St. Agatha (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

St. Agatha (2018)

Film: Darren Lynn Bousman first fame to horror fans attention when he directed the first three sequels to the Leigh Whannel/ James Wan film ‘Saw’. He also surprised people with the unusual Repo: A Genetic Opera and a remake of Mother’s Day and The Barrens.

This is Bousman’s 2018 effort and is a bizarre mix of horror and crime who’s unusually confused state may be due to the fact that it has four writers… but is it good?

St. Agatha takes place in the 50s and tells of Mary (Sabrina Kern), a young con-woman who has been kicked out of home as she is responsible for the death of her brother as she was ‘with’ her conman boyfriend, Jimmy (Justin Miles), an episode of fornication which has resulted in her falling pregnant.

When a con goes wrong, they end up with no money, and to stop herself from being a drag on Jimmy’s capacity to earn money with his cons, Mary decides to move into a convent run by an oppressive Mother Superior (Cathryn Hennessy) who runs her convent with an iron fist and will take no objection to her cruel methods of control.

What Mary quickly realises though, is that the whole convent itself may be a con, and that there seems to be more going on with the wayward pregnant women that come for protection from the cruel world…

This film feels more like it should be some kind of made for TV period drama, but in Bousman’s hands, it becomes crueler, bloodier and more violent. There was certainly some strange visual decisions made. For example, there one scene where is a woman is forced to eat her own vomit, but there was a deliberate avoidance of actually visualising the act, and yet we get to see another scene where a nun chews food and spits it into another character’s mouth. I don’t understand why one of those things was seen to be over the top, and yet the other wasn’t.

The cast were pretty good, with Kern and Hennessy really holding the film together. The support cast of the other women staying in the convent were mainly pretty good, even though there was two choices where I initially couldn’t tell the difference between the two cast members.

Basically what I was hoping for with this film was something like Lucky McKee’s The Woods, but what I got was a washed out attempt at doing something like Pascal Laugier’s boring The Tall Man, but at least that had Jessica Biel and Stephen McHattie to make it appealing.

I could see what this film wanted to do, and hiring Bousman, whose Saw sequels are well-realised, was probably a great idea, but it just didn’t work. At all.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release DVD from Eagle Entertainment and runs for about 98 minutes. The film is presented in a clean and clear 2.40:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

One from the re-watch pile…

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

Film: If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few years, or read my reviews over the past 10 years, or even listened to my podcast, you may notice two things that I say over and over again.

1. My favourite movies mostly come from the 1980s

2. I am not a fan of Steven King’s writing.

The weird thing about these to things is that they do intersect: I really like all of the Stephen King novel based movies. It’s true. I’m a fan of the man’s ideas, but not of his execution. Do I feel bad about it? No. Would I watch any film based on a Stephen King novel at any time of the night or day? Yes.

I know that this wasn’t the first King translation I ever saw because I KNOW that I was taken to the cinemas to see The Shining by my parents at the ripe old age of 10 which launched both my fear of fathers and my love of breasts. This film, 1984’s Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (yes, that’s the official title) must have been very close to being the next one. I was watching a lot of horror in the early eighties so realistically it could have been this, or Cujo, or Carrie, but I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of was that I definitely saw it when it first came out on VHS in Australia, and it probably made me a fan of the ‘abandoned town’ as a setting for horror films!

Anyway, the story of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (SKCotC) begins with a mass murder in a small diner of all of the adults by the children of the town. One boy witnesses it and chooses to make an attempt to escape the town which is now being controlled by teenage religious zealots, led by Issac (John Franklin) and his thuggish sidekick Malachai (Courtney Gains).

Tragically he doesn’t escape, but he does make it to a highway where young lovers, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) come across his body, and this leads them to the town where they are terrorised by the children, and threatened to be sacrificed to something called ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’.

Will Burt and Vicky escape, or will they be sacrificed to… well, whatever ‘IT’ is…

This is as eighties as a film can get, but it has some amazing ideas and some truly threatening scenes. I remember when I first saw it I was reminded on the classic Star Trek series episode ‘Miri’ but that was probably just a teenage me associated two cool things together.

