Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Crow (1994)

Devil's Night - Halloween Eve - is a night with a reputation of arson and murder for inner city Detroit. On this night Eric Draven and his fiance Shelly Webster were brutally murdered and she brutally raped. Leaving behind a grieving surrogate-esque daughter, Sarah, and a fearful city. The gang composed of TinTin, Skank, Funboy and T-Bird are free without even an arrest. A year later though the Crow, which has been said to carry you to the afterlife, brings back Draven in his grief. He seeks revenge on the four men who killed Shelly but is unbeknownst that the gang is part of a larger criminal empire run by the high class katana wielding Top Dollar. When Top Dollar finds out about Draven's invincibility and the Crow's powers he seeks after Draven with the only thing he has left, Sarah.

I'm not sure if it's because of the on set tragedy (Lee was accidentally shot in the making of the film) or just the somber context of the script but The Crow has a drear veil in its viewing. That's not to attest it as uninteresting but rather the opposite as I'm always drawn into the tenebrous subject matter in that it never fails to evoke emotions from me. The film borders revenge flick to Gothic thriller, tending to shy away from the more violent scenes, but not denying us the final product; the gun shoot out felt more like it belonged in a action film than it did with the rest. Towards the hour mark it drags some and I lose focus for a minute or two, whenever I watch it. And as goes the plot is a bit absent minded and one dimensional. But I've always attribute character to surpass plot and I love Draven's character so I could care less if the plot was less attended too. The special effects are not great, even for its time and likely standout the most in the film.

Inevitability praise for Lee's work has been questioned by the close occurrence of his death on set, similar to Heath Ledger's Joker, many claim that the only reason the film is known and his performance accredited is because of the tragic accident. I make no mistake in saying that's absolutely wrong, tragedy or not Brandon Lee is immense in the role of Eric Draven. The sinister clown exteriors the broken angel, both which make for a memorable character. Draven's one liners and his depression from his and Shelly's death create a character that is to stay with you, despite an unstable plot. Ernie Hudson is good at being Ernie Hudson...that's a little harsh, I honestly don't mean it as a negative. His self portrayed likable cop is a nice character to relax on, you always know he's going to be the good guy in that sense it relives the tension from the dark script. And Michael Wincott is great as the baleful Top Dollar. This is a Gothic visual stimuli in a more natural approach than Tim Burton's inspired work. The prominent color of black is painted on nearly everything but it never hides or darkens the screen. Instead it blends with the gray skies and red flashbacks to bleed a comely cinematographic show. Attribute to director Alex Proyas and director of Photography Dariusz Wolski, who I hold this to be his best work.

The film like most of my favorites is a beautiful flaw, not perfect but hits my right notes. I consider it a great piece similar to Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy, not strong on plot but excels in character development and visuals. I love the soundtrack as well with a mix of rock songs and romantic scores to capture the dense sadness and angst. Another thing I picked up was Lee's usual of martial arts in his stance and actions. They didn't really need a stunt double as the martial arts expert was able to do most of the stunts himself. Not necessarily a martial arts fan (odd considering my favorite movie is Kill Bill Vol 2) but I love when it's present in outside genre films. The Crow conceived quite a bit of sequels and a TV spin off; the films holding under a five star rating on IMDB. I believe one of them even has Edward Furlong in it. I can't speak for the sequels as I have not seen them myself but the 1994 film The Crow is a stunning Gothic entry in the horror genre. A must watch but be weary of the black subject matter as it's not for a light viewing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TDHorror Retro Review

I've been absent for a week or so, I know. For whatever reason the month of October and the month of December people are in high demand of me. There will be a review tomorrow despite that I missed one last week. Anyways as an update I'm writing for Truly Disturbing now as an official writer, which means that I'll be dedicating my time to two reviews each month for the site. That's not to suggest that it'll take away from this blog, I'll still being doing my one review a week, the Horror Shorts, Irrelevant Post Fridays, and maybe more?

