Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jay's Review: Unrivaled

Do you like fighting? I'm not above watching a couple people beat the living tar out of one another, and thanks to this DVD I reviewed for dvdsnapshot, I got to do just that!

UNRIVALED

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

On these streets everyone is fighting for a way out, but after a lifetime of hard knocks, a down-on-his-luck cage fighter gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he is chosen to compete against the MMA world champion during a massive competition. The stakes are high and the reward great... but should he lose, it will cost him his life.

OUR TAKE:
I love fighting.

Well, more to the point, I love watching a fight in a movie.  Sure, it's really just a dance with sound effects, but it satisfies the good old-fashioned primal urges. Now, movies featuring a bunch of ultimate fighters who aren't refined actors and is centered solely around cage-fighting? It turns out I can get into that as well.

Hector Echavarria stars as "Ringo Duran," an overwhelmed, overworked amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighter working to keep himself and kid sidekick, Link, afloat while living up to the memory of his mother, a gifted fighter in her own right. He fights a lot of people, scores himself a nurse-turned-strip-club bartender girlfriend, and gets an opportunity to take on the world champion MMA fighter. Will he step up to the cage and succeed during the biggest challenge of his career? Ever see a sports movie before?

The story itself is a shopworn underdog's tale, but thanks to some excellent production values, this is an easy-on-the-eyes watch. The actors are charming enough, even if most of them are real-life fighters instead of trained thespians. When a story straddles the world of underground fighting, mob debts, and his job bartending in a strip club, it's an updated Rocky for a bloodthirsty audience, but you know you've got a Friday night fights movie aimed at the boys.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Unrivaled
is presented in widescreen with English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio and optional English and Spanish subtitles. Along with commentary from the writer and producer, featurettes include interviews with the fighters, deconstructions of a chase scene and fight choreography, and a look behind-the-scenes. Trailers for other fight-centric films and some Tapout promos are included.

CONCLUSION:

A fairly handsome film about an ugly, brutish version of "The Sweet Science," Unrivaled features strippers, mobsters, Ultimate Fighters and entirely too much testosterone. A collection of various men's movie cliches, it's ever so refined, filled with violence, cursing, and naked ladies. If you'd like to watch a Mixed Martial Arts movie, or never seen one, this is an excellent introduction.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: B-
EXTRAS: B

One A Week Reviews #13: The Brotherhood V: Alumni

Sigh, how do you explain the career of David DeCoteau?

Well, that's not fair to make it sound like a complaint. DeCoteau has been in the film-making game since the mid 1980s and has earned his place as a dependable director of low-budget slasher and soft-core films. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and Creepozoids are two of his "classics." Perhaps his career highpoint is the earnest, gay-themed, B&W Leather Jacket Love Story. His films must always make money and he's had career success creating a niche market never before explored, the Homoerotic Horror Movie. Starting with a story set in a boarding school called Voodoo Academy through his now Six interchangeable Brotherhood  flicks. He's taking simplistic straight-to-video horror and jazzing it up with pretty guys who get naked; exposed and exploited just how women tend to be in your average horror movie. Lately, he's done a series in tandem with the Here! channel, but they're not much different from his now decade-plus run of tease epics. Now that Here! is involved the films are getting a bit more overtly gay, with out characters and subplots, but when it started he was just the beefcake king, and there's not much more sizzle than when they were stealth-gay. The average young straight guy horror viewer may not have totally tuned-in to what's going on, but the gay boys and little girls understood...

Mixing I Know What You Did Last Summer with a little Slaughter High, The Brotherhood V features a set of alumni called back to an intimate high school reunion after they covered up the murder of one of their cohorts during their senior prom. What makes a DeCoteau slasher film different from your average slasher is that it's a boy who takes a several-minute, totally-objectifying shower for absolutely no reason than for the camera to give us some T & just-the-slightest-hint-of-A. His name was "Leslie," by the way, just to further fiddle with the gender-twist happening here. There's also an African-American character named "Schwartz," but it feels less like stunt-casting than simply that these were the only actors willing to take the job. Schwartz goes on to shower, and two other male characters make out and undress with so little heat and so much space kept between them that you can only assume that the actors were either really straight or really, really didn't get along. This is the most insulting type of gay-content you can have in a film, when they're throwing you a bone and it's not even spirited. That's somehow worse than the cheap exploitation nudity we're used to.

