Friday, June 25, 2010

Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness (2007)

Being an amateur photographer with a degree in history, I am fascinated by old abandoned buildings. They are a study of the past with architectural character and beauty that is lacking in todays modern buildings. These neglected places were an important part of people's daily lives, but now they are left to decay. It's fascinating and sad at the same time. If I were in my twenties I would probably pursue urban exploring, but at this point in my life the prospect of being arrested, accosted, or injured is not worth it.

The film follows different groups of explorers as they head into sewers, castles in Scotland, the catacombs in Paris, and an old missile base in Florida, just to name a few. There are also interviews with explorers and some nice photographs which flesh out the sometimes dark film footage.

It's an interesting film and I enjoyed it. But it didn't completely grab me and I can't put my finger on exactly why. Still I would recommend it to anyone seeking to learn about urban exploring.

House of the Devil (2009)

I have to give credit to this film for effectively pulling off the look and feel of the late 1970s/early 1980s horror films. We didn't know anything about it when we watched it on Netflix, and believed that it was made during that time period. Even the poster art shouts out that it's not a new movie.

Samantha decides to move our of her dorm because her roommates boyfriend always stays over. After finding an apartment, she looks for a job and agrees to do some baby sitting for a couple that live in the country.

Her friend warns her that the guy seems weird, but Sam decides go anyway. When it turns out the babysitting is for his elder mother, not a child, Sam decides to leave until discovering that she can get several hundred dollars for staying.

We know something is terribly wrong, but Sam has let the promise of a large sum of money overcome her common sense. At this point, the film gets really boring as Sam dances around with her walkman or walks around in the house.

The film is really nicely done, but it's sad to say my favorite part of the film is the freeze frame of the title with Sam is walking across the street.

Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006)

When Ray was a child, he witnessed his parents being killed by a giant squid. As an adult, he keeps his eye out for news of giant squid attacks because he wants revenge on the creature that killed his parents. He offers his services to archaeologist Nicole after reading her crew had a run in with a squid. Nicole can use the help since she's searching for a ceremonial mask which is guarded by the squid and is also being sought by villain Maxwell who wants to return it to Greece.

The movie is awesomely stupid, thus I found it very enjoyable. From the bad cgi squid to the cliche villain and plot, it's one big ridiculous roller coaster ride of squid filled excitement. Well not that it's really that exciting, but it made me laugh.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Plague (2006)

Children 9 years old and younger fall into a coma. Due to the large number of children needing care, nursing units are set up in local gymnasiums with round the clock medical attendents. Ten years later, the children wake up and start killing the adults. No explanation is offered and you are left to your own interpretation based on clues throughout the movie.

My biggest problem with the film is that there is no explanation for why the children's muscles have not atrophied after ten years in bed. These kids should be walking on noodle legs. Yet they're chasing our protagonists all over town and hoisting guns as if they're toothpicks.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

House of the Dead (2003)

A group of college students miss the boat to the rave of the century and hire an old fishing boat to get them there. The Captain warns them not to go since it is on the Island of the Dead, but do they listen? Of course not. If someone invited me to the Island of the Dead, I'd damn well google it to find out how it had earned it's name.

When the group arrives, they find the huge rave - a few tents and a small stage - deserted and lots of blood on the ground. Instead of heading back to the mainland to report the potential murders, the group decides they can't leave without their friends. Oh except for the one couple who decide this would be a perfect time to get busy in the bloody tent on stage left. Man, these kids are stupid!

There is a house on the other side of the island where the group holes up after discovering that the island is aptly named. The rickety looking house doesn't seem very big from the outside, but it's massive inside. There they make a stand along with the Captain and a marine officer who was after the Captain for smuggling weapons. A nod to the video game on which this nightmare is based comes in the form of shots of what appears to be a video game and a gun scope.

There are so many stupid things that happen in this film that I can't even count them all. However the two best quotes are:
  1. Guys... check out this book. It looks pretty old. Maybe it'll help us.
  2. Rudy: You did all this to become immortal? Why?! Castillo: To live forever!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ninja (2009)

Casey, who was abandoned by his mother as a child, is taken into a dojo and trained as a ninja. His jealous rival is kicked out for not following the ways of the dojo and ends up on the path of evil becoming a for hire assassin for immoral business men in a secret society.

