Frankenstein’s Army (2013) “Monsters Galore!”

Look at all the monsters!  They know what we came to see.

Look at all the monsters! They know what we came to see.

I had been wanting to see this one for a while now, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it show up on Netflix streaming earlier this week.  Other than a couple of awesome looking images, and a trailer I had seen months ago, I didn’t know anything about this movie.  I certainly didn’t know it was one of those confangled “found footage” films that seem to be all the rage these days.  Frankly, if I had known, I may not have given this flick a go.

Boy am I glad I did give this movie a shot!  I found it to be extremely refreshing, both in terms of its creative creatures and production design, and its good use of the new-but-already-tired found footage format.

In a nutshell Frankenstein’s Army follows a small squad of Russian Soldiers in WWII as they head into the countryside searching for another Russian patrol which need reinforced.  One member of the squad is a college educated filmmaker, tasked with recording the exploits of the team for posterity.  The squad makes its way to a desolate church, near an equally desolate town.  There they discover strange equipment and experiments, and ultimately the titular Frankenstein’s Army!!

Frankensteins Army Zombot 4Lets talk about the found footage aspect first.  Normally I dislike this format quite a bit, but in this film it really works.  First we are given an explanation as to why, in universe, someone is recording everything we are seeing.  Normally, as soon as some shit goes down and people start dying, you wonder why anyone would continue recording things on a camera.  In this movie their original explanation is updated and reinforced with a mostly believable explanation.  Second, this movie looks like it was shot on actually film, rather than digitally with some kind of old-school grain filter applied.  Often the film will be blurry, or have faults or color distortions that help sell the illusion.  Lastly, the camera shaking is kept to a minimum.  During some running scenes the camera flings about, but these are not too frequent.

That being said, lets get to the heart of the matter:  The monsters!  Yeah, this is pretty much what did it for me.  I had seen some images, and thought the monsters looked pretty sweet, but I only expected maybe 2-3 different varieties of undead Nazi zombie robots.  That would have been swell.  Instead we’re given the full treatment of dozens of different Nazi Zombots!  All of which were practical special effects, no CG, who all had extremely unique and creative designs.  These creatures were an absolute delight, and frankly they alone are worth the price of admission.  Words can’t do this justice, take a look:

Frankensteins Army Zombot 3 Frankensteins Army Zombot 1 Frankensteins Army Zombot 2

Yup, and there are plenty more where that came from.  I can’t tell you how nice it was to see these things in the flesh, not made in a computer.  Additionally, the variety among them was wonderful.  Just when you thought you’d seen the coolest and strangest looking one, something else shows up that is even crazier and more awesome!

I have to say watching this movie was an absolute delight from start to finish.  I’m so glad I had a chance to see this movie, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again to pick out all the cool stuff that was going on in the background.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what writer/director Richard Raaphorst gets up to next!

 

Creature (2011) Review

Box Art Creature 2011I don’t know what possessed me to watch the movie Creature from 2011.  It was on Netflix streaming, I was in the mood for some direct to DVD monster fare, and Bob’s your Uncle.  I honestly had no other criteria other than that.  Heck I thought this was one of those SyFy movies of the week.  The only blurb I read about it before watching it was like one line that read “…Alligator monster tears up vacationing young people…”

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I went into this thing completely blind, expecting to see nothing more than idiot teenagers killed by a poorly CGI’d alligator thing.  Creature wasn’t that movie.

It’s nice when a movie can surprise you.

Naked Back Creature 2011

This festering swamp looks like a great place for a dip!

We open on some chick stripping completely nude and skinny dipping in a swamp, then getting her legs ripped off by an unseen underwater assailant.  Nice!  Roll Title.

Next we meet up with the aforementioned young people, heading out for camping trip in the swamps of Louisiana.  Oliver and his sister Karen, Randy and his girlfriend Beth, and Niles and his girlfriend Emily.  We get a little character development:  Niles and Randy are in some branch of the military, Beth seems like the typical Final-Girl while Karen is a party chick, Oliver is the jokester/jerk guy and you immediately want him to die a horrible, miserable death.

The group comments on how dilapidated and run down everything looks before stopping at a creepy old gas station for a pit-stop.  The girls go to use the facilities while the boys head inside.  Creepy gas station is staffed by creepy gas station attendants who are walking redneck cliches.  One guy has a bunch of fingers missing, one guy has rotting yellow teeth, one guy is even Sid Haig!  Excellent!  The guys find a little shrine to the local legend: a giant killer alligator man.  The rednecks give them info on where to find the old cabin from the legend and the boys decide to go, dragging their girlfriends along.

Group Shot Creature 2011

Pictured: cannon fodder.