The six friends who were going to simply humiliate him on the Internet instead make a pact to cover up their involvement in the murder. A year later, these haggard-looking well-toned supposed teenagers reunite, invited back to the closed high-school*, immediately shuttered after the murder, with invitations from someone claiming to have the tape. Seems they taped themselves stabbing him after a masked killer did, a la Murder On The Orient Express, but they didn't know he was already dead when they got there. They're also not sharp enough to realize that whoever took this videotape had to have been one of them. They blame the bad boy who spent time in jail, but a more sensible crowd would have taken care of him, too.

Anyhow, this Sunnydale High, land of late 20's models as high school students. The character the film implies to be the killer from the get go. We can assume he is because he has the sloppiest haircut, least defined muscle-tone, and (greatest crime of all in a DeCoteau horror film) the least-sexy underwear.

This film is only 86 minutes long and feels incredibly padded. Seriously. One characters spends literally 5 minutes of screen time walking around a Science classroom very slowly. One in which all the lizards and fish are alive in even though the high school has been abandoned for a year.

Yay, logic. I've sat through films by Andrei Tarkovsky, king of the never-ending static shot, that play faster than this film does. There's perhaps a little mystery to the question "Who shot Leslie first" but when it comes to who the present-day killer is there's never a doubt.

So would I recommend The Brotherhood V? Absolutely not. This is almost a Manos, The Hands of Fate level debacle. Even if you watch this on fast-forward it's going to feel long. However, search out the first one, or Final Stab, The Frightening, or his other late 90s-early 2000s straight-to-video titles for better quasi-gay camp curios. You'll find much better gay-themed hororr if you pick up Hellbent or Cthulhu. Also, Leather Jacket Love Story I remember as being decent and honest and somewhat-sexy, but I saw it a decade ago...

*um, the idea they'd shutter a high school in what film-land logic leads us to assume is near Los Angeles over one piddly little murder just defies good sense. They didn't shutter Columbine, much less hundreds of other American schools where violence has happened. It's not only somehow massively offensive, but also a dumb-bunny plot point that sticks in one's craw from the get-go of the film.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jay's Review: Tony - London Serial Killer

Dvdsnapshot.com hooked me up with a no-frills review copy of Tony to review. I think it's coming without all that cinema packaging makes it feel like something underground; real and wrong. A DVD I think I almost want out of my house... meaning it's done it's job in terms of being effective.


TONY - LONDON SERIAL KILLER

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
:
Solitary Tony (Peter Ferdinando) lives on the line of society and of sanity: Mostly he's home a
lone, cultivating a taste for 1980s action flicks, and when social interaction arises, murder is his solution to an awkward moment. Director Gerard Johnson's gruesome character study observes the inscrutable figure as he goes about the business of being maladjusted, misreading the world around him while remaining a mystery even perhaps to himself.

OUR TAKE:
Briefly, I think Serial Killers in fiction fascinate people because they act out, to the furthest degree, impulses and rages everyone else keeps bottled up, not feeling strongly enough to cross those lines. Fantasies and frustrations amplified into satisfying problem-solving.  Any true-life portrayal tends to be fascinate with equal parts deep fear and lurid fascination. I personally turn away from them when I know there were real people involved. The monster is front and center.

Tony is the most near-documentary, realistic-feeling portrayal of a Serial Killer I've seen since Dahmer. Some parts of this film certainly bring that one to mind. This is a simply structured "Day in the Life" story, totally lacking in glamor. Tony (Peter Ferdinando) is an unemployed, anti-social nebbish who lacks the skills to relate to most people. He wanders aimlessly through his awkward days, trying to relate to people. You'd think he was bringing  those drug dealers home to make friends... until the tools of his trade come out.

Truly terrifying images out of the grandest guignol inter-cut with the monotony of daily life. Murders punctuate his window shopping and visits to the unemployment office. Completely devoid of social skills, when he does interact with people it usually end badly for them. His visits to prostitutes and bars looking for companionship show someone who truly can't connect with other human beings. When Tony picks someone up at a club the sequence is almost unwatchable because you know the fate in store for them. The cumulative effect of the seeming normalcy and lack of slasher-flash creates a chilling and challenging film.

I watch a lot of this type of film and I think I'm inured to these things, but I think this one actually scared me.

CONCLUSION:

Feeling like Mike Leigh's made a serial killer film; the seemingly improvised, near docu-drama Tony is genuinely frightening. In fact, the feeling of realism renders it nearly unwatchable. Less than eighty minutes long it's well done, almost seeming at times like a satire a la "The Office," but at heart this a nasty little chiller. Extremely well made. this film is admirable but nigh-impossible to enjoy. Viewer beware.

