Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #36 - Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)
Director: Jeff Burr
Starring: Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, R.A. Mihailoff
Format: VHS

Plot: A couple encounters a perverted gas station attendant who threatens them with a shotgun. They take a deserted path in Texas to seek help, but only meet up with a cannibalistic clan interested in helping themselves to fresh meat.

This is the only of the original TCM movies that I don't own on DVD (it's long out of print and expensive). In fact, I thought I didn't own it at all, until I stumbled upon a VHS copy in a box. I hadn't watched it since it came out on VHS back in the day, so what better time to check it out than now.

I make it no secret that the first two TCM movies are among my very favourite horror films. The first is pure low budget horror and the second is campy fun. But unfortunately when the Sawyer clan bit the dust in part two, it created a problem for anyone wanting to make a further sequel. My preference would have been continuing the story by explaining that Leatherface got away and putting him with a new "family" or some relatives that we weren't aware of. In fact, that's how I like to look at this movie, despite the fact most people say it takes place in an alternative timeline.

Either way, Leatherface is the only carry over from the earlier movies, as he has a new Sawyer family, made up of a wheelchair-ridden "mother", a daughter (WTF?), and three brothers (one of whom is played by future Aragorn Viggo Mortensen). The mother and daughter are interesting, but the others just kind of fade into the background.

The protagonists are an annoying yuppie couple and a survivalist, the latter played by the always-entertaining Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead). Foree is one of the only real high points of this movie, as even Leatherface comes off as pretty boring in this one (and his make-up effects are shoddy).

Unfortunately the VHS of this movie was cut to pieces to get an R rating, so the version I watched was devoid of a lot of violence. In this form it came across as really short as well, as there's one big fight scene and then it's over. I must try to get hold of the unrated DVD at some stage, when it comes down in price.

But besides the obvious hackjob on the gore scenes, this movie has a lot of other problems, including some incredibly dumb moments. Leatherface can drive? Okay. His chainsaw can still run while underwater? Wow.

I'm usually very forgiving when it comes to TCM movies - I enjoy the remakes from recent years - but this one is just plain bad. It doesn't even have the camp factor of part 4. Unless you're a Texas Chainsaw completist, you're fine to skip over this one.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #35 - Felt (2014)

Felt (2014)
Director: Jason Banker
Starring: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton
Format: AVI

Plot: A woman creates an alter ego in hopes of overcoming the trauma inflicted by men in her life.

Wow, what the hell did I just watch. I've heard a lot of talk about this movie and it seems to be polarising - people either loved it or hated it. Which camp do I fall into? Well, I don't hate it, but it's not a horror movie. In fact, I hesitated to include this in the 31 Nights of Terror countdown after I got finished watching it, but so many other reviews refer to it as horror that I decided to go ahead.

There's really no point in talking about this movie in length. I'll just say that it's well shot, the acting is pretty good (especially by Everson, who does a great job portraying a girl who's losing her mind), and the ending is pretty brutal. Other than that... I don't know quite what to say. It's safe to assume I won't be watching a movie quite like this again any time soon.

If you go into this one expecting horror, you'll be disappointed. If you like quirky indie movies with mumbling, awkward characters and plenty of WTF moments, this is probably right up your alley.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #34 - The Borderlands (2013)

The Borderlands (2013)
Director: Elliot Goldner
Starring: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle
Format: AVI

Plot: A team of Vatican investigators descends upon a church in a remote area to demystify the unusual happenings, but what they discover is more disturbing than they had first imagined.

Also known as Final Prayer (a more fitting name), this is one of those movies that is saved by its third act and ending.

That's not to say the rest of the movie is bad. As found footage paranormal movies go it's simply watchable for the first two-thirds. Like all films of this kind, nothing much happens at the start, then the tension and suspense ramps up. The early portions are all about getting us comfortable with the characters before the bad stuff goes down, and the actors do a good job of bringing fun-loving techie Gray (Hill), hard-drinking and cynical church investigator Deacon (Kennedy), and by-the-book priest Mark (McArdle) to life.

Once the paranormal stuff starts it's nothing we haven't seen before, but the isolated setting (which I love) adds to an overall creepy atmosphere. Then late in the piece one of the characters goes investigating by himself at night and the suspense really ramps up, leading to an ending that I was left thinking about for days afterwards.

Those who don't like found footage films will probably want to bypass this one, but if that doesn't put you off, give it a watch, for the ending alone if for nothing else.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #33 - Don't Look in the Basement (1973)

Don't Look in the Basement (1973)
Director: SF Brownrigg
Starring: Bill McGhee, Jessie Lee Fulton, Robert Dracup
Format: DVD

Plot: Nurse Charlotte Beale arrives at the isolated Stephens Sanitarium to work, only to learn that Dr. Stephens was murdered by one of the patients and his successor, Dr. Geraldine Masters, is not very eager to take on new staff. Charlotte finds her job maddeningly hard as the patients torment and harass her at every turn, and she soon learns why Dr. Masters is so eager to keep outsiders out.

I picked up this movie as part of a 12-movie DVD set called American Horror Stories, which I bought while visiting the US a couple of years ago. Most of the movies are public domain stuff (House on Haunted Hill, Bucket of Blood, Little Shop of Horrors) or very bad prints of other 60s and 70s horror. While the picture quality of this 70s indie cheapie (apparently it cost $100,000 and was shot in 12 days) isn't great, luckily the movie itself makes up for that in spades.

Also known as The Forgotten, this was the debut for late director SF Brownrigg, who does a great job of building up a tense atmosphere. The acting, all by unknowns, is rough around the edges as you'd expect, but does a great job of conveying the various mental short-comings of the inmates. There are some genuinely chilling moments and a bit of blood is shed here and there.

The setting and opening kill (axe to the head while chopping wood) invoked comparisons with Friday the 13th: The New Blood, while the rest of it kind of reminded me of a low-budget Shutter Island. I won't go too much into the plot since there's a pretty good twist involved (which veteran horror movie fans will probably guess but is good anyway).

I highly recommend Don't Look in the Basement, although fans of more modern and polished horror might not find it to their liking.

