Midnight Confessions Ep. 16 - "Around the World in 12 Reviews: Week 4 - Canada-Mexico-Brazil"

Join Rev. Phantom and I as we review movies from around the world. 'Around the World in 12 Reviews' comes to an end as we feature reviews of CURTAINS (1983/Canada), CEMETERY OF TERROR (1985/Mexico) and AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964/Brazil). Plus a discussion on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise, including a hilarious rant by the Rev. over 2013's TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.


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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Bryan Singer

Hugh Jackman - Logan/ Wolverine
James McAvoy/ Patrick Stewart - Charles Xavier/ Professor X
Michael Fassbender/ Ian McKellen - Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto
Jennifer Lawrence - Raven Darkholme/ Mystique
Halle Berry - Ororo Munroe/ Storm
Ellen Page - Kitty Pryde/ Shadowcat
Nicholas Hoult - Hank McCoy/ Beast
Peter Dinklage - Bolivar Trask
Shawn Ashmore - Bobby Drake/ Iceman
Omar Sy - Bishop
Daniel Cudmore - Peter Rasputin/ Colossus
Evan Peters - Pietro Maximoff/ Quicksilver
Fan Bingbing - Clarice Ferguson/ Blink
Josh Helman - William Stryker

Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 131 Minutes

In the year 2023, there's a global apocalypse due to a war between mutants and sentient robots known as Sentinels, which has pretty much made mankind a casualty. Hiding together somewhere in China, frenemies Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) have come together with other mutants with a plan to go back in time and reverse these terrible events. Using Kitty Pryde's (Ellen Page) new ability to phase the consciousness of someone to their younger body in the past, Xavier and Magneto send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 due to his healing factor.

As Wolverine wakes up in 1973 and adjusts to a time before his events with Weapon X, he learns that this was the year where a military scientist named Dr. Bolivar Trask (
Peter Dinklage) attempts to build funding for a project to capture and study mutants, known as the Sentinel Program. Shape shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) wants to murder Trask due to him participating in the deaths of many of her FIRST CLASS friends, which would be the catalyst for the terrible future Wolverine has experienced. Wolverine hunts down the younger, yet disillusioned Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to rescue Magneto (Michael Fassbender) from a government prison [he apparently assassinated John F. Kennedy] in order to stop Mystique from creating a future where all mutants will be hunted down and killed.


For those who know me really well, the X-Men were always my favorite comic book heroes. I have a bunch of X-Men comics in my basement somewhere, watched every episode of the cartoons, and have seen all the films. Yes, I'm an X-Nerd and proud of it. And while the film franchise has been a struggle at times [X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE come to mind], I always hoped the series would find its way again - especially after the awesome X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and better-than-expected THE WOLVERINE from last year.

While X-MEN: THE LAST STAND ruined the "Dark Phoenix Saga" for me, I was hoping better for X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - a sequel not only to FIRST CLASS, but for THE LAST STAND as well due to a time travel narrative. The comic book arc of the same title is one of the most famous stories in not only X-Men history, but comic book history as well. While the robotic Sentinels had appeared in earlier comics, and the mood of the comics were getting darker due to the Dark Phoenix stuff, it wasn't until "Days of Future Past" where the X-Men really became the X-Men. The idea of the Sentinels eradicating the mutant race in the future, even keeping some of them as slaves, is one of those plot lines that still resonate within the comics today. It's also one of those plot lines I was hoping the film franchise would eventually take.

Bringing Bryan Singer back on board after X-2 to tie together the two X-MEN movie timelines was a stroke of genius, regardless of what you think of the man personally. And trying to connect the two timelines was a much needed fix to lessen the amount of plot holes this franchise suffered from. And while the film doesn't exactly portray the "Days of Future Past" done in the comics, Simon Kinberg redeems himself for THE LAST STAND by contributing to the best X-MEN film in the franchise so far.

Time travel is usually a tough subject to write in terms of a screenplay. It usually leads to confusion due to all the timelines in the hands of a less capable screenwriter, never making it clear what year you're watching. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST never has that issue, taking its time to show you how different the past and the future are. The past is a more colorful, groovy tone. The future is a dark, bleak, desolate place no one wants to live in. The story goes back and forth between the two timelines every now and then, but never becomes convoluted or confusing. In a lot of ways, the two times parallel each other in a nice touch. While certain plot issues still need to be resolved due to the past changing the future [and how was Charles Xavier still alive after THE LAST STAND?], it never ruins the film as you're entertained constantly and glued to what you're seeing onscreen.

The use of the characters is done well. Obviously Wolverine is the anchor of the film, as he's seen as the main protagonist of this franchise. But for the first time, I didn't feel that Wolverine overshadowed anyone in the film because he really wasn't the focus. Sure, he appears in both timelines as the same character [one older, one younger, sharing the same memories], but the film never feels like Wolverine and the X-Men. He's used at all the right places and actually helps advance the story, giving the franchise a full circle turn as he helps young Xavier find himself again, just like old Xavier had done for him in the first X-MEN film. It also looked like Hugh Jackman was having fun as well, which we haven't really seen in an X-MEN film since probably X-2. He also doesn't have the adamantium in 1973, making him more vulnerable in battle, which was refreshing. And for those who fancy Jackman in that way, he does have a nude scene in it if you're into that sort of thing. I know Jackman realizes his time is running out with the character due to age, but he's still fantastic as Wolverine after 14 years.

The real focus of the film belong to Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. Young Xavier's struggle to find hope again after he lost everything at the end of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a great arc, with James McAvoy kicking ass in the role. He may not look like Patrick Stewart, but McAvoy's serious acting in the role makes you forget that fact. Speaking of Stewart, he brings a ton of class as the future Xavier. Even while facing death at the hands of the future Sentinels, Stewart convinces us that Xavier still maintains hope that Wolverine will change things in the past. I wish they had explained how Xavier survived THE LAST STAND and got his body back, but it was something that didn't register until after the film ended. Hopefully they'll explain that someday.

Young Magneto, facing imprisonment due to murdering John F. Kennedy supposedly, still struggles with his humanity and his urge to maintain that mutants are the superior race. Michael Fassbender doesn't get much to do in this film like he did in FIRST CLASS [where he was clearly the focus], but his Magneto is still that cool anti-hero that convinces you that his way may be the right way. His scenes with Beast, Mystique, and during the final act are great. Ian McKellen doesn't get a whole lot to do as older Magneto either, but again he brings some needed class to the role. McKellen shows that Magneto is still someone you can put faith in, due to his actions in the future, regardless of what he does in the past. Both versions of Magneto are so different, yet so similar. You believe Magneto will eventually find his way, although you know it'll take decades to reach that point.