They get to the creepy abandoned cabin and decide to set up camp for the night, couples begin to pair off for sexy times, we see POV shots from the killer in the woods, blah blah blah, you know where this is going right?  Pretty bog standard stuff.

I thought so too, but this is where the movie decided to start throwing me curve-balls.

So far this movie was pretty well acted and had decent dialogue, had good lighting and camerawork, and even though we were 30-40 minutes with almost no kills it kept my interest.  It was like the opening of every Friday the 13th or Wrong Turn or Hatchet.  If it had kept on that track, if it was just these campers running from an alligator monster and being killed one-by-one that honestly would have been fine.

Alligator Man Creature 2011

Kinda looks like the goombas from Super Mario Bros the movie!

!@#$%^&*Here thar be spoilers*&^%$#@!

So Randy heads back to the car to get more beer, and Niles and Emily wander off for sexy times and Oliver goes to bed.  Karen and Beth get drunk on wine, and Karen makes moves on Beth.  Word up!  One of the failings of this film, and all the people involved with it is that this scene does not go on long enough.  Anyway Randy comes back and ruins everything, and Karen wanders off.

Meanwhile Niles and Emily start getting hot and heavy and unbeknownst to them Oliver is hiding in the bushes taking pictures of them.  Karen, his sister, shows up and starts giving him a … helping hand.  Then Sid Haig shows up, punches Karen out, and starts telling Oliver about how he has to sacrifice things in lean times and whatnot.  Turns out Oliver and Karen are his kids.

He has the other rednecks from the store, and a whole bunch of other folks stationed around to make sure the campers don’t leave the area.  Karen is taken back to a cabin and tied up and Sid Haig lobs off her foot with a machete!  He goes on about sacrificing for their family and all this mumbo-jumbo about blood ties and stuff.  Oliver tells Niles and Emily that Randy went nuts and killed Karen.  The alligator man shows up and attacks Beth.  Crazy rednecks with guns roam the woods.  People are disemboweled, shot, bludgeoned, machete’d.

Basically this just turned into a different movie, and that’s awesome.

Tied up Creature 2011

Ugh this dirty rag tastes like a dirty rag!

!@#$%^&*Here thar were spoilers*&^%$#@!

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the greatest flick I’ve ever seen; far from it.  I feel kinda cheated when it comes to the various kills, as quick edits cover up the lack of good special effects.  Which is odd, considering the otherwise great production values.  Also the staging of some scenes makes it hard to know where characters are in relation to one another.  I guess what I’m trying to illustrate here is how even with it’s flaws, I liked this movie because it tried to be its own thing while still staying firmly with that slasher/creature feature genre it so perfectly apes in the beginning of the movie.  I wish more movies would take risks like that.

Plot twists aside, there are a number of other reasons I liked this movie.  Firstly it looked great.  I don’t know if they shot on film or digital or what, but unlike other direct to video movies of this ilk the picture was clear, well lit, and appealing.  There are a lot of night shots, but I could clearly tell what was happening and didn’t have to strain my eyes to try to see into a black picture.

Also I didn’t see any CG.  That alone puts this movie a notch above in my book.  The alligator creature guy was a practical effect, and a pretty cool one at that.  Basically a big rubber suit, it was kept in shadow a lot, but not so much that I didn’t feel cheated.  When you did see the monster in full light it was short and sweet and a welcomed treat.  There are messy entrails and bodies strewn about as well, but the camera thankfully doesn’t linger on them allowing you to see how fake they are.  Very smart use of these special effects.

Mehcad Brooks Serinda Swan Creature 2011

Woodstock ’94 got a little out of hand, didn’t it?

The acting was appealing for this type of movie.  I don’t really feel like there was a weak link anywhere here, everyone did a great job.  Sid Haig was a treat as usual.  He always seems like he’s having the time of his life when he’s in a movie like this.  I really didn’t expect to see him here but he was a wonderful, welcome addition.  Mehcad Brooks (T.K. from USA’s Necessary Roughness) played Niles.  Again, I was shocked to see him here, but he did a great job.  He was able to pull off playing a person with military training thrust into impossible circumstances.  Kudos to you sir!  I’d watch him in more cheapie horror flicks.

*Side note*  All the ladies in this movie were very attractive, and there is a decent bit of nudity.  Much appreciated movie, much appreciated.

So we’ve got a pretty cool plot, solid acting, fun special effects and it looked great.  What’s not to like?  Well like I said before the various kills were not really very creative and quick editing robs us of the deadly money shots.  If you are looking to watch people die in gruesome and inventive ways you might be better served elsewhere.  Also the ending was a little weak for the same reason.  I wanted a really climactic showdown where our heroes use their strength and ingenuity to prevail … and I guess that does happen but we don’t really get to see it.

