Sunday, March 1, 2015

JP Learns His ABCs...Again. He's a Very Slow Learner

Long-time fans of the Death Blog may remember my somewhat unusual review style for the first ABCs of Death, an incredibly ambitious anthology that brought together 26 international directors who each used one letter of the alphabet and made a 2-4 minute short film about them, wherein I only discussed my five favorite segments since it's nigh on impossible to really describe the full assault. Welp, it's 2015 and I'm doing the same thing, bitches!

The problem with this method is basically all of my choices are practically beyond description, but whatever. #YOLO


D is for Deloused - Directed by Robert Morgan

 This animated segment directed by Robert Morgan, the man who scared the shit out of me with The Cat with Hands and plucked my heartstrings with The Separation, is one of the most unusual and inventive in a film filled with the unusual and the inventive. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure what the short is meant to represent, but it's beautiful and just so damn cool!


N is for Nexus - Directed by Larry Fessenden

I guess no one should be surprised that the segment directed by my boo Larry Fessenden is, in my humble and totally-not-biased-at-all opinion, the best looking segment of the bunch. The simplicity of the story, four people convening in one spot in a very unfortunate way, allowed for Fessenden to really expand visually in interesting and unique ways.


W is for Wish - Directed by Steven Kostanski

Possibly THE strangest of the bunch, written/directed by Astron-6 member Kostanski, the titular wish by two young kids to enter the world of a Master of the Universe-style toy line goes wildly awry in some wonderfully unpleasant ways.


Y is for Youth - Directed by Soichi Umezawa

  First time director Umezawa, primarily a make-up artist by trade, managed with this short to make teenage angst sincere, disturbing, and hilarious all at once, in ways I doubt anyone else could've possibly imagined.


Z is for Zygote - Directed by Chris Nash

The short is about a man who leaves his pregnant wife for some kind of business reason (it's not really that clear honestly). Before he does, however, he gives her a jar of some type of root that will stop her from delivering the child until he gets back if she eats one everyday. We then smash cut to 13 years later, and the story culminates in one of the most gory and disturbing denouncements in the entire two films.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Town That Dreaded Sundown 2014

I hesitate to call this remake or reimagining -or whatever other "re-" words are in vogue these days- of the  Charles Pierce-directed 1976 cult classic since the movie it's suppose to be a remake of that movie already exists as a movie in this movie universe. We need a new word to call that sort of thing, like a "Meta-make" or something.



So our story takes place in Texarkana, named so because it straddled the border of Texas and Arkansas, where back in the 40s a sting of random violent murders occurred during one long summer then stopped as quickly as they began, leaving 7 or 8 people dead. Every year on Halloween the town has a public showing of the original 70s movie I made mention of above, and during the showing of the 65 anniversary of the killing the masked man known as the Phantom Killer, just like crazy-tight pants, seems to have made a comeback. He begins recreating the events of the film, and it's up to damaged orphan Jami to unravel the mystery of his identity. However, there are plenty of red herrings along the way, will she be able to tell the killer from the killee?

I don't really have much to say about this one, guys. The acting and directing are pretty solid, and it is an interesting take that sets it apart from the usual remakes, much like 2013's Maniac remake and it's innovative POV style. Sure it drags in places, and the ending is pretty fucking dumb and reminiscent of Scream 2 (really kid, that's a pretty weak motive) but I feel those can be pretty easily overlooked. What can't be overlooked? Well, let me tell you.


So, for those of you wondering, yes, of course the trombone murder is in this movie. You can't bring up The Town That Dreaded Sundown without at least a mention of the trombone murder, like this mention here. Here's my problem with the new film. The victim of the trombone murder here is a gay man who was about to engage in some sweet downstairs play with what I assume to be a BBC. So, a weirdly fetishistic type of murder that in the original happened to a woman, then a gay man. What exactly was the writer trying to say here? Is he yet another straight man equating gay with feminine and womanly? It's 2015, this is not a question I should have to ask.


   So should you see this movie? I can only give a resounding "meh" as an answer. I give The Town That Dreaded Sundown 5 out of 10 blowjobs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Worst of 2014

Well kids, this list kinda hurt to make. You see, several of the movies on this list were movies I was actually really excited about. So excited that I took it personally when they ended up sucking.  Movies like......


