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The Survivor

Decent 80s Aussie horror/mystery
This interesting supernatural horror from The Lucky Country begins with an airplane explosion that kills all passengers aboard. The pilot of the plane (Robert Powell, dull and deadpan) is the lone survivor, and he suspiciously escapes without injury. As he wrestles with his guilty conscience and the mysterious tragedy, he finds himself haunted by a creepy little girl and the screams and cries of those who died in his plane. He meets the kooky psychic Hobbs (Jenny Agutter of "An American Werewolf in London" fame), and together they try to figure out what the hell happened. Directed by horror icon David Hemmings, "The Survivor" feels like an episode of "The Twilight Zone." Today's audiences would find it easy to guess where the story is headed (and if not, ginormous spoilers on the back of the DVD case will certainly point the way), but I can see how this movie may have been a doozy in the early 80s. It's based on a James Herbert novel, but it sort of feels like a loose remake of a low-budget 60s horror gem that shall go unnamed here. The good news is that the film is very atmospheric and eerie, and the sound editing adds an especially chilling touch. I think it's an effective horror film overall, but it is not without its flaws. The problem with the movie is that it touches upon several genre elements (ghost story, slasher) without actually exploring any to a satisfactory degree. There are also a couple death sequences that don't make sense within the context of the film. Most unfortunate is that the opening sequence is more amusing than horrifying, and I assume this is due to budget constraints. The pilot avoids crashing the plane into town after it explodes, but the focus of this terrible incident is a woman on the street nearby, clinging desperately to a blowing tree, screaming and flailing about. It doesn't help that whenever the pilot has a flashback to the plane crash, we're taken back to this funny scene. All in all, "The Survivor" is a decent movie, though a bit of a mess. Still, it's one of the better 80s Aussie horrors that I've seen.


These shrooms are laced...
I cannot remember the last time a horror movie irritated me to this degree...SHROOMS is about a group of American friends (who actually don't appear to like each other much) who go to Ireland for vacation. They're obviously spoiled brats because the only thing on their mind when they're in freakin' IRELAND is getting their hands on some magic mushrooms ASAP. They meet up with some Irish friend (who is obviously British faking a bad Irish accent) that the lead girl (played by the creepy little girl from JC's VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED--the rest of her face has now caught up with her forehead, thank goodness) is creaming over. They immediately go camping in the woods and searching for shrooms. VotD girl gnaws on a mushroom that the Irish-but-British guy specifically said not to eat because it's poisonous. Soon she starts flipping out and having flash-forwards about her friends dying. It's up to her to save her friends from the ominous backwoodsmen, the creepy black-hooded ghost that pops up between people legs and/or above their heads, and the obvious overused plot twists in the script.

It seems like every line of dialogue spoken by the obnoxious 20-somethings in this movie features the word "shrooms." And you thought JUNOisms were annoying! If you took a sip of your Irish coffee every time someone in this movie said "shrooms," you'd be dead before the first jump scare.

The only good thing about SHROOMS is the movie poster, which features a skull shaped out of SHROOMS in the moonlight. Cool!

Don't Hang Up

Strange, quirky, and colorful low-budget horror film
A young woman reluctantly returns to her home town to oversee her dying grandmother's final days. While staying in the house where she witnessed her mumsy's murder thirteen years earlier, she finds more than a few secrets from her past have come back to haunt her. I appreciate that this movie has such strange execution. It's structure is very different from the typical low-budget horrors of this era, completely eschewing things like mystery (the killer's identity is obvious from the get-go) and resolution. Plot-wise, it borrows from proto-slashers BLACK Christmas and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. While it's lesser than both of those films in terms of quality, I did find it undeniably charming, entertaining, and even creepy at times. While the acting in the movie is generally amateur, Susan Bracken is a hoot as the spunky lead who gets to spout some amusing dialogue. She quickly flips the switch from headstrong heroine to full-on basket case and there's not a moment she's on screen where my eyes weren't on her face. It's one of the most memorable horror performances I've watched lately. The movie's biggest downfall is the irritating soap opera-ish theme song in the opening credits that pops up way too often throughout the movie. The freaky dolls in the opening sequence (who also pop up at other points in the movie) sort of make up for it. DON'T OPEN THE DOOR doesn't make much sense and it isn't going to be for everyone, but I found it to be a bizarre and unique viewing experience.


