Archive for the horror Category

‘The Mummy’: Trying way too hard

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Historical, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2017 by aliciamovie

themummy

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Studio: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG 13
Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Spoilers will unravel your bandages!

So way back in good old Egyptian times, we had a Princess. She was Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), and she was meant to rule the land of Egypt after her father Pharoah was gone, right? Wrong! Despite all her training and destiny and junk, as soon as her father had a son, all bets are off and Princess Ahmanet goes from would-be Demigoddess of Egypt to vengeful demon-summoning killer witch. She makes a deal with the Egyptian equivalent of the Devil, in this particular movies’ case the Egyptian God Set is the chosen evil one, and does the whole offering up her life and soul bit in exchange for power to crush her enemies and lay waste to humanity. Like Egyptians do, yknow.

Obviously Pharoahs court takes issue with these plans, and a bunch of Priests manage to subdue Ahmanet and truck her mummified-alive body far away from Egypt, to be buried in a very thorough prison hopefully for all eternity. Now, some thousands of years later, former military guy turned treasure-hunting thief Nick Morton and his pal Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are off in war-torn Iraq to track down rumors of a great relic hoard, and of course stumble across Ahmanet’s un-resting place.

Aided by Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), a proclaimed archaeologist whom Nick is already far too familiar with, the uncovered crypt is explored and of course everyone wants to take the recovered sarcophagus back to London for study. Elsewhere in London is a mass tomb of Knights Templars, who apparently had dealings with Egypt so long ago and were familiar with the legend of Ahmanet to the point where they separated her sacred dagger of Set from its summoning stone, to prevent her from unleashing evil on the world. Ahmanet’s already chosen her new Chosen One, the man whom she’ll sacrifice to get Set into the world, and as was inevitable, her choice has fallen on Nick. Some killer birds in a Hitchcockian style later, and the plane carrying the sarcophagus has fallen from the sky, only to have an unharmed Nick wake in the freaking morgue.

And hey, it just so happens that that Templar crypt where the gemstone of the Set dagger was hidden, is nearby-ish. At this point there’s been a fair amount of action sequences, what with falling out of the plane and the car ride through mummy-infested forests and all. Then we have a whole bunch of confrontation at the crypt itself, where I couldn’t help but question the plausibility that Mummy-Ahmanet could command the undead Knights to rise and serve her, but whatever – it looks awesome. And that’s what matters, right? This Universal rebooting their entire monster-verse movie seems to think so for much of it. But then, right in the middle of some nifty fighting scenes, Ahmanet actually gets taken and in walks Russell Crowe’s character, who turns out to be, wait for it, Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Yes, that Dr. Jekyll, as we see when he shoots up his treatment of preventing-Hyde juice, even while talking to Nick. His lab and holding facility, especially the specimen room (that tellingly shows, among other things, a Creature from the Black Lagoon arm and a vampire fanged skull in jars) is among some of the best storyline scenes in the movie. So the good-bad Doc has trussed Ahmanet up so he can study her, which will of course mean eventual dissection, as Jekyll tries to rationally explain to Nick, who doesn’t take too kindly to being used as a hunting dog. That the Demon Mummy Queen would get out of this setup and wreak havoc was inevitable, but it made most of Jekyll’s supposedly grand defenses look weak and ill-prepared for an actual capture.

Eventually, after much running and fighting and swimming (yes, I know, just go with it), it comes down to Nick having to make a very heavy choice. Will he finally grow a soul, and perhaps a pair too, and do the right thing at the cost of himself? Will he join the evil Mummy Goddess and rule the world? The answer may surprise you, it made me raise an eyebrow.

Yes, the visuals and the Mummy CGI and the fight scenes are all spectacular, you bet. The story itself is kind of all over the place, including bits and pieces from earlier Mummy origin films but struggling to stay true to its own particular style. Where the whole thing stumbles hard is Cruises’ character Nick. We all know TC is an action star, there’s no debating that. It’s just that the character the movie has him play, is so empty, so totally devoid of originality or anything resembling a personality, literally anyone could play him. We didn’t need T.C. in the Mummy reboot to love it, the Universal folks seem to be trying a little too hard. Supposedly this movie is meant to reboot the entire Universal monsters movie line, but perhaps we can hope the next one is a little less bombastic. Rumor has it the next scheduled Dark Universe monster movie scheduled is Bride of Frankenstein, so we’ll see.

