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Never have 72 minutes felt so long...
The state of filmmaking in the 2010s is truly something to behold; never before have so many movies with so little merit been made. 'Collar' is one such film, a product so devoid of talent and purpose that is a legitimate wonder it was ever made.

A hobo rapes and murders a bunch of people.

There, you have the plot of the movie. Some other stuff happens, sure, but none of it matters. The film isn't concerned with anything besides the rape and murder scenes (both of which are plentiful) and doesn't seem to be concerned if the audience is either. I dare you to name any character when the flick is over with the possible exception of the murder hobo, stupidly named Massive. All of this is meant to convey just how poor the writing is, but it still feels like I'm underselling it. To be clear, the script is beyond amateurish, it's straight up juvenile.

So how about those rape/murder scenes, are they any good? In a word, no. There's plenty of blood, guts, and boobs, but it's all so incompetently filmed, lit, staged, and acted that it fails as both exploitation and horror. In fact, between the tight shots, shaky cam, and god awful lighting, you'd be challenged to determine what is even going on half the time. That is if you care enough to even know, which you likely won't.

Whether you are looking for something scary or gross or exploitive, I promise you can find it better somewhere (anywhere?) else.



The Graphic Visuals Can't Make Up For The Bad Writing
A proper opening scene for a film should establish tone and theme. It should give the audience a reasonable expectation for what is to come while also wetting their appetites. So, what does it say when a film opens with a son being forced at gun point to have sex with his recently tortured mother only to have her shot and killed midway through the act and he just keeps right on having sex with her now dead body? Surprisingly, not as much as you might think.

A quartet of females, sisters Andrea and Cami, Cami's girlfriend Julia, and their cousin Magdalena, head out into the country for some drinking and relaxation. Unfortunately, the local serial killer and his son get wind of their arrival and decide to set upon them with predictably violent results.

Yes, I said THE local serial killer, because the film makes it clear that people around there seem to be fully aware of his violent tendencies and are basically kosher with it. But before I get into the (many) issues with the script, we first have to talk about the violence as it is the big selling point for the film. Besides the aforementioned murder/incest/necrophilia bit, the film features the expected scenes of gang rape, shootings, stabbing, beatings, and assorted other violence. It's bloody, it's grim, and it's all staged reasonably well, but it's also oddly unaffecting. Part of this is because the film places it's most vile bits early on so that everything afterwards pales in comparison. Another part is that for as hard as the film tries, other films have done it better and done it more disturbingly (ie A Serbian Film, The Man Behind the Sun, Frontiers, etc). But the biggest part is that you simply don't give a damn about any of these characters.

Which brings us back around to the script. In short, it's bad. The begin with, the film has almost no plot; group of gals get wrecked by psycho and his son. That's it, no other twists or surprises, it's the same run of the mill home invasion plot you've likely seen dozens of times at this point. But that's not the worst of it, for as basic as the story is, the characters are even worse. The four ladies are given little personality and even less back story. So much so that they feel less like proper characters and more like place holders where characters are supposed to be. This somewhat surprising as most of the first act of the film is devoted to them hanging out and talking about heir feelings, it just doesn't amount to anything.

Main girl Andrea kinda comes off as kinda stiff and surly, but you never get what her deal is or why she is so gruff. Her sister Cami probably comes of the most likable of the bunch, but only because she seems a little bubbly and a touch innocent, just like her sister you will end the film knowing essentially nothing about her. Her girlfriend Julia manages to be pretty unlikable, since she keeps telling Cami how much she loves her, but can't even wait a whole day before putting the movies on Cami's cousin Magdalena. Speaking of Magdalena, she achieves the feat of being the least likable of the bunch; not only does she make out with her cousin's girlfriend, but the movie makes it known that she has a long term boyfriend, meaning she is cheating on him too. Charming.

Now, if you are think that this relationship drama is gonna has some pay off, don't get your hopes up. Just as Julia is doing a strip tease for both Cami and Magdalena's benefit and Andrea looks on less than pleased with this development, the killers shows up and none of it is ever mentioned again. You quickly realize that the last 30-ish minutes of film were kinda pointless and most of it could have been removed without significantly altering the film.

The second act fairs better. Once the villains make an appearance the film finally finds some energy and forward momentum. The ladies all get violated to one degree or another, with Magdalena easily getting the worst of it. Afterwards, the killers just up and leave and the remaining femmes call the cops. This is when we find out that local law enforcement knows all about the two criminals in question and has long let them do their own thing. Because reasons. The girls eventually convince the country bumpkin cops to pursue the killers back their hideout and the film swiftly loses any pretense at being a serious film as quickly falls into a string of increasingly preposterous violent set pieces.

The third act starts by revealing that the evil daddy guy is the illegitimate offspring on Rambo and John Wick. I joke, but it's not far off. The dude goes from being a run of the mill rapist and suddenly becomes a walking murder machine. Not once, but twice in the film a group of four armed individuals have guns drawn on him at a distance of about 15-20 feet and yet he walks away both times completely unharmed, but with the good guys dead or dying. He goes about killing the hell out of just about everybody while the 'heroes' are so grossly incompetent it's surprising they have survived to adulthood. It's stupid.

In the end, after beating the dick out of the son (literally) and dissolving the dad in acid (cuz shooting him eight times didn't do the trick), Andrea finds the incest baby the dad made with his sister and decides the baby its intently evil because of his parents and shoots it. Yep, our heroic final girl shoots a baby. Karma comes quick and she is immediately gunned down by the police. The end.

This is a bad movie. The characters are empty, the story is simple, and the action is ridiculous. There is lots of violence, but there is nothing holding it together. About the only person I could see become engage with this is a viewer who is just starting to tip their toes into extreme cinema and haven't seen any of the good ones yet.


Friday the 13th: The Obsession

Good for what it is.
That's to say that what it is happens to be a zero-budget fan film and not to be taken seriously as a legitimate Ft13th flick. Some entertaining moments pop up in this 7-part web series, but to much time (especially early on) is wasted on needlessly lengthy dialogue scenes.

Plot: A hardcore Friday the 13th fan (really, is there any other kind) has just broken up with her girlfriend when she meets a woman who is currently on the run from her abusive ex- boyfriend. Shortly after they begin sexual relationship which seemingly blossoms into true romantic feelings. Their new relationship becomes threatened when the ex-boyfriend reemerges and threatens the girls. Hardcore Fan begins to lose her grip on reality and she has visions of Jason committing violent murders, soon donning the mask for a murder spree of her own.

I came across this series (unsurprisingly) one Friday the 13th. I had just finished watching a marathon of the films (accompanied by more than a few beers) and I decided to look up any new info on a possible future film. Finding none, I instead found a link to this fan-made web series. Fan-fic or not, I needed some more Friday in my life so I checked it out. Was I pleased? Yes and no; kind of like eating Taco Bell when you really want some good Mexican food, it scratches the itch but doesn't leave you to really satisfied.

