61 Days of Halloween- It! The Terror from Beyond Space

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if the film Alien was made in the 1950s well then It! The Terror from Beyond Space is for you. When you boil it down the premise is the same: an alien being is on a spacecraft and is attacking the crew. The treatment is different, however, but no less compelling.

Firstly, it bears mentioning that being made in the 1950s all the sci-fi trappings of the age are there to an extent but it is all very well done. Most of the would-be effects are shot practically and look pretty darn impressive from the planet to the launch to the spacewalk. The creature is also another great example of filmmaking at the time and is a really effective suit.

The claustrophobic environment of the tale is really what makes it excel. What kicks it off though is that this is a rescue mission and one man is being transported back to Washington to a face a court martial as he is suspected of murder and the stories of a monster are dismissed. This is a great dramatic device to kickstart the tale.

It also introduces a frame to the tale as the film starts and ends with a press conference first stating the mission of the newly launched ship and then announcing the findings the crew reported and placing an appropriate coda on the film.

Another interesting technique is that like in Jaws there are sparing glimpses of the creature at first. Only seeing its feet or the damage it left behind or hearing it down below the main level. It allows for the imagination to actively engage in the tale.

Once all the crew members believe there is a creature you almost always hear it or know where it is giving this creature near omnipresence in the tale which is rare.

The conclusion of this tale is also very satisfying not only in the clever manner in which the creature is defeated but also with the news conference coda which allows for one last scare in the film as only could be done in the 1950s. It is definitely worth viewing.

8/10

Mini-Review Round-Up #5

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Beaver

Riley Thomas Stewart and Mel Gibson in The Beaver (Summit)

One of the quirkiest films I’ve seen this year. It’s a bit inconsistent towards the latter half of the second act but overall it’s effective and all the laughs about the situation are intended. Mel Gibson does a fantastic job in this film. It’s perhaps Foster’s best directorial turn but not her strongest story. The tightness of the cast, few ancillary characters, helps this film connect.

7/10

Super

Ellen Paige and Rainn Wilson in Super (IFC Midnight)

A truly odd little film that can’t escape comparisons to Kick-Ass. While it never does metamorphose fully into a superhero film (and that’s fine) its quirk never really clicks as well as it should and the resolution (meaning the denouement not the climax) is a bit unsatisfying. A very good performance by Rainn Wilson but the film could’ve been much better.

6/10

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet)

This is one of the few true horror/comedy films because of the very simple and ingenious use of perception and knowledge. We know everything that’s going on therefore we can laugh despite how horrific it is that Tucker and Dale and the college kids never understand one another. It also works like horror film with a classic and funny backstory. It’s truly a treat that ought to be seen by fans of both genres.

10/10

Red State

James Parks in Red State (SModcast Pictures)

I’m sorry but I just do not understand all the vitriol about Kevin Smith. You can say what you like about his P.T. Barnum act with taking this film on the road and the rest of it but I think this is solid stuff and very different than all his prior works. It has a horror aspect, occasional laughs, political overtones and some darn solid acting from James Parks, Kyle Gallner and Michael Angarano. Most of them being involved plus hockey makes Hit Somebody something to look forward to indeed.

9/10

Bereavement

Brett Rickaby in Bereavement (Crimson Films/Anchor Bay)

It’s hard to know where to start (or to stop) talking about Bereavement. It is quite simply a symphony of horror. Though I take back nothing I said about Insidious or Hatchet on Twitter this is the most blown away by a horror film that I’ve been since I first saw Frailty. Spencer List’s dialogueless but significant role in this film is strong enough to make me reconsider my Creepiest Kids in Supporting Roles list. For Stevan Mena as an auteur this is a true tour-de-force as he directs, writes and scores this film brilliantly. It’s one of the deepest casts in a horror film I’ve seen in a long time and one of the few I’ve seen after reaching my Age of Cynicism regarding horror were nothing feels safe or sacred.

10/10

61 Days of Halloween- Hatchet for the Honeymoon

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon

***Spoilers herein***

Stephen Forsyth in Hatchet for the Honeymoon (Reel Media International)

The customer reviews of Hatchet for the Honeymoon on Netflix were wildly varied such that it dissuaded me from seeing it for a while. The difficulty being that I don’t have much of a track record with Mario Bava aside from the breathtaking Black Sunday so it was hard to decide (True at the time now I’ve seen many of his films). It’s not like there’s an established relationship like with Dario Argento I know I will watch them all even if I have to grin and bear it through some.

