Monday, January 30, 2017

The Mind's Eye (2015)

While working on the 1800+ words for my project Saturday night, I had a few movies on to help keep me in the mood. The next movie that was on that night was the 2015 entry The Mind’s Eye.

Plot/ Zack Connors and Rachel Meadows were born with incredible psychokinetic capabilities. When word of their supernatural talents gets out, they find themselves the prisoners of Michael Slovak, a deranged doctor intent on harvesting their powers. After a daring escape, they are free from his sinister institution, but the corrupt doctor will stop at nothing to track them down so that he may continue to siphon their gifts for his own use.

I have debated on picking this movie up for some time and finally grabbed in my last trip through Family Video. Growing up through the 1970s/80s, I became a huge fan of low budget horror/sci-fi of that era, and one of the films that were always fun to watch was Scanners from David Cronenberg. When I saw this one, I wondered what it would be and in the end fund something interesting. The characters, cinematography, and performances are all solid and the effects at the end make it even more entertaining. Yes, some of the scripting choices within the storyline are uneven and some of it feels choppy and rushed, but those are but minor flaws. In the end, this one definitely has a low budget 1980s feel and is a movie that is better than a lot of others in the same vein. If you enjoyed the crazy 1980s telekinesis movement, you should definitely enjoy this one. Check it out!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Girl in the Photographs (2016)

Sometimes when I walk through Family Video I am drawn to something that it seems I had bypassed multiple times. That was the case last night when I stumbled upon the 2016 slasher The Girl in the Photographs.

Plot/ A bored young woman in a sleepy community called Spearfish starts receiving photographs of brutally murdered young women. Are they real or staged? The culprit is either a serial killer or some creep with a sick sense of humor.

It’s hard to believe that Wes Craven has passed on and this is the last movie he was involved with as Executive Producer. While it is nowhere near the quality of his classics, it does have an intriguing premise and it was actually a lot better than I initially expected with some solid cinematography and a few parts of the storyline that I really enjoyed (especially the end). Yes, some of the performances are uneven; some of he comedic moments fall flat, and it has too many clich├ęd elements that make it just blend in with all of the other films of the genre. In the end, this movie is just an average entry in the slasher genre and is by no means memorable. Yes, I did love the ending (and final sequences), but there was a lot of potential that was not met.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Conspiracy Theory (2016)

I took last night off from the blog to kick back and relax. Sure, I was watching some things, but honestly did not feel like spending time at the computer typing. One of the movies I watched was the 2016 found footage mockumentary Conspiracy Theory.

Plot/ While filming in southern Nevada, a television crew discovers a terrifying truth lurking beneath the waters of Lake Mead.

When I saw this at Family Video, I was somewhat excited about the concept. Unfortunately, this excitement did not last throughout the film. What I found was nothing like the premise that I expected, yes, it was a parody and did have some laughable moments, for the most part, it felt too contrived and fell flat. The performances were extremely uneven, and much of the storyline was not memorable and made even less sense. True, some of the cinematography was outstanding and with an ultra-low budget, the film is well made and could have been a lot worse, but those were the best parts of the film. In the end, this one is not memorable in any way and I would not recommend paying for it. Be warned.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mountain Devil (2017)

Although I have not been able to make it into the field in some time due to school or softball, there no better place to spend some time than on a real Bigfoot investigation. To my surprise when I went to Family Video, I found a new release that was filmed here in Pennsylvania. A movie that I had heard about for some time from researchers in the Bigfoot community in this area. In fact, here at the Ringmaster’s Realm, there are actually investigation journals from outings with some of the investigators shown in this film. While this movie is miscast as a horror movie, it is a solid docudrama: 2017s Mountain Devil.

