Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie Review: The Dentist

 Brian Yuzna, the director, never fails to make an... interesting film.  While he is infamous for his work as the director of Re-Animator, The Dentist is a far more subtle, but equally ghoulish outing.

 Dr. Feinstone is a perfectionist.  He has a lovely house, a lovely wife, and a dentist practice that is setting the standards for patient care an experience.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world falls far short of his own high standards.  He sees decay and filth everywhere.  He is so obsessed that he must take a prescription in order to manage is tension and anxiety.   

 When he discovers that his wife is banging the pool-guy, he is pushed over the edge.  The body-count rises as he hallucinates during oral surgery, plots to mutilate his spouse and her lover, and deal with anyone who inadvertently discovers his activities or threatens his practice.  
He just really wants you to floss.

 The Dentist has some gory moments, but it relies more on our own psychological issues with going to the dentist to make us cringe.  The hardest scene for me to stomach was not the forcible extraction, but the needle going into the gum for to deliver some anesthetic for a minor procedure.  Of course, everything is over-the-top and stereo-typed.  The pool-guy is a scuzzy but buff stud, the detective is dogged and hard-nosed, the IRS agent is a weaselly worm, the wife is a real bitch.  Dr Feinstone is almost sympathetic, a victim of the decay that surrounds him.  
Imagining a hot client is your slutty wife is going to get you sued.

 The Dentist, for me, falls short of being a good film.  Perhaps I was expecting the doctor to be a bit more sadistic, that the effects were too subtle and the gore too minimized.  Despite having an R rating, it is like the film was going for a PG-13, and but for a few bare breasts was edged over to an R. The Dentist has some cringe-worthy moments, but was mostly a yawner.

Tooth decay can be a real bitch.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Movie Review: ThanksKilling

 Bad movie maker! Bad!  No turkey for you!

 A foul-mouthed, demonic, turkey hand-puppet wastes 70 minutes of your life killing 4 of 5 college-aged "actors" (and I use that word in the loosest sense) and their support cast in the most implausible and cheaply depicted manner possible.  The ONLY boobs at the beginning of the film are old and saggy, the way you will feel after watching this movie.

 In the one sex-scene, tell me the male actor is not fucking her clearly with her skirt down.  Talk about chaffing.

You're doing it wrong.

Movie Review: Vamp

 Vamp is not a good film, but it has so many high-points that it is easy to understand why it is a cult classic.  What is does is successfully merge horror and comedy, an accomplishment rarely achieved.

 Released in 1986, this has to be one of the earliest films to setup vampires as owning and working in a strip-club.  Horror fans obsession with the vampire symbol as cool and chic had not quite caught-on yet.  Some of the stereotypes are in place; college kids run afoul of monsters, the hero is a clean-cut "athlete" who's wise-cracking cool friend gets him in trouble, and the female love-interest is a blonde airhead.  Vamp is carried not by its premise.  Instead, it is carried by numerous intelligent one-liner's, zingers, and hints of a deeper back-story.

 The film starts by mocking the typical premise. Two best friends, Keith and AJ, are pledging to the same frat, and call the frat on their cheesy initiation ritual.  They propose that if they are allowed to join the frat, they will bring a stripper to the frat's initiation party.  They seek out a wealthy nerd, Duncan, for transportation to the city and select from a newspaper a strip-club that opens ambiguously "after dark".  

Wire cones: making breasts where none exist.
 The club is in the seedier part of town.  The businesses, like a diner they stop at, close at sundown.  After running into some street-toughs, the three college boys find the club.  AJ, the cool half the the duo, goes back stage to negotiate with the hauntingly statuesque stripper, Katrina.  Katrina is the head vampire, and after toying with AJ feeds on him.

 Keith, the clean-cut one, notices that AJ has been gone for sometime.  With the aid of a waitress, Amaretto, who just started working at the club and is a childhood friend that Keith does not remember, Keith discovers that his friend is missing and begins to suspect something is amiss.  Of course, now the vampires are aware that AJ was not alone and are determined to kill Keith, Duncan, and Amaretto.

Mascara, contacts, and fangs.  GRR! I'm a vampire!
 In and of itself, the plot is not too deep.  It is all the interesting tidbits and dialogue that drive the film and set it apart.  Hints are dropped throughout the film that Katrina is an ancient vampire, hailing from Egypt during the time of Pharaohs.  Her assistants are also obviously from a different era; the bouncer's name is Vlad and seems to have a romantic history with Katrina, and Vic the maitre-d' was once the club owner in the 40s or 50s.  AJ is the funny-man of the duo, with memorable lines throughout the movie (AJ is telling Keith what will kill a vampire, remarking that he has a list somewhere).  AJ, Keith, and even Duncan are likeable characters, instead of the douche-bags that are common to these kinds of films.  The film is full of 80s "cool", which seems laughable by modern standards.
Well, maybe not as much as her.

 The special effects are decent.  The vampires range from simple zombie make-up to full on demons.  The blood-and-gore is not too over-the top, with the most gruesome scene probably being when a throat is violently ripped out.  The sets are not bad as well, save that the sewer-system the characters use throughout the film appears to be lit by purple and green club-lights.  Even the nudity is minimal and not overly done.  Most of the strippers strip down to a bikini or pasties.  Despite being a 'B' horror film, the focus is on the story and not on the gore or TNA.

Just wants a classy joint.
 Grace Jones was an odd choice as Katrina for this film.  Ms. Jones had made her mark as an singer and performer in the New York Club scene and a model.  She hit her acting peak in A View to a Kill a year before in my opinion.  Her androgynous appearance didn't make sense for the seductress, but in that time Ms. Jones was known for her flamboyance, strength, and temper.  Those qualities probably enhanced the primal and animalistic aspects of the character.

