11.30.2008

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

DIRECTED BY
Michael A. Simpson

STARRING
Pamela Springsteen - Angela Baker
Tracy Griffith - Marcia Holland
Michael J. Pollard - Herman Miranda
Mark Oliver - Tony DeRaro
Haynes Brooke - Bobby Stark
Sandra Dorsey - Lily Miranda
Daryl Wilcher - Riff
Kim Wall - Cindy Hammersmith
Kyle Holman - Snowboy
Jill Terashita - Arab
Cliff Brand - Officer Barney Whitmore

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 80 Minutes

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4


I believe I mentioned some time before that I've never been to camp. I've never slept in a tent. I've never told ghost stories around a campfire. I've never roasted marshmallows hanging off of a twig. I've never put a firecracker up a camp buddy's nose, lit it, and watched his head explode. I pretty much missed the whole outdoors portion of my childhood and adolescence.

But at least I can live the camp experience with Angela Baker, the gender-confused killer of SLEEPAWAY CAMP. While the experience the third time around isn't as memorable as the first or as funny as the second, SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND is still an average sequel that gives SLEEPAWAY CAMP fans pretty much what they have come to expect: deaths, T & A, and silly one-liners. Oh that Angela...

PLOT
After killing some Latina chick with a truck, Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen) disguises herself as her as she returns to Camp Rolling Hills, which is now being called Camp New Horizons due to Angela's killing spree. This time around, the camp counselors pretty much figured it's time to conduct an experiment where rich kids would end up camping with poor kids, hoping that they will share in each other's experiences and get along. Posing as a poor kid, Angela is split into a group as part of the experiment, hoping to keep her cover as Officer Barney Whitmore (Cliff Brand), who happens to be the father of one of Angela's last victims in SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS, is in charge of one of the groups. Of course, Angela can't manage it for long as she still doesn't understand adolescence at all, killing those she considers immoral.

REVIEW
SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND
is a film I saw many years ago and really could not remember much about. And after watching it again recently after so many years, it's easy to understand why. Besides certain death sequences, nothing really stands out in this installment. It's pretty much what you'd expect from an 80s slasher sequel like this. While watchable, it's pretty tame stuff and doesn't push the envelope enough to make it pop in the genre.

The story in SLEEPAWAY CAMP III has a pretty interesting premise. Using the class issue between the rich and the poor is a pretty cool concept. A lot of drama could arise from a situation like this, especially in a woodland environment that just happens to have a killer on the loose. Unfortunately, it's never used in a way that makes the film any more interesting or different from other slasher films. What we get instead is the usual stereotype: white rich kids calling poor black kids the N-word, black kids playing hip-hop, street kids spray painting stuff, preppy looking rich kids liking kinky sex shit [no wonder so many politicians have sex scandals] and a rich girl falling for a poor boy. I wished to see all the kids kind of group together against the killer, and then turning on each other to save their own asses. It could have brought a lot of drama to the proceedings, but unfortunately we don't get that here.

Speaking of the kids, these characters were really unlikable or uninteresting. Besides Angela, Tony, and Marcia, all the others deserved to have painful deaths. They were so stereotypical, it wasn't even funny. These "teenagers" [who looked thirty years old] had about as much depth as an episode of The Hills. I thought the characters in part 2 were barebones! I know slasher flicks aren't known for their high level of character development, but when these characters don't have personalities that grab my attention, I'm gonna shit all over them. Especially Riff with his hip hop music. I like hip hop, especially old-school hip hop, but it just went on and on and on. What also went on and on and on is the fact that these characters didn't get killed fast enough for my tastes. Just really annoying as hell.

And the script tries to be as funny and witty as UNHAPPY CAMPERS but fails. Sure, Angela gets some decent one-liners in between kills, but they're more miss than hit for the most part. The dialogue was pretty lousy in this flick. It sort of felt rushed to me.

The gore and death sequences aren't all that great but at least they're enjoyable compared to everything else. I think the best ones were the death by lawnmower, where some old bitch is buried underneath garbage and gets her head chopped by the blades of a mower. I also liked the firecracker in the nostril bit. Pretty sweet. I liked the double axe murder too. The death by flagpole, where a victim was lifted up by rope to the point where she was high enough for Angela to let go and let the bitch drop, was okay too. Then you get your normal stabbings, decapitations, and constant stick beatings which got boring after the first two whacks. The deaths deliver but feel tame compared to the first two installments. I guess Angela wasn't motivated this time around.

The direction by Michael A. Simpson was decent. The film looked nice and the pacing felt just right. My favorite bit of direction was the scene was when Angela raised the zipper of a tent while Herman, who was inside, was lowering his pants' zipper. It actually made me smile because that shows the director had some thought going into this film. Still, the film is never suspenseful. No tension to be felt here, people. Angela kills exactly when you know she wills. Plus the whole film takes place during the day! Where's the horror in that? Some night shots would have been nice!

The acting wasn't the film's strong suit, no. But it was effective enough for the story. Pamela Springsteen is still a pleasure to watch as Angela, but there's something missing this time around. She actually looks bored some of the time, which may have been due to the filming of UNHAPPY CAMPERS and TEENAGE WASTELAND back-to-back. Still, I enjoy watching her have her way with stupid characters I'd probably hurt myself. Tracy Griffith was pretty cool as Marcia. She played it sweet and charming. I liked her. Same goes to Mark Oliver's Tony. Good acting from him and he seemed pretty cool. Too bad he was a victim of late 80s fashion. Yikes! Michael J. Pollard as Herman annoyed me. Especially since the old fart got to play with some quality knockers. Bastard. Haynes Brooke couldn't die fast enough for me as the kinky Bobby. He looked like he was 35 and unhygenic. Like Angela would ever sleep with him. Sandra Dorsey as Lily was also annoying and such a bitch that a lawnmower death was still to kind for her. Knowing my luck, I'll end up marrying a woman like Lily. Just my luck. Cliff Brand was cool as Officer Barney. I bought the bitter performance and his confrontation with Angela towards the end. And Kyle Holman was Snowboy was pretty funny. He's definitely a dude I'd hang with.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED DISGUISING MYSELF AS BRAD PITT SO I CAN BANG ANGELINA JOLIE...AND HIDE FROM AUTHORITIES OF COURSE

- Some chick had "milkshake" tattooed on her small boobs. I'm sensing her milkshake won't bring boys to the yard. I've seen plenty of women with milkshake that's better than hers.

- That same chick got run over by a truck and then put in a trash compactor. She better hope she's related to the Shredder if she wants to return in the next installment!

- Some chick doesn't find Tony cute because he's Mexican. If she was smart, she would realize that Mexicans are good with stuffing tacos. Idiot!

- Someone spraypainted "Fuck Angela Baker" on a wall. If you know anything about Angela's history, (s)he'll be the one doing the fucking. Better not drop the soap!

- "Sweet Pea" hates fish. She must have been one of the people who voted against Proposition 8.

- Angela was beating Herman with a stick. Too bad it wasn't his own stick. The old man looked like he could use it.

- Angela put a firecracker in some dude's nostril. Now I know what Michael Jackson got all fucked up in the head and had to get hundreds of nose jobs. Whoever did that to him was really "Bad" and "Off The Wall".

- The Asian girl got ahead of herself and got decapitated for being a bitch. I got one question: Anyone in the mood for Chinese?

- Riff doesn't like cleaning fish. I understand that. I prefer dirtying them with my special sauce myself.

- Don't ever allow yourself to be tied up to a tree. You'll most likely branch out to paralysis or possible death.

- Angela fatally shot a cop. Talk about a smoked ham!

- Angela got stabbed in the gut during the final battle. I guess she won't be having kids anytime soon. Oh wait, she doesn't have ovaries. Men looking like hot women...men having babies...this whole gender-bending thing is really messing with my head...and my boner...

THE FINAL HOWL
If you liked the first two SLEEPAWAY CAMP films, you'll probably like TEENAGE WASTELAND as well. It does suffer from sequelitis, but it delivers where you least expect it to. If only if the film had more energy, better characters, and jokes that actually worked, TEENAGE WASTELAND would have been on the level of UNHAPPY CAMPERS. But it's good for a rental, especially if you're hanging with buddies and have some beer nearby. Entertaining flick but forgettable after it's over.