Dig up the newest curse of The Mummy in theaters now!

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‘Alien Covenant’: Not Another Movie Blockbuster Like ‘Alien’

Posted in Action, drama, Fantasy, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2017 by aliciamovie

Alien covenant

Reviewed by Alicia Glass 

Director: Ridley Scott

Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Spoilers will eat your backbone!

The colony spaceship Covenant is out here on a 7-year journey to Origae-6, a giant terra-forming monster staffed by a skeleton crew of 15 or so with a bunch of others asleep in cryo-stasis, and inevitably, one synthetic crew member to help this whole process along. The synthetic crewman, Walter, who just so happens to look exactly like Michael Fassbender’s David from ‘Prometheus’, is in charge of the entire ship’s maintenance, including the crew’s own cryo-pods and the embryo storage, while the crew is asleep. In the midst of malfunctions and space issues, a nearby planet is discovered to be potentially everything they were looking for, for terra-forming colonization purposes, which prompts a landing party but also the speculation, if this planet has everything we need, why wasn’t it included in the list of potential habitats when we began this venture?

We, those of us who dutifully sat through ‘Prometheus’ and tried to understand how the hell it connects to the ‘Alien’ films, could’ve told the terra-formers why: that planet from the prequel of a prequel movie, where we lost Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and damn near everyone else, where David is now holed up plotting revenge, the place crawling with proto-Xenomorph species, that’s the planet our heroes just discovered. The film dutifully even lays it out for the audience as the landing party goes exploring on the ground, how there’s no animal life of any kind, no birds either, not even insects really, well that’s because the seriously dominant predatory species wiped them all out. And that predatory virus has begun to infect members of the landing party already.

There is absolutely no quarantine that will save them now, and believe me, the landing party did try. I understand being completely frazzled and terrified by this albino monster in your midst that just exploded out of a guys’ spinal column, but the spaghetti gags of slipping in the blood pool twice and blowing up your own damn drop ship by randomly firing on the fuel tanks hoping to score a kill clearly demonstrates that maybe these colonists aren’t exactly humanities’ first draft pick. And it’s here, when all hope looks lost, that a savior that really isn’t shows up and saves the remaining landing party survivors, one of whom is mercifully the synthetic Walter. It’s only an actual mercy for Walter though, because David the synthetic from ‘Prometheus’, as the savior turns out to be, is as we all know far from merciful when it comes to humans. (Of course, the sterile opening scene between David and Peter Weyland makes a bit more sense now.)

Normally I’d be all for racial representation and freedom of an oppressed class of any kind, but but but, come on y’all. I find it hard to swallow that so many years ago when Ridley Scott basically spawned an entire new generation of Scifi-Horror with the original ‘Alien’ movie, he meant to have all this stuff tied together by a pissed-off synthetic robot. Legend has it, and this is somewhat supported if you watch the ‘Alien vs. Predator’ movies, that the alien species Xenomorphs were either discovered by or actually created by the Predators themselves, who seeded the baddies across the worlds as the ultimate hunting prey; I like that explanation soooo much better than this.

Synthetics have always had a large or at least significant role in the ‘Alien’ films, more often than not as reluctant bad guys. Sir Ian Holm as Ash was an utter amazement, Lance Henriksen blew me away as Bishop (and as older Weyland, don’t forget that), even Winona Ryder as Cole got to hang with the ultimate hybrid. But Michael Fassbender’s David does seem to rather revel in being a villain, and indeed, as he proceeds to just wipe the hell out of the Prometheus progenitor species the Engineers with the nastiest virus we can think of, we can see him smile. And sure, he has plenty reason to hold a grudge, who knows how long he served in slavery to those that built him; I do understand that. But existing in seclusion for more than ten years specifically to cultivate that same virus and prod along the evolution of the Xenomorph proto-species so that it can go out in the expanded universe and just kill kill kill and destroy everything in its path, is a bit much. When David gives the Ozymandias speech to Walter, I was reminded of a ‘Dogma’ quote: “Don’t allow eons of history and life to be blinked out of being just because you’ve got a grudge against your Creator.”

