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Monday, December 16, 2019

PICKAXE (Film Review)



                               Starring: A. Michael Baldwin, Tiffany Shepis, Cory W. Ahre

                                                     Directed by Jeremy Sumrall

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  Just like a crappy X-Mas gift from a distant relative who only makes it to your house every few years, Jeremy Sumrall's horrific slasher Pickaxe looks like a present with all the bells and whistles. However, upon deeper inspection inside the box, there's only a half-sheet of instructions, and they're written in a language that probably doesn't exist...oh yeah, there's no gift receipt either.

  The film, which was shot back in 2014 under the title The Pickaxe Murders Part III: The Final Chapter follows the hack-happy exploits of killer Alex Black as he grabs a weekend sales-flyer special forest cutting implement to wreak havoc upon some brain-dead "teens" who've ventured into his neck of the woods. From all intents and purposes, the first few minutes were insanely satisfying as a long-standing horror junkie: we had boobs, blood, and all-out sexual aggression on full display. Sadly, what transpires after that was uninspired, insipid and just generally uninteresting to sit through - but I pressed on, and with the assistance of some freshly-chilled beverages was able to endure the duration unscathed...can't say the same for the beverages but that's a story for an entirely different doctor. Starring the scream-queen we all wished lived next-door to us, Tiffany Shepis as a carnal lush and the fella who fought The Tall Man through space and time, A. Michael Baldwin in a solid portrayal as the town sheriff, the duo have decent on-screen chemistry with each other, but sadly that's where the happy talk has to cease.

 Ol' Alex Black is lurking in the woods as a small band of partying pals who are on their way to a concert trample into the wrong forest...GAME ON. Excuse me for one second (exhaustive YAWN follows). Okay - back at it! For those of you who simply do not have a problem with excessive and torturous slayings, mindless choices that just happen to set up said slayings, or people portraying teens that look as if they're a short spell away from receiving AARP flyers in the mail...then this movie's for you! I could drop the dirty hammer on this one all friggin' day, but at the end of it all Pickaxe will most definitely make it to someone's midnight movie party, and I certainly hope they enjoy it for all it's worth, but for this fatigued scrivener, this one simply reads like "what have you done for me lately?"

 RATING: 2 out of 5



 

Friday, December 6, 2019

DANIEL ISN'T REAL (Film Review)


                                 Starring: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Miles Robbins, Sasha Lane

                                           Directed by: Adam Egypt Mortimer

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  Imaginary friends - they can be sole confidants that are there to aid in the loneliness, or to wreak havoc upon a fragile psyche - any way you dissect their "existence" one thing rings true: they'll always be around, whether you want them there or not.

  In director Adam Egypt Mortimer's mind-bending horror film, Daniel Isn't Real, the audience sees the repercussions of keeping said imaginary buddy at bay for an extended period of time, and what transpires is enough to keep anyone looking over their shoulder. At the start of the film, youngster Luke witnesses a horrific shooting in public that brings forth a new friend to his traumatized mind - his name is Daniel and while his initial actions are that of support, it becomes frighteningly apparent that this created figure has some rather diabolical plans for anyone getting close to his new "real" friend. When a drug-laden cocktail created by Luke (spurred on by Daniel) is given to Luke's mother (Mary Stuart Masterson), she almost suffers a fatal overdose. When Luke comes forward to say that it was all Daniel's fault, she convinces him to lock away his make-believe amigo in his grandmother's antique dollhouse, never to be let out...well, I think we all know how THIS one's going to end up!

 Flash-forward to Luke's late-teen years, and he's still that same fragile little kid to an extent, trapped inside the functioning mind of a college student, and after seeking the assistance of a psychiatrist, he's convinced to draw Daniel back out (BAD MOVE). Things return almost exactly as the way they used to be - helpful at first quickly turns to more and more sinister undertakings - the movie quickly devolves into some unsettling psychological horror and I loved every creepy minute of it. The Terminator's own son (Arnold, that is - Patrick) is unflinchingly effective in his role of the apparitional confidant of Luke (Robbins), and together the duo work seamlessly in their screen-time, giving this story legs in which to sprint to a fulfilling conclusion. Overall, Daniel Isn't Real is one of those movies that brings new life to the scary thought that "those who aren't really there, might just be there after all." Make sure to give this one a watch and consider it a nice holiday gift to yourself!

 RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

NEFARIOUS (Film Review)


                              Starring: Buck Braithwaite, Emma Feeney, Abbey Gillett

                                              Directed by: Richard Rowntree

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       Watch any horror movie with the traumatic experience such as a home invasion as the main sticking point, and let me know if ANY SINGLE ONE of said "invasions" has gone off without a hitch...go ahead, I'll just be waiting here. If you did happen to come up with any, then I'll personally pin a gold participation star on your chest - however, if you scanned through the array of films that have employed such a crime against innocents then you'll attest to my earlier rant - planned out or not, they usually end up as a giant shit-show with one or multiple victims, innocent or not. This one's called Nefarious, and when all's said and done, you'll agree with the title wholeheartedly.

  In Richard Rowntree's second directorial stint of the full-length feature variety, he uses the home invasion platform to not only rattle the viewer but swerve their skulls before they're finally bashed in for good measure - sounds like a good time if you ask me! The movie follows Darren (Braithwaite) and his girlfriend (Nadia Lamin) as they scramble to come up with a plan to reel in some serious dough to pay back a local bad-ass kingpin - if they can't pay up, then there's going to be some serious blood being shed. On the other side of the monetary "fence" is Clive (Gregory A. Smith), a mentally disabled man who has recently hit the lottery in a pure stroke of luck, already adding to the immense pile of greenbacks that they currently sit upon. So, we've got the poor broke couple scratching for dollars, and the insanely fatted-up A-class, just waiting to get picked clean...well, now we all know that things don't go off quite so easily, now do they?

  What transpires next is a series of events that border on the horrifying, brutalizing and generally terrifying, and Rowntree makes no excuses in his delivery - we're seeing the dissection of social classes here. If you're one of those souls who happens to eyeball everything through rose-colored glasses I'm sorry to say that you're in for one hell of a shock with this movie. Violence is at an apex here, and while gorehounds will howl at the moon when watching this film, the "less than inclined" will be too busy shifting in their seats or covering their delicate peepers to see its sadistic beauty. Performances are solid and complemented by a strong plot that aligns all facts and allows the film to stretch its legs in the latter stages - this one sure as hell isn't meant for the casual crowd and some might find this a one-time-watch in essence, but that will definitely be more than enough to correctly damage some psyches - make sure to give this one a look if you have the stint to spend.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, November 15, 2019

THE SHED (Film Review)


                           Starring: Jay Jay Warren, Sofia Happonen, Cody Kostro

                                               Directed by: Frank Sabatella

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 Bullies - we've all had them at one phase in our lives, and the way to deal with them (in some cases, anyway) is to turn the other cheek and hope that the novelty of said bullying will grow stale and subside. On the other claw, you could always resort to swift and blinding violence in order to quell the problem altogether...of course there usually are repercussions to the latter.

 Directed by Frank Sabatella, The Shed is one of those movies that attempts to put a little meat in with its ample dosage of potatoes, relying on one of those colossal issues that continues to plague our youth still in this day and age. Teenage orphan Stan (Warren) is living in the home of his class-A shitbag grandfather (Timothy Bottoms), and if he's not being mentally and physically abused by ol' Gramps, he's getting his fill of it from the small-town scumbag named Marbles (Chris Petrovsky). Even Stan's best bud Dommer (Kostro) is getting a taste of the sadistic treatment, and the two are left to face facts: it seems like all hope is lost in this tiny burgh. How will Stan and Dommer overcome this particularly damaging series of events that just doesn't relent in its cruelty? The answer might be closer than they think...like "in the backyard" close - Stan's grandpa's shed houses quite the nasty vampire inside and with a bit of underhanded scheming, Stan's bullying issues could very well be a thing of the past, but at what cost?

