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Monday, March 26, 2012

Absentia (2011) Horror Monster

Absentia (2011) - This character driven film is less a horror film than a meditation on grief and closure. Sure at the end it is a horror flick in that just when the main character Tricia (Courtney Bell) starts to move on her past life comes stumbling back to haunt her. Early in the film it Tricia with the company of her little sister Callie (Katie Parker) works toward filing papers to have her husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) declared dead by absentia as he has been missing for 7 years. These actions bring up very difficult feelings for the pregnant Tricia. Pregnant?, you say. Yes it appears our miss Trish has already started moving on. Her love interest and father of her child is Det. Mallory (Dave Levine) who has been working the case for several years. It is part of a well put together set of characters who are not perfect and it plays well in the film. Each has a set of issues that are honest, Tricia having hallucinations of her lost husband as she prepares to seek the death certificate. Mallory who has the awkward professional / personal relationship with her. Callie who is there to help her sister but is struggling to deal with a drug addiction.
Callie I guess is a protagonist in she has some strange experiences in a tunnel that runs from the neighborhood to a park on the other side. Early on she encounters a strange man in the tunnel who wants her to help him. Looking like a vagrant she is slow to react but her heart is bigger than that and she brings him food in exchange for some trinkets. She is warned by a local passer by that she should not trade with "it". Ominous, but not the only strange thing that is going on in the area. There have been a bunch of strange break-ins where the person doing it leaves obvious things of value for trinkets. Strange also are the pets in the neighborhood disappearing at an alarming rate. This all sets up a nice dynamic of having mystery while these full characters struggle with there inner demons.
When the turn comes it is sort of expected but still enjoyable. Things are thrown for a loop and all bets are off for these people. Then the film moves from character driven drama to solid enough horror flick. Unfortunately the explanation comes in a trope that may be overused in Hollywood. Callie searches the internet and then there is suddenly so much clarity for her. Tricia plays the skeptic to make sure we the audience are forced to be convinced. There is a history in this area of people vanishing and Callie "traded with it". Still she has only missing persons information. How is it that police have worked these cases for years without ever seeing the patterns that Callie sees. Is it that in her drug addled mind she is making connections that aren't there? All this combines for a bit of a monster movie without really ever seeing the monster. The film makers did do a nice job creating the idea of the monster, shot for very little money they worked movie magic with glimpses and shadow and things moving behind curtains.
The second turn in the film does the opposite of what we would want in a script. Instead of building off the first turn we get a bit of excitement and then a return to the quiet drama of the first half of the film. The music is not dynamic enough with a very one note tone that never lets tension build but instead holds it at a low level. When the climax begins in what should be pulse racing thrills instead we get a muted flashback of what Callie saw happening in the house. Oh and there is this stupid thing where on two occasions characters are asked to file missing person reports. In both cases it is common knowledge that it is way too soon to do so; so each case is off putting. The climax is also less than fulfilling with a confrontation that is never seen. A trade that is never seen and closure that never comes. You are left guessing if her ploy works or not.
This film is a testament to what can be done with limited resources it is not brilliant but it is decent. So kudos for Mike Flanagan for using Kickstarter to get his project done, and to his friends the actors who pulled off honest portrayals. I can recommend this film as one I liked but wished for more. More? well from the pacing and the music and if ever they could have had more money, and more of the monster.
Rating (5.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some are just more recommended than others.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spaced Out (1981) Sci-Fi Sex Comedy