A great deal of time is spent on the odd relationship between Walter and David, and that whole flute-playing scene struck me as practically synthetic masturbation. Which would have been fine, I guess, if it had led anywhere profound or even subtle, which as far as I could tell it rather didn’t. Like any proud mustache-twirling villain, David leads one of the surviving humans around his personal laboratory, showing a decades worth of sketches (one of which was an attempt at an early Giger-like style and annoyed me because of it) and research into making the virus proto-creature the ultimate end-product of prodded evolution. To which I must ask, if one was going to make the ultimate evolutionary predator like the Xenomorph, why not give it eyes? Just a thought; we go on. The poor trusting fool got a face-ful of facehugger and before you can say bob’s your uncle, we have a fully-grown black Xenomorph of the type we all love and remember terrorizing everyone.

The scenes of Daniels hanging on by a single cable to the drop-ship fighting the fully realized Xenomorph is one of the few reminiscent of beloved Ripley from the entire movie, and yet looks rather unbelievable due to being shown in daylight with nothing but CGI-laden monster effects. Far as I could tell, the whole movie suffers from this same problem: when the Xenomorphs are finally shown, it’s nothing but CGI effects, no person in a monster suit only enhanced by CGI. (I know, it’s a long-standing issue of mine – I love practical effects.)

That’s another thing the movie suffers from: way too much of a good thing, as far as advanced movie-making techniques go. Just because you can use a thing, it’s totally available for use now when it was only a mere thought exercise thirty-odd years ago, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when trying to tie the clunky monitor green readouts of the original ‘Alien’ to the sleek and polished chrome-and-white-goddamn-everything of ‘Prometheus’. It honestly feels like the two halves of this particular movie-verse don’t belong together no matter what Ridley Scott does or says, and as much as there are a few good “’Aliens’ like we remember it!” moments, this is likely never going to become the fan favorite. Potentially even more reviled than the wishy-washy ‘Alien: Resurrection’, ‘Alien: Covenant’ will make you want to scream, and not in a good way.

See how the alien world began with ‘Alien: Covenant’ in theaters now!

SDCC 2017 ‘Colony’: The Enemy of my Enemy

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, horror, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2017 by aliciamovie

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By Alicia Glass

Welcome back to our alien invasion occupation, already in progress! Season Two of the USA hit Colony brought us way more intrigue, betrayal, and sacrifice than the first season, and it all culminated in total rendition of the Los Angeles bloc! The Bowmans have survived mostly intact but forever altered, gained new allies and enemies, and further embroiled themselves in the mess of collaboration versus resistance!

The Colony panel of Comic-con 2017 featured Josh Holloway (Will Bowman), Sarah Wayne Callies (Katie Bowman), Peter Jacobson (Snyder), Tory Kittles (Broussard), and Executive Producers Carlton Cuse, Wes Tooke, and Ryan Condal.

Josh Holloway is obviously one of the major heroes of the show, despite his being forced to collaborate, and though the journey for his character in particular through Season Two was dark and hard, “Will went through Hell, and I loved it. Season Two really elevated everything on the show and it was amazing, but I’m glad to be out of that suit and away from those bloodsuckers I was working for.”

Sarah Wayne Callies is a fan favorite purveyor of strong female characters on several shows she’s already been in, same with her character Katie Bowman on Colony. She waxed poetic on the brutal choices Katie Bowman had to make in Season Two, “Is it better to die standing than to live on your knees, yes absolutely, but it’s also a question of what General do you follow into battle? I think one of the big challenges of Season One and going into Season Two, had to do with the costs of waging that war, and in whom do you place your trust? Quail was not a man worthy of that trust, and so I think over Season Two you have the evolution of Katie leaning more and more into Broussard’s leadership, which itself evolves into something more of a partnership.”

And speaking of Broussard, Tory Kittles talked about the more in-depth role his character played in Season Two: “It’s such a grey area with all the characters, the morality changes. Like he (Broussard) was playing both sides to get information, and that does something to a person, to a character. And then he found himself working with Will Bowman, which I don’t think he thought would ever happen, in this world and under these circumstances. Everything is changing, not only for him but for all the characters. At the heart of him I know he’s a good guy, I think he’s doing it for all the right reasons, but sometimes he might be … excessive.” Only when asked where he would like to his character go on the show, did he laughingly reply, “Hopefully to Season Ten!”

