Halloween Fifteen: The Third Generation #5 | Nathan Hamilton on Frankenstein’s Army

Nathan Hamilton is awesome. He’s a huge supporter of indie horror, he haunts at Netherworld, and he runs Son of Celluloid, a blog that also happens to have its own show. I don’t know how the dude has any time to get anything else done, but fortunately he was able to contribute to Halloween Fifteen again this year with a review of Frankenstein’s Army. Unfortunately, it’s a found footage film and he is definitely not a fan. Will that keep him from enjoying this horror flick during the Halloween season? Find out below.

frankenstein's army nathan hamilton

Ok, I have to get one thing out of the way right off the bat… I hate found footage movies.  Loathe them.  Revile them.  Despise them.  I detest, abhor, and every other synonym you can think of, them.  Found footage flicks are the bane of my existence.  They make me want to do bodily harm to people.  I refuse to review them on my own blog or youtube show.  Hell, in the case of The Excreme… er, Sacrament, they make me yell angrily (and admittedly drunkenly) at the screen in a crowded theater.  So yeah, suffice it to say that they aren’t my cup of tea.  I DO like Frankenstein’s Army as a Halloween movie, however, because it speaks to one of the aspects of the All Hallows spirit that goes right to the core of me.  Allow me to explain.

My involvement with haunted attractions actually predates my involvement with horror movies.  In that magical October of 1992, I worked my first night at a haunted house about two weeks before I saw my first horror flick (Night of the Living Dead).  It was a church haunt called The Chilling Fields.  Full scale re-enactment of the book of Revelation.  It was bad ass.  Anyway, I was hooked.  Every year since then (with the exception of this year, interestingly enough), I’ve been involved in the haunt game.  I’ve caused nightmares and soiled drawers at various haunts for my entire teenage and adult lives, so “live interactive horror” is an art form that is near and dear to my heart.  Without hyperbole, it’s a big part of who I am.  What does that have to do with Frankenstein’s Army, you ask?  Well, it’s because, once the setup passes, the flick feels a lot like a stroll through a haunt.

frankenstein's army halloween fifteen 1

The plot: Near the end of WWII, Russian soldiers in Germany run across a secret Nazi facility and fall afoul of the unholy monstrosities they’ve been creating in their labs.

The first half hour of the flick is pretty standard found footage war movie fare, just way less believable than usual.  Having used a WWII era 16mm camera back in film school, I can tell you with the utmost certainty that the shots they get are quite impossible.  It would have to be wound FAR more often.  That quibble aside, you’ve got a lot of the soldiers talking and a little action.  Honestly, it’s kinda forgettable.  Then, it gets good.  Really good.

Most of the middle part of the film concerns the soldiers pushing through the Nazi labs, and this is where the haunted house comparison kicks in.  From a first person view, the camera traversing the subterranean lair and a person in a spook house are surprisingly similar.  Things are coming from every side.  You barely have time to take in the sight of the monster on your left before you hear a noise, wheel around, and see another dangerously close on the right.  The loud noises add to the chaos.  Creatures are half glimpsed through doorways.  It’s the exact same tricks haunts use, but put to film.  Misdirection to make another scare more startling.  Disorienting noises.  Slowly encroaching beasties.  Tight hallways.  Intermittent darkness.  The pauses where actual scenes take place are reminiscent of a “guided tour style” haunt.  These techniques have the same effect on film as they do in real life; complete immersion in the experience.   I’ve also heard these portions of the flick compared to a first person video game, and the feeling is very similar.  Massive kudos to the filmmakers for pulling this off so well.

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The other thing that deserves a special mention is the creature design.  Damn, these things are cool looking.  They’re cobbled together from dead bodies and WWII era tech, and it’s pretty freakin’ terrifying.  Some of it verges on steampunk, but manages not to be lame.  They’re imaginative and unique, which is a rare commodity in today’s “it’s all been done” horror world.  And the best part?  They’re practical!  No CGI to be found.  That goes for the gore too.  Practical and great looking.

After the haunted house section, the climax feels like a perfect coda.  It even checks off two things that will instantly endear a movie to me; Nazis and mad scientists.  All in all, while I still want found footage movies to go back to hell like the filthy abomination they are, there is still the odd one now and then that manages to make the gimmick an asset rather than a detriment.  Frankenstein’s Army is one of those movies.  By employing haunted house tricks in film form, it becomes an experience unlike any other a film has offered.  That particular type of thrill lends itself perfectly to Halloween, making this a worthy addition to your October watch list.

Blood and Black Rum Podcast Episode 8: Army of Darkness up now!

We’ve been doing quite a bit more podcasting of late, especially because of the Halloween season, and since Scream Factory is releasing their Army of Darkness Collector’s Edition on Blu-Ray, we decided that we ought to cover the Director’s Cut because it’s perfect for the holiday.

Listen in to hear us talk about Guinness Nitro IPA (new!), Bruce Campbell’s Three Stooges antics, and the potential misogyny of Ash. We cover the other two Evil Dead movies, rank Army of Darkness, and attempt to envision a sequel to the film in a different environment or time period. And, we pick which of the film’s endings works better – the original cut or the Director’s Cut. Listen in, and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, follow on Soundcloud, add on Stitcher, Like on Facebook, and email us at bloodandblackrumpodcast@gmail.com.

Halloween Fifteen: The Third Generation #4 | TMIADW on From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

from dusk till dawn 2 tmiadw

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money has a stupid premise, and it can never really overcome that. The original film from Robert Rodriquez was simple, but its stylish delivery, big names (George Clooney), and meshing of vampire and heist films was enough to overcome whatever problems the plot presented. Scott Spiegel, director and co-writer, attempts to recycle that formula – almost entirely the scope of the plot – and fails to create the necessary pathos or significance to warrant From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money‘s existence except for more bloodshed and explosions.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Spiegel’s dynamics don’t work that well in the film. The plot hinges on a Mexican bank heist drummed up by outlaw Luther (Duane Whitaker), who pulls in a crew of guys including main character Buck (Robert Patrick), C.W. (Muse Watson), Jesus (Raymond Cruz), and Ray Bob (Brett Harrelson). The idea is that Luther’s going to go out with a bang, taking a huge haul with him to Mexico; the same is true of Buck, although he has kept his nose relatively clean since their last heists.

Spiegel spends a lot of time with Buck as he rounds up the old gang, and then sets to work documenting how the heist will work. But nothing about Texas Blood Money is intricate or even interesting to action movie viewers; the heist is about as simplistic as one can get, and since it takes up so much of the film’s attention, there’s little to get excited about.

from dusk till dawn 2 review 1

Instead of going into detail about the bank robbery, Spiegel alternates time spent in a motel with vampire mayhem. Most of this is made up of silly bat attacks, with Texas Blood Money using a combination of bad CGI and practical bat effects. The bats are one of the worst parts of the film simply because Spiegel fails to edit his scenes down to manageable levels. The film’s opening bat attack, with Tiffany Amber Thiessen and Bruce Campbell, feels like it drags on forever, and it repeats yet again during a shower attack with a nameless naked Mexican woman. Spiegel draws things out for too long, and that’s a weird issue considering From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money is just under 90 minutes.

