Thursday, August 17, 2017

Horror Film Review

Mimesis (2011):  I'm going to spoil this sucker right off the bat.  OK?  Ready?  There are no zombies in this movie.  Not a one.  So does that mean it's a bad movie?  Yes and no.  Mostly yes.

While attending a horror convention, friends Duane and Russel (Allen Maldonado and Taylor Piedmonte) get invited to an after party out in the countryside.  They wake up the next morning, Russell in a cemetery and Duane in a pickup truck, only to find they have different clothes on.  The outfits and locations seem oddly familiar.  Russell wakes up next to a woman, Karen (Jana Thompson) and you realize she's dressed as Barbara from Night of the Living Dead and Russell is dressed as her brother Johnny.  Duane, of course, is dressed as Ben (not so coincidentally, the first name of the actor who played Ben is Duane).  Anyway, a "zombie" appears in the cemetery and Russell is dispatched as Johnny was.  Karen and Duane end up in a farm house with five other people who were similarly drugged and clothed to play their parts.  Unless you're a moron, you'll have figured out by this time the "zombies" are just psycho thrill seekers taking haunted attractions to the next level.  Doesn't mean they're not dangerous.  Although it does take their victims way too long to figure out how to best take control of the situation and fight back, and fight back they do.  No one survives in Night of the Living Dead so I was somewhat surprised that 5 of the 7 survive in this film.  I'm not saying that's a good thing, mind you.

Besides the dearth of honest-to-God zombies, there are plenty of other problems with Mimesis.  The title, for starters.  I know I'm not the only one who said, "WTF is mimesis?"  Sid Haig explains it in his all too brief cameo, though.  And then there's what Duane does.  He brings Russell, whose throat has been ripped out, back to the farmhouse, spends a few minutes telling his friend he'll be just fine, runs around the house for a while for reasons passing understanding, seemingly forgets he's wearing a shirt and instead rips up a sheer window curtain to wrap around the gaping hole in Russell's throat, and then finally declares they need to get him to a hospital.  So Duane carries him outside where three "zombies" are waiting, sets him on the ground, and scurries back into the house where he watches the three chew on his screaming friend.  I get it that fear can make people do strange things, but come on.  There's plenty more stupidity to report but to write it all out here would give me carpal tunnel.

The Skinny

Acting:  Meh.  I thought Piedmonte as Russell was pretty good, but of course he dies right away.  Thompson as Karen is flat out annoying.  Maldonado as Duane seesaws back and forth between competent and awful.
Story:  I can't fault them for wanting to pay homage to Mr. George A. Romero and the original Night of the Living Dead.  I can fault them for their execution of it, though.
Direction:  Uneven and confused for the most part.
Production Values:  Made for half a million bucks, it's not a bad looking picture.  I'm pretty sure it was all done on location at that farm place.  I should mention the sound wasn't the greatest.
Gore/FX:  A fair amount of blood and some gore.  Although the stretching of the skin whilst eating someone is no longer shocking.  Looks kind of silly nowadays.
Scares:  Nada.
Ending:  Not what I expected.  It's almost, dare I say, happy.
Verdict:  Should you see Mimesis?  NOTLD fans might find it of interest.  I can't recommend it to anyone else, though.

Rating:  2 out of 5

Horror Film Review

The Demented (2013):  Zombie flick!  Let me qualify that by adding it's a zombie flick that wears out its welcome in the first ten minutes and then sticks around for another maddening 82.  Don't be fooled by the groovy movie poster with the boast that it was made by a co-producer of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This film isn't even in the same solar system as the Wes Craven classic.

Three couples gather at a friend's mansion on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, Louisiana for some last minute partying before heading back to college.  There's David and Taylor (Richard Kohnke and Kayla Ewell), Brice and Naomi (Ashlee Brian and Brittney Barlow), and Howard and Sharley (Michael Welch and Sarah Butler).  In the interest of full disclosure, the only character I found not to be annoying as hell was Brice.   In the midst of their revelry, which apparently consists only of drunk Slip 'n Slide, they learn of an imminent biological missile attack.  They see and hear the impact in the distance and then...nothing.  They just sit around and snipe at each other.  Oh, how annoying they are!  It's like suffering through the world's most boring soap opera. Naomi cheated on Brice with Howard and then Sharley found out so she's all pissy and spiteful, which doesn't bode well for Naomi when the zombies break in and Sharley reaches the safety of a room one step ahead of her.  Eventually the survivors escape the mansion and find their way into town where they learn a rescue helicopter will be picking up folks at noon from the roof of one of the college buildings.  A few of them actually make it there, too.  This sets up would could very well be the worst ending of a movie....ever.

