Wednesday, September 3, 2014

As Above So Below

I'm just so happy As Above So Below wasn't another PG-13 found footage possession film I was tempted to give it a 10 out of 10 just for that.

 Our story follows Scarlett, archaeologist daughter of a once famous expert on all things alchemy who committed suicide after being laughed out of all professional circles for claiming the fabled Philosopher's Stone is in fact real. During her travels in Iran, she finds something that seems to suggest her father wasn't crazy and after a series of DaVinci Code-type events she finds herself in the vast and uncharted catacombs underneath Paris with her cameraman, an old engineering friend who can read ancient Aramaic for some reason, a young French guy who leads illegal tours of dangerous parts of the underground mass grave and his girlfriend, and one random guy who seems to be their only to make it an even six cast members.

There's a lot here to really like. If you're a fan of history in general but with a particular interest in the wonderful world a alchemy, like I am for example, the story alone will immediately hook you. The writers really seemed to actually do some research too, as they excitedly filled this script with tons of esoteric dialogue about Egyptian puzzles and ancient Babylonian symbols and whatever.

  Fucking ancient Babylonains and their symbols.

So I was totally into this movie until about the last 20 minutes or so where it just devolved into a clusterfuck of nonsense. Before that there was some spooky stuff, but it was mostly like a found footage Indiana Jones movie and I really wish it had stayed like that. Instead they largely abandoned that in favor of just throwing a ton of shit at you, shit that has nothing to do with anything. In fact I feel like almost all the spooky elements just don't really work in this movie. For instance, our characters are in the catacombs for literally under 30 seconds before they see a creepy cult with Holy-Wood-era Marilyn Manson makeup in a side chamber, and then they never make another appearance. They never even reference them again which really makes you wonder what the point was.

Thought we did get to see some curly-headed fuck in a burning car.

So, while it has some real problems and arguably doesn't work as a horror film, the basic plot is interesting enough to make me not hate it. I give As Above So Below 5 out of 5 booby traps.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Deliver Us from Evil; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Doors

I like to wait until a movie has been out of the theaters for a solid month before I write a review, so sue me.

Don't fucking look at me like that, Owl!

Our story follows Brooklyn detective Ralph Sarchie, the real life cop whose non-fiction autobiography this movie is vaguely based on, as he starts investigating a series of crime that involve three men who served in Iraq and came back...different. During his investigations he hooks up with a rogue ex-junkie exorcist who slowly convinces him to get back in touch with his lost faith and face the true evil at work.

The evil of graffiti.

For those not in the know this movie was directed by Scott Derrickson, that absolute rarest of creatures, the Christian horror director. He's a very hit or miss type of director for me. He helmed the excellent The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the absolutely abysmal Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and the terribly frustrating Sinister. I'm happy to say apparently he met his true calling, and that is possession films because this movie is great.

 And surprisingly gory.

One of the problems of making a possession film is that no matter what, people are going to invariable compare it to The Exorcist. Deliver Us from Evil (or DUFE from now on) is fully aware of this and uses that fact to it's advantage by following some similar beats. Both films mine Middle Eastern folklore and legend for their inspiration and both portray everything in a very realistic way, smart way.

For the most part.

The acting is excellent also,  even Joel McHale (mostly known for his comedy work in Community and his E! show The Soup) was totally believable as Officer Sarchie's knife-fighting partner, a character that could've easily been played too over the top. Eric Bana as our lead protagonist was wonderful also, though I was really impressed by Olivia Munn as his long-suffering wife. I also liked the animalistic way the actors portrayed the possessed characters.

There's also a certain aspect of the script I really love that you just don't see in movies often, and this is something a friend of mine pointed out to me originally, but the script is surprisingly Lovecraft-esque. Now obviously I'm not talking about fish people walking around and tentacles exploding from everywhere, I'm talking about the amount of research involved. Lovecraft stories predominately use academics as their protagonists and include a ton of scenes of characters just reading and studying, and I love that. I suppose Sinister did that too, just not to as good an effect as DUFE.

Really the only problem I have is everything just leads up to an exorcism scene that unfortunately just isn't very interesting or tense, which is weird considering how fucking amazing the exorcism scene in Emily Rose was. But that's a very minor complaint, and at least the gentleman possessed looks cool.


All in all, one of the best movies I've seen so far this year. I give Deliver Us from Evil 8 out of 10 angry lions.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dick Smith Dead at 92

It's a sad day in the SFX world today as Dick Smith, Oscar winning make-up artist behind such films as The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Amadeus and The Deer Hunter, has died. In addition to his incredible work behind the classic dramas mentioned above, he held a special place in horror fans' hearts for The Hunger, Scanners, Altered States, The Sentinel (a personal favorite around here at the Death Blog) and of course, The Exorcist. He was 92.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Devil's Due Any Minute!

