Crawl (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Crawl (2019)

Film: Ever since my parents took me too see Jaws in the 1970s, I can’t say that I’ve been afraid of the water, but I’ve certainly had an affinity for it, and an admiration for it considering it is the ultimate place to have a horror story. Why? Well for many reasons: it’s an environment that man can’t survive in with out a breathing apparatus, it’s an environment that man can’t always control his movements in properly, and one never quite knows exactly what is underneath you, and there are SO many things that can kill you, either by accident or design.

Let’s just say that Jaws was the reason, asa kid, I stopped having baths and started having showers!

Due to this, I’ve always been drawn to movies that have aquatic threats, and this film, Crawl, is no exception.

The other reason I was interested in this film is it’s director, Alexandre Aja. I’ve enjoyed Aja’s work ever since I first saw High Tension, aka Haute Tension, on DVD and I have followed his English speaking career through the remakes of The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors and Piranha 3D (another sub-aquatic threat film), and Horns and have always been thrilled by the way he tells a story, and this story, written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, is a not only a good one, is also one that in a post- Hurricane Katrina world, feels very real.

Crawl tells of college level swimmer, Hayley (Kaya Scodelario) who upon hearing of a category 5 hurricane coming her way, looks for her father, Dave (Barry Pepper) so they can get out of town together.

Unfortunately, Hayley finds her father in the basement of a building he is working on with a broken leg, and when she goes to call for help, is interrupted by the threat of not one, but two alligators in the basement with them, blocking their escape.

They try to find different ways to escape, but they have to think not just of the threat of the gators, but also of the flooding basement where the water is slowly but surely rising…

The story of this film was great, and felt very real. The two main cast played their parts brilliantly. I can’t say I recall seeing Scodelario before but Barry Pepper was cast brilliantly as the father and I think I’d like to see more roles like this for him. I don’t mean to discount Scodelario in saying that either because she was fantastic: very real and very honest in a scenario that is not just real, but also very likely. Hers and Pepper’s performances as father and daughter felt very sincere.

Unfortunately the majority of the rest of the cast aren’t really there as anything other than story setting, or as gator food, but good horror movies need fodder for the machine, right?

The setting was wonderful as well, and I must say I was even more impressed when I discovered a lot of it was a sound stage, though occasionally some of the effects don’t look entirely right. Occasionally some of the CGI just didn’t ring true, and that was a shame. For the most part, the gators were well realised, but again just occasionally they would just not look or move quite right.

All in all this was a great story about a relationship between a father and daughter that’s under pressure being put even further under pressure by a situation not of their invention. Definitely worth watching.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Crawl is presented in an excellent 2.39:1 image with a matching Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio. This is what you would expect from a modern film presented in a modern format.

Score: *****

Extras:

Intro to Alternate Opening and Alternate Opening sees Aja introduce an alternate, scarier opening sequence which wasn’t filmed but instead is being shared in an animated graphic novel style, which is a pretty good idea… and it’s nice a scary, with bonus points for the Wilhelm Scream.

There are three deleted/ extended scenes which, as usual, the film doesn’t suffer without.

Beneath Crawl is a look at the creation of the film, from plot to story ideas and how expensive a film set drenched in water can be. There’s interviews with a bunch of the cast and crew and it’s quite interesting,

Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl… well, the title gives away what the extra is about. VFX fans will enjoy as it’s not just about the gators, it’s also some amazing atmospheric stuff too.

Alligator Attacks are exactly that: a mega mix of all the gator attacks from the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed this film I honestly don’t think I could see myself watching it again.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

One from the rewatch pile…

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Film: The history of cinema has had a rocky road with remakes, generally fans of an original story will immediately talk against their ‘holy grail’ being polluted by a modern team’s tinkering, but sometimes it works. Most horror or science fiction fans will name John Carpenter’s The Thing as an important movie within both genres and Carpenter was successful as he didn’t just remake it, he ‘re-imagined’ it. He took it’s basic premise, but told a different story. It worked with 1988’s The Blob, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead and here with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The usual ‘It shouldn’t be done!’ rubbish surrounded it when it was first announced, but scriptwriter Scott Kosar (The Machinist) and director Marcus Nispel’s (music video director for Faith No More and Cher, amongst others) proved that you can take an idea, in this case Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s, and tell a vastly different story with similar elements. This film won many awards upon its release (BMI Film Music Award – Steve Jablonsky, Catalonian International Film Festival Best Art Direction – Scott Gallagher, Teen Choice Award – Choice Movie Thriller) and was nominated many times as well at many respected film festivals.

The premise may sound familiar, but this story is much different to the original 1973 Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is August 18th, 1973, and five youngsters (Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Jonathon Tucker, Erica Leerhsen), are traveling from Mexico through Texas to see Lynard Skynard, when they decide to stop and pick up a hitchhiker. Meeting this hitchhiker causes a chain of events that will have them meet the Hewitt family of Travis County, and their lives will never be the same again.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, is loosely based on the serial killer Ed Gein, who kept the tanned hides of women around his house, and occasionally dressed in them. What helped to give this remake some credibility was the involvement of original Texas Chainsaw Massacre cinematographer Daniel C. Pearl and the fact that original screenwriter’s Henkel and Hooper acted as co-producers. Unlike the original, cannibalism is only suggested in this redux, but the cruelty of the family seems much more extreme. A special mention goes to R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of the Travis County Police’s Sheriff Hoyt. Redneck through and though, this is a great example of both inspired casting and brilliant acting.

