT 2 is a pointless sequel that doesn’t add anything new until it’s way too late. It’s not a fun or scary watch, with characters I can’t get behind and a situation that still feels undeveloped - especially for a sequel. I did appreciate the direction, the acting, and some of the twists presented. But I didn’t get much out of this one. Meh.


SCORE
1.5 Howls Outta 4



Cannibal Ferox (1981)

DIRECTED BY
Umberto Lenzi

STARRING
Giovanni Lombardo Radice (as John Morghen) - Mike Logan
Lorraine De Selle - Gloria Davis
Danilo Mattei (as Bryan Redford) - Rudy Davis
Zora Kerova (as Zora Kerowa) - Pat Johnson
Walter Lucchini (as Walter Lloyd) - Joe Costolani
Robert Kerman - Lt. Rizzo
Fiamma Maglione (as Meg Fleming) - Myrna Stenn

Genre - Horror/Survival/Cannibalism

Running Time - 93 Minutes


Another year, another Italian Horror Week. Unfortunately, the man responsible for bringing the bloggers of the horror world together lost his battle to cancer in March. We still miss you. Doc Terror! But thankfully, many of us have come together for Jimmy to keep what he started alive.

This year, I decided to review the controversial 1981 cannibal horror film CANNIBAL FEROX. The irony of me picking this film didn’t hit me until it was approved. For those not in the know, I had planned to discuss CANNIBAL FEROX back in June of 2015 for Midnight Confessions, the podcast I co-host with Reverend Phantom and Moronic Mark. It had been planned months in advance for a Italian Horror Month that June for the show, which I was really excited for. Unfortunately, I was privately dealing with being a caregiver for my mom, who was suffering with a severe bout of cancer for 10 months. She passed away on June 3rd, 2015, forcing me to take a month hiatus  from the podcast and missing that entire month altogether. So CANNIBAL FEROX now seems connected to a horrible disease that took away two important people in my life. Not really the type of film any one would connect with cancer, but it somehow fits within my strange and bleak world. It is what it is.

What CANNIBAL FEROX isn’t is a film that’s catered to everyone, as it will please some and disturb others. It also isn’t a film that is nowhere close to being as memorable, or as good quality-wise to its counterpart - 1980’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. But CANNIBAL FEROX still manages to be an important film within the horror genre, for better or worse.

PLOT
Gloria Davis (Lorraine De Selle) is a student writing a college thesis to disprove the idea of cannibalism in the Amazon in order to receive her PhD. To get prove for her piece, she takes her brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei) and friend Pat (Zora Kerova) along as witnesses to her findings in Brazil. Once they arrive to the Amazon, bad things happen to the trio. Their transportation gets stuck in a big mud puddle. The coati given to them as a distraction to the local tribes in the area is murdered by an anaconda. And trying to find a way out, they run into Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and his injured friend Joe (Walter Lucchini) - diamond smugglers who claim to have been attacked by cannibals. As the group witnesses Mike’s psychotic behavior due to drug use, they realize that Mike’s story isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Learning the truth, Gloria and company realize that they’re now seen as guilty in the eyes of the local tribe due to associating themselves with Mike - unfortunate victims of their revenge. Gloria finds out the truth about cannibalism, making sacrifices along the way.

REVIEW
While many see CANNIBAL FEROX as a poor copy of Ruggero Deodato’s highly infamous CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the two films couldn’t be more different. While certain elements do remain similar in both films, Deodato’s film had more of an artful element to it - with the director actually trying to make a film of high quality while spreading a message that even the most prim and proper people could be more savage than the supposed uncivilized people who inhabit a jungle. It made you question who the real monsters using disturbing imagery that has repulsed people for decades. CANNIBAL FEROX has repulsive imagery as well, but Umberto Lenzi seems to care more about shocking his audience rather than making us question what we’re watching. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, but FEROX doesn’t work quite as powerfully as HOLOCAUST does for that very reason. However, both films have their place within the cannibalism sub-genre.

CANNIBAL FEROX is a film that wants to be many things, but falls short on some of them. What it does succeed on are the scenes in the Amazon with Gloria, Mike and company. Unlike HOLOCAUST, the group of so-called “civilized” people aren’t at the Amazon to hurt or look down at the local tribes that may or may not be cannibals. Only Mike Logan, the film’s clear antagonist, shows any sort of vile behavior towards the locals. While he claims to have been attacked by cannibals, we soon find out that Mike was the one attacking these so-called cannibals because he didn’t receive the prize he was promised by one of them and killed some of them out of greed and anger. Mike is also a pretty disgusting drug dealer who calls women a “twat” and molests them any chance he can get. Because of Mike, Gloria’s plan to just visit an Amazonian tribe to study them and take notes for her thesis becomes a nightmare - as she and her friends are now guilty by association due to Mike’s actions. Mike’s actions also disproves Gloria’s idea of this cannibal myth, as his cruel behavior unleashes the barbarism of the tribe wanting nothing more but revenge on the “white people”.

