Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Sell The Dead (2008) Quick Review

I Sell The Dead (2008) Dir. by Glenn McQuaid

19th century justice has finally caught up to grave robbers Arthur Blake and Willie Grimes. With the specter of the guillotine looming over him, young Blake confides in visiting clergyman Father Duffy, recounting fifteen years of adventure in the resurrection trade. His tale leads from humble beginnings as a young boy stealing trinkets from corpses, to a partnership with seasoned ghoul Willie Grimes as they hunt creatures unwilling to accept their place in the ground. The colorful and peculiar history of Grimes and Blake is one filled with adventure, horror, and vicious rivalries that threaten to put all involved in the very graves they're trying to pilfer. [D-Man2010] on

I went into this film not knowing that much about it, but I heard mostly good things from friends and such. I started off solid right off the bat, and never really let up. The movie itself was also written by Glenn McQuaid and produced by Glass Eye Pix, Larry Fessenden's (who also stars as Willie) production company. It's the same production company that brings us Ti West's work ( The Roost, Trigger Man, and House of the Devil) and so I got excited right away. Dominic Monaghan plays the lead character Arthur Blake, and he most definitely carries the movie in what I'd like to call his best acting job to date. Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm(Phantasms!!!), and John Speredakos also give strong supporting roles.

The movie itself is very low budget, but done exceptionally well for a period piece. It was just a whole lot of fun, and never really seemed to take itself very seriously. I could tell the actors were just having a lot of fun with it as well, as it was really brought out in the energy they gave off. It is a hilarious movie about the different crazy things that happen to Fessenden and Monaghan as the move along in their grave robbing careers. The events that transpire are laugh out loud funny, and very well written. I would be interested in seeing the original short by McQuaid that this is based on. I Sell The Dead has the perfect blend of humor and horror gore. I recommend this movie as a buy, and its 85 minute run time is perfect as you can watch this quick movie any time you want.

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Severed Heads
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Severed Heads

Monday, May 24, 2010

Whiteout (2009)

Whiteout (2009) Dir. by Dominic Sena

U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko tracks a killer in Antarctica, as the sun is about to set for six months.

I haven't been very impressed by any of the previous films Sena had directed (Gone In Sixty Seconds, Swordfish, or 13 Graves) and I probably will be let down by the Season of the Witch movie he has coming out, so I don't know why I thought Whiteout would be any different. It fell flat just like I should have known it would. I enjoyed the GISS remake, and Swordfish far more than I enjoyed Whiteout. The movie starts out with a bang, including a shootout on a plane over Antarctica, then for the most part its all downhill from there. The next 30 minutes are just about learning how Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is resigning soon, and there is some incident from her past that haunts her. We also get to see that age has done nothing to damage miss Beckinsale what-so-ever as she probably looks better the older she gets. We get an ass shot of Miss Beckinsale that would make Michael Bay jealous.

Take that Megan Fox!

From there, we are introduce to good ol' Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt) and the relationship (non-sexual) he has developed with Stetko. The next ten minutes or so is a barrage of pointless characters getting too much screen time, and characters that turn out to be important be underdeveloped. Of course you can't guess who the killer is if he/she is barely in the film to begin with. What is a murder mystery, if they don't at least give you options to guess? Isn't that half the fun? The character I liked the most actually turned out to be Delfy the pilot (Columbus Short). Short really seems to have come a long ways from You Got Served, as he has had Quarantine, Armored, Death and a Funeral, and The Losers come out in the last few years. I am getting more and more impressed with his ability to act. The rest of the acting is all mediocre, and that includes the lovely Beckinsale, and especially Gabriel Macht, who just shows up half way through the movie, and it is never really explained thoroughly. I'm sure it is some ploy to draw suspicion to his character- It doesn't work.

Directing on this film just draws flat and it doesn't have the big cast to carry it like he had with Gone In Sixty Seconds and Swordfish. He never really plays off the natural good vs. evil contrast filming in an all snowy place gives you. There is something about a dark figure in an all white area that just gives the killer a shadowy death sort of look, and Sena never plays off it. The score does add a little bit to the tension, but not enough to revive it. There is really no character development on any characters other than Stetko, so it is really hard to care about anyone other than her character. The killer chase sequences seem to be the strong point of the film, but they are few and far between. I will say they are probably my favorite part of the film and that is because of the ropes. In Antarctica they have to use ropes to get from building to building, much like was done in The Thing. They add that element into the chase sequences, where even the killer has to switch his clip from one rope to another to continue to chase his/her prey. I really liked that part, and thought it was clever and cool. It was the highlight of the film for sure. All in all, I felt like I had lost an hour and half of my life to a film that just never wow'd me even though it had the potential. Rent it if you want, or I suggest borrowing it from a friend who owns it instead.

Entertainment Value: 5/10 Ice Axes
Cinematic Value: 4/10 Ice Axes

Bubba Ho-tep (2002) Quick Review

Bubba Ho-tep (2002) Dir by Don Coscarelli

Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy.

