Saturday, April 12, 2014

All Wrapped Up And No Where To Go Part Five

I finished up my reviews from the film festival with my review for Blood Glacier. Now I can get back to watching other films again. Well, almost. After I finish this review then I can do that. Before I went to the festival, I watched The Mummy's Curse (1944), but never got around to finishing the review before I left. Since I had most of it done anyway, I decided to just move on and come back to it later. Now is the time. This is the last film in the set, so not sure what I will move on to after this. Once I get around to it, I have a movie on my DVR I need to get around to. But first, lets get this review out of the way.

Picking up some 25 years after the last film, an irrigation project has managed to clear enough swamp for Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr) to rise again. Waiting for him is yet another priest, Dr. Zandaab (Peter Coe) and his assistant Raghab (Martin Kosleck). They help restore Kharis using the tana leaves once again. Their mission, once again, is to return to Egypt with Kharis and Princess Ananka to return them to their resting places. Zandaab instructs Kharis to find Ananka and return with her, but unknown to all, Ananka (Virginia Christine) has also risen from the swamp. Even though she knows Kharis' name, she doesn't remember anything else. Will she be able to get away from Kharis this time?

I haven't read a lot of comments about The Mummy's Curse, but the few I did read seemed to like this one because it is different. Not sure how it was so different though after watching it. The story is pretty much the same as it was in the last film. The only real exception to that is Princess Ananka. For once she is herself, and not someone who is realizing that she is the reincarnation of Ananka. Her return was perhaps the best part of the film. Coming up out of the ground, caked in mud, along with Christine's jerky movements, it made for a really interesting turn for a character. Too bad it couldn't have been the same actress though. Director Leslie Goodwins gives Kharis a little bit more to do than just walking around all the time. Not a lot more, but still, it changed things up just a little. I was pretty disappointed with the story by the writers. There are seven writer credits for the film, and they couldn't come up with hardly anything different for it. It was the same story with just a little different things happening here and there. I was willing to let this go before, but not for this one.

The effects are once again just on the mummy. It still looks about the same, but I thought it was a little better this time around. The acting wasn't too bad this time around. I like Lon Chaney Jr, but I don't really get why he would have watched to play the mummy in three films. It isn't that great of a character and he doesn't really get to do much with it. I wasn't really all that impressed with Virginia Christine. I don't think it was her acting, more that it was just the way the character ended being written. Overall I didn't mind the acting. No one was bad, but no one caught my attention either.

Something I didn't care for was the character of Ananka this time around. She seems to not remember her past, yet she does. She is found just walking around after becoming free of the swamp, saying but one name: Kharis. When in sort of a trance, she asks for Kharis, but otherwise doesn't seem to remember anything and faints at the sight of him. This back and forth got old after a while. I don't recall that it was ever said in the story where the location is, but it does have a much more southern feel to it, which is strange since the last one ended up north. I don't know if another film had been planned, but if not then I wish they had changed the ending for this one a bit. Either way I'm glad the series is over. The recycled plot was getting thin, with it getting old at last here.If you have never watched this series, watching The Mummy's Curse would be rather pointless. You don't really have to watch the other films to figure out what is going on, but why watch the last one only or skip to it? Not that I would highly suggest doing so anyway.
2 out of 5 About time the mummy gets some rest

Monday, April 07, 2014

Never Mess With The Witchdoctor

I was moving right along with reviews until the end of last week. A game I have been playing had a big event going for a few days, so all my attention while at home went to it. Even though it has been over, I wasn't in much of a mood to write until today. I managed to get my review for Patrick done, and moved onto this one. This review for House Of The Witchdoctor (2013) is the next to last review for the films I watched a couple of weekends ago. I'm ready to move on to some other films, so hopefully I can knock them out quickly. House Of The Witchdoctor was the last film shown, late at that, Saturday night. It was more of a normal screening since there was a party going on elsewhere in the hotel.

Leslie (Callie Stephens) is heading home with some of her college friends. It is getting close to the one year anniversary of her boyfriends death, and Leslie wants to be home with friends and family around her. As they head off, they have little way of knowing that Cliff (Allen Kayser) is just out of prison and also back in Leslie's home town. He meets up with his pal Buzz (David Wells), and they are looking to get high and cause some trouble. When Leslie and her friends get into town, they have a small run in with Cliff and Buzz. Nothing comes of it though since a cop was near by. Once home, Leslie introduces her parents, Irene (Leslie Easterbrook) and Peter (Bill Moseley), to her friends, Regina (Emily Bennett), Patty (Summer Bills), Tom (Danny Miller) and John (Nick Bastounes). Cliff and Buzz are out there looking for them still though, but there is also something strange going on with Leslie.

With witch doctor in the title. House Of The Witchdoctor was a film that turned into something I wasn't expecting. I couldn't really decide where writer/director Devon Mikolas was going to take the characters of Buzz and Cliff. The start of the film shows a guy running through the woods as people with potato sacks over their heads give chase. I didn't think that Cliff and Buzz was part of that, so I assumed they would end up like the guy from the start of the film. But then how did Leslie and her friends fit into it? As it turns out, we get two different types of horror films for the price of one. While it becomes obvious that the group will meet up with the bad guys once again, Mikolas throws in at least odd thing that Leslie is doing before the meet up. Once the meet up happens, it becomes a home invasion film. A rough one at that. Then it changes gears and we find out what the witch doctor thing is all about.

One thing that Mikolas does somewhat right is the characters. While there isn't a lot of background information dropped about any of them, we get to know them enough. Regina and Tom are a couple, who love to have sex it seems. Then there is Patty and John, also a couple, who are on the other side of the sex thing. They want to wait until they are married to have sex, with at least Patty never having sex before. I'm sure you can kind of guess what happens in the home invasion. It wasn't real bad, but there is plenty of rape that goes on in the film. It isn't real graphic, but shown nonetheless. For once, nudity is shown. Not that you need it for a rape scene, but to me it sort of goes hand-in-hand, you know? Once things make a turn towards the witch doctor thing, I really thought the story lost some steam. The home invasion, and what was happening as a result, was very intense and I felt sorry for some of the characters. I really lost that in the last act. Not that it wasn't interesting though. I liked how Mikolas brings the story full circle in the last act, finding out the what the trip is actually all about.

Even though House Of The Witchdoctor never gets real gory, it does amp it up a little bit in the last act of the film. The effects are done well at least for what there is to be found. The acting was real good. Callie Stephens was good, but in as many scenes as I thought she would be. Allen Kayser made a good bad guy for the film, with David Wells also doing a good job, though I thought his character would get a little too silly at times. While I liked everyone in the film, it was Summer Bills who stood out to me the most. I didn't like her real well at first, but she grew on me and turned out to be my favorite from the group. It was cool seeing Leslie Easterbrook in another horror film. I haven't seen her since Devil's Rejects, in which Bill Moseley was also in that film. For once, Moseley doesn't play the character one would most expect from him, well...a sort of does.

In all honesty, House Of The Witchdoctor was a good way to end the night. I was really enjoying it until the last act of the film. I still like the film as a whole, but I ended up not liking it as much as I was thinking I would through the second act. Still, it is a good film and one well worth checking out. I know I will be giving it another watch someday down the road. This is one I wouldn't mind having in my collection. I also hope I get to see Summer Bills in more movies, as this appears to be her first. Be sure to check this one out when you find it.
3 out of 5 Home invasion is a bit more of a fear living alone these days

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Doc For The Zombies

Since getting back from my busy weekend, I have been doing pretty good at getting the reviews knocked out. I was going to do a review Sunday, since I managed to finish the one I was working on late Saturday night, but by the time I got home I found I had some housework to get done, and then I just crashed. Being at home again, the weekend caught up to me and I was in bed before I knew it. Still, I have knocked out a review each day since then. I want to get them out while each film is still somewhat fresh in my mind. I have moved on to the films that I watched Saturday now, with the first one being A Wish For The Dead. I almost left for the next film, but I decided to stay in order to watch Doc Of The Dead (2014).