Alligator Man Creature 2011

Who wants to paaaaarrrrrtttttyyyyyy!!!

You know, thinking about this, it almost feels like the producers used their money to hire good actors, get great locations, make a cool alligator man costume, hired great writers and bought cameras and lights and people that know how to use them … then didn’t have enough money to show us the good stuff.  That’s quite a conundrum.  If they spent the money on gory kills and stunt people for fight scenes then the rest of the movie would have suffered and it might not have been as good.  Weird.

Anyway, I’d say that if you want a slasher that isn’t quite a slasher, check this one out.  It’s not the best, but its only 90 minutes and it has Sid Haig being crazy and guy in a rubber alligator man costume running around killing people in it!

~Colin

Escalofrio a.k.a. Satan’s Blood (1977) Review

EscalofrioThere are so many movies about The Devil and Satanism out there.  I mean A LOT!  Frankly I think it’s a great sub-genre.  Satan movies seem to have lots of the stuff I like in them.  Gore, nudity, weird rituals, occult symbols and rites …. I could pretty much watch this kind of stuff all day (and I have, ask my wife)!

Something I’m not too familiar with, however, are Spanish horror flicks.  I’ve seen plenty of genre pictures from all over the world, but the horror output of Spain has somehow often eluded me.  For instance, I only became aware of Paul Naschy’s existence maybe two years ago, and since then have unfortunately only seen a handful of his films, which is a shame, as the ones I’ve watched have been outstanding, and I want to see more.  I have seen “Pieces,” which was terrific, and actually shares a Producer with Escalofrio, but other than that and the few Naschy films, that is it for me and Spanish Horror.

That being said, I’m glad to have seen Escalofrio.  Called “Satan’s Blood” in the US, then later released under the title “Don’t Panic” for some reason, this 1977 Satanic murder shocker is a terrific little gem.

You guys really know how to party!!

You guys really know how to party!!

This is a movie whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The plot is nonsensical, the special effects aren’t all that great, and by the end you are left with plenty of unanswered questions.  However you barely notice these things while watching the film; you become so engrossed in the goings-on that they hardly matter.  The acting is solid.  The cinematography is well-done.  Even the cheesy 70’s electric organ music somehow adds to the goodness.

Story wise, we are operating on a more dreamlike and surreal narrative, as opposed to one of logic and rationality.  Like the two main characters, it is almost as if we are trapped in a sensual nightmare.

The plot is pretty simple but there is lots of room for interpretation and discussion :

We open with a black mass, featuring robed cultists, pentagrams, skulls, black candles … the whole shebang.  Our lead cultist is an old dude who is mostly bald and with a killer beard.  He and his pals drag in some chick, cut off her clothes, and then the crusty old cult leader goes to town with the raping.  Then he stabs her.  Yep, typical Tuesday night for any self-respecting Satan worshiping organization.  Then we go into our opening credits, and this little scene is never referenced again.

Cult Leader

The face of modern Satanism.

Next we cut to our main characters.  Ana (who is apparently four months pregnant but is skinnier than most non-pregnant woman) and her husband Andy are out having a nice day when they meet Berta and Bruno.  Bruno says he knows Andy from college, but Andy doesn’t remember him, and the timeline of when they would have attended college is all wrong.  But hey, that’s no reason not to drop everything and head out to Bruno and Berta’s creepy secluded mansion.

Once at the mansion, things get stranger and stranger, and any sane, rational person would have left.  Good thing Ana and Andy are not sane, rational people, because then the movie would have been over.

Berta is seen in the kitchen devouring a blob of raw, unidentifiable meat using the hands and teeth.  There are books on satanism everywhere, and are filled with delightful illustrations.  Berta and Bruno have a dedicated Quiji-board table, which has skyrocketed to the top of my Christmas list.  A giant pentagram is engraved on the floor.  Ana and Andy’s dog disappears.  Berta is increasingly rude to the couple, and Bruno appears to be insane.  Still, after all this, Ana and Andy decide to just stay and keep hanging out.

This isn't just a board, but a table, and I want it so bad!

This isn’t just a board, but a table, and I want it so bad!

A storm pops up (of course) and Ana and Andy decide to spend the night.  Later that night, Ana decides to wander about the house, and is attacked and almost raped by a crazy homeless guy that is now randomly in the house.  She runs to Andy, who is very casual about the whole affair, and decides that rather then call the cops, or wake up Bruno and Berta or anything like that, he’ll “take a look.”  So Ana and Andy then jointly wander about the house, looking for a homeless rapist.  Instead, they find Bruno and Berta, nude, worshiping the devil in the living room.  Rather than getting the hell out of there (finally!) they decide to … have an orgy.  Good choice!

