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John’s Horror Corner: Cold Skin (2017), elegantly mixing Dagon (2001) with The Descent (2005) in this gorgeous film!

September 19, 2018

MY CALL: Come for the fish people, stay for the visual depth. I expected to love this, and I did, but not for the reasons I anticipated. MORE MOVIES LIKE Cold Skin: Rather than suggesting Lovecraftian film adaptations, I’d go for visually spectacular films like The Pirates of the Caribbean (2003; and sequels), The Shallows (2016), A Cure for Wellness (2016) and The Babysitter (2017).

In 1914, a man (David Oakes) travels to a remote island near the Arctic Circle for a one-year weather duty and finds himself battling pseudo-Lovecraftian humanoid sea creatures with the lighthouse caretaker Gruner (Ray Stevenson; Black Sails, The Book of Eli). The film elegantly mixes Dagon (2001) with The Descent (2005), but is less monstrous than either and is based on a book by Albert Sánchez Piñol.

The opening scenes feature stark green-screening and weak CGI sea life—which is highly deceptive of the true quality to come (just get past the first few minutes of the film). But fear not! My worries swiftly flecked away when we were greeted by the gorgeous shots of the island with its craggy marine scapes and even the watchtower interior. All the shots are just gorgeous—down to every wave’s crash or seaside plant! Few films are so scintillating (e.g., The Shallows, A Cure for Wellness).

The special effects on our fish people felt minimal… in the sense that the film wasn’t trying to wow us with them. They looked good—quite good up close. But they are simply a race of ichthyoid people in large numbers attacking a lighthouse en masse trying to kill or eat its human inhabitants. They aren’t showcased as in a “monster movie.”

The gore is non-existent; the blood is minimal. And, you know what, I was surprisingly fine with that. Likewise, the action is fine, even exciting at times, but it’s not the soul of this film. This is more about Friend and Gruner, their lonely island, and the evolution of their relationship as they thwart their marine-evolved foes. Like two final survivors in a zombie apocalypse, they come to despise yet depend on one another. Just one problem: one of them has sympathy for their opposing species and desires a life outside of exterminating their foe. Our actors breathe life into their polarized characters. Ray Stevenson’s brash and shameless candor when it comes to nudity is tempered by Oakes’ patient and prosaic narrations.

Best known for his gruesome approach to horror, director Xavier Gens (Frontiers, The ABCs of Death “X is for XXL”) marries the deep ones of H. P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001) with enamoring photography and a sieging horde. Gens really shocked me here, but with beauty over brutality. The ending brings close to a cycle of sorts; a resolution, but not quite catharsis.

If you’ve read this far, you should really just go see this. Even if you don’t care for the story I’d dare anyone to contest the visual splendor of the film and the depth of the actors’ performances.

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The MFF Podcast #146: Universal Soldier

September 17, 2018

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The #1 ranked podcast on Ranker’s “Best Movie Podcast” list is back! This week we’re talking about the 1992 somewhat classic Universal Soldier. It is a dorky little movie that features reanimated super soldiers played by Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren battling each other in Vietnam, Utah and Louisiana. What we love most about Universal Soldier is how it plays like an action film that met a horror film and threw in a lot of spin kicks. The best part about this movie is Dolph Lundgren, the dude steals the show with his amazing line delivery, beautiful monologues and cheeky grenade throwing. Also, we go in-depth into violence towards innocent diner patrons and a scientists fascination with ice.

We love that Dolph says “I’m all ears” during Universal Soldier.

As always, we answer random questions and ponder if militarized velociraptors are better than Frankensteined dead soldiers. If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Here are the fake movies we made up for Dolph Lundgren. Which movie would you like to see him in?

 

John’s Horror Corner: The Endless (2017), a science fiction “cult movie” with more ideas than follow-through and not enough Cthulhu.

September 16, 2018

MY CALL: Having absolutely loved Spring (2014), I was stoked to see anything by Moorhead and Benson. This film opens with much promise and introduces cool ideas that felt largely unexplored—leaving me largely disappointed. Also, to be fair, this is much more a mystery/Sci-Fi movie than horror, despite some indications of a powerful (perhaps evil and perhaps monstrous) force. MOVIES LIKE The Endless: Spring (2014; podcast discussion) was a wonderful horror-romance from the same filmmakers. For more cult movies I’d suggest Faults (2014), The Leftovers (2014-2017), The Sound of My Voice (2011), The Sacrament (2014) and The House of the Devil (2009).

“Mankind’s fear of the unknown is easily our greatest fear.”

With a subtle flair for contemporizing the concepts of H. P. Lovecraft, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (co-directors of Spring and the “Bonestorm” segment of V/H/S: Viral) team up once again and co-star as brothers, bringing credible sibling idiosyncrasies ranging from protectiveness to quibbling banter. This films lacks the warm elegance and tactful simplicity of Spring (2014), but that may be a consequence of its pursuit to capture broader and more complicated science-fiction concepts. However I view it, I feel they bit off more than they could chew, leaving both the storytelling and character development in its wake.

