Attack the Block - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #16

SHOCKTOBER 2015 continues with movie #16, Attack the Block. I can barely believe that I'm keeping up not only watching movies, but also writing about them. I am a bit behind now on the writing, of course, but not obscenely so. I'm up to film #19, having missed only one day so far. I'm hoping to be able to make up for that lost film this weekend, and thereby get my days and films back in sync, but honestly this plan might be a bit too ambitious.

Anyway, Attack the Block is a solid, fun alien invasion flick with some original creature designs. The characters are a bunch of South London street thugs, all about 15 years old, and are initially demonstrated to be completely unlikable. In the opening moments of the film, the little rascals mug a perfectly nice woman, a nurse possibly on her was home from work. The movie is trying to reinforce that these hoodlums are not likable, which is potentially one of the biggest faults of the film. It is somewhat difficult to root for characters that are unlikable, but I will admit that at least here these feeling play into the arc of redemption that the lead character, Moses, goes through during the course of the film.

The aforementioned mugging is interrupted by something falling out the sky, smashing a car parked on the side of the street. The hoodlums investigate and are attacked by a relatively small creature covered in whitish fur. They realize that this is likely an alien and, just as an rational person might do upon establishing first contact with an extraterrestrial race, they stab it until it dies. They parade their trophy around town, and eventually decide to stash it in an apartment building safe house which is usually used as a drug distribution center. Again, these characters are not presented as likable.

The situation escalates upon the arrival of more aliens, which fall out of the sky like meteorites. These creatures are different in appearance from the earlier alien; they are larger in size, like one of the bigger apes, and are covered in the blackest fur imaginable. Special effects are used imaginatively here, and CGI is used to make the fur appear as close to absolute, flat black as possible. The creatures also have one other major characteristic; their teeth glow a strange fluorescent blue-green. It's a pretty unique design, and although you might fault the creatures for lacking detail, you have never seen another monster like this on film before. At least, I hadn't.

The film goes on to reveal to a pretty unique vision of these aliens' life cycle. They are presented as being spore-like, traveling through the cosmos and settling upon hospitable worlds. It is suggested that the smaller alien killed in the beginning of the film is a female, and the larger creatures the males. The males are attracted to the female across space due to a pheromone trail, which is also leading all of the male aliens to the apartment complex where the female's body is locked away. It's a back story that makes no sense if you think about it - creatures made of familiar, living tissues, as these aliens SEEM to be, can't survive the vacuum of space or the heat of entry through the atmosphere. But whatever; the actual biology of the creatures is presented by a stoner dude that happened to catch a documentary on the National Geographic Channel, so I guess the source of the info is unreliable anyways. Still, its the only explanation offered by the film, so you sort of have to presume it is true by default - much like the much maligned comet explanation for the zombies in the original Night of the Living Dead.

Like I said, whatever.

Attack the Block is a fun alien romp, and an effective redemptive arc is demonstrated by the unlikable protagonists. Combined with the cool alien designs, this is a Sci-fi film that I can pretty easily recommend. Although, some of the London slang dialogue can be hard to parse from time to time.

Three out of four Bruces.
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[REC] 3: Genesis - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #15

Wow, movie #15 of the Shocktober 2015 season. I had doubts that I would make it this far, to be honest. This weekend will prove to one of the toughest- if I can maintain my momentum through some days filled with traveling and family functions, I might just be successful in my quest to watch 31 movies in the 31 days of October. Today's film is [REC] 3: Genesis.

I watched the first [REC] a few years ago now, and really loved the zombie-infested apartment building story, particularly for its demonic twist at the end. Yeah, I've given up on hiding that particular spoiler, I mean, you are reading a review of the third installment of a film series. Sorry, I guess? Anyway, the second film followed with a very similar approach; high tension, good gore, and super serious treatment of the material. I really enjoyed [REC] 2, as you can read about in my review from earlier in this Shocktober season.

In this, the third installment of the series, the filmmaker take some fairly significant departures from the series' formula. First, they begin with a proper fake out, as the film initially appears to continue in the tradition of the found-footage styles films that came before it. After a late title card though, the film switches to a more traditional third person-style camera. Second, the film is much less serious than the first two films. I found many sequences were played for laughs, there is a significant amount of campiness to all of the proceedings, and the demon-possessed zombies seemed to be much less of a threat.

On the one hand, I like horror comedies a whole lot. They might be my favorite genre of film, thanks to that fine line that the best examples of genre walk. On the other hand, I loved the [REC] series as it was, super-serious and deeply foreboding. I wasn't really longing for a comedic turn from these particular films. So, I guess I'm conflicted by the series' new direction in this third film. That said, this is still a well-made film for what it is. The camp on display is cheeky and fun -the imagery of a bride in white wielding a chainsaw to take out hordes of demons is certainly setting off my highly tuned horror silliness detector.

Oh right, a bride in white. Maybe I should explain the plot of the film. It's pretty straightforward, the demon-infection from the first two films somehow finds its way to a wedding reception going on at the same time as the events of the first two films. This time line is revealed by some news broadcasts that you occasionally see in the background of this film. The infection at the wedding reception seems to originate with an uncle that claims to have been bit by a dog -how this relates to the events of the first two films, I cannot remember. Was there a demonic dog at one point in those films, perhaps the first film since it has been so long since I've seen it? In any case, I was somewhat confused as to exactly HOW the demonic infection spread from the apartment to this location, but I guess that doesn't really matter.

As the reception turns into a living hell, with all of the friends and family dying and turning into zombies, the bride and groom get separated. The film tells the story of them finding one another through these extenuating circumstances and their attempts to survive the demon plague. As Mrs. Manson pointed out, you might even be able to consider [REC] 3 a love story. A gruesome love story in which arms are severed and tongues bitten and torn out of people's heads, but a love story nonetheless.

