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

OMG, I’m A Robot (2015) Review

rsz_omg_robot_posterOMG!? I’m a Robot (2015)

Directors: Tal Goldberg and Gal Zelezniak

Starring: Yotam Ishay, Tzahi Grad, Hili Yalon, Inna Bakelman

“Love the hand and fear the hand.”

Danny (Ishay) is hopelessly in love with Noa (Yalon). He is super nerdy, super sensitive, and after one post movie cry too many Noa puts the breaks on their relationship. He keeps calling her for eight months with no replies and decides to end it all. But, suicide is hard when you’re an indestructible robot. In a fit of confidence Danny takes his new-found mojo out on the town. But he STILL can’t forget Noa. He decides to swing by her apartment in the hopes of getting a face-to-face. All Danny gets is a cold shoulder from Noa’s roommate Maya (Bakelman). On his way home Danny is attacked by robot ninjas (yes you read that right). Luckily he can shoot lasers out of his hand.

Once he takes out the robot ninjas he realizes more is going on than he ever suspected. It turns out Noa has been kidnapped and it’s up to Danny to rescue her. The search for his maybe ex-girlfriend leads Danny to join forces with his boss at Gold Hi-tech Mr. Goldschmidt (Grad), a Jewish robot that looks like a garbage can named Robot Joseph (voiced by Rob Schneider), uncover a conspiracy, discover his true nature, and stop the launch of a weaponized satellite.

rsz_omg_robot_2OMG!? I’m a Robot is OMG so cute! There is incredibly little to criticize. This sci-fi, action comedy delivers sly humor, nerd references (literally every single t-shirt Danny wears) and fight sequences that look like a live-action manga or anime. The plot holds together well and deftly handles mystery, humor and action. The plot weaves together the disparate elements into a coherent whole and leaves no thread dangling. The directors obviously took great delight in the absurd situation and knew all the right nerd buttons to push. The characters are also well developed and sympathetic, even the villains and all the actors are more than capable which makes for easy emotional investment in the outcome.

The film also offers up some good commentary on masculinity. Danny, a typical 98 pound weakling in glasses is of course an unlikely hero. It’s obvious that Noa dumps him in the beginning because he’s too sensitive, too weak. But the film diverts from the usual zero to hero. Despite Goldschmidt’s attempts to toughen up Danny it only half works. Danny does toughen up, but instead of turning into a Terminator, he never loses his heart and compassion. In the end its heart that triumphs. Even Danny’s confrontation with the film’s villain is laced with empathy and tea drinking.

rsz_omg_robot_3If the film has any fault at all, it’s just that the directors deserved more money to throw at the special effects. Though the cheap CGI effects actually make the movie look and feel a bit like a Power Rangers episode, which might satisfy fans more. A must watch for sci-fi nerds.

Kudos for: The menorah gun

Lesson learned: If you’re a transformer, make sure it’s something useful like an electric kettle

8/10

Beyond The Gates (2016) Review

rsz_1rsz_btg1Beyond the Gates (2016)

Director: Jackson Stewart

Starring: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton

Out now on UK DVD

“Most of this junk just blends together”

Estranged brothers Gordon (Skipper) and John (Williamson) reunite when they have to close up their father’s video rental store because their father has been missing for seven months. In the back office they find a VCR board game called Beyond the Gates. Gordon takes it back to his father’s house where he’s staying and along with his fiancé Margot (Grant) and John, they decide to play the game. Surprise, surprise, Beyond the Gates has them trapped in a deadly game. The stakes, no less than their lives.

A lot of movies, and a lot of horror movies in particular, set out with the premise of “a deadly game that must be played to completion”. It’s not exactly an original concept, and it has been done better in other films. Beyond the Gates has a few charms but they can’t make up for slow pacing a mediocre script and modest acting. The film rides high on the recent wave of nostalgia that is sweeping films and horror right now. This is the third or fourth attempt at an 80s throwback I’ve seen and it’s not the strongest entry. Beyond leans a little heavily on viewers fondly remembering the days of video rental stores and knowing what a VCR game is. The film then has to explain what a VCR game is because even if you grew up with a VCR, the games where a niche market. Maybe not the strongest premise for a movie, when it has to be explained even to people as old as I am.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_1Premise aside Beyond the Gates is a mixed bag. The pace is slow. The board game is played out over days instead of forcing the characters to play through all at once. The game itself is overly easy, the clues dull. A lot of time is wasted in conversation as the characters flip back and forth, alternately trying to quit the game and progress. The film feels a lot longer than its lean run time of 84 minutes. The build up to actually playing the game is long as well. First we have to meet Gordon and John, then Gordon’s fiancé Margot, then John’s gross redneck friend Hank (Justin Welborn), THEN we have to establish the relationships and antagonisms between all of these characters. THEN they start the game. THEN people start dying.

