Shameless Self-Promotion: Teenage Death Songs Available on eBook Today!

The first volume of <i>Teenage Death Songs</i> is available for purchase today on the following platforms. It features four dark stories for your Halloween time enjoyment.

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

iBooks

Kobo

Future volumes to follow soon.

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My Ballot: Scream Factory 2017 releases

Scream Factory, an imprint from Shout! Factory, has been on a stellar run giving Criterion-like treatment to horror films.

They just ran a poll of titles they have rights to and are considering for release in 2017. In the above picture are my votes. When the results are announced I will update this post.

I have only seen one of my choices, so it should be an exciting wait.

Review: The Mirror (2014)

The Mirror ought not be confused with, Tarkovsky’s The Mirror; or in the horror genre: Oculus, which is great, nor with Mirrors, which is not. While the title and motif does not smack of originality there is a bit of worth to find in this British fright film.

The first thing that perspective viewers should be mindful of is that it is a found footage film. Found footage as an approach is one that offers opportunity but usually is used as a shortcut to lazy filmmaking – laziness squared. The rare instances of brilliance and the attractive aspect of low budgets keep this approach popular but frequently uninspired. This film is not one of those.

The Mirror concerns itself with three London university students who are entering a contest where entrants are asked to submit videos of the supernatural. The best one receiving a cash prize. Thus, the setup for the approach but this film finds some interesting things to do with it.

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Being in the found footage realm brings with it some cursory tropes in the opening act that must be borne. It is worth sticking out the slow burn, the mostly unsuccessful comedy and improvised dialogue, and machinations of setting up all the film equipment.

Thankfully, this is not a film that is reliant on slight visions in the corners of frames but rather the performances of its cast. Jemma Dallender, Joshua Dickinson, and Nate Fallows are all excellent. Particularly Dickinson who is the first to be affected, and thus takes the mantle of the lead. The drama of this story, the boyfriend-girlfriend-best friend triad is at the heart of this tale, it is what the story’s motivations and reactions hinge on, and having believable and likable characters in the positions antagonist, protagonist, doubter, and joker is a rare treat for those familiar with the genre.

One of the usual holes that comes with the found footage territory is filled in after the fact. It’s not entirely convincing, but ultimately things stay quite plausible. The third act concludes with quite a bit of oomph.

the-mirror

Most refreshingly of all this film succeeds by removing some footage leaving some implied supernatural elements but nothing explicit, all implicit. Another thing this film doesn’t fall prey to is that it goes for it. Too many times after so slow a build the audience is left with the feeling that “That just wasn’t enough.” This does not leave you shortchanged at all.

The Mirror doesn’t reinvent the wheel but explores familiar terrain with a slightly canted vantage point that makes it engaging and chilling in appropriate doses. It’s not as shocking a move as it once was, but it does succeed in part because of the lack of scoring on the film.

7/10

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge: Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930-1960 by Laurence Raw

I originally got this book as a research volume, as such, I only read the entries that were strictly pertinent to the precise time I needed information on. The scope of this book was a bit larger, so I always knew I was likely to want to come back to it and finish it. Reading it as part of the 2016 Summer Reading Classic Film Book was a no-brainer.

The first few items of note are how handy it is and how it is organized. It is, as described on the back cover, “a biographical dictionary,” so actors that fit the bill are indexed alphabetically and their films are discussed on an individual basis. In discussing films in the same genre there are many instances of repeated filmmakers (Roger Corman and Bert I. Gordon to name to). However, actors listed frequently cross paths as well and if they are discussed in someone else’s entry and have one of their own it is denoted with capital letters. You can come back to it and have fun cross-referencing actors and titles with the help of the index. The filmography is also handy if you want to create a checklist of titles to see (like on Letterboxd for example).

Dracula's Daughter (1936, Universal)

Some of the most important aspects to note, without giving too much away, is that Raw thankfully takes all film seriously in his analysis and astutely encapsulates a performer’s type so they become more familiar sight unseen, and conversely, ring true for actors you know well. When some films discussed are B-Grade or lower you don’t want the film browbeaten on an academic level. Ideally in reading a film insights and information you may not have known should be disseminated in and interesting way – and it is.

Readers should be forewarned that the film is presented using two-column pages. Depending on proclivity this may slow the pace down some but isn’t much of an encumbrance since the book can be read straight through or piecemeal.

