12.20.2014

Double Feature: American Mary (2012) & See No Evil 2 (2014)


Jen and Sylvia Soska have quickly gained popularity within the horror genre scene in their short amount of time as filmmakers. The Soska Twins gained noticed in 2010 for their indie flick, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, which was a rough looking film but showed that the two ladies were capable of something more with the right budget. The sisters also happened to be charismatic figures and knew how to promote their work, garnering them fans that looked forward to their next releases. 2012's AMERICAN MARY and 2014's WWE produced SEE NO EVIL 2 showed that the Soska Twins' stocks were rising within the genre. While both films are very different in many ways, they each show that Jen and Sylvia have something to say in terms of narrative, the use of their stars, and how they visualize the story they want to tell.



STARRING
Katharine Isabelle - Mary Mason
Antonio Cupo - Billy Barker
Tristan Risk - Beatress Johnson
David Lovgren - Dr. Alan Grant
Twan Holliday - Lance Delgreggio
Paula Lindberg - Ruby Realgirl
Clay St. Thomas - Dr. Walsh
John Emmet Tracy - Detective Dolor


Genre - Horror/Drama/Rape-Revenge

Running Time - 102 Minutes


PLOT
Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a smart, but very broke, medical student who plans on becoming a successful surgeon. In order to pay her bills, Mary answers an online ad for a masseuse at a strip club. When she meets the club owner, Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo), and tells her why she needs the money, Billy feels Mary is more serviceable for her medical skills when she has to perform surgery on one of his foes.

After Mary successfully performs a nasty surgery on Billy's enemy, word gets around about her talents - especially within the underground body modification community, who want Mary to perform unconventional operations that most doctors would refuse to do. As she builds her resume, Mary is invited to a party where she is drugged and raped by her sketchy professor, Dr. Alan Grant (
David Lovgren). When she learns what happened to her, Mary changes her outlook on the medical field, wanting to use what she learned to get revenge on those who wronged her.


REVIEW

Good Things: I think AMERICAN MARY is more hit than miss, as it has a few flaws even with its interesting premise that keeps your attention for most of the runtime. The film, in a lot of ways, reminded me of FX's Nip/Tuck - a show about plastic surgery and how it not affects the patients, but the doctors performing these surgeries. In this case, Mary Mason is an intelligent med student who wants to be a surgeon. But due to circumstances out of her control, she gets deep into the body mod field - which leads to both highs and lows for Mary personally and professionally. It's an interesting look at a trend that doesn't get much spotlight, probably due to how conservative the world has become in the last decade. But watching Mary perform certain surgeries that aren't considered normal, like removing limbs and splitting tongues, is fascinating. The characters who want to change their looks aren't really treated as freaks or anything offensive either. They're treated as ordinary people who just to want to change themselves to express who they are as individuals. Yes, the body mod stuff is meant to be shocking, and probably horrific, which might offend some. But I liked that AMERICAN MARY brought something different compared to the same-ol', same ol'.

The acting was also very good. Katharine Isabelle, in particular, is very good as Mary Mason. Looking very sexy, Isabelle carries a calm, yet cold demeanor that creates an interesting vibe in contrast to the crazier world around her. She never bats an eye when people ask her to perform body modifications. Even when she's raped, she doesn't grieve for too long, before quickly deciding on getting revenge. Isabelle plays it off perfectly, displaying a level of control and nonchalance that makes her mesmerizing to watch. The charming and likeable Antonio Cupo, as the sleazy potential love interest Billy, is great - as well as Tristan Risk as the annoyingly Betty Boop-ish Beatress. We also get a cool cameo by the Soska Sisters themselves, in which they look great and even bite a stripper's lip until she bleeds, before succumbing to limb exchange surgery. The fake Russian accents are more funny than believable, but I think that was the point. I thought all the actors play their roles really well.

I also felt the direction was solid for the most part. The film had a low budget, but it looks nicely polished. The colors are a bit soft and dim, reflecting Mary's demeanor, in a nice touch. The film looks cold and feels cold, but there's a subtle warmth dying to break through underneath, especially in how the Soska Sisters handle the treatment of those who enjoy body modification. The fact that they're never treated like freaks or something disturbing is visually [and in terms of narrative] refreshing. The special effects are pretty damn great too, considering this film wasn't made with Hollywood money. There's no CGI that I could see in this film, with the practical effects definitely making things look realistic as possible. I can see some inspiration from David Cronenberg and even Takashi Miike in this film. The editing and the framing of certain shots are extremely effective. It's a very stylish film that really impressed me. The potential from DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK is fulfilled here in AMERICAN MARY.