The pacing of this film is akin to a tranquilized sloth.  The editing must have been done by someone with ADD or someone who was stoned out of his mind because this movie should have been at least 15 minutes shorter.  Scenes would linger for no reason, serving no purpose.  I felt like I was stuck behind somebody on the road going under the speed limit, making me want to scream, "For fuck's sake move your ass!"  Many more deficiencies plague this movie and I shall elaborate on them now.

The Skinny

Acting:  Not terrible, but Lord, it wasn't good.  Kohnke and Ewell as David and Taylor are the most irritating.  Ewell has a bad habit of screaming for no damn reason at all and Kohnke's overacting becomes cringe-inducing.
Story:  Could have been fleshed out a lot more, like maybe into a coherent plot that doesn't have more holes than a brick of Swiss cheese.
Direction:  Pick an axiom.  Simplify!  Less is more.  Go big or go home.  Don't make a movie unless you know what the hell you're doing.  (OK...I made that last one up.)
Production Values:  While it was filmed on location in Louisiana, you'd never know it because no scenes that would showcase that state's beauty or uniqueness were filmed.  It's a shame.  The mansion shots are all right but the scenes in town looked like they were filmed in cheap Hollywood back lot.
Gore/FX:  There's a bit of blood but precious little gore.  A balls out, over the top gorefest would have made it much more watchable.  The zombie make-up was adequate.  The CGI was silly.
Scares:  They tried.  They failed.
Ending:  Manipulative and idiotic.  A dream?  Really?
Verdict:  Should you see The Demented?  Good God, no.  Go clean the litter boxes or grout the bathroom tile or something.  Anything short of waterboarding by terrorists or a kick in the nuts would be more enjoyable than watching this movie.

Rating:  1 out of 5

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Haunted House Update

The activity in my house lately has been so crazy, Stevie Ray Vaughn could have written a song about it.  My house is rockin', just not in that super groovy, kick-ass partying way.  No, mine is rockin' on an altogether different level, a level of such paranormal intensity that I question the logic of staying.

Most recently, yesterday in fact, while standing in my living room in broad daylight, I witnessed a black mass dart from the corner towards the front door.  It was large and incredibly fast and gave me the impression it was not pleased to be disturbed.

A few days earlier I was in my backyard preparing the firepit for a get-together with friends.  The darkness was nearly absolute, however, when I turned to walk back to the house, a figure appeared perhaps 20 feet from me, standing in front of my roommate's bedroom window.  I saw the shape of a head, shoulders and torso and it was darker than the surrounding darkness.  I glanced down to check my footing on the stone steps.  When I looked back up, it was gone.  Since then, that area of my yard feels colder than any other location.

Two days ago, an overnight guest heard something say, "Hey" to him in the middle of the night.

Last night, my roommate heard a growling noise at the doorway to the bathroom.  In that same bathroom last night, a friend saw a shadow moving behind the shower curtain and became...concerned.  There was no one in the shower.

There's an app that allows spirits to manipulate an electronic dictionary in order to communicate.  I ran this app last night.  Two friends left to run to a convenience store.  I asked they bring me a Gatorade.  As soon as they returned, the word FIERCE appeared in the app.  I didn't know it, but my friend had bought me a Powerade called Fierce.

Most activity is centered around my roommate who reports experiencing something odd on a daily basis.  She has a unique name and the other day a deep male voice uttered that name to her.  The house was empty except for me, and I was in the shower.  She sees the black mass regularly and has seen the full body apparition of a male spirit.  She can't sit in the living room during the early morning hours around 4:00 am because the activity becomes too intense.

Of course the footsteps, knocks and taps, door knob rattles, opening/closing doors, and whispers continue almost daily but have become so routine that we barely notice them anymore.

So...who's up for a sleep over?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Haunted House Update

My house has been acting up lately.  Honestly, where to begin...?  The least interesting activity is your basic thumps and bumps coming from empty rooms making it sound like someone is moving around when there obviously is no someone.  Lights in various rooms are going on by themselves.  Not so subtle whispering has also been heard on a few occasions.  Can't make out the words, of course, but that just makes it all the more creepy.