11.26.2008

The Transporter (2002) & Transporter 2 (2005)


DIRECTED BY
Corey Yuen (THE TRANSPORTER)
Louis Leterrier (THE TRANSPORTER & TRANSPORTER 2)

STARRING
Jason Statham - Frank Martin
Francois Berleand - Inspector Tarconi
Shu Qi - Lai (THE TRANSPORTER)
Matt Schulze - Darren "Wall Street" Bettencourt (THE TRANSPORTER)
Ric Young - Mr. Kwai (THE TRANSPORTER)
Hunter Clary - Jack Billings (TRANSPORTER 2)
Alessandro Gassman - Gianni (TRANSPORTER 2)
Amber Valletta - Audrey Billings (TRANSPORTER 2)
Kate Nauta - Lola (TRANSPORTER 2)
Matthew Modine - Jefferson Billings (TRANSPORTER 2)
Jason Flemyng - Dimitri (TRANSPORTER 2)
Keith David - Stappleton (TRANSPORTER 2)

Genre - Action

Running Time - 93 Minutes (THE TRANSPORTER)/87 Minutes (TRANSPORTER 2)

Score -
3.5 Howls Outta 4 (THE TRANSPORTER)
3 Howls Outta 4 (TRANSPORTER 2)



I think I've made it known a couple of times in certain reviews about my hetero man-crush on Jason Statham. Ever since I saw him in Guy Ritchie's LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and [especially] SNATCH, Statham had been on my radar due to his charisma, presence, and acting ability. I think I've pretty much seen every film this has been in, give or take a couple that I'm still getting to. This guy has star written all over him, but that wasn't really realized until his first leading role, 2002's THE TRANSPORTER. I remember seeing the trailer to this film and watching all the fight sequences and thinking that Statham was the toughest badass I've seen in a film in years. Unfortunately, I was one of the few who actually saw THE TRANSPORTER in a movie theater as the film made only $10 million in the United States. Thankfully, the power of DVD made the film a big hit and worthy enough for another installment - 2005's TRANSPORTER 2, which was more over-the-top and more action-packed than the original was. This time, I wasn't one of the few who saw this in a theater as the sequel made a pretty good chunk of cash during its release, making more on DVD than the first one did.

Now in 2008, we have TRANSPORTER 3 coming out today which I probably won't see until this weekend. I'm actually looking forward to it, even though I know the third installments are usually not all that great. But I'm willing to give it a chance because I'm a big fan of the first two installments, which prove that action is alive and well in the 21st Century. So before I review TRANSPORTER 3, I figure it's only right to review the first two and see if they still hit the mark today as they did a few years ago. After all, I have rules and you always follow the rules.

PLOT
In THE TRANSPORTER, Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is known in the European underground as The Transporter - meaning he will transport anything for a fee to anywhere that he's directed to without asking any questions. A former military dude and a guy who is proficient in martial arts and firearms, Frank is pretty anal about his job and follows certain rules for each one:

- Never change the deal.
- No names.
- Never look in the package.

Frank is very on point about his transporting business, always knowing shortcuts or planning ahead for certain occasions [like police trouble] that may hinder his job ability. Driving his BMW 735, Frank can pretty much outdrive anyone without injury or scratching his car.

During one transporting job, Frank gets a flat tire. Going to his trunk for a spare, he sees the package he's transporting - moving and screaming. Letting his curiosity get the best of him, Frank decides to look in the package to find some Asian chick named Lai (Qi Shu), who is part of some slave-smuggling cartel deal. Violating his third rule destroys the private and quiet life he once had before taking this certain mission, making him realize that one should always follow the rules.

In TRANSPORTER 2, Frank relocates to Miami from France, now playing driver to a kid named Jack (Hunter Clary). Jack happens to be the son of some big government official (Matthew Modine), who trying to stop the world of narcotics in the area. Being a dumbass, he doesn't realize this just put a target on him and his entire family.

One day, Frank takes Jack to a doctor's appointment. Unfortunately, some bad guys kill the staff at the clinic, posing as nurses and doctors to attack Jack. Frank realizes this quick and manages to save Jack, until the mastermind behind this latest attack (Alessandro Gassman) and his anorexic girlfriend (Kate Nauta) force Frank against a wall that allows Jack to get kidnapped, as well as taking the blame for the crime. They try to kill Frank, but he manages to survive. More pissed off and determined as ever, Frank has to save Jack as well as the entire world, as this madman is planning to spread a bio-chemical weapon that will murder anyone who breathes it.

REVIEW
THE TRANSPORTER
films are what I consider guilty pleasures. They're basically plot-less most of the time, requiring the action to shut your brain down so you can just enjoy being stimulated by the visuals on screen. The stunts are really over the top, almost to the point where they become borderline ridiculous. It's cliche, after cliche, after cliche - yet both films make all this work. Why? Because they never take themselves seriously as if the filmmakers know they're making a ridiculous action flick or two. And I'm more than fine with that because action films should be exciting and have to be sort of illogical in order to work.

Like I mentioned above, these films are basically plot-less. That's not to say that THE TRANSPORTER and/or TRANSPORTER 2 don't have stories. Both films do have a Point A, a Point B, and a Point C that moves these films along. Obviously, both films focus on Frank Martin - British Bad Ass who makes sure his actions are louder than his words. The funny thing about Frank is that we barely know anything about his background. We know he was in Special Ops, but we still haven't learned about how he even because a Transporter or why he continues to do so when it gets him into all sorts of trouble that complicated his quite life. Yet while we have no inkling of his past, we're still allowed to know what kind of character he is. He's a neat freak. He doesn't talk much unless he has a point to say something. He cherishes his cars like his life. He has rules he tries to follow. And he's an ass-kicking machine. Frank can be a very cold character and almost seems anti-social, but he's greatly appealing and charming at the same time. I think it's because the character is always up front about who he is and why he does what he does. There's no shadyness with Frank and that's why we root for him.

But the character development pretty much ends there with these films. Unless you count Inspector Tarconi, who is a pretty loose police officer who's willing to help Frank do anything without judging him, none of the other characters are really fleshed out. We barely know anything about the people Frank associates with, as they're just necessities for the films' plots.

Still, it doesn't matter because these films aren't about Academy Award winning screenplays, memorable dialogue, or great characterization. These films are about the action on screen. And that's where THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2 succeeds. The first one is pretty much more grounded in reality. We get great high speed chases, with lots of cars crashing into each other and such. We get insane fight choregraphy. We have explosions that involve cars and houses. I swear the first time I saw this film, I saw things I had never seen before - especially the combat scenes. THE TRANSPORTER has better pacing than TRANSPORTER 2 does because there isn't action all the time, as we have some expository scenes that bridge these sequences.

TRANSPORTER 2 is pretty much all action, all the time. And that action is extremely out there, as it almost feels like watching a cartoon most of the time. It's not a bad thing at all, as I still find the action in the sequel to be satisfying as an action-junkie. But unlike THE TRANSPORTER, TRANSPORTER 2 makes you throw all logic out the window as your suspension of disbelief is stretched pretty tightly. I mean, how does a man fall from many feet above onto a moving car, make a massive dent on the top of the car, roll off the car, and get up as if nothing had happened. There's another part where two cars crash into each other as Frank does a split in mid-air to avoid the collision. Should I even mention the insane spinning airplane sequence towards the end of the film where Frank and Gianni have fisticuffs in mid-air as the plane crashes down into the ocean? And what about all those ramps that appear just in time for Frank to leap away from danger? The stunts and action in TRANSPORTER 2 are insane and pretty much unbelievable. Yet, I don't take these films all that seriously anyway so it doesn't bother me that Frank can pretty much survive everything death throws at him. I do hate some of the CGI used in the sequel [you can't miss it really]. It looks faker than it should and it almost takes you out of the film. But other than that, the action sequences are the highlights of these movies.

The fighting choregraphy [by Corey Yuen] is also fantastic in both of these films. Jason Statham pretty much does most of the stunts in these films and he's a tremendous athlete. I'm not sure if he took martial arts training before THE TRANSPORTER, but Statham moves like a cat and is extremely believable when he's throwing punches and kicks, using his T-shirt to wrap it around the necks of goons, and covering himself with oil and busting heads that way. And the use of weapons as well is extremely impressive. Statham is not a dude I would fuck with in real life. The choregraphy is incredible and I see things in these films that I've never seen before in any action movie I had seen prior. I think the closest I've seen to these are in Jackie Chan films where the choregraphy is stunning to watch. There's definitely a Hong Kong influence when it comes to the fighting style and I've always been fascinated by these kung-fu style movies. Learning these steps is probably really tough. Making them look convincing is probably even tougher. But THE TRANSPORTER films make it possible. Sure, it's silly to see one man take out 10 guys with weapons all by himself in the matter of three to five minutes when you think about it, but it feels extremely right when you're watching Statham do it in THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2. Kudos to the people behind the scenes bringing the action and making it good.

The direction for these films are also very good. Corey Yuen and Louis Leterrier co-directed THE TRANSPORTER, with Yuen filming the action portions and Leterrier filming the most story driven stuff. To be quite honest, I didn't even realize two men directed this film until recently. Nothing about the film gives it away. It flows extremely well from beginning to end. THE TRANSPORTER feels like a Hong Kong action flick, as it has that mood going for it. It feels fresh and the cinematography is beautiful [kudos to Pierre Morel for that]. I do think the editing by Nicolas Trembasiewicz is a bit too much at times, especially during the action sequences, but it doesn't bother me a lot. But less jump-cuts would have made the sequences a bit more watchable.