I think the best part of AMERICAN MARY is the treatment of the characters. The film is labeled as rape-revenge, only because it can't really be labeled anything else. But the film is not THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. It's really a character study of a med student who becomes changed due to many hardships in her life, which eventually lead her into the body modification world. Yes, she gets raped. But it's never exploitative. Yes, she gets revenge on the rapist. Again, it's never exploitative, even though what's implied creates that in our heads. You understand Mary - her struggle to pay bills and finding a job that many would see as immoral, her justification for wanting revenge on a man who belittled her in front of her peers only to rape her after he drugged her, and her embrace of this underground society that's treated her more like a human being than "normal" society has. The characters around Mary are quirky and could be seen as odd to some. But they're fleshed out with actual personalities and traits that make them all easy to relate to on some level. Billy is a pervert and sleaze, but he actually has feelings for Mary - not sure how to deal with them and tell her flat out. Beatress looks strange on the outside, but she's just a caring friend who wants to be accepted on the inside. The real freaks are Mary's professors, who have parties where they rape women and then videotape it. And they get what's coming to them. Other filmmakers would have made AMERICAN MARY to shock people. But the Soska Twins never go to that level, giving us a picture of a different world that not many filmmakers care to delve into, and giving it the respect it deserves. They may look different on the outside, but they're human just like the rest of us. Everything but the rape scene is treated as something beautiful - something that's not common in the horror genre. I think that's why I was so invested in AMERICAN MARY - it didn't insult me and I appreciated that.

Bad Things: AMERICAN MARY is not a perfect film, due to issues within its interesting narrative. For one, I feel we don't see enough of Mary's struggles with her financial situation, nor do we see her struggle with being a celebrity within this body mod world. Things happen way too quickly, or happen off-screen, not allowing the audience to really get the full picture of Mary's new career path. Even after she's raped, we only get glimpses of her turmoil in feeling violated by people she was supposed to trust - instead quickly going into the revenge portion with the help of Billy and his friends. I get the focus was on Mary doing these surgeries and becoming a star to many who want to change their physical appearance. But it loses something human when things like these aren't addressed with enough time to really resonate. Should the whole film have been about Mary dealing with the rape and slowly creating a plan to get revenge on her violator? No, absolutely not because the film isn't about that really. But a little more time to Mary's life and getting her sense of how she thinks and feels would have been nice. Things came together a bit too easily for me, which is a shame since I liked Mary's character a lot. Just more depth to certain situations would have been good.

What really ruins AMERICAN MARY for me is the film's final act. I won't spoil it for those who have not watched the film, but it left me numb and disappointed. It was as if the writer of the film had the first two acts mapped out well, with no idea on how to end the film. The last 30 minutes really go off the rails for me, losing what made things so effective and interesting prior to it. The film became generic and cliche, which didn't really match a film that was anything but. We get a suspicious detective who seems to know what Mary has been up to, that seems to want to go somewhere but is never allowed to. We get a subplot that was briefly mentioned in the first hour of the film [blink or you'll miss it] that leads into the film's ending. Even Billy's feelings for Mary aren't really explored, since it happens without much build up and ends once he does something stupid that disappoints Mary. Mary deserved a better send off than she gets, because her character is so compelling. But the narrative fails her, because she's put into situations that could be great, but end up not meaning much at all because a writer wanted her to do something after she got her stuff in order. I wasn't into this portion of the film at all, sorry.


STARRING
Glenn "Kane" Jacobs - Jacob Goodnight
Danielle Harris - Amy
Katharine Isabelle - Tamara
Chelan Simmons - Kayla
Kaj-Erik Eriksen - Seth
Greyston Holt - Will
Michael Eklund - Holden
Lee Majdoub - Carter


Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 90 Minutes


PLOT
During the same night as the events of the original SEE NO EVIL, Jacob Goodnight (Kane) is wheeled into the local morgue during a graveyard shift that birthday girl Amy (Danielle Harris) and Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) are working. Amy doesn't mind working during her birthday, which pleases Seth who has taken a liking to his co-worker. However, their boss Holden (Michael Eklund) surprises Amy with a birthday party at the morgue with her friends.

