Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dark Mirror (2007)

With August coming to an end, I can almost sense Halloween, and there is really no season better. With that in mind, I was in the mood for something supernatural or paranormal for my evening movie. After some thought, I decided on the 2007 indie film Dark Mirror.

Plot/ A photographer moves her family into a strange old house, where she discovers an alternate reality reflected in the glass; a dark reality that is closing in on her.

When I saw this last night on Shudder, the premise seemed to match my mood for something paranormal. While the movie was paranormal, there were excessively many elements happening throughout the film to ever all anything coherent to grow. Yes, there were some positives with a few decent performances and the initial scenes were solid. Unfortunately, from there, nothing happens and the movie plods along with multiple subplots, uneven scripting, and slow pacing. All of these flaws lead the movie down a spiral that it is never able to find its way out of. In the end, I would have thought coming from IFC that this would have been better, but I was wrong. There is really nothing in this one that makes it worth watching.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Demons (1985)

With my evening winding down after working on some nonfiction writing samples, I decided that I needed a trip into something mindless to help keep myself focused. What did I watch to help keep me motivated, nothing other than the 1985 classic Demons?

Plot/ A group of people are trapped in a large movie theater in West Berlin that is infected by ravenous demons who proceed to kill and posses the humans one-by-one, thereby multiplying their numbers.

If you were around in the 1980s and a horror fan, you should definitely remember what real horror looks like. There was none of this watered-down PG-13 crap masquerading as horror flicks; there was blood, gore, violence, and nudity. Honestly, there was anything and everything, and personally, I long for those days of cinema. This movie captures all of the excess of that decade and creates a memorable trip into the horror realm. Yes, it makes little sense, but that was the point, it was just fun mindless horror in an era that needed it. Helped by Italian horror masters Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava, this one has blood, guts, gore, and the kitchen sink. Hell, it even featured an interesting soundtrack that is a perfect trip down memory lane. In the end, if you love 1980s horror, you have to watch this one if you haven’t seen it already. Yes, there may be some flaws and dated effects, but it is a mindless romp through a dark and twisted world.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Shudder is such a great discovery. As a horror fan, I have no idea why I have not made it there before the past week. Next up for review is another great find from days gone by, the 1972 entryway to the Blind Dead franchise, Tombs of the Blind Dead (La niche del terror diego).

Plot/ In the 13th century there existed a legion of evil knights known as the Templars, who quested for eternal life by drinking human blood and committing sacrifices. Executed for their unholy deeds, the Templars bodies were left out for the crows to peck out their eyes. Now, in modern day Portugal, a group stumbles on the Templars abandoned monastery, reviving their rotting corpses to terrorize the land.

As with everything classic entries into Eurohorror can fall into the love/hate category, and this entry is no different. The first movie in the Blind Dead series, this one lays the groundwork for one of the great franchises in horror history. Honestly, who does not love the idea of the zombie Templars? Personally, the legend of the Knights Templar is one of the greatest mysteries of all time, and a story that definitely has something deeper going on. While this film is not a gorefest, there are some interesting kills, and it has a tremendous amount of atmosphere that works with the entirety of the storyline. Yes, the pacing is a touch slow (with focus on mood and atmosphere vice action), the performances are uneven, and the effects are not mind blowing, but those are somewhat expected from that era of cinema. In the end, this movie is definitely more cerebral than action and relies on storyline and atmosphere to achieve its potential. Not for everyone, this one will definitely appeal to fans of early European horror and early zombie flicks. Those fans should give it a shot if they have not seen it.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Evil Eye (1963)

Now that I finished my last movie from Family Video, it is time to dive back into some of the great films I have caught on Shudder. The next one in line from the string of flicks (now interrupted by a Supernatural marathon with Jillian), is the 1963 Mario Bava classic Evil Eye (AKA The Girl Who Knew too Much).

