Dead 7

Dead 7 DVD CoverI am amazed by this film. Wait, that’s not quite right… I am amazed that such a film has been in my hands. Even with the particular forebodings I had with the selections in the Haul of Dubious Quality, I was not expecting anything like this. You see, I’ve long been tangentially aware of the independent direct-to-video horror film circuit. I’m not a big convention goer (in fact I’ve only been to one small local one years ago), but any coverage of any size of comic or horror movie convention will always afford you a glimpse of table after table of DVDs that would never otherwise see the light of day. I’m aware that among more hardcore horror fans than I, there’s something of a cult following for these films. But I never anticipated possessing such a DVD myself, even if only briefly. I can’t honestly say I would have given any such tables a second glance were I to walk by them.

And yet, here we are. I admit I can’t absolutely confirm that Brain Damage Films, have ever put up a table of their wares at a convention. But it would seem to fit the bill. Their primary distribution seems to be over the internet (which has to be a godsend to such companies). I certainly can’t imagine this film ever showing up on the shelves at Target. And in the case of this film, that’s a good thing, because it’s not for general audiences. Not that it’s particularly gory or scary or anything. It’s just terrible. Continue reading

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

NOES4-PosterWhen you commit to watching each installment of a series as a recurring tradition, regardless of quality, you get a little concerned about the possibility of it being a big mistake. Every year, I watch at least one Halloween film and one Nightmare on Elm Street film during the month of October. Every Friday the 13th, a Friday the 13th film. (Incidentally, in order to watch Freddy vs. Jason on Friday, October 13th, 2017, I’m going to have to double up on Freddy Krueger next year.) And sometimes I’ve gotten burned on that deal. Halloween III, I felt burned by. Friday the 13th has burned me a few times now. And of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 wound up on the negative side of the ledger.

So there’s always a bit of trepidation here that has nothing to do with the “scary movie” aspect of the franchises. Fortunately, part 4 of the Elm Street story is — despite some significant issues — still a mostly positive experience. Continue reading

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Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko PosterThere are films that lend themselves to easy reviews. Donnie Darko is not one of those films. It’s difficult to say too much about it, because the way in which it unfolds is something that a person should experience for themselves. Often that sort of statement is interpreted to mean “there’s a surprise, shocking twist that renders the movie unenjoyable if you already know it”, but that’s not what I mean here. What I mean is that Donnie Darko is a film that is every bit as much about the journey as the journey’s end, and experiencing the weirdness of that journey is a lot of the film’s appeal.

Thus it’s probably best to keep the plot summary very brief. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a very troubled high school student who takes medication for hallucinations. His latest hallucination, Frank (James Duval) — a man in a bunny costume — saves his life from a freak accident, and warns him that the world will come to an end on the night before Halloween. And then Frank starts encouraging Donnie to take certain steps… Continue reading

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1408 PosterA writer of horror stories writes a horror story about a writer. An obvious idea, perhaps, but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. Naturally, the horror writer in question is Stephen King; a little less expectedly, the fictional writer is more of a debunker of the supernatural. John Cusack plays a man who visits haunted locations around the country, attempts to experience the alleged paranormal activity, and writes about his experiences. He has become jaded to the whole experience, as he has yet to experience any genuine phenomena in any of the locations, no matter how rich with history, and no matter how much the the proprietors play up the haunted nature of their hotels and rooms.

But with hotel manager Samuel L. Jackson, Cusack finds a curious situation. He’s used to hoteliers who half-heartedly try to convince him to stay away, playing at reverse psychology to sell the haunting. But Jackson genuinely refuses to rent room 1408 to him. It’s only when Cusack’s publishing company threatens a lawsuit that Jackson relents. Of course, that’s when the trouble begins…. Continue reading

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30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night PosterThere are lots of ways to come up with a story. One of them is to take a few disparate bits of fact and folklore and combine them in a logical but previously-unexplored way. For example, on the folklore side, vampires possess human intelligence, prey upon humans at night, and are vulnerable to sunlight. On the factual side, there are places in the extreme north which go weeks at a time without ever seeing the sun — literally without the sun ever being visible in the sky due to the tilt of the Earth.

Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles, published by IDW Comics, 30 Days of Night puts those two things together in a tale centered on the town of Barrow, Alaska. Continue reading

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Corpse Bride

Corpse Bride Poster2005 Best Animated Feature nominee

I may be softening some in my views of Tim Burton. I’ve said before that he’s a director with a very limited talent, who is seemingly unable to make a film without applying Gothic sensibilities to it, whether appropriate or not. And I’ll stand by that statement. But while there are certainly cases where this doesn’t work, every so often Burton does a film that actually seems tailored to his sensibilities. Perhaps as long as the man stays with his own material instead of trying to adapt somebody else’s, he can create a decent film.

Of course, Corpse Bride isn’t 100% Burton’s material, and not just because he has a co-director (Mike Johnson) and a cabal of co-writers. It’s based on a 19th century Russian fairytale, “The Finger”. But it’s a story that fits within Burton’s sensibilities, and — perhaps just as importantly — it’s a fairytale that most westerners don’t know, so even if it weren’t completely Burtonesque, it lacks the feeling of Burton putting his spin on something the viewers are already familiar with. Continue reading

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The Moth Diaries

Moth Diaries PosterI must admit that I misjudged this film based on its title. The Moth Diaries is not a name that particularly points to what the story is about, and my initial suspicion — given that I hadn’t heard of the film before — was that it was a direct-to-video knockoff of The Mothman Prophecies. (It’s the sort of title Asylum or another knockoff company would give to such a film.) As it turns out, I was wrong on that. The film, directed by Mary Harron of American Psycho fame, did have a theatrical release, if only a very limited one, and has nothing to do with the similar-sounding film of nine years prior.

Instead, it’s a Gothic-inspired psychological thriller set in a boarding school. Continue reading

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