Thursday, October 31, 2013

List: 31 More Must See Modern Horror Films

It’s been two years since the release of my “31 Must See Modern Horror Films” here at Blood Brothers and since then I have received all kinds of people responded to it with suggestions for films that should have made the list. Well, I like my list and I’m sticking to it. Yet, it’s hard to discount some of the great horror films that have scared their way into our hearts since 1990. The only solution? I needed to list “31 MORE Must See Modern Horror Films.” The list is as follows, in no particular order. I’m sure there is still going to be some I’ve missed (or haven’t seen) so if you feel I missed out, feel free to comment, message, or email us your suggestions! Maybe we’ll do another list next year…

  1. Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight
  2. Ginger Snaps
  3. Last House On The Left (Remake)
  4. Lovely Molly
  5. Frontier(s)
  6. 30 Days Of Night
  7. Bedevilled
  8. The Children
  9. The Conjuring
  10. Dagon
  11. Dead Snow
  12. The Eye (Original)
  13. The Frighteners
  14. Pulse
  15. Shutter (Original)
  16. Ringu
  17. Hellraiser: Inferno
  18. The Horde
  19. I Saw The Devil
  20. In The Mouth Of Madness
  21. Jeepers Creepers
  22. Kidnapped
  23. Orphan
  24. Pontypool
  25. Wolf Creek
  26. Black Water
  27. Sinister
  28. Splinter
  29. Stake Land
  30. People Under The Stairs
  31. Frailty

There you go. 31 more must see modern horror films for your Halloween delight! Like I said above, feel free to comment if you feel I added one that shouldn't be on the list or I need to add one that I missed out on.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, October 28, 2013

Embrace Of The Vampire (2013)

Director: Carl Bessai
Notable Cast: Sharon Hinnendael, Victor Webster, Kaniehtiio Horn, CC Sheffield, Ryan Kennedy

When it comes to the remakes, there are a few older films worthy of the update. One of those, at least in my opinion, was the original "Embrace Of The Vampire." The first film was a relatively terrible film that relied on its...exploitative nature to find its cult audience. So really, with a remake, you could only go up from the low brow nature of the original that tried to sell itself as something more artful. While I have to say that this version of "Embrace Of The Vampire" is technically better, the film itself still falls massively short particularly when it starts to crumble in the last act.

The film starts off very promising as we are introduced to Charlotte (played to at least show something more than skin by Sharon Hinnendael) who is finally on her way to a prestigious small private college on a fencing (?!) scholarship. The film builds a rather intriguing idea that she is somehow inherently connected to vampires from her past and then starts building up an almost slasher like vibe as we try to unravel whom the vampire that is making her have visions might be. While the 'who-dunnit' nature of this first half certainly has some fun to it, it's fairly generic still as Charlotte falls into a rather basic romantic subplot and struggles with the bitchy girls on her fencing team. There is at least some kind of plot as we add in her history with vampires and the 'who's the damn vamp' sub plot, but really the film fails to induce much more than the basics here.

Flashbacks attempt to save the film...
Then to make matters worse, "Embrace Of The Vampire" falls into the pattern of still focusing on its exploitative elements instead of focusing on plot and characters. I suppose that I should have guessed that there would have been a couple of extensive sex sequences and random nudity throughout, they have to appease fans of the original I guess, but I was at least hoping that it would be better at making it seem far more relative to the plot. It's not. In fact, it became almost laughable at how much nudity they attempted to just fit in in background shots randomly.

Yet, there was still potential to some of the first two-thirds of the film. I mean, I still generally gave two-shits about what was going to happen to our characters even beyond the generic play of the film. The last third of the film though utterly crumbles under its own weight. The film takes so long building up subplots and other characters that "Embrace" eventually has to speed just to finish up the main storyline of the film. It desperately has to scramble to even do that so it rushes through any of the better story lines to get the job done.  

There are bad days and then there are legendary bad days.
I'm sure that there is certainly a group of people that will love this movie, but it sure isn't going to be for its plot progressions or strong character work. The film just falters on almost all grounds as it struggles to find balance between a serious vampire film and an exploitation film. I'm sure if you are interested in the film then you will have already seen it and if you haven't...then I suggest waiting for a bit for a rental before diving in. It's not quite the redemption of film making that I was expecting.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Altered (2006)

Director: Eduardo Sanchez
Notable Cast: Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Brad William Henke, Michael C. Williams, Adam Kaufman, Catherine Mangan

There were two reasons why I skipped out on "Altered" until now. One: I wasn't a huge fan of "Blair Witch Project" and this was before I finally got around to seeing some of Eduardo Sanchez's other films. Two: it was a straight to DVD film about hillbillies who keep an alien hostage. It doesn't necessarily inspire good faith of have hillbillies, aliens, and straight to home video in the same sentence. The trick of "Altered" is that despite all of the things I assumed it had going against it, Sanchez and company seemingly create a rip roaring science fiction horror film that works on almost every level. A definite surprise considering what I was expecting.

