9.30.2008

Eagle Eye (2008)

DIRECTED BY
D.J. Caruso

STARRING
Shia LeBeouf - Jerry Shaw/Ethan Shaw
Michelle Monaghan - Rachel Holloman
Rosario Dawson - Agent Zoe Perez
Billy Bob Thornton - Agent Thomas Morgan
Michael Chiklis - Defense Secretary Callister


Genre - Action/Thriller

Running Time - 118 Minutes

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4


There are people who we can't see who are watching out every move. Whether we're walking, driving, eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom - our private lives are becoming more public. This is due to the advancement in modern technology, especially when it comes to cameras and now cellphones that can record photos and videos. We see it all the time - from reality shows, to those programs that show police chases and outrageous moments, to the massive popularity of YouTube and others like it. While new technology is great, the negatives are becoming more obvious. It appears our future society will be increasingly voyeuristic.

But what if this technology boom goes to a place where it's able to control our every move and our every word via threats on our lives? Can computers really grow a brain and indulge in the corruption of power? The Steven Spielberg produced EAGLE EYE attempts to answer that question. While there's much to see in EAGLE EYE, the reasons as to why you should are very limited.

PLOT
Jerry Shaw (Shia LeBeouf) is your typical slacker who happens to be a Stanford University dropout who works at a copy store. While dealing with his twin brother's, Ethan's, death, he finds out he has about $750,000 in his ATM account. Yeah, this sounds awesome - until he returns home to find a whole bunch of illegal weapons and bomb making material that most terrorists would envy to own. All of a sudden, Jerry starts receiving phone calls from a female voice (an uncredited Julianne Moore) telling if that if he doesn't escape his apartment in 30 seconds, the feds will arrest him. Jerry listens and goes on the run.

At the same time, a single mother named Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) sends her son on a trip for some band camp thing. While hanging out with her friends, her "son" calls her. The caller happens to be the same caller who's haunting Jerry, making the two meet each other and carry out its dirty work. Along the way, FBI Agents Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) and Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson) attempt to hunt Jerry and Rachel down, until they finally learn that technology has completely taken over humankind.

REVIEW
Eh. That's really how to describe EAGLE EYE. Sure it has actions and thrills, but underneath it all is an extremely flawed and convoluted story that deteriorates as soon as it reaches the last half. This is the type of film where the brain will need to be turned off if you want to really enjoy this. Say what you want about Michael Bay action flicks, but at least they have some sort of story that works along with the action. This one really has none.

EAGLE EYE pretty much takes devices used by other films such as TERMINATOR, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and so on - puts them in a blender and attempts to create a coherent action film. And as much as there is a smudge of an attempt of social commentary about the negatives of technology in the future [which has been done to death by the films I mentioned above - and done BETTER], EAGLE EYE is no George Orwell's 1984. The story has too many flaws to overlook and it just nags at you throughout the 2 hour running time [which feels a half hour too long in itself]. Seriously, why would such a superior technological entity who is able to control every technological device in the free world want humans to help it rule the world by dragging them through such a wild goose chase? Why would it need slaves if it can work itself? Couldn't the computer just taken over the world without anyone really knowing and made things easier for itself? Why play God? It makes no friggin' sense if you really think about it. Even the computer's main goal was ridiculous and illogical. HAL 9000 could kick this bitch's ass! Sure, we get decent action sequences out of it, but that doesn't create suspense or thrills. Especially when we barely know who the main characters are or why they happened to be chosen for this role. There's no real character development at all here for anyone in this film. I thought the supercomputer controlling them all had more personality than the humans. Without a level of intimacy and understanding who these characters are, why should we care what happens to them? Because it could happen to us? Big deal. I'd probably be two steps ahead of this supercomputer and figure how to stop it before any of these idiots would. Any thinking person would be able to figure it all out fairly quickly. Or anyone who has seen TERMINATOR anyway. It's amazing that FOUR screenwriters scripted this movie, yet nothing about the film was remotely original. Wow.

Like I said, the action is pretty good. Cars explode. Military hardware is used alot. There's a nighttime chase. Nothing that we haven't seen before. At least the action is entertaining somewhat and the film never really slows down to bore you. It looks good. Nothing more I can really say about it.

D.J. Caruso, who also directed Shia LeBeouf in the much better DISTURBIA, tries to emulate what Michael Bay has done in all of his action films and only mildly succeeding. The film looks polished. The action sequences are shot well. But the shaky-cam effect is in the house again, as well as a lot of unneeded closeups, and quick cuts. And unlike in DISTURBIA, there is no suspense or tension at all here. Someone needs to tell the dude that showing shit exploding on screen doesn't substitute two important elements in a thriller. When an action film doesn't display any amount of heart and soul and just ends up being cold and standoffish, what's the point?

The acting is what you would expect from this great cast. Nothing surprising here. Shia LeBeouf plays Shia LeBeouf again, but with facial hair to make him look older. The guy is a good actor and he's likeable in every film he's in, but the guy needs to join Ellen Page and try a new act. It's getting pretty boring by now. Let's end the typecasting now, Shia. Michelle Monaghan is cute but doesn't do much for me here, honestly. She plays her role well enough but never takes it to the next level. She and LeBeouf don't have romantic chemistry, which isn't needed here anyway, but they don't share much on-screen buddy chemistry either. I dunno...the two just didn't click for me. Billy Bob Thornton plays the same imbrasive character he normally plays, but it's more subdued while still being slightly funny. He's really the highlight of the film in his federal agent role. Rosario Dawson does enough with the material she's given. And Michael Chiklis is totally wasted here as the Secretary of Defense. He disappears for like half the film before popping up again to remind everyone he's still part of the story. Um, okay. And is that Ethan Embry I saw? Why is this dude not getting meatier roles?

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE BREAKING MY EVIL CELL PHONE FOR PLAYING "MY HEART WILL GO ON" AS A RINGTONE OVER AND OVER AGAIN

- Julianne Moore is the voice of the supercomputer. Now I know who's behind all those annoying telemarketing calls I get. It's not my fault HANNIBAL sucked!

- The game Rock Band was advertised in the film. It only made me want to play Rock Band 2 rather than wasting my time watching this. At least my awesome vocal abilities on The Sweet's "Action!" are a lot more entertaining than any of the action in this film.

- Rachel's kid plays the trumpet. As a former trumpet player myself, he's already cool in my book. Unless he plays the human trumpet...then I can't really comment on that due to my lack of experience. Learn something from this, Sarah Palin!

THE FINAL HOWL
EAGLE EYE
is crap. But it's entertaining crap that happens to manage itself into an average popcorn, dumb-as-rocks movie. While it made $30 million at the weekend box office, save your money for a much better movie. This one can wait until DVD, where it belongs. Let's pray these actors star in a much better film worthy of their talents because EAGLE EYE is mainly for the paycheck. Want the corruption of technology? Watch 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Want to be Paris Hilton for two hours? Watch EAGLE EYE. The choice is yours.

9.29.2008

Us Sinners (2008)

DIRECTED BY
George Snow

STARRING
Brandon Schraml - Tim Connoly
Brenda Cooney - Louise
Leslie E. Hughes - Mom
Glenys Javier - Patty
Jason Shoulders - Andrew
Caroline Moseley - Melissa
Jason Reed - Bobby


Genre - Horror/Serial Killers

Running Time - 85 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


I've made it clear many times before that while I believe in God, I don't believe in religion. I can see how it can bring people together under a common belief. Hey, I don't care what religion you're a part of and how you live your life. But something about the entire thing just rubs me the wrong way. Especially with overly religious people attempt to force their beliefs on you, thinking that it'll save you from Hell and bring you back into God's grace.

You know what I say to those people? Watch CARRIE and see how that bullshit turned out.

Or watch the indie film, US SINNERS, which pretty much shows how an overly religious mother can mess up her only son and turn him into a sex-obsessed serial killer. It's not an original concept, but when it does pretty well, you gotta give the film its props.

PLOT
Tim Connoly (Brandon Schraml) is one messed up dude. He lives with his religious fanatic of a mother (Leslie E. Hughes), who spanks him and abuses him whenever she feels he's about to swim in the Devil's pond. He can't escape this Hell at his job, where he's ridiculed by his co-workers for being a weirdo. So he does what any misunderstood dude would do - find prostitutes [which he calls "hores" - he's dyslexic], choke them during oral sex or actual intercourse, and kill them to get revenge on his mother in his sick mind.

One day, a new person named Louise (Brenda Cooney) starts working where Tim works. Tim suddenly falls in love with Louise and tries to win her affections. Unfortunately for Time, Louise doesn't feel the same way for Tim. As a matter of fact, she'd rather play human vacuum cleaner for jerkoff Andrew (Jason Shoulders). When Tim finds out about this, the Heavens start to collapse on Tim's world leading to a shocking ending I'm still very disturbed by.

REVIEW
US SINNERS
attempts to give us a look at how repression from a very religious parent can affect a person, to the point where he rapes and murders women as a release. This is not an entertaining film where one could sit down and have a blast watching. It'll make you very uncomfortable, even with its flaws. Still, US SINNERS is a very good indie horror flick.

