Sunday, October 31, 2010

[Rec]

Shaky cam is a very polarizing prospect. When it's done right, we can get a film that has authenticity and realism to a degree that a slick horror film can't quite reach, like The Blair Witch Project. When it's done wrong, we get Cloverfield. [Rec] is it done very right. In fact, it might be one of the best shaky cam films that I've ever seen.

We follow a reporter, Angela, and her cameraman, Pablo, as they follow a group of firefighters around for a night. At first they're stuck in the firehouse with nothing to do but when the alarm rings and they all go out for a routine mission to break a lady out of her apartment, things start to go terribly wrong. Like zombie wrong. Add in the fact that they can't escape the building as it is quarantined not long after they enter, and the problem grows even greater. Soon, Angela and Pablo are recording and reporting everything they see in what might be their last assignment ever--an assignment in terror!

It's a simple enough premise, but it works extremely well and the narrative is taut and without much in the way of filler. Indeed, once we get past the introductions in the firehouse and enter the apartment complex, the pace remains fast and furious as everyone is trying to figure out what the hell is going on and if they can even make it out alive. As it is a Spanish movie, I don't recognize any of the cast, but I think this helps it out. The movie was remade as Quarantine and features actors you know so it's just them playing a part. Here it is more effective as I only know Angela as Angela and the same for all the other characters, making it a more real experience.

All in all it's a tightly paced and made movie that handles the subject of a zombie outbreak quite realistically, or as realistically as we can do with such a thing. If you don't mind the subtitles, I heartily recommend checking it out, as it is a perfect movie for Halloween or any other night you want to be scared. Check it out. Also, there's a sequel and two more movies after that planned, so you'll be in on the ground floor of something grand.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Sixth Ward

Listening to the debut EP by Allendale indie rockers The Sixth Ward makes me angry. Not through any fault of their own. Indeed, the album is as nigh close to perfect as you can get. I'm not even angry because singer/guitarist Bill Schlavis looks like a young Ben Affleck. No, I'm angry because 106.3 is now a Top 40 station when in their heyday any of the four songs on the album would have been perfect for the alternative rock format that they supported. Instead, we are forced to either *gasp* go out and see them live or find out about them through Facebook, Myspace and iTunes. Or my blog. *Shameless Plug*.

It's a shame, really, because The Sixth Ward is a band that really needs to be played on a radio station. It brings me back to the days when I was just starting to get into music and was excited about finding new bands to listen to like The Replacements and Dramarama, both bands that I used to play heavily in the Firebird when they came on the radio and I wanted to try and impress some girl on the side of the road with my choice in music. Sadly, it never worked, but this album does. It's a hard-rocking testament to a time when bands weren't trying to sound like someone else, they just sounded like themselves. Listening to the four tracks--"Alcohol", "No Sneakers", "Bowery & Bleecker" and "F.Scott"--is truly a treat and you can feel the pure energy and enthusiasm that the band members throw into their parts, merging to make a sound that's not only a nostalgia trip, but damn good as well.

I can honestly say that I am extremely happy I bought this album on iTunes and since I did, it's seen heavy rotation in my car on the way to and from work, blasting it through my speakers with the windows down and the roof open to give everyone around me a taste of something beautiful. The four tracks are lean and mean, making you beg for more. There is no need to separate the wheat from the chaff on this disc. It's all wheat, enough for Aunt May to keep this Peter Parker-ish dude in wheatcakes until the apocalypse. That's pretty fucking wheaty.

I love this EP. It's sent the Selena Gomez and the Scene cd into the glove box and will remain in the changer until I burn the sucker out. Or they come out with some more songs to sate my appetite for good music. Thankfully, we have those other venues online and we can hear about the good stuff like this if we keep our ears to the ground.

The House on Sorority Row

Despite the provocative poster, House on Sorority Row isn't about sexy girls in their underwear. No, this classic slasher is about some girls who play a prank on their house mother that turns quite deadly. They hide the body and attempt to get rid of it but someone has seen what they did and is hunting them down one by one.