Peter Jacobson, who plays everyones’ favorite weasel character Snyder on the show, tried to convince the crowd and himself of Snyder’s survival-only intentions. “It’s so fun to play a morally complex character; I can thank the writers for making me a character to play in that ‘who the hell is he?’ kind of zone, which Snyder really does. For me as an actor, Snyder doesn’t think ‘oh I’m a bad guy,’ no, he’s a master survivor, he will do whatever the hell it takes to survive. He’s not your sort of typical Snidely Whiplash kind of villain, and I think that’s really compelling, that he’s just a normal guy.”

Callies went on to speak proudly of her character Katie Bowman and her great strengths: “There are moments where she seems to be willing to put her own children at risk, in order to take a stand, for all of the children of the bloc. It’s a really complicated space to inhabit as a parent, but also as a woman. By and large in our storytelling, women are defined by our ability to be faithful to our husband, and saintly to our children. And to have a woman who, from the outset, is willing to be devious with her husband and to put her own childrens needs at least on par with the other children of the bloc; I just think its one of the most interesting female characters I’ve ever had the chance to play.”

Newcomer to this years panel Executive Producer Wes Tooke talked about having a clear vision for where the show wanted to go in Season Two, and how it will lead to a seriously more dynamic Season Three. “The challenge of Season Two is how do we create something that’s emotionally engaging, tells a great story and sets us up for where we want to go and the huge leap we want to make to Season Three, which is going to dramatically re-frame the entire show.”

Colony mainstay Ryan Condal spoke of the fascinating challenges in creating such a story for television and the lead-in to Season Three: “We’ve always seen the show as being a series of concentric rings of story, so Season One had to be small, we’re seeing this world through the singular point of view of the Bowman family. But now the show has evolved and we’re now twenty-three episodes into it and we have another thirteen episodes coming this year, so we’re able to expand out those rings and see the world larger and different, more diverse, points of view. There are things that are yet to be revealed, and there are things we’ve given you already, so I would challenge you to go back and take another look (before Season Three airs). There’s a lot of big answers to come, and (after the showing of Season Three preview exclusive to Comic-Con) you’ll have a really good sense of all the big questions that you’re probably asking yourself, and us, right now, will be revealed pretty early in Season Three.”

The panel went through fan questions and ended with a quest for hardy SDCC-goers: the  picture below, along with coordinates and the code-phrase “The enemy of my enemy” was flashed on the big screen, so make of it what you will, Colony fans.

Colony_S3ConceptArt_Final 700

Catch the expanding world of Colony on USA in 2018!

‘Wish Upon’: We hate high school, too

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2017 by aliciamovie

wishupon

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: John R. Leonetti

Studio: Broad Green Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Spoilers are in the box!

A high school girl discovers a Chinese wishing box that actually grants her wishes – with horrific consequences!

Okay, so Clare Shannon (Joey King) is your very typical Carrie-like put-upon high school girl. A pair of devoted outcast friends (anyone else recognize Barb?!), bitchy H.S. rival enemies, a toooootally embarrassing father, and that angsty artistic temperament all lead to a depressed but relatable girl lead. Clare’s mom killed herself with that old hangin’ rope right at the beginning of the movie, but it sure looked like she had the wishing box first, which leads to all kinds of interesting speculations. Clare and her dad are noticeably poor, and Jonathon Shannon (Ryan Phillipe) dumpster-diving for treasure right in plain view of Clare’s school sure doesn’t help. The only real comfort in Clare’s life is her dog, given to her as the last legacy of her beloved and missed mother. And this is where we begin.

So inevitably, Jonathon found the wishing box on some dumpster dive and gave it to Clare to try and apologize for being embarrassing. And quite soon after that, the H.S. bitch that gives Clare such a hard time gave Clare an extra-hard time, and it’s one wish down. You really should be more careful with your wording, little leading lady, but then again, wishing for someone to go rot opens up all sorts of fine body-Horror opportunities for the movie. As much fun as it is to hear that bitch-fest is in the hospital, Clare needs to learn that all magic, especially of this magnitude, comes at a price. First up to go is Clare’s beloved dog, and of course Clare is devastated.

