Thursday, July 1, 2010



Broke onto the scene in 2005 with what was in my opinion, the best horror effort of the decade with WOLF CREEK: the tale of three young adventurers who are taken captive by a homicidal woodsman in remote Australia. An unrelenting nose-dive into abhorrent horror that is both stylish and effectual without being pretentious. Exhibits gumption in its opening third which functions to develop relations among its characters before they are tossed into extemporaneous survival mode. It's everything the vapid, illogical Hostel hoped to be.

Mclean's sophomore effort, ROGUE, features an American journalist joining forces with an Aussie tour guide to do battle with a man-eating crocodile. Surprisingly good of its kind, Rogue is a functional creature-feature fashioned by an enthusiastically devoted hand. Its mawkish nature sparks a bittersweet longing for all things eighties.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movies I've Seen (Recently) The best of the week centers on an apocryphal sex act?

Ratings determined using a five blood drop scale.

Yes the stolen clipart used to classify Sick Girl is a steaming pile of poo. The thin tale of a disturbed teenage girl who seeks vengeance against a trio of bullies bamboozled me via its slick cover art and numerous fangoria ads into giving up 83 minutes of my life. Well the trickery stops there. I will not waste another moment on this turd except to say it sucks, sucks, sucks.

Donkey punch [dong-kee puhnch]
to give a sharp thrust or blow to the back of your partner's head or neck while engaged in the act of sex.

You know the story: three promiscuous girls meet four sex-crazed guys at a Mediterranean resort and make plans to set off on a luxury yacht where they engage in hours of violent sex before the token nerd of the group punches his partner in the back of the neck accidentally ending her life and the party in the process.
This violent, graphic, sex-filled thriller is much better than it should be. There is nary a likable character in the group, which is of service to the filthy narrative, and if you can get past the ridiculous setup, is quite thrilling. A well-executed exploitationer.
Mild-mannered Tony has an unusual pair of hobbies: his time is split between viewing mindless action fare on his 13 inch teevee (a reference to Gary Busey's Hider in the House caused me to chuckle with glee) and killing people.

Interesting in concept - a non judgmental examination of a damaged human being - yet lacking impact. I was reminded of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer throughout. I didn't love that film either but I will be the first to admit its honest approach and disturbing observations resulted in a truly compelling movie experience.
Tony fails to enter the psyche of its protagonist, instead forcing us to watch his crimes from a distance. In the end, I was left to wonder whether the apathetic nature of the character was a conscious choice on the part of the director or an indication of his artistic limitations.


Sam and company retreat to a lake-side cottage for a little R and R and discover a terrifying secret about the water.

This is one blah horror pic. Dimwitted characters provide cannon fodder for a humdrum ghost while some asinine mystery unfolds around them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Movies I've Seen (Recently): 2 period and 2 evil children.

Ratings determined using a five blood drop scale.

A posse of men set out to recover a missing woman in J.T. Petty’s period horror flick The Burrowers. Expecting the culprits to be a band of hostile natives they are caught off guard when the identity of their true foes is revealed.

Horror has been met by a fresh crop of young directors who are as focused on constructing human relations as they are creating horridness for their characters to endure. (Greg Mclean comes to mind.) J.T. Petty is no exception. However, so much of The Burrowers is spent observing men engaged in futile exchanges that you sometimes forget you are watching a
horror movie. Beautifully shot and interesting in concept the film unfortunately comes off as a bit dull.

A holiday vacation turns into a yuletide nightmare for two families as their children begin to crave more than just Christmas turkey.

This year’s hot ticket is evil children. This effort, from severely disappointing Ghost House Underground, starts out well enough, utilizing a saturated color scheme and subtle soundtrack to create tension, but quickly falls off course. Director Tom Shankland’s inability to manage
action destroys the second and third acts of the picture.

A young couple adopts a 9-year-old girl to fill the void in their lives created via the loss of their baby. The mild-mannered Esther however comes with a bit of excess baggage.

For the first 80 minutes the Orphan is genuinely creepy, admirably acted and competently directed. However, as the picture breaches the two-hour mark, it swaps its sense of mystery and suspense with cheap thrills and laughable revelations. The exposing of Esther’s true identity ranks among the more ridiculous moments in recent horror history. This Bad Seed-style flick may outdo The Children, but offers nothing new to the evil adolescent subgenre.

A grave robber recounts his years of plunder and torment to a 19th century clergyman while awaiting execution in the new horror/comedy from Larry Fessenden’s Scareflix.

Inspired by gothic horror and macabre humor the picture fails to fully live up to either. Still its amusing FX and b-movie zeal will please most horror enthusiasts put off by the glut of recent remakes. And the alien corpse scene is worth the price of admission.