As a post-script, I should mention that the director's son has helmed a sequel, the trailer for which you can find online. I'm looking forward to checking that out when it's released.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #32 - Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Cannibal Ferox (1981)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei
Format: DVD

Plot: Three friends out to disprove cannibalism meet two men on the run who tortured and enslaved a cannibal tribe to find emeralds, and now the tribe is out for revenge.

I'm not going to pretend to be some sort of expert on Italian cannibal movies, because I'm not. I haven't seen Lenzi's other cannibal flicks like Man from Deep River and Eaten Alive, and I have never seen the one that everyone talks about, Cannibal Holocaust. I guess these movies just aren't my thing.

I bought this Cannibal Ferox DVD a good long while ago (I can't remember when, probably 10 years ago now) and it has sat on my shelf ever since that first viewing. I dragged it out now for one reason only - my girlfriend hasn't seen it (or any Italian jungle cannibal flicks) and I'm trying to expand her horror movie horizons.

Now, let me say that this isn't a bad movie. It has a certain charm about it, in the way that only 1970s/early 80s movies seem to have. The story is simple but effective, and I like the fact that it doesn't make out the "savages" to be the bad guys. It's the white man that starts the bloodshed, they simply get their own back (even if some of those punished are innocently caught up in it).

The gore is pretty intense, no doubt about it. But I think the impact of it has been lessened by the recent "torture porn" craze. Seeing a man castrated is unfortunately not that unusual anymore. Still, the one scene with the guy's head trapped in a table and cut open ranks up there as one of the most gruesome effects I've seen.

But, what really stops this movie from getting repeat views is the animal cruelty. I'm no tree-hugging vegan greenie, but I don't like it when animals suffer un-needingly. There's too much of it in this movie, and it sours the whole experience for me. A copy of the movie without the animal deaths would be good, but I'm not sure one is available.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #31 - The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling (1980)
Director: Peter Medak
Starring: George C Scott, Trish van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
Format: DVD

Plot: A man staying at a secluded historical mansion finds himself being haunted by the presence of a spectre.

This is one of the classic horror movies that have so far evaded my collection - it's been quite hard to find here in New Zealand in recent years. So when I spotted the DVD at a booth at Armageddon (NZ's big Comic Con-type convention) on Saturday October 25 I snapped it up and watched it that night.

That's right - movie number 31 on the 25th! I'm well ahead of schedule this year! And what a great movie to pass that magic 31 milestone.

I won't go too much into the plot, because most people have probably seen this (if not, you should), and it's also one of those movies best watched without knowing too much about it. But what I will say is this is one of THE great haunted house movies, up there with the original The Haunting in my opinion.

Director Medak does a fantastic job of building up the suspense and atmosphere, and the acting is ably handled by real life couple Scott and van Devere. The cinematography is top notch and the script has enough twist and turns to keep things interesting throughout. I'm a great believer in less-is-more when it comes to ghost movies, and The Changeling fits the bill perfectly.

I really don't know what else to say about this other than if you haven't seen it, you need to!

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #30 - Halloweentown (1998)

Halloweentown (1998)
Director: Duwayne Dunham
Starring: Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly Brown, Judith Hoag
Format: AVI

Plot: Marnie, Dylan, and Sophie Piper have their first out of many adventures! On Halloween, while Marnie is arguing with her mother Gwen, the kids' grandmother Aggie comes to visit. Aggie wants to start Marnie's witch training before her 13th birthday or Marnie will lose her powers forever. But there is another reason for Aggie's visit. Something dark & evil is growing in Halloweentown & Aggie wants help to defeat it. While Aggie & Gwen are arguing, Aggie uses magic which Marnie observes. After Aggie leaves to return to Halloweentown, Marnie, Dylan and, unknown to Marnie and Dylan, Sophie follow her onto the return bus. Soon afterwards, Gwen follows the children to Halloweentown. While there, Aggie & Gwen are attacked by the dark force in a movie theater. Marnie, Dylan & Sophie race to get the ingredients to activate Merlin's Wand to stop the evil.

This one was a request of my girlfriend. There's a bit of an age gap between us. I'm 40, so my childhood horror memories are from the late 70s and early 80s. She's 25, so for her it's stuff in the late 90s and early 2000s, like this TV movie (it originally played on Disney Channel).

We sat down and watched this as a family, me, my girlfriend and my five-year-old son. I'm not going to do a long review about it, because, well, it's a kids' movie, but I have to say that it is well done for what it is. It's family-friendly fare, but it captures the essence of Halloween quite nicely. Debbie Reynolds is charming as the grandmother witch and some of the "monster" effects are cool in a goofy kind of way (like a G-rated version of Night Breed monsters or something Charles Band would dream up).

You won't be checking this one out unless you have a young child or you were a kid yourself in 1998, but for a children's movie I give it a thumbs up.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #29 - Tales of Halloween (2015)

Tales of Halloween (2015)
Directors: A bunch of people
Starring: A bunch more people
Format: AVI

Plot: Ten stories are woven together by their shared theme of Halloween night in an American suburb, where ghouls, imps, aliens and axe murderers appear for one night only to terrorize unsuspecting residents.

Between this one, All Hallow's Eve and A Christmas Horror Story, this year's countdown has become something of an anthology-fest. This is probably the most-hyped of them, with such high-profile directors as Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw series), Lucky McKee (May) and Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) helming a series of short segments all based around Halloween.

The acting credits are also fairly impressive, with appearances by such genre favorites as Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Lin Shaye (Insidious movies), Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Barbara Crampton (Re-animator) and Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2). A handful of horror directors - Mick Garris, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, John Landis and Adam Green among them - also make cameos in acting roles.

With 10 segments there's no way I'm about to go through them one at a time. Instead I'll mention the ones that stick out.

My favourite is "The Night Billy Raised Hell", by Bousman and starring Bostwick  at his campy best causing all sorts of havoc on Halloween night. It's just so much fun and has a dark twist to it.

I also really enjoyed "Bad Seed" by Neil Marshall, about a killer Jack O' Lantern that eats people. Simple but effective and the pumpkin effects are top notch. 

Another great one is "The Ransom of Rusty Rex", directed by Ryan Schifrin and starring the late Ben Woolf (Meep on American Horror Story) and John Landis. It's funny and creepy at the same time.