I received this film due to director/writer George Snow commenting on my HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER review. We messaged each other, where he told me that Lionsgate refused to distribute this film due to its subject matter. After the crap Lionsgate pulled with MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and possibly with REPO: THE GENERIC OPERA in November, I'm not really surprised. But for a company that will distribute for a film like WRESTLEMANIAC and countless SAW films that people are getting tired of seeing, I think Lionsgate should have given US SINNERS a chance. I'm not saying this because I've had personal contact with George Snow and he wanted me to review this film. I'm saying this because I'm being honest.

The story for US SINNERS is strong. The dialogue is well written. The characters act and talk like regular people. The plot itself with Tim's struggle with his demons is fascinating to watch because it's told well and it's believable. You feel sorry for this guy because from scenes involve Tim's mother treating him like a stupid child, you realize why he's the way he is. But at the same time, murder and rape aren't things anyone should do, even when one feels they've been pushed into it. Tim is a very multi-dimensional character and not a caricature, which was refreshing. Even the other characters in the film have a bit of depth, some more than others. Like I said, US SINNERS uses an idea we've seen in many films. But it does enough original stuff to stop the film from feeling derivative and generic. This film will not bore you and it will probably make you cringe at some points.

I did have some issues with the story though. I did feel as if Tim got away with the murders a bit too easy. I mean, the guy used fingerless gloves and did things pretty much naked. You mean, no DNA was left behind? Sure, Tim is a cleaner but no one's THAT perfect. Plus, he started leaving notes and signed them with his initials! I just find it implausible as to how this guy managed to get away with murder for so long.

Plus, I find the co-workers pretty annoying. I'm sorry but they really did nothing for me until they became victims of Tim. I was kind of hoping they would get theirs, and then I started feeling bad when they did. I think if I had worked where Tim worked, I probably would have wanted to do bad stuff to them too.

Also, I didn't dig that one song that was being played. I'm sorry, but it annoyed me and wasn't my bag at all. And the fart and bloody tampon stuff was pretty nasty. I don't need to be seeing that stuff. Blech!

The film isn't as gory as one would expect from a serial killer horror flick. There is blood. There are things like someone getting impaled in the forehead with a sharp object and people getting stabbed. But most of it is pretty implied. I think the biggest one was the victim who had a statue of the Virgin Mary shoved through their vaginal region and Tim reveals the head of the statue underneath the woman's breasts. We never see the act itself but the implication is enough, I think.

There's also nudity. It's mainly Tim's ass, but there are some boobs shot in there somewhere. Something for everyone, I guess.

And the ending is truly disturbing in more ways than one. I won't discuss it because I'm not spoiling it. But let's just say that I'm not chilled by many things when it comes to horror movies, but this ending chilled me. It's just wrong on so many levels that only an indie film could pull it off. No mainstream Hollywood hack would allow this film to end the way it does. I was left shaking my head once the end credits showed. What a fucked up ending - but in a good way.

George Snow is a good director. He uses a lot of style, especially during flashback scenes that mix black and white with color and some other psychadelic stuff. The editing is excellent and the pacing is strong. The film looks low budget but doesn't really feel low budget, which is nice. It was an overall nice job. Hopefully this is the start for more things to come.

The acting was very impressive here. Especially by Brandon Schraml, who played Tim. I don't know what his background is, but the dude was excellent as the main character and carried the film like a champ. Tim is an extremely complex character, showing both sides of vulnerability and depression to becoming totally psychotic and raping and killing women the next. That's a hard trick to pull off, especially as one character. Schraml does the whole thing justice because I was pretty convinced. He gave the character a lot of depth.

Everyone else was good as well. Next to Schraml, Leslie E. Hughes as Tim's mom was a standout. She played the overly religious fanatical bitch to a tee, making me hate her the moment she smacked Schraml around and spanked him. I don't know what I would do if I had a mother like her. There are just so many buttons one could push, ya know? Hughes did an awesome job in the role.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE GAGGING MY VICTIMS WITH USED BLOODY TAMPONS

- Tim killed some chick giving him a blowjob by gagging her with his penis and snapping her neck. That's one way to avoid paying an overpriced prostitute.

- Tim's mom said his dad had "lying eyes". Who was he? Balthazar Getty? Jude Law? Bill Clinton? Be more specific, lady!

- Don't take a dump in front of a girl you like. Unless she's a brown noser, she's probably gonna lose interest in romancing you.

- Tim slapped a woman to death. I haven't seen this kind of violence since Melrose Place! You have a lot of catching up to do, Heather Locklear!

- Taking a dump is the Lord's way of cleansing the body of demons. I agree. That really cheesy and spicy Mexican food I just ate was completely a work from Hell. Ugh...where's that plunger?

- Tim finds comfort in toy dogs. No matter how much of a bitch his mom can be, it still won't replace the dog in his heart. How touching.

- Women who dress like whores are swimming in the Devil's pond. I guess Pamela Anderson is the female Michael Phelps.

- Two detectives in the film are of color, while the dude they're chasing is white. This film must take place in some bizarro universe.

- Time sniffed a blood-stained maxipad. I understand it's the time of the month, but it's never time for that! Ew...

- Don't screw with a woman one of your co-workers likes. You may have penetrated her, but the jealous dude will penetrate you. And not with the same weapon either.

THE FINAL HOWL
US SINNERS
is an independent film that surprised me. Usually when films claim to be disturbing, you end up disappointed. But not with this one. I felt totally uneasy watching this and I'm still trying to get that ending out of my mind. Hopefully George Snow will get a larger distribution for US SINNERS because I think alot of people out there will be interested in watching this film.


Official Website

Us Sinners MySpace

9.25.2008

Strait-Jacket (1964)

DIRECTED BY
William Castle

STARRING
Joan Crawford - Lucy Harbin
Diane Baker - Carol Harbin
John Anthony Hayes - Michael Fields
Leif Erickson - Bill Cutler
Rochelle Hudson - Emily Cutler
George Kennedy - Leo Krauze
Mitchell Cox - Dr. Anderson
Howard St. John - Raymond Fields
Edith Atwater - Mrs. Fields
Lee Majors - Frank Harbin

Genre - Horror/Thriller

Running Time - 93 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


I'm starting to think that adultery is the worst sin one could make within a marriage. Sometimes I even wonder why men [in this case] even do it. You spend so much money and time on one woman. You pay for her on dates. You buy her an expensive engagement ring. You probably pay for some of the wedding. You have children with her. And yet, you'd rather risk all of that just for a single roll in the hay that's probably not all that great to begin with. Unless it's with Sienna Miller. From her track record, she seems to be excellent with her homewrecking skills.

Anyway, your wife comes home and finds you in her bed with your slutty lover. Yeah, she's gonna be pissed and just chew you out and demand a divorce. No problem, right?

Nuh uh.

Not if you're married to Joan Crawford. She'll grab that sharp axe nearby and decapitate your cheating ass for making her feel like a fool. Just like she does to Lee Majors in William Castle's 1964 B-movie camp horror flick, STRAIT-JACKET. Ms. Crawford is not a bitch you mess with, ladies and gentlemen. She cut off her husband's head for messing around on her. Imagine if she caught the guy using wire hangers. Don't fuck with her, fellas!

PLOT
Frank Harbin (an uncredited Lee Majors in his first film role) picks up some slutty dame (Patricia Crest) at a bar and takes her home to shag the night away, even though his young daughter, Carol, is right in the next room. And parents don't teach their children the dangers of unsafe sex...psh! Anyway, Frank's wife Lucy (Joan Crawford) returns home sooner than expected, catching Frank and his lover asleep after their minute [and I'm being generous] of fun. Being Mommy Dearest, Lucy grabs an axe and chops off both their heads in front of young Carol. Lucy is declared a wackjob and locked away in a mental asylum.

Twenty years pass and Lucy is finally deemed sane enough to live a normal life. She returns back to her home on the farm and is greeted by her now older daughter, Carol (Diane Baker), who welcomes her back with open arms and begins treating Lucy as if she had never left - even dressing up Lucy in the same look she had twenty years ago. But soon enough, Lucy begins to hear and see things - such as decapitated heads laying next to her in bed and nursery rhymes about her actions years ago. Lucy tries to hold it together, until her former doctor (Mitchell Cox) drops by to take her back to the asylum. Suddenly he ends up decapitated later that night, leading to a chain of events that makes Lucy the suspicious party.

REVIEW
STRAIT-JACKET
is one ham-fest of B-movie goodness. It was obviously inspired by the massive success of PSYCHO (1960) and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962). This is evident from William Castle's hiring of Robert Bloch, who wrote the original novel that was the basis for PSYCHO, and of Joan Crawford, who had starred in WEHTBJ?. STRAIT-JACKET is not as good as those two films, but there's still a lot to like here.

