Sunday, February 27, 2011

House of the Long Shadows

What to do when you're home sick vomiting? Why, you try to find something to watch on tv. After ogling Tuesday Weld in I'll Take Sweden, I found out that a movie I had never heard of was on, called House of the Long Shadows, and featuring four huge horror movie actors together for the first time. In this case, it was Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine. Oh, and Desi Arnaz Jr.

Desi is actually the main character, a writer who takes a bet from his publisher that he can't write a Wuthering Heights caliber novel in 24 hours. Desi says he can but needs a place to write, so the publisher hooks him up with a place in the English countryside that has been deserted for quite some time. The place is perfect to him and he settles down to write, but is interrupted by a young lady who tells him terrorists are after him. He calls bull and finds out she was hired by the publisher to distract him. Desi tries to get back to work but soon other characters start showing up, from caretakers that shouldn't be there, to a motley assortment of others that turn out, with the caretakers, to be Lord Grisbane and his sons and daughters, who lived there long ago and have a dark secret. Soon, they start dying one by one as a forgotten son of the Grisbanes decides to have his revenge. Something like that, at any rate.

The performances are fantastic, with great turns by the masters. Peter Cushing play the more whiny and timid Grisbane, with Vincent Price as a cultured and snobbish one. Christopher Lee is a real estate agent who says he owns the house but may be hiding more than he lets on. John Carradine dotters around and owns the room as the patriarch of the clan.

Not a bad little film, more entertaining for the four greats chewing the scenery but the story is rather fun, and leaves you guessing whether the whole thing is still a hoax or something more sinister is afoot. A couple of twists and turns later, you're left with a pretty satisfying ending. Nothing groundbreaking outside of the players involved, but worth checking out. Just be warned if you catch it on THIS TV like I did. Their print is terribly dark, at times it's like you're watching a radio play, with just a blank screen and talking.

Check it out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Last weekend I got hold of a screener for a movie that I've been dying to see since I heard about it. The movie is Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. In it, Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play the title characters, hillbillies who are on their way to their summer home in the mountains where they hope to fix it up, relax, drink some beers and do some fishing. Unfortunately for them, they run into some college students who are on vacation in the same area and think that the hapless duo are crazy murderers. Hijinx ensue and kids start dying and Tucker and Dale are trying to stop this case of mistaken identity before they get killed themselves.

It was worth the wait for it and I can't wait until it gets a formal release. The cast is really solid, with great chemistry between Tudyk and Labine as they are thrown into a whirlwind of madness and kids dying. All they want to do is be left alone and drink some beers, but because of social perceptions, everyone thinks that they're the bad guys. The deaths are really creative and it's fun that for each of them, it really does look like they might be responsible, but since we're seeing it from both sides at once, we know that they're mostly innocent of all malice, save for a little bit of peeping.

The film is a great deconstruction of the slasher genre, particularly Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, with their remote locations and characters. There's more than a few nods to each, and Tudyk even gets to do the chainsaw dance after he saws into a bees nest, which indirectly results in one of the more fun kills in the movie. It makes sense too, as in any of those movies, they probably would be responsible for all of the carnage. Here, they're just along for the ride in a film that does for slashers as Shaun of the Dead did for zombie movies. It's smart, gory, funny and truly entertaining. Indeed, it moves at such a fast clip that when the film is over, you're left begging for more.

I can only hope that the film does well in full release so we can get some sequels with the characters, as I would love to see more of Tucker and Dale as they fight some more evil.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Hatchet II

I must say, that Hatchet has been one of the surprise favorite movies that I've found over the past few years. It, like Dead Snow, is a movie I heard about in passing but not much else so when I saw it available, I bought it, watched it and loved it. When I heard the sequel was getting a theatrical release, I was all ready to see it. Then it was pulled. So began my long wait for it to hit dvd. I have to say, it was worth it.

Is it as good as the first? No, but that doesn't mean it's bad. The first was a great blend of horror and comedy that puts it up there with the likes of Return of the Living Dead. The difference between the two for me, is similar to that between Alien and Aliens. The second film has a much darker tone, with Marybeth (now Danielle Harris mmmmmmm)surviving the first encounter with Victor Crowley and assembling a group of hunters to go after him with the help of Reverend Zombie, the odd voodoo man who told the people about the boat ride in the first movie, played by Tony Todd. Along the way, we learn more about Victor Crowley and why he is the way he is and exactly how they might be able to stop him once and for all and rid the swamp of his evil.