It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958, MGM)

While the eras encompassed in this book are a few, the presence of horror and sci-fi and its persistence in reflecting changing norms and mores and reflecting the times closely is a constant that allows for some persistent theming even if there isn’t a narrative per se. Fans of the genres, film history, and acting should look into picking up this book.

Rewind Review – Resident Evil: Afterlife

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Resident Evil: Afterlife is likely to go down as one of, if not the, worst film of this year. Whereas I was able to point out in Step Up 3 what could’ve been of more emphasis to make it a better more enjoyable film with this one I am at a loss. For the sake of full disclosure I am not one who unabashedly hates this series. I have seen all the installments and the ones previous, while teetering in the land of mediocrity (scoring 5/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively), did not lead me to believe this was in the cards.
As has been typical in the series acting took a holiday, however, given a decent amount of action a coherent plot and a story with a satisfying resolution this would be no issue. However, this film insisted on there being a lot of acting. It was a film where our protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) was alone a great deal and talked to herself quite a bit along with doing a bit of voice over. Not only that but there is a great deal of exposition done about the characters she meets each of whom has more annoying traits than the other which are carried out with varying degrees of ineptitude. Even in some very bad films there’s usually an actor you can single out and say about them “So-and-so is better than that.” That’s not the case of this movie no one rises above the material and makes an indelible impression due to the virtuosity of their acting ability.
There is at the beginning very minimal exposition which could leave those not ensconced in the mythos of this series a little at a loss but things do eventually clear up and you’ll realize there is truly nothing truly significant is going on. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine how stakes which are so high on paper can be made futile through the execution of the script and the film.

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For at least two-thirds of the film they are in a building which is surrounded by countless zombies and never have the undead been more ineffectual. You hardly ever see them except at a distance until they breach the building. They should be omnipresent we should be able to hear them rattling the fence and moaning en masse into the night but instead everyone is so terribly blasé about it you forget they exist. They fear their fellow man much more, which is all well and good in theory but none of them seem to pose a true threat that we the audience see the threats are only perceived by characters.
The characters, for the most part, are shorthand stereotypes of different types of celebrity and occupation and few have any real dimension and based on the display we get it is unlikely any of these players could convey it if they did have depth.
Another trick of the tale that we are forced to sit through which only belies the laziness and lack of imagination trying to mask itself as cleverness is a few cases of amnesia about. This film also has the unusual distinction of having the most incidences of unnecessary and unintentionally comedic slow-motion shots in the history of cinema.

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Bad is one thing, but bad and predictable is a whole other can of worms. Much of the journey is to try to find this mystical safe haven referred to Arcadia. At first it is thought to be a town in Alaska then it turns out to be a boat where there is supposedly no infection. It should be rather obvious from Alice’s landing in Alaska that the search for this haven is like Ishmael chasing Moby Dick and sure enough it is.
There is not a redeeming quality to be had in this film at all. The effects are passable and the 3D is fine, however, seeing CG that doesn’t induce laughter and 3D that doesn’t make one’s eyes hurt shouldn’t be a positive, it should be a given. This film was shot in 3D so it should look good in 3D. Not an accomplishment, that would be like complimenting a Director of Photography for having proper exposure on all his shots. That’s what’s supposed to happen.
As mentioned before this is one of the worst films of the year and one of the biggest wastes of time to boot.
1/10

Review: Bloody Knuckles

Bloody Knuckles is the kind of movie where pulling together a coherent review from the seamless insanity it is will prove quite difficult. However, I will do my best to convey to you all just how fantastic this film is.

Firstly, I try to avoid like the plague hyperbolic superlatives upon first viewing a film that I may lament later. Yet there are two such thoughts that came to mind with regards to this one that with further reflection seem to prove to be more and more true. Firstly, it is the best satirical horror/comedy since The Stuff (1985), and in a more unique feat it’s the best film featuring an anthropomorphic severed hand I’ve ever seen.

Bloody Knuckles tells the story of an underground comic book artist, Travis (Adam Boys), who believes no one deserves to be untouched if they’re fit for satirizing. After lampooning a local crime boss, Leonard Fong (Kasey Ryne Mazak). He is then targeted, and has his right hand amputated forcibly. Depressed he thinks he will never draw again until he gets an unexpected visit from his hand!

Bloody Knuckles (2014, Artsploitation Films_

The teaser of the film sets it up beautifully and my word the song choice for the opening title sequence is inspired (I will not spoil it). It’s a song that works twice as well if you know it but still fits regardless.

