Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"The Signal" review

The Signal (2007)

Directors: David Bruckner Dan Bush Jacob Gentry
Writers: David Bruckner Jacob Gentry Dan Bush

Anessa Ramsey ... Mya Denton
Sahr Ngaujah ... Rod (as Sahr Nguajah)
AJ Bowen ... Lewis Denton
Matthew Stanton ... Jerry (as Matt Stanton)
Suehyla El-Attar ... Janice
Justin Welborn... Ben Capstone
Cheri Christian ... Anna

A woman tries to escape her psychotic husband and is pursued throughout the city by him and her lover. The story is told in three parts with each having a different tone for the signal induced mayhem. The movie starts off with her running for her life from many “crazy” people. Then the movie shifts gears into an apartment where a party was going to be held but was ruined by all the mass murdering shenanigans going on. The last part leads up to the final showdown to see who the signal will destroy.“The Signal” is about the end of the world. It all starts with a sleazy B-movie playing on TV which emits homicidal signals into people’s minds to kill, kill, kill! I always knew these movies would destroy all life on Earth someday. Their power cannot be underestimated. Soon the signals start emitting from every electronic device, (phones, radios, etc), just in case some people don’t watch B-movies.

The signal affects some people differently than others. Most give into their rage and paranoia while others try to hold onto their sanity. “The Signal” leaves you with a few questions. Like how can you live in a media saturated world and not go insane? What possible escape is there from the signal when we rely on electronic devices for everything we do? And why did it take three directors to make this movie?

I’m not sure of the back story behind “The Signal” but there must be a good reason, (I hope), that this movie needed three directors. In any other movie having multiple directors is the sign that the film has spun out of control and something is rotten. But “The Signal” does this deliberately although how it really benefited the movie I can’t be completely sure. The first part plays as a straight horror film which keeps zipping right along. Then the movie morphs into a gory comedy in the second section as the violence starts getting played for laughs, (Bug spray in the eyes? HAHAHA!). The final section teeters back and forth between horror and laughs with plenty of bloody scenes.

I found the changing tones effect to be a little jarring but it actually works well with this kind of movie. “The Signal” tries to keep an atmosphere of signal induced madness alive and it succeeds. Each section shifts focus onto another character and the tone changes with them. I had a good time keeping up with the crazies. It’s worth checking out.
SCORE: 3 out of 4 signals

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"The Strangers" review

The Strangers (2008)

Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino

Alex Fisher ... Mormon Boy #1
Peter Clayton-Luce ... Mormon Boy #2
Scott Speedman ... James Hoyt
Liv Tyler ... Kristen McKay
Gemma Ward ... Dollface
Kip Weeks ... The Man in the Mask
Laura Margolis ... Pin-Up Girl
Glenn Howerton ... Mike

Liv Tyler and her boyfriend head to an isolated house to have a romantic getaway. Unfortunately for them, they are being stalked by three masked freaks. They saw that Liv was going through some tense times with her boyfriend and graciously decided to put them out of their misery. For some strange reason, the boyfriend doesn’t get overly alarmed at the sight of a masked woman standing in the front yard at 4AM. Liv tries to warn him that this behavior is not normal but he just can’t believe that he’s a pawn in a horror movie. His skepticism may doom them both.
“The Strangers” is an exercise in bare minimum horror filmmaking. It feels like it was made to fulfill an assignment in Directing 101 class. This movie rolls out all of the possible scare scenes you could have in a movie about three psychos stalking your house. Loud banging on doors? Check. Creepy music playing as you’re trying to hide? Check. Objects moved when you reenter a room to denote that the killer is toying with you? Check. And of course, a couple of scenes of the killer slowly creeping up behind you? Oh yeah.

So on a technical level, “The Strangers” works very well. If I was his professor at Horror movie university, I would give the director an A. But do all of these little scare scenes add up to a good horror flick? Going into this movie, I pretty much knew what to expect. The joy in watching horror movies, no matter how predictable they may seem, comes from being shocked by what tricks the filmmakers can whip out to surprise even the most jaded of horror fans. “The Strangers” did not surprise me.

