Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Movie Review: Machete Kills (2013)

The sequel to the 2010 film based on the fake Grindhouse trailer, Machete Kills stars Danny Trejo as ex-Federale agent turned legendary bad-ass Machete. After the death of his lover Sartana Rivera, Machete is recruited by the President of the United States to take down a crazy revolutionary and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war and chaos across the planet.

Now, time for some backstory. Back in 2007, I was lucky enough to see Grindhouse while it was still in theaters. While it wasn't a box office success, I loved every moment of it and hope that we can finally get a sequel to it someday (a man can dream, can't he?).

I remember seeing the fake Machete trailer before Planet Terror and wishing that it was a real film. Thankfully, the movie gods heard my wish and Robert Rodriguez turned the trailer into one of my favorite films of 2010. Machete was a loving homage to the exploitation films of the 1970's, embracing the goofiness that made those films enjoyable, but remembered to infuse just the right amount of heart and soul that made the best of those films memorable. So, it should be obvious that I was rather excited for this sequel, hoping that it would be just as fun as the first. Unfortunately, Machete Kills left me with very mixed emotions.

Like the first film, the acting is solid. Danny Trejo continues to be as bad-ass as before, showing the world why he deserves to be the star of his own action franchise. That grizzled appearance and "man of few words" personality really sells the tough nature of the character and makes you believe he'd be able to cause so much carnage and mayhem. The rest of the ensemble cast do decent jobs as well, with Demian Bichir as Mendez the crazy revolutionary with multiple personalities, Michelle Rodriguez as the one-eyed ass-kicker Luz, and Mel Gibson as the psychic arms dealer Voz being the obvious stand-outs.

Machete Kills also manages to take the insane level of violence from the first film and crank it up to 11. While the first film had its crazy moments, it was still grounded within some sense of reality. Machete Kills, however, leaves that grounded reality behind embraces the violent insanity. This is a movie where our main character uses a gun that turns people inside out and kills an enemy by cutting out his intestines and hurling them into a helicopter's blades, causing the man to be ripped up and chopped into pieces. There is just something morbidly hilarious about that and if you can accept that, you will find yourself laughing and smiling at the gleeful levels of violence.

Unfortunately, Machete Kills has two major problems that keep it from being a great film. The first film, for the most part, was a rather simple revenge story. Machete is hired to perform a job, but is betrayed and left for dead. Afterwords, he decided to track down those who were responsible and take out his vengeance on them. While there are a few additional elements and subplots to the story, the basic plot is rather straight-forward and structurally-sound. Machete Kills, on the other hand, seems like its trying so hard to be so many different things at once. It wants to be a 1980's action film, but it also wants to be a cheesy sci-fi film as well, with a good dose of Mad Max and Escape From New York in the middle. Because its trying to do a lot of things, Machete Kills stretches itself a little thin and the movie's structure suffers for it.

Secondly, Machete Kills' special effects are atrocious. The majority of the CGI effects look like something a 13-year old would create on Adobe After Effects instead of a movie with a $20 million dollar budget and a seasoned director at the helm. When the first film had some amazing practical effects and you have one of the best special effect artists in your movie (Tom Savini), its rather depressing to see such horrible CGI.

Machete Kills is a rather mixed bag. While the acting is solid and the action enjoyably over-the-top, the film isn't as well-structured as the original and the god awful effects weaken the film. If you can get past that terrible CGI and accept the film for what it is (a loud, insanely violent action film that tells reality to fuck off), you will find a lot to love about Machete Kills.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

31 Days of Horror: The Haunting (1963)

Directed by Robert Wise, The Haunting is an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. The film stars Julie Harris as Eleanor Vance, a questionably sane young woman who is asked to join anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) and two other individuals as they investigate the supernatural incidents occurring in the infamous Hill House. As the group learns more about the house and its tragic past, they discover the legends surrounding the mansion might hold more truth than the skeptical guests previously expected.

The Haunting is one of the most highly regarded haunted house films ever created. Instead of focusing on cheap scares and supernatural antics (which can be fun when done well), the film builds an unsettling atmosphere that enhances the natural tension of the story and situation, and includes more subtle scares that rely heavily on the "Less is More" philosophy of horror film-making.