The film does some interesting things with the 'alien attacks people' genre of science fiction horror. Firstly, it focuses more on the horror elements and uses the science fiction as a means to a horror end which is much better for the lower budget constraints that it may have encountered with a full on science fiction plot. Secondly, it blends old school scares, black humor streaks, and some impressive special effects into a great combination. For a straight to video affair, this film has significantly high production values too.

Four hillbilly friends and an alien...almost sitcom material!
"Altered" starts off with three country bumpkins out at night in their hunting gear, making the usual arguments about beer and hunting. What we come to soon realize is that they aren't night hunting raccoons or anything...they are out hunting aliens. Aliens who previously 'abducted' them who they plan on extracting a little bit of revenge on. The trick here is that they don't get slaughtered like the usual horror film would start...they actually catch one.

From there the film moves to a more isolated setting of their friend's house. The film then shifts gears into a "The Thing" inspired paranoia driven film. The acting, which was somewhat eye-rolling to start off, gathers some strong momentum here as the friends argue about what to do with the alien (which remains smartly hidden from viewers until the final act) and whether or not it was a trap for them to fall into. Paul McCarthy-Boyington heads up as the lead protagonist from here who seems to be the only one with enough brains to sort things out and pulls off the character with effective ease. "Altered" then rachets up the tension and scares by having situations get fully out of control. The alien has mind warping abilities, it's vicious with claws and teeth, and even our friends seem to be at each other's throats over what could happen next. This allows the pacing to fly along as we are treated to thick tension and some brutal moments of gore and special effects. I won't spoil too much here in that regard as the film takes some gruesome and unique spins of plot twisting. 

A teaser of the alien...
While the ending was a bit of head-scratcher overall, "Altered" was a massively effective surprise of horror with a slight science fiction twist. Sanchez impresses with his style, this being essentially the only film that moves away from the 'in the moment' shaky cams and gritty style he normally uses that I've seen, and the film has strong production values for a straight to home video release. It's heartfelt, brutal, and smart in all the ways that make for a fun and great horror film. "Altered" comes strongly recommended for fans of tense horror films.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Maniac (2013)

Director: Franck Khalfoun
Notable Cast: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder

While I still consistently hear people bitch about remakes and reboots, there are occasionally remakes that impress. The most recent one is "Maniac," a combined French and American effort as a modernization of the 1980 cult slasher classic. While the original film earned its merits with strong special effects and the clever idea of having our slasher 'maniac' as the protagonist of the film, this remake takes the film to some intriguing new territory without ever losing the heart of what made the original a classic. It's then crafted with such an impressive execution that instead of comparing it throughout, I was completely engrossed with it.

As ironic as it is, many of those great remakes have Alexander Aja's name attached to them. In the case of this film, Aja only appears as co-writer and producer rather than director, but his touch can be felt in the deep atmosphere and extreme violence. It helps that his frequent collaborator Franck Khalfoun is the director who ably runs with the entire concept at full speed and throws himself into creating the gimmick of the film's visuals with intensity.

The stare just might be scarier...
What gimmick with the visuals, you ask? The most unique part of "Maniac" is the fact that it's completely told from the first person view of our slasher protagonist. While the original film meant for us to be put into the shoes of our killer Frank, this remake literally does it. While initially I was hesitant about this, believing it to be a gimmick, "Maniac" has the writing, atmosphere, and visual flair that it sells it for the entire time. It leaves the film to do a lot of intriguing things with Elijah Wood in the lead (who is perfectly cast against type and utterly believable as this man-child whose reality is skewed) as we only see him in mirrors and reflective surfaces. The film also is able to bend reality a bit more with his "visions" as we see his mannequin collection come to life and moments with his dead mother and himself as a child haunt him daily despite his best attempts at making connections with regular people including his new friend Anna. The idea that having a film entirely in first-person might seem like a gimmick, but "Maniac" delivers it how it should be done.

From there, Khalfoun and Aja cake the film in that modern French horror concept of excessive atmosphere and excessive violence. Lots of effective lighting, a brilliant throwback synth score, properly spaced dialogue, and strong visuals build up a dense and often suffocating atmosphere and in true modern French horror style, "Maniac" uses brutal and visceral violence to break the tension. There are many moments that are truly cringe worthy (both with creepiness and in full on special effects focused violence) that even a hardcore horror fan like myself had to hold my breath. Scalping has surely never looked so real.

