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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Decapitarium (2021) - Killer Cyborg Fun

 The description for "Decapitarium" on Amazon Prime is that it's "Reanimator meets Stranger Things".

That description is wrong.  In fact, if writers, P.J. Hruschak and Jeff Dunn (also the director) didn't start off with the idea to an homage to The Brain that Wouldn't Die, I would be very surprised.  So, really, the movie is The Brain that Wouldn't Die meets West World (1973) on  a college campus.

This description is not only more accurate story wise, but it also sets up expectations for the budget, f/x and campy acting style you can look forward to in the movie.  If you're going in expecting blockbuster CGI and Oscar worthy performances, you will disappointed.  If you want to see retro cyborg monstrosities tangle with local cops and a bunch of college students, you're going to have a good time.  A really good time.

Even the cover art has a comic book cover feel to set you up for the less serious tone throughout the movie.


The cyborg designs are mostly pretty simplistic, using coveralls and oversized orbs for heads.  The reasoning for the simple designs becomes evident later in the movie.  I don't want to spoil it, but hang on until the finale.  It's epic.

Overall the F/X are effective, clean and well used. Few if any are awe inspiring, but let's face it, that's tough when everyone has access to things like face-replacement and adding a background as a phone app now.  It's kind of like the idea of people being perplexed by seeing a car without a driver in Knight Rider doesn't make much sense in 2021, when you can fetch your Tesla with the push of a button, but in 1982, it was hilarious, every week.  

The acting is a bit more uneven.  It ranges from painful to watch to elevated above what you would expect from a B-movie.  Oddly, some of the worst moments come from actors who do pretty well the rest of the film.  As a director, I can tell you, this is usually the fault of someone behind the camera or just plain tight scheduling.  We get a take, all the lines are right, we're losing light or have to be at some other location that is only available for an hour so we shout, "Great! Got it! Let's move on!"
I apologize to every actor I've ever done that to, but sometimes the first take is all we get.

So, if you're looking for deep, socio-political science fiction that pushes the limits of what the future may bring, this move  sort of claims to be that in this article.  It also mentions being loosely based on The Pit and Pedulum, which I can honestly see, but didn't pick up on while watching it.  I am a Poe fan, but it was also after midnight.

Anyway, ignore the 2.5 (as of this writing) rating on IMDB if  you enjoy carnage, killer cyborgs and want to see Flash Gordon's Sam Jones in a movie with the fabulous Christine Nguyen.  They both deserve more screen time, but Jones does get some of the funnier lines and it's worth watching for Nguyen's scenes just to see the boots she's wearing with her camo overalls.  I'm not sure if they chose them for style, which they certainly have, or to make her taller to make easier to shoot her scenes alongside her male co-stars.

The trailer gives a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Also, watch for a nice touch with the Cyborg-vision.  As I did in Jack vs Lanterns with Pumpkin vision, you can tell which cyborg's eyes your seeing through based on the number (or JvL's case, shape) of the eyes.

Oh, and there's plenty of blood for you gore fans, especially if you like seeing it pop out of someone's neck hole, like I obviously did back when I made Alien Vengeance II: Rogue Element

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Things 5 - Needs More Monsters

 "Things 5" is free on Tubi TV and free is a really good price for it.
I saw it two nights ago and honestly, most of what I remember is the beginning.  A Woman says: "Warning this movie contains gratuitous nudity." The camera then pans to a topless a woman who says, "And gratuitous monster!" and a hairy suited monster walks by grunting and then a blood covered guy exclaims that we'll also see "Gratuitous gore."

It's a good set up to not take the movie seriously at all.  Why should you? The filmmakers didn't.  There's either a lot going on in this movie, or nothing.  I had trouble telling and honestly, I was working a bit while I watched it, so I may have missed some story.

The movie delivered on the amount of nudity.  There was more than enough of it.  Nearly every female cast member found time for a shower.  If showers and simulated sex scenes are your thing and you want them to be occasionally interrupted by a plot so  you can feel  like you're watching it for the horror, this may be your movie.

If you're an old creature feature fan, like myself, you'll likely be disappointed.  The monster suits are at times creative, but mostly Halloween costume quality.  I do not hold this against a movie.

See my own flick, "Kramped" for how much I dig a good man in a suit with a zipper running down the back movie.

