Sunday, December 27, 2015

What I Watched - December 20-26 2015


The house move is completed but most of my DVD collection is now in storage due to my new place being very small. Managed to get in a few movies between completing the move and Christmas celebrations.

Wendigo (2001) DVD
- While most of my DVDs are in storage, I have had a few new purchases arrive in the mail at my new house, including this one. I hadn't seen this one since it came out. As a side note, I have a poster of this movie which director Larry Fessenden signed for me when I met him at Fangoria Weekend of Horrors NYC convention in 2001. The movie itself is about the Native American legend of the Wendigo, a deer-headed forest creature, but more of the plot is devoted to "fish-out-of-water" goings on involving a city family holidaying in a snowbound rural setting where some of the local yokels don't take too kindly to them. If you're familiar with Fessenden's work (in particular the pseudo-vampire flick Habit) you'll know to expect a great deal of ambiguity around the supernatural elements. Bare on the scares and gore, this one instead relies on its creepy setting and some good acting from leads Jake Weber (Dawn of the Dead remake, TV's Medium), Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island) and Erik Per Sullivan (the youngest son on TV's Malcolm in the Middle).

Fargo (1996) VHS
- When you're in a new house with all of your possessions in boxes, it becomes a case of "what is easily accessible" and it's no different when it comes to movies. I found a box of VHS that I could easily open and pulled out this 90s gem. My girlfriend had never seen it, and having recently enjoyed The Big Lebowski, I knew she'd dig this, the Coen Brothers' immediate predecessor to that movie. I don't need to go into plot details, because I'm sure everyone has seen this quirky crime caper, but I will add a side note that it's ironic (and unintentional) that during the blaring heat of a southern hemisphere summer I watched two successive movies set in deep wintry snow.

The Ruins (2008) DVD
- Another recent (cheap) pick up to fill a gap in the collection and another I haven't revisited since its release. I remembered quite liking this one and while it didn't hold up so well to a repeat viewing, it's a passable time-waster. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but I quite liked the "nature run amok" angle and the Mayan temple itself was pretty cool. On the flip-side, I found myself constantly irritated by Jenna Malone's character and it doesn't help that she reminds me of that waste-of-oxygen Kristen Stewart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I Watched - December 13-19 2015


More moving house (yes I own a lot of stuff) so not much movie-watching again.

Rubble Kings (2010) Netflix
- Reading the synopsis of this one, I thought it was going to be about the rise of hip hop in New York City. But while that is covered in the last 10-15 minutes, the bulk of this documentary is about street gangs in the Big Apple from the late 1960s through to the present day, in particular the gang The Ghetto Brothers. They turned to peace and, according to this doco, made a lot of other gangs join their cause, in something of a real-life scene from The Warriors. Told via talking heads from a bunch of current and ex gang guys, with archival footage in between, this is fascinating stuff while not particularly earth-shattering.

Let Us Prey (2014) Netflix
- Pollyanna McIntosh just keeps popping up in stuff I've watched lately - Tales of Halloween, The Blood Lands and now this. That's not a complaint, as she's a pretty good actor - kind of like Milla Jovovich with acting talent. In this Irish horror she plays a straight-laced rookie cop who moves to a small town just in time to witness some strange goings on involving a group of people who end up in the police station's holding cells. It seems one of them (Liam Cunningham from Dog Soldiers) is more than he appears and knows quite a lot about each of the others' lives. I won't say any more, other than to say this one leaves things moderately ambiguous. There's not much in the way of actual horror or gore (although one of the characters takes a surprisingly sick twist), but first-time director Brian O'Malley crafts a tense and intriguing thriller.

Wolf Lake (1980) VHS
- With my Netflix temporarily disconnected and my DVDs all packed away I reached for what was laying around to watch while packing boxes. I've seen this one before and enjoyed it so popped it in for a repeat viewing. This variation on the Most Dangerous Game theme, thick with Vietnam War tension, is a good little action thriller, helped by a great cast including Oscar-winner Rod Steiger (In The Heat of the Night, Amityville Horror), Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat in The X-Files) and David Huffman, who was tragically murdered at the age of 39 just five years after this movie. Huffman plays a Vietnam deserter who is hunted by a group of old war vet buddies, with predictable but enjoyable results.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What I Watched - December 6-12 2015


The house move continues so another very quiet movie-watching week.

Kristy (2014) Netflix
- "Victim fights back against intruders" is hardly an original theme and one that has been done quite a lot in recent years (The Strangers, You're Next etc etc). But this one has an interesting setting (deserted college campus during holiday break, which reminded me of 1981's The Final Exam), an excellent performance by leading lady Haley Bennett (The Haunting of Molly Hartley) and some decent action and suspense. The killers are also made more interesting with the addition of a mysterious cult element. I recommend this one for fans of man-made horror.

The Den (2013) Netflix
- This one has been on my Netflix list for the longest time, but I recently belatedly read someone's blog entry listing their favourite horror movies of 2013, and this was quite high on the list. So I decided to check it out. First of all, yes, it's "found footage" in that it's completely made up of footage captured on webcams, phones and camcorders. Having spent a great deal of time on Skype (my American girlfriend and I lived in separate countries for a couple of years), I dug the premise of a college student studying online relationships (in this case random interactions on a chat program called The Den). Of course this is a horror movie so things go bad - she pisses off the wrong person online and quickly finds her life being turned upside-down by this "hacker", ultimately leading to a bloody conclusion. What makes this so terrifying is that it's so plausible. If you hate found footage move on, but otherwise this one is highly recommended.