This one has been sitting in my queue for a while now so it was good to finally see it. I was quite impressed. It's a serious, terse little film with some good kills and only a few goofy parts, like the prank itself, where somehow making the house mother get in the pool at gun point seems like a good idea. After that though, when they're all complicit in the crime, it's played rather straight, with them trying to keep people at the party they're throwing out of the pool and then trying to get the body out of the house when it mysteriously appears upstairs in the attic.

I don't recognize anyone in the cast but they're generally good in their parts, with the bitchy ones being bitchy and the mousy ones being mousy. They actually act like college students, which is a nice change from the slashers of the 90s where everyone was self-aware and smarter than thou.

The kills are rather gory, usually involving the cane of the departed house mother, but a knife and some other implements are used as well. I'm sad that a movie like this isn't on the underrated slasher list over at Topless Robot, instead of films that have a higher profile than it. Very disappointing. Still, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying it. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Boogens

There are some movies that you catch as a kid and they sit there in your memory, bugging the hell out of you and possibly scaring the hell out of you, waiting for you to rediscover them to see them through the clarity of your older and more experienced eyes. For me, The Boogens was that movie.

I didn't remember much about it save for the name, which was pretty distinct. I saw it once as a child on cable and remembered some parts in a mine but that was about it. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when it was released about ten years ago onto video cassette. I bought that sonofabitch as fast as I could and watched it, seeing how it held up when compared to my memories of it.

It wasn't bad at all.

Honestly, it's a fairly decent, low budget horror film from the 80s. It takes place in a mining town in Colorado, I believe, where the local silver mine has been closed for years thanks to a cave in that made it unsafe and some odd reports of attacks on the miners. Well, all of that is in the past and a company wants to reopen it and get at some of that there silver. So they send a miner and his young cohorts and their lady friends to do it. A crazy man tries to stop them, telling them about strange creatures that live in the mine. They ignore him but soon they are being picked off one by one by something with tentacles and a craving for human flesh.

A well paced and fairly lean film, the Boogens features some characters we can actually care about and enjoy before they die, some great nudity, and no real moments where you scream at the people for doing something stupid. Outside of going into the mine in the first place, that is. Always listen to the crazy old guy. He knows things. Scary things.

There isn't a ton in the way of gore but the deaths are well done and surprising at times. The only failing of the movie is in the design of the Boogens themselves, which is rather lackluster. I've heard them described as seals mated with turtles which then had tentacles stapled on. Not truly menacing but scary enough and a darn sight better than the monster in It Conquered the World.

It's a solid film and worth a look if it's on TCM like it was this past weekend or you find the vhs tape somewhere. A forgotten classic, to be sure. Now I just need to find the other lost creature in a mine film, The Strangeness, so I can have a good double header as I've had a blast watching the Boogens again this year on my well worn vhs cassette.

Check it out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Prowler

It was a quiet Sunday night and I felt the hankering for something horror-like, so I decided upon a movie. The Prowler turned out to be a good choice. In this under-appreciated and probably unknown to the general public slasher, a soldier comes home from WWII and finds a Dear John letter from his girl. So he gears up and kills her and her date and is never caught. The town, Avalon Bay, NJ, decrees that they shall never have a graduation day dance again because of this. Well, 35 years later, they're having the dance again for the first time since the murders and it seems that someone is still around and doesn't like that and expresses his annoyance with grisly murders.

A good companion piece to the similar My Bloody Valentine, this film is set in a blue-collar world and features kids who just want to have a little fun. Unfortunately for them, that fun means dying. And oh, how they are dispatched. Tom Savini often cites this as his best work, and it's definitely up there for me. The kill shots are long and realistic. There's no quick stabbing scenes. No, he drives that knife home and lets it linger there for awhile, letting the pain sink in. Good times. The killer has a great outfit too. It's basically fatigues, a helmet and a scarf/mask of some sort and is simple but works for the movie. I also like how he uses basically two weapons the entire time--a pitchfork and a knife. The former doesn't really fit in with the army motif for me but it gives us some decent kills. I like that kind of consistency in a slasher. It gives him character.

