It’s Halloween time and you know what that means...the market gets flooded with horror DVDs they would never get away with putting out at any other time of the year. That being said, this box set from Sam Raimi’s production company Ghost House Underground has some great stuff, some mediocre stuff, and some downright awful stuff. Take any handful of randomly chosen horror and you’ll probably statistically end up with this same percentage. The thing is, there are EIGHT movies in this set. No way I was going to go through all of these myself so Jason and split them up. Let’s get it started with Jason’s picks:
Every culture in the world seems to have its own version of the same myths, does it not? There are stories of the great flood, tales of the first man and woman created by some greater deity, and, as Trackman
has taught me, tales of a disfigured slasher. The disfigured slasher is mad beyond motive. He's so ugly he's become murderous. We here in the US of A have had tool-wielding freaks for decades now. As Russia's film industry buds with the success of fantasy clusterfucks like Night Watch
, they decided to bring their own fugly maniac to the screen.
Picture 'Reservoir Dogs'
in Moscow. It's a heist gone wrong. Instead of escaping to the warehouse to bitch about it for an hour and a half, the Russian thugs and their hostages get hacked up by 'The Trackman'
in the tunnels beneath the city. The Trackman
is rumored to be a psychotic victim of the Chernobyl incident
. Not content to pick at his scabs and tumors in peace, he roams the subterranean maze searching for victims. When talk of this bastard started up, I was hooked. I couldn't wait to see this mutant work his magic. Instead, we're given the worst variation of 'Ten Little Indians'
I've seen in some time. They squandered all of that good will. Every last drop. I'll even admit to dozing off towards the supposed climax of the film. I went back, watched the last half hour, and was stunned to find that Cyrus
' assessment was spot on. It really was as boring and inexplicable as he'd warned. All of the elements were there - a disturbed killer, an atmospheric setting, and plenty of victims, but in the final 10 minutes of the film, it's as though the filmmakers had an eleventh hour epiphany that they'd dropped the ball and just decided to end the whole damned thing.
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No Man's Land: Rise of Reeker
What the hell just happened there? Can someone explain it to me, please? Sure, I've spent the last 10 years or so destroying my brain with alcohol, but I didn't realize I had lost the capacity to understand a simple, straight-to-video horror movie. I never saw the first film, 'Reeker'
, but what I gathered from this sequel (with smatterings of a prequel) is that the Reeker
is some sort of harvester of souls. He stops time and sets up an impenetrable bubble in the desert. He kills off the locals. And he's stinky. Other than that, you're on your own.
This film is a meth-addict making a sandwich of whatever's in the fridge - a big sandwich of crazy. The lengths the victims go to in order to avoid a seemingly-omnipotent villain is astonishing. None of us can really say what we would do in such a bizarre situation, but I'd hope that I wouldn't make a series of decisions that walked the line between insane and stupid. There's even a giant bomb involving a toilet and a gas tank, something so strange and convoluted that it would have made MacGyver
say, "Wait. Seriously. You guys are making this way too hard."
Most of this seems to be a problem with the script, though, since everything else is at least competent. The effects of the Reeker
himself is actually kinda awesome and he pulls off some nice, gory kills. If only it had gelled a bit more, this could have been something really special. As it was, there was a potpourri of disparate elements - your typical wise Indian, purgatory, a wacky cook, and a wicked car crash.
I probably should have watched the first one.
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I've raved about this one enough.
It's a charming adventure about kids vs a malevolent alien. It's got humor, scares, and enough quirky weirdness to satisfy all sorts of audiences. Watch it, tell your friends, and ignore the completely misleading trailers that make it out to be a nail-biting horror experience.
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Last House in the Woods
Hmmm. I wonder what they're trying to evoke with this title? Surely they can't try to inject their project with some manufactured horror movie cred by evoking a legendary exploitation film
. Thankfully, 'Last House in the Woods'
has precious little to do with 'Last House on the Left'
. It certainly starts off similarly enough, with a hapless teenage couple encountering a group of rapist thugs. Our protagonists, Aurora
, narrowly escape the clutches of this gang of droogs with the help of an older married couple. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. . .