There's solid gore and some scares along the way, with some minimal nudity and some humor thrown in for good measure. This sequel feels more balls to the wall than the first. The hunters are invading Crowley's turf and he does not cotton to that very well, taking his vengeance with extreme prejudice and in often brutal ways. Jaws are ripped off, power tools are used and there is much, much blood and it is awesome. Meanwhile, the clock is winding down for our heroes to find a way to stop him for good and these victims aren't willing to go down for a fight, which results in one particularly awesome battle between a man and Crowley as they pummel each other.

My few complaints are that I don't particularly care for explanations for supernatural killers. It didn't work in Halloween. It didn't work in NOES. Didn't work in F13 either and it sure as hell didn't work in Hellraiser. I can't tell here if they're doing it as a sort of meta parody of that fact or because they thought we needed it. I'd rather they just kept to the basics and got to the killing as it doesn't add much to me for the story.

The second complaint is that unlike the first, we don't really know these characters. Yes, Marybeth and Rev. Zombie get a bulk of screentime and development, but we're left sorely in need of some fleshing out of the secondary characters. Nobody is really as memorable as Murray's part-time pornographer, the bimbos or the friends of Joel David Moore. We get a little on them, particularly the man and his ex, but not enough to really care when they're killed. It's a shame, but not a deal breaker.

If you liked the first or just want to see a good slasher, check it out.

Mirrodin Besieged Pre-Release or Eric's First Sanctioned Tournament

It was a Sunday unlike any other for me. Indeed, it was the day of my first Magic: The Gathering Pre-Release tournament, specifically for the new set of Mirrodin Besieged. It was a rather warm day for the season, at 40 degrees or so, so I walked down to Jiffy Photo and Baseball Cards, my local game store. I was there early and got signed up and mingled for a bit and then it was game time. I collected my packs for the Phyrexian faction and proceeded to build a deck.

I got a decent lot of cards. No mythics, but I had a pretty solid infect base with the following:

Virulent Wound x2
Scourge Servant
Morbid Plunder
Plague Stinger
Rot Wolf x2
Core Prowler
Bladed Pinions
Septic Rats
Grasp of Darkness
Blightwidow
Untamed Might
Flesh Eater Imp
Corpse Cur
Mimic Vat
Phyrexian Hydra
Unnatural Predation (cut at first, glad I put it in. Won last game.)
Creeping Corrosion (cleared house fourth game)
Viridian Corrupter
Phyrexian Juggernaut
Tangle Angler
Ichor Rats
Forest/Swamp x17 combined

One of the other players helped me fine-tune it a bit and then we were ready to play. My first round of play was against a red/white aggro deck. It was fast and furious and had two Burn the Impures, which is just lethal against an infect deck. I landed some threats but they were all burned away quickly and I fell in my two matches against him. I made some misplays that might have let me hang on for the second game, but I just think my deck didn’t have much of a chance versus that type of burn.

Second round I got a bye and thus a win. Go me.

Third round I played another Red/White deck. The first game I was burned out rather quickly and done in by some Spin Engines. The second game I managed to land a decent amount of infectors, Flesh Eater Imp in particular, and got 10 poison counters on him and won. The third game I jumped ahead quickly with a slew of infectors, recurring one with a corpse cur when he was burned, and landed 9 poison counters quickly. He had a 4/4 blocker out so I hit him with a 3 power guy and then cast Virulent Wound which ended the round in my favor. Interesting postscript--several other players were talking about cards and they said “Imagine losing to Virulent Wound”. Then my opponent said, sadly, “I just did”.

The fourth round didn’t go so well for me. He was blue/green Phyrexian but no infect. I got terrible hands, even mulliganing down a ton. No avail. I seriously lost these matches in about 5 minutes. Fortunately we got to play some more since everyone else was still going long and he taught me that pile shuffling works a little better in breaking up the cards, so I did that for my next game.

Round five came and I was up against another red/white deck. Game one I landed a ton of quick infectors like Rot Wolf and just kept hitting for the win after clearing away some artifacts with a Creeping Corrosion. Game two I landed an early Mimic Vat, which got imprinted with a Corpse Cur when he was burned away. I then played Phyrexian Hydra and swung with him, but he got chumped and then burned by the Kuldotha Flamefiend that my opponent had out. So I put the hydra on the vat and sprung him out. My opponent chumped him with a 1/1 when he was at 2 poison counters so I cast Unnatural Predation which landed another 7. The he scooped.

I ended up 3-2 for the day and didn’t win anything but it was a great experience. I credit my buddy Dave for giving me some good sealed pool experience. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again soon and actually win some packs this time. Crazy set. Well worth playing. I’m glad I put the Unnatural Predation in after the guy earlier on told me to cut it. Giving the Hydra trample is just so key to winning.

Anyone else play?