Orgy Time!!!

Orgy Time!!!

The rest of the movie is even a bit weirder, and Ana and Andy finally decide to get the freaking hell out of the house.  However, without spoiling anything, a satanic surprise awaits them back home.

There is a lot to like here, but I will say that you have to be okay with the tropes of most 70’s Euro-Horror.  By that I mean that the plot, and the actions of the characters relies heavily on dreamlike or surreal logic rather than reason and rationality.  Characters make bizarre choices that don’t make much sense and there are lots of strange occurrences that are never explained.  This isn’t a bad thing though; the viewer just has to roll with it and not expect everything to make sense.

Even if you do want your movie to be more straightforward there is a lot to love.  There is lots of nudity and sex (this being one of the first movies to receive Spain’s special “S” ranking for sex), and a bit of gore, though admittedly the stabbings and special effects aren’t that good.  The cinematography is handled well and you can tell what is happening in every scene.  So often a film will be do dark or unfocused and you won’t be able to tell whats going on.

Who wants leftovers?

Who wants leftovers?

More than anything, this film has atmosphere.

It is a hard attribute to quantify, but when a film has it, you know it.  The atmosphere of this film reminds me of a dark, fantastic dream.  Almost like a sexy nightmare, if that makes any sense.  We are taken from our mundane existence and put into a world that seems beyond our control, filled with mysterious and dangerous forces.

I would highly recommend this flick to a number of groups:  Satanism movie fans, 70’s horror fans, Spanish or Euro horror fans, nudity fans, and general weirdness loving fans.  If you are a member of any of those groups, or are interested in learning a little more about about that kind of stuff, then check this out.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to the King!

Elvis Aaron Presley, born January 8, 1935.  Happy Birthday!!!

In addition to being the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis was an actor, appearing in about 30 or so films.  Probably not the objective “best” of his movies, but one of my favorites, is 1964’s “Kissin’ Cousins.”

You'd think that they'd get all of the "S's" or none of the "S's" backwards.

You’d think that they’d get all of the “S’s” or none of the “S’s” backwards.

So Air Force Elvis and his Air Force pals are tasked with buying some land in the Great Smokey Mountains so Uncle Sam can build a missile site on it.  Unfortunately, the Hill Folk who live there don’t want to sell.  Fortunately, this Hill Folk is kin to Air Force Elvis, and if anyone can talk these rascally hillbillies into selling of their land, its him.  We meet a kooky assortment of supporting characters, listen to a bunch of delightful tunes, and enjoy some wacky hijinks.

Lobby CardAir Force Elvis finds himself torn between two love interests played by beautiful babes Pamela Austin (from those awesome Dodge Rebellion commercials) and Yvonne Craig (Batgirl!).  Elvis also has a dual role in this flick, playing a hillbilly cousin of Air Force Elvis that falls in love with a cute Air Force secretary played by Cynthia Pepper.

Elvis and Babes

Hefting babes is easy if you fill them with helium first.

Also there is an all-girl gang of man-hungry chicks in bikinis roaming the mountainside, assaulting any even remotely good-looking guy they happen to come across.  Because sexual assault is funny when it’s chicks doing it to guys.

Bikini Chicks!This movie really reminds me of a lot of the mid 60’s AIP output like Dr. Goldfoot or the Frankie and Annette Beach Movies.  The plot is light and silly, the songs are fun, the chicks are good looking, and everything is wrapped up with a great big happy ending.  If your looking to turn off your brain and relax, this would be a good bet.

Once again, Happy Birthday Elvis!

Shine on you crazy diamond!

Shine on you crazy diamond!

 

Snow

Home Sweet Home

Good evening my friends.

While Winter Storm Hercules rages outside, dumping inch upon inch of snow on my driveway, I’m inside and thinking about all the awesome snow themed horror stuff out there.

Gotta start with the Shining.  Yep.  Book, movie, miniseries, and the new, excellent sequel novel “Doctor Sleep.”  It seems like the Stanley Kubrick film version is either a love it or hate it affair; personally I love it.  It’s weird, and slow, and there are no easy answers.  Over the years I really grew to love this movie, and it is the perfect watch for a chilly evening like this one.

Next lets talk about The Thing.  You’ve got John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 tale “Who Goes There?,” the 1951 film “The Thing from Another World,” John Carpenters inimitable “The Thing” and it’s recent prequel, cleverly titled “The Thing.”  That isn’t to mention a bunch of comic books, fan stories, and a 2004 video game.  Set in either the north or south pole (depending on the adaptation), this chiller basically follows a group of researchers trapped with an alien creature that may be able to impersonate any other crew member.  If you want some paranoia with your snow, check out Carpenter’s beyond excellent 1982 film.