Like most horror films, this is a Hansel and Gretel story. Young people go out in the middle of nowhere and bad things happen to them. I do mean BAD things. Fucked up things. Cataclysmically bloody things. For the first 45 minutes of the film, the breadcrumbs of fear are spread about the forest floor. There's something not quite right, but it's unclear as to what exactly is going on. The tension builds. Then one of the scariest kids since Damien Thorn
appears and the floodgates of gore are thrown open wide. It's a big grab bag of nasty. Everything goes wacko and they hose the set down with Karo syrup and red #5. This is a hodgepodge of elements, things cribbed from better films - namely Texas Chainsaw Massacre
and Last House on the Left
. It's interesting to note that even Italy has it's share of psychotic, inbred rednecks. In fact, if the film is to be believed, there's an unusually high concentration of murderers, rapists, and cannibals. The State Department should probably issue a travel advisory. Despite a few minor editing issues, this film is tight all around. I was surprised at its quality. It won't go down as any sort of classic, but if you like your blood thick, red, and plentiful, then this is the flick for you.
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And then it was my turn. I sat down and watched most of these in one sitting. I spent a week dreading it and as it turned out, the dreading was worse than the actual watching. That’s the way to do horror, if you ask me. Just pull that band-aid RIGHT OFF.
is a nice girl with a single parent father who is leaving the nest, heading off to college, and moving into a dorm. Or as we used to call them...easy meat. Ok, maybe not WE but I think I saw someone say it in a movie or something (Like most of the events I describe as having happened to me when I’m at social events. *sigh*) Right off the bat the social strata begins rearing its ugly head; Sanne
, the bitchiest redhead since Lindsay Lohan
first concluded the party wasn’t ever over. Still, Katrine
, anxious to please (!), forms a tentative friendship with the ‘cool kids’
. All seems annoyingly collegiate and happy until a friendly (?) scare-prank causes Katrine
to seemingly go way overboard with the freak out. I mean, sure, she actually did see the ghost of the girl who died horribly decades ago in Sanne
’s mirror which is a more than reasonable explanation for why she destroyed Sanne
's bathroom, but what would you say if it happened at your party? Right...get this crazy bitch the hell out of my party. Plus she sleeps with Sanne
's ex. Or something. Sanne
tells her she is OUT: the curse of living death for insecure young people until they discover movies are better than people anyway because they don’t judge you and maybe I’ll just clean my dad’s guns while I watch Rambo
again….um, where was I?
is pretty much just PMS personified. Soon, anything with a reflection, like for instance her broken bathroom mirror, is causing the spirit to appear and cause icky hallucinations. Like any ‘haunting’
film, the heroes must find out what the ghost is pissed off about and then find a way to symbolically placate her. Or trap her. Or something. Again.
While very low budget Room 205
succeeds through the clever use of audio cues, colored & strobe lighting and most importantly, smart editing. It’s confusing at points following the logic of the ‘cool kids’
who regularly accuse Katrine
of being insane after THEY see something crazy (not sure what kind of weird logic is taught in Danish schools) but these are essentially the same mean kids from “Carrie”
so it’s not hard to form a hate-on for ‘em. When these fraktards start getting offed you’re ready to applaud. When you finally get to the inevitable, ‘what really happened to the girl who became the ghost way back when’
flashback sequence, you can understand why she’s so pissed. It’s hard not to start rooting for her to off the population of that assburger farm.
Despite a lame, predictable “Oh no, it’s never over”
ending that horror directors seem to feel obligated to tack on to their films, Room 205
crosses the slasher and ghost film genres and most of the time they play nice together. I gotta hand it to the Danish...they're all OVER genre filmmaking this year.
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Ever heard of the horror-metal band Lordi
? Yeah, neither had I. They won the Eurovision
song contest in 2006 (the first Finnish band to ever do so) and in terms of the smallish population of the country are bizarrely popular. The Finnish postal service even issued a postage stamp with them on it! Not bad for a band that looks like Gwar
and sounds like “Feed my Frankenstein”
-era Alice Cooper
has officially begun Finland’s horror film industry by co-writing and co-starring in “Dark Floors”
(oddly, shot entirely in English.)
A concerned father is with his little autistic girl Sarah
in the hospital for testing on her “condition”
. Dad wants to extricate her from the facility but a nurse tells him rather blithely that they started giving her an experimental new medicine and she’ll die if she doesn’t get more in an hour. Dad seems VAGUELY bothered by not being asked for consent. When the exit elevator stops between floors, a homeless guy moans out something about “Not six not seven, neither Hell nor Heaven”
and then dies. And then the lights come back on. And then he’s alive again. Awkward. It’s impossible to find a Hallmark card for those people. They exit only to find things have changed somewhat. Maybe it’s the bodies that keep appearing everywhere or the big cornball monsters that randomly appear.