Robert Bloch's story is pretty much structured in almost a similar way to PSYCHO's, including that twist ending that's pretty predictable but no less fun. In fact, the whole story is pretty simple and easy to see how it'll turn out. But at least the psychology of the drama in STRAIT-JACKET makes enough sense for it to be logical. There are no gimmicks here, like in William Castle's usual works. It's just a straight story about a woman who did horrible things under circumstance and must come to grips with retaking her life, although things out of her control attempt to stop that. It's just done in a campier style that will probably make you smile more than it will terrify you. This is the kind of film that if I get too much into it, I'll probably reveal things that will give away the twist. I'm not sure how many people from our current generation have seen this film, so let me just say that while fairly routine and full of horror cliches and conventions of the time [as well as developed enough supporting characters that don't steal the spotlight from Joan Crawford - just how she would have wanted it], STRAIT-JACKET still has a very good story that will never bore you.

Watching the documentary on the DVD called "Battle-Axe: The Making of STRAIT-JACKET", you learn alot about what happened behind the scenes in a short 14 minutes. It was obviously Joan Crawford's show from the start, even though she wasn't the first choice to play Lucy [Joan Blondell was supposed to star but was injured at home prior to shooting]. Crawford has script and cast approval [which was proven when she fired Anne Helm and replaced her with Diane Baker to play her daughter], a $50,000 salary, and even 15 percent of the film's profits. Crawford also made sure the sets were doused with cold temperatures to keep her face tight to keep her looking young. She even hired Mitchell Cox, the Vice-President of PepsiCo [which Crawford was on the Board of Directors], to play her psychiatrist in the film. There's even Pepsi products in the background. And then there's the ending that she originally was not a part of [the reveal of the twist proves that crazy bitches need shock therapy and need to stay away from my ass] and felt unsatisfied by that very fact, inserting her own scene at the end to make sure she was the star. You'd think all these things would ruin a production, but it only makes STRAIT-JACKET that much more fascinating and doesn't really effect the film at all.

Modern audiences may be taken aback by the lack of blood, gore, and even on-screen kills in STRAIT-JACKET. One of the deaths is very memorable for the fact that one of the actors is replaced by a very unconvincing wax dummy that's supposed to look like the actor as he gets his head chopped off. This isn't a big-budgeted film, so it's totally understandable that the murder sequences weren't really top notch. Still, it doesn't make them any less funny.

William Castle, who directed classics such as THE TINGLER, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959), 13 GHOSTS (1960), and MACABRE, does pretty good here. Having seen WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? 17 times before producing and directing this film, Castle attempts to keep the schlock elements out and make a serious A-list film. Unfortunately, Castle could never live the B-movie thing down but still does enough to create a good psycho-thriller. There are moments of surrealism and attempts to shock, especially during flashbacks with Lucy slamming the axe down on her husband and lover and moments where Lucy screams while strapped into a straitjacket. There's even a scene near the end where Lucy screams inside a bathroom that's covered in stripes to create some sort of metaphorical prison. Plus Castle leaves clues and certain elements in every shot [like sharp weapons and such] that make you chuckle. The cinematography by Arthur E. Arling is very nice, as the picture looks beautiful. The editing and pacing is pretty well done. I still think THE TINGLER is Castle's best work but STRAIT-JACKET is definitely up there. Castle doesn't visually try and do much, letting the script and acting do the talking for him.

And boy, does the acting do alot of talking. Especially by ham-queen herself, Joan Crawford. Crawford totally takes over the entire movie from beginning to end, playing a 40-year-old woman in her 60s [she gives the word "cougar" a whole new meaning], and being very loud verbally and physically to make sure our focus is on her and on her only. And it's a remarkable and brilliant performance, as she may look mean and edgy, but displays a level of sadness, confusion, and vulnerability at the same time. Crawford makes sure we understand Lucy's inner torment, especially during her bombastic speech near the end where she yells to someone that spending 20 years in an asylum was hell - HELL! For a B-movie, Crawford gives an A-list performance. People have said that if this were a more mainstream and accepted film, Crawford would have received an Oscar nomination. I probably wouldn't bet against that.

The other actors don't have much to do, even though it wouldn't matter with Joan Crawford chewing the scenery in every which way she can. The only real actor of note other than Crawford is Diane Baker, who plays Carol. She's very likable and pretty to look at. She has that girl-next-door quality that's very appealing, especially when she's up against Crawford's force of nature. Baker has a big moment at the end of the film, but unfortunately Crawford made sure she had the last word, which sucks but what can you do? Still, Diane Baker gives a nice performance to counter Crawford's hammy one.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED AFTER GETTING UNCOMFORTABLY SEDUCED BY A WOMAN WHO IS OLD ENOUGH TO BE MY GRANDMA

- Don't bring your lover to your house to screw her if you believe you won't get caught because your wife will be away one more day. Men and women have different clocks. One day in Guy Time is two hours in Woman Time. Remember: Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. And Big Bad Kobe from Cellblock 69 is coming from Uranus. And re-entering Uranus. And then leaving Uranus again. It's a vicious cycle.

- Don't fall asleep after sex with your lover, especially if your child is right outside the door and your wife has arrived from her trip early. You're gonna be axing for it!

- Carol sculpted a younger version of Lucy, which Lucy called a "wonderful surprise." I'm just glad Carol didn't sculpt a wire hanger. I'd hate to hear what kind of surprise that would have been.

- Girls who play jump rope will drive you insane. They'll make nursery rhymes about your murderous exploits. Or they'll warn you about an oncoming killer nightmare. To be quite honest, I'd rather deal with Freddy Krueger than with Joan Crawford. I'll be damned if Joan clobbered me with those boomerang eyebrows of hers!

- Lucy was frightened by a mannequin head holding her wig. I'm sure Whitney Houston, Tyra Banks, and Ted Danson had those experiences every now and then.

- Never murder someone and be locked up for it. You'll automatically be accused of bad things when someone goes missing. O.J. Simpson has never had that problem since we all know he didn't kill his wife and is still looking for her real killer.

(rolls eyes)

- George Kennedy had his head cut off for snooping around. If Frank Drebin was on the case, this shit...probably would have happened too. Damn George...you're S.O.L., aren't you?

- Don't go into a closet if you sense crazy stuff happening. You'll be attacked with a sharp weapon. I guess some people are just not meant to come out.

THE FINAL HOWL
STRAIT-JACKET
is a surprisingly good time. It's not perfect and it's fairly predictable and dated, but watching Joan Crawford be Joan Crawford is never boring. Plus the film is very watchable and a lot of fun. Definitely rent this one if you haven't seen it. Who knows? Maybe it'll give you advice as to how to deal with that cheating husband/wife of yours. And if you're anything at the Columbia Studios image at the end, you'll laugh your head off at the campiness that is STRAIT-JACKET.


*Part of Final Girl's Film Club*

9.24.2008

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Gone The Way Of Flesh (2006)

DIRECTED BY
Jordan McMillen
Jason Martinko

STARRING
Jimmy Haynes - Detective Haynes
Jesse Fitzgerald - The Chief
Matt Kostovny - Vance Woodrum
Joshua Fandry - Smooth
Brent Fiegel - Rev. Rick Richardson
Jason Wooten - Detective Wooten
Billy K. - Himself
Bill Dorsey - Street Singer
Craig Bolton - The Barker

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Musical/Porn

Running Time - 56 Minutes

Score - BOMB


To be a film critic, one must have the virtues of patience and tolerance. We would all love to watch great films and discuss them at length. But to get to those great films, we must suffer for our art and watch the crap these great films left behind. If you're me, you intentionally watch bad films just so you can rip them apart for your self-entertainment and others. But sometimes, there are films that you walk into blindly, making you wish you had never seen them at all.

This risk usually occurs when you're offered a screener to watch some independent horror film that a bunch of "filmmakers" put together to show the world that they want to be part of the New Wave of Horror. Take for example the film I'm reviewing here called GONE THE WAY OF FLESH. That title sounds inticing, doesn't it? Oh, and it's a slasher film too? And wait a minute...there are quotes from Tom Savini, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and Lloyd Kaufman praising this film? Oh man! GONE THE WAY OF FLESH should be awesome!

Sigh.

Looks like I've been bamboozled again. GONE THE WAY OF FLESH is one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life and probably the worst indie horror flick I've seen ever. Tie me up, gag me, and kill me now...PLEASE!

PLOT
Some indie rock band named The Jason Martinko Revue plays some shows in strip clubs and pubs and probably a Bar Mitzvah - I'm not really sure. Even though only like five people actually go to their shows, the band seems to have created some sort of ninja-suit wearing PROM NIGHT reject who has a fascination with kidnapping some of the band's female groupies. This person's M.O. seems to involve tying them up in his basement and gagging them, performing unauthorized surgery and playing with their guts. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

Some dumbass detective (Jimmy Haynes) is on the case, but can't seem to figure out who the killer is. Of course he can't! The band only has five fans for each show. The person who's there everytime can't be the killer. I know, right? Anyway, there's some other crap involving drugs, bar fights, strippers fucking each other with strap ons, and overlong music interludes to promote The Jason Martinko Revue. Yeah this film sure pushes the boundaries - of boredom and tolerance!

