Tanuccoon

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Reviews

Neco z Alenky
(1988)

More Nightmareland than Wonderland
The original Alice in Wonderland story was a little odd but, within the context of a dream, ultimately excusable. The director/writer of the film must have found the story too ordinary, as he opts for a more bizarre and occasionally creepy re-imagining. The adaptation is pretty loose in relation to the original story and omits several major characters (most noticeably the Cheshire Cat, although he could have been invisible the whole time....) although many of the key plot points remain.

However, the kicker is that most of the artistic elements aren't even all that memorable, let alone good. The best one is the rabbit coming to life in the beginning but then it's mostly so-so until a very creepy take on the tea party. Some is just weird for the sake of weird, which doesn't necessarily make for a good film.

The worst part is that the film is fairly dull and the repeated effect of seeing Alice talk for the other characters gets annoying fast. As such, the film may be worth watching just to see how much of it you can stand before switching it off.

Nine Lives
(2005)

The minutes of our lives
Don't be deceived by the excessive praise afforded to this film, as it actually features little substance. Many of the vignettes are just a scene in length and none are particularly outstanding. The sort of hammy, over-the-top acting seen throughout may be excusable in a feature length film where other content exists to pad it out but instead the viewer is stuck suffering through heavy over-performance after heavy over-performance. The writing varies immensely, with some of the most cliché content seeming a somewhat deliberate attempt to mock everyday, mundane conversation.

That's not to say that the film isn't without its charms as, at times, there's an everyday feel to the thing when the actors aren't trying to desperately oversell their performances. However, the most aggravating aspect is the sheer predictability at times. Viewers should be able to easily intuit the coming action; this doesn't result from foreshadowing but rather poor writing. While some things are left unsaid, one can easily draw conclusions. The film features some major stars which, I imagine, is probably the reason it's received a free pass from so many despite being mostly a forgettable humdrum.

Hellweek
(2010)

Watching it feels like a week in hell
Low budgies are always something of a crapshoot. On one hand, the people involved have more freedom. On the other, they often can't afford talent. Hellweek was supposedly produced on an estimated budget of $14,000 and, for the life of me, I can't figure out where that money went. The camera-work is amateurish at best, the acting is a bit worse than amateur, the script is meandering and occasionally nonsensical, and the editing is non-existent. There are serious issues with sound-balancing where one second you can barely hear the characters but the next second their laughter can be deafening. The color is off in many of the scenes and there are lighting issues in many shots. The film also suffers from the all-too-frequent problem of inconsistent outdoor environments where morning, day, dusk, and night fly by in minutes.

The story is both meandering and often incomprehensible. Near as I can figure, ghostly serial killers are haunting a warehouse where a fraternity plans to haze new members. Of course, it takes forever for anything resembling hazing to begin. Much of the movie revolves around a boy named "JJ". His is apparently the only important name, as any scene that he's not in (and there are very few) all of the rest of the cast is mostly talking about him. And, to prevent you from forgetting who that character is, JJ frequently talks in the third person or otherwise self-references.

The majority of the film is consumed by talk about some big party, occasional drama between characters that doesn't build into much, and pointless almost-subplots (a porn business, a premonition, a psychic, etc). While the movie is supposedly about kids being attacked in a warehouse it takes forever for them to actually get to the warehouse. It's almost as if the horror was an afterthought. The villains and effects are generally goofy and their motivations range from being confusing to silly.

Hellweek plays out like a bad student film project. Most of the actors deliver dialogue with an almost smile on their face, an "oh, look at me, I'm ACTING!" The camera-work, editing, and production are generally shoddy. The story lacks focus and even the dialogue is weak. Would recommend avoiding.

Aftermath
(1994)

Will you be shocked or disturbed? Probably not.
This really isn't a movie. Hell, there really isn't even a story (nor is there talking). It's just some shock content and an overly long opening credits (around 5 minutes, which is absurd for a 30 minute film). While it's not exactly art it's definitely different. The film concerns a morgue where some morticians are doing autopsies. Later, one of the morticians proceeds to violate a female corpse while he's alone. The film features full-body nudity although I'm not sure if the bodies were fakes, real corpses donated to "the arts", or actors with prosthetic effects. Either way you see full-bodied nudity (both genders).

There's a weirdness to the whole thing. The scene with the morticians just going over their bodies is somewhat surreal. There's a bizarre character development that takes place despite the lack of speech and most of the mortician's face being obscured. His eyes convey his bizarre curiosity as he examines one of the men's naked frames, seemingly stopping on the genitalia. Later on when he starts with the female he seems to gingerly cut free her clothes. He plays with his blade delicately against her skin... then he guts her open. And a little after that the film really starts to get graphic, although I will say that he only uses one hand to examine her... There's a definite progression to the depravity.

