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Death of a Wizard

A true punch in the gut,
Did exactly what a good short ought to do - Hooked me, drew me in and when I caught in the momentum of the story and characters, shocked me with a brutal and savage ending.

Death of a WIzard offers a beautifully grim snapshot of a time and place that I remember only ephemerally from my youth, but it evokes that era perfectly. I think the only other film I have seen to use the B&W format this effectively in conveying small-town American life was The Last Picture Show, and that was 40 years ago! And of course it is to a very different end here...

La Hein was probably a large influence on the director (as well as early Darren Arronofsky films like Pi) but it still has enough of its own thing going on to feel fresh and captivating. Dialogue is very lean and memorable despite some stereotypical "redneck" secondary characters I could have lived without (the weakest scene in the film for me).

This is probably the kind of film that will polarize people quite a bit; I don't know how this is doing on the festival front but if the audience I saw the film with is any indication, it's a pretty clear "love it or hate it" affair. I'm leaning toward the former despite some hesitant feelings about the ending, which felt like an abrupt and violent cop-out without wanting to spoil things too much...Kudos for a sparse but eerie musical score as well - creepy choral music isn't really what I associate with stories like this, but it worked really well in-context.

Not for everyone, but a visceral and evocative short that show a lot of promise. I felt like I had been punched in the gut when all was said and done and if that were the filmmaker's intent, they sure as hell succeeded on that front!


The Dark Hours

Great indie horror!!!
I can not say enough good things about "The Dark Hours". Don't let the unoriginal title phase you, this flick is exactly what the horror genre needs. This is a type of film that requires every second of your attention, for every little action comes back and ties in at the end. Performances are believable all-around, and Adian Devin makes a brilliant villain, simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. The film is exceptionally well shot on its tiny budget (less than a half-million Canadian dollars). Paul Fox has truly done a bang-up job on his directional debut here. His style and visual creativity elevate what is already a great film and makes it both intellectually stimulating AND a feast for the eye. Wil Zmak's script is intelligent and never underestimates its audience, and the ending will leave a definite mark on your mind. I'd also like to point out the music score, which was downright brilliant. As a film score fan I can say that even though this score will unfortunately never see a CD release it is quite a remarkable and original score. Gore fans will get a kick out of the finger scene as well. Really great horror film; simply not to be ignored. Why can't we have more films like this?

The Descent

Haunting and powerful, what horror can and should be.
I just got back from a midnight screening of the film and let me tell you that I am greatly satisfied by what I saw. This is a film with a simple plot and a limited cast that draws it's strength from its intensity. And intense it is! The last half of the film is brilliantly executed. Neil Marshall knows the genre well. The dynamic range of his camera--from epic, Peter Jackson-esquire aerial photography to the tight, narrow, womb-like confides of the cave setting--make brilliant contrasts. He also knows a thing or two about human nature, which plays a huge part in the films success. This film kind of reminds me of the brilliant 1997 sci-fi horror film "CUBE" in that it shows that even protagonists--the best of humanity, if you will--can become feral, murderous creatures under pressure. Add to this an often great music score by David Julyan, solid and entirely believable characters and performances all-around, and carnage that even the most demanding horror fan will be pleased by, the Descent is a terrific little horror film that does not disappoint. Like the aforementioned CUBE, the ending--not the cropped US ending, which is missing the last climactic scene but the real ending we will hopefully get on DVD--is uncertain and bleak, and will follow you for a long time. I just sat there when the film was over. It was a profoundly impacting horror flick, and in a day and age when unoriginality reigns king of the genre, "The Descent" is a gem in a coal mine.


Bleak and dark, a perfect horror short.
I think the tagline, "It only hurts as much as you let it", sums up the film perfectly. This experimental horror short is a true example of less-is-more. There are only four actors altogether, two locations, and almost no music. The special effects are elaborate yet clever and never become intrusive. The grainy 16mm photography adds to the sense of dread perfectly. There is only one line of dialog throughout this entire short--unless, of course, you count agonized scream as dialog! If you feel faint at the sight of needles of you fear surgical torture, this is certainly not for you. The abrupt ending will leave you with a sense of bleak dread. This is a perfect atmosphere/experimental/mood piece. Think Clive Barker meets Cronenberg. I will certainly watch for more of Adam's work in the future!


