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

Vampyres (2015) Review

vampyres1Vampyres (2015)

Director: Victor Matellano

Starring: Marta Flich, Almundena Leon, Christian Stamm, Veronica Polo, Anthony Rotsa

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

“Life is so short. Especially yours.”

Two vampires, Fran (Marta Flich) and Miriam (Almudena Leon) waylay drivers on a stretch of empty forest road and take them home for sex followed by a little light massacring. That’s pretty much the whole plot. And before you ask (or in the event you have seen the original) yes, the two vampires make-out with each other and their victims in blood-soaked nude scenes. The latest pick-up is Ted (Christian Stamm), a bland middle-aged man who looks like a cut-rate Liam Neeson. He is apparently tasty enough to keep around for more than one meal. There is also a secondary plot about three friends camping in the woods near the vampire’s house that really has nothing to do with anything.

File this one under “Good movies that didn’t need to be remade.” The original 1974 Vampyres was a lavish, opulent, brooding, gothic sex thriller. Set in a gorgeous British country home, featuring autumnal woods and touched with misty mornings and fall leaves, the entire production dripped atmosphere. Despite its flaws, especially that of the tired trope of the lesbians dying at the end, it stands as a vampire film to be reckoned with. A yard stick by which all lesbian vampire films will be held up to, and sadly, most of them will also be found wanting.

vampyres2If the original film’s watchword was ‘decadence’, the Vampyre’s watchword was ‘budget’. Gone is the stately English country home straight from a gothic novel. Gone are the fantastically scintillating 1970s costumes. Gone is a coherent plot and dialogue that isn’t a garbled mess. Everything in Vampyres 2015 is cheap, and small, and nigh incoherent. The music drowns out the dialogue (some of which was lifted verbatim from the original), and even if it had been audible it was delivered with such thick accents, the director would have been better off simply making the film in Spanish (and who knows- there may be a slightly better version in Spanish out there somewhere) and giving us subtitles, because at least then I would have known what the actors were saying. It may even have improved their lacklustre acting, to make the film in their native language. Thought to be fair it’s a pretty international production, so that might not have worked.

Usually remakes (as terrible as they often are) at the very least throw more money at the production than the original. Vampyres is by far cheaper looking than the original (which was not an expensive film to begin with). The house the two vampires are squatting in as a rundown farmhouse in the Spanish countryside, much of the place is bereft of furniture and atmosphere. The costumes are another place corners were cut. Fran and Miriam have two outfits each. A black cocktail dress and cape ensemble, and a peach negligee with a false corset that frankly looks like it came out of a catalogue of Amy Brown inspired fairy dresses.

vampyres3There really isn’t much compelling about the film. Well, aside from lots of breasts. Well, at least a few pairs of breasts. Most of them will be Fran and Miriam’s. Nudity however, can only get you so far in a movie. Especially one in which there is supposed to be a plot.

But the plot is a mish-mash. Some of it is the original film, then there is the bit with the three campers who really don’t have much to do aside from discuss a book they found, their college crushes, and then finally too get picked off at the end. There is also a guy with a scythe! Who does nothing and is literally credited as “Man with Scythe” in the film credits. My guess is he was a very literal and ham-fisted personification of death.

Then there’s Caroline Munro who plays a cryptic inn keeper and spouts nonsensical lines for no reason other than poor writing. Last but not least, the burning question- did this movie “bury its gays?” Well… one of them. In an absurd turn of events Ted shoots one of the vampires (I’m going to say Fran again) with a crossbow. However the other one get away and turns the girl camper Harriet (Veronica Polo).

vampyres4If you’re interested in Vampyres (or for that matter vampires) I HIGHLY recommend skipping this film and going straight to the 1974 version. The story is better, the production values are better, the costumes, the acting, the setting, everything is flat out better in the old movie. Vampyres accomplished pretty much what all remakes in the history cinema have managed to do: be worse than the original.

