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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

EMPATHY, INC. (Film Review)


                                     Starring: Zack Robidas, Kathy Searle, Jay Klaitz

                                    Directed by: Yedidya Gorsetman

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    With all the strides that technology has made over the past decade or so, there really isn't much that can't be done or experience without leaving the comfort of your own home, or without a constricting headset. In Empathy, Inc., the latest film from director Yedidya Gorsetman, the audience follows the exploits of a start-up VR company that has a few...kinks to work out before its product can be fully enhanced - I can smell the pseudo-lawsuits getting typed already.

  Joel (Robidas) is a man who has taken one too many financial gambles on "sure things" and this time it's cost him literally everything but his wife...and her parents whom they'll now be sharing living space with (you lucky fella). When all appears to be completely swirling down the porcelain, he reconnects with an old pal (Eric Berryman) who is all too excited to divulge his latest conception: the company is called Empathy, Inc., and it specializes in VR technology. Been there, done that, you say? Well, the company's edge here is to lodge its hooks into the stinking rich and allow them to experience the feeling of having nothing in value, therefore allowing them to not take what they already have garnered for granted...yeah, good luck with that! Doing what comes naturally to him, Joel then squanders what little he has left, and the lump savings of his in-laws into the start-up company - Joel, will you ever learn?

  This sci-fi/thriller/mystery has so much going for it, the only way to scale it back a notch was to present it in black and white, but even then the added touch of subtlety works as a major plus. The story is not at all complex to follow but keeps peeling back layers like an informative onion, and trust me when I tell ya, you won't cry once this thing fully blooms. I always feel rewarded when a movie takes me by surprise, which is why I now completely abandon all preconceived notions when getting ready to dive into a film review. I usually don't like to rave about a film too much, because there really isn't such a thing as "the perfect film" and while this particular jaunt into the human condition isn't perfect by any stretch, it's still a damn fun blend of a few genres. Empathy, Inc. plays out scenes in such a straightforward fashion that you'll be questioning reality in a few instances, but don't let it sway you - this is well worth a look for anyone thinking about stepping outside themselves...even for a short time.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

HAUNT (Film Review)


                                   Starring: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alissa McClain

                                    Directed by: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods

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  Much like the tried-and-true "haunted psychiatric hospital" films that plagued the system some years ago, now it appears as if the Halloween haunted house set has become the latest victim of "let's take a backdrop and kick the ever-loving shit out of it" - storyline speaking. The most recent project to come tumbling down the assembly line of frights is Haunt, a co-directorial feature from Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, and produced by a quintet of talents but most notably Mr. Eli Roth...which is why I felt so cheated after the credits rolled on this one.

  As I mentioned in the above babbling, this presentation is set against the spooky interior of a local haunted house attraction that is intentionally stumbled upon by our stereotypical sextet of annoying youths, led by the attractive Harper (Stevens) - the only one out of this mess who added anything interesting to the story. She and her pals locate the creepy destination at the suggestion of one of the group, and it's off into the dark they go...completely oblivious to the dangers that await inside - wait, isn't that the point here? Well, it certainly doesn't take long after the friends step foot inside these creepy confines (rather uncrowded, I might add) do they encounter some activity that could be perceived as "not the norm for a paying crowd." The sad thing here is that in more than one instance, the camera is all-too-happy to cut away before we get to see something violently beneficial and at the risk of sounding like a completely malcontented soul, it's just not something that whets my appetite. Less than intelligent scare-seekers are terrorized by costumed lunatics inside a fully-functioning haunted attraction...(YAWN) - whoops, sorry - nodded off for a second...let's wrap this up, shall we?

 Tension is sliced in half when the aforementioned cut-away happens, and it's a damning effect on a film that acted as if it were under some serious time constraints. While some redemption is gained with a few messy kills, the saving grace (at least partially) are the sets themselves, with blinding neons and darker-than-darks that will have your screens speaking in technicolor, the look of the film is top-notch. Unfortunately, it was going to take a LOT MORE than just some splashy sets to liven up this flat-lined attempt at seasonal horror entertainment - Haunt is more than likely going to be a "one and done" for the majority of thrill-seeking fans, and if you really want something terrifying to come Halloween, how's about a plastic pumpkin full of coconut-chocolates? Now there's something that would have me running for cover.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

HELLMINGTON (Film Review)


                         Starring: Nicola Correia-Damude, Michael Ironside, Yannick Bisson

                             Directed by: Justin Hewitt-Drakulic and Alex Lee Williams

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     When the adage strictly states "you can never go home again," you should really abide by it...whaddya think, someone writes these for straight-up amusement?? Touting itself as The Blair Witch Project of 2019 (quite the herculean effort, if you ask me), the latest film from the co-directorial efforts of Justin Hewitt-Drakulic and Alex Lee Williams is a game of show-and-tell on a grand scheme - they show you everything, but don't want to tell you much about it.

