Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Evil Things screening

The movie I have spoken about before called Evil Things is set to screen Friday July 10th! Congrats to Dom for getting a screening of this film. If you have a chance to see it, here's the information so you can check it out:

Long Island International Film Expo
Friday July 10, 2009 (9:30pm)
Bellmore Movie Theater
222 Pettit Avenue
Bellmore, NY 11710
All Tickets $9.00
Advance Tickets: www.liifilmexpo.org
Tickets also available at Box Office on night of the screening.
Bellmore Theater is across the street from LIRR (Bellmore station stop).

I recommend this movie to any horror fans. It's too bad I live in Wisconsin, otherwise I would love a chance to see it on the big screen. If you want to see my review of the movie, go here. Otherwise, go see the official site at www.evilthingsmovie.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The 5 Most Underrated Zombie Movies of Our Time

I know everyone loves zombies. Well, maybe not everyone, but a lot of people seem to love zombies nowadays. Must be the cool thing to do. With Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Quarantine, zombie movies are the "in" thing right now. But there have been some zombie movies under the radar in the last 20 years or so, and I am going to name off the ones that I think are criminally underrated. So here there are, in no particular order:

Cemetery Man (1994): Aka Dellamorte Dellamore, this Italian zombie movie came out relatively under the radar and continues to be one I don't hear that much about. It is a rare horror movie that can go from ludicrous to terrifying in the same scene and even manages to throw in some genuinely touching moments as well. It's also one of the few movies I will watch that features talking zombies. Most of the time, talking does not enhance any sort of zombie, but these zombies have some interesting dialogues they spew, from a mayor who's not setting a good example for the other zombies to a zombie girl who just wants her father's approval to be married. And in what other movie can you see zombie nuns and boy scouts attacking Rupert Everett?
Best Line: "No, please, don't! He's only eating me!"

The Serpent and The Rainbow
(1988): I've said it before and I'll say it again - I think this is Wes Craven's best movie. This happens to deal with Voodoo Zombies instead of the undead type, but it's still pretty damn amazing. Bill Pullman gives a wonderful performance and the imagery in this movie is stellar. The dream sequences are dizzying and mesmerizing, with corpses coming to life and snakes coming out of people's mouths. It's slow and atmospheric, but very well shot. This is the movie that makes you remember just how much talent Craven really has. In short, it's brilliant.
Best Line: "Don't let them bury me!"

Undead (2003): The first time I watched this movie, I wasn't really impressed with it. It's strange, goofy, and kind of dull in parts. However, a couple of subsequent viewings have allowed me to appreciate this Aussie horror/comedy. It's got a man with three shotguns combined into one and probably the most ridiculously over the top scene to ever take place in a hardware store. It's outrageous fun in parts and it eventually just seems to go haywire, throwing in some aliens for good measure. It's fun to watch (especially when a zombie tries to put itself back together) and I would recommend it.
Best Line: Alien 1: "Put your clothes on." Alien 2: "I'm comfortable with my body."

Fido (2006): With quite the great cast (including Carrie-Anne Moss in her best non-Matrix role since Memento), this comedy hums right along excellently. It's not horror, but it's a zombie movie. Set in the sort of 50's wonderland world, it's a world where zombies have been quelled in a great war and repurposed as butlers and helpers. Every affluent family has a helper zombie and what could possibly go wrong with that? It's a great flick and very funny. It's too bad that it isn't a little more on the horror side, but it's still very well done and deserving of a spot on this list.
Best Line: "Mommy, help! Grandpa's fallen and he's getting back up!"

Planet Terror (2007): Yeah, I know, it's gotten some good reviews, but overall this movie was undeservedly overlooked. It's really well done, overwrought fun that has a great cast. Planet Terror was definitely the more enjoyable half of Grindhouse for me (mostly because you can't make a grindhouse movie 75% dialogue, Tarantino!) and Robert Rodriguez showed his talent in spades while making this movie. I can't tell you how awesome it is to watch a girl with a machine gun leg blow zombies away. Unfortunately, the idea of sitting through three hours of film turned a lot of people off. It's their loss, I guess.
Best Line: "Don't shoot yourself. Don't shoot each other. And especially... don't shoot me."

There you have it folks. Any comments?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wind Chill Review

I mentioned this briefly a while ago, but I never got back around to watching it... until last night. I was equally pleased with the movie the second time around, so I figured it would get a review! But what is it all about?