Plot/ Based on the true events that occurred in the Appalachian Mountains, Mountain Devil recounts the frightening events of the night Frank Peterson and his friend spent the night in a secluded cabin stalked by something they could not explain. With only a few clues and journal entries, we try to piece together the shocking events, and attempt to shed insight into one of the greatest mysteries of our time

Let me start by saying that this docudrama sits somewhat close to my heart. Many of the Bigfoot investigators involved with this project are personal friends. With that being said, I can vouch for the validity of the investigation principles shown throughout the movie. Everything that was shown from the measurements techniques, to the tree bend discoveries, to the group investigation methods are practiced when out in the field. Plus, no one in the group claims to be an expert, in fact they make this statement on camera in the film. Based on a true story, the overall tale is interesting and the production elements utilizing a mixture of actual investigation footage, witness interviews, and the reenactment of the source material works well together especially considering the low budget nature of the project. Yes, the film is miscast as a horror movie, there are some choppy moments with the editing and overall video quality, but that is to be expected. In the end, even though I may be a touch biased with my review, I will say that this is an honest documentary and everything seen in the investigation practices shown are real. I have been in the field with many of these researchers and I will likely join them again soon. If you enjoy Bigfoot documentaries and want to see the process as it truly is, check out this film. It is definitely more believable than the higher budged shows that have almost ruined the field.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Inferno (2016)

Dante’s Inferno is one of my favorite works of literature and any time I find something that is linked to that work, I devour it. That is why I was excited by my last trip to Family Video. That is where I found the 2016 entry Inferno.

Plot/ When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot.

Let me start by saying that I did not read this book, so I have no idea how well the adaptation is. Unfortunately, in this case, I imagine that I would have been better of searching out the book instead of watching this one. While not a terrible movie, there was nothing truly memorable about it and it did not come across in a smooth and coherent manner. Yes, the performances are solid, the score amazing, and using Dante and the classic Inferno as a basis is a great choice for a mystery, but those elements cannot make up for the overall disjointed and rushed feel of the film. In the end, this is entertaining, but it is also very forgettable. Unless you are a Landon fan or totally immersed in the works of Dan Brown, there are better choices for you.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Night of the Seagulls (1975)

It seems as though the weather is changing yet again this winter. On Saturday, I could have worn shorts outside all day as the temperatures reached into the 60s. Now, we are back into the 30s with a chance of snow. What fun! Of course, the change in weather gives me a great excuse to sit back and enjoy the finale of one of the most famous zombie series out there. What is that movie? It is the 1975 conclusion to the Blind Dead series, Night of the Seagulls.

Plot/ The Knight Templars return in this fourth installment of the Blind Dead series. On this outing, the Templars haunt a fishing village, where they rise seven nights every seven years to claim their sacrificial offerings in return for the safety of the townspeople.

In this fourth and final installment of the Blind Dead series, the zombie Knights Templar again take center stage and wreak havoc. In fact, the Templars are probably at their best in the somewhat H.P. Lovecraft inspired (Dagon?) entry. While in my eyes, this one may not quite match the overall quality of the original; it does give it a run for its money and is arguably the best in the series. Not only is this one entertaining, but also it features better scripting, some solid performances, an atmospheric and creepy soundtrack, and in interesting storyline that seems more layered than the first three installments. Yes, the special effects may feel dated, the is not much character development, and the historic elements of the Templars seem to mix with a more occultist feel, but those small flaws really do nothing to bring this film down. In the end, this movie is the perfect climax to the series and a movie that cries Eurohorror.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Return of the Evil Dead (1973)

After spending the afternoon relaxing, I decided to kick back and find something different to help me pass the evening. One search of Shudder and I found it. That film was the 1973 entry in the Blind Dead series, Return of the Evil Dead (AKA Return of the Blind Dead)

Plot/ 500 years after they were blinded and executed for committing human sacrifices, a band of Templar knights returns from the grave to terrorize a rural Portuguese village during it's centennial celebration. Being blind, the Templars find their victims through sound, usually the screams of their victims. Taking refuge in a deserted cathedral, a small group of people must find a way to escape from the creatures.