What the film was actually good at, was not the horror aspects, or the VCR game shtick. It was actually an interesting film about estranged brothers with a troubled past and uneasy relationship mending fences. I actually felt the same way watching Beyond the Gates as I did watching The Innkeepers, which was a great romantic comedy and a terrible horror movie. Beyond the Gates was a good family drama about reconciliation and a pretty mediocre horror film.

But, the horror wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of practical effects used for gruesome death scenes that were pretty entertaining. However that’s about the best that can be said for the horror side of things. Unfortunately amusing death scenes don’t make up for the slow pace.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_2Kudos for: Gordon’s nerdy hipster vibe

Lesson learned: It takes more than a synth soundtrack to cash in on nostalgia.

6/10

Havenhurst (2016) Review

Havenhurst posterHavenhurst (2016)

Director: Andrew C. Erin

Starring: Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Fionnula Flanagan, Josh Stamberg

Havenhurst is now available on Cable VOD and Digital HD platforms, including Charter Spectrum, Comcast, DirecTV Cinema, Dish, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more

“Clean slate. Fresh start. The rest is up to you.”

Genre darling Julie Benz stars in this entertaining thriller. She plays Jackie, an alcoholic fresh out of rehab who goes to stay in an apartment building that takes in various addicts and offer them a home, as long as they obey the rules. Her landlady Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan) offers a warm welcome with a side helping of veiled threats. Jackie is welcome to stay for as long she wants but she mustn’t return to her old habits or she’ll face eviction. Jackie agrees to the terms, but she has another motive for taking the apartment in Havenhurst. Jackie’s friend Danielle has recently disappeared from the building without notice and Jackie wants to find out what happened to her. Luckily she is the newest occupant of the apartment Danielle has just vacated. During her search, Jackie meets some of the other residents, including a young girl named Sarah (Shouse) who reminds Jackie of her tragic past.

rsz_havenhurst_3Havenhurst doesn’t exactly break new ground. And I was surprised that I guessed the nature of the apartment building so quickly. Not that the film tries for a big reveal, but literally, my first thought was correct. Still, that doesn’t matter so much with such enjoyable performances and a smoothly told story. Julie Benz is in good form and Fionnula Flanagan, despite the small part, shines brightly as the overbearing landlady with a very dark secret. Sadly, the villains don’t get much screen time. At least not as much as they rightly deserve. Especially given the slasher roots of Havenhurst. Shouse is a talented young actress and does a decent job as the quiet and traumatized Sarah.

There are a couple of gory scenes but there was certainly room for many more, and it feels a bit like a lost opportunity. I’m not generally fan of torture porn, but this movie could have used a bit more blood and guts. Though, there is at least one scene very heavy on the guts. The practical effects are also a welcome change of pace. No CGI that’s noticeable at least (which is always the best kind of CG). Not that there is great emphasis on special effects. Havenhurst depends more on suspense rather than effects.

There are few places where the movie falls flat. There are an unfortunate amount of jump scares that aren’t scary. The director would have been better off aiming for psychological thrills or, again, gore, instead. There are a lot of side characters who don’t get much, if any development. Jackie’s friend Tim (Josh Stamberg) is more plot device than character. He’s a cop. He’s her friend… and that’s it. There is nothing to indicate how they met, how they know each other, how long they’ve known each other. Same goes for the creepy building superintendant and Eleanor’s son Ezra (Matt Lasky)who could have had a much larger and more threatening part, but appears in only about three scenes. Both Tim and Ezra are wasted opportunities script-wise.

rsz_havenhurst_2While Havenhurst isn’t exactly an amazing film, it entertains and provides a coherent, well told story. Julie Benz fans in particular will enjoy her in this starring role. Just be sure to curb your expectations, and settle in for a decent little thriller with a nice kick at the end.
Kudos for: Julie Benz rocking the brunette dye job.

Lesson learned: Always read the lease agreement.