Deprogrammed “UFO death cult” survivors Aaron (Moorhead) and Justin (Benson) struggle on a daily basis to find normalcy, not just in terms of finding friends and steady work, but even in how they relate to one another. Justin misses the comforts of the “commune” and wants to return (to visit his old cult friends), remembering the positive aspects of it all; whereas Aaron recalls darker components of their former community. As if the ice they skated wasn’t thin enough already, they receive a sort of “goodbye, World” video from the cult members which stokes their curiosity… and so they return… just to visit.

Their return brings welcome smiles and warm embraces. It’s unassumingly pleasant, like an adult summer camp where everyone plays games, gets along, drinks homebrew ales made from their own organic farm… everyone seems pleasant and happy and warm-hearted. Among the cultists are Anna (Callie Hernandez; Alien: Covenant), Hal (Tate Ellington; Sinister 2), Shane (Shane Brady; Spring, V/H/S: Viral), Tim (Lew Temple; The Walking Dead, House, Halloween), Jennifer (Emily Montague; Fright Night), Michael (Peter Cilella; Contracted: Phase II), and many others.

Time spent at the commune arouses curious revelations. How did Shane do that magic trick that seemed far too real for any stage illusionist to pull off? What are they hiding in the padlocked shed? What is it everyone is waiting for? What’s with the double moon illusion in the night sky? And why the Hell does no one seem to have any knowledge of the “goodbye, World” video they sent them? Yet still Aaron and Justin stay a day, and then another, and another… as if their desire to learn more surpassed their reasons for escaping in the first place. But as their stay lengthens, so does their understanding of the truths they weren’t yet ready to see before.

This film started out strong and but seemed to lose steam with each (of numerous) attempt to explain its stacked-up mysteries and with each new character lecturing the meanings of things. I feel like this film just tried to do too many things too many different ways through the dialogue of too many characters such that synthesis was sacrificed in the choppiness. The storytelling and acting started out great, but ended up feeling like a SyFy original series. I feel they needed to go the more obscure route of Primer (2004) or Predestination (2014) for this to work—i.e., fewer characters, fewer spoken explanations, and just enough clues to infer what (may have) happened over a few beers after viewing the film.

It’s hard to recommend this one unless you’re already a fan of Moorhead and Benson. I loved the first part, liked the middle part, and really just spent the third act waiting for it to end. For me, the value in this journey is more about the dynamic between the two brothers—even though that sort of fell apart. Just too many characters and too much “talking” about it all. I expected head-scratching cosmic revelations that would make me stream Neil deGrasse Tyson discussions. Instead, I got “meh.”

Mandy: A Thrilling Experience That Features a Great Performance From Nicolas Cage

September 15, 2018

Mandy is so much more than a “Nic Cage freaking out” movie, and I’m certain it will become a cult classic that is celebrated at midnight screenings full of loving fans who celebrate every blood splurt that sprays in Nic Cage’s face. It can best be described as a thrilling experience that bombards your senses with bright colors, loud noises and ultra-violence, that will either make you cheer or cringe. Director Panos Cosmatos has created a movie that feels familiar with its Mad Max, giallo and Clive Barker/Nicolas Winding Refn vibes, and totally alien with its fever dream cinematography, heavy metal score and dedication to anarchy. I love how Cosmatos found a way to combine the grindhouse aesthetic (lots of blood and heightened performances) with an unconventional arthouse style that will alienate the masses and gain a very loyal audience who embrace how niche Mandy is.

At its core Mandy tells a simple story of love, revenge and horrible violence. The central characters Red Miller (Nic Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live contentedly in the deeps woods of California’s Shadow Mountains, and seem totally happy about their alienation. The two have a gentle relationship that revolves around outdoor activities, reading, and talking about their favorite planets (Jupiter and Galactus). All is good until Mandy is spotted by a cult leader named Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roach), who is equal parts flower child and homicidal maniac. Jeremiah orders his followers to kidnap Mandy, to do this they call forth some motorcycle riding maniacs who look like they just came from a Hellraiser/Mad Max crossover film. The kidnapping plays out with incredibly brutality and leaves Red a bloody and broken mess who will make Liam Neeson’s mission in Taken look like a calm afternoon. The revenge mission he embarks on turns absurdity to 11, and involves custom battles axes, vodka, decapitations, anime sequences and a chainsaw fight.

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The thing I appreciate most about Mandy is how it doesn’t use Cage’s penchant for “freaking out” crudely. When Cage does have his uncut two-minute long bout of yelling, it is earned, and I’m pretty sure most of us would react in a similar manner after we’ve seen our loved one being hurt by a hippy cult who were aided by seemingly supernatural murderers. The Cage “freak out” is a real thing, but in movies like Mom and Dad, the bouts of yelling seem obligatory and exploitative. After the patented freak out (which is amazing), Cage does an excellent job of portraying a bulked up badass who can jump from the second story of homes and not break his legs in seven places (It happens and it’s awesome).