In a way, Mike acts as a imperialist. He went to an island to steal their resources for his own benefit, turning on the island only when the resources aren’t enough to satisfy his greed. The locals revolt against him and whoever they believe is friendly with him, leading to an ugly and gory war that leaves many scarred and damaged. Like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, FEROX seems to be taking a stance that the real barbarians are the civilized folk who enter an unfamiliar location and believe they’re above it all and feel entitled to everything that location possesses. It’s clear who the real monster in this film is.

Mike isn’t the only misguided character in the film. Gloria, who’d you would think would be a bit more open-minded about foreign traditions or history, is completely misguided as she heads to the Amazon to disprove this idea of cannibalism. There are stories about this kind of thing for centuries in many facets of the world. Yet, Gloria is so caught up in her civilized world that she can’t fathom this idea that indigenous people might consider eating human flesh as a sort of lifestyle and habit. While she’s not as evil as Mike, her ignorance leads her to dangerous territory that changes her life forever. And judging by the ending of the film, she doesn’t really learn her lesson, even though she’ll suffer with her ignorance for the rest of her life. 

The others are just victims of their own stupidity. Rudy joined his sister Gloria to take photographic proof for her thesis, but should have known a few common things about where he was going. After all, how does one go to the Amazon and not know that piranha inhabit the river before dipping into it to hide? Joe just follows Mike’s lead throughout the entire thing because he’s scared of him, leading to his unfortunate fate. And Pat? Well she would rather get high or have sex during an educational venture, making her the biggest idiot of CANNIBAL FEROX. She even almost helps Mike rape and kill locals at one point. She’s no better than Mike really. At least the characters have development and you can somewhat relate to them on some level - even if they are pretty unlikeable people.

While the Amazon scenes work for the most part, the scenes in New York City should have never been in the film to begin with. I get that Mike needed some sort of backstory to explain why he went to the Amazon. I understand that learning about Mike through people who knew him - his girlfriend, the mob guys after him - was meant to show what a lowlife the guy was. But these scenes just ruin the flow of the film. In fact, they don’t really lead to anything important. The cops are looking for Mike. The mob is looking for Mike. Mike’s girlfriend is looking for Mike. But Mike is caught up in his own crap during this film, making these subplots meaningless. None of these people accomplish their goal at the end, so why even bother?

I’m also not a fan of these animal cruelty scenes in these cannibal films. Both CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX are infamously known for these scenes, making many horror fans not want to watch these films more than once because of how the animals are treated in these films. I’m not a vegan or anything like that, but who finds pleasure in watching animals suffer or get murdered on their television? Deodato tried to make these scenes a bit more artful and meaningful in HOLOCAUST at least, even if I look away whenever these scenes pop up. Lenzi doesn’t even try in FEROX, mainly using these scenes to shock and disgust viewers to get a rise out of them. Do I really need to see a helpless coati, that’s tied to a pole, be smothered to death by an anaconda for three minutes straight? Do I really need to hear this coati cry for help and in pain at what this huge snake was doing to it? Do I find pleasure in this? No, I was disgusted that I had to watch that scene as part of this review. It’s not fun. It really bothered me. It’s made worse when the camera just lingers on this murder as if that’s okay. I’m all for the “survival of the fittest” in the animal kingdom, but that coati was murdered against its will without a chance to defend itself. There are also other scenes, especially one with a tortoise getting decapitated so it can be eaten [also disturbing]. But that coati and snake scene really upset me, to the point where I almost regretted taking on this film for a review. I know things like this happen. It doesn’t mean I need to see it on film for some sort of shock value.

The direction by Umberto Lenzi isn’t stylish or anything memorable visually. The editing is off at times and the flow of the film is definitely questionable at times. But Lenzi does manage to get a reaction out of you through his visceral camera work. Lingering on animals getting killed will either make you regret continuing to watch, or make you shut off the film entirely. The gore effects are pretty well done, making certain moments like cutting out an eye, a scalping, and castration make you cringe in disgust. Or maybe it’ll make you giddy. Whatever floats your boat. Lenzi also seems to follow Deodato’s book by telling the viewer that we’re all savages on some level through our main characters and the actions they make in order to survive. Deodato had a more artistic vibe in his direction, however, while Lenzi would rather shock and disgust us with his work. If that’s what Lenzi was going for, he succeeded big time.