But the underlying problem is obvious: the film simply has no plot. While there’s a hero-antihero archetype happening between Buck and Sheriff Otis (Bo Hopkins), the rest of the film doesn’t make much sense. Even the characters question the vampires’ motivations to steal money at the end of the film – why would these all-powerful guys want to risk a sunrise just for some cash when they could clearly murder anyone in their way?

from dusk till dawn 2 review 2

Since Texas Blood Money is all about the heist, the lack of motivation for Luther and his crew once they become blood-sucking freaks means there’s little reason to see the film through to the end except for a couple of action scenes where cars blow up and people get ripped apart by gunfire. But one must give Texas Blood Money some credit – the action and make-up special effects for the vampires work well, especially when compared to the original.

Ultimately, though, Texas Blood Money is a direct-to-video sequel for a reason. It doesn’t get much better from here either, folks – From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter is either on-par with this film or worse, and Rodriguez’s television series is often hit-or-miss, not to mention straying far from From Dusk Till Dawn‘s intentions. Watching this sequel won’t do any harm to the original, but it does suck the fun out of the crime-and-vampires idea Rodriguez’s movie did so well.

Horror Horizon – October 20, 2015

Horror releases for October 20 on Blu-Ray and DVD. Click the titles to buy from Amazon and support this site!

Jurassic World [Blu-Ray]

jurassic world

“The Jurassic World theme park lets guests experience the thrill of witnessing actual dinosaurs, but something ferocious lurks behind the park’s attractions – a genetically modified dinosaur with savage capabilities. When the massive creature escapes, chaos erupts across the island. Now it’s up to Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to save the park’s tourists from an all-out prehistoric assault.”

Review here

Jurassic Park Collection [Blu-Ray]

jurassic park collectio

“Disc 1 – Jurassic Park:
Digital Copy of Jurassic Park – 2D Version (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
Includes UltraViolet – 2D Version (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
The World of Jurassic Park 3D
My Scenes
D-BOX
BD-Live
Pocket BLU App
Disc 2 – Jurassic Park:
Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era
Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory
Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution
The Making of Jurassic Park
Original Featurette on the Making of the Film
Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park
Hurricane in Kauai Featurette
Early Pre-Production Meetings
Location Scouting
Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen
Animatics: T-Rex Attack
ILM And Jurassic Park: Before and After the Visual Effects
Foley Artists
Storyboards
Production Archives: Photographs, Design Sketches and Conceptual Paintings
Jurassic Park: Making the Game
Theatrical
BD-Live
My Scenes
D-BOX
Pocket BLU App
Disc 3 – The Lost World: Jurassic Park:
Digital Copy of The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
Includes UltraViolet (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World
Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived
Deleted Scenes
The Making of The Lost World
Original Featurette on the Making of the Film
The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton
The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg From ILM
ILM & The Lost World: Before & After the Visual Effects
Production Archives: Production Photographs, Illustrations and Conceptual Drawings, Models, The World of Jurassic Park, The Magic of ILM, Posters and Toys
Storyboards
Theatrical Trailer
BD-Live
My Scenes
D-BOX
Pocket BLU App
Disc 4 – Jurassic Park III:
Digital Copy of Jurassic Park III (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
Includes UltraViolet (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
Return To Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure
The Making of Jurassic Park III
The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III
The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III
The Industrial Light & Magic Press Reel
The Sounds of Jurassic Park III
The Art of Jurassic Park III
Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs
Tour of Stan Winston Studio
Spinosaurus Attacks The Plane
Raptors Attack Udesky
The Lake
A Visit to ILM
Dinosaur Turntables
Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison
Production Photographs
Feature Commentary with Special Effects Team
Theatrical Trailer
BD-Live
My Scenes
D-BOX
Pocket BLU App
Disc 5 – Jurassic World:
Digital Copy of Jurassic World (Digital Copy redemption code subject to expiration. See product insert for details.)
Includes UltraViolet (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
Deleted Scenes
Chris & Colin Take on the World
Disc 6 – Jurassic World:
Deleted Scenes
Chris & Colin Take on the World
Welcome to Jurassic World
Dinosaurs Roam Once Again
Jurassic World: All-Access Pass
Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt
Jurassic’s Closest Shaves – Presented by Barbasol®”

Edward Scissorhands: 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray

edward scissorhands

“A gentle man, with scissors for hands, is brought into a new community after living in isolation.”

I Spit On Your Grave III: Vengeance is Mine [Blu-Ray]

i spit on your grave III

“After seeking out the help of a support group after her attack, a young woman takes the law into her own hands and dishes out her own brand of justice to the abusers of her fellow group members. Sequel, in essence, to I Spit On Your Grave (2010).”

The Brood [Criterion Collection Blu-Ray]

the brood

“A disturbed woman is receiving a radical form of psychotherapy at a remote, mysterious institute. Meanwhile, her five-year-old daughter, under the care of her estranged husband, is being terrorized by a group of demonic beings. How these two story lines connect is the shocking and grotesque secret of this bloody tale of monstrous parenthood from David Cronenberg (Scanners), starring Oliver Reed (Women in Love) and Samantha Eggar (The Collector). With its combination of psychological and body horror, The Brood laid the groundwork for many of the director’s films to come, but it stands on its own as a personal, singularly scary vision. DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director David Cronenberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • New documentary about the making of the film and Cronenberg’s early work, featuring actor Samantha Eggar, producer Pierre David, cinematographer Mark Irwin, assistant director John Board, and special makeup effects artists Rick Baker (Videodrome) and Joe Blasco (Shivers and Rabid) • New, restored 2K digital transfer of Crimes of the Future, a 1970 feature by Cronenberg, supervised by the director, plus a 2011 interview in which the director discusses his early films with Fangoria editor Chris Alexander • Interview from 2013 with actors Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds • Appearance by actor Oliver Reed on The Merv Griffin Show from 1980 • Trailer and radio spot • PLUS: An essay by critic Carrie Rickey”

Kwaidan [Criterion Collection Blu-Ray]

kwaidan

“After more than a decade of sober political dramas and social-minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi (The Human Condition) shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. This version of Kwaidan is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States. BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New 2K digital restoration of director Masaki Kobayashi’s original cut, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • Audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince • Interview from 1993 with Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda • New interview with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara • New piece about author Lafcadio Hearn, on whose versions of Japanese folk tales Kwaidan is based • Trailers • New English subtitle translation • PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien”

Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight [Scream Factory Blu-Ray]

demon knight

“A mysterious drifter known as Brayker (William Sadler, Iron Man 3) possesses the last of seven ancient keys that hold the power to stop the forces of darkness and protect all humanity from ultimate evil. But the human race is safe only so long as Brayker can evade the demonic Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic) who has gathered the other six keys.
In his obsessive quest for the key, the Collector rallies an army of ghastly cadavers against Brayker and the inhabitants of a run-down hotel. Armed with automatic weapons, sacred blood and sadistic humor, Brayker and the strong-willed Jeryline (Jada Pinkett-Smith, Gotham) must lead the other guests in a gruesome battle against the Collector and his evil horde of ghouls.
Infested with a talented cast, thrilling special effects and the Crypt Keeper’s deadpan delights, Demon Knight is directed by genre vet Ernest Dickerson (The Walking Dead, Dexter, Masters of Horror) and features a strong supporting cast featuring Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man 3, Sideways), CCH Pounder (Orphan, Avatar), Brenda Bakke (L.A. Confidential), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Charles Fleischer (Zodiac).
Special Features Include:
-Audio Commentary with Director Ernest Dickerson
-Audio Commentary with Special Make-up Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vliet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo, and Demon Performer Walter Phelan
-Under Siege: The Making of “Tales From The Crypt presents Demon Knight” – Featuring interviews with Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-producer A.L. Katz, Screenwriters Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop, Stars Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke, Charles Fleischer, John Schuck and Dick Miller, Editor Stephen Lovejoy, Special Make-Up Effects Creator Todd Masters, Special Make-Up Effects Artists Scott Coulter and Scott Wheeler, and Demon Performer Walter Phelan (40 minutes)
-Panel Discussion from the American Cinematheque featuring director Ernest Dickerson, actor Dick Miller, and Special Effects maestro Rick Baker
-Still Gallery
-Theatrical Trailer”

Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood [Scream Factory Blu-Ray]

bordello of blood

“Wisecracking private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt) investigates some strange happenings at a titillating bordello on the edge of town. It seems owner Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart, Jade) and her luscious cohorts want more than money… they want blood!
Soon Rafe finds himself up to his neck in a den of hungry vampiresses and battling the Reverend Jimmy Current (Chris Sarandon, Fright Night, Child’s Play), a slick televangelist with an unstoppable talisman.
Directed by film producer Gilbert Adler (Thir13en Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill), co-starring Erika Eleniak (Under Siege), Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys, The Goonies), Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange) and Phil Fondacaro (Ghoulies II), and brimming with blood, lust and wicked laughs, this is one brothel you’ll visit again and again!
Special Features Include:
-Audio Commentary with Co-Writer & Producer A.L. Katz
-Tainted Blood: The Making of “Tales From The Crypt presents Bordello Of Blood” – Interviews with Actors Corey Feldman, Angie Everhart and Erika Eleniak,, Co-Writer & Co-Producer A.L. Katz, Editor & Second Unit Director Stephen Lovejoy, and Special Effects Creator Todd Masters (35 minutes)
-Video Promo
-Still Gallery
-Theatrical Trailer”

The Return of Count Yorga [Scream Factory Blu-Ray]

the return of count yorga

“A horrifying love story… with bite!
When the overlord of the damned rises again to prowl the shadows, who will stand against The Return Of Count Yorga? Robert Quarry is back as one of the most dapper vampires to ever set up shop in California in this thrilling sequel that really raises the stakes. Revived by the well-known supernatural properties of the Santa Ana winds, our undead leading man takes to the streets with an unquenchable thirst. In search of new blood, Yorga moves next door to an orphanage. But when he crosses paths with a beautiful young woman, the Count’s thoughts turn to love. Has the ruler of the night finally found the girl with whom he can share eternity?
Featuring Mariette Hartley, Roger Perry and Craig T. Nelson in his screen debut, this biting vampire flick will thrill you horror fans…Yorga-nna love this one.

Special Features Include:

-Audio Commentary with Film Historian Steve Haberman and Actor Rudy De Luca
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spot
-Radio Spots
-Photo Gallery”

Mosquito: 20th Anniversary Edition [Synapse Films Blu-Ray]

mosquito

“Science-fiction becomes horrifyingly real for a park full of innocent campers, as a hideous horde of mutated mosquitoes viciously attack without warning! A band of survivors flees the bloodthirsty swarm in a death-defying attempt to warn the world of the mosquito menace. Led by a brave young couple and a resourceful government agent, the group realizes their only hope is to take on the bloodthirsty bugs in an explosive final showdown! A chilling blend of sci-fi, humor and old-school horror, MOSQUITO is a tour de force of terror.

Starring genre icon Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE) and the late, great Ron Asheton (founding member of the punk rock band, The Stooges), MOSQUITO is a gore-drenched tale made with traditional stop-motion and practical effects!

Special Features:

Audio Commentary
Bugging Out! – The Making of MOSQUITO
Deleted/Extended Scenes
Behind-the-Scenes Footage
Still Gallery
Theatrical Trailer”

Manos: The Hands of Fate [Synapse Films Blu-Ray]

manos the hands of fate

“Mike (Harold P. Warren) and Maggie (Diane Mahree), on a road trip with their daughter and family dog, take a wrong turn in Texas and become trapped at a weird lodge inhabited by a polygamous pagan cult. They soon find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between caretaker Torgo (John Reynolds), cult leader The Master (Tom Neyman), and two warring factions of the Master’s wives. As the family tries to escape, the worshipers of Manos decide their fate…

MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, the sole directorial effort of Texas fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren, perplexed even the most jaded Drive-In audiences and was deemed by many “the worst movie ever made”. Nearly lost, the original 16mm Ektachrome film elements have been finally unearthed and lovingly restored by Ben Solovey to create the definitive version of this accidental masterpiece. There’s no other movie like MANOS… now in HD with picture and sound unseen since 1966. Special Features:
New 2K Restoration
Audio Commentary
Hands: The Fate of MANOS Featurette
Restoring the Hands of Fate Featurette
FELT: The Puppet Hands of Fate Featurette
Manos: The Hands of Fate: Grindhouse Edition (Blu-ray ONLY Bonus)”

The Larry Fessenden Collection [Scream Factory Blu-Ray]

the larry fessenden collection

“Four tales of terror from multi-talented filmmaker Larry Fessenden: he’s a writer, a producer, a director and an actor. In this box set, he brings together four of his films, in HD for the first time, along with both brand-new and vintage bonus features including short films and music videos.
Titles Include:

No Telling (1991)

Habit (1995)

Wendigo (2001)

The Last Winter (2006)

Special Features Include:

-24-Page Booklet with liner notes by Fangoria’s Michael Gingold, featuring never-before-seen photos, storyboards, and sketches

“No Telling”
-Director-approved HD Transfer
-Audio commentary with writer/director/executive producer Larry Fessenden
-Making of “No Telling” (1991)
-Archival footage (1990)
-Short Film “White Trash” (1979) with new music by composer Will Bates
-Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (1985-1990)