Casey's master entrusts him with a sacred box, which he must guard until it gets into the right hands. But the secret society wants this for themselves and Casey must engage in a battle with his old rival.

There is also a female ninja who doesn't appear to have been serious about her training since she is constantly fainting or being rescued by Casey. This is convenient since she is his love interest, but otherwise serves no purpose and doesn't fit with the background story.

This is essentially an updated version of the 1980s ninja films. It's a fun action movie with decent fight scenes and a cliched plot. It's pretty good if you like that sort of thing. If compared to the recent Ninja Assassin, I would pick that movie over this one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Suspira (1977)

Susie is an American who travels to Germany to study ballet. She arrives at the school only to find herself locked out and heads back to town after a strange interaction with a girl fleeing the building. The next day she discovers the girl she saw has been murdered and the police are at the school.

Susie starts her classes, but quickly becomes very ill and must remain in bed. Her friend Sarah tries to investigate where the teachers go at night and ends up discovering the schools secret. She is never seen again.

When Susie wakes from a bout of illness and discovers she appears to be alone in the school, her explorations bring her to a horrible discovery.

Unlike most horror films which make use of the dark to show evil, Dario Argento uses color and style to craft a feeling of dread which pervades the movie. Definitely worth seeing.

Devil's Curse (2008)

After being kicked out of their dorms right before exams, a group of students move into an abandoned building where four college students committed suicide and it is rumored a demon dwells. Soon after they move in, they hear strange noises but can't locate the source, and weird things start happening. Unfortunately nothing interesting happens so we're left with people confusedly wandering around and murders which happen off camera. The cover is probably the best thing about this film, and I'm not really enamored by that either.

Amusement (2008)

Three former friends are abducted in different ways and brought to a cavernous old mansion where they find that a former childhood friend is out for revenge. The three different stories are ridiculous and so is the ending. There are so many things that happen that don't make sense, most importantly why the boy would want revenge on these girls after all these years. They didn't even do anything except object to his torturing of animals.

The clown on the front cover is only in one segment where the babysitter is staying in the doll room which has a life sized clown doll in a rocking chair. Seriously? There is no way I would ever stay in a room with a life sized doll. It would creep me out so bad I wouldn't dare to close my eyes or turn my back on it. But this woman gets undressed in front of it and isn't alarmed when the doll ends up looking towards her or when she hears noises from that side of the room as she tries to sleep. Damn you, foul clown!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Planet Terror (2007)

After seeing Death Proof, I had to watch Planet Terror. I didn't enjoy this as much, but I did love the 70s style, which had blips, scratches, and the what the hell just happened feeling from the fake missing reel.

An incident at a military base releases a biochemical virus that turns people into zombies. Stripper Cherry Darling teams up with her ex boyfriend El Wray and a bunch of townfolk to try to survive the zombie onslaught. Cherry, who lost a leg, has an assault rifle in it's place which comes in handy for spraying zombies with hot lead.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shortcut (2009)

During World War II, a girl took the shortcut and was never seen again. Through flashback we know that she was killed by a young boy with a large rock. Over the next few years, more people disappeared on the shortcut, so a fence is erected and a no trespassing sign is put up.

In the present day, Derek is the new kid in town and his younger brother found a dead dog on the shortcut after having been dared to take the path home. The next day, a football player at school tells Derek his dog since is missing. The two go down the shortcut and end up at the house of the rich crazy guy who owns the land. Insanely they to into his garage where they find a coffee can full of dog tags.

Derek and his friends devise a plan whereby two will watch the crazy rich guy when he comes to town while the others will go search the guys house to see if they can find proof that he killed the dogs. The kids in town will call on the cell phone to warn their friends if the rich guy heads back home. Of course this goes horribly wrong when the cliched no-cell-phone-reception rears it's ugly head.

I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it either. The film is PG-13 so there isn't much blood. There are several twists at the end which aren't that tricky but might catch you by surprise. The most ridiculous thing is that though the short cut has not been used regularly since WWII, the path is clear from over growth and the wooden bridge is not rotted and still looks nice.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Black Sheep (2002)

Henry heads back to the family sheep farm to sell his share of the business to his brother Angus. Henry left the farm years ago after his father died in an accident and is dreading returning due to his phobia of sheep. Brother Angus has been tending the farm as well as meddling in genetic research to create a new breed of sheep.