Stage Fright


A horror-musical about a killer at a drama camp sounds like a great idea, right? To bad it was completely toothless, so poorly written it sets up a half-dozen subplots then just forgets about them, and the music is fucking awful. Not even Meat Loaf could save this glittery lump of shit.


Willow Creek

As a man who's enjoyed all of Bobcat Goldthwait's previous work, no one was more surprised than me when I watched this found footage Bigfoot movie and was bored to tears by the shit acting and the complete lack energy.


The Human Race


80 people from all walks of life wake up and are told via PA system they are to race until only one is left could've been interesting if it had better writing behind it, but as it stands everyone, with the except of a couple characters, is a fairly one-dimensional cutout.


The Monkey's Paw


I think the general theme of the movies I didn't like this year is all revolves around interesting ideas that are handled poorly. Take, for instance, this newest version of The Monkey's Paw. The idea of taking the classic WW Jacobs story and placing it in rural Louisiana is a very interesting one, but it's just so poorly written and the acting -with the exclusion of villain Stephen Lang- is so bad everything falls flat.


Contracted


I've talked about genital wart of a film before, and I honestly don't want to spend even one more second of thought on it, so let's move on.


Nurse 3D


This is going to be a controversial entry, I know that. Most would argue that this movie, about a nurse with a long history of stalking her fellow nurses and killing cheating men, is suppose to be silly and over-the-top and campy. Here's the thing though, it's not fucking entertaining like a campy and over-the-top film is. It's dull, dumb, and just downright boring.


Beneath


Oddly enough there were two indie horror films this year called Beneath. This is the one that sucks. Not that the other film is good, but that one didn't make me doubt my love of Larry Fessenden like this one did, as I've previously mentioned.


Bad Milo

Now this one really hurt as I'm a big fan of all involved, but sadly this tale of an overworked man and his ass demon just doesn't go nearly far enough to make the jokes actually work.


The Devil's Hand

Who ever thought that blending a slasher film with a devil/cult film could be so boring, predictable, bloodless, and just plain stupid? The writing and acting in this thing makes Friday the 13th look like The Godfather.


All Cheerleaders Die

What I'm sure is to be another controversial entry, I get that this tale of cheerleaders being killed by the basketball team only to come back from the dead (somehow) is suppose to be a satire. However, I also thought satire was suppose to be funny and say something. I really don't get why everyone looks to Lucky McKee as some kind of horror film feminist when ever female character of his is either a "killer lesbian" stereotype or a sexualized mean girl.

The Best Horror of 2014

So I know this is usually the part where I write a huge intro about shit that happened this year and then somehow tangentially link it to rest of the article, but to be perfectly frank, 2015 just sort of snuck up on me here and I don't really feel like doing that. Sure, I could write some jokes about how it was a bad year to fly to Southeast Asia or ask why everyone spent the past few months pretending we've never seen Kim Kardashian's asshole before, but I feel like that moment has passed.

So now that that's out of the way; man, what an interesting year in movies, huh? To be perfectly honest, I really didn't see a whole lot of horror flicks this year, and most of my favorite movies of the year have been firmly outside the horror world (Guardians of the Galaxy, Gone Girl, Wild, etc). The ones I did see weren't really worth mentioning. Because of that I actually did have some trouble coming up with 10 movies for my best/worst list, but I did finally manage it.

You all know my rules but just to reiterate:

1) A movie must have seen some sort of wide release, either theatrical, DVD, or VOD for me to count it even if its been touring the festival circuit for a while.

2) My lists only go to 10. If you loved/hated a movie and don't see it here, well, sorry.

And that's it, my only rules! So let's get on with it.


Only Lovers Left Alive

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, this slice of life flick about two vampires languidly discussing music and philosophy has been accused of being pretentious and boring by some, but I loved it. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are fantastic in the lead roles and its beautifully shot.


The Sacrament

I've already gushed plenty about Ti West's The Sacrament so I don't want to get to deep into it again, but I do want to say I think Gene Jones gave what I think is the single best male performance in horror this year.