The cast is mostly unknowns, save for Lawrence Tierney, who plays an old Major that lives across the street from the dorm/apartments that the main girl lives at. They do pretty well. I don't have any complaints, save for the scene where the deputy is trying to reach the sheriff who went on vacation. The motel clerk is rather annoying and the scene, while humorous, kinda throws off the pacing so late in the game. Earlier on it would have been better but at this point a bunch of people are dead and a killer is on the loose and the tension is mounting and this just throws it all away.

All in all, The Prowler is a fun slasher with some good kills that are sure to whet your appetite for gore. It's on instant streaming too, which is nice, since I had never heard of it and just added it for the cover, so when I was going through them for something to watch, I decided on it. Good choice. Go me. Check it out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Legion

Had a movie night last night with the missus. Her choice of film was Legion, which was one of several biblical themed movies that came out earlier in the year. This one was a siege type movie where a group of people are trapped in a remote truck stop where they are under siege by some evil force while an ex-angel gives them the key to surviving what might just be the apocalypse.

I didn't know too much about this movie going in and it had suffered from some bad reviews so far. It was an entertaining enough affair. Not the best movie of the year by a long shot but it starts firing on all cylinders early and keeps you moving right until the very end. The whole people under siege by evil routine is always a fun one, from NOTLD, to Precinct 13, to a ton of others, it is always a plot I enjoy and this one does it well.

The cast is well acted, with Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid leading the pack with support from Roc and some chick from Private Practice. They do what they can with the material and we're treated to some pretty gruesome deaths along the way, which is never a bad thing in my book. Bettany in particular is quite the bad ass in this film, liberating a bunch of automatic weapons early on that are put to good use in ventilating their enemies. A couple of the characters fall for some stupid crap or act stupidly in the movie, and I'm always annoyed that the sensible people don't just let them die for being dumbasses. It doesn't happen too many times though and it doesn't seem as bad as the chick going to rescue the dog in the Dawn of the Dead remake, so I'll give them a pass.

Good popcorn flick, easy on the eyes with nothing heavy to think about, save why they use the same damn quote from a character to open and close the film. They would have been better off starting it in the beginning and then finishing it at the end, since it's got a punchline that is wasted right off the bat. Oh well. Decent enough.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New York Ripper

For tonight's Friday Night Fright I decided to go Italian, since I was denied my customary spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. For this feast for my eyes, I picked The New York Ripper by Lucio Fulci. I had heard good things about this film, that it was one of his best. Having loved his zombie series of films like Zombie, Zombie 3, the Beyond, City of the Living Dead and the like, I figured I'd try this one, which was more of a giallo/slasher film.

In this movie, a killer is terrorizing the young women of New York, quacking like a duck and cutting them up gruesomely. We follow a detective on the case, a young woman who survives the attack and her husband, Alexendra Delli Colli playing a perv and a professor as they all collide on the path to figuring out who is responsible for the murders and which one of them could be next. It's a pretty solid thriller with some rather effective kills that linger on the slow cuts and stabs that end each victim's life. The characters are rather interesting, especially Delli Colli who gets naked and tied up like in Zombie Holocaust, and the movie keeps moving at a brisk pace as we try to figure out who the killer is as well.

I'll have to say that the reveal wasn't much of a surprise as it is telegraphed early on, but they do some effective dekes that had me questioning whether my choice was correct or not. In the mean time, you get some great shots of the city and an effective use of color in some other shots that is astounding. I was applauding the use of extreme close-ups at first but he did seem to go overboard on them, at one point even having them as two men had a staring contest over the sounds of an audio sex tape.