[REC] 3 has some clever moments, and the campy visuals and sequences are decidedly fun. I liked this film; it plays very well. The only caution I offer is that you need to be able to let go of those things that made [REC] and [REC] 2 great. If you can't deal with the loss of the self-serious tone, your will find [REC] 3 to be very difficult to enjoy.

Three out of four Bruces.

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Elvira's Haunted Hills - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #14

It's time to talk about Movie #14 of the October Horror Movie Challenge. I have to admit, I'm somewhat impressed that I've managed to maintain the momentum for this long. I think I've chosen a bunch of really good films so far, for the most part (The Demon's Rook, I'm looking at you). I've tried to balance the horrific with the humorous, mostly just to keep my palate refreshed. Tonight's film, Elvira'a Haunted Hills, definitely falls into the latter category.

Does Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark, need any introduction to the folks visiting this page? I'm guessing not, so I'll just introduce the film. This is actually Elvira's second feature film, the first being Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988). That first film was less of what you might expect from the horror hostess, playing more like a spoof of Footloose. Elvira's Haunted Hills, on the other hand, is a play on the classic sort of horror films that Elvira made a career out of hosting and lampooning. All told, this vehicle felt more natural for the character than did the earlier film.

Oddly enough, despite the more natural fit of the character, I think I enjoyed Elvira, Mistress of the Dark more than Elvira's Haunted Hills. This film seems more like a series of amusing scenes than a cohesive whole. But, really, who came to this film for expert storytelling? Really, there are only two reasons to watch Elvira, and they appear below: 

If you said, for the sheer camp and Cassandra Peterson's divine facial expressions, you'd be correct! I've always liked the Elvira character, and, no, it's not just because of her sheer enthusiasm at embracing her more, ahem, ample assets. A quirky, sarcastic gothic vampire lady that talks like a valley girl and revels in double-entendres and self-deprecation - it's a firmly tongue in cheek character, that is hard not to love (Haha, "hard").

Anyway, the film is serviceable enough. Taking place in the mid-1800s, Elvira and her maidservant ZouZou get waylaid at a Carpathian castle -I'm trying my hardest not to laugh and reiterate that I used the word "laid" there- and they get caught up in a dysfunctional family curse. There's really not much to say about the plot of the film; it's just good, dumb fun. Elvira does her thing, mugs for the camera, does an almost titillating showgirl routine (the movie is rated PG-13, after all), and that's pretty much all that there is to it.

Two out of four Bruces.

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The Demon's Rook - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #13

What the hell did I just watch?

I seriously considered having that previous sentence compose the entirety of this review, as I actually think it does the film, The Demon's Rook, justice in some regard. This is a movie with a lot of ideas and a lot of ambition. Don't get me wrong, I think the Demon's Rook is a terrible film, but I sort of enjoyed watching it. Weird, right?

We meet Roscoe, a young boy that is frequently visited by a demon. One night the demon vaporizes Roscoe's parents and brings the child to some sort of alternate dimension known as the Dark Womb. It is here, under the tutelage of this demonic mentor, that Roscoe learns the dark arts and grows into adulthood. Eventually, for reasons I won't disclose here, Roscoe returns to his home world, but three evil demons cross the gateway with him. The demons then go about causing havok- one turns men into beasts, another drives people to commit violent acts, and the last one raises the dead. It certainly doesn't look good for earth.

Luckily, Roscoe is able to combat the demons using the dark magic that he was taught by his demonic mentor. Roscoe is even able to "save" one of the men turned into a beast, freeing his mind to take revenge against the demon that disfigured him. He meets up with his childhood friend and potential love interest, Eva.

Spoilers ahead.

The film builds up to this moment where Roscoe and Eva will face off against the most powerful of the three demons. Roscoe shares his magic with Eva, and it seems that their forces combined might stand a chance at eradicating this evil threat. When the showdown does finally happen. the demon smokes their asses without even a semblance of a fight. Then, out of nowhere, the beast-man whom Roscoe "saved" runs out of the woods and kills the third demon by ripping out its heart. The End.

The experience of watching this film is really strange, surreal even. It has all of the makings of a b-movie, including gore and and special effects, but none of it is played for scares. The Demon's Rook is played completely straight, with no winks or nods to the audience. I actually came to watch this movie off of the strength of its trailer - go ahead, watch the trailer on Amazon Prime. The film looks like a fun b-movie romp, with an angry bearded fellow fighting demons - not too dissimilar in tone to something like Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Instead, the Demon's Rook plays out more like a self-serious independent film, or maybe more of an urban fantasy, than a more traditional horror movie. At any rate, I found the film to be a very different movie than the one advertised in the trailer.

It has a lot in common with 80's Italian horror cinema, with little dialogue and a constant electronic Goblin-like soundtrack running almost the entire length of the movie. I definitely found this to be a strength of the film. In some ways, I was reminded of the long, lingering cinematography of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Two strong comparisons for sure. For a a low budget film, the Demon's Rook is well-made.

Story-wise, I understand why this film is called the Demon's Rook: Rook, verb: to swindle or cheat. This film definitely cheats the audience out of a satisfying conclusion with the sudden deaths of both protagonists. I don't know of any other films with this type of campy subject matter that also display this degree of self-seriousness. It's a strange experience from start to finish.

I definitely don't recommend the Demon's Rook, but I think I respect it.

One out of four Bruces.