The Blind Dead series is one of my favorites from the 1970s. I love the tie between zombies and the legendary Knights Templar, which have a mysterious history (at least their last days). While this movie is not perfect, suffering from many of the low budget elements that plague the other entries in the series, it is a step up in quality from the first entry. The performances are decent, the scripting and dubbed dialog isn’t bad, and there are a few action packed moments. Of course, some of the effects do not stand up to time and some of the cinematic choices seem to drag down the tension. In the end, this one is a sound picture and a movie that helps pass some time on a quiet night. If you are looking for some vintage low budget zombie action, give it a shot. This is an entertaining series that should be seen by all zombie fans.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Asylum (1972)

After spending the day with my beautiful and talented daughter Genesis in Morgantown today, I decided to kick back and find something interesting to watch. Incredibly, while searching Shudder, I accidentally stumbled upon a movie that has eluded me for decades (I could only remember the scenes with the tailor). That movie is the 1972 Amicus anthology Asylum.

Plot/ In order to secure a job at a mental institution, a young psychiatrist must interview four patients inside the asylum.

I love the horror anthologies put out by Amicus during the 1970s, and this one is falls in line with those. While this one may not be the best of its kind, it holds a special place in my heart, as it is the film that made me a fan of horror back decades ago. Yes, it is nowhere near as scary as I remember it as a child; this one has stuck with me (especially the story of the tailor). In fact, I have searched many years and watched many horror films trying to rediscover this one. The cast is outstanding, the performances solid, and the framing story does a great job at setting the atmosphere inside the dark and dismal asylum. Plus, with the stories coming from Robert Block, it is hard to imagine it not leaving an impression. Sure, some of the effects did not age well, and the material does seem a little tame in comparison to some of the other films of the era, but those flaws are easily overlooked. In the end, if you love the vintage anthologies from one of the best periods of horror cinema, give it a shot. It may not be the best, but it is entertaining and a fun watch.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hostage to the Devil (2016)

After taking a night off to work on one of my many projects, I decided to get back at it early this evening. What was my choice? It was the 2016 documentary Hostage to the Devil.

Plot/ A child possessed. An exorcist locked in combat with an ancient evil. In the battle for saving a soul, the question remains, just who really is the 'Hostage to the Devil'?

For many, the name Malachi Martin is somewhat polarizing. If you don’t recognize the name, he well-known theologian, and controversial figure in and around the Vatican and in the study of demonic possession. I remember the first time I heard him speak; it was eye opening. In this documentary, there is a tremendous mixture of archived audio recordings and footage alongside eyewitness testimonials that show the truth behind many pontifical secrets. Well made and thought provoking, this documentary is more that a story of Martin and his death, it is an expose of many different elements within Catholicism, and one of the reasons why religious practice sits at a crossroads. In the end, if you have heard the name Malachi Martin, this is a solid documentary and one that you should watch.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Birthday Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe - Enigmas (A Poem)

If you have read my blog, you would understand that Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite authors and one of the biggest influences on me as a writer. I love his works, and the way he always was able to take the reader on a journey. He was truly ahead of his time and an artist that was taken too soon. This is something I wrote tonight on the eve of his birthday as I thought about Poe, and what he and his works have meant to me through the years. 


I stand quietly upon the land,
The vast countenance of oblivion staring into my depths,
Lucid stairways alive at last;
And illicit secrecies surround the silent enigmas once held dear,
Blind but I can see,
Dead but I can breathe,
A final frontier of all that was,
A dismal remnant of what will be,
Random elements twist through the darkness,
Creating life from the impossible,
A lone specimen from the mind of the master,
Edgar whispered; he lost his cat…
…Is it here?

Is this hollow existence merely a dream?
A spectral theory rising from a demonic abyss,
Is anyone here?
Can anyone hear me?
No, just the nothingness of decay shrouded by exile,
Trapped by a forgotten paradox once held as truth,
Am I alive?
Or, am dead?
I can feel every sensation, but cannot touch the frigid memories,
Paralyzed inside this void; no one answers my call,
Failed experiments cloud my vision; my secrets remain unseen,
Another string is strung…
… And the cat cries from the wall.

The Whip and the Body (1963)

As I sat here on the eve of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, I had originally intended to watch one of he classics based on his works. However, after some thought, I decided to venture into something that could have been inspired by Poe, with the 1963 Mario Bava classic The Whip and the Body.  

Plot/ In the 19th century, a sadistic nobleman terrorizes the members of his family. He is found dead, but his ghost soon returns to haunt the residents of his castle.

