Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Movie Review: The Reaping

 The Reaping is one of the many films related to the Christian "Antichrist".  I always find films like this interesting, as they point to just how horrific the stories in the Christian Bible can be, especially many of the people who decry the imagery depicted in horror films are often coming from a Christian background and basising their opinions on a Christian-moral perspective.  

 If you like blood, guts, and deviant sex, the Christian Bible is a fascinating read.

 One of the "mistakes" made with these kinds of films is the way the mix their Christian myths.  I imagine this has something to do with what the audience is familiar with.  The Antichrist concept is drawn from the Book of Revalation, which is full of all kinds of horror and intrigue, but is not very well-known other than a few select passages.  The plagues visited upon Egypt by the benevolent Christian God in the Book of Exodus are very well known, made a part of the Western Psyche by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.  These plagues are out-of-place in the Antichrist story.

 The Reaping is a thinly veiled morality tale.  Hillary Swank's character is a former missionary who lost her faith when her daughter was sacrificed by an African tribe her family was ministering to in hopes to appease the gods and end a drought.  Since then, she has been active as an investigator debunking apparently supernatural claims of a religious nature.  In the end, it appears that she was actually searching for evidence that would allow her to re-affirm her faith.  I find this part of the plot troublesome for two reasons.  First, regardless of the events that lead her to re-discover her faith, her religion still failed her and was culpable in the death of her child, even if that child was effectively replaced by the girl she assists later in the story.  Second, the use of an African Tribe sacrificing a white girl is an indicator of the subtle racism that remains a part of the fabric of Christian beliefs, something that the writer may or may not have intended when the screen-play was written.

 The plot is also not very subtle in its foreshadowing of the twist at the climax of the film.  A small town in Louisiana is being plagued by phenomenon which appear Biblical in nature; water turns to blood, a swarm of locusts, boils, etc.  The entire town blames a little girl who lives on the outskirts, her family already socially outcast.  Even her mother appears to wish her dead.  Of course the whole town is in on it, and the little girl is the victim.

 I guess the question I would ask is why it took God so long to intervene?

 The plot is the weakness of this film.  The acting is convincing, and the special effects are top-of-the-line.  When the foundation of the film is weak, there simply isn't much you can do for it.  The film isn't terribly frightening, and lacks any real depth.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Movie Review: House of the Dead

 Hollywood has run out of ideas.  This is the only thing scary about House of the Dead.

 I have enjoyed playing the video-game when and where I would find the stand-up arcade version, but was never such a fan of it as to own the home version.  The game is based on a fairly simple concept; something bad is making monsters out of what were otherwise perfectly good corpses, so if it moves, shoot it.  Maybe interject a plot here and there (THEY'VE GOT MY SISTER!) and you have something that will consume many quarters from your pocket and hours from your life.  

 This movie seems to follow on the coat-tails of Resident Evil, another movie based on a video-game.  Resident Evil rocked, plain and simple.  I am a fan of the entire Resident Evil film franchise, even NemisisDoom was also a very well-done movie based on the classic video-game. 

 House of the Dead is simply awful. 

 The plot begins with a group of tweens who are headed to the "rave of the century" on some island in the Pacific.  They miss their ferry and catch a ride with a local, grizzled fisherman who takes them to the island for the tidy sum of $1000.  The grizzled fisherman warns them that the island has a foreboding reputation (DOOM!), which the kids blithely ignore.

 Arriving on the island, thy find what appears to be the remnants of the rave, a few tents and a stage, completely deserted with the only evidence of a previous human presence being some garbage and blood.

 Now, here is where many horror films, including this one, go terribly wrong.  You and your friends arrive on the scene to find everything abandoned and blood everywhere.  In the real world, you would get back on the boat, go back to the mainland and party at a local club, and maybe call the cops.  In movie world, you and your friends become the Mystery Inc. gang short one Scoobey Doo, and investigate.

 Not freaking likely.

 The acting is simply awful, and the plot meanders from flash-backs as the tweens piece together what happened, nude-scenes (not worth it), zombie encounters, and the introduction/demise of a number of auxiliary characters that should have been the focus of the film who actually have some clue as to what might be happening (who, instead of getting the civilians off the island continue on with whatever their mission may be).  Worse, the major fire-fight between the survivors and the hoards of on-coming deadies is inter-spliced with cut-scenes from the video-game.  If you were actually into the film, the cut-scenes effectively disengage you.  

 As if you needed another reminder that you are watching one of the lamest films ever made.

 Stay away from House of the Dead.  Now that I think about it, there is something scarier than Hollywood running out of ideas and producing this lump of dross, they made a sequel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Movie Review: Carrie

 Stephen King's story, Carrie, is a horror story that works on a number of very human levels beyond the dangers of a psychokinetic teen.  The story explores the depths of cruelty that teen-girls are capable of inflicting, especially on one of their own.  It touches upon the risks inherent in a fundamental belief system, especially when said beliefs do not align well with the mainstream and when they are used by someone to control others.  Small-town mentality, teenage angst, anti-authoritarianism, latent homosexuality... Carrie touches on it all. 

 But, mainly, it is about a confused on socially tormented girl with psychokinetic powers.

 Carrie was made into a movie in 1975 featuring Sissy Spacek and John Travolta (before Grease).  That version of the story was powerful both in its handling of the material and its imagery; the film opens with Carrie being pelted by tampons in the girls shower while her classmates cheer "plug it up" in response to Carrie having her first menstruation.  I was very impressed with the 1975 film.