"The film suggests that of two horrors, the mysterious scarecrow apparition that appears before the deaths and that friendly mailman Otis P. Hazelrigg has affection towards young Marylee. The latter is never explored further than a comment made by Ms. Ritter but the suggestion creates a tension whenever Hazelrigg is near Marylee, making you question if he's going to do something in likes to the rumor. The film has a PG level of violence and not for those seeking a hard gore show, the only real bloody death being Bubba's, that was quite cruel in addition to being the most graphic. The idea behind the script is that you’re not sure who is behind the murders. Is it Ms. Ritter? Or young Marylee? Or is it a mysterious spirit that’s to restore balance in the small town?"

And as last time you may read the rest here. You should also comment, while you're there, because it would make me and the TrulyDisturbing owners happy. Also while I'm here I might as well pimp out a few things. First off if you don't read Phill's Film Adventures to start with than you have issues, and second in addition to being an avid movie critique he's a lover of horror and in particular the best of the B's and Cults. In so he's created an entire blog dedicated to just them The first post is of's looking positive for the site. And if you haven't noticed on the side of my page there's a picture with the words Obsess and Consume, click on it dammit. It's by one of my favorite Twitter friends sheoverdosed, it's not just dedicated to horror but to other films, prominently indie which happens to be my second favorite genre. And finally if you haven't watched Microcinema what is WRONG with you?! It's 99 fucking cents, don't get stingy and watch it.

That was an odd assortment of promotional things but they are those I find most pressing, at the moment. I apologize for being rash but considering how good they are and go unnoticed at times is a bit absurd. Either or anticipate an Irrelevant Post Friday next week giving updates on this blog. Also watch out for these TDHorror posts because they are hopefully frequenting my blog about twice a month.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Horror Short - Bunny Boy (2010)

Written and directed by Brandon LaGanke
Staring Mitch Webb and Teymur Guliyev
Director of Photography, Ruben O'Malley

My viewing for the film Bunny Boy came to me from no other than the lovely Mile High Horror Film Festival, where the majority of the Horror Shorts I'll be doing are also birthed of. The film's poster caught my eye and it was what led me to pick the Shorts slot over a film like Chilerama or I Saw The Devil. The five minute running time tells the story of a boy, who sees a man in a bunny suit, sitting by the side of the road, seemingly dead. A silent conversation pursues when the boy tries to feed and give the bunny water, what the boy doesn't realize though that there is a reason this particular individual is sitting by the side of the road, in a bunny suit, not really being all the way there. Maybe the moral of this short is don't talk to strangers?

Bunny Boy was likely the only horror short I absolutely loathed at the MHHFF, so much in fact I feel wrong just writing about it. I'm a horror fan so violence doesn't phase me but I prefer when it has a purpose, whether it'd be comedic or to send a message, I don't care, as long as its not gratuitous. Bunny Boy misses this mark severely at showing violence just to be weird, and to attempt to disturb you. I found it disturbing, but not on an artistic point, rather at the idea itself. I feel sorry for the other films that missed the available spot from whoever voted to keep this in. Maybe I missed the point. I'm not ashamed in admiting I don't always understand a films intention but really as far as my viewpoint it lacked purpose and thought, a pathless walk trying to classify itself as horror. I'm too pissed off about it to even note any light points like the cinematography. I hated it, don't waste five minutes of your life watching this. Please...

BUT if you must Bunny Boy is making its way around film festivals (horror and non horror alike), so look out for it.

*Update: I've decisively found a place for the Horror Shorts now, it'll be the second Sunday of every month. I would like to do it at least twice a month but as of now I'm limited because I've only seen so many. Again if you have one you'd like me to watch and review send me a link on my twitter or at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Real Life Horror, Unapologetically Wrecking my Childhood

It's not such a rare occurance anymore, as Hollywood studios go out of their way to ruin my childhood memories. Taint them with the poorly constructed remakes, give half the effort and heart to make a few dollars. It's nothing new. But they really went out of their way this time and essentially impaled me. I'm not being dramatic either, they are shutting down the Jaws Ride at Universal Studios.

Admittedly the shark looks horribly fake and I've been on the ride so many times that its not even a surprise anymore when he pops up. Hell I could probably count the exact seconds it takes from when the barn doors close to when the people on the front right side scream. But my first trip to Universal this was the only adult ride I got on. I was tricked by my mom and my brother, who told me it was a boat ride. And as typical horror lover I was enthralled when the shark blasted through the water and started eating the wire right next to my brother. It was lucky how we picked the exact seats the big action stuff happens on for our first time there. I didn't stop talking about the ride for weeks. And like usual everyone was annoyed with me for not being able to shut my mouth.

As I got older and went on the ride again I was able to appreciate the homage to the film and the entire section dedicated to the town of Amity. And even when it became apparently fake and the tour boat guide's gun shot aim became painstakingly worse it was still fun. Especially for new people who had never been on the ride before. But it could be worse. It could be this version of Jaws:

I'm not an expert but either she really hated George or she's just awful at her job. Not to mention she gives away a huge spoiler "I'm going to stop talking after the shark comes up because they are filming Desperate Housewives down the street."  .... Or whatever she said to that nature. And Bruce looks more like a dolphin with that trick than as an intimidating shark.

If anything Universal just needed to update the ride, and maybe bring a little bit more cohesion to that part of the park. But in life its just easier to destroy part of my childhood than it is to repair it for new memories. Whatever Universal. I do note though that if they ever get rid of the Terminator ride they've lost me as a customer. That ride is fucking awesome. Oh and please get rid of the Simpsons and bring back Back To the Future.

A little bit of history and trivia on the ride. It was built in 1990 to many failures and technical difficulties, which eventually lead to the ride being redesigned to a small, and admittedly less scary, extent. The former attraction included a much more active shark who was strong enough to spin the boat around, and also a more gory ending where the shark dies similar as in the film. The ride is five minutes long and the shark is seen seven times, three times in full and four with the fin. Universal hasn't released what will replace the Jaws ride but I'm skeptical, agreeing with others that they haven't hard anything too iconic to replace Spielberg's box office massacre. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Best Worst Movie (2009)

Nearly two decades ago Troll 2 graced the straight to DVD category with the distinction of being the worst movie ever made, but what disguised itself as shame was in truth a cult phenomenon, and as the documentary lets way it is almost as big as Rocky Horror. Now eighteen years later the kid star of the film Michael Stephenson dredges up the film's success and gives us and update on our favorite bad Utah actors. The real face of Best Worst Movie is George Hardy who plays the dad, Michael Waits in the bad film, then and now a dentist he's an outgoing lovable guy with a huge personality. Coming in as a supporting role is Claudio Fragasso, a true Italian director at heart, who's passion for film making is not fazed by the actors confusion or the critics hate. As the film intertwines the where are they now with the cult following that is growing annually, the mission is simple enough, 'What the fuck is Troll 2?'

This documentary is not necessarily horror but it tries to explain how a horror film could go so disarray. The actors commentary is enduring and unique as no two opinions are the same, all have a brief moment of reflection on their careers and life, even Hardy who discusses one night after the high of a showing that his true love was in acting, but for the instability in the field he never pursued further. As a general the teen stars of the film lump it into an embarrassment especially Connie Young who played the daughter, even going as far as removing it from her resume. Others like Jason Steadman know that it's awful but don't mind so much as their careers went in different directions. Then there's the darker side of the film with Margo Prey and Don Packard who both are suffering from a mental illness of some sort (the latter admit-tingly and the former allegedly). But as mentioned Fragasso and Hardy steal the screen, as Hardy embraces his cult icon status and Fragasso stands firm on his work, despite when asked questions like "Why is the film called Troll 2 when there are no trolls in the movie?" Fragasso and his wife who wrote the screenplay claim that Troll 2 is a social commentary, on the American family...and vegetarians.

The other side, the fans who've escalated the film from secretion for fifteen years to a true embodiment of an audience, makes for an glimpse into the world of cult. You see the midnight screenings played out with two hundred people lined up outside, the energetic reenactments by the cast members of the infamous scenes, and then interviews of fans who try to get down to what they love about the film. Collectively most agree that it's Fragasso's vision and passion that make it not a bad movie but rather a movie that just failed on an epic level.