Spaced Out (1981) - I have reviewed so many very serious horror movies lately that this surprise from my Netflix queue was welcomed. Believe me when I tell you that it would be hardly welcomed any other time. I don't even remember adding it to Netflix, but it arrived and ended up being a decent, if ridiculous break from the heavy stuff I have been watching. I think I may have been adding movies from director Norman J. Warren who has a slew of sci-fi horror entries that could get reviewed on this blog and the one that was Bloody New Year (1987). Originally titled "Outer Touch" it is about three aliens who are awful at running their ship, who have to land on Earth. In doing so they take onto the ship four Brits and then go back into space. Not being the smartest aliens in the galaxy, they do not understand the concept of men or their function in procreation. It is intended to be a hilarious learning experience, but isn't really.
The Earthlings include the couple arguing, Oliver (Barry Stokes) and Prudence (Lynne Ross) because she won't put out, a horny young teen, Willy (Tony Maiden) who is in the park masturbating to porn magazines, and an older guy, Cliff (Michael Rowlatt) nosing into the couples affairs. They are all in the park when the spaceship lands and what else is there to do but go aboard. This first image is how our boy Cliff imagines Prudence as he watches through the bushes. What ever happened to his dog?
Then comes the humor as the three aliens observe men for the fist time. All the while the ships computer voice keeps telling them about different components that are failing and how he needs an overhaul. Yes I said he, apparently voices that sound like men are not uncommon with the aliens although they have never seen a man. The Captain is a cigar smoking leather clad warrior who is just called Skipper (Kate Ferguson). She thinks that there is something to be gained through hand to hand combat with the males and ends up in a silly but amusing duel with the very drunk Willy. He shambles around in a slapstick farce evading her attacks while accidentally knocking her on her ass. Leaving her rather agitated and perplexed.
Willy probably the primary character of the humans manages to sleep with each alien. Considering that coming in he was a virgin its good news for him. The mechanic Partha (Ava Cadell) is the first to encounter him as she examines his body and they have what is suppose to be a funny conversation about penis' and what they are used for. Early on though she is interrupted before they can get too far so it has to wait til later. He does seal the deal with the ship scientist Cosia (Glory Annen) who has her bit measuring him and because of the ships malfunctions is told he is a super special specimen and thus has to experiment with him.
Partha pulls the older guy Cliff in for a roll in the hay, and likes it so much she wants it over and over again, the big joke being Cliff says no mas after eight times. Partha exceptional looks shine though in these love making scenes but note this is not pornographic. There is a bit of breast and bum but pretty much this is silly and tame. At least the alien women are beautiful to look at and Partha in particular showed her assets.
Prudence and Oliver go through the full gambit with their relationship during this little space flight. In the beginning she insists they wait until they marry for sex. She said he can do it all the least on Saturday nights. Of course she is jealous of the very attractive alien women that her man is now noticing. They fight and break off their engagement. He is a bit of a dweeb when it comes to her. In the hospitality room he meets a being from another planet, Wurlitzer who just happens to be a jukebox. When you feed coins into him he is a therapist by trade and helps Oliver to get through to his woman. They finally do it on the spaceship and their relationship is better for it. Quite the useless storyline.
When all is said and done the humans are dropped back off on earth, except Willy who stays to have sex with the three aliens. There lives have been changed and they have had quite the adventure. The ship heads back into space and while Willy bangs Skipper, Cosia gets her chance to drive the ship. The computer complains and then there is one final surprise. It was a really silly film with some poor acting and silly jokes more for the 13 yr old boy than anyone else. Not many of the actors really went on to do too much more of note. Not that this is something of note.
Ava Cadell has gone on to act in bit parts in movies like Smokey and the Bandit 3, and Commando but her real news was after acting. She became a Doctor in sexual studies She now counsels and lectures on relationships and sex. She can be found at
Rating (2.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some are just more recommended than others.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Dead (2010) Horror Zombie