Ignore the low rating. This film is weird and it might be the right weird for you.
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Tremors 5 - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #12

Oh man, here we are yet again. #SHOCKTOBER, am I right? This time, I have to come up with a bunch of words to put in some sort of order to talk about Movie #12 of my October Horror Movie Challenge, Tremors 5. Stick around and see whether or not the latest installment in this long running franchise is worth its 99 minute runtime.

I'm not going to lie, I knew when I heard that there was going to be yet another Tremors film and that it would once again star Michael Gross as everyone's favorite globe-trotting, gun-loving monster hunter, Burt Gummer, that it was going to be less than great. Nevertheless, I also knew that I was going to have to see this film. I love Tremors, the first film, as it is one of the best examples of a modern dumb, fun creature feature. I say modern, but of course it has been 25 years since the original was first released. Actually, just a quick peek over at IMDb... oh, man. Tremors 4 was released in 2004! Even the most recent installment happened over a decade go!

That said, Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward really hit it out of the park in Tremors, and it is that good will that continues to propel me through every installment of the series, including the abysmal TV series. Despite being only a bit part in the original film, it has been the Burt Gummer character which has been the constant in the entire series. The character is likable enough, but I've always sort of hoped for the return of Fred Ward, whom last appeared in part 2, or Kevin Bacon, which is, of course, never happening. But a mad doctor can dream, can't he?

Anyway, this film picks up with Burt Gummer being solicited to go Graboid hunting in Africa. For those just joining us, a Graboid is the official name of the underground, worm-like monsters of the series. They are named for the three retractable, snake-like appendages that come out from their mouths, grabbing their prey and pulling them into the larger creature's gaping maw. Burt has a new colleague, a videographer that is looking to remake the Burt Gummer brand and turn him into an international icon. Hijinks ensue.

The movie is mostly fine, but I had a few disappointments. Despite being the true big baddie, the Graboids play a much diminished role in this film. The majority of monster screen time is given up to the sophomorically named Assblasters. The lore of the series in complicated, but, basically, the Graboid worms give birth to small, ground walking monsters called Shriekers that can see with infrared vision. In turn, Shriekers mate and give birth to Assblasters, creatures that are primarily teeth and wings and which fly by emitting a noxious chemical mixture that causes flames to erupt from its rear-end.

Yes, really.

Anyway, these subsequent stages of the Graboid life cycle were introduced in the subsequent films, and have always made me like each of those films a little less than the movie previous. There's just something pure about giant tunneling worms with retractable snake mouths that ass-blasting offspring ruin for me.

Yeah, I just typed that sentence.

At any rate, I consider the increased screen time of the Assblasters a negative for this film over all. The one true Graboid that appears in the film is somewhat cool, and they introduce some interesting ideas that suggest that the creatures are evolving based on their environments at a highly accelerated rate. In that regard, it's nice to see that the filmmakers aren't afraid to mess with the existing formula, and it definitely keeps the audience on their toes. Still, I'm fairly certain that they only had the money to animate one sequence of the Graboid, a relatively cool moment where the Graboid bursts out the ground, leaping like some sort of sand-based killer whale, spinning in a corkscrew as it soars through the air. It's a cool animation, but I'm fairly certain they reuse it no less than 3 times throughout the movie; kind of a bummer.

This is a direct to video sequel to a film series that has had nothing but direct to video sequels. You know what quality to expect. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Tremors, though, and will likely continue watching new films for as long as they keep making them.

Maybe we'll get another one in less than 11 years this time?

Two out of four Bruces.

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Digging Up the Marrow - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #11

For the 11th movie of #SHOCKTOBER 2015, I've returned once more to the found-footage genre. Digging Up the Marrow is a mock documentary, following director Adam Green, playing himself, as he goes in search of real-life monsters.

I should probably preface this by saying that I have not seen any of Adam Green's TV series, Holliston, which is now in its second season. If I had seen that show, I would probably be much less surprised by how good of a job Green does as an actor in this film. I knew that he had horror chops, having seen and loved both Hatchet and Hatchet II, but wasn't sure how he would fair in front of the camera. Turns out, he's a pretty charismatic, animated fellow and he transfers over to film very well.

In Digging Up the Marrow, Adam is approached by a man, William Dekker (Ray Wise), that claims he can prove that monsters are real. This leads to Green and his cameraman, Will Barratt, following Dekker out into the woods to observe these monsters. Much of the film is spent trying to determine whether or not Dekker is just a crackpot, or if there is something more substantial to his claims of monster sightings. The performances are good all around, and there's even a cameo by horror genre staple Kane Hodder.

For a found footage film, I was frequently awed by the picture quality and cinematography. This may be related to my having just previously watched V/H/S, in which the picture quality is as grainy as possible. Clearly both films made differ net decisions in terms of their aesthetics, but watching these films on consecutive days really highlights the range of quality possible in the found-footage genre.

There is some discussion within Digging Up the Marrow as to the true nature of monsters. Dekker presents these fiends as mutated human births, just trying to live out their lives in the relative peace of their underground kingdom known as the Marrow. The monsters are also rather content to continue living in obscurity, and do not take kindly to the presence of the men and their film equipment. Although the film does take its time getting there, once the creatures are eventually shown on film I found the designs to be imaginative and fulfilling. The monster attack sequence is particularly well-done.

Overall, I enjoyed Digging Up the Marrow. I was fond of the light-hearted take on the horror genre after watching some more serious horror films in the days leading up to this one. This film is funny and only sometimes terrifying. I think it's a good film to sit down with friends for whom horror is not necessarily their forte. As always. I look forward to the next project from Adam Green.

Two out of Four Bruces.

