Thursday, December 23, 2010

Circle of Eight


TITLE: Circle of Eight
SCORE: 1.5 out of 4

First and foremost there is the fact that the studio that made this is named "Mt Dew Green Label Studios" and that Paramount is most likely just distributing this film. Not knowing what to expect from this film at all, I begin worrying I am about to watch an 83 minute Mountain Dew commercial repackaged for my consumption as "horror." How horrifying! Well, as the Dew is extreme, so is this movie - which remains unrated (as far as I can tell).

The first few minutes of it happen to be a sort of music video -- and a terrible one! Jessica, while adequately performed by Austin Highsmith, is still a weak and hackneyed Mary Sue character in which to project all our fears and anxieties on to, with little or any actual personality of her own. She soon meets her neighbors when she moves into a new apartment on New Year's Eve. Oh, and the apartment complex has a "file room" no one is allowed to go in to. And, you guessed it, all the neighbors are crazy (and there's eight of them)! Or is Jessica the crazy one? Who knows? Who cares...

No one knows anything, everyone is an unreliable narrator/crazy person and no one is very likable, so the emotional commitment I had for the characters was less than zero, I definitely rooted for all of them to die. The dialogue is atrocious and delivered with all the ability of high school drama team flunk-outs. I expect this out of a low-budget horror film but this really stood out to me.

The film is an utter pain to watch; its a dismal and unconvincing drama followed by some tiresome and unfunny comedic scenes followed by psychological "twists." This is a movie that trades in a brisk pace for an attempt at building suspense and mood, and it utterly fails. The mood is irritating rather than entrancing and the suspense is sporadic rather than building. Throughout the second half a bunch of random bonkers stuff happens, so at least that's kind of entertaining.

The pitiful twists and turns are as predictable and tame as a Made-for-TV movie. Perhaps it was, the production value is certainly no higher than one (a cheap one). You should all go rent Shredder Orpheus, its a cheap movie that rules. Its nothing like this movie, but for some reason I was wishing I was was watching it the whole time I was watching this fairly unenjoyable film.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


TITLE: Triangle
SCORE: 1 out of 4

I didn't know what to expect from this film, but I had hoped it was going to be about the Bermuda Triangle and full of creepy ghost-ship suspense. This movie is kind of like that, I guess, if you have no idea what the words creepy or suspense mean.

I hate it when weird shit is constantly happening around a set of characters and none of them acknowledge that said weird shit is happening. And it all happens so quick as well -- the entire cast is dead except for the Single White Female (with bonus Autistic Son back home) within the first half hour of this movie. A horrendous situation for a slasher flick, but then the movie just switches gear into a psychological thriller with "mind-bending" (poorly fleshed out) time travel stuff. Still - I always maintain that it's a good idea to at least have one other guaranteed living character around to make things slightly interesting. An unreliable narrator is great and all, but if that is the only person in the film it kind of needs to be spectacularly written and directed and acted - and this movie is certainly not. The end is not satisfying, and it is not clever.

This movie really seems to be made up of several different coherent ideas for a movie that were then slammed together to make a complete pile of shit. It is not a movie that frightens you, it is a movie that angers you by being so stupid and slap-shod.

Honestly, Hot Tub Time Machine might provide the audience with more sensible temporal distortion plot line. It might have more thrills, too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Crazies

TITLE: The Crazies
SCORE: 2.5 out of 4

This rendition of The Crazies is almost nothing like the original George Romero film. The original film was loaded not just with gore and creepiness, but also a building sense of tension and suspense throughout its entirety that really kept you engaged with the film through its use of documentary-style filming and editing. This one lacks any such substance and relies on pure shock tactics.

What you get with this Crazies is a pale imitation of an already over-the-top film that kicks it up into outrageous nonsense. A boring, dull sheriff and his highly pregnant wife gruelingly survive an outbreak of T.R.I.X.I.E (that's one more than D.I.X.I.E) in what amounts to basically the Die Hard of zombie movies. Of course, in The Crazies they aren't technically zombies, just homicidal maniacs infected with an incurable infectious disease that causes permanent insanity and brain damage.

The amount of paranoia induced by Romero's original mind-fuck masterpiece is something I doubted this remake would be able to match, but it disappointed even my very low standards. Standard boilerplate horror turn-arounds and misdirections are the stock and trade of the "suspense" of this film which is regularly ruined by ridiculous things happening to and being done by our protagonists. 

Everything in this film is cartoonish -- the bungling government is amped up into fascist stormtroopers who indiscriminately kill any and all civilians. In the original there are plenty of sane people being shot, but it is through confusion and the disintegration of support and communication lines. In this one, the military is just a bunch of coldblooded bastards committing wholesale slaughter starting Day 1 of the outbreak.