Incredibly underrated...
I can see why some people may not like this movie. The dubbing/acting is really, really bad. The screenplay will often come across as incredibly awkward (though I feel this may be due more to the actor's delivery than the dialog itself). The director creates a perfect atmosphere of mystery and wonder. The special effects are excellent, and used intelligently and judicially. The music score is absolutely breathtaking. The cue at the end as the camera rises up and up into the martian sky is so awe-inspiring and overwhelming that it practically brings tears to my eyes (I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film, and let me say that it is really brilliant and beautiful and better than anything overrated composers like John Williams ever produced in over forty years!). The ending is left to your interpretation, which is a perfect way to close things if you ask me. A true sci-fi film. I can understand why some won't like it, but I sure as hell did!


Needed to go that extra half mile...as it stands, "Boo" is a fairly mediocre horror film
A group of teens decide to go party in an abandoned hospital on Halloween. Unfortunately for them, the place is haunted by some very nasty ghosts who don't want them to leave. "Boo" is a decent genre flick, but ultimately it disappoints. The performances are mediocre at best, the script is pedestrian and first-time scribe/director Anthony C. Ferrante (a former Fangoria writer) relies too heavily on predictable pop scares throughout most of the film (though to his credit the flashback sequences were very well-shot). There's nice gore content and the special effects are often very good (loved the skinned dog thing), unfortunately these are too sparse and insubstantial to give the film the push it needed. "Boo" is by no means a bad movie, it's simply too mediocre to deliver on it's initial promise. Could have been much, much worse though… 5.5/10.


I've seen better, seen worse...
A group of soldiers are called in to a geological base on Mars after part of it is put on a tight lock down. It turns out that the lock down is due to an ancient, alien chromosome that mutates those it "infects", for better or for worse. "Doom" is a film I was greatly anticipating. I didn't expect it to be a piece of high art on celluloid, but I DID expect good, dumb fun. At times, Doom delivers this—most of the time, it doesn't…at all. With the exception of Karl Urban, Dexter Fletcher, and Rosamund Pike, the acting is pretty poor. The characters are mostly one-dimensional throw-aways who we don't care for. The writing also suffers from mucho flaws—the science in this film is pretty terrible (check IMDb's trivia section), and while I can forgive that (after all, it is just a movie…), I can't forgive the major sense of déjà vu I had with the painfully long scenes of soldiers running down pipe-infested, mesh-grate-floored, darkly light halls aiming guns at mysterious off-screen sounds. This is a genre convention that is long, long overdue for retirement. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak, a former cinematographer, should've stayed out of the director's chair. The film certainly isn't without visual flair (the much-hyped first-person sequence was a blast), but he relies too heavily on action (the final "showdown" sequence is a real eye-roller) and loud explosions, over suspense or well thought-out scares. The creature effects from Stan Winston studios were great, but we see so little of them that I felt horribly cheated by how little screen-time the monsters got (after all, Doom WAS all about the monsters!!!). In staying with the graphic nature of its source material, the film is very violent, with a slick beheading, lots of severed limbs, a nasty autopsy scene, and even an exploding head (during the first-person sequence no less). Gore hounds won't be disappointed in the red stuff cooked up in Doom. I also applaud the filmmakers for their sparse use of CG; it's great to see films going back to good old realistic-looking puppets, prosthetics, and make-up over soulless, lifeless CG creatures like in Van Helsing or the recent Star Wars films. The only computer generated creature in the film is the briefly-seen Pinky monster, which I found more endearing than frightening. I found Clint Mansell's score to be a huge disappointment. It has a very rock-like edge to it, which didn't work well here at all. How 'bout a REAL score next time around?

Doom wasn't a complete waste but it was a big, big let-down. Check it out if you want but don't expect it to live up to what the makers originally promised! 5/10.

The Amityville Horror

You know you're in trouble when the DVD menus are scarier than the film itself!
This 2005 remake of the 1979 horror film has the same set-up, with the Lutz family moving into the Amityville house. Everyone's happy at first, but soon strange happenings occur and Mr. Lutz begins loosing his sanity. All this can be attributed to some horrific events that happened in the house's basement several hundred years before. The film begins well with likable performances from the two leads, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, and there's a much-needed good sense of humor. Also present is a surprisingly fulfilling amount of gore, thank God, and the attempt to flesh-out the house's back-story was a nice touch as well. Things go way down hill from here as eye rolling clichés and incredibly cheap "boo" scares take center stage. Gone are any scenes of genuine creepiness that were in the original (The "babysitter" scenes in this version were a joke!) and the ghosts—which were quite similar to those found in the 2001 remake of "Thirteen Ghosts"—were not in the least bit scary. Even the score, from five (!) credited composers, was a disappointment. Jody, the demon pig (how cool is that?) from the original, has been replaced with a ghostly little girl, ala "The Ring". A shame, really, as there are a few good moments and first-time feature film director Andrew Douglas shows an impressive eye for the camera. Next time, Mr. Douglas, pick a better script.