I am an admirer of Fessenden, Scareflix, the Victorian horror pics that instigated I Sell the Dead and wanted to love this movie. While it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, it’s hard not to appreciate the degree of heart and enthusiasm exerted via first time director Glenn McQuaid and Fessenden’s low-budget production outfit.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Top 10 HORROR films of '09 (part 2)

These lists are fun to make but are all so relative. A number of the pics mentioned are ’08 productions that didn’t see US distribution until ’09. A few are ’09 releases that didn’t hit DVD until early 2010. I hold off on printing any “best of” list until after the awards season to allow myself the opportunity to catch all those “tiny” films that are rushed into limited release at year’s end to gain eligibility. I’ve watched a boatload of horror flicks throughout the year to get to this list (view my earlier posts for why Deadgirl (ugh), Thirst and other fan faves didn’t make the cut) and hope you enjoy my line of reasoning in making my selections.

6. Let the Right One In (March 10, 2009) A foreign vampire love story, Let the Right One In succeeds not only as a horror picture, but is one of the best looking, most adeptly told narratives of the year. Both eerie and heartwarming, it is one of the most affecting horror films you’re likely to see. (Note: this should be placed much higher in the rankings, however, I was one of the lucky few that caught it during its initial release and it made a couple of my lists back then).

7. Trick ‘r Treat (Oct. 6, 2009) Anthology of shorts, each taking place on Allhallows Eve. The film lingered in distribution hell before finally receiving a DVD release from Warner Home Video – and just in time for Halloween. Packed with style and glee and enough holiday lore to make Jack Skellington jump for joy, the picture is sure to become required holiday viewing for young fans.

8. Bad Biology (Jan. 26, 2010) When two biologically malformed beings meet the result is an explosively lewd and bewildering experience in tune with the midnight movies of the late 70s. A master of low budget cinema, Frank Henenlotter was removed from filmmaking for far too long. His return boasts the same magnificently shameless style and stop-motion FX that made him famous among dedicated horror fans.

9. The Last House on the Left (Aug. 18, 2009) When the Collingwoods discover the gang of drifters staying in their guest house may have assaulted their daughter they decide on a rather gruesome method of settling the score. The only of the horde of current remakes to outdo its predecessor, The Last House on the Left is stylishly photographed, tightly directed and wonderfully acted. Though the strong message of the original is weakened by the survival of the Collingwood girl, the moment in which the parents decide to resort to violence is truly affecting.

10. Pontypool (Jan. 26, 2010) A deadly virus is sweeping a small Ontario town and the only source for information is newly appointed shock-jock Grant Mazzy. Very stylish and extremely claustrophobic, Pontypool is a zombie flick minus the zombies. Transpiring completely within a crude radio station the picture remains inventive up until the point that the source of the disease is revealed (where it becomes a tad corny).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Movies I've Seen (Recently)

Ratings determined using a five blood drop scale.

Ink introduces us to the fanciful Emma and her dispassionate father, John. As night ascends, two groups of mysterious beings materialize outside of their home – one aimed at delivering subconscious bliss, the other intent on doling out torturous nightmares. Emma quickly becomes ensnared in their fairy-tale dream battle and has to hope her father gains focus in time to save her.

A fantasy-rich sci-fi pic, Ink boasts a number of moody visuals and ambitions set pieces despite its limited budget. The film does well to balance an intriguing narrative with scenes of pure action (it appears the purveyors of dreams have had a class in MMA) while generating a sense of compassion for the characters involved. If not for the out-of-place adult language that permeates John’s workplace, Ink would be an excellent film for the whole family to share.


When Justin’s sweetie is abducted by demons he must summon a member of the netherworld to get her back. Shot on a shoestring budget in just five days, Lo feels like a movie shot on a shoestring budget in just five days. While the exchanges between Justin and the demon Lo are at points witty and humorous, there isn’t a whole lot else in the movie worth getting excited about. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will either appreciate the director’s attraction to that show or scorn him for his many obvious homages.

The flesh eating virus that decimated a cabin full of coeds eight years ago is back to pollute movie screens once again. The original was a derivative piece of horror fiction that webbed gross-out humor around contrived genre elements to create a movie not worthy of the attention it garnered. Its sequel is an equally juvenile effort that may satisfy those with a fascination for brainless, blood-filled gruel but does nothing for the genre. A minor stumble in the promising career of director Ti West.

A selfless priest volunteers for a medical experiment that turns him into a bloodsucking vampire. Not Park’s best work (that would be the soon to be remade for American audiences cult film Oldboy) but its poetic tone and mysterious mood make it oddly compelling. A bit long and slow, and I’m not a fan of the goofy humor that often floods Asian horror, but Thirst does enough to modify the vampire mythology to gain my recommendation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Top 10 HORROR films of '09 (part 1)

Here’s the first half of my list of the ten best horror films of 2009. The dates refer to the US DVD release of each title. Enjoy.

1. Martyrs (April 28, 2009) A young girl’s quest for vengeance against abusive kidnappers ends in a brutal scene of carnage. The story defies conventional script format, instead layering a series of unperceived events that blend to form, as Mr. Fox would say, a complete mind cuss. Pascal Laugier’s assured direction endows each blood-drenched scenario with a sense of beauty, and according to the DVD’s behind-the-scenes featurette, he shoots with nary a storyboard or shot list.

