Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Samurai Princess" review

Samurai Princess (2009)
AKA Samurai purinsesu: Gedô-hime

Director: Kengo Kaji
Writers: Sôtarô Hayashi Kengo Kaji

Yû Aiba
Takeshi Ayabe
Miki Hirase
Mitsuru Karahashi
Asuka Kataoka
Aino Kishi

"Samurai Princess" starts off with a severed head rolling on the ground. This leads to a brief swordfight in which the Samurai Princess slices and dices an outlaw into little bits. Then his little bits end up in a boiling pot where his partners in crime unwittingly chow down on his remains. The Princess decides to kill the cretins by pulling out their brains and throwing a naked breast grenade at them. Of course she does. What else would a revenge-minded Mecha do? What's a Mecha you ask? A Mecha is some sort of Frankenstein replicant pieced together from body parts and lost souls. There is a mad artist roaming through this cheap movie looking for severed limbs that he can transform into humanoid monsters. He stumbles upon a girl who's been brutally raped and left for dead. She wants to live again so that she can thrash her attackers into oblivion. So with the convenient help of a Buddhist nun, the mad artist is able to bring his creation to life. This leads to much blood and guts as the Princess takes her revenge on humans and Mechas alike.

I had rented "Samurai Princess" because of its amazing plot summary. Allow me to quote it to you now. "When 11 of her friends are raped and murdered, leaving the Samurai Princess (adult video star Aino Kishi) the only survivor, she becomes infused with her comrades souls...". I made it as far as "adult video star" before deciding that this was the movie for me. I was excited by the exploitation movie possibilities a raped porno star turned robot assassin story could provide. Who wouldn't be?

But the actual film turns out to be a little disappointing. It would be hard to live up to its outrageous exploitative summary but I thought "Samurai Princess" would be a little more extreme than what it was. The movie turns out to be a series of randomly goofy gore scenes which make little to no sense. Mechas and Artists. Robots and Outlaws. What does it all mean?

"Samurai Princess" follows in the footsteps of another Asian action flick, "Machine Girl", in which women get their revenge on humanity by combining their body with machinery. The results can be devastating. Long live the new flesh. But "Samurai Princess" is so cheap and shoddy that they couldn't afford to waste money on anything other than blood and body parts. The mass rape scene is very tame and the porno star did not live up to the high standards I had set for her. You have to have standards. There is one sex scene but its fairly uneventful. The rest of the movie consists of Mechas, artists and outlaws doing battle for no other reason than to splash some blood on the screen.

"Samurai Princess" was made for the undiscerning gore lover. If you need to see an incoherent movie with some cut-rate gore, "Samurai Princess" might be the movie for you. As for me, "Samurai Princess" gave me some cheap thrills but it wasn't enough to satisfy me. I'm a discerning gore lover. I need a little more than Mechas throwing breast bombs at their enemies. I don't need much more mind you. Maybe a breast flame thrower. Now there's a movie. "Samurai Incinerator". Now we're talking sense.

SCORE: 2 out of 4 Mecha mayhem
Mecha girl

Mecha's love brains.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Trick 'r Treat" review

Trick 'r Treat (2008)

Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty

Dylan Baker... Steven
Rochelle Aytes... Maria
Quinn Lord... Sam / Peeping Tommy
Lauren Lee Smith... Danielle
Moneca Delain... Janet
Isabelle Deluce... Sara
Anna Paquin... Laurie
Brian Cox... Mr. Kreeg
Leslie Bibb... Emma

It's Halloween and you better respect the traditions. "Trick 'r Treat" has four interwoven tales of murder and mayhem set in a small town on Halloween night. There's an elementary school principal who likes to give kids tricks instead of treats. Then there's four hot girls who want to throw a party in the woods with some willing victims. On the other side of town, a bunch of kids like telling ghost stories but they may see their nightmares come true. Finally there's an old man who disdains Halloween and meets a maniacal midget who has taken it upon himself to attack anyone who dares to insult his favorite holiday.

"Trick 'r Treat" continues the horror anthology movie tradition set by such films as "Creepshow" and "Tales from the Darkside". While I wouldn't say it was as good as "Creepshow", "Trick 'r Treat" turns out to be an enjoyable horror movie. I'm surprised that this didn't go to theaters. This would have been a perfect movie to release during Halloween. "Trick 'r Treat" gives Halloween the respect it deserves and provides horror fans with an entertaining horror flick.