  The film follows a detective named Samantha (Damude), who is in the midst of a crippling bout of depression, brought on by the illness (and eventual passing) of her father, and it's not so much his final actions that have Samantha on edge, but his words. His last utterings before the deathly slumber take over is that of a girl named "Katie Owens," a former classmate of Sam's who went missing a while back, and it soon becomes a mission of hers to decipher this mystery. Her search brings her back to her old stomping grounds, where she's immediately dismissed (in a sense) by her Uncle Rupert (Ironside) and is only given the basest info about Katie's case from a local investigator and an occult specialist when it becomes knowledge that there might have been demons involved...oh boy, here we go. Without spilling too many details for prospective viewers, it becomes clear that there's some seriously evil shit happening in this town, and the cover-up of Katie's disappearance is in full swing.

  If you are one of those "keep the movie playing while you run for a beverage or a bathroom trip" you're definitely going to miss out on some form of pertinent information regarding the case, at which juncture you'll be lost in the weeds altogether. Drakulic and Williams have structured this film to toss and turn your gray matter like a fresh load of undies in the dryer - a dizzying trip but one that does yield rewards for those willing to stick it out. Performances are not only solid but convincing which aids the progression of conveyance, and they're not only informative but interesting characters as well. Those who might be looking for a thrill a minute may be disappointed with Hellmington, but lovers of the slow-moving, dread-filled white-knuckler should hold this one high overhead after giving it a good (and focused) look - definitely worth the watch.

 RATING: 3.5 out of 5



   

Friday, September 13, 2019

MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER (Film Review)


                               Starring: Adam Duggan, Sara Heddleston, Amy Davies

                                               Directed by: Seth Breedlove

     There are urban legends made to entertain, and there's straight-up stories designed to make ya shoot cheeze-whiz out the back of your shorts - somewhere in between those two dichotomies lies Momo: The Missouri Monster, the latest film from director Seth Breedlove. The movie is actually in documentary-form and is meant to pay tribute to those schlocky monster flix that used to dominate the airwaves back in the 70's, so let's dive into this one and see if we can obtain that "puckered-butt" feeling, shall we?

  "Blackburn's Cryptid Casefiles" is the investigative-tv show that's the centerpiece here, and the supposed rediscovered movie is from the year 1972, which coincides with the tale of a three-toed creature that roamed Louisiana, Missouri (no, it's not a Kardashian). The show's host, Lyle Blackburn does his best to convey the story to his audience via interviews with witnesses and film clips abound - it all works as somewhat of a casefile that aficionados of these supposed scare-stories will cater to. There are plenty of "first-hand" sightings and information from a cavalcade of interesting personalities here, with many performing at their best over-the-top performances. What works the best is the notion that the film intentionally tries to blur the lines between fantasy and reality, leaving your end-all decision of whether or not Momo was indeed an actual-factual or something drawn up in the hopes of sparking a bit of controversy.

  Overall, the film is a fun watch for those who want to be thrown back to the days of their youth, and if you were lucky enough to be brought up in a time where you were blessed with such campiness on air, then Momo: The Missouri Monster should be one for you to check out. It'll be available on DVD and multi-platforms on September 20th, so if you've got the time and need for something a bit hairy and sharp in the fangs, give this one a look!

 RATING: 3 out of 5

Thursday, September 12, 2019

INTERVIEW WITH BILL MOSELEY (3 FROM HELL)



       Chances are if you've managed to grab a glimpse at any of Bill Moseley's over 100 acting roles, you've seen a man whose name is synonymous with the word "horror" - with his very first gig back in 1982's Endangered Species as a cab driver to his breakthrough role as the completely looney-tunes "Chop-Top" in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Make no mistake about this man's genre-accomplishments, and his returning portrayal of the homicidal Otis B. Driftwood comes to light this September 16th when Rob Zombie's 3 From Hell hits select theaters for a three night engagement. Bill was gracious enough to give us a few minutes to discuss the latest film as well as a few other bloody bits of news-worthiness, so settle in, read on and enjoy our chat!