Having said all that I will give this film a pass but if you haven’t seen Bava it is definitely not the title you should start off with. What is interesting about it is that it deals with a mutating madness. In fact, the film starts with our protagonist announcing via voice over narration that he is mad. We soon learn his modus operandi but we also eventually see that he is being compelled that with each murder he is unearthing part of a repressed memory of what happened to his mother.

Now what happened to her ends up being not so mysterious which is why there’s a twist in store after he kills his wife which makes this film interesting and watchable even through some of the somewhat messy cinematography and subpar sound work. Someone in this man’s life still has a hold over him.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is by no means terrific but it is worth a gander if you are so inclined. It definitely makes up for some of its deficiencies with a deliriously myopic view of a madman where murder and mayhem are commonplace.

6/10

Review: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D

Mason Cook, Joel McHale, Jessica Alba and Rowan Blanchard in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (Dimension Films)

Here’s another case where compartmentalization is key. In My Rating Scale I try and stress that I am grading each and every film on what it is and not against every other film in the world. Meaning, I will not downgrade a film simply because I cannot live in a world where both See no Evil, Hear No Evil and Touch of Evil have the same score. In fact, I live in world where they do. I think they’re both brilliant in their own way. Which is just another way to introduce the fact that I will rate a Spy Kids film (or a Rodriguez family film) as such and not against El Mariachi or other films in this genre.

Having said that I do like this film. It’s not better than the first but it’s better than the third at the very least. There is in its circularity a cohesion to the narrative that one might not necessarily appreciate through the CG and 3D. Not to say that there’s any subtlety here but the theme seems more unified and more parallel than it has in most other installments it just doesn’t always seem like it is.

Reboots can be a tricky thing. Whether you’re just restarting a story with new characters or re-casting those characters you’re finding new actors to fit the archetypes that have made the franchise work. The most resoundingly successful aspect of this Spy Kids film is the new kids in the persons of Mason Cook and Rowan Blanchard. While they each show some echoes of their predecessors they have characters and abilities uniquely their own. Cook has a quiet depth and Blanchard an unpretentious spunkiness that make this new tandem a worthy rival of Vega and Sabara who themselves have very humorous and effective supporting roles in the film. Also, very entertaining in this film is Jeremy Piven whose interpretation is as funny as it is wild and he becomes a rather memorable villain in the series because of it.

One note of warning to send out there those that are not fans of potty humor best stay away from this film as it is most definitely the more pronounced in this film than ever. As a whole the story is enjoyable and moves quickly except for those parts where it circles around the drain, so to speak, before making that final connection. One piece of that puzzle is kind of apparent at the very beginning but I think even if you do get ahead of it it’s not likely to ruin it.

The effects work is somewhat stepped up here and holds up better to the 3D than the previous edition did. This is where most of the creativity in the film shines through.

While I will defend Robert Rodriguez in principle as it is his right, much as William Castle saw it as his duty, to create a fun gimmick to promote his film, the fact of the matter is the Aroma-Scope just does not work. I saw the movie twice at two completely separate theatres. The cards all have a unified odor and it’s hard to get those squares to smell like something different and when they do they rarely smell like what they’re supposed to be. However, that only detracts from the film minutely. Even if the smells were brilliantly accurate it’s still distracting you from the film (you look down, find the number, scratch and sniff). So no real damage done there.

Overall, I think that this film will definitely win over fans of the series, myself being one of them I was more than a bit skeptical when I first heard about it and I think that it will also create many new fans in its target audience. Moreover, I think that it ends on a note where growth of the story and the franchise is yearned for and not a place where you think potential has been maximized. Should the new generation continue it will do so in stronger films.

7/10

Review- Dolphin Tale

Nathan Gamble in Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.)

It’s impossible not to like a film like Dolphin Tale. While many of its story elements and motifs are tried and true it does find an interesting way to combine them and bring this dramatized version of a real life story to life very effectively. The only things that can really be cited as negatives about the film are that the edit isn’t as tight as it could be notably some scenes could be excised and there is that familiarity of certain elements and an air of predictability.

In spite of all that, however, the film does excel in creating an emotionally engaging experience that plays like a new age low key Free Willy (Yes, I know that was an Orca), which is a very good thing indeed. What is meant by that is that Winter, the female dolphin in question, is very much at the center of the film and it’s just as much about her as anyone but there’s also a connection between a boy and the animal and we understand and admire this connection without the histrionics the former employed. Not to say that Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) has a perfect home life but not everything in this film is extreme, the problems are more grounded, real and easier to identify with.