There was a lot of effort put into making the soundtrack, (banging doors, broken glass, screaming, etc), be as scary as possible. It’s too bad the story didn’t throw any twists to make the plight of the doomed couple more interesting. By about the third scene of a masked freak sneaking up on somebody, I was ready for someone to get killed. The freaks weren’t just toying with the couple; they were toying with the audience as well. “The Strangers” has some good scare scenes but overall there was too much buildup and not enough payoff. There's only so much teasing I can take from psychotic masked women. Sooner or later, you've got to introduce yourself and not be such a stranger.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4 stalking strangers

Monday, June 09, 2008

"Werewolf in a Women's Prison" review

Werewolf in a Women's Prison (2006)

Director: Jeff Leroy
Writers: Vinnie Bilancio Jeff Leroy

Yurizan Beltrán ... Kelly
Vinnie Bilancio ... Jack
Al Burke ... Badger
Victoria De Mare ... Sarah Ragdale
Eva Derrek ... Rachel
Phoebe Dollar ... Maria
Meredith Giangrande ... Angel
Sindy Lange ... BB
Tamara Melnyk ... Female Prisoner
Tai Chan Ngo ... Werewolf
Jackeline Olivier ... Rita
Bernadette Perez ... Serina
Jed Rowen ... Julio
Natalie Stone ... Robin
Kristen Zaik ... Crystal

An innocent girl is thrown into prison for murder. A werewolf butchered her boyfriend and left her with a cursed bite mark. Once she is inside the cheapest women’s prison in the world, her bloodlust starts boiling. Her body starts convulsing at all of the blatant exploitation raging all around her. She transforms into a werewolf and destroys anything she can get her paws on. The warden and his dominatrix sidekick decide to make a few bucks off of her hairy body. They sell admission to watch her transform into a beast. But when the monster wants to eat, nothing is going to stop her from rampaging.

“Werewolf in a Women’s Prison” is a great B-movie. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There are plenty of exploitation scenes to revel in. After the werebabe has been at the prison awhile, a double shot of sleazy scenes start to make her transform. It’s not the full moon that controls this beast. It’s B-sleaze that drives her crazy. One scene has her friend getting molested by some old guy. As this is going on, two women in cellblock 69 get naked and start making out.(Important side note: One of the women in this sex scene had great floppy breasts. My God, I loved it. Breasts weren’t meant to defy gravity. She was a fine all natural inmate. But I digress). This overdose of B-movie mania unleashes the monster within and she rips and tears through many hapless inmates.

After the werewolf carnage had subsided, I became slightly saddened. The werewolf had eaten over half the cast, (including my beloved floppy breasted beauty), and the movie had run only about 40 minutes or so. Luckily, the filmmakers realized they needed some more victims so they hauled in a fresh batch of inmates. The movie ends with the werewolf letting the prisoners know how she feels about being exploited. Blood and guts spill in large proportions.

“Werewolf in a Women’s Prison” is tailor made for sleaze movie fans. It fits so well. It jumps right into one exploitation scene after another. It’s all done in the name of cheap bloody fun. And I haven’t even mentioned the sweat drinking scene. I won’t spoil it but let’s just say it’s another gratuitous B-movie moment. “Werewolf in a Women’s Prison” is well worth checking out.

One last thought. There was only one crucial scene missing from this women’s prison movie. Where was the mass prisoner shower scene? I was hoping the werewolf was going to show up and start soaping a prisoner’s back. Then the beast would run wild through the shower eating as many naked inmates as possible. The filmmakers probably couldn’t risk getting the werewolf costume wet since it was a rental. They couldn’t afford to blow the $20 deposit getting his fur steam cleaned. Still, the mass shower scene is a staple of the women in prison movie. Of course, when I say mass shower scene, I truly mean the mass nudity scene in a shower is a staple of these movies. And a fine staple it is.

