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Dog Soldiers: Neil Marshall’s Werewolf Epic of Awesomeness

October 20, 2014

Dog Soldiers movie poster

This line from Dog Soldiers sums up the film.

We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.

Dog Soldiers is a fantastic cult classic that is minor miracle of practical effects, inventive action and dialogue like this:

[Cooper tries to push Wells' intestines back into his stomach]

Sergeant Harry Wells: My guts are out Coop!

Cooper: We’ll just put ‘em back in then!

Sergeant Harry Wells: They’re not gonna f**king fit!

Cooper: Of course they’ll fit, man!

Dog Soldiers gore

I watched a Dog Soldiers and Descent double feature at my friend’s home in 2006. I knew nothing about the films and could tell by the pleased look on his face that I was in for something good. The experience was a cinema lovers dream because I had zero expectations and was blown away by the creativity, creatures and violence.

The Descent has become a well-known top five horror flick while Dog Soldiers is slowly building a cult audience. The critical acclaim of Dog Soldiers allowed Marshall to make The Descent and that is one of the reasons it should be appreciated.  Dog Soldiers is packed with low-budget creativity that feels like equal parts Aliens, Evil Dead and Predator. It was a blast watching the British soldiers dispatch the werewolves (and vice versa) in creative ways.

Dog Soliders Werewolf

Jump forward eight years and Neil Marshall is still one of my favorite directors. He is a maestro of mayhem and his films are packed with urgency, violence and awesomeness. The Descent, Centurion, Doomsday (Uber guilty pleasure) and his episodes of Game of Thrones are all wonderful. The thing I appreciate most about Marshall’s films is the urgency he instills to the proceedings. You never have time to catch your breath because the action never stops. For instance, this picture from Centurion exemplifies all of his films.

Centurion

Dog Soldiers centers around a bunch of badass British soldiers battling badass werewolves in the Scottish Highlands. They get chased into a country home and proceed to use the limited resources they have (propane, fists, knives, feet).  It proves that a lot can be done with little and practical effects are timeless (E.g. The Thing, American Werewolf in London). Dog Soldiers walks a fine line of humor, violence and suspense. For instance, after a massive kitchen brawl the werewolves get the upper hand and a soldier says “I hope I give you the sh*ts. You f**king wimp.”

Dog Soldiers army men

Dog Soldiers is an action packed spectacle that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. However, it makes the wheel look amazing. It is a fun ride that borrows heavily from other films but shows all the traits of future Marshall films (Lots and lots of violence). The cast made up of Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, Emma Cleasby and Darren Morfitt add credibility and acting chops to the monster madness. They are believable tough guys who might actually have a chance in a fist fight against an eight foot tall werewolf.

Dog Soliders Werewolf attack

Dog Soldiers is a fantastic film that you should watch this Halloween. It is urgent in ways many films are not and it belongs alongside genre hits like Evil Dead, Assault on Precinct 13 and An American Werewolf in London. It exemplifies low-budget horror and would make a perfect double-header with The Descent.

Check out Marshall’s other films as well. They are fantastic guilty pleasures that bring the violence and fun.

Doomsday movie

 

Aliens, Tremors, Jerky Ghosts and Clowns: The Best Horror Movie Drags

October 17, 2014

Warning: SPOILERS ABOUND! 

Hello all. Mark here.

Halloween is on its way and the world will be inundated with “best of” horror lists. However, I (with some help from friends) will be doing something different. I wanted to talk about the greatest horror drags. When I mean drags, I mean the hero/victim is unwittingly pulled into danger via evil clowns, modified sharks or skinny zombie ladies.

The drag is a staple of horror films because it provides real stakes that let the viewer know the threat is real. Somebody is probably very angry and the they will take it out on the poor recipient via pulling them into danger. A drag isn’t a schlock scare dependent on a cat jumping out of nowhere. If done right the drag/tug/pull can become legendary.

REC

These moments provides quality gut punches that thrill, shock or make you laugh. They build upon worlds or simply kill off random characters like this poor guy in Big Trouble in Little China.

Big Trouble Spider

 

Quick disclaimer: I have not watched every horror film and I’m certain I’ve missed many drags. However, these drags have been well researched and reflect some of my favorite horror moments. What are your favorite drags? Read and vote below!