Of course, there's not anything terribly original about "Trick 'r Treat". Most of these stories have been told in one form or another over the years. But "Trick 'r Treat" keeps the stories moving along as the town learns the importance of respecting the festival of Samuin. Did you know that pumpkin carving is linked to an ancient Celtic tradition? It was done so that pumpkins could be put in windows in order to ward off evil spirits. They believed that Samuin was the one day a year where the spirit world could pass through into our world. So they wore costumes and masks to ward off harmful ghosts.

It's this attention to Halloween details that the townspeople don't respect. They'll pay dearly for it. When the little sack-headed killer sees a woman blow out her pumpkin before Halloween is over, he shows her a few nasty tricks with his lollipop. Later he attacks a grumpy old man, (Brian Cox), after his contempt for Halloween becomes clear. The attack of the maniacal midget turns out to be the highlight of "Trick 'r Treat". It has the most blood and scares in the movie. The sack-headed killer is an angry little guy but I admire his dedication to his job.

The other tales of terror are fine but they don't pack as much of a shock as the mad midget story. The principal is a fiend with the kids, the visiting party girls are predictably hot and get into predictable trouble and the pranksters cause some havoc that comes back to haunt them. All of these stories play out to their obvious conclusion. They're fun but predictable horror stories.

Overall, "Trick 'r Treat" is a fun horror movie. It doesn't have excessive gore or blood but it has just enough to make it a worthwhile horror flick. I had a good time. It's worth a look.

SCORE: 3 out of 4 sack-headed killers
Red Riding Hood? Snow White? Little Bo Peep or Cinderella? Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"The Graves" review

The Graves (2009)

Director: Brian Pulido
Writer: Brian Pulido

Clare Grant... Megan Graves
Amanda Wyss... Darlene
Tony Todd... Reverend Abraham
Bill Moseley... Caleb
Jillian Murray... Abby Graves
Cathy Rankin... Valerie Mills
Patti Tindall... Becka Crane
Bill Lippincott... Dad
Brian Pulido... M. Mischief

Two hot sisters are into comic books and horror culture. The Graves make a great team cruising through comic book stores and driving the geeks crazy. They decide to have one more sister outing before they're torn apart. One of the Graves is going to college and her big sister wants to show her a good time before she goes. So naturally, they head for an abandoned ghost town. Of course they do. Unfortunately for the Graves girls, they've stepped into a mediocre horror film. Before you know it, killers are springing up all over the ghost town. They'll have to contend with a slow moving blacksmith, a freak in a pig nose and an outrageously hammy Reverend if they want to get out of town alive.

There's not much to get excited about over "The Graves". It truly defines the word mediocre. Everything happens exactly as you would expect. When the sisters arrive at the ghost town, you expect someone to chase them down. There's an evil blacksmith who wants to kill every tourist in sight. He starts to run after the girls but he's been eating too many cheeseburgers and starts wheezing after jogging for ten seconds. The Graves run circles around him and don't have much trouble dispatching him to blacksmith heaven. Although I was sure that someone was going to chase the girls through the ghost town, I didn't think he'd be this inept at stalking his prey. I was certain the movie was over at this point. I was wrong.

Just when you thought the Graves had survived the movie, along comes more trouble in the form of a pig-nosed freak. Seems like the blacksmith was his brother and now he wants to have his turn chasing hot babes through the desert. This leads to more mediocrity as the pig freak pounces on the hottest of the Graves, (Clare Grant), so he can bore her with his fantasies. The Graves use teamwork again to get out of their freak situation. I was relieved. The movie was finally over and I could get away from the Graves. I was wrong again.

Now the entire town chases after the Graves. Will this madness ever end? Reverend Tony Todd wants to sacrifice the sisters to appease some demon. This leads to an amazingly hammy performance by Reverend Todd as he summons the loud, screeching garbage demon. This leads to an even more amazingly mediocre fight which finally, mercifully ends the movie. The Graves can leave town and I can go to bed.

"The Graves" is a mediocre horror movie divided into three banal parts. The best thing you can say about it is that it's competently filmed. But since nothing scary or interesting happens on the Graves B-movie road trip, it's not worth watching. "The Graves" can be skipped.

One last thought, I have to mention the biggest letdown with "The Graves". It's the Graves themselves. The Graves do not get naked. This is a tragedy. Especially when you take the time to name your horror movie after the sisters and don't have the common decency to show us the Graves in all of their glory. I can't stress enough how important gratuitous nudity is to B-movies. A couple of shots of the Graves running topless through the desert could have saved this movie. Well maybe not but it would have at least provided one lively B-movie moment. As it is, "The Graves" is dead and buried.

SCORE: 2 out of 4 Graves babes

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Dead Snow" review

Dead Snow (2009)
AKA Død snø

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Stig Frode Henriksen

Vegar Hoel... Martin
Stig Frode Henriksen ... Roy
Charlotte Frogner ... Hanna
Lasse Valdal ... Vegard
Evy Kasseth Røsten ... Liv
Jeppe Laursen ... Erlend

A bunch of medical students head to an isolated cabin for some fun in the snow. Dead snow that is. (Is snow ever alive? Hmmm...) As they frolic in the snow, evil lies in wait beneath the ice. One night some crazy old coot barges into their cabin to tell them a tale of Nazi greed and murder. The Nazi's used to run this mountaintop as their own private fortress and buried a fortune here. The geezer warns them to heed his insane rant or the Nazi's will get them. Sure enough a battalion of Nazi zombies spring up from the snow and attacks the medical students for disturbing their gold. The medical students run for their lives as the undead fascists chase them through the snow. Many Nazi's will die again before this vacation is over.

Nazi zombies. I just like writing that. Nazi zombies. Two of the most evil words in the world. Together at last! Actually, "Dead Snow" is not the first Nazi zombie movie but it is certainly the best. We can thank a bunch of Norwegian film geeks for getting together to make the best Nazi Zombie movie ever made on top of a snow covered mountain. Hands down. Furthermore, "Dead Snow" takes the prize as the best Norwegian zombie movie I've ever seen. And while we're at it, it also wins a prize as the only Norwegian movie I've ever seen. Cheers for Norway!

Of course, "Dead Snow" isn't really full of surprises. You hear the phrase Nazi zombies and you have a pretty good idea of what you should be getting. The good news is that "Dead Snow" delivers what you expect. Nazi zombies are mangled, butchered, crushed and destroyed. The snow will run red with their undead blood.

There are many movie references in "Dead Snow" and most of them are for "Evil Dead". The Nordic geeks who made this movie are clearly in love with 80's slasher movies and wanted to make their own version of one. All of those lovable slasher flick cliches are here. From the isolated cabin in the woods, to the girls who separate when they need each other the most, to the liberal use of chainsaws, all of the classic genre elements are on display.

The Nazi zombies look great in their rotting black uniforms set against the white snow. But my one complaint about the movie is that it didn't really exploit the fact that the zombies were Nazi's. Other than looking good in their German uniforms, they didn't commit any evil you would associate with the Nazis. When I think of Nazi evil, I'm thinking of the obscene decadence that comes with attempting to have total control over others. But in "Dead Snow", the Nazi's zombie side had taken over and all they wanted to do was eat the student's guts.

But "Dead Snow" is still a fun Nazi Zombie movie. It's constructed out of many different 80's horror movie cliches and manages to bring them together very well. It's worth a look.

SCORE: 3 out of 4 Nazi zombies

"Book of Blood" review

Book of Blood (2009)

Director: John Harrison
Writers: John Harrison Darin Silverman

Jonas Armstrong ... Simon McNeal
Sophie Ward ... Mary Florescu
Clive Russell ... Wyburd
Paul Blair ... Reg Fuller
Romana Abercromby ... Janie
Simon Bamford ... Derek
James Watson ... Jimmy

A guy with hideous scars is wearing a book of blood and a collector wants his skin. Once the hired assassin catches up to his victim, he gives him one last chance to tell his story. The guy spins a tale of ghosts, possessed houses, paranormal activity and highways of the dead. His professor thinks she noticed something special about him and invites him to be part of her experiment. She is investigating a house where a hideous murder happened. She's convinced that the house is haunted and that her student can act as a psychic medium to the dead inhabitants. After long, drawn out sequences where nothing interesting happens, the dead finally make an appearance and want to sign their names on the student's blood soaked skin.

