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John’s Horror Corner: The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Wes Craven’s cannibal cult classic.

November 18, 2018

MY CALL: More historically interesting (regarding its impact on the genre) than scary, this classic simply feels dated, a tad hokey and less engaging than I’d prefer. But I still recognize its importance. MOVIES LIKE The Hills Have Eyes: I’d stay really close to home if you liked this movie. Go with movies like Just Before Dawn (1981), The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1984), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007), the Wrong Turn franchise (2003-2014) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise (1974-2000s).

From the opening silhouetted shots of the southwestern desert mountains, the score immediately transports us to a place of general unease as we are introduced to a part of the country where busted car parts pass as landscape architecture. Just passing through, a well-to-do family on their way to California encounters some gnarly-toothed, cannibalistic locals at a beat-up gas station (a harbinger trope honored 35 years later in The Cabin in the Woods) and must survive their ongoing attacks when their RV breaks down in the desert mountains near an old nuclear testing site.

Our inbred mutant cannibals have assumed the names of Roman Gods, with the father appropriating the title of Jupiter. They speak like simpletons and wear bone jewelry like cave men and witch doctors (it’s sort of hokey), but they’re surprisingly organized when it comes to hunting passerby tourists.

Written and directed by Wes Craven (Scream, Cursed, Deadly Friend, Deadly Blessing), this film lacks the modern luxuries of manicured editing or the budget for buckets of gore and guts. Honestly, I find it on the verge of boring in terms of horror. But you know what? I also find it interesting in terms of horror history! To be fair this is a low budget classic from the 70s, so the gore is limited and the shock value of the film (e.g., the immolation scene) will likely not phase today’s horror fans reared on Hellraiser and Saw films. The gore is limited to a gutted dog and a brutal ankle injury (from a dog attack). The power of this film falls more in the hands of the surviving victims’ desperation.

The cast, particularly our traveling family, does well in the emotionally challenging scenes. Watch out for Dee Wallace (The Howling, The Lords of Salem, Critters) as the oldest daughter.  As Pluto, Michael Berryman (Weird Science, Deadly Blessing) is awkwardly off-putting and convincingly presents himself as a barbaric simpleton. He was the most believable of the miscreant mountain family.

Now I love the classics. But the dialogue between the cannibals was just too hokey and over-explained to be considered “good” by today’s (or my) writing standards. A lot of people praise the Golden Idol originals over the remakes, but I feel the remakes have their important place to younger generations growing up with more dire horror under their belts. To be perfectly honest, I favor the 2006-2007 remakes for this particular franchise as I view this dated horror much as I do Suspiria (1977) or the original Halloween (1978). My enjoyment in these films (and, yes, I do enjoy them despite my criticism) is seeing how tropes were utilized back then, before themes were yet overused; their early iterations that inspired the films to come and the concepts that would be copied, honored, or ripped off by their successors. So, for me, watching such classics feels like taking a horror film appreciation class. And, even if a bit boring, I appreciate it for that.

Even if contemporary standards of executions are not met, many of the concepts are brutal. For example, crucifying Big Bob and lighting him on fire, gutting Beauty, implications of rape, and shooting the mother and grandmother in the gut without warning. This poor family is brutalized with no mercy afforded to the women (or, more accurately, the mothers).

The film ends very abruptly after son-in-law kills Mars, leaving several of both families still alive and unaccounted. Somewhat bleak, and leaving room wide open for the 1984 sequel to pick up.

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John’s Horror Corner: Cargo (2017), an “okay” Australian zombie movie starring Martin Freeman.

November 17, 2018

MY CALL: I’m sorry, but I expected much better from Netflix and far better from Martin Freeman. This film failed my interest. MOVIES LIKE Cargo: For more zombie films with heart, go for Return of the Living Dead Part 3 (1993), The Returned (2013), Train to Busan (2016) and The Girl with All the Gifts (2016). If you want more Australian horror films, try Charlie’s Farm (2014), Razorback (1984), Wolf Creek (2005), The Howling III: Marsupials (1987), Dark Age (1987), Rogue (2007), Black Water (2007), Boar (2018) and Wyrmwood (2014).

Wave to a stranger on the riverbank, he’ll rebuke your hospitality and show you his gun. Find a cheap bottle of wine, and it’s cause for celebration. As with any zombie apocalypse scenario, the world is no longer a place of kindness to one’s fellow man and trust has been rendered a rare commodity. Survival means foraging for everything and trusting no one.

Writer Yolanda Ramke and her co-director Ben Howling are first-time feature filmmakers treading familiar waters in the heavily trafficked zombie subgenre. Where they try to deviate is in the infection itself and how we grapple the loss of our loved ones. Unfortunately, despite their honorable efforts, I don’t feel we’ve wandered anywhere particularly special.