First off, what does it do right? Well, for one thing the makers clearly love the source material. From the movie posters that liter the walls of Fan's room, to the excellent use of the classic music from the series (I forgot what a great song 'Hard Rock Summer' was), to the loving homages to famous moments from the classic films, these guys and girls definitely know their Jason. They also know how to cater to their core audience (i.e. Friday fans); there is a fare amount of scantily clad (and utterly gorgeous) women, some T&A, and couple of rather lovely murders. Oh, and the fact that it is free to watch doesn't hurt either.

Sadly enthusiasm can't make up for everything, not matter how noble the designs. The biggest stumbling block is the writing; bottom line it isn't very good. Numerous side plots are introduced and then only vaguely developed and characters have a tendency to be simply dropped into the storyline without being organically introduced. Character motivation and progression also tends to be murky at best; for instance, we know that Super Fan is going crazy simply because she starts getting violent, not because we witness any kind of collapse of her grasp of reality. In other words, we don't see her mental breakdown, we are just supposed to know that it happened. Probably the hardest part of the film to get through is the relationship between the two girls. It simply is not well developed, nor are the actresses talented enough to make it justify the amount of screen time devoted to it. They have one date that ends in drunken sex and the next day they are already telling each other how "I've never felt this close to any one before." Seriously? You had one date, you don't now a damn thing about a person after only one date, as proved by the fact that Super Fan's new girlfriend has no idea that she is moments away from turning into a knife wielding maniac.

But I digress, ragging to harshly on the series makes it seem like I don't appreciate what they were trying to do and I really do commend them for putting this project together. It is a genuine labor of love and I salute all involved for their effort. After all, it's not like the studios have gotten off their butts lately and made a new film for us. So for that, I thank you.

A tad too slow in the first half, but with some fun pay off in the second half; serious Friday fans should check it out, but non-fans need not apply.


Piranha 3DD

Great gore-comedy, better than expected.
Given the deluge of bad reviews I read before hand, not to mention the low IMDb score, I almost skipped this sequel to a remake. I loved the first one (as many detractors proclaim) and they all seem to hate this one. Glad I ignored the bad buzz, P3DD is a wonderfully exploitive gore-comedy that never takes itself seriously.

The Plot: After the events of the first film, the infamous lake is sealed off and the titular piranhas are killed off, effectively turning the lake into a wasteland, but seemingly ending the threat. Months later, however, some fish that survived the extermination travel through an underground river and find a new home in the form of an adult-themed water park. Blood, guts, and oodles of nudity quickly ensue.

I will admit that even without the bad press, I was reticent about seeing this. When I heard that Alexandra Aja was not returning and was being replaced by John Gulager, my concern skyrocketed. Gulager directed "Feast", which was awesome, but he also directed "Feast 2" and "Feast 3", which are both just barely watchable (and that's being generous). Fortunately, P3DD falls more in line with the former.

What's done right? Quite a bit really, if you have a mind for silly gore-comedies that is. From the first scene in the move, there are blood and guts aplenty and it keeps coming at steady intervals all the way up to the limb-lopping climax. At just about equal amounts is nudity and sexual situations; this movie almost gleefully wears its perv-badge on its chest. Not that there is anything wrong with any of that (quite the contrary), just letting you know what you are in for. Compared to most films the movie is extremely gory, though judged against the first one it actually comes up a little short.

Most of the cast changes (ie, nearly everyone) work perfectly. The lovely Danielle Panabaker takes the lead role this time around and is immediately enjoyable in the role while David Koechner plays the same kind of slimy (yet oddly likable) jerk he often does in similar films. The rest of the cast are all pleasantly game for the shenanigans going on, but the two main standouts are the cameos by Ving Rhames and David Hasslehoff. Rhames (being only one of three returning actors) get a great scene involving hydrophobia and how he comes to deal with it, while the Hoff gets most of the best jokes in the movie.

Not everything is perfect. For one, the movie is really short; it clocks in at only 83 minutes and that's WITH a 13-minute credit sequence (make sure to not skip the blooper filled credits, they are hilarious). With only 70 actual minutes of story time in the film, you really don't every get around to caring about the fate of anyone in the film; good or bad, alive or dead, no one's fate leaves any real impression on you. Another issue connected to the running time is the bare-bones script; plotting happens VERY quickly and often with little explanation or elaboration. Characters are underdeveloped and are introduced and then killed off with nearly frightening frequency.

But then again, are those really things to complain about in a film like this? You don't go to see a movie called "Piranha 3DD" expecting deep plotting or award winning acting. You (should) go in expecting exactly what you get: blood, guts, and nudity.

And in that regard the movie succeeded marvelously.


Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury

How do I review this?
"Poolboy" is not a well made movie. It is not well acted, well written, nor well directed. You could call it crap and few could argue. And yet, underneath all that crap there is a bizarre kind of brilliance at work here. "Poolboy" is not a good movie, but I loved it.

The plot, what little there is, concerns a Vietnam vet coming home to find his wife and child murdered by an evil pool boy and LA over run by Mexicans (it's as racist as it sounds, but I'll get to that later). Overcome with grief, the Vet goes on a one man rampage against the evil Mexican pool boy cartel.

The story is utterly ridiculous and even less coherent than it sounds since half the film is made up of fake 'making-of' footage. It all congeals into a sloppy mess of rapid-fire (often vulgar) sight gags. Those easily offended by nudity, violence, blood, gore, and nearly non- stop racism need not apply. Those with a mind for it will find a frequently hilarious film that hearkens back to the glory days of old-school Troma movies (think "Toxic Avenger" or "Troma's War").

I said the film was not well acted before, but that is only half true. The actors act poorly, but they are clearly supposed to be acting poorly. The kind of over-dramatic, over-acted nonsense that is intended to compliment the ridiculous story. In that regard, they actually act pretty well. I'm a long time fan of Kevin Sorbo, but I surprised to see just how well he handled absurdist comedy. Danny Trejo also puts in an extremely funny performance as a kind of anti-thesis to his character from "Machete". The rest of the film is loaded with actors who deserve credit for going along with the ludicrous nature of the film.

The dialogue and filming are much the same as the plot and acting; they are poorly executed, but that is the point. The dialogue is often (though not always) hilarious and the direction has a rushed, film student quality to it that would seem amateurish if it wasn't clearly the intended look for the movie.

As much I liked the film, not everything worked for me. The biggest problem is that with many films of it's type, they rely on quantity over quality for the gags. About half the jokes fall flat, but at least the other half hit the mark. Also, the film is EXCEEDINGLY vulgar. Hardly 30 seconds can go by with some form of cursing, bloodshed, or racist material being shown. I'm not offended by explicit content, but after a while I wanted the movie start being more clever and stop being graphic just for the sake of being graphic.