There was also  a multi eyed puppet eyed kind of thing that was pretty cool, but you could barely see it.
So, while some of the monsters had potential to be cool, they didn't get a lot of screen time and there was very little back story to them.  We didn't know why each was what it was and none of them seemed particularly hard to kill.  They did seem to be attracted by showers, however.  Maybe taking baths would be safer in this town until the monsters are rounded up.

There was a lot of talk about a party we never see because, I think, all of the guests are dead before it happens.  So, no party slaughter scene.  I think that was just an excuse to cross the characters on the phone without having to have them interact in real life. It's actually a pretty clever no budget trick.  It's tough getting 15 unpaid people together around regular work schedules.

Did I miss some major plot device from one of the other "Things" movies?  Maybe.  I have only also found "Things 4" for free on Tubi so far, so I won't be going back too far.
Would I watch "Things 5" again?  Only if I forgot I have already seen it.  It happens when you watch this many oddball movies.

Acting was about what you would expect for a film of this type with one or two stand outs.
Gore was present, but not as present as the nudity.
Obligatory shower scenes and "photo shoot" sequences a plenty.
Monster triple threat.

Also, for some reason, my page changed format mid-blogging.  I don't know how to fix that, so we've all got problems, right?


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Last American Horror Show (2018) - Indie Anthology

 Over the years I have really come to enjoy Anthology movies, especially from independents.  They fill time like a feature, but don't usually come with the unnecessary filler.  Without a strong budget, a lot of indie features, some of mine included, fill out space with dialogue in not very impressive locations and less than thrilling action.  But Anthologies tell their stories quickly.  Generally getting to the action fast and not bogging themselves down too much with deep character development or dialogue driven drama.

This is true of some of the stories in "The Last American Horror Story", but actually not true for my favorite of the four stories that play out.  

"Night of the Seamonkey" was more like a featurette, which is fine, except it was one of those movies that builds up to the action and then, plays it out so quickly that if you bling, you may miss it.  So, why was this my favorite story?  For one, killer sea monkey?  I mean, if you know me, you know the idea alone is something I'm going to enjoy.  In fact, one or two sequences reminded me of our alien in the Alien Vengeance series of movies.  "Alien Vengeance: Bad Morning" especially sprung to mind.

Secondly, Lynn Lowry gives a stand out performance in this film.  Most of the acting is strong enough throughout (not a lot of Oscar material here, but that's not what movies like this are for), but her performance as a grandmother who is a bit rude and a lot suffering from boughts of dementia is a step above most of the other performances across the entire movie.  The creature, the glimpses we get of it, is a decent design and definitely holds to the throwback feel the movie's marketing promises.  No CG fish creature here. Nice bits of gore round out the movie nicely.  So, sit through the parts that seem slowly paced.  It gets fun.  A bit shorter and this would have been a great episode of the old TV show, "Monsters".

The other stories are more serious, but not as much fun.  At least, they weren't for me.  Felissa Rose's wraparound movie, "Love Starved" is consistent with this type of movie.  It has a quick set-up, not much middle and ends with a twist you see coming well before it arrives.  That said, it does its job and stick around during the credits for a bit more of that tale.

"Homewrecked" was my least favorite.   Partly because home invasion movies aren't my thing and largely because those types of stories actually rely largely upon character development and deeply involved backstories to be interesting.  As a short, this movie had none of these things, or if it did, I missed them.  Two dimensional characters being violent towards one another.  Lots of shouting and a few bloody good moments, but when it was over I didn't care who lived or died.  

"Lamb Feed" was another one that just isn't my subgenre.  Not even sure how to describe it, but the title probably gives you an idea.  Hill Billy cannibal? There is a bit of drama set up between "The Fiance" (Melanie Robel) and the leading man in "Lamb Feed" that sets him as the unlikeable character you want him to be in this type of movie.  Some interesting make-up and gore in this one, so if it's type of movie, you'll probably really enjoy it.

Overall, like most Anthologies, there is something here for multiple types of fans and many moods.  I may not suggest buying it, but it's definitely worth a spin on Amazon Prime if you subscribe to the service.