It's a film that I wouldn't really think I'd be interested in but there was a certain oddity to this premise. And while the initial legitimate autopsies were harder for me to watch, a morbid curiosity better kept my attention for the second half especially since it was almost downright funny in places. I'm honestly not sure what they were going for with this, though. It's short, it's a little weird, but mostly it's just pointless. All the same it's really not bad and somehow has a strange charm to it. Ultimately it's more silly than disturbing, almost like an angsty teen's attempt to be edgy.

Art & Copy
(2009)

Full of sound and even more sound but ultimately signifying nothing
A myopic documentary about the advertising industry, Art & Copy is as lacking in critical analysis as it is historical context. The entire thing is ultimately little more than a collection of interviews generally with obscure professionals (albeit ones connected to a few iconic ads) while occasional statistics appear as segues between scenes. The resulting view of the advertising industry and its development is exceedingly shallow with virtually no take-away as well as nothing to balance the production out. The film seems to push advertising almost entirely as an art form where advertisers draw inspiration from thin air rather than a calculated process that creates benefits for the clients. Unsurprisingly, the statistics in the film refer to ad spends with no statistics relating to ad campaign return (instead you'll get either "It did well" or "The client decided to stop using the campaign").

Art & Copy really could have been so much more with a tighter focus and insights from the director. That said, the film is redeemed by a few interesting bits of trivia such as the origins of the slogan "Just do it"

The Nesting
(1981)

Where the cuckoos come to roost
The Nesting is an open-ended supernatural thriller featuring a convincingly neurotic writer with a bad case of agoraphobia (among other things) who decides to rent a house she finds out in the country that looks suspiciously like the one featured on one of her book covers. At times the film is a reasonably intelligent thriller but it has a tendency to err on the side of goofiness. Many of the characters, despite being likable, are incredibly over the top (the Colonel, handyman Frank, etc) and quite often characters are brought into a scene solely to die because there aren't enough victims on-hand.

The film's ambiguity is largely owed to the fact that the ghost scenes only seem tooccur when the writer is nearby and the others seem to die right after the encounter. That and a later reference would almost suggest that the thing could have been in her head although the attacks look like they're being carried out by an invisible, supernatural assailant.

The writer's character is relatively dull, as are her two apparent romantic interests. Other characters are humorously colorful and bring a lot more to the production but the protagonist really seems to exist to do little other than unconvincingly act scared by various phenomena (oddly not done as well as the agoraphobia, but clever camera-work helped with that) and to unravel a mystery that never quite gets compelling.

Proteus
(1995)

Solid premise bogged down by unnecessary plot points
Basically a group is stranded on an abandoned oil rig where some testing has been going on and there's a monster. While that would be enough plot for people, the creators decided to add in some crappy drug smuggling story to it. It may give the group an excuse to be out there but, at the same time, it's pretty much unnecessary and leads to some mediocre subplots. My other issue is all the damn monster-vision shots. We have constant disruptions where we see everything through a blurry (green or red) lens moving quickly. To make it worse, half the time the monster isn't even doing anything! It's just running around, not interacting with the group or anything else. Plus, in the interests of being confusing, we'll occasionally catch glimpses of puddles of organic crap appearing and then transforming yet predictably none of the characters see this plus nobody ever seems to hear anything (an aggravating trend).

Finally somebody is grabbed then, while tracking them, they find an old scientist who tells them they're in danger and they should leave. He then promptly vanishes from a locked room. The story proceeds to get weirder from there. However, it never really gets good. The setting is great, though, and I like the concept. Some of the effects are really neat while others... well, not so much. I love the monster's true form. At the same time so much of the movie just isn't worthwhile and there are just so many pointless moments. And while the ending does help salvage other parts of the film, the whole thing feels like a half-rate rendition of The Thing.

Also, the title is a reference to a Greek mythological shapeshifter.

Evil in the Woods
(1986)

Largely incomprehensible mess, partly due to deliberately shoddy editing
Evil in the Woods is a mess of a movie. While intended more as a comedy (or possibly a spoof), there's relatively little humor to be found in the film. Instead you get random for the sake of random with odd editing compounding it.