 Vamp is an example of campy horror that is well done.  It is smarter than most, subtle in just the right way, and given to making fun of itself.  More for entertainment that frights, Vamp is worth the watch.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Movie Review: Grave Encounters

 I still have goose-bumps from this film.  Grave Encounters is simply awesome.  It is easily one of the BEST horror films I have seen.

 A reality-TV crew sets up to stay the night in an abandoned asylum rumored to be haunted.  The place has a history of some problems in its past, but nothing to extraordinary.  The film features the raw footage the crew shot, only edited for time.  You get to see the set-up, how jaded they are about the reality of "ghosts", and even that they are willing to pay people to lie to get a good bit of film.  The shows host, Lance, clearly wants to believe in ghosts.  He believes he saw something as a kid, and has been looking ever since, but now 6 episodes into the show and he is getting frustrated and beginning to think it is all BS.

 Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, however, has something to show Lance and his crew.

That's Lance on the Left.  He's a douche-bag.
 In many ways, this film is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project.  It is shot from a first-person view-point and is established as found footage depicting actual events.  That is probably where the comparisons end.  I spent nearly an hour and a half wincing, waiting for the visual-sting that I expected around every corner.  The film quickly sets you on edge and then leaves you there until the credits.

 The things that really sets this film apart is the way it was shot.  Despite the wide-screen format, your field of vision is limited to the small disc of a flashlight, often in UV-green, almost the entire film.  Much of the action happens off-camera, either between shots or while the cameras are pointed away or black.  You can hear people screaming and running, but that's it.
Pro-Tip: This would be easier to read on her front.

 The creepy intensity of the film builds.  You see things moving on their own, signs of the presence of something else, well before the characters do.  You fully expect something to happen, but masterfully, the film does not fulfill that expectation in the way you expect.  The "stings" one might assume are throughout this film almost not used, with each sighting being introduced by something.  There is the flash of someone running across a hall, the sound of laughter or something approaching, sometimes even a bit of blood...

Eternity being this guy.  I'd be pissed, too.
 Because of all of this, the need for special effects is minimal.  You get to see the ghosts, eventually, but even they are freaky for only a moment, just enough to leave a terrifying after-image in your mind.  The acting was superb, and the story well-paced.  Your are in Grave Encounters for 92 minutes, and it does not let you go.

 The only downside for me is that the film is missing a book-end.  The film opens with the producer of the television show explaining that you are about to see the raw footage found from the Grave Encounters crew, and how it is real.  I would have liked a closing statement, something explaining how the film was found, how the characters are still missing, maybe even a fake FBI info shot offering a reward leading to information about the where-bouts of the missing characters.

 There's a sequel.  I just hope it can live up to this film.  See Grave Encounters, a spook-house ride unlike any which has been filmed in a long time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Movie Review: Chain Reaction/House of Blood

 Yep, here we go.  One of those films that had to be re-marketed and released under a different title, probably because the first attempt failed miserably.  

 Pro tip: Changing the title will not help if you are re-naming a bad film.

 Dr Doug Madsen is involved in a freak accident with a prison transport bus and is taken hostage by four bad dudes, one who has been shot in the arm.  The wander around the woods in northern Washington state and discover a large cabin housing an odd, apparently uber-religious family.  The baddies proceed to terrorize this family who implores them to leave, only to discover they should have listened when almost the entire clan turns into some kind of vampire/zombie hybrid.  With the help of the one family member who does not turn into a monster (who also happens to be his mother), Madsen escapes only to be captured by the cops and held as a prisoner for the apparent deaths of the escaped inmates and 5 other unknown victims (unmatched blood on his clothes from the family in the woods).  

Tastes like chicken.
 While being transported by prison bus to jail, another freak accident on the same stretch of lonely road puts Madsen back with a pack of bad dudes, who head back to the house again.  The monsters attack again and dispatch the baddies, and this time Madsen and his mother manage to escape.  When they reach the road, Madsen and his mother accidentally cause a driver to overturn his vehicle as he swerves to miss the pair, and then Madsen is hit by a prison bus in yet another freak accident on that same stretch of lonely road.  Mom gets shot in the head, but vamps out as the film ends.

Wants to be Hannibal Lector.  Too bad he's not.
 There is an interesting premise here.  A "family" of penitent vampires is living out in the woods trying to gain control of their hunger.  One of the clan has not only been successful, she has even managed to mate with a human being and have a human child.  In come four dangerous criminal escapees and momma's little boy, now himself an old man.  What happens when this family deals with these inmates would make for a great horror story.

Those are bed-sheets.
 But, nah, let's instead have you believe that the state penal system continues to loose prison buses on the same stretch of lonely road on what appears to be a regular basis.  Hell, if not that, then that after loosing 2 buses on that route they would send a third.  Oh, and that a citizen with no criminal background plus the education and social status of a doctor tells the police that he was the hostage of 4 murderous escapees who managed himself to get away as they and the family the holed-up with slaughtered one another and the cops hold him accountable for the deaths! 

 Not very likely.

This is as gory as it gets.
 In an effort to, I don't know, make the film more "artsy", it is edited in a disjointed fashion, with bits and pieces of the future and the past being cut into the present story.  Sometimes, this works, especially when it is inherent to the tale.  It is completely unnecessary here.

 Not very likely.

 The acting wasn't bad.  You could tell that everyone on camera believed in the project and took their roles seriously.  Special effects were all old-school, lots of blood splatters and latex-flesh (nothing spectacular but not bad). The cinematography was rough, as was the production quality.  The story, though, is where this film was really lacking.