Robert Wise, being a veteran at the art of film-making, sets up his shots perfectly, keeping the film visually interesting and downright beautiful at times. Like any good, atmospheric horror film, The Haunting uses each and every scene to build tension and show just enough to creep us out and get us scared without beating us over the head with loud scares. The music is equally fantastic, enhancing each scene at just the right moment, adding to the mood and situation.

The acting is also superb. Julie Harris does a great job at portraying Eleanor, showing her as a young woman who you believe is teetering on the breaking point of sanity. She plays the character in such a sympathetic way, making you worried about her and her mental state, hoping that she manages to stay together and make it out of the house in one piece. All of the other actors give equally great performances.

The Haunting is definitely a classic of horror cinema and one of the most influential haunted house films ever made. It does a great job at building suspense and releasing it at just the right moment. If you love haunted house movies the focus more on atmosphere and mood, you will love The Haunting.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Horror of Dracula (1958)

Inspired by Bram Stoker's classic novel and directed by Hammer Horror alumni Terence Fisher, Horror of Dracula stars Christopher Lee as the undead Count Dracula who travels from his castle in Transylvania to England, hoping to seek revenge on a mortal man who tried to vanquish him. In the process, the Count runs into his arch-nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing, who will do whatever he can to end Dracula's reign of terror.

Horror of Dracula, with its predecessor Cure of Frankenstein, helped turn Hammer Films into an icon of horror cinema. The movie is a perfect mixture of gothic horror, wonderful performances, fantastic sets and special effects, and a good dash of suaveness and sexuality.

Like the novel and the 1931 Universal movie, Horror of Dracula possesses an eerie atmosphere that melds perfectly with the dread surrounding Count Dracula and the situations of the story. Its a movie that focuses more on mood and situation instead of on-the-nose scares. It wants to draw you into the story, making you feel like you have a connection with the characters, a connection that causes you to worry when a character is put into danger and hope they will succeed, and the films pulls it off.

The acting is also superb. Christopher Lee, who would go on to play Dracula several more times in future Hammer Horror films, is easily the best actor to dawn the cape and fangs since Bela Lugosi in the 1930's. He easily captures the spookiness and terror that is inherent to the character, but mixes that with a suave demeanor that draws you in, like another one of his victims. Peter Cushing is just as amazing. You actually believe he's dedicated his life to studying the undead and will do whatever he can to destroy Dracula. He also seems to have a will of iron, not even batting an eye when a vampire comes at him and not hesitating in the slightest to fight Dracula in the climax, knowing the Count is most likely stronger than him. While Lee and Cushing are easily the stand-outs in the cast, the other actors do a fantastic job as well.

For a film made in the late 50's, the majority of Horror of Dracula's effects and sets manage to hold up fairly well. While there are times when you can see through the illusion, like Dracula turning to ash for example, most of the sets are beautiful to look at and the effects are great and get the job done.

Horror of Dracula deserves its place among the classics, such as Frankenstein or The Wolf Man. Its a well-made, beautifully shot film that has an eerie atmosphere and wonderful acting. If you like vampire movies, atmospheric horror films, and great acting, you will love Horror of Dracula.

Friday, October 11, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The sequel to the 1931 horror classic Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein is considered by many to be just as good, if not better than its predecessor.

The film begins immediately after the events of the first movie. After managing to survive the collapse of the burning windmill, a chastened Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life. Sadly, he is tempted and ultimately coerced by the Monster, encouraged by Frankenstein's old mentor Dr. Pretorius, into constructing  a mate for him.

Bride of Frankenstein is a perfect example of how to make a sequel that not only lives up to the original, but surpasses it. Like its predecessor, Bride of Frankenstein's cinematography is utterly beautiful and captivating. Its obvious how much time and effort the director and crew put into this film, wanting it to be the best movie the could make, and I believe they succeeded at that goal.

The music is expertly done as well. Like its predecessor's score, Bride of Frankenstein's music is atmospheric and haunting, perfectly matching the film and enhancing each and every scene. Its so good and captivating that I have a good feeling that I keep catching myself humming the tunes to myself as I write this review.