Marcus Nispel and Daniel Pearl also deserve much respect for creating a very claustrophobic sensation, even in the scenes that take place in wide open fields, there is a sullen feeling of oppression that cannot be shaken.

As far as a bluray package is concerned, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre release is amazing!! A combination of a good movie, with great commentaries and relevant extras that don’t appear to be sales propaganda, that sets a standard for others to aspire to.

Score: *****

Format: The transfer for Texas Chainsaw Massacre is crisp and clear and sensational and is presented in a 2.35:1 image which is a real delight to behold. A choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1, and the subtleties of both are breath-taking. Every drop of water heard in the background feels like it is running down your back.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s an absolute cornucopia of extras on this disc:

Photo Gallery and Art Gallery have pre-production drawings of both Leatherface and the set design.

The Alternate Beginning and Ending have footage that was originally to book end the feature, with an interesting look into the future of one of the main characters.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Redux documentary is a 1 hour 17 minute look at every aspect of the remaking process. Interviewing Nispel, Bay and others associated cast and crew, not to mention fan favorite and favorite fan Joe Bob Briggs, also looks at the origins of the original and the crowd reactions both before and after the first screening.

Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield is an informative, if not incomplete (they completely overlook the death of Ed’s brother in a forest fire and his grave digger assistant) 24 minute documentary about the ‘real Leatherface’ Ed Gein. Interviews with various historians and psychologists, this is not only an interesting look into the origins of Leatherface (and Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill), it is also a fascinating insight into the mind of serial killers.

Deleted Scenes are the usual gambit of alternate takes and additional scenes. I must say though, the alternate Morgan Death scene is very visceral.

Severed Parts has us take a deeper look at the deleted scenes and bookends and why they were deleted and trimmed for various reasons.

The Cast Screen Tests are the screen tests for Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour and Erica Leerhsen.

Art Gallery looks at some of the preproduction sketches for the film.

The theatrical Trailer is one of the best cut trailers I have ever seen, with Leatherface not seen until the very end and there is also a selection of TV spots.

The Music Video is a track by Motograter called Suffocate.

Finally, there are three of quite possibly the best and well organized commentaries I have ever heard. Every speaker states his or name before they speak, therefore removing and misunderstanding with regards to who is making what comment, although Marcus Nispel’s German accent makes it quite obvious when he speaks, and no-one talks over each other or interrupts each other. All are given a fair go with comments appropriate to the scene. Nispel has a voice on all three commentaries so occasionally he repeats himself, but from different points of view. There is a Production commentary where Nispel is accompanied by Producer Michael Bay and Executive Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form to discuss the foundation elements of the film: the casting, the locations and the general ideas behind the look and tone of the film. Nispel is joined on the Tech commentary by Daniel Pearl, Greg Blair, Scott Gallagher, Trevor Jolley and Steve Jablonsky to discuss everything from the score to the cinematic elements of the film. Finally, the Story commentary has Nispel along with Bay, Fuller and Form, scripter Scott Kosar and also cast members Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Jonathon Tucker, Erica Leerhsen and old Leatherface himself, Andrew Bryniarski, discussing character motivations and backgrounds.

Score: *****

WISIA: As you might be able to tell, I love this movie so it sure does get a re-spin quite regularly here at the To Watch Pile Mansion.

Drive Angry (2011)

One from the re watch pile…

Drive Angry (2011)

Film: Straight off the bat I need to say one thing: I do not like the 3D gimmick in films. I do not see 3D films at the cinemas, and have no desire to watch it at home. Sure I wouldn’t have minded seeing this in 3D to be able to review its 3D aspect, but whilst my TV and BD equipment is pretty damned good, I am not 3D capable. Quite simply, if I wanted to see something in 3D, I’d go outside instead of sitting in my lounge room eating popcorn and drinking Coke.

Drive Angry is directed/co-written by Patrick Lussier and written by Todd Farmer, who, between them are have a fairly prolific horror breeding having worked either together or apart on My Bloody Valentine 3D, Prophecy 3, Jason X, Dracula 2000 and a whole lot more. I will however point out that ‘prolific’ doesn’t always equal ‘quality’. This time though, with Drive Angry 3D, they are on a winner.

This film tells the tale of John Milton (Nicolas Cage) who has escaped Hell… yes, Hell… with the sole purpose of saving his grandchild from evil cult leader, Jonah King (Billy Burke), whose symbol seems to be a cross between a traditional pentagram, with the crown from the New York Kings gang mounted on top of it. Along the way, Milton meets Piper (Amber Heard), an ass-kicking truck stop waitress with a heart of gold and an absolute rip-snorter of a car who joins him, somewhat involuntarily.