In truth there are no stinkers amongst the 10 segments. All are good, all are different, but they all have a real Halloween feel to them. Some are funny, some are scary, some are both - but all are quality. Tales of Halloween blows the VHS movies and the ABCs of Death series out of the water, and deserves to be watched every Halloween season alongside Trick R Treat.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #28 - Dead Weight (2012)

Dead Weight (2012)
Director: Adam Bartlett, John Pata
Starring: Joe Belknap, Mary Lindberg, Michelle Courvais
Format: AVI

Plot: Charlie is traveling through the wilderness to find his girlfriend, Samantha, after civilization is destroyed by widespread biological attacks. He must try to survive while dealing with other survivors and his own emotional burdens.

From the never-ending line of low budget zombie flicks comes Dead Weight. Like most people I'm a bit burned out on the zombie craze, but I read a review of this one that made it sound like something a bit different, so decided to give a try. It definitely is different, but sadly not in a good way.

Where to begin? Oh, I know - this movie has bugger all zombies in it! I understand it's low budget, or maybe it was a conscious choice not to fill the movie with gut-munching walkers, but either way it can only work if the story and acting are strong enough to carry the load. They're not.

The acting is pretty awful and the story... well there really isn't one. Our main guy (who's a bit of a douchebag to start with and gets worse as things go along) joins up with some other survivors and heads off to try to find his girlfriend. They meet other survivors, things basically go badly... yawn. The ending tries to be shocking but it can't save what is a boring movie.

The least said about this one the better. Avoid.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #27 - The Relic (1997)

The Relic (1997)
Director: Peter Hyams
Starring: Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, Linda Hunt
Format: Netflix

Plot: A homicide detective and an anthropologist try to destroy a South American lizard-like god, who's on a people eating rampage in a Chicago museum.

I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and came across this one, which I hadn't seen since the time it came out. I remember back in 1997 there were two big-budget monster movies that came out at the same time - Guillermo del Toro's Mimic and this one. Both even had woman scientists as their main protagonists.

In this one the role of museum scientist is played by Penelope Ann Miller, what ever happened to her? It seemed like she was in a few things for a while there, but I haven't heard much from her in recent years. On the other hand the downfall of Tom Sizemore is well documented - he went from landing biggish roles to low budget obscurity thanks to his vices.

Sizemore is perfectly cast here as the slightly-grumpy old school cop, who pairs up with Miller to track down a monster lurking in a large museum. Wisely the creature is kept off screen for most of the running time, but even when it appears in full it's impressive (designed by the late great Stan Winston). The story around how it ends up in Chicago is fairly well thought out, while the rest of the plot is pure monster movie. The kills don't get very graphic, but there's a decent amount of kills and blood.

The more cynical out there have referred to this as nothing more than Alien in a museum, and that's not far from the truth, but it works. Another comparison I would throw in is Jurassic Park - it has similar cinematography and music and that big budget polish. If you like your horror move gritty and less refined, you'll probably want to pass by this one. Otherwise it's definitely worth a watch, particularly if you like monster movies.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #26 - Savaged (2013)

Savaged (2013) aka Avenged
Director: Michael S Ojeda
Starring: Amanda Adrienne Smith, Tom Ardavany, Ronnie Gene Blevins
Format: AVI

Plot: A deaf girl is brutalized by a murderous gang who are then hunted by her when the bloodthirsty spirit of an Apache warrior inhabits her lifeless body.

Rape revenge movies are a regular staple of the horror/exploitation market, with movies like Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave the most well-known of them. With this lower-budget offering, director Ojeda takes that familiar theme, adds a supernatural Native American element and produces a pretty damn good little watch. Think of it as a mix of The Crow and I Spit on Your Grave.

Amanda Adrienne Smith plays the raped girl and does a great job playing both the victim and then subsequently the avenger. Because her character is deaf she doesn't talk much except for in the beginning, but her expressions get the job done. In some ways she has a Marilyn Burns from TCM vibe about her.

The acting is one of the biggest assets of this movie. Along with Smith, the acting is great from the rest of the cast, which is mainly made up of scumbag rapists. Too often in low budget movies the "bad guys" aren't convincing, but these guys sure are. Trust me, by the end of proceedings you'll be cheering as they get their nasty comeuppance.

And nasty it is. Ojeda and company don't skimp on the gore, which I appreciate. They also do a good job with the many fight scenes, which isn't surprising given Ojeda's background in choreographing battle re-enactments in historical documentaries.

Savaged is a nice little spin on the rape revenge sub-genre. If that's not your thing give it a miss, but otherwise I recommend it.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #25 - All Hallow's Eve (2013)

All Hallow's Eve (2013)
Director: Damian Leone
Starring: Katie Maguire, Catherine A Callahan, Marie Maser
Format: AVI

Plot: While watching two children on Halloween night, a babysitter finds an old VHS tape in the kids' trick or treat bag. The tape features three tales of terror, all linked together by a murderous clown. As the night goes on strange things begin to occur in the house. It isn't long before the babysitter learns the horrifying truth... the maniacal clown is slowly working his way into her reality.

I do love a good anthology movie, and having watched A Christmas Story earlier in the marathon, I felt it was time to check out a Halloween-themed one. What I do not love is clowns. I hate them. They terrify me. Take a look at that cover art above - yikes!

A bit of background on this one - two of the three segments in All Hallow's Eve are actually short films made by director Leone years before. So he shot a new segment and some wrap-around stuff and Bob's your uncle. Well Bobo I guess, and he's your murdering uncle.

One of the pre-made shorts deals with a woman who is visited by aliens. It's not terrible, but definitely the weakest of the segments, held down by some dodgy effects and the fact that, well, not much really happens in it.

The other segments are all pretty good, especially considering the low budget. The wrap-around segment is simple enough and akin to the VHS movies in involving a mystery video tape containing the three "stories", and has a fairly brutal and gorey pay-off. The first segment, which introduces the clown, isn't anything too great but gets good use out of a creepy setting (deserted railway station and railway tunnels) and an even creepier clown. The best of the three is the segment titled Terrifier, involving the same clown and a gas station.

Leone achieves a lot with very little with this nice little anthology. It's not flawless by any means but what is lacks in budget it makes up for with creepy style, some good gore and simple storytelling.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #24 - Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara
Format: DVD

Plot: A mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides.

