Che Gilson

About Che Gilson

Che Gilson is a long time horror fan having been converted early by the Hammer vampire films that used to air on local TV stations after Saturday morning cartoons ended. Fed on a regular diet of horror novels she still loves a good scare. She is the author of several comic books, the urban fantasy novella "Carmine Rojas: Dog Fight" and the upcoming "Tea Times Three". While she can't seem to actually write a horror novel she still watches copious amounts of horror movies. She blogs on TV and writing at https://chegilson.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @CheGilson

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #21 – Blood Glacier (2013)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: Blood Glacier

Year: 2013

Director: Marvin Kren

Starring: Gerhard Liebman, Edita Malovic, Brigitte Kren, Hille Bessler, Peter Knaack

Netflix Percentage that I’ll like it: 57% I’ll like it.

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: Back when Harbinger Down was my monthly Netflix Roulette someone told me I should watch Blood Glacier because it too was reminiscent of The Thing (The Carpenter version) and made a better prequel to The Thing than the actual prequel to The Thing (which I think everyone can agree was terrible). Which sounds pretty promising. So I may like it more than Netflix thinks I will. I have been promised monsters in the movie blurb and there better be monsters.

The Verdict: In the same way that Harbinger Down was a better The Thing prequel than the The Thing prequel, Blood Glacier is a better Prometheus than Prometheus was. The mutations have an explanation (not just monster making soup) and the scientists aren’t all dumb as doorknobs. Also, no one is going around touching alien penis-snakes. Also, there are no penis-snakes. Though I will say that the characters in Blood Glacier are as unlikable, if not more so than Prometheus.

A small group of climate scientists are studying the melting glaciers in the Alps. They are accompanied by drunk and irascible technician Janek (Liebman). When the glacier they’re studying starts “bleeding” the scientists are stunned. Not as stunned as Janek though, who discovers a mutant fox-beetle thing rooting through their garbage. Turns out the “blood” coming from the glacier is actually a single celled organism that recombines the DNA of anything it comes into contact with after being consumed. The three scientists demand Janek keep his mouth shut about their astounding discovery. Especially when they find out a government minister Bodicek (Kren) is on her way to see how their research is going. With a VIP and Janek’s ex-girlfriend, on their way, the mountain mutants chooses now to unleash hell. They find themselves trapped by all sorts of cheapish looking mutant animals, including a mutant bird that looks like it could have come right out of Birdemic.

Blood Glacier, despite cheap mutant monsters is a heck of a lot of fun. The Minister is the most badass bureaucrat in the history of cinema. The movie is worth it for the scene in which she takes she a giant drill to a mutant ibex, alone. There’s also a nameless female victim of the mutant bird who spends the entire film passed out then dies in a fire. Yes, a fire. Along with the mutant monsters, there is a good amount practical gore effects including blood spurting boils and a very nice impalement.

If you haven’t seen Blood Glacier yet, then go check it out. Especially if you like cheesy monster flicks with an ecological message (Thaw anyone?). If you have seen it, I only hope you had as much fun as I did. The only warning I would issue is for dog fans. Yes there is a dog. And no, he doesn’t survive.

Rating: 7/10

The Baylock Residence (2018) Review

rsz_baylock_posterThe Baylock Residence (2018)

Director: Anthony M. Winson

Starring: Kelly Goudie, Sarah Wynne Kordas, Karen Henson, Kieron Brook

This is making me very uneasy.”

During the London Blitz, Patricia Woodhouse (Kelly Goudie) receives news of her estranged sister Susanna’s (Karen Henson) death. With nothing left in London Patricia goes to Baylock house and meets Annabel (Sarah Wynne Kordas), her sister’s maid. Patricia tries to carry on, seeing to her sister’s things, but strange things begin to happen. Noises wake Patricia in the night, voices come from the shadows and strange dreams assail her. Annabel is disbelieving until she too witnesses the terrifying phenomenon. Patricia is determined to find out what is happening in her house and what happened to her sister. The haunting seem to link back Susanna’s husband Victor who disappeared without a trace years before.

The Baylock Residence has an equal number of pros and cons. So much so that they cancel each other out and what’s left is a zero sum.

Pro: The acting is pretty decent. Goudie and Kordas carry a lot of weight and the vast majority of the screen time. They do a decent job overall.

Con: In a scene when Patricia tells Annabel that not only has she lost her sister but her husband has died in the war and her home was bombed. Goudie delivers this information with all the emotion of reading a grocery list.

Pro: Pretty decent haunted house type plot including creepy dreams and a secret in the attic.

Baylock 1Con: Nothing it done either in color palette or film quality to distinguish past from present, dream from reality. It’s the same one note film throughout.

Pro: I love period pieces and was excited when Baylock opened and the setting was WWII.

Con: The costumes were… not good. Wilson obviously didn’t have the money to pull off a period piece. The hair, costumes, and even the setting aren’t period accurate. It looked more like the actors and extras were asked to provide their own wardrobe out of anything vaguely 40s style pulled from their closets.

Pro: The piano music isn’t terrible.

Con: The score/background music is almost nothing but piano music and it begin to grate after an hour or so.

Pro: The plot takes some nice twists and turns and Patricia has to engage in my favorite thing in horror movies: research at the library.

Con: Toward the end the story wanders off into inscrutable. Horror filmmakers- please just offer a coherent explanation. Impenetrably vague endings aren’t fun and mysterious. They just plain don’t make sense.

Pro: There are ghosts.

Con: The ghosts are boring.

Pro: Wilson made an entire movie an estimated £3000 and it’s not terrible.

Con: It looks about like you’d expect a movie the cost £3000 to look and feel.

Baylock 3So, bottom line. The Baylock Residence isn’t terrible. I’ve certainly sat through much worse. But I’ve also watched much better films of equivalent budget. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It could be worse. It could be better. The most notable scene in the entire film is a terrible CGI composite of a bombed London street that is laughably bad. But after that there are no more special effects and the film is better for it. Baylock offers a decent story with some clever filmmaking for a micro budget film. But it’s not truly scary or atmospheric.

Kudos for: Sob fighting.

Lesson learned: Just leave the bloody house.

4/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

rsz_stage_fright_posterChe Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: Stage Fright

Year: 2014

Director: Jerome Sable

Starring: Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith, Meatloaf, Minnie Driver, Kent Nolan, Brandon Uranowitz

Netflix Percentage that I’ll like it (or rating): 2.4 stars. No recommendation on whether Netflix thinks I’ll like it or not.

Seen it before: No

rsz_stage_fright_1First Impressions: My deepest wish is that it will be a slasher musical. If my dreams come true that doesn’t mean it will be any good LOL! From the description it looks like a fairly standard slasher with the addition of musical theater camp. So I’m guessing it will be OK but nothing to write home about.

The Verdict: For once I was right! It IS a musical slasher film! And a darn well done one at that! It’s (unfortunately) a rare occurrence to be pleasantly surprised by a horror film these days. But Stage Fright was an entertaining romp through musical theater camp peppered with gruesome deaths and surprisingly good musical numbers.

Young Camilla and Buddy Swanson (played by Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith) were orphaned as children when their mother, up and coming Broadway star Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) was murdered after starring in The Haunting of the Opera. Her manager Roger McCall takes the children in and raises them as his own. Camilla and Buddy now work as cooks at the theater camp Roger owns. When the camp season starts the campers embark on a production of The Haunting of the Opera, which meets the same bloody fate as the original.

rsz_stage_fright_2This musical meets slasher is original, funny, toe-tapping and gory. Pretty much everything that anyone could want in a horror film. It takes some nice twists and turns, and skewers everything from actor rivalry to skuzzy locals. Camilla is the rising ingénue, auditioning for the camp musical when she’s technically ineligible as an employee. Smelling a profit to be made though, Roger allows it. Buddy is disgusted his sister wants anything to do with show business and the snobby campers who snub them on a yearly basis.

The songs are unexpectedly good. Often a film like this has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, and the songs will suffer. But not this time. From the opening number sung by the campers, to those from the Haunting of the Opera, they are entertaining and fun. The gore effects are decent too, and there are a number of creative deaths which befall the unlucky campers during their annual production.

rsz_stage_fright_3As great as Stage Fright is, there are a couple of small nitpicks. The masked villain has only one rock solo toward the end of the film, but they flash on him several times earlier in the movie which would have been a perfect time for a rock song about what he wanted to do to the campers. Secondly, the deaths are all loaded into the very end, during the production of The Haunting of the Opera. I expected the deaths to be spaced out, more Sleepaway Camp style. Instead, after Minnie Driver’s death at the very beginning, the story of the camp takes over, and no one dies again until the climax. The intervening story IS good, so it’s engaging, but still loses sight that this is a slasher film, and therefore requires slashing to happen.

Still, the complaints are small and the entertainment is high! Treat yourself to this unusual and hilarious mash-up.

Rating: 8/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #19 – The Fields (2011)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

rsz_1the_fields_posterTitle: The Fields

Year: 2011

Director: Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni

Starring: Tara Reid, Cloris Leachman, Joshua Ormand, Brian Anthony Wilson

Netflix Rating: 2.5 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: OK according to the description an evil presence lurks in the cornfields of a young boy’s grandparents farm… So we’ll find out. But, full disclosure- I love me a haunted farmhouse. OK, I’m a sucker for anything haunted. It says ‘based on true events’ which means it will either be decent or awful. There doesn’t seem to be much in between when it comes to ‘true happenings’ films. And the rating doesn’t bode well…

The Verdict: Well it turned out to be exactly what I didn’t want it to be. A mish-mash of genres, thriller, coming of age, and general WTFery. The fact that it’s disconcerting in the least can be chalked up to some music and an inbred clan of hillbillies living in their mother’s basement (who literally occupy ONE scene- the one uncanniest scene in the entire movie). Otherwise it’s a big fat lot of absolutely nothing happening.

rsz_the_fields_1And no. There is no haunting. Nothing ghostly, and the ‘evil presence’ is a big fat over sell, it’s really just a crazy local and some drifter hippies, and all the action takes place off screen anyway, so you never really find out for sure what’s happening. Why anyone thought this would be a good basis for a movie I have no idea. The problem with films like The Field, is false advertising. Well, that and it’s just not very good. But still- just be honest. Don’t get our hopes up for one thing and deliver something else. This is NOT a horror film. It’s not even really trying to be a horror film. It’s more of an ill-conceived drama.

In 1973 young Steven (Ormand), is sent to live with his grandparents for a time while his mother (Tara Reid) tries to work out her combative relationship with Steven’s father. The grandparents are played by Cloris Leachman and Tom McCarthy. They provide much of the comic relief in the film as they bicker and cuss each other out. There sort of needs to be an entire film of nothing but Cloris Leachman yelling obscenities off-screen. Steven, meanwhile, grows obsessed with grandpa’s cornfields and the Manson Family Murders. Coverage of the murder trial is running constantly on the TV, and Steven keeps asking uncomfortable questions about Charles Manson that his grandparents struggle to answer.

The setting of 1973 is used very well, and provides a milieu of evil hippies, social turbulence and pop-culture references. The sets and costumes are fantastically done and The Fields looks and feels like it was made in the 70s, right down to the film grain. It’s perhaps the films greatest achievement.

rsz_the_fields_2The acting deserves some mention. Not because the performances are terrible, but because they are decent for a B-movie. No one is absolutely terrible, not even Tara Reid. Sadly though, the actors just don’t have much to do aside from walk from place to place looking serious.

The few plusses it offers up can’t disguise the fact that there is very little plot and almost no attempt to craft a story that invests viewers.

Rating: 4/10

Crimson (1976) Review

crimsonCrimson (The Man with the Severed Head) 1976

Las ratas no duermen de noche (original title)

Director: Juan Fortuny

Starring: Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot, Gilda Arancio, Claude Boissen, Carlos Otero

Out NOW on UK DVD from Black House Films

“Otherwise…understand.”

A gang of four criminals lead by Henry (Mathot) is attempting to rob a jewelry store when it all goes hilariously wrong. One of Henry’s flunkies (I don’t know which- the one with glasses) steals a pearl necklace, setting off the alarm. The robbers flee and end up in a shootout with police during which their safe cracker Surnett (Naschy) is shot in the head. Unable to take him to a hospital the thieves call on a local drunk ex-doctor who makes his living patching up the local criminals. Dr Ritter (Otero)doesn’t have the skills to operate so he suggests that his old friend a mad scientist can patch up Surnett. Well to fix Surnett all the mad scientist needs is- another brain! And whose brain do they get? Another gangster by the name of The Sadist. Well that sounds like a recipe for fun. After installing part of the Sadist’s brain in Surnett, he turns into a mad rapist what rapes three women.

rsz_crimson_2I’m not even sure where to start with Crimson. The jaunty 1970’s jazz flute that plays over the rape for titillation scenes? The fact that it has not one but FOUR rape for titillation scenes. The ridiculously incompetent criminals? The utter lack of even an attempt at science? The fact that apparently, Crimson is originally in Spanish but dubbed in French? Decisions, decisions…