Kudos for: “Man with Scythe”

Lesson learned: Don’t remake good movies

4/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #15 – The Diabolical (2015)

diabolical-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 Diabolical

Year: 2015

Director: Alistair Legrand

Starring: Ali Larter, Arjun Gupta, Max Rose

Netflix Rating: 1.8 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: From the description it sounds like a decent haunted house flick. But the low rating doesn’t look promising. The description promises it’s a Supernatural Vs. Science smack down, so let’s see what wins!

The Verdict: That was unexpectedly good. Not amazing, but good. The Diabolical (misleading title by the way) takes an entirely scientific approach to ghosts. In fact the ghosts aren’t ghosts­– and here is where I spoil the entire film for you, but science experiments gone wrong! Take a pinch of Looper and sprinkle it on top of Insidious and you have The Diabolical. Or maybe it’s more of a Terminator meets Poltergeist. Basically is involves time travel and teleportation gone wrong.

diabolical-1Ali Larter plays single mother Madison whose house is haunted (or not as we find out later). She has to deal with not just spooky occurrences in her house, but her tween son Jacob(Max Rose) who has anger issues and a five-year-old daughter. The film kicks off with the ghosts front and center, literally one appears in the first scene of the film as Madison is reading a website about bankruptcy.

Meanwhile Jacob struggles to get over an incident from five months ago so severe that a social worker drops in for interviews. Aside from his anger issues Jacob is a good older brother and a brilliant student preparing to skip ahead a few grades and go right to high school. His tutor, Nikolai (Arjun Gupta) has eyes for Madison and they date, which leads to Nikolai witnessing firsthand the supernatural occurrences in Madison’s house. Nikolai applies his scientific knowledge to figuring out what is going on. It all links back to Nikolai and his former job with a shady corporation performing shady experiments.

The effects are pretty good, with at least one grossly gooey ghost who keeps appearing, a second one in slightly better condition, and one that just looks like a big threatening guy. The scares aren’t particularly scary but the mood maintains the mystery and suspense. The acting is really good, even the two child actors are excellent, which can be dicey. But they carry their roles admirably, especially Max Rose. A great deal of the plot revolves around his character Jacob and if he hadn’t done such a good job the whole film would have dragged. The movie is also worth it just to see Ali Larter try to punch a ghost.

diabolical-2Despite its strengths The Diabolical is just a little bit on the boring side. There’s nothing really obviously boring, it just creeps in around the edges when a scene or two drags on longer than necessary and the haunting isn’t that scary. After that it just becomes a matter of waiting for the explanation. Which is obvious about fifteen minutes from the end. Still, it’s a pretty decent watch and don’t let the low rating on Netflix fool you, it might not be extraordinary, but I’ve certainly seen far worse.

Rating: 6/10

Spaghetti Man (2016) Review

spaghettiman-posterSpaghetti Man (2016)

Director: Mark Potts

Starring: Ben Crutcher, Winston Carter, Brand Rackley, Leigh Wulff, Joe LoCicero

“Drink that spaghetti pee.”

The self serving lead character of Spaghettiman is middle aged slacker Clark. He could be 20, he could be 40. He represents a mind-set more than an age. After gaining powers when his (or rather his friends) microwave malfunctions nuking a bowl of spaghetti, Clark, played by Ben Crutcher, gains the power of spaghetti. He pees spaghetti, he bleeds spaghetti, and he can sling spaghetti from his hands fast enough to disarm villains. His roommate and sole friend Dale (Winston Carter) thinks Clark should become a true hero, doing what’s right for the good of the city. Instead Clark uses his newfound superpowers to make cash. He saves people from muggings and purse-snatchings then demands a reward in the form of whatever they have in their wallet. Frustrated with Clark’s attitude Dale takes it upon himself to make Clark the hero he thinks Spaghetti Man should be.

spaghettiman-1A wonderful dismantling of superheroes and their mythos. Truly a slacker hero for our time. Or at least the one we deserve. Spaghetti Man is perhaps one of the best superhero films since The Specials. Yes the effects are cheap. Yes the acting is uneven. But the story of what a person with a broken moral compass and a stupid superpower would do is real and funny and kind of dumb.