The Dead (2010) - It has been a long time since someone made a zombie movie where the zombies were a relentless shuffling presence, we have been so inundated with fast moving infected that we have forgotten the dread of the shuffling dead. This film for me was a real throwback, paced almost like a 1970's film it was determined to remind us that slow zombies are terrifying. It has a relentless dread that makes it a winner in my book. Modern audiences and their fickle need for action every three and a half minutes may not be as enthusiastic but for this product of the 70s it is refreshing. Written and directed by the brothers Jonathan Ford, and Howard J Ford it is simple and honest in the reality they created. The film starts with the main character who has not been introduced yet dealing with some slow moving zombies in the desert. It is clear at this point he is skilled in not wasting his ammunition as he dispatches them. We will return to this present Brian Murphy later but first we see his story.
Rob Freeman is Lt. Brian Murphy, an air force engineer who is on the last plane out of Africa and in the plane we learn that the dead are turning into zombies who want to chew the flesh of the living, as a dying man reanimates on the plane. The crisis on the ground meant that this plane full of the last aide workers there just took off even before the plane was ready. It is barely in the air and in fact will shortly crash leaving Murphy as the sole survivor. Struggling to the shore after the plane hits the ocean Murphy can see the dead slowly coming for him from all direction, the injured soldier on the beach next to him will give him enough time to gather weapons and some clothes before he must start moving to keep from being surrounded. We see the crisis is no longer a struggle that is going to be won. The country is overrun by the dead and there will be no real safe haven. It is now all about survival and the only way it seem to do that is to keep moving and supplied with enough bullets for when the dead get too close.
The scenery is really amazing in this film, the African plains, dusty reed filled fields and vast vistas but that being said it reveals a real problem too. In this vast area it seem there are a terrifyingly large number of zombies wandering around. In fact everywhere that Murphy goes there are so many zombies slowly shuffling without rest towards him he really only gets a minute or two of reprieve before moving on. You would think in such a large continent that there would be lots of places where there are no zombies. It seems though every time Murphy slows down there are too many to handle. Certainly there seems to be an innate ability for the zombies to find the living, they seem drawn towards them even from great distances. You have to wonder though what the range of the living beings radar is? Everyday everyone is just shuffling, but would a good amount of them just shuffle on out away from what was civilization?
Don't get me wrong, the tension the zombie prescience for the living adds is great but it just seems a bit unrealistic.
There is another more awkward problem with this film. Giving the film makers the benefit of the doubt, they set the film in Africa, a location that does not get a lot of attention in movies. They unfortunately created a white, blue eyed lead character who wanders around the entire film shooting black Africans in the head. The perceptions of this will certainly create a lot of conversation. We could have had the lead be the soldier that Murphy comes across and works with for a good part of the movie. Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia) is a strong solid character who when he shoots his own countrymen does not do so with the same Colonial occupation history as a white man. Granted Murphy in the film is an American but the English film production makes for a bit of bad mojo in this instance. It is impossible not to have Murphy kill Africans in this particular movie situation, the continent has a 99% black population so by following this characters story it is the only way things can turn out. I just wonder whether this was a foreseen issue or something the film makers did not even think about. It is not a racist movie, we have two characters one white and won black who travel together and help each other for a good part of the film. They are equals, the living, and there is no mention of race. In fact the scenes of villages and the people from these place I think is a really honest representation of some places in Africa.
When Murphy and Dembele get together with a shared purpose if you were paying attention to the beginning of the film, you know that eventually Murphy is alone again. You may also have noticed he is carrying Dembele's gun so you can guess that this is not the soldier's story. He had returned to his village, deserting his roadblock assignment to find his wife and son. His wife dead and his son missing he guesses that the survivors would have travelled north a couple hundred miles to a military base. This is where he is heading when he meets Murphy. There is a nice parallel between the two as Murphy also has a family he wants to get back to. Isn't that really where we all want to be if the end comes, with our loved ones. On their journey together they meet former soldier all defending their own village from the zombies and it is clear in those conversations that it is better to die defending your home than out in the desert fleeing for life. It really is a theme that is present, a way to have hope that there can be an ending that is not determined by fear. Dembele wears a necklace with a carved symbol that stands for hope and after his demise Murphy carries it on himself as he completes the journey to the military base for his fallen comrade.
This movie with this bit of hope really is quite bleak. The end for the living is never pleasant, a hurt leg or lack of water can slow you down just enough that you no longer can out run the dead. Soon you are having your flesh bitten from your body, dying in agony. The zombies with their white contact eyes that don't blink just keep coming. The are scary but not in a "Oh My Gross" way but more the building fear that comes from the inevitable slip the living person will make. There are few places to rest and even fewer to sleep. Where they seem to sense the living it is impossible to avoid being found by any zombies that get in range. Exhaustion or waking just a bit too slowly and your doom is sealed. It is a really frightening way to try to survive. The attack scene are a good gruesome collection as the zombies bit in chew flesh or the bodies and parts are seen laying around an attacked area. The CGI of the kill shots is less impressive but seem to be the way films are going with gunshots.
Unimpressive also was the way too fast and seemingly impossible fight at the wall of the military base. Murphy by himself has to kill enough zombies to get up over the wall before being grabbed. The scene is quick cuts and reaction inside of people hearing him fight. I thought is all a bit too fast and easy, even a bit impossible. Still for the story's sake he needed to get in, unfortunately it is right at the final moments of the walls holding. The incredibly hopeless ending can't be saved by the small personal moments just before the end. Even some of those are strange, Murphy walking through the crowds of survivors, being touched by them like he is the second coming, then unwrapping his head and revealing his white face. There is a hope there that the film then tries to build on only to kick us in the balls all over again. Murphy fixes the broken radio and actually contacts someone he knows at an American base. He again gets them at the worst possible moment, the base is about to be over run and his friend is there to tell him his family is probably dead and there is no safe place for the living to go. WOW! really did that huh!
Now I don't mind the downer ending and you know he finds Dembele's son but to end talking about hope as your death approaches I don't know about that. So in all I really liked this film. The kind of zombie film it is really falls in my sweet zone. Sure there are problems but I don't think any intentional malice or callousness. I would definitely recommend this film to those who choose the slower paced scare over the action scare.
Rating (5.9) 5.0 and up are recommended films, some just more recommended than others.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dream Home (2010) - Horror

Dream Home (2010) - "Wai dor lei ah yut ho" original title, from Hong Kong this film is a surprising gory and brutal story that has enough back story to make it all seem reasonable, in a crazy kind of way. Cheng Li-sheung (Josie Ho) lives in Hong Kong and dreams of the apartment with a view of the ocean. She works two jobs and puts aside as much money as possible for that Dream Home. Skipping the fun her friends and coworkers enjoy instead focusing on her goal of saving money. If there is a drawback to this film it is that she is not a fully rounded person in the world. She has few friends and her sexual life consists of liaisons with a married man. She has a brother but really her world is compact. She strive alone to gain a goal and is single minded about it.
There is good reason for this as we see in the flashbacks to her childhood. Cheng Li sheung had a tough childhood. One where the people in her parents and neighbors were fighting to keep their housing in the face of redevelopment pressure. Touching on Hong Kong's growth problems the film highlights the struggle of the poor in a fight for affordable housing. The tactics used by the developers include locking people in buildings and releasing poisonous snakes in the building. These kind of incidents influenced or lead character. The friendship she had with the boy across the street who later vanishes as his building was empties and demolished impacted her greatly. This is the foundation of her drive for the perfect home. Cheng Li-sheung is a character shown to have a deep personal motivation. It is good writing by Ho-Cheng Pang who also directed, in his solid screenplay and story. Not only does he create a forceful character but there are some intesting secondary characters who she comes into contact with. He wrote in societal subtext about housing in Hong Kong without hitting you over the head with it and allowed it to be the prime motivation in the leads personality.
A second commentary on Chinese society in Hong Kong is the absent husband. Through her relationship with a married man and other characters conversations in the film. We see the issue of how husbands must work hard but then also how they keep mistresses and really secondary lives outside the home. It is a small thing in the film but it is seen throughout.
She has a choice to make when her father (Norman Chu) becomes ill and needs expensive treatment. Caring for him at home she shows her character as he struggles to hold onto life. Later we see her again when her dream is threatened step up and make the hard choices to get that apartment. With the price still out of reach and the sellers questioning if they should be asking for more, Cheng Li-sheung puts a strategy in motion to bring the price down. It is shocking and well executed movie making, brutal and gory the film almost descends into a slasher.
Driven with a need Cheng Li-sheung goes about entering the apartment building she so desires and working her way through several apartments killing the residents. I liked that this was not portrayed like a slasher film would do it. The kills are not easy or comic book quick. They are intense, gory and a struggle for the main character. She is not a killer but she really has thought out how to do it. She persists through the things that go wrong that night and manages in the end to get out of it in one piece. It is again a fine piece of writing to get the audience to cheer for the killer. She is butchering innocent people and yet we are on her side.
Some of the kills are a sight to be seen but be warned if you have a weak stomach for gore you will not be pleased. After the killings in the building she has quite a negotiation tool in talking down the price and very soon has her Dream Home. The ironic timing considering what she did to get the place is a final twist that I found just a bit too cute. Overall though this was a fine film with a deep enough back story to make it all make sense.
Rating (5.9) 5.0 and up are recommended in the zombiegrrlz system, I say RENT IT!

Friday, March 9, 2012

La Casa Muda (2010) Horror Psychological

La Casa Muda (2010) - QUICK HIT!! With the English language version of this film coming out this week I thought it was appropriate to review the original before seeing the new version. Translated to "The Silent House" it is a unique flick with a couple of different features not seen all the time. The film making novelty is that it looks like one long take, so you follow the characters around without leaving real time. I remember hearing about this in reading some blog here or there but can remember if it is actually one long shot or it is edited to look like one long shot. There are certainly places in the film where cuts could have been made without breaking the appearance of being in real time. The second feature to note is the skill the writer Oscar Estevez and director/cowriter Gustavo Hernandez have at keeping the story compelling throughout and playing with the reality of what we appear to be seeing in real time.
In the early scenes I was wondering about how they were going to keep the tension but really from the time Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) heads upstairs to investigate the noise his daughter Laura (Florencia Colucci) hears, the film is compelling. Using limited lighting, strong noises and the excellent reactions of Colucci the film is quite tense. You think she is a young woman maybe in her teens. When she hears a scream and a thump as she waits for her father her terror seems really genuine. We get to live her reality as she moves around the house investigating. Her physical portrayal is excellent, holding on to the light so scared she is barely able to hold it up to see in front of her. She is compelling from the start and carries the film forward. It is her first movie credit but she pulls it off like a pro.
The way it seems that the perpetrator(s) are messing with her it seems the idea is to terrify her. She leaves the living room hears a noise behind her, as she investigates that more noises upstairs. Needing the key she investigates only to then hear noise downstairs. She find her bound and unconscious father downstairs and realizes her does not have the key to the door. He must have dropped it upstairs. I won't go through the sequence but it was heartening the way the film kept my attention. I thought I figured the film out early, and in fact to an extent did but the way the story unfolded I totally for got this conclusion by the time the reveal of the plot came. I say nicely done to "La Casa Muda" for that. Seeming to set up a ghost story but flipping the switch was an excellent distraction.
Laura finally does get out of the house she runs and reaches the road. There is this vision of the ghost girl, (Maria Salazar) we have seen throughout and it really is a clue to what is going on. Still though when the owner of the house Nestor (Abel Tripaldi) arrives she is an emotional wreck. He insists in going into the house and checking things out and again we are distracted by the idea that it is just intruders. The fact that we end up back in the house and the scenes with Nestor and Laura are excellent, the flashing of the camera flash as a way of seeing in the dark is very effective scare tactic. The story climaxes as we learn more in this sequence about what we thought the reality of the film is. I liked the way the single shot effect of the film reality interacted. I don't want to give anything away so let me stop there.
I have to say when the turn came and it is a rather disturbing turn I was glad I did not have all the answers. Laura's reality was not what we thought and the unusual reasons for this this were surprising. Well written and executed, it is not the best film but it is a very nice horror film for a quiet night at home. I hope the remake is equally as good.
Rating (5.5) 5.0 and up are recommended Rent It!

Alien Resurrection (1997) Horror Alien

Alien Resurrection (1997) - Getting to the forth film of the series after the very disappointing third entry at the time of release I remember thinking that they should have let the series rest. I mean Ripley died at the end of the film you can't get more over than that. These films were never really sequels in the now commonly accepted sense with a new film every year or two. Alien in 1979 was not followed up until 1986, then the third film another six years later and this final story not until 1997. That is a lot of time between films and it means an awful lot of movie executives had a chance to get input into the series. It was a contributing factor into the demise of the third film.
Alien: Resurrection is just that, the studio resurrecting there golden goose one more time in hopes of getting one more gold egg from it. They did so with open pocket books too. The film cost 70 million dollars to make and had an impressive cast. Of course Sigourney Weaver was back reprising her role as Ripley although a clone this time. Winona Ryder prior to her shoplifting trouble and after she had just done some reasonably successful period films. Bringing in quirky French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet who was coming off a couple fine films, Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995) meant you also got some of his favorite actor for this film.

Ron Perlman before he hit is big as the Red Demon in the Hellboy films and the rubber faced Dominique Pinon brought some decent acting chops to the cast. Unfortunately many of the fans that had made the first two films so popular had moved on. Not that the film did not make
money, according to imdb it has earned $161 million worldwide, but had a disappointing opening weekend of just $25 million on Thanksgiving weekend. If this sounds familiar it is a continuation of the adequate but diminishing returns for the series.
The script written by a young Joss Whedon is decent but with some serious logic and dialog problems I am sure to pick at in this review. Whedon a year into his fine television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996-2003) is a skilled writer and Alien: Ressurection is a decent enough story. Dealing with the problem that Ripley killed herself in the third installment the first problem was to figure out what to do to get the lead back. The solution was to make her a clone from blood samples taken on the prison planet of Alien 3.
This worked in two ways, it got Ripley back and because at the time of the blood sample she was infected with an alien, there was both alien and human blood in the sample. So the scientist in this film get what they really want, a chance to grow n Alien. Considering that it is 200 years later we have to assume that the technology exists to do all this, which seems a bit of a stretch since there are very few visual signs that technology has advanced at all.Getting into this particular piece of illogical science, lets ask a question. Give the writer that the clones can be made from the blood, that pretty weak but not worth fretting about. How is a foreign body (an alien chest burster) included in the genetic make up of the blood? What we know about the aliens so far does not lead us to believe that they become part of the hosts bodies. It is pretty well established the host is infected with this parasite that grows and feeds off the body before bursting out. So there would be no alien genetic material in Ripley's blood and thus there would be no alien in the grown clone. We are asked instead to swallow the idea that the two together allows the scientist to grow multiple Ripley's until she is grown with a perfect alien chest burster in her chest. This does seem like quite a leap of faith to take.So they have the Alien that was in the Ripley clone and it just happens to be a queen. So it will of course do what it does and lay eggs. Here is where the story gets interesting. Where the hell do the military black ops running this little experiment get the hosts for the eggs to latch onto? One would think that maybe a couple dozen sheep would do the trick. That assumes a plot that does not bring the crew of the privateer ship the Betty into the film. This is not that plot so instead the crew of the Betty arrives with a cargo of humans in hyper sleep.
So cruel and uncalled for but there you have it. All they want in return is a couple days on the larger ship to stretch their legs and some spare parts for the aging ship.
Oh yeah and a large stack of money courtesy of General Perez (Dan Hedaya). It was with amusement that I watched him make the scotch he and Captain of the Betty, Frank Elgyn (Michael Wincott) shared. He takes the hard cubes from the individually wrapped shot package, dumps it in a glass and then puts it under a laser and poof, a shot of scotch. You would think in 200 years they could have come up with a more efficient way to transport and contain Scotch? Oh wait there is its called a bottle of Scotch.
Of all the things to dazzle us with future technology this is the dumb thing we get to see, it left me giggling at the absurdity. While we are on the absurd what about the idea put forth through this film that the Ripley clone has memories of the Aliens and the experiences the original Ripley had. The one line excuse is they were genetically passed down. Of course that explains the memories I have from my father of bar fights and fucking my mother. That let me tell you can really screw a kid up. The rest of the crew Vriess (Dominique Pinon) the wheelchir bound mechanic, Thug Johner (Ron Perlman), Crew Christie (Gary Dourdan), Sabra(Kim Flowers) and Annalee Call (Winona Ryder) round out the ragtag group. Call is secretly trying to find out what is going on out at this distant corner of the galaxy for some concerned group or another. She really does get the crew in a bit of trouble with her nosing around but to her credit the twist for her character makes it so most of the survivors of the shit hitting the fan, get a valid chance at surviving the aliens.
The real problem character is the one written for the really good actor Ron Perlman, Johner is like the hard to control tough guy who makes wise cracks. I guess after the last film, which was exceptionally serious and dark the producers wanted to lighten things up. The problem is there is not a lot of room for humor when everyone is dying all around you. So the attempts are clunky and do not feel organic at all. There is of course the line seen in all the trailers where he is walking next to Ripley and blurts out. "So Ripley I heard you came up against these these things before. What did you do?" She smiles and says "I died." Then the horrible out of place piece at the end of the movie stands out. When the ship is heading into Earth's atmosphere and Vriess is screaming as they plummet, Johner says "Whats's burning." and Vriess replies "Us." Johner looks over at the shaky cam and says "Shit you'ere right" and he starts screaming too. This is so fucking ridiculous.
There are also some real logic flaws in the alien program. The military seems to be wanting to create trained puppy out of the aliens and in order to do it they first get the Queen from Ripley.
Then use the acquired sleeping humans as host to get no less than a dozen aliens. Each has its own room and the scientists observe them through a very strong viewing glass. Then without any explanation they put three of the aliens into the same chamber. Really it is just a plot device to give the aliens a way to escape. Duh, they have acid blood for fucks sake. You don't think they are smart enough to use that fact? It is all just too convenient, and then on top of it through the voice of the ships computer we hear the aliens releasing more aliens from cages.
A real wtf moment in that doors used to be pretty effective at stopping them but now they are capable of problem solving above anything previously thought. I think the idea is supposed to be that 200 years of research into gaining specimens of this species and the scientists just totally underestimate the intelligence of them. Shame this is just not acceptable to anyone who values this franchise. So after the aliens break out and the shit is flying off the whirring fan the crew of the Betty start out to get back to their ship and off this death trap. A few other people are included Dr Wren, the double crossing sadist bastard, Distephano a soldier on the ship, Ripley of course, Larry Purvis a poor sleepy found huddled in room.
As they make there way towards the ship they hear the aliens have cut them off and they have to now go down under their current passage and back up the other side. Only thing is these new super intelligent aliens have planned for the survivors to go this route and have flooded the lower chamber of the ship. So in a reenactment of the Poseidon Adventure with the lovely Kim Flowers playing the role played by Shelly Winters and the aliens substituting for a heart attack. The group takes a really long swim under water so we can see some really cool special effect. We learn in this sequence that not only are the aliens in this film smarter than the average bear but they can dodge bullets. We also learn that bullets traveling through water in space travel at a significantly slower pace than in real world physics.
I have to say this is not the end of the strangeness of this film. On top of the entire escape story is the Alien birth piece.
Absolutely the most bizarre scenes with Ripley falling onto the alien love orgy and then later the birth scene where the queen has a baby instead of laying an egg. The whole time we get this silly play by play from the cocooned Dr Gediman (overacted by Brad Dourif) with such horrible lines like. "You are a beautiful, beautiful butterfly." I was so happy when the newborn bit his head off. As much as I want to like this movie and really have nothing against telling you all to watch it. I have to say I think there are way too many problems to make this a good film. So know what you are getting into and understand there is no Alien 5 for a reason. That reason being these last to movies really killed the franchise.
Rating (5.0) barely 5.0 and up are recommended

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Phase 7 (2011) Apocalypse Thriller

Phase 7 (2011) - QUICK HIT! This Argentinean thriller about the end of the world as we know it was a pleasant surprise for a quick view one weekday night. The title refers to the plan of the wealthy elite of the world to reduce the number of people on the planet by 90 percent by introducing a virus to kill most of us off. Protected themselves with an antidote they with their wealth and armies can rule as they want without all this nasty voting and democracy. Sound outlandish? Well its not going to sound so crazy when we start dropping like flies. You wait and see it will be utter chaos!
The film takes a look at one apartment building that is quarantined early in the epidemic and pretty much stays there exploring the reactions and strategies of the residents as the crisis escalates for a long period of time. The primary characters are Coco (Daniel Hendler), his pregnant wife Pipi (Jazmin Stuart), survivalist conspiracy theory neighbor Horacio (Yayo Guridi) and Older former hunter, neighbor Zanutto (Federico Luppi). There are some other neighbors who are left a bit more undeveloped but do impact the plot.
The main focus of the first part of the film is to establish the crisis. Coco and Pipi just arrive home from doing a really big food shop and we see in their travels some signs that the world is getting a bit off. People rushing to the supermarket as they are leaving, a crashed car abandoned on the corner, people packing up and getting out of the city. They are oblivious as they talk about mundane things. It is only when they hear a bullhorn outside of the apartment that they learn that they have been quarantined inside their building and are prodded to turn on the news. The building is sealed in plastic and they learn that a international crisis is brewing with a virus that it fast moving and deadly, sweeping the world. They are told to stay in their apartment and avoid contact with other people. They do that and we see some quick cut scenes of them stemming off boredom as time passes.
The film picks up as the people in the building start running out of supplies. The film then shifts to Coco heading out and interacting or eaves dropping on neighbors as they plot and plan to take things from each other. His floor's other apartment belongs to Horacio who has heard of the Phase 7 conspiracy and has been preparing for year in case the event occurs. He tries to educate young Coco by giving him a video, but Coco is very nonchalant about it. He still doesn't get the coming survival of the fittest mentality that will sweep through the building. Slowly Horacio teaches him about the crisis and gives him some of the things he needs to survive. Horacio is a character, a paranoid who is proven right, he has everything you need for the situation. He has food stores, contamination suits, weapons and flash explosive he can rig on the stairways to stun and warn of intruders. He takes a liking to Coco and it is the best thing the naive young man could have happen.
As time passes some of the neighbors get desperate and try to take from others, Guglierini (Carlos Bermejo) and Lange (Abian Vainstein) with a young nephew make an attempt get older Zanutto to open his door. When he does we learn Zanutto is not a man to fuck with and the special effects are great. He is instead a man you should fear, he also knows how to survive this situation and for him it means eliminating those in the apartment building who could threaten you at some point. He sees that as meaning everyone and with his elephant rifle he starts the main thriller part of hunting down his neighbors. This is the main conflict of the story, with Horacio and Coco dealing with the very dangerous Zanutto. It is a good threat and a satifying plot line. The only thing this writer did not like is that each time Coco went out to deal with happenings in the building he left poor Pipi alone. The thing is he never (well at least not until the end) told her what was happening in the building. I get his motivation, she is very pregnant and he did not want her upset or worried. Still though the crisis was big enough and the killing had started so he should have told her what was what. Hell Zanutto could have come and killed her while he was roaming about the building and would have no idea anything was wrong.
Still in the end, and I purposely left out a lot of details so you will see this film, it was a satifying story. I like end of the world films and this one was entertaining enough to keep me engaged through out. Available on Netflix Streaming it is not a bad couple hours.
Rating (6.2) 5.0 and up are recommended. Stream it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Atrocious (2010) - Horror Found Footage

Atrocious (2010) - QUICK HIT! I just wanted to do a short review on this film. It is a found footage style film about a brother and sister filming there family visit to the country house their mother (Chus Pereiro) frequented in the past. She has not been there in many years and the family has mixed feelings about going there. To kill time and hopefully make it more interesting the two older kids, Christian (Cristian Valencia) and July (Clara Moraleda) spend their time filming the area, the hedge maze and about a local ghost legend in the area.
Now I have to say the amount of set up time where the kids are wandering around the maze with their cameras on and sort of point forward and down was pretty annoying. First off I think we can all let go of the idea that when filming anything we always leave the camera on. It implies that no one outside of Hollywood knows to plan a shot. Even when goofing at home with the video camera we often plan what we are going to do before turning it on, and certainly when wandering around a maze we would likely only shoot those features that are interesting. These guys leave the cameras running but they are often looking at the side of the hedge or the ground. Granted they are teenagers so you can expect a bit of that.
Early in the film the Father says a line that for me at least really gave the film away. Now I am not sure the average viewer will notice but I see way too many of these films to not. Things start to pick up about three quarters the way into the film, the father is called away on business and things get a bit crazy rather quickly. Unfortunately for the viewer that means a whole lot of running around with a shaky camera in night mode. It it trying to show the panic the teens are feeling but really just makes you want to shut the film off. The story ends up being incredibly sad for the family. There is a video played on an old television in the cellar in case you don't understand what happened that just clearly tells you. So apparently the film maker Ferando Barreda Luna did not feel it was clear enough and added this explanation. Finally we see the police footage of what at the end of the movie is a crime scene, just in case the audience still does not get it. It explains the happenings at the house from the outsiders point of view and all of it is more sad than scary. I wish it was better executed because there is some value in the film.
I am leaning towards not recommending this film, 5.0 means it is an adequate watch but unfortunately this is more hard to watch. Not because it is gross out disgusting but just because the found footage is so amateur it is hard to sit through. I had a general idea what was going to happen a third of the way through the film and the ending was not really surprising to me.
Rating (4.2) In the Zombiegrrlz system I would say SKIP IT!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Alien 3 (1992) Horror Alien