OVERALL PICTURE
MOVIE: C+, then A-




The official site for Tony can be found here and features the trailer and all kinds of other information. The trailer alone brought back the chills, so I have to upgrade the rating I've given the film from a C+ to a A-. The qualities that made it so frightening on the first viewing lingered, and that staying power is the mark of a great scary movie.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

One A Week Reviews #12: Woodchipper Massacre

What can one say about a curio like Woodchipper Massacre?  A literally no-budget movie - all they spent was $400 renting a woodchipper - where family and friends play the characters in their own, best 1980s sweaters in a painfully acted, rather illogical shot-on-video mess... and I don't mean "shot-on-video" like today's HD productions. I mean "shot-on-video" on S-VHS, making it look like your home movies or cheap 80s porn.

Well, first you can say that it's watchable, with the plot of Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead coupled with the coup de grace from Fargo. Call it "Kids do the darndest murders?" When cantankerous Aunt Tess comes to babysit Tom, Denice, and Jon, she quickly makes their lives miserable in the way only indulged children can suffer. Before too long, she accidentally gets killed and this genius trio of siblings decide the only sensible thing is to freeze her and put her through a woodchipper. Evidently this was inspired by a local crime, and was pretty ingenious for its time. They wind up having to follow up their cover-up of her death by committing murder and then the cutsiest clean-up of a crime scene you've ever seen. Why, it's downright whimsical.

The overacting is nearly as stunning as the eighties fashions. Aunt Tess is played by the director/leading man's mother, evidently on the grounds that she never thought anyone would ever see the film. The kids all mug for the camera like a silent-film after-school special. Every line is shouted by a cast that's local theater talent all the way. This film burns the eyes, does drag quite a bit, and there's no real massacre.

Beyond that all I can say is it's honestly worth eyeballing. Maybe not sitting all the way through, but if you enjoy "cult" and truly bizarre films you need to at least see a little of this.While everything about it is amaturish, they can at least crow that they not only made it, but got it distributed to boot. Furthermore, the film's absurdity and sense of fun puts it up there in the top tiers of "WTF Cinema." You'll spend the entire time wondering "why?" and "what were they thinking?"

I loved this film like I love The Room and Troll 2, and for many of the same absurdist reasons.

Actually, this is better than The Room. It's crap, but it's also a curio. Check it out.

"When this gets out I'll probably be kicked out of the Girl Scouts! They'll make me give back my merit badges! I'll never be able to sell another cookie as long as I live! Oh, what a lousy deal!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

One A Week Reviews #11: Colour From The Dark

This edition of my "One A Week Reviews" is an Italian low-budget stunner I have to recommend as a gem that needs to be seen.

I've never read much H.P. Lovecraft, but do have vague memories of chipping my way through "The Colour Out of Space" back in my teens. I don't think it's required viewing to enjoy the surprisingly good Colour From The Dark.

Set on an Italian farm in 1943, the action opens with the childlike Alice (pronounced "Al-ee-che") dealing with night terrors and losing her (rather-creepy) doll down the well in a dream. This is more an omen for the next day's events. Dropping the doll down the well, she gets her brother-in-law Pietro to scoop it out with his pitchfork. When he breaks... well, something and releases  CGI gas-and-light, the terror begins and the next week is pure madness. Alice's older sister Lucia is out that night burying a cross in the wheat field and keeps flashing weirdly black eyes. These farmers continue to till the soil while fearing the encroachment of World War II on their farmlands. The threat of the war hangs over the whole film in a way, while German bombers fly overhead. They have more to fear from whatever has loosed itself into their well-water.

Sure, Alice speaks for the first time by the third day, but the bitter, giant veggies the poisoned water is producing is affecting everyone in far more insidious ways. Lucia descends into sexual madness and this whole tense, tortured family soon escalate into violent madness. Are these Italian Catholic peasants being influenced by the devil? One would certainly think so judging from their increasing aversion to their crucifixes. Perhaps the ghastly lights are from something "from beyond"?

The always-amazing Debbie Rochon stars as Lucia. Why she hasn't yet headlined a big-budget Hollywood film escapes me, because she has both the looks and the chops. The lesser-known Michael Segal plays Pietro and he's damned easy on the eyes. "Can he act?" Who cares, look at the man!

I've never seen a film by Italian director Ivan Zuccon, but I plan to watch whatever I can find. The pacing and look of the film stuns for a shot-on-video, CGI effects, low-budget production. The effects are subtle here. Lights flashing in water, the occaisonal spray of blood. Clouds in the sky (which are always moving) and enriched colors. More directors should be using these light touches instead of big, unconvincing monsters and the like. Certainly gives a better effect. This is an ambitious director with an assured point-of-view and a vaguely novelistic sensibility. Even the slow patches in the film have purpose and menace and the subplots give more character than padding. The pastoral farm-imagery may be played a little over-the-top, and the Catholic imagery certainly is. It all works, though, and contributes to an overall threatening atmosphere. It makes sense that provincial Italians, who'd most likely be Catholic, would respond to any encroachment of madness by calling in a priest and lashing out at Catholic iconography.

Colour From The Dark comes highly recommended by me. Downright eerie and memorable, I can picture spending thirty times the budget and all you'd have to show for it is better film-stock. A meditative and well-paced horror film that actually made me jump a couple times... and I rarely jump at movies.

Jay's Review: Splinterheads

The DVD came as a screener copy with no extras and no frills. Thankfully, this film I reviewed for dvdsnapshot.com is a gem...

SPLINTERHEADS

OFFICAL SYNOPSIS:

Justin Frost, a twenty-something slacker, has decided that his “thing” is that he has no “thing” at all. When a small-time carnival rolls into town, he meets Galaxy, a gorgeous con artist who has more “things” going for her than anyone he has ever met. Galaxy takes Justin on a geocaching adventure, a GPS based activity that is part hike and part treasure hunt, and he quickly falls for her. Complicating matters are his mom’s (Lea Thompson) floundering relationship with a lovesick local cop (Christopher McDonald) and Galaxy’s insanely jealous boyfriend Reggie (Dean Winters). In order to win her over he’s going to need to step up his game, and maybe even figure out what his “thing” really is.

OUR TAKE:
Watching coming-of-age stories may be as much a right of passage as actually coming of age. So what if the character maturing and finding out what it means to be an adult already looks to be in his mid-twenties?

In Splinterheads, we have an aimless, loser type who meets the exciting gal who sees something in him the rest of us don't. In this scenario, the too-long-at-home Justin attends the traveling circus and encounters a Carny con-artist, creatively named Galaxy. She treats the nebbish landscaper assistant horribly but he somehow (ahem) finds that all forgivable once she peels down to her underwear. Of course, you know her free-spirited, somewhat criminal freedom will bring him out of his shell. Think along the way he'll stand up to some bullies, learn more about himself, and start to stand on his own two feet?

The leads are relative unknowns, Thomas Middleditch and Rachel Taylor from Transformers, and they're able and charming. Also, they're supported by some older pros. Frankie Faison and Dean Winters appear show up as "Splinterheads," evidently a term for "Carny folk." Lea Thompson plays Justin's mom, just as sparkling as always. Christopher McDonald is the comic highlight of the film as her lovelorn ex-boyfriend, the buffoonish Sergeant Bruce. As sweet as our headliners wind up being, I'd rather watch their romance anytime.

In a coming-of-age romance, you know they're going to, well, come of age. It's the journey they take that tells. There's nothing here you haven't seen before in different settings, but Splinterheads feels like a labor of love.

CONCLUSION:
Fine for teens up, though perhaps not enough for those who've gotten these life experiences under their belts, Splinterheads features a charming cast and pleasant love story. Slight and wispy as a Summer day spent at swimming at a quarry, but also just as pleasurable an experience.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: B-

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jay's Reviews: Evil Laugh (Evil Tweets)

I had so much fun tweeting my way through Sorority Row last weekend that I thought I'd try it again with another title that looked to be a fun, campy crap-fest. Coming recommended as such by one of my favorite "Tweeple" and authors (Book review coming, by the way), Brandon Ford, how could I not indulge in moving Evil Laugh to the top of my Netflix queue. 

Now I'm the first to admit that sending out a bunch of train-of-thought tweets throughout the course of watching a movie is not only self-indulgent, but potentially downright abusive to my followers as well. Isn't that one of the joys of Twitter though? Sharing the fun? Enjoy... 