"Book of Blood" clearly shows the challenges of adapting a short story into a movie. They didn't have enough story to justify a movie so they've padded it out with banal dialogue scenes. That way the viewer can be really bored by the time something interesting happens. The first and last fifteen minutes of "Book of Blood" are entertaining. The rest of the movie plods along quietly as your mind wanders onto other topics. Like, why did they pick this Clive Barker story to adapt?

I read "Book of Blood" awhile ago and I remember liking it. I didn't remember a lot of the details but I was interested in seeing this adaptation. Now I can tell you that the filmmakers picked the wrong Clive Barker tale. Not much happens in "Book of Blood". It's filmed in dark, grey colors which gives the movie a dreary look and feel. It's dour and depressing. The ghost hunters shack up in an abandoned house waiting for something interesting to happen. I was waiting too but the ghosts took the long way home. By the time they started writing their stories on his skin, I was completely bored with this movie.

Still, there are some decent scenes to enjoy. My favorite scenes being Sophie Ward commencing on a forbidden love affair with her younger student. There's a great scene where Sophie tries to help her insomniac student get some sleep by using her healing hands. Sophie also a short sex scene with her eager pupil which was pleasant enough. These scenes were very necessary for the movie as there wasn't anything else to do inside the house. Thank you Sophie Ward for saving this movie from oblivion.

"Book of Blood" has some decent gore scenes, a few good Sophie Ward erotic moments and not much else. It takes too long to get to the point and by the time it does you'll be wishing you were watching another Clive Barker movie. Where were the Cenobites when I needed them? It's filmed competently enough but there's not enough horror or suspense to warrant a viewing. It can be skipped.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4 books of blood

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"The Descent: Part 2" review

The Descent: Part 2 (2009)

Director: Jon Harris
Writers: J Blakeson James McCarthy

Michael J. Reynolds ... Ed Oswald
Shauna Macdonald ... Sarah
Jessika Williams ... Susanna Small
Douglas Hodge ... Dan
Joshua Dallas ... Greg
Anna Skellern ... Cath
Gavan O'Herlihy ... Vaines
Krysten Cummings... Rios
Doug Ballard ... Dr. Roger Payne
Josh Cole ... Lynch
Saskia Mulder ... Rebecca
Natalie Jackson Mendoza ... Juno (as Natalie Mendoza)

The one survivor from the first "Descent" flick gets thrown back down the shaft. Since she can't seem to recall what happened to her friends, the sheriff decides to force her back into the caves to look for them. There could be survivors! The rescue team decides to skip any strenuous rock climbing and instead takes the express elevator to the bottom. That way they can die faster. The blind CHUDS of the Appalachians are waiting for more meat to enter their lair. They get very excited when their latest dinner course arrives. The rest of the movie has the rescue party needing to get rescued as the CHUDS pounce on them from every angle.

The original "Descent" was a great horror movie. It was one of the few recent horror flicks that actually scared me. Well, it made me jump a few times anyway. Now along comes "Descent Part 2". It has more gore, more monsters and more action. The filmmakers took all of the exploitation elements from the first movie and focused their efforts on providing more, more, more of them. I applaud the filmmakers with their dedication to the art of horror exploitation. Bravo!

So clearly, "Descent 2" is a must see. I loved it. It is one of the best straight to DVD movies I've seen. They have ditched the tension and dark claustrophobia of the first movie in order to provide the viewer with well lit scenes of carnage and mayhem. Where did the extra light come from in an abandoned cave? Who cares?! If you are worrying about little things like that, you don't need to spend your time watching horror movies.

Once the monsters make their first appearance, the movie becomes a series of survival of the fittest scenes. Since these people are trapped in a horror movie, you have a pretty good idea on who is going to survive. The monsters love to go for the jugular. There are many gushing neck wounds in "Descent 2". For the humans, the pickaxe becomes a favorite weapon to dispatch CHUD's to their graves. There are many fine gore scenes to enjoy in "Descent 2". My personal favorite was watching a girl's corpse shake from having one too many rats eat her guts. This was a particularly nasty scene which set the tone for the rest of the movie.

"Descent 2" is a very good horror movie. Gory, exciting and fun. It is definitely worth a look.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 4 CHUD munchers