Peppered_Productions

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Reviews

A Perfect Vacation
(2015)

Potential...lost
This falls into the category of 'coulda been'. An oft-visited concept, this film had a potentially good plot, location, cast of knowns. But, unfortunately, it suffers from poor editing, acting, and day-for-nightmare.

I agree with other reviewers' criticisms of jumpy cuts, direction, and it definitely has some moments of laughably unrealistic dialog. Also irksome is cinematography comes into play. Characters are in harsh daylight, then suddenly in the murky realm of day-for-dusk.

The theme for this endeavor is 'unevenness'. It's a shame, because, with a solidified cohesive vision, it could have been a decent movie. But, as-is, it is a riff-fest waiting to happen.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
(1985)

Tepid Action-Adventure
Remo Williams had the potential to be a good action flick, or a good campy outing. It didn't quite reach either.

Although there were a few light laughs, the pacing didn't support it being an action-comedy. Unlike movies like Big Trouble, Little China, a lot of the potential laughs were held back, and the timing was awkward on others.

The action sequences are few and far between - even these are mostly muted.

The movie had some choice locations, decent acting, and more potential than was realized.

Night of the Demon
(1980)

Bigfoot Cult Classic
This movie is all kinds of bad. Why a 4/10? Because it's totally salvageable as a riff-fest.

A professor takes his students to a remote area of woods to validate some Bigfoot claims. They manage to find him and tick him off. Prof survives to tell the tale.

Along the film's twisted path, we encounter generic victims. Among the first is a pair of hot & heavy lovers. As he's killed, she's emoting. And over-emoting. And even goes beyond 'scenery chewing' status.

There are flashbacks involving stories of other victims - that are randomly thrown into the main story's progress.

There's "Crazy Wanda" a survivor who they try to hypnotize into telling her tale - AFTER rescuing her from being ritualistically murdered by some townsfolk. Yes, you read that right.

The lighting is, at times, horrible. The plot is drawn out to the point I kept losing interest & pausing the movie. However, for the time, the kills are original (and graphic), and the sound is decent.

The randomness of the plot & some sub-par acting allows for fun times with friends. I've seen plenty of horror films that don't even have that entertainment value. However, as a study in the genre, this one misses more than it hits.

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet
(2009)

Supernatural-ish Slasher
Watchable film, though I think it may have worked better as two separate films. In fact, it's one of those movies I knew I'd seen before, but had to rewatch because I couldn't remember the plot (or ending).

The plot: We open with the night young Mary Mattock (Hatchet) slaughters her parents. A very Halloween-like tale, gender-reversed.

Fast forward - now in her 20s, Mary is institutionalized. For whatever reason, she's in her room, completely naked, nearly catatonic. Enter sleazy orderly - who asks if she wants to suck his 'lollipop'. If you want the stuff of nightmares, think of the liberties that surely take place behind locked doors.

Yep - he rapes her & she becomes pregnant. Not knowing what the hell's going on, she gives birth. The doctors tell her it didn't survive. And, Mary escapes her room & starts another killing spree, before exiting the building - in the altogether, holding a severed head for modesty. She's shot & we cut to opening credits.

The opening titles tell us her outbursts were aggravated by Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Yep - on the rag = in a rage. Oh, and her death spawned a local holiday: Blood Night. To celebrate a mass murderess? Menstruation? Who knows.

And, now, we leave history to join a group of 'teens' preparing to celebrate this traditional rite of passage. It's Halloween pranks plus tampons & bloody hand prints. Stay classy, LI.

Our 'teens' (who should've just been written as college-aged) play with a ouija board in the cemetery. Yep, sh#t gets spiritual. They're chastised by Graveyard Gus (Horror icon Bill Moseley), the local drunk, for playin with the devil. Oh - and he may have had an interaction with the dearly departed Ms. Mary.

OK, enough with the heavy stuff: ON TO THE PARTY! Alcohol, dirty dancing. A nerd lays the hottie! WHOO-HOO!

And, the introduction of (Halloween III's) Danielle Harris' character. One of the most convoluted, misplaced stories I've heard. But, it was effective. She's welcomed into the group & the night continues with some good old group porno viewing while couples branch off in search of their own action.

Which, of course, leads to killin! Heads cleaved, screaming victims dragged out of frame! Is it Mary or someone more corporeal? No one knows, no one cares. They're far too drunk & horny.

Violence escalates & the remaining gang flees the house. Who happens to be right there? Graveyard Gus! Friend or suspect?

And, that's the extent of the mystery. The night is sprinkled with supernatural winks, but overall they're ignored. Until Gus sees the naked form of Mary herself. He brings the gang to her grave. But, all is not well - so they end up at the asylum. Where, they learn a secret...

Yep - we're fully into convoluted now. Why in the hell did he take them to the graveyard? Then the asylum? Is there an Idiot's Guide to Exorcism?

Let's just say, more people die, and truths are finally revealed in the last moments.