Finally, every actor and actress in the film gives a wonderful performance. Boris Karloff once again portray's the Monster, using his facial expressions and physicality to give the character a unique personality that makes us relate with the creature and understand his plight. Ernst Thesiger also captures the eerie and diabolical nature of Dr. Pretorius perfectly and Elsa Lanchester is as both Mary Shelley in the film's prologue scene and the titular Bride. While these three were easily the stand-out performers, the rest of the cast is great and each performance helps make the film better.

Bride of Frankenstein is the rare sequel that takes what was great about the original film and just makes it better. Its beautifully shot, hauntingly scored, and jam-packed with excellent performances. Bride of Frankenstein is a classic movie that everyone needs to see at least once in their life. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Night of the Demons (2009)

Night of the Demons is a remake of the 1988 film of the same name. In the film, Maddie (Monica Keena) and a few friends attend a party being held by a girl named Angela (Shannon Elizabeth) at the Broussard Mansion, a New Orleans house with a dark history. After the cops break up the party and most of the guests leave, Angela and Maddie's ex-boyfriend Colin (Edward Furlong) venture into the basement and make a grisly discover that accidentally releases a horde of ancient demons who terrorize the remaining party goers who are now trapped inside the mansion. Will they survive, or will they succumb to the diabolical demons?

Generally, there is a rather negative stigma attached to horror movie remakes. While some of them can be great, like John Carpenter's The Thing or David Cronenberg's The Fly, the majority of them seem to be nothing but garbage meant to cash in on a recognizable name and the nostalgia of a generation. While Night of the Demons isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, I'm not sure I can throw it into the same trash can with the likes of the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street remakes.

While the film's story has a number of flaws and most of the characters are rather bland and forgettable, Night of the Demons makes up for its faults with some really well done make-up and special effects, some decent performances, and a sense of fun that keeps the audience from walking out.

Most of the film's special effects seem to be practically done, which is something I always like to see, and happen to be rather effective for the most part. The make-up for most of the demons, with Angela's and another party-goer named Suzanne's in particular, is equally great and looks pretty damn cool.

While some of the acting in the film is rather mediocre and bad, Monica Keena and Shannon Elizabeth do a decent job with the script they have been given. It's actually rather surprising how good Elizabeth is at playing a demon and Keena presents Maddie in a way that makes her rather likable.

Finally, but most importantly, Night of the Demons knows what kind of film it is and decides to just have a fun time being loud, gory, and goofy. The film is presented with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and embraces the underlying silliness of the situation. This is a movie where a girl is possessed by a demon that was banished from hell and has the ability to shoot tentacles from her breasts. I think that one effect perfectly captures the tone this film is going for, and if you can accept that tone, you will have a good time with it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Piranha (1978)

Directed by Joe Dante, Piranha follows Insurance investigator Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies) who is dispatched to find two teenagers who have gone missing near Lost River Lake. After hiring the surly drunkard Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) to serve as her guide and help her search the area, they find a seemingly abandoned military facility. The two end up draining one of the facility's pools and accidentally releasing a particularly vicious swarm of piranha into the local waterways. Maggie and Paul race to warn the locals, but their pleas fall upon skeptical ears - until the piranha reach the swimmers.

Piranha is a spoof of "Nature Run Amok" films, with Jaws being the specific target. The movie is incredibly goofy at times, having characters act in ways that seem rather illogical and utilizing some cheesy special effects for the titular creatures. However, none of these elements actually hurt the film, but help make the film incredibly enjoyable to watch.

Piranha is a film that knows exactly what it is, a cheesy spoof of a popular film that doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest. If you can accept that, you will find a lot to like about the film. Dillman and Menzies actually give decent performances, presenting their somewhat eccentric characters in a believable and likable manner. While a good amount of the effects are rather cheesy, there are a few that I found pretty well executed, such as the stop-motion creatures lurking within abandoned military facility. The music is also not half bad and there are a few moments in the film that are actually rather scary and well-done (like the piranha attack at the summer camp)

Piranha is one of those films that can be pretty entertaining if you accept the inherent goofiness of the product. It's not a masterpiece of horror cinema, but its still an enjoyable film that I'd recommend to those who like goofy monster films and Joe Dante movies.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

31 Days of Horror: The Howling: Reborn (2011)

Directed by Joe Nimziki, The Howling: Reborn is the 9th entry in The Howling franchise. The film follows Will Kidman, a high school senior whose mother was attacked and killed when he was just a baby. As his graduation grows closer, Will discovers that he too is a werewolf and realizes a pack of werewolves are coming after him.