“That’s all well and good,” you might say, “but everyone has seen the Shining and The Thing!”  Fear not, good reader, I have some wintery gems yet to uncover.

Devil Times Five.  Oh yeah.  You know how bad the Devil is?  Imagine that, but five times as bad.  That’s pretty bad.  In this flick a group of school children are stranded in the snowy wilderness and come across a group of adults shacked up for a long weekend in a large house.  Mayhem ensues.  Also Boss Hogg is in this movie, and that is pretty sweet if you ask me.  Oh, and someone is turned into a human snowman.  And bear-traps are employed liberally on a human body.  This movie is pretty bleak though, the ending kind of infuriated me.  But hey, watching this is better than shoveling snow right?

Ooohhhh them Duke boys!

Pictured: Better than shoveling snow.

Do you feel like some Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing?  Would you like a little Telly Savalas thrown in there too?  Also, would you rather it be produced by a Spanish company and not Hammer for some inexplicable reason?  Well then my friend, Horror Express is your ticket.  Mustachioed scientist Christopher Lee digs up some weird frozen alien in Manchuria and decides to transport it home to England via the Tran-Siberian Express.  Said monster unfreezes, murders passengers, drinks their memories and leaves them with smooth, unwrinkled brains (!!!!).  It’s up to Lee, Cushing, and Telly Freaking Savalas to stop it.

Who loves ya, baby?

Who loves ya, baby?

Do you like Yetis?  Who doesn’t?  It’s like Sasquatch and a Polar Bear had a love child, and now that creature is terrorizing a ski resort in 1977!  Yes, Snowbeast is next.  This made for TV horror flick features …. get this …. a Yeti terrorizing a ski resort in 1977.  It’s up to our heroes to bring this fierce creature to justice before any more winter sports enthusiasts are torn limb-from-limb.  Watch for the scene where the Yeti rolls a bunch of logs onto a camper!

Ahhhh my face parts!!!

Ahhhh my face parts!!!

Here is a new one:  Donner Pass (2012).  I caught this on Netflix a bit ago and hey, you know what … it wasn’t too bad!  A group of high school kids go up to a remote cabin near Donner Pass.  People are murdered.  That sounds pretty formulaic I know, but it’s actually a pretty tight little thriller.  What kind of made it for me was the ending.  Not to give anything away, but I liked the bit when you find out who the killer is and their motivations.  Good atmosphere, decent story, decent acting.  Check it out.

White after Labor Day is a big faux-pas!

White after Labor Day is a big faux-pas!

I’m not sure if I’m the type cut out to enjoy “extreme” activities.  I think it’s really great that people have gone to the bottom of the ocean, or explored cave systems WAY to small for me to fit in, or surfed the biggest waves, or climbed K2.  That stuff is amazing, but not really for me.  So, without further ado … Killer Mountain.  This was made for the … sigh … SYFY channel, so you know its …. good?  watchable?  a movie?  Yeah that will work.  So a group of mountain climbers climb a mountain.  And there are monsters.  Yep.  Still, we have determined that this is “a movie” so why not check it out!

Emmanuelle Vaugier is in this movie and dammit, that's reason enough to post this picture!

Emmanuelle Vaugier is in this movie and dammit, that’s reason enough to post this picture!

Well, looks like that snow is starting to pile on pretty good about now, and I’ve got to lay down some salt.  There are soooooooooooo many more winter themed horror flicks out there it would be impossible to talk about them all.  Or would it?  One day I may try.  Anyway, curl up with one of these and you are sure to keep cool.

I'm sure Kubrick did like 90 takes of this shot.  I love that they went with this expression.

Stay frosty my friends

Doctor Who’s most awesome monsters

This month Doctor Who turns 50.

Wow, ’63 was an awesome year for pop culture!

I used to watch Doctor Who on PBS, usually on a Friday or Saturday evening.  The stories were weird, the budgets were low, the accents were British.  Yeah, it was awesome.  20 years ago you didn’t see much like it on TV.  I’m really glad that this show got out there and has a worldwide following.

One of my favorite aspects of Doctor Who is all the awesome creatures and monsters that populate this unique world of science fiction.  These are my 10 favorites:

10.  The Midnight Entity

This is from a 10th Doctor story called “Midnight” where the Doctor is stranded on a crashed spaceship with a number of other people.  While awaiting rescue a bizarre entity somehow enters the ship, takes over a passenger, begins mimicking speech and causing all sorts of chaos and paranoia.  I love this monster because it is so vague;  you never actually learn what it is, what it looks like, how it can survive the on the hyper-hostile surface of the alien planet.  By the end of the episode you learn nothing, and that makes it all the more creepy.  Usually the Doctor figures out what type of creature something is and neutralizes the threat, but not here.  The Doctor, the ultimate brainiac here who always has the answers, has nothing here.  I hope they never bring this creature back, and leave it vague, undefinable, and horrifying.

