Monday, August 24, 2015

Making A Jigsaw

I'm running a bit behind this month, but I think I can still pull it out as long as I put my mind to it. And if work allows me to be at home long enough to get some things done around here. Anyway, I'm happy to say that I got to watch a movie that I have watched to watch for a long time now. Ever since I saw the cover for the movie Pieces (1982), I have always wanted to watch it. When I first discovered it at the local rental place, I wasn't old enough to rent movies on my own and it was always out on the times I thought about trying to rent it when I could. Many years later, I added Pieces to my Netflix DVD queue, but I never bumped it up in order to watch it. Even when here I took my time getting around to it.

Way back in 1942, a young boy is working on a jigsaw puzzle. It happens to be an adult puzzle though, as it is a nude woman. His mom walks in and finds it, and of course she is not happy about it at all. She tells him to go get a trash bag while she looks for anything else she doesn't want him having. The boy returns with an ax though, and kills his on mother before returning to the puzzle. The police show up sometime later, with the boy acting the victim instead of the killer. Forty years later, someone is going around killing women at a Boston college...with a chainsaw. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) is trying to figure out who the killer is, but isn't having much luck. He talks Mary (Lynda Day George) to go undercover at the college to help figure out what is going on. He also finds Kendall (Ian Sera), a student there who has a knack for finding the bodies. The killer takes different body parts from each victim, but why?

I'm not sure if Pieces was really worth the wait for me. It wasn't a bad film really, just not one I got into a lot. Directed by Juan Piquer Simon, this is a joint movie from Spain, USA, Puerto Rico and Italy. I'm pretty sure that the voices were being dubbed in, as words didn't always match up with the actor. The plot was a easy to figure out to be honest. If we are to assume that the killer is the boy all grown up, which it would appear it is since he has the dress the mom was wearing when she was killed and the nude girl puzzle, then that eliminates most of the people at the college. Since we aren't shown many older people, it was easy to assume who the killer is. One we jump forward to "today", the movie takes on a random scenes. At least it certainly feels that way. After reading comments, some felt these random scenes are possibly what the killer is seeing. This makes a lot of sense, but it would have been nice if we had gotten more of a hint of that. There is also a completely random scene where a guy attacks Mary, which had to do with the director also doing kung-fu films at the time. I will let you figure out that scene on your own. Watching Pieces by yourself is fine, but it really is a film that I think would be great for movie nights with friends. It can be very silly at times, but to counter that, it can also be very gory.

The effects are surprisingly good. There were some scenes I sort of wished that had shown more with effects, but at the same time I was surprised at how much they did show. From arms being cut off, to someone being cut in half, it is there. We don't see the person get cut completely in half, but still. The effects are well done, and pretty gory at times. The acting wasn't the greatest though. Actually it wasn't that bad, but the dubbing and just some of the things said made it seem worse than it was.

I know that this is just a movie, but it seemed silly to me for the police to pick one person to help them keep an eye out on the campus. Usually this would be a pretty well known thing, but you didn't ever hear about other students knowing. It was also a little silly to think someone could just walk around with a chainsaw unnoticed. He did managed to get on an elevator by hiding it behind his back, and yes, it actually worked somehow. Something to know if you ever decide to do that I guess. Pieces isn't a great film, but I see why people like enough to not see it as a bad film at least. It fits in well with the '80s slasher craze though. If you haven't watched it before, and you love slasher films, you might as well give this one a shot. Sure it is silly in places, but it makes up for it in how gory it is.
3 out of 5 Is that a chainsaw in your pocket?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Demons Visit The Down Under

I'm somewhat back in a mood to do reviews. I wanted to get a film watched as soon as I got home from work, which is always a good sign that I'm in a mood to do reviews. I decided to work through the DVDs I have from Netflix. I have had them a good long time now, so it is time to get some new ones. Now I just need to write about them. First up is a movie called The Demons Among Us (2006). This is a movie out of Australia which surprised me a little when I found that out. I wouldn't really have known from the accents that much.

Joe (Nathaniel Kiwi) is new to small town life. He meets a few people as he does some shopping, and then heads home for the day. He wakes up and finds a demon munching on his cat. In a panic, he takes off out of the house and runs to another house. He can't get anyone to answer the door, and finds the door unlocked, so he heads in. There he finds a few people dead by demons. He manages to get away, but with blood from the dead people all over him, the police of course assume he killed those people. Can he stop the demons before the police catch up with him?