All things considered, I thought "Poolboy" was a hilarious film, but definitely not one for most people; consider watching it with friends and a six-pack for maximum effect.

Kull the Conqueror

Enjoyable Fantasy Flick
On the scale of sword and sorcery flicks, this ranks below 'Conan The Barbarian', above the dreary 'Red Sonja', about on par with 'Conan The Destroyer'; which is to say that it's an energetic fantasy film that doesn't take itself seriously and can be a lot of fun if you let it be.

Kull of Atlantis seeks to join the army of Velusia, but instead, through an unexpected turn of events, he finds himself proclaimed king of the empire instead. Holding onto his new throne will be much harder than taking it, as the blood heirs to the empire make a deal with a wizard to revive a 3000 year-old demon who seeks to kill King Kull and claim the empire for herself.

'Kull the Conqueror' originally started out as 'Conan the Conqueror', but after Arnold refused to reprise the role, the script was changed to accommodate Howard's other barbarian hero, Kull. As such, much of the story is actually taken from the Conan stories ('The Hour of the Dragon' in particular). Interestingly, the first Conan movie took most of it's story material from the Kull tales. A little bit of irony for you.

As for the film itself, it does enough things right to entertain; Sorbo fits Kull role perfectly (actually truer to the source character than Arnold ever was), Griffith is an effectively grim villain and Tia Carrere hams it up nicely as the evil Akiavasia. The locations and sets have a wonderfully fantasy feel to them and the assorted fight scenes are well choreographed and fast paced. Given their age, the FX and make are good without ever looking terribly real. One thing I found very enjoyable in the film was the liberal dose of humor; not lame one-liners or goofy antics, but some solid humor that compliments the scenes rather than ruining them.

The biggest problem the movie has is the damn PG-13 rating; it keeps the movie from really delving into adult fantasy the way you want it too. Both 'Red Sonja' and 'Conan the Destroyer' suffered the same problem. Another issue is the generic butt-rock music that accompanies the fight scenes; the music for the rest of the film is epic and fits the period nature of the film, but the lame guitar riffs that get churned out during every fight is just annoying. Also, many of the supporting actors just aren't any damn good at acting and tend to injure many of the scenes. Lastly, the script is a little lean for an epic adventure film, clocking in at just 90 minutes, almost no time is spent getting to know the characters any better than is necessary to drive the plot.

All told, this is a fun, fast, fantasy film meant to be enjoyed rather than analyzed. It makes a decent entry in the Howard film canon (the best way to watch it is part 4 of a Howard marathon; Conan 1 & 2, Red Sonja, Kull). The film made no money in theaters, which is too bad, as we aren't likely to see any more of these any time soon.

Energetic, humorous, and full of action (though not without some issues), a solid sword and sorcery flick.


Saint Sinner

Barker delivers an enjoyable erotic horror flick.
Judged against the majority of Clive Barker adaptations, this one ranks as one of the better; not as good as 'Lord of Illusions', 'Hellraiser', or 'Midnight Meat Train', but far more enjoyable than the dismal Candyman/Hellraiser sequels, about on par with 'Night Breed', 'Book of Blood', or the original 'Candyman'.

In 1815, a curious monk accidentally unleashes a pair of lethally seductive succubi, who swiftly kill his brother and then flee through time. Wishing to atone for his sins, the monk follows the pair to the 20th century where he must slaw them with a magical dagger. He is arrested after arriving too late to one of their murder scenes and is forced to try to convince a female cop with no religion to believe him.

Produced for the SciFi channel (or now SyFy, how dorky), the movie has some of the problems connected with made for TV flicks; that is a few tacky sets, less-than-stunning visual effects, and some cheesy lines of dialogue.

On the plus side, the film has an excellent color pallet and a good sense of mood lighting. The lead protagonists (the monk and the cop) are a likable pair of heroes and the succubi sisters manage to be both desirable and repulsive in just about equal proportions.

As mentioned, this was intended for cable broadcast, so the movie has to conform to TV standards of content; meaning no nudity or graphic violence. That being said, the film is surprisingly sticky (even without excess blood, there are a couple noteworthy gross-out scenes) and there is a fair amount of sexual content. On a side not, the DVD has a couple of unrated scenes in the special features which contain some nudity for those that absolutely can't do without it.

Imperfect, yet still satisfying; worth a look.


Book of Blood

The Books of Blood finally come to screen.
I read Clive Barker's 'Books of Blood' years ago and instantly fell in love with them; they had a wonderful combination of horror and fantasy, fear and humor. I've been pinning for them to be filmed for years and I finally got my wish to marginally mixed results.

A parapsychology professor and her assistant have been trying to prove their theories about the afterlife and beyond when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a house with a long paranormal history and a university student who seems to be a psychic. They decide to use his abilities to try to tap into the house's energies, but things are not as they seem and the experiment goes in ways no one could have guessed.

First things first, I had a few issues with the film. First was the bookend story segments that surrounds the plot; the movie essentially spoils the best part of the story from the very first seen. The second (and bigger) problem the movie has is the running time; at 100 minutes the movie is too damn long. This is based on a short story (two actually) and there is just not enough driving plot to justify the length. A good 20 minutes needed to be trimmed off, as is the movie is gets pretty slow at parts. The last real problem I had was that the stories this is based on weren't the best stories from the books, they were just the first stories in them; the reason for this seems to be that a series of films based on the books is in the works and they wanted to start from the beginning, 'Pig Blood Blues' (great story) is apparently up next.

Having said all that I still enjoyed the film more than I was frustrated by it. Even though this wasn't the best story from the novels it is still an engaging tale of the macabre and features some occasional excellent horror imagery. The principal actors in the limited cast are all suited nicely to their respective rolls and the character dialogue has a pleasantly moody cadence to it.

The visual and gore effects are (relative to the genre) fairly limited, but what is on display packs quite a visceral punch. One particularly memorable moment involves a poor girl getting her face peeled like an orange. That being said, this is not a gore film, despite what the DVD box would have you believe.

The setting and location of the film (Scotland) fit the story well and provide a Gothic backdrop for the action. The house were most of the film takes place is a appropriately grim without feeling like a clique spook house.

Despite the some slow sections in the middle and the unfortunate story reveal early on, it manages to be a creepy tale about death and beyond.


The Strangers

Lacks imagination.
From the trailers I was pretty stoked to see this one; it had all the markings of a good, scary time. Sadly it ends up being a series of clichéd horror movie items and second rate writing.

After a friend's wedding, a couple retires to a secluded home for a little get away and are shortly set upon by a trio of crazies bent on violence; generic plot devices ensue.

From the very start the movie cripples itself by announcing that things end badly for the couple; it's hard to get too in the film when you already know that the main characters are screwed from the outset. Instead of wondering if the characters will make it and rooting for their survival, I just sat back and waited for their inexorable conclusion.