 The 2002 re-make, made for television, lacks the impact of the 1975 film.  Obviously, the 2002 version can not take the same risks as the original; it is made for TV at the height of the move from R to PG-13 ratings in the industry.  The special effects are fair, the acting is better-than-expected, and visually the film is shot well.  I think it is the handling of the story that is an issue for me.  Being made for television, it seems a little choppy (due to the insertion of commercial breaks).  The pacing, though, is also evident in the writing.  Carrie seems to "blossom" a little too quickly for a girl that has nearly zero experience in the world of teen-romance and politics.  Her naivete, no matter how empowered she may have felt, was still evident throughout the original story and film. 

 If you want to experience Carrie, I recommend the original story, with the 1975 film as a close second.  The 2002 version isn't really worth viewing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Movie Review: Asylum Erotica

 I know that people will be shocked by the following statement; I was interested in this film because it stars Klaus Kinski, a German actor famous in Europe for his performances in a number of films but almost unknown by those of us in the US (which is typical).  I was not initially attracted by the title, Asylum Erotica, or the premise; a killer is stalking female patients in an institution for the mentally and emotionally disturbed. 

 I mean, sure, sounds right up my alley, but Kinski is why I watched.

  I first saw Kinski in a Alien rip-off, Creature.  That film I also watched because I had heard of Kinski's tremendous talent.  I was very disappointed, both in Kinski's performance and in the film in general.  Asylum Erotica is also disappointing on both counts.  Perhaps horror is simply not Kinski's genre.  I will reserve my final judgement on that point until after I see Nosferatu the Vampyre. 

 Director Fernando di Leo, an Italian director and script-writer known for his "poliziotteschi" crime films and was an influence on Quentin Tarantino (one of my favorite directors), admitted in one interview that he did no research about mental institutions or disorders for this film, and it shows.  The film takes place in what must be one of the most uniquely specialized mental institutions in the world; focusing strictly on young, attractive, wealthy women who have disorders of a sexual nature.  The institute is situated in picturesque and lavishly furnished European Castle, complete with suits of armor. 

 The film has almost no blood, gore, or even remotely frightening scenes.  Instead, the film is mostly a series of soft-care sex-scenes; a woman masturbates in bed, another dances nude before having sex with a female nurse (homosexuality here is being treated as a disorder), a third is a nymphomaniac who has sex with a gardener, and so on.  The women are being stalked in their rooms and on the grounds by a masked murderer clad entirely in black (and wearing a cape!).  The doctors and staff and distraught and confused by this turn of events, but do little to secure the grounds or protect their charges.  Having orderlies about might make chance sexual encounters less likely.

 The ending is tact-on to the film, one of the women's jealous lovers himself has gone manic.  He is quickly dispatched after being discovered in the last few minutes of the film.  Scooby-Doo cartoons feature a better build-up to the reveal at the end.  

 Asylum Erotica isn't a very good horror film. It not even entertaining as soft-core porn.  Mostly, it is 86 minutes of your life that, if you watch the film, you will never, ever, get back. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Movie Review: Countess Dracula's Orgy of Blood

  If it doesn't matter to you that a movie has no script, bad-acting, no real direction, and is otherwise crap as long as large-breasted vampire-women get topless and make-out, then you will love this film.

The story opens in the lat 1900's in Southern California, which seems to have a vampire problem.  Dumas's (Dumb-ass's) sister Roxanne is the thrall of two vampire siblings; Diana and Lord Ruthven, who are fighting for Roxanne's affections.  Dumas and a local priest Padre Jacinto discover the vampire's lair, to late to save Roxanne from becoming a vampire herself.  They manage to stake Diana and stick a silver dagger into Ruthven while he is in his coffin.  Jacinto vows to fight vampires for the rest of his life.

The majority of the film is like this.
 In modern times, Dracula himself is a hip-cat living in LA and just digging being an undead blood-sucker in the 20th century.  He discovers his old-pal Ruthven is buried nearby, and sends one of his daughters out to revive him and deliver to him the Ruthvenian, a kind of vampire bible.  Ruthven is revived and is starving, but when he goes to a local strip-club to feed on one of the girls, Lilith, he discovers he has been cursed and cannot feed.  He consults the Ruthvenian, he discovers that because his bloodstream has been poisoned by the consecrated silver-dagger, he can only feed on blood filtered through another vampire.  So, Ruthven reluctantly revives his sister.

Lesbian vampires... doing it wrong.

 Diana goes to the same strip-club and is attracted to the same girl, successfully feeding on her and turning her into a vampire as well.  Ruthven and Diana once again seek out Roxanne, and when Diana finds her she brings her back to her brother to taunt him.  In retaliation, Ruthven stakes Diana once more, and then revives Roxanne, only to find out that she loves Diana.  Just as Ruthven is about to stab Roxanne with the silver dagger, the spirit of Jacinto shows up and forces Ruthven to stab himself. 

For some reason, I can't look away.
 Dracula, realizing that his old-pals are stirring-up too much trouble, send his daughter to tell them to get their act together.  Instead, she finds Lilith and Roxanne, and invites them back to Dracula's pad, to party for all eternity.

 You will find much better vampire-porn with a simple Google search.