7/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #17 – Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)

rsz_tucker_and_dale_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: Tucker and Dale VS. Evil

Year: 2010

Director: Eli Craig

Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tyduck, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss

Netflix Rating: 4.5 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: At first I thought I was in DEEP trouble judging by the dumb title. BUT then I saw who it was starring! Tyler Labine!!! He is a long time favorite of mine and tragically underrated. He’s a goddamn national treasure! Alan Tyduck is good too…So I felt assured by the stars and the rating that this will be good. It promises to be a horror comedy, let’s find out if it delivers. Fingers crossed.

The Verdict: Tucker and Dale VS Evil is a fun film that subverts the “killer hillbilly” trope so painfully common to horror films.

rsz_tucker_and_dale_3Tucker (Tyduk) and his friend Dale (Labine)are on their way to Tucker’s newly purchased dream vacation home. On the way they run into a group of college students who are on their way to get drunk in the woods over the weekend. Dale tries to talk to one of the college girls at a gas station stop but the college kinds, raised on a steady diet of Wrong Turn, flee. Dale and Tucker encounter the college kids again as they’re doing a little night fishing on the lake. One of the kids, Allison (Bowden) falls in the lake and hits her head. Dale jumps in to rescue her but all Allison’s friends see is a hillbilly taking away their friend. And so begins an epic case of misunderstanding and brutal accidental deaths, while a very confused Tucker and Dale think they are caught in a mass suicide pact of college kids.

The fun is both the college students falling into the assumption that any hillbilly must be a killer hillbilly, and Tucker and Dale’s reactions to all the death and mayhem happening around them. There are a number of great deaths, soured by an unfortunate amount of CGI. The CGI is very poor and very obvious. Most of the impalements are done digitally and there are quite a few impalements. The movie makes up for some of it’s worse effects with really good trauma make-up. Especially in the case of poor Tucker who takes most of the damage. But practical gore effects would have elevated the film and been a great parody of older horror hillbilly films like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

rsz_tucker_and_dale_2Still, that is a small complaint. The acting is great. The comedic timing of Tyduck and Labine is perfectly on point. The actual villain of the film emerges in the form Chad (Jesse Moss) a preppy college kid who slowly becomes unhinged as his personal demons overtake him. The death scenes are hilarious and there is a lot of great repartee.

This is an older film, but if you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. It’s not the goriest horror comedy, or maybe even the funniest, but it’s an original and subversive take on a classic trope and manages to breathe new life into one of the more obnoxious horror tropes.

Rating: 8/10

The Snare (2017) Review

rsz_1the_snare_posterThe Snare (2017)

Director: C.A. Cooper

Starring: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren

Please note the following review could contain spoilers , you have been warned !!

“Somewhere quiet. By the sea.”

Dark and moody from the outset. Ingrained with a deep sense of something wrong from the very first minute. Gross, disturbing, dark, unsettling and ultimately rather unsatisfying, The Snare comes close to becoming something really quite great, only to falter at the end. Still, if you can take a lot of up close shots of maggots, rape and incest, it’s actually a horrifying little film. If you are sincerely bothered by any of the latter than jump ship (and never watch this movie) as this review will discuss each one in turn.

Still there? All right, here we go.

The Snare is about three friends who become trapped in an empty vacation rental. Alice (Eaoifa Forward), her best friend Lizzy (Rachel Warren) and Lizzy’s creepy boyfriend Carl (Dan Paton) decide to get away for the weekend. Lizzy steals the keys to an empty vacation rental from her father and they take off. Everything is normal until the second day when the elevator won’t work, the stairs are locked and there is no phone service. Thus begins a tale of survival. The food they have goes rotten immediately, the water gets shut off and their sanity whittles away as they slowly starve and thirst to death. But there is a little more going on, the apartment is possibly, probably haunted and Alice is assailed with disturbing waking nightmares of past inhabitants, maybe. It’s hard to tell.

rsz_snare_1Alice is unquestionably the main character and ably played by Forward who has a “resting worried face” that somehow makes even the most mundane scenes fraught with tension. From the very beginning Alice’s dreary and awful life is established with painful clarity. She is obviously a victim of sexual abuse. In the opening scenes her father barges into her room right after she’s gotten out of the bathtub. He gives her only nominal privacy while she tries to get dressed to flee for the weekend getaway. He questions her about Lizzy’s boyfriend who he spies outside the window of her bedroom.

