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The Damned Thing – Review

The Damned Thing – Review

Apr 29, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Tobe Hooper, 2006

Don’t mess with Texas.  Especially the oil in Texas which is apparently sick and tired of being taken for granted and used by ungrateful humans.  The Damned Thing is the first episode in the second season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror and is directed by one of the all time horror greats, Tobe Hopper.  It is roughly based on the short story of the same title by Ambrose Bierce.

In 1981, a young Kevin Reddle watches as his loving father suddenly flips out and shoots down his mom in cold blood and then turns to kill Kevin.  Running and hiding in the field outside, Kevin watches as his father is brutally killed by an unseen force.  Twenty-four years later, Kevin is the sheriff in the same town of Cloverdale and similar kinds of phenomenon begin happening; the town folk begin suffering extreme bouts of anger, turning on one another for no real reason.  Kevin recognizes what is happening, but remains silent about the potential chaos that will ensue.  Sure enough, his estranged wife turns on their son and would have killed him if Kevin had not intervened.  But unfortunately, Kevin is not immune from the force and is overwhelmed himself, eventually turning on his wife and son.  At the end of the film, the ground opens up and a huge “oil monster” swallows up Kevin.  His wife and kid escape in the car, only to run out of gas about a mile down the road.  They are attacked by the monster and the film ends.

Apart from a dizzying experience with the camera in the opening shot of the film, Tobe Hooper’s classic touch is all over this movie and it delivers a pleasurable viewing experience.  The opening scene is somewhat shocking, especially if you have not read the plot or spoilers of the movie.  There are not many true “scares” throughout the 60 minute production, but this movie is based on a message that is more concerned with a moral tale than it is visceral scares.  Essentially, that message is that human beings do not have the right attitude with mother nature and that we take for granted, perhaps even abuse, that which is so valuable to us.  Thankfully, Hooper does not go overboard on the political message that could have turned this film into another Al Gore special.  In fact, if not for the short story to help us along, fans might be scratching their heads as to why a big monster made of oil is wreaking havoc on a simple little Texas town.

Ted Raimi wonderfully portrays the town’s strange Catholic priest and Sean Patrick Flanery does an excellent job with the character of Kevin Reddle, demonstrating a man who still deeply loves his family but is forever lost in the shadow of his 1981 experience.  One of the more disturbing scenes of the film is when a man becomes outraged while hammering a nail into a piece of wood and begins hammering himself in the face until he bleeds to death.  That is “a tough way to commit suicide” remarks Sheriff Reddle, acknowledging his own refusal to publically announce what is really happening.

This is yet another a satisfactory effort from the Masters of Horror folks and Tobe Hooper.  Not great, but worth the time.

Click Here to purchase The Damned Thing

The Hills Run Red – Review

The Hills Run Red – Review

Apr 20, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Dave Parker, 2009

I love slasher films.  The last few years have delivered a series of above average slasher flicks that, hopefully, will continue to spawn good, low-budget, old-school horror.  The Hills Run Red directed by Dave Parker would be on that list of good slasher movies.  Dave Parker is a relative unknown, especially as a director, but if this movie isn’t a home run, it is at least a triple.

The premise involves a movie called The Hills Run Red, an old slasher flick made in the hey-day of slasher-mania, the early 80’s, that has become the stuff of legend.  No one has ever seen the full length movie.  All that remains of the film is a teaser-trailer (done incredibly well) and a bunch of rumors about dead cast members and a missing director, named Concannon, who has not been seen since the movie was made.  One die-hard horror fan named Tyler is determined to track down the missing movie and lay to rest once and for the mystery behind the infamous The Hills Run Red.  After convincing two of his friends (one of whom becomes his ex-girlfriend) to join him on his documentary crusade, Tyler finds the daughter of Concannon in order to help him get moving in the right direction.  Concannon’s daughter, Alexa, was very young but present during much of the filming back in the 80’s.  She agrees to tag along.

You might can guess what happens.  They end up at the filming locations and, to their horror, the movie is real!  The serial killer named Babyface, a self-deformed monster who wears a baby mask, turns out to be Alexa’s son, not to mention Concannon’s son.  Yep, we have some good-ol’ back woods incest going on here, not to mention the “luring” of the friends into the danger by Alexa.  Come to find out, the reason no one has seen The Hills Run Red is because it is still being filmed, with actual victims!  From there, the carnage goes off the charts.

The final 30 minutes of The Hills Run Red are, unfortunately, the weakest of the movie.  Even though we get to experience the blood-soaked saga of Babyface up close and personal, much of the action seems forced, as if director Dave Parker had to keep thinking of ways to get the victims into torturous situations.  The “turning” of Alexa on her friends did not come as a big surprise and the final thrust of the film seems to fall a bit short.  But I didn’t care.  The set up of the movie was wonderful and engaging.  By the time we get to the hardcore stuff, I was more than willing to overlook some of the deficiencies and enjoy the gore for what it was.  At times, Babyface is downright hilarious.  He literally pulls an Indiana Jones move at one point – an eventual victim starts waving flares at Babyface deep in the woods and screaming “COME ON!  LET’S GO!”  Instead of using his brute strength by killing the victim with an ax, Babyface simply whips out a gun and blows the guy away.  That moment was worthy of 3 times being rewound.

The film may be trying to say something about our obsessions getting the better of us, but I doubt it.  This is fun, scary at moments, gory at moments, and worth the time to watch.  If you are a slasher fan, then The Hills Run Red should be on your list.

Click Here to Purchase The Hills Run Red

Body Count Podcast #1103

Body Count Podcast #1103

Apr 18, 2011

Hallo and Skot discuss the top 10 scariest “monsters” from Stephen King movie adaptations and then address how essential good directing is for horror movies.


Scream 4 – Review

Scream 4 – Review

Apr 17, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Wes Craven, 2011

It has been 15 years since legendary director Wes Craven gave the horror industry a much needed boost with his iconic Scream.  Much to the delight of horror fans young and old, the franchise lives on with this latest installment.

Sidney has become a best-selling author, writing a motivational autobiography of how to overcome a disastrous life.  She returns to Woodsboro in order to publicize her book and conquer any left over demons that might exist in her hometown.  Her return also brings a reunion of the three main franchise characters:  Sidney, Dewey, and Gale.  Of course, upon her return the city is shocked to learn that Ghostface has cleaned off his knife and is running rampant once again in the streets of Woodsboro.

Dewey and Gale are married at this point and there are a host of fun, likable characters such as Deputy Judy, who is struck on Sheriff Dewey.  The film features a bunch of high school teenagers, of course, and a couple of guys who are leaders of the Cinema Club, one of whom is broadcasting a live feed through a remote headset for much of the film.  This movie continues the franchise reputation of taking little jabs at conventional horror movies, acknowledging that the rules have to change once again since this is yet another sequel.

Really, what is there to say?  This is a Scream movie.  There are a lot of teenagers who get killed, there is a good amount of blood, there is the ongoing satirical nature of the film, there are a few (not many) scares, and some funny moments.  If you like the franchise, you will like this.  If you, like me, are somewhat indifferent to the previous three films, then you will have a good time but quickly forget the experience.  There just isn’t much memorable here.

The ending was difficult to watch and by far the weakest portion of the movie.  About 3 different reasons were given for the killing rampage that ensued throughout the film, none of them even remotely believable.  Too much dialogue, over-acting, and a drawn out sequence left me looking at my cell-phone clock in the completely empty theater.

Still yet, the movie has its moments and Sheriff Dewey is fun to watch.  It is probably worth your time to take a look at, but by all means wait for the dvd or blu-ray.

Daybreakers – Review

Daybreakers – Review

Apr 15, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by the Spierig brothers, 2009

With an all-star cast, a significant budget, and the support of Lionsgate Entertainment, Michael and Peter Spierig had everything to lose.  Clinging to a directorial track record of exactly one low budget zombie flick, these two brothers found themselves playing with the “best of the best” because of a well-written story that brought a new take on the oldest of monsters – the vampire.

In the year 2019 a pandemic disease has caused most of the world’s population to become vampires.  Instead of living in dark caves and in coffins, these vampires act like humans; going to work, playing in the park, and buying a cup of coffee at their local Starbucks (with a splash of blood mixed in of course).  Less than 5% of the population are humans, causing the blood supply for the vampires to become sparse.  Hematologist Ed Dalton (Ethan Hawk) is working to discover a blood supplement that will provide life and health for vampires without the need for human blood.  Dalton is radically opposed to the drinking of human blood and finds himself in a very small minority of vampires who seek to find a supplement or, better yet, a cure to vampirism.  Most, however, are quite content with their immortal status and are in no rush to find a cure, including the most powerful man in the “human farming” corporation, Charles Bromley (Sam Neil).  Dalton finds himself in an ethical dilemma; he must work for Bromley in order to pursue the blood supplement, but by doing so is uniting with the corporation which also farms human blood.  Bromley is not concerned with a cure, despite his own daughter refusing to become a vampire.

Dalton joins forces with a team of humans who believe they have found a cure but need a scientist to piece everything together.  Elvis (Willem Devoe) was once a vampire who turned back into a human after a torturous experience with sunlight and water.  Dalton is able to duplicate the conditions and turn himself back into a human.  The race is on to avoid the vampire army and restore humanity to the world before Bromley can bring an end to their parade.

Daybreakers is a semi-political film that scratches the surface of supply & demand and the world’s apparent desire to destroy ourselves.  So long as there is enough blood supply, everyone seems to get along just fine without too much interruption.  However, a lack of blood turns the “normal” vampires into a sub-species called “subsiders.”  These horrific looking creatures are vampirism at its worst and are a physical reminder of the depths to which humanity can sink if things no longer go our way.  The movie demands its viewers to recognize our own tendency to use freely all the resources we need for life, typically the ones we take for granted, and the consequences of those resources being depleted.

The subsiders look terrific, the effects are wonderful, and the film is beautifully shot.  Although Hawke and Defoe provide strong performances, it is Sam Neil who steals the picture.  His love and desire for his daughter to be safe, ironically by turning her into a vampire against her will, ultimately leads to her own self-destruction.  Dalton’s brother, Frankie, provides the love-hate character who is loyal to the vampire army, but desperate for a close relationship with his brother.  In the end, he saves the day.

Daybreakers is a very good vampire movie that flip-flops the conventional paradigm of blood-suckers into a world where humans are the minority.  At one point Hawke comments that he “has forgotten what it’s like to be human.”  Heaven forbid that happen to us.

Click Here to purchase Daybreakers