Louis Leterrier solo directs TRANSPORTER 2 and does it really well again. Unlike the first one, Leterrier kisses reality goodbye and just lets shit rip, filming the most insane action sequences that assault the eyes and shut down the brain. TRANSPORTER 2 is pretty much Leterrier doing style over substance, but at least the style is pretty awesome. Also, the editing is a lot better here. You get a better feel of the action in the sequel as there's no major jump cuts that distract you. And again, the cinematography is beautiful. The film is a lot brighter and sunnier than in the original, as the film takes place in Miami. I really dig the direction in both films. Yuen and Leterrier provide action aficionados what they want and that's enough for me.

The acting is not these films strong suits, but I do feel the acting in THE TRANSPORTER is a bit better than in TRANSPORTER 2. Jason Statham is awesome in both installments, convincingly playing Frank Martin as a bad motherfucker who will kick your ass in so many ways that it'll make your head spin - probably literally. Statham is charismatic. Statham has a presence that makes you notice him. He's good when he speaks dialogue, but he's even better when he just uses facial expressions and body language to convey what the character is feeling. Plus, Statham is fantastic at fight choregraphy. The dude is a machine in these films. He is the franchise and he carries it extremely well.

Francois Bereland is also very good as Inspector Tarconi. His character acting and humorous take on Frank's world is a nice contrast to Frank's more serious and colder character. The two have great chemistry whenever they appear together on screen. I do think he's kind of wasted in TRANSPORTER 2 but hopefully he has a bigger role in TRANSPORTER 3 where he shares scenes with Statham. The two make a good duo.

The other actors are a mixed bag. Shu Qi is very beautiful and has a nice presence about her as Lai. I think her handling of dialogue is a bit weird, but that's probably because speaking in English on film is probably foreign for her. Sometimes she would sound natural; at others, it sounded almost like she was reading from a cue card. But I liked her and she made an interesting love interest, even if it wasn't all that believable.

Amber Valletta has more chemistry with Statham than Shu Qi, but doesn't get to do all that much really but cry and vent. She's a good actress but the role wasn't much for her. Matthew Modine was a bit of an overactor though. I don't know if he was having faux-Vietnam flashbacks from FULL METAL JACKET, but he was trying a bit too hard to be angry here. Plus his character wasn't developed enough for me to care. He's a better actor than this. Hunter Clary was cute as Jack though. Most child actors annoy the hell out of me, but Clary didn't. I actually liked the dynamic between him and Statham. The two shared nice chemistry that could probably melt alot of hearts.

The bad guys are also a mixed bag. I find the villains in THE TRANSPORTER to be better than the ones in TRANSPORTER 2. Matt Schulze was swarmy, sarcastic, and a real jerk as Darren Bettencourt. He was an asshole in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and he continued that persona here. And Ric Young as Mr. Kwai was a bigger dickhead, treating his daughter Lai as a business proposition rather than a family member. I bought these two in their roles, as cliched as they were, because at least they had personalities. Alessandro Gassman and Kate Nauta were pretty one-note in TRANSPORTER 2. Gassman just looked pretty I suppose with his accent. I guess he figured his toned body would do the acting for him. Didn't work, bro. At least Nauta was a little more fun to watch as the crazed Lola. I liked her scenes with Statham and they shared an interesting chemistry as well. Maybe if she was the main villain, the film probably would have been equal to the original. But she was Gassman's lackey and Gassman was pretty much a pussy. Kind of lame, but I guess that's to be expected from these action flicks.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE KICKING ASS IN MY BUSINESS SUIT

- If you want to rob a bank, do it in France. Not only are the police not great at their job at all, but they'll probably surrender before the chase even begins. Sucre bleu!

- Frank has a photographic memory. Unfortunately, that means he can't forget GHOST OF MARS or IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE. No wonder he's so sullen.

- If you're transporting a female prisoner, never let her out if she wants to pee. She's lying and is trying to escape. Remember - women always go to the bathroom in groups, never alone.

- Don't bomb a British man's car. He'll get so bloody pissed off that your fate will be as bad as marrying Madonna. Let's not get SWEPT AWAY, shall we?

- Don't leave a kidnapped Asian in your house while you go to bed. She'll snoop around, find info about you to get into your life, do your homework, and eat all of your pets. Yoko O-no!

- Saving the life of an Asian can be beneficial. Remember, if you do they'll love you long time.

- Lai's father paid hundreds of dollars to send her to school and teach her English. Couldn't she just have watched Sesame Street? What a rip off! And I thought Asians were smart!

- If you need to fight like 8 guys at once, cover yourself with oil. No one will be able to touch you. Like Frankie Valli once sang, "Grease is the word."

- Frank is not afraid of AnnaLynne McCord, even when she was holding a gun on him. He must have seen 90210. Laughable, I know!

- The bad guys had Frank by the balls in Miami. If this was Miami Vice, this shit wouldn't have happened. Well, maybe to Tubbs. But Crockett and his 5 o'clock would have totally kicked ass!

- Frank has the ability to jump over ramps, knock off bombs planted beneath his car in mid-air, flip 360 degrees, and still drive away without a scratch on his car. It's just like Grand Theft Auto! Insane Stunt Bonus, baby!

- TRANSPORTER 2 shows that one can hunt down and capture criminals by uploading info from an iPod from one computer to another. Man, my iPod can barely shuffle songs from a playlist without the hard drive going nuts on me, freezing the damn thing. What the fuck?

- Frank jumped from a boardwalk onto a waterski below, flipping the female driver over his shoulder so he can take control. Frank sure knows how to handle the ladies and make them wet.

- Frank used sliced watermelon as boxing gloves. We all laughed at him, but we should have known Gallagher was onto something.

- Frank keeps an extra suit and tie in his car trunk. I guess every girl is crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

- Lola was killed by a wall of spikes. I'm sure that wasn't her first time being impaled...

- Frank and Gianni were fighting and floating inside an out-of-control spinning airplane that was about to crash. Geez, where's Ted Striker and Otto when you need them?

THE FINAL HOWL
If you're looking for some intelligence in your action coffee, THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2 are not gonna satisfy your brain. But if you just want to kick back and have fun watching insane stuff happen to people and their cars that would probably never happen in real life, then these two films are the perfect popcorn flicks for your action fix. I'm pretty sure TRANSPORTER 3 will be just as stupid as these two films are and I can't wait. If you haven't seen these films for whatever reason, don't go in expecting much. Follow that rule and you'll enjoy THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2.

11.23.2008

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

DIRECTED BY
Jon Knautz

STARRING
Trevor Matthews - Jack Brooks/Forest Troll
Robert Englund - Professor Gordon Crowley
Daniel Kash - Counselor Silverstein
Rachel Skarsten - Eve
James A. Woods - John

Genre - Horror/Demon Possession

Running Time - 90 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


PLOT - JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER is about a guy named Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) who has had a very traumatic childhood. You see, Jack was on a camping trip with his family when some monster jumps out of nowhere and eats Jack's mom, dad, and little sister. Jack, running away from the scene and being the only survivor, has grown up bitter and angry that he couldn't save his family. His psychiatrist (Daniel Kash) just makes him angrier. His snobby and bitchy girlfriend, Eve (Rachel Skarsten), doesn't help his situation. The only things that seem to calm Jack down are his plumbing job and his trips to night school.

Here, Jack meets his professor, Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund), who is a kooky chemistry teacher. One night after class, Crowley invites Jack to look at his pipes [get your mind out of the gutter!], which seem to be clogged or something. Jack attempts to solve the problem, but unwittingly opens up the ground outside of Crowley's home, releasing pure evil. Jack leaves, but this evil spirit invades Crowley's home and possesses him until he transforms into something that looks like Chet from WEIRD SCIENCE, only with tentacles this time. This demon can also possess other people to turn them into zombie-like demons. Can Jack make up for the past and save the day? What do you think?

REVIEW

STORY - This was a mixed bag for me personally. Let me just start off by saying that I really liked the screenplay. It goes from point A to point B to point C in the simpliest of terms. We understand Jack's struggle and why he's so angry. The whole "demon escape" thing was clever. The characters are nicely developed enough for us so we can relate to them in some fashion. The dialogue was good. JACK BROOKS has a really interesting and humorous script going for it.

My problem is that the story doesn't really go far enough with the premise. Especially when the first 50 minutes of the film is the intro portion, leaving maybe 20 minutes at the end for the actual monster slaying. It's nice that the screenwriter, John Ainslie, wanted to develop the characters, but when I'm expecting monsters getting slayed, I want to see them get slayed. The wait was a bit too much and too long. I get that Jack Brooks is an angry person. I didn't need like ten scenes to tell me that. The film should have just set it up fairly quickly and moved on to the monster portion. If it were a lesser movie that wasn't fun or interesting, I would have stopped watching during the long set-up. But at least the film was never boring, which it definitely had going for it. But more action-like scenes besides the end would have been cool with me. Oh well.

DIRECTION - Jon Knautz does a great job bringing this film to life. The SFX used were awesome [no CGI here - this film proves you don't need it all the time] and the cinematography was very nice. The editing was excellent and the pacing was a bit slow at the beginning but it definitely picked up towards the end. Knautz creates a fun and light mood amidst all the wacky shit that happens. It felt like an 80s film and that's more than alright with me. And were there some Sam Raimi-EVIL DEAD-like visuals in this flick, or was it just me? If you want B-movie goodness, JACK BROOKS is for you. And that couldn't have been possible without Knautz's direction. Well done, sir.