All in all a solid effort, though it wasn't to my liking as much as his more supernatural films. The tension in several of the scenes makes up for that, such as one where the cops listen to the killer murder a young woman as they try to find out where she is. Good stuff.

FNM - Attack of the Insecticons!

So the thing that has me most excited about Scars of Mirrodin is the new infect ability. After reading The Turkish Tornado's, colum over at iwantmymtg.com a few weeks ago I decided to give it a go. He was suggesting a three color Blue-Black-Green version using Adventuring Gear and fetch lands for massive fast creature pumps. Due to a lack of Verdant Catacombs I thought I would take it in a little bit different direction. I love the Distortion Strike combo making small creatures +1/+0 and unblockable. So I thought about what else was unblockable that I could work with infect. Creeping Tar Pit is unblockable and with Tainted Strike is a good late game option for a kill. In addition, Plague Stinger will give me some added evasion and Vampire's Bite will combo for some huge infect hits. When I first got back into MTG and into Standard I loved this card on turn 2 in conjunction with a turn 1 Vampire Lacerator. 5 points of damage that quick is pretty good, but on infect that is essentially 10 points of damage if you play it combined with Distortion Strike. You will have to watch out for the 2 for 1 (or even 3 for 1) doing this, so be careful (the loss of Path to Exile helps however). So here is the deck list I played last night:


Insecticons 1.0 (2010-10-22)





Creatures
Land
1 Hand of the Praetors 4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Plague Stinger 2 Darkslick Shores
1 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon 3 Drowned Catacomb


7 Island

Atrifact Creatures 7 Swamp
3 Ichorclaw Myr

3 Necropede 60 Total





Instants
Sideboard
3 Doom Blade 3 Corpse Cur
2 Steady Progress 4 Into the Roil
3 Tainted Strike 4 Livewire Lash
4 Turn Aside 4 Spell Pierce
2 Unsummon

3 Vampire's Bite 15 Total





Sorcery

4 Distortion Strike

4 Preordain


I started off against Adam. Adam beat my green elves deck a few weeks ago with his infinite combo myr deck. In game one I got out to a good start with three small infect creatures out and a nice Distortion Strike/Vampire's Bite combo on a Ichorclaw Myr. I was then able to get the kill on the next turn with the rebound, another Distortion Strike, and a Tainted Strike for some pump. 1-0 Game two did not go quite as well. After a mulligan to six I was doing alright, but then he got his combo off on turn four for the win. 1-1 Game three we both mulliganed to six and I was stupid and kept a junky hand (three Islands, three Distortion Strikes). I don't know why I ever kept this, it goes back to the rule "if you have to think about it you probably shouldn't keep it". Although I don't know why I was even thinking about this one. Maybe if those were Preordains instead, but not Distortion Strike, especially with the low creature count in the deck (twelve, that is one thing I am going to modify). So the game wasn't going bad, but I wasn't able to play much and he burned the one creature I got down. I had a lot of blue mana open so he was not playing the Splinter Twin but was able to beat on me with his myr. I got Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon in my hand but was stuck on only one black mana and his pair of Myr Galvanizers did me in.

0-1 (1-2)

Next up was Noyan playing mono black (check out his latest article on iwantmymtg.com, yes, he net-decked himself). Game one was going well and I got him up to nine poison counters (or Phyrexia Bucks as I like to use). However when he played Liliana's Specter with a Mimic Vat in play things started to go sour. I should have held back and waited to get another Distortion Strike but I made some bad moves and attacked. With the specter on the Vat I was screwed having to discard every time the specter was played. Once he top decked Wurm Coil Engine I scooped because I had no out (he used Sadistic Sacrament and removed my two Steady Progress which was my only win condition in that situation since I could only play instants before having to discard). 0-1 Second game the Mimic Vat came out early again and I never really got any board control. He quickly killed me with a couple of Wurm Coil Engines. 0-2

0-2 (1-4)

Next up was a newer player at our FNM, I believe Josh was his name. His deck was a preconstructed deck at best. I'm not going to even write about this one because it was no contest (in addition to his weak deck he kept really bad hands both times and I don't think he shuffled well either). I felt kinda bad about that one, but what can you do?