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V/H/S - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #10

Doc Manson returns to B-Movie Geek this October to take the #SHOCKTOBER Horror Movie Challenge! The goal? 31 films in the 31 days of October. We're up to movie #10, the highly regarded horror anthology V/H/S (2012). So, how does this one hold up under the watchful eye of the B-Movie Geek?

Quite well, actually! Each of the five stories told in the film is directed by a different director, adding a bit of variety to the proceedings. The film also has an over-arcing story, revolving around a group of hoodlums that have taken to filming themselves committing petty crimes. They are hired by an unknown party to break into an apartment and steal a VHS tape, although its contents are not specified to the audience. The hoodlums find a dead man in the apartment, and they spread out to search for the tape. One of the vandals sits down in front of a television and plays one of the nearby VHS tapes, beginning our first story.

Of all of the tales spun in V/H/S, the first, Amateur Night directed by David Bruckner, might be my favorite. It's a tale as old as time; a bunch of college-age bros go to the bar to pick up loosely-moraled women for a night of casual sex and they record themselves using a camera hidden inside a pair of eyeglasses. Like I said, a tale as old as time. It turns out that one of the women they bring back to their hotel room is way more woman than any of these boys can handle. Amateur Night tells a complete, compact story and features a visually striking monster design.

My second favorite tale is titled Tuesday the 17th, an obvious ode to the Friday the 13th series. In this short, a survivor of a massacre returns to the wooded lake where it occurred in an attempt to discover the true nature of the killer. The twists here are two fold: 1) the girl has brought a group of friends with her in an attempt to use them as bait for the killer; 2) the killer has some sort of metaphysical presence, where he can appear in multiple locations at once and, when harmed, can simply sort of phase in and out of reality and be healed. Supplementing this latter point, the killer also causes some sort of artifact to appear on film, so we never get a clear look at him/it. I thought this short was a exceptionally cool modern interpretation of the classic slasher story.

There are a few other shorts, but I think the only other one I want to mention is Second Honeymoon, directed by Ti West. West is a known horror director, and he has a number of well received throw-back style films on his resume. Offered as context, I am a pretty big fan of his slow burn haunting picture, The Innkeepers. This short might have been the least interesting in the film. It isn't bad, necessarily, and it fits thematically, but there's really nothing especially unique about this story. I honestly felt it could have been elimated from the film without any great loss. Sorry, Ti. Better luck next time.

All said, V/H/S is 116 minutes well spent for any horror fan. I don't often find competent anthology films, but when done correctly they can be very engaging thanks to their oft-quickened pace. V/H/S is no exception, and is easily a film that every horror fan should at least check out.

Four out of four Bruces.

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Annabelle - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #9

It's October and the B-Movie Geek, Doc Manson, is back to take the #Shocktober challenge! The quest? To watch 31 horror movies in the 31 days of October. Tonight I'm here to review Annabelle, movie #9 of my October Horror Movie Challenge.

I decided to request the Bluray of Annabelle from the mail-in Netflix service because I really enjoyed The Conjuring (2013). The Annabelle doll was present as an ominous presence in that film, an ever-looming threat lurking within the home of the protagonist paranormal investigators, The Warrens. In the context of The Conjuring, Annabelle was a secondary antagonist, existing separate from the main storyline and thereby providing a richness to the universe within the film.

This shouldn't be surprising, I suppose, given that The Conjuring was based on a true story and that the aforementioned protagonists, the Warrens, are a real life husband-wife paranormal investigation team. The Annabelle doll is likewise teal and is currently stored in the occult museum located at the Warrens' house in Monroe, CT. For posterity, here is a comparison image of the Annabelle doll used in the movie and the one from the real life case.

OK, so why have I spent two paragraphs talking about The Conjuring in an article about Annabelle? Mostly because The Conjuring is a superior experience, filled with a lush sense of period and presence. Meanwhile, it's psuedo-prequel, spin-off, Annabelle, feels like a hollow, horror movie simply checking off the boxes that some Hollywood business executive dictated needed to be covered in a film about a demonic haunting.

The film takes a lot of license with the true story of Annabelle. The film is bookended by scenes taking place in more modern times, in which a two female roommates talk about some strange occurrences revolving around the doll. The bulk of the film, however, goes back in time to tell the origin story of the doll. In the film, the estranged daughter of two mild mannered suburbia folk falls into some sort of satanic cult. For some reason, the daughter returns home with her cult-following boyfriends and murders her parents. Then, the daughter and boyfriend go next door to try to murder the neighbors. In the middle of this second attempted murder, the cops show up and shoot the boyfriend dead. The crazy cult daughter goes into a room filled with a collection of dolls, picks up Annabelle, commits suicide, and after she dies some of her blood happens to fall into the doll's eye socket, which I guess counts as some sort of binding ritual that attaches a demon to the doll.

Can we talk for a moment about how none of this makes any sense? Like, not even Hollywood movie sense. The cult daughter has no reason to target the neighbors, either for murder or for haunting by a demonic devil doll. I'll accept at face value the daughter returning home to kill her parents, but I'm not sure how that act in anyway relates to their plan to attach a demonic presence to an inanimate object. Unless, the cult couple's plan was to kill the parents, and the doll demon-ritual was an after thought borne out of desperation right before the daughter's death?

I mean, if the goal was to call forth a demon to possess a doll with a demonic presence, why didn't the cult couple complete this ritual when they were murdering her parents? If the daughter only needed to commit suicide to link the demon to the doll, why did they murder anyone? How did the daughter know that, after she was dead, that her blood would fall exactly as it was needed to possess the doll? Why did she decide to send a demon after the neighbors only after failing to murder them? Why not just send the demon after them in the first place?