Not seen here:  The Midnight Entity.

Not seen here: The Midnight Entity.

9.  Omega

This mentally unstable Time Lord appeared in a couple of Doctor Who episodes, namely “The Three Doctors.”  I like the aesthetics of this guy.  The mask and robes looks great, and I think it would be an awesome Halloween costume.  I like tall-head masks for some reason; maybe they remind me of Galactus.  I don’t know.  Anyway this is the guy that made the Time Lords what they are.  His experiments allowed his people to manipulate time, though he was thought killed in the process.  As such his name is legend to the Gallifreyans.  In reality he is stuck in another universe and is now evil and insane!  Sweet.

Bet he's got an epic case of helmet-hair under there.

Bet he’s got an epic case of helmet-hair under there.

8. Sutekh

This badass ancient-Egyptian god-alien hails from a Fourth Doctor story called “Pyramids of Mars.”  Trapped in an earth pyramid, Sutekh mind controls the Doctor and causes all sorts of mischeif.  I like ancient-Egyptian stuff like pyramids and mummies, and this story is chock-full of all that good stuff, with the typical Doctor Who pseudoscience spin, of course.

Another villain, another epic helmet.

Another villain, another epic helmet.

7. Zygons

Octopus people.  Yep, that about sums it up.  What is not to love about octopus people?  I have to say, the costumes look really good for 1976.  Most of the Doctor Who monsters from this time period (and earlier (and later)) look kinda cheap.  Compared to some others, the Zygons look a million-bucks.  They come from a Fourth Doctor story called, appropriately, “Terror of the Zygons.”

What are the head-and-shoulders suctions cups for anyway?

What are the head-and-shoulders suctions cups for anyway?

6.The Silence

This is the most recent monster on the list, appearing for the first time during some 11th Doctor episodes.  What creeps me out is the odd combination of traditional “Gray” alien and the damned Slender Man.  The first time one of these guys appears on screen I just about lost it.  I know that aesthetic doesn’t appeal to or frighten a lot of people, but it gives me the heebie-jeebies big time.  I also really like the whole memory wiping angle.  Each time you encounter one of The Silence it wipes your memory of the encounter.  You may have had dozens of horrifying encounters with these guys already and you don’t know it!

Creepy!

Creepy!

5.Rutan

This thing is from a Fourth Doctor story called “Horror of Fang Rock” which is the first Doctor Who story I ever watched.  The Rutan is a glowing-green blob monster that eats people.  Aside from the nostalgia factor, what I really love about this creature is that it is a glowing-green blob monster that eats people.  Sometimes that is all you need.

Blobular!

Blobular!

4.Daleks

Here we go, the longest running foe of the Doctor, first appearing in the second ever Doctor Who story, simply called “The Daleks.”  These creatures are actually genetically modified aliens (the Kaleds … spell it backwards) that have been grafted into weaponized tank shells after having all emotions but hatred and anger removed.  Definitely the most famous and iconic of all the Doctor’s enemies.  What I really love about the Daleks (besides the plunger for a gun) is just how silly they are.  These guys are supposed to be the most terrible menace the universe has ever faced, but I get a huge grin on my face each time I see one spin around its goofy lasers and screech out their catchphrase “Exterminate!”  Who doesn’t love a Dalek?

Exterminate!

Exterminate!

3.Eight-Legs

Yeah, I hate spiders.  I really, really hate spiders.  These things are big spiders.  Gah!  Yep, they are the monsters from the last Third Doctor story, entitled “Planet of the Spiders.”  Big Spiders … do I even need to say more about this?

Pretty Elisabeth Sladen doesn't look alarmed that a walking nightmare is on her back.

Pretty Elisabeth Sladen doesn’t look alarmed that a walking nightmare is on her back.

2.Cybermen

Okay seriously, who doesn’t like the Cybermen?  These metallic goofballs got their start way back in a First Doctor story in 1966 called “The Tenth Planet.”  Unfortunately this story is missing an episode, and that sucks.  I like the Cybermen for a number of reasons, first and foremost is that they are pretty much just like the Daleks, but not nearly as goofy.  I mean, they don’t use plungers for weapons.  That can be kind of a strike against them though, because the plunger-gun is my favorite part about the Daleks!  Anyway, these guys have been recurring baddies for years.  I like the longevity, I like the updated costumes in the new series, I like the crappy costumes in the old series.

