Archive for October, 2008

When making a film, it is important to consider your audience – after all, you need most of them to like your project to ensure another.

Roy (Adam Nee) returns home after serving in the Navy to find an empty apartment instead of a slaphappy younger brother. A knock at the door brings two thugs who are also painfully curious about the whereabouts of Roy’s brother and a young woman. Meanwhile, younger brother Dale (Aaron Nee) and his insane partner Mad Dog (Shea Whigham) are on the lamb. Dale had hoped to make some money and lay low but Mad Dog’s short fuse keeps screwing up his plans. Everything comes to a head in an out-of-the-way town called South of Heaven.

The picture has a Dick Tracy gangster feel to it as the characters are adorned in bright clothes and utter witty threats. One of the character’s injuries is also reminiscent of comic book embellishment. Unfortunately, the filmmakers fail to realize the full potential of the genre, opting for a less than successful personal touch.

For the most part, the characters are unmemorable. To make matters worse, much of Mad Dog’s dialogue is lost in a thick accent – and what you do hear does not always make sense. Then again, confusion results from many of the characters’ actions (or lack there of) as well. Most notably, a scene containing the rape and murder of a woman is in fact offensive because its pairing served no purpose to the plot.

The soundtrack, which includes Depeche Mode, The Smiths and The Cure, is a highlight. Another positive note is the animation. One style is used to fill in story holes, while another features cute counting sheep that experience horrible ordeals in tune with the story.

It would seem writer/director J.L. Vara crammed all his ideas into his first feature, setting out to amuse himself without thinking of the audience.

Death has long been a subject of comedy because it’s a useful tool in dealing with one of man’s oldest fears.

Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) is sitting in his cell awaiting his execution. A priest (Ron Perlman) arrives to help him pass the time by recording his final words. Arthur decides to use the time to regale the man with tales of grave robbing with his mentor and partner Willie (Larry Fessenden) and their eventual transcendence to ghoul. They began stealing regular dead bodies but realized they could fetch a higher price for vampires, aliens and zombies. The transcriber, however, is most interested in their run-ins with the Murphy boys, a band of rival ghouls akin to a goon squad.

Influenced by old horror flicks starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, writer/director Glenn McQuaid delves into the world of the macabre. The monsters resemble those of the early horror movies and are often shot in a similar manner, as the vampire appears to glide toward them. The key locations are graveyards, a dank tavern and a near-deserted island. In addition, almost all of the events occur in the dark of night.

A dark humour underlies the entire narrative as the ghouls exchange quips graveside; even the monsters are often more funny than scary. The storytelling style is reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt and other anthologies that return to the narrator between stories. Unfortunately, the script hits some slow spots and the film drags a couple of times; luckily these moments are book ended by fairly entertaining scenes.

Monaghan and Fessenden play well together, hitting every comedic beat. Perlman’s role is limited and his Irish accent is not very convincing but he’s still Ron Perlman. And Brenda Cooney, who plays Monaghan’s dangerously ambitious love interest, is a good mix of sexy and tough. Phantasm’s “The Tall Man” Angus Scrimm even has a cameo.

I Sell the Dead is an enjoyable picture with a fitting end, but its sluggish instances create a glass ceiling.

Monsters that lurk in the dark, hiding in closets and under the bed are scary, but child psychopaths are far more frightening.

David (Adrian Pasdar) and Clare (Cady McClain) just moved to the isolation of the country with their son David (Austin Williams) and daughter Emily (Amber Joy Williams). Clare bought a new video camera to assist in her work but most of the time it’s in David’s hands recording precious family moments. But as time progresses, it becomes clear there is something seriously wrong with their kids. Both parents look to their occupations for a solution: David, a Lutheran pastor, attempts to exorcise the twins; Clare, a psychiatrist, tries to medicate them. But the kids have plans of their own.