But not devastated enough to stop wishing, oh no. Our lead just happens to take Chinese language classes in high school (when did that become a curriculum option?) and so learns she’s offered seven wishes from the pretty box that plays haunting music at odd times after Clare’s made her wishes. Like any common put-upon high school girl, Clare’s wishes continue to be selfish in the extreme, whether it be insisting the handsome boy she’s had a thing for since elementary school fall head over heels for her, or turning the death of a neighbor into a windfall of cash and extravagance for her, her father and her two closest friends June and Meredith (Shannon Purser & Sydney Park), but the sacrifices are beginning to pile up and become impossible to ignore or explain away.

A friend from Chinese class, Ryan (Ki Hong Lee), with a super-obvious crush on Clare offers to take the box to his cousin for better language translation, who of course soon after gets spiked for her trouble. Even with the super-nasty death of one of her two true friends, and the very real possibility of the death of her father, Clare can’t seem to rid herself of the box, by means fair, foul, or even necessary. Her insistence she knows what to do, how to “fix everything” and rid herself of the box simultaneously, is a pretty standard “gotcha!” Horror trope by now, so we can all guess what happened to poor Clare after that. Still, the ending of the film was a nice little ba-zing! for fans, myself included, who thought Clare needed to get what was coming to her.

With a plot very much like The Craft and a bunch of zany death scenes that strongly echo the style of the Final Destination films, Wish Upon is a very good movie for a new generation of Horror fans to begin a lifelong obsession. (Though seriously, Ryan Phillipe in the Dad role makes me feel old.) Given the PG-13 rating and the eternal high school drama that Carrie ever despaired of, Wish Upon is a burgeoning entry into the Horror world anyone can appreciate!

Many thanks to the crew of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival for the pre-screening of Wish Upon, out in theaters now!

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Longer-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

For those Horror directors and writers who’ve had a shade bit more experience, or who need longer than fifteen minutes to tell their stories of terror and woe, we have a series of Horror shorts to shock and terrify. From the familiar twisted into something new, to ancient powers of the macabre, sit still for these longer shorts and let yourself be carried off into a whole new darkness!

‘Creatures of Whitechapel’

Country: UK

Director: Jonathan Martin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Spoilers will cut you down!

It’s the dark cold heart of London, and a killer stalks the alleyways of Whitechapel, hunting down the Ladies of the Night. But it turns out, that killer is actually a her-self too, and she has a Master she’s working for. What could “Jacqueline the Ripper” possibly need with those body parts she stole? Dr. Frankenstein needs a heart for his latest creation, poor thing; the eternal quest of man to make a thing with his own two hands, simply so he can boink it. He needs other parts too, and that’s why he sent the Lady Igor out in an opera cape and top hat with a scalpel blade, never imagining that she would find some kind of redemption in the arms of Mary Kelly. Nevertheless, Master needs a heart (and still doesn’t see the irony in that statement), so he can bring his lady love to life and hopefully responsive movement. Even Dr. Praetoris, Frankie’s fellow scientist, rival and skeptic, doesn’t quite seem to understand that women monsters stick together, through death and beyond!

When done well, Horror mashups are a terrific thing to behold, and Creatures of Whitechapel has certainly done that! The storyline rather reminds me of the awesomeness that was Penny Dreadful, well remembered and always missed, with scenes and sets inspired by From Hell and Victor Frankenstein, original musical scores that won awards and put me in the mind of Sweeney Todd, this particular short makes my little black heart so happy. We women really should get more gender-bent roles in the Horror world, that opens up all kinds of amazing intertwining possibilities!

‘The Madame in Black’

Country: Sweden

Director: Jarno Lee Vinsencius

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Drawn from a Swedish legend in which a Countess was burned for witchery that purportedly killed her husband and children, which was of course turned into a mirror game for generations to come, very like the American legend of Bloody Mary, The Madame in Black also appears to be a parlor game for young adults who really should be more leery. Our siblings in the short played the game when they were very young and apparently the Madame makes no distinctions about what age she continues to haunt a person. Emma convinces Alex, while they’re hanging out drinking with their significant others, to say the words before the mirror again, and next thing you know, a scary Lady draped in all black is terrorizing everyone!

The story of course puts me in the mind of the movie The Woman In Black, and the atmosphere surrounding the short is very reminiscent of The Conjuring. The “gotcha!” scares are fairly good, and the makeup job for the Madame (when she is fully shown) is pretty darned terrifying, if a little predictable. While I agree it’s important to have background story to whatever game you want to play inside your Horror movie, a little too much time is spent on the brother-sister and their friends dynamic, which could be easily achieved with some flash scenes, and leave more time for the admittedly-good jump scares and hauntings of the Madame in Black.