Once Alice has gotten away from her father the abuse continues as Carl starts in on the most disgusting ever game of “would you rather” on the car ride up to the seaside resort. He continually pushes into Alice’s personal space in a way that women will instantly recognize and revile. As the situation deteriorates so too does the mental state of the characters. Carl grows ever more restless and violent. Alice’s visions become all the more brutal, calling up abuse from her past and an uncertain vision of an old woman who might be the ghost keeping them trapped. A lot of horror directors shy away from giving concrete explanation for what’s happening in supernatural thrillers, but there is a fine line behind vague and confusing. The Snare leans into confusing and it’s up to viewers to craft their own explanation.

The film’s climax is a horrific rape scene when Carl finally loses his mind, which results in murder, and then cannibalism, because by then the food is long gone. It’s an awful and unrelenting sequence of scenes that are absolutely nauseating. But it’s an absolute gut punch that a lot of horror films don’t come close to accomplishing, so, good for them? In some ways, that is what horror strives for, to haunt and unsettle and in that much they succeeded admirably.

rsz_snare_2And, the maggots. Oh my fucking gawd, I haven’t seen this many maggots since the last Dario Argento movie I watched. The very first shot in the entire film is a close up of big fat maggots writhing in the guts of a dead rabbit. There is even some maggot eating when the food is low enough Carl has a go at a maggot riddled chicken leg, with predictable results. Which, for the record, was an almost funny scene, or in another movie would have been funny, in this too, The Snare succeeds in just making is horrible and I nearly threw up at the end.

The questions the plot raises is, is this a real haunting? Is it something, a mental state, or Alice’s personal demons that she has brought with her, magnified by the apartment? Unfortunately there is no satisfactory answer. The ghosts are vague and it’s hard to tell if some of them are from Alice’s memories. The Old Woman ghost (Emma Cooper) seems to be the main ghost but it’s very confusing and the ending doesn’t clear anything up at.

For all of The Snare’s queasy merits it has a few flaws. For starters the character’s escape attempts are rather lame. Carl tried to bash open the door to the stairs with a chair, but his attempt begs the question, has Carl ever seen a police drama on TV? It also would have been perfectly possible for the characters to lower themselves from the balcony, and going, one balcony at a time, make it to the ground. There are plenty of clothes, and blankets, curtains and bed sheets, to make a rope. But, again, Carl’s one lame attempt at making a rope ends with it dropping uselessly off the side of the building. The other thing is that Carl and Lizzy are not well developed or nuanced characters. Carl is surly and grotesque and that is established at the outset and he never changes, or only changes for the worse. Lizzy is a fun party girl. But she disappears for huge chunks of film at a time. When she does show up she either complains or is sleeping.

rsz_snare_3C.A. Cooper is a director to keep an eye on. Hopefully he will be making more films of this ilk as he definitely has a knack. A brutally disturbing watch best recommended to those with an iron clad gag reflex. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scrub my brain out and try not to dream about maggots (again).

Kudos for: Almost making me vomit?

Lesson learned: Stop watching horror films over lunch!

7/10

Attack of the Killer Shrews (2016) Review

rsz_ks1Attack of the Killer Shrews (2016)

Director: Ken Consentino

Starring: Bill Kennedy, Elizabeth Houlihan, Jonathon Rogers, Cheryl Szymczak, Marcus Ganci-Rotella

The DVD is $12 plus shipping and can be found at http://www.killershrewmovie.com 

“A movie about hope, redemption and ice cream.”

So, what do you do with a $2000 movie budget? If you’re smart you realize your limitations and you make a terrible version of an already legendarily bad movie The Killer Shrews. Last seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Attack of the Killer Shrews, is, if anything worse than the original. But fear not! It’s all in the name of comedy. This slapstick reimagining of a movie about giant killer shrews (originally played by dogs dressed in mops) stays close to the absurdity of the original, tosses out any attempt to be serious and just runs with it. The dialogue, the sound effects, even the introduction by Lloyd Kaufman of Toxic Avenger fame, all serve to create a parody of bad films that’s just a parody but is also a bad low-budget film itself.

There are almost too many delightful things going on on-screen to list, but I’m going to give you a few of them. The sets are terrible, the props are terrible, the gunfire is bad CGI, the police boat is a jet ski with cardboard bits glued on, the nuclear missile is made of tape, cardboard and paint, and that’s just a short list. Not a scene goes by where purposefully bad things aren’t happening. Honestly there almost aren’t words for this film. But again, here are a few, funny, terrible, cheap, and hilarious.

rsz_ks2So, what’s the actual plot? Well, a scientist cooks up some giant killer shrews in his lab and they escape. The shrews terrorize various denizens of the town including Professor Perry, his diner guests, starlet Fiona Rae, literary agent Lewis and his girlfriend Cassandra. Sherriff Blake saves the day, sort of, but only after a lot of running and screaming. Now, if you all remember the original film you are probably hoping the shrews are dogs wearing mops again. Unfortunately they aren’t. BUT they are spectacularly cheap props and sometimes a person in a gorilla suit from the Halloween Store.