Since the film just before this one was a zombie film, I wasn't real keen on watching yet another one right away. I didn't know for sure that Doc Of The Dead had zombies in it, but I had a pretty good idea that it did since dead is the title. The reason I stayed to watch this movie though was because I figured the doc part of the title meant it would be a documentary about zombies. Guess what? I was right. After poking a little fun reporting a zombie outbreak, thanks to Bruce Campbell, Doc Of The Dead begins to explore where the word zombie comes from, and what it means. From there it explores the history of zombies in film. It doesn't spend a lot of time here though, and does jump around a lot between the years. Of course there is a heavy dose of George Romero thrown in as well.

From there Doc Of The Dead tends to jump from topic to topic with no real focus. After leaving one topic, it often comes back to it for a short time later before moving on to something new. Director Alexandre O. Philippe does manage to explore some topics outside of the films that still have to do with zombies at least. It would have been nice if more focus had been put on books, but they only ones it really touches on was the books Max Brooks is most known for. Doc Of The Dead also explores zombie culture. Things like zombie walks and zombie runs. It even covers things for sell to survive a zombie outbreak. I was glad that it touched on these areas, because I thought it set the film apart from others like it. Not that I have watched a lot of documentaries about zombies.

One of things I thought was cool about Doc Of The Dead was that it wasn't afraid to have some fun. It could have been a straight up send off to zombie films, but some comedy was also included. It wasn't always laugh out loud funny, but there was times I found myself doing so, along with the crowd that was watching it with me. It also includes some well known faces such as the above mentioned Bruce Campbell, Max Brooks and George Romero. You will also find Stuart Gordon, Greg Nicotero, Judith O'Dea, Simon Pegg, John Russo and Tom Savini to name just a few. They talk about their films and zombies in general. A lot of what is said by some of them I have heard before, but it was still cool seeing them.

I was glad that I did end up staying there to watch Doc Of The Dead. Even though I didn't find it to be a great documentary, I still enjoyed it for what it is. I think the comedy in it wen a long way for me enjoying it as much as I did. That wasn't the only reason, but it sure helped. I would have loved it more than I did if Doc Of The Dead had more of a focus to it, and didn't jump around subjects as bad as it did. Still, especially if you are big into zombies, this one is worth checking out. If nothing else, it gave me a couple of titles to go looking for that looked somewhat interesting. I didn't hear when this one will be out there to find, but look for it once it is.
3 out of 5 Who needs a history lesson anyway

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Killing For Nudity

Usually the late films are the worse ones to go to at festivals. It is now Friday night, everyone is having a fun time (hopefully anyway) and there are plenty of people drinking it up. On Saturday nights there is an after hours party, free to those with a weekend pass, so all the drunk people go there. On Friday nights there is no such thing, so they go to the only thing to do, the late films. Honestly, Time To Kill (2014) was the right film for this kind of drunken crowd. It was cool that writer/director Brian Williams was there to introduce the film, which was being screened for the first time. There was also a lot of the cast there as well.

Sara (Ellie Church) has had a troubled life. After killing another woman, she cuts her hair and heads to the streets. We don't know a lot about what happens to her next, except that we do see her doing an abortion on herself. Sometime after that, Sara learns that she only has a short time left to live. She does what any normal woman would do upon learning that news, she grabs some weapons and is going to look for revenge against those that has wronged her. Along the way she comes across and guy abusing his girl by making her crawl beside the road. Sara decides to kill the guy and set Lailah (Charlie Moon) free. Instead though, Lailah talks her way into Sara's life, and off they go with each other. They eventually end up in a strip club, where Sara is ready to really start her killing spree.