The hellish hands.
"Maniac" is certainly not a film for the faint of heart as it piles on eerie visuals, pressure building tension, and insanely brutal kills. It's a fairly slow burn pacing that might have fans who don't buy into yawning at times, but for those willing to dive into the shoes of our villainous protagonist "Maniac" is a manic and ultimately impressive remake that currently resides as my favorite horror film of the year.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fate/Zero 2011 1-24 (2011)

Howdy ho friends! Hope all is well for you and yours. This time around I will take you all through a prequel of the very popular series "Fate/Stay Night" called "Fate/Zero". If any of yous out there are familiar with this series then well you must surely be familiar with "Fate/Stay Night". I, for one, have not had a chance to dive into it, partly because I wanted to see this series first. However now that I have completed this adventure, I will surely be on to "Fate/Stay Night".

"Fate/Zero" takes place 10 years before FSN and revolves around the 4th Holy Grail War. During these wars 7 mages from 7 magic using families must summon 7 heroic spirits to battle for the power of the Holy Grail. Each heroic spirits represents a historical figure from the past, such as Saber who is female King Arthur, Rider who is the completely ripped version of Alexander the Great, Gilgamesh, and legendary child killer Gilles de Rais to name a few. The power of the Grail will give the winning family one miracle to use however they choose.

I actually watched the entire series (2 seasons) straight through over a period of 3 days. Mainly because I was so drawn in to the story and characters. Partly because I really wanted to get a review out to the masses. :)

The Review: First off I want to say that this series is a visual treasure. The animation is top notch with fluid action scenes that really get your blood flowing. The colors are vibrant and full of life which is especially noticeable with all the battle scenes. As for character designs, this series offers up nothing new, but then again I am not sure where anime can go other than CGI and I am ok without that.  My favorite thing about this series is the character development. I feel that each and every character is given adequate amounts of backstory and development. With that in mind, plot pacing does suffer through the first 3rd of the series and a few later episodes are used to tell another key backstory. Considering what was needed to develop the story it didn't bother me at all.  However if you are an action fan be warned that the slow pacing between  action scenes can really cause one to lose interest.  If a bit of fan service tickles your fancy well keep on moving because you won't find any here. Unless of course sweet ass action scenes turn your crank.

While I truly enjoyed the series it didn't leave a lasting impression on me. The character development was there , but it lacked the heart to be a great series. I hardly felt an emotional attachment to the characters. The lone exception would be the child killing Master of Caster Gilles de Rais.. He very much creeped me the hell out.

 Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this series. It is cleverly written and visually appealing. I found the characters interesting on a historical  level and was even inspired to research some of them. Gilgamesh and Gilles de Rais come to mind right away. To think that these fellows actually existed is pretty spectacular and disturbing for the latter.  So if you like action with a compelling story then hit it up. In closing I offer up:

Written By John Price

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Curse Of Chucky (2013)

Director: Don Manchini
Notable Cast: Fiona Douriff, Brad Douriff, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliot

Now that I've worked my way through the modern era of the "Child's Play" franchise in my reviews for "Bride Of Chucky" and "Seed Of Chucky," it's only fitting that for this Blood-tober marathon I sat with the latest entry of the series "Curse Of Chucky." Say what you will about the previous two entries, but I was a little excited when director/writer Don Mancini announced his plans to take the franchise back to its horror roots. While I enjoyed the humor of the last two, this "reboot" for the franchise needed to happen. So it brings me great pleasure to say that "Curse" is handedly the best sequel since "2" and perhaps my second favorite of the series.

What my biggest "fear" was going into "Curse Of Chucky" was that it was going to be a film that was a singular entity or a film that didn't actually reference other entries. On the contrary, as a fan of the series, I was ecstatic as the film not only referenced every previous entry in one way or another, but it actually built on the canon of the myth by throwing in some clever scripting motivations. See, our heroine Nica (played with relative strength by Fiona Douriff - the real life daughter of Chucky himself, Brad Douriff) and her mother receive a mysterious package one day. In this package rests a Good Guy doll named Chucky. The next morning Nica's mother is found dead from what looks to be a "suicide" which leads to a slew of Nica's family to come visit...including her overbearing sister and her family. Little do they know that Chucky has had this all planned out...and that this family has a connection to his past with a few scores to settle.

While the concept is fairly mundane and one that we've seen before in this series, Chucky arrives and he sneakily starts to knock off the family he's infiltrating, the return to the horror roots works because its been far too long for fans to see Chucky has a threatening and often sinister role instead of the cartoon character he has become previously. Don Mancini seems confident in establishing the tension of "who's next" and "how" of the slasher elements by adding in some solid atmosphere (with a creepy and often suffocating house as the setting) and letting the mystery build from there.