Alien 3 (1992) - After watching and reviewing the first two films of this series it is easy to understand why this film is so reviled by fans. Everything that was built in the first two films was destroyed in the first ten minutes of Alien 3. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt and Hicks get away in Aliens and are in hypersleep at the beginning of this film. Unfortunately we see that there is a face hugger on board with the sleeping survivors. We watch it crawl onto the sleep tubes as well as conveniently get acid blood on computers which will fail and eject the sleeping crew out in the escape pod. It is established in the first film when Kane got the hugger on hit helmet that they can melt through to get to the face so we at this point can speculate that either Newt, Hicks, or Ripley will be infected by this face hugger. The pod crash lands on Fiorina Fury 161, a prison planet that was once a mining facility. It is inhabited by a small contingent of about 25 men who all are murderers and rapists, lifers with no thoughts of ever rejoining society. Ripley is found by the doctor for the facility, Clemons (Charles Dance) and we quickly learn that neither Hicks or Newts survived the crash. After spending the entire second movie setting up the Mother / daughter relationship between Newt and Ripley, and then the relationship between Hicks and Ripley, it is a major blow to throw all of it away. Michael Biehn was pretty clear in the extra interviews that he was quite upset with not being included in this film. He thought it was possible that he and Ripley and Newt could be sort of a family unit in the third film but they did not even want him. They went in the prison direction and he was not part of it. Later he was approached for use of his face in some images and says he got paid more for the use of his image than he did for the entire Aliens movie. Carrie Henn (Newt) also thought it was a shame that the series moved away from the ideas set up by James Cameron in the second feature. She hoped to see the three characters all together back on earth in the third movie. Audiences had a similar reaction when this film came out in 1992 and it was also vehemently rejected by fans of the series.
Its not that the film did not make money, not only did it pull in 23 million dollars its first weekend but over its life it made an estimated 159 million. This on a budget of 63 million spent on what turns out to be a bit of a mess of a film. Several writers and directors were rotated in on the film while it was in development, then it started taking form under director Renny Harlin, who two years earlier had directed Die Hard 2. He was sure he did not want to copy Ridley Scott but the idea of setting it on the Alien planet was not flying with the multitude of executives on the project. The Monks in space idea was the primary theme they were going with and ultimately Harlin left the project. Part of the films production problem was that they set the release date prior to having their film making team up and running. So many people were spending money building sets and hiring actors without the script being complete. Towards the end of the effort 20th Century Fox brought in young director David Fincher to direct the script we see as the final product. At the time known primarily for directing Modonna videos, long before his fine work on films like, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he was untested but ended up doing an adequate job. I say this only because I know coming into the project so late he still managed to put together a cohesive film, not because I liked the movie. He did this with the main cinematographer getting ill and leaving the project before completion.
The story from where Ripley is found and the history of the series is trashed is she survived. She is on a planet with 25 male rapists and murderers and oh there is another alien that got off the crashed ship. It's facehugger got a oxen that the prisoners just happen to have and a nasty dog like alien bursts from it in record time. The primary tension in this film should be that there is a fucking alien on the planet and they need to kill it but that only comes later. The first structure put in place is one about a woman among these kind of men. They are a bit of a religious cult. Part of the original prison work colony they found God and took oaths of celibacy. When the planets mining production life span came to an end they asked to stay at the facility and serve out there life sentences in solitude and prayer. So with little contact with the outside world they did. Now with the greatest temptation of all, a 6'1" dark haired woman walking around unsupervised they are challenged in their commitment. Ripley for her part failed to listen to any of the multiple warnings she received about staying out of the main population. If not for enforcer and spiritual sheriff Dillon (Charles Dutton) she would have been severely abused by some of the inmates tempted into straying from the path. She is more interested in how she crashed on this planet. If there is one thing she learned by this time it is those damn aliens sure have a way of showing up. So flaunting her womanly wilds (not really in her prison garb she actually looks quite manly) she goes to the ship and sees the acid melt on the sleep chambers. This is tension point number two. Ripley wonders if she or Newt have been infected by face huggers, through dialog Hicks has been ruled out because his body was mashed in the crash. She also knows from the data recorder on the ship that the company is aware that an alien was on the pod. She knows they will be coming for it. The necessity to locate the alien is now in her mind. So in what is a touchingly gross scene she and Clemons visit Newt's body in the morgue and she insists on a autopsy. No alien there but that can only mean one thing and she then really needs to have an ultrasound on her own body. Weaver does a great job in the scene conveying the emotions of loss she feels for Newt. She has to mourn to move on and this is the place it happens coupled with the funeral of Newt and Hick's body we completely leave the old story behind and begin the new.
To his credit Fincher does a nice job along with editor Terry Rawlings on cutting the film so it weaves Ripley's story in with scenes of the men and their increasing encounters with the dog alien that is running about. We get a time limit with the expected arrival of the rescue team, which means the company wanting to collect Ripley and the creature inside her. There is also the tension of will the alien burst from her chest at any time now? It is a strange thing, there seemed to be a very fast birth with the ox but Ripley's seems quite content in her chest even though it has been there longer. Of course the gestation time was made a mute point in later movies where birth seemed almost instantaneous when the film needed a creature. Particularly Alien vs Predator (AVP) and AVP 2 where even the idea of a queen and the facehugger were discarded like they didn't matter. The alien starts killing prisoners and the story turns to how to deal with the creature. This is pretty standard stuff, with this man or that traveling the facility alone, hears a sound, investigates and dies. Ripley has to convince the group what they are up against which is of course emphasized by the alien showing up and killing someone. They come up with a plan to use left chemicals to create a fire that will force the creature into an airlock. The plan does not go as planned but it works anyway and they capture the creature.
Unfortunately for the viewer the film still has another twenty minutes and so a contrivance must be created to keep the story going. It takes the form of the crazier inmate Golic (Paul McGann) who decides he has to see the alien one more time and lets it free in the process of being killed. So now we have to have a final plan that when executed will kill the alien before the company arrives. You can guess that this plan although not perfect accomplishes its task right as the rescue ship arrives. It is dropped in a vat of molten lead and when it survives it is blown up by a cold water dousing. This though does not end the story, we established that Ripley has a little critter inside her and the company men are here. As she stands herself poised above the molten ore, Bishop II (Lance Henricksen in his cameo) tries to talk her off the edge. He is a face she can trust but trusting at this point is not something Ripley is willing to do. The final scene for her is a bit better than the theatrical release. Here in the Special Edition she falls back into the molten metal denying the company the alien prize. In the theatrical release as she falls the alien bursts from her chest and she grabs it pulling it with her. This was really over done and not needed, so I like this ending better.
This film was a big disappointment after seeing the first two. Although Fincher puts together a reasonable narrative it never quite gets its footing. So in the end the viewer is left feeling a bit betrayed by the third entry. A nice game to play before you watch it all the way through is after the prisoners are established try to get which one is the sole survivor in the film.
Rating (4.9) 5.0 and up are recommended. You might watch it but you won't be happy.