Overall, the acting is decent, and the pacing doesn't drag. Continuing with some of my other film observations: the sound is really good in this film. Many of the special fx are good. However, there are a few "clearly that's a dummy head" moments. The partying teen thing is cliché - especially given their obvious ability to legally buy alcohol. Overall, a decent slasher flick.

So, why, then, do I think this should be two movies?

***SPOILER ALERT****

Mary is only one of the killers. The other is a living, breathing member of the group.

This could have been a story of an abused/raped asylum refugee who takes her revenge on those who wronged her (as an escapee or a ghost). OR, it coud've been simply the story of a woman with Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder who's a bit beyond 'bitchy' when Aunt Flo visits.

Combining the two makes the story muddled and less interesting. Who's killing whom & why? Why does Mary choose now to appear? Why did the living person start killing? Or have they killed throughout their lives.

Plot holes a'plenty mar this film. Honestly, I think it had potential as a 'one or the other' scenario.

I gave it a 5/10. A well-played single killer flick may have brought it to a 7 or 8.

Detention of the Dead
(2012)

A Zombified John Hughes Medley
7 students end up in detention, but not all are getting out. Darwin's Theory is embodied in the form of a zombie outbreak. But, who exactly IS the 'fittest'? The nerd, Goth chick, jock, cheerleader, or the chillaxin' stoner?

This was a very watchable and fun spoof. The characters were absolutely stereotypical, and admitted it. However, they were also engaging. I find few horror comedies/spoofs that hit the mark. Most are boring, muddled, or juvenile with characters I don't care about. Though this film has some preteen humor, I found it to be overall a pretty good flick with good acting.

There were a couple of shots/camera angles that were impressive as well. They kept the action fun, without going in an overly 'artsy' direction. I think the vision was cohesive, with good pacing.

A lot of the other reviews have pointed out the very obvious "Breakfast Club" references and direct riffs. Students in detention, end up in the library. Nerd guy has the hots for the popular girl. Popular girl gives a speech on how hard it is to be popular, etc.

However, I also easily spotted nods to Sixteen Candles & Some Kind of Wonderful. I'm sure there are others that I didn't catch. They also directly reference Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Night of the Living Dead and the zombie movie genre in general.

Obviously, this is a film that didn't take itself too seriously. But, it was committed to being a good mashup of horror and teen angst dramedies. Well worth a watch.

Trailer Park of Terror
(2008)

Campyesque Horror Misses the Mark
The movie opens with Paula, a young girl getting ready for a date. Along the way to meet him, she comes across several of her neighbors, who refer to her as the town whore (a job she inherited from her mother). Tragedy strikes, and Norma takes her revenge - killing everyone.

Several years pass, and a group of stereotypical misfits on a 'fix-em-up' religious retreat end up in her ghoul-filled trailer park.

Yep, the pastor who fornicates, the klepto, druggie, goth chick, and the *gasp* homosexual are part of a group that seek refuge in the trailer park after they have an accident on the road.

They're welcomed by Paula, queen of this trash pit. Things quickly spiral as Paula and her hillbilly friends start murdering everyone.

Oh, and let's have one of the 'townsfolk' perform a random song mid-movie.

Sure, why not.

Can we guess who will be the last standing? Yep - within the first 15 minutes. (To be fair, one of my guesses was killed).

There are some fun moments, and overall the acting is good.The movie is definitely watchable. However, it could have been shorter and more effective. Plus, the overt stereotypes lump it within typical fare. Could have been better, but, then again - it could've been MUCH worse

Unrest
(2006)

Decent Concept, Unconnected Horror
This is one of those movies I knew I'd seen before, then forgotten what happened.

On this rewatch, I realized why. The movie is mostly slow-paced, and borderline boring. Overall, the concept and atmosphere were OK. The main actors work with their material, but for the most part, I didn't feel connected to the characters or the story. The reactions, in many scenes, were tame for the ongoing action. There is plenty of humor and realistic interaction to help identify with the characters, but overall, I felt it was too low-key.

The basic story: 4 medical students are given a cadaver to dissect and work with. The one girl of the group senses something wrong with the body. She's left to be the worrywart as her partners work around her heebie-jeebies.

People start disrespecting the body & wind up dead. A simple off-color remark, poking & prodding, or mysterious slight - they die.

The story itself is muddled. I will have forgotten the ending again in short time, as it was anticlimactic.

There was real potential to make this a mood-driven creepy horror movie, but it didn't quite get there.

Aberration
(1997)

Lifetime Meets Syfy
The film opens with Amy (Pamela Gidley - "Brigitte" from the Pretender series) driving to her new home with cat and fish. A couple of minutes into her journey, she removes sunglasses and wig. Uh-oh. Either she just committed a crime, or is escaping an abusive boyfriend. Her paranoia upon entering the house indicates the latter.

As she turns into the driveway, she's observed by a scientist (Aussie cutie Simon Bossell) collecting mysterious, goopy samples near the property. Hmm... young, good-looking woman, young good-looking man? What are the chances they'll get together?