Following a 48-hour incubation period, those infected are reduced to twitchy, convulsing zombies staggering about in search of prey. The special effects are okay—adequate at least. What they lack in technical gory splendor they might partially make up for with ooey-gooey grossness. Amid this epidemic, Andy is an infected father (Martin Freeman; The World’s End, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) searching for someone willing to take care of his daughter. Naturally, he encounters some he can trust more than others, and trusts some that he shouldn’t.

I appreciated the approach to the infection, its stages, and the escalating urgency to see Andy’s daughter protected. This film tries, and its efforts don’t go unnoticed. But this doesn’t come within a staggering zombie’s reach of the desperate family ties in Train to Busan (2016), the palpable fear of trust of The Girl with All the Gifts (2016), or the devastating loss in The Returned (2013). And, might I add, those three films also featured superior special effects, acting and writing. I can’t help but to suspect that filmgoers who haven’t seen these other three movies will like Cargo more than those who have—as these three are top tier films in a horror-blessed era whereas Cargo is just sort of “there.”

All said, the only reason to really recommend this film is for the sake of seeing Martin Freeman star in a horror movie. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

John’s Horror Corner: The Unnamable 2: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1992), the revenge of the bare-boobed Lovecraft demon.

November 17, 2018

MY CALL: Definitely just for major fans of the original, from which this sequel continues directly. Just don’t expect the depth, seriousness or thoughtfulness of Lovecraft as this is more campy than classic despite the numerous Lovecraftian references. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Unnamable 2: Well, first off, The Unnamable (1988). For more movie adaptations from Lovecraft’s writings, I’d recommend The Dunwich Horror (1970), Re-Animator (1985), The Resurrected (1991), Lurking Fear (1994) and Dagon (2001). And although not specifically of Lovecraftian origins, his influence is most palpable in From Beyond (1986), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), The Void (2016), The Shrine (2010) and Baskin (2015)—all of which are on the more gruesome side to varying degrees.

Part 1 SIDEBAR: Based on H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Unnamable,” The Unnamable (1988) begins in the 1800s when a screaming monstrous Alyda Winthrop (Maria Ford; The Haunting of Morella, Slumber Party Massacre III, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead) is locked away in a vault-like attic by her father, whom she brutally kills when offered a kindness. We know nothing of what she is or why she is monstrous.

Skip to present day (late 1980s) Massachusetts and a group of Miskatonic University students—one being a descendant of the cursed events past—spend a night in the house, some typical Night of the Demons-esque haunted house shenanigans ensue, and they eventually uncover more of the house’s history upon discovery of the Necronomicon.

Picking up immediately when The Unnamable (1988) ended, we find police and paramedics as Howard (Charles Klausmeyer; The Unnamable) is taken to the hospital. Crime scene investigators reviewing the gory remains compare the incident to “what happened in Dunwich” some years ago. Now obsessed with learning the origins of the ancient evil they had encountered, Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson; The Unnamable) must study the Necronomicon and return to solve the mystery.

Carter seeks help from the admonishing Chancellor Thayer (David Warner; In the Mouth of Madness, The Omen, The Company of Wolves) and occult expert Professor Warren (John Rhys-Davies; Waxwork, The Lord of the Rings trilogy). Carter and Warren explore the tunnels under the graveyard (from part 1), find writings in the language of Cthulhu, and free Alyda from the demon… resulting in one angry demon that wants its host back.

Lacking any of the mystique or horror cultivated in part 1, the creature (Julie Strain; Blood Gnome, Witchcraft IV, Heavy Metal 2000) features much facial latex work and a rubber bodysuit. Moreover, our monster now moves more like a hulking gargoyle with boobs than the sleek mysterious demon from part 1. When it knocks things over I’m reminded of the rigid motions of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) or Pumpkinhead (1988). The gore is barely adequate with an occasional claw plunging into a chest cavity, but I can only handle so many claw slashes before I get a bit bored the lack of variety.

This sequel just feels yet more like a B-movie than the already borderline B+ quality of the original. The monster’s boobs are much more prevalent, our hero is running around with a naked girl with limited speech ability and fairy tale long hair covering her delicate bits, and most of the movie is the monster’s pursuit of its original host Alyda. Fully embracing its badness, at one point the creature spreads its wings and “zip-lines” at its victim in the worst possible stunt of the movie.

Director Jean-Paul Ouellette (The Unnamable) did rather well with his first movie, but this sequel just doesn’t do it for me on its own. Sure, it’s entertaining B-movie fare and I enjoy seeing the story continued from part 1. It’s simply not enough for a recommendation.

The MFF Podcast #157: Steel Dawn, Slow Moving Vehicles and Lots of Sand

November 16, 2018

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, 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 is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1987 post-apocalyptic movie Steel Dawn. It is a really weird little thing that surrounds Patrick Swayze with lots of sands, aluminum swords and very slow moving vehicles. Steel Dawn is basically a ripoff of Mad Max, Shane and every other movie that might be somewhat similar (and we love that fact). It is an unpretentious flick that was released by Vestron Video (remember them!?) and is meant to be nothing more than a cheeky exercise in low budget film making. In this podcast, you will hear us talk about Hulk Hogan lookalikes, weird sand creatures and Patrick Swayze doing everything with a sword except for actually sword fighting. You will love it!