   The idea that a bullied teen can exact some revenge in a funny, horror-fueled way is fun to an extent, but the film walks a very familiar line with its execution and unveils itself in its latter stages as an assembly-line product that fans of the genre will swear that they've witnessed before. One of the pluses however is the origin story of the shed itself that we all get to see - it's a nice accompaniment that Sabatella adds to assist the plot's frame, but sadly it's not enough to keep the reminder of the film from dragging. Lovers of gore certainly won't be disappointed with the amount of crimson glory splashing around, but as with every pro there's a con, and the dialogue here borders on somewhat inane in essence. At the end of it all, The Shed has a message (and a rather demented solution to an ever-growing problem), but it's overall appearance and familiar subtext is its undoing -  worth a one-timer at best.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, November 4, 2019

INTERVIEW WITH TAMARA GLYNN


               Having burst upon the horror scene in 1989's Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, Tamara Glynn provided fans of the genre a face that the ladies could root for, and the fellas to swoon over. Here we are in the good ol' 2019, and "Big Sis" (as I've called her for years) will be leading the charge against that nasty, grease-painted clown that everyone's come to love - NO, I'm not talking about the Joker!! I mean Art the Clown from Terrifier! In any event, Tamara was sweet enough to give us a few minutes to discuss her participation in the film as well as what she's got coming up next, so settle in, read on and enjoy the words that "Big Sis" is droppin' on ya!

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ZT: So you're a part of Terrifier 2 - how awesome is that?

TG: Can you believe it? The weird thing is that October 30th was the 30th anniversary of Halloween 5, and 30 years later I'm going to be in Terrifier 2, the top trending horror film - it's crazy! I'm such a huge fan of Damien Leone (director) and David Howard Thornton (Art the Clown). I messaged Damien on Instagram last year after seeing Terrifier on Netflix and told him how much I loved the film. It had that edgy, retro, dark look to it, and Damien's concept along with David bringing it - they killed it! I really don't know too many filmmakers that could do what he did with that film and get by with it. 

ZT: You'll also be working alongside Felissa Rose - correct?

TG: Yes - Felissa (Sleepaway Camp) and also Jason Lively (Night Of The Creeps) - I feel honored and blessed to be a part of this. I've been friends with Michael & Jason Leavy since 2012, and their production company, Fuzz On The Lens Productions - they'll be serving as producers for Terrifier 2 - they're just amazing. They directed "Halloween 60" (a parody), and they've got a film out on Amazon Prime right now called Abnormal Attraction, and they just kick ass. Damien's got one hell of an amazingly talented team around him.

 ZT: We know you're busy and have one hell of a travel schedule ahead of you coming up, so we won't keep you any longer, but before we let you go - anything else you can plug or give us a little info on what you've got going on?

TG: My friends who are investors actually opened a gluten-free bakery called Spooky's Swirls in Phoenix, Arizona (co-owned by James Azrael of the H.S.P.P.A - Horror and Sci-Fi Prop Preservation Association) - it's a great business and I'm glad to help support. (Tamara was there on Halloween night). After that, I'll be flying out to L.A. for a table read for my web series that starts shooting in Omaha on December 26th until January 7th, 2020. I've got 2 conventions in February then I'm back in Chicago after that working on Daniel Emery Taylor's new film, Repulse - it's about human trafficking and Paul Taylor (Hellraiser: Judgment) is cast in it as well. It's gonna be a little busy! (laughs)

ZT: I'm still waiting to hear what's up with Savage Vengeance - the pics that have been posted look amazing - what's up with the progression on that?

TG: Jake Zelch is the director,  and I just wrapped my role back about a month ago in St. Louis, and he's got a few more scenes to pick up, and it's in the editing process right now. I'm super excited about that one! Jake is extremely passionate and committed about the horror genre - I was a producer on this one as well - can't wait for everyone to check it out!




Sunday, October 27, 2019

ECHOES OF FEAR (Film Review)


                                 Starring: Trista Robinson, Hannah Race, Paul Chirico

                                  Directed by: Brian & Laurence Avenet-Bradley

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   The inheritance of a home can be enough of a frightening prospect, let alone having a malevolent spirit still residing within it - don't these entities get eviction notices? Directorial duo (in work and in married life) Brian & Laurence Avenet-Bradley ratchet up the haunted house premise with an impactful bounty of scares in Echoes Of Fear - it's been a bit, but we've finally got something substantial on our horror plates to nosh upon.