The score by Roberto Donati and Fiamma Maglione is more subtle than not, which adds to the atmosphere of CANNIBAL FEROX. We get funky music, jungle beats, and synthesizer riffs that grab you during the more violent and uncomfortable moments in the film. I believe some music was taken from Lenzi’s previous cannibal film, EATEN ALIVE!. The score is probably not as memorable as the score from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, but it works nonetheless and adds to the overall mood of the film.

The acting in CANNIBAL FEROX isn’t the main focus of the film, but there are some pretty memorable performances here. Probably the highlight in terms of star performances is, without a doubt, Giovanni Lombardo Radice - known as John Morghen here - who plays one of the more memorable and vile villains in 80s horror in Mike Logan. Radice, a well known actor in the Italian horror world, probably provides one of his best performances as a con man who can charm you into bed, but is nothing but the scum of society. He’s smooth while still being a twitchy, sweaty creep. Radice’s vile and maniacal performance stems from the fact that he hated even starring in a film like CANNIBAL FEROX, displeased with the story and the treatment of certain characters and animals. Using that frustration and anger, he channels a misogynistic performance that rivals David Hess’ Krug from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as one of the more despicable characters ever portrayed in a horror movie. If there is any reason to watch CANNIBAL FEROX, it’s for Radice’s performance.

The other actors fare well in their own right. French actress Lorraine De Selle is spot on as the misguided and naive Gloria. She’s responsible for the best body language and facial expressions during the entire film, pretty much displaying the same feelings about this entire scenario as the audience watching. I bought her transition from snooty graduate student to traumatized survivor. Danilo Mattei is the male hero of the film as Rudy. He carries a masculine and strong performance that makes you want to see him survive, until the script betrays him for being stupid when it’s most convenient. The only other notable actor is Robert Kerman as a NYC police detective looking for the whereabouts of Mike Logan. It’s funny that he also starred in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, where he actually has a better performance in. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get the chance to do much in FEROX, but it’s always nice to see him in these kind of films.


THINGS I’VE LEARNED WHILE CANCELING MY TRIP TO THE AMAZON

  • A drug pusher was murdered over something stupid Mike Logan did to a bunch of mobsters. I had no idea CANNIBAL FEROX was the influence for every opening scene in every Law & Order episode.

  • Gloria refuses to believe that man wouldn’t eat other man, as cannibalism doesn’t exist. It’s obvious she’s never visited PornHub.

  • The group find a local sitting alone, eating bugs. I guess we know who’s winning on a future episode of Fear Factor

  • A big ass snake unfortunately murdered a poor coati. I guess this anaconda don’t want none unless it got buns, hun.

  • Rudy finds the village, thinking a machete will help him. It’s 1981, so unfortunately Machete won’t be able to text. Sorry, bro.

  • Some locals ripped open Joe’s body and ate his insides. I guess he was an organ donor…

  • Mike gets castrated by the tribe. Lorena Bobbitt probably had her big O during that scene.

  • Gloria and Pat sing to keep their spirits up while they’re trapped. This is no time to audition for Amazon’s Got Talent, ladies.


THE FINAL HOWL
While CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is the “better” film, CANNIBAL FEROX is no slouch either. It’s sleazy, disturbing, and sometimes hard to watch. The animal cruelty is a big no-no in my book [I don’t need to see that in a film, I’m well aware that stuff happens], and the scenes that occur in New York City feel as if they’re from a different film that Lenzi wasn’t able to complete for some reason. However, it does what a cannibal film should. It provides a simple message that we are all monsters on some level, no matter if we’re civilized or not. The gore scenes are pretty cool. And the acting, especially by Giovanni Lombardo Radice, is worth the price of admission alone. CANNIBAL FEROX is definitely a polarizing film that’s not meant for everyone. But if you’re willing to take a chance on it, you could do a whole lot worse in this sub-genre. Definitely one of the better cannibal films out there.


SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4



9.29.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 127: "We take a SLASH at horror comedy..."


It’s not quite October yet, but Fall is upon us and we’re getting in the spirit with some horror flicks that aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves and those films are UNMASKED PART 25 (1989) and SLASHERS (2001). There’s nothing wrong with some silliness with your horror, but sometimes the combination works and sometimes it doesn’t, lets see how these two stack up in the horror comedy world. 

Plus music by: Black Flag, The Dwarves, Haunted Garage, and The Novas.






 




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