As for Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as a cold-hearted villain who is struggling with her humanity. She's the catalyst that leads to the events of the future, wanting revenge on Bolivar Trask for murdering her friends. Xavier is the angel on her shoulder, telling her that she needs to let go and come home. Magneto is the devil, teaching her that she needs to do whatever's necessary to get what she wants. Lawrence is great in showing how Mystique straddles the line, focused on her mission while hurting to remember the goodness that Xavier had given to her as they grew up. If you're not a Mystique fan, you'll probably not be a fan of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. But I thought she was used really well and look forward to see what is done next with the character.

As for the others, they don't get much screen time unfortunately. Halle Berry is back as Storm, pretty much just standing around and using her powers in cool ways. Shawn Ashmore returns as Iceman, finally powered up like in the comics. Ellen Page returns as Kitty Pryde, being Wolverine's anchor as she uses her phasing powers to send him back in time [I wish that was kinda explained too --- secondary mutation?]. Daniel Cudmore armors up again as Colossus, but doesn't get much to do. Newcomers Fan Bingbing, Omar Sy, Adam Canto, and Booboo Stewart do pretty cool stuff as Blink, Bishop, Sunspot, and Warpath respectively. While the last three don't get much to do [yet enough to showcase their powers], Blink is one of my favorite characters in the film. Nice to know that Bingbing signed a five-film deal, meaning we'll probably see her time travel to the X-MEN: APOCALYPSE timeline. Nicholas Hoult has some cool scenes as Beast, but he was given more to do in FIRST CLASS. Peter Dinklage is good as Bolivar Trask, but he's not really treated as the main villain of the piece. And the highlight is definitely Evan Peters as Quicksilver. I love that he was implied to be Magneto's son in a funny moment. I loved how his powers were used, especially during the "Time In A Bottle" sequence. I thought Peters did a wonderful job playing Pietro Maximoff, wanting him in the film more. Good luck to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who has his work cut out for him in THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, in which he plays the same character. Peters was lashed out for his look in the film prior to its release, but he was really the best thing about DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.

Speaking of the special effects, I thought they were all done fantastically. The 70s Sentinels looked pretty awesome in terms of design. The future Sentinels were even cooler, being more evolved and sentient, doing cool things with their bodies. The mutant powers looked great for everyone - and it was nice that the characters actually had the RIGHT powers for a change [sorry Calisto and Viper]. Quicksilver's powers were used the best, but I loved Blink's teleportation portals and Iceman's ice slide [yay!]. The budget was $200 million and it was used in all the right places.

Bryan Singer stumbled since leaving the X-MEN franchise with SUPERMAN RETURNS and JACK THE GIANT SLAYER. But he's back in fine form with DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The sound of that original X-MEN score tickled me silly and Singer's interpretation of both the Seventies and the future were a nice contrast from the other. The film was very well paced, the shift in timelines were handled perfectly, the use of the special effects were excellent, and the visualization of the narrative was great under his eye. While Matthew Vaughn directed FIRST CLASS as a 60s spy thriller with mutants, Singer brings back the tone from the original X-MEN films. Scenes aren't just there to showcase cool effects and action-oriented moments. Singer allows character and plot to move the story forward, grounding all these characters within different timelines with ease. It sort of makes me bitter than Singer couldn't have stayed to direct THE LAST STAND, knowing the plans he had for the Phoenix character. But I'm glad he's returned to reinvigorate the franchise and tie up some loose ends. Some plot holes may remain, but future films can fix those if the thought is there. So I think Singer did an amazing job keeping DAYS OF FUTURE PAST together, despite its complicated narrative. Regardless of his controversial personal life that's been playing in the media, the man knows how to direct an X-MEN film.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is a film I've always wanted onscreen, and I was more than satisfied by the results. It may not be as fresh as X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and it may have characters who get the short straw in terms of screentime. But I never had more fun watching an X-MEN film like I did watching X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. It was nice to see Wolverine used the right way, other characters getting more of a focus [Quicksilver is the highlight], and a narrative that seemed to have a massive stake going for it - as well as fixing some big mistakes the franchise had made prior. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER may still be my favorite film of the year, but DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is definitely a close second. Bring on X-MEN: APOCALYPSE!

4 Howls Outta 4


Midnight Confessions Ep. 15 - "Around the World in 12 Reviews: Week 3 - Spain-Austria-Norway"

Join Rev. Phantom and I as we review movies from around the world. Week three of 'Around the World in 12 Reviews' features reviews of IT HAPPENED AT THE NIGHTMARE INN [a.k.a. A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL] (1973/Spain), ANGST (1983/Austria) and DEAD SNOW (2009/Norway). Plus a discussion on U.K. horror.


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The Invisible Man (1933) [700th Review!!!]

James Whale

Claude Rains - Jack Griffin/ The Invisible Man
Gloria Stuart - Flora Cranberry
William Harrigan - Dr. Arthur Kemp
Henry Travers - Dr. Cranley
Una O'Connor - Jenny Hall
Forrester Harvey - Herbert Hall
Duddley Digges - Chief Detective

Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/Mad Scientists

Running Time - 71 Minutes

Usually I get asked the question, "If you ever were granted one superpower, what would it be?" While some say flight, or reading minds, I usually say shape shifting or invisibility. Who wouldn't want to take the identity of someone else? Hell, it's probably better not being seen, allowing you to do whatever you want and get away with it. No wonder Dr. Jack Griffin had a ball with this ability in H.G. Well's "The Invisible Man".

Wells' novel inspired a film adaptation, as Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" had prior. Universal Studios, the leader of the horror pack back in the 1930s, found success with their DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN adaptations, wanting to bring more horror/sci-fi novels straight to film. With the potential to wow audiences with great special effects that have never been seen on the big screen, Universal wanted to do an adaptation for THE INVISIBLE MAN to follow up the massive success of FRANKENSTEIN.

Many directors and actors were up to visualize and bring the adaptation to life. Even though Cyril Gardner was hired to direct the adaptation, he was later replaced by FRANKENSTEIN director James Whale. Boris Karloff was up for the Griffin role at the start, but money issues took him out of the running. Colin Clive almost had the role, but Whale loved Claude Rains voice, feeling he could carry the film just with his vocals alone. Even though pre-production took a while to get the film off the ground, THE INVISIBLE MAN was finally released in 1933 to massive success, leading to a series of sequels and other adaptations that would take elements of this film and use it in theirs. But it's easy to see that Universal's take on THE INVISIBLE MAN is still tops after 80-plus years.

A mysterious man (Claude Rains) covered in bandages and dark glasses asks for a room at an English inn. While his appearance is being talked about, it's his rude attitude to the townspeople that grabs hold of their attention. As they try and figure out what's going with this man, the stranger takes off his clothes to reveal that he's invisible. As the town is terrified, this invisible man happily causes chaos and destruction as something to remember him by.

