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Friday, March 6, 2020

THE DARE (Film Review)


                               Starring: Bart Edwards, Richard Brake, Richard Short

                                                    Directed by: Giles Alderson

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  With the bullying epidemic becoming one of those things that can really draw a line in the sand between a hero and a truly evil soul, director Giles Alderson's The Dare comes off like a teaching tool in a rather demented fashion. It's routinely textbook, satisfactorily gruesome, and should appeal to those who like their torture porn gritty and grimy.

 The movie's premise is as follows: we're tagging along with devoted family man Jay ((Edwards) who is prepping to hit the road for a work conference when he's kidnapped and chucked into a dingy room with a trio of shackled prisoners. Now it certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that these people have some sort of connection, and it'll get fleshed out over the course of the film, and as that's going on we're treated to a series of flashbacks telling the tale of the hulking kook who is acting as the quartet's very sadistic party host. His name is Dominic (Robert Maaser), and his past is one of not only physical but horrific mental abuse, all at the hands of his captor, Credence (played to delightful excellence by Richard Brake). He's "taken in" Dominic at an early age, and has filled his mind with the notion that his parents have left him and won't be looking for him any time soon. Now you can probably guess the corrosive impact a twisted thought of that nature would have on a child, but those are merely words - Credence teaches with an iron fist, and other sharp implements to instruct the youngin' in the ways of the world - talk about home schooling!

  While the fate-filled foursome is forced at random by the masked muscle-head to perform some rather grisly undertakings, the overall construction of the plot begins to truly unfold in front of our eyes. While I'm not going to admit that this is something I've never seen before, it does work on a moderate level and outside of a few herky-jerky plot hiccups the film was a decent watch. Performances were adequate for what was being conveyed here, but the standalone was Brake's portrayal of a seriously warped individual who appeared as if he wanted to impart life's hardest lessons in the direction of a child - some scenes were a bit uncomfortable, but that's what makes a convincing story and if it's effective enough to make you shift in your seat during its undertakings then it's a victory in the eyes of the presenters. After all was said and done and the credits had rolled, I thought about watching this one again to see if there were any pertinent pieces of information that may have escaped me, but all was laid out nicely and I was content in the fact that this was a "one-and-done" for me, and might be as well for you also. The Dare doesn't reinvent the wheel in its barbarism and dire circumstances, but it's a passable viewing for some who want their cautionary tales sprawled out in blood and dirt. The film is available now on VOD and digital platforms and is having a ONE-NIGHT ONLY theatrical release on March 6th (hey, that's tonight!), so check your local listings to see if it's on a big screen near you.

FILM SCORE: 3 out of 5

 

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

THE LURKER (Film Review)


                          Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Naomi Grossman, Ari Lehman

                                                  Directed by: Eric Liberacki

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   Sooner or later, it simply had to happen. When you sift through what seems like endless piles of poo-poo tossed on film, in that rare occurrence you'll find a dullened pearl that shines ever so lightly once the crap is thoroughly hosed off. In an even sadder turn of events, you'll come across something that still has that distinctive "reek" to it, no matter what process is utilized to purify and sterilize...enter Exhibit A: The Lurker from director Eric Liberacki - get your splash guards on, students - this one's gonna leave a stinky stain on your duds if not protected.

  The film tags along with a group of (cough, cough) "high-school" theater students as they're readying to wrap up production on their presentation of "Romeo and Juliet." The reviews have been decent, and all seems well outside of some generalized tension between actors (Michael Emery in his role of Miles Little sets the bar for douchebaggery - well done). The Juliet to his Romeo? Well, it's none other than the beautiful Scout Taylor-Compton, and her character of...well, Taylor is pedestrian at best - she's got problems with just more than her leading fellow, and the cracks are starting to show. If it's not enough that the play is heading towards a fireball completion of sorts, there's a killer in a black hoodie and plague doctor mask, offing students in the most yawn-inducing of ways. This one has all the dented bells and broken whistles of a late-80's, early 90's slasher minus the thought, execution, creativity, likeability of personas and general "must-see" aura that usually comes attached to a horror film.

   The movie makes a half-hearted attempt to reel in the audience for a whodunit-styled presentation, but when more than a handful of potential suspects are tossed at the audience like rice at a wedding reception, it waters down the entire notion and renders the game unsatisfying. Now while I'm a fan of Taylor-Compton's work, the believability rate of she and several of her co-stars coming off as high-schoolers? Yeah, it wasn't happening in the least. Horror fans are even chucked a very small bone with the cast inclusion of names such as Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story) and Ari Lehman (thie first ever little Voorhees) - don't get too attached as their screen time is brief at absolute best. Kills are as lame as a three-legged turtle and when the conclusion (and eventual payoff) lands in your lap, you'll more than likely be wiping the sleep-boogers from the corners of your eyes.

 Overall, The Lurker is one of those wanna-be slashers that is left standing at the bus-stop, like a sad child on his first day of school - don't worry, little Buckaroo: there was many before you, and there will more than likely be a crap-ton after you.

 FILM SCORE: 1.5 out of 5



EXTRA ORDINARY (Film Review)


                                      Starring: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte

                                         Directed by: Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman

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        Ghost hunters and clairvoyants of all shapes and sizes - some of them have the "feeling" for the other-worldly plane, and some...well, some of them should just stick to their day jobs (if they actually have one). In the horror-comedy Extra Ordinary, we dive into the universe of a woman who has been blessed with the gift of supernatural connection, but will she be able to apply it to save a woman who's in the Devil's crosshairs? Watch your step over the bodily fluids, please - I just mopped up but there still may be a stray entrail on the linoleum.

 Co-directed by Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman, the Irish contingent has constructed a film that employs more comedy than horror (not always a bad thing) and showcases the talent of a couple of stellar performances as well. The movie follows Rose (Higgins), a sweet-hearted driving instructor whose days of schlepping alongside potential licensed motorists are only half of her interesting existence. Her dearly-departed father (Risteard Cooper) was a successful ghost-hunter with his own TV show back in the day, and his last gift to his daughter was the ability to contact the spirit world - something that Rose would rather shove in the back seat and not be bothered with. The "out of sight, out of mind" tactic doesn't work so well when she's asked for assistance by a man named Martin (Ward) whose daughter is in a spot of trouble. Will Forte plays a former one-hit-wonder musician by the name of Christian Winter who dabbles in black magic and has asked ol' Beelzebub for the remedy to his situation.

  Well, the devil wants a sacrifice, and in return, he'll provide Christian the juice to re-make a name for himself at the top of the charts (isn't this how Justin Beiber got his start?) So here's Christian ready to seal the deal with the man downstairs, and he's locked in on Martin's daughter - does Rose have the know-how to prevent an oblation of the human soul, or has she refused the gift she was given for so long that's it's now ineffective against such a demonic force? Well don't look at me for the answer - I'm just the rented goon that types up the reviews! Trust me when I tell you - this is one movie that begs for some popcorn, soda (or other subjective liquids) and a stomach that can endure the laughter - it's so worth it.

  The tandem talents of Higgins and Forte are worth the price of admission alone, and their work in this presentation provides more than enough entertainment for even the pickiest of horror/comedy snobs. What the movie lacks in true scares is catapulted by its sense of humor, and I really believe that Extra Ordinary has in fact gone that little bit further than its goofball predecessors - the film will release in select theaters on March 6th so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for it.

FILM SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

AFTER MIDNIGHT (Film Review)


                                  Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski

                                        Directed by: Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella

      "Love - exciting and new...come aboard, we're expecting you!" The following line has been sung with much gusto, and if you happened to have loved extremely cheesy 80's television programming you'll more than likely remember said line from The Love Boat. With that being belted out, the movie that's up on the specimen table today is from the co-directorial efforts of Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella, and it's a tale of young love lost, and the subsequential horrors that follow (cue ominous music).