One of the more refreshing things about the film is that the social consciousness is already a fabric of the story so it never needs to be awkwardly commented upon as what starts Sawyer’s fascination with marine life is visiting Winter at a rehabilitation center. So unlike some films that deal with animals there’s not an iota of concern about characters domesticating, using them for sport or any other things that would detract from the purity of the fascination.

Another danger of animal related films is that the human characters, some but not all, are less developed and subservient and this doesn’t occur in this film. The editing choices mentioned at the beginning would not be anything that relates to the characters because you learn about all the characters in this film and see them build relationships and unite for a common goal and you become invested in the outcome for all their sakes and not just for the protagonist, which isn’t a frequent occurrence.

Learning about characters can be a delight or a chore depending on the strength of the cast. The cast of this film made it delightful. First, there’s the young lead Nathan Gamble who is the best young actor whom you’ve seen but can’t name. He’s been in such films as Marley & Me, The Dark Knight and The Mist. While his role here isn’t the most challenging he certainly does carry it with the deft of a veteran. The surprise of the film is debutante Cozi Zuehlsdorff who plays his friend Hazel and possesses unteachable ease and charm onscreen.

The adult core gives you solid expected performances from the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman but the surprise of that bunch is Austin Stowell. Stowell is an actor who looks the parts of wannabe swimmer and war veteran but has emotional range. He should be taking roles from Channing Tatum over the the next few years.

This is a 3D film, however, the screening I attended was in 2D. It was shot 3D and not post-converted so I plan on seeing it as such. You may want to do the same for a break down of real versus fake 3D check this site.

Dolphin Tale is a film that effectively creates the world of its story and it is a very pleasant place to go for a visit. You will find yourself engaged in it and moved by it. I believe that much like Soul Surfer (but maybe with fewer detractors) it will win over audiences for many weeks to come.

8/10

61 Days of Halloween- Crawlspace

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Crawlspace

David Schmoeller on set with Klaus Kinski. (Empire Pictures)

Crawlspace is the kind of film that just misses. What is worse is that it wastes the talents of Klaus Kinski. He does as much as he can in a role that isn’t quite up to snuff for an actor of his caliber. The issue with the character ends up being one of the ones with the film. While the voice over is well written too much of what we know about our lead is learned through it, such that it renders more nebulous than necessary the one motif it leaves as mostly visual.

The set up is all well and good, to an extent. Things are little vague but you do get a quick kill and a sense of the mania that infests this man’s mind.

Although somewhat clumsily introduced the information we find and some of the scenes we watch are rather compelling. Particularly the confrontations with a man seeking justice for the death of his brother. Where things come apart for good are during the climax as there is a very awkward crawling chase through the ventilation system that takes far too long.

Aside from that the film spends an overwhelming amount of time with Kinski’s character, which is fine but there is not enough time spent with who we are supposed to root for at the end. Moreover, her one major appearance in the middle portion of the film, while intellectually accurate (maybe), doesn’t endear her to us. It’s a film that’s setting you up for a very macabre ending but then asks you to root for the same old, same old when it hasn’t really been earned.

5/10

61 Days of Halloween- Genesis

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Genesis

Genesis (Waken Productions)

If the aforementioned Aftermath is not your cup of tea you needn’t worry because you can still stream the prodigious talent of Nacho Cerda by watching Genesis. Immediately you are shown a list of awards this film has one so you are clued in that this is a different sort of ride.

While managing to be agonizingly beautiful this film will forever redefine the lyric by Elton John “If I was a sculptor…but then again, no” as a weird symbiosis between sculptor and statue is formed.

This is a film that redefines the living statue but also excels in filmmaking prowess. The original score and cinematography work in perfect harmony to heighten the drama of the tale. Here again the effects are great as we see a metamorphosis slowly building.

Through creatively lit and cut together dream sequences the subject of the statue is given meaning as this tale isn’t whimsical as many which feature the motif and adds additional information to the transformation scenes. These scenes end with a wonderful POV shot.

Again Cerda puts his protagonist alone and in solitary work so he need not speak. Here again Cerda creates sort of a gruesome fascination in what is going on in the film, in this film especially I was reminded of my first viewing of Hellraiser. Yes, I did just liken Cerda to Clive Barker that is the height of effectiveness that these short films reach.

While there may be a shot or two extra at the end that could’ve been judiciously trimmed or lost this is still a brilliant piece of work and one that can be appreciated by a much wider audience than Aftermath.