SCORE: 3 out of 4 werewolves in a stripper's prison

The girls all the werewolves want.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Mother of Tears" review

Mother of Tears (2007)
AKA Terza madre, La

Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Jace Anderson Dario Argento

Asia Argento... Sarah Mandy
Cristian Solimeno... Detective Enzo Marchi
Adam James... Michael Pierce
Moran Atias... Mater Lachrymarum
Valeria Cavalli... Marta Colussi
Daria Nicolodi... Elisa Mandy
Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni... Giselle Mares
Udo Kier... Padre Johannes

The Third Mother is loose and wants to do battle with Asia Argento. The Mother of Tears is the meanest witch and wants to bring death and destruction wherever she goes. Asia is the confused art student who unknowingly opens an ancient box which releases the malevolent spirit of the Mother of Tears and her equally evil pet monkey. All witches have monkeys you know. Asia tries to run away but there is no escape since the entire city of Rome is falling down around her. Many people try to help Asia discover her hidden witchy ways but they usually end up dying horribly. Soon Asia will decide to quit stalling and get this movie going by tracking down the Mother of Tears on her own. I can’t say I ‘m a huge Dario Argento fan so my expectations weren’t too high going into this movie. I really liked “Suspiria” and “Opera” but the other Argento flicks I saw didn’t excite me too much. But I can see why people enjoy his film-making style.

So as a Dario Argento movie, “Mother of Tears” is lacking. I was expecting more of his patented over the top excesses. None of the scenes in “Mother of Tears” really stand out as impressive. It plays as a straight horror flick with generous helpings of gore. If you are a fan of Argento, it’s possible you’ll hate this movie.

But as a sleazy B-movie, “Mother of Tears” is pretty good. The gore scenes do not disappoint. Many heads, arms and intestines are ripped apart with maniacal glee. There is also a generous helping of nudity as the Third Mother and her coven like to get topless. Asia also manages to make friends with a lesbian couple who don’t let little details like evil witches about to kill them spoil their lovemaking.

The pacing in “Mother of Tears” is what starts to drag it down. The movie lurches back and forth in stops and starts. One minute some fool will be droning on about the legend of the Three Mothers and the next they’ll be hacked to death. I was really hoping the movie would kick into gear but it never did. Asia should have accepted her destiny as a horror movie heroine sooner and attacked the coven. For some inexplicable reason the movie kept slowing down to talk when it should have been going for full tilt carnage.

But overall, “Mother of Tears” has a sufficient helping of exploitation to make it worth checking out. I’m more of an Asia Argento fan myself so I got my money’s worth. There were enough gory moments here to satisfy my B-movie blood lust. I had a good time.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4 blood lusting witches

And one more Asia Argento pic for the road.

OK, two more.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

"Doomsday" review

Doomsday (2008)

Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall

Adeola Ariyo ... Nurse
Emma Cleasby ... Katherine Sinclair
Christine Tomlinson ... Young Eden Sinclair
Vernon Willemse ... David / Gimp
Nathan Wheatley ... Patient "X"
Rhona Mitra ... Maj. Eden Sinclair

The Reaper virus is sweeping across Great Britain. The authorities decide to set up a quarantine zone where the infected can die off at their leisure. Years later, the virus resurfaces to lay waste to the population again. This time the government does the responsible thing and sends a babe with big guns into the hot zone. She’s searching for the cure among the wastelands. She will have to be a Road Warrior while she Escapes from New York, I mean the hot zone. But she can’t wait 28 Days Later to run away. She needs to leave these Streets of Fire before the Warriors get her.The word that kept ringing in my brain after I finished watching “Doomsday” was “derivative”. Not only did I feel like I’d seen this movie before, I got the feeling I had seen this movie many times before in different forms. “Doomsday” goes beyond mere homage. This is out right highway robbery. The director took all of the 80’s movies that inspired him, threw them in the blender and gorged himself on this bloated cocktail of blood and guts.

It’s hard to love “Doomsday” as you know every action scene is lifted from a better movie. But if you’re a B-movie freak, it’s also hard not to get a kick out of all the slobbering love for extreme violence on display here. One mans excess can be another mans treasure.

There are certain movie rules I live by. Like any movie with a decapitation has to be good on some level. Heads and other important body parts fly all over “Doomsday”. There is plenty of gratuitous violence as the head babe, (Linda Hamilton, I mean Rhona Mitra), blasts her way through the wastelands looking for the cure. When she got to the castle and had to have a gladiator fight with a knight in shining armor, I almost lost my mind. The movie had gone far over the top at that point but still wasn’t satisfied until it squeezed in one more Mad Max style car chase.

