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Kill List (2012) review
02/18/12 at 08:19 AM by EvilButters
Jay (Neil Maskell) hasn't worked in eight months and it's taking its toll. His savings are gone, his marriage is falling apart, and he's still beating himself up over his last job that went horribly wrong. That is until his friend Gal (Michael Smiley) visits and pulls him back in. The hit man business is good money for work that isn't too strenuous or so Gal thinks. Jay begins to lose it out on the job by taking matters into his own hands, flipping off the deep end, and basically just losing all control. But with the mysterious way their clients are acting, Jay and Gal begin to believe something more sinister is going on.

Kill List is a bit peculiar, especially if you go into it expecting your typical horror film; it's far from it. It actually begins as a drama, evolves into a thriller, and then finishes its evolution as a horror film in its closing act. It's a bizarre development, really. Not because it feels unnatural or forced or anything, but because it's difficult to get a read on the film. It's extremely unpredictable. The fate of certain characters may seem obvious, but it tends to take a different route getting to those conclusions. Once it jumps into the horror genre is when things get a little more familiar. The ending feels like a combination of The Wicker Man and A Serbian Film. But the way the film progresses may leave you with the feeling of being unsure whether you liked the film or not once it ends.

For a film that didn't even cost $1 million to make, Kill List certainly looks pretty great. The biggest issue seemed to be the sound, but it may have just been the DVD transfer that I received (it was a DVD screener). After trying to watch it on my hi-def television on two separate occasions, I eventually gave up before putting the disc into my computer and watching it with headphones. The camera work isn't overly fantastic, but it gets the job done. A scene that stuck out in my mind is when Jay and Gal get out of the car right before they're about to meet their client for the first time in the film. As they get out of the car and walk toward the camera, there's this perfectly placed rainbow in the shot and you get a glimpse of the entire thing over their car. It's as if it was illustrating the calm before the storm.

As you can imagine, Kill List does get pretty violent. In particular, Jay uses a hammer to such extremities that it would make Oh Dae-su from Oldboy blush. The most memorable scene in the film is actually the restaurant scene with the guitar mostly because of Jay's reaction as the British film also squeaks in a few really memorable one-liners. A man in the restaurant says to Jay, "Sometime's God's love can be hard to swallow," and Jay responds, "Yeah? Not as hard as a dinner plate."

Kill List doesn't really seem to live up to the hype or the quotes featured on its poster, but it's still a worthy watch. The way the film is written is its biggest asset as it's a completely fresh experience until it jumps genres. Kill List is a solid, low budget thriller that features better than expected camera work and heavy blood-splattering, brain matter-filled, face smashing, intestines-sliding-around-on-the-ground violence that only makes the transition into horror a no-brainer.

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Tags: Kill List, review, movies, drama, thriller, horror
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The Woman in Black (2012) review
02/03/12 at 12:45 PM by EvilButters
At the tail end of the 19th century, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) still feels like the wound is still fresh when it comes to his wife who died four years ago after giving birth to their son. Arthur is drowning in a depressive state that even his son notices. As a lawyer, Arthur is forced to travel to a secluded town to take care of the work of the now deceased Alice Drablow as a last ditch effort to save his job. Arthur is expecting to be buried in paperwork until the weekend, but the odd occurrences that transpire are a bit out of left field. Everyone in town practically begs for Arthur to return to London immediately as children continue to die gruesome deaths left and right. Ignoring their pleas, Arthur decides to confront the problem head on and stay at the Drablow's menacing house where his constant run-ins with the supernatural eventually take its toll on him.

The Woman in Black is a horror film that I wanted to be good. It's Daniel Radcliffe's first movie outside of the Harry Potter franchise and he's been pretty enthusiastic about it in interviews, but every bit of promotional material seemed to point at the movie being your everyday, generic, run of the mill, "scary" movie. The Woman in Black does provoke your interest at first. The strange opening is a little hokey, but kind of intrigues you at the same time. The atmosphere the movie tries to setup is its strongest asset though. The heavy use of fog and old fashioned feel of the town does make the town feel like it existed in the late 1800s and the ominous score does its best to try and bring you to the edge of your seat. The Drablow house is the key to that atmosphere as it’s absolutely gorgeous in this hideously grotesque kind of way. Everything is so dusty and creepy while the Victorian design only adds to that uneasy feeling the movie tries to stir up in the pit of your stomach.

In the meantime though, everything else in the movie is working against it. It's extremely uneventful. Daniel Radcliffe reads papers, walks through a house, holds a candle, and gets a little dirty. That's the entire movie in one sentence. The Woman in Black also resorts to relying on nothing more than jump scares to try and scare its audience. There are four in the first twenty minutes; two from the same sequence and there are at least ten throughout the entire movie. Jump scares can be fantastic in small portions, but come off as incredibly weak when you can see them coming a mile away and are strung together haphazardly for a cheap effect. There isn't much dialogue while Arthur is in the Drablow house either, which is practically the entire movie. This was probably done to try and make the audience more absorbed with what was taking place on screen, but seems like a bit of a copout overall. Radcliffe has proven that he is an extremely talented actor, but he's pretty bland here. He mostly wanders around in a daze with a frazzled look on his face the entire time. His hosting gig on Saturday Night Live was more impressive in comparison.

The Woman in Black will still be a very successful film as nearly everyone who was or still is a Harry Potter fan will be lining up around every street corner just to be able to see this movie, but the fact of the matter is that it just isn't a great movie. Its representation of the late 19th century is pretty good, but the writing, the "scares," and (most of all) the entire conclusion are all just extremely disappointing. The Woman in Black is a watered down version of last year's Insidious that will more than likely gain a lot of praise it doesn't deserve.

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Tags: The Woman in Black, review, movies, horror, thriller, Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer
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The Theatre Bizarre (2012) review
02/02/12 at 09:15 PM by EvilButters
What the hell happened to American horror? Remember when mainstream horror films actually offered either originality or creativity in the way victims died? Now we're practically spoon fed the same formula over and over and it doesn't help that more than half of the horror films getting the green light or being released in theaters are a remake of a film you love. The 70s, 80s, 90s, and even early 00s in some cases were a fantastic time for horror that seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird. The horror genre is no stranger to the anthology formula, but there's something about The Theatre Bizarre that manages to capture the atmosphere of certain horror films you know and love.

Tales From the Crypt, Dead of Night, Creepshow, Trick 'r Treat, and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie are a few films The Theatre Bizarre will either remind you of and/or it pays homage to. To bridge the story together, a woman is drawn to the worn down looking theater next door. Once inside, she's treated to a show hosted by a man acting like a living wind-up toy (played by Udo Kier). Just the framing segments alone are extremely creepy. The make-up, the way the people on stage move, and the way eyes are painted on the top of their eyelids. It's a bit unsettling in the best of ways. There are six stories in the film's nearly two hour runtime:

"The Mother of Toads" is one of the weakest. A couple takes a vacation in France basically in the middle of nowhere. While they're browsing shops, they meet an elderly woman who draws the man, Martin (Shane Woodward) into her home with The Necronomicon. The tea she gives him puts him under her spell and all hell breaks loose from there. This is probably a lot like the movie Frogs. The multi-colored toad vision is pretty lame. The best scene comes at the beginning where Martin and his girlfriend Karina (Victoria Maurette) are driving through the countryside. The shot obviously pays tribute to the opening of The Shining. I was left with what felt like the punch line to a really bad joke at the end of the story. "Don't you hate it when you get really drunk and you wake up next to a giant multi-titted toad?"

"I Love You" is the other fairly timid story and the one that features the stiffest acting. A man wakes up in his bathroom with blood everywhere. He calls his therapist, who's with his wife that he hasn't been able to get a hold of for days. She comes home only to tell him that she's leaving him. "I Love You" is basically an R-rated drama until the last two minutes where everything is turned upside down. The scenes that stick out the most are the ones of Andre Hennicke unconscious in his bathroom. Everything is white; the floor, the walls, his clothes. The only color in the scene is from his blood. It's not bad, deserves some credit for a solid buildup to its climax, and is at least a bit more threatening than toads.

"Wet Dreams" directed by and co-starring the legendary Tom Savini is up next. A man has very vivid dreams that usually involve his wife castrating him and feeding his severed member to him during breakfast. It's a pretty decent stab at a mind-bending horror story. It's no Inception, but it doesn't really have the opportunity to be and in the end has no reason to be as in depth as that as its story progression is just fine.

"The Accident" is another slow burning story. You can pretty much guess what it's about from the title. The way the deer acts is horrific enough, but what sells the entire story is the haunting music and the facial expression of the biker. The little girl asks some questions about death, which her mom gives really stupid answers to (seriously, a good zombie?).

"Vision Strains" is easily the most original and creative story of the film. A woman targets homeless women and addicts and kills them. In their last breaths and as their life flashes before their eyes, the woman injects their eye fluid into her own and basically experiences their life story. She writes it all down in an attempt to learn everything the world has to offer. A serial killer with purpose is something that doesn't come along very often.

"Sweet Dreams" rounds out the set. This one was a bit hard to watch. There are some really disturbing fetishes going on with this one all involving gluttony, sweets, and overeating. It's downright disgusting at times and it has the goriest ending of the bunch. It puts a pretty interesting twist on The Last Supper, as well.

It's not that The Theatre Bizarre isn't flawed. Like most horror movies, there's plenty of bad to go along with the good as it suffers from weak writing with actors in certain stories that don't have that natural flow that the rest of the cast does. One could also argue that only half of the movie really leaves a long-lasting impression. To be honest though, there were bits and pieces of every story that spoke to the horror fan in me in ways I haven't felt in years. Like a classic horror film, it's like you have to sit through some lameness to delve into the greatness buried deep within its core. Nauseating, phantasmagorical, and discomforting, The Theatre Bizarre is pure, gory, blood-soaked madness at its finest that will give horror fans the feeling of being a kid locked in a candy store for two blissful hours.

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Tags: The Theatre Bizarre, review, movies, horror, Tom Savini, Udo Kier
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The Innkeepers (2012) review
02/02/12 at 07:31 PM by EvilButters
Movies revolving around the supernatural have always felt lacking. Of course, the most recent ones are mostly remakes so they already have an uphill battle ahead of them but there are very few movies featuring ghosts or the supernatural that I feel are worth mentioning in a conversation about great films. Ghostbusters, The Orphanage, The Shining, Shutter (the Thai original), The Ring, The Frighteners, and The Devil's Backbone are about it for me. It's a sub genre of horror that just hasn't meshed well with me over the years much like exorcism films. In the same breath, I still haven't been able to get a clear read on what I think of Ti West as a writer and a director. The House of the Devil was really disappointing. Its slow pace made the film seem practically uneventful and didn't really feel worthwhile in the long run. The Innkeepers has a similar pace as The House of the Devil yet feels slightly more methodical on West’s part in comparison.

Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) are the only two employees working during the final days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. This hotel is rumored to be haunted by Madeline O' Malley, a woman who hung herself in her room after being stood up by her fiancé at the altar. Luke and Claire try to make contact with the paranormal through EVP recording devices in between watching the front desk and handling the few stragglers who come to stay during the hotel's final weekend of operation. Needless to say, Luke and Claire begin to see results as the guests at the hotel become a bit stranger.