From those building blocks, Mancini seems intent to keep the film slightly off kilter with so awkward familial moments (done with a solid enough cast...even if some of them seem a bit gimmicky like our live-in nanny) and a solid "background" story that comes as a twist in the latter half of the film. If you think I'm going to spoil the fun of the last third of this film. Guess again. What I will say is that not only does the film reference the other entries in effective and fun ways, but it builds on them too establishing a new formula for future entries. In fact, it's the twists that come in the last 15 minutes of the film - and after the credits - that make this film a sure fan treat.

As for the slasher elements on hand, it's back to the basics. Simplistic kills that are built on tension with a few red herrings thrown around to keep viewers on their toes. Once again the MVP of the film is Brad Douriff as the voice of Chucky who delivers again and again. I also appreciated that Mancini and company pulled back from the one liners a bit. They still exist, but they are played for sinister and disturbing instead of laughs which fits in line with the entire 'return to the roots' concept better.

 I know a few folks will probably miss the over the top humor and ridiculousness that the franchise had embraced in the last few entries, but "Curse Of Chucky" was exactly what this franchise needed to breathe fresh, but familiar, life into it. It's not a perfect film, but it's definitely one of the best that "Child's Play" has had to offer in decades and fans of the franchise are sure to soak themselves in it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Seed Of Chucky (2004)

Director: Don Mancini
Notable Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Douriff, Billy Boyd, Redman

Despite some luke warm critical reception, "Seed Of Chucky" has always come highly recommended from the horror fans in the circles that I frequent. I had seen the film previously and wasn't all that impressed to be honest, so I kept pushing it back for review. With "Curse Of Chucky" due out this October, I decided it was high time to review both of the modern "Child's Play" films before reviewing the sixth entry. While "Seed" is a much better film than I remember, I still feel that the entire 'meta' experience of the film tends to hinder it substantially leaving it as the worst of the franchise as an unfocused film.

Plot wise, "Seed Of Chucky" tends to feel like two films mashed together. We have the main portion of the film that focuses on Chucky and Tiffany's newly found son Glen and the rest of the film focuses on how our newly found killer doll family is going to get their souls into human bodies. While both of these stories have their interesting elements, the bled of the two tends to leave a bit desired. As the film kicks off with a narrative about Glen and his search for his mother and father, once the film adds in our villains (who are more or less the protagonists this time around) it shifts gears and Glen more or less becomes the subplot for what the rest of the film goes for.

While the Glen story has some fun bits, it tends to be pretty weak overall as we deal some subject matter that isn't handled very well including gender issues and a family dynamic that works better for jokes then it does for anything with depth. The storytelling narrative tends to simply jump around to much for my tastes as each of our villains tries to deal with their own problems. Then to top it off, the film goes for a meta-sort of concept where our villains are resurrected on the set of a Chucky movie  and our main "hero" of the film ends up being Jennifer Tilly playing herself. In an odd way, the humor works for this (although they play the "voice joke" about Tilly's voice to death) even if some of it tries a little too hard - including a sequence where Chucky has to fill a cup with his semen in an obvious attempt to out awkward the doll sex sequence in "Bride." The humor might be the biggest hit or miss with audiences and it's hit or miss in general too.

The meta approach to the film certainly carries some charm and the voice work from Douriff and Tilly make for some great moments (the argument about violence and violins had me on the floor), but overall this still ranks as my least favorite Chucky film. It's muddled in its narrative and often it plays the humor above and beyond the realms of good taste - and I'm talking about the Britney Spears scene. While it has its moments and continued strong use of puppetry, I'm not going to be revisiting it any time soon.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Darkness Falls (2003)

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Notable Cast: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie

The worst kind of films are the ones that have potential and completely drop the ball when it comes to executing it. Take "Darkness Falls" as a prime example of this...a rather intriguing supernatural slasher film built on the tooth fairy where she's hunting a man who slipped through her fingers years prior. This is horror gold! A crazy ass monster ghost lady slaughtering anyone who sees her? She burns in the light? A sleep deprived anti-hero protagonist coming back home to save his old sweet heart and her young brother? This shit writes itself, truthfully. Yet as I watched "Darkness Falls" for the first time since theaters (has it already been ten years?!), I felt like I should weep for this film as it continually fumbled around creating a story and even holding its own rules accountable.