2. Drag Me to Hell (Oct. 13, 2009) A loan officer with the unpleasant task of evicting a gypsy woman from her home finds herself the recipient of an ancient and deadly curse. Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to horror provokes as many laughs as it does chills. With the current economic downturn providing a tinge of social commentary, the picture is an inspired about-face from the bawdy tendencies of modern horror pictures.

3. House of the Devil (NYR) A happy-go-lucky college student takes an unusual babysitting job and quickly discovers her employers have a nefarious motive for hiring her. Inspired by America’s obsession with the occult and satanic worship in the 70s and 80s and packing a retro look customary for those eras, the movie slowly and artfully builds to a gruesome payoff. Relying on mood and atmosphere, director Ti West constructs an experience that is equal parts horrific and cool.

4. Splinter (April 14, 2009) A group of unlucky persons find themselves trapped in an isolated gas station by an infectious disease that transforms its victims into zombies. Particularly good of its type, Splinter is a pleasant reminder that horror filmmakers are still capable of building character and producing calculated exposition.

5. Carriers (Dec. 29, 2009) Four friends attempting to escape a world-wide epidemic flee toward an alleged “safe zone.” The best of the friends trying to find sanctuary from a universal pandemic film released this year, Carriers boasts a sense of pragmatism absent from most works of this ilk. The cast make the most of a simple script and the direction is taught throughout forcing me to wonder how this picture has eluded the horror-viewing public.

(Part 2 Coming Soon)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Top films of 2009

As the Oscars fast approach, the decade that breathed new life into the epic film, produced a remunerative version of the documentary and saw the rise of digital distribution bids adieu. Their exit strategy: make life extremely easy for overly critical film reviewers and nerdish cinephiles set on compiling one more “best of” list. Below are my picks for the top movies of 2009.

10. Bad Lieutenant

9. Limits of Control

8. Moon

7. The Fantastic Mr. Fox

6. Drag Me to Hell

5. Inglorious Bastards

4. Crazy Heart

3. House of the Devil


2. Hurt Locker

1. Fish Tank

Also worth checking out: The Road, Sugar, A Serious Man, Red Riding

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cool Gift

We’ve all faced that customary Christmas query: “Did you get everything you wanted?” Most common response: diplomatically conceal the truth, say yes and patiently await the next celebration. I however have the luxury of having a birthday a mere two weeks after the commemorating of the birth of Christ and so unabashedly come back with every trinket and bric-a-brac not acquired. This year was something of an anomaly as after being asked the aforesaid question I heard myself responding simply, “Yes.” Thus those close to me will be required to do some major meditating before purchasing me a b-day gift.

One such carefully considered present came in the form of a jump drive, aka flash drive, aka USB drive (and I’ve appeased my Chuck Palahniuk fixation for the day). The 4 GB hard drive was filled with cool punk, experimental and indie rock music from such bands as the Riverdales, Mclusky and Animal Collective. My one complaint: the gig of free space. J slash K, this gift put the hunky back in hunky-dory.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mucky Pup

I had the pleasure of ushering out one of New Jersey’s best hardcore punk bands on Saturday night as Mucky Pup played Asbury Park’s The Saint for a final time before withdrawing into seclusion forever. Despite their advanced years, the five-man ensemble kicked ass as they serenaded about sixty-plus ardent fans with such colorful tunes as Little Pigs, Hippies Hate Water and Nazichizm. It is markedly unusual to hear such juvenile words sang in such harmonious voice - in this case by one Chris Milnes. However, the wit and cleverness of the lyrics matched with the incendiary guitar playing of Dan Nastasi (yes I did just shamelessly quote Cameron Crowe’s biographical personage William Miller) caused me to appreciate the band in a manner different than I had as a teen. Plus, there’s something oddly refreshing about seeing forty-five-year-old men and bottom-heavy women attempting to incite a mosh pit.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The House of the Devil

I am in awe of Ti West. We are but months apart in age, and though we were only children during the 1980s, both have a strong identification with that era’s “Don’t worry be happy” atmosphere. With House of the Devil, West creates a Hitchcockian suspense film in tune with the fright flicks of his youth.

Sam is a spry college student weighed down by a lack of funds and a callous roommate. She comes upon a quiet rental property and a fortuitous babysitting gig that’s the most dreadful depiction of the profession since John Carpenter’s Halloween. Throughout the course of the night Sam realizes there is something occult about the eerily compassionate couple who hired her.

The film is written, directed and edited by West. He is a horror enthusiast and understands the strength of mood and pacing. With House of the Devil he creates a stripped-down, retro experience that relishes its own sense of grim anticipation.

As a filmmaker I find West’s work wholly inspirational. He has a commendable knack for creating competent chillers from simple premises and meager budgets. Steven Spielberg is said to look at Seven Samurai and Lawrence of Arabia before going into production. I revisit Ti West’s The Roost.

The Roost (2005)
Trigger Man (2007)
The House of the Devil (2009)