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you should know that I'm very open to low budget horror films. From what I knew about the film going in, which really wasn't all that much, I was hoping to enjoy this one. It had been a while since I had watched a movie that had demons as the bad guys. Not just demons, but demons that turn humans into demons with long teeth and such. On the surface, The Demons Among Us reminded me a bit of the Italian film Demons (1985). It has been a long time since I watched that one, but the demons in this film did remind me a lot of those in Demons, but then again, I could just be remembering wrong. The story is very different here however. To be honest, I didn't have much trouble with the story itself, although it did get a bit weird in places. Like when Joe puts on a dress to go around killing demons. Despite these things, which I rather liked...not having a guy in a dress, just the weirdness of it...I had a very hard time getting into The Demons Among Us. The way this movie was filmed and directed was a big problem for me though. It was actually a strange thing for me to complain about since I don't normally. This time the shaky camera and the all over feel of it just left me feeling bored with the movie. I got tired of it rather quickly. It is cool that writer/director Stuart Simpson went his own way with how to film it though, even if it doesn't work for me.

The effects could be a bit hit and miss. It does get pretty gory at times, which the effects are often well done for. The makeup for the demons were often hit and miss for me. I thought some looked very cool, while others didn't look very good at all. The acting also wasn't too bad. Nathaniel Kiwi does a fairly good job in the lead role. I also liked Laura Hesse. If I remember right, she was in the lead role for the women.

It has been a while since I watched this one. I had trouble staying interested in The Demons Among Us, and as I started this review, I found myself having a hard time finding much to say about it. I know not all review needs to be long, but I still feel like I'm not doing a very good job with a review if I don't say very much about the movie. While I didn't hate The Demons Among Us, I didn't like it either. This was Simpson's first outing as a director and I hear he has gotten better over the years. I might have to check out another film of his to see for myself. As for you, while it doesn't generally get good ratings, there are still some who liked it. I know I didn't say much, but check into it and see if it is for you.
2 out of 5 Never trust a demon with long teeth

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Tooth For A Tooth

I'm trying to get a bit more motivated to write reviews. This is only my second review of the month...on either blog. I have yet to write a review over at my other blog, mostly because I haven't found a movie I want to review for there. I mostly review newer releases there and while there are some movies I have in mind, I don't have the extra money to rent them at the moment. Anyway, I wasn't going to watch The Haunting Of Helena (2012) just yet. It will be taken out of instant watch soon enough, so I added it to my DVD queue, but then I changed my mind and watched it anyway.

Sophia (Harriet MacMasters-Green) is starting over in a new home with her daughter Helena (Sabrina Jolie Perez). Sophia is teaching, or at least giving speeches, at a university. Helena deals with a baby tooth coming loose. While trying to get somewhere, her GPS starts to act up. Instead of watching where she is going, she starts messing with it and gets into an accident. After they get out of the hospital, both are banged up but fine, Helena begins to become obsessed with the tooth fairy that she believes is coming out of an armoire, that was already in the house when they moved in. Helena becomes so obsessed with the idea that she starts buying teeth from other kids. Could this be a result of the crash, or is there some dark history attached to the house?

I was very mixed about this movie. It is from directors Christian Bisceglia, who was also the writer, and Ascanio Malgarini. The Haunting Of Helena starts a bit slow, but then it starts to pick up as things start to get pretty strange for Helena and Sophia. We learn about the ghost that is haunting Helena somewhat and Sophia has no choice but to believe that there really is a ghost. Then the story jumps 18 months ahead and things end up back in a crawl again. This was disappointing since things were just get interesting before it shifts focus. The shift forward goes back to trying to figure out if Helena, and Sophia as well, are having some mental problems. This part mostly takes place at a hospital while Sophia tries to figure out what the ghost wants. To be honest, she is trying to solve a mystery that isn't a mystery. Once you get the back story for the woman and see what she is up to, it doesn't take much thought to figure out what she wants. The story tries hard to do a balance act of if its real or not. For me, the story didn't do a good job of convincing me it was all in Helena and Sophia's heads. The Haunting Of Helena is a film out of Italy, but everyone speaks in English. The only subtitles to be found are when Sophia is trying to read something that isn't written in English. It was a little weird, but I won't complain too much about that. Some time is spent about how the city was once swamp land, and some of the kills involve mosquito's, which was also part of the backstory some. The main backstory goes to the family that once lived where Sophia does now. The two backstories are never explained as to how they are relevant to each other even though they do seem connected somehow.

