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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.

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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.

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Asylum – Review

Asylum –  Review

Mar 6, 2011

reviewed by Danny
directed by David Ellis, 2008

The idea that places can have memories is a powerful one.  We often hear of acts that are so awful, so unbelievable in their evil that it is easy to imagine them leaving a permanent impression on their physical surroundings.  Some great horror films have been based on this concept;  unfortunately, Asylum isn’t one of them.

Asylum is the story of Madison, a college freshman with considerable baggage.  When she was a young child, she witnessed her delusional father kill himself while battling imaginary foes.  More recently, her older brother has killed himself—at the very college she is now going to.    Those facts alone would make for a pretty rough freshman year, but then she arrives at her “dorm.”

Apparently, business is good at Richard Miller University because they have had to remodel an old mental hospital on campus and convert it into a co-ed dorm.  Well, they converted half of it.  The rest is left as is, connected only by a single door at the end of a dorm hallway.  A note: rarely in the history of film have establishing shots and interior shots looked more disconnected than they do here.  At no point did it feel like the action of the film was actually taking place in the buildings they were showing on the outside.  As a young kid, I did a short film that used the outside of our local hospital as an establishing shot and then cut to an interior shot that was just my bedroom with no attempt to make it look like a hospital room.  I got the exact same feeling watching Asylum, which is odd considering they apparently shot the film at a real university and presumably used the actual exteriors and interiors.

Back to the plot—we soon learn that bad things happened in the dorm/hospital in the past.  The doctor who was supposed to be helping troubled teens was actually mutilated and torturing them in order to “heal” them.  His spirit (though we are assured it is not a ghost at one point) still roams the building where he can “get inside” students heads and manipulate them.

Madison quickly hooks up with a bunch of students as troubled as she is, forming a perfect little group of victims for the evil doctor.  The problems exhibited by her new dorm mates read like a list of troubled-teen cliches.  Biff’s a drug addict.  Buffy’s boyfriend used to abuse her.  Brainy is so smart he is an outcast.  Rocky used to be fat and now is addicted to fitness.  Yes, I’m making those names up.  They should work as well as the real names for characters as flat, stereotypical and uninteresting as inhabit this film.

We are soon treated to a series of “dream” sequences as the evil doctor gets inside the heads of the co-eds, causing them to face their worse fears.  For entertainment’s sake, this is a good section to play a little game.  Pick a character, consider his or her psychological problem and then guess what the dream sequence will consist of.  If you are right, give yourself a cookie.  If you are wrong, you need to watch more horror films.  The only real surprise here is just how blatantly one of the scenes rips of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

As I saw how these sequences were going, I began to hope that when we got to the jerk with an eating disorder that we would get an homage to the scene with the walking pastries from Young Sherlock Holmes.  No such luck.  Just a fat mom yelling at her fat kid to clean his plate.

There are more cliches and rip offs of better movies as the film progresses and it culminates in one of the most overused cliches in all of modern horror—the releasing of the souls of the victims when the bad guy is killed.

Asylum isn’t just bad—it is depressingly so.  This is the point in the review where I usually point out a group of viewers who would like the film.  In this case, I’ll demure.  There are simply too many better options out there to make this film even worth a rental.

Click Here to purchase Asylum

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Hatchet 2 – Review

Hatchet 2 – Review

Feb 22, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Adam Green, 2010

Hatchet 2 begins the action immediately where the first film ended with Marybeth (Danielle Harris) in the boat being attacked by Victor Crowley.  She manages to escape by being helped out of the water by Jack Cracker and is taken to his cabin in the midst of the swamp.  While there, Marybeth begins to learn more about the lurid history of Victor Crowley and how her family played a pivotal role in his death.  After being kicked out of Jack Cracker’s cabin (after he learns who she really is), she makes her way to Reverend Zombie’s voodoo shop (portrayed by Tony Todd) where she demands to learn the full truth of her past and Victor Crowley.   Come to find out, Marybeth’s father was one of the three kids who set fire to the cabin when Victor was a boy that ultimately brought about his death.  Marybeth is determined to go back to the swamp and bring her father and brother back so she can bury them and, if necessary, kill Victor Crowley once and for all.  She pleads with Zombie to help her and after a moment of hesitation, he agrees.  However, he first makes Marybeth bring along her uncle and also convenes a group of hunters and guides for the trip.