The idea of exploring the whole "how you know what sanity is, can you know that you are sane?" angle seemed to have been lost on the writers here, there are certainly no cerebral or philosophical themes present in this film; everything is played completely straight with seemingly no irony, subtlety or subtext.

In short: This is a pathetic failure. What's more unfortunate, is that this is probably the strongest effort the people involved in the making of this film are able to make -- this trashy pablum is the pinnacle of Breck Eisner's career, and I'll bet good money that the fact this film is even watchable is in spite of him and probably due to conscious efforts to block his shitty ideas.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Quick Bites

A quick snipe at some recent films I've seen but don't have the heart to review in full...

Legion (2010): This is a movie that is fun to watch but impossible to take seriously. Not very scary either, and the whole concept of the movie is really half-baked. Still, it is thoroughly entertaining. 3 out of 4.

The Dead Outside (2008): This was a very compelling film about a small set of characters attempting to survive after a decimating viral outbreak which causes its victims to become violently insane. I liked it quite a bit but the editing and pacing just seemed to be a little bungled, and it took away from the mood of the film for me just a bit. 3.5 out of 4.

I will be reviewing the 2010 remake of The Crazies very soon!

Monday, February 1, 2010




TITLE: Growth
SCORE: 2 out of 4

Woo! The college stereotypes and the creepy family meet up for "mustach weekend" as one of the cozy co-ed states; AKA hanging out on an island infested with a human-developed parasite (McGuffin Island has NO relation to Plum Island of real-life Anthrax research fame nor Ilsa Minor of Jurassic Park fame, ok!)

This is another in a long string of recent horror flicks that have great intro sequences and then fall completely flat during the actual "movie." This movie featured a really awesome intro about the development, testing and then outbreak of these parasites and its like 4 minutes long maybe. That should have been the movie! Not the movie about dumb moody people in dumb moody situations.

The movie isn't all that bad, though. It is an intelligent enough little squick flick and a small cast is employed well for suspense building scenes of conspiratorial intrigue. The main problem is that it doesn't really compare in quality to the first 5 minutes of the film and when the prologue is the best part of the movie, much of the entire experience is something of a disappointment.

This movie has a lot of filler taken up by what I call "pointless talk." This is meaningless dialogue that neither develops characters, forwards the plot or provides meaningful exposition. In other words: its very annoying for significant lengths of time to be taken up by talk about relationships between the characters that we highly suspect some of will die at some point in the film. It is, essentially, pointless. And there is just tons and tons of it in Growth: Mustache Weekend. It is boring and completely unrewarding for the viewer in most any way unless they happen to be amused by the most asinine of flirty dumb conversations.

This is of course countered by a fairly professional and intentional use of body-terror (although there certainly wasn't enough vomiting), gradual suspense building, and an occasional glimpse into something that could truly be described as horror - which would be the "taped doctor's footage" and whatnot. These are the high points of the film as I found it. Christopher Shand's portrayal of a tweaked out parasite-junkie is much better than his attempt at "gadabout teenager," or whatever his character was supposed to be initially in the film. Also, Richard Riehle played an awesome poor-man's Wilford Brimley (who swears)!

It seems to be constantly meandering between halfway decent and just terrible. Most often it is acceptable, but it isn't really very scary or very interesting, so that's why it gets such a low score. I enjoyed the ending though.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tell Tale

TITLE: Tell Tale
SCORE: 2.5 out of 4

This is a fairly dull, lifeless effort by Director Michael Cuesta and Writer Dave Callaham. It amounts to little more than a textbook rendition of the old "transplanted organ takes over life of transplantee" trope. Basically a man is given a heart transplant, but the donor was killed by an elaborate conspiracy and the man with the heart now is compelled to seek them out and kill them.

Seems like good fodder for a horror film, right? Except there are like four dudes and there's a ton of screen time taken up by scenes between the guy, his lady friend and some kind of daughter surrogate girl character -- maybe his actual daughter, who knows -- very little was thoroughly explained and all the dialogue was muttered to give it that "gloomy" feeling.

I have to give it points because it was stylistically shot well and the editing and everything was very professional. There are a lot of hospital shots that are well done and add to the atmosphere very nicely. The dialogue and acting were well done as well. I suppose it wasn't torture to sit through, but I thought it was rather boring and played-out.

Quick Bites

Here are some movies I've seen in the past I didn't really bother to write full reviews up for:

Book of Blood (2008) - I thought this was very weak and really had terrible pacing. The editing was very odd and the overlong ending is ridiculous. I 'm giving it a: 1.5 out of 4 

Spider (2002) - This was like a half an hour of story dragged out to more than two. This is not Cronenberg's best by far. 2 out of 4.

For Sale By Owner (2009) - I'm not sure. I vacillated between not liking this movie and thinking it was fairly ok. It was enigmatic enough to probably deserve a second viewing. 2.5 out of 4.

More new film reviews coming up soon, I promise!