One of Amy's friends, a flirty and slightly drunk Tamara (
Katharine Isabelle), learns that Goodnight is one of the corpses in the morgue. Excited and turned on, she takes her boyfriend Carter (Lee Majdoub) to see the body and begins having sex around him. Unfortunately, this fetish wakes up Goodnight, leading to a repeat of Goodnight's previous activities...

REVIEW
Good Things: Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of 2006's SEE NO EVIL, with it slightly growing on me when I recently watched it, I was still excited about the sequel due to who was directing it and who was starring in it. And fortunately, those two aspects didn't disappoint me much at all.

The cast is pretty great here, considering they're not really given much to do after the film's first half but be stereotypical slasher victims. But the cast shines in the first half of the film, where the script allows some character development to occur and gives the actors material to work with. Danielle Harris, who is always awesome, does great as lead girl Amy. She's extremely likeable in the role, has nice chemistry with Kaj-Erik Eriksen, and gets to do some real acting in certain scenes that allow her to flesh out her character. Speaking of Eriksen, I thought he was extremely likeable as well as Seth. He was the stereotypical Nice Guy role, but it takes the perception of the character on a different path, which I liked. Eriksen had great acting moments as well as he and Harris made for a great duo. As for Kane, the guy was always the best part of the original film. He's still as imposing and intimidating as ever, using his physicality to speak louder than words. I also dug his new murder outfit, which made him a bit less generic than his appearance the first time around. I wouldn't mind seeing him do another film, just murdering people for the hell of it.

However, the best actor was Katharine Isabelle, who gives a really funny and sexy performance as Tamara. Her character [she's obsessed with serial killers and is a bit of a necrophiliac] is wonderfully fresh and Isabelle has no trouble holding back in delivering how her character is described. Isabelle is great as a drunk, a flirt, and even a dry humper on Kane [lucky bastard]. It's the total opposite of her AMERICAN MARY role, which is probably why I enjoyed her so much here. She's so campy and over-the-top, that she gives the film the energy that it lacks at times, unfortunately. I honestly thought she was the highlight of this sequel.

We also get cameos from a certain pair of sisters as well, in a nice Hitchcockian moment. I thought it was pretty cool.

Speaking of the Soskas, I thought they did a good job visualizing as much of the story as they could. The hospital setting is always one of those locations that will always be creepy in the world of horror, and that's no different here. And I think the Soskas use the location well in terms of shots, framing, and even props for Kane to use. Unlike the first film, there's a feeling of cold and bleakness in the sequel. The first film had this dirty, grungy feeling about it. SEE NO EVIL 2 is more polished and cleaner looking, which I liked. It's a lot more subtle than the first film [which had a kinetic style going for it] and the photography is quite nice here. It's obvious the Soska Sisters were inspired by 1981's HALLOWEEN II, which is not a bad sequel template to emulate. I thought the ladies did a good job setting things up and shooting the mayhem that occurred throughout.

And while the script fails the film in a lot of ways, I did think the fact that we had likeable characters [for the most part] to follow and root for was a pleasant aspect of the film. These people felt pretty real, unlike the characters from the first film who you had no idea who they were as individuals. There's enough character development to raise it above the first film, creating a somewhat unpredictable final act where you're not sure who will live or die. And I enjoyed the throwbacks to the original film with Jacob Goodnight, as he's still struggling with how he was raised by his mother. And that scene where he sees his mom in the morgue is some great stuff too, as it really motivates Goodnight and gives him a new direction to follow. And with the first half of the film having some decent dialogue as well, I thought SEE NO EVIL 2 was a better film than the first on a visual and narrative level.

Bad Things: Unfortunately, the script happens to be extremely generic and bland. Once the murders begin to happen, the film takes its familiar road to its conclusion, making you wish the story had more twists and turns than it actually does. While the last 15 minutes does have a surprise I didn't expect, the rest of the film plays out like any 80's slasher. That's both a good and bad thing because I like slasher films, but it's been 3 decades and I expect something fresher at this point.

I also thought that while Jacob Goodnight is more of a vengeful monster this time around, wanting revenge for his mom's death, he also loses what made him so interesting in the first part. There's barely any eye gouging here. The religious aspects of the character are gone. He's now Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers - that superhuman killer who can't, or won't, be stopped. I felt the character had some personality in the first film that seemed to be lacking here.