In terms of superheroes bigger isn’t always better. What is missing from most superhero films is basic humanity. And not the noble sort of “greater good” humanity. I’m talking about the rest of us who are lazy and cowardly and would use our powers to make a quick buck so we wouldn’t have to go out and get a real job. Those of us whose idea of a good disguise would just be a paper bag over our head and who wouldn’t say no to a free meal. That’s the genius of Spaghetti Man. The everyman, or very substandard everyman given something slightly extraordinary and carrying on as usual.

So, the plot, concept, and even the script are great. But the acting is where things stumble. Everyone is just a little flat and it feels like there wasn’t much rehearsal time. The acting gets a bit better once you settle into the movie and the plot takes over. But the first few scenes are rough. At first I thought I’d made a terrible mistake watching Spaghetti Man, but it got better the longer I stayed. Sadly it would have been a stellar film if only the acting could have kept up with such a well written script. However everything else is enjoyable enough that in this rare instance the acting can be ignored.

spaghettiman-2Fans of superheroes will enjoy the post-modern take-down of superheroes films and people who hate superhero movies might like this smaller, closer, slice-of-life film.

Kudos for: Spaghetti slinging action
Lesson learned: Spaghetti is as dangerous as it is tasty

8/10

First Man On Mars (2016) Review

fmom1First Man on Mars (2016)

Director: Mike Lyddon

Starring: Marcelle Shaneyfelt, Benjamin Wood, Kirk Jordan, Kelly Murtagh, Jeffrey Estiverne

“Guess we can always use a redshirt.”

First Man on Mars is bad. It’s SO bad. It’s so gloriously, hilariously bad. But first things first. The plot. Billionaire Eli Cologne (Benjamin Wood) wants to be the first man on Mars. He privately funds his own Mars mission back in 2003 and makes it to the red planet. He then promptly becomes infected with some kind of Mars germs and high tails it back to earth. His ship lands in Louisiana during hurricane Katrina and Eli has been lost for all these years. A couple of back-woods rednecks find his ship and accidentally trigger a rescue beacon. Cue the scientists. They come rushing to Black Bayou to find Cologne and bring him home. Of course by now Cologne has become a killer mutant wandering the swamps in search of people to eat and shiny, shiny gold.

So, what’s so great about a terrible movie? Well First Man on Mars is a funny parody of 1950s B-movies and 70’s schlock. There is so much fun packed into this cheap little movie, the laughs just keep coming, though admittedly most of them are pretty low-brow. But everything from the first frame of the film is designed to be bad and it succeeds at being bad wonderfully. It brings to mind a raunchier Skeleton of Cadavra Cave.

fmom2The special effects are hilarious and come right out of a 1950s sci-fi flick. The Mars lander and rocket are both obviously toys. They even squeeze in some stock footage, a staple of 50s films. There is a great dream sequence with a really bad stop motion animated alien. The list goes on and on. From the goofy scientists to some of the worst acting ever seen, First Man on Mars has at all. The script is chock full of sly pop culture and sci-fi references which actually make it better. There are a lot of great one-liners and clever dialogue. Even the acting, quite a bit of which is either painfully bad or the accomplishment of such nuanced actors that they can play bad acting to the hilt, works.

The best of the worst acting award goes to Sherriff Ruffman played by Kirk Jordan. Best worst supporting actor is Deputy Sample played by Jeffrey Estiverne. Best bad actress in a lead role goes to Marcelle Shaneyfelt who plays the not-very-professional Dr Martine Munro. Best supporting actress, the hilarious and very feisty Russian model Porscha played by Kelly Murtagh. And last, but not least, the award for literally doing it all, goes to director, writer, editor, animator, sound guy and special effects person, Mike Lyddon. And those are only a few of his credits on this film.

fmom3First Man on Mars may not be as gory or as nuanced as other horror comedies, but it manages to deliver a hilarious parody. It will be loved or reviled for one thing and one thing only, it’s a dirt cheap bad film. But Lyddon knew he was making a bad movie on purpose and he ran with it.

Kudos for: Potterotica
Lesson learned: Shiny, shiny gold!
7/10

Blackburn (2015) Review

blackburn1Blackburn (2015)

Director: Lauro Chartrand

Starring: Sarah Lind, Zack Peladeau, Emilie Ullerup, Calum Worthy

Out now on DVD from Matchbox Films

“I thought at least you were smart.”