The effects are mostly done with CGI. The wreck was pretty cool looking, with some slow motion added in for it. Besides bruises, which looked pretty cool as well, most injuries are done using CGI. Some of them look real good, while some don't look all that great. The effects that don't look great don't take you out of the moment at least...not too much anyway. The acting was also a bit mixed. While I didn't have much of a problem with Harriet MacMasters-Green, some did. I didn't think she was a great actress here, but she did fine all the same. I wasn't all that impressed with Sabrina Jolie Perez though.

Heading into the ending, I didn't hate The Haunting Of Helena, but I was more than ready to give it two stars for a rating. What ended up making me bump the rating up a little bit was the ending. There was a plot point about wolves that would come up now and then. It had to do with the backstory of the family that used to live in the house, so it didn't really feel out of place at all. The twist ending has to do with that and I had no idea it was coming. It didn't save the movie completely, but it helped bring it from the brink of being a bad film. The Haunting Of Helena is no longer on instant watch, but you can get the DVD from Netflix if you so desire. While I don't think I will be going around telling friends to watch this one, it is worth a look if it sounds interesting to you. The little twist at the end at least is worth a look.
3 out of 5 Never trust someone wanting teeth

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Monsters In The Ground

I haven't done a review in a little while now. That is mostly just because I got a little busy with work again. On the plus side of that, I did manage to finish reading Savage Species by Jonathan Janz. I really should have had it finished last month, but I didn't read as much as I should have. This is another book that I picked up back in March. Sadly, I did not get to meet Janz, as I think he had already left by the time I got over to the main part of the convention. Maybe someday I will actually get to meet the guy.

A new state park has opened up in Indiana. Emma and Jessie, along with Colleen, have been sent by the newspaper they are employed with to get some coverage about the grand opening. Jessie, their photographer, has a bit of a crush on his co-worker Emma, the reporter. When they get to the camp grounds, they find a a bunch of college students in full party mode. After talking to a local Indian, who's tribe once lived where the state park is now, they hang out with the college folks for a bit. That is until monsters show up and start attacking and eating people.

Savage Species was first published as an e-book series, broken down into five parts. The book Savage Species has put all five parts under one cover. As a good series does, each part picks up where the last one leaves off. Janz comes up with one of his better stories here, but it didn't become my favorite by him. I knew I was going to like this story fairly quick into it just because of the characters Janz created for it. Colleen was an early favorite for me just because she was funny and was very much the smart ass. While Colleen was a big part of the story early, sadly for me she ends up taking a back seat while Jessie becomes the central character. Not that I had a problem with that, as Jessie was interesting as well. I just tagged Colleen as my favorite, so was disappointed some when she faded into the background.

The story is eventually split into two groups. There is Jessie and his group, the newspaper people along with some of the college people as well. We are also introduced to Charly, a mother of three. She is mostly dealing with her asshole husband, who cheat on her but believes it will be a cold day in hell before Charly cheats on him. She is thinking of just that though because she really likes Sam, a contractor who has been working on her house. Her youngest, a baby boy, is eventually abducted by a strange creature that we become to know as one of The Children. Along with Sam, her husband, his female assistant coach (who he has been trying to get her to have sex with him) and a local cop who knows everyone in the group. Sam believes he knows what happened to Jake, Charly's son, so they all set off to find him.

Once again Janz hits his stride with his characters. The last couple of books I have read of his have been okay, but even so, it was the characters that kept me interested in the book. This was no different here even though I did like the overall story much better this time out. From Colleen, to the budding romance between Jessie and Emma despite all the horror going on around them, and even the rising conflict between Sam and Charly's husband. A great author allows his characters to push the story, which is always what I have felt Janz has done. I admit I was disappointed when some of the characters left the story, but that is how it goes sometimes. With a larger cast than his last few books, it was hard to say which characters would be killed off. No character was safe here, which was interesting but disappointing at times.

For me, the weakest part about Savage Species was the way Janz will sometimes describe things. It could have just been me with this though. I had a hard time picturing just how big The Children and Night Flyers were supposed to be. This added some confusion for me, especially for the last chase scene. Trying to figure out the size of The Children and everything they were doing did manage to pull me out of the moment at times. I have never been that great at picturing sizes/distances so it could have been me where the problem is, not with how Janz describes it. I've had this problem before with other books by other authors, but not always. As large as some of the creatures seem to be, I was having a hard time figuring out how they could move through a cave system. I've been in some caves and I know there are areas with plenty of room, but I also know there are also plenty of areas that are hard to get through. Another problem I had with the story was that I started to feel it was dragging on a bit too long. I guess I was growing tired of one chase scene after another, even though they are all connected. With about 60 pages or so left, I was ready for the story to end.