Based on a short story by horror writer legend Joe R. Landsdale, Bubba Ho-tep delivers! Coscarelli does well directing and writing this short story transfer. Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis play the characters Elvis and JFK, and they are very convince. So much, that you believe that they believe they are Elvis and JFK. I always have a lot of fun when I'm watching this movie, but it is hard to really put it into a horror category. There is so much comedy in the writing and the characters that I end up laughing through 90% of the film.

Coscarelli does something a little out of the norm with this film, and that is direct a smooth, colorful, flashy film. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, and I'm not saying the Phantasm series wasn't amazing, because it is still my 2nd favorite series of all time, and they need to make a frickin 5th movie! Don might have had a bit of help with cinematographer and the editor, but the movie looks great. The action is on a minimum, but what can you expect with a movie about two guys in a nursing home. The movie really relies on great writing, and it is perfect. Ella Joyce and Coscarelli native Reggie Bannister give admirable supporting performances, and there isn't really a whole lot to gripe about with this film. It is a movie I can always count on to entertain me on any given day from the almost slow start to the strong laughable finish. Its hard to give this film a full review because it is just what it is, Bubba Ho-tep!

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Scarab Beetles
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Scarab Beetles

For another great review of Bubba Ho-tep check out this link for here it is, and let them know how much you love it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time Out For A Talk: Jeremiah Kipp and Dominick Sivilli

Time Out For A Talk: Jeremiah Kipp and Dominick Sivilli

When working in independent film, it requires a certain quality of person. Certain abilities to work with a budget that couldn't buy you a moped. To work with, and teach, lesser experience individuals who are most likely friends, or that girl who did a commercial for a local hot tub company. Sometimes even filling extras with that homeless guy for your horror film just because he actually lives ON Elm Street. None the less, all these things put together and they still manage to pull everything together and give the audience a beautiful spectacle of intense imagery. Not everyone can do it, in fact, most can't. These people are special. These people are Gods among the little men in film. They give inspiration to starting filmmakers everywhere like myself and everyone else. These people are bad ass mother fuckers! That being said, it could actually go without saying these two men I have interviewed, Jeremiah Kipp and Dominick Sivilli are indeed bad ass mother fuckers!

Dominick Sivilli
Jeremiah Kipp

This has to be one of the best interviews I have ever read, and it is so hilarious interviewing the both of them at the same time. This interview cracks me up on multiple occasions. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

R.D. Penning - First off, where and when did you begin your film making career? I want to know a little bit of your past, and how you got started in film.

Kipp: Film making for me emerged out of my interests as a kid. From an early age, my family saw I preferred drawing to coloring books, so they always made sure I had pencils and crayons available. My grandfather used to read me stories, so I started imagining and writing my own. I also noticed an ad in the newspaper looking for children to be in a play, so that started me on being a child actor. When my family got a camcorder just to record weddings, I saw it combined the visual arts, storytelling and performance, and I knew from age twelve what I wanted to do with my life. By the time I was applying for colleges, I had made something like 300 terrible zombie movies in my backyard, but it was enough to cut together a reel and apply to NYU film school, which I got accepted for based on the strength of my grades, a ton of scholarships and grants, and my reel.

Sivilli: Fuck. How can I top that? (thinks) I emerged as a filmmaker from the day I was born… (laughs) This is a hard question to answer, Russ. I guess if film making deals with images, then when you first start to become a filmmaker, it’s when you first start imagining. Just like Jeremiah, I always drew and colored. I was never good at history or math. My grades were always high in art, and I remember every Friday my father would take me to rent a movie. It would usually be one of the Godzilla movies, and we must have seen all of them. It was later that he introduced me to movies like Gremlins and my all time favorite, Robocop. Watching these movies was a big inspiration. Having no idea how movies are made, though, you never pursue trying to make a career out of it.
It wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to my English teacher and later my mentor Bart Mastronardi, who had a film club established. It was there that I realized that making movies was fairly simple. In film club, I made my first few backyard movies. I would later go on to learn at the prestigious New York Film Academy, where I realized making movies isn’t as simple as just pressing record. And now I help teach there.

R.D.Penning - What was your first film making experience like? Were you nervous?

Kipp: I think on every movie you need to do at least one thing that scares you. You need to continually push yourself. But I never remember what the experience is like because I throw myself into it totally. Trying to remember the experience is like trying to remember a dream after you wake up. I don’t care about that. I prefer making movies to talking about it and telling stories about it.

Sivilli: Nervous? No, never nervous. I’m anxious. I can never sleep at night knowing I have a film shoot in the morning. Yes, making movies is hard work and you deal with a lot of stress. But the reality is, we’re filmmakers. We’re not soldiers taking bullets for our country. It’s not brain surgery. However, it is difficult, because it is a craft that one must practice every day until you find yourself, breaking new boundaries in that craft. And if you’re nervous, you’re only nervous once, probably because it’s your first time doing it.

R.D. Penning - When did you two first meet each other? What was the first project you worked on together?

Kipp: We first met on the set of Alan Rowe Kelly’s backwoods inbred cannibal horror romp THE BLOOD SHED, back when he was a high school student. He was basically doing grip work and being a production assistant.

Sivilli: Kipp, that was you? I could have sworn it was a Hobbit from one of the Lord of the Ring movies or one of Santa’s little elves.