1-2 (3-4)

Last round was against Eric playing a white knights deck. I can't remember much about game one except his knights pounded me pretty good (White Knight, Student of Warfare, Knight Exemplar). I actually don't remember much about games two and three, but I won game two and then in game three was able to swing in for the win with 2 life left facing down Ajani Goldmane and a couple of knights.

Overall it was a fun night trying out something new. A few changes I've already made are -4 Turn Aside, -2 Unsummon, -1 Tainted Strike, +4 Mana Leak, +1 Necropede, +1 Ichorclaw Myr, +1 Ichor Rats. The Mana Leaks will be much more useful than the Turn Asides and the extra creatures will bring me up to a creature count of 15 since not pulling many creatures was a problem. I also need to trade for two more Darkslick Shores. I thought about mainboarding two Into The Roils in place of the Unsummons, but I think the Mana Leaks will be better. We'll see. Now what do I play at FNM and game day next week, Insecticons 1.1 or back to elves?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Madman 30th Anniversary DVD

Finally, after being on order for what seems like forever (1 month), my Madman dvd finally came in the mail. Why am I so excited for this? Why, it's the 30th anniversary dvd, loaded with bells and whistles and it's also in print, so I don't have to drop the cash for the OOP Anchor Bay dvd, which is a bonus.

What's the verdict? Pretty awesome so far. The print is nice and clean, though it has some of the same scratches and damage from the print I saw on IFC. Presumably, those can't be removed but it's all good. They give it that drive-in feel I love. I've read reports that there is some interlacing issues, but my dvd player/tv doesn't seem to care and it all looks fine to me. Those of you with progressive tvs may experience it differently but most of the players out there should be able to take care of it. I also heard that they removed the blue tint from a lot of the night scenes, but I honestly don't remember what ones and don't have the time to check it out. Some of them still have it and the others look good so I don't have any complaint. Maybe upon a comparison of the old print (on IFC this month) I can analyze it better. It's just so good to have Madman on dvd and not a bootleg or on the dvr.

Special features include a commentary from cast and crew, a 30th anniversary doc/retrospective and one of my favorites, a piece on bands that were influenced by the movie, which includes one of my favorite versions--the extended Ballad of Madman Marz by the Vicar of VHS. I have yet to sample all of these as I'm still working through the movie again, but I can't wait. It's a Halloween treat for me for sure and should be for you too.

If you have a love of the movie or just want to check it out without breaking the bank, this dvd is a solid purchase. Buy it quick too, as Code Red will be closing their doors soon. I hear that the producer said there might be another dvd down the line with some deleted scenes as well, but I don't know if I'd bank on it as it took us this long to get this disc. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Night in the Lonesome October

In addition to watching as many horror movies as I possibly during this month, there is another tradition that I partake in, which is a reading of Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October. It's a book about a strange game that takes place in the English countryside where factions are formed and the players seem to be taken right out of horror fiction and movies and the results might mean the end of the world if the wrong team wins. The story is told by Snuff, the animal companion of Jack the Ripper as day by day, they assemble what they need for the end of the month finale.

It's an atmospheric and clever book and uses traditional characters in a fun way and having a book from dog's point of view is quite amusing and reminds me of Bunnicula in a way. The book is also broken up into chapters that correspond with each day in October, making a reading easy. Just do one a day. Some are long, some are only a page. It's a fun trip all the way to the end and worth repeating year after year. It adds a bit of familiarity to the month and makes it a little more special on rainy days like today. You can still catch up too if you hurry.

Check it out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Predators

The Alien and Predator franchises haven't had much of a good record lately. For Alien, they suffered the fourth film before jumping into the AVP franchise. For Predator, we only got two movies before they joined the abortion of a combo franchise as well. Some people were happy with that. I can't imagine who. Fortunately, some weren't and thus we got a new Predator movie, entitled Predators, which is a return to form for the series as well as giving us a whole new world (literally) to play with.