As we open on a college classroom, we find Emily Blunt looking for a ride home for Christmas break. She was going to take a bus, but a friend urges her to look at the ride share board they have posted on campus. She does and finds Ashton Holmes is willing to take her for a ride. As they start off on their journey, he makes a few comments that don't quite add up. He says she looks good in her glasses (she doesn't wear them in public), mentions a school in the area she grew up in that doesn't exist, and asks for directions at a gas station when he should know the way. She gets a bit creeped out by this and he turns off onto a side road in the middle of nowhere. This is where we find out the boy has been a bit obsessed with the girl (they are listed as "boy" and "girl" in the credits, so they don't have a name I guess) and he wanted to get her alone for some quality time. And then things get creepy...

But things don't get creepy between the kids. A mysterious car that leaves no tire tracks runs them off the strange side road. The girl locks the boy out of the car and he leaves to get to the gas station. She then sees a few strange people walk pas the car in the snow, but leave no footprints. The boy comes back and finds a burned down monastery with some strange stuff in it. A sheriff comes by and doesn't treat the kids well, then disappears. A burned man vomits an eel. And finally, without revealing too much of the ending, some, uh, very bad stuff happens.

Cinematography: This movie is very bleak, with long expanses of the road and mountains being the main backdrops. The snow makes for a very draining landscape, almost making you feel tired and unhappy watching it. It sets up shots very well, making the isolation in the Appalachian mountains very apparent. The camera angles aren't anything groundbreaking or terribly impressive, but varied and well executed, making the movie interesting to watch. The mise-en-scene is that of dread the entire time, allowing for the snow and scenery to do most of the work in the tension area. It's a very well shot movie, thus earning it a 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: Wind Chill starts off as a pretty traditional story of a boy that's a little too obsessed with a girl and wants to take her away from civilization, but eventually you find it was a misguided romantic gesture. The boy and girl end up sharing some fairly intimate moments in the end and you don't even realize that the movie has turned into a ghost story right in front of you. It's a nice reprieve from the standard of both movies, putting the characters in tension with each other, then with the ghosts. Even in the end though, the tension between the characters is there, with the two never fully trusting each other. The acting is quite good, with Blunt and Holmes bringing genuine performers to the table. Martin Donovan is creepy and disturbing, making the sheriff character the most interesting person on screen. With believable characters and exceptional acting, 4.5 out of 5 is awarded to Wind Chill for Execution.

Sub-Genre Comparison: As a stalker tale, Wind Chill is pretty standard fare. Sort of creepy guy, isolated location, unsuspecting girl. Luckily for the movie, it isn't a stalker tale. As a ghost tale, Wind Chill unabashedly succeeds by setting up a good back story and great tension. As far as ghost tales lately go, it's ahead of recent fair like The Unborn or The Haunting in Connecticut. Wind Chill holds up well with many other haunting films with the notable plot point being that it isn't a haunted house, but a haunted highway. It won't ever compare to something like The Exorcist or The Omen, but nothing really will, so it earns a nice 3.5 out of 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.

Production Value: The movie was produced by the likes of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, so the budget isn't exactly shoestring. That being said, the movie wasn't backed by a large studio, so it didn't have a limitless budget either. With what it has, Wind Chill does everything successfully, especially in the sparse landscapes making the characters feel very isolated. The special effects are mostly make-up related and above average, but used sparingly. That's not a bad thing, but it makes it hard to judge. There is no gore and very little blood, but the aforementioned eel vomiting scene is pretty gross nonetheless. This is not an effects heavy movie and that's a very good thing in my opinion. The more real a ghost seems, the scarier it is. If you make the ghosts actual actors on screen and not CGI, the performances come through better and enhance the viewing experience. All that considered, Wind Chill gets a nice 4.5 out of 5 for Production Value.

Scares: So far, Wind Chill has been delivering everything quite well, but most importantly of all: will it scare you. The answer is yes, in parts. The movie is very tense and good to set up scares, but nothing is so very scary you ever feel like looking away from the screen. However, the Sheriff character exudes creepiness and the rest of the ghosts make for some interesting on screen horror. The movie stays very atmospheric the entire time, even with a lot of action and you get scared for the characters quite a bit. While it never gets overwhelmingly scary, it remains an intense viewing experience, so it gets 3.5 out 5 for Scares.