Needless to say, I was pleased with “Doomsday”. Oh sure, it’s a complete rip-off of every single sci-fi action flick ever made. But it’s a fun one. If you’re looking for some brain dead action, “Doomsday” will serve you well.

SCORE: 3 out of 4 babes of the wasteland

Friday, June 06, 2008

"The Ruins" review

The Ruins (2008)

Director: Carter Smith
Writers: Scott B. Smith

Jonathan Tucker ... Jeff McIntire
Jena Malone ... Amy
Laura Ramsey ... Stacy
Shawn Ashmore ... Eric
Joe Anderson ... Mathias
Sergio Calderón ... Lead Mayan

A bunch of fun loving tourists decide to break away from the pack and do something adventurous while vacationing in Mexico. This line of thinking always spells doom for tourists in horror flicks. They hear that there’s a ruin that the tour guides won’t take you to. It never crosses their minds as to why they won’t take them there, just that there’s an old ruin to explore. Once they find it, the natives won’t let them leave. The ruin doesn’t want them to leave either...
“The Ruins” has a standard horror movie set up that I thought was going to lead somewhere interesting. I was hoping for something monstrously evil to be waiting for them in the bowels of the ruins. I’m sorry to tell you that the only thing waiting for the wayward tourists is killer shrubbery. Yes, the vines on the ruins are carnivorous and want to lure idiotic tourists to their death. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie with killer plants before but “The Ruins” treats us to every gory possibility that this monster has to offer. In fact, you might even say that “The Ruins” truly encompasses the intersection between Hollywood and Vine. HAHAHAHA! Oh man, (wiping tears away), I’ve been waiting to use that line ever since I saw this movie.

I will give “The Ruins” some points for its generous helpings of gore. Vines start crawling towards the tourist’s wounded bodies with alarming regularity. As they spend their days and nights fighting off vines at the ruin, they start to snap under the pressure.
*SPOILER ALERT* The scene where the med student amputates the guys legs was particularly disgusting. That was a true orgy of gore. It made me wince with joy.*END SPOILER*

“The Ruins” is trying to be a psychological horror flick as we watch this group of friends crack under vine-filled pressure. It does deliver some good gore scenes and some decent suspense when they are crawling around the belly of the ruins.

But overall I didn’t feel that there was a sufficient payoff with this movie. I’m a big monster fan and proud of it. There should have been some sort of beast that the vines were attached to. I needed one to be waiting in those ruins. Instead I got a lot of hungry plants.

Why couldn’t they have burned the plants? Poisoned them? Whipped out the weed whacker? Break out the lawnmower? Show those weeds who’s boss of these ruins. Letting plants get the better of you is a sorry way to die in a horror flick. But getting your head ripped off and then thrown down the steps of the ruins by a slobbering beast, now that’s how a man wants to go out.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4 killer weeds

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"Hood of Horror" review

Hood of Horror (2006)

Director: Stacy Title
Writers: Jacob Hair Tim Sullivan

Snoop Dogg ... HOH / Devon
Ernie Hudson ... Roscoe
Danny Trejo ... Derelict
Pooch Hall ... Sod
Anson Mount ... Tex Jr
Daniella Alonso ... Posie
Lin Shaye ... Clara
Brande Roderick ... Tiffany

Snoop Dogg is a hood demon. He harvests the souls of anyone who brings horror to the hood. Whether it’s a malicious tagger with a deadly can of spray paint, a bunch of lowlife slumlords or a greedy rapper, they all get what’s coming to them. Snoop introduces each story and carries off the carcasses of the unfortunate souls who cross his path.

“Hood of Horror” takes its inspiration from “Tales from the Crypt”. It has three horror tales from the crypt/hood with Snoop acting as the evil narrator and laughing at the poor choices the suckers make. Immoral fools will always get what’s coming to them when they cross the demon Dogg. It’s all a gruesome way to teach lethal lessons to people who think they can get away with committing sin.

