Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Movie Review # 31: The Deadly Spawn

THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983)
Directed by Douglas McKeown

My second selection from the Rue Morgue Top 50, The Deadly Spawn, gets right down to business, so quickly that I thought I started the movie in the middle by mistake. Before the intro credits even roll a meteor crashes in a field, letting loose deadly alien parasites that claim 2 victims within 10 minutes.

We're then taken into the early morning hours in a suburban home, where a couple awakes for the day in a terrible rainstorm. The husband goes down into the basement to find out why there is no hot water and waiting for him downstairs is - you guessed it - the deadly spawn! With very little build-up we are introduced to the monster, which looks like a gorier version of Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors (basically a huge mouth with teeth and lots of smaller sperm-like creatures surrounding it). The monster quickly consumes the husband with blood splattering all over the basement which is now flooded with water. The wife of course goes downstairs to investigate and becomes breakfast for the spawn.

Another couple awakes, presumably in another house, and goes next door to visit the now deceased couple. We never really find out how the spawn got there, and why these people are connected. But the next couple proceeds to have breakfast in the house, the electrician shows up to fix a power outage, and a young boy obsessed with monsters decides to take a peek in the cellar and meets the spawn face to face, who is eating his dead mother's decapitated head (notice the boy's Famous Monsters magazine product placement at the breakfast table). Total chaos ensues as old women at brunch are attacked by the mini-spawns who crawl into the salad bowl and then latch onto their legs.

I kind of lost interest towards the end, probably because the monsters were shown so many times that it just became comical, but there were definitely some cool gore effects when people got eaten. Eventually the survivors destroy the evil and good prevails - blah blah blah. Some cool sci-fi and horror elements here, but overall a very weak plot with few climaxes. I give it 2 toes, but apparently it's a classic, now available in special edition DVD. It really is like watching the Little Shop of Horrors as an R-rated feature.

Check out the website here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Movie Review # 30: Entrails of a Virgin

ENTRAILS OF A VIRGIN (1986)
Directed by Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu

So the latest issue of Rue Morgue has a feature on the Top 50 goriest films of all time. I added as many as I could find to my Netflix queue (excluding the ones I've already seen), and the first one to arrive at my house was Entrails of a Virgin (or Shojo no harawata in Japanese).

I was expecting a non-stop gore fest, but instead what I got was an Asian soft-core porno disguised as a horror film. A group of photographers and their naked sex slave models are doing a shoot in the mountains and get lost on the way home. They arrive at an abandoned cabin the woods. After some drinking and naked wrestling (the pile driver was my favorite move), they start having sex with each other while a mud-covered murderer with a huge penis stalks them from outside the house. One by one they are picked off, the first kill by a hammer to the face which causes the victim's eyeballs to pop out in all their low-budget glory. The plot is riddled with repeated sex scenes; most of the time the girls look like they are being raped but enjoying it. Some classic scenes like the "standing up upside-down 69 ending in a pile driver" are quite memorable. Or the shower scene when the killer gives new meaning to the sexual act of "fisting."

Entrails of a Virgin was not quite what I was expecting, but a lot of fun regardless. There are so many unexplained scenes, such as the girl making out with a beheaded corpse or more importantly, who the killer is and why he is naked and covered in mud? I'm still giving it 4 toes because it is chock full of sex and all the elements of weird Asian horror. I would have given it 5 but it just made no sense and left too many loose ends. If you're a first timer you'll definitely enjoy the film (no pun intended).

Check it out on IMDB:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0222817/


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Movie Review # 29: The Last House in the Woods

THE LAST HOUSE IN THE WOODS (2008)
Directed by Gabriele Albanesi

When I heard that Sam Raimi's Ghost House partnership with Mandate Pictures was finally coming to a head back in 2004 (with the remake of The Grudge), I was excited for a slew of inventive horror films to hit the shelves over the next few years. It took awhile for the project to get off the ground however, and after a few letdowns (The Grudge 2, The Messengers, Boogeyman) we were finally blessed with 30 Days of Night and now, a line of films under the umbrella of Ghost House Underground.