Every now and then a movie comes along that is so universally panned, with reviews filled with so much bile, you wonder if the director of said film molested a busload of children and you just never heard about it.

Though no one seems to mind when that actually does happen.

A couple years ago that movie was the surprisingly creepy alien abduction film Dark Skies, but it has been usurped by found footage possession flick Devil's Due.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming Devil's Due is some sort of persecuted gem. Far from it; in fact it's pretty cliched and predictable, but that's kind of why I like it. It plays very much like a greatest hits of the past decade's slew of possession and FF movies, except cranked up to 11.

Pictured above: Originality

Our story follows a newlywed couple who, on the last night of their honeymoon in some undisclosed latin country, are drugged and used in some obscure ritual neither of them remember the next morning. Upon returning home they discover the wife is pregnant even though she had religiously taken birth control pills for years, and silly demonic hijinks ensue.


Like I said above, there is nothing here you haven't seen before and the acting/directing is only serviceable, but where this movie shines is how far over the top it all is. In fact, the whole thing has such a Halloween haunted house feel to it, it's almost like watching a William Castle movie, a feeling only indulged by Lionsgate handing out Devil's Due condoms as promotional items.

 What, you thought I was joking?

All in all, I think this goes firmly into the "guilty pleasure" category. I give Devil's Due 6 out of 10 bleeding priests.





Monday, June 30, 2014

JP is Almost Human


Surly one of the oddest phenomenon out there, aside from people being able to listen to Ray Romano's voice without there eardrums bursting, is popping a brand new movie into your movie-playing device of choice and feeling nostalgia for it like it's a partially-remembered 80s flick you saw on TV once. That is exactly how I felt watching Almost Human, an alien abduction film by first time writer/director Joe Begos.

We start our tale in 1987 in Maine as an incredibly cute bearded man named Mark is abducted through a blue light outside his home while his best friend Seth watches helplessly. Two years later Seth begins having severe multiple nose bleeds and the uneasy feeling something bad is about to happen while Mark reappears, naked and covered in what I can only assume is alien splooge, infected with an alien slug that drives him to violently murder all those in his path. To make things worse, he can infect his victims bodies with more slug things and reanimate them.

To answer your question, yes, his ass is beautiful.

Guys, this is probably the best horror flick I've seen in months. Despite a clearly small budget it features some really impressive gore effects inflicted by everything from rifle to hacksaw to hunting knife. It also looks fantastic, managing to achieve something of an 80's throwback look without cheapening it by trying to digitally add grit like all those films that try to replicate the "grindhouse" look. The acting was a tad uneven though pretty solid over all, especially by hunky alien killer Josh Ethier (Fun Fact: He was also the film producer and editor). Really the only problem was the period detail. Usually everything looked like it was suppose to but every now and then something from this century would slip into frame. It was never anything truly distracting, like that segment in SOV flick The Zombie Chronicles that is suppose to be taking place in the 70's yet the main characters ride around in a 2005 Subaru, but I'm really having to nitpick to find anything negative to say.

I guess I could also complain we only see him naked once.

With shades of Fire in the Sky, Night of the Creeps, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers this movie in lesser hands could've been a big dull dud but manages to feel both familiar and fresh simultaneously. Almost Human is on the fast track to becoming my favorite horror movie of the year so far, and I give it 9 out of 10 Stephen King references.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Queers in Horror

I know this is usually the spot a write a big three or four paragraph introduction to my articles, but to be totally honest I'm suffering through a pretty hardcore sinus infection right now so I just don't feel like it. I'm trying to take advantage of the very short window of lucidity between incredible pain and medicated numbness that I'm in right now, so I'll keep this short.

Believe it or not, homosexuality has been creeping it's way into film since the early days of cinema. Even then it wasn't until 1936's Dracula's Daughter we were treated to a gay character, albeit in coded form ("coded" is a term used to describe characters that have all the mannerisms of gayness without actually saying they're gay). Things stayed very much in the closet like this until the counter-cultural revolution and the Stonewall Riot of the '60s changed Hollywood forever, independent and underground film began reaching more viewers than ever and even mainstream film started taking more chances.

Right now is an incredible time to be gay in America (though sadly not in most other places) with a majority of citizens -51% in fact- are in support of same sex marriage, which is already perfectly legal in 19 states. People are finally starting to realize we are fully-rounded human beings, not a single offensive stereotype. For example, most don't seem to realize just how big the gay horror fanbase is. Just take a look at the great new book Out in the Dark: Interviews with Gay Horror Filmmakers, Actors and Authors  to get just a taste.