I've seen this one before a couple of times and may have even reviewed it here on the blog (I'm too lazy to check), but chose it for the marathon because my girlfriend hasn't seen a lot of classic J-Horror. I've also seen the American remake with Sarah Michelle-Gellar, which I actually enjoyed, although it's not as good as the original Japanese version here.

Sadly I find that J-Horror doesn't stand the test of time. Once upon a time these movies really creeped me out, but I guess the tropes of the sub-genre were done to death and that takes away some of the impact. Still, the little boy is creepy, some of the scares are still good (attic, elevator, shower) and the story is good (if a little confusing due to it's non-linear style).

As J-Horror goes this is one of the best and certainly holds up better than Ring (which I tried re-watching a couple of years ago and didn't enjoy much at all).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #17-23 - Saw series (2004-2010)

Saw series (2004-2010)
Format: DVD

My girlfriend is a big fan of the Saw movies and I hadn't seen all of them (giving up after part 5), so we decided to do a marathon of them as part of this year's 31 Nights of Terror. Rather than give individual reviews of each of the movies (and try to explain the plots, which let's face it get pretty intricate and confusing, and impossible not to post spoilers), I thought I would give a few observations about each entry and then rank them.

Saw (2004)
Director: James Wan
Starring: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover
- All these years later it's easy to think of the Saw movies as classic "torture porn", but it's also easy to forget that the first movie was more of a psychological thriller. The gratuitous torture scenes would become prevalent later in the series. Instead this one is all about the twists and turns of the plot, feeling like a sequel to SE7EN in some ways. While I'm not a big fan of some of the "music video" editing, I think James Wan did a great job here. The acting is also top notch, minus Danny Glover who seems, well, tired or something.

Saw 2 (2005)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith
- Part two is can't really be classed as out-and-out torture porn, even if there are more "traps" in it, some of them truly cringe-worthy. The syringe pit in particular had me squirming in my seat. I like this one better than the first movie mainly because we get more Jigsaw and Donnie Walhberg plays a better protagonist than Glover did.

Saw 3 (2006)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus McFadyen
- The torture porn aspect is definitely ramped up in part three, which has some really nasty moments (pig shredder is gross-out and the rack is brutal). I do enjoy the fact that the relationship between Jigsaw and Amanda gets explored here - I think their relationship was what made these early movies so great. Thumbs up to the ending twist.

Saw 4 (2007)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson
- Clearly this was meant to be a three-part series and in hindsight it probably should have been left that way, but you can't blame the studio for wanting to milk the golden goose (I think I screwed up the metaphor there somehow). Unfortunately, while Saw IV is indeed watchable, these movies had become very formulaic by this stage - trap, trap, trap, twist ending. In its favour, this entry has some good background on why Jigsaw became a killer, although the amount of flashbacks does drag down the middle portion. Also, am I the only one who found it damn difficult to tell the difference between Agent Strahm and Detective Hoffman? Couldn't they have chosen two actors that didn't look so similar? It's nice to get some closure on the Eric Matthews story arc.

Saw 5 (2008)
Director: David Hackl
Starring: Scott Patterson, Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell
- By this stage the series was becoming a bit like the Final Destination movies - you keep watching to see what cool kills they can come up with. The biggest fault of Saw V is that it doesn't have enough Jigsaw, as the story revolves around Strahm and Hoffman, neither of which has the charisma to replace John. Points for casting Julie Benz, who is always good, but the ending twist (while involving a great gruesome kill) is pretty weak.

Saw 6 (2009)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Mark Rolston
- I really don't have much to say about part 6, as it suffers from mostly the same faults as the last entry - not enough Jigsaw, too much Hoffman. I will say that the ending twist is pretty good and I enjoyed the overall "game". I really dug the merry-go-round trap.

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell
- And so the series comes to an end, and not before time. The formula is very, very tired by now and this entry doesn't even have the benefit of the directing of James Wan or Darren Lynn Bousman. This entry does ramp up the gore, rivalling part three for most gruesome, but that can't make up for its faults. The biggest fault is the acting - the guy who plays the character Gibson is so hammy and annoying I felt like punching the screen at times. And, as the name suggests, this one was filmed in 3D, so we get plenty of hokey "stuff flying at the screen" effects. The final twist is pretty good and it does tie everything together in a satisfying way (even if you can tell it was story writing on the fly).

My ranking of the Saw movies from best to worst:
1- Saw 2
2- Saw 3
3 - Saw
4 - Saw 4
5 - Saw 6
6 - Saw 5
7 - Saw 3D: The Final Chapter

Friday, October 16, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #16 - The Beast of Xmoor (2014)

The Beast of Xmoor (2014)
Director: Luke Hyams
Starring: Melia Kreiling, Nick Blood, Mark Bonnar
Format: Netflix

Plot: A pair of documentarians head into the woods of the Exmoor countryside to find proof of the mysterious big cats that roam the area. But what they find in the depths of the forest is a horror beyond imagine. They must fight tooth and nail to survive or fall prey to what lurks in the darkness.

I've said before that I love horror movies set in isolated locations, especially the wilderness. While writer and director Luke Hyams hasn't re-invented the wheel with The Beast of Xmoor, he has taken a common horror trope (people hunt for Bigfoot in the American wilderness) and given it an English twist.

The setting is the expansive, windswept English moors (actually shot in Ireland, doubling for England, apparently) which are incredibly eerie. The urban legend in question is the English black panther. Like Bigfoot in the US, it has intrigued Brits for a long time now and makes for plenty of speculation (google it if you're unfamiliar). 

On top of a unique location and would-be monster, there are a few other twists thrown in that keep things interesting. Oh, and it's not found footage (despite having documentarians as main protagonists) which I was glad of, having seen way too many of those movies lately.

At its essense Exeter boils down to a "survival in the wilderness" flick, but it works because of the location and because of the acting, especially of lead Kreiling, who plays a great damsel in distress who is forced to kick butt to survive. Once the action starts it's pretty fast paced and never boring, although it won't please gore fans very much. While the ending feels a bit rushed, it is satisfying enough. 