What also was lacking were the kills. As much as I had issues with the first film, the murder sequences were pretty energetic and fun to watch. That cell phone through the mouth moment is still a great kill, as well as the final few minutes with Goodnight and that dog. In the sequel, you don't get any of that. Sure, people get stabbed and choked out. There's even some decent gore, like one of the victims being chained up to a door in a gruesome matter. But the murder stuff is extremely bland and standard, rather than presenting something somewhat creative and memorable. It's more surprising considering that the Soskas' love pushing things to the extreme, meaning WWE Studios must have put the kibosh to that. Sequels are supposed to be bigger and more over the top. SEE NO EVIL 2 doesn't fit the bill in that aspect.

THE FINAL HOWL
While they're not perfect films, the latest films from Jen & Sylvia Soska are pretty decent watches for the most part. 2012's AMERICAN MARY is a cool little flick dealing with a topic that not many filmmakers touch upon, and they do it with respect and class. Katharine Isabelle is great as Mary Mason, and I liked the polish look and storytelling within the first two acts. SEE NO EVIL 2, while nothing riveting or memorable, is a vast improvement over the first film. Thanks to fresh pairs of eyes, a great cast, and deeper-than-expected characters, this sequel manages to be a pretty fun time regardless of the many issues [especially how awfully generic it is] it has. The Soska Sisters are putting their mark on the current state of horror - and whether you're fans of not, you got to respect these ladies for their work. Look forward to seeing what they do next.



SCORE

AMERICAN MARY
3 Howls Outta 4


SEE NO EVIL 2
2.5 Howls Outta 4




AMERICAN MARY (2012) TRAILER



SEE NO EVIL 2 (2014) TRAILER

12.19.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 42: "It's a Wonderful Podcast"


Tis the season and the M.C. crew are feeling the Christmas spirit. This week we review [or re-review in my case] SANTA'S SLAY (2005) and THE DAY OF THE BEAST (1995). Plus the Top 5 Xmas movies [non-horror] of all time. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Part of ShitMas 2014 at Shit Movie Fest!











 


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12.12.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 41: "Santa Claus is coming to town...and he's pissed"


More holiday jeer this week as Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980) and [in my case, give another look at] CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980). Plus a look at the Top 5 Xmas horror movies. Part of ShitMas 2014 at Shit Movie Fest!











 


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12.05.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 40: "Happy Fucking Holidays"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I get into the holiday spirit w/two fun and wholesome Xmas classics, THE CHILDREN (2008) and NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975). Plus the Top 5 Worst Xmas movies of all time. Listen to this episode or Santa gets it! Part of ShitMas 2014 at Shit Movie Fest!











 


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11.19.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 39: "MST3k Part 1: The Joel Years"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I take a look at Mystery Science Theater 3000 and review 3 episodes: POD PEOPLE, THE BEATNIKS and ATTACK OF THE (THE) EYE CREATURES. Plus we countdown the first half of our Top 10 'So Bad They're Good' movies (#5 -1 will be featured on episode 40).











 


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11.15.2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

STARRING
Addison Timlin - Jami
Veronica Cartwright - Lillian
Anthony Anderson - Lone Wolf Morales
Travis Tope - Nick
Joshua Leonard - Deputy Foster
Gary Cole - Chief Deputy Tillman
Edward Herrmann - Reverend Cartwright
Denis O'Hare - Charles B. Pierce, Jr.
Spencer Treat Clark - Corey


Genre - Horror/Slasher/Thriller/Mystery

Running Time - 90 Minutes


PLOT
Every Halloween, Texarkana, Texas screens the 1976 cult classic THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. One night in 2013, Jami (Addison Timlin) and her boyfriend Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) are attacked by a man dressed as the infamous "Phantom Killer", murdering Corey and wanting Jami to send a message to the rest of the town about his presence. Traumatized and wanting answers, Jami decides to investigate the incident in order to figure out who the new "Phantom Killer" is. As she learns about the real events from 1946 that THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was based on, the Phantom Killer murders more people, repeating the events that the original killer had committed.



REVIEW
1976's docu-drama/horror film, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, is an interesting one. It's not the greatest horror film out there, or the most memorable. But it was based on real events in Texarkana during the mid-1940s, and inspired countless other horror films that were released afterwards - including the look for Jason Voorhees in his first grown-up appearance in 1981's FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. The 1976 film had its issues [a dumb comedic bumbling police squad sub-plot comes to mind], but its storytelling is interesting and the Phantom Killer himself is pretty creepy [especially since he was never caught].