The first pick for me was The Last House in the Woods. The story begins with a couple who has a car accident with their young boy in the back seat, and the husband is killed. The mother exits the car and is killed by a passer-by on the road, who bashes her head in with a stone. The boy witnesses the murder, and flees to a nearby house in the woods.


We are then introduced to a young couple who goes for a drive and a little sexy time off the side of the road. They encounter a trio of bullies who beat the shit out of the guy and attempt to rape the girl. A couple pulls over to help, and scares the 3 men away at gunpoint, taking the couple back to their house for refuge. What appears to be an act of kindness quickly turns into a nightmare. The couple has a son in serious need of a dental visit, and our lead female Aurora (played by Daniela Virgilio) tries to escape the grasp of the husband, Antonio (played by Gennaro Diana) when he produces a syringe. She wakes up in the living room, now covered in plastic, with her boyfriend Rino (Daniele Grassetti) at her side. Both of them are tied up, and we notice that Rino's leg has been hacked off, which the son is feasting on at the dinner table alongside his 2 deformed brothers, one of which has a huge pulsating growth on his neck. A gruesome dinner scene that pays homage to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we are given some great gore effects here, especially when one of the brothers revs up a chainsaw and mutilates Rino's arm, splattering Aurora with dark thick blood.


The bullies end up at the house by coincidence after hearing the screams, with a plan to "fuck the girls and steal all the DVD players." The English dubs are absolutely terrible throughout the entire film, which gives it a B-movie feel. The lighting effects are well-done, creating eerie illuminations on the faces of the family. The bullies go head to head against the family, and one of my favorite scenes is when one of the bullies squeezes the brother's growth until it squirts bright yellow goo all over his face. One of the bullies is opened up with a chainsaw, his intestines spilling out with great attention to detail in the effects department.


The story line is rather weak, and we are given little insight into why the family has gone mad. Towards the end of the film it all goes haywire, when we discover the young boy from the opening car crash scene is locked in the basement, propped up on a pedestal with no arms or legs. We learn that the other son is a cannibal, feeding off the victims his mother and father kill as an act of love.


All in all the movie is fun, gory, and moves at a steady pace. Hopefully the rest of the Ghost House Underground films are this fun. I give The Last House in the Woods 4 toes.


Check out Ghost House Pictures here:


http://www.ghosthousepictures.com/ghost-house-underground/lionsgate-home-video/the-last-house-in-the-woods/




Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Movie Review # 28: The Strangers

THE STRANGERS (2008)
Written & Directed by Bryan Bertino

Movies that are "inspired by true events" are usually major disappointments that lure in viewers by making them feel like what they are seeing actually happened - with that said, The Strangers falls right in line with such hoaxes. The intro narration sounds eerily similar to the opening voice of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which ran a few chills down my spine and made me think I might actually be proven wrong about the film being a flop. But the movie moves at the pace of a 90 year old turtle on vicodin. In other words - really fucking slow.


It starts off with some potential, however, when a couple on the fritz end up alone in a house in the middle of the woods. There is a loud knock at the door from a mysterious woman in the middle of the night, right when the panties come off and the couple are about to get freaky (shame they couldn't get a few pumps in before they get murdered). There is one particular scene in which the lead female role of Kristen (played by Liv Tyler) is standing in the kitchen with a masked man in the background watching her. She feels his presence, but he slips back into the shadows before she spots him. The Strangers have entered the house, and it's all downhill from here.


The terror peaks about 20 minutes into the film but never achieves that same level of fear throughout. After awhile the knocks and sound effects no longer frighten, but are instead kind of boring. Most of the film you're waiting for something to happen, but it never actually does. The intent was obviously to build up suspense rather than use gore & horror to terrify, but a lack of character development makes the film just plain dull. Even when a friend arrives and almost saves the couple we hardly feel any real connection with his character, even when his face gets blown off by a shotgun. For example, Inside (2007, reviewed a few months back in The Big Toe Blog) does an outstanding job of leaving you on the edge of your seat while each of the potential rescuers are picked off by the killer, just as they are about to save our female lead. Part of the fun of a horror film is hoping the good guys will triumph, but in this case you want the main characters to be killed, because they were stupid enough to stay in the house in the first place.