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - Well the closest you get to sex is dancing and making out. But the violence and the language make up for it. You definitely get your share of cuss words in JACK BROOKS, and when the violence happens, it definitely happens. Especially towards the end of the film when Jack Brooks must fight off demons and the possessed Crowley-Chet hybrid. We get some ax wielding and some pipe bashing and some head splattering. It's all good. The gore FX is pretty top of the charts here and I dug what was given to me.

ACTING - Trevor Matthews, who created and produced JACK BROOKS, does the title character very well. He's not as charismatic as Bruce Campbell, whom I'm sure was an influence, but he's definitely convincing in his angst and his transformation into a hero. Matthews is very energetic and is a great physical actor. Matthews could have turned Jack into a caricature of an angry person, but he takes the role seriously and we buy him as a normal dude with problems. The anger never takes over his life. It just frustrates him. And Matthews protrays that well. I would like to see him do more acting roles.

Robert Englund is also great as usual as Professor Crowley. Never one to hold back, Englund embodies the character, especially when he becomes possessed and transforms. It's a great physical and comedic performance that I really enjoyed. Score another one for Englund in 2008, as both JACK BROOKS and ZOMBIE STRIPPERS benefit for having the man onboard. And Michael Bay wants to replace him in that unneeded A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake? Fuckin' idiot.

The other actors were decent as well. Rachel Skarsten from Birds of Prey, in particular, was great as the bitchy girlfriend. God, I'm surprised Jack Brooks didn't manhandle that wench. She's the reason why I'm single. You're a better man than I, Jack Brooks.

MUSIC - Nothing really of note except to say that it worked well with what was going on in the film. So complaints here. Just don't expect Oingo Boingo to pop up or anything.

THE FINAL HOWL
JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER
isn't going to be the next EVIL DEAD, but it's definitely a pleasant surprise in the stagnant smell of modern horror. If only the story had pushed the idea a bit further, we would have had a cult classic in the making. Still, I recommend a definite rental and if you like it, a purchase should be the next step. I hope this is the beginning of a new franchise because I would like to see more of Jack Brooks. Move over, Mario! There's a new hero plumber in town!

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: The Eye (2008)

DIRECTED BY
David Moreau
Xavier Palud

STARRING
Jessica Alba - Sydney Wells
Alessandro Nivola - Dr. Paul Faulkner
Parker Posey - Helen Wells
Rachel Ticotin - Rosa Martinez
Fernanda Romero - Ana Cristina Martinez
Chloe Moretz - Alicia Milstone
Rade Serbedzija - Simon McCullough

Genre - Horror/Ghosts/Remake

Running Time - 97 Minutes

Score - 1 Howl Outta 4


PLOT - An Americanized remake of a Hong Kong feature from 2002, JIAN GUI, THE EYE is about a solo violinist named Syndey Wells (Jessica Alba) who happens to be blind. Her blindness occurred during a fireworks accident at the age of five, when her sister Helen (Parker Posey) held the sparks too close to Sydney's face. Syndey has adjusted fine without the sense of sight, but is pushed to have a cornea transplant by her sister so she can see. The operation comes off extremely well and is referred to see an eye specialist named Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola), whose job is to help Sydney adjust to the world of sight with his assholish charms. Adjusting to the sight is a struggle for Sydney, but it becomes the least of her problems when she starts seeing things that no one else can. Ghosts haunt her, as well as a dark mysterious shadow that seems to be around these lost souls. Horrified by her visions, she begins rejecting the visual world. Although Paul tells her that her brain is still adjusting to the new sense to explain her weird visions, the explanation goes out the window when Sydney looks in the mirror and sees a face that isn't hers. The face belongs to the woman who donated her eyes to Sydney, making Sydney investigate who her new eyes belonged to and why are they making her see these visions.

REVIEW

STORY - The story is probably the best part of THE EYE, which really isn't saying a whole lot. It's hard to screw up a good screenplay like the one for JIAN GUI, and the screenwriter for THE EYE [Sebastian Gutierrez, who also wrote SNAKES ON A PLANE and GOTHIKA] happens to pretty much stay faithful to the original until the different ending. For those who may not have seen JIAN GUI, the story is a pretty interesting one that catches some of your interest. The idea of cellular memory is touched upon to bring a sort of psychology aspect to the film, although it could have been expaned more. The cliched plot device of 'having someone see weird things and having the people around them doubt them, thinking that they could be crazy until they research and figure out what's going on' works well here. I mean, it's hard to mess something like that up. There's a really decent ghost story here. Unfortunately, the characters aren't really developed all that much and some of the dialogue is pretty ridiculous and forced. Ideas are brought up but never developed into anything truly substantial [back to the idea of cellular memory for this one]. The script plays things too safe and you never really feel connected to the story and the characters all that much. Still, there are worst scripts and stories than THE EYE. I found it semi-watchable, and that's enough for me sometimes.

I do have an issue with the ending to THE EYE. I hate that Hollywood feels that every fuckin' horror film needs to have a happy ending. I don't need to have every film tied up in a nice bow and ribbon so I can feel good about what I just saw. JIAN GUI's ending was more downbeat, BUT it made sense with the context of the story. It was a fitting conclusion. Again, the ending for THE EYE felt tacky and forced. And that voice narration at the end that reveals the moral of the story? Ugh. It just made me want to smack a bitch.

DIRECTION - The Pang Brothers infused JIAN GUI with atmosphere, mood, and a high level of creep factor that probably made the film better than it should have been. Directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud [who directed the French horror film THEM] don't bother with that good stuff, instead relying on jump scares that are pretty old hat these days. Ooh, let's manipulate the audience by having people pop up to catch them off-guard! It's not original and it doesn't work because there's nothing building up emotionally for these things to have any sort of effect. And if you have ghosts, why not make them do SOMETHING? All these spirits did were stand around and ask for report cards. Yeah, I'm frightened.

I will say that the scenes where Sydney first begins to see show some stylish asthetics for Moreau and Palud. And the pacing wasn't too terrible [could have been quicker though], same goes to the editing and the cinematography. THE EYE is one pretty looking film. But other than that, Moreau and Palud disappoint in their debut American feature. If they had infused real scares through nice visual style, they could have taken a derivative and pointless remake to a higher level than it probably deserves. But THE EYE is just forgettable and pretty bland visually for a modern ghost movie.

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - It's a pretty tame PG-13 horror flick [sigh...]. There's some violence but nothing to get excited about. People die. Arms getting burnt. Glass shatters everywhere. Nothing new really. I think the language was pretty tame. I'm sure there were cuss words, but I don't really remember hearing any to be honest. And don't bother looking for sex. The closest to it is seeing Jessica Alba in a tank top that's not even wet or see-through. How disappointing.

ACTING - This is the area that frustrates me. If the acting was better, the score would have been higher because great acting can turn a mediocre script into a good film. Unfortunately, we have Jessica Alba carrying a film that's too heavy on her back and shoulders. Here's the thing: Jessica Alba is extremely hot. I love looking at her. Her looks are the reason why she gets these high-profile roles to begin with. But that can only take someone so far. If only she were a better actress, she'd be the total package. But I find Jessica Alba to be pretty boring and bland. I dunno if it's the screenplays that she picks or she's just like that in real life. I'm not saying she's terrible in THE EYE. As a matter of fact, you can tell she's trying to emote and convince us that she's traumatized by the effects of her new corneas. But it's never enough and just seems forced most of the time. The only time I found her acting convincingly was when she was actually playing blind. I thought she did a great job doing that. But she's worse when she's able to see things. How is that possible? I will say it's one of her better performances, which isn't saying much, but the effort was there. I think she needs to take some more acting lessons and learn how to be convincing in roles like this one. When I have to write that Paris Hilton is a better actress than Jessica Alba, it makes me very sad.

Parker Posey is another actress that frustrates me for different reasons. Posey is a good actress [I still think she's the best part of SCREAM 3], but she picks these roles that do absolutely NOTHING for her. Here's another one of those roles. As Sydney's sister, Posey is given nothing to do and she barely has any lines of dialogue. I guess they needed a family member for the Sydney character, but why bother when she has no effect on the story whatsoever. The character could have been left out and nothing would have changed in THE EYE. Posey does what she can with what's given to her, but I want to see her take juicier roles.

The only actor who made an impression on me was Alessandro Nivola as Paul Faulkner. Since he's a modern man, the five-o-clock shadow look was present. He also played Paul as a bit of a jerk, which didn't really make the whole attraction between Sydney and Paul all that effective. Still, Nivola plays the cynic pretty well and I found it amusing that he would play the "love interest" character that way. Maybe he knew the film was gonna suck. Or maybe he was frustrated with Alba's lack of acting ability and decided to let the audience in on it. Whatever it was, Nivola was the only actor who had personality and I would like to see him do more stuff. Maybe if everyone was pissed off in ONE MISSED CALL to show that they knew they were in a bomb, I would have been kinder on that piece of shit.