Whilst they are in hot pursuit of the cult though, they have their own pursuers. First there is a charmer known as The Accountant (William Fichtner), an agent of him downstairs who is seeking to reclaim Milton, and Cap (genre stalwart Tom Atkins), a very angry cop who wants to see Milton and Piper dead, at any cost.

Of course, all their paths inevitably collide at a crossroad of sex, violence and automotive fun.

The character of John Milton (get it?) bares more than a little resemblance to the comic character Blaze, who along with Ghost Rider, in the early Nineties was the star of the Marvel comic Spirits of Vengeance, and I can’t help but wonder if Nicolas Cage didn’t notice it too when taking this role, being the huge comic fan he is. Funny thing is, a few years later Marvel re-invented Ghost Rider to drive a super hot car… I wonder if they put these two together?

While on Cage, this role was simply made for him, and I couldn’t imagine another person on the planet that could have played it. Somewhere along the line he plays it as a mix of (again) Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider and Memphis from Gone in Sixty Seconds, which I guess means he is yet again playing an aspect of himself.

Special mentions need to go out to Billy Burke, Amber Heard and William Fichtner. Billy Burke, who I only had ever seen in the Twilight films, proves himself to be much more than the flaccid wet blanket he plays in that series and seems to relish the role of Jonah King. Amber Heard is at her most beautiful, but is also firmly in ass-kicking potty-mouth mode and even I admit that I was shocked by the capacity this lovely young lass has for foul mouthedness. The winner of the entire cast, though was William Fichtner: his role as the Accountant was played so damned cool that he has set a new benchmark that the Fonz could never even aspire.

I have to also say something about the music soundtrack of this film as well: it is an amusing and eclectic bunch of songs that fit perfectly. No doubt you will chuckle along to all the music cues, from Fuck the Pain Away by Peaches to That’s the Way (I Like It) by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Actually, the only thing about watching this film that annoyed me was the lame 3D stuff that was thrown at the screen: not all of it was fake or invasive, but just enough of it was slightly annoying. The rest of the film was a brainless blast!

This film is a bloody and sexy example of supernatural car porn that kicked my arse all over my lounge room. A ton of dumb fun.

Score: ****

Format: Spectacular picture, as you would expect from a new film on Bluray, presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Sexy as Hell soundtrack presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Between shotguns firing and engines rumbling, your neighbours are going to think you’re a having a Texan brouhaha in your living room.

Score: *****

Extras: Drive Angry: Cast and Crew Insight is like a half a commentary, with just pop up screens featuring cast and crew discussing various aspects of the film. Personally I think I would have liked a full commentary instead of this seemingly half-assed effort. Some of the comments were occasionally interesting though.

How to Drive Angry is a traditional making of, but disappointingly featured a lot of the stuff that was used in the Cast and Crew insight pop up video stuff. Still it is a better way to see this stuff as it felt much more complete.

There are a couple of deleted scenes that aren’t missed from the film, and wouldn’t have added anything really anyway.

Score: ***

WISIA: Probably not. It’s a fun watch with some funny stuff but I could think of better things to watch again than this.

Us (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Us (2019)

Film: Looking back it was obvious that Jordan Peele, during his days as part of the comedy team Key And Peele, had a sense of humour that learnt more towards the horrible. A lot of the humour that he and Keegan-Michael Key did together had horror themes, from Racist Zombies to parodies of Saw, but even in their more straightforward comedy there were darker elements (they did one who two friends were moving house and one introduced the other to dub-step, with bloody results)… seriously, if you haven’t watched Key And Peele, you need to change that immediately.

This film is Peele’s second horror movie effort, the first being the well-received and successful Get Out, which he both wrote and directed, and just like Get Out, Peele has filled the film with a bunch of subtle, and not-so-subtle, nods to horror that he loves, like CHUD, Friday the 13th, The Lost Boys, Hitchcock’s films (whose style he occasionally emulates to great effect) and many others.

Us starts with a family outing in the 80s which sees the young Adelaide (Madison Curry) go missing from her parents for about 15 minutes whilst visiting the Santa Cruz fun pier… but what happens whilst she went missing remains a mystery as she refuses to talk about it.

We flash forward to now and are re-introduced to Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who is happily married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) and about to enjoy a beachside holiday not far away from where she was abducted all those years ago.

The family visit the beach so they can catch up with their friends, the Tylers; Josh (Tim Heidecker), his wife Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and their children, Becca and Lindsey (Cali and Noelle Sheldon), but Adelaide being at the place where she went missing as a child, she is on edge the whole time.

Much later into the night, back at home, they find a family standing in their driveway just looking at the house. When Gabe challenges them, they attack the house, and our family discovers that these intruders are doppelgängers, or shadows, of them.

These doppelgängers are part of a much greater conspiracy though, and the truth, once unleashed, is scarier than what this small family unit is encountering…

Peele has created a fascinating story that can only exist within the confines of its universe as to question its logic perhaps makes it fall apart. To approach this film as just a ‘home invasion’ story is a mistake as there is so much more and the conspiracy elements of the tale are far more interesting in their mystery.