And the final tally puts Wind Chill at a solid 20 out of 25. I really enjoyed this movie and it's definitely one of the better horror movies to come out of the states in the last few years. Gregory Jacobs directed this movie and I would like to see him lend his talents to some other horror movies in the near future. He did a great job with a pretty modest budget, so I would love to see more of him. It's a good story with believable characters and an interesting premise. The overall tone works well and the backstory for the ghosts is one that will keep your attention throughout the whole movie. Don't expect a fast moving, action-packed thriller, but expect a moody, atmospheric thriller. And it's pretty cheap!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sounds of Horror

I was just thinking about all of the different horror movies I have watched over the years and about the soundtracks I have heard coming from them. I was trying to come up with the best soundtracks in horror and got to thinking that I wanted to hear from everyone about what their favorite soundtracks were as well. So I would like to start this discussion now.

First, some guidelines:

1. When I say soundtrack, I don't mean soundtracks full of modern rock/metal songs that they did for the movie. I like Scream 3 and Resident Evil's soundtracks too, but I don't want to hear about that.

2. I don't want to hear about the classics. Yes, Psycho was awesome. Tubular Bells made The Exorcist creepier. And who doesn't know the Halloween theme? I want something you don't hear about all the time.

3. Tell me why you like it so much. Not a lengthy explanation, but just the reason it stands out for you.

I'll get it going with a movie I recently spoke about:

It's a great soundtrack that features a freaking harpsichord! How often do you hear that? What do you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Horror Reading

A bit ago, I did a post about the Marvel Zombies comics that I have read and enjoyed so very much. Well, these aren't the only comics that I would highly recommend. It seems that Robert Kirkman, the man behind the Marvel Zombies idea, was tapped initially to write that series because he does his own independent series of zombie comics. These comics, ladies and gentlemen, are known as The Walking Dead.

I don't know if anyone reads comics anymore (I'm 25 and I still do, but I'm also an IT Consultant, so nerdly things run in my veins), but if you do, read this comic. Hell, even if you don't read comics, give it a chance. Especially if you were a fan of World War Z or anything zombie related. It's a thrilling series of comics that really grab your attention. It's all in black and white (aside from the cover art) and that makes it seem all the more bleak. The plot is quite arresting and once you start getting into them, it's hard to stop reading them.

As Kirkman said, he loves zombie movies except for one thing: the endings. They always leave it too open ended he says, making him wonder what happens months or even years after the infection begins. Well, The Walking Dead deals with that and how people try to rebuild society. The best part of the comic is just how real the people seem to be. They are flawed characters that get at each others' throats. They make bad mistakes. They get debilitating injuries. And you feel like they are people you could get to know and want to root for. Then, without warning or mercy, Kirkman will kill them off. It's terrible and wonderful at the same time, allowing you to like a character and then killing them off (or in some cases making you think they died but bringing them back). The series starts going a bit "Mad Max" at times with the roving gangs of looters, but still stays pretty grounded in reality. Well, pretty grounded in a reality with zombies anyway.

You should really pick these comics up if at all possible. The first four years have been compiled into hardcover versions and there are trade paperback versions available as well. Most comic book stores have them, along with Amazon.com having most every version available. It really truly is a great telling of zombie horror and it is still in publication (meaning they are still continuing the story). I can't stress enough how awesome these books are and how you all need to read them!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Mutant Chronicles vs. Eden Log

So I recently viewed both The Mutant Chronicles and Eden Log in fairly rapid succession. Actually, I saw a preview for Eden Log and Mutant Chronicles on the same DVD and decided to procure both as they seemed interesting. In addition to being filmed in essentially the same style (cyberpunk), they are both post-apocalyptic tales involving mutated human beings of some sort trying to bring down us normal humans. I decided I would try to take a stab at seeing how they stacked up against one another and see which I actually preferred. What better way to do that then in a public forum like my blog? Here are the trailers for the respective movies:

Mutant Chronicles:

Eden Log:

I watched them on back to back days and within a week of watching The Mist in black and white, thus fulfilling my quota for b&w movies for the year. As I said before, they are both about the end of man and the mutated enemies encountered there, but they attack the subject from two very different angles. The Mutant Chronicles chooses the epic, action packed side of the apocalypse, showing large scale warfare and huge, steam-powered space ships carting people off the planet. Eden Log, on the other hand, chooses to go the more cerebral route of showing a mud covered man waking up in a pool, climbing over a dead body, and slowly revealing clues to his identity. But do they actually achieve what they are going for?