Not a horrid film but often predictable, generic, and frankly to mainstream-oriented to be…good. 4/10. The DVD menus, by the way, are scarier than the film itself.

Gin gwai 2

Inferior to the original...but still worth catching,
After a failed suicide attempt, a pregnant young woman, Joey, begins seeing some not-so-benign spirits. She learns that to find answers, she must dig into the past of her ex-boyfriend—and father of her unborn child. This sequel to the 2002 film "The Eye", plot-wise, is unrelated, though much of the original's crew has returned, including the Pang Bros. Directing and Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui penning the script. The story line has little to do with the title (it may have been better marketed as an unrelated film) but the story itself offers enough twists, turns and red herrings—some of which I didn't see coming—to keep things interesting and often exciting. While the ghosts in the original were mostly creepy-looking, the ones here tended to lean more towards the gory end of the spectrum, the best scene involving a VERY realistic depiction of what happens to one's body after falling from the top of the building. Qi Shu makes a very strong lead, and all the other actors were fine as well, but for some reason the first quarter or so of the film is spoken primarily in English, perhaps to cash in on the overseas market (?). My biggest complaint is the fact that the film can often be laugh-out-loud cheesy. *SPOILER* for example, when Joey jumps from the top-story of a building, twice, are we really supposed to believe she's in good enough physical health afterwards to deliver an infant!?!?!? Come on, give me a break…

Still, it's worth checking out if you like Asian horror. It's inferior to the original, as sequels often are, but it's an interesting film nonetheless.


Ringu 2

A lame, uninvolving sequel lacking the superb suspense and creepiness of the original
Reiko and her son, returning from the first film, are in hiding after the unexplained deaths of both her father and her ex-husband, while the authorities continue to search for her and Sadako's curse continues to claim victims unfortunate enough to watch the ever-circulating cursed video. I loved the first Ring. It was the first film to ever truly scare me, it was weird, unsettling and atmospheric as hell. I waited a long time to see the sequel, and now that I have, quite frankly, I wish I hadn't. I like to start my reviews positive and thus I'll begin with what I found effective about the film. While there were no scenes that genuinely haunted me the way the fist film did, there are a number of effective moments to be found here, the most notable being the unsettling "tape erasing" and "mirror" scenes. There are a few genuinely unexpected plot twists as well, the most startling being the death of a very important character from the first film. The actors were all fine. Hideo Nakata's direction, as true of the original, is solid and the atmosphere he creates is strong and often creepy. This, I hate to say, it where the positive aspects end. As with many other J-horrors (Ju-On: The Grudge and Uzumaki being perfect examples), the film thinks it can forgo any type of narrative and substitute a plot with creepy images. Note to J-horror directors: THIS DOESN'T WORK! Without a story line that the audience can follow, or characters we give two scents (for the lack of a better word) about, one neither cares for nor is engrossed by what's going on on-screen. This is especially true of the last half-hour of the film, which is silly, lame and surprisingly cheesy, not to mention confusing as hell.

I really wanted to like this movie. I was excited about it before seeing it, but after it ended I was left thinking, "Jeez, what a lame movie". Shame.


Project: Metalbeast

A decent way to kill 90 minutes,
After finding, killing and extracting a blood sample from a werewolf in Europe, a soldier injects himself with it's DNA, turning himself into a werewolf in an American military base, where he's captured and cryogenically frozen. Flash foreword 10 years, where scientists are given the man's body for an experiment involving a metal-based, organic, self-restoring skin. Upon giving the soldier the skin graph, he awakens and turns into a werewolf, but this time faster, meaner, shinier and bullet proof. I picked this movie up the other day from my local video store for $2, as they are going out of business and need to sell all their videos. I grabbed as many as I could carry home, "Project: Metalbeast" being one of them. Despite the terrible title and having heard nothing of it before, "Metalbeast" turned out to be an okay way to kill 90 minutes in my book. It's got a script that's more intelligent than your usual straight-to-video horror flick, a decent score, some likable characters, a couple of gory bits (the highlight being the death of the creature at the end), and even John Carl Buechler's creature effects weren't bad, though the Metalbeast itself looks more like a Hedgehog on crack than a werewolf. Granted, the film never steps very far out of genre territory, and the portrayal of both the scientists and the military are as clichéd as can be but in the end, "Project: Metalbeast" offered a fine dose of gore, monster action, and a interesting concept that puts a nice spin on the werewolf myth.

$2 well spent, I say.



A fugitive escapes from a Spanish prison and is tracked down by a robot dog in the distant future. Oh, Brian Yuzna, why did you make this awful, awful movie? In general, I like the films he makes through his production company, Fantastic Factory. Faust, Dagon, and Beyond Re-Animator were fun, well-made horror movies. Hey, even Arachnid had its moments. But this…ouch, this was absolutely unwatchable. To start, it was boring as hell. The action was uninteresting and bland, the acting was often very poor, and the visual effects were crappy. Then of course you have our "hero" running around nude for about five minutes of screen time and one of the most tasteless sex scenes I've ever seen (I actually felt sick to my stomach during it), not to mention that even the gore is badly done and uninspired. To be fair, Yuzna gives the film a pretty decent look via desolate Spanish locations and the effects on the robot dog (From Vincent Gaustini, who was also responsible for the effects in Dogma, Requiem for a Dream and the made-for-cable adaptation of Stephen King's Thinner) weren't bad at times. Oh, and the opening title sequence was actually quite cool and creative. These three pros, unfortunately, do absolutely nothing to make the film more watchable. It's painful, terrible, and all-around bad.

Just don't see it.


The Bone Snatcher

Well-made, finely crafted and stylish!
In the heart of the Namib desert, a group of miners and scientists discover a bizarre life form living beneath the sand—a life form that needs human bones to stay alive. "The Bone Snatcher" is an African horror film that debuted on the sci-fi channel as one of their "original movies", despite having quite a decent budget ($6,000,000) and being extremely well-made, two things you rarely see from a sci-fi channel flick. The film is visually stunning. The camera work and cinematography are truly on par, or even BETTER than most films Hollywood produces. The actors are all unknowns but give perfectly fine performances, especially Warrick Grier. The monster is both conceptually and visually very, very cool. The creature effects are extremely good in this flick, far better than what you see in most made-for-TV horror films. I loved the score too; the music is fantastic! Lots of African drums and bongos mixed with a slightly electronic track for good effect. I wish there was a CD…

"The Bone Snatcher" is a finely-crafted, beautifully shot, well-acted monster movie. It's not scary as some have said but it's certainly leaps and bounds better than most direct-to-video horror movies, and trust me, I've seen a LOT of those in my time… Definitely worth checking out.


The Cave

Come on, it's a summer creature feature, not the second coming of "Alien"!
30 years ago a group of explorers entered an immense cave system under a church in Romania. The church caved in and the explorers were trapped, never to be heard from again. Flash forward to present day, where a geological expedition comes across the mouth of the cave. They call in an experienced group of cavers to map the place out, but an underwater passage way collapses, sealing them over a mile underground with no hope of being rescued. They begin searching for a way out, only to come to the realization that they aren't alone; not only are there bizarre, undiscovered creatures, but also the group of explorers from three decades ago, who are no longer quite human I just got back from seeing this in a near-midnight show. There were a total of 9 other people in the theatre, not a good sign really, and combined with the almost exclusively rotten IMDb reviews I wondered if I'd made a mistake. Deciding not to waste my eight bucks and ride the film out, I actually enjoyed what this flick had to offer: A claustrophobic atmosphere, stunning photography, plenty of action, cool monsters and nifty special effects. This is the directional debut of Bruce Hunt, a former second-unit director on the Matrix films and 1998's "Dark City". While he handles some of the dialogue scenes awkwardly, he certainly knows how to make the film LOOK good. Man, this flick is GORGEOUS! Not only are the cave sets great (fantastic production values on this one) but their lit perfectly (and surprisingly realistically). Kudos to cinematographer Ross Emery for giving this flick the visual kick it needed. As for the actors, just about everyone here does well, especially Cole Hauser and Morris Chestnut. The only weak actor here is Piper Perabo. Sure, she's pretty, but she really, really needs to develop some ACTING skills. Then there are the creatures. We never get a lingering look at them, but they are COOL. I'm glad the creatures were mostly created with puppets and prosthetic instead of CG (what little CG there is was mostly limited to shots of the creatures flying), it was a wise move by the filmmakers. Effects artist Patrick Tatopoulos, who also handled the creatures in "Independence Day", "Pitch Black" and "Underworld", has done a great job as usual. Some people have called Tatopoulos the next Stan Winston, and based on the work he's done so far in his career, this very much might be true. Also worth noting is the score by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek, which, though often low-key, is pulse-pounding and exciting and keeps the action flowing nicely. The ending is your typical twisted horror ending, but hey, it works anyways.