Leatherface Thump and Drag in Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Yes, he thumps the man on the head first. However, the drag is quick, economical and powerful. The moment is a blur and sets the basis for the rest of the primal scares. It is the perfect introduction to a skin mask wearing murderer

 

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The Drag to Hell in Drag Me to Hell

I love Drag Me To Hell. Sam Raimi hit a goofy homerun and the ending really punches you in the gut. Aside from The Descent, Drag Me To Hell is my favorite horror film.

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Evil Dead 2 Hand Drag

Ash gets his butt kicked a lot. He is a famous cinematic blowhard who takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Turner Classic Movies has the best hand battle/drag I found. Click on the link to enjoy!

Ash hand

 

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Descent Creature Drag

I love The Descent. It is primal, violent and amazing. I love the opening attack and the insanity of trying to save one of your friends from being dragged away by a hungry mole creature.

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REC Finale Drag

Woo Wheeee! This drag punched me in the face and left me breathless.

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Fire in the sky Alien Abduction Drag

I watched this movie when I was a kid and it wrecked my youth.

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Nightmare on Elm Street Drag Into Bed

Geyers and geyers of blood. Johnny Depp gets dragged into a bed and explodes. Hello, Freddy.

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Alien 3 Ceiling Drag

Alien 3 is not a good film. However, this moment was amazing.  I love how the guy gets pulled through the ceiling. The prisoners were in deep sh*t. It is so unexpected and instantly adds a wildcard to the film. The alien could and would strike from anywhere.

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Every Drag in The Conjuring

I love The Conjuring. That witch was a massive jerk. The threat was so real that every drag had a weight to it. The poor family was in over their heads and I watched most of the movie with my eyes covered.

the conjuring

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Paranormal Activity Bed Drag 

Forget about all the lame sequels. The original is a beauty in which a jerky demon does some angry dragging.

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Poltergiest Clown Drag

Wow, This scene is terrifying and played upon many peoples fear of clowns and ghosts.

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Aliens and the Hudson Dragging

Game over man. Game over. James Cameron used the drag to perfection in Aliens. Here, the show stealing Hudson is dragged away and the stakes get very real and one liners become less frequent.

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Deep Blue Sea and the Sam Jackson Moment of Awesomeness

Probably the greatest moment ever in genetically modified shark cinema. The bite and drag comes after a fantastic monologue and plays out perfectly. I was working in a theater when this movie came out and the scene always got a massive applause. The drag perfected.

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The Blob and the Kitchen Sink

The Blob creators literally brought in a kitchen sink to drag a guy into. Brilliant!

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Dog Soldiers- Dogs! More Like P*ssies Drag

I love Dog Soldiers. More people need to see it. I couldn’t find the clip but the movie is on Youtube. Watch it.

 

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Jeepers Creepers and the Depressing Fly Away-  The end of Jeepers Creepers is a real downer. You like the brother/sister duo and the moment actually gives you some hope. However, poor Justin Long gets dragged away and his eyes are recycled.

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The Creature from the Black Lagoon Belly Flop Drag

The Creature likes a lady. The Creature grabs the lady. The creature and the woman belly flop off a boat. This is one of the original horror drags and must be appreciated.

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Tremors and the Drag Through Tire Kill

The subterranean worms are great at dragging people into their squishy mouths. Thus, don’t hide on top of a tire.

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Cabin in the Woods and the “I’m in a Reality TV Show” Drag.

Cabin in the Woods defies all expectations. So, when you think Marty is being dragged away to his death you are being fooled. In a typical film, that drag would have meant death. Instead, the guy lives, beats people with a bong club and lets the world burn. A great way to end the drag list.

Marty drag

Did I miss any? Vote below to let me know what is your favorite drag of the bunch.

Sunshine: An Underrated Science Fiction Classic

October 15, 2014

sunshine

Sunshine is an underrated science fiction epic that didn’t connect with the mainstream. It is an intellectually stimulating film that takes a journey into the heart of darkness near the sun. With Interstellar looming on the horizon ready to pulverize the senses (in a good way) I wanted to remind everyone about Sunshine.

Sunshine

I missed Sunshine in the theater but was able to watch it on Blu-ray (first film I watched on Blu). My buddy had a Blu-ray player and picked up Sunshine the day it came out. Between the large television, surround sound and amazing visuals I was hooked. The experience absolutely floored me and left me exhausted. It immediately became one of my favorite films and I’ve tried to get everyone I know to watch it.

The reason I love Sunshine is because of it’s singular vision. Boyle hired one company to do all the visual effects and he wrote the film with The Beach and 28 Days Later scribe Alex GarlandIt lives and dies on Boyle’s shoulders and that is why it is so effective. Sunshine has the same thing in common with my favorite films Jaws, Dr. Strangelove, Royal Tenenbaums and Hot Fuzz. They are singular visions by incredibly talented directors.

Danny Boyle Sunshine

Sunshine works because of the bonkers story, talented cast and beautiful visuals. The $40 million dollar budget was stretched perfectly. Boyle planned out the entire process and left nothing to chance. The actors lived together and learned to bond like a crew. Also, they didn’t have to act against blue/green screens. Boyle and his team built live sets and set up a system where strobing lights cascaded off their faces in order to get the most realistic performances.

Cliff Curtis

The film takes place in 2057 and focuses on a crew looking to reignite the sun. On board their massive ship they are hauling a nuclear bomb with the mass of Manhattan. They are second crew to attempt the mission and the world’s last hope. The technology is not over-complicated and it all feels grounded. Boyle said this about the look of ship “fifty years ago there were red buses. Now there are silver buses.” Boyle kept it simple and relied on practical technology and lots of blue/green/gray hues that showcased the powerful yellow of the sun.

Here is the blue and grey.

Sunshine cast

Here is the yellow.

sunshine gif

The cast made up of Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Cliff Curtis, Mark Strong, Troy Garity and Benedict Wong are all fantastic. Chris Evan’s has been vocal about the disappointing box office and has this to say about it.

I know, man. Like ten people saw it. All my good movies, nobody sees. Everybody goes and sees ‘Fantastic Four,’ but nobody sees ‘Sunshine.’ I’d have a different career if people saw that. I love that movie, man. I love Danny Boyle. I love that experience and I love that cast. That was one of those movies, top to bottom, I’m just in love with.

Chris Evans

Many have complained about the ending (I will not spoil anything). However, it is a Danny Boyle film. Have you watched his other stuff? He has never played it safe and I didn’t expect that in Sunshine. I will admit that the finale felt like a gut punch that comes out of nowhere. The film goes from A to B to Z quickly and it makes for some trippy visuals and a whole lot of head scratching. Boyle had this to say about the ending in an interview with Lumino magazine:

Some people find that Pinbacker breaks the realism too much. Which is fair enough, but I always love taking a huge risk in films where you risk everything by doing something that breaks the pattern. Like, there’s a bit in Trainspotting where Ewan [McGregor] goes down the toilet, and people used to say, ‘You’ll never get away with that. It’s ludicrous’. But, in fact, people love that moment. So that was always the plan, to take you and see how far we could stretch realism. Push it as hard as we could.

Danny Boyle films have always had a beautiful visual look and moments that push cinematic boundaries. He started with the low budget Shallow Grave and never looked back. Sunshine is a wonderful trip into a “Heart of Lightness” and deserves a second look.

Watch Sunshine. Let me know what you think.

 

The Maze Runner: World Building on a Budget

October 13, 2014

The Maze Runner movie poster

What I appreciate most about The Maze Runner is what it accomplished on its budget. The $34 million  film is brisk, exciting and well-acted. We don’t get any love triangles, pouting or other YA cliches. We get teenagers trying to escape from a massive maze. The conclusion may be frustrating but it leaves us wanting more. Most importantly, it might teach studios to keep it simple and focus on solid source material and characters instead of throwing money at a wall hoping something will stick.

The Maze Runner cast

Director Wes Ball (FSU alum. Go Noles!) was wise in his decision to forgo Imax/3D and instead keep it simple. He is a young director that knows his strengths and appreciates story. He cast a solid crew of actors, established the characters and moved the film along quickly. I really like what Ball said to Den of Geek in an interview.

I hope that it’ll appeal to people who grew up on Goonies and Raiders [Of The Lost Ark] – that’s what I tried to do. That sense of adventure. And the language in that movie [Goonies], the cursing! We’re not trying to talk down to anybody. There’s kids in it but it’s a little bit more mature, a little bit more sophisticated. It’s not sugar-coated for them. They’re gonna like that I hope. It’s going to be one of those movies that twelve-year olds sneak into

Not much time is wasted and the leanness of The Maze Runner is much appreciated. The post-apocalyptic (Sun storms killed the earth) world is believably stark and unforgiving. The lifespan for some of the characters is surprisingly short as the find themselves on the wrong end of spears, robot spiders and a maze that will smoosh them. We don’t get much character back story. Instead we figure out the characters via their actions. It is unsentimental film making that works in a simplistic A-B-C format.

The story revolves a group of teenagers who are in the middle of a massive maze. They live in a barren sanctuary that shows a level of impressive organization. They’ve found a way to establish peace and a community (I’d like to see a Lord of the Flies type prequel). However, complacency has abounded and that is all changed when a kid named Thomas arrives via a mysterious elevator. He is different from all the others and this starts a chain of events that move logically and quickly.

Dylan O’Brien does a solid job as the main character Thomas. He handles the physicality well and you believe he could quickly work his way into the groups leadership. The character isn’t afraid of the world yet and I dug how that conflicted with the other characters. It helps that he is surrounded by fantastic young actors Will Poulter (We’re the Millers), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually, Game of Thrones), Kaya Scodelario (Skins), Aml Ameen and Ki Hong Lee,

The Maze Runner elevator

The film is surprisingly tense and brutal. Kids get wiped out by robotic spider things that haunt the maze at night. These Grievers are unforgiving killing machines and you understand why nobody would want to be stuck in the maze. The stakes seem real and for the most part they are.

The Maze Runner has already cleared $200 million worldwide and is holding really well at the box-office (three weekends in and it made $8.7 million this weekend). The word of mouth is fantastic (A- Cinemascore) and this bodes well for future installments. The director doesn’t want to split the third book into two movies (Yes!) and he has a solid cast to work with.  I love what Ball did on a budget and I am excited to see how he evolves and what his Scorch Trials look like.

Wes Ball director

 

A Field In England: Is This Heaven? No, It’s a Field

October 8, 2014

A Field in England movie poster

About an hour into A Field In England we get this exchange between a dying man and his friend:

Friend: When you get to the alehouse, see a way to get a message to my wife.

Jacob: Anything, Friend. Anything.

Friend: Tell her… tell her I hate her. Tell her I did burn her father’s barn. ‘Twas payment for forcing our marriage. Tell her I loved her sister. Who I had. Many times. From behind. Like a beautiful prize sow.

Jacob: If I’d have known that, I would have paid you more respect, brother.

Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England is a wonderfully odd vision from a guy who has delivered some unique visions. His other films Down Terrace, Kill List and Sightseers were marvels of violence, oddity and dark humor. Ben Wheatley’s films walk a fine line of insanity, depravity and watchability. I’ve never felt drained after a Wheatley film. I’ve felt exhilarated because of how singular the experiences are.

A Field In England revolves around four men deserting an English Civil War battle and making their way to an alehouse. Along the way they ingest mushrooms, wax poetic and awake an Irish Sorcerer. The Sorcerer is looking for treasure and exerts control over the gang via torture, weapons and decent clothes.

field in england

If you are looking for something that wraps itself into a neat little bow A Field in England will not be for you. The Drafthouse Films (You need to watch Cheap Thrills) released movie is confounding, trippy and all around wonderful. The narrative flies around and the editing creates a psychedelic atmosphere of unpredictability.  What makes it work is the demented yet trustworthy tour guide. The movie seems to be playing fast and loose but Wheatley and writer Amy Jump have it under control.

A field in England

Wheatley and Jump create a lot with little and the film will certainly gain a devoted following. I love how it was shot in 12 days on a meager budget yet still looks and feels epic. What Wheatley does is a rare thing. He stays out of the mainstream and keeps delivering odd delights. The cinema world needs a unique voice like his and I can’t wait for his next film.

 

The Signal: The Start Of Something Good

October 4, 2014

the Signal movie poster

The Signal does a lot with little. It is a visual marvel that plays like Safety Not Guaranteed met Moon and they teamed up with District 9, Chronicle, The Matrix and Dark City. Regardless of the comparisons The Signal stands on its own as a sign of talent on the rise. It has an earnest ambition and confident direction that is rare in such films. Jason Concepcion of Grantland nailed it when he said:

The Signal is a movie that never quite transcends its influences. And that’s OK — it’s partly what’s interesting about it. How many flawed sci-fi movies are worth your attention? I can’t think of many, but this is one. It’s a movie that thrills with its ambition despite not hitting the target.

The Signal actors

Shot in thirty days for $4 million, The Signal focuses on three MIT students who take a detour on their way to California. On their journey they come in contact with a super hacker named NOMAD who wrecked havoc on the MIT servers. They track down his signal and it leads to a dingy shed that is the cover for a sterile research facility. Things go haywire and the rest of the film follows Brendon Thwaite’s (Oculus) character Nic as he endures Laurence Fishburne, wheelchairs and a whole lot of odd.

To say more would wreck the fun of the film. I knew nothing about The Signal other than the Grantland article and it helped the experience. I’m not entirely sure if it is cohesive and might simply be gobbledygook. However, you like the three actors and Thwaites and Olivia Cooke have a lived in chemistry. The Signal is eye candy in which the sparse desert and sterile research labs have never looked better.

The signal Cooke

William Eubank directed the movie and it comes from a place of film appreciation. He learned his trade at Panavision and wheeled and dealed his way into making this indie. It reminds me of a low-budget cousin of Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion. The Signal and Oblivion are visually spectacular and they landed on the 54-55% rotten scale on Rotten Tomatoes. They were called out for borrowing heavily from other films but were redeemed because of their occasionally beautiful moments.

The Signal

The Signal is proof that Eubank has grand ambition. Hopefully, he develops his own voice and creates original worlds that stand on their own. The science fiction landscape will be a better place when he can create original stories that look beautiful. I’m hoping he will have his Moon, Source Code, Looper, Primer or Monsters soon.

 

 

Tusk: I Am The Walrus

October 3, 2014

Tusk movie poster

I’ve grown up with Kevin Smith films and it has been fun to watch his career trajectory. He introduced us to contractor death in Star Wars. He taught me the word “Snowball.” He directed quite possibly the least funny movie ever with Cop Out. Now, he has a man being turned into a walrus. His career has been anything but predictable and it has lead to Tusk.

I enjoyed Tusk because of how random the experience was. It was based on a Smodcast  episode that Smith and Scott Mosier did called The Walrus and the Carpenter. The two talked about an ad that stated somebody could live for free in a house if they dressed like a walrus. The ad was a hoax but it still inspired Smith to write the horror/comedy/drama.  It is vulgar, weird, exciting, crude, scary and features a gonzo extended A-list cameo. It is impossible to know where it is going and I appreciated that. Smith has taken a major risk and because of that there are things that I will never unsee.

The story revolves around a snarky blogger who travels to Canada in order to get a good story. Events transpire that lead him to the country home of a man with nefarious plans. The man waxes poetic and eventually constrains him via poisoned tea. The walrus loving gentleman is played by Michael Parks who is given a showcase role in which he clearly thrives

Tusk Justin Long

What follows is incredibly bloody yet never too extreme movie. I am not a fan of gore but Tusk never grossed me out (Co-writer and Horror Czar John approved of the gore). I was never shocked because it was all so random. When the gore gets to be too much Smith switches over to an extended scene featuring Johnny Depp acting cheekily. Tusk plays like a pinball machine on redbull. It bounces all over the place and is controlled by a stoned man slamming on the flippers (did not intend to make that joke).

Adding to the confusion are Haley Joel Osment and Genesis Rodriguez. They play Long’s best friend and girlfriend who travel to Canada to look for him. Their subplot is odd but there is one thing that never changes. Kevin Smith’s heroes  always have incredibly patient and attractive significant others. Shannon Elizabeth allowed Jason Mewes to call her “boo boo kitty f**k” in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  Rosario Dawson had trysts in Clerks 2 that got mayo in strange places. Elizabeth Bank made a porno with Seth Rogen. The weirder Smith’s films get there is always one thing that stays the same.

Tusk Genesis Rodriguez

Tusk is weird. Tusk is fun. Tusk feels like it was written in two hours.  Tusk will annoy many people. Appreciate it for what it is. Kevin Smith has embraced the indie side and he is churning out odd delights that make him happy.

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