The Mutant Chronicles definitely entertains you with action. There is a lot of brutality in the movie, sure to satisfy the violence seekers in all of us. The only color in the movie that isn't in grayscale is red, which you will see in geyser-like spurts most of the time. The onslaught of the mutants is a scene to behold as heads are run through like meat on a kebab. The movie sets its tone early and often, with just a bit of drama thrown in there for good measure (the trailer would have you believe there is more drama than the movie contains). Mutant definitely delivers on the action side.

Eden Log is at heart a mystery story and it keeps a lot of information from you from the very start. You have to start trying to figure out what is going on, especially when the first scene is 5 minutes of a muddy guy looking at a blinking spotlight and grunting. It's slow moving and atmospheric, definitely making for a very creepy feel throughout the film. As it trudges along, it has a tendency to slow down the action a lot, but never loses your attention (at least not mine). Eden Log is definitely not for everyone and it can be slow, but the tone of the film allows it to achieve the intelligence it is striving for.

Eden Log has its share of action as well. The scenes where the mutants start to swarm and take on some of the humans are very well done and downright terrifying in parts. However, Eden Log isn't trying to rely on the mutants for tension. In fact, the most intense parts of the movie are when the mutants aren't onscreen but merely implied to be in the shadows. The Mutant Chronicles dips its foot into the pool of deep thought on occasion, but never goes very long without a red fountain spraying across the screen. The Mutant Chronicles isn't trying to be an overly intelligent movie, but it's not trying to be a dumb movie either. The problem is that while Mutant succeeds in action but not really in thought, Eden Log seems to do pretty well with both.

As for casting, Eden Log has no one you have ever heard of in it. Or maybe you have heard of them if you watch a lot of French films, but from what I understand, they are fairly unknown over there too. The Mutant Chronicles features some great names: Tom Jane (The Mist), Ron Perlman (Hellboy himself!), John Malkovich (Con Air's Cyrus the Virus), Devon Aoki (Sin City's sword-wielding Miho), and Sean Pertwee (Dog Solders and Event Horizon). Eden Log throws a winding story at you and dares you keep up; The Mutant Chronicles shows you everything from the start like a college streaker. Eden Log will have you wincing to think about the plot whereas The Mutant Chronicles will have you wincing thinking about having a giant spike in your face. The movies look so very similar and yet play out so very differently.

In the end, I would recommend both movies, but choose which you are in the mood for: Eden Log for a serious thinking mood and The Mutant Chronicles for a fun action movie mood. I liked both films and need to watch them both again for different reasons. Both have their pratfalls: they both feature some less than stellar acting at parts, both have a few boring scenes, and both make you realize how some directors try too hard at times to achieve the look they are going for. But both movies are engaging enough to make you want to keep watching. The problems they present are fairly minor and not enough to make you want to stop the movie. In the end, I will buy both movies soon (Eden Log is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD while The Mutant Chronicles is available shortly), but I have to give the edge to The Mutant Chronicles on this one. It has more watchability, better action, and Sean fucking Pertwee. I love that guy. And yes, he dies in the movie as he does in every movie he is in.

Plus you get to see a lot of people stabbed in the face, something Eden Log severely lacks.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Remakes That Should Make The Original Proud

I did a post on remakes that never should have been a bit ago, so I figured why not do one that talks about good remakes (thanks MonkeyManBob). So here are some remakes that actually did the original justice (in my opinion anyway):

Night of the Living Dead (1990): Tom Savini took the directing reigns and turned out a worthy remake of the original. With horror powerhouses Tony Todd and Tom Towles in this movie, it really hit on all cylinders. It feels like watching a 50s horror movie with better effects. Just an entertaining movie all around.

Quarantine (2008): [rec] is a great movie. Quarantine might be a bit better. I thought this movie was very well done and scary, actually overshadowing the original in some aspects (though [rec]'s ending is the better of the two, I must say). I was very pleased with Quarantine and it was nice to see a good remake.

The Thing (1982): John Carpenter's masterpiece that is usually considered one of the greatest remakes of all time is just that. It's such a great adaptation. The tight plot, wonderful acting, and tense effects scenes just make it so enjoyable to watch. I just love this movie.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006): Alexandre Aja's re-imagining of Craven's good but dated movie was one of my favorites. It was gory but still scary, a rarity these days. I loved the mutants and the fact that Aja tried to use as little CGI as possible, instead favoring make up effects. Too bad The Hills Have Eyes 2 sucked.