Next there is through the course of this film one friend who cam to mind who I would recommend it to (and did), and one person I would want to screen it for (and I hope to).

In terms of humor it is quite funny. It’s Silly, vulgar, and with a message not unlike Kevin Smith’s films. I nearly laughed through the last scene based on one joke alone.

Bloody Knuckles (2014, Artsploitation Films)

Yet even with all the irreverence to be found in the title it is also a tautly structured gem. The horror and superhero elements on point; circles closing, left, right, and center. Not only that but with silly gags the temptation to go off on a tangent can be huge. This film does not do that instead it features well thought out, useful, illuminating subplots.

Bloody Knuckles has to be considered among the best of the year, and it likely to make quite a bit of noise at the annual BAM Awards. It’s a brisk rollicking good time that doesn’t play it safe and is all the more hilarious, thought-provoking, and intriguing because of it.

10/10

Mini-Review: Exit Humanity

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Exit Humanity

Exit Humanity is a horror film that has a rather interesting take on the zombie subgenre. With the proliferation of such a genre one must contend with both fatigue and differentiating one’s own story from the crowd. In these aspects is where the film is most successful, and that’s without including the fact that this is an alternate history tale of the postbellum south. The story is an introspective one that is more concerned about those left behind after a plague of zombism, and isn’t so concerned with making the walking dead of this tale a metaphor. Yes, there is a somewhat different spin to the cause and the history, but that ends up being more a narrative necessity than a focus.

With a fairly original take the film is setup to succeed and does, but only barely. Where the film struggles most is in terms of balance. The score is really good but at times only in isolation, at times it’s too intrusive and too intense. There is some wonderfully florid voice-over, but at times it’s too much, and at other times the scene would’ve been better demonstrated visually than through monologue. The film does have its twists and turns that are rather surprising, but after some of those unusual decisions some quickening of pace is needed so that it doesn’t feel aimless.

The film never really lost me as a viewer, however, it had me reeled in at times and let go just a little bit due to some of these inconsistencies. I don’t want to over-accentuate them because I do still like the film, but feel it easily could’ve been something truly special had certain edits been made. It’s worth watching for fans of the genre for sure. I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if some professed greater admiration for it than I do, especially considering some of the touches it employs such as animation, colored shots and top-notch make-up effects.

7/10

Mini-Review: The Thompsons

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Thompsons

Essentially part of the criteria for falling through the cracks in one year is cognizance. The release date on video for this film was 12/31, which made it a tough one to acquire and view before the end of the year.

This film reaches an honorable and rare duality of being a sequel that one could watch without having seen its predecessor (The Hamiltons) and that continues the trajectory of a series properly. This sequel builds upon its own vampire myth, which is one whose origin is genetic rather than viral. What this film does infinitely better than its predecessor is build mystery, and suspense but also has reveals and significant plot points at a persistent pace. The necessary information, both new and old, is relayed quickly enough such that the raising of stakes happens early and often. You also have here a rather unusual paradigm wherein humanity is the outside world and you’re purely in a vampiric world. What The Thompsons does is firmly establish a foothold for the Buthcer Brothers’ concept in the genre, one that should be supported by those who like seeing new takes on old creatures, and specifically, want vampires to be brutal.

8/10

Mini-Review: Penumbra

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Penumbra

What Penumbra attempts to do is something I can definitely appreciate. How it goes about trying to do it is what I really have a problem with. It overplays its hand in some regards and is a bit too broad in the portrayal of its protagonist, her dialogue a bit too blunt; not to mention the scenes that set-up the gotcha ending that only play more annoyingly once everything is revealed. It’s an interesting examination of the Spanish-Argentine dynamic but many other recent co-productions layer horror, colonial antagonism and modern Latin America’s socioeconomic climate better than this does, combine that with its failings as a horror film and it becomes quite bothersome indeed.

4/10

Short Film Saturday: Bedfellows

Introduction

No, Short Film Saturday is not over. When scheduling in advance I had horror films slated for the 61 Days of Halloween slot, and wasn’t watching many other shorts so there was a hiatus. When I watch some more I’ll keep the schedule filled. Enjoy. 

Bedfellows

At this point it’s likely you’ve discovered this film. However, one of the issues that the Internet presents is that “If it’s not new, it’s not worth it” seems to be the mantra. This is a highly effective, creepy short worth your few minutes.