Unpleasant viewing, exceptional performances.
This is a very strange and unconventional horror/thriller with fantastic performances by Vera Farmiga and Jacob Kogan. Usually kid actors in horror films bug me (I'm lookin' at you, new OMEN kid!), but this little dude totally creeped me out in a Martin Stephens kind of way. It's an excellent performance and one of the best things this offbeat movie has going for it. This movie's plot sounds like typical "Bad Seed" ground, but it twists and turns into really bizarre territory, disorienting the viewer to the point where you have no idea where it's going or where it's been. I'm still not sure if I even liked it, but it did make me feel incredibly uneasy, and I guess that's worth something.

Smiley Face

Kudos to Araki and Faris
Can it be? Another awesome Gregg Araki movie? Boyfriend's on a roll! Anna Faris plays the lead (and only she could play a part like this and make it hysterically funny), who gets stoned early in the day and then eats a plateful of her roomie's cupcakes without knowing they're chockfull o' pot. The film consists of her misadventures trying to get through a mundane day--getting more pot, replacing the cupcakes, paying her electric bill, going to an audition--while completely stoned out of her mind. It's funnier than "Harold and Kumar," without all the juvenile "boy humor" those movies coast by on. It features a great comedic supporting cast, too.

Dinosaur Valley Girls

Open the door, get on the floor...
This is an unforgivably awful movie about a dude who transports back to an era where stop-motion dinosaurs attack "cavewomen" that somehow possess ginormous breast implants. Karen Black plays some sort of Cave Mom to the clan of cavewomen. She has a small handful of scenes that she cowers and grunts through, and they aren't really related to the rest of the film. When the cavewomen are off seducing the heroes, battling dinosaurs, or engaging in unnecessary dance sequences that look straight from the "Walk the Dinosaur" video by Was (Not Was), the scene will randomly switch to Black, writhing up against a wall, eating meat on a stick. It's embarrassing and she deserved much better than to be stuck in cameos like this in the 90s. She does look great for her age here (which, depending on your source, is anywhere between 48 and 57) and she does get to try her hand at physical comedy in her three scenes. So, if you're a die-hard Black fan, than it may be worth watching just for her quick funny bit, but otherwise, it's an intolerable mess to sit through.

The Lost Room

Excellent show!
"The Lost Room is a fantastic miniseries! So-good-I-refuse-to-believe-Sci-Fi-Channel-Produced-It! The show is really well-written and engrossing. The story, involving a key that opens any door into a mysterious hotel room, is innovative and eerie. The lead character accidentally loses one of the Fanning girls in the room (oops!) and goes on a quest to figure out how to get her back. He discovers this weird underbelly of socialites and freaks obsessed over magical objects that once belonged in "the lost room." Way weird but fun stuff here. Unfortunately, it seems the writers were a little too smart for their own good, because it really loses steam by the last couple episodes. Still, it's great and I think most genre fans would appreciate it.


Good, if you can overlook the juvenile aspects
First off, I can't believe I was charged $3.25 for 3D glasses when I could have just brought my own. Ugh! Anyways, I enjoyed "Beowulf" much more than I thought I would. It has a slew of flaws, but it's still good entertainment. Some of the animation bugged me because instead of thinking "this is Grendel's crazy monster mom," I kept thinking "Oh look, it's a cartoon big lipped Angelina Jolie!" Also, it seems like the filmmakers wanted to go for an adult demographic with this animated adaptation of the epic poem, but it misses the mark by being chockful of juvenile humor and moments. Despite these distractions, it's still a good ride.

Tales of the City

Fantastic miniseries
In my quest to see every thing Parker Posey has ever done, I put this miniseries (and it's successors) on the back-burner. I finally got around to it and was very impressed! What a fascinating and engrossing show. It has this magical atmosphere that really made me wish I was living in SF in the 70s. Parker is only in it a bit, but she's got some great dialogue. Olympia Dukakis is lovely and Laura Linney (who I find somewhat overrated these days) shines in the lead as a naïve Midwestern girl moving to the big city for the first time. It's probably the best work I've seen from her. My only complaint about this (and I suppose the fault lies with the source material) is that so many of the story lines take such an abruptly dark and twisted turn in the final episode. Even though I typically go for dark themes in my entertainment, it seems to come out of left field here. Still, it's great overall, and even features a cameo from the notorious Karen Black, playing herself as a candy bar craving fat farm attendant!