A few years ago, I watched The Howling for the first time. I've always been a werewolf fan and I felt I had to watch the classics, such as The Wolf-Man and An American Werewolf in London. I immediately fell in love with the film and its one of my favorite monster movies of all time. With that piece of context, you can understand what I mean when I say that The Howling: Reborn is one of the most depressing and disappointing films that I've seen in a very long time.

It's rather obvious that The Howling: Reborn is trying desperately to draw in the Twilight crowd. Both films share a rather gloomy soundtrack, washed-out cinematography, and pretentious philosophizing that makes you want to just punch whoever is saying this stupid shit. The story, like the sanitized supernatural romances that its trying to emulate, is rather dull and predictable, hitting all the expected beats.

The special effects are just as bad. Some, like the oddly psychopathic bully falling over the stair railing, are so bad they managed to coax a laugh out of me. The rest just made sigh and wish I was watching the original. Its kind of sad seeing how far this franchise has fallen.

Now, I will give the film this, the majority of the actors seem to actually be trying to take the mediocre script and give a decent performance. The two leads, Landon Liboiron and Lindsay Shaw, being the most successful. The two actors do seem to have some inkling of chemistry, which is more than I can say for their Twilight counterparts.

However, their performances are not enough to save this incredibly mediocre film. Its boring, uninspired, and rather depressing if you're a fan of the original. If you're looking for a good werewolf film, watch the 1st Howling and An American Werewolf in London instead.

Verdict: See it if you like the Twilight formula and like the two leads starts a lot. Skip it if you like your werewolf films to be a little more brutal and not so sanitized. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Psychosis (2010)

A remake of the "Dreamhouse" episode from the anthology film Screamtime, Psychosis follows prominent horror writer Susan (Charisma Carpenter). After moving to a sprawling country estate in order to recover from a massive mental breakdown, Susan begins to experience gruesome visions of a long-forgotten murder. Are these visions due to Susan's questionable mental health, or is there something else going on?

Psychosis is a competently made film that, unfortunately, is incredibly slow and meandering. The idea behind the film isn't a bad one, and in the right hands, could have made for a really interesting delves into the main character's psyche, but Psychosis just moves through the story at an incredibly slow and boring pace that made it a chore to watch. What makes this worse is that the ending is rather disappointing, giving you no actual reward for sitting through this dull film.

With that being said, there are a few gems buried within the film. The music and sound design is decent and the cinematography is pretty competent (with only a few weak spots scattered throughout the film). The actors, especially Carpenter, try their hardest to give good performances. Sadly, there is only so much you can do with a boring script.

While there are a few decent elements sprinkled throughout the film, Psychosis fails due to its slow as hell pacing and rather boring narrative. If you are looking for a good psychological horror film, I'd recommend checking out Jacob's Ladder and skipping Psychosis.

Verdict: See it if you are a huge fan of Charisma Carpenter and you have an hour and twenty-nine minutes to kill. Skip it if you hate films that are incredibly slow with a lackluster pay-off.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

The fourth film in the Hammer Horror's Frankenstein series, Frankenstein Created Woman continues the tale of Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) and his strange experiments.

This time around, Baron Frankenstein is trying to discover a way to trap the soul of a recently deceased person, believing that he can transfer it into another recently deceased body and restore it to life. While the good doctor is working on his experiments, his assistant Hans (Robert Morris) is wrongly accused of murdering his lover Christina's (Susan Denberg) father.

After his execution, Christina commits suicide. Seeing a perfect opportunity before him, Frankenstein resurrects Christina with Hans' soul and everything goes as planned, until the group of young dandies who were actually responsible for the crime start turning up dead, and all signs point to Frankenstein's latest creation.

Frankenstein Created Woman is easily one of the weaker entries in Hammer's Frankenstein series. While it has some interesting ideas, the story itself is rather predictable and the film's pacing is slower than it really needs to be. While I was watching the movie, I found myself thinking this story could have been a rather interesting Tales From The Crypt episode and that show's runtime would have fit it much better.

However, the film is not a horrible movie. Hell, it's not even a bad film. The acting is pretty good, with Cushing being amazing as always and Denberg giving a pretty good performance as well, and the music and cinematography is well-done as well. Frankenstein Created Woman just isn't as good as the previous entries in the series. Its a decent, enjoyable movie, but I'd suggest watching Curse of Frankenstein instead.

Verdict: Watch it if you like the other entries in Hammer's Frankenstein series, enjoy Peter Cushing, and are interested in the ideas presented in the film. Skip it if you dislike stories that are rather predictable and have some pacing issues.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Hatchet (2006)

Directed and written by Adam Green, Hatchet is a loving homage to the classic slasher films of the 70's and 80's. The story follows a group Louisiana who decide to participate in a haunted swamp tour instead of the usual Mardi Gras festivities. After the boat hits some rocks and sinks, the group is soon pursued the murderous Victor Crowley, the ghost of a backwoods mutant who kills anyone who enters his swamp. Can the group escape the swamp with their lives, or will they fall victim to the legend of Victor Crowley like so many others?

As I've already mentioned, Hatchet is a love letter to the slasher films of yesteryear. Adam Green manages to capture the spirit of those movies perfectly and shows why they were so entertaining and fun. Instead of just throwing us into the middle of the action and have us follow a group of one-dimensional characters who will mostly be fodder for uninspired deaths, Green & Co. take their time to introduce us to the characters, making them feel well-rounded enough that we actually want to see some of them survive and feel bad when they are killed brutally. Also, the death scenes are glorious. Each is interesting and unique, keeping the movie fresh. If I had to choose a favorite, I think I'd have to pick the second death in the movie, where Crowley grabs a woman and rips her head apart with his bare hands. His slasher forefathers would be proud.

Speaking of the classic slasher villains, the film also has a few nods to the past with three nice, little cameos. Victor Crowley, who is very reminiscent of Jason Voorhees, is actually played by Jason alumni Kane Hodder, who also plays Crowley's father in the flashback and does an excellent job. In the opening scene, we have Robert "Freddy Krueger" England as an alligator hunter and Tony "Candyman" Todd shows up later as a flamboyant New Orleans entertainer later in the film, both of them doing great and showing their acting chops and why they are so highly regarded among the horror fan-base.

Hatchet is an over-the-top gory slasher film that is just as entertaining as its predecessors from the 70's and 80's. Its a heart-felt homage that captures the spirit of those old films and shows why they worked so well and why most of us horror fans love them.

Verdict: See it is you love the slasher films of the 70's and 80's, over-the-top death scenes, and great practical effects. Skip it if you don't like gory death scenes and like more psychological, atmospheric horror films. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Carnival of Souls (1962)

Directed by Herk Harvey, Carnival of Souls centers around a young woman named Mary Henry (Clandice Hilligoss), the sole survivor of a tragic car crash who moves to a small town in Utah to work as an organist in a local church. When she arrives, she finds herself fascinated with an abandoned pavilion and haunted by ghoulish figure. Is Mary just imagining things, or is there more to the situation than meets the eye?

While the film didn't receive widespread attention when it was original released as a B-movie, Carnival of Souls is considered a cult classic by many today and has been cited as an important influence on the films of David Lynch and George A. Romero. After watching the film, I can understand why it has obtained that cult status.

Unlike other horror films that focus on creepy special effects (which isn't a bad thing at all), Carnival of Souls uses atmosphere and music to create a rather effective mood of unease and foreboding. In many ways, Carnival of Souls is like a feature-length episode of the Twilight Zone, taking a rather normal character who has experience a tragic event and having her deal with a number of strange and surreal situations that lead to a nice, little twist at the end .

Due to the film's low budget, almost all the actors are amateurs who had worked with Harvey on his previous educational films. However, none of the actors give particularly bad performances. On the contrary, most of the actors and actresses due a decent job with the material they have been given, with Hilligoss and Sidney Berger as Mary's neighbor John Linden being the stand-out performances in my opinion.

Carnival of Souls only real weakness is that its concept isn't strong enough to sustain an hour and twenty minutes of screen time. Now, it would fit perfectly in the old 30 minute format of the first few seasons of the Twilight Zone. However, the feature-length run-time causes the film to be padded with a few scenes that are rather dull and don't really add all that much to the final product.

However, Carnival of Souls is still worth a watch. While it feels like a Twilight Zone episode that ran a little too long, it would still be a good episode. The concept and twist are interesting and the creepy atmosphere and music are great.

Verdict: See it if you enjoy films that focus more on atmosphere and mood than special effects. Skip it if you dislike movies that are rather slow-paced and surreal.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

31 Days of Horror: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Vincent Price is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most iconic horror actors of all time. He starred in such classic films as The House on Haunted Hill, The Fly, and The Last Man on Earth. Price was well known for his distinctive voice and his ability to mix serious drama with comedy, making him well-suited for roles that were rather over-the-top. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a perfect example Price at his best.

Set in 1925, The Abominable Dr. Phibes tells the tale of Anton Phibes, a horribly disfigured genius that was supposedly killed in a car crash. Convinced that his beloved wife died due to the incompetent of seven doctors and one nurse, Phibes seeks vengeance by killing each culprit through a series of tortuous methods based on the Ten Plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament.

Price, as usual, knows how capture that perfect mixture of drama and camp, making his performance as the vengeful doctor perfect. Watching him put together these elaborate and imaginative murders is incredibly, but you also feel pity for the character when you hear him talk about his dead wife and how losing her has affected him. Because of this, you want Phibes to succeed in his goals and see the people who caused the death of his beloved pay.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes' cinematography and set design is wonderful as well. Director Robert Fuest and the crew behind the film have created a rather stylized version of the early 20th century that fits rather nicely with Phibes' rather bizarre methods and the tone of the story over-all. Fuest also knows how to get the most out of his scenes, each getting their point across without over-staying their welcome and are shot rather nicely.

The film's only true weakness, in my opinion, are the secondary characters. While he has some good comedic moments and Peter Jeffrey gives a fine performance, Inspector Harry Trout is kind of boring as a character and Phibes' silent assistant Vulnavia isn't much better. Thankfully, the film doesn't linger on them too much.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a perfect example of campy 1970's horror at its best. Vincent Price gives an excellent performance and the film is entertaining as hell. If you like a little dash of dark humor with your horror and want to have a good time and a good laugh, The Abominable Dr. Phibes will satisfy your needs.

Verdict: See it if you like campy horror films with great acting, cinematography, and set design. Skip it if you prefer more serious horror films with more believable situations.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Trollhunter (2010)

Director:  André Øvredal

Writer:  André Øvredal

Starring: Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg, Glenn Erland Tosterud

Summary: Trollhunter follows a group of Norwegian film students who are shadowing Hans, a professional hunter who tracks down and eliminates real-life trolls for the government agency known as the Troll Security Service, who do everything they can to keep the public ignorant of the troll menace.

The Good: As I've mentioned before, I am really not a fan of the "found footage" genre. Like 3-D, I see "found footage" as a gimmick that filmmakers use to make something seem more "real" when the actual style adds very little to the film. Thankfully, Trollhunter's director knows how to use the vérité and uses it well. Like The Bay, Trollhunter is shot as if its a documentary, which gives a ready explanation for the camera's presence. Also, since the documentary crew is supposed to be a couple of college students who have never made a documentary before, the questionable cinematography can be forgiven. 

The basic concept that acts as the foundation of the film is really interesting. While its not a very original premise, its still fun to see what it would be like if trolls actually existed. Being someone who loves folklore and mythology, it was cool to see the trolls retain their weakness to sunlight, their rock-based appetite, and the ability to smell the blood of a Christian. Its also interesting to learn how the trollhunter Hans hunts these creatures and learn how the Troll Security Service (TSS for short) keeps their existence a secret. After watching the film, I want to know more about these trolls, the TSS, and if similar organizations and other trollhunters exist around the world. 

Speaking of trollhunters, the character of Hans is rather intriguing as well. The character comes off as a weary warrior who is growing tired of the fight and sees the chance to finally come clean about the secrets he's been keeping when these college students who up, wanting to film him. Otter Jespersen plays the character perfectly, the tired nature of the character coming through clearly thanks to Jespersen's performance and posture throughout the film. He is easily the best thing in this film.

The Bad: While this is probably the result of a low budget, the CGI effects in the film are rather poor. They aren't horrible and they get the job done, but I always felt myself draw out of the film almost every time one of the trolls was on screen. The only exception was the Jotnar at the end of the film, which was pretty well done.

Besides Hans, the other characters in the film are rather bland or one-note. When Hans wasn't the focus of the film, I found myself not really caring about any of the other characters and just wanting to get back to Hans and his situation.

Conclusion: While the CGI is rather lackluster and most of the characters are rather bland, Trollhunters is saved by an interesting concept, good execution, and a very interesting main character. If you like monster movies and want to see one with an interesting take on the situation, give Trollhunter a watch.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Days of Horror: The Bay (2012)

Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Michael Wallach 
Starring: Kether Donohue, Kristen Connolly, Anthony Reynolds, Michael Beasley, Jane McNeil, Stephen Kunken
Summary: On July 4, 2009, a deadly menace swept through the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland. The authorities believed they had buried the truth about the tragedy. Now, three years later, a reporter who survived the horrors of that terrible day has emerged with footage revealing the cover-up and what actually happened. 
The Good: Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of “found footage” movies. Usually, I find the style unnecessary because the majority of films that seem to use it have stories that could easily be told with a more traditional narrative and the found footage style adds nothing to the story. 
Thankfully, The Bay manages to dodge both of those complaints. The film is told in an amateur, documentary style where our narrator has collected footage of the event through a government leak and has put it together to tell a tale of the Claridge Tragedy in a cohesive fashion. While I could see a few ways they could have told the story in a more traditional narrative, I believe the spliced-together, documentary style they chose to use fits the story better. 
The acting in the film is pretty decent as well. While there are a small handful of background actors and actresses that give somewhat weak performances, the main actors give believable performances with Kristen Connolly as the young mother Stephanie and Stephen Kunken as Dr. Abram being the best of the group. 
Director Barry Levinson and writer Michael Wallach also demonstrate the proper way to make a horror film. Instead of just throwing stuff at the camera and making the occasional loud noise, they choose to build the tension slowly and bring out the scares at just the right time. Also, the film focuses more on the terror of the situation, which I think was a good choice based on the story and the way they are telling it. 
Finally, the majority of the special effects in the movie were very well done for the film’s budget. Most of the effects seemed to be practically done, and that’s always a good thing in my book. The CGI effects were a little sketchy, but they never lingered on them for long, using the found footage style to their advantage and hiding the short-coming. 
The Bad: Like most found footage films, The Bay's cinematography is somewhat questionable. While it is nowhere near the worst cinematography I've seen for one of these kinds of films and the footage is supposed to be somewhat amateurishly done, it still got on my nerves at times.
Also, there are times when the film is showing different camera angles that are rather weird when you realize no one would have been able to get these shots because of the situation going on at the moment. Also, there are times in the movie that caused me to wonder why a character was still carrying the camera when someone else would have put it down. While this is a common thing in found footage films, it is still annoying. 
Conclusions: While there are some cinematography problems with the film, The Bay is still one of the better found footage films I’ve seen in awhile. If you like the found footage sub-genre, like horror films that build up tension and dread, and deal with government cover-ups and ecological terror, you will enjoy The Bay

31 Days of Horror: An Introduction

I have a few confessions to make. First, I love October and it is easily my favorite month of the year. Second, I love Halloween and it is easily my favorite holiday. Finally, I am a horror movie fanatic and I have been since I was a little kid. 
The reason I mention these three things is that I’m planning to do something I like to call the 31 DAYS OF HORROR CHALLENGE. For those of who are interested in taking the challenge as well or are just curious about what the hell I’m talking about, I’ll elaborate. the 31 Days of Horror Challenge is a Movie Challenge with a few simple rules, while I’ll post below: 
  1. The challenge must be taken during the month of October.
  2. The contestant must watch one horror movie per day.
  3. The contestant must watch movies they have NOT seen before.
  4. The contestant must write a review for each movie they watch to prove they have watched the movie. The review must be at least one paragraph long. 
Due to my love of the genre and the season, I thought this would be a fun challenge to take. Will I be able to complete the challenge, watching thirty-one horror films by the end of the month? Stay tuned.