MUSIC - Don't even remember it. I think it was like some cliched gothic score, but it didn't stick out. The orchestra stuff was nice though.

THE FINAL HOWL
I was really expecting an abomination like ONE MISSED CALL, but THE EYE surprised me by being better than that other remake. Still, THE EYE is lackluster and is more evidence that Hollywood needs to stop making remakes of Asian horror movies. We can just watch the originals, ya know? THE EYE is not bad enough to make you blind, but it's not worth seeing either. Don't bother buying or even renting THE EYE. Wait for it on television.

11.11.2008

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Darren Lynn Bousman

STARRING
Anthony Stewart Head - Nathan Wallace/Repo Man
Alexa Vega - Shilo Wallace
Paul Sorvino - Rotti Largo
Sarah Brightman - Blind Mag
Paris Hilton - Amber Sweet
Bill Moseley - Luigi Largo
Ogre - Pavi Largo
Terrance Zdunich - GraveRobber

Genre - Horror/Musical

Running Time - 97 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


I'm not a musical genre person. It's funny I say that because I've seen so many of them due to my mom being such a sucker for these kinds of films. I do enjoy them on some level. In fact, I love WEST SIDE STORY, GREASE, and even DREAMGIRLS. But they don't resonate with me like horror or action films do. I wouldn't say no to watch a musical, but I'm not gonna be overly excited about seeing one.

However, I'm oddly fascinated by horror-musicals for some reason. I think it's because I find it interesting when the two genres mesh together to create something of an experience that must be seen to be believed. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is still one of my favorite films and I watch it at least once a year. THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS remake grabs my attention more than ROCKY HORROR because of how silly it is. Can't forget about the classic THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I even dig PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE a bit. And last year's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET was a pleasant surprise, to the point where I quickly bought the DVD upon its release.

And now this year, we have REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman [who directed SAW II, SAW III, and SAW IV]. Dropping SAW V from his resume to work on this very personal project, REPO! grabbed a lot of buzz for casting Paris Hilton in a horror flick a little before she headed to prison last year. Lionsgate seemed to be behind the project, giving it an April release date and showing the film at multiple festivals to rave reviews. But suddenly, Lionsgate stopped promoting the film altogether, moving its release date around as if it wanted to avoid jury duty or something. Sadly, Lionsgate released the film to limited release last weekend [which it did to THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, which also garnered positive reviews]. It's apparent that Lionsgate isn't confident in releasing its films worldwide unless it has SAW in the title. Too bad because REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA is a whole lot better than SAW V could ever be and deserved to be released worldwide for everyone to see. It's not a perfect horror-musical, but it's an experience to behold once you sit down to watching it. Score one for originality.

PLOT
Based on a short play, REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA deals with multiple plots dealing with some futuristic organ transplant company named GeneCo. The main one involves a young girl named Shilo (Alexa Vega) who suffers from some blood disorder she received from her late mother and is now forced to remain in her bedroom by her father, Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head). What Shilo doesn't know is that Nathan is the head Repo Man for GeneCo, where he must take back organs from patients who have failed to keep up with their payments by murdering them gruesomely.

GeneCo is run by Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), who happens to be dying and must deal with his three children (Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, and Ogre) who happen to always argue about who will take over GeneCo once Rotti is dead. Rotti has a grudge with Nathan due to Nathan stealing Rotti's love and making her his wife, which led to very unfortunate events out of revenge.

There are also more sub-plots, like a blind opera singer named Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) who happens to be Shilo's godmother and soon becomes a victim of GeneCo's contract policies. Plus we have a narrating GraveRobber (Terrance Zdunich) who sucks a certain type of addicting drug out of corpses and sells them on the black market, especially to Amber Sweet (Hilton).

REVIEW
While no ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW or THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA is still an ambitious, original, and experimental horror-musical that deserved to be promoted more than it was. Darren Lynn Bousman distances himself away from the SAW sequels as much as he could, creating an experience that has to be seen to be understood. I do feel the film is TOO song heavy [there's no non-singing dialogue in the film at all] and there's too much going on for a 90 minute film [should have been a bit longer], but I enjoyed REPO!.

The story plays out like an opera - full of love, deception, and tragedy. Every sub-plot is absolutely interesting and entertaining, as I felt there was no filler at all in this movie. The main plot with Shilo is written and sang wonderfully, as we understand her plight to be free after suffering under quarantine by her overprotective father. And it's not done to make Nathan a villain either, as through his songs and through flashbacks, we learn why he does what he does. Plus we see his dark side through his songs as well, which give us a lot of character development. Shilo's struggle to deal with her sickness and her chance at a cure is what brings all the sub-plots together. From Rotti's revenge against Nathan using Shilo to turn against him, to seeing how dysfunctional the Largo children are individually, to Blind Mag and her connection to all this - everything connects flawlessly and we see these situations from multiple perspectives that actually fit together. That's a hard thing to do on paper because so many stories tend to confuse audiences on what they should be focusing on. But REPO! writers Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich make it work, as you realize that every story fits into the same puzzle and they all come together at the end.

I feel the story is pretty much a commentary on our vanity as a society. The entire character of Amber Sweet is made through her addiction with plastic surgery. It's not like she needs it at all, as she's quite a good-looking woman. But she feels that she needs to change her looks in order to become a successful performer and upstage the much more beautiful and talented Blind Mag. It also runs in the family, as Amber's brother Pavi never reveals his true face, always wearing another person's face as if he wants to be Leatherface. Obviously these two reflect the insecurities of many people who feel the need to keep up with certain looks in order to fit in with the rest of the society, hoping that being accepted by others will make them feel better instead of accepting themselves for who they are. Hollywood seems to have a lot of these people, if constant reports of plastic surgery on certain celebrities show us every day. The whole idea of GeneCo is like a massive mill to fill the needs of those who feel ugly about themselves. And like in real life, it always comes with a price.

I do feel though that the story had too many numbers. Now I understand this is an opera and that's the point. But because of so many songs and no actual dialogue, none of the songs really stand out. I wish there was a showstopping number I could describe, but there really isn't any. They all tend to flow into each other, but not seamlessly all the time. At times, I felt the meshing of these songs was a bit disjointed. One person could be singing a ballad to someone and the other person would be singing a rock song to the other. It was a bit weird and took a bit of adjusting to. At least all the singing was sung extremely well, especially by Brightman, Head, and Sorvino. Plus you learned a lot from the songs. People didn't sing just to sing. They sang to reveal truths about themselves and their situations to move the story along. And since most of the songs sounded like Evanescence on an acid trip, I kind of dug them alot. So it was a mixed bag for me there.

I also felt the comic book transitions in the book to give us a look at the flashbacks to certain characters and how it connects to the present situation were a mixed bag as well. I loved the comic book art and thought they were visually stunning and quite amusing. But when you have songs already giving us the exact info, it makes these transitions redundant. I don't know if this was used to fill up time or to be visually stylish to be honest.

I liked the gore FX here. Anyone expecting SAW-like gore will be disappointed. It's enough for the story I felt and there were moments that were pretty gruesome. Mainly the gore were during scenes where Nathan, as the Repo Man, would gut his victims in order to take back unpaid organs that belonged to GeneCo. Plus we do get some death scenes towards the end but nothing too drastic.

Darren Lynn Bousman should be applauded for taking a chance outside the SAW franchise to direct REPO!. The film is visually stunning. The gothic colors of the sets and locations are extremely beautiful. The editing was a whole lot better here than in any of the SAW films. The pacing at the beginning of the film was a bit off but it got better as the film rolled, especially during the last [and best] act of REPO!. But overall, I thought the direction was great. I give credit to the production design and cinematographer for helping Bousman reveal his vision. Bousman is very confident at his job and it shows here.

The cast here is pretty fuckin' cool. I never would have guessed I would see all these performers in one film, let alone a horror-musical. Alexa Vega, from the SPY KIDS films, is pretty hot as Shilo. She actually has a good voice and sings a majority of the songs. I thought she carried them well and I liked her here. I think her most memorable number was "Seventeen", a rock rebellious song where she performs with Joan Jett [in a cameo]. Anthony Stewart Head, from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, already proved he had the singing chops during the Season Six musical episode. But here he takes it to a whole new level, as his singing shows he has a split personality: one as Nathan and one as The Repo Man. Even his voice changes as he alternates between the two. It's quite impressive and a brilliant turn by Head. I guess he got to play Ripper after all. Paul Sorvino, who already has opera experience, brings it to the table as the villianous Rotti. I liked the performance but I felt that Sorvino could have given maybe a bit more. I didn't think Rotti was bad enough. Sarah Brightman blew me away as Blind Mag. She has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. I was swept up by her singing. I honestly could listen to Brightman sing all day. I wish she were in the film more because I don't think she was given enough to do. I liked her that much.

