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The MFF Podcast #252: Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Blood Explosions and Fried Chicken

February 16, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker. (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere)

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

I love the gags in this movie.

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the criminally underrated Dracula: Dead and Loving It. We love this Mel Brooks directed spoof, and think it deserves more recognition because it’s a loving and hilarious take on classics such as Dracula (1931), Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1958), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). In this episode, we discuss fried chicken, blood explosions, shady shadows and hair wigs. Enjoy!

Stupid…and funny.

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

Portrait of a Lady on Fire: A Beautiful Film That You Should Watch in Theaters

February 14, 2020

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is an excellent film full of heartbreaking moments, beautiful vistas and wonderful performances. I know I’m using a lot of adjectives here, however, I can’t help but heap praise onto this film. Directed by Celine Sciamma (Girlhood, Water lilies) Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of a painter named Marianne (Noemie Merlant) being commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of a woman named Heloise (Adele Haenel) on a remote island in 1770 France. What follows is a story about love, loss and art.

The cinematography by Claire Mathon (Atlantics – which also looks great) is wonderful, and I love how she framed each shot like a painting. After watching the movie, I dove into research to see how she achieved the look of the film because I loved how unique it looked. Mathon used the Red Monstro 7K with Leica Thalia lenses to create her own “18th century (AKA 2018th century) look, which I love because it avoids the traps of a flat-looking period piece that relies on predictable production design and excessive color grading to give it an old fashioned look. Here is what she had to say to IndieWire about the look:

“The choice of shooting format was discussed at a very early stage. Tests combining a 35mm/Leica Summilux and a Red Monstro/Leica Thalia gave an analogue reference for the grading of the digital images and made us choose the Red Monstro for the personification and presence that emerged from the first faces filmed. Even though Celine Sciamma’s film relates to the memory of a love story that took place in the 18th century, we did not want to highlight this dimension but, on the contrary, invent our own 18th century (our 2018th century)” with a contemporary echo.”

“The precision and very rich colors give a pictorial dimension to the film. The rendering of the skin tones was essential in my work on this film full of faces and portraits. Inspired in particular by Corot’s intimate portraits, I sought both softness and a slightly satiny, unrealistic rendering while remaining natural and very vibrant.”

To showcase the excellent cinematography, here are some GIFs to give you an idea of the look of Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

You should watch this movie on the biggest screen possible so you can be immersed in the story, look and vibe of the film. You will love it, and you won’t regret it!

VFW: An Excellent Action-Thriller That Brings the Violent Goods

February 14, 2020

When I first heard about the Joe Begos (Bliss, Almost Human) directed VFW in 2019, I knew I had to watch it. I was sold on the idea of Stephen Lang (Avatar, Don’t Breathe), William Sadler (Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight), Fred Williamson (From Dusk Till Dawn), Martin Cove (The Karate Kid) and David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors) battling drug-addled “zombies” who storm their VFW to recover a backpack loaded with a drug called Hype. The movie didn’t disappoint, and I knew I loved it during the initial siege when various “Hypers” have their heads smooshed into oblivion (think a watermelon stuffed with lasagna and cherry syrup). VFW is a neon-drenched siege thriller that is refreshingly straight-forward and always entertaining.

The film takes place in a near-future that is overrun by drug addiction, poverty and violence. The drug “Hype” has turned users into “zombies” who are totally fine jumping off buildings (and exploding when they land) to get a fix. The drug trade is controlled by Boz (Travis Hammer), a leather-clad drug lord who is looking to keep up with the incredible demand (not a bad thing for a drug dealer). However, his latest shipment is stolen by a kid named Lizard (Sierra McCormick) and everything goes to a very bloody hell as he and his second-in-command Gutter (Dora Madison) send an army of “zombies” to recover the “face-liquefying” drugs inside a local VFW, which is filled with soldiers who are supposedly “good at dying.”

What follows is an excellent and refreshingly straight-forward siege thriller that features head-squishing violence, excellent cinematography by Mike Testin (the handheld camera work keeps you in the action), and a likable group of badass veterans beating people to death with baseball bats. Joe Begos follow up to Bliss (one of our favorite horror movies of 2019. Watch it on Shudder) is an excellent example of low-budget, big stakes film making that stretches it’s budget to the limit while never showing its limitations. It’s a legitimate throwback that looks grungy, feels grungy and is unapologetic about being grungy (this is a good thing). There is no gloss or shine, this is a dark and violent story of veterans engaging in one final war.

If you are looking for a straight-forward and ultra-violent siege thriller that has an excellent synth score, you will love VFW.