Under the Skin

Possibly the artsiest alien abduction film of all time, this Jonathan Glazer film follows a mysterious beautiful woman (Scarlett Johansson, good casting huh?) around as she picks up men in Scotland and does.........something with them. Still not super sure what's happening here, but I dig it.


Almost Human

Again, I've sucked this movie's cock plenty before, and I still believe everything I've said.


Proxy

It's really hard to talk about this movie without giving anything away since there are a lot of twists and turns. I'll just say it deals with parents who've lost children in horrible ways...or have they? Excellent performances and the direction by Zack Parker (in fact, this movie is a perfect companion piece to the director's previous film Scalene so that should let you know more about what type of movie this is) is great.


The Babadook

A single mother, still drowning in grief over the death of her husband, is at the end of her rope dealing with a son who believes wholeheartedly in monsters. One day a creepy-ass book called The Babadook appears on her son's shelf and, upon reading it, seems to bring something into the house. I think this is my favorite horror movie of the year. First time director Jennifer Kent has done a phenomenal job and actress Essie Davis is a standout in a very strong year for female performances in horror.


Oculus

This time jumping chiller from Mike (Absentia) Flanagan is about a pair of siblings who's parents were killed by a cursed mirror come together after 10 years of separation (time in which the brother spent in a mental hospital convincing himself the mirror was just a normal mirror and his sister spent researching everything she could about the background of the titular looking glass) to finally "kill" the offending piece. All around solid performances and a plot that must've been a nightmare to edit together.


The Taking of Deborah Logan

What starts as a medical documentary about Alzheimer's quickly goes South when it becomes apparent there is something even worse happening to the film's main subject, the titular Deborah Logan. This found footage/docudrama seems to have flown under most people's radars, either due to a lack of promotion or them just not wanting to give another shaky-cam flick a chance. Do yourself the favor and check this out,  and an amazingly brave performance from the elderly lead actress and a really unique spin on the old possession story will be your reward.


At the Devil's Door

A possession/devil flick inspired more by the folklore of Deep South Americana than by Catholicism, this tale of a real estate agent, her artist sister, and the creature that takes a fancy to them is yet another home run by writer/director Nicholas (The Pact) McCarthy.


Septic Man

Essentially The Toxic Avenger with a slightly higher budget, this tale of a sewer worker who becomes trapped in a septic tank stuffed with the victims of a pair of killers who slowly transforms into a basically a walking mold vaguely shaped like a man is a marked improvement of director's Jesse Thomas Cook's previous film, the abysmal Monster Brawl. It was also written by the gentleman who wrote the fantastic Pontypool, Tony Burgess.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Digging Through The Conspiracy

We've all seen those men on the street, megaphone blaring, shouting out that 9/11 was an inside job. We've all seen videos about the Illuminati controlling the world's banks. We've all read blog posts or comments discussing how the Freemasons have been behind all major political assassinations. All crazy paranoid garbage, right? The Conspiracy, a docu-drama from 2012, asks us a very disturbing question: What if? What if all these people society has labeled nutjobs are correct?

 Our story follows two documentary filmmakers, Aaron and Jim, making a film about conspiracy theorists and one in particular, the gentleman in the preceding photo. Everything is going fine until one day, the focus of their feature disappears without a trace, and it doesn't not look like he went willingly. Jim is perfectly happy to cut their losses and move on to another project, but Aaron has been bitten by the conspiracy bug and tries to figure out what their hirsute friend was working on.

As Aaron digs deeper and deeper he learns of the Tarsus Club, a secretive club comprised of the most influential politicians and businessmen in the world yet no information came be found except one article written by a Time writer who also apparently disappeared. I say "apparently" because the writer, upon learning of the filmmaker's interest, contacts him and relays every bit of information, including an upcoming club meeting, he has on the organization. Aaron decides there and then he wants to infiltrate that meeting, it does not go well.

First time writer/director Christopher MacBride has crafted an excellent little thriller here. An interesting DaVinci Code-style plot, great acting from all the actors, and a truly chilling denouncement. It's a damn fine film I really don't understand why there's been nothing but radio silence surrounding it. I don't recall reading anything or hearing anyone talk about it and I just don't know why. I have to assume that everyone is super jealous of Aaron Poole.