As Amy settles in, we meet a couple of the locals. The typical crazy & his dog and the kind general store manager. But, wait - this is a horror film! Let's leave this Little House on the Prairie nonsense & see some gore!

Finally, we glimpse our monster - well, its viewpoint, as it goes after the crazy recluse's dog. Buh-bye Rover. Amy's cat is similarly bothered in the house - could the beast be in her home? Could there be more than one?!?

Ayup.

We finally see the creatures. Lizards of some bastardized origin - they're able to evolve from generation to generation. Thanks, Monsanto! Within hours, the newly born spawn has nifty defense mechanisms against what thwarted their parents.

So, basically it's multigenerational mutant annihilation for our two heroes. A lot of blowing things up, really.

Oh - and that abusive boyfriend? Yes, he makes an appearance. He's an a-hole who enjoys his battle with the so-called "Aberrations" just a little too much. In a combo Lifetime/Syfy flick - he really doesn't stand a chance. A totally hammy performance by Valeriy Nikolaev, but a fun stretch.

The movie is slow-paced, and could've been 15-20 minutes shorter. It also uses some cliché tactics (including the 'thrown cat' trick and asinine, punny lines). The puppets used for the creatures had some good detail, and the 'enhancements' were clever. But, this movie didn't know whether it wanted to be a drama, sci-fi, or horror. It was a little too muddled to fit neatly into any of those categories

Overall, a decent flick with flaws and some major predictability. Editing could have been tighter, but the casting choices were good, and there were some clever shots to impress cinematographers. And the cat? A total PROFESSIONAL! The scenes with the critters seemed a bit campy - like "Gremlins" meets "Munchies". But, still a watchable, if dramatic, romp.

The Star Wars Holiday Special
(1978)

Oh, the 70s
My take on this movie:

It's like a holiday fanfic written by a young boy who is forced to let his gay brother help. And, mom has her say with her soap opera influence, combined with dad's love of variety shows.

Aside from characters and the threat of the Empire over the 'rebel alliance' - this has NOTHING to do with the actual Star Wars franchise.

Sure, you've got Harvey Korman (in several roles) & the late, great Bea Arthur, among other cameos. But, really, this was a boring, drawn-out, hole-filled indulgence for the franchise.

Worth seeing to get ALL of the affiliated entities under your belt. But, unfortunately, not a 'win' for the true SW fan.

It's slow, boring, and the musical acts go on FAR too long. However, an inappropriate subtitling could make quite the difference..

976-Evil II
(1991)

Decent, well-made horror with too many distractions
We start with a blonde coed being stalked from pool to shower room, through school, before finally being supernaturally killed in the theater. Pretty typical horror movie stuff.

Over the credits, we find Spike, our hero & sole survivor from the first movie, motoring toward the college town. He stops at a café, with a look of determination, love for diner fries, and horrible hair. He picks up a ringing payphone, which self-dials 666 & recites his horoscope. Obviously having experience with this before, he tells them off and hangs up, not falling into the trap. He is rewarded with a sign from God. He continues on his way toward Slate River.

The basic back story for this flick is that there is a phone number to Evil. Those who call it, become possessed, but, in a way, get their wishes & powers granted. The cost for this service is human sacrifice, and boils deforming the damned soul's body. Like most late 80s/early 90s horror, it has gore galore and bad puns from the villain. And, this killer learns astral projection to stalk his victims (they later break the rules they set for this feat, FYI). For the time it was made, the special effects are decent. Also, having worked on films, I have a new appreciation for movies that are well-lit w/good sound. This film has both.

A teacher, Mr. Grubeck, is arrested for the coed's murder, after the school's drunk janitor identifies him. As he's led away, Robin, hot daughter of the police department's psychologist passes by. Poor Mr. Grubeck actually started this damning pact because of his obsession with her. He'll do anything he can to have her.

There are some creative bits in this movie. One victim is thrust into a movie that crosses between "It's a Wonderful Life" & "Night of the Living Dead", after flicking between those two movies. There is a poster at the school's auditorium that advertises a performance of Faust directed by Joe Bob Briggs. This is a 'Faustian' tale, and Joe Bob has hosted horror movies for many years. There is also a fun, yet creepy special guest appearance by Brigitte Nielsen.

So, Spike joins with Robin, who's somehow gained a psychic connection to Grubeck, to try to kill Grubeck's physical body while he's distracted astrally. Oh, and, let's not forget, he still has access to his one phone call. One guess what number he dials...

There were two things that just distracted me far too much to give this a higher rating. The first - our hero's hair. It's just plain awful! Seriously, I think they spent more of the movie's budget on the stylist and products than special effects. He takes off his motorcycle helmet, and it floops 3 inches over his head. It's the one element I just can't suspend my disbelief on.