It’s also a very cheap way of telling a story. “Hood of Horror” looks like it cost about 50 bucks to make. They must have had a few generic urban sets left over from some other B-flick and decided to crank out another movie. Snoop was probably only available for a weekend anyway so they had to work fast. “Hood of Horror” is cheap and sloppy and proud of it. “Rush job” was the first thing to pop in my head after the horror was over.

But “Hood of Horror” keeps moving and delivers some blood and guts so I can’t fault it too much. The best story is the first one with the blood thirsty tagger. That had the most gruesome deaths. The slumlord story had some good gore scenes but the greedy rapper tale was done so cheaply I couldn’t buy into the fantasy that this guy had hit it big. But overall, “Hood of Horror” is a decent B-flick. It brings the carnage to the hood and Snoop picks up the pieces. It’s worth a look.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4 Snoops in the hood

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"Cemetery Gates" review

Cemetery Gates (2006)

Director: Roy Knyrim
Writers: Pat Coburn Brian Patrick O'Toole

Reggie Bannister ... Belmont
Peter Stickles ... Hunter Belmont
Aime Wolf ... Dr. Christine Kollar
Nicole DuPort ... Kym
Kristin Novak ... August
Howard Berger ... Stoner Dude Doug
Gregory Nicotero ... Stoner Dude Michael

Activists decide to release a mutated Tasmanian devil on the world because they can’t stand the sight of such a magnificent monster being locked up. The beast goes hog wild with his new found freedom and proceeds to tear them to bits. The monster makes his escape to a graveyard where an amateur zombie movie is being filmed. He decides to bust up the student filming so that he can show them how a real blood soaked horror movie is made. Many fools die badly trying to escape the monster’s wrath and a good time is had by all.

“Cemetery Gates” combines two of my favorite B-movie elements: A rubber suited monster and copious amounts of blood and guts. The Tasmanian devil, (which goes by the name Precious), is a fine example of how a monster should behave in these movies. He shows no mercy to whoever is stupid enough to cross his path. He doesn’t take kindly to any kind of rude behavior. If someone should try to use him as a toilet, it will end very badly for that person’s offending anatomy. There’s another great scene where the monster leaps out of nowhere and does a flying tackle on a jogger. I had to rewind that scene a couple of times. There’s nothing like watching an extra hungry monster dive for his food for a few good laughs.

“Cemetery Gates” doesn’t try to be a serious horror movie but instead goes for large helpings of comedic gore. I had a good time watching Precious rampage his way through the cemetery. It delivers everything you would expect from a mutated Tasmanian devil movie. Blood, breasts, gore, and a guy in a rubber suit leaping on screaming people. It’s all here.

SCORE: 3 out of 4 hungry devils

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Andre the Butcher" review

Andre the Butcher (2005)
AKA Dead Meat
Director: Philip Cruz
Writers: Philip Cruz James Hyde

April Billingsley ... Jasmine Tyner
Maury Sterling ... Hoss
Heather Joy Budner ... Cookie
Justin Capaz ... Jimbo
Terry Mross ... Sheriff Cooper
Ron Jeremy ... Andre the Butcher

A bunch of cheerleaders are on their way to a competition when tragedy strikes. They crash their car and end up walking to an abandoned house. Unfortunately for them, this is the stomping grounds of Andre the Butcher. Andre, (Ron Jeremy), just happens to be hanging around waiting for someone to kill. There are also some escaped convicts who show up to torment the cheerleaders as well. Throw in some trigger happy cops and you have the makings of a B-movie bloodbath.

“Andre the Butcher” is a fun B-flick. It doesn’t even try to be taken seriously which adds to the sheer joy of watching limbs get blown to pieces. It takes many elements from the B-movie playbook and mixes them together to make a fine cocktail of death and destruction. It also has the obligatory gratuitous lesbian scene. And here it is!Just by the virtue of starting the movie off with a car full of horny cheerleaders we know that the filmmaker’s hearts are in the right place. This movie can only be heading in the right direction.