We learn that the man is Dr. Jack Griffin, who has experimented with a drug that has rendered him invisible. But he doesn't know that the side effects will cause him to lose his sanity by making him yearn for absolute power. Wanting to display his power to everyone, Griffin decides to avoid authorities and cause nothing by disorder. But when his best friend (
William Harrigan) betrays him and the cops see ways in capturing him, Griffin becomes desperate and deadly to the unseen eye.


Even though H.G. Wells himself wasn't the biggest fan of this adaptation of his novel, I still feel THE INVISIBLE MAN is a wonderful interpretation of Wells' story - making a somewhat dry, yet good book into a fun, likeable movie. Countless others have attempted to adapt the novel, including 1998's HOLLOW MAN. But the Universal version is the best on-screen take of the novel, through its wonderful acting, well paced story, and impressive visuals for its time.

THE INVISIBLE MAN is fairly faithful to the novel, although the script constantly changed to get to that point due to H.G. Wells having script approval. Some things are changed, like making Griffin a sympathetic character and giving him family and friends that tend to ground him. It's a template that worked in FRANKENSTEIN - giving the so-called villain of the piece an emotional arc that makes him human and likeable, despite his actions. Griffin clearly loves his fiancee, Flora, and wants his best friend Kemp [who wants to bone Flora - the cad] to help him, even if it is to do bad things with him. Griffin also clearly struggles with these new powers and the effects of the drugs that made him this way, almost in a DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE sort of deal. In fact, the mad scientist theme was pretty common place in the 1930s, as these characters wanted absolute power and were clearly corrupted by it. Griffin is more layered than that, as this lust for power is really against his will due to the drugs.

I also feel the theme of an outsider feeling invisible is pretty strong here. Besides Flora and her father, no one else really takes the time to understand the Invisible Man. Because he's different, he's automatically considered a freak and a non-member of society. It's only when he does bad things around town that he's noticed, even if it is through a negative light. It's a theme that's still relevant today, even if it's not a supernatural deal in reality. The Invisible Man is that thing inside of us whenever we feel ignored or misunderstood - it's that thing yelling "I'm here! Why can't you see me?" before we sometimes make questionable actions to get noticed. This film may have been released 81 years ago, but the topic is still a fresh one.

If I had any issues with THE INVISIBLE MAN, it's probably some of the stilted dialogue and the lack of characterization for anyone not Dr. Griffin. It's really tough to criticize the wooden delivery at times since talkies were starting to find their groove at this point, and most of the actors were from theater origins. But you can definitely notice these things and the film doesn't feel as natural as one would like it to be at times.

The real highlight of THE INVISIBLE MAN to many is probably the groundbreaking special effects for its time. I'm still amazed by how it was done back in 1933. John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall, and Frank D. Williams were in charge of the visual effects, using several techniques to display the abilities of The Invisible Man. Wires were used when Griffin wasn't wearing clothes, using the wires to move objects as if Griffin was doing it. A matte process was also used when Claude Rains was wearing clothes and taking them off, having Rains in a black velvet suit against a black velvet background while combining these shots with location shots to create the effect. Rains, being claustrophobic, had issues with the suit, so a double was sometimes used. Dummies and masks were also used as well. Just really impressive and creative stuff going on behind the scenes.

James Whale really captures the essence of THE INVISIBLE MAN, giving the film an energy to match the downward spiral Griffin is taking as he becomes more unstable due to his experiment. The film is briskly paced, and the way the special effects are used within the story is done to perfection. There's also a bit of odd humor throughout the film, which is a trademark of Whale's. Whale seems to be having a lot of fun visualizing this story, making THE INVISIBLE MAN an entertaining 75 minutes.

The acting is pretty damn good as well. Besides Gloria Stuart, who would probably be best known for her role as the older Rose [even becoming the oldest person to be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar] in 1997's TITANIC, as Griffin's love interest Flora, and Una O'Connor, whose voice and screams made her more memorable in Whale's later film, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, only one real actor stands out in the cast. THE INVISIBLE MAN belongs to Claude Rains, who isn't even seen until the end of the film, but whose voice is so memorable and iconic, that his vocals truly carry the film from beginning to end. I can't imagine Colin Clive in the same role, even though Rains' terrible screen test almost led to that choice from actually happening. But Rains' voice is so unique and emotive, that you're sucked into every word he says. Rains would later have a blossoming film career due to THE INVISIBLE MAN, starring in films like CASABLANCA and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. But for me, THE INVISIBLE MAN will always be his career highlight.

- A bandaged man wanted a hotel room with a fire. This would have been believable as a Michael Jackson biopic, but MJ, fire, hair, and all that plastic surgery really don't mix.

- Scientist Dr. Kemp admitted his affection for his best friend, Griffin's, girlfriend, Flora. Judging by her rejection, chemistry is not the right field for study for Kemp.

- Griffin orders Kemp around, telling him that he's strong and will strangle him if he disobeys. Well like they say - if you want things done right, you got to threaten the poor bastard.

- Griffin spilled black ink on a cop's face. Donald Sterling would have had a fit if this happened to him!

- Griffin caused a train to fall off of a cliff. You were supposed to just THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, not everyone else!

THE INVISIBLE MAN is one of the finest pieces of early horror cinema. Claude Rains' performance is immortal, with his strong unique voice carrying the film from beginning to end. James Whale's fun direction and the special effects - that were way ahead of its time - still holds up pretty well today. And while not a perfect adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel, it's probably still the best one out there. It's pretty easy to see that THE INVISIBLE MAN still happens to be a powerful, effective film after 81 years.

4 Howls Outta 4


Godzilla (2014)

Gareth Edwards

Aaron Taylor-Johnson - Lieutenant Ford Brody
Ken Watanabe - Dr. Ishiro Serizawa
Elizabeth Olsen - Elle Brody
Juliette Binoche - Sandra Brody
Sally Hawkins - Dr. Vivienne Graham
David Strathairn - Rear Admiral William Stenz
Bryan Cranston - Joe Brody

Genre - Science Fiction/Horror/Action/Monsters

Running Time - 123 Minutes

In 1999, something majorly radioactive causes a mine to collapse in the Philippines. Two scientists, Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), are called to investigate, discovering a giant fossil beneath the earth's surface they can't identify. Meanwhile in Japan, a nuclear power plant suffers a major reactor breach due to a large earthquake. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), who works at the plant, loses his wife/co-worker Sandra (Juliette Binoche) due to radiation poisoning because of the breach. For 15 years, Joe knows it was more than just an earthquake that took away his wife, making it his life and obsession to find the answers.

Present day, Joe's grown up son Ford (
Aaron Taylor-Johnson) - who watched his parents' power plant collapse right in front of his eyes 15 years prior - is working for the U.S. Navy as a bomb disarmament expert. He now lives in San Francisco with his nurse wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their young son (Carson Bolde), but doesn't see them a whole lot due to his job. When he learns that his dad has been arrested for trespassing on the power plant grounds, Ford returns to Japan to stop him from obsessing about the past and bring him back to San Francisco. Joe refuses to go, believing the government is covering something huge about the incident. Soon after, the same tremors begin again, revealing that they were caused by huge monsters called MUTO and the legendary Godzilla. With the presence of these creatures, Joe and the military are worried that the Stone Age may return sooner than later if they aren't stopped.