However, I would always rather watch a weak horror film than any other genre, so I guess it wasn't a total loss. I will often times dissect a bad movie looking for a few good moments, and with The Strangers I only found one: when the killers break into the house and cause the turntable to skip, a sound effect that creates a spooky repetition and was the highlight of the trailer. The Strangers gets 2 toes and gives masked killers with potato sacks on their heads a bad rep. Even the kid with bag mask in The Orphanage was creepier.

If you still want to see this check it out on IMDB:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0482606/


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Movie Review #27: Quarantine

QUARANTINE (2008)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Hand-held camera horror was all the hype after Blair Witch Project. Cloverfield came through for horror fans like a first-hand 9-11 themed Godzilla film. Even the legendary George Romero gave it a go with Diary of the Dead. But no film has done it quite like Quarantine. I've been trying to get my hands on the original (REC) but haven't had much luck. So we'll start with the American remake . . .

The film starts off very slow, with Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter's sister on the hit Showtime series) playing the role of a news reporter shadowing a team of Los Angeles firemen for the evening. The beginning is playful and innocent, until an emergency call comes in and the men respond. Upon arrival at an apartment building, the firemen with cameraman in tow knock on the door of an old female resident. Once inside, she is found trembling in a nightgown covered in blood. She then attacks one of the fireman and madness ensues. Residents are found throughout the building pale and drooling, feeding off the other residents. The victims are hunted down one by one throughout the film, which is mostly presented in long shots and lots of shaky camera work that literally leave you on the edge of your seat the entire film.

The film succeeds in a number of ways by making you feel like you are there in the building. The terror is very real, the darkness consumes the characters and creates a feeling of unrest without any sound effects or ominous musical tones. The horror comes from the unknown - what could possibly be lurking around each corner or behind the door of one of the apartments. The most terrifying aspect of the film is that help is right outside, with helicopter lights circling the perimeter and shining through the windows. The police seal off the area and claim that all the residents have been evacuated, leaving the unaffected to fight for their lives amongst the infected.

A fresh take in the zombie horror category, Quarantine stands out as one of the best horror films of 2008. I'm sure REC is twice as good, but this film has restored my faith in remakes. There's nothing better than a horror film without a happy ending. Just go to the theater and see for yourself. 5 toes all around from the Big Toe Blog!

Visit the film's website at:

http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/quarantine/


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Movie Review #26: The Gate

THE GATE (1987)
Directed by Tibor Tak√°cs

Finding The Gate on Ebay for under $50.00 wasn't easy. After a few weeks of bidding on the DVD, I finally secured a purchase for $25.00, which isn't bad considering the film was discontinued and extremely rare. I finally settled in to watch the film with my girlfriend, who was terrified of the movie as a child. But there is nothing scary about the film in 2008 - as a matter of fact the monsters are hysterical, like mini-Godzillas that multipy.

Of course the parents take off on a 3 day vacation, leaving the kids to fend for themselves against the powers of evil. Stephen Dorff (playing the lead role of Glen) unleashes demons from Hell through a portal in his backyard, by way of a hole left by an uprooted tree that once held their tree house. The boys find several stones with glowing crystals near the hole, which turn out to be the least of their worries once the pint-sized demons are loose. When the family dog dies and a friend buries him in the hole, the demons have the sacrifice they need and the gate is opened. Glen's best friend Terry (played by Louis Tripp) discovers the secrets of The Gate while listening to a heavy metal album, in which the rituals are explained when the record is played backwards. You gotta love the 80's - we blamed everything on heavy metal music.

The only scary moment of the film is when a decayed corpse breaks out of the living room wall, the first human sacrifice for The Gate. The corpse drags Terry inside the walls and Glen & his sister knock out the zombie, who then smashes into a dozen little demons when he hits the floor - a pretty cool visual effect even for 1987. All in all the film is a fun watch to reminsice about the 1980's and you will definitely get a laugh out of the demons who are obviously actors in bad alien masks. I give The Gate 3 toes and recommend digging for it (no pun intended). You won't even find it on Netflix, so Ebay is your best bet.

The Gate on IMDB: