Skip to content
Advertisements

The Cleanse (2016), a strikingly sincere creature feature about facing your inner demons.

September 8, 2019

MY CALL: Equal parts comedy, drama, fantasy and light horror, this film isn’t exciting or riveting or hilarious or tense. It’s sincere! I was constantly engaged by the characters’ self-realization and I was especially pleased with how unique it felt. Highly recommended. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Cleanse: Tough to say. Perhaps The Leftovers (2014-2017), Her (2013) and The Endless (2017).

When we meet Paul (Johnny Galecki; Rings, The Big Bang Theory, I Know What You Did Last Summer), he seems desperate for human connection and is clearly out-of-practice from his own self-isolation. Lonely, lovelorn, and seeking to heal and rebuild himself, he responds to an ad for a free therapy retreat which includes a sort of juice cleanse to accompany his mental cleanse. Along with Maggie (Anna Friel; Limitless, Timeline), Eric (Kyle Gallner; Beautiful Creatures, Jennifer’s Body, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Laurie (Diana Bang; Bates Motel), they are accepted into the program which transpires in quiet cabins in the woods.

The cleansing program is led by Lily (Anjelica Huston; The Addams Family 1-2, The Witches) and Ken (Oliver Platt; Lake Placid, 2012, The Temp, Flatliners), and begins with the consumption of four comically disgusting jars of liquid… ensued by various bodily evacuations. Most of this will be met with a light-hearted grin as we watch Paul “weird” his way through his own social awkwardness, his fondness for Maggie, and his bafflement at what comes out of him.

The tone captures a dry innocent humor that splices together optimism and weirdness before later transmuting into a more serious atmosphere. Strange and tactful, brusque yet delicate, writer and director Bobby Miller (Critters Attack!) has crafted a different kind of creature feature in the form of healing and self-discovery. As Paul physically confronts his literal “inner demon”—at first a cute, neotonous, slimy little salamander merman thing—he finds compassion for the creature. The difficulty will be letting go of this part of himself. For as any fault that exists in ourselves, it begins small and innocent, and then it develops as we become monsters. And as it grows, we continue to grow used to it, in denial of it, or even forgiving its flaws.

Mixing vibes of cultish dogma and trendy alternative medicine, this eccentric film posits a world in which we may actually face, physically confront, and even exterminate the worse in us… if we have the courage to do so… if it’s even the right thing to do. As the story progresses, so does the danger to our characters and the importance of how and if they will finish the cleansing program.

Equal parts comedy, drama, fantasy and light horror, this film isn’t exciting or riveting or hilarious or tense. It’s sincere! I was constantly engaged by the characters’ self-realization and I was especially pleased with how unique it felt. Highly recommended.

Advertisements

John’s Horror Corner: Critters Attack! (2019), these man-eating Crites truly disappoint in this horribly written and toothless sequel.

September 7, 2019

MY CALL: Tied for the worst in the franchise (with Critters 3). I may love bad movies, but I regret spending money on this. MORE MOVIES LIKE Critters Attack!: Critters (1986), Critters 2 (1988), maybe skip Critters 3 (1991), then Critters 4 (1992), Critters: A New Binge (2019), Gremlins (1984), Ghoulies 2 (1988), Tremors (1990) and Grabbers (2012).

FRANCHISE SIDEBAR: A batch of critters escaped a maximum security “prison asteroid” and were followed to Earth by shape-shifting intergalactic bounty hunters in Critters (1986). They thought the crite threat was eradicated and Kansas local Charlie (Don Keith Opper; Critters 1-4) joined the ranks of the bounty hunters. But remember how part 1 ended with a clutch of eggs? Well, after yet another deliciously cheesy Sci-Fi spaceship opening, the alien bounty hunters received orders to return to Earth and eliminate the remaining monsters in Critters 2 (1988). However, they clearly didn’t complete the mission successfully because in Critters 3 (1991) we actually begin again near Grover’s Bend, Kansas where this all started, and end up in Los Angeles, where Charlie is ordered to preserve the last of the crite eggs and accidently transports himself (with the eggs) into outer space for Critters 4 (1992), which takes place in 2045. However, Critters: A New Binge (2019) seems to represent some other timeline in which the eggs at the end of Critters 3 (1991) were not, in fact, the last of their kind. So perhaps New Binge was more a sequel to follow parts 1-2. Moreover, Critters Attack! Seems to pick up right after parts 1-2 since we see the bald crite and the one missing an eye. So, like the Halloween franchise, this may be yet another alternative timeline.