The second distraction? Rabbits! Yes, the director either has an obsession or inside joke with the long-eared mammals. I had started to wonder if I was imagining this placement after the first two, then BAM! A third shows up. Then fourth, fifth, and sixth. I didn't get it & spent half of the movie looking for them, and the other half wondering why in the hell they were there, and vowing to watch the first movie again to see if they were present.

Two ADD elements aside, it really was a decently made & directed horror movie - definitely worth a viewing!

Deadheads
(2011)

Fun Spoofy Zombie Flick
If George A. Romero, John Hughes, Sam Raimi & Broken Lizard spliced together their genes, DeadHeads may indeed be the love child of this labor.

Reading the plot summary before selecting this flick, I thought it was going to be "My Boyfriend's Back" shifted forward a few years. I liked that little sleeper, and would have been happy with a similar track.

However, from the first scenes, this story was clearly pure camp, with heart.

We open with Mike (Michael McKiddy), a newly awakened zombie. He is self-aware and intelligent, except, of course with regards to his current state of being. He soon meets Brent (Ross Kidder), who becomes his goofy sidekick. Brent is grounded more in the reality of their situation, and his loyal friendship helps Mike along.

Mike has unfinished business - he is carrying an engagement ring meant for his high school sweetheart, Ellie (Natalie Victoria). Unfortunately, he's been dead 3 years. He doesn't know how he got where he is, or why he's one of few 'intelligent' zombies around, but this quest is his only thought.

Unfortunately for the guys, there are 'unchanged' folks ready to call them out & kill them. Also, there's the little matter of the corporate types hunting them down for extermination. It seems they may have something to do with the situation Mike finds himself in. They've hired a sure-shooting, experienced zombie slayer, Thomas (Thomas Galasso).

What follows is your typical A to B road trip. We meet many characters along the way. Beloved "Cheese" (Markus Taylor), is the slow, but mostly harmless zombie who tags along like a puppy. Cliff (Harry Burkey) is the doper who picks them up and helps get them closer to Ellie's door. And, of course, super-fuzz wannabe McDinkle (Benjamin Webster), who seems to be suffering from a combination of suppressed homosexuality and roid rage.

At times, this flick had a very "Tommy Boy" feel w/Brent being the Chris Farley to Mike's serious David Spade. The music and almost cartoonish delivery from Kidder's Brent also called to mind the newer Scooby Doo cartoon features. Add to that the naked sincerity of Mike's love for Ellie, and a high school reunion to boot - we have a Zombie John Hughes movie.

I discovered part way through the movie why there was a Bruce Campbell quote in the trailer - they watch clips of Evil Dead. But, I was OK with that. The snippets fit in with the campy nature of the film.

This movie manages to fill many niches at once, as well as hearkening to some 80s nostalgia (there is a Goonies reference at one point). The story, direction, music and acting are overall pretty good. Even Kidder's exuberant offerings don't quite tip to the side of absurd. The lighting is a bit weird, trying to keep it dark, but for the most part it's forgivable.

As we head toward the climax, Mike gets flashes of memory revealing pieces of how he got where he is. When he finally reaches Ellie's door, he is just as resigned, though prepared not to have his fairy tale ending. She makes the decision for him & Brent encourages them to 'give the audience what they want' amid a throng of the corporate scientists and assassins who have followed them the whole way.

Overall, I really liked this film. It was entertaining, and the characters were sympathetic. They played a far-fetched storyline, with enough humor and drama to keep my attention to the end. There are plenty of gags and caricatures, but they add to the fun of this adventure.

My rating: 7 out of 10.

Dream House
(2011)

Very watchable, subtle mystery
This movie was sort of misrepresented in its marketing - I was expecting a (perhaps low-key) horror movie. What I found, instead was a well-played drama/mystery with plenty of twists and turns. And, bonus - because I didn't know what sort of movie it was, I didn't waste time or energy trying to 'figure it out'...at least not in the beginning.

We meet Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), an editor who's just quit his job to spend more time with his family & write a book. He arrives at his (relatively) new home to his loving wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz) & two boisterous daughters, Trish and Dee Dee.

His joyful reunion is soon marred by creepy spies on the property and mysterious discoveries within the house itself. Some occurrences can be chalked up to the local teens, who he finds commiserating in his basement. Here, he learns that the house was the site of a murder 5 years earlier.

No one will talk to him about this tragedy - including his neighbor Ann (Naomi Watts). She clearly knows something about the house's previous occupants, but won't divulge.

Will takes it upon himself to research the killer, Peter Ward, and finds the path of discovery both disturbing and unbelievable. He journeys to the halfway house that was the man's last- known address, as well as the mental hospital he was sentenced to.

Along the way, he begins to doubt the identity of the killer. And, as his own family becomes more personally involved in this mystery, he finds a suffocating need to find out the truth.

Without spoiling specific plot points, I will say I found this movie easy to get into, with plenty of twists and effective foreshadowing. There were scenes and interactions which didn't make sense until the second half of the movie. Overall, I think director Jim Sheridan does a good job threading the web of intrigue. Craig, Weisz & Watts likewise play their parts to a tee. Also of note, the cinematography and music are well-constructed to follow the nuances of the plot.