That isn't the worst of the bad writing decisions though, not by a long shot. First of all the villains are, I swear to god, freaking ninjas; they appear, they disappear, they appear again, they make no noise when they move, they always know exactly where the victims are, they all seem to have spectacular night vision and are masters of the ancient art of stealth. It's impossible to take them seriously as human villains when they are basically supernaturally endowed.

But wait, there's more! The victims are, in a word, stupid. They keep coming up with improbable reasons to split up, they find and then quickly abandon good hiding places, they neither make a real effort to escape of stay put and they completely fail to work together to survive. On more than one occasion they mange to get a clear shot on the bad guys with a shot gun and always manage to shoot too damn late to hit anything. The damn girl even trips and falls at one point! Come on now, that gag is so over done it's satire by this point. The worst bit of bone headed decision making comes in the form of the character Mike, who arrives at the house and immediately gets his windshield bashed in. He idiotically shrugs that off and he casually strolls up the house. Upon finding it ransacked he just decides to stroll on inside quietly and start poking around without bothering to call the cops or even check to see if anyone is home. Needless to say, things don't work out very well for poor old Mike, but I barely knew him and his idiocy certainly warranted what he gets.

Speaking of of not knowing Mike very well, the film doesn't do a good job of introducing or developing any of it's characters. All of them (good and bad alike) are shallow and 2- dimensional, meaning it's neigh impossible to care what happens to them.

After all that grumbling you might be wondering why a 4 and not lower; well despite to horrid writing the film has a good look to it. Good color and lighting complement some effective steady cam work. And despite myself I still did find some the imagery genuinely creepy, even if only fleetingly.

All told the films fails to be the creep fest it so desperately wants to be.



Boll's first comedy really works.
I'm one of the seemingly very few Boll supporters out there, so of course I actually put some effort into watching his movies. I've never thought he is the hack that many reviewers have called him and he certainly is nowhere near the "worst living director" as some have said (if you really think that then I could recommend some truly unwatchable films to compare). Having said that, even as a fan I was caught off guard by "Postal", which is one of the most wildly offensive, vulgar and gut-splittingly funny movies I've had the pleasure of in some time.

Taking from the video game of the same name, "Postal" follows the exploits of a down on his luck guy known simply as the Postal Dude (Zack Ward, who seems to be having a blast) who decides to take up an offer from his uncle (Dave Foley, funnier and grosser than usual) to steal a load of children's toys for profit. Nothing goes right.

The plot description sounds far more contained than the film ever gets close to; it really is one step shy of celluloid lunacy. By the time the credits rolls you've seen a horrifically fat woman bed-down several men, a woman get juggled between cars in a bloody car accident, a whole bus load of children get shot to pieces at German themed ammusment park (complete with a Death Camp Land), and you'll see Minnie-Me himself get rapped to death by a thousand monkeys. All that is just a tiny portion of the craziness on hand.

Some people might read to above description and think the film is unrelenting offensive. It really isn't; it's obscene and vulgar, but everything is played for humor and it manages (just barely) to avoid falling into the realm of offensive. It's really nothing like any of Boll's other movies, which should make many people happy. Unfortunately a lot of people will avoid just due to the negative hype surrounding Boll's films.

If you want a stupidly funny time, check it out.


Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

Fantastic sequel.
Fixing nearly everything that was broken in part one, MG2:SS is the definition of what a sequel should be.

Several years after the Outer Heaven incident, Solid Snake is again called upon. World renowned scientist Dr. Marv has engineered an organism that refines crude oil, however he has been kidnapped during a terrorist revolt in Zanzibar Land. Snake must infiltrate the enemy compound and rescue him, though many surprises are in store for the legendary soldier.

The difference between the two MSX metal gears is astonishing. Judged against this sequel, the first game feels primitive. The graphics are more colorful with more fluidity in the movements, the controls are more responsive, and the sound is vastly improved, particularly the music, which was almost teeth grinding in the first MG. Other improvements include additional gear, more weapons, a refined alert system, and the god-sent ability to duck and crawl.

The most notable improvement in the game is the story telling. In the first game the plot was ill-developed; aside from the one major late game twist. Also, characters were devoid of personality and lacked meaningful bearing on the narrative. Not so with this (and all subsequent) entry. Snake is given much more to do and say this time, as opposed to his grunt like behavior in part one. The side characters get a lot more to do as well, enough that when something bad happens to one of them you feel it.

The game holds up amazing well given it's age. The design and complexity of the game are such that they remain almost unchanged throughout the rest of the series. The next game in sequence, Metal Gear Solid (PS1), is as much a remake in mechanics as it is a sequel in story.

A few small annoyances keep the game from retro-perfection. Enemies will occasionally spot you as soon as you enter/exit a door way and there is nothing you can do about it. The guns you are (eventually) equipped with fire bullets so slow that baddies will often out run them off screen. Also, while the card swapping shenanigans of the first game have been noticeably reduced, it's still tedious to cycle through several cards just to see which (if any) will open a door. Lastly, the game has a habit of throwing a complication at the play without providing any readily apparent solution; either get a walk-through or be prepared for LOTS of aimless wandering.

Despite the few grievances levied against the game, it is still a fantastic experience that all Metal Gear fans should check out.


Metal Gear

A solid start.
I should mention upfront that I beat this game about 20 years after it's initial release (on the MGS3: Substance bonus disc) and as such it was difficult to be wholly objective.

In the near future of 1995 (the game came out in 1987) a terrorist group has seized the Outer Heaven facility in order to acquire the newly developed super-weapon Metal Gear TX-55. Rookie operative Solid Snake is dispatched to defuse the situation, though the mission is not what it seems.

If the plot sounds like a hokey 80's action flick, that's because it's an 80's game based on hokey 80's action flicks. One of the game's bosses are a couple of cyborgs called 'the Arnolds' for god's sake. Compared to the rest of the games in the series, the plotting and story here are bare minimum. None of the long-winded speeches, none of the 20+ minute cut-scenes; for better or worse its all about the game play.

Judged strictly by modern standards, the game is woefully outdated. 8-bit color scheme, midi-style music and limited player functions. That being said the game has aged far better than most games of its era. Despite the technical limitations the title still holds up as a playable game even today, this is due to the obvious genius of the core mechanics. Many of the ideas set up in this entry will carry on throughout the series (stealth over force, inventive boss battles, big plot twists, huge assortment of items and weapons) and even some of the actual game play segments will survive (in updated form) all up to MSG2: SOL.

I can't really recommend this to casual gamers, as most will not put up with the dated structure and limited story/character development, but for fans of the series and retro-naughts, this is a must play.


Diary of the Dead

Romero has finally lost his touch.
Romero essentially created the zombie genre in "Night of the Living Dead" and perfected the formula in the first sequel "Dawn of the Dead", but after about 40 years of retelling the exact same story he has sadly lost whatever it was that made him great.