The new costumes are pretty awesome.

The new costumes are pretty awesome.

1.Weeping Angels

Yep, its a cliche but I don’t care … the Weeping Angels are my favorite Doctor Who monsters.  Created by Steven Moffat for a 10th Doctor episode called “Blink,” these creatures are intergalactic beings that have taken the forms of angelic statues … kind of.  When nobody is looking at them they don’t really have a form and can move quickly and freely.  It’s only when someone is looking at them that they take the form of the statues.  So every time you look away, or blink, the creatures are coming closer.  Awesome!  I also love the idea that they don’t kill you, but deposit you in another time.  You get to live, but to your family and friends its as if you have disappeared.  That is pretty nifty.

Sweet Dreams!

Sweet Dreams!

Well, those are some of my favorite Doctor Who monsters.  I can’t wait to see what new nightmares are made in the next 50 years of the show.  I hope everyone gets to watch the Day of the Doctor special on the 23rd.

’till next time!

Colin

Maniac (2012)

Maniac

I watched this last night, and it’s awesome!

When I heard that they were remaking William Lustig’s so-gritty-I-need-a-shower psycho-slasher Maniac (1980) and that Elijah Wood was going to be taking over the Joe Spinell role, my brain just about imploded.  Elijah Wood is a good actor, and his face doesn’t look like it lost a face with a weed-whacker.  And isn’t New York clean now?  I didn’t think there were porn theaters and street pimps every fifteen feet.  Maniac (1980) is such a product of its time I couldn’t imagine how it could be updated to fit our modern world of cell phones and urban renewal.

Well I’m happy to report that not only did Maniac (2012) keep the mean, gritty, dirty spirit of the original, but tried new things and made itself a whole new film to fit in our current time period.

The first thing I’ve got to say is that almost the entire run time of the film is shot in first-person POV.  Yep, you are seeing the whole movie through crazy old Frank Zito’s eyes.  This is an awesome way to bridge the gap between old-school slashers and new “found-footage” horror movies.  In flicks like Friday the Thirteenth we get the killer’s POV for a bit, but then go back to a traditional type narrative.  In movies like Cloverfield or Blair Witch some idiot is always lugging a camera around to give that POV angle.  With Maniac (2012) you get the best of both worlds.

In addition, this POV angle really gets you in the head of the character (literally).  I like that when Frank begins having hallucinations, or little day dream fantasies, you see them through his eyes.  Frank’s inability to separate fantasy from reality really shines here.  Also, basically being Frank for the duration of the film really gives you sympathy for the character.  This is where Elijah Wood’s acting really comes through.  Frank is nuts with a capital N, and commits some really horrible murders, but somehow, I was rooting for him the whole time.  It’s crazy, but Elijah Wood really sells it.

Another great thing about this movie is that New York looks like garbage.  It makes me really not want to live there, and that’s awesome!  I’ve kinda been missing that late 70’s and 80’s New York you see in movies like Death Wish or Friday the 13th part 8 (which I know is really Vancouver, but my point still stands, dammit!).  While there are some flashy art galleries, and well lit streets and metro stations, the city seems empty and rotted.  It sells the mood and gives a wonderful sense of atmosphere to the whole film.

The cinematography by Maxime Alexandre is wonderful.  The shots, while POV, are gorgeous, with a great sense of light and shadow.  The way the camera moves wonderfully sells the illusion that we are in Frank’s eyes.  Also impressive is the placement of mirrors and reflective surfaces every so often.  It is a constant reminder that Frank is a person, a physical being moving through and occupying space rather than a disembodied pair of eyes.  This also lets us see Elijah Wood’s wonderful facial expressions, which again, really sell the character.  You don’t see Elijah Wood very much in this movie, but his acting is really top notch.

As far as the other actors and actresses go, I think they all did a good job.  Nora Arnezeder was good as Frank’s love interest Anna.  She has an adorable French accent, and her mannerisms and dialogue made my buy her as a chic, urban, fine-art photographer.  Aside from her, there aren’t many other characters in this thing … you know, because of murder.  The other standout for me was Megan Duffy as Lucie, the tattooed red-headed pixie Frank meets on an online dating site.  I thought she played her part well, and it was nice to see a victim with personality traits other than “generically pretty.”

Lastly, lets talk about the plot and script.  The plot is pretty straight forward.  If you’re familiar with Maniac (1980), this is pretty much the same story, but with enough alterations to make it worth checking out.  Basically Frank Zito is a lonely young man who owns a store that restores vintage mannequins.  He’s also crazy, in case the title of the movie didn’t fill you in on that.  He uses online dating profiles to find, stalk and murder various women, then scalps them and staples the scalps to mannequins in his shop.  One day he meets Anna, a photographer who takes pictures of mannequins.  They develop a friendship that begins turning into something more.  Will these two star crossed lovers work it out and find love?  Let me remind you, Frank is scalping random women around town and is completely bonkers.