So 2014's GODZILLA has finally been released in theaters after months of massive hype and marketing for the 60th anniversary of our favorite green giant monster. It's already doing monster [no pun intended] business at the box office, proving Godzilla still has a grasp on the movie audience - making this franchise still one with great financial power for any movie studio after all these years. I went to watch it Friday afternoon with a sold out crowd who cheered and applauded the return of the King of the Monsters. And while I did enjoy myself and thought the film was good, I still couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed by 2014's GODZILLA.

Like I mentioned, I still enjoyed GODZILLA. For a two hour film, I thought it flew by. Gareth Edwards, who previously directed 2010's MONSTERS, does a fantastic job visually presenting Godzilla to multiple generations who may or may not have watched previous films. Edwards almost directs GODZILLA almost as if Steven Spielberg would have directed it - making Godzilla sort of mysterious [even though we all know what he looks like] to create tension and suspense before Edwards eventually presents him by the middle of the film. It's almost as if Edwards was inspired by JAWS, JURASSIC PARK, or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, using the "less is more" tactic when it comes to the title character. I sort of have an issue with Godzilla's presentation, which I'll get to, but I did understand why Edwards presented him the way that he did. After all, 2014's GODZILLA is treated as a reboot of sorts, even though it does acknowledge some of the events in 1954's GOJIRA. Edwards is treating Godzilla as if no one has ever seen the monster before, both in the film and with the audience. So I respected and liked what he was going for here, but I was also a bit frustrated since I've seen a bunch of Godzilla films and know the drill. But Edwards really does capture the monster aspect, especially during the film's exciting last 25 to 30 minutes where Godzilla and MUTO battle it out. It's very subtle directing that paid homage to Ishiro Honda's original vision, which I can respect.

The special effects in GODZILLA are really well done. Yes, it's all CGI - but it's GOOD CGI. Godzilla looks great with a modern touch that makes him look more realistic. MUTO looked interesting and I enjoyed seeing him in action. The destruction scenes when it came to the monsters were grounded in reality and looked visually impressive. I just liked the overall look of the film period, as it was a pretty bleak looking movie. I'm glad about that because this version of GODZILLA plays things seriously - a refreshing contrast to most of Godzilla's filmography, including that 1998 film we won't talk about. Thank you for erasing the bad taste out of my mouth with your interpretation, Gareth Edwards!

My issue with the film really comes with the story and the acting. I'm not saying either one is terrible or really bombs the film in any way. But a lot of it just felt a bit uninspired and cliche to me. The human story, in particular, just fell flat and I couldn't really get into it as much as I wanted to. The stuff with Joe, Sandra, and Ford was written really well and was a great set up to the rest of the movie. But once the film focuses mainly on Ford and his struggle to reunite with his wife and son while battling more than one giant monster is where GODZILLA sort of lost me. Ford, while having an arc that's understandable, doesn't really have much charisma or personality to make him a character I would want to watch. I think that had a lot to do with Aaron Taylor-Johnson's wooden performance for the most part. He just felt like a cliche action hero who went through the motions, because it is what's expected. I wish he had a bit of an edge, or something, to make him not be bland. But that's what I got here. Same goes to his wife, Elle, who is pretty much the typical action hero's wife who doesn't have much of a personality either. She's either a mother or a worried wife. It's a shame because Elizabeth Olsen is a good actress and probably would have done a lot with the role if the material was better. And they're really the focus of the film in terms of human characters, which makes GODZILLA a drag to watch at times.

The best human moments involve the Joe Brody character. His estranged relationship with his son Ford since Ford was little, the tragedy that strikes his wife Sandra, and his vendetta to find out the truth about the power plant incident in 1999 and why the government is covering up make Joe a character to root for. He has a purpose. He has a goal I can relate with. And thanks to Bryan Cranston's effective performance, I bought everything about the Joe character. His pain, his obsession, his goal to find out the truth to find closure for his wife - I really liked this character. I wish the film had more of that, because it would have helped make the human story stronger.

There were also attempts to have a bit of social commentary, especially when it involved using missiles and bombs against the monsters. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa tells about the original Godzilla attack from 1954, as well as bringing up the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima that affected his ancestors, sort of relating it to what the military plans on doing in order to protect millions. Obviously, the idea of nuclear weapons wiping millions out is still a viable threat all these years later, and I respect that this was somewhat touched upon. I wish more was done with this message, as it feels like an afterthought for the most part, but at least it's an attempt.

As for the Godzilla deal, I'm mixed on it. The title character isn't in the film as much as one probably thinks. Since I understood where Gareth Edwards' head was at when it came to presenting Godzilla, it doesn't bother me as much as it probably did others who wanted to see more Godzilla. But I do feel that there should have been a bit more Godzilla in his own film. If the human element was really strong, I wouldn't have cared. But since it didn't do much for me as I had wanted it to, I do wish more monster presence was at play. When Godzilla shows up and does his thing, the film is really awesome in every way. But strangely, the film is more devoted to MUTO, as he really takes center stage as the true giant monster of the film that poses a threat to the world. The film almost feels as if it should be called "MUTO and His Amazing Human Friends - Feat. Godzilla". I will take solace that Godzilla is treated with a lot of respect and presented in a serious way. He's not a joke or a campy character. He's a badass who is now given the role of a hero who takes out monsters in order to maintain balance in the universe. MUTO is a threat and is causing an imbalance, which forces Godzilla to return from his slumber. I liked that a lot and it was a fresh take on the character, especially considering what he actually represented in the original GOJIRA 60 years ago. I just wish there some more scenes with Godzilla, that's all I'm saying. He shouldn't have been the focus, but he would have helped compensate for the less-than-interesting human stuff. The film felt like a drama that forgot it was a monster movie until the last 40 minutes. More Godzilla would have helped.

GODZILLA (2014) wasn't a blow away success for me. The story, and some of the acting, was pretty cliche and uninspiring at times, especially when it came to the Ford storyline. Honestly, I found the human story in both PACIFIC RIM and CLOVERFIELD more interesting than I did in GODZILLA. But I was never bored and I enjoyed what Gareth Edwards brought to this new version of GODZILLA. The visuals were really strong, with some nice tension and suspense that would make Stephen Spielberg proud. The CGI, for the most part, was really great - especially when the monster battle between Godzilla and MUTO occurs. And besides Bryan Cranston, who did a great performance, Godzilla is pretty bad ass and deserves to enjoy a modern franchise that will bring in a lot of capital. I wish there was more "monster" in the monster movie, especially when it came to Godzilla himself, but I had fun and feel that this is a good reboot that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things for the character. It's definitely a film that looks and feels epic, making it a worthy Summer Blockbuster.