Kipp: Go fuck yourself! I swear to God, I thought Sivilli was the least likely to succeed out of all of those kids. A nice guy, funny as hell, but no discipline and hyperactive, but that kid grew into a man, and he spent some serious years learning the art of cinematography. Eventually, I needed a shooter for this talking head segment of a documentary I was co-producing, where we interviewed Frederic Tuten, the screenwriter of Andrzej Zulawski’s cult classic Possession for its re-release on DVD. I’d seen Dominick’s reel and was really impressed by how much he had grown. We decided to work together on Contact and it was a great collaboration. It led to a series of other projects and opportunities.

Sivilli: After working with Jeremiah on The Blood Shed and seeing he knew what the 180 degree rule was, I saw he was a professional and knew what a true movie set was like. After seeing The Pod and The Christmas Party, I knew I needed to work for him in order for me to grow as a filmmaker. I learn from his every day and am proud to call him my partner, associate, collaborator and brother. I will work with him until the day he does not have a budget. (laughs)

R.D. Penning - Jeremiah- The Christmas Party was your second opportunity to write/direct your own material. What on earth gave you inspiration to write such a deranged movie?

Kipp: I made maybe six to twelve bad student films at NYU, then was involved in a film collective after college where I made maybe another half-dozen or more bad movies, so The Christmas Party came along after I had been doing this for a while. Thank God nobody will ever see my earlier work. In 2001, I made a film called Snapshot that could be considered the first movie I actually wanted people to see, so in that sense The Christmas Party is my second film.

The inspiration came from growing up in a rural backwoods area where Christians would throw parties such as the one depicted in the film, trying to reel in unsuspecting kids and convert them. I was curious about them, and for one of my high school papers I brought a tape recorder and interviewed a Christian proselytizer and asked her to save me. She indeed brought me into a dark room, with a small sliver of light from the hallway, and got me to repeat a chant while pouring water on me. The experience was powerful, but the epiphany I had was not the same one she was having; we impose ideas on children as adults in a way that is almost like a cult, and by that I mean Big We, instead of allowing them to ask questions and make discoveries.

R.D. Penning - Dominick, you are to film, as Peter North is for porn. What drives you to be a cinematographer? Do you plan on making Jeremiah trade you roles some day? I think that would be interesting.

Sivilli: Peter North… (laughs) I can’t really tell you what drives me. Cinematography comes from the heart. I am a truly passionate person that needs to express myself in images. I still pick up a book every day. When I have trouble with something, I read about it and keep up with the latest technology. The industry is changing every day. Ten years ago, it was really something special to say that you are a part of the film business. Today, because of the YouTube generation, it’s very easy to say you are a filmmaker. It’s easy for anyone to make a movie. Now, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with are the movies that are being made!

People are not pushing themselves. The technology is there. It’s quite incredible that I am shooting a werewolf feature with a digital DSLR Canon 7d camera, and the images look astonishing. But, like I always say…it isn’t the car, it’s the driver. I’ve been told before by numerous directors that I have to deal with the “technical side” because they don’t know how! I feel like that’s bullshit. Every filmmaker should know the technical side in every way. It’s not enough to say it’s too technical. We live in a very technical world. For example, you can now order movies from your iPod. You can now play video games from your iPod. You can start your car engine with the press of a button. You can take a trip to Manhattan with the swipe of a card. I can go on forever. We live in a world where we have to know the technical aspect of life.

Heck, just the other day, I was over my aunt’s house, who is 45 years old, and she pulled out her laptop and showed me pictures of where she and my mother grew up in Italy. I was amazed how this woman was trying to keep up with the times. Yes, it took her 45 minutes to open the home page, but she still tried. I think she would make an excellent filmmaker. That being said, the technology is there for everyone to use. Film, as far as a chemical based media—some will say it is dying, compared to digital, which is growing and becoming what film is, which is a mature medium,

But if you ask any cinematographer, whether they are shooting with film, the Canon 7d, the RED camera or the iPhone, they are still going to light and frame and tell the story the exact same way. There is no such thing as exclusively dealing with “the technical side”. Being at the age I am, an example of my generation with all this power in my hands, I am going to push the boundaries of this new technology just as my kids will push the boundaries of their technology in their generation.

To say you don’t know the technical side is being nervous. I didn’t know the technical side once. I was very nervous about touching the camera. I was afraid of breaking it or of doing something wrong and someone would call me out on it. But that is a part of learning. You should never be afraid. You should always do. Make your mistakes. Anyone who is a filmmaker will see themselves grow over time, if they push.

As far as trading places with Jeremiah, he does his thing, I do my thing, no questions asked. But one thing I do appreciate about Jeremiah: he opens himself as a filmmaker, and every day we come home from the shoot, look at dailies, and he would ask me why I did something versus how I did something. He embraces this from a cinematographer, which makes him a better director. I also learn from him every day. He knows how to work with actors, how to keep the spirit up on the set, but he especially knows what he wants, and when he smiles and jumps up and down like a little boy, I can see he is happy. To me Jeremiah is not a director. He is, plain and simple, a filmmaker. It just so happens he directs when it is time for him to, but just like me, he bleeds and sweats for what he loves to do. It is never too technical for him.

Kipp: What’s technical for both of us is neither of us knows how to drive.

(Kipp and Sivilli laugh)

Sivilli: We know how to buy a metro card!

R.D. Penning - The two of you have been referred to as the Louis and Clark of film, and by that, I mean I just made it up. Do you feel like you are discovering new territories of film ever time you make a movie? I don’t think you can continue with your job if you don’t feel like you learn something new each day.

Sivilli: There is an infinite amount of possibilities of ways to make movies, and they are happening right now, whether it is shooting with the RED camera, 35mm, James Cameron fusion camera, green screen—it’s all there. Kipp and I are not discovering, we’re just catching up.

Kipp: You listen to the movie. The movie tells you what it needs. You don’t make the movie, because the movie makes you.

R.D. Penning - Jeremiah – Is there a story behind Contact (2009)? If there is I need to hear about this, as that movie is crazy!

Kipp: I was originally going to shoot something else, but that project fell apart, so I took out a napkin and wrote five images on it. That became Contact. I had ideas from my previous film The Pod, which I made with screenwriter Carl Kelsch, that I wanted to continue to explore, specifically the image of the kiss that morphs two faces together, which reminded me of an Edvard Munch painting, and of bringing the family into the story, since that key ingredient only seemed touched on in The Pod. The parents create a sense of morality, and they bookend Contact in a way I felt the movie needed.

R.D. Penning - Dominick – Do you make movies specifically for the women? I’m just saying. I haven’t seen a movie on your list that doesn’t include 5-10 beautiful women.

Sivilli: Well, Russ, that’s very nice of you to say. I am very pretty. (pause) Oh, the women? Oh, yes! The women are gorgeous! But I don’t know how to answer this. All I can say is that beautiful women are cast in the roles of movies that I work on. Usually, on the day we arrive on set, the actresses want to make my acquaintance. Knowing I am the one photographing them, they make friends with me. Plus, it’s a very important thing for a cinematographer to know how to shoot a beautiful woman. I think a few actresses in Hollywood are contracted to work with certain cinematographers to shoot the movies they are starring in. But as far as the women being beautiful, this just comes with the story. I am sure someday I will work with a woman in a story who is not so “beautiful”, but sometimes it is not necessary to shoot something that way—there is a certain beauty behind “ugly” and I mean this with regard to women, men, locations, etc. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

R.D. Penning - Jeremiah – According to the handy dandy IMDB, most of the work you put in is as an Assistant Director. What does an Assistant Director do exactly?

Kipp: Babysits, usually. I have had the opportunity to assist some great directors, most recently Michael Di Jiacomo on Somewhere Tonight where I saw his brilliant work working with John Turturro, and Daniel Garcia on various commercials and music videos. Working with a strong director is inspiring and your job of assisting is to help create a total environment around them where they can do their work. Good directors are usually unpretentious and don’t ramble on about their vision or themselves; they know what they want and articulate it in a constructive way. The crew will follow them anywhere. But a lot of the time, the directors don’t know one lens from another. Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver, bravely acknowledged that on his first feature as a director, he pretty much said he hired an assistant director and director of photography who could do his job better than he could. He humbly admitted that on his first go round, he knew nothing, and he used it as a learning experience. I wish more first-time directors were as honest, open and receptive.

R.D. Penning - Dominick – Is there anything you can tell us about the highly anticipated Don’t Look In The Basement? – written and directed by the amazing Alan Rowe Kelly (who you know is going to be in the movie too)?

Sivilli: What can I say, Russ? I am very much looking forward to working with Alan again. One thing I like about working with him is he knows what he wants, he has a great smile every day on set, and he gives me a lot of freedom, which allows the cinematographer to come up with and create a look from his heart and the story. But I promised Alan that I would fight the urge to always use the smoke machine—even though that is the secret to great cinematography. Look at movies like Blade Runner and Minority Report and Aliens. Smoke is the key, and unless the smoke machine breaks on set, then I will use smoke. (laughs) But I will do anything for Alan. There has been some commotion on the other side of the country about this remake, and I am a soldier ready to go for my commander, Alan Rowe Kelly. I am ready to make this movie kick-ass, and there are numerous members of the cast that I am looking forward to working with. I will break my balls for the remake of Don’t Look In The Basement and I’m not just going to show up and press record.

R.D. Penning - Chucky VS Leprechaun - Who wins in a fight?

Sivilli: Chucky.

Kipp: Jerry Murdock.

R.D. Penning - Dominick VS Jeremiah – Who wins in a fight?

Sivilli: We have fought many times. The score is 3-3.

Kipp: I’m too old for this shit.

R.D. Penning - is your all time favorite movie? If you had to pick one.

Kipp & Sivilli: Robocop.

Sivilli: Hands down, this is the one thing that draws Jeremiah and I together—the fact that we both love Robocop. It’s brilliant. It’s the exact opposite of what a superhero movie is. It’s a revenge movie, sure, but it’s about a superhero discovering his identity as a human being, as opposed to a human being discovering his identity as a superhero. It’s a perfect movie. Perfect.