Two animal rights activists sneak into the research lab on the farm and steal a jar with what appears to be a dead sheep fetus in it. The two get separated while being chased by lab workers and one finds that the thing in the jar is actually a mutant gooey sheep which quickly attacks him. Unfortunately the thing has a virus and the activist starts to turn into a creepy sheep himself.

Soon all the sheep are looking menacingly at the humans and havoc ensues right before the big press conference to announce the new sheep species. Overall an entertaining movie with some gross sheep.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best Worst Movie (2009)

According to IMDB, Troll 2 is in the bottom 100 movies of all time. Quite honestly, it's with good reason due to the terrible acting, nonexistent plot, and inept script. But in the years since it's been made, it has found an audience of people who love it.

The documentary, made by the Michael Stephenson who starred in the film as a child, tracks down most of the actors who appeared in the film plus the director and his wife who wrote the film. We are treated to their recollections of what it was like to film. This is interwoven into current footage of the cast and midnight showings of the movie with adoring audiences.

The star of the documentary is George Hardy who played the father in the film. Hardy is an extremely likable man with a great outlook on life who seems to find the humor in whatever comes his way. When Hardy and the other actors speak of their embarrassment when first seeing the finished product, you can't help but laugh. The girl who played the daughter speaks of keeping it off her resume as she knew she would never get another acting job if anyone realized it was her.

My friends and I loved this documentary. While it is often funny, there are some other moments that are touching or sad. The visits to the actress who played Hardy's wife are the hardest to watch. But mostly the film is upbeat with Stephenson and Hardy getting the most screen time, which works out well since they have a good rapport and seem to be genuinely nice guys.

Troll 2 (1990)

Years ago I watched this film at home and it was sheer torture. However recently I decided to go to a public showing of it with friends and found that it is fun to see if you're in a room full of people who are laughing at the monstrosity that is Troll 2.

The plot, such as it is, is that Joshua and his family trade houses with another family for a weeks vacation in the town of Nilbog. The ghost of Joshua's dead grandfather shows up to tell him not to eat any of the food in town and to get the family out of there! Of course no one listens to Joshua's warning - and with good reason since it's coming from his dead grandpa.

The big secret of the town is that it's full of Goblins. (Nilbog spelt backwards is Goblin, ooooo!) And they are vegetarian Goblins so they must make the family eat green food in order to turn them into vegetables.

The acting is embarrassing, the script is ridiculous, and it is the only movie in existence with a horrifyingly funny seduction using an ear of corn. Seriously, who would think it was a sexy to have a woman and a teenage boy gnaw on an ear of corn which causes combustion that turns the corn into popcorn which they get buried underneath? Take that, John Holmes!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stacy (2001)

I like the idea of this movie. Teenage girls between 15-17 are afflicted with a euphoria called Near Death Happiness, after which they die and come back as zombies. If the family can not bear to kill their Stacy, the zombies are dispatched by the Romero Repeat Kill Squad. Their preferred chainsaw of choice for this task is named Bruce Campbell's Right Hand.

Unfortunately even with everything it has going for it, I hate this movie. Stylistically it reminded me of a horror version of Doctor Who and the music annoyed the hell out of me. I almost didn't make it through the entire movie, but I kept hoping there would be something that would change my opinion. However the longer it went on, the more I started to loathe it.

Death Proof (2007)

Finally got around to seeing Death Proof and really enjoyed it. It was right out of the 1970s, complete with screen blips, scratches on the film, and dialogue that sometimes went on a bit too long and got boring

Kurt Russell is Stuntman Mike, a friendly guy who drives a decidedly unfriendly car. When Mike interacts with a group of wild young girls at the bar, you know something is going to go wrong. As usual it's not a good idea to catch a ride home from a stranger, even when he seems very affable.

The second half of the film is an abrupt switch to another set of characters, again all females. This group is on vacation and looking to drive a very specific car just for the fun of it. After conning a guy to let them test drive their dream car, there is an unexpected run in with Stuntman Mike. After a really frustrating sequence of events in which I was cursing the stupidity of the women, there comes an absolutely fantastic ending that made the whole thing worth it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dead Meat (2004)

Helena and her boyfriend Martin are driving through the Irish countryside when they hit a pedestrian. Unfortunately the man turns out to be a zombie infected by cows with mad cow disease and he bites Martin. Helena tries to get help from a nearby farmhouse and is attacked by zombies, including the now dead Martin.

Helena proves to be adept at stabbing zombies and after escaping meets up with Desmond, the local gravedigger. They head off on foot toward his house two miles down the road. Later they meet some neighbors who have a car. Upon hearing a news broadcast, they head toward a castle mentioned as a meeting place for survivors to be picked up by the military.

The first part of the film where Desmond and Helena make their way on foot across the countryside was the most enjoyable. They did a good job building tension. After they teamed up with the others and got in the car, the tension dissipated - although the thought of walking through a field of sleeping zombies in the dark brought back some tension.

Ba'al: the Storm God (2008)

A dying evil archaeologist steals ancient scrolls and searches for four amulets which he plans to use to harness the power of Ba'al the storm god. Enlisting the help of two other archaeologists who don't know what's going on, our evil doctor travels the world digging up the amulets which ignites a storm and the face of Ba'al in the sky. This tips off our innocent archaeologists that something is wrong.

There is also a rogue meteorologist previously banned from a military base who now must work with them again to solve the problem of the massive storms that keep popping up in the stratosphere.

The movie features one of those scenes where in the midst of trying to solve an insurmountable problem one of the characters suddenly gets an idea based on one word uttered by another character. "Wait a minute- what did you just say?.... That's it! That just might be the answer. What if we...."

The silliest thing about this movie is that the statue of Ba'al tips over on a security guard who is trying to stop a thief from stealing the scrolls. There is no explanation for the massive statue to topple onto the guard except that if it didn't, nothing else in the movie could have happened.

Also why has no one noticed or tried to push the buttons on the front of Ba'al? Surely in all the years it has existed, someone has wanted to see what would happen. And why does the younger archaeologist kneel in front of the statue to remove the artifacts when moments before a large lance came out of the center of it and skewered someone? He's positioned so that if it comes out again, it's going right through his head.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Die and Let Live (2006)

Best friends Benny and Smalls throw a party in an attempt for Benny to get a date with Stephanie who just broke up with her cheating boyfriend. Meanwhile some test subjects with a zombie virus have gotten loose from an experimental medical facility and are biting whoever they can get their hands on. Stephanies ex-boyfriend and the zombies show up at the party and mayhem ensues.

While this isn't the best movie you're going to see, it's certainly not the worst. The comedy often falls flat (although the clips of the premier show the crowd laughing uproariously). The zombie make up on the cover is what you get. Often the cast holds their hands over the spot of they were bitten, which I assume is to try to hide the fact that there is no wound. When the zombies bite there is plenty of blood. There is also some sinewy bits that seem to be held on the victims arms by the zombies. One distracting thing was that Benny got a haircut during the filming and in some scenes his hair is super short.

I have to give them a lot of credit for getting this made and distributed. It's not perfect by any means but it's definitely better than many low budget movies I've seen. Also I read a comment from the director where he said the movie cost $1000 other than the cost of cameras. In light of that information, they really did an amazing job as I would never have guessed they only spent that much money on this.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Alone in the Dark (2006)

It's never a good sign when a movie starts with a huge crawl of text in an attempt to provide an explanation of what you're about to see. It's also not good when the assumption is made that moviegoers will accept Tara Reid as an archaeologist because she is wearing glasses and has her hair up.

Paranormal investigator Edward Carnby has an artifact that an evil archaeologist desires. It is the key to a door between two worlds and there are monsters in the other world. Not sure why people always wants to open that door, but here we go again.

Carnby used to be part of secret government unit 713, which is also involved in the search as there is paranormal stuff going on. Twenty years earlier twenty orphans disappeared, (then reappeared), but as adults have gone missing again. Carnby was one of the orphans but does not succumb to the force taking the others as the night of the disappearance he hid in a power supply building and was electrocuted.

It's just plain ridiculous with cgi monsters and things that don't make any sense. The weirdest thing is for Carnby and archaeologist Reid to escape through a wooden bulkhead on the orphanage lawn. Was that even there before? How could no one notice it? If they were looking for orphans, wouldn't they look down there? And how did the archaeologist happen to have made a lab in the underground tunnel that housed the door to the other world? He didn't even seem to know it was there. Good god.....