3 Howls Outta 4


Gojira (1954) & Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956)

Ishiro Honda (both)
Terry O. Morse (G:KotM!)

Akira Takarada - Hideto Ogata (both)
Momoko Kochi - Emiko Yamane (both)
Akihiko Hirata - Daisuke Serizawa (both)
Takashi Shimura - Dr. Kyohei Yamane (both)
Fuyuki Murakami - Dr. Tanabe (both)
Raymond Burr - Steve Martin (G:KotM!)
Frank Iwanaga - Tomo Iwanaga (G:KotM!)
Haruo Nakajima - Godzilla (both)

Genre - Science Fiction/Horror/Monsters

Running Time - 96 Minutes (1954)/ 80 Minutes (G:KotM!)

Sixty years have gone by, and the giant lizard creature known as Godzilla still captivates audiences stronger than ever. I'm not going to come out here and say I'm the biggest Godzilla fan and have seen every film this movie monster has starred in. But Godzilla was a pretty big part of my youth when it came to watching films, capturing my attention whenever he was battling some giant monsters - whether it was Mothra, Rodan, or even King Kong. When people think about monster movies, Godzilla is usually the first one that comes to mind. The creature has become a pop culture institution, his popularity growing not only in Japan, but all over the world. The fact that Hollywood has tried twice to reboot the franchise - first in the terrible 1998 version and now in, what seems to be, a very favorable installment that's being released this weekend - shows the power Godzilla and the franchise has on the public.

But before I can even discuss Godzilla's return to the big screen in a massive way - I think GODZILLA (2014) will be the movie of the summer - we must go back where it all started. So I decided to sit down and watch the original 1954 Japanese production, GOJIRA, and its 1956 American counterpart, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS!. While both films are pretty much one and the same when it comes to the plot, both versions present the narrative in different ways. Is one better than the other? A better question is: Do these films still hold up sixty years later?

In post-WWII Japan, something huge is causing havoc near the island of Odo - especially where it concerns the fishing boats. While many of the citizens are unsure what's going on, a village elder believes that the damage is being caused by a so-called sea monster known as Godzilla. While some are skeptical about some mythological creature, the citizens learn that the village elder was right in his assumptions - Godzilla does exist and has been set free due to a nuclear explosion. Can anyone stop this creature, or is Japan doomed?

In GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS!, the story is still the same. But this time, we watch the story through the eys of an American reporter, Steve Martin (
Raymond Burr), as he investigates the situation on Odo Island.

GOJIRA, or GODZILLA (1954), is considered by many to be the best giant monster film ever made. It's definitely in the top three, next to the original 1933 KING KONG and 1953's THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. GOJIRA is such an interesting film, mainly due to how it's told and the time period it's set in. Unlike the later films, in which campiness would set in and make Godzilla the film's focus, the original GOJIRA is a horror film that takes its subject matter and narrative very seriously. In fact, I think it's for that reason that GOJIRA remains the most timeless and relevant of all the GODZILLA films that have been made since.

Since this was released in 1954, GOJIRA is obviously a social commentary, or metaphor, on the events of the bombings that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to bring an end to World War II. Odo Island is a place still trying to rebuild itself after those events, with Godzilla being a reminder of the same events. The way Godzilla attacks the boats in the beginning of the film resemble bomb attacks more than they do a giant creature destroying stuff. Godzilla also breathes radioactive fire, his spine glowing anytime he burns buildings or people. Godzilla is a creature that seems unstoppable - a growing epidemic that these people have no idea how to handle. Instead of focusing on the monster and what he can do, GOJIRA is more concerned with the emotions of the citizens who have to deal with the monster's wrath and destruction. I'm sure like after the destruction left by the atomic bombs that destroyed Japan in 1945, we watch as these people struggle with the destruction and chaos caused by Godzilla. We see their pain. We watch their confusion. We see them fear for their lives. The scene where Godzilla destroys Tokyo and leaves the city in ruins is still as powerful today as it probably was in 1954. It's as if director Ishiro Honda used GOJIRA to express the pain and fear he experienced as he watched the ruins of Japan, wondering if the country would ever be able to rebuild itself after the events of the Second World War. It's for this reason that GOJIRA remains to be powerful.

It's the human element that keeps audiences coming back for more. The characters feel genuine and real, reacting believably and living their lives normally within this chaotic time. Dr. Kyohei Yamane is an archeologist who investigates the monster attacks, realizing that the footprints are radioactive and some of the citizens may be suffering from some of this. When the monster appears and the citizens want to destroy it, Yamane wishes against it so he can study Godzilla and learn about him. In a Hollywood film at the time, this man would probably be some genius, mad scientist who wants to use Godzilla as a way to take over the world or something. But Dr. Yamane is just a curious scientist who wants to learn about this threat so history doesn't repeat itself. It's a refreshing portrayal of the horror scientist role, grounding it in reality.

Even the love triangle between Emiko, Hideto, and Daisuke is believable and grounded. Emiko has been arranged to be married to scientist Daisuke since they were kids, but she's in love with a ship captain named Hideto. In some parts of the world, Emiko would be portrayed as some sort of tramp - a woman who has loose morals because she's attached to two men. But Emiko is never leading the other on, totally determined to stop her arranged marriage plans to be with Hideto - even trying to tell Daisuke of her decision before things get deeper. The triangle never becomes volatile or tragic. All parties understand their place and treat the situation as reasonable adults. Yes, Emiko does end up with one man at the end due to tragedy, but it's not done to punish her for her actions. It's done in a heroic, positive matter that brings a bit of hope to the rest of Oda Island. Hollywood probably would have murdered her, or sent her to jail for her actions due to the Hays Code they had in place at the time. So it's nice to see complicated relationship handled in an adult, serious manner that I could buy.

Speaking of Daisuke, I really appreciated his character. He creates an Oxygen Destroyer, which pretty much disintegrates oxygen atoms, causing the organisms to die from asphyxiation while accidentally creating a new energy source. Daisuke keeps it a secret, even though he knows it can kill Godzilla and stop the destruction. You'd think he's a terrible person for doing that, but once he explains his actions, it makes him sympathetic. Daisuke is afraid that the wrong hands will use his weapon in a destructive way, repeating history and doing more harm to Japan than already necessary. Even though he does eventually agree to use it, Daisuke destroys the formula so no one can build a second one. It's a commentary on nuclear weapons and how the bombs destroyed the country, even though Japan was the one who initiated the attacks when they bombed Pearl Harbor. Daisuke is tired of the fighting and the destruction that comes with too powerful weapons. It's refreshing to see a character who is sensible about a dangerous situation and taking all precautions to make sure the weapon is used for the right reasons.