If you are looking for a trippy experience that features bonkers cinematography, lots of blood, and cult leaders who monologue, you will love Mandy.

The MFF Podcast #145: Resident Evil: Retribution

September 13, 2018

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The #1 ranked podcast on Ranker’s “Best Movie Podcast” list is back! This week we are talking about Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth entry in the Resident Evil series and quite possibly the best. Director Paul W.S. Anderson was finally given a decent budget of $65 million and he does a great job of showing every cent of it onscreen. Which means the CGI is better, the sets are legit, and there is more of everything (two Executioners!!!) for Alice and her cohorts to kill.

If you haven’t listened to our other Resident Evil podcasts, make sure to check them out before/after you listen to this podcast. Why? You will never look at the series the same again, and you might enjoy our positive take on Paul W.S. Anderson’s vision, Milla Jovovich kicking butt, and the overall coherence of the story line.

The hallway fight is badass.

As always, we answer random questions and ponder which of Milla Jovovich’s Resident Evil outfits are the best. If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF Podcast #144: The Best Romantic Comedies of 2018 (so far)

September 8, 2018

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The #1 ranked podcast on Ranker’s “Best Movie Podcast” list is back! This week we’re talking about the fantastic 2018 romantic comedies Crazy Rich Asians, Set it Up, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! 2018 has been loaded with great romantic comedies and we couldn’t wait to talk about the genre revitalizing movies like Set it Up that may or may not feature the greatest scene involving pizza ever.  I love these four films, so I did a ton of research and brought my A+ romantic comedy podcast game to make sure these movies get the respect they deserve.

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As always, we answer random questions and ponder which cinematic pizza scene is the best. If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherPodbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON BLOG TALK RADIO.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: The Willies (1990), a hokey kid-friendly-ish horror anthology starring Sean Astin.

September 8, 2018

MY CALL: Basically, this is a young adult horror anthology a step scarier than Nickelodeon’s Are you Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000). It’s not bad, but the gore and “scares” are nonexistent (to adult horror fans, at least).

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES:  Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016) and XX (2017).

This flick takes me way back. The wraparound story has three boys (incl. Sean Astin; Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero, Stranger Things, The Strain) passing the time around the campfire telling scary stories. Playing on urban legends, the stories include some jovial super-shorts (just a few minutes each) about a lady at a fried chicken joint eating an extra crispy fried rat, an old man on a “house of horrors” amusement park ride that dies of fright, and the old lady who gives her dog a bath and then uses the microwave to dry it off, resulting in a gloppepty gross explosion. The tone is light, and this has a very preteen-friendly vibe to it; it’s very PG most of the time and everything is more hokey than scary. Although when that dog exploded into what looked like hot dogs in brown gravy I had quite a “pseudo-gory” giggle.

This anthology focuses particularly on two stories. The first is about elementary schooler Danny who is bullied at school. He finds little sympathy except from the kind janitor. On a routine visit to the bathroom, Danny encounters some sort of primate-gargoyle monster (think of a cheaper monster from Creepshow and Fright Night II) and finds the janitor’s body and head as if it was a sort of costume—I’m left to wonder if this influenced the Men in Black (1997) “Edgar suit.” The bathroom monster is a basic rubber creature effect, but it gets a lot of screen time, looks just passable enough to be entertaining, and has a silly “action-violence” scene with a mean teacher ending with her being dragged into the ceiling.

The second story is about a bad kid with an odd interest in insects—like, pulling the wings off flies and making dead fly dioramas, not collecting butterflies. Gordy (Michael Bower; Evolution, Dude Where’s My Car?, Wishcraft) is just not a good boy. And because he’s not nice, we don’t feel sorry for him when he gets his comeuppance. Through a silly turn of events, some giant flies exact their revenge in a ridiculous ending complete with costume store-quality giant fly suits and severed limbs. If you grew up in the 80s, this may serve your nostalgic guilty pleasure.

The editing is quite amateur, the score is kids flick-ish, and the movie has no sense of timing in its cultivation of spookiness. But again, the tone is just so goofy and light, and gore is largely nonexistent. They even have an in-dialogue callback to Sean Astin’s role in The Goonies (1985) which should provoke a grin. This is just one small step scarier than anything from Nickelodeon’s Are you Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000), and it carries a similar atmosphere.

Written and directed by Brian Peck (his only writing or directing endeavor), this anthology is nothing special other than a nice stepping stone for potential horror fans to wet their feet in the genre at a younger age. It’s entertaining, but nothing I’d recommend in general. However, it’s nice how the wraparound story ends up linked to one of the anthology tales in the end.

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