  The film is called After Midnight, and it was rightfully released this past Valentine's Day, and at the risk of sounding like a slacker, I put this one on the back burner for a short spell until I returned from my own amore-palooza with my bride of 2 years (2/14 being our anniversary). This is the sort of film that intrigues me to a certain level, and that's why I made it a priority to eyeball it once I returned to the ergonomic milk-crate that I sit upon when movie-gazing, so here's the skinny on this creepy little fright-fest. The story centers around (seemingly) happy couple Hank (Gardner) and Abby (Grant) - with their somewhat standstill management of a local watering hole bringing in the dollars to survive, there's something missing in their existence, although you'd never know the way this duo can't keep their mitts off of each other (horny little devils, they are). After a rather steamy exchange one night Hank awakes to find a "Dear John" type of letter from Abby that simply states "I had to go away for a while - I'm sorry - I love you." Just like that - no further information, no clues as to Abby's disappearance, and nothing further to assist Hank in the sorrowful pursuit of his true love...well, if you don't count the hellaciously-sized claw marks on his front door, yeah...then he's got nothing to go on.

  Unexplained phenomena can result in the deterioration of one's mindset, and Hank's current condition is no exemption - blowing shotgun blasts at his front porch in the dead of night and an overwhelming sense of despair are hung on his neck like a wet scarf. This situation has drawn the attention of Hank's close friends and the finality of this horrific incident will come when the audience least expects it - some of you who have been akin to this particular kind of film might sniff out what's going to happen much earlier, so don't ruin it for the newbies! What works for this film isn't really the "what could it be" factor, but the amount of weight that Gardner not only pulls in a directorial fashion, but in a strong lead role as well. The audience is along for a sullen ride as we lay witness to multiple scenes of solitude, which are decorated nicely with periodic bouts of paranoia, anger and at times unreasonable tactics in which to deal with trauma on these levels.

  At the end of it all, After Midnight is one of those films that will appeal to some viewers who want a simplified, scaled-down dose of horror/love and at times even a little shot of comedy to level things out. It's not going to knock you out of your knickers by a stretch, but it is a film that can be watched with a prospective future "someone"...just warn them as to the horrors of what might occur if they do happen to step off of the front porch. The film is currently available to watch via On-Demand services.

FILM SCORE: 3 out of 5

Thursday, February 27, 2020

RESONANCE (Film Review)


                                        Starring: Max Croes, Nastassia Firestone

                                                     Directed by: Siar Sedig
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  Caveats can come in all shapes and sizes, but if one thing stands true about them - they do serve a purpose, even when getting ready to hit the "play" button on something that you feel you shouldn't be watching. I'll admit it's been a spell since I had reservations about checking out a particular film, especially considering the fact that I'll give damn near anything a chance, but something about director Siar Sedig's Resonance made me a bit leery. Call it the first impression of doom, the lurking sense of dread - whatever ya want to frame it as, but something seemed a bit askew about the entirety of this viewing instance...and I'll tell ya: if I played a lottery ticket I'd be swimming in the greenbacks right about now.

  Let's cut to the chase and get to the gritty deets on this one, shall we? It really is a very simple premise to swallow - two lovebirds - Max & Elena (Croes & Firestone) take their photographic wares to the deep woods for a little nature excursion, and the distance and desolation of their surroundings sets in rather quickly, thanks to some stellar cinematography. Sadly, that's where my horn-tootin' ceases - you see the instant beauty of this production gets swallowed up in some rather atrocious acting, inane plot-pathways and an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion. Now don't let me get ahead of myself, as there's more to set up here - you see it's not before long that our young duo in love finds out that their bungalow in the forest has virtually no cell reception, and an odder than odd noise that cuts through the sky like a deli-slicer on overdrive - it usually leads to the gushing of blood through the nose and ears, and a basic forgetfulness of what occurred the night before, but hey - nothing's going to deter this couple from snapping pics of trees, flowers and insects...UGGGH.

 I haven't even broken into the frightening theory that someone (or something) is making its way into the wooded abode every night, but Max just NEVER seems to want to notify the police, thus driving a wedge between he and his sweetheart. I'll stop at this point, but I'm sure you all can paint in the lines that I've laid down for you - remote location in the deep woods, strange beacon of noise that's unexplained, and a general sense of dread that cloaks the utter stupidity of our two main (and only) characters - classic example of a titanic swing and a miss at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. At the risk of utilizing a very bad pun, this one just didn't resonate with me.

FILM SCORE: 2 out of 5

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