I am sure that when this one came out, it was controversial with the mixture of gothic horror with some sadism mixed in for good measure. In 1963, movies such as that were considered taboo, and likely would have not been well received. Starring Christopher Lee, this Mario Bava entry is an entertaining movie, and one that has many of the elements that made his movies memorable. Between the beautiful cinematography and the stylistic use of colors, solid performances, and an interesting storyline, this movie has everything a Bava fan could ask for. Yes, the ending does feel lacking and there a many illogical moments, but those almost seem to be part of Bava lore. In the end, this movie is an entertaining watch and one that should be viewed. If you have not seen it, but love gothic horror cinema, give it a shot.

The House of Seven Corpses (1974)

I have definitely been on a retro kick lately, although I did sneak in a viewing of Repo: The Genetic Opera. To continue my retro feel, I went way into my youth for the 1974 horror flick The House of Seven Corpses.

Plot/ A director is filming on location in a house where seven murders were committed. The caretaker warns them not to mess with things they do not understand (the murders were occult related), but the director wants to be as authentic as possible and has his cast re-enact rituals that took place in the house thus summoning a ghoul from the nearby cemetery to bump the whole film crew off one by one.

Horror movies of the 1970s were a mixed bag, as the genre seemed to be in a period of transition. While this one is not technically very good, I feel that is often overlooked as a piece of horror history. Yes, there are some flaws with the way the movie is scripted and paced, but there is a certain charm that will draw fans of early 1970s horror in. The cast is solid and there are some decent performances (John Carradine is definitely creepy), the atmosphere is dark and heavy, and the storyline is entertaining and interesting. Sure, there is not a lot of blood or gore, there is little action, there could have been some more supernatural elements added in, and the effects are nowhere near the quality of today, but for a lower budgeted film of that era, they are not that bad. In the end, this is a nice retro piece and a fun movie to help pass some time. Is it perfect, by no means, but it is a fun slow burn haunted house flick that is good on a cold windy night.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Manhattan Project (1986)

There is really nothing better than drifting back to the 1980s. Times were so different then, and even the storylines that came about in movies were often more straightforward and unbelievable. My next review comes from that era as well, the 1986 drama/thriller The Manhattan Project.

Plot/ A teen and his girlfriend make an atomic bomb with plutonium stolen from a scientist dating his mother.

I remember watching this one in my teen years and found it extremely similar to War Games, with a different underlying premise, after watching again, those same feeling rose to the top. While I did enjoy the idea, I have to admit that it is hard to suspend my belief on this one. No, not with the ability to build the atomic bomb, or the fact that the government would try to build a research facility within a community without telling the citizens, my disbelief comes with everything else. The story is interesting (unbelievable, yet interesting), the performances were decent, and for the most part, it has held up to time. Unfortunately, it does not fit into any genre, as it is not serious enough to be a drama, there is no tension, and it is rather predictable (even though I have watched it before). In the end, this was an entertaining movie for a quiet afternoon with the daughters. Would I search it out again? No, but I am sure I could find something less entertaining to watch.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dead Ringers (1988)

After watching something with a mysterious numerology base last night, I wanted to find something a bit different. Since I did not feel like making a trip to the video store, I decided to search Shudder for something interesting. With no surprise, I found exactly what I was looking for, 1988s Dead Ringers.

Plot/ Twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.

Any time you watch a movie from David Cronenberg, you should be ready for something different than the normal. Cronenberg always makes movies that are both technically sound and thought provoking. That is definitely the case with this one, which could be considered one of his best. The storyline is tremendous; in fact, it never veers into the trademark gore but creates something that is extremely dark within the confines of a heavy atmosphere. The cast, cinematography, and script are cold and hard. However, it is the performances (especially Jeremy Irons) that make this film what it is-unsettling and chilling. Yes, it builds slowly and if you were searching for the gratuitous blood and gore of other Cronenberg classics, you would be disappointed, but that does not matter with this one. In the end, this one leaves a lasting impression and is possibly the best movie of its kind. If you have not seen it give it a shot, it has stood the test of time and is still relevant today.