  • okay, going to pop in "Evil Laugh" on the recommendation of @brandonford... wondering what this flick'll be like :) 
  • so... EVIL LAUGH is very, very 80s. Oddly, for a movie starring 90s porn star Ashlyn Gere, so far only the guys are showing skin. 
  • EVIL LAUGH's male lead is a Baio cousin. His character just inadvertently peed on a biker couple. 
  • yuppie couple in EVIL LAUGH are wearing matching driver hats, pink dress shirts with sweaters tied over the shoulder. How very POLO of 'em. 
  • @sonicchubb I didn't say I was complaining, I said it was odd :) 
  • "What the F&%! is Jerry doing in the closet?" I don't think any of the guys in EVIL LAUGH are in the closet... 
  • "If you need anything my numbers by the phone, and I mean anything." Except for the stabbings and lack of sex, this is 80s gay porn... 
  • so "Tina" in EVIL LAUGH was the "Hollywood Super Madam," who broke Heidi Fleiss into the biz. This gets better and better... 
  • THIS movie contains a cleaning/dancing montage set to the WORST 80s pop song I have ever heard... EVER. I mean... there are NO words... 
  • The lace-up shorts on "Mark" in this movie are so tight I think they're actually worn UNDER the skin. That's gotta be uncomfortable... 
  • Arrgh, they had a reprise of "Party the whole night long," the worst song EVER recorded. It must be what brings the evil... 
  • The gay subtext in EVIL LAUGH is cracking me up... methinks the director made this whole film to get "Mark" outta those shorts. 
  • aaak - "Sammy" is played by the son of Merv Griffin! He and the Baio cousin make this nepotism central! Love it! 
  •  After getting the "Mark" character naked and fondled, he's the butt of a "Rocky Mountain Oysters" joke... wow. 
  • speaking of nepotism, "Freddy" is played by Johnny Venokur, one of Scott Baio's crew. *shudder* 
  • @sonicchubb this movie isn't a real porn, just an incredible simulation of all those acting parts of one strung together, without any sex... 
  • Acting in a "real" movie, Ashlyn Gere is coming off like a soft, girly Brinke Stevens. If you know who that is, we like the same movies :) 
  • Why is there a whole scene of the real estate agent jamming out in his car to "The William Tell Overture"? Why? 
  • Watch EVIL LAUGH and thrill to the sight of Merv Griffin's son in panties and a dog collar... well, "thrill" isn't right - "look away" is... 
  • (I just got two Real Estate followers on here because of that tweet...  or maybe they're "William Tell Overture" fans?) 
  • Ashlyn Gere is goin' for the oscar. I've never seen any of the movies she's famous for, does she always have monologues? 
  • The actress who was in real life a famous madam saying she's "Saving herself for marriage" is rather... meta-textural? 
  • "Mark" just got an axe to the skull and "Tina" just talked herself into getting strangled because she's an idiot... that was quick. 
  • Johnny just got his head shoved into a microwave that can somehow run with the door open. Um, mine doesn't do that... 
  • ...he coulda squirmed his way outta that, but that'd take more intelligence than he's capable of... 
  • Ashlyn Gere's acting her little heart out. Since this was before it was buried under implants, I suppose we should applaud that. 
  • THAT's the killer? Well, A) that's just stupid and B) she's not nearly old enough to have that backstory. Maybe she had work done? 
  • One thing I've never understood: why take the time to drag away and arrange all the victim's bodies? Maybe it's because I have a bad back... 
  • The tacked-on end doesn't make sense- in real life, you play that practical joke you'd get killed- oh wait, she killed him. Never mind... 
  • Ahhh, well that's over with. Thanks for indulging a tired man his babble. This is what happens when I stay in (book up my social calendar!)
 So I got a few things wrong. Steven Baio is actually Scott Baio's brother, not cousin. I didn't note the in-jokes or the fact that the director was the fat, obnoxious kid in Friday the 13th: Part V either. I don't think readership suffers for not having that information, though. I hope my affection comes through though. I only bother to rag on the movies I'm actually enjoying, and this one was downright fun.

It's practically essential viewing. The cast of Scott Baio's brother, Merv Griffin's son, the pre-porn Ashlyn Gere, and Jody Gibson who lived a double life as "Babydoll" on ""USA's Up
All Night" and as "Sasha," Hollywood's premier super-madam gives Evil Laugh status as an 80's curio. This film came out at the very tail end of the 80's Slasher Boom, in 1988, and was too little too late. The "tone," fey acting, and frequently topless dudes gives it the flavor of an 80s gay porn, just without the sex. Seriously, it plays like it's going to go into "BoomChickaBoomBow" land at any moment. This film also has a character, Barney, who essentially was lifted, whole-cloth, to be "Randy" in Scream. He uses horror film "rules" as logic to protect himself from getting knocked off by the killer. 