REVIEW
I have three words for GONE THE WAY OF FLESH:

WHAT THE FUCK!?

I honestly don't know where to begin with this...film. I've seen some bad indie screeners, but GONE THE WAY OF FLESH is in a league of its own. For 56 minutes, it feels like an eternity to watch a bunch of bullshit lead to absolutely nothing in the end. I honestly wish I had a time machine so I can go back in time and refuse to review this movie. GONE THE WAY OF FLESH is definitely one of the worst films I've seen in my entire life.

Here's my problem: I have no idea how to review this film. Why? Because it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a horror film? Is it a very long promotional music video? Is it porn? Is it a piece of shit? Well the last one is easy to answer - YES! However, I'm at a loss as to how to approach GONE THE WAY OF FLESH.

Well I can discuss the story. There really isn't one, to be honest. The whole stalker-kills-groupie angle appears to be the focus of the film. But with so much other shit going on, you're never sure. Anyway, the angle is executed horribly. It's not scary. It's not suspenseful. The victims just pop up and get tortured and killed within 3 minutes of seeing them on screen. I mean, what's the point? Why should I care about some skanky looking chicks who have no depth or characterization AT ALL getting murdered by some dickhead? Why should I care for a killer who probably has, at most, 5 minutes of screentime in the entire film? You know what I care about? Skipping 90210 to watch this crap! And I gotta say, why do all the victims have to undress before getting attacked by this guy? Sure, it's nice to see chicks in their bras and panties. But after a while, you get bored with the whole routine. Variety would be appreciated.

The whole stalker subplot just seems like an afterthought compared to the amount of time The Jason Martinko Revue is given the spotlight. They sing four songs, none of which impressed me much, and they all seem like music videos not even YouTube would play. This is a 56 minute film. Why waste 20 minutes on the director's band? Oh, I guess that would be my answer. Mr. Martinko, you're either a filmmaker or a musician. If you're gonna do a horror film, keep the music interludes away and craft a story that's actually interesting, mysterious, and most of all, watchable! I had to fast forward through them because they became monotonous. And there was one interlude where the lip-syncing was so bad that I swore Ashlee Simpson was gonna pop out and do a jig to the embarrassment of the crowd. Enough is enough! It's obvious this was what Mr. Martinko was most concerned with. Thanks for wasting my time, jackass!

There are also a lot of other things I disliked. The drug use in the film was extremely cliched. People snort cocaine. Some stupid bitches shoot themselves with heroin, I think. Yet do these situations add anything to GONE THE WAY OF FLESH? Absolutely not. So why the fuck bother? And the porn stuff. Look I love lesbians getting it on as much as the next straight guy. But it was a little too much for this kind of film, I think. Shots of full on vadge and labias in your face, as well as scenes of people eating some chick's box and a scene where a stripper is getting fucked by a strap on attached to another stripper is just some of the fun things GONE THE WAY OF FLESH provides. But since they don't add ANYTHING to the film, I really don't give a fuck. And it wasn't even good porn either. Wasting baby oil on this would be a crime. I should have realized that the opening credits where a topless chick twirls flaming batons for the entire 3 minute duration would tell me how this movie would end up. But thanks for the visuals anyway.

The gore and torture stuff didn't impress me at all. Like I said, there was no suspense or tension to any of these scenes, rendering them uneffective. Especially when some of them happened during a musical interlude by who else - The Jason Martinko Revue. It didn't work in GRADUATION DAY and it doesn't work here. And the gore isn't really good. We get some fake blood and what appears to be fake guts. Plus there's scenes where a girl gets sliced open [and looks really fake] and a girl hanging from a meat hook and getting her foot severed with one slice. The Ginzu knife can't even do that and it can cut through anything. I'm sure the filmmakers salivated over the stuff they could spend with only $700. As for me? Only boredom.

The direction of the film was extremely amateurish. The editing was decent but the pacing was terrible and it didn't even feel like a horror film. The visuals were also very badly done. GONE THE WAY OF FLESH looked like it was half shot on DV and half shot on security camcorder video. I'm sure VHS footage was used here somewhere. The $700 budget shows [an attic was visibly used for a police station - what does that tell you?] and that should never happen, especially in indie films. The film needed to be tightened and focused on the tortures and its victims. But instead, Jordan McMillen and Jason Martinko would rather focus on the band stuff. That's not what I came to see and for that, not a great directorial job.

The acting was all over the place. No one is really horrible, but no one stands out either. I guess Jimmy Haynes and Joshua Fandry, who played drug dealer and pimp Smooth, were the best of the lot. They delivered lines decently. Matt Kostovny as anchorman Vance Woodrum was a horrible actor but at least he was kind of bad in a funny way. No one else was memorable. Not that I would have cared anyway.

And the ending is just ridiculous. The killer is caught, but happens to fight back and walks away. We never know who he or she is or why he or she does what he or she does. The end.

WHAT THE FUCK??

You mean I watched this film for THAT? You know what? Let's just end this review. I'm sick of talking about this piece of monkey shit!

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE SUFFERING THROUGH GONE THE WAY OF FLESH

- The "Maybe me and my ballsack will become friends with your chin" pick-up line doesn't turn on hot slutty women. They'll instead make sure your ballsack will become friends with their fists, knees, or feet. In this case, three friends is not better than one.

- Don't wash a stained dress in a public bathroom sink. The white trash police will smash your face into a mirror. Save the dress as evidence for a political scandal or something.

- Pills and alcohol are a dangerous combination. Unless you're watching this film. Then it's understandable.

- Vance Woodrum wonders if we'll ever listen to music again without fear. Is Celine Dion still performing? Then the answer is no.

- Having an apple after seeing The Jason Martinko Revue isn't gonna do much good. It'll keep the doctor away, but not the dude who'll kill you. Or the coroner. Or the poor guy who's gonna have to write and read your eulogy. Let's just say there will be a long line waiting to kick your ass for wasting their time in Hell.

- Don't snort more cocaine than you can handle. If you're not Tony Montana, Amy Winehouse, or Kate Moss, it's just gonna end up really bad for you.

THE FINAL HOWL
GONE THE WAY OF FLESH - just ignore it. Forget it even exists. Don't even bother remembering that I wrote this review. Just let it go. Let. It. Go. Please for your sake.


Cut 'N' Run Productions Official Site

Cut 'N' Run Productions MySpace Page

9.23.2008

976-Evil (1989)

DIRECTED BY
Robert Englund

STARRING
Stephen Geoffreys - Hoax Wilmoth
Patrick O'Bryan - Leonard "Spike" Johnson
Sandy Dennis - Lucy Wilmoth
Jim Metzler - Marty Palmer
Lezlie Deane - Suzie Walker
Maria Rubell - Angela Martinez
J.J. Cohen - Marcus
Robert Picardo - Mark Dark


Genre - Horror/Satanic/Supernatural

Running Time - 92 Minutes

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4



If you stay late at night watching television like I do, you'll occasionally see those hotlines where you have to call some number in order to talk to some "hot-looking" person on the phone. Yeah, the voice may sound feminine and sexy, but we all know it's some hairy dude who's probably a chain smoker saying the things we want to hear. Or maybe it's Nicole Bass or Chyna. I'm sure they could use all the money they can get right about now.

It's kind of weird seeing these hotlines still around, especially since it's easier and cheaper just to use the internet and connect with people on a similar level. These hotlines should have stayed back in the 1980s, where they were extremely popular and made horny, desperate suckers empty their pockets due to the massive phone bill they would receive at the end of the month.

Many television shows capitalized on this craze, such as Married With Children in every other episode at the time [it gave David Faustino something to do on the show]. You knew the film industry would jump on the bandwagon. The most popular film of this fad is probably Robert Englund's directorial debut, 976-EVIL. A hotline that can turn you demonic? Sure, why not? But after watching the film, you're just kind of left asking simply, "Why?"

PLOT
Spike (Patrick O'Bryan) lives with his wimpy cousin Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys) and his crazy, melodramatic, religious fanatic of an aunt, Lucy (Sandy Dennis). Being rebellious and a badass on Friday Nights, Spike stays home and calls some hotline, 976-EVIL, that's a horrorscope of sorts and predicts your future. Spike doesn't follow some of the horrorscope's advice, leading to strange phenomena like him almost getting run over by a car without a driver.

The horrorscope moves on from Spike and focuses on Hoax, who is tired of being bullied by Spike's friends and wants to do everything in his power to seduce and win over Spike's girlfriend, Suzie (Lezlie Deane). Hoax calls the number, receives some advice to win over Suzie. It almost works but backfires on him at the end. Upset, Hoax decides to follow the horrorscope's advice by drawing a pentagram and using Satanic rituals to have spiders kill Suzie. Feeling guilty, yet addicted to 976-EVIL, Hoax slowly starts turning into a demon. He decides to get revenge on everyone who's done him wrong, leaving Spike, some cop (Jim Metzler), and his principal (Maria Rubell) to stop Hoax from completely opening the Gates of Hell.

REVIEW
976-EVIL
is one of those films that has a great idea on paper but doesn't seem to know how to execute it visually to make it work. The premise is there, but it takes too long to get to the point. And when it does get to the point, it fizzles out faster than an opened can of Pepsi. I like to call 976-EVIL a missed opportunity that takes what potentially could have been a very good film and pretty much does nothing with it, leaving it mediocre as hell [no pun intended].

The story idea is great. I mean, a telephone hotline number that possesses you with an evil spirit so you can get revenge on those who treated you like crap? That's pretty cool, especially in the 1980s! And all the elements are here. You have the geek, Hoax, who is pretty much hiding in a shell because of a crazy religious mother and a cousin who pretty much ignores him most of the time. You have Spike, who is the badass "hero" of the story. You have the crazy religious mother that's probably related to Margaret White from CARRIE. You have the cute punk girl/love interest. You have the bullies who you want to see get destroyed. And then you have the cop and principal who don't add much to the film at all. Yet, most of these elements don't really establish themselves together as effectively as one would want. As a matter of fact, most of the scenes in the film are really shoddy and incoherent, just leading into each other without making much sense as to how it's all related at the end. I have a feeling that screenwriters Brian Helgeland [who would write much better works like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and A KNIGHT'S TALE] and Rhet Topham honestly had a great story but just had issues as to how to tell it in 90 minutes. Especially when the first half of the film moves slow as hell and doesn't really do much to set up the characters or the whole 976-EVIL hotline. We see glimpses of both here and there, but for me it just seems that Helgeland and Topham had the last half of their story down pat but didn't really know how to introduce the elements to lead into the last half. It's a shame because I think with a better first act, 976-EVIL could have been a lot more memorable than it actually is.

I also have an issue with the characters. I guess they're developed enough where we know who they are and where they sort of come from to make the story work well enough. I just don't think they're effective enough to carry the film. Honestly, Hoax is the most developed character of the film as we understand why he is the way he is. His mom is a religious fanatic who presses her beliefs onto the guy in a smothering way. He idolizes his cousin who doesn't rarely care to acknowledge his existence. He's infatuated with his cousin's girl, who likes him because he's nice until she finds out he's carrying around a pair of her panties. He gets bullied by his cousin's friends. The guy has every reason to be antisocial. But at the same time, he comes across as sort of a creep and a stalker. How am I supposed to be behind someone like that? One could relate to Carrie White because she mostly kept to herself and was otherwise normal besides having telekenetic powers. But Hoax is just on the other side of the spectrum and while I felt bad for him, I couldn't see myself being his friend either.

As for the rest of the characters, they're all pretty much stereotypes of other characters we've seen in other movies before 976-EVIL and after 976-EVIL. I found the character of Spike to be a big problem. He's supposed to be the "hero" of the film, but he does nothing remotely heroic. He's a jerk to his cousin. He treats his girlfriend like crap by gambling with his buddies rather than taking her out on a real date. There's an attempt to make him a character of circumstance like Hoax through exposition about his parents dying which led to his aunt taking him in - probably showing why he acts out and attempts to be James Dean. But nothing about him is remotely likeable. Pitting him against the demonic Hoax, who has a great amount of personality, just makes you wish that Hoax wins out at the end.

And what is up with the police detective/investigative reporter guy and the female high school principal? They're presence here is never really explained and they happen to become best friends the moment the two meet. I never understand their agendas or why they were all that important to the story anyway. I don't want a complete background on these two supporting characters, but something could have been nice. The characterizations could have been a lot better.

There is stuff I do like. The special effects by Kevin and Sandra McCarthy are pretty good for a late-80s flick. The semi-transformation scenes with Hoax are pretty cool and reminded me sort of like THE HOWLING in a way. The gore effects are decent, with the sliced hand kill and the beating hearts being the best of the rest. I also liked the spiders death as well, although it's hardly graphic. I know if I were in that position, I'd be freaking out too. I thought the blue/green screen effects, especially at the end, were pretty cheesy though. But I think that may have been the budget's doing, so I can't totally rip on it. The makeup effects by Kevin Yagher are pretty fuckin' sweet though. Demonic Hoax looks really creepy. I dug the look alot.

As for the direction, Robert Englund does an okay job in his directorial debut. It's obvious Englund took alot of the knowledge he gained from working with multiple directors on the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise because he used some of those tricks here. The film is very colorful. The shots are very stylish and professional. There's a lot of atmosphere and mood going on here. I just feel that there wasn't enough tension or suspense in this film, especially during the stalk sequences that were WAY too long and didn't really end up anywhere. You'd think working on slasher films would help you get that part down pat. Guess not. Still, Robert Englund does an admirable job here.

The acting is probably the best part of 976-EVIL. Stephen Geoffreys, who's probably best known as Evil Ed in FRIGHT NIGHT and later for his foray into gay porn [!], is perfect as Hoax. He knows how to play a wacky guy with a lot of social problems to a tee. I actually liked him alot here, even though his character could have been stronger if he were less creepier as a human than he was as a demon. But Geoffreys makes it work. Patrick O'Bryan, who I believe was in NO HOLDS BARRED, is cool as Spike. I'm not a big fan of the character but O'Bryan definitely has the bad boy look and attitude down. I was convinced. Lezlie Deane as punk girl Suzie was cool and sort of hot in a tough, edgy way. She brought a lot of warmth to a character that probably didn't deserve any. She would later work with Robert Englund in the horrible FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE. Sandy Dennis, an Oscar Winner for WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, is extremely annoying as the eccentric Aunt Lucy. Why are all religious fanatics candidates for the mental ward? Dennis could have used more subtlety in her performance. I would have never guessed from this performance that she was an Oscar winner. And there's a nice cameo from Robert Picardo as Mark Dark, the guy behind the 976-EVIL hotline. Too short of a role but it's always nice seeing him in any project. He never stops bringing the goods.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE PAINTING A PENTAGRAM IN MY ROOM SO I CAN TORTURE HEIDI MONTAG AND SPENCER PRATT FOR TORTURING ME

- Ringing pay phones will explode when the phone is off the hook, burning you to death. And cell phones will give you brain cancer apparently. Boy, Alexander Graham Bell was a piece of work, wasn't he?

- Hoax was surrounded by 5 to 6 cats. The guy is not interested in pussy! Stop trying to convert him!

- The sky was raining fish. This vagina obsession is really getting scary. And who didn't douche?

- A killer car tried to kill Spike after he refused to follow his horrorscope. What the hell is this? CHRISTINE? If so, this brings another pussy reference. Either I'm perverted or this movie is telling me I'm obsessed with sex.

- There was a horror marathon with seats costing only $1.99. They can bring back 80s music and fashion, but not the prices? I really need to build a time machine.

- Girls eat when they're angry. I guess Victoria Beckham is a very happy person.

- Performing Satanic rituals to make a crush notice you isn't the way to go. That's not LOVE POTION, NO. 9 you're using. Someone failed to noticed that the 9 was upside down, genius.

- Don't bully nerds to their breaking points. They'll turn demonic on your ass and cut you! Or they'll own your ass to where you have to rely on their computer products just so you can function in this modern age. For you guys who wanted to bully people like me, I hope you're enjoying karma. Nerds and geeks rejoice!!

- Don't be a poker playing bully. You'll lose a hand. Literally.

- Demons love hot Latina chicks. That explains Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. Wait, he's not possessed? Gee, he sure looks like it!

THE FINAL HOWL
976-EVIL
is not a great movie but it's far from a bad one. Good acting, a great premise, cool SFX and makeup, and some decent direction are highlights for an otherwise mediocre film. If you like your slow moving Satanic possession flicks, you'll probably enjoy this one. I recommend a rental for a late night watch, but probably nothing more than that. I call 976-EVIL an interesting failure. I dislike remakes but I wouldn't mind seeing one for this one.

9.16.2008

Drive Thru (2007)

DIRECTED BY
Shane Kuhn
Brendan Cowles

STARRING
Leighton Meester - Mackenzie Carpenter
Nicholas D'Agosto - Fisher
Van De La Plante - Horny The Clown/Archie Benjamin
Melora Hardin - Marcia Carpenter
Lola Glaudini - Detective Chase
Larry Joe Campbell - Detective Crockers
Penn Badgley - Van
Morgan Spurlock - Hellaburger Manager


Genre - Horror/Slasher/Supernatural

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


This past weekend, I ate a No. 2 [two cheeseburgers, large fries, and a soda] from McDonalds. It had to be my first fast food meal in months, as I pretty much avoided the stuff while losing some weight. And damn, was it good. Now, I normally dig the burgers from Burger King. But when it comes to the overall package, you can't beat Mickey D's.

Unfortunately, what ruins the fast food company is its mascot: Ronald McDonald. It's no secret how much I loathe clowns. They're obviously evil foot soldiers of Satan's destruction. No one can smile and perform balloon animal tricks while wearing enormous amounts of make up and ridiculous clothes without having evil intentions. Ronald McDonald is no different. That charity he's running is probably to fund his sex dungeon for children who enjoy a Happy Meal a little too much.

Look, I can't prove that Ronald is a devious pedophile hiding his true self by warming himself into our hearts. But DRIVE THRU attempts to take the clown mascot from a foot food joint and show that they're not goody-two-shoes like they would want you to believe. Fast food clowns and horror should be the perfect combination. It's not, but it doesn't make DRIVE THRU any less entertaining for a B-movie.

PLOT
Some wannabe rock chick named Mackenzie (Leighton Meester) isn't that big on her life in the O.C. Probably because Peter Galagher and his brows can't help her out of this jam. Seriously, the girl has a journalism career mapped out in front of her. Plus she has a boyfriend, Fisher (Nicholas D'Agosto), who's very loyal to her even when she denies him sex. Do guys like that even exist?

Anyway, Mac has bigger problems to think about when some maniac begins to murder her friends. It happens to be some jerk named Horny The Clown (Van De La Plante), who is the mascot for the Hella-Burger fast food chain, using the Freddy Krueger method of slashing to get the job done. Ironically, all the victims happen to be the children of parents who tormented Horny years ago. Will Mac be able to save her friends and herself from Horny? Or will the fat and cholesterol do these teens in first?

REVIEW
DRIVE THRU
is one of those films I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of. I had read and heard reviews from people before watching the film and they were all pretty negative. I think only Siko/Mike and Kelsey had given it positive reviews. Since we three have very similar tastes, I figured I'd probably like DRIVE THRU as well. And not surprisingly, I enjoyed this film alot. It's a solid modern B-movie that's so cheesy that it's actually quite fun and entertaining to watch.

The story, as you can gather, isn't all that original. It's pretty much A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but without any of the dream subtext and with a clown instead of a burnt freak with razor-sharp claws. And to this I say - THANK GOD! Finally, a horror film that doesn't rip off THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! Hallelujah! That being said, you can expect the same type of twists you saw in ANOES in DRIVE THRU. The parents are pretty responsible for Horny's terror. Hell, they even burn the guy like the parents burnt Freddy. Then you have the killer get revenge on the parents through their children. It doesn't have a lot of depth and the characters aren't as developed as in Wes Craven's film, but it doesn't really hurt the film all that much. The script is simple to follow and the dialogue is pretty hip. The teenagers act like teenagers and the parents act like concerned parents. It was very refreshing. I do think the final act, which led to the reveal of Horny's identity, was a bit too wordy and it had a lot of exposition to the point where the film kind of took itself seriously [while the rest of the film doesn't take itself seriously at all]. It almost lost me for a minute there but at least the reveal made sense and it worked. And I wasn't a big fan of the ending either, which pretty much leaves it open for a next installment. It could have been more elaborated. Still, a decent screenplay by Shane Kuhn and Brendan Cowles.

Like I mentioned earlier, the characters don't have much depth. Mackenzie is the stereotypical "final girl" that's supposed to be sort of the Nancy Thompson character but edgier and more modern. Out of the human characters, she's the one you'll probably relate to over the others. She's a normal girl who starts sounding crazy [to the adults] when she talks about Horny stalking her and her friends. Who hasn't felt like they've been talking to a wall whenever we've spoken to our folks about things they should understand but seem as if they don't? It's a common theme we all understand. Plus she has a romantic interest who can't wait to get into her pants. I'm sure most girls reading this know how that goes. Still, while her friends drink and smoke pot to pass the day, she's pretty much grounded. You could care a bit for this character.

But the real star of the film is obviously the killer, Horny The Clown. And it's deservingly so. The clown looks awesome, with a really evil face and a speakerbox for a mouth. He also has this leather outfit on that's embedded with flames. A lot of work was put into the image of Horny and I dug it alot. He's also a one-liner junkie, as if he watched the later sequels of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and decided to be that Freddy instead of the early version of Freddy. While most of the dialogue misses the mark, I will say some of them made me chuckle at how dumb they were. The film picked up whenever Horny was in a scene, so he was a great asset to DRIVE THRU. Especially when he killed those white dudes who thought they were black in the beginning of the film. God they were so annoying. Horny gained a lot of my respect for taking their asses out.

The gore is pretty decent in DRIVE THRU as well. I won't lie - the special effects were pretty bad [this is a low budget film, of course]. But at least they tried to be creative here. We get a kill where Horny slices someone head in half and their tongue begins to wag, which was cool. The head-in-the-microwave death was a nice idea on paper, but the execution was pretty crappy and it made me laugh more than anything. Just looked really cartoonish. Then some dude gets literally sliced in half, which looked better than the microwave death. It wasn't a total waste. Just don't expect A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET level effects here.

The direction by Shane Kuhn and Brendan Cowles was decent. They paced the film well, except for that exposition scene, and the editing was tight. I do think the tension and suspense could have been a lot better. It's hard to anticipate getting scared when the killer has the ability to be anywhere and everywhere, knowing exactly where his victims will be. I did like how Mackenzie received clues as to the next victim through an Etch-N-Sketch, a Ouija Board, and other things. They worked very well visually. I think they were trying to make a ultimately memorable midnight movie, but Kuhn and Cowles doesn't ever achieve that. Still, I'd like to see the duo continue making silly films because this one was a good start.

The acting didn't exactly blow me away but it doesn't take anything from the film either. Leighton Meester, from Gossip Girl, does a decent job as Mackenzie. She could have been a bit stronger and a little more convincing, but I thought she did a nice job carrying much of the film whenever the Horny character wasn't around. She has a lot of charisma and is very hot. So I can't complain. Nicholas D'Agosto, from Heroes, was also pretty cool as Mackenzie's boyfriend, Fisher. He was a decent actor and I liked the guy. He was pretty believable in his delivery. Meester and D'Agosto also had great chemistry with each other, which made their relationship worth investing in. And Van De La Plante was pretty awesome as Horny the Clown. Extremely energetic and had great line delivery, even if the dialogue didn't always work. He's no Robert Englund [and who is?], but the attempt was evident and for the most part, I bought it.

We also have shorter roles with Meester's Gossip Girl co-star Penn Badgley as her pot-head friend, Van. We also have Larry Joe Campbell, from According To Jim, as a dumb cop. He was okay at the beginning but began to annoy me towards the end. Lola Glaudini, of the Sopranos, doesn't have enough to do but she was good with what she was given. And Morgan Spurlock, from SUPER SIZE ME, is pretty funny in his cameo as a fast food manager. Not a bad cast for the most part.

And the music is no big deal. Just generic metal and rock tunes. Pretty forgettable stuff but work for the film, I guess.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE PUTTING THE FINAL TOUCHES OF MY PLAN TO END RONALD McDONALD'S REIGN OF TERROR ONCE AND FOR ALL

- Some brunette slut wiped her mouth while saying, "Double chili cheese," after giving her wigga boyfriend some head. I didn't need to know what his seed tasted like, but thanks for sharing anyway.

- At some pool party, some horrible all-girl rock band "entertained" the crowd. From the way the lead singer sounded, she must have had some "double chili cheese" stuck in her throat. That wasn't a fleshed-colored microphone, sweetheart. Sigh...

- Mackenzie wonders what college will give her besides a stalker and a drug addiction. How about high blood pressure, stress, crabs, blue balls...? Oh, we're not talking about me. My bad!

- Some chick showed her new tramp stamp which was covered with hair. While I do find that a bit gross on a woman, I can at least hold on to something while I do her doggy style!

- Mackenzie is afraid she'll die a virgin. Um, virgins don't die in horror films. Someone didn't read the handbook...

- The Etch-N-Sketch read, "I Heart Bush." Now I know where mine went. Great, just another reason for Sophia Bush to extend that restraining order she has against me!

- "Gossip Guy here,
It seems Dan Humphrey was split in half over his reaction upon meeting Horny the Clown. No wonder Serena finds Nate more appealing. Dan can't seem to keep it together in a horror movie. What a pussy!

xoxo
"

THE FINAL HOWL
DRIVE THRU is the kind of horror film you may want to rent for that Friday night where you just want to sit back and laugh. It's not gonna change the world or anything, but if you're looking for a cheesy good time with a killer clown and some shoddy CGI kills, DRIVE THRU is the film for you. And yes...I would like fries with that.