Time To Kill doesn't have much of a plot to it. It is a throwback to the 70's exploitation films, which I guess explains the very thin plot.Williams instead uses music and visuals to move his movie along, and a very healthy dose of nudity as well. They proudly display a "rated x" before the movie starts, which I don't think is an actual rating. There wasn't anything going on that I thought would have given it that rating. Even though Williams seems to have enjoyed the crowd there, I didn't so much. Crowds can make a not so great film seem better just by how much fun they are having, but they can also make a film seem worse by being annoying. There is nothing like a drunk guy yelling things out when they think they are being funny, even though no one is laughing with them. Especially when one is right behind you. I don't think a more fun crowd would have changed my mind about Time To Kill too much though. You get the usual grindhouse stuff with Time To Kill. The missing scene, the color messing up slightly, skipping, all that good stuff. This one didn't work for me all that well. I'm really a big fan of the grindhouse stuff anyway, but Time To Kill just seemed to be missing something. Maybe it was the really thin plot. Maybe it was the fact that it has a lot of nudity. Not that I am against nudity. Just that the nudity was lingered on longer than was really needed, in my opinion anyway. There was also a key scene where people are being killed in a club, and the dancers keep on dancing, the keep drinking and throwing money at he dancers. I suppose it was explained away, but it still bugged me a lot.

The effects wasn't always great, but I would go as far as saying they were bad either. Considering that this is a throwback film, and that grindhouse movies weren't really known for good effects, they do fit right in. A hand gets cut off, throats cut, lots of stabbings. The acting was pretty good though. I enjoyed Ellie Church in the lead role. A short film, Play Me, was shown before this movie that Williams also directed and Church stared in. She did a nice job in that film as well. Church as a few upcoming movies, so I will have to check them out someday. Should be interesting to see how she does in them. While Charlie Moon has a smaller role, I also enjoyed her acting as well. Debbie Rochon has a small role, which made two movies in a row that I watched her in. See my review for Wrath Of The Crows for the other film.

One thing I did really like about Time To Kill was the intermission. It was something different that really stood out. It was also pretty funny in places, which was an added plus. That didn't raise the film for me though. The intermission part of the film was just a small part of it after all. The only other review I could find for Time To Kill praised it fairly well, so I think it just depends if you are into this type of film. If you are a fan of the throwback grindhouse films, this could very well be for you then. Hell, if you are just a fan of nudity, this could be a film for you. There is a lot, and the women are nice to look at. Even though it wasn't for me, a lot of credit still goes to Williams since I still respect the film.
2 out of 5 Getting naked in a barn looks like fun

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Anthology Independent Style

It is time to review some movies from a convention. I haven't been to one lately where I could watch movies in...about a year actually. I had started a different review over the week, but never got around to getting it finished. That is alright, I have most of it done, so it can wait a little longer. I am still at the convention as I write this. I wanted to try to get at least one review in while I was here. I should be back home by tomorrow night, and will really dig into the reviews at that time. If all goes well, I will have six more films to review after this one. Hi-8 (2013) was the first film to be shown, so I will start with it.

Much like VHS before it, Hi-8 uses the video cassette era as its inspiration for the stories. The main story is about a couple of teens making a movie of their own using a single camera. The main story, and all the other stories, have nothing to do with each other. The main story is somewhat long between the other stories, and then gets shorter with each segment. The stories range from an alien invasion, a serial killer, zombies and so on.

While I remember movies on VHS, I don't really get the current movement to get that feel back from them. I can say that Hi-8 goes further than VHS did. From what I was reading about the film, some of the directors that included some shorts, actually filmed with the Hi-8 format back in the day. Directors include Ron Bonk, Donald Farmer, Marcus Koch, Tony Masiello, Tim Ritter, Chris Seaver, Todd Sheets and Brad Sykes. Each film did have a very low budget feel to them. The wraparound story wasn't too bad. The area they are filming in has a bit of a history it seems. The ending was a nice little twist that wasn't really expected. The first full short was about a women who finds out she is married to a serial killer. Her reaction to this, and this twist was interesting. However, there was one scene that bugged the hell out of me. A woman was laying on a table while being cut. As far as I could tell, she wasn't tied or restrained in any way. Why would she just lay there then? Most of the shorts that I liked was like that. While I did like them, there was usually something that ended up bring the whole the down. Then there were the ones I didn't care for at all. Like a woman being stalked by some guy. Some people found that one funny, but it was lost on me. Still, Hi-8 wasn't afraid to poke fun at the horror genre. This leads to perhaps my favorite of the bunch, an action guy trying to save his mother and friends from zombies. It wasn't scary at all, but still managed to be funny in the right places. Poking fun at not only zombies, but the action that often takes place in them.

There was also emphasis on using practical effects. You will not find any CGIed effects in Hi-8. While I did find that to be a good thing, it didn't always end up well. The effects rang from things getting cut off, people getting cut up, skin being pulled away by zombies and demons. The goriest of the bunch was a short about a guy who becomes obsessed with a film a finds on a video cassette. There was all kinds of effects in that one. For the most part I thought the effects looked good. There was some I didn't like, but they were far and in between. The acting wasn't too bad either. There are some good and bad performance, but I think most will enjoy the acting.

Hi-8 clocked in at just over and hour and a half. With eight different shorts, it felt like it dragged on a bit too much. By the last couple of shorts, I was feeling a little disappointed that it wasn't over yet. If I could, I wait rate each short, but since this is an entire film put together with shorts, I have to judge it as a whole. Even though there was more good than bad shorts, I would often find things about each one I didn't like at all. Another example was one that started off well, but ended in a way I didn't get at all. It wasn't the best way to start things off with, but it could have been a whole lot worse at the same time. I couldn't fine but two reviews for this film, and one of those was from someone at the same screening, so it doesn't seem like it has been out for a very long time. If it sounds like something you would like though, I hope you will be able to check it out soon.
2 out of 5 I say leave the old people for the zombies

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Biking Through Shadows

Even though I had my next instant watch movie lined up, I decided to take a peak at my list to see if anything was about to be removed from it. As it turns out, one move will be coming out in a couple of days. I thought about just skipping it, and maybe add it to my DVD queue instead. Looking into it though, I discovered that Shadow (2009) is a film from Italy, so it fits into the whole movies from other countries theme I have been going with lately. Good thing I looked, I would never have guessed since everyone speaks in English.

David (Jake Muxworthy) is mountain biking around Europe. He is heading to a place called Shadow. This is a place he was told about while serving in the Iraq war, and has dreamed of going there ever since. Once in the area, he finds a little bar. Inside he meets the owner and Angeline (Karina Testa), who is reading a book while drinking. It isn't long before two locals, Fred (Ottaviano Blitch) and Buck (Chris Coppola), come in and start trouble with Angeline. The owner and David are quick to defend her though, and she leaves before anything really happens. David also goes on his way, and finds a place to camp for the night. A strong wind takes his tent though, and blows it off a cliff. Angeline is near by and sees this, so offers to let David stay with her for the night. She is also biking, so they decide to stick together. When they stop to look at some deer, Angeline spots Buck and Fred as they get ready to shoot the buck. Angeline yells out, which gets the deer moving, and messes up the shot. Not too pleased by this, Fred and Buck give chase in their truck, which leads them all deeper into the forest, where someone much worse is waiting.

Shadow was co-written and directed by Federico Zampaglione. This ended up being an interesting film in some respects. It didn't turn out to be a great film though, which is too bad. The story doesn't take long to introduce everyone. We see David biking some to start with, but it doesn't take long for him to find the bar. Some think the biking sequences take to long, but I enjoyed them. Shot in Italy, we get to see some beautiful country side during these scenes. The next complaint I can understand better, while being chased by the bad guys, David and Angeline tend to stick to the roads, where the truck chasing them can easily follow. In their defense though, they were in a wooded area by then, which isn't always easy to bike through. While there was some annoying things, what kept Shadow from being a great film was just the fact that it held back. Zampaglione takes his film close to the "torture porn" sub-genre, but in the end holds back from doing that. The torture is sort of interesting, with people getting baked on hot tables and cutting off an eyelid. While these were kind of cool, it ends there. We don't actually see the eyelid being cut off and all the deaths happen off screen. I understand this is a low budget type film, but I just feel if you are going to go in the torture direction, then don't half ass show it.