Ultimately I'm eager to see more from the director who captures the spirit of Troll 2 rather well. Best Worst Movie, like the film it focuses on, has a lot of heart. It's amusing in some places and somber in others, particularly when Hardy and other cast members realize that the film doesn't belong at the horror conventions or the Sci-Fi ones, which unfortunately plays out in the later half of the film. However, just as you feel your about to end the movie on a bit of a buzz killer as Hardy seems to have worn on his cult status, Stephenson asks him, "If Claudio asked you to do Troll 3 would you do it?" and without hesitation Hardy replies "Of course, what are you talking about? Of course I would", and it brings you right back up. At the end Stephenson achieves an understanding of the success for Troll 2, it's not a film for the critics, and it's not even a film for the average movie goer, it's for the bad movie addicts and the people who stumble across it. Troll 2 is clearly a cult classic and the documentary accurately portrays that, defiantly worth a watch.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dead Awake (2010)

It's not fair, how am I suppose to summarize a film if there is no coherent plot to describe? I've had to do this twice now and I'm becoming a little irksome of it. Oh well, I'll try my best. Dylan is a funeral home assistant, or Morticians assistant, or whatever, plagued by the memories of his past. When one of Dylan's old high school football teammates dies and it brings a reunion of his class to his funeral home Dylan gets reunited with his ex love Natalie. Seeing his friends death and Natalie Dylan gets a bit bummed on himself and bets his boss that if he faked his own death no one would come. Taking the bet Dylan waits the day in the coffin for what appears to be a no show, that is until an unhinged junkie crashes the wake.

I almost forgot to post this review which may have been a sign. It's full of intolerance towards the director and the screenwriter, with a sparingly few nice things said towards the actors. Proceed with caution. The concept, a man faking his own death, is provocative in theory but poor in execution. Dylan fakes his death for one scene and the rest is of him trying to get back with Natalie and following the junkie around to inconclusive events. The film consistently tries to discuss a larger meaning of death and redemption but the writing is so up and down it doesn't work out. They show flashbacks to recap what's occurring in the film (aka, nothing) but often replay scenes we saw five minutes ago, rendering the technique pointless. The car crash doesn't intrigue you so when the big mystery is revealed you could care less. I'm usually able to excuse a plot less film if the characters hold strong, but they don't in this. Dylan, though having a tragic past, doesn't care about himself and neither do you. In general for a thriller it lacks thrills.

Rose McGowan is the only intriguing character, and she's well played, as McGowan rarely disappoints. Nick Stahl, who suspiciously looks like Michael C. Hall in this, is good. There's one rather dramatic moment between him and Decko and if it wasn't for Decko's acting it may have pulled through. Amy Smart is good too although I've seen her in better. The two Irish sub parents to Dylan, Decko and Liz, are awful. It's apparent that their accents are fake (or at least sounds thereof) and that the screenwriter gets a kick out of Decko saying Shit in the accent, so it sounds like sheit. The director and cinematographer try to hard to make the tone of the film dark and edgy, that has a lack of consistency as well. There were deep shots of grungy indie lighting and then scenes shot in clear day, neither which flow with the visual palate of the film.

I was done with it at an hour in and the last half didn't seem to end. There was no plot and hence no climax. The film does make sense though when the last minute twist is revealed and you understand what the purpose of it all was. That doesn't change how it tried to basically bore and drive you into insanity for the first hour, and not in a good way. Still the plot holes are immense and there are still unexplained elements (the detective anyone?). The film steals, not pay homage but actually steals, the tagline "Death is only the beginning" from The Mummy remake, and the poster is a clear rip off of the Twilight Saga posters. From reviews on Netflix and on IMDB some people acclaimed this as an indie Sixth Sense and found the story different but good. Personally I found it to be poorly written, poorly directed, and I hated it. It more or less just bored me, as it is managing to still do now. Not deserving of a recommendation from me, sorry.