‘Elegy’

Country: USA

Director: CJ Gardella

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

All around is the cycle of life and death, and nature reflects that in its simplicity and savagery. A brick house out near a swamp teeming with animal life that devours each-other endlessly holds many secrets, where the lines between being alive and being dead, or even undead, blur and become indistinct. A man and a woman walk the lonely halls of the house, attempting to not antagonize each-other, but rather understand the mysteries of the dead and the dying, and even returning back to a kind of existence. A strange kind of harmony exists, with the insects and those who feed off of death, and that which withers finds a kind of quiet beauty in its preservation.

The entire short, especially the animal scenes of hunting, killing, and decaying, really reminded me of the Lars Von Trier film Antichrist, and that was an incredibly odd one. The animals and insects caught on film mid-snap are certainly wonderful to look at, and the truly great thing about this short is the creepy between-life-and-death atmosphere the filmmakers manage to convey. In a short fraught with unique imagery, where none of the characters actually speak, one can only expect some confusion about what the short is attempting to convey in the depths of Horror. I’m still not entirely sure, but I wager it was some kind of descent into madness to study the whole process of death, and perhaps, how love never actually dies.

‘Others Like You’

Country: Italy

Director: Eugenio Villani

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When does an obsession go too far, and land one in the depths of sheer Horror? Ester wants a child so badly, she’s been binging a series of one-night-stands to get herself pregnant, but somehow never manages to carry a baby to full term and birth. Especially after seeing the female Doctor for a pregnancy test, and showing off that what I assume is a hysterectomy scar all across her abdomen. Doc Greta herself is a scarred survivor and no longer able to have children either, yet she still manages to “mother” a group of hidden monsters, creatures of the old world and old ways, where the sacrificial math of one life for one life is perfectly valid. Ester’s looking for her missing kitten, and though it’s rather unfair of Greta to say Ester can’t even look after a kitten much less a baby, luring Ester to a place of dark birth magic doesn’t seem like the kindest lesson.

Another short that happens to be well-shot but whose storyline is near-inexplicable, Others Like You peels back the layers of women’s Horror, that deep desperate pain and emptiness of childlessness. Very much like the movie Grace with its eternal question of, ‘How far would you go for your children?’, the short adds its own dark European magickal twist that may send even the strongest advocates of The Handmaids Tale running away in disgust!

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts Part 2

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, horror, Movies, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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‘Blackbird’

Country: UK

Director: Tim Fellingham & Charlotte Stente Nielsen

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What happens when the one you think is your savior, turns out to have been your tormentor all along? Here on a lonely stretch of nowhere, a man with a concussion and severe memory loss, apparently from getting tossed from his motorcycle, goes to save a runaway maiden in a nightgown. The both of them hole up together trying to figure out what they’re running from, and through a series of dreams and flashbacks and one horrible “gotcha!” moment involving a blackbird tattoo, discover they really do know each-other, a little too well for either ones comfort.

The use of Memento-like timelines and flashbacks can be perfectly fine, but I thought a little too much emphasis was placed on atmosphere and not enough on the story itself. If a movie, either short or feature-length, has only two actors in it, it is very likely that the villain is one of them; it kind of lessens the potential shock value. Nevertheless, should the story be expanded, the short could have real potential.

‘The Dark Hunger’

Country: USA

Director: Anthony Williams

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

What to do when one discovers a supernatural cannibal terrorizing your neighborhood? No calling in the CIA or some paranormal equivalent, no, some sort of mafia-like gang kidnaps the man they call Dead Fred and stick him in a cell, to be fed their enemies. Because Dead Fred is a full cannibal and always cleans his plate, so there’s no evidence left behind. And when we meet up with our cannibal hero, it looks like he’s been enduring this setup for awhile.  His Dark Passenger, the actual cannibal vampire in his skull with the awesome deep voice, is content to stay in prison so long as the captors keep feeding it, but Fred has other ideas. Despite that not actually being his real name, Dead Fred decides to embrace the pseudonym and make a deal with his Dark Passenger to get out of this prison and find the man at the top, the real mastermind monster who put Fred here in the first place!