The Mist

Gut-wrenching horror--one of the best of recent years.
BING-O! After sitting through some mediocre Stephen King adaptations this month, I wasn't expecting much from this. Well, holey dooley! "The Mist" is easily my favorite movie of the year, and maybe my favorite horror of the 00's. I cannot remember the last time I left a movie theater feeling so depressed, emotionally exhausted, and just plain drained (127 minutes long!) because I was so invested in the movie I was watching--and a horror movie to boot! "The Mist" is R-rated horror for grown-ups: no shaky came here, no annoying teen TV stars, no bad dialogue, and no obnoxious music. At the half hour point, I was turned off by some Sci-Fi channel caliber CGI and I wasn't sure I was going to like where the movie was headed. But it was only uphill from there. I wish that scene was shot differently, but the FX throughout the rest of the movie were impressive and really it's just a perfect horror apart from that. Thomas Jane is flippin' awesome as always, but Marcia Gay Harden is the real star here. She takes a role that anyone else would turn into an irritating caricature and she NAILS it. It's really one of the most brilliant genre performances I've seen in a long time. Too bad "The Mist" appears to be a bomb at the box office. It could have set a precedent for well-written and mature scary movies filling our multiplexes. Oh well. It'll be a cult classic in a few years time.

The Reaping

More interesting than I was expecting
"The Reaping" is an interesting exploration of religious themes within a horror setting. I'm surprised Dark Castle, whose known for their fluffy pop horrors, would tackle a script like this. It's definitely the company's most ambitious horror film to date. It has it's good aspects-- it's very twisty, creepy, and thought-provoking. However, be prepared to be doused with bad CGI and even worse acting by David Morrissey (go away already!). While the basic plot line is original, parts of the movie borrow a little too much from religious horrors from the 70s (everything from "The Exorcist" to "The Omen" to "The Wicker Man.") Still, I'd say it's worthy of a viewing.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King

Some episodes are better than others...
This fares better than much of Stephen King made-for-TV adaptations, though the episodes are hit or miss:

BATTLEGROUND 8/10 - easily the best episode AND an homage to the greatest made-for-TV horror ever, "Trilogy of Terror." There's even a cameo by our friend the Zuni Doll! It goes the "no dialogue" route, and William Hurt pulls it off well. The FX are ace. Loved this one. Unfortunately, it's mostly downhill from here.

CROUCH'S END 5/10 - this is pretty awful and Claire Forlani has got to be the worst working "name" actress, but there's something eerie in it's Lovecraft-ness that I appreciated for a bit.

THE ROAD VIRUS HEADS NORTH 4/10 - Meh. It's good to see Tom Berenger and Marsha Mason working again. I guess.

UMNEY'S LAST CASE 7/10 - It has a neat noir-ish feel, mostly created by the inimitable character acting of William H. Macy.

THE END OF THE WHOLE MESS 6/10 - eh, this didn't translate too well, but it's watchable.

THE FIFTH QUARTER 7/10 - This one's sort of a heist story with great performances (Sisto, Samantha Mathis) and a surprising homoerotic subplot. Good stuff here.

AUTOPSY ROOM FOUR 4/10 - another King adaptation ruined by Richard Thomas! YOU KNOW THEY GOT A HELL OF A BAND 4/10 - I remember reading this as a youngster and finding it REALLY eerie. What's not to be scared of by evil dead rocknroll icons? Well, how about really lame evil dead rocknroll icon impersonators? This does not translate well to film.

Strange Frequency

Not bad for a basic cable horror themed show
The tagline here reads "Imagine "The Twilight Zone" on Rock 'n' Roll." I wouldn't go that far, but it was amusing for what it was. I guess this was a show that aired on VH-1, and it's about what you'd expect of a scripted series on a cable music channel. One fun episode features two metalheads who end up in "disco hell." Another stars Eric Roberts and Chris Masterson as dueling music-lovin' serial killers from two different generations who go at each other (very similar to the "Pick Me Up" MOH episode, really.) My favorite one is about an obnoxious rock star who trashes his hotel suite every night to tick off the sweet elderly room service lady, who has some tricks up her own sleeve. The last episode is the only one with a serious tone, starring Judd Nelson as a record exec who gets a "calling" whenever he hears talent that will hit it big. Unfortunately for his up and coming acts, they all kick the bucket in some godawful way as soon as their records start to sell. Overall, it isn't anything groundbreaking or frightening, but it's an amusing show that most rock fans can probably appreciate.