Is "The Cave" a masterpiece of modern film-making? No. Would it have been better if it had had an R rating and more gore? Most certainly. Still, this summer creature feature is more entertaining than I expected it to be, I came in praying I might get at least a LITTLE enjoyment out of it and in the end I got more than I expected to. Enjoy!



The pinnacle of life--truly an existential masterpiece!
"Feeders" opens with a lengthy prologue about how there ARE other intelligent life forms in the universe, then as the titles role, we watch a UFO, an impressive effects created on a 1985 Mackintosh, hover around anywoods, America. Then we meet the real stars of the film—the Feeders themselves, and let me tell you, these are some scary beasties. Standing a good one to two feet high (depending on the scene) with big heads, black eyes, tiny mouths and menacing faces. If you thought the title creatures in "Aliens" were scary, these creatures will have you sleeping with the lights on for the rest of you life! Don't be fooled by the fact that these creatures obviously have no teeth and tiny mouths, they are deadly, cannibalistic little buggers. In the following scene they eat a couple of richly developed throwaway characters (these scenes are EXTREMELY violent and unsettling, if you're squeamish I recommend fast-forwarding through them). Then we meet our heroes-- two guys on a road trip together. They stop in town for a few shots of the damage caused by a recent flood (the shots being obvious file footage straight off of the weather channel) and to hook up with two 40-something, overweight, super-hot babes. While driving to the park, they accidentally run over a man's foot, the poor guy babbling about seeing "little men". Upon bringing him to the local doctor's office, they lay him down on a table and the doctor pulls a towel over his torso, saying, "sorry, nothing I can do. He's pretty much dead." Our heroes offer to call the police but the creepy doctor says, "No, I'll call them later." So they leave the doctors office, neither feeling bad for killing a man nor having to deal with the authorities in any manner. They get to the park, only to discover—a blood-spattered human skull!!! Figuring that might be a bad sign and realizing it's getting dark (actually it doesn't look anywhere past noon but whatever), they decide to walk into town (the UFO's magnetic interference causes their car to cease functioning). Back at the doctors office, the cooky, spooky physician notices a rather large, computer-generated chunk of the dead man's body is missing, and upon investigating gets decapitated by one of the tiny, toothless alien terrors. Meanwhile, at the house of one of the obese, 40-something, super-hot babes, the said super-hot, 40-something babe, while preparing to hook up at the park with our heroes and the other super-hot babe, investigates a strange sound in her basement. Unfortunately for the poor woman, a feeder is waiting for her, jumps her, eats maybe three square inches of flesh from her stomach and kills her. Like the earlier death scenes, this is very violent and unsettling, viewer discretion is advised). Then the OTHER super-hot, 40-something, obese gal shows up at her house looking for her fat old friend, only to discover her gory, eviscerated corpse (well, a still photo of the corpse). SEVERAL feeders then ambush her, but she gets away by stomping the head of one until it resembles a pile of green macaroni and then frying the other feeder with a conveniently placed, fully-working flame-thrower. She then peels away in her car never to be seen again. Then we catch up with our heroes again, who, after an incredibly tense scene of suspense, investigate a house they find in the woods and determine it's safe. Well, it isn't safe, for not only are feeders getting in but also the UFO in which they've arrived is hovering above them. How will they escape this nightmare?

I'm not gonna spoil the rest for you, but let me tell you the plot twists that follow are BRILLIANT. The ending will leave you in thought and wonder days after you first view the film. EVERYTHING about this film is fantastic. The actors are compelling and realistic, full of intrigue and nuances (check out the scene with the two super-hot, obese, 40-something chicks talking on the phone for some exemplary performances), the musical score—which puts the work of "renowned" composers like Bernard Herrmann, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith to shame—is haunting, ambient and atmospheric. I can't wait to get my hands on the CD! The editing is top-notch (flawless in fact), I love how the actors are always drowned out by the music or wind blowing into the microphone, what realism! The direction is excellent. The overall look of the film is unique and appropriate in building suspense. The special effects are easily the best ever put to the screen. The aliens were great, but the visual effects were simply unbelievable. I thought I was looking at a REAL UFO!!!

Buy this film today. It'll change your life, your perspective on the world and on the universe, you will become a grander, richer human being to your core. This film is truly, TRULY, the epoch of film-making.

A well-earned 10/10.

Hellraiser: Inferno

Not too shabby,
While investigating a multiple murder case, the only suspect being an enigmatic figure known as "The Engineer", a crooked detective begins loosing his mind. 5th entry in the Hellraiser series features a plot that's deeper than you'd expect for a direct to video sequel (think "Jacob's Ladder" meets "Se7en"), reasonably good performances from most cast members (though lead actor Craig Sheffer was a little wooden time to time in the lead role), visually tight direction from Scott Derrickson, great make-up effects and lots of cool imagery (including a dream sequence that you're not likely to forget). Die-hard fans of the Hellraiser series might be disappointed by the lack of Pinhead (he's only shown twice throughout the whole film!) but if you're open-minded you might enjoy the movie for what it is.


Dimension has released the region 1 DVD with a fine-looking 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I detected some dirt during darker scenes but given the low-budget of the film on the whole this a pretty satisfying transfer. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, which is clear and sharp at all times, though the rear channels weren't used as often as they could have been. While I'm sure no one expected a runaway success with the film, Dimension has generously slapped a few extras on the disk, the first being an interview with Pinhead-actor Doug Bradley. Though this interview is fairly brief, Mr. Bradley sounds like a nice guy and has some interesting things to say about playing a horror icon. The second feature is a series of mini-featurettes, "Secrets of Hellraiser revealed", in which effects artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe dispels some mysteries surrounding the Hellraiser trilogy (How does "the box" work? How many pins are on Pinhead's head? Etc.). This feature in total runs a slim three minutes or so. The disk is rounded off with English closed-captioning. Menus are non-animated.

DVD rating: 5.5/10.


Had the film not taken an MTV approach, it might have been pretty good...
Set in some timeless world where vampires rule, clans of werewolves are being hunted and killed to the brink of extinction by the vampires. A wolf hunter, Selene, begins questioning is she's taken the right side, and slowly uncovers the truth behind how she became a vampire. Now since I like to consider myself a fair critic, I'll start with what I liked about "Underworld". For one, the overall premise is very good. I especially like the fact that we never know when or where the film actually takes place (we never see outside the city) and the timeless feel of the film. While the acting wasn't exactly outstanding, everyone was serviceable and there wasn't a single actor here I could call "bad".

Thirdly, the creature effects were awesome. Thankfully the werewolf were usually brought to life via practical effects, with CG limited mostly to the transformation scenes (I wish these too were done practically, like in American Werewolf in London or The Howling, but I guess in a year like 2003, that's too much to ask for…that's pretty sad…). There was also a good amount of blood and gore too, thankfully this is an R-rated film that actually DESERVES it's R-rating. I also liked the ending, which in my opinion was clever and unexpected (well, as clever and unexpected as a dumb action film can be). This, unfortunately, is where the list of positive aspects ends. Len Wiseman's direction is wwwaaayyy too commercial for my taste (you know, MTV-style camera angles, slow-motion fight scenes, etc.), the music is crap (mostly rock music—what's wrong with using a REAL score these days?), the action is often unrealistic (and not in a fun way) and the CG, while not used excessively, was cheesy and unconvincing. I know that the positive aspects will outweigh the negatives in some people's opinion (in other words, I can understand why some people will enjoy this film), but for me the movie really didn't do anything.



Hellraiser: Bloodline

Overall a decent film despite poor pacing.
This fourth entry in the Hellraiser franchise is set in 2127. Pinhead is aboard a spacecraft orbiting earth, causing all kinds of mischief and mayhem. While "Bloodline" has a number of problems, the most prominent being the slowly-paced first hour of the film, there's a lot to like here too. For one, the creature and make-up effects look great (I loved the canine-like Cenobite), there's lots of gore, decent enough acting (though the twin security guards were easily the worst two actors ever to grace the screen) and a lush musical score by Daniel Licht. This was the directional debut of effects artist Kevin Yagher, who later had creative differences with the producers and left the project before finishing some scenes, and rather than attaching his own name to the film went with the much-abused alias Alan Smithee. Additional scenes were shot by Joe Chappelle, who later went on to direct the excellent 1998 Dean Koontz adaptation, "Phantoms". Yagher has yet to direct another film.

Not nearly as bad as you'd expect a fourth entry in a horror franchise to be, "Hellraiser: Bloodline" is worth checking out if you're a horror fan. Watch for actress Kim Meyers, whom horror fans will recognize from Nightmare on Elm Street 2.