Well, from this point on Hatchet 2 delivers what you would expect.  A bunch of people being killed in the swamp by a ticked off bad guy.  We eventually learn that Marybeth’s uncle and one of the hunters named Trent were the other two kids who set fire to Crowley’s place.  Zombie believes that if Victor kills all three of his murderers, he will have his revenge and will disappear.  He believes his plan worked perfectly after watching “Uncle Bob” meet his demise.  However, once Marybeth catches on to Zombie’s intentions, she enlightens him to the truth; Uncle Bob was actually just a friend – her real uncle died when she was 12 from leukemia.  Uh oh.  That means Victor is still alive and finally comes after Zombie himself.  The film ends with Marybeth using Victor’s own hatchet against him, slashing him at least 20 times and then sealing the deal with a shotgun blast to the face.

I walked away from Hatchet 2 feeling much the say way I did about the original film; this was fun, gory, campy, and totally predictable.  I mentioned in my review of Hatchet that Adam Green was not necessarily trying to break new ground with his movie but was attempting to take a tried and true formula and do it well.  I feel the same way about Hatchet 2.  It is nice to see Danielle Harris of Halloween fame take over the role of Marybeth and amazingly, much of her mannerisms and tone still reflect the scared little “Jamie” from Halloween 4 and 5. Having said that, Tamara Feldman, who portrayed Marybeth in the original film, did a better job with the character than did Danielle Harris.  Harris is a horror legend because of her involvement in the Halloween franchise, but she is not a very good actor and leaves the film feeling very amateurish.

Concerning the direction offered by Adam Green, I just can’t figure this guy out.  He has moments of beauty where all the actors and the action seem to be in the  perfect place, followed by several minutes of sloppiness that scream “movie college” quality.  He continues to pay homage to classic movies of old, perhaps the most obvious being the very ending.  As Marybeth is chopping away at Victor, she repeats “die” several times, linking the ending of Hatchet 2 to the classic Corey Feldman ending of Friday the 13th part 4.

The gore is bountiful and executed well, with perhaps the best kill scene in the movie coming at the very beginning with the death of Jack Cracker.  His intestines are ripped from his body and as he tries to crawl away, he is pulled back by his innards.  Then, Victor wraps his intestines around his throat and chokes him until Cracker’s head explodes.

But it is the story itself that falls away and never comes back.  The mythology of Crowley is repeated time and again throughout the film, even with a pointless summation by Zombie at the end to make sure we all “get it.”  It seems that Adam Green wanted to take his story a bit more seriously this time around and whereas the original movie was a jolly mixture of laughs and gore, Hatchet 2 doesn’t know if it wants to be funny or serious.  Unfortunately, Green opted for the latter a bit too much and we are left longing for the overall feel of the original.

I was disappointed in this second installment.  Green initially said he was going to make 4 Hatchet movies.  After the release of this installment, he retracted his statement.  It could very well be that we have not seen the last of Victor Crowley, but we might have seen the last of him being directed by Adam Green.

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Trick ‘r Treat – Review

Trick ‘r Treat – Review

Feb 6, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Michael Dougherty, 2007

Trick ‘r Treat is quite simply the best horror movie I have seen in years.

Chances are good that you, like me, have only briefly heard of this movie or maybe recognize it from its memorable dvd cover.  Because I am a fan of any movie related to the holiday of Halloween, I decided to finally watch Trick ‘r Treat through my Netflix Instant Queue.  It was one of those rare – very rare – experiences where I just couldn’t believe what I was watching.  How could a movie this good not have made more of an impact in the movie world at large?

The plot of the film is somewhat complex and to provide a detailed account would take up too much space.  The movie revolves around 4 separate stories that are interwoven together throughout the film.  Think of a Creepshow without the breaks in-between the segments.  Common to each of the stories is a mysterious, small figure named “Sam” who wears a burlap bag over his head and is noticeably ticked off when someone dares to break Halloween tradition.  Sam is a wonderful figure, has a great, spooky look, and could easily be an icon of horror.  The stories themselves involve a serial-killer school principal, a group of 4 girl friends going to a Halloween party, a group of children returning to the scene of a town legend, and the fateful night of a man named Mr. Kreeg.  By the time the movie wraps, the viewer is able to tell how the night worked together as a whole.