Bravo! Bravo!

Friday, March 5, 2010

One A Week Review #10: Mala Noche

This time my "One A Week Review" looks at a 1985 classic that's the first film by Gus Van Sant, better known for My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, and Milk.

Mala Noche is the first film by Gus Van Sant, from all the way back in 1985. An example of independent, outsider cinema breaking through to the public consciousness and something of a touchstone in gay cinema history. For a first, no-budget film, the cinematography is creative and energetic, the images are what immediately capture your attention. It's photographed with the sort of odd, mysterious shots and languid pacing that became a signature of Van Sant's films. I wonder what a film like Last Days or Paranoid Park would have been like with the same harshly-lit "noir" look. There's a more discerning visual eye in this black and white first film than those by a few directors of the same era who immediately spring to mind: Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and Rose Troche. Scenes of wide vistas, a towering waterfall and sheets of rolling clouds stun in simple, stark black & white. He takes a convenience store and turns it into a charged, mysterious meeting place.

An odd story about a Portland, Oregon convenience store employee carrying a torch for an illegal immigrant who doesn't reciprocate his feelings, his blind lust is off-putting by 10 minutes into the movie. It turns into a weird path of self-degredation for the pursuer while to the pursued, the object of the affection, it's a nothing. Thankfully, neither character seems truly engaged enough in the game to bring that chase down from anything other than a lark. His language, background, orientation; his everything collide with a pair of immigrants through the course of the story. Though he scores the sexual contact he's desiring, the films more about the unusual dynamic between them as they attempt to bridge the distance than itis about depicting something explicit.

That said, the artfully-cut close-ups of odd angles make for a creative depiction of physical intimacy that I'd guess a mid-eighties audience wasn't seeing. Visceral and physical, but not pornographic. Van Sant captures more something of an age when a person is more unselfconscious and unaware of their desirability than they are actively playing at the erotic.

The actors in his films have become bigger names but the "slice-of-life" quality of encounters here, like those on the streets, a road trip, or dancing at a dinner party, are the sort of events that thread through all his stories. The sound design and visuals can remind one of David Lynch at times. The behavior of the lead boys wouldn't be out of place in a Gregg Araki movie. Mala Noche is hypnotizing, and while lesser-known, a groundbreaking piece of cinema from the Eighties. The film is more haunting and absorbing than you'd think it would have a right to be. I can see the world of My Own Private Idaho here but I can also see the visual flare of Drugstore Cowboy and Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. Van Sant hit the ground running.

Jay's Review: Banshee!!!

Creepy, freeky-deeky! This is a tre' tongue-in-cheek little monster movie I reviewed for dvdsnapshot.com. It's not great, but it's a great deal of fun and surprisingly fun to watch.

BANSHEE!!!

OFFICAL SYNOPSIS:

A group of college friends on a spring break camping trip are stalked and slashed by an unknown creature with the ability to make them hallucinate through sound waves. The survivors hold up refuge in an isolated farmhouse, cut off from all communication. Now, they have to come up with a plan to kill this unrelenting creature before it kills them. "Banshee!!!" takes the idea of the legendary Irish myth and spins in around into a terrifying and unstoppable monster!

OUR TAKE:
In the B-to-Z-grade horror film Banshee!!!, a logging crew in a backwoods town find a strange pod in a wrecked car around the same time a group of Co-Eds decide to take a camping trip. There's rumors of the titular monster lurking in the woods, having knocked a few guys off back in the Seventies, and the legend states you hear it before you die. Now its back and... y'all know this is going to end badly, right?

It does. The dialogue and acting here leave a lot to be desired but the big bad monster's fairly standard. This would be a total waste of time but for the genuine sense of style to the cinematography and effects. As an overall package, it's clear there's some talent behind the camera making the most of what they've got even if resources were limited. Low-grade CGI and occasionally flashy sound design are forgivable when you're having fun. The monster's sound power and ability to imitate people cuts down on CGI critter cheapness (it's very "insecty") and offers some genuinely witty moments. (The hilarious sight of the girl scout bludgeoning a man with an iron girder alone makes this worth at least a rental.) Banshee!!! is like a Syfy Channel monster-movie with half the budget and twice the cinematographic craft.