Despite my problems with Savage Species, it was still a very good story overall. I was really into at the start and through most of the story. Even though I didn't end the book with the same attention I was giving it at the start, I can't complain too much. Janz has left the ending open enough to visit this story again if he so chooses. I am hoping that he does actually. There are some questions left unanswered that I'm curious to see if Janz will address, mostly a line in the book about The Old One having plans for little Jake. It is said later that The Old One just wants Jake to become one of them, but I honestly thought there was more to it than that. I believe that I remember seeing Janz making a comment about writing another story to go with Savage Species, so time will tell. As for all of you, I highly recommend giving this book a try. There is a good mix of horror and action that happens through the majority of the book. Once things start to turn bad, Janz doesn't let up. One to check out for sure.
4 out of 5 Wondering if I would become one of them or just food

Friday, July 31, 2015

Waiting On Ghosts At Railroads

Well it looks like I won't be doing any double posts. I came close a couple of times, but it never worked out in my favor. Oh well, at least I will still be getting ten posts in. I think anyway. Today I went with the movie Munger Road (2011). It is the second movie this week that is being taken out of my instant watch queue. I could have added both movies to my DVD queue, which is what I usually do, but I decided to knock them out instead. Might as well save some room in my DVD queue, right?

Couples Corey (Trevor Morgan) and Joe (Brooke Peoples), Scott (Hallock Beals) and Rachael (Lauren Storm) have decided to test out a local legend. It is said that on a railroad track that crosses Munger Road, It is said if you stop your car by the tracks and but the car in neutral, kids that had been killed at that crossing will push your car across. With baby powder and camera in hand, they head off to Munger Road. Meanwhile, Chief Kirkhoven (Bruce Davison) and Deputy Hendricks (Randall Batinkoff) are told that a killer who once lived in their small town, has managed to get away from the police during a transfer. Wanting to keep things quiet, they start checking out places where this guy used to go.

Munger Road is by writer/director Nicholas Smith. The local legend is apparently a real one. The story gets slightly changed depending on who is telling it, but it does actually involve kids being killed at the crossing and having your care "mysteriously" being pushed across. There aren't any reports, that I could find anyone talking about, of kids actually being killed there as described, but apparently a train did derail near that spot. There are also other legends about the road, but I will let you look those up if you are interested. I was a little surprised that things started with an urban legend of sorts since I thought this was about a serial killer. Munger Road splits its story between the two groups for most of the movie. I assumed that the legend the two couples were testing out was just a way to get them out in the middle of no where while the two stories play out before merging, and this is what eventually happens. While the two stories play out, it is at a very slow pace. This seems to be the biggest set back for most people that give it a bad rating. I was close to being bored at times, but I found the story to be interesting enough to pull me out. I enjoyed the story from the two policemen more than the group searching for ghosts, and I think that had more to do with the acting and the characters. I just didn't really care that much about the two couples. The two women do nothing but complain the biggest part of the time. Joe at least had a reason for being that way, somewhat anyway. We discover that she is pregnant first thing, but she hasn't told anyone about it yet. I get why she is moody and a bit on edge, but it still got old quick. The ending was also a sticky point for some. I won't spoil anything, but you should be warned that Smith intends for there to be a sequel and leaves things hanging a bit. However, there are enough clues dropped to see where the next film is heading possibly.

There are no effects, other than a couple of hand prints that suddenly appear with nothing there to make them. The kills, if there actually are any, happen off camera. All we know for sure about is a struggle and screams. The acting was pretty good at least. As I said, I enjoyed Bruce Davison and Randall Batinkoff more than the rest. Not that the others are bad really, just had more to do with the characters.