Plot/ Nora is a young tourist traveling through Rome which takes a sudden turn when she witnesses a murder by a serial killer that the police have sought for years for the so-called Alphabet Killings, and Nora soon finds herself in way-over-her-head trouble when the police want her cooperation to catch the killer while the mystery killer soon targets her for his next victim.

There is nothing like a classic Italian giallo, and in many ways, the origin of that horror subgenre can be traced to the Mario Bava standard. This one has every aspect one would look for in that movement. Full of atmosphere and tension, this is a great mixture of thriller and suspense that draws the viewer in and keeps them enthralled throughout. The performances are solid, the cinematography masterful, and every scene and set matches the anxiety that emanates from the storyline. Plus, with perfect black and white elements, this one definitely transports the viewer back to one of the greatest eras of horror cinema. Yes, it is quite tame and some gore fans will not like it, but for me, it is one of the best films of the genre. In the end, this one is definitely worth watching and is a must for fans of the giallo subgenre. If you have not seen it, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cherry Tree (2015)

While I have been spending a lot of time inside the world of Shudder recently, I still had one movie that I had to finish before completing my latest run through Family Video. What movie is that? It was the 2015 witchcraft themed entry Cherry Tree.

Plot/ Faith's world is turned upside down after she finds out that her beloved father is dying. When the mysteriously alluring Sissy Young becomes her field hockey coach, Faith finds a compassionate spirit and much-needed mother figure. Little does she know that Sissy is the head of a centuries-old witches' coven that uses the fruit of an ancient cherry tree in a secret ritual that restores life to the dead and dying.

When I picked this one out, I did not quite realize that I was in for a modernization (yet loose interpretation) of the classic Rosemary’s Baby. While it is not a quite a total copy of the classic, it definitely takes a large portion of the storyline from that source material. Unfortunately, it also does little to set it apart from many of the other witchcraft themed pieces that have come out in recent years. The story starts slow, picks up, and shows some potential before the problems start to cascade. More of an exploitation themed entry than anything scary, the scripting, and performances are uneven, and there is no atmosphere. Yes, there are some moments that could be shocking to some, but those are few and far between. In the end, this movie will likely fall into the love/hate category of films and will not be for everyone. Personally, I found it at least a little interesting, but then again, I am a sucker for witchcraft and the occult.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

There is nothing like sitting back and catching a classic from my youth. Having grown up in the 1980s, there are plenty of movies and genres to choose from. Of course, nothing truly compares to the slasher film, and the way they made you think twice about camp. One of the most memorable films of that genre is the 1983 cult classic Sleepaway Camp.

Plot/ After a horrible boating accident kills her family, Angela, a shy and sullen young girl, moves in with her eccentric aunt Martha, alongside her protective cousin Ricky. One summer, Martha sends the kids to Camp Arawak. Soon after their arrival, a series of bizarre and increasingly violent accidents begins to claim the lives of various campers.

There is nothing like the slasher craze of the 1980s, and Sleepaway Camp is a must see for fans of the low budget 80s slasher. While not the best movie out there, it is a great example of what made the era of big boxes VHS so fun. This one offers very little gore, a somewhat predictable storyline, and a ton of dated costuming and dialog, but those flaws are easily forgettable with the twist ending that made this one a cult favorite. There are some interesting kills and although some of the performances are uneven, it does capture the 80s in all its glory (it definitely takes me back to my youth). In the end, this movie may not reach the level of the classics from the Friday the 13th franchise, but the ending alone makes it a film that should be listed in slasher canon. If you have not seen it, give it a shot!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How to Make a Monster (1958)

Having recently signed up for a free week of Shudder from AMC, it is a refreshing trip into some of the different ages and genres they offer. Being in the mood for something different, I decided to take a trip back in time to catch the 1958 American International entry How to Make a Monster.

Plot/ When a master monster make-up artist is sacked by the new bosses of American International studios, he uses his creations to exact revenge.