The film is about a boy who finds a book at the library which talks to him (he can hear a voice narrating the story) and tells him about events occurring in present-day Mildew, Georgia. At times you forget all about the boy and the book except for the occasional segue card read by the narrator. The framework does little beyond linking together seemingly disparate film clips. If not for the rare interaction between characters in the individual subplots I would believe that they just mashed two or three separate movies together.

Most of the movie concerns a production crew filming a movie featuring bigfoot and aliens. They're having problems shooting the movie between equipment issues and crew members going missing. A local witch and her cannibalistic "family" is to blame. While we see this group often, very little is explained about them and their interactions with the others are limited. There's also a couple whose child has gone missing and a sheriff although they all have limited screen time. And a character who dies in a brief flashback early on.

The actual "evil" in the woods is never clarified. References suggest it to be some sort of entity although, within the context of the story, it could just refer to the evils going on in the forest (murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, etc). At any rate, the evil is billed as having been there for "three thousand and three years" and, whatever it is, the locals all appear too scared of it even to warn visitors.

All things considered, this should have really been a fun movie. The set-up is amusing, especially the scene with the librarian, but most of the time it's just dull and quite often confusing. It feels like the movie was squeezed together to compensate for missing footage, which could explain some of the random twists.

The Burrowers
(2008)

Digging a little deeper...
The Burrowers defies expectations. Where one might expect something along the line of Tremors (or, god help us, Tremors 4), the Burrowers should and cannot be confused for a lighthearted horror. The film is instead dark and vaguely disturbing, with a presumably high body count.

The titular Burrowers largely stay out of sight for much of the film, although the creatures always feel close at hand and there are quick glimpses as they attack. The creature design is less than impressive although the creature's lore helps compensate for any shortcoming. The creatures seem to fill an evolutionary niche which, once disturbed, has caused them to hunt for alternative food supplies.

The acting was surprisingly solid. There's an authentic flavor to the Western atmosphere and a certain degree of lawlessness pervades the film. Every encounter seemed tinged with danger which adds an additional suspense to the film.

The Burrowers offers more than enough fodder for thought. The movie arguably has a lot going on in it, between eco-themes, racial undertones and overtones, etc, that could feed any number of academic papers depending on how you read into the events. At the same time, the sheer amount of things going on at times can be a turn-off. One gets the impression that a lot of characters are killed not simply for dramatic reasons but instead are written out as a means of balancing the otherwise overladen story. Right around the end is the distinct feeling that the director and crew didn't really know how to end the movie so they tacked on an awkward conclusion that offers little in the means of closure rather than to simply leave it open-ended.

Leviatán
(1984)

A "werewolf" film
Starring Alice Cooper as a rock star (I mean, really? How's he going to pull that one off? >_>) returning to his home town, Monster Dog is something of a werewolf whodunnit without much of a whodunnit part. Since most of the attacks are credited to wild dogs whom we see throughout the movie (supposedly controlled by a werewolf because, well, werewolf mythology is anything you want it to be) the film builds up the idea that there may not even be a werewolf... or, at least, a werewolf that doesn't look like one.

Because the movie doesn't have enough bizarre plot threads, you have an old (bloody) doomsayer running around as well as an angry mob who killed Alice Cooper's dad because they thought he was a werewolf. The mob, which consists of four angry rednecks, are the closest thing the film has to antagonists. Most of the time you're left wondering when that werewolf will show.

And because Alice Cooper is a rock star playing a rock star, you have an obligatory terrible music video (entitled "Identity Crisis" which could either be clever foreshadowing or, more likely, they just thought it sounded cool...) which plays in the beginning (and is reused at the ending because, well, Alice Cooper) as well as some scenes of shooting another rock video. For extra laughs, Cooper's character is named Vince Raven. I'm not joking. Seriously, it's a name so badly contrived that you'd more expect it in the laziest of fanfics.

All things considered, it's a decidedly average film. It moves at an okay pace (except for a far too long obvious dream sequence). The redneck gang was pretty entertaining even if they weren't played up enough. Pretty much everything in the film seemed to rush by, probably because they tried to do far too much.

Creep
(2004)

Yet another reason to avoid subways
A woman coming back from a party falls asleep in a subway station and misses her train. When she gets on the next one it mysteriously stops and then when she knocks on the conductor's cabin the lights go out. However, these prove to only be the start of her problems as a deformed man (the eponymous creep) are hunting her and others.

Now, the most obvious problem I have with this film was where the hell was this borderline mutant before now? While it's possible that homeless could go missing without anybody noticing he's attacking just about anybody down there in ways that people would realize something is wrong. Overlooking the potential plothole, the movie builds a fair amount of suspense throughout and the snarky heroine certainly has personality even if you might not necessarily like her.