In an interesting twist of fate, this would be Jonathan Liebesman's first film (he would go on to direct "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," "Battle: Los Angeles," and "Wrath Of The Titans") and his catering to the modern style certainly shows. With tons of quick edits, flashy zooms, and outrageous close ups he does his best to kill any tension or true scares this film could have ever had by trying to make it "energetic." What little tension he is able to make with the use of dark and light is completely shot by this approach and it leaves "Darkness Falls" feeling slapped together and ADD in its style.

Stay in the light...or half light...or flashlights...or whatever.
To add insult to injury, the script that this concept adheres to is terrible too. Our main anti-hero is wishy washy, the romantic subplot is poorly constructed, and the film rarely is able to piece together a narrative if it wanted to. Characters seem to do the most ridiculous things with their motivations and the actors are completely at a loss to try to counter balance the weird arcs that they have.

Then we get into the villain which is such a cluster of plot holes that its hard to stomach. The entire concept that she can't come into the light is a reach to begin with and "Darkness Falls" seems to have no idea how to stick to the rules with its villain. She seems to be quicker than the speed of light half of the time, leaving a fun sequence where they have to jump down a flight of stairs from light spot to light spot, yet half of the time characters are hanging out in the dark with little to no consequence. Most of the kills are mundane or done off screen and they hint that she has the ability to teleport (how else would she be able to get the kid when he goes into the sensory deprivation chamber?), but never use that to its full advantage. It's so wishy-washy in execution it becomes a joke rather than the modern horror villain classic it should have been.

Porcelain masks...great for horror villains
The film's not a complete waste of time with its fun concept and unintentionally hilarious moments. It just so happens to have a film built around it that is so utterly inept that any self respecting horror fan vomits a little thinking about the wasted potential. While this film might have a following at this point, my guess is that the cult status it achieves might be for how bad it is rather than a missed gem.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Notable Cast: Warwick Davis, Brent Jasmer, Jessica Collins, Guy Siner 

As with plenty of other horror franchises that ran out of steam, the "Leprechaun" series takes its fourth entry and haphazardly decides to throw it "in space," if you couldn't tell from the awkward sounding title. While "Leprechaun 3" showcased a film in transition from a 'little horror' to 'no horror,' returning director Brian Trenchard-Smith seems to completely abandon the horror elements and drive the film straight into comedic territory. To be honest, this film is purposefully made so awkward and bad that it just might end up being the one I watch the most out of sheer hilarity. While the concept of a killer leprechaun terrorizing a massive group of inept marines on a space ship seems ridiculous, know that everyone involved with "Leprechaun 4" seemed to think so too.

Whether you like it or not, "Leprechaun 4" has nothing to do with any of the previous films. While the first three entries had small connectors between them (as asinine as they might have been), this film simply says 'fuck it' and just starts anew. This time around our greedy and violent villain is intent on marrying a space princess so that he may kill her father and then her to become a king to satiate his greed. Yet, some silly marines are intent on stopping him from his intergalactic bride and he has to go through the old slasher routine to get his way.

Oh yes, that's a light saber.
Now that I mentioned it, essentially this film feels like one massive 'fuck it' through out. Not enough budget for legitimate CGI? Fuck it, we'll use the worst CGI possible for ships. What about sets? Fuck it, we'll use ones that look like they're discards from TV shows. How about a plot? Fuck it, none of it makes sense anyway so lets have fun with it and just do ridiculous things. Can't think up of any more rhymes for the leprechaun to say? Fuck it, we'll just have him talk like he's going to rhyme even though he doesn't. So as long as you are yelling 'fuck it' right along with Brian Trenchard-Smith and company you'll have a blast with this film. Ironically, it's this kind of mentality that saves this film from being a complete disaster. Warwick Davis once again eats up scenery in the role as the villain (even though his make up is TERRIBLE in this film) and his kills are so over the top that it's hilarious. I mean, his 'resurrection' after being blown up by a grenade (?!) has to be one of the funniest kills I have ever seen in the history of slasher-dom. I won't spoil it here. It's that awesome.

Where did he find a smaller suit?
Unfortunately, our heroes could have used a bit more of ham to really run the distance with Davis. A couple of the secondary characters are instant B-movie classics, the Sergeant single handedly steals every single scene he's in with his intense stares and silly looking head gear, but the two main character tend to be watered down even for this kind of film and it's disappointing. I almost would have liked them to be worse if that is even possible.

No caption needed.
It's hard for me to justify this film garnering more than one blood drop when you look at it. The budget couldn't have been more than a couple hundred bucks, the story is idiotic, the acting is terrible, and the special effects are some of the worst I've ever seen for a 'real' film. Yet, it's quite obvious that "Leprechaun 4" is quite okay with this and embraces it for all its worth by running with its B-grade issues. When the space princess gives people a 'death sentence' by flashing her breasts at them, you know this is the kind of movie that cannot take itself seriously. So the question for those interested in seeing the film remains, are you will to just say 'fuck it' and enjoy it for what it is?