Overall, Exeter won't blow you away, but is definitely worth a watch for having a different take on a well-worn genre.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #15 - Exeter (2015)

Exeter (2015)
Director: Marcus Nispel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake)
Starring: Stephen Lang, Kevin Chapman, Kelly Blatz
Format: Netflix

Plot: During an all-night, drug-fueled party at an abandoned asylum known for the horrific treatment of its patients, a group of ordinary teens decide to experiment with the occult, mysteriously leading to a violent possession. In an effort to find help, the group rushes to escape, only to find themselves locked inside with no means of communication. Tempers flare, trusts are broken and in attempt to save one of their friends possessed by the demon, the amateurs try to perform an exorcism. Instead of solving the problem, and unbeknownst to them, they unleash an even more powerful and vengeful spirit, one with a distinct motive and which wants them all dead. The teen's only chance of survival is to uncover the asylum's deep mysteries and find a way out before it's too late.

After a career dedicated to music videos and big franchise remakes (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Conan the Barbarian), Marcus Nispel offers his first original feature film with this decidedly-mediocre outing.

Yes, it involves possession, but it's not your usual possession movie. Instead Exeter comes off more as a live-action Scooby Doo adventure. Okay, there's no talking dog (unfortunately) but the group of teens are you basic Mystery Inc group - one of them is even a stoner who looks like Shaggy.

An abandoned asylum can be a great setting (Session 9), but it's wasted here as Nispel discards suspense in favour of big special effects moments. About the only thing he gets right is the gore, with a good amount of blood and guts strewn about. But the story is lame and the actors (mostly no names) look lost most of the time. It doesn't help that the main protagonists look way too much like Shia Lebouf and Lindsay Lohan, two actors I can't stand.

For 91 minutes the teens creep around the asylum, a possessed person goes nuts and makes things fly around, they creep around some more, rinse and repeat. Of course's there the required twist ending, which also falls flat.


31 Nights of Terror 2015 #14 - A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Directors: Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Starring: William Shatner, George Buza, Rob Archer
Format: AVI

Plot: High school students investigate a mysterious homicide that occurred the prior holiday season, a couple notices their young son is acting strangely after a snowy forest trip to cut down a traditional tree and one family are stalked through a winter wonderland by Krampus, the Xmas demon. Meanwhile at the North Pole, Santa is fending off zombie elves.

I downloaded this with the intention of waiting until closer to Christmas time to watch it. But then I stumbled across a couple of screenshots of its Krampus creature on a website, and they looked so damn badass I had to watch it as soon as possible.

A Christmas Horror Story is an anthology film, and like all anthology horrors it has some segments that are stronger than others. While none of them are terrible, I'd say two are great and two are just okay. And unlike a lot of anthology films this one tells all the stories at the same time, cutting back and forth between them. I'm not sure I like that idea, as it made things a little disjointed. But on the plus side it meant not having to sit right through a lesser story in its entirety.

The wrap-around segment has Bill Shatner playing a radio host on Christmas Eve. I usually can't stand The Shat in anything he's done in the past 40 years, but here he's actually pretty entertaining and his portions are kept short.

The first segment I'll talk about involves a family going into the woods to illegally cut down a pine tree for the holidays and instead bringing home a shapeshifter creature. The little kid who plays the monster is actually pretty creepy, but I felt like this was the least-enjoyable of the segments. The parents are portrayed as pretty unlikeable, and the story is very, very predictable.

The other segment that doesn't work involves a trio of high school kids breaking into a high school where two students were killed a year before. They find a hidden part of the school (this part is pretty cool) and are soon at the mercy of a vengeful spirit. Talk about Ho Ho Hum.

Luckily the movie is saved in a big way by the segment involving Santa Claus fighting off his elves after they all get turned into zombies. Come on, who could possibly not enjoy seeing ol' Kriss Kringle taking an ax to flesh-eating midgets? It's pure, gorey fun.

The best effects of the movie come in the last segment, featuring the aforementioned Krampus. A family are on their way home from a relative's home when they crash and have to survive an attack by Christmas evil personified (kind of a giant goat man). Krampus looks completely badass and is nigh-on impossible to stop. Between this and another movie called Krampus coming out in December, I can see the big goat dude being a fan favourite for years to come.

The wrap-around segment then concludes everything in a really fun way that I didn't see coming (and which I won't spoil).

While not quite as good as Trick R Treat, A Christmas Horror Story basically does for Christmas what that movie did for Halloween. It's definitely one I'll be revisiting in years to come, during the festive season. 

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #13 - The Hoarder (2015)

The Hoarder (2015)
Director: Matt Winn
Starring: Mischa Barton, Robert Knepper, Charlotte Salt
Format: AVI

Plot: When Ella discovers her Wall Street banker boyfriend is renting a secret storage unit, she suspects he's using it to hide an affair. Enlisting the help of her best friend Molly she breaks into the facility only to discover something more terrifying instead. Now trapped in a darkened building with a group of neurotic strangers who start disappearing one by one, Ella soon uncovers even worse horror in the dank depths. Her life or death battle to escape eternal enslavement is about to begin....

The name of this one appealed to me because, well, I'm a bit of a hoarder. No, I'm not one of those "living in piles of filth" people you might see on TV's Hoarders. But I do collect a lot of stuff and like to refer to myself as an "organised hoarder". Sadly this movie has absolutely nothing to do with hoarding - the closest its gets is being set in a multi-level self-storage building.

The building itself is a pretty good setting for a horror movie - dark, claustrophobic, cluttered. The script also makes good use of lights on timers that keep turning off. And of course with all the wacky and wonderful things people keep in their storage lockers, that allows for all sorts of weapons for the protagonists to use to fight back.

Fight back against what exactly? Well, I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that The Hoarder does a good job of keeping the viewer guessing whether this is a straight-up slasher or something paranormal. The gore factor isn't bad but nothing that will amaze gorehounds. The acting is pretty mediocre (especially Barton, whose lack of emotion and wavering American accent is distracting) except for Knepper, who is good in anything.