As for the other roles, Paris Hilton actually surprised me as Amber Sweet. She pretty much played a more extreme version of herself, but she actually had a decent singing voice. She won't be winning American Idol or anything, but I actually liked the girlish tone to Hilton's voice. It was kind of cute actually. Plus she looked pretty hot, I gotta say. It pains me to write that but I can't deny she looked good - except when her face was falling off of course. Bill Moseley cracked me up as the angry Luigi. He wasn't a bad singer either but he had some really funny lyrics that made the whole audience laugh. I think this dude is cool period. And Terrence Zdunich was pretty cool as the GraveRobber. I liked his voice alot, as it was sort of deep and commanded your attention. I wish he were in the film more too. I would have liked to learn more about him.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE SINGING FOR A MAKEOVER

- Rotti's two assassin ladies looked like they stepped out of a Robert Palmer video. I may not be "Addicted To Love" but I did find them "Simply Irresistible"!

- The GraveRobber used a corpse as a battering ram. That's one way to wake up the dead.

- Shilo and Nathan struggled with their father-daughter issues. Now I know what Thanksgiving dinner at the Lohan house is like. Sheesh!

- Luigi vows he will find a hole to fuck in, and if he can't find one, he will make one. Thank you, Luigi. Now my mattress can understand why I did what I did during puberty.

- Don't mess with Anthony Stewart Head when it comes to fighting. He's watched enough Slayers to know how to beat the shit out of you.

- The Genetic Opera involved boobs, lesbianism, and awesome rock music. Now that's worth $300 a ticket. Let's see you top that act, Madonna!

- Amber Sweet's face peeled off during her performance. Actually that wasn't her face. That was just some dried up DNA after a facial she received from a male stagehand backstage. Protein is good for the skin, I hear.

- Blind Mag dug her nails into her eyes to take them out. Man, taking out contacts sure is a lot bloodier in the future. No wonder Sarah Palin sticks to glasses.

THE FINAL HOWL
REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA
is one of the better horror flicks of 2008 due to its ambition and originality. It's obvious Bousman wanted to create a modern cult classic, but that has to be earned. So we'll see when the DVD is released in a few months. I do feel that if you're willing to take a chance on a film like this, please do. It's better than any sequel or remake that we've been fed by Hollywood for the past few years now. REPO! didn't get a chance to thrive at the box office because Hollywood is too chickenshit to market something different. So please give it a chance on DVD. Will it be for everyone? No. But it will have its audience and it deserves an audience. REPO! is an experience that everyone should try at least once. Nice to see someone taking a risk to give horror fans and musical fans something different from the norm. I'd like to think that counts for something.

11.06.2008

Zombie Strippers (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Jay Lee

STARRING
Robert Englund - Ian Essko
Jenna Jameson - Kat
Roxy Saint - Lillith
Joey Medina - Paco
Carmit Levite - Madame Blavatski
Shamron Moore - Jeannie
Penny Drake - Sox
Jennifer Holland - Jessy
John Hawkes - Davis
Jeannette Sousa - Berenge
Whitney Anderson - Gaia

Genre - Horror/Zombie/B-Movie

Running Time - 96 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


There are several ways how a certain film can capture my attention. One way is through the trailer. If what I see in the previews to a film grabs me on some level, I'm gonna be interested in paying money in order to see it. Another way is through association with certain directors and actors. If I'm a fan of the people involved with making of the film, I'll probably be watching it as soon as its released.

And then sometimes, it's the title alone that catches my eye. When you see news for a film called ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, you're gonna want to know more about it even if the title doesn't really give one hope that it's gonna be a great film. And really...who cares if the film is great and how it was made or promoted? C'mon, look at the title! The film has zombies. The film has strippers. Hell, it'll probably have both in one! If it has those three things, I'm gonna be there! And I was there, witnessing one of the awesomely bad B-movies I have seen in a very long time. ZOMBIE STRIPPERS is not false advertising, ladies and gents. The title says it all and this review will say it all: ZOMBIE STRIPPERS is one of the best horror flicks of 2008. Yes, I actually wrote that with a straight face. This film rocks!

PLOT
It's 2012 and George W. Bush has won a fourth term as President of the United States with his Vice President Elect, Arnold Schwarzenegger. If that doesn't qualify as pure horror, I don't know what will. A military force stumble upon an evil corporation that seems to have created some sort of biological weapon/virus in order to create super-soldiers out of the unfortunate [a.k.a. the poor]. The corporation wants the military to kill everyone in the lab since the virus has spilled out and turned them all into zombies.

During the battle, a rookie soldier gets bitten by one of the infected and escapes to a nearby strip club run by Ian Essko (Robert Englund). In this strip club, Kat (Jenna Jameson) is top dog and the other strippers are either jealous of Kat, followers of Kat, or just indifferent altogether. During one of Kat's performances on stage, the infected soldier, now a zombie, spears Kat off of the stage and bites her to death. However, Kat returns as a zombie and does what she does best - strip. Even decaying, covered in her own blood, and hungry for human flesh, Kat is a better stripper dead than she ever was alive. Kat becomes more popular, making Ian a greedier bastard and keeping her around even though she eats some of the paying customers. The rest of the strippers, wanting the attention, decide to become zombies themselves. Unfortunately, the zombie epidemic spreads to the point where there's too many of them to control, leaving Ian and his staff struggling with their survival.

REVIEW
ZOMBIE STRIPPERS
gives you what the title is advertising. You get a bunch of flesh-eating zombies. You get a bunch of hot strippers who actually get fully naked and grind on a strip pole. And then you get a combination of both. How awesome is that? And this film is pretty awesome, as it's a pretty fun B-movie that I'm sure many will enjoy if they don't take the film so seriously.

The film actually has a plot, which I detailed above, and it isn't so bad. ZOMBIE STRIPPERS isn't exactly a story-driven film but there is a level of social commentary being told here if you can read between the lines. While the film is mainly about girls stripping and zombies eating people in vicious ways, there's a subtext about the social hierarchy that pretty much runs our lives day to day. The strip club is pretty much a metaphor of our government and the strippers themselves are representations of the social ladder many of us try to climb and sometimes decline. Kat is the upper class of the club, gaining the attention and the rewards from her superiors. The other strippers fall below her, jealous of Kat and wanting her spot - or to at least share her spot. When Kat is turned into a zombie and becomes one of the most acrobatic strippers ever on film, she becomes more popular. Even dead and rotting, the men throwing bills at her find her hotter as a corpse than when she was alive. This causes the other strippers to think about risking their lives in order to become zombie strippers themselves so they can reap the rewards. It's like going against your morals and doing things that you know are wrong just to make your dreams come true. It's not right but you know that you'll be better off at the end in the material world. Ian, the strip club owner, represents the greedy corporations who take advantage of their workers in order to gain a profit. He degrades his strippers to make them feel less than human, knowing that their weakness will make him stronger and richer. And the military plays itself, knowing right from wrong but not caring about those things when orders are given and they must use every method in order to stay alive. I read a lot of reviews saying how weak the commentary was in this film, but I don't think many really LOOKED to really see it. Hell, all I cared about was seeing a bunch of hot girls slide down a pole while zombies tore them apart and I still managed to learn something from it at the same time. How come others weren't able to do that?

The script by Jay Lee and his sister, Angela, was based on some French play called Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. Since I've never seen that play, I can't compare the two. I will say that the script isn't really strong in terms of character development or telling an intelligent story from point A to point B. I mean most of the film is just women dancing nude. It doesn't require a lot of dialogue to make these scenes work. But the dialogue outside of these scenes is pretty funny and clever enough to entertain. Besides, no one is watching ZOMBIE STRIPPERS for its script. Let's be honest here.

The gore FX here was pretty fuckin' cool, I gotta say. It's pretty much CGI but it's good looking CGI. There's a lot of blood spilling in this film and some really cool deaths. One involves a penis being ripped off. Someone gets their skull scalped and their brains eaten. Necks get chomped. We get a decapitated head. Bullets and other weapons splatter some blood, especially the head shots that make heads explode. And my favorite was when a head was actually ripped in half! I actually said, "Holy Shit!" when I saw that. This is what a zombie film should look like and I couldn't get enough.

And of course, we get hot naked ladies strutting their stuff and grinding on a steel pole. Boner City, I say! Jenna Jameson and the rest of the female cast that stripped were really smokin' and did not hold back at all. Hell, the best part was the stripper catfight scene with Jameson and Shamron Moore, who pretty much tore each other's flesh [literally] off of their bodies. I will never forget the part where Jameson actually puts a bunch of balls [pool balls and golf balls] inside her vagina and shoots them like its a cannon to attack Moore. I was dying and it's something I've never seen in a horror flick before. Nice to see the use of both ZOMBIES and STRIPPERS and making it work for our entertainment.

The direction by Jay Lee isn't gonna change the world or anything. But he's more than capable of giving us visuals we won't forget for a very long time. It's pretty much a point and shoot affair, but the editing is tight and there's a sleazy atmosphere that can be felt most of the time. The film does look like some of those softcore films you can find on Cinemax at night, but I actually felt it gave ZOMBIE STRIPPERS its charm and appeal. Not the best direction I've seen in my life but I can't complain about it either.