9.14.2008

An American Crime (2007)

DIRECTED BY
Tommy O'Haver

STARRING
Ellen Page - Sylvia Likens
Catherine Keener - Gertrude Baniszewski
Hayley McFarland - Jennie Likens
Ari Graynor - Paula Baniszewski
Scout Taylor-Compton - Stephanie Baniszewski
Bradley Whitford - Prosecutor Leroy K. New
James Franco - Andy
Evan Peters - Ricky Hobbs


Genre - Drama/Crime

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4


PLOT - Based on the 1965 story of Sylvia Likens' death [with a crime that's disgustingly shocking], AN AMERICAN CRIME uses the testimonies of the people who were part of this crime to tell the story in their words. Sylvia (Ellen Page) and her sister Jenni (Hayley McFarland) are left in the care of a single mother of seven children named Gertrude Baniszewski (Catherine Keener) after Sylvia's and Jenni's parents decide to work on their failing traveling carnival. The elder Likens plan on paying Gertrude $20 a week, which makes the arrangement smooth at the beginning. However, once the two girls intergrate with the rest of the family and become two more mouths to feed [as well as her young boyfriend (James Franco) who seems to want money from her every time he visits their daughter], Gertrude becomes unstable, growing sick and becoming a heavy smoker and alcoholic. When Sylvia slips out that the eldest Baniszewski daughter, Paula (Ari Graynor) is pregnant, which spreads like wildfire all over town, Gertrude confronts Paula about it. When she denies the pregnancy and lies about Sylvia spreading lies about her that she's a slut, Gertrude decides to torture Sylvia in some of the most grisly ways possible. Whippings, jamming a glass bottle into her vagina, mutilating her body with cigarettes - it gets worse and worse as time goes on. Especially with the children invite neighbors to join in the torture as the community remains quiet about it.

REVIEW

STORY - Based on a true story, AN AMERICAN CRIME wasn't as effective as it should have been. Last year, JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was released, which is based on this very story. Obviously that film was a bit more fictional and dramatized since it changed the characters and some of the stuff around, while this one is more realistic in tone. Still, I felt THE GIRL NEXT DOOR actually told the story better and actually made you feel for the situation more than AN AMERICAN CRIME did. That's not to say that the storytelling in the film was horrible. Not at all. The dialogue was more than believable. The situations were terrible to watch and believe. The characters aren't really developed except for really Gertrude [which is one of the issues I have with this film], but this is not a film about major character development. But it felt like a TV-movie-of-the-week sort of film instead of an actual crime drama that tells you what happened and why should we care.

Like I said before, having Gertrude be the most developed person in the story was a mistake I thought. This is a woman who took an innocent girl who was not related to her and pretty much tortured her in ways I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Yet, the screenwriters seemed to want us to sympathize with her and see why she would be so pushed over the edge in order to perform such an act! Look, I'm sure it's very hard to be a single mother - especially of seven children and then two more children added in. Plus having a jerk boyfriend who leeches off of you isn't gonna help matters. But what this woman did to Sylvia is inexcusable for ANY reason. Nothing is gonna make me like and understand this woman after a fucked up act like that. I wished the film would have given the same character treatment to Sylvia, yet she was just the victim in the story. Sure I felt bad for her because of what was done to her, but other than that? Just bones to spit out.

I also felt the film should have shed some light as to why such a thing could happen and no one would even tell the cops about it until it's too late. Yeah, things like this probably used to happen back then. Hell, they probably happen now. But there seems to be no intention as to why this film was made. Was it to recreate the horror of the situation? Was it to make people speak up if they ever heard about a similar situation in their own lives? What was the goal with this film? We already have THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. Why should people watch this one other than the fact that the real names were used? It was kind of lost on me.

DIRECTION - Tommy O'Haver, who directed ELLA ENCHANTED [what a change of pace], is good here. The pacing is well handled and the transitions between the testimonies and the events that led up to them are seamless. O'Haver also likes using flashbacks and what-could-have-been sequences as well. And he doesn't show us all of the torture Sylvia went through either. Most of it happens offscreen and it's implied, although the cigarette burning sequence was shown somewhat. This isn't a film to praise about the direction anyway, so as long as it told the visual story decently, it's cool.

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - A lot of implied violence. You see a couple of whippings, smacks to the face, and a very disturbing cigarette branding sequence. Other vicious stuff, like the bottle rape scene, aren't shown. Implied sex as well, but no nudity. And from what I can tell, the language wasn't all that dirty.

ACTING - Best part of the film. All the actors are good in their roles but the movie belongs to two women: Catherine Keener and Ellen Page. Keener has received an Emmy nomination for the role of Gertrude and it's well deserved. I would never empathize with her character but Keener really shows how disturbed and miserable this woman is. I think the character was toned down since she didn't come across as a total heartless bitch, but Keener does a fine job bringing this woman to life. Keener almost makes you feel a bit sorry for this hideous woman. That's how good she is. And Ellen Page is great as the tortured Sylvia. Anyone expecting her usual smartass persona like in HARD CANDY or JUNO are gonna be disappointed because Page plays the total opposite here. She's totally down to earth, shy, and innocent - which makes watching her character get abused that more disgusting. Page does a phenomenal job as usual and hopefully she'll do more roles like this so she can escape getting typecasted. She's almost there, I think.

MUSIC - Old school tunes of the time. Cool stuff.

THE FINAL HOWL
AN AMERICAN CRIME
isn't for everyone. It's hard to watch sometimes and it'll anger you that people actually let a young girl be treated like this and not say a damn word. I just wish the film didn't feel like a TV movie and told the story better and actually showed more the violence [would have made the situation more effective]. I would probably recommend THE GIRL NEXT DOOR if you want more of the story's effectiveness, but if you want a toned down version with the real names and testimonies that were a part of this case, AN AMERICAN CRIME is a decent watch. Or just research the Sylvia Likens case. You'll probably get more out of that than you will watching this.

Street Kings (2008)

DIRECTED BY
David Ayer

STARRING
Keanu Reeves - Detective Tom Ludlow
Forest Whitaker - Captain Jack Wander
Chris Evans - Detective Paul Diskant
Hugh Laurie - Captain James Biggs
Common - Coates
Jay Mohr - Sgt. Mike Clady
Amaury Nolasco - Detective Cosmo Santos
Terry Crews - Detective Terrence Washington
Martha Higareda - Grace Garcia

Genre - Drama/Action

Running Time - 110 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


PLOT - Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a stressed out, tough, alcoholic-drives-while-he-drives LAPD detective. Tom takes down a group of Korean gangsters who kidnapped some girls and held them hostage using any means necessary. If he has to manipulate a crime scene to get it done, so be it. This is great for his police captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), who believes that Tom is what he calls "the tip of the spear" when it comes to keeping his police interests intact. However, things get muddled when the Captain of Internal Affairs, James Biggs (Hugh Laurie), breathes down Tom's throat when Tom learns that his former partner Terrence Washington (Terry Crews) may have ratted him out. Tom and Terrence end up misunderstanding each other's intentions during a convience store robbery, leaving Terrence shot more times than Amy Winehouse has passed out from substance abuse by some thugs while Tom doesn't bother to do anything. When the security tape that filmed the crime disappears and the crime is covered up to save Tom, Tom decides to find out the truth with the help of a young detective named Paul Diskant (Chris Evans).

REVIEW

STORY - Predictable and sort of disappointing for a crime drama, the screenplay for STREET KINGS still entertains the viewer. The characters are interesting, all showcasing a shadyness that makes you wonder who in the hell to trust. The mystery of what's really happening is great during the first half of the film. Unfortunately, the writing sort of falls apart in the last half, giving you nothing but predictable twists about the mystery itself, and the allegiances of the characters. I mean, it has something to do with greed and maintaining it by killing people who would get in the way of securing more money for "police funds". The main villain even had the money stashed in a wall in his house! Why not put it in a damn bank overseas where no one can get their hands on it? Duh? Hell, I kept thinking that I was watching an overlong episode of The Shield, just not as good. Still, it entertained me and I got caught up in the story even when I knew where it was gonna go. The story is probably the worst part of the film, but it wasn't so bad that it would you turn you away from what's going on. Still, can we have cop films where the police are actually the HEROES of the film for a change?

DIRECTION - David Ayer directs the film more than fine here. There's a lot of energy here and it gets the adrenaline pumping during some of the more action-packed sequences. I liked how the film was also kind of dark and not-as-polished looking as other films. It made the film more raw and sort of realistic, which was nice. It was a good job. Can't complain about the visuals at all.
VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - Sex is either non-existent or minimal. But the violence and the language is all over the place in this one. Thugs getting shot. Cops getting shot to shit. Characters dropping the F-bomb like we normally do in our every day lives. This film is not for the kiddies.

ACTING - Probably the best part of STREET KINGS. Keanu Reeves, even though wooden as always, actually uses that aspect to benefit his character of Tom. The dude is miserable. He's a drunk. He's heavily flawed. Reeves drives the film extremely well and is pretty captivating to watch. I don't think he's the best actor in the world but I don't think he's as bad as many make him out to be. He was good in this one.

I think of the other actors, Chris Evans had the most to do other than Reeves. He was the total opposite of Reeves - more outgoing, more emotive, and charismatic as hell. I like this guy [probably because he refuses to go the "pretty boy" route, which I respect] and I hope he keeps picking good roles. I do think he was kind of wasted here since his screen time wasn't all that long really, but he did more than good here.

The other actors were good as well. Forest Whitaker delivers another outstanding performance as the police captain. The dude is awesome but everyone knows that. Hugh Laurie was okay, only because he seemed to be playing House but as a cop. It was kind of weird. Jay Mohr, Common, The Game, Amaury Nolasco, and John Corbett were all pretty wasted here in cameos. These guys are actually decent actors and deserved more than what they were given here.