Five college students on break head for a… wait for it… cabin in the woods. But– twist– they never make it. Instead they are boxed in by a forest fire and a rockslide. With no where to stay and nothing to eat they make their way back to the only civilization around for miles, a rundown gas station run by the creepiest old ladies ever. The students decide to camp out in an abandoned mine until the road is cleared. But they aren’t alone in the mine. One by one they are picked off and must fight or perish.

Despite the painfully typical plot Blackburn is an above average low budget slasher. Entertainingly written with some good quips and snappy dialogue it delivers a fun thrill ride with a bit of gore and an entertaining cast of really decent actors. The characters are pretty much stock standard slasher heroes, but they get more development than usual and the skill of the scriptwriter really comes across. Jade, the lead character, ably played by Sarah Lind, is smart, motivated, and her motives are explained very clearly. Chelsea, played by Emilie Ullerup offers some welcome comic relief and it was nice that the typical ‘bitchy blonde’ got to stretch a bit.

blackburn2The best characters in the whole film (and I would watch an entire movie about them) are the creepy old lady twin sisters who run the semi-abandoned gas station out collegiate crew find themselves stranded at. Played by Joyce and Jacqueline Robbins, they are weird, funny and utterly disgusting.

Blackburn doesn’t really blaze any new trails in horror, but at least it entertains. The plot takes some nice twists and turns, and there is a surprising amount of tension. The gore effects are better than average but suffer from a lack of screen time. Instead there are gore montages, that undercut the effectiveness a little. It looks like someone actually carved up some real (probably animal) carcasses to get the creepiest shots. There are some brutal deaths and maiming which horror fiends should appreciate. The burn make-ups on the villains are a bit stiff and honestly look like make-up. They did their best to film around the make-up but it’s still noticeable. It would have been more effective to skip the burn make-up or tone it down. But that is really a small nit-pick. Just consider some of the cheesier effects part of Blackburn’s low-budget charms.

blackburn3Blackburn is so entertaining on so many levels that it deserves a chance. It’s a solid slasher, with a lean story and good acting. There aren’t many movies that can claim all of the above. And read the end credits, they are hilarious and completely worth it.

Kudos for: Cast in order of death
Lesson learned: Don’t teach taxidermy in a mental asylum

7/10

Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four (2015) Review

doomed1Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four (2015)

Director: Marti Langford

Starring: Alex Hyde-White, Oley Sassone, Rebecca Staab, Jay Underwood, Joseph Culp, Michael Bailey Smith

“Nobody ever thought it could have this kind of life.”

Doomed lays out the story of the Fantastic Four movie that never made it to theaters. Though it can be found as a bootleg (and I mention this because everyone involved is pleased that there even IS a bootleg), Roger Corman’s cheap and fast Fantastic Four movie was cut short for somewhat shadowy reasons. The main story seems to be that the film was made in the first place only to extend the rights to the option while still being shopped to bigger and better studios. Once it landed somewhere else the film was killed JUST before it was to premier.

This well put together documentary follows story of the 1994 The Fantastic Four from inception to its unfortunate end. In the beginning the producers were looking for someone to make the F4 fast and cheap. They first went to Troma who turned down the project and it wound up with Roger Corman. They producers asked if he could make it for 1 million dollars and after going the initial script Corman said ‘yes’. From there is was cast and shot in mere months in a condemned studio of Corman’s in Venice.

But beyond the typical B-grade schlock Corman is known and loved for, The Fantastic Four turned into a labor of love. Everyone, from the actors, to the writers, and the journalist covering the film, worked hard on that movie. They made an effort to do the comic book justice and went to great effort to redeem the other, terrible, Marvel projects of the time. In a heartbreaking throw-away line Alex Hyde-White says playing Reed Richards saved him from some depressing personal circumstances.

doomed2The editor edited the F4 on the sly while working on another project. The actors spent their own money to promote the film at comic book conventions around the U.S. The composers of the score spent their own money to hire a forty piece orchestra. It looked like the F4 would be the little movie that could. It was going to be a blockbuster. It would make the careers of the actors. It would launch a franchise.

But the project was, as the title says, doomed. And tragically so. The film languished in post production and when it looked like the release would finally happen it was pulled. The hopes and efforts of everyone involved would never be seen… sort of. At least one VHS copy made it out into the world and from there has been bootlegged into stardom.

The documentary shares many wonderful stories about the making of the film, and tries to explore the film’s eventual demise. The theories on its death abound and the people who could have shed more light on it, Stan Lee and Avi Arad never spoke to the film makers. Some say the negative was burned, while others hope that it still sits on a shelf in a vault somewhere, waiting for the day when Marvel decides it can make money on the old F4. Some of those who worked on the film even hope that one day a true completed film with updated special effects will be made and released alongside the original version.

doomed3Until such a time as that happens watch this insightful documentary all about Hollywood, broken hopes and underhanded dealings. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Marvel fan or not. It’s a fascinating exposé of filmmaking and low-budget productions. There are plentiful clips from the film itself and comic book style graphics that enhance the interviews.

Kudos for: Trying to steal the negatives of the Fantastic Four
Lesson learned: You can watch the 1994 The Fantastic Four on Youtube

8/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #14 – Out Of The Dark (2014)

ootd1Join 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: Out of the Dark

Year: 2014

Director: Lluis Quilez

Starring: Julia Stiles, Scott Speedman, Frank Cuervo, Pixie Davies, Alejandro Furth, Stephen Rea

Netflix Rating: 2.5

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: I’m never going to get away from Stephen Rea! LOL! This is like, the third movie I’ve reviewed for this site that he’s been in… Anyway, the casting looks promising. But it also looks like a B-movie thriller… I’m guessing involving ghosts, or evil children or the ghosts of evil children.

The Verdict: Pretty good. Predictable but enjoyable. Sara Harriman (Julia Stiles) and her husband Paul (Scott Speedman)move to Columbia with their daughter Hannah (Pixie Davies) so that Sarah can work at her father’s paper mill. They move into a house with a violent and supernatural past, as seen in the opening. Soon enough strange things happen and it was, as predicted, ghost children.

ootd3The real horror story though is American business practices overseas and the ability of wealthy companies to basically do whatever they want with little to no oversight or repercussions. Warning- SPOILERS ahead. Have you been warned enough? Last chance to go watch the movie….

Basically the Harriman paper mill under Stephen Rhea (Julia Stile’s father in the film) had his own paper bleaching mill which poisoned half a dozen local kids with mercury. Harriman and his company doctor buried the story and the corpses. The kids come back for revenge, and kidnapping.

The scares are nothing to write home about. pretty standard stuff for any haunted house film. Spooky sounds, a scary dumbwaiter, shadows, and creepy diseased kids popping up behind the main actors. What the film delivers is a solid haunting with great acting, probably better than it deserved, and Hollywood level production values. Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman both deliver excellent performances. Young Pixie Davies as Hannah is also very good and downright adorable.

ootd2Stephen Rea is a bit wooden and he seems almost too young to be Julia Stiles’ father. That or he never freaking ages… The real star is the settings and the back grounds. From the beautiful manor house Sarah and Paul are given to the lush jungle surrounds, it makes Columbia look like an awesome vacation getaway. Scenery aside Out of the Dark is good but not great. It doesn’t break any new grounds, in either the look of the film, or actual scares. Veteran horror viewers will probably be a bit bored. Give it a shot though, especially if you like Julia Stiles and exotic locations.

Rating: 6/10

Lake Nowhere (2014) Review

Lake Nowhere posterLake Nowhere (2014)

Director: Christopher Phelps, Maxim Van Scoy

Starring: Wray Villanova, Nathan Andrew Wright, Melody Kology, Oscar Allan, Charles Gaskin

“It felt like hands touching me. ”

You remember VHS tapes right? Remember getting second and third hand bootleg copies? Remember if you were really fancy you could hook two VCRs to your TV and record while you played a tape? Well that is the conceit of Lake Nowhere. A movie that’s been recorded off the TV complete with an accidental beer commercial and a trailer for another movie from another tape that didn’t get recorded over correctly. While gimmicky, Lake Nowhere actually finds the right balance between gimmick and a product worth watching.