The acting was pretty much campy and not all that great. But in a B-movie, that's pretty much the point. Robert Englund plays it over-the-top like he usually does and it works here. Englund plays a disgusting, chauvinistic, greedy bastard of a strip club owner who puts his workers down but doesn't mind if they put money in his pocket. And you totally buy it, even though a part of you does find the guy likeable because Englund shows how much he enjoys the role. You can never knock Robert Englund so I'm not going to. Jenna Jameson, surprisingly, does a pretty good job here as Kat. It's not like I didn't think she could act. Out of all the modern porn stars out there, I always felt Jameson had the chops to have a decent mainstream career. ZOMBIE STRIPPERS isn't a bad place to start that at all. She's quite appealing and can carry lines well. She's also a great stripper. Surprisingly, her acting is actually better she plays a member of the undead, wearing a bunch of makeup and looking like she's having the time of her life. I thought Jameson did a great job and I wouldn't mind seeing her do more mainstream work once she gives birth to her twins.

The other actors are decent and do enough to create funny characters and have a place in the story and film. I do think Roxy Saint, Joey Medina, and Carmit Levite stood out besides Englund and Jameson. Saint played the gothic stripper, Lillith, who idolized Kat. She turned me on with her dark character and her seductive dancing, especially as a zombie. Joey Medina played Paco, the stereotypical Mexican janitor. Either you'll hate him or laugh with him because Medina as Paco will offend some Mexicans. I thought he was funny and his sparring with Englund who pretty much called him every Mexican slur in the book was hilarious as well. And Carmit Levite as the Russian, Madame Blavatski, was funny as well with her one liners. Nice cast for a low-budget flick.

My only real beef was the last few minutes of the film. ZOMBIE STRIPPERS should not be a serious film, but it got sort of serious as it wound down. It also tried some heavy duty political commentary while it was at it and it didn't really do much to help the story. Oh well.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE GATHERING DOLLAR BILLS FOR A ZOMBIE LAP DANCE

- In 2012, George W. Bush will win a 4th term as United States President with his Vice President pick, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wow, the KINDERGARDEN COP and the guy who probably never graduated past Kindergarden. I had no idea END OF DAYS 2 was in production!

- You can't kill zombies with an electromagnetic pulse. But you can kill their Presidential hopes by pairing them with a dumbass hockey mom/Governor who thinks running for top office is like competing in a beauty pageant. Even Joe Six-Pack knows this! *Wink*

- Some strippers will sit on your face and give birth to your head. As far as I'm concerned, that is the true meaning of reincarnation. Oh to be born again...

- A zombie attempted to eat a scared Jenna Jameson. I don't know why she was so surprised by that. It happened all the time at her old job...

- Kat was a better stripper dead than she was alive. It turned me on so much that I may have to consider necrophilia. Again.

- Don't ever receive a blowjob from a hot zombie. She'll bit off more than you can chew. Literally.

- Don't get seduced by a zombie stripper. Her act will eventually give you a headache. Literally.

- A zombie's favorite film is THE WARRIORS. Funny how the dead have better taste in films than most of the living. BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA? Really?

- Davis, who wanted to get laid with the prudish Jessy before dying, promised he wouldn't stick it in her all the way. Okay, who stole my journal and has been using my life story? Um I mean...yeah...that's funny...heh...because that would never happen in real life...yeah...

- Jenna Jameson got stabbed three times in the head. Talk about deep penetration!

THE FINAL HOWL
Yeah, I can't believe it either - ZOMBIE STRIPPERS is one of the best horror flicks of 2008. It's not a great film in the slightest but it's one of those films that is so bad that it's good. Plus it'll put a smile on your face when you're watching it with your buddies while drinking beer and chewing on some popcorn. Here's a movie that finally gives the viewer exactly what it's promoting and I am totally appreciative of that. Definitely rent this one if you just want to be silly on a Friday or Saturday Night. Hell, I'm buying this one eventually when I get the chance. If you like zombies and if you like boobs, boobs, and more boobs - you can't go wrong with ZOMBIE STRIPPERS.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to work out the rigor mortis that's suddenly affected my penis. Now where's the baby oil...?

11.04.2008

Quarantine (2008)

DIRECTED BY
John Erick Dowdle

STARRING
Jennifer Carpenter - Angela Vidal
Steve Harris - Scott Percival
Jay Hernandez - Jake
Johnathon Schaech - George Fletcher
Columbus Short - Danny Wilensky
Greg Germann - Laurence
Dania Ramirez - Sadie


Genre - Horror/POV

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


Ever since the massive success of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT back in 1999 [was it that long ago? God!], POV horror has become all the rage. It started out pretty slow, but once the YouTube generation kicked in, there seems to be no stopping it. This year alone we've had two American horror flicks that used the POV thing to varied success - George A. Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD and CLOVERFIELD. Now we have QUARANTINE, which seems to want to continue on the success wave that CLOVERFIELD stepped off of.

QUARANTINE is a remake of a Spanish-language film that's not available in the U.S. yet called [REC]. Since mainstream America doesn't want to watch horror films with subtitles due to laziness or maybe just a low level of literacy, Hollywood decided to...what else...remake [REC] and put its spin on the story while maintaining most of the sequences from the original version. While it's not as good or as exciting as CLOVERFIELD was earlier in the year or a trailblazer like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was almost 10 years ago, QUARANTINE is still an effective horror flick that should please most horror fans disillusioned with the current American horror scene.

PLOT
Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is some TV host for a show called "Night Shift". In this edition of her show, Angela and her faithful cameraman, Scott (Steve Harris), hang out with an overnight fireman crew in Los Angeles. For about 15 minutes, we watch Angela interact with the fire department, especially two firemen named Jake (Jay Hernandez) and Fletcher (Johnathon Schaech). As Angela and the firemen begin to bond, there's a call at a station about some old apartment building where its residents heard some screams coming from some elderly woman's apartment. The fire department and the police arrive at the scene, where they enter to find the old woman not making a lot of sense and foaming at the mouth. It doesn't help that she has blood all over her either. Out of nowhere, she attacks one of the policemen and rips some flesh before killing her.

Getting everyone out of their apartments and attempting to leave the building, Angela and the rest soon learned that the Center of Disease Control has locked the building down in a state of quarantine. With no way to get out, those inside the building must deal with infected and rabid humans who want nothing more than to kill and spread the disease.

REVIEW
This is sort of a hard review to write because I was very excited about watching QUARANTINE and after watching it, I felt a bit disappointed. It's a good horror flick, don't get me wrong, but I guess I was expecting more out of it. It's an intense film and there were moments where I did jump or feel creeped out, but it's the kind of film that works better if you don't know much about it. I tried not to let it effect me, but knowing what the original was about and then seeing the previews multiple times for QUARANTINE that pretty much give away the entire film [and I'm being absolutely serious] made the film lose much of its effectiveness. I think what made CLOVERFIELD and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT work so well was because while there was hype that may have overshadowed these films, at least there were still a level of mystery and intrigue since not everything was given away via the trailers. I don't blame the film itself for this. I blame the film studio for lowering the mystery factor because it effected me while I was watching it. Still, QUARANTINE is a film that's worthy of more than a watch because it sets out to creep people out and manages to do it on a certain level.

I've never seen [REC] but I heard the two stories are pretty much the same. It's really not a complicated horror flick. Take 28 DAYS LATER and mix it with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD pretty much - meaning a bunch of people arguing on how to survive while they deal with infected people of some virus that's barely explained until the last few minutes of the film. While the main plot is great, the whole virus thing seems like an afterthought until the end to explain what's really going on. I think it has something to do with homemade biochemical warfare or some kind of cult or something - I don't really know. I'm sure not many people find that important, but I think it could have helped to know the purpose of the virus and how the personnel outside the building knew quickly to quarantine the premises. The reason for a mystery is to be solved and I wasn't really given a conclusive answer. I'm sure a sequel will be made for this where everything will be explained, so that's probably why it wasn't given enough detail. It didn't hurt the film for me [I happen to like not knowing sometimes] but I thought the opportunity was there and not necessarily taken all the way. That's all I'm saying.

QUARANTINE also fails to bring anything new to the table. While still effective as a film, we've pretty much seen this all before. From running infected "zombies", to people who can't get along to face their fears and survive, to people hiding their infection while their allies dwindle in number - the story is pretty cliched. But at least the cliches work here and aren't overdone to make your eyes roll. If it's not broken, don't fix it, right?

I do feel that the ending was a big letdown though. I guess it was the appropriate ending, but it suffered from having it being a major part of the trailer. Why did Screen Gems allow what could have been a very powerful conclusion be seen right in the trailer and the rest of the promotional campaign? That frustrates me because things like that should NEVER happen when you want to sell your film. It cheapens the thrills and the surprise. The whole thing was just fucked up in my opinion.

The gore FX was very cool in QUARANTINE. I couldn't believe that these SFX were actually done "live" and not with some post-production CGI. I was very impressed and you definitely see some gory stuff. I totally bought the violence protrayed in this film.