I gave this movie a 7 out of 10. It was well-played, and tied together nicely. However, I think there was potential in some areas to punch it up, expand some of the background characters and storyline, and maybe add a few true chills. Overall, a good effort and pretty solid story.

Don't Look Up
(2009)

Fair Horror with Decent, But Uneven Plot
Marcus (Reshad Strik), an aspiring director, sets out to remake an unfinished Romanian horror movie (how he got a production still from a movie no one saw isn't really explained). Mysterious and tragic events plagued the first attempt - the question is: Will this time be any different?

We open with a little exposition & look at the last day of the original filming. Hungarian director, Bela Olt, is making a film about a gypsy curse legend. A young Romanian woman makes a deal with the devil, promising her unborn child in return for marriage to a powerful man. The child is born with a mark of the devil, and is eventually tortured to death. The devil will not lift the curse until the crime is brought to light, and another woman carries his demon seed.

During filming, it becomes obvious that the set is haunted and cursed - allegedly by the ghost of the gypsy girl herself. The film grinds to a halt as Olt searches out the spirit, and ultimately disappears.

Except it isn't exactly told as a flashback. It seems Marcus has some sort of psychic/physical connection to some things haunted/traumatic. We flash between Marcus' seeing seizures & the actual series of events that caused the original film to go unfinished. He sees freaky things.... all the time.

Before flying to Europe to make this masterpiece, Marcus visits his dying girlfriend, chased out by her bitter brother.

We cut to the winding road to the movie set. Marcus and his producer, Josh (played by Henry Thomas) are being driven by their guide/Guy Friday, Grigore (Lothaire Bluteau). It's not coincidence they make an Igor reference - he is the schlepping, nervous assistant. And, for some reason, in his first scenes, he is dressed like a 70s pimp. He is the first to notice odd characters and happenings on their set - the exact location of the original studio.

The cast & crew arrive, including the lovely Romy, who was especially keen to work with Marcus. Almost immediately, problems start on the set. There are horrible smells, power drains, ghosting images, and, of course, gory deaths. And, flies - lots of flies.

The fly special effects have been done before - and better (Case 39, for example). Here, they mostly swarm, sometimes leading to death.

The film goes back and forth between current happenings and Marcus' seizures. The weird occurrences escalate, strange characters are introduced, and the crew clearly becomes scared, then violently mad.

The action culminates in two very convoluted and confusing scenes that first involves Marcus meeting the gypsy devil and becoming part of the story; then, he confronts the effected women in this story - the two actresses playing the original gypsy woman, the real gypsy woman, and Marcus' own girlfriend.

Somehow, without knowing what the heck has to be done.... he makes SOMETHING happen.

Yeah, very unclear.

And, in an outro, there is a scene meant to explain a bit of the story, but is totally unnecessary.

Overall, the acting is pretty good, and there are some clever devices used in the movie. However, the plot holes are definitely a major drawback, and the ending was definitely lacking. It was watchable, and middle-of-the-road quality-wise.

Bruiser
(2000)

Anonymity breeds confidence...and destruction
This was another fearnet offering - I knew I'd watched before, but wanted to be able to give a review, so I played it again.

There are some cool things I liked about this film, and overall I think it was a solid story. We meet Henry, an average, passive guy. He is out of place in his job as part of a cutting- edge magazine. He is out of place with his bitchy self-absorbed wife. He leaves the world and those around him to run his life, and he is content, but clearly not enjoying life.

We open with Henry's morning routine - he is exercising while listening to a talk radio show. The aggressive DJ pokes and prods at a man threatening suicide. On-air, the caller kills himself. Henry is fascinated.

We glimpse Henry's girlfriend, Janine, who is irritable and refuses to acquiesce to his simple requests that she wrangle her yapping pup. He puts up with being ignored, and heads out.

At the train station, he chats with his friend-slash-financial adviser, James. Henry meekly points out that he expected more money from their transactions. James smoothly deflects, and Henry admits that the scrutiny of the statements is up to his wife. Uh-oh.

As everyone boards the train, a rude woman pushes past Henry. He fantasizes taking revenge, assaulting her. But, it's fantasy & he snaps out of it just in time to board the already-moving train.

Clearly, Henry has some latent aggression buried within himself.

At work, we continue the pattern of him being surrounded by egomaniacal, abusive users. His boss Milo Styles is the most blatantly abusive. In a meeting, he berates his staff while searching for his 'hot new cover model'. Styles' wife, Rosie, seems to be the only decent person amongst the circle of sycophants and users that Henry has found himself in. But, even she is trapped in the seedy surroundings.

Ever-pleasing Henry plans his boss's barbecue party and gala masquerade.

At the BBQ, Henry is fitted with a mask by the meek Rosie. His assignment is to make it resemble himself. Off to rejoin the party - he spies his wife wanking off his boss. He watches for a little while, but in his manner, does nothing.