What effects are shown are pretty cool. The eye without the eyelid looks very creepy. It was a good effect that makes it hard to look at, not because of how bad it looks, but because of how creepy it looked. There is also a nice effect when someone finds himself stuck to the table. The acting wasn't all that bad either. I enjoyed what little chemistry there was between Karina (a favorite name of mine) Testa and Jake Muxworthy. They needed more screen time together to be honest. Nuot Arquint made a very good villain. I don't think he ever spoke, but his actions and just the way he moved, made him very creepy. Just the way he looks also made him creepy.

The ending for Shadow is probably what will make or break this film for you. It gets an average rating, which is what I will be giving it as well, on Netflix and pretty much on IMDb as well. It wasn't the twist ending I was expecting, but it was pretty close. Once you know the twist, some things about the story before that start to make sense then. The twist didn't really change how I felt about the film, I did enjoy how the twist was changed from the usual way horror films use this twist. Mostly what people talk about on the IMDb forum for Shadow was how bad the twist is, but it didn't bother me at all. The reveal for the twist could have been handled better though. Really the highlight for me was just some of the imagery that is found. There was some interesting stuff there. Since starting this review, I don't think Shadow is on instant watch. One never knows when it will show up again, so be on the look out for it. Shadow is worth a watch.
3 out of 5 Crispy fried humans

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Five Minutes At A Time Part Three

I had a somewhat busy day Sunday, I was babysitting for part of the day, but I did get my next film in, called Croczilla. I started the review Monday, but didn't get very far with it. I finished it off yesterday, and even got the next film for here watched. I was just in that kind of mood for some reason. Not that I am really complaining. Getting the next movie in was made easier since it was just over an hour long. Even though I have a movie here from Netflix that I have had for a longer time, I decided to watch Tales Of Terror From Tokyo Volume 3 Part One first. There is one more disc to the set, which I don't have yet. Hopefully I can get it next so I can watch it before moving on to the next series.

As with before, the stories found are all around the five minute mark in length. On this disc most of the stories had to do with the paranormal, but there was also the odd one out, like a short creature feature. I really liked most of the stories this time around. I thought it could even be the best of the set so far. It starts off strong with a story about a ghost boy attacking a woman in her sleep, who apparently thinks she is his mother. The story didn't really end in a way I liked, but it was still a good story. What always surprises me in these stories is how the people stay. I mean if I knew for a fact a ghost was in the room/house or motel room I was in, I wouldn't be staying there much longer.

There was a few stories that end suddenly, but I felt that this set of stories did a better job of not doing that. Maybe I am just getting use to it now, but it seemed like not as many did that this time around. There was some stories that I didn't think to highly of, like a ghost cheerleader coach trying to get the person in the room to do claps and cheers. There are more of the better stories to be found though. I went through four or five before I got to one that I didn't completely care for, and the ones before that were all very good. I don't really have a favorite out of the bunch that I liked, but I did enjoy the creature a lot. It looked kind of lame from what could be seen of it, but it was still a fun little short. I also liked one that reminded me of The Grudge some. Almost the same house, but a friend of the girls lures them into the house for some reason. It was a bit of a stretch though, just because of the girls seems to forget one of her friends killed herself just a couple of weeks ago. There is also another two parter to be found.

Again there wasn't much as far as effects go. Some CGI to be found, but nothing major was used in it. Mostly was used to have a character disappear. The acting was pretty good in shorts as well. One strange short was found that mixed the men in black legend with The Body Snatchers. It was an odd story, but I can get into that sometimes. For me this has been the best out of the series so far. You can get Volume 3 Part One from Netflix by itself. However, if you are going to watch these, I would go ahead and watch them all like I have been doing. None of them have been worth not watching, unless you just aren't into shorts, so you might as well check them all out. If you can't get into one, it isn't like you have to fast forward much to get to the next one.
4 out of 5 Be careful of what you take pictures of