I wish I could be as nice about the direction by John Erick Dowdle. I understand the whole POV aspect in horror is the "it" thing right now, but this was just too much. The first hour was great and there wasn't alot of shaking going on. But that last half hour almost killed me when the remaining survivors got all frantic and started to run all over the house to hide and escape. It not only makes one dizzy and nauseous, but you don't see a damn thing anyway. I want to watch a horror film to see what's going on. I don't want to see someone running with their camera pointed down so I can watch a blurry sequence of feet running up a flight of stairs. And then it kept turning back and forth and it was just - yeah. I think shaky cam can work. It worked in CLOVERFIELD, the BOURNE films, and even in the HALLOWEEN remake. But there was too much of it here and it took me out of the film rather than putting me in it. Besides that, I liked the direction. Especially the sequence where the camera actually becomes a weapon and takes out one of the infected. But it could have been a bit more subtle. Besides, what sane cameraman would continue to film what happens in this house as they're being viciously hunted down and attacked? People are more professional at their jobs than I thought.

The acting was fantastic though. I really bought what was going on in the house due to the performances from the cast. I'm sure there was a lot of improvisation going on here because sticking to the script wouldn't work here. Jennifer Carpenter, of Dexter and THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, is very likeable as Angela. She has a playful personality which suddenly changes once she's scared by the events of the house. Carpenter screams and whimpers with the best of them. I totally believed she was scared for her life. Jay Hernandez, of HOSTEL, played the heroic character of Jake. I liked him alot and he gave a natural performance. You could tell the character was scared without him really getting overdramatic. It was a nice performance. Steve Harris, from The Practice, played the cameraman. Harris doesn't really do much until the last half of the film and we get to see his view on the situation. Johnathon Schaech was swarmy as Fletcher. He was sort of playful but in a dickhead sort of way. His performance here was a lot better than in that PROM NIGHT remake. We also had appearances from Ally McBeal's Greg Germann and Heroes' Dania Ramirez as residents of the apartment building. I found everyone in the film to be believeable and they're the main reasons why this remake works as well as it does.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WONDERING WHY THIS HICKEY ON MY NECK IS MAKING ME HUNGRY FOR FLESH

- Angela is really excited about doing a segment about firefighters. I guess she needs a hose for her burning bush.

- Every firehouse has a pole hole. Who knew Sienna Miller got around THAT much?

- Angela is a great basketball player. I dig a woman who can juggle a few balls from time to time.

- Many people were trapped inside an apartment building. Must have been near the Church of Scientology. I hear once you enter, you can't leave. It may be just a film for us, but it's real life for Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise.

- Mrs. Espinoza tore a chunk out of a cop's neck. I'm not surprised by that actually. Some women just can't enough of ham.

- Johnathon Schaech got brutally attacked and became rabid. First divorcing Christina Applegate, then starring in that horrible PROM NIGHT remake, and now this? Geez, there's so much one man can take in one year!

- An infected dog mauled some poor bastard. Sometimes life is a bitch!

- Don't drill a dude when he's unconscious. He'll bite your head over it when he wakes up. Literally.

- A little girl bit a black cop. Just like Kim Kardashian, she prefers dark meat.

THE FINAL HOWL
QUARANTINE
is one of the better horror films of 2008, but that really isn't saying a whole lot. While the marketing approach is definitely questionable and the direction a bit disorienting, QUARANTINE is definitely worth checking out if it's still in theaters or for a better bet, on DVD when it's released next year. If you can waste money on SAW V or THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY, you can definitely spend cash on a way better film like QUARANTINE. Just bring some motion sickness pills before you do.

11.03.2008

Midnight Silence (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Siko Mike

STARRING
Craig Barber - Nick
Liz Hedgepeth - Taylor
Ryan Dunn - Steve
Tony Frejer - Professor Carpenter
Jake Lief - Midnight Phantom/Radio Announcer Voice


Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 7 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


If you're like me, then you've become very disillusioned with modern American horror. I mean, look at it! Torture porn? Unnecessary sequels made strictly for cash? Remakes up the ass? Horror fans are tired of being given crappy films that are only made so film studios can shove a wad of cash in their greedy pockets.

So where have we been looking for good horror? In other countries or the American independent scene. European, Latin American, and Asian horror have become the source of good material for us to be terrified by. The independent scene is a risk most of the time, but at least these films are made for the love of horror, not because of cash. Sometimes when you're tired of watching crap, you just gotta make something good yourself.

That's what fellow horror movie reviewer/future filmmaker Siko Mike has done. Like me, he's been tired of the shit being forced onto horror fans by Hollywood. So he decided to make his own horror film as an attempt to bring back the horror we all missed so much. Debuting on Halloween, Siko Mike posted his short film, MIDNIGHT SILENCE, on YouTube for the world to see. Knowing the history behind the story of the film through many conversations with him, Siko Mike has created a nice homage to 80s slashers - showing that he has the potential to give us something great later on.

PLOT
Some nutty kid killed a few people and was locked up in a mental asylum. Twenty years after this fact, a college class discusses what has been called "Midnight Silence", wondering what made this kid do what he did. Was it because he was insane? Was it because he was pure evil? Or is there something more sinister?

Unfortunately, the kids don't really take the thing seriously. One person in particular, Nick (Craig Barber), pretty much shakes it off so he can spend Spring Break with his honey, Liz (Liz Hedgepeth). What they don't know is that some guy wearing a blank white mask plans on killing again. Will they survive? Will he be wearing a sheet, disgusing himself as a ghost? Will he get his eye poked with a hanger while the victims hide in a closet?

Oh wait...this isn't HALLOWEEN. It's MIDNIGHT SILENCE!!

REVIEW
Even though the last line in my plot synopsis is me being a smartass, MIDNIGHT SILENCE is undoubtedly inspired by John Carpenter's classic HALLOWEEN. From the black white mask that you can project anything on, to the backstory itself, to the professor whose last name happens to be Carpenter - it's not hard to see. Still, I rather take a homage of HALLOWEEN than another remake of it. So it's all good with me.

MIDNIGHT SILENCE is inspired by a short story written by Siko Mike. Due to the limited time and short budget, the film isn't as long as it should be. It's an extremely well made 7 minute film, don't get me wrong, but this is the type of movie that deserves to be at least 80 minutes. It's probably the only negative I can really give the film because I know first hand what Siko Mike wanted to do with this film. He does plan on remaking the film into his true vision sometime down the line, which will be an interesting thing to see since this short film has a lot of promise.

There's nothing complex about the story. Kid kills. Kid, now an adult, escapes asylum to kill again. College students pretty much dismiss the story and are preoccupied with themselves to see the danger of the situation. Killer strikes. It's your standard slasher film, but shortened in 7 minutes. The dialogue is believable. The characters don't annoy me at all. They're developed well enough in 7 minutes to where I can get a sense of who they basically are. Siko Mike wrote a nice short script that is just a drop of what this film truly intends to be. I look at it as a teaser for something bigger in the future. And the future is pretty bright with this one.

The SFX by Jake Lief is good for a low budget. There's not a lot of it, but we do get blood on our computer screens, which is always nice in the horror arena. The music by Brandon Davis is very nice, giving the film a very creepy atmosphere. There was a lot attention given to these areas, which is always nice to see.

Siko Mike directs MIDNIGHT SILENCE very well for an amateur. The dude has a vision and uses it quite well. It's simple directing that's not too sylish to overcompensate for the low budget. The editing is good. My favorite shot is when the Midnight Phantom first makes his appearance. It's obviously taken from HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II when The Shape's mask emerges from the dark background to scare viewers. It's so subtle that I think it's a beautiful directing technique. Siko Mike does a nice job and he's only gonna improve.

The acting was good as well. You can tell all the actors are not professionals, but it's sad to say that they are better than certain A-list celebrities in big-budgeted films. They all gave natural performances and never overdid it. I did think the professor was pretty funny. That fake punch sequence made me laugh. It's a student film, so I wasn't expecting Oscar-caliber work. What I got here was more than fine.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE HIDING FROM THAT WHITE MASKED PERSON STARING THROUGH MY WINDOW

- "All people have a darkness in their personality." If you're Michael Jackson, you just bleach that away. Then it's Casper forever!

- The Midnight Phantom killed everyone at the stroke of midnight. I know where the wacko is coming from. There's a lot of stroking going on at my house every midnight as well.

- Steve is both a dick and an asshole. Well if that's the case, he can just go fuck himself!

- Nick wonders who still uses a radio. No kidding. After listening to a Jonas Brothers song for the first time, I took off my purity ring and quit altogether.

THE FINAL HOWL
MIDNIGHT SILENCE
shows a film that has potential when it's film to its actual length. But for now, it's only 7 minutes - and while that's too short for a film like this, MIDNIGHT SILENCE is surprisingly well made and shows a lot of promise. Siko Mike is gonna have a great future if he continues to make films like MIDNIGHT SILENCE. As a future filmmaker myself, I hope to contribute with him one of these days and create the ultimate Fright Fest. But he's doing very well on his own and I've very proud of him. To all my fellow reviewers - spread the word on MIDNIGHT SILENCE. Siko Mike deserves it!


Siko Mike's YouTube Page [You can see MIDNIGHT SILENCE here]

Midnight Silence Official MySpace
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