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bride Of Chucky (1998)

Director: Ronny Yu
Notable Cast: Brad Douriff, Jennifer Tilly, Ed Gale, Katherine Heigl, John Ritter

While fan opinion differs greatly on how the "Child's Play" franchise continued in quality, for the record I felt like it was significantly down hill overall since the first, there was a 'rebirth' of villain Chucky in the late 90s. Like many other horror franchises of major status including "Friday The 13th" and "A Nightmare On Elm Street," this new approach to the series takes a humorous turn. Rather than focusing on tension and scares that had been faltering with each subsequent entry, the fourth film in this franchise guns for over the top humor and ridiculous slasher kills. As with the other sequels this is going to be hit or miss with fans and non-fans. For me, while the film was hit or miss overall, I have a blast with "Bride Of Chucky" every time I see it.

That being said, it's easy to laugh at how this film has dated. Like every other horror film from the late 90s through the early 00s, the film has a distinctive style to it featuring gothic characters (in this case Jennifer Tilly who delivers a rather hilarious and sometimes creepy performance as the love interest of Chucky and eventually the titular bride in doll form), heavy metal soundtrack, and a reliance on humor in the kills that replaces the tension. This was something I was very into at the time of release, I was 13 after all, and to this day the film plays on my nostalgia more so then on my abilities as a critic.

Some of Ronny Yu's visual flair.
As a critic, it's hard not to find a lot of the flaws in the film's plot. Most of the major plot points are played up for laughs instead of true scares including but not limited to: two in love protagonists that are being blamed for the murders and have to solve the mystery, a overbearing police chief (played by John Ritter, sleepwalking through the role) who must stop them because the main girl is his daughter and will not be romantically involved with her loser boyfriend, and of course our now infamous villain Charles Lee Ray who had to be stitched together by his long time girlfriend who had been looking for him since his "death" at the beginning of the first "Child's Play." The slasher elements here are handedly blue printed to be fit the formula to a 't.' In a way, its unoriginality plays into the humor a bit, but as a critic its hard not to want the film to run with its concept even further particularly when it comes to the duality of the two couples (hero and villains) in the end.

Double trouble.
"Bride Of Chucky" is executed with enough flair and fun to sell the entire thing though. While the acting outside of the villains leaves quite a bit to be desired, Ronny Yu delivers enough fun and over the top charm to keep the viewers interested. It's easy to see why he would then be chosen to deliver a film in "Freddy Vs. Jason" later on as his use of humor, horror, colors, and darkness does have that unique flavor to it.

The humor and ridiculousness of the concept can be tough to swallow for many of the hardcore horror fans though and that's completely understandable. "Bride Of Chucky" is a massive deviation from the rest of the franchise at the time it was made. It's a love it or hate it kind of film and despite its massive flaws, I love it. I love the style, the quirkiness of its concept, and the awkward moments that it creates (including a doll love scene). Take it with a grain of salt though because if you try to over think it you're liable to get hurt.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thale (2013)

Director: Aleksander L. Nordaas 
Notable Cast: Silje Reinåmo, Erlend Nervold, Jon Sigve Skard

Knowing that this film was a "do it yourself" kind of endeavor before hand, certainly added a bit of charm to it. Aleksander L. Nordaas served as the film's director, writer, editor, producer, cinematographer, and he helped build all of the set's in a basement. With only a budget of $10,000 and knowing the heart and soul that Nordaas injected into "Thale," one has to love this film right off of the bat. Considering said circumstances, "Thale" looks remarkably sleek and comes off as handedly competent in its execution. While the film might not be your average horror film with its significant fantasy elements and dramatic character driven tension, "Thale" is the kind of film I can support through and through.

What's most impressive about a low budget film like this is that Nordaas and company seem very confident in creating atmosphere. When you don't have a lot of budget for effects or sets, you have to focus on characters and storytelling and "Thale" does it with some impressive effect. "Thale" focuses down on two leads, an odd couple of sorts who go to death scenes to clean up the 'mess' when the police are done with their investigations. On their latest though, they stumble upon a secret room where they find a young woman naked in a tub who does not speak. While this might seem like the beginning of a horror film (or a porno, I suppose), "Thale" takes a different tone for the film. Instead it focuses on creating character development in how the two react to the strange circumstances and starts building a tale, as told through a few flashbacks and via tape recorder found in the basement, of just what this woman is and why the men are in danger for even knowing she's there. Its character driven and atmospheric which sells the film very well in the end.

