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!

 

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

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 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!