I know I'm kinda jealous of him.

I fucking loved this movie, I give The Conspiracy 9 out of 10 black SUVs.

Monday, December 15, 2014

In Defense of Black X-Mas 2006

Nothing seems to piss people off more than the very idea of a remake of a cult classic, am I right? And for good reason. I admit that 90% of the remakes that have clogged the multiplexes of this great nation like 12 days of KFC Double Downs are complete garbage that manage to misunderstand what made the original great on a disturbingly consistent basis. One of the most hated, possibly THE most hated, in the past 10 years is Glen Morgan's remake of Bob Clark's classic Black Christmas.

Making the killer a blazing shade of yellow like he's a Sin City character is only one of many reasons people often cite.

I'm the first person to acknowledge the positive aspects of the original Black Christmas. Pioneering camera work, solid performances, a creepy unseen killer, some really taboo-breaking subplots, and phone calls that are still super disturbing by today's standards. Plus many -not me, but whatever- consider it to be the first real slasher movie. Now that having been said, that movie is sort of a chore to watch. There are large chunks of the film where nothing really happens, and aside from the occasional cool POV shot, the directing kind of sucks. Sorry Bob. If it makes you feel any better I love Deathdream.

Fast forward 33 years later, a new version is announced, and the horror community immediately cries foul before it even premiers. Except me. You see, I'm not the type to ball my little fists in rage when a new remake comes out. Some of the best studio horror films in the past two decades have been remakes, and everyone in the horror world seems to forgot John Carpenter's The Thing is a remake and they never stop creaming their pants over that movie.



So Black X-Mas comes out and fans of the original hate it because of it's over-the-top gore, it's candy-colored lighting and cinematography, the added comedic elements, it's whole new back story for the killer, and the sorority girls' characters (Which doesn't make sense to me seeing as how the girls in the original didn't even have "characters." One girl was pregnant, and that's about it as far as telling them apart.)  These are the exact reason I fucking love this movie! I love the sheer exuberance and energy that practically oozes from every scene. Meanwhile the other film felt like watching a fucking funeral procession at times. That's the main difference, tone. While the original is serious as a heart attack, this one is just plain fun. Hey, everyone remember that word, fun? Yeah, it's ok for a movie to just be a grand ole time and nothing more sometimes.

This is the holiday horror film I've always wanted; ridiculous, Grand Guignol, arterial spray flying unchecked. I guess what I'm saying to everyone who hates this movie because it's not exactly like the first film in every single tiny detail is, it's Christmas, get the Yule log out of your ass.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Babadook and I Am Santa Claus

Man, this is going to be one short review. Why? Well, much like Prince and his opinion on Guitar Hero, I don't want you to waste time reading about The Babadook, I want you to WATCH it! It's just that good.

Our story revolves around Amelie, a single mother still haunted by the car ride her husband died in while taking her to deliver their son. One day a strange pop-up book called Mister Babadook appears on her son's shelf, and the act of reading it appears to bring the real Babadook into their lives.

Shot in desaturated colors to visually replicate both the silent films that act as the inspiration for the monster and the black-and-white book within by first time director Jennifer Kent, The Babadook deals beautifully with some incredibly taboo mother/child relationship subjects and features some great acting.

 I give The Babadook 9 out of 10 adorable baby kangaroos. 




Yeah, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with horror. But...well...shut up. It's my blog and it's December and I wanna talk about a documentary all about real-bearded (yes, that is an important distinction to make) professional Santas. And hey, former WWE wrestler Mick Foley is in this, and I think we can all agree that Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker was pretty horrific.

Like I was saying, this doc shows us a year in the lives of five men from completely different walks of life (a tattooed chef, a sexy-ass gay daddy bear, previously mentioned wrestler Foley) that all have one thing in common, they love being Santa. We see their lives, their primary year-round jobs, what their families think, the politics involved in the Santa union (I"m so happy that's a thing, you guys), it really puts you in the holiday spirit.

If you're having trouble getting the Christmas spirit all up inside your body, I would recommend I Am Santa Claus. I give it 8 out of 10 shots of TBRU that will make homophobes really uncomfortable.