Here’s the thing: these guys must have been playing Silent Hill
every day for a year. It’s a cross between that, Stephen King
’s “The Langoliers”
’s “Haunted Mansion” ride.
If it wasn’t for the laughably bad acting (especially from Noah Huntley
(the Dad) who is so bad, I assumed he was reading his lines phonetically) and plain silliness of the Lordi
member appearances, this might have been a pretty cool little horror. I suppose it’s still better than “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.”
I dug on the time/dimensional stuff the plot toys with but trust the bad CG banshee chick from the band or the mummy guy (what the hell is a mummy doing there anyway?) to dissolve any chance of taking the movie seriously. It’s impossible to be scared by a movie when all the villains look like they belong in a mall haunted house. I suppose that in and of itself might be a recommendation to some. There’s just enough good here to make me want to see more from the director Pete Riski
but more than enough to make me want to never see Lordi
again. If the movie doesn’t convince you, the two music videos on the disk from them with lines like “...on the day of rockening”
surely will. KISS
must be rolling in their graves. Wait, is KISS
dead? Eh, Close enough.
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Brotherhood of Blood
So far I had been spared the worst. Let me tell you, everything else in this set is frelling Casablanca
next to the loathsomely atrocious “Brotherhood of Blood”
. This film is so monumentally unwatchable it’ll take twenty minutes for it to sink in that it's not a comedy about people making a bad horror movie.
is a ancient vampire ruling a local cult. He and his minions have captured vampire hunter Carrie
, who is a man whose brother who is transforming into...something. The vampires are scared of Thomas
’ brother and are trying to torture their two prisoners to find out where he has secreted away. Flashback exposition from a captured vampire (being tortured as well, natch) ("Dawn of the Dead"
s Ken Foree
) and an endless rumination by Haig
, lead to the revelation that maybe vampires and humans will have to work together to all keep from dying at the hands of whatever Thomas’
brother will become.
Was there ANYTHING good about this? I’m thinking...thinking...ouch. I don’t want to think about it anymore. This is pain itself. None of the torture shown here (and believe me, they like showing torture) is as close to as cruel as making anyone watch the movie. I wouldn't even make Co-Hoser
watch this. It’s bad enough they fit all the vampires with preposterously fat canine teeth that cause all of them to spit and lisp around the unbearably awful dialogue they've got to keep a straight face through, but mix that with production values that a Mexican soap opera would turn up their nose at...you’ve got a disc not fit to hang from your rear view mirror. I was gritting my teeth through this, bearing through, but when Sid Haig/Ken Foree
in a flash back and forth deliver their TEN MINUTE EXPOSITION SCENE...I started screaming. I'm still screaming inside. So yeah, “Brotherhood of Blood”
is, in it’s own way, the most terrifying film in the Ghost House Underground
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Dance of the Dead
Are you sick of zombie movies yet? Hell, are you sick of zombie comedies yet? Add another mediocre effort to the list. I was surprised after hearing so much positive word on “Dance of the Dead”
after its local premiere at SXSW
to find that there’s not much new or interesting here, but I suppose enough goo and chuckles to make a half-drunken evening’s rental not a total wash. I know, I know, high praise indeed.
It’s the night of the High School Prom, simultaneously the most dreaded and anticipated event in most teenager’s lives next to losing their virginity and taking the SATs. At least when I was a kid. These days you're all too busy giving virginity-preserving blowjobs during study hall. (I was so totally born too soon) As if all the teenagers aren’t stressed enough...zombies. The town’s outcasts take up the call to action and gather their forces before descending on the zombified prom to try to save as much of the sweet teenage ‘tang as they can.
Small town, nuclear plant in the background, nerdy kids whose leader has a quarter roll-sized erection for the oblivious cheerleader, the town hard-ass forced to work with the nerds he’s picked on in the past to survive...sigh. I don’t mind hitting these same notes but I like a little bit more of a remix. While classic zomb-com “Return of the Living Dead”
is clearly the biggest influence, the yucks and yuks only served to remind me how badly the genre was in need of the “Shaun of the Dead”
revitalization, and it isn’t easy going back. Sure, I chuckled a bit and even admired SOME of the more creative gore bits but please, PLEASE no more zombie legs walking around on their own jokes. You can only do that one so many times. Overall that’s the greatest failing: I’ve seen too much of this already and done better. I suppose if you're a horror noob this might be more palatable. Not terrible but neither is it memorable, I’m afraid I’ve got to be the one critic to say “Dance of the Dead”
is only going to dance in the $3.00 bin at Wal-Mart.
Click Here to Buy "Dance of the Dead"