Movies like this really capitalize on our fears of the familiar unknown, those dark places in areas marked off-limits. And on some levels it does work pretty well. However, some of the locations seen just seem... insane. The actual Creep makes for a somewhat amusing villain; you don't actually get to see him for a while but he's interestingly multi-faceted except for his rather ambiguous origins. A very solid movie in most regards, although occasionally weak acting and pacing set it back.

Ryeong
(2004)

Amnesia and puddles
A young amnesiac's forgotten friend are being stalked and killed off by a ghost who drowns them in odd locations. The girl realizes that she has to recover her memories and learn the source of the problem or she may die next.

Ryeong uses many of the standard a-horror conventions like a pale, long-haired ghost girl whose hair randomly appears places. The main thing that sets this spirit apart is a limitation involving water (hence the intended victims' fear of it). The amnesia is also an interesting gimmick, since it potentially allows the protagonist to be guilty of something while still allowing sympathy for the character (because she doesn't even know what she might have done and the amnesia makes her a new person). The amnesia itself naturally ties into the twist which, although clever, leaves all kinds of questions. I also wasn't sure why the victims' bodies had red eyes, unless it's a side-effect of drowning.

The make-up effect on the ghost girl was kinda neat. The only other real effect involved some moving puddles.

Inferno
(1980)

Suspiria's moderately less attractive younger sister
Inferno is a slick, stylish horror film with strong, omnipresent Lovecraftian vibes. Unlike its predecessor Suspiria, Inferno establishes most of its lore (and the lore for the series) right away through a cryptic book entitled "The Three Mothers". Said book becomes a major plot point as it suggests one of the mothers may be living near a girl's apartment while at the same time anybody who comes into possession of a copy ends up brutally murdered.... which brings me to a minor gripe. If these witches three are so powerful and keen on keeping their existence a secret then why do these books not only exist yet are apparently easily accessible by anybody? A music student walks into a library, inquires after a copy and is pointed out that one is on the shelf RIGHT BEHIND HER. That's right, in plain view of anybody who walks in.

But yes, we have an ancient and powerful triumvirate of witches (whose relationship and age are a little unclear, as well as their powers although all three witches are supposedly squishy) who apparently all subcontracted the same architect who, in turn, decided to also write a book about them and got it published enough that the copies seem to randomly appear everywhere (within the context of the movie, it's like making additional copies of the Ring then distributing them to every rental store in the country as pretty much everybody who encounters the damn thing gets attacked). And one of these witches apparently has set up shop right under a building the protagonist apparent's sister has an apartment in. Between a letter from the sister and strange happenings, the protagonist is pulled into the investigation himself.

Dario Argento once again delivers lavish, decadent cinematography. All of the scenes are shot extraordinarily well, but none more-so than an earlier portion where the sister explores a partially flooded basement with an absolutely gorgeous use of color throughout. Argento really excels at creations visions so beautiful out of something so horrible, whether it be a floating corpse or a murder set to music. The occasional downside is an unintentional campiness to it all, like when something will initially pop out at you but as it continues to be worked into the shot (or due to the other elements) it quickly becomes almost comical.

The story is somewhat incoherent but, like the works of the immortal HP Lovecraft, concerns an investigation into some great unknown and pits the protagonist(s) against a force far greater than their understanding. It's a rather simple premise and the story carries it well despite the occasional deviation.

Although most of the characters in the film are guilty of the great sin of curiosity (a standard trope for which they are punished greatly), it seems that a few of the end victims were wholly blameless. Possibly. Like many other things in the film, many (if not most) elements are unclear. The film's one major flaw is that Argento seemingly tried to do too much and attempted to incorporate more elements than the film could reasonably accommodate, which explains why so many things go unexplained.

It's impossible to not compare Inferno to its predecessor Suspiria and any such comparisons will undoubtedly be unfavorable. Although inferno is a fine film in its own right, it perpetually lives in its more successful prequel's shadow. It should be noted, though, that the two plots are near identical in most regards: students discover the presence of some great hidden being then don't actually confront the thing until after finding some secret passage in the closing minutes at which point we have a rushed conclusion. The biggest difference overall is that Suspiria is far more coherent about the whole thing, although Inferno sets the stage for the final encounter a bit nicer.

