Sunday, August 27, 2006

Behold the spazmoticon.

While I'm in review mode, I might as well mention some recent (and some slightly older) samplings. Most of these were direct-to-video releases, so don't be alarmed if you've never heard of half of them.

In a heartfelt ripoff homage to Buzz's signature skully icon, I am hereby unveiling the spazmoticon.

Go ahead and pet him, he won't bite.
(Actually, he can sense fear, so Automatonophobics beware!)

Anyway, I shall now present my musings - in no particular order - on some horror-themed DVDs I have rented over the last few months.

Boo- You gotta hand it to a movie that calls itself "Boo". For sheer chutzpah, it ranks right up there with Pffft! and the Liz Taylor bomb Boom!.

But despite some supernaturally awful performances from fully half the cast, this thing actually gets pretty good and stays that way for the last two acts.
Reviewers have suggested that it borrows too heavily from 2001's Session 9, but I thought it played more along the lines of classic eighties fare like Hooper's The Funhouse or even The Changeling.
One fairly inventive device the movie features is the graphic consequences of spiritual possession. Characters who are unlucky enough to get infected by one of the asylum's nastier spectres begin to "fall apart" in some spectacular and surprising ways.
The only cast member with any star wattage is the redoubtable Dee Wallace Stone, in a very effective, Betsy Palmer-like cameo.

Overall, a worthy timewaster.

Creep- A middling Franke Potente vehicle involving a subterranean ghoul in the London Tube system.
Potente doesn't seem know what to do with the material here, and the audience fares little better. The sadistic titular freak could easily be one of the crawlers from "The Descent" with incrementally tidier table manners.
Sadly, in this case, one malajusted mutant does not a movie make.

Shallow Ground- Now this one I sorta liked. It's a small, oddball, woodsy thriller about a serial killer and a naked, blood-covered mystery boy, played by Tobey Maguire's Spiderman stand-in Rocky Marquette. Check him out in the featurette interviews. He's adorable. Even with clothes on.

Continuing in the woody vein we have 2001's Cookers.
Not a badly acted film at all, considering the level of jacked-up paranoia the three central characters have to convincingly dramatize in their roles as strung-out meth addicts.
Brad Hunt is particularly notable here, channeling Johnny Depp and Skeet Ulrich simutaneously. He even throws in some vintage Jack Nicholson as his character really starts to lose his shit.
Unfortunately, the plot is far too threadbare to offer much in the way of a satisfying (or sensible) conclusion.

Our paranoid-in-a-rural-farmhouse theme continues with Dead Birds.
There are some truly chilling moments in this flick, the actors are solid, and many of them you've actually heard of (Jeepers Creepers 2 star Nicki Aycox, Almost Famous star Patrick Fugit and Henry Thomas from E.T.(!)).

As a dedicated Lovecrafter, I admired the way director Alex Turner and writer Simon Barrett evoked some of the more effective entries from the HPL canon, most notably "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

From the grim pall of Dead Birds we move straight into the gag-littered foyer of 2004's zombie flick Dead and Breakfast. Played entirely for laughs, this movie's real charm is in the commentary track. Apparently there is a softball team in Hollywood consisting entirely of B and C listed young actors. One day, between brewskies and strikeouts, they decided to finance a little indie horror flick starring every single one of their friends. And frankly, what's wrong with that? Watch for the bar scene with Vince Ventresca "hooking up" with a local hayseed. Priceless.

Undead- "Dead and Breakfast" often gets unfairly compared to the brilliant "Shaun of the Dead", however "Undead" is the real contender here. Whether you consider it cheeky homage or extended Aussie in-joke, don't judge this thing until you get a load of the aliens. (Yes, infectious cannibalistic zombies are merely the appetizers here.)

Watch the scene where one character pilots a cropduster through a sky full of eerily suspended zombie victims. The sequence is not only surprisingly high-concept, it's quite breathtaking in its own daffy way.

More reviews to come...


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