No matter how I look at this, I don't really understand what the goal or thought processes might have been leading up to the moments where the Annabelle doll is linked to the demon. There is no attempt at any point to provide motivation for this cultists' actions, and I get the vague impression of a Hollywood suit somewhere telling a frustrated screenwriter, "They're cultists and they just do evil demon stuff! Enough said!"

I suspect that my sense of disjointedness in the storytelling is also because the bulk of the film is pure fiction created by the screen writers. Only the bookend scenes, you know the scenes lasting maybe 3 minutes of screen time, are actually based on the true story of the Annabelle doll. I don't know why the filmmakers chose to completely invent a story for the doll instead of retelling the actual true story, but I guess this leaves the film open for a sequel with a minimum need for creativity?

Everything that happens after the doll origin sequence deals with the demon trying to claim the soul of the protagonist neighbor lady's baby. Except, in the logic presented by the movie you can't just take a soul, it has to be given. Also, a baby's can't give their soul away, so, TWIST, the demon was really after the mom's soul the whole time. Since the demon needs mom lady to freely give her soul, the demon messes with the baby a whole lot to make the mom crazy enough to offer up her soul to protect the baby? I don't know, demon logic seems complicated.

In the end, this prequel felt like a paint by the numbers horror experience, lacking the real world grounding of its predecessor. It's not very scary, and the demon seems to just do demonic stuff because, hey, it's a demon.

One out of four Bruces.

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It Follows - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #8

It's October and the B-Movie Geek, Doc Manson, is back to take the #Shocktober challenge! The quest? To watch 31 horror movies in the 31 days of October. Tonight I'm here to report back on movie #8, an intensely unsettling independent film titled It Follows.

It Follows is one of the best pure horror films that I've seen in some time, and I hesitate to really give anything about it away. The film has a great, relevant premise and introduces its concepts so well that to explain anything here would only serve to ruin the tempo and pacing of the film, which is extremely well crafted.

Ok, so here is the deal. If you like horror movies, you should go watch It Follows right now. Don't read about it; don't ask your friend about it; just get a copy and watch it. Right now. After you've seen it, feel free to come back to this site and read the remainder of this article.

I realize that this sounds like hyperbole, and I admit that the praise is high. Sure, I expect that there are a contingent of horror fans who probably won't like this film for any number of reasons: not enough gore; not enough nudity; the action is too slow; etc. Still, and I know this is subjective, but It Follows is one of the best pure horror films to be released in recent memory. The film has an innovative idea that is genuinely disturbing, made all the more potent by the parable-like lessons one might take from its story.

Broadly, It Follows is about a monster than literally follows you everywhere you go. It will relentlessly come after you, and it will always do so at a walking pace. You can get away from it if you run; you can even drive away to get yourself some distance between you and It. But, It will never stop coming for you. This alone is an interesting premise that plays off of a long-established trope of the genre. For years people have commented that it shouldn't be hard to get away from Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees; neither of these slashers ever move faster than a brisk walk. The creature from It Follows is less physical, and somehow more relentless. No matter where you go, no matter where you hide, It knows where you are and It is coming for you.

This alone would be enough for an interesting premise to a film, but It Follows also adds on a layer of a morality tale. The way in which you become targeted by this creature is by having sex with the person it is currently targeting. The only way to stop being pursued by the creature and survive is to pass It on to someone else. A clever parable in and of itself, but there's even more to it. If you do pass It on to another person, and that person dies, It then reverts down the line and will begin stalking you once again. This means that not only do you need to pass It on, but you need to convince the next person to continue passing It along. And even then, even if you know that it has been passed along once or twice or even three times, there is no guarantee that It wont eventually, someday, find Its way back to you again. Once you catch It, you are never truly safe again.

I also just briefly want to compliment the cinematography on display in the film. I think the majority of the film is shot using wide-angle lenses, and this is a perfect device to compliment the nature of the antagonist. There are a number of shots in the film where you see, in the far distance, someone just walking within the frame of the camera. Is it just another human being? Or has It found our protagonists once again? This is a great, effective method of building tension and suspense within the context of the threat.

So what is the real meaning behind the story of It Follows? Is it a commentary on premarital sex? The inevitability of death? The way in which love and the physical act of sex helps to delay your sense of your own mortality? Is it about the stigma associated with being a young person engaging in sex and developing a reputation amongst their peers? The answer is yes. It Follows is all of those things and none of those things. It also happens to be a damn good horror movie.

Four out of four Bruces.

So good, I didn't even make any silly pictures.
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The Boogens - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #7

Here we are, 7 days into the October Horror Movie Challenge. Tonight's film is a creature feature from 1981, The Boogens. I don't really have a good explanation for why I chose this film, I simply felt like I'd seen the title and poster in enough places that I finally had to sit down and see what the Boogens was all about. Also, that name is just fun to say. Boogens.

Let's just take another look at that poster art. Look at it! Look at those wiggly, boney hands clawing up at the house! Who knows what horrors await the people that we suppose are inside! I know this probably dates me, but I cannot look at  this art without feeling waves of nostalgia for the VHS rental stores of my childhood. It's an experience that I look back on rather fondly, tip toeing my way through the horror aisle, only half daring to look at the boxes for fear of glimpsing something that would give me nightmares.

Looking back, there are many boxes that I can vividly remember sitting on the shelf, daring me to rent them. It was always a roll of the dice as to whether any of what was depicted on the box would actually be depicted in the film itself. Often, the art would have little or nothing to do with any scene in the actual movie. I think Ghoulies is probably the worst offender of this; the monster coming out of the toilet on the cover appeared nowhere in the film but became so iconic that the filmmakers had to put such a scene in the sequel. Ah, memories.