The Unknown
(2005)

There is a sasquatch in it, lurking somewhere in the background
Somewhat weak bigfoot story involving a group of randy kids going out into the wilderness to investigate a supposed bear attack, a group of hunters out to kill the same bear (who supposedly killed their friend's group) and a local ranger, and a Native American park ranger wandering around doing something. Oh yeah, plus you have a mayor worried about "tourist season" and hassling the sheriff to resolve these problems. And largely to the side-lines is an angry sasquatch.

Like most natural horror, there are shades of Jaws in this although it more lampoons the concept. Although the acting is notoriously weak for the park ranger and rednecks, the "teens" at least manage to act like teens. The token eye candies are likable and the token jock is humorous enough, but the nerd protagonist is kind of annoying and something of a jerk. Oddly enough, there's some whole subplot involving the kid's father that barely gets touched upon (in the beginning his mom is all like, "You have to spend time with your father!" then later on he's telling the other teens, "I don't have a dad").

Also unresolved is the whole issue of the sasquatches. Yeah, there are at least two there. At first glance it would seem one was dead (since it was buried), but maybe the other sasquatch was killing to protect an injured one (as you see it ambush the hunters in the beginning). On the lighter side, I do like how much of the film seemed to rely on implication which is a rarity in budget productions. As for the monster itself, the costume looks even worse than the one in Abominable. It's really not all that frightening-looking despite mauling and killing at least five people during the film while menacing a bunch more.

The general denouement is rather weak. The ending only minimally involves the sasquatch and you really get the feeling that he was just a background character during the whole film.

Mamba
(1988)

All's fair in love and murder
All's fair in love and murder, apparently, as a man attempts to kill his ex-wife through use of a modified exotic, poisonous snake. The man, some computer bigwig, plants a tracker on both the snake and the woman so he can view their proximity to each other while he waits outside in his car. To ensure that his wife not escape, he jams her door (apparently she only has one?) and taps into her phone which allows him to periodically call in to make sure she's still alive.

Fair Game probably has one of the most interesting premises I've seen in a while but, due to only having one real potential victim, it gets bogged down by a ton of false scares. You keep seeing the snake seemingly draw near or think it's going to pop out only for the woman to miss it entirely. Humorously, she goes a fairly long while before she realizes it's even in the studio apartment with her. After that, the woman's paranoia causes her to act out in increasingly bizarre ways as he panics.

Long before Kill Bill popularized the black mamba, it was being used as the exotic snake of choice in this movie. In retrospect, it's actually a huge step up from other films which favored things like cobras. I suppose it's just one more thing that sets this movie apart. Trudie Styler, the intended victim, gives a very witty, neurotic performance that will endear her to some while likely annoying others. This level of weirdness, however, may make the viewer question why she'd be the one to leave the relationship >_> Gregg Henry, her would-be killer, plays the role rather stoically and has few bits of dialog to speak of. He essentially serves as a background piece, a catalyst for this fateful encounter. The real action remains squarely between the girl and the snake. More interesting than either the male or female leads is the brief cameo by Bill Moseley, who ironically is the only cast member to really do much with the rest of his career (one that's spanned numerous horror films, might I add).

The title refers to the notion that the man is giving his ex-wife a chance of survival. The snake, which has been doctored with some chemical that makes it both hyper-aggressive and more toxic but also means that it will die on its own in an hour, is a less than perfect execution method. The concept kind of justifies the rather bizarre attempt on her life, although the story still slightly pushes the boundaries of credulity. If the movie has one real fault it would be that very little happens at first but once things start happening it quickly loses the shock value and gets fairly campy.

Knock Knock
(2007)

Joke with no punchline
Who was there? An incredibly generic serial killer, accompanied by a terrible script and performances that ranged from lackluster to terrible. A group of teens whom we saw for maybe five minutes at the beginning of the film (that, for the most part, don't show up again until their death sequence) are being killed off in a manner relating to their fathers' occupations. However, the big question isn't why this is happening, but do we as viewers even care given how little screen time the victims are given? The plot largely centers on one of the character's grandfather and a lady cop, although the token mentally disabled man-child gets an absurd amount of screen-time as well (whether or not he actually had contact with the killer is never established, yet he somehow knows the method people will be killed in).

The story is largely incomprehensible. Due to extreme, unbuffered scene skips sometimes it's night, sometimes it's day, then it's night again all within mere minutes of film time. The fact that the film doesn't even attempt to establish something as basic as time is just one more example of the sloppy direction and script. Of course, the real kicker is when the killer's identity and motive is established there's something of a clear disparity between the killer's actions and the motive. How is this resolved? By a character claiming, "It makes sense", then choosing to not to elaborate on the batcrap logic of the bizarro world where it actually would make sense (as the motive has only the most tenuous of connections to the method, while not explaining at all why the kids are being targeted). Not to mention that the killer's apparent modus operandi, which involved only targeting a certain group of kids for a specific reason (and even letting somebody run off earlier for that reason), is abandoned at the end when he attacks a handful of non-involved personalities.