Bad Reputation

Good low-budget effort that omits the typical teen-horror gloss
"Bad Repuation" is an over-ambitious but interesting hybrid of no-budget horror and after-school special. Most reviews cry "Carrie!", but I thought this was unique and provocative in its own right. Its main problem is the kill sequences. They're neat ideas, but everything is off-camera, likely due to budget constraints. The acting is decent and the dialogue bounces between witty and eyeroll-worthy. Overall, not a bad movie, and it gets kudos for not going the glossy teen-girl-bent-on-revenge horror route (I'm lookin' at you, "Tamara") and instead exploring sex double-standards and how truly horrible teenagers can be to each other.


Eerie and charming 70s horror.
Oliver Stone's feature film debut concerns a horror author named Edmund (played by Dark Shadows' Jonathon Frid) who is plagued by nightmares. When he and his wife have a bunch of guests up to their isolated house for a relaxing weekend. After a few go missing, Edmund's friends and family are confronted with three awful beings who are manifestations of his nightmares. The guests are either killed or forced to go through a series of tests to see who deserves to live. Can anyone put a stop to this hellish nightmare? What a strange film! It's obviously very low-budget and has a distinct gritty 70s quality. The characters from Edmund's dreams are each fascinating and truly make a scene. We have the lovely Martine Beswick as the provocative and sultry "Queen of Evil," who appears to be the matriarch of the evil trio. There's also the exotic strongman giant Jackal (Henry Judd Baker) and a dwarf named Spider (none other than Hervé Villechaize!) who may be tiny but is just as evil! The trio's antics are amusing, but also very unsettling. The cast also features Troy Donahue in a random role as well as the iconic Mary Woronov, who plays a straight-forward "bored wife" role (yet still oh so very funny!), proving again that she has much more to offer than the camp factor. The score in the film is very fascinating and varied. At one point, there's a sudden persistent and deafening siren-like synth that I swear was swiped by Tarantino for "Kill Bill." While the film is eerie and unpredictable most of the time, it also has a very charming sense of humor that suits it well. I'm thrilled this rare film finally made it to DVD, but it really deserves a better treatment. The print is hard to see, especially in the nighttime scenes. Still, any fan of 70s horror should check out this quirky and original film.


The best horror film of the year.
In a rented motel room in the desolate desert, a lonely and depressed woman (Ashley Judd) spends most of her time drinking, grieving the loss of her son and fearing her abusive ex-con husband. When she meets an awkward and equally lonely man (Michael Shannon), they form an instant connection. After making love, he finds a bug in her bed, which leads to several confessions from both parties. This marks the couple's descent into paranoia and maddening codependency. This may not sound like the plot of a horror film, and many folks were apparently bummed by the allegedly "false advertising" in the trailers, but "Bug" is really the scariest movie I've seen so far this year. Movies like this-and not the same old heralded crap by Zombie, Aja, and Roth--should comprise a new wave in horror. I'm not the biggest follower of director William Friedkin, but someone needs to give him more money to make genre films! Hell, the man deserves some kind of award, if only for pulling such a fantastic performance out of Ashley Judd. It isn't that I think she's a bad actress, but she's been typecast in the "serial killer thriller" and romantic dramedy genres for the majority of her career and most of what I have seen her do has been very uninspired. She proves here that she's a fantastic actress and she really sinks her teeth into this incredibly difficult role. Michael Shannon (who played the same role off-Broadway) is equally amazing. I didn't know that "Bug" was based on a play, but that makes sense after watching it. It's great that the producers saw fit to hire the stage actor in the lead, even though he isn't particularly famous. Judd and Shannon give two of the best and bravest performances of the year in any genre. The supporting cast (including Harry Connick, Jr. and Lynne Collins) fares just as well. It's an incredibly upsetting film to sit through, but it's ultimately rewarding. There's nothing like this out there right now. I'm shocked it even got a theatrical release. "Bug" would make a great companion piece to the excellent 1993 drama "Clean, Shaven."

Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up
Episode 11, Season 1

Gory but nonsensical - one of the weakest episodes from Season 1.
Cult director Larry Cohen and mediocre genre scribe David Schow team up for "Pick Me Up," one of the weakest MOH episodes from Season One. The story follows a bunch of travelers whose bus breaks down in an isolated mountainous region. Some opt to go off to the nearest town with a trucker (played by Michael Moriarty, even more obnoxious than usual), some stay at the bus, and one tough-as-nails woman (Fairuza Balk) decides to walk off in the opposite direction on her own. She soon realizes that she's become a killer's prey, but she's unsure of who the killer is. This episode plays with the fear of hitchhiking--of both the hitchhiker and the driver. The story-line starts off decent and it's suspenseful enough, until you actually figure out what's going on. After that, it just descends into absurd nonsense, especially in its last 10 minutes or so. Cohen's trademark sense of black humor doesn't really pop up until the end, and by that point I was ready to throw the towel in. It does have it's high points -- it's fairly violent and the gore effects are well done. And Balk is excellent, as usual, though underused here. So it's gross enough to please horror fans, but it's not particularly original and the twists and turns are stupid, especially considering its otherwise serious tone.

Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale
Episode 12, Season 1

The most unfocused episode in the series
John McNaughton's MOH entry is one of the more disjointed ones. It concerns a man who goes to witch doctor to see if she can revive his dead wife. She tells him the tale of a man named Haeckel, a Frankenstein type who was obsessed with making life out of death. That is, until one day he's traveling to visit his dying father and ends up staying with a woman with zombiephilia. It's refreshing to see an episode that's a period piece, but the lack of a cohesive story structure really hinders it. I would have liked to have seen more Clive Barker (who wrote the short story one which the episode is based) and less Mick Garris (who adapted it.) It is a fairly nasty episode and there are a few effective scare scenes. The ending is really gross and silly in a good way, but perhaps I only took at as that because everything that came before it was somewhat dull.

Cat People

Beautiful and depressing.
While Ollie (Kent Smith) is visiting the zoo, he meets a lovely Serbian lady named Irena (Simone Simon) doing sketches of the panthers. It's "love at first sight" for both parties. After some time goes by with little physical affection between the two, Ollie begins to wonder if there's more to Irena than meets the eye. She'll do whatever it takes to keep her monstrous secret from coming out. I heard a lot about this one before finally seeing it, and it seems to be a general consensus among fans that this Simone Simon owns this film. I'll agree with that, but it isn't because I find her beautiful or entrancing. She's awkward and a bit off, and it works perfectly for the self-doubting and insecure character. Perhaps this is why the fantastic pool scene works so well within the storyline. The viewer has learned to sympathize with this fragile woman's plight up until this scene, when we're given a sign that maybe we shouldn't trust her. At this point, I was of the opinion that Ollie made a better couple with his female pal coworker and began rooting for him to ditch Irena and get with her. That is, until Simon won my sympathies over again a few scenes later!

"Cat People" is a film that the phrase "less is more" is often ascribed to, but this doesn't just apply to the horror angle in the film. There's so much subtext going on here about relationships, female sexuality, and gender roles that couldn't be more blatant in the storyline because of the cultural mindset of the era. The few horror scenes that are in the film are done incredibly well with beautiful cinematography and use of shadows and light. My favorite part of the film is that eerie pool sequence, which is on par with the creepy "walk through the sugar cane field" segment in "I Walked With a Zombie." Tourneur really knew how to get under an audience's skin. Overall, this is a gorgeously photographed film with more going on than is on the surface. And it's a total heart-breaker.

Trick or Treat

The best of the 80s rocker horrors
I've seen a slew of "80s rocker horrors" over the years, from rubbish like "Terror on Tour" to ridiculously fun gems like "Slumber Party Massacre 2." Somehow I managed to keep putting this one off, which is strange because it's probably the most popular and well received one. Well, I finally caught up with it and it's easily the best of this mostly awful (but almost always endearing!) subgenre. The plot (which was pretty much lifted in the film "Black Roses") concerns a mulleted misfit named Eddie, whose ridiculed by all in his high school for his taste in music. He loves 80s metal, especially his idol Sammi Curr (played by the late great Tony Fields.) After Sammi is killed, Eddie favorite radio DJ gives him Sammi's final recording. Once Eddie plays the record backwards, he discovers he's a bit tougher, and bad things start happening to those who taunt him. Is Sammi's music possessed? "Trick or Treat" is well-made and a total hoot. The special effects are awesome, even though it does feature the typical 80s laser beams. I grew up in the 80s, and while I wasn't a fan of heavy metal, I do remember the urban legend about playing a record backwards hearing the sounds of Satan worshipping. Haha! I also remember being told by my older siblings and neighbors that both KISS and Ozzy worshipped Satan, so it's very amusing to see them both make cameos as a harmless radio DJ and a anti-rock priest. If only I had seen this film as a kid! While the film seems to poke fun at the popular connection in the 80s between alleged devil worship and heavy metal, the viewer never really finds out why Sammi Curr is back from the dead creating havoc and killing whoever gets in his way. This is movie's weakest point, but if you can overlook that, it's loads of fun.