The performances that Peele gets from his cast are nothing short of spectacular. All the actors’ character and appearance are SO different between the two roles that it’s as if different actors are playing them. I’ve watched a lot of films that have doppelgängers as a theme, from The Sixth Day to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a personality shift from the original to the copy. Nyong’o is especially fearful from one character to the other. Especially seeing as how her double is like some kind of insane messiah with a speech pattern straight out of a nightmare.

Peele has namechecked Hitchcock as an influence and it’s quite clear by both the way he sets a scene, and with some of the violence being just out of eyeshot, so no dwelling on blood or gore here. That’s not to say the film isn’t violent though, it is! Not just physical but also from a psychological point of view as well.

I am sure that Us is full of hundreds of allegories that an uneducated dunce like me doesn’t pick up upon, and maybe there is some political agenda disguised in its frames, but don’t care about that. What I came here to do was enjoy horror movies and with this film, mission accomplished.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian multi-region Bluray which is presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: A really nice bunch on this disc:

The Monsters Within Us is a look at the performances of the actors in both roles they play, and the variation on the same character that they brought to it.

Tethered Together: Making Us Twice looks at the filming of the same scene twice with the originals and the doubles, and the visual effects used to stitch them together.

Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peelers Brand of Horror looks at what Jordan Peele brings to genre films, and his approach to making these films.

The Duality of Us sees Peele discuss some of the symbols used within the film to tell the story.

Becoming Red is a little bit of ‘between take’ footage on Nyong’o who maintained her doppelgänger persona on set during the filming of all these scenes, even when question the director about things happening within the scene. Honestly, this extra was almost as scary as the film: as beautiful as I find Nyong’o, if I’m ever confronted by her doing this schtick, I’ll run in the other direction at full speed.

Scene Explorations breaks down three scenes into their bare bones and dissects their messages.

Deleted Scenes and for me it’s the usual story: there’s a reason why some scenes are excused from a film and it’s usually for the better.

We’re All Dying is kinda-sorta a gag real but it’s a freestyle conversation between Duke and Heidecker that’s occasionally funny.

As Above, So Below: Grand Pas De Deux shows the full performance of the ballet by both versions of young Adelaide, cleverly a dance made for two that the character chooses to dance by herself whilst her tethered version does it somewhere else. Another example of Peele’s symbolism.

Score: *****

WISIA: There is so much more to this film that I’m sure I need to watch it again.

The Woman in Black (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Woman in Black (2012)

Film: Any horror fan worth his mettle knows of the famed English studio Hammer films. Over many years Hammer entertained the world with Gothic tales of terror and fright, and gave us brilliant performances from the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They also introduced the world to many a blushing busty English rose. Great things don’t last forever though, and as a new generation of horror came to light in the 70s and 80s, Hammer disappeared. But not forever.

Recently, Hammer have re-emerged with a few new films: the English language remake of Let the Right One In called Let Me In and this, a retooling of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, filmed once before in 1989. This version has been adapted by Jane Goldman, who scripted Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and is directed by James Watkins, who previously helmed Eden Lake.

A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is on his last legs at his job. It has been several years since his young wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died during childbirth and he has never gotten over it, bringing up their son Joseph (Misha Handley) with only the assistance of a nanny (Jessica Raine).

As the final chance to save his job, Kipps’ boss has given him the challenge of travelling to the town of Cryphin Gifford to make sure that the final will and testament of the recently deceased owner of the secluded property Eel Marsh, Mrs Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) is correct, by checking through any and all documents at her estate. What Kipps finds there though is a hate filled spirit of a woman in black, but why is she so filled with loathing, and can Kipps do anything to appease her torment of the town and it’s children?

The Woman in Black looks quite beautiful, and has a mood that perfectly matches that of the main character. The township of Cryphin Gifford is so dank that one feels the cold, wet and clamminess as if it is present in the room in which you are watching the film.

The performances are all solid. Still quite young, Daniel Radcliffe plays his Peter Cushing styled character with the intensity of a man well beyond his years, or an emo on depressants. The addition of the wonderful Ciarin Hinds as his ally within the town is excellent, and Hinds has a weight and subtlety in his performance as a man haunted by the death of a young son, and whose wife has never recovered from it.

The script also tells a grand ghost story, but here lies its biggest problem. Ghost stories in cinema have a language of their own and they can fall into a trap. That trap is they either do something out of the norm and have audiences not ‘get’ it, or they stick to the generic ghost story devices such as a creaky house and creepy toys et cetera, and even though they are speaking a cinematic language that your average cinema goer will comprehend, the story just doesn’t stand out.

Unfortunately, The Woman in Black is guilty of the latter. Even though there was some impressive imagery (Eel Marsh itself is simply amazing) the story just feels as though it is telling a tale we’ve all heard many times over. It seems to me that the makers of The Woman in Black tried to ignore the fact that the tastes of horror fans have moved on, and that perhaps this type of film isn’t relevant any more. I know whilst I was watching it I didn’t feel like I was watching a classic horror film, but someone who was trying to emulate one.