“Habit”
-Director-approved HD Transfer
-Audio commentary with actor/director/writer/editor Larry Fessenden
-“The Making of Habit” featurette (1995)
-Short film “Habit” (1981) (20 minutes)
-The Making of short film “Habit” (1981)
-“Save You from Yourself” music video
-Theatrical trailer
-Short film “N is for Nexus,” from Magnet Releasing’s The ABCs of Death 2
-The Making of “N is for Nexus”
-“Frankenstein Cannot Be Stopped” music video
“Wendigo”
-Director-approved HD Transfer
-Audio commentary with writer/director/editor Larry Fessenden
-Audio commentary with actors Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, and John Speredakos
-Search for the “Wendigo – Behind the Scenes” featurette (2001)
-Interview with Larry Fessenden (2001)
-WENDIGO: animated series trailer
-Short Film “Santa Claws” (2008)
-Theatrical trailer
-Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (2010)
-“The Last Winter”
-Audio commentary with co-writer/director/producer/editor Larry Fessenden
-The Making of “The Last Winter” – full-length documentary featuring deleted scenes
-Archival footage (2005)
-Short film “Jebediah”
-Short film “Origins”
-Short film “Mister”
-“Tired of Killing Myself” music video
-2015 interview with Larry Fessenden
-Glass Eye Pix Sizzle Reel (2014)”

Nightmare 35th Anniversary Edition [Scorpion Releasing]

nightmare

“Mastered in HD! Escaped mental patient George (Baird Stafford) repeatedly suffers a graphic nightmare that depicts the axe murders of a couple making love. In Florida, a prowler stalks a babysitter – when she is attacked the youngest child she is looking after just sits and laughs… George begins a journey of brutal murder, death and destruction until the final moment of truth when his nightmares come to frightening life.

Special Features: Audio commentary with stars Baird Stafford and make-up artist Cleve Hall, moderated by Filmmaker David Decoteau”

The Jail: The Women’s Hell [Intervision]

the jail

“For his second-to-last film, the late writer/director Bruno Mattei returned to the genre that established his reputation as a true Maestro of EuroSleaze: When a group of women are sentenced to a jungle hellhole prison known as The House of Lost Souls, they’ll enter a sweaty nightmare of sadistic guards, menacing lesbians and rampant nudity. But Mattei here under his alias Vincent Dawn also packs his final babes-behind-bars saga with enough degradations, perversions, jaw-dropping violence and over-the-top performances to set all-new standards of genre depravity.

Yvette Yzon (ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD), Dyane Craystan (ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING) and Jim Gaines (ROBOWAR) star in this Philippines filth-fest produced by Giovanni Paolucci (MONDO CANNIBAL), now presented uncut and uncensored for the first time ever in America!

Special Features:

Acting For Bruno: Featurette with Yvette Yzon and Alvin Anson
Prison Inferno: Featurette with producer Giovanni Paolucci and screenwriter Antonio Tentori
Trailer”

Scissors [Kino Lorber Blu-Ray]

scissors

“Angie s about to step over the edge… all she need is a little help! Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct, Sliver) is electrifying as a woman driven to the edge of insanity in this taut psychological thriller from Frank De Felitta (The Entity, Z.P.G.). Stone plays Angie Anderson, a beautiful, emotionally fragile woman living alone in the big city. When she s attacked in her apartment building, she manages to thwart her assailant by stabbing him with a pair of scissors, but not before he vows to return. Angie s emotional state begins to weaken as she s overwhelmed by fears real and imagined. A handsome neighbor (Steve Railsback, The Stunt Man) and an esteemed psychologist (Ronny Cox, Deliverance) seem to want to help, but someone is leading Angie into a nightmare of madness and terror… and a final confrontation with her worst, long-repressed fears. Also starring Michelle Phillips (Valentino).
Special Features: Trailers”

The Oblong Box [Kino Lorber Blu-Ray]

the oblong box

“Newly Remastered in HD! Coffins, blood and live corpses! A gasping, gnawing, heart stopping evil lies buried in The Oblong Box. Do you dare unearth its wrath? Vincent Price (Madhouse, Twice Told Tales) and Christopher Lee (The Crimson Cult, House of the Long Shadows) are at their terrifying best as a plantation owner with a shocking family secret and a wealthy doctor desperate to continue his morbid experiments on human flesh in this Edgar Allan Poe s (Tales of Terror) classic tale of the living dead! Price returns to his English manor from an African trip with his mad, mutilated brother and buries his chained up sibling alive. When the body is exhumed, the madman somehow still alive begins a systematic search for vengeance. Co-written, produced and directed by horror great, Gordon Hessler (Cry of the Banshee, Scream and Scream Again) with top-notch cinematography by John Coquillon (Straw Dogs, Cross of Iron).”

The Phantom of the Opera [Kino Lorber Blu-Ray]

the phantom of the opera

“A forerunner of the American horror film, and one of the most lavish productions of the silent cinema, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has inspired countless remakes and imitations. But none of its successors can rival the mesmerizing blend of romance and mystery that haunts every frame of the Lon Chaney original. This edition presents the 1929 theatrical version, restored from archival 35mm elements by Film Preservation Associates. It is highlighted by the Technicolor Bal Masque sequence (in which the Phantom interrupts the revelry wearing the scarlet robes of the Red Death), as well as meticulously hand-colored sequences (replicating the Handschiegl Color Process). The film is presented at two different historically-accurate projection speeds, each with two different soundtrack options. Also included is the 1925 theatrical version, which survives only in poor-quality prints, but contains scenes that were removed from the 1929 release version.
Special Features: Original Screenplay (91 Min. video scroll), Montage of Stills (13 Min.), Interview with composer, Gabriel Thibaudeau (9 Min.), Two travelogues by Burton Holmes, depicting Paris in 1925: PARIS FROM A MOTOR (3 1/2 Min.) and A TRIP ON THE SEINE (3 1/2 Min.)”

Shattered [Kino Lorber Blu-Ray]

shattered

“When your memory has been taken, whom do you trust? Writer/director Wolfgang Petersen (In the Line of Fire, Das Boot) cranks up the suspense in this riveting thriller that will keep you guessing up until its shockingly unexpected ending. Stars Tom Berenger (Love at Large), Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa), Greta Scacchi (The Player), Joanne Whalley (Scandal) and Corbin Bernsen (TV s Psych) breathes life into this gripping film noir about the survivor of a car accident who begins to suspect his near-death… was no accident. Dan Merrick (Berenger) struggles to reconstruct his life after an accident leaves him without much of a memory – and in the care of a wife (Scacchi) and his friends who seem to be repainting his past. And as Merrick begins to reconstruct his life, strange flashes of memory begin to surface, each drawing him further into a maze of corruption that could prove more deadly than any accident. Beautifully shot by the legendary Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider) and featuring the great character actor Theodore Bikel (I Want to Live!).
Special Features: Making-of Featurette | Trailers”

The Vatican Tapes [Blu-Ray]

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“A priest and two Vatican exorcists must do battle with an ancient satanic force to save the soul of a young woman.”

Kiss the Girls [Blu-Ray]

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“Eight kidnapped women. All beautiful. All talented. All in danger of having their lives cut cruelly short if police detective Alex Cross and key witness Kate McTiernan can’t locate the elusive “collector” who calls himself Casanova.
From the Deep South to the California coast and back, the hunt is on in this provocative race-against-time suspenser based on the best-selling novel by James Patterson. Ashley Judd plays resourceful, strong-willed McTiernan. She’s the lone escapee from Casanova’s hidden lair… and determined to rescue the fellow captives she left behind. Morgan Freeman is Cross, a master at solving the unsolvable. But there’s more than his reputation at stake: This time one of the victims is his niece in this “taut, riveting thriller” (Fox-TV).”