Mother Riley Meets the Vampire

Really cute and wacky
I've never heard of or seen a "Mother Riley Adventure" and didn't realize it was a whole series of films, but I had Turner Classic Movies on and saw that Bela Lugosi was in this one so I figured I'd give it a shot. I'm glad I did, as this is one of the wackier movies I've seen in a long time. It's a slapstick horror featuring an old lady who gets abducted by a robot (?) sent to her by a vampire (played by Bela, of course, who endearingly and comfortably hams it up in his few scenes.) Oh yeah, did I mention old Mother Riley is played by an old man? What a strange vehicle this is, but I found it impossible to dislike. There's even a completely random goofy song and dance sequence. The slapstick goes over-the-top in some scenes (notably the ones that are sped up), but it's all in good fun. The best thing the movie has going for it is its distinctly British humor. I loved Dora Byran as Tilly the chambermaid, especially when she starts cavorting with Mother Riley. The woman has such fantastic comedic timing! Overall, its an amusing and quick movie. If you catch it on TV give it a go. I don't think it's as rotten as its reputation.

Hood of Horror

Hilarious and twisted fun.
"Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror" is an urban anthology narrated by the ever so lovable Snoop, apparently playing the ghetto devil or something. I'm not exactly sure what's going on with the wraparound story, but it doesn't really matter, because the stories in the anthology are mostly good fun. The film is directed by Stacy Title, so anyone who has seen her morbid comedy "The Last Supper" will be pleased to find her sick sense of humor is still intact. Throw this in The first story concerns a tough but good-hearted street graffiti artist named Posie, who has a run-in with some nasty local guys. She finds herself possessed by powers given to her by what looks like a demonic bum (played by B-movie icon Danny Trejo) that allow her to destroy with her spray paint and she starts ridding of the gangsta scum in her hood. This segment is lots of fun and has lots of over-the-top gore, including a death by 40oz impalement (no kidding! Best movie death ever?!) It's a bit wishy-washy in its characterization and moralizing, but it's an overall good effort. The second tale is equally fun, though the plot line is a bit goofy. It involves a bunch of black Vietnam vets who reside in a house owned by their former white commanding officer. When he gets offed, his racist son shows up to take over the house, milking them of their money and food and space. The problem with this one is the hick son (played too crazily by Anson Mount) is so irritating he's practically unwatchable. But ah well, this one was nasty enough to keep my attention and performances by Ernie Hudson and Brande Roderick sort of cancel out Mount. The last story involves a rap star whose former partner met an untimely death while their career was just taking off. When partying in his hotel room, he's encountered by the manager (the fantastically funny Lin Shaye) who turns out to be a ghost or demon who confronts him with his past evil deeds. While it does have its funny moments, this segment is the most serious in tone. "Hood of Horror" gets bonus points for taking on issues like gender constructs in the street, urban housing plights, and hip hop rivalry and adapting them to a horror setting. It's not always successful but it's certainly commendable. If you don't take "Hood of Horror" too seriously, there's a chance you'll find it a wickedly funny horror anthology in the vain of HBO's "Tales from the Crypt" or "Tales from the Hood." It's strong points are its sense of humor and use of distasteful gore. It's better than all the other recent "urban" horror flicks that have been flooding the straight-to-DVD market. It's probably best enjoyed with friends and forties.