The Ring (2002): Better than the original Ringu, The Ring blew me away the first time I saw it. Subsequent viewings have continued to amaze me, just marveling at the way it is shot and how it can scare you. Again, it's too bad the sequel didn't live up to this remake.

Dawn of the Dead (2004): Though it lacked the social commentary of the original, it was still a kickass movie. I like the slow zombies more than the fast zombies, but this movie still had a nice sense of dread to it. The characters were fun too, so it made it pretty easy to watch.

Those are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head. There are a few remakes that didn't disgrace the original but didn't overwhelm me like the others (Texas Chainsaw, Amityville Horror, Halloween, House of Wax, Friday the 13th to name a few), but I didn't want to list all of those here. As always, what are your thoughts?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Underrated Horror: Ravenous

I feel like I need to intersperse my hating on some horror with my love for some. And as is standard with any horror fan, I have my movies that I really feel were never given the justice they deserved. So, I am going to give you guys a glimpse of what I feel are a few movies that have never been given their due. First up on the list: Ravenous.

A quick summary according to IMDB: "A soldier in the Mexican-American war in 1847 is promoted to captain for his perceived bravery but soon transferred to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevadas when the cowardly truth becomes evident. The outpost's keepers seem on the brink of madness in their own ways, and what passes for their tranquil is shattered by the intrusion of the lone survivor of an ill-fated expedition that ended in murder and cannibalism."

Ravenous unfortunately suffered from the fact that it was very hard to market. It was a little too lighthearted to market it as an entirely serious horror flick (though Fox tried to) and not comedic enough to market as a horror/comedy. It's definitely a horror film and not a comedy, but it is a very quirky horror flick. Ravenous is a tough film to wrap your head around (at least before seeing it) because you don't really know how they can take a subject like cannibalism and make it anything but terribly serious. Luckily for us, the movie does and does it well, thanks largely in part to the actors in it.

*Warning, some minor spoilers lie beyond this point*

Guy Pearce is excellent. As the leading man, he shows a great range in the movie that a lot of actors wouldn't have been able to pull off: he is sulky and cowardly in the beginning of the film, but after many trials and tribulations, he ends up as the amazing hero we all wanted to see in the end. Robert Carlyle shows a different but equally good range in his character arc: from the trembling victim we are introduced to, to the crazed lunatic we find him to be, to the almost Hannibal Lecter-like menacing villain in the end. Jeffrey Jones does the paternal figure to near perfection. Neal McDonough as the "true soldier" Reich, Jeremy Davies as the quiet and religious Toffler, and David Arquette as the overly medicated Cleaves are all very good in their own rights as well. Even the smaller supporting cast members turn in some good performances, making the film very easy to watch.

And the production values are amazing. Ravenous was shot in Eastern Europe in order to achieve the look of mid-19th century America near the Rockies. The shots are very well set up and the sets look quite authentic, actually overshadowing the actors sometimes. The execution is near perfect, showing just the right amount of scenery and yet still allowing the actors to hold your attention. And the gore effects in the movie are very good but not overwhelming, choosing to be more bloody than gory. However, the scenes where the gore is present are enticing, making it simple for a non-gorehound like myself to stay interested while still being violent enough to satisfy gore-seekers. And the final fight scene between Pearce and Carlyle apparently caused the production to run out of fake blood, so if you haven't seen it, that's something to look forward to. I will link a video of it here, but if you haven't seen the movie, you may not want to watch it so it doesn't ruin it for you. On the other hand, it may just make you want to watch the whole damn thing.

And finally, the music for the movie is unlike any other movie you will ever hear. It adds a whole other level to the film that would not have been there with a standard soundtrack. Here's a great example of the strange music featured in the film:

I can't say anything else besides see this movie if you haven't before. It's a movie that I include in my top ten horror movies of all time pretty regularly. It is an unfortunately under appreciated film and I would love to see it get more press (even if it is 10 years old now). So go forth, and heed my recommendation! I don't think I can extol any more virtues of the film. And as always, tell me what you think!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Overrated Horror: Lucio Fulci

So, I did an article about Eli Roth before and how I felt he was overrated and I was hoping to make it a bit of a recurring segment. Well, I am back with the second entry in the "Overrated Horror" bit I am going to start. And I figure I am going to draw a bit of flack for this one, but I have to say it: I think Lucio Fulci is overrated.

Now, I have to start this off by saying I don't think all of his movies are bad. I still think that Zombi is quite a good movie. I might even call it great. And The Beyond (or as I have it on DVD, Seven Doors of Death) is quite entertaining with some great scenes. And of course, I feel that he is an inspiration for many of the filmmakers today. But really, I haven't seen any other Lucio Fulci movie that I have liked that much.

I was first introduced to Fulci upon buying Zombi on VHS at the behest of a friend. I loved it and still love it today. There are so many iconic scenes: from the zombie vs shark, to the zombies coming up from the graveyard (about 8 minutes into the clip), and, of course, the eye gouging scene. So after that, I picked up Seven Doors of Death and enjoyed it enough. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't as good as Zombi, but then again, I didn't expect it to be as good. Of course I like both movies, so I couldn't really complain. Seven Doors of Death was a 5 dollar cheap DVD, so I searched that same rack and found The House By The Cemetery there. Seeing that it was Fulci, I had to have it. That was where I started to dislike him.

The House by the Cemetery isn't very good. All of Fulci's movies were pretty low budget, but this one is a bit ridiculous. The fact that the doctor in the basement of the house is "Dr. Freudstein" (an obvious mash up of Freud and Frankenstein) was pretty lame. And the bat attack was pretty lame. And the whole movie was pretty lame. It didn't have the fun of his other movies. Now, don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy watching that movie. Not because it's good you see, but because it's great to make fun of รก la Mystery Science Theater 3000. But, I still liked 2 of the 3 movies I had seen from Fulci, so I went back in for more...

I watched The New York Ripper next. Pretty forgettable for me. I then watched The Black Cat. Snore. I watched A Cat in the Brain then. Gah. Everything I have watched since The Beyond (Seven Doors of Death) has been downhill. I am not a huge gorehound, so Fulci's movies don't really have that much appeal for me(as with most grindhouse directors of that era). So when the movies start having stories I am not that interested in, the movies lose my interest. Fulci's movies aren't that engaging if you don't care about the gore in the kills. There's just not that much substance to them.

I know that's pretty much what he was going for, don't get me wrong. I know what a grindhouse director is. I just feel like everyone seems to think Fulci was something amazing when he really wasn't. As I said before, I can appreciate what he did and how he inspired modern directors, but really, I don't think he's all that great. I compare him to eighties thrash/speed metal: I don't particularly care for it, but I can respect those bands for how they inspired my favorite bands today.

And while I am on the subject of Italian directors, I feel that Dario Argento is pretty overrated as well. The thing with him is that I haven't seen enough of his movies to really judge him as well. Suspiria was good, but anything that I have seen from him beyond that has been pretty mediocre at best(I really disliked both of his Masters of Horror entries). Again, with me not being a gorehound, I am not that interested in his movies. And of course, both Argento and Fulci are high on Eli Roth's list of inspirations.

I guess what it comes down to is that I don't like their style of horror. I just can't get into the movies as much. I enjoy a good grindhouse-style film on occasion (Planet Terror, From Dusk til Dawn, Feast, Slither), but I just can't get into a Fulci or Argento film because they try to take themselves too seriously. I don't hate Fulci (or Argento), but I don't think they are as great as they are often revered.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Evil Things Review

So after seeing Johnny's posting about an independent horror flick called Evil Things, I decided to see if I could possibly check it out. I talked to Dominic Perez, the guy who wrote and directed the movie, and he said he would gladly send me a screener DVD to review for myself. I must say, he was really nice and he sent me the above package immediately. As Johnny said before, it's an ingenious packaging with a letter from the Department of Justice addressed to me and the "evidence" stamping on all the packaging. So, right off the bat, I was pretty pumped to watch the movie. Did it live up to my expectations? A quick summary first...