9/10

61 Days of Halloween- Aftermath

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Aftermath

Aftermath (Waken productions)

Both this film and the next one, Genesis, are a prime example of why streaming video is an absolute boon and why Netflix and the studios should reach as many agreements as necessary to free up material for streaming. If more is available more hidden gems are available to stream.

Such is the case with the short films of Nacho Cerda. Now I will rarely do this but it bares saying that due to the subject matter and the disturbingly realistic way in which it is depicted viewer discretion is advised and there is no circumstance in which anyone under 18 should be watching Aftermath. The weak of heart and stomach need not apply.

There is no dialogue in Aftermath, with the quick cuts and pans at the beginning of the film combined with the classical music score there is a lyrical terror that mounts in this film. What is most affecting in this film is that there is no escape, redemption or refuge offered.

So you know what we’re dealing with here the film tells the tale of a woman who has died in a car accident and the events that transpire in a morgue when one deranged mortician is left alone with her and proceeds to both mutilate and defile her.

Both the practical effects and sound effects in this film are great and get under your skin before you even realize where this film is taking you. This is the kind of film that works on you psychologically because the terror is real and relatable and all you can hope for the victim is some sort of divine intervention and it doesn’t come. It’s the kind of film that will burn itself in your mind and it is masterfully crafted.

There is a sort of perverse refraction of visual themes between the first scene and the last and a cruel little twist that punctuates and compounds the terror that has just unfolded.

10/10

61 Days of Halloween- Homicidal

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Homicidal

Jean Arless and Eugenie Lenotovich in Homicidal (William Castle Productions)

Homicidal is worth seeing for showmanship alone. William Castle was one of the great marketers in the history of cinema. Aside from putting together an impressive resume of hits he also had some of the legendary gimmicks in the history of the medium.

His marketing genius is shown in full force here in his response to Hitchcock’s Psycho. First, there is Castle himself introducing the film but there is also a “Fright Break” in which three quarters of the way through the film a clock appears on screen to countdown a minute allowing anyone who is too scared to keep watching the film to leave.

Having said all that the film is very much worth seeing. It has a twist that I fell for hook, line and sinker. What’s more is that it is alluded to very theatrically in the end credits. If you’re into film pairings you should see this one and A Blade in the Dark back-to-back.

It also is bloody for its time and is bloodier than its predecessor and has a very different kind of twist in store than Psycho had. Interestingly enough this film does have a MacGuffin of its own which plays out very quickly compared to its predecessor. Comparisons aside it is a film that ends up standing on its own and it worth watching based on its own merits.

8/10

61 Days of Halloween- Santa’s Slay

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Santa’s Slay

What actually prompted me to watch Santa’s Slay was an article. When you list a movie as being so bad it must be seen then I’m interested, regardless of that fact that an evil Santa is already of interest. I must say that I am most grateful for that article for finally convincing me to see it. Now I will say this it while it doesn’t make the grade as a good movie it is also not a waste of time and rather enjoyable as a bad film, it’s not Troll 2 but then again what is?

Now most of why I can’t go there and say this film is good is the story which while original is lacking. Let’s put it this way Santa has been prevented from going on a homicidal rampage for 1000 years because he lost a game to an angel, a game which can most accurately be described as curling, while I have come to love curling had I known the fate of mankind hinged on it I would’ve started watching it at a younger age. It’s hard to tell whether that’s so bad it’s good. Yet, Santa is also a demon and the result of an immaculate conception which was initiated by, in my best Church Lady voice, Satan!

The dialogue is also a double-edged sword some of it is very tin-eared, all of Santa’s lines are a punny mess but some are home runs and absolutely hysterical.

The casting in certain places is very off. The opening scene is a who’s who of “Really? You’re in this movie?” featuring James Caan, Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan but for some reason Santa is played by wrestler-turned-actor Bill Goldberg. Yet the cast isn’t without its highlights like Douglas Smith as the hero. Smith who has always done very well with whatever part he’s landed but just hasn’t gotten anything as high profile as his older brother Greg.

There is a countdown, which due to the actual short running time of this film, seems a bit rushed. However, that’s the only real issue of pace. If there’s one thing you can give this film without qualification is that it doesn’t have any struggles with pace at all.

Another bonus in this film is, while it’s not particularly well done, there is a little Rankin & Bass style animation sequence to illustrate the backstory of Santa and the Angel’s agreement.

And, yes, it does need to be said that some of the kills are quite good and funny so this film does keep a sense of humor about itself and doesn’t have any pretensions about it which makes it watchable and to an extent enjoyable.

5/10