ZT: I've gotta tell you, Bill - I'm chomping at the bit to get my eyes on the latest film. Word is that this thing is going to be absolutely huge for fans of the Firefly Clan.

BM: Yes, I'm very proud of it because so many big studio-type enterprises have put out remakes and differing kinds of series and sequels - basically a lot of horror without any kind of evil guts. It's been a lot of jump-scares and a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and I'm just really glad that Rob is in business to make everybody uncomfortable, and laugh a little bit but really do some nasty stuff.

ZT: Take us back to when filming wrapped on The Devil's Rejects - did you think when all was finished and the credits had rolled that the story was over, or did you feel as if there was more to tell with this tale?

BM: To tell you the truth, I was just covered in sticky blood (laughs) - sunburned, and I was just glad that the shooting had stopped for a little while, so I didn't really think about anything like that. It's so funny because when I did TCM 2 and everyone was talking about the import being a sequel to one of the greatest horror movies ever made, but frankly as an actor I was just trying to remember my lines and hit my marks (laughs). In The Devil's Rejects the biggest part for me was that I was just sad that we'd stopped shooting because it was so much fun - just a great group of people, actors, a real sense of camaraderie, a great story - so the experience itself was the thing that I really missed, and when we got back for 3 From Hell I was very happy because it felt as if old times were back in the sense of working with Sid, Sheri, certainly Rob, Dave Daniels our cinematographer, Wayne Toth our makeup guy - a lot of it was something old, but then the new pieces being Richard Brake, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Pancho Moler - there was a lot of good stuff. It just felt fun to be part of a good old "fuck you" kind of horror film and not get into anything psychological - I really love to be part of that type of the genre.




ZT: That leads me into my next question - you all gather together to create 3 From Hell - was it "here we go, we're back - let's do this" or was there a brief period of re-adjustment?

BM: You know, there really wasn't much of a re-adjustment - we did some table readings, and we kind of knew who everybody was and how the story was going to go, and we all just hit the ground  running. There was no real ramping things up - I think we all basically knew what we were going to do, and we were filled with Rob's energy and his great story and the cool look of the film. I'd also never worked with Richard Brake before nor Pancho Moler or Jeff Daniel Phillips, so it was getting to learn working with them and how they rolled. I'd previously worked with Dee Wallace Stone before, so that was a nice homecoming, so there was a lot going on the set that make me feel very comfortable with minimum distractions, so I really just focused on kicking some ass as Otis.

ZT: The Devil's Rejects - certainly looked to be a physical film for you, no doubt - same thing here with 3 From Hell? No injuries to report? Came away unscathed?

BM: Yes, because Diamond Dallas Page didn't come back and kick me around this time (laughs) - he's a former world champion pro wrestler, so when he kicks you in the ribs, you feel it! No, it didn't feel as physical, and even now I'm 14 years older I found that I still go to the gym three times a week and walk around L.A. alot - I try to stay in pretty good shape, so there wasn't anything that was too terribly demanding or left me in bed nursing some part of my body.



ZT: What do you hope that fans take away from this film?

BM: First of all I just hope that they have a ball - thank God that someone has come around with a kick-ass horror movie. This time around there's some feelings in this too that you didn't necessarily see in the previous two movies, so I think that will be interesting. It also shows how much Rob has grown as a screenwriter and director, so that's also cool, and with a lot of the characters here some things have passed with time, while some things have very much stayed the same. We're still out there to get fucked up and do some fucked up shit - a little throwback to House Of 1000 Corpses with Baby and Goober at Red Hot Pussy Liquors! (laughs)

ZT: So after the release of 3 From Hell, what will be keeping you busy next? What's coming up on the work slate for you?

BM: I have at least three movies that are coming out - one is called Crepitus, a scary clown movie. There's a couple from Robert "Corpsy" Rhine - one is called Cynthia that I think has come out recently (directed by Kenny Gage and Devon Downs), and a new one called Exorcism at 60,000 Feet with the fabulous Bai Ling, Lance Henriksen and Adrienne Barbeau. There's also an Australian movie called Boar that I did  - pretty sure that's still airing on Shudder TV - it's about a giant pig in the Outback that's tearing people apart (laughs). I'm also always working on music, and I'm just starting to roll into my convention season, so every weekend between now and mid-December I'm doing something.