So Hammer are back, baby! The pure gothic tales of fright they have given us have returned with them, but, I’m afraid their time may have passed. The acting is generally of a high standard and the movie boasts some amazing gothic horror visuals, but it seems to miss that ‘classic’ horror mood. Perhaps this is due to the main elements of that “classic horror mood” being Cushing and Lee, who would have kicked arse as Kipps and Daily respectively, but without them, this whole event just feels a little ordinary.

Spooky toys, a creaky house, ghostly children, mysterious rocking chairs, generic, generic generic. The Woman in Black is a great looking film that ticks all the ‘spooky’ boxes and has some fine performances, but it fails to deliver any real scares and never tries to rise above the regular ‘ghost story’ trappings.

Score: **

Format: This film is presented in a pristine 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which I have to say, due to the colour palette of the film, works much better is pitch darkness, If your lounge room has even the slightest bit of light in it, you won’t get the full benefit of deep blacks and immaculate shadow detail The soundscape matches the visuals in excellence, and like it, works best in the dark, and is presented in DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Lockout, Magic Mike and Killer Joe before taking us to the menu.

There are only two, quite short, extras on this disc:

No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps is a brief exploration of Radcliffe’s performance as Kipps, with comments from other cast and crew as to why he was good for the role.

Inside the Perfect Thriller: The Making of The Woman in Black, obviously, looks at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Score: 2

WISIA: It’s highly unlikely that I’d ever waste anymore of my precious time on this film.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

One from the re-watch pile…

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Film: Are you a fan of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Eaten Alive, and sleazy 70s grindhouse? Well I’ve got a delectable feast of delights for you! A tale where Life and Death are Meaningless…and Pain is God!!

October 30, 1977, Ruggsville, four twenty something’s on a road trip across the USA (Chris Hardwick, Jennifer Jostyn, Erin Daniels and Rainn Wilson) stop at Captain Spaulding’s (Sid Haig) Museum of Monsters and Mayhem, a gas station/ fried chicken hut with a Ripley’s Believe It or Not styled freak show, whose main attraction is the bizarre ‘Murder Ride’. In the ride, the travellers are told about a local psycho, Dr Satan, who was hanged out in the woods by Ruggsville townsfolk, and whose body mysteriously disappeared the next day. The four decide to visit the tree on which he was hanged, and on the way pick up a hitchhiker, Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon). Soon one of their tyres is shot out and the four have to stop in at Baby’s House, where they are introduced to the murderous Firefly family (Karen Black, Bill Moseley, Robert Mukes, Matthew McGrory and Dennis Fimple). The succeeding story will shock, terrify and haunt the viewer…FOREVER!!!

Filmed in 2000, but not released until 2003, due to Universal’s cowardice towards an NC-17 rating, but eventually picked up by Lion’s Gate Films, Rob Zombie has created a visual trip that has more genre homage’s than you can poke a stick at. House of 1000 Corpses received Best Special Effects for Wayne Toth and Michael O’Brien at Fantasporto in 2004 where it was also nominated for Best International Fantasy Film, not to mention it was nominated for Choice Movie- Horror/Thriller at the Teen Choice Awards 2003.

Zombie obviously has great affection for everything that we Horror fans and Gore fiends love. Being a collector of the macabre and trash culture himself, not to mention a Marx Brothers aficionado (to which some of the characters are named after: Otis Driftwood, Rufus Firefly and Ravelli). To a layman, this film might seem a rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there is no doubt that there are many comparisons, but there are levels to this film that make it so much more than that. To go into those levels would be to reveal far too much of the film itself, and lose some of its journey for the genre fan. Unfortunately this film has been heavily cut, when played at the Mar del Plata Film festival, it ran at 105 minutes but the eventual release plays at a mere 88 minutes. Don’t worry though; there is still plenty of carnage to enjoy.

The filming of this movie is great, sometimes Hollywood gloss, sometimes gritty and grainy, which gives the viewer an impression this was actually made in the seventies, and also has some quick MTV style cuts for dream sequences and such.

I absolutely love this movie. It’s never going to be known as a breakthrough of originality and top shelf acting, but isn’t entertainment what cinema is all about, something that this film delivers by the bloody bucket load. Zombie knows his genre stuff and has collected a cast from movies such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Spider Baby, Trilogy of Terror and others, to deliver ‘the Most Shocking Tale of Carnage ever Seen’. Have fun!!

Score: *****

Format: Always crisp and sharp, the 16×9 anamorphic widescreen is impressive, the only time this movie sinks to grit and grain is in its segues, where it is obviously deliberate. The audio is presented in an immaculate DTS-HD 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Unfortunately, this Bluray release is missing the spectacular menus from the initial DVD release. Those menus, hosted by Baby, Otis and particularly Captain Spaulding were fantastic, powered by Mojo DVD navigation; those menus had these three characters commenting on everything from what the special features contain, to your very own sassy hairdos.