  Alysa (Robinson) is a young woman who is mourning the loss of her Grandfather, and she's further faced with the hard-nosed knowledge that with all the costs involving owning a home, she simply can't front the bills. She and her boyfriend Brandon (Chirico) then take on the task of renovating the home and flipping it - the only problem is (from a horror standpoint, that is) she's left alone in the home for the majority of the time due to Brandon's job. Time rarely takes a moment before everyone involved in the renovation at the house comes face-to-face with something that's spooking the ever-lovin' Cheez-Whiz out of them - hell, simplicity is key here and this one even possessed a few scenes that made me jump back a bit.

  We as the audience are staring straight into the grill of something purely evil, and while Echoes doesn't reinvent the wheel with its frights, they are effective and well-shot. You could grab your checklist of "haunted house movie" characteristics and instances and have them all marked off in a timely fashion, but there's something intently practical and direct with the way that the Avenet's present the product to us all. There's even somewhat of a directional swerve in the plot towards the film's latter stages that will keep you all on your toes and it was unexpected and a bit of a head-scratcher in theory, but nonetheless acted as a plus-point in my overall grading of this one. Gold-star for Robinson's performance here - the poor little scared lass thing has been beaten to death thoroughly over the years but she gives life to a woman who is legitimately on the edge with what's taking place all around her.

  Overall, I'm absolutely going to recommend Echoes Of Fear as some must-watch Halloween entertainment this scare-season - it's currently making a limited theatrical run so keep your eyes peeled between now and late-November to see if it makes a stop near you.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, October 24, 2019

HOLIDAY HELL (Film Review)


                               Starring: Joel Murray, Meagan Karimi-Naser, Jeffrey Combs
 
                            Directed by: Jeff Ferrell, Jeff Vigil, Jeremy Berg & David Burns

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   Everyone's got a story to tell, especially during the holidays - in the case of Holiday Hell, the latest anthology piece from a quartet of directorial talent (all the names are up top for your perusal) - even the simplest curiosities have tales behind them to be told.

  The backdrop is an odder-than-odd antiquities store on the night before Christmas Eve (eve of the eve, I assume), and we follow a young woman (Naser) who is on the hunt for that "perfect" gift for her sister. Her late-night pursuit has led her to the shop run by a man (Combs) simply known as The Shopkeeper, a mysterious soul who informs her that every piece in his store has a story behind it, and he's only too glad to spill the beans on whatever she shows interest in. Broken up into four tales, her first piqued curio is a weathered and cracked porcelain mask, owned by a young girl who was tormented by schoolmates - the story is called "Dollface" and as you might have guessed, it's got bullying-revenge written all over it. Next up is "The Hand That Rocks The Dreidel" (absolutely LOVE the title), and it's about a young boy who receives an insanely creepy-looking Rabbi puppet as a gift from his parents before they skedaddle for the weekend. The boy's babysitter has alternate plans for the next couple of days and the evil-looking little protector will serve as a roadblock for her intentions.

  The third tale is "Christmas Carnage" and was by and far my favorite segment of the film - starring well-traveled actor Joel Murray as a man who's been kept in the dark by his secretive wife. One night at a company Xmas party, the booze and rage inside of him are too much to dismantle and he begins a stretch of violent tendencies that no one this side of ol' St. Nick has seen in a while - fantastic work by Murray, and if you've had the pleasure of seeing his work in God Bless America, this will seem eerily familiar to that portrayal. The last entry in the film is called "Room To Let" and it focuses on a young drifter that wanders up to a quiet, secluded home deep in the countryside owned by a couple, and let's just say that this is NOT a happy bed-and-breakfast yarn, that I can assure you. We're finally brought back to the wraparound story at the curiosity shop, where the Keeper is sworn to the knowledge that he's met the young woman somewhere before...but where?

 Overall, the film isn't going to knock down any creative or innovative walls, but there are some decent stretches contained within the runtime, and with the performance of Mr. Combs himself, how could you go wrong? The chemistry between he and Naser in their scenes works to a level that makes you wish their interaction had it's own full-blown showcase. I didn't find one story that was a dud, and for that I'll commend to an extent but I do wish that they weren't so cookie-cutter in nature. At the end of it all, Holiday Hell is one of those movies that should suffice during the months after Halloween...I mean it's either this or sitting around with family members watching them gorge themselves on turkey and struggling to put up decorations - that's a completely different arena or terror all in itself. The movie is currently making its way through some limited theater runs but will be available on digital platforms and DVD on 11/5.

RATING: 3 out of 5