Viking Women and the Sea Serpent (1957) DVD
- This Roger Corman-directed, Samuel Arkoff-produced cheapie has the formal title "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent"! But either way don't let the name fool you, the sea serpent plays only a small part in proceedings. This is no monster-fest, instead it's a sword-and-sandals "epic" about a group of viking women who go in search of their lost men and must save them from an island of evil warriors. It's only real value is in laughing at the low-budget antics. It also gets points for featuring The Wasp Woman's Susan Cabot in a villainous role.

Stir of Echoes (1999) Netflix
- This was my first time seeing this Kevin Bacon movie, which I remember seeing the trailers for back when it came out. I can see why this one didn't do so well - it was released at around the same time as Sixth Sense and covers similar ground (someone who can see dead people). It was just a case of bad timing, because this is actually a good movie. The "hypnotism opens man's mind to seeing ghosts" angle is a good one and while in essence the plot boils down to a whodunnit murder mystery, Bacon's great performance as the family man driven crazy by his "visions" takes it up a notch or two.

What I Watched - November 29-December 5 2015


A very quiet week for me, movie-watching wise, as I am in the middle of moving house and that hasn't left much time for anything else. I did still manage to sneak in a few watches though.

Not Quite Hollywood (2000) Amazon
- This documentary about the Australian exploitation (Oz-ploitation) scene of the 70s and 80s is one that I've been wanting to see for a while now. Like Machete Maidens Unleashed (Filipino b-movies) and Electric Boogaloo (Cannon films), this is mostly talking heads with some clips from the movies in question, but it's greatly interesting for anyone who calls themselves a b-movie fan.

Kingdom Come (2014) Amazon
- A group of strangers wake up in a building they can't escape from and are judged for their various sins by an unknown person/entity. This one plays like a Saw movie if you replaced the traps/torture with religious judgement. Ultimately its ambition outweighs its budget, but the result is still entertaining enough. Nothing great, but an okay time-waster.

Eagle Island (1986) VHS
- Black-clad Soviet operatives attack a Swedish island to steal a secret code, but are met with resistance by a recently-fired soldier and a female bird-watcher. This Swedish production had potential to be good, but director Mats Helge Olsen lingers too long on boring stuff instead of action. The casting is also questionable, as the leading man (Tom O'Rourke) is a middle-aged guy who looks like a failed James Bond auditioner. His chemistry with his much-younger love interest is also non-existant. This one's a bit hard to find, and maybe it's best kept that way.

Demons of the Mind (1972) VHS
- Later-day Hammer offering set in 19th century Austria, which deals with insanity, incest, rape and murder. Steeped in the gothic trappings that Hammer did best, but held down slightly by a turgid early pacing and some hammy over-acting by main villain Robert Hardy, this one gains momentum in the last act, which includes some quite stunning scenes involving an angry mob and a burning cross. Not the best Hammer movie, but a mediocre Hammer is still better than most.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What I Watched - November 22-28 2015




Bound to Vengeance (2015) AVI
-Decent little rape revenge flick that thankfully doesn't dwell on the sexual assault for long (unlike a lot of these types of movies). The storyline - a rape victim escapes her captor and makes him take her to other captive girls to free them - is simple but done in an interesting way. There's a twist which I predicted quite early in the piece, but it's well executed enough to not take away from the overall enjoyment.

Gag (2006) DVD
- This straight-to-DVD movie sells itself as a Saw-type affair, but it's not really torture porn, it's more a psychological thriller with some minor moments of torture thrown in. Two thieves break into a house in search of a safe, but find a man chained to a bed. Everything isn't as it seems though, and soon they're in a fight for survival. Shot for just $40,000, this is far more ambitious than its budget, with some nice camera work and passable acting. The plot has a lot of holes but is entertaining enough. Go in with low expectations.

The Blood Lands (2014) Netflix
- The set up to this one has been done a million times in horror - a couple flee the big city (London) and buy a house in the countryside (here it's Scotland), where things go pear-shaped. Good acting and some suspenseful work by director Simeon Halligan (Splintered) keep you guessing as to whether events are supernatural or man-made. I enjoyed seeing Polly McIntosh in one of the lead roles here - apart from her short turn in Tales of Halloween I've only really seen her in her non-speaking roles in Offspring and The Woman, so it was nice to see her in a more conventional role. This one has undertones of the English-Scottish rivalry and a great, isolated setting. Recommended.

Legend of Galgameth (1996) VHS
- I watched this with my son and while it didn't offer much in the way of adult viewing, he enjoyed it quite a bit. Essentially it's a tale of a young prince in medieval times and his golem-like protector (a dinosaur-like being that grows bigger and bigger as the movie goes on). Some of the special effects are pretty laughable by today's standards, but charming in a 90s-kids-movie kind of way.

Circle Man (1987) VHS
- I watched this one as I was copying it from VHS to DVD (it has no official DVD release) and found it to be a quite bland fist-fighting actioner, saved mainly by the work of lead actors Vernon Wells (Commando, The Road Warrior) and William Sanderson (Blade Runner) as an aging fighter and his promoter. The story is pretty thin and the fist fights are only marginally exciting, but it's just great to see Wells in a lead role after so many great supporting jobs. Also known as Last Man Standing.