King’s story here was adapted by George Goldsmith (Blue Monkey) and its a solid thriller made real by the direction from Fritz Kiersch which visually tells of the desolation of remoteness of farmland and their communities, and just how easily one could drop off the map if not tended to appropriately. It’s also a fascinating look at the manipulation of religion by its leaders.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the 88 Films Slasher Collection Bluray, which was presented in 1.78:1 and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track, both of which were surprisingly good considering the age of the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc:

The original trailer for the title film, plus trailers for Don’t Go In The Woods, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, Mother’s Day, Slaughterhouse, Trancers and Splatter University.

The Life, Legacy and Legend of Donald P. Borchers is a fairly thorough, 90-odd minute documentary about the movie producer, Donald P. Borchers, who produced this film as well as Vamp, Tuff Turf and Angel. It’s really an interesting insight into the Hollywood machine as well as Borcher’s actual career.

Score: ***

WISIA: Its a Stephen King classic and demands to be watched more than once.

Podcast Episode 7 Transcript

Good evening, boars and ghouls, to episode 7 of the To Watch Pile After Dark, a Podcast counting down my top 50 favourite horror films.

Working out your top 50 favourite horror films is no easy task, and honestly, as I watch other new films, I find the list changing but I resisted changing the list. Maybe I’ll have to do an updated top 50 in the future? Anyway, Reflecting on why you like a film is very important, and seeing yourself as a fan of the film is also a key.

Today we look at number 45 on my top 50 Countdown, a film originally supposed to be a sequel to the 2003 Korean film Into The Mirror, by director Kim Sung-ho, but was reworked by New French Extremity writer/ Director Alexandre Aja into a remake starring Kiefer Sutherland and Amy Smart.

Come with me, as we take a look into 2008’s Mirrors…

(Play Trailer)

After the mysterious death of security guard, Gary (Josh Cole), ex-cop Ben Carson (Sutherland) steps into his role of night watchman of a department store left abandoned after a fire. The place he acts as night watchman for was once called The Mayflower, and was the jewel of shopping, but it holds a dark secret in its basement.

Ben’s been suffering a fair bit in his life lately. After suffering a breakdown whilst working as a police officer, he became… well, not husband material… and in an entirely sympathetic act, his wife, Amy (Paula Patton) kicked him out to protect herself and their kids, Michael (Cameron Boyce) and Daisy (Arica Gluck). He has resigned himself to living with his supportive but concerned sister Angela (Amy Smart) whilst he tried to get himself back on his feet.

After working a few shifts at the Mayflower, Ben starts to notice strange things happening with the mirrors in the building and after some investigation discovers that the dark secret in the basement involves a possessed girl and a unique form of therapy involving a psychomanteum, which involves a patients tied to a chair surrounded by, you guessed it, mirrors.

As the investigation intensifies, Ben’s family becomes involved as the thing in the mirrors can travel through ANY mirrors, and the threat becomes VERY real…

The first thing I have to say about this film is it stars Kiefer Sutherland, and pretty much any horror film starring either him or his father are a good watch, due to both their acting skills and their intensity.

Another actor who stands our in this for me is Amy Smart. It’s probably not completely PC in this day and age, but I don’t just love this actor for her skill, she’s also gorgeous. I’ve been following her career for years and loved her in everything from Road Trip, to the Crank films to The Butterfly Effect. She’s a definite standout for me and I look forward to seeing her in the Tv series Stargirl.

The key to how great this film is though is definitely Alexandre Aja. His skill as a filmmaker and screenwriter was made apparent by the first film I saw of his called Haute Tension, aka High Tension, which admittedly has a twist that isn’t quite 100% fair on the viewer. He has since moved to America and made some amazing films, including remakes of Piranha and The Hills Have Eyes, and of course, this film. His strength comes from being able to get impressive performances from his cast, and not being shy about making horror films… oh yes, there will be blood.