John’s Horror Corner: Unhinged (2017), an equally lame remake of the forgettable 1982 exploitation slasher film.

February 13, 2020

MY CALL: Ooof. Every bit as regrettably bad as its 1982 predecessor. Terrible remake; terrible horror flick. Why even bother…? MORE MOVIES LIKE Unhinged: For more rural outings-gone-wrong, try The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Frontiers (2007), The Damned (2013) and Tusk (2014). Also, maybe try the original Unhinged (1982), not that it’s any better than this weak remake.

On their way to a wedding, four friends find themselves stuck in woodsy rural England. So, low on gas and seeking help, Melissa (Kate Lister; Fox Trap, The Final Scream, Curse of the Scarecrow, Mandy the Doll, Suicide Club), Lisa (Lucy-Jane Quinlan; The Cutting Room, The Carrier, Cage, 60 Seconds to Die), Gina (Becca Hirani; Lucifer’s Night, Deadly Waters, House on Elm Lake, Mother Krampus, The Bad Nun) and Thalia (Lorena Andrea; Warrior Nun, House on Elm Lake) find a lonely old house occupied by Miss Perkins (Michelle Archer; Let’s Go Home, Curse of the Witch’s Doll, Mother Krampus).

Honoring the 1982 original is that the acting in this ranges from very bland to terrible. Did you happen to read the movie titles in parentheses in the previous paragraph? Whereas the 1982 original had an entirely inexperienced cast, this remake seems to have targeted only actresses with abundant experience… in B-movies, none of which I knew existed.

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017), Suspiria (2018) and Child’s Play (2019). Those to avoid include Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), Night of the Demons (2009), Sorority Row (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016) and The Mummy (2017). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), The Grudge (2004), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Fright Night (2011), The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Maniac (2012) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so (as remakes) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

Writer and director Dan Allen (Mummy Reborn) had only done short films leading to this remake, and he should have stuck to them. Attempts to make this remake “fresh and different” include stronger criminal themes, protagonist relationship drama, an odd wedding dress fixation, and deeper psychological parallels into Psycho (1960) with a sprig of the preternatural. None of it works. And the scare tactics employed in the final act fall into incomprehensibly stupid territory as I constantly wondered “but… why would the killer do any of this?”

Something especially odd about this remake is that we see a murder, then the screen says 35 years later—which is the disparity between the 1982 original and this 2017 remake—as if to suggest this was actually perhaps a sequel to the events of the original. We have also switched from a regal mansion (Unhinged 1982) to a somewhat weathered house (2017) in the woods.

The death scenes are totally phoned-in, with nothing interesting, scary, shocking or gory occurring on-screen. The final death was much bloodier, but still very weak. Even the torture scene was weak. That stupid mask the killer wore was a cheap and stupidly convenient tactic. A better filmmaker would have better utilized light, darkness, a thicker veil or a sneakier killer to keep their face obscured from victims.

The most satisfying scene, in terms of “gore”, was a scared girl vomiting. And the best part of the film were its final moments, which were actually pleasantly cheeky (i.e., dry cleaner scene). But those two scenes—at a combined 10-15 seconds of the film’s running time—were the best that was offered. I may have never before seen a remake with such low production value. Do yourself a favor and don’t watch this.

John’s Horror Corner: Unhinged (1982), a forgettable exploitation slasher film.

February 12, 2020

MY CALL: An early slashersploitation movie that packs good ideas, but backs them with not one ounce of worthy execution. MORE MOVIES LIKE Unhinged: For more rural outings-gone-wrong, try The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Wrong Turn (2003), Frontiers (2007), The Damned (2013) and Tusk (2014). Also, maybe try the remake of Unhinged (2017), not that it’s any better than this original.

After crashing their car on a rural road in the woods, three college girls awaken in the wealthy Ms. Penrose’s remote home. Now house guests of the elderly Ms. Penrose and her daughter, the girls uncomfortably witness the psychological abuse imposed from elder mother to daughter. Their Bates-ian toxic relationship is palpable and the girls are stuck until their care can be recovered.

The atmosphere tends toward Black Christmas (1974) as a stalker skulks around, spying on the women, heavily panting in the darkness. The girls catch onto this fast but have little action to take—the mansion has no phones, they have no car, and they’re nowhere near the next town.

The pacing is slow, with only one death in first 60 minutes. The killer uses a scythe and garden sheers (and other stabbing implements) and the death scenes are quite bloody, but the killing action occurs off-screen. So the death scenes are nothing special, nor are they intense.

Leading a generally inexperienced cast, writer and director Don Gronquist (The Devil’s Keep) didn’t get much work after this film. But I’ll give him some credit. He tried… emulating the peeping Tom’s eye through the light of the door slit from Black Christmas (1974), the Leatherface-esque mouth-breathing, and the Psycho-inspired (1960) genderplay. The acting, however, is devastatingly wooden despite clear attempts to keep the dialogue thoughtful.

This film was banned in the United Kingdom, but one may struggle to discern the logic behind that—unless it was to spare us from the acting. Perhaps because this classy flick opens with a very revealing (and long) shower scene, and yet another equally long and graphic shower scene later. There’s almost never a “good” reason to include a shower scene. But these don’t even stage any stalking, peeping, suspenseful shots or death scenes. They’re just… there.

I often enjoy watching older and less popular horror. But this entry simply had nothing to offer. The kills weren’t fun or shocking, the twist was weakly delivered (although interesting in concept), and the movie never really had its own style or feel to it. Shame.

The MFF Podcast #251: Street Fighter, Food Courts and Tuesdays

February 12, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker. (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere)

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

The MFF podcast is back, and this episode we’re talking about the 1994 cult classic Street Fighter. If you are looking for one of the weirdest (and awesome) action films ever made, you’ve come to the right place. Directed by prolific writer Steven de Souza (Die Hard, Commando, Predator), Street Fighter is underrated film that features inspired production design, memorable monologues and stealth boats that are in no way stealthy. In this episode, we discuss street fights, self portraits and calling out the kicks you’re about to throw.

Great speech.

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

John’s Horror Corner: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), in-your-face goofy shenanigans veiled in murderous menace with fantastic creature effects!

February 10, 2020

MY CALL: What a joyously fun dose of 80s horror nostalgia with fantastic monster make-up. If you enjoy 80s horror, just go buy this already. MORE MOVIES LIKE Killer Klowns from Outer Space: For more evil clown movies, try All Hallows’ Eve (2013), Terrifier (2016), Stephen King’s It (19902017), and maaaybe even Stitches (2012), Scary or Die (2012) and Clown (2014).

The premise is all too familiar. Much as we enjoyed in Night of the Creeps (1986), The Blob (1988) and Critters (1986), aliens from outer space land on Earth and terrorize the citizens of a small town. Only these aliens look like twisted monstrous clowns and their spaceship resembles a circus tent. So now you know what kind of movie this is gonna’ be.

Among this movie’s strengths is its pacing. It wastes no time introducing our protagonists to the alien clowns and their elaborate spaceship. Glowing like a meteor entering our atmosphere, Mike (Grant Cramer; New Year’s Evil, Father’s Day) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder; Night of the Creeps, Return of the Living Dead Part II) see the flash of light across the night sky and, of course, go investigate to see whatever it was up close.

Among the cast, the crotchety Officer Mooney (John Vernon; Curtains, Blue Monkey, The Uncanny) acts as a secondary antagonist, balanced by the more proactive Officer Dave (John Allen Nelson; Deathstalker III, Feast III).

Director Stephen Chiodo had decent experience in special effects (Critters 1-4), and I thought Killer Klowns was an absolute blast that holds up well. But somehow he only ever directed this one feature film. Which shocks me, as this movie is visually ambitious and loads of fun. The spaceship boasts grand, colorful and creative sets thematically meshing Sci-Fi and circus motifs.

And much in the way Gremlins (1984), Critters (1986) or Hellraiser (1987) gave each of their monsters a slightly different look and personality, so does Killer Klowns. But being that these are larger creature effects than rubber monsters or hand-puppets, I find the artistic endeavor much more ambitious here. Even if the action is hokey (and often deliberately so), the special effects are great! These clowns are grinningly silly demonic fiends with pretty impressive latex work. Much nuance went into the Klowns’ faces and hair to make them unique, and their eyes and mouths are awesomely realistic—the teeth especially.

The clown themes are thorough. They shoot popcorn rifles, throw acidic pies (in the now-melting face) and craft balloon animal tracking dogs. They encase victims’ bodies in cotton candy cocoons and drink their sweetened blood with super curly straws. They perform shadow puppets and eat people with them (yes, with the actual shadow puppet).

And their popcorn turns into little monstrous clown worms (like Deadly Spawn). Following trends set by Ghoulies II (1988) and The Gate (1987), there’s even a particularly large “boss” clown that’s meaner and more beastly than the others.

The tone of the entire movie is on the verge of slapstick. So much of the clowns’ victim-foraging antics come off as just in-your-face goofy shenanigans veiled in murderous menace. And you know what? It’s great!

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