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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Final Girls (2015) Horror Slasher Comedy

The Final Girls (2015) - How does a really well made film like this make such a little splash? A PG-13 horror comedy with heart this film does a great job at not only giving us a comedy slasher but also having a really well rounded personal story for the lead character. Now I normally avoid the dreaded PG-13 but I had heard many good things about this movie so made the effort to get it. The story is unique and the jokes funny all the while giving us good characters to care about.
  The story is started by establishing the lead character Max  (Taissa Farmiga) and her mother Amanda Cartwright. Amanda (Malin Akerman) is a struggling actress we are introduced to as she feels to get a part at an audition. We get just enough to learn she was a star in an eighties slasher film Camp Bloodbath an obvious nod to Friday the 13th especially with the "Ch, Ch, Ch, Ha, Ha, Ha" sound that queued the killer was near. That movie was the highlight of a long but not particularly successful career for Amanda. She is having money troubles and really but is still grateful for the relationship with Max. We get just enough from these two to understand that they have a tough life but are in it together. The scene ends with the setup for the start of the adventure three years later.
  When we join the story three years later Max is still struggling with the loss of Amanda. We meet her friends and Vicki (Nina Dobrev), Gertie (Alia Skawkat), Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) and Chris (Alexander Ludwig) and the story is set up. There is a double feature of Camp Bloodbath, and Camp Bloodbath two. Duncan a huge fan of the movie has set this up and asks Max to come as a guest, the daughter of a movie's star. She reluctantly agrees to go it being the anniversary of her Mother's death. This is the setup so we get some good character introductions, from Duncan's fandom to Chris's crush on Max and so the group is in the theater and the movie begins. There is this rather Final destination cutting to show how suddenly the theater catches on fire while the movie is playing. The group of friends can't get to the emergency exits so instead make there way to the screen. As the slasher in the film slashes downward so does Max cutting the screen. As the group pushes through the screen the magic of the film takes place. The group wakes to find them selves out in a wooded area. It is the magic you have to accept to get through the rest of the  movie. Not long after the group reforms they realize that they are inside the Camp Bloodbath movie.
  The great thing about this film is it subverts expectations in all kind of unexpected way. It is not enough that our group of outsiders somehow get pulled into the film, but they also stay stuck in the same scene until they get to the location of the next. This pushes them along through the story. Then there is the ability to alter the film by interacting with the characters in it. Max can have some heartfelt moments talking to the character that her Mother plays Nancy while the group thinks they just have to wait things out. Then there is the knowledge that the characters who have sex in the film will be killed off by Billy Murphy the killer who looks an awful lot like Jason of Friday the 13th fame. So here is an opportunity to change the script? Can that be done? We don't have to wait long for the answer to that as our group hides out watching the first movie murder scene play out. Again we the audience get to see the rules of the film come to life when not only is interaction with the characters possible but the killer can harm our group members. It is a really no punches pulled scene that gets its rules exposition in while still having some consequence.
  Resigned to the fact that they have to survive this film they play along and join the plot waiting for final girl Paula (Chloe Bridges) to arrive. The idea that they can stick with her and survive is also subverted right away too. Even as they work on the different characters to get ready for the slasher film, mainly by trying to keep the characters from thinking about sex and by trying to figure out where some weapons are. Mixed in are short bits of the Max and Nancy connecting as we see the Max character built up, a character we can connect with and pull for. A well done building piece that sets us up for the next more important change to what the group think are the rules of this world. Played for comedy it should not be spoiled here. We have seen though that Max stops Nancy from having sex and getting killed so now the predictability of the script is out the window. Thinking that the reason things change is because Max intervened in Nancy scene makes this film more interesting. It was possible that they could have made it through the film if she had not but now the cat is out of the bag.
  So with the film completely fucked from the inside and the rules as they thought pulled from underneath them they try again trying to define them. Now that Max one of two virgins in the film and Nancy the other but because of the script not written well enough to take the role, we have a way forward.  So now it is time to get proactive and do a bit more of the really well space relational scenes. Moving half way through the second act we are priming for the third act where all the great fun will happen.
Loved this though.
Max and Nancy are talking about going into the real world together and we get to a quick exchange about what they can do there like go to college and drive a convertible, Nancy says "And go shopping at the Mall.
"People don't shop at malls anymore they shop online." replies Max
 "What's Online?"
" Nothing I made it up." says Max making me the viewer giggle. There is this thing happening where Max wants her Mother back so bad and is willing to take this character she played instead and at the same time recognizes that the character will never really do. She is limited by the writing in Camp Bloodbath and can never know all she needs to fill max's void. Really well done. as well done as some of the other characters in the Bloodbath film, particularly Kurt (Adam Devine) and Tina (Angela Trimbur) both have some funny bit and its a shame to see them die but hey this is a slasher film. Not to mention the black guy in the film Blake (Tony N. Thompson) who gets short shifted in the film just like it is the 1980's.
  Since all of you should see this film nothing more can be said here. The third act is fun and action filled and we get all the expected and some unexpected turns that make for a lot of fun. When all is said and done we have a very satisfying  with all the excitement you would expect in a horror film. Filled with horror tropes and some really great writing where the double meaning of  Max's dialog takes her character through the journey she inevitably has to travel is just marvelous. Letting go of Nancy and at the same time letting go of her Mother. When max is finally the final girl we get the final battle and the end credits where the film comes back out of the seriousness to have a bit more fun. The last twist at the end is also a good fit. In watching the extras on the Blu-ray the director talks about how the ending was changed a couple times after test audiences did not connect with what they had originally had. Overall this film was really enjoyable from the music to the fake 80's horror vibe to the comedy and the action. all the pieces come together to make a very enjoyable horror comedy. It's is also a well defined character plotting is heartfelt. so this film is definitely recommended.
    As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back.  This week actress Kate Braithwaite (Twitter link) followed back after the review I did on Little Deaths, Thanks Kate!  This film being current and with what I would call some rather popular actors I don't hold much hope for anyof them to even notice this review let alone follow back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment. I am now following over 120 people while the followers is only 16 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Little Deaths (2011) Horror Anthology

Little Deaths (2011) -  An anthology adding the themes of sex and death in a unique ways made for decent viewing. Made up of three separate stories this is a pretty well done exploration of the bizarre with cruelty, sex, unique relationships, strange science and death all swirling about soup that is strange tasting but satisfying all the same. Unconnected the stories could each stand as dark shorts but there is varying degrees of success to them. The writing interesting in different relationships between the characters that are not cookie cutter but instead complex made the film worth watching even if each story does not necessarily satisfy.
  The first tale "House and Home" is about a couple who have less than healthy sex habits. Wealthy and entitled they approach the world as a place to take what they desire without apology. Richard (Luke de Lacy) can't get sex from his wife Victoria (Suibhan Harrison) who is chill to his advances. She would rather pull him into a unique three way that he is very willing to enter into. Together they target homeless women, offering food and comfort to lure the women into their home. Richard does just that with young Sorrow (Holly Lucas) who takes the bath and meal reluctantly only convinced by the religious appearance of the couple. The meal starts with good food and wine and as Sorrow gets groggy we realized she has been drugged. She wakes bound nude to a bed a victim of a couple who say "We take what we want, we've earned it." Richard just does that raping the young woman while verbally abusing her. The Director/writing Sean Hogan shoots this scene in a blurred soft focus making Sorrows experience a surreal nightmare. She lays still without showing emotion as he does his crime. His wife Victoria dressed only in her underwear watches and they suggest that her kink comes later in the form of torture. As she says "No one gets hurt, much."
  The turn comes after the abuse when Richard is out of the room and Victoria gets to have a turn with Sorrow. There is an unexpected twist at this point in the story where the tables are turned and the couple is no longer in control of the situation. Then the story goes further when Richard flees and we learn that Sorrow is not by herself. The story where the bad couple gets their comeuppance is satisfying considering how unlikable they are built to be.
  The second story "Mutant Tool" by Andrew Parkinson is a strange and I mean STRANGE story of a woman with her own issues gets wrapped up with a group of researchers that have a unique product. Like in the first film Jen (Jodie Jameson) is a woman who has strange relationships, a boyfriend Frank (Daniel Brocklebank), who at one time had her turning tricks. It is alluded to that although not violent he is controlling and she has had violent boyfriends in the past. Now she sells drugs and turns tricks through an agency. She is trying to stay off drugs herself so this is probably not the profession to be in. It seems as we enter the story though she is getting desperate and looks to Dr. Reese (Brenden Gregory) for help. He has a unique program of pills that will help the drug addict kick the habit. It is the origin of these drugs that is unique  in this story. We see a few story lines, Jen and Frank and there living situation, Dr. Reese and his experiments with the drug he is creating, and then also two men who are in charge of caring for the source of that drug.
  All three stories are intertwined as Frank works for Reese's company acquiring black market livers to further the production of the drug. Jen takes the drugs and deals with the psychic side effects they have while trying to get through her less than enjoyable life. Reese and his cronies continue to explore the drug effects through Jen while at the same time trying to secure a steady supply of the excrement needed to create it. Jen is our protagonist though and the effects the drug is having on her is to enhance her connection to the mind not only of people that make physical contact with her, but with the source. The flashes she has allows her to see the secrets of those she comes in contact with, to feel the feeling they had or are having. Being involved with a murderous criminal in Frank or the very physically active job as prostitute do not bode well for Jen and her increasingly more vivid side effects while taking the drugs. This is a sad tale for her and the turn in this one is a bit telegraphed. What is good is the really visceral imagery of the mutant tool  and its working. Still there is no happy ending and the reasons for the drug are left somewhat unanswered.
  The final story "Bitch" by Simon Rumley is about a well written dominant / submissive relationship between a couple, Claire (Kate Braithwaite) overpowers her boyfriend Pete (Tom Sawyer) in their strange little relationship where he wears a dog mask and is scolded by her as a dog. This bit of role playing kink is marked by her selfish attitude often taking advantage of Pete's passive attitude. Still there is so much more to this relationship, Claire suffers from cynophobia and in the times where she is terrified beyond the rational we see Pete as someone who deeply cares for her. Tying this into her need to control him as a dog and his willingness to allow the role play is quite a fascinating setup. There relationship is complex and interesting and the basis for a story that ends with a cruel twist.
  Claire is very selfish in this relationship and uses her dominance over Pete callously. The story of how their relationship goes bad is founded in Claire. She is not satisfied having what this couple shares but instead has to continue to domineer to the point of truly hurting Pete. Choosing to seduce Pete's friend Al (Tommy Carey), although a threesome was proffered is the last straw the boyfriend. Seeing Claire riding his friend taking advantage of his need to be submissive is a pain that Pete can't handle. He concocts a revenge that is beyond cruel for Claire completely and cruelly connected to her greatest fear. Crossed lovers are the most viscous and Pete plays out his pan with precision. The strong character based setup in this really carries it through making it a nasty little bit worth seeing.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment. I am now following over 120 people while the followers is only 15 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Sins of Dracula (2014) Horror Comedy

The Sins of Dracula (2014) -  After actress Sarah Nicklin followed me on Twitter I decided that looking into her filmography might be interesting. So after asking her what her favorites were and ordering, The Disco Exorcist (2011), Nun of That (2008) and Exhumed (2011) from Amazon I pulled up amazon prime to see what I could see for free. Choosing the Sins of Dracula , the service thinks I will rate it 2.5 stars, or is that what other people rate it? It has 6.8 stars on IMDB but since the average rating seems to be a seven on that site I couldn't put too much faith in that. A horror comedy it starts with the horror making it seem that it might be a slasher. It starts classically enough with a actor coming to a theater for a call back only to be axed to death.
  Cut to Billy (Jamie Dufault), a religious young man who wants to expand beyond his choir singing so joins his girlfriend Shannon (Sarah Nicklin) at her local community theater group. What a group it is with an exaggerated cast of cliche misfits, NuWave (Jesse Dufault) a politically charged nonconformist, Traci (Samantha Acampora) the Dungeons and Dragons big glasses gamer nerd, Marty the awkwardly shy gay guy Scott (Johnny Sederquist), and Bandilli (Derek Laurendeau) the sometimes off his meds schizophrenic.  Shannon is the girl next store and Billy the sheltered Christian about to have his worldview expanded. Outcast joining together to learn from each other bring their unique abilities to make theater.
  The Director Lou Perdition (Steven O'Broin) arrive so over the top with his poser lead actress Kimberly (Elyssa Baldassarri) the pretty much you need to throw the idea that this film is taking itself seriously and think of it more as satire. The new show is something cutting edge and after a Jonestown Jubilee about the mass suicide at the James Jones compound. The overacting even when viewed as comedy is challenging to listen to. He is the antagonist though and antagonize he does.
  A Christian based yearn of about staying true to your beliefs and the consequences of failing, mixed with a sort of horror theme of raising Dracula (Michael Thurber) by covering his remains in sinful blood. There are certainly many bits that are amusing, like Billy spending a way too much thought in a monologue to convince himself that premarital sex is what God wants.  Still after setting up that Dracula has been raised and the moral personal choice Billy makes we have a third act goes even way further. With Dracula raised from the grave and turning many a theater geek into his vampire minions it is up to Shannon, Billy, Rev Johnson and this other exorcism priest.(that's a question why?) to deal with the vampire outbreak. We learn a minor character in Rev. Johnson (Carmine Capobianco) is a descendant of the Van Helsing family which comes out of no where abut makes possible the last joke of the movie.
  That other priest played by Jose Guns Alves did not make a lot of sense in the film, almost like the story needed an extra seven minutes so the director Richard Griffin and writer Michael Varrati  pulled it together at the last minute. Like an earlier nod to Salem's Lot this ode to The Exorcist (1973) played hard for comedy and probably done better other places like by Leslie Nielsen in Repossessed (1990) as well as in one with I think with James Woods as the Priest in Scary Movie 2 (2001) so probably could have been left out and does not have a meaningful context to the rest of the film.
  Overall there were a few amusing parts but this film suffers by having characters that are too cliche, although the Tracie character was very amusing in her monologues. Still it just felt like the film maybe changed a lot from its original draft with this and that added to from the second to third act. I don't know but although there are some funny bit I don't really think I will recommend this on. I do love the New England connection being a Dot Rat in my youth but there just wasn't quite enough funny or enough scary to get past the cliche.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment. This one is a a bit in reverse, Sarah Nicklin followed me on Twitter prompting me to start looking into what she has performed in. Thanks to her in proactively helping my little experiment along.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sorority Sister Slaughter (2007) Horror Slasher

Sorority Sister Slaughter (2007) - Wen the DVD which arrived from Netflix had the blue screen without any DVD into screen I know I was in some trouble. My mind immediately started thinking low res video film with the mostly amateur actors and shitty camera work was possible. Sure enough there were some really strange and disjointed camera shots during the title sequence. Shot in video, or a transfer from the film opens in black and white  in what is seemingly a minority sorority house in the fifties where dahlia is upset waiting for a call from her boy Billy, she is upset and obviously pregnant from how she is touching her abdomen in the bathroom. Her friends are trying to talk her out of the room and out to a party. Having been dumped by Billy she is at her wits end and this drives poor Dahlia (Tafne Ellington) to stick a knitting needle inside herself to try to end the unwanted pregnancy. Let's remember this was pre-abortion as a legal option and the statement her might just be 'Do we want to return to the days when girls ended up dying in the tub because of a lack of choice. The scene is compelling enough to keep viewing even if the production values are low.
  Director Susan Hippen forcing the connection between past and present but maybe does not have to. A scene where one of the modern day girls, Eve (Desiry Hall) finds Dahlia's ring in the bathroom where she died. Keeping that ring can not be a good thing in the context of a horror movie.  The lighting maybe from the transfer in this part of the film is too dark and it does not help that a lot of the scenes are lit by candlelight since the electricity has yet to be turned on in the house.
  Move forward in time to 2006 on Valentines Day, back at the sorority we have a candles and color lit scene of a young woman settling into a dream. Will this film end as just a dream all along? I have seen that before so the possibility is there. I believe we fade to a dream of all the young women arriving to that house from the fifties scene where they are about to take up residence. Cool house by the way. The Sorority house is a hit with the new arrivals but the music tells use that this is a horror movie.  Kappa Tau Omega is back in business in a beautiful house but is it haunted? There is some strange cuts at this point in the film where I think
  Effective music carries this part of the film where the girls are introduced and at the same time there are notable instances of a haunting. As much as I appreciate that so far all the characters are minorities and that there are some strong personalities in the story. It is bothersome that there are the cat-fighting mentality we see so much when young adult women are portrayed on screen. Chloe (Kira Modallo Sesay) who is president of the sorority has to establish her dominance not only by bullying her friend and roommate Isabel (Anica Barbosa) about the accompaniments of office but is a bit nasty to the other women around her, like Tessa who walks in at the wrong time and and tries to defend Isabel about her diet. Sure it builds Chloe as a self driven leader but also fulfills a cliche about women having to cut each other down to get ahead.
  The men connected to these women are shown as the classic and not complex hound dogs looking to get their dicks wet. They come around looking to sneak into the new building to get a bit of ass. There disrespect of  Chloe' homecoming sash and tiara as well as their homophobic comments definitely define them as the least desirable type of men.
 The woman are also somewhat catty with each other. We do get our ghost story and the girls are strong enough to not be scared by by the story. Chloe again comes through as a mean spirited character showing no sympathy for Dalia's tale. Some cliche scenes where the men are wandering around scaring each other and the women using a Ouija board to summon the spirit. Teasing Eve seems to be the in thing to do and it is probably not the most feminist approach to character that the writers could have taken. It serves it's purpose to separate her from the group though so again even if I don't like the choices there are reasons behind them.
 Smoking pot, drinking and hooking up become the game once the men are discovered, cut between those scenes and Eve in the tub. So there is an establishment between sex and death as is the most classic of horror tropes except in this case there is some female dominance in the sexual scenes (Isabel) and the kill of Tessa in the tub is short, too short to make it frightening. That quick editing of scenes, not allowing them to play out must have had its reasons but it is hard for the viewer to know them. way to make a bulimic vomit scene a bit scary but again they cut too soon, and only come back to it as a mechanism to show it is still going on for her.  Also sort are the kills not enough staying with the scene. Better is when Kip (Farley Jackson) and Roxy (Erika Ringer) get there death scenes after a game of strip one on one basketball but it is really the ghost they follow through with it. Short and sweet on the scary is the general rule but big on the music which continues to make the mood right.
  Like all well constructed horror movies the kills happen in isolation and the discovery of the bodies have to wait until the cast is whittled down to a few. This film is classically constructed horror and we even have Star (Amy Black) the artist in a trans creating art that shows the killer, the ghost of Dahlia reaching out to us.
Aside: Pizza dude was funny the spirit infested bong of death. A white character which was amusing in his pot head character.
So close to having a whole a black cast. Our dream girl Tessa (Terry Bookhart) from the beginning of the film and Chloe seem to be the only ones that have a chance to be the final girl.  The make it out of the house and into a vehicle and then there is this strange exchange to explain away that it is Isabel's car and how did Tessa get the keys. I really don't think the audience cares that it's not one of the survivors car. Of course in cliche form the car does not start and the ghost finds them. Tessa becomes the final girl that the ghost is following her and since she had the dream it is structurally sound. That said it really makes Chloe expendable so you can guess that now that they have run back into the haunted house that shit is going to go down for her.
  Clever Tessa does the smartest thing in the film by calling Billy Bart and tricking him into coming to the house. Will it be too late for her though? Can she talk to Dahlia and make a deal?  Billy Bart arrives the dog he is and makes really inappropriate comments to Tessa. The ghost gets a chance to reconcile the past and Tessa gets out of it. The final scene between Dahlia and Billy was pretty damn remarkable and unexpected. It really gives an ending to the very sad 1950's tale. Predictably this circular story predicted by the introduction of the dream sequence was a bit expected.
  Overall I have to say the film was alright, it has a really nice horror score and a story that is solid enough. The almost exclusively African American cast although a bit cartoonish, because of the horror structure not their race could have been better drawn better. The men were just pieces to be killed horny guys looking for ass. The women were stereotypes that showed little compassion or caring for each other. Still the story was really well structured with a bit of a slower pace which was good but with short cut editing that made it a bit scattered. The lighting was cheap candle light and color filters which is a mark of low budget horror, but the music was moody and for the most part pretty spot on.  Still a video transfer that was dark and hard to see is not good.The DVD presentation was poor with the blue screen and now title window or scene selection. I can't say that  hated this film but it has enough drawbacks to not make it a recommended film either. There are a tone of cliche horror elements that take away from the fact that it is a women writer / director and an all black cast, things you do not often find in horror and which the genre could use more of. So sort of a middle of the road approach to this one
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment. Now since the last post I have been followed back by @elskemccain who was in the Splatter Movie Thanks!  So Far though I have followed 75 people with only four following back, not a very good ratio. So lets see who I can get from this latest film in my little social media experiment.