There is a sequel to this film called, unsurprisingly, Mirrors 2, directed by Victor Garcia, who almost single handedly destroyed the Hellraiser franchise with the dreadful Hellraiser Revelations. Thankfully his sequel to this film is no where near as bad as that and stars Sin City’s Nick Stahl, Saw II’s Emmanuelle Vaugier, The Real American Heroe’s William Katt and Kim Possible’s Christy Carlson Romano. Thankfully it’s not as bad as the Hellraiser sequel.

On a sad note, Cameron Boyce passed away in July of this year, 2019, of an epileptic seizure at the young age of 20.

So that’s it, my 45th favourite horror film of all time. I wonder if you could ‘see yourself’ looking into it and enjoying it as much as I did.

Thanks you for listening to this episode of the To Watch Pile After Dark. Don’t forget you can see the transcript of this episode, and my movie reviews at my blog www.towatchpile.com. Also, forget to like and subscribe. The To Watch Pile After Dark will have a new episode pop up at midnight on the 13th of every month and on other occasions when I have time to record, and is available wherever good podcasts can be heard.

See you next time, and remember, a real collector NEVER catches up…

Re-animator (1986)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

Re-animator (1986)

Film: It’s the best horror film ever made. Review finished.

Oh, you want more… sigh, ok then.

I first saw this film when it came out on VHS in Australia and was immediately and utterly taken by it. It didn’t just excite my brain cells, I found almost a soul mate within the confines of the little plastic video case. I liked horror before I saw this film, but afterward, I loved it.

I didn’t just love THIS film though, it turned me on to the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and more horror writers, both modern and old. It turned me from being a horror casual to a horror obsessive.

This film was directed by Stuart Gordon, who wrote the screenplay with Dennis Paolo (From Beyond, Dagon) and William Norris (mostly known as being an actor). The story was based on Lovecraft’s stories from the 1920s, but modernised and made into a gory, gooey horror movie with a wry sense of dark humour.

Re-animator tells of a medical student named Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) who has moved to Miskatonic University to learn more, and further his research after the death of his mentor Dr Gruber. At Miskatonic, he moves in with student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) to whom West eventually reveals he has developed a reagent that’s can reanimate dead tissue, and bring the deceased back to life, though the life is a monstrous, violent, animalistic one,

Their experiments put them at odds with the Dean of the school, Dean Halsey (Robert Sampson), and his daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton), who also happens to be Cain’s girlfriend, and the object of obsession of Dr Carl Hill (David Gale), who also is the subject of West’s ridicule due to his ideas about human brain death.

Very quickly, the body count rises, and the lives of all concerned begin to fall horribly apart…

There is so much that is perfect about this film. Gordon’s direction of the script is perfect, and every performance is nailed and every scene is exciting and moves the story along at quite a fast rate.

The cast is excellent. Combs’ West is the maddest of mad doctors, Abbott is the most flaccid of accomplices, Crampton is the most loveliest of female lead (and I must admit to having a massive crush in her even all these years later) and David Gale… well, David Gale is the best Vincent Price like villain that was ever not played by Vincent Price.

This edition reviewed is the Umbrella Entertainment version, under their ‘Beyond Genres’ label, which contains two version of the film on it. The first disc has the original 86 minute ‘uncut’ version, chock full of chunky violence and blood and gore. The other disc contains what is called the ‘Integral’ cut, which has all the gore, but also some extended scenes from various cuts of the film that exist, which adds almost 20 minutes to the films length: not all of which is necessary, but most of which creates more layers to the film, especially the ‘anti-love’ triangle that develops between the three main leads… it’s not a triangle, but instead one of obsession and ownership.

Umbrella’s edition of this film also has an epic Simon Sherry cover that looks incredible too, and even better as the animated menus on disc 2!

Like I said, this is my favourite horror film of all time, and whenever anyone asks me what horror film is my favourite, without fail I say this one, as I believe it’s a must watch.