Luckily for us, it is heading straight into the loving arms of mass murderer and all around big guy Ron Jeremy. Jeremy plays the strong, silent type of killer as he hacks his way through some cheerleaders. A few of Jeremy’s body parts get blown off in the ensuing carnage but he manages to bounce back from these setbacks with the held of a handy stapler. Watching Jeremy and friends bash each other’s heads in are what good times are made of. If you’re looking for a good Saturday night beer fueled bonanza, “Andre the Butcher” is worth a look.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4 scary Jeremys

Monday, June 02, 2008

"Mexican Werewolf in Texas" review

Mexican Werewolf in Texas (2005)

Director: Scott Maginnis
Writer: Scott Maginnis

Erika Fay... Anna Furlough
Gabriel Gutierrez... Miguel Gonzalez
Michael Carreo... Tommy
Martine Hughes... Rosie
Sara Erikson... Jill Gillespie
Louie Cruz Beltran... Manny Gonzalez
Mark Halvorson... Brad Furlough
Leslie Marshall... Carol Furlough

There has never been a good movie made about the chupacabra. “Mexican Werewolf in Texas” is no exception. The chupacabra is the monster movie kiss of death. In fact, I will go on record as to say that there will never be a good movie made about the chupacabra. Since no one really knows what it is, it will take some imagination on the filmmaker’s part to bring this blood sucking beast to life. The chupacabra does not strike fear in the hearts of men but he is good for a laugh or two.

So some bored teens are wasting away in Border Town, Texas. The town is famous for being the goat capital of the world. This excites the chupacabra who makes his way over the border so that he can chow down. The town is baffled by these mysterious killings. Tensions are getting high as the white people want to blame the Mexicans and the Mexicans want to blame the chupacabra. I blame this movie. Of course the only people who can save the town from a horrible blood sucking death are the bored teens who have become instant experts in chupacabra hunting.

The werewolf is a fine movie monster while the chupacabra is a disgrace. The chupacabra has no legend behind it to make it interesting. No silver bullets, no full moon insanity, etc. It has no back story at all. It’s just this big hairy beast that likes goat blood. Its name translates into “Goat Sucker”. Goat sucking does not cause terror. At least with a werewolf we know it’s someone who’s cursed to destroy anyone in his path under the light of a full moon. The chupacabra is cursed to destroy any movie he’s in.

As low budget and amateurish as this is, it’s still strangely watchable. There’s just something inherently amusing about watching a guy in a rubber suit attack people. Of course nothing truly interesting happens in this movie but it kept me watching in the hope that the chupacabra would surprise me. He didn’t. You can let this goat sucker go.

SCORE: 1.5 out of 4 goat suckers

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"Plasterhead" review

Plasterhead (2006)

Director: Kevin Higgins
Writer: Kevin Higgins

Kathryn Merry ... Maggie
Josh Macuga ... Steve
Ernest Dancy ... David
Raine Brown ... Audra
Gerard Adimando ... Sheriff Earl Taggart
Brandon Slagle ... Henry

A bunch of college students are heading to Miami for a vacation. They decide to take a shortcut through a small town because that’s what you do in horror movies. You always take the shortcut through the scariest backwoods town you can find. This particular stretch of West Virginia is the home of Plasterhead, a fiendish killer who lives out in the woods killing whoever is stupid enough to wander within arms length. The locals are convinced that a black trucker survived a vicious beating and evolved into the killing machine Plasterhead. Soon they will learn that they were right and that their sins have come back to haunt them with plaster on his head.

Is Plasterhead the new Candyman? The answer is an emphatic no. “Plasterhead” tries to take the “Candyman” approach by having a local myth come to life and terrorize the town. The problem is that the town consists of about three people and I didn’t care about any of them. The four jerks driving to Miami were begging to be slaughtered by their insistence on driving in circles around that hick town. But the main problem is that Plasterhead is a lumbering buffoon who couldn’t catch anyone yet somehow always manages to sneak up on people. Candyman could have ripped the plaster off his head in two seconds. Where is Tony Todd when we need him?

“Plasterhead” has a few interesting kill scenes but nothing to get too excited about. The real death blow with this movie is the pacing. Most of the runtime is eaten up by watching the students go back and forth on the merits of staying in town. They don’t even realize that there is a killer Plasterhead after them until about an hour into it and by then you’ve lost all interest. “Plasterhead” can be skipped.

SCORE: 1.5 out of 4 plaster mans