ZT: Bill - I can't thank you enough for the time. Best of luck with the film - take care of yourself, and we'll keep an eye out for you!

BM: That's great - thank you very much and thanks for supporting us!

  Just a little add-on for everyone that might be interested - I got a chance to eyeball 3 From Hell last night,, and believe me when I tell ya, this thing is OFF-THE-CHAIN crazy! For lovers of all things "Firefly Clan" related, get your butts on over to Fathomevents.com/3FromHell to get your tickets for any (or all) of the three nights of screenings starting September 16th-18th.

 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

CLOWNADO (Film Review)


                                     Starring: John O'Hara, Rachel Lagen, Bobby Westrick

                                                   Directed by: Todd Sheets

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   What is the definition of "atrocity?" - well, this is the best my hunt could turn up: an extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury. Perhaps another explanation into this word could suit you, but this time it pertains to the humorous side: a highly unpleasant or distasteful object - need I say more? Look, the deal here with director Todd Sheets' latest film, Clownado is that it can nicely fit under a myriad of definitions and explanations - me, however? Well, let me put it to you this way: I honestly think that I'd prefer to have a diseased farm animal shit directly into both my eye sockets before having to suffer watching this utterly horrendous presentation ever again.

 Sheets, whose last film back in 2017 (Bonehill Road) was fun on every conceivable level, obviously decided to take a "one up, one down" gameplan sort-of-attack to his moviemaking resume. Now, this is not to say that this particular piece of celluloid won't have its place in the sun (God only knows why), and after reading a multitude of reviews pertaining to this film, it appears that the consensus agrees - they love it and to hell with everyone else. As many of you know I thoroughly love going against the grain and I'd seriously be remiss if I didn't stroke some souls the wrong way with my take on this one, but I HAVE to offer the highest degree of warning here: don't waste your time with this movie unless you REALLY have nothing better to do with 90 minutes of your life...there, consider yourself warned.

 Let me get to the agonizing details of this one so that I can effectively run and hide from the damaging after-effects of its prolonged foul effusion. The movie follows a traveling circus of sorts, and its inner-workings are suffering some relationship trouble at its core - lead jester "Big Ronnie"(O'Hara in an unflinchingly over the top performance) is a tad miffed that his main squeeze has been saddling up to another fella behind his back. His solution to this quandary is to slaughter the interloper and remind his lady that straying isn't the way to a clown's heart. Her defense to all this is with the aid of her friend, to levy a spell against on Ronnie and his painted-up clan, but when the wrong spell is cast (I assume it was the wrong spell, but who knows), the clowns are turned into a marauding band of super-powered killers...no, I'm not kidding.

 With the aid of a natural-disaster at their backs (yep, a full-scale tornado if you can fathom that), the clowns whip from area to area in a display that could be best described as "grade-school" in effort - hilariously underwhelming in looks and feels. A small group of strippers and a black Elvis impersonator team up to fight the good fight against the evil murderous mimes, and for all intents and purposes, the gore is slathered throughout the set in mass quantities - one of the movies few bright spots. Well, now that I've covered the "pro" of the film as opposed to the MANY "cons" I think we're just about done here. So we've got an atrocious plot, ghastly performances and an overall sense of dread that follows this movie like a 180 mile an hour tail-wind - all adding up to something that really should have a warning label on it, perhaps a biohazard sticker for those who can't take an ironclad hint.

 In closing, I'd surely love to recommend Clownado to anyone looking for some wholesome horror entertainment, but I think we all know that lying is a damnable sin...so there.

 RATING: 1 out of 5

Monday, September 9, 2019

Anatomy of a Balloon Dog

Jason Freeny released a glow-in-the-dark version of his famous Balloon Dog Anatomy. As a fan of his art, and this piece in particular, I couldn't resist a glowing skeleton offering.

Balloon Dog Anatomy stands around 8" tall and arrives in 26 pieces. A little patience is required during assembly, but I would not say it is challenging. The glow looks great inside the clear balloon sculpture. I bought mine from Mighty Jaxx for $79 and at the time of this post, they were still available.

View more of Jason Freeny's art by visiting his personal page and following him on Instagram @gummifetus. To view more glow-in-the-dark toys from my collection, find us on Instagram @zombiesandtoys.