One thing that did surprise me about this movie is that it doesn't really build up the suspense as you would expect. The two women arrive at the storage building and BAM! The action begins. From there things happen at a steady clip, making sure things are never boring. Some of the actions of the characters are just plain dumb, but the twist towards the end is fun and the ending satisfying.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #12 - The Atticus Institute (2015)

The Atticus Institute (2015)
Director: Chris Sparling
Starring: Rya Kihlstedt, William Mapother, Sharon Maughan
Format: AVI

Plot: In the fall of 1976, a small psychology lab in Pennsylvania became the unwitting home to the only government-confirmed case of possession. The U.S. military assumed control of the lab under orders of national security and, soon after, implemented measures aimed at weaponizing the entity. The details of the inexplicable events that occurred are being made public after remaining classified for nearly forty years.

Given the confession to not really liking possession movies in my review of The Possession of Michael King, why would I choose a similar movie so soon? Well, my girlfriend likes these kinds of movies, and she's doing the 31 Nights of Terror marathon with me, so yeah.

Written and directed by Chris Sparling (who penned 2012's solid-but-unspectacular ATM), The Atticus Institute uses the now-familiar tropes of the found footage horror flick, but takes it down a mockumentary route. You get plenty of "talking heads" interviews with the people involved, as they recall what happened in 1976. I watch a lot of docos and I have to say that Sparling does a great job of making this feel like something that would play on the History Channel or Nat Geo channel (or Discovery before it became all reality shows). That feeling of authenticity makes it a lot more watchable than a lot of found footage demonic-possession movies.

However, outside of the mockumentary angle and a few good scare moments, this movie falls into the trap of showing all the same, tired possession effects. Rya Kihlstedt is very good as the possessed woman, and William Mapother (apparently Tom Cruise's cousin) solid as the obsessed scientist, but we've seen it all before. Worth watching if possession movies are your thing. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #11 - The Final Girls (2015)

The Final Girls (2015)
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine
Format: AVI

Plot: When Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends reluctantly attend a tribute screening of an infamous '80s slasher film that starred Max's late mother (Malin Akerman), they are accidentally sucked into the silver screen. They soon realize they are trapped inside the cult classic movie and must team up with the fictional and ill-fated "Camp Bloodbath" counselors, including Max's mom as the shy scream queen, to battle the film's machete-wielding, masked killer. With the body count rising in scene after iconic scene, who will be THE FINAL GIRLS left standing and live to escape this film?

The Final Girls is the ultimate comedic love-letter to 80s slasher films. As someone who grew up on that genre, I really, really enjoyed this movie.

Everything 80s is riffed here, but in a way that has both laughs and heart, rather than a ridiculous Scary Movie parody manner. It's also obvious that the director is a fan of the source material - when our group of protagonists end up "inside" their favourite 80s slasher, it really does feel like they've been transported back to a Friday the 13th flick.

The acting here is great. I really enjoyed Taissa Farmiga's previous work on two seasons of TV show American Horror Story, and she's perfectly cast here as the quiet, sensitive teenage girl mourning the loss of her film star mum. Malin Akerman looks familiar but looking at her credits I don't think I've seen her in much. But she has great chemistry with Farmiga, which helps provide the emotional pull. Comedic value is added by Adam DeVine (TV's Workaholics) - whose performance does grate the nerves a bit at times but is perfect for the douchebag jock that was in every 80s summer camp horror flick - and Thomas Middleditch, who is excellent as the resident horror movie geek.

The only complaint I have is that this movie is virtually devoid of gore. There's a little bit of blood splattered around, but it's lacking compared to actual 80s slashers. If you're going to pay homage to those movies, you need some good blood and guts. There's also no nudity - a pre-requisite of 80s slashers - but that's neither here nor there.

I have a feeling that the younger crowd will probably enjoy this movie well enough, but to really appreciate it you need to have lived through the 80s and to have watched your fair share of Friday the 13th-type slashers from that decade.

Don't expect scares or any real suspense - go into this one for the laughs and the loving tribute it pays to slasher flicks.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #10 - We Are Still Here (2015)

We Are Still Here (2015)
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Starring: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie
Format: AVI

Plot: After their teenage son is killed in a car crash, Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (Barbara Crampton) move to the quiet New York countryside to try to start a new life for themselves. But the grieving couple unknowingly becomes the prey of a family of vengeful spirits that reside in their new home, and before long they discover that the seemingly peaceful town they've moved into is hiding a terrifyingly dark secret. Now they must find a way to overcome their sorrow and fight back against both the living and dead as the malicious ghosts threaten to pull their souls - and the soul of their lost son - into hell with them.

We Are Still Here is a fantastic slice of winter horror helmed by a first time director and clearly influenced by Lucio Fulci's The House By the Cemetery (1981).

What starts off your basic haunted house movie morphs into something more than that. I don't want to give too much away, because this is one of those movies that is best enjoyed without too much prior knowledge, but it involves a town with a dark history.

Geoghegan does a great job of building up a foreboding atmosphere, making perfect use of the snow-bound countryside to create a real sense of isolation. The acting is also great across the board. Special mention goes to Barbara Crampton - it's fantastic to see the star of great 80s fare like Re-animator and From Beyond getting a meaty lead role all these years later, hopefully she gets a whole lot more. I also have to mention director-turned-actor Larry Fessenden, who is great as a stoner-hippy friend of the main couple. Monte Markham is also notably creepy in a key supporting role.

The third act of this movie contains some fantastic gore. Real balls-to-the-wall stuff. And the pay-off is nicely done, again without wanting to give too much away.

I thoroughly enjoyed We Are Still Here and highly recommend it to scare-philes and gore-hounds alike. I'm looking foward to seeing what Geoghegan comes up with next and where his career goes from here, hopefully straight up.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #9 - The Barrens (2012)

The Barrens (2012)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw 2-4)
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Allie MacDonald
Format: DVD

Plot: A man takes his family on a camping trip and becomes convinced they are being stalked by the legendary monster of the New Jersey Pine Barrens: the Jersey Devil.

Another $1 DVD I picked up from the video store that closed recently in my town, I'd seen the cover of this one around and the synopsis was intriguing. I like horror that takes place in the woods, and am intrigued by rural legends like Bigfoot (or the Jersey Devil as is the case here).

Rather than being a straight-forward monster movie, The Barrens is something of a psychological thriller mixed with elements of nature-run-amok. It keeps you guessing the whole way, and just when you think you've figured it all out, it changes the game. One interesting aspect of the plot is that our main protagonist has been bitten by a rabid dog, sparking his descent into apparent mental breakdown. Rabies isn't a plot device I've seen too many times (outside of something like Cujo, where it's a dog that gets bitten), and made for a nice change of pace here.