Below is a list of films with either gay themes, positive gay characters, or gays behind the camera.


Pink Flamingos

"But JP, Pink Flamingos isn't a horror movie, its a comedy!" You're right just a comedy. A comedy filled with incest, rape, murder, unsimulated sex, drug use, baby theft, cannibalism, and coprophagia. Vintage John Waters in all it's grotesque glory.


Socket

Imagine what it would be like if David Cronenberg made a gay movie, you're probably thinking of something kinda like this. This tale of a group of men deeply aroused by being electrocuted, going so far as to implant electrical outlets and plugs into their wrists, is unfortunately marred by some really bad directing and editing but otherwise is pretty impressive.


Bride of Frankenstein

This sequel to Franenstein is openly gay director James Whale's masterpiece, wildly subversive, and even managing to sneak some real gay humor past the censors via also openly gay actor Ernest Thesiger's Dr. Pretorius.


Daughters of Darkness

I was having a pretty intense internal conversation with myself over whether or not I should include any of the copious "lesbian" vampire films as 99% of them are nothing more than an excuse for stuffy white guys to film lame softcore porn sequences. I decided to include this Harry K├╝mel film as I feel it's slightly more interested in art than tits and therefore doesn't really have the sleaze factor of it's contemporaries.


Monster

Now some have argued this movie sort of enforces the whole "killer gay" stereotype, but seeing as it's based on the true story of real life killer Aileen Wuornos (easily the best and most accurate killer biopic I've seen)I don't really agree. Lead actress Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her role, and arguably has never bettered her performance here.


Creatures From the Pink Lagoon

  Astute reader may remember this film as being one of my first reviews way back in the day, and I still love this little 50s throwback now just as much as I did then.


Hellbent


Speaking of blasts from the past, who remembers when I discussed this clever little gay slasher flick?


The Haunting


You know, for some reason I always forget this fantastically atmospheric ghost film directed by Robert Wise co-stars a very blatant, open lesbian character. Even more, she's a good, multi-layered character who doesn't try to kill anyone, which is super rare.


I Was a Teenage Werebear

It's just occurred to me I make reference to bears on this blog all the damn time but have never actually described what a "bear" is in gay terms. Basically a bear is a bigger, hairy gay man, like myself, and this segment from anthology flick Chillerama directed by openly gay director Tim Sullivan and starring gay porn star Sean Paul Lockhart is a hilarious musical throwback to 50s "teenage delinquent" films.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge


Definitely the weirdest entry in the Elm Street series, this thing is loaded with innuendos inserted into an already pretty gay scripts by both the gay lead actor and the gay production designer.


Tetsuo: The Iron Man


Written/directed/edited/starring one of the strangest Japanese directors around, Shinya Tsukamoto, this one doesn't even register as a gay film until after you've seen it a few times. Then you're trying to figure out if that ending is positive or negative.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Top 10 Friday Kills

Well, it's that time of year again, Friday the 13th! Not only a day steeped in mystery, superstition, and....stuff, but a paradoxically beloved film franchise. I'm going to keep this one short and sweet with only minimal explanation as I'm busy today, so without further ado here's my list of my 10 favorite Friday kills.

Friday the 13th- Axe to Grind


Easily the most graphic kill in the original movie, this is really the only one that has any kind of suspenseful build-up.


Friday the 13th- Betsy Palmer Loses Her Head


The catalyst for the rest of the series, the climax of the original film is the only kill on this list not committed by the killer.


Friday the 13th- Scratchy Throat


Kevin Bacon, in one of his earliest roles, is impaled through the throat with an arrow after what I can only assume was a very disappointing bout of lovemaking.


Friday the 13th Part 2- Handicap-able



Even being an inspiration in a wheelchair sometimes just isn't enough to survive a Friday flick.


Friday the 13th Part 3D- Splitting Headache



Hey look, I even went through the trouble of providing this portion of the list in 3D for you. I am a wonderful man.


Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter- (Cork)Screwed


"Nevermind Ted, found the corkscrew!"


Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives


I don't know why this still is in black and white, but it sure classes things up doesn't it?


Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan




Jason Takes Manhattan is widely considered the worst of the Friday films, but hey, at least we see a dude get his head punched off.


Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday- Country Fried Cracker



If only someone would submerge Leslie Jordan's head in a deep fryer in real life.


Jason X- Freezer Burn


Ok guys, real talk? I kinda love Jason X, and I especially love when this lady has her head dunked in liquid nitrogen ( I guess that's what it's supposed to be).