On the drive home, Janine is her bitchy self, barking at a gas station attendant. He brings up what he spied. She yells at him for not saying or doing anything. She eventually drops him off at home, and speeds off - advising him not to wait up. He has another violent fantasy, but does nothing. Defeated, he undresses, and gets himself a drink.

He awakes to a startling phenomenon. His face has grown a blank white mask - much like the one he got at the party. At first mortified, he tries to rip it off. However, he becomes resigned, then elated by this powerful shield.

When he discovers his maid blatantly stealing from him - he draws on the strength of this semi-anonymity. He asserts himself...albeit overly-so. The maid ends up dead, by accident. He returns to reality, and panic, when his wife unexpectedly arrives home just after this incident. Luckily, she is completely self-absorbed and planning to sneak around, so does not notice anything.

High with the freedom of his mask, he systematically goes about confronting all those who have wronged him. There arises a question of whether he, himself, is redeemable as his behavior escalates. Even his ties to Rosie become questionable as we progress through the story. The mask doesn't leave his face throughout this revenge rampage.

The ending struck me as semi-cheesy; however, the entire film was definitely watchable. There is good character development, especially with Henry. We also see that Rosie has more depth than one would expect. She could have easily been a throwaway character. Instead, she is layered with complexity.

We watch Henry's growth (albeit not down the healthiest path), as the mask gives him confidence and strength. He retains a semblance of his humanity, epitomized in his affection for Rosie; however, he becomes far more a monster than the users around him. I also liked Peter Stormare's performance as Miles. He truly is a horny prick, but doesn't go so far as to chew the scenery. Leslie Hope stays grounded as the conflicted Rosie. And, of course, Jason Flemyng holds it together through the emotional extremes of Henry.

It's not a horror - more of a violent drama/suspense, but George A. Romero lives up to his history of good characterization and storyline. Definitely worth a viewing.

Frontière(s)
(2007)

Texas Chainsaw en francais
So, this is another fearnet find for me. While once in a while there really is a decent horror movie, for the most part they're either silly, boring, or not actually 'horror'. This one kind of fell in the boring category - several times I paused my On Demand to see if I was CLOSE to the end....or even the middle.

And, big, annoying boner on fearnet's part - they list the stars of this flick as Gabriel Byrne & Natasha Richardson. However, there's not even an 'if-you-blink-you-miss-it' cameo from either. So, already, they've started on the wrong foot.

So, the basic convoluted scenario - a quintet of Parisians pull off some sort of robbery amidst political riots. Their getaway is not flawless, as one of the team is shot. We open on Yasmine, sister of the gunshot victim, Sami, who is contemplating aborting the baby she is carrying from another member of their team, now ex-boyfriend Alex. We round out the group with impetuous Tom and shy Muslim Farid.

Alex & Yasmine hurry to take Sami to the ER while Tom & Farid head far out of town with the money. Tom & Farid end up at an out-of-the-way inn & there, their trouble starts.

Sami dies in the ER & Alex & Yasmine must hurry off before suspicious authorities catch them. They follow after their friends, and arrive to find them gone. Oh, but the ladies at the inn are more than happy to show them the hostel the boys went off to - and of course, no one's "Dodgy" radar is working.

Obviously the innkeepers and staff are the bad guys. There are clear ties and influences from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies within this group & ensuing plot. Although not a blood relative family, there is brutal mutilation, cannibalism, and near-mute big galoot within the group. We add another level by revealing the father of this tribe is a Nazi, trying to create his pure breed.

One by one we put the 4 remaining thieves through the ringer. Will they survive? Will there be bloody battles? Will there be redemption for one or more of the tribe?

We've seen these films before - so at least one of the above will hold true. Clearly in this sort of movie, not everyone survives (from either side). We take the time frame out of the present with the bogus political woes, but it's a moot point really. It's a pretty formulaic story, though they change enough to keep it from being a remake. It was also a little difficult watching with subtitles - this sort of film I'd usually have on in the background. Here, I had to read & pay attention; however, with the pace and drama, it felt like an eternity.

I think it could've been a much shorter film, and more effective. However, for a first feature from writer/directer Xavier Gens, it was a pretty decent effort. Hopefully he can build upon what he learned & keeps improving as he makes more films. He's got the gore & creative punishments down, it's the pacing that should be the next thing mastered.

Absentia
(2011)

Watchable Drama/Horror
Overall, I liked this movie. It played more as a drama with supernatural/horror elements than a straight horror. The characters were pretty well fleshed out, the storyline coherent, and I liked the bookended bit involving 'missing posters'.

*****Plot breakdown follows*********

We open with Tricia, replacing tattered fliers searching for her missing husband, Daniel. She returns home to find her sister Callie waiting on her doorstep. We soon find out that it's been 7 years since Daniel disappeared. Reluctantly, Tricia prepares to move on with her life & officially declare him dead 'in absentia'.