I was very curious about a new version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, since I felt the original film could have used an update of sorts. Ryan Murphy, producer of Glee and the American Horror Story series, was brought on board to bring this movie to life. As a fan of American Horror Story, I was very interested in how this new version would play out. The original film wasn't a thrilling film, using simplicity and subtlety to bring suspense and menace to the big screen. Would that even work in 2014? Surprisingly, 2014's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN works better than it ought to, especially when you realize it's more of a homage to the original rather than a remake.

Good Things: I really enjoyed how "meta" THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN plays with its narrative. I'll get to my thoughts on the actual story later, but I did enjoy how this film is very well aware of the 1974 film's existence, as well as the true life events that inspired both films. The murders in this film are copied from the murders from the original film on purpose - just so a new generation could remember the original terror Texarkana suffered during the 1940s, instead of celebrating it by releasing the 1974 film annually for box office receipts. I also liked how our main character, Jess, researches the murders through old newspaper archives, and even talks to the son of the director who gave us the original film [played by actor Denis O'Hare]. I was expecting a full-on remake that updated what the original film presented. And while we do get that somewhat, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is more of a pseudo-sequel that happens to be very aware of itself and its status in the horror community. Many filmmakers use the "meta" technique to sound clever or smart, failing most of the time [thanks SCREAM!]. But I think THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN gets it mostly right, as I was never sure where the film was going while certain scenes were re-created in front of me.

I thought the visual presentation was extremely polished. Producer Ryan Murphy is no stranger to giving us polished horror with American Horror Story, having director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon steer away from the documentary feel of the original film, giving us a nice looking slasher flick that's definitely 2014. The film is well paced, well shot with great angles and slick editing, and even delivers nice tension and suspense at times. The kills are never really gory, but there is blood. And I liked that certain sequences from the first film are re-created in a good way, paying homage to these classic moments. The trombone-knife scene is back, which I liked in context within the scene it happens in [hate crime, or just wrong place wrong time?]. There's also the stalk-and-slash through a field that was taken from the first film, in which a female victim tries to hide from the Phantom Killer after her lover is shot through the window of his home. I also thought the red herrings and the twist ending were interesting, even if the twist didn't really reach its potential [more on that later]. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is just a nice looking picture [thanks to cinematographer Michael Goi] that flows really well. Then again, we didn't have to watch bumbling cops cross dress for whatever reason, ruining the pace of the film. So definite upgrade there.

I also thought the acting was solid here. Addison Timlin is very solid as Jami, our lead character. She was totally convincing in the role, as I bought her journey and her trauma throughout the film's runtime. I also thought her voiceover stuff was done nicely as well. The rest of the cast is great as well - especially Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole [playing a great douchebag as always], Edward Herrmann as a reverend, and Veronica Cartwright as Jami's grandmother. I thought the acting here was a lot better than the acting in the 1974 film.




Bad Things: I think my only gripe with 2014's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was the narrative. Now, it's not a terrible story or a badly written script. It's fine for a slasher film that's self-aware of the true story and film that story was based on. But there seemed to be things that wanted to be brought up that weren't expanded on at all.

The main issue was Jami's backstory. While we get bits of it during the film, the film seemed to imply that her past related to the recent murders. Why would the killer spare her life so she could spread the message that he's returned if she wasn't important to him in the first place? I figured there would be a deeper connection between the two. Maybe they were related. Maybe he has history with her family. Or maybe the guy was just infatuated with her somewhat. Whatever the case, it was never really clear what the deal was. I like backstories when done right, and especially if they relate to the plot and its conclusion. But Jami's past never really does, which makes it a lost opportunity. At least her flashbacks were interesting on their own. I just wish they mattered more in the bigger spectrum of things.

I also didn't really like the film's third act. The story leads to a twist ending that's been done before, but one I didn't see coming in THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. I was all for it until I realized it was fleshed out much at all and didn't really make a ton of sense once it was all said and done. I'm sure the ending was just meant to shock viewers and try to fill in the pieces on how it's considered possible. But I wish it resonated longer and meant more by the end. It started out interesting and just fell apart second by second, lasting all but three minutes. It's a shame because I think if the final act was better, the film would have been a lot stronger than it actually was.

And of course, the characterization for everyone but Jami could have been better. I know a slasher film isn't known for deep characters and relationships, but THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN seemed to want to be a more dramatic level of slasher. While the characters are interesting archetypes, they all seem to be red herrings and suspects within the mystery of the Phantom Killer. Instead of caring about them, we're judging them to see if they're really the culprit. This doesn't really hurt the film much at all, but a little more variety and depth with the characters would have been nice.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WRITING THESE THINGS I'VE LEARNED

- Watching the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is considered God-less. I guess if that's the case, watching any of the TWILIGHT films is like burning in purgatory for the rest of time.

- Pointing a gun at his head, the Phantom Killer tells Corey to take off his pants. Man, this MAGIC MIKE XL audition is no joke!

- "This is for Mary. Make them remember." Damn right. 227 was a great show! Show Marla Gibbs and Jackee some love!

- The Phantom Killer brought back the trombone-knife kill, stabbing a gay kid from behind. I guess he wanted to slide his trombone into his ass, I mean brass section.

- A lady was frightened by a scarecrow. If she only had a brain...




THE FINAL HOWL
2014's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was a pleasant surprise. Rather than a remake, it plays out more as a sequel that's well aware of the true events from the mid-1940s, as well as the 1974 film based on those true events. The acting was solid, the polished direction was stylish and looked great, and the whole "meta" angle was an interesting take on the story - working pretty damn well in the process. I do wish the mystery was handled better, as well as that twist in the final act that didn't really have enough time to resonate. It didn't click for me at all. But overall, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a nice homage to the 1974 film for a modern audience. Definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the original film, or just slasher-mysteries in general.




SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4



11.13.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 38: "War is Hell"


To celebrate Veteran's Day here on the podcast; Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review Bob Clark's DEATHDREAM aka DEAD OF NIGHT (1972) and Buddy Giovinazzo's COMBAT SHOCK (1984). Plus the Top 5 War Movies of all time. Come for the zombie soldier, but stay for the roasted baby.











 


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11.05.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 37: "Schlock Fu? Kung Faux? Chop Sucky?"





This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review RAW FORCE (1982), DEATH MACHINES (1976) and BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN (1974). Three so-bad-they're-good martial arts turkeys just in time for November.











 


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11.01.2014

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Kaare Andrews

STARRING
Mitch Ryan - Marcus
Sean Astin - Porter
Ryan Donowho - Dobbs
Brando Eaton - Josh
Jillian Murray - Penny
Currie Graham - Dr. Edwards
Solly Duran - Camila
Lydia Hearst - Bridgett
Claudette Lali - Katia


Genre - Horror/Virus

Running Time - 91 Minutes


PLOT
On an island laboratory, a man named Porter (Sean Astin) is being quarantined by a group of scientists, due to the fact that he seems immune to a flesh-eating virus that has murdered everyone he has come in contact with. Frustrated with the fact that he's being treated like a lab rat, Porter takes drastic measures to make his escape.

Meanwhile, Marcus (
Mitch Ryan) is a former frat boy who is now marrying into a rich family. For a bachelor party in the Dominican Republic, Marcus' friends decide to treat him for a drunk and drug filled lash hurrah on a yacht and on a nearby island. After a swim in the ocean, Marcus' brother (Brando Eaton) and his girlfriend (Jillian Murray) notice rashes on their body that causes the flesh to peel off the bone. As the fear spreads, so does the contagion, making Marcus and his friends search for help at the nearby lab on the island.

REVIEW


It's hard to believe that CABIN FEVER was released twelve years ago in 2002 before SAW, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and even the influx of all these remakes/reboots were made. While not a perfect film, it manages to be a lot of fun and it made Eli Roth a star director in Hollywood, whether people liked his work or not [which seems to be the case these days for some reason]. A sequel was later released in 2009 called CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER, directed by favorite indie horror director Ti West. It was so bad, West wanted to take his name off of the film, albeit unsuccessfully. Now in 2014, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO has been released to the world [you can watch it on Netflix Instant] - supposedly acting as a prequel of sorts to the first CABIN FEVER. And while PATIENT ZERO is light years ahead of SPRING FEVER, it still manages to be a pretty pointless film.