Directors commentary is as you would expect from someone like from Rob Zombie. He talks all way through, rarely taking a break and revealing some interesting aspects of this film, including how much of it was filmed in the basement of his own house. Sometimes commentaries from only one person have long breaks or pauses, but Zombie has a short story for every scene that plays. The amount of extra bits and pieces he points out are incredible, even down to continuity faults.

The Making of featurette is a 4:14 minute summary of the film as told by the actors playing the leads, and a couple of sound bytes from Zombie about the making of the movie, but not very special or informative.

Casting is audition footage of Dennis Fimple (King Kong) who played Grandpa, which is pretty funny.

Rehearsal footage show some of the cast in their rehearsals for some particular scenes in the film.

The Interviews section has Q & A’s with Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon and Wayne Toth (special make-up effects). Fairly standard fare, but interesting never the less.

Interview with William Bassett is a new interview from Umbrella Entertainment with William Bassett from The Towering Inferno and The Karate Kid.

Theatrical Trailers are fairly self explanatory.

Score: ***

WISIA: I love this film so its a regular rewatcher for me!

The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.

Podcast Transcript – Episode 3

Welcome back, terrorphiles, to The To Watch Pile After Dark Podcast. My name is Justin McNamara and we are counting down my top 50 favourite horror movies.

You’ll find in this list that there is a lot of 70s and 80s films, and that’s because my opinion is that the best films came out in this period, and certainly the ‘horror franchise’, a pop culture trend that I love, was at its height towards the end of the 80s. This film WAS a one off, but the 2010 remake, and its sequels, were so successful that they eventually spawned a sequel to the original in 2019, which feels like Déjà Vu…

(Play trailer)

I Spit on your Grave aka The Day of the Woman tells the story of writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) who retreats to the countryside of Connecticut from New York to work on her latest novel. At a service station near her house she meets a bunch of ne’er do wells who act in a lecherous manner towards her, and her casual way is taken by them as flirting.

She goes to her country house and has some groceries delivered, which is done by mildly mentally disabled man Matthew (Richard Pace), goes tells his friends, the same ones at the service station, included ringleader Johnny (Erin Tabor) that she had been VERY nice to him and shown him her boobs, which they take an an invitation.

They descend upon her house and tell Matthew that he should rape her and that they are helping him to lose his virginity, but we he declines, the other men repeatedly violate her, beating and raping her, until Matthew, under the influence of alcohol decides to join in. This torture lasts for hours and they finally leave her for dead…

… but she’s not dead…

She carefully creates plans to exact her revenge on the men, and does so one-by-one, taking no prisoners, and doing so in grisly, violent ways.

This film was written and directed by Mier Zarchi after he and a friends found a naked woman who had been beaten and raped, and took her to the police. Zarchi claims the police officer was extraordinarily cavalier in his behaviour towards the woman, even insisting that she answer questions even though her jaw was obviously broken. Zarchi was offered a reward by the woman’s father, which he declined, but the experience stayed with him and he eventually wrote the film whilst on his commute to work.

As a writer and director, Zarchi isn’t really know for many other films, other than 2019’s sequel, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu and the terrible ‘Don’t Mess With My Sister’ whose title offers some sense of dread, but never actually gets to the levels of this film.

This film, depending on the version you get your hands on as it’s received many cuts over the years, and was even one of the UK’s ‘Video Nasties’, goes for between 93 and 101 minutes, which is a standard movie length of its era, but what is unusual is the length of the gruelling rape scene which sits at around the 25 minute mark in the full uncut version, and Keaton spends all that time totally naked, a brave, potentially career killing choice in that day and age.

Rumour has it that the rape scene was so emotionally difficult to film that two crew members quit, one being a make up artist who was struggling with her own demons after experiencing a gang rape.

Zarchi skills as a director aren’t great and this shows in the average performances and dialogue delivery of his male cast, but his ability to direct an assault scene is amazing, and the scenes of Jennifer’s rape are gruelling, so gruelling in fact that by the time you get to the ‘revenge’ part of this ‘rape revenge’ film, you feel the men are actually let off lightly in comparison. The remake shows the Jennifer character, this time played by Sarah Butler, offer the men far more ‘torture porn’ styled punishments, which is to be expected in a post-Saw version of the film.

I Spit on your Grave was originally released as The Day of the Woman in 1978 and wasn’t received very well, but Jerry Gross renamed it I Spit On Your Grave and redistributed it in 1978 to a bit more of a response, though film critics Siskel and Ebert hated not just it, but the audiences response to it. In the UK it was labelled a Video Nasty and feminist Julie Bindel protested against its release, though she later claimed it was actually a feminist film.

I think many people protested this film initially without taking into account, described best in the 1986 book The Encylcopedia of Horror by Tom Milne and Paul Willeman, that ‘the men are so grossly unattractive and the rapes so harrowing, long drawn-out and starkly presented that it’s hard to imagine most male spectators identifying with the perpetrators’. I don’t think this quote means the men are physically unattractive, but instead psychologically unattractive with their attitudes which manifests initially as leering lust before escalating into so much worst.