If we hadn't already noticed, Callie soon points out Tricia's pregnant state. Pregnant? 7 year absence from her husband? Hmm....

It becomes clear pretty early on who the father is & the basis of their relationship. The film didn't feel the need to spell out the history between the parents-to-be, instead economizing with compact, subtle clues.

As Tricia steels herself to sign the death certificate, she suddenly starts seeing Daniel in small, jarring flashes. Her visit to her psychiatrist intimates these are normal subconscious reactions to what amounts to a significant decision on her part.... or are they?

Meanwhile, Callie discovers something dodgy while jogging through a nearby tunnel. On her way back home she encounters a destitute gentleman laying across the tunnel. His pleas are met with compassion, though she has nothing to offer him. She blows off his questions of whether she can see him - of course she can. She promises to bring him something later, and nervously returns home.

As Callie enters her sister's house, she's met with Det. Ryan Mallory - her sister's case officer and more. Callie briefly meets him & then leaves to shower, as she smells like an 'armpit's asshole'. Charmed, Det. Mallory comments to Tricia "That's what you were talking about..."

We learn from bits and pieces that Callie was once an addict of some sort, a runaway who generally flees from life. Her unpacking included stashing a small green box - we're sure will have some significance later.

As Tricia becomes more confident signing her paperwork, she increasingly sees her missing husband. He appears briefly - first confused, then angry as he notices her swelling belly. Luckily his visits are brief & she has meditation to help her let go of her emotional chains.

Tricia finally signs the paper, and agrees to an actual date with her police officer friend/baby daddy. As they leave the house hand-in-hand, Tricia stops short in horror. Standing in the middle of the street is her long-lost hubby. He seems traumatized, and the victim of long-term abuse. He has no idea where he's been or how he got back.

They bring him home, the police question him to no avail. Tricia calls his family to let them know he's OK. She agrees to meet Det. Mallory to talk through their personal stuff - deciding to break it off.

As Tricia & Mallory are chatting, Daniel is creepily hanging out with Callie. Not able to deal with the situation, Callie has resorted to the contents of the little green box. Daniel claims to have had a run-in with a creature of some sort, and is terrified it's in the house. Callie reassures him, and goes off alone to brush her teeth. She starts hearing creepy noises, and we catch a possible glimpse of scuttling.

Next thing we know, Tricia returns to the house - alarmed by the ajar door. Callie runs out to tell her Daniel's disappeared again. She's traumatized, but due to her drug use, no one trusts her account.

Daniel's parents arrive, devastated at his second absence. Tricia painfully opens a second missing person's report. Callie researches strange disappearances in the neighborhood, and notices a pattern - the tunnel seems key to these disappearances. Unfortunately no one wants to hear her theories.

A body is found in the spooky tunnel - fortunately not Daniel's. This adds fuel to Callie's theory, but another is suspected. The son of the victim, creepy in his own right, is grilled, but nothing is certain.

We next flash to a distraught Callie in the police station. In flashback, we find that Tricia has been taken by the unknown dark creature. The police have no idea how to proceed. Callie returns to the tunnel & barters herself for her sister.

Our ending sequence is Det. Mallory putting up Missing posters - of Callie & Tricia. The cycle will continue.

I really liked that they played this low-key. We were not treated to a cheesy view of a low- budget monster. The relationships & characterization were pretty solidly defined without being soap opera-melodramatic. There were a few moments where lines could have been delivered better, and maybe some exposition opportunities. However, nothing was jarring, plot-wise. It wasn't a jump-out-of-your-seat horror, but a great effort from a low-budget production. Some of the cinematographic choices were really good - and I'd probably try to duplicate them. They kept it simple and character-driven, which was a good choice for this piece.

Overall, this was a well-played drama with horror elements that worked as a whole.

Ghosts of Goldfield
(2007)

Ghost documentary gone awry
So, this was one of those movies that I just couldn't get into. Usually I can have a horror movie in the background while doing other things, and still follow along. This one couldn't keep my attention & I had to keep rewinding parts (sometimes more than once) to catch up to the plot.

Basic premise: 5 university students descend upon an alleged haunted hotel to get footage of phenomena for a thesis project. A woman, Elizabeth, and her baby were murdered at the hands of the hotel owner, George, after he finds out she was not faithful, and the baby was not his.

Of course the students have car problems; of course they have to go through a graveyard; of course they encounter punchy locals (with a where-in-the-hell-do-I know-this-guy cameo by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper); of course the writing is plagued with trite stereotypes - the obnoxious alcoholic sex-on-the-brain a-hole & the slutty kleptomaniac girlfriend; of course I found this on fearnet.

So we have our start and back story (sort of). But, here's where things go from standard to confusingly off-track.

We have a shot of the old, deaf townie presumably in the hotel after the group begins to settle in the hotel. This is never explained or followed up on. Seriously, were there scenes cut? Was it meant as misdirection that this was all a setup?