That this movie did not make a theatrical release is madness.  It was apparently poised for an October 2007 release, but for whatever reason got pushed back, eventually being released direct to dvd in 2009.  Every single aspect of this movie is a home run.   First, the 4 stories work together incredibly well and Michael Dougherty does a superb job of making sure the viewer is not confused by the way the film flows from one scene to another.  Many movies that try to “blend” several stories into one film fail miserably, but Trick ‘r Treat does it seamlessly.  The movie itself looks phenomenal, capturing and maintaining the perfect atmosphere for an eerie Halloween night full of the bizarre and macabre.  Cinematographer Glen MacPherson is to be praised for his work on this movie.  The dialogue is fantastic and I was not left cringing over brutally absurd lines and forced conversations that so typically make up direct to dvd releases.  The acting is very solid and the movie boasts a wonderful cast including Dylan Baker (an under-appreciated actor), Anna Paquin (of X-Men fame), and Brian Cox (Troy, Braveheart).

Trick ‘r Treat clearly gives tribute to influential films of old, especially paying homage to the Evil Dead series with the appearance of a severed hand that has its own personality.  The ongoing influence of Carpenter’s masterful Halloween is noticeable throughout the movie as well, even with a slight head tilt by Sam, the strange recurring figure.  Trick ‘r Treat provides great scares, wonderful suspense, and a downright creepy and satisfying ending.  I kept feeling like I was watching the very best of old school, throwback horror not just copied, but done even better.

What criticism do I have of Trick ‘r Treat?  None.  This movie is as perfect of a horror movie as I have ever seen and will now be an annual, traditional October viewing.  Shame on you Warner Bros for not promoting and pushing this film.  Michael Dougherty, please, please, please get back to directing another horror film.  And to all of you out there in horror land – if you have not yet seen Trick ‘r Treat, then this must be the next movie on your list.

I just can’t believe how good it really is.

Click Here to purchase Trick ‘r Treat.

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House of Fears – Review

House of Fears – Review

Jan 18, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Ryan Little, 2007

Let’s be honest, is there any better genre of horror than the “break into a dark ride to spend the night with a group of teenagers?”  Funhouse by Tobe Hooper is the dark ride movie by which all others are judged.  Interestingly there seems to be a revival of these movies in the last few years and I am pretty pumped about it.  House of Fears is exactly that.  A new local haunted house is holding their grand opening, but the night before the big event a group of young people decide to spend the night inside the creepy haunt.  The trespass is made possible because one of the participants actually works at the haunt doing odd jobs, so he has a key.  Once inside, it doesn’t take long for them to realize that things aren’t quite right.

The owner of the haunt had purchased an ancient small statue that apparently carries with it the power to animate your worst fears.  When this statue came in contact with the atmosphere of the haunted attraction, it was a match made in heaven.  The group begins to see their fears materialize right in front of them and from there it is a race to find a way outside the haunted house and avoid the worst kind of death.  Fears that are included among the group are clowns, being buried alive, scarecrows, suffocating (similar to buried alive), and electrocution.

Director Ryan Little certainly takes cues from Hooper with the direction of the film, even going as far as to create a bit of tension between daughter and father at the beginning of the film, just as in the movie Funhouse.  However, House of Fears carries with it more of a supernatural undertone than do most movies of this sort.  Whereas the villain in most “locked in a dark ride” movies are just psychotic killers, House of Fears uses the presence of this unholy statue as the source for all things creepy.  Toward the end of the movie, we get a feeling of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” as the lead character, Samantha, boldly tells her fear (a scarecrow) that she is not afraid of him, thereby severely limiting the power of the scarecrow.

One of the weaknesses of the film, and something I probably should have gotten over quicker than I did, was the lack of exits in the haunted house.  Being someone who has a fairly broad knowledge of haunted houses and their creation, I kept chuckling at the idea that these kids had to “go back to the front” to get out of the house.  In reality, there would have been 25 exits leading outside in a dark ride attraction like this.  The finally do discover a blueprint of the facility and locate another exit in the very back!  The film managed to get around the solution of simply calling for help on their cell phones by allowing one of the members of the group to notice how thick the walls were in the attraction; there was no cell service.

This is a fun, humorous, entertaining horror movie.  It certainly isn’t great or even very good, but it is a great movie to watch with a date and a bag of popcorn.  The ending is unbelievably predictable, but it is the only way to make possible a sequel!  My guess is we won’t be seeing one any time soon.

Click Here to purchase House of Fears

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