Keaton’s performance in the ‘revenge’ part of the film has been criticised as well as being flat and almost catatonic, but I think that the assault causes her to be stripped back to an almost avenging angel figure, and that perhaps she has actually lost some of who SHE was.

The reason this film is in my top 50 is it is a film that effects me. As a married man with a daughter and mostly female friends, I find the film difficult to watch, and isn’t that what horror is supposed to be? It effects you in a way that I haven’t seen in many films, and this is all due to Keaton’s performance: her fear of her solitude being invaded, the response to every part of the rape, the dead-eyed horror of being stripped back to nothing more than a thing to be abused by bad men, and rebirth as an angel of vengeance with a cold heart.

I have to admit to being a latecomer to this film, and was surprised by how violent it was for the era it was from, and I have wrote at length about it, even to the point that the current release on DVD and Bluray in Australia has a quote from my review from my days as a film reviewer for now-defunct website Digital Retribution.

Thank you all for listening! At my website The To Watch Pile, (www.towatchpile.com) you can find movie reviews and a transcript of this episode of the To Watch Pile After Dark, and please, give a 5 star review on your listening program, hit the subscribe and even drop a few works of support: it heaps a great deal if you do.

You can also find me on Twitter at @thetowatchpile or on Instagram, seeing as I am part of the Nerds of Oz network, @thenerdsofoz. Also please check out our comic and nerd-related podcast Nerds of Oz, available where all good podcasts can be found.

See you on the next episode…

Piranha 3D (2010)

One from the rewatch pile…

Piranha 3D (2010)

Film: The remake debate of today is as boring as the sequel debate of 80s and 90s. It is said it shows that Hollywood has run out of ideas and needs fresh blood, and this review will not enter into it other than to comment that this film, Alexandre Aja’s Piranha is a remake of the legendary Joe Dante film Piranha from 1978 albeit with a lot of changes.

A lot of sexy changes.

Unfortunately, I was unable to review this film in 3D, due to the fact that I don’t have the equipment, but what I do have is a decent Bluray Player and a nice big TV so I can at least review the film in 2D. While I am not a huge fan of 3D anyway, I admit I was disappointed to not see naked chicks, eyeballs and vomit in the third dimension.

Piranha tells this tale…

A subterranean quake causes a fissure to open beneath the waters of Lake Victoria, a quiet town that becomes are Mecca for drunken, carnal pleasures (aka fun) during American spring break. Problem is though the fissure has released prehistoric piranha into the otherwise calm waters. Our story follows several of the townsfolk and a few of the spring break visitors and how they survive – or don’t survive – the attack of these flesh eating beasts.

Elizabeth Shue plays Sheriff Julie Forester, a member of the local constabulary who has never really had to face more in the town than drunk and disorderly charges, but who has to rise to the occasion when her town and family is threatened. After the quake she escorts scientist type Novak (Adam Scott) and his assistants (played by genre stalwart Dina Meyer and Ricardo Chavira) to explore the crack but after two of the team are eaten, they realise the entire occupants of the lake are in danger, and need to clear it immediately.

Steve McQueen’s grandson, and Vampire Diaries actor Steven R. McQueen plays Julie’s son, Jake, who is supposed to be babysitting his brother and sister (played by Brooklynn Proulx and Sage Ryan) but instead decides to play tour guide on the lake to Girls Gone Wild wannabe director Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell, his assistant (Paul Scheer) and his two stars (played by super hot duo Kelly Brooke and Riley Steele) so they can film heaps of titty shots in beautiful locales. His NOT-girlfriend Kelly (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr) tags along which spoils Jake’s plans of porking a hottie, but she finds perhaps she could be one of these types of girls herself.

Of course, like everyone in the water, they run foul of the fish, and need to be rescued. Mucho bloodshed ensues…

Like all 3D films watched in 2D, a visual problem is revealed. When in 3D, one manages to overlook any dodgy effects as you are apparently dumb-founded by the visuals, but some of the effects in this film are deplorable, and while they are supposed to ‘pop’ in 3D, they just look out of place and tacked on in 2D. Haters of CGI will feel justified in their loathing with how poor some of the fish effects are.

In the August 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, James Cameron said that films like this “cheapen the medium and reminds you of bad 3D horror films of the 70s and 80s”. Now while I think that Cameron can pull his head in for casting hate towards films from the 70s and 80s, I think that this would have been a much better film if it had not been in 3D as more of the budget could have been spent on the actual effects instead of the 3D gag. The ultimate scene of carnage was one of the bloodiest of its type and probably couldn’t have been much better, but some of the more quiet scenes, like our first proper look at one of the piranha in a fish tank, were terrible. All of this is quite a shame as Aja’s abilities as a director are spectacular, and the cinematography, especially of some of the landscapes are beautiful.

One last note I should make is that horror fans need to look hard at this film as there are cameos aplenty, some more obvious than others, and the name of Richard Dreyfuss’ beer is a classic.