The ghost - can she not decide whether she just wants her murdered baby? revenge against the lineage who wronged her? to kill everyone? to get laid? Because although most of her lines have to do with the first choice, she dabbles in all of the above.

Of course the gang splits up, and amid possession and solid ghost 'hauntings' the kids are picked off one by one. Our heroine, Julie, feels responsible because it was her grandmother who snitched & started all the trouble. Julie gets most of the story through a weird mind- meld flashback. Her heirloom, a locket, actually belongs to the ghost. Will giving it back free her spirit & appease her?

Nope - a trinket doesn't give her baby back, excuse her being tortured and murdered, or get rid of her bloodlust.

The film gives a clear delineation of the 'good' characters versus the 'bad' ones. You pretty much figure out early who will be killed first. The good ones get it, too, because this is one angry spirit.

The ending is kind of craptastic. Julie sees the fate of Elizabeth and succumbs somehow to the same torture. She is left alone in the hotel, staring out of the window, while the tetchy bartender (a lookalike descendant of Elizabeth's lover) looks on, satisfied.

The movie is plagued with a nonsensical plot, bad writing, and some not-so-stellar acting. Honestly, I thought George was a Soprano's reject. The pouty princess 'friend' was kind of annoying, and even our ghost was a bit over-the-top with her expressions.

But the kicker? Over the credits is this random history-lesson back story about the town that really added NOTHING to the plot or characters. The narrator isn't even credited. It was a bizarre choice that really made no sense. Maybe if it was tied in at the beginning as exposition, it may have transitioned properly. Or even if it was in Julie's voice, it may have tied in. But, this was a random, unheard-from omniscient voice-over that made it feel even more like a film school project that had to fit in required elements.

Overall, not a great flick - I have seen worse, but this one definitely could've been made much better.

Side notes - after reading a few of the other reviews:

I had totally missed that this hotel was set in Nevada - or that I-95 reference would have clicked as well. Just goes to show how not interested I was in this film.

Re: Twilight Zone feel. Actually, the summary (and voice) reminded me much more of the Outer Limits. But, I also didn't get that vibe until the ending credits.

It's a semi-watchable movie, with a lot of plot holes and characterization issues to contend with. Fairly forewarned.

Dying Breed
(2008)

Revisiting old legends & clichés
I gave this one a 5 because I've seen better & I've seen worse.

The basic premise: Two couples embark on an adventure in backwater country in search of the elusive legendary Tasmanian tiger. The instigator of this mission is Nina, who is trying to validate the research of her sister - who died mysteriously on this very quest. Along for the ride are her boyfriend Matt, his impetuous friend Jack, and Jack's girlfriend Rebecca.

From the moment the foursome meet the locals, we're introduced to the same characteristics and vibe of hillbilly, isolated & 'off' people. It is clear early on that things aren't right with this secretive sect of society, and there are 'traditions' that not everyone wants to continue.

There are flashbacks and foreshadowing to help build to the reveals at the end. The storyline is simple, but basically the same as many previous horror porn offerings. Although this movie is definitely more tame than most - with only technically a minimum of killing and blood, it definitely follows the trend.

Jack is your typical obnoxious a-hole, Matt is the peacemaker, Nina is the troubled soul, and Rebecca is there for sexual titillation. Jack makes a Deliverance joke summarizing the characterization of the locals, and early on there is evidence of their capability to kill and do whatever is necessary for the good of the whole.

I think this film took the easy way out, resorting to stereotypes and piecemeal reveals. It is not a bad movie, and the actors are definitely watchable, but could have been better.

Rango
(2011)

Rango Wrangles You In
A Johnny Depp film that dons its lead character in the Hawaiian shirt of ANOTHER Depp portrayal ? THEN has this new chap actually intersect with the original character in a fun twist on both their story lines?

I'm in!

It's a familiar story - a silver-tongued, lonely coward flamboozles people into believing he is their hero. Uncharacteristically, he comes to embody exactly those traits - until he is outted by the evil, greedy PTB. Along the way, he befriends, and comes to rely on, a smattering of oddball characters. Resolve reinforced, he throws himself back into the fray.

I'll admit, I am not familiar with all the classics this animated piece pays homage to. But, there were enough clever shots, word play, and a well-paced plot that my attention was fixed throughout the movie.

I love the freedoms that animation affords a well-written story. There are actions and belief- suspending scenarios that, in a live-action picture, would seem....well, animated. Facial expressions, flights of fancy and poking fun at pop culture (old and new) were some of the elements that evoked classic Looney Tunes episodes - full of suggestive asides, exaggerated, yet underplayed stereotypes, and the inevitable potty humor.

This is one of those movies that makes me want to watch the films it takes its elements from - and then go back and give a second view in order to appreciate how it was all pulled together. I had one or two "Labyrinth"-like moments where I noticed small details, easily overlooked that add to the enjoyment of this film.

It's a predictably happy ending, but the path taken to the payoff is what makes Rango worth riding along.

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