You also have to give them credit for not wasting time. The college kids are getting killed off within minutes of being introduced, and the film doesn't mess around front-loading set-up or backstory. Plot exposition is normally a lot more linear in this type of film. Here it's sprinkled through while the movie keeps a-trucking. Makes for disorienting, choppy pacing, but the film rolls to fast to pick at or care about it's faults.  They're upholding the contract of all B-grade horror movies. Namely, "you know they're meat, we know they're meat, so let's just knock 'em off, all right?"

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Banshee!!!
offers English stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio options along with a commentary track featuring the producer, writer, sound supervisor, and director. There are English and Spanish subtitles. The DVD extras include outtakes, bloopers, deleted scenes, and trailers for this and Assault of the Sasquatch.

CONCLUSION:

A low-budget, tongue in cheek monster movie, Banshee!!! has style to spare. While the flash and not-awful effects balance out the gawd-awful acting or overall Cheez-Whizzyness,  it's still not enough to make this a painless watch. (Doesn't make up for the three arbitrary exclamation points in the name either.) It's a 50s Monster Movie with cutting-edge gore and almost dadaist story structure.

While unrated, the gore makes this is one for the grown-ups. The less discerning ones, at least. On the whole, you can do a lot better, but there's some talent and charm here. A solid B for "beers and buddies," otherwise...

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: C+
EXTRAS: B

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jay's Review: Beyond Sherwood Forest

Oh, look, Robin Hood fights dragons. A dvdsnapshot.com review...

BEYOND SHERWOOD FOREST

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

12th Century England: It is a deadly time of dark tyranny, black magic and the outlaw archer known as Robin Hood (Robin Dunne of "Sanctuary"). But when the Sheriff of Nottingham (Julian Sands of "24" and Warlock) unleashes a winged monster upon the town and woods to massacre Robin's men and capture Maid Marian (Erica Durance of "Smallville"), hearts run cold with fear and streets red with blood. Before he can rob from the rich or give to the poor, can The Prince Of Thieves survive the demonic onslaught of a winged beast from another world? Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) and David Richmond-Peck ("V") co-star in this chilling new take on the infamous hero from director Peter DeLuise, filled with valor, vengeance and nightmare creatures that take you behind the legend and Beyond Sherwood Forest.

OUR TAKE:

Mash-up culture is all about taking two things and mixing them up into something derivative yet fresh, right? Beyond Sherwood Forest takes the myth of Robin Hood and adds dragons to the mix. Is it fresh? Eh...

 The film opens as some kind of portal to a dimension of Dragon People appears in the middle of Sherwood Forest and lets one out (did someone watch Primeval perhaps?). Hunting it leads to the death of the father of a boy who will be Robin Hood at the hands of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Mash-ups add motives, perhaps?

When childhood friends Robin and Marian re-"meet cute" it leads to a scab-covered Prince John  releasing his captive dragon to terrorize the shire. Little John becomes cannon-fodder instead of comic relief, and many mediocre CGI effects died that noble day as our band of Merry Men travel to the "Dark Woods" of another dimension in the hopes of slaying a dragon. Mash-up rules, namely "everything AND the kitchen sink," had me hoping Cuthulu would should up there, but alas...

Julian Sands chews the scenery, slumming with his best Michael York impression and Katherine Isabelle appears as the girl who can turn into a dragon. Smallville's Erica Durance is a charming-enough actress but a very "modern" and "plucky" one.  Saying she's hard to buy as a princess of the Middle Ages is an understatement, but she's the most agreeable presence here, even with her less-than-passable British accent. The whole production is low-budget and has all the ambiance of a Medieval Times dinner or episode of Cadfael.

Robin Hood is a mythic hero of lore, and as such needs a leading man that conveys that quality. Um, all I can say here is our hero has killer abs... the rest of him has about as much spark as the overall production does.

SPECIAL FEATURES:


The film is presented on DVD in Anamorphic Widescreen with English Dolby Surround 5.1 audio. Subtitles are included in English for the Deaf & Hearing Impaired. A short behind-the-scenes featurette and trailers for this film and InAlienable are included.

CONCLUSION:
I've never been much moved one way or the other by the Robin Hood myth, and Beyond Sherwood Forest doesn't convince one to pick a side. Nothing harmful here to turn off the teens, and not much to keep one awake on a Saturday night viewing party. Produced by the Starz channel but not even monstrous enough for SyFy.