The story is simple, but everything about it works.  You really get to know Frank and Anna, and you can’t help but feel sympathy for Frank.  I didn’t feel like a single scene was wasted.  It’s really a testament to the script by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur.  You might remember Alexandre Aja from such films as High Tension, and Piranha 3D.

There is probably a lot more I could get into, but … I’ve been rambling enough.  I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s not a light-hearted family romp, and I wouldn’t recommend it for date-night, but if you want to see a gritty, gory, horror drama that really explores a crazy character, then this might be right for you.

They make scalping look really easy in this movie.

Ouch!

Outer Limits is 50 today!

The Outer Limits

50 years ago today, at 7:30 pm est, the world was invaded by The Outer Limits!

It was Friday evening and ABC launched this fantastic series with the episode “The Galaxy Being.”  I can only imagine what it would have been like to be a kid watching the infamous opening for the first time ever.  When I was young I’d watch The Outer Limits on reruns, and even though I’d seen it a million times before, every time the narrator comes on with “There is nothing wrong with your television set” it would send shivers down my spine.

I always felt like The Outer Limits was way scarier than other shows like the Twilight Zone or One Step Beyond.  The episode that freaked me out the most as a kid was “The Architects of Fear.”  The thought of being randomly selected to undergo radical and permanent surgery to be transformed into a horrible monster was like unleaded nightmare fuel to my kid brain.  To this day that episode still freaks me out.

Right now, every episode of The Outer Limits is available for free on Hulu.  I know what I’ll be watching tonight. Happy Birthday Outer Limits and thanks for many sleepless nights!

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

Happy Friday the 13th boils and ghouls!  Yes Friday the 13th is here again and it’s been over a year since this Mini-Halloween last came around.  We last had a Friday the 13th in July 2012.  We’ll have another this year in December, and the only one that will occur in 2014 is in June.  2015 has 3 Friday the 13ths; the maximum number possible in a year.  Yep, each year will always have 1, 2, or 3; no more, no less.

I know that 13 is considered an unlucky number, and Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day for a whole slew of horrific reasons, but growing up in the 80’s and 90’s us kids only really cared about one thing: Jason Voorhees!

Even before I was old enough to watch Friday the 13th movies I was aware that the series existed, and that in them a hockey-masked killer commits gruesome atrocities on mostly naked teenagers.  Just like Freddy, Jason transcended his movies and became a part of pop culture.  Congrats Jason!

TNT’s Monstervision and Joe Bob Briggs was probably my introduction to the Friday series.  Even though all the gore and nudity were cut out for TV I couldn’t get enough.  I remember in elementary school having a couple of friends sleep over and we stayed up all night watching FT13 movies on TV and they were awesome.  When I was a bit older I’d rent these flicks from KV video and revel in the tits and blood that I had missed before!

One great thing about the FT13 series is that each movie has something awesome to offer.  Whether an awesome kill, or a weird character scene, there is something memorable in each flick.  With 12 movies in the series, that is saying something.

My personal favorite film out of the series is part 5.  High body count, creative murders, lots of nudity, plus it’s just weird and crazy.  I love that.  I love the kids-in-a-halfway house set-up.  I love that *spoiler?* Jason isn’t even the killer.  How stupid/awesome is that.  It’s ridiculous.  I don’t even care, I always think of this as a Jason movie.

Anyway, Happy Friday the 13th everyone!  Stay lucky today, and avoid any camps with a death curse on it!

Which movie will YOU be watching tonight?

Which movie will YOU be watching tonight?

Happy 20th X-Files!

x-files

September 10th, 1993 was the premier date of the X-Files.  9pm on Friday and I begged my parents to let me watch.  Gave me nightmares until … well until next Friday at 9!  I was 10 years old and in 5th grade.  Man time really flies!  I can’t even begin to describe what a huge impact this show had on everyone at the time.  I remember kids writing reports on aliens and government conspiracies, kids playing X-files at recess, and pretty much everyone was talking about it.  I’m glad that 20 years later I’m not the only one who remembers this show fondly.

Tonight I’ll be watching the episode “Darkness Falls” which scared the hell out of me when I was younger.  That it happens to be Season 1, episode 20 is just an awesome coincidence.  The entire 9 season run is on Netflix streaming currently, so if you have Netflix, dig in and enjoy.

Again, Happy 20th X-Files and thanks for many years of magnificent nightmares!

Gah!

Gah!