The villains are very weird.

As always, we answer random questions and ponder which movie character throws the best rock. 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, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, 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 #156: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

November 11, 2018

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You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, 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 is back, and this week we’re finishing up our Resident Evil podcast series with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. We’ve loved talking about the Resident Evil franchise and if you haven’t listened to the other podcasts, you need to do it now. Director Paul W.S. Anderson and star/producer Milla Jovovich worked on the RE series for 15 years and we love how it all kinda makes sense. The series never became stagnant because each installment has its own personality, and took us to locations all over the world which allowed Alice to fight birds, slow zombies, fast zombies and squishy slow-moving creatures (Apocalypse is not good). In this podcast, you will hear us talk about zombie water, horrible battle plans and Alice always getting trapped. You will love it!

As always, we answer random questions and ponder who is the best upside fighter. 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, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, 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 #155: Halloween (2018)

November 6, 2018

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, 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 is back, and this week we’re talking about the 2018 iteration of Halloween. It’s already a box office smash ($200 million worldwide and counting) and if Jamie Lee Curtis and David Gordon Green come back for a sequel they can expect truck loads of cash to be dumped at their homes. We’re fans of this movie and felt it was necessary to bring back Adam Clement who joined us on our Jerky Antics of Michael Myers podcast that was released a few weeks ago. In this podcast, expect to hear about fancy sandwiches, terrible hunting techniques and Pauly Shore.

Never stand next to windows…

As always, we answer random questions and ponder why vampires like shooting at stone statues. 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, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, 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 Endless: An Inventive and Beautifully Constructed Film

November 4, 2018

Poster by Edgar Ascensao at Alternative Movie Posters

I watched The Endless several weeks ago and haven’t been able to shake it. I love how directors/writers/stars Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead built an otherworldly world that features three-dimensional characters, a lurking sense of dread and something I don’t want to spoil. I felt completely satisfied with the ending and I can’t wait to watch it again (and listen to the Blu-ray commentary) to absorb everything I missed.

The Endless revolves around two men named Aaron and Justin (the directors) returning to the “UFO death cult” they escaped from. After escaping years earlier, the two had trouble adjusting to the real world as they couldn’t find steady jobs and women justifiably ran away when they heard about their past. They go back to the cult after Aaron watches an old VHS tape and decides he needs closure, a few square meals and craft beer made from ingredients grown at the cult’s farm (I’d go back for good beer). What’s interesting is both men have totally different memories of their time at the cult’s farm and they both react differently when they go back.

Some very cool things happen in this movie.

Their is a legitimate creep factor as the duo’s paranoia builds as they become re-acclimated with the people they left behind. They know there is something very strange going on, but it’s unclear if it is malevolent or simply magical. I don’t want to spoil anything else because I loved not knowing what would happen next. I will say that it feels organic, and as their adventure continues you become more and more invested in the characters and their uncertain fates.

You also need to watch Spring. It’s a very good movie.

I like that Moorhead and Benson decided to star in the film because it saved them money and allowed them to bring in solid supporting actors like Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington and Lew Temple. Also, the remote desert setting is used as another character as the vastness and isolation of Camp Arcadia creates a sense of hopelessness and uncertainty.

If you are looking for a very good film that builds a fantastic new world you should watch The Endless.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead have a unique relationship in one of them is the older brother while the other remains almost childlike in his life. After escaping a “death cult” the two have trouble adjusting to the real world as they can’t find jobs and women justifiably run away when they hear about their past.

They decide to go back to the cult when Aaron decides he needs closure with the place and wants a few square meals and some craft beer made from the barly at the cult’s farm. What’s interesting is both men have totally different memories of their time at the cult’s farm and they both react differently when they go back. Justin is skeptical while Aaron remains open-minded to their antics. The people at the farm are in their 40s/50s but have somehow kept their youthful look.

Their is a suitable creep factor as the duo’s paranoia builds around weird magic tricks and a craft beer that might be housing something other than organic ingredients.

The low budget aesthetic works perfectly and as Benson and Morehead focus on character and mystery in the west coast desert. I like how they decided to star in their movie which must’ve cut costs and allowed them to cast a solid supporting group of actors like Callie Hernandez etc…

Aaron discovers an angry fast-walker during one of his morning runs and finds a bloody shoe and a cargo container that seems to lift on its own. He is soon encircled by old photos and harassed by a flying shadow that may or may not be real.

They find tapes at the bottom of a lake which leads them to a funky video. I’m not sure how much I want to share because it will wreck the discovery.

A weird tag of tug of rope ensures in which the rope is seemingly tied to nothing and is capable of pulling it’s foes backwards.

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