Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Saturday Morning Massacre / Mystery" - - Remarkably Bad

*You'll notice this review does not have any pictures. This was for the sake of speed. This movie is terrible and if I can prevent one person from watching this, then this blog will have served it's purpose.*

Depending on who you ask, when you ask them, and if they even know what you are talking about, this movie is either called "Saturday Morning Massacre" or "Saturday Morning Mystery." The DVD itself reads "Saturday Morning Massacre" but the title card in the movie uses the "Mystery" variation. The Wikipedia page states that "Saturday Morning Massacre" was the original release title in 2012 but it has since been changed to "Saturday Morning Mystery." Which doesn't make since, unless the Redbox I rented this movie from is also a time machine.

I think the real "mystery" here is how long it will take to "massacre" four of the most irritating characters ever to grace a horror movie. Oh, sure, most horror movies have one total asshole character who keeps mucking things up for the others, only to be treated with the most gruesome death of all. That's almost a horror convention at the point.

But to have all four of your characters be face-punchingly annoying makes the movie a chore to sit through. They're supposed to be based on the cast of "Scooby-Doo," they even have a dog! Get it! A dog! And one guy is a druggie! Like Shaggy! Get it?! Get it?!

There's even a sequence with the dog chasing a kid and the gang is chasing their dog as they run from room to room down a hallway. Just like the old show! GET IT?!

This movie tries so hard to fit in so many "Scooby" gags I can't imagine what would be worse: Sitting next to the director as he elbows me in the side saying "Get it?! Isn't that clever?" or sitting in a dark theater with a crowd of hipsters clapping outrageously to this terrible film while trying not to spill their PBRs all over their ironic beards.

This movie sucked.

This movie sucked in a way few films suck. First off, like I already said but which bears repeating: the characters are awful. "Shaggy" (I'm not even going to bother looking up the characters' names)  keeps jumping out and scaring people. Then he says "Just kidding, folks!" and then he does it again. Is that really someone you would repeatedly invite to go into haunted house with?

The Velma character is the smug one. Daphne is the hippy dippy one who wants to "feel the house" whatever that means. It could mean something spiritual, but while she is saying it, she is literally running her hands up and down the walls of the house. At that point I didn't know she was high, but really at that point I didn't know anything about anyone. These characters were so underdeveloped that the entire drug sequence was hard to discern from their real personalities. Maybe Velma likes to walk around in circles when she's stressed? Maybe Fred always lays on top of dogs? We don't know because the movie 1) Assumes we watched Scooby Doo and 2) Assumes that since we watched Scooby Doo we would automatically be invested in his stock characters.

These cardboard cut-outs continue to do stupid stuff like breaking out of a room they just barricaded themselves into, continually running into a house after they just spent the last scene trying to escape, oh, and when a cop shows up, Shaggy needs to hide a bunch of hits of LSD.

So he hides them in a communal water jug.

Let's pause here for a second and ask: When is the last time you drank out of the same water jug as three other people? Not pour into a cup, I mean straight up lips-on-the-Thermos-I-drink-then-you-drink. I mean, some people might think that's unsanitary, well, let's ask the "Daphne" character her opinion after she gets done giving the "Fred" character a blow job. 

But see, the plot requires all the characters to be on acid and the only reason they would do that if they all drank out of the same water jug. It's those ridiculous choices that make this movie an utter failure.

Just like in "Scooby Doo," there is no such things as ghosts. But this house is really haunted! But it's not! Because at the last half hour we find out that all the spooky stuff they (and by extension, we) were seeing was cause by drugs! Whew! No ghosts!

Nope, just crazy inbred hillbillies.

Crazy inbred hillbillies who come out of nowhere even though the whole first part of the movie has shadows that disappear when played back on videotape. And a guy acting possessed (but that guy was the Shaggy asshole so "Just Kidding!"). But if it was ALL drugs then why did Fred basically see the plot of the movie when he stared at the creepy skull in the corner? Was the premonition not really supernatural but just a lot of lucky guesses?

While we're on the topic of the whole "no ghosts" thing: Our first introduction to the gang is them investigating a haunted house but finding out the ghost is fake but *gasp* they uncover a child porn ring! "This ain't your daddy's Scooby Doo!" the film seems to shout. Then the cops show up and they're like "You just blew our sting! We had all this evidence they were making child porn and now they'll be out of jail by lunch time!"

Seriously? Ugh, I mean I get the joke. In this world the "meddling kids" end up meddling with the law. But how much evidence do you need to gather when the cop himself says "We have video of them leading kids in." What type of cop says "Hmm those kids will probably be used for child porn but . . .let's bust them in a week or two. More kids means a better case!" Also, when the Scooby gang busts finds the kids they are locked in cages in a room full of video cameras. I doubt any one will be getting out by noon.

Just like the title, this movie couldn't decide what it was. Horror? Comedy? Horror/Comedy? Parody? Ironic Portrayal of 80's Icons? Love Letter to Cartoons? No matter what it tried to be, "Saturday Morning Massacre / Mystery" failed. It wasn't scary, it wasn't funny, and it's not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. It's a formulaic slasher film with bad characterization and a flimsy plot.

Unsurprisingly, this movie has got a lot of good reviews. "Ain't It Cool News" said it was one of the best movies they'd seen this year. If I was a more naïve lad I would assume that has to be either a typo or a flat out lie, but while watching this movie I could tell it would play well to the "Get it?!" hipster crowd. Trust me, avoid this movie, even if you are a hipster. The money you spend on this movie can buy you a nice t-shirt at a thrift store.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Trailer Time - - "Antiviral"

Now that I've finally reviewed my last Trailer Time feature "Assault On Wall Street" it's time for a new trailer. I'm going to have to walk a mile to rent this movie because the Redboxs near me never carry the good stuff. Hopefully it's worth the walk.

Just looking at that picture makes my teeth hurt.

"Assault On Wall Street" - - Talk Is Cheap, But So Is Ammunition

I'm going to start this review out with a link to "National Suicide Prevention Hotline's website."

That's not a joke like "Oh my God this movie is so bad you'll want to kill yourself." There is a really intense, sad, and realistic  suicide scene in "Assault On Wall Street." So if you're ever thinking about that, remember there is always someone out there to help you out.

Now on with the review.

Uwe Boll is known among genre film fans for making two of the worst movies that you'll ever come across. "House Of The Dead" and "Alone In The Dark" were both based on video games and they were both terrible for different reasons. "Alone In The Dark" was too boring. "House Of The Dead" was too . . . well, words cannot explain.

If you noticed there is no house in that trailer, you're not alone.

Anyways, Uwe Boll has a legion of haters who dog his every move, and a petition was started to get him to stop making movies. For a long time he was able to crank out film after film with (allegedly) huge tax breaks from the German government but those ended and he had to move on from films like "Bloodrayne," "In The Name Of The King," "BloodRayne 2," "Far Cry," and "Bloodrayne: The Third Reich." All of those are video games turned into movies and all of them are bad to mediocre.

But as a fan of bad cinema, I knew I had to watch anything Uwe Boll puts out. After all, this is the guy who hates critics so much he challenged them to a boxing match. So when I found out Boll directed a movie based on the Columbine shootings I knew it was going to be full of cheesy goodness.

Nope. I was wrong. His film "Heart of America" was actually good. Surprisingly good. Not just good by my low expectations based on his previous films, but it was a well-done character study about two out of place kids looking to take a little bit of that helplessness out of their lives. It's been 5 years since I've seen that movie and parts of it still stick out and I watch a lot of movies. I've forgotten I watched "Elysium" twice already and I just saw that a few weeks ago.

So in my mind, two Uwe Bolls existed (and yes, I'm getting to the review of "Assault On Wall Street" don't rush me!). There was the Uwe Boll who made some awful films and the Uwe Boll who made awesome films. Every so often a director might make a misstep in their career but with Boll it seemed like each leg was going in a different direction.

He actually made a good movie based on a video game, "Postal," which told the story of a dude who gets pushed around by society and decides to push back. It was crass and insane and very, very violent. And it worked. His movie "1968: Tunnel Rats" was about brotherhood and fear in a time of war. Trite? Sure, but it was well made. You felt claustrophobia kicking in even when they weren't crawling through dark tunnels peppered with traps.

And then he made "Rampage."

Insane, sick, perverse, violent "Rampage." As a film it offers no moral critique on gun control or mass shootings. It is as if we are a cameraman in a war zone and unable to interfere or interject in any way. It's brutality is what makes it work. And the ending is jaw dropping and I don't say that often regarding twists but it is.

As shocking as "Rampage" is, it is a film I enjoyed watching. I'm not sure I could do it a second time, but it is a great piece of "terror cinema." The book "The Collector" has been found in the possession of multiple serial killers of the years  and I'm sure "Rampage" has unfortunately inspired or may inspire in the future mass shootings. That aside, and that's a big aside, I recommend "Rampage."

NOW ON TO THE REVIEW which I'm sure you were all wondering if I would ever get to.

"Assault On Wall Street" is another take on Uwe Boll's version of the Angry White Male but this time the parts just don't add up. This movie does a lot of things right, but some key choices make this movie too didactic.

The movie is rife with speeches about how capitalism is evil and the working class gets crushed under the blocks of the pyramid. Which is fine. I think a lot of people feel that way. But this is brought up constantly throughout the film, to the point that even the main bad guy (a Wall Street hawk who makes his company screw the small investors) gives a speech about how he is such a bad guy and America was founded by bad guys and there is nothing any one can do about it.

He's saying that, by the way, as a gun is pointed at his head.

It would have been more powerful if in the end we didn't know who to side with because that is what is happening anyways. Some people love the system and some hate it but most don't really care. They want what they want and they either get it or they don't. But having it so black/white, the movies loses some of it's punch. To see the bad guy at the end actually defend capitalism the way someone on Wall Street would could make the viewer more torn over the hero's journey and add heft to the film.

There's also more than a few scenes of economic talk between somebody and our protagonist. And that may work when we believe our protagonist is capable of understanding anything that is being said.

"Give me your lunch money . . .and a second mortgage on my house."

There's a reason my little brother laughed out loud when I told him Mark Walhberg was playing a scientist in the next Transformers movie. Some people look like lunk heads. Dominic Purcell is a fine actor. He just looks like someone who would beat me up at a bar. It's discriminatory on my part but every time they cut back to him during a discussion he looked like he was listening to someone sing opera in sign language. He doesn't look like the "Everyman" he looks like the "EveryCaveman."

So we have long winded speeches to a character who looks like he can't spell APR. Why would I recommend this movie?

The descent from family man to mass murderer is done right.

Unlike "Alyce Kills," this movie has a slow steady drip of disasters. It's not one pivotal moment that affects the characters but weeks and months of constant crap that finally causes action. For someone to say "I think I'm going to murder someone" either takes a split second bad judgment call or planning. In "Assault On Wall Street" we see both happen and by the end it is a realistic conclusion to someone who had lost everything. It's not just that he has one bad stock investment. The brokerage house comes under investigation, he has mounting debt, his career as an armored car driver is in jeopardy because they are bonded. He borrows money, hires a lawyer to sue the brokerage which declares bankruptcy so now he has to hire a bankruptcy lawyer. It's just one thing after another.

I'd recommend this movie to people who can stomach both the speeches and the violence. It's also an interesting character study but I'm sure most people will rent it because they like the message: Wall Street Sucks. Those people will not be disappointed.

But to me, its a bit of a disappointment because my hopes were so high after "Rampage." So that's a good thing, Mr. Boll. I actually have high expectations now when I see your name on a film.

Keep making movies, buddy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Thale" - - Well, Uhm, OK

There are some movies that you just watch with an impassive expression and when it's over you shrug your shoulders and think, "Well, that was just OK."

I wish "Thale" was that good.

"Thale" is the "story" of two friends who work together cleaning up dead bodies. Damnit, I'm going to have to look their names up to write this review but I really don't want to put that much effort into but I know for sure one of the lead characters is named Elvis which is a little ridiculous. This film is from Norway and maybe it's a popular name up there, but for most people this is Elvis

Not This

If I made a movie and had a character named Obama who WAS NOT President Obama it would be distracting. Character names are important! I actually have been watching (it's quite terrible I can't make it all the way through in one sitting) a movie called "A Beer Tale." It's the comedy (in theory) of two brothers trying to perfect their parents beer recipe.

The brothers' names are Corey and Luke . . .Frankenstein. Seriously? You're going to name your two main characters after a 8 foot tall killing machine? Why in the world . . .

The secret ingredient: They throw a little girl in each batch.

The mind boggles at why anyone thought that name was a good idea.

Anyways, back to "Thale," Elvis and Leo are cleaning up a dead body and they find a secret room. That secret room has another secret room and inside a bathtub full of a white liquid that I really really hope is just milk there is a naked chick who sleeps while hooked up to a gas mask. I think the movie is supposed to be a mystery but it's pretty apparent she's some sort of creature beacause the movie poster and trailer give that fact away.

The acting is awful, and that's saying something considering I had the choice between an English dub and the original Norweigian and both were ear-scratchingly bad. At first I thought Leo was a cool unshakeable Fonz type of character but by the time he announces he has lung cancer with the same delivery as "hand me that bucket" I realized he's just a terrible actor.

This is one of those poorly constructed movies where after Leo announces "I have lung cancer" we see Thale use her magical powers to bring a wilted flower back to life. Hmm, I wonder what's going to happen at the end? Thale can also communicate telepathically by touch which is unfortunate for us because when she touches people we get long periods of exposition about how she ended up in the secret room. And if that's not enough, there is a tape deck playing even more exposition for most of the movie. You can't blame this movie for holding information back.

What you can blame this movie for is having no real reason of being. It could have gone the route of an updated fairy tale, but it's too technical. There is no sense of the fantastic present. It feels cold and sterile. "Nico The Unicorn" had this feeling of wonder through out the film. This one is filled with boring exposition and, oddly enough, a fight scene between Thale and some armed thugs.

This is easily the worst product placement for 3M since "The Scotch Tape Massacre." 

So maybe they're going for the science/reason overcoming nature theme? I'd buy that but then what's up with the happy ending. Leo gets cured of cancer! Elvis's reunites with his daughter he mentioned only twice before and he seems surprised by her appearance even though she is siting three feet away from him! Is it magic? Or is this movie just bad?

Seriously, where did she come from?

So I ask: What is the point of this movie? It's not thought provoking, or scary, or interesting. it does not elicit joy or sorrow or excitement. It is not about the follies of youth or the mortality of the aged. It just simply exists. It's has a much substance as a PowerPoint presentation. 

Here's the thing: When I watch Transformers or Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Duece Bigalow, whatever it is, I don't expect many, if any, layers to it. But if a movie isn't built from the ground up to elicit an immediate emotional reaction (a horror film, a comedy, etc.) then it needs to have something else to make the movie work. A message, a meaning, a morality tale, whatever it is, a movie has to have a reason behind why this story is being told.

For Thale, the reason seems to be they could get a hot chick to take her clothes off.

And they're making a sequel. Ugh.

I really, really, really hope that's milk.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Barrio Tales" - - Gross, Dude, Gross.

It really should come as no surprise that a movie called "Barrio Tales" features a roach coach, but damned if I didn't see it coming.

For those of you that don't know, a "Roach Coach" is a mobile restaurant. They tend to serve cheap food that can be made in bulk, like Mexican or Chinese food, and sold around business parks. They are subject to the same health inspections that regular restaurants have to undergo, but come on, there's always something fishy about food that can drive away.

When I worked at a business park I ate at the roach coach constantly. For nearly five years I got all of my meals out of a van. So when "Barrio Tales" started off their second story: "Uncle Tio's Taco Truck" and it starts with an image of this:

Blerch. Gross.

"Barrio Tales" is a horror anthology and to my knowledge it is the first English language/Hispanic themed horror anthology. Back during the days of HBO's amazing (yet now unfortunately dated) show "Tales From The Crypt," lucky horror/rap fans such as myself were graced with movies like "Tales From The Hood," "Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror," "Street Tales of Terror" and "Hood's Hoody Hoods Tales of Hood Horror" OK, I made that last one up, but my point is the urban horror anthology has been around awhile and it's nice to see a Latino variation of that.

But really, dude, really . . .you had to ruin the roach coach for me?

The wraparound for this trilogy is two rich white kids travel to Barrio (which I always thought just meant "city" but the characters here keep referring to it as a proper noun, so I'm not sure on that) to buy drugs from a dealer named Pedro. Instead, they get waylaid by a mysterious stranger (spoiler alert: it's really Pedro) who wants to tell them some stories because Americans are always in a hurry to get what they want.

The first story is about a Hispanic maid from Barrio who works at a mansion. A bunch of selfish rich kids treat her like shit, except for one guy who can speak Spanish and his dad works as a janitor, and they end up accidently bashing her skull in. The maid's wizard aunt casts a spell on the kids who killed her and they either lose their sight, their ability to speak, or their ability to hear . . .but at the end they all end up dead so I'm sure she could have just skipped to the "death" part of the spell.

"OH NO! I can't speak! . . .or walk, or swim or do anything
because I'm dead.

That type of story is pretty par for the course when it comes to anthologies, or horror in general. A victim is wronged and the guilty are dispatched via supernatural means.

The third story, though, is about a group of illegal immigrants being kidnapped by hillbillies and being tortured to death. Which really isn't supernatural and in fact probably does happen, unfortunately. For the last half hour of "Barrio Tales" I'm thinking less about the movie and more about how much it would suck to have to sneak into a country that would probably kill you if they knew they could get away with it.

This looks less like a horror film and more
like a Tea Party recruitment ad.

Now, to be fair the third story does feature "El Monstruo" who is described as an urban legend among human traffickers and since his name technically means "The Monster" and he does survive getting shot in the chest a hundred times you might be able to say that's supernatural. But I just figure he was a buff dude on a lot of crank.

So in the first story we have the Hispanic victim and in the third story we have a lot of Hispanic victims. But in the second story, the stomach-clenching "Uncle Tio's Taco Truck," Uncle Tio is the bad guy. You see, those delicious tacos you've been eating all those years, those were the flesh and muscle tissue of human beings. But what type of people, you're wondering, would make such delicious tacos?

Were they the remains of arrogant white kids who bullied the downtrodden?

Were they the innards of "The Man" who ran the system?

Maybe they were the ligaments and tendons of an racist blowhard?

Nope! Just kids!

It's a bit jarring to go from Hispanic victim to Hispanic killer and then back again. Obviously it is the filmmakers prerogative on how the flow of the film goes. But in movies like "Tales From The Hood," "Snoop Dogg's Hood Of Horror" etc. the horror is also balanced with an idea of justice: the perpetrators of black on black crime or the white oppressors are the victim. That might sound like a bleeding heart but by having Uncle Tio go after rich kids instead of neighborhood kids he would have been less of a monster (or el monstruo, you learn something new every day) and more of an avenging angel. After all, the first and third story of "Barrio Tales" does explore the social justice angle and it would have been a more complete film thematically if "Tio's" story did as well. All I got was the uneasy feeling of knowing I ate five years worth of mystery meat.

"Barrio Tales" is an odd duck. The directing is competent, the pacing works well and the acting is decent. The picture quality and sound all point towards an eye towards quality. There's a weird interaction of characters between the three stories which is something I haven't seen in anthology before nd was a cool idea. I can see "Barrio Tales" being the first of a franchise, but even if it is a one-off I think these filmmakers have some talent and I'd like to see more from them. I enjoyed it, but unless you're a fan of horror anthologies I'd wait to catch this movie on TV.

I would stop eating at roach coaches though.

Oh, the two rich kids looking for drugs in the wrap-around narrative . . .what happens to them, you ask?

They get their throats brutally slit and are chopped up and turned into tacos that are given to homeless Mexicans!

Welcome to Barrio!

Uncle Tio eventually moved out of Barrio and
changed his name to George Zimmerman.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Under The Bed" - - This Is How It's Done

"Under The Bed" is the perfect film to review following "Alyce Kills" and "Zombie Warz: Falls The Shadow" because it does everything right that those two films did wrong. In and of itself, "Under The Bed" is a great throwback to the horror movies of the 80's but in comparison to the two previously reviewed films it really shows how some filmmakers just "get it."

"Under The Bed" tells the story of two brothers who are being haunted, actually more like hunted, by a demonic creature that lives under the bed. The movie begins when the older brother, Neal, returns home after moving away for two years. When the creature tormented him he tried to kill it by setting the house on fire. The creature survived. His mother didn't.

While Neal was away his younger brother Paulie moved into his room and also began to see the creature. Now that Neal is back and knows his brother is in danger they have to team up to try to kill it one more time.

This plot is reminiscent of the old school horror movies of the 80s like "The Gate," "Poltergeist," "Troll," "Return of the Living Dead 2," and countless others where suburban youths are confronted with unspeakable evil. This theme worked in the 80's because of the fear of nuclear war or rampant crime; the idea that children felt out of control in a world run by adults. These types of films fell out of vogue in the 90's but now with a new generation of filmmakers and fans dealing with post 9/11 fears of terrorism that sense of no power in the world is making a comeback. Also, the writers and directors of today were raised on those 80's horror gems and now they are making their mark in the genre as well.

How this movie works when a movie like "Alyce Kills" fails is the pacing. Both have a very slow build up. It can be said of both films that not much happens for the first hour and then the last 20 minutes it becomes a different film. With "Alyce Kills" the shift is handled poorly. In "Under The Bed" the movie is already so tense that by the time the creature goes on the offensive you realize the whole movie was leading up to it. Every scene lead into each other and while building the characters and relationships up it also let you know that once the monster was unleashed these people would be ripped down. "Under The Bed" is like pulling the pin on a grenade and not knowing when it's going to go off.

But when it does . . .

I also pointed out that in "Zombie Warz" that it didn't seem like a zombie movie because there weren't enough zombies. The argument could be made that the monster isn't in most of this movie either. The difference is that every decision that the characters make is based on the fact that either A) They believe there is a monster out to get them or B) They know someone who thinks there is a monster out to get them. The cast is split between those who have seen the creature and those who think the brothers are crazy. You don't have to have a monster in every single shot to make it a monster movie but the characters should react as it is always just outside their field of vision. That is what makes a good horror movie so tense. We're scared because they're scared.

The family dynamic in "Under The Bed is excellent as well. The two brothers whisper plans on how to avoid death at the cold dead hands of the creature while their father and step-mother try to deal with two children they love but just can't understand. The dad comes off as a dick but you can tell it's out of frustration. He already lost his wife and now he's losing his children, emotionally if not physically. The whole cast is great, from the neighborhood kids who gossip about the crazy kid who set his house on fire to the hot girl next door who wants to help her troubled friend but is out of her depth. These people seem real and that makes their journey even more frightening.

One of the creepiest moments is also one of the quietest. Speaking in hushed tones in the dark, Paulie asks his older brother Neal why it lives under the bed. "I read once," Neal explains, "that you shed a lot of dead skin cells in your bed. Like while you sleep, you know, your bed is full of dead skin, and pieces of your body. Maybe it starts by, like, feeding on . . .your dead flesh before . . ."

"Before that's not good enough anymore," Paulie replies.


I like to use the term "Slumber Party Movie" and based on the title I figured this would fall into that category. A good scary movie to rent for preteens. This is in no way one of those films. If you show this movie to a kid be prepared for long sleepless nights. But I definitely recommend this film to fans of the horror genre and of genre filmmaking in general. It does more with it's limited cast and budget than many other movies accomplish with more resources.

Just make sure to keep the lights on.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"Alyce Kills" - - American Sucko

"Alyce Kills" can't decide what type of film it wants to be. It starts off with a vague riff on "Alice In Wonderland" with talk of rabbit holes, "eat me, drink me" jokes, and, of course, the fact that the main character's name is Alyce. And her best friend is named Carrol Lewis. Get it? Well, apparently the filmmakers didn't because this thread is pretty much dropped halfway through the movie.

The rest of the film is split into two distinct parts: the first hour is about Alyce feeling guilty for pushing her friend, the aforementioned Carrol, off of a roof. She had a weird obsession with Carrol and is called a "Single White Female" in reference to the movie about crazy roommates. At first they play up a slight lesbian angle but that is also dropped until the part where Alyce attempts to masturbate Carrol's corpse at a funeral parlour in front of everyone.

Yeah, it's one of those movies.

The movie starts off with Alyce already pretty messed up in the head, so her descent into madness seems more like an inevitably whether or not she tried to kill Carrol. It makes the whole thing oddly pointless. Why watch a movie about a crazy person getting crazier? Where's the character arc in that?

Along her descent she meets various people who wrong her, including a co-worker, bitchy girls, misogynistic men, and a verbose drug dealer who is actually the highlight of the film. Eddie Rouse's performance as Rex has a "Breaking Bad" quality to it, and his speeches on morality and society may be a little on-the-nose but they are far more subtle than most of the film.

The last twenty or so minutes takes a wild turn for the worse and becomes slapstick comedy as Alyce fingerbangs a corpse, masturbates to war footage, picks at a guy's back acne (gross), stabs Carrol's ex-boyfriend until his guts comically spill out like a piñata, then cuts his arm off, puts it in the microwave, throws it in a blender, and finally somehow disposes of his whole body piece by piece in a garbage disposal. I've seen garbage disposals stop working after a picnic but somehow a 180 lb man, bones included, prove no match for a standard apartment sink disposal.

Alyce wanders around town with a bloody baseball bat and a hacksaw wreaking vengeance on her enemies and as awesome as that might sound it literally is the last few scenes of an already ponderous film. Before we get to the part that the title promises we have to watch an hour of Alyce wiggling around on the floor and getting fired from her job.

The film could have worked much better if they went in one direction and stuck with it. They could have focused on the descent, from sane to insane instead of insane to insaner, and played up the "Alice In Wonderland" motif (the drug dealer being the white rabbit leading her further down the hole) until she ends up transformed. They could have gone for straight character study about guilt and loss, although that would have been pretty boring because, let's face it, the parts they tried doing that in this movie were the worse. But hoping from themes of loss to a protracted scene of smashing a dead man's rib cage with an oversized baseball bat doesn't work. It tries to have it both ways, serious and dark humor, and the shift is so abrupt I spent the last ten minutes saying "What!?" out loud in disbelief.

I've seen online people compare this to "Dexter" but it in no way comes close to anything that stellar show has ever done. The descent into madness can be an interesting narrative, but when the slippery slope of vengeance becomes as compelling as a slide at Chuck E. Cheese, you can't do anything other than laugh.

"Zombie Warz: Falls The Shadow" - - What If You Filmed A Zombie Movie . . .

And no zombies showed up?

It's hard to figure out where to start this review because there are so many odd things in play here. But the fact that it is called "Zombie Warz" but there are maybe only ten zombies in the whole film is probably a good place to begin.

It's not just that there are no zombies seen. I can understand that some movies don't have the budget for huge waves of undead hordes. The zombie movie "Ashes" doesn't feature any zombies until the very end, but it is still a zombie movie because throughout the film what keeps the plot moving is the virus. It affects the characters interactions with each other and how they react to the world.

But in "Zombie Warz," the characters never really talk about zombies. It's almost like a subplot if even that. The movie could have been about the world after a pandemic, or an economic collapse, and it would have been the same narrative. It feels like the zombies were just added in as a marketing gimmick.

More proof of this is the fact that after I watched it, I looked this film up on IMDB. Apparently, it came out in 2011 under the title "Falls The Shadow" (which really just reminds me of "Sonic The Hedgehog" more than anything). It was just recently released with the "Zombie Warz" title probably to get zombie fans like me to watch it.

Another crazy thing about this movie is it's broken. I've seen bad movies before but this movie actually has the subtitles for a completely different film.

In this scene, a black woman is being burned at the stake while a bunch of hillbillies cheer. The first half of the movie has subtitles like "Sir Beautiful, Sir Beautiful", "The Head is dead but we still have enemies like flies" and my favorite:

Yes. "We must celebrate our victory! (Disco Music)" is the best subtitle I've ever seen in a movie about rednecks trying to rebuild post-zombie apocalypse America. I have no idea how this subtitle glitch could have happened and I've looked to see if any of these quotes are from other movies but I've come up blank so far.

And since we're on the topic of rednecks, this movie wants you to know it hates racism. It really thinks racism is bad. Now, I know that's a bold statement to make. The filmmakers obviously wanted to let the world know their stance on bigots even if is risky to take such a polarizing view. The bad guy is a religious zealot based on Reverend Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church. How do I know that?

The bad guy's name is Reverend Phelps. Wow, that's some cutting edge social commentary!

We also see that the bad guys flag is not only a Confederate flag but it is also emblazoned with the swastika. Although why it is the traditional swastika and not the Nazi's inverted swastika they never explain. Maybe they're so racist the swastika spun around? Who knows? Who cares?

(The movie ends with Reverend Phelps being strangled to death with that Confederate/Swastika, or Confestika flag. You know, because in a zombie movie how else would you kill the main bad guy?)

"Zombie Warz: Falls The Shadow" is beautifully shot. The cinematography is gorgeous and I hope that the filmmakers involved do go on to make better movies. But between the lack of zombies, the overly simplistic characters, and the unheard of technical glitches, this movie is a definite pass.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Shadow People" - - Boo! . . .ring

"Shadow People" wants to be scary so bad. It tries really, really hard and if I reviewed movies on effort alone I'd give this one a solid C+. But I don't.

No, I review movies based on things like plot, entertainment value, intriguing concepts, etc. These can be hard to gauge sometimes I have certain guideposts. One of the guideposts I use for reviewing a movie is how many times I fall asleep during a film

3 times.

To put that in perspective, "Shadow People" is about people who get strangled by ghosts in their sleep. And I fell asleep at 3 separate times while watching it.

This movie is not scary. It is very slow, which can work great for some horror movies, and it is very boring, which never works for any movie. If I don't care what is happening in the current scene, it is very likely that I did not care during the scene before this one, and will continue not to care for the remainder of the movie. Once a movie becomes boring it is just painful to watch. I've seen movies pull out of this death spiral but its is so rare I can't think of an example.

To me, I think to any fan of film, a boring movie is the worst kind. Bad special effects, bad plot, bad acting can all be ignored if the movie is fun to watch.

And honestly, I'd rather be sleeping than writing this review right now.

"Shadow People" is based on "the true phenomena" if by true you also consider "A Nightmare On Elm Street" to be considered based on "the true phenomena."

Wes Craven, the director/creator of "A Nightmare On Elm Street" claims he got the idea for his movie after reading a series of articles in the L.A. Times about Cambodian children dying in their sleep. I never been able to to actually verify that theses articles exist but it's a good story. Wikipedia has an an entry for SUNDS or Sudden Nocturnal Death Syndrome striking kids in Singapore, but that's about all I could find in my brief search.

And let me just say this: This movie is sold to us as a "true story" as in it is intercut with footage supposedly from news casts that really documented the rash of mysterious deaths. This is all fake. When I sit down to watch a movie and I realize ten minutes into it that I'm going to have to do research because the filmmakers think we are all idiots, it pisses me off. "The Bay" looked like a real documentary but it was not. That's fine. But this movie is dedicated in the memory of a fictional character who looks nothing like the guy who it's based on . . . this is hard to explain but you know how in those re-enactment shows how they'll try to get actors resembling the actual person? Key word being "try," because it is difficult to do. But come on, if you are making up the "real" person you can do better than this:

Here is a shot of the news studio where Charlie Crowe is about to announce to the world that Shadow People exist!

Here's what he looks like in "real life."

And what does the newscaster look like in real life?


Come on, just take a guess.

Yup, if you said "black man" you are absolutely right. Why would they make such an odd casting choice? Why would you shoot fake archive footage and intercut it with narrative footage and make such a bizarre switch?

"Shadow People" is dull. That's inexcusable. It lies to the audience. This movie is the visual equivalent of a kid swearing up and down he's best friends with Batman.  And worst of all, it's not scary. If you watch all the way through the credits you'll see an image flash on the screen saying "Now You'll See Them Too" which is kind of refreshing because when I do see them, maybe they'll bring a better movie along with them.