The special effects in GOJIRA still holds up very well today. Sure, we know Godzilla is really a dude in a monster suit, walking around model sets and smashing things. But how the effects are integrated into the rest of the film is pretty neat for its time. Even though we know better today, I can only imagine that audiences really believed that a monster was attacking Japan. The effects would get cheesier in later installments, but they're used in a subtle way here.

That's thanks to director Ishiro Honda, who manipulates the actors' footage with the special effects footage in a cool way to blend the two inside of one scene. The film is also well paced, well shot, well edited, and has a great atmosphere and dark mood. And how Honda shoots Godzilla is perfect. He lights the monster in such a way that Honda hides the flaws to the costume. Godzilla is mostly shot at night, or in shadows, giving him this image of evil and menace for the Japanese characters. I mean, he's not scary or anything. But the idea of Godzilla definitely is, and the visuals represent that well.

The acting is pretty great as well. Takashi Shimura and Momoko Kochi are the standouts as father-and-daughter Dr. Yamane and Emiko. But the actors convince you that real destruction is being caused by Godzilla through their body language, dialogue delivery, and even their screams and tears after Godzilla destroys Tokyo. The acting is effective and powerful in a subtle manner.

As for the American cut known as GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS!, most of the Japanese footage remains, but it's dubbed for American audiences. Since Hollywood knew that Americans probably wouldn't flock to a Japanese made film so soon after the events of World War II, it was pretty smart to add an American character who would be sort of a narrator and guide to explain the story of Godzilla. The Steve Martin character doesn't really add much in terms of substance to the original film, but it's an interesting counterpoint to see an American's perspective to an already well-told story. I thought it was quite amusing to see this Steve guy be so chummy with so many of the original characters, as if he had been there through this the entire time. But it's done well and having Steve around probably made GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS! more appealing to an American audience.

The American cut does have its positives and negatives. Like I already mentioned, the Steve Martin character is someone American audiences can relate to, in terms of feeling like an outsider in a foreign world. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS! is also quicker paced and focuses more on the creature himself as more of a spectacle than a metaphor for the nuclear weapon threat. However, a lot of GOJIRA's identity is lost due to certain aspects either being shortened or edited out entirely. The love triangle aspect isn't given much focused, probably due to the arranged marriage deal that Americans probably wouldn't have understood all that much. And making the Japanese characters sympathetic probably would have been a tough pill to swallow at the time, which is why Steve was used to begin with. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS! takes away the substance and identity GOJIRA proudly displayed, which is understandable.

The American scenes directed by Terry Morse do blend in well with the Ishiro Honda GOJIRA scenes. Nothing too exciting or special about these new scenes really. I do find it funny when body doubles are used for the original Japanese characters as they interact with Steve as if they have been friends for years. Still, I don't think Morse did a bad job or anything. It's just that all the good material was already shot two years prior in another country.

Speaking of Steve, Raymond Burr - the future Perry Mason - does a decent job in the role. Honestly, he doesn't do a whole lot. He just stands, looks, and chew on his pipe really. His voiceovers are done well though. Burr would later return in the same role in GODZILLA 1985, which was meant to be a sequel/reboot of sorts after all the campy sequels that were released after GOJIRA. It's a film I ought to rewatch, as I don't remember it being too bad honestly.

GOJIRA, or GODZILLA (1954), is an absolute classic when it comes to science fiction and monster movie cinema. Unlike the campy pop culture icon most folks probably remember, the original film is deadly serious in its tone, as well as being haunting and smart in terms of its commentary on the dangers of nuclear weapons. The American Cut, 1956's GODZILLA: THE KING OF THE MONSTERS! is a fun watch and an interesting counterpart to the original Japanese version. But it sort of loses the identity and substance that makes GOJIRA a respected classic. If you had to watch one, definitely choose the original Japanese film as it still holds up very well today. Definitely in the top 3 of giant monster films of all time, in my opinion.

4 Howls Outta 4

3.5 Howls Outta 4

GOJIRA/GODZILLA (1954) Trailer



Midnight Confessions Ep. 14 - "Around the World in 12 Reviews: Week 2 - Australia-South Africa-Italy"

Join Rev. Phantom and I as we review movies from around the world. Week two of 'Around the World in 12 Reviews' features reviews of THE LOVED ONES (2009/Australia), NIGHT DRIVE (2010/South Africa) and MAYA (1989/Italy). Plus a discussion on Ozploitation and Italian Giallo.


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Lunar Cycle #5 - ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)/ Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill (2004)/ 8213: Gacy House (2010)/ Lockout (2012)

This section of the blog is due to me being lazy, I mean swamped with watching so many films that I want to discuss on this blog. But I don't really have the time, so I decided to quickly [well as much as I can really] to review films I don't really want to focus too much time on. You'll be seeing these more often than not. Time for the reviews!

Kevin Hamedani

Janette Armand - Frida Abbas
Doug Fahl - Tom Hunt
Cooper Hopkins - Lance Murphy
Russell Hodgkinson - Joe Miller
Cornelia Moore - Cheryl Banks
James Mesher - Mayor Hal E. Burton
Bill Johns - Reverend Haggis
Ali Hamedani - Ali Abbs

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Zombies

Running Time - 89 Minutes

In the town of Fort Gamble, Frida (Janette Armand) is the daughter of an Iranian immigrant who has returned home while taking some time off from studying at Princeton. Frida and her father (Ali Hamedani) clash due to their generational gap and Frida's relationship with Derek (Ryan Barret), a dishwasher and aspiring musician. This stops being an issue once a zombie chews out Derek's throat.

Meanwhile, Tom (
Doug Fahl) has returned home with his boyfriend Lance (Cooper Hopkins) to tell his mom that he's gay. When he comes out, Tom's mom becomes a zombie after being bitten.

Both parties try to find some shelter during this sudden zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately, both have to deal with prejudices from the other survivors. Frida is kidnapped by her white trash neighbors, who are convinced that this zombie deal is due to terrorism. And Tom and Lance are trapped inside of a church, where homosexuality is considered a sin. What's worse - being alive or dead?

When it comes to zombie films, George A. Romero is usually the first name that comes to mind. Not only does Romero give the audience the gruesome horror they'd expect, but also powerful social commentary that lingers long after the movie is over. ZMD: ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION tries to follow the template by providing both the horror and the commentary. And while it goes for it without holding back. ZMD tries a bit too much, sacrificing certain aspects in the process.

ZMD is focused on presenting a zombie commentary during a post-9/11 world. The commentary was fueled after director Kevin Hamedani was treated as a terrorist by other Americans due to his ethnicity. Also, he realized the growing tension between religious folks and the stance on gay marriage, wanting to use that debate as well. Putting an Arab and two homosexuals within an over-the-top idyllic world that soon becomes a zombie playground seems to hammer home what the film is trying to say. Unfortunately, the hammering becomes a bit too much, as the commentary is a bit too thick by the film's end. So much is focused on the satire, that the characters comes across as nothing but archetypes that audiences will forget about the next day.