I had to sprinkle salt and fling holy water around my bedroom in order to lessen the nightmares and general feelings of uneasiness that plague me every time I try to sleep.  What really precipitated this extreme action was one night when I felt something crawl into bed with me and then later when I stretched my legs out under the covers resulting in a sensation of plunging my feet into a bucket of ice water.  As if the spirit were sitting at the end of my bed.  It was the most intense cold spot I'd every experienced.

My roommate has trouble around three to four in the morning.  She heard something ratting the doorknob to her room as if attempting to get in.  Coming out of her room, she witnessed a large purple orb in the dark living room that immediately disappeared.

I requested a free evaluation of my house from a website that apparently does such things.  It was really just a lark but they came back saying there's a female spirit attached to the property as well as one attached to me.  Both had died of some type of illness and have not moved on.  My roommate has dark energy from black magic or witchcraft attached to her leftover from a previous life.  I take all of this with a grain of salt, so to speak.

Whether this evaluation is anything close to the truth, it doesn't take away from the very real activity currently taking place.  Until we begin experiencing poltergeists or demonic attacks, I'm not going to get too worked up over it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Horror Film Review

Train to Busan (2016):  I've been waiting for this Korean zombie flick for many months.  It matched Marvel's The Avengers' Rotten Tomatoes score and been lauded by many as the best zombie film ever made.  So...is it?  Perhaps not, but damn, it's close.

One thing Korean filmmakers are masters at is pathos (the only other zombie movie that remotely comes close is Maggie).  In this case, we have workaholic, hedge-fund manager Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) reluctantly agreeing to accompany his young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) from Seoul to Busan via the KTX bullet train.  For geographical clarification, the capital Seoul is the country's largest city and about as far north as you can get.  Busan, the second largest city, is on the southern tip of the peninsula.  The point is that it's a long train ride.  Soo-an desperately wants to see her mom (Seok Woo's ex-wife) in Busan.  So they go.  During these establishing scenes, we are given hints that a bio-chemical company is attempting to contain an incident.  Our clue something is amiss?  Roadkill zombie deeer.  Sounds goofy but the scene is creepy as hell.

Just as the train's doors begin to close, a woman in an obvious state of distress, dives aboard.  The KTX departs.  A train attendant discovers the woman who by now is convulsing and whose veins have turned blue/black.  Her eyes are cataract white.  So, yeah.  A bad day for her.  The attendant gets her throat ripped out for her trouble and within seconds is a zombie as well.  These are not the slow Romero zombies nor is there much of an incubation period.  That is to say, the pacing is not what you'd call sluggish.  Anyway, mayhem ensues.  Folks bolt from one car to another, closing off infected cars as they go.  It's now we meet the rest of the main characters:  a pregnant woman and her buff husband, two elderly sisters, a high school baseball player and his girlfriend, and an asshole CEO.  As these relationships sort themselves out, the train makes an emergency stop at the next station.  The army is supposed to be there, and they are.  Unfortunately, they're now a camouflaged mass of snarling death.  After many minutes of heart-pounding narrow escapes and the requisite deaths of minor characters, they make it back on the train.  From here, we experience betrayals, sacrifices, and serious sadness.  Eventually, the train must stop due to blocked tracks.  Many nail-biting encounters ensue and the survivors escape on an old diesel locomotive engine.  Who lives?  Who dies?  Do they make it to Busan?  And is Busan overrun or safe?  Ain't telling.

One aspect of Train to Busan that I found particularly groovy was the way the zombies acted.  Not their near-superhuman speed but the freaky way they moved.  It reminds me of how possessed folks move in exorcism horror movies.  Jerky and twisty and not at all normal.  They also had a quality reminiscent of the zombies in World War Z.  Sort of a swarming factor that definitely adds to their already terrifying personality quirks.

The Skinny

Acting:  Uniformly excellent.  The two leads stand especially out.  The CEO is a bit of a ham but it's his douchebag character.
Story:  A zombie virus sweeping a nation certainly isn't new.  Confining the main action to a bullet train, however, is.  So many unexplored nuances make for a thrilling ride.
Direction:  Lean and mean.
Production Values:  Like the majority of Korean films, it looks as if produced by a major Hollywood studio.
Gore/FX:  For a balls-to-the-wall zombie flick, it's surprisingly light on the gross.  Blood, sure, but no viscera or exploding heads.  The dearth of gore is my only real complaint.
Scares:  More edge of your seat tension than straight up jump scares, which is always better.
Ending:  Pathos with a side of hope.
Verdict:  Should you see Train to Busan?  Indeed you should.  It's arguably the best zombie film of 2016.

Rating:  5 out of 5