However, films of this sort can occasionally overcome such flaws through the ability of its actors, a sense of humor, or some unique story element. Sadly, none of those was present. Although some character performances were at least tolerable for the most part (including "gramps" Ernest Mingione, who actually was pretty solid at times), the majority was strictly worse than other b-list productions. In particular, Kim Taggart (playing Detective Billie Vega) doesn't even seem to understand the concept of acting and often looks like she's reading the script right off a prompter. This sin might be forgivable if not for the fact she prominently features in most scenes, as a constant reminder of the film's numerous shortcomings. However, one of the more baffling decisions was for the granddaughter to keep a current photo of her grandpa in her room (which the camera seems to deliberately take note). Why a girl who wants no contact with her grandfather, going to the point of not even wanting to see the man, would keep a photo of him close to her (rather than say, one of her parents...) is yet another sloppy film-making mystery (presumably due to poor edits that removed a relevant scene along the way).

All in all, I'd be very hard-pressed to name one single element that redeems the movie in some way. When it comes right down to it, Knock, Knock is a joke with no punchline.

Alien³
(1992)

A return to the sensibilities of Alien
Alien3 attempts to undo much of the damage caused by action/special effects-fest Aliens and return the franchise more to its horror roots. The atmosphere is darker, the setting has a far more confined feel than the previous entry, and once again we have a small group trying to fend off a sole xenomorph.

Although many have gawked at how this film departed from the previous title (going so far as to kill most of the previous movie's survivors offscreen), at the same time most of them ignore the fact that Aliens was a complete departure from the original film and turned the series into more of a light-hearted action romp than anything else (and although great in its own right, it should never have been called an Alien movie and would have been better off with a new alien species). Not so in the case of Alien3, as it brings the franchise straight back to its roots: A small group overwhelmed by a strange alien creature where they have to team up and improvise a way to overcome it (as opposed to having a well-equipped small army fight off enemy hordes).

And while this sequel could be seen as somewhat unambitious, all the same it was well-made, well-acted, and stayed well within the theme of the franchise.

The Hitchhiker: Hired Help
(1985)
Episode 9, Season 2

Fairly mediocre and forgettable episode
Like many episodes of the Hitchhiker, "Hired Help" plays on the same tired tropes common seen many times before and undoubtedly many times after. In fact, this isn't even the only episode of the show to feature some karmic revenge against a "selfish" or "greedy" factory owner/manger/etc although it's certainly the most insipid (for comparison's sake, you also have "Made in Paris" in season 6 which also features a factory, illegal laborers, and a curse). The story is basically threadbare and compelling elements non-existent.

People looking back today might view "Hired Help" as being progressive for its day simply for addressing illegal immigration---no doubt a hot topic it crib-noted from the critically acclaimed El Norte which came out just a year or two before and received an Oscar nomination. The difference between the two is rather staggering: while El Norte was a thought-provoking character drama that addressed all the ills of illegal immigration, "Hired Help" does nothing to actually address illegal immigration. Instead they're just workers slaving under seemingly cruel management, a theme as old as the industrial revolution or even as old as the pyramids.

Final Examination
(2003)

The words "god awful" doesn't adequately describe this movie.
Final Examination is billed as a horror/thriller but could be best described as a very poor crime drama. The film largely follows the perspective of a recently reprimanded detective (following a badly-filmed car chase that has little relevance to the movie, a recurring problem) transferred to Hawaii who stumbles into a murder spree. Had said detective been a comical half-wit instead of just a flat-out moron, there could have been room for entertainment. However, he basically plays out like any generic stock law enforcement/expert protagonist from a cheesy Syfy Original movie. And the movie, which exploits any number of horror tropes, suffers for centering on this character and his investigation.

The other big problem with this movie is a lack of focus. It begins with what looks to be a suicide via an insane driving stunt, followed by something that looks like a drug deal which ends up turning into a car chase and is in turn followed by an office scene leading into the transfer. Basically it eats up a good ten minutes without really ever going into the plot. In fact, the whole suicide in the beginning (which any horror fan would assume to be a central plot point to the movie) isn't even addressed until quite a ways into the movie. Frankly, the film would've been better off WITHOUT the opening scene given how it was handled and it could have been worked into the a flashback (or, if the director was competent, he would have used it as one of the detective's former cases). Instead we're given an incredibly nebulous plot that keeps working in minor characters and returning to other minor supporting irrelevant characters as the movie goes on. This sort of amateur production is completely unacceptable for a director with a number of credits under his belt. And although the acting was pretty lousy, I blame it more on the script and direction than the cast themselves.