The characters of Frida, Tom, and Lance are fleshed out because they're the targets of the satire for being Arab, or homosexuals respectively. But the other characters are just there to be their antagonists to hammer the commentary - Arabs are terrorists and homosexuals are sinners. Sure, these characters may have a bit of depth and even their own story arcs, but they don't really matter much at the end due to the zombies wiping them out in the final act. It's during this final portion where ZMD becomes a fun watch, due to the visual carnage. But before that, we have to sit with dialogue that's a mixed bag of funny while not pushing the story as forward as it needs to. Commentary is important, especially during this day and age. But too much of it becomes a turn off, especially when the comedy isn't as strong as it needs to be to lighten things up. Luckily some of the humor, like the coming out scene and some sight gags, do work. But more of that could have helped the film greatly.

What does help are the gore effects, which are done really well. Necks get ripped open, people get hit by vehicles, people get decapitated, plus some knife and hammer play. And I can't forget the moment where someone gets beaten down by their own detached arm. Kevin Hamedani handles these visual gags and most of the direction well, as the film is paced very well considering we're really watching two stories in one movie. The lighting could have been better in some scenes, but the visual presentation is pretty top notch. Just the setting of Fort Gamble, which sort of looks like a fantasy version of the suburbs, looks great.

The acting is pretty good as well. I thought Janette Armand was particularly good as Frida, with Doug Fahl (Tom) and Russell Hodgkinson (Joe) right behind her. No one was particularly bad and all played their roles as believable as possible.

ZMD: ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION is your typical zombie-comedy that doesn't work as well as it should due to its thick political satire that becomes tiring by the movie's end. But at least Kevin Hamedani attempted to go the Romero route and tried to make this film be about SOMETHING relevant. And with good visuals, good gore, and actors who are game, ZMD almost becomes something great. It's just a good zombie film in the end, but I can respect that it at least tries to be something more.

3 Howls Outta 4

Byron Werner

Chelsea Jean - Gwen
Gregory Bastien - Earl
Denise Boutte - Mandy
Scott Carson - Avery
Matt Marraccini - Jerry
Kandis Erickson - Sondra
Steven Glinn - Buck
Jeremy Bouvet - Bloody Bill
Dean N. Arevalo - Darrel

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Zombies

Running Time - 82 Minutes

A college debate team are on their way to a competition when they hit a man (Gregory Bastien) with their van. Thinking they killed someone, they're surprised when this man has tricked them to hijack their ride with a gun, ordering them to find his drug partner, Darrel (Dean N. Arevalo). They find Darrel's abandoned car outside of a ghost town, but no sign of Darrel or anyone else. The group learns that this town is attached to an urban legend about an evil Confederate named General "Bloody Bill" Anderson (Jeremy Bouvet), who murdered a lot of people during the Civil War. After several Union soldiers beat and killed Bloody Bill, the Confederate has decided to haunt this town - bringing some hungry zombies along for the ride.

DEATH VALLEY: THE REVENGE OF BLOODY BILL is an Asylum production that's a mixed bag for me. Director Byron Werner, and writers John & Matthew Yuan were obviously inspired by other horror films - like the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. And the Western motif is actually pretty cool for a horror feature. But I wasn't sure what this film wanted to be. Is it a ghost film? Is it a zombie film? Is it action? Is it horror? The tone was uneven and took me out of this film. Plus, the story is pretty generic stuff and feels like your standard slasher flick, just with zombies. You won't really care about any of the characters [since you're not really given any time to know them], hoping that Bloody Bill and the zombies eliminate all of them. We also get a scene where characters are debating over the merit of the Bible, which doesn't really lead into anything important. Plus, we have characters wondering why a certain character is getting sick after being bit by a member of the undead. Like really? I can tolerate stupid characters. I can tolerate annoying characters. But when you mix the two, I start to tune out.

I will say that I did enjoy the gore of the film, considering the low budget. We get some flesh eating, some gun play, a head being crushed by some strong hands, and normal zombie kill stuff. It looks kinda cheap, but not cheap enough where it takes you out of the film. Considering the lame story, having some blood and guts being thrown around was a plus.

The direction also isn't that bad. The film is well paced, and the cinematography has an interesting yellow/red tint going for it. The flashback scenes with Bloody Bill are presented as a silent film reel, which I actually dug quite a lot. There are even some decent, fun moments of tension. There were some major editing issues that I spotted though, especially when characters would speak to each other with mismatching shots one after the other. But other than that, I've seen worse and thought Byron Werner did a good job considering.

The acting was a mix of highs and lows from everyone involved. Chelsea Jean's character annoyed me for majority of the film, but I thought her acting was fine. Gregory Bastien's Earl grated me during the first half of the film [he was a bit too forced in his tough guy delivery], but he was good during the second half. Jeremy Bouvet as Bloody Bill looked pretty cool. No one else really stands out, to be honest. But each actor did good and bad with what they were given throughout the film.

"Meh" is the best way to describe DEATH VALLEY: THE REVENGE OF BLOODY BILL. I couldn't really get into the generic story due to the stupid, annoying characters and me wondering what sub-genre this film was trying to fit into. But I did like the gore, the direction wasn't too bad, and the acting was in the middle for me. It's not the worst flick out there, especially since it's really short. But it's not a film you have to go out and see either. No need to really care about this REVENGE. But if you do, it's not the worst way to waste 80 minutes of your time.

1.5 Howls Outta 4

Anthony Fankhauser

Michael Gaglio - Professor Roger Franklin
James Arthur Lewis - Mike Lewis
Brett Newton - Gary Gold
Sylvia Panacione - Tessa Escobar
Rachel Riley - Lena Russell
Matthew Temple - Robby Williams
Diana Terranova - Janina Peslo

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Ghosts/Serial Killers/Found Footage

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Lost footage is found of a paranormal investigation team who decided to set up their camera inside the abandoned home of executed serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. Using a medium (Diana Terranova), the team attempts to contact Gacy from the afterlife, or any of Gacy's victims who may have died inside the house. Suddenly things happen inside of the house that can't be explained, which makes the team doubt or believe in any evidence that doesn't seem tangible. But the angry spirit of Gacy will be heard, which makes this curious team his latest victims.

I have three words for 8213: GACY HOUSE:


Another film produced by The Asylum, 8213: GACY HOUSE jumps on the current bandwagon of the latest horror trend - the found footage movie. As you may know, I'm not the biggest fan of this sub-genre, although there are some films that do it quite well. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CLOVERFIELD, and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT come to mind. This attempt to capitalize on the success of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a very lame one, making that film look like a masterpiece in the process.