Score: ****** (yep, six stars: not an error)

Format: Reanimator was reviewed on the region B Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment, and it’s is easily the best this film has ever looked. It is presented in a 1.77 image, with a 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: Heaps of extras on this 2 disc extravaganza!

Disc 1

There are two audio commentaries, one by director Stuart Gordon, and the other by producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and Robert Sampson. Both commentaries are interesting and engaging.

Re-animator Resurrectus is a retrospective documentary about the film, and is a pretty complete investigation of the film.

There is also a series of extended scenes, which are unnecessary but still work when put back into the ‘Integral” cut of the film, and a deleted scene, which I am not quite where it would have fit in the film, but was an interesting watch anyway.

Disc 2

On this disc there us a series if interviews with Gordon, Yuzna, Paoli, Music composer Richard Band and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. These are interesting, but the stories start to repeat themselves over the course of the extras.

This disc also has a bunch of trailers and TV spots.

Score: *****

WISIA: Simply, I think it’s the best horror film ever made and I watch it regularly. Honestly I could probably perform the whole movie as a one man show.

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.

Monster Party (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Monster Party (2018)

Film: Occasionally I’ll peruse my local entertainment retailer just to see if anything jumps out at me, be it a lurid cover or a ridiculous title or a ‘produced by’ credit (you know, because the sign of a quality film is if someone PRODUCED a previous hit) or a couple of names of actors whom I like.

Today was a lucky day, as I secured a film that ticks all those boxes: the cover to this film (as you can see) has the back of a couple covered in blood facing some people who look well-to-do, the name ‘Monster Party’ is immediately evocative of something awful, it’s ‘produced’ by ‘The Producer of SINISTER’ (golly, it MUST be good… actually, I did like Sinister, so I’ll cut it some slack) and finally, it stars Robin Tunney (from The Craft and End of Days) and our very own Julian McMahon (Fantastic Four and Bait): this all sounds like a winner to me!

I’ll of this was also helped by Australia’s awful classification badge, which screamed at me ‘R18+ Restricted: High Impact Bloody Violence.

I’m in.

Monster Party tells of three burglars, Iris (Virginia Gardner), Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) and Casper (Sam Strike) who are on the hunt for a big haul, as Casper’s father, a gambling addict, has been grabbed by a local gangster and is being tortured to pay off his gambling debts.

Luckily, Iris manages to secure the boys some work waiting on guests at a private party in a mansion, which they decide will be the object of their thievery, and the hosts, Patrick (McMahon) his wife Roxanne (Tunney) and their kids, Eliot (Kian Lawley) and Alexis (Erin Moriaty) seems nice, if not a little… well, strange.

As the guests arrive, an even stranger bunch of characters, our thieves become even more unsettled, until one of them is murdered by one of the guests, and the remaining two discover that the entire party is a ‘Murderers Anonymous’ meeting, as killers attempting to shake their addicting to killing.

With a little blood spilt though, the addiction kicks off, and our remaining heroes must do whatever it takes to survive… even become killers themselves!

As you may be able to tell from that synopsis, this film finds its influences from things like Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, and more recently, Fede Alvarez’s excellent Don’t Breathe. What the film does is take that and mix in a little Tarantino-styled revenge, some kooky plot devices that go nowhere and an occasional bizarre choice of lighting schemes straight out of Bava or Argento films.

There is a few other strange choices as well. The casting is straight out of American soap opera so there’s this air of falsity to the whole film, which makes it feel somewhat insincere. One thing I did really like was establishing that the private party was VERY private so the mobile phones of the main characters were confiscated for privacy reasons. They could have very easily used that common nowadays trope of setting the film in the 80s (which I reckon is a cop out, but also better than a character tapping their phone and saying ‘mmmm, no reception’) but to actually have them hand over their phones was refreshing.