The main movie Lake Nowhere is a typical slasher with all the boring bits cut out. A bunch of college students (I’m guessing) go to party at a cabin in the woods to party. One of them has a supernatural encounter while swimming in the lake. One of them finds a graveyard in the woods and reads the ominous inscription on one of the tombstones, which is, of course, a huge mistake. Meanwhile a masked killer watches them from the woods. The guy who went swimming comes back ‘wrong’, in the grand tradition of ‘Evil Dead’. He attacks and eats a dog, then attacks one of the women, then gets shot by one of his friends, then refuses to die a final death. The situation deteriorates from there as gory mayhem is unleashed. The plot isn’t really designed for logic, I wouldn’t worry about it either. Just sit back and enjoy the shenanigans.

Lake Nowhere 2It really does feel like a late 70s, early 80s slasher film. The music, the setting, the special effects, even the slightly grainy quality of the film, nearly everything is pitch perfect. It’s a love letter to everything horror and includes many favorite slasher tropes. The isolated cabin, the car that won’t start, mandatory sex scene, cannibalism, brutal deaths, a mysterious man in a mask with a big knife, even the lone survivor. The only nitpick is the costumes of some of the male characters are a little too Urban Outfitters for the late 70s. But it’s not hugely noticeable. The two trailers that lead into the feature, an fake schlock Italian gore fest called River of blood is phenomenally well done. The second trailer Harvest Man is a take on the 70s ecological disaster gore fest, a farmer ingests chemical waste contaminated water and gains power over plants, and personally I am dying to watch Harvest Man.

Sadly the runtime of the entire movie including the two trailers and the beer commercial is a bare 51 minutes. Which goes back to what I said about all the boring bits being cut out. There is no character development, no explanation for what’s happening at the cabin. But it doesn’t matter. The joy is in watching a simulacrum of a crappy movie from days of yore. Still, it would be nice if it had a full length runtime, and they could have done it. The purposefully bad plot of Lake Nowhere could have easily been fleshed out without losing the integrity of the film’s premise.

Lake Nowhere 1With a longer runtime I would unreservedly recommend Lake Nowhere and rate is a 9. But it’s still completely worth a rental. Possibly worth buying, but that will depend on; how much you like the movie, how often you plan to re-watch it, and whether you plan to inflict it on friends (which I highly recommend).

Kudos for: Harvest Man
Lesson learned: No one needs a clothes line on vacation.

7/10

Crush The Skull (2015) Review

crushtheskull1Crush The Skull (2015)

Director: Viet Nguyen

Starring: Chris Dinh, Katie Savoy, Chris Reidell, Tim Chiou, Walter Michael Bost, Lauren Reeder

“Tell my girlfriend I would have skipped Mars for her.”

Available from Breaking Glass Pictures on DVD

After a robbery gone hilariously wrong, Ollie (Chris Dinh) and his girlfriend Blair (Katie Savoy) wind up in debt to gangsters. To make some quick cash they agree to work with Blair’s brother Conner (Chris Reidell) and his dim-bulb crew of one Riley (Tim Chiou). They break into the house Connor has targeted only to discover it’s empty. They get trapped inside by a serial killer played by Walter Michael Bost. Beneath the house is a maze of torture rooms and cells complete with a collection of snuff films. Ollie and friends must escape or die when they find themselves trapped in the house which is designed to keep people in.

Crush the Skull 3Crush the Skull is good. Damn good actually. Full of great characters, all with consistent personality traits. No one is stupid, well, unless they were meant to be. Everyone has some charm, a moment to shine, foibles, and fears. Tight, well written dialogue delivered by more than competent actors who are by turns, funny, serious, scared and smart. It’s the combination of great writing and great acting that makes the main team of thieves fleshed out human beings, not card board cut-outs navigating a mediocre slasher plot. Ollie is a thief with a heart of gold who messes up every joke he tries to tell and Chris Dinh NEEDS to be in more movies and TV shows. Katie Savoy is great as smart savvy Blair and she has a lot of fun dialogue with her brother Connor. Tim Chiou has good comedic timing and gets a lot of hilarious lines.

Crush the Skull 1While comparisons can definitely be drawn between Crush the Skull, and other movies like The Collector, Crush the Skull stands on its own and stands out for being laugh-out-loud funny. This sort of winning horror comedy doesn’t come along everyday and should be celebrated when it does. Crush the Skull is plenty intense, very funny and mildly gory. Some may complain about eh lack of gore, though I won’t. The practical effects are well done and not over the top. The genius is in the simplicity of the trauma make-up which makes it almost more convincing. Though I will say that when one character took acid to the face I was expecting a bit more from the make-up.

The film hits all the right horror and comedy notes, flawlessly including quips, running gags, and physical comedy with an intense-as-hell pair of serial killers, scary kill dungeon, and claustrophobic setting. A little digging on Crush the Skull revealed that the actors, director and writer have worked together on earlier short films and television. The rapport they have really shows in the ease of performances and the professional look of the film. While not a high budget production this is not an amateur film crew.

Crush the Skull 2Kudos for: The whole movie.

Lesson learned: Bring your own ladder.

8/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #13 – Djinn (2013)

Djinn_posterChe Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #13 – Djinn (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: Djinn

Year: 2013

Director: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Razane Jammal, Khalid Laith, Aiysha Hart,

Netflix Rating: 2.1 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: Well the director is promising! Super promising! I feel like I’m in good hands with Tobe Hooper at the helm. Though the plot sounds kind of familiar. But then, a lot of horror movies revolve around the basic plot of “our kid died and I keep hearing voices”. Seriously, that’s practically a genre. I’m wondering why I haven’t seen this on TV or something too, especially with the director it has. Was it so bad even SyFy wouldn’t show it? Let’s find out!

Djinn 2The Verdict: Nope, that was great! So glad I watched it. Now it’s not perfect, but dang, do yourself a favor and check it out! It also seriously blows Wishmaster out of the water! Which is the only other djinn based horror movie I can think of…

The plot: Salama (Razane Jammal)and Khalid (Khalid Laith)lost their infant son a year ago. Their counsellor suggests that they return home to the United Arab Emirates where Khalid also has a job offer. Cut to, three dudes racing cars in the desert. One American guy and two Arab guys discuss the djinn, camp out in a deserted, haunted fishing village, and then predictably die, but not before laying out the entire plot to the audience. So, back to Salama and Khalid. They arrive in… I’m going to guess Abu Dhabi, the film isn’t specific, and head for the apartment Khalid’s new job has set up. Everything is immediately creepy as they drive into a fog bank which surrounds their building the brooding Al Hamra. And really, nothing good happens once they enter building. The building is nearly empty, Sammy the door man is creepy, the neighbors are creepy, the strange voices are creepy. You get the idea.

Djinn 1Which brings me to my biggest issue with Djinn. It’s so creepy and the plot laid out so specifically so early there are no surprises. There’s no room to breathe. There’re no “return to normal”, which I think is very important in a horror movie. Most horror derives its fear from the weird and terrible encroaching on the everyday. But Djinn eschews all that in favor of hitting the ground running and not stopping until the end. But that lack of ‘settling in’ undercuts the tension. There is little room for character development, example, Salama’s parents and sister die immediately after being introduced, but their deaths means nothing and they didn’t occupy enough screen time for the audience to have a stake in their survival. And their deaths weren’t even much of a surprise considering how the movie had been going thus far.

That one complaint aside Djinn has a lot going for it. Good acting. A unique mythos to play off of. One which hasn’t been beaten to death. The Djinn are malevolent and terrible beings and you know nothing good is going to happen. The effects are pretty decent consisting of part practical effects and some restrained CGI. The sets are lovely, the interior design of the apartment is beautiful.

Djinn 3The ending has a nice twist and I wish I could talk about the plot more, but mentioning anything will pretty much ruin the film, and trust me- you don’t want this one ruined. Partly because you’ll guess the entire plot after the dudebros explain the premise of the film then die in the desert, and partly because even if you know everything that’s coming, it’s still a fun ride getting there.

Rating: 7/10