Along Came a Spider [Blu-Ray]

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“After the harrowing death of his partner, detective and best-selling author Alex Cross has retreated to the peace of retirement. But when a brilliant criminal (Michael Wincott) kidnaps a senator’s young daughter, Alex is lured back into action. Teamed with the Secret Service agent (Monica Potter) assigned to protect the missing girl, Alex follows a serpentine trail of clues that leads him to a stunning discovery – the kidnapper wants more than just ransom…he wants Alex’s help in documenting the crime of the century. With time running out, Alex plunges through a tangled web of danger and deceit to stop a madman and save an innocent victim’s life.”

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage [Blu-Ray]

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“Based on a short story by horror legend Stephen King, “A Good Marriage” tells the story of Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen, “Face/Off”) and her husband Bob (Anthony LaPaglia, “Without a Trace”), celebrating another year of a good marriage. But when a sadistic serial killer starts to spread fear and panic throughout the Northeast, Darcy unveils a sinister secret about her husband that will threaten their perfect marriage and their lives.”

The Mad Genius

the mad genius

“John Barrymore stars as a sadistic impresario who will stop at nothing to achieve his ambitions in this wild and wicked pre-Code drama directed by Oscar winner Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, 1943). Crippled in mind and body, half-crazed puppeteer Ivan Tsarakov (Barrymore) fulfills his dream of becoming a ballet dancer through Fedor Ivanoff (Donald Cook), whom he trains to become the world’s greatest danseur. Jealous of his pupil’s success and fearing love will thwart Fedor’s career, Tsarakov has smitten ballerina Nana Carlova (Marian Marsh) dismissed from the troupe in a cruel and ruthless act that leads to blackmail and murder. The tenth and final film John Barrymore made for Warner Bros., The Mad Genius also stars Charles Butterworth, silent-screen siren Carmel Myers and Boris Karloff in a pre-Frankenstein role as Fedor’s abusive father”

The Exorcism of Molly Hartley [Blu-Ray]

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“Taking place years after The Haunting of Molly Hartley, who now, as an adult, has fallen under the possession of an evil spirit and must be exorcised by a fallen priest before the devil completely takes her.”

12 Movie Horror Pack

12 movie horror pack

“Featuring 12 spine chilling horror films, including: Day of the Dead, Deadtime Stories V.1, Asylum of the Dead, The Occupants, Parts Per Billion, Dead Within, Deadline, Apocalypse of the Dead, Buck Wild, Germ-Z, Death From Above, Deadtime Stories V.2.”

 

Goosebumps (2015) | Movie Review

Goosebumps, the book series, will forever be entwined with many people’s early reading lives; I can still nostalgically remember the first R.L. Stine book I decided to purchase when I was younger (it was The Werewolf of Fever Swamp if you’re interested). With that kind of reader fanbase – both from adults growing up with the series and kids who have had the books passed down to them from their parents – a live-action film based on those books could either be a huge success or a blight on the series, and it’s a risky venture all-around; the magic of those stories came from the atmosphere of Stine’s writing and the early childhood development of imagination, and that doesn’t always translate well to the big screen. And Goosebumps was, for a time, a television series anyway, so tackling the idea again two decades (seriously, that long huh?) after the show premiered is questionable too.

goosebumps posterBut thankfully director Rob Letterman, along with screenwriter Darren Lemke, bring both the funny and the chills with this mash-up of many different Goosebumps books. They take a meta direction with the film, opting to set the story in a world where the Goosebumps books really exist; it’s a great touch that changes things significantly from what could have been just an adaptation of one or two of Stine’s novels.

Dylan Minnette stars as Zach, a kid moving to a new city with his mother after the death of his father about a year prior. And while this is pretty much the most cliched way possible to begin such a tale, it’s also an intentional nod to Stine’s book series because it’s the way many of his stories start – in the midst of teenage angst, uprooted from normal life.

It’s key, though, that Lemke delivers an engaging script, and Goosebumps does so with some seriously witty joke-writing. Letterman establishes the quirky mother-son dynamic early on as well as supplementing with some great characters, like Aunt Lorraine (excellently played by Jillian Bell). It’s a set-up that takes up nearly the first act of the film, but it’s worth it – that good-guy persona of Zach is established, as well as putting a cry-wolf doubt in most of the adults’ minds after he calls the cop on his neighbor Stine (Jack Black) when he hears arguing between him and his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush).

But once the real arc of Goosebumps sets in, it’s all action from there on out. The Goosebumps books Stine keeps on his shelves really house monsters, describing a youthful Stine alone with his writing and creating friends to keep him company. While Goosebumps is primarily written for young adults, it certainly manages to incorporate adult dynamics as well, and that’s probably one of the best successes both Letterman and Lemke manage in the film. Adults will be pulled into the plot as well, and paired with the often mature comedy masked for younger audiences, Goosebumps ensures that all age groups will enjoy the spooky festivities.

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Even better, though, is the Cabin in the Woods-style inclusion of nearly all of R.L. Stine’s creepy crawlies. Through a mixture of CGI (that’s actually forgiveable in this film) and human monsters, Goosebumps throws everything thrilling about Stine’s creations into the film with a noticeable inclusion of certain specific ideas – the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, for example, gets a lot of screen time. But there are shots and quick spotlights on a large number of Goosebumps monsters that will appeal to anyone who read those stories, and kudos to Letterman and Lemke for finding a way to incorporate all of the monsters in one funny, freaky film.

It’s important to note that, for all its mockings of R.L. Stine thanks to Jack Black, Goosebumps definitely has the author’s support – he even shows up for a quick cameo. The end credits reimagine the artwork of his books in new ways. There are even a few joking comments about Stine’s similarities to Stephen King. Goosebumps is clearly a loving tribute to the Scholastic books of old, and that shines through in just about every aspect of Letterman’s direction. It’s a distinction that elevates the film from something that could just as easily have failed to produce the right kind of balance between jokes and horror that have always been the pinnacle of a Goosebumps book.

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Fans of the book series will find that pretty much all of their wishes have been incorporated into this live-action meta-telling of Goosebumps, but even those with a vague working knowledge of the series will most likely enjoy the humor and scares of this kids’ film. There are some major cliches – one of them being the insistence that men have to be heroes for women – but Goosebumps is able to successfully maneuver around them with a well-written script and a direction that includes every monster in the Stine’s book series. This is what Goosebumps fans have been clamoring for. Viewer beware, you’re in for a scare (and more than a few laughs, too).

Halloween Fifteen: The Third Generation #4 | William Rogers on From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

Since I need a lot of help in October to cover fifteen different horror movies, I enlisted the help of Reddit. William Rogers (Twitter handle @WillRogers2000) responded with interest in covering From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. With his credentials in podcasting at Will and Bobby Know Everything, Studio Rejects, and Book Club Shmook Club as well as his writings on www.talkbomb.com (currently rebranding), I obviously said YES! And as you can see below, I was right in making that decision, since Will covers not just Texas Blood Money but also the first From Dusk Till Dawn as well. See what he thought!