Let’s start with the science and that word, in the context of this film requires sarcastic air quotes. First of all Surnett barely looks injured, as though the bullet only grazed his skull, or as if the film didn’t have money for fake blood. SECONDLY how on earth is a brain transplant EASIER than brain surgery to remove a bullet? THIRDLY the Mad Scientist says, after examining an x-ray, that the bullet didn’t penetrate the brain. SO WHY ARE WE DOING A BRAIN TRANSPLANT?! And why do I care? Believe me, I tried to let it go. But there is only so much suspension of disbelief one can take. Even films like The Brain that Wouldn’t Die make a vague stab in the general direction of science, but not Crimson, NO, it couldn’t be bothered with such pettiness as logic or even watching an episode of say M*A*S*H.

rsz_crimson_3Incompetent criminals. Stealing a necklace during a safe robbery and tripping a secondary alarm system is only the beginning for Henry’s boys. The real hilarity comes when they trap and kill The Sadist. They have been ordered to bring back The Sadist’s head. And they take that mission both seriously and literally. After attempt one at decapitation fails they try plan B which works. Hint– it involves a train. When The Sadist’s gang finds out their boss is dead they go on a rampage of poorly organized vengeance.

And finally, the rape. OK, this is a film from the 70s. This is a film from France (possibly Spain). I knew what I was in for. What was surprising was the amount of boobage and the amount of rape for titillation. Like wow…insert slow clap here. Not one female character escapes the film un-raped with the possible exception of The Sadist’s evil girlfriend Barabara (Evelyn Scott) who is molested by Surnett post brain transplant when he is basically half-Sadist and she seems to have feelings for him. Anyway, there aren’t just breasts on display there is full frontal female nudity, which is present in such quantity that it is an actual “Plot Keyword” on IMDb. There are also the mysterious disappearing-reappearing clothing. Because who want to spend valuable rape time getting women’s clothing off when you can just cut to full nudity. This also applies to getting clothing back on. Don’t think it’s just lady buttocks that appear. There are at least two flabby man-asses the audience is treated to.

rsz_crimson_1So, what actual language is this film in? Was it dubbed from Spanish into French? Was it just a Spanish production filmed in France? I don’t know. It was subtitled in English which was good enough for me.

Crimson pure 70s sleaze and cheeze. It’s easy to riff on and laugh at and impossible to take seriously. But watch with caution. Because, you know, rape.

Kudos for: Professor Teets

Lesson learned: It’s not brain surgery.

6/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #18 – The Babadook (2014)

Babadook posterJoin Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: The Babadook

Year: 2014

Director: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney

Netflix Rating: 3.5 stars

Seen it before: No! And OMG am I late to this party. I remember EVERYONE was going on about this movie when it came out. Everyone said it was terrifying, and it’s been on Netflix for ages, and it’s on my “to watch list” but I still haven’t seen it. So, no time like the present.

rsz_babadook_2First Impressions: How scared should I be? It has a decent rating and looks scary. Will I need to sleep with the lights on? Should I be watching this over lunch? (This is a bad habit…) Anyway, I hope it’s good and I hope it’s scary and I hope it holds together, and I’m excited a female director is helming it. So here we go! Or and one final observation, anything called the Babadook doesn’t sound scary. Because dookie….

The Verdict: Plot first. Stressed out single mom Amelia (Davis) has to deal with her needy, annoying, son Sam (Wiseman) who is a monster obsessed discipline problem. One night Sam picks out a bedtime story called The Babadook, the book has seemingly appeared from nowhere. This of course kicks off a series of escalating supernatural assaults. Amelia finally succumbs to the Babadook and almost murders her son. But, as annoying as Sam is he has some mad monster fighting skillz. So the worst outcome is avoided, but now Amelia is stuck with an evil supernatural house pet that lives in her basement, because, “You can never get rid of the Babadook”.

rsz_babadook_3OK. There is a lot to unpack about this movie. First off, the big lesson is never have children! LOL! But seriously, it does a great job examining the darker side of motherhood. The things people don’t like to talk about, like how sometimes kids are really hard to love. The scene where Amelia’s sister flat out tells her she doesn’t like her kid felt really true in ways that a lot of saccharine family dramas never do. It’s cold and brutal and a sharp moment that puts a nail in Amelia’s isolation.

The acting is phenomenal. Essie Davis’s performance drips with agony. She’s overworked, underpaid, and can’t get a moment’s sleep. As the film goes on she grows more haggard and disheveled. The young actor playing Sam turns out a fantastic performance. In the beginning Sam is needy, clingy, and screams and kicks, basically he’s the kid on the airplane everyone hates. His obsession with home-built weapons gets him kicked out of school which means he only clings harder to his mother. This clinginess comes from the tragic shared past of mother and son. Amelia’s husband died in a car crash while driving her to the hospital the night Sam was born. Amelia is constantly reminded of the tragedy by Sam’s very existence and she is by turns, cold and supportive, but unable to settle on one.

Babadook 1The actual Babadook itself remains off-screen, unless you count the creepy/cute illustrations in the picture book which evokes it. It appears as shadowy dream creature, and empty suit of clothes, and twice as Amelia’s dead husband. Even when Amelia “tames” it and id forced to keep it in the basement the audience STILL doesn’t get a good look. I’m not sure how effective this is. Personally I love a creature feature, but there is something to be said for keeping it vague. Mostly budgetary, but maybe the audience can conjure something scarier in their mind. I was just frustrated.

But I honestly liked just about everything in this film including the color palette of cool grays, blues and browns. Definitely worth watching, although probably everyone already has…

Rating: 8/10

Bethany (2017) Review

Bethany PosterBethany (2017)

Director: James Cullen Bressack

Starring: Stefanie Estes, Zak Ward, Shannon Doherty, Tom Green

“You’re not just some stinky zombie, honey.”

After Claire’s (Estes) mother dies, she and her husband Aaron (Ward) move into her childhood home. The couple is struggling both from financial issues, which makes the free rent attractive, and personal setbacks, their son was stillborn and Claire is recovering from a suicide attempt. As Aaron’s job future brightens, Claire seems to descend into a personal hell as old memories of her abusive mother surface amidst strange visions and supernatural phenomena.

Bethany is a solid thriller and twisty ghost story whose disparate threads come together at the very end, possibly too neatly. As well crafted as the film is, it handles some things much better than others. First, some of the good. The film is nicely shot, and while the budget wasn’t listed on IMDB it’s a safe bet that it wasn’t a lot. The cool twilight blue lighting and camera angles make the most of the limited setting. Most of the film takes place in Claire’s mother’s house. To that end the set/location was very important and Bethany makes the most of its real-estate. Much of the plot questions Claire’s sanity as memories of her abusive past intrude into her daily life and weird visions haunt her waking hours.

Bethany 1Claire’s mother Susan (Doherty), was a shallow, looks obsessed pageant mom, bent on turning Claire into the perfect little princess. To escape, Claire turned to her imaginary friend, Bethany, who may not have been as imaginary as Claire thought. There is a literal ghost, and a lot of misdirection. Which is fine, for awhile, not 90% of the film. It is not until the VERY end of the movie that Claire’s visions, past, and the haunting all come together with a series of deus ex machina coincidences that provide all the answers to the viewer. And while the last ten minutes or so are certainly the most enjoyable, as Aaron at last encounters the supernatural, freaks out, and then Claire solves the mystery of her past, it is very predictable. Except for one spectacular moment of wrap-up that is probably the best scene in the entire film and I cannot spoil for you.

The acting is very good. Though at times Estes falls into over-acting. Still, in a horror movie, better more than less. Zak Ward does a good job as the mostly supportive and loving Aaron. In the few marital fights that appear on screen, he is a real jerk and the attitude seems more a contrivance of the script, and doesn’t feel true to the character as established. Tom Green is surprisingly restrained as the couple’s web therapist who pays an ill fated visit to Claire and Aaron. Shannon Doherty practically has “wicked” stamped on her forehead and even when she phones it in, does a creditable job as Claire’s overbearing mother.

rsz_bethany_3After a bit of poking around on IMDB I found out that director Bressack has been called “horror’s new hope”  (StudioCity Patch – Mike Szymanski), among other accolades. He is young, and prolific, that’s for sure. But to live up to such a lofty critique I would expect far more from his work. Bethany is an okay movie , it’s entertaining but nothing that hasn’t been seen and done before in any number of films. It’s a good B-movie but nothing more.

Kudos for: Having a basement.

Lesson learned: Lime Jell-O will help you out of handcuffs.

6/10

Satanic (2016) Review

rsz_satanicSatanic (2016)

Director: Jeffrey G. Hunt

Starring: Sarah Hyland, Steven Krueger, Clara Mamet, Justin Chon, Sophie Dalah

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

“One devil shrine does not a douche-bag make.”

Satanic starts off promising, with good production values and a talented cast lead by Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. Unfortunately it goes downhill pretty quickly, failing to deliver on the occult thrills promised by the title.

Chloe (Hyland), David (Krueger), Elise(Mamet)and Seth(Chon) are on their way to Coachella with a two day stop in Los Angeles for their own private murder tour. Chloe’s cousin Elise and her boyfriend Seth are little baby goths looking to hit some Satanic hotspots, like the Church of Satan LA chapter. They check into a dive hotel room where a woman named Laney Gore slit her own throat back in the 70s. The budding young Satanists, Elise and Seth try to contact the deceased while Chloe pouts nervously and her preppy boyfriend David makes snide remarks. That is everything you need to know about the characters, and as much depth as any of them truly have.

rsz_satanic_1Back to the plot. Elise and Seth are in charge of the LA itinerary while David complains constantly but drives them around anyway. After a rude reception at the Church of Satan Elise and Seth get booted out of a magic store at knifepoint. The group decides to follow the clerk after he leaves the store, to find out if he’s really a Satanist or just a jerk. Well, he turns out to be a Satanist and our intrepid Scooby Gang interrupts a ritual of some kind, and are driven off again, this time at gunpoint. Seth, who is definitely the Shaggy of the group, drops his phone at the site of the ritual. The next day they get a call from Alice, who may, or may not have been a ritual sacrifice. And then a bunch more stuff happens. The plot is honestly exhausting to try and describe because it accomplishes so very little in so very much time. There’s a lot going on but not much happening.

The acting is good. The characters aren’t particularly sympathetic except for doe-eyed Chloe, who is sympathetic because she 1-has empathy and 2-has giant doe eyes that would emote with or without her. The other young actors all have impressive resumes and it’s the script that fails them, not their talents. They are given shallow characters with very little personality to work with, and even so they manage to act through trite dialogue and well worn horror clichés.

Satanic seems likes it’s trying to be a throwback to the 1970’s wave of occult inspired films. At the same time it doesn’t seem aware that those films exist and that they did it better. It’s a shallow satanic film as these things go, lacking the accoutrements and ambiance of older occult movies. There are some stock standard robes, a satanic alter… and not much else. Even the locales aren’t gothic.

rsz_satanic_3The actual interesting bits kick in about fifty minutes into the film, but by then it’s too little too late. And then the film STILL has to wander around doing not much of anything, except lots of screaming, for another twenty minutes. The majority of special effects are back loaded into the last half of the film as well, and none of them are worth much of a mention except that for most of the movie I wondered if there were even going to BE any special effects. I am almost sad that my question was answered. The ending is a boring mess

Kudos for: Hardcore, but not too hardcore Satanists.

Lesson learned: Just take the murder tour bus, it’ll save time.

4/10

Zombie Cats From Mars (2015) Review

Zombie Cats PosterZombie Cats From Mars (2015)

Director: Montetré

Starring: Bransen Sands Koehler, Benni Harper, Janae’ Werner

“Death is a cat from Mars”

For awhile now I have been riding high on a good run of micro-budget, self-aware, indie horror flicks. I had hoped that Zombie Cats From Mars would continue this run and be a worthy follow-up to personal classics like Attack of the Killer Shrews and First Man on Mars. Sadly the winning streak is over.

Zombie Cats From Mars is a tough one to sit through. Amateur in every way, shape and form. One IMDB member called it a “web series masquerading as a film”. Which it certainly could be. But I’m not going to try and find out, the movie doesn’t warrant the research.

The plot is simple. A cat from Mars lands on Earth and begins terrorizing a Portland (Oregon) neighborhood. The Martian cat somehow enlists–possibly through mind control– earth cats who join in the carnage. There is a whole absurd legend about a cat named Lord Sassafras and how humans banished him to Mars and now he’s come back for revenge and to rule the universe. Or something. Hard to tell. The legend is read out loud by one of the “actors” who read it too quickly and didn’t enunciate. Billy (Koehler), the main character, puts two and two together and comes up with cats. Well, he doesn’t so much as come up with the answer as read his grandfather’s book about the secret history of cats from Mars (written in ballpoint pen I would like to add). Billy decides he must fight the cats on his own using their weakness, Holy water.

rsz_zombie_cats_2Pretty much every single minute of Zombie Cats from Mars is painful to watch. Everything about it is bad, and not in a good way. The acting is terrible, it’s really a bunch of amateurs and their friends making a movie (or web series) in their back yard and the digital effects would embarrass even Ed Wood Jr. The dialogue has nothing to do with how human beings speak, and is actually bad enough to be distracting, making the viewer question WHY the character is spouting such nonsense every few lines. And it’s not just the dialogue which is bad, the poor writing extends to plotting, and character development, of which there is none. The camera work is also particularly heinous, shots are blurry until the camera can auto-focus. And it’s obvious the film was shot on a video camera. The sound is terrible, the dialogue is frequently soft and drowned out by background noises or echoes. The attacking cats were obvious plush toys which the actors (I hate even calling them that) had to pretend to wrestle with. The cat scratch make-up effects were actually not too terrible, but also incredibly simple and let me just say, mortician’s wax goes a long way.

The one and only laugh is when one of the zombie cats gets out a hacksaw and cuts the gas line. Shot entirely from the “cat’s” POV it’s amusing to watch kitty paws operate a hacksaw. There are several scenes from “kitty vision” with puppet cat paws performing various actions that are pretty funny. If the entire film had been done in “kitty vision” it might have had a gimmick that would have made it bearable to watch. Instead there are only a couple salvageable scenes lost in an abyss of clumping cat litter.

rsz_zombie_cats_3Kudos for: Any house cat that can inflict blunt force trauma

Lesson learned: Portland in NOT the new Hollywood

2/10

Ghosthunters (2016) Review

rsz_gh1Ghosthunters (2016) Review

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Crystal Web.

Out now on UK DVD from High Fliers Films

“Ghost DNA.”

After Henry’s wife and daughter are murdered in an abandoned house used by a serial killer, he and his group of ghosthunters go back in to extract their souls. Henry (Stephen Manly) and his friends have been working on a machine to find and preserve ectoplasm. They were testing the machine at the site of the murders when everything went wrong. Now Henry and his cohorts face the angry victims of the serial killer. A serial killer who may not be done.

Well, it sounds okay in theory. And it’s certainly not the worst movie ever. It’s an Asylum film. So that right there should tell you a lot about Ghosthunters. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Ghosthunters manages to be a mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some fun special effects and creepy ghosts. The jump scares aren’t terribly effective, they pop up right about where expected, negating their effectiveness.

There is also a delightful amount of techno-babble the likes of which haven’t been heard since Star Trek went off the air. The techno-babble actually makes for a pretty hilarious scene of really terrible exposition about the ghost hunting machine. It’s basically a ghost trap from Ghostbusters. Don’t give it too much thought.

rsz_gh2Aside from the mediocre plot there is also plenty of mediocre characters performed by so-so actors. The good news is that no one is stand-out terrible. The problem is they are also stuck with a pretty ridiculous script. The most weighty role is given to Manly who does pretty good as the grief stricken Henry but could have brought a lot more personality to the role. Especially since one of the major twists hangs on his. David O’Donnell plays Henry’s friend and confidant Neal who built the ghost trapping machine. Neal also brings along his reporter girlfriend Amy played by Francesca Santoro, who is arguably the main character, but nothing in the movie indicates that fact. Then there is computer programmer Jessica played by Liz Fenning. Crystal Web plays the sadly under-utilized psychic Devon. No one has much character development and nothing more is known about the characters at the end of the film as was known in the beginning.

There are a lot of wasted opportunities in Ghosthunters too. Devon brings a knowledge of the occult to the “science” of paranormal investigating, and in a good scene that goes nowhere, she tries to trap the ghosts in the house using salt. The combination of the occult and science would have been a really interesting development. But the script slogs along with paint-by-number predictably.

The best thing about the film are possibly the props. The best prop in the entire movie is a pair of steampunk styled ghost spotting goggles. Second runner-up is a steampunk styled plague doctor mask worn by the killer. Sadly the ghost trapping machine itself is a bland jumble of spare parts that look like they could be anything. The rest of the special effects are okay, but not great. There is some CGI enhancement of the ghosts, but it looks like most of the effects were achieved practically. It’s not a special effect heavy film, probably due to budget constraints, and it manages with what it has. Over all Ghosthunters is pretty skippable.

gh3Kudos for: The organ music.

Lesson Learned: Say ghost DNA often enough and it just sounds silly.

5/10