This film addresses several issues of child-rearing quite successfully. First, there is a question of nature versus nurture: are the kids inherently evil or is there an outside influence, supernatural or otherwise? It deals with the over-medication of children, as many parents try to manage behavioural problems with drugs. And to some extent, it touches on the effects of forcing religion on children.

The first perspective narrative works near perfectly in this story, as it allows the audience to share in the horror of the parents as they watch their kids crossover to the darkside. The filmmakers admit to taking a few liberties by stylizing the lighting or framing sometimes but its barely noticeable. Conversely, they emphasize the realism of found footage by rewinding or fast-forwarding at times.

Pasdar turns in a great performance as the frustrated father. He glides effortlessly through a wide-range of emotions: from goofy to frustrated to scared. The kids are real-life siblings and work incredibly well together. They convincingly express the children’s seeming ability to communicate without speaking, which really boosts the creep factor. McClain often appears weak or ignorant despite her training, which causes her turnaround to look almost comedic.

If done well, sinister offspring make great subjects of spine-chilling horror. Home Movie is a success story.

If you have nay questions regarding the plot of Tokyo Gore Police, refer back to the title.

A plague of “Engineers” is spreading across Tokyo. When Engineers are wounded, a genetic mutation morphs the injury into a deadly weapon. Ruka (Eihi Shiina) is an expert Engineer hunter employed by the privatized police force. When an Engineer goes on a murder-spree, it is up to Ruka to stop him.

If the plot sounds simplistic, that’s because it is; it’s also not the most important element of the film. The narrative is just there to move the story from one blood-spattered scene to the next. But considering director Yoshihiro Nishimura’s chief mode of employment prior to shooting this picture was special effects supervisor, little else can be expected. In fact, it often looks like the special effects were conceived first and the story was built around them. The same team is responsible for the cult hit Machine Girl.

Shiina’s movements in most of the action sequences are poetic, akin to ballet. The never-ending fountain blood is amusing but starts to feel repetitive fairly quickly. Fortunately, there is usually some outrageous genetic mutation to pull you back into the film. These include breasts that shoot acid, arms that sprout chainsaws, eyes that become modified pistols and the physical incarnation of Freud’s “vagina dentata.” An audience was not a mutation at all but a large cannon that used human fists as ammunition.

One of the most entertaining elements of the movie are the over-the-top commercials. One resembles a public service announcement against hara-kiri suicide, another is a bizarre advertisement for a sword and the third is a trendy commercial for “Wrist Cutter-G.” On the other hand, the irony of these moments can be lost on someone who is ignorant of the cultural obsession with self-inflicted injury.

In post-film discussions, it quickly became obvious that over-thinking any aspect of this film leads nowhere. So just sit back and let the blood rain down upon you.

Aliens, mutants, swords, guns – Mutant Chronicles provides all you could ask for in a sci-fi fantasy picture.

For decades, a seal has kept the world safe from a horde of violent, mutated killers. War between two of the four corporations that rule the world damages the seal, causing it to break. Instantly, hundreds of these creatures scour the earth. Mankind’s only hope lies with Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman) and the small group of elite soldiers (Thomas Jane, Devon Aoki, Benno Fürmann, Tom Wu and Pras) he gathers to fulfill an ancient prophecy to stop the giant underground machine that feeds on and creates these disfigured humans.

It is often difficult to determine if a film is purposely playing certain bits for camp value or if they actually intended for the scene to be wholly serious. I would like to venture that this film aims for the former; otherwise, the macho action hero lines uttered by Jane are pitiful. However, viewed as camp, the scenes are more than enjoyable.

Even though the year is 2707, war has left the world in ruins causing it to regress. Rather than resembling the high-tech shiny futuristic world of most sci-fi pictures, this world runs on coal and steam and everything is filthy. Furthermore, the weapons are a combination of advancement and reliability, much of it harking back to World War I.

The magnitude of the set design that would have been necessary to accomplish the desired aesthetic makes shooting in front of a green screen and creating the world in post-production via CGI the obvious choice. As a result, the grimy surfaces, devastated locations, and impossibly large mechanisms are given striking life. The only drawback is it sometimes resembles a videogame; especially when the characters are engaged in combat.