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From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money makes me nostalgic in a strange way. I’d never seen it before, but it’s got a certain straight-to-video, junk food quality to it that brings me back to the days when I’d walk through a video store and marvel at the horrible horror films on the shelves. I used to come up with excuses to walk through Suncoast and Blockbuster Video, just so I could gawk at the mostly ridiculous, occasionally intriguing z-grade movies on display. It’s telling, therefore, that I have no recollection of ever seeing Texas Blood Money on a shelf.

From Dusk Till Dawn was always a tricky movie for me. My appreciation for Quentin Tarantino’s films used to make me feel compelled to look for the good in Dusk, but every time I forced myself to watch it, I couldn’t stop myself from acknowledging that, while the first half has that stylized, Tarantino “cool,” the second half (the half of the movie that is ostensibly the entire point of the film), put bluntly, sucks.

Well maybe that’s not entirely fair. For me, From Dusk Till Dawn is a slow decline into a sense that nothing matters. It’s as though Quentin Tarantino couldn’t help but inject his characters with complexities and life, but when reminded that he had a deadline, simply told himself “eh…it’s just a vampire flick,” so he threw buckets of blood at the page, and moved on. All the amazing energy, the fantastic set-ups with the Gecko brothers and the Fuller family, is drained of all life in the end.

This is where From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money picks up. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t a lot that Texas Blood Money had to live up to, but even with my expectations set as low as they were, the movie managed to leave me both bored and irritated. With the implied message from the first movie that nothing really matters except vampires, Texas Blood Money immediately continues the trend and settles into it’s direct-to-video sequel status. And this time it doesn’t have Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino to accidentally up it’s quality.

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The movie starts with a weird cameo of Bruce Campbell and Tiffany Amber Thiessen as two lawyers, who step into an elevator and get attacked by bats. For a moment, I thought the movie was setting a tone that it was going to dial things up to 11 right away, but just as the elevator plummets (bats chewed the cable apart, of course), so did my mood, because we pull out to reveal that this is just a movie the main character had been watching. While having sex.

This, frankly, was my first clear cut sign that something was off. I got the feeling that the movie-within-a-movie was intended as some sort of meta-message of “this is what you’re expecting right?” I felt like Texas Blood Money intended this little scene of lawyers being devoured by bats to be the kind of corny nonsense that most sequels produce, and that by pulling away, they were making a promise to do something better than we might anticipate. But here’s the problem: there’s nothing about the Bruce Campbell intro that screams “this is cheesy!” As a matter of fact, everything that follows is much worse. I actually think that this was intended to be a real scene in the movie, but they couldn’t figure out how to make it fit, so they just dropped it in the beginning and pretended that it was meant to be a gag.

If only this movie had anyone as interesting as Bruce Campbell.

Robert Patrick (best known as the T1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day) stars in the film as a guy named Buck, a criminal down on his luck, looking for a break. Upon seeing that an associate of his, Luther, has escaped from jail, he’s visited by the local law man. All you need to know about the cop is that he grabs Buck by the balls and squeezes while I stare at my TV and sneer, wondering how I’m going to make it through this obnoxious mess.

Eventually the cop leaves, and of course Buck immediately makes plans to meet up with the escaped Luther. Their big idea is to rob a bank in Mexico, but in order to pull it off, they’ll need to assemble a team.

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Joining Buck and Luther is Jesus (Tuco Salamanca from Breaking Bad!), and two annoying southern cartoon characters in cowboy hats.

Buck and his fellow dopes make their way across the border and shack up in a motel room, and as they wait for Luther to join them they watch porn together and complain about it’s lack of story.

First off, spending any amount of time complaining about how there’s no story in a movie where there’s no story is really frustrating. It doesn’t come across as some sly “we’re all about scares here” wink, either. It comes across like the screenwriter is clueless about his own weaknesses in the script. Second, this would have been a better moment to watch that earlier Bruce Campbell bat attack movie! Swap the movies so that Robert Patrick and his girl are watching porn and he and his buddies are watching the horror film and suddenly you have a scene where each guy can be shown exactly the kind of horrors they’ll be up against. Throw in some dialog about how they know they’d survive because their respective skills and you instantly have a more entertaining scene. Not a brilliant scene, not a unique scene, but certainly one that puts you more in touch with each character’s personality and state of mind.

It’s at this point that we’re brought back to the setting of the first film: the Titty Twister bar. I guess they were able to rebuild after they were blown up? Or maybe they had opened a second location…Either way, literally a single scene takes place here before Luther, having car problems, is attacked and bitten.

I wondered, for a moment, whether or not they were suggesting that this movie took place prior to the original. Or maybe simultaneously. It’s vaguely interesting to think that while the Gecko brothers were heading in the doors of the bar, the evil in the bar was spreading out into the world, infecting our band of crooks.

As Luther infected Jesus, and it became clear that this movie was truly just about vampires robbing a bank, I remembered that this movie has no interest in doing anything remotely unexpected. From this point on, I stopped thinking and just let the movie happen in front of me.

Luther and Jesus want to rob the Mexican bank right away. The original plan was to case the joint and strategize, but because with the sunrise comes the end of them, things have to be moved up.

Suddenly all five guys are at the bank, where Luther is using his bat form to fly through the vents and take out the lone security guard. We’re treated to a lengthy sequence where the humans seem to be of no use to the vampires, and the vampires seem stupid for not just converting everyone right away. There’s literally no reason I can think of why they wouldn’t just bite Buck and walk out with the money 5 minutes later.

For whatever reason, we’re made to watch as all 5 guys bicker and lie to each other and it’s through this that they accidentally alert the police. I wish I could be annoyed, but frankly, with the introduction of the police, this movie finally get’s a flicker of life to it.

Buck finally learns that all his fellow bank robbers have been turned into vampires, and so he runs outside, hoping to be saved. Unfortunately for him, the police don’t believe his crazy-personal ramblings, and so when 4 monsters step outside and begin to slaughter the police force, Buck is locked in the back of a cop car, helpless. Strangely enough, the ball-squeezing cop from earlier has evidently travelled into Mexico to catch Buck. Pretty sure cops aren’t allowed to do that, but this movie doesn’t care and neither do I.

The best that I can say for the movie at this point is that the vampire attack is…not fun…not interesting…It’s okay! The vampires are basically unstoppable killing machines, plowing through the cops like they’re nothing. Finally, I was able to mindlessly stare at the screen while people were bitten, impaled, and tossed around. If the movie can’t bring me interesting plotting or characters, at least they have some action at the end.

With most of the police squad dead, the dawn is creeping up over the horizon, forcing the vampires back into the dark comfort of the emptied bank. Nothing seemed to be wrapping up, but I was ready for this thing to end, when inexplicably, there’s a solar eclipse. I think Buck and I simultaneously whined “you’ve gotta be kidding me,” as darkness fell over the stage once more and the vampires came back to finish what they started.