Alien Vengeance: Bad Morning

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Uncanny - Peter Cushing Anthology

"The Uncanny" is an anthology from the 70s with a pretty unusual running theme.  All of the stories involve cats.  Three short horrors, all with household felines providing the scares.  Even the wraparound story centers around a conspiracy of cats, which Cushing's character hope to reveal in a a book, with help of a publisher, portrayed by Ray Milan.

Milan and Cushing are fun as ever, but there scenes do seem to have been shot in a bit of a rush.  I honestly wouldn't have been surprised to find that they were shot in a single night.

As in many of these anthologies, the experience is uneven, with the last story, starring Donald Pleasance ( a personal favorite of mine) in a rare, almost slapstick, comedic performance.

The very first story is probably the scariest with an entire army of kitties bent on revenge against a couple scheming to get money from a sick old woman.  The pace is fairly slow at times, but it's necessary to convey the passage of time.  The acting is solid enough and some of the shots of the cats make the little critters appear truly menacing.  Add a little claustrophobia and you've got a spooky, if not fast paced, little segment.

The second film is a Cinderella kind of tale about an orphaned girl who is mistreated by her cousin turned step sister and not particularly kind aunt.  Fortunately for her, the girl's mother has left her a book on witchcraft and a black cat as a familiar and guardian.  The special F/X here make use of optical and practical methods of the time to varying effect.  At some points it plays out very well and other times it isn't convincing at all.  Not a lot of gore, but a very gruesome concept or two conveyed by suggestion.

As mentioned, the final story, with Donald Pleasance, is a kind of dark comedy.  A love triangle and murder "mystery" with a cat playing "Columbo".  There are very few surprises in this one except for how goofy it's played.  The comedy is a necessity, because nobody could take the plot seriously. Some beautiful shots here and really fun moments, but no real scares.

The wrap around story is perhaps the most sinister and again has great some angles and shot compositions.  This segment is also saved by the screen presences of Cushing and Milan.

When it comes down to is, how scary this movie is comes down to whether or not you find 15 pound tabbies to be convincingly dangerous.  A significant amount of disbelief needs to be suspended here in varying amounts depending on the story.

The biggest distraction I had was constantly seeing cat behavior that made me think the poor things may have been mistreated on set.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

"Things" - Wow

"Things" is an 80's era, direct to video cassette horror movie that has a reputation for being the most inept film to ever come out of Canada.  I'm self-isolating with my wife during the Covid-19 crisis and gave this thing a watch.

Growing up, I was taught that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  By all measures, that should make this the end of my review of this movie.

It has all of the flaws that something shot with no budget and an inexperienced director is expected to have.  Poor color, soft focus shots, harsh, nonsensical editing, acting that is all over the map, constantly out of sync audio, annoying music (even for the 80s) and a laundry list of other things.  But, these are par for the course for a movie made in a time when even low end equipment was expensive and difficult to come by.  I know that this concept has to be hard to understand for people with 4K cameras in their pocket as part of their everyday lives, but it was a fact of life for indie filmmakers at one time.

In most cases, the cast and crew would get credit for doing the best job they could, but this movie also, even with added segments of a newscaster to fill in the gaps (and include adult film starlet Amber Lynn) doesn't make a whole lot of sense, which is a shame.  If you can eek out the basics of the story, there was something there and a clever moment or two that could have been pretty cool, but most of it was never translated to the screen.

Many reviews mention that a lot of time is spent by two guys just looking around a house.  This is not an exaggeration.  There seems to be a lot of pointless cabinet and freezer opening.

But the music was the hardest part of the movie to sit through.  It wasn't just inappropriate, ineffective or boring.  It actively annoyed me.  I nearly didn't finish the movie because I could hardly stand to listen to parts of the soundtrack.

In the end,  however, the movie commits the worst crime a movie can.  It was just boring.  For about 80% of it nothing is happening.  This may have worked effectively as suspense building with better acting, lighting, music or dialogue, but alas, those were all missing.

About the only cool thing was the creature design.  Neat little fanged bugs that reminded me a bit of the Zanti Misfits with less human features.  There is also a pretty cool effect at the end, but it is surrounded by so much silly looped dialogue that it loses all of its possible edge and just becomes a joke at the end of the only  true action sequence in the movie.

If  you want to see an oddity that could have been so much more and has a few ideas that were probably more clever than the movie they fell into made them appear, seek this movie out, but be prepared for a challenging viewing.