I'm surprised the score to The Innkeepers was as good as it was. It's a little bizarre to have such good things to say about movies coming out in between January and March since these are the months that studios decide to push whatever's been sitting on their shelf for a long period of time or release something they expect to do poorly at the box office. The score is really fantastic though, especially during the opening credits. It's usually very strings heavy and puts you on the edge of your seat on more than one occasion. It helps add that extra bit of tension. At other times, a lack of music speaks volumes. The way the film encompasses the importance of sound into the overall experience of the film is pretty extraordinary. Suddenly listening to a film is just as important (if not slightly more so) as watching it.

The camera work is really spectacular, as well. Slow, winding shots make it seem as though you're grudgingly snooping around the corner along with the characters on screen. The camera's pace as it travels through the hotel's hallways make you feel like you're walking through it yourself. There are also several shots directly behind Luke or Claire that feel very third person. It's just extremely solid camera work that's more stunning than you may be expecting.

The Innkeepers won't be for everyone though as it's incredibly slow moving. It crawls at almost a snail's pace, but it's the little things that keep you interested. Everything is very dialogue driven as Luke and Claire play tricks on each other and talk smack about each guest that comes to stay at the hotel. Claire's ghost story about Madeline O' Malley is around the time things really get interesting and Leanne's (Kelly McGillis) pendulum speech make the smallest things seem larger than they really are. The Innkeepers spends every expense establishing this thick, creepy atmosphere and is the prime definition of a slow burn at its finest.

The Innkeepers may seem a little dull on the surface, but all it needs is a chance to let its layers unravel right before your eyes. Character development and a horror film that isn't in your face showing you every gratuitous and gory detail is almost unheard of anymore. With its unsettling score, its superb cinematography, and engaging script, The Innkeepers delivers a rare horror gem that's a breath of fresh air to the genre.

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Tags: The Innkeepers, review, movies, horror, thriller, Ti West
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Blu-ray review: Zombie (1979) (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)
11/07/11 at 09:27 AM by EvilButters
Lucio Fulci is a name most horror and zombie fans are familiar with. As an Italian horror director, a good portion of his work either slipped under the radar or went on to become a cult classic in the states. Films like City of the Living Dead, The House By the Cemetery, and The Beyond, but Zombie is more than likely the most recognized Fulci film. Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombi 2, Zombie was originally planned as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead. Unlike most direct to DVD sequels that try to jump the shark or a low budget sequel that goes straight to Syfy, Zombie is not only worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Dawn of the Dead, but may actually be a better film in general and the best of Fulci's work period.

Fulci films are notorious for gloriously realistic gore scenes while being fairly light in the story department and having some pretty rigid acting. Zombie seems to be the best-rounded Fulci film and makes the most out of all of his strengths. It's certainly in the vein of Dawn of the Dead and is more than a worthy successor. It does have its fair share of overacting that usually falls onto the shoulders of the two main supporting actresses Auretta Gay and Olga Karlatos but it's also easy to overlook. If you're a zombie fan, the story is compelling and the kills are memorable. The eyeball scene is one of the best in the history of horror and a zombie fights a shark under water. Does anything else really need to be said other than that? It's as if Fonzie somehow missed that infamous jump over a shark on water-skis and has been lying on the bottom of the lake waiting until a nude scuba diver swam his way to try and gain some revenge.

The make-up effects are generally really amazing for the time the film was produced; the graveyard scene being the best example. That zombie with the worms in its eye has become iconic. That specific zombie's death may be an even better example of how gore in a low budget horror film can outshine just about anything in most higher budgeted films. The camera work is also key to a film like Zombie. The lighting is actually really fantastic and seems to be just right at all times, but the camera is always just in the right place after a zombie gets smacked in the head to spit a spray of blood into the camera. A POV shot is also used occasionally from the zombie's perspective. The main use of this technique that comes to mind is in the graveyard when a zombie is coming up out of the ground and you see dirt falling away from the line of vision as the camera rises up. The last shot may be the most incredible of the film, especially once you learn how the shot was acquired; the mass of zombies on the bridge in New York. It literally leaves you with no hope for humanity, which is pretty much the most definitive ending any zombie movie could ask for.

Like most early horror films, Zombie isn't without its flaws. There's still quite a bit of overacting and the technique of zooming in closer and closer on someone's face whenever something gross or shocking is discovered gets a bit tiresome. But Zombie offers exactly what every horror fan loves; plenty of gore, excellent practical effects, a fairly decent story, and quite a bit of nudity. Zombie can definitely be considered a triumph for its time and is a bloody terrific zombie masterpiece from beginning to end.

This two disc set has a massive list of extras, so try to bear with me. The first disc includes audio commentary with star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater, two theatrical trailers, two thirty second TV spots, four radio spots, a poster & still gallery, and the Guillermo Del Toro Intro. Disc two includes a plethora of interviews from just about everyone in the cast that you can imagine. Zombie Wasteland is 22 minutes long and is the thirty year reunion of the cast at a few horror conventions. It includes interviews with cast members Richard Johnson, Ian McCulloch, Al Cliver, and Ottaviano Dell'acqua. Flesh Eaters on Film is an interview with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis and runs 10 minutes long. De Angelis brings up how difficult it was to work with Fulci, how he made three to four movies with Fulci when no other producer could stand him after one film, and Zombie being successful among other things. Deadtime Stories includes interviews with co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti and is 14 minutes long. World of the Dead has interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production and costume designer Walter Patriarca in a 16 minute segment. Zombi Italiano features interviews with special make-up effects artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and special effects artist Gino De Rossi. The feature runs for 17 minutes as these artists walk you through laughing at their first make-up attempt on a zombie, how they retrieved a shark, pulling off the splinter in the eye scene, Fulci always wanting entrails, and the bridge scene being stolen; no permits and causing a traffic jam. Notes on a Headstone is a seven minute interview with composer Fabio Frizzi, All in the Family is a six minute interview with Fulci's daughter Antonella, and Zombie Lover is a ten minute feature with Guillermo del Toro has he explains why he loves the film.

The 2-Disc Ultimate Edition Blu-ray of Zombie is presented in 1080p HD resolution in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Audio is available in both English and Italian in 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, and original mono. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Francais, Espanol, Portugues, Deutsch, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Zombie was originally released in 1979 and its duration is approximately 92 minutes long. The two-disc set is available in retail stores and most online retailers now.

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Tags: Zombie, movie review, Blu-ray review, horror, zombies, Lucio Fulci
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The Thing (2011) review
10/25/11 at 01:53 PM by EvilButters
John Carpenter's version of The Thing is a horror classic that has not only stood the test of time, but is considered by many to be one of the best horror movies ever. The desire to return to the 1982 film to attempt and capture a similar atmosphere in a modern motion picture is understandable, but the journey is likely to not only tarnish its reputation but weaken the impact it once had. Despite being held in such high regard, it's not like The Thing is a huge money maker. The 1982 film didn't even break $20 million at the domestic box office and didn't really become a success until it was released on VHS. Fast forward nearly thirty years and a new version of The Thing has covertly made its way into theaters or at least that's what it would like to lead you to believe.

The Thing has a pretty decent opening. What's a modern day R-rated horror movie without a really terrible raunchy joke to break the ice (pun intended) minutes before everything hits the fan? The scenery is kind of breathtaking, as well. The roaming shot that opens the film where we see many of the snow caps in "Antarctica" along with most of the scenic shots are fairly beautiful. There's something about vast, snowy landscapes and icy structures that's mesmerizing.

The special effects are probably the main reason to see The Thing. Many horror fans that have seen the prequel are upset that the film relied so much on CG, but I found them rather extraordinary. There's a mix of both practical effects and computer generation for a result that is both gnarly and out of this world. It's not so much that CG is so relevant in films nowadays that turns me off of it it's the amount of cheap-looking CG that constantly gets used. In regards to living up to Carpenter's film, The Thing came closest with how the creature looked. That along with how everything happening seemed to explain events in the 1982 version are a drawing factor. The Thing feels like a remake, but the events that unfold explain what happened leading up to the opening shot in Carpenter's film. The sound effects also at least make the film worth a viewing in the theater. The creature's sounds alone are pretty intense. The score wasn't necessarily memorable, but was just subtle enough and just enough to put you on the edge to add a little bit to the film. Lastly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the most decent part of the cast. She's no R.J. MacReady, but she has the most developed personality.

Unfortunately The Thing pretty much has everyTHING working against it despite showing quite a bit of potential. It has the blandest dialogue. Everything is so boring and monotone. All of the characters feel one-dimensional, as well; paper thin. Character development is mostly nonexistent. The jump scares feel cheap and it's so dead set on staying close to Carpenter's vision that it isn't able to establish an identity of its own. The "test" in the prequel is beyond weak and the film?s constant absence of logic becomes groan-worthy.

In the 1982 film, Childs (Keith David) says at one point "If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know it was really me?" This version of The Thing aspires to be a perfect imitation of Carpenter's version and it crashes and burns. It barely passes as an imperfect imitation. The way it relies on Carpenter's film as a crutch hurts it more than anything. However the special effects at least make it worth seeing in the theater. Although disappointing, The Thing is somewhat decent, better than what most review sites are giving it credit for, and moderately entertaining.

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Tags: The Thing, movie review, horror, mystery, sci-fi, prequel, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, J
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Blu-ray review: The Last Circus (2011)
10/15/11 at 08:21 AM by EvilButters
When you sit down to watch The Last Circus, you should go in not knowing what to expect. That mindset is your best bet at enjoying this film to the fullest. In fact, I encourage you to jump to the last paragraph of this review and then read the rest after your first viewing. It has quite a reputation going for it; a reputation that is mostly positive. Avoiding trailers and only having a vague knowledge of a movie is so rare these days and with a film like this it just pays off so well. Álex de la Iglesia is a name I wasn't familiar with until now and while The Last Circus did seem to fizzle out a bit near its finale, it's still very absorbing, gloriously disturbing, and a solid effort from Iglesia.

The Last Circus tells a love story that is centered on revenge; it's demented and rather on the gruesome side but love is the central theme along with elements of revenge, horror, and dark comedy. The film's rich visuals will suck you in right away. It has this unique look to it; color seems to be completely drained from the film the majority of the time yet things like blood, makeup, and rather intricate costumes seem to leap off the screen in exquisite color. It's all very surreal and seems to be on the verge of becoming a nightmare at all times, so when it does finally venture into a dream sequence with nightmarish tendencies it's rather extraordinary.

The score is also pretty spectacular. The triumphant music that plays over the opening credits seems to give you the sensation that you're marching toward your death while the pounding keys of the piano during the tunnel sequence practically rattles your bones. It's kind of intriguing how similar Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) and Javier (Carlos Areces) turn out to be and it’s all thanks to Natalia (Carolina Bang). Javier is so unsure of himself at first, is kind of pathetic, and a complete coward at his core but that changes once he meets Natalia. Sergio is short-tempered, an alcoholic, and his violent outbursts usually cause one or more to end up in the hospital when things don't go his way. Sergio's story becomes really interesting since it seems to borrow heavily from both The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein. Natalia on the other hand just doesn't seem to know what she wants. She loves the way Sergio makes love to her, but feels safe with Javier. She's truly torn between the two monsters she inadvertently creats.

Keep an eye out for a trumpet and an iron as they both become nearly as iconic as the hammer was in Oldboy. The Last Circus has a way of putting its viewer on edge with a sense of discomfort and uneasiness never being far away. The restaurant scene is a prime example, which also shows how messed up Sergio really is and eventually leads to one of the most awkward and off-putting sex scenes in recent memory. Some of the computer generated effects got a little overboard in the latter half and seemed to slightly sour my opinion of the film. However after watching the special features, it's truly amazing how much of the film was created with digital effects.

The Last Circus is like a one-sided coin featuring tragedy on both sides and the final scene seems to illustrate this point perfectly. Its surreal visuals make the film a real treat to look at and the haunting score is both memorable and beautiful in a sinister kind of way. With its nearly seamless use of practical and computer generated effects and the way the entire film seems to be covered in a veil of unpredictability, The Last Circus is a unique vision into circus life that's mostly calamitous yet visually stimulating.

Special features are pretty slim, but still interesting. Making of The Last Circus is a fifteen minute featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the film. It's here that you begin to realize how much of the film was filmed in front of the green screen as the cast comments on what it's like to work with Álex de la Iglesia. Behind the Scenes Segments is more of the same type of footage presented as a seven and a half minute montage. Visual Effects is really cool. It's ten minutes long and compares the final version of the film to what was shot in front of the green screen. It literally takes you through step by step of the digital effects. It also informs you that there were 47 digital artists and post-production took two months. The U.S. Trailer, International Trailer, and International Teaser round out the special features.

The film looks completely stunning in 1080P High Definition presented in a 16x9 (2.35:1) aspect ratio and sounds fantastic in its Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Its colors are really brought to life in HD as blood splatters, animal cries, maniacal outbursts, and the amazing score probably couldn't sound any better than they do here. The Last Circus is rated R for brutal and bloody violence throughout, some strong sexual content, nudity and language. The film's duration is approximately 101 minutes and will be available in retail stores and most online retailers this Tuesday, October 18th.

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Tags: The Last Circus, movie review, Blu-ray review, romance, revenge, horror, black comedy
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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) review
10/06/11 at 04:55 PM by EvilButters

The Human Centipede was fairly underwhelming. It wasn't terrible and it wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't this monstrously absurd and gory movie you may have expected from the concept and promotional materials. The concept itself was probably the most disturbing and interesting aspect of the movie. Imagining yourself in that situation was more horrific than anything that made it on-screen. It didn't even feel like people had enough time to fully process the first film before writer/director Tom Six began hyping the second film in a proposed trilogy. The sequel was then banned in the UK (before the ban was lifted recently) and censored in the US, which probably only piqued curiosity even further. Tom Six has gone on record as saying The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) will make the original seem like "My Little Pony" in comparison, which is probably true due to its graphic nature. Unfortunately the sequel has little else to offer.

So before I go into too much detail, the screener I saw was apparently an edited version of the film. Maybe that means this is the one that will be distributed theatrically in the US, but I do know that the barbed wire bit didn't make it into the film and the ending was slightly altered.

We're introduced to Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a security guard who has a rabid obsession with the original Human Centipede film. He does nothing but watch the movie over and over again and even has a scrapbook devoted to it along with re-drawn diagrams from the movie to pull off the centipede. Martin isn't normal; he was sexually abused as a child, likes mutilating himself, and still lives with his mother. While on the job, he kidnaps people, ties them up, and stores them in an abandoned storage unit with the hopes of making his passion a reality; a twelve person human centipede.

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is entirely black and white. It does make the film stand out in comparison to its predecessor, but it also changes the appearance of gore rather dramatically. Tom Six defended this film after being banned in the UK by calling it "make believe" and called it "art." The black and white aspect of the film certainly makes it feel more artistic, but that term will probably come into question after you witness some of the things that take place on screen. Martin is very off-putting. He's extremely overweight, greasy all the time, and just really creepy overall. He has this Jonah Hill meets Wayne Knight at their worst type of look to him. Every close up, every action, every time he licks his fingers, basically everything Martin does grosses you out. Martin also never speaks throughout the movie. He wheezes, cries, and throws tantrums, so he's not completely silent. But those of you expecting another Dr. Heiter will be sorely disappointed.

It's not like this version of the film didn't completely shy away from gruesomeness though. There's still plenty in here to get offended over or get excited about. The sandpaper bit did make it in there, but I have a feeling it was edited as well. The pregnant woman in the car scene is pretty revolting. I had to rewind it and watch it again to make sure I saw it right. We see Martin dismantle about half a dozen kneecaps by cutting open the sides and snipping their tendons, Martin takes a hammer and knocks out every tooth in a man's mouth before fishing them out, and that same man rips his stapled lips off another man's anus. Those are just a few examples.

Martin's mother was unintentionally hilarious. She mostly just seems bitter and old when the movie first starts, but her bad acting eventually makes itself known. She also has a scene with Martin at the dinner table which leads to their second encounter with their upstairs neighbor that is probably the best scene in the sequel even though it only lasts a few seconds and is kind of ridiculous. The twelve person centipede gets really disgusting though. Once Martin gives everyone a laxative shot, then you can probably see where that is going to lead and it gets all over the camera multiple times. The ending is pretty weak, too. Did you ever play Super Mario Bros 2? Well that's pretty much the ending you get here. Online reports say that there's actually more to the ending featuring more footage, but the version I saw was literally credits of the movie, Martin sitting in the camera room at work, Martin licking his fingers, an outside shot where we see Martin through a window, end film. There may have been a baby crying the background, I don't recall. But with that version of the ending, it's difficult to argue that it all wasn't just a dream.

I'm not going to tell you to not see The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). If you enjoyed the first film or if your interest has heightened due to its hype, then curiosity will cause you to see this in some way or another. Hell, I'd at least like to know what was cut and I'd probably watch it again if I knew it was unrated, the director's cut, an alternate version, etc. But the sequel is a bit disappointing. Sure, the blood and graphic content of the sequel is increased tenfold but Martin isn't nearly as captivating as Dr. Heiter and everything just feels like it's for nothing by the time the ending rolls around. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) just leaves you with bloody discharge on your face without much of anything to show for it. Demented, disgusting, and rather pointless, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is more than likely the extremely nauseating film you expected the first film to be.

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Tags: The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), movie review, drama, horror, Tom Six, sequel
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Blu-ray review: Mimic (1997) (The Director's Cut)
10/04/11 at 03:14 PM by EvilButters
Guillermo del Toro is one of the most original visionaries still directing and creating films today. His films are usually very attractive visually and put a different spin on something you may already be familiar with while also darkening its tone. Even if you don't fully adore whatever del Toro film you just watched, you can probably find something in there to admire and the experience still turns out to be more interesting than the average popular fluff that people go gaga for. del Toro has also produced some amazing projects with The Orphanage gaining quite a bit of praise and being called one of the most original horror films of the past few years and Splice having one of the most surreal audience reactions I've ever witnessed in the theater just to name a few. Guillermo del Toro's projects aren't necessarily films you've never seen before, but are more along the lines of the films you want to see Hollywood producing. His English language debut, the sci-fi thriller Mimic, has just been released as a director's cut on Blu-ray. After realizing how intense the uphill battle was for del Toro just to get this thing made and fighting tooth and nail just to keep what he could from his original draft(s) of the screenplay, it's really quite incredible the movie turned out as good as it did.

The amount of work that went into making something as silly as giant cockroaches become a reality may be the film's biggest achievement. del Toro didn't want a gorefest or give these creatures extra appendages or teeth to make them more menacing. Scientifically speaking, all of the modifications stay within the boundaries of nature. A great deal of research went into creating these monsters and you can tell. The way they mimic humans, where their lungs are placed, and the amount of puppeteering involved are all pulled off in a way where it's obvious a lot of time went into planning how they'd be executed. It's a welcome change of pace worth noting since most horror films along the same lines as this are all about the quick scare and creating a monster that is visually menacing rather than staying within the limitations of reality. del Toro makes it clear in the commentary that Mimic is more about suspense than aiming to be scary. The fact that the film is a slow burn allows you to digest everything a bit more than a film that would throw everything at you all at once.

The special effects look very dated, but only when it comes to digital stuff. Thankfully, it's kept to a minimum because of the budget but all of the practical stuff is fantastic. Seeing their mouths move just like a cockroach's is such a simple idea, but seeing it executed in a creature as big as we are is something extraordinary. The concept of them using their front appendages to form a human face is really creative and exceptional, as well. The method in which this team has pulled off adding human traits to a cockroach without it feeling too far-fetched is spectacular in itself.

Unfortunately I never saw the theatrical cut of the film so I can't really compare the differences, but del Toro's explanations of it don't really make you want to actively hunt it down and see it since this is obviously the cut of the film he wants people to see. The last thing that should be touched upon is the lighting (or lack thereof) used in the film. Most of the camera work in the film seems very straightforward, but having a dolly sliding to the right while another slides to the left makes something as simple as the camera circling around two characters seem a bit more extravagant. An emphatic use of shadows, textures, and amber and blue lighting is used throughout the film to give it a look that many other genre films don't have. Everything just feels very unique and like something you'd only find in a film by del Toro.

Mimic isn't del Toro's greatest achievement, but all of the elements you love about the Mexican director are all there. The attention to detail is astounding as del Toro's scientific approach and staying true to nature made giant cockroaches as realistic as possible. Mimic is also visually remarkable in the way it not only uses shadows, but a minimal use of lighting and heavy textures as well. The only real complaints lie within the dated CG and the fairly atrocious ending. Its obvious flaws and production troubles aside, Mimic is more intelligent than you're probably expecting and a very solid experience overall.

The special features are pretty cool. Video Prologue with Director Guillermo del Toro is only about a minute long but del Toro talks about how this is as close to a director's cut as we'll ever get, being happy with this cut, what the movie could have been, and so on. The Audio Commentary with Director/Cowriter Guillermo del Toro is the Blu-ray's crowning achievement. del Toro is so open about everything that happened behind the scenes, but doesn't seem bitter about any of it. He's very straightforward and isn't afraid to use harsh language, but the entire commentary just makes you admire the film and the rest of del Toro's work just a little bit more. He seems so easy to get along with and relate to. During the commentary, many topics are covered including the opening credits being similar to Se7en, Mimic teaching del Toro more than some of his other films have, the cockroaches originally being bark beetles/scarabs, the never-ending studio battles, original ending idea involving the male cockroach in the subway, the film originally being planned to have no explosions, and he even talks about the direct to video sequels among many other things (he actually recommends seeing Mimic 3). del Toro refers to Mimic as his "imperfect child." One of my favorite lines from the commentary is when del Toro is talking about Sarah having her Ripley moment as she yells at the male cockroach to get away from Chuy. del Toro says, "You cringe every time, I cringe every time, let's cringe together." The commentary track just helps you admire the film a little bit more and that's coming from a guy who isn't a big fan of commentary.

The rest of the special features are fairly short and sweet. Reclaiming Mimic is about fourteen minutes long. del Toro discusses how important suspense is for a film like Mimic, a B-movie concept needing to be executed as an A-movie, the different subway ending, and this director's cut being free of "second unit crap." A Leap in Evolution runs around nine and a half minutes and mostly goes into detail about staying true to nature and puppeteering. Back into the Tunnels is a five minute behind the scenes featurette, there are three Deleted Scenes that total around five minutes in length and include an alternate ending, Storyboard Animatics cover six scenes in the film, and a two minute Gag Reel rounds up the special features rather nicely. The second disc of the two-disc set is just a digital copy of the film presented in widescreen in 1080p High Definition and English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

Mimic (The Director's Cut) is unrated, but was previously released in a version Rated R for Terror/Violence and Language. This unrated version contains material different from the original R-rated version. It's presented in 16x9 widescreen with a 1.85:1 ratio while also being presented in 1080p High Definition, has an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and has English and Spanish subtitles available. The film is approximately 112 minutes long. Mimic (The Director's Cut) is available in retail stores and most online retailers now (it's currently still $9.99 on Amazon).

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Tags: Mimic, movie review, Blu-ray review, Guillermo del Toro, sci-fi, horror, thriller
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The Pack (2011) review
10/03/11 at 01:37 PM by EvilButters
French horror is a genre that's grown exponentially in the past six years or so, at least when it comes to what's been making its way to U.S. shores. High Tension seemed to open the doors of interest and delivered levels of violence and gore most modern theatrically released American horror had been lacking up until that point. Inside, Frontier(s), Martyrs, Mutants, and The Horde followed in the coming years and continued to get praise from horror fanatics and gore hounds. The thing about French horror is that there are no limitations. It has no boundaries. That's the main reason fans love it as much as they do. While The Pack can be considered part of the same group as these films, it isn't nearly as powerful as any of the films mentioned.

Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne) is traveling cross-country without any real destination in mind. She attracts the attention of a biker gang and picks up a hitchhiker named Max (Benjamin Biolay) to throw them off her trail. Charlotte and Max eventually end up at La Spack, a dilapidated shack that's been modified into a roadside restaurant. Their paths cross with the biker gang once again and a bit of a scuffle breaks out. The fight is broken up by the woman who runs La Spack (Yolande Moreau) and Max disappears after going into the bathroom and never coming back out. Charlotte then finds herself trapped in a cage after snooping around in places she shouldn't. Their captors then make themselves known and begin preparing Charlotte and another prisoner as meals for a horde of cannibalistic guests.

I had this feeling of anxiousness and excitement as The Pack began. A good portion of the French horror films mentioned in this review were a little disappointing, but the interest is still there. When this genre does deliver, it's something special. The Pack was odd right from the start. There's a lot of joking around in the beginning of the film and a ton of dialogue about sex. Nearly all of the characters have bizarre quirks; Charlotte doesn't seem to want anything to do with men, Max is emotionless and cold, the La Spack owner is obviously up to something, and Chinaski (Philippe Nahon), an old man who calls himself a sheriff of sorts, walks a bike around, says, "Hi ho Silver" to it and makes horse noises repeatedly, and runs around in a "I f*** on the first date" T-shirt. It's difficult to get a read on where The Pack is headed when it has elements of comedy, mystery, and thriller as it gets going.

But The Pack eventually goes down the horror path though and mostly sticks to it. Its music is fairly haunting as it jumps back and forth between sounding like a warped lullaby and trying to seduce you with grungy and distorted guitars. The first scene at La Spack sticks out, as well. You hear nothing but The Twilight Zone pinball machine noises in the background while sloppy takedowns and yelling fill up the foreground during the melee between Charlotte and Max and the biker gang. You also probably won't ever hear, "John Wayne," without thinking of this film after viewing it. But once these creatures are introduced is when things get interesting and everything takes a turn into horror territory. Imagine the crawlers from The Descent breeding with Voldemort from Harry Potter and you have a pretty good idea of what these suckers look like. They're bloodthirsty and their hunger seems to be unquenchable. The only downside is that there's so little of them. The entire film is a slow burn to the last twenty minutes or so. While the finale is the most intriguing aspect of The Pack, it doesn't fully deliver. The ending is really peculiar; not overly good or bad but unusual. Nothing is really resolved or fully explained. And somehow nobody who picks up a gun in this film has ever heard of a headshot. The Pack does nothing more than whet your appetite and make you wish it had more to offer.

The Pack does have its moments. It's at the very least intriguing from start to finish and has some pretty fantastic make-up effects. There's also some outstanding gore featured whether it involves a severed head, exploding appendages, or a major organ being ripped from someone's chest and fed upon. Fans of the genre should still check this out. The downside is that The Pack is the weakest French horror film to date and is mostly kind of forgettable by the time you finish it. Despite its fair share of dismemberment, bloodshed, and excellent make-up, The Pack never really gets beyond mediocre territory.

The Pack is available on Video-On-Demand (VOD) now. A DVD/Blu-ray release has yet to be announced.

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Tags: The Pack, movie review, horror, French horror
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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) review
08/24/11 at 10:16 PM by EvilButters
Guillermo del Toro is a man in Hollywood that nearly everyone has something flattering to say about. He's a visionary, a creative genius, and a breath of fresh air when the majority of Hollywood films are so focused on turning redundancy into a cash cow. But the films del Toro produces are just as intriguing as the ones he writes and directs. The Orphanage is one of the more original horror films in recent years and Splice, despite whether you liked it or not, delivered one of the most amazing audience reactions I've ever experienced in the theater. So along comes Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and while it doesn't leave the impact The Orphanage or Splice did, it's still a film that is done incredibly well.

The lighting and the atmosphere of the film is what will more than likely strike you first. You're taken one hundred years into the past at the beginning of the film (according to the summary of this book) and it feels authentic. Candle light is the only light source and Emerson Blackwood's house is on the best side of the word magnificent. The tone is dark and the atmosphere is thick with shadows. In the present, the house is being remodeled by Alex (Guy Pearce) and Kim (Katie Holmes). It's still a beautiful house. Judging by the house itself, it's kind of similar to The Haunting remake from 1999 except Owen Wilson isn't around to lose his head and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a much better film.

We're then introduced to Sally (Bailee Madison), Alex's daughter who clearly doesn't want to be there. Most of the stupid things in the film can be credited to Sally. That and she's a spiteful brat for half of the film. After stumbling onto an undiscovered basement, Sally hears voices coming from a furnace that's clearly been bolted tight for a reason. After doing exactly what you expect her to, the source of those voices is unleashed in hopes of feasting on human bones to replenish its army. The creatures in the film are reminiscent of both the small demons in The Gate and the ragdolls in 9. I found it an odd coincidence that the creatures were hurt by bright lights and only came out at night much like the trolls in Trollhunter, which I had just seen the day before. However, the intent of these creatures is much darker than anything it reminds you of.

The creatures are fantastically creepy, as well. Seeing this movie in surround sound is a must. Hearing these little buggers whisper all around you is half the fun of the film. It almost makes you feel like you're hearing things. When they're not driving you insane or hiding from the light, the creatures are off being incredibly violent and leave most of their actions on-screen. Their scene with Mr. Harris comes to mind and it's almost overwhelming. You can see where the scene is going to go, but it's still pretty brutal. The scene with Sally in the bathroom and the one where they're slowly approaching Kim as she slips into unconsciousness are surprisingly ghoulish, as well.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has an amazing atmosphere. The set pieces are extravagant, the lighting is brilliant, and its creatures are ugly and menacing. The film fully embraces its own macabre nightmarishness, which is certainly the most charming thing about it. But it doesn't come together in a way that's completely satisfying. The actors seem to do the best with the material they're given, so the writing is more than likely to blame. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark falls into typical horror movie fluff as characters make stupid decisions, character development seems a bit rushed, and the screenplay is fairly dull for something with del Toro's name attached to it. Nevertheless, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark features some very vivid and wicked imagery that makes the entire journey worthwhile.

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Tags: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, movie review, horror, thriller, remake, Guy Pearce
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Final Destination 5 (2011) review
08/12/11 at 03:53 PM by EvilButters

Final Destination was at least interesting when it first hit the scene eleven years ago. The cast was solid, the story was at least somewhat intriguing that first time out, and the deaths were a bit more plausible. The series continued to get more and more ridiculous with each sequel though. The outrageousness began with Devon Sawa's character getting killed off by a tragic brick incident that we never even got to see in the second film. The franchise jumped to 3D with the third film and has basically offered the same experience over and over again the entire franchise ever since. Everything plays out exactly the same; a premonition, a set of characters escaping a devastating tragedy, and they all start dying in this aforementioned death pecking order. Most would argue that the Final Destination series is only good for the deaths, but even those get pretty tiresome as the franchise progresses. So now everyone is about to experience Final Destination 5 and it does nothing more than fit the predictable mold you're probably expecting.

Eye-catching credits start us off. At first it just seems like plain white text on a black background, but then random objects begin to enter the fray; ladders, knives, hooks, and chains. It's as if they're being thrown right into your lap, but then the screen shatters as if this was all being shot behind a giant pane of glass. Over and over again these objects shatter through the screen with a fair amount of blood being added in for good measure. The cool thing is that most if not all of the objects are throwbacks to deaths in the franchise. The unfortunate thing is that the appeal of the credits is worn off about halfway through the credit sequence. It's way overdone and becomes really monotonous by the time the movie finally begins.

The story offers up the same plot points you've come to expect with Final Destination. This one revolves around a bridge collapsing and is incredibly gory right from the start; people get impaled as their heart practically leaps out of their chest and off the screen, somebody gets covered in tar as they're clinging on for dear life, wires snap and take out unsuspecting individuals, a woman falls into the water below as a car falls on top of her, thin metal rods sitting in the back of a truck impale a man, etc. It's pure devastation, as you can imagine. But of course it's all Sam Lawson's (Nicholas D'Agosto) vision. He manages to get a few of his friends and co-workers off the bus that's parked on the bridge who in turn start getting picked off in the order they died in Sam's premonition. They tease with the fact that the order can skip you if you take someone's life, but the addition is very minimal and doesn't really change much. It isn't long before everything jumps back into order. Remember the "New rules. New decade," slogan from Scream 4? This offers something similar but has even less of a follow-through. Final Destination 5 seems to heavily imply that Tony Todd's coroner character either knows how to cheat death or has a helping hand in it. It would kind of be interesting if it did go that route rather than having the same exact storyline for five movies, but alas it wasn't meant to be.

The deaths are just really preposterous this time out though. Candice (Ellen Wroe) takes a nasty fall off of some gymnastic equipment that looks like she jumped off a three story building while Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) has her eye lasered to a bloody pulp before tripping over a plastic stuffed animal eye, falling out of a window, bouncing off of the front end of a car, landing on the pavement, having her other eye pop out of her head, and having said eye be rolled over by a passing vehicle. People were screaming bloody murder at the deaths in the theater, but they were laughable at best. Excessively grotesque deaths that are both unbelievable and nonsensical are just incredibly humorous for some reason.

The story between these characters during the calmer moments of the movie is just lame, as well. It felt like a reality show drama like something you'd find on MTV sandwiched in between "The Hills" and "Jersey Shore." Sam is a chef who has the opportunity to go to Paris for an internship, but is willing to throw that all away for Molly (Emma Bell) who he considers to be the love of his life. Since he's throwing this opportunity away, Molly decides to break up with him because he's giving up his dream for her. She spends the entire movie being wishy-washy over the matter. Sam also works at the same office Molly works at along with Olivia, Candice, Peter (Miles Fisher), Isaac (P.J. Byrne), Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta) and their boss Dennis (David Koechner). Candice, an intern, is dating Peter, Isaac seems to have a rolodex of women at his disposal, Nathan has constant altercations with one of the factory workers, and Dennis spends his time calling the police over "strange" things occurring at the office. These are the survivors of the bridge incident that are picked off one by one.

The one cool thing Final Destination 5 has going for it is that it has a way of making the entire franchise come full circle. Pay close attention to the final scene and you'll understand. This scene is easily the most enjoyable thing about not only this film, but the past three.

Final Destination 5 is extremely formulaic. It takes pride in being over the top, unbelievable, and flat out ludicrous at times. While the fifth film in the franchise doesn't necessarily offer anything you haven't already seen before, it still has a way of returning to its roots by the time Death takes its final victim. Final Destination 5 is a gory, predictable, crowd-pleaser that the general movie going audience is sure to love.

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Tags: Final Destination 5, movie review, horror, thriller, 3D, sequel, Tony Todd
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