A group of young film makers get caught up in the obligatory zombie outbreak and one of them has the bright idea to film it all for prosperity. Stupidity ensues.

The first thing to grate on the nerves are the obnoxious, dry, monotone voice overs from the painfully unsympathetic, unlikeable lead female. She spouts several boring, lengthy monologues about the suckiness of her situation and how important this film is to watch, even though her character in the film incessantly complains about people filming the events.

Speaking of irritatingly whiny characters, the film is filled to the brim with them. Not one, not a single one of the characters make it to the end of the film with out being grossly incompetent and obnoxious. Seriously, not one. At one point the lead female tells a bunch of national guard deserters to either giver her supplies or kill her. What the hell kind of stupid option is that? OK, fine...BANG!

Which brings us to the story and it's unending weakness. Aside from the already mentioned moronic ultimatum, the story tosses a few more idiotic decisions at the audience. Like when one of the group is being chased by a zombie and the jerk filming it actually stops to comment on how he was right when he said that zombies should shamble, not run. OK, we get it, Romero doesn't like fast zombies.

Ultimately, Romero is the films greatest weakness. It feels like a sad case of old dog, new tricks. Trying to catch on the Blair Witch/Cloverfield train, Romero apparently decided the zombie genre could due with a docudrama take on the material; what sucks about this is that in principal, he's right. The idea of the film is sound, it's the execution that falters. Romero, a product of '60s, tries the connect with the you-tube generation without any real success.

The final slap in the face is the expected political message. Romero has the audacity the chastise people who enjoy violent entertainment when his entire film career has been built on violent films. It isn't deep, it isn't insightful, it's just insulting.

Despite all my ranting on the film, I still found it in me to give it a 3 star rating instead of a 1; zombies are inherently awesome and their is just enough gory carnage to warrant a curiosity viewing for die hard fans of the genre.



Average in every way.
Beginning with the title, just about every aspect of this film is rife with mediocrity. That isn't to say it's a particularly bad film, it isn't, it's a simple statement about the films complete lack of ambition.

A woman (Lucy Lu) is kidnapped by a pack of vampires and after being summarily abused and finally left for dead she turns into a vampire herself and heads out for some bloody revenge.

As is undoubtedly obvious, the plot is anchored firmly in the realm of 'been there, done that', Lucy even gets help from the requisite down-on-his-luck cop who has his own reasons for chasing the vampires. At one point the 'hero' kills (in a rather gruesome fashion) an innocent stranger and then eats him, as if it's at all justified by her quest for revenge.

The dialogue and characters don't fare a whole lot better; you've seen every character here a dozen times or so in other movies and the character interactions have a stiff kind of unbelievability to them.

Where the drama fails, the fan-service works rather well. Plenty of blood and gore, some kinky hook-ups and a surprising amount of nudity on the part of Lu. It's just enough to make the rest of the film palatable, but unsatisfying The film doesn't do anything terribly wrong, the problem in the end is that it does equally little right.



The Man of Steel re-imagined
I skipped "Smallville" on TV for the most part, hearing that it was mostly akin to Superman meets "Dawson's Creek" or other obnoxious teen-fare dramas that I despise so much. Not until my comic-book-uber-geek buddy forced me to watch the season 1 DVD did I change my tune. Some small annoyances aside, this is a fantastic show.

Since a show is composed of many stories running over several years, featuring both highs and lows, it seems the most fare to me to review the show on a seasonal basis as opposed to one blanket review.

Season 1: Welcome to Smallville, meteor capital of the world, a fact we witness in the shows fantastic pilot episode as a shower of deadly meteors tear the small town asunder and bring with them baby Superman. Fast forward a bit and Clark is beginning his Freshman year of high school just in time for the radiation from the meteor shower to begin making super-freaks that will be the "monster of the week". The pilot season sticks to the story mythology fairly closely (Clark is a nerd, has an unrequited love for Lana, etc) but when it does stray, the new additions are a little hit and miss. The character of Chloe is a fantastic addition to the mythos (it doesn't hurt that Allison Mack is as cute as can be) as is the brotherly friendship that develops between Lex and Clark, but some of the meteor mutants are just aren't very interesting. This is Superman we're talking about, hardly any of these baddies pose a real threat. The weekly plots suffice, but the lack of an overlapping story line hurts.

Season 2: For better or worse, not much changes between season 1 and 2 in terms of content and execution. Weekly mutants show up to run amok and are summarily pummeled by Clark and Clark and Lana keep going back and forth with the "I love you, I love you not" bit; not until the end of the season do things start to pick up. With some revelations involving the ship the brought Clark to earth and some manipulations by Lex's twisted father Lionel, the show finally starts to grow some real teeth in it's plotting. The only kink in these chain of events that didn't work for me was Chloe's apparent switch to the dark side. Aside from that, season 2 ends on a fantastic cliff hanger that leaves most every character is some kind of horrendous turmoil.

Season 3: After a strong start, picking up were season 2 left off, season 3 starts to drift back into the familiar weekly-baddie cycle and threatens to wallow in mediocrity. With the exception of a few strong episodes most of season 3 is been there, done that territory. That is until just past the mid-season point, when decisions characters made earlier in the show begin to return on them with dire results. This all concludes with another fantastic season finale that arguably trumps the great season 2 ender and leaves not only the fate of some characters in question, but seemingly kills some.

Season 4: Ah, now this is great television. From the spectacular opening (featuring an airborne Clark) to the explosive conclusion (literally, as a second meteor shower decimates Smallville), this season never fails to be intriguing nor surprising. Some fun new characters are introduced and the show finally attaches itself to a lengthy, overlapping story line that has nothing to do with the by now wearisome love/hate thing Clark and Lana can't get past. Also new to the season is a healthy dose of broad humor that helps off set the more serious moments (and there are a lot of them). Character relationships are tried, test and ultimately changed; some for the better (in the case of Chloe and Clark) and some for the worse (Clark and Lex's brotherly bond finally begins to unravel).

Season 5: After the big 'hooah' that was season 4, season 5 feels much more subdued, but none the less interesting. Clark and Lana's oft-taxed relationship seems to be finally coming to a close, Chloe and Clark's friendship is deepened, Lex falls father and farther away from his humanity, now just a step or two shy of full-on villainy and events are in motion that may bring about the return of General Zod, the man responsible for the destruction of Krypton. Lacking the visceral punch of season 4's conclusion, 5 still manages to trump it with a near unfix-able conclusion.

Season 6: The quality keeps up with another fantastic season of the man of steel. Things get really wacky this year as the Green Arrow makes his debut in Metropolis, Lionel appears to be a full-on good guy, Loise finds a hunky new man, Martian Man-hunter shows up, a bunch of evil-doers escape the phantom zone and as if that wasn't enough for poor Clark to be shouldered with, Lana gets set to marry Lex! As has become the staple of the series, a huge, seemingly unfixable delima is presented (or more to the point several delimas) that will leave fans drooling for season 7.

Season 7: (coming soon)

Viewed as a whole entity, it should be said that the show is a slow starter but moves along excellently once it finds it's niche. The early seasons (1-3) have some good individual episodes, but for the most part they are fairly interchangeable and lack personality. Also, the Clark/Lana quasi-romance is at first effective in an adolescent kind of way, but after a couple of years it borders on obnoxious; they really need to hold a moratorium on that plot element, it's the one eye-sore on a show that otherwise continue to expand and improve.

A little heavy on the melo-drama, but otherwise a solid view.


Dead Silence

Unashmedly old school.
This is just about as classical as a modern horror flick can be. Evil ghosts, killer dolls, decrepit old houses, foggy cemeteries, skeptical cops and the like fill up this film that is unusual is how usual it is.

Shortly after receiving a creepy doll in the mail, our hero's wife is found murdered and he is soon off to his home town to find answers to the mystery that all seems to be tied to a childhood nursery rhyme.

Despite what the box art and press would have one believe, this is NOT a "Child's Play"-esquire killer-doll flick. The evil doll element is actually just one part of the overall story that is much closer to a traditional ghost story than a slasher film. And the film is very traditional, so much so at times that it felt like the whole thing would fall into self-parody at any second, but it never does. Instead of falling apart due to it's use of ancient cliques, it rather comes off as a loving homage to old-school horror films; back in the days before "Scream" came along and forced all horror flicks to self-analyze.

This is one of the most unabashedly strait-faced horror films I've seen in some time and I for one enjoyed it immensely.

As pleasant as the film was in it's own "throw-back" kind of way, it miss steps when it tries to be "fresh". A couple of limited stabs at dark humor really felt limb and the twist ending (yes, all modern horror films have to have one) just wasn't necessary. That isn't to say that the final twist was bad in a "Village" kind of way, there just was no need for it. One change of pace that the film takes from the norm of ghost movies that works well is it's liberal use blood/gore. Not excessive by any means, it's still gooey-er than 90% of films of a similar ilk.

For pure horror fans that miss horror films that weren't ashamed to called horror films, this is a real treat.


House of the Dead 2

Huge let down.
The first "House of the Dead" was no masterpiece, but by comparison to it's inane sequel it comes off as a new classic. After reading the slip inside the DVD box would one believe they analyzed the first film and fixed all of it's mistakes, when in reality they not only failed to accomplish that, but they made a whole slew of new ones all their own.

During a hazing prank, a young girl is struck by a car and then taken by the driver back to his 'evil' lab where he injects her with a regenerative serum. Of course everything goes wrong and in short order zombies are over-running the campus and a group of Special (in the short bus kind of way) Operatives are sent in to quell the threat.

Where to begin when everything is so bad. First of all the script, or lack there of. Were I told that there was no script and that the film was made up as they went I would not be surprised. No plot point, revelation, character idea, or even one line of dialogue manages to generate any response outside of a hardy cringe. I don't demand a deep script from a zombie movie, but this is insulting.

Some of the actors aren't too bad...some of them. Horror regulars Sid Haig and Ellie Cornell are fun if horribly under used and Emmanuelle (Saw 2) Vaugier is very nice to look at. Other than those limited exceptions the cast is unmemorable.

Coming in to round out the horrible package are the cheap sets and low-grade FX work. Where I to pass off any praise on the film it would be the abundance of gore (however cheap looking) and a fair amount of nudity.

Except for the hardest or hardcore zombie fans, there is no one I would recommend this to.



Don't call it a spin-off.
How ever it may have come into existence, "Angel" most certainly did not leave this world as a cheap marketing ploy. Quite the contrary, in many respects "Angel" excelled past even it's forbearer, the equally engrossing "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer". A darker tone, more mature mindset and superior stunt and fight work all went a long way toward setting "Angel" apart as it's own beast, but none of that would mean a thing if the players involved didn't treat the show with the earnesty it deserved. Starting with the excellent writing and moving all the way through the production design, acting, CG work, music and final cut, it seems that all parties involved devoted their full attention and care to making every aspect of the show as perfect as they could; even when an episode faltered it never felt for lack of effort or concern, but merely for intangible circumstance.

For the sake of brevity and clarity, I elected to review the series in a seasonal-overview format. For while each season is inexplicably tied to each other, they all had a different sets of agendas and focus.

Season 1- 'City of...' starts off the show with the right tone, but after the first episode much of the season meanders along with out a real mission statement to drive it; unable to jump start events until the closing seconds of the last episode, which is one wacky surprise. Most notable for establishing series mainstays Angel, Wes, Gun, and Cordy and for the unfortunate early departure of Doyle.

Season 2- This is where the show really got up and running. The second season is all over the place with wacky happenings. Wolfram and Hart go about shaking Angel's convictions about being a hero any way they can, only to get exactly what they wanted in a way they never expected. The show gets really dark past the mid-season mark, almost unwisely so, but pulls itself together nicely for the season finally which entails a crazy trip to an alternate dimension where humans are cattle for their demon overlords. Introduces show-tune loving demon Lorne and physicist-gone-cave girl Fred. Also notable for beginning the slow metamorphosis of Wes from nerdy comic relief into full blown fighter.

Season 3- Early episodes of season 3 serve a transitional purpose of getting all the new characters accustomed to each other, but in doing so fails to drive the overall narrative very far. Not until Darla shows up with a big surprise do things really get rolling again. In conjunction with that is the introduction Holtz, a man from Angel's long forgotten past. Holtz makes for an interesting character as he is presented as a villain in the narrative, yet the motivation for his actions is more in line with many anti-heroes in modern entertainment. The season concludes on a shockingly down-beat note and drops a huge cliff hanger in the viewers lap. Also introduced super-powered teen Connor.

Season 4- From the first episode to the last, this is by far the darkest season. With precious little exception, this season keeps piling on the dramatic down-turns like there going out of style. It seems that Wolfram & Hart have some competition for the next apocalypse when a big bad beast shows up and starts reeking ever-loving havoc all over the place (resulting in the biggest fight of the whole series between team Angel and the big-bad on a roof top), only to reveal that he is actually the lackey for an even greater evil. All the uber drama on display makes this one the most emotional season, but also the least 'fun'. Notable cameos by Faith and Willow.

Season 5- The final (and in my opinion best) season starts off with the crew getting accustomed to their new digs at Wolfram & Hart just in time for a surprise visit from the recently deceased Spike. The tone for the last season lightens up considerably from season 4, hitting the perfect balance and keeping it up for the long haul. The inclusion of Spike is sheer genius; the banter between Angel and him is so delightful one wishes they had thought to put them together since the beginning. Another hardy change comes from the character Gunn, who despite having been with the show since season 1 only just now finds his true calling as a lawyer. Illyria is the tragic new character of the show; introduced just long enough before the show ended to become interesting, but far to late to get to know her.

The show was prematurely cancelled for reasons I am unable to fathom, made all the more hurtful in light of the fact that the narrative was just beginning to make a whole slew of interesting changes. Many have argued that the ending is rushed and that it's opened-ed and down-beat nature are unsatisfying. While I agree that it does feel a little rushed, I also found it deeply satisfying. As Joss Wheadon said, the point of the ending is to never stop fighting; I see no better way to present that.

For the whole series 10/10


Near perfect Sci-Fi adventure.
Existing as something of an oddity, "Serenity" is at once a quality stand alone piece and a swan song for a tragic lost TV show. Having not seen the series "Fire Fly" when I first saw this movie I still found it wholly engrossing, then going back and watching the show made it all the more entertaining.

In the future, after the fall of earth to pollution and decay, the human race flees to the reaches of space to propagate the species. The world cultures have combined into one super-culture headed primarily by the USA and China. Most groups yielded to the Alliance government, a collective of the upper-class and pseudo-fascist ideology, however some groups rebelled and were termed the brown coats. After the rebels were defeated at the Battle of Serenity Valley, the war was ended and those that lost were cast to the winds of fate. This is were the story begins with the crew of Serenity, a firefly class spaceship, hoping around the galaxy in search of work, both legal and not. After one seemingly random job, they find themselves inexorably tied to a galactic conspiracy that may finally give them a chance to make a difference.

Before I start lumping on the praise I might as well get the faults out of the way. Some of the sets look a little 'made for TV', ie not very believable. Also, at a couple of moments the story feels a little rushed. And finally the film gets a just a touch too serious as it approaches the conclusion.

Now, where to begin? The plot, story, writing, acting, CG, action scenes, all are expertly constructed. First the writing; on top of the deep back story and emotive plot lines, the script allows for some of the most likable and believable characters in all of Sci-Fi lore. It is nay impossible to pick any one character that stands out, they are all important and equally good. Were that not enough, it also contains razor-sharp dialogue that drives the film and it's conflicts, both in terms of drama and levity.

Beyond the script the film holds up equally well. The Joss Whedon's direction is confident and clear, always moving toward a predetermined idea of any given scene. Assisting him is a cast of extremely talented yet mostly unknown actors, each of which takes their respective roles and defines them. Set construction, costume designers and CG artists round out the physical package.

Special mention should be made for the CG artists, who with only a fraction of the budget of a "Star Wars" film have managed to put on one of the most exciting space battles in all of Sci-Fi.

The only part of the film I would say is in any way hurtful would be that it is over. Not in the sense that it ended, but that there is not likely to be more. After the excellent series was canceled the film came along to wrap up those nasty loose ends. Now that it has come and gone, who's to say if there will be any thing left? Hopefully, there is.


Fear of Clowns

Pennywise this is not.
Clowns are damn creepy, everyone knows that. The mere sight of a clown is enough to make many people uncomfortable, myself included. So, in theory using a clown as your villain should make for some easy scares. Eh, no.

A young girl is terrorized by visions of a murderous clown, one that resembles a figure she has painted before. She passes it off as dementia until people start dying and the clown turns out to be very real.

For a film trying to be a slasher there isn't a whole lot of slashing. It's 30+ minutes of boring dialogue, sloppy acting and dull plot development before any one dies, and even then it's a lame death followed by even more lengthy segment of boredom before anything else remotely interesting happens. To top off the whole package the film clocks in at over 100 hefty minutes; slasher movies are not meant to run that long.

On the plus side, the film does start turning out some decent deaths and enough blood and gore later in the film to keep itself from falling apart and the clown himself is rather unsettling to look at.

Sadly, this is nothing more that another unremarkable entry in the modern DtV horror scene.



A step up for Boll.
"Alone in the Dark" was a let down; I love low-budget/'bad' horror films as much as (or probably more than) most anybody and it just didn't hit the right notes. Having little hope for "BloodRayne" may have played to my favor, as I actually quite liked it. Oodles of blood, guts and a little slinky sex were just what I needed to enjoy this flick, and Boll delivered them in spades.

Going back to Romania of yester-year, the story tells of the origin of Rayne and the beginning of her centuries long quest to exact revenge upon her father Kagan and all his minions. It also provides a deeper look into the workings of the brimstone society (an organization that both fears and assists Rayne). For those that enjoyed the game, the story bits are actually of interest, everyone else will promptly ignore them.

The cast is a surprisingly eclectic ensemble, but a mixed bag of good and bad choices. The good players are Loken, who aside from looking the part to a 'T', down plays her performance nicely; also Madsen, who plays the grizzled mentor role well; and Kingsly, who carries an air of sadistic menace while refusing to dive into camp territory. On the opposite end are Rodriguez, horribly mis-cast and underused and Meat Loaf in a pointless and bizarre cameo.

The production side of the house did pretty much exactly what I wanted it to do. Being filmed in Romania insured little dressing had to be done to make it look like Romania (which is a gorgeous country I might add); plenty of Gothic scenery and decorations abound and the overall product quality is polished for the budget level.

The real selling point for me (and I imagine for most horror fans) is the liberal use of the red stuff. Given the violent nature of the game, I was worried that Boll might pull some punches in the gore department. That is blissfully not the case. Some much blood is spilt in regular intervals that this almost qualifies as a gore-fest and is one of the bloodiest theatrical films I've seem in quite some time. Thank the maker.

Speaking of the maker, a quick note on Uwe Boll. The much maligned director of 'House of the Dead', 'Alone in the Dark' and several up coming game adaptations has received a really unfair rap as the new Ed Wood. It seems that most people who thrash his movies are either A) bandwagon-haters (some one says it sucks and everyone falls in line) or B) award snobs (if it can't win an award, it isn't worth watching). To this I ask, what were you expecting? It's based on a game about a half-vampire tearing Nazis to shreds. It isn't supposed to win an Oscar or heighten you understanding of the world, it simply exists for you have a little fun, as do Boll's other films.

So quit the hating already.


House of the Dead

Good for zombie carnage...
...but sadly little else, thanks to the empty script. Uwe Boll's oft-bashed first US feature is not the train wreck many bandwagon-haters proclaim it to be, though it is certainly no master piece.

The movie starts out with a flash back monologue that lets the audience know bad things are afoot (like we couldn't already guess that) and then is off and running with some party scenes on a gorgeous island that concludes with a some skinny dipping carnage (is there any other kind). From there the film introduces most of the primary cast as they attempt to reach the "party of the year" on the island, only to find instead a zombie wasteland.

OK, the story pretty much sucks. Forget about the script taking chances, it barely can keep itself afloat with clique characters and some awful dialogue. Fortunately, genre regulars Jurgen (Seventh Sign) Prochnew, Ellie (Halloween 4) Cornell, Jonathan (Final Destination 2) Cherry, and the ever lovable Clint (oh just pick one) Howard are on hand to add the right amount of knowing winks to make things alright.

From the production stand point, things are fairly polished given the uber-low budget. Boll is actually able to scratch out some occasionally nifty visual effects to go along with the gobs of creature gore on hand. The zombies themselves are plentiful and damn near every one gets the ever loving hell blow out of them, much to my delight (why else do people watch these things).

It does nothing to advance the zombie sub-genre, nor does it effect a quality story, but the over abundance of zombie carnage ought to keep most horror fans happy.



Roth makes good on his second feature.
I will be quick to admit that I was a long time hater of 'Cabin Fever'; the film simply failed to work for me on any desired level. It wasn't until I perused the special features on the DVD that I gained some manner of acceptance for it's quirky charm. That being said, it would be fair to surmise that I had little expectation for 'Hostel'. How violently I would be surprised...

Three back-packers (2 Americans, 1 Icelander) are Euro-trippin' their way across the continent in search of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Beginning to wind down some, they have their collective interest piqued when a man suggests a hostel in Bratislava where they can satisfy their youthful urges. Unable to resist an offer they would never want to refuse, they hop a train and are on their way. The initial arrival is unceremonious, until they reach the hostel and it turns out to be everything they had hoped for. After a night of partying, one the group disappears, seemingly having moved on by himself. Things continue for the lads until another member goes missing. Now the remaining thrill seekers decide to find their friends, only to get caught up in something far darker and more sinister than they ever could have imagined...

For pure bang for your buck, 'Hostel' out guns pretty much every mainstream movie ever made, even out doing most of the infamous gaillo films is has taken inspiration from. Little is spared the viewer in the depictions of violence and sexuality (I found myself questioning the R-rating more than once), yet it manages the difficult feat of never slipping into exploitation. The violence is brutal and jarring, never once fun or jokey; the sex/nudity is cold and detached, never presenting the feeling of sensuality or eros; and the overall tone of the film perfectly transitions from that of happy-go-lucky party hardy to sheer, gut-churning fear.

The actors (a talented group of unknowns) bring the right amount of youthful decadence to the roles while still feeling like any ol' joe shmoe; they my be a little wild, but it seems more like a phase than who they are. Happily, the characters are developed to the proper point without the filmmakers having to beat details into our collective viewing mind.

The film does make a few small mistakes amongst all that it does right, however. For one thing the first story arc runs a little long while the second movement is over with a tad too quickly. For another, the conclusion is aesthetically satisfying, yet is a little short on post-script. And finally, the film is really dark; not as in the content, but as in the lighting, it's so dark at times so as to make viewing difficult.

Falws considered, this is a masterful horror tale from one of horror most talented new directors.


Friday the 13th

Start of the slasher craze.
'Psycho' may be the grand daddy of slasher films, 'Halloween' may be the father, but this is the sick son that hooked a whole decade of teens and spawned 10 (if you count Freddy vs. Jason) sequels, a TV series and created arguably the most recognizable horror figure of the last 20 years.

Camp Crystal Lake is set to open for the first time in 20+ years, following the unsolved murders of two camp counselors. Despite warnings from the locals about it being cursed and a history of misfortune, the group of kids go about fixing the place up. As night falls and a storm rolls in, they are all about to discover that some warnings should be headed. Thus begins the 24 hour nightmare of blood.

Production values are about on par with it's obvious inspiration 'Halloween', yet the film feels lower budget. Part of this is due to the somewhat empty headed dialogue and unevenness to the editing. There are also some lighting issues and some janky physical action marring the experience as well. But this is a low-budget 80's horror film, so most of that is wholly forgivable, especially given what the film does right.

The two major achievements of the film are the atmosphere and the death scenes, the most important parts of any slasher film. The camp location and the woods surrounding it really do take on a life of their own, almost becoming an additional character. Combined with the pitch black storm of the second half of the movie and that great synthesized score it all makes for a perfect night for a murder.

And what glorious murders they are. Slashings, stabbings, impailments, courtesy of Tom Savini, all performed with the care and detail that any other artist might put into a painting or a sheet of music. Not wanting to spoil the bits for anyone who has not gotten around to this film yet, I will just say that gore-hounds will not be disappointed.

The only real hurt this film puts on the viewer comes during the final chase scene. I will not ruin the scenario by divulging details, just know that it continues for far too long, contains painfully impossible events and damn near sabotages the entire film by approaching self-parody.

A quick note on the MPAA rating of the film. Yes, there is a longer, gorier cut of the film than the US R-rated version; and no, it is neither better nor must see material. The uncut version runs about 30-ish seconds longer, but the R-rated version works better as the scenes cut before the SFX start to look fake. If you absolutely must see the full version it is fairly easy to find.

The film is pretty dated by modern standards, but the gore holds up well and should more than appease any and all slasher fans.


Cry Wolf

A different take on the slasher genre.
Though to call it a slasher film is really rather unfair to what the filmmakers have attempted. For, while the box art looks like a slasher, the plot description reads like a slasher and there are even a few stalk 'n slash segments in it, it really isn't a slasher. Picture 'The Game', 'Cruel Intentions', and 'Halloween' participating in a menage and this being the result of that union.

A bunch of bored rich kids get their kicks playing liar games, whomever lies the best gets that pot. But when a new kid with a shady past arrives they decide to up the ante. They invent a serial killer around a recent unsolved murder in the nearby town and psych out the entire school as well as each other. But when people begin to disappear and a figure clad as their killer had been described starts playing with them, it seems like it might not have ever been a game at all.

The film works hard to turn slasher conventions around on themselves. The plotting does everything it can to throw views off the truth; who is the killer, is there a killer? Red herrings abound as the lies mix with the truth to keep the scent faint. Most of the script is well written and keeps viewers guessing, but on occasion it is simply too easy guess what the film is trying to hide from you, which is bit disappointing.

The acting is mostly very good for a cast of relative unknowns. Linda Booth is about the only one I immediately recognized and that being from her memorable death in 'Wrong Turn'. Her and Bon Jovi in a deliciously sleazy role. On a whole the females come off the best with each of them playing a distinct character while the males tend to blend together from time to time.

The production values are by no means big budget, they are more than adequate and there a number of effective artsy segments that do much to establish a distinct visual style for the film.

A brief note on the rating. The PG-13 rating is obviously meant to open up the film to a wider audience, but I can guarantee that many horror purists would skip it because of that. Being a gore hound, at first I was put off by a slasher film without graphic killings, but I can safely say that the film really doesn't need any more flowing crimson than it already has.

Slasher fans will arguably get the most mileage out of this, but even those without a taste for the sub-genre ought to be able to enjoy the layered plot.


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