This film, though, is actually highly entertaining despite those couple of gripes. I don’t believe the ‘R rating’ is needed as even though there are some pretty violent acts, they take place just out of camera with just the results seen, and those effect that are clearly visualised are either really fake or very quick, the film does however take lots of twists and turns that all in all make for an entertaining jaunt amongst serial killers.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This movie was reviewed with the region 4 Australian DVD which runs for approximately 85 minutes and is presented in a mostly clean 2.40:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio. I say mostly as occasionally the colour seems washed out but that may have been a deliberate choice.

Score: ****

Extras: Empty plates all round, here.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was just entertaining enough for it to warrant repeat viewings.

The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

Film: The best thing about anthology films is there is almost something that will appeal to a viewer. It’s almost a cheat to have a mixture of stories with multiple appeals, but I’m down for it: every time. I think my first exposure to an kind of horror anthology was at school, with a book I picked up from the Scholastic book called Twisters which had a bunch of short stories that were just slightly horror for a younger reader.

This film, ‘The Field Guide to Evil’, contains 8 tales brought to us by various directors, several of whom made films which interested me greatly: Can Evrenol (Baskin), Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio),Calvin Reeder (V/H/S) and Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy). The cover also said that this was brought to us by the creators of The ABCs of Death, another anthology film which I liked.

The theme of this film is fascinating: it takes horrifying folk tales from around the world and gives them life.

The Sinful Woman of Höllfal is directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz and shows us what happens in Austrian legend when young women fall prone to the sins of homosexuality and masturbation…

Haunted by Al Karisi: The Childbirth Djinn directed by Can Evrenol tells of a hound new mother who is taking care of both her disabled mother and newborn child, but something is trying to get her child from her…

The Kindler and the Virgin is directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska recounts the legend of a man convinced by a demon that if he consumes the hearts of the recently deceased, he be opened to all of man’s knowledge…

Beware the Melonheads, directed by Calvin Lee Reeder, tells of the myth of some children who live in the wild in the US who have large heads and feast on human flesh…

Whatever Happened to Panagas the Pagan?, directed by Yannis Veslemes tells of the legend if Goblins in Greece who like to hide amongst drunken men for fun, but in 1984, some men discover the goblin in their midsts, and decide to have some ‘fun’ with it…

The Palace of Horrors, directed by Ashim Ahluwalia, is based on a Bengali folk legend of a castle built by an insane king, with a secret hidden in its depths…

A Nocturnal Death, directed by Katrin Gebbe tells of a young man in Bavaria in the late 1700s who discovers his sister is housing a demon called a ‘drude’ which when it leaves its host, leave it for dead whilst it spreads disease…

Cobbler’s Lot directed by Peter Strickland is a tale based on The Princess’ Curse, in which two brother vie for the attention of Princess Boglárka and of course, jealousy prevails…

What I found the most fascinating about this film, over and above the myths and legends that is, is how glaringly different the approach is by international filmmakers to their craft. As a document about how different styles of cinema look side by side, it is a total victory. The directors all chose such different ways of telling their tales too. Strickland’s story lies somewhere between silent movie and ballet performance, whereas Ahluwalia is filmed in black and white and almost has a documentary feel to it. It’s truly amazing to see all the artists approach the same artwork from such different avenues.

The legends from the four corners of the earth prove that no matter the culture, horror was a way of warning people against evils that may befall them or others. At first, you might consider them to be obtuse and bizarre, but when you consider the rituals and myths that accompany English/ western beliefs… we are all probably as strange as each other, and mankind is merely a hopeless child hiding in the dark either afraid of monsters, or telling others to be wary of them.

This being made by so many filmmakers and from so many sources, one can’t help but see that the entire film is quite unbalanced in tone, but the episodes are so clearly defined that that doesn’t matter, and each story is enjoyable from its own perspective.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 118 minutes. It is presented in a 1.85:1 image with a Dolby digital 5.1 audio track, both of which are fine. The images in each of the stories vary though due to the inconsistent production by each filmmaking team.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: I certainly think there is enough going on in this anthology to watch it again, especially if one is either interested in international film or if you are a student of film.

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.