Indeed, the movie opens with several characters plummeting to their doom before parachutes engage and they land in a jungle the likes of which they haven't seen before or place anywhere in the world. It's a motley crew of soldiers and villains, the pick of the litter from the world's armies and prisons for which to test the Predators mettle against, and test they do soon enough, encountering odd traps and obstacles that let they catch on rather quickly that whatever scooped them off of earth was not benign in its intentions. Soon, they must band together to try and fend off the alien attacks as they realize they are on a completely different world and need to find a way off if they are to ever survive.

Adrian Brody leads off the cast, with notable co-stars that include Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, Laurence Fishburne and Alice Braga. They do a fine job with the material, which seems to tread a bit in homage territory to the first film but breaks off enough to do its own thing that you won't feel you're watching a rehash. Indeed, it's a good start for a new series to take off of, as the Predator game preserve gives us an answer to having repeat Predator encounters without trying to shoehorn them into a plot or figure out why nobody ever sees them when they hunt platoons and people all over the world. The action is fast paced and well done and the Predator designs are great, giving us some fresh faces to look at behind the masks.

I was afraid of what the movie would end up like but Robert Rodriguez produced a great film for us and director Nimrod Antal pulls out all the stops in getting us from place to place without letting us slow down too much to catch our breath. I can't say it's better than the original, but it's up there with the second film at least and I'd be interested in seeing a sequel to this for sure. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Hatchet 2 Pulled?

What the hell, AMC? You release the first unrated film in what, like 20 years, and give it one weekend before you pull it? What the fuck? I was hoping it was playing relatively near me but the closest is Jersey Gardens. Still, I was making plans to go this weekend after work, since I was up there. Guess that plan is out. Thanks a lot, fuckers. On the bright side, if they can get it onto OnDemand, I can watch it a bunch at home and try to give it some well earned cash that I was going to spend on it anyway. If you can, go see it if you can find it.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Video Dead

For this week's Friday Night Fright, I went into the time machine and actually picked up The Video Dead off the shelf of Easy Video instead of letting it languish there whilst I rented something else. Ok, that's not true. I just streamed it from Netflix. It is a bit of a holy grail for me, though, as it was one I never got around to watching and then by the time I wanted to, I could never find it for rent. Such is life. So after years of waiting, how was it?

Honestly? Not bad. Not bad at all. Ok, it was bad in a sense, ok a couple of senses, with acting and plotting being the main culprits, but it has a charm that makes you embrace that badness instead of just switching it off for something else. The effects are low budget and the makeup isn't stellar but it works, often better for me than something like The Dead Next Door, which had an equally dismal budget.

The story follows a brother and sister who are moving into a house while there parents are away overseas. That wouldn't be a problem except that three months before a haunted tv set was delivered and killed the previous owner with zombies from it. When the boy finds the tv in the attic and turns it on, he unleashes an evil on the town the likes of which they have never seen--The Video Dead. Once that happens, its a fairly brisk pace of murder and mayhem as the brother and sister try to piece together what is happening with the help of a Texan who has encountered the tv before. Along the way we get some funny kills and some good ones as the Video Dead decide to kill the neighbors before the people in the house. Can they stop them before they kill the whole block? Find out yourself. I'm not telling.

I enjoyed the movie a bit. Maybe it was the scotch or maybe it was just the fun vibe that it gave off. The movie knows it isn't as pretty or sophisticated as other movies in the genre but it tries hard and puts out that extra effort that really make it worth watching in all its lunacy. Its no Troll 2, but I had a fun time with it and the inane dialogue (there's great stuff about poodles) and some interesting zombie make-up (some look pretty decent, one looks like Gary from the Howard Stern Show) and it all gels to make a ride worth signing on for. Check it out.