Anyway, back to The Boogens! A mining company is planning to reopen a long-closed mine in a small mountain mining town. Yeah, the mine is central to the plot of the film. This film's version of Crazy Ralph attempts to persuade them to leave the mine closed, but of course no one listens to him. As you can guess, opening the mine unleashes the Boogens! Well, unleashes a Boogen, I guess. I mean, they say there are more than one, but they never really show more than one during any single scene of the film. I guess we should take the characters at their word and presume that there are in fact an army of Boogens infesting the mines, but, sadly, we the audience will never quite know for sure.

The film mostly revolves around two guys who work at the mine that want to get laid as their girlfriends come to visit for the weekend. Also, one of the girls brings a dog. One of the guys is a terrible, sex-obsessed caricature, while the other guy also ends up having sex, but with the other girl. You'll have to excuse me, as I sort of forget which guy is which, but rest assured one of  them dies and the more well-rounded one plays hero, blasts the mine shut with a bag of TNT (yes, a bag of TNT), and lives. I'm not sure what kind of morality play is on display in the  Boogens, but there you go. That's basically the whole plot.

Oh, one of the girls dies. And so does her dog. Sorry, I know, that's probably kind of hard to accept, but it was the 80's and this was a time when children and dogs still sometimes died in movies. Don't worry, though, the other girl makes it out OK!

This brings us to the monsters. Take another look at that poster. Sadly, those bony hands don't really ever come into play in the film itself. These, uh, "monsters" are sort of turtle-like mutants with tentacles. Also, the tentacles have a single claw on them? But sometimes the tentacles have a mutant baby hand with claws on the end of it? I can't say I'm an expert in Boogen physiology, but I'm really rather unsure that they have any sort of long, wavy bone hands like shown on the poster. Also disappointing, the term "Boogens" is never actually said in the film itself.

Despite failing to fulfill the wavy handed terror promised by its poster, The Boogens still manages to entertain. It's not great cinema, folks, but there are worse horror movies from 1981. I mean, at least, I assume there are.

Two out of four Bruces. Boogens!

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Drag Me to Hell - Movie Review - #SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #6

If you've been following along, you know that I am up to movie #6 of the October Horror Movie Challenge, which I've affectionately termed my Shocktober quest. I'm now over one-fifth of the way to my goal! The best part of this challenge is getting the opportunity and the excuse to reach back and watch those films that I somehow just never got around to at release. Drag Me to Hell is a perfect example of this.

When I searched for the release date, I could hardly believe that Drag Me to Hell was released in 2009. It seems incomprehensible that this film has eluded me for nearly 6 years. After all, this is a movie that I seem destined to love, what with the involvement of Sam Raimi, the man that conceived and directed my favorite horror series of all time, the Evil Dead.

And there are things about this film that I adore. There is a unique mix of horror and slapstick, executed with a deftness often lacking in horror comedies. The seance sequence is so incredibly reminiscent of any number of demon possession scenes in the Evil Dead that I can't help but think that these films take place in the same universe. There's a frenetic energy to the proceedings and the demon attack scenes that I can't help but love.

Despite this, I'm not actually sure I really liked Drag Me to Hell. I think the fundamental problem I had with the film is that the protagonist, Christine, seems like a perfectly nice and good human being. At no point does it feel like she deserves the gypsy curse that has been placed upon her. Frankly, in trying to change up the standard formula, the film simply emphasizes why horror films are typically full of "bad" people deserving of the fates that befall them. At no point did I want to see the bad things that befall our heroine.

Beyond this failing, there was little exciting about the film, no true stand-out sequences. The frantic, darting camera work only served to remind me of how much I want another Evil Dead film. The moment that the psychic put the button into the envelop, the end of the film was obvious to both my wife and myself. Given the bad luck that befalls Christine at every turn, of course the ending plays out the way in which it does.

Drag Me to Hell is a perfectly competent film. It is well made, with great acting, with fun special effects. I found the script to be somewhat lacking, and I felt no real motivation to root for or against the protagonist - the series of events that befall Christine just felt unfair and not in any way that I found compelling.

I did really dig the old school Universal logo on the front and end of the film though.

Two out of four Bruces.

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Dark Was the Night - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #5

Dark Was the Night is the fifth movie in my quest to watch 31 horror movies in 31 days this October. I had never really heard of this movie, but a high rating on Netflix Instant Streaming and a quick peek of the trailer on YouTube later, and there I was, settling in for the night. This is probably my favorite part of the SHOCKTOBER 2015 movie challenge - I haven't really written anything down, there is no plan, and I've been quite content to just sort of choose a film to watch.

The plot of the film follows Sherriff Paul Shield (Kevin Durand), distraught from the recent loss of his young son, as he investigates animal tracks and creature sightings in his small, isolated town. Durand gets to express his acting chops a bit as the mourning father, and that subplot provides a human element to the film that facilitates investment into these characters. It's a smart choice as, after all, most good monster movies are really about the people first.

The focus on the characters, combined with the filmmakers' decision to keep the monster in the shadows, makes for a film that is more of a slow burn as opposed to the types of kinetic creature features that you more commonly find on the SyFy Channel. You probably already know whether or not a film like this will appeal to you. It's not a fun film, per se, but I certainly had fun watching it.

That said, I did appreciate the old school approach, keeping the creature out of shot for much of the film. This works well to build suspense, and the pay off when the creature is revealed at least approaches satisfying. The actual creature effects aren't the best CGI you've ever seen, but they are perfectly serviceable for the needs of the film's climax.