This was a perfect trip back into the days of the classic creature feature, where even if a storyline was somewhat cliché, the overall quality of the film seemed to set it off. This one has everything a horror fan could ask for. There is Frankenstein’s Monster, a Wolfman, and an interesting trip into the mind of a psychopath out for revenge (I loved the hypnotic aspects of control he used). Done on a meager budget (even for that time), the scripting, performances, and overall flow of the movie make it an enjoyable flick to watch. Yes, there is a lack of suspense, the atmosphere is more comedic than horror, and it is predicable, but those factors really do nothing to bring the film down. In the end, this film is a perfect Saturday afternoon creature feature, and a great trip to the classic age of horror cinema. Give it a shot!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Exorcist: House of Evil (2016)

Sometimes I forget to check my enthusiasm at the door when selecting movies. As a huge fan of the Exorcist, I love reading and watching anything about the real case that inspired the classic. Unfortunately, this also opens the door to some material that I should have skipped. That was definitely the case with 2016s, Exorcist: House of Evil.

Plot/ Based on a true story, shot in the Real Exorcist House, a young woman returns to her old family home, the site of an infamous exorcism and discovers the devil never left.

When I saw this at Family Video, I was excited. Some of the elements mentioned on the packaging sounded awesome. Of course, I should have known better than to be wrapped up by the packaging. While this film had some potential, it in no way reaches that point and suffers from a myriad of issues with no atmosphere, a clichéd storyline with played out dialog, and not a single worthwhile scare. Even the performances were uneven and the characters flat. Fortunately, the first few minutes weren’t that back and it provided at least some hope (even if it faded quickly). In the end, there were really no qualities that made this film stand out in any way and it became extremely forgettable. Stay away; there are much better options.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Flesh for the Inferno (2015)

Now that I am settling into a solid schedule with the girls being home, I enjoy the fact that I can get back into some horror cinema on a more regular basis. Next up for review is another no-budget entry in 2015s Flesh for the Inferno.

Plot/ A youth group plans to spruce up a dilapidated old Catholic school, but uncover a grisly tomb from a dark history that the school walls have housed in this horror thriller.

There is something about true no-budget horror cinema that always excites me. That was definitely the case with this one, as I found a very intriguing movie that both had potential for a larger budget, and some quality moments within the low budget atmosphere that graces the screen. While everything is not perfect, this movie had a throwback feel to the classic lower budget films I watched in my youth, and the nunsploitation elements were perfect. The movie features some solid pacing, an interesting soundscape, and some awesome practical effects. Yes, the performances were uneven and there were some head scratching moments, but those elements did not destroy the viewing experience. In the end, this low budget entry will not be for everyone and will likely fall into the love/hate category. Personally, I loved it, but I could definitely see that how some might not. If you love no-budget cinema, give it a shot; just do not take it overly serious.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Hoarder (2015)

After taking a couple days to retrieve the daughters’ from Virginia Beach, it was time to finish the last movie from my most recent trip to Family Video. To close out that grouping, I figured it was time to do the 2015 entry, The Hoarder (AKA Bunker).

Plot/ A young woman enters an underground storage facility, where she soon finds herself trapped and stalked by a killer.

I had passed this one up a few times when at Family Video, and now, I know why. While it is not terrible, it was riddled with clichéd moments that make it rather unoriginal. Yes, it does have an outstanding setting that opens the door to tremendous possibilities; everything is left muddled with the played-out storyline and unlikable characters. The scripting is off, the storyline predictable, the performances uneven, and the gore/effects non-existent; all facets that take away from what potential the movie had. In the end, I have seen worse movies, but that is not to say that this one is good. Tolerable yes, as there were at least a couple of tension filled moments, but other than that, not much!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Green Room (2015)

After sitting through my share of low budget anthologies recently, I figured it was time to change some things up. Last night, following a trip to Family Video, I decided to give 2015s Green Room a chance.

Plot/ A band straying into a secluded part of the Pacific Northwest stumbles onto a horrific act of violence. Because they are the only witnesses, they become the targets of a terrifying gang of skinheads who want to make sure all the evidence is eliminated.