Shelf Life

A good screenplay harmed by a low-budget
Martin, a man who hunts parasitic vampire-like beings, invades a couple's apartment and tells them that the creatures are after him, and unless the happy young couple fight back, they'll die. This independent horror film, made for a slim 250,000 Canadian dollars, has the typical problems you'd expect from a film of this caliber—poor special effects, at times uneven acting, and somewhat amateurish look. It is, however, surprisingly well-written, and had the film had a bigger budget could have been very good. While lead actor William MacDonald gives a decent performance, the other principal actors, Bryce McLaughlin and Courtney Kramer, were often below-average and made the otherwise good dialogue seem wooden and forced. Writer/director Mark Tuit has done alright considering his low-budget, though several scenes appeared to be shot on DV and thus look cheap. His fore is clearly writing—the script is intelligent and interesting, and there were several genuine surprises here and there. I hope Tuit pens more horror films in the future; his script here exhibits more intelligence than about 70% of the crap Hollywood produces. The special effects are cheaply done and usually unconvincing, though there is a LOT of gore here (decapitations, anyone?).

With a bigger budget this could have been a fine horror flick. The script was there but the resources weren't; as a result the film looks and feels like a low-budget cheapie at times. Still better than average though.


Urban Legends: Bloody Mary

Not bad really...no masterpiece though either!
A prom night dare goes wrong and a girl is killed circa 1969. In the present day, the children of the teens involved with the death are stalked and killed by the girl's ghostly, vengeful spirit. This is the third entry in the dumb "Urban Legends" series, and even though it's flawed and predictable, it's a watchable film, not to mention the best of the three. The film is directed by Mary Lambert, a genre veteran who was also responsible for the weak "Pet Cemetery" and it's even weaker sequel. Though her films generally aren't especially good, it's nice to see there are female filmmakers out there, nevertheless ones interested in making horror films. Indeed the technical aspects of her direction are good—despite the low-budget the camera work and cinematography are both well-done and give the film a professional look. Unfortunately, the script, which comes from Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, who also penned 2003's X-Men 2, is predictable; I was practically yelling out actions before they happened on-screen. The actors are a mixed bunch, I really enjoyed Tina Lifford's performance but some of the teen actors were annoyingly ditzy (though I suppose that was intended…). Then of course there's the gore. There's a pretty good amount on display here, including a truly nasty throat-slitting scene, as well as some cheesy moments, most notably a poor girl ripping her own face off. The villain herself, Bloody Mary, is a tedious horror film villain, that is, another "scary little ghostly girl" that we see so much in mainstream horror today. The special effects were alright, though like I said before they often fall into cheesy land.

This is an okay way to kill ninety or so minutes, it's no better or worse than most direct-to-video fodder horror freaks like myself enjoy (yes, I can admit I lead a sad existence…).


Drive In

Really boring. Not recommended.
A kid with Down syndrome watches horror movies at a drive-in from his basement window and goes crazy, escaping from his house and killing off unsuspecting people at the drive-in. Another entry in the endless line of run-of-the-mill, direct-to-video slasher flicks, and not an even remotely entertaining one at that. Badly shot (mostly on DV it looks like) and featuring bland characters and bad writing, "Drive-in" can be a very painful and slow film to watch; sitting through the film felt more like a chore. There's little in the way of gore (the films showing on the drive-in supplied most of what little we get—-interestingly, almost all of the films are from Troma no less) And the death scenes are usually lame (one involving a girl being strangled to death by dental floss being a real eye-roller). A couple of actors in the film were actually decent (gasp!), but a film can't be fueled by alright acting alone and as a result the film is a terrible bore. Oh, and the nude scene involving the chunky girl…I don't even want to talk about THAT…

Completely missable unless you simply MUST see every horror movie ever made.


Friday the 13th Part III

By no means a great movie, but enjoyable for a run-of-the-mill slasher
Yet another group of brain-dead teens go to Crystal Lake for a weekend of partying. Unfortunately for them, the infamous hockey mask-clad, axe-wielding maniac, Jason, has other plans for them. This 3rd entry in the Friday the 13th series is goofy and dumb, but nevertheless an entertaining slasher flick. While the film may have been a lot more effective in 3D during it's original release, on DVD the images—including characters putting object in the viewer's face, yo-yos being lowered into the camera, snakes striking and, silliest of all, a guy's eye being popped out of his dead—are laughable, but in a fun sort of way. The characters are clichéd but fairly likable, there's some alright gore and the film has an overall decent sense of humor, something that is desperately needed to make generic slasher flicks work. In the end this was one of the more enjoyable entries in the Friday series, by no means a masterpiece but enjoyable enough for a brainless slasher flick.