I'm not too familiar with True Blood (I've watched one whole episode of it), but Moyer does a pretty good job in the main role. His English accent sneaks through at times, which is distracting, but he handles the job of playing a guy slowly losing his mind well enough. The rest of the cast is also good enough.

Gore-hounds will be happy, with a good amount of claret and chewed flesh on display. Script-wise, the build up to the climax is a tad over-bloated, and could have done with some tightening, but in all I enjoyed The Barrens. It mixes genres, entertains and definitely keeps you guessing.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #8 - The Possession of Michael King (2014

The Possession of Michael King (2014)
Director: David Jung
Starring: Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko
Format: DVD

Plot: Michael King (Shane Johnson), doesn't believe in God or the Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, Michael decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the center of the experiment - allowing demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him - in the hopes that when they fail, he'll once and for all have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go.

This one flew under the radar for me - I'd never heard of it before picking it up for $1 at a closing video store in my town (part of a 50-DVD lot I grabbed on the last day before they closed up for good). But even going in blind I knew what to expect (well duh, the name says it all) and I'm no real fan of possession movies - they all seem to retread the same stuff we've seen going all the way back to The Exorcist (which I do dig).

On a positive note, The Possession of Michael King starts off strongly. The early parts where Michael is investigating paranormal activities (necromancer, retired priest, freaky devil-worshipping swinger couple) is good stuff. But unfortunately once our guy becomes "possessed" it's all down hill from there.

In Johnson's defence he does a pretty fine job of playing our hero in supernatural peril. It's just that we've seen it all before so many times. You know the drill - weird body and facial contortions, furniture moving, loud sounds, jump scares, the whole nine yards. If that's your thing, have at it, but it honestly bores me to tears. And why the hell is a possessed Michael still filming everything?

The Possession of Michael King is a generic found footage demon movie, not the worst I've seen, but nothing I'd be in a hurry to watch again.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #7 - The Gallows (2015)

The Gallows (2015) 
Director: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos
Format: AVI

Plot: 20 years after a horrific accident during a small town school play, students at the school resurrect the failed show in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy - but soon discover that some things are better left alone.

There was a lot of buzz about The Gallows when it was released earlier this year. I have to say I wasn't blown away by the trailer, so unlike a lot of people I probably went into my first viewing with low expectations. My expectations were met, and no, that's not a compliment.

I've said before I don't mind found footage flicks, and this one is actually really well shot, but it falls short in just about every other aspect. The acting is pretty bad, the scares are virtually non-existant and the script is ho-hum. It's a shame, because the concept of a killer who dies in a school play and comes back to haunt future productions could have been good. The end twist is not bad, but also not good enough to save the dreck that has gone before it.

The biggest complaint I have about The Gallows is that the group of main characters is completely unlikeable, especially douchebag Ryan (who I wanted to get killed off inside of five minutes). It's impossible to care about the plight of the group of teenagers when you can't relate to them at all. Maybe, as a self-confessed grumpy middle-aged geezer, I'm just not in the teeny-bopper target demographic.

I'd say that fans of modern teeny horror should check out The Gallows, everyone else should bypass it in favor of better fare.

Friday, October 9, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #6 - Last Shift (2014)

Last Shift (2014) 
Director: Anthony DiBlasi (Dread)
Starring: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose
Format: AVI

Plot: A rookie cop's 1st shift in the last night of a closing police station alone turns into a living nightmare.

This low-budget affair starts off with a premise that echoes John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 - an old police station is empty because the department has moved into nicer digs down the street. A rookie cop is sent to play night watchmen on her first shift (and the last shift for the station, hence the name). But unlike it JC's movie the station doesn't come under attack by criminals, or at least not in the conventional sense. Spooky shit starts happening and from there it becomes a "haunted location" flick with some satanist cult elements thrown into the mix.

For the budget what you get is a very slick and well-shot film. The acting's also pretty good (for a bunch of no names) and there are enough jump scares and suspenseful moments to keep things interesting. The cult element is handled well, with the aforementioned cultists having a very Manson-esque vibe to them.

Unfortunately a lot of the early going happens in a brightly-lit police station, which detracts from the suspense, but unlike a lot of others I don't have a problem with the slow-burn approach taken here. Once the action kicks in it's entertaining and includes some really nice visual effects. The end twist is also pretty good, I didn't see it coming.

Last Shift isn't anything mind-blowing, but is definitely worth a watch for horror fans who don't mind a slow pace.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #5 - Deathgasm (2015)

Deathgasm (2015)

Director: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman
Format: AVI

Plot: Two teenage boys unwittingly summon an ancient evil entity known as The Blind One by delving into black magic while trying to escape their mundane lives.

Before sitting down to watch this one, the only thing I knew about it was that it was about heavy metal music. I was aware that it played at a film festival near me a couple of months ago and had even seen one or two publicity shots, but other than that I was going in blind.

The first thing that surprised me was that it's a New Zealand movie. Hell, if I'd known that I wouldn't have downloaded it (I don't DL movies from my own country, preferring to support the industry by buying physical copies of them). But boy am I glad that I did, and I'll be buying it as soon as I can find it on DVD!

That last sentence obviously gives away the fact that I love this movie. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's my joint favourite horror/comedy movie along with Shaun of the Dead. On top of that it's one of the best movies to come out of my homeland in a long time, and IMO much better than the recent What We Did in the Shadows, which seems to be a darling of the critics (I liked it, but Deathgasm to me is much better).

Maybe one of the reasons I dig Deathgasm so much is because I'm a metaller. Have been since I was 12 years old, and I'm now 40. Ask anyone who knew me as a teenager, and they'll tell you that I basically was the main character from this movie - a long-haired loner who lived for heavy metal. Well, without the ability to actually play guitar, but I do play a mean air axe.

But even with my love for all things metal, and of course all things horror, this movie could have still missed the mark as so many horror/comedy hybrids do. Instead it ticked all the boxes. The main characters are likeable and relatable, the comedy is hilarious (I don't want to give anything away, but I found myself in loud fits of laughter during the scene involving "marital aids"), the music kicks serious butt and best of all the gore (outrageously over the top ala Peter Jackson's Brain Dead or Bad Taste) is done with practical effects, not CGI. 