I think I would have been more pleased with the creature design if it had been more outlandish. Based on the movie's title card, and the wide gait of the creature shown as tracks earlier in the film, I was sort of expecting a more tree-like creature, something more like a malevolent ent. Reflecting, I guess it is possible that maybe the creature was tree-like; perhaps the skin did have the texture of bark. Still, I'm really not sure. My initial impression was that the creature was more reptile-like. If you watched the film, let me know your thoughts on the nature of the monster in the comments below!

All told, Dark Was the Night was a good way to spend an hour and a half, particularly if you enjoy slower paced films. I must admit it was refreshing to watch a film that took itself seriously, as this isn't too common in creature features these days.

Three out of four Bruces.

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[REC] 2 - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #4

Doc Manson returns to his roots for the month of October, taking the Horror Movie Challenge. The quest before him? To watch 31 horror movies in 31 days. And to be extra ambitious, try to write something about each one on this website. So far, so good. We're through movie #4, which is the foreign import [REC] 2.

The film is a sequel to the Spanish film [REC], a well-made zombie-infection type movie with a twist. I previously reviewed the first film, and you can refresh yourself on the series by clicking here. Go ahead, I'll wait for you to come back.

Alright, so let's be clear: here, there by spoilers! If you don't want the end of [REC] spoiled for you, you will need to stop reading here. The wrinkle introduced into the zombie infection formula at the end of that film plays prominently into the plot of the sequel which necessitates talking about that development at length.

Last warning, SPOILERS AHEAD!

Alright, so, the zombies aren't just zombies. Turns out that the infested apartment building is the site of ongoing scientific experimentation run by a doctor associated with the Vatican. His research project? Finding the molecular basis for demonic possession. Unfortunately, the doctor did his job a little too well, isolating an enzyme found in the blood and saliva that is able to transmit like a virus. The infected folks aren't just zombies, they're possessed by one demon whose consciousness co-habitates all of the infected folk simultaneously.

Demon zombie hive-mind, then? Got it? Good.

The sequel picks up right where the first one leaves off -literally, with the same shot. The action picks up with a new group of characters, a SWAT team escorting a Ministry of Health official into the apartment building. The film is still filmed in the found-footage or shaky-cam style, although the SWAT team has some interesting picture in picture capable equipment that provides unique view points that I hadn't previously seen in films of this types. Definitely bonus points for innovative cinematography.

The film also splits its runtime between a second group of characters. Scenes play out from multiple angles and perspectives, and time has a way of skipping back and forth. It's rather satisfying to realize that you're watching a scene play out from a parallel perspective, and to piece together the continuity on your own. The script is smart and it keeps the film engaging.

Much like the first [REC], the sequel is a great film. The only issue is, once again, they introduce new information during the closing minutes of the film. As a viewer that likes to try to piece together stories, I'm conflicted by the continued use of this device by the [REC] series. Like an Agatha Christie novel that deliberately denies you information, I felt somewhat cheated as the credits began to roll. Don't get me wrong, I like being surprised, but I hate it when the rules are suddenly changed. I'm mostly just hoping that the same formula isn't applied to the third film in the series.

A Kiss to Remember

I hope to find out for sure later this month -both [REC] 3 and [REC] 4 are currently on Netflix Instant Streaming!

Minor complaints aside, this film was good. GOOD. Four out of four Bruces.

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Housebound - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015 - Movie #3

Doc Manson is back writing at the B-Movie Geek for SHOCKTOBER 2015! The quest? To watch 31 horror movies in 31 days. Today, we're talking about movie #3, a horror-comedy from New Zealand, Housebound, which is readily available for your consumption via Netflix Instant Streaming.

Housebound tells the story of wayward youth, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly), whom, after a botched ATM robbery during the film's opening minutes, finds herself sentenced to house arrest at her mother and step-father's creepy old house in the country. The disaffected youth has some difficulty adjusting to the quiet life back at home and, before Kylie has a chance to settle in, inexplicable happenings begin to occur. Before long it seems that the old country home might have some unwanted guests that never quite managed to vacate the premises after an untimely, violent end - if you get my ghostly drift.

I won't go into too many more details about the plot, as the film unfolds into a rather clever and satisfying little tale. Beyond the plot, then, I'd like to mention that the film has the honor of being one of the more subtle horror-comedies that I've seen in some time. Numerous events happen, but unlike a lot of films where slapstick elements rue the day, Housebound manages to keep an understated tone throughout its most humorous scenes. It comes across as a dry sense of humor, maybe unsurprising given the film's country of origin. It was a refreshing change from the more obliquely obvious comedic elements found in most other film's from the horror-comedy genre.

Shh! No spoilers here!

I feel like this review is a little short, but it's difficult to talk any more about the film without spoiling some elements of the plot. Given that I enjoyed the storytelling on display, I hesitate to spoil anything more here. Instead, I think I would encourage you to watch Housebound yourself. It's something of a slow burn, but the subtle humor gives it an energy that you don't often find.

The only other thing I'll say is to watch out for that cheese grater. Yeah, it gets used, and it gets used exactly like you think it will.


Three out of four Bruces.

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See No Evil 2 - Movie Review - SHOCKTOBER 2015: Movie #2

It's October and the B-Movie Geek, Doc Manson, is back to take the #Shocktober challenge! The quest? To watch 31 horror movies in the 31 days of October. Movie #2 is the WWE Studios produced slasher film, See No Evil 2. Full disclosure, this entry into my SHOCKTOBER journey was chosen due to its relevance to my current online activities as co-host of an online talk show about professional wrestling, the NAIborhood podcast.