Director Steve Miner has since gone on to direct the 1986 horror/comedy House and the 1999 killer crocodile flick Lake Placid. None of his horror efforts have been especially great, though he clearly realizes that the main objective of a horror film is to entertain and as a result his films are never boring or sloppily made.


Raptor Island

Hey, for a tax write-off it's pretty enjoyable!
A group of soldiers attempt to rescue hostages from terrorists that have taken residence on an unknown island—an island that is also home to many assorted dinosaurs. Another sci-fi channel "original" movie, yet a strangely enjoyable one considering (hey, at least it's better than their other atrocity, Attack of the Sabertooth!). Direction is average as expected, script is clichéd as hell (lots of stock characters who end up being dino fodder, etc.), and the dinosaur effects were extremely lame—I'm talking CGI taken right out of "Walking with Dinosaurs"! No suspense whatsoever, in fact the dinosaurs are shown within the first few minutes of the film (hey, at least the makers realized they weren't making a masterpiece and actually SHOW us the dinosaurs quite a bit, unlike some other Nu Image films where the monsters are shown in quick flashes or not at all until the end!). In B-movie tradition, a giant monster (In this case a Carnotaurus/Allosaurus beastie) shows up at the end to cause some carnage. There is a little gore, but most of it was CG-enhanced. Booo! Despite being badly made and stupid you might be able to enjoy this on a tongue-in-cheek level if you have a high tolerance for cheesy B-films. Oh, and why is it this "tropical" island looks a hell of a lot like any woods, America?

5/10. Turn off your brain, grab a soda and pizza, sit back and enjoy.

Cold and Dark

Really boring and dull...
After being brought back from the dead by a parasitic creature, detective Shade is back on the street killing…and eating...bad guys. His partner, John Dark, realizes the situation is out-of-hand and tries to stop Shade before he fully transforms into a monster. This well-made by intensely boring British horror offering features good direction from Andrew Goth, who displays a strong visual style and a good eye for interesting camera angles. The entire cast gave very good performances, especially the golf-playing police chief (name of actor escapes me right now). The make-up effects were quite good, and if you like your horror movies gory…well, let's just say this is a VERY bloody flick and horror fans will not be disappointed in this department. Unfortunately, this is where the list of positive aspects ends. The plot is a big confusing mess, the violence is often mean-spirited, the narrative made no sense and the film is very poorly paced. Not unwatchably bad, but unfortunately dumb and dull. Oh, and did those CG shots of the worm-thing that comes out of Shade's hand look like crap or what?


Resident Evil

Zombies and mutants and monsters, oh my!
After a deadly virus escapes from a lab, a secret underground facility becomes a living hell as the staff is turned into undead zombies. To make matters worse, there are mutant creatures on the loose. Alice, a security operative for the subterranean lab, with the aid of a group of soldiers, enter the lab to see what happened—only to discover escape seems impossible. This film is understandably hated by many people for various reasons, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. The biggest problem with the film is writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson. He clearly is capable of making a good and enjoyable film, which he proved with 1997's underrated Event Horizon. However, his direction here is unfortunately MTV-style in nature—that is, there are lots of slow-motion shots during the action sequences and even a bullet-time shot or two. I do, however, really like the general atmosphere he gives the film—the scene near the beginning of the film with Alice walking through the giant mansion is decidedly atmospheric and creepy. Unfortunately, the actors are all wooden, and most of the characters are easily recognizable as creature/zombie fodder from the second they enter the screen. While I really liked the main theme music for the film, the rock music employed for the action scenes is terrible and obnoxious as hell. While there are a couple of good bloody bits here and there, most of the gore is computer-generated and looks absolutely awful. On the topic of bad CG, the first stage of "The Licker", one of the mutant creatures, looks HORENDOUS!!! I'm talking sci-fi-channel-original-movie level CG. It must be seen to be believed! Fans of old-school horror will be happy to know that once the licker eats it's first victim it mutates into a predominantly animatronic creature, which looked great. I also really liked the ending (though, granted, it rips off John Carpenter's underrated 1995 flick In the Mouth of Madness pretty badly).

In conclusion, Resident Evil may be flawed and relatively brainless at times, but it's entertaining and way, way better than its terrible sequel.


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