I was stunned.

It was over!

Ugh.

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What was the solar eclipse? The original movie ends with a shot displaying that the Titty Twister bar sits on top of an ancient temple. Did the bar cause the eclipse? Are these vampires being protected? Guess what?? We’ll never find out. I guess it was just a regular old perfectly timed solar eclipse.

So anyway, Buck and the cops obviously team up to take down the vampires with a combination of stakes and shotguns, and I kind of sort of enjoyed the effects of vampires deflating and melting. From Dusk Till Dawn 2 has a cheap sort of presentation to it that makes it feel like it must be from the late 80’s or early 90’s. Crazily enough, this film came out in 1999. The only evidence is the CGI bats that flop around weightlessly, but the rest of the film is grainy and colorless. I’m stunned It’s only 16 years old.

Buck and the cops kill the last of the vampires, and as they chuckle to each other about what they’ve just been through (shouldn’t the cop be HORRIFIED that he lost his whole team!?), the cop questions “what do vampires need with money, anyway?”

The movie basically admits the whole premise is garbage.

But Buck hops in a car, requesting a slight head start before the cops resume the chase, and as he rides off into the sunset, the credits roll.

There. Now you never have to watch this movie.

Honestly, I can’t recommend watching this movie, even though it’s streaming on Netflix right now. There are just better movies you could spend your time on. As a horror film it fails, and even as a low-quality schlocky gore-fest it fails. You won’t have fun watching this movie, even if you want to watch it because it sucks. It just lacks energy from top to bottom.

What I’d recommend is watching the first half of the original movie. Once they make it to the bar, either hit stop or take a shot, because the rest of the movie takes a sharp turn.

No matter what though, you’re better off pretending Texas Blood Money doesn’t exist, just like most people do.

Halloween Fifteen: The Third Generation #3 | TMIADW on Here Comes the Devil

here comes the devil tmiadw

Michael Tatlock did such a good job with his review of Here Comes the Devil that I was afraid to even attempt my own. I’m joshing you, sorta (he did do a great job!), but I have been super busy of late and so we are wayyyyy far behind on Halloween Fifteen. I’m doing my best to catch up, but we’re coming closer to Halloween every day and I’m getting backed up on stuff to watch!

But we’re here to talk about Here Comes the Devil, not my overabundance of visual horror. The film was released in 2012, a Spanish supernatural tale from Adrian Garcia Bogliano, who both writes and directs. Bogliano has quite a few other films under his belt, reaching back as far as 2004’s Room for Tourists, but his most recent and fairly well-received was Late Phases. If you remember back to my review of that werewolf feature, I found myself unimpressed with Bogliano’s direction and writing style, which often becomes so bogged down in its meanderings and heavy dialogue that it forgets that it’s actually a horror piece with themes of growing old.

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Here Comes the Devil, predating Late Phases by a couple years, suffers from a lot of the same problems – chiefly, its slower pacing. Bogliano is a fan of creeping camera shots and long scene takes, allowing the viewer ample time to gaze at the admittedly beautiful scenery of the film. Exceedingly long moments are unbroken by Bogliano’s editing – a car drives down a road, or our main character Felix (Francisco Barreiro) gets out of his vehicle and enters a building. Bogliano’s hope is that these shots are successfully atmospheric, creating an unnerving feeling in the audience because one is forced to watch each event in real time.

But Here Comes the Devil often waivers around its main idea, and in the process, it spends a long period of running time without any direction. Bogliano seems to love dialogue – it’s a huge part of the film – but he often struggles to mold what the characters say into something meaningful. There’s a very odd sex scene early in the film where Felix and Sol (Laura Caro) trade stories of their youth lust escapades while Felix arouses her; it’s filled with dialogue that slowly escalates into something more erotic and a little gross, but the meaning behind it is lost in the moment.

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It’s unfortunate, too, that so much of Here Comes the Devil‘s time is spent on lead-up, because there are some good themes here that just don’t find a home later in the film. Sexuality is a big one, namely the essence of sex and lust and its ability to attract darker forces. The sexual act becomes a sort of defilement later, and Bogliano relies on Caro and Barreiro to sell the odd relationship they have that ultimately becomes a pact in murder; however, Here Comes the Devil often fails to explain its ideas, simply allowing them to remain evident to the viewer.

For much of the film, the actual point of the plot will seem nonexistent. Despite Bogliano’s clearly influenced directing, and his metaphorically-heavy script, he doesn’t juggle multiple events well. The paranormal aspect of Here Comes the Devil is lacking, and it only comes into play in the final moments of the film. Instead, Bogliano focuses on human frailty and muddles the film’s intent; there are too many sporadic plot elements to really be effective, and that’s all too evident in the conclusion.

Even with the atmospheric and somewhat tense rising action, the finale leaves a lot to be desired. Much like the opening of the film, there’s no explanation for it all – it simply happens, and quickly, which is at odds with the entire tone of Here Comes the Devil beforehand. It almost feels like Bogliano couldn’t find a satisfying ending and so swiftly, but brutally, ended it with a conceit that makes up the entirety of the film anyway. The supernatural is at work, but since Bogliano has failed to really quantify it, it’s far less effective than it could be.

What viewers are left with is a disappointing film not because of a cliched nature or from poor performances, but because Bogliano is unable to narrow the focus. And for such a slow-burning movie, an anticlimactic ending is really just a slap in the face to viewers who, throughout, weren’t quite sure whether they wanted to wait for the devil to arrive.

In Search of the Paranormal: The Hammer House Murder, Ghosts of the Clink, and Other Disturbing Investigations by Richard Estep | Book Review

One may not have heard of Richard Estep, but if In Search of the Paranormal: The The Hammer House Murder, Ghosts of the Clink, and Other Disturbing Investigations‘ multiple ghost-hunting stories are to be believed, he’s been around the paranormal block a few times. A founding member of the Boulder County Paranormal Research Society (BCPRS), Estep has worked as a paranormal investigator for a number of years, and his newest book seeks to document some of those findings in multiple chapters of case files. In Search of the Paranormal reads less like tales from the haunted places he’s visited than it does a study report about the findings, and throughout the book, Estep presents research that he both believes or discounts based on his scientific theories.

in search of the paranormalThat’s a key factor one must keep in mind while reading In Search of the Paranormal, because it’s far too easy – with our current self-publishing techniques – for someone to pen a bunch of made-up mumbo jumbo, print it up, and then get it in a local book store under the New Age tag. Estep’s book doesn’t read like that, and he’s not out to prove or disprove his experiences to anyone. It’s a book that’s meant to appeal to those curious about the paranormal who may actually be much more skeptical than naive, and it’s telling that Estep continually refrains from offering what he might consider “clear evidence” of supernatural forces.