MUSIC - Done by Graeme Revell [who also scored THE RUINS], it really helped drive the film and set up the mood nicely. Plus you get your usual hip-hop music that wasn't annoying. So no complaints in this department.

THE FINAL HOWL
STREET KINGS is a predictable crime action drama, but it's an entertaining one and definitely worth a watch. Not as good as TRAINING DAY, but a little better than HARSH TIMES. STREET KINGS is not as inspired as it should be but you'll never be bored with the film.

9.07.2008

They Live (1988)

DIRECTED BY
John Carpenter

STARRING
Roddy Piper - John Nada
Keith David - Frank
Meg Foster - Holy Thompson
John Lawrence - Bearded Man
Peter Jason - Gilbert


Genre - Science Fiction/Action

Running Time - 97 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


Everytime I look at certain celebrities, I wonder if I'm wearing special sunglasses that allow me to see them for who they are. Honestly, Michael Jackson - that cute little black kid from The Jackson 5 - doesn't really look like an anorexic white woman, does he? What about Joan Rivers? How come her face doesn't move? That's not natural. And no one can be as annoying as Heidi and Spencer, right? RIGHT!!?? You mean The Hills really does exist? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

I wish I didn't run out of bubblegum because I would be kicking ass like Roddy Piper does in THEY LIVE. Greedy corporations, corrupt politicians, and annoying celebrities would all feel my foot up their asses if I had any say. With one-liners, a stark political social commentary, and Rowdy Roddy Piper without his trademark quilt, THEY LIVE is one of director John Carpenter's more popular and better films. Let's see why wearing sunglasses is more than just for protecting your eyes from the sun's harmful rays and looking cool.

PLOT
A drifter (Roddy Piper) wanders around town looking for employment. Unfortunately, the government won't help him with that. He continues to drift around and manages to get hired at a construction site. He meets up with Frank (Keith David), who he becomes friends with and follows to some sort of shelter for those struggling with the current bureaucracy. The drifter begins snooping around, noticing weird things coming from a church nearby, including a bearded guy (John Lawrence) who interrupts programs on TV to talk about a certain "society" and a choir that's pre-recorded. They all happen to wear sunglasses for some reason as well. Soon enough, the church and shelter gets raided by cops, destroying everything in the vacinity.

The drifter goes back into the church a day after, finding a box of sunglasses. Wondering what's the deal, he puts them on and starts seeing normal billboards and magazines preaching words such as "Obey", "Reproduce", and "Watch TV". He also begins to see normal looking human beings as alien creatures. Once realizing that the rich and powerful are really an alien race that's using human beings as puppets and beating the crap out of Frank to make him believe as well, the two join a human resistance group to take down these aliens.

REVIEW
If there was a vote for the Top Five John Carpenter films, THEY LIVE would probably be on it somewhere. While it didn't do great at the box office, probably due to the fact that people didn't want to watch a film that was trying to teach people something about the rotting society at the time [and still happening today], THEY LIVE has managed to gain a cult following. Why? Because it's smart. Because it's sorta funny and weird. And because it's entertaining to watch.

The story [based on a Ray Nelson short called "8 o'Clock In The Morning"], written by John Carpenter under the pseudonym Frank Armitage, is an action film at its heart, but its soul is to blast the Reaganomics at the time. Carpenter was obviously disgusted by the fact that the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. The whole commercialism of the 1980s, where large corporations wanted people to buy buy buy as they sell out, rubbed Carpenter the wrong way. So he satirically used the idea of having evil and greedy aliens portray the ones with power and money, while normal humans were their willing puppets. I'll be honest - it doesn't totally work on every level because I'm sure not many people understood it when the film was released. Hell even today, some people just see THEY LIVE as a campy action film, letting the commentary go right over their head. Sure, the film is campy and action-packed, but there's a serious message Carpenter is trying to address here. He's telling people that we need to open our eyes and not allow the government and corporations control our lives by obeying everything they tell us to do and buying whatever they're selling. The first half establishes this commentary extremely well since it's built up slow and allows the viewer to know the characters and what's going on.

The second half is the more action packed section of the film, where the commentary does begin to drown out to the mainstream fare. It's still a very good last half, but the momentum the first half built up pretty much dies as the film becomes more generic and ends up in the "let's entertain audiences with lots of guns and ugly aliens". And I gotta be honest - sometimes you can tell the last half of THEY LIVE was a bit stretched out to fill a running time because it begins to drag at certain points where things are introduced but never really established properly to make us care. But the ending is one of Carpenter's best, as it is perfectly fitting and satisfying. So Carpenter did know what he was doing here. He just had a bit of a rough road during the final moments to get there.

The character development for other than John Nada [who's never called by that name or any name in the film, by the way] and Frank barely exists. But the film doesn't really need it, since both main characters carry the film really well. Both characters are really two sides of the same coin. Nada is the more active personality, always trying to figure out what's going on and willing to do something about it when he does. He doesn't care about the consequences as long as some kind of change is made. Frank is the more passive personality, knowing something's up but willing to walk away from it because he's afraid that the consequences will compromise his safe and comfortable life. We can relate to these two characters and find them extremely likeable. The fact that the two actors [Roddy Piper and Keith David] have great chemistry with each other also helps.

I don't think any review for THEY LIVE can be complete without mentioning one of the most iconic fight sequences ever shot on film. Yes my friends, I'm talking about the 8-minute-long Piper vs. David brawl in the alleyway over a pair of sunglasses. For those who have not seen this brawl for it all, it may sound silly that two grown men punch, elbow, kick, and knee each other just so Nada can force Frank to wear the sunglasses to believe him for almost ten minutes. But this is one of the best fight moments ever captured on cinema. It starts out serious, but after the first two minutes, you just start laughing wondering when will it end. It's probably why so many people love THEY LIVE [yours truly included] and when South Park does it shot-for-shot during Timmy's and Jimmy's Cripple Fight, you know it's something special. It's awesome.

John Carpenter does some fine ass directing with THEY LIVE. The film has a lot of atmosphere. The use of black and white with the sunglasses is nicely done [low-budget, but cool alien special effects add a nostalgic touch]. The dark sets towards the end create a lot of mood. I also loved how the action sequences were shot. All of them were extremely well paced and energetic. I actually had an issue with that for ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, but it seems Carpenter learned something seven years later. You couldn't really tell this was massively low-budget for its time. Carpenter used the budget in the right way, letting his imagination do the talking for him. Very nice job here.

The acting isn't the greatest but it doesn't have to be. I mean, no one is gonna expect a film starring Rowdy Roddy Piper in the main role to be an Academy-Award winning masterpiece. But Piper is actually a decent actor and is very charismatic as John Nada. He's much more comfortable chewing on one-liners and kicking ass, but even in the most subtle moments, Piper displays a level of sympathy through his body language. Really nice job. Keith David is even better as Frank. He doesn't play the stereotypical sidekick. This dude will kick your ass and won't follow anyone unless he has just cause. Like I said before, David and Piper had great chemistry with each other. The film wouldn't have worked without these two. And the only other actor of note is the beautiful Meg Foster [and her cat eyes] as Holly Thompson. She doesn't have a big role but her cold personality actually gives the character more depth than she deserves. Foster is also extremely sexy, I must add. Cold-hearted bitches are hot!

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE REALIZING LIFE'S A BITCH AND IT'S IN HEAT

- "The venom of snakes is under the lips." Why a preacher is doing a sermon on one of Jenna Jameson's movies is beyond me. But I'd like to study under that religion!

- There's a shelter for the homeless with food, a bed, and showers. Shit, the homeless own better plates and silverware than I do! What the fuck!?

- The Golden Rule is that "he who has the gold has the power". Triple H is a huge fan of this film.

- When the Bearded Man was warning people about "them" during TV static, the viewers got headaches. If this happened during According To Jim, my head would probably feel a lot better.

- Don't kidnap a woman and piss her off. She'll smash a bottle on your head and throw you out the window. Just be glad you weren't smashed with a coconut. That just makes the situation more personal.

- Frank knee'd Nada in the groin like four times in a row during their brawl. I find the black version of The Nutcracker to be much more entertaining than the cracker version.

- Expensive watches are really two-way radios for aliens to maintain their grip on power by eliminating those who know their true goal. That explains how Diddy has managed to conquer the world by sitting on his ass all day by making stupid reality shows. I knew there had to be a reason.

THE FINAL HOWL
Satire, action, aliens, camp, one-liners, and Roddy Piper not wearing his trademark quilt - THEY LIVE pretty much has it all. It's not perfect and not as smart in its execution, but THEY LIVE is a fun entertaining film that 80s and John Carpenter lovers must see. If you want to see a good film starring an ex-WWF/E wrestling not named Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, THEY LIVE is your best bet. Now put on those sunglasses and kick some alien ass!

Gimme those Reese's Pieces, E.T.! BAM!!!
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