As mentioned, the film was produced by WWE Studios and stars the Big Red Demon, Kane (Glen Jacobs). I actually thought that the first See No Evil was an OK slasher film, and that Kane's portrayal of Jacob Goodnight -stupid name aside- made for a great slasher antagonist. Kane, after all, is a legitimate 300-lb, 7-foot tall, muscular monster of a man; to say that he is physically imposing is an understatement.

In the sequel, Jacob Goodnight is now missing an eye (the result of the climax of the first film), and wears a clear mask. This provides a more distinctive, iconic look for the killer. Goodnight also makes less use of his chain-hook weapon in the sequel, which in theory ought to help increase variation in the kills. In reality, Goodnight tends to use his bare hands a lot more, and only occasionally makes use of some sort of amputation knife/bone saw combination weapon. Oddly, it also seems that the filmmakers felt as though the violence ratio of the film had to be increased, as nearly all of the kills from the first film appear here in flashback sequences.

I enjoyed the first film, but not everything about it worked, and some of that carries over to See No Evil 2. The whole God's Hand Killer moniker and the underlying religious motivations for the Jacob Goodnight character never quite gel. The religious undertones to the killings just don't seem justified in what is otherwise a standard slasher film. This is material better suited to a headier film.

Beyond that, I continue to think that Glen Jacobs is a fantastic choice to play a horror movie slasher. I say give this guy the hockey mask and give him a go as Jason in the next Friday the 13th (Come on, we all know it's coming sooner or later). I also loved the performances put in by Danielle Harris (Halloween, Hatchet II) and Katharine Isabelle (American Mary, Ginger Snaps).

Terrifying Hot Dog Action - See No Evil 2

Credit goes to the screenwriters, Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, as they've woven in a couple of great moments into See No Evil 2. The standout is a scene in which one of the legs of a paraplegic man is skewered by a hook on a chain. This moment stuck out to me because, as would be expected, the man doesn't feel any pain in response to the violence against him. There's an odd sort of detachment in his reaction that the directors really translate to the audience through the deft use of visual and audio cues. It's a small moment, but it works well.

The Soska Sisters have directed a finely produced film, coaxed good performance from their actors, and delivered some above average cinematography. Seriously, the use of colors and clarity in certain shots of this film are way above the level of a direct to DVD film. In light of the many things done so well in this film, it's all the more disappointing then that the end sequence is so poorly executed.

In the film's final moments, Jacob Goodnight is stabbed by a large surgical needle and pumped full of embalming fluid. The embalming fluid sequence is just poorly shot; too much time elapses between the stabbing and the activation of the fluid pump mechanism. The scene lacks any sort of proper cadence, marring the tension in what is otherwise a fulfilling and creative end to the antagonist.

That said, I'll watch another one.

I guess you could say, I'd be glad to See More Evil.

OK, that one was funnier in my head. Three out of four Bruces.

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Zombeavers Review - Shocktober 2015 - Movie #1

It's October and the B-Movie Geek, Doc Manson, is back to take the #Shocktober challenge! The quest? To watch 31 horror movies in the 31 days of October. The first flick? A fun b-movie creature feature and zombie combo called Zombeavers.

I found this gem on Netflix streaming, so if you're a horror fan with a subscription to that service then the barrier to entry is as low as it gets - no need to track down any kind of physical media. The movie starts with a pair of truckers making small talk with dialogue reminiscent of a Kevin Smith film. The action switches over to another car, this one filled with three sorority sisters with filthy mouths and filthier SnapChat accounts, seeking the refuge of a quiet, secluded cabin with no cell phone service.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The foul-mouthed dialogue continues with our sorority sister protagonists. I was a bit torn on the writing of these characters, as the amount of times I heard the word "bitches" in a ten minute period was approaching my personal limit. On the other hand, if I take a step back and try to imagine a groups of characters that might actually talk like this to each other, a group of coeds does fit the bill, even if it might be a stereotypical portrayal. At the end of the car trip sequence, I sort of had the impression that this was a group of college aged females written like stereotypical college males. I'm not sure if this was meant to be some sort of commentary by the screenwriter, or if this was just a male trying to write females the way that he hopes nubile young coeds talk to one another when alone.

After typing that last paragraph, I took a quick detour over the IMDB and found that Zombeavers has three writer credits, all of them male. Draw your own conclusions.

So, maybe I'm sounding a bit down on this film, but overall I enjoyed it a great deal. It has everything you want from a goofy b-movie. The zombified beavers are hilarious, and I appreciated the way that they seemed impossible to kill, even when in pieces, much like the zombies from the Return of the Living Dead series (You can check out my review of the first film in that series here). Zombeavers really explores its core concept, and even goes above and beyond my expectations for the film.

This might be considered a bit of a spoiler, so consider yourself warned.

Seriously, spoiler ahead.

Stop reading if you don't want the brilliance of Zombeavers spoiled.

Still here? Ok, last warning.

Let's just say the Were-Beaver transformation sequence is amazing, and really fulfills the promise of the Zombeavers premise. I also appreciated the stinger sequence at the end of the credits, in which the filmmakers execute on a visual pun by suggesting that the zombie affliction is passed onto a hive of honey bees.

Now that is attractive.

Get it? Zom-bees? Oh man, that's good. Also, I'm pretty proud of my own pun that snuck into the paragraph above - "Stinger sequence." Yes, I'm a dork.

That's the quality on display in Zombeavers. The concept is well thought out and is executed as well as you could reasonably hope. Also, for fans of the tropes of the genre, I can report that, yes, there is nudity and violence galore to be seen.

Zombeavers was a great kick off to the Shocktober 2015 season. Highly recommended for fans of horror silliness. 3 out of 4 Bruces.

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