All the actors appear to embrace their roles as world-saving warriors. Perlman, Aoki, Fürmann and Anna Walton give admirable performances; Jane specially lives up to the iconoclastic role of his character. Unfortunately, the decisions of their characters do not always agree with their mandate and contradict previous judgments, which can be a bit nagging.

Without putting too much thought into the experience, it’s easy to take pleasure in watching this visually captivating picture.

Netherbeast Incorporated puts a new spin on the vampire genre and answers the call for quality horror comedy.

Berm-Tech Industries deals in telecommunications, having started out manufacturing telephones a century earlier. This of course sounds ordinary enough, until you learn all the employees are vampires. They have operated quietly for decades but in one week everything is turned upside-down. CEO Turner Claymore (Darryl Hammond) is going senile. He’s forgotten he’s a vampire and is staking incompetent employees while breaking rules that protect their secret from the outside world. Now all the workers must scramble to shield their identities and keep Turner from bringing everything down upon them.

Writer Bruce Dellis and director Dean Matthew Ronalds create a whole new mythology of vampirism, maintaining only minimal elements from the traditional stories. Most significantly, these vampires require flesh as well as blood and prefer the term “Netherbeast” or “Netherfolk” as opposed to vampire. This is all entertainingly explained through presentation-style illustrations, clips from Nosferatu and a couple of flashbacks including Alexander Graham Bell (Bill Lippincott) and President James Garfield (Robert Wagner).

Their motivation techniques and office politics amusingly mirror that of real workplaces. Terms like “take ownership” ring true to any desk jockey and elicit a giggle because of its familiarity in an otherwise absurdly foreign situation.

The film enjoys a spectacular supporting cast in Dave Foley, Jason Mewes, Judd Nelson and Amy Davidson. The appearance of Mewes in office attire is initially strange but he embraces the straight role and his performance is top notch. Hammond’s deadpan delivery of fantastical lines works great.

The narrative moves forward very well but it just sort of fizzles out at the end. The big reveal occurs and everything comes to a standstill. But this is a minor problem in an otherwise hilarious movie and the concluding scene is a perfect fit.

Horror anthologies are great because it’s like getting four separate movies in one package.

Last year, two of the directors (Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom) won the Toronto After Dark audience choice award for the eerie feature Alone. This year, they’re creeping out audiences in their individual directorial debuts with Youngyooth Thongkonthun and Paween Purikitpanya, bringing not just one but four tales of terror to the big screen.

In “Happiness,” an isolated young woman receives a mysterious text message from a stranger seeking companionship. But as their conversations continue, his familiarity with her personal life becomes unsettling.

In “Tit for Tat,” a group of teens regularly torment a classmate until one day it goes too far. Then the bullied boy seeks revenge through black magic.

In “In the Middle,” four guys are on a camping trip in the jungle when an accident occurs. But when they return to camp, they begin to wonder if everyone actually survived the mishap.

In “Last Fright,” a stewardess is scheduled to accompany the body of a princess on her final flight but her highness turns out to be a demanding passenger.

“Happiness” is genuinely spine-chilling. The build-up is friendly but the conclusion is horrifying. The atmosphere of the final act of the segment turns very cold but the source remains terrifyingly untraceable.

“Tit for Tat” is the least captivating of the pieces. Its premise is good but the execution is lacking. It even fails to deliver a really good scare; the very last shot of the chapter particularly falls short.

“In the Middle” is the most entertaining tale of the anthology. It is simultaneously goofy and scary. But be warned, there are some spoiler if you have yet to see The Others, The Sixth Sense or the filmmakers other film Shutter.

“Last Fright” had its moments but it’s plot twist is fairly predictable. There is only one moment that truly elicits a jump but sometimes that can be enough.

Overall, this collection is a treat. It samples several types of horror but with a Thai flavour. All the elements of fright, including lighting, special effects and plot turns, are spot on.