28 Days Later…

28 Days Later PosterCombine two different plot setups, create a new twist on an old genre. In retrospect it seems obvious, though I don’t know for certain if there are examples of this particular combination before this 2002 film from Danny Boyle. On the one hand, 28 Days Later… is a zombie survival film. On the other hand, the zombies in this case aren’t true undead; not raised by magic or even unknown means, but are instead living people who are infected by a terrible plague. This plague, the “Rage virus”, is an artificially created infection which is let loose after a group of activists destroy a laboratory experimenting on primates; we know what the activists are doing there, but we’re never told just what the lab is doing with the virus, although a scientist speaks of trying to find a cure. Perhaps it’s something they’ve weaponized, or perhaps it’s something they’ve stumbled across but was previously isolated.

Either way, the result is the same. This contagion, which spreads through saliva or blood, soon spreads throughout Great Britain — and, it is rumored, the world. With an infection time that can be measured in seconds, it rapidly wipes out most of the population. Jim (Cillian Murphy) is an ordinary man who wakes up from a coma in the hospital only to find that he is a man virtually alone in a city of the dead. Continue reading

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The Last House on the Left (2009)

Last House 2009 PosterI’m going to keep this one short, because there’s just not much for me to say here. This is a remake of a Wes Craven film, this time directed by Dennis Iliadis, with the plot and scenes apparently roughly paralleling the original (which I haven’t seen and probably won’t after this). A pair of teenage girls are kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and one of them is killed while the other is left for dead. Their attackers, injured from a car crash, take up refuge in the house of a couple who — unbeknownst to the attackers — are the parents of the surviving girl. Revenge-killing ensues.

Although it’s not poorly done as a film, I found myself impatiently waiting for it to be over. It can be divided into four acts, none of which hold up well. There’s the lead-in, which is dull; the assault, which is repulsive and dwells on itself too much; the lead-in to the revenge, which aims for suspense but is instead just boring again; and the revenge itself, which could have been mildly interesting but by this point the film had already entirely lost me.

I’m giving this an additional star because the quality of the acting and directing is passable enough that for the right audience, maybe the film could be OK. But I don’t know who that audience is.

Rating: 2 Pumpkins

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Half Light

Half Light PosterIt has to be difficult making new twists on genres. At least, that’s the only conclusion I can come up with for films that don’t manage to bring all of their disparate elements together successfully. Craig Rosenberg’s Half Light, from 2006, is another such film.

Demi Moore stars as an American writer living in England. When her son drowns, she leaves her husband/editor (Henry Ian Cusick) and rents a cottage in Scotland to come to terms with her grief and write her next novel. When there, she starts a romance with the local lighthouse keeper (Hans Matheson). There are only a few problems. She keeps having visions of her dead son. Visions which try to strangle her. Continue reading

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The Reaping

Reaping PosterAs I’ve watched horror films over the years, I’ve seen a lot of inspirations for the antagonists. There are threats from insanity (slashers), threats from technology (mad scientists), threats from wronged nature (Godzilla), threats from the supernatural (any number of paranormal films), and even a few threats of biblical origin. The Reaping falls into the last category; as with The Abominable Dr. Phibes, it draws upon the ten plagues of Egypt, as detailed in Exodus, for its inspiration. Unlike that Vincent Price vehicle, however, the plagues in The Reaping do not have a mad scientist at their origin; they appear to genuinely be supernatural.

But appearances aren’t everything, which is where Hilary Swank comes into this Stephen Hopkins picture. Swank plays a former minister turned professional skeptic, a professor who travels the world debunking miracles and supernatural events. When David Morrissey tells her of a small town that seems to be undergoing the biblical plagues, she and her assistant (Idris Elba) head in to find out what’s really going on. Continue reading

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show

RHCP PosterSometimes a cult classic is called such because only a few people have seen it, but all love it. And sometimes it seems that nearly everybody has seen it, but most people move onward while only a few love it. The Rocky Horror Picture Show seems to fall into the latter camp. Sure, everybody will act surprised if you haven’t seen it, and hardly anybody today seems to have a truly negative view of it… but it’s not like I see it turn up in a lot of peoples’ DVD collections either. Of course, a lot of that may be due to how it’s traditionally viewed, in a midnight showing at a theatre with the crowd participating by shouting in-jokes at the screen. To an extent, Rocky Horror may be a cult classic where the cult is more centered on itself than on the film.

I’ve never been to one of those midnight showings. I wanted to see the movie for itself. Continue reading

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Elvira’s Haunted Hills

Elvira's-Haunted-Hills PosterSome people clearly love their work even when they’ve been typecast by it. Such is obviously the case with Cassandra Peterson, the woman behind the fright wig and vamp outfit of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. From movie host to TV commercial appearances to starring in her own movie, she’s still at it. And in 2001, she decided to do a second film based on her character. With Sam Irvin directing, Peterson wrote the script and produced it herself as she was unable to convince anybody else to back the film 13 years after her previous B-movie.

And Elvira’s Haunted Hills, much like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is very much a B-movie, and proud of it. Continue reading

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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes PosterThere are a few ways to achieve cult status in film, and particularly in the horror genre. One is to be a very good film, such as Halloween. One is to be an extraordinarily bad film, such as Troll 2. And one is to be a truly absurd parody of the genre. I don’t think I have to spell out which category Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! falls into; the name pretty much says it all.

The title pretty much says all you need to know about the plot as well. Mutant tomatoes begin attacking America, America scrambles to defend itself. An elite government task force made up of useless idiots attempt to fight back against the vegetable menace and find out where they came from. Continue reading

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Night of the Living Dead (1990)

night-of-living-dead-1990-posterIf there is one thing that horror movie fans are familiar with, it’s soulless shambling abominations before God and man. By which I mean remakes. All joking aside, there are very few properties in horror that aren’t revisited with a new interpretation, and while a “classic” in some other genres may occasionally be considered off-limits, in horror it’s just an additional guarantee that someone else will take a look at putting their own spin on things. So it’s no surprise to find a remake of George Romero’s ghoulish classic, Night of the Living Dead. Romero produced the remake, but left the directing to Tom Savini, a veteran of horror movie special effects. It was Savini’s first time in the director’s chair.

As remakes go, it’s actually not bad. Continue reading

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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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