Kipp: “Bitches leave!”

Sivilli: “Guns! Guns! Guns!”

Kipp: “Nice shooting, son! What’s your name?”

Sivilli: “Murphy!”

Kipp: Roll credits.

R.D. Penning - What can we expect from the two of you in the future, as far as film goes? More movies I hope.

Kipp: We’ve got two features in the works, one monster movie and one slasher movie. Also, we have a production company and rental house in the works, which will be renting out the brand new RED cameras.

Sivilli: When the time is right, we’ll make an official announcement.

R.D. Penning - Last, but not least, if there were one actor any time period you would give anything to work with, who would it be?

Sivilli: There are a lot of actors that a cinematographer would love to work with. I’m looking forward to working with Deneen Melody, who I highly respect. She knows the deal about artists supporting each other, which is very important in this business. But if I had to pick one actor, it would be either Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery. Both of them make love to the camera and know how to give a hell of a performance. In their prestige, these great actors know how to play to the lighting, but that said, they are also not afraid to play scenes in the shadows.

Kipp: My favorite actor is James Cagney—he was unlike any other actor of his generation. Some of his death scenes in those early gangster pictures are so powerful, so completely intense. Apparently, when he was asked how he was able to pull off his eight-minute death scene in THE ROARING TWENTIES he said he saw a documentary of a gorilla who was shot and dying, and the creature lumbered along refusing to accept what was happening; a kind of raging indignation. Cagney was also a song-and-dance man, so he had great physicality that he brought to those tough guy roles, and it was so punk rock when he mashed a grapefruit into the woman’s face in THE PUBLIC ENEMY. Audiences had never seen anything like that. He was not occasionally surprising, but continually surprising, dynamic and full of fire. That’s my kind of actor.

Great interview guys! I had so much fun doing it. You guys a riot, and you fight like brothers for sure. What these guys do for independent film is amazing. I look forward to everything they are going to do, and I hope everyone gives them a chance, and checks out their stuff. If anyone gets the chance, look them up, and tell them great job, or thank you, or just say hi. You can find a list of their films at IMDB if you just type in their names, and you can find a couple of them on youtube, and other video streaming sites. I would post them if I had the room, but the interview was so long! and great!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool (2008) Dir. by Bruce McDonald

A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town.

WOW! Pontypool is an wildly entertaining intellectual thriller. It is based on the novel by Tony Burgess "Pontypool Changes Everything" and it delivers. I don't think I have ever seen a movie that was able to entertain me just through sheer dialogue as much as Pontypool. The entire movie takes place in one location, a Radio Station. Grant Mazzy played by Stephen McHattie, is a cocky radio show host who has taken a new job at a small radio station after apparently being fired from his last one. When the boring radio turns out to be anything but boring, Grant takes to doing what he does best, and that is make an exciting and controversial radio show. McHattie drives this movie like a freight truck driver who has lost his brakes. The first part of the movie takes time to introduce characters, and just get the start of the story of what's going on outside the station. After that, it is nonstop verbal action as they try to figure out what is going on outside. The movie plays off the fear of not knowing. Thanks to voices of people calling in, and information streamed online to the station, the story is allowed to continue, and the audience knows just as much as the characters in the film.

McDonald did an amazing job directing this film, and I think part of that was due to pacing. He takes an already amazing script by Burgess, and makes it even better. He only allows a small amount of information about what is happening each time an eye witness calls in. He could have went a different route with the film and turned it into an action movie, but he didn't, and I applaud him for it. He said he wanted to go with more of an H.G. Wells War of the Worlds effect, and he nailed it! That is exactly what it reminded me of. Not that I was alive then, but it reminded me of when War of the Worlds was cast over the airwaves causes widespread panic among the listeners who actually thought an alien attack was happening. The story is intense,and without saying too much, it involves a virus that is spread through the English language. It has to be one of the most creative viruses I have ever heard. While the idea has a few cracks in its theory, it is delivered fairly foolproof.

While there are only four main characters shown in the film, everyone did an amazing job. McHattie is definitely the ring leader, but the support he gets from Lisa Houle as Sydney Briar, Georgina Reilly as Laurel-Ann Drummond, and especially Hrant Alianak as the mysterious Dr. Mendez. Most of the rest of the cast is through call-ins to the station, and listening to them is such a strong and vivid part of the film. Their eyewitness accounts are intense! I couldn't stop watching, or listening to the film. I think McHattie deserves more lead roles, not that he wasn't an established actor before, but he showed some emotional range in this film that I had not seen from him before. Correct me if I'm wrong, because I haven't seen a whole lot of his movies. In this movie he has such a strong voice. He is like the Clint Eastwood of Radio DJs. Just hearing him speak the opening lines of the film with no picture gave me goosebumps. Great casting job!

All in all, the film is solid, and I could watch it over and over again and wouldn't get sick of it. That is usually a good sign to me. I have been reading through some other reviews, and it occurred to me that this film might not be so widely accepted by people who do not enjoy reading. It is all about the dialogue, and I find people calling it boring because they were expecting more action. The thing is people, stop with the expectations! Everyone should go into any movie not expecting anything. You will be let down a hell of a lot less. The other thing, is for people to stop referring to this as a zombie film. The director himself said this is not a zombie film. A person has to die first then come back to life to be a zombie. There are zombie movies that involve viruses, and this is not one of them. This movie would be more on line with The Crazies. McDonald and Burgess go to great lengths to try and explain what the virus is, and when people are being eaten, it is not for the consumption of flesh, but for deterioration of mental stability. Listen for the explanation during the film. They do a much better job than I have. Everyone should own this film, and everyone should watch it all the time. That is my final verdict!

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Spoken Words
Cinematic Value: 9/10 Spoken Words

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pumpkinhead (1988) Quick Review

Pumpkinhead (1988) Dir. by Stan Winston

A man conjures up a gigantic vengeance demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy the teenagers who accidentally killed his son.

Two Words- Stan Winston! He helped create legendary creatures such as Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Leviathan, and many, many more. I shed a tear the day he died, and this movie helps embody all that he was, and will always be- a legend, and a hero. He takes his turn directing this one, and puts himself fully behind his movie. This movie gets mixed reviews and I don't know why. While there were so many slasher horror films in the 80's with mediocre story lines, and half-ass acting, this movie brings a whole new kind of horror. It is a emotional drama first, and a strong horror second. They don't over-focus on Pumpkinhead and they let the story drive the movie. The man's frickin son dies! If anyone were to kill my son, I'd summon a demon too!

Lance Henriksen plays the part perfectly, and you feel for his character. You understand why he did what he did, and you get to watch him slowly regret his decisions, going all the way down to the solid dramatic finish. This movie is perfectly filmed, wonderfully acted, written with solidity, and glued together with heart. I recommend this as a must buy to everyone. Not so much the sequels, but this one is a must buy.

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Pumpkins in a patch
Cinematic Value: 9/10 Pumpkins in a patch

Thursday, May 13, 2010

April Fool's Day (1986)

April Fool's Day (1986) Dir. by Fred Walton

A group of nine college students staying at a friend's remote island mansion begin to fall victim to an unseen murderer over the April Fool's day weekend.

I can't believe it has taken me this long to see this movie, and I'm kind of sad I didn't see it sooner. It is over the top in every way possible. The acting is over the top. The comedy is over the top. The story is over the top. The ending is over the top. You get the point. Don't get me wrong though, I didn't say it was over the top in a bad way. The movie is insanely fun, and never takes itself too seriously. While at times it is a strong 80's slasher flick, it also almost seems like a satire of 80's slasher flicks. An entire movie based around April fool's jokes. I think the comedy added in actually keeps the tension at a manageable level, and neither genre really steps on the other one's toes so to speak. Walton was the original choice to direct Halloween The Curse of Micheal Myers, and I can see why they wanted him. He knows how to direct a story. I and no clue this was written by Danilo Bach. The same guy who wrote all three Beverly Hills Cop movies, and his comedic style carries over to AFD.

The acting in this movie was absolutely horrible, haha, but I loved it. As a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, its really easy to look past stuff like bad acting. Deborah Foreman does do a great job as the host of the weekend, Muffy St John. The other characters are mediocre, but the are all distinct in their own way, and that gives the story diversity. Its hard to really call this a full fledged horror flick because it doesn't have much of a true body count, or any real hardcore gore, but it is scary at times. I like to think of it as more of a thriller mystery. The first fifty minutes of the movie is treated more like a who-dun-it, and I loved that. It almost felt a bit like Clue. The last thirty-some minutes are treated like more of a slasher, then the very end is a huge twist, then a lame twist. It was just an exciting film to watch.

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Creepy Ferrymen
Cinematic Value: 6/10 Creepy Ferrymen

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grace (2009) quick review

Grace (2009) Dir. by Paul Solet

After losing her unborn child, Madeline Matheson insists on carrying the baby to term. Following the delivery, the child miraculously returns to life with an appetite for human blood. Madeline is faced with a mother's ultimate decision.

This movie is so disturbing on a number of levels. There is a scene where the baby is born stillborn, and she still treats this dead baby like it is alive. I cringed at the thought, and maybe that's just me being a father of two, but it was very moving. Jordan Ladd does an amazing job in this film, and I think it was the first time she has actually shown any great acting talent. Her previous films include Waiting, Club Dread, and Grindhouse. She shows depth in her character, and adds an extremely real element to the story. Don't get me wrong, the story is fairly far-fetched, but she brings previously untapped emotions to this previously used style of film. Her supporting cast was about as good as it was going to get, and each character disturbing in their own way. Gabrielle Rose (Jennifer's Body, Lost Boys 2) gives a great performance as the husbands mother, almost sexually obsessed with her own son, and an overbearing mother-in-law. Samantha Ferris ("Supernatural", Blackwoods) gives an interesting take on midwife, but becoming an obsessed lesbian, pining for her student.

The movie itself shouldn't really be considered a horror since it rarely scares, but it does encompass a number of genres in one film which is really hard to do. I haven't seen the short film Grace, same story just shorter, but I have reason to believe it might be a better fit for the film. This version just seems long and stretched out and I think that really takes some tension away from the story itself. I did enjoy the movie, but at times it just seemed really slow moving. Some of the characters took up screen time to develop, and we really didn't need to know that much about the character, and that is a bad filler just used to lengthen a film. The ending does bring back some of that tension needed to drive a film like this, but it is almost too little too late. I like the art house style of filming, and the camera shots angles are great. It could have been written a bit better, and the ending was a little ridiculous. I think the movie is good for one viewing but I don't see much rewatch value in it.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Blood Filled Bottles
Cinematic Value: 6/10 Blood Filled Bottles

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Devil's Tomb (2009) B-movie with an A-list cast

The Devil's Tomb (2009) Dir. by Jason Connery- Son of Sean Connery

An elite group of soldiers on a covert mission to retrieve a scientist from an underground lab encounter an ancient evil in the facility.

I love big budget movies that look like they were filmed for the SyFy channel! Jason Connery has been doing acting since he was cast as Robert of Huntingdon in the TV series "Robin of Sherwood." The Devil's Tomb is his directorial debut, and it delivers on a very entertaining level. I went into it with very low expectations, and the cheesy and wonderful cast helped this movie win me over. The cast goes as follows: Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire, Chill Factor), Taryn Manning (Kill Theory, The Breed), Valerie Cruz ("Dexter", Cellular), Franky G (Saw II, Saw II), Zack Ward (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Postal), Henry Rollins ( Wrong Turn 2, Feast), Jason London (Killer Movie, Out Cold), Stephanie Jacobsen (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles), Bill Moseley (The Night of the Living Dead 1990, Dead Air), Ray Winstone (Indiana Jones 4, Sweeney Todd), and Ron Frickin Perlman ( Hellboy, The Last Supper, and a billion awesome movies). The cast on this movie as amazing, and how the hell did this movie go straight to DVD? The highlights of the cast were definitely the performances by Henry Rollins, and Ron Perlman, but after a shit storm of bad kids comedies from Cuba, I was so glad to see him redeem himself. He used to be my favorite actor, and now he has faltered. I hope he continues to climb back up doing good movies like this one.

Sean Connery never really tackled the realm of horror, so who knows where his son got his talents, but with Pandemic that followed this movie, and with the upcoming alien horror 51, I think he is definitely trying to assert himself as a horror director. Jason does a wonderful job of keeping this movie borderline genres. He never fully commits to any genre, and in return we are given a movie that is semi-hard to predict at times, until the end that is. The religious overtones are overwhelming at times, but are behind the scenes, when zombie like demons with boils all over them are tearing people apart. The movie is not shy on gore by any means. I wouldn't call it Cabin Fever, but at one point you get to see a person's open back, with all skin and muscle removed from the spinal area. The movie movies at a quick pace, and it feels like a very short movie, and it is only 90 minutes long. They tackle a lot during the story and it moves fast because of it. There are a few subplots that could have left out, but they all tied in with hallucinations, and Cuba's back story. For a first time director, Connery does an amazing job, and I look forward to seeing his future work.

This movie isn't without flaws, as it follows a cheesy heaven/hell war on earth plot that was wore out during the Prophecy era, but it manages to do a hell of a lot better than Legion did. The acting isn't the greatest all around, but it never really takes away from the movie as a whole. It is always nice to see filmmakers willing to stay away from CG special effects, and stick with the cheesy real stuff though. It was a really fun movie, and I recommend at least one viewing for everyone.

Entertainment Value: 7/10 Boil Busting Head shots
Cinematic Value: 6/10 Boil Busting Head shots

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Contact (2009) - short film beauty at its best!

Contact (2009) Dir. by Jeremiah Kipp

Contact is a story of a descent into drug induced horror.

Contact as a whole has to be one of the most beautiful, intense, perfectly paced, and moving short films I have seen in a long time. Its always nice to see a directer as skilled, and original as Kipp. They way he tells a story with a camera is a sendback to a time when we didn't have wasted crappy dialogue to make-up for inability to tell a story. Contact is told through black and white, ambitious shooting, a strong score, and emphasis on core impact sounds. The way the camera moves is well paced, allowing you to take in the surroundings of the film, and making it that much easier to understand and feel like you are there with the characters. Zoe Daelman Chlanda is amazing as you get to watch her slowly dissolve from a normal healthy girl into a paranoid creation as a result of drugs. It was nice to see a film that could be emotionally scary rather than jump scares, and hideous looking creatures/killers. Alan Rowe Kelly was great in his small but Final Sacrifice-ish bad guy portrayal as Rowan. If anyone has seen The Final Sacrifice episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you know who I'm talking about, and if you haven't then here you go It is a montage of the main character Rowsdower, but you can see the bad guy a couple times, and you will see what I'm talking about.

There is such a great supporting cast and crew in this film, and you can tell by the way they performed that they are serious actors, and filmmakers on the largest of levels. There is even a short cameo appearance of the amazing writer/director/cinematographer Bart Mastronardi! The thing that impresses me the most about this film, other than the directing, is the outstanding cinematography by Dominick Sivilli. Each shot was so beautiful, with unique angles it brought the emotions out of the characters and the theme out of the surroundings. He is a master of his craft, and he makes love to the camera.

One a final note, Contact is a must see for everyone, and as a short film it shouldn't be a problem, not mention it is online for everyone to see at I highly recommend everyone get ahold of these filmmakers and tell them what a great job they are doing, and that there are people out there that fully support the great work they are doing. They deserve to be getting paid big money making big movies, and their time will come. Thanks to Jeremiah Kipp for giving me a chance to watch and review this movie, and I look forward to everything he has coming out in the future. Also, a special thanks to the beautiful, and lovely Deneen Melody for alerting Mr. Kipp about my interest in his work.

Contact gets:
Entertainment Value: 8/10 Drug filled jars
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Drug filled jars

How did my medicine cabinet get to the set?

Hey I don't remember her having a shirt on it the movie

There he is! The bad guy from The Final Sacrifice!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

RUMBLE OF THE REMAKES!!!! Round One- A Nightmare On Elm Street VS. The Stepfather

Yeah I know it is a weird combination, but they just so happened to be the two movies I watched today so here I go.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Dir. by Samuel Bayer

A re-imagining of the horror icon Freddy Krueger, a serial-killer who wields a glove with four blades embedded in the fingers and kills people in their dreams, resulting in their real death in reality.

Ok, it would be really hard to find someone who had not seen the original Nightmare, and if they hadn't, they might deserve a slap upside the noggin. I am so sick of negative reviews towards this film. I am a fan of the original just as much as the next person, but there are far worse remakes being made out there. They want to talk crap about how the movie doesn't need to be remade, and how the series will be ruined without the legendary Robert Englund. I was just so excited to see the franchise return to its roots, and by that I mean Horror. After the second Nightmare on Elm Street movie, the series just started to go down the road of comedy. Yes, it is ok to have a few one-liners in there, as the new one proved, but it was true horror again. When people go in to see the new one, they should try to open their mind, and try to see the film as an original film, then compare it to the other one later. I was so happy to see that Platinum Dunes was producing it as they have made the other remakes that I have actually liked- Friday the 13th, The Hitcher,and The Ammityville Horror.

The other thing is I love Robert Englund as much as the next person, but Jackie Earl Haley is flipping amazing at about everything he touches, and he generally looks like a Freddy Krueger. He is amazing in the new movie, and he doesn't try to go overboard. He remains his own style of the character, but manages to hold on to all the things we held sacred to Krueger. He did such an amazing job, which I can hardly say about the rest of the cast. The acting was anything but top notch, but it didn't take away from the film. I am also tired of people ripping on Samuel Bayer, and calling him a poor rookie directer. He is not the first music video director turned feature director, and this is not his first film people. He co-directed the amazing short film Max in 2005. He has all the talent and knowledge for directing great movies, as it takes the same ambition in a person to do music videos as it does to make a film. What is with all the people talking about how crappy the CGI is in this movie? I thought it was damn near flawless! That was the last thing I thought about while watching the film. It had a perfect score, solid story (even with the slight changes from the orignal), and perfect pacing. I never once felt bored, and I'd have to say the worse part of the film, was definitely the acting by the 28 year olds playing high schoolers, and maybe the overall design of Freddy. I understood they were going for a more realistic burn victim look, but I thought it could have been better. It was very exciting seeing a remake rather than a re visioning. The point of a remake is to remake the same film, and update it with today's newer technology, and I thought they did a wonderful job of that. They even had a handful of similar kills to the original. I recommend this film to everyone, and I will be buying it on DVD!

Entertainment Value: 8/10 NoDoz
Cinematic Value: 8/10 NoDoz

and now for the second film

The Stepfather (2009) Dir. by Nelson McCormick

Michael returns home from military school to find his mother happily in love and living with her new boyfriend. As the two men get to know each other, he becomes more and more suspicious of the man who is always there with a helpful hand.

This movie has so many similarities to Nightmare as a remake. Dylan Walsh also had some big shoes to fill, stepping in for Terry O'Quinn (John Locke from Lost). Dylan Walsh was actually what I liked most about this film, other than Amber Heard walking around in a bikini like she usually does. McCormick faced the same troubles as Bayer is now with people not feeling that he is established as a director, with Bayer it is music videos, but for McCormick he has directed primary just TV episodes for his whole career, but I felt like this one really could have used some work. The pacing on this film are atrocious. I was getting so bored because the movie was moving so slow! The parts that were tense were done very well, and Walsh actually did an amazing job as the stepfather. He was really creep, and that's for sure.

Just like Nightmare, the original will always be better, but its always nice to see someones take to the same story. I won't be buying this one on DVD, unless its super cheap, but I do think it is worth at least one viewing. All David wants is to be loved.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 America's Most Wanted
Cinematic Value: 5/10 America's Most Wanted

So the final results are in, and The Nightmare on Elm Street remake blows The Stepfather Remake out of the water. The Stepfather had some good things going for it, but it just doesn't match up with Nightmare, and some might say this round might have been a bit unfair, but this was more or less a test run.

If anyone has any suggestions for a round of Rumble of the Remakes, please please please let me know, and I will definitely make them face head to head. I hope you all enjoy the new feature. Might as well do something with all these remakes coming out!