Prepared for anything...
Strong performances really ground the film down from the normal ridiculousness that the fantasy elements could have brought to the table. A vulnerable and yet somehow dis-alarming performance by Silje Reinåmo leads the scene stealing and considering the film is essentially a three person show that says something. The special effects, what little there are, are strong too even if some of the CGI towards the end shows the films budget. While I could have used a bit more of the horror nuances showcased in the finale act a big earlier, the film balances the drama, comedy, fantasy, and horror remarkably well and will please many independent film fans.

Standing in the middle of the road is, generally speaking, a poor choice.
"Thale" might be a bit of a slow film for most folks and those looking for a horror film are going to find a far more complex and fantasy driven flick here then they were expecting, but if you keep an open mind then there is plenty to love about this low budget film. Here's to hoping that Nordaas has a long career with the talents he brings to the fold in "Thale" and that the sequel, which is in the pre-planning stages at this point, takings the story to some intriguing new places.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Apartment 143 (2012)

Director: Carles Torrens
Notable Cast: Kai Lennox, Gia Mantegna, Fiona Glascott, Francesc Garrido, Rick Gonzalez, Michael O'Keefe
AKA: Emergo

At this point, it's damn near tradition that every October I have to find some low budget found footage ghost film to review. Since this will be the first October without a "Paranormal Activity" for me to hit up, I was left looking for one on my own. That's when I realized I owned one that I hadn't even watched before. That film was "Apartment 143." While the film might have a few moments to ride on, including a few intriguing performances, overall its a rather incohesive smattering of random pieced together scenes and a confusing narrative...not to mention a slew of by-the-book scares that we've seen a dozen times before.

So to be honest, I'm going to keep this review short and sweet. You've seen "Apartment 143" before and you've seen it better if you're a horror fan. While the main concept of the spirit not being a ghost in the classical sense but a manifestation of misguided energy is a rather interesting one, very rarely does the film capitalize on the depth that is hinted at in its script. It wants to create a mystery around the family and what happened to the mother, but it fails to give us enough meat to feast on and the film tends to try and throw red herrings around with issues like child abuse and mistreated illnesses that are never realized and just confuse the narration of what we are meant to be viewing. "Apartment 143" desperately wants to add in some social context to the found footage ghost film, but it never goes far enough with it to work and it left me disappointed in the missed opportunities. Thusly, we are left with a series of "tests" by our supernatural scientists that feel no real connection to the characters or to the general plot progression and it feels like we are just jumping from sequence to sequence rather than seeing a story unfold.

"Somebody turn on a damn light."
From there, "Apartment 143" fails to truly invoke any real scares either. We've seen it done before and its been done with far better results. Furniture moves, cameras conveniently miss shit, we get shadowy figures, and just for shits and giggles they throw in a randomly manifesting...object? It's not explained at all and its lacking effectiveness doesn't heal the wounds either. There are a few moments that worked, a couple of "possessions" came by with some fun editing and jumps, and the acting was, believe it or not, perhaps the most consistently effective aspect of the film. We get a strong monologue towards the end from the father of the family and the young son steals a lot of the sequences with his bits of humor. If anything, it was the best part.

"You're half blocking the TV! Get out of the way!"
As a horror film though, I highly suggest skipping out on "Apartment 143." While it might not be as repetitively boring as the "Paranormal Activity" sequels, it's still an unmemorable and jumbled film that rarely finds its footing. Believe it or not, there are better films out there of this style...and outside of watching this for "free" on Netflix Streaming or the like - I wouldn't seek it out.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, October 4, 2013

Leprechaun 3 (1995)

Director:  Brian Trenchard-Smith
Notable Cast: Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Lee Armstrong

While "Leprechaun" might have earned its franchise by being a film that was a ton of fun and slightly scary at the same time, the formula was already running thin by the time that "Leprechaun 2" came out. That being said, this is a long living franchise and I wasn't looking forward to spending a whole lot of time with the films. Yet here I am writing my review for the third film whose sole foundation is that we get to see our titular villain stalking around Vegas and killing folks in even more ridiculous ways. Take it for what it is, but "Leprechaun 3" is still a terrible, terrible film.

"Leprechaun 3" tries to hold onto the formula by having our monstrous and greedy leprechaun wind up in Vegas as the statue he was left as in the end of of the first sequel. Once again we are treated to him losing a piece of his gold from his stash as he's unleashed by an inept pawn shop owner to kill his way through a low end casino called "The Lucky Shamrock." Ironically, "Leprechaun 3" makes the second look like it tried with its relatively new spin on him finding a bride. This one goes back to the basics with him sniffing out his missing shilling (yes, he actually can smell it and yes, he does rhyme shilling with killing about a dozen times) and killing anyone that gets in his way.