Personally I didn't find Munger Road to be all that bad of a film. It is hardly great since we don't get to see much happening and most of the characters aren't all that likable. I didn't mind the open ending, but was a little surprised by it. Not sure when a sequel will happen though. The last thing I could find about a sequel is that the funding wasn't working out for it. As for suggesting this movie, that is a tough call. I understand why people give it a low rating, but I didn't find it to that bad of a film overall. I would sat to just your judgement on it. If it sounds interesting to you then give it a try. If it doesn't, you aren't going to miss that much.
3 out of 5 Stupid ghost kids!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Werewolves In Music

I considered making this post a couple of times before tonight. I'm running short on my ten posts this month so I had to squeeze in something that wasn't a review. Because of that, I decided to go with making this post. Over the last year, I have noticed that werewolves are making something of a comeback in music videos. Two songs spring to mind from fairly new artists, Dreamers and The Girswolds.

Dreamers gives us the song Wolves, which does feature a couple of werewolves, but manages to get a little cheesy by the end of the video. I still like the song though. The Griswolds gives us the song Beware The Dog. This video has a more horror movie feel to it, I think anyway, and has plenty of body parts and blood flying around. The effects aren't great, but they work find for a music video. There is also some swearing in this one, so be careful with who is around. Hope you enjoy these two videos!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Things We Didn't Know About Lincoln

I managed to get behind in reviews already, so now I need to try to double up another day. Good thing I took some time off from work this week to help deal with everything going on. I didn't need to watch the film that is the subject for this review, but it was being taken out of instant watch, along with another film coming up next. Abraham Lincoln VS Zombies (2012) is being taken out today actually, so I found the time to watch it late last night after watched Pacific Rim and Edge Of Tomorrow. I'm switching to Dish Network it seems, which will cut my bill back a little bit, so I wanted to get some of the movies I have on my DVR watched first.

Things start off with us learning something new about Lincoln's past. We learn that his father kills himself when he can't bring himself to kill his wife after she is turned into a zombie. This leaves it to a young Lincoln (Brennen Harper) to do the job himself. Many years later, after the battle for Gettysburg, Lincoln (Bill Oberst Jr.) learns of a new zombie outbreak somewhere behind enemy lines. With all his generals tied up with the civil war that is still going on, Lincoln decides to take a few soldiers and lead them into battle with zombies himself.

Even though Abraham Lincoln VS Zombies was made by Asylum, and I'm assuming it is something of a rip off of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer (which came out the same year), I was actually slightly surprised by this one. It really isn't half bad. At least for a lat night, don't much care, type of movie. Sure, it still has some problems, but it managed to keep me entertained and awake, which was the more important thing. The writers, along with director Richard Schenkman, don't really ignore history, but they did change it here and there. Because of that, the story had an alternate history feel to it. The story wasn't too bad. Once they get to where they need to be, they run into not only more zombies than they thought, but also some enemy soldiers who don't really want to work them of course. One was General Jackson, sometime after he lost his arm. The guy playing him didn't look much like the real person, beard was way too long for one thing. Maybe I'm being a little picky with that. Apparently they had gotten permission to film at some historic sites, as they were at some old forts. This was a good and bad thing. It was cool to see actual locations, I believe it was filmed in Georgia, so the places weren't the same as they said in the film, but you get what I mean. I could be wrong, but it didn't look like everything at the forts was for that time period. I liked that there was some discussion on of they should be killing the zombies. Some felt they were just sick, while others realized the truth. The zombies themselves were a little confusing. Our group of people could run by them and get attacked but most of the time they ran by with little to no reaction from the zombies. In fact they seemed to respond to sound more than anything.

The effects aren't all that good here. There are a lot of zombies killed, either by being shot or having their heads cut off. While the heads falling off seemed to be done using actual special effects, all the blood in the film looked to be done with CGI. It was rather obvious and I didn't really get the way behind that. The zombies looked kind of cool at least though. The acting was slightly better. Bill Oberst Jr. actually does a pretty decent in the lead role as Lincoln. The supporting characters are hit and miss mostly.

There was some really silly things that happen in Abraham Lincoln VS Zombies. The best example of that is when one person finds the railroad tracks and gets run over by the train. Doesn't sound that bad expect the guy was running down the tracks and had plenty of time to actually get off the tracks. I was a little surprised to see zombie kids walking around. It is always nice when there are some, as it seems kids disappear off the face of the earth in most zombie movies. None of them are killed on screen anyway, damn it. This one really does flip between rating for me, but because I was pretty entertained by it, I will go with the higher of the two ratings. As far as having you watch it, I will leave that choice up to all of you. It isn't that good of a film, and not even one of the better average movies out there. It is a fun little movie though, and one of Asylum's better films I think. I will just leave a watch at your own risk sticker on it and leave it at that.
3 out of 5 What is next for Lincoln?