A dismal soundtrack, terrible dialogue, a complete lack of focus, etc, all make Final Examination difficult to watch. The *only* upside in the entire movie might be a few nude scenes. Otherwise the film is basically bereft of any entertainment value.

Cowboy Killer
(2008)

You're in for a damn treat
Paul Bailey masters the art of camp in Cowboy Killer, bringing life to a strangely neurotic traveling serial killer (Roy Thompson) who murders (and often dismembers) victims before hallucinating them thanking him for a good time. And oh yeah, he fancies himself a cowboy.

Along the way Roy meets & murders around fifteen people, kisses a dismembered head, deejays a song, imagines himself marries a corpse, has a funny flashback or two, and kidnaps somebody so he can go camping. And he does it all with a smile, a sultry Southern accent, and a variation of his catchy trademark, "You're in for a damn treat". However, he eventually earns the ire of enough people who've lost friends and loved ones that an entire posse is formed to bring this Cowboy Killer to justice.

Cowboy Killer is a B-production through and through. The acting is quite often over the top, most of the characters are barely fleshed out, etc; but hey, it's a slasher flick and these are mostly staples of the genre. If Cowboy Killer actually tried to take itself serious, this would be a lousy film. However, director Jason Baustin is well aware of this and makes certain that the film stays squarely in the realm of absurdity. Above all, it's quite often hilarious between the weird puns and the odd choice of character names like "Jeff Dahmer." Cowboy Killer was quite obviously put together by mad geniuses and audiences really are in for a damn treat.

Werewolf: The Devil's Hound
(2007)

The Devil's Hound is a surprising howling good time, as far as B movies go
When watching a movie with a title as dubious as Werewolf: The Devil's Hand, you have to be willing to take certain things with a grain of salt. You can generally expect poor camera-work, weak characters, and lackluster special effects. However, looking past all that, there's generally a good time to be found. W:tDH is no different... provided you can survive about the first half hour, which starts with what looks like a Nerf fight in the dark and jumps scenes, characters, etc, in what has to be among the worst set-ups I've seen in recent history. Despite that, the film is endowed with a certain amount of charm between the moderately talented leading actress, leading actor (whose performance improves midway into the film), and a cast of comical supporting characters. And the dialogue and campy nature of the film more than make up any slack, including a brief animated short you'd only find in a movie of this caliber.

Most impressive are the transformation sequences, which look considerably better than those found in films with actual budgets. It varies between cool eye-light effects and sequences involving blood vomiting. Considerably less impressive are the werewolf costumes which are lampooned even by the characters themselves who at first confuse one monster for a yeti.

Judging by the film quality, the production was probably shot on a digital camcorder. The movie feels like it must have had multiple directors, given the occasional weird tangents and how the characters are used. Also, I could swear that parts of the final action sequence were clearly dubbed, just by the sound of some of the actors... There are also a few potential plot holes that weren't adequately addressed, including the identity of the so-called vandals (which I believed to be addressed earlier on?) and why the Germans would choose to ship a werewolf by wooden crate in the first place. But again, those are minor complaints. The only major problem with the film is the infuriatingly bad set-up and annoying hokey effects used early on which, oddly enough, aren't really seen in the rest of the film, as well as how tacked on the Germans feel. If they reworked a few portions of the movie, W:tDH would easily pass for a good made4tv movie.

Dark Moon Rising
(2009)

Well, at least it's better than Twilight...
Dark Moon Rising / Wolf Moon is a love story... no, it's a story of a reluctant werewolf... no, it's a story of two families coming together... Well, it's a lot of things and not all of them pleasant. First and foremost it's the story of a girl with a single father who happens to fall for the bad boy werewolf drifter and could've ended happily at just that if not for the father's dislike/distrust for the new boyfriend and the fact that the boy's psychopath werewolf father is trying to track him down for a family reunion.

For what it is, the film is decently acted and the story is moderately compelling. The big bad daddy wolf is a genuine monster and regales us with moderate gore, besides being a somewhat likable villain. The boy and girl are passable actors allowing their scenes to outshine their limited talent. The girl's father and the sheriff feel like something ripped out of a low budget Syfy Original (is there any other kind?) but they're not bad beyond possibly being somewhat derivative. The real flaw, through and through, are the horrendous special effects. The transformations are hokey, corny, and completely devoid of any real passion; the costumes are, well, just so obviously costumes that it ruins any thrill. Compared even to the presumably smaller budgeted Werewolf: The Devil's Hound, the special effects in DMR are flat out lousy and inexcusable especially considering the rest of the movie which is pleasant if not good. It's a shame that they decided to completely shunt the werewolf angle in a werewolf movie but, after all, this film is probably more of a teeny romance than anything else.

Wieners
(2008)

How did Wieners go so wrong so fast?
The movie starts well enough: A guy, arguing with his girlfriend, ends up on the show of a thinly veiled Dr. Phil to help work through the relationship. However, this episode has a twist. Some time later, our hero spends his days sitting in his underwear watching and re-watching that same episode. To snap him out of his funk his friend, who just bought a weinermobile, proposes a road trip---to travel across the country and kick the good doctor's ass! The film, however, is unable to keep the momentum going behind this interesting concept and things quickly devolve into crappy physical humor, some running gay jokes, a lewd reference here and there, and some awkward situations that bore more than they amuse. All of which serves as nothing more than an attempt to bulk out the film because clearly the writers ran out of good ideas. The ending is also a somewhat disappointing muddled mess that leaves viewers with the distinct impression that they just lost 90 minutes of their life that they're never going to get back.

Former child star & current SNL cast member Kenan Thompson plays the happy-go-lucky hot doggatier Wyatt and greatly outshines the rest of the cast. Despite his best efforts, however, even he can't pull laughs out of this mess. The only two other faces you might recognize in the film are Jenny McCarthy (of Mtv fame) and Darrell Hammond (who plays the thinly veiled Dr. Phil parody). All three perform admirably in their roles. However, the leading man, Zach Levi (aka Chuck on the NBC comedy of the same name) could have easily been replaced with a sack of potatoes in the majority of scenes and nobody would ever have noticed.

If you're going to see Wieners, if you watch the first 10 or 15 minutes then fast forward to the last 10 (or, because you're going to probably see this on TV, watch something else for a while) you might enjoy the film.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Turn of the Screws
(2004)
Episode 21, Season 4

Intriguing mystery with a chilling twist
An amusement park ride gone wrong results in several deaths after the roller-coaster derails. Originally thought an accident, examination shows that it may in fact been sabotage. To compound the mystery another body is found in the parking lot near the crashed roller coaster, bludgeoned to death. Meanwhile, the death of a young woman is investigated.

The amusement park murders stay compelling as the team uncovers some after-hours hanky panky at the park and a love triangle. The ultimate revelations for this part of the story are delivered effectively. Less compelling is the story of the murdered girl, despite a somewhat engaging motive, since it serves more to flesh out the character of a team member (by contrast). Although a little lukewarm, it meshes well with the stronger story. Ultimately, both stories are intriguing for the slight parallels to each other and the raw humanity behind the culprits' actions.

Magi-Nation
(2007)

Either a pipe dream or just a nightmare
Granted, I'm sure people weren't expecting much when 2i, creators of the Magi-Nation card game and cult GBA title, announced they were making a cartoon. The creators optimistically predicted that the cartoon would revive their rapidly dying franchise. However, they appear to have completely forgotten about their existing fans when they were trying to cash in on the kiddy market.

Stupid marketing decisions aside, the cartoon has a more youth-oriented slant than the games. Age-wise, it seems to appeal to a crowd slightly younger than the Pokemon group. Although the cartoon bears some resemblance to the GBA game, new characters were added, others were changed (in both personality and design), and key story elements were altered. Agram, for instance, has a much friendlier look to him (gone are the bizarre bandages obscuring his eyes) and, although sealed in the core like in the game, he somehow is able to project himself into the world as some sort of phantom. Korg and Zet also look drastically different. Oh, plus the dream creatures can talk.

The show is fairly child-friendly and greatly resembles Pokemon, with some sort of friendship between summoned monsters and their summoners as well as a "Name that creature!" during commercial breaks. The dialog will make older audiences grimace, but there doesn't seem to be anything that would offend children or parents. Nor does the show have any really compelling content that would keep older audiences amused, save for the campy dialog and scenarios.

All in all, Magi Nation sadly plays out like a second-rate Pokemon or, perhaps slightly more apt, a Monster Rancher knock-off. If it's anything like Monster Rancher, the series is probably doomed to Monster Rancher's fate--a season or two followed by cancellation.

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