Boobs, blood and a collection of movies ‘legends’ make for an enjoyable experience, but not the greatest horror film ever made. As a tribute to eighties horror flicks, it is a fun distraction, but not a great rewatcher, and certainly not a classic of the horror genre. After Aja’s previous output, including impressive remakes of both The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, I expected more.

Score: ***

Format: The film is presented in 2.40:1 1080p widescreen and is fantastic. I don’t think I have ever seen a horror film set in such a bright daylight setting, and the colors are fantastic. Boobs in hi-def are a blessing from the home entertainment gods as well! The sound is presented in DTS HD 5.1 Dolby Digital and is loud and aggressive.

Score: ****

Extras: This Bluray has four extras on it:

The Making of Piranha Documentary is an extraordinary complete and interesting doco, and all involved talk of all aspects of making the film, even the legalities of location filming.

Deleted Scenes: Usually deleted scenes don’t add much extra, and essentially these don’t either, but they do complete some of the stories of which you only saw a part, like the male and female leads relationship, and there are additional scenes of boob manipulation, so winners all round.

Theatrical 3D Trailer: My favourites of all extras are trailers of the film. After one has watched a film it is interesting to see how it was marketed.

Audio Commentary with Director Alexandre Aja: The commentary is actually by Alexandre Aja, and producers Gregory Levasseur and Alix Taylor. It is a really nice commentary that is wholly informative.

Score: ***

WISIA: Like I said in the body of the review, it’s not a great rewatcher, but it does however, have a couple of good points that make it worthwhile… and I’m not talking about the ones on pornstar Gianna Michael’s chest either… so I have to admit to multiple watches.

The Innkeepers (2011)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Innkeepers (2011)

Film: Vegemite and I have an interesting relationship. There are some days when I just can’t get enough of it, but on other days I think it is just the most revolting food ever. To me, it seems that that is an interesting look at just how taste can constantly change.

To write this review, I have watched The Innkeepers more than any other film that I have ever reviewed. Why? Well like Vegemite, every time I watch it, I have a different opinion of it. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes it’s like watching Big Brother: just a few people wandering around talking and doing stuff.

The Innkeepers tells of the last opening weekend of a hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn and the people that work there, Claire (played by a totally surprising and against type Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy). Luke runs a website about the Inn, and the apparent haunting that infects it, which Claire, who plays along with his investigations, has totally bought into. On this final weekend though, they have a few strange happenings, and as the weekend goes on, especially after the suicide of one of the guests, Claire becomes more and more uneasy. Actually borderline hysterical.

And then, the ‘terror’ begins….

Director Ti West has crafted a visually stunning film. He captures the quaintness of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is a real Inn I might point out, and creates tension throughout the entire film using all the usual horror tricks like sudden scares and low bass audio to produce that feeling of anxiety in the viewers chest, but he stops it just in time so the scare is even more jumpy!

West’s ability to inspire some great performances from the actors is notable as well. Sara Paxton, who normally plays the beautiful mean girl in films like Sydney White (yeah, I watch stuff other than horror and sci fi) or bland shark bait in Shark Night, plays this role with natural dorkiness ,and has even geeked herself up visually to complete the picture. It’s hard to believe she has played bitches in some other films she is so in tune with this dorky character. Pay Healy is also excellent, playing the computer nerd with such aplomb that I almost believe he must either be the greatest actor in the world, or he is really like his character. There are also some amazing performances from the unrecognisable from Top Gun Kelly McGillis and George Riddle along with a brief appearance from Sesame Street’s Alison Bartlett, whom I only mention as I have always had somewhat of a thing for her.

Fans of horror films and of haunted house films might find The Innkeepers a little on the lame side though, as it feels for the longest time like nothing happens. And it doesn’t. People who like films such as Ghost World or Art School Confidential will probably love The Innkeepers as it is one of those films that is more character driven than story driven, which to me seems to also be its failing, and this is where my dissatisfaction lies.

Whilst I completely enjoy the performances and the dialogue the actually story itself just doesn’t wash. The whole time I watched this film, I felt like I was watching a well acted and scripted final episode of a soap opera.

To me, this film is cinematic Vegemite. I wanted to like The Innkeepers, but it just hovered around mediocrity without doing a whole lot to actually entertain the viewer.It is well scripted, but at times it just feels like you are wandering around with no clear destination, and it’s just a disappointment.

Score: **

Format: Accent’s disc features a pristine and very natural looking 2.40:1 transfer. Like the image, the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is exceptional, using all available channels to subtly produce a feeling of unease on occasions.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Accent releases including Norman, Absentia, Forks Over Knives and Chasing Madoff, and one for this film, The Innkeepers.

The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes is a fluff piece that tells an abbreviated version of the commentary information, which is the better option if you are interested in that sort of thing.

There are two commentaries, one with writer/ director/ editor Ti West, Producer Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden and 2nd Unit Director/ sound designer Graham Reznik, while the other features West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.The first commentary is an interest one that focuses on the making on the film, whereas the second one wis funny, but features people who are a tad conceited… typical actors.

Score: ***

WISIA: No. Never again.