For one, the script is just terrible. The characters are not believable in any real way. Two members of the team decide that during supernatural events inside the house they're staying in, it's a great idea to fool around. Hey, if ghosts of serial killers gets one aroused, should I judge? The medium, who has huge boobs by the way [probably one of the few highlights of this film], decides to offer her neighbor's son's shirt so Gacy can talk to her from the dead. Pretty nasty if you ask me. Speaking of Gacy, his first words to the crew through an EVP recording is "Kiss my ass!" Very classy. And I got to love when paranormal investigators go down into a pedophile's basement, asking the dead pedophile whether he had molested boys inside the area. Yeah, that's an ice breaker. Plus, windows open, doors open and close, and objects move to different places - yet this PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION team doesn't correlate that it's the spirit of John Wayne Gacy doing this, thinking the crew are pulling pranks on each other. REALLY?? Fuck these idiots!

The highlight of the film though, besides the medium's big boobs [which the camera does an extreme close-up on], is towards the end where a young man begins to levitate kicking and screaming. Suddenly, his pants get pulled down and hovers into the basement to get ghost raped. I could not stop laughing at this. For this reason alone, I can't give the film a BOMB. It was the only part of the film that truly entertained me. I guess the image of ghost Gacy wearing his clown make up is pretty humorous too, considering he didn't pass away wearing it. Oh GACY HOUSE...

The direction is nothing special. It's all done in handheld style, with mixes of night vision shots and security camera footage. It's not creepy or tense in any way. The visuals are mainly shots of characters talking and walking around. Thrilling stuff, folks.

The acting is okay, I guess. No one comes across as really bad or anything. But considering the characters and the dumb actions they made, I couldn't really be convinced by any of their performances.

8213: GACY HOUSE is mainly a boring piece of found footage fluff no one needs to seek out. If you've seen one found footage film, you've seem them all. Stupid characters. A ton of dull walking and talking. Generic found footage visuals that don't add much to the story. If it wasn't for some big boobs, clown Gacy, and the dude who gets ghost raped, this film would be a total waste of time. You're better off watching a documentary on John Wayne Gacy, or even a better film about the serial killer, if you're into that sort of thing. But this one needs to be avoided before you lose your ass virginity.

0.5 Howls Outta 4

James Mather
Stephen St. Leger

Guy Pearce - Snow
Maggie Grace - Emilie Warnock
Vincent Regan - Alex
Joseph Gilgun - Hydell
Lennie James - Harry Shaw
Peter Stormare - Scott Langral

Genre - Action/Science Fiction/Thriller

Running Time - 95 Minutes

In the year 2079, a CIA agent named Snow (Guy Pearce) is arrested after an assignment where his partner, Frank, is murdered. While there's evidence that Snow was the one behind the murder, he denies any foul play. The evidence is overwhelming, leading Snow to be sentenced for thirty years in some sort of cryogenic stasis at M.S. One, which is a prison orbiting in space.

Meanwhile, Emilie Warnock (
Maggie Grace), who happens to be the President's daughter, visits the prison to see how well or badly the prisoners are being treated. She interviews a few prisoners, including a psycho named Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), who frees himself by snatching the gun of a Secret Service agent and taking Emilie prisoner. Hydell decides to let all the prisoners free to overthrow the prison, but Hydell's brother Alex (Vincent Regan) decides to take control to Hydell's dismay. Alex wants to negotiate with the President in exchange for Emilie, not knowing that the authorities have released Snow out of his stasis to help with the situation. If he does well, he'll receive a pardon. Accepting the offer reluctantly, Snow boards M.S. One to save Emilie and deal with 427 prisoners who want to keep her for themselves.

What do you get when you take one part ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, one part DIE HARD, and another part FORTRESS? You get 2012's LOCKOUT, a Luc Besson produced action sci-fi film inspired by several films from the 1980s and the 1990s made for a modern generation. LOCKOUT has always been a film that was always on my radar for some reason - probably because indie favorite Guy Pearce was in a mainstream action sci-fi flick. It didn't do well at the box office and seems to be on people's radars anytime one scrolls through Netflix Instant. The only reason I checked it out now was because it finally expired on Netflix, making it probably my last opportunity to check it out. And even though it's a pretty cliche and generic film, it's a FUN and ENTERTAINING cliche and generic film.

The screenplay is pretty standard and predictable, with some people believing it may be influenced from an idea or unfinished script for ESCAPE FROM EARTH - a planned third installment from John Carpenter for the Snake Plissken character. It makes a lot of sense actually. The premise has the criminal hero ordered by authorities to save the President's daughter, a premise from ESCAPE FROM L.A. The hero, Snow, is a Snake Plissken type who only cares about his own bottom line, while having the sarcastic wit of John McClane from the DIE HARD franchise. The setting of this prison resembles the one from FORTRESS. Beyond that, the story takes a predictable road from point A, to point B, and finally to point C. If you've seen many action films, you know where things are gonna go, which characters will turn on the hero, and how things will end. Yet for some reason, it works because knowing the path makes it a fun watch. The characters besides Snow [especially the villainous Hydell, who is a great crazy character] are all interesting and have a lot of great chemistry and banter with each other. The narrative plays out exactly as how one would like it to play out. Sure, LOCKOUT has elements that all has been done before. But it has fun with it, so can't hate on it too much.

The direction by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger is energetic and paced really well. All the action motifs are in play, and both men do a great job. The set design [wish there was more variety, but what can you do?] and the green screen use were done nicely as well. The only major issues I had with the visuals were some of the bad special effects - including a scene where Snow is being chased on a motorcycle that looked AWFUL and clumsy, looking like it belonged on a PlayStation 1 game cutscene. And where was the fighting? The action? The violence? There was no real final confrontation at the end either. If you're going to be influenced by other action films, follow the template to the end. Taking out that final battle is just silly. Stick with the conventions. What isn't broken doesn't need to be fixed.

The acting, at least, was pretty great. Guy Pearce made for a fantastic hero in Snow, with his sarcastic wit carrying him through well. You can tell Pearce was having fun playing against type. He should do it more. Maggie Grace looked great and had explosive chemistry with Pearce. Peter Stormare is always great to have in a film, especially when you need someone to play a bastard. Joseph Gilgun was my favorite as the crazy Hydell, with his Scottish accent making it hard to understand, but fun to try. Vincent Regan worked as Alex, the film's main commanding villain. I thought the actors were enjoying themselves, which made the film fun to enjoy as well.

LOCKOUT isn't going to be known for its originality. And the special effects and lack of action hurt it a bit. But even though it's really generic and cliche, it's still a fun watch that any action fan should take a chance on. It's cheesy, it's clever, it has Guy Pearce playing a modern day Snake Plissken, and some memorable villains. LOCKOUT won't change the game, but does well enough in playing along. Mindless entertainment.

3 Howls Outta 4

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