Entertaining and not as bad as its rep...
In an attempt to bring something positive to the inner-city, a group of wealthy suburban teens decide to purchase an abandoned mansion in the ghetto and convert it into a happenin' nightclub. Their parents, who spent their youth in the city, have passed down an urban legend about a man named Bones, who was brutally murdered in the area. Unfortunately, the kids don't heed their warnings and stir up trouble when they happen upon the bones of the dead 70s gangsta residing in the basement of their new digs. "Bones" is a fun mix of old blaxploitation and contemporary horror. The acting (like most things about the movie) is hit or miss. The young actors playing the teens do a tolerable job. Snoop plays the titular roll and doesn't have that many scenes, but he's decent when he's on screen and probably the smoothest horror villain ever. Pam Grier gives an out-there performance as Bones' lover from the old days, now a worn and slightly crazy fortune-teller overly-protective of her teen daughter. The movie tries to take on some interesting themes about the intersection of class and race, as well as the suburbanization of America's cities. But who am I kidding, the real selling point here is the nastiness. There's plenty of sick gore scenes (including lots of icky maggot sequences!) they will please any horror fan. Some of the special effects are misguided, but some of them are effectively creepy. Overall, it's not as bad as many genre fans claim it is. It's like a less serious take on "Candyman." The plot is a somewhat muddled, and I never really understood the motives of half the characters. If you can overlook the obvious missteps and silly abrupt ending, there is an enjoyable movie in there.

Black Roses

Goofy 80s Demonic Rocker flick
Famous glam rock band The Black Roses is booked to play their first (?) live shows at its hometown local high school. While all the teens are stoked that their favorite band chose their sleepy small town for their first ever live concert, the parents are less than enthused with The Black Roses and their seemingly demonic lead singer Damien. The teachers and mayor stick by "Free speech" while the parents protest. When the band shows up for the show, the PTA and other authoritative adults attend only to find a Michael Bolton type in a Don Johnson suit singing power ballads. They shrug their shoulders at this harmless lite-rocker and bolt for the exit. That's when Damien strips down to a kinkier outfit (think Cher in "If I Could Turn Back Time) and The Black Roses crank out the hard rock. The kids in the crowd go wild. When the band stays in town to do more three more shows, the kids' become increasingly zombie-like and violent. Their English teacher starts to think that maybe the PTA was right and the kids are becoming possessed by Leotarded Damien and his rocknroll.

John Fasano's follow up to his bizarrely awful "Rock & Roll Nightmare" doesn't fare that much better story-wise, but it's still sort of charming. It lacks the interesting visuals and characters of its predecessor, but makes up for that by adding more puppet-monster action. Nothing happens in the first half hour of the film, which has a really strange feeling, like it's a musical from the 50s instead of an 80s rocker movie. There's even a sequence where the bored lead teenager is trying to woo a girl by dancing around the street, from lamppost to lamppost, saying things like "Let's paint the town red!" The score is equally out-of-place for a movie about a demonic glam rock band. It sounds like something out of an 80s children's adventure movie. The special effects and puppetry are charming and one of the only things that kept my attention. Especially worth noting is a scene where future Soprano's star Vincent Pastore gets gobbled up by his stereo speakers. So while "Black Roses" isn't completely unwatchable, it isn't really a good movie and recommended for only those who really dig this type of thing.


A straight-faced genre film that's interesting but flawed
Considering that "Rapturious" is a horror film about a white rapper that is directed by Kamal Ahmed (of Jerky Boys fame), I assumed it was going to be a low-budget goof-fest of Tromatic proportions. I couldn't be more wrong. It's a film that is very serious in tone and the only joke I recall is the pun in the title. The film opens with an old Western setting, where a remorseless murderer is being condemned by officials and the local priest. The monster is hanged. The film then flashes to the present day, with the story surrounding a young up-and-coming rap star named Raptorious. His days are booked with interviews and meetings with his pushy yet caring agent (played by indie horror queen Debbie Rochon.) When his aggressive drug dealer gives him a new street drug, Rap starts having bizarre hallucinations and dreams about demons that are after him. They become so heavy that it threatens his career and soon his life. Is it the new drugs? Or is he a paranoid schizophrenic? Or is he really being chased by demons? The film explores each of these angles and is mostly successful. The cast is surprisingly good, especially Robert Oppel as the lead and none other than Joe Bob Briggs as a doctor that he's unsure if he can trust. Debbie's good too, though not always believable as a big-time talent agent. While the film did create an effective feeling of paranoia, it's too ambitious for its budget. It's never as scary as it should be. There's a sequence (that may be a dream or a flashback or reality) where Rap is in Hell, and Hell doesn't look particularly threatening or difficult to escape. This scene leads to a controversial set-piece that had me giggling instead of shocked. While there are some delicious gore sequences, the demon masks mostly look like something out of a Halloween chain store. All in all, "Rapturious" is an interesting watch. It's got a neat concept going for it, but it doesn't always deliver.

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