It’s never easy to combine a supernatural element with an attempt at Hannibal Lecter-like characters, and yet somehow The Dark Hunger manages it nicely. The short reads like a trailer for a film that I would certainly watch, and I sincerely wished the short was one of the longer short films, so I could pretend it was a movie. With even some of the better notes of 30 Days of Night thrown in, The Dark Hunger should make Director Williams an up-and-comer worthy of keeping an eye on.

‘Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir’

Country: USA

Director: David E. Munz-Maire

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

If you could ever imagine what a winery run by Children of the Corn would be like, then the Chateau Sauvignon is for you. The stark landscape, dead animal skulls and eerie wine-making equipment that looks suspiciously like butchery pressings all serve to provide an atmosphere that screams Horror. And almost immediately, it turns out, the vitner equipment really does still make wine for the tourists and all, but is also being used in the butchery of at least some of those tourists, to keep Mom alive. (Whether Mom is a zombie, some kind of vampire, cannibal or anything else, is unclear.) But the meat juice is beginning to run out, Son is becoming concerned, and Dad is just trying to hold everything together, despite Moms condition. Two new tourists have come late to the winery and Son wants to give them the full tour, no matter what Dad says – here sample some of our wine, over here is some of the processes we use to make our vintages, and by the way, your son is a jackass, here’s a glass pouring beaker shoved into your skull. Because Mom needs to be fed, and wine isn’t cutting it anymore.

A very fine short, all kinds of atmospheric and moody, though I would have liked to have a bit more to the story. What kind of creature is Mom now, how did she get this way, what happens to all of them when the meat juice finally runs out? Perhaps for the next series of Horror shorts from Director Munz-Maire, or, he could turn the whole thing into a feature-length jaunt – I would watch it.

‘Death Metal’

Country: USA

Director: Chris McInroy

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Dude man, I get you, hail Satan and Metal is God and all that, you bet. But if you’re handed Grand-dad’s axe (as in guitar), that he supposedly got from the Dark Prince himself, along with three important rules to follow when using it, you’d want to adhere to them and be respectful wouldn’t you? It doesn’t seem as though frustrated metal-head Lars gives two damns about any of that, and immediately goes off to break all three rules jamming in the afternoon at the park on the axe. Is it any wonder that the axe-head breaks off from the rest of the guitar and goes hog-wild?

I saw Lars and his dumbassery at another Horror film festival and thought it was hilarious then, as now. It’s always so cute to see the Metalheads tossing the horns and headbanging for all they’re worth, because of course Satan’s all kinds of into that. Just never forget, Lucifer has a very wicked sense of humor, too.

‘As They Continue to Fall’

Country: USA

Director: Nikhil Bhagat

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Whether you’re a fan of the Prophecy series, or saw the film Legion and the short-lived Syfy show it spawned, Dominion, Angels are fairly well-known these days as something other than the be-winged halo’d bringers of light and Gods love. What we have here is the somewhat now-familiar trope of the hobo hero hunting bad guys, in this case actual Angels, and it must be said, doing a fair job of it. From the looks of the feather trophies that line his coat, keeping him warm, our hobo hero is no-one to be trifled with. (Because really, depending upon which hierarchy of Angel you’re fighting, you could strap a nuke to the Angelic type and he’d laugh at you.) Our hobo hero has been dealing with Angelic visions all his life, but now after the apparent end of the world, has taken to hunting them down with vim and vigor. And who could blame him? What is an Angel, after all, but another Devil just waiting to fall?

Many of the minds who worked on this short have made major names for themselves elsewhere (Sinister, Deus Ex, The Thing, the NBC TV show Dracula, to name only a few), and they managed to cobble together a short awesome to watch. The future dystopian world where our hobo hero hunts Angels is clear and perfectly understandable, while much is still left open to audience interpretation and judgment, and in building a world like this, that is what we would prefer.

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Romance, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by aliciamovie

portland-horror-film-festival

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Horror lives on in our hearts all year ‘round, and all across the world too. The fears we share cross all manner of cultural and gender lines, creating a fandom unique to any other. Because if we unite and share our fears, through glorious films and shorts, perhaps some of those fears will be lessened in shared fandom.