Good Things: The most obvious thing I can commend is the gore. Sandy Arias and Vincent Guastini did a very good job elevating the silly gore effects that appeared in SPRING FEVER to something more cringe-worthy and nasty that resembled the gore from the first film. The "going down" scene with Brando Eaton and Jullian Murray, where Eaton comes up with the lower part of his face covered in blood, is a highlight. The evolution of the rashes that appear on the infected is done believably. We get people vomiting blood. People get their faces eaten. And we get a great catfight between Murray and Lydia Hearst where the two ladies tear each other part - literally. I think the best part about it all is that the gore effects were done practically instead of CGI. If CGI was used, I couldn't even tell. So great job.

I also thought the acting was fairly good as well. Sure, the younger actors weren't the greatest and you probably didn't care about their one-note characters. But I thought they fit their roles well enough to be watchable. The real star for me was Sean Astin, who I was surprised to see in a film like this honestly. He could have just coasted on his name and collected a paycheck with a less-than-inspiring performance. But Astin really gave depth to what should have been a one-dimensional character. Astin made Porter complex, with his frustration, desperation, and even sadism towards the end. Honestly, I wish the film was just about him and his situation without the other characters involved. I thought Astin carried his portions of the film really strongly.

Speaking of Porter, I thought any scenes involving this character were the most interesting. We've already seen the classic group that deals with the infection, leading to terrible things at the end. But having a character who is immune to the flesh-eating virus was a nice development. And I like how Dr. Edwards saw Porter as a way to become famous, sacrificing his own staff as lab rats to see what would happen, while trying to create a cure for his own worth rather than to save others. Could these scenes be more developed? Absolutely. But it was something different for this franchise and I liked how serious and adult it was presented.

And hats off to director Kaare Andrews for directing a nice looking film that visually connected itself to the first CABIN FEVER. Andrews showed a lot of confidence in his visual style, handing both sub-plots pretty well while giving each one a different tone and feel. The cinematography was strong, with the use of an isolated island and its laboratory to good use for some cool shots and angles. The editing was strong and it was paced well. Definitely an upgrade from SPRING FEVER for sure.



Bad Things: For a film called CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, it barely focused on Patient Zero [Porter]. While we do get multiple scenes with Porter and his situation, PATIENT ZERO is still more concerned with the token partying characters who unknowingly contract the virus, with the gore effects being the stars once the virus takes over. It's not like these scenes are terrible. In fact, this generic setup for the virus spread has some cool moments and even decent character arcs that are revealed towards the end. But like I mentioned - Porter's scenes are adult and well-written. The bachelor party is your typical debauchery and profanity laced stuff one would expect from a film like this. I think with a title like PATIENT ZERO, it should focus on Patient Zero. I get that you need young, good-looking peeps to have sex, get naked, and get dead by a flesh-eating virus. It's good for the bottom dollar. But it just looks generic next to a more interesting sub-plot that could have explained a few things and maybe even led to more installments before they were scrapped for a remake [don't even get me started on that!].

Speaking of explaining things, isn't PATIENT ZERO a prequel? If that's the case, shouldn't it have given us info on how this virus came to be? This film doesn't even touch on that, starting when the virus had already killed people. Also, why is Porter immune to the virus, but everyone else isn't? Again, never explained. If the Patient Zero deal wasn't going to be given a fleshed out arc, I would have preferred an entire film with the other characters, with the film presenting itself as a direct-to-DVD/Blu sequel that improved on its predecessor. I thought it was a missed opportunity. I would have liked to have known the origin of this virus. I guess we'll never know now.




THE FINAL HOWL
I was surprised how much I liked CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, especially since I really disliked CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER and wasn't expecting much at all. It's not a great movie and it feels more generic than it ought to, considering the title. But Sean Astin is pretty solid as "Patient Zero", elevating the film for me quite a bit. Plus Kaare Andrews' direction is confident and the gore effects are pretty sweet. If the film had given us some info on the flesh-eating virus and focused on the "Patient Zero" aspect more, this review would probably be a lot different. But it settles on familiar territory and doesn't give us enough reason as a must-see film. If you liked CABIN FEVER and/or neat practical gore effects, PATIENT ZERO is definitely worth a look. Otherwise, quarantine yourself from this one.




SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4



10.30.2014

Midnight Confessions Bonus Episode: "A Midnight Confessions Halloween Special"


This week we celebrate our favorite time of the year. Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I wax nostalgic about Halloween TV specials of history past, we count down the Top 10 Horror Movies of all time and round things off with a review of the heavy metal horror classic, TRICK OR TREAT (1986). Plus we spin some great halloween themed tunes along the way. Happy Halloween, Freex!










 


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