It’s Miriam’s 21st Birthday. As a birthday gift, Miriam’s aunt Gail lends Miriam her beautiful country house for an entire weekend. Aunt Gail’s country house is amazing. It’s a four bedroom house surrounded by breathtaking mountains and miles and miles of woods. Miriam invites her college buddies Cassy, Mark, Tanya and Leo to join her at the country house for what looks to be the most amazing weekend ever. Of course they all jump at the chance to spend a free weekend in the country, in the middle of nowhere. Miriam’s friends are totally in the mood for a big time party weekend. They’re also anxious to escape the dark and gloomy concrete jungle known as Manhattan. Miriam, Cassy and Tanya bring the food. Mark brings the beer and Leo, the aspiring filmmaker, brings his new video camera. Leo hopes to produce a short movie by documenting every amazing moment of this weekend getaway. Unfortunately, what Leo ends up capturing on camera is not a weekend of peace and tranquility, but a nightmarish descent into pure terror.

If you're new to the site, here's an explanation of the criteria I have laid out.

Cinematography: Well, it's a handheld camera movie, so the cinematography can't be looked at the same way a traditionally shot movie is. However, it is an exceptionally well shot film. The set up scenes as the group heads towards the cabin are well done. The whole film is shot with a nice sense of dread to it, never choosing to be terribly bright, but not so dark that it's distracting. It definitely succeeds in looking like found footage. The most impressive aspect, however, is the fact that I didn't ever feel like the movie got too jittery or shaky. The camera moved and shook quite a bit during the movie, but not so much that it was distracting from the plot or scares. I have to hand it to Evil Things' style, so it earns a nice 3.5 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: The idea of the found footage has been done before, but Evil Things does it better than most. The movie feels like a home movie with friends. It's a pretty standard "city folk in the middle of nowhere" style of story, but it adds a nice little element: you never get to see the stalkers. Not even an arm or a leg. You get to see the van of the stalkers, but never any bit of the antagonists themselves. In fact, I don't even know if there was only one or more than one, that's how hidden they were. The main characters were also likable and believable people. You want them to survive. Even when they argue with each other, you can't help but see some humanity in the people. For Execution, I give it 4 out of 5.

Sub-Genre Comparison: I have to compare it to two different types of films here: the suspenseful home invasion type of film and the found footage type of film. As a suspense thriller, the movie definitely succeeds and holds up. I would rate it better than The Strangers (which I liked) but not quite as good as Them (which I liked a lot). It definitely stacks up to films like Vacancy or What Lies Beneath or any other suspenseful movie recently. It stacks up there, now onto the found footage films. It's got some big shoes to fill in the wake of Quarantine and Cloverfield. However, it does a damn fine job of it. The suspense keeps up despite the handheld camera movement jarring the viewers around. It even holds up to the biggest hitter (and most original at the time): The Blair Witch Project. Because it's as good as (or better than) almost anything I can think to compare it to, it earns a deserved 4.5 out of 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.

Production Value: The settings are pretty amazing. The cabin that the people go to is pretty expansive and beautiful. The movie looks very good, especially for the stripped down look it was going for. It choose to use very few special effects, instead relying on sounds and atmosphere to produce scares. There is absolutely no gore, blood, or violence shown throughout the entire film! It has an interesting part of the film where they find a tape of the person stalking them shot from his (or her) own video camera. Even that tape looks well thought out and showcases how talented the crew is. It should hold up in look for the future, especially with the acting. It definitely goes for the low budget look without sacrificing the quality, so I give it 4 out of 5 for Production Value.

Scares: The movie certainly can produce some tension. It easily creates scary scenes with very little shown on screen, which not always an easy thing to do. In the same vein of Blair Witch, it prefers sound effects and simple happenings to scare the viewers, knowing that the scariest things are often in your own imagination. It goes from making you think it's a human, to making it seem supernatural, to human again with simple atmosphere and strange noises. My only real problem with the movie lies in the fact that it sometimes felt a bit stagnant. It would set up a nice, tense scene, and then you would find out that it was nothing. It does manage to kick it up a notch for the last part of the movie, especially after the footage from the killer of the main characters is found. And even when it was lulling a bit, it was interesting to watch. It was up and down for a bit, but overall scarier than average. I give Evil Things a solid 4 out of 5 for Scares.

While it is not a perfect film by any means, it is an extremely solid low budget film. Overall, Evil Things earned an impressive 20 out of 25. I have the utmost confidence that Evil Things will be picked up for distribution. At least it should be if any studio has any sense. It's very tense, well done, and quite engaging. The story kept moving along and the actors, though unknown, gave very good performances. I hope to hear more from Dominic Perez in the future and would gladly see anything he does in the future (and he seems like a nice guy to boot). I hope you all get to enjoy this film like I did! I would love to see Evil Things on the big screen and hope to soon.