Estep sets aside chapters devoted to different areas he’s explored either with friends or his paranormal team; some are simply quick stories, and others, like his experiences in the Clink, are more thorough investigative reports. Some might find Estep’s writing a bit too procedural – he spends quite a bit of time documenting the lead-up to investigations, the mental faculties of the researchers, and the EMF readings of the environments beforehand. But these case files are much more believable than someone throwing down anecdote after anecdote about coming face-to-face with a ghost.

What’s even better about Estep’s stories is that often he documents no evidence of paranormal haunting. In one particular tale, the manifestation of spirits turns out to be more closely related to a person’s psychological state. I appreciate that Estep doesn’t attempt to exaggerate investigations that didn’t lead to any phenomena; his truthiness (to use a Stephen Colbert idiom) is elevated because of this.

Obviously, though, with a book of stories there’s no hard evidence to either prove or refute Estep’s experiences. Still, for a Halloween read, In Search of the Paranormal is a series of paranormal experiences that doesn’t need to offer up such proof because Estep’s writing refrains from treating his experiences as definitive paranormal encounters. That way, readers can enjoy for the experiences and not worry about whether the author is misleading.

Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn | Book Review

Spencer Quinn (nee Peter Abrahams, which was news to me) has been writing the Chet and Bernie mystery series for some time now; Scents and Sensibility puts him at the eighth entry in a group of books written from a crime-solving dog’s perspective, and one would think that the author might have run out of steam attempting to capture the lovable yet dimwitted sensibility’s of Chet. Not so; like many of the other novels in the series, Quinn recycles a lot of the same ideas that have come to entertain readers of these fictional tales, like Chet’s penchant for misunderstanding common human idioms, while also coming up with a few more funny one-liners along the way.

scents and sensibility reviewMost readers will, by this eighth installment, know whether they can make it through an entire novel told via first-person narration from a dog – while Scents and Sensibility is as good a place to begin the Chet and Bernie series as any, I’d venture a guess that most readers picking up the novel have enjoyed the prior engagements of the duo and recognize that dog literature is for them. Quinn has a distinctive writing style for these books; mostly, it hinges on the dog being a dog, attempting to decipher Bernie’s seemingly odd antics while searching out food high and low. But the humor of the Chet and Bernie mysteries resides in Quinn’s ability to effectively pair mystery with Chet’s less-than-stellar clue-sniffing skills, and that’s back again in the new novel with a mystery that, at the outset, doesn’t seem like much of an interesting case at all.

That’s because it begins with a stolen cactus, a seemingly innocuous crime that spirals out of control when a murder clouds the investigation. Quinn’s detective agents don’t really investigate the crime – they stumble upon it again and again, clues jumping out at them rather than found under their footsteps. It’s interesting that Scents and Sensibility is, for the most part, a book about dog life with a cozy little mystery set in California surrounding it. It works rather well, in the same way that the other books have worked, when the reader can stomach the recurring jokes that pepper Quinn’s series; Chet likes to use the phrase “breaking rocks in the hot sun,” for instance.

For those who really can’t get behind the constant parade of dog humor, Scents and Sensibility probably won’t appeal much more on a mystery level either. While Quinn has a good handle on slight forward momentum with a good deal of setback, this novel has very little in the way of compelling murder investigation until the final third of the novel, when Chet and Bernie get separated forcing Chet to find his own ways out of the mess. This story isn’t one of Quinn’s stronger ideas, too bogged down in one suspect to really give the audience a chance to sniff out any others, but it’s manageable enough when paired with the usual Chet antics.

So really, like most of the other Chet and Bernie sequels before this one, enjoyment factor depends on what a reader normally gets out of a the series. If one likes the way Quinn effectively incorporates his creative side imagining how a dog would think, then Scents and Sensibility is another good example of Quinn doing what he does best. But if Chet’s narration gets on the nerves, you probably won’t want to spend another 300 pages reading it here.

Halloween Fifteen: The Third Generation #3 | Michael Tatlock on Here Comes the Devil

Michael Tatlock, of From the Mind of Tatlockis our Canadian friend. He’s participated in the Gory Gifts of Christmas even despite his fairly prolific posting schedule. I’m really happy to feature his writing again for Halloween Fifteen; unfortunately, Here Comes the Devil probably didn’t do much to make him want to come back next year. I’m yet to see it, but if it’s anything like Bogliano’s Late Phases, I’m in for a lengthy ride. Read on to find out what happened when Michael met the Devil, and don’t forget to check out his site.

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Here Comes the Devil is a Mexican movie about incest, weird sexual fantasies, a man trying to have sex with a mountain, possession and the Devil, while the Devil takes a back seat for a majority of the movie. Directed by Adrián García Bogliano, whose other work has included a segment on ABC’s of Death (B is for Bigfoot) and Late Phases (both movies which I have never seen before,) has crafted a film that is slow to move along, with only a few tiny sprinkles of interesting material. Did I hate Here Comes the Devil? No, but I can’t say I would ever watch it again. Read on to see why…

PLOT SUMMARY

A couple lose their children near some caves in Tijuana, Mexico. When finally they are found, it becomes clear that something terrifying has changed them.

MOVIE

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The entire reason to watch Here Comes the Devil is to see how the story unfolds, so I definitely don’t want to go spoiling the movie for you in my review, so I have to be very careful on what I write. The movie follows a couple of idiots, who let their kids go missing overnight in a cave, who then come back the next day acting a little different. The mother and father try to figure out exactly what happened that night and all the clues seem to point to a traumatic event. Of course, things aren’t exactly as they seem and soon one of the parents is about to find out exactly what happened that long, dark night in the cave.

I must say one thing, Here Comes the Devil probably features two of the most incompetent parents I have ever seen on film. They allow their kids to wander a spooky mountain, while they fondle each others private parts in a truck stop, telling each other really gross stories of when they found out about sex for the first time as a kid. They seem to hate each other as well and even the smallest things set off a chain reaction of arguing and name calling. I’m not sure how these two came together, but me thinks they need to come apart.

The biggest issue I have with the movie is that not a lot happens for a good part of the 97-minute runtime. We know some freaky stuff is going down, but the movie doesn’t go to great lengths to express that. All we really see is a couple of kids with some stoic looks on their faces. When we come to the end of the flick, we do get a few hints of horror, but one scene, in particular, which involves the kids and the mother flopping around on her bed, made no sense to me. Maybe I just didn’t completely understand the flick or maybe, and this is probably the real reason, I just didn’t care all that much as to what happened in the movie. I will say this, though, there is one kill scene in this movie that feels out-of-place, but my goodness, the gore was fantastic.

VERDICT

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Here Comes the Devil will probably end up being a forgettable flick for me. Hell, I watched the movie only a couple of days ago and I had a hell of a time trying to remember what I thought about it. It isn’t a terrible movie, but the story is just so slow to produce anything scary or tense and when it does make an attempt at it, it doesn’t make much sense. I still don’t really understand the beginning of the movie, which involves lesbians, a psycho and chopped off fingers. I guess it had something to do with weak souls, evil spirits, and blah, blah, blah. Who cares. If there is one thing I got out of this movie, it’s that Director Adrián García Bogliano sure loves his dramatic zooms.