The only slight disappointment is in the climax, which doesn't live up to what it was building up to, but it's a small complaint. I can't recommend this movie enough and am damn proud that it came out of my country!

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #4 - [REC] 4: Apocalipsis (2014)

[REC] 4: Apocalipsis (2014)

Directors: Jaume Balaguero
 Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Hector Colome
Format: Netflix

Plot: Television reporter √Āngela is rescued from the building and taken to an oil tanker to be examined. However, it is unknown whether it is her who is carrying the seed of the mysterious demonic virus.

Bringing the Spanish series REC to a close is part four, which wraps things up by bringing back news reporter Angela from the first two movies (she was missing from the third as the focus moved to a side story happening at the same time). But this time she's not in the claustrophobic apartment building, having been transported to a ship in the middle of the ocean.

Joining Angela on said ship are a few other survivors of the zombie attacks (two cops and a family member of the married couple in part 3), a team of scientists (studying the effects of the outbreak) and a shitload of armed soldiers/guards. Of course, things go haywire and soon everyone is fighting for their lives.

As a closing chapter, Apocalipsis unfortunately falls short. It does manage to tie up all the loose ends, and having Angela back is a nice touch, but apart from that it's your standard zombie action flick. The change of venue to a boat could have allowed for some of the same suspense and tension as in the first two parts, but director Balaguero (who co-directed the first two installments) doesn't go that route. Instead he fills it with jump scares, action and smatterings of gore.

The biggest disappointment is that the religious/demon aspect is abandoned altogether in favour of a more scifi approach. The result is a long way short of the out-and-out chills of Tristana Medeiros creeping around in that blacked-out penthouse in parts 1 and 2. While part 4 isn't terrible, I kept wishing they'd gone back to the old building to wrap things up.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #3 - [REC] 3: Genesis (2012)

[REC] 3: Genesis (2012)
Directors: Paco Plaza
Starring: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martin, Ismael Martinez
Format: Netflix

Plot: A couple's wedding day turns horrific as some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness.

Continuing the [REC] series, we move on to the first one so far that I haven't seen before. I liked this one but for different reasons than I liked the first two. Whereas the original and its first sequel are identical in style and atmosphere - found footage, creepy dark building, lots of suspense - part three does away with all of that.

For the first time the action ventures away from the claustrophobic apartment building to a much larger and more open wedding venue, where couple Clara and Koldo (dig the dude's name, sounds like a Star Trek bad guy) are celebrating their nuptials. One of their relatives works at a vet's clinic and was bitten by a sick dog - you can guess where it goes from there. Switched-on viewers will of course figure out that the dog in question was the one owned by the family from the first movie.

With the change of venue comes a complete switch away from found footage style. I have to give points for the way this is done, tongue in cheek. While the switch to a straight-up movie is a bit jarring at first, I think it's the right decision. Going for the same look and feel as the first two movies would have just felt redundant by now. There's also a lot more humour involved, at the expense of suspense, but again I don't have a problem with that. The characters are likable and the laughs are done well.

What this movie isn't short of is gore, which is turned up to the Nth degree. We get an infected person chainsawed in half, a tongue ripped from a victim's mouth and a lot more grotesque set pieces. There's also some hokey romance stuff thrown in, but without giving anything away, the ending more than makes up for it.

Essentially, [REC] 3 feels like it belongs to a totally different series. In fact, while watching I began thinking that it might be one of those classic "shot stand alone and renamed into a sequel of a popular series to cash in" cases, until things started tying into the first two flicks. But while I loved parts 1 and 2 for their suspense and scares, I enjoyed part 3 equally for its gore, action and complete fun.

Part 4 awaits next - will it continue to switch things up or move back into more familiar territory? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, October 2, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #2 - [REC] 2 (2009)

[REC] 2 (2009)
Directors: Jamie Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Starring: Jonathan D Mellor, Manuela Velasco, Oscar Zafra
Format: DVD

Plot: In order to ascertain the current situation inside, a supposed medical officer and a GEO team step into the quarantined and ill-fated apartment building.

Since my girlfriend and I started the 2015 edition of 31 Nights of Terror with the first [REC] movie, it only makes sense to continue with the series, especially since I have the first two on DVD and the next two are on Netflix.

This one I've only seen the once before, so I was fairly fresh going in. I like the way it continues on the same night as the first movie, kind of like Halloween 2, only this one stays in the same location. This time we've got new protagonists, with a SWAT team replacing the firefighters from part one, and a group of pesky kids thrown in for good measure.

[REC] 2 doesn't bring anything really new to the table, it's just more of the same from the first movie. Since the first movie was so great, that's not a bad thing. In the process they manage to expand on the background folklore, bringing more light to exactly what has gone on in the penthouse. And yep, that scary ass monster from the first movie is back to create more spinechilling moments.

I quite like the surprise twist at the end and am looking forward to seeing where they go for the third and fourth installments.

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #1 - [REC] (2007)

[REC] (2007)
Directors: Jamie Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano
Format: DVD

Plot: A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying.

Normally when I do the 31 Nights of Terror (this is my fifth year, sixth if you count the first year when I only managed 21 movies) I pre-plan what movie to kick off the marathon with. This year I was a little busy and didn't have anything planned. Scanning the DVD collection with no idea of what to pick, my eye fell upon this fantastic Spanish scarefest, which I first saw on the big screen in 2009. My girlfriend hadn't seen it before, so it seemed a good choice.

And a good choice it was. I love this movie. Even though found footage movies are starting to get a bit old, and the same goes for zombie movies, [REC] stands the test of time. Found footage is done best when it is used to slowly build up the tension, as it is here. And this is of course no normal "zombie" movie. The infected people are more like the ones in The Crazies or 28 Days Later than a Romero zombie flick. These bastards are fast and fierce.

I also love how for most of the movie it's basically a "group of people try to survive zombie hordes" flick, but in the final act it changes tact completely, and boy does it bring the scares. Without ruining anything, the final monster is the thing of nightmares.

I haven't seen the American remake, Quarantine, and I don't want to. [REC] is fantastic, and those too lazy to read subtitles are seriously missing out!