Yes, that's her outfit for most of the film.
There is, however, one trick to "Leprechaun 3" that arises in the latter half of the film that makes it somewhat worth the viewing. We find out, in addition to the incohesive lore that drags these films down, that his shilling an give its owner one wish and that if you are bitten by a leprechaun (or have his blood fall into your wound...they are a little shady on the details here) that you also become a leprechaun. While this idea might seem intriguing, "Leprechaun 3" tends to falter on its promises due to a significantly lacking budget and a significantly lacking script. Half the time I was trying to figure out just what powers leprechauns had, as they certainly seem limitless until the script calls for it, and the other half I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the film.

I wonder if I can find that statue prop to buy on Ebay.
That being said, director Brian Trenchard-Smith seems intent on pushing the humor even further here by embracing the camp and running with it. While the film is easily the worst of the franchise thus far, I have to admit that I was far more entertained with it then I was "Leprechaun 2." Warwick Davis continues to thrive in his rhyming sinister way as the evil leprechaun and he does get quite a few terrible one liners for laughs. Most of them are at the expense of over the top deaths based on the 'be careful what you wish for' mantra, including one where a woman explodes from her boobs being too big, a man is electrocuted to death by his "living TV program," and a magician gets a final 'cut.' The special effects are hit or miss overall, but with the budget and limited talent on screen you can't fault it too much.

The essence of this film in one picture.
While "Leprechaun 3" might be a terrible film overall, it has it's charms in that 'being so bad, it's good' way. The series at this point has gone the way of the "Nightmare On Elm Street" sequels by focusing on the cartoonish humor and sex jokes and it loses a lot of credibility as a horror film there. Just know that if you want to continue with this series, buckle down for the decreasing budgets and quality.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh, The (2013)

Director: Rodrigo Gudiño
Notable Cast: Aaron Poole 

While most direct to home video films tend to be pure shit, occasionally, as rare as it is, one is able to find a gem of a film. A diamond in a sea of mediocrity if you will. This is just what "The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh" came out to be. This little indie atmospheric horror film is not for everyone. Only those willing to buy into the concept and style are really going to dig into what "Rosalind Leigh" has to offer, but trust me when I say that if you are willing to step back and get lost in the atmosphere then it's a shockingly effective and spooky ride.

The initial concept for "Rosalind Leigh" is not a new one. A son returns to his forgotten home after the death of his mother to go through the possessions he has inherited. At the knick-knack and religious statue filled house, Leon seems to be haunted by memories of his almost cult like childhood with his mother as stranger and stranger things seem to happen around him. It's not a typical haunted house affair though. While the basic plot would indicate some sort of standard ghost film, writer/director Rodrigo Gudiño seems intent on taking it to a minimalist extreme with its that equals out to one man in a house for almost the entire run time.

...just watching your back...
It's a ballsy move for a film like this. Right away from the opening narration of Rosalind Leigh reading her 'last will and testament,' which kicks off a running thread that builds on the 'mythos' of the religious and cult like undertones of the film, it's obvious that this is meant to be more of a subtle film based on slight tones of atmosphere then anything else. The atmosphere is thick as fog too. While Aaron Poole might have to single handedly shoulder all of the film on his own, literally... since he's essentially by himself for the entire film with only voices to talk to instead of people including a very, very creepy scene where he speaks to a neighbor that we never get to see, it's the striking visuals and exceptional attention to detail that set "Rosalind Leigh" apart from its peers. The house itself starts off as a quirky charming set only to slowly take on a sinister, haunted, and foreign feeling as the film progresses. Rodrigo Gudiño uses a slew of fluid shots and clever camera angels to make the most mundane of items off kilter in the house. Never before has random hand-stitched sayings or stone angels given me the creeps so badly. It's ridiculous.

I'd burn that thing immediately. Right then and there.
That being said, "Rosalind Leigh" is a very slow and methodical slow burn film. There are tons of little details and hints to be gathered throughout the film for the scares to work and Rodrigo Gudiño relies on what's not shown versus the normal jump scares to unnerve his audience and it may not sit well with all viewers. Rarely is there anything shown to scare us, although the minute pieces we are shown including a very disturbing sequence where a congregation on tape is asking an angelic statue to look upon them they are eerily effective even in small doses. This uses of long building tension pays off in dividends in the least it did for me.

"The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh" is a film that sits as one with such high execution visually and conceptually that it's damn near guaranteed to make my 'best of horror' list at the end of the year. It's a slow one, but it works so well with its tension and subtle writing that it had me completely engrossed through the entire run time. It's not quite a perfect film, but it's most certainly a unique one.

Written By Matt Reifschneider