‘Last Resort’

Country: USA

Director: David Schneiderman

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What couple thinks it’s a good idea to take a Horror vacation, when one half of the couple isn’t into Horror? Apparently these people do, and in the role reversal of the common, the female in this relationship is the Horrorphile and her boyfriend the reluctant tagalong. Mel the girlfriend wants the immersive Horror weekend promised in the Horror Haven brochure, which includes bloodstains in the shower, a purportedly dead body in the closet, and a cannibal wine host who likes to dance while ranting and isn’t too smart about where he leaves his tools. Oh, and don’t forget the singularly unhelpful delivery guy who keeps getting lost.

A campy little romp that pokes fun at “experience” camps and Horror in general, Last Resort reminds us that no matter how clever you think you’re being, the universe is still laughing at you. And inside the Horror universe, it’s a damned cackle.

‘Black Ring’

Country: Turkey

Director: Hasan Can Dagli

Review Rating: 9 out of 10

What looks like a professional photography setup in a rundown Turkish castle turns out to hide something far more sinister. Considering the men doing the initial setup look like European gangsters, one would think the chosen who participate in the lottery from hell would be more leery about being handed a black disc. But alas, these bright young beautiful things are here for their shot at fame, and for many of them, it is their very last shot. The shock value the artist and his audience are hunting seems almost gorgeous in the grotesquerie, and reminds a great many of us just how jaded we really are. You really can make art out of someone’s death, but how could you possibly top that?

This short was incredible, and I’ve seen a freaking ton of Horror shorts. To be able to do an entire art-house Horror piece, as a short film no less, where not a single character speaks, is even more mind-blowing. The images and ideas brought across come both starkly dark and breathtakingly bloody, mixing styles like an astounding master painter on the movie screen. Seriously, Director Dagli needs to get on making feature-length Horror movies, and right now.

‘A Fathers Day’

Country: UK

Director: Mat Johns

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What Daddy doesn’t want to protect his little girl from the Horrors of the world? Well, what happens when both you and your daughter are already zombies, does the protecting stop once you’ve died? Of course it doesn’t! You still want to protect your drooling, growling baby, and provide fresh-ish entrails for her, and push her on the merry-go-round while she twitches. And when the human survivors take aim at your zombie daughter, when she goes to protect you, is the proudest moment any Daddy, dead or alive or anything in between, can experience!

A wonderful little short done in the sympathetic style of the movie Warm Bodies, A Father’s Day reminds us that the love of a parent for their child transcends all preconceived boundaries, and that includes even death.

‘The Gift of the Woods’

Country: USA

Director: Kris Theorin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Everyone knows the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but also, that they’re full of ancient creatures, some of whom are monsters. The little girl in the short is an innocent, wanting nothing more than to skip along in the woods and enjoy the bug and plant life, when she happens upon a stump with a dolly on it. The dolly itself is unusual, more like a voodoo doll than anything else, with a bloody paw-print adorning its stomach. And of course when the girl takes the dolly off the stump, it wakes the creature who made the dolly, wanting it back!

Some say even monsters have nightmares. Some monsters even need a teddy, or a dolly, to sleep with to keep their own dream-monsters away. That thought basically sums up the end of this wonderful and sadly far too short Horror cartoon short. Don’t steal another nightmares’ teddy, and if you do, give it back before the sun sets!

‘Hope’

Country: Norway

Director: Adam A. Losurdo

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

So the zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and the world remains pretty much the same, with one or two tiny exceptions – the shuffling zombies still around. They don’t eat brains, they just kind of die and shuffle along, to be abused and ridiculed by the still-living. Here we have Carl, our zombie forever dressed like a soda jerk, completely without hope as he, you guessed it, shuffles along. Carl gets harassed by young girls on bikes, has his shoes stolen, gets his dumb self buried by the meanie living (not buried alive, reburied dead I guess), only to be rescued by a female zombie inevitably named Hope, and instant attraction. After a whirlwind romance, Hope is inevitably killed and that’s when poor Carl finally becomes the killer zombie he was meant to be.

The short is a fun little turnaround on who the real monsters are – the zombie who doesn’t even eat brains and never did no-one any harm, or the still-alive folk who keep bedeviling him. Everyone has a breaking point, even zombies apparently. After all, how would you react if the love of your unlife was slain (again!) in front of you?