All great stories could use a dragon, though. Just imagine one burning down Tara in Gone With The Wind.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: C-
EXTRAS: C

Monday, March 1, 2010

One A Week Review #9: Sorority Row

 This week, I enjoyed the quelle campy Sorority Row. Instead of a review, I thought I'd just share my play-by-play observations as I "live-Tweeted" my viewing experience...

To clarify, I did enjoy it. Certainly better than I expected and the ending did make a bit of sense (though the little twist at the end is profoundly stupid) and the acting was pretty good. The actresses I went in viewing as "The Nepotism Twins," Briana Evigan and Rumer Willis, are offically okay in my book after this, so that's downright startling. The "original" The House on Sorority Row had a head in a toilet, and nothing here beat that.

Live-tweeting (for me at least) isn't about praise or critical thought. It's about snark. I confess this to be my warts-and-all stream of pure snark. I kept it clean, and probably should have cut loose more, but there you have it. Enjoy!

 
  • Hmm, it says this film is rated R partially due to "partying." When did Musical Chairs become SO objectionable? 
  • Quote from movie: "You cheat on one Theta, you cheat on every Theta." Well, that's at least efficient...
  • The nice thing about characters like the ones in SORORITY ROW is you look FORWARD to their eventual demise. The uglier the better...     
  • I forgot Carrie Fisher was in this. In real life I'm positive she could kick the crazy bad guys ass.
  • Someone just said "I'd definitely have a sip of that MILF-shake"- SORORITY ROW is equal opportunity. You want the Frat Boys to die too.         
  • Two references to Facebook so far in here... trying to remember if some flick five years ago namechecked Friendster to be so "au courant"?       
  • Again: anyone else think a Carrie Fisher-Margot Kidder talk show would be a thing of crazy beauty? (Emphasis on "crazy")
  • Why, I think they're implying the promiscuous Sorority Sister might just have low self-esteem... I'm shocked and saddened.
  • I think the other sorority sister is getting dumped by her boyfriend through HIS DAD. That's cold, man. COLD.
  • It's a slasher movie with a shower scene set in a sorority house. My god, why did no one ever think of this before???
  • I do admire these girls' party ethic. Sure, someone's messing with them, but there's liquor to be drunk...
  • As someone who grew up on 70s/80s movies, it's refreshing to see nudity again in a movie set in college. It's honest sleaze. 
  • Slashers in movies who kill people ancillary to the ones they're after all ways seem unsporting to me...     
  • Well I guess the sorority girl being told her boyfriend is dead 20 min post-breakup saves her from those awkward "running into you" moments.  
  • Wow this movie is just STUPID. Spending an hour with it is about as soporific as a disco nap, so props for that.
  • The characters in this movie should HOPE they get knocked off. Otherwise they have to clean up the mess left after that party... 
  • Wondering who just unfollowed me, if it was because I'm tweeting about SORORITY ROW, and mostly... is it a comment on my taste?
  • Death by tire iron, beer bottle, car, and road flare so far... it's a monster truck rally of a slasher movie...
  • Their friends are getting knocked off but they have time for a hair-pulling cat fight in negligees? How did this movie not make more money?
  • A pissed-off Carrie Fisher with a shot gun is the first genuinely thrilling and threatening thing in this movie...
  • @loreestark I groove on "Fantastically Awful," so really I'm having a damned good time, all told...          
  • So the Queen-Bee Bizznitch's boyfriend is a jerk? I'm shocked. Never saw THAT one coming either...            
  • Oh, so THAT'S who the killer is? I woulda seen that coming if either I or the screenwriter was really bothering to pay attention... 
  • Oh, sure, he knocked everyone off for her. I still think she's gonna break up with him...  
  • Okay, that guy either is a European with a crap American accent or has a bit of a speech impediment...    
  • @zacsanford this is bad... and I'm enjoying it immensely...
  • I shoulda left for this evening's events already but I do so love a good bad movie... 
  • @zacsanford I've had some good giggles... I didn't expect the Rumer Willis character to make it, though... is that the twist ending?       
  • Umm, no one really catwalks in slow-motion away from a burning building... seriously. They don't.          
  • Well, thank you, SORORITY ROW, for being bad and entertaining me. I only meant to watch 30 minutes of you before I got to work...  
  • The DVD outtakes include footage of waterballoons thrown at cleavage that DIDN'T break... Criterion collection never has extras like that.