There are a ton of laughs to be had in this movie, both with it, and at its expense, but it’s worth watching, especially with other people. I watched it alone and found the second half dragging, which would have been alleviated by a having some friends to laugh at it with. The foley also deserves special mention for the cartoon sound effects added in. The rest of the sound, including the dialogue is hit or miss. Which is unfortunate as some of the jokes would have been even better if they had been audible. And a special, special mention for the opening credits which are, again, hilariously bad stop-motion animation and comprise a more or less accurate summary of the film.

And. the last burning question, What is Lloyd Kaufman doing in this film? Well, he introduces Attack of the Killer Shrews, and bonus, stay until after the credits, he appears again to wrap things up. According to IMBD the real reason he was there is that he was in town. It would be very interesting to see what filmmaker Ken Cosentino could do with a budget, considering he accomplished a minor miracle of comedy with $2000. Maybe one day we will get to find out.

rsz_ks3Kudos for: “What the fuck is that thing?” (the actual thing, and no it’s not a shrew)

Lesson learned: When in doubt, squeaky toy SFX

8/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #16 – Last Days On Mars (2013)

last-days-on-mars-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: Last Days on Mars

Year: 2013

Director: Ruairi Johnson

Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai

Netflix Rating: 2.8 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: Another movie I’ve never heard of starring people I have heard of. So it must be some direct to video thing. Which doesn’t mean it will be bad. It does look a lot more sci-fi than horror. But we’ll see. The synopsis promises mutating microbes turning humans into killers, so zombies… zombies on Mars… le sigh… I was at the very least hoping for some body horror or a knock-off of “The Thing”.

last-days-on-mars-1The Verdict: Yup. Space zombies. Or zombies on Mars. Call it what you want but that was about as deep as this thing got. Which is disappointing. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t like zombies. Fans of zombies will probably enjoy this though it doesn’t go into the psychological depths that are the (overplayed) backbone of most walking dead films.

The incredibly wooden Liev Schreiber plays Vincent Campbell one of the Mars astronauts on a six month mission to the Red Planet. They are only hours from getting picked up by the main ship The Aurora, and going home to Earth. When, of course, one of the scientists discover bacteria on Mars. So, of course, he doesn’t tell anyone else about his discovery because he’s going to take all the credit and glory, and whatever. He lies to commander Brunel (Elias Koteas) and goes out to visit the discovery site. Disaster ensues. Long story short a couple of astronauts get infected, head back to base and begin picking off/infecting their cohorts in gruesome ways.

Campbell and the others fight to survive the onslaught and rendezvous with the ship that is coming to pick them up. But of course, one-by-one the remaining astronauts get infected by the zombie bacteria.

rsz_last_days_on_mars_2The problem with ‘Last Days on Mars’ is how painfully typical the plot is. Considering how many of the characters are scientists part of me was desperately hoping they would “science the crap” out of the problem, to borrow a line from ‘The Martian’. But that hope was dashed when a hasty attempt at treating the Martian microbes with antibiotics fails. The biggest twist in the film is that the zombies aren’t after brains, they are after water. And barring water will make do with blood, as shown in the ONE scene of zombie chowing down on a human in the entire movie. Honestly, if the scientists had wanted a REAL distraction to keep the zombies busy, they would have turned on a tap. Not ONE of them remarked on the water drinking at all.

The acting is good, aside from Liev Schreiber, arguably the biggest name in the film, but let’s be honest, I have no idea how he manages to talk let alone act without ever moving his face… There are a bevy of British actors who all do a good job of running, screaming and dying. But the script wasn’t exactly challenging fair. Zombie die-hards may enjoy the unique setting and science buffs will enjoy the Mars rovers and sets. But a change of scenery can’t make a mediocre zombie film stellar. And those same zombie-diehards may lament the lack of actual onscreen zombie killing and zombie feasting that are the hallmark of the genre.

last-days-on-mars-3Still, ‘Last Days on Mars’ looks like money and you could do worse. Just don’t plan on having your blown. It treads the well worn tropes of every other zombie film out there.

Rating: 5/10

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