Trailer is NSFW.  Topless scene in there and lots of screaming and gurgling.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Killer Sandwich - A Light Snack of Horror Comedy

"The Killer Sandwich" is a movie by Jake Perry and it opens with the statement: "Based on True Events".  You have to watch the movie to see just how odd this claim is.  This is what happens when you find a random sandwich on the roof of your garage and mix it with imagination of a horror movie fan.

This is much like one of my own micro shorts, "Hey, Doll...!" in that it seems to have been a quick shoot with minimal resources put towards it because the concept was simple and didn't need a feature film script and weeks of shooting to get the idea across.

Does that make it more funny or less funny?  You decide.

It's just over five minutes.  A great watch while you sip your morning coffee and contemplate the likelihood of a killer submarine sandwich with lettuce and tomato.

Remember, I am reviewing this as someone who brought you a  movie about a self-aware mop.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

"Harker" (2005) - A Classic Horror Tale...with "Puppets"

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my call for short films, which are streaming, so I can review them.  This desire for movies under 15 minutes is because in January, like the rest of the winter experiencing populace, exercise inside.  I have gone through the holiday weight gain and annual "taking stock in myself".  This inevitably leads me to blog more often for awhile and realize that my pants don't fit quite right.  So, short films, under 20 minutes or so, are the perfect companion for my exercise.  They distract me from the constant pedaling, keep me from trying to type emails on my phone while biking in place and give me something to write about here.

The thing about doing from my Facebook page is that a lot of the suggestions I got were from friends and acquaintances, such as this one.  Let me explain how my "favoritism" works in these cases.  I know Jason and Tony from back in Florida.  They're good guys and I like their work, but I want to judge it fairly.  If I didn't enjoy it at all, such as the first film I watched for these short film reviews, I would just skip the review.  That may be why you only see reviews here that are at least somewhat positive.  I am of the mind that if you don't have anything nice to say,  you don't say anything at all.  Unlike writers who do it for outside publications (here I am, gang), I currently don't have assignments given to me by other people.  I choose what to watch and what to review on my own. So, if I don't enjoy a movie, I won't review it.  Consider this blog more of a suggestive list of things I have enjoyed, at least a little bit, throughout my massive amount of movie viewing.

With the disclaimers out of the way, let us take a look at "Harker"!

At just about 14 minutes "Harker" was the perfect length for my "not too long" workout and it kept me entertained the whole time.  In fact, after finding it on Amazon and getting it started, I wound up doing an extra 3 minutes of exercise.  Always a good sign of entertainment value that I lose track of time.

The first thing adults will need to overcome with the film is that the entire cast is comprised of puppets (or marionettes if your stickler for the terminology).   This does not mean it's a kid's film, however.  The plot line and imagery are very reminiscent of Nosferatu (if you're going to emulate a vampire, what better place to start?)  The puppet designs are appropriately stark with large shocking eyes and dark features.  Billy Horne did an excellent job creating characters that look like silent film era actors in the make-up of the time.  The somewhat expressionless faces (although there are some changes at key moments here and there) help add to the creepy stillness of the castle.

The other challenge some non-hardcore film fans may face is that this is a "silent movie".  The musical score by Tom Hoehn, however, carries the mood wonderfully and keeps the viewer engaged despite the lack of recorded dialogue.

Jayme LaRosa's sets are wonderful.  They are very reminiscent of the horror movies of old and complete the silent film era feel of the movie wonderfully.

There were one or two moments that made me giggle, but in a horror movie populated strictly by puppets you wouldn't expect to be able to take things seriously the entire time.  The overall visual style is wonderfully spooky.  It is reminiscent of Tim Burton's works, not because it is derivative of his movies, but because both show influences from the same dark roots of early silent horror films.

Finally, the creature, the beast, the main antagonist in this creepy short film is wonderfully designed.  The filmmakers even manage to get a bit of gore in, which was an unexpected, pleasant surprise.

Younger viewers may find the movie a bit frightening, but the nice thing about a short is that you can watch it yourself before making a decision for youngsters in your life.  It's a great initiation movie into the horror genre. 

I highly recommend this one if you can find it streaming and hardcore horror fans might even want to add it to their collection.  It's would great October viewing on a stormy night.