After a couple of uneven entries, this one changed all of my frustrations. An intense thriller, this one definitely falls closer to horror than the thriller genre. The acting is solid throughout, the scripting does a masterful job at creating atmosphere and tension while keeping the movie realistic, and the tone/pace of the film and violence is perfect. While I enjoyed the entire package, some viewers may not like all of the violence and the realism created in this world. To me, that is the only potential downfall of the film. In the end, if you enjoy violent and tension filled movies, this one is definitely for you; check it out!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hotel Hell (2014)

Last night my plans to attend a softball game were rained out by the bipolar weather we are suffering through. Because of that, I was able to catch another no-budget anthology. Unfortunately, this one did not match the others from the week. What was it? 2014s Hotel Hell (AKA The Damned Thing).

Plot/ Three tales of horror are told from the narration of paranormal investigator Eddie Osborne to his newly hired videographer, as they document an abandoned hotel with supernatural occurrences.

If you are a reader of my blog, you know that I love the horror anthology and often give the benefit of the doubt to low budget indie flicks. Unfortunately, it is hard to even do that with this movie. Yes, some of the elements worked within the meager budget, but the storyline was so disconnected that I could not immerse myself into any part of it. This film suffered from clichéd dialog, uneven performances, awkward pacing, and too many subtle inconsistencies to make it entertaining. In the end, Hotel Hell should have kept its original title The Damned Thing, while that would have not improved any aspect of the film, it would have at least given the viewer more of an idea of what they were in for.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Birds (12 Peers Theater)

When you hear the title The Birds, the classic film by famed director Alfred Hitchcock has to come to mind. Based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier the classic tale has been modernized by an adaptation by Conor McPherson. While this modern entry does differ from the source, it is still an interesting and unsettling preview into the spiraling mental state within an apocalyptic state.

When I heard that local stage production company 12 Peers Theater was performing their interpretation of this classic tale, I was sold. I had to see it. While I knew the minimalist cast would create a story much different than the Hitchcock classic, the overall tension and atmosphere of seclusion and isolation from the turmoil outside would have to exist; and it did.

While nothing remotely similar to the Hitchcock classic on first glance, there is a darkness that exists in the modern Hell. Directed for the stage by Vince Ventura, the three-person cast of Gayle Pazerski (Diane), Nick Mitchell (Nat) and Sara Ashley Fisher (Julia) have tremendous chemistry in this dialog driven trip into the dark world of the end times (#birdpocalypse).

Backed by a tremendous soundscape and an impressive combination of setting and lighting, the play holds your attention throughout, and pulls you into the tumultuous relationships within a sanctuary full of fear, love, and jealousy. In the end, this 12 Peers Theater production is well worth the trip into Pittsburgh to see; and with only four shows remaining (Thursday, August 18 through Sunday, August 21), time is running out. If interested, the production can be seen at the Studio Theatre at the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning (in the basement) and more information can be found at their website ( If like me, you are a fan of The Birds, this is a must see.

Volumes of Blood (2015)

As a scriptwriter, I often look at movies from that perspective. Because I am in the initial stages of my career, I understand the importance of indie cinema and the low budget horror flick. In fact, I am good with that and hope to someday have multiple entries on that circuit (I would actually prefer that). With that in mind, I grabbed another anthology; this one was the low budget entry Volumes of Blood from 2015.  

Plot/ A sociology student gathers several friends at the local library on Halloween night to help him create a new urban legend with deadly consequences. He should be careful for what he wished for; it might just kill them all.

Being in a recent anthology mood, this piece of low budget cinema caught my eye as soon as I saw it on the shelf. While there are moments where the low budget was clear, this one was definitely one of the better pieces of indie filmmaking I have seen in some time. The storyline was intriguing; the cinematography solid, and there was enough blood to keep me interested. Yes, some of the dialog was uneven and the performances varied, but it was much better than a lot of the low budget entries that get more publicity. In the end, this movie was more than I imagined it would be and definitely was worth the watch. If you have not seen it, give it a shot!