Now, shortly after the release of Critters: A New Binge (2019), director Bobby Miller (The Cleanse) presents perhaps yet another alternate timeline/universe. 20-year-old Drea (Tashiana Washington; Shaft) is babysitting Trissy (Ava Preston) and Jake (Jack Fulton) along with her own little brother Phillip (Jaeden Noel). For some inane reason they end up going on a hike and stumble across some crites that have crash-landed on Earth. In no way ripping off Gremlins (1984) any more than did the 1986 original, they find a cute white-haired crite that seems like a friendly Gizmo critter. Later we see the franchise favorite bald and eye-scarred crites.

This feels every bit as much TV-quality as A New Binge (also 2019), and every bit as hokey. Slimy baby crites emerge from a victim’s bloody insides, pop out and become full-grown adults in seconds; and the critter puppets aren’t any better than they were 30 years ago. Not that they aren’t fine as they are and pleasantly familiar as such. The attack, feeding and gore scenes could have been pulled from the 80s—but again, it’s on par with franchise quality. However, the writing is as bad as I’ve ever suffered for a Critters movie.

In a wacky turn of events, returning to the franchise as a different character we find Dee Wallace (The HowlingThe Lords of SalemCritters, The Hills Have Eyes) as some sort of alien surveillance operative hiding in the suburbs as an old cat lady. Turns out she’s apparently a crite bounty hunter—another element that felt shoehorned into the script. Between Dee bounty hunter and the reprising scarred-up crites, we now have multiple loose links to the 1986-1988 storyline, but still zero effort to actually connect them.

Overall, there’s just not enough gore, almost no rended flesh wounds and a lousy attempt at a critterball. This is tied for the weakest entry in the franchise (Critters 3). Well, there is some creature-killing gore in the final 10 minutes with gooey splish-splash exploding crite gore, but that’s it. The finale isn’t baaaaaad, but I miss the flesh-stripped bones and torn latex wounds of the 80s.

Overall, this flick is just plain bad. And I’m fearful that our streaming era will facilitate subsequent unchecked low-quality sequels much like the 90s video era. Oh well, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. But as much as I often enjoy bad movies, I regret this purchase. There, I said it.

John’s Horror Corner: Cube (1997), a deadly maze of traps with a mystery-driven premise that likely inspired many subsequent filmmakers.

September 6, 2019

MY CALL: Ahead of its time and its budget! Memorable death scenes, an interesting premise, and the film is mystery-driven. I’d actually call this a Sci-Fi/Thriller, but it should still satisfy your horror itch. MORE MOVIES LIKE Cube: The plot richens with Cube2: Hypercube (2002) and Cube Zero (2004). For more elaborate death scenes that cultivate abundant tension, try the Saw (2004-2017) and Final Destination (2000-2011) franchises. And for another treacherous mystery/thriller, you can’t go wrong with Identity (2003).

A disoriented man (Julian Richings; Channel Zero, The Witch, The Colony) awakens in a well-lit cube-shaped room with six hatches, each hatch leading to an apparently identical cubic chamber. He wanders aimlessly into the next chamber and meets an awesomely deadly fate (in the most heavily discussed scene of the film).

Co-writer and director Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Haunter) really developed something special here and stretched his budget impressively. Looking like something from the core maintenance shafts of the Event Horizon (1997), this mostly single-set film is given a sense of scope and diversity by altering the lighting (color) in each chamber and occasionally altering the camera angle to confer viewers a sense of the three-dimensionality of this complex.

With no recollection of how they got there, a doctor (Nicky Guadagni; Silent Hill, Ready or Not), a cop (Maurice Dean Wint; TekWar), a prison-breaking escape artist (Wayne Robson; Parents, Wrong Turn 1-2), a math-savvy student (Nicole de Boer; Forever Knight, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), an office worker (David Hewlett; The Shape of Water, Splice, Haunter) and an autistic savant (Andrew Miller) find each other in this vast network of chambers and must work together to survive its death traps, learn the purpose of this deadly maze, and escape with their lives. Of course, as they get more scared, starved, impatient and fewer in number, they start turning on one another.

The eclectic combination of people, snatched from their everyday lives and dropped into this killing field, reminds me of Predators (2010) and The Belko Experiment (2016). And like these movies, Cube’s inhabitants find themselves questioning why they were chosen for this fate, who’s behind it, and what is the goal of it all. Was this built by the military, by aliens… is this some sort of government experiment, or the machination of some rich psychotic Bond villain…?

The Saw (2004-2017) films focus on the terror of solving each individual death trap (one after another), whereas Cube is more similar to the Final Destination (2000-2011) franchise in its effort to solve the bigger picture: how to escape the death cycle itself. In fact, this film focuses more on the mystery of the cube megaplex than the death scenes. So if you think you’re in for a death scene extravaganza, I’d turn you instead to the other aforementioned franchises.

The opening death scene—a man getting instantly “cubed” by cross-hatched razor wire—is one you’ve likely seen reiterated in other movies (e.g., Ghost Ship, Resident Evil, Wrong Turn 3). It’s satisfying, surprising, and deliciously gory as the squares of the victim topple over like a bloody butcher’s building blocks. Then the face-melting acid death scene is just plain mean, grimy and gooey. And while both scenes are quite memorable, they are the only two you’ll ever discuss after seeing the film.

Having not seen this 1997 film in over 15 years (when I watched all three in 2004 or 2005 after part 3 came out), I must say, it holds up really well despite being of very low budget (365K CAD). The death scene special effects are handled well, and the film relies very little on those effects for our enjoyment of it, because it’s more mystery-driven. Anyone who enjoyed Cube or simply wants more explanation of the story should definitely continue to Cube2: Hypercube (2002) and Cube Zero (2004), which will give you more answers (but not all).

The MFF Podcast #215: Our Favorite Horror Films of the 2010s

September 5, 2019

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

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 discussing our favorite horror films of the 2010s. We brought in award-winning director Zachary Beckler, who wrote/directed the excellent film Interior, to help us come up with a list that is really legit. In this episode, you will hear us talk about Green Room, Climax, It Follows, Hereditary and Bone Tomahawk. We are 96.5% that will will 100% agree with this list. Enjoy!

Listen to hear where Green Room placed on our list.

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 Apple PodcastsStitcherTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

John’s Horror Corner: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), a worthy remake bringing new levels of meanness to the franchise.

September 4, 2019

THIS IS VERY MUCH NSFW
NSFW
NSFW
Not Safe for Work

MY CALL: This film is just plain cruel and mean, bloody and shocking. But it does an exquisite job of all that. So if that’s your jam, you’ll love this remake which I consider a most worthy rekindling of the franchise. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake: Well obviously you should have already seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). After that, you could try The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and perhaps Texas Chainsaw 3-D (2013; I wasn’t at all thrilled with it as a Texas Chainsaw movie, but I generally loved it as a popcorn horror flick).

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; yes, this was a remake), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999; adventure genre), The Ring (2002), 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) and Suspiria (2018). Those to avoid include The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Night of the Demons (2009), Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), War of the Worlds (2005) and The Mummy (2017; total adventure-style reboot-imagining). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Fright Night (2011) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so remakes (in my opinion) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

After a nostalgically familiar opening narration (John Larroquette; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) briefly recounting the horrors that would transpire, we meet road-trippers Erin (Jessica Biel; The Tall Man, Blade: Trinity, The Sinner), Morgan (Jonathan Tucker; The Ruins, Hostage), Pepper (Erica Leerhsen; Wrong Turn 2, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2), Andy (Mike Vogel; Cloverfield, The Boy) and Kemper (Eric Balfour; Skyline, Backcountry) driving across Texas. Much as in the 1974 original, they pick up a troubled person on the side of the road… and this disturbed young woman sets the brutally uneasy standard for this remake when she swallows a bullet and erupts bloody chunks from the back of her head! She may not have been as psychologically disturbing as 1974’s hitchhiker, but she has set a powerful precedent for this movie.

To report the harrowing suicide and turn over the young woman’s dead body from their car, our road-trippers meet the quirky Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey; The Rift, The Frighteners, Up from the Depths, The Watch). Hoyt is a maelstrom of backroad yokel awkwardness, crude misogyny, and blunt malevolent brutality. I winced as I watched him handle the girl’s dead body (with Glad Wrap!!!) and got nervous for the protagonists almost every time he spoke. Hoyt will readily elicit uncomfortable giggles in this role that actually reminds me of John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor (Wolf Creek; a likewise just-plain-mean movie), particularly when he shatters a liquor bottle across a guy’s teeth (poor Jonathan Tucker).

Following in writer/director Tobe Hooper’s (Lifeforce, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, The Funhouse) footsteps must be daunting. But director Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, Friday the 13th, Conan the Barbarian) has quickly proven his worth in terms of pleasing gorehounds. For me, a significant upgrade this remake enjoys over its source material is the old Hewitt house, which is notably more creepy, rundown, remote and time-forgotten than when Marylin Burns approached in the original in the same iconic butt-cam shot as Jessica Biel, who assumes the role of Marylin Burns here.

Appearing as disturbing as ever (across TCM films old and new), we meet Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski; Mother’s Day) with the same abrupt brutality as seen in 1974 as he drags a victim off to be literally butchered. He’s the same hulking menace you’d know from the other movies, but he lacks the overt sexual repression and depravity exhibited so strongly in the other films.

Recounting the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and transmuting all the slapstick nonsense of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) through a contemporary torture-porn-ish filter, this remake is just plain mean. Our protagonists end up covered in blood! We’ll find flesh-torn chainsaw dismemberment, hanging meat hook impalement, a cruel chainsaw to the crotch, and other such vicious maladies.

This film delights in being gross—like, chunks of gore gross. Leatherface’s workshop is a menagerie of excised human body parts; some preserved, others just laying about to wither in the humid basement… the thought of what it’d smell like horrifies me. Car graveyards, piled up human teeth and collections of severed fingers, an extended demented apparently inbred family (including David Dorfman; The Ring 1-2), and macabre imagery of human butchering will also remind you of such “mean-spirited” film fare as Wrong Turn (2003) and The Hills Have Eyes (2006).

In the end, this film is just plain cruel and mean and bloody. But it does an exquisite job of all that. So if that’s your jam, you’ll love this remake which I consider a most worthy rekindling of the franchise.

Bad Movie Tuesday: 100 Feet (2008), Famke Janssen is haunted by her abusive husband who beats her from beyond the grave.

September 3, 2019

MY CALL: This movie would be 100% not recommended were it not for one awesome scene. Enjoy the brutal GIFs and decide if this is for you based on that alone. MORE MOVIES LIKE 100 Feet: Probably What Lies Beneath (2000) is closest in theme. But I’d sooner suggest something like Paranormal Activity (2007) or The Entity (1982).

Like the beginning of a direct-to-DVD crime drama (and every bit as uncompelling), we meet Detective Shanks (Bobby Cannavale; Snakes on a Plane) begrudgingly dropping off his deceased partner’s murderer, Marnie Watson (Famke Janssen; House on Haunted Hill, The Faculty, Deep Rising, Lord of Illusions, Hide and Seek, Hemlock Grove, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), to serve her sentence under house arrest. Firmly claiming to have killed her abusive husband in self-defense, Shanks’ blood boils at the very sight of her and he wants more answers than she’s providing about his death.

Shortly after beginning her house arrest, Marnie has “an encounter.” Whereas one may initially shake it off as guilt-induced or stress from living in the house where she killed her husband, signs clearly indicate something paranormal. Unfortunately for us viewers, those signs are brought to the screen in the form of cursory special effects—more the caliber you’d expect from an old episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000) or a re-enactment from some Ghost Hunters show. And while the acting is fine, the execution of these meant-to-be dreadful happenings simply doesn’t work.

There’s little in the horror genre as “unspooky” as the sound of a ghost’s footsteps with nothing to complement the fear or cultivate dread. When her kitchen “attacks” her, it’s not scary. Perhaps unexpected—maybe “random” would be a better term. But certainly not very effective as a horror device. And seeing the blurry low budget ghostly form of a wifebeater continuing to batter his wife from beyond the grave isn’t so much unnerving as it is crass… at least, in its basic presentation in this movie. Unblur the ghost and it’s just a guy beating his wife.

Writer/director Eric Red (Body Parts, Bad Moon) seemed to really try with this film, but his vision seems to most fall apart when the ghost is in our vision.

When a priest showed up to the house, I thought “this is it! This will be the scene that makes it all worth it!” But it wasn’t. Another empty, squandered scene. But then a ghost sighting during a sex scene… well… that was the one scene (if any) that made this movie worthwhile. Just plain BRUTAL and GORY, complete with twisted limbs and cracked teeth and a mangled dislocated mandible. Where did this come from after 70 lame minutes of nothing?!?!

For all the criticism I’m dealing out, this was not quite as annoying as you’d think. The familiarity of the cast and capable acting make this more watchable than you’d expect, even if still far from acceptable. It’s definitely not completely unwatchable if you’re just looking for a popcorn flick. But I’d still never recommend this (let alone spending money on this) unless you, like me, were just curious to see Famke in this horror movie you had never heard of until someone’s passing mention of it—which is exactly what happened to me on Facebook last month. OR… the GIFs made your day and you decided you needed to see that scene.

John’s Horror Corner: Terrifier (2016), the brutally mean-spirited evil clown movie that will haunt your gory nightmares with this memorable villain.

September 2, 2019

THIS IS VERY MUCH NSFW
NSFW
NSFW
Not Safe for Work

 

MY CALL: Top choice for fans of brutal, goretastic and mean-spirited horror. The performance of the villain was darkly inspired, creating a truly memorable villain. I was truly impressed beyond the virtues of the special effects team and am looking forward to the sequel! MORE MOVIES LIKE Terrifier: For more evil clown movies, try Stephen King’s It (1990, 2017), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Stitches (2012), Scary or Die (2012) and Clown (2014). For more brutally mean-spirited movies try The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, Wolf Creek (2005), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Hatchet (2006), or even The Strangers (2008, 2018) or The Purge (2013) movies.

Dawn (Catherine Corcoran; Amityville: Vanishing Point, Return to Class of Nuke ‘em High Volume 1), Tara (Jenna Kanell; The Bye Bye Man) and Victoria (Samantha Scaffidi; Terrifier 2, Demon Hole) find themselves stranded on Halloween night and then hunted down by a twisted clown. The premise is very basic, but don’t let that deter you.

Two things are extremely evident in the first five minutes of this film. 1) The budget is not impressive (but they do a lot with it). 2) A lot of gory brutal heart was poured into this film by writer/director Damien Leone (All Hallow’s Eve, Terrifier 2). After a disturbingly faceless survivor of a massacre is interviewed on TV, she brutally mutilates her interviewer with eye-gouging viciousness that reminds me of the face-rip scene in The Editor (2014). The severed head, chopped fingers and stab to the face that follow compound the inspired gore!

Despite the clearly low budget, I never really cared at all. When we first see Art the clown (David Howard Thornton; Terrifier 2, Stream), he’s disturbing. He never speaks, but his face is so expressive even through all that make-up! Every shot of this character is effectively off-putting and it’s a strong suit of the film. The combination of the performance and make-up leave a rattlingly disturbing presence and create a memorable villain.

Reminding me of the sheer brutality of Bone Tomahawk (2015), Art hangs a naked woman upside down and proceeds to saw her in half from the crotch down through her intestine-spilling abdomen and finally through her head! We see a lot!

Loads of macerated latex flesh, throat slicing, face-smashing, stabbing messes of fleshy flaps, and buckets of blood… it’s like if Troma made a serious film. Grotesque—even when there’s nudity it’s presented with a desensualized meanness. And watch out for the very predictable yet still very satisfying sequel ending!

As a fan of brutal, goretastic and mean-spirited horror movies, I thought this was really entertaining. The performance of the